“Why did you come to find me?” Evie asked languidly, her head tilting back as his lips slid to her throat.

“I’ve just received news about your son.”

“Which one?”

“Gabriel. There’s been a scandal.”

“Why is he your son when you’re pleased with him, and my son whenever he’s done something wicked?” Evie asked as Sebastian removed her apron and began to unfasten the front of her bodice.

“Since I’m the virtuous parent,” he said, “it only stands to reason that his wickedness must come from you.”

“You h-have that exactly backward,” she informed him.

“Do I?” Sebastian fondled her slowly as he considered her words. “I’m the wicked one? No, my pet, that can’t be right. I’m sure it’s you.”

“You,” she said decisively, and her breath hastened as his caresses became more intimate.

“Hmm. This must be sorted out at once. I’m taking you straight to bed.”

“Wait. Tell me more about Gabriel. Does the scandal have something to do with . . . that woman?” It was more or less public knowledge that Gabriel was having an affair with the American ambassador’s wife. Evie had heartily disapproved of the relationship from the beginning, of course, and had hoped it would end soon. That had been two years ago.

Lifting his head, Sebastian looked down at her with a slight frown. He sighed shortly. “He’s managed to compromise an earl’s daughter. One of the Ravenels.”

Evie frowned, pondering the name, which sounded familiar. “Do we know that family?”

“I was acquainted with the old earl, Lord Trenear. His wife was a flighty, shallow sort—you met her once at a garden show and discussed her orchid collection.”

“Yes, I remember.” Unfortunately, Evie hadn’t liked the woman. “They had a daughter?”

“Twins. Out for their first Season this year. It seems that your idiot son was caught in flagrante delicto with one of them.”

“He takes after his father,” Evie said.

Looking highly insulted, Sebastian rose to his feet in a graceful motion and pulled her up with him. “His father was never caught.”

“Except by me,” Evie said smugly.

Sebastian laughed. “True.”

“What does in flagrante delicto mean, exactly?”

“The literal translation? ‘While the crime is blazing.’” Picking her up easily, he said, “I believe a demonstration is in order.”

“But what about the s-scandal? What about Gabriel, and the Ravenel girl, and—”

“The rest of the world can wait,” Sebastian said firmly. “I’m going to debauch you for the ten thousandth time, Evie—and for once, I want you to pay attention.”

“Yes, sir,” she said demurely, and looped her arms around her husband’s neck as he carried her to their bedroom.

Chapter 1

London, 1876

Two days earlier . . .

Lady Pandora Ravenel was bored.

Bored stiff.

Bored of being bored.

And the London Season was barely underway. She would have to endure four months of balls, soirées, concerts, and dinners before Parliament closed and the families of the peerage could return to their county seats. There would be at least sixty dinners, fifty balls, and heaven knew how many soirées.

She would never survive.

Letting her shoulders slump, Pandora sat back in the chair and stared at the crowded ballroom scene. There were gentlemen dressed in their formal schemes of black and white, officers in uniform and dress boots, and ladies swathed in silk and tulle. Why were they all there? What could they possibly say to each other that hadn’t been said during the last ball?

The worst kind of alone, Pandora thought morosely, was being the only person in a crowd who wasn’t having a good time.

Somewhere in the whirling mass of waltzing couples, her twin sister danced gracefully in the arms of a hopeful suitor. So far Cassandra had found the Season nearly as dull and disappointing as Pandora did, but she was far more willing to play the game.

“Wouldn’t you rather move about the room and talk to people,” Cassandra had asked earlier in the evening, “instead of staying in the corner?”

“No, at least when I’m sitting here, I can think about interesting things. I don’t know how you can bear keeping company with tiresome people for hours.”

“They’re not all tiresome,” Cassandra had protested.

Pandora had given her a skeptical glance. “Of the gentlemen you’ve met so far, have you met even one you would like to see again?”

“Not yet,” Cassandra had admitted. “But I won’t give up until I’ve met them all.”

“Once you’ve met one,” Pandora had said darkly, “you have met them all.”

Cassandra had shrugged. “Talking makes the evenings pass by more quickly. You should try it.”

Unfortunately, Pandora was abysmal at small talk. She found it impossible to feign interest when some pompous boor began boasting about himself and his accomplishments, and how well his friends liked him, and how much others admired him. She couldn’t muster any patience for a peer in his declining years who wanted a young bride to serve as his companion and nurse, or a widower who was obviously searching for potential breeding stock. The thought of being touched by any of them, even with gloved hands, made her skin crawl. And the idea of making conversation with them reminded her of how bored she was.

Staring down at the polished parquet floor, she tried to think of how many words she could make out of the word bored. Orbed . . . robed . . . doer . . . rode . . .

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