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Sarah Rigdon is desperate. Penniless with taxes due, she can either beg mercy from the ruthless tax collector or turn to the last man she wants to ask for help. Archer Latimer stirs desires no proper lady would ever admit to. Though their meetings always end in quarrels, she can’t deny the heat between them. When he agrees to help, Sarah thinks her luck has turned. But she should have known nothing with Archer is ever easy.
Archer and his lover Warren Dorvee have spent years searching for the right woman to complete their family. Both believe luscious Sarah is the one and now have a chance to pursue her. After all, the price of Archer’s help is for Sarah to pose for Warren’s latest painting. Nude.
But trust has to be earned and a crisis in London threatens their love. The three must navigate through lust, lies and secrets or risk being torn apart forever.
Inside Scoop: Contains m/m, GLBT and ménage.
A Romantica® historical erotic romance from Ellora’s Cave
An Excerpt From: DANGER BY DALLIANCE
Copyright © TINA CHRISTOPHER, 2014
All Rights Reserved, Ellora's Cave Publishing, Inc.
“I am here for two reasons.” She lifted the bag onto her lap, opened. With a hiss the pneumatic shrinking device that matched the bag to whatever needed carrying released, and she removed a square metal box with two colored lights on the top. “This is my father’s latest invention. He calls it the Rigdon’s Banknote Verification Device.” She set it on the desk. “You feed a banknote in here.” She pointed to a slit on the side.
“The RBVD will test it. If the note is false, the red light will flash.”
He stilled for a moment, his brow furrowed, before pulling the machine closer. “What made your father go in this direction?”
“He’s been working on this for some time, but under the current circumstances believed it deserved his complete focus.”
If she had feathers he’d be ruffling them. Did he have to be so methodical? “I am sure you are aware of what is happening in the city.”
“I am more surprised that you are. Why did you bring this to me?”
She cleared her throat. Her chest tightened. “My father says he has taken it as far as he can. Because of your previous partnership he’d hoped you may be interested to see if you can identify the issues with the ink scanner and take the device to its final conclusion.”
He sat back and steepled his hands before his face.
When he didn’t say anything for a minute her stomach churned. He had to agree. Otherwise her father’s invention was only a pile of junk soldered together and the trouble she was in had been for nothing. “Of course your previously established conditions would remain.”
He lifted the machine off his desk and added it to one of the shelves. “I will see what I can do.” Latimer returned to his chair and tapped a finger against the armrest. “You mentioned two reasons for your visit.”
Sarah bit her lip and tried to breathe evenly. A flush crept across her cheeks. She’d prepared her speech, but now everything had vanished, leaving her mentally racing to find the right words.
Everything, that is, except the impact his presence always had on her. Sparks rushed through her stomach, spreading out toward the apex of her thighs. She was glad she wore a thick tweed dress as her nipples hardened.
How did he do this to her every time she saw him? And what was this?
“Of course, Mr. Latimer.” She exhaled and dragged her focus back to where it needed to be. Kicking and screaming.
For a moment she wished she had some sort of feminine wiles to use in this encounter, some way to distract him, dull his razor-sharp wit. But looking after her father and their small house didn’t give her a lot of opportunity to learn to be a coquette. “Mr. Latimer, I came here today to see if you could—”
The door banged open and a man stormed into the room. He was slightly taller than Latimer, but had a leaner build. Brown hair, two shades lighter than Latimer’s, curled around his shoulders. He wore only trousers and his shirt was untucked. He looked as if he’d been through a storm. His white shirt was also covered in paint splatter and was half open.
A tingle went through Sarah when she saw his muscular chest play peek-a-boo with her. She should look away, but she’d never seen this much skin on a man.
Propriety be damned. She studied him from under her lashes.
She’d never met this man in her life, but the urge to stroke her hands across the smooth-looking skin overcame her.
The passion gathering inside her simmered hotter.
“Arch, have you seen my notebook?” The new arrival raised his head and saw her. He stopped. “Oh, I apologize. I hadn’t realized you had a guest.”
To Sarah’s surprise he made no effort to button his shirt or make himself more presentable. Instead he crossed his arms over his lean chest and studied her. His gold-green eyes focused on her like a spotlight.
Latimer grimaced. “Jennings should have let you know.”
The two men exchanged a glance. Latimer appearing somewhat tortured, the new arrival filled with mirth.
“Miss Rigdon, please let me introduce Warren Hugh Dorvee, a dear friend and housemate.”
Dorvee bowed. “At your service, Miss Rigdon.”
Sarah swallowed. Their combined gazes made her shiver. The office seemed unnaturally hot. Even in their somewhat casual state of dress Latimer and Dorvee dominated the room. She wanted to get up and touch them, rub her hand across Dorvee’s muscular abdomen and see if the dark hair on Latimer’s forearms, bared by the rolled-up sleeves, was as soft as it appeared.
These shocking thoughts pulled Sarah back from the brink. Her heart pounded, but she concentrated on her responsibilities and duties. She couldn’t afford to be anything but above reproach.
Even in her own mind.
“Mr. Dorvee, are—” She cleared her throat, uncomfortable with how sensual her voice sounded. “Are you a painter?”
Dorvee leaned against the side of the desk. “I am, Miss Rigdon. What gave me away?” Laughter shimmered in his eyes, highlighting the gold sparks in the deep green. Laughter and an appreciation that made the tips of her breasts tingle.
“Oh, I don’t know.” She couldn’t help but fall in with the teasing. “Maybe the colorful decorations on your shirt?”
He pulled his shirt away from his body, giving her another glimpse of a muscular abdomen and a narrow line of hair ending in his trousers. Brief as it might have been, her hard nipples rubbed against her chemise and the boning of her corset. Sparks traveled from her breasts to her stomach and below.
“Maybe I am only starting a new fashion trend.”
Her lips twitched, but then she met Latimer’s look and the heat inside her turned into a blaze. Sarah had always thought of it as anger, but now she realized it was something else.
Something she had no name for.
Something that was caused by the two men before her.
She swallowed. “I am not sure your new trend will replace current fashions right away, but don’t give up. You’ll never know what might be possible with a little bit of patience.”
“How very true, Miss Rigdon, how very true.”
They both looked at her.
Latimer by himself was unsettling enough, but the two of them combined, side by side, were overwhelming. And Dorvee’s hands kept twitching as if he wanted to reach for something. Did he have a condition?
When the silence between them approached awkward, Latimer turned to Dorvee. “Apologies, Warren, but I have not seen your notebook. Have you checked the sunroom? That is the last place I saw you with it.”
Dorvee’s face lit up. “No, I’d forgotten I’d been sketching in there the other day. Thanks, I’ll have a look.”
Sarah smiled at him. “I hope you find your book.”
Latimer and his friend shared a quick glance filled with words she couldn’t interpret. She could have sworn a flash of emotion so hot it made her shiver passed between the two men.
She tugged at the cuffs of her blouse. What a ridiculous notion. She was aware that there were some men who preferred the company of other men, but she’d heard enough of Latimer’s adventures to be certain he did not fall into this category. And bachelors often shared accommodations.
Every artist needed a patron and Lord knew Latimer had the funds to be the handsome man’s personal Svengali.
Dorvee bowed to Sarah. “Miss Rigdon, it was such a pleasure to make your acquaintance. I apologize again for the interruption.” He nodded to Latimer and strode from the room, sucking the energy out with him.
Sarah expected Latimer to make some sort of excuse for his friend’s state of undress, but he only continued to look at her. Before she could put her scrambled thoughts back together the words escaped her. “Mr. Latimer, I need you to pay my father’s annual royalties seven months early.”