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A STUDY IN SEDUCTION
by Nina Rowan

Genre: Victorian Period, England, Historical Romance

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“Tell me what you want, Miss Kellaway.”

 Already striding towards the door, Lydia stopped. Her back stiffened, her shoulders drawing back. “I will not have this discussion.”

“Tell me what you want and you can have the locket back.”

She spun around, her skin reddening with anger. “How dare you manipulate me!”

“It’s a fair trade.”

“It is not. No trade is fair when the winner also loses.”

“What does that mean? ”

“It means you haven’t a care for either of the things being exchanged,” Lydia said. “The locket means nothing to you and everything to me. My wishes mean nothing to you and everything to me. So I tell you what you want to hear and win the locket back, but I’ve still lost, haven’t I?

“Forget the locket, then. Just tell me.”

“Why do you want to know? ”

“Because I refuse to believe the answer is nothing.

“You want to know what I want? What I can never have? ” She stalked toward him, her body rigid. “Fine. I’ll tell you what I want. Then you’ll realize what an unproductive act of futility it is for a woman like me to want anything beyond what she has.”

Alexander didn’t move. “Tell me.”

Her eyes flashed. “I want my mother’s locket back. I want my mother back. I want my father to have had the career he deserved. I want my sister to live the ordinary, happy life I never did. I want my grandmother to stop trying to set Jane’s future. I want to prove Legendre’s prime number theorem. I want to do something. I—” Alexander stepped forward and captured her face in his hands. He stared at her—the fire of pain and anger blazing in her eyes, the flush of her skin. An ache of want speared through him again, powerful enough to break his own vow. Before she could draw another breath, he lowered his head and kissed her.

She trembled beneath his hands. But she did not pull away. Alexander pressed harder, heat spreading through his chest as he sought to invade her mouth. Soft, soft, soft. Her mouth was so full, so pliable, such a contrast to the rigidity of her body. He flicked his tongue out to lick the corner of her mouth. She shuddered in response, and though her shoulders remained stiff, her lips began to slacken, to open.

The taste of tea and sugar, of Lydia, swept through Alexander’s blood. His hands tightened on her shoulders, pulling her closer so the curves of her breasts brushed against his chest. She gasped, a choked, throaty sound that made him ache to know what kind of noises she’d make if she were splayed naked and willing beneath him.

The image burned in his brain. He pressed himself against her. He lowered his hands to her tight waist, his fingers digging into an impossibly stiff corset…