Home > The Notorious Lord Knightly

The Notorious Lord Knightly
Author: Lorraine Heath

Chapter 1


I should have been in the ballroom dancing. Instead, I was standing in the gardens, away from any light, listening to the approach of the soft footfalls. His familiar, enticing sandalwood fragrance mixed with his own unique scent reached me first and revealed his identity. Therefore, I held still and waited, my breath sawing in and out with anticipation. Slowly his arms came around me, folding over my chest in such a way that his large and powerful hands cradled my breasts and squeezed gently as he pulled me into the nook of his body, until my back rested against his broad chest. Then his mouth, heated as though by the very fires of Hades, pressed against the nape of my neck, sending delicious shivers coursing through me. At that moment, I knew I would do anything Lord K asked of me.

—Anonymous, My Secret Desires, A Memoir



June 5, 1875


Arthur Pennington, the Earl of Knightly, rather wished he’d stayed in his residence that evening instead of venturing out to his favorite club. He was no stranger to intense gazes from young swells who sought to emulate him, flirtatious smiles from women—married and not, young and old—who wished to entice him into a secluded corner, and murderous glares from men he’d bested, in business and otherwise. He liked winning, loved it in fact.

In his youth, the game might have been as simple as being the first to introduce a debutante to the pleasures of kissing. He’d not been quite so discerning then. A kiss was just a kiss. Over the years, however, the games had become increasingly complicated, his victories not quite so public. He’d discovered it could be quite delicious to be the only one to know he’d won. Anonymity had its rewards.

But recently, the curious looks were far more frequent, lasted longer, and contained a great deal more speculation. They were also accompanied by whispers and nods, low murmurings, and the occasional giggle—the latter usually released by a young chit experiencing her first Season who had yet to be kissed and was bashful as well as easily mortified by any reference at all to what transpired between consenting adults. He’d hoped by now, nearly six weeks in, that all the conjecture would have dissipated, but the ton liked nothing better than a good bit of gossip. And of late, he’d very much become the gossipmongers’ favorite topic.

“It seems, Knight, you’ve replaced me as the scoundrel to be avoided at all costs this Season.”

Narrowing his eyes, Knight slowly shifted his attention over to David Blackwood, commonly known as Bishop, who sat beside him with a smirk on his ruggedly handsome face. Two months prior, his longtime friend had been dubbed Blackguard Blackwood because of his reputation for leading married ladies to ruin in such a flagrant public fashion that they were soon divorced. Now he was more popularly identified as Besotted Blackwood, thanks to his newly acquired wife, Marguerite. She occupied the chair on the other side of Bishop, their fingers interlocked in their usual scandalous public spectacle of not being able to keep their hands off each other. Although such displays of affection weren’t uncommon in the Twin Dragons. The gaming hell’s membership had been extended to include women, resulting in an abundance of wooing going on within these walls.

Not that Knight had ever indulged himself here. These days, he preferred as much privacy as possible in all personal matters. All business matters as well. In all matters, truth be told. He had become a closed book. Even to those who thought they knew him better than anyone. His fellow Chessmen.

A glass of fine scotch in hand, they were presently sitting in their favorite corner of the club’s library where they often discussed various investment strategies that had resulted in the moniker associated with them.

“I’m not quite certain how you came to such a deduction,” he finally responded laconically. A lie. He knew damned well how it had come about—because of a recently published book that was not quite as closed as he. As a matter of fact, it had been opened by so many curiosity seekers that locating a copy had become a bit of a challenge.

“As you’re no doubt aware,” Rook said pointedly, “speculation is rampant you are Lord K.”

“Any number of Lord Ks are about. Could even be King here,” Knight said, tipping his head toward the Duke of Kingsland, who’d also brought his wife, Penelope. But then she was as ruthless when it came to investing as they were and had often joined them for their discussions, even before King realized he was madly in love with her and made her his duchess.

“I’m a duke,” King stated. “I wouldn’t be referred to as Lord anything.”

“It’s fiction. Perhaps she used the moniker to throw people off the scent.”

“Or he,” Marguerite offered succinctly. “Simply because it was written from the point of view of a woman doesn’t mean it was necessarily written by a woman.” As a private detective, she had a tendency to be suspicious and not trust that things or people were exactly as they seemed. Certainly, her husband’s duplicitousness had proven that point well enough.

“You’ve read it?”

“No, but a gentleman recently sought to employ me to uncover the identity of the author, fearing the tome might have been written by his wife and she was detailing an affair in which she was engaged.”

That others were interested in discovering the author’s identity was disconcerting, especially if his enemies were striving to uncover knowledge to use against him. He’d considered hiring Marguerite himself but refused to fuel the rumors floating about that the tale was biographical in nature and he had, in fact, been assigned the pivotal role. “Did you discover who she was?”

“I didn’t take on the case. I couldn’t see it as a pressing concern, and business has been quite brisk of late.”

“My wife is the finest inquiry agent in London,” Bishop said, his voice rife with pride, even though her investigation of him was responsible for bringing them together. Knight was surprised his friend’s buttons didn’t pop right off his waistcoat, a result of the manner in which he was preening. “She can be selective regarding how she spends her time. She’s approached about more important matters than uncovering the identity of an author.”

“It might be interesting to know if the writer is someone from your past, Knight,” Rook said. “If she’s not or is unknown to you, it would give credence to your denials.”

He sighed at the absurdity that he cared anything at all about what people thought. “I should think my word that it is not I would be sufficient.”

“But without knowing exactly who wrote it, how can you know for sure?”

“Because I don’t approach women in gardens, for God’s sake.” Except once, years before, when he’d been a very different man than he was now. But that woman, born of scandal, would never pen such provocative prose. She understood all too well the value of a pristine reputation. Keeping the one her father had established for her had been foremost on her mind. She’d reflected a purity that should have eventually led to a beneficial marriage among the nobility but during her first Season she’d chosen poorly. She’d chosen him. He suspected the regret would follow her to the end of her days. It certainly haunted his nights.

“You’ve read it, then?” Rook asked.

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