Table of Contents
More Praise for the Novels of Emma Wildes
“A luxurious and sensual read. Both deliciously wicked and tenderly romantic. . . . I didn’t want it to end!”
—New York Times
bestselling author Celeste Bradley
“This wickedly exciting romance will draw you in and take hold of your heart.”
bestselling author Elizabeth Boyle
“Regency fans will thrill to this superbly sensual tale of an icy widow and two decadent rakes. . . . Balancing deliciously erotic encounters with compelling romantic tension, and populating a convincing historical setting with a strong cast of well-developed characters, prolific romance author Wildes provides a spectacular and skillfully handled story that stands head and shoulders above the average historical romance.”
“Wickedly delicious and daring, Wildes’s tale tantalizes with an erotic fantasy that is also a well-crafted Regency romance. She delivers a page-turner that captures the era, the mores, and the scandalous behavior that lurks beneath the surface.”
(4½ stars, top pick)
“Emma Wildes has thoroughly enchanted e-book readers with her emotionally charged story lines. . . . [A] gem of an author . . . Ms. Wildes tells this story with plenty of compassion, humor, and even a bit of suspense to keep readers riveted to each scandalous scene—and everything in between.”
“Of all the authors I’ve read, I believe Emma Wildes to be my hands-down favorite. . . . Ms. Wildes has once again shown her ability to present new variations of romance in all of its infinite forms. Be prepared to feel your passions grow as you read the beautifully written love scenes.”
—Just Erotic Romance Reviews (5 stars)
“Emma Wildes has an amazing flair for taking what could be considered controversial subject matter and turning it into a beautiful love story that has the reader cheering for the characters. . . . It is a truly rare and remarkable talent.”
“Chock-full of mysteries, torrid romances, unforgettable characters . . . delightfully fun and wicked.”
“Emma Wildes is a rising star who writes incredible historical romance.”
—Fallen Angel Reviews
“Ms. Wildes has penned an excellent novel that is sure to be a favorite for many years to come . . . deserves no less than a perfect ten!”
—Romance Reviews Today
“[A] delightful, delicious, and sexy tale that readers will adore.”
—Goodreads (JERR Gold Star Award)
“Inventive and well written, with fabulous love scenes and characters worth reading about.”
—All About Romance
Also by Emma Wildes
Our Wicked Mistake
My Lord Scandal
Seducing the Highlander
Lessons from a Scarlet Lady
An Indecent Proposition
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First published by Signet Eclipse, an imprint of New American Library,
a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
First Printing, November 2010
Copyright © Katherine Smith, 2010
eISBN : 978-1-101-44498-6
My Lord Scandal
copyright © Katherine Smith, 2010
Our Wicked Mistake
copyright © Katherine Smith, 2010
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For Dick Leakey, who no doubt has many sinful secrets. I suspect I am much too innocent to know about most of them. You are one of my favorite friends.
I would like to thank Heather Baror for all she does as a foreign-rights agent extraordinaire. The support of my friends is another invaluable asset. In particular I would like to mention Monica Burns, Kerin Hanson, Laura Kubitz, and Sandy James. You cheer for me. Thank you, ladies!
t was a fateful miscalculation.
The light gloss of moonlight gave an indistinct outline of the shadowy figure as he turned one second too late to completely avoid the blade. Michael Hepburn felt it slice through his fine brocade coat and the cold bite of steel on his flesh. Pain shot through him even as he lashed out with one foot in reflexive self-defense and heard the satisfying
as the kick connected. His assailant grunted, staggered back on the greasy cobblestones, and then caught his balance and lunged forward again.
Fortunately, this time Michael was a little more prepared.
He dodged backward and let his attacker’s momentum bring him close enough that he landed a solid blow with his right fist. It was too dark to really see properly in the confines of the narrow, ill-smelling alleyway, so instead of hitting the man’s chin, he caught him in the side of the neck with a sickening sound. A low whistle of agony echoed and Michael pressed the advantage by kicking out again, aiming for the stranger’s groin.
Fighting fair was for those who could afford to lose.
He’d learned that back in Spain. Dying an honorable death was all well and good, but living was even better in his estimation, and being assaulted out of nowhere in some squalid London backstreet was about as sordid a demise as he could imagine.
The man managed to deflect the blow—showing he’d been in a dirty brawl a time or two himself and had anticipated it—but he slipped on the slick surface underfoot and went down like a felled ox. The knife skittered away and Michael bent to retrieve it, only to see the burly figure scramble up and turn to run. The retreating sound of pounding footfalls was overshadowed by Michael’s harsh breathing.
Had it not been for the warm, sticky feel of the blood soaking his clothing he might have even given chase to get a few answers.
“Damnation,” he muttered, pulling open the slashed jacket to peer at the damage. The white linen of his shirt was already bright scarlet. Whoever the bastard was, he’d been intent on doing real harm. The blade must have glanced off a rib, and Michael, though bleeding profusely, didn’t think the injury was serious. He’d been wounded enough times before to know that singular feeling when it might be
But the timing just couldn’t possibly be worse.
He pulled out his pocket watch and squinted at it in the meager illumination, trying to ignore the stench of refuse around him. It was damned late but he could hardly go home as he was, just in case someone was still awake. The huge house was crammed with assorted relatives and guests.
Luckily, he had other options.
He walked the distance to where he’d paid well to have a hired hack wait. Bringing the ducal carriage to this location, past shuttered, shabby businesses and sleeping houses, the sloped roofs and sagging doorways indicative of the seediness of the surroundings, would have attracted far too much attention. There was no doubt he was a little light-headed by the time he reached his destination.
The driver, a small man with a narrow face and scruffy beard, looked alarmed at his appearance. “I say, guv. Trouble?”
“Was it the blood that gave it away?” Michael asked cynically. “Footpads are bolder with each passing day.”
To his credit, the man did not point out the disreputable neighborhood and the late hour.
A nice tip would hopefully make him forget he saw anything at all. Michael gave the address and climbed into the creaking vehicle, gingerly settling on the cracked seat. The ride was a bit jarring but thankfully not too long as they passed out of the seamy neighborhoods and gained a more fashionable—and safer—part of London. The address was expensive but discreet, just outside of Mayfair, and to his relief, there was a light in one of the upstairs windows. He alighted with murmured thanks and added a handsome amount to the fare. “Myself and the incident are both forgotten, if you please.”
There was something in the little man’s expression that said he thought the eccentricities of the aristocracy to be puzzling but profitable, and the cabbie nodded and clambered back up on the seat to cluck at his rawboned horse. The clatter of departing wheels rang out.
The door of the elegant town house was answered by a young man with a scarred face and impassive expression, despite the midnight call. He wore a dressing gown and his dark hair was tousled, indicating he’d already retired. They were nearly of a height, and though his tone was always deferential, there was nothing but measured assessment in the way the other man looked Michael in the eye. He moved back in invitation. “My lord marquess. Please, come in.”