Two Little Lies

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Overview

National bestselling author Liz Carlyle presents the second book in her scandalous new romance series — a fiery duel of desire and deception with love as the ultimate prize....

Once, he spurned the woman he loved. The Earl of Wynwood was far too reckless to handle a sophisticated woman like Viviana Alessandri. And the beautiful opera singer was far too famous to make a suitable wife for Wynwood.

Twice, she wagered with her heart. Crushed by ...

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Two Little Lies

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Overview

National bestselling author Liz Carlyle presents the second book in her scandalous new romance series — a fiery duel of desire and deception with love as the ultimate prize....

Once, he spurned the woman he loved. The Earl of Wynwood was far too reckless to handle a sophisticated woman like Viviana Alessandri. And the beautiful opera singer was far too famous to make a suitable wife for Wynwood.

Twice, she wagered with her heart. Crushed by Wynwood's refusal to marry, Viviana offered her hand to another, a wealthy count. But fate has a way of playing with lovers' hearts — and passion has a way of setting them on fire.

Two little lies tore them apart. But now, at a gala affair celebrating Wynwood's recent betrothal, Viviana will get one last chance to win back his love...again...and again.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Carlyle delivers great suspense...sensual scenes."

Publishers Weekly

"Intriguing...engaging...an illicit delight."

— Stephanie Laurens, New York Times bestselling author

Publishers Weekly
In bestseller Carlyle's historical romance, the strong second entry in a trilogy (after One Little Sin), an impetuous youthful affair between Quin, the future Earl of Wynwood, and Viviana Alessandri, an Italian opera singer, ends painfully for them both after he rejects her suggestion of marriage, unaware that she's carrying his child. Nine years later, in 1830, the pair meet again as Quin prepares to marry a suitable young miss, while Viviana, now a widow with three children, returns to England to assist her father in completing an opera. Their hot tempers and passionate natures set them on a collision course that shocks the earl's reserved family and turns both their lives upside down. Old secrets emerge during a Christmastime country retreat that is warmed by subplots involving the children and Quin's sister. Though returning readers should enjoy the fresh insights into the events of One Little Sin, those new to the series will find that this volume works fine on its own. With effective, emotional writing and a complex heroine, Carlyle's story stands out in the crowded field of Regency-era romances. (Jan.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780743496117
  • Publisher: Pocket Star
  • Publication date: 12/27/2005
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Pages: 384
  • Product dimensions: 4.30 (w) x 6.70 (h) x 1.40 (d)

Meet the Author

During her frequent travels through England, Liz Carlyle always packs her pearls, her dancing slippers, and her whalebone corset, confident in the belief that eventually she will receive an invitation to a ball or a rout. Alas, none has been forthcoming. While waiting, however, she has managed to learn where all the damp, dark alleys and low public houses can be found.

Liz hopes she has brought just a little of the nineteenth century alive for the reader in her popular novels, which include the trilogy of One Little Sin, Two Little Lies, and Three Little Secrets, as well as The Devil You Know, A Deal With the Devil, and The Devil to Pay. Please visit her at www.lizcarlyle.com, especially if you're giving a ball.

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Read an Excerpt

Prologue

In which a Proposal of marriage is Received.

Spring, 1821

Signorina Alessandri was ill. Again. With one hand restraining the flowing folds of her fine silk nightclothes, she lurched over the closestool in her Covent Garden flat and prayed, in fluent and fervid Italian, for death to take her.

"Oh, please, miss, do speak English!" begged her maid, who had caught her heavy black hair, and drawn it back, too. "I can't make out a word. But I do think we'd best fetch a doctor."

"Nonsense," said the signorina, clenching the back of the closestool in a white-knuckled fist. "It was the fish Lord Chesley served last night."

The maid pursed her lips. "Aye, and what was it yesterday, miss?" she asked. "Not fish, I'll wager."

With the other hand set at the small of her back, Viviana closed her eyes and somehow straightened up. "Silenzio, Lucy," she said softly. "We talk of it no further. The worst is over now."

