The only woman who had power over notorious rake Robert Marlow was now walking away from him, again. He’d heard Sutton had died, and known Jane was free, but he’d always thought his desire would only be for revenge, not her. Yet here he was, unable to deny what he felt for her… what he’d never felt for any other woman…
Robert’s gaze tracked Her Grace, Jane Grey, as she disappeared amongst the crowd. The only woman who had the power to disturb his equilibrium had just appeared from nowhere and was now walking away from him, again. He’d been on the path of Lady Baxter for days, and he’d been winning, but now, he’d probably need to regroup and start again, having ignored her for nearly the entire dance. Yet he simply could not draw his attention back to the luscious blonde with whom he danced. His thoughts had been captured by the singular, familiar beauty of the brunette across the room. Jane.
Lady Baxter had given him a rare opportunity for diversion by persistently refusing his attempts to persuade her. He’d been enjoying the chase. Yet now he’d seen Jane, it was like holding up a rock to a diamond. Jane’s superior beauty had always outshone every other woman in his head, and now he’d seen the reality again, he doubted any woman could ever appease the constant need in him for her, for Jane.
The melody of the dance ceased. Robert turned to Lady Baxter and bowed over her hand. “Forgive me.” He suddenly felt angry and frustrated. With no further explanation, he let her hand fall, then walked past her in the direction Jane had gone. If he was being obvious, he did not care.
He’d heard Sutton had died and recognized the implication – Jane was free. Yet he’d not expected to see her in town so soon, not mere weeks after the man was buried, and he’d had no intention of denting his pride by seeking her out.
In fact, when he’d thought of her, and he would not even admit to himself how many times he had, he had always imagined his desire would be for revenge, not her. Yet here he was, acting like a dog, chasing after her bloody bones.
His superior height gave him an advantage when he reached the open double doors of the refreshment room. He spotted Jane easily. She stood at the edge of a table, holding a glass which she sipped from in between speaking. While he watched, Lord Sparks approached and bowed to Jane, but his attention seemed focused on the woman Jane was with, Lady Violet Rimes.
Violet was not to Robert’s taste, nor did he think he was hers. They had rarely shared more than two words. Yet a renowned flirt was not the sort of woman he’d expected to see the Jane he’d once thought he’d known and loved, with. Yet that Jane was not the Jane who’d married Sutton. That Jane had merely been his fiction.
Did I ever know her? He would not have thought for one moment the woman… Woman? In honesty, now, when he looked back, she’d been little more than a girl. But still, that girl had callously tossed him aside for a man more than four times her age. How she’d lived her life since, Robert had no idea. For all he knew, she’d slept with every man in Suffolk.
What would he make of that? So many emotions seemed to be vying for control within him, he could not say whether the idea was gratifying, arousing, or disgusting.
Jane’s eyes turned toward him as her companion engaged Sparks in conversation.
He had forgotten how the ground could shift beneath his feet at just a simple look from Jane. He’d always thought her well above average pretty, even outstanding with her unfashionably dark and sensual look. Yet now, she seemed to have truly grown into her beauty, her features were more mature, defined. The aura of it hung about her.
Holding her gaze, he gave her a lilting smile, not moving from his position at the open door. Would she come to him, or would she wait to see if he would go to her? He was an expert at this game of cat and mouse with women.
Unmoving, he waited for the next steps to play out as they would. It was her turn. He’d followed, and now she had to decide how she would react. His gaze lowered following the line of her dress. She was slimmer than he remembered. The high bodice tucked beneath her breasts presented a clear definition of her smallish but beautifully lush bosom. There was ample to cup in his palm with little unneeded excess. A memory of his hands at her waist, her lips meeting his, sent a shaft of painful arousal to his groin. He had been almost as innocent as her in those days, even though he was the elder by three years.
His eyes met hers again. They were distinctly green, the color of emeralds. He’d particularly revered their unusual shade in his youth as something individual to Jane. He’d seen no one else with eyes like hers then. Though now he’d travelled widely, he’d seen the same a few times in other women, but even so, when visions of Jane disturbed his sleep or threatened his waking thoughts, it was always those green almond-shaped eyes which haunted him. Her broad, genuine smile had charmed him as a boy, too, and brought him to his knees at her feet when he was a youth. Well, he had learned his lesson there. He’d never made the same mistake again, never trusted another woman so openly.
She’d made no move toward him, and suddenly, he was in a mood to drag this out and not bend. He did not doubt for a moment that eventually she would be too intrigued not to seek him out. Disengaging his eyes, he turned away. He had lived without her for years, what did he care if she chose not to rush?
His feet carried him back into the ballroom, and his gaze searched for Lady Baxter.
“Robert.” Light fingers caught the sleeve of his black evening coat.
So she did intend to rush after all.
TO WIN A SIGNED COPY OF THE ILLICIT LOVE OF A COURTESAN (BOOK ONE OF THE MARLOW INTRIGUES SERIES), ENTER AT RAFFLECOPTER AND ANSWER THIS QUESTION IN THE COMMENTS:
Who is Her Grace, Jane Grey, standing beside in the refreshment room?
About the Author
She began her first historical novel at sixteen, but a life full of adversity derailed her as she lives with the restrictions of Ankylosing Spondylitis.
When she finally completed a novel it was because she was determined not to reach forty still saying, I want to write one.
Now Jane is writing a Regency series she’s thrilled to be giving her characters life in others’ imaginations at last.
Jane is also a Chartered Member of the Institute of Personnel and Development, and uses her knowledge of psychology to bring her characters to life.
‘Basically I love history and I’m a sucker for a love story. I love the feeling of falling in love; it’s wonderful being able to do it time and time again in fiction, and my understanding of people helps me write the really intense relationships I enjoy creating.’