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Sophie looked up from her correspondence as the butler entered the conservatory, bearing a card on a silver tray. “A… visitor, madam,” he sniffed, his supercilious tone showing exactly what he thought of the caller.
“I told you I was not at home this evening,” she said, annoyed, picking up the card.
“The gentleman was rather – insistent, madam.”
“Oh?” Sophie glanced at the white card with a little more interest. P. O’Grady, it declaimed in a simple, bold typeface. The address beneath the name was one that she recognised from recent weeks: the lair of all informers and private investigators and crooked cops. So, they’d sent an investigator after her, had they? She smiled, flicking the card onto the tea tray. Well, she knew how to deal with him. “Show him in, Harris,” she ordered, returning to her letters.
Phil O’Grady dropped his hat onto the mahogany sideboard when the butler refused – politely – to take it, an indication of how long he was going to get here. He looked around the lobby with interest, noting the faded Persian rugs and the careless scatter of antiques. This neighbourhood was a touch above him; several touches, really, but he was unconcerned. He didn’t want friends in these circles. Old money was usually washed in the blood of innocents; anyone who claimed otherwise was a liar.
“This way. Sir.”
Phil almost smiled. The butler had it down to a fine art, that balance between cold servility and outright rudeness, and he wondered if the master of the house was any more approachable.
He followed the flunkey along the panelled corridor and out through a heavy set of glass and gilt doors, into what he supposed some people would call a conservatory. It was more of a winter garden, he thought, blinking at the hothouse temperature and staring round at the lilies and orchids and heavy ferns that grew within the glass walls. Above his head hung a row of cages, filled with tiny songbirds hopping from perch to perch, trilling at one another over the swish of water from the fountain in the centre of the room.
“Mr O’Grady, madam,” the butler announced, deliberately mispronouncing the name.
“Thank you, Harris. You may go.”
Phil turned his attention to the woman seated on the edge of chaise lounge by the coffee table. A tray of tea things lay beside her: fine bone china, a bowl of sugar cubes, a silver tea strainer. Tucked between the cup and the teapot were a pile of letters and a small gilt letter-opener. She was pretending to ignore him, finishing her letter with a studied disregard for good manners, so he carried on looking at her.
She was voluptuous, obviously not one of those women who thought to de-sex themselves by starvation into the waif-like scrawniness so beloved by the previous decade. She wore a soft woollen suit of olive green that screamed understated elegance; her kid shoes dyed the same shade. Her dark red hair was rolled into a loose pleat at the back of her neck, but one or two strands had escaped and were curling in the heat of the room.
Finally she looked up at him, laying aside her letter to regard him with appraising hazel eyes. She had a feline face, closed and secretive; and Phil felt a little uneasy suddenly as she stared at him, finding himself wondering what she was thinking.
Sophie leaned back slightly against the tiny gold cushions, assessing his worth. The dark charcoal suit was at least two years old, but had clearly been expertly tailored for him, accentuating the breadth of his shoulders and the sweep of his narrow waist, the length of his legs. The shirt she recognised as pure Jermyn Street; the shoes soft Italian leather. The dark blue silk tie defeated her, so she gave up trying to label his clothes, already categorising him: he comes into money, he loses it; cautious, but not overly so…
She noted the plain black watch at his wrist – time was merely something to be observed, not lingered over – then studied his face with the abstraction of a connoisseur. He was a beautiful man, she decided; but then, she had seen many beautiful men. Still, he was worthy of a second glance. He had savage, slightly slanting eyes the shade of polished steel and the darkest hair she’d seen, like ebony sunlight. No tame city boy, this; he carried with him the suggestion of some misplaced wild thing, out of time, out of luck.
“Mr O’Grady. What brings you here?”
Most women would have displayed more than a modicum of interest as to why a private investigator was doing the rounds, but this puss was completely unruffled. Phil realised that she was either in this foul business right up to her pretty little neck, or she was just very, very cool.
“I came to see your husband, Mrs Rayworth,” he said.
Sophie smiled slowly, smoothing her skirt over her knees and watching as his eyes followed the gesture. “He is indisposed.”
“What do you mean?”
She laid one hand to her white throat, fingering the double strand of pearls looped there, still smiling sweetly. “He works long hours. He needs his Tokat Escort rest.”
Phil narrowed his gaze. “And you – help him to rest?”
“It is in his best interests, don’t you think, Mr O’Grady?”
