He Took Her By Surprise
When a naked earl climbs through the window into her bedchamber, Lady Elizabeth Runyon does the proper thing: She screams. Loudly. And then…well, Lizzie has had enough of being proper. She wishes to be bold. Wanton, even. She won’t be commanded to put on her nightgown. Just this once, she will be absolutely daring…
She Returned the Favor
Robert Hamilton, Earl of Westbrooke, has no intention of being tricked into marriage by a detestable female, and if he has to flee naked across a rooftop, he will. Jolly good there’s an open window waiting—as well as an undressed, slightly drunk, and alluringly beautiful Lady Elizabeth. Oh, dear. If they are caught together, he might have to marry her. The idea is delicious…and the temptation is irresistible…
Finalist, Book Buyers Best contest
"With a hero and heroine every reader will fall in love with and secondary characters who love to meddle in their lives, you have the recipe for a romance you won't be able to put down."
~Debbie, A Romance Review
"The latest in MacKenzie's delectably sensual "Naked" historical Regencies series has plenty of sexy sizzle and charming wit."
~John Charles, ALA Booklist
"MacKenzie continues her delightfully humorous, sexy series with a nice and naughty naked hero who matches wits and wiles with an equally irresistible heroine in the author's typically touching style."
~Kathe Robin, Romantic Times BOOKreviews
"Providing plenty of heat and hilarity, MacKenzie has great fun shepherding this boisterous party toward its happy ending; readers will be glad they RSVPed."
"If you're looking for a fun and sexy romp, sit back and prepare to enjoy yourself."
Robert Hamilton, Earl of Westbrooke, was a light sleeper. His eyes opened the moment his mattress shifted. He turned to see what had caused the disturbance.
Two very large, very naked breasts dangled in front of his nose. Damn! He looked up to see to whom they belonged. Lady Felicity Brookton. She gave him an arch look as she drew in her breath to scream.
He bolted from the bed and leapt for the window. There was no time for such niceties as breeches or shoes. Once Lady Felicity started her caterwauling, the entire house party would be banging on his door. He’d be securely caught in parson’s mousetrap, condemned to face Lady Felicity at the breakfast table every morning for the rest of his life.
Could there be a more succinct description of hell?
He swung his leg over the sill and dropped down onto the roof of the portico as she emitted her first screech. The sharp surface cut into his bare feet, but the pain was nothing to the panic raging in his chest.
He had to get away.
Thank God he had scrutinized the view from his window when he’d arrived at Tynweith’s house party. He’d made a habit of looking for escape routes since the ladies of the ton had gotten so persistent. If they only knew.... Well, if he was forced to flee naked from his bed perhaps it was time to do something. A discreet rumor judiciously planted should deter most marriage minded maidens. He glanced back at his window. Or perhaps they would be happy to have his money and title without having to pay for them in his bed.
He shivered as an early spring breeze rushed over the portico. He couldn’t stand here like a nodcock. At any moment one of Tynweith’s guests would respond to Felicity’s screams, look out the window, and wonder what the Earl of Westbrooke was doing standing naked in the night. He snorted. Hell, all of Tynweith’s guests would assume they knew exactly what he had been doing, and he’d be as securely caught as if he’d stayed between his sheets.
It was much too long a distance to the ground to consider jumping. He had not quite reached that point of desperation.
Felicity screeched again. Someone shouted. He scanned the other windows that faced the portico. There, at the end--flickering candlelight showed an open window. He sprinted for it, hoping the room’s occupant was male.
* * * * *
Lady Elizabeth Runyon stood naked in front of her mirror, hands on hips, and frowned at her breasts. She tilted her head, squinting at them through her right eye and then her left. Bah! They were small, puny little lemons next to Lady Felicity’s lush, ripe melons. No corset in England could make them more impressive.
She turned sideways, grabbing the bedpost to steady herself. Perhaps this angle was more complimentary?
A gust of cool air blew in from her open window, sliding over her skin, causing her nipples to tighten. She covered them with her hands, trying to push them back into place.
She had an odd tingly feeling, as if a vibrating harp string ran from her breasts to her...her....
She took her hands off her body as if burned. She should put her nightgown back on and climb into bed. Pull the covers up to her chin, close her eyes, and go to sleep. She would if the room didn’t swirl so unpleasantly when she did so. She grabbed for the bedpost again.