"Oh, I doubt that," said the maid.

Viviana ignored her and went instead to the washbasin. "Where is the morning's post, per favore?" she asked, awkwardly slopping the bowl full of water.

With a sigh, Lucy went into the parlor and returned with a salver which held one letter covered in Viviana's father's infamous scrawl, and a folded note which bore no address. "Mr. Hewitt's footman brought it," she said offhandedly.

With hands that shook, Viviana finished her ablutions, then patted a towel across her damp face as her maid looked on in consternation. The girl had been both loyal and kind these many months. "Thank you, Lucy," she said. "Why do you not go have a cup of tea? I shall read my letter now."

Lucy hesitated. "But do you not wish your bathwater brought, miss?" she pressed. " 'Tis already past noon. Mr. Hewitt will be here soon, won't he?"

Quin. Lucy was right, of course. Viviana laid aside the towel and took the note. Quin usually came to her in the early afternoon. Yes, just as he meant to do today. And oh, how she longed for it — yet dreaded it in the same breath.

She tossed the note into the fire. She had not missed the furious looks he'd hurled her way in the theater's reception room after last night's performance. Viviana had sung gloriously, hitting every high note in her last aria with a chilling, crystal-clear resonance, before collapsing into her lover's arms in a magnificent swoon. The theater had been full, the applause thunderous.

But all Quin had seemed to notice was what had come afterward. The compliments and congratulations of her admirers. The champagne toasts. The subtle, sexual invitations tossed her way by the lift of a brow or a tilt of the head — and refused just as subtly in turn. It had not been refusal enough for Quin. One could hardly have ignored his cocky stance and sulky sneer as he paced the worn green carpet, a glass of brandy clutched in his hand. His uncle, Lord Chesley, had even had the effrontery to tease him about it.

Quin had not taken that well. Nor had he been especially pleased to see Viviana leaving on Chesley's arm, as she so often did. And today, God help them, he would undoubtedly wish to quarrel over it. Viviana was not at all sure she was capable of mounting a spirited defense. But it almost didn't matter anymore.

"Miss?" said the maid. "Your bathwater?"

Nausea roiled in her stomach again, and Viviana moved gingerly to a chair. "In ten minutes, Lucy," she answered. "I shall read Papà's letter whilst my stomach settles. If I am late, I shall receive Mr. Hewitt here."

Lucy pursed her lips again. "Aye, then," she finally answered. "But I'd be telling him straightaway, miss, about that bad fish if I was you."

Finally, Viviana laughed.

The fleeting humor did not sustain her as she opened her father's letter. Even the scent of his letter paper tugged at her heartstrings. She knew the very drawer of his desk from which it had been taken; the same desk in which he kept his tobacco. Then there was the penmanship itself. The broad, slashing strokes always recalled to her his indefatigable strength, the tight loops and curls, his wisdom and precision, and the lyrical words, his artistry. He was one of Europe's most renowned composers, and not without reason.

She drew in the scent once more, then spread the letter across her lap. She read it through once, disbelievingly, then again, very carefully. Chesley, it seemed, had kept his old friend well-informed. Already Papà knew that tonight was to be her last performance in Die Entführung, and that all of London's West End lay appreciatively at her feet. As Konstanze, at long last, she had triumphed.

And now Papà was writing to tell her she might return home. Viviana closed her eyes and thought of it. Dear God, what a strange confluence of fate and timing this was! It seemed an eternity since she had fled Venice with nothing but her panic, her violin, and her music folio to bear her company. And now, to return! Oh, it was what she had lived for and longed for almost every moment since, save for those spent in Quin's arms. He had been, in truth, her salvation.

But now she could go home. It was a bit of a devil's bargain, what was being offered her. Certainly it was not what she wanted. Nonetheless, as Papà pointed out, there were advantages to such an arrangement. Great advantages. It would also make his life a vast deal easier, though her father would sooner die than tell her so.

