In Temptation and Damnation with the Earl Preview

A Steamy Regency Romance

About the book


It is hard to resist a bad boy who is a good man…

Orphaned and in denial, Miss Cleopatra Beckett is desperate. Struggling to fend for herself and her younger brother, she is now certain that she has found her older brother’s murderer. And her revenge will be merciless.

Alexander Trevors, both the Earl of Larson and a ruthless gaming hall owner, strives to keep his secret life private. But when he sees his name smeared all over the tabloids and his dreams crushed, he seeks retribution. Through forcing the woman responsible to marry him.

Torn between achieving their goals and the torrent of feelings for each other, Alexander and Cleopatra find themselves at war. A war that devolves into a relentless hunt when Cleopatra’s younger brother is snatched by a shadow, that knows them all too well. Because trust gets you hurt and love gets you killed.

 

Prologue


Cleopatra shuffled the papers in her hand, causing a swift papercut to slice her skin. She cursed at the sensation and marched through the main door of The Gazette anyway.

No omen would stop her from her goal that day.

It has to be done.

She repeated these words in her mind. It would just be the first step of her revenge, after all, and she would not allow superstition to sway her tenacity in this design.

The formally dressed man at the desk looked up at her entrance. A frown of suspicion hovered on his brow as he watched her closely.

She marched toward him, determination emanating from her in every step.

“May I help you, Miss?” he stood and offered a short bow.

“Yes, I wish to speak to your Editor.” She grasped the papers with one hand and adjusted her corset and dress with the other, ready for the meeting.

She had hurried so quickly to the newspaper’s office, determined to achieve her goal, that her cheeks were pink with exertion, and her dress had risen out of place. She reset the dark-blue silk, letting the petticoats cascade to the floor as she adjusted the corset.

“Miss,” the man laughed, making no attempt to hide his scoff of disapproval. “No one sees our Editor without an appointment.”

“What if I am holding in my hands the best story he could print all year? Would you want your employer to miss out on such a prized opportunity?” She raised her eyebrows, already infuriated by the man’s tone of voice, and determined not to be outdone.

“I doubt it, Miss.” The young man switched between his feet, shaking his head. “This is a busy place, as you can see.” He pointed through a glass window behind him.

She stepped forward with curiosity, resting her eyes on the factory that sat far below the office.

A multitude of men were standing row upon row by printing presses, all arranging small metal letters in iron frames. It could have been an industrial beehive, with carbon staining men’s aprons and the smell of ink hovering in the air. They all buzzed around their honeycombs made of metal machinery and paper.

“My Editor does not have time for society gossip.”

“What I carry is not merely gossip, I do not care for such a thing. Neither do I care for arrogant little men who look down their nose at everyone they deem unworthy.” Her sharp words surprised the man.

He stepped back with shock, folding his arms.

“Unless you would like a formal complaint to your Manager of the arrogance and rather conceited fashion you conduct the business of his newspaper, you will tell your Editor that I am here to see him now.”

“What is your story in relation to?” Another voice had joined the conversation.

Cleopatra snapped her head round to the newcomer; her black hair flicked around her neck with the movement. The voice came from a middle-aged man who was standing in a doorway with a pipe balanced between his lips.

“You are the Editor, Sir?”

“I am indeed,” the man smiled around his pipe as he offered a bow. “Unlike my employee, I take great interest in a lady that would happily put him in his place.”

The Editor laughed as his young receptionist returned to his seat at his desk. “Now, My Lady, if you would come through this way, I would be intrigued to hear more about your story. Who does it concern?”

“It is the story of one of the most famous Earls in London.” As she walked past him, she hesitated, catching his gaze and widening her eyes with sincerity. “He is leading a double life. Not only as an Earl, a great member of the peerage, but also as a gaming-hall owner.”

The pipe went slack in the Editor’s mouth. He collected it with his hand. “Boy,” he pointed at the young man at the desk, “tell Banks to hold the cover for half an hour. In you come, My Lady.”

He directed her further into his office and closed the door behind them. “Please, have a seat.” He offered a small rickety chair opposite his desk.

She sat on the very edge, still clutching the papers tightly between her gloved hands. She rearranged the ruffles around her wrists, determined to slacken her hold for fear of damaging the papers.

“It is a serious accusation, My Lady, the one you are making.” He sat behind his desk, flicking out his jacket tails as he took his seat. He leaned across the table on his elbows.

“I am aware,” she nodded with a tight smile, “so I hope you understand how serious I am in delivering this story to you.”

