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Kasey Michaels - [Redgraves 02]

BOOK: Kasey Michaels - [Redgraves 02]
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From
USA TODAY
bestselling author Kasey Michaels comes the second book in her captivating series about the Redgraves—four siblings celebrated for their legacy of scandal and seduction…

Lady Katherine Redgrave has one mission—to find her deceased father’s journals, which may hold the key to a traitorous conspiracy that puts Kate’s family in danger. Kate vows to let no obstacle stand in her way…but when she meets Simon Ravenbill, Marquis of Singleton, her attention is diverted as the sinfully handsome nobleman tempts her beyond reason.

Simon has a mission of his own: to uncover the truth about the secret society he believes murdered his brother. All he needs is to get to the Redgrave journals before Kate does. The solution is simple—he’ll romance the fiery beauty in hopes of distracting her from her quest, all while covertly searching for the diaries himself. Yet what begins as a charade soon becomes an all-consuming desire…one that could lead them down the most dangerous path of all.

Praise for
USA TODAY
bestselling author

“Kasey Michaels aims for the heart and never misses.”

New York Times
bestselling author Nora Roberts

“Mistress of her craft Michaels uses her signature wit to introduce…[an] intricate story, engaging characters and wonderful writing.”

RT Book Reviews
on
What an Earl Wants,
4 1/2 stars, Top Pick

“The historical elements…imbue the novel with powerful realism that will keep readers coming back.”

Publishers Weekly
on
A Midsummer Night’s Sin

“A poignant and highly satisfying read…filled with simmering sensuality, subtle touches of repartee, a hero out for revenge and a heroine ripe for adventure. You’ll enjoy the ride.”

RT Book Reviews
on
How to Tame a Lady

“Michaels’ new Regency miniseries is a joy.… You will laugh and even shed a tear over this touching romance.”

RT Book Reviews
on
How to Tempt a Duke

“Michaels has done it again….Witty dialogue peppers a plot full of delectable details exposing the foibles and follies of the age.”

Publishers Weekly
on
The Butler Did It
(starred review)

“[A] hilarious spoof of society wedding rituals wrapped around a sensual romance filled with crackling dialogue reminiscent of
The Philadelphia Story.


Publishers Weekly
on
Everything’s Coming Up Rosie

KASEY MICHAELS

Also available from Kasey Michaels and Harlequin HQN

The Redgraves

What an Earl Wants
“The Wedding Party”
Rules of Engagement

The Blackthorn Brothers

The Taming of the Rake
A Midsummer Night’s Sin
Much Ado About Rogues

The Daughtry Family

“How to Woo a Spinster”
A Lady of Expectations and Other Stories
How to Tempt a Duke
How to Tame a Lady
How to Beguile a Beauty
How to Wed a Baron

The Sunshine Girls

Dial M for Mischief
Mischief Becomes Her
Mischief 24/7

The Beckets of Romney Marsh

A Gentleman by Any Other Name
The Dangerous Debutante
Beware of Virtuous Women
A Most Unsuitable Groom
A Reckless Beauty
Return of the Prodigal
Becket’s Last Stand

Other must-reads

The Bride of the Unicorn
The Secrets of the Heart
The Passion of an Angel
Everything’s Coming Up Rosie
Stuck in Shangri-La
Shall We Dance?
The Butler Did It

Coming soon, the next sparkling novel
in the Redgraves series

What a Gentleman Desires

KASEY MICHAELS

To my readers.
Thanks for all the hours of pleasure you’ve given
me!

Dear Reader,

In the first book of this series,
What an Earl Wants,
I introduced the Redgrave family—those scandalous Redgraves—whose family history includes whispers of hosting a salacious hellfire club known only as the Society.

Now the whispers are back, and it’s up to the Redgraves to find and destroy this new, treasonous incarnation of the Society before it not only destroys the family, but England as well.

The earl himself, Lord Gideon Redgrave, located the first clues. Now, to keep his sister, Lady Katherine, safe, he’s advised her to search for evidence of the original Society at Redgrave Manor. Evidence he’s certain isn’t there.

But never underestimate the determination of a beautiful, headstrong young lady, or the mischief that can unfold when an unsuspecting Simon Ravenbill, Marquis of Singleton, is sent to ride herd on her.

I think you’ll enjoy Kate and admire her courage, even as we all shake our heads at her methods. When Simon gives up on any notion of controlling her and realizes the inevitability of loving her, they set off for the adventure, and discovery, of a lifetime.

