The Wild One

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Overview

Just One Touch...

Beautiful and aloof, actress Jessica Sullivan wants nothing to do with good-for-nothing men. But when the darkly handsome Lee Montgomery walks through her door, that simple rule is forgotten forever. Because the secret hidden in her heart is about to be revealed...

Is All It Takes...

Boston-born Lee Montgomery is anything but proper. He knows he's called a rogue, and he doesn't give a damn. ...

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Overview

Just One Touch...

Beautiful and aloof, actress Jessica Sullivan wants nothing to do with good-for-nothing men. But when the darkly handsome Lee Montgomery walks through her door, that simple rule is forgotten forever. Because the secret hidden in her heart is about to be revealed...

Is All It Takes...

Boston-born Lee Montgomery is anything but proper. He knows he's called a rogue, and he doesn't give a damn. Jessica can keep her distance if she wants to but that won't last. Not when he longs for her the way he does. Now how in the hell did a confirmed cad fall so deeply in love—and what can he do about it? Lee intends to mend his ways—and make Jessica love him back....

Praise for Denise Eagan

"Eagan debuts with a powerful novel that is...intensely emotional and pure romance. A desperate woman, an alpha hero, a sexually charged meeting, secrets, danger and passion all meld into one nonstop read."—Romantic Times on Wicked Woman, 4-star review

Denise Eagan resides in suburban Boston. The town is just boring enough for her to keep writing her Victorian romances, generally with a mystery/murder element because nothing says romance like a dead body. In a house of all males—husband, two teenage boys and a thieving beagle—she keeps her sanity and fends off testosterone poisoning by eating massive doses of chocolate chip cookie dough. She has a degree in finance, but when her first book, soon to be titled Wicked Woman, became a finalist in the American Title competition sponsored by Romantic Times, she turned to writing full-time.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781420101225
  • Publisher: Kensington Publishing Corporation
  • Publication date: 1/1/2009
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Pages: 320
  • Product dimensions: 4.10 (w) x 6.70 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Denise Eagan resides in suburban Boston. The town is just boring enough for her to keep writing her Victorian romances, generally with a mystery/murder element because nothing says romance like a dead body. In a house of all males-husband, two teenage boys and a thieving beagle-she keeps her sanity and fends off testosterone poisoning by eating massive doses of chocolate chip cookie dough. She has a degree in finance, but when her first book, soon to be titled Wicked Woman, became a finalist in the American Title competition sponsored by Romantic Times, she turned to writing full-time.
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Read an Excerpt


The Wild One


By Denise Eagan
ZEBRA BOOKS
Copyright © 2009

Denise Eagan
All right reserved.



ISBN: 978-1-4201-0122-5



Chapter One San Francisco, 1885

Jessica Sullivan lay dead on the polished wood floor, an overturned goblet of bloodred wine dripping near her hand. Her gold satin gown pooled around her body, except for a section of skirt pulled up to display a tantalizing portion of well-formed calf. Having fallen from her blond head, her crown still rolled slightly, its jewels gleaming in the gaslight.

But nobody noticed Jess. Everybody's eyes were glued to the scene two feet from her, of a man dying in his best friend's arms. Except for a few sniffles, the room held a tense silence, ears straining to hear the last words of a brokenhearted man. "Now cracks a noble heart. Good night, sweet Prince, and flights of angels sing thee to thy rest."

With that the curtain descended and a thunderous burst of applause ripped away the silence. Alive once more, Jess jumped up, swept her crown back on her head, and then smoothed out the wrinkles of her gown as she sped across the stage. Hidden among the side curtains, Michelle Dubois, gold curls bouncing excitedly, greeted her. "Oh, do you not hear them ma amie?! Are they not even louder than last night?"

Jess kissed her roommate's rouged cheek. "Of course they are, Michelle. They came for you."

"Oh non! Some are surely for you!"

