National bestselling author Liz Carlyle presents her most tempting romance to date -- a sinfully sensual tug-of-war between heavenly desires and earthly delights....
He was a scoundrel, a scamp, and a hopeless skirt-chaser. So it shouldn't have been so surprising when Sir Alasdair awoke after a night of debauchery to see a young lass on his doorstep...with a baby in her arms.
She was beautiful, brazen, and utterly bankrupt. So it shouldn't have been so shocking when Miss Hamilton accepted the rogue's scandalous proposal to move in with him...and become the baby's governess.
One little sin brought them together. But when one man's wicked charms are matched by one woman's fiery spirit, one little sin can lead to another...and another...and another....
"synopsis" may belong to another edition of this title.
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.
The Boxing Match
It was a sweltering afternoon in September when Sir Alasdair MacLachlan very nearly got what his Granny MacGregor had been promising him for at least the last three decades: his comeuppance. Nonetheless, for all its repetition, her admonishment had never been taken very seriously.
Until the age of eight, Alasdair had thought the old girl was saying "come a pence," which he took to be just another Scottish prayer for good fortune, since Granny was notoriously clutch-fisted. So he'd simply tucked the aphorism away, along with all her other gems, such as Sup with the devil, bring a long spoon, and her perennial favorite, Pride goeth before a fall, and a haughty spirit --
Well, he couldn't quite recall what happened to a haughty spirit, nor did he much care to think about it, because, on this particular hot afternoon, Sir Alasdair's mind was elsewhere, and he was already deep in Bliss -- Bliss being the name of the village blacksmith's wife -- when the first gunshot rang out, and his comeuppance edged near.
"Oh, shite!" said Bliss, shoving him off. "Me 'usband!"
Tangled awkwardly in his trousers, Alasdair rolled down the pile of straw and came up spitting dust and flailing about for his braces.
"Awright, Bliss! I knows yer in 'ere somewhere!" The grim voice echoed through the cavernous stable. "Out w'you, now! And that bloody, backstabbin' Scot, too!"
"Gawd, not again," muttered Bliss wearily. By now, she'd hitched up her drawers, and was twitching her petticoat back down her rump. "Most times, I can stall 'im a bit," she whispered. "But you'd best climb over that wall and run for it. Will won't hurt me. You, he'll kill."
Hastily jamming in his shirttails, Alasdair grinned. "Will you grieve for me, my dear?"
Bliss shrugged. Easy come easy go, apparently. And Alasdair prided himself on being easy. Along the passageway between the box stalls, doors were screeching open, then slamming shut with ruthless efficiency. "Come on out, you fancy bastard!" the smithy bellowed. "There ain't but one way in, an' one way out, and that's by way o' me!"
Alasdair gave Bliss a smacking kiss, then hefted himself halfway up the box's wall. "Ta, love," he said, winking. "You were worth it."
Bliss shot him a cynical look, then threw back the stall door. With an artful fling of his legs, Alasdair swung himself up and over the planked wall, then dropped silently into the adjoining box.
"Will Handy, are you daft?" Bliss was in the passageway now, squawking theatrically. "Set down that pistol before you go and kill yourself! Can't a woman catch a wink? Been run half to death all day, I have, toting water and ale up and down that hill like some serving girl."
"Oh, I thinks I knows 'oo you been serving, miss." The voice of doom was mere feet away now. "Where's 'e at, eh? By God, this time, I mean to kill somebody."
Alasdair gingerly inched the stall door open and peeked out. Christ Jesus. Alasdair was not a small man, but Bliss's husband looked like a bad-tempered dray horse, big yellow teeth and all. He was sweating like one, too.
Bare from the waist up, save for his filthy leather apron, the smithy had rivulets running down his rough, bronze skin. Sprouting black hair covered his barrel chest, his tree-trunk arms, and most of his back. In one fist, he clutched a nasty-looking hand scythe, and in the other, a rusty old dueling pistol, its mate shoved down the bearer of his trousers.
Two guns. One shot.
Damn. Alasdair had excelled in mathematics at St. Andrews. He did not like his odds here. Christ, what a fix he'd gotten into this time. But he loved life too well to willingly give it up.
Bliss had wet one corner of her apron now, and was dabbing at a streak of soot on the big brute's face. "Shush, now, Will," she cooed. "There's no one here but me, aye?"
Alasdair eased the door open another inch, and waited until Bliss had the old boy by the arm. She was dragging him toward the door, so Alasdair waited until they'd turned the corner, then gingerly tiptoed out. And promptly stepped on a rake. A six-foot shaft of solid English oak popped out of the muck to crack him square between the eyes. Alasdair cursed, tripped over himself, and went sprawling.
"There 'e is!" roared the smithy. "Come back 'ere, you friggin' cur!"
Alasdair was reeling, but not witless. The smithy had thrown off his wife's arm and was barreling back down the length of the barn. Alasdair kicked the rake from his path, feinted left, then bolted past the brute. The smithy roared like a thwarted bull and turned, too late.
