She's not waiting for her prince. He's not looking for a bride. But sometimes the most unlikely love stories end in ‘happily ever after'…
SHE WAS STOLEN AWAY
Ellie Stratham gave up her childhood dreams of a fairy tale romance long ago. To repay her late father's debts, she's forced to serve her spoiled cousin, Lady Beatrice. But Ellie has devised a secret plan to escape her life as a drudge. A plan that is thrown into jeopardy when she's abducted by a mysterious stranger.
BUT CAN HE STEAL HER HEART?
A notorious seducer of women—and a scoundrel to boot—Damien Burke has earned his nickname as the Demon Prince. But his plot to kidnap Lady Beatrice to make her brother return a priceless heirloom backfires—and he ends up with their penniless cousin Ellie as his hostage. By the time Damien realizes his mistake, he and his fiery-willed captive are trapped in a remote castle during a wild winter storm. And he soon finds that the true hostage may be his own heart.
The Cinderella Sisterhood series is:
"Filled with romance [and] breathtaking passion."—Night Owl Reviews
"Magical."—Once Upon a Romance
"Sensual…engaging...beautiful."—RT Book Reviews (4 stars)
About the Author
OLIVIA DRAKE is a New York Times bestselling author who lives in Texas. Her novels have won critical acclaim and numerous industry awards, including the prestigious RITA. Her books include If the Slipper Fits and Stroke of Midnight.
Olivia Drake is the author of Seducing the Heiress, Never Trust a Rogue, and Scandal of the Year. She has been a member of Romance Writers of America since 1981, and her novels have won the Golden Heart Award, Best Historical Romantic Suspense and Best Regency Historical from Romantic Times, and the prestigious RITA award. She lives in Houston, Texas.
Read an Excerpt
“This is a travesty,” said Walt Stratham, Viscount Greaves. “I demand a rematch at once.”
“We’ll discuss the matter in private.” Noting the curious glances from several club members in the corridor, Damien Burke ushered the irate man into his study and closed the door.
The spacious chamber featured a claw-footed desk on a Persian rug, the finest that money could buy. At this late hour, the tall windows showed pinpricks of light against the darkness of the city. The scent of leather bindings came from the bookcase behind the desk. On the opposite wall, a gently hissing fire warded off the February chill.
No expense had been spared on the décor. Damien had fought long and hard to acquire the trappings of the upper crust. While his fellow Eton graduates had inherited their wealth, he had started out with nothing. He had accrued his own fortune, first by his skill at gambling, and then by prudent investments in shipping, property, and this club.
With ruthless resolve, he had built Demon’s Den into the most fashionable gaming site in London. Here, gold flowed freely from the pockets of the aristocrats into his coffers. If the nobility barred him from their drawing rooms, then by God, he would make them pay for the privilege of occupying his establishment.
In particular, this man.
Ignoring the pair of chairs by the hearth, Damien strolled to the desk, took a brown leather pouch from his pocket, and tossed it onto the polished surface. The ivory counters inside made a satisfying clink.
The viscount glowered at the sack. No wonder. The sum of his losses represented a full five years’ worth of his quarterly allowance from his father, the Earl of Pennington. The earl had a reputation as a harsh, miserly man. With the expense of launching a daughter into society in the coming season, Lord Pennington wouldn’t be amenable to making loans to his profligate eldest son.
Walt faced a grim future hounded by creditors. Not even his status as heir to an earldom would save him. His only recourse would be to agree to the terms that Damien would present to him in a moment.
But first, Damien wanted to savor his victory.
He purposely took his time opening the sack. Walt had changed little since their school days; he still exuded the inborn superiority of the upper class. But now the hazel eyes beneath a thatch of ginger hair revealed a telltale trace of panic. Over the years Damien had taught himself to read the nuances of mannerisms that betrayed a man’s thoughts. A slight tic or nervous gesture, a tapping of the fingers or the lifting of an eyebrow, all served as clues to the cards in his hands.
Damien had employed that talent tonight to reel in his prey. He had craved this moment for over fifteen years. However, unlike the hotheaded schoolboy he had once been, he kept his expression cool and his emotions disciplined.
He poured the little discs into a heap on the desk and began to stack them into neat piles. He didn’t really need to add up the counters; he already knew the precise amount of his winnings. Rather, the action was designed to further fray Walt’s nerves.
