Unlacing Lilly [NOOK Book]

Overview

The bastard son of a duke, Devlin Farrell is about to exact revenge for his mother's murder. He will even go as far as kidnapping his enemy's bride from the altar!

Lilly O'Rourke is merely an innocent pawn in Devlin's plan. Other than ruining her reputation, he means her no harm--though it's hard to play the perfect gentleman when he's struggling to resist her tempting beauty.

But Devlin has lived so long for ...

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Unlacing Lilly

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Overview

The bastard son of a duke, Devlin Farrell is about to exact revenge for his mother's murder. He will even go as far as kidnapping his enemy's bride from the altar!

Lilly O'Rourke is merely an innocent pawn in Devlin's plan. Other than ruining her reputation, he means her no harm--though it's hard to play the perfect gentleman when he's struggling to resist her tempting beauty.

But Devlin has lived so long for revenge, can he now forfeit this desire--and in rescuing Lilly, save himself?

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781426821936
  • Publisher: Harlequin Enterprises
  • Publication date: 2/1/2008
  • Series: Harlequin Historical Series , #912
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 650,098
  • File size: 253 KB

Meet the Author

A short conversation with Gail Ranstrom will convince readers that she should have written a book titled "Jobs I Have Had." Before taking up the pen, her work experience ran the gamut from a seamstress making waitress uniforms for a German beer garden, to inventory clerk at the University of Montana where she was attacked by a chimpanzee, stepped on dead lab rats in dark basements and located missing satellite spy cameras in—oh, wait, that's classified—to advertising coordinator and PR writer.

Most recently Gail was a commercial property manager in the Los Angeles area, troubleshooting incidents as wide ranging as having a SWAT team surrounding one of her buildings, a naked men in the ladies' restroom and rattlesnakes coiled in front of tenants' doors. In between, she partnered with a good friend in an antique business. Don't even get her started on her experiences at antique auctions!

She enjoys traveling frequently to see her children in Montana and Florida and to visit friends and a brother in London. As an unabashed Anglophile, she says she could easily spend months in the Cotswolds, an entire summer in Scotland or a year in London. Sometimes that "other Eden" feels more like home to her than her real home.

Gail writes historical romance fiction because she loses herself in the past more completely than she can in the present or future. Combine that with her lifelong love of words and reading, the desire to entertain and the fact that she's too shy to do stand-up comedy, and what was left?

To aid her in writing romance fiction, she credits fabulous friendships with remarkable women, from family and bridge clubs to workmates andwriters' groups. They are the models for her heroines: strong, intelligent and beautiful, while still managing to be caring and vulnerable and very human. Gail says that it is their strength of character and grace under fire that have been her inspiration. And every hero must be a man worthy of them.