That last glass of ratafia had definitely been a mistake. She wouldn’t have taken it if she hadn’t been so bored. If she had to listen to Mr. Dodsworth drone on about his stables one more time.... It was drink or scream. The man hadn’t had an original thought--or any thought that did not involve prime bits of blood--since her come out three years ago.
She leaned against the bedpost. How was she going to survive another Season? Seeing the same people, hearing the same conversation, tittering over the same gossip. It had been exciting when she was seventeen, but now...
Was it possible to die of ennui?
And Meg was no help. Lud! She’d finally persuaded her friend to leave the weeds of Kent for the wonders of London, and Meg turned out to be as big a bore as Dodsworth. Her topic of verbal torture was horticulture. Shrubbery. Damn shrubbery. If Meg had her way, she’d spend every moment in the shrubbery--and not with a gentleman bent on seduction.
Lizzie scowled at the bedpost. She should have poured that last glass of ratafia over Robbie’s head. That would have livened things up. Ha! She pictured the looks of horror that would have adorned the assembled ton if Lady Elizabeth Runyon, sister of the Duke of Alvord, pattern card of respectability, had caused such a scene.
At least she would have gotten Robbie’s attention. She’d wager next quarter’s pin-money on that.
She looked at her mirror again. It was very daring standing here naked. She straightened, letting go of the bedpost. Perhaps she should be daring this Season. Wanton, even. Playing by the rules hadn’t gotten her what she wanted--whom she wanted--so she’d break them.
She put her hands back on her breasts. She sighed. The poor little things barely filled her palms--they would be lost in Robbie’s larger hands.
Mmm. She half-closed her eyes, biting her bottom lip. Robbie’s hands. His long fingers, his broad palms. On her skin.
She felt very daring indeed. More than daring--hot. She rubbed her thumbs over her nipples. The harp string started vibrating again. She licked her lips, arching her hips, spreading her legs slightly so the breeze might find and cool her where she most needed cooling.
What would it feel like if Robbie touched her there?
Her hand slid down her body.
A male voice, hoarse and strained. She screamed as her eyes flew open. Robbie’s reflection was staring at her in the mirror. Robbie’s very naked reflection.
She spun to face him, grabbing the bedpost to keep from falling. The room shifted unpleasantly, then righted. She blinked. Yes, Robbie was still there, still naked, standing just inside her window.
She had never seen a naked man before, except in paintings or statues. She stared.
Art did not do reality justice. Not at all.
Then again, perhaps no artist had ever had a model quite as splendid as Robbie.
He looked so different from the civilized London lord she had left downstairs. He was larger. Well, obviously, he could not have grown simply by shedding his clothes, but it certainly seemed as if he had. His neck, freed from yards of muffling cravat and concealing collar, was a study in angles and shadows. And his shoulders... How had they fit into his coat?
She never would have guessed he had hair sprinkled across his chest. Golden red hair dusting down to his flat stomach, then spreading out below his navel around...
She’d never seen that in any art work. The...appendage was long and thick and stuck straight out.
How did he hide it in his pantaloons?
Lizzie looked back at Robbie’s face. It was far redder than his hair. Could he be injured? The blacksmith’s thumb had swollen to twice its size when he’d hit it with his hammer. Had Robbie bumped this part of his anatomy climbing in the window?
“Are you in pain?” She glanced at her bed. “Lie down. I’ll get a wet compress.”
He made a short noise that sounded like a cross between a laugh and a moan and jerked around to slam her window shut, pulling the curtains tight.
“No, I’m not in pain. Where’s your nightgown?”
“Are you certain?” His back was almost as beautiful as his front. She studied his tight buttocks. She would love to touch them. “You sound like you are in pain.”
“Just tell me where your blood--blasted nightgown is.” He turned back to her, jaw clenched, eyes focused on her face. “Better yet, just put it on. Now.”
Lizzie did not care for the note of command in his voice.
“No. I don’t want to. I’m hot.” She flushed. “Very hot.” Uncomfortably hot. And damp. Wet, really. She moved her hand down to be certain she wasn’t dripping.
“God, no.” He caught her before she reached her stomach. His fingers--thick, warm--encircled her wrist. She needed them somewhere else. Her breasts ached; her nipples had tightened into hard pebbles.
