Aiden Darlington, the wealthy and powerful Duke of Thistledowne has offered Jezebel his hand in marriage. By rejecting him she risks his wrath, but was she to accept she would be risking far more. Now Aiden's life is threatened and Jezebel is the prime suspect. Caught amidst a maelstrom of passion and danger, either Aiden or Jezebel dares to acknowledge the love that is enfolding between them. Even as they fight to resist its force however they cannot deny that it is that very love which could ultimately be their salvation. If only they could find the courage to reach for it.
|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.59(d)|
|Age Range:||16 Years|
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By Adrienne Davenport
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2009 Adrienne Davenport
All right reserved.
Chapter OneSix Month Later: April 1st, 1822 Kinrara Estate, Scotland
"May I offer you assistance my lady?" the young stable boy asked his mistress as she once again attempted to throw herself into the saddle of the giant black destrier that she'd been attempting to mount.
"No Carrick, thank you, but no, I tell you I will conquer this beast if it is the last thing I do!" Jezebel Countess of Kinley and Lady of Kinrara stated with a boundless determination and spirit that completely parried her young age and diminutive height.
"As you wish my lady", the young stable boy replied, still eyeing the dark horse with trepidation, amazed at the reverent docility of the turbulent creature beneath his ladyships hand.
Gritting her teeth in determination, the stable hands lingering presence going unnoticed, Jezebel sucked in a breath and launched herself upward with all of her strength. After a small struggle, she gained the triumph of the horse's saddle.
"Stubborn creature!" she grumbled low, knowing that the fault of her difficulty did not fall on the animal. As if he heard her thoughts, Dark Storm nickered playfully. Jezebel knew he was laughing at her. Cursing vividly, calling the beast ten kinds of devil, she grasped the reins and kicked. Horse and rider raced out of the stableand through the gates of Kinrara keep, a whirlwind of fluent motion, sharing in the wild freedom they had delighted in time and again since his presentation to her by her father on her fourteenth birthday. Closing her eyes, she remembered the moment in all its warm color,
"He has a wild spirit Jezebel, wilder even then your own. It is fitting two such like souls should find each other. Heed him and trust him and he will honor you much the same, and if you do this, I am certain, you will come to love each other as well."
Her father, kind, wonderful, and loving, had taught her everything about horses. He had been right on all accounts. She and Dark Storm had come to trust and then love each other, with a fiery passion born of their wild hearts and shared lust for life. When her father and brother had died three years earlier leaving her the sole heir to Kinrara and all the responsibilities with it, Dark Storm had been her salvation. Not wishing to burden her friends with her worries, Dark Storm had become her one true confidant-and that love had deepened tenfold.
Now galloping across meadow and moor, Jezebel, kept her eyes closed, leaning forward, and relaxing against the soft roughness of Dark Storms neck. Releasing the reins, she, with a confidence wrought of time and love, let the steed run roughshod. Which is why, galloping at an equally breakneck pace, Aiden Darlington found himself changing course to pursue the dangerous and feral animal, whose rider it seemed was an unfortunate match for his mount.
* * *
He appeared to be on all accounts dead, not an unusual incident considering his locale. The wilds of Scotland were fraught with accidents. That said, Aiden could not figure out, why for the life of him, he seemed intent on chasing the god-forsaken creature on which the dead man balanced across the whole damn country when he had come to Scotland for rest and relaxation away from the prying eyes of England's infamous haute ton. Nevertheless, that's exactly what he found himself doing. With a heavy sigh, he gave his mount a hearty kick that sent him racing towards the horse and rider.
It didn't take long for him to eradicate most of the distance between himself and the unfortunate lad. As he came closer, he began to inspect his quarry. The boy was noticeably young, the Duke pondered, much too young to die, by his guess no more than sixteen. He was still reflecting on the matter when he realized, with what little surprise he was capable of, there was no blood to be seen. Well that ruled out a gunshot, Aiden thought as he observed the young boy, he had probably been strangled. Upon closer inspection however, he could see no sign of that either. A broken neck, he wondered, it didn't loll about.
Falling in line with the huge creature, Aiden reached, grasping the horse's reins, and with the ease of an expert horseman pulled the beast up short. As he reached over to examine the victim, three things hit him all at once and in such rapid succession, they left his head reeling. First the boy was no boy at all, but a maid, beautiful to be sure, every curve and crevice of her body outlined by the masculine apparel she was clad in. Second, she had the most amazing skein of tresses he had ever seen, he must have been outright mad to have missed it. While he was still contemplating that amazing fact, the third hit him right between the eyes. She was awake, and had a damn strong arm!
"Hell and damnation woman! What was that for?" He sputtered angrily, his face still stinging from her blow.
