London, 1815. Eliza Somerton has a dangerous secret. As the daughter of the infamous art forger who duped half the ton, she’s rebuilt her life under a new name. But when an old forgery goes up for auction, her father’s enemy, Grayson Montgomery, outbids her and presents her with an unimaginable choice: help him find her father or he’ll ruin her.
For years, Grayson, the Earl of Huntingdon and one of London’s top art critics, has sought justice. His well-laid plans finally come to fruition when he learns of his enemy’s beautiful daughter. But Eliza possesses a sensuality and independent spirit that weakens his resolve, and as the heat between them sizzles, what started as revenge soon blossoms into something sinful…
Each book in the Infamous Somertons series is STANDALONE:
* An Artful Seduction
* Real Earls Break the Rules
* The Duke Meets His Match
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About the Author
Best-selling author Tina Gabrielle is an attorney and former mechanical engineer whose love of reading for pleasure helped her get through years of academia. She often picked up a romance and let her fantasies of knights in shining armor and lords and ladies carry her away.
She is the author of adventurous Regency historical romances, A Spy Unmasked and At the Spy’s Pleasure, books In The Crown’s Secret Service series. Tina has also written In the Barrister’s Bed, In the Barrister’s Chambers, Lady of Scandal, and A Perfect Scandal from Kensington Books. An Artful Seduction is the first book in the Infamous Somertons series, and the next two books will be released by Entangled Publishing soon!
Publisher’s Weekly calls her Regency Barrister’s series, “Well-matched lovers…witty comradely repartee.” Tina’s books have been Barnes&Noble top picks, and her first book, Lady Of Scandal, was nominated as best first historical by Romantic Times Book Reviews. Tina lives in New Jersey and is married to her own hero and is blessed with two daughters. She loves to hear from readers. Visit her website to learn about upcoming releases, join her newsletter, and enter free monthly contests at www.tinagabrielle.com
Read an Excerpt
An Artful Seduction
By Tina Gabrielle, Alycia Tornetta
Entangled Publishing, LLCCopyright © 2016 Tina Sickler
All rights reserved.
January 15, 1815
The estate sale of the late Viscount Bartholomew Tutton
Tutton House, Mayfair
The first time he saw her, he knew she was going to be trouble. Grayson Montgomery, the Earl of Huntingdon, considered himself an excellent judge of character. Only once had he been wrong, and he'd paid the price.
The lady wove through the crush of well-dressed attendees in the late viscount's elegant library. His eyes were drawn to her ebony curls, full lips, and the lush curve of her breasts. There was no denying that she was a beautiful woman, but hers was a deceiving beauty, and he suspected that many men missed the sharp intelligence in her green gaze.
"From what I have discovered, Eliza Somerton is a respectable proprietor of a small print shop near Bruton Street," Thomas Begley leaned close to whisper.
Grayson glanced at the short, portly man beside him, the Duke of Desford's man of affairs who had sought him out a week ago.
"She is the lady in question," Grayson said. "Her father was Jonathan Miller, the most infamous art forger in London. She will know where to begin."
Begley pushed his spectacles farther up the bridge of his nose. "Still, I —"
Grayson frowned. "You asked for my assistance, correct?"
Begley's head bobbed up and down. "Yes, my lord. His Grace was most insistent on seeking your help in finding the stolen Rembrandt. The painting was to be loaned to a museum and cost the duke a small fortune. His Grace abhors losing money."
Grayson didn't care about the duke's financial loss. His Grace was, after all, one of the richest men in England. Rather, Grayson's motives for agreeing to aid him were twofold. Yes, he wanted the priceless painting returned to the museum for the public's enjoyment. But there was also the issue of Jonathan Miller. The infamous "forger of the ton" had fooled the best art critics, auctioneers, and buyers.
Five years ago, Grayson had been one of them.
Grayson nodded in greeting at several passersby, recognizing many of the wealthy collectors, museum curators, and titled nobility who gazed at the soon-to-be auctioned items with an avaricious intensity that marked them as fervent art collectors.
Priceless oils, watercolors, and tapestries hung on the walls. Shelves crowded with Greek pottery, Roman busts, and delicately carved ivory trinket boxes displayed the late viscount's expensive, eclectic taste for fine art.
