A 2016 RT Book Reviews Reviewers Choice Nominee for British Isles-Set Historical Romance!
"Galen's talents soar in this delightful romance of a mismatched couple who are perfect for one another. The pacing never flags, the underlying mystery piques readers' interest and the steamy love scenes keep the pages flying. " RT Book Reviews, 4.5 Stars, TOP PICK!
When the Duke of Lennox hires Sir Brook Derring, England's best investigator, to find his daughter, Brook intends only to rescue the lady and return to his solitary life. He deals with London's roughest criminals every day of the week; surely he should be able to endure seeing his first love againthe perfect girl who broke his heart...
Lady Lillian-Anne Lennox has always done her best to live up to her father's standards of perfectionat the cost of following her heart. When she's kidnapped and her perfect life is shattered, Lila has another chance. Together, Lila and Brook navigate not only the dark and deadly side of London, but the chasm of pride and prejudice that divides them.
Covent Garden Cubs Series:
Earls Just Want to Have Fun (Book 1)
The Rogue You Know (Book 2)
I Kissed a Rogue (Book 3)
About the Author
Shana Galen is three-time Rita award nominee and the bestselling author of passionate Regency romps, including the RT Reviewers' Choice The Making of a Gentleman. Kirkus says of her books, "The road to happily-ever-after is intense, conflicted, suspenseful and fun," and RT Bookreviews calls her books "lighthearted yet poignant, humorous yet touching." She taught English at the middle and high school level off and on for eleven years. Most of those years were spent working in Houston's inner city. Now she writes full time. She's happily married and has a daughter who is most definitely a romance heroine in the making.
Read an Excerpt
I Kissed a Rogue
By Shana Galen
Sourcebooks, Inc.Copyright © 2016 Shana Galen
All rights reserved.
She had to escape. She couldn't die down here, in the rank dark, alone. She might deserve such a death, but she'd fight it with every last ounce of strength. She'd almost freed her hands by twisting and working the rope against her chafed wrists until it slackened. Her captors hadn't tied it very tightly, but that was the only mistake they'd made.
Lila had no idea how long she'd been in the dank, cold cellar, but she knew the moment her life went completely astray. The carriage had raced along the dark streets of London, the familiar clip-clop of the horses' hooves almost like music in her ears. She'd pulled her thick pelisse more tightly around her bare shoulders and rested her dancing slippers on the warm brick at her feet.
All she'd wanted was her cozy bed and a cup of tea. She hadn't even cared that by leaving her cousin Rose's betrothal ball early, she'd risked her father's wrath in the morning. She'd attended the betrothal tea, the betrothal dinner, and now the betrothal ball. Would that Rose marry and be done with it. It was during that uncharitable line of thinking that she had heard John Coachman call out and the carriage slowed.
Lila had parted the curtains in an effort to see what was the matter, but all she'd seen was the swirl of London fog and the amorphous shapes of the outriders moving to stand protectively in front of the carriage door. She'd sighed with impatient annoyance.
"Now wh —?" She'd clamped her mouth shut at the sound of a thump and an unfamiliar man's voice. The carriage rocked as the horses danced with fear. She waited for John Coachman's reassuring words and heard only a muffled shout and the pop of what sounded like her father's rifle.
Her heart pounding in fear, she'd slid one lock into place and had been reaching for the other when a tall, lanky man yanked the door open.
He'd smiled, his thin lips and cheeks stretching over his facial bones. "Hello, Lady Lillian-Anne."
From there, everything was a blur. She'd been dragged from the carriage, hooded, and pushed against the conveyance, her hands roughly bound. Lila had been so shocked at her mistreatment, she hadn't even screamed, and then she'd been lifted and tossed over a man's shoulders. She hadn't been carried far before she'd heard the squeak and squeal of a door being pried open and the echo of boots on slatted wood floors. Another door, then another, and her captor had carried her down a flight of stairs and dropped her on her bottom.
