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The Cursed Princes Book One
A Union of Curses
Isabella Farrington’s marriage was hasty. For all her new husband’s riches, Lord Draven Winthrop is whispered about, avoided, and feared. Yet Isabella is drawn to Draven’s good looks, his strength, the charm he can turn on as easily as she can blink. The impoverished daughter of an Egyptologist, she knows there are rumors about her, too, and the amulet she wears. Nothing more than superstitious babble…
But when Isabella returns to Draven’s remote coastal manor, she senses there is something more at work in the grim gardens of Thorncliff Towers than superstition. Draven is passionate and seductive, but he has a brutal, uncontrolled side too, and a history of secrets. To live in peace she must discover the reasons behind a gypsy curse and a mother’s scorn. Especially when she learns Draven believes his sweet young bride is doomed to a fate even darker than his own…
Genre: Historical Paranormal Romance
I am getting married today.
The realization bubbled to the surface of Lord Draven Winthrop’s liquor-weighted mind. At the gong of the town clock, he shot up in bed and peered at his surroundings. The décor of the small space was unfamiliar, but the stench of stale ale and the sound of muffled laughter told him he was in a room over the tavern.
How had he ended up here—naked?
As he forced his cloudy vision to focus on the bedside clock, he gave another start. Ten A.M. Bloody hell!
In precisely thirty minutes, he was scheduled to exchange wedding vows with Miss Isabella Farrington. That didn’t leave him much time to return to his estate, dress, and reach St. John’s Abbey on the opposite end of town.
He stroked a hand over his face and stopped when he felt the rough fabric of a bandage. An image broke through the fog in his head. The wolf coming out of nowhere, toppling him from his horse, and lunging for him before he could get away. He’d gone for his revolver just as the wolf sunk its teeth into his hand.
Draven reached for the bandage and peeled it back. The wounds were gone. Am I seeing things?
“Is the roguish Earl of Dunwich having second thoughts about getting married today?” The raven-haired beauty lying beside him propped herself up on one elbow.
He stared at her, trying to remember how he’d ended up in her bed. He had been on his way to the tavern for a drink. She was the barmaid who’d attended to his wounds; he remembered that much.
He also remembered that, despite her beauty, the pleasure in his balls had evaporated and he’d failed to perform for the first time in his life. While the girl’s cat-like blue eyes had shone with mischief and her creamy breasts had filled his hands like two, perfect mounds of silk, her lips couldn’t match his fiancée’s plump glossy mouth. Nor did her nose twitch enchantingly as did Isabella’s when he attempted a joke.
Good God. Was he developing feelings for the woman he was marrying? It was impossible. Love was something Draven didn’t believe in.
“Are you having second thoughts?” she repeated.
His mouth went dry. Ignoring her question, he climbed out of bed to search for his clothes.
“If you’re to marry, m’lord, I hope you won’t lose your lust for fun.” The barmaid giggled like a school-girl. “Perhaps you can come back to my room later to finish what we started last night.”
He pointed an unsteady finger at her and smiled. “You’re a tarty one. But I do not intend to disgrace my new bride.”
“You mean to say the Earl of Madness is going to be a respectable man now?” she asked.
The mention of his public nickname made Draven cringe. It wasn’t a secret he had spent time in an asylum when he was sixteen years old. Who wouldn’t have come to the edge of madness after that horrible night in the woods—a night he could barely bring himself to think of? Being released had been a godsend, but it was a wonder he still had his wits about him—under the threat of the Gypsy’s curse, that is.
Why couldn’t he bury the reason for his incarceration along with the rest of his dark past?
He stared at his hand again. Could there be any truth to the blasted hex?
Despite his drunken state and the overzealous barmaid, maybe the wolf attack happened. If it had—and if his curse came to life beneath this evening’s full moon—what would he have gotten his new bride into so bloody soon?
Draven yanked on his clothes and left the tavern room in a hurry. Once he reached his estate, he managed to prepare himself for the wedding—though the preparation was done between rounds of whiskey shots. His late arrival at the abbey garnered him a barrage of contentious stares, but he couldn’t care less. He faced the sour expressions of the guests with his shoulders pinned back. After all, he was Lord Draven Winthrop, infamous rake and nonbeliever in love. His reputation entitled him to carry on the worst wedding in the world and that was damn near what was about to take place.
His gaze wavered to the back of the church. There stood his bride. Draped in an understated wedding gown of tiny pearls and lace, Isabella beamed as brightly as the flowers encircling her head. Draven gulped, and as sunlight fell upon Isabella’s sheer veil, he saw hope crest in her eyes.
With her shining auburn hair and fine features, she was a beautiful woman—even breathtaking. Why then did she represent a dark cupid about to pierce him with a fatal arrow? Draven was minutes away from losing his freedom, but that wasn’t what was bothering him most. Under the threat of his curse, he couldn’t afford to get too attached to his new wife. It was true that she’d begun to tug at his heartstrings, but he was marrying her for a specific purpose—and he intended to keep things to that.
The first strains of organ music bellowed and Draven’s vision blurred. Isabella slid a foot forward and while she made her way down the aisle, he remembered the wolf bite he’d suffered last night. Suddenly he felt nauseous.
What if I transform into a werewolf for the first time tonight?
In that moment, Draven experienced a new emotion: fear. As Isabella inched closer, he knew this was all wrong—that he was putting her in danger—yet he accepted her hand when she presented it to him. Turning toward the priest with a knot in his gut, he heard something about Isabella honoring and obeying him, followed by something about him taking her for his lawfully wedded wife. Uttering words he couldn’t be sure were correct, he swiveled to face his bride and groped for her hands. He lost himself in the warmth of her stare before she tilted her pert nose upward in anticipation of his kiss. Responding, he lifted her veil and cupped her small, cameo-shaped face. Then he brought his mouth to her lips. A tremendous spark ignited within him—and he was scared for the second time that day.
Disliking the feeling intensely, Draven forced his heart to freeze into the iceberg it had always been. And as he drew away from the kiss, he was left with nothing but cold insensitivity.
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