Youth and beauty are a courtesan’s greatest assets. At forty-one, Lady Ruth Attwood appears to have lost both, as her latest lover just abandoned her for a younger mistress. Struggling with the knowledge that she’s no longer considered desirable, she’s uncertain whether to be offended or flattered when a younger man makes her an unusual offer. In need of funds, she agrees. But then she does the unthinkable. She falls in love.
Despite his reputation as a man’s man, Baron Garrick Stratfield has never been with a woman. His physical impairment is such that he knows not even a whore will touch him, and he needs a mistress who’s willing to be kept without sharing his bed. But passion is just a delicious kiss away because his new mistress is wreaking havoc with his senses. Worse yet, someone is not only out to ruin his reputation, but frame him for murder.
“Are you sure friendship is the only reason you told me the truth? I’m a courtesan, Garrick. Although I do much more than fulfill a man’s sexual needs, my skills in the bedroom are considered excellent.”
“Instruction?” He choked out the word. Sweet Jesus, the woman was offering to tutor him in the art of lovemaking. How in the hell was he supposed to respond to that?
“If not that, then perhaps someone to confide in?” she said in soothing voice. “There must be a reason why you’ve never been with a woman. I am a good listener, when I wish to be.”
“That topic isn’t up for discussion,” he said through clenched teeth, not even smiling at her ironic comment about listening.
“As you wish.”
The heat of her brushed against him as she walked past to sit down at her dressing table. Stunned by her ready acquiescence, he stared at her as she calmly reached for a jar of cream and proceeded to apply the emollient to her hands. Awkward. It was a sensation he’d never liked, and he was feeling extremely awkward right now. He clasped his hands behind his back then drew in a deep breath in an attempt to calm himself.
“You’re going out this evening?” The question only reflected how ill at ease he was. She stopped rubbing her hands and met his gaze in the dressing table mirror.
“I was, but I’ve changed my mind,” she said quietly.
“I see.” A rush of pleasure surged through him. She hadn’t said so, but he was certain he was the reason she’d changed her plans.
“And you? Do you have plans?” In a casual gesture, she shrugged one shoulder out of her robe to rub cream on her skin. He inhaled a sharp breath as he saw the lush curve of her beautiful breast reflected in the mirror.
“No. . . I. . . I wasn’t sure . . .” He swallowed hard as she finished rubbing cream on her shoulder and pulled her robe back up. His breathing eased for a mere fraction of an instant before she repeated the exercise with her other shoulder. A knot developed in his throat, making him cough.
“Are you all right, Garrick?”
She turned quickly to face him, her robe discreetly closed. The concerned look on her face would have eased his discomfort it he hadn’t seen the flash of something far more dangerous in her eyes.
“I’m. . . fine.”
With a shake of his head, he cleared his throat again. She tilted her head in contemplation. In the quiet glow of the gaslight, the movement emphasized the sweet curve of her shoulder and throat. A sense of impending doom swept over him, but he ignored it, unable to take his eyes off of her.
“Do you trust me, Garrick?” The softly spoken question took him by surprise, and he frowned.
“I would not have confided in you otherwise.”
“There’s nothing shameful about your innocence. In fact, I find it quite. . . arousing.”
She turned to pull a long scarf from one of the dressing table’s drawers. When she stood up to face him again, the gentle determination reflected on her face made him tense. In the next instant, the air in his lungs was dragged out of him in one large whoosh as he watched her slowly untie her robe. Bloody hell, why wasn’t he racing toward the door?
“Desire is a pleasurable thing, Garrick.”
Her voice was hypnotic, and he couldn’t take his eyes off her as she trailed one hand across her throat and then downward. The languid movement parted her wrapper as she leisurely brushed her fingertips along the side of her breast. It was an erotic movement that sent heat blasting through him until his palms were damp.
“Let me show you what it’s like to feel that pleasure.” The thin robe hiding her from him slid to the floor with a whisper, and his mouth went dry at the sight. “Let me show you how wonderful it can be between us.”
Why was he still standing here? He should have been at the door by now. He tried to move but couldn’t. If he didn’t do something fast there was no hope for him. His feet remained rooted to the floor as he watched her undo her hair so it fell down over her shoulders. God, she was beautiful. Her eyes closed, the scarf she still held in her hand drifted across the tips of her breast in a way that seemed natural, yet he knew it was deliberate.
“Do you like looking at me, Garrick?” The throaty whisper scraped across his senses.
“Yes,” he rasped.
The scarf fluttered against her skin like a butterfly touching first one delicate curve and then another. Her hands cupped her breasts, and in a move that made it impossible for him to breathe, she circled her fingers around her rigid nipples. With great difficulty, he suppressed the raging need to stride forward and take her into his arms. Instead he forced himself to take a step back from her. It did little to assuage the hunger assaulting his rigid cock. Almost as if she could sense his need, her eyes flickered open, and she stretched out her hand to offer him the scarf.
“Tie me to the bed.” It was a soft command that made him stare at her in astonishment. A sensual, yet gentle, smile curved her mouth. “I want you to be in control of your pleasure.”