“It’s time to settle your debt,” Damien stated. “There’s paper and pen for you to write a bank draft to me.”
Walt made no move to avail himself of the quill and inkpot placed at the corner of the desk. He elevated his chin to a disdainful angle. “The devil you say! If you were a gentleman, you’d grant me the chance to win back my funds.”
“I’m afraid that wasn’t our agreement. It was winner take all.”
“Only because I thought—”
“You thought I’d be an easy mark.” Just as I was at Eton. Damien had been small for his age back then, alone in the world, a charity student among the hordes of privileged boys from the best families.
Walt nervously gripped the lapels of his forest-green coat. “This is your club. You must have rigged the game.”
Damien gave him a caustic smile. Walt had always been quick to blame his own failings on others, particularly those he considered to be his social inferiors. He would never have dared to fling such an insulting accusation at a fellow gentleman. As much as Damien would have liked to avenge the slur with his fists, he knew that violence would be antithetical to his purpose.
“I allowed you to deal each hand,” he said. “So if there was any cheating at all, it must have been done by you.”
“What blather! You marked the cards somehow.”
“And you inspected the deck before the game commenced. Now, enough of your excuses.” Damien nudged the paper and pen toward him. “Write the bank draft.”
Walt shifted from one foot to the other. “There’s no point,” he said sullenly. “I haven’t sufficient funds in my account.”
They were making headway, at least, since he appeared to have abandoned his false accusation of cheating. He would soon realize that Damien had no interest in fleecing Walt.
At least not of his money.
Damien strolled to the chair behind the desk. “Ask your father for a loan, then.”
“Absolutely not! He despises gambling.”
“Indeed? Then it seems you’re in quite the quandary.”
Walt groped for the quill and jammed the sharpened tip into the silver inkpot. “I’ll write you an IOU if I must,” he said through gritted teeth. “That will have to suffice.”
“No. I’m afraid it won’t. Let me be perfectly clear. I will have my payment before the week is out.”
“Blast you!” Walt tossed down the pen so that black ink spattered the paper. “If you intend for me to sign my soul over to some dodgy moneylender, think again!”
Damien seated himself in the desk chair and steepled his fingers beneath his chin. The time had come to get an answer to the question burning inside him. “Very well,” he said. “Since you have no funds, I’ll allow you to repay me in another way.”
“How? Tell me.”
The hint of desperate hope in the man’s voice gratified Damien. “You have something of mine in your possession. If you return it, I’ll forgive the entire debt.”
Walt frowned. “Something of yours? Why, I’ve scarcely seen you since we left Eton over ten years ago.”
“You stole it from me while we were at school. If you rack your brain, perhaps you’ll recall the incident.”
Damien certainly did. The memories of that long-ago time burned like a canker inside him. An impoverished orphan, he had been taunted and bullied by the other boys. Perhaps his situation wouldn’t have been so dire had he hailed from a highborn family that had fallen on hard times. But his ancestry had been—and still was—an utter mystery.
A matronly woman he’d called Mimsy had raised him in a tiny flat in the London borough of Southwark. Mrs. Mims had taught him proper speech along with a rigorous slate of academic lessons. Perhaps that was why, even as a small boy, Damien sensed he was different. He didn’t fit in with the scruffy, unschooled children who ran free in the neighborhood. At times, Mimsy hinted that his father had royal blood. She spun tales of princely heroes slaying dragons and told him that he, too, must always be brave. As he grew older, he began to ask questions about his absent parents. Mimsy would offer only a vague story that he’d been given to her for safekeeping.
If he probed too persistently, her face took on a worried look that soon silenced him. Not even to satisfy his curiosity would he distress Mimsy. She was all he had in the world.
One day, they boarded the mail coach to Windsor and visited Eton College, where he sat in a stuffy room and took a long examination with numerous written essays and pages of mathematics problems. Afterward, she consulted with one of the headmasters in an ivy-covered building while Damien waited on the stone steps outside, watching the older boys walk past in chattering groups. They looked posh and unapproachable in their formal garb, making him keenly aware of his own shabby attire. When Mimsy came out, she informed him that he had been accepted as a pupil at the boarding school. He protested vehemently at the notion of being left among strangers, but Mimsy was adamant.
