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His Scandalous Mistress: The Master's Mistress / Count Toussaint's Pregnant Mistress / Castellano's Mistress of Revenge

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CHAPTER EIGHT

‘THANK you, Mrs Baines.’ Rogan smiled up at the housekeeper later that evening as she put a plate of roast beef in front of him, after placing the vegetable dishes on the middle of the table. ‘This smells delicious.’

‘Thank you, Mr Sullivan.’The housekeeper was still very pale, and her eyes were red-rimmed, as if from crying. ‘It was your father’s favourite,’ she added huskily.

‘How’s Brian nowadays?’Rogan deliberately changed the subject to the housekeeper’s son, having no intention of getting involved in any sort of conversation that might involve his having to be polite about his father. Besides, he was genuinely interested. Brian was a few years older than Rogan, but the two of them had always been quite friendly towards each other during the five years they’d both lived at Sullivan House.

Mrs Baines’s expression brightened slightly. ‘Very well, thank you, Mr Sullivan. He lives up in Scotland now, with his wife and young baby.’

Rogan grimaced. ‘That must make it difficult for you to see them as often as you would like.’

‘He has his own life to lead,’ the housekeeper accepted with a resigned shrug.

Rogan nodded. ‘Tell him I said hello when you next speak to him.’

‘I’ll do that.’ Mrs Baines nodded before quietly taking her leave.

‘I suppose Mrs Baines will have to find new employment once you’ve sold Sullivan House?’ Elizabeth commented as the two of them helped themselves to vegetables.

‘The implication being you expect me to just throw her out into the street?’ Rogan said curtly.

‘It’s none of my business—’

‘No, it isn’t!’ he rasped.

Elizabeth raised reproving brows. ‘She was very upset when your father died.’

Rogan’s mouth twisted ruefully. ‘More so than me, I guess.’ He cut into the delicious-looking beef.

‘That wouldn’t have been difficult,’ she said pointedly.

‘Elizabeth, if you’re trying to kill my appetite again you’re going about it in exactly the right way,’ he warned.

But Elizabeth was too exhausted to be deliberately provocative, after hours of checking and double-checking both the books that had been on the floor and then those still on the shelves.

She was so tired that she hadn’t even bothered to change before joining Rogan for dinner.

Although even in her tired and therefore vulnerable state, she was very aware that Rogan had once again changed for dinner. The long length of his dark hair was brushed back and resting silkily on his shoulders, and tailored black trousers and a black silk shirt once again made him appear like those dark predators in the books she read…

She sighed. ‘I was only attempting to make conversation.’

‘Take my advice: attempt to make it about something else!’ His mouth was set in a grim line as he resumed eating his meal.

‘As far as I can tell, the Darwin, the Dickens and the Chaucer are all missing,’ she came back tartly.

Rogan’s gaze narrowed as he sat back in his chair to look across the table at her. ‘That’s certainly a change of subject!’

Elizabeth gave an unconcerned shrug. ‘You didn’t specify that I change it to something pleasant.’

‘No, I didn’t, did I?’ Rogan eyed her appreciatively. ‘So, you think they’re all missing?’

‘I know they are,’ she corrected firmly. ‘I’ve stacked and checked every book thrown onto the floor. Double-checked, in fact. I’ve also looked through all the books on the shelves. Again, twice. None of those books are there.’

‘You have been busy,’ Rogan murmured admiringly. ‘Why only those books, I wonder… ?’ he mused as he once again attempted to eat his meal.

Elizabeth had been wondering the same thing. Admittedly, the Darwin was probably the most valuable book in the Sullivan collection, but there had been several others in the glass bookcase that were also worth a considerable amount of money. None of those books had been missing.

‘Perhaps I was the one that stole them, after all?’ she suggested lightly.

Rogan eyed her from beneath raised brows. ‘I doubt you would have mentioned them to me at all if that was your intention. Besides, you and I both know there is no way you could ever have thrown all those other books onto the floor in an effort to cover up your crime.’

‘No,’ Elizabeth acknowledged heavily, only picking at her own food, still upset by the events of the day. ‘But surely your everyday burglar would have taken more than those three books?’

‘Is there such a thing as an “everyday burglar”?’ Rogan teased.

Her eyes flashed deeply blue. ‘You know exactly what I meant!’