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Read an Excerpt

London, July 27, 1821
This was not the first time Devlin Farrell had intruded on the grounds of Rutherford House to watch the people within. Far from it. He knew the residents almost as well as he knew himself. Knew what they liked and didn't like, who they saw, where they went and what they wanted. And he knew, too, when events would be held at Rutherford House that would allow him to watch them and, occasionally, mingle. Like tonight. There was not much, in fact, that he did not know about Lord Rutherford and his brood.
Shrouded by the branches of a sheltering willow, he went unnoticed by strolling couples and the occasional straggler. He had little fear of being discovered. There were far too many guests to keep track of tonight. With the right enticement, he might even enter the ballroom and blend. No one would recognize him, and if they did, they certainly would not give him away lest they give themselves away. Devlin was not a man people would admit to knowing.
Gay paper lanterns lit the paths and the sound of an orchestra floated from the ballroom on a summer breeze as soft as a caress to his cheek. Laughter filled the air, along with the clink of glasses, and he knew the wine would be as free-flowing as the Thames.
Devlin shrugged out of his jacket and slung it over a branch to roll his shirtsleeves up. The night was uncommonly sultry and he was not in the least concerned about how a gentleman appeared in public. He was not a gentleman.
"Oh, Lord Olney! You are beyond diverting."
Edward Manlay? Marquis of Olney and the Duke of Rutherford's heir? Devlin turned toward the voice. Coming down the path toward the bench beneath the willow werethe Rutherford heir—lean and lanky Olney—and a fairylike creature whose honeyed hair was silvered by the clear moonlight. She wore a deep blue gown, turned almost black by the depth of the night, and trimmed with embroidered white birds in flight. How very appropriate for one so ethereal.
He moved behind the tree trunk and leaned against it, watching between the branches, curious to see what Olney would do next. Given that this was the cub's favorite bench for seductions, would he maul his companion as he'd done to other hapless females on countless occasions? Or yawn and make an excuse to return to the ballroom?
"Then say you'll be mine and I shall spend the rest of my days diverting you."
"Are you proposing marriage, sir, or something else?"
Olney preened, likely knowing full well a marquis, no matter his character, would be considered a good catch. "Marriage, Miss Lillian. I've never wanted anyone as desperately as I want you, m'dear. You've quite stolen my heart."
The dazzling Miss Lillian sat on the bench and the duke's heir perched beside her. "I hardly think your father would find me suitable, since I am neither titled nor the possessor of a magnificent dowry."
Olney's brow furrowed. Devlin did not know that look. Was he stringing the chit along, or was he truly vexed?
"He is anxious to see me married. I can bring him around to my way of thinking. Trust me."
The girl opened her fan and began moving it indolently, not an artifice or affectation in the sultry night, but a genuine attempt to cool herself. Devlin could easily see the girl's appeal—beauty, natural grace, self-possession and a proud bearing. Yes, she was everything Devlin could never have and that Olney would expect as his due.
"Even so," the girl said, "I think he would not like it."
Olney seized her hand and jerked her around to face him. "I must have you. I cannot countenance the way other men are watching you, courting you, sniffing around you like curs after a…"
Devlin nearly snorted his amusement. He knew the rest of that sentence and doubted the estimable Miss Lillian would appreciate being likened to a bitch in heat. But then he heard the girl's giggle and realized she knew full well what Olney had been about to say. Amused rather than insulted? Was Miss Lillian a bit saucy?
Olney straightened his lapels and continued. "The long and short of it, Miss Lillian, is that I am not willing to wait. If father does not give his blessing, we shall make a dash for Gretna Green. He will accept it after 'tis done."
Good God! The dolt meant it! He was willing to wed the girl just to bed her. Well, why not? That was as good a reason to marry as any, as far as Devlin knew. The Rutherford heir did not need a dowry, nor did he require a titled bride. If she came with connections, that would be enough. But the girl's next words dashed that conclusion.
"I can only offer you a mediocre dowry, and we have lived so long in Ireland that we have no connections but there. Indeed, we only know a handful of people in town. I have nothing to offer you."
Olney stood, gazing down his long nose at a girl he would certainly consider his social inferior. Even at this distance, his desire was clear. "Father's health is flagging. Marry me, and you will be a duchess one day soon. At the least, you will be a marchioness the moment you marry me. Grace my home, my table and my bed, and I will not ask anything more of you. But I must have you."
The old man was ailing? Then time was growing short. Drat. Devlin would have to make a move soon if he was to succeed.
Miss Lillian's pause disappointed Devlin. The prospect of being a duchess was undoubtedly more than any woman in her position could resist, but he'd hoped she would prove different. Yes, he would very much like to see Edward Manlay thwarted.
"I am mindful of the honor you have done me, Lord Olney, but good sense urges me to decline."
"I will have you, father's consent or not."
The arrogant bastard took her hand and lifted her to her feet so that he could crush her against his chest. Devlin held his breath. He would like to rescue her, but he never interfered, never gave his presence away. The coy chit would have to defend herself.
She pushed against Olney's chest with determination but she was no match for him. He subdued her quickly. Too quickly? She ceased her struggles and allowed Olney to kiss her, though he'd have wagered a good sum that she did not give him access to the full sweetness of her mouth. Clever girl. Keep him wanting more. He was liking this Miss Lillian more and more by the moment.
Satisfied with her tentative surrender, Olney loosened his hold and she stepped back. Had she known he would release her if she granted the kiss? Canny, coy and saucy—a lethal combination for a man like Olney.
"I will speak with Father at once," he said, stepping backward onto the stone path. "Wait for me here, and we shall celebrate."
Devlin could guess how Olney would choose to celebrate. He wanted his Miss Lillian badly enough to defy his father and common sense to have her? This, then, would be the woman to bear the Rutherford heir? Ah, he'd waited patiently for years for something like this—and just in time, given that the old man was ailing. What a stroke of good luck this was— and one not to be squandered.
Lilly heaved a long sigh as she sank to the little stone bench again, watching Lord Olney disappear through the French windows to go find his father. He'd been most persuasive. She hadn't meant to encourage him, nor had she intended to aim as high as a marquis or a duke, but when faced with the possibility, she'd been hard-pressed to deny him. Her every instinct told her to proceed with caution, but her intellect told her that such a marriage to the Rutherford heir could be salvation for the O'Rourkes. And he certainly treated her well enough.
