He was gorgeous, older, and had the worst reputation in all of England.
The way he looked at me sent shivers down my spine.
Our first meeting was at a wedding, where he followed me outside and kissed me.
Our second meeting ended in a huge fight with me kicking him out.
Our third meeting, I went on a double, blind date.
You can imagine my surprise when I saw familiar blue eyes across the table opposite my friend.
He was sarcastic and witty and damn,
If he wasn’t the sexiest bastard I ever laid eyes on.
Then he sent me an email listing thirty reasons
why I should go on a date with him.
I was expecting a suave and intelligent list.
Curious, I read on.
Reason 1 – I have white teeth
Reason 2 – I love my grandma
Reason 3 – I have a size 13 shoe – you do the math.
The man’s a fool, his list was some of the most ridiculous things I’ve ever read.
And the funniest.
We laughed hard…and loved harder.
You can outrun everything……except your past.
And his has caught up.
Wild handsome players don’t fall for innocent girls like me,
Or do they?
Same fake people. Same stupid crowd. Same uninteresting men that I’ve known all my life.
“Isn’t it?” a voice says.
I drag my eyes back to the man standing in front of me. For the life of me, I can’t remember his name, although I’m quite sure I should know it. He always tries his very best to impress me every time I run into him at one of these family events.
Which is often.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t quite hear you. What did you say?”
“I said it’s great to get to know you better.” He smiles and tries to turn on his charm.
I smile awkwardly. “Yes. Yes, it is.” My eyes roam up and down him. He’s nice enough, I suppose. Tall, dark, handsome and has all the factors that should excite me… but don’t.
I’m so utterly bored, as if I’m a stranger standing on the outskirts looking in at all the beautiful people around me. And I know I shouldn’t feel that way, because according to society, I’m one of those beautiful people.
“And then I went to Harvard to study Law and graduated with honours, of course,” the dull voice drones on.
I smile on cue and gaze around the room, doing anything to escape this boring conversation. I exhale heavily as my mind wanders. The wedding reception is beautiful—straight out of a storybook. It’s in an exotic location, there are fairy lights everywhere, lots of stunning fashion to admire, and anyone who is anyone is here.
Why doesn’t this guy interest me? Nobody seems to anymore, and I’ve no idea what’s wrong with me.
I widen my eyes at my friend who is standing at the other side of the hall, silently calling for help. Thankfully, she takes the hint and walks over immediately.
“Charlotte.” She smiles as she kisses my cheeks. “I’ve been looking all over for you.” She turns her smile over to the poor man in front of me. “Can I steal her for a moment, please?”
His face falls and he purses his lips, nodding begrudgingly. “Of course.”
I give him a small wave and link my arm through my friend’s. We walk towards the hall.
“Thank God for that,” I mutter under my breath.
“One of these days I’m not going to save you. He was all kinds of cute.” She tuts as she grabs two glasses of champagne from a passing tray. I smile and take my glass from her, and then we stand just out of view of the man we escaped.
Lara is one of my closest friends. Our fathers have been best friends since childhood, so we kind of inherited each other by default. She’s like a sister to me. Our families mix in the same social circles and we’re at a lot of functions together. I don’t get to see her as much as I would like to as she lives in Cambridge now.
Then we have Elizabeth, our other friend. Elizabeth is the complete opposite of us. We met her at school where she attended through a scholarship. Her parents don’t have money but boy, does Elizabeth know how to have fun without it. She’s wild, carefree and has grown up without the social restraints that Lara and I have. She can date whoever she wants, nobody is after her money and nobody judges her. To be honest, I’m not sure that anybody judges Lara or me either, but our fathers are both very wealthy men, and with that privilege comes the responsibility of upholding the family’s name and reputation. Both Lara and I would give our right arm to live the life Elizabeth has. Elizabeth—or Beth, as we call her—lives in London and is hopelessly in love with the idea of being in love. Although she can’t seem to find the right man, she’s having a whale of a time looking.
Me, however… Well, I’ve never really been interested in love. After my mother died unexpectedly in a car accident when I was eighteen, grief took over. My father and two brothers suffocated me in the name of protection. I went to school, hung with my girls, and regrouped for a few years. Somehow, time slipped away so quickly, and now here I am at the ripe old age of twenty-four and I’ve had hardly any experience with men at all.
“Oh, he’s lovely,” Lara whispers from behind her wineglass.
I look over and see a tall man with dark hair standing in the corner. “Aren’t you seeing someone?” I ask Lara.
