Cover & Excerpt
Spies and Lovers Book Two
Love soothes the deepest of scars.
Minerva Bellingham is at her wits’ end. Her younger brother, Simon, will have them penniless and on the streets if his extravagant gambling habit isn’t curtailed. An enormous debt to Lord Rafe Drummond is the final indignity.
Signing over her dowry is their only choice. Until Lord Drummond suggests something much more scandalous. She can keep her dowry—in exchange for the Bellinghams working three months as a housemaid and stable boy.
Scarred from his service to the Crown, Rafe recognizes the young Simon Bellingham has the makings of a good duke. Minerva is a different story. Her pure, delicate beauty only underscores Rafe’s tarnished, bleak soul.
Yet he delights in cracking Minerva’s icy reserve to reveal a fiery, stubborn woman. And Minerva discovers the gruff master of Wintermarsh has the heart of a poet. But before they can find a future safe in each other’s arms, a menace from Simon’s licentious past slithers back into their lives, forcing Rafe to plan the most important rescue mission of his life.
Warning: Contains a paragon of the beau monde who gets the hang of polishing silver, and a master of the house who’d like her to make his bed—preferably with him in it. Also passion unleashed with the mere touch of a finger. Readers are encouraged to swoon.
Genre: Historical RomancePurchase link(s): Samhain Amazon ARe BAM iTunes Kobo B&N
Content/Theme(s): Regency, Spies, PTSD
Release Date: January 26, 2016
Publisher: Samhain Publishing
Excerpt & More
Anger twisted her gut. She rose, placed her fists on his desk and leaned forward. He mimicked her stance until they were face-to-face across the desk.
“I hate constantly worrying about my brother. I’ve done my best to guide him. For you to suggest this debacle is my fault is unmerited. You would rather see me ruined than help. Don’t deny it. You’re heartless and…and…an arse.” The word hung between them. Had she really cursed at him? She was so close she could see his pupils dilate, darkening his eyes.
“And you are a haughty, conceited shrew.” Irony, not horror, laced his voice.
She gasped, even though her insult had been more shocking.
“I have an alternate proposal. Either you pay me all the money today, or you and your brother come to Wintermarsh and pay off his debt by working for me.” His mouth clamped shut in a frown.
Is this what he’d been planning since luring Simon into the high-stakes game? To what end? It was utterly beyond the pale. Her throat closed to the size of a reed.
“I assure you, Lord Drummond, I am a lady and not some…some…Covent Garden strumpet. I have an unbesmirched reputation.” Still face-to-face with her over the desk, he dominated her, and her thoughts scattered like dropped marbles.
“Never fear, I don’t require your services in that manner.” His eyes warmed from ice to molten steel in an instant. He leaned even closer to whisper a few inches from her ear, “I only invite willing women to my bed and have no need to pay them.” His breath skittered across her neck like the brush of gentle fingertips.
Gentlemen didn’t speak of such things to ladies. It was disrespectful, despicable. She tried to summon the proper horror. Instead, she angled toward him and took a deep breath. Heady warmth and an intoxicating smell assailed her.
Soap, leather and a scent that belonged entirely to him. It wafted over her, smothering her outrage. An irrational urge to bury her nose in the nape of his neck right where an escaped lock of hair curled over his open shirt had her creeping forward. No collar, no cravat impeded her body’s single-minded goal. She jerked herself upright in the same instant he sprawled back into his chair.
“What sort of work are you proposing then, my lord?” Smoothing the wrinkles out of her dress, she focused on an ornate dagger acting as a paperweight.
“Housework for you and outdoor work for your brother. I’ll teach Simon about the day-to-day requirements of running an estate. He’ll be kept busy with no time for trouble.”
Minerva wandered to a set of shelves that ran along the wall of his study, putting much-needed space between them and buying herself time. Obviously, his aim was her humiliation. She didn’t savor submitting herself to his control.
But there was the no small matter of her dowry. If she paid him today, it would all be gone. Every quid. She would be left to find an inferior husband or left to rely on her intemperate brother for the rest of her life. In truth, left with nothing.
If she paid Lord Drummond and released her brother from responsibility, Simon might be back out tonight drinking, gambling, ruining them. This impetuous, ill-advised bargain would force him out of London and fill his days with hard work. Her choices ranged from bad to devastating.
“Why would you want me here as well if not to humiliate me?”
“Would you allow your brother to come and put himself under my care with no oversight from you?” he asked in an amused voice. Her dismay must have been apparent, because he didn’t wait for a reply. “Learning some humility wouldn’t be amiss, Lady Minerva. If you want to watch over Simon, you must work as well. That’s my bargain.”
She propped her hands on her hips, her usually impeccable manners deserting her once again. “Humility? Me? That’s a kettle-and-pot situation if ever I heard one. You’re the most arrogant—”
“Yes, yes, heartless and a complete arse. You’ve made your opinion clear. But if I were indebted to you, you’d seize your pound of flesh and probably negotiate for more.”
She rubbed her temple and cast about for any other option. None presented itself. “How long would the arrangement last? There are certain functions I’m obliged to attend, and Drake needs to be made aware of everything that must be handled in my absence.”
“The beau monde will head out of town in a few weeks. Let’s say the two of you plan to arrive at Wintermarsh the second week of September and work for me at least…three months. Your debt would be paid by Christmastime.” He twirled the dagger in his hands, his gaze on the ceiling.
Three months. A pittance compared to a lifetime indentured in a loveless marriage. “If I agree to this, I would need everything in writing. In three months, you’ll tear up the voucher and sign a paper absolving the debt. There can be no physical mistreatment of either of us. You wouldn’t be able to extend our time without due cause, and you can’t discuss our arrangement. Is that understood?”
“Do you want me to involve my solicitor or is a gentleman’s agreement written and signed by the two of us sufficient?” He sounded amused by her demands.
“No third parties. I can’t allow a word to get around London. I would be ruined. What about your servants? Will they gossip?”
“If they did, who would believe them? It’s rather far-fetched to think a duke and his sister would be working at a country estate. You’re Lily’s friend. It’s not implausible I would invite you to stay at Wintermarsh.” With a flick of his wrist, the knife’s tip embedded in the wooden top of the desk.
Minerva’s couldn’t look away from the vibrating handle. His ease and familiarity with the weapon planted another seed of worry and doubt. What kind of man was Lord Drummond?
“I’ll send a contract for your perusal. You can revise and amend to your heart’s content. We both need to think the situation over at some length, don’t you agree?” he asked.
“I do finally agree with you on something, my lord.” Relief and fear warred internally while she walked to the door.
Finally, playing the gentleman, he rose to see her out.
“I shall wait for your proposal, Lord Drummond. I…I mean your terms.” Yet another blush bloomed across her face. Proposal indeed.
Quirking an eyebrow, he hummed in amusement, his lips curling. The smile, if it even qualified as such, held her immobile. The flash of humor in his blue-grey eyes was a wash of refreshing water, cooling the tension and anxiety of the interview.
The study door closed gently in her face. The dignified white-haired butler saw her out, and she glanced back at the imposing, black front door. Had she made a bargain with the devil?
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Other titles by Laura Trentham:
in the Touch
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Be on the lookout for Laura Trentham's future release(s): Kiss Me That Way coming May 2016, Then He Kissed Me coming June 2016 and Till I Kissed You coming August 2016
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