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If His Kiss Is Wicked

If His Kiss Is Wicked

4.2 17
by Jo Goodman

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USA Today bestselling author Jo Goodman delivers the unforgettable story of a beautiful young woman who believes someone wants to kill her. Only one man can reveal if she's truly in peril-or if she's going mad. But will his forbidden kiss lead to a dangerous seduction?

Shy by nature, Emma Hathaway usually leaves the drama to her rebellious cousin, Marisol. But


USA Today bestselling author Jo Goodman delivers the unforgettable story of a beautiful young woman who believes someone wants to kill her. Only one man can reveal if she's truly in peril-or if she's going mad. But will his forbidden kiss lead to a dangerous seduction?

Shy by nature, Emma Hathaway usually leaves the drama to her rebellious cousin, Marisol. But when Emma agrees to meet with her cousin's secret lover to end the affair, she is pulled into a dangerous game. Now Emma is convinced her involvement in the scandal has put her life in jeopardy. The trouble is none of Emma's confidantes believe anyone is trying to harm her. As whispers of madness begin, Emma turns to the only person who might be able to help.

The very handsome, barely respectable Restell Gardner has gained a reputation for helping people out of compromising positions. Never one to turn away a lady in need, Restell agrees to help solve the intrigue. Sensing there is more to the green-eyed beauty than meets the eye, Restell feels himself falling for Emma. But he resists succumbing to his passion.at least until he learns the truth about the danger that is haunting her. For if he gives in to temptation too soon, he could lose Emma forever.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Goodman's latest Regency romance concerns Emmalyn Hathaway, living with her relatives in London since the tragic death of her parents three years earlier. Emma spends her days assisting her artist uncle and her privileged younger cousin, Marisol, until she becomes the victim of a savage attack. Believing that the attack was meant for her cousin, Emma seeks out Restell Gardner, who offers protection and sleuthing services for a price. A confirmed bachelor and notorious rake (or so he wishes), Restell is taken with young Miss Hathaway and her plight. By taking on her case, he soon discovers that all is not as it seems in the Vega household and that Emma may truly be in danger. The attraction between Restell and Emma is hard to deny, and their dialogue sparkles with wit and emotion. Though there's enough intrigue and romantic charm to please any Regency fan, the mystery takes center stage, casting the romance in a secondary role. Regardless, authentic characters and a thrilling story line will keep readers smiling and guessing. (Sept.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Library Journal

Three weeks after being kidnapped and brutally beaten when she stands in for her irresponsible younger cousin in breaking off the relationship with an admirer, sensible Emmalyn Hathaway seeks the aid and protection of Restell Gardner, a handsome nobleman with a well-deserved reputation for helping those in need. As he begins to look into the matter, Restell realizes there's far more to both Emma and the situation than he'd imagined-and the danger is very real. A talented, intelligent heroine and a perceptive, clear-thinking hero sort through a vicious tangle of greed, jealousy, art forgeries, and murder in their search for answers that could prove far more devastating than they expect. Clever plotting, vivid, lively dialog, and exquisite sensuality make Goodman's latest (after One Forbidden Evening) a reading experience to treasure. Goodman writes complex, sensual historical romances that often include a worthwhile mystery as well as a number of plot twists.

—Kristin Ramsdell

Product Details

Publication date:
Product dimensions:
4.30(w) x 7.02(h) x 1.12(d)

Read an Excerpt

If His Kiss Is Wicked

By Jo Goodman


Copyright © 2007 Joanne Dobrzanski
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-8217-7777-0

Chapter One

"You have a visitor."

Restell Gardner made no response to this announcement. He remained as stone in his bed, refusing to surrender to a single twitch that would indicate that he was not deeply asleep.

"It is no good, sir," Hobbes said as he poured water into the washbasin. "You have warned me of this very trick yourself and begged me not to be fooled by it. So we are at odds, you see, for I am armed with the knowledge of your pretense and must act accordingly, while you will continue to lie abed and favor me with an abrupt snore to put me off. When that does not have the desired effect, you will roll to your other side and compel me to hobble around the bed to address you directly. You will, of course, continue to ignore me, forcing me to take measures that may well relieve me of my employment. You will understand, sir, that such an outcome is hardly in keeping with your promise to treat me fairly."

At his first opportunity to be heard, Restell offered a weary observation. "Is it your plan, Hobbes, to speak at length on this matter?"

"Yes, sir."

Restell did not open an eye. "I don't snore."

"I can't say that I know if you do or don't, Mr. Gardner, only that you'd pretend to."

"Where did I find you, Sergeant Hobbes?"

"In the mews, sir, just behind the Blue Ruination, drinking bad gin and bemoaning the loss of my leg."

"I don't suppose you miss the mews."

