BN ID: 294-0149770717
Originally published: 04/04/06
Current publication: 07/19/14
Family secrets threaten the very fabric of Lady Irisa Langley’s world, but she’s determined to enjoy her newly-formed relationship with the half-sister she never knew she had. To move forward with her life. She’s also head over heels for her paragon of a fiance, Lord Ashton, and determined to win his heart, despite his depressing lack of willingness to indulge her sensual curiosity before marriage.
Nicknamed “The Saint,” Lucas, Lord Ashton, puts duty and honor above all. It’s taken years to repair the damage caused by his family’s deplorable behavior. Now he can’t afford to let even a hint of scandal undo all his hard work in renewing the Ashton family reputation. But something is wrong with his perfectly delicious fiancee. She’s got a streak of hoyden running through her veins that should be enough to put him off. Yet somehow, he finds himself drawn to the feisty beauty against his will.
When someone close to him threatens to reveal the secrets that could destroy Irisa’s place in the ton, and his as well, Lucas must choose between their future happiness and his hard-won propriety.
There is only one choice for a gentleman intent on protecting his hoydenish lady, but the consequences could destroy them both. . .
Originally published April 2006 in mass market paperback for Berkley Sensation.
“If you’re in the mood for an excellent historical romance filled with passion and intrigue, don’t miss TEMPT ME!” –Blue Ribbon Reviews
“Lucy Monroe is a leading lady in historical fiction and with this book it is easy to see why. One can only hope that she has dozens more of intriguing tales just waiting to get out.” 4.5 Stars – Angel Brewer, The Romance Studio
“The story you should buy if you love a romance with heart tugging emotion and the excitement of love found…only not where you thought it would be.”- Carolyn Crisher, Romance Reviews Today
“Lucy Monroe is well-known for her sexual tension and hot sensual love scenes, and fans will be delighted to know that she does not disappoint. TEMPT ME is a delicious blend of historical romance, sensuality, and suspense, and will tempt and treat every reader.” 4 Stars – Debora Hosey, The Romance Readers Connection
“Lucy Monroe swept me back to the scandal and intrigue of Regency England. … I suggest that you pull out your favorite fainting chair so you may lounge in comfort, when you read this story, as you return to Regency England and find out how love will Tempt Me.” – Lydia, Writers Unlimited
“Lucy Monroe gets better and better with each book and with that in mind I can’t wait for the final book in this trilogy.” – Missy, Reader Review
“TEMPT ME is truly a wicked and wonderful temptation for any reader hungry for passion and adventure. Give yourself a treat and read this book. Lucy Monroe will capture your heart.” – USA Today bestselling author of Table for Five, Susan Wiggs
“I just finished Tempt Me and loved it.” – LeeAnn Dougherty, Waldenbooks
“Just finished Tempt Me and had to send you my rave! Wonderful! Bravo! I loved it, thanks sooo much. After Touch Me, I really anticipated Tempt Me and it was a terrific reward at the end of each writing day. The characters were vivid and dynamic in growing through and out of their inherent issues. Irisa must surely speak to the *good girl* in so many women who try to earn love from people who just cannot respond. And Lucas, saint among men despite his dense moments – you really illustrated the differences in the way men and women communicate! Wow!!!” – Regan Black, romance adventure author
“Just wanted to tell you that I just read Tempt Me, and I adored Lucas!! What a great read, especially since I’ve been on a reading hiatus for more than a year now. What a pleasure to find a book with great memorable characters. I’m already intrigued by Jared. I’m guessing Beauty and the Beast analogy for his story! WTG sweetie!! Hugs”, Monica Burns, Sensual Romance Author
“Hi Lucy – I just finished reading Tempt Me!!! I really enjoyed it. I”m looking forward to Jared’s story as well. Thanks for a wonderful read!” ~ Loretta C
“Lucy, I loved Tempt Me. For some reason, it really touched me. My heart melted when he called her little one. I thought it was so sweet. I also love the protective instinct he had for her. He was the perfect hero. <snip spoilers> Really great book. I’ll be getting Touch Me, and then Take me when it comes out. Who knew I would love historicals this much!! I do always love your writing style though. That may be the reason.” ~ Kelley