“You are sure you wish it to be published? Such an accusation would destroy this Earl’s reputation that you speak of.”

“That is quite what I am hoping for.” Her smile widened further, earning a curious look from the Editor.

“Do you have evidence, My Lady?”

She handed over the papers, delivering them with a thud to the desk with the weight of the bundle. “I think this should be sufficient.”

The Editor grasped the papers quickly, scanning the documents for a few minutes. His wariness at believing her earlier disappeared with each document he picked up.

“This gentleman…” he paused for a minute, clicking his teeth, “is he not the lost Earl’s son who was discovered in the Seven Sins Gaming Hall ten years ago?”

“You have a good memory.”

“Of course. He was raised there.”

“It is one and the same man. He has now inherited the title from his father, and it would appear he continues his lust for the gaming hall, forever trying to hide it from the circle of society and the ton.”

“I see.” The Editor appeared to quell his excitement. He coughed to clear his throat and gathered the papers.

“So am I to understand that you will print the story?” Cleopatra moved even more to the edge of her seat, clutching her petticoats with her gloved fingers in desperation.

It has to be done

She could feel the desire for her goal blooming in her chest, waiting on his words.

“Well, I will consider it.” The Editor acquired an appearance of nonchalance, sitting back in his chair and tapping his pipe as though the story was not as big as it was.

Cleopatra was not so easily fooled. She could read the man easily and knew he intended to print.

“Excellent, then I shall be paid for my contribution.” She stood and held out one gloved hand across the desk.

The Editor scoffed slightly, about to wave away her hand, though she kept it firm.

“With respect, My Lady. You lack experience in knowing how to make a bargain. You have already given me the evidence I need,” he held up the papers in a victory. “You have no more information I should need to pay you for.”

“You would so cheat a lady?” she raised her dark eyebrows, hardly surprised, only disappointed.

“I am not cheating you.” His pretend look of innocence would fool no one. He scratched his large nose, hiding his gaze. “I am merely abiding by the laws of a good bargain.”

“Then listen to another bargain I have to offer.” Cleopatra withdrew her hand and stepped toward the desk, leaning both palms on the desk edge and staring down the Editor who was quickly raising her ire. “This man has other secrets. Hold your story for a few days and I will discover all there is to know.”

“Such as what?”

“Such as scandals of the bed.” She tilted her chin up with a smirk. “Consider how much your readers would love to know of a rogue Earl’s underhand dealings with not just the gaming hall, but also the fair women of London society?”

The Editor dropped his pipe to his desk. “It would make an even better story. Our readers do enjoy such scandals.”

“Then I will have my payment.” Cleopatra held out her hand with expectation, refusing to retract her fingers again.

Eventually, after a short staring contest, the Editor acquiesced and dug into a nearby drawer. He pulled out a bundle of coins and passed them to her.

“I will return in a few days with the rest of the story.” She hurried to the door, quickly hiding the coins in her small purse. “Oh, one more thing before I leave.”

“Yes?” The Editor looked up to her from the papers across his desk as she hovered in the doorway.

“Do not try to outmaneuver me again.” She offered him one dark look, insuring her full meaning was understood before she swung the door open to take her exit.

As she marched back past the reception desk, she held a smile of triumph with a glint in her chestnut-colored eyes.

She hurried from The Gazette building, leaving nothing but the sound of her leather boots and a glance of royal-blue petticoats behind her.


Chapter One

Two Weeks Later


The knock at the door tore Alexander from his thoughts of the past. He had been doing the books, trying to insure all the accounts for his business were accurate, but his mind had kept wandering to days long gone.

The insistent knock sounded again, urging him to return to reality. “What is it?” he barked at the door.

“My Lord!” The door opened and the young lad known as Pip burst in. With his shirt untucked and his blond hair unkempt, the boy looked truly ruffled.

Alexander could not help but laugh at the sight. “What happened to you?” He gestured to the lad’s clothes with good humor.

Still young, Pip was something of Alexander’s protégé in the business. The boy worked hard and was already Alexander’s right-hand man.

“I left in something of a hurry,” the boy rushed to tuck in his shirt, “after reading this!” He held up something in his hand, it was the newspaper. “Have you read it?”

“I tend not to bother with the papers,” Alexander put the accountancy books to the side of his desk, determined to return to them at a later time. “I neither care for their insipid boredom nor their tales of gossip. They are parlor pieces, Pip. That is all. You should not concern yourself with them either.”

