Sinful between the Sheets

( 10 )

Overview

Fayne Carlisle is not yet ready to assume the title of Duke of Solitea, but his father's sudden death means that his lusty bachelor days are numbered. Is the fabled Solitea Curse to blame for this stroke of ill luck? Or is Lady Kilby Fitchwolf the poison? A violet-eyed beauty with a family scandal of her own, she has just arrived among the ton…and soon becomes the object of the Duke's wildest fantasies.

But are the rumors true? Was Fayne's father really found dead in Lady ...

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Overview

Fayne Carlisle is not yet ready to assume the title of Duke of Solitea, but his father's sudden death means that his lusty bachelor days are numbered. Is the fabled Solitea Curse to blame for this stroke of ill luck? Or is Lady Kilby Fitchwolf the poison? A violet-eyed beauty with a family scandal of her own, she has just arrived among the ton…and soon becomes the object of the Duke's wildest fantasies.

But are the rumors true? Was Fayne's father really found dead in Lady Kilby's very bedchambers? And if so, should that preclude the duke from keeping her company? Surely there's no more pleasurable way to perish. But as the duke comes to know the beautiful siren, it seems she couldn't be less interested in seducing him—and what begins for the Duke as romantic sport escalates into a do-or-die courtship that brings the two lovers dangerously close to falling in love.

2007 Romantic Times Reviewers' Choice Award winner for Most Sensual Historical

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Barbara Pierce's star continues to rise!"—Gaelen Foley, national bestselling author

"Pierce reaches new heights . . .and plays upon our wicked fantasies while crafting a fine-tuned tale of revenge and sizzling desire." —Romantic Times BOOKreviews (4 ½ Stars) on Wicked Under the Covers

Publishers Weekly

In this second installment of the Carlisle series, Pierce weaves a Regency tale studded with intrigue and steamy love scenes, as Fayne Carlisle meets his match in the mischievous, enigmatic Lady Kilby Fitchwolf. Whisked to London by her recently deceased parents' best friend, Kilby quickly finds herself in a compromising position when Fayne's father, the duke of Solitea, dies in her bedchamber. Although Kilby denies any impropriety, ladies' man Fayne has his doubts—and his desires, making the beautiful Kilby an enticing mystery, charmingly naïve but surprisingly bold. Kilby, however, has more important things to worry about, including a violent brother with a dark family secret and nefarious plans for her future. As Kilby searches for the truth behind her parents' death, she and Fayne indulge their passions and discover shared feelings of hurt and loss. But with Kilby attracting countless suitors and ardent proposals, Fayne knows he must overcome his bachelor's instincts and claim Kilby as his own. Mysterious villains round out a plot rich with unexpected twists, witty dialogue and charming characters. (Apr.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780312348229
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 4/3/2007
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Pages: 352
  • Product dimensions: 4.22 (w) x 6.69 (h) x 0.95 (d)

Meet the Author

Having a rich English ancestry that can be traced back to the 1500s, BARBARA PIERCE credits her grandmother and the romantic family tales she was told as a child for inspiring her early fascination with English history.

 

Striving to balance her love of history with the need to tell a compelling story, she debuted in 2000 with A Desperate Game. She next introduced readers to the Bedegrayne family with A Lady’s Mischief and A Gentleman at Heart.

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

London, April 10, 1809

The Duke of Solitea was dead.

Naturally, his widow decided to throw a ball. To the eccentric duchess, it seemed the appropriate way to herald her husband's passing. Fayne Carlisle, Marquess of Temmes, tossed back the remains of the brandy in his glass and shook his head in lingering amazement.

Christ, a ball for a dead man! No one had ever accused the Carlisles of being typical. The duchess had even wanted the deceased to join in the festivities. Fayne had balked at the outlandish suggestion and flatly refused to indulge his mother's request. He could just envision it. The duke, resplendent in his funerary finery, dominating the drawing room as he had in life, while his two beloved apricot-colored mastiffs stood guard at each end of the mahogany coffin.

God save them all from his mother's whims!

Slouched casually against one of the farthest corners of the drawing room, Fayne broodingly watched as guests flowed in and out of the room. In the center of the room, his mother had ordered that a twelve-foot-high portrait of the duke be set up for display. The painting had been a gift from the duchess, and commissioned in celebration of his father's thirtieth birthday. Oversized black and gold porcelain vases stuffed with greenery and hothouse flowers were placed around the portrait.

