North Carolina, 1866. Lucy Richardson may know how to sling a gun and pick a stubborn lock, but she doesn’t have anything in her arsenal that would have prepared her for her first heartbreak. Her sisters taught her to fight like hell for what she wants... and she wants Finn. But he he’s always pushed her away and she never understood why…
Finn Taggart is bad news. His dark and tortured past always catches up to him, and Lucy deserves better than to be tainted by his touch. He couldn't have her seven years ago, and he can't have her now because being near him would only put her in harm’s way. He couldn’t prove his worth then but damned if he isn’t going to try now and finally win the love they both have waited so long for.
Blood Blade Sisters Series Order:
A Bandit’s Stolen Heart
A Bandit’s Broken Heart
A Bandit’s Betrayed Heart
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About the Author
Michelle grew up in California and has lived everywhere from the deserts of Utah to the tropical beaches of Hawaii to the gorgeous forests of the east coast. She has a B.S. in History, a M.A. in English, and insatiable love of books.
She is the author of Homework Helpers: Essays and Term Papers, (Career Press, Jan. 2011), To Trust a Thief (Entangled Scandalous, Jan. 2013), a historical romance trilogy Blood Blade Sisters (Entangled Scandalous 2012), and a zombie fairy tale retelling Wish Upon a Star (Entangled Ever After, Oct. 2013). In addition to novels and non-fiction work, Michelle writes picture books and a bit of poetry. She currently resides in Pennsylvania with her husband, two young children, an insanely hyper dog and two very spoiled cats.
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A Bandit's Betrayed Heart
A Blood Blade Sisters Novel
By Michelle McLean, Erin Molta
Entangled Publishing, LLCCopyright © 2014 Michelle McLean
All rights reserved.
Seven years earlier
Lucy Richardson crept down the hallway, pausing every few feet to make sure the house remained still and quiet. If she were caught, there'd be hell to pay. She came to a stop in front of Finn's door, took one last look over her shoulder, and turned the knob. She held her breath until the door clicked open. He hadn't locked it. Lucy smiled and eased into his room.
She couldn't see anything except the faint glow of moonlight filtering in through a crack in the curtains. But it was enough to see Finn's form in the bed. She couldn't hear him breathing though and couldn't tell if he was asleep or awake.
"What are you doing, Lucy?"
Awake. She reached behind her and locked the door.
"Lucy," he said, his voice low, warning. "You shouldn't be here."
"I know," she whispered.
There were a million reasons she shouldn't be there. She and Finn weren't married and were not even courting. They couldn't get married, not without the biggest brouhaha Boston society had seen in a decade. Finn was not only her sister's butler, he had a murky past and a face covered in Mohave tribal tattoos. Lucy, on the other hand, was now one of the richest women in Boston thanks to a little gold mine on her family's ranch in California. For Finn and Lucy to marry would go against everything society dictated, but for them to be together without marriage was unthinkable.
But Lucy didn't care. She loved Finn. The very thought of him made her heart flutter and her breath catch. A brush of his hand made her skin tingle. And his kisses ... well, his kisses obviously had the power to make her go stark, raving mad since she was creeping into the servants' quarters in the middle of the night for just one more taste of him.
"This is a bad idea, Lucy."
"I don't care," she said, climbing on the bed.
Despite his words, he wasn't making any move to evict her from his room. She reached out a tentative hand and found him. Her fingers tightened in the nightshirt straining over his chest. She pulled herself closer to him, let her hand trail up his chest to where the shirt opened. When her fingers brushed across his bare skin, he sucked in a breath.
She inched closer still, drew her hand up his neck to slip into his hair. With a groan, he wrapped her in his arms, crushing her to him as his lips descended. Lucy plastered herself to him, reveling in the hard planes of his body pressing against her soft curves. They'd stolen many a kiss in darkened corners, but this was the first time there had been so little clothing between them. The thin material of her nightdress and his shirt felt like nothing at all, but it was still too much. She longed for the heat of his bare skin against hers.
