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Tell no one! A lady calling upon a gentleman in her nightrail?

I write to you today to tell you of a most outlandish tale I heard. That of the Whiskey King’s daughter. (I dare not say her name.) And that she visited the Duke of M—’s son in her nightrail!

Now I know that seems impossible, but one of her neighbors swears it was she who scampered out of her house toward the duke’s.

Who else could it be? That man has no other girl so bold.

Or I do believe it to be so. What say you of his second child?

***

THE RAVEN’S LAST BET in THE WEDDING WAGER

BUY LINK: 

https://books2read.com/u/3JZQLJ

 

Desperate Sara Fleming decides the only way to escape her father’s plan is to make her newest betrothed a bet he can’t refuse.

Never good at gambling, Harry Seymour bets he can find a better way to win her heart! 

But he better hurry!

 Harry Seymour is home from years of fighting abroad to clean up the mess his roguish brother left upon his untimely death. Worse, his father, the Duke of Meredith, demands Harry honor a deal he made with his best friend to marry the man’s eldest daughter…for money.

Harry, who’s loved Sara Fleming since she was four, has no problem marrying her. He never did, even when she was denied him because she was the Whiskey King’s daughter. But not for money. 

Sara cannot accept the bargain her father made with the duke. She’s already left two men at the altar because she didn’t love either one. And if she can’t wed Harry for love, she’ll marry no one. But she wagers she’ll walk away happy if Harry will do her the favor of ruining her. It’s a bet Harry can’t refuse.

Can he?

Excerpt, All rights reserved. Copyright Cerise DeLand 2022.

        “Listen to me, Sara. I have a plan. It won’t be one either of our fathers likes but it might work.”

She pulled away. Peering into his magnificent eyes clouded her judgement. His green-brown orbs reflected a sadness in the faint lights that matched her own. “Tell me.”

“We announce that we intend to marry others.”

“I’ve already left two men alone before the vicar. Now there’s this gossip in the Gazette—?”

“Forget those other two men. And hang them at the Gazette.”

She put a hand to her hip. “We’ll send them new stories. Marvelous. I dislike your thinking, Harry. Totally. Marry another? Ba! Precisely who did you have in mind?” 

He gave her a look that said he had the right answer. “A man who makes you tingle.”

“Of whom there is no one.” Which is a lie.

“For each woman, there is a man. A perfect match.”

“I’ve not found him in four years. Why now?”

“You will lure him.”

 By some folly, to be sure. “How?”

A wicked gleam lit those iridescent eyes. “With kisses.”

“You expect me to kiss men?”

He shrugged a shoulder. “How else will you discover the right fellow?”

“How else will I go down as a scarlet woman? I’ve climbed enough fences barring me because I am of the dreaded merchant class. Papa’s money might continue to buy me entry, but if I degrade myself further, no one will touch me!”

He tipped up his chin. “You will be discreet. I will help.”

“You’ll bar doors?”

“And divert traffic.”

She scowled at him. “You’ve been away much too long, sir. You think me so brave. I am different from that child who tagged along behind you and tucked frogs in your pants.”

He scoffed. “Remind me. Who came to me night before last in her nightrail?”

”Dressing gown.”

He waved that away. “Exactly my point.”

Exasperated, she huffed. “The fault, dear Harry, is not in our stars, but in myself.”

“I agree.”

Oh, he infuriated her! “I do not know how to kiss.”

“And so you will learn.”

Only one way. She could barely say it. “By doing.”

“Indeed.” He winked. “With me.”

That way lay disaster and hopeless ruin. She’d should return to this party, because this was hopeless. She’d given up wanting him so long ago. Or thought she had. She threw up her hands. “Absurd.”

“Is it?” He took a step toward her, so near she inhaled his scent, imbibed his familiar allure that she could not allow to thrill her. “You said my kiss left you with no…what is the word?”

“You know perfectly well the word.”

“Tickle?”

If only. “Tingle.”

