Convincing the Secretary— Novella
London Legal Series, Book #3
Regency-set M/M erotic romance
Release date: March 8, 2016
Word Count: 34,600 words
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Business and pleasure is a mix no gentleman should consider.
Lord Grayson Holloway goes after what he wants—be it in the law office on his clients’ behalf or in the bedchamber. His new position as partner puts him closer to achieving his goal of becoming the most successful solicitor in London. There’s just one problem—his new secretary. Broad of shoulder yet mild of manner, Edward tempts Gray like no other. Yet the young man barely notices him.
Edward Fenton tries to be a good secretary, but being in Lord Grayson’s hard, commanding presence rouses Edward’s most forbidden desires. Wicked, naughty desires no gentleman should consider giving in to, let alone with his new employer.
Gray is more than willing to mix business with pleasure. But convincing Edward to take a chance on a future with him? That might be the most challenging case Gray has ever taken on.
Warning: Includes buttoned-up gentlemen who become undone, improper use of a desk, spankings, and a big bad lord who has a soft spot for his virgin secretary.
© Ava March
The scratch of his pen against paper filled Edward's ears. Once a document was finalized, a copy needed to be made so both the office and the client could each have one. A dull, monotonous task, especially given Lord Grayson's contracts tended to be many-paged, complex beasts.
Edward dipped his pen in the inkwell for what felt like the hundredth time and continued on. There was nothing to be done for it. Lord Grayson had asked him to see to the task yesterday, and Edward did not want to disappoint him. Again. He'd already disappointed Lord Grayson once today, and he had made an arse of himself in the process. He couldn't forget that fresh humiliation. If he could get the Hensen contract done and filed, then perhaps his lordship wouldn't notice it hadn't been completed when requested.
Who was he fooling? Lord Grayson would notice. He always did when it involved something Edward had done incorrectly or forgotten to do or had not finished on time.
It was a wonder Lord Grayson hadn't sacked him yet. The man didn't care for him, and really, Edward had given him no reason to. Mr. Barrington obviously did not care for him either, for he'd kept Wilson and given Edward to Lord Grayson. That had stung. Granted, Wilson had been Mr. Barrington's secretary before Edward had been hired on as a second, and there had been a time or two or three when Edward had forgotten to see to something or hadn't done something correctly. But Edward hadn't thought he'd done that poor of a job for him. He must have, though.
Edward kept the sigh from leaving his lungs. If he was sacked, his father would be so disappointed. The only reason he had his current position was because his father had nudged Mr. Barrington to hire him on. As a younger son, Edward wasn't expected to make a great match to advance his family socially. He was to become a competent solicitor, make a decent match, and not cause his family any embarrassment that could interfere with his father's plans for his older brothers and his sisters to make splendid matches. That was to be his life. About as dull and tedious as the document before him.
But he wanted more. So much more. Wanted to choose his own profession, to not be bound by the strictures of polite society, to give into those cravings lodged deep within. And it would be especially nice if someday someone would smile on him the same way Mr. Barrington smiled upon his lover, Mr. Thornton.
Edward gave his head a resigned shake. Fanciful notions indeed.
With a crisp snick, the door to Lord Grayson's office opened. A thread of tension wound through Edward's body. Oh hell, he'd see he hadn't completed the task and then-
Mr. Spencer strode out of the office. Alone. The click as he closed the main door behind him echoed in the anteroom. Edward's attention snapped to the door of Lord Grayson's office. Mr. Spencer had left it open. Edward preferred it closed-then he wouldn't hear his lordship moving around in there. Wouldn't have those reminders that Lord Grayson was mere steps away from him.
"Mr. Fenton," came Lord Grayson's deep voice. It was as if Edward could hear the words scraping across gravel when he spoke.
A little shiver passed through Edward.
He took a deep breath in an effort to calm his pulse, then stood and heeded his employer's call.
Lord Grayson sat behind his desk, wide shoulders obscuring the back of his leather chair, his presence seeming to take up the entire room. And the man was wearing his spectacles. What was it about the contrast of those harsh, masculine features and the delicate, thin wire frames that went straight to Edward's cock?
Dropping his gaze to the floorboards, Edward crossed the room. But not looking didn't help in the slightest. The image was branded into his brain-silver spectacles perched on a crooked nose. A nose likely broken from one too many bouts at Gentleman Jackson's. Or maybe Lord Grayson had fought in a prizefight. Edward wouldn't put it past the man. Bared to the waist, sweat glistening on his chest, hands clenched in fists, biceps bulging as he felled his opponent…
Edward stopped behind one of the chairs in front of his lordship's desk. "You called?"
"Are you occupied at the moment?"
