Thomas Wakes Up

Sunlight filtered through the gauzy linen curtains, hitting Thomas in the face. With a groan, he blocked the glare of light with one hand while the other searched blindly for the glass of water. Bolt always left one for him after a night of drinking and smoking; it was what a good valet did.

Then it hit him: Bolt knew better than to draw the curtains when his lordship was hungover. And his window coverings would never have the effrontery to be the pale yellow that he caught a glimpse of when he peeked between long fingers.

Where the hell am I, he thought to himself.

Or, aloud, he corrected.

“You are in my bedchamber.” The sultry voice came from beneath the covers next to him. Shoving aside the fine satin sheets to reveal her naked form, the female said, “No. Make that our bedchamber, husband.”

Duncan recalled the sting of rejection when the Dragon Horde council had elected Baldwin Tosca as Elder. The aching loss of the Dragon bride filled his chest once again, a stabbing ache that left him wincing at the memory. They should have been his, damn it.

Instead of being crowned in glory and adulation; instead of waking next to the fair bride, he had slunk off to London and buried his pain in a bottle of brandy, losing himself in the arms of Celeste Mannerly. Rumored to have once been mistress to the Mad King, she was rather selective of those she brought into her bed.

What a lucky fool he was.

But he would never have — no, what she said was impossible. This was a trap, and he would not succumb, no matter how luscious the fruit.

Running an appreciative eye over the dusky skin that revealed her questionable ancestry, Duncan felt himself growing hard. Telling himself he would rectify the confusion later, the Marquis of Blacke pulled the laughing woman close, his hand trailing down her flat stomach as his tongue blazed across her neck.

With an earthy chuckle, the dancer pushed away from him. Padding across the floor, she tossed a wicked grin over her shoulder before disappearing behind the ornate dressing screen in one corner. “Plenty of time for that later, ducks.”

The sensual rustle of cool silk sliding down warm skin assaulted his ears. “Don’t bother covering yourself, Celeste. I’ve a mind to spend the day in bed, and I would hate to ruin any of your frippery by tearing it off,” he said, appalled at the raging lust consuming him, yet eager to slake that lust.

Walking back into view, a black silk kimono clinging to her famous curves, Celeste said, “We have guests arriving in an hour, husband. Your friends from last night, in fact. And my solicitor.”

His friends? Why would they come here? More memories from the night before rolled through his mind: the small house in a quiet, respectable neighborhood, the coach ride there, and worse: his fumbling attempts to undress her in that coach.

None of which explained why she kept calling him husband. Reaching to pull on his breeches, a shining piece of gold caught Duncan’s eye. No, not just a piece of gold. A gold band on his ring finger.

A wedding band.

“Where is my ring?” The question sounded stupid to his own ears, but it was too late to take it back. This had to be a mistake. A joke. A prank.

Before Celeste could answer, the maid arrived with a tray. “The bath is ready, my lady.” A blush stole across the young girl’s plain face as she caught sight of Duncan, sitting naked on the bed. Instead of shrieking, however, she just dipped a slight curtsy as if the sight of a naked man in her mistress’ bed was nothing new.

And it hit him suddenly. He remembered every single word uttered and action taken the previous night.

He was married.

He was married to a woman who had once bedded the Mad King.

He was married to a gypsy dancer.

And it had been his bloody idea.

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