My Lady Quicksilver Page 23

Her gaze dropped, her frown deepening. “You’re a better person than I.”

“I’ve seen revenge, Rosa. So many times and in so many different ways. I’ve pulled the bodies out of the Thames and arrested hysterical wives or husbands. Revenge is a cold, lonely place, and it consumes a person until there is nothing else left but bitterness and ashes. And it always affects so many more than the people involved.” He scratched at his jaw. “I don’t think I was ever furious. Hurt, yes. Frustrated and afraid. I’ll even admit to the odd vengeful thought against the duke, though I never took action on it.” He took a deep breath. “My father was a brutal man, and the world I walked in was a cesspit of ambition and game playing. When I walked out of the Ivory Tower, with only the clothes on my back and a rough plan of what I would do, I felt free, for the first time in my life. I could be the man I wanted to be, and I could fight them, find some sense of justice in the world.”

Rosa stared at him, the teacup forgotten in her hands.

“And now,” he said, sitting back in his chair, “I do believe you owe me some buttons. Three to be precise, for you asked three direct questions.” He smiled hawkishly, letting his gaze drop to the inch of chemise that beckoned him. “You’re going to be half naked if you keep this up.”


“I’ve changed my mind. I don’t want buttons. I want hooks.”

“Hooks?” Her corset. Rosalind’s hands stilled.

“Hooks,” he repeated firmly.

“Playing for high stakes now, sir.” The words were breathless. She couldn’t believe that he was doing this. What on earth had she been thinking, to ever call him cold?

And why the devil had she started this?

If you start this game…I will finish it. A shiver went through her. She’d never felt so excited in her life.

What are you doing? He’s a blue blood. But her thoughts on what constituted an enemy were beginning to fracture. She couldn’t look at this man, with his rare smiles and his icily controlled hungers, and call him what she called the others. Lynch was nothing like the Echelon.

As if of their own resolve, her fingers slipped the first hook on her corset. Then the second and the third. Lace parted with a soft whisper; it was the palest of pinks, so creamy it was almost white. Smooth white flesh swelled over the top, tempting the straining hooks to part. A dangerous path she walked, but the rashness in her was overwhelming. She couldn’t control this. She wanted him so desperately, her thighs were wet with it.

“My turn,” he said, shifting in his chair. “How did you meet your husband?”

The equivalent of a dash of cool water to the face. Guilt was a marvelous method in controlling the baser side of one’s nature. “Nathaniel worked for the London Standard. He interviewed me for an article on one of my previous employers and asked me to dinner. We were married a week later by special license.”

“How rash of you.”

“Why are you so fascinated with my husband?”

He couldn’t answer that; Rosalind saw the truth in his eyes though and her heart dipped. Lynch wanted her. And not just in his bed. He was beginning to soften toward her, his emotions engaged. It should have been a triumphant moment, but instead she froze, staring at him breathlessly.

For she herself had forgotten one of the cardinal rules in manipulation. Don’t ever fall for your opponent. She stood on the edge of the precipice; she couldn’t stay cold against the onslaught of this.

Yes, I can. I will. Her lips compressed.

“Another button, I believe,” Lynch said, jolting her out of her shock. His hands dropped, and she stared hungrily as the second button on his pants emancipated itself.

Concentrate. She was here for a damned reason.

“My turn,” she said, taking a deep enough breath for her breasts to heave. Those gray eyes locked on her.


Rosalind licked her lips. “You said you were on the hunt for humanists. Have you ever caught any, sir?”

Though he’d been staring at her breasts, his eyes leaped to hers and she wondered if she’d taken that one step too far. This was not the type of man to lose himself so completely in staring at her. He might forget himself, but he was no fool.

“One or two,” he said.

Curse him. She couldn’t ask more, not with him looking at her like that. But at least the answer gave her hope. Summoning a smile, she set another hook loose. Her nipples strained against the tight corset, the dusky tops of them peeking over the frill of lace.

Their eyes locked. He swallowed. Hard.

“Your turn,” she prompted.

“I can’t think of a damned thing to ask.” Scrubbing a hand over his mouth, he shifted in his seat again. “What’s your favorite color?”

Rosalind smiled, unable to take her eyes from his. “Right now, I believe it is gray.” Her lips parted… Did she dare? Yes. “I’m having some trouble with my hooks, sir. Would you help me?”

Lynch went still, his eyes softening dangerously. “Rosa,” he warned.

“You did say you would finish it,” she whispered.

One long, drawn-out moment where she thought she’d pushed him too far. Then he erupted, shoving the small table with its chess pieces out of the way and coming for her.

Black and white pawns spilled everywhere and Rosalind sucked in a sharp breath as he parted her knees with his, kneeling on the edge of her chair. His knee trapped her skirts, pinning her. “I think you want me to finish it,” he said, cupping her jaw and tilting her face to his. “You are a devil of a woman.”

“The hook, sir,” she whispered innocently.

“So I see.” His gaze dropped, his spread hand sliding over the curve of her breast. “Such a difficult task. I understand why you couldn’t manage it yourself.” One deft flick of his fingers and the corset gaped.

Her nipple slid free of the lace edging. Lynch sucked in a sharp breath. Rosalind couldn’t move. The knee between hers was dangerously alluring.

“Ask me a question,” he demanded.

She looked up. “Do you dream of me?”

“Yes,” he hissed through clenched teeth. His hands dropped, but hers were quicker.

She caught his wrist. “Allow me.”

Lynch’s hands dropped to his sides. “I dream of you with your gloves on my thighs.” The pulse in his temple throbbed. “Your fucking gloves. I can’t stop thinking about them.”