Jess smiled indulgently as the curtain rose to expose the now-vacant stage. The narrator began calling out parts, and the actors glided out to center stage where they bowed and then formed a line. At "Ophelia" Michelle floated out. As if one person, the audience lunged to its feet, whistling and stomping, and warming Jess's heart, for her friend ate, drank, and breathed applause. When it started to wane, the narrator called out "Gertrude, Queen of Denmark," and Jess walked out to center stage. Curtsying, she passed an eye over the crowd, mostly male she noted with cheerful cynicism. As she took her place in line, out came troupe manager Robert Madison-Hamlet-and if noise could bring down a ceiling, it surely would have fallen then. Well, Jess thought merrily, there were a few women out there, too.

Several curtain calls later, the curtain fell for the last time. As the audience filed out of the theatre, stagehands scurried about moving scenery, and the actors grouped together to critique the performance, the crowd, the applause. Carefully avoiding eye contact, Jess removed the tin crown from her head and while pulling pins out of her hot, itchy wig, crossed the stage. Another performance, she calculated, another $1.25 toward her Jason-account-$1.25 nearer to redemption, $1.25 nearer to home.

"Jess! Jess, hold up a minute!" Behind her Jon, who played that most faithful companion Horatio, had broken from the throng of actors.

"NoJon," Jess answered, the two words spoken so often in the past, they'd become one. Moving down a hall toward her dressing room, she yanked off the wig, displaying jet black hair.

"Deny me not, fair Jessica! I beg but one minute of your time!"

"NoJon."

"You can't deny me forever!"

"NoJon," she said, opening the door to her dressing room.

"There, you admit it! Secretly you pine for my love!"

"NoJon." She shut the door in his face. Generally she was kinder, but after six straight nights of performances-and two matinees-tonight she was just too darned tired.

She turned a key to the gas lamps hanging on the wall. They sizzled slightly as they lit, revealing a large dressing room decorated with pink-and-gold-flocked paper, a thick pink carpet, a dressing table with two chairs, and a double-door wardrobe. Although no fan of pink, after six years in a traveling troupe Jess deeply appreciated the luxury.

Before she could seat herself, the rapping of knuckles on wood rang through the room. As Jess turned, Jon opened the door a crack and stuck his head in. "In all earnestness, Jess," he said, "a few of us are going out. We were wondering-"

She shook her head, flashing a smile to ease the rejection. "Thank you, but I have other plans."

He rubbed his chin and narrowed his eyes. "It's only supper and drinks, Jess," he said in a softly persuasive voice. "Nothing very expensive."

Nothing very expensive, her mind echoed, but between alcohol and flirtation, something remarkably sordid, for theatre people cared nothing about propriety or virtue. None except for Jess, who for six years had clung to both like a drowning man clings to a life preserver. "No, Jon, thank you anyway."

He sighed, and then shut the door with a disappointed click.

Alone again, she settled down at her dressing table and humming tunelessly-there were reasons she didn't act in musicals!-unpinned her hair, allowing her curls to swing free. With a jar of cleansing cream, she proceeded to wipe away her wrinkles, revealing the silky smooth skin of a young woman. To her chagrin a San Franciscan reporter had recently compared its texture to fine porcelain. So, she thought with a gurgle of humor, at twenty-four she resembled a chamber pot. Good gracious, what would they say at thirty-four?

Michelle swept in on a wave of expensive French perfume. "Jess! Always here before me, aren't you? I swear, I cannot understand why you never greet our admirers. That is the best part of the show, you know."

"The best part of the show is the cash."

"Well, yes, but all those men," she said with a deep sigh of satisfaction. She shook her head as she seated herself in front of the second dressing-table mirror. "And you are ever so pretty! You must know that if you ever showed your true face, men of every age would flock to you, and then you needn't worry so much about money."

Sighing, Jess sat back and shook her head in amused exasperation. "I'm not interested in men, Michelle. How often must I tell you so?"

