London, 1866. Marcus Kincaid, Earl of Ashford, has returned to England after a ten-year absence to find his younger sister embroiled in a potential scandal that could ruin her chance at marriage. His aunt has already called in reinforcements - The Paragon. And Marcus can hardly believe how drawn he is to her, by how utterly seductive she is…
Vivian March moves through every circle within Society, smoothing out scandals and stopping gossip in its tracks. What they don’t know is that she uses their secrets to cover her own jaded past. But with every kiss and every touch that Marcus thrusts upon her, Vivian comes to want things she never dared dream for herself…
The Paragon has an impeccable reputation, but he knows her secret...
Continue the Forbidden Love series...
A Little Bit Sinful
A Little Bit Scandalous
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A Little Bit Wicked
A Forbidden Love Novel
By Robyn DeHart, Alethea Spiridon
Entangled Publishing, LLCCopyright © 2012 Robyn DeHart
All rights reserved.
Vivian March checked again to make certain her mask was secured in place. This was only her second masked ball since she'd come out four years before and she wasn't used to the tickle of feathers and velvet against her cheeks. Excitement thundered through her body, setting her nerves on edge.
Tonight was the night, and she wanted him to know how very thrilled she was at the prospect, which was why she'd snuck out to the gardens to see him. But she also intended to do something scandalous. It wasn't proper for a lady to kiss a gentleman, even if they were engaged, but tonight she wanted to be brazen — wicked, even. She smiled in the darkness. It was not as though she hadn't been truly wicked in his arms already.
Not only had she finally met the man she would marry, but it was a love match. They were the lucky ones. Love matches were rare indeed, but especially for a woman such as herself, at the ripe age of four and twenty. She had had her come-out late, having not been introduced into society until she'd turned twenty. The first three Seasons were spent dancing with plenty of gentlemen, but she realized quickly that men were only interested in her because of her sizeable inheritance.
And then she had met Frederick, her sweet and passionate Frederick. He had changed everything.
She left the noise and lights of the ballroom and made her way out to the terrace that would lead her to the gardens. They were to meet at a quarter of eleven and she still had about five minutes before their secret rendezvous. The pebbles on the path crunched beneath her dancing slippers, but the discomfort only heightened her awareness, reminded her how reckless her behavior was. These slippers were delicate and lovely, but meant for ballroom dancing only, not a rendezvous in the garden. But Vivian ignored all of that because she was made of sturdier stuff.
A few couples walked arm-in-arm past her. They too were out enjoying the bright night with the full moon illuminating the gardens. Vivian kept moving. She forced herself to walk instead of running into the garden, so eager was she. They were to meet by the willow trees near the pond.
As she made her way down the gently sloping hill, she saw the pond up ahead and a gentleman's tall frame standing near the water's edge. Even from behind, she could tell he looked positively dashing, dressed all in black. He didn't see her approach, and she stepped quietly so as not to alert him. She wanted to surprise him. Her heart pounded and happiness threatened to choke her. Oh, how she loved that man! She sent another thank you heavenward for her good fortune. She moved as quickly and as quietly as she could until she'd reached him. Without another thought, she flung herself against him, snaked her arms around his neck, and kissed him with all the passion and love she felt.
Strong, masculine arms came around her and his kiss deepened. The kiss felt different this time, more passionate, more heady, more intense somehow. Desire poured through her, threatening to weaken her knees, so she clung more tightly to him. Perhaps this new awareness stemmed from what had transpired between them since their first kiss. And tonight she would become his in the eyes of London.
He ended the kiss and held her out in front of him. "Brazen and delectable," he said.
Vivian's heart fell to her stomach. That was not Frederick's voice. She reached up and ripped off the man's domino mask. Definitely not Frederick. Her mouth fell open.
He smiled, a crooked smile that transformed him into a most dashing man. He was young, perhaps only twenty, perhaps younger, but so handsome with that cocky smile and blue eyes that seared her.
She had kissed him. A stranger.
And not merely a simple, sweet kiss, but rather a deep, passionate, open-mouthed kiss. She prayed for a hole to open in the ground and swallow her up, but alas, two breaths later she was still standing there, as was he, still wearing that charming yet annoying grin.
He reached over and removed her mask. "That was quite an introduction. I can assure you, I won't forget you anytime soon." He bowed dramatically. "Marcus Kincaid."
"Vivian March," she said out of polite habit, and then realized she probably should have kept that piece of information to herself. "You must understand," she continued, "that I thought you were someone else. That kiss —" she shook her head. "That was not intended for you. I am most apologetic, not to mention thoroughly embarrassed."
