The Sins of Lord Easterbrook (Rothwell Brothers Series #4)

The Sins of Lord Easterbrook (Rothwell Brothers Series #4)

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by Madeline Hunter
     
 

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Journey back to a time of scandal, intrigue, and reckless desire in Madeline Hunter’s sensuous new novel, the tale of a man who will give up everything for the woman he’s determined to possess—even reveal his most sinful secret.

Only a desperate mission could bring Leona Montgomery face-to-face with the scoundrel whose dangerous

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Overview

Journey back to a time of scandal, intrigue, and reckless desire in Madeline Hunter’s sensuous new novel, the tale of a man who will give up everything for the woman he’s determined to possess—even reveal his most sinful secret.

Only a desperate mission could bring Leona Montgomery face-to-face with the scoundrel whose dangerous sensuality once sent her fleeing from his arms. But she has under-estimated Christian, Marquess of Easterbrook. As irresistible as ever, his past swathed in mystery, Christian has his own plans for the woman he has waited seven years to claim. Yet once desire reignites, bringing a dangerous secret into the open, Leona will find herself bound to the seductive nobleman in ways she could never have imagined. Seven years have changed nothing: this man can tempt her to ruin with just one touch. With Leona’s reputation and hopes for her family’s salvation in tatters, she must follow the only course left to her…even as each step brings her closer to a shattering truth and a passion she can no longer live without.…

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Bestseller Hunter (Secrets of Surrender) weaves a delightful 1800s romance with plenty of steamy passion and opium intrigue. Visiting London for the first time from her home in the Far East, Leona Montgomery is on a mission to secure funding for her brother's trading house and investigate the opium conspiracy that her father believed destroyed much of his business. Leona's lack of connections delays her success until she encounters Christian, marquess of Easterbrook, who was disguised as a commoner when she first met him several years before. He promises to both help her in her quest and sate her most intimate desires, but they both have secrets, and love and passion are fraught with secrecy and suspicion. Hunter has concocted a satisfying tale of desire, deception and privilege. (Feb.)

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780440243960
Publisher:
Random House Publishing Group
Publication date:
01/27/2009
Series:
Rothwell Brothers Series, #4
Edition description:
Original
Pages:
370
Sales rank:
717,707
Product dimensions:
4.20(w) x 6.80(h) x 1.20(d)

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Chapter One


Silence. A dark, calm center absorbing chaos into its stillness.

 The peaceful rhythm of inhales and exhales. 

A pulse. The fundamental beat of nature extending into infinity. Awareness of everything and nothing. No thoughts. No dreams. No hungers. Pure existence. Primeval knowing. 

Floating in the center now. Finally. Singular but also transcendent. Only the pulse in the darkness. Alone, but unified with a larger rhythm, the– 

A disturbance. A small, silent shout of caution and worry intruding into the perfect void. 

“Why are you creeping around, Phippen?” 

“My apologies, my lord. I thought–you appeared to be sleeping and I just thought to come in and remove the tray–” 

A louder shout. Fear now. Always fear. The world roared with it. 

“I will go at once, sir.”
“Take the tray, Phippen. Let us make the disturbance worthwhile, at least.” 

Chaos. Dismay. Thumps and bumps and the brittle cacophony of metal and crockery crashing. 

“My abject apologies, sir. The footstool–I will have this cleaned off the carpet in a thrice. I will be gone faster than you can say Phippen is a fool.” 

“Phippen is a fool. I’ll be damned, you are still here.” 

Noise. Sounds both audible and spiritual. Despera - tion amid clinks and sighs. The dark center shrinking, shrinking . . . 

Christian, Marquess of Easterbrook, opened his eyes to view the servant whose intrusion had destroyed his meditation. Phippen, his new valet, tried to pick up the tray’s contents without making any noise. Im - possible, of course. A person’s mere existence made noise. 

Flushed and on his hands and knees, Phippen gingerly placed the cup on the tray, cringing at its tiny sound. He took out his handkerchief to mop up the puddle of coffee threatening to stain the carpet. 