"Oh, that William Acton again! Do not speak to me of him! He is nothing, not even a snap of my fingers," Michelle said, slipping effortlessly into a thick French accent as she snapped her fingers to emphasize her point.

Ever-ready humor bubbled up inside Jess. "You are entirely too combustible! And he is something. Acton's one of the most respected doctors of our time."

"He's a prude who knows nothing of women. He's probably terrifyingly ugly and unable to attract a woman were he as rich as Vanderbilt! Women are not naturally frigid."

"You are not, Michelle, granted, but Dr. Acton has studied the matter for years, and has discovered that most women are more like me, they do not naturally respond to the more intimate aspects of romance. It's no shame. It's how God made us."

"Bosh! That's pure bosh and you, ma amie," she said, her accent switching back and forth between Middle West American and French, "are merely suffering from a bad affaire de couer with that ... that Everett, whose name I spit on!"

Chuckling through the stabbing in her heart, Jess replied, "It was a tad more than an affair. He's my husband."

"Was your husband. Surely after six years you cannot-" A knock rang through the room interrupting them.

"Michelle?" Jon called through the door. "Are you in there?"

Jess frowned at her friend, who answered with a very French shrug. "Oui, Jean."

"There's a man here asking to see you."

Jess's frown deepened. The troupe never allowed admirers backstage, for in the past their admiration had manifested itself in uncomfortable, if not downright violent, ways. "She won't see him, Jon," Jess hollered back. "Send him away."

Outside the door Jon engaged in a short argument with a deep-voiced man. Just as Jon was saying, "He's pretty insistent," Michelle's eyes widened in sudden recognition, and she lunged from the chair, crying out "Chéri! Chéri!"

Jess's eyebrows shot up. Michelle loved her men, but during the five months that she'd been with the troupe, she'd not shown a preference for any certain one. Except, Jess recalled as Michelle flung the door open, when discussing one persistently absent-

"Lee, mon chéri! I have missed you so!"

Leland Montgomery.

Michelle threw herself into the arms of a tall, dark-haired man. Without speaking a word, he returned her greeting with a shamefully hungry kiss. Rolling her eyes, Jess waved Jon away. While waiting patiently for an introduction, she let her gaze drift over Michelle's Lee.

He was fashionably dressed in a black-caped coat hanging open over an evening suit of fine milled cloth. His shirt was made of crisp white linen, his black silk waistcoat decorated with a gold watch chain. His trousers were expertly creased and his boots so well shined they reflected the carpet. In his left hand he held pristine white gloves, a top hat, and a gold-topped cane. His black hair was slightly longer-rakishly so-than was stylish. A dandy, and one with expensive taste, as had all Michelle's men.

Mr. Montgomery lifted his head and his mouth curved into a deep smile as he raised his right hand to trace Michelle's jawline with his thumb. "Michelle, chérie," he said in a low voice "how I have missed you."

"And I you!" she replied.

"So it appears." He dropped his arm and turned to Jess. From this distance the color of his eyes was unrecognizable, but not the sparkle. He strode forward, extending his right hand, his smile falling into lightly etched creases as if he were perpetually amused. "Ma'am. I don't believe we've met. I'm Lee Montgomery."

"So I heard," she said, putting her hand in his. She expected a quick, light shake, but his long fingers wrapped around hers and held for a minute. A lightning bolt of heat sped down her arm and then radiated through her cold, passionless body. Mercy, what was that about? She was impervious to such reactions ...

As he dropped his hand, he stepped back, chuckling-a deep-throated sound of unfettered humor. It was infectious, rippling over Jess's nerves and bringing an unaccountable urge to join him-an urge that Jess ruthlessly suppressed.

"Michelle was a trifle enthusiastic, wasn't she?" he said, turning his head to flash white teeth, while stretching his arm toward his lover. Michelle slipped into his embrace and stared up at him adoringly.

