Nothing sells like love and scandal...***
Collette Jardiniere writes of passion and seduction but has experienced neither. Her pseudonymous novel, "The Last Days of a Rake," has shocked Victorian society and become a runaway bestseller. Infamous roué Charles Jameson is "revealed" as the author, and Collette is outraged when the cad does little to curtail the gossip.
Intrigued by the book the tabloids claim is his thinly veiled autobiography, Jameson tries to find the real author. Returning to London after an unsuccessful hunt, he is pleasantly distracted by a plain country miss reading the wicked book.
Collette is dismayed when she learns the identity of the devastatingly handsome man who kissed her senseless. And Jameson cannot believe that she wrote "The Last Days of a Rake." As Collette tries to convince him of the truth, their mutual attraction reaches a fever pitch, and soon they find themselves in a real-life scandal!
Saturated and shivering, Collette stood in the middle of the room, her bonnet bedraggled, her hair wet against her neck. Charles took her hat, removing the long hat pin carefully and setting it aside.
"That is what is wrong with fine feathers," she said mournfully, holding her arms out and staring down at her green silk dress, now spotted with rain. "This dress will never look the same. A little rain would not have injured my old brown one. If I had not been so vain as to wear this, but I thought it looked so nice..."
He took her into his arms and held her close, feeling her shiver against him. "My housekeeper will take care of it," he murmured into her ear. "She is a very discreet woman and will never see you, anyway. But to do so, to save it, you must remove it, you know." He released her and held her away from him, ducking down to look directly into her eyes. "I am not trying to do anything but save your pretty dress, my dear. I will get you a robe and leave you alone for a minute."
He exited into his bedchamber, which opened off the sitting room, brought back a robe and then left again, merely saying he would order tea.
Collette undressed down to her petticoats, but they were wet as well. May as well dry them too, she thought, since she had Jameson's voluminous robe to cover her. She climbed out of all her things and laid her underthings over a chair....
A half hour later, with a fire blazing and a tray laid with tea things on a low table by the fire, they were comfortable. He had ensconced her in the only chair and he, wearing only trousers and a shirt, open to the waist, sat on the floor, his legs drawn up and his arms wrapped around them. His damp hair was drying, and it was tousled from the rain and wind. She reached out and pushed back his tumbled locks. He caught her hand in his and kissed her palm.
"I'm so sorry for all of this, Collette. You don't know how much I regret what you are going through."
Was he as sincere as he sounded? That was the problem with gentlemen of rakish habits; they were by nature accomplished flatterers and liars. But she would choose to think him sincere. She listened to the pattering rain against the window and the crackle of an ember popping in the fireplace. "I'm afraid, Jamie."
"Afraid? Don't be. Please, my dear. I will slay the dragons, you know, even if I suffer immolation in the process. I will do anything to make this right, Collette."
He knelt beside her chair and took her into his arms and she buried her face in his neck, smelling the spicy scent of his cologne. When he tipped her face up to meet his and found her lips, she surrendered to the sweep of desire and kissed back, allowing her mind to go blank. In one swift motion he picked her up, cradled her to him and took the chair, holding her close to his chest on his lap. But then they stilled, the sound of the wind and rain filling the room.
"We should talk," she murmured finally, tucking her cold hand under his shirt and tracing the musculature of his abdomen.
"Yes. We will. But kiss me again first. I cannot seem to get enough."