“He’s lovely for you, I mean. Somebody around here has to look at the men on your behalf.”
I roll my eyes.
“Surely someone here interests you?”
I look around the room that is alive with chatter, then over to the dancefloor that is full. “Not really.” I sigh.
Lara falls into a conversation with a woman next to us, effectively dismissing me, and I look around the decadent ballroom. I look up to the ceiling and the beautiful crystal chandeliers.
I love chandeliers. In fact, I love ceilings in general. If a room has a beautiful ceiling, I’m done for. As Lara continues to talk to the lady beside her, I glance through the crowd of people, and then I freeze instantly. On the top level is a man. He’s talking to two men and a heavily pregnant woman. He’s wearing a perfectly fitting navy suit and a white shirt.
I watch him for a moment as he laughs freely, and I smile to myself. He looks like fun. Devilishly handsome and clearly older than me, he has fair hair that is slightly longer on the top. His jaw is square, and his cheeks are creased with dimples.
I wonder who he is.
I continue to look around the room, but my eyes keep coming back to him. He’s telling a story and being all animated, using his hands to enhance his tale, and the three people he is with are all laughing loudly. A man walks past him, slaps him on the back and says something, and then they all laugh again. I sip my champagne, lost in thought.
I look over to the door and then glance at my watch. It’s 10:40 p.m. I can’t go home yet, it’s too early. Honestly, I would rather have my teeth pulled than come to these events.
My eyes drift back to the interesting man, only this time I see that he’s looking down my way. I snap my eyes away guiltily. I don’t want him to know that I noticed him. I sip my champagne and stare back out over the crowd again, pretending to be busy.
Lara finishes her conversation and eventually turns back to me.
“Who is that man over there?” I ask.
She frowns as she looks around. “Who?”
“The guy on the top level.” I glance over and see he is still staring down my way. “Don’t look now because he is looking right at us,” I whisper.
“He’s up on the top level talking to the pregnant woman.”
“Oh.” She smiles her sneaky smile. “That’s Julian Masters. He’s a judge. Damn fine specimen, isn’t he? He was widowed once.”
I glance up in time to see one man placing his hand on the woman’s pregnant stomach before he kisses her on the cheek as she smiles lovingly up at him. “That must be his new wife,” Lara mutters, curling her lip in disgust. “Lucky bitch.”
“I’m not talking about that guy. I mean the blond man,” I tell her.
She glances back up and her face falls. “Oh. That’s…” She narrows her eyes and she thinks for a moment. “Yeah, that’s Mr Spencer. Don’t even bother looking at him.”
“Why not?” I frown.
“Most eligible bachelor in London. An appalling rake.” She raises an eyebrow. “He’s loaded from what I hear, and I don’t mean his wallet is loaded.”
My eyes widen. “Oh.” I bite my bottom lip as my eyes find him across the crowd again. “How do you know that?” I whisper, my eyes unable to leave him.
“Page two of the gossip pages, and he’s on the tip of every single woman’s tongue in London. I do mean literally.” She links her arm through mine. “He’s a look but don’t touch kind of man. Don’t even think about it.”
“Of course,” I whisper, distracted. “I wouldn’t.”
“He’s probably seeing ten women at the moment. He dates power types. CEOs, fashion designers, models, women like that.”
“Oh, I…” I shrug. “He’s very good looking, that’s the only reason I asked. I’m not interested in him or anything.”
“Good, because he’s heartbreak dressed in a hot suit.” She inhales sharply as she visually drinks him in. “He’s most definitely fucking delicious, though, isn’t he?”
I glance his way again and I smile. Why are all the hot ones always players?
“Yep.” I sigh as I drain my glass. “He sure is.”
“Let’s go back and talk to that nice guy. The poor man has been chasing you for months.”
I glance back over at the guy and wince. “Let’s not.” I grab another champagne from a passing tray. “What the hell is his name anyway?”
“Do you want a drink, sweetheart?” he asks as he drops his hand to her pregnant stomach. “Are you okay?” he asks softly, thinking we can’t hear.
Bree widens her eyes at my best friend. “I’m fine, Julian. Will you stop worrying?”
Sebastian and I exchange looks with a roll of our eyes. Good God, what has she done with my best friend and who is this imposter standing in his place?
“I’ll have a lemonade please.” Bree smiles.
“Don’t leave her alone for a minute.” Julian points to Seb and me before walking off through the crowd.