Despite the vast array of art spread out before him, Grayson's gaze was fixed on Eliza Somerton as she moved among the crowd. She carried herself — regally, almost haughtily — as if she belonged with the throng of rich, influential collectors that graced the library.
Of course, he mused. Her father was the best charlatan in the country.
"Her father's been missing for years," Begley said, interrupting Grayson's thoughts.
"She knows where he is. It shouldn't be difficult to discover the truth."
"But the stolen artwork is not a forgery," Begley protested.
"No matter. Jonathan Miller knew every immoral art broker in London who could fence a stolen or forged painting. I plan to use the daughter to find the father."
Eliza Somerton halted in front of a reprint of a fourteenth-century engraving of I Modi. Although the erotic piece was merely a reprint, the detail was exquisite — the naked couple, Paris and Oenone, in the throes of passion, limbs entwined, lips meshed, man atop woman.
Mrs. Somerton's eyes widened, her red lips softened a degree as she gazed at the engraving. If she was embarrassed by the erotic nature of the work, she did not show it. A moment later a man bumped into her shoulder and her genuine look of pleasure was broken, replaced by a facade of indifference.
Grayson's opinion shifted. For those few seconds he saw what only a true connoisseur could recognize. She was an art lover herself.
She continued on, stopping before an oil of a landscape, the colors of the artist a masterful blending of vibrant green forest and subtle blue-gray sky. She glanced about as if she were looking for an acquaintance, but she remained in front of the painting, leaning close every few moments as if to study the brushstrokes or the artist's signature in the lower corner.
Clearly she was interested. But why? The painting was a small find in the viscount's vast collection.
What was the lady up to?
"I'm going to speak with her," Grayson said.
Begley's eyes widened behind thick spectacles in alarm. "Here? Now?"
"But the auction is about to commence."
"It's perfect timing, then."
A tall, bald man with a striped waistcoat walked to a podium in front of the room. "Ladies and gentlemen! If you would please take your seats, the auction will begin."
The chairs were three rows deep, jammed next to each other, and swiftly occupied. Grayson quickly took a seat beside Eliza Somerton. She glanced at him sidelong, thick, black lashes lowering as she clutched her reticule in her lap and avoided direct eye contact with him.
"Are you interested in anything in particular?" he asked, his tone light.
She looked up at him then. This close, she was even more striking than from across the room. Her green eyes were tip-tilted at the corners, and her skin was flawless and smooth. How did a criminal like Miller have such an exquisite daughter?
"An experienced bidder never asks what another plans to bid on," she said.
"You're afraid I'll drive up the price?"
"Perhaps I'm merely curious."
"I don't think so. I recognize you," she said.
"Oh?" He masked his surprise.
"You are one of London's most prominent art critics and active collectors, Lord Huntingdon."
"I fear you have me at a disadvantage, Lady ..."
"Ah, you're a widow, then?" he said.
"What makes you believe I'm a widow?"
"If I were your husband, I wouldn't let you out of my sight, let alone permit you to speak to me."
She hesitated a moment, then shrugged. "Then it's fortunate indeed that you are not my husband."
She remained cool and composed and he had a sudden urge to unnerve her, to test her mettle and see exactly what he was up against.
He dipped his head close to hers and lowered his voice. "I saw you looking at the I Modi engraving. I find the position of the couple most inspiring."
She arched a delicate eyebrow. "Truly? You look like a man who would find such an ordinary position quite droll."
His heart hammered as erotic images instantly came to mind. Images of her naked in his bed, not with her beneath him, but with her on top, those lush breasts bouncing as she rode him.
By God, she was a saucy piece. The conversation was entirely improper. Certainly nothing he would dare speak to a lady. But she isn't a lady, he reminded himself. She was Jonathan Miller's daughter.
A moment later the auction began. An assistant brought forth the first item — a bronze bowl from the late Middle Ages. Eliza Somerton turned in her seat and faced the podium, and within seconds appeared immersed in the dynamics of the sale, her eyes lighting with excitement when a notable piece was sold. Her easy dismissal irked him. He was not a man accustomed to women ignoring him.