“Well then, my darling.” With one hand he caught her wrist while he swept his other hand around her waist. “Let’s see if this fits the bill.”

“No, stop!” Wonderful. Now she sounded like the village crier. 

“There, there. Don’t be shy. An experiment, eh?” He lifted her hand toward his mouth. “Or shall we call it…” he murmured, as he put her index finger, fully gloved, against the neat cleft in his chin, “…a demonstration? Visible to the naked eye.”

He smiled. Or was that the show of teeth of a predator? A creature who…gloated? 

He caught the point of her glove between his long white incisors. The act of a male bent on taking a bite of her, he tugged. The fabric slid along her finger, silk on silk, a glissade of shivering delight. Her glove glided from her elbow in a silent skim of her nerves. She shivered.

He halted. Glanced up at her, those long dark lashes of his rising to reveal the facets of a Harry she’d never known. A ravenous devil appeared there, one who pulled at another fingertip, starving for more of her until her hand was bare. Nipping her third finger and the next, he sent tremors up her spine. Her mouth fell open as he took her smallest finger, fabric and all, and bathed the whole of it in his hot moist mouth. His tongue served as succor—and as torture. 

She panted as if she’d run a mile. Her gaze glued to his voracious teeth, she dare not look away or lose a second. What he gave, she took. If it was instruction, it was also a revelation. Though she knew not how to interpret his lips to her fingers as lips to lips, she reveled in whatever he’d choose next. 

With a yank of his teeth, he pulled and her glove slid slowly down her arm and fell to the floor. She was bare to the night air, chilled and burning, as he caught her fingers and pressed them to his open mouth. He cupped her elbow, and her wrist was once more his. Bare skin gave him no pause, but encouragement to lift her hand once more. 

He groaned and crushed her torso fully against him. His possession, from her breasts to her hips, left her pulsing. 

He put her palm to his lips and licked the hollow of her hand. She moaned at his luscious homage and her knees gave way. As he caught her up, he bit the heal of her hand. She yelped. He gave a grunt, nigh unto laughter or triumph, she knew not which, then wrapped her arm around his waist. As he sweetly backed her to the wall, his hair fell loose over his brow and he focused on her lips. 

Then he took them.

Cerise DeLand is the USA TODAY Bestselling author of more than 60 historical romances…and a few other bits, too! 

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Triumph—or humiliation—for Lady Pandora?

It has come to this author’s attention that the mysterious Miss E—, about whom the most scandalous rumours have been circulating since the beginning of the Season, will be among the guests at Godstone Abbey. What can Lady Westfield—who is usually most discerning when selecting guests for her Christmas houseparty—be about?

Far be it for this author to cast aspersions on a young lady’s eligibility, but Miss E—, despite displaying  a soupçon of breeding on occasion, is not averse to using a turn of phrase which would make even a Cyprian blush, with her extensive catalogue of anatomical terms. Miss E—’s guardian, Sir A—E—, himself notorious for being what can only be described as a committed bachelor, has been decidedly unforthcoming over the circumstances by which the previously-unheard-of young woman became his ward six months ago. Young ladies don’t just spring fully formed from the ground, neither do they fall from the heavens. And, as every accomplished tattler knows, Dear Reader—the less one is willing to disclose about one’s origins, the more there is to be divulged.

What has piqued this author’s interest in particular, is the anticipation of Lady Pandora Osborne’s presence at Godstone. As the year draws to a close, Lady Pandora’s quest to prove herself the premier matchmaker the Ton has ever seen, enters its final act. She has one more match to make, to secure her crown, Godstone Abbey is to provide the backdrop for her finale.

And what a finale it promises to be! For, the intended bridegroom must be none other than the Duke of S—. And, while this author concedes that His Grace is the most eligible bachelor in England, he’s renowned for a degree of discernment that has hitherto rendered him notoriously difficult to catch. Many desperate mamas have tried—and failed—to secure him for their daughters.

