Sophia Baneham has lived in the poison of her dead father's shadow for longer than she cares to admit. Now she exists outside of polite society's influence, holding gambling parties for London's most dangerous men. When a man walks into one of her soirees, a compelling mix of charisma and icy control, he offers the lady of sin a wager she can't refuse...
Lord Randolph is a spy in the service of His Majesty, but he’s given an oath to protect the daughter of his mentor. Even as his gamble of marriage starts to spiral out of control and his passions ignite, Randolph is determined that he’ll handle things his way…
But when danger closes in, Randolph won't just have to protect Sophia from an intended killer. He'll have to protect her from himself...
She was proud, as she should be, of her choice for a hiding place. He thought of the silk night rail in his bag. The Sophia he knew would not truly wish to remain indefinitely in a place like this.
…Not if given a viable alternative.
His idea could rebound, and he would be worse after then he was now. But Sophia was worth a gamble.
“I intend to honor my promise to Elizabeth. You may stay here.”
Her eyes widened. “Pardon?”
“You ran from me, sweetness.”
“I ran after I was deceived,” she said. “I believed you capable of any deception. You could have been working for Kasai. You could have been the man who killed my father.”
Believed. Past. Not believe. Current. He still had a chance. Please do not question this ruse.
He placed his hands behind his back and aimed for a very innocent, yet grave, expression. “Naturally, I was concerned. I am much relieved, now I see you are safe.” He furrowed his brow as if he were formulating a plan instead of inventing a desperate pretense. “I would insist on a guard, of course. A better one than I placed outside the dowager’s.”
She blinked. “You are planning to leave?”
“Clearly, you wish to be left.”
She narrowed her eyes. “And if I decide to become a Quaker?”
He laughed out loud. “You, who purred at the thought of fine silk?”
She flashed a furious scowl. “You make me sound frivolous.”
“Sauce for the duck is not sauce for the gander?” He squinted, trying to recall… “‘Just a rake’ you called me. Nothing more than a libertine controlled by his appetites.”
“I never intended to insult you.”
“No. You intended to use me as you pleased.”
She swallowed. “I have been disabused of that notion.”
“Have you?” He fixed his gaze on her hunted-fox eyes, acutely conscious they had lost their former sparkle, their former mischief. “The Sophia I know would not give up with such ease.”
He closed the distance between them. Again, he cupped her face. He savored the feel of her tiny oval jaw in his over-large hands. Her barely there, involuntary pout invited him to dine.
Ah, her taste. Sweet. So sweet.
He had not planned the kiss, but how could he resist a mouth so delicately pink, so tempting, and so terribly close? His lips touched hers, dewy soft and achingly ambrosial.
She was better than strawberries, freshly picked and still warm from the heat of the sun. Her lips moved against his, creamy and fluid. Just before the blood rushed downward, he had the short-lived sense he was complete.
He seized his final thread of fraying strength and broke free from the mysterious force compelling him to keep her close.
“Goodbye, Sophia Jane.”
She lives in NYC with her husband and can occasionally be found gossiping about history and romance with the Dashing Duchesses or burning up the web with those mystical mistresses of resilience, the GH class of 2012 aka the Firebirds.