When Gerard Sterling, Earl of Ellesmere, races to Bedlam asylum to rescue a wrongly committed friend, he’s astonished to find Lady Faith Bