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Lady Charlotte has one night to select a husband or her father will marry her off to the sadistic Lord Crowley. When she meets the blue-eyed Viscount Sutherland, she thinks her prayers have been answered until she learns the handsome lord isn't who he says he is. Will Charlotte marry Crowley or take a chance on a lowly painter and love?
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Once Upon a Touch (Forever Wicked)
All rights reserved.
Copyright ©2017 Danni Price
A knock jarred him out of the moment and his eyes flew open. The room stood empty save for Cillian and his still hard cock. It had all only been the dream of a weary man celibate for too long.
Martin, a long-time servant, pushed the door open and poked his head into the room. "Hello?"
"Do you have it?" Cillian stood up, grateful for the loose shirt that hid the consequence of his dream, and eyed the neatly dressed man.
"Are we alone?"
With a nod, Cillian pulled Martin into the room and shut the door. "Did you have any trouble?"
Martin pulled out a package from under his arm. His wide mouth spread into a cocky grin. "Not at all. I got everything you asked for, even a pair of shoes."
The shoes looked a little small, but the suit made with expensive fabric looked perfect. "Won't he notice these things missing?"
"Sutherland? No, not him. He's a regular peacock. I swear he brought clothes enough for five men. This was the plainest outfit in his chests." Martin nodded in agreement with himself.
"Thank you. Are you sure you won't take any money?"
"No, I just want what we discussed."
Cillian glanced at his mural, a countryside filled with lords and ladies celebrating whatever the things were that the privileged perpetually celebrated. In a far corner, a tiny replica of Martin sat under a tree beside a buxom redhead. "I gave you a companion. She's an opera singer that a wealthy merchant paid Santos to paint."
"That's nice. You did a good job." Martin leaned forward and squinted at his likeness.
Cillian studied the man. In his late thirties and only now starting to show strain from a life spent working long days and nights, Martin grinned and looked ten years younger. Cillian smiled back.
"If you don't mind my asking, why this?"
The man grinned even wider. "Years from now we'll all be dead. And you and I, we're no lords. We're not even important people in our own households. But someday someone will look at this painting and take notice of my little bit of it. And they'll wonder who that handsome devil was." His expression went serious for a moment. "And for a little while I'll be thought of and it won't be as someone's man. No, I'll be a lord with a beautiful lady at my side. And that, my dear boy, is worth more to me than a few coins."
The two men stared at each other in understanding. With an outstretched hand, Martin warned him, "Wait as long as you can to leave and stick to the outskirts of the garden. The drunker they are, the better it is for you."
They shook hands and Martin slipped out the door. A few minutes later Cillian followed.
* * *
Cillian rested his hand on the middle of the rough wooden door that led from the servants' quarters to the east garden. Without the picturesque view of the woods the other sections of the castle grounds boasted, the east garden should be less crowded. Only the faintest strains of the famed royal orchestra made its way through the oak door.
It opened with a creak of protest. The moon hung brightly in the inky night sky, but its light paled in comparison to the lanterns and bonfires that dotted the manicured grounds. With his feet already aching from his borrowed, too-small shoes, he peered into the distance at the many ships whose dark outlines filled the docks on the opposite side of the river. All he needed was make it to the docks where he'd stashed a small rowboat to cross the river. Then he'd be free at long last.
With every step his hopes soared. A few yards shy of the river's edge he stopped. A grouping of guards milled in front of the largest dock, where he'd hid his boat earlier that day. Without a distraction to clear the way, his plan would fail. He turned to scan the crowds. A burly guard with heavy jowls slammed a meaty fist down onto Cillian's shoulder.
"There you are. I've been looking all over for you!" The heavyset man grinned at his partner, a thinner but much more dangerous looking figure. Shrewd eyes stared out of the smaller man's face.
Cillian stared at the two men in shocked silence.
"Cecil, take your fool hands off the fancy lord or the mistress will have your head." The thin man stepped forward and waved a hand in the direction of the castle that served as the Duke's primary residence. "After you, milord."
Cillian shot a glance to the docks but the guards remained, blocking his hope of escape. With a resigned nod, Cillian followed Cecil while the unnamed brute trailed behind them.
They passed a large bonfire and several drunken noblemen but his little group didn't stop until they reached the guest house on the opposite side of the garden.
Cecil pulled open the door with a goofy grin. Cillian moved through the glass doors and stopped dead in his tracks. Lady Charlotte sat on a settee. One dainty foot poked out from under her bright yellow dress and moved up and down at a fast clip.
His heart skipped a beat as he waited for her to recognize him, to call him out, and throw him in jail. The spoiled noble studied him from her seated position for a long minute before standing up.
The skinny guard moved to stand beside him. "Yes, milady."