He shrugged. "Don't be. It's the best thing that's happened to me all evening." He clicked his tongue. "Pity all that passion was intended for someone else, though." His eyes traveled the length of her. "He's a lucky fellow."
"I do hope you will be kind and keep this —" She searched for the appropriate word. "— misunderstanding to yourself. Forget you ever met me."
"That would be unlikely. I shall keep your little secret, but I won't forget you or that kiss." He turned on his heel. "Good evening, Miss March."
She watched him walk away, and released a slow breath. Her shoulders slumped. Where was Frederick? Certainly it was past the time of their arranged meeting. Had something happened to him?
Oh no. Had he seen her in the arms of another man and fled? A wave of nausea passed through her. How would she explain, if he'd seen her kissing another man? She waited for several more minutes, pacing at the water's edge, before finding her way back to the ballroom. The wall clock pronounced it eleven-thirty. Where was he?
Forty minutes later she entered the front door of her townhouse. She found her two aunts sitting in the front parlor playing cards, clearly waiting up for her, as normally they did not stay up this late.
"Did you have a nice time, dear?" Aunt Lillian asked.
"What? Oh yes, it was a lovely time," Vivian said. She hadn't told them about her and Frederick's plans for the evening. She had wanted to surprise them. They'd had such hopes for her when she'd first come out, and then those years had passed without even a hint of a proposal. All three of them had begun to lose hope, though they'd never said as much. Vivian could tell they worried she would end up like them — spinsters, wealthy, and alone.
"You received this note shortly after you left for the ball," Aunt Rose said. She turned the note over in her hand, and held it out to Vivian. "Looks to be from that painter fellow."
Vivian's heart seemed to stop beating and her breathing became shallow. If he'd sent the note right after she'd left for the ball, then perhaps he hadn't seen her kissing another man. She took the note and cracked the wax seal.
My dearest Vivian,
I know you are probably waiting for me tonight and I hate that I cannot be there with you. Please know that what I am doing, I do for us. I am leaving for Paris to study with the masters so that I can become the very best artist I can be. I know that your fortune is enough for both of us and I have money from my family, but I want to provide for you myself. Make my own fortune. I shall return for you and we can marry then. I love you, my dearest.
The letter fell from her hand. Vivian vaguely heard her aunts talking, but their voices blurred into the distance. The only thought she had before she fell to the floor was that she had trusted him, given him her heart, and her body, and he had left her.
And now she was ruined.CHAPTER 2
London, ten years later
His brother was dead, and damnation if he hadn't missed the funeral. And not by a couple of days, but rather several months. Evidently, no one had seen fit to send him notice.
Marcus Kincaid poured himself a third glass of brandy and swore loudly. He glanced around the late earl's study, noting the meticulous arrangement of furniture — the tidy stack of papers on the desk, the quill in its holder, and the inkwell free from any drips or stains. He doubted anyone had been in here since his brother's passing. It was as if the entire room had been set up as a shrine.
Marcus slammed his glass onto the desk, sloshing the contents onto an envelope. His brother's name and address smeared and bubbled until only a black puddle of ink remained.
He took a deep breath and briefly closed his eyes. He stepped away from the desk, making his way to the wingback chair across the room. Halfway there he stopped and looked at the globe. Marcus scoffed, spun the miniature world, and watched it slow to a few restless circles. He plopped his finger onto the ball and stopped it.
Africa. His latest tour had been Africa, where he'd given England's wealthiest citizens the bloody adventure of their lifetimes. All the while, his own brother had died of something no more exciting than a lung infection. Granted, Charles had been more than fifteen years his senior, still Marcus hadn't been prepared for his death. The Kincaids had seen more than their fair share of deaths.
He dropped into the chair. He couldn't help noticing it was more comfortable than any place he'd sat or slept during his entire trek through Africa. The guests traveling with Thomas Adventure Tours slept in lavish tents with plush bedding while the guides were relegated to more inferior quarters. He hadn't minded much, though. He'd enjoyed his work — lived for it, if he were honest.
He tilted back his head and stared at the ceiling. The ornate wood carving at the top of the chair dug into his scalp. He pushed his head against it, increasing the dull pain.
The death of his older brother, the Earl of Ashford, meant one thing — now he was the bloody earl. Marcus searched his body for feelings of grief, but felt only numbing shock. They'd never had the traditional sibling relationship, he and Charles. The eldest Kincaid son had been raised to be the heir, raised to run the properties, and expected to serve in Parliament. And he'd been nearly sixteen when Marcus had been born. By the time he'd learned to read, Charles had been married.
