Paris knew he’d struck gold when Sophia Lovich blew him a kiss from over her husband’s shoulder. Her gaze met his for a mere heartbeat before she glanced away, lowering those dark silken eyelashes of hers over eyes like chips of bitter chocolate.
When she looked up again, he found it impossible not to smile back.
Lucifer curse him for the hideous wife thief he’d become, but Paris couldn’t help himself.
Not this time. Not with her. He’d taken many to his bed out of necessity, but he rarely felt aroused by those who encouraged his affections. Swiving other men’s wives had become a way to bring food to the table and support his sister in her matrimonial quest. It wasn’t about love or excitement or anything but the most perfunctory sense of satisfaction on his part. He did it as a service to all the women who sought passion but whose husbands saw them only as a means to beget children, with no interest of their own in sex or in any sort of fulfilment.
With Sophia, things would be different.
There would be no detachment, only raw edges and passion.
He had only to look at her and his pulse raced. Every curve of her body set his imagination alight. She had such a tiny waist but broad padded hips. Perhaps some of that was the dress, but he liked to think not. He liked to imagine that hidden beneath her voluminous skirts was a softly rounded belly and thighs he could pillow his cheek upon. She’d have a plump womanly bottom too. Forget all the dainty sparrows; he loved Sophia for her sheer voluptuousness.
Hell if it hadn’t splintered his soul when he’d first seen the wedding band upon her finger. Not that he was in any position to make her an offer, but the fantasy of having her sprawled across his bed had been a good one. It remained a good one. Better yet, tonight he intended to make it real.
Across the table, Sophia shook her head at his prolonged scrutiny. He’d been staring without even realising it, but a quick glance at the gamblers around the table suggested the indiscretion had passed unnoticed.
“When?” he mouthed, wanting to seize this opportunity with both fists. The mere prospect of it had him fidgeting, and too much of a delay would necessitate him shuffling out of the room with the skirts of his frock coat drawn fast across his front to avoid displaying his obvious arousal.
Discretion—that’s what women valued. And public reserve, coupled with fire in the bedroom. He’d do well to remind himself of that lesson tonight, else she’d fly before he ever got close to fulfilling anyone’s wishes.
Sophia didn’t reply. Instead, her gaze strayed over to the mantle-clock. Already long past midnight, many of Reeve’s house guests, his sister among them, had retired to their beds. Only the politicians and gamblers remained, of whom several were likely to still be present at dawn, Lovich among them with any luck.
To Paris’s utmost relief, Alexander Lovich barely raised his elegant head to look up from his hand of cards when his wife whispered sweet nothings into his ear. Perhaps that was for the best. Paris didn’t want her reminded of how fine a catch Lovich was. Unlike most of the husbands he stood in for, Lovich was neither rotund, aged or sallow. He was a stallion of a man, with the physique of a blacksmith, without any of the calluses that accompanied that profession. His hair and teeth were apparently all his own too. He had warm smiling eyes and was quick to laugh.
“Don’t wait up, dear. And do remember to warm the bed,” Lovich said.
Oh, don’t worry, I’ll do that. Paris stifled the urge to smirk. No point flaunting the fact that he was about to tup another man’s wife, especially since it was a man he’d once admired. If Lovich had any sense, he’d be pleasuring Sophia himself, rather than indulging Lady Luck. Although, to be fair, the fool did at least catch her hand as she turned to go, in order to press a kiss to her knuckles. Many, he knew, would not even have done that. Too many men who didn’t care for their wives.