I roll my eyes. “Yeah, yeah. God, Bree, you must be sick to death of him. He’s like a fucking rash.”
Bree giggles. “He’s pretty full on.”
I smile at the wonderful woman in front of me. She has transformed my best friend Julian Masters’ world, and I adore her for it.
Julian reappears through the crowd with the drinks, and I glance down and see a woman in a pink dress. I’ve never seen her before.
“Who in God’s name is that?” I ask as I study the perfect specimen.
“That’s Lady Charlotte,” Julian answers.
“Lady?” I frown. “She has a title?”
“Her father is the Earl of Nottingham.”
“Really?” I reply, fascinated.
“Don’t bother perusing that one. She is well and truly out of your league, old boy.” Julian takes a sip of his beer. “Her blood is too blue, even for you.”
I watch the gorgeous creature talking and laughing with her friend.
“Let’s go after these drinks, Mrs Masters,” Julian says to his wife.
“Okay.” She smiles.
I look over to my friends, annoyed. “Why do you want to go? Stay here with us.”
“Because the prospect of taking my beautiful wife home and doing unspeakable things to her body is a lot more appealing that staying here with you.”
I smirk at Masters. “Lucky prick.” My eyes fall back to Lady Charlotte. “I need to get me some of this pregnant sex you keep talking about, Masters,” I mutter.
“You’ll need a willing woman for that, Spence,” he replies.
My eyes go back down to the woman in the pink dress. “I do love a challenge. Maybe Lady Charlotte is dying to be impregnated tonight,” I reply.
Julian rolls his eyes.
“Or simply dying to get away from you,” Sebastian mutters.
I glance over to my dear friend. “I’ll bet you two hundred pounds that I have a date with her by this time next week.”
“Double it. Four hundred,” snaps Masters. “You don’t have a chance with her.”
“Deal.” I smile. My hands drop to Bree’s pregnant stomach and I kiss her softly on the cheek. “Goodbye, darling. Enjoy your unspeakable things.” I turn and head towards the woman in pink.
“Spencer!” I hear a woman call from behind me. I turn and see a brunette in a tight black dress. Sure, she’s very attractive, but she’s got nothing on Lady Charlotte.
“Hello.” I smile.
She holds out her hand to mine. “I’m Linda.” She hesitates. “We met at a Christmas party last year.”
I fake a smile as I try to remember this woman. Nope, I’ve got nothing. “Yes, I remember,” I lie. “How have you been?”
She beams instantly. “Great, although I do have a problem.”
“What’s that?” I frown.
“The plumbing in my room seems to have an issue.”
“Really?” I smirk. There are hotel rooms at this resort and she’s obviously staying here.
“Really. I was wondering if you could come up and have a look at it after the wedding finishes.”
I chuckle. Wow. That’s the oldest trick in the book. “I am very good at unblocking pipes,” I tease.
“I imagine you are.” She giggles on cue and passes me a key. “Room 282.” She smirks.
I smile down at her and stuff the key into my pocket. “If you’ll excuse me, I have to see someone.”
“Okay. I’ll see you later.” She grins.
I walk around the dancefloor with my eyes glued to the woman in the pink dress. She’s petite and curvy with the most perfect face I have ever seen. She’s now talking to two men, with one on either side of her. One is older, while the other is close to my age. I sip my beer as I watch her move.
Hmm, she’s fucking gorgeous and innately feminine.
She’s also very different than my usual taste in women. She has a gentle air about her. I roll my lips as I watch her, and Brendan, an old school friend of mine, comes to stand next to me.
“Hey, Spence.” He slaps me on the back.
“Who is that woman?” I ask, completely distracted.
He frowns. “Which one?”
“Pink dress. Charlotte.”
His eyes widen, and he chuckles. “Stay away from that one, old boy. She’s out of your league.”
I smirk as my eyes stay glued to her. “And why would you say that?”
“Every man in the county is after her and she won’t give any of them the time of day.”
I feel my skin prickle at the challenge. “Really?”
“Yes. And then you have to get past her father and brothers even if she is interested at all.”
I frown. “What do you mean?”
“That’s her father on the right. If I stand correct, he is the third wealthiest man in the country. He owns casinos around the world and has connections everywhere. On the left of her is her older brother Edward. Complete and utter bastard that one.”
I narrow my eyes as I watch him. “What does Edward do for a coin?”
