Shameless - By Annie Stuart


London, 1842

Benedick Francis Alistair Rohan, Sixth Viscount Rohan, arrived at his town house with a mission. First and foremost, find a biddable bride, get an heir and a spare on her and then proceed to ignore her for the rest of their lives.

The second and more pressing need was to get thoroughly and royally fucked.

He wanted someone so skilled in the erotic arts that he would be unable to move, talk, or think for at least four hours afterward. He didn’t want a mistress—his most recent had been cheerful, complacent and only moderately inventive. He wanted variety. He wanted to shag everyone who caught his eye, young and old, fat and thin, pretty and plain. He was after mindless sensation, and he intended to find it.

London was the best place to take care of these pressing needs. In fact, there was nowhere else he wanted to be. He was tired of his house in Somerset, even more tired of his parents’ house in Dorset. His brother Charles was simply annoying, with his smug wife and their smug children. And his sister’s place in the Lake District was untenable due to the fact that he was certain to murder his brother-in-law if he was forced into any proximity with him.

At least he was properly enchanted with Miranda’s unending succession of offspring, even if they were fathered by that spawn of Satan commonly referred to as the Scorpion.

No, at least the familiar house on Bury Street was empty of loving but interfering parents, siblings and anyone else who wanted to fuss over him. He was handling his second widowhood perfectly well. His headstrong wife had died in childbirth, as his first wife had, and he’d come to the conclusion that he was better off marrying someone made for breeding. He hadn’t loved Barbara as he had Annis, but her death had still been difficult. The year of mourning was thankfully over, and he had returned to London for the two aforementioned reasons.

He’d already chosen his new bride. The Honorable Miss Dorothea Pennington would do him very well. She wasn’t fresh from the schoolroom, though at three and twenty she was still young and strong enough to be able to give him the children he needed and well-bred enough not to cause him much trouble. She was everything that was proper, and once he wed her he wouldn’t have to think of her again.

And if she were unfortunate enough to die after presenting him with a couple of boys, he would take it in stride instead of mourning desperately, as he had after his first wife’s death in childbed. After all, any woman unlucky enough to marry him was probably doomed anyway, two wives gone already. Lucky in cards, unlucky in love, they said, and he was an excellent gamester.

He was about to rap on the front door with his walking stick when it was flung open, and Richmond, his majordomo, greeted him with his usual repressed effusiveness. “Your lordship! We had no idea you would be returning to us.” He signaled the coachman as he moved to allow Benedick to enter. “The house is, of course, ready for you, but had I known I would have endeavored to have fresh flowers brought in.”

“There’s no need, Richmond,” he said, stripping off his greatcoat and gloves and handing them to him. “Flowers are the least of my worries. I need a hot bath and food and a nap and a little breathing space before I can face anyone.”

Richmond made that discreet noise he tended to use when he wished to impart something unpleasant, and Benedick halted his stride toward the stairs, wheeling around to look at him.

“Spit it out, man,” he said, trying not to sound too irritable. Richmond was one of the few people he tended to spare the brunt of his bad temper. He’d known the man since he was in leading strings, and while he hovered like the others, he did so unobtrusively and with only the occasional look of reproach. The only other human being on the face of this earth capable of making him feel guilty was his mother, but fortunately she and his father were traveling in Egypt.

“Master Brandon is here, my lord.”

“Brandon? Here?” He was flooded with both astonishment and annoyance. “We thought he was up in Scotland, fishing. How long has he been here?”

“Two months, my lord.” There was something in Richmond’s tone that conveyed a great deal. Brandon was in trouble. Which came as no surprise—ever