He shook her arm slightly. “Put on your nightgown.”
He sounded a bit desperate.
She shook her head. She could smell him now. She inhaled deeply. He smelled of Robbie. She giggled. Silly, but true. It was a musky, spicy scent, stronger now that it wasn’t muffled by layers of clothing.
His eyes kept darting looks at her breasts. She felt them swell with his attention. She needed to rub them against the hair on his chest.
Who cared about a nightgown? She didn’t want a nightgown. She wanted his body against hers. His skin on hers. Everywhere. She panted slightly. She was certain a puddle of need was forming at her feet.
She reached for him.
“Lizzie!” He grabbed her other hand, holding both wrists in a firm grip.
“Let me go.” She jerked back. His grasp was gentle but unbreakable. Well, she knew how to get free. She had an older brother. She wasn’t above telling a small lie if necessary. “You’re hurting me.”
He released her at once.
“Ah!” She lunged, but he caught her by the shoulders.
“Lizzie, you’re bosky.”
“N-no, I’m not. I just want to touch you. Please? Just let me touch you.” His arms were too long. No matter how much she stretched, she could not reach his body.
“I don’t think that would be a good idea. Now put on your nightgown.”
“I think it would be a splendid idea.” She lunged again. No luck. “Why won’t you let me touch you?”
“Because besides the fact that you appear to be thoroughly foxed, I’m certain there are going to be people at your door and quite possibly your window any moment now. You don’t want them to find us like this, do you?”
She hiccupped. “Yes, I do.” She lurched toward him again. If she didn’t feel his body against hers soon, she would cry.
Robbie gave an odd little growl. “You wouldn’t say that if you were sober.”
“Yes, I would.” She stopped fighting and touched him where she could reach. The muscles in his arms were warm rocks. She could barely get her fingers around his forearm. She stroked his wrist with her thumb and saw sweat bead on his upper lip. She wanted to lick it off.
“I love you, Robbie. I’ve loved you forever.”
His jaw tensed. “No, you haven’t.”
“Yes, I have.”
He shook his head. “Hero worship. Calf love.”
“No. Kiss me. You’ll see.”
He rubbed his face on his arm, wiping off the sweat. “There’s no time for that, Lizzie.”
“Yes, there is. Kiss me.”
“Lizzie.” His hands clenched on her shoulders, but gentled when she drew in a sharp breath. “Lizzie, please. If I’m found here, the scandal will be beyond belief. James will kill me.”
“No, he won’t. You’re his friend.”
Robbie snorted. “You’re his sister. Trust me. He will kill me.”
“I don’t see why. He met Sarah naked, didn’t he? How can he complain?”
“No, it’s not.”
“Yes, it is, and if you weren’t so foxed you would see that. Now put your nightgown on.”
“All right, but you’ll have to let me go. I can’t put it on with your hands in the way.”
“True. Just don’t--”
Robbie loosened his grip too soon. Lizzie closed the distance between them in one step and threw her arms around his waist.
“Lizzie!” He moved almost as quickly, dropping his hands to her hips, pushing them back.
She had forgotten about his swollen part. She didn’t want to hurt him, but she so ached to feel his entire body against hers. What she could feel felt very, very good. Her hands played over his back, running up and down his warm, smooth skin. She pressed her cheek against his chest and heard his heart pounding. She found a drop of sweat trickling down between his nipples and licked it, running her tongue up the trail to his neck.
“Mmm?” His hands on her hips were wonderful, but they were too still. She tried to wiggle, to encourage his fingers to roam. Perhaps she could show him the way. She slipped her own hands over his buttocks and around to his stomach, careful not to touch...
“Lizzie!” Robbie leapt back as if scalded.
“Did I hurt you? I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean to.” She glanced down and smiled in relief. “No, see--you’re better. The stiffness and swelling are almost gone. You should be able to tuck your...um, well, you should be able to tuck it into your pantaloons now.”
Lizzie frowned, looking up. Robbie’s mouth was so tight a muscle jumped in his cheek. His eyes looked...haunted.
She jumped. Someone was banging on her door--and someone else was banging on her window.
“Your company has arrived.” Robbie grabbed her shoulders, turned her, and pushed her toward the bed. “Get your nightgown on.”