Fayne sipped from his glass, barely tasting the brandy. It had been a god-awful day. His stomach still roiled when he thought of the slow, stately procession he and the family had endured earlier in the day to Westminster Abbey for the interment of the Duke of Solitea. While his younger sister, Fayre, had brokenly sobbed with her face pressed into his shoulder, the duchess had sat quietly beside him, her expressionless face reminding him of pale marble. She had done her grieving in private. For days after word had reached them of the duke's passing, her wild, inconsolable sorrow had seemed inexhaustible. She had slept only because the family's physician with Fayne's unrelenting assistance had poured the apothecary's soporific tincture down her throat nightly.

Fayne had not recognized the silent, pale woman who had sat next to him in the mourning coach. He had longed to see a glimmer of his mother's former spirit, some sign that she would survive her husband's passing. It was the main reason he had even consented to the ridiculous ball at all.

Fayne watched on as a lady dropped to her knees in front of the duke's portrait and cried into her lace handkerchief. He could not see her face, but he idly wondered if the grieving lady had been one of his father's former mistresses. His gaze roved contemplatively over the dozen or more people who had positioned themselves in front of the duke's portrait. Most of them meant well, Fayne assumed. If any of them thought it necessary to speak to him, his defiant posture and intimidating expression discouraged anyone from approaching. This was fortunate, because the duchess would never forgive him if he caused a broil by punching one her unwary guests.

"Still preferring your tea cold, I see," a masculine voice said from his left, interrupting Fayne's dark musings.

Any sane individual would have had the sense to respect a grieving son's privacy. Unfortunately, that left Fayne to deal with the not-so-sane.

He rubbed his right eyebrow with his finger, giving his blond friend a vexed look. "Ramscar. I was just thinking how irked the duchess would be if I am provoked into punching some well-meaning bastard," Fayne said, in lieu of a greeting.

Fowler Knowden, Earl of Ramscar, merely grinned at the threat of violence. At the height of five feet and ten inches, the earl was several inches shorter than Fayne's six-foot-one-inch stature; however, the man's confidence and lazy graceful movements warned the observer not to underestimate him. He watched expectantly as Ramscar retrieved a decanter of brandy he had hidden behind his back and waved it before Fayne as others might use a flag of truce. "Your glass is dry, and the footmen are terrified of you. Byrchmore, Everod, and I cast lots. I was the loser," he added needlessly.

There was such an engaging sincerity to his friend's expression that it had Fayne shaking his head. Out of his three closest friends, Ramscar was the mediator of the group. The duchess had always called him the sensible one. Hidden beneath his mischievious nature were unplumbed depths of sensitivity, and a desire for fair play lurked in his intelligent hazel-colored eyes. It tended to surface at odd moments.

"You will get no argument from me." Fayne's mouth curved into a sarcastic smirk as he held out his glass. Secretly, he welcomed his friend's intrusion. In spite of the lively music playing in the ballroom, the atmosphere in the drawing room was utterly maudlin with the guests staring at his father's portrait in blank shock or sobbing uncontrollably into their handkerchiefs, like several of the female guests had done.

Fayne could not fault his mother's efforts. With the assistance of his sister, the duchess had honored the duke's request that they celebrate the life he had led, and not mourn his demise. It was a fitting sentiment for a man who many believed had enjoyed more than his fair share of decadent living.

Ramscar brought him back to the present with the clinking of crystal as he filled Fayne's glass. Muttering to himself, the man rummaged a hand into one of the inner pockets of his coat and retrieved an empty glass. He poured himself a generous portion of brandy and then placed the decanter on the floor between them.

"So what's the plan, Solitea?"

Fayne flinched. He had not given it much thought; however, the dukedom belonged to him now. From this day forward, he would no longer be thought of as Lord Temmes, but rather as the Duke of Solitea. With this new title came all its privileges—and curses. His hand was not quite steady as he brought the rim of the glass to his lips.

Ramscar shot his friend an exasperated glance. "You're the old man's heir, Carlisle. Surely you anticipated the day you'd claim that inheritance." His gaze drifted over to the duke's magnificent portrait where two young ladies were paying their respects. Regrettably, there was not a respectful bone in Ramscar's head when it came to females. As he sipped his brandy, his friend's hungry gaze gleamed appreciatively at the curvaceous backside of one of the mourners.

