After an evening of bankrupting his fellow club members, Richmond Black straightened his cravat and bid his victims goodnight from the comfort of his hansom cab as he and his valet George left the opulence of Almack’s for some less salubrious entertainment at Covent Garden, the nocturnal playground of London’s most fashionable gentlemen. Richmond Black most definitely fit that definition, for from his impeccable pedigree to his rook feather-colored hair, he was the epitome of a refined gentlemen.
Richmond retrieved his pocket watch from his waistcoat and gazed at the hour hand, nearing the two o’clock mark. He inhaled deeply and peered out the window, but the clip-clop of the horses’ hooves against the cobblestone was the only thing penetrating the dense fog.
“Shall I wait up for you, sir?” George asked, his weathered voice briefly jerking Richmond’s attention back inside the carriage.
“No,” Richmond answered briskly before returning to his thoughts.
George dusted a speck of ash from his livery sleeve and settled into the comfortable silence, something that had become commonplace between them. He was fifty-two, only eleven years older than his master, though his dark peppered hair and creaking joints were telltale signs of neglect; Richmond, on the other hand, was dashingly tall with flawless pale skin and defined features that seemed to be immune to the touch of passing time. George was a beefy representative of those prelapsarian times; Richmond was debonair and high-bred, and everything about the man oozed a capacity for danger, for dislocation.
At Evan’s Supper Club, Richmond sent George and the carriage on their way. Inside the noisy public rooms, a cloud of smoke loomed over the playing tables that were lined with inebriated men who were destined to lose their fortunes by either the dice or the ruby-lipped appendage dangling from his arm.
A woman with the physique of a swan and hair as red as the velvet dress she wore rushed toward Richmond with her finger to her lips as the attendant took his coat and hat. “Don’t say a word,” she whispered as she swung around and retraced her steps. “Come with me.” Once she had Richmond in tow, she escorted him through the maze of patrons, upstairs through darkened narrow corridors, then to a finely appointed room where a bashfully young woman, her warm brown skin bathed in candlelight, sat at the foot of bed with her thin white gown tucked beneath her. “She arrived earlier today and specifically asked to meet you.”
The red-haired woman whispered, “She is paying customer—not one of the girls. She is untouched…and all yours, sir, if you fancy her.”
Richmond gave the young woman a cursory inspection, then shot a sidelong glance at the woman standing at the door. His old friend knew him well, including his predilection for dark-skinned women. “She will do, Eda…and that will be all for now.”
With that rather firm dismissal, Eda smiled coyly and left the two alone.
Richmond closed the distance between him and his guest, who was making a study of the emerald carpeting, peeking at it with her lovely dark eyes, peering through her wavy locks. He lifted her chin. Though gentle in speech and manner, a lecherous edge penetrated deeper than his dark sapphire eyes. “What is your name, little lamb?”
“Cheri,” she answered quietly. She met his gaze and felt her body shiver and her soul drain at his touch.
He raised a curious brow. “And how old are you, Cheri?”
“Don’t be afraid, love. I’m not going to hurt you.” He cupped her cheek whilst thumbing her lips. “You sent for me, remember?”
His words coiled in her belly and severed her threads of inhibition and resistance one by one. “I’m…I’m not afraid,” she replied truthfully, meeting his eyes. She moistened as he ran his hands over her shoulders and down her arms. Her nipples stiffened beneath the sheerness of her gown. Panting, she willed him to them.
Richmond Black felt it, heard it, and sensed her trembling need. “I love the smell, the taste, the touch of a woman.” He thumbed the fabric over her right nipple. “...getting inside her head, taking her to the very edge of sanity, then deciding her fate.” He stepped back and undressed under Cheri’s gaze. “Remove your gown and lie with your bottom on the edge of the bed.”
Cheri swallowed hard but then did his bidding.
Looming over her, both of them now nude, he calmly asked her to relax, kissing her until she gave him complete dominion. She panted and stared blindly up at the ceiling as Richard’s eyes and hands, then lips and tongue traveled the contours of her body. He knelt on the floor, then pulled her to the end of the bed until her buttocks rest suspended in his hands, and then he buried his face in her cleft.
White-knuckled, the young one grasped the bed sheets and willed herself still. She expected her only function for the evening would be that of a receptacle, a vessel for his uses. He was, after all, the notorious Richmond Black, a man of notorious ruthlessness, and there he was, on his knees, pleasuring her with his tongue. She’d never have guessed he would be such a passionate, attentive lover.
“Mmm, you’re delicious.” Richmond lapped her juices, then moved up, teasing her clit from its hiding place. Once he had it free, he suckled that tender part of her.
Cheri lay perfectly still, with her fingers wound in his thick hair, her hips swaying against his mouth.
Richmond gently kneaded her smooth thighs as he continued to feast. It had been years since he’d been compelled to please a woman with such skill, and Cheri, vibrating with need, was a most worthy recipient.
Unblinking, her gaze fixed on his, she bit her bottom lip. Her bones hadn’t quite congealed when he rolled her over onto all fours, giving him an excellent view of her tight little brown bottom and lips. Behind her, he kissed and caressed every nook and cranny stretched before him, worshipping her as no man had before. Cheri moaned loudly, then clutched Richmond’s thigh as he abruptly filled her. She held him still long enough to catch her breath.