Surely Lady Pandora cannot have elevated her ambitions so high as to consider a pairing between Miss E— and His Grace? While this author applauds her ladyship’s ambition, this final hurdle may prove unsurmountable, even for a thoroughbred of Lady Pandora’s tenacity.

If Miss E— is the intended bride, then Lady Pandora’s fate now lies on a knife’s edge. Either glittering triumph, or calamitous downfall awaits her.

A Christmas Wager

After surviving destitution, the orphaned Eleanor Hawkins re-enters society with a new identity, courtesy of her guardian, Sir Arthur Evans. With a penchant for pickpocketing, learned on London’s streets, Eleanor’s out for revenge on a society that abandoned her—especially Montague Lockhart, the man who broke her heart and brought about her downfall.

Lady Pandora Osborne is determined show her matchmaking prowess by securing a match between committed bachelor Montague Lockhart, Duke of Sedgewick, and Sir Arthur Evans’s new ward—an utterly unladylike young woman, whose origins are shrouded in mystery. Where better to achieve her aim than a Christmas houseparty, where mulled wine, mistletoe, and the season of goodwill is enough to tempt even the most miserly lord into love?

A Christmas Wager is part of The Wedding Wager anthology:

The Wedding Wager

Rival matchmakers…unlikely suitors…a Herculean wager!

Lady Pandora Osborne claims she’s the finest matchmaker the Ton has ever seen. When her cousin challenges her to make good on her claim, or lose a precious family heirloom, the terms of the wager are set! Lady Pandora must produce one match each month between the notoriously unmarriageable—spinsters, bluestockings, rakes and fortune-hunters.

This unique collection of tales of unlikely matches and steamy shenanigans in Regency England is released on September 27th, but can be pre-ordered at a discount here:

https://books2read.com/u/mdDpyX

Extract from A Christmas Wager

Still gazing at the chandelier, she walked forward, then collided with a solid wall of muscle.

“Pardon me,” a deep voice said, in a tone which made the apology sound like an insult.

Eleanor froze.

The arrogance in his tone was matched by the contempt in his eyes—clear blue eyes in a savagely handsome face, surrounded by a mane of thick black hair.

No…

He must be a figment of her imagination, made manifest by years of despair.

She closed her eyes, but though it brought about blessed darkness, the familiar scent invaded her nostrils—the scent which she’d once found so comforting, but now associated with betrayal.

When she opened her eyes, he was still there—tall, broad-shouldered, domineering.

And, most certainly—him.

“Oh!” Lady Westfield cried, breaking the spell. “Miss Evans, may I introduce Montague Lockhart—Duke of Sedgewick.” She turned to him. “Your Grace—this is Miss Evans.”

His attention, which had been focused on Lady Westfield, now turned to Eleanor, and she caught her breath, as her heart stuttered in her chest.

But he showed no sign of recognition. Instead, he clicked his heels together and gave the slightest of inclinations with his head.

“A pleasure, I’m sure.”

Then he turned his back, and walked away.

Bio & Socials

USA TODAY Bestselling Author Emily Royal is a mathematics geek who grew up in Sussex, England and has always had a passion for romance and bad boy heroes in need of redemption. She now lives in rural Scotland with her husband, two daughters and a menagerie of pets including Twinkle, an attention-seeking boa constrictor.

Website: http://www.emroyal.com/

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What Happens at The Soho Club? Should Stay there!

That most scandalous of establishments, The Soho Club, is more popular than ever in Regency Society – and this time, there are festivities afoot.

You may recall that this unique and exclusive club maintains both a male and female membership. All appetites are welcome at The Soho Club, a haven for those who wish a moment’s indulgence away from prying eyes and scurrilous gossips. Only the premiere scandal sheet in the capital is even aware of this place where one’s most daring appetites are expected, encouraged, and even shared.

The Soho Club has only one rule: Discretion above all things. It’s the ‘all things’ that the members enjoy, because sharing secrets at Christmas time so often leads to love.