“I just wanted to let you know that I really enjoyed Tempt Me and I am anxiously awaiting for Take Me. When will it be out?” ~ Susan R
“Dear Lucy, I know you are extremely busy ( by reading your blog) but befor things got so hectic here with Easter and then my daughters graduation, I had to stop and let you know how much I enjoyed “Tempt Me”. I LOVED it. I am anxiously awaiting May so I can get “Able” and your new Harlequin Presents. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for such wonderful stories to read and reread as I do to all of your books!!!!! Good luck with your deadline and rest from your vacation and know how much you mean to your readers!!!! Hugs and God Bless…” ~ Lee Ann
“I can’t tell you how excellent Tempt Me was. It has now become one of my all time favorite books. Now I sit and wait for Take Me to come out. I sit drum fingers on desk and wait. I will be doing this for the 4+ months til it comes out. Do you know yet if Doubleday will be carrying Take Me? Are you planning anymore historicals after this series? ….drum….drum….drum…. ” ~ Tara
“Just wanted to let you know that i loved TEMPT ME! loved it loved it. can’t wait for the next one.” ~ Pam G
“Just finished “Tempt Me’ and I loved it! Began reading your books with HP, but I am so glad you are now writing the longer ones! Also Loved “Touch Me”, & am so glad will not have to wait forever for “Take Me”. Keep writing, you give me many pleasurable hours! Hopefully you will have another series after this one!” ~ Alice
“I loved Tempt Me. Irisa really kept Lucas on this toe’s throughout the entire book. It was funny, passionate, sexy and a 5 star read. I highly recommend it. I am really looking forward to Reading Take Me (Jared’s story.) I have fallen in love with Jared’s character reading about him Take Me and Tempt Me.” ~ Amy
Irisa faced Lucas across the small library. The fog-dampened night could not intrude on the warm coziness of the room.
Lucas’s mouth curved in a loving smile. “You came.”
She nodded, her throat too clogged with emotion to speak.
He extended his hand. “Come here, my love.”
She moved forward as if in a daze, drawn by the warmth in her lover’s eyes as much as the implied command in his stance. She wanted him.
And he wanted her.
As soon as she was close enough to touch, he reached out and pulled her to him. The feel of his warm skin on her bare arms sent shivers down her spine. He did not stop pulling her until her body was an inch from his own.
She knew he would kiss her now. Finally. She had waited so long, but instinctively knew the wait would be worth it. Lucas’s mouth settled on hers, his lips warm and vibrant against her own. She shuddered and he pulled his mouth a breath from hers.
“Are you all right, my love?”
“Yes. Please. Kiss me again.”
He did so with alacrity while one arm moved around her waist. His other hand settled on her shoulder, his fingers sliding under the fabric of her gown. She blushed at the intimate touch, but did not pull away. He groaned low in his throat and tugged the tiny cap sleeves of her gown down until the swell of her breasts were exposed. Then he… Then he…
Oh,fustion! Irisa’s daydream came to an abrupt halt. What would happen next? Authors always stopped at the most interesting parts in the novels Irisa read. For instance, she assumed a gentleman placed his fingers under the fabric of a lady’s gown with the intention of baring her unmentionables, but she couldn’t be sure.
And she certainly had no idea what said gentleman would do once he had succeeded in pushing the bodice down. She thought the bit about shuddering and groaning had been well done, considering her lack of personal experience and knowledge in this area. Not that she would shun a bit more of both, particularly if Lucas offered the instruction.
Stifling a sigh, she reluctantly brought her attention back to the Bilkington’s elegantly appointed supper room and her partner’s monologue on hunting hounds. Lady Bilkington had an infatuation with green and gold, much in evidence in the room’s decor.
Irisa smiled and nodded at Mr. Wemby, during a short pause in his speech. Thus encouraged, he launched into an enthusiastic story about one of his favorite hounds. She went back to her pondering, assured once again her rejection of his suit the year before had been the right choice.
