What the Groom Wants

What the Groom Wants

4.2 15
by Jade Lee

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An honest love...

Radley Lyncott has been in love with Wendy Drew as long as he can remember. When he went to sea, she was too young to court. Now that he's returned to take up his Welsh title, he is appalled to find that debt has ruined the Drew family, and—even worse—Wendy is being courted by another man.

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An honest love...

Radley Lyncott has been in love with Wendy Drew as long as he can remember. When he went to sea, she was too young to court. Now that he's returned to take up his Welsh title, he is appalled to find that debt has ruined the Drew family, and—even worse—Wendy is being courted by another man.

Or a dangerous attraction?

Family comes first for seamstress Wendy Drew, who is forced to settle her brother's debt by working nights at a notorious gambling den. But her double-life hasn't gone unnoticed—she has captivated none other than Demon Damon, a nefarious rake who understands Wendy's darkest desires and is hell bent on luring her into his arms.

Praise for Wedded in Scandal:

"An erotic tale full of emotion.... Jade Lee is an exceptional author, filling her stories with color and excitement." —Fresh Fiction

Praise for What the Bride Wore:

"Passion-filled Regency...Readers will savor the red-hot love scenes." —Publishers Weekly

"[Lee's] sexy series will delight readers who relish experiencing a different side of Regency life." —Booklist Online

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Danger and desire steam up Lee’s second wedding-themed Regency romance (after What the Bride Wore). Wendy Drew, co-owner of a popular dress shop, has spent months working at a gambling den to pay back her brother’s debts to underworld enforcer Demon Damon. Demon, however, makes it clear that what he wants is Wendy, and he will stop at nothing to get her. When her brother’s friend Radley Lyncott returns from sea and expresses his ardent and honest passion for her, she’s glad to encourage his suit—until Radley is unexpectedly named Duke of Bucklynde, after smallpox kills all the distant relatives who were ahead of him in the line of inheritance. Naturally, Wendy fears that a duke wouldn’t want a woman with her simple upbringing, even though Radley insists otherwise. Meanwhile, Demon’s obsession with Wendy spirals out of control, and he threatens the lives of those she loves most. Regency romance fans will stay glued to the story of this courageous heroine as she fights for love and safety. (Feb.)
From the Publisher
"Lee spins an intriguing tale, illustrating not only her knowledge of the era and her ability to write a suspenseful plot, but also her talent for drawing readers into a story." - RT Book Reviews

"Strong, vibrant characters and a compelling plot that doesn't ignore the grittier aspects of Jane Austen's world will keep readers engaged in the latest sexy addition to Lee's Regency-set series (What the Bride Wore, 2013) revolving around a London dress shop." - Booklist

"This plot is rich from the start and thickens rapidly... WHAT THE GROOM WANTS will hold your interest no matter how many Regency romances you've read." - Fresh Fiction

"Jade Lee's descriptions were vivid and easily transported me into the past. " - Book Bliss

"From the moment I opened this book and read the first sentence, on up until the gripping end, I was hooked. This book has it all: suspense, humor, sexy love scenes, and enough sweet words to make a girl swoon." - Romantic Romp

"Filled with adventure, romance and passion." - My Book Addiction

"Jade Lee is a master at writing characters that are compelling, interesting and full of life." - Debbie's Book Bag

"I have to give props to author Jade Lee for creating such a drama filled, character driven story that kept me wondering and guessing from the very beginning!" - Adria's Romance Reviews

"Lee puts the story together in a truly spectacular fashion. She's daring to push the limits and manages to grab the reader's attention until the very end. I couldn't put this book down!" - Romantic Romp

"Hot and steamy with intrigue and secrets all rolled into one. This book does not disappoint at all." - Eskimo Princess Book Reviews

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Wendy Drew clutched the small satchel tight to her stomach. She held it as Freddie pulled open the heavy office door. Then he gestured her inside, a smirk on his thick, flat face.

She ignored it. After all, she'd been coming to this gambling hell for months. Or was it more than a year now? It didn't matter. Her time here was done, and she felt a surge of mixed feelings at that.

Part of her would miss the excitement of the gambling hell. The thick air, the turn of a card, and the rattle of dice had their own allure. Money, desperation, lust-all those intense emotions-had played out a nightly drama before her, enticing enough that she'd been tempted to play as well.