Enjoy! And please visit me online on Facebook or my website, to catch up on all my news.

Kasey

www.KaseyMichaels.com

Oh, what a tangled web we weave,
when first we practice to deceive.
—Sir Walter Scott

PROLOGUE

1810

T
HE
HISTORY
OF
the Redgraves could be traced to the days before the beheading of the House of Stuart’s Charles I in 1649. Meandering through the years, the family managed to stay on the good side of the Cromwell Roundheads. They then lightly danced through the return and second exit of the Stuarts, before managing to be favored with quite good seats for the Westminster Abbey coronation of the first monarch of the House of Hanover. All accomplished without ever forfeiting any of their lands or fortune and, more important, any of the family’s heads to the chopping block in the Tower of London.

There was one hanging, but that was the twelfth earl, and really didn’t count. He’d accomplished the deed himself in his study as the consequence of steep gambling debts and a genuine horror of his lady wife learning of them while he was still able to hear her screeching. After all, it was a matter of honor that before he kicked the chair out from beneath him, he had first settled said gambling debts by prying the major stones out of his wife’s jewelry and replacing them with paste. Not that women, who had no real notion of honor, understood such things.

But the thirteenth earl backed faster horses and could count trumps with the best of them, so that the Redgrave holdings once more increased. Their social status never wavered, and the paste gems were replaced thanks to the earl’s brilliant marriage to a lovely young thing whose father’s enormous fortune was a full generation away from the smell of the shop.

So much for the history of the Redgraves and the many earls of Saltwood.

The
scandal
of the Redgraves began in 1789, thanks to Barry Redgrave, the handsome, fashionable seventeenth Earl of Saltwood, who unexpectedly found himself quite dead one winter’s morning, facedown in an icy puddle on a makeshift dueling ground. How he came to this ignominious end, when even as he’d aimed his pistol he’d been planning his order for breakfast once his wife’s French lover was disposed of, has a simple answer. His lady wife, the fiery Spanish beauty, Lady Maribel, had shot Barry in the back. As noted earlier, women have no real notion of honor.

After all, not only did the countess coldly dispatch her own husband, but she and her lover had then fled to the Continent, leaving her four young and now fatherless children behind, motherless, as well.

Oh, the scandal! This was no nine-days wonder soon forgotten, especially when coupled with rumors Barry Redgrave had been the leader of some sort of debauched hellfire club, the group known only to its members, and then only as the
Society.

Everyone knew such clubs were only excuses for otherwise respectable gentlemen to don cloaks and masks and behave badly with women from the lower orders, indulge in drunken orgies and dabble in other disgusting yet titillating experiments, such as opium eating. And, of course, it goes without saying there was also this business of sacrificing the odd billy goat here and there, just to keep their end up on the satanic-chanting, ritual-ridden hellfire side of things.

Except the rumors surrounding the late earl’s hellfire club after his death went deeper than that, all the way to political conspiracy and admiration of the French citizens bent on taking down their king. One side of the Channel or the other, the chopping off of heads still registered the ultimate in displeasure by both the masses and monarchies. So, naturally, having managed to outwit the headsman thus far in their history, the Redgraves were quick to deny Barry’s possible seditious leanings to George III—who had just come out of a year in a straight waistcoat, no longer foamed at the mouth and had been declared fit to rule once more—so it is anybody’s guess whether or not he understood.

But a titillated society was mostly certain Barry’s little hellfire club was all about the orgies; if nothing else, they were much more delicious to contemplate. Perhaps his wife’s affair with the Froggie had been merely to register her dissatisfaction with her spouse’s licentious activities outside the marital bed? Had she only known about them, or had the round-heeled beauty been a willing participant? You never knew about those foreign types. Hot-blooded and volatile, the lot of them. Oh, how delicious to speculate!

Nothing could be proved, of course, as the so-called Society was made up of people whose names were not known, and none of them thought it would be jolly fun to publish his memoirs recounting something like:
The Society: a Chronicle of Great Times and Lascivious Pleasures with Barry Redgrave, the Other Lads, a Cast of Willing Trollops and the Occasional Billy Goat.
No, definitely not.

There was also the dowager countess to add into the mix of conjecture; Lady Beatrix Redgrave, who was herself a scamp of the first water. She took lovers by the dozen, helping to keep alive all those rumors about
her
late husband, Charles, who’d had all the circumspection of a satyr, even decorating his Mayfair mansion in a way the majority of the world would term salacious. That Trixie hadn’t had the decency to have fig leaves plastered to the larger-than-life marble statues lining the curving staircase after the man’s death only proved the woman was no fit guardian for her grandchildren.