He came closer, pushing one hand into his pocket. “That depends, ma’am… Let’s cut to the chase. For three weeks now, your husband’s car has been seen outside Baxter’s – a place I am sure you are unfamiliar with -”
Sophie opened her eyes wide. “What makes you so sure?”
Phil considered her. “I would not expect a lady of your quality to acknowledge such places,” he said carefully.
She chuckled. “I’m no lady, Mr O’Grady.” She shifted in the chair, drawing one leg up over the other slowly with a whisper of silk stocking, and Phil’s eyes darkened as the skirt rode up over her knees. This time she made no effort to adjust her dress.
“Still,” he continued, “this is a matter of some delicacy.”
“You’re talking about the murders,” she stated, as casually as if she were discussing shopping.
“Can you provide an alibi for your husband for Monday last, Mrs Rayworth?”
She stared him. “No.”
Phil hid his surprise well. “I see.”
“I doubt it.” She got up and walked over to the birdcages behind him, setting one rocking gently so that the finch fluttered its wings. “I was out myself, Mr O’Grady. I took my husband’s car and drove to Baxter’s, where I smoked and drank and gambled and fucked all night.”
“Did you, indeed?” He was unimpressed. “Then maybe you met an Italian gentleman there, by the name of Agnetti -“
Sophie laughed. “Yes, I did.”
Phil regarded her stonily. “Then you know he is dead?”
She turned to face him, eyes blazing. “I killed him, Mr O’Grady.”
There was a beat, then he said calmly, “Much as I appreciate your honesty, Mrs Rayworth, I must point out that what you claim is impossible.”
She put her head to one side and looked at him, not at all offended by his words. “Why so? You think a woman is incapable of strangling a man with her bare hands?”
Another pause, in which he struggled to remember what the lurid newspaper coverage had claimed, then he recovered himself. “Frankly, yes. A woman hasn’t enough power to accomplish such an act.”
“She does when the man is willing,” Sophie said lightly.
Phil snorted. “Try again, ma’am. I admit, you could be the honey-trap, but the murderer? No. You surely wouldn’t sully your lily-white hands.”
She held her hands out to him, amused. “Perhaps I wore gloves? Let me tell you, Mr O’Grady, that I do a lot of handling – but I don’t touch.”
He gazed at her for several moments, then turned away, running one finger around the collar of his shirt.
“Too hot in here?” she mocked. “Take your jacket off, Mr O’Grady.”
“I don’t need your permission.” He unbuttoned the jacket and took it off, tossing it over the end of the chaise lounge almost defiantly, then turned back the cuffs of his shirt and rolled the sleeves up. “Common enough for you, now?”
Sophie considered him. “Not by a long shot.”
He brushed at his hair irritably. “That’s what this is all about, isn’t it – long shots.”
“If you want to kid yourself with that, that’s fine.”
He folded his arms across his chest, shaking his head. “Why would you want to confess to me?”
“Perhaps to see what you will do with me.”
“I told you – I don’t believe you’re capable of it. Cold-blooded murder…”
Sophie began to move towards him. “Not cold-blooded, Mr O’Grady. Hot. Wild. Un crime passionnel, I believe it’s called. And that’s why you’re here, isn’t it?”
Phil watched her shimmy closer to him, cursing the day he’d ever taken this job on. “I am here to make routine enquiries,” he told her blandly, hoping it didn’t sound as feeble as he thought it did.
“Admit it. You’re here because you want what they all got. You want it badly.”
His eyes glittered. “I hate pushy broads.”
“And I despise men who say one thing when they mean another.”
“That’s more like it. Let’s not be under any illusions here, Mr O’Grady.”
Now she far too close for comfort, and Phil took two steps backwards. “Hold it right there. Keep your hands where I can see them.”
She smiled at him. “So you’ve decided that I’m dangerous?”
“You could be armed -“
“You can check,” she purred, challenging him.
Phil glared at her, cautiously stepping behind her to avoid the blatant invitation in her eyes. He slid his hands over her arms, around her ribcage, followed the curve of her waist to sweep down the length of her thighs, trying to be as impersonal as possible.
His good intentions crumbled as she took a step back, closer to the heat of his body. The coil of her hair hung heavy at the nape of her neck, and, with an almost automatic gesture, Phil reached up and began to pull out the pins that held it in place. Fascinated, he watched as the mass of long curls slipped over his fingers and tumbled against the starched white front of Tokat Escort Bayan his shirt.
“This is a bad idea,” he murmured.
“Yes, it is.”
