Craven

Craven is the sometimes sarcastic valet to the Duke of Wakefield.

Appears in Notorious PleasuresDuke of Midnight, and Dearest Rogue.

* * *

“Your Grace.”

The voice was low and deferential—the voice of a supremely trained manservant. The voice that meant that Craven was incandescently angry.

Maximus opened his eyes to see the valet standing by his bedside, holding a candle and very obviously not looking at the woman in the bed beside him.

“What?”

“Viscount Kilbourne has awakened, Your Grace.”

Both men had kept their voices low enough that a normal person shouldn’t have been disturbed.

But then Artemis had long proved that she was no normal woman. “How long?”

Maximus’s head snapped around at her voice. A normal woman would’ve been blushing, looking scared or shamefaced or appalled at having been discovered in the bed of a man she was not married to. Some women of his acquaintance would’ve swooned—or at least had had the grace to pretend to swoon. Artemis merely looked at Craven as she waited for an answer.

Even Craven seemed a bit startled. “Ma’am?”

Artemis blew out an impatient breath. “My brother. How long has he been awake?”

Craven actually blinked before regaining his aplomb. “Only a few minutes, ma’am. I came at once.”

“Good.” She nodded and sat up, the coverlet clutched to her magnificent bosom.

Maximus scowled.

“Would you please turn, Craven?” she asked and then barely waited for the valet to give his back before tossing aside the covers and emerging naked. “Is he well?” she asked as she bent, presenting her delicious arse to Maximus’s gaze as she picked up her stockings from the floor. She sat on the edge of the bed to quickly roll them on.

Craven cleared his throat. “Lord Kilbourne appears to be in some pain, ma’am, but he understood when I told him I was going to fetch you.”

She nodded. “Thank you.” She bent for her stays, struggling into them, before trying to tighten the laces.

Maximus muttered an ugly oath and rose from the bed, ignoring the disapproving set of Craven’s back. “Let me.”

She turned her head to the side, giving him her profile, before stilling as he touched her shoulders. She pulled her hair over one breast so he could see the laces. This wasn’t how he’d meant to spend their morning together. She’d been a virgin—a virgin goddess, of course, but even the most brave of females must feel a bit delicate the morning after her deflowering. He glanced at the windows, still barely gray with predawn. They hadn’t even been able to share a breakfast.

He cleared his throat as he swiftly pulled her laces tight, trying not to let himself think too deeply about the tender, curling hairs at the back of her neck. “What time is it, Craven?”

“Not yet six of the clock, Your Grace,” the valet said with perfect, stony politeness.

–from Duke of Midnight