Authors: Hannah Howell
A WICKED KISS
Forcing himself to look up from her lush mouth, Julian met Chloe’s gaze and felt himself become lost in the rich depths of her inky blue eyes. He
began to lower his mouth to hers, ignoring the loud warnings in his mind. For too long he had wondered what she would taste like and he could no longer
resist the temptation she presented. The way her eyes widened told him that she knew what he was about to do, but she made no move to stop him.
Chloe knew Julian was about to kiss her. She also knew she ought to push him away. Instead, she leaned toward him, hungry for the touch of his
The moment his lips touched hers, Chloe knew she was in trouble. As he brushed his mouth over hers, he slid the fingers of one hand into her hair
and she shivered from the strength of the desire that roared to life within her.
Her senses reeled as he nipped her bottom lip and, when she gasped from the heat that roused, he slipped his tongue into her mouth. Chloe was
startled by the invasion for barely a heartbeat before the stroking seduction of his tongue robbed her of the last of her resistance. She wrapped her arms
around his neck and gave herself over to the heady delight of his kiss. She didn’t think anything had ever felt as good or tasted as sweet…
Books by Hannah Howell
ONLY FOR YOU
MY VALIANT KNIGHT
A TASTE OF FIRE
A STOCKINGFUL OF JOY
BEAUTY AND THE BEAST
NATURE OF THE BEAST
MY LADY CAPTOR
IF HE’S WICKED
Published by Zebra Books
IF HE’S WICKED
Kensington Publishing Corp.
To Evelyn Rose and Jennifer,
the two b est granddaughters
anyone could hope for.
When you decide what you want to b e,
don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t
Go for it, girls.
b e kind,
and always rememb er
that you are loved.
“Damn it, Tom, the woman is dying.”
Tom scowled down at the pale woman lying so stil on the tiny bed. “She is stil breathing.”
“Just worn thin from birthing is al , Jake.” Tom picked up the swaddled child that rested in the woman’s limp arm. “Poor wee mite. Throttled by the
cord, it looks like. Wel , come on then, Jake, set that lad in this one’s place.”
“I hate this, Tom.” Jake gently settled the peaceful y sleeping newborn he held next to the woman. “T’ain’t right. T’ain’t right at al . The poor lass has
no strength to care for the mite. He wil be dying right along with her. Mayhap we could—”
“You just stop right there, Jake Potter,” Tom snapped. “You be forgetting what happened to old Melvin when he tried to say nay to that bitch? You
want your bones tangled up with his in that pit? ’Course this ain’t right, but we got no choice. No choice at al . Better the wee lad dies than gets reared up by that woman, I says. Or e’en murdered by his own mam.”
“His lordship’d take good care of the lad.”
“His lordship is blind to what that woman is and you be knowing that. Now, let us be gone from here. The bitch wants this poor dead babe in her
arms ere his lordship returns, and that could be soon as he was sent word that his wife had been brought to the birthing bed hours ago. The fool who did
that wil be fair sorry, I can tel ye,” Tom muttered and shook his head.
Jake started to fol ow Tom out of the tiny, crude cottage, but then hesitated. “I wil come with you in a blinking, Tom. I just—”
“Just what? We
to go now!”
“I just want to make ’em warm and comfortable, give ’em a fighting chance, or I wil ne’er rest easy.”
“Hurry, then, or soon we be both resting easy right alongside old Melvin.”
After making a fire and covering the woman and child with another thin blanket, Jake looked around to make certain Tom was not watching him.
He took a sheaf of papers from inside his old coat and hastily tucked them beneath the blankets. When he looked at the woman again, he started in
surprise. She was watching him.
“Your babe wil have a fine resting place,” he whispered. “I hate doing this, I surely do, but I got me a wife and five wee ones. Aye, and I be a
coward when al be said and done. That vile woman would ne’er hesitate to kil me if I ruined her evil plans. If ye can, take them papers and hide them wel .
If his lordship survives al his wife’s plots, he wil be wanting his son and them papers wil be al the proof he wil be aneeding from you. ’Tis as much as I and a few others dared to do, sorry poor help that it is. I wil pray for you, missy. You and the lad here. Aye, and I wil pray for meself as wel , for I have surely blackened my soul this day.” He hurried out of the cottage.