“Are you all right?” he kissed her shoulder.
“Wait…” she stammered, dizzy from already having cum twice. His hand found her clit, and against her better judgment, she began rocking back and forth.
“Don’t move—right there—just keep rubbing, there.” Moments later, shaking with yet another orgasm, she fell forward, releasing Richmond with an auditable pop.
Undeterred, Richmond aligned himself between her legs. Before long, the room filled with the universal sounds of steamy passion: skin on skin, the cries of the bed punctuated by a chorus of “Ohhhs.” The next three hours were a blur, ending only when the two collapsed, exhausted but thoroughly satisfied.
“Good morning,” Cheri heard Richmond say as she opened her eyes against the light peeking through the thick drapes. He had been watching her for nearly an hour.
“Good morning to you, sir.” Cheri’s smile widened as the details of the previous night crept back into her memory in vivid detail. “You’re awake early.”
“I think more clearly in the morning.” He adjusted himself as Cheri buried her face in his chest and quietly began drawing patterns on his skin with her delicate fingers.
“You were…my first,” she finally admitted sheepishly.
“I know.” The ticking of the clock on the side table grew as loud as gunfire during a silence. “Why did you ask to meet me? You are not a fallen woman. You are obviously a…a woman of means,” he said, eyeing her fine wares, hung with care. He brought her fingers to his lips. “Also, judging by your unsullied hands, you have not done a hard day’s work in all your life. You have the fingers of a goddess.”
“I have a small fortune, and I do live within my means, sir, but London is vast. I know I am a young lady with no connections, and that makes me easy prey.” Cheri kissed his chest. “Over tea, I saw your perfumery in the paper, so I inquired of your character. Everyone spoke highly of your eminence—no known fondness for drink, gross sexual proclivities, and no indulgences or vices except the occasional card game. As I find myself without a traveling companion, and fearing my reputation would have been in peril, Ms. Eda graciously sent for you on my behalf.”
Your eminence? Richmond scoffed to himself. This Cheri is most certainly a charm…and a charmer. “Are you are seeking a job or my protection? Not that you have to choose, for I can offer you both.”
Cheri tilted Richmond’s chin down until their eyes met. “What I want from you, Mr. Black, is your guidance.”
“Well,” Richmond sighed, and, to Cheri’s disappointment, dismissed the thought, “what shall we do today, little lamb?”
“Why do you call me that? Little lamb?”
“Because you must have lost your way, little lamb.” Richmond gently tapped her eyelids closed.
“I’m not lost. I’m searching. There is a distinct difference.”
“Hmm. Well, perhaps you have been searching too hard.”
At that, Cheri’s eye fluttered open and read his sincerity.
“Aren’t you tired of searching, little lamb?”
“Maybe,” she replied with more truth than she intended. “But I suppose I haven’t found what I’m looking for.” She melted under Richmond’s kiss and reached for his member through the tangle of sheets between them.
He stopped her and rolled on his back, pulling her on top of him. “What do you want?” His tone begged for honesty. “Fortune and influence aside, what do you really want?”
A knot tightened in her belly. Why are my needs so important to him? Did I misread him? Of course, it would have been difficult to misread a man who had touched her more intimately, more deeply than she’d ever been touched before.
When her hesitation didn’t put him off the topic, she took a deep breath and let it out slowly. “I want my old life back. Back before…” Her voice trailed off, and she took a deep breath before she continued, “I miss my mother and sister, Kendall. They were all I had after my father threw me out for insolence. Periodically, I’d receive coded messages, but then they stopped.” Cheri swallowed past the lump in her throat. “My mother’s iron constitution was no match for my father’s iron fists. I hate to imagine what he did to her when he discovered…” She exhaled. “Now…well, now she and Kendall are gone, or so it’s rumored. I was barred from their funerals, and I never had a chance to say goodbye. So, I’ve been alone for six years.” She nuzzled her cheek into the palm Richmond had placed there. “I want a second chance, Mr. Black—just to go back to the way things were.”
“Have you ever asked yourself why your father really sent you away?” he asked. “Decent men do not turn their defenseless daughters away.”
“No one said my father is a decent man by any standard.”
“Exactly! So why would you ever want to go back to that life?”
“Because it’s who I am.” Cheri laughed humorously. “It’s in my blood.”
Richmond examined her closely, patiently. “You are young and have so much to learn, little lamb.”
“Funny you didn’t mention that last night, sir.” She raised a cynical brow.
“True, but the carnage of familial fidelity is bullshit, Cheri, an accident of birth.” His barring became serious, hardened. “What’s important is what comes thereafter. Make the people in your life earn the right to be there.” He rose abruptly, tossing Cheri aside. “Everything you have been taught is a lie, Cheri.” He threw his shirt on and strode to the door, then bade her to sit when she offered to join him, telling her that he didn’t desire her company. He also reminded her that since she lacked a companion, she was to remain indoors. He wasn’t done with her.
“Shit!” Cheri fell back on her pillow, rubbing the center of her forehead, grappling with how she would salvage the situation. For all of his amiable qualities and tempered manners, Richmond Black was not one to trifle with.