What a Lord Wants
Capturing the Carlisles Book 5
by Anna Harrington
Genre: Historical Romance
Dominick Mercer, Marquess of Ellsworth, leads a double life. In public, he’s one of the most respected peers in England. But in private, he’s notorious Italian painter Domenico Vincenzo, a man known as well for his scandalous lifestyle as his visionary paintings. He’s determined to paint a masterpiece and put his real name on it, thus freeing him from this dual existence that’s becoming difficult to maintain. The problem? His model is the most unusual woman he’s ever met and the only one fit for his masterpiece. And she’s keeping secrets of her own…
Eve Winslow is determined to live life to its fullest by bouncing from one madcap escapade to another. So when a misunderstanding brings her to Vincenzo’s studio, she simply cannot refuse the adventure of being his model, or his rakish charms. Soon Eve’s adventure turns into scandal, and the only person who can save her is the same man who causes her downfall—a man who refuses to put anything before his art, including love.
“Top pick! Sensual and arousing. Harrington spins her tale with care as she gives her memorable characters a lively plot and depth of emotion that captivates her fans, who can’t wait for the next chapter.”—RT Book Reviews on When the Scoundrel Sins
"The characters are fabulously crafted and gloriously complicated…the author balances the dark with a light, witty humor and a sexual tension that adds sizzle to every scene…How I Married a Marquess is intense, satisfying, and cleverly unpredictable. Consider me a freshly minted fan of Harrington’s style of happy ever after.”—USA Today’s Happy Ever After blog on How I Married a Marquess
“Harrington creates fast-paced, lively romances with unconventional characters and plot. For her second novel, she adds heated sensuality and a gothic twist. There is little doubt that she is fast becoming a fan favorite.”—RT Book Reviews on Along Came a Rogue
Taking a deep breath, Evie approached the carriage house, then hesitated. The green double doors hung open wide, and she peered inside. She frowned. This couldn’t be right.
A large room filled with rows of canvases in wide-ranging sizes and in various stages of completion greeted her. Worktables lining the walls held brushes, jars of paint and bladders of pigments, and various metal tools of all kinds. Through the open doors, the woody scent of linseed oil engulfed her. A large easel stood in the middle of the floor, facing a cream-colored chaise longue.
Ellsworth’s man had misunderstood. Clearly. Instead of sending her to the painting, he’d sent her to a painting studio.
“Good afternoon,” a deep voice drawled from the rear of the carriage house.
And apparently directly to the artist himself.
She caught her breath as he sauntered forward. He circled her as she stood in the doorway, half of her in the studio and the other half wondering if she should flee. He moved slowly, with the natural grace of an athlete and with the deep attention of a scientist whose dark eyes coolly assessed her.
She swallowed. No one had ever looked at her this blatantly before. And certainly not a man so scandalously undressed in shirtsleeves and a paint-speckled brown waistcoat, with the unbuttoned collar of his shirt open wide enough to reveal his bare neck and the faint teasing of dark hair on his chest. So she did what any young lady in her situation would have done.
She looked back.
He was handsome, in a rugged, unkempt sort of way, and nothing at all like the polish of Burton Williams and her gentlemen friends. His thick, black hair spilled in an unruly mass of curls that framed his face and accentuated the dark color of his brown eyes and the faint scruff of a three-day old beard. His mouth tightened in concentration as he scrutinized her, and her pulse beat faster as she stood perfectly still, her gaze following him warily.
“Eads sent you, then?”
Eads…That must have been the butler’s name. “Yes.”
“You’ve done this before, then?” He stopped in front of her and folded his arms across his chest, drawing the shirt tight across his shoulders and giving her a glimpse of just how well developed his body was beneath.
“Never,” she answered honestly. Usually footmen were sent to fetch important goods. “Ellsworth’s man said that I should—”
“Ellsworth?” His face hardened. “You went to Mercer House?”
She forced a smile. “Well, yes. I mean, that is where—”
“You’re never to go there again, understand? You’re to keep absolute silence about me and my studio.”
