Tuesday, November 22, 2016

A Reluctant Rake - A Tenacious Trents Novel (Book 5)

A Reluctant Rake - 
A Tenacious Trents Novel 
(Book 5)

Mr. Jordan Trent, the spare, was raised to be a rake.  Not only did his father encourage his roguish life, but insisted that Jordan do nothing except enjoy the life of women, gambling and fine brandy – the life his father had wanted.  It is a life Jordan enjoyed until he realized something, or someone, very important was missing.

Miss Audrey Montgomery had been warned to avoid rakes like Jordan Trent but fell under his spell like so many ladies before her.  She should have known better and vows to protect her heart whenever he is near. If only his kisses weren’t so delicious it would be so much easier.  

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London, England – Spring, 1814

Miss Audrey Montgomery stifled her groan. What was he doing here? She had chosen the Peyton ball because out of all the events this evening Mr. Jordan Trent would least likely be here.   He was a confirmed bachelor, rake, rogue, and all manner of immorality, and Lord Peyton had three unwed daughters. What was Peyton thinking by inviting such a lothario into the midst of so many innocent young ladies?
Audrey knew she wouldn’t be able to avoid Trent the entire Season, but she had hoped not to see him at her very first ball.  She drew a deep breath in hopes of calming her erratic heart. Why did Trent have the power to set her pulse a flutter? He wasn’t even looking at her. Besides, she was well aware of what a despicable creature he was, yet he still had the strangest effect on her senses and she knew better than to succumb to his charms.  She had been attracted to him last Season, as had every other lady in London, but she knew better now.
A sigh escaped. He did look handsome in his dark blue double-breasted coat with tails and black trousers.  Trent stood with one hand in his pocket and when he moved she glimpsed the gold waistcoat beneath. Trent’s broad shoulders filled out the coat perfectly and she had danced with him often enough at the beginning of last Season to know he did not use padding, or have a need for it.  His dark hair was cropped short and she suspected by the waves that it would be a mass of curls if he let it grow out.  The snowy white cravat made his cobalt eyes all the bluer.  She gasped.  Why hadn’t she noticed he was looking at her, otherwise she would not be able to see his eyes?  Perhaps he was merely looking in her direction and not directly at her.
Audrey glanced around.  Nobody else was looking at him and when she turned back, he wasn’t looking at anyone else.
Oh, drat! He was looking at her.  The last thing she wanted to do was encourage that rogue, but apparently she had.  A slow, sensual smile came to his lips and that blasted dimple emerged.
Audrey closed her eyes for a moment, hoping he would disappear. When she opened them, he was walking toward her. This was the last thing she wanted or needed and she certainly hadn’t meant to encourage him.  And, why would he want to even be near her after the way she treated him last fall when he visited his brother?  Of course, he deserved every bit of her rudeness after what he had done, and more, so why was he approaching her now?
Mr. Jordan Trent stopped before Audrey and her aunt and uncle.  His eyes focused on her after greeting the older couple and he bowed deeply before speaking.  “You look beautiful this evening, Miss Montgomery.”
Before she could respond someone bumped into her from behind and she found herself pushed into Mr. Trent. He grabbed her by both elbows to steady her and leaned forward. “Delicious as well,” he whispered.
Heat stole into her cheeks and Audrey pulled away.  Oh, he was wicked indeed. 
He held his hand out to her. “Might I see your dance card?”
Audrey forced a smile. “I am afraid they have all been claimed.”  Thank goodness. The last thing she wanted was to dance with this rake.  It was bad enough she had to stand and speak with him. Her aunt and uncle would never understand if she refused a dance.  Actually, they would if they knew the horrible truth, but that was a secret she must keep for her dear friend, Millicent, now Lady Lydell.
“A pity.”  Trent frowned as if he were disappointed but she was certain he would recover and move on to another lady to partner, one more willing than she.  “Perhaps a turn about the room?” He offered his arm.
She simply stared at it.  She did not want to touch him, let alone go anywhere with Mr. Trent. 
“Do go on, dear,” her aunt insisted.  “The musicians will not begin again for a little longer.”
“Yes, please.” Mr. Trent still had his arm out, elbow cocked, waiting for Audrey to slip her gloved hand into the crook of his arm.
Blasted man!  Perhaps she should stroll with him so she could finally give him a piece of her mind.  “Thank you.” She smiled sweetly and nodded to her aunt and uncle before allowing Trent to lead her away.
“For a moment I thought you were going to deny me the pleasure of your company,” he muttered when they were out of earshot.
“If this were not a public venue that is exactly what I would have done.”  She nodded to acquaintances as they passed.  “I believe I made my feelings for you perfectly clear this last fall so I see no reason why you wish to be in my presence to begin with.”  She spotted Lord and Lady Lydell ahead. Millicent narrowed her eyes and she frowned at Audrey.  She would need to explain the circumstances to her friend later. Now was not the best time. 