"No, sir. Nor the gin. Still miss my leg, though this peg has its uses right enough."

Restell rolled onto his back and rubbed his eyes. When his hand fell away, he brought Hobbes into focus. The former regiment man was standing at his bedside-towering, really-with the water pitcher poised at a threatening angle. Restell waved him off. "You didn't mention water torture. I'm thoroughly awake, thank you very much."

"My pleasure, sir."

"I was being sardonic."

"So was I."

Grinning, Restell pushed himself upright, stuffed a pillow under the small of his back, and leaned against the bed head. He ran one hand through his pale, sun-bleached helmet of hair, leaving it furrowed and in perfect disarray. "What was the hour when I returned?"

"Gone three. It was a late night for you, sir."

Restell needed no reminder. It had been an age since he'd trolled the gaming hells. He could not recall that he had ever been made so weary by it. "And the hour now?"

"Not yet eight o'clock."

"The hell you say. And I have a visitor?" He had to restrain himself from pulling the covers over his head. "God save me, it is not my mother, is it?"

"No, sir. Nor any other of your family." Hobbes skirted the bed and went to the washbasin, his limp hardly noticeable this morning. "I understand she is female, though."

"That alone does not account for the hour of her visit. Who is she?"

"She wouldn't say. Mr. Nelson asked her for her card, but she declined to give one."


Hobbes nodded. "I thought the very same." He set towels to warm at the fireplace, then began whipping lather in a cup for his employer's morning shave and ablutions. "Do you wish to bathe?"

"Above everything. I reek of the gaming hells."

Hobbes made no comment about this last, though it was true enough. "I'll see to it." He set the lathering cup down and crossed the room to ring for assistance. "Will you break your fast here or in the morning room?"

"Here." Restell swept back the covers and threw his legs over the side of the bed. He sat there for several moments, head in his hands as though to steady it, then kicked his slippers aside in favor of padding barefoot across the cold floor to the dressing room. "Do you think she'll wait?" he called to Hobbes.

"I couldn't say, sir." He picked up the warm towels and carried them to Restell. "Does it matter?"

"She is an inconvenient female. I should like the opportunity to tell her so."

"Do you think she doesn't know? They frequently do, sir."

"Then they should try harder to resist their nature," Restell said sourly. "Have you a headache powder, Hobbes? Satan's minions are doing a gleeful dance inside my skull."

Hobbes made sympathetic noises. "Right away."

Restell felt marginally better after he bathed and shaved. He was returned to human form by the time Hobbes tied his stock, brushed his jacket, and the headache powder began to work. Following a leisurely breakfast and perusal of the morning paper, he pronounced himself prepared well enough to receive his visitor in the library.

He had only just begun to seat himself in the wing chair by the fireplace when Nelson announced her. It was all rather awkwardly done-the announcement because Nelson had no name for their visitor, and Restell's rise from the chair because he unfolded in a manner reminiscent of a jack-in-the-box. Restell noted that the butler quickly exited the room, but not so fast that he missed Nelson's lips begin to twitch.

There was no reaction from his visitor, at least none that Restell could observe. Her features were obscured by a gauzy veil secured to the brim of a leghorn bonnet. He wondered at the affectation. Clearly she was in high mourning, making it known by choosing black as the single color to drape her slim figure, but the veil was not at all in the usual mode. Did she wear it all the time? he wondered, or had she chosen it purposely for this morning call?

"Have you been offered refreshment?" he asked. Although he had yet to hear her speak, he had it in his mind that she was a woman of no more than middling years. There was no discernible hesitation in her step, and her carriage was correct but not rigid. She was not compensating for some frailty. "Tea, perhaps?"

She shook her head. The veil rippled with the movement but remained in place. She held her reticule in front of her, at the level of her waist, and made no move to set it aside.

Restell understood why Nelson had not refused her entry, even at the inopportune timing of her arrival. She was preternaturally calm, possessed of a resigned bearing and purpose that made one suppose she would not be easily turned from it.

"Will you be seated?" asked Restell.

"I have not decided."

"You have not decided if you will sit?"

"I have not decided if I will stay."

Restell shrugged. "Then you will not object if I attend to my correspondence. You may stand or sit, stay or go, as the mood is upon you." He gave her no further attention but walked to his desk and began examining the post that had arrived the previous day. He chose a letter with the recognizable seal of the Earl of Ferrin and hitched one hip on the edge of the desk as he opened it. He was peripherally aware of his visitor's study, but he ignored it in favor of the missive from his stepbrother.

He read through the greeting and far enough beyond to be assured of the good health of everyone in Ferrin's household before the visitor interrupted him.

"I did not think you would be so young," she said.

"I am six and twenty. That is not the age you had in mind, I collect."

She did not answer this directly. "You cannot have the breadth of experience I am seeking."

