Never Lie to a Lady (Never (Paperback))

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9781416527145: Never Lie to a Lady (Never (Paperback))

In her dazzling new historical trilogy, New York Times bestselling author Liz Carlyle plunges readers into the steamy underworld of nineteenth-century London. Among the swirling glitter of English high society, a scandalous rogue gets more than he bargained for in the lady of his desires.

Lord Nash is a creature of the night -- his wealth and title provide but a tenuous entrée into polite society. Notorious for his sophisticated manners and a dark, dashing elegance, rumors abound of the men he has bankrupted and the women he's left heartbroken. But when Nash leaves his lair for a rare foray into the ton, he faces a lure of temptation all his own -- an extraordinary moment of passion with a mysterious lady in the moonlight -- and an obsession that will lead him into a hellish world of smugglers, spies, and intrigue. And as for his damsel in disguise, the witty and beautiful Miss Xanthia Neville, he soon learns, is as unattainable as she is tempting. And now Nash must decide if she is also dangerous. . . .

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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.:

Chapter One

A Gala in Hanover Street

Spring 1828

Miss Xanthia Neville was thinking of having an affaire. Thinking of it quite vividly, in fact, as she watched the tide of handsome, elegantly attired gentlemen sweep their partners through the intricacies of the waltz. Cutaway coats and diaphanous skirts swirled and unfurled beneath the glow of a thousand candles. Champagne glasses clinked, and sidelong gazes lingered. Everyone was lighthearted. No one was alone.

Well, that was not quite true, was it? She was alone. At the great age of not-quite-thirty -- a brittle precipice indeed -- Xanthia was a confirmed spinster. Nonetheless, tonight she had worn red; the deepest, most daring shade of claret-colored velvet to be found in the whole of Pall Mall, as if doing so might send some subtle signal within the rarefied confines of Lord Sharpe's ballroom.

Ah, but perhaps she was just deluding herself. Perhaps she'd had too much of Sharpe's champagne. In this country, unmarried ladies did not have liaisons. They had weddings. Even her cynical-hearted brother would not tolerate a scandal. Moreover, Xanthia, the consummate negotiator, had no notion how one went about parlaying that sort of deal. She could finesse the flintiest of customs agents, consign cargo in three languages, and spot a thieving purser with a doctored manifest at fifty paces. But this -- her personal life -- so often felt beyond her.

So this romance of hers was just another fantasy. Another unattainable thing which, while painfully absent from her life, simply came at too great a price.

Was she lonely? She hardly knew. She knew only that her life had required hard choices -- and she made them, for the most part, with her eyes open. Lord Sharpe's ballroom was awash in pretty, virginal debutantes. They were not wearing red. Life's many possibilities were still open to them. Xanthia was envious, and yet she would not have traded places with even the most beautiful amongst them.

She turned away from the ocean of beautiful men and pretty virgins and went out onto the terrace in search of solitude. The heels of her slippers sounded softly on the flagstones, until at last the strains of the orchestra faded, and the murmur of voices quieted. Even the illicit lovers had not ventured so deep into the gloom as this. Perhaps she ought not have, either -- the English ton did seem to frown on the oddest things -- but something in the silence drew her.

At the distant end of the terrace, Xanthia at last paused to lean against the brickwork and let her shoulders relax against the masonry, which still held a hint of heat from an unseasonably sunny day. She had been all of four months in London now, but never once had she been warm. She let her head tip back and her eyes close as she savored the faint heat, and swallowed the last of her champagne.

"Ah, if only I were the cause of that expression!" murmured a deep, rueful voice. "Rarely do I see a woman so enraptured -- unless she is in bed with me."

Xanthia's eyes flew open on a faint gasp.

A tall, elegantly built man blocked the terrace before her, and even in the dark, she could feel the heat of his gaze drifting over her. She recognized him vaguely, for she had noticed him earlier, reclining languidly in a chair deep inside the cardroom -- and she had seen the female heads turning as he left it, too. He was the sort of man who caught a woman's notice; not for his beauty, but for something far more primitive than that.

Xanthia lifted her chin. "Sharpe has a dreadful crush tonight," she said coolly. "I thought my escape had gone unobserved."

"Perhaps it did." His voice was a low rumble. "I could not say. I have been hiding out here all of a quarter hour myself." There was chagrin in his voice, which unexpectedly made her laugh.

He stepped fully into the shaft of moonlight and glanced down at her empty flute. "Sharpe has unimpeachable taste in champagne, does he not?" he murmured. "And your intriguing expression aside, my dear, I wonder if it wouldn't be prudent for you to return to the ballroom?"

Xanthia, however, caught neither his suggestion, nor its subtle implication, for she was absorbed in the study of his face. No, he definitely was not beautiful. Instead, his features held a remarkable ruthlessness, with a hawkish nose, a too-hard jaw, and extraordinary eyes, which were set at just the slightest angle. His hair was dark, and far too long to be fashionable. More disturbing still, there was just the slightest aura of danger about him. Inexplicably, Xanthia did not heed it.