“Guard Charlotte, from what I hear. He doesn’t let her out of his sight. It’s a full-time fucking job.”
I raise my glass to him in a silent toast.
He shakes his head. “Not her, Spencer. She really is off-limits. Way too pure for you.”
Excitement rolls over me. “The thrill of the chase is alive and well, my friend.”
He chuckles. “Or simply a death wish. You fuck around with her and her father will murder you without a second thought.”
I smile as I turn to watch Charlotte talk to the two men. “Challenge accepted, old boy.”
He laughs into his beer and shakes his head. “Next time I see you, it may be your funeral.”
My eyes dance with delight. “Give me a good wrap in the eulogy, hey? I’m sure it will be worth it.”
He chuckles, and with a shake of his head, he disappears through the crowd.
I stand on my own watching her. She is the most beautiful thing I have seen in a very long time. At once, she glances up and her eyes fall on me, holding my gaze. I smile and raise my beer to her in a silent toast. She immediately looks away and fidgets with her hands in front of her.
I smile to myself as I watch her.
Run along, boys.
I want her alone.
Mr Spencer smiles sexily and raises his glass in my direction. I bite my bottom lip nervously. Is he really doing that to me? He’s standing alone in the crowd, a beer in one hand, his other hand tucked away in his expensive suit pocket. I snap my eyes away as my stomach flips with excitement.
Stop it! He’s probably not even aiming it at me.
“Charlotte, I have someone I want you to meet,” my father says.
“Dad, not now. I don’t want to meet any of your boring friends.” I sigh.
He rolls his eyes, and I glance back over at Mr Spencer still staring at me. I glance back up to my father. “What is it?” I ask with a huff.
“His name is Evan. I know his family, and he happens to be a lawyer.”
I cringe. “Father, please,” I moan. “Stop. I’m not dating one of your boring friend’s sons.”
My brother Edward looks at my father and scowls. “Yes, please stop. The thought makes me murderous.”
I roll my eyes at my overbearing brother. “You, too.”
My father and Edward fall into conversation, leaving me to glance back over at Mr Spencer. As soon as our eyes connect, he crooks his finger and gestures for me to go to him.
I frown, look around, and point to my chest.
He nods with a sexy smile. I look around, instantly filled with some kind of guilt, and I subtly shake my head.
Oh my God. My stomach flips over.
He crooks his finger again, and I find myself biting my bottom lip and dropping my head to hide my smile.
“Would you like a drink, Charlotte?” my brother asks.
“Please.” I smile as I concentrate on not looking Mr Spencer’s way again.
My father falls into conversation with a man who walks past, and I glance around nervously. I’m not sure whether to go and talk to Mr Spencer or not. No, that’s a bad idea. Perhaps I’ll go and get some fresh air instead.
“I’m heading to the ladies,” I whisper to my father.
“All right, love.” He smiles as I put my hand on his shoulder. I walk through the ballroom and out onto the back terrace and down the steps. Fairy lights are strewn across the garden giving it a romantic feel. Waiters are circling the garden with trays of fancy cocktails and champagne. This wedding has been amazing, and the attention to detail has been impeccable. Every detail is perfect. I walk along the pathway down to the outdoor bathrooms. Once there, I head inside and close the door behind me.
Peace at last.
I can hear the music in the distance as I stare at my reflection in the mirror and reapply my fuchsia lipstick. My thick shoulder-length blonde hair is down and pulled back on one side behind my ear. My pink strapless dress fits perfectly and clings to my curves. I roll my lips as I stare at my reflection. Eventually, I exhale heavily and snap my lipstick back into my silver clutch.
Most eligible bachelor in London, an appalling rake.
Great. The first man I’ve been attracted to in forever and he’s a womaniser. Typical.
For once, I would like to meet an honourable man who is actually appealing.
Why does it have to be one or the other? Who made this god forsaken rule that any man who is a tad interesting must be a player? And why are all the good men as boring as hell? God must definitely be a man.
With one last look at myself, I head back out into the garden and make my way up the path towards the party.
“Charlotte,” a deep voice calls from behind me.
I turn and falter, taken aback. It’s him.
It’s Mr Spencer.
He smiles sexily and his eyes hold mine. “Hello.”
My heart rate spikes. “H-hi.” I smile nervously.
He steps towards me and takes my hand in his, and I inhale sharply. He holds my hand up in the air and nods, as if bowing. “Forgive me for following you, but I had to come and meet the most beautiful woman in the room tonight.” He kisses the back of my hand tenderly, and I raise my brows. “My name is Spencer.” He smiles against my skin.