She'd screamed then and scurried backward, only to run up against a pair of hard boots. A voice, much like the one who'd greeted her, hissed in her ear. "Shut yer potato hole. Keep quiet or I stuff my drawers down yer throat. You hear me, Duchess?"
She'd nodded and closed her mouth. She'd pulled her legs in and hunched her shoulders, making herself small, waiting for what seemed an eternity for what was to happen next. Would they rob her? Rape her?
She was not a duchess, only the daughter of one. She had the wild thought that perhaps the men wanted her stepmother, the Duchess of Lennox. But no. They'd called her Lady Lillian-Anne. They knew who she was. They'd planned the abduction and whatever was to come next.
Lila had shivered, her body shaking uncontrollably with fear and cold. Finally, the man had moved away. At his word, the others had followed, and she'd heard their boots on the stairs and then the thud as the door closed.
She sat on the hard floor, the small pebbles and rocks digging into her skin through her silk ball gown and the pelisse. She jumped at the creaks and pops of the building settling, fearing each minute sound was the men returning for her. Gradually, she grew accustomed to the sounds but not the smell, never the smell. Something had died down here — many somethings — and with the hood over her face, she could only imagine. Lila envisioned rat corpses responsible for the sharp, sickly fragrance that burned her nostrils. When she began to imagine human bodies, she bit her lip hard to stop the rising panic.
Strange that in the middle of London, all was silent but for her teeth chattering.
They'd stopped chattering now — after too many hours to count. Lila was too numb to feel the cold any longer. The rope around her wrists was all she cared about. She twisted and pulled until finally she managed to squeeze one hand free. She bit her raw lip against the pain of the rough rope sliding against her hand. The gloves she'd painstakingly inched off might have protected her bare skin, but they were one more layer between her and freedom.
With a wince, her wrists slid apart, and she exhaled softly, hugging her arms around her chest. Her shoulders throbbed, and the simple act of rotating them in the opposite direction was sheer bliss. She felt for the opening of the hood she wore and quickly tore it off. Charcoal gray replaced the blackness. If the cellar had openings of any kind, she couldn't spot them in the dark of night. She prayed it was still night and that morning would show her some sort of escape.
And not a stack of rotting bodies.
She had to find a way out. By now her father must have realized she'd been abducted. He would be frantic with worry. Had her captors sent a ransom note? Was that what this was about? Colin would make the duke pay it. Colin and Lila had grown closer since their mother's death. He wouldn't allow their father to ignore a ransom note.
If there was a ransom note.
What if the Duchess of Lennox was behind this? Lila's stepmother hated her, but even she would not stoop to hiring mercenaries to abduct her stepdaughter.
Lady Selina would. She and Lila had hated each other since their first Seasons, when Lord Hugh had asked Lila to dance before Selina. From then on, it had been war.
Selina was married now and certainly too busy to plan attacks on Lila. But Madeleine Stratham, her cousin Rose's friend, was not too busy, and she had intentionally stepped on Lila's gown at the ball tonight, hissing, "Watch out!"
Had that been a warning?
Lila's head spun. If she tried to count all of her enemies, it would take hours. And who knew what her abductors would do to her when they returned. She pressed her hands against the cold, dirt floor beneath her, moving her fingers until she found her gloves. She pulled them on again, for warmth as much as protection, and moved cautiously forward, hands outstretched. Her knees trembled and wobbled.
"Please no bodies. Please no bodies," she chanted under her breath.
The cellar was blissfully empty. She discovered a wall and followed it around to the base of the stairwell. Her hands traveled over that rough wood until she found the opening. The stairwell had no railing, so she carefully lifted her skirts and moved slowly and silently upward. Her fingertips touched the wood of the door at the top, and she stood listening.
She heard nothing but silence and the strains of music farther away. Perhaps a tavern or gin house was nearby. She couldn't be certain a guard wasn't on the other side of the door, but she tried the handle anyway. The handle moved, but the door did not budge when she pushed on it.
Some sort of lock kept it closed and secure.
Lila waited, again listening for movement or an indication her efforts to escape had been noted. When she heard nothing, she rattled the door. The wood was flimsy and old. One serious push against it, and she could compromise the lock.
