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Jeremy Malory had been in some unsavory taverns before, but this one was likely the worst of the lot. Not surprising, since it was located on the edge of what was quite possibly the worst of London's slums, a neighborhood given over to thieves and cut-throats, prostitutes and wild packs of urchin orphans who were no doubt being groomed into London's next generation of criminals.
He didn't actually dare to enter the heart of that area. To do so would probably be the last his family would ever see of him. But this tavern, on the very edge of that den of thieves, was there for the unsuspecting to stumble upon, have a few drinks, and get their pockets picked, or if they were stupid enough to let a room there for the night, to get completely robbed, clothes and all.
Jeremy had paid for a room. Not only that, he'd spread his coins around freely, buying a round of drinks for the few customers in the tavern and giving a good performance of being quite foxed. He had deliberately set the stage for a robbery -- his own. But then that's why he and his friend Percy were there -- to catch a thief.
Amazingly, Percy Alden was keeping his mouth shut for once. He was a chatterbox by nature, and quite scatterbrained on top of that. Percy's keeping mostly quiet on this unusual outing attested to his nervousness. Understandable. Whereas Jeremy might feel right at home in this element, having been born and raised in a tavern before his father stumbled across him when he was sixteen, Percy was a member of the ton.
Jeremy didn't mind. He was rather fond of Percy after chumming about with him for the last eight years. If he weren't, he certainly wouldn't have volunteered to extricate Percy from his latest folly -- getting royally fleeced by one of Lord Crandle's gambler friends at a house party last weekend. He'd lost three thousand pounds, his coach, and not one but two family heirlooms. He'd been so bloody foxed, he didn't even remember it, until one of the guests commiserated with him the next day and told him all about it.
Percy had been quite done in, and rightly so. Losing the money and coach were no more than he deserved for being so gullible, but the two rings were a different matter entirely. One was so old it was the family signet ring, and the other, quite valuable because of its gemstones, had been passed down in Percy's family for five generations now. Percy would never have thought to use them as betting tender. He had to have been coerced, goaded, or otherwise duped into putting them in the pot.
All of it now belonged to Lord John Heddings, and Percy had been beside himself when Heddings refused to sell the rings back to him. Money the lord didn't need. The coach he didn't need. The rings he must have considered trophies, a testament to his gambling skill. More likely a testament to his cheating skill, but Jeremy could hardly prove it when he hadn't been there to witness it.
Had Heddings been a decent sort, he would have sent Percy off to bed, instead of plying him further with drink and accepting the rings into the pot. Had he been a decent sort, he would have let Percy redeem them for their value. Percy had even been willing to pay more than they were worth. He wasn't poor, after all, as he had already come into his inheritance when his father died.
But Heddings wasn't interested in doing what was decent. Instead he'd gotten annoyed at Percy's insistence and downright nasty in the end, threatening Percy with bodily harm if he didn't stop bothering him. Which is what had annoyed Jeremy enough to suggest this alternative. Percy was quite convinced, after all, that his mother was going to disown him over this. He'd been avoiding her ever since, so she wouldn't notice the rings were missing from his fingers.
Since they'd retired to the tavern's upstairs room several hours ago, there had been three attempts to rob them. Bungled attempts each, and after the last, Percy was beginning to despair of finding a thief to carry out their mission. Jeremy was more confident. Three attempts in two hours meant there would be many more before the night was over.
The door opened again. There was no light in the room. There was no light out in the corridor either. If this new thief was any good, he wouldn't need light, he would have waited long enough for his eyes to adjust to the dark. Footsteps, a bit too loud. A match flicked.
Jeremy sighed and, in one fluid movement, left the chair near the door where he was keeping vigil. He was quieter about it than the thief had been upon entering the room and was suddenly there blocking his path, a mountain of a man, well, in comparison to the short thief, but big enough to scare the daylights out of the urchin, who immediately bolted back the way he'd come.
Jeremy slammed the door shut behind the fellow. He still wasn't disheartened. The night was young. The thieves hadn't gotten desperate yet. And if it came down to it, he'd just keep one of them until they agreed to bring him their best.
Jeremy almost missed the shadow moving stealthily across the room toward the bed. He hadn't heard the door open this time, hadn't heard it close either, hadn't heard a bloody thing for that matter. If the occupants of the room really had been asleep, as was to be expected, they certainly wouldn't have been awakened by this intruder.