Eight steamy Regency romance novellas to ring in the season!

Heidi Wessman Kneale, The Freedom of a Widow
Master Bisou gives kissing lessons at The Soho Club, but what to do with a young widow, who wants to learn so much more?

Renée Dahlia, The Widow’s Modiste
Lady Merryam, widowed and bored, only attends the Soho Club’s latest ball to help raise funds for her son’s orphanage. The last thing she expects is a one night stand with the mysterious woman wearing ‘that’ dress. Could spending more time with her be the answer to her ennui?

Charlotte Anne, Violet Evergreen Seduces a Rogue
Wallflower Violet knows there’s more to the world than parties and fine gowns, and she’s determined to experience it all. With a little light bribery she convinces the great nonpareil of London’s gambling dens, Morgan Turner, to gift her some ‘experience’ at The Soho Club for Christmas.

Clyve Rose, The Case of the Black Diamond (Part II)

Much has changed since the events of Part I. Ada Ryan is caught up in her sister’s intrigues and her sister’s colleague Mr Felix is too attractive for a mere valet, but is that all there is to this man? Mr Felix is working to solve a maid’s murder and uncover a conspiracy. The last thing he needs is a distraction from one of the loveliest and most talented women in London – but he’s under orders to see to Ada Ryan’s safety. He’d best keep her close.

This novella includes links to a free bonus download featuring more espionage, adventure and passion. The bonus book is a bonus gift to all who purchase this collection – Merry Christmas!

Linda Rae Sande, The Holiday of a Marquess
A widowed countess who knows her numbers and a marquess in need of an accountant. When a will reveals her late husband’s secret, Elaine succumbs to Edward’s advances and discovers a second chance a love is possible at The Soho Club.

Ebony Oaten, Scandalous Charlotte

Charlotte, Lady Durham, has a terrible secret that weighs more heavily upon her by the day. If Charlotte thought she could have a quiet Christmastide as a widow, she did not count on Brabham, the ever-so-helpful footman whose well-meaning goodwill threatens to expose everything she holds dear.

Fiona M Marsden, Thursday’s Child

Newlyweds Will and Bella are struggling after their disastrous honeymoon and a family Christmas looming before them. They agree to rebuild their marriage kiss by kiss, touch by touch, in the scandalous private reading room of The Soho Club. 

This collection includes 2 BONUS NOVELLAS:

Pamela Hart, A Generous Heart
Accessing her substantial inheritance from conservative trustees is proving impossible for Adeline Edmonds. Her heart is set on creating a charitable school for the poor of London. Viscount Marryam has his heart set on Adeline Edmonds, but the company she keeps could derail his ambitions.

Ebony Oaten, There’s Something About Miss Mary
Miss Mary Callingsbrooke knows there’s something terribly wrong with her. Her body reacts in such an unnatural way when she’s close to a handsome gentleman. Mary meets the mysterious Mr Smith at the Soho Club, who shows Mary that her ‘faults’ are in fact incredibly attractive features. He’s more than happy to marry Mary, but why the haste?

About the Book: Christmas Secrets of the Soho Club

Eight Regency novellas for less than $1 (plus your BONUS CHRISTMAS GIFTS).

NOW AVAILABLE FOR PREORDER:

https://www.amazon.com/Christmas-Secrets-Soho-Club-Season-ebook/dp/B09THYGPX4/

Release Date: 15 September 2022

Multiple Authors:

Heidi Wessman Kneale

Renée Dahlia

Pamela Hart

Charlotte Anne

Clyve Rose

Linda Rae Sande

Fiona M Marsden

Ebony Oaten

Excerpt from The Case of the Black Diamond (Part II), by Clyve Rose:

Felix moved towards her. “May I assist you?”

