Happy New Year
Happy New Year…I hope you had a wonderful Christmas/Happy Holidays.
My new MLR novel ‘Darkness Dawns’ has gone off to be formatted and will be released on February 9th, mehopes. Now that’s done & dusted, I’ll get back to work on Book 3 of the Duke & Dandy series.
In the meantime…here is chapter 1…
The Incorrigible & The Count
Lawks. Padraic’s plans didn’t oft pan out with such splendid aplomb, he had to admit. They were a mite more inclined to bolting for the nearest nettle patch when he wasn’t paying attention—or when he was—but he’d never quite fathomed why.
Ne’ertheless, it seemed that carving a way into Raff o’the Rookeries’ heart was a task upon which his own was set. So much so, that nary a notion, nor wisp of whimsy, could flit through Padraic’s head to divert him from his worst intentions. Unless, o’course, it served their purposes. The moment he’d managed to summon Raff to the fore, Padraic had known full well what would ensue afore too many more minutes had elapsed. Hmm, a morn well spent, indeed.
Fortuna, in the form of the Lady Lotte, had seen to it that Padraic could depend on spending two more in similar splendour, before il Conte left town. Thus, it fell to the Duke of Waterford to make the most of his stay. Such a simple turn o ’phrase…
“Afff?” ’Twas a tad tricky to enunciate, but that mattered not, Padraic mostly wondered if his scoundrel would still answer to it. Or, reprimand him for (attempting) its utterance.
“Y’can take it off…” Raff chuckled. A fact almost as staggering as…the sublime sweep of his spine. An alternate simile may have taken some time to rustle up, it must be owned.
Padraic would have whipped it off a wee while back, if it hadn’t made such sense, in the scheme o’things. That noted, it had seemed a piquant supplement to proceedings, at the time…akin to adding slice of lemon to one’s gin.
“Is that all you require me to remove, dear Raff? I must reek to high heaven.”
“I would be much obliged if you’d remove the lot, but that has bugger all to do with your scent, which does not offend me in the slightest,” Raff smirked.
“I might not niff as bad as a rookery gutter, but your oh, so noble hooter must surely—”
“I’m going to gag you again in a minute, if you don’t stop spouting nonsense,” Raff cut in, spearing Padriac with a flinty glint o’green. Neither of these things surprised the Duke a jot, but the rogue’s next declaration was astounding. “I find that I’m far too fond of your scent for my own…comfort.”
Comfort? In the physical sense, surely? It didn’t seem feasible that such a trifle could ruffle Raff’s feathers—his partiality to it—not the niff itself. Padraic really did reek like a whorehouse, it must be admitted. Now, there’s a thought. Oh, what the hell…
“Mayhaps you should bestir yourself to the bawdyhouse, as soon as you return to the Rookeries—”
“Desist with this nonsense, you jingled-brained blackguard,” Raff snapped, swiping a half-hearted backhander across the ducal derrière en route to flopping down beside him. “I have no wish to avail m’self of a blower’s charms, and well you know it. Nor those of a dilly-boy, before yer start.”
How rude…as if Padraic would e’er be so impertinent. He was about to inform Raff o’this, when the scoundrel turned to arch an eyebrow at him, lips atwitch with a knowing smirk.
“Not half hour ago you took me to task, for thinking you fickle. Now, you tar me with the same brush, and deem me an utter rake, t’boot. What’s good for the goose…Yer Grace.”
“Fair’s fair, indeed. Yet, I have also told you true that I want you, no other. To which you informed me that you doubted I would flinch from stabbing you in your sleep and scarpering, the moment I found you wearisome. I beg your pardon, but I feared that such a tryst might prove my come-uppance for being presumptuous,” Padraic sniffed.
Good grief…’twas not oft that he found himself upended so summarily. The Duke would have to keep his wits about him should their proposed fencing bout transpire. Il Conte must wield a lethal foil on the counter-parry front.
