The Marquis's New Clothes(5)

By: Lila DiPasqua

Success hinged on his ability to stay focused. Patient. Unfortunately, just as Robert stated, she disliked him.

“I’ll succeed,” Adam said.

Robert lifted a dark brow. “You’re that confident?”

“I am.”

A slight smile lifted the corner of Robert’s mouth. “Oh, I can’t wait to see this. I predict she’ll run the other way each time you draw near.”

A realistic prediction.

For his sanity’s sake, he had to succeed. He couldn’t fail. He would best her in this cat and mouse game they were about to play. Beautiful, passionate Aimee hadn’t had a lover since Marc’s death. He’d left his wife at their country château while he’d carried on with his favorite mistress in the city, and hadn’t been anywhere near her for months prior to his fatal duel. In short, she hadn’t been touched in a very long time.

And she was ripe for the taking.

Adam was going to use her passionate nature to his advantage.

Chapter Two

“Is that the blue justacorps he wore when you dropped the ring?” Aimee asked her cousin, her eyes fixed on Adam’s tall sculpted form.

In the gardens of Versailles, scores of courtiers stood about, lords and ladies murmuring among themselves. The violinists that followed King Louis XIV around the gardens all day stood still, but continued to play, their music sweetening the warm summer air. The King had motioned everyone back, His Majesty wanting only Adam de Vey and Robert de Senville near. The three men stood at the Dragon Fountain in deep discussion, His Majesty listening intently to Adam’s comments.

Unable to stop herself, she took in his strong, muscled body, his handsome profile. Few men were as tall as the King. Yet Adam stood well above His Majesty. As the King demanded of all men at court, Adam wore his periwig. Though away from court, the periwig was nowhere to be found. And she knew that underneath it, he had hair as dark as a raven’s wig that matched his dark velvety eyes. Gorgeous, fathomless eyes that lured a woman in.

Despite the man’s lascivious character, he was beautiful beyond belief.

Highly attractive men with disarming charm were the very bane of a woman’s existence. A wicked promise always shone in their eyes. It drew women, despite their better judgment. Aimee understood the allure well. She’d been one of those women. She’d allowed herself to be drawn in by Marc in the same helpless, pathetic way. She should have limited her husband to her body. Yet she’d foolishly relinquished her heart as well.

Louise had her head tilted to one side studying Adam when Aimee finally dragged her gaze away from him.

“Well?” Aimee prompted.

“I’m not sure . . .” her cousin said. “It could be.”

“Louise, that answer is no help at all.”

“I’m sorry. It’s difficult to remember!” Louise looked about. “Do you see Renault? Is he here? Is he with his mistress?”

“Stop looking for him,” Aimee cautioned and added sotto voce, “Until we locate the ring, you’re to keep your distance.” Hopefully, Renault would keep his. For his years of loyal service, the man thankfully had two rings from the King. According to Louise, his finger was always adorned with one. Aimee was fairly confident he hadn’t noticed his other was missing—yet.

Just then, the King began to walk, a signal for others to follow. He moved away from Adam, Robert, and the fountain, out toward the east side of the vast gardens.

Adam, who had been speaking to Robert, looked past his shoulder, his gaze meeting hers. A slight smile raised the corner of his sensuous mouth and he gave her a nod.

“Oh, my . . . Adam is looking this way.” Louise pointed out the obvious.

“Yes, I know.”

“Well, what should we do?”

Aimee returned his smile and nod. She thought something akin to surprise flashed in his eyes but it was so quick, she couldn’t be certain. “If I’m going to do this, I might as well start now.”

Feed into his conceit— that every woman is interested in him. Be bold. And if luck was on her side, locate the ring in the pocket of the very justacorps he was wearing. Out of mourning, she’d make him believe she was a lonely widow, looking for a lover. The fact that she really was a lonely widow who could truly use a lover should only make her performance easier. No?

As the crowd thinned down to a few stragglers, Aimee marched straight up to her late husband’s notoriously rakish friends, Louise quickly on her heels.

Stopping before them, Aimee heard Robert saying, “She’s not going to come over—” He choked back his words when he noticed her.

“Good day, Madame de Gremont.” Robert quickly stepped forward with an instant smile and, taking her hand, pressed a kiss to her knuckle.