Portia Da Costa

Free Portia Da Costa by Diamonds in the Rough

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immobilized it. He’d have an answer from her if it killed him, and the unyielding set of her mouth made him feel as stubborn and as mulish as she was.
    “Why were you in here? What’s in the portfolio that you’re so protective of?” He fired the questions like bullets. To shock an answer from her. “Where did you learn to pleasure a man so exquisitely?”
    Her glowing eyes widened, and she clasped the portfolio to her bosom. She was still calculating the probability of escaping the room, working out if she could get away with all her secrets intact. He could see her sharp mind ticking over, almost as cleverly as his. Was she weighing how much to reveal? Which of her secrets was the least critical and could be sacrificed?
    Whatever were they, these things she hid?
    Wilson almost gasped aloud when Adela snagged her lower lip with her strong white teeth. His cock—which he’d believed settled—kicked again, hard in his undergarment like a length of tropical wood, aching, aching, aching as if he’d never spent.
    “Very well.” Her chin came up. She almost seemed to grow in stature before his eyes, a martial Amazon, girding for battle. And yet what came next was frank and unequivocal. “In respect of your first demand...I came looking for inspiration for my art. Regarding the second, this portfolio—” she tapped her forefinger against it “—is full of that art. My erotic drawings, brought for comparison with classical interpretations.” Her eyes met his, burning darkly, not exasperated as he’d first thought, but infinitely brazen. “And as to the third question? Well, I sell those drawings for a great deal of money, Wilson, and I use a portion of that money to purchase the services of gentlemen of pleasure.”
    What?
    Wilson’s mouth dropped open. He knew he looked a fool, but didn’t care. He’d heard words, but they hadn’t made sense.
    “Now may I go? I’m rather fatigued and I plan to take a rest before dinner.” When Adela shoved on his arm, Wilson stepped aside like an automaton, numbed. His hand slipped from the doorknob and she grasped the thing immediately, gave it a swift turn and wrenched open the door. Before he could speak, she’d swept right by him, her black skirts rustling as she went.
    He was still frowning when she disappeared around the corner of the landing, a dark flash, gone again.
    Gentlemen of pleasure?
    There was no mental box he could seem to fit that in.
    Wilson Ruffington couldn’t frame a rational thought.

6
    Why, oh Why, oh Why?
    “Idiot! Nincompoop! Why, oh why, oh why?”
    Adela hurtled into the bedroom she’d been assigned, flung herself and her portfolio on the bed and pummeled the mattress with her fists, gasping for breath. Her mind was a whirl and it was hard to breathe. Corsets weren’t suited to wearing under pursuit...or in times of high stress and anxiety.
    What have I done? I must be deranged. Gone quite mad.
    Wilson had been on her tail within moments. He wasn’t a man to be nonplussed for long. But in a stroke of blind luck, Adela had escaped him. She’d ducked into a water closet on the landing round the corner, and had been able to close and lock the door with barely a sound.
    Thirty seconds later, there’d been a wild thumping on the panel.
    “Della! Are you in there? Come out this instant. I want to talk to you.”
    Torn between silence and telling him to go and take a running jump into Lord Rayworth’s lily pond, she’d had a sudden inspired flash. Adopting a strangled, amateur dramatics voice, she’d called out in the quavering tones of an elderly dowager, “Kindly go away and stop hammering on this door, young man! Such impertinence!”
    Ten long seconds had ticked by in silence, but eventually his footsteps had retreated. A few minutes later, still half expecting him to pounce on her, Adela had inched open the door, and on finding the coast clear, run pell-mell for her room.
    You’ve done it again, Wilson Ruffington! Addled my wits...

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