The question took Edward aback. "I am making a copy of the Hensen contract for the office. Almost finished with it." Not exactly the truth, but he didn't want to give Lord Grayson another reason to scowl at him. He'd probably still scowl at him. Edward should have finished it yesterday. But it had taken longer to help Wilson than anticipated and-
"It can wait. I would like you to assist me with the Duchess of Airth's file. Have a seat, please."
Please? He couldn't recall ever hearing that word from Lord Grayson before. "I should get my ledger. For taking notes," he added.
"No need. I have a spare one you can use." There was the soft glide of a drawer opening. "Here."
With no other option before him, Edward took the proffered ledger and sat in the chair as requested.
Lord Grayson motioned to the silver cup of pencils on the desk. "Can't very well write without a pencil."
Leaning forward, Edward selected one from the bunch. The tip was worn a bit, indicating Lord Grayson's strong hand had once been wrapped around this very pencil. "Thank you." Head bowed, he balanced the open ledger on his lap, pencil at the ready, and waited for Lord Grayson to proceed.
There was a creak of leather and wood, a shuffle of papers. Edward glanced up to see Lord Grayson moving a stack of papers to the opposite side of the desk.
"No need to write on your lap. Move closer. Use the desk." Lord Grayson indicated the space he'd cleared.
Closer? Steeling himself, he gathered the ledger and pencil in one hand. Then half-standing from the chair, he scooted the chair forward. The scrape of chair legs against floorboards ricocheted off the wood-paneled walls. Edward winced. "Apologies," he murmured, as he settled into the requested space.
"Are you familiar with the duchess's file?"
That gravelly voice washed over him. Edward shook his head. If he just kept his eyes on the ledger, maybe he wouldn't embarrass himself. "Her Grace is a new client. You haven't asked for any changes to documents yet."
"The file contains the original marriage contract and the late duke's will, which is clear in regards to his wishes. Still, his heir is contesting the will on the grounds that the late duke was not of sound mind, that he was being manipulated by his wife, when the document was revised. Complete rubbish. Randall, though I should refer to him as Airth as he now holds the title, is in a snit because the late duke-his uncle-bequeathed everything not tied directly to the title to his wife, which primarily encompasses the contents of a bank account. A very large bank account. In short, Randall wants that account. This office has been retained to ensure Randall does not succeed."
"Why did Her Grace choose you?" The question was out of his mouth before he could stop it. "That's not to imply she chose poorly. Your reputation for success is well known," Edward rushed to add. Damnation, he'd surely just caused Lord Grayson to scowl at him again. If he didn't look up, then at least he wouldn't have to witness it. Staring at the worn tip of his pencil, poised over the paper, he tried to explain why he had asked such an impertinent question. "But why doesn't she use the same office that managed the late duke's affairs? They handled the will and would know it best."
To his relief, Lord Grayson didn't sound annoyed when he replied, "Valid question. Because they are Randall's solicitors, as well. And because her brother is an astute man who is aware most other competent offices would politely decline such a matter."
"She is a woman. Randall is now the duke. There wouldn't be a chance in the future to acquire any of his business if they so boldly went against him now."
"Yet you took on the case."
"Because it is the right thing to do. She needs our help."
That took Edward aback. Not the words so much, but the sincerity in Lord Grayson's tone. His employer truly believed in the work he was doing, regardless if it would impact the office's chance of adding another duke to its client list in the future. He had heard of Lord Grayson before his lordship had joined Mr. Barrington's office. Ruthless. Determined. A man not to cross. The past month in his employ had done nothing to disabuse those notions. Yet perhaps he didn't have a soul forged from ice.
"Our job, therefore," Lord Grayson continued, "is to ensure Airth's will is not ripped to shreds to appease Randall's greed."
"How are you to do that?"
"I have some ideas."
Edward waited. Silence filled the room. Apparently Lord Grayson did not wish to share any of those ideas. Instead of asking him to elaborate on the subject, Edward asked, "Are you certain Randall's claims are complete rubbish, as you put it?"
"I was acquainted with the late duke-our families move in the same social circles. Airth knew his own mind. He was fond of his wife and clearly wanted to provide for her in his death, as she is not a wealthy woman in her own right. I met with her this morning. She doesn't have an ounce of greed in her body, and though she is many years his junior, she loved him. I suspect, as well, that Airth knew Randall is a frivolous sort. By not giving Randall the bank account, it would force Randall to focus on the dukedom in order to have sufficient funds to support the estate."
"Can you prove any of that?" Edward asked, as he made a few notes in the ledger.
"I believe so, and my aim is to not get into a prolonged and costly battle with Randall to do so."
