The Problem with Seduction - By Emma Locke Page 0,1

an intensity that made it hard not to squirm. As if he cared with every iota of feeling in him about what Con was saying. As if Finn’s whole life hung in the balance.

Con felt the first twinge of guilt.

“Well,” he continued when Finn’s only reply was a deepening of that discomfiting stare, “why did you think she was in Devon? It wasn’t to see her family. They live in Shropshire, and besides, I hear they aren’t on speaking—”

“What are you trying to say?” burst out of Finn in harsh, clipped syllables. His lips didn’t quite touch afterward, lending him a feral appearance. Con had never had a man bare his teeth at him before. Not in all seriousness, at least.

God. He really, really didn’t want to get shot tonight.

But if he had to choose between a bullet and the gaol—a very real choice he could be making in the morning—the bullet might be more survivable. Just the thought of being relegated to a damp, dark box weighed on his lungs until it felt as if an entire militia were stomping across his chest. When it came time to face being locked away again, his own terror might do him in. Now it helped him to sound beleaguered, as though it pained him to explain what he’d hoped would be obvious by this point. “I live in Devon. She went to Devon to have my baby. That’s what I’m trying to say.”

Their onlookers’ collective gasp preceded several occurrences of “I say!” and one “Really, that was not well done of you, Alexander.”

Finn seemed to double in size, as though his outrage made him physically larger and not just more intimidating. “That’s absurd. Elizabeth panted after my attentions for three years. She would never have—” But he stopped.

Con barely kept from smiling with relief. He’d done it! It could be his baby. Even Finn had to admit it. Not that the notion was that far-fetched. Elizabeth was a courtesan. Certainly, she need not remain faithful to a lover who’d repeatedly and publicly tried to wash his hands of her. Who’d spent so much time sailing the oceans that she might have taken a legion of bedfellows without his knowing a whit of it.

Whether or not she had done so, Con really wasn’t in a position to know.

Finn advanced a step, testing Con’s ability to stand his ground. “She’s my mistress. Not yours. You cowardly, bloody whelp. I demand your retraction. Go on. Take it back.” He swung his arm wide and Con flinched, belatedly realizing Finn had meant to include the gaming hell crowded with men in his declaration, not plant Con a facer. “None of you laid a hand on her, not in the last three years. She’s mine. Elizabeth Spencer is mine.”

A choked cough somewhere in the back of the room drew a new level of silence. Awkwardness hung thick in the air, as each man discernibly struggled to decide if it had been a tickle in a throat or a smothered admission of guilt.

Finn spun in the direction of the cough. Finally freed of his drilling stare, Con breathed a bit easier. He rubbed his damp palms against his coat. Yet his heartbeat thumped in his chest so hard, surely everyone could hear it. He hadn’t yet convinced Finn his mistress had been unfaithful. The child wasn’t in Con’s arms—yet. He wasn’t clear of King’s Bench—yet.

“Who did that?” Finn demanded. “Which one of you sniveling bastards wants to join young Alexander in a fist-pounding?”

Seconds of silence felt like minutes. Con resisted the urge to shift uneasily. If one more man would come forward, this would be so much easier. But the silence held.

Finn turned to face him. “See? You’re a liar.”

“She isn’t yours now, though, is she?” Con’s steady voice surprised him. He could’ve sworn Finn’s boot was already pressing on his throat. “And she hasn’t always been, even in the last three years. You’ve given her up a time or two, if I recall correctly.”

Finn glowered. But he didn’t argue the fact.

Con drew his shoulders back. As he’d done with every creditor who’d ever dogged him, every angry friend who’d ever demanded he fulfill an IOU, he feigned nonchalance. “You replaced her just a month ago with Millicent Kimble. A delectable piece, I credit you, as was Mrs. Brooks before her. And a little over a year ago, if I may relate your history aloud, you were keen on Beth Rawlings. I can’t fault your taste, Finn, Copyright 2016 - 2024