“You’ve made it clear that you will return to the Rookeries when ‘you are done with me’.” Padraic pointed out. “I doubt that you plan to join a monastery. So, if you don’t intend to visit a vestal o’Drury Lane—nor dally with a dilly—what else am I to presume? Unless, you keep a mistress of whom I’m unawares…
It was with a soft snort that Raff turned to reach for the pot of pipes on his nightstand. Deflection, or delay, while he rustled up a pithy retort? After filling their bowls with deft fingers, he directed the stem of one Padraic’s way.
The glint agleam in the green was so fierce that a match to light it would prove superfluous, if Raff kept glaring in such a flinty fashion.
“I have not ‘kept a mistress’ for many a moon, yer grace, having had no wish to answer for myself, nor my movements. Mayhaps, I might have been willing to, had met my…match,” Raff shrugged with a wry glance at the one he’d struck to light his own pipe.
Padraic couldn’t quite recall how this conversation had taken such an unexpected turn—nor knew quite where Raff was steering it—which was most odd. The Duke wasn’t oft so tardy on the uptake…but then, he’d ne’er found himself so thoroughly upended before. He should, perhaps, have considered the predicament of the ducal carriage a portent o’things to come.
“Yer Grace, whenever do you expect me to find time to pay a visit to a nuggin-house? It can’t have been five and twenty minutes since…” Raff trailed off in favour of shooting a pointed glance at Padraic’s gaping breeches. He had tugged them back up but neglected to button them.
“You are speaking in riddles, Raff. You know full well that I am speaking of after you’re done with me.”
“Why do you persist in continuing this Canterbury tale? You know damn well what—who—I want,” Raff abruptly barked, tossing his pipe onto the nightstand afore springing up to straddle Padraic’s lap and clasp a fistful of hair. Stone the crows…’twas a wonder the Duke’s bloomers didn’t burst into flames. Again. The blighters must be incombustible.
“Now.” Padraic emphasized.
“Know this. You are mine.” Raff’s tone was akin to the clang of a portcullis. That part may have been wishful thinking, but his words did sound more than a smidge definitive Despite the Duke’s penchant for poesy. “If another man so much as lays a finger upon you, he will never see another dawn, or I ain’t Raff o’the Rookeries. He will be dead before daybreak. I detest that you are duty-bound to wed, but accept it, I must. I have no choice. Marry, if you must. Mistress of Waterford House, your Duchess might be, but I will never surrender you to her…” The rogue rasped afore crushing their mouths together in a kiss so fierce Padraic tasted the tang of copper on his tongue, or Raff’s…’twas impossible to tell.
His head was awash with husky scent, his body aflame with want. His skin felt like a silent scream; aching for the soft scrape of scratchy hair and silken skin, rather than a rasp of starched cotton, sanding it raw. Burrowing a hand into Raff’s tousled hair, Padraic wrapped the other arm around his waist to tug him in tight. His own hips strained upwards, need clawing at his guts, every tendon taut with want, like an overstrung lute.
“Lawks…I can’t stand this,” Raff snarled, snatching himself from the kiss to reach over the edge of the bed. His hand reappeared barely a breath later, clutching a dagger.
Quite what he could no longer abide and had decided to dispense with, Padraic knew not. Was Raff entirely sure? It seemed certain that the Duke was about to lose either his life or shirt, but it was perhaps a toss-up which might meet its end. First.
’Twas neither. Raff grasped the knot of Padraic’s cravat and cleaved straight through it with a single swipe. Lawks, ’tis sharp. When the silk surrendered to its steel kiss, Raff snagged a trailing end and tugged until it slithered free with a swift swish. The Duke was going to have to start purchasing them by the gross; Raff would soon be bound to his elbows as if he were sporting opera gloves. Unless he intended to employ it elsewhere. For the present, Raff let it fall unheeded to slice the buttons off a second waistcoat (ditto) before plucking at the collar of Padriac’s shirt to slice a clean line down its centre. Upon tossing the dagger aside, the scoundrel grasped two fistfuls of muslin and yanked its fronts asunder.