And so the decision was to be hers. Nothing would be forced upon her. Ha! Those were not her father's words, she'd wager. Apparently, Conte Bergonzi had changed his tactics. Moreover, Viviana could tell by his careful phrasing that Papà fully expected her to refuse Bergonzi's offer, and would forgive her if she did so. Viviana set her hand on her belly. She was not at all sure she would have the luxury of refusing.

The water was wonderfully hot when it came, and remarkably restorative. Feeling perhaps a little more at peace, Viviana was still luxuriating in it when Quin came stalking into the room. He looked at once angry and yet almost boyishly uncertain.

He stared down at her naked body and gave her a tight, feral smile. "Washing away the evidence, Vivie?"

It was a cynical remark, even for him.

For a moment, she let her black eyes burn into him. "Silenzio, Quinten," she returned. "I had quite enough of your jealous sulking last night. Be civil, or go away."

He knelt by the tub, and rested one arm along its edge. His eyes were bleak today, the lines about his mouth almost shockingly deep for one so young. He smelled of brandy and smoke and the scents of a long, hard-spent night. "Is that what you want, Viviana?" he whispered. "Are you trying to drive me away?"

She dropped her soap into the water. "How, Quin?" she demanded, throwing up her hands in frustration. "Mio dio, how am I doing this driving? I am not, and that is the truth of it, si?"

He cast his eyes away, as if he did not believe her. "They say Lord Lauton has promised you a house in Mayfair, and more money than I could ever dream of," he answered. "Not until I come into my title, at any rate. Is it true, Vivie?"

She shook her head. "Quin, what would it matter if it were?" she returned. "I am no longer for sale — perhaps not even to you. Why must you be so jealous?"

"How can I help but be, Viviana?" he rasped, brushing one finger beneath her left nipple. It peaked and hardened, begging for his touch. "Men's eyes feast upon you everywhere you go. But at least you still desire me."

Viviana glowered at him, but she did not push his hand away. "My body desires you, si," she admitted. "But sometimes, amore mio, my mind does not."

He plucked the nipple teasingly between his thumb and forefinger. "And what of your heart, Viviana?" he whispered, looking up at her from beneath a sweep of inky lashes. "I have your body ensconced, ever so circumspectly, in this flat which I have paid for. Have I your heart as well?"

"I have no heart!" she snapped. "That is what you told me when we quarreled last week, if you will recall. And you need not remind me, Quin, of who has put this roof over my head. I have become mindful of it with every breath I draw."

As if to torment her, he let his lashes fall shut, then leaned forward to crook his head so that he might suckle her. Viviana sat perfectly still, allowing him to draw her nipple into his mouth, and then between his teeth. At that, she gasped, and cursed the old, familiar pull of lust which went twisting traitorously through her body. It curled deep in her belly and left her breathless.

He lifted his head with a satisfied smile. "Where did you go last night, my love?" he asked.

She looked at him defiantly. "To Chesley's town house," she said. "We dined with Lord and Lady Rothers, and some acquaintances they had brought from Paris."

"Ah, patrons of the arts, all of them, I've no doubt," said Quin almost mockingly. "My uncle's little coterie!"

"Why must you so often think ill of him? He is kind to me, no more."

"My uncle is a fine man," Quin returned. "It is his friends I do not trust. By the way, my sweet, what is this here, just below your jaw? A bruise? Or something else?"

Her glower darkened as he brushed the side of her neck with the back of one finger. "It is absolutely nothing," she snapped, having no need to look. He was trying to elicit some sort of guilty reaction. "It is nothing, as it has always been nothing, Quin," she went on. "Chesley is my father's friend. My mentor here in London. He thinks of me as his ward, for God's sake! How many times must we suffer this foolish argument?"

He broke his gaze, and looked away. "I cannot help it, Viviana." He choked out the words. "You — you drive me insane. Chesley runs with a fast crowd. I cannot bear how those other men look at you."

