Tuesday, October 29, 2013

In Love with a Wicked Man by Liz Carlyle


Ned Quartermaine was in a dark and pensive mood. With his coat and cravat long ago cast aside, he sprawled by a dying fire in his finely appointed suite, his knees splayed wide and his shoulders thrown back against the buttery leather of his armchair. Only the faint chink! of his brandy glass striking the marble tabletop broke the quiet as Quartermaine stared out into his garden; a garden that would have been awash in moonlight had this not been London, and the night sky not choked with damp and coal smoke.

But Quartermaine was a creature of the darkness—and, truth be told, more comfortable in it. And on this night, he was embracing that darkness with a bottle of eighteen-year-old Armagnac and a strand of small but perfect pearls adorned with one teardrop sapphire.

They lay heavy in the palm of his hand—and heavy in his heart, too. But that organ so rarely troubled him, the ache in it tonight might have been mistaken for dyspepsia. Best to wash it back down again, he’d decided. Still, from time to time, between sips of the burnt, ashy spirit, he gave the pearls a pensive little toss, just to feel them settle back into his hand, clicking against one another before stilling again; cooler, yet ever heavier, it seemed.

Just then, as if to punctuate the regret, the gilt clock on his mantelpiece struck the hour.

Three chimes. Three o’clock.

An hour at which there was good money to be made from the vanity and desperation of others. Above Quartermaine’s head, the night’s work continued on as little more than a soothing rumble of voices; one that was occasionally broken by the faint scrape of a chair leg across his marble floors.

He gave the brandy another sip.

The pearls another toss.

His heart another hard wrench. As if he might, just this once, manage to wring from it the will to do the right thing. But before he could steel himself to the duty, there came a faint knock at the door.

Peters. No one else had permission to disturb Quartermaine once he had stepped from his office into his private domain.

“Come!” he ordered.

His club manager entered with a perfunctory bow. “You might wish to come upstairs, sir.”

Quartermaine tipped the Armagnac bottle over his glass. “Why?”

“It’s Lord Reginald Hoke,” said Peters. “I turned him off as you’d ordered but it didn’t sit well. Apparently the damned fool feels lucky tonight.”

After refilling his glass, Quartermaine lifted his lazy gaze back to Peters’s, his eyebrows rising faintly. “Lucky enough to settle his accounts?” he murmured. “For if he does not, Lord Reggie shan’t put so much as one manicured toe across the threshold of this establishment, lest I chop the thing off and use it for a bloody paperweight.”

“A paperweight, sir?”

“To hold down that stack of worthless notes he’s given us,” said Quartermaine without humor.

Suddenly, from behind Quartermaine, the sound of hinges creaking intruded, followed by the rustle of fabric. He twisted in his chair.


Her voice edged with irritation and her wild curls tumbling down, Maggie Sloan stood bracketed against the lamplight of his bedroom, Quartermaine’s silk robe gathered around her in voluminous folds.

“I’ve business to attend,” he said coolly. “Go back to bed, Maggie.”

He sensed rather than saw the disdain flick over her face. “No, I think I’m off.” Lip sneering, she slammed the door.

Emotionlessly, he turned back to Peters. “Where’s Hoke now?”

“Pinkie stopped him in the entrance hall, sir.”

“Alas, poor Reggie,” said Quartermaine, setting his bottle down. “Shall I set loose the hounds, old chap? Or is there a bit of blood yet to be wrung from the Hoke turnip?”

Peters laughed. “Oh, there’s blood,” he said. “That’s why you should come upstairs.”

That elevated Quartermaine’s brows another notch. “Indeed?” he said. “You shock me, Peters. I thought old Reggie entirely done in.”

 “He implies he’s to meet some of his cronies here in half an hour for something deep,” Peters suggested. “But he needs cash to stake at the card table, and he’s in a mood to bargain.”

Quartermaine sipped musingly at his brandy. “Well, I’ve never been known to sneer at a bargain,” he said, rising. “But bring him down here. I’d rather not put my coat back on.”

Peters bowed. “Certainly, sir.”

Quartermaine followed Peters back through the suite and into the adjacent study where the heart of the club was centered. No bacchanalia or whoring went on within these walls; the Quartermaine Club was simply a circumspect, high-stakes gaming salon where many a noble scion had sent ten generations of wealth shooting down a rat hole beneath Ned Quartermaine’s watchful eye.

But it was wealth, not blood, that determined whether a man—or a woman—could gain entrée to Quartermaine’s world. Blue blood alone was next to worthless in his estimation—and he had enough of it in him to know.

Suddenly Quartermaine realized he still held the pearls in his hand. On a pinprick of irritation, he jerked open the drawer of his desk and let them slither into it, a cascade of creamy perfection. Then he took a cigar and went to the French windows that opened onto his garden.

The ash soon glowed orange in the dark. He could hear the rattle of a carriage coming up fast from the direction of St. James’s Palace. The cry of a newspaper hawker in the street. And then the silence fell again. What the devil was keeping Lord Reginald?

Perhaps the craven bastard had turned tail and run back up St. James’s Place to cower in one of his posh clubs. It little concerned him. Quartermaine always got his money—one way or another. He puffed again at the cigar and pondered at his leisure how best that might be done, for patience, he’d learnt, was truly a virtue.

In Love with a Wicked Man
Liz Carlyle

Genre: Historical Romance

Publisher: Avon Books

Date of Publication: 10/29/2013

ISBN: 9780062100290

Book Description:

New York Times bestselling author Liz Carlyle has created a breathtaking new romance about a man without scruples and the lady who brings him to his knees.
What does it matter if Kate, Lady d'Allenay, has absolutely no marriage prospects?

She has a castle to tend, an estate to run, and a sister to watch over, which means she is never, ever reckless. Until an accident brings a handsome, virile stranger to Bellecombe Castle, and Kate finds herself tempted to surrender to her houseguest's wicked kisses.

Disowned by his aristocratic family, Lord Edward Quartermaine has turned his gifted mind to ruthless survival. Feared and vilified as proprietor of London's most notorious gaming salon, he now struggles to regain his memory, certain of only one thing: he wants all Kate is offering—and more.

But when Edward's memory returns, he and Kate realize how much they have wagered on a scandalous passion that could be her ruin, but perhaps his salvation.

About the Author:

A lifelong Anglophile, Liz Carlyle started reading Gothic novels under the bed covers by flashlight. She is the author of sixteen historical romances, including several New York Times bestsellers. Liz travels incessantly, ever in search of the perfect setting for her next book. Along with her genuine romance-hero husband and four very fine felines, she makes her home in North Carolina.

Twitter: @lizcarlyle

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Karen H said...

I am so looking forward to reading this latest book from Liz Carlyle. She's one of my favorite authors.

kareninnc at gmail dot com