* * * * *
Bloody hell. Lizzie was not moving quickly enough. And she was clearly half-seas over. Did she grasp the seriousness of the situation? No. She was sitting on her bed, staring at him. Staring at a particular part of him.
At least she had stopped grabbing him.
More banging. Whoever was hitting the window might manage to break it if Lizzie didn’t get her nightgown on soon.
He snuffed out the candle, leaving the room lit only by the banked fire in the hearth. Perhaps darkness would help her concentrate on the matter at hand.
“Put on your nightgown.”
“Lizzie, you need to put on your nightgown now. You have to answer the door.” He reached to help her--and encountered a soft breast.
Good God, the girl was purring. If only... No, he wouldn’t think of it. It was impossible. Completely im--
“Lizzie!” He tried to keep his voice down, though with all the door and window pounding, he could have shouted and not been heard over the din. “Lizzie--yikes!”
He grabbed her wrist and pulled her fingers away from where they had wandered.
“Did I hurt you? You’re swollen again.”
“Lizzie, just put your nightgown on and get the door. Please?”
She huffed and the small puff of air tickled over his stomach.
“All right. Will you touch me again after they are all gone? It felt so good.”
Damn. He balled his hands into fists. He really would like to hit something. He tried to keep his voice calm.
“We’ll see. Now be a good girl and put on your nightgown.” Louder banging on the door and some muffled shouts. At least James wasn’t here. He was at Alvord, awaiting the birth of his second child. “Hurry. The door first. Try to look as if you’ve just woken up. And remember, I’m not here.”
“Not here. Right.”
He watched her take her first steps toward the door, then he jumped onto the bed, pulling the curtains closed.
Betty, Lizzie’s maid, must sleep like the dead, he thought. Hell, she must be dead if this racket hadn’t woken her. Of course, that was assuming she was in her bed at all. More likely she was with his valet somewhere. It was no secret those two would like to make a match of it. Collins had certainly hinted about it enough. Robbie was beginning to fear for his life when the man shaved him each morning.
Betty and Collins would be merry as grigs if he wed Lizzie. Well, he would be, too, but it would never happen. He sighed. When he had seen her, standing naked in front of her mirror, the candlelight making her skin glow, her hand sliding down her curves to exactly the place he most wanted to be...
He buried his face in the pillow. A mistake. He inhaled her scent and grew even harder.
He stifled a moan.
The door had swung open. Light and the babble of voices flooded the room. Only a miracle would keep him from detection.
He prayed for a miracle.
* * * * *
“He’s here, isn’t he? I know he’s here.” Lady Felicity Brookton, clad in a pistachio-colored dressing-gown, pushed Lizzie aside and stepped into the room, holding a candle high. “Where are you hiding him?”
“Um.” Lizzie blinked, staring out her door. Half the house party had assembled in the corridor.
“Someone is knocking at the window.” Lady Caroline, the daughter of the Earl of Dunlee, maneuvered her ample bulk across the room and opened the curtains. “Oh, look! It’s Lord Peter.”
“Let him in.” Lady Felicity peered inside Lizzie’s wardrobe.
“Um.” Lizzie wished she could think. That last glass of ratafia had definitely been ill-advised. Her head felt as if it were stuffed with cotton wool.
She couldn’t let them find Robbie. He didn’t want to be found. She watched Lady Felicity light all the available candles. How was she going to stop them? There were only so many places to look.
Lord Peter, dressed in his shirt sleeves and pantaloons, climbed in the window. “Saw him vault in here.” He chuckled. “Hard to miss his lily-white as--” He coughed. “Ankles. His lily-white ankles. Hard to miss them in the dark.”
“So where is he, Lady Elizabeth?” Lady Felicity glared at her.
“Um, he who?”
“Lord Westbrooke, of course. Didn’t he just climb in your window?”
“Uh...” Lizzie’s mind went blank.
“Lady Felicity, surely you cannot be suggesting that Lord Westbrooke would behave in such an inappropriate manner?”
Lizzie turned to see Lady Beatrice, her nominal chaperone for the Season. Thank God! Lady Bea would deal with this mess in short order.
Lady Felicity lifted her chin. “I only know what I saw.”
Lady Bea lifted an eyebrow. “And what exactly did you see, miss?”
“I saw Lord Westbrooke leap naked out the window.”
“I thought you said he came in the window.”