"And how, pray, am I to stop it?" she asked him. "What would you have me do, Quin? Give up my career? Enter a convent? I am a singer, for God's sake, and for that, one needs an audience." She seized her towel from the floor with a snap and pushed him away.

"I — I could pay you," he said. "A little now, and a great deal more — eventually. Then you would not have to sing at all."

She looked at him incredulously. "Sometimes, Quin, I do not think you understand me," she whispered. "I must sing. It has nothing to do with money."

He watched her almost warily as she stood to towel the water from her body. Viviana made no effort to hide her nakedness from his heated gaze as it drifted over her. She was, after all, his. He had bought and paid for her. She had let him do it, too — though she had fought it at first like a tigress.

"Lie down on the bed, Viviana," he said when she was dry. "Open your legs. I want you."

For a moment, she considered refusing. But God help her, she still desired him. Even though it had come to this. She had wounds and scars to last a lifetime, as, no doubt, did he. Petty jealousies and bitterness had eaten into their hearts. He was too young. Too inexperienced. And she — well, she was simply too lonely. They were just using one another now. Surely he understood that?

Certainly, she did. Yet she craved the pleasure and the peace his virile young body could give her. She craved him. And she remembered a time, not so long ago, when it had been enough to sustain her; a time when they had worshipped one another, and experienced together all the sweet delights of a first love.

"Lie down on the bed," he said again, more firmly. "You are my mistress, Viviana. I have the right."

And that, too, was perfectly true. Viviana tossed aside the towel, drew back the sheets, and did as he asked.

As the early-afternoon light spilt over his shoulder, Quin stripped off his clothes with the practiced ease of a man who was used to having his needs and whims accommodated. He was already hard and fully erect. As usual.

When his snug, buff trousers had been shucked and tossed aside, he crawled across the bed in an almost predatory fashion and mounted her without preamble. Viviana gasped at the invasion, her whole body arching upward.

"You are mine, Viviana," he whispered, thrusting the full length of his erection inside her. "Do not ever forget that."

She was not his, but she did not argue. Instead, she set her feet flat against the bed, and tilted up her hips to better take the deepening strokes.

In response, he clasped her hands in his, palm to palm, and pushed them high over her head and onto the bed pillows, holding them there as he rode her. They had become like cats in heat, she and Quin, hissing and squabbling even as they burnt for one another. She could already feel the quickening in his body — and in hers, too, despite the hurt he had done her. What manner of woman was she, to crave and cling to this?

It was as if Quin read her very thoughts. "You are mine, Viviana," he growled, bending over her and staring into her eyes, still pressing her hands high above her head. "You are mine, damn it, and no one else's. Say it."

Viviana turned her head away. It was not worth the fight. "I am yours," she whispered.

"Look at me, Viviana," he insisted, quickening his thrusts. "Look at me when I do this to you. Sometimes, I swear, I think you mean to break my heart. Say it again. You are mine, and no one else's!"

She returned her gaze to his, defiant. "I am mine, Quin," she said, her voice low and tremulous. "I am my own person. But I have chosen to be with you. There is a difference."

But Quin seemed not to hear her words. He had closed his own eyes now, and the flesh was taut across the hard bones of his face as he rode her more furiously. She felt her pelvis arch to his against her will, urgent and greedy. Oh, God, he had such a gift for this! She wanted to lose herself in this pure, physical act. Wanted to feel nothing but the joining of their bodies.

He sensed it, and the urgency drove him. In this one way, at least, he understood her. "Si, caro mio," she crooned. "Ah, yes. Like that."

Sweat had beaded on his temples. His face was etched with strain, stark and beautiful. "God, Vivie!" he groaned. "Oh, God, I worship you!"

She jerked her hands from beneath his, and clutched at him, gasping for breath. He thrust again and again, harder still, then one last sweet, perfect stroke. Viviana cried out, her whole body trembling. The pleasure washed over her, engulfed her, drowning out common sense.

