Cover & Excerpt Reveal
A beautiful courtesan fighting to control her own destiny. A young man determined to forge his own path. Is their independence worth anything if they have to sacrifice love to get it?
Orphaned at a young age, Adele Beaumont spent her childhood being passed around to cruel or indifferent relatives. She quickly learns the harsh lesson that an orphaned, penniless girl becomes an unmarriageable woman, leaving her alone and vulnerable to the whims of society. Determined to take charge of her own fate, Del decides to pursue the only means to an independent life available to her: become a courtesan to wealthy and powerful men.
Rhys Camden has just turned twenty-one and is now employed as factotum in his father's shipping company. He is eager to find his place in the world, but he finds himself fighting against his father's control as the elder Camden seeks to increase the family’s social standing to match their new-found wealth.
After a chance meeting on a foggy street, Del's and Camden's lives become increasingly intertwined. Their passion for each other ignites and they begin to question their long-hold beliefs about their places in society. Realizing there can be no true freedom without love, they vow to defy society and family and risk everything to be together, but they soon learn how dangerous that defiance can be.
Genre: Historical Romance
Release Date: July 22, 2013
Publisher: Crimson Romance
Purchase links: Crimson Romance ebooks Amazon B&N iTunes
Camden followed his friends through the hallway in to the main parlor, his eyes nearly tearing up from the thick smoke. There were clusters of people throughout the house, talking, drinking and laughing. Nearly all the men—and not a few of the women—were smoking something, a pipe, a cigar, what appeared to be pieces of rolled up paper filled with tobacco. There were card tables throughout the room where animated foursomes played whist or vingt-et-un. A few couples danced a most scandalous waltz to the slightly discordant sounds of a rather inebriated-looking quartet folded into a dark corner of the parlor. Other couples were pressed into the shadows, pressed into each other. Camden caught glimpses of exposed flesh and roving hands. In all, Camden thought the party seemed pungent, loud, crowded, a bit shockingand horribly fun. The kind of fun Camden hadn’t experienced in the month he had been in his father’s employ.
“Amazing, isn’t it?” Farber asked, and Camden saw he was grinning stupidly and rubbing his hands together, as if the party were some great feast he was about to tuck into. “And to think, Wittingham, that you complained about coming. What you would have missed.” Farber turned his idiotic grin on his stoic friend, who only raised an eyebrow in return. “Ah, look, there’s Mare. Come, Hollsworth, and I’ll introduce you to Mare’s pretty little friend.”
Camden watched as his two friends disappeared into the crowd in pursuit of more titillating attractions than either he or Wittingham could provide.
“Worthless cads,” Wittingham pronounced for the second time that evening.
Camden laughed. “You will have to come up with some new insults. You are starting to become repetitive. Wouldn’t want anyone to think your biting wit was going soft.”
“It’s just that it’s so apt,” Wittingham said, and although the light was low, Camden could have sworn the man was smiling. “But enough of them. I am going to enquire as to what lengths a man must go to procure spirits of some kind. I certainly need the fortification. You coming?”
“Excellent idea,” Camden said, but as he turned to follow his friend, something caught his eye that rooted him to the spot, and he barely noticed that Wittingham had moved on without him.
Standing in the shadows across the room was the blonde beauty he had stumbled across the night of his birthday, and saw again a few weeks later. She looked tonight as tempting as she ever had—more so, perhaps. She was in a dress of red silk, a shock of color in the dim room. She seemed finer, more delicate, more beautiful—more alive—than anyone else in the room. Her hair was gathered and pinned up, exposing the long, delicate lines of her neck. A neck that Camden wanted to press his lips against before moving down to the hollow of her collarbone, and then down yet more to the soft mounds of flesh straining against a plunging neckline. Camden’s pulse pounded in his ears, and his cock stiffened painfully against his trousers.
“Stunning, isn’t she?” asked a voice beside him.
Camden jerked slightly, startled at the sudden intrusion into his thoughts, and saw that Jane had come to stand beside him. “I…she…er…who…”
“Del,” Jane said with a nod toward the blonde sylph. “The most mysterious woman in London.”
