Becky is the envy of the courtesans of the demi-monde - the indulged mistress of the wealthy and charismatic Marquis of Aldridge. But she dreams of a normal life; one in which her daughter can have a future that does not depend on beauty, sex, and the whims of a man.
Finding herself with child, she hesitates to tell Aldridge. Will he cast her off, send her away, or keep her and condemn another child to this uncertain shadow world?
The devil-may-care face Hugh shows to the world hides a desperate sorrow; a sorrow he tries to drown with drink and riotous living. His years at war haunt him, but even more, he doesn't want to think about the illness that robbed him of the ability to father a son. When he dies, his barony will die with him. His title will fall into abeyance, and his estate will be scooped up by the Crown.
When Aldridge surprises them both with a daring proposition, they do not expect love to be part of the bargain.
Aldridge never did find out how he came to be naked, alone, and sleeping in the small summerhouse in the garden of a country cottage. His last memory of the night before, had him twenty miles away, and—although not dressed—in a comfortable bed, and in company.
The first time he woke, he had no idea how far he’d come, but the moonlight was bright enough to show him half-trellised window openings, and an archway leading down a short flight of steps into a garden. A house loomed a few hundred feet distant, a dark shape against the star-bright sky. But getting up was too much trouble, particularly with a headache that hung inches above him, threatening to split his head if he moved. The cushioned bench on which he lay invited him to shut his eyes and go back to sleep. Time enough to find out where he was in the morning.
When he woke again, he was facing away from the archway entrance, and there was someone behind him. Silence now, but in his memory, the sound of light footsteps shifting the stones on the path outside, followed by twin intakes of breath as the walkers saw him.
One of them spoke; a woman’s voice, but low—almost husky. “Sarah, go back to the first rosebush and watch the house.”
“Yes, Mama.” A child’s voice.
Aldridge waited until he heard the child dance lightly down the steps and away along the path, then shifted his weight slightly letting his body roll over till he was lying on his back.
He waited for the exclamation of shock, but none came. Carefully—he wanted to observe her before he let her know he was awake, and anyway, any sudden movement might start up the hammers above his eye sockets—he cracked open his lids, masking his eyes with his lashes.
He could see more than he expected. The woman was using a shuttered lantern to examine him, starting at his feet. She paused for a long time when she reached his morning salute and it grew even prouder. Then she swept her light up his torso so quickly, he barely had time to slam his lids shut before the light reached and lingered over his face.
She was just a vague shadow behind the light. He held himself still while she completed her examination, which she did with a snort of disgust. Not the reaction to which he was accustomed.
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Jude Knight writes strong determined heroines, heroes who can appreciate a clever capable woman, villains you’ll love to loathe, and all with a leavening of humour.
Jude Knight is the pen name of Judy Knighton. After a career in commercial writing, editing, and publishing, Jude is returning to her first love, fiction. Her novella, Candle’s Christmas Chair, was released in December 2014, and is in the top ten on several Amazon bestseller lists in the US and UK. Her first novel Farewell to Kindness, was released on 1 April, and is first in a series: The Golden Redepennings.
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Candle’s Christmas Chair (free novella): http://amzn.to/1LO6zN0
Farewell to Kindness (Book One, the Golden Redepennings): http://amzn.to/1Ce4lpP