Kensington Books, ?April 2001

He wanted her. Instantly. Ferociously.

Appropriately, he thought. On any terms. He would make sure of it, he thought. He would take such pleasure in it, as he watched her gracefully and efficiently dispatch all those guests who absolutely had to leave by the four o'clock train to London.

Good. The less interference the better. It was time for some plain speaking.

"You want the Russian."

"Don't change the subject." This is now the subject, you want the Russian. "You'll never have him, and it is pure stupidity on your part to even try. What can you offer him, that he cannot command from any woman?"

He wants me. "He wants men. You have nothing to give him but your body and your innocence. And he can have that from any woman, any time."

She stood up abruptly. "I will not listen to another word!"

"But you will listen. You have no choice."

"There are always choices." She would not back down.

"Then make the right one now. I offer a bargain."

"Truly, Nicholas. A bargain? What have I got to barter, I who have nothing to offer anyone?" Rage there, fury at him for trapping her like that.

"Rumor. Supposition. Things people gossip about, things I don't want dredged up, even if they can't be substantiated."

"Things William knew," she threw back bitterly.

"William knew nothing, least of all how to break a virgin."

She swung at him. "You bastard."

He caught her hand. "You're still a virgin, in every way that counts," he growled. "And if you want the Russian, you need me. What I can give you. What I —"

"No. No. No." She wrenched away from him. "No. What do you think I am? Who do you think I am?"

"What you are is a young, beautiful widow who has never been fucked properly and who may well have to sell her body to make ends meet. I suggest you think about that, Elizabeth. Envision these two scenarios: your way, you go to London and you plunge headlong into the brothels on Meet Street. My way, you stay at Shenstone and you have two desirable men: one to educate you and one to make love to you. You cannot ask for more than that."

"So, you would set me up as the mistress to two men, all for the price of never mentioning the rumor again," Elizabeth sneered.

Kensington Books
April 2001

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