His hand dropped down again to rest on her hip, and he brought his head forwards to nuzzle at her hair, his eyes closing as he breathed in the rich, musky scent that rose from her skin.
“This is a very bad idea.”
He pressed the heel of his right hand against her pubis, his fingers splaying out and pushing down, and he was rewarded with a soft sound of pleasure. He increased the pressure, forcing her back against him, chuckling as she began to roll her hips back and forth. Her head tipped back and came to rest on his shoulder, her lips parting slightly as he moved his fingers.
“I like your bad ideas,” Sophie whispered, half-opening her eyes and gazing up at him.
Phil slid both hands upward to cup her breasts beneath the wool, his palms rubbing fractionally over her nipples. He felt her flinch in response, her eyes going green with drowsy pleasure. He brushed his hands over her again, and she thrust her breasts forward impatiently.
“What?” he murmured, his breath tickling the side of her face, stirring the tendrils of hair that lay against her neck.
“Bastard,” she said, still moving against him, her neat buttocks rubbing his growing arousal. “Touch me, you bastard.”
Phil splayed his fingers out and gently ran his thumbs over her nipples, feeling them tighten beneath the thin covering of the wool suit. “More,” she hissed, still staring at him, her skin flushed faintly pink. He smiled down at her, tightening his fingers to pinch her nipples, and she gasped as the shock of it went through her.
“Harder,” she said, her head rolling back further to expose her long white throat, giving him a glimpse of pale flesh beneath the necklace, a hint of cleavage. Phil pinched harder, rolling her nipples between his fingers, and she collapsed back against him, trembling.
Sophie raised her hands to cover his, forcing the right hand back down to press between her thighs again.
“Oh. You like that,” he commented, bending his head close to hers to breathe in her ear. He extended his middle finger, searching for her clitoris, brushing over the fabric of her skirt until she gasped and jerked in his arms. He pressed down, hard, and suddenly she twisted her body, raising her head, her lips brushing his jaw.
“Kiss me,” she whispered hoarsely.
Phil moved his hand from her breast and caught her hair, tugging her head back further until she hissed in discomfort. He brought his mouth down on hers, bruising her lips, forcing his tongue between her teeth until she moaned, letting him in.
Sophie drew away just slightly, licking at his open mouth, then as he kissed her again, she bit him, sinking her sharp little teeth into his lower lip.
Phil swore, letting go of her as she drew blood. “Bitch,” he said, eyes dark, and she laughed up at him, turning in his arms.
“Yes.” Sophie touched a finger to his split lip, pressing down, watching bright beads of blood seep out. “What does an informer’s blood taste like, Mr O’Grady?”
“What does a murderer’s blood taste like?” he returned, drawing his head back from her hand, unable to look away as she licked his blood from her finger.
Sophie pushed him backwards, towards the chaise lounge, and he allowed it. “So you think I am a murderer, after all.”
She shook her head, her hair shimmering over her shoulders. “Allow me to convince you.”
“You have rules for this?” He sat down heavily on the couch, sinking back into the cushions, watching her as she began to unfasten the buttons of her jacket.
“We all live by rules of somebody’s making, Mr O’Grady… it’s just that mine might not agree with yours,” Sophie said conversationally, her jacket dropping to the floor. She smiled at the blaze of lust in his silvery eyes as he stared at her body, then unzipped her skirt and stepped out of it, standing before him in her pearls, her lacy underwear, silk stockings, and her heels.
“White… how inappropriate,” he said softly, pulling her towards him and running his fingers over the delicate lace of her bra.
“I suppose you think I should wear red, like a slut?” she breathed, her hands on his shoulders as he circled first one nipple then the other with his tongue, nipping gently at her skin. She slid down onto the couch on top of him, his fingers tracing the line of her stocking-tops and making her shiver.
“No… black… You’re not a slut, Mrs Rayworth, no matter how many men you fuck. You have more class than that.”
She laughed, absurdly pleased. “A classy slut, then. Be careful, Mr O’Grady: I don’t allow my men to pay me such tender compliments.”
“Then you are a fool; or rather, they are, for not insisting.”
“My men usually end up dead,” she reminded him briefly.
“So you keep telling me.”
She leaned over him, swiftly undoing his tie and pulling it from beneath his collar. Sophie wrapped Escort Tokat it around one hand idly, then slid his braces off his shoulders and began to unbutton his shirt.
