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Whispers in the Dark [MultiFormat]
eBook by Gayle Eden

eBook Category: Erotica/Erotic Romance/Romance
eBook Description: The Earl of Wythe is a notorious rake, with one goal in mind--to get Lady Joan Lecrox into his bed. Joan is doing the Season to please her Uncle Willy, who doesn't want Joan to settle for being an old maid, until she's had a taste of the Town. Joan is unique--she is also dead set on avoiding rakes and men in general, having learned some rather harsh lessons about impetuous passions. She is well aware of what Roger wants, and is determined to resist. Roger sets out to demolish her defenses, and a game of seduction and temptation begins. Whenever he can get Joan alone, he whispers to her, seductive, alluring promises that will introduce her to passion and the sensual world of lovers. In spite of her resolve, Joan is too soon swept away, until she finds herself meeting him for trysts in his house outside London. In the dark, when he whispers, she becomes aware of herself as a sensual woman, but it is the closeness, the most intimate connection between male and female that is most enlightening for Joan. Coming to her senses, Joan decides that she and Wythe have gone far beyond a few encounters, and though he has given her the priceless gift of restoring her faith in what lovers can be, he has also brought her heart to the brink of something more. Roger too, has gone farther with Joan than he has with any woman. The scandal of his past, the brooding darkness inside of him cannot prevent him from thinking of her. After the season, when the affair is over, they meet again in Bristol. Will they take this one chance to make what they feel more than passion, or will the mistakes in their past keep them from recognizing that their hearts long for much, much more? Whispers in the Dark is an incredibly sensual story, rich in both imagery and eroticism. It's a story of discovery, about living out a fantasy and then finding love along the way. This romantic tale of Gayle Eden's is guaranteed to be one you'll remember!

eBook Publisher: Alinar Publishing, Published: 2005, 2007
Fictionwise Release Date: August 2007


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Chapter 1

The Earl of Wythe stood in the center of his chamber, his valet having departed only moments earlier after assisting him into his formal clothing. With only one lamp burning from the adjoining sitting room, moonlight spilled through the window, striking his swarthy face and midnight eyes, glinting on the wavy black hair that settled at his shoulders.

Lord Roger was that enticing contrast between rake and gentlemen; the expert cut of his clothing, the stark white cravat, marked him as a gentleman, but the defined musculature and height, the dark skin, reflected something forbidden and wicked. It echoed in the curve of his full lips, the flair of his nostrils and winged arch to his brows--a scar that ran from below his right eye to the under-curve of his jaw.

Smoke curled from the cheroot he was enjoying. His expression was slightly brooding, deep though. The firm jaw set in rigid lines hinted they weren't pleasant ones. Roger had so many women, so easily, and the fact that one had cost him a moment's discomfort was a rare and unique experience, indeed.

He was determined to rid himself of this irritation.

Joan ... Joan Lecrox. He tasted the name in his mind, as he had tasted her lips ... right before she'd slapped him.

Roger laughed suddenly, a short grunt of it. He shook his head and crushed out his cheroot, then gathered his gloves, cape, and found his cane. He strode out of the room, and into the upper hall, before descending the spiral staircase.

"Have a pleasant evening, my lord." His butler Kingsly bowed while handing him his hat. Roger stepped over the threshold and out onto the curb with a murmur of thanks. His coach was waiting.

He eased himself inside, settling back against the plush leather and rested his hands atop his cane. The driver pulled out amid the London traffic and they began their journey.

Tonight was not a usual theater night for him. In fact, he was going to miss several appointments attending this play, not the least of which was a night with an actress who wanted to share his bed. Actually, he'd ignored any intimate invites, since meeting the maddeningly hard to seduce Joan Lecrox.

Near the theater the expected crush of carriages and milling people clogged the entrance. His driver stopped at a good space, and Roger exited, flinging his cape over his shoulder while he stood back from the crowd to eye the patrons at length.