“Believe me, My Lord. You need to read this story.” Pip tossed the paper down on his desk.

“For what feels like the sixth-hundredth time, you do not need to call me ‘My Lord’.”

“Ordinarily I would make some jest on this matter,” Pip shrugged with the smallest of smiles, “but I cannot today.”

“Why not?” Alexander pulled the paper toward him, into the sunlight of the vast windows behind him.

“Because of what that article says. My Lord, read it.

Alexander shot his friend a narrowed glance, one of suspicion and wariness, but he picked up the paper anyway. As his eyes perused the headline and opening paragraphs, his stomach sank to the floor.

“Earl Larson – the Covert Hustler of the Gaming Hall. What is this?” he looked back to the boy in wonder who was now pacing.

“Read on, My Lord.”

Alexander felt his mouth grow dry as his well-kept secrets were printed in black and white before his very eyes in such a public place on the pages of The Gazette.

“’Earl Alexander Trevor of Larson Manor it seems owns another estate beyond his grand manor, though you might be somewhat concerned to find what area of town it resides in. The gaming hall known as Wicked Souls, reputed for its gambling, cards and swindles is the Earl’s greatest secret.’ I cannot believe it.”

Alexander leaped to his feet, pacing as he continued to read the article out loud.

“‘The once-famous son of an Earl who was discovered ten years ago living in another gaming hall after running away from his father’s home as a child, seems reluctant to let go of his past. Be warned, Ladies. Society’s famous bachelor, the eligible Earl is no more eligible than your common criminal.’ What in great God’s name is this?”

He threw down the newspaper, cursing and walking round in a circle. “How did they find out?” he practically yelled the words at his friend.

How could they discover my secret? I have always been so careful.

“I do not know, My Lord, but there is more here.” Pip picked up the article again, brandishing it toward him.

“More? Pray tell why whoever did this needed to tell more?” He snatched the paper away from the boy’s hands. “My reputation is ruined. It is destroyed.”

The boy made no move to contradict him. He just looked away and rubbed his mouth and chin in concern.

“My place in society. The ton will reject me after this.”

“Your plan to be in the House of Lords too, My Lord–” the boy trailed off, turning his head away at the dark look Alexander was giving him.

Pip was the only one Alexander had confided in about that particular goal. He had imagined a future as a Member of Parliament. In the House of Lords, he pictured one day enacting changes in society.

That dream and any aspirations of the kind had now gone. The possibility was slipping through his fingers as he paced, as though it were grains of sand that he was unable to grasp.

There was something else too. With his reputation so utterly shattered into pieces, he was no longer an eligible bachelor. No woman in grand society would want to marry him now. His chances of providing an heir for the Earldom had vanished too.

“My Lord, read on.” Pip encouraged with a warning look.

Alexander turned the paper to his eyes again, now reading the rest in silence. With each passing paragraph, the anger inside him grew until it built to a tempest, ready to crash and strike on its nearest victim.

“These are lies.” He snapped at the paper, as though it could argue back to him. “‘An affair with the Lady De Winter?’ I would not touch that woman if my life depended on it.”

“There’s more.”

“I know there’s more, Pip!” he barked and looked back down to the page. “All of these women. I have known no more than four of them at most.”

“They list many. Nine in total I believe.”

“I do not know half of them! Only four.”

Pip shifted between his feet, looking decidedly nervy about asking his next question.

“How well did you know them, My Lord?”

Alexander raised his gray-blue eyes to the lad with a staunch warning. “I may give you liberties, Pip, but even I think that is too far a statement to make to your employer.” He gestured to him with the paper.

“My apologies, My Lord. I only wish to warn you. Well, all of London will now think you knew these ladies extremely well.”

“Bloody hell!” Alexander cursed and threw the paper down on the desk. He jumped toward his coat stand and hurriedly put on his knee-length black jacket, buttoning it tightly across his chest and waistcoat to ward off the cold.

“Where are you going, My Lord?” Pip asked, jumping out of the way.

“To The Gazette,” Alexander found his tall top hat, a fine accessory he usually loved and hastily placed it to his head, covering his short black hair. “I shall discover who broke this story.”

He snapped up the newspaper and rushed to the door with Pip following behind. “What will you do once you know?”

Alexander turned sharply back, nearly colliding with the boy. Pip stepped back, collecting himself.

“I shall take my revenge. Someone has to pay the price and recompense me for the life they have just torn from my grasp. Tuck in your shirt, Pip. It’s still not right.” At his words, Pip hurried to follow his orders. “Insure everything is ready for the hall’s opening while I am gone,” Alexander called back as he stomped across the corridor.

