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Мортимер Кэрол

Some Like to Shock

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Chapter Two

‘Has Sandhurst displeased you in some way?’

Benedict turned to raise dark, questioning brows at the short and rotund gentleman who had joined him as he stood beside the crowded dance floor in Lady Hammond’s ballroom. ‘And why should you think he has displeased me?’ He spoke loudly to be heard over the noisy chatter and laughter of the three hundred or so members of the ton squeezed into the candlelit ballroom, the bell-like laughter of one person in particular catching his ear.

‘Possibly because you have been glowering at him for the past several minutes?’ Lord Eric Cargill, the Earl of Dartmouth and Benedict’s godfather, chuckled wryly.

Benedict deliberately turned his back upon the couples dancing. ‘I was merely trying to understand in what way Sandhurst might possibly be perceived as resembling a Greek god,’ he drawled dismissively.

‘Oh?’ The earl’s surprised grey brows shot up into his thinning hairline.

Benedict gave a self-derisive smile. ‘Not for my own edification, you understand.’

‘Ah.’ The older man nodded in obvious relief, before then giving a slow shake of his head. ‘No, I am afraid I do not understand in the least?’

‘No reason why you should,’ Benedict dismissed briskly, having no intention of confiding that the reason for his own interest was currently dancing in the other man’s arms!

The earl eyed him piercingly for several minutes before obviously dismissing the subject as being unimportant. ‘If I had known you were to be here this evening, then I would not have bothered to come myself.’ He grimaced. He had served as a colonel in the army for many years, and was now spymaster for the Crown under the guise of a minor ministerial post, but was no more a lover of society balls than Benedict.

‘And in doing so you would have also have deprived my Aunt Cynthia the pleasure of attending, too,’ he drawled mockingly. The earl and countess had become his aunt and uncle by long association, the couple having adopted him as their own since the death of his parents, their own long marriage sadly childless.

‘There is that to consider.’ The earl chuckled, brown eyes twinkling merrily. ‘But, much as I intend to enjoy her expression of gratitude later this evening, I am not sure even that is worth the tedious hours I have already suffered tonight in the line of duty!’ His eyes narrowed as he turned to look at the couples still dancing. ‘Who is the beautiful young woman currently dancing with Sandhurst?’

‘I believe it to be the Duchess of Woollerton.’ Benedict had no need to turn and look across the room to know the identity of that ‘beautiful young woman’.

Eric Cargill gave him a cursory glance. ‘I was not aware that Forster had taken a wife?’

‘Perhaps I should have said the widowed Duchess,’ Benedict corrected lightly.

The earl’s brows rose again. ‘That young beauty is the child-bride Josiah Forster’s kept shut away in the country from the moment he had married and bedded her?’

Benedict winced at the crudeness of his uncle’s statement. ‘So it would appear.’

‘I had no idea …’ the older man murmured appreciatively.

‘You really should try and get out and about in society more, Dartmouth,’ Benedict drawled.

His godfather grimaced at the thought of it. ‘I have deliberately engaged the services of people such as yourself so that I have no need to do so.’

Benedict had joined the army not long after his parents were murdered, venting his anger and frustration upon Napoleon’s armies for seven years, only resigning his commission after the Corsican had been safely incarcerated on the Isle of Elba—at least, all of England had believed him to be safely incarcerated! Benedict had returned to the army only briefly after Napoleon’s escape, before the tyrant was once again defeated and this time placed on the more isolated island of St Helena.

Benedict had then found the tedium of civilian life did not suit his inner restlessness in the least. His godfather’s offer of a position, working for him as one of his agents for the Crown, had helped to ease that restlessness, if not completely alleviate it, this past two years.

It could not be completely erased until Benedict had learnt the identity of the person who had slain his parents and dealt with them accordingly. Something his position as one of the Earl of Dartmouth’s agents allowed him to continue to pursue privately, and without anyone suspecting he was doing so.

Except when it came to attending evenings such as this one, which was when Benedict usually used a show of interest in a particular woman to act as a shield to the real reason for his presence. Much as Benedict abhorred the crush of such events as this one, he appreciated that they were the perfect opportunity in which to receive or give information.

It still rankled with him that Genevieve had firmly refused any intention of becoming that current interest earlier today. Even more so, when, having arrived an hour or so ago, he had thereafter been forced to observe Sandhurst’s more-than-obvious pursuit of her, as well as Genevieve’s laughing responses to the other man’s no doubt heavy-handed flattery.