"Ram, my father died eight days ago. Pardon me if I find his sudden demise a bit unsettling," Fayne said dryly. A flash of color caught his attention at the open doorway. He muffled an oath as he recognized the newcomers.

Holt Cadd, Marquess of Byrchmore, and Townsend Lidsaw, Viscount Everod, approached them with the confidence born of a friendship that had begun in boyhood. Their titles and noble bloodlines made them worthy companions for a duke's heir. Through the years, they had played, fought, and studied together. Handsome, rich, and unmarried, the four had prowled London, daring the world to stop them from claiming all they desired. The ton affectionately referred to them as les sauvages nobles, the noble savages. It had been a sobriquet they had reveled in and reinforced by their drunken escapades, whoring, and reckless gambling.

"Since the furniture is still upright we assumed it was safe to approach," Cadd said, using the wall to brace his muscular form.

At four and twenty, he was the youngest—and the easiest to provoke. Once he had been a pretty lad, and this had forced him to engage in countless fights when they were in school. During one of those exchanges, Cadd had broken his nose. The injury had ruined the youth's prettiness. However, it did little to make his face less appealing. With gleaming black eyes and a slightly imperfect nose Cadd seemed to fascinate the ladies of the ton. Although his dark brown hair was long enough to be tied neatly into a queue, the marquess generally wore his slightly curling locks unfettered.

There was a reckless air about Cadd that always invited trouble. "What are you doing in here, Carlisle?" he asked in his provoking manner.

"Getting drunk," Fayne replied, signaling Ramscar by shaking his empty glass. He had been avoiding the ballroom for the past hour. The notion of dancing or speaking to the sympathetic and the curious held no appeal for him. His mother and sister had more patience for such nonsense.

"Mostly there, I'd wager."

Naturally, the sardonic comment was uttered by another one of his good friends, Viscount Everod. No one would ever describe the young lord as handsome. "Arresting" was a more appropriate word for him. A few inches taller than Fayne, Everod gave one the impression of a stern medieval overlord. His glossy black hair was long, the ends reaching several inches past his broad, muscular shoulders. Even the casual observer would recall the viscount's amber eyes. Ringed with light green bands, they burned with an inner fire that could be either hot or cold. Though his cravat hid most of it, he possessed a wicked scar that curved from the left side of his neck and ended on the right underside of his jaw. No one mentioned the scar; not even his friends. They knew better than most that concealed beneath Everod's biting wit, the man had a formidable temper. On numerous boisterous occasions the man's disagreeable temperament had placed him right in the thick of things, with his friends protecting his back. Fayne doubted the viscount would have wanted it any other way.

Everod stooped down and snatched the decanter off the floor before Ramscar could. He poured more brandy into Fayne's glass. At the earl's silent command, he filled that glass, too.

"A toast," Everod announced, holding the decanter up. "To the duke. May we all be so fortunate." He wobbled slightly as he brought the rim of the decanter to his firm lips and swallowed.

Cadd punched Everod in the arm, causing him to take a step back to keep his balance. "Arse! Have some bloody respect."

"Hands off." The viscount sneered, his pride bruised because Cadd had caught him unawares. The pair had a precarious friendship that usually erupted into violence at the least provocation. "I meant no disrespect. The duke was a fine gent. I'm sorry that he's dead an' all." He nodded at Fayne while he made his apology, his amber gaze eloquent with unspoken emotion. "I was referring to how he died, not that he's dead. The others might not have the bollocks to speak it aloud, but there isn't a man in London who doesn't wish that death came to him so delightfully wrapped."

Damn, the duchess was not going to be pleased if that particular rumor reached her ears. The family had taken steps to keep the last hours of the duke's life private. "I do not know what you mean," Fayne smoothly lied. "My father died because his heart failed him."

"Come on, Carlisle, don't be coy," Everod said, refusing to back down. "Rumor has it that the old man was enjoying his mistress when his pump failed him. Oh, don't give me that look. Honestly, you should have realized that you couldn't silence everyone in the know. Gossip like this is too irresistible to contain."

"Most of us have the sense to keep our bloody opinions to ourselves the eventide of the funeral," Cadd muttered, pointedly glancing at Fayne. "Especially when Carlisle, here, is within arm's length."