Oh, he’s really quite…
I pull my hand away sharply. “I know who you are, Mr Spencer.”
He smirks, and his mischievous eyes hold mine. “You do?” he asks smoothly with a raise of his brow.
I clasp my hands nervously in front of me. “Your reputation precedes you.”
His smirk breaks out into a broad smile. “Ah, you can’t believe everything you hear, now, can you?”
His voice is deep and permeating. It somehow sinks into my bones when he speaks.
“Can I help you with something?” I ask. What the hell does he want?
“I hope so.” He smiles and picks up my hand again. “Would you do me the honour of dancing with me?”
I swallow nervously, and he smiles and drops his lips to the back of my hand to kiss me softly. His sexy eyes stay fixed on mine.
Okay, hell… he’s good. Really good.
“I…” I stop talking because I really can’t concentrate when he’s touching me.
He’s so forward.
“Charlotte?” he repeats, pulling me out of my thoughts.
I shake my head in a fluster. “I don’t think that’s a good idea.”
He turns my hand over to gently kiss the inside of my wrist. I feel his touch deep inside my stomach.
“Why not?” He gently licks my wrist and my knees nearly buckle out from underneath me.
Oh, for the love of God!
“My father and brother…” I frown as my voice trails off. How in the hell am I supposed to string two words together when he’s doing that to me?
He steps forward and takes me into his arms. “We’ll dance here then.”
He pulls me close to him, takes one of my hands in his, and he smiles down at me as he begins to sway to the music. “You’re a wonderful dancer, Lady Charlotte.” He smiles mischievously.
I smirk at his sheer audacity. “Does this routine work on every woman you meet?”
He smiles his first genuine smile and I feel the effects of it hit me deep in my stomach. “Please don’t talk about other women. I’m in the courting zone, concentrating on you and only you.” He spins me around, and we both chuckle at his ridiculousness.
He lets me go and holds one hand up, and then he spins me in his arms and pulls me back to his body with force until we come face to face.
I stare up at him, my heart skipping a beat. “I have to go,” I whisper.
“Why?” His intoxicating breath washes over my face.
“My father will be looking for me.”
“How old are you, Lady Charlotte?”
“Too young for you, Mr Spencer.”
He smiles softly. “I have no doubt.” He bends down and softly kisses my lips.
My chest constricts.
He kisses me again, soft and tenderly, hovering his lips over mine. Unable to help it, I smile, and that’s when he kisses me again but this time more urgently, his arms curling around my waist and bringing me to his body.
I’ve never been kissed like this.
His tongue sweeps through my open mouth and our tongues dance together.
For three whole minutes, I drink him in as we kiss like teenagers.
“Jesus fucking Christ, Charlotte,” he gasps as he kisses me again.
I lose control and my hands go to his hair, and then I feel something hard up against my stomach.
I instantly pull out of the kiss and step back, panting for breath.
He reaches for me again, but I step back farther. “Don’t touch me!” I whisper sharply, holding my hand up in defence.
I shake my head. “I’m not the kind of girl you are used to, Mr Spencer.”
As if confused he shakes his head as if at a loss. “And what kind of girl is that?”
“I’m not one of those high society sluts. Y-you should go back inside and find someone else to… entertain you,” I stammer.
“I never said you were and I don’t want anyone else!” he snaps. “If I overstepped the line, I apologise. I never… I mean…”
He’s tripping over his words as he tries to right the situation.
I step back again, creating more distance. “You stepped over the line… by a lot.” I glance up and I can see my father is out on the terrace looking for me. “I have to go.” I brush past Mr Spencer, walk up the path and up the stairs. My father smiles the second he sees me.
“Are you ready to leave, Charlotte?”
“Please,” I say quietly. My eyes fall back down to the garden where Mr Spencer stands.
My father puts his arm around me and we walk around to the front of the house to get into the back of his Bentley. His driver shuts the door and I peer out just in time to see Mr Spencer appearing from the shadows next to the house, watching me leave.
He smiles softly and blows me a kiss, and I drop my head at once, gripping my clutch on my lap.
“That was a great night, wasn’t it?” My father smiles as the car slowly pulls out.
“It was.” I force a smile. My fingertips rise to brush my lips which still tingle from Mr Spencer’s touch. I smile to myself softly.
No wonder he’s the most eligible bachelor in London.
And he’s trouble.