“You’ve done nothing but assist me since I made your acquaintance.” Ada’s bluntness surprised them both, if Felix’s raised brows were any indication. Is this what working without a script feels like? The parlour door swung slightly ajar, a crack of light between the wood and the jamb. Did propriety matter when a woman had already kissed the gentleman in question? In such cases as these, it matters more. Ada’s inner pragmatist made little sense today. She stared accusingly at the nearly-closed door.

Felix’s gaze followed hers before returning to fix on her face – and there it was, the blush she’d managed to keep at bay since she’d met this man. Kissed him. Been kissed by him… Something real, warm, and wonderfully powerful rushed through her, like winter sunlight after frost. She shivered, opening her mouth to speak and banish this strangeness but no words came out. For the first time since she’d stood before an audience, Ada Ryan closed her lips without uttering a sound. Her gaze found Felix’s. He studied her face as though enchanted. His strong jaw relaxed, lips parted in the beginnings of a smile, his dimple half-visible, half-lost.

“Are you thinking of our kiss?” She asked, her cheeks heating further.

“Five weeks ago,” he replied, still smiling. Heavens, that dimple.

Five weeks, three days, and twenty-two hours. Ada nearly pouted at her memory’s stubborn persistence. She reached towards him as though she’d lost control of her limbs. Felix was across the room in an instant. His palm cupped her cheek, his eyes staring searchingly into her face.

“Ada, are you certain?”

Ada placed one palm over his, the other reaching up to stroke his hair. Tugging gently, she settled his mouth over hers, tasting citrus and scotch, intoxicating, enthralling, and gently questing. Ada sighed, nestling closer as his mouth teased hers, nipping at her lips while his palms cradled her face in the gentlest caress. His fingers moved delicately against her cheeks, as though she were precious, important, and valuable simply as Ada. So she kissed him as Ada; gently, wonderingly, with a hesitancy she’d not felt before…a kiss that was not ‘business’, or theatrics, or demanded. A kiss that was quiet and deliciously sweet, balancing desire with depth.

She drew back, swallowing the taste of him deeply, holding this honeyed moment still. When she nerved herself to meet his gaze, Ada saw warmth and gentle acceptance. She saw hunger too – fierce and potent. A trilling laugh bubbled up from her throat. She bit it back, forcing it away from this sensation that didn’t belong to staged scenes. It belonged to Ada and Felix. Laying her eyeglasses on the desk she stared at this man, awake to the shock of being real.

I liked kissing you she wanted to say, but confidence was one thing; brazenness was quite another. There were rumours all over London about the ‘new duchess’ at Drury Lane. Perhaps Mr Felix believed them. She swallowed. “I like kissing you.” She whispered, trembling in every nerve.

“Then I am the luckiest man in London.”

Author Bio:

Clyve Rose is an award-winning, Amazon-bestselling author of historical fiction in Australia and the US. She has been writing historical romance for the best part of two decades. Clyve believes that love is the highest and strongest force known in the world, and that it only manifests when we are our best and truest selves. 

Her debut novel Always a Princess was a finalist in 2020’s ARRA Awards. The Soho Club collections were also finalists in these awards, as was the sweet romance novella Love’s Sweet Arrow. She is also the recipient of a Passionate Ink award for The One Below.

Website & blog: www.clyverose.com

Follow Clyve on social media:

Twitter: @clyverose

IG: #clyverose

Facebook: Clyve Rose (@clyveroseauthor)

 

A Lady who Pursues a Diplomat Could Ruin Affairs!

“There is something strange afoot, Mrs. Ardmore.” Helen, Dowager Countess Ettesmere, frowned as the housekeeper came into the morning room.

“How do you mean, my lady?”

“Just this.” She folded her hands atop her secretary, much to quell their shaking as much as to project a calm appearance. “Lady Sophia has got it into her mind to romantically pursue Ambassador Mattingly.”

There. She said it aloud. Perhaps now it would make her feel better.

The housekeeper’s graying brown eyebrows rose, but that was the only evidence of her surprise. “Your daughter is in love with the ambassador?”