She never did. She was there to work and to pay back her idiot brother's debts. But now she had the money in hand. All of it.

She and Bernard were finally free of Demon Damon. Or at least they would be the moment she handed over her satchel of coins. So with a surge of relief, she stepped into the luxurious office. Damon was there, his hair dark, his body languid, and his smile like a temptation from the devil himself.

Wendy wasted no time. "I've got it all," she said clearly. "I'm here to pay back everything Bernard owes."

If anything, the man's smile widened, though there was something horribly feral about the look. "Really?" he drawled, and Wendy felt a shiver of excited fear skate down her spine.

"Yes. Right here." She showed him the small stack of coins.

"Then by all means, my Wendy, come closer. Show me exactly what you have, and I shall tell you if it is enough."

She didn't hesitate. To pause in front of the Demon was asking for disaster. So she walked confidently forward, though her heart was pounding in her chest, and began to neatly line up her coins on his desk. It was all there. And in case he questioned her, she also set down a page of foolscap with the debt, her payments clearly marked. It included the money Bernard made in his job as a footman for the Demon and her own work at his vingt-et-un table.

He raised his eyebrows at that, and perhaps she caught a flash of admiration in his eyes. She hated that his approval could spark happiness inside her. She knew Damon's true character. Had since she'd been a young woman. She knew better than to want anything from the man.

"Sorry, luv," he said, deliberately making his accent coarse as a way to remind her of their shared childhood. Like her, he could use the King's English or the roughest cant. "But you're one hundred twenty-four quid short."

"I am not!" she snapped as she thrust forward her page of accounting.

He smiled, then pulled out the ledger kept locked in his desk drawer. He opened it easily to the page detailing Bernard's debt and turned it for her inspection.

Everything was there, identical to hers, except for two things. The first was obvious, and she pointed to it immediately. "What is that?"

"Your brother's dinner for the last two nights. Added to his tab."

She shook her head. "I told him I won't pay another quid more than his original debt."

She watched the Demon's eyebrows rise in surprise. "You won't pay for his meals?"

"Or his gambling or his clothes or his women. The original debt. Anything else, you take up with him." She lifted her chin as she said it. A sign of clear determination, though inside she shook. It was a hard thing to cut off her brother, but she would not be held hostage to the Demon. Not any more than she had to. And that meant standing strong for any extra debt-including something so small as Bernard's meals.

And while she thought on the responsibilities of a sister to her younger brother, the Demon carefully crossed out the dinner tab on this sheet and created another for Bernard.

"I won't pay any more of his debts," she said clearly. "You cannot get to me through him anymore." She had little reason to suspect that Damon had used Bernard to get to her. After all, he had dozens of women for the asking. But lately, she had begun to wonder. And certainly the way the Demon looked at her made her think that he wanted something specific. Something dark and exciting.

"There. That's done. A hundred twenty-one quid short."

She shook her head. "I don't understand."

"It's in the interest payments," he said, his accent now as fine as brandy. "You rounded down, whereas I rounded up."

"To increase the payment."

He didn't bother to deny it.

She bit her lip. She didn't have it. It was breaking her to give him this much. "How many more days work to pay that off?" This schedule was crippling her. She was the seamstress and co-owner of A Lady's Favor dress shop, but she'd been skimping there to work here.

"One night," he said softly.

"One night?" she gasped.

"In my bed."

She reared back. Even knowing that he wanted her-he'd made no secret of his desire-had not prepared her for such an offer. One night. A hundred and twenty-one quid. Exorbitant. "I'm no whore. Not for you, not for Bernard, not for anybody."

He reached for her face, his long finger smoothing her cheek. At first, she had hated that her skin prickled with awareness whenever he touched her, but it wasn't his touch-or at least, not only his touch. When she was in the Demon's presence there was danger, almost a visceral thrill, and she knew other people felt it too.

She flinched back.

He let his hand drop to his side, his lips curved in amusement. "Very well, then. Man the table every night for a month and-"

"No." She couldn't do that. She'd collapse. She was already so tired she struggled at the shop to see her own stitches. She caught herself just today sewing a line in a gown that weaved like a drunken sailor. "I'll give you another option. Dinner. At my table. Every night."

