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Reckless In Pink
The Emperors of London, Book 4
Like the royals for whom they were named, the Emperors of London family have enemies and rivals of their own…
As a soldier for the Crown, Dominic is charged with locating the Young Pretender to the British throne so he can be tried as a traitor. But his mission is altered when he meets Claudia Shaw, an intriguing young woman who has inherited a house of ill repute. In an effort to protect Claudia from her own recklessness, Dominic finds himself allowing the Pretender to slip away…
Claudia is one of the Emperors of London, but her family despairs of her impetuous behavior. And try as he might, the disciplined Dominic cannot quite curb her excesses. In fact, she soon drags him into her adventures—and toward a passion neither can resist. But when a deadly secret comes to light that puts their lives, and their love, at risk, Claudia won’t allow Dominic to sacrifice himself. She is determined to have him—even if it means getting the Young Pretender out of the way herself.
This early in the morning very few people of fashion ventured out into Hyde Park, so Claudia considered herself safe for half an hour to follow her inclinations. At the moment, that included riding properly, not the sedate walk allowed by society.
The rough track extended before her like a challenge, and only one or two people were cantering along it. The morning mist, like steam from a kettle, drifted around the bare earth and the grass bordering it. Trees spread their sheltering boughs at a short distance. Behind her lay houses and civilization. In front, who knew?
Claudia walked her horse, urged him to trot, and then to canter. The breeze drifted past, ruffling her hair, even though she’d taken care to pin it firmly to her head, and her hat on top of that.
As she passed a man riding on a fine chestnut, she kicked her mount into a gallop and shrieked.
Such delight, to let herself go for just a few minutes! Here in town she had to think every moment of every day, work out what she should do and why, and behave like a proper lady.
Hooves thundered behind her in a pounding gallop. A race! Her heart quickened and she urged her horse faster, leaning over his neck to gain an extra spurt of speed.
Her hat flew off, but apart from a shot of annoyance she ignored it. The breeze accelerated to a wind, and some of her hairpins went, too. She shouted with laughter, glanced to the side, and then back again.
Grim determination delineated the features of the man galloping by her side. He returned her glance.
After a moment, she recognized him. He looked nothing like the exquisite she’d met in the company of her brother at the draper’s.
This man wore plain riding-dress and rode with the skill of someone born in the saddle. No polite society smile graced his grim features. The hooded eyes and lazy regard were nowhere in evidence. In that one glance his sharp, fierce glare had almost stunned her.
Enough to make her lose her concentration for the second it took her horse to stumble. She had to stop.
Regaining her seat, she pulled on the reins, shortening them as her mount slowed his pace.
Lord St. Just did the unforgiveable. He rode close and tried to seize the reins. “What are you doing?” she demanded, snatching them out of the way.
“Dismount,” he ordered. That was what it was—an order.
Although she usually responded badly to commands, Claudia obeyed this one. If she did not, who could tell what he would do? She didn’t know him well enough to take the risk of defying him. If he told her brother what he’d just witnessed, Marcus could well make her early morning gallops impossible.
Sighing in exaggerated annoyance, she drew her horse to a halt by a couple of large elm trees. Before she could slide out of the saddle, he was off his horse and had his hands around her waist. His firm grasp and the way he held her as if she weighed nothing sent exhilaration flying through her. He settled her gently on the ground.
Then his annoyed expression brought her back to earth. “What were you thinking? I saw you and heard you cry for help.”
Even his voice sounded sharper, harder. She preferred this no-nonsense viscount to the man of fashion she’d met yesterday. However, she couldn’t allow him to get away with a blatant untruth. “I was shouting with pleasure, not crying for help. Don’t you know the difference?”
An expression she could only describe as wolfish made his eyes brighter, gleaming with feral promise. “Sometimes they sound remarkably similar.”
Dragging her close, he brought his lips down on hers.
When she gasped, he drove his tongue into her mouth. Was the man mad?
Mad or not, he kissed extremely well. Abandoning her reputation and her reason, Claudia flung her arm around his neck and returned his embrace with all the enthusiasm she could muster. Almost better than a dawn gallop.
He groaned, and the vibrations echoed deep in her throat. He liked this as much as she did. He slid his tongue around the interior of her mouth. She caressed it, the connection intimate enough to send a thrill right to the heart of her.
When he tried to pull away, she tightened her hold on him. She wasn’t ready for this to stop.
Unfortunately his strength was superior to hers, and on his second attempt he pulled away. But she didn’t let go.
“Lady Claudia, you are a flirt.”
She smiled wickedly. “Oh, I’d say this was a bit more than flirting, wouldn’t you?”