Oh, if only! Helen giggled and feared it sounded more hysterical than anything else. “I would have no idea, but she has the look.”

“I beg your pardon, my lady, but what look?”

A huff of frustration escaped her. “That look which says a woman is more than interested in a man, and since Ambassador Mattingly only just came to our door the day before, I am a bit concerned of my daughter’s mental state.”

“Due to the ongoing troubles with her heart?”

“Yes, some.” Knots of worry went through Helen’s stomach. Her only daughter, though long a woman grown, and over the age of forty, had received the worst diagnosis a person could—she would die soon of a weak heart. “I suppose if it were me who was facing imminent death, I might wish for one last tryst before crossing over.” Though, that still didn’t excuse the incoming scandal she suspected her daughter was planning.

The housekeeper shifted her weight from foot to foot. “Does the ambassador return her interest?”

“I would have no idea, but he regards her with an attitude that smacks of infatuation.” Helen put her hands in her lap. Oh, this was a terrible mess, and it hadn’t even happened yet. “I’ve seen the way Lady Sophia looks at the man. Why, she practically goggled him up at tea yesterday with her eyes. It would have been the height of scandal had anyone else beyond the family been in attendance.”

“I see.” One corner of Mrs. Ardmore’s lips twitched, but full-blown amusement never materialized. She was too well-trained for that. “Well, if he does return her interest, perhaps it isn’t a bad thing. Given the circumstances.”

Helen groaned. She rubbed her fingers over her eyes. “All my life, I have trained my children to be proper members of society. I orchestrated their first marriages and assumed those matches would have lasted.”

“Nothing is permanent in this life, my lady.”

“No, I suppose it’s not. Even my own husband succumbed to death.” She met the housekeeper’s eyes. “I wanted something lovely for each of my children, but Sophia doesn’t seem interested in anything proper now. Not with death looming. It’s simply too scandalous to let her conduct an affair under the nose of her impressionable daughter. My granddaughter!”

“I rather doubt Lady Sophia will have an affair. That isn’t who she is,” the housekeeper was quick to soothe. “Perhaps you should give it some time and see what comes—if anything—between your daughter and the ambassador. Perhaps it will be a love match.”

Helen couldn’t help but utter an unladylike snort. “Love? In an instant over tea yesterday? Pish posh, Mrs. Ardmore. You and I both know life doesn’t work that way.”

“But there is always room for an anomaly, and if what is between them results in love, who is to say it’s wrong?” One of the housekeeper’s eyebrows went up in inquiry. “Perhaps you should see how the relationship develops over the next few days before crying an alarm.”

“Perhaps.” Helen nodded with a sigh. “My heart goes out to my daughter. She is facing a set of horrible circumstances and is thinking about her daughter’s future, but still. I don’t want her to make a mistake in the time she has remaining.”

“Lady Sophia is clever and intelligent, my lady. Things will come out right in the end.”

“I sincerely hope so, Mrs. Ardmore.” But oh, this situation was fraught with worries.

I hope Sophia won’t be hurt merely to stave off loneliness.

Blurb for Pursuing Mr. Mattingly (Willful Winterbournes #1)

Fragile and fleeting, love is an addiction… Lady Sophia Winterbourne-Stratford-Forrester is a widow twice over. She suffers from a weak heart and has been advised to live a life without excitement or surprise. Wishing for one more romance before she leaves this mortal coil, and not wanting to leave her daughter an orphan, she begins looking, and her pulse leaps when she meets the American ambassador to England. Who gives a fig if she’s older than him?

When life is short and precious, one shouldn’t wait… Mr. Oliver Mattingly is visiting England on holiday. Vastly different from America, he’s anxious to see and experience everything, for adventure is in his blood. But when he immediately falls tip over tail for an enchanting, outspoken widow, the inexperienced bachelor knows where his next journey lies. After discovering her personal history, he asks for her hand. At least he can love her to the best of his ability before the inevitable happens.