Trent turned her toward the doors leading to the gardens before they reached the Lydells.  Audrey was about to voice an objection but thought better of it.  Out of earshot of the ton she could finally tell him exactly what she thought. The things she should have said months ago.
As they stepped out onto the terrace a cool breeze washed over her heated skin.  Audrey hadn’t even realized how hot she had become from the dancing and being in the crowded ballroom until the coolness blanketed her.  They followed the few steps down into the garden and stopped before a fountain. There was nobody else present so she would be able to tell Trent exactly what she thought of him.  As Audrey turned to face him, she opened her mouth to speak but he swooped in, claiming her lips before a word could be uttered. 
She was too stunned to react.  He tasted of wine and cake and the heat of his mouth sent tremors through her body.  He delved and she bit back a moan.  Is this what he meant by delicious?
Her knees grew weak and Audrey grasped his shoulders so as not to crumble. His arm snaked around her waist, pulling her close to his hard, rigid body.   
Trent pulled back for a moment. “I knew beneath your cool exterior lurked passion.”
Audrey’s eyes popped open. What was she doing? She knew better than to fall under his spell like so many others, yet with one kiss he muddled her senses.  She pushed against his chest. “Let me go.”
Trent sighed and allowed her to step away from his body.
“What were you thinking? Anyone could have come upon us.”
His grin was unrepentant. “Then I suppose you would have been compromised and I would have been encouraged to do the right thing.”
“Not that you would have and then I would have been ruined.”
The smile fell from his face and his shoulders grew rigid.  “What exactly do you mean?”
Audrey narrowed her eyes, remembering all the reasons why she should never speak to Jordan Trent, let alone kiss him. “You know very well what I mean.”
“No, I do not.” He punctuated each word. 
Did he think her a fool?  Or perhaps he didn’t think she thought at all. “I know all about you, Mr. Jordan Trent.  You play with hearts and ruin ladies’ lives.”
He planted his fists on his hips and stared down at her. “What exactly have I done?  At the beginning of last Season you seemed to enjoy dancing with me then with no explanation at all you developed a strong dislike for me.  Did I step on your toes?”
How dare he pretend like he had done nothing wrong?  “You know exactly what I am talking about though you probably didn’t count on me finding out. Did you underestimated how close Millicent and I are?”
His brow furrowed in confusion but she wasn’t going to stand here and wait for him to come up with an excuse or deny his part in Millicent’s ruination.  Audrey turned and stomped away from him before she looked back over her shoulder.  “And I will never forgive what you did.”  She whipped back around, lifted her chin and walked back into the ball.  She would never speak with that rogue again and she would certainly never allow herself to be alone with him otherwise she might end up just like Millicent and that would never do.
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Jordan Trent stared over the throng gathered below in the Peyton’s ballroom and wondered what horrible offense he had committed to make Miss Audrey Montgomery hate him.  At least she desired him, if her kisses were any indication. It had not been his intention to kiss her at all. He simply wanted to talk.  She was his sister-in-laws best friend and he knew they would be seeing each other often this Season and he hoped to mend whatever had come between them last year.  Yet, the moment she turned to him, her mouth parted, Jordan acted without thinking.
She tasted as sweet as he imagined. No, better than he imagined and when he pulled her close she fit against him as if she were made for him.  He could have gone on kissing her much longer so why had he said anything?  He could kick himself for breaking that kiss. He should have remained silent and weakened any resolve she held against him.
Unfortunately, she remembered she hated him before he could press any further.  Not that he would have attempted too much of a seduction since they were standing in the garden and any number of people could have come out. 
This is the exact place he had stood last year when he noticed Miss Audrey Montgomery for the first time and he was watching her again. Last spring he had been at a cross-road and longed to shed the debauched persona he had been forced to wear all of his adult life.  Force may be too strong a word, but sometimes Jordan believed it was the perfect definition.  His father, blessedly deceased, had refused to allow him even a chance at normalcy, to find love, settle down, and become respectable. Each time Jordan hinted that he wished for the stability of a family and wife, his father threatened to cut him off without a farthing. 