Before leaving, she placed a delicate gold chain around his neck. From it dangled a small iron key which he was told to hide beneath his shirt. “I’ve been waiting for the right moment to give this to you, my little prince. When I took you in as a babe, it was tucked in your blankets.”
The key fascinated Damien as he examined it closely. “Did it belong to my father?” he asked. “Where is the lock that it fits?”
“You’ll learn everything someday. It’s all written down in a letter. In the meanwhile, you must guard the key. Never, ever show it to anyone. You’re to study hard and make me proud.” After a tearful hug and the promise of holiday visits, Mimsy trudged out the school gate.
Never to return.
Just before Christmas, the headmaster informed Damien that Mrs. Mims had died from a sudden illness. The news was delivered coldly, without a care that Mimsy was the only mother Damien had ever known.
After lessons that day, he stole outside so that no one would witness his tears. It was bad enough to be taunted for being a charity pupil without adding “sniveling infant” to the list of his sins. He sat among the barren rhododendron bushes with his back to the wall of the cloisters. The wintry cold bit through his short coat, and eventually, his grief spent, he scrubbed his sleeve over his damp face.
Reaching into his stiff-collared shirt, he drew out the key and traced it with his fingertip. One end had three teeth, the other end a little brass crown stamped into the iron and surrounded by a design of curlicues.
With Mimsy gone, this key was the sole link to his past. But she had never explained its significance. Did the crown verify her claim that he had royal blood? Damien wanted to believe it. He wished with all his might that he was a prince with enough riches to draw envy from all the other boys. Perhaps the key opened the door to a treasure room in a castle somewhere.
Visions of gold crowns and heaps of glittering jewels filled his imagination. Then another thought absorbed him. Maybe his father, the king, was imprisoned there, waiting for his son to rescue him …
The scrape of footsteps yanked him out of the fantasy. Damien froze with the key clenched in his fingers.
Walt Stratham approached with two of his hulking cronies. From the moment of Damien’s arrival, they had singled him out for their tormenting. “Hey,” Walt called. “Is that a necklace you’re wearing? You must be a girl in disguise.”
While the other boys chortled, one of them imitating mincing feminine steps, Damien stuffed the key back inside his shirt. Too late.
Walt made a wild grab for the gold chain. “Give me that.”
Damien sprang from the ground in a flurry of punching and kicking. Frantic to protect the precious key, he threw all of his puny strength into the fight. His fist connected with Walt’s nose, sending him staggering backward, blood trickling down his face.
It was the perfect chance to flee, but a fury born of grief transformed Damien into a wild beast. He lunged at the other two boys. He managed a few quick strikes before the pair of them joined forces to overpower him. They threw him to the rocky ground and held his squirming form in place.
In the throes of raw rage, he forgot all caution, shouting, “Let me go! I’m a prince! My father is a king, and he’ll chop off your heads.”
A moment of stunned silence reigned. Then derisive laughter burst from the trio of boys. “King?” one jeered. “You don’t even have a father.”
His nose bloody, Walt bared his teeth in a sneer. “You’re a filthy bastard.” He grabbed the key, snapping its gold chain. “Your sire must be the Devil. That’s what we’ll call you. The Demon Prince.”
* * *
“Well, Burke? Speak up! Tell me what it is you want from me.”
Walt’s voice dragged Damien back to the present. He sat behind the desk in the private study at his club, facing his longtime nemesis. Viscount Greaves stood with his fists clenched at his sides. His irate hazel eyes betrayed his impatience to settle the gaming debt and be gone.
Apparently, Walt didn’t remember the incident; it had been only one of their many clashes at Eton before Damien had grown big and strong enough to best any challenger.
“You took a key from me when I was a first-year,” he said tightly. “You and two of your mates overpowered me behind the cloisters.”
“Key?” Awareness dawned on Walt’s face, followed by a narrowing of his eyes in a guarded expression. “You’re saying you’d erase my losses in exchange for some long-lost trinket? You must be mad.”
“Nevertheless, you’ll bring it to me.”
“Good God, man, that must have been fifteen years ago! You can’t expect me to recall what happened to it. I likely tossed it into a rubbish bin.”
“That isn’t what you said back then. You used to taunt me that you’d put the key where I’d never find it.”
