And listen to an audiobook. Well, one in particular, because my international bestseller, DISTRACTING THE DUKE, is out as an audio book today, read by Deborah Balm. Her voice is absolutely perfect for a Jane Austen-era sizzling romance! You can grab your copy HERE. This is the first time I have had a book out in audio, and I look forward to hearing listeners’ opinions!
If you already own the Kindle version, you can add audio to it for just $8.96 or you can listen to the book for free with an Audible membership.
Here’s a bit about the story-
Determined to avoid the strife-filled marriage of his parents, Marcus, the Duke of Ulvercombe, wants an amenable, biddable wife, and has set his cap for a certain pretty miss. Unfortunately, her vastly opinionated, frustrating, and lamentably beautiful guardian, Lady Clara Tinniswood, keeps distracting him, tempting him to consider a far more tempestuous—and passionate—union.
Recently widowed Lady Clara Tinniswood wants only to organize a quiet new life for herself, beyond the control of any man. But one shockingly unguarded moment while confronted by Marcus’s gloriously naked body catapults her headlong into a forbidden passion and threatens to undermine all her well-laid plans.
Even if Marcus abandons his sweet ideal and surrenders to his growing desire for Clara, there’s one unalterable issue which could destroy their hopes forever . . .
The extract below is from A GAME OF HAZARD, which features in the WEDDING WAGER anthology. You can pre-order the anthology HERE. Every author is a bestseller or award-winner. You can’t go wrong with this collection! And it’s only $0.99.
Miss Alexandra Isaacs had learned many things at finishing school, but how to run a vast smuggling empire in Regency England was not one of them. This was why she’d spent the best part of the night trying to discover—without being arrested—if one of her men had been watering down the Dorset Circle’s brandy. Such treachery would never have happened in Papa’s day—no one would have dared to cheat the infamous Isaac Abrahams.
Alex was currently attired in men’s clothes, these being better suited to nefarious nocturnal dealings. She’d scrambled over gates, scaled walls and pushed through hedges, and had been about to give up the entire enterprise when she discovered an unlocked French window.
Huzzah! This gave her direct access to the library in Lady Pandora Osbourne’s Bath residence—there was bound to be a decanter of contraband brandy in there! Yes, there it was, on a low side-table. She stole across the room, removed the stopper, and took an unladylike swig of the cognac.
“Merciful heavens! What the devil are you up to?”
Alex spun around, hurriedly gulping down the liquor. It burned her throat—but not as much as it should. A million curses on whoever had watered it down!
“Madam, please don’t be alarmed.” Her voice was rough from the brandy, hopefully concealing the fact that she was no man. “I’m from the Dorset Circle, come to make sure your cognac is of good quality.”
How daft that sounded—couldn’t she have come up with a better line? Standing with her legs apart, she prayed she looked like a man and locked gazes with the new arrival.
The black-clad female raised a quizzing glass and examined her, taking in everything from Alex’s battered boots and worn woolen jacket to the old-fashioned tricorn hat that concealed her russet curls.
Alex exhaled slowly, her fingers still clutched around the decanter. Thankfully, the woman hadn’t screamed upon finding a strange man in the house, but such scrutiny was dangerous. She stepped into the shadows. Hopefully, the lady would only see what she was supposed to—a tall, gangly youth, narrow-shouldered, and lacking in muscle.
“It would take more than this to alarm Pandora Osbourne. You don’t fool me for one moment.”
Alex’s jaw clenched—she’d been discovered by Lady Osbourne herself—what appalling luck! The crystal decanter trembled in her hand, so she set it down quickly and remembered to bow rather than curtsy.
“I swear I’m telling the truth, madam—the butler or the housekeeper normally deals with the Circle.” Was she managing to sound like a man at all? Maybe she should stop talking. Or wave her pistol around a bit to frighten the unwelcome intruder, then escape.
No. That was the last resort. “I’m no thief, I promise you. If I were, I’d have been out of that window in a heartbeat.”
“Move into the light.”
“I will not.”
“Pah! No need—it’s plain enough that you’re no man. Come now, explain yourself.”