Life since coming to London had been such a trial. Her poor sisters! Cora dead by betrayal, Eugenia withdrawn to the point of seclusion and Isabella wed suddenly by license to the infamous "Lord Libertine" even before their mourning period was over. As Lady Vandecamp, their sponsor in London, had said, what was to become of them if something drastic was not done? That "something" had fallen to Lilly.
Her union with a marquis and future duke could be just the solution they needed to salvage what was left of the family's reputation and future. If her marriage to a duke did not stop the ton's doubts, it would certainly stop their gossip.
Although she was not wildly in love with Olney, her mother had told her that love comes with time. She supposed she could wait. But, so far, all that Lilly had been able to see was that love was just another word for treachery. It had gotten Cora killed and Bella married to an unsuitable man.
"So pensive, miss?"
She gasped and whirled around to find a man in shirtsleeves standing beneath the willow. A groundskeeper or stable master. He'd frightened her half to death! But he was still a stranger, and if she'd learned nothing else in London, she'd learned to be wary of strangers. Especially one as wholly masculine and attractive as this one. She turned away without speaking.
A deep chuckle caused a little chill of foreboding to skitter up her spine. "Miss Lillian, is it not?"
"Miss O'Rourke," she corrected without turning.
"O'Rourke, eh? So I was right to think you have a lilt in your voice. Subtle, though, as if your tutors might have schooled you not to show your roots."
Was he suggesting that she was trying to hide her Irish blood? "I am not ashamed of my heritage, sir. No one has coached me. My mother is English and my father… But this is none of your business. I have no need to explain myself to a stranger."
The man came around the bench and gave her an impudent smile. She felt as if she'd been kicked in the stomach, all breathless and nervous. And besides, he'd been eavesdropping. How…how déclassé.
"Top of the island, I'd say. Northern and Scottish influence. Belfast?"
She gaped at him. How could he know such things? She was from Belfast, but she'd never admit it to him.
"Yes, Belfast. Well, Miss O'Rourke, you seem to be coming up in the world, eh? By design? Or serendipity?"
She tilted her nose upward, feigning sublime indifference.
"You can speak to me, Miss O'Rourke. I promise I do not bite."
She glanced at him again and noted that he had a well-cut expensive jacket slung over one arm and an intricately tied cravat at his throat. Not a gardener, then. But more unsettling than she'd thought at first. He was tall, had very dark hair, a strong jaw lined with equally dark stubble and the most astonishing blue-gray eyes she'd ever seen. And more subtle, there was a challenge veiled in those eyes. Something almost angry. Something dangerous.
"We have not been introduced," she reminded.
He looked around and shrugged. "I do not see anyone to perform that task."
And yet, she noted, he did not give his name or his business here. She glanced away again, hoping he would recognize a cut when it was given. Another time, under different circumstances, she might have ignored propriety and… No. She wouldn't have. He did not look suitable at all. He looked…like the sort of man who had ruined her sisters.
"So," he said, apparently undaunted by her snub. "You are to become a duchess. What good fortune for you."
"It is all I have dreamed of since I was a child, sir." She sniffed. "And the good fortune is all his."
He laughed outright this time. "'Tis always wise not to sell oneself short, but an inflated opinion of one's own worth might be just as bad."
Oh! Was he suggesting that she was not worthy of Edward Manlay, the Marquis of Olney? "Are you a friend of his, then, come to save him from my social-climbing grasp?"
"No friend of his, Miss O'Rourke, and thus I suppose I ought just to leave him to you."
Heat swept up from her toes. Could she even count the number of veiled—and not so veiled—insults he'd delivered in the course of scant minutes?
"Denial, eh?" He posed a thoughtful look. "Is that what makes the heart grow fonder? Have you considered if he would propose if you had given him what he wanted?"
"I am not certain I will give him what he wants even after we are wed." She lifted her nose in the air and turned away, dismissing him once and for all.
The insufferable man roared with laughter this time. "Dear Lord! You are so pitifully naive, Miss O'Rourke. Do you know what kind of man Olney really is? Not the eager oaf who just pawed you, but the man he is when there is nothing to stop him? And, alas, when you wed him, there will be, quite literally, nothing to stop him."
"How dare you presume to know his mind, or his nature!"
"As you say, Miss O'Rourke." He bowed, an elegant and graceful move for one so large. "We shall meet again, and I shall look forward to hearing your experience in dealing with Olney. No doubt you will be sadder, but wiser."
"Is that a threat, sir?"
"Take it as you will, miss, but take it you will." And with those words, he departed, merging with the shadows and leaving her quite unsettled.
A glimpse of Olney returning along the garden path ended Devlin's interview of Miss Lillian O'Rourke rather abruptly. Alas, it would never do to run into the cub. As doubtful as it was that Olney would remember Devlin after twenty years, it was a risk Devlin was not willing to take.
A pity his interview had been cut short, though, since he'd been quite amused by his conversation with Miss O'Rourke. And quite drawn by her natural appeal. There was something compelling in those unusual blue-green eyes of hers. Something hidden and mysterious. Alas, that had to be his imagination. Miss O'Rourke was far too young and far too gently born to have a "past."
He resumed his position behind the ancient willow, wondering what verdict Rutherford had given. Yea? Or nay? Was the lovely Miss Lillian about to become the Marchioness of Olney? Soon, if Olney had been telling the truth, to be the Duchess of Rutherford? Though she couldn't know it, Devlin's own future hinged on the answer.
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 11 )
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Sort by: Showing 1 – 10 of 11 Customer Reviews
  • Posted January 2, 2013

    Loved the Corset play!

    This was another great read from Ranstrom. Loved the seduction scenese involving her corset laces. The Hero was dark and dangerous but sweet and vulnerable when it came to the heroine. She was a bit naive but in an endearing way. Highly recommend the whole series.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 20, 2012

    lilly hi this is my den

    lilly


    hi this is my den

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 16, 2012

    Atlanta

    I dont know really.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 19, 2011

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    Posted January 25, 2011

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    Posted September 3, 2011

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    Posted October 7, 2010

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    Posted October 7, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted January 16, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

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    Posted November 18, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

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