Lilith Crisp, Lady Thornton, knew from a young age that pretty girls grow up and get married off to the highest bidder. Being paraded around London as her husband's trophy has taught her some unique skills and now she can manipulate any man for his darkest secrets.
Gabriel's position in the Brotherhood of the Sword leads him directly to Lilith's door. For Gabe, Lilith is the one woman he's always wanted, and Lilith is now forced to deal with a man who seems immune to her charms. But a secret about Lilith's niece brings them together to face a danger that threatens not only their lives, but the fate of England's Crown. Resisting Lilith is getting more and more difficult and Gabe finally recognizes that he can't keep blaming her for his brother's fate. Finding love means forgiving the past and that might be the one thing they simply can't do...
|Product dimensions:||4.90(w) x 7.80(h) x 0.60(d)|
Read an Excerpt
Dueling with the Duke
The Brotherhood of the Sword
By Robyn DeHart, Alethea Spiridon
Entangled Publishing, LLCCopyright © 2016 Robyn DeHart
All rights reserved.
Gabriel Campbell, Duke of Lynford, stepped down from the carriage and surveyed the area around him. He'd been back in London for less than forty-eight hours after being assigned to hiding Queen Victoria whilst she healed from a minor injury. Personally guarding the queen was an important task, but he was not accustomed to being relegated to babysitting, and the only reason he'd been the one selected was because of his own personal vow of celibacy. His comrades in the Brotherhood of the Sword, the covert and elite organization dedicated to protecting the Crown of England, jestingly referred to him as the Priest.
But this assignment, this was more of what he was used to. Earlier that evening he'd received a message from Lord Somersby. There had been a shooting, and one of their own had killed the man who'd just three days before broken into Queen Victoria's bedchamber and tried to assassinate her. Gabe had been tasked with examining the scene, retrieving any evidence, and dealing with the dead body.
The location for the old Tyburn Gallows sat directly behind him, and just beyond the trees, many of London's finest would be riding through Rotten Row in a few hours. They had to get the mess cleaned up before that happened. The Brotherhood had caught the would-be assassin the night he had broken into the queen's chambers and held him for questioning, but he'd managed to escape, and they'd lost track of him. His death meant that Gabriel couldn't question the man to discover if he was working alone or if he had an accomplice who also wanted the queen dead. Still, there could be clues on his person that could provide them with necessary information.
He could have sent others to the park to gather any potential evidence, but recently things had not been running smoothly. They'd already lost the attempted assassin once. Gabriel was ready to manage things himself to ensure that this particular attack on the Crown was resolved. He knew from past experience that doing so was the best way, and often the only way, to ensure that things got done. He had brought some lower-level assistants with him; they'd need to take the body back to the offices for examination.
"Over here, my lord," one of the men called.
Gabriel stepped over some low shrubbery and made his way over to where the man stood in a clearing. At his feet lay the body of the would-be assassin. Something about him seemed familiar.
"Give me the light," he told the assistant.
The man knelt and held the lantern over the body. Blood caked the right side of the dead man's face. His hair was neither long nor short, but stuck out in wild tufts of black and gray. Gabe didn't touch him or examine the wound; he'd do that back in the offices when he had proper tools and light. The dead man's clothes were dirty and ill-fitting, whereas his boots were notably expensive and well cared for. He looked at the face again.
Gabriel swore. This was not a thug as he'd been told. This was William Crisp, Earl of Thornton.
"What is it, my lord?" the man asked.
"We need to get this body back to our offices immediately. I want to give him a full examination. First, send your most trustworthy man back to me."
The man stood and called to the others waiting by the carriage, who, in turn, hustled over. Together they heaved Thornton's body up and hurried back over to the waiting wagon.
"I'll be there directly," Gabe told them. "Please take the body into the examining room." That was what they called it, though it was nothing more than a large room that had once been a parlor and had been reconfigured to a room hosting a long table and a wall of cupboards. It served many purposes, and despite Gabe's ever examining only one other body, that had been the room where he'd done it.
A young, serious-looking man ran over to him. "I was told you needed further assistance."
"Indeed." He wrote down an address and tore the parchment from the book and handed it to the man. "Go here and ask to speak to Lady Thornton. Instruct her that something has happened to her husband, and she is to wait at her home. Someone will be along shortly to speak with her."
The man stood silent for a moment, gripping the parchment. "My lord? Is it not an inappropriate time to make a social call?"
"I appreciate your fervor, but this is not a social call. It is strictly business." He patted him on the shoulder for added effect.
The young man nodded and ran off.
Gabriel needed to make quick work of examining the rest of the area so that he could get to Potterfield, the leader of the Brotherhood. He'd need to decide on how they'd proceed. Gabriel also needed to speak with Somersby, the man who'd been here tonight when they'd met with Lord Thornton.