She reached down to grasp his hip, disappointed to find that he still wore his breeches. He lifted his head when she paused, and she could see the white flash of his teeth in the moonlight.
"I thought you might wander into my room tonight."
"Well, don't you think you are a little overdressed for the occasion?"
He leaned down and kissed her again, letting his lips trail across her cheek to the sensitive skin under her ear.
"No. I think it's going to be the only hope I've got to keep from ravishing you."
"If I didn't want to be ravished, I wouldn't have come."
Finn chuckled. "Ah, darlin'. I'd love to oblige you."
Lucy made a little purring noise in the back of her throat that surprised even her and arched into him. Finn hissed and rolled her beneath him, his lips and hands creating a torrent of sensation that was almost too intense to bear.
"Finn," she whimpered, her hand straying down to the waistband of his pants.
"No," he said, catching her hand and entwining his fingers with hers.
"Why?" she whispered.
Finn dragged in a ragged breath and leaned his forehead against hers. With his body still pressed to hers, she could tell he was as affected as she was. So why was he hesitating?
"Lucy, you know things in my life are ... complicated right now. There are things in my past that need to be dealt with before I can have any kind of a future with you."
"I know that, but ..."
"No," he said again, leaning down to kiss her. "Do you have any idea how much I love you?"
Lucy grinned shyly. He'd told her he loved her, on more than one occasion, but her heart soared every time she heard those words on his lips.
He brought their entwined hands up to his lips and kissed each of her fingers. "I want nothing more than to spend the rest of my life showing you exactly how much I love you. But until I get out of this mess that I'm in, I'm not free to build a life with you. I just need a little time."
"And if your grand plan to put your past to rights doesn't work out, what then?"
Finn sighed. "That's exactly the reason I'm not going to take advantage of you now."
"You aren't taking advantage of me, Finn."
Finn just shook his head. "I don't want to do something we can't undo. I won't risk leaving you alone with the consequences of our actions. I love you too much to drag you into my world. Someday, hopefully soon, I'll be free to live with you in peace. When that day comes, it will be the happiest I've ever known. But until then, we need to be careful."
Lucy ducked her head against his chest, shifting restlessly against him. "I know you think you're protecting me. But I don't care. I want you. So much it hurts to breathe."
"I know, love," he said, kissing her gently. "I know."
Lucy thought he'd pull back but to her delight, he didn't. His mouth explored hers until her head swam. His hand slipped inside her nightgown and Lucy froze.
"I thought you said ..."
"I did. And I meant it. But that doesn't mean we can't do other things." Before Lucy could ask what other things he meant, Finn set about showing her.
* * *
Finn kissed Lucy good-bye, letting his lips linger against hers. Sending her away was a near physical pain, but she couldn't be found in his room. From the moment he'd set eyes on her, all he'd wanted to do was protect her, from everything and everyone. Even himself, if necessary. Lucy was everything that was sweet and good in his life, though she had a backbone of steel and enough gumption to rule the world if she wished. She already ruled him. But she also had an unhealthy appetite for danger and a penchant for finding it.
Finn smiled and shook his head. When he'd come to Boston, he'd never expected anything like her. Never thought a woman could affect him so. Never thought he could love anyone so deeply.
He shied away from the thought. Finn had only ever loved one woman in his life before meeting Lucy. Rachel. And because of him ... no, he refused to think of it. He didn't deserve happiness. Didn't deserve to love someone like Lucy, let alone have her love him in return.
But if the fates were merciful, perhaps he could prove himself worthy one day.
He watched her until she disappeared around the corner, the faint light from the early morning sun striking her hair and making the copper-colored tresses shimmer like a new penny. Finn closed his door and sank down on the edge of his bed, rubbing his burning eyes. The night he'd just spent loving Lucy had been the best night of his life. One he'd treasure always. No matter what happened. But it was going to make getting through the coming day extremely hard. For a variety of reasons. Finn shifted uncomfortably on the bed and finally flopped back onto his pillows.