The haute ton were always easy to spot in their glitter and furs. He had been on the scene many years and was well aware--and totally unfazed, by the fact that the high sticklers bit their tongue around him, because of his wealth and title. In truth, they had their pets amid the rakes and rogues. At thirty-four he had been in the circle long enough to let them know he neither cared nor sought their approval. He accepted invitations when the mood struck him, and indulged his own interest when it did not. He was a man who'd spent enough time abroad in mixed cultures to have explored and experimented with whatever took his interest ... and very little of those interests were perused amid the ton.

"Wythe!"

Roger turned his gaze to the right and nodded, smiling slightly at the urbane and wholly rumpled Viscount Berrenger.

"Simon," he drawled deeply. "What brings you out before the stroke of midnight?"

The lanky viscount pushed away from the outer wall and strolled over. His cravat undone, and over-long sable hair wind blown. He flashed Roger a cynical smile. "A request from my cousin."

"Cousin?"

Simon stared at him. "Joan Lecrox."

Roger's brow rose. He had known the Viscount for years, they had slummed, and gambled, together but Simon never spoke of family besides his elderly father. There was an uncle ... but bloody hell, it couldn't be...

"Yes." Simon seemed to read his mind and appeared amused. "It seems she requires the added protection of a male relative--"

"Rather like the fox guarding the fox, wouldn't you say?" Roger cut him off.

"It's none of my business whom you seduce or vise versa," Simon muttered flatly. "But Joan is off limits." While he eyed Roger's hard-set jaw he added with a mild grin, "Should you, however, decide to court her, that would, of course, alter things greatly."

Roger's dark eyes narrowed. "Are you jesting perchance? I could quite easily list a number of..."

"Don't bother. Yes, I've seduced my share of the fair sex. I'm no hypocrite. 'Tis merely that--Joan is off limits."

"You said that before," Roger muttered him. His voice clipped. "Would you care to expound on it, while we make our way to your box?"

Simon laughed. "Don't make this difficult. I've boxed and fenced with you, ole boy. I would prefer you make this unpleasant chaperone business easier for me. I do so detest these sorts of noble roles and family obligations."

They'd begun to walk forward, and Roger said, "You were going to tell me why she's off limits?"

"Was I?" Simon yawned.

Roger stopped and several people had to walk around them. He waited with a black scowl for Simon to realize he was serious.

"Because she's no deb. She's not of the fast set. She's got a mind of her own and she's settled in it that you are merely out to seduce her ... smart gel that she is. Though she's lived in the country with her books and herbs and what not, she knows me well enough to call me a rake. And, while my exploits might amuse and irritate her, she said, and I quote, You keep the rest of your bloody crowd away from me." Simon smiled and shrugged. "There you go, ole boy. A direct command."

Roger grunted. They entered the foyer with its din of voices and scent of cigars. People were gathered in little groups talking, chatting, and rubbing elbows. He returned, "Lead the way."

"Give over, Rog," Simon groaned. "I've said I hate this bloody role. Inviting you to my box is positively going to have Joan at my throat."

"You'll live."

"She slapped you."

Roger glanced at him. "Umm, yes."

Simon grunted. "Well, she might not slap you tonight, but I'll sure get a tongue lashing should you insist on this."

"I insist."

"Bloody hell." Simon reached over, took someone's drink and downed it. He coughed and wheezed to Roger. "Why are these female cousins always orphaned?"

Roger smiled at his question. "She must be twenty-two at least. I should think that puts her in the status of adulthood."

"She's twenty four."

"Really."

"Yes." They went through the draped exit and entered his box. His cousin Joan was already seated with her companion Miss Avery.

* * * *

She couldn't believe it! Absolutely, she was going to murder Simon.

Joan Lecrox turned from having glanced at the entry, fixing her eyes on the stage whilst she tried to control her temper. Damn, Simon. She had thought for sure that he would honor her request and not bring the bloody man within inches of her. And, there he was. She became aware he'd taken the seat behind her.