Upon his return to England, Marcus had come home to Ashford Hall fully expecting to see things much as he'd left them. Instead, he'd found his Aunt Maureen had moved in to be the full-time guardian to his younger sister Clarissa, and the entire house had been shrouded in mourning.
"It's fortunate that you chose this week to return," Aunt Maureen said as she floated into the room. She was a formidable woman with a large frame, yet she managed to maneuver herself with surprising grace.
"Yes, fortunate was precisely what I was thinking," he said, doing nothing to hide the sarcasm in his voice.
"The Season hasn't even opened yet and technically we have a couple more months of mourning, but your sister has managed to get herself into quite the predicament." Maureen lowered herself onto the leather sofa adjacent to his chair. She had hinted about something dire she needed to speak with him about when he'd arrived the night before, but she'd allowed him time to rest.
Evidently, his resting time had ended. "Yes, you mentioned something last night."
"If we don't take action soon," she said, "there will be a terrible scandal — one from which she might not ever recover."
"Certainly it cannot be that bad." He pinched the bridge of his nose, willing the dull headache away. "It is not as if the girl has gotten herself compromised."
"Not quite," Maureen said holding up one finger. "But we were not far from that."
Marcus swore, then shook his head in lieu of apologizing. "What happened?"
"She was seen speaking to a questionable gentleman." It was on his tongue to wave her off. That alone was not so scandalous.
"Outside of his gaming hell."
He swore again. "What the devil was she thinking?"
"She claims to have had business to discuss with him and will say nothing more on the matter."
"What manner of business could a girl possibly have with a man the likes of him?"
"She is hardly a girl anymore," Maureen said. "She is three and twenty."
How was it possible that Clarissa was already a fully grown woman? Of course he'd seen her briefly when he'd arrived the night before, but he hadn't stopped to think about it. He hadn't expected a lot upon his return. Primarily, he hadn't expected his brother would be gone.
Over and over he kept realizing that he was now the earl. He was in charge of this family. Charles had always handled family matters with a deft, but firm, hand. Marcus considered what Charles would have done in this situation. For one thing, he would not allow the girl to remain secretive about her goings-on.
Marcus sat up, bracing his elbows on his knees. "I want her down here now to answer my questions." He pointed to the carpet for added emphasis. Then he stood. No, Charles would not wait on anyone. "Never mind. I shall go to her and demand answers."
Marcus ran up the stairs with his aunt trailing somewhere behind. He stormed into his sister's room. She jumped at the intrusion. Clarissa stood before her writing desk, where she'd been sitting and penning a letter.
"What are you about, barging into my private rooms?" she asked. Her brow knitted in a tense frown.
"I demand to know the truth of what happened at this gaming establishment," he said. Yes, that is how Charles would have approached this. He would not have asked; he would simply have expected to receive the information.
Her eyes flared and she stepped over to him. "You demand? You have no right to demand!" She settled her hands on her hips. "You haven't been part of this family since I was thirteen. You might be the earl now, but I have been living on my own, with Aunt Maureen, of course." She motioned toward their aunt standing behind him. "And without any man to keep me protected. We've managed perfectly well on our own."
"You're embroiled in a scandal. If ever you needed a man's protection, it's now."
"I don't want your protection," she said, crossing her arms over her chest. Her features set, her eyes staring straight at him as if daring him to defy her.
Charles would know precisely what to do in this situation, know how to calm Clarissa and know how to squelch the rumors. Marcus knew precisely where to shoot a lion to stop him cold from attacking an unsuspecting Englishman. He knew how to use a knife to protect a group of travelers from a spitting cobra. He knew how to tie a hundred different knots and build a fire with nothing more than flint and a handful of brush. But he knew virtually nothing about his own sister or how to manage his new familial responsibilities.
He did, however, know when to retreat from a foe he couldn't possibly battle. Marcus turned and stepped out of Clarissa's bedchamber. Arguing with her was getting them nowhere. He needed to reassess. Come up with a different plan.
Clarissa slammed the door behind him. Marcus glanced at Maureen.
She gave him a smile. "Pardon me, nephew, for my boldness, but you barely know your sister. You left when she was but a child and you've been gone since she was but a child. You cannot simply barge in there and demand answers." Maureen took a slow breath. "Might I suggest an alternative?"
Marcus eyed her, then nodded slowly.
"I know someone who can help." Maureen tapped her fingers on the wood paneling that lined the upstairs corridor. "Someone who will be better equipped to persuade Clarissa to talk — someone who might assist in smoothing over the situation. Perhaps even make it disappear altogether."
"I'm not certain we need to bring anyone else in on this. Our goal is to keep the situation quiet, is it not?"
