Liz Carlyle Two Little Lies

ISBN 13: 9780743496117

Two Little Lies

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9780743496117: Two Little Lies
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National bestselling author Liz Carlyle presents the second book in her scandalous new romance series -- a fiery duel of desire and deception with love as the ultimate prize....

Once, he spurned the woman he loved. The Earl of Wynwood was far too reckless to handle a sophisticated woman like Viviana Alessandri. And the beautiful opera singer was far too famous to make a suitable wife for Wynwood.

Twice, she wagered with her heart. Crushed by Wynwood's refusal to marry, Viviana offered her hand to another, a wealthy count. But fate has a way of playing with lovers' hearts -- and passion has a way of setting them on fire.

Two little lies tore them apart. But now, at a gala affair celebrating Wynwood's recent betrothal, Viviana will get one last chance to win back his love...again...and again.

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About the Author:

During her frequent travels through England, Liz Carlyle always packs her pearls, her dancing slippers, and her whalebone corset, confident in the belief that eventually she will receive an invitation to a ball or a rout. Alas, none has been forthcoming. While waiting, however, she has managed to learn where all the damp, dark alleys and low public houses can be found.

Liz hopes she has brought just a little of the nineteenth century alive for the reader in her popular novels, which include the trilogy of One Little Sin, Two Little Lies, and Three Little Secrets, as well as The Devil You Know, A Deal With the Devil, and The Devil to Pay. Please visit her at LizCarlyle.com, especially if you're giving a ball.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Prologue

In which a Proposal of marriage is Received.

Spring, 1821

Signorina Alessandri was ill. Again. With one hand restraining the flowing folds of her fine silk nightclothes, she lurched over the closestool in her Covent Garden flat and prayed, in fluent and fervid Italian, for death to take her.

"Oh, please, miss, do speak English!" begged her maid, who had caught her heavy black hair, and drawn it back, too. "I can't make out a word. But I do think we'd best fetch a doctor."

"Nonsense," said the signorina, clenching the back of the closestool in a white-knuckled fist. "It was the fish Lord Chesley served last night."

The maid pursed her lips. "Aye, and what was it yesterday, miss?" she asked. "Not fish, I'll wager."

With the other hand set at the small of her back, Viviana closed her eyes and somehow straightened up. "Silenzio, Lucy," she said softly. "We talk of it no further. The worst is over now."

"Oh, I doubt that," said the maid.

Viviana ignored her and went instead to the washbasin. "Where is the morning's post, per favore?" she asked, awkwardly slopping the bowl full of water.

With a sigh, Lucy went into the parlor and returned with a salver which held one letter covered in Viviana's father's infamous scrawl, and a folded note which bore no address. "Mr. Hewitt's footman brought it," she said offhandedly.

With hands that shook, Viviana finished her ablutions, then patted a towel across her damp face as her maid looked on in consternation. The girl had been both loyal and kind these many months. "Thank you, Lucy," she said. "Why do you not go have a cup of tea? I shall read my letter now."

Lucy hesitated. "But do you not wish your bathwater brought, miss?" she pressed. " 'Tis already past noon. Mr. Hewitt will be here soon, won't he?"

Quin. Lucy was right, of course. Viviana laid aside the towel and took the note. Quin usually came to her in the early afternoon. Yes, just as he meant to do today. And oh, how she longed for it -- yet dreaded it in the same breath.

She tossed the note into the fire. She had not missed the furious looks he'd hurled her way in the theater's reception room after last night's performance. Viviana had sung gloriously, hitting every high note in her last aria with a chilling, crystal-clear resonance, before collapsing into her lover's arms in a magnificent swoon. The theater had been full, the applause thunderous.

But all Quin had seemed to notice was what had come afterward. The compliments and congratulations of her admirers. The champagne toasts. The subtle, sexual invitations tossed her way by the lift of a brow or a tilt of the head -- and refused just as subtly in turn. It had not been refusal enough for Quin. One could hardly have ignored his cocky stance and sulky sneer as he paced the worn green carpet, a glass of brandy clutched in his hand. His uncle, Lord Chesley, had even had the effrontery to tease him about it.

Quin had not taken that well. Nor had he been especially pleased to see Viviana leaving on Chesley's arm, as she so often did. And today, God help them, he would undoubtedly wish to quarrel over it. Viviana was not at all sure she was capable of mounting a spirited defense. But it almost didn't matter anymore.

"Miss?" said the maid. "Your bathwater?"

Nausea roiled in her stomach again, and Viviana moved gingerly to a chair. "In ten minutes, Lucy," she answered. "I shall read Papà's letter whilst my stomach settles. If I am late, I shall receive Mr. Hewitt here."

Lucy pursed her lips again. "Aye, then," she finally answered. "But I'd be telling him straightaway, miss, about that bad fish if I was you."

Finally, Viviana laughed.

The fleeting humor did not sustain her as she opened her father's letter. Even the scent of his letter paper tugged at her heartstrings. She knew the very drawer of his desk from which it had been taken; the same desk in which he kept his tobacco. Then there was the penmanship itself. The broad, slashing strokes always recalled to her his indefatigable strength, the tight loops and curls, his wisdom and precision, and the lyrical words, his artistry. He was one of Europe's most renowned composers, and not without reason.