Fayne's green eyes glittered with suppressed humor. While his family might be considered a trifle odd, he doubted his mother would forgive him if he were the instigator of a fight this evening. He could not deny the need for violence humming through him. Since he had learned of his father's death, he had been edgy and hurting, a veritable powder keg of dark fury just waiting for a proper ignition.

"Everod might on occasion be an uncouth oaf," Fayne said, ignoring the viscount's growling protest. "Regardless, I agree with him. I cannot imagine an ending more befitting the Duke of Solitea than to expire betwixt the soft thighs of his mistress." He refused to confirm or deny the ton's speculation.

He lifted his glass in the direction of his father's portrait and saluted him. His friends made concurring toasts after him. Fayne glanced down at his hand, fiercely concentrating on the brandy in his glass as the unwelcome moisture filled his eyes. A Carlisle male never succumbed to the weakness of tears. If his eyes burned, it was due to the lack of proper ventilation. There were at least a hundred candles lighting up the room, fouling the air.

"The duke certainly had an eye for beauty, and I am sure his last mistress was no exception," Ramscar said, his expression becoming thoughtful. "Speaking of beauties, did any of you meet Lady Kilby Fitchwolf?"

Fayne choked on his brandy. He wondered if his friend's high opinion would change if he learned that Lady Kilby Fitchwolf was the lady his father had dallied with the night he had died. He grimaced. Not likely. "No, I have not had the pleasure."

That was not quite true, but it was all Fayne was willing to reveal to his friends. While he had not been formally introduced to the lady as Ramscar had been, he had seen her.

He had also met the lady's incompetent chaperone, Lady Quennell. The night his father had died, Fayne had listened to the viscountess's tearful plea for the Carlisles to quash the impending scandal by not revealing the details of the duke's death or his lover's name. He did not give a damn about Lady Kilby Fitchwolf's impressionable age, beauty, or reputation. He had swiftly agreed to remain silent on the matter because he did not want his mother to suffer any humiliating comparisons by the ton. It was not the duchess's fault some ambitious chit parted her thighs too easily, and that her reckless husband was unable to control his baser instincts.

Unaware of Fayne's inner turmoil, Ramscar continued. "I was briefly introduced to her several weeks ago at a card party. I believe she had mentioned that she was enjoying her first season."

Fayne had been surprised that his father had bothered with Lady Kilby Fitchwolf. Lady Quennell had mentioned that her charge was nineteen. The lady looked even younger. It was unlike his father to choose a lady so young or innocent if the viscountess's assertions could be believed.

"Perhaps she was the young minx amusing your father in bed?" Everod interjected with a salacious wink.

Leave it to his friend with indelicate accuracy to hit upon the truth.

Ramscar grimaced at the viscount. "Highly doubtful, I say. Solitea was not the sort to seduce chits barely out of the nursery. When you encounter Lady Kilby Fitchwolf, you will understand how absurd your suggestion is."

Outward appearances are sometimes deceiving, he thought, wishing he could warn his friend not to be fooled by the lady's air of innocence. Fayne was not really surprised by his friends' speculation about his father's death. No one in his family doubted the duke had indeed bedded the lady before perishing on her fine carpet.

For generations, the dukes of Solitea were notorious for their illicit love affairs, and his father had not been the exception. While it was apparent to Fayne that his father had adored his duchess, marriage had not discouraged his sire from seeking his pleasures outside the marriage bed.

The duchess had tolerated her husband's inconstancy with amazing stoicism; although, over the years, there had been one or two of his former mistresses who had noticeably distressed her. Fayne could not blame her for finding solace in the arms of her young lovers. The duke had been aware of his duchess's affairs, but had not attempted to prohibit her from her discreet dalliances. His sister, Fayre, had always been troubled by their parents' odd, albeit amicable, arrangement. Fayne, on the other hand, had been totally indifferent.

Perhaps it was because he had understood his father's reckless inclinations, and that of his predecessors, in a manner his sister never could. The Carlisle males who claimed the Solitea title were cursed, or at least seemed to be. Family, friends, and the curious had whispered about the Solitea curse for generations.

