When she alighted from her carriage in front of Eleanor’s townhome that evening, Duncan tripped lightly down the steps to meet her. Lust for him flooded her as it usually did upon first sight. He paused for a moment and stood in open admiration. Her satisfaction soared at the desire displayed on his handsome face. She thought it only fair he want her, too. In his elegant evening clothes, he resembled the hero she’d dreamed of marrying as a little girl, and she wanted him in all ways with an intensity that resembled obsession.

“I have always thought you a beautiful woman, but you have outdone yourself tonight.”

The empire gown of iridescent, red silk, gauze was of the finest weave and draped closely to her body. She wore special stays of red silk that fit underneath half her breasts and lifted them high into a gathered bodice cut so low, slight crescents of the darker pink flesh of her areolas would play peek-a-boo with Duncan all night—should he look. Rich embroidery done in gold and threaded with seed pearls adorned the bodice, the cap sleeves, and the hemline of the gown and a golden cord with gold tassels on the end banded her torso to tie just under her breasts. The stiff embroidery covering the bodice kept the gown marginally within the bounds of propriety. Beneath the transparent gown she wore an equally delicate silk shift, also of scarlet. In the right light, the clear outline of her legs from her ankles to the vee where they joined her body could be seen through the skirts of the dress. She’d pulled her dark hair up into tousled curls bound around with bands of golden cord interwoven with ropes of seed pearls. In her ears, she wore golden filigree earrings set with rubies. Her slippers were of plain gold satin, as was her long, fringed wrap.

She would never have worn such a risqué creation to anything but a private dinner and felt extraordinarily wicked for doing so now. For the first time in their history, she’d slipped out before Mr. Greyson could see her, not wanting to confront his certain disapproval. The dress crossed the limits of what she was comfortable with, but desperate measures for desperate times. She had to find some way to overcome Duncan’s idiotic self-discipline. She’d begun to despair of ever enticing this man to her bed.

“Do you like it? You do not think it too revealing? I would not normally ask a man such a question as it would seem I begged his compliments, but as you are just a ‘friend’, I feel I might treat you as I would Eleanor or Her Grace.”

“You brazen tease,” he chided with amusement, but the admiration never left his expression.

She laughed softly and shot him a flirtatious look. “Your Grace, we have had this discussion. I’m not teasing.” She held up the skirts of the column of gossamer, scarlet gauze and turned. “So…what do you think?”   

“It would be difficult to overstate the pleasure I find in looking at you in that dress. You are the goddess of beauty come down from Olympus to visit us, poor mortals.”  He offered an arm and assisted her up the three outside steps and into the townhome. “I do have one question, however.” He leaned down as they crossed the threshold and murmured in her ear, “What sorcery do you work to stay in it?” 

She leaned toward him and whispered back, “I don’t. I don’t work sorcery, and I hope I don’t stay in it.”