"That," Jezebel fired back, "was for manhandling my horse and for trying to assault me in the process you wretched, disgusting, venomous snake! God should never have let a sadistic, unprincipled bastard such as you walk the earth you - you pestilence upon man you worm upon humanity you-"
Recovering from his stunned stupor, the smile he gave her was roguish and self-assured.
"Are you done slighting my character and cataloging my faults?" he inquired.
"There aren't enough words in the world to describe the sort of treacherous lout you are you miserable-" Jezebel resumed, jerking her horse's reins from his hand.
"You have made that more than clear enough" the Duke responded, unperturbed by her incestuous fury, the rakish grin that had been threatening to reveal itself lingering on the edges of his smile.
"If you'll but give me a chance to explain," He continued "I'm sure I could ease your venomous opinion of me, if only slightly"
"With your evident confidence," Jezebel fired back, "I bet you think you could charm a snake out of its poison."
Beginning to enjoy himself, Aiden wondered at what a fascinating surprise this dead man had become, all the while listening to the fiery temptress beside him tick off his faults and social infractions with pleasurable wrath emanating from her every beauteous curve. There were many to be sure, he pondered, his predatory nature pressing him to act. What a lovely mistress she would make, He thought in passing. She would never bore him, in bed, or out as many of his prior mistresses had, even Lila for all her talent and wit, was beginning to become monotonous. She chattered incessantly when he wished silences, she was too quiet when he wished words, even the prospect of bedding her, as appealing as he found her, had become tedious, nothing pleased him anymore. Yes, he considered, annoyed with himself and the subject in general, he was going to discharge her once he returned to England. It was more than time. Returning to the subject at hand he realized the angry beauty next to him was still talking.
"What was that?" he asked idly, choosing to ignore her obvious impatience.
"I asked," Jezebel snapped, wondering why she was wasting her time "are you listening?"
"Not in the least."
Turning her horse Jezebel kicked him into a flurry of motion and galloped away leaving the Duke both stunned and determined. In all his thirty years, he had not known a woman with such fiery spirit, or such candid persona. She was rare, unique, and she was going to be his. It mattered not that he didn't even know her name, he was going to find her, and then he was going to have her.
Chapter TwoDashing away from the scene at a full gallop, Jezebel's blood boiled with an uncontrollable outrage ignited by the sordid wretch who had accosted her, the same person she now fled from. Huffing out her disgust, she bemoaned the fact to her ever-reliable mount.
"I must say Dark Storm; it irks to have a beautiful day ruined by such a disgusting lecher, and on my own land to boot! The man must be not only foul, but dense as well!"
Neighing his assent Dark Storm galloped onward. They were close upon the keep gates.
Thank the gods; Jezebel reflected, beginning to relax.
Slowing Dark Storm to an unhurried trot, the pair crossed through the portal and into the courtyard on the other side. Pulling her steed to a halt, Jezebel dismounted and handed the reins to a stable hand that had, as usual, manifested out of nowhere.
Smiling for the first time in hours, she contemplated with pride, the smooth running of her keep. It had been rocky at first learning the full running of an estate. She being the younger out of her brother and she, not to mention a woman, had never been expected to learn. It had always been presumed that Robert would, upon their father's death, take his place as head of the family, and therefore their holdings as well. In fact, the greatest aspiration anyone had had for her was marriage. How much that had changed, she thought, a solemnity wrapping around her. Perhaps it was better this way, she never had wanted to be traded like a piece of chattel for more lands and titles when her family had more than enough of both to keep them busy for decades. Still she missed them all; the sense of loss never seemed to fade entirely. When she had received the news that her father and brother had been accosted and killed by a band of thieves on their journey to London it had been more than she could carry. For weeks afterwards, she had hidden in her study fighting to find an explanation or at the very least a little reason for it, in the end she had found neither. After a short time, however her sense of practicality and loyalty to her people had penetrated her haze of grief and she had picked up the pieces and began the insurmountable task of learning everything she needed to know about the running of an estate and all the responsibilities along with it. She sought information from any who would listen, be it servant or solicitor. After another year of hard work and perseverance, matters returned to normal and the estate began to run smoothly again. Now looking around her at the simplest of tasks, performed each day, she was proud, she had began to take life for granted she realized. This was her doing. The well-oiled mechanics of the estate was at her hand, and that, she thought with no arrogance, only quiet respect, was something to be proud of.
* * *
Pulling herself out of her reverie she noted with a start that she had reached her chamber, and thank the gods a thousand times over, Mary who had been her personal maid since birth and because of which knew her every desire before she even whispered it, had made ready a warm bath. Stripping down she sank into the engulfing warmth of the tub, relaxing and letting her thoughts fly freely about. As she lay staring up at the thick wooden beams high above, she examined the events of her day, thinking back to those that had transpired in the meadow. She had to admit, unappealing though it was, for all his rude and uncouth behavior, that man was handsome. With his cobalt blue eyes and wavy black hair barely scraping his nape, he was beautiful ...