Still, the years passed, and the four Redgrave siblings somehow managed to reach adulthood without growing horns or bursting into flames when passing by a churchyard. The current eighteenth Earl of Saltwood, Gideon Redgrave, had entered society with his head held high and an unspoken challenge to anyone who might dare speak ill of his late parents or attempt to rake up that old scandal.

A few did try him on, to see how far they could go. That was their mistake, and the beginning of the belief the Redgraves were not only scandalous, they could be downright dangerous. Intelligent, yes, smoothly sophisticated, yes...but there was just something about them that warned the wise that to scratch a civilized Redgrave was to reveal the barbarian beneath.

Gideon’s brother Maxmillien went off to sail with the British Royal Navy at a ridiculously young age, and he managed to be on the deck of the
Victory
to witness the heroic death of the illustrious Admiral Nelson at Trafalgar.

The youngest Redgrave son, Valentine, traveled about the Continent in the way of younger sons, cleverly avoiding areas of increasingly hostile action as that upstart Bonaparte randomly flexed his muscles.

And their sister, Lady Katherine, had made her curiously belated come-out a scant year ago, in 1809. A true beauty, it appeared she would take London by storm. She very well might have, except for That Unfortunate Business at Almacks.

After all, it wasn’t every day London got to see a debutante fracture her dancing partner’s nose with a brilliantly executed right cross. Lord Hilton, the fool, had dared to say something
amusing
to Kate
about her family tree as they came together in one of the movements of the dance. The abused gentleman had bled copiously all over his waistcoat while pressing both hands to his abused proboscis, screaming, “My node! My node! She broke my node!”

With all eyes in the room wide with shock, all ears open for what would happen next, Kate had told him to stop being such a baby, then serenely strolled off the dance floor, declaring London society to be a sad waste of her time, just as she had predicted. It may not have helped that the dowager countess followed behind her, laughing so hard she had to walk nearly bent double.

No overt gossip resulted from this shocking event, no barely veiled references to the incident were reported in the daily newspapers, no limericks were composed by young wits. This was not amazing. Gideon, Earl of Saltwood, made the rounds of all the gentlemen clubs the next day, seemingly ignorant of the scandal his sister had caused, and everyone took their cue from him, then breathed a collective sigh of relief when he moved on to the next club. A message had been delivered, and they’d all heard it, loud and clear.

Not that the Redgraves weren’t by nature an affable bunch. The line was pure—if somewhat clouded by the Spanish wife-murderess—the pockets were deep, the progeny tall, strikingly good-looking, very nearly exotic thanks to that touch of foreign blood.

There was just something about each and every one of them, some nebulous something that whispered rather than shouted a warning: they’re being affable only because it suits them, even the old lady.

The Redgraves were lions, one surprisingly insightful gentleman had whispered. Seemingly indolent, they could lie in the sun for hours, secure in themselves and seemingly indifferent to the world about them. But the more they relaxed—and nobody could relax with quite the magnificent sangfroid of a Redgrave—the more everyone else knew to stay on their toes and keep their wits about them.

Because if you did catch their notice they might look, blink and turn away, or they might pounce. Not that any of them had—with only a few notable exceptions no one ever spoke of—but the possibility was there, very clearly. After all, it was in the blood. Nobody knew what would happen if they took on a Redgrave because, thanks to those few notable exceptions in the past, nobody was foolish enough take on a Redgrave.

Except now, something indirectly has. The Society, the legacy of Barry Redgrave, and that of his father before him, has been resurrected by a new, even more deadly dangerous brand of hellfire members. Its unknown leader, building on the surviving members of the supposedly defunct Society, is employing every vice possible to lure both members and victims, the ultimate aim destroying England from the inside out and then handing the empire to a grateful Bonaparte.

With the help of the earl’s new bride, Jessica, whose recently deceased father had been a member, and the information all but bullied out of the dowager duchess, the Redgrave siblings set out to swiftly and quietly find and destroy this deadly reincarnation of the Society, from its members to its leader, relying on Trixie’s memories, and in hopes of locating the journals detailing the sordid, even treasonous history of the hellfire club.

It’s imperative this rejuvenated Society be identified and stopped, with the Redgrave name not connected to its actions in any way. Otherwise, this time, the resulting scandal could destroy them, and possibly the monarchy itself, forever.

BOOK: Kasey Michaels - [Redgraves 02]
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