Authors: Aubrey Brown
Emma Westlake is engaged to a Duke, whom she does not want to marry. There are rumors circulating through the ton that the Duke is responsible for his wife’s death.
Feeling as if her life is in danger, Emma must flee to a castle near the sea to be a governess to two adoptive children. She is employed by a man who is eccentric. There are no mirrors in the home, and he is never about during daylight.
Gabriel Saxon-Worthington has no idea who this mystery woman is, save her name, Mercy, and the sudden impulse to sink his fangs into her.
They are both seduced by each other’s brand of secrecy and engage in an affair that could lead to a deadly end. Gabriel is a vampire with a lust for Mercy’s blood, but will they be able to find eternity together before the Duke discovers her, or will he remain
Historical, Paranormal, Vampires/Werewolves
Siren Publishing, Inc.
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IMPRINT: Erotic Romance
Copyright © 2013 by Aubrey Brown
E-book ISBN: 978-1-62242-596-9
First E-book Publication: March 2013
Cover design by Christine Kirchoff
All cover art and logo copyright © 2013 by Siren Publishing, Inc.
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Copyright © 2013
London, England; 1820
Her briny tears mixed with that of the unforgiving wind and rain, as her broken heart beat heavily inside of her breast. Her delicate skin burned with sadness as her face was marred by a quickening bruise. The beast she stole from her father’s stable was quickly paced and hearty.
Emma Amelia Westlake was fleeing her childhood home for that of strangers’. She heard rumor and gossip about the man who lived in the enormous castle close by the sea. It was a day and a night’s ride away from the baron’s estate, on the edge of a great hill, just outside of London. She also heard from her maid that the man known as the “‘reclusive earl”’ needed a governess, and recent events had forced Emma to find her own living, or she may have very well found her end.
She was the daughter of an opportunistic baron, who was obsessed with titles and wealth. Her older brother passed just last year from influenza before he was to marry the neighboring duke’s oldest spinster daughter, leaving the estate with no heir. Emma’s mother passed away during childbirth with her youngest sibling who also died minutes after her mother, which left Emma an only child and to marry.
She was on the precipice of turning her majority, when her father told her she was to marry the duke, the father of the daughter whom her brother was supposed to wed. She thought it a joke at first, but her father was in earnest and had made a bargain with the duke.
Emma rode hard and fast through the last length of the woods to the great castle. As she approached the crumbling structure, she felt her heart shudder in her chest. Her head felt weak and woolly, her body wracked with shivers from the cold rain. Her horse stopped and wobbled with exhaustion at the gates. The poor beast was covered in white sweat. She slid off her saddle and took two steps before she fainted into oblivion.
* * * *
Six months earlier, before Emma’s wedding.
“Your brother had passed, Emma. We must provide an heir and make a match of your marriage. Since the duke is widowed, you will marry him in six months’ time. We must have a proper courtship and an engagement announcement,” her father stated.
She sat shock still in her seat. She was to marry the duke? He was old, and he was as wide as he was tall. And he was mean, if the rumors held true. There was also gossip that his first wife could not provide him a son, only his one daughter, and that she met a terrible end at the duke’s hands. Emma was suddenly frightened and panic-stricken.
“Father, you must not mean I am to marry the duke of Greensburg? He is older than you are, and he is cruel.”
“Where have you heard such fodder? That is gossip and vicious blather, and you will do as you’re ordered,” he finalized.
Emma was about to speak again when a caller came to their door. It was the duke.
As the months passed so did her resolve to not do as she was bade by her father. The longer she was in her intended’s company, the more she believed the tales. Emma saw the evil in his eyes, the hard resolve of his tenor. His grasp upon her hand was unkind, and Emma could not help herself, she began to save her pin money and devise a plan.
* * * *
Two months later, before Emma’s wedding.
Emma sat at her dressing table, watching with unseeing eyes as her maid dressed her hair. Her heart felt dead inside of her chest. The previous evening she tried to talk to her father about her impending wedding and her honest dislike of the duke. Her father rebuffed her and sent her to her room. She cried herself to sleep that night and awoke with lifeless eyes, along with an empty soul. She knew in her spirit that her future husband was a cruel and vicious man. Her maid had spoken with some of his current servants and had been conveyed that he takes his maids by force and beats the children who live within his household.
Emma shivered with the thought of his brutality. Her maid saw her eyes and questioned her mistress. Emma began to feel impossible tears roll down her face as she spoke of her fears. Her maid looked sympathetic and asked her what she could sort out.
She had thought about her predicament for months, and had only one conclusion. She must run away and begin life anew in the working class. She felt a momentary pang, but she was a strong girl, she could live through anything, especially if it meant she did not have to marry the duke.
“I must run away, Lily,” Emma concluded.
“Oh, miss, must you?”
“Indeed, Lily. I cannot marry the man. He is evil, and I would rather live as a servant and be paid for my efforts than to bear his children year after year and suffer his cruelty.”
Her maid nodded her head but once and stated, “You will have to find employment far away from your father’s estate. You will have to disguise yourself, for you are very beautiful.”
Emma’s mind reeled. She never felt comparable to a great beauty. She had been the toast of her coming-out ball, but that had been one season ago, and she had received no proposals.
Seeming to guess Emma’s thoughts, Lily began again. “Miss, you must listen to what I have to say. I know about working with families, wives do not want beautiful, cultured girls in their employ. I hear many things through the other servants, and I will carefully find a possible post for you before your marriage.”
Emma felt grateful and nodded her head with tears streaking down her face.
One month passed with no word of possible employment far away from her father’s home. She was beginning to feel forlorn. The duke was becoming more forceful in his affections. He had seized her arm the other evening and attempted to walk her into a vacant room at a neighbor’s ball. Luckily, for Emma, another gentleman stopped his progress and engaged him in talk of investments. Being a crude subject for a lady with little knowledge, Emma could excuse herself.
She was able to breathe in a sigh of relief.
* * * *
Two nights before Emma’s wedding.
Emma sat in the parlor with her father and her fiancé. The men were finishing their port, and Emma felt her lip curl slightly at the sour smell emanating from her intended.
Her resolve to run away came into her mind twofold as she was unable to find a single employer matching her needs. Lily had been trying to help her secure employment, but none had arisen, and Emma felt desperate enough to speak with the duke this evening, and perceive if she could bargain her way out of the marriage.
The baron left the room for a moment to gather some papers needed for an investment. Emma sat still in her high-back chair as the duke looked upon her with lust in his eyes. She sat up a little straighter; she needed all of her strength.