USA Today bestselling author Melanie George delivers a sexy new novel of dangerous delight, where England's most independent woman meets her match in the ton's most seductive gentleman....
Lovely Lady Bliss Ashton has her pick of the attractive, sophisticated men in Regency society...and she's rejected them all. But when Caine Ballinger, the Earl of Hartland -- famous the length and breadth of England for his sexual prowess -- lays siege to her, she's finally tempted to fall. Not just because of the passion he arouses in her untutored body; it's also the hint of vulnerability she sees beneath the arrogant, dangerous façade he shows to the world.
Caine is only wooing Lady Bliss to win a bet, so he can regain his ancestral estate -- with the added attraction that by seducing her, he'll get revenge against her father. All he's interested in is getting her luscious body beneath his, then publicly shaming her. So why does he feel so strange when her gentle fingers stroke his hard body, or her soft words soothe his tortured soul? And when the bet is revealed, Caine has to choose...between his longtime dream and the woman he craves with all his heart.
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December 31, 2002
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Excerpt from The Pleasure Seekers by Melanie George
The sleepless soul that perished in his pride...
"Come on, damn it." Sweat beaded on Caine's back as he thrust into the woman beneath him, her customary mewling sounds making bile rise in his throat. He wanted to be done with her so she would leave.
She was always ravenous for sex when she woke up, which was why he normally made himself scarce, but she had caught him unawares, climbing into his bed late last night after he had drunk himself into a stupor. He had come awake abruptly when she mounted his morning erection, for which he very nearly throttled her as he pushed her to her back.
"Oh, yes, Caine...that's it," she panted, her face wreathed in ecstasy. Olivia Hamilton, widow of the late Marquis of Buxton, and now Caine's patroness, was building toward her climax. "Now, Caine. Now."
Her legs gripped his flanks like an industrial clamp, urging every ounce from him, whether he wished to give it or not.
She tossed her head back and moaned. A stream of bright sunlight slanted across her neck, showing the fine lines of her advancing age, which she claimed to be forty, but which he suspected was closer to forty-five. But she could have been twenty-five and it wouldn't have made his duty any easier. Fitting punishment for a man who had once been so immersed in a world of sin that he'd earned the nickname Vice from his comrades-in-debauchery. What a perversion of fate, to have been trapped by his own immorality.
Outside, the crisp snap of a gunshot signaled the start of the morning's fox hunt and the beginning of yet another weeklong house party, where he would hang on the fringes while England's most dissolute peers descended upon Northcote Hall. People he had once ignorantly called friends, in a home he had, in another lifetime, called his own.
Northcote had belonged to Ballingers since the fourteenth century, surviving sieges, the uncompromising elements of the Devon coastline, and a fire that had nearly gutted it a hundred years earlier. But it hadn't survived Henry Ballinger. His father.
The earl had been a good man, but distracted, the death of his wife pushing him deeper into his own world, his business ventures faltering until debt covered his head, and his son's head upon his death. Caine had barely escaped with the shirt on his back when he had learned how far-reaching the devastation. The entail on Northcote had lapsed. There had been no way to save it from the auction block, leaving an empty title as his sole inheritance.
Two years his father had been dead, his broken body found upon the rocks at the base of the cliffs. The last step in Henry Ballinger's march toward self-destruction was his inability to pay back the money loaned to him by the wealthiest nobleman in the region, Edward Ashton, Duke of Exmoor. There were many defeats the earl could accept, but not when it concerned a debt of honor. In that, his fall from grace had been absolute.
And so began Caine's own descent, his mind increasingly consumed with a growing hate, certain that his father would still be alive if the duke had given him more time to pay. Exmoor had pushed his father to his death as though the duke's hand had been on his father's back.
Since then, Caine's life had become a hellish purgatory, turning him into a man without a soul, without a conscience. He had nothing -- nothing but the silent, impotent rage that kept him rising day after day, instead of taking his gun and putting a bullet through his brain.