Alasdair burst out into the blinding sunlight just as a roar went up from the crowd in the meadow far below. An illegal and much-touted boxing match had drawn half the rascals in London to this little Surrey village, and the sight of a bleeding aristocrat being chased by a scythe-wielding blacksmith did not occasion so much as a glance.
Alasdair could hear the smithy pounding down the grassy hill behind him. Frantically, he searched the meadow for his companions. The smithy was grunting with exertion. Alasdair considered standing his ground. What he lacked in size, he just might make up in speed and skill. Still, old Will did have a loaded gun and a just cause. God mightn't be on Alasdair's side.
Alasdair reached the foot of the hill and began darting between the parked carriages. Fast footwork was not the smithy's forte, and he quickly fell behind. Alasdair circled half the meadow, dashing from carriage to carriage, urgently searching the sea of faces beneath the baking sun. The scents of damp grass, spilt ale, and fresh manure made for a sour miasma in the heat.
The jeers and groans of the crowd were audible now, punctuated by the rapid smack of flesh on flesh. One of the boxers staggered back, another roaring cheer went up, and in that instant, Alasdair saw his brother pushing his way out of the crowd, with Quin on his heels, still sipping a tankard of ale.
Merrick met him near a big, old-fashioned town coach. "What the devil's got into you?" he asked, as Alasdair dragged him behind it.
"And who was that Goliath on your heels?" added Quin. "Looks like he laid one right between your eyes, old boy."
Alasdair leaned against the carriage to catch his breath. "Let's just say it's time to go, gents," he answered. "Now."
"Go?" said Quin incredulously. "I've got twenty pounds on this fight!"
Merrick's expression tightened. "Why? What's happened?"
"Petticoat trouble again!" complained Quin. "Couldn't you cuckold someone smaller?"
Alasdair pushed away from the carriage, his gaze scanning the edge of the meadow. Merrick grabbed him firmly by the arm. "You didn't."
Alasdair shrugged. "It was Bliss, the girl who brought the ale," he said. "She looked as though she could use a few moments off her feet. A purely humanitarian act, I assure you."
"Good God, Alasdair," said his brother. "I knew better than to come along on this escapade wi -- "
"Bugger all!" interjected Quin, hurling aside his tankard. "Here he comes."
Just then, a wall of sweating, grunting flesh came pounding toward them from the opposite side of the meadow, still waving the gun and scythe, which was glistening wickedly in the sun. "We'd best run for it," said Alasdair.
"I'll be damned if I'm running anywhere," said Merrick coldly. "Besides, I left the carriage at the King's Arms."
"One of his pistols is still loaded," cautioned Alasdair. "Perhaps I deserve it, Merrick, but do you really want the village idiot to kill some bystander?"
"Better to live and fight another day, old chaps," said Quin.
"Oh, to hell with it," snapped Merrick.
The three of them bolted toward the footpath. It snaked around the summit of the hill and up to the back side of the village. Here, people lingered all along the path, where shrewd tavern keepers had set up wagons and tents to sell meat pies and ale. Itinerant tradesmen and Gypsies had staked out ground, too, and were hawking all manner of handmade goods, tonics, and charms while, from the village above, the lively strains of a fiddle carried on the breeze.
Quin pushed on until the crowd thinned. Alasdair and his brother followed. In the next sharp turn, Quin was obliged to jump from the path of a thin man balancing a keg on one shoulder. Merrick followed suit. Unfortunately, Alasdair clipped the man's jutting elbow with his shoulder. The man stumbled, cursed, and dropped the keg, which went thundering down the path.
"Impressive footwork!" said Merrick snidely.
Alasdair cut a glance back down the hill to see that the smithy was gaining ground. A mere three feet ahead of him, the keg bounced off the path, exploding into beer and foam. The man who'd been carrying it apparently decided to throw in his lot with the smithy, and turned to join in the chase.
Around the path's next bend, a wagon painted in brilliant shades of green came into view. Beside it sat a large tent of stained and patched canvas. Quin leapt off the path and threw up the flap. "Quick," he ordered. "In here."
Merrick dived into the darkness. Alasdair followed. For a moment, there was nothing but the sound of their gasping breath. Alasdair's eyes were still adjusting to the light when a dusky voice came out of the gloom.
"Cross my palm with silver, Englishman."
He peered into the depths of the tent to see a Gypsy woman seated before a rickety deal table, one slender, long-fingered hand outstretched. "I -- I'm not English," he blurted, for no particular reason.
She eyed him up and down, as if he were horseflesh on the block. "That is not entirely true," she said.
Alasdair was a quarter English on his father's side. He grew inexplicably uneasy.
"Cross my palm with silver," she repeated, snapping her elegant fingers. "Or perhaps you would prefer to leave? This is place of business, not a sanctuary."
"Oh, for God's sake, pay the woman," ordered Merrick, still looking through the flap. Beyond, Alasdair could hear the smithy arguing with someone -- the chap who'd been carrying the keg, most li...
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Book Description Piatkus, 2005. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. No.1 BESTSELLERS - great prices, friendly customer service â€" all orders are dispatched next working day. Bookseller Inventory # mon0000490817