Well, that would be easy. “Who are you?”
His eyes narrowed for a confused beat. “You don’t know?” Then the anger smoothed from his brow, and he laughed. The rich and deep sound spun through her down to her toes. “I’m Domenico Vincenzo, the man who’s going to hire you.”
No. That was impossible…He was the famous Italian painter? The man as notorious for his scandalous lifestyle as for the erotic subjects of his paintings? She’d been sent to the man himself!
Then the rest of his statement slapped her-- Hire her?
“There’s been a mistake,” she ventured breathlessly. “There was a lot of confusion at Mercer House, and I think—”
“The Pall Mall picture gallery. That’s probably why Eads got confused and sent you there first.”
She blinked. “Pardon?”
“The Marquess of Ellsworth is a patron of the Royal Academy of Arts and a noted collector of art. The British Institution has been trying to coax him into joining their organization, and so this year they’ve attempted to flatter him into a membership by asking him to lend several of his paintings to their old masters exhibition.” An amused gleam lit his eyes. “If the porters arrived today to take the collection to Pall Mall, then Mercer House must have been in an uproar.”
Somehow she’d lost control of the conversation. She tried again. “I’m here for the painting.”
He shook his head. “Pigments and canvases are expensive. We’ll start with a few sketches first to see if you have the spark to be a model before I paint you.”
Her mouth fell open. He thought she was…? “I’m not a model.”
“So you said, that you’ve never done this before. You’re an actress or a singer, barmaid, prostitute—”
“I am not!”
He grimaced. “And not at all what I expected.” Once again, he raked his gaze up and down her body, this time much slower than before and more akin to the one the young man had given her in the alley. While that man-boy’s leering had set her teeth on edge, this man’s gaze heated her from the inside out.
“But you have potential,” he murmured as he took her chin in his paint-speckled fingers and turned her face gently to each side, studying her. “Delicate bone structure, skin like porcelain, the slight stature of a waif but with deceivingly ample curves…”
Folding her arms in front of those same curves, she flushed, certain that the porcelain skin he’d complimented was now scarlet. “I don’t think—”
Beautiful. She stared at him, her protest forgotten. With a single word, he’d stunned her speechless.
He dropped his hand away, then turned to step back inside the studio. He grabbed up a pile of clothes lying across the chaise and handed them to her.
“You can change behind the screen in the corner. And hurry up.” He gestured for her to come inside. “You’ve already arrived too late in the day. If you waste any more time, we’ll lose all of our light.”
Eve stared, utterly bewildered, yet oddly excited as a quiet thrill curled through her. For the first time in two months she felt energized, adventurous, daring…alive. The roiling mix of emotions tingled to the tips of her fingers and toes with wild anticipation. Oh, it was simply divine! And exactly what she’d been missing from her recently boring life.
She looked at the costume in her hand. She should stop Mr. Vincenzo right now and explain the mistake and how she was there to retrieve a painting, not pose for one. That she was a respectable young miss—well, as respectable as a shipping merchant’s daughter could ever be—and not someone who was paid to let men look at her, on stage, in a painting, or otherwise. But if she explained herself, the precious freedom she’d found this afternoon would be snuffed out, and the oppressive dread would press in around her once more.
Yet if she remained…An adventure.
And anyway, what harm was there in missing the breakfast and pretending to be a model? Society women paid thousands of pounds to have their portraits painted, and there was certainly nothing scandalous about that. They bragged about it, in fact. No one would ever know that she’d been here. And what was the worst that could happen, that he would be angry with her when he learned that she knew nothing about being a model? If he was going to be angry and send her away anyway, then--
“Well?” he called out. “Are we going to do this or not?”
With a deep breath to tamp down the excitement coursing through her, she stepped inside.
I love good stories that end in happily ever afters, and if they’ve made me cry along the way, even better. That’s why I love to write romances and to share those special moments. Dashing heroes, indepedent heroines, and romantic settings in a some English country estate or elegant townhouse, perhaps a masquerade...all the things I love about historical romances, all the things I hope you’ll enjoy when you read mine.
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