July 1, 2014
The Ministry of Marriage, Book 6
St. Martin's Paperbacks
Barnes & Noble
Can an Indecent Proposal
Eight years ago, a tall handsome stranger entered Lizzie Allbright’s bedchamber and consummated a marriage of the utmost necessity. The Marquis of Steyne agreed to wed and bed Lord Bute’s admittedly lovely daughter to pay off his mother’s gambling debts. But once the deed was done, Steyne’s lawfully-wedded wife vanished into the London night…
Lead to Everlasting Love?
Years later, Steyne has nearly forgotten about his runaway bride. But when he suddenly finds himself in need of an heir, he has no choice but to track her down. Living happily in a small village under an assumed name, Lizzie is surprised to see her husband—and to feel such a strong attraction to him. But she is downright shocked when he asks her to bear him a son. How can they possibly repeat the heated encounter of their ill-fated wedding night without falling hopelessly in love?…in Christina Brooke’s stunningly sexy Regency, The Wickedest Lord Alive.
“Brooke deftly weaves a Regency romance full of deception, intrigue, family secrets and love.” ~ Publisher’s Weekly
Read an Excerpt
The young man who strode into her bedchamber that night was as darkly beautiful as sin itself, tall and elegantly proportioned, with an arrogant cast of countenance inherited from his patrician forebears. His hair held the obsidian luster of a panther’s coat, worn a trifle longer than was the current fashion. His eyes, set beneath sleek, flyaway brows, were so deep and brilliant a blue as to appear unnatural in the chancy light.
Barely suppressed fury tautened his large frame. A flicker of panic passed through her. This situation was not of her making. He must know that. Would he punish her for it, anyway?
From what she’d heard and seen of this young nobleman, she suspected that if she showed fear he would despise her. She didn’t want to begin that way.
“Oh, thank goodness you’re here,” she said in a rush. “I thought I’d expire of nervousness waiting for you.” She was pleased to note her voice didn’t tremble.
Some of the ferocity seemed to leave him. He bowed. “My apologies. Remiss of me to keep a lady waiting.”
She burned to make some witty reply, but just then he stepped into the full glow of the candlelight and she had trouble catching her breath. Shadows outlined the chiseled planes of cheekbones and jaw. A gleam slid over the dark locks that tumbled on his brow.
He was, without a doubt, the handsomest man she’d seen in her life.
Instinct had told her to snuff the candles to avoid the embarrassment of exposing her body when they… when he did what he’d come here to do. But then she’d imagined his unfamiliar touch in the blanketing darkness, having him over and around her and inside her like an invisible demon spirit, while she was helpless to see him or to read his intent.
She’d decided to keep one branch of candles lit. After more thought, she’d placed it some distance from the bed.
Then had come the dilemma of what to do with herself while she awaited him. She’d tried draping her lanky form languidly on the chaise longue by the window. Too calculated, and she was very much not the draping languidly sort.
Perched on a little chair by the fire plying her needle seemed too tame, and really, why pretend to occupy herself, as if she were not on tenterhooks waiting for his arrival? Besides, she was all fingers and thumbs. She’d be a danger to herself with a needle.
In the end, she’d decided there was no reason to pretend this was anything other than what it was. She was waiting for him to bed her, and that was that.
But however prosaically she’d tried to view this encounter before his arrival, now, her heart thundered in her chest as those deep eyes scrutinized her. The churning in her belly wouldn’t subside no matter how she tried to calm herself. As he stripped the coat from his broad frame and moved toward her, she struggled not to blurt out that it was all a dreadful mistake.
What if she did it all wrong? She met his gaze. “It—it is my first… That is to say, I have not done this before.”
“I had assumed that was the case,” he said. Was she mistaken, or did his tone hold a tinge of amusement?
Long fingers were rapidly undoing his waistcoat buttons, but he paused, his brows drawn together. “Are you afraid? Don’t be. I won’t hurt you more than I can help.”
That was all very well for him to say. Nurse had warned her that a woman’s first time was excruciating. The old retainer had done her best to ready her mistress for this night.
She lifted her chin. “I’m not afraid.” Her voice gave a betraying waver.
“How old are you?” he said suddenly, his gaze raking her as if he could see through her coverings to the form beneath.
The question was so unexpected she stumbled over the answer. “S-seventeen.”
He was one-and-twenty and had been “on the town” as the phrase was, since he’d left Eton.
She’d heard about him, of course. Who hadn’t? Stories of wickedness, of scandalous romantic entanglements with married ladies. He’d already fought two duels with jealous husbands and won.
He’d go on to have many other women when he was done with her. She could not imagine one of them refusing him. The thought made her bite her lip hard.
He reached out and touched the back of one finger to her cheek. “If you don’t want to do this, I will leave.”
His tone was not kind; it was indifferent. But the gesture, the feel of his touch, made something inside her warm, just a little.
“I want to,” she said.
If she did not, her father would do things to her that were worse than anything this young man might contemplate. Besides, he was her one chance to get away from this house, a man powerful enough to protect her from her father. His rank and breeding would have told her that, even if the cut of his jaw, the cold fire in his eyes, had not.
Suddenly anxious that he might have second thoughts, that he would leave her and call the whole thing off, she made herself throw back the covers and sit up. She held out a hand to him and tried to keep it from trembling.
He regarded her silently. Then his eyes seemed to darken and he grasped her hand, curling his strong fingers around it. She was surprised at the heat of his skin. It was such a contrast with his cool demeanour.
Without even removing his boots, he set one knee on the bed.
“Neither of us desired this,” he murmured, moving over her, making the mattress sink beneath his weight. His breath brushed her cheek. “After tonight, you won’t ever have to see me again.”