Authors: Natasha Blackthorne
Tags: #Romance, #Historical, #Victorian, #Regency, #Historical Romance
A Total-E-Bound Publication
©Copyright Natasha Blackthorne 2012
Cover Art by April Martinez ©Copyright April 2012
Edited by Rebecca Hill
This is a work of fiction. All characters, places and events are from the author’s imagination and should not be confused with fact. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, events or places is purely coincidental.
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced in any material form, whether by printing, photocopying, scanning or otherwise without the written permission of the publisher, Total-E-Bound Publishing.
Applications should be addressed in the first instance, in writing, to Total-E-Bound Publishing. Unauthorised or restricted acts in relation to this publication may result in civil proceedings and/or criminal prosecution.
The author and illustrator have asserted their respective rights under the Copyright Designs and Patents Acts 1988 (as amended) to be identified as the author of this book and illustrator of the artwork.
Published in 2012 by Total-E-Bound Publishing, Think Tank, Ruston Way, Lincoln, LN6 7FL, United Kingdom.
This book contains sexually explicit content which is only suitable for mature readers. This story has a
This story contains 154 pages, additionally there is also a
at the end of the book containing 4 pages.
Book four in the Carte Blanche Series
Before he can share his deepest, darkest secrets with her, he has to show her what seduction truly means.
For the first time in a long time, Alex is genuinely happy. He’s found a woman he can love. Now he wants only to enjoy his life. But the past won’t let him go. His dark secrets threaten to engulf him. Yet how can he tell his innocent fiancée about the horrific things he’s experienced?
Emily finds herself locked in a battle with the darkness that appears to hold Alex captive. As he reveals more of his inner torment, as he seduces her into carnal decadence, she wonders who is this man she’s so desperately in love with.
Can their love survive this intense journey of erotic exploration, shocking revelations and unsettling discoveries?
“Oh, come now, Alex, please tell me you’re not going to marry that sweet, innocent girl.”
The words were like an icy fist closing over Alexander Dalton’s heart. Yes, he’d asked himself the same thing but to have it confirmed, outright, by his old friend—resentment replaced the coldness. He tapped on the windowsill of his bedchamber, his gaze still captivated by the slender young woman below in the garden. Her spill of ringlets glittered like rubies in the sunlight. His claret-haired girl. She was the jewel he had found. A treasure he would never let go.
“It won’t work. You know it won’t.” Beneath the wry cynicism, there was a wealth of sympathy in Nicolo
Calabria’s voice. He knew Alex’s demons intimately. No one else was better qualified to make such a judgement. “And, my friend, your life is quite firmly attached to America, is it not? It won’t be so easy for you to get away.”
Nicolo had three wives. One in France, one in Italy and one in England. And God knew how many mistresses. It was a kindness between the two of them that they never kept count of each other’s discarded mistresses.
But, today, Nicolo’s words were like sugar poured into a cracked tooth and Alex couldn’t prevent the rush of angry, defensive words. “I am
going to run away from my marriage.”
There was a pause. “Ah, you wound me. You truly do.”
Alex forced himself to turn away from the window and face his accuser. “I am not judging you. I never have. But I am telling you, I would never—
never abandon her.”
A small smile softened Nicolo’s face and the black eyes glowed with sympathy. “Alex, Alex, do you think I haven’t said the same thing to myself? Each time? And I shall burn in hell’s fire for my bigamy. But I have so longed for a second chance, a renewal. Some woman’s love that can change what I am, what I have become. And, each time I thought I’d found it, I did not care at what cost it came. I had to have it. But it always ends the same.”
“I am telling you I shall stand by her or die trying.”
“You may convince yourself but you cannot convince me. I know too well how it is. You will not be able to bear living with her and seeing each day the hurt accusation in her eyes. You won’t be able to do anything about it. You will have withdrawn the vital parts of yourself long before. You won’t be able to bear it. You’ll do anything to get away.”
Alex fisted his hands, resisting the urge to lash back angrily. Nicolo was only an echo of his own doubts. His chest grew tight. Both Nicolo and the little voice inside were wrong. It wasn’t true.
He couldn’t bear looking into those sympathetic, understanding eyes a moment longer. He glanced back at the window. Dr John Abbott, a frequent visitor, had come into the garden. Emily was laughing at something he’d said, her head tilted back exposing the pure, graceful lines of her throat. A sharp pain erupted in his chest. God, he wanted her. Nicolo did not understand. He couldn’t have loved a woman like this and ever turned his back on her. However, Alex wasn’t playing jury with his old friend. He should simply let this subject drop but he couldn’t. He spoke in slow, controlled tones. “If I decide to love her, to be loyal to her, then I shall be steadfast in my affections.”