Phil grasped her waist, settling her on top of him more comfortably, pulling her down to kiss her again, his hands in her hair. Sophie grasped his wrists, ran her tongue over the sensitive inner flesh, then unravelled his tie from her right hand and wove it under and around his wrists, pulling the ends tight.
“You tied the others?” he asked huskily, forcing his fingers out at full stretch then twisting his hands down, trying to loosen the bonds.
“It is the first requirement,” she agreed, tightening the knot until the fabric turned his pale golden skin almost white where it bit into his flesh.
“Always their tie?” Phil asked, wriggling his fingers.
“Only if it is silk,” Sophie explained. “Fluid, but with great strength. Like you, Mr O’Grady.”
His eyes glittered at the compliment, if that was what it was. “No more kinky stuff?”
“Define ‘kinky’,” she said. “I could easily have blindfolded you: but I want to see the look in your eyes when I fuck you. And I could have gagged you: but I need to hear you moan for me.” Sophie hooked a finger in the knot of his bonds and tugged, pulling his hands down over his belly to rest over his erection, his fingers laced together almost in an attitude of prayer.
“Now,” she said softly, raising herself up and straddling his hips, “I want you to make me come, Mr O’Grady.”
He swore. “Like this?”
She nodded. “The second requirement. I take my pleasure first.”
His lips curved in a teasing smile. “Then maybe you would do something for me, before I do anything for you. You are still wearing far too much.”
Sophie laughed. “They all say that.” She began to slide her underwear off.
“And I bet they all say this, too: you can keep your stockings on.”
“Men are so predictable.”
“We have simple tastes, and are creatures of habit,” Phil agreed, twisting his hands in his lap as she climbed back on top of him.
She moaned as his knuckles brushed against her inner thighs. “That’s why you’re so easy to control,” she said, encouraging him to raise his bound hands against her.
She was hot and wet already, and Phil’s knuckles slid up and down, pushing fractionally inside her then retreating, moving forwards to nudge at her clitoris again. His eyes darkened to stormy grey as he watched her move on his hands, reading the tension in her body, aware of every tremor that rippled through her. He turned his hands again, wriggling them into his lap so that his thumbs caught her, rubbed her, and then she began to move in earnest, circling her hips and beginning to pant a little.
“Good?” he asked softly, and she glared at him, annoyed at being brought back.
“You know you’re good,” she snapped, and he pressed down harder, working his thumbs faster, watching the blush of orgasm spread over her pale skin like a tide until she gasped, stiffened, straining against his hands for a heartbeat.
Sophie stilled, sighing, and opened her eyes to gaze down at Phil’s furious, excited expression. “You kill those others with frustration?” he asked.
She laughed, rolling off him and dropping to her knees beside the couch. “No, Mr O’Grady, I killed them through excessive love,” she said, reaching for his belt and unbuckling it. She played her fingers along the zipper of his trousers, then eased it down over his erection.
“Oh,” she said, coquettish, as his cock sprang free, “that’s nice.”
Phil growled at her.
Sophie sat back and raised one arm behind her head, lifting the string of pearls from around her neck and holding them stretched between both hands as if it were a cat’s cradle.
“Jesus Christ,” Phil said hoarsely, his stomach muscles leaping as she began to loop the necklace about his cock, carefully wrapping every inch of him in pearls, leaving the remainder coiled loosely around the base of his erection.
Sophie bent her head to kiss the very tip of his cock, her hand holding the pearls in place as she ran her tongue over the tiny slit that oozed sticky pre-cum. She moved her hand slowly, gently, and he gasped at the sensation of the pearls rolling over his shaft, clicking together. Phil bucked upwards, and groaned when she closed her hand tighter about him, pressing the pearls into the sensitive skin.
“God,” he muttered, thrusting against her hand, against the pearls that encased him, “oh God, that’s amazing.”
“It gets better,” she said, rising to her feet, her hand never leaving him, and she swung over to straddle him once more. “The third requirement: distraction.”
“Jesus Christ,” Phil whimpered, eyes wide, as she lowered herself onto his cock, pearls and all. “Jesus fucking Christ!”
She took him in, groaning at his size and the sensation of the pearls about him, then she squeezed her muscles tight and heard his whimper of amazement turn to a whine of pleasure.
“Is that good?” she asked breathlessly.
Phil could only nod dumbly, shuddering in reaction when she squeezed again, harder this time. He looked stunned, silvery-blue eyes huge in his face, and she was gripped by a lust so powerful she knew there could only be one outcome to this game.
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