***

Alexander practically kicked down the door to the office of The Gazette when he arrived. It sprung open at his entrance, loudly declaring his arrival.

Beyond the desk by the door were two young men, their eyes turned up to him in immediate recognition of who he was.

“Your Editor?” Alexander barked at them, noticing the way the two men leaned as far back as they could. Wordlessly, they pointed behind him to another door. He followed their hands and made just as loud an entrance to the next room.

There was a group of men before him, all sniggering over the front page of the newspaper in their hands. At his entrance, they looked up – their faces turning pale as they realized they had been caught by the very man they had been gossiping about.

“Who did this?” he raised his own copy of the paper in his hands.

“We are a newspaper, My Lord, not a bear-baiting ring.” A middle-aged man stood from behind a desk, dangling a pipe between his lips. “If you wish to cause a fracas, I must ask you to leave my office.” The man pointed to the doorway with his pipe.

“You ask me to? How polite. That is exactly the kind of language I would expect from the Editor of a respectable newspaper. Not this drivel.” Alexander threw the newspaper on the desk, creating an almighty slap of paper on wood. The Editor jumped back at the sound.

“You thought it too tempting to destroy an Earl’s reputation?” Alexander circled the desk, enjoying himself as he saw the Editor attempt to run away from him the other way. “It was not me. It was just a good story!”

“A good story? I am not your parlor piece, nor your fictionalized character to laugh at.” He threw the desk chair out of his way, striking the wood against the wall to emphasize his point.

The group of men jumped back, all hiding behind different desks as he and the Editor continued their cat-and-mouse chase around the room.

“You have destroyed my life!”

“It was not me!” The man appeared to waver. He dropped his pipe to the floor and hesitated as though about to pick it up.

When Alexander lurched forward, the Editor retreated against a wall. Suddenly blocked in by the much-taller man’s presence, the Editor held up his hands in surrender. “I sincerely apologize, Sir, but if you wish to know the real culprit, I can give you her name.”

Alexander took hold of the man’s coat and held him up by the lapels, emanating threat with the darkness of his voice. “If you value your life, then speak.” Alexander stood still, his frown sharp and making no indication to move away.

The anger and distress that had consumed him the whole morning were turning into something else. He imagined it was taking the shape of an animal. It was his determination – his desire to see justice done and retribution paid. With teeth to bite and arms to grasp, Alexander would not let the real culprit slip by him.

“Miss Cleopatra Beckett.”

“Beckett?” Alexander repeated the word, thinking on it for a moment.

I know that name. It is familiar.

“Yes, she arrived here two weeks ago with the story and some papers to prove it.” The Editor flinched as Alexander tightened his hold on the man’s lapels.

“A Lady?”

“Yes, Sir. I do not know who she really is. She asked for money in exchange for discovering more on your life.”

“Is she still conducting her investigation?” He pulled his hold higher, making the Editor’s face scrunched in pain.

“Yes, she was determined to find all on you she could, Sir.”

The sudden meaning of these words created a new pit in Alexander’s stomach. Fear spread in him. There was the one secret he had to keep with his life, the one he could not let anyone discover.

He released the Editor and stepped back, allowing the man to scramble against the wall for a minute.

“Publish any more about my life and you will pay the price. Is that understood?”

The Editor nodded, brushing his red and sweating cheeks with the backs of his hands.

Alexander did not wait for a further reply. He hurried from the building, feeling fury in his every step.

He directed his steps back toward the Wicked Souls Gaming Hall. He had never had a problem with his business. He had a love for it, and it had always proved profitable, but he knew how others despised it and loved to talk of scandal.

When he returned, he knew he would have to think up some scheme of retribution.

This Miss Cleopatra Beckett will have to pay for ruining his reputation.  


Chapter Two


“Cleopatra? Cleopatra?” John was insistent, his high-pitched voice ringing in her ears as he ran around her chair in their sitting room.

“Oh, John, please be quiet,” she sighed as she turned her attention to the fireplace and the roaring flames beneath.

She pushed thoughts of the little boy to the side, trying to focus on the distraction of the fire. It was a grand sight. A marble fireplace of great proportions inlaid with fine engravings. It was a place in her house that usually brought her such comfort, but not today.

The fireplace had been a proud installation of her father’s, Edwin Beckett.