Simon touched her shoulder to get her attention. Joan smacked his hand with her fan, hard, and did not turn around. She'd like to beat him about the head with it. Honestly. She was going to murder him. She considered getting up and just walking out, but the orchestra had signaled, and the crowd from the foyer was entering boxes and getting settled. The lights were going down...

Joan unfurled her fan and turned her head slightly to eye Simon, who was seated just behind her companion.

He must have caught the movement for he leaned up and tried again. "I didn't invite him, puss. He was rather insistent. Believe me, I know the man. He would have caused a scene and cared little about it."

"I'm not speaking to you," she hissed back. "I'm never speaking to you again."

Simon chuckled. "Have a heart. You should have picked a good cousin for this task ... I've known Rog for years..."

"I don't have a good cousin, you wretch ... I have only one, you ... No, I take that back. I disown you. Feel free to leave at any time."

Simon sighed loudly. She heard him say to Lord Wythe. "You see, ole man. Now you have gotten me in the suds. I am completely disowned."

Lord Roger's deep, somewhat raspy voice intoned, "Your cousin is being rather extreme over a mere kiss."

Joan turned the other way to regard the dark lord. "How dare you mention that!"

That sensual mouth twisted in a smile, and even with the low lighting she could see his dark eyes shimmering. "I dare many things, Joan..."

"I can see that," she bit out. "And since you had your face slapped for doing so with me, I should think you'd get the message."

"What would that be?"

"I'm no fool, Lord Wythe. I'm here for one season as a courtesy to my uncle. I may not be London bred, but I've read and heard enough about you to know exactly what your game is. Play it somewhere else."

Roger stared at that face, it wasn't ravishing, nor exactly beautiful, with her green eyes glittering with anger and that almost too-wide mouth set in resistant lines. She had a proud nose, angled chin and unfashionable light freckles on her cheeks that she did not bother to hide with powder. Her hair was slightly curly, likely a mere shoulder's length, and since she did no more than hold it back with combs, the curls were escaping at her temples and by her ears. He had seen more ravishing females. But it wasn't looks, not even the challenge, it was ... an odd sort of chemistry that flared from the first time he'd encountered her taking air on the balcony at the Lamont's ball ... and kissed her.

From where he sat a foot behind her, he could smell that scent; the mixture of woman and heat and some mysterious night flower that he couldn't name. He'd had sex with many forgettable females, and not one of them had drawn him like Joan Lecrox.

Roger was no green lad. He did not play games, as she put it, he followed impulse and satisfied hungers. He knew what rumors she'd heard, though his privateering days were well behind him and they were the least of the dark whisperings linked to his name. She was; doubtless, referring to the whisperings that his parents had disowned him years before they had died, and the woman he'd been betrothed to from a tender age had fled to Paris to escape a so-called nightmare union with him when he'd retired from the sea.

He said though, neither cynically nor harshly, but in a whisper, "I am well beyond games, Joan."

Roger observed the slight widening of her eyes. Her cheeks flushed before she gathered her composure and returned, "I am sure you have plenty of women, my lord. The sort who more than welcome your attention. Pray, do not waste your time with me. I have no intention of giving you a moment of it."

Mentally he smiled at her pluck, for no woman to his knowledge would dare spar with him. He murmured silkily, "Then I shall have to take it."

Her lips parted and she blinked.

He laughed softly. "No. To the contrary, of the rumors you may have heard, I never developed a taste for ... force. Seduction is much more satisfying."

"You're beyond belief," she hissed. "Now, please. We are in a public place. If you persist in this folly, I shall leave."

He was outright chuckling now.

* * * *

Joan wanted to slap him again.

He was trying to shock her. She knew that. The man was provoking her, and he was totally without manners.