“Ah, I remember this confidence. I wish I could attain it again if only to have the brief pleasure of believing I can change. Being in love is the finest thing in life. Do not think I don’t know this.”
“You say it as if it were fact, already decided.”
“No man, introduced to women the way we were, could ever be settled into a normal married life.” Nicolo laughed softly. “The variety, the perfection, the pure carnal decadence. What one woman can ever compare?”
Alex turned away and contemplated the window again. Emily was gone from the garden and all that remained were muddy puddles and bare trees.
“Well, would you look at the time?” Nicolo sighed. “Some of us still have to work for our living. I shall be going.”
Without bothering to turn around, Alex nodded mutely. His mind was already far away in another time and place.
“I am going to die in childbirth, I know it.”
He stroked her hair. “You
re not going to die.”
t want to die here. I don
t want to die a slave.”
He placed his hand on her still flat stomach. “I promise, I shall think of something. I
ll get us out of here before the child comes.”
Ah, the confidence of youth. Alex laughed cynically. But the past was dead and now he wanted only to forget it.
* * * *
“He’s not going to marry you.”
John sounded so firm, so final.
Emily took a quick, hard breath. They had stopped on the way back to the house. She traced her fingertip down a wilted brown vine still clinging to the garden trellis. A smile trembled on her lips. “Of course he is going to marry me.”
“There’s been no public announcement of this alleged engagement. Has he set a date?”
Discomfort roiled into her innards. “No, he hasn’t… Not yet.”
“Well, I must say, if I were promised to you, I wouldn’t delay any more than necessary. But, again, I can only assume by his delay that he’s getting everything from you that a man wants and has no reason to haste.”
She tightened her hand on the vine so hard it snapped. “You have no right to speak to me so personally.”
“You’re living in his house. You are no relation to him. He must marry you, Emily, else your reputation will be ruined.”
“His aunt and spinster cousin also live in that house.” She laughed softly. “It is quite respectable.”
“People know the kind of man he is. Everyone remembers those rumours about how the two of you met in the Blue Duck. How he thrashed Richard Green to the floor over you. That whole affair later… Green’s abduction of you and his subsequent suicide didn’t help things.”
“Yes.” She acknowledged his words, while pushing the terrible memory of that day with Green aside.
“You had better give him reason to marry you, be a little stingy with your person, before the novelty of you becomes stale for him and you have no power.”
His blunt speaking made her jaw drop. “John!”
“Right now, people are choosing to look the other way and it is only because of Alexander Dalton’s wealth and social standing. Listen to me, Emily—if he were to put you aside, no man of decent family could take you home present you as his bride.”
She knew he was speaking of himself. She turned and offered him a smile as thin as a reed. “I understand, John, I am not that naïve.”
But, really, none of this mattered. If Alex didn’t want to marry her, then she wanted no one else. She had never planned on marrying at all. She had goals in her life aside from being some man’s wife. She didn’t care what others thought of that. She could support herself through her art. Already she was improving her skills with art lessons. Her teacher had said that she was one of the most naturally talented artists he’d ever worked with. The artist and naturalist Mr Peale himself had agreed with that judgement.
Marriage was bondage. But she did trust Alex not to limit her artistic expression. He wouldn’t prevent her from using her skills to bring attention to the causes that were important to her. That made him the only man she would risk matrimony with. She had tried to explain all of this to John before but he had only laughed at her and patted her head.
He wasn’t laughing now.
“You put too much faith in him, Emily.”
“He is worthy of my faith.”
“I have heard so many frankly disquieting things about him. He is not a… Oh, shall I put it in terms you will hear? He is not a constant man and I don’t mean just in the way of fidelity to a woman. I mean he wavers in all his interests and he seems to have no goals in life.”
His boyish face was so earnest.
She got a warm feeling in the centre of her chest. She reached up and touched his cheek. “You’re very sweet to worry about me but I shall be fine.”
“There is a gap in his history. Years where no one knows where he was or what he was doing. He will not speak of it. That seems very dishonest to me. A man who hides his past cannot be an honourable one. He will not honour your engagement. You must be prepared for that.”
Emily dropped her hand and laughed with a catch in her throat. “John, John, please… No more of this doom and gloom, all right?”
“Well, I guess what I am trying to say is that I will not be able to bear seeing you hurt by this man.” John took a loud inhalation then let it go. The corners of his mouth were down turned, creating deep lines on either side. “And he
“He would never hurt me. Not willingly.”
“Then why does he delay?”
* * * *