Once burned twice shy... but when old flames come together...passion reignites...
When burned once... Arriving in London as her goddaughter's chaperone, Baroness Diana Palmerston-Wriothesley wants to avoid her erstwhile lover at all costs.
Once nearly consumed by passion, four years has reduced the former inferno to bitterness and ashes.
By an old flame... A world-weary master of seduction, Ludovic "The Devil" DeVere is bored with his chosen life of debauchery.
When Diana's charge disappears, she is forced to seek help from the devil's lair, and their mutual desire reignites with undeniable ferocity.
Fire is best fought with fire... While DeVere is hell-bent to have her back for keeps, Diana is equally determined to bring him to his knees...by acquiring some sensual secrets of her own.
"What the devil is it, Winchester?" Lord DeVere snapped at the appearance of his majordomo. "I thought I communicated quite clearly that we were not to be disturbed."
The flushing servant diverted his gaze to the ceiling in an obvious effort to ignore the ongoing orgy. "But there is a lady to see you, my lord. She is most insistent."
"Another one?" Lord Malden chortled. "By all means, have him send the baggage in. Damn me, DeVere, but you are well supplied."
"I am, indeed," DeVere answered. "It is a most amicable arrangement with Madam Hayes, but I had not requested another." DeVere gave another long, lazy pull on the stem of the hookah proffered by his scantily clad companion and cast a sadly indifferent gaze at the temptress who enthusiastically sucked his cock.
The servant flushed. "You misapprehend, my lord. This lady—"
"Will not be turned away." Diana stepped boldly into the room.
Ludovic almost laughed aloud. For there she stood, as if he'd conjured her. Although a black veil obscured her face, he could have identified her proud carriage and sultry voice among a hundred similar women. In all of his six-and-thirty years, he had never allowed a woman to get under his skin, but this one had infected him with an infirmity for which he had yet to find a complete cure.
Oh, he'd sought balm for his condition, all right. In Paris, he had soothed his raging fever with opera dancers, and in Italy, the finest Venetian courtesans had served as a temporary unguent. Following in the footprints of the ignoble Baron Baltimore, after whom he had capriciously chosen to model his life, Ludovic had sojourned to the East in an endeavor to satiate his sybaritic senses in every possible way. But still, his symptoms—the hollow sensation, the emotional detachment as if he were sleepwalking through life—inevitably returned.
Though his pulse had quickened at the very sight of Diana, he addressed the woman kneeling between his legs with an air of careless indifference. "Put your playthings away, my pet, for we have an unexpected guest."
Stepping closer, Diana addressed him with icy hauteur. "So this is what you have reduced your life to, my lord?"
"It is fortunate that I don't give a damn for your opinion, madam," he answered with a taunting smile. Defiantly, he caressed the bare breast of his would-be odalisque and took another pull on the hookah, blowing purple-cast smoke rings into the air. "Now, to what do I owe the privilege of your queenly condescension?" He could almost see her hackles rise, a circumstance that gave him a peculiar twinge of pleasure.
"How dare you ignore my messages and compel me to come to this...this...den of iniquity!"
He could no longer suppress a chuckle. "It was your choice to invade my domain. Thus, it is not for me to concern myself with your injured sensibilities. I already conveyed to you that the girl is safe. There was nothing further to be said." He gave her a bland lift of his brow, enjoying the hell out of her reaction.
"Nothing further! Where is she?" Diana demanded. "She was last in your charge and has not returned! I found her maid locked in her room! If anything has happened to her—"
"I assure you she is perfectly safe in my brother's keeping."
"Hew is involved in this? I don't believe it. He would never—"
Ludovic's mouth kicked up in the corner. "Perhaps I misspoke. It would be vastly more correct to say he is in hers." The girl was a tiny virago. He almost felt pity for his brother.
Diana looked befuddled. "What on earth are you talking about?"
"When Vesta revealed to me that she was determined to have Hew, I agreed to lend some small assistance in the matter."
"That's ludicrous! Vesta hasn't even had her come-out. It is far too soon for her to be thinking of anyone!"
"Nevertheless." He shrugged.
"Is that all you have to say?"
"For the nonce. Conversation is not my chief pursuit at the moment, but should you be inclined to join me..." He surveyed her with a slow and deliberate appraisal meant both to insult and incite. He was pleased to note the rapid rise and fall of her breasts, proof that his power to inspire her lust had not waned in the least.
"You revile me!" Diana spat. "I will expect your call with a full explanation at nine o'clock on the morrow."
"An ungodly hour," he replied. "I doubt I shall have risen before two."
Diana spun toward the door. "You will call, my lord, or you will much regret my methods of rousing you."
"I doubt that, my dear," he replied. "You may rouse me any way you like."
The room rumbled with snickers and guffaws.
She had meant it as a threat, but Ludovic could picture her face behind the veil, the high color in her cheeks, the passion lighting her green eyes, marking her righteous indignation, the very things that had appealed to him four years ago. He had determined the moment he first saw her that he she would be his. She had been a challenge, but he had, indeed, claimed her. Several ways, in fact, but still not enough to satisfy him. She was the only lover with whom he hadn't grown bored. He told himself it was only the brevity of their liaison. It hadn't had sufficient time to grow monotonous.
Though he'd only meant to taunt her further, he felt himself growing rock-hard at the vision of her once again in his bed, proof positive that he hadn't had his fill of her yet. The notion had sprung from nowhere, but there it was, just as she, staring him in the face.
"A tolerable, handsome figure," Lord Malden remarked to her departing back, "but a tongue like a shrew." He added sotto voce, "Perhaps you can teach her a better means of employing it, eh, DeVere?"
Oh, he had done that and more. He had taught her many things, and she had proven both eager and wonderfully sensuous, but her education remained incomplete. Unless... He wondered with an unfamiliar stab of something he didn't care to identify if Diana had taken other lovers in his absence. He paused to examine that question. Would it really matter if she had? In the end, he found it didn't diminish his desire for her in the least. His brother was now out of the picture, not that he would have allowed that courtship to have progressed any further.
With one hand on the door, she spun around to confront her detractors. He could almost see her livid gaze penetrating through her veil. "Better a shrew than a sheep, my lord. For hapless sheep are devoured by ruthless wolves."
So that is the way of it. He chuckled as the door clicked behind her. He had introduced her to passion and left her to her own devices, and for that, she resented him. He had felt her bitterness as a living, breathing force. Yet, there was no doubt in his mind that this sheep desired nothing more than to be devoured slowly and deliberately by a wolf's mouth, and he would be only too happy to oblige her.