What he wouldn't give to be able to march up to Lucy's sister and declare his love. Brynne wasn't Boston born and bred. She'd started life a poor rancher's daughter. He didn't think she'd be prejudiced against them.
But Brynne was the least of his worries. His employer — his other employer — could never find out about Lucy. If he knew Finn loved her, she'd just become collateral that could be used against him. Finn wouldn't put her in danger that way. He had to protect her at all costs. She couldn't end up like ... like ... Rachel.
The image of the last time he'd seen his first love flashed in his mind. Her broken and bloodied body tangled at his feet.
His heart clenched, and he sucked in a deep breath, trying to breathe through the pain that always struck him at Rachel's memory. The thought of anything happening to Lucy was unbearable. He'd sacrifice everything to keep her safe. Which meant, for the moment, that he needed to stay away from her. He didn't like the plan that was brewing between his partners, and until he found a way to get out from under his boss's thumb, Lucy's association with him put her in danger.
Finn was determined to find a way. A way to get free. And then he and Lucy could be together.
If he couldn't ... Finn swallowed, the thought of leaving and never seeing Lucy's smiling face or looking into her deep brown eyes again striking him like a knife to the heart. There was no help for it though. If he couldn't escape the servitude he was under, he'd have to disappear. There was no other way to ensure Lucy's safety. His boss wouldn't hesitate to hurt her in order to get what he wanted from Finn. And Finn would die before he'd let that happen.
Hopefully, it wouldn't come to that. Because leaving her would be a fate worse than death.CHAPTER 2
Seven years later
Lucy dipped her needle into her patient's hand one more time, slowly drawing the thread through until the last bit of the wound had closed. She deftly tied the thread off and snipped it with her little scissors. The man sitting before her let out a breath.
"All done," Lucy said, patting his hand. "Let me just wrap this up, and then you can be on your way."
"Thank you, miss. That didn't hardly hurt at all."
"I told you it wouldn't be as bad as you feared," she said with a wink. "I'm even better at stitching than my sister. But don't you tell her I said so."
"I heard that," Brynne said, depositing a fresh stack of bandages on the bedside table.
The man chuckled and looked back and forth between the sisters. "Doc Oliver is sure lucky having the two of you to help him out. Why, it's almost worth getting hurt just to be able to visit with the both of you."
Lucy finished bandaging his palm and gave his other hand a squeeze. "Mr. Eddings, you are welcome to visit any time you'd like, though we'd much prefer a visit when you aren't sporting a gaping wound." She smiled, helping the sweet old man to his feet. "Now, you be careful, you hear. I think you've had your limit of injuries for the month."
Mr. Eddings wheezed out a laugh and went to settle his account with Mrs. Birch, the clinic's formidable housekeeper.
Brynne stayed to help Lucy tidy up the exam area, and Lucy braced herself for the lecture she knew was coming.
"Richard ran into David Burrows this morning."
"Did he?" Lucy said, feigning ignorance. Brynne and her husband Richard had been arranging little meetings and outings with single men for years now, but lately their matchmaking efforts had risen to heights that would terrify a mountain goat. They just didn't seem to grasp that Lucy had no interest in marrying. Anyone. Ever.
"Oh, don't you go playing the innocent with me, Lucy Richardson. You know very well you left that boy twiddling his thumbs all night waiting for you!"
"I most certainly did not! I showed up. I just left a little early, that's all."
Brynne snorted. "You pretended to have a headache and left five minutes after arriving. You didn't even give poor David a chance. He's a perfectly nice young man. Handsome, from a good family. I swear, you'd find fault with a saint."
Lucy sighed. "There wasn't anything wrong with him. He seemed perfectly nice. He's just not ..."
Brynne's eyes narrowed, and Lucy swallowed the name she'd almost let slip out. The name she'd promised herself over and over she'd never say again. He just wasn't ... Finn.