"You have me at a disadvantage," Restell said. He let Ferrin's letter dangle between his fingers rather than set it aside. It was a subtle signal that he would remain engaged only as long as she did. "I know nothing at all about what experience you require. Perhaps if you would begin with how you came to be here."

She hesitated, then asked, "You don't want to know my name?"

"Would it mean anything to me?"


"Then it's not important. You know mine. That seems to be the salient point."

"I learned about you from my physician."

Restell folded Ferrin's correspondence as he considered this information. He tapped one corner of the letter against his knee. "Might I know his name?"

"Bettany. Dr. William Bettany."

Restell did not reveal whether or not he was acquainted with the doctor. "And what did Dr. Bettany tell you about me?"

"Precious little." Making her decision, she backed into the chair behind her and sat down abruptly. The reticule remained clutched in her gloved hands. "That is, he was not speaking of you to me. I overheard some of what he told my ... what he told someone else."

"Might I know that name?" Her pause let him know she suspected he might have some familiarity with that person. He let it pass and went to the heart of the matter. "What manner of things did you overhear?"

"The doctor seemed to think that you had certain peculiar talents that might be helpful to someone in my situation."

"Peculiar talents," Restell repeated. "It's an intriguing description. What do you suppose he meant by it?"

"He was speaking of protection. It's a service you offer, I believe."

"Are you quite sure that you comprehended the context. At the risk of offending you, you should know that when a gentleman places a woman under his protection it generally means-"

"He is setting up a mistress. Yes, I understand that. At the risk of offending you, that is not the sort of protection I am seeking from you. I do not believe I mistook the doctor's meaning. He was speaking of protection from harm. That is why I have come to you."

Restell folded his arms across his chest and regarded his visitor frankly. He did not try to penetrate her veil but took in the whole of her figure: the braced shoulders and narrow back, the quality and cut of her clothing, the stillness of her hands on the reticule. There was no glimpse of her hair and her feet were tucked modestly under the chair and hidden by her gown. She could be fair or dark or possess the olive complexion that suggested a Mediterranean heritage. She spoke in accents that were similar to his own and were influenced by years in London, attention to education, but nonetheless hinted at origins far north of the city. He could not deny that he was intrigued. He accepted that as fact. It did not necessarily follow that he was favorably disposed to taking up this matter of her protection.

"Is it shelter that you require?" he asked.

"No, not shelter. I have a home."

"Then you are not seeking to escape it." He saw her shoulders jerk and the brim of her bonnet lift as her chin came up. She was clearly shocked by the import of his words.

"No, of course not. I am content there."

Restell thought it a peculiar expression of sentiment, but he did not comment on it. "You will have to tell me more. It would be a good beginning to tell me why you need protection."

"I'm not sure that I do. That is a matter for you to determine. I thought I heard Dr. Bettany say that you make discreet inquiries. I am as interested in securing your services toward that end as I am in protection."

Was it too early for a drink? Restell wondered. He glanced past his visitor's shoulder to the drinks cabinet and actually considered removing the stopper from the decanter of whiskey and taking his fill. "Did you not just say you weren't certain you needed protection?"

"I'm not certain I need it for myself," she said. "I believe perhaps my cousin is the one who requires it."

"Your cousin. I don't suppose I might know her name."

"In time, I think. You can understand that I must be certain that engaging you is the right course of action."

One corner of Restell's mouth lifted slightly, hinting at both mockery and amusement. "I understand you think the decision is entirely yours."

"Isn't it?"

Restell did not respond immediately. Unfolding his arms, he picked up the letter opener on the tray at his side and lightly tapped the end of it against the palm of his other hand.

"No, in fact it ultimately rests with me," he said at last. It was just a fancy on his part, but he imagined that behind her veil she was frowning deeply. "I do not accept everyone who applies to me as my client. Conversely, I might choose to offer my services to someone who does not formally engage me. Once you announced your intention at the door to have this interview and stubbornly waited when I gave you sufficient time to think better of it, you surrendered your prerogative to decide the outcome. Whether you like it or not, I will determine how we go from here."

"But you don't even know who I am. If I do not hire you, you will never know it. You cannot offer your services to someone whose name you don't know."

"God's truth, you cannot be so foolish as to believe I will not discover it. If my peculiar talents do not extend so far as that, then why would you entertain any notion of engaging my services? It defies any sort of common sense. Have you so much in the way of cotton wool between your ears?"

Restell replaced the letter opener and stood. "Are you taking exception to my words? I hope so. If you are completely cowed, then there is no hope for it but that I will have to show you the door."

"I know where the door is," she said. "And sense enough about me still to get there on my own."

