A WILD NIGHT’S BRIDE
When The Devil Plays Cupid ... There Could Be Hell To Pay..
She needs a protector… Once seduced by whispered promises of a faithless lover, Phoebe Scott is determined to make a name on the Covent Garden stage, but after three years of bit parts, she realizes she'll never achieve her goals on her own merits. Finally acknowledging her success is dependent on a powerful patron, Phoebe determines to seek out a protector at London's most notorious brothel.
He's avowed to celibacy… Sir Edward "Ned" Chambers has been lost and lonely since his wife’s death in childbirth. Burdened with blame, he has sworn to a life of celibacy, but after three years, he is inwardly edgy, irritable, and increasingly discontent.
Desperate times call for devilish measures... Viscount Ludovic “The Devil” DeVere, a rake of the first order, is hell-bent to return his best friend Ned to the land of the living. Perceiving the cause behind his best friend’s unhappiness—as well as the obvious cure—DeVere takes matters in hand. DeVere’s meddling machinations result in an outrageous wager that could lead Ned to a new love… or land them all in the Tower. Hijinks and passion abound in this sexy, rollicking Georgian romp.
After a brief stop in which DeVere was obliged to provide a few silver coins in exchange for Mrs. Andrews' key, Phoebe led Ned and DeVere to the warehouse where the theater costumes were stored. By the dim glow of a shuttered lamp, she began to rifle the racks for miscellaneous items. "Take your clothes off. Both of you," she commanded.
"I hardly think there's time," DeVere remarked drily. "Besides, I've never known Ned to be partial to sharing."
"You know that's not what I meant. Your outer garments. Please," Phoebe tossed over her shoulder along with a footman's livery in red and gold and a white wig. "Does your mind ever surface from the gutter, my lord?"
"Rarely," Ned answered on his friend's behalf.
"Oh!" She cried with delight upon her next discovery. "We now have a footman and a Yeoman Guard. She pulled out a white ruff, flat hat, and an elaborate Tudor-style tunic such as was still worn by the palace guard. She tossed the garments to Ned.
Stripped of outer clothes, his white linen shirt and breeches revealed an impressive breadth of chest and shoulders, tapering to a narrow waist. She sized up his considerable form with a hard swallow and managed to summon a frown. "Good thing you're the guard," she mumbled with feigned nonchalance. "The footman's livery never would have fit." She hid her discomposure by digging further into the wardrobe until she retrieved a plain black gown and apron. "I daresay these should do very nicely for me." She then shuttered the lamp, leaving them in near darkness.
"How do you expect us to dress in the dark?" DeVere complained.
"You can't expect me to undress in the light?" she said.
"Don't you think modesty a bit futile, my sweet, when we will be in bed together an hour from now?"
Phoebe could detect an audible grinding of teeth coming from Ned's direction.
"Who says I have to undress for you?" she answered back. "I don't recall any such stipulation. I remind you that this is entirely a business arrangement, my lord. Surely the act can be accomplished quite efficiently while clothed."
"Efficiently, yes," DeVere argued. "But not pleasurably. I always make a point of mixing business and pleasure, you see."
"But my business is not your pleasure," she argued.
"Enough!" Ned snapped at DeVere. "Must you continue to go on about it when it's clearly distasteful to her?"
"But if we are to soil the sheets together—oof!" The rest of DeVere's reply was muffled by a stifled curse followed by the distinctive sound of flesh striking a solid surface.
Phoebe froze. "What was that? Are we discovered?"
"I stumbled," Ned retorted.
"Into me!" DeVere said. "Damned clumsy of you, Ned!"
"Both of you, be more careful! Blast it all!" she cursed.
"What is it?" Ned asked.
"I can't reach my laces. Can you help me?"
"Yes," both men answered simultaneously.
Phoebe reopened the shutter to find both men half-dressed and Ned glowering at DeVere. She looked from one to the other and finally turned her back to Ned who promptly dropped his Yeoman's tunic to attend her.
Drawing up her cascade of curls with one hand, he used the other to access her laces. His touch was gentle and lingering and seemed to take much longer than necessary. The feel of his fingers in her hair and the sheer intimacy of the act sent a shiver of awareness down her spine. "Pray, make haste," she snapped. "If we're here much longer the watch'll be down on us, and we'll all three end up in the Round House."
She looked to DeVere to find him watching them, a sly smile hovering over his mouth. He pulled a flask from his pocket, taking a long drink before offering the bottle to Ned who took no notice as his gaze was now affixed to Phoebe's face. The strange way he looked at her set her nerves on edge and made her skin tingle. "What is it?" she asked.
"N-Nothing," he replied. "You've removed the mask. I hadn't seen your entire face until now."
"Oh," she replied, feeling self-conscious. His expression made her fingers fumble as she tucked her long hair up into a mobcap. Her laces loosened, she instructed them both to turn their backs while they all three finished dressing.
"Are we quite ready?" she finally asked.
"Indeed," answered DeVere, pocketing the flask in his red velvet footman's coat and donning the white wig with a grin. "Though in truth, I think it highly unlikely that I'll be the first footman to roger a chambermaid in the king's bed."