After waiting a few moments to be certain the men were gone, Chloe Wherlocke crept out of the niche by the fireplace where she had hidden
herself when the men had ridden up to the door. She moved to kneel by her sister Laurel’s bed and stared at the child she held, the living, breathing child.
Touching the baby’s soft, warm cheek, she looked at her sister, grief forming a tight knot in her throat. Laurel was dying. They both knew it. Yet her sister smiled at her.
“’Tis just as you foresaw it, Chloe,” Laurel whispered, weakness and not a need for secrecy robbing her of her voice. “Life appearing in the midst
of death is what you said.”
Chloe nodded, not at al happy to be proven right. “I am so sorry about your child.”
“Do not be. I wil join him soon.”
“Oh, Laurel,” Chloe began, her voice thick with tears.
“Do not weep for me. I am ready. In truth, I ache to be with my love and our child. My soul cries out for them.” Laurel lifted one trembling, pale hand
and brushed a tear from Chloe’s cheek. “This is why I lingered on this earth, why I did not die soon after my dear Henry did. This child needed us to be
here, needed my son’s body to be here. I recovered from that deadly fever because fate required it of me. My little Charles Henry wil have a proper burial.
A blessing, too, mayhaps.”
“He should not be placed in the wrong grave.”
“It matters little, Chloe. He is already with his father, waiting for me. Now, remember, you must make it look as if this child died. Be sure to mark
the cross with both names. Wrap the bones we col ected most careful y. Ah, do not look so aggrieved, sister. Instead of being tossed upon a pile as so
many others dug out of the London graveyards are, that poor child we gathered wil have a fine resting place, too. Here in the country we are not so
cal ous with our dead, do not have to keep moving the old out of the ground to make room for the new. ’Tis a fine gift we give that long-dead babe.”
“I know. Yet throughout al our careful preparations I kept praying that we were wrong.”
“I always knew we were right, that this was a fate that could not be changed by any amount of forewarning. I wil miss you, but, truly, do not grieve
o’er me. I wil be happy.”
“How could a mother do this to her only child?” Chloe lightly touched the baby’s surprisingly abundant hair.
“She cannot bear his lordship a healthy heir, can she? That would ruin al of her plans.”
When Laurel said nothing more for several moments, Chloe murmured, “Rest now. There is no need to speak now.”
“There is every need,” whispered Laurel. “My time draws nigh. As soon as I am gone, see to the burial, and then go straight to our cousin Leopold.
He wil be waiting, ready to begin the game. He wil help you watch over this child and his father, and he wil help you know when the time is right to act against that evil woman and her lover.” Laurel turned her head and pressed a kiss upon the baby’s head. “This child needs you. He and his poor love-blind
father. We both know that this boy wil do great things some day. It gives me peace to know that my sorrows are not completely in vain, that some good
wil come out of al this grief.”
Chloe kissed her sister’s ice-cold cheek and then wept as she felt the last flicker of life flee Laurel’s bone-thin body. Pushing aside the grief
weighing upon her heart like a stone, she prepared Laurel for burial. The sun was barely rising on a new day when she stood by her sister’s grave, her
sturdy little mare packed with her meager belongings, a goat tethered to the patient mount, and the baby settled snugly against her chest in a crude
blanket sling. One wind-contorted tree was al that marked Laurel’s grave upon the desolate moors. Chloe doubted the wooden cross she had made
would last long, and the rocks she had piled upon Laurel’s grave to deter scavengers would soon be indistinguishable from many another one dotted
about the moors.
come back for you, Laurel,” Chloe swore. “I
see you and little Charles Henry buried properly. And this wee pauper child you hold wil also have a proper burial right beside you. It deserves such an honor.” She said a silent prayer for her sister and then turned away, fixing her mind upon the
long journey ahead of her.
When, a few hours later, Chloe had to pause in her journey to tend to the baby’s needs, she looked across the rutted road at the huge stone pil ars
that marked the road to Colinsmoor, the home of the child she held. She was tempted to go there to try to find out exactly what was happening. The vil age
had been rife with rumors. Chloe knew it would be foolish, however, and remained where she was, sheltered among the thick grove of trees on the