Passions of a Gentleman (Gentlemen of Honor #3) - Rose Gordon
If seventeen-year-old Simon Appleton had known what would befall him by making a trek to Devon to deliver papers to Lord Drakely on his father’s behalf, he never would have gone.
Actually, no, that wasn’t true. He would have gone. He had to.
Unlike the other men invited to all the best balls and soirees, Simon wasn’t titled, nor did he even come from any connection peerage. He was a mere mister who had to work in order to keep his coffers plump.
So when his father informed him that he needed Simon to go somewhere, he went.
And now he regretted it.
And he imagined he wasn’t the only one...
Thirty Minutes Earlier
“Are you sure this is Lord Drakely’s estate?” Simon asked his coachman as he peered through the window of his travel coach. Sure, there was plenty of dust coating the small window above the door, but not enough to distort his view enough to make the large, sprawling mansion he assumed a viscount as wealthy as Lord Drakely lived in appear like a small, crumbling cottage in desperate need of being torn down post haste.
“Aye,” his coachman said. He jumped down and wrenched open the door for Simon.
Taking a deep breath, Simon climbed down then brushed the travel dust from his chocolate brown suit. He squinted at the house again and frowned. If Simon didn’t know any better he’d think his coachman had an opium habit. This could not be a lord’s house. He nearly snorted. This couldn’t be anyone’s house.
“I think you’d better take me—”
A loud, high-pitched squeal followed by an even louder splash took away his words.
Simon snapped his head in the direction of the commotion and set off into a run as fast as his feet could carry him across the low grass. He hurdled a large rock one moment then dodged a tree in his way a few feet later only to then jump over a fallen log.
Then came to an abrupt halt.
There, not ten feet in front of where he stood by the fallen log, was a decidedly female form swimming in a pond.
Well, not exactly. She did have on a shift. The realization eased his conscience marginally.
Simon swallowed, which was terribly hard to do considering he hadn’t yet caught his breath.
He knew he needed to leave, but his confounded legs had turned to lead and wouldn’t cooperate, keeping him rooted in a prime peeping position.
In the water, the young woman swam forward, then reached the water’s edge and flipped over onto her back, giving Simon an unobstructed view of both of her pert, pink-tipped breasts covered only in the barest of transparent fabric.
Without realizing it, Simon took a step forward. Snap.
“Who’s there?” the beautiful young woman called, not a hint of worry or distress in her tone.
Simon’s blood thundered in his ears and he cursed his booted foot for not being more careful. Did she not care she had an audience as long as she knew whom her audience consisted of?
Before he could speak, he heard, “Charlie, is that you?”
Not sure if he felt more at ease that she didn’t mind a male audience or uncomfortable that Charlie must be lurking around somewhere, Simon stood rooted in place, unable to take his eyes from her perfect form. Somewhere buried deep, deep, deep, deep, deep down inside, a little voice whispered he needed to leave. He quieted that voice with another slow sweep of her form.
Something was different about her tone this time, something that suddenly made his mouth run independently of his brain. “No, it’s Simon.”
A not-so-delicate and decidedly startled scream filled the air as she flipped over and moved to be under the water enough that only her head was visible. Pity.
“Who the devil is Simon and why is he watching me bathe?”
A large air bubble lodged in his throat. He coughed it down. Or would that be up? “I’ve come to deliver some documents and…” He trailed off with a shrug.
“Thought you’d sneak a peek, did you?” Her tone was sharper than the tip of his rapier.
“Well, you were offering it,” he retorted in hopes of staving off any of his newfound embarrassment at being chastised.
“I wasn’t offering you or anyone a peek.”
“And what of Charlie?”
“It’s short for Charlotte! My maid.”
Shame flooded Simon in waves. “I—I’m sorry. I just assumed...”
“Assumed what? That since you’re of a higher station than me, you could take advantage of the situation?” The amount of venom in her tone could kill a rhinoceros in less than three seconds.
Her blue eyes bored