NEVER ENTICE AN EARL
An Arrangement Most Wicked
Lord Cormack Northmore is determined to find the immoral peer who ruined his sister. So when he learns that the irresistible woman he knows as “Kate” is the Season’s most sought-after debutante, Cormack plans to use her connections to help him set a trap. Now, the closer Cormack gets to uncovering the villain who haunts the ton‘s ballrooms, the more he realizes that the lovely lady is in danger herself. Will he abandon his quest for revenge-or risk losing his one chance at love?
NEVER ENTICE AN EARL EXCERPT:
The heat in his gaze intensified. He leaned toward her, his handsome face commanding her full attention. “So tell me, Kate, in addition to being a dancer to pay off this debt, and not a very talented one at that, did you also entertain patrons?”
“Entertain?” She blinked, flustered by his proximity, and his overwhelming maleness. Had he truly said she was not a good dancer? And wait… he had said patrons. She frowned. “I beg your pardon?”
Certainly he did not believe…well, she supposed he might, given the sordid circumstances in which he’d found her.
One dark eyebrow lifted. “The Blue Swan is a brothel.”
“Never,” she blurted, heat rising to scald her cheeks. “This was my first night ever to go to that place, and it was not at all what I’d expected.” She spoke the truth now. Not all her words were lies. “All I had was the address on a scrap of paper, and instructions that I would be a model in the tableaux.”
A sudden fear came over her, a dreadful worry that in her naivety she’d misjudged the stranger beside, that he wasn’t a gentleman, but instead just like the others who had crowded against the stage, mindless with lust. He could easily overpower her, and satisfy whatever male urges he wished.
But he did not. He instead eased back into the seat until shadows obscured his countenance, all but his sensual lips, which pursed and frowned. She sighed with relief
“Good.” He nodded. Below his breath, he muttered, “Yes, good…I suppose.”
He conveyed a mixed message, one of approval but also disappointment. What if she’d answered yes? Would he have sought to make use of her services? All the wicked things Sophia had described came to her in a vivid rush. Her mind entertained a fleeting fantasy, one of tangled sheets, muscled limbs and bare skin.
The very idea of being intimate with a stranger, with this stranger—
She exhaled, bemused.
–was not as appalling as it ought to be.
Perhaps it was the graveness in his eyes, above lips that she suspected always carried some semblance of a smile that made her heart contract and her blood run hot.
He really was nonpareil. No man in her social circle compared, but that was because he obviously wasn’t a nobleman. No nobleman would travel about London in a shabby, half-destroyed carriage nor converse on such familiar terms with their driver.
“Who are you, Cormack?” she asked.
“Are you a newspaperman? A store owner, or a sea captain? Please tell me, I want to know.”
“I…er, a merchant actually. Saltpeter.”
That answered her question. After tonight, she most certainly would never see him again. A merchant would never be allowed into the ballrooms of the haute ton. Even if he was deliriously rich, which he obviously wasn’t, given the condition of his equipage, the upper echelon of the beau monde, to which she had been born, simply did not intermingle with men of trade.
Her adventurous nature awakened. No, she didn’t intend to ever marry, but…what would be wrong with kissing a handsome, intriguing stranger she’d never see again?
Everything inside her soared and spiraled and exploded into sparkly stars at wondering. Again, her gaze settled on his mouth, which slowly, as if it read her mind, turned up at the corners, making her catch her breath.
At that moment, the carriage made a sudden turn and tilted steeply. Daphne toppled, the whole of her weight crushing into Cormack. His arms came round her, seizing her in place against his chest. The carriage bounced down again, and continued on, to the sound of Jackson cursing at another driver, but Cormack didn’t release her. How she wished she wasn’t wearing the coat, which smelled of damp wool. He, on the other hand, smelled delicious, like rainwater and soap.
“How unexpected,” he murmured, his mouth so close his breath feathered across her lips. “But not unwelcome.”
“No,” she whispered. “Not…unwelcome.”
Just then the carriage jerked to a stop and a hard rap sounded against the roof.
Alec has come to England to deal with a treacherous betrayal and fears that his half-sister Isobel is in peril from an old enemy. Does he dare share his secrets with Caro? The bold and brave beauty leaves him no choice, and together they are quickly caught up in a swirl of dangerous intrigue . . . where fiery desire between them may ignite into the greatest danger of all.
PASSIONATELY YOURS EXCERPT:
“One would almost think you were going out of your way to avoid speaking to me.”
“We’re speaking now,” he pointed out.
“I would call it verbal sparring.” Caro edged around impatiently, forcing him to look her in the face. “But now that I have you alone, I’d rather not keep trading thrusts and parries. I would rather discuss far more important matters—such as whether you have learned anything new about the attack on your sister?”