He fell across her body, his chest heaving, the weight of him bearing her down into the softness of the bed. She stroked one hand down his taut, well-muscled back and felt tears spring to her eyes. "Oh, amore mio," she murmured. "Oh, ti amo, Quin. Ti amo."

And in that moment, she did love him. She loved him with all her heart, though she had never once allowed herself to say the words — not in any language he could comprehend. Soothed and spent, she simply listened to the sound of his breathing for a time. It was the simplest of pleasures, she had discovered, to lie in the arms of a beautiful man — no, this man — sated and happy, and simply listen.

But the peace, of course, did not last. Soon they were quarreling again about the events of last night. Quin had apparently taken note of every man who had so much as kissed her hand or fetched her a glass of champagne. It was foolish, almost sophomoric behavior which had worsened with her ascending fame, and Viviana gave no quarter. She had reached her wit's end, and she told him so.

Quin reacted badly. "God, how I hate the way we must live!" he finally shouted. "I have the right to protect you. I have the right, Viviana, to show the world that you are mine."

"Quin, amore mio, we have been through this a thousand times," she whispered. "Such news would kill my father. He did not sacrifice everything to send me to England so that I might become a rich man's mistress."

Indeed, her father had sent her for precisely the opposite reason. But there was no point in saying as much to Quin. It would only serve to make him angrier.

"Signor Alessandri does not worry about this fast theater crowd his daughter runs with?" he retorted. "He does not care whose eyes are undressing you? And Lord Rothers! Good God, Vivie! His patronage comes at a price. He has bedded half the actresses in the West End."

"Well, he hasn't bedded me," she returned. "Nor will he. Nor does he wish to. My God, Quin, he was with his wife. What do you think happened? A ménage à trois on Chesley's dining room table?"

His mouth thinned, and he moved as if to turn his back on her. "Yes, go ahead. Make a jest of it, Viviana. Make a jest of me."

She laid a hand against his chest. "Oh, caro mio, you are so young!"

He turned back to her at once. "Damn it, Vivie, I hate when you say that!" he swore. "Stop acting as if I'm some ignorant pup. I'm almost one-and-twenty now."

"Yes, and we agreed, Quin, at the start of this — "

"I know, dash it!" he interjected, laying his hand over hers and squeezing it almost violently. "I know. I shall keep my word, Viviana. But I bloody well don't like it."

A heavy silence fell across Viviana's bedchamber for a time, broken only by the distant clamor of Covent Garden beyond their windows. Eventually, however, she rolled onto her stomach and propped up on her elbows to study him, as she had done so often at the start of their tumultuous relationship.

Dear heaven, but he was beautiful, this half man, half boy she had come to love with such a breathless intensity. And she realized, quite suddenly, that despite it all, she could not bear to lose him. Even after all the harsh words — plenty of them, on both sides — she could not imagine a life without Quin. But was there any hope? She prayed there was, and not just for herself.

"Quin, caro mio," she said impulsively. "Tell me something. Where is life going to take you?"

He lifted his head from the pillow, and looked up at her strangely. "What do you mean, Vivie?"

Viviana shrugged lamely. "I am not perfectly sure," she said. "Have you ever considered...oh, going away, perhaps? Abroad, I mean?"

"Abroad?" he said bemusedly. "Good God! To where?"

"To the Continent?" Viviana lifted her brows. "To Venice or Rome, perhaps?"

He laughed. "Why on earth would anyone leave England?"

Viviana felt a prick of anger. "Perhaps because it is a stifling, moralizing place?"

"Vivie, it is my home," he said, stroking a hand down her hair. "Let's have no more talk of anyone going anywhere, all right?"

"But what of your future, Quin?" she persisted. "What do you mean to do with your life?"

"Live it, I daresay," he returned. "What else is one to do?"

"But have you ever thought that we might — " She stopped and swallowed hard. "Have you ever thought, Quin, of...of marriage?"

His eyes widened. "Good God," he said. "To you?"

She tore her gaze away. "To...to someone that you worship," she managed to answer. "To — yes, to me."