“So? Wherever it is, I’ve forgotten now.”
As he spoke, Walt averted his gaze. His avoidance of a direct look was a clear indicator of deception.
Damien felt his gut tighten with absolute certainty. Walt was lying. He did know the location of the key.
“It would behoove you to remember, then,” Damien said. “It’s your only chance to have your gaming debt forgiven.”
Walt’s resentful gaze slid back. “Why do you want a damned key?” he asked. “Does it fit a strongbox somewhere? It wouldn’t surprise me to learn that you were harboring stolen goods even back then.”
Damien kept his face wiped clean of anger. “You will retrieve the key. I’ll give you until tomorrow evening to bring it to me.”
“It might take longer than that,” Walt said, a crafty glint entering his eyes.
“Don’t even think to trick me. I remember every detail of that key, and I’ll know if it’s a forgery.” Damien paused for dramatic effect. “If you fail to fulfill your end of the bargain, you’ll force me to find another means to collect your debt—a manner that won’t be to your liking.”
“What is that supposed to mean?”
Damien allowed a cold smile. “You have a sister about to make her debut. Innocent, sheltered girls are often susceptible to the charms of a dashing stranger.”
The viscount’s face paled so that his freckles stood out. “By God! You wouldn’t dare go anywhere near Beatrice.”
“Then do as I say. Bring me that key.”
Walt’s chest heaved beneath his forest-green coat, his nostrils flaring. Abruptly, he slammed his fist onto the desk and rattled the neat stacks of gaming discs. “Bastard! You may don the trappings of a gentleman, but you’ll always be an upstart from the gutter.”
Pivoting on his well-shod heel, he threw open the door and stomped out of the study.
Damien surged up from the chair and stalked to the window to stare out into the night. That word never failed to cause a visceral twist inside him. His ancestry had always been a blank slate. Deep inside him burned the need to give substance to his background. To learn who he really was. Not just for his own sake, but for Lily’s.
His chest tightened. His daughter was only six years of age, but someday she would ask him questions about her absent grandparents. She would want to know who they were, where they had come from, why they had abandoned him. Mimsy had mentioned a letter that explained everything, presumably from his parents, but he had never been given her effects after her death. Nor had he found the letter years later, when he’d gone back to his old neighborhood and sought to discover what had happened to her belongings. Without Mimsy, the only person who might have provided the answers, he had no clue to his past.
Except for that key.
The shuffle of footsteps sounded behind him. Reflected in the window glass, a short, bandy-legged servant stepped into the study. Light from the gas wall sconces glinted off a head as bald as a billiard ball. Finn MacNab had once been a man-of-all-work at Eton, and Damien’s sole ally at the school. He and his wife were the only ones to whom Damien had confided his secrets.
At the moment, however, Damien had no desire for company. Turning, he said curtly, “I trust you didn’t have your ear to the door.”
Finn bared his teeth in a grin. “Might have, though I couldna hear it all,” he said in his thick Scottish brogue. “Did his lairdship recollect wha’ happened t’ the key?”
“He hemmed and hawed. But he knows, I’m certain of it.”
“Then he’ll bring it t’ ye on the morrow?”
“He has little choice in the matter.”
Finn waggled a bushy eyebrow. “Beggin’ yer pardon, sir, but these high-and-mighty lairds do hold the upper hand over us mortals.”
“Not this time.” Damien paused, his resolve hardening in regard to the bold plan that he had formulated. “If he fails to comply, I’ll abduct his sister. The key shall be her ransom.”
