London's Perfect Scoundrel by Suzanne Enoch - Romance>Historical Other
A determined young lady vows to give one of London's infamous rakes his comeuppance -- but when the rogue turns the tables, who truly learns a lesson in love?
The ton gossips call him "Saint" -- but the Marquisof St. Aubyn has well earned his reputation as London's perfect scoundrel. Evelyn Ruddick knows she should avoid him at all costs -- but the strikingly beautiful lady wants to aid the children of the Heart of Hope Orphanage, and he heads the board of trustees. Evie is determined to teachthe charming, arrogant man a lesson in compassion, but it won't be so easy -- especially since his touch is setting her desire aflame, making Evie yearn to submit to his passionate instruction ... The idea of joining in her "project" is unthinkable, but this enchantress refuses to give up! So what else is there for a self-respecting rake to do but seduce the lady? Yet soon it is he who is beingseduced by Evie's tender heart and fiery blushes. Could the temptation of long, passionate nights in her arms bring about the impossible? Could the disreputable Saint at long last be reformed?
In law an infant, and in years a boy,
In mind a slave to every vicious joy,
From every sense of shame and virtue wean'd,
In lies an adept, in deceit a fiend;
Vers'd in hypocrisy, while yet a child,
Fickle as wind, of inclinations wild;
Woman his dupe, his heedless friend a tool,
Old in the world, though scarcely broke from school.
—Lord Byron, "Damaetas"
One year later
"I really wish you wouldn't make such a fuss about it," Evelyn Ruddick said, taking a step away from her brother. "Lucinda Barrett and I have been friends since we came out together."
Victor closed the distance between them again, his tone clipped and annoyed. "Be friends at some other soiree," he returned. "Her father doesn't even have a vote in the House, and tonight I need you to chat with Lady Gladstone."
"I don't like Lady Gladstone," Evie murmured back, stifling a curse when Victor clasped her arm, preventing her from sidling away again. "She drinks whiskey."
"And her husband is an influential West Sussex property owner. Putting up with a little inebriation is a small price to pay for a seat in the House of Commons."
"You only say that because she won't be breathing on you. Victor, I came here tonight to dance, and to chat with my fr—"
Her brother lowered his dark eyebrows. "You came here tonight because I escorted you. And I only did that so you would be able to assist me with my campaign."
They both knew she'd lost the argument before it began; she frequently had the suspicion that Victor allowed her to debate him only so he could put her in her place more often. "Oh, faddle. I liked it better when you were in India."
"Hm. So did I. Now go, before one of Plimpton's cronies gets to her first."
Pasting a polite, friendly smile on her face, Evelyn strolled the fringes of the crowded dance floor in search of her brother's latest source of possible votes. In all truth, Lady Gladstone's choice of liquor wasn't all that troublesome. Thirty years younger than her husband, the viscountess had worse habits than whiskey. And Evelyn had already heard a rumor that one of the worst was in attendance this evening.
She found Lady Gladstone seated amidst the scattering of chairs arranged in a shallow alcove to one side of the orchestra. Emerald-green silk clung closer than paint to the viscountess' much-lauded curves as she lounged, her head tilted to one side. Indecent as the sight seemed in Lady Dalmere's conservative ballroom, the man who leaned over her shoulder, his face so close to her ear that dark brown hair brushed her burnished gold curls, was even more unsettling.
For a moment Evelyn contemplated pretending that she hadn't seen anything and walking away, but that would only give Victor another chance to call her foolish and empty-headed. So instead she stood there until she began to feel like a voyeur, clearing her throat when she couldn't stand it any longer. "Lady Gladstone?"
The viscountess lifted dark eyes to her. "Saint, it seems we have company," she tittered, her voice a breathless giggle.
The form leaning over Lady Gladstone's shoulder straightened to his full height, and startling green eyes set in a face of dark, lean, masculine perfection took their leisure sweeping the length of Evelyn from her slippered feet to her face. She couldn't have stopped her blush if her life depended on it.
All young ladies mindful of their reputations made a point of staying well away from the tall, jaded, and devilishly handsome Marquis of St. Aubyn. If not for her brother's political ambitions, Victor wouldn't have allowed her anywhere near Lady Gladstone for exactly that reason....