“Lawks…” Raff’s gaze remained riveted to Padraic’s chest as he wrenched his own waistcoat apart, then shrugged it off before dragging his shirt over his head. It emerged in a rumpled tumble of hair and eyes ablaze with emerald fire. Mine…had he meant that? Or, was Raff intent on a purpose beknownst only to himself?
Padraic knew he must never forget that the rogue was exactly whom he’d called forth this morn; Raff of the Rookeries, the most conniving cove to stalk the highways since Darkin deprived them the pleasure of ending his reign. Mine. A word with much the impact of opium fumes on Padraic’s senses, obscuring all but the intoxicating life-force of the man kneeling astride his lap. Topless…and more than a mite askew elsewhere.
Their chests crashed in slam of hard heat and sinewy strength when Raff clasped the nape of Padraic’s neck and crushed their lips together. It scarce seemed possible that being cleaved thus; skin-to-skin, mouth-to-mouth could feel more intensely erotic than full sex with anyone else. But ’twas still true. He’d no sooner observed this, than Raff tilted his hips. Padraic had somehow forgotten that his breeches were gaping, being still sort-of-clad, beneath the waist, so was utterly unprepared for the clash of erections that clanged through his body as if ’twas a dinner gong.
“Tssss…” The hiss Padriac sucked through his teeth was swiftly followed by a low groan when Raff pulled back, ensnaring his gaze with glinty green as he rolled his hips, very deliberately.
“Y’ready to cease cutting your shams and flummery now, yer Grace? I want the truth.”
“You will throw it back in my face,” Padraic sighed.
“Am I not worth that risk?” he swished. Asked.
“You know your own worth, y’scoundrel. Well, one of you does…”
“Demon,” he snorted, then Raff’s eyes abruptly narrowed to glinty slits. “Say it,” he glared.
“I love you.” Three words the Duke had begun to believe he might never mean, even had convention obliged him to voice them.
“I would not have insisted…had I not needed to hear it, Padraic.”
’Twas p’raps the first time Raff had not yer-graced him since they entered his bedchamber. In truth, the hated address didn’t bother him in the slightest, when uttered in chronic cant. For Raff was the only person who sneered it with such contempt…and yet, its insult had come to feel somewhat akin to an endearment, which was as rattlepated as ’twas true.
“Need to hear it? ’Twas always yours for the taking, had I e’er imagined you might wish it to disgrace your eardrums. Where are you going?” Padriac frowned, when Raff abruptly started shuffling backwards.
“Nowhere…or at least, only to the end of the bed, but I’m taking your breeches with me. I want you naked.” Those roguish lips twerked up in a devilish grin as Raff did just that, pausing only to undo the buttons at Padraic’s calves and whisk away his stockings and shoes too. “Better…”
The green grazed the length Padraic’s body like ghostly fingertips, a sensation so tangible his skin prickled to awareness beneath the glide of Raff’s gaze. The Duke had never felt so tall in his life…by the time the rascal was done perusing his person, Padraic felt fit to burst into flames. Raff rose up on his knees and tugged his breeches down afore promptly denying the Duke the sight he’d been denied far too long, by plonking himself on it, to dispense with his own sundries.
“Raff…” The Duke’s focus was too fixed on the man crawling the length of his legs, to realise he’d sighed that aloud, until the rogue’s lips twitched in recognition of it.
When Raff deigned, at last, to bend his elbows, a low moan rumbled in his throat when their chests smudged together. A helpless sound as incendiary as his flinty glint, but in tandem? They were as combustible a clash of contrasts as Raff himself. The scoundrel slid up his chest until their faces were level, then stopped, lowering himself to his forearms. An onslaught of lean muscle and rigid heat Padraic would have sworn unsurpassable…about a breath before Raff began to speak.
“When I first set foot in the Rookeries, I swore blind that I would never again bow before a man. Yet, you brought me to my knees with barely a goddamn blink.”
Padraic’s heart was hammering so hard it felt like ’twas trying to claw its way out to get at the rascal. It damn near stopped dead when Raff unleashed an utterance as lethal as the reputation that preceded him.
“I love you, yer demon.”