"I wasn't actually asking you for permission," Maureen said. "I have, in fact, already contacted this person."
"Well, you can contact them again. Tell them we are not in need of their services," he said. He was not so archaic that he didn't believe women were allowed their opinions, but he had had enough of the women in his family telling him how things were going to be. He might have been gone for the better part of nine years, but he was still the bloody earl.
"No, I will not do that," Maureen said. "Marcus, you have only been back in London for two days. We had no notion of when you would return. As Clarissa says, we have been living on our own, and doing quite well, I might add, despite this recent debacle. I already scheduled a meeting with this person because it was up to me to handle matters." She took a few steps down the corridor, as if that settled everything. "Now then, it would make the situation much better if you would join us in the meeting, but we do not require your permission."
He eyed his aunt, who had, for all intents and purposes, just laid him out. "Who is this person, the one who can solve this problem?"
"Vivian March. The Paragon."
The name had sounded vaguely familiar, but Marcus couldn't place it. Vivian March. Well, she would be here soon enough and he could meet her then. His aunt had assured him that this woman, who was evidently referred to as The Paragon, would be able to divert attention from the scandal, effectively making it disappear, before it did much damage. But in order for that to happen, she would have to agree to align herself with them, which would require a certain amount of decorum from him.
Excerpted from A Little Bit Wicked by Robyn DeHart, Alethea Spiridon. Copyright © 2012 Robyn DeHart. Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
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.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Have you ever read a modern historical novel that was trying to recapture the stilted Regency language used by Jane Austen (but failing) or better yet, that tried to cover badly written soft core porn with a historical shroud but containing many historical inaccuracies? I have, and this book is not one of those drivels. It was awesome, exciting, and fun. I was so glad to have a historical lead female who wasn't silly or insipid. This book caught my attention on the first page. I'm a trained historian with some background of the time period covered in the book, and the minor inaccuacies are not due to lack of research, but more of an author needing to write a historical novel for a contemporary audience -- Robyn DeHart made some artistic licenses primarily with the "liberal" approach of her female character so the modern female reader who doesn't have the historical background could still connect and relate. I loved Marcus and Vivian from the very beginning. They are both likable characters and well-rounded. From the very beginning I was wondering about Frederick and how he would re-appear and he does. The Frederick story is interesting, but is not the main story. The main story is about two people growing together and learning to trust one another. Their story is a sweet story of love not handled in a conventional way from what I've seen in the past for historical novels. I sincerely enjoyed this book and will be anxious to read others by this author.
Reviewed by Robin Book provided by the publisher for review Review originally posted at Romancing the Book I tend to think that no matter what era you lived in society stays the same. The virtue of women is held in high esteem. Once said virtue is shall we shall ruined, you aren’t looked at in the same way. It matters not how innocent it may have seemed at the time you are still looked at as a ruined woman. Within the ton in London most proper families saw clear to keeping their daughters out of ruin. But, there is always the risk however innocent in your eyes you make one wrong move and you need someone to help you repair the damage that others think may have incurred. What would you do in this type of situation? That is where Ms. Vivian March comes in. Ms. March lived her private scandal, spending the last ten years or so keeping it hidden. She has buried those secrets deep, in hopes that no one would be the wiser. Living the life of a spinster with her spinster aunt she spends her days helping the ton escape scandal thus keeping their own secrets hidden. But, it wasn’t always like that for Vivian. She was once so in love with her then fiancé Fredrick that she gave into the lust of young people in love only to have him leave her so that he could pursue his career in Art. After giving herself to another in the name of love/lust, whichever way you choose to look at it, Vivian is thankful that a child was not the outcome because then she wouldn’t have been able to bury her secret along with the indiscretion. As with most secrets they tend to find a way of resurfacing when we least expect them. Ten years ago when Fredrick left her at a party in the moonlight she kissed another thinking he was Fredrick as it was a masked ball. This kiss she shared in the moonlight light was with a man a few years younger than her. Now ten years later that young man enters her life once again. He remembers that shared kiss and the passion. Marcus having spent the last several years as a tour guide in India and Africa has come home to take over as Earl because his older brother is now deceased. His younger sister has recently done something that may jeopardize her reputation. Because of this Vivian is called and thus the meeting between the two. Marcus remembers her right away wanting to pursue her, while she is trying to help his younger sister’s virtue stay in tack. As she works on helping his sister she also decides a wife is in order for Marcus which will help in the long run. Meantime Vivian’s past threatens to ruin her. What is she to do? Can she being, much older and wiser keep things secret still? Or will she have to tell all in order to save everyone? I enjoyed all the elements of the story. There was plenty of scandal and secrets to keep me reading and wanting to find out what happens. The unlikely couple (because Vivian is older than Marcus although we aren’t quite sure as the age difference changes from the beginning to the end) shares chemistry, passion and romance from the beginning. I liked the way Marcus knew right away what he wanted and never once gave up on his pursuit of Vivian. Pure romance… Ms. De Hart has written a fast paced, passion filled romance with a love that transcends age. A Little Bit Wicked is the first in a new series written by Ms. De Hart, I for one look forward to the next installment.