Cleopatra smiled slightly, remembering him with fondness. Above the marble hearth was a collection of three swords that her father had also installed. After marrying a Viscount’s daughter, Edwin, the second son of the Earl of Blythe, had gone into the Navy, quickly progressing to the position of General. He was proud of his accomplishments and their house was ornately adorned with such weaponry.

Swords and flintlock pistols were mounted on all the walls. Both Cleopatra and her elder brother had been taught how to handle all of the weapons. At this thought, her sadness returned tenfold, dwelling on images of her brother.

Oh, Robert.

“Cleopatra? Cleopatra?” Her younger brother, John, was demanding her attention through her curtain of sadness.

At ten years old, John had been reliant on his siblings’ care for many years. “Cleopatra?”

“What is it, John?” she turned her sad eyes to the boy.

Bearing the same black hair as her with similar dark features, he always appeared a sweet boy, but she knew him better than that. Though kind at heart, he was rebellious and loved mischief.

“I thought we could play another game of Jacks?” John was brandishing the cards for her to hold.

“Last time we played you cheated throughout the game and then threw the cards at me when you lost anyway.” She smiled, though it was without feeling, her sadness rested too deeply on her shoulders.

“I did not!”

“You did too, naughty child.” She took the cards from the boy’s hand and returned them to a table at her side. “Here, come sit in front of the fire and stay warm.”

The boy did as he was told with his dark eyes turned up to her watch her carefully through the few candles lit in the room. “What is wrong, Sister?”

She bit her lip, breathing through the sudden lump that had appeared in her throat. “I am missing our brother. That is all.”

“Robert. He’s not coming back, is he?” The wide eyes the boy looked up to her with cracked her heart a little more.

“No, Dearest. He cannot come back.” She bit her lip again, determined not to cry anymore.

“Since he’s gone, the servants have gone too.” The boy’s brow was furrowed in confusion.

“That is right, John.” She leaned forward in her chair, determined to present the boy with a few more realities. “Robert has not left us in a financially comfortable situation.”

I believe that is the greatest understatement I have ever uttered.

“You mean we are poor?”

“In a way, Dearest. That is why we cannot afford the servants anymore.”

“I understand.” The boy nodded and turned his gaze down to the hearth rug, where he played with the loose wool. “What will we do for food?”

“There are ways to find money,” she smiled sadly, considering the bundle of notes that was currently locked away upstairs in her chamber. They were part of the hoard The Gazette had paid her.

“Will you marry?” The boy’s innocent question only brought new sadness to her.

She leaned back again, determined to retreat from reality and honesty for a few minutes. “We shall see.”

She could not marry anymore. That was the truth. Up until a little while ago, she had been engaged to marry, to a dear friend of Robert’s, Mr. Charles Brockenhurst. Yet when Robert had died, her dowry had disappeared with him.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Mr. Brockenhurst’s proposal had evaporated along with the vanishing dowry.

I should have known. I was fooled into believing such a man would care for me beyond a dowry.

“But if you marry, will we not have money?” John was persistent, rushing to his knees, alight with the brilliance of his new idea. “We will have a man to protect us too.”

“To protect us?” She leaned forward with sudden mischief in her own eyes. “You think I cannot protect you?”

“Well, I have never seen you in a fight, Sister.”

“I will have you know, Dearest,” she poked him repeatedly in the chest, “Father’s lessons taught me how to raise a pistol and use a sword to a greater ability than our brother’s.”

He laughed at her pokes and leaned away.

“No, Dearest. I need no husband and I can protect you.”

“Then I shall protect you too.” The boy jumped to his feet, planting his fists to his hips and attempting to look very tall indeed.

“You shall?”

“Yes, Sister. Everyone talks of white knights coming to a damsel’s aid. I shall be your white knight!”

“Ha! How delightful!” She clapped her hands together in good humor, laughing at his words. “Then my white knight better climb the stairs to bed because it is long past his bed time.”

As the boy started galloping out of the room, as though he were riding a great steed, she followed him, dwelling on his words.

I do not know if I like the idea of a white knight. They would expect me to stay in my place and not speak out of turn. I have never been very good at that.

As she helped John prepare for bed, conversations with Robert returned to her about this very problem.

He had talked often of the difficulty to find her a suitor when she was so outspoken. Far from being demure or quiet, she was confident, forthright, and bold in conversation.

When at parties out in society’s circle, it became abundantly clear that men enjoyed her company for the humor of it. They treated her as a brash friend, but no one desired such a candid woman for a wife.

It was little wonder Mr. Brockenhurst had retracted his proposal when the dowry had gone.

