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The Governess Game Tessa Dare 2022/8/3 13:55:22

“I know what I said.” Swaggering strides brought him close. “I said the thought of seducing you would never cross my mind.” He swept aside her plaited hair and bent to whisper darkly in her ear. “I lied.”

He retreated. She was rooted to the floor.

“The thought had crossed my mind before I even made you that promise. And since then, so many thoughts have crossed my mind, my brain is the Charing Cross of filth. A riot of lewd fantasies. You’re naked in nearly all of them, and ever since a certain incident in the schoolroom, a fair number feature ropes.”

Alex needed a moment to recover from that.

But he didn’t allow her another second.

“Why do you think I brought Winifred home? I thought I could purge a certain governess from my mind.” He cursed under his breath. “And see how well that worked. I can’t even muster the decency to drive you from this room.”

Alex’s mind reeled. He’d been thinking about her that much, and in that way? She didn’t dare plumb the meaning behind it. Instead, she said, “This plan of yours doesn’t sound very fair to Winifred.”

“Yes, I realized that.” He flung aside his unbuttoned waistcoat and pulled his damp shirt over his head, tossing it on the heap. “I was on the verge of sending her home when the girls doused me with”—he swept his hands down his muscled, glistening torso—“whatever this is.”

“Leftover bathwater.”

She bit her bottom lip at the corner. “Mine.”

He laughed bitterly. “Of course. Of course it would be yours. I knew I smelled orange-flower water.”

Orange-flower water. He knew her scent?

Don’t make anything of it, she told herself. Naturally, he knew her scent. He likely recalled the scent of every woman he encountered, in the same way a wine merchant could taste cherries or lavender in a bordeaux. One of those talents gleaned from vast and varied experience.

“I suppose I now understand how you can be so callous about your wards,” she said. “Given the way you carry on with women, you doubtless have a dozen illegitimate children you’re ignoring, too.”

“You’re wrong. I do not.”

He snagged a towel from the washstand and gave his hair a good rubbing. Alex gawked, transfixed by the way his arm muscles bunched and flexed.

“How could you be certain you have no offspring?”

“Because I am excessively careful not to create any.”

“No sponge or French letter is that effective.”

“Which is why I don’t rely on them. I simply don’t put myself in that position.”

“Any position that requires insertion of my . . .” He waved vaguely toward his loins. “. . . male member.”

“Male member. Are we discussing a Masonic society, or are you referring to the penis?”

“We are adults. If you’re going to discuss such matters, you may as well use the proper words. I would never have supposed you to be prudish.”

“I’m not prudish. I’m protecting your delicate feminine sensibilities.”

“I never acquired many of those. And considering that it was pressed up against me the other day, I should think we’ve moved beyond euphemisms. So go on, then. We were discussing your penis.”

He set his jaw and stepped toward her. “Since you’re so fond of bold language, we are discussing my cock. And the fact that I never thrust it ballocks-deep in a woman’s tight, wet cunny. That is how I’m certain I have no bastards in the world.”

She was shocked into silence for a moment. Shocking her was, of course, what he’d intended. The entire scene was scandalous in the extreme—a governess, alone with the master of the house, in his bedchamber, while he was bared to the waist—and he knew it. He wanted her to feel intimidated. He wanted to avoid her questions, and possibly his own answers, too.

With a smile and a bow, he crossed to a low cabinet and withdrew a decanter of brandy.

“You—” She shook her head in bemusement. “You can’t mean to say you’re a virgin.”

“No, I don’t mean to say that. I had my share of indiscretions when I was younger.” He paused to pour brandy into a glass. “But not anymore.”

The low timbre of his voice seeped into her bones.

“I live by one rule,” he went on. “No attachments. I don’t keep mistresses. I won’t risk siring bastards. I refuse to make myself a slave to mercury cures, either. Because inevitably, whether I deserve it or not, the Libertine Lair will become the Duke Den. I’m a poor excuse for nobility, but the least I can do is keep the estate unencumbered by bastards or blackmail, and keep myself free of the pox. So I refrain from—”

“Fucking. Yes.” He downed a swallow of brandy. “If you think I’ve taken you into confidence, don’t flatter yourself. My abstention is no secret. Why do you suppose I’m so popular with ladies? I’ve cultivated other talents.”