Yes, unfortunately Rogan did know exactly what Elizabeth meant. Which narrowed down the identity of the burglar considerably…

He shook his head. ‘Just forget about it, Elizabeth.’

‘Forget about it?’ she echoed incredulously. ‘I’ve just spent the entire day establishing that those specific books have definitely been stolen—’

‘And I’m very grateful for your attention to detail,’ Rogan cut in harshly. ‘Now, can we just move on?’

‘Move—? Rogan—’

‘Elizabeth!’ He glowered at her darkly.

Elizabeth eyed Rogan in disbelief. ‘But—’

‘Don’t you have some more questions you would like to ask about why my mail still goes to New York but I no longer live there?’ he interrupted.

She had lots of unasked questions on that particular subject. But as a means of ending their previous conversation it was rather too obvious. ‘Not when I know they’re questions you have no intention of answering, no,’ she replied.

‘You don’t know that for sure.’ Rogan grinned across at her unapologetically. Strangely, he found these conversations with Elizabeth stimulating. He was certainly never bored by them. Or by her…

‘Okay, Rogan, let’s test that theory, shall we?’ she said. ‘If your mail goes to New York, but you don‘t live there, where do you live?’

‘Elsewhere.’

Elizabeth scowled. ‘That isn’t helpful.’

‘I know.’ He grinned unrepentantly.

‘Those men you talked to on the phone—Ace and… Grant, was it?—who are they?’

‘People who work with me, along with another man called Ricky.’

Elizabeth was holding her breath now. Rogan was still being obstructive, but even so he was answering her questions in his own guarded way. ‘As what?’

‘Associates.’

Elizabeth gave a grimace. ‘You see.’

‘I doubt you tell a man everything about yourself on a first date,’ he retorted.

She didn‘t tell a man everything about herself on a second date either—because she usually ensured there wasn’t a second date! Being here like this at Sullivan House with Rogan made it more difficult to maintain that distance.

‘If anything, having lunch together yesterday counts as more of a date than dinner this evening… ’Elizabeth frowned as she realised she had just completely contradicted her own version of their lunch together yesterday!

‘True,’ Rogan accepted. ‘But it took your mind off stolen books for a couple of minutes, didn’t it?’

Elizabeth was completely aware that Rogan was now attempting to divert her attention from where he lived and who he worked with by reverting back to the subject of the stolen books. And it wasn’t going to work. ‘Who was it you were asking Ace to make sure stayed put?’

‘You’re good, Elizabeth,’ Rogan approved huskily. ‘Very good, in fact.’ He nodded appreciatively. ‘You don’t forget much, do you?’ he explained at her questioning glance.

She shrugged. ‘I simply have a methodical mind.’

‘From teaching History, no doubt?’

‘Probably,’ she said. ‘I’ve simply never been able to cope with chaos.’

‘Like the library this morning.’

‘Like the library this morning.’ She nodded.

‘You haven’t answered my question, Rogan,’ she reminded him dryly.

‘Dogged too.’ He grimaced. ‘Have you ever watched a friend making a complete ass of themselves over someone you know is completely wrong for them?’

Elizabeth’s eyes widened at the unexpectedness of his answer. ‘I can’t say that I have, no.’

‘I have,’ Rogan said heavily. ‘And it isn’t pretty. Which is why someone is with Ricky round the clock at the moment, in an effort to keep him away from her.’

She frowned. ‘You’re trying to stop this man Ricky from making a fool of himself over a woman?’

‘Trying being the operative word,’ Rogan drawled. ‘The worst of it is, he knows she’s bad for him. She picks him up and then drops him again when a better prospect comes along, only to get Ricky back again when that relationship goes sour on her. I’ve tried reasoning with him; we all have. He just can’t seem to say no to her.’ He frowned darkly.

‘Did you ever think that maybe he loves her?’

‘He says he does.’ Rogan nodded. ‘But if that’s the case it’s a destructive kind of love.’

As Stella’s love for Elizabeth’s father had been destructive…

Elizabeth shrugged. ‘I admire what you’re trying to do, Rogan, but you do know that in the end it will make no difference? That the moment Ricky can get away from you all he’ll go back to her as soon as she snaps her fingers?’

Rogan gave her a searching glance as he sensed rather than heard the pain behind her questions. As if she spoke from personal experience…

But he could read nothing at all in the calm blue of Elizabeth’s eyes. ‘I would never let any woman treat me the way Vannie treats Ricky,’ he vowed.