She tucked John into bed as he kissed her on the cheek. “Sleep tight, Dearest. And don’t you worry about a thing now, John. I will keep you safe.”

“Good night, Sister.” He yawned sleepily as he closed his eyes.

Cleopatra hurried to leave the room, carrying a lone candle with her and casting the boy into the darkness of the night.

She returned to her place by the fire downstairs with her thoughts on the newspaper that stood on the table beside her. She allowed herself the smallest of smiles at the headline.

It is but a first step, yet it is a good one.

She could not help indulging in a fantasy of how much despair it had caused for the Earl. Perhaps he marched around his gaming hall, furious at his life being so turned upside down. Or maybe he had retired to his grand Manor the better to hide himself from society’s judgment of him.

After a minute, she collected a bundle of letters from a nearby drawer of a sideboard that she had found after her brother’s death. She returned with them to her seat, holding each page of parchment up to the lone candlelight, watching as the orange flame lit the dark-inked words.

Addressed to Robert and bearing the mark of the gaming hall, Wicked Souls, they were signed with the Earl’s initials.

Each letter demanded payment of debts. As she shifted through the pages, the threat with each notice grew worse. The final letter had promised punishment without indicating what kind.

Yet she knew what they had done. There was not a doubt in her mind. They had taken Robert from this world in revenge and probably her dowry too in order to pay his debts.

The day he had been lost from her life, he had left the house to visit the gaming hall. She had overheard him speaking of his intent with one of the servants. When she had confronted him on the matter, he had merely shrugged, claiming there was no judgement from visiting gaming halls anymore.

She had disagreed and begged him not to go, but he had not listened. It was only after he had parted that she found the letters in his room and discovered just how much debt Robert had placed them all in.

The language of the letters from Wicked Souls left little to the imagination either. They held a deep threat and promised comeuppance for the crime of no payment.

Cleopatra felt the pain within her stretch wider at the sight of the sums left unpaid. Her fingers tightened on the pages, crimping the parchment.

The Earl will pay for murdering my brother.

There were many layers to her plan, and she had only just started the first step. She lifted her eyes back to the fireplace and the weapons lodged above, smiling slightly at the sight of them.

Her first goal had been achieved, the destruction of the Earl’s reputation, but there was much more to come.

In a way, she hoped he was afraid.

***

The following evening, Cleopatra stood outside Larson Manor, watching her breath make small clouds in the cold air of the night. She was hidden in the shadows across the street, affording her a perfect view of the Manor gate and the front door far down the driveway.

She could not help but scoff at the size of the building. Naturally, as an Earl, the man would have a grand manor indeed, but she had never considered how beautiful it would be, even in the black shadows of the night.

Beneath the dappling of stars across the darkness, the yellow-stone building held a breath-taking frontage with towering windows and doors. Bordered by trees and tall flowers, it made Cleopatra’s eyes widen in amazement.

Even the tall black gate with the heavy lock was ornate, swirling in metal effigies of roses and ivy. She shook off her admiration and returned her focus to the front door.

She had been standing outside for a little over an hour, waiting for the Earl to leave for the night. She was determined to discover more about the man and her next step was to sneak into his Manor and search his papers.

A man like him who held so many secrets was bound to hold the papers to many scandals in his study.

She smirked at the possibility and pressed herself further into the shadows of the neighboring manors. She pulled her slim skirts out of the pathway and the nearby orange gas lamplight, determined to stay hidden.

Nervous of a dress that would make a sound when she moved, she had opted for a slim-lined dark-green one. The thin petticoats did not make any kind of noise when she walked. The darkness of the green material cinched at the waist with a high-collared neckline that dipped down into a sharp V at her neck, promised to keep her hidden in the shadows of the night too.

She kept her darting eyes flicking between the door and the gateway, begging silently for the man to make his move.

She flicked her head to the side when noises began. Uncertain of their direction, she tried to stretch her neck to see down the side of the Manor, but the trees hid the place from view.

Is someone coming out of the side door?

She had little time to think on the matter.

She was about to step out of the shadows, thinking she could run to the gate for a better view of the side entrance, when something black and woolen was placed over her head.

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  • Enjoyed the preview, enticing start to compel the reader to look forward to more. What will happen to. Cleopatra.

  • I just love the way it started.once I went further it intrigued me and would like to know what happens next.The suspense is killing me .waiting eagerly to read this book

  • Cleopatra is a woman to not be underestimated. It appears that the Earl is going
    to be as interesting as she is. Can’t wait for the book.

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