The drama began on stage and she turned, after shooting Simon a harsh look. She settled her eyes on the actors, yet felt Lord Wythe's remain on her for far too long a time. There was a hot sensation over the back of her neck and her shoulders. If not for the fact she knew he'd mock it, she would have lifted her shawl from her elbows and covered herself. She heartily wished she'd worn a less fashionable gown, the bodice of the jade velvet dress was low, and off the shoulder. There were more beautiful woman, more exposed ones too, to look at, why didn't he bloody seduce them instead?

For Joan, it was too long a play, and too long between acts. Twice she got up with the intention of leaving, and twice she found Lord Roger standing in her way. She hated the fact that sitting down reeked of admitting defeat, it gave the impression she would bow to his insistent plan of being near her. However she sat there chewing her lip by the last act, having no alternate route of escape.

When the curtain closed, Joan nudged her companion awake, resisting the urge to roll her eyes at the woman's drooling snores. Miss Avery was her uncle's choice of a suitable chaperone. Because in the country, in Bristol where she lived alone the past few years, frankly, no one gave a fig if Miss Lecrox went about with only a maid, or even by herself.

Simon had stood too. He muttered to her, "I don't suppose I'm escorting you home?"

"No." She eyed his rumpled clothing. "Don't bother to take my request seriously hereafter, Cousin. You are bloody rotten at it."

"I'm still a cousin at least." He winked.

She sniffed. "Do go on, and take your friend with you."

Simon bowed and headed for the exit. Joan saw, to her dismay that her companion had sleepily followed. The stupid woman left her standing there with Lord Roger.

He was tall. She had noticed that at the ball, noted it on the balcony--when he'd nearly lifted her off the floor during that shocking kiss. Standing a bit back from him, she still had to look upwards. And, when the lights came up, there was that shadow around him. Good God ... those piercing blackish eyes and that dark skin.

Joan pulled her wrap up over her shoulders and detected several scents coming from him, all too dark and masculine to want to name at the moment.

"Do you intend to let me pass?" she quirked her brow in an attempt to appear completely unaffected.

He was gazing over her face--her body too. "Allow me to escort you home."

"Are you bloody joking?" She spurted laughter.

His lips curved. "Joan, you may as well give an inch or two."

"I have my own coach."

"Mmm. I'll send him ahead, with your companion."

"I'm not being alone in any vehicle with you."

That seemed to amuse him. However his tone was still mild. "I intend to at least have a conversation with you, so you may as well give in."

"We have nothing to say to each other." She made to step around him.

Roger's tawny hand came out, catching her upper arm. She stumbled a bit as he drew her close to him, her shoulder touching his chest. He leaned down, whispering in that raspy husk, "I want you, Joan."

My God ... those words somehow turned to fingers of fire that trailed from her ears, down her spine. They settled in her blood, leaving it pounding with the fierce beat of her heart.

"I don't want you," she said gruffly, staring away from him.

His thumb brushed her skin. He murmured, "Are you a virgin?"

She jerked her eyes to his face. "Do you want your face slapped again?"

"Ah, no." He laughed, flashing her a rare white smile. "I think you enjoyed it too much."

"I'd enjoy it immensely now too."

That smile lingered though he led her toward the exit, keeping a hold on her all the way through the entryway. When they were out in the crush, he leaned down and told her softly, "I'll give you this round, sweet."

To her embarrassment he removed his hand from her arm, but brushed it down her spine before he told her, "Go now, Joan."

Left standing stupidly alone, she watched his figure stride down toward a cluster of crested coaches.

"Miss?"

Joan snapped out of her haze, glancing at her driver on his perch. She ducked into the coach after the theater footman opened the door. Inside, she settled her skirts, noting with some disgust that Miss Avery was fast asleep. The coach turned. Joan absently looked out the window, somehow not at all surprised when fate had them stopping to allow for traffic whilst alongside Lord Wythe's vehicle.

He had his arm along the window edge and was already looking right at her. Those pitch eyes seeming to burn with hidden fires.

Joan licked her lips and wished she had not, for a slight smile suddenly played about his mouth and his lashes dipped. When Henri had the coach moving, she let out a long breath.


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