A shudder rippled along her shoulders as a memory of curving pencil marks flashed through her mind, the lines of her own naked body caught in various positions on page after page of that appalling sketchbook. Images made without her knowledge. And three words written in garish red wax on the book’s cover: The Beautiful One.
A picture says a thousand words…
The ton is buzzing about The Beautiful One, a scandalous book of nude sketches making the rounds of the Town. Only two men know the true identity of the striking woman depicted, and they are scouring the countryside, determined to find her.
But not the most important ones
The unlikely center of the scandal, Anna Black is forced to flee her home as disaster looms. Her tomboy’s heart and impertinent tongue serve her well when she meets the most brooding viscount ever to darken a drawing room. Will Halifax, Viscount Grandville, has his reasons for pushing people away, and when his outrageous teenaged ward arrives, he presses Anna to take on her care. But even as Anna begins to melt the viscount’s frozen heart, she knows that the more she loves, the more she has to lose. For although Will cares nothing for what makes Society titter, he has not yet seen The Beautiful One.
His gaze travelled toward her shoulder, where her hat hung from its ribbons, which were still tangled in a knot along with some of her hair. She hadn’t had a minute to set it right, and in fact had forgotten all about it. She’d never paid much attention to hats; growing up without a mother (her own had died giving birth to her) she’d had only the housekeeper to remind her about protecting her skin, and she’d frequently ignored her.
“Why haven’t you put your bonnet away yet? Or better, discarded it? And why should you wish, anyway, to wear such a thing?”
“It’s my favorite bonnet for traveling.”
“Then you have execrable taste.” He sighed. “Do please take it off.”
“I can’t, actually. The ribbons are knotted and some of my hair is stuck as well. But if you will excuse me now, I’ll go see to it.”
He made no move to excuse her, but instead squinted at the ribbons, then, to her astonishment, lifted his hands and took hold of the knot just below her ear.
“What on earth are you doing?”
“Untying the knot, obviously.” He leaned closer, evidently to see the knot better, and she caught a nice soap smell and a hint of brandy, along with a note of something that smelled deep, like strength. She felt a soft tug as he began to work the knot, and the gentle, fiddling sensation sent a shiver of pleasure along her ear and down her neck.
She pushed down the desire for more shivers. “Really, my lord, I should like to find my room now. I have—” she cleared her throat emphatically—“rather an enormous amount of unpacking to do.”
He ignored her and continued fiddling. More shivers. They felt too good.
“You’re pulling my hair,” she said untruthfully.
He paused for a moment and glanced at the side of her face, and she saw his skeptical look out of the corner of her eye.
“I doubt that. I am quite good with my hands.”
Those hands. The long, lean fingers with the nicks that suggested hard use. There was certainly a double entendre to be found in his words, if not his tone, but she concentrated instead on not melting into a puddle as the exquisite torture resumed just below her ear.