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Three Nights With a Scoundrel: A Rouge Regency Romance (The Stud Club Series Book 3) Kindle Edition
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
London, October 1817
Lily awoke to a rough shake on her arm. A searing ball of light hovered before her face.
She winced, and the light quickly receded. With caution, she opened her eyes. Blinking furiously, Lily strained to make out the lamp-bearer’s identity. It was Holling, the housekeeper.
Good Lord. She bolted upright in bed. Something dreadful had occurred. The servants would never shake her awake unless it was a matter of extreme urgency.
She pressed a hand to her throat. “What is it?”
Yellow lamplight illuminated an apologetic face. “Downstairs, my lady. You’re needed downstairs at once. Begging your pardon.”
With a nod of assent, Lily rose from bed. She shoved her toes into night-chilled slippers and accepted assistance in donning a violet silk wrap.
Her sense of dread only mounted as she descended the stairs. And the feeling was all too familiar.
Nearly five months had passed since the last time she’d been summoned downstairs in the dark. No one had needed to wake her then; she’d been unable to sleep for an insistent sense of foreboding. Her fears were confirmed when she opened the door to find gentlemen crowding her doorstep—three men with nothing in common save their membership in the Stud Club, an exclusive horse-breeding society her brother Leo had founded. They were the reclusive Duke of Morland, scarred war hero Rhys St. Maur, and Julian Bellamy—the London ton’s favorite hell-raiser and Leo’s closest friend.
One look at their grave faces that night, and there’d been no need for words. Lily had known instantly what they’d come to tell her.
Leo was dead.
At the age of eight-and-twenty, her twin brother was dead. Leo Chatwick, the Marquess of Harcliffe. Young, handsome, wealthy, universally admired—beaten to death in a Whitechapel alleyway, the victim of footpads.
The last time she’d been summoned down these stairs at night, her existence had been torn in half.
Lily’s knees buckled as she reached the foot of the staircase. She clutched the banister for support, then drew a shaky breath as a footman waved her toward the door.
Holling thrust her lamp over the threshold. Gathering all her available bravery, Lily moved toward the door and peeked out.
As there was no one on the doorstep, her view went straight to the square. The first gray insinuation of daylight hovered over the manicured hedges and paths. The streets were still largely empty, but here and there she saw servants on their way to market.
At the housekeeper’s insistent gesturing, she looked down. There, on the pavement at the bottom of the steps, lodged a costermonger’s wheelbarrow. The wooden cart was heaped with carrots, turnips, vegetable marrows … and the body of an unconscious man.
She clutched the doorjamb. Oh, no.
It was Julian Bellamy.
Lily recognized the red cuff of his coat before she even saw his face. She clapped a palm to her mouth, smothering a cry of alarm.
There’d been one consolation in mourning Leo: the knowledge that she could never endure such a devastating loss again. He was her twin, her best friend from birth and, since their parents’ deaths, her only remaining close kin. She would never love anyone so dearly as she’d loved him. Once Leo had left this world … pain could not touch her now.
Or so she’d thought.
Staring down at Julian’s senseless form, it was hard to believe she’d ever felt this frantic. She sensed her throat emitting sounds—ugly, croaking sounds, she feared. But she couldn’t make herself stop. Even when Leo had died, Julian had been there to stand by her. Devilish rake he might be, he was her brother’s steadfast friend, and hers as well. Over the years, they’d come to think of him as family. If Julian left her …
She would truly be alone.
For the second time that morning, Holling gave her arm a shake. Lily looked to the housekeeper.
“He’s alive,” the older woman said. “Still breathing.”
Tears of relief rushed past Lily’s defenses. “Bring him in.”
The footmen scrambled to obey, lifting his sprawled body from the wheelbarrow and hefting it up the steps.
“To the kitchen.”
They all filed down the narrow corridor, heading for the rear of the house. Holling first with her lamp, then the footmen bearing Julian. Lily brought up the rear as they descended the short flight of steps to the kitchen.
Even at this early hour, the kitchen staff was hard at work. A toasty fire warmed the room, and a yeasty aroma filled the air. A scullery maid lifted floury hands from the breadboard and stepped back in alarm, making room for the footmen to pass.
They placed Julian by the hearth, propping his head on a sack of meal.
“Send for the doctor,” she said. When no one sprang into action, she repeated herself at the top of her lungs. “Doctor. Now.”
With a hasty bow, one of the footmen hurried from the room.
Lily knelt at Julian’s side. Heavens, he was filthy. Dirt streaked his face, and the smell of the gutter clung to his clothes. She put a hand to his forehead, finding it clammy and cool to the touch. Perhaps he needed air. Her fingers flew to his cravat, and she tugged at it, unwinding the starched linen from his throat. A day’s growth of whiskers scraped her fingertips. She turned her cheek to his face, rejoicing at the warm puff of breath against her skin.
He suddenly convulsed, as if coughing.
She ceased her tussle with his cravat and pulled back to stare at him, not wanting to miss any word he might speak.
His eyes went in and out of focus as his gaze meandered over her form. “Hullo, Lily.”
Relief washed through her. “Julian. Are you well?”
He blinked several times, in rapid succession. Then again, slowly. Finally he said, “Violet always was your color.”
He slumped back, eyes closed.
Was he drunk? She leaned forward, sniffing cautiously at his exposed throat. No liquor. No gutter smells here, either. Just hints of starch and soap, mingled with the metallic, pungent odor of …
She grabbed his arm, shook it hard. “Julian. Julian, wake up.”
When he failed to respond, she withdrew her trembling hand and looked down at it.
Just as she’d feared. Her fingers came away wet with blood.
--This text refers to an alternate kindle_edition edition.
- ASIN : B005OYFYHG
- Publisher : Ebury Digital (29 September 2011)
- Language : English
- File size : 626 KB
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- Screen Reader : Supported
- Enhanced typesetting : Enabled
- X-Ray : Enabled
- Word Wise : Enabled
- Print length : 370 pages
- Best Sellers Rank: #55,728 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from other countries
Firstly I have read every single book of Tessa Dare's right from the start with her very first novel and have since, been hooked! There have been a couple of books in her inventory that have not ticked all the box's for me but still good reads. Now this novel has to be my all time favorite of this authors to date! This story is more emotionally sensitive in regards to the hero and heroine. I think the hero has been misunderstood! The main reason he is the way he is because he thinks he is not worthy of the heroine so he leads a mental battle of what his heart wants and what is the right thing to do as he feels he can never give the heroine a fraction of her true worth! There are some real tender and such loving moments in this book I always find myself crying no matter how many times I read this(I have read it more times than I can remember)always left with a lump in my throat!!! It is not the usual chase of a regency novel as both characters have loved each other for years and for they own reasons can't seem to own to it until much later. If you want to read a book charged with sensitivity,love,emotion and acceptance then this book is for you you won't be disappointed. I have this in book in paperback and kindle format as I LOVED LOVED LOVED IT!!!!!!!!!!