This female was used to command. Alex was rapidly losing control of the situation.
“I’d best not linger, your ladyship. It will be full dark soon, and I can’t risk being caught by the watch.” Or by the soldiers. There were far too many redcoats in Bath at present.
“Nonsense.” Lady Osbourne strode across the room, snapped the shutters closed, then lit a lamp on the desk. It picked out silver glints in her elaborately curled hair, and Alex could see she’d once been strikingly beautiful. Unlike herself.
“You’re going nowhere, my girl.”
Why hadn’t she made a run for it when she had the chance? This was a foolish errand—she should never have come in person. Her mind returned to the pistol tucked in her belt and the knife sheathed in her boot. They were there as deterrents or for self-defense—but how did one defend oneself in a situation like this?
“I regret disturbing you. I’ll be on my way now.” She took hold of the shutter bar, hoping she sounded authoritative.
“I have but to make one movement or cry out, and my footman will have you by the heels.”
Alex turned slowly. Lady Osbourne was by the fireplace with the bellpull in her hand.
“A scream could summon the entire household but would be undignified.” She pointed to a chair. “Be seated—I wish to speak to you.”
Short of shooting her way out or assaulting one of the Circle’s best customers with a knife, there was little Alex could do. She must brazen it out.
Lady Osbourne steepled her fingers. “Don’t tell me again that you are not a girl. Speaking as if you have a throat full of gravel is not enough to hide your femininity, nor is your inelegant way of moving.”
Inelegant, was she? Well—she knew it. Her teachers had utterly despaired of training her in the skill of deportment. Alex had hoped this lack of female refinement would enhance her disguise. But, evidently, she was less convincing than she’d hoped. It was the kind of mistake that could get her killed if she wasn’t careful.
“I don’t wish to appear feminine.”
Men’s clothes, breeches, and stockings, or trousers, were far more convenient when going on rum runs, bestowing barrels in secret cellars, or leading donkeys along the narrow coastal paths of her home county of Dorset. She felt—she hoped—that dressing up like one of the men made the other smugglers respect her more.
“Nonsense. I daresay you have some hare-brained reason, but every girl likes to be beautiful. You would be mad not to want to.”
But who would she look beautiful for? That boat had sailed long ago, when she’d developed legs as long as a stork’s, cultivated a rash of freckles, and grown so tall that she overtopped every other female in the school, including the adults.
She pushed the chair back and stood but was prevented by an authoritative gesture.
“I’m not finished with you yet. No, don’t scowl at me. You know you can’t go until I let you. I’ve already seen that bulge beneath your jacket, but we both know you won’t use your weapon. You can’t escape through the house. And even if you get out through the French window, you’ll still have to scale the wall. You must be adept at climbing.”
“I suppose I must be.”
Lady Osbourne stared at her intently a moment, then nodded to herself. “Well, I’d prefer you to do less of that in future as no doubt would your mama. I presume you’re Mrs. Louisa Isaacs’s daughter—I read in the Chronicle that you’d lately arrived in Bath. You take after your father rather than your mother—I met him once. Isaac Abrahams. Could you not have changed your surname to something a little less obvious than his Christian name, if you wished for anonymity?”
Alex’s jaw dropped. How could her identity have been discovered so swiftly?
“I can see that you are, indeed, Miss Abrahams. I mean, Isaacs—your expression says it all. Never challenge anyone to a game of cards, child—you would betray your hand the instant it was dealt to you.”
There was no point in further denial. Alex straightened her shoulders and spoke normally. “Of course, I won’t shoot your ladyship, or attack you—it would be bad for business. Now—I sense you want something from me. Does it have something to do with contraband?” She hoped she sounded forceful and confident.
“Aha! So, it is as I surmised. Your late father did not abandon his wicked ways when he turned informant in exchange for a pardon. He must have known he was in his last illness when he did so, and that he had nothing to lose. He was just cocking a snoop at the authorities and when he died, his smuggling empire carried on without him. I wondered who’d inherited his empire—he had no son that I ever heard of. Your mama? Surely not—she is very much the fine lady. You?”
