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«Mistress», Amanda Quick


"YOUR LATEST MISTRESS IS CREATING A SENSATI0N BACK INLondon , Masters. Society finds her vastly entertaining." Charles Trescott, seated before the fireplace, downed a swallow of brandy and eyed his host with a sly expression. "As you've taken a notion to rusticate here in the country at the height of the Season for some odd reason, I thought you'd better know what's going on back in Town."

"Very thoughtful of you to go out of your way to give me the latest gossip."

"Least I could do, especially since it's your name that is on everyone's lips at the moment. I know how that sort of thing annoys you." Trescott, bored and dissolute at thirty, paused with a barely concealed air of anticipation.

"You are mistaken, Trescott. I do not give a bloody damn what the ton chooses to gossip about over tea."

Trescott was disappointed but undaunted. In the manner of a willful child intent on provoking a lion in a cage, he made another stab at eliciting a reaction. "Must admit, I'm as curious as everyone else to know why you're letting her get away with her outrageous conduct. Whole world knows that you always insist on discretion from your paramours. Thought that requirement was one of your infamous rules." Marcus Valerius Cloud, Earl of Masters, turned the crystal brandy glass slowly between his large, callused hands. He studied the reflected glow of the flames imprisoned within the heavy cut glass.

Several months ago he had grown interested in the curious properties of light and glass. He had undertaken extensive experiments with prisms and mirrors.

Those studies had led him to his current passion for telescopes. Astronomy had proven so fascinating that had leftLondon at the height of the Season this year in order to pursue his experiments at one of his more remote estates. The night skies here inYorkshirewere pristine and clear, unlike the smoke-filled air of the city which impeded the view through his new telescope.

It had always been thus for him. Ever since he had been a lad growing up on his family's farm inYorkshire , he had been endlessly enthralled with matters of a mechanical, technical, or scientific nature.

From carriage springs to clocks, from music boxes to the stars, he had a passion for discovery, invention, and a need to comprehend the rules and laws that dictated the way things worked.

Marcus Red rules, especially his own. He had a per sonar set which he had formulated several years ago and from which he never deviated. They were simple and straightforward:

Never remarry.

Never discuss the past.

Never explain his actions to others.

Never retreat from an objective or alter a decision.

Never get involved with virgins or other men's wives.

Marcus looked up from his contemplation of the brandy glass. He had never particularly cared for Trescott. The man was typical of so many of the self-indulgent, licentious rakes of the ton, men whose own personal rules allowed them to prey on the innocent and those whose social ranking was lower than their own.

"Tell me what the lady has been doing to cause such comment," Marcus said in a deliberately disinterested tone.

Trescott's gaze glittered with malice. "Rumor has it that she has dismissed you and is trolling for a new lover. All ofLondonis agog."

"Indeed." "Mrs. Bright descended on the ton a fortnight ago and has taken it by storm. No one can believe that you. have actually allowed your mistress to hand you your conge. Really quite extraordinary, given your, shall we say, notorious reputation?"

Marcus smiled slightly but said nothing. Unsatisfied with that reaction, Trescott recklessly tried another sort of prod. "You know very well that you are considered to be the most mysterious and quite possibly the most dangerous man in all ofLondon."

"As is the case with beauty, Trescott, mystery and danger are in the eyes of the beholder."

"The rumors about your past guarantee that you qualify as a full-fledged legend, Masters. Naturally any woman who has the nerve to throw you over is bound to excite comment and speculation."

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