His expression gentled. "Oh, Vivie," he whispered. "Oh, if only life were so simple."

She pressed on, fully conscious of the hurt her pride would endure. "Perhaps it is that simple, Quin," she answered. "You say you cannot live without me. That you wish to claim me as yours. I ask you, how badly do you wish for this?"

He cut her a sidelong glance. "Is that what all this hesitance is about?" he asked. "Are you holding out for marriage? Oh, Viviana! You knew I couldn't marry you when we started this. Didn't you?"

Viviana shook her head. "I am not holding out, Quin," she answered. "It is not like that."

But Quin was still looking at her incredulously. "For God's sake, Viviana, I'm heir to an earldom," he continued. "Have you no idea what an obligation that is? When I must finally wed — which will be at least a decade hence, I pray — Mamma will marry me off to some pale, flaxen-haired English miss with a slew of titles hanging off her papa's name and fifty thousand pounds in the three-percents, and I shall have little say in the matter."

Viviana's eyes narrowed. "Oh! So I am too old and too foreign and too bourgeois for the grand Hewitt dynasty? Is that it?"

"Now, Vivie," he chided, sitting up fully. "I never said that."

"I think you hardly need to!" Viviana curled one fist into the bedsheet, grappling with the nausea again. Why in God's name had she raised such a topic? He was right. She had known all along this would not last. But she had asked, and there was no backing away from it now.

"In a few weeks, Quin, you will be one-and-twenty," she said, her insides trembling with rage. "Then, whom you choose to marry will be up to you. Do not dare pretend otherwise. You insult my intelligence."

"Aww, Vivie!" He screwed up his face like the impatient young man he was. "We have our whole lives before us! I am not marrying anyone anytime soon. Why spoil what we have now?"

She gave him a mordant smile. "Si, it is a tedious business, this future, is it not?"

Quin did not catch the sarcasm. "That's my girl," he said, kissing her again. "Look, Vivie, I brought you something. Something which will cheer you up." He climbed from the bed and rummaged through his coat pockets, returning with a small box. "Open it," he commanded.

Viviana lifted the lid and gasped. The box held a ring; a wide, ornately carved band set with one large, square-cut ruby. It was a truly magnificent piece of jewelry. Viviana started to hand it back. Why did he insist on showering her with gifts? What she wanted was something his money could not buy — and this ring had undoubtedly cost Quin far more dearly than even he could afford.

Quin pushed the box back at her. "Put it on, Vivie," he insisted. "Put it on, but just promise me one thing."

Reluctantly, Viviana slid the ring onto her right hand. "I...yes, I shall try."

"Promise me you will keep this one," he said. "Promise me you will never sell it, and that you will wear it once in a while, and think of me."

Viviana was still staring at the ring, and blinking back tears of grief and rage and love and about a hundred other conflicting emotions. "I never stop thinking of you, Quin," she whispered.

"As I never stop thinking of you, Vivie." But there was mild skepticism in his eyes. "Now, what time are you due at the theater?"

"Six," she said hollowly.

"Yes, and I must go soon," he went on. "We are wasting precious time when we could be enjoying one another. I could be telling you, Viviana, that you are the most beautiful creature on this earth. That your eyes make my breath seize, and that your breasts nearly make my heart stop. Lie down, my dear, and let me make love to you again."

So it was lovemaking now. Not his earlier, more vulgar phrase.

She should have refused him. She should have told him to leave her bed that very moment. But the memory of a sweeter, happier time had drawn painfully near, and the future stretched out bleakly before her. So Viviana turned onto her back and let him join his strong, vigorous body to hers one last time.

Quin rose from her bed some hours later, his mood improved, but his gaze still wary. She watched him dress, drinking in his lithe, slender beauty, and wondering, not for the first time, what he would look like in the full splendor of manhood. Already, his shoulders were wide, and his face shadowed with a stubble which matched his heavy, dark hair.

