Don't Tempt Me:Georgian 04(8)

By: Sylvia Day

“He has withdrawn from service and assists with matters only when they do not take him from your side. This has led to some unrest.”

The vicomte steepled his fingers together and lowered his voice to barely a whisper, forcing her to bend forward to hear his words. “The king has begun to pressure Desjardins to bring Saint-Martin back into the fold. So far, his efforts have met with failure, leading Desjardins to a state of frustration and aggravation that concerns me. I overheard him mention your name in a discussion with one of his associates. I suspect he has some plan to remove you. He sees you as an obstruction, yet the more he urges Saint-Martin to set you aside, the more contrary the marquis becomes.”

Her gaze moved to Marie, then rose to the portrait of herself above the empty grate. Saint-Martin had commissioned it soon after their affair had begun. In the swirls of colorful paints she was forever arrested in her youth and innocence, her blue eyes dreamy with love and desire.

“What can I do?” she asked.

“Leave him.”

Snorting softly, she said, “You might ask me to rip out my heart with my bare hands, it would be easier.”

“You love him.”

“Of course.” Her gaze returned to his. “I have been ostracized. I could not have survived it if not bolstered by love.”

“I would still have you.”

Stunned, Marguerite froze. She stared at him, confused. “Beg your pardon?”

The vicomte’s mouth lifted into a rueful curve. “I want you. I would take you in.”

She pushed to her feet. “You must go.”

De Grenier rose and rounded the small table that acted as a barrier between them. She retreated and he halted. “I mean you no harm.”

“Saint-Martin will not be pleased that you were here.” Her voice shook slightly, forcing her to lift her chin with bravado.

“Very true.” The vicomte’s eyes narrowed. “There has always been some rivalry between us. He knows the danger, yet he does not act because he suspects how I feel about you.”

“What danger?”

“The king’s agenda is of tremendous importance and secrecy. If Desjardins feels it is necessary to remove you, he will do so. If Saint-Martin cared as much for you as you do for him, he would end your affair to protect you.”

“I do not care.” Her hand lifted to cover her roiling stomach. Her protests would mean nothing when pitted against the will of the king. “I would be miserable without him. Better to stay and enjoy what I can, while I can, than to leave and have nothing.”

“I can give you all that you have lost.” He stepped closer.

“I have gained more.”

“Have you?” His jaw tightened. “You have lost your family, friends, and social standing. You have no life beyond these walls, waiting to serve the pleasure of a man to whom you are a peripheral indulgence. I have seen what happens to the women he discards; I could not bear to witness a similar end for you.”

“You offer the same,” she snapped.

“No, I offer my name.”

Marguerite felt the room spin and reached out to grip the carved wooden edge of the settee. “Go. Now.”

“I would wed you,” he said, his voice low and earnest. “I am being sent to Poland for a time. You would come with me. There is safety there and the opportunity to begin your life anew.”

She shook her head, wincing as it throbbed with painful pressure. “Please leave.”

De Grenier’s fists clenched at his sides, then he bowed in a fluidly graceful motion. “I leave in a sennight. Should your feelings on the matter change between now and then, come to me.” His shoulders went back, drawing her attention to the breadth of them. “In the interim, ask Saint-Martin to reveal the gravity of the situation you both face. If you know him as well as you believe, you should see the truth of what I have told you.”

He left the room with a hard, determined stride and Marguerite sank weakly into the seat. A moment later a glass filled with red liquid was held out to her and she accepted it from her maid with a grateful smile.

All the servants in her household had been carefully selected for their discretion. How Philippe knew whom he could trust or not was beyond her comprehension. But then everything he did with regards to the secret du roi was a mystery to her.