Release Date: Mar 10, 2009
Publisher: Samhain Publishing
Publisher Link: http://samhainpublishing.com/romance/object-of-his-desire
Blurb: He thinks he’s just a wallflower. Little does he know he’s the guest of honor… It’s the last night of a week-long house party in remote northern England. Every sensual delight imaginable is right at Henry Shaw’s fingertips. Yet all he wants is to be with his host, the deliciously handsome and enigmatic Arsen Grey. Henry’s certain it’s love, not mere infatuation. He’s also sure it’s hopeless. After all, the party’s purpose is to find Arsen a new mistress. Arsen longs to leave the glittering, jaded world of the ton behind and find someone who will value him for himself, not his wealth and his title. He suspects that someone could be the strapping country gentleman he’s caught staring at him. Henry is loyal and dependable, nothing like his other acquaintances. Arsen sets a plan into motion, one designed to get Henry into his bed. One that includes a test of devotion. Arsen never expected that in winning Henry, he risks losing his heart.
The clink of glass on glass pulled his attention to the far corner of the room. Holding a cut crystal glass in each hand, Arsen stepped from the shadows.
"Have a seat," he said, indicating the armchairs in front of the desk.
His expertly tailored coat hung open, exposing the embroidered black silk waistcoat. The gold chain of his pocket watch glinted in the candlelight. Arsen had unbuttoned his coat. It meant nothing. Nothing. Henry swallowed hard and crossed the room. His fingers brushed Arsen's as he took the proffered glass. A rush of sensation traveled up his arm and radiated across his chest. "Thank you," he said gruffly as he settled into the chair.
Arsen took a sip then set down his glass and leaned a hip against the desk. He was so close Henry need only lean forward to place a hand on his knee. Arsen shrugged off his coat and tossed it onto the chair next to Henry's.
Henry could just make out the golden hue of Arsen's skin beneath the white linen shirtsleeves. Trying not to stare, he brought his glass to his lips.
"More to your liking?" Arsen asked.
Henry sucked in a startled breath then coughed, whisky burning his throat, his lungs.
"I take it you don't care for whisky?"
Mortified, Henry struggled to stop coughing. Once the fit abated, he held up a hand. "Sorry, Somerville. I do. Care for whisky, that is. Good stuff." He took a long swallow to emphasize his point.
Arsen tipped his head. "Thought you could use a real drink." His golden forelock fell over his brow, skimming his long lashes, as he glanced down. His elegant fingers brushed the neat stack of cards at his hip. "Care to play a hand of cards?"
Henry smirked. "No, I don't need your money tonight."
Arsen's head snapped up. "Pardon?"
"Do you honestly believe I haven't noticed? Anytime there's more than twenty-five quid on the table, you let me win."
"Are you accusing me of cheating? Saying I lack honor?" Arsen said, bristling with affront.
"Well, yes, you do manipulate the game in my favor. But don't misunderstand. I don't believe you lack honor. Rather the opposite."
A renowned gambler, Arsen almost always came out the victor when he played against his peers. Or more specifically, against those who could afford to lose or those who needed a lesson in what it felt like to lose. But against those less fortunate, those like Henry who counted every farthing, Arsen conveniently lost. It was just one of many traits that endeared him to Henry.
A scowl marred Arsen's brow. He appeared ready to argue then he shrugged.
Henry let out a relieved breath. "In any case, you needn't spend the evening entertaining me. I don't want to keep you from your guests."
Arsen rolled his eyes. "My guests are sufficiently occupied. They won't miss me. And I certainly don't miss them. All I can say is thank God they are leaving on the morrow."
Henry took a sip of whisky. While this was the first time he had been invited to SomervillePark, one couldn't move about the ton without hearing the whispered tales of the numerous gatherings Arsen had hosted over the years. So why did Arsen sound as if playing host was an unwanted chore? "But you invited them here."
"Yes. However, they have served their purpose and can now leave. And none of them better think of lingering. If need be, I will haul them into their carriages myself in the morning."
Arsen needn't worry about hauling him into his carriage. At the first light of dawn, he would be on his way, traveling toward London and away from SomervillePark-the site of the most tortuous week of his life.
His pose one of casual nonchalance, Arsen crossed his white shirted arms over his broad chest. It took all of Henry's willpower not to squirm in his chair under the force of Arsen's probing deep green stare.
"Elly wasn't to your liking?"
"No," Henry answered automatically. Then suspicion formed. He leaned forward and glared at Arsen. "You arranged for her to follow me around all week?"
Arsen dismissed Henry's indignation with a wave of his hand. "Don't get offended, Shaw. She thinks highly of you. Has a weakness for big strapping men, hence why she didn't protest when I nudged her in your direction."
Frowning, Henry settled back in the chair and took a long sip of his whisky. It did not sit well, not well at all, that Arsen had pushed a woman at him. Clearly, Arsen had no idea the direction of Henry's interest. He should take comfort in it-it meant he'd been successful in hiding his preference for men from the gentlemen of the ton. But it also meant Arsen didn't know he was the object of Henry's deepest desires. That hollow feeling invaded his stomach. Ate its way into his chest. Gnawed viciously at his heart. Damn, did unrequited love hurt.
"Are you a virgin, Shaw?"
Henry went utterly still. He felt the color leach from his face then flare across his cheeks in a rush of prickling heat. "N-N-No. No! Certainly not." Virgins didn't want to do to Lord Somerville what Henry wanted to do.
"Huh." Arsen rubbed his hand across his jaw. "Yet you've been quite the monk this past week. If I'm not mistaken, you are my only guest who did not partake. Your devotion is admirable."
"Devotion," Arsen replied with a casual lift of one shoulder. "Your loyalty. Unlike every other guest at SomervillePark, you alone have remained true to..." He paused.
Henry's heart leapt into his throat. You. I have remained true to you.
"...whoever it is you are involved with."
He fought back the wince. "I'm not involved with anyone," he admitted. "I was, at one point, but that relationship is fortunately over."
Markus. If that man hadn't been a lesson in how quickly infatuation could turn sour, nothing was. Yet here Henry sat, besotted once again. But it was different this time, he assured himself. Arsen had honor and would never take advantage of another. Arsen was also different from Markus in another very important area. Henry was now certain Arsen's interests did not extend to other men. Not once in the entire week had he seen Arsen spare more than a casual glance at another man. At least he needn't worry the relationship would end badly, for it could never begin. Arsen only wanted relationships with women. Hell, everyone knew he had recently split with his last mistress and that the true purpose of this house party was for him to find a new one.
Henry shifted uncomfortably in his chair. "Have you made a decision yet?"
"The next resident of Tellford House," he clarified, referring to the immense townhouse on the edge of Mayfair and notable for the fact it housed every one of Arsen's past mistresses.
Arsen flicked a piece of lint off his black waistcoat. "Possibly."
"The pale blonde?"
"Cassandra?" Arsen grimaced. "No."
"Why not? She's beautiful." Keep your damn mouth shut.
Arsen hesitated. "That she is. But she's a spoiled creature. Greedy. Self-centered. She hasn't got a loyal bone in her body. All she wants is to live in my house and have unlimited access to my bank accounts. I wouldn't trust her with either. And she would leave me as soon as someone wealthier came along. Doubt she'd even offer to give me a parting thank you fuck."
That crude word from Arsen's lips made Henry's cock jump to attention. Eager. Ready. Henry eyed the large mahogany desk. All he needed was that word in the right context and he'd bend over the desk without hesitation, offer Arsen what the beautiful Cassandra would not. The image slammed into his head. So vivid, so powerful, he could feel Arsen's cock pounding his arse.