Disgusted with the path her thoughts were taking Jezebel gave her head a hard shake, and leaping from the tub, began tossing on layer after layer of clothing. She was going to go over the books. That would keep her errant mind busy. Thinking as much, she marched to the door of her chamber and set off towards the study.
* * *
It was late at night when the Duke of Thistledowne sauntered into Alcott's. He had returned late to London and after dealing with the sordid business of dispensing with his mistress and a large sum of money to keep the wench happy as well, he was thoroughly exhausted and greatly in need of simple male companionship. Glimpsing two of his friends sitting at one of the scarred old tables a few feet away, he began wandering in their direction. Upon arriving at the table, he pulled out a chair and sunk heavily into it. His weariness did not escape his companions.
"Scotland did not agree with you Aiden?" Stefan observed.
"Lila didn't agree with him more like, it is about time he tired of her" Julian responded dryly "last we spoke of the gorgeous lady it seemed as though you were well on your way."
Both looked expectantly at the Duke.
"Well Aiden," Julian inquired, "Which is it? I want to know whether or not I have fleeced Stefan out of more of his money"
"I must say Stefan," Aiden stated with an indulgent air, "it looks as though you've just lost a large sum of money."
"Damn." Stefan said, "I thought she would at least last longer than that little French flower you had before, what was her name again, Sarie?"
"Did you bet on that as well?" Aiden inquired.
"Yes actually," Julian told him with a smug smile, "we did. And now my dear friend," he continued turning towards Stefan, "you owe me twice the sum."
"If it were me Stefan," Aiden warned the earl chuckling, "I wouldn't be so reckless, Julian's as fine a gambler and womanizer as any man would aspire to be. Take it from one man's hard won experience you will only lose. As for Sarie she was too predictable."
"That's what you said about Celeste as well." Julian reminded him, viewing the situation with the same dry humor as his comrade.
"And Caroline before her was too slow witted." Stefan observed, "Lila is neither dim witted nor dull as you have extolled on many a night after pleasurable time spent in her company. That being said, what is your newest paramours defect?"
"She is the defect." Aiden snapped, his caustic annoyance at himself evident in his features, "Perhaps it's the fact she doesn't have red hair that glows gold in the sunlight, perhaps she's too tall, or maybe it's that she doesn't have eyes like a summer sky. Perhaps it was her perfume-you'd think with the amount of money I pay her she could afford to be more tasteful!"
"Excuse me," Julian ventured, "but since when did you hate Lila's perfume?"
"Since the day before I dismissed her" Aiden snapped.
"And what, might I ask, occurred in such a short period to change your opinion?" Julian inquired, choosing each word with care.
"Yes Your Grace do tell, who, I mean what happened one day ago to change your opinion?" Stefan asked, blatantly enjoying his friend's discomfiture.
"If you must know," the Duke replied, "you were correct the first time. She happened."
"Two day ago you were in Scotland Aiden" Julian commented, perplexed.
"And ..." Aiden responded, leaving the sentence to hang.
"I can only assume," Julian remarked with a broad grin, "that this woman, who I surmise you met on your sojourn, has red hair that shines golden in the sunlight and blue eyes to match the summer sky. And, perchance she is madly in love with you."
The burst of laughter that erupted from the Duke wiped clean both the Marquess' and the earl's identical expressions of mirth leaving both serious and silent.
"Well" Julian companionably replied, "by your reaction I gather I am incorrect in my summation of the situation."
"Very." Aiden confirmed his eyes full of hilarity.
"She isn't in love with you then?" Julian asked.
"From her reaction," the Duke informed the pair, "I would say she hates me with a virulence that cannot be equaled."
"No woman has ever hated you Aiden," Julian reasoned, "what the hell would lead you to think this one does?"
"She told me." he responded flatly, his devilish grin growing.
"Well she wouldn't be the first," Stefan replied, "but no woman ever means it, buy her diamonds that will soften her up."
"I'm sure it would," Aiden agreed, "Unfortunately I wouldn't know where to send them. You see my friends I don't know where she lives."
Chuckling at his friends dumfounded expressions decided to spare them any further confusion.
"I met her by chance in a meadow while riding; I didn't get the chance to ask. It wouldn't have mattered if I had," he continued, ignoring their surprised expressions, "I doubt she would have volunteered the information."
Excerpted from Dishonorable Intentions by Adrienne Davenport Copyright © 2009 by Adrienne Davenport. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Davenport weaves a tale of mystery and fiery passion. So full of suspence and unexpected love that will have you crying out for more. I looked for more books and still dying to get my hands on another. Don't make the mistake of passing on this, believe me when I say I've read many books that don't even begin to compare.