Fate, though fickle, usually presents the perfect, if complicated, path… As the pair wed in haste and repent at leisure, they grow closer as desire only intensifies. A picnic by a rain-swollen creek turns into danger, and when Sophia doesn’t suffer ill-effects from the heart-pounding stimulation, they’re both shocked for different reasons. Could the doctor have been wrong? Love doesn’t care about misunderstandings or the foibles of life, it just is. Only they can decide if they truly want it… forever.

You can find the book here: https://amzn.to/3J2PV0j

Gasp! A Lady has Visited her ‘friend’ in the Middle of the Night?

Dear Gentle Reader,

It has been brought to my attention that a certain widow—who, shall not be named at this time but is the daughter of a viscount and has a rather large dog who answers to the name Silvanus— was seen in the country, on her way to pay a second visit in one day to a certain illegitimate son of a baron. Alone and at night!

What is most alarming about this tidbit is not only is she not yet out of mourning, but she has a tendre for said illegitimate son of a baron! And I have it on good authority that Mrs. K was seen gallivanting across the countryside in a lilac riding habit. 

Let me remind you, dearest reader, that this is the very same lady who disgraced her family when she ran off with the son of the head stable master on her sister’s wedding day two years ago. The same sister who was abandoned at the altar, that is. But I suppose I can not judge too harshly, for a notorious rake came to her rescue, and the now Mrs. R is happily married and living in the country with her handsome husband and darling daughter. But I digress…

It has also come to my attention that Mrs. K is not truly Mrs. K for… gather a little closer… It would seem her late husband was quite the swindler and debaucher. It was not enough for him to be married, but to have paramours—yes, plural—waiting in the shadows is beyond understanding. 

Oh, such scandalous behavior!

Far be it from me to judge, but it would seem the lady in question is not quite through with causing scandal for her family. Has she no propriety or care for her family? Only time will tell if the ton forgives her for her transgressions.

Excerpt:

Who in the bloody hell would be calling on such a dreary evening? 

Rubbing his tired eyes, he stood and stretched. He hoped it was just the wind, but instinct told him it was not. Nothing currently in his life was as simple as that. Grabbing the polished candlestick, he walked from the warm sanctity of his study toward the front hall. 

The pounding on the door was getting more persistent, vibrating through the otherwise quiet house. 

He hoped it wasn’t Lord Botte. He wouldn’t be surprised if it were—the man had an uncanny knack for saying one thing and then doing another. Rather than let Weston conduct his investigation as he saw fit, Botte was constantly underfoot. No matter how much proof Weston had presented of his young bride’s infidelities, Botte wanted more. Sadly, his lordship could not accept the fact that his wife was cuckolding him.

Weston would deliver his report and then would not put any further time into the matter. He had wrapped up that case. In fact, he hoped it would be his last. 

Rap… rap… rap. 

Milton had reached the door at the same time. He shook his head at Milton. “I will handle this, Milton.” If it was Lord Botte, he did not want any of the staff to deal with the belligerent man.

“As you wish, sir.” Milton walked into the shadows, shaking his head all the while. Weston did not stand on protocol in his own home. If he wanted to answer the door, he would. 

He reached for the cool handle and eased the door open. Whiffs of lavender, vanilla, and wet dog invaded his senses. 

Wet dog? 

Before he could register what was happening, a petite, blonde-haired figure draped in black pushed past the door and stormed into the house, followed close behind by the largest dog he’d ever set eyes on. 

Without explanation as to why she was on his doorstep, Philippa chattered, “I thought… you meant for us to fr…freeze out there.” She rubbed her arms with quick movements and stepped farther into the hall. The dog shook its body from head to tail, spraying everything with the none-too-pleasant smell of wet fur.

Weston stood dumbfounded. Wasn’t Philippa just here this afternoon? He was still holding the door open, trying to comprehend why she had come again, and at this hour. Glancing outside, he noticed no horse, no carriage, and no chaperone. Damn. One day, her impulsive nature would land her in irreparable trouble, more so than she currently was in.

