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Three young heirs, imprisoned by an unscrupulous uncle, escaped—to the sea, to the streets, to faraway battle—awaiting the day when they would return to reclaim their birthright…
Lord Rafe Easton may be of noble blood, but survival taught him to rely only on himself and to love no one. Yet when he sets his eyes on Miss Evelyn Chambers, and earl’s illegitimate daughter, he is determined to have her, if only as his mistress.
After her father’s death, Evelyn Chambers never imagined she would be sold to the highest bidder, yet circumstances give her little choice except to accept the lord’s indecent proposal. Rafe is wealthy, as well as ruthless. Yet his coldness belies deep passion and deeper secrets. If she must be his, Evelyn intends to lay bare everything the Lord of Pembrook is hiding. But dark discoveries threaten to destroy them both until unexpected love guides the last lost lord home.
Why do you need to read this book? I must admit I totally loved this series! This book is the last of the trilogy and the hardest story to read in some ways. In this trilogy the boys were really damaged after they escaped their uncle. Rafe had the highest walls, and Evelyn was just the woman to bring down those walls! Wonderful read – bring tissues!
Lord of Wicked Intentions is available from Amazon
Excerpt: (from the author’s website)
The invitation came because of a debt owed. Owed to him. All debts were owed to him, while he owed no man anything. Not his friendship, not his loyalty, not his kindness. And certainly not his hard-earned coin.
But the Earl of Wortham, a man of little worth, Rafe Easton thought snidely, did owe him a good deal of coin, which was the reason that he was allowed into the earl’s magnificent library. He wondered briefly how long it would be before it was stripped of all the former owner’s prized possessions. He had left his son with little and what remained had been quickly gambled away in Rafe’s club.
The man wanted his credit extended and so for tonight he pretended a friendship with the Rakehell Club’s owner.
Drinking fine scotch that the earl could scarce afford, Rafe lounged insolently in a chair near the fireplace while the other lords mingled about, chuckled, chatted, and downed far too much liquor. They were a randy lot. He could sense their eagerness and anticipation hovering thickly about the room.
The young earl had a sister, although he didn’t recognize her as such. No, more precisely, she was his father’s daughter, born on the wrong side of the blanket. But on his father’s deathbed, he’d given his word that he would see to her care and that was what tonight’s gathering was about.
Finding someone willing to see to her care.
Wortham swore she was a virgin, and that knowledge had some of the lords salivating while others had sent their excuses. Rafe didn’t give a whit one way or the other. He did not bother with mistresses. They tended to cling, to desire baubles, to lead a man down a merry path only to eventually grow weary of the bed in which they slept and seek another.
He didn’t do anything that even reeked of permanence because anything that hinted at forever could be snatched away, could leave him, would leave him. Even his gaming establishment—he took no pride in it. It was simply a means to coins in his pockets. It could be taken away and he could walk from it without looking back, without a measure of regret. He had nothing in his life that meant anything at all to him, that would cause him the least hurt if he should lose it. His emotions ran on a perfected even keel and he liked it that way. Every decision he made was based on cold calculations.
He was here tonight simply for the amusement of watching these lords make fools of themselves as they vied for the lady’s attentions.
He’d heard that his brothers had been invited. That was a waste of ink on paper. They were both married and so disgustingly devoted to their wives that he couldn’t see either of them straying, not even an inch. But then what did he truly know about his siblings?
They’d finally returned to England two years later than they’d promised. Tristan a few months earlier than Sebastian. Rafe’s man had been waiting and ensured they made their way to the gaming hell. Rafe had greeted their arrival with little more than a glass of whiskey. He’d provided them with rooms and food until they’d secured Sebastian’s place as duke. He’d seen little of them since.
His choice. They invited him to join them: for dinners, for sailing, for Christmas. He declined. He didn’t need them cluttering his life. He liked things exactly as they were. He was his own man, responsible to no one beyond himself.
From somewhere down a hallway, a clock began to chime the hour of nine. Conversations ceased. The lords stilled, their gazes riveted on the door. Sipping his scotch, Rafe watched through half-lowered lids as the door opened. He caught sight of a purple hem and then–
He nearly choked on the golden liquid, as he fought not to give any reaction at all.
He suddenly had an acute understanding of why Adam was so quick to fall from grace when confronted with the temptation that was Eve. Rafe had come here to watch these slobbering idiots drooling over themselves, to measure weaknesses, to discover means of exploiting them.
He’d certainly never thought to place himself among their ranks.