Jeremy smiled to himself just before he lit a match of his own and moved it over the candle on the table he'd placed next to his chair. The thief's eyes had been drawn to him instantly. Jeremy hadn't moved otherwise, was sitting there quite relaxed. The thief wouldn't know how quickly he could move to prevent his escape if he had to. But the thief wasn't moving either yet, as he was apparently frozen in his surprise at being caught.
"Oh, I say." Percy raised his head. "Did we finally get lucky?"
"I'd say so," Jeremy replied. "Didn't hear him a'tall. He's our man, or boy as the case may be."
The thief was starting to shake off his surprise and probably didn't like what he was hearing, to go by the narrowed, suspicious look Jeremy was now getting. Jeremy ignored it. He looked for a weapon first, but didn't see the thief carrying one. Of course, Jeremy had his own hidden in his coat pockets, a pistol in each, so just because he didn't see one didn't mean the lad didn't have one.
Much taller than the previous miscreants who'd tried their hand at robbing them, and lanky besides, this thief was probably no more than fifteen or sixteen, to go by those smooth cheeks. Ash blond hair so light it was more white than blond, naturally curly, worn short. A misshapen black hat several centuries out of fashion. He wore a gentleman's coat of dark green velvet, stolen no doubt, and quite grubby-looking now, as if it got slept in a lot. A discolored white shirt was under it with a few ruffles at the neck, black trousers of the long variety, and no shoes. Smart fellow, no wonder he hadn't made a single sound yet.
Very flamboyant looking for a thief, but probably because he was such a handsome young lad. And he was definitely recovered from his surprise. Jeremy knew to the second when he would bolt and was there at the door before him, leaning back against it, crossing his arms across his chest.
He offered a lazy smile. "You don't want to leave yet, dear boy. You haven't heard our proposal."
The thief was gaping again. It could have been Jeremy's smile, but was more likely his speed in getting to the door first. But Percy noticed it this time and complained, "Damn me, he's staring at you the way the wenches do. It's a man we're in need of, not a child."
"Age is irrelevant, old man," Jeremy replied. "It's skill we're in need of, so the package it comes in doesn't matter all that much."
The lad, blushing now, was insulted, apparently, and with a glower toward Percy spoke for the first time. "Ain't never seen a nabob so pretty is all."
The word pretty started Percy laughing. Jeremy was no longer amused. The last man who'd called him pretty had lost a few teeth because of it.
"Look who's talking, when you've got the face of a girl," Jeremy said.
"He does, don't he?" Percy agreed. "You should grow some hair on those cheeks, at least until your voice drops an octave or two."
Yet another blush from the boy and a distinct grumble: "It won't grow -- yet. I'm only fifteen -- I think. Just tall for m'age, I am."
Jeremy might have felt sorry for the lad because of that "I think," which implied he wasn't sure what year he'd been born, which was usually the case with orphans. But he'd noted two things simultaneously. The boy's voice had started out high-pitched, then lowered before he'd finished his speech, as if he were going through that awkward time in a boy's life when his voice started changing to the deeper tones of manhood. And yet, Jeremy didn't think it was a natural slip, it had sounded much too contrived.
But the second thing he noticed upon closer examination was the lad wasn't just handsome, he was downright beautiful. Now, the same thing might have been said about Jeremy at that age, except Jeremy's handsomeness was decidedly male, while this lad's handsomeness was decidedly female. The soft cheeks, the lush lips, the pert little nose -- yet there was much more. The chin was too weak, the neck too narrow, even the stance was a dead giveaway, at least to a man who knew women as well as Jeremy did.
Still, Jeremy might not have drawn the conclusion he did, at least not quite so soon, if his own stepmother hadn't used the same sort of disguise when she'd first met his father. She'd been desperate to get back to America, and signing on as James's cabin boy had seemed to be her only option. Of course, James had known from the start that she wasn't a lad, and to hear him tell it, he'd had a great deal of fun pretending to believe she was a boy.
Jeremy could be wrong in this case. There was that slim possibility. And yet he was rarely wrong where women were concerned.
But there was no need to expose her. Whatever reason she had for hiding her gender was her business. He might be curious, but he'd learned long ago that patience reaped the best rewards. And besides, they only needed one thing from her -- her talent.
"What do they call you, youngun?" Jeremy asked.
"None o' yer bleedin' business."
"I don't think he's figured out yet that we're going to do him a good turn," Percy remarked.
