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A taste of the forbidden…

Venetia Hamilton is no stranger to erotic art—her father’s lush paintings are one of society’s secret pleasures. But Venetia has never experienced true desire. Not until she meets Marcus Wyndam, the Earl of Trent—a powerful man who holds her future in his hands and awakens her curiosity with one searing kiss. His expert touch is only the beginning of her carnal education, but something more dangerous than submission may be the price she pays for such unimaginable delight…

Read an Excerpt

This excerpt contains explicit sexual material and is intended for readers 18 years of age and older.

Chapter One

What would her jaded lord do with his hands while the lovely courtesan knelt between his legs and kissed him intimately?

Venetia Hamilton tapped the end of her brush against her lips as she studied her watercolor painting. Even though her earl—yes, she’d decided he was an earl—was a most experienced man, this time he’d met his match in the delightful auburn-haired woman pleasuring him.

She couldn’t resist smiling at her imaginary earl’s downfall in the arena he believed he reigned supreme. Since his lordship was so steeped in vice, so bored by customary sensual acts, he’d begin with definite ennui, merely an onlooker to his own seduction.

In his right hand, Venetia sketched a glass of fine champagne. In his left, since he was in the theatre box of the pretty woman, she gave him a peeled orange the size of an ample breast, large enough to fill his strong hand. No, he would not touch the woman, she decided. But in his expression…there she could show not only the desire, but the growing wonderment as his heart began to open, to unfurl, to delight in the pleasures bestowed upon him.

She turned her attention to the audience, for her earl was receiving these daring caresses to his intimate parts in full view of the Drury Lane theatre. Ah, the expressions told the tale—the matrons pretending to be scandalized, but really enraptured by his magnificent proportions, his exquisite form, his handsome face. Envy on their husbands’ faces. And the leering looks of the mob in the orchestra.

Now she must tackle the earl’s expression. Capture perfectly the growing astonishment on his face as this act that he must have experienced a thousand times—at least—became new and special and wonderful once more…

She took short, unsteady breaths as she stepped back from naughty fantasy to the reality of her tiny studio. When she drew, she became one with the scene—not a participant, but a figure in the shadows, holding a brush, telling a life’s history in one erotic moment.

Her body hummed with desire, ached with it. She should be ashamed to admit it, but she wasn’t at all as proper as her mother had raised her to be. She was, after all, her father’s daughter.

With a sigh, Venetia plopped her brush in the jar and swirled it until the water blushed pink, lit by the fragile spring sunlight that spilled through the paned window. The only raven-haired scoundrels in her life lived on the canvases stacked on the narrow shelves of her studio, all safely hidden beneath muslin covers.

She knew perfectly well that love was a woman’s folly. That rakes never truly reformed—

A sharp rap on the door had her almost knocking over the water glass. The rap came again. Followed by a breathless, “My heavens, Miss Hamilton!”

She had to take the time to turn the easel so her painting faced the wall and Mrs. Cobb burst through the door just as she hid the scandalous picture.

Mrs. Cobb puffed from the jaunt up the stairs. Her cheeks blazed red, her cap was askew. She held out a card. “There is a gentleman to see you, mum. A gentleman calling upon you alone!”

“Which gentleman?” Her father? Rodesson outwardly appeared to be a ‘gentleman’. But he wouldn’t dare visit.

Her housekeeper pushed her cap upright. “The Earl of Trent, mum! I put him in the drawing room. Tea? Should I put the kettle on?”

Venetia’s heart tapped a frenzied dance in her chest. She pushed her chair back, snatched up the studio key, and crossed the floor in a heartbeat to take the card. Her thumb slid over thick, textured vellum embossed with a crest. Her gaze fell to the title, in bold text. It did indeed read—The Earl of Trent.

She slumped against the doorframe in disbelief. How could the earl know who she was?

Mrs. Cobb lurked over her shoulder, demanding a decision on tea as Venetia locked the door to her studio with shaking hands.