That would declare her as his mistress for all the world to see. She might not care for herself. What did it matter what the world thought so long as she knew the truth? But the toffs who came to the gaming hell would know. And they might tell their wives and their daughters to stop coming to the dress shop for their clothes. No one wanted a fallen woman sewing the dresses of their virginal debutantes.

So she and Damon set to dickering. The Demon seemed to like a good bout of bargaining. Sometimes, she did too. There was always a way to balance the scales that would work for both sides, but the exhaustion was wearing on her. She just wanted this done. In the end, she agreed to four private dinners and another seven nights as hostess in the gaming hell. At least he hadn't demanded that she work at any of his half-dozen brothels.

Once the bargain was sealed, she turned to leave, but his words stopped her cold. He spoke casually, as if just remembering something. But Wendy knew it was a ruse. The Demon did nothing casually.

"I was sorry to hear about your lodgings. Where will you live now?"

She froze, feeling an icy shiver down her spine. "There's nothing wrong with my home." She and her mother had lived there for years since the building in which Wendy had spent her childhood had burned to the ground.

"Oh, perhaps I heard it wrong then."

She turned, anger making her fists clench. "Tell me, Damon."

He leaned back in his chair, a feral grin on his face. "I'm sure I heard it wrong-"

She spit out a curse, a word she hadn't used in a decade. "I am too tired, Damon. What have you done to me now?"

He frowned, and for a moment he looked confused. As if he hadn't realized that she was at the last of her strength. "It's that blighter Lord Idston. He's declared you unsuitable tenants."

She shook her head. She and her mother were the most suitable tenants there! They paid their rent on time, brought some respectability to the building, and kept an eye on their neighbors.

Damon simply shrugged. "You should go home and check. But first..." He stood from behind his massive desk, moving with that grace he'd had since he was a small boy. She waited in silence, knowing he would tell her what he wanted in his own time. Demanding answers only made him draw out the tension simply because he could.

He stopped directly in front of her, his smile gentle-an obvious lie.

"I have a set of rooms that would work for you and your mama. Close by, but still safe. Just two blocks from here. It's a grand sight more plush than what you've got now."

She shook her head, wishing she could avoid getting deeper into this man's clutches. The way he looked at her-like she was a sparkling prize set before him-was in its own way heady. No other man looked at her that way, and the Demon always made it easy to give in to his offers.

"I can show it to you. The rent's fair, and I'd have my men help you move."

"How fair?" she asked before she could stop herself.

He shrugged and named a reasonable rent given the location. But she just shook her head. "I don't want to move from where we are. I don't-"

Her words cut off as he stroked her neck. Again, he used only one finger, but the touch went from her jaw, down her neck, and to the edge of her bodice. A slow, feathered stroke so light she might not have noticed, except that she saw him do it. His eyes darkened, his nostrils flared, and she saw triumph in his gaze when she didn't flinch away. How could she? If she weren't looking right at him, she wouldn't have been sure he touched her at all.

"You can't seem to get ahead, can you?" he asked, his voice thick. "Just when your business begins to profit, your brother acts the idiot, your rooms get taken, and now you mistrust every boon as if it contained a hidden snake." He shook his head. "But this one doesn't. I have a place to let. You need one."

"I don't-"

"You do. Lord Idston will have served noticed to your mother this morning."

She winced. "You did it. You made him do it."

His arched his brows, his expression insulted. "I'm powerful, Wendy, but even I cannot predict the vagaries of the gentry."

It was the way he said the word "powerful" that hit her. He slowed it down when he spoke, as if liking the taste of the word. She closed her eyes, cutting off the sight of his dark eyes and chiseled face. And in that moment-when her view was cut off-she felt a tingle in her left nipple. She gasped, her eyes flying open, but he simply stood there as if he hadn't done anything.

"No," she rasped as she backed away. "No!"

He smiled and shrugged, as if her answer meant nothing. The idea left her reeling. One minute she was his prize, the next she was less than nothing.

"As you wish," he said. "Go home. See what your mother says. You can always come back to me. Though don't dally. I can't have the place standing empty on your pleasure."

"I understand," she lied. She didn't understand any of what that man thought or did. And that was the worst of it. Because part of her truly did want to learn. After all, she was a woman six and twenty, never having been kissed by a man. Never touched the way a woman wanted.

