A Duke for the Road

By: Eva Devon

He hit the ground running and the solid, grass-covered earth sent shockwaves up his thighs. Despite the repetitiveness of this task, he felt his blood warming in anticipation. A robbery was never a sure thing.

The coachman jerked the reins and the great horses whinnied as their heads were pulled back. They quickly stomped to a halt and the driver gaped down at Robert, his pale face papery white in the moonlight. Robert arched a brow at the old man. Good God, the old bugger looked on the verge of a heart attack. He lifted his pistol to his feathered hat in salute. “I’m here for your master’s effects, good man, not for you.”

The old man nodded, his toothless mouth dropping open as Robert strode to the gilded coach door. A coachman’s wages weren’t worth bravado, something Robert had come to rely upon.

He twisted the gold handle then whipped the heavy lacquered door open. Amber lantern light spilled out into the darkness, bathing his black boots and breeches in yellow light.

“Please descend, for I require your presence,” he said grandly. It was best to keep his victims on their feet. In his experience, people actually liked a gentleman robber.

A black-gloved hand emerged through the coach door. It was delicate, and the pale skin of the wrist was exposed. “I should be glad to descend with your assistance.” The sultry voice rippled out from the coach and Robert fought back a sigh.

God’s teeth. Women were the worst. They had such a sense of drama and their lives were so often boring and repressed that his presence was welcome rather than upsetting. “Certainly, madam, if you can assure me you don’t have a gentleman friend inside waiting to shoot me dead.”

She leaned into the doorway, her painted red lips and coiled, blonde hair striking in the moonlight. But from a single glance, it was clear she was as jaded as he by the vagaries of life, a widow, dressed from head to toe in black, and she was looking for a bit of sport. Something to alleviate her rather dull existence, no doubt.

He couldn’t blame her. Women had few recourses to true entertainment. . . unless they were independently wealthy and willing to not give a fig for the opinions of society.

She arched a delicate brow at him and brought her hand to her ample breasts to emphasize her innocence. “Sir! Do you question my honor?”

Robert holstered his pistol, but kept his grip on his rapier. Honor? He doubted she even recalled the meaning of the word. He held his hand out to her because, despite the obvious desire in the woman’s voice, he, too, felt desire.

Desire for the diamond earbobs dangling from her fetching ears. “Madam, I should never accuse a lady and you are, no doubt, nothing but.”

She bit her lower lip and took his gloved hand, letting him guide her down the coach step and into the field. “It would take the most severe temptation to lead me astray,” she breathed.

Robert fought a snort. Good God. Had she actually uttered such pure drivel? “I would never be so cruel as to tempt you, though you have that which tempts me,” he replied, coolly and just low enough to give her a hint of danger. Which was exactly what she wanted. They both obviously had read too many bad novels.

But really, what matter? If he kept her distracted with such constructed romanticisms, she wouldn’t put up a fuss when he took her jewels.

She drew in a deep breath, which pushed her corseted breasts together. Displaying what she obviously felt to be the source of his temptation. Ah, widows. One couldn’t live with them and one couldn’t live without them. They were the joy of every young buck and his personal problem.

Robert leaned in slowly and she tilted her chin up, obviously expecting him to kiss her.

“Madam you have beauty which maddens my soul,” he whispered, the rehearsed words tripping from his tongue with ease. If it made her happy, where was the harm? There was far too little happiness in this world in his opinion.

He placed his hand gently on her slight shoulder, caressing her skin through the fabric of her black silk gown. “I think I must claim a token from our meeting. Hmm?”

Trailing his leather-gloved fingers up to her neck, he softly caressed the beating pulse beneath her smooth skin then traced his way up to her ear. He caressed the soft lobe and she moaned. Robert looked down into her brown, lusty eyes as he slipped the giant, sparkling earbob free.

“Sir!” She glanced up at him through half-closed lids. “You claim what is not yours.” Belying the outrage of her words, she opened her mouth ever so slightly, clearly inviting his kiss.

He leaned down, till his mouth was a mere inch from hers. Her breath smelled of port and, bizarrely, tobacco. Personally, he loathed the latest import from the colonies, but London seemed to love it. Robert curled his fingers around a few of her soft, blonde tendrils. “Then gift me your treasure and I shall not have to take.” Lord, he could go on like this for hours. He did love deliciously outrageous novels and plays. Life was terribly grey without them.

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