Genevieve herself was a vision in cream silk and lace, with pearl droplets adorning her fiery-red curls, her eyes a deep blue and her lips a rosy peach against the creaminess of her complexion. More pearls encircled the delicacy of her throat and her creamy shoulders were left bare by the style of her gown.

‘—have not seen any sign as yet of the Count de Sevanne—Benedict, are you even listening to me?’

Benedict turned from once again observing Genevieve as she danced elegantly around the ballroom with Sandhurst, to find the earl frowning up at him for his inattentiveness. He determinedly shook off that complete awareness of Genevieve Forster’s beauty, as he instead gave the appearance of concentrating on discussing the French count, who was the reason for his own and Dartmouth’s presence here this evening. Napoleon might have been subdued, but there was no reason to suppose he would remain that way. Nor was he England’s only enemy.

Benedict gave the appearance of concentrating on his uncle’s conversation, because, even as he and Eric Cargill continued to talk softly together, his own attention wandered time and time again to Genevieve Forster, especially when she and Sandhurst left the dance floor together some minutes later in search of refreshment.

Or, knowing Sandhurst, the privacy in which to deepen their dalliance, in one of Lady Hammond’s more secluded parlours …

Genevieve, having earlier today sent word to Charles Brooks that she had decided to attend Lady Hammond’s ball rather than join him for a private dinner, had been fully aware of having Lucifer’s dark gaze upon her since his arrival at the ball an hour or so earlier. Reason enough, she had considered, to encourage and accept Charles Brooks’s attentions when he had arrived immediately after Lucifer and instantly made his way to her side before commencing to flirt with her outrageously.

A flirtatiousness Lucifer did not in the least appreciate, if the tight clenching of his jaw, and the dark glitter of his eyes as he continued to observe Genevieve beneath hooded lids, was any indication.

Genevieve had not felt so giddy with excitement for years. If ever …

Josiah Forster, a man almost forty years her senior, had offered for Genevieve halfway through her first Season, an offer which her brother had been only too pleased to accept on her behalf.

The man was a duke and Genevieve would become his duchess, Colin had argued when she had protested at the idea of marrying a man so much older than herself.

It had been a fairytale wedding, with all of the ton there to witness the union. And if Genevieve had quaked in her satin slippers at thoughts of becoming the wife of the elderly and obese Duke of Woollerton, no one would have guessed it as she floated down the aisle, a vision in satin and lace, nor at the wedding supper later, as she had stood at the duke’s side, smiling and greeting their guests.

It had only been later that evening, during the carriage ride to the Woollerton estate in Gloucestershire, that Genevieve’s nerves had got the better of her at thoughts of the night ahead.

A night which had been every bit, and more, the nightmare Genevieve had feared it might be, Josiah making no allowances either for her youth or her lack of experience.

She shuddered now just at the memory of the horrors she had suffered that night, and that had only been the start of those fearful years of incarceration as Josiah Forster’s wife.

A prison Genevieve had only escaped upon his death.

Consequently this was the first London Season that Genevieve had been allowed to enjoy for seven years. And, as such, she intended to enjoy every moment of it!

And how better to do so than to know that the attentions of the handsome, blond-haired and blue-eyed Charles Brooks, whilst flattering in themselves, were made even more so because they obviously irritated the usually disdainfully detached, black-haired and black-eyed and enticingly wicked Lucifer?

It was heady stuff indeed to be the centre of attention of two such handsome gentlemen after so many years of being secluded away in rural Gloucestershire. Her husband had supervised her time and pursuits with the intensity of a hawk about to swoop on its unsuspecting prey, with the administration of suitable punishment if she did not do exactly as he wished.

Even now Genevieve could not repress the shiver of revulsion at the memory of Josiah’s treatment of her on their wedding night. She shut down those thoughts immediately as she determinedly returned her attention to the more welcome attentions of Charles Brooks. His fingers lingered overlong against her gloved hand as he handed her one of the glasses of champagne he had just acquired for the two of them.

‘To us, my dear Genevieve.’ His eyes gleamed down at her appreciatively as he gently touched his glass against her own.

‘A wholly inappropriate sentiment, Sandhurst,’ Benedict Lucas drawled dismissively even as he plucked the champagne glass from Genevieve’s gloved fingers before turning to place it on the silver tray carried by one of Lady Hammond’s footmen, with a muttered comment for him to ‘dispose of this’. ‘Our dance, I believe, Genevieve?’ He looked down the length of his nose at her, arrogant brows raised over eyes that gleamed with challenge.