The origins of this supposed curse were obscured by the passage of time. Some conjectured that amour propre was the family's sin. The more imaginative wondered if a vengeful mistress had summoned the dark powers of hell and cursed the Solitea heirs. Fayne did not believe in curses. However, he could not ignore the unpleasant fact that the males who inherited the Solitea title always seemed to die young. When a man grew up believing he was destined to die before his time, that man was driven to eagerly embrace all the pleasures his brief life offered—and arrogantly claim the forbidden temptations that were not rightfully his. For his father, Fayne would have definitely categorized the Lady Kilby Fitchwolf as a forbidden temptation.

"My father rarely discriminated against youth," Fayne said, feeling confident he had buried his sorrow so deep, it did not crack the calm façade he had adopted for the ball. "Nevertheless, I do concur with Ram. Despoiling innocence was not a sport the duke willingly indulged."

Lady Kilby Fitchwolf had appeared on the surface the epitome of innocence. Days before the duke had seduced her, Fayne had noticed the lady from afar. She was a tiny, slender little creature with long black hair that she had pinned up in an elaborate twist of braids. While the distance separating them had prevented him from noting the color of her eyes, it had not diminished her fresh-faced loveliness. The evening he had first glimpsed her in the crowd, she had been speaking animatedly to a female companion. Fayne, much to his chagrin, had wasted most of the night searching the crowd for glimpses of the enchanting vixen wearing the light green dress.

Even though Lady Kilby intrigued him, he had not sought out an introduction. Despite all rumors to the contrary, Fayne had no interest in seducing young innocents who dreamed of marriage. He preferred dallying with ladies who had already been relieved of their maidenhead. The temporary lust he felt for the lady in green could be contained, or favored on a more skillful companion, if his needs overrode his common sense. Lady Kilby Fitchwolf was definitely the kind of lady who was off limits for a jaded rake like him. Or so Fayne thought, until he had learned his father had died in the lady's bedchamber.

"Fitchwolf," Everod mused aloud. "I believe I have met the lady. She is the dew-faced infant who has a fondness for silver-headed gents. I partnered her in a country dance and barely got three words out of her. Later, I noticed her chatty as a magpie with Lord Ordish. By God, the man is old enough to be her sire!"

Poor Everod. It was apparent he could still not comprehend why the lady had resisted his charms.

"Perhaps she is just particular," Cadd retorted, rubbing his upper lip with the side of his hand to conceal their bawdy discourse from the other guests. "I wager, five minutes alone in my company and I could convince her that she has been judging a man by the wrong head!"

Everod snorted in derision. "Braggart! I have unfortunately laid eyes on your less than impressive equipage, and I must say if the lady requires a stallion, she would do well to choose me. The ladies practically swoon when I mount them."

The smile Cadd gave the viscount was lacking both humor and warmth. "Their swooning probably has more to do with your forgetfulness to bathe, rather than the size of your rod!"

Fayne shook his head and his green eyes connected with Ramscar's commiserating gaze. He was relieved to drop the subject of Lady Kilby Fitchwolf. How fortunate that Cadd could never resist an opportunity to ignite Everod's temper. If someone did not intercede, the pair was likely to come to blows. Their disagreement was already drawing attention from the other guests.

"Are you prepared to wager on it?" Without breaking eye contact, Everod aggressively stepped closer to the marquess. "A thousand pounds says I can bed any lady here of your choosing."

There was a challenging glint in Cadd's black gaze as he replied softly, "Anyone? Are you certain about this, ol' man? Your arrogance will leave you shamefaced and a thousand pounds poorer come morning, if I accept."

Belatedly realizing that some boundaries were required, Everod said, "The lady must be out of the nursery and not older than my blessed mother." He hesitated, and then added thunderously, "And no bloody relatives!"

Cadd provokingly bumped the viscount with his chest. "Perhaps you should summon a footman and order a bath before I accept this wager?" The taunt provoked Everod into raising his fist.

His friends were idiots. They were definitely foxed to be placing wagers at the duke's memorial ball. Fayne cleared his throat. "Gentlemen. I know I must be drunker than I thought when I sound like the responsible one of us all. However, we are garnering nasty looks from several of the guests. I assure you, the duchess will lynch us all if one of you decides to throw a punch. Do me a favor and leash your damned tempers."

Normally, his friends' competitiveness and excessive bickering did not trouble him. There had been a time or two when he had deliberately prodded them toward violence just for amusement's sake. Fayne privately acknowledged that he was in an odd mood this evening. His father's death was a logical explanation. Deep down, nevertheless, he sensed his father's sudden death was merely an excuse for the ennui that had been plaguing him lately rather than the source.