But how could anyone look at her and not be momentarily dazed. She was the most exquisite creature he’d ever seen. Her hair, a shade that rivaled the sun in brilliance, was piled up to reveal a long, graceful neck that sloped down to alabaster shoulders that begged for a man’s lips to make their home there. She was neither short nor tall, but somewhere roughly in the middle. He wasn’t exactly certain where her head might land against his body. The curve of his shoulder perhaps. She was not particularly voluptuous, but she contained an elegance that drew the eye and spoke of still waters that could very well drown a man if he were of a mind to go exploring within their depths.
Which he wasn’t. He was content to appreciate the surface. It told him all he needed—all he desired—to know.
Glancing around, she appeared confused, her smile uncertain, until Wortham eventually crossed the room to stand beside her without looking as though he was with her. Two people could hardly look more different. Wortham stood stiff as a poker while she was composed, but emitted a softness. She would be the sort to touch, hold, and comfort.
“Gentlemen, Miss Evelyn Chambers.”
She dipped elegantly into a flawless curtsy. “My lords.”
He’d expected her voice to be sweet, to match her smile, but it was smoky, rich, the song of decadence and wickedness. He imagined that voice in a lower pitch, whispering of naughty pleasures, curling around his ear, traveling through his blood. He imagined deep throaty laughter and sultry eyes, lost to heated passion.
“Visit with the gentlemen,” Wortham ordered.
Again she looked confused, but then she straightened her lovely shoulders and began making her way from one man to the next, a butterfly trying to determine on which petal to light—which would be sturdy enough to support her in the manner to which she was accustomed.
He caught glimpses of her face as she worked the crowd of a dozen men. A shy smile here, a bolder one there. Furrowed brow when a gentleman rested a hand on her shoulder or arm. Fluttering eyelashes as she expertly glided beyond reach without offending. He wasn’t quite certain she understood the rules of the game she was playing. Could she be that innocent?
Her mother had been the earl’s mistress. Surely she knew what her mother’s role in his life had been—to warm his bed, to bring him pleasure, to keep him satisfied.
Sometimes she seemed to have confidence, to know exactly what she was doing. Other times she seemed baffled by the conversation. Still, it was as though she were ticking off a list, speaking to each man for only a moment or two, before moving on. Never returning to a man once they were acquainted.
Come to me, he thought. Come to me. Then he shoved the wayward thoughts aside. What did he care if she didn’t notice him? He was accustomed to living in the shadows, to not being seen. The gossamer depths offered protection equal to the strongest armor. No one bothered him there unless he desired it.
He didn’t desire her, yet he couldn’t deny that he wondered what her skin might feel like against the tips of his fingers. Soft. Silky. Warm. It had been so very long since he’d been warm. Even the fire by which he sat now couldn’t thaw his frigid core. He liked it that way, preferred it.
Nothing touched him, nothing bothered him. Nothing mattered.
No, she didn’t. She was an earl’s by-blow on the verge of becoming some man’s ornament. A very graceful ornament to be sure. An extremely lovely one. But she would be relegated to the same importance as a work of art: to be looked upon, to be touched, to bring pleasure when pleasure was sought.
She glanced around, appearing to be lost within a room that should have been familiar to her. Then her gaze fell on him, and his body tightened with such swiftness that for a heartbeat he felt lightheaded, dizzy. He should look away, tell her with an averted glance that she was nothing to him, that he had no interest in her, and yet he seemed incapable of doing anything other than watching as she hesitantly strolled toward him.
Finally, she was standing before him, her small gloved hands folded tightly in front of her. With her this near to him, he could see clearly now that her eyes were the most beautiful blue. No, more than blue. Violet. He’d never seen the like. He imagined them smoldering with heated passion, darkening, gazing at him in wonder as he delivered pleasure such as she’d never experienced. An easy task if she had indeed never known a man’s touch.
But just as he had no use for mistresses, so he had none for virgins. He had not been innocent in a good long while, not since the night his brothers had left him at the workhouse. He had no interest in innocence. It was a weakness, a condition to be exploited, a quick path to ruin. It held no appeal.
She held no appeal.
He re-thought the words in an attempt to convince himself of their truth. But as her eyes bore into his, he was left with the realization that she was not only innocent, but very, very dangerous. A silly thought. He could destroy her with a look, a word, a caustic laugh. And in destroying her, the tiny bit of soul that remained to him would wither and die.
It was an unsettling realization, one he didn’t much like.
He watched her delicate throat work as she swallowed, her bosom rise with the intake of a long breath as though she were shoring up her courage.
“I don’t believe we’ve spoken,” she finally said.
“May I inquire regarding your name? The other gentlemen were kind enough to introduce themselves.”
“But then I am not kind.”
Two tiny pleats appeared between her brows. “Why would you say something like that?”
“Because I am honest, at least.”
