The Lady and the Rogue - Excerpt

 Mistaken identity leads to an unexpected engagement and danger as 
Lady Euphemia and Lord Thornton cross paths at a country house party, 
where secrets and passion collide.

In the shadowy depths of London, Lady Euphemia Brandt, a renowned concert pianist, is mistaken by an English nobleman for his intended rendezvous. She defends herself, losing her reticule in the process. Reluctantly, she takes coins from her attacker and secures a carriage home. Their eyes lock, and they share a searing kiss, altering their lives forever.

At an affair honoring the Prime Minister, Euphemia discovers that the rogue who accosted her is a much sought-after, wealthy member of society. Struggling to resist his attraction, she battles memories of their kiss.

Cayden Whitford, the Duke of Thornton, seeking a woman with vital information, mistakes Euphemia for his contact and is surprised by her swift blow and the ensuing kiss. Intrigued, he vows to find her. At a dinner party, Thornton learns she is the daughter of the Prime Minister’s trusted advisor. He presents himself as a suitor to her father in order to discover her allegiance.

As Thornton unravels Euphemia's wit, logic, and passion, his initial mission falters. He’s fallen in love with her. 

 She's feisty and passionate. He’ll enjoy making her fall in love with him… or die trying.

The Lady and the Rogue is Book 3 of The Return of the Ladies of Sommer-by-the-Sea

Chapter One

18 January 1816

A red scuttle bonnet with black ribbon peeked out from the doorway of 125A Rupert Street in London’s West End. Lady Euphemia Brandt squinted in both directions. To her dismay, all she saw was a wall of fog, thick and dense, a not-very-pleasant fog.

A man’s cough from behind her propelled her out the door. As she stepped into the street, she heard the door close along with the soft final click of the latch.

She tucked the leather folder she held under her arm and headed toward her destination. She stood by the lamppost to get her bearings. To the left was Brewer Street, where she should be able to engage a carriage even in this weather. She could always walk home to Berkeley Square if none were available. Well, no reason to dillydally.

Effie looked back. The building was already swallowed up by the mist. Annoyed with herself that she’d lost track of time, she didn’t care that a proper woman would never step out alone at this time of night, much less enter The Parlor. Then again, with this thick fog, no one would be able to see her. Why she allowed herself to get into this situation was beyond her.

* * * *

The Duke of Thornton walked ten minutes from White’s and stood at the corner of Rupert Street.

At over six feet, he had a well-defined physique which was only accentuated by his expertly tailored evening clothes and the black great coat that swirled around him when he walked. His top hat kept a lock of wild, jet-black hair under control. All this, and his deep piercing blue eyes, made many a lady swoon.

His handsome good looks, charming smile, and devil-may-care attitude earned him the reputation as one of the most dashing rogues in all of London society.

Shrouded in the thick fog, he stopped thumbing the ruby and diamond signet ring he wore. He checked his timepiece. He couldn’t wait much longer for his contact, Melanie Chaplin. She had promised him information to unveil the truth that would expose his case to its core. Thornton counted on what she was able to find. Now, each passing second made him more anxious, knowing that every minute he spent in the open only heightened the possibility of danger.

A woman emerged from the shadows as he peered through the thickening mist. Her demeanor and dress were both unmistakable from his past dealings with her. The red coat and matching red scuttle bonnet with the black ribbon was the deciding factor. It was Melanie. He held his breath in anticipation as he stepped behind her.

“You’re late,” he whispered in her ear as he pulled her around into an embrace and took her into the alley.

The woman pushed him away. Confused, he stumbled back. Before he could catch his balance, she pushed him hard again, making him step back onto a patch of grease. He slipped, his hat flew off, and his head hit against the stone alley wall hard.

His vision blurred as he fought to remain conscious. The woman backed away as he slid down the wall. In all the years he’d worked for the Crown, no one had ever gotten the best of him. This wasn’t Melanie. Who was this woman?

She searched the ground for something. Had he dropped anything? No. He knew better than to carry anything important with him. Veiled by the scuttle bonnet, he had difficulty identifying who she was. She picked up a leather folio and kept searching. Even in his dazed state, he noted her anxious movements.

Thornton tried to make a sound, but it came out only as a groan. He glanced at her and was startled. Her expressive brown eyes showed remorse along with determination. Her facial bones were delicate, and her lips were rosy and full. He saw her hand move toward his coat pocket and felt her pull out a handful of coins.

“I’m sorry. For a carriage,” the woman whispered, a layer of fear in her voice.

Before he could stop himself, he wrapped his arms around her. She tried to break loose, but her hair was tangled in the button on his coat sleeve. She stiffened at first, then relaxed into his embrace. Her lips parted. Their breaths mingled. He leaned in and kissed her.

Her lips were soft and yielding. Her body melted into his. He deepened the kiss, his tongue teasing hers. She answered with a soft moan.

When they finally parted, she looked at him with surprise and desire. She stood, and with one last look of remorse, she turned and disappeared into the fog, leaving Thornton behind, longing for more.

It took a few moments for him to gather his thoughts. He knew that he needed to get to Rosemount, his London home. He got to his feet and stood for a moment, grasping onto the wall until he regained his balance. He spotted a red reticule on the ground. That’s what the woman searched for. He retrieved it, tucked it into his coat pocket, and made his way out of the alley onto Brewer Street.

With the fog thinning, he was able to make out a driver tucking the edges of a red coat into a carriage. The man hoisted himself into his seat and drove away.

A few minutes later, a carriage pulled beside him, and Thornton gratefully climbed in. There was no sense trying to find her carriage in this fog.

“Grosvenor Square,” he told the driver.

He muddled over what had happened. Where was Melanie? Was it more than a coincidence that the woman was wearing Melanie’s hat? God’s blood. The woman had a face and a kiss one didn’t easily forget. What possessed him to kiss her? He didn’t go around kissing strange women. God’s blood. He didn’t go around kissing women he knew, let alone those he didn’t.

As the carriage delivered him to his door and rattled away, he made up his mind. He was determined to find the mysterious woman with the unforgettable kiss.

* * * *

Lady Euphemia was halfway up the stairs to her room at Brandt House before the hired carriage pulled away.

She quickly undressed, leaving her clothes in an uncustomary manner on her dressing room chair. She sat at her vanity ready to brush her hair, looking at the woman in the mirror who stared back, her hair disheveled. Effie quickly brushed out her hair and rushed into bed. What had she done? She squeezed her eyes closed and tried to think of anything but him. But his face, no, his eyes, she saw them everywhere.

Effie held the sheets tightly under her chin. Her heart raced, but she wasn’t sure if it was from rushing to get into bed or the memory of his kiss.

She focused on where she could have lost her reticule. It had to be somewhere in the alley where the man accosted her. Her mind whirled with vivid memories of his kiss. She groaned inwardly. And she had kissed him back.

As she calmed down and her heart returned to its regular beat, she envisioned his piercing blue eyes that turned from concern to confusion. She arched her back, imagining his large hand pulling her toward him. Sleepily, her fingers touched her lips, and she relived his warm, soft, gentle lips on hers and the hint of brandy.

Effie let out a deep sigh and drifted off to sleep, a smile on her lips.

* * * *

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