Seduced by His Touch(12)

By: Tracy Anne Warren

“Civet oil,” Aunt Jane said. “Apparently the Empress Josephine wears a similar fragrance, though from what I’ve read rumors are swirling that she may not be Boney’s wife for long. They say he’s going to cast her aside because she’s barren, or so the story goes.”

Grace nodded, having read the same news stories herself. “Yes, well, those rumors have been swirling for a while. But perhaps you would do well to steer clear of perfumes favored by wives of the enemy, even ones in danger of being divorced.”

Aunt Jane waved a dismissive hand. “Pish-tosh. If we did away with everything French, we’d have nothing decent to drink or wear. Still, I think you’re right about this particular perfume.”

Replacing the stopper, her aunt gave a contemplative nod. “Mayhap I should discuss a custom-made scent with the owner, a fragrance created exclusively for me. I suppose the price might be a bit dear, but what’s the point of a widow’s portion if you can’t spend it on an indulgence or two?” Visibly excited, she hurried off to find the head perfumer.

Grace watched with a smile before resuming her inspection of the merchandise.

Seconds later, the tiny brass bell that hung above the door gave a tinkling chime as a new patron stepped inside. Instead of another woman come to join the all-female throng, however, the newcomer was a man. But not just any man.

Jack Byron.

From the moment of his arrival, he dominated his surroundings, tall and commanding in a superfine coat of rich dark, Spanish fly green that was all the rage that year. He wore a pair of close-fitting navy blue pantaloons that hugged the muscular contours of his long, powerful legs, with polished black boots on his feet. On another man, the outfit could easily have appeared as ostentatious as a peacock. But on Lord Jack, the effect was nothing short of divine.

As he strolled further into the shop, Grace noticed that hers wasn’t the only pair of female eyes to turn his way, nor the only ones to linger in clear appreciation.

Annoyed by her weakness, she turned away.

What is he doing here? she wondered, since the shop catered almost exclusively to feminine tastes.

And where has he been? she wanted to ask, since she hadn’t managed to catch so much as a glimpse of him lately.

Not that I care, of course.

She hadn’t long to ponder either question before she sensed him at her side.

“Miss Danvers,” he greeted in a throaty rumble that caused tingles to chase over her skin. “We meet again.”

Turning slightly, she looked up as though she had only just then noticed his arrival. “Your lordship. How do you do?”

“Quite well, thank you,” he replied. “Particularly now that I have the pleasure of such lovely company.”

Aware that flirtation must come as naturally to him as breathing, she did her best to ignore his remark. “So, what brings you here, of all places? This hardly seems like your sort of diversion.”

One mahogany brow arched skyward, an amused glint sparkling in his eyes. “Ah, Miss Danvers, there you go again, deciding what does and does not suit me. Whenever shall you learn?”

She flushed slightly at his amused rebuke.

“I am here to make a purchase,” he offered in a gentle tone.

Of course he is, she realized. Undoubtedly he’s buying a gift for a female acquaintance, maybe even a lover. Surely he isn’t shopping for his mistress, she thought, the notion settling like a lump of undercooked potato at the bottom of her stomach.

“Perhaps you might be so good as to assist me,” he continued.

Help him buy perfume for his paramour? Most certainly not!

“I am looking for a present for my sister. Or at least for one of my sisters, since the other is far too young yet for such adornments. I thought there might be something here to please her.”

“Your sister!” she exclaimed, relief rushing through her. “Well, of course. What a thoughtful idea.”

His azure eyes twinkled again. “I am glad you think so. Although you seem a bit surprised to discover I have a sister. To whom else had you imagined I might be giving such an intimate gift?”

“N-no one,” she denied, hoping he would let her gloss over the answer. “So, what kind of fragrance does your sister prefer?”

For a brief moment, his face went blank. “Actually, I have no idea.”

“Does she like flowers, or are herbs and spices more to her taste?”

He considered her query. “Flowers, I believe. Mallory loves anything with petals and a scent.”

She smiled. “That should make it easier then. Mallory, hmm? What a pretty name.”

His gaze met hers. “Indeed. Though not as lyrical as your own.” Almost imperceptibly, he moved closer, the warmth of his body radiating outward, together with his own mesmerizing scent—clean and male and uniquely him. “What fragrance are you wearing?” he asked.

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