“N—no tea,” Venetia stuttered. Lifting her skirts, she hurried down the hallway in the most unladylike way. But if she was running into disaster, she wanted to get it done with.

Plodding footfalls told her Mrs. Cobb was following but couldn’t keep up.

The most preposterous notion dawned as Venetia sped down the stairs. What if her father had gambled again, hoping to win his vowels back from the earl? What if this time Trent had won her at cards?

Reaching the open drawing room door, she stopped, smoothed her skirts, and gulped down steadying breaths. She must be careful. If she ruined her reputation, she ruined her sisters’ reputations. Maryanne, Grace…they at least deserved a chance at the lives Mother hoped they would lead—marriage, children, happiness…

The earl, she noted, had found the only warm spot in her chilly drawing room. As soon as she stepped inside, the cold seeped through her dress and wrapped its icy fingers around her bare neck. Since she never received guests, she never heated the room. At least a fire now crackled in the hearth.

His lordship stood so close to the licking flames, she feared a spark might set his trousers alight. His left elbow was propped on the mantel, between the unfortunate bric-a-brac left by the previous tenant—two candlesticks shaped like nude women and a bronze of his favorite mount.

Venetia closed the door gently behind her, then stopped short, still clutching the doorknob.

The earl balanced an open book in his large gloved hand and he lazily flipped the pages. The faint sunlight cast a bluish gleam on his coal black hair and slanted across his straight shoulders. Even in a casual stance, he easily topped six feet and she couldn’t help but admire how his midnight-blue superfine emphasized the taper from wide back to narrow waist and lean hips. Skintight trousers displayed magnificent legs and disappeared into Hessians with a mirror finish.

She arched on tiptoe to spy around his broad frame. Pictures. The book did indeed contain pictures but she couldn’t see the detail—he stood too far away. But Tales of a London Gentleman was bound in burgundy leather, in exactly the same shade as the book lying across that massive hand.

The earl paused at a plate, then turned the book in his hand to study some detail that had caught his fancy. A flush prickled along the back of Venetia’s neck.

He moved to capture the light more fully on the page, and she saw his profile. Raven hair, darkly lashed eyes, patrician features, and wide, firm lips.

Her stomach pitched to her toes. Trent was the dark-haired gentleman who had appeared in her father’s pictures. The man she’d copied for her book. She’d thought him an invention of her father’s brush. But since he stood before her in the flesh, obviously her assumption had been wrong.

It made sense. Rodesson attended brothels and orgies and hells. Why wouldn’t he base his pictures on actual patrons? On the actual scenes he had witnessed?

The titles flew through her whirling mind. The Fair Lady Bound. The Jermyn Street Harem. The French Kiss.

Even The Trapeze in which the nude lady had been seated on a suspended bar over the gentleman’s upright—

Venetia pressed her hand to her churning stomach. Her father had changed Lord Trent’s appearance, she saw that now. She, in utter innocence, had decided to make her gentleman more handsome.

By horrific accident, she had succeeded in making him look more like the actual man.

A soft groan spilled from her lips.

The earl looked up sharply and she stared into vivid turquoise eyes, the color startling and beautiful in contrast to his long sooty lashes and straight black brows.

That extraordinary shade had not appeared in her father’s pictures. Could she capture it? If she blended cobalt blue with a touch of—

“This is my personal favorite, Miss Hamilton. I think you have caught my likeness perfectly in this one.” Dangerous amusement rippled through Lord Trent’s seductive baritone and his deep masculine voice held her transfixed. “You have a remarkable talent.”

A remarkable talent. She felt a warm flush of pride, even as her knees almost buckled.

“My—my lord.” She managed a curtsy, a wobbly one, her plain gray skirts crumpling as she dipped. “I am afraid I don’t understand to what you are referring.”

He closed the book. His brows arched over those turquoise eyes—cerulean blue would do it, blended with a dab of yellow oxide—

“Your book of erotica in which I play the starring role.”