When Seducing A Duke(2)

By: Kathryn Smith

Still, he would wait.

“Ah, there’s a pretty little bird who looks eager to do some nesting.” Archer leaned forward in his chair, anticipation clearly etched on his angular face. They shared the same thick wavy hair, though Archer’s was almost black while Grey’s was more of a reddish sable. Their pale blue eyes were almost identical, though Archer’s often held far more merriment. And Grey was very certain that his own cheekbones weren’t as high, nor his nose quite so sharp. Still, for all their differences, there was no denying their shared heritage. Kane blood always showed. Their younger brother Trystan and sister Bronte were proof as well.

Following his brother’s eager gaze, Grey saw a slender auburn-haired woman of indeterminable age standing on the fringes of the dancers clad in a smoky-green gown. She was obviously looking for companionship given the way she kept passing her gaze lazily over the others in the room.

At one time she would have more than whet Grey’s appetite. At one time practically every woman in this club would have served as a way to scratch his itch, but not anymore.

The lady looked up, her eyes glittering behind a violet mask trimmed with downy feathers. Her gaze fell on Archer and a smile curved her full lips. Grey’s brother smiled back.

“You’ll excuse me, then?” Archer was already on feet.

Grey waved him on his way with an indolent flick of his wrist. As much as he loved his brother and enjoyed his company, he would much rather bide his time alone.

Archer clapped him on the shoulder. “I will see you in the morning, then.” It was an accepted fact that Arch never crawled home before dawn, reluctant to leave the supple embrace of his companion. Grey, on the other hand, didn’t linger long enough for the fantasy to spoil.

Grey acknowledged the farewell with a slight dip of his head. “I’ll have a place set for you.”

He didn’t take his gaze away from the throng below, but Archer’s exit caught the edge of his vision. Once he was alone in the box, Grey let out the breath he’d been holding and slouched in the chair, stretching his legs out before him.

What the hell was he doing? He asked himself this very same question every time he came here. And he never liked the answer.

He was here because he wanted what he couldn’t have—what he had promised to never touch. Would never dream of defiling.

Laughter echoed in his ears—loud and unwelcome. It stirred memories of that night long ago when he’d felt cold steel lay open the steaming warmth of his cheek. It reminded him that he was alone while more than a hundred people gathered beneath him, just out of his reach. He didn’t like people, and that feeling only intensified when they gathered in groups like vultures hovering over a dying stag.

If he didn’t find her soon, he would have to leave. Find relief in more auspicious and unsavory environs.

And then, like the answer to a prayer he’d never uttered, he spied her.

Grey leaned forward in the box, fingers curling around the smooth, cool brass rail. There, in the glittering meadow of hothouse flowers, was a wild bloom of a woman who quite literally robbed him of all breath.

Time ground to a halt, as did the beating of his heart.

She wore a low-cut gown the same vibrant burgundy of a rose just past first bloom. The tiny sleeves were trimmed with the same bronze lace that flitted around the rest of the gown, and sat low on her creamy round shoulders. From where he stood—when had he left his chair?—he could see the deep valley of her cleavage, the swells of her beautiful breasts flushed under the chandeliers.

The snug bodice of her gown hugged her across the ribs, nipped in sharply at the waist and then flared over hips and a backside that didn’t need the little flouncy bustle to draw his attention.

His gaze lifted, and his heart began to beat once more as he took in the coffee darkness of her hair shimmering with the faintest hint of copper beneath the twinkling light. Her skin was the right shade of ivory, her hair the correct color and thickness, twisted into a high, loose knot. Beneath the bronze lace mask her nose had just the right tilt, and her mouth…her mouth was ripe and plump, just begging to be kissed.

Christ in heaven. If he didn’t know better he’d swear this woman—this dream—was truly Rose.

But it couldn’t be. Rose was a single young woman. She would never come there alone, and no one who knew her would bring such a gently bred young woman to a masked ball meant for seduction. Everyone familiar with Saint’s Row knew what happened at these private functions. And there was no way a lady as sheltered and removed from London as Rose Danvers could ever pass through these doors. No, this wasn’t Rose, but she was as close a twin as he could ever imagine—ever hope to find.

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