To say Genevieve was astounded by his interruption would be putting it mildly. And she was furious at Lucifer’s highhandedness in removing her glass of champagne in that peremptory manner, so much so that she seriously considered refusing to go along with his fabrication; he had not so much as attempted to even greet her this evening, so how could he possibly claim this as being ‘their dance’!

Benedict, having easily read the light of battle which had appeared in Genevieve’s expressive blue eyes, now took a firm hold of her arm before striding determinedly away from the other man.

A move she certainly did not approve of as she tried to free herself from the firmness of his grasp. ‘How dare you, Lucas!’

‘I dare because Sandhurst had introduced a little concoction of his own to your champagne in order to make you more … compliant to his advances,’ he muttered disgustedly as he continued to walk in the direction of the ballroom.

Her arm stiffened beneath his hand, her face paling as she glanced back to where Sandhurst stood glowering after them. ‘What did you say …?’

Benedict spared her an impatient glance between narrowed lids. ‘A mere “thank you for your timely rescue, my lord” will do.’

‘You are talking utter nonsense.’ She eyed him impatiently as she was forced to take two steps to his one in order to avoid tripping and falling.

‘Am I?’ He gave a derisive shake of his head.

‘Of course you are.’ Her cheeks now bore an angry flush. ‘Just because I so obviously prefer the attentions of a gallant gentleman such as Sandhurst is no reason—’ She broke off her tirade as it was met with a disparaging snort from Benedict. ‘It is obvious from your behaviour that you are not a gentleman at all!’

‘And you, my dear Genevieve, have tonight proved that you are a mere babe in arms when it comes to men such as Sandhurst,’ he assured grimly. ‘Once the champagne had been consumed and the effects of the concoction had reached their desired effect, you would then have found yourself more than willing, indeed eager, to retire somewhere more private for whatever debauchery Sandhurst had in mind for the two of you this evening!’

She gasped. ‘You are merely saying these wicked things about Sandhurst in order to alarm me! Or, more probably, in an effort to make me think more highly of you,’ she added with dismissive disdain.

Benedict’s mouth firmed. ‘I very much doubt it is possible for you to think any less of me!’

‘And I am sure that I might manage it somehow!’ Her eyes sparkled with her anger.

He gave a humourless smile. ‘No doubt.’

She nodded, red curls bouncing against her nape. ‘And how would you even know about such “concoctions”, if you were not familiar with or had used them yourself?’

Benedict’s breath left him in a hiss, a nerve pulsing in his tightly clenched jaw as he came to an abrupt halt in the cavernous hallway of Lady Hammond’s London home before turning to face the infuriated Genevieve. ‘I assure you, madam, I have never needed to use such underhand practices as that in order to persuade a woman into sharing my bed!’

Her little pointed chin was raised stubbornly as she met the dangerous glitter of his dark gaze. ‘And why should you think Sandhurst might, when he—’

‘Is in possession of the handsomeness of a Greek god,’ Benedict completed disgustedly. ‘I agree with you, Genevieve, he should not need to do so. Unfortunately, your Greek god has grown weary of the chase, and those flowers and chocolates you received earlier today would have been his first and last “gallant” gesture. Sandhurst now prefers that his courtship be less … protracted and the woman willing to bed him as quickly as possible, along with any number of his less savoury friends, so that he might watch and so add to his own entertainment.’

Genevieve’s gaze wavered uncertainly at this graphic description of debauchery. Could Benedict Lucas—Lucifer—be telling her the truth? Had Sandhurst really put something in her champagne in order to render her willing to do unspeakable things, with both him and his friends? It sounded highly unlikely to her innocent ears, but at the same time she had to admit, much as the ton loved to gossip about Lucifer, she had never heard them question his honesty.

Had Genevieve been taken for the fool this evening by Sandhurst?

Could her silly flaunting of Sandhurst’s attentions under Lucifer’s arrogant nose have resulted in her not seeing what was directly in front of her own?

After all, what did she really know of Charlie Brooks, except that he was an earl, and a charming and handsome rogue? And a gentleman the marriage-minded mamas of the ton preferred that their innocent daughters avoid.

Genevieve had assumed the latter was because Sandhurst had made it perfectly clear that he had no serious intentions in regard to marriage. But her assumption might have been wrong, and in fact those young innocents may well be kept out of Sandhurst’s reach for fear they might suffer the ruin and disgrace Lucifer had just described to Genevieve so vividly.