“But surely you have a name. Is it a secret? You steal children from their beds? Rumpelstiltskin perhaps? I would be hard-pressed to see you as Prince Charming.”
Fairytales. She’d been brought up on fairytales, and she seemed to have no awareness that she was swimming through a sea of ogres.
“Come. It can’t be that horrible of a name. I’d like to call you something.”
He considered suggesting Beelzebub, something to unsettle her, send her scurrying away, but for reasons he couldn’t fathom, he simply said, “Rafe.”
“Rafe,” she repeated in her smoky voice and a fierce longing fissured through him with an almost painful pricking. “Is that your title?”
“Are you titled?”
Perhaps she wasn’t as innocent as he’d surmised. She wanted to ensure that she was well cared for, was going to be particular about whose bed she warmed. He supposed he couldn’t hold that against her. She was on the hunt for a man to please, one who would serve as her protector. She had a right to be particular.
“No,” he finally answered.
“I see you’re a man of few words.” She gnawed on her lower lip which served to plump it up and darken its red hue. He wondered how often she’d been kissed. Had she ever let a man press his mouth to hers? Had a man ever touched her skin, trailed his fingers along her high cheekbones, folded his rough hand around her neck, and brought her in close? “What are your interests?”
“None that would amuse you.”
“You might be surprised.”
“I doubt it. I’m a rather good judge of character.”
“A quick judge it would seem. I’m left with the impression that you don’t think very highly of me.”
He slid his gaze over her, admiring the curves, the dips, and swells. He couldn’t deny that she was a fine piece, but she would require a certain … gentleness and care, neither of which was in his repertoire of behavior. “I haven’t decided.”
“Unfortunately, I have, I’m afraid. I don’t believe we’d be well suited. I hope you won’t take offense.”
“I would have to give a care what you thought to be offended. I don’t.”
She opened her mouth–
“Evelyn, you’re done here,” Wortham said as he grabbed her arm and began madly ushering her toward the door.
Almost tripping over her small feet encased in satin slippers, she appeared to be attempting to shake off the earl. She was gazing over her bared shoulder at Rafe as though she was determined to have the final word, but she was no match for Wortham’s strength as they both disappeared through the open doorway. It was some minutes before Wortham returned. Rafe was surprised Miss Chambers didn’t barge in behind him. No doubt he’d dissuaded her, convinced her to lay low so as not to discourage any of the lords from having an interest in her.
“All right, gentlemen,” Wortham said, rubbing his hands together. “Does anyone wish to bid on her?”
So that was how he was going to handle the matter, Rafe mused. He’d wondered. He didn’t know why the manner in which Wortham was proceeding caused a chill in his bones. The girl meant nothing to him. It might prove interesting to see what sort of value the other lords placed on her. Especially if he could determine a way to use that knowledge to his advantage.
“I say, Wortham,” Lord Ekroth sneered, “I’ll give you five hundred quid for her, but I’ve a mind to examine her first and ensure she is a virgin as you claim.”
A round of raucous laughter accompanied the ribald suggestion.
“By all means. Each of you may examine her.”
“Excellent. I’ll go first shall I?” He and Wortham headed for the door.
Rafe envisioned Ekroth’s pudgy, sausage-like fingers traveling over her silky thighs, ripping at her undergarments, shoving into–
“I’m taking her.” Rafe could hardly countenance the words that came out of his mouth with such authority that Ekroth and Wortham stumbled in their tracks while the other lords gaped at him. Obviously, he’d imbibed a bit more than he’d thought, but it didn’t matter now. The challenge had been spoken and he never recanted his statements.
Standing, he tugged on his black brocade waistcoat that suddenly felt far too tight. “If any of you touch her, I shall separate from you the particular part that touched her. Wortham has assured us that she is pure. I don’t want her soiled by your sweaty hands or anything else. Have I made myself clear?”
“But you were only here to watch, to ascertain—” Wortham cut off his sentence and stepped nearer, lowering his voice, “—to ascertain my ability to cover my debt.”
“When have I ever confided my plans in you?”
“Then you’ll pay me the five hundred quid that Ekroth was willing to pony up?”
“I’ll allow you to continue to breathe. We’ll call it even, shall we?”
“But the terms of this meeting were that she would go to the highest bidder.”
“What value do you place on your life? Do you think anyone here can match it?” He waited a heartbeat. “I thought not.”
He downed what remained of his scotch before striding to the desk, lords leaping out of his way. If he were not a stranger to laughter, he might have at least chuckled at their antics. He found a scrap of paper, dipped a pen in the inkwell, and scratched out the address of his residence. Placing a blotter on it to keep it in place, he turned and headed toward the door. “My address. Have her there at four tomorrow. Good evening, gentlemen. It’s been a pleasure.”