Fear. Worry. Anger too. Pique at himself as well as the new master whose habits made his job too hard. 

Phippen would not be staying long. Valets never did. Christian rose from his chair and walked over to Phippen. “Give me the tray. I will hold it while you gather the pieces.” 

“Very good, sir. Thank you, sir. That is too kind of you, my lord.” 

You are an ass, sir. An eccentric, erratic, incomprehensible– 

Another disturbance. An odd shaking within the remnants of the fading center. Christian closed his eyes and focused on that tremble. Distant but distinct, it had interfered with his meditations too often of late. Today it had taken forever to overcome its effects. 

He walked to the north windows. No one was in the garden. He paced down the length of his bedchamber to look out the south windows. The kneeling Phippen waved a saucer as he neared. Christian took it, put it on the tray, shoved the tray into Phippen’s empty hand, and strode on. The sound of china tumbling again reached him just as he neared the window. 

In the street below a carriage waited outside the door of his house. A figure swept toward it, dodging the drizzle that so often accompanied spring weather in London. A woman of middling height and quick step, wearing a deep green dress, hopped into the carriage’s twilight. 

A delicate nose. An elegant jaw. 

A melodic sigh from the past. He was sure that he heard it despite the distance and the closed window. 

His mind shed the last mists of his meditation. His blood reacted, violently. A different pulse now. Hard. Aggressive. He peered with total focus at that carriage. 

The woman’s face was hidden by the angle of his high view and by her bonnet and the dim light. Her footman closed the door and her fingers reached to pull the curtain. 

A hand. Her hand. Impossible. . . . 

The footman moved toward the back of the carriage, to take his position in the rain. Only then did Christian notice the man. His attention had been so intent on the woman that he had not even seen the footman’s eastern garments and long queue. 

“A coat, Phippen. Boots.” 

His valet rose with painful care, balancing the pile of china on the tray. “Very good, sir. I’ll just set this outside the door and–” 

Christian grabbed the tray and slammed it down on a table so hard that the cup jumped. “Boots, man. Now.”

 Even getting barely dressed took too long. Christian admitted that by the time he descended to the house’s public rooms. 

Common sense caught up with him at the top of the last flight of stairs. That carriage would be long gone, even with the crush around Grosvenor Square. Whether on foot or horse, he would never be able to follow it. 

He pivoted, strode to the drawing room, and entered. His aunt Henrietta and his young cousin Caroline sat together on a settee near one of the tall windows. Blond head to blond head, they gossiped about something. The progress of Caroline’s second season most likely. Anxiety about Caroline’s social life soaked the public rooms with its unceasing rain. It pattered down on him as soon as he opened the chamber’s door. 

Henrietta greeted him with glistening, vague eyes and an artificial, blank smile. She sought to hide her irritation with his intrusion, which he knew as clearly as if she spoke it. Henrietta and her daughter lived here only because he had agreed to allow it in a rare fit of generosity a year ago. Now Hen wanted everyone to accept her as the mistress of the house, not a guest. Since he accepted nothing of the kind, his company was never welcomed. 

“Easterbrook, you are up and about early today.” Henrietta’s gaze noted his boots with relief, but her eyes reflected her eternal vexation at the lack of a cravat and his unruly hair. 

 “Is that inconvenient for you, Aunt Hen?” 

“Far be it for me to presume inconvenience. It is your home.” 

“I thought that perhaps you were still receiving callers. I noticed a carriage from my window, and hesitated to come down until your visitor had left.” 

“You should have joined us,” Caroline said. “You might have enjoyed her company more than Mama did. Our visitor is quite an original. I am surprised Mama did not send her away.” 

“I almost did,” Hen said. “However, one can never know how it will go with such people. She has both questionable fortune and background, but there is the chance that hostesses will overlook that because she is entertaining. Then where would I be if I had cut her when she made overtures?” She shook her head with perplexed exasperation. “It is always difficult to judge the odd ones. Nor is she truly odd. Not like Phaedra. More exotic than truly odd. There is a difference, Caroline, and one must be alert and careful to–” 

“What is her name?” Christian asked. 