"Ye set a trap -- "
"No, no, think of it as an opportunity for employment," Percy corrected.
"A trap," their thief insisted. "And I don't need wotever it is yer offering."
Jeremy raised a black brow. "You aren't even a little curious?"
"No," said the thief most stubbornly.
"Too bad. The nice thing about traps is -- you don't get out of them unless you get let out. Do we look like we're letting you out of this one?"
"Ye look like ye've bleedin' well lost yer minds. Ye don't think I'm alone, d'ye? They'll be coming for me if I don't return when I'm expected to."
The question just got Jeremy another glower. He shrugged, unperturbed. He wouldn't doubt she ran with a pack of thieves, the very bunch that had systematically been sending their numbers in, one at a time, to rob the unsuspecting gentry who had blundered into their territory. But he doubted they'd come looking for her. They'd be more interested in obtaining the expected fat purse first, before they thought of any rescuing. If anything, they'd assume this attempt had failed, that she'd been apprehended, knocked out, or killed, and would be sending in the next thief soon.
Which meant they should wrap this up and be on their way, now that they had their quarry in hand, so Jeremy said congenially, "Sit down, youngun, and I'll explain what you've volunteered for."
"I didn't vol -- "
"But you did. When you came through that door, you most surely did volunteer."
"Wrong room," their thief tried to assert. "Ye've never walked into the wrong room by mistake?"
"Assuredly, though usually with my shoes on," Jeremy said dryly.
She blushed again and swore a blue streak.
Jeremy yawned. Much as he'd enjoyed the cat-and-mouse bantering, he didn't want this taking all night. And they still had a good distance to travel to reach Heddings's house in the country.
He injected a note of sternness in his tone when he ordered, "Sit down, or I will physically put you in that chair -- "
Jeremy didn't have to finish. She ran to the chair, practically dove into it. She definitely didn't want to risk his touching her. He forced back another smile as he moved away from the door to stand in front of her.
Percy, amazingly, injected a bit of logic into the proceedings: "I say, we could explain this on the way, couldn't we? We've got our man. Is there any reason to remain in these god-awful accommodations a moment longer?"
"Quite right. Find me something for binding."
"To tie him up with. Or haven't you noticed that our thief isn't being the least bit cooperative -- yet?"
At which point their thief desperately bolted for the door.
Jeremy had known it was coming, one more effort to escape them before it was too late. He'd seen it in her eyes just before she flew past him. He was at the door before she could get it open, though, and rather than just lean his weight against it to keep her inside, he decided to find out conclusively whether he was right about her sex and put his arms around her instead. He'd been right. Those were definitely female breasts under his forearms, packed down flatly, but unmistakable to his touch.
She didn't just stand still there and let him discover that. She turned around, and good God, that was even better, since he wasn't letting go of her yet. The very last thing he'd expected to find that night was a pretty wench wiggling about in his arms. Now that he was positive she was a wench, he was quite enjoying himself.
"I suppose I should check you for weapons," Jeremy said, his voice lowered to a husky note. "Yes, indeed, I really should."
"I ain't got -- " she started to claim, but ended on a gasp as his hands slid over her derriere and stayed there.
Rather than pat her pockets as his suggestion had implied, he gave each rounded check a gentle squeeze. Supple, soft she was, and suddenly he felt an urge to do more than just feel her with his hands; he wanted to press her loins firmly to his, pull down those ridiculous trousers she was wearing, run his fingers over her bare skin, and enter her wet warmth. He couldn't have been in a better position to do so, his hands cupping her luscious bottom. But he was already rising to the occasion, as it were, and didn't want her to know the effect she was having on him.
"Will these do?" Percy asked, reminding Jeremy that he wasn't alone with the girl.
With a sigh, Jeremy got back to the matter at hand and toted their thief back to the chair and shoved her into it. He leaned over her, his hands on the arms of the chair, and whispered, "Stay there, unless you like having my hands all over you."
Copyright © 2004 by Johanna Lindsey
Posted April 9, 2010
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I enjoy Lindsey's romantic novels the best. The Malory family series are my favorite mostly because of the characters. The Malory brothers are large brutes with great banter and wit. I can't help but laugh whenever I read one from that series. I couldn't exactly say what it is about this perticular novel, but I believe it has to do with how Danny and Jeremy interact with each other and how Danny sticks up for herself time and again against everyone. I would definately recommend this book (and all the other Malory books) to anyone who enjoys a good romance novel with an actual plot.