As the auction progressed, Grayson bid on a few watercolors, but purposely did not offer the winning bid on any of them. The rhythmic pattern of the auctioneer calling out the bids was swift and precise. The I Modi engraving was brought forth and sold for an astonishing one thousand pounds. She never placed a bid.
"Next we have the 1640 oil Landscape with Peasants, painted by the Flemish artist Jan Wildens," the auctioneer announced as the painting was carried to the front of the room and presented for bidding.
Grayson noted that it was the landscape that had previously captured Mrs. Somerton's interest. She sat slightly forward in her seat, and bit her bottom lip.
Ah, perhaps she wouldn't make a masterful card player after all.
The auctioneer cleared his throat. "We shall start the bid at twenty pounds."
Eliza Somerton raised a gloved hand.
The bidding continued, increasing by increments of five pounds, until the price was up to forty pounds. Grayson waited until two bidders remained — Eliza and an aging gentleman in the front row. When the bid reached fifty pounds, only the lady's hand remained raised.
"Going once, twice ..."
Grayson raised his hand. "One hundred pounds."
Gasping, Eliza whirled to face him fully.
His lips curled in a mocking smile.
She lowered her hand, and the auctioneer rambled on, "Sold for one hundred pounds!"
Her eyes flashed emerald fire. "Why? Just to flaunt your wealth over a woman?"
"I desired it."
"When I see something I want, I won't allow anything to stand in my way of possessing it."
Her lips parted slightly, then closed. "I don't suppose you'll agree to sell it in the future?"
His gaze traveled over her face, feature by feature, then roamed to the bodice of her gown and lingered on her breasts before meeting her eyes. He smiled suggestively. "Everything has its price, Mrs. Somerton, don't you agree?"
If her eyes had flashed fire before, they were absolutely murderous now. She stood abruptly, knocking her chair over in the process. "Enjoy your acquisition, my lord."
Several people eyed him. Ignoring them all, he leaned back in his seat.
Mr. Begley rushed over. "Well? What did Mrs. Somerton say? Did she tell you where to find her father?"
"Not yet. But I have something she wants, and I expect a visit from her very soon."
* * *
Eliza Somerton burst into the Peacock Print Shop, making the bells chime nosily above the door. Her younger sister, Amelia, stood behind the counter, holding a lithograph in one hand and a wood frame in another.
"I lost the Wildens painting," Eliza said without preamble.
Amelia's blue eyes grew wide. "What do you mean?"
"There was a man ... Lord Huntingdon. He outbid me."
Amelia gasped, and the frame clattered on the counter. "Lord Huntingdon? The art critic and collector?"
"He's nothing but trouble."
"Are you certain the painting was the one?"
Eliza's voice was shakier than she would have liked. "I studied it as best as I could, and I'm fairly certain. It's yours, not father's."
"Lud! And Lord Huntingdon purchased it?"
Amelia's brow creased, and she pushed a wayward auburn curl over her shoulder. "Perhaps he'll never know. Didn't he acquire one of father's paintings in the past believing it to be authentic?"
Eliza's stomach sank. "Huntingdon was the worst. His reputation was damaged after it was discovered that he had purchased one of father's forgeries. He was the lead man who rallied the magistrate to press charges."
Amelia came around the counter. "You look tired. Come and rest." Her sister said as she led Eliza to a striped settee in front of the window.
Amelia sat beside Eliza. "Please don't worry. Perhaps Huntingdon will remain a priggish, ignorant aristocrat and hang the painting in his home for the next thirty years and no one will be the wiser."
Eliza bit her bottom lip. "He didn't strike me as priggish."
The man struck her as imposing, demanding ... virile. From the moment he had strolled over to occupy the seat beside her at the auction she had taken notice. He was tall and lean and moved with an athlete's grace. His eyes were dark as his hair, which he wore roguishly longer than fashion dictated to brush his collar. His features were bold — nose and chin ruggedly chiseled, making him strikingly handsome rather than pretty.
And the way he had looked at her ... dear lord, like he wanted to strip her naked and lick every inch of her flesh. No decent gentleman should look at a lady that way. It had taken all her self-control to act the cool, indifferent widow in Lord Huntington's presence.
"We can't afford a scandal," Eliza said. "We've worked so hard to keep the business."