She drew in the scent once more, then spread the letter across her lap. She read it through once, disbelievingly, then again, very carefully. Chesley, it seemed, had kept his old friend well-informed. Already Papà knew that tonight was to be her last performance in Die Entführung, and that all of London's West End lay appreciatively at her feet. As Konstanze, at long last, she had triumphed.

And now Papà was writing to tell her she might return home. Viviana closed her eyes and thought of it. Dear God, what a strange confluence of fate and timing this was! It seemed an eternity since she had fled Venice with nothing but her panic, her violin, and her music folio to bear her company. And now, to return! Oh, it was what she had lived for and longed for almost every moment since, save for those spent in Quin's arms. He had been, in truth, her salvation.

But now she could go home. It was a bit of a devil's bargain, what was being offered her. Certainly it was not what she wanted. Nonetheless, as Papà pointed out, there were advantages to such an arrangement. Great advantages. It would also make his life a vast deal easier, though her father would sooner die than tell her so.

And so the decision was to be hers. Nothing would be forced upon her. Ha! Those were not her father's words, she'd wager. Apparently, Conte Bergonzi had changed his tactics. Moreover, Viviana could tell by his careful phrasing that Papà fully expected her to refuse Bergonzi's offer, and would forgive her if she did so. Viviana set her hand on her belly. She was not at all sure she would have the luxury of refusing.

The water was wonderfully hot when it came, and remarkably restorative. Feeling perhaps a little more at peace, Viviana was still luxuriating in it when Quin came stalking into the room. He looked at once angry and yet almost boyishly uncertain.

He stared down at her naked body and gave her a tight, feral smile. "Washing away the evidence, Vivie?"

It was a cynical remark, even for him.

For a moment, she let her black eyes burn into him. "Silenzio, Quinten," she returned. "I had quite enough of your jealous sulking last night. Be civil, or go away."

He knelt by the tub, and rested one arm along its edge. His eyes were bleak today, the lines about his mouth almost shockingly deep for one so young. He smelled of brandy and smoke and the scents of a long, hard-spent night. "Is that what you want, Viviana?" he whispered. "Are you trying to drive me away?"

She dropped her soap into the water. "How, Quin?" she demanded, throwing up her hands in frustration. "Mio dio, how am I doing this driving? I am not, and that is the truth of it, si?"

He cast his eyes away, as if he did not believe her. "They say Lord Lauton has promised you a house in Mayfair, and more money than I could ever dream of," he answered. "Not until I come into my title, at any rate. Is it true, Vivie?"

She shook her head. "Quin, what would it matter if it were?" she returned. "I am no longer for sale -- perhaps not even to you. Why must you be so jealous?"

"How can I help but be, Viviana?" he rasped, brushing one finger beneath her left nipple. It peaked and hardened, begging for his touch. "Men's eyes feast upon you everywhere you go. But at least you still desire me."

Viviana glowered at him, but she did not push his hand away. "My body desires you, si," she admitted. "But sometimes, amore mio, my mind does not."

He plucked the nipple teasingly between his thumb and forefinger. "And what of your heart, Viviana?" he whispered, looking up at her from beneath a sweep of inky lashes. "I have your body ensconced, ever so circumspectly, in this flat which I have paid for. Have I your heart as well?"

"I have no heart!" she snapped. "That is what you told me when we quarreled last week, if you will recall. And you need not remind me, Quin, of who has put this roof over my head. I have become mindful of it with every breath I draw."

As if to torment her, he let his lashes fall shut, then leaned forward to crook his head so that he might suckle her. Viviana sat perfectly still, allowing him to draw her nipple into his mouth, and then between his teeth. At that, she gasped, and cursed the old, familiar pull of lust which went twisting traitorously through her body. It curled deep in her belly and left her breathless.

He lifted his head with a satisfied smile. "Where did you go last night, my love?" he asked.

She looked at him defiantly. "To Chesley's town house," she said. "We dined with Lord and Lady Rothers, and some acquaintances they had brought from Paris."

"Ah, patrons of the arts, all of them, I've no doubt," said Quin almost mockingly. "My uncle's little coterie!"

"Why must you so often think ill of him? He is kind to me, no more."

"My uncle is a fine man," Quin returned. "It is his friends I do not trust. By the way, my sweet, what is this here, just below your jaw? A bruise? Or something else?"

Her glower darkened as he brushed the side of her neck with the back of one finger. "It is absolutely nothing," she snapped, having no need to look. He was trying to elicit some sort of guilty reaction. "It is nothing, as it has always been nothing, Quin," she went on. "Chesley is my father's friend. My mentor here in London. He thinks of me as his ward, for God's sake! How many times must we suffer this foolish argument?"

He broke his gaze, and looked away. "I cannot help it, Viviana." He choked out the words. "You -- you drive me insane. Chesley runs with a fast crowd. I cannot bear how those other men look at you."

"And how, pray, am I to stop it?" she asked him. "What would yo...

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