Why not accept his moderately priced rooms? Why not have dinner with him? Why not spend one night in his bed for a hundred twenty-one quid? Then she would know what other women knew. Then she would understand the dark promise in his eyes.

But that way lay madness. And likely disaster.

So with a last shake of her head, she fled.


Radley Lyncott stood at the prow and closed his eyes. Weariness dragged at his body.

Moored at the London dock, he couldn't hear his own thoughts, much less the soothing sounds of the sea, but he stood here nonetheless with Matthew beside him. The boy stood like a captain born, not an eleven-year-old cabin boy, and Radley couldn't help but smile.

"You needn't stay," he said. "Your mother will be wanting to see you."

"She's busy," was the boy's terse reply.

Radley didn't look at the boy, but he dropped a hand on the child's shoulder. He felt the stiffness there and waited for the tension to ease. Then he spoke quietly enough for only Matthew to hear.

"Even whores love their children. And all ladies like receiving gifts. She made sure to give you a chance at life, Matthew. One that gives you a good future and a home on the sea. Don't doubt her love just because you're ashamed of her."

Matthew's shoulders tightened as he listened to Radley, but in time the boy's shoulders sagged. "I'm not ashamed exactly."

Radley didn't answer. He had no right. After all, his parents loved him and had provided for him. There was no shame in his parentage-well, not for a few generations-and that made him one of the luckiest men alive. But he saw this struggle in many of his sailors-the shame and the hunger for a better past. "Show her how much of a man you've become, Matthew. Let her be proud of her boy."

He felt Matthew twist to look at him. "You think so?"

The question was vague. Did Radley think he was a man? Did Radley think his mother loved him? Either way, the answer remained the same. "I do. Now go. I can't leave until you do."

The boy frowned. "But lots of captains leave the moment the watch is set."

Rad shrugged. "Aye, but I'm not a captain yet. And this ship is a prize. Have to wait until Mr. Knopp tells me what to do with it."

Matt straightened with pride. "You'll captain it for sure, sir. You brought it in here limping along. No other man could do it better. Mr. Knopp'd be a fool to-"

"Yes, thank you," he said, cutting off the boy's rampant enthusiasm. The boy's words were merely an echo of Radley's private hopes. A captaincy. The chance to make his own fortune in his own way. He was more than ready for the challenge.

And while he shooed the boy off to see his mother, Radley's thoughts turned to his own family. His father was gone now, so he had a mother, a sister, and a woman not yet his bride. She was almost more memory than real, a creation of nights spent dreaming. She had an elfin face and an adorably determined set to her jaw, and he'd wanted her since before she was old enough to be wanted by any man. Her name was Wendy Drew, and he had a fine gift for her in his gear.

It hadn't been proper for him to court her before. And truthfully, he hadn't wanted to brave his parents' disapproval back then. But he was old enough now, as was she. And with a captaincy, he'd have the means to treat her as she deserved.

But not yet. Not until he spoke with Mr. Knopp and gave a full accounting of the cargo, the ship, and the repairs that were needed. And not until the last of the rigging was squared away. He'd be at it now, but it wasn't proper. An acting captain gave the orders. He didn't tie the knots himself. But the inactivity chafed. He wanted to be at his courting.

It was hours before all was set to rights. Mr. Knopp listened to everything Radley had to say, took the logbook and the accounting, then in the way of so many owners, gave no indication as to his thoughts. He was a fair owner and not a fool. With a fleet of boats at his command, there were other hopefuls in his employ. Radley would just have to wait his turn and pray that his work spoke for itself.

He had almost despaired of the promotion until Mr. Knopp's final words.

"Good work, Mr. Lyncott. Very good work indeed."

"Thank you-"

"Oh, and there were some solicitors asking after you. Misters Chase and Pelley. Know what that's about?"

Radley shook his head. "Never heard of them."

"Didn't like them, personally. Nose in the air and all that. Could tell they didn't like talking with a German. Refused to tell me anything about what they wanted with one of my future captains."

Radley barely kept himself from leaping on those last two words. Knopp was watching him closely-as were the sailors on watch-so he kept his expression as calm as he could. "I'll need their direction, if you wouldn't mind, sir."

