Book #4 THE DEVIL’S MATCH
Once burned twice shy…
But when old flames come together…
When burned once …
Arriving in London as her goddaughter’s chaperone, Baroness Diana Palmerston-Wriothesley wants to avoid her erstwhile lover at all costs. Once nearly consumed by passion, four years has reduced the former inferno to bitterness and ashes.
By an old flame…
A world-weary master of seduction, Ludovic ”The Devil” DeVere is bored with his chosen life of debauchery. When Diana’s charge disappears, she is forced to seek help from the devil’s lair, and their mutual desire reignites with undeniable ferocity.
Fire is best fought with fire…
While DeVere is hell-bent to have her back in his bed, Diana is equally determined to bring him to his knees…by acquiring some sensual secrets of her own.
DeVere House, Bloomsbury, 1783
Ludovic, Viscount DeVere sprawled indolently on his Turkish divan, pulling on a hookah while a voluptuous redhead serviced him with her decadent mouth. Eyes at half-mast, he lazily surveyed the surrounding scene of oriental decadence that could have been stolen from an Ottoman sultan’s seraglio—the myriad hues of silk draping the walls and ceiling, the vivid Turkish rugs and cushions that scattered the floor, the writhing shadows created by the luminous glow of dimly flickering brass lanterns.
Through the purple-blue haze of smoke and incense, his boon companions engaged in various and sundry acts of pleasure with the half-dozen women he’d hired for an evening of debauchery, and Ludovic realized he was bored out of his senses.
He’d been this way for days, restive, edgy, and irritable, as if his life had become suddenly unbalanced. He also recognized with even greater self-annoyance that the mark of his discontent had commenced upon a certain person’s arrival in London, a circumstance that aggravated him beyond measure.
In all of his six-and-thirty years, he had never allowed a woman to get under his skin, but this one had infected him with an infirmity for which he’d yet to find a complete cure. Oh, he’d sought balm for his condition alright. In Paris, he had soothed his raging fever with opera dancers, and in Italy the finest Venetian courtesans had served as a temporary unguent. Following in the footprints of the ignoble Baron Baltimore after whom he’d capriciously chosen to model his life, Ludovic had sojourned to the East in an endeavor to satiate his sybaritic senses in every possible way. But still, his symptoms— the hollow sensation, the emotional detachment, as if he were sleep-walking through life, inevitably returned.
Although he’d successfully avoided any encounter with Diana in the past sennight, Hew’s apparent interest in her had eaten away at him. This circumstance had both spurred Ludovic to assist in Vesta’s abduction scheme, as well as inciting him to host tonight’s fest of carnal indulgence. Deep down he still carried the obstinate belief that with sensory repletion, the yearning for something more would go away. Unfortunately, neither excess of drink, opium, or sex, had sufficed to fill the yen the knowledge of her nearby presence created. Yet, paradoxically, he still wished to avoid her at all costs.
“What the devil is it, Winchester?” He snapped at the appearance of his majordomo. “I thought I clearly communicated that we were not to be disturbed.”
The flushing servant diverted his gaze to the ceiling in an obvious effort to ignore the ongoing orgy. “But there is a lady to see you, my lord. She is most insistent.”
“Another one?” Lord Malden chortled. “By all means, have him send the baggage in. Damn me, DeVere, but you are well-supplied.”
“I am, indeed,” DeVere answered. “It is a most amicable arrangement with Madam Hayes, but I had not requested another.” DeVere gave another long, lazy pull on the stem of the hookah proffered by his scantily-clad companion, and cast a sadly indifferent gaze at the temptress who enthusiastically sucked his cock.
The servant flushed. “You misapprehend, my lord. This lady—”
“Will not be turned away.” Diana stepped boldly into the room and Ludovic felt his pulse jump at his first glimpse of her in over four years.
Although a black veil obscured her face, Ludovic could have identified her proud carriage and sultry voice amongst a hundred similar women. He was careful to maintain his air of careless indifference, commanding the woman kneeling between his legs, “Put your playthings away, my pet for we have an unexpected guest.”
”So this is what you have reduced your life to, my lord?” Diana asked with icy hauteur.
He gave her a taunting smile. “It is fortunate that I don’t give a damn for your opinion, madam.” In defiance, he caressed the bare breast of his would-be odalisque and took another pull on the hookah, blowing purple-cast smoke rings into the air. “Now, to what do I owe the privilege of your queenly condescension?” He could almost see her hackles rise, a reaction that gave him a peculiar twinge of pleasure.
“How dare you ignore my messages and compel me to come to this…this…den of iniquity!”
He couldn’t suppress his chuckle. “It was your choice to invade my domain. Thus, it is not for me to concern myself with your injured sensibilities. I already conveyed to you that the girl is safe. There was nothing further to be said.” He gave her a bland lift of his brow, inwardly enjoying the hell out of her reaction.
“Nothing further! Where is she?” Diana demanded. “She was last in your charge and has not returned! I found her maid locked in her room! If anything has happened to her—”
“I assure you she is perfectly safe in my brother’s keeping.”
“Hew is involved in this? I don’t believe it. He would never—”
DeVere’s mouth kicked up in the corner. “Perhaps I misspoke. It would be vastly more correct to say he is in hers.” The girl was a tiny virago. He almost felt pity for his brother.