Though he tried to avoid it, his attention turned back to the woman—Del—though he knew he must look the fool, gaping after her stupidly. “And who is she, exactly?” he asked Jane.
“I’m not entirely sure,” Jane replied. She caught the perplexed look on Camden’s face. “Oh, I’ve known her many years, dined with her, sought amusement with her, but I can’t say that I really know her.”
Camden never took his gaze from Del, but he knew his expression must have reflected his reaction to Jane’s words, how little he cared for such cryptic speeches.
“I see you are not satisfied with such an explanation. I shall simply have to introduce you to her then, so you can see for yourself.” Before Camden could stop her, Jane caught Del’s attention and gestured for her to join them. Camden watched as the smile of recognition that lit Del’s face as she saw Jane froze as she realized who was standing next to her. Caught, she began to move toward them, for she couldn’t ignore the summons of her hostess without giving unpardonable offense.
Camden panicked. “No, really, I don’t want to trouble…that is, I must find my friend Wittingham…he was off to find a drink, and I…” Camden began to turn, hoping to execute a hasty exit, but Jane’s firm hand on his arm stopped him.
“Nonsense,” she said. “What sort of hostess would I be if neglected to make the proper introductions between my guests? Ah, Del,” she said, giving her friend a quick embrace as she joined them. “Adele Beaumont, I’d like you to meet Rhys Camden.”
Del hesitated for a moment, the slightest of smiles touching her lips. “Mr. Camden and I have met before, although it was an all too brief encounter.” Del turned her full gaze upon him, and Camden noticed for the first time the startling color of her eyes. They were hazel flecked with green—emeralds bathed in whisky—and Camden wanted to drown in them.
“Have you?” Jane said, eying Camden suspiciously. “I was under the impression you did not know each other.”
“We—it was as Miss Beaumont said. A brief encounter on the street—” Camden blanched as he heard the coarseness of his explanation. “I did not even catch her name at the time.”
“Quite so?” Jane asked archly, her eyebrows raised.
Camden reddened under Jane’s inquiring look. He thought back to that night, what he had witnessed with Del, and realized Jane, knowing under what circumstances her friend normally met with men, imagined he had been the one with Del. He reddened more as he began to imagine the same thing, summoning decadent visuals of himself locked in a rocking embrace with the beauty before him. He abruptly cut off his thoughts when he realized both women were looking at him quizzically.
“It was nothing, Jane,” Del said, as if she sensed Camden needed rescue. “A chance encounter several weeks ago. Camden was under the mistaken impression I needed assistance finding my way home.”
“Oh?” Jane infused that single syllable with such skepticism that Camden knew she didn’t believe the encounter had been that simple at all.
Camden was about to defend himself when Del spoke. “You will have to forgive me, Jane,” she said, “but I find I am unusually fatigued tonight. I’m afraid I must beg my leave. Thank you, though, for a lovely evening. Your parties, as always, are full of surprises.” Before either of them could protest, Del gave a quick kiss on the cheek to Jane, a quick nod to Camden, and then she turned and left the room.
Camden knew he should let her go, that chasing after her would be the height of madness, that it would serve only to fuel suspicions of others. He should forget her, this strange woman who seemed to appear suddenly like an apparition, the mere sight of her stirring up lust, curiosity, and something else, something he couldn’t identify or name.
Hadn’t he always been told that ungoverned passion was a sign of weakness? It was undisciplined, uncouth, unworthy of a man of his current station—and certainly of the station his father hoped the family would one day occupy. A man’s entire person, his thoughts, his actions, his emotions, should be kept firmly in check. He should never take rash action, never give careless expression to his feelings. He had been told that often enough. Indeed, he could hear his father’s voice now, in his head, telling him those very things.
He couldn’t say what it was then, what unseen force pulled him or what unheard of stroke of rebellion pushed him to abruptly turn from Jane and nearly run out of the room after Del.
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