Benedict knew exactly the moment that Genevieve began to accept that his claims in regard to Sandhurst might have some truth to them.

Her face became even paler, her eyes flashing a dark and stormy blue, her full and enticingly delectable bottom lip trembling slightly.

He forced himself to relax some of the tension in his own shoulders. ‘Come now, Genevieve, there has been no real harm done,’ he cajoled. ‘No one was hurt. I succeeded in rescuing you before you had chance to drink any of the champagne, and so both you, and your reputation, remain unsullied.’

If anything, her eyes grew even more stormy at his assurances. ‘And you think that should be an end of the matter?’ Her voice was deceptively soft.

Benedict eyed her warily. ‘Is it not?’

‘Not in the least,’ she bit out with a scathing determination.

A determination Benedict readily admitted to finding slightly unnerving. ‘Genevieve—’

‘I believe you said this was our dance, my lord?’ she prompted lightly.

He blinked at the sudden change of subject. ‘It is almost over …’

‘Then we will stand and talk together until the next one begins.’ She tucked her little gloved hand into the crook of his arm. ‘Unless, of course, you fear your own reputation might suffer if you were to be seen escorting a lady who left the ballroom with one gentleman and returned on the arm of another?’ She arched challenging brows.

‘I have no interest in what others may or may not think of me.’ Benedict stared down at her impatiently.

‘Then perhaps you do not dance?’

He gave a humourless smile. ‘I believe I am right in saying that my tutors saw to my being well versed in all of the social graces, as well as the education of my mind.’

‘Then perhaps it is that you do not care to dance with me?’

Benedict knew he would enjoy nothing more than to hold Genevieve in his own arms after watching her for the past hour or more, as she was twirled about the ballroom by one gentleman or another, so allowing Benedict the freedom to admire her beauty and grace. To know that even now his own body responded, hardened, just looking at the delicacy of her bared throat and the soft swell of her breasts.

‘I have every intention of dancing with you, if only to show the cats of the ton that you have not left Lady Hammond’s home with Sandhurst as they all no doubt expect you might have done,’ he concluded tersely. ‘But first I would like your promise that you will stay well away from Sandhurst and his disreputable cohorts in future.’

She looked up at him through the long sweep of her lashes. ‘And why should you care one way or the other what I choose to do in future?’

‘You ask the most damnable questions!’ Benedict glared his impatience. ‘Perhaps it is that one of your closest friends married one of mine earlier today, and as such I feel a certain responsibility—What?’ he demanded as Genevieve smiled.

‘It is very sweet of you to feel protective towards me.’

‘Sweet?’ Benedict gave a pained wince. ‘I am certain that is not a sentiment anyone has ever dared to level at me before this evening!’

Those blue eyes glowed with mischief. ‘Perhaps other people do not know your kindness as I now do?’

‘You do not know me, either, Genevieve,’ he bit out impatiently. If she did, then she would know that at this moment Benedict’s feeling towards her were almost as disreputable as Sandhurst’s, inasmuch as he would enjoy nothing more than to drag Genevieve off to some secluded spot where he might make love to her!

She gave his forearm a conciliatory pat. ‘Do not worry, Lucas, your secret is perfectly safe with me.’

Benedict scowled even as he stiffened warily. ‘What secret?’

‘Why, that you are not really the big dark Lucifer at all, but more like one of those darling little cherubs seen in a Rubens’s painting.’ Her eyes were wide with innocence.

‘I am like—! You—I—’ Benedict found himself spluttering with an inelegance totally contrary to his normal cool control. ‘You are daring to liken me to one of those sickeningly chubby little cherubs?’

Genevieve barely managed to contain her laughter at Lucifer’s obvious disgust. ‘Well, you are not in the least chubby, of course, and you do not have golden hair …’

‘I assure you, madam, you are wrong in thinking there is any resemblance whatsoever between myself and a fat cherub!’ He glared his displeasure. ‘Genevieve …?’ He eyed her suspiciously as she could no longer contain her laughter.

‘If you could only see the indignation upon your face!’ She continued to chuckle huskily, her eyes gleaming with unholy glee.

‘You were teasing me …?’ He gave a disbelieving shake of his head.

‘Of course.’ Genevieve nodded, still smiling as she realised from his reaction that it was not something which occurred very often in regard to this particular gentleman.