Lady Osbourne moved closer and raised her quizzing glass. Alex eyed the door beyond and wondered if it were true about the footman just outside. Was it worth the effort of escaping? Although she had come here with the best intentions, her plan was unraveling by the second—and this woman already knew too much.
Gliding over to the decanter, her ladyship poured two snifters of brandy, handed Alex a glass, then took a seat opposite.
Alex sipped her drink and grimaced.
“I must apologize for the cognac, your ladyship. It’s why I came, to find out what was amiss with that batch of liquor. There have been complaints—we’ve lost custom.”
“What made you suspect he was watering it down?”
“I know about that wall-eyed villain who sneaks our supplies in through the coal cellar. Be assured—I know everything that goes on beneath my roof, child, wherever that roof happens to be. The man has been watering down the spirits to make them stretch further and pocketing the extra money he makes. You, of course, objected to this and required proof before confronting him. Which means you are in charge. Interesting.”
So that was that. Alex might as well admit to it all. “Exactly. I have a purse here so I can reimburse—”
“I don’t want your money—I don’t need your apologies. But I may be able to find a purpose for you.”
Alex spluttered into her brandy. “What use could I be?”
“Never mind that now. For the moment, I’ll make myself useful to you—I’ll help you sort out your double-dealing miscreant, and if I can’t do it directly, I’ll find someone who can. I mean to present you with a potential husband.”
A husband? What was this woman playing at? What on earth did Alex want a husband for? That would risk everything she held dear.
She held Lady Osbourne’s gaze. “I have a business that requires my full attention, and the fewer people who know what that business is, the better. A husband would be a hindrance rather than a help.”
Her ladyship lifted her chin. “On the contrary. You need a husband to run what you must surely by now have discovered to be a man’s business. You won’t get the respect of your underworld associates by simply dressing as a man. But your husband, if he were the right sort of man, would command exactly the loyalty you need. And the person I have in mind for you is just such a one.”
She had someone in mind already? This Lady Osbourne was a shrewd woman who could wield more power with a word or a look than a general with an entire army at his back. But Alex mustn’t succumb, simply because her opponent was of superior birth. There was too much at stake.
“You’re asking a great deal of me.”
“And you’re risking a great deal. I’m sure you’d rather fall in with my plans than feel the noose tighten around your neck or be transported to the colonies. Make no mistake—you’d have a babe in your belly by the time you arrived onshore, and no idea which of the men who’d forced himself on you was the father. Trust me—my way is far more civilized. I don’t wish to expose you, but be in no doubt that I can cause you, your mama, and your customs-avoiding friends a good deal of harm.”
Alex swallowed. How could she counter this kind of threat? Perhaps her father’s second-in-command, George Prowse, was right—she should have let him take over. A woman was far more vulnerable than a man. Perhaps then he wouldn’t have felt obliged to line his pockets by short-changing the customers. If it was him…
She stalled for time. “So, how exactly do you plan to find me a husband? And what makes you think anyone would be interested in me? I’m not exactly the toast of the town, nor what you would call a diamond of the first water.”
Lady Osbourne’s eyes glittered at the word ‘diamond’.
“I can see that you are not, but I don’t need you to improve your appearance or behavior. The man I choose for you won’t care for any of those things.”
Gazing at her ladyship’s determined expression, Alex spared a moment’s sympathy for whoever the unlucky fellow might be. No doubt he had been—or was about to be—blackmailed in a similar fashion to herself. Maybe they could be fellow conspirators and escape both the leg shackles of marriage and the influence of the implacable Lady Osbourne.
“If I can’t beautify myself, how will I attract a beau? Unless you’ve inveigled some poor fellow in the same way you have me. I wonder that your conscience can allow you to importune people so.”
“Perhaps one day you’ll find out and understand my motives. But for now, be assured that I won’t force you to marry. Once you’ve been introduced to your suitor, I’ll leave you in peace and play no further part in the courtship. And if, by the time the Bath season starts in earnest in October, neither of you has seen the sense in your marrying, our arrangement will be at an end. You may both continue depressingly, joylessly single.”