Up close, Jess's initial assumption of dandyism vanished. Powerfully built with wide shoulders, Mr. Montgomery seemed to fill the large room. His bone structure was harsh: strong cheekbones and a prominent nose. But that wide smile and the single dimple in his right cheek softened all. Handsome was how Michelle had described him. Jess would have called him breathtaking. If he didn't belong to Michelle. And if Jess didn't have a husband. And if she had any interest at all in single men or romance, which she did not. Honest to God, clean down to bedrock, did not.

Could not.

"And you must be Jessica Sullivan," he said. "I enjoyed your Gertrude, although without your makeup you don't appear nearly old enough to be Hamlet's mother. Couldn't blame the uncle though."

It was time, Jess thought, and braced herself for the Leer given to every actress by every man who'd ever paid for a ticket and therefore believed he'd bought the right to eat the actresses with his eyes. Slightly repulsive, but part of the pay.

And Mr. Montgomery's eyes did run over her, but his gaze didn't repulse her. Not a leer, really, but warm appreciation, a compliment instead of an insult, which left her hot, shaky, and speechless. Foolish, foolish body-foolish, foolish nerves, for in the end that reaction was nothing but a fraud. A lie of her treacherous body, excited and tingly now, sure to shatter like thin ice if gentle touches or hot kisses turned to something more intimate. Shatter and then melt into stomach-churning revulsion.

Not fair! Not fair!

Mr. Montgomery turned once more to his ladylove. "And as always, chérie, your Ophelia was perfection. No wonder at all that you drove the fair Hamlet to insanity."

"Oh? But was he insane?" Michelle asked, raising her eyebrows mysteriously. "That is the question, n'est ce pas? Lee, do you like my hair? It is blond, now, like the British Blonds."

His smile deepened. "I do, but you've no need to imitate them, chérie. You grow more lovely with each passing day."

"And you more handsome! And you have shaved off that horrible beard and mustache, which tickled my face and hid your smile! Oh, Lee, mon ami, how long are you here?"

He shrugged. "A few days at least. There's a game being arranged at the Baldwin for Wednesday night. A few high rollers are expected."

"Oh, cards," Michelle said with a pout. "With you it is always cards! Do you think of nothing else?"

"It's how I earn my living, Michelle," he said mildly.

"But must you talk so much of them!"

He laughed. "I scarcely mentioned them! And those cards would like very much to take you to Armand's tonight. Are you available?"

Michelle's eyes widened. "Armand's? Oh, Lee, vraitment?"

"Really and truly," he said with another deep-throated chuckle.

"Oh, oui, oui-only." She looked at Jess, a plea in her brown eyes. "You do not mind, ma amie, do you?"

"Hey!" Lee protested humorously. "I thought I was your ami!"

"Silly man." Michelle giggled. "Jess? You will not be too lonely?"

Smiling, Jess shook her head. "Michelle, you haven't come home but once in five days. I'm used to an empty flat."

"If you are sure?"

"Absolutely. And now, Mr. Montgomery, if you don't mind? I'd like to change."

With a sudden look of speculation in his eyes-an interesting shade of hazel green Jess now noted-Mr. Montgomery nodded. "Of course. Michelle, I have a carriage waiting out front. With," he added, eyes twinkling, "champagne on ice. Hurry, chérie, or I shall drink it all!"

"Oh!" she said, and clapped her hands in childish delight.

A short time later, they were gone and Jess, seated at her dressing table, pulled a ceramic bowl toward her. It held only one article, a plain gold ring, scratched and worn from hard wear. Was she married tonight? Six years deserted, more than enough time for a judge to grant her a divorce.

But good girls didn't get divorced. Good girls remained in their small farming towns, and married small farmers and raised small farm children. Good girls did not pursue the limelight and live among people who thought fidelity archaic and the Good Book best used as a paperweight. So many rules broken already ...

Jess slipped the ring onto her left index finger. Married.

