The Great Pick Up Line
She lifted her skirts and ascended the stairs, her heart hammering. She followed the butler to a room where the door was slightly ajar. She glanced at the servant, but he was already departing.
Perdita pushed the door open and froze when she realized it was a bedchamber. Darlington had the audacity to call her to his bedchamber? Did he believe she had come for amorous reasons, or that she would condone such a brazen attempt at seduction? It was entirely possible, given the scandalous hour and the fact she was without a chaperone, but she would set him straight if he dared to try to seduce her.
She wished for the hundredth time it would have been possible to visit him during the day, but there had been no alternative. People would have seen her enter his home, and that would be the end of her carefully kept reputation. She tensed when a dark, rich voice spoke.
Vaughn Darlington, the viscount dubbed by ton as the Devil of London. His voice sent tingles of excitement and fear through her. She took an instinctive step back toward the door.
“Fleeing so soon? I would have wagered you were braver than that, Miss Darby. Or perhaps, given the lateness of the hour and the method of this meeting, I should call you Perdita?”
She bristled and pushed the hood of her cloak back to better peer around the room. There was a four-poster bed against one wall and a fire crackling in the hearth. The wood floor showed dusty outlines of where carpets had recently been. The dark-green brocaded curtains about the bed were faded, and a few rings were missing, letting the fabric gape in odd places. Worn and peeling silk wallpapers depicting men hunting in the forest covered the walls. A once beautiful wardrobe stood in one corner, a door missing. The shaving stand held a white china basin with a large crack down its side.
The masculine air of the room was overpowering, just as the man himself was, but the circumstances and the condition of his rooms filled her with a strange pity that made her go still as she turned her focus on the man himself.
Leaning against one worn, ancient chair was Lord Darlington. He was tall, broad shouldered, and had a dangerous look about his all too beautiful face. With piercing blue eyes and light-blond hair, Darlington could have passed for an angel if it weren’t for the sensual, wicked curve of his lips. He wore buff trousers and a white lawn shirt, with a dark-blue waistcoat. His cravat had been untied and lay loose over the back of one chair.
Perdita’s heart quickened. She had never stood in a room with a man in a state of partial undress like this. She forced herself to rally to the task at hand.
“Lord Darlington, I come here with a proposal.” Her tone was brusque with a manner of business about it. This was not about seduction, no matter how sinful he made her feel. Though she’d rehearsed this speech a dozen times on her own, she had not been prepared for the strange and frightening feelings that assaulted her now as she spoke to him alone.
He crossed his arms as he studied her with that wicked twist of his lips, making her breath quicken. She shifted in place, and her boots scraped softly against the wood floor.
“Do go on.” He chuckled, seeming to enjoy her discomfort.
“Well, you see…” She spoke haltingly, still mortified that she was here begging him for his help. “I need to stop an unwanted marriage proposal.” She twined her fingers nervously as she removed her gloves. “My mother has convinced a certain gentleman that I am willing to consider his offer, when I most certainly am not.”
She tried not to think of Mr. Samuel Milburn and how that man had made it clear he would imprison her in a life that would slowly kill her. She could still see him leaning in close to her and whispering: “The women I care for know better than to seek the company of others, when I should be enough. My home has all you will need, so I will hear no talk of travel or nights out. They would only distract you from your duty, which would be pleasing me.”
He was a brute and a tyrant and worse, but Perdita’s mother, despite her ambitious nature, didn’t usually believe in society gossip.
Perdita did. She’d heard that Milburn had thrown a woman to her death from a window, but because the woman was his mistress, no questions were asked. It had been dismissed as an unfortunate accident. All Perdita knew for sure was that this man was a monster. She had tried to tell her father and mother what she’d heard, but her words had been dismissed as idle talk. If her older brother Thomas hadn’t been away at sea serving in His Majesty’s royal navy, she would have sought his help.
In Perdita’s experience, being a wealthy heiress was a terrible burden. It put a mark on her. She’d fought off fortune hunters for the last few years, but a man like Milburn was dangerous in other ways. He didn’t care about her money—he cared about breaking her spirit and possibly even killing her if she didn’t give him what he desired. She was sport.
She’d made the mistake of meeting him at a dinner party last fall, and he had immediately shown an interest in her once he’d learned she was none other than Miss Darby, the beloved lady of the ton who all sought to please with their praise and their many invitations.
Perdita had not wished to cultivate such a favored reputation on purpose, but it had happened quite naturally. But to Milburn she became a prize he wished to win—and then suffocate and destroy. Once he had her in his sights, he had been able to contrive a scheme that could destroy her family and blackmail her into accepting his proposal.
“What does this have to do with me? Or did you merely wish to tumble in my sheets to avoid marrying some silly young buck? I don’t care much for ruining innocents, but in your case I might make an exception,” Darlington said, his sharp gaze on her.
The Rogue’s Seduction by Lauren Smith
SOCIETY CALLS HIM THE DEVIL OF LONDON…
Lord Vaughn, Viscount Darlington, has a dark reputation for sinful pleasures, putting off even the most ardent mamas who crave his title for their unmarried daughters They say he’s dangerous enough to ruin a woman with just one look…But he can’t resist the pleas of a woman who needs his help. This rogue might yet be redeemed.
SHE’S THE DARLING OF THE TON…
All of London adores Perdita Darby. She receives invites to every party and has eligible gentlemen willing to wait for her, but she has no desire to marry. When she discovers a cruel man wishes to entrap her into a marriage that could spell her doom, she has nowhere left to turn. She makes a bargain with the devil of London, hoping to save herself. But the cost of their false engagement may put them both in danger…
About Lauren Smith
USA Today Bestselling Author Lauren Smith is an Oklahoma attorney by day, author by night who pens adventurous and edgy romance stories by the light of her smart phone flashlight app. She knew she was destined to be a romance writer when she attempted to re-write the entire Titanic movie just to save Jack from drowning. Connecting with readers by writing emotionally moving, realistic and sexy romances no matter what time period is her passion. She’s won multiple awards in several romance subgenres including: New England Reader’s Choice Awards, Greater Detroit BookSeller’s Best Awards, and a Semi-Finalist award for the Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley Award. She was a 2018 RITA ® Finalist in the Romance Writers of America Contest. To connect with Lauren, visit her at www.laurensmithbooks.com