One Night With a Prince (2005)
From The Royal Brotherhood
(reissued version available September 2016)
One Night with a Prince
Lovely Christabel, the Marchioness of Haversham, is desperate to regain some personal correspondence—so desperate that she pretends to be the mistress of notorious gaming club owner Gavin Byrne, in order to attend a scandalous house party hosted by the man holding her letters. But when she agreed to let Byrne coach her on how a true mistress behaves, she never suspected how very… appealing his wicked lessons would be.
Secretly determined to find the letters before Christabel, so he can use them to avenge a childhood tragedy, Gavin can’t help but be delighted at his pupil’s performance with regard to his “mistress lessons.” It won’t be long before the luscious widow is in his bed. Ultimately, though, will love or revenge triumph?
Thanks to you wonderful readers, the book hit the following bestseller lists:
- #25 on the New York Times Extended Bestseller List
- Three weeks on the USA Today Bestseller List
- Two weeks on the Waldenbooks Bestseller List
- Romantic Times Top Pick
Winner of the More than Magic award for Best Historical of 2005
“Fortunately, Jeffries (To Pleasure a Prince, In the Prince’s Bed) not only beguiles readers with scenes of passion and vivid characters but steadily builds the story’s tension to an exciting conclusion. The details of gambling, mistresses and scandalous conduct further enrich the tapestry against which this emotionally satisfying story plays out. Jeffries’s readers will be royally pleased.” —Publishers Weekly
“Jeffries continues to write books with heart throbbing sensual intensity that you never want to see end and this is such a prime example! …Splendid protagonists, intelligent and dynamic dialogs–it just doesn’t get any better than this as Jeffries wraps up her latest trilogy of the fabulous Royal Brotherhood series!!”
—Historical Romance Writers Site
While the dressmaker took notes, Byrne flipped through the book, barking orders faster than Mrs. Watts could write them down. “She’ll need at least five chemises, seven evening gowns, three riding habits, eleven walking dresses with matching pelisses or spencers—”
“That’s too many,” Christabel protested.
“We’ll be in the country a week.” Skimming his hand down to rest just above her hips, he added, “And I intend to have you in and out of your gowns frequently.”
As the dressmaker discreetly dropped her gaze, Christabel glared at him. He was enjoying his role of lover far too much. Later, she’d have to remind him it was just a role.
Leaving his hand on her waist, he went on. “She’ll need new petticoats—silk, preferably—a few nightgowns of very fine linen, and dressing gowns.”
“And shawls,” Christabel added.
“No shawls.” Byrne dropped his gaze to her bosom. “A woman should flaunt her … assets.”
Heat rose in her cheeks despite her efforts to contain it. “Then perhaps I should do without gowns entirely,” she snapped.
His eyes gleamed. “A fine idea. We’ll stay in my room the whole time.”
Blast him. He might only be doing this for show, but it was a very good one. She tipped up her chin, determined to have the last word. “I need my shawls. I get cold.”
“I’ll keep you warm enough, don’t worry.”
“Byrne—” she began in sheer exasperation.
“Oh, all right.” He turned to Mrs. Watts. “And a shawl.”
“Three shawls,” Christabel said.
“One shawl,” he countered. “In silk.” When she frowned, he added, “If you want more, you’ll have to pay for them yourself.”
He knew perfectly well she couldn’t afford such things. “Then I’ll just use my old ones.”
“Of wool, no doubt.”
“As a matter of fact, yes.”
He groaned. “Fine. Three silk shawls.” Her triumphant glance made him add, “But don’t think I’ll let you wrap yourself up like a mummy after I’ve gone to the trouble of buying gowns that display your charms.” He lowered his voice to a confidential murmur. “Either play the part or don’t. Stokely will be suspicious enough as it is.”
Her face fell. He was right. “Very well, one shawl will do, I suppose.”
The next hour was taken up in sorting through a dizzying array of fabrics, styles, and colors. He and the dressmaker ignored Christabel’s comments. Not that she had many. What did she know about fashions for scandalous ladies?
She did know that the fabrics were the most exquisite she’d ever seen. Or touched. She’d never cared much about clothes, but then she’d never had gowns made of fabrics like these—silks that flowed over one’s hand like water, muslins so soft and delicate she feared tearing them with a single touch. As a lieutenant, Philip hadn’t been able to afford such. Then, along with his estate he’d inherited a mountain of debt, which he’d built higher every year.
But Byrne could clearly afford them. Either that or he was mad.
Madness would explain his outrageously bold color choices—brilliant reds, vibrant blues, and dramatic greens. Didn’t he realize she wasn’t one of his stunning society ladies, who could easily wear clothes that drew attention to themselves?
When she protested, he told her, “Trust me, they’ll suit you perfectly.”
“But I thought pink and cream were the fashion.” That’s what her husband Philip had always preferred her to wear.
“For schoolgirls coming out, perhaps. Not for a grown woman. And certainly not for you.”
When Mrs. Watts held particular fabrics up to her face for him to choose, Christabel saw in the mirror what he meant. Even she, hopeless in matters of fashion, could see that the rose satin made her cheeks glow a healthy color, and the holly green crepe made her eyes sparkle. She’d always looked rather sallow in her pink gowns.