Mr. Wemby was kind, but he had far more interest in his hounds than any person of his acquaintance. And like the other suitors she had rejected over the past four years, he did not stir her passions…not like Lucas.
However, the chances of Lucas offering anything more than a polite greeting were slim indeed. Earl of Ashton, he was acutely aware of his responsibility to his title and an absolute paragon of gentlemanly virtue. There were even those amongst the ton that went so far as to call him The Saint.
She’d heard it had something to do with his family, but she didn’t know what. Because of the unkind things said about her brother’s disfigurement and her sister’s unconventional upbringing, she abhorred gossip. Even if it meant learning less about a man as fascinating as Lucas.
What could she possibly learn from scandal mongers but half-truths and innuendo? One day, she would ask him about his nick-name…if they were ever on intimate enough terms to allow such a liberty. Until then, she would suffice with daydreams fueled by her belief that under his perfectly controlled exterior beat a heart as passionate as her own.
Others amongst the ton would laugh at such a conclusion, but she just knew she was right about him. In all the novels she had read, gentlemen very much like Lucas seethed with hidden passions regardless of how cold their outward countenance. And on several occasions when he debated issues he felt strongly about, the quiet intensity in his voice had sent shivers down her spine and to other less mentionable regions of her body.
She had great hopes of engaging those passions on a more personal basis. Since their first meeting at a house party, he had been consistent, if not effusive in his attentions. Upon arriving in Town for the Season, he had begun to court her with all the polite restraint of a man nicknamed Saint.
One might even suspect he was on the verge of making an offer. Much to her parents’ relief. However, to her chagrin, he had not so much as held her hand while driving in the park. She wanted to know what Lucas’s lips tasted like. She wanted to know what happened when a man put his hand under a lady’s bodice and she wanted him to be the man to show her.
As much as his passion, she also craved more of his company. She didn’t want to dance with a string of boring partners only to have the monotony relieved the prescribed two times by Lucas. Tonight, he hadn’t even ensured he got the supper dance, thus the one-sided conversation with Mr. Wemby over the small supper table.
It was one of Lucas’s little habits – this giving up the supper dance with her occasionally. She assumed it was his way of not drawing unwanted attention to their association. At least he didn’t compound the frustration his conduct caused her by asking someone else. When Lucas didn’t partner her, he made himself scarce from the ballroom during the half-hour break in music.
“Lady Irisa. Mr. Wemby.” The deep tones of Lucas’s voice pulled Irisa from her thoughts.
She raised a startled gaze to see him standing by their table as if her secret wishes had drawn him to her side. The prospect was a pleasing one, if fanciful.
Eyes the color of blue glass were fixed on her with a hint of amusement, his black brow raised with just a touch of mockery. His sedately tailored black evening clothes molded the body of a tall Corinthian.
“Hello,” she replied, her voice husky from surprise.
What was he doing here? It was wholly out of character for him. Her heart took a sudden lift at the sign that Lucas’s behavior with her was not entirely predictable.
Mr. Wemby had stopped mid-sentence in his story and now blinked at Lucas as if unsure how the other man had appeared. “Good evening, Lord Ashton.”
“I’ve just left a friend of yours in the card room, Wemby. He’s looking for advice on putting a new pack of hounds together for this year’s hunt.”
Fairly quivering with excitement at the prospect of discussing a subject so close to his heart, Mr. Wemby stood, pushing back the spindly legged chair with enough force to cause Irisa a measure of alarm concerning its well being. “I’d better see if I can be of assistance then.”
Lucas inclined his head. “I’ll escort Lady Irisa back to her mother for you.”
Mr. Wemby’s head bobbed in agreement. “Kind of you. I’ll return the favor sometime.” He left without another word to Irisa.
She stared after his retreating back, more amused than offended. “There is no question how conversation with me rates against the prospect of advising another gentleman on the purchase of a hound.”
“With Wemby perhaps, but if you will notice, I am still here.” The words washed over her with unexpected intensity and she found herself once again raising her gaze to look at him.
His mouth was still tipped in that amused way he had, but his eyes burned into her with undeniable force.
With, dared she hope, passion?
She smiled, feeling her heart race in her chest. “Yes, you are still here.”