She took a jagged breath and said a quick prayer. She'd never prayed so much — no, she'd been her own god for too many years. Lila stepped back, careful not to go too far and tumble down the stairs, then rammed the door with her shoulder.
Pain exploded at the point of impact, the sharp heat of it radiating through her neck and back. And then she was falling forward as the door gave way and she stumbled, unchecked. She groped for something to break her fall, but there was nothing. Her feet tangled in her skirts, sending her plummeting to her knees. More pain sliced through her, eliciting a small sob.
On hands and knees, she raised her head and peered about in the darkness. She did not know where she was — an abandoned building or house? There were no windows where she crouched, and she could not judge the time. There were also no voices except for the sounds from the street outside. Wherever she was, it was not near a busy street. The voices sounded far away and muffled. Please let that mean she was alone.
Lila rose and crept forward, tripping over objects in her path — a ragged piece of wood, broken pottery, a tangle of clothing or blankets. Finally, she rounded a corner and spotted the gray haze of early morning through a filmy window. It had been after midnight when she'd left the ball, and now she judged the time close to five in the morning.
Crouching down, she sidled forward, wanting to see what lay beyond her prison. The closer she got to the window, the clearer the voices she had heard earlier became. Finally, she stood to one side of the window and chanced peeking around. The glass, if there ever had been glass, had long been broken or removed, and the window was open to the cold of the early morning. Outside the window was not a street at all, as she had thought, but a small courtyard or square — though that description was far too grand for the small, rubbish-strewn area she glimpsed.
She could not hear the music on this side of the building, but now she knew the origin of the voices. Four men stood in the courtyard, speaking in low tones. One man, the one who faced her, wore a long greatcoat and a beaver hat. He was quite portly, much heavier than any of the other men. That was not saying much as the others were small and scrawny and not dressed for the chilly night.
Except for one.
He was the one who'd taken her, and that realization sent Lila cowering in the shadows.
When the men's conversation went on as before, she looked out again. The man who'd taken her wore a ragged, thigh-length coat and gestured with purpose. He was the leader of these rogues, and watching him, Lila realized he argued with the wealthy gentleman.
The pounding of her heart and the blood in her ears quieted enough that she could hear snatches of the conversation.
"— didn't do yer part."
"Now wait just a minute. Who do you think you are?" That from the gentleman. She could hear the cultured accent in his voice.
At a signal she wouldn't have seen had she not been watching from a distance, the rogues moved closer to the gentleman, stepping into position until they surrounded him. The leader still stood in front of the blubbering gentleman, who did not seem to realize he was in any danger.
"Want to know who I am?" The leader cut the gentleman off. "I'll show ye."
Lila gasped at the flash of metal in the dim light and almost screamed when two of the rogues caught the gentleman and held him fast. All was over and done so quickly that Lila hadn't had time to look away. The knife flashed and a gash of red opened on the gentleman's neck. Then he'd crumpled to the ground, a dark pool growing around him.
Dead, dead, dead. Lila's brain would not stop repeating the word.
"Take care of him," the leader said to the others, gesturing carelessly to the dead man.
Dead, dead, dead.
Would she be next? Would he put that knife to her throat and open her up like a fish to be gutted? She crumpled her fist against her mouth and stared at the leader in horror.
It was then she realized he was staring back at her.
Their gazes met, and the leader shook his head and started for her.
"Ye'll wish ye hadn't seen that."
Lila stumbled away from the window in terror, but it was too late.
* * *
Someone shook his shoulder, and Brook opened his eyes. He was instantly awake and alert, his body tensed and ready for action.
"What is it?" He sat, scrubbed his face once, and stared at Hunt. Part valet, part secretary, part inspector, Hunt was a veritable jack-of-all-trades. Brook found him indispensable.
"A footman has come from Derring House. You have a caller."
Brook absorbed the information even as the woman in bed beside him groaned and rolled over, pulling a pillow over her head. Hunt's eyes never strayed from Brook's face. The yellow light from the candle the servant held flickered over his cleanly shaven jaw, dark eyes, and chiseled features. Brook didn't know how the man managed to look so bloody awake at —
"What time is it?" Brook asked.