Brynne's face softened as she gazed at her sister. She put down the linens she'd been folding and gathered Lucy in her arms, giving her a quick hug. Then she pulled back and looked Lucy in the eyes, cupping Lucy's face in her hands. "You have to let him go, Lucy. It's been seven years. He's never coming back."
Lucy swallowed past the sudden lump in her throat. "I know. I'm trying." She stepped back, out of Brynne's embrace. "It's just that ..."
Brynne sat down on the cot and patted the spot beside her. Lucy sat reluctantly. She really didn't want to have this conversation again.
"Lucy, believe me, I know what you are going through. After Jake died, I didn't think I'd ever fall in love again. I compared every man I met to Jake, and none of them ever came close to measuring up. But then I met Richard."
Brynne glanced around the clinic until she spotted her husband, deep in conversation with one of his patients on the far side of the clinic. "Even then, I almost let the memory of Jake ruin my chance for happiness."
Lucy opened her mouth to speak but Brynne continued on.
"I know you loved Finn," she said, her mouth hardening a bit as it always did when Finn was mentioned. She said she'd forgiven him for his role in her daughter's kidnapping all those years ago. But no matter what she said, Lucy knew she'd never forget it. Even if she understood his motives and no longer blamed him for what had happened.
"But," she pressed on, "you were so young. You didn't have a chance to have a real relationship with him and you are letting the memory of your first romance, such as it was, ruin your future."
Lucy stiffened, offended at the implication that what she felt for Finn was somehow lessened by the brevity of their relationship. "That is hardly fair, Brynne, especially coming from you. You married Jake when you'd hardly known each other and you were married a scant month before he died. How long did you pine for him?"
Brynne's eyes narrowed. "That's different and you know it."
"How? How is it different? Because we didn't have the time to get married? Neither did you, if you want to point at specifics. You didn't even wait long enough for a proper wedding. You had Finn marry you, for crying out loud. It wasn't even legal. So don't dismiss how I feel, felt, for Finn because you are the last person who has the right to do so. I experienced more heart-pounding, soul-altering passion during my short time with Finn than I ever have with any of the men I've met since and frankly, I don't think it's possible to feel that again. We might not have had long together, but we loved a lifetime's worth. So don't you dare belittle it."
Brynne sat back. But after a moment she nodded and took Lucy's hand. "You're right. I was dismissing how you feel and, I, of all people, should know that the amount of time someone spends with a loved one cannot dictate the intensity of the love. But I can't bear to see you so unhappy. I don't doubt that you loved him, but it was a very long time ago, Lucy. Even I moved on, eventually. I'll always love Jake, but I've found happiness with Richard. There's so much love and passion and fulfillment that you haven't experienced yet. That's all I want for you."
Lucy looked down, not wanting to meet her sister's gaze. Brynne didn't know everything she and Finn had shared. She didn't know of the stolen kisses in hidden corners, all the moments spent whispering, planning, dreaming. Or of the night that Lucy had crept into Finn's room, into his bed, and had offered herself to him.
Lucy turned her head to hide the blush that still threatened to rise, all these years later, at the memory of that night. Brynne was wrong if she thought Lucy had never experienced passion. Finn had refused to take her innocence. He'd insisted that they wait until they were properly wed. But they'd done other things. He'd spent the night showing her how he loved her in more ways than she could have ever imagined. They'd pledged themselves to each other.
And then ... everything had gone to hell. And he'd been forced to run. She'd told him to run, told him to save himself. But she never dreamed that he wouldn't return for her.
"He is gone," Brynne said gently. "He left you standing there in that field. If he was going to come back for you, he'd have done so by now. And with the war ... well, you can't be sure that he — "
"No," said Lucy, raising her hand for Brynne to stop. "Don't say it."
Excerpted from A Bandit's Betrayed Heart by Michelle McLean, Erin Molta. Copyright © 2014 Michelle McLean. Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
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