There's nothing I love more than a witty heroine and arrogant hero who just can't help falling for each other despite their best intentions otherwise, and A Little Bit Wicked certainly delivers! Marcus and Vivian are fantastic characters and their story is charming, engaging, and very entertaining. I can't wait to read the rest of the series!
I enjoyed this book. This sequel deals with David finding love and coming to terms with his disfunctional role in his family. Good historical novel.
By: Robyn DeHart Published By: Entangled Published, LLC Age Recommended: Adult Reviewed By: Arlena Dean Rating: 5 Blog For: GMTA Series: Forbidden Love #1 Review: "A Little Bit Wicked: Forbidden Love (Entangled: Scandalous)" by Robyn DeHart was a wonderfully written historical romance novel in 1876 London where women are held in 'high esteem.' "A Little Bit Wicked: Forbidden Love (Entangled: Scandalous)" is this authors first book in historical romance series. You will find from this fun read a lots will be going on such as 'secrets, scandals, blackmail and most of all love.' What will happen when a younger Lord( Marcus Kincaid , the Earl of Ashford) meets an older Lady, Vivian March)and fall in love? What was up with this 'Paragaon to Society' that Vivian was supposed to be? To find out this an a lots more you must pick up this good read "A Little Bit Wicked" to see how this author will present it all to the reader. From 'wickedness, desire, passion and scandal' you will be seating on the edge of your seat just waiting for what will come next. I thought all of the characters were well developed, colorful and very captivating only helping to produce such a well written story. My favorite part of this story was the scene toward the end where Vivian comes clean. If you are into historical romances that may be a little wicked I would definitely recommend this series: "A Little Bit Wicked: Forbidden Love (Entangled: Scandalous)) to you as a excellent read.
"You are a wicked man, Marcus," she murmured. "Indeed. Won't you be a little wicked with me? "Oh, hell yeah! You are SOOO gonna want to be just a little bit wicked with Marcus. This was my first time reading DeHart and you know, I really enjoyed this one. From the cover, which is gorgeous, to the set up for their relationship, the frustrations along the way and all the yummy, delicious kissing. It was just a wonderful read that really delighted the romance lover in me. Yall know I love when authors do sometime just a little different with their characters and Marcus and Vivian were an excellent duo. She's in her mid 30's and actually 7 years older than he is! I love when that happens because it's just so... unexpected. Marcus was an incredible hero. I absolutely loved him and seriously felt for the guy. He's been away for a decade and come home to find he's now the head of the family after his brother's passing, his sister has started a scandal and all the women in his life are pretty much intent on driving him mad. Including one Vivian March who has been called in to help the family sweep the brewing scandal under the rug. The ladies really gave him hell on pretty much everything. There's an excellent little bit of history between Vivian and Marcus that I really enjoyed and that I thought added a nice touch to the relationship. I loved the banter and zing between them and that there was some heat to their interactions. And there were plenty of interactions as she decides he needs to marry in order to get the gossips' focus off his sister and on to him and sets about doing some matchmaking. He does need a wife after all to provide an heir for the title. A win-win situation, right? I mean if she can convince him that is. And oh that is not an easy task because once he set his sights on Vivian he wasn't going to be deterred from his goal. . As much as I enjoyed Vivian, lordy, I wanted to hurt her when she kept turning Marcus down and brushing off his interest in her. She's hiding a lot of self esteem issues because of something that happened to her in her youth. It was one of those things you can totally get why it would affect her but damn I just wanted her to get over it and jump the man already. And on that front, lol, yall know I love a steamy book and I'll say the sex scenes between Vivian and Marcus were nice but damn the kissing was what got me. The kissing was GOOOOD. Like, make you tingle and pant just a bit good. I could have made it through the book with just that and been way more than content. Overall, DeHart did an excellent job with A Little Bit Wicked. It's a nicely done romance that's enjoyable and entertaining and left me eager to read more from her. I'm really hoping the secondary characters like his sister and the "gentleman" she caused a scandal with will both pop up later on in the series. Final verdict? Go pick up a copy! You'll love it!
Icky love scenes.