Certainly Somersby knew Thornton, at least in name, if not his face. Perhaps he'd not recognized the man. Still, Somersby would know if this was the same man who'd attempted to kill the queen, or rather, the stand-in for the queen. If it was, then they were dealing with something that likely was more far-reaching than they'd assumed. Up until tonight, everyone had decided that it was merely a random madman. If it was actually a peer of the realm, then that was a different matter all together.
It was well past midnight, but that did nothing to stop Gabriel from knocking on Lord Potterfield's door. The butler answered after the second knock, wearing his nightgown and cap. He frowned. Gabe straightened his spectacles.
"Yes?" he asked.
"I must see Lord Potterfield. It is an emergency."
"Indeed. Come in then, my lord. You remember where his study is?"
Gabe nodded, and the butler left him to find his way to Potterfield's study. Not ten minutes later the man in question stepped into the room. He looked far more alert than his butler had been, still wearing his evening clothes. That was Potterfield, always put together, always on task; it was the very thing Gabe admired most about him. And more than likely it was the reason why a lowly baron had risen to the top of the Brotherhood organization. It took a strong character to command a group of aristocrats who were accustomed to giving orders rather than taking them.
He cut a lean figure; though he stood a few inches shorter than Gabe, he still commanded the room.
"Lynford, to what do I owe this late-night visit?"
"Did you receive the message from Somersby?"
"I did. I trust you handled the matter," Potterfield said. He leaned against his desk, crossing his arms over his chest.
"Yes, I suppose you were rather eager to get back into the field, as it were."
Gabe nodded. "It would appear that the situation is far more difficult than we first believed."
"In what way?"
"The man who was killed, the man who attempted to kill Her Majesty, he is not who we thought. He is someone far more important." Gabe ran a hand through his hair. "This will shake the very walls of Parliament."
"Get to it, Lynford," Potterfield said.
Potterfield's frown deepened. "I beg your pardon?" The words came out slowly. "You must be mistaken. Certainly Somersby would have recognized him, would he not?"
"You know that Somersby is not out in Society as much as the rest of us. I certainly intend to discuss such matters with him."
"You are certain that's who you saw?" Potterfield asked.
"Yes, I went to the park and oversaw the removal of the body. It is back at our offices now, but I came here first before I examined everything."
"You must be mistaken. I simply cannot imagine why Lord Thornton would want Victoria dead. Perhaps this thug merely favors the earl."
"I am rather familiar with Lord Thornton, as he is the man who killed my brother. I know what I saw," Gabriel said. He slowed his breathing, tightened his jaw. It would do him no good to get angry. "Will you go see the body for yourself?"
Potterfield eyed him for a moment and then slowly nodded. "It is highly unlikely that a peer of the realm would try to assassinate the queen. It would serve no purpose. He is nowhere near the next to ascend to the throne."
"Perhaps not." But people did not always need a purpose to do something drastic.
* * *
Lilith Crisp had never been a particularly heavy sleeper, a skill that had proved worthwhile since her marriage to the Earl of Thornton. She sat up in her bed and listened. She'd heard something that had roused her. Perhaps Thornton had finally returned home. Would that she be the one to welcome him rather than one of the servants, especially if he were angry.
He hadn't been home in nearly a week, and before that his behavior had been even more difficult than usual. Over the past five years she'd grown accustomed to his anger, his outbursts, and especially his jealousy. She'd learned that it often only took a seductive glance or a brush of her hand to distract him from taking his wrath out on the servants. But the truth was he hadn't touched her in nearly a month. While she was thankful for whatever kept him out of her bed, she knew the reasons probably weren't good.
There. Definitely a noise coming from downstairs. She slid from her bed and donned her dressing gown, then slipped from her bedchamber. Voices downstairs. Icy fingers of fear skittered down her spine. She was alone in the townhome save two remaining servants. She'd sent the rest home earlier that day.
"No, sir, her ladyship is not entertaining guests at this hour. You'll have to leave," Millie's voice rang out.
Here to see her? No man ever dared even give her a second glance when Thornton was around. She was his property, and he made certain everyone knew it. If a man was here to see her, then he wasn't afraid of Thornton. Or perhaps her suspicions were true, and Thornton had met with a bad end. She pulled her dressing gown tighter and suppressed a shiver. She didn't care for either option. But she couldn't leave poor Millie to handle matters alone. Lilith descended the stairs and turned down the corridor that led to the foyer. There she found Millie, her devoted lady's maid, standing before a young man Lilith had never seen before.
"Is there a problem?" she asked, entering the foyer.
"My lady," Millie said with a slight curtsy. "This man is demanding to see you."
He cleared his throat. "Lady Thornton, I was asked to come to you and inform you that something has happened to your husband."
Millie's hand flew to her mouth, stifling a gasp.
"One of my superiors will be here to speak with you, but I am to remain here until he arrives," the man said.
Lilith nodded. "Your name?"
"Thomas Sharp, my lady." He inclined his head slightly.
"Who sent you here?"