The fact that he’d been right perversely annoyed her. “You seem to know a great deal about women’s clothes.”
His slow smile sparked something hot low in her belly. “I know what I like.” His gaze dropped to her mouth. “And what makes a man desire a woman.”
A delicious shiver coursed through her. Curse the randy devil, he also knew what made a woman desire a man. Him and his smiles and extravagant gifts and commanding voice—all designed to send a female’s pulse into a frenzied gallop and melt her resistance into a puddle.
Well, he wouldn’t do that to her. No, indeed. She’d already allowed one man’s flatteries and flirtations to tempt her into an unwise marriage; she wasn’t about to let it tempt her into an illicit liaison with a devil who always put his own gain above his conscience. If he even possessed a conscience.
Once they’d settled on the gowns, Mrs. Watts drew out her measuring tape. “If you will come this way, my lady…” Mrs. Watts led her to a corner of the room where a little dais had been built to accommodate a previous resident’s passion for exhibiting. “Stand up here, please. And forgive me, but you must remove your gown so I can measure you in your corset.”
“Of course.” As she mounted the little steps, she glanced expectantly at Byrne, who responded by taking a seat in her favorite comfy armchair. “Byrne! You can’t watch this.”
“Why not?” The sneaky devil had the audacity to smile. “It’s nothing I haven’t seen before.”
He was taking this role too far, and he knew it. “Which is why you don’t need to see it now,” she persisted.
“Ah, but I have to make sure everything is done to my specifications.” He glanced at the dressmaker. “Don’t mind me.”
Mrs. Watts’ plump cheeks turned a rosy sheen, but she gave him a cursory nod. That’s what Byrne’s extravagance bought him—compliance from dressmakers and servants.
Fine, she would let him watch her be measured. She couldn’t very well quarrel with him in front of the dressmaker and destroy their pretense. Besides, he was paying for the gowns. She supposed he had a right to have a say in it.
But his extravagance would not buy her. He’d find that out soon enough.
Pretending she didn’t care in the least if he saw her half-dressed, she stared him down as the dressmaker helped her remove her gown. Watching him proved a mistake, however, for once she stood atop the dais in her corset and chemise, her pride forced her to keep looking as his gaze roamed wherever it pleased.
It took all her strength to fight a blush. No man had ever gazed upon her like that before. Even Philip had never really taken the time to look at her. A lusty soldier, he’d been quick to join her in bed, and just as quick to retire to his own when he was done.
Somehow she suspected that “quick” wouldn’t apply to Byrne. While Mrs. Watts took her measurements and scribbled them in her notebook, he did some measuring of his own. His eyes lingered on her bosom with disquieting interest, then examined her cinched-in waist and too ample hips. When he was done with his thorough assessment, his heated gaze made a leisurely trip back up her body to fix on her face.
And in his eyes, she saw the truth that he wasn’t even bothering to hide. He would stop at nothing to have her in his bed, bargain or no.
She cursed as a wayward thrill coursed down her spine. The impudence of the man! As if she didn’t have enough to worry about with the prospect of Papa’s destruction hanging over her head.
Well, she would just show him. She turned to the dressmaker with a smooth smile. “I do hope my friend hasn’t embarrassed you too much with his antics. Sometimes he can be most outrageous. I wouldn’t be surprised if after he chose all these gowns, he changed his mind about them and refused to pay.”
Mrs. Watts didn’t so much as frown.
Worse yet, Byrne merely chuckled. “Mrs. Watts has dealt with me often enough, my sweet, to know that I pay my bills with annoying regularity.”
Christabel glared at him. So much for trying to shame the man into behaving.
Ignoring her frowns, he turned his attention to the dressmaker. “And speaking of payment, I’m willing to pay more to have these gowns finished in three days.”
Mrs. Watts eyed him with a wily gleam. “It will be a great deal more.”
“Whatever it costs.”
The woman smiled broadly. “Very good, sir.” Then she untied Christabel’s chemise and pulled the high neckline down to form a line across the very top of her breasts. “Now, milady, for your evening gowns, is this an acceptable neckline?”
“No,” Byrne said before Christabel could even answer.
Mrs. Watts pivoted to him like a dog following the bounce of a ball. She pulled the chemise down a little more. “Here then?”
“Lower,” he said.
As Christabel seethed, Mrs. Watts went down another half-inch. “Here?’
“Perhaps I should pop out my breasts and serve them up on a platter,” Christabel grumbled.
As the dressmaker coughed to hide her laugh, he raised one eyebrow. “While that sounds intriguing, my sweet, when we’re in public you’d best keep them in a gown.”
“In being the important word,” she retorted.
Mrs. Watts continued to hold the chemise in its present position, her gaze fixed on him. “Sir? Is this all right or not?”
He glanced from the dressmaker to a glowering Christabel, then back to the dressmaker. “That’ll do for now, I suppose. We’ll see how the gowns look once they’re done.”