Lady Osbourne came to stand before Alex’s chair, so she rose and unwillingly shook the hand that was extended to her.
“Do we have an agreement?” Her ladyship’s hand was as cold and hard as her nature.
“We have an agreement.” At least for now. “So, may I take my leave?”
Her ladyship’s mouth widened, and her eyes sparkled. “Which way do you intend to go, may I ask? Shall I have you escorted to the front door? Or will you scramble back over the wall? I must have some prickly bushes planted beneath it and ensure that this door is locked at all times.”
Alex knew how much servants talked, and dared not test her disguise out on the main street. “I’ll leave the same way I entered,” she said stiffly.
“Very well. You and your mama will receive an invitation from me to attend a ball at the Assembly Rooms at the end of the week. Be sure to come—I shall accept no excuses. You know what’s at stake.”
A cloud of dread descended on Alex as she raised the bar and pulled the shutters open. How could she possibly allow herself to be courted by a gentleman for a whole month? It didn’t matter that she’d be freed from her obligations thereafter—if any man spent time with her, he’d have to be a fool indeed not to discover the source of her income or the unconventional way in which she spent her time. Once unmasked, how was she to save her neck? She also had responsibility for the well-being of those who risked themselves and their families for the Dorset Circle. Low-life they might be, but there was a code of honor common to felons. Even more importantly, the well-being and security of her mother were at stake.
This was a game of hazard she could not afford to lose.
A GAME OF HAZARD, my story in the outstanding THE WEDDING WAGER anthology, is all polished and primed and I feel brave enough to share a couple of extracts with readers!
In the meantime, you can pre-order the whole collection at a discount price of $0.99 right HERE on AMAZON, NOOK, and iBooks. Authors include Collette Cameron, Chasity Bowlin, Emily Royal, Sydney J Baily, Rachel Ann Smith, Tabetha Waite, and Elizabeth Ellen Carter.
Let us begin with The Prologue (puts on Frankie Howerd voice here… and reveals ones age).
“I doubt there are many confirmed bachelors in Bath at this time of year.” Lady Octavia Sewell’s mouth thinned in a mirthless smile.
Her cousin, Lady Pandora Osbourne, turned away from the window. “Enough for me to make good my side of the wager, I can assure you.” In truth, she’d just spotted a determinedly-single gentleman she knew giving alms to a disabled beggar by Pulteney Bridge.
“But you have nowhere near the size of hunting ground you might have in London. Are you not nervous that you may fail to make good your boast of being the best matchmaker in the country? It’s September already, and the Bath season has yet to begin.”
“I’m not in the least bit nervous.” Pansy tucked a wayward silver curl beneath her lace-edged cap. “Who says I can’t make more than one match in a month? There’s plenty of time for me to win ownership of Grandmother’s diamond tiara. Why—I already have an idea for my next project.”
A rustle of silk and the heady scent of otto of roses proclaimed Octavia’s arrival at the window. “Your target is outside? Which one is he? He must be totally against wedlock, you understand, so if you’re thinking about marrying off that military officer talking to the veteran, you’re doomed from the start. He’s far too handsome to escape the parson’s mousetrap for long. You can’t choose him.”
Pansy smiled to herself. What her cousin did not know—because she was too lazy to do the research—was that the officer had not two pennies to rub together. He was therefore the perfect mark for her next scheme.
“That gentleman is Captain Giles Harewood. I happen to know that he can’t afford a wife because he’s supporting a brood of sisters. Despite his height, good looks, and measured charm, he can never marry well, so he has decided not to marry at all. Ask anyone who’s anyone in Bath—they’ll tell you.”
What the man needed to tempt him into wedlock was an heiress, but he had not a cat’s chance in hell of winning one. Unless she, the best matchmaker in England, stepped in to assist him…
“He has a kind heart, as well as his exceptional good looks, to recommend him.”
Lady Octavia snorted. “Neither of which will put food on the table, Pansy. I don’t know any mother prepared to let her daughter marry into poverty, no matter how unmarriageable the girl might be. If yon fellow really does have pockets to let, I fear he’s beyond even your skills.”