Elizabeth gave a short, humourless laugh. ‘I doubt that in your case any woman would ever dare!’

Rogan remained unsmiling, aware that he had told this woman much more than he had initially intended. Because he hadn’t liked it earlier when she had suggested he might be a mercenary? Possibly. Whatever the reason, he had confided more about himself to Elizabeth than she had told him about herself.

He looked across at her speculatively. ‘So, how about re-turning the favour and answering a few questions yourself?’

Her expression instantly became wary. ‘Such as?’

‘Such as why do you spend your summer vacations working?’

Elizabeth shrugged. ‘The same reason you can’t wait to get back to America—I would be bored if I didn’t do something to occupy my time.’

‘Surely there’s plenty for you to do in London? The theatre… shopping… ’

‘I can go to the theatre any time, and shopping doesn’t interest me,’ she dismissed.

Rogan gave a huff of laughter. ‘I thought all women liked shopping.’

‘Not this one,’ Elizabeth said with a rueful smile.

Rogan already knew that there was a lot about Elizabeth that wasn’t like other women. Like any other woman he had ever met, anyway…

‘Perhaps we should just get on and eat now, hmm?’he suggested, and he picked up his knife and fork to resume eating the food that had gone slightly cold during their conversation.

Elizabeth did so happily, relieved not to have to talk about herself any more, and equally content with the fact that Rogan had finally talked to her about himself, and several of his friends, in spite of his obvious reservations.

‘I certainly feel better now that I’ve eaten,’ Elizabeth commented lightly, once the meal was over and she and Rogan had retired to the drawing room so that he could enjoy a glass of brandy and Elizabeth a soft drink.

‘You were looking a little pale earlier,’ Rogan acknowledged as he handed her the juice before sitting down beside her on the sofa and relaxing back against the cushions.

Instantly all of Elizabeth’s senses were put on full alert. As if they hadn’t been on alert already, after spending nearly two hours eating a meal with him!

She had found herself looking at his hands more often than she would have wished as she remembered the touch of them on the nakedness of her body earlier that day. When she had been fully aware of the spicy seduction of the combination of his aftershave and the male smell that was all Rogan.

What was it about this man in particular that made her so totally aware of him? From that silky dark hair down to his leather-shod feet?

If Elizabeth knew the answer to that question then she might have some way of fighting against it. As it was, she just had to accept that she was totally aware of him. Achingly so.

Just as she was suddenly aware that she hadn’t even bothered to brush her hair before dinner. ‘I feel a mess.’ She raised a self-conscious hand to the spiky disarray of her hair.

Rogan turned his head on the cushion to look at her. ‘If you’re fishing for compliments… ’

‘I’m not,’ Elizabeth assured him hastily.

‘… then you chose the wrong man,’ Rogan finished dryly.

Her cheeks felt warm with embarrassment. ‘I was stating a fact, not looking for compliments.’

Rogan gave an appreciative grin. ‘Nevertheless, Elizabeth, you look good whatever you choose to wear. Or not wear… ’ he added pointedly.

‘I—’ She shook her head. ‘You’re referring to what happened this morning?’

He gave a lazy shrug. ‘I believe it’s the only time I’ve seen you naked.’

Elizabeth gave him an exasperated glare even as the colour warmed her cheeks. ‘And I believe I said I would prefer it if we never talked about this morning!’she snapped waspishly.

Rogan’s lids narrowed. ‘Just forget it ever happened, you mean?’

‘Yes!’ Her agitation was increasing by the second.

He gave a slow smile. ‘What if I can’t forget it, Elizabeth?’

‘Try!’

He chuckled softly, enjoying her obvious discomfort. Why shouldn’t he, when those same memories made him uncomfortable too—though in a completely different way!

Rogan really had tried forgetting Elizabeth’s nakedness this morning. The way she had caught fire in his arms as he kissed and caressed her. How much he had enjoyed watching her face as she climaxed under the ministration of his lips and tongue. He’d only had to look at her again this evening, to be alone with her, to know he hadn’t succeeded in forgetting anything about her. As the hard throb of his thighs now testified!