With a relieved nod, Mrs. Watts finished her measurements. “Will that be all, sir?”
“No. She needs something to wear for the next few days, so if you could alter one of her old gowns, something she wore before she went into mourning—”
“She can’t,” Christabel broke in.
His gaze settled on her. “Why not?”
Heat rose in her cheeks. “We …um…dyed all my old gowns black.”
“All of them?”
She stuck out her chin. “Yes.”
“Bloody hell. At least that explains why you persist in wearing them.” He turned to the dressmaker. “Could you make her mourning gowns a bit less…severe? And have one of them ready in the morning?”
He rose and strode to the door. “I’ll call her maid to fetch them.”
As he opened the door, Rosa practically fell into the room. Christabel rolled her eyes. Rosa would never go meekly off when there was gossip to hear.
“Forgive me, sir,” Rosa babbled, “I was merely coming to tell my lady—”
“It’s all right, Rosa,” he broke in. “Just go bring us the prettiest of your mistress’s mourning gowns, will you?”
“But they are all ugly, senor.”
“What a surprise,” he said dryly. “Very well, then take Mrs. Watts with you. She can assess which ones are best for alteration.”
Rosa and Mrs. Watts hurried off, and Byrne closed the door. Only then did she realize they were alone. And she was dressed most scandalously.
He seemed to realize the same thing, for his gaze took outrageous liberties as he surveyed her scantily clad form.
And to her chagrin, her pulse leaped in response. “For pity’s sake, go see to your horses or something. We can finish this without you. Go on, go away and leave us in peace.”
“And let you dress yourself like a nun? I think not.”
His nonchalant assumption that this masquerade gave him the right to tell her what to wear frustrated her. “I should warn you, just because I let you get away with these outrageous flirtations in public doesn’t mean I’ll allow them in private. Furthermore,” she lied, “I shall elaborate on your abominable treatment of me in my written report to His Highness. And when your father hears—”
“What did you say?” He’d gone abruptly still, his eyes turning gray as a sudden tempest.
Too late, she remembered that he had good reason to dislike his father. “I-I said I will make a report to—”
“No, you called His Highness my ‘father.’” He advanced up the dais’s steps so swiftly that she had no chance to leave before he trapped her atop it. “If you’re to play my mistress, Lady Haversham, there are some things you should know about me. For one, His Highness is not my father.”
She blinked. “But I thought—”
“He did sire me, yes, no matter what the bloody arse claimed to the world. But there’s a vast difference between producing seed and being a father. Only one person raised me, and she’s the only one who counts. That fool at Carlton House had nothing to do with it, so I don’t give a bloody damn what you tell him.”
Backing her against the wall, he scowled down at her. “And one more thing—I don’t take kindly to threats. I respond by doing exactly what I’ve been warned not to do. And if you think my flirtations were outrageous before—”
Taking her off guard, he caught her chin in a firm grip and brought his mouth down on hers.
The kiss was hard. Commanding. And very, very thorough. With provoking insolence, he sealed his mouth to hers as if he had every right to do so. But when he tried making the kiss more intimate, she wrenched her mouth from his.
“What do you think you’re doing?” she demanded, fighting to ignore the silly pounding of her heart and the deplorable quiver in the pit of her belly.
His smoldering gaze seared her wherever it settled. “I’m kissing my pretend mistress.”
“Stop it.” She cast a furtive glance to the door. “The servants might see us.”
“Good. Servants are notorious gossips. So let’s put on a good show for them.” Then he kissed her again.
Except that this time he succeeded in invading her mouth with his tongue, erotically, possessively. And she didn’t stop him, blast it.
Worse yet, she liked it. She tried not to compare his slow, drugging kisses to Philip’s sloppy, eager ones, but it was hard to ignore the difference. Her husband’s kisses had always been a brief prelude to a quick tumble. Byrne’s kiss was an end in itself, hot, heady, and intoxicating. He fed on her mouth as if he’d been waiting half his life to taste it. The sensation made her dizzy.
His hand skimmed down her throat, and she waited, on the edge of disappointment, for him to grab her breast and squeeze it roughly the way Philip always had.
Instead, Byrne curved his hand around the side of her neck, caressing her throat with his thumb, up and down, back and forth, to mimic the heated plunges of his tongue between her lips.
Oh, heavenly day. He drove the very air from her lungs, which might explain why her knees were going weak and her head growing faint. With leisurely care, he thrust, probed, caressed…made love to her mouth.
But only her mouth. How very intriguing.
Though he’d settled his other hand on her waist, he merely stroked her ribs with it. He didn’t paw her breasts or cup her between the legs or squeeze her bottom, all of which Philip would have done within seconds after starting to kiss her.
And Byrne’s peculiar restraint was having the oddest effect on her. She felt restless and unsatisfied. She found herself wanting his hand on her breast. Lord help her—what kind of a wanton was she? This was supposed to be only a masquerade, remember?
She tore her lips from his, seeking breath and…what? Respite? Relief from the liquid heat he fed with each newer, bolder thrust into her mouth? “That’s enough,” she somehow managed to whisper. “You’ve made your point.”