"Damn."

The oath came from Ramscar. The earl was not referring to their friends' argument. His attention was focused on the entrance to the drawing room. Fayne tilted his head to the side to see who had caught the man's regard. His sister, Fayre, stood in the middle of the threshold with her back to the room. She cast him a frantic glance, before turning back to face the source of her agitation. Who the devil is she arguing with? Fayne wondered, frowning. Her arms were outspread as if she were trying to prevent someone from entering the room.

Fayne's curiosity was swiftly satisfied when a gentleman appeared in front of Fayre. The man brushed her arm aside and stepped into the room. Fayne recognized Lord Hollensworth. Four years older than Fayne, the baron had little time or patience for polite society. He preferred farming to politics. Unfortunately, Fayne knew precisely what had prompted the gentleman to leave the countryside.

Unerringly, the baron's harsh gaze fixed on Fayne's bemused one. Ignoring his sister's order to halt, Lord Hollensworth marched toward Fayne and his friends. Instead of following, his sister ran off in the opposite direction. Since Fayre had not been able to reason with their unwelcome guest, Fayne assumed she went to find her husband, Maccus Brawley. Summoning Brawley was hardly necessary. The odds were in Fayne's favor. It stung that his sister had so little faith in his abilities.

"Good evening, Hollensworth," Fayne said casually, when the baron shoved Cadd and Everod out of his way. His friends had deliberately stepped in Hollensworth's path to impede his approach. Whatever their personal differences, the two friends had put their quarrel aside for Fayne's sake. "You have journeyed far to pay your respects to my father." If the baron was embarrassed by his ill-timed appearance, he bore it well. Rage and the need for retribution were overriding any sense of civility.

Vance Mitchell, Lord Hollensworth, looked out of place in the drawing room. Several inches taller than Fayne, he had a physique that was the product of the heavy labor his lands demanded of him. Heavily muscled, his wide shoulders appeared to stretch the fabric of his coat beyond its capacity. His face was just as harsh and square as his imposing figure. He did not bother to remove his hat and tufts of pale blond hair stuck out like hay over his ears. The baron's hazel eyes narrowed menacingly on Fayne.

"Do not be coy, Carlisle," Hollensworth snarled, spittle flying in numerous directions. "Did you think that once I learned of your misdeeds that I would ignore the insult you dealt my family?"

Fayne was not surprised by the baron's presence. In fact, he had expected the man sooner. That was one of the distinct disadvantages of living in the country. One was always behind on news. How fortunate for Hollensworth that Fayne was in the mood to oblige him in a public confrontation. "What was insulting, Hollensworth, was your brother's wretched play at the tables. I did him a favor by taking his money."

Like his older brother, Hart Mitchell had never quite fit in among his peers. Embittered that his tardy birth had cheated him out of the barony, Mitchell had rejected his brother's offer to help him oversee the family's lands and tried to make his fortune at the gaming tables. Unfortunately, Mitchell's play was as reckless as the life he had chosen for himself. He had a tendency to lose heavily, and in desperation the man had tried his hand at cheating. Another sign of his abysmal luck was the fact that he had chosen Fayne's table to employ his underhanded tricks.

"In the future, it might be prudent for you to cut Mitchell's funds off, Hollensworth. It might keep him from tossing away the family fortune on games of chance," Fayne said calmly, feeling no remorse for not only claiming Mitchell's purse and his town house, but also two of the man's best horses. All in all, Fayne had been rather generous. Another gentleman would have called the sharper out.

The suggestion enraged the baron. He tried to lunge at Fayne, but Cadd, Everod, and Ramscar held him back. "It's too late, you merciless blackguard! Hart is dead!" Hollensworth squirmed against the restraining hands holding him in place. "You killed him!"

Everyone in the room quieted as the accusation rang in Fayne's ears.

"The only killings I have done recently were at the card table," Fayne said, disregarding the unease settling in his gut. "The last time I saw your brother, he looked quite fit when he rose and left the game. I can procure witnesses testifying to that fact." He recalled the night he had trounced Mitchell at cards vividly. It was the same night he had been summoned to the family's town house and learned that his father was dead.