He dragged his shirt on over his head, and she marveled again at the perfection which was his face. That patrician forehead, the thin blade of a nose, lean, high-boned cheeks, and the most stunning feature of all, eyes the color of the Aegean at dusk. Oh, it was no wonder he had caught her eye. But how had she been such a fool as to let him steal her heart?

She tried to watch dispassionately as he drew on his stockings and hitched up his trousers. It was not anger she felt toward him, no. It was more of a resigned acceptance. Nor did she blame him. It was her own passionate, romantic nature which had got her into this. Ah, but one could not sing without passion. And one could not truly live without romance. Viviana accepted the fact that, on this earth, one took the bad with the good, and lived a full life in return.

He pulled on his coat, then leaned across the bed, setting both hands on the mattress. He held her gaze for a time, his eyes so intense, she felt, fleetingly, as though he could look into her soul. "Tell me something, my dear," he said quietly. "Do you love me?"

It surprised her a little, for it was a question he had never asked. And she knew what was in her heart, just as surely as she knew what her answer must be. She had at least a little pride left. "No, Quin," she answered. "I do not love you. And you do not love me."

He looked at her with the eyes of an old man. "No. I suppose I do not."

She shrugged. "It is best, is it not?"

He straightened abruptly. "Well, Viviana," he said. "At least you are honest."

But she was not honest. She had just told him a blatant lie. And as she watched him stride toward the door, she wondered, fleetingly, if perhaps he just done the same.

No. No, it was not possible.

The door slammed behind him. Viviana exhaled the breath which she had been holding, then closed her eyes, willing herself not to cry. She listened to the heavy tread of his footsteps as he left her. One warm tear rolled awkwardly down her nose, then landed on her pillow with a soft plop!

Abruptly, she sat up in bed. No, by God, she would not cry. Not for him. Not for anyone. Not even for herself. One tear was too many — and if another followed, there might well be no end to it.

Lucy came back into the room just as Viviana was drawing on her dressing gown. "Shall I tidy up now, miss?" she asked.

"Grazie." Viviana went to the small writing desk beneath the window. "Tonight is my last performance as Konstanze, Lucy," she said, unlocking the little drawer which held her meager savings.

"I know, miss," said the maid as she began to neaten the bed. "It's been a grand run, hasn't it? What will you do next, I wonder? Pr'haps you ought to go down to Brighton for a rest. Perhaps Mr. Hewitt would take you? 'Tis beautiful there, I've heard."

Viviana was already relocking the drawer. "Actually, Lucy, I'm to go home tomorrow," she said, handing a pitifully small roll of banknotes to the maid. "Here. I wish you to have this. Lord Chesley need know nothing of it."

The girl looked at her incredulously and pushed Viviana's hand away. "Why, I can't take your money, miss!" she said. "Besides, it ain't like you've got it to spare — which heaven knows it's not my place to say, but there. I've said it."

"Lucy!" she chided.

"What?" said the girl. "Do you think I don't know, miss, that you've been sending every spare penny home — and selling your jewelry and eating day-old bread, too? Besides that, Lord Chesley pays me well enough to look after you, which I've been glad to do."

With a wistful smile, Viviana put the money in the maid's hand and forcibly curled her fingers around it. "Take it," she insisted. "Where I am to go, neither Papà nor I shall need it. And I wish you to go back to Lord Chesley's estate and marry that handsome footman of yours. This money is my wedding gift. You must buy a cradle, a very beautiful cradle, for your firstborn, and think of me when you use it, si?"

Lucy uncurled her hand and stared at the banknotes. "But how can you just up and leave England, miss?" she asked. "What's to become of you, so far away, and in such a foreign place?"

Inwardly, Viviana's smile deepened. The poor girl was so naively provincial — just like Quin. "It is my home," she said quietly. "It is time I returned to it. Now, you must wish me happy, Lucy. I have just learnt that I, too, am about to be married."

The girl's face broke into an impossibly wide smile. "Oh, lawks, miss!" she cried, throwing up both hands. "I just knew it! I just knew Mr. Hewitt would do the right thing, soon you told him! I just knew it would all come aright somehow."