"Oh right." His employer fished around in a pocket until he produced a linen card, somewhat the worse for wear. "I promised to send them word when you arrived, but I suppose you could stop by all on your own." The man narrowed his eye. "You'll want to find out from the clerks what's what before you meet with the legal men. I don't need to tell you that I don't like my employees in ugly with the law."

Radley frowned. Disquiet grew in his belly. "Did it seem that there was trouble?"

"No, else I would have told you sooner. But those types are nothing but trouble, if you ask me. Probably some lord wanting something." Again, he eyed Radley with a hard stare. "Could be about a woman," Knopp said, obviously fishing.

Radley shook his head. "No woman, sir. Not that would have a solicitor." Unless it had something to do with his sister. She was housekeeper to a Scottish lord.

Mr. Knopp studied his face for a moment longer, then shrugged. "Best find out what you can, soon as you can. Those types don't relish waiting on the likes of us."

"Yes, sir. Right after I visit my mother."

That was it. A short conversation that was more an attempt to find out information. But Radley was as much in the dark as Mr. Knopp, so he set it aside in his thoughts. He was finally free to do as he willed, and that would not be chasing after some high-in-the-instep solicitor.

By the time he finally made it to land, the afternoon was far advanced. If he saw his mother or sister first, it would be too late for afternoon callers. The idea was ridiculous. After all, Wendy would be at work now as head seamstress for A Lady's Favor dress shop, which she co-owned. She cared nothing for proper visiting hours. But it was one of the ways he could show her respect. A true gentleman followed the rules of proper courtship, and in this way he showed that he valued her as a lady.

Which meant that he had precious few minutes to get to the lodgings she shared with her mother. He would pay a quick call, do the pretty with her mama, while arranging a better time to visit-one where he could see Wendy-and then be off to his own mama.

He walked briskly, knowing the route by heart. She'd moved after the fire, but not out of the neighborhood. He had grown up in London and knew the byways from the dock to this quarter better than anyone.

He mounted the steps to their rooms two at a time. He hadn't slept above a few hours in the last three nights, but the weariness was fading fast as he neared his destination. He'd just knocked once when he heard it: a woman's sobs, deep and gut-wrenching.

He frowned, wondering for a moment whether to proceed when a small voice spoke from behind him.

"A sad tale there," said a young girl of about eight. He didn't remember her name, but he knew the type. She would know all the neighborhood gossip and would share it for a price. A small price now-as she was young-but in a few years, she could turn bad if someone didn't take a strong hand in her rearing. "And look at you, just back from the sea. Have you seen your mama yet?"

Did he know her? He hadn't a clue, but obviously she knew him.

"What happened here?" he asked. She got a canny look in her eye, but didn't have time to capitalize on his question. The door was wrenched open by Wendy's mother-her face streaked with tears and her hair a mess.

"Henry! The most terrible thing has happened!"

He shook his head, apologizing even as she recognized him. "Not Henry, Mrs. Drew. I'm sorry-"

"Radley! My goodness, look at you!" She sniffed and wiped her eyes. "You haven't seen Henry today have you?" she said with a slight hiccup of a sob.

"We're on different ships. He came in with The Northern Glory, likely a week back. But I followed afterwards on-"

"Yes, yes. He came back over a week now. But I've sent for him. I..." She hiccupped again, and then her words were lost.

Radley was all too aware of the girl standing behind him. Whatever the tale was, there was no point in declaring it to the world. "If I might come in, Mrs. Drew? I'd love a spot of tea. Then you can tell me what you've done to find Henry. I'm sure I can locate him, if you give me a little time."

She nodded and was just stepping back to let him in when they heard it: footsteps running hard. Light enough to be a woman's, fast enough to be desperate. He knew without looking that it was her. Wendy. He knew, and yet he still had no time to brace himself as he turned to look.

There she was, her eyes wide, her bonnet askew, and her skirts stained with mud. She topped the stairs in a leap, and then skidded to a halt before them. Her gaze caught for a moment on him, then narrowed on her mother's distraught expression.

"I'm going to kill him," Wendy cried. "I'm going to kill him and feed him to the dogs. And you-" she said as she pointed a finger at Radley. "You're going to help me."

Her mother was as shocked as he was. "Wendy!" she snapped even as she wiped away her tears.

He rocked back on his heels while a smile tugged at his lips. That was his Wendy: fierce, passionate, and impetuous. And now he could finally start courting her.

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