Pursing his lips, Alec shifted his stance just enough to allow him to return to his perusal of the lettering on the column. “Not really.”
“Ye gods.” She restrained the urge to take hold of his arm and give him a hard shake. “What sort of answer is that?”
“The only one I intend to give,” he replied calmly.
“Fine.” Caro watched the breeze ruffle his long hair, causing a tangle of red-gold strands to curl around his ear and dance down the freshly shaven line of his jaw. The faint scent of bay rum tickled at her nostrils.
“Fine,” she repeated, after forcing herself to exhale. “Then I’ll just have to do a little poking around on my own.”
That got his attention. He looked around abruptly, his gaze narrowing to a slitted stare. The movement was quick, but not quick enough to hide the sudden darkening of his eyes.
“That wouldn’t be wise,” he growled. “The only thing I will add for now is that you should stay well away from Edward Thayer.”
“Because…” He let out an exasperated grunt. “Must you always plague me with questions?”
“I wouldn’t have to if you would stop treating me like a feather-headed wigeon.”
Alec’s scowl became more pronounced.
“Haven’t I proved myself trustworthy and capable?”
A small muscle on his jaw twitched. “I am not at liberty to give you any more details right now. All I can say is that…” As he drew in a breath, he seemed to change his mind about what to say. “Thayer is a charming fellow. No doubt his smooth words are more to your liking.”
Deciding Alec deserved a bit of teasing, Caro pretended not to notice the roughness edging his voice. “Yes, he’s exceedingly charming.”
If his storm-blue stare squeezed any tighter, it would be sharper than a razor’s edge.
“And scrupulously polite,” she added.
Alec was becoming more flustered. Small sounds were beginning to rumble in his throat, like the growling of a bear. “I do not have Thayer’s gift of making myself agreeable. He has a honeyed tongue, which seems to appeal to all the ladies.”
“Honey is, after all, a great deal more palatable than vinegar,” Caro pointed out.
He now looked utterly nonplussed.
Caro let him stew for a moment longer before huffing an exasperated sigh. “Oh, for heaven’s sake, give me some credit for having a brain, Lord Strathcona! Of course I don’t find Thayer appealing. When honey drips that freely, it ought to catch naught but flies.”
The growls ceased.
Caro waited for him to speak.
Ever so slowly, Alec shifted his feet, stirring tiny puffs of pale dust beneath his boots.
The flicker of dark leather caused a momentary spasm of doubt as she recalled her chilling encounter in the churchyard.
Alec as evil? She couldn’t explain how, but she knew with a certainty that resonated right down to her very heartbeat that it couldn’t be true.
“Are you saying you would trust my word over his?”
“Yes, you big lummox! I don’t know why I should, but I prefer your snaps and growls.”
A dappling of sunlight seemed to catch on the curl of his lashes, gilding them to a gleaming gold.
“You are forthright, you are honorable in your own maddening way,” she went on. Oh, no man ought to have such beautiful eyes.
She found herself staring, and at that moment, all rational thought seemed to dance away in the breeze. His face was utterly intriguing—a mix of chiseled planes and well-defined features that hinted at hidden secrets.
“And… well, you are quite the most interesting man I have ever met.” Her legs suddenly seemed a little unsteady, so Caro reached out and caught hold of his lapels.
Looking up, she found his mouth was only inches from hers.
“Oh, bosh—I shall probably regret this…” Standing on tiptoes, Caro kissed him. Not a mere feathering of flesh against flesh, but a hard, hungry embrace that she let go on for far, far longer than any proper young lady should dare.
“There, I have no doubt shocked you.”
The tip of his tongue traced along the swell of his lower lip.
“I imagine you think me a wanton hellion, and I suppose I am. It must be my eccentric upbringing. I don’t care very much for rules.”
Caro knew she was babbling but she couldn’t seem to stop. “You may consign me to the Devil. But at least I shall dance a merry jig on my way to perdition.”
Was that finally a hint of smile?
She finally dared pause to take a breath. A long, shuddering breath. Now was the time to flee, before she made an even bigger fool of herself.
But Alec suddenly shifted again, blocking her way.
“I, too, shall probably regret this,” he said as he slowly circled his arms around her and pulled her close.
She opened her mouth. To protest?
Before she could make any sense of what she had set in motion, their lips met again, setting off a fierce jolt of fire.
A low, bruxy growl emitted from Cormack’s throat. “What a pity.”