Diana looked befuddled. “What on earth are you talking about?”
“When Vesta revealed to me that she was determined to have Hew, I agreed to lend some small assistance in the matter.”
“That’s ludicrous! Vesta hasn’t even had her come-out. It is far too soon for her to be thinking of anyone!”
“Nevertheless.” He shrugged.
“Is that all you have to say?”
“For the nonce. Conversation is not my chief pursuit at the moment, but should you be inclined to join me…” He surveyed her with a slow and deliberate appraisal, a look meant both to insult and to incite. He was pleased to note the rapid rise and fall of her breasts, proof that his power to inspire her lust had not waned in the least.
“You revile me!” Diana spat. “I will expect your call with a full explanation at nine o’clock on the morrow.”
“An ungodly hour,” he replied. “I doubt I shall have risen before two.”
Diana spun toward the door. “You will call, my lord, or you will much regret my methods of rousing you.”
She had meant it as a threat, but Ludovic could picture her face behind the veil, the high color staining her cheeks, the passion borne of righteous indignation blazing in her green eyes, the very things that had most appealed to him four years ago, aside from her magnificent breasts, that is. “I doubt that, my dear,” he replied. “You may rouse me any way you like.”
The room rumbled with snickers and guffaws.
Though he’d only meant to goad her, he felt himself growing rock hard at the vision of her once again in his bed. He had determined upon their first meeting that he would have her one way or another. She had been a challenge, but in the end he had, indeed, had her. Several ways in fact, but still not enough to satisfy him. She was the only lover with whom he hadn’t grown bored. He told himself it was only the brevity of their liaison; it simply hadn’t had sufficient time to grow tedious. The realization had sprung from nowhere, but there it was, just as she, staring him in the face.
“A tolerable, handsome figure,” Lord Malden remarked to her departing back, “but a tongue like a shrew.” He added sotto voce, “Perhaps you can teach her a better means of employing it, eh DeVere?”
Oh, he had done that and more. He had taught her many things and she had proven both eager and wonderfully sensuous, but her education remained incomplete. Unless…He wondered with a stab of something-he-didn’t-care-to- identify, if Diana had taken other lovers in his absence. Would it really matter if she had? He paused to examine that question and found it didn’t diminish his desire for her in the least. His brother was now out of the picture, not that he would have allowed that courtship to have progressed any further.
At the door she abruptly turned to confront her detractors, her bitterness a living, breathing force. He could almost see her livid gaze penetrating through the veil. “Better a shrew than a sheep, my lord. For hapless sheep are devoured by ruthless wolves.”
He chuckled as the door clicked behind her. So that was the way of it. He had introduced her to passion and left her to her own devices, and for that she resented him. For there was no doubt in his mind that this sheep desired nothing more than to be devoured slowly and deliberately by a wolf’s mouth, and he would be only too happy to oblige her.
Accolades for THE DEVIL’S MATCH
5 STARS/ TOP PICK at The Romance reviews: “From beginning to end, I was thrilled with this remarkable love story, shocked by the antics our hero and heroine perform, and overjoyed by the unconquerable emotions between them. Even the Epilogue held its share of surprises, along with a fitting fate for the Devil DeVere. Victoria Vane showed a great deal of courage and skill in crafting her characters and letting them grow so naturally together. While I can only hope for more books in the very near future, I know I won’t be forgetting Ludovic DeVere for a long time to come.”
5 STARS/TOP PICK at Night Owl Reviews: “I don’t think I’ve ever read a series I’ve enjoyed more! Usually you like one or two books, but you may not be thrilled with each and every book in that series. That’s positively NOT the case for me this time. I adored Ms. Vane’s intricate, devilishly erotic, uber-sexy, Devil DeVere series like no other! The books weave with each other like puzzle pieces and you absolutely cannot miss any of them (and you won’t want to either)…The Devil’s Match is a Must Read! Oh heck, when it comes to The Devil DeVere series…they’re all KEEPERS!”
Author Victoria Vane does an excellent job of showing Vic’s heart of gold that lies deep, deep under the layers of his outlandish attitude and Diana’s warmth that lies beneath her many frosty layers. This couple and their story far surpasses the others in the series, and needed the two books to really show how deep their love was and how it triumphed over all else. On top of this, the book was well written, witty, sexy, funny and historically correct. Ms. Vane has now been put on this historical lover’s must buy list, and I advise you all do the same!
Story Rating: 5 AMAZINGINGLY BRIGHT STARS!
Character Rating: 5 of the BRIGHTEST STARS IN THE SKY!
Romance Rating: 5 SPARLKING STARS!
Heat Level: 5 BLAZING HOT STARS!
Overall Rating: MORE STARS THAN THE GALAXY!!
Can you tell that I LOVED this book? It was an AMAZING read for me.
5 HEARTS and Golden Award from Reading Romances:
“The Devil’s Match was an elegant closure to the Devil DeVere series, and wrapped it up fantastically. It set a high standard from start to finish in a fabulous way. Congratulations to Victoria Vane for this highly successful journey, through carefully crafted stories penned with magnificent sexuality.”