“Which makes the challenge of finding him a match even more enticing.”
Octavia abruptly turned away from the window and glared at Pansy, then broke into her tinkling laugh. “You’re serious, aren’t you, my dear? Well, I shall await developments with interest. But don’t forget the terms of our wager. Whoever you find to match with the good captain must be off the marriage market, on the shelf, a confirmed spinster—”
“Yes, yes. I haven’t forgotten the terms of our agreement. But I’ll need time to settle on a suitable young female now that I’ve picked my mark.”
“You must also hope that the captain will be staying in Bath. A military man might be called away at any moment.”
Pansy nodded solemnly, hoping the gleam in her eye was hidden from her cousin. Because she knew something Octavia did not, and that was that the impecunious Captain Giles Harewood planned to remain for some time in Bath in hopes of bringing in a prize that would make his fortune. He was after the leader of a massive smuggling network, believed to stretch from the Dorset coast up into Wiltshire, Hampshire, and even as far as Gloucestershire. The reward money had been increasing in direct relation to the annoyance of the customs officials, constantly deprived of their rightful revenue.
Sadly, the captain would find little assistance in Bath, since most of the wealthy residents bought their tea, fine lace, tobacco, and brandy as contraband. At least—their housekeepers and stewards did. The ton wouldn’t sully their hands by dealing directly with such low-life.
But if Pansy were to drop hints, she might encourage him to stay long enough to put her matchmaking plan into action. Lady Octavia needn’t know what methods she employed—she’d never agreed when they’d made the wager that she would play fair.
Pansy reached for the quizzing glass that hung around her neck and gazed at the two men across the street. “Remind me, cousin, of what you consider to be ineligible? In a young woman, I mean.”
“She must be too short or too tall, too fat or too thin, preferably poor as a church mouse, with a bad complexion, a lisp, a squint, bad breath, or red hair and freckles, for good measure.”
Pansy groaned inwardly at Lady Octavia’s shallow assessment of womanhood. “Not every man cares about a lady’s looks. Or the size of her purse.”
“Ha! I defy you to find any that don’t. I can’t imagine a single fellow at the Assembly Rooms next week who won’t be tempted by either beauty or a fortune. Unless he’s a fool.”
Pansy continued to stare out the window. The captain had been joined by another scarlet-clad officer, and both had moved away from the beggar, their heads close like fellow conspirators. She must engineer a meeting with Harewood very soon and take his measure so that she knew how to proceed.
There was a flurry of movement beyond the glass, and she pulled back from the window with a gasp.
“What is it?” Octavia hurried to her side.
“Only that the one-legged beggar by the bridge is a fake—a trickster of the worst kind. He has just unfolded his ‘missing’ leg, pocketed his capful of coins and dashed off toward Sydney Gardens. Our heroic warrior has wasted alms on the undeserving.”
“Ah. So, Giles Harewood has been made a fool of. I told you that the possession of a generous heart was a failing. You’ll have your work cut out for you, cousin. I’m going to celebrate the fact with a glass of sherry—if you have no objection.”
“Help yourself.” The sherry was good, her supplier reliable. Pansy wished she could say the same for the brandy—weak as a virgin’s water. She must tell her butler to have words with the wall-eyed ruffian who sold them the liquor. The man always delivered after dark, and she had no illusions about the source of her brandy. Nor did she believe that the correct duties had been paid. But since everyone got their luxuries this way, she felt no guilt.
Maybe Captain Giles Harewood would be less of a problem than she’d supposed. If he could be hoodwinked by a beggar, she would surely be able to manipulate him into marrying whomsoever she chose.
Grandmother’s tiara would be hers by Christmas.
I’ll be posting Chapter One shortly.
This week I am taking over the Dragonblade Publishing Book Club. Let’s imagine it’s my birthday party and everyone who comes gets to take a gift home. Your gift is an ebook, LORD OF DECEPTION. You can download it FREE from my Amazon page or get it direct from Amazon in your part of the world by clicking HERE.
If you have time to read it and chat to me about it by the time we get to the live session on Saturday, February 12th, that would be awesome. But if you can’t manage that, fear not! We are going to have a lot of fun along the way.