He extended his hand in a manner so like her daydream that for a moment, she hesitated between reality and fantasy. Gathering her wits about her, she took the proffered hand and rose from her chair. Lucas transferred her grip to his arm and led her from the supper room.
“Are you truly going to take me back to Mama?” The dancing would not resume for fifteen minutes or more.
“Perhaps you would care to join me for a stroll around the perimeter of the ballroom?”
She’d rather retreat to the privacy of the terrace. But no doubt, Lucas would consider such behavior shocking.
Stifling a sigh of regret, she forced her features to assume an expression of polite enthusiasm. After all, at least she would be with him. “With pleasure, my lord.”
Irisa’s small hand gripped his forearm more tightly and Lucas stifled a smile at her show of enthusiasm to remain in his company. Her complete lack of subterfuge so often found in ladies among the ton had been one of the first things that drew his admiration.
Her sweet face and golden brown eyes expressed her emotions honestly. Just as they had made it obvious to him as he watched her from across the supper room that she found Wemby’s company a trial. The socially polite smiles she had bestowed upon her supper partner had not fooled Lucas for a minute. Her unfocused gaze had said it all.
Not that anyone else would notice. Much to his own pleasure and surprise, he had come to realize that what was obvious to him when dealing with Irisa was not so clear to others.
So, he had concocted a plan to rescue her. He realized that in doing so, he might draw attention to their relationship, but he was willing to take the courtship to the next level. He planned to call on the Earl of Langley in the morning and ask for permission to pay his addresses to Irisa. Lucas had no doubt she would accept him. Even if she did not show such blatant pleasure in his company, a woman of twenty was considered practically on the shelf. She would undoubtedly be grateful for an offer of marriage.
He still found it difficult to believe she had remained unmarried. Admittedly, her tiny, but curvaceous, figure was not the current rage. However, combined with her honey blonde hair and warm brown eyes, it made for an altogether lovely package. Remembering the erotic dream that had woken him in the middle of the previous night hard and aching, Lucas acknowledged that he found her more than lovely.
He found her bloody desirable.
“I must admit I am grateful to whichever of Mr. Wemby’s friends sent you in search of him. Since making his acquaintance last Season, I have become an expert on hounds. ‘Tis a pity I’m not at all interested in the hunt.”
He knew Irisa did not mean to mock Wemby. She never indulged in that particular tonnish pastime. It was a mark of her sweet nature that she had indulged Wemby’s passion for hounds in conversation. Lucas would be pleased to have her indulge his passions as well, only he was certain were she to do so, boredom would not come into it for either of them.
“I hesitate to admit this, but I made it up,” he said, quelling his lascivious thoughts with strict control. “I’m sure Wemby will find a friend more interested in his discussion of hounds than yourself, but none actually await him.”
The sound of her laughter affected his already overactive libido and he had no choice but to steer her toward the terrace before she, or someone else, noticed the growing state of his arousal. Not that he expected a lady of Irisa’s sensibilities to let her gaze wander below his chin, but nevertheless, a gentleman’s evening clothes left very little to the imagination.
As they stepped from the brightly lit ballroom into the shadowed world of the deserted terrace, Irisa’s head snapped up and she stared at him, owl-eyed. “My lord?”
“It was getting a trifle warm in the ballroom. I thought you could use the air.”
She nodded, sliding closer until their bodies almost touched. “Air. Yes, air would be very nice.”
Her lips were parted as if about to say something, but she remained silent, gazing up at him.
She could have no idea just how delectable she looked at that very moment, how incredibly kissable. Her all too welcoming expression did nothing to aid his body in returning to less embarrassing proportions. He had to get himself under control and quickly or he was likely to shock the innocent right into a faint and compromise her into the bargain.
He needed a diversion.
“I’ve decided to invest in your brother-in-law’s most recent shipping venture.” One of the things he enjoyed about Irisa was that she conversed intelligently on topics of import.
She did not pretend, as most ladies of the ton attempted to, that everything outside of the social sphere did not exist.
“Yes. He told me you knew all about it. It’s a sound investment.”
