Today’s snippet is from Isobel Carr’s latest release Ripe for Seduction. If you haven’t read her League of Second Sons I recommend you do, I’ve read the first one so far and loved it. I can’t wait to catch up and read the rest of the series. Ripe for Seduction is the third book in the series.
The first few strokes made the boat lurch and shiver as though it might fly apart. Olivia swayed and laughed as she clung to the bulwark. After a moment, the oarsmen found their rhythm, and the boat steadied, moving forward with a slightly undulating swiftness.
“Shall we sit?” Roland waved one hand toward the canopy.
Olivia didn’t respond. She simply stood and watched as all around them the shaloops jockeyed for position and the coxswains hurtled insults at each other with the same foul talent employed by the fishwives of Billingsgate.
Lord Brownlow watched with narrowed eyes as his shallop pulled past them, chasing the lead boat. He dabbed at his jaw with a large handkerchief before stuffing it up the sleeve of his coat with an impatient gesture. Brownlow had won the last three years in a row, and several times before that. He and his father both had eschewed a place in town in favor of their main estate and made frequent use of the river as they came and went from town. They had, perhaps, the most practiced team on the water.
“My lady?” Roland stepped back from Olivia, and she turned about as though surprised to suddenly find herself unsupported.
“Sorry, yes,” she said, one hand still holding fast to the bulwark while the other attempted to keep her hair out of her eyes. After a moment, she shook her head ruefully and tottered carefully toward the canopy, her petticoats brushing the oarsmen’s elbows when her step occasionally faltered. Roland marched swiftly after her, catching her as she nearly fell.
“No sea legs,” he said, settling her down among the pillows once again.
“You try it heels and skirts,” she shot back, her brows pinched with indignation.
“Touché.” Roland crouched down and flipped open the hamper he’d had cook prepare and pack for them. “Would you like a glass of wine?” he said as he pulled a bottle of claret from the basket and attacked the wax seal with a penknife.
“By all means.” Olivia arranged herself more comfortably amongst the pillows and bolsters, draping herself over one of them, one knee drawn up and the other stretched out, the lacquered heel of her shoe glinting in the sunlight.
Roland grinned at her and pulled the cork from the bottle with a satisfying pop. “You look like an odalisque in a seraglio.”
“I was thinking granddame of Venice.”
“Not courtesan?” he said, pouring her a glass of wine and leaning forward on one knee to offer it to her.
“No.” Olivia said with a superior little smirk as she took the glass. “Not courtesan.”
Roland shrugged, filled his own glass, and sprawled out beside her on the carpeted platform. “Courtesan certainly sounds more enticing than granddame, don’t you think?”
Olivia took a sip of wine and sank further into the pillows. “To a man like you? Certainly.”
“A man like me? You mean one who’s breathing?”
She shook her head, but one side of her mouth was quirked up with amusement. “Very well,” she said after taking another sip. “I look like a courtesan in a gondola in Venice. You do remind me a bit of Casanova.”
“You’ve met Casanova?” Roland slid closer to her as his question hung in the air. He worked his free hand out of its glove and eased it stealthily under the hem of her petticoats.
Olivia, still oblivious to his maneuver, shot him a look brimming with mischief. “When I was very little girl, he came to England. He called himself the Chevalier de Seingalt at the time, but the maids couldn’t help whispering about who he really was. They were giddy with it. I should like to see Venice,” she added with a somewhat mournful sigh.
“Why don’t you?” Roland said as his fingers grazed the back of her knee, trailed over the silk of her stocking, and traced the line of her garter. Olivia’s eyes widened and she nudged him away with her foot.
“Maybe someday I shall,” Olivia said in the same tone one might say maybe someday I’ll see a unicorn.
“No, really?” Roland scooted a tad closer, the movement of his hand on her thigh hidden from the busy oarsmen by her skirts and the pillows and the angle at which they lay. “As you told me yourself, you’re a woman of independent means. You’re of age. There’s nothing to stop you going.”
“I’ve never been further afield than Yorkshire,” Olivia said. She froze, like a grouse about to take flight, as his hand crept higher, skimming along the silken skin of her inner thigh. “I’ve never even crossed the channel. I wouldn’t know the first thing about orchestrating a trip to Venice.”
“Then you’d certainly end up being taken prisoner by Barbary pirates off Gibraltar and would live out your days in some Mahometan pasha’s harem.”
“With my luck? Yes.” Olivia glared at him as he grazed her skin with his nails. She drained her cup in one long, decisive draught. “Would you please pour me another glass?”
Roland smiled, thoroughly enjoying her flustered response and the heightened color creeping up her cheeks. “Take mine,” he said as his hand reached the apex of her thighs, and she inhaled sharply.
“They can see us,” she hissed, gesturing with her chin toward the oarsmen who were hewing hard to their labor.
“Then best not make a fuss and attract their attention.” Roland took one last sip from his glass and held it out to her. The dark liquid sloshed with the gentle rocking of the boat. “If we were in Venice,” he said, “there’d only be the gondolier, standing where the coxswain is now. Think of the possibilities.”
Olivia took the glass from him and tossed half of it back with a defiant air. “You are not invited to Venice.”
“No? What a shame.”
The League of Second Sons: A secret society of younger sons, sworn to aid and abet each other, no matter the scandal or cost…Their fathers and brothers may rule the world, but they run it, and when it comes to passion, they refuse to accept second best.
After the scandalous demise of her marriage, Lady Olivia Carlow knows the rakes of the ton will think her fair game. So when a letter arrives bearing an indecent offer from the incorrigible Roland Devere, she seizes the opportunity. Turning the tables on the notorious rogue, she blackmails him into playing her betrothed for the season. But no matter how broad his shoulders or chiseled his features, she will never fall prey to his suave charm.
When Roland boasted he’d be the first into Lady Olivia’s bed, he couldn’t have imagined that behind those brilliant blue eyes lurked a vixen with a scheme of her own. Still, Roland is not about to abandon his original wager. If anything, learning that the lovely Olivia is as bold as she is beautiful makes him more determined to seduce her into never saying “never” again.