 “You have riches and I’ll be damned if I’ll let you waste them on a wife and children. I’ve given you everything a gentleman could ever want and you don’t even have the pressure of producing an heir.”  Jordan grimaced, hearing his father’s words echo in his head.  “Don’t disappointment me by starting to believe in love,” his father had practically spat.  “It is a waste of time and doesn’t exist. Focus on what is important and the simple pleasure of being between a woman’s thighs.”
His stomach churned recalling that last argument. It had taken place a month before his father’s death. 
Jordan sipped from the glass of wine and stared at the beautiful blonde across the ballroom.  Her hair was pulled up and away from her face in a style similar to most young ladies, but ringlets escaped, caressing her shoulders and neck. What had he done to make Miss Audrey Montgomery hate him with such venom?  If he knew he would certainly apologize, but the chit wouldn’t tell him. Hell, she barely acknowledged him this past fall when he visited his brother, Matthew, with the exception of when she tried to slap him because she assumed he had seduced Grace, his now sister-in-law.  Jordan had never seduced an innocent in his life, and never would.  Why was it necessary when there were so many experienced ladies willing to share his bed?  Why would he want inexperience when such talented hands, and mouths, were eager to give pleasure?  The only innocent he planned on ever bedding would be his wife, on their wedding night.
And what the hell did Millicent have to do with anything? She apparently figured into Miss Montgomery’s rejection of him but he didn’t have the foggiest idea how. 
He glanced around the room looking at all the ladies though there was only one Millicent that he knew of and she was married to Lydell. That chit had been the bane of his existence last Season.  She had been Lady Millicent at the time and had hounded his steps to the point that Jordan almost gave up going into public for fear she would somehow compromise him.
Jordan barley knew the chit but she must be the one Miss Montgomery referred to because the two were often in each other’s company last spring.  Jordan had made the mistake of dancing with her on a few occasions, but that is only because he had first asked Miss Montgomery and it seemed rather rude to ask one lady and not the other but that was as far as his relationship went with regard to that Millicent and he could think of no others.  Apparently that was all the encouragement the young woman needed before she showed up wherever he found himself.  His only escapes last spring were his clubs, the Inns of Court, Gentleman Jackson’s or the privacy of his own home.  Jordan hadn’t been cruel in his rejection.  Actually he hadn’t rejected her at all, simply did not encourage her and never asked her to dance again. 
So, how did she figure into all of this?
He had been on the verge of courting Miss Montgomery.  He didn’t know her well, if at all, but the few times he danced with her held promise.  He had left but for a few short weeks with every intention of officially calling on her upon his return to London only to find her not at home to him.  His plan was to take her driving in the park, ices at Guenters and all the normal things gentlemen did when courting a lady to see if they would suit but he never got the chance.  After his return he was only able to secure one other dance and that is because he had practically stolen it from his brother, Clayton. Yet, even during that last waltz she refused to speak with him. 
If he could get some answers he would at least be able to offer an explanation, apologize or finally be able to move on without Miss Montgomery inhabiting his thoughts every night.  Maybe he would be able to forget about her. 
His obsession made absolutely no sense either.  What could anyone tell of another person from a few shared dances?  Yet he was obsessed.  If it were simply desire he would find a substitute. He never suffered from a lack of female companionship, but he didn’t want anyone else. He wanted Miss Audrey Montgomery despite the fact that she clearly hated him.
Miss Montgomery laughed at something Grace said.  Meanwhile, Matthew, his brother and former vicar, smiled at Grace, the warmth of love in his gaze.  It made Jordan nauseous. 
Hell, admit it to yourself.  He was jealous of each of his brothers and their wives and the love each couple shared. Jordan downed the contents in the glass and searched for a servant.  He would need more than one glass of wine to get him through tonight.  Even his younger sister, Madeline was married and over the moon for her husband, Brachton.
A footman came within sight and Jordan strode over and placed his empty glass on the tray and picked up another. 
Why was he here? He glanced across the room.  Because she was! He and Miss Montgomery would either come to an agreement by the end of the Season or he would learn why she hated him. Then he could put her behind him and find a lady of his own. 
The question was -- why did he care? Why did he even wish to pursue a woman who wanted nothing to do with him?  It was just one of the many questions he had asked himself over the past year but he couldn’t move on until he had answers.
Could it be that it was simply because she was the only lady who had ever rejected him?
No. There was something about Audrey Montgomery that intrigued him, far more than simply rejection.

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