He shifted slightly on the sofa, so the muscled length of his thigh rested against her much softer one. ‘As I suggested this morning, there’s no reason why we can’t explore this attraction between us further, and see where it takes us… ’

Elizabeth scooted to the far side of the sofa. ‘Explore it on your own and leave me out of it!’

Rogan gave a slow shake of his head and his gaze easily held hers captive. ‘I’d much rather explore it with you,’ he murmured throatily.

Elizabeth couldn’t think straight, couldn’t move when Rogan was this close to her. ‘I—We both know this morning was a mistake.’

‘Do we?’

‘Of course it was a mistake,’ she said. ‘You have a woman back in America, waiting for you to call her!’

He raised dark brows. ‘I do?’

She nodded. ‘According to your associate Grant, yes.’

Those dark eyes narrowed as he obviously recalled the telephone conversation she was referring to. ‘You really don’t forget anything, do you?’

‘Nothing of importance, no,’ she assured him firmly. ‘Besides, you and I have nothing in common.’

He relaxed slightly. ‘Admittedly I don’t read sexy vampire novels… ’

‘Will you just forget about those damned vampire novels?’ She glared at him crossly.

‘Difficult,’ Rogan murmured, those dark eyes warmly seductive now. ‘Aren’t you tempted to practise some of the things you’ve read about?’

Her cheeks felt even warmer. ‘No, I am not! They’re only fantasy, Rogan,’ she added. ‘Not real life.’

‘How do you know that if you’ve never experimented? For instance, I think we might both find it highly erotic if, while I was making love to you, I were to bite you on the neck.’

‘Will you just stop this!’ she burst out agitatedly. ‘You simply aren’t my type.’

‘You seemed to think I might be this morning,’ he reminded her mockingly.

‘You took me by surprise this morning.’

‘If my memory serves me correctly, I didn’t take you at all… ’

Her mouth firmed. ‘You’re just bored, Rogan, and looking for a diversion. Any diversion.’

‘You think?’

‘I know!’

‘Never heard of opposites attracting?’ he taunted.

‘Not in this case, no.’ She shook her head. ‘We’re just too different for this attraction to be real, Rogan. Your life appears to be complicated, in so many ways. Whereas I like stability and certainty in my own life.’

‘Stability and certainty can be a little boring, don’t you think?’ he asked, his gaze continuing to hold hers even as he reached across to pick up her hand and lace the long length of his fingers with her much smaller ones.

Elizabeth felt the jolt of that physical connection as heat surged up the length of her arm and into her breasts, causing them to swell achingly and the nipples to harden and throb in awareness.

Worse, she couldn’t look away from their interlaced fingers, her own appearing very white and delicate against Rogan’s much darker skin. She swallowed hard, before moistening suddenly dry lips. ‘I like my life the way it is.’

‘Do you?’ Rogan was much closer now, his breath brushing warmly against her slightly parted lips. ‘Do you really, Elizabeth?’

She liked this man! The way he looked. The way he felt. The way he touched her. The way she felt when he looked at her with those dark, seductive eyes.

It was all too easy at times like these to forget that he had that woman waiting for him in America…

Rogan easily read the panic in Elizabeth’s widely uncertain gaze, knowing he should stop this now. Knowing, after those alarm bells had rung inside him this morning after making love with her, warning him that Elizabeth Brown could be a danger to his chosen life of solitude as well as his peace of mind, that he should never have started this teasing conversation in the first place.

The two of them were both products of what sounded to Rogan to be similar childhoods—a loving mother who had died before her time, and a father who didn’t give a damn about his wife or his child. Elizabeth had chosen to deal with the pain of that childhood by channelling her emotions into the safety of teaching History, whereas Rogan had just as deliberately chosen a life that presented constant challenge and change.

He didn’t want, had never wanted, any permanence in his own life. He certainly didn’t want a permanent woman—least of all a woman like this one!

Rogan released her fingers as he sat back abruptly. ‘You’re right, Elizabeth, you aren’t my type either,’ he said quietly, and stood up. ‘We have the funeral tomorrow to get through.’ He grimaced just at the thought of it. ‘So I’ll wish you goodnight,’ he added distractedly, before striding purposefully from the room.

‘Goodnight, Rogan… ’ Elizabeth murmured softly into the empty room.

A room that, without Rogan’s vibrantly forceful presence, somehow seemed flat and uninteresting.

Much like Elizabeth was starting to realise she had allowed her life to become…

.

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