Eliza scanned the shop, noting the original paintings on the walls, the racks of prints before the settee, and the shelves of artistic decorative items. "There's hope that you and Chloe can both make successful matches."
Amelia rolled her eyes. "Marriage is not on our minds."
The curtain to the back workroom was suddenly swept aside, and Eliza's youngest sister rushed forward to hug her. Chloe smelled like wildflowers and her blond curls bounced with exuberance.
"I made my first sale today! A piece of pottery to the son of a stockbroker. Nathan's young and handsome with fair hair, warm brown eyes, and —" Chloe halted in mid-sentence after finally noticing Eliza and Amelia's grave expressions. "What's amiss, Liza?"
Amelia spoke up first. "Eliza was outbid on the Wildens painting by an earl."
Chloe shrugged. "So?"
Eliza's brow creased as she gazed at her sisters. Three years younger than Eliza, Amelia was twenty-one, and Chloe was only eighteen. Eliza wanted a better life for them — not to live in fear of their father's sins.
"The Earl of Huntingdon happens to be a renowned art critic," Eliza said.
"You two worry for naught," Chloe insisted. "No one will ever learn that it's a forgery. Amelia's work is impeccable, even better than father's."
"But it's a risk!" Eliza said, unable to hide the fear from her voice.
Chloe's eyes lit with excitement. "Was your earl handsome? I daresay life has been boring around here."
"Chloe! Did you hear what Eliza said?" Amelia admonished. "An art critic outbid Eliza."
Chloe sighed dreamily. "Maybe he thought you were beautiful and he wanted to introduce himself."
Eliza thought of Huntington's hot gaze when he spoke of the erotic I Modi engraving. "He didn't act like a suitor."
To the contrary, he'd acted like a man who desired a wild, lustful night with an experienced courtesan.
Perhaps another time, long ago, Eliza would have been thrilled to attract the attention of such a handsome man. An earl, no less! But that time had passed, and she'd learned the hard way that men couldn't be trusted.
Chloe folded her arms across her chest. "How would you know how a suitor should behave, Lizzie? It's been so long since you've had one."
Eliza threw her hands up in exasperation and turned to Amelia. "Tell her. Chloe thinks about nothing but men. Tell her Huntingdon could ruin us. Ruin this." she waved her hand around the shop. "And then where would we be? On the streets or on the way to the poorhouse?"
Silence reigned, then Amelia spoke. "By how much did Huntingdon outbid you?"
"By too much."
As it stood, the fifty pounds she had intended to spend on the Jan Wilden's forgery was close to their entire savings. But it would have been worth it.
The alternative was unthinkable.
Amelia took a deep breath. "I can finish another, you know. We can sell it and disappear —"
Eliza shook her head. "No! I refuse to follow in Father's footsteps."
"But we've done it before," Amelia argued.
"Once and never again," Eliza swore.
One week after their father had disappeared they were forced to leave their modest town home. They were left with little money — just enough to rent the shop and the small rooms above where they'd lived and to buy food to last them through the winter. Eliza had been in a panic. They hadn't the money to heat their living space and Chloe, then only twelve, had developed a lingering cough.
Since that frightening winter, the thought of using Amelia's skill to masterfully forge paintings had always been in the back of Eliza's mind, but she had feared the worst.
Arrest. Imprisonment. Deportment.
Amelia twisted her hands in her lap. "What do you think we should do, Eliza?"
Eliza hesitated, then worked to keep all expression from her voice. "I have to get the painting back before Lord Huntingdon discovers the truth."
Amelia looked at her as if she had lost her mind. "You can't be serious? It's too risky."
"He doesn't know who I am," Eliza pointed out.
"What if he suspects you?" Amelia countered.
Eliza stood and stiffened her spine with resolve. "He won't. My acting skills have been honed over the past five years."
Chloe's nose crinkled. "You are overreacting, Lizzie. The dead viscount had that painting for years and no one suspected a thing. What makes you think anyone will now?"
Because of him. There had been something sinister in Huntingdon's jet eyes. Something that raised the hair on her nape. He was not a man to be trifled with, but to be taken seriously.
Excerpted from An Artful Seduction by Tina Gabrielle, Alycia Tornetta. Copyright © 2016 Tina Sickler. Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
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