Don't Tempt Me:Georgian 04(14)

By: Sylvia Day

With her nerves stretched to the limit, Marguerite had no patience for nonsense. She grabbed Celie by the arms and shook her. “What happened? Has he passed?”

“They all passed!” the maid screamed. “Cook . . . the footmen. . . They’re all dead! All of them . . .”

De Grenier burst from the dining room in a full run, skidding momentarily across the marble floor before finding purchase and heading toward the rear of the house. Marguerite followed despite Celie’s pleas, her heart racing so violently she feared it might burst. The vicomte entered the kitchen a few strides ahead of her. He cursed, then spun around quickly, catching her in his arms and dragging her back.

“Poison,” he said grimly with his lips to her ear.

The ground fell away beneath her feet and she was swallowed by the inky darkness of unconsciousness.

Chapter 1

Paris, France—1780

He was the sort of man who could enslave a woman with a single glance.

A glance such as the one he was presently giving to her.

Lynette Baillon watched the notorious Simon Quinn with similar shamelessness, admiring the raven blackness of his hair and the brilliant blue of his eyes.

Quinn lounged against a fluted column in the Baroness Orlinda’s ballroom, his arms crossing his broad chest and one ankle hooked carelessly over the other. He looked both leisurely and alert, a dichotomy she had noted the first time she saw him riding through the moonlit Parisian streets. Tonight he was dressed in somber shades of dark blue and gray, a combination that created an understated elegance she found extremely appealing. Amid the flagrantly sensual theme of the intimate gathering—candles scented of exotic spices, chaises cleverly hidden by a faux forest, and servants dressed in revealing costume—he was austerely attractive. His quiet intensity was far more alluring than the deportment of those who cavorted in blatant rut.

For her part, she was dressed in white for effect, her skirts accented with rich cream-colored bows and silver thread. Combined with her pale skin and hair and the dark ruby red of her half-mask, the ensemble drew all eyes toward her.

Drew his eyes toward her.

They had never been introduced. She’d learned his name by eavesdropping on surrounding conversations, listening with avid interest to whispered tales of his wickedness and common origins. He stood on the fringes, alone. Coveted by the women and shunned by the men for the exact same reasons—he had only his reputed expertise as a lover to recommend him and no title, property, or moral compass to redeem him. The widowed baroness enjoyed shocking Society, which explained his presence. He was a novelty and appeared to be comfortable in that role, but Lynette felt a strong pull to join him, to stand beside him, to enter the solitary enclosure he occupied.

Quinn was a tall man, and a big one. His jaw was strong, his nose a blade. Boldly winged brows gave him a hint of arrogance, while long, thick lashes added a touch of softness. To her mind, however, the most alluring part of his rugged handsomeness was his mouth. The lips were perfect, neither too full nor too thin, and when they curved in a smile—as they were doing now—they were irresistible. She wanted to lick them, nibble on them, feel them move across her bare skin.

“Between you and your sister,” her mother had once said, “you are most like me. Your passions run high, your blood hot. Pray you do not succumb to it.”

Her blood felt hot now. Her chest rose and fell rapidly in response to his stare. Her heart raced. That a stranger could incite such a response in her despite the crowd that surrounded them and the distance separating them only exacerbated her reaction.

Then he straightened abruptly and approached with a predator’s easy, yet determined gait. His long legs ate up the space between them, his pathway direct and unconcerned with those who were forced to move out of his way. She inhaled sharply, her palms dampening within her gloves.

When he reached her, her head tilted back to allow her to gaze upon his face and fully appreciate its savage beauty. She breathed him in, becoming intoxicated by the combination of tobacco and musk. The primitive scent was delicious and she fought the insane urge to rise to her tiptoes and press her nose into his throat.