“Harrold, this is Percival Jackson and his wife Priscilla.” He clasped Percival's hand and nodded to the elegant woman next to him. Her gown probably cost twice what Veronica's did, something she was sure to complain about later. Veronica introduced him to two more pairs, all emigrated from England with substantial inherited wealth. She might not meet his expectations sexually, but Veronica was exceptional at getting her foot in the most exclusive doors. It had proved financially beneficial in the past.
After standing by her side through several inane conversations, Harrold's attention began to waver. Gazing over the assembly, he paused to admire several bodices and more than one cinched waist. Having a wife gave him respect and position, but Veronica took no offense at his wandering eye. If anything, she encouraged it, eager for him to find another bed.
The woman who drew his attention most wore a fitted dress with short sleeves, her arms bare down to her fingertips. That was probably why she was surrounded by men, each taking his turn holding her hand and kissing those fingers. She looked his way, and he found himself unable to break the gaze. Minutes later, he glanced her way again and admired her throat as she tipped it back, laughing —no necklace. Obviously she wasn't the wife of any of the guests: they wore gloves and necklaces as well as ornaments in their hair. She was still smiling when she met his eyes again, holding his gaze like it belonged to her. She blinked and turned, speaking to the gentlemen surrounding her before leaving them and striding in his direction.
“Follow,” she said when she came near, walking right past him.
He didn't excuse himself to his wife or her friends. None of them seemed to take any notice. Veronica didn't break in conversation, covering his withdrawl. The bewitching woman looked over her shoulder and seemed unsurprised to see him there. Her eyes drew his attention, glittering shards of topaz or amber. They seemed to glow unnaturally in the lamplight. She led him down a corridor and opened a door next to a pair of chatting women. Both watched them, but neither said a thing.
“You are a difficult man to get a hold of, Harrold. I don't think I like that,” she said as she strode to a trimmed lamp and opened it, casting the room in a gentle glow.
“Pardon, madam, but I'm sure I'd remember if I made your acquaintance.”
Full red lips pulled up on one corner in a smirk. “You had better believe you would.” Her lusty tone told him much. “We haven't met,” she said, circling him. “I'd been informed that you were in need of my services.”
Harrold's brow furrowed. What woman provided a service he needed? What service...?
A light shone behind his eyes just as she said, “Delores was quite insistent. More than is proper. I had to set her down for that.” Lynn, for that must be who this woman was, regarded her painted nails. “She enjoyed that, I think. Would you?” She glanced at Harrold from the corner of those oddly sparkling eyes.
“Would I what?” He was completely flustered. How had a whore gotten into this party?
Her palm slapped across his face. It was a sensation he was familiar with. Many ladies had spurned his advances when he was younger. However, this woman had a stronger arm than any of them. This pain rivaled that of the time his cousin had punched him in the jaw for dandling his lady.
“You will pay heed when I speak. Would you enjoy being reprimanded by me?”
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