Viviana felt a hot, urgent pressure well behind her eyes, and turned at once back to her desk. "I think, Lucy, that you misunderstand," she said, pretending to neaten her pens and papers. "I am returning home to marry someone who used to...well, someone I used to know."

"Oh, no, miss!" She felt Lucy touch her lightly on the arm. "But...but what about Mr. Hewitt?"

Viviana regained her composure, and turned around again. Opera required one to be not just a good singer, but a competent actress as well. "Oh, I think we have come to an understanding, he and I," she said, forcing a smile.

"Well, I can't see what it could be!" said the girl.

"Hush, Lucy." Viviana set her hands on the maid's shoulders, and swiftly kissed both her cheeks. "I am leaving England, my faithful friend. Do not grieve for me. All good things must come to an end, si?"

Copyright © 2006 by S. T. Woodhouse

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing 1 – 19 of 17 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 21, 2014

    Very good

    Could not put it down.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 2, 2013

    This was a real tearjerker for me. The last few chapters are ver

    This was a real tearjerker for me. The last few chapters are very moving. Definitely recommend.

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  • Posted October 11, 2010

    good reading book

    it took me 4 hour to read this book i can't put it down

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  • Posted April 12, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Keep reading to get to know the characters!

    Really nice follow-up to the first in the series, One Little Sin. Quin was a little hard to like at first, but you understand him more, little by little, and by the end of the book I was fully on board. Vivianna was a compelling character with an intense back story that I loved discovering. Well-crafted story, can't wait to finish the series with Three Little Secrets.

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  • Posted November 29, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    Opera Singer Spurns English Gentleman

    Two Little Lies is Quin and Viviana's story. It is a beautiful story that involves intrigue, misunderstandings, and a very explosive passion. Nine years ago, Viviana ended their relationship by fleeing the country. Quin was devastated, but he didn't know that Viviana hid a life-changing secret when she left. <BR/><BR/>Now Viviana is back in England and Quin is engaged to be married. When Quin's engagement is broken, will Quin and Viviana be able to get past all of the hurt and misunderstandings that stand between them? <BR/><BR/>I spent a lot of time wondering if Quin and Viviana would reconcile their past. It was well worth the wait to see how the story ended. All of the emotions in the story felt real. It was a great read and I would recommend it to anyone looking for a nice, heartwarming story!

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  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    fun ¿Little¿ historical romance

    Because his pal Sir Alasdair MacLachan cuckolded a blacksmith (see ONE LITTLE SIN), Quin Hewitt finds himself fleeing along with his friend and his buddy¿s brother Merrick. They duck into a fortune teller¿s tent. The Gypsy informs the three hell raisers that their wicked past is catching up to them. Only Quin seems shaken by the prognostication as he thinks of his former mistress Viviana Alessandri, whom he once desired but rejected as being beneath his station as he is the heir to an earldom. --- His carefree days end when his father suddenly dies leaving Quin responsible for the family estate and a weeping mother, who is driving him crazy. He decides he needs a spouse, a sensible logical woman who can take care of his mother and the servants. Suddenly his mother has stopped the crying binge becoming euphoric with the prospect of grandchildren so she throws a bash. Opera star Contessa Viviana Bergonzi di Vicenza, his former lover, attends. He still desires her and she has never stopped loving him nor has she forgiving him. However she remains beneath what he requires of a wife while she has children to care for love does not seem to matter. --- The second ¿Little¿ historical romance is an amusing tale that stars two wonderful lead characters who love each other, but he rejects her twice as being unsuitable for marriage. Quin is a rogue struggling with becoming Mr. Dependable while the reappearance of his Vivie makes that role even that much more difficult as he still desires her even as he wonders who sired the oldest of her children. Fans will enjoy this fine 1830 tale while waiting for Merrick to get his comeuppance as the third ¿little: hedonist. --- Harriet Klausner

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