Her teasing had also succeeded in distracting his attention away from her earlier remarks in regard to Charles Brooks; that gentleman had certainly not heard the last from her on the subject of his daring to attempt to make a fool of her.

If her years of being unhappily married to Josiah Forster had succeeded in doing nothing else, then it was to instil in Genevieve an appreciation for the freedoms of choice she now enjoyed as his widow. Charles Brooks had attempted to circumvent that freedom this evening with his machinations and it was not something Genevieve intended to easily forgive, or forget.

‘It is past time we danced, I believe.’ Benedict Lucas did not wait for her reply before sweeping into the throng of other couples braving the noisy and crowded dance floor.

He danced divinely. His imposing height made him at least a foot taller than Genevieve, the muscled length of his body mere inches away from her own as they danced the daring waltz together, one of his hands firm against the back of her waist so that he might guide their steps about the dance floor, the other lightly clasping her gloved fingers, with Genevieve’s hand resting lightly against the broadness of one of his shoulders in his beautifully tailored black evening jacket. He smelt divine, too—a clean and yet earthy smell that was a mixture of sandalwood and some exotic fruit, and which led Genevieve to wonder how she could ever have found Charles Brooks’s pretty good looks and overpowering cologne in the least attractive.

So entranced was Genevieve by the combination of Benedict’s undoubted height and strength, and that deliciously male smell invading her senses, that it took her some minutes to realise the two of them were being openly stared at by the majority of Lady Hammond’s guests, the conversation in the room having died down to the softness of a whisper behind open fans.

She glanced up at the lean strength of her dancing partner’s tightly clenched jaw as Benedict’s attention seemed to be fixed upon something over her left shoulder. ‘We appear to be attracting a certain amount of attention,’ she murmured softly.

His jaw became even tighter. ‘Yes.’

Her lashes lowered on to suddenly warm cheeks. ‘Do you have any idea why that is?’


She winced. ‘Do you think—can it be because of my earlier error in judgement, with regard to Sandhurst?’ Having only just rejoined society, Genevieve had absolutely no desire to behave in any way that might cause her to be immediately ostracised.


‘Well?’ she demanded sharply as he made no attempt to add to that unhelpful statement.

He breathed out impatiently. ‘I believe the reason we are being so closely … observed is because it must be ten years or more since I have bothered to dance with any lady at one of these tediously boring balls.’


Benedict glanced down at Genevieve as he heard the curiosity in her voice. ‘Yes. Really,’ he snapped his irritation, both at the ton’s speculation at the phenomena and Genevieve’s obvious pleasure in the fact. ‘Does it please you to know that every member of the ton present this evening is now speculating as to why I should have chosen to dance with the Dowager Duchess of Woollerton?’


He frowned darkly at her candour. ‘Why?’

She shrugged slender shoulders. ‘Because it is … the fun we discussed earlier today.’


‘Lucifer?’ Her eyes glowed deeply blue beneath the long sweep of her dark lashes, an entrancing dimple having appeared in her left cheek, as she continued to look up at him.

Benedict stared down at her in frustration for several long seconds. ‘Oh, to hell with this!’ he finally rasped his impatience as he came to an abrupt halt in the middle of the ballroom before placing his hand firmly beneath Genevieve’s elbow. His expression was one of grim determination as he escorted her from the dance floor.

Genevieve looked up at him curiously. ‘Lucifer—’

‘My name is Benedict, damn it!’ A nerve pulsed a steady and rapid tattoo in the tightness of his jaw.

‘But everyone calls you Lucifer …?’

‘Rarely to my face,’ he assured grimly.

‘Oh.’ A delicate blush coloured her cheeks. ‘I had not realised …’

‘And now you do.’ Benedict was only too aware of the name by which the ton referred to him privately, but no one else had ever dared to address him in that way directly.

‘Where are we going?’ Genevieve demanded as Benedict collected her cloak from Lady Hammond’s attentive butler.

‘As far away from here as is possible,’ Benedict answered tersely as he placed her cloak about her shoulders before taking his own cloak and hat.

Having observed Eric Cargill in conversation with the Count de Sevanne whilst he was dancing with Genevieve, the older man gave Benedict a nod in confirmation that he had received the information they needed. Benedict now saw no reason why he should prolong this tortuous evening any longer. Nor did he think it a good idea to leave Genevieve here alone. For a woman aged in her mid-twenties and a widow after six years of marriage, Genevieve seemed extremely naïve when it came to an awareness of the licentious behaviour of certain gentlemen of the ton.

Himself included …


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