"No," she said quietly. "No, I think I shall stay."

He lifted one of his solid-looking shoulders. "Suit yourself, my dear," he said. "You looked like a cat soaking up warmth just now. Are you cold?"

Fleetingly, Xanthia closed her eyes and thought of the Bajan sun. "I am always cold," she answered. "I haven't been warm in an age."

"What a pity." He leaned nearer and offered his hand. "I believe I have not had the pleasure, ma'am. In fact, I am quite persuaded you are new to Town."

She looked down at his hand, but did not take it. "And do you know everyone?"

"It is my business to do so," he said simply.

"Indeed?" Xanthia set her glass down atop a nearby baluster. "What sort of business are you in?"

"The business of knowing people."

"Ah, a man of mystery," she answered a little drolly. "And from whom, I wonder, are you hiding? An angry husband? A woman scorned? Or that little coterie of matchmaking mammas which keeps eyeing you so greedily?"

He flashed a crooked, rueful smile. "Noticed that, did you?" he asked. "It's devilish awkward, really. They seem to keep expecting me to -- ah, but never mind that."

She looked at him intently. "Expectations," she murmured. "Yes, that is the very trouble, isn't it? People are so very reluctant to surrender them, are they not? We are all expected to do certain things, make certain choices -- and when we do not, well, we are accounted stubborn. Or eccentric. Or that most horrid euphemism of all -- difficult. Why is that, I wonder?"

"Why indeed?" he murmured. The man's gaze held hers steadily. "I wonder, my dear -- are you the sort of woman who does the unexpected? You strike me as being...oh, I don't know -- a little different, perhaps, from those other people whirling about the ballroom."

Those other people.

With those three simple words, he seemed to draw a dark and certain line between the two of them and -- well, everyone else. He was not like them, either. She sensed it. A sudden frisson of some unfathomable emotion slid down her spine. For an instant, it was as if he looked not at her, but at something deeper. His gaze was watchful. Assessing. And yet understanding, all at once.

But what nonsense that was. What was she doing here in the dark, chatting with a perfect stranger?

His slashing black eyebrows went up a notch. "You have grown very quiet, my dear."

"I fear I have nothing of interest to say." Xanthia relaxed against the brickwork again. "I lead a rather austere life and do not generally go about in society."

"Nor do I," he confessed, dropping his voice. "And yet...here we are."

He leaned so near she could smell his cologne, an intriguing combination of smoke and citrus. His gaze caught hers again, more heated now, and Xanthia felt suddenly as if the stone portico beneath her feet had shifted. Even in the dark, his eyes seemed to glitter. "I beg your pardon," she said a little breathlessly. "You...you are wearing amber oil, are you not?"

He inclined his head. "Amongst other things."

"And neroli," she said. "But the amber -- it is quite a rare scent."

He looked vaguely pleased. "I am surprised you know it."

"I have some knowledge of spices and oils."

"Have you indeed?" he murmured. "My perfumer in St. James imports it for me. Do you like it?"

"I am not quite sure," she said honestly.

"Then I shan't wear it tomorrow."

"Tomorrow?"

"When I call on you," he said. "By the way, my dear, do you mean to tell me your name? Just the name of your husband will do. That way, I can ascertain his club hours and determine when he is most apt to be out."

"I do not know your name," she said archly. "But I see that you are quite forward."

"Yes, well, being backward gets one nowhere, does it?" he suggested, smiling.

Xanthia gave a bitter laugh. "Indeed, it does not," she answered. "I learnt that much the hard way."

He watched her warily for a moment. "No, you do not look the shy, retiring type," he said in a musing tone. "Tell me, my dear, are you as bold as that red dress you are wearing might suggest?"

"In some situations, yes," she confessed, holding his gaze. "If there is something one wants badly, one must often be bold."

Suddenly, he slid one hand beneath her elbow, and it was as if something electric passed between them. "You are a most intriguing woman, my dear." His voice was raspy in the gloom. "Indeed, it has been a very long time since I felt . . . well, intrigued."

"Perhaps I understand," Xanthia found herself saying. "I wish we could... oh, never mind. I am very foolish, I think. Perhaps I ought to go."

But his hand on her arm stilled her. "What?" he murmured. "What do you wish, my dear? If it is within my power to fulfill your desire, it would be my greatest pleasure."

His words left her shivering. "No, it was nothing," she answered. "You are a dangerously charming man, sir. I think I ought not linger here."

"Wait," he said, pulling her to him. "Let us make a bargain, my dear. I shall tell you my name -- and my line of business. And in exchange, you will -- " He paused, and let his eyes run over her again.

Xanthia was undone by the suspense. "What?"

"You will kiss me," he commanded. "And not some sisterly peck, by God."

Xanthia's eyes widened, but she was inordinately curious. After all, it was she who had started this silly gam...

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