"I'm afraid I can't tell you that." He crossed his hands in front of him. "He'll be here directly to speak to you, though."
"Very well," she said, keeping her tone even. Inside, a veritable storm shuddered through her. "You may wait in the front parlor."
Millie skirted in front of them and lit the wall lanterns.
Lilith inhaled slowly, then led him to the first room on the right. "You'll have to make do without tea. I'm afraid my housekeeper is still abed." With that she closed the door behind her, leaving the man in the parlor alone. "Make certain he does not leave this room," she told Millie.
Millie's blond curls bobbed with her head.
Lilith knew this day would come. Or perhaps she'd merely hoped beyond measure for it. But it would seem it was here. Thornton had likely been arrested or killed, and now it was up to her to care for Isabel. The time had come for her to go and retrieve the monies.
* * *
Gabe and Potterfield climbed the stairs to the examination room. They passed two of their servants on their way. The Brotherhood paid their servants exceptionally well to ensure their loyalty and discretion.
Gabe tried not to think about the fact that finally Thornton had gotten what he'd deserved. He knew as well as anyone that his brother, Rafael, had been reckless and foolish engaging in a duel, all for the sake of a woman. Granted she wasn't merely any woman, but the most beautiful woman in London, Lilith Jansen. Though now she was the Lady Thornton.
Gabe and Potterfield stepped into the room, and on one of the tables lay the body. They walked over to the corpse. Something was amiss. Gone was the caked blood from the man's face, though smears of blood marred his forehead. And though the clothes were similar, the hair and features were all different. Gabe frowned. "This is not Lord Thornton."
"No, it is not," Potterfield said. He released a slow breath. "Lynford, I know that you do not hold Thornton in the highest esteem, but this —"
Gabe shook his head. "No, this is wrong. I don't understand." He called out into the corridor for a servant. "Is this the body from the park?"
The man nodded. "Yes, my lord."
"You are certain?"
"It is what I was told, my lord, but I was not the one who went to the park to retrieve the body. That was Frank and Kayson."
"Fetch them for me," Gabriel said.
"Lynford, I can understand, with the personal ties you have to Thornton, that you wanted some justice for your brother," Potterfield said, his tone gentle but firm. "But this is clearly some other man. A random thug, as we'd first assumed."
Had he merely thought the man from the park was Thornton? It had been a few years since he'd seen the man, but certainly he would know him if he saw him. "I see that this man isn't Thornton, but the man in the park was. I am certain of it. I examined the body myself." He looked back at the corpse in front of them.
The two men from the park entered, and Gabe asked them about the body.
"Yes, my lord, this is the body we brought in," Franks said.
"No one has been in this room?" Gabe asked.
"Not that we've seen. We haven't been guarding the door. Weren't instructed to do so," Franks said.
"You did fine, gentlemen," Potterfield stepped forward and said. "Thank you."
Gabe shook his head. "Something happened to the body from the park to here."
"Gabriel," Potterfield said. "Listen to yourself. Are you suggesting that someone switched out the body?"
"Of course not." However, it wasn't beyond possibility. What he needed to do was speak to Somersby about what happened in the park. He would know what injuries the man obtained. All he'd been told thus far was that Lord Morton had killed the kidnapper by shooting him.
"Go home," Potterfield said. "Get some sleep."
"Permission to go and question Lady Thornton? She might be able to shed some light on the situation, or at the very least tell me where her husband might be."
"No. It is quite clear that that is not Lord Thornton." He pointed to the dead man's body. "There is absolutely no reason to bring Lady Thornton into this situation. She can provide no answers to the investigation."
Gabriel exhaled slowly, then steeled himself. He didn't know what the hell had happened tonight, but he knew that if he showed any weakness to Potterfield, he'd earn himself a holiday. "Sir, I know it was Thornton. I know what I saw."
"Be that as it may, that man" — Potterfield pointed at the body — "is not Thornton."
Gabriel nodded absently. "I'm going to go ahead and examine the body, and then I'll head home. My apologies for rousing your butler and keeping you from your own bed."
Potterfield nodded, then left the room.
Gabriel retrieved some water and a cloth, then stepped back over to the body. He rinsed the head wound, noting immediately that it wasn't a wound at all, but rather just a smattering of blood. This man had been killed in some other way. He grabbed the scissors and began cutting off the man's clothing. There in his chest he found the fatal wound, left side, on the upper part of his torso. It was far too large to be a gunshot. This was the mark of some sort of knife. This man had been stabbed to death, not shot. Which meant that as ludicrous as it sounded, someone had, in fact, switched out this body for the one in the park. Thornton had not been working alone. Someone out there knew of Thornton's plan to assassinate the queen, and they didn't want the Brotherhood to know of Thornton's involvement. That meant two things: one, Her Majesty was still in danger, and two, Gabe knew something they'd tried to hide.
Excerpted from Dueling with the Duke by Robyn DeHart, Alethea Spiridon. Copyright © 2016 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.