“Not this window.”
“Ah, the window in your room then? Correct me if I am wrong, but any man exiting your window would end as a rather unsightly corpse on the terrace. Or have you changed rooms recently? I thought your bedchamber was just a few doors down the hall from mine on the other side of the corridor.”
Lady Felicity turned red. She opened her mouth as if to speak, but no words issued forth.
“Let’s look in the bed, Felicity.” Lord Peter left the window and reached for the bed curtains. “I’ll wager Westbrooke is hiding between the sheets.”
Everyone turned to stare at the petite woman who’d managed to push to the fore of the crowd. The Duchess of Hartford--Lady Charlotte Wickford before her marriage to the elderly duke--was not someone Lizzie would ever have imagined coming to her rescue. Charlotte hated her. Well, she really hated James, but James spent most of his time in Kent these days. Lizzie was a much more convenient target.
“What, your grace?” Lord Peter stood back, gesturing to the bed curtains. “Would you like to do the honors?”
Charlotte stared at him. He flushed and dropped his arm.
“If you won’t do it, I will.” Felicity grabbed a handful of cloth.
“Lady Felicity.” Charlotte’s tone stopped Felicity’s hand before it had moved an inch. “Surely you do not mean to imply that Lady Elizabeth would entertain a man in her bedroom?”
Felicity looked at Lizzie’s small breasts. Lizzie crossed her arms over them.
“Entertain? No. However--”
“However, if Lord Westbrooke should be so bold as to visit Lady Elizabeth in her room at night--if he were found in her bed--I assume he would do the gentlemanly thing and offer for her.” Charlotte shrugged. “Her brother, the duke, would insist, wouldn’t you say?”
Felicity paused, an arrested expression on her face.
“In fact, I imagine if Lord Westbrooke were indeed hiding behind those bed curtains, he’d be wed to Lady Elizabeth before the week was out.” Charlotte smiled. “I’m certain you would want to dance at that wedding, hmm, Lady Felicity?”
Lady Felicity’s hand fell to her side. “Uh. Yes. You’re right. Of course. Lord Westbrooke would never invade Lady Elizabeth’s room. I don’t know what I was thinking.”
“I know what you were thinking. You told me--”
Lord Peter frowned and turned to Charlotte.
“I believe we intrude on Lady Elizabeth’s privacy.” Charlotte smiled up at him as she ran her fingers over his shirt cuff. “It’s time you went to...bed, don’t you think?”
It was Lord Peter’s turn to have an arrested expression. He stared down at Charlotte for a moment and then grinned.
“I believe you are correct, your grace.”
“Of course I am.” Charlotte glanced at Felicity. “I imagine you dreamt the event, Lady Felicity. Sometimes our dreams are so vivid, they appear real, do they not?”
Felicity tore her eyes off the bed curtains. “Yes. Yes, I’m certain you are right, your grace.” She glanced back at the bed. “Sometimes my dreams do seem real.”
“Exactly.” Charlotte moved toward the door, Lord Peter at her side. “So sorry to disturb you, Lady Elizabeth.” Her eyes drifted to the bed also. “I’m certain you are eager to get back to”--Charlotte smiled slightly--“sleep.” She inclined her head. “You have depths I never suspected.”
Lizzie watched the crowd disperse. Lady Beatrice was the last to leave. She looked at the bed and raised her eyebrows.
“Anything you would like to tell me, Lizzie?”
Lizzie looked at the bed, too.
“Yes.” Lizzie nodded. She was definitely certain. She did not want to discuss the evening’s bizarre events with anyone. She was of half a mind that she, too, was the victim of a very vivid dream. “I’m a trifle out of curl. I think I will just go to bed.”
“I see.” Lady Beatrice addressed the bed in a very stern voice. “Well, I am more than certain the duke would eviscerate any man who played fast and loose with his sister’s reputation--or harmed her in any way.”
“Yes. I’m sure. Thank you. Good night.”
Lizzie ushered Lady Bea out the door and closed it firmly behind her. Then she sagged against the solid wooden surface, puffed out her cheeks, and eyed the bed.
Could she have dreamt the entire sequence of events? Was it possible the evening was simply the product of overindulgence?
There was only one way to find out. She pushed away from the door and stepped toward the bed.
Copyright © 2007 by Sally MacKenzie