If you’re not a member yet, feel free to sign up. There’s a great new author in the Book Club every week, and loads of games to play and prizes to win.
Ebooks of LORD OF DECEPTION will be free until Friday 11th February, 2022 only.
To celebrate winning a “Chill with a Book” Premier award, I have made Victorian romance, WORKHOUSE WAIF, FREE! But the offer is for a limited time, so grab your copy now.
Here’s a quick outline of the story-
In this sweeping saga of Victorian class struggle, Bella Hart barely survives the hell of the workhouse. Not even escape to a factory town can free her from her past and it takes the intervention of two gentlemen to rescue her from violently jealous rivals. Both of these men have something to hide, and if Bella chooses the wrong one, her heart won’t be all that’s at stake.
Like the sound of it? You can get your copy HERE.
Thank you so much to the fabulous Pauline Barclay and the reviewers at Chill with a Book! Why not visit the site, to find out more about the best books out there?
I have more exciting news to come about further steals and deals, so look out for my next post. Get ready to stuff your e-reader full of goodies!
My new release, NEVER TEMPT A WIDOW, took as its starting point a traditional song that originated in the Hampshire area of England.
In “Pretty Polly”, which I first heard sung by Sandy Denny, Polly is taken deep into the woods by her lover, Willie. When she gets frightened “of his ways”, he tells her she’s guessed correctly- he DOES intend to do her harm. He shows her a newly-dug grave, announcing almost proudly that he worked on it most of the previous night. He then stabs her in the heart.
This is a cold-blooded, pre-meditated murder that freezes the blood. But one of the most chilling lines for me is, “He threw a little dirt over her and started for home.” This is a man with no conscience whatsoever, who gets an innocent girl into trouble after promising to marry her, then slaughters her and doesn’t even bother to cover her body properly, leaving her to the mercies of the forest animals.
What, I wondered, would have happened had Polly and her child survived? How would she feel about love after that? What lengths would a ruined woman go to in order to survive?
I renamed Polly Seraphina, made her a duke’s daughter, and had her survive a drowning attempt. The story takes off from that point. Below is a brief overview.
The Duke of Wolfingham’s scapegrace daughter Seraphina is convinced her lover tried to kill her. Alone, penniless, and desperate, there’s nothing she can do to save the life of her beloved baby daughter, Adelina. Sir Rowland Cavendish offers an escape from her grief, but how can Seraphina ever trust a man again?
Rowland has just lost his wife, and his baby boy needs feeding. The beautiful young widow from the village would make the perfect wet nurse, but the conditions she sets in exchange for her compliance are not at all what he expects.
Seraphina refuses to share her secrets with Rowland, but her past returns to haunt her, threatening her new-found security. Her future hangs on a knife-edge as the game turns deadly, and a web of kidnapping, blackmail, and lies is uncovered.
She loves Rowland deeply, but if she doesn’t leave him, he may lose what he values above all else. His baby son.
If you fancy taking a look at NEVER TEMPT A WIDOW, it is currently at its pre-order discount price of $0.99 for a couple more days, or you can now read it for FREE with a Kindle Unlimited subscription.
If you want to find out the full history of this folk song, why not take a look at Paul Slade’s website? It’s fascinating!
The last book in the Trysts and Treachery series is now up for pre-order, at the advance discount price of just $0.99. It’s set in the time of King Edward VI and is called LORD OF THE MANOR. Read on for more about the story.
To her, he represents authority and power. To him, she spells sedition and danger.
Orphaned at birth, Cecily Neville owes more than her name to the former hospitallers of Temple Roding. She was still a child when the reformation wrenched her home and adopted family from her and now, like the few surviving monks, she lives in fear that her past could take a deadly toll. Her closest friend is her precious peregrine falcon, Charlemagne. Her greatest enemy is Allan Smythe, the new owner of Temple Roding.
