One Night With A Prince(8)

By: Sabrina Jeffries

“What’s so funny?” Gavin asked.

“Draker’s pretense with Regina eventually led to marriage,” Iversley said slyly. “Or had you forgotten?”

When Draker began to chuckle, too, Gavin retorted, “Don’t worry. I have no interest in marriage.” Only once had he even considered it, as a green lad of twenty-two. But Anna Bingham had cured him of that nonsense.

“Women have a way of changing a man’s mind,” Iversley said.
“Not bloody likely.” His idiot brothers’ sly winks and knowing glances annoyed him. “Besides, Lady Haversham appears quite happy with her current situation.”

Draker lifted one eyebrow. “That could change, too.”

“For God’s sake, you’re as bad as your wife, with her talk of connubial bliss and falling in love. Contrary to what Regina seems to think, some bachelors actually have no interest in love.”

The disaster with Anna had taught him that there were lines even “love” didn’t cross, that his preference for sophisticated women could only be assuaged in illicit physical liaisons. No respectable woman would marry him unless she was after his money, and he had no desire to endure such a hypocrisy of a marriage.

Besides, the more adulterous affairs he engaged in, the more cynical he became about marriage, his brothers’ happy union    s notwithstanding. Any woman worth her salt married for financial or social advantage. Would Katherine or Regina have married his brothers if they hadn’t had titles? He didn’t explore that question further, for it made him uncomfortably aware of the main difference between him and his half brothers. Their mothers’ husbands had claimed each of them as legitimate sons. Gavin’s mother hadn’t had that choice, which was why he would be Byblow Byrne until he died. Unless he became the Baron Byrne. He certainly likedthat idea. Especially if forcing Prinny to set matters straight and acquiring the intriguing Christabel as his real mistress were part of the bargain.

“So it’s settled,” he said, ready to change the subject. “I’ll get Christabel onto Stokely’s guest list, and our sire will hand me a barony.”

“Yes, it’s settled,” Draker said.

“We’re glad you agreed to this,” Iversley added. “It’s time you got something more from our alliance than entertainment.”

“Don’t worry. When this is done, I intend to get a great deal more than entertainment from it.” When Iversley looked speculative, Gavin added quickly, “This calls for a toast.” He poured brandy all round, then lifted his glass. “To the Royal Brotherhood of Bastards.”

They all echoed the usual toast, then drank. When he went to refill Draker’s glass for the second toast, his half brother shook his head. Gavin glanced to Iversley, who was clearly toying with his glass to avoid having it refilled.

“You two really have gone soft,” Gavin muttered, then refilled his own glass and raised it defiantly. “To our noble sire,” he said loudly. “May he rot in hell.”

Chapter Two

Men are sneaky devils; never let them convince you otherwise.

—Anonymous,Memoirs of a Mistress

What an insane bargain! As Christabel gazed round Lord Draker’s dinner table, she wondered if she’d made an enormous mistake. Play Mr. Byrne’s mistress? At a house party with sophisticated sorts like these ladies and gentlemen? She must have been mad to suggest it. Though truly, she’d been fortunate Mr. Byrne hadn’t called her bluff and demanded that she be his real mistress. What would she have done?

She choked back a hysterical laugh. As if she could please a man of his scandalous tastes. If she were capable ofthat, her beloved Philip would never have taken a mistress. The usual low ache began in the pit of her belly, and she stifled an oath. It didn’t matter now, did it? Compared to Philip’s other betrayal, it was nothing. So why couldn’t she stop thinking about it? Because of that Mr. Byrne with his flirtations. He’d stirred up all sorts of…naughty feelings that should have stayed buried with her husband.

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