But how? Before he could voice the question, there was the distinct creak of leather and wooden joints as Lord Grayson stood from his chair. Footsteps echoed about the office. The scent of Lord Grayson's shaving soap reached Edward's nose. Sandalwood with a hint of lemon. A fresh frisson of lust raced through him. Lord Grayson stood right beside him-he knew it without even looking. All of that muscle, that determination, mere inches from himself. Edward kept his gaze pinned on the ledger before him. It took all of the effort within him to keep his breaths slow and even.
"You attended Cambridge. Studied the law."
Edward nodded once.
"Your assignment is to review the file and report back to me on how you would move forward with the case."
Pardon? Edward snapped his attention up to Lord Grayson. "But you've already decided how to do that."
His lordship tipped his head. "I want your opinion, as well."
He wanted Edward's opinion? "Oh." And he should not have looked to Lord Grayson. The man's cock wasn't much more than a foot from Edward's mouth. Fine black wool draped the not-insubstantial bulge. He'd wager everything he owned the man was quite impressive when fully erect.
"You want to be a solicitor yourself one day, correct?" Lord Grayson asked.
That statement wasn't entirely accurate, but Edward nodded all the same. Oh hell, his prick was growing hard. Shifting in the chair, he tried to conceal it without being obvious. Why had Lord Grayson had to ask him to use his desk? Now he couldn't use the ledger to cover his ridiculous state. Should he casually move the ledger to his lap, or would that draw Lord Grayson's attention?
He needed to get out of this office before Lord Grayson noticed the stiffening cock that was surely beginning to tent Edward's trousers by now. But he was stuck there, stuck in this chair, until his employer dismissed him.
"Then this will be good practice for you."
"Do you have an erection, Mr. Fenton?" His lordship's voice sounded in Edward's head.
"Yes, Lord Grayson." A rush of pure, wicked embarrassment swept through him. It was all Edward could do to bite back the groan of lust.
"You will need this then."
The file entered his peripheral vision. With a nod, Edward took the file while trying not to let his gaze linger on his employer's groin.
What would Lord Grayson do if Edward begged to suck him off?
Promptly dismiss him, that was for certain. And Edward would be lucky if that was all Lord Grayson did to him. He wouldn't put it past his lordship to drag him to Newgate himself, file charges against him for being a sodomite.
He really needed to get out of this office.
His pulse pounded through his veins. "Will that be all, your lordship?" Edward asked, praying he didn't sound as breathless and nervous as he felt.
A pause. "Yes."
Keeping his gaze downcast, Edward stood. He made to turn to leave.
"The ledger. You might need your notes."
He could feel the fabric of his trousers stretched across the hard arch of his erection. Please, don't notice. Please, don't notice. "Ah, yes, of course," Edward mumbled, taking the proffered ledger.
A furrow crossed Lord Grayson's brow. Had he noticed?
Oh hell and damnation. Edward's ballocks drew up tight to his body. Snapping his attention to his shoes, he began counting the turns of the laces.
"Tomorrow afternoon, I want to hear your thoughts thus far on the file."
"And, Mr. Fenton?"
He swore his heart stopped as dread slammed into him. Lord Grayson had noticed. He'd noticed, and now…
Don't be a coward.
Marshalling his resolve, he looked up to Lord Grayson, looked into his light-brown eyes. Amber-that was the correct name for the color. Brown and gold mixed together in perfect, equal measure. And why was he thinking about the color of Lord Grayson's eyes right before the man sacked him?
"Finish with the Hensen copy before you leave today."
Edward blinked. Those were not the words he'd been expecting. "Yes, your lordship. My apologies for the delay."
And there was that scowl once again.
Perhaps he hadn't noticed.
Whatever the case, Edward wasn't about to remain in the office a moment longer. File and ledger clutched to his chest, he grabbed the opportunity and turned from the chair, forcing his strides to remain at a walk.
“This book was awesome! … the romance is so intense that you are breathless for the whole time.” – The Book Adventures of Annelise Lestrange
“And we have a winner! … this was one of my favorites from this author and a great addition to the series.” – Gay Book Reviews
“This book has everything I love about Ava March historicals: romance, passion, steamy sex (with D/s overtones), and a period-appropriate (but still sparkly!) HEA.” – My Fiction Nook
“Oh man, I loved everything about this book. Silly me started reading it after midnight, on a work night, and didn’t stop until I was finished. It was THAT good I could NOT put it down or even stop reading for a second.” – The Blogger Girls
“Their story gave me all the right feels.” – Way Too Hot Books
“Add a soupçon of angst, a dash of kink, an intense alpha who knows what he wants, a sub with just the right amount of sass and backbone, every kind of social disapproval imaginable, and you have the kind of lustful restraint that explodes onto the page and completely engages the reader. Five stars and a recommended read.” – Gay Guy Reading and Friends
“If you love Ava March’s brand of historical romance, Convincing the Secretary adds another tick to the win column.” – The Novel Approach Reviews