"He may not have died by your hand, Carlisle," the baron said, his stark face etched with grief and rage too profound to be feigned. "Nonetheless, you are responsible for his death. You lured him into deep play and it cost him everything. After Hart left you, he returned home and drew the merciless edge of a straight razor across his throat."

Mitchell was dead? Fayne had spent the past week in a blurry haze of grief and sleeplessness and if anyone had mentioned Mitchell's death in passing, he doubted he would have paid attention. Fayne lived in a profligate sphere where fortunes were won or lost every day on the turn of a single card. The losers faded away, but Fayne had never known anyone desperate enough to take his own life over a reversal of fortune. "I did not know," he said solemnly. "I regret your loss, Hollens—"

"Liar!" the man bellowed and lunged at Fayne. The baron's revelation had shocked everyone present, including the gentlemen restraining him. He broke free of the hands holding him back and charged at Fayne like an enraged bull.

Women shrieked and dashed to the opposite side of the room as Fayne sidestepped his attacker. "Your brother was a regular at the gaming hells." He danced backward into the center of the room, avoiding Hollensworth's frenzied swing. "And a cheat. It was a matter of time before someone spilled his blood."

Fayne regretted his words before he finished uttering them.

An inhuman sound of anguish erupted from Hollensworth. His hazel eyes burned with hatred, promising retribution. Ramscar seized the baron by his upper arm in a futile attempt to stop him. The earl's reward for helping his friend was a brutal uppercut to his jaw. Ramscar fell to the floor without making a sound. Hollensworth rushed at Fayne again, before the others tried to intercede.

Fayne grunted as the man's head plowed into his stomach. The momentum of Hollensworth's charge sent him staggering backward. Time seemed to slow down for him, which Fayne considered a very bad sign. As he fell, his eyes locked onto his sister's pale, beautiful face. Fayre stood in the doorway as her husband and several others rushed forward to rescue him from his attacker.

His right elbow connected with something solid, sending sharp pain up his arm. Shock whitened his face at the sound of canvas ripping. With Hollensworth doing his damnedest to pound Fayne's face into mush, the pair rended the duke's portrait and staggered through the large wooden frame. Screams and the harsh cracks of the wood bracing shattering filled the air. Fayne and Hollensworth struck the floor in a tangled heap.

The frame toppled over in the opposite direction.

Fayne was positive his back was broken. The baron, on the other hand, was barely stunned by their fall. He slammed his fist into Fayne's jaw once before his brother-in-law and Cadd dragged the baron off. Gingerly, Fayne touched the side of his face. Hollensworth had a fist like a sledgehammer.

He tasted blood as he sat up. A dozen faces were hovering over him, but he could not make sense of what anyone was saying. He waved everyone away. Christ, his jaw ached. It was damned humiliating to be laid flat by a single punch. As he staggered to his feet, several things became apparent. First, Hollensworth was not going to rest until he attained the justice he craved. Secondly, the duchess was going to have an apoplectic fit when she learned of what had transpired in the drawing room. Outside the drawing room, he heard his mother screech his full name. Fayne winced. Death by Hollensworth's hand was trivial in comparison to facing the duchess's ensuing wrath.

Copyright © 2007 by Barbara Pierce. All rights reserved.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 10 )
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Sort by: Showing 1 – 11 of 10 Customer Reviews
  • Posted April 5, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Not as good as the first in the series

    Despite niggling historical inaccuracies, characters with names that clunked and clattered in my mouth---I couldn't seem to read "Kilby Fitchwolf" without mentally stuttering---and a certain unevenness to the pacing and flow of the story, I didn't dislike this book. I even rather enjoyed the characters and their intrigues. But the romance lacked a certain tenderness, a sense of truth or honesty---vulnerability---and without that, all the mechanics of the novel felt like exactly that: mechanics, a clockwork of details without heart or soul. After finding the first book in the Carlisle family series, Wicked Under the Covers, an unexpectedly moving read, I was a bit disappointed in this second novel.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 27, 2008

    Be Still My Heart

    I literally just finished reading this book no more than five minutes ago. I could not wait to get online and rave about it. I hate that the book is over. I wanted it to last forever. I am a huge Barbara Pierce fan and I shudder to think that her next book won't be out until August. Anyway, to put it plainly: I fell in love with Fayne within the first twenty pages. He is domineering, but not obnoxious tender, but not a softy. He is the perfect hero. And Kilby is the perfect heroine, complimenting Fayne to a T. She is strong with a sharp wit that had me laughing out loud. What I love the most about Pierce's writing is the intimacy she creates between her two characters. Although the sexual connection between Kilby and Fayne is fiery and arousing, I was blown away by the gentle sweetness that they shared. This book had me squealing with delight and giggling uncontrollably the whole time. If you've never read anything by Barbara Pierce I highly suggest you start with Wicked Under the Covers (the story of Fayre, Fayne's younger sister). Sinful Between the Sheets is the second in the series, followed by Naughty By Nature.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 19, 2007

    A historical romance you will fall in love with!

