Sins of a Wicked Duke by Sophie Jordan
Excerpt for Sins of a Wicked Duke by Sophie Jordan
"Sizzling sexual tension ... thoroughly satisfying ..."
Fallon walked carefully down the corridor, mindful not to spill any coals on the rich, gold-threaded runner. At the master's door, she knocked briskly. She had worked in the kitchens, running errands for Cook most of the morning and did not know whether the duke was in residence. Rapping again, she waited several moments more. No response. Slowly, she opened the door and stepped within the shadowed chamber. The hush of the room struck her as almost reverent, almost as though she stepped inside a church's hallowed interior. Absurd considering the man who occupied the space doubtlessly conducted all manner of vice within its walls.
With the drapes drawn, it might well have been midnight. Only a bare slit of light crept from between the drapes. Red and orange embers glowed from the grate and she hastened in that direction, feeling very much an intruder.
She scanned the dark and musty chamber as she walked -- the veritable lion's den. Only the lion was out, she reassured herself. A massive four post bed with a rumpled white coverlet sat against one wall. She blinked at stopped at the sight of it. White? Virginal and pure as a dove's breast. Somehow she expected the demon duke to sleep shrouded in scarlet sheets. Or black. She could well envision him there. The wicked, handsome beast of a man at love play with one of his many paramours. A tightness grew in the center of her chest at the thought.
Thanks to him, she possessed a fairly good idea of what that entailed. At least at the beginning. In her mind, she saw that broad hand lifting a breast toward his lips, holding it, squeezing. Unfortunately, in her mind that breast resembled hers. Stinging heat crept up her neck. Her belly clenched, twisted. She pressed a hand against her stomach.
She shifted her gaze from the imposing bed ... and shoved the image of the demon duke tangled amid those sheets -- with her -- from her head.
Strange that no one had tidied the bed yet. The chamber's furnishings, while appropriately opulent for the bedchamber of a duke, seemed at odds with the duke himself. While it was exactly the type of bedchamber she imagined a highborn lord to occupy, it wasn't him. He did not adorn himself richly as a duke of the realm might, but rather -- when he wore clothes at all -- attired himself simply. A dark jacket. A vest and cravat of abstemious black. No personal belongings littered the opulent chamber. It struck her as a mere domicile. Simply a place to sleep. Nothing more. Not even a home.
A large mahogany desk loomed like a beast before the French doors leading to the balcony. She somehow suspected he rarely sat behind its mammoth proportions. That would hint at an industrious side to the duke. Smiling ruefully, she crouched before the grate and opened its door. Likely the only thing he worked hard at was waging sin.
Resting a hand on her knee -- and relishing the freedom of movement her breeches offered -- she dug a shovel into the coals, adding several into the smoldering grate.
"What the devil is that racket?"
She dropped the shovel into the bucket with a clatter, her hand flying to her throat at the sudden rough voice. Whirling around, she watched in horror as the rumpled bed began to shift and move like a great beast emerging from a snow drift. A dark head appeared, popping up amid the pile of bedding. Her mouth dried. Her throat tightened. No.
With one arm wrapped around a plump pillow, he rose on an elbow, blinking and scratching his head. Tousled dark hair flew in every direction before falling to his shoulders. His scaled serpent tattoo rippled with the movement of his muscled shoulder, almost as though it lived and breathed there on his flesh. Her mouth dried and watered invariably. She fought to swallow past the sudden thickness of her throat. His body more resembled a young laborer of the field than a lily-handed nobleman. And that tattoo ... it belonged on a wicked pirate.
He blinked several more times before his gaze found her crouched before the grate. Her fingers grew numb where they clutched the bucket handle.
"What are you doing in here, boy?" The deep throaty sound of his voice puckered her skin to goose flesh. "I told Diddlesworth I was not to be disturbed."
She closed her mouth and rose to her feet, the glare from those hooded eyes making her stomach quiver. "Begging your pardon." She stopped herself just short of curtseying. Sketching a brief bow, she urged the butterflies in her belly to quell. "Forgive me. I was told your chamber requires coal." She motioned behind her. "And I did knock."
"Did you?" Yawning, he sat up, the white counterpane pooling around his waist, revealing his bare torso and skin far too bronzed ... far too muscled. At least for her notions of a lazy, self-indulgent lord. The fingers of her free hand twitched in reflex, tempted to touch, to caress despite her dislike of him and all he was. Despite that she was supposed to be immune to men such as him.
"Fred, is it?" he gazed at her through bleary eyes.
Just as she thought. A footman was scarcely noticeable. Hardly memorable, it would seem, even after his earlier chastisement.
"Francis," she replied after some delay, swallowing and trying to bring moisture to her dry mouth.
She parted her lips to correct him and then stopped. Frank. Francis. What did it matter? As she witnessed with his valet, he appeared fond of distorting names.
He dragged a hand through the thick fall of his hair. The dark locks fell back in place like a silken curtain, framing the strong planes of his cheeks. The ends swayed rhythmically above his shoulders, mesmerizing her. He scrubbed a hand over his eyes. "I rarely rise before noon."
Of course. Like most idle lords who spent a night carousing. Worthless the lot of them. Him included. "Yes, Your Grace, it won't happen again."
He dropped back down in the mound of white, rolling onto his side and dismissing her. Tearing her gaze from the broad expanse of his back, she hastened toward the door, lugging her bucket and vowing never to visit his lordship's room again. No matter how Nancy wheedled. Her feet moved quickly over the plush carpet. The sound of his sigh as he settled back into sleep carried from the big bed reverberated through her and she shivered, her hand trembling around the bucket's handle.