“What are you doing here?” he sputtered, trying to hide the disapproval and shock from his voice. He shut the door as one last blast of cool wind whipped through the hall. Closing his eyes, he sucked in his breath. Give me patience. Releasing the knob, he turned to face Philippa. 

Smoothing back errant golden locks, she avoided his gaze.

“Do you know what time it is?”

It was late by country standards, and the object of his latest investigation stood in his hallway, yet he still had to determine how to deal with the news he received earlier in the day. 

“I have not a clue.” She turned her crystal blue eyes on him. “It took forever to reach Knights Hall.”

Her answer was not reassuring. He waited for her to elaborate, but no further explanation came. “How did you get here?”

“I walked.” She said those two words like they were commonplace. Perhaps in the middle of the day with a chaperone they were, but at this time of evening, and in the rain, they were inconceivable when spoken by a lady of her station.

“You walked here?”

“Yes.”

“You walked here in the dark… in the rain… unchaperoned?”

“It wasn’t dark or raining when I left. And as for unchaperoned,” she began as she stroked the dog’s gigantic head, “Silvanus was with me. He protected me.” She turned her attention to the large wet dog. “Isn’t that right?” she said in a jovial voice. “You’re the best dog ever.” Silvanus’ tail wagged wildly at the sound of her high-pitched praise.

Weston did not doubt the dog’s ability to scare off any would-be attacker, but he was still no substitute for a proper chaperone. 

“Why didn’t you ride? Or better still, why didn’t you stay at home and send word?” As the words were coming out of his mouth, he could see her face reddening with agitation. He didn’t care. Her carefree spirit had been endearing when she was a child, but now she was headed for Bedlam with this sort of activity. 

If Lord Germayne knew what his daughter was about, he would lock her in her room until she came to her senses. Weston’s blood boiled with the thought of what trouble she could have found herself in, or worse. “I cannot believe you thought it was a good idea to venture out…”

Interrupting his tirade with a stomp of her foot on the marble floor, she yelled, “If you would just be quiet for all of two seconds, perhaps I might explain what I’m doing here.” 

Dancing Around the Truth

Mrs. Philippa Keates thought she’d found her happily ever after when she eloped, but two years later, she’s named a widow. The horror of her husband’s death, and then the shock of discovering that Alfred was a dissolute gambler, has forced Philippa into a life of seclusion. But when she is paid a visit by a woman claiming to be her late husband’s wife and demanding recompense, Philippa knows she must emerge from mourning and discover the whole truth about Alfred. The one person who can assist her is her childhood friend, Benjamin Weston, for whom she once held a tendre until she realized he didn’t feel the same.

Benjamin Weston, the illegitimate son of the late Baron Albryght, has made a name for himself conducting investigations for those willing to pay a high price for discretion. When Philippa arrives on his doorstep, begging for his assistance, Weston fears most of all that she will discover the truth. He insists that his investigations will be done on his terms, vowing to himself that he will continue to keep his distance from Philippa. But as he unravels her mystery, secrets of his own begin to come to light, and soon it becomes clear that there is more at stake than just Philippa’s reputation.

*Reissued in a new series with a beautiful new cover!

https://books.apple.com/us/book/id6442839573

https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/dancing-around-the-truth-1

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/dancing-around-the-truth-alanna-lucas/1122403321

Alanna Lucas, author bio

Bestselling, award-winning author, Alanna Lucas pens Regency-set historicals filled with romance, adventure, and of course, happily ever afters. When she is not daydreaming of her next travel destination, Alanna can be found researching, spending time with family, tending to her garden, or going for long walks. She makes her home in California with her husband and children, and too many books to count.

Just for the record, you can never have too many handbags or books. And travel is a must. 

www.alannalucas.com

https://www.facebook.com/AuthorAlannaLucas

https://twitter.com/alannalucas27 

https://www.bookbub.com/authors/alanna-lucas

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