* * *

Grimacing, Lee stared up at Hathaway's house, situated near the top of Nob Hill. A white wedding cake of a house, it awoke Lee's sweet tooth at the same time a lead weight settled in his chest, crushing the laughter generally residing there. For Hathaway, with his paunch and balding head, had done at twenty-three what Lee at thirty had yet to manage, found a woman with whom he wished to spend his life. It wasn't that Lee hadn't tried, but as soon as he played the "forever" card or even the "for a long time" card, an impossible-to-dislodge lump settled in his throat, and his heart started wandering. It was as if he'd been born with all the important cards missing from his deck, as if he'd been born a wild card.

With a deep sigh, Lee started down the walkway for the obligatory call, which came with the obligatory lecture. He ought to have visited upon arriving in San Francisco instead of spending a week playing poker and escorting Michelle from pillar to post. But he'd dreaded the visit from the moment he'd boarded the train to 'Frisco, and Michelle was so much more entertaining. As her friend would be if-

She's Michelle's best friend, you cad! his conscience squeaked.

And perfectly lovely, with midnight black curls framing a face that could launch more ships than Helen of Troy. She had the most beautiful eyes he'd ever seen, long lashed and luminous blue, which, he remembered, had appraised him with all the emotion of a Saratoga bettor inspecting a racehorse. Not your typical actress, Jess Sullivan, neither blowsy, breezy, and of easy morals like Michelle, nor spoilt and stuck-up as one might expect of such beauty and talent. But professional. Reserved. Poised.

Until some silly thing that Michelle said brought a sparkle of rueful humor to those eyes, melting the facade-and touching his shallow heart.

Oh, yes, Miss Jessica Sullivan was a true beauty. But she was also the only female friend he'd ever known Michelle to have, and blast his conscience, he wasn't cad enough to meddle in that. Not even for Helen of Troy.

Shaking the thought from his head, he fished through his vest pocket, searching for calling cards. Nothing. Damn. It'd been a dog's age since he made a social call; he was out of practice.

(Continues...)




Excerpted from The Wild One by Denise Eagan Copyright © 2009 by Denise Eagan. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
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Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Posted January 15, 2009

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    I Also Recommend:

    Loved It!!!

    I was so shocked by how much I loved this book. I bought it just because of the special bargain price. It made my laugh, cry, and sigh...over and over again. Jessica the heroine is so beautifully vulnerable. And Lee the hero is what every woman wants. A man that changes his bad boy way's just for her. All the other secondary characters are great as well. Read this book you won't be disappointed.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 22, 2011

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    Suspenseful plot!

    Review by Jamaica Layne:
    The Wild One is a sexy, engaging read, but it is not without its flaws. For example, there are a lot of jarring anachronisms that deter from the historical setting, especially in the characters' speech. Many conversations sound a lot more twenty-first-century than they do nineteenth century (no Victorian-era person ever said "OK", let alone in every other sentence) and even though Michelle's French accent is supposed to be fake and her French phrases and grammar poor, that doesn't excuse the author (or editor) for misspelling tons of French words. (I minored in French in college, so I am a real stickler for that). Plus, the copyeditor really seemed out to lunch on this book----it's riddled with typos, from missing words and skipped phrases to rampant misspelling (I recall seeing the word "brooch" misspelled three different ways on the SAME PAGE).

    If you can get past the typos, anachronisms, and somewhat clunky beginning, though, The Wild One is still an entertaining book. The plot is suspenseful and keeps you turning the pages, and the love scenes are appropriately steamy.I look forward to Denise Eagan's future books as she continues to develop her career.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted January 25, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    A Fantastic Read!!

    After reading Wicked Woman by Denise Eagan, I was more than eager to read the sequel, The Wild One. And Miss Eagan did not disappoint. This Victorian set sequel is full of romance, danger and excitment. Her knowledge of the period also shines through without dragging the story down with a history lesson. I fully recommend anyone who likes Victorian-set romances pick up this book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 1, 2009

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