    Lady Kilby Fitchwolf escapes the hands of her perverse brother with the help of an old family friend not a moment too soon. The only problem is her sister Gypsy is still in Archer's care in assurances that Kilby will return home. Kilby and the Viscountess are determined to find a suitable husband for Kilby by the end of the season in hopes of securing her and her sisters freedom from Archer's clutches. From the moment Fayne laid eyes on his fathers much too young mistress he knew he wanted her for himself. She may have been the last person to see his father alive, but he would make the little wolf his. The night he saved her from being taken against her will, he took something much more valuable from her. She was telling the truth after all, she was not the previous Duke of Solitea's mistress. Kilby did not know when it happened but she fell deeply in love with the new Duke of Solitea, maybe it was their first kiss, or when Fayne saved her from the dishonorable intentions of her brother. She refused the Dukes proposal twice because she had a haunted past of her own in which she must find the answers to. Only she was asking the wrong question all along, the Viscountess was much more valuable to Kilby than she would have ever known. When Fayne skirts Kilby off to Gretna Green, the couple thinks they will be free from all the distress of Kilby's brother. That is until someone tries to drown Kilby while she is bathing. Who could perform such a dastardly act? The answer will shock you! This Historical Romance, Sinful Between The Sheets is the second novel in Barbara Pierce's outstanding series. The characters and storyline are so strong this could be wonderful stand-alone book. I on the other hand want to read each and every novel in the series. I loved the way Ms. Pierce kept me enthralled from the very beginning. From the Prologue I was hooked. I did not want to put this book down I even took it to the bedroom reading late into the night. Ms. Pierce has a knack for compiling action, suspense and romance together to form a mind-blowing and addictive read. I am sure we will be hearing much more from this fabulous author in the future. 5 Hearts!!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 4, 2007

    Truely Exceptional!

    The storyline was exceptional, and the characters were colorful and well written. I was impressed by the depth of the final twists & turns in the book, which left me on baited breath. I highly recommend this book to anyone who is looking for more than just a little romance. This story has it all: scorching passion, a good dose of mystery, despicable villains, and a glorious happily-ever-after. The only disappointing thing about this book is that it had to end.

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  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    fantastic Regency amateur sleuth romantic suspense

    In 1809 in London when the Duke of Solitea dies in a young woman¿s bedchamber, his heir Fayne Carlisle mourns the loss of his sire and his own womanizing hedonistic freedom as now he has responsibilities. However, first Fayne needs to know whether the legendary Solitea Curse struck or something more mundane like the lady poisoning his father. He plans to find out starting with meeting Lady Kilby Fitchwolf. --- Still in mourning with the shocking deaths of her parents in a yachting accident almost two years ago and only in London at the insistence of a family friend not wanting her left alone any longer with her violent half-brother Archer, Kilby swears she is innocent though she also recognizes the compromised situation the late Duke left her in when he died in her chamber. Fayne wants her and assumes she is an experienced woman, but finds strange mixed signals of desire and naïve innocence from her. As she tries to learn the truth re the death of her parents and gain custody of her still hurting preadolescent sister ¿Gypsy¿ from Archer and Fayne likewise wants to know what happened to his father, they fall in love, but a deadly ¿matchmaker¿ lurks in the background ready to kill to keep them to keep their identity secret. --- SINFUL BETWEEN THE SHEETS, the sequel to the charming WICKED UNDER THE COVERS (the tale of Fayne¿s sister), is a fantastic Regency amateur sleuth romantic suspense. The changing relationship between the lead couple and three strong mysteries (need to read the novel to learn the third mystery) make for a superb historical that will elate the audience. Sub-genre fans who have no read Barbara Pierce is missing out on one of the best Regency authors today. --- Harriet Klausner

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    Posted July 1, 2013

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