Restell permitted himself a small smile as he turned his back on her and skirted the desk. He dropped into the leather chair behind it and set his long legs before him at an angle. "How did you find me?" He did not miss the way she subtly shifted in her seat. The question surprised her.

"But I have already told you. Dr. Bettany."

"That is how you heard of me. I inquired as to how you found me."

"You are not the only one who can make discreet inquiries. I had it from a member of your family that you were temporarily using your brother's London residence."

"I sincerely doubt that someone in my own family characterized my stay here as temporary. All of them know I am quite satisfied with the arrangement; indeed, that I enjoy the distinct benefits of making this establishment my home. I will not be easily dislodged, even if Ferrin should raise some objection. The earl is my stepbrother, by the way, although we do not make too fine a point of it. I merely mention it so you will know that he possesses a generous nature that I frequently admire and regularly take advantage of but do not necessarily share."

"You are the poor relation, then."

The half smile that frequently lifted one corner of Restell's mouth now became a fulsome one, engaging his clear blue eyes and deepening the creases of twin dimples on either side of his lips. "Some would say so, yes."

"You do not seem to mind."

"I hadn't realized that I should." He shrugged, dismissing this line of inquiry. "So you had it from some member of my family that I could be found here. Dr. Bettany wouldn't necessarily know that, you see, which is what made me curious. I was yet living on Kingston Street when I made the acquaintance of the good doctor." Restell laced his fingers together and tapped his thumbs as he considered his visitor and all that she had not told him. "Are you yet prepared to share the whole of why you're here? I've had little enough sleep these three nights past and find I am weary of wondering. In truth, I am all for crawling back into my warm bed."

Restell had learned that silence was often the key to confession. When she did not respond immediately, he waited her out. He continued to study her as though he had long ago penetrated her veil and knew the nuances of her every expression, and when he had the urge to break the silence, he cautioned himself to wait that bit much longer.

In the end, he was rewarded for his patience.

She lifted the veil.

Restell had seen men leave the boxing ring after three rounds of rough sparring with fewer bruises than this woman had. The evidence of her beating had faded, to be sure, but there was color enough remaining to determine where the blows had landed. Beneath both eyes she sported deep violet shadows, proof that her nose had been broken if not completely smashed. Her complexion was suffused with the yellow hue associated with jaundice. In her case it was further confirmation of the fists she had endured. Her left cheek looked to be more tender than her right one; faint swelling was still visible across the arch. A thin cut on her lower lip had not healed, most likely because when she spoke it was laid open again. He could make out the faint line of bruising along one side of her neck. The high collar of her walking gown obscured what had been done to her throat, but Restell imagined mottled thumbprints at the hollow between her collarbones as testament that she had been choked, probably within a single breath of her life.


Excerpted from If His Kiss Is Wicked by Jo Goodman Copyright © 2007 by Joanne Dobrzanski. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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If His Kiss Is Wicked 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 18 reviews.
kronan1 More than 1 year ago
Done in the Nick and Nora Charles school of romance............................................................................................................. This is a savy and sophisticated couple who know how to ring each others bells while solving a really really good mystery. Its the kind of book you hope they make into a movie. Intrigue, action ,suspense, romance. It has it all. Definitely not predictable. Highly recommend!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is one of the more thoughtful, intelligent romances, though I don't mean by any way that it is all thought and no action or passion. An interesting hero with an unusual 'profession' (he doesn't work for money but for something far more interesting) and a heroine who is more than she seems.
QuiltmomJM More than 1 year ago
Love Jo Goodman's books. Her characters are interesting and humorous.
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katbella More than 1 year ago
can't wait for more
harstan More than 1 year ago
In 1822 Emma Hathaway lives in the home of her kind uncle. She has no prospects whatsoever. Her brazen cousin Marisol asks Emma to end her latest affair, which reluctantly she agrees to do.-------------- However, being a Good Samaritan proves dangerous when someone tries to abduct Emma. When she tells her cousin and a few friends, they all think she is a bit crazy as no one gains by kidnapping the penniless Emma. She turns to Restell Gardner, known for helping people in trouble. Restell investigates her contention, but also finds he is attracted to his reticent client. When someone tries to kill her, Restell offers marriage in order to protect her she is reluctant to accept as she believes he is doing this out of honor. As he unravels the truth, Restell knows he loves Emma and believes she reciprocates, but first and foremost he must keep her safe.--------------- This entertaining Regency romantic suspense is fast-paced as an unknown adversary assaults the heroine, but no one in her inner circle give credence to her claims. Restell is a wonderful hero as he knows the only way to insure he is there at all times to keep his beloved safe is marriage, but she rejects his offer as she wants a husband who cherishes her. Although the ending leaves too many dangling threads as it is rushed, Jo Goodman provides an interesting historic romantic thriller.---------- Harriet Klausner