Her hand dropped from his arm and she moved a small distance away. He breathed a silent sigh of relief. Without her nearness, he could regain control. His reaction to her innocent provocation astounded him, but he would dwell on how best to master it and himself later. He could not allow marriage, or the prospect of it to undermine the self-discipline he had spent so many years perfecting.
“Yes. I know about it,” she replied, her voice subdued all of a sudden, “I made a small outlay on the venture myself.”
He would not have thought Langley the type of man to give his daughter any sort of financial independence. “Are you in the habit of investing in your brother-in-law’s ventures?”
Her creamy white shoulders rose and fell in a ladylike shrug. “Actually, in the past my investments have been mostly in Thea’s business dealings and the ‘Change. Up until now, Drake’s transactions have been too large or too risky for me to take part in them.”
Lucas’s ardor completely dissipated on a wave of shocked disbelief. “You invest in the ‘Change?”
“Yes.” She looked at him, her expression as innocent as always, except for a spark of something in her eyes he could not quite name.
If he did not know better, he would say it was defiance, but Irisa was too biddable a lady for such an emotion.
“How long has your father been allowing you to engage in such cork-brained behavior?”
She moved back another step, her posture becoming stiff.
“Papa has nothing to do with it,” she replied in freezing accents, sounding for all the world as if she thought it was none of his business.
He strode two steps forward and grasped her shoulders, forcing her to face him. Even in his anger, his body registered the feel of her silken skin beneath his fingers. “Are you saying you have been investing your money without his permission?”
She lifted her head quickly, meeting his look squarely. “I spend my allowance as I see fit.”
Her pin money? Either she had a very large allowance or she made very small investments. “I’m surprised you had the resources available to take part in Drake’s latest venture.”
To Lucas’s knowledge, Drake required a minimum outlay from even his smallest investors and it would require a great deal more than pin money. Perhaps Drake had made an exception for his sister-in-law’s whim.
She bit her lip and shifted her gaze to a point beyond his shoulder, for all the world as if she intended some manner of subterfuge.
His grip on her arms tightened involuntarily. “Tell me.”
Ignoring his command, she turned her attention to the point where his hands gripped the soft skin of her upper arms. He forced his fingers to relax somewhat, realizing his hold might very well be uncomfortable.
“If someone came out of the ballroom and found us here, they would assume we were in a passionate embrace,” she said in a curiously wistful voice.
Bloody hell. She was right. He quickly released her completely, but did not step away. She would not distract him that easily.
“Explain to me how you were able to invest in the shipping expedition.”
She adjusted first one, then the other of the white evening gloves she wore and then smoothed her skirt as if they had been engaged in an invigorating country dance rather than standing almost completely still for the past several minutes.
Snapping open her fan, she used it as a shield for the expression on her face. “You overstep yourself, sir. I do not owe you an explanation of my actions or my finances. We are not connected in any way.”
Her fan might protect her face from his scrutiny, but the icy remoteness in her voice left him in no doubt as to her frame of mind.
Without another word, she stepped around him and returned to the ballroom before he could assimilate either her surprising stubbornness or the cool challenge in her voice. Didn’t the chit realize she belonged to him? They were as good as engaged. Of course she owed him an explanation.
He followed her with the intent of telling her just that, but a return to the bright candle glow in the ballroom brought back his reason.
What was he doing?
For the second time that evening, he had very nearly lost control. This time he would have made a spectacle of himself in a way he had vowed long ago never to do. He was one Ashton who would not follow in his mother and younger brother’s scandalous footsteps.
Watching Irisa join her current partner on the dance floor, he willed her to look at him. Their discussion was not finished. She refused to return his gaze, stubbornly keeping her head angled away from him and her focus entirely on the gentleman accompanying her.
He knew it was apurpose because she had once confided she did not care for Lord Yardley’s company. Lucas had learned the other man had courted Irisa two Seasons ago, but her father had denied his suit. He was certain that she only agreed to dance with the other man because she knew to refuse would cause comment and she was a lady in every sense. The perfect antithesis of his mother, in fact.
However, his lovely, biddable, beautiful, little paragon had sprouted a willful streak.