Don't Tempt Me:Georgian 04(6)

By: Sylvia Day

“No. That is all.”

“You have my gratitude.” Philippe rose and moved to the escritoire in the corner. He opened it and withdrew a small purse. Thierry accepted the proffered coin with a grateful smile, then departed immediately. Philippe exited the parlor after him and sent the butler back to bed.

A few moments later he rejoined Marguerite. She lay curled on her side, her lustrous blond curls scattered atop a pillow, her sapphire blue eyes blinking sleepily. In the light of a single bedside taper, her pale skin glowed with the luminescence of ivory. She extended her hand to him and his chest ached at the sight of her, so soft and warm and filled with welcome. Other women had told him they loved him, but never with the fervency that Marguerite expressed. The depth of her affection was priceless. Nothing and no one would ever take her from him.

He shrugged out of his robe and rounded the bed to slip between the sheets behind her. He draped an arm over her waist and her fingers linked with his.

“What is it?” she asked.

“Nothing for you to be concerned with.”

“Yet you are concerned, I can feel it.” Marguerite turned in his arms. “I have ways to make you tell me,” she purred.

“Minx.” Philippe kissed her nose and groaned at the feel of her warm, silken limbs tangling with his. He related the conversation with Thierry and stroked the length of her spine when she tensed. “Do not be alarmed. This is a minor irritant, nothing more.”

“What do you intend to do?”

“Desjardins has high aspirations. He needs to feel as if every man working with him is as committed. I am not, which was proven when I began rejecting any mission that would send me to Poland.”

“Because of me.”

“You are far more charming than the Polish, mon amour.” He kissed her forehead. “There are others who will give him the level of dedication he requires.”

Marguerite pushed up on one elbow and gazed down at him. “And he will allow you to simply walk away?”

“What can he do? Besides, if he feels that my effectiveness is so diminished that he must concern himself with my private life, then my withdrawal should be a relief to him.”

Her hand slid over his chest. “Be careful. Promise me that much.”

Philippe caught her hand and lifted it to his lips. “I promise.”

Then he tugged her down and took her mouth, soothing her fears with the heat of his passion.

The gathering of close friends and political acquaintances in Comte Desjardins’s dining room was loud and boisterous. The comte himself was laughing and enjoying himself immensely when a movement in the doorway leading to the foyer caught his eye.

He excused himself and stood, moving to the discreetly gesturing servant with calculated insouciance.

Stepping out to the marble-lined hallway, he shut out the noise of his guests with a click of the latch and arched a brow at the courier who waited in the shadows.

“I did as you directed,” Thierry said.

“Excellent.” The comte smiled.

Thierry extended his hand and in it was an unaddressed missive bearing a black wax seal. Embedded within that seal was a ruby, perfectly round and glimmering in the light of the foyer chandelier. “I was also intercepted a short distance up the street and given this.”

Desjardins stilled. “Did you see him?”

“No. The carriage was unmarked and the curtains drawn. He was gloved. I saw nothing more.”

The same as always. The first letter had arrived a few months past, always delivered through a passing courier, which led Desjardins to the conclusion that the man had to be a member of the secret du roi. If only he could determine who, and what grievance the man had with Saint-Martin.

Nodding, the comte accepted the note and dismissed Thierry. He moved away from the dining room, heading toward the kitchen, then through it, taking the stairs down to the cellar where he kept his wine. The missive went into his pocket. There would be nothing written within it. After a dozen such communiqués he knew that for a certainty.

There would be only a stamp, carved to prevent recognition of handwriting, imprinting one word: L’Esprit. The ruby was a gift for his cooperation, as were the occasional delivered purses of more loose gems. A clever payment, because Desjardins’s wife loved jewelry and unset stones were untraceable.