Chapter 6~The Seduction of Miss Darkin
It’s time for another installment of The Seduction of Miss Darkin, Book 1 in The Order of the Muse series. We’ve reached Chapter 6 in our story and if you haven’t read the first 5 chapters, please click here to catch up!
Cassandra’s insides were jumping, a kind of desperate fluttering, like a moth beating itself against a lamp flue, not caring if its delicate wings were destroyed in the process. It was as if all the heat that had emanated from her earlier now turned inward, spiraled downward and settled to roil between her legs. Every stroke of Garret Sterling’s fingertips on her skin sent a message of longing racing over her.
But she couldn’t bring herself to ask him to stop. She wanted . . . so many things. Impossible things. Wicked things. Cassie closed her eyes and bit her bottom lip.
What was happening to her?
She’d never been particularly affectionate before, not even with her family. Now, her whole world shrank to the featherlight touch of Sterling’s fingertips on the thin skin of her inner wrist. Even though he only stroked up her forearm as far as the crease of her elbow, she seemed to feel his touch in other places as well.
Sliding along her jaw. Down the side of her neck and over the mounds of her breasts. Slowly circling the sensitive tips. They tightened almost painfully beneath her corset and chemise, the tender skin aching for a real brush of his fingers.
She hardly dared breathe.
“You needn’t worry that your family will be concerned over your absence,” Garret said softly.
His words sent a jolt of guilt to her belly. While her senses were fully engaged with unmaidenly imaginings, her family hadn’t once entered her mind. But of course they’d be worried about her. Daphne would be in hysterics when she didn’t find her on the street before the assembly room.
“Why do you think my family won’t be concerned?”
“Lord Westfall knows you’re with me and can ease your sister’s mind. I Sent His Grace a message that you are safe and on your way. No doubt the duke has dispatched a footman to your parents’ home with the news that you will be His Grace’s house guest for the foreseeable future.”
“When did you have time to send a message?” Let alone two of them. He’d claimed to have let Lord Westfall know she was in his care as they escaped from the burning assembly room at Almack’s.
“We all have certain gifts.” Garret shrugged. “When we arrive, you’ll see that you are expected. I’m sure his housekeeper is airing the bedchamber you’ll be assigned as we speak.”
“I can’t stay at Camden House.”
“If you’re concerned for your reputation, you needn’t be. His Grace’s sister, Lady Easton is in residence. She’s a stickler for good form. I’ve no doubt your father will be charmed by the duke’s intention to interest himself in you.”
“Interest himself in me?” Panic stirred her gut. According to Lady Waldgren, the reclusive Duke of Camden had a reputation for being a trifle odd. Whispers about the mysterious circumstances under which he lost his wife and infant son were grist for society’s gossip mill even fifteen years after the fact. But he was still a peer of the realm and his name wielded significant influence. “You don’t mean to say that His Grace is seeking a wife.”
“No, it’s nothing like that. By God, that would make me some filthy procurer. Besides, I’d never willingly help another bachelor give up that happy state.” Garret snorted as if he considered avoiding the parson’s mousetrap the highest and best use of a man’s time on earth.
He also stopped stroking Cassie’s wrist and she narrowly resisted the urge to beg him to continue. Without his touch, the heat inside her began to surge in a different sort of way that boded no good for nearby flammable surfaces.
“In any case, the duke is content that his nephew will be his heir,” Garret said. “Besides, you flatter yourself. His Grace is not in the market for a child bride.”
“I’m no child.”
Garret’s crooked smile returned. “No, I can see you’re not. In fact, I gather that’s what started all this trouble, isn’t it?”
Cassandra decided to ignore that cryptic remark and cast him a questioning look. Surely he couldn’t be aware of the way she’d succumbed to Roderick’s charm. “I still don’t understand. Why does the duke want to meet me?”
The coach rumbled to a stop before an opulent Mayfair home, bedecked with light streaming from every long Georgian window. Mr. Sterling made no move to disembark. “It’s like this, you see. His Grace is a bit of a collector.”
“What does he collect?”
“People like us, Miss Darkin.” Garret Sterling brought her hand to his mouth and brushed his lips across the back. His warm breath streamed over her skin and sent gooseflesh rippling to her toes. “He collects people like us.”
Cassie peered out of the coach at the elegant Georgian townhouse. Light poured from an upper story window. There certainly didn’t seem to be anything sinister about Camden House, but apprehension still shivered up her spine. He collects people like us.
Her uncle had been a collector. When she was small, he tried to interest her in his plethora of insects, all impaled on placards, labeled and neatly numbered. He studied them, he explained, and tried to learn why they were the way they were. Between the alcoholic fumes to incapacitate the specimens and the long pins to affix them to the placards, the whole process made Cassandra slightly queasy.
She had no wish to be part of anyone’s collection, least of all, the mysterious Duke of Camden’s. Being poked, prodded, studied was an unpalatable prospect. But she did wonder if His Grace could somehow explain the fires.
And why she was the way she was.
I hope you enjoyed the first 6 chapters of The Seduction of Miss Darkin. I’ve had a great time creating this mysterious and magical Regency world. Now I have to admit that this will be the last installment of this online novel for a while. I have some contracted stories to deliver which must take precedence.
But if you remember when I started A Duke for All Seasons online, I did eventually finish that story. I plan to work on The Seduction of Miss Darkin over the next several months as I have time, aiming for publication in Spring 2014!
Also, it’s time to pick a winner from commenters over the past few excerpts. Congrats to Andrea! She’ll get to choose her prize from my Rock*It Reads titles.
If you didn’t win, please pop back here on May 21st. I’ll have a surprise for everyone that day!