In The Prince's Bed

By: Sabrina Jeffries

Royal Brotherhood 1

Jaquette du Livre

Chapter One

London, 1813

Take care not to sire any bastards; they will

haunt you long after the pleasure of

wenching has waned.

—Anonymous, The Art of Seduction Reveal’d ,

or A Rake’s Rhetorick

They were late.

By lamplight, Alexander Black consulted the pocket watch given him byWellington. Damn. Twenty minutes late already. He’d used his meager funds on the proprietor’s bestFrenchbrandy, and now the men weren’t coming.

At least the private dining room had cost him nothing. He strode to the window, cocking an ear toward the stables by force of habit. But no soothing sounds of horses settling in for the night reached him above  the watchman’s bell and the clacking of hackney wheels on cobblestone. A knock at the door followed by a muffled “Lord Iversley?” made him start. Right, he was Iversley. After he had lived for years as plain Mr. Black, returning to being a lord took some getting used to. “Come in.”

A lad opened the door, his nervousness inexplicable until Alec spotted the man looming behind him.

“L-Lord D-Draker is here to see you.” The cowering boy turned to the hulking figure, whose reputation as the Dragon Viscount had clearly preceded him. “W-Will that be all, m-my lord?”

Draker’s fierce gaze swung to the servant. Even dressed in humble fustian, the shaggy-haired brute could crush stone to dust with a stare. “Begone,” he growled. When the lad scampered for the stairs quicker than a skittish gelding, Draker rolled his eyes. “They think horns grow on my forehead.”

“Then perhaps you shouldn’t snarl at them,” Alec said dryly. The giant’s dark brown eyes pinned him in place. “A wise man would keep his opinions to himself.”

“A wise man would never invite you here. But I like taking risks.”

“I don’t.” Hesitating on the threshold, the viscount examined the room warily. In keeping with a hotel popular with army officers, it boasted heavy oak chairs and a table borne on legs carved with lion heads in midroar.

Alec bit back a smile. Draker ought to feel right at home.

“So what’s the reason for this meeting?” Draker demanded.

“I’ll explain when my other guest arrives.”

Draker snorted, but finally entered. “Did he also receive a ridiculous note inviting him to come here ‘if you want to change your life’?”

“If you thought the note ridiculous, why did you come?”

“It’s not every day that an earl I’ve never met is foolhardy enough to approach a man of my reputation.”

Alec offered no explanation. Taking his seat, he gestured to another chair. “Make yourself comfortable. There’s brandy if you wish to indulge.”

Draker had settled himself into a chair with a glass when a tall auburn-haired gentleman sauntered in the open door. Flashing them an insolent glance, he tossed a folded sheet of foolscap onto the table with a white-gloved hand. “I assume one of you is the sender of this peculiar note?”

“Yes, I’m Iversley.” Alec rose. “You must be the owner of the Blue Swan.”

The man gave a dramatic bow. “Gavin Byrne at your service.”

Noting how Draker stiffened, Alec gestured to the empty chairs. “Thanks for coming. Take a seat anywhere—”

“Take mine.” Jerking to his feet, Draker headed for the door. “I’m leaving.”

Alec tensed as he saw all his plans disintegrate before his very eyes.

“What’s the matter, sir?” Byrne drawled. “Not brave enough to do business with me?”

Draker halted to frown at Byrne. “I don’t think our host is interested in business. You’ve probably heard of me, as I’ve heard of you. I’m Draker.”

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