Heat spilled through her. Wetness. Rosalind slid the palms of her hands lightly up his thighs, staring up at him daringly. The bulge in his pants was hot and hard. She couldn’t stop her fingers from brushing over it, then again, stroking harder, her right hand clenching over his heavy length.

“My apologies,” she breathed. “I can’t quite seem to find the button.”

Lynch speared a hand into her hair with a sharp hiss. “I should take my belt to you for this.” He spilled her back into the chair, his body driving hers into the soft cushions. His eyes were black again but she wasn’t afraid. Not this time. She knew exactly what sort of hunger she’d roused in him.

She was winning.

“Would you like that, my lord?” She arched her back, sliding her hands up his chest. “Would you like me to bend over your desk and remove my drawers?”

He groaned, tilting her head back sharply. “Fuck.” His other fingers traced her lips. “You’ll pay for that. I want to kiss you, Rosa.”

“Then do it,” she whispered, her hot breath on his mouth.

Those hawkish eyes met hers, his cruel fingers cupping her jaw. “I shouldn’t.”

Dangerous eyes. Had it been so long ago that she’d thought him cold and merciless? Rosalind sucked in a breath. How wrong she’d been. There was such heat in him, such passion.

“Do it,” she whispered.

His gaze dropped to her lips. “Not on your pretty little mouth.” Lifting his knee, he shoved her skirts up. Capturing her right hand, he slid it low, between her legs. “Part your drawers.”

Shock sliced through her. Then heat, stirring between her thighs, wetting the linen between her legs. She almost died at the thought of what he intended. “My lord!” she whispered.

“Not so amusing when the shoe is on the other foot. I told you I would finish it. Now do it.”

His hand slid over hers, pressing her fingers against her damp drawers. A shiver trailed down her spine and Rosalind gasped, the sensation shooting all the way through her.

The coolness of his palm was rough and demanding. Rosalind’s thighs tightened, trapped by his knee. She could barely see their hands, her frothy skirts tumbling over them, but she could feel it, feel the pressure of his fingers, guiding her own to a secret part of herself.

“You surprise me,” she whispered, her mouth but an inch from his. A desperate part of her wanted to press her lips to his, to lick his own, to captivate him. But she held. This was a new game, with new rules, and the shiver of delight at the thought of his mastery almost undid her.

Closing her eyes, she parted her drawers, cool air stirring against her sensitive flesh. “It’s done.”

“Is it?” Lynch’s lips brushed her own, feather light.

She almost cried out then, half reaching for him, but his mouth trailed lower, his lips dancing over the lace of her dress, roughening it against her skin—darting over her nipple. Then lower still, brushing the smooth silk of her corset, tasting her, touching her, as if it were bare skin and not clothing. She shivered, wishing she were naked, wishing it was his mouth on her body, wreaking such delicious torment.

Lynch’s hand fisted in the spill of skirts, dragging them up and Rosalind lost her breath on a gasp. She couldn’t believe this was happening. “Oh God,” she whispered, her iron fingers digging into the soft cushion beneath her bottom.

A knock sounded on the door.

No! Rosalind lifted her head, trying to recapture her breath. Lynch stilled, her skirts almost baring her completely to his gaze.

“Tell them to go away,” she whispered.

He looked at her then, harsh desire burning in his gray eyes. Swallowing visibly, he glanced over his shoulder, fist clenching and unclenching in her skirts. “Who the hell is it?” he called, in a tone of voice that threatened dire consequences on the knocker.

“Garrett, sir.” A faint cough. “I understand you’re busy, but there’s a lad at the front gate, insisting he speak with you. One of your game boys, sir.”

“Fuck,” he muttered, his gaze locking on hers. “Fuck.” He lifted his voice. “Which one?”


Lynch closed his eyes, a muscle in his jaw jumping. “I have to go.” His voice was rough and low. “Don’t go anywhere.”

Rosalind caught his wrist as he drew his hand away. “Stay,” she whispered. “Let Garrett deal with it.”

He shot her a helpless look, and she realized then just how much he wanted to stay. “I can’t.” Lips thinning, he shoved her skirts down. “I’ve been waiting over a month for this message.” Capturing her face, he tilted it ruthlessly toward his own. “Stay here. We have unfinished business.”

“I might just finish it myself,” she said, pushing herself upright. Her thighs quivered with thwarted desire.

Lynch was in the process of standing, but at her words he caught her wrist and drew her close to him. “No,” he said. A quick brutal kiss, then he pushed away from her. “Wait for me.”

Rosalind tumbled back against the armchair as he strode for the door, tugging the buttons on his pants into place. He looked almost unmoved, while she sat in a puddle of skirts and the gaping sway of her bodice, her entire body seemingly melted.

He’d destroyed her. Torn all sense of control from her with one move. A dangerous man, for she wanted more desperately.

Oh God, what had she done? She needed to win back her control and desperately too, before she lost all sense of her purpose here.

“Check,” she whispered.

The game was afoot.


“What the hell are you doing out of your sickbed?” Lynch demanded as he shut the door behind him.

Garrett’s face was pale and almost waxen. Those perceptive eyes met his. “Fitz says I need to walk around the building at least three times a day. So I volunteered to deliver the message.”

“You look like hell. You’d best get back to bed.”

Garrett grimaced. “Perry’s driving me insane, fluffing my damned pillows and offering to fetch something for me at every second moment.”

“She nearly lost you. It frightened her.” It had frightened him, though he didn’t speak of it. Men generally didn’t.

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