The Risk of Rogues
The Risk of Rogues
Lady Anne can’t believe that Captain Lord Hartley Corry, who ran off to India after her father wouldn’t approve their marriage, is back and acting as if she should just forget the past. Not a chance. She wants to marry a reliable man, not a gamester with a rogue’s reputation. Hart can’t admit that his reputation masks his real profession as a spy, not until he can be sure he trusts her. But courting Anne might be his undoing since he just wants to show her what a rogue he can really be.
“From humorous remarks and responses to moments where hearts are on the line, THE RISK OF ROGUES kept me entertained and emotionally involved.” —AlwaysReviewing.com
“. . . this story has her trademark plot all over it. Sexy guy, strong woman, and a whole lotta fun.” —Chris C., Goodreads reviewer
“I adore the fact that Anne is not a dainty or petite woman. Instead, she is on the plump side. I wish more authors in all genres will consider writingmore full rounded heroines.” —Romance Junkies
“You’re right,” Hart said. “We don’t know or trust each other nearly well enough anymore.”
Folding her arms about her waist, Anne faced him. “That’s what I’ve been saying.”
“Yes.” He chose his words carefully. “But we’re here for a week, so we’ll be spending hours together. Why not use the time to get to know each other again? See how it goes?”
She cocked her head. “What exactly are you proposing?”
“A courtship. Where I prove to you that I’m not the wastrel and fortune hunter your father clearly spent years painting me out to be . . . or the devil-may-care rakehell that my reputation has made me out to be. A reputation, by the way, that has been vastly exaggerated.”
She raised an eyebrow. “And what am I supposed to be proving to you?”
“That you’re still the Anne I fell in love with, and not some earl’s daughter for whom my rank as a marquess’s son matters more than my worth as a man.”
A sharp, pained breath escaped her. “Is that how you see me?”
“As you said: ‘I don’t know what to think of you these days . . . I hardly know you anymore.’ But we could change that. Reintroduce ourselves to each other. Call it a ‘re-courtship,’ if there is such a thing. To prove that we’re still well suited.”
The idea seemed to intrigue her, for one corner of her mouth lifted ever so slightly. “And how do you intend for us to prove that in a week?”
“I have no idea,” he said truthfully. “But I mean to give the matter a great deal of thought before I see you in the morning.”
Her gaze narrowed on him. “Your plan had better not be centered around kissing me senseless. Because I’m wise to that trick. It will not work.”
He seriously doubted that. But he also knew that kissing her senseless wouldn’t tell him much except that he wanted her in his bed, which he already knew. What he needed to know was whether he wanted her in his life. For good.
“No kissing,” he said. “Got it.”
She frowned. “You didn’t have to agree so readily.”
“Lots of kissing,” he said with a grin. “Got it.”
“Hart—” she began in a chiding tone.
“Let’s not plan it out, shall we? Let’s see how things progress over the next week, and if we’re not content we’ve had enough time by the end of the week, we can continue the re-courtship in London.”
She narrowed her gaze on him. “What if it doesn’t work out in the end? People will talk.”
“Do you care?” The question was far more important than he dared let on. The wife of a spymaster must be circumspect, but also above all the petty nonsense of society. She would have to lead, not follow; not always be worried that this one or that one had given her the cold shoulder. Could Anne do that?
She thrust out her chin. “Actually, I do care. I can’t stand to lose Delia if things don’t work out between us and she blames me for it. She’s one of my closest companions. As is your cousin Clarissa.”
Ah, losing friends was a different matter entirely. He understood that. “You won’t lose them over me, trust me,” he said dryly. “They’ll assume that whatever happens is all my fault.”
“Why? Have you broken their friends’ hearts before?”
“No!” He rubbed his eyes. Bloody hell. She was as bad as the rest of them with twisting a man’s words. “I only meant that they tend to believe the rumors about me, like everyone else. They’re sure I’m a rascal.”
“Then why are they always talking about finding you a wife?”
That threw him off-balance. “How the devil should I know? Perhaps they think a wife will . . . settle me down. Or something.” It was an excellent question, though, one he might have to ask his relations, and soon.
Then something else occurred to him. “Wait. You said that you’ve heard of my reputation. Didn’t you hear of it from them?”
“No, indeed. They bemoan your bachelor state, but if anyone maligns you in their hearing, they give that person an earful about your virtues.”
“Huh.” From the way Delia had been talking earlier, he’d thought she was warning all her friends away from him.
“Of course, the rest of society says you have a string of conquests as long as your arm, and you practically live in the hells and the broth—”
“If I spent as many hours in those places as the gossips claim,” he grumbled, “I wouldn’t have time to breathe. Don’t listen to that nonsense.” The occasional romp with a merry widow was about the extent of it for him. But all the nights he’d gambled and drunk in the stews in his youth with Warren had built him a bad reputation, too, even if he’d rarely used the services of whores himself. “The rumors aren’t true. Or not very true, anyway.”
“Hmm. I should like to see how you’re going to prove that one during our courtship.”
Relief coursed through him. “So you agree to my proposal? A re-courtship? A private one, if you wish, so you are not . . . embarrassed if it ends badly?”
She held out her hand. “All right. I agree.”
He took her hand, held it up to his lips, and kissed it, thrilled when a shudder of pleasure passed through her.
“What happened to no kissing?” she asked in that throaty voice that turned his cock to iron.
“We changed it to lots of kissing, remember?”
She sighed. “You’re incorrigible, Captain Lord Hartley Corry.”
Except that she didn’t say it in that fond, teasing way Delia had. Her tone was sad, resigned. As if being incorrigible was a bad thing.
But he fully intended to change that impression of him before the week was out.