His aunt blinked, startled. He never cared to know anything about her callers. 

“Her name is Miss Montgomery,” Caroline said. 

“Mama and I met her at a party last week. Her father was a merchant trader in the Far East but she claims a connection to Portuguese nobility through her mother. Miss Montgomery is visiting London for the first time in her life. She journeyed all the way from Macao.” 

“What did she want?” 

His aunt peered his way curiously. “It was a social call, Easterbrook. She only hoped to form a friendship that would help her make her way in town this season.” “I think that she is very interesting,” Caroline added.

“Too interesting for a young girl to befriend,” Henrietta said. “She is too worldly for your association, Caroline. I suspect that she is an adventuress. Quite likely a charlatan too, in her story about her mother’s blood.” 

“I do not think so,” Caroline said. “I also found her far more stimulating than most of the people who call.” 

Christian left the drawing room while his aunt and cousin bickered about Miss Montgomery. He sent for the butler, to learn the address that the recent visitor’s calling card had borne. 

Leona Montgomery stepped around Tong Wei and angled her head toward the looking glass. She gave her reflection a critical gaze while she tied on her bonnet. Young, but not really young. Pretty, but not really pretty. English, but not really English. 

She sensed people itemizing the qualifications of her countenance and identity when they met her here in London. It had been different in Macao. Everyone there was “not really” something. 

Tong Wei finally rose from his knees. Leona glanced to the statue of Buddha that had occupied his attention. She was a Christian, but she understood her guard’s devotion very well. Asian religious views affected everything in China, even among the European community. 

“I should come with you,” Tong Wei said. His expression remained impassive but she knew that he worried about her safety in this noisy, crowded city of so many strangers. “Your brother would expect me to.” 

“I want to be inconspicuous.” She gazed down at her gray promenade dress. Very English, it had been retrieved from a modiste yesterday. “Since you refuse to dress as a proper English footman, you cannot accompany me.” 

They both knew that even English garments would not make Tong Wei into a proper-looking footman. His shaved brow and long queue, his round face and distinctive eyes, marked him as Chinese even more than the beautifully embroidered shafts of garnet-toned cloth that composed his exotic clothing today. 

“Take Isabella with you,” he said. “It is not common to see women alone. Not ones of a high station.” 

Isabella looked up. Her brush froze, poised over the paper on which she drew elegant images from her adventures. “I do not mind wearing my English clothes,” she said. “Tong Wei may think them barbaric, but I am not so pure.” 

Isabella referred not only to her opinions. Half Chinese and half Portuguese, she was a hybrid of East and West. If Isabella now wore a loose qipao, it was for comfort as much as preference. 

“I will only be at the Royal Exchange for a short while. I am merely going to see how this big trading house is organized, so that I can walk in with confidence another time. If it is similar to the factories in Canton, it will be so busy that no one will notice me.” Leona trusted it would happen that way. Her ensemble had been chosen to be subdued. There were times when she did not want to turn heads for any reason. 

“What if you see Edmund there?” Isabella asked. 

A little shiver of foreboding and excitement intruded on Leona’s composure. The ambivalent reaction happened whenever Edmund was mentioned during this journey. 

“I will not see him there. He was a gentleman, and they do not engage in trade.” She had realized, since coming to London, that Edmund had been a gentleman in the true English meaning of the word. She now comprehended fully what that meant in this world of her father. 

Of course, a man could be a gentleman and still be what Edmund had claimed, a naturalist and adventurer. A gentleman could even still be a thief. 

“Then maybe you will eventually see him again in one of the drawing rooms that you visit,” Isabella said. It would be useful if she did. She suspected that one of her missions in London might be accomplished much more quickly if she and Edmund faced each other again. 

By the by, Edmund, just how big a scoundrel are you? 

She checked her reflection again. Not really English, but English enough for today’s purpose. The not-really-young and not-really-pretty parts should help her be invisible. 

“I doubt that I will be gone more than two hours,” she said. “While I am away, Isabella, please see if you can encourage that cook that I hired to make a dinner that is not so bland.” 

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