Brandon St. Clair, the Earl of Vale, has never been one to follow the rules. Even though he must marry a wealthy heiress so that he can be rid of the pile of debt he inherited with his title, he can’t stop thinking of another. Amelia Somerton is the daughter of a forger and is not a suitable wife. But that doesn’t stop Brandon from making Amelia a different offer, the kind that breaks every rule of etiquette…
Sin runs in Amelia’s family. And even though she now rubs elbows with the aristocracy, she knows the truth—she has the ability to forge priceless works of art. She’ll never be seen as an acceptable wife, not that she wants to marry, anyway. So when the earl scandalously offers her the one thing she’s always dreamed of, she can’t help but take it. But what begins as a simple arrangement, soon escalates into much more, and as the heat between them sizzles, each encounter becomes a lesson in seduction…
Amelia looked away. This wouldn’t do at all. She hadn’t drawn a single charcoal line and already she was craving the forbidden. She cleared her throat and stood. “I often work on more than one painting at a time and plan on painting the Cuyp landscape and your portrait simultaneously. I thought to start with your portrait tonight. Have you given any thought of how you would like to pose?”
Lord Vale rose to his feet. “What is your professional opinion as an artist?”
A reproduction of Michelangelo’s statue of David she had once seen in a museum rose in her mind. Magnificent in its naked splendor, the statue’s muscles and sinew had portrayed a beautiful male form. Her pulse beat in her throat, and she tried to assume an ease she didn’t feel as she faced him. She had been raised unconventionally in an artist’s household. Her father’s studio contained all types of art, including nude drawings and sketches, and she had studied them in order to sketch realistic people in her works. The print shop also had a vast variety of prints and paintings for sale, some of nudes or half-dressed subjects. But she shouldn’t be thinking of that artwork now. Not when the strikingly handsome Earl of Vale was staring at her and waiting for her response.
Her hands, hidden from sight, twisted nervously in her skirts. “Do you prefer any of the portraits of the prior Earls of Vale you had shown me?”
“I thought I discussed not wanting to look like them.”
Oh, you could never look like them. Not if she was the artist.
She was distracted when he reached up to unbutton and remove his jacket, then drape it across the armchair. Next, he shed his waistcoat and tossed it to join the jacket. Broad shoulders strained against the fabric of his shirt. She could make out muscles and a narrow waist where his shirt tucked into his breeches.
“What are you doing?” she asked, alarmed.
“All my ancestors are dressed formally. I don’t want to be remembered as earlish, remember?”
Had she ever used that term to describe him?
He looked about the room “Hmm. Now how should I pose?”
Her gaze lifted to his, and she searched for some hint that he knew her reaction to his state of undress. All she found was a guiltless concentration, like he was struggling to decide how best to pose for her study.
Heat rushed to her cheeks. She wracked her mind for something to say to distract her from his masculinity.
“You said you are in your study every evening. What do you spend most of your time doing here?” she asked.
“That’s easy.” He motioned to the large desk and the piles of paper upon its surface. “I work.”
“Long into every night.”
She chewed her lip. She thought that most of the gentlemen of the beau monde spent their nights at their London clubs or, if in the country, drinking with their friends. A house party offered ample opportunity for him to be in the billiard room with Lord Huntingdon. Once the other gentlemen arrived, she imagined they would all drink and play billiards.
“What do you work on?” she asked.
“This and that. The old earl died a year ago. I’m sorting through his affairs.”
It was a vague answer to be sure. It was also none of her concern. He was hiring her to paint him, not delve into his affairs. He may not be paying her in banknotes, but the letter in her skirt pocket promising art lessons from a Royal Academy painter was as good as gold in Amelia’s opinion.
“I have an idea,” she blurted out. “Since you spend so much time at your desk, I’d like to paint you there.”
“Behind the desk?”
“No. In front of it.” She pointed where she wanted him to stand in front of the massive pearwood desk. “Lean back against the desk and place a hand on either side of you for support.” She took one of his hands and showed him. His hand was much larger than hers, the fingers long, tapered, and strong. He wore no gloves and she’d left hers in her room. No sense wearing them when she painted. The simple act of touching his hands was intimate and made her cheeks flush.
He leaned back, his hands on either side as she’d requested. She looked up and met his gaze. They were close…too close. For a heart-stopping moment she read longing in his eyes—pure and undisguised.
She froze. He wasn’t as guiltless or unaffected as she’d thought. Her heart pounded in her chest, beating so hard and loud that she feared he could hear. She took a quick step back.
“Anything else?” he asked.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Best-selling author Tina Gabrielle is an attorney and former mechanical engineer whose love of reading for pleasure helped her get through years of academia. She often picked up a romance and let her fantasies of knights in shining armor and lords and ladies carry her away. She is the author of adventurous Regency historical romances for Entangled and Kensington Books.
Publisher’s Weekly calls her Regency Barrister’s series, “Well-matched lovers…witty comradely repartee.” Tina’s books have been Barnes & Noble top picks, and her first book, Lady Of Scandal, was nominated as best first historical by Romantic Times Book Reviews. Tina lives in New Jersey and is married to her own hero and is blessed with two daughters. She loves to hear from readers. Visit her website to learn about upcoming releases, join her newsletter, and enter free monthly contests at www.tinagabrielle.com