Copyright © 2014 by Barbara Dawson Smith
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This is book 3 in the Cinderella Sisterhood. Ellie Stratham was forced to be companion to her cousin when her father passes away. Since he had gambled all his money away, she has no other choice but to live off the generosity of her uncle. Living the life of a servant, Ellie has given up on having her own happily ever after. Damien Burke is determined to get back the one thing that can lead to finding out who his parents were, a key with a distinct marking of a crown on it. Viscount Greaves stole it many years ago and Damien has told him that his debts will be forgiven if he just returns the key. When the Viscount does not return the key, Damien decides to kidnap the Viscount's sister to get him to comply. Unfortunately for Damien, he kidnaps the wrong woman. He has taken the spinster cousin of the Viscount instead of his sister. Ellie can't believe that anyone would mistake her for her beautiful cousin. Once she convinces Damien that he has the wrong woman, he agrees to take her back to London. Unfortunately the Scottish weather will not comply and they end up stuck in a snow storm unable to return to London for many days. Can Ellie get her happily ever after while of her unexpected adventure? Even though this is the third book in the series, you don't have to read the others to throughly enjoy this one. There is one character that shows up in all three books and is instrumental to each of the stories, but each one is definitely a standalone. I love stories in which the H/H are instantly attracted to but fight that attraction. It makes their coming together that much more explosive when it finally occurs. Damien has already ruined another innocent young lady and isn't about to do it again. On the other hand, Ellie has heard many rumors about Damien and doesn't want to get caught up in a scandal with a known rake. Both are fighting hard not to give into their desires, but when Ellie realizes that she will be ruined no matter what she decides to seduce Damien and not wait for him to come around. Love when the heroine takes charge! Olivia Drake is masterful at setting up a story and then throwing in a twist at the end. That is all I'll say so that I don't ruin it for you!! Thanks got to St. Martin's Press via NetGalley for a copy of the book in exchange of an honest review.
A sweet and truly enjoyable historical romance, Abducted by a Prince was a fantastic read. I really loved this wonderful book. From the sweet romance, to the surprising secrets, this book was lovely. Ellie was a lovely heroine. After years of serving her uncle's house in return for him paying off her father's debt, she'd had enough and was determined to gain her independence. But, then she was kidnapped and her plans went awry. I really liked her character. She was quietly strong and very clever. My only issue was that I got frustrated when she almost chose independence to a newly happy life. But, otherwise, I thought she was great. Damien was wonderful. He was so sweet and, underneath the formidable mask of the gambling den owner, a truly kind man. I loved how he acted with his daughter and how sweet he was with Ellie. I thought he was perfect and I adored him. The romance was both sweet and sensuous. Ellie and Damien were so adorable together. Even when they couldn't admit to them, their feelings for each other were always clear. The chemistry between them was sizzling from the moment they met and there was definitely some steaminess with these two. I thought they were a lovely couple. The plot was fast paced and I was hooked the entire way through. The secrets of Damien's parentage were quite a shock. I never saw the truth of it coming. I really enjoyed the story and I thought the ending was perfect. Abducted by a Prince was a brilliant historical romance. I really liked this book and I really enjoyed reading it. The romance was sweet, the secrets were shocking, and the story was lovely. Romance lovers, this is a book you won't want to miss. *I received a complimentary copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review
In every romance story there a man and a woman, but this one is special because it has a very important third character that makes the story complete. A Fairy Godmother named Lady Clarissa Milford, who makes exceptional woman dreams come true. Lady Clarissa was blessed with a special pair of shoes that will lead the wearer to their true love when she was younger. Now she makes others' dreams come true. Damien Burke was orphaned and raised by a kind and gentle woman named Mrs. Mims. His Mimsy always told him stories that he was son of royalty and she raised and taught him to always be a gentleman. When he was old enough, she brings him to Eton so he could get a princely education. She gives him a special key and tells him not to show it to anyone and he can use it to find his parents. On the day of her death, Damien flees Eton to grieve the only mother he ever had. He is discovered and beaten by the creul Walt Stratham and his friends. He fights back and says, "My dad's a king and he will chop off your heads!" Walt laughs, steals his key and calls him The Demon Prince! For 15 years, Damien has gambled, invested well and now owns "Demons Den", a gambling hell, and has Walt, Viscount Greaves, right where is WANTS him! Eloise Stratham is also an orphan and unwanted. Ellie's father die in debt from gambling and her Uncle Basil Stratham, the Earl of Pennington, pays his debts and