"Half four, sir."
Brook paused in the act of setting his bare feet on the floor. "In the morning?"
"Who the hell wants me at four in the morning? Tell him to come to my office at a decent hour."
"I would have given those instructions, sir."
Brook waited. Hunt was no fool. He would not have pulled Brook from Arabella's warm arms if he didn't have a reason.
"But?" Brook asked with a longing look at Arabella's slim form, naked under the bedclothes.
"The footman says the man calling for you is the Duke of Lennox."
Brook heard the word duke and rose, but at the rest of the title, he paused.
Hunt nodded, his expression one of chagrin.
"What the devil does he want?"
"The footman didn't say, sir." Hunt held out Brook's dressing gown, which he donned before making use of the chamber pot behind a screen.
While Hunt silently dressed him, a thousand possibilities raced through Brook's mind: the duke had been robbed; his new wife had been accosted; his prize thoroughbred had been poisoned.
He wouldn't allow himself to think of her. He wouldn't allow himself to acknowledge the clench of his belly when the image of Lady Lila arose in his mind.
He hadn't thought of her for years, and that was not by accident.
"Let's go," he said, waving away his rumpled cravat. He used this flat on occasion when he wanted privacy from his mother and the rest of the family at Derring House. He kept only the bare essentials here. Hunt could probably find him a clean, starched cravat, but Brook didn't want to bother with it. Some contrary part of him wanted to greet the duke without it.
At the bedroom door, Brook looked back at Hunt impatiently. Hunt cleared his throat and nodded to the bed. He'd forgotten Arabella.
She'd been onstage at the theater until late last night; then he'd taken her to dine before bringing her back here. She wouldn't wake for hours. Brook looked about for pen and paper. Finding neither, he started for the parlor and the desk there, but Hunt produced a sheet of foolscap and a pen and inkwell.
Brook gave the items a long look. "What else do you have hidden in your coat?"
"Oh, this and that, sir."
"Huh." Brook penned a quick note to Arabella, set it on the pillow where he'd been sleeping less than a quarter of an hour before, and followed Hunt out of the flat.
Twenty minutes later he stood in his mother's drawing room. Crawford, his mother's butler, offered him tea as though it were a reasonable hour instead of half five in the bloody morning.
"Where is my mother?" Brook asked Crawford, declining the tea and noting the way Lennox sat with his back rigid against the chair he occupied. He balanced a full, untouched cup of tea on his knee.
"She has gone back to bed, sir," Crawford said. "I am to inform Edwards if you require her ladyship's attention."
"Very good, Crawford. Leave us."
When the butler had closed the door and Lennox and Brook were alone, Brook crossed to the mantel and leaned one arm negligently against it. The action caused his shirt, open at the throat, to gape slightly. He hadn't taken a comb or brush to his hair and, though it was short, he hoped it looked rumpled.
"This is a surprise," Brook said. "How kind of you to grace our lowly home."
The duke said nothing, simply stared at his tea. He was obviously distraught, and Brook almost felt sorry for him.
Finally, the duke looked up. His eyes were bloodshot, and his face looked haggard. The dark hair streaked with gray that he always wore combed back from his high forehead fell in unkempt waves over his brow.
"I didn't know where else to turn. I know you must hate me —"
"Hate is far too strong a word. It implies an emotion, and you inspire no emotions in me, Duke. I care not whether you live or die."
The teacup rattled and liquid sloshed over the rim as Lennox set it roughly on a table. "This isn't about me." He stood, rising to his full height, which was very nearly equal to Brook's. "I came because I thought you might be able to put aside the past, and because I hear you are the best."
"You found the missing Flynn boy and the daughter of the Marquess of Lyndon. If you won't do it for me, do it for Lila."
Excerpted from I Kissed a Rogue by Shana Galen. Copyright © 2016 Shana Galen. Excerpted by permission of Sourcebooks, Inc..
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