WHAT A RECKLESS ROGUE NEEDS
Colin Brockhurst, Earl of Ravenshire, has no desire to wed, this season or any other. So when his father demands he give up his wild ways and take a wife, Colin refuses. But his father raises the stakes and threatens to sell the ancestral home if Colin doesn’t comply. Now Colin has no choice but to find a wife. Unfortunately, the only woman he wants is the one whose heart he broke years ago.
LEAD TO THE PERFECT SEDUCTION?
Regardless of the ton‘s whispers, Lady Angeline Brenham won’t settle for anything less than true love. After rejecting more than her share of suitable suitors, spinsterhood looms before her-until the devilishly handsome Colin reappears in her life with a proposition. Angeline vows to keep her feet on the ground and her heart in check. That is, until one searing kiss melts her resolve and reignites a burning desire for more . . .
When she’s not writing, Vicky enjoys reading, films, concerts, and, most of all, long lunches with friends. A native Texan, she holds degrees in English literature and marketing.
WHAT A RECKLESS ROGUE NEEDS EXCERPT:
“Come with me,” she said, opening the door to the bedchamber that she assumed had belonged to his father years ago.
“Angeline, what are you about?”
“There is no need to worry. I’ve no intention of seducing you.”
He sighed theatrically. “What a pity.”
“You will have to look elsewhere for sympathy.” She took him over to the shaving stand. “Have a look in the glass.”
“My hair is even more of a disheveled, curly mess than usual.” He met her gaze in the mirror. “When I was a lad, I used to spit in my hands and try to wet down the curls.”
She laughed. “Eww.”
“I’m tempted now.”
“For whose benefit? I do not care if your hair is standing on end.” Liar.
He turned and clutched his hands to his heart. “Woe is me.”
She would never tell him that his unruly curls only added to his masculine appeal.
A slow smile tugged at his mouth. It was a kneeweakening, toe-curling rake’s smile meant to disarm a lady. She was, of course, impervious to him. Well, maybe not completely.
“You’re a bit disheveled, too,” he said.
“What?” She walked over to the shaving mirror.
“Got you,” he said, laughing.
She spun around. “You’re as horrid as a little boy.”
“I may be horrid, but I’m no boy.”
“You’re in luck. I find you mildly tolerable today.”
“Lucky me,” he said, beginning to close the distance between them.
She tried to ignore the husky note in his voice, but the deep sound hummed inside her. Tension hung in the air, and unbidden, she recalled the way his muscles hadstrained while he’d wielded that ax. She dared not let himknow how he’d affected her.
“I have a confession to make,” he said.
Now she couldn’t breathe, because he was too close and the scent of him swirled all around her.
“I find you charming today.”
She took a step back and lifted her chin. “It will wear off quickly.”
He took another step. There was a languorous expression in his eyes. She might have noticed the amber hues in them, but only because she was perceptive by nature. Drat it all. Why couldn’t he have a long nose, pointed chin, and no muscles at all? And why after all these years did she find him irresistible?
He advanced again. Now his boots were inches away from the toes of her slippers.
She took two more steps back and bumped against the mattress.
He closed his big hand around the bedpost and his gaze flickered briefly to her décolletage. Her breasts felt heavier, and her nipples tightened. The sound of his breath was faster and a little rough. She was drawn to his full lower lip. Something inside of her gave way to desire. She wanted to be closer to him.
As if he could read her thoughts, he closed the scant distance between them. He angled his head and looked into her eyes. “Is this surrender?”
The sensual haze cleared, and she glared at him. Outrageous man. How dare he look at her bosom? Angeline straightened her spine. “Do you think I am intimidated by you?”
“Not at all.” He wagged his brows. “Those two steps back were merely dance steps. Am I correct?”
She closed the distance between them in an effort to assert herself, but she realized the disadvantage immediately. While she was tall for a lady, he was easily halfa head taller and much too close. He filled her senses and belatedly she realized she’d invited a rake into a bedchamber. Had she lost her wits?
“You are a shameless libertine.”
His chest shook with laughter. “Not entirely shameless. I’ve had one or two guilt-ridden moments, but fortunately they dissipated quickly.” His gaze slid over her body. “I suspect you’ve been told many times how very beautiful you are.”
She knew it was a rake’s trick to murmur sweet words and tempt a lady to loosen her morals, but he looked at her with intent. Without thinking, she wet her lips, and that drew his attention. She’d inadvertently signaled she wanted a kiss, but of course she would rather kiss a snake.
Tension vibrated between them. Now was the moment to step away, but she stood rooted to the spot as if her feet were mired in a bog.
He reached for her nape, just as the knocker downstairs rapped repeatedly.
She gasped, and they sprang apart.
Rake that he was, he winked and said, “Saved by the knocker.”
(Sponsored by the publisher)
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