takes Ellie in. She has been a UNPAID governess, maid, errand runner and now a chaperone for his spoiled daughter, Lady Beatrice. All she wants is to write and draw her children book, so she can support herself and not be anyone servant. All she has to do is keep her handsy Cousin Walt away from her and help make Beatrice into a successful debutante and then she is FREE! Now Damien wants his key or he threatens to abducted Walt's sister, Lady Beatrice. All Ellie wants is a simple cottage and peace and quiet. Lady Clarissa and her magic shoes enters and shakes up their world, with her trusted butler, Hargrove, because every Fairy Godmother needs a little help. Damien kidnaps Ellie by mistake and when Ellie wakes up, she is in a castle in SCOTLAND! With only his most trusted friends/servants Finn MacNab and his wife, Damien is shocked to find out he abduct the wrong Stratham female! Ellie does what every kidnapped girl does she tries to escape, but learns that she is on an island and no place to go. So now we have a Rat Prince, his captive, a castle, sword fights, steamy scenes, the Forbidden Forest, fist fights, a witch, a vicar and little blonde imp. Then add Lady Clarissa and her shoes to the mix and stir and your get this crazy, funny, sexy and heart melting journey that Damien and Ellie take together. Will Damien ever find his parents? Will Ellie and Damien embrace their love and have a happy ending? I felt such a part of this story and all the loveable and not so loveable characters. Ellie is like me, she lives in the world of stories because her life would be nothing without them. Damien goes to such lengths to hide his tender and lonely heart from the world. This book would not be complete without Lady Clarissa, our slight kooky and sneaky Fairy Godmother. I am so glad Ms. Drake finally shared her story with us. She writes with humor, snappy dialogue, steamy and hot scenes, quirky and crazy characters but mostly with love! Ms. Drake gets my top score of 5 fingers up and 10 toes. I would also like to THANK Ms. Drake for making MY world brighter and happier! Reviewed from a NetGalley ARC.
Captivating from start to finish! Olivia Drake continues her Cinderella Sisterhood Series with another masterpiece! Damien Burke, owner of a notorious gambling club, has almost everything he’s ever wanted. He’s amassed enough money to buy the best that money can buy, however; there is one thing he can’t buy. It’s the one thing he desires more than anything in the world, the answers to his past. A key, stolen from him while he was at Eton, may hold the answer to the mystery behind his birth. Knowing that the owner of the key, one villainous Viscount Greaves, won’t just hand it over after all these years, Damien decides to kidnap his sister, Lady Beatrice, and demand the key as ransom. So he carefully devises a plan and sets it in motion. Only he kidnaps the wrong lady… Eloise Stratham is a penniless, orphaned cousin to Viscount Greaves, and must rely on her uncle, Lord Pennington, for everything. Being set to live with her uncle when she was only fourteen, Ellie is used to hard work. Having to work off her father’s gambling debt and earn her keep, Ellie has played maid and governess to her cousins. Her youngest cousin, Beatrice is set to make her come-out this year, and Ellie longs for the freedom she hopes to have after finally launching her last pupil into society. But when she notices a black carriage that appears to be following Beatrice and herself, she gets quite the uneasy feeling. Little does she know, her life is getting ready to change in the biggest way possible. After abducting the wrong lady and transporting her to an island fortress, Damien can’t believe his bad luck. But when he realizes that the chaperone he mistakenly took is actually beautiful and feisty underneath all that drab clothing, he soon realizes that his biggest mistake may actually be a blessing in disguise. Even though he won’t be getting the key as random, Ellie agrees to help him find it just as soon as they can return to London. As Ellie and Damien spend time together while waiting out a bitter winter storm, they begin to develop a relationship built on trust and friendship, and each shares secrets that they’ve never told before. When the legendary Lady Milford shows up for an unexpected visit, neither Damien nor Ellie will be ready for the even bigger storm they’re about to face. Will Damien and Ellie’s relationship survive and will they ever retrieve the key that will help him unlock the secrets of his past? I absolutely adore the Cinderella Sisterhood Series by Olivia Drake! The premise behind the garnet shoes helping the young ladies who are in need is genius! And I am a huge fan of Lady Milford! She’s everything you’d want a real life “fairy godmother” to be! Ellie and Damien’s characters are well written and utterly enjoyable. I found myself routing for their happily-ever-after almost from the very beginning! I thoroughly enjoyed how Ellie was finally treated like the lady she was instead of some poor relation. Damien’s vulnerability with regards to his unknown heritage was heartbreaking, since he only wanted to know for the sake of his daughter, Lily. The ending was definitely unexpected but fitting for such a wonderfully written novel. This is one I will be reading again and again. If you’re a fan of historical fiction based in the Regency Era, then don’t miss this one! Received for an honest review. Rating: 5 Heat Rating: MILD Reviewed by: AprilP Courtesy of My Book Addiction and More