3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted August 11, 2007
I just started reading Johanna Lindsey's book and i gotta admit...This one's AMAZING...i could't even put the book down even if i have to go to sleep...first thing i did when i woke up was read this and when i finished it..i can't get enough!!!
2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted July 23, 2007
This is the first Johanna Lindsey book that I have read and I found it wonderful. The characters are so incredibly real that I thought I was actually in the story.
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Posted July 2, 2006
I love the heroine in this book she's not weak willed and willing to do the work to get what she wants. Jeremy was gorgeous but between the heroine and hero Dani is my absolute favorite.
1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted December 22, 2005
I have been a reader of romances for over 20 years now. I have seen good authors and stories come and go. Johanna Lindsey is an author I read in my early years then I turned away from her as so many books seemed cookie cutter and unmemorable. I started reading again after a 5 year absence and picked up her newest book, ¿A Loving Scoundrel¿ to see where her work is at years later. I enjoyed many parts of this book. First, the heroine Danny was not through most of the book your usual high brow, perfect English beauty with money and top bloodlines. Instead, she was a street urchin and had to learn to live by the code of the slums of London. She used her intelligence, wit and determination to stay alive and thrive. Second, I liked that our hero Jeremy was not the perfect man of nobility ¿ he had some flaws (not his looks of course) and had a good sense of style, wit and intelligence. Jeremy also came with a large family and lots of fun relatives peppered the story line. I got a kick out of Danny¿s spunkiness and sheer assertiveness for being a simple gal. She stood up for herself and that included once she met Jeremy and all of his naughty tempting. There was plenty going on in this story line to keep you entertained ¿ pick pockets, stealing jewels, turning a simple house maid into the belle of the season, a blooming romance between Danny and her Lord Jeremy, Jeremy being set up by another gal who wanted him but, he did not want her and of course¿finding out by the end who Danny really was ¿ a street urchin or a woman of nobility? The love scenes were early and frequent but, well written and detail kept tasteful. I enjoyed this book more than I expected to. The only thing that got a little tiring was hearing how beautiful and lovely Danny was ¿ even in her street urchin filthy clothes with no shower? Hmmm¿I question that a bit. And¿I got a wee bit irritated at how often Danny lapsed into her poor English from the streets and would call Jeremy ¿Mate¿ and other buddy like terms ¿ that wasn¿t very sexy or romantic for me. But¿these were minor items and easily over-looked. To make up for these little things¿I liked that Danny gave Jeremy as good as he got and because she kept their relationship light¿it made him want her even more. You go girl! I would have chosen to title the book 'A Naughty Rogue or Rascal' as Jeremy was loving but, more often naughty than a loving scoundrel. I gave four stars as the characters were well developed, the story line interesting and the ending just as it should be. I¿m glad I chose to find this author again and test out her work. It was quite enjoyable!
1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted May 15, 2014
Posted January 27, 2013
Ok, I have reward almost all of the Malory Books thus far...and this book is at the top of my list as being the most enjoyable, heartwarming, and my very favorite to date. I rarely write reviews, but was compelled to do so on this book. I loved it. It is absolutely Worth the extra cost above most of her other Nook Books. Don't hesitate purchasing this one, you won't be disappointed.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted December 20, 2012
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Posted October 12, 2011
This book is awesome, I could not put it down at all, everywhere I went this book was with me. This story was one that really peaked my interest from beginning to end. I wanted more!!! Please if you have not read this YOU MUST!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted October 7, 2011
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Posted September 6, 2010
I was very excited to finally read Jeremy Malory's story. The charming and viracious young scamp in all the other books deserved to fall like all the other Malory family members. I just felt that his story wasn't as humorous or as heartwarming as the other novels. Most of the book's funny quirks came from the other members of the Malory clan. I do believe that Danny is the perfect character for Jeremy, with her background and her spirit. I just think that there should have been more instances where she sent Jeremy on a rollar coaster ride, or maybe gave him a little bit more to work for. All in all, it is still a very enjoyable book. The things that Jeremy does and say to Danny are just priceless. Jeremy Malory is definitely a loving scoundrel.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted May 17, 2010
This is book is about Jeremy and its great to finally see him get his own story. We kind of see Jeremy grow from book to book and now we get more insight into what really makes him such an awesome character.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.