Grieving over the loss of both wife and child, Smythe throws his heart and soul into reviving the old hospitaller commandery that he’s bought in partnership with his brother-in-law, Kennett Clark. He can’t risk being distracted by the mysterious but tempting Cecily and her murdering bird. However, when Smythe is forced to save her from his brother-in-law’s lecherous clutches, the unscrupulous Kennett vows to destroy them both.
On a knife-edge, Smythe can’t afford to relax the rents owed by Cecily and her fellow villagers. If he doesn’t demolish her former home for profit, he risks losing everything to Kennett. But when necessity forces him to employ Cecily, there’s more at stake than his future and his battered heart. Something lies hidden in the depths of the hospitaller commandery that could solve all of Smythe’s problems… or threaten his life.
It all depends on whether he, or the very determined Cecily, finds it first.
You can get your copy here http://mybook.to/lordofthemanor and remember, if you buy it before April 13th, you can get it at a discount!
Here’s a bit about the story. You can also scroll down for an exclusive extract from the book.
Sir Robert Mallory thinks the young woman he encounters, who is dressed as a boy, is a pickpocket and a prostitute. He soon discovers that the delectable Chloe is, in fact, the illegitimate daughter of a man to whom he owes a great deal of money. Things go from bad to worse when she’s kidnapped by traitors to the crown.
Robert is faced with an impossible choice. He’s desperate to save Chloe, but if he follows his heart, the security of the entire realm is at risk.
Here is a exclusive extract from the book.
“How shall we occupy the next hour?”
There was a glint in his eyes that belied his claim of exhaustion. A predatory glint.
She backed toward the door. “I hope you’re not having any lascivious thoughts, sir. I’ve told you time and time again that I’m not what you think.”
He followed her and as she reached for the latch, his hand came over hers. “Pray, don’t decamp just yet, Mistress. You have not yet explained your presence at Mistress Riviere’s, nor why you were dressed as a boy one moment and a charming woman the next. I beg you, indulge me. Fill my empty moments by telling me your story.”
Curse it! He was far too close, his blue eyes alight with mischief. And with promise. She gulped.
“Step back, sir. You’re trying to take advantage of me. If I saved your life tonight, you should be showing me your gratitude, not… not looming over me.” And not looking like he wanted to kiss her, threatening to reawaken all those wicked imaginings she’d had earlier.
“Was I looming? My apologies. So, are you going to tell me what you were doing in that house of ill repute?”
“Certainly not, as it’s none of your business.”
He tipped his head on one side. “If you are a whore, you’re the most reticent I’ve ever encountered.”
Why did his gaze keep sliding toward her mouth? It was most unsettling.
She pushed her shoulders back. “I’ve told you so many times that I am not. You should accept the word of a lady.”
“If you are a lady, then who are your people? Who are your family, and whither are you bound?”
He was looming even more. So close, she could feel his breath on her face. And there was no space for retreat. Placing a hand firmly on his chest, she gave him a push, but he was immovable. Instead, the rogue placed his palm over hers and came even closer.
Time for the knee again? She rather thought it was. But before she could move, he’d wrapped his arms tightly around her, pulling her against him.
“Nothing to say, Madam Mystery?” His lips teased her ear.
She tried to speak, but her voice lodged in her throat. A giddy sensation of excitement washed over her as she stood quivering in his arms, fascinated to discover what he’d do next. The strength and power that emanated from him both comforted and alarmed her. Protection, safety, danger. She wriggled, only to find his arms tightening around her.
He pulled his head back a little, and she was able to focus on his face. His gaze had darkened and a smile played about his lips.
“I find staring death in the face has a way of making one feel gloriously alive—as if one’s continued existence was a gift not to be squandered. As if there isn’t a single moment to lose. Tell me, didn’t besting that blackguard stir your blood, just a little?”
She shook her head. It had been terrifying. Particularly when he’d pointed his weapon back at her.
“But you were magnificent.” Even though Sir Robert was holding her less tightly now, her limbs had turned to water, and she couldn’t have escaped had she wanted to. Did she still want to escape?
He twined a curl of hair behind her ear and stroked her cheek. Suddenly, she remembered she was wearing only her thin summer nightgown. Far too little to shield her body from his. He must be able to feel her breasts pushing up against him—it would incite him, would it not?
What else had her mother taught her about evading the attentions of a lustful man? Frantically, she searched her memory, struggling to pull together her scattered thoughts. Sir Robert, meanwhile, was gazing at her mouth again, a hungry smile on his lips.
Go limp. That was it. Go limp and slide down, out of the grasp of your over-amorous suitor.
Well, it might work with the clientele at Mistress Riviere’s when they overstepped the mark, but they didn’t have the reflexes of Sir Robert Mallory. The instant she relaxed, he scooped her up and held her across his body.
“You’re not about to swoon on me, are you? Mayhap you’d better lie down.” He carried her to the bed and laid her atop the cover.
Nay! If she lay down, she’d be completely at his mercy. But when she struggled to sit up, he pressed her shoulders back against the mattress, then lowered his head and touched his lips to hers.
It was the briefest of touches, but it calmed her fears and, at the same time, ignited a curiosity within her. Her treacherous body demanded more.
“Sweet as sugared rose petals. I would taste you again.” His voice was as soft as the caress of his lips.
She should turn her head aside, or fight—or even scream. But she did none of these things. She merely gazed into his admiring eyes and wondered what was to follow.
“No complaint, Mistress?” He brushed her lips with the tip of his tongue, and they tingled in response.
Nothing to complain of as yet.
Don’t forget- if you buy the book now, it’ll only cost you $0.99! Here’s the link- http://mybook.to/mistrust
Here’s a bit about the story. You can also scroll down for an exclusive extract from the book.
Headstrong Chloe dresses as a boy and runs away to her birth mother to escape a horrendous marriage. She’s shocked to discover that her parent owns a bawdy house, and is in no position to help- nor will she reveal the identity of Chloe’s father. When a street accident throws Chloe into the lap of the tempting Robert Mallory, he offers distraction and adventure, but his stubborn refusal to trust her endangers them both.
Hot-headed Robert Mallory is battling to protect his sister, his livelihood, and his honor. He’s a spy who can’t follow the rules and distrusts everyone, particularly the delectable young woman from the bordello. Having endangered her, then rescued her from a nest of traitors, he learns that Chloe is the natural daughter of the one man he can’t afford to upset, Sir Mortimer Fowler. Offering marriage to save Chloe’s reputation is out of the question, as Fowler needs her for bait in a deadly trap.
Robert is faced with an impossible choice. He’s desperate to save Chloe, but if he follows his heart, the security of the entire realm is at risk.
Here is a exclusive extract from the book.
The hero, Sir Robert Mallory, has just offered to marry Mistress Chloe Emmerson in order to save her reputation. He doesn’t get quite the response he’d anticipated…
“He could tell from the glint in her eyes that she was becoming angrier by the minute. Mayhap he should excuse himself until she calmed down. Ye gods, if this was how she behaved when he offered to save her reputation, how would she react if she knew he’d drugged and searched her?
“If I swear not to mention your name to my father, will you tell me where he is?”
“I dare not.” He spread his hands in a gesture of helplessness.
“Will you not tell me the nature of your dealings with him, then?”
“I cannot.” Robert felt wretched. He’d just made the biggest mistake of his life and was about to reap the consequences.
“Then, get out of this chamber, sir.”
“I can’t go. Not until we’ve resolved this.”
“Go. I never want to set eyes on you again.”
“Chloe.” He straightened his spine. “You’re being unreasonable.”
There was a sudden flurry of movement, and before he could react, she’d taken one of the dags from his luggage and was pointing it at him with a trembling hand.
“Wrong. Now, I’m being unreasonable. Get you gone. Send someone else to collect your chest. Be sure not to follow me to London—or ever again repeat your insulting suggestion that we be wed.”
Was she holding the gun that was still primed, or the one that wasn’t? He dared not take the risk. Flinging up his hands, he bowed his head.
“As you wish. Though I have to say I wish things were otherwise.”
“Go.” She waved the gun.
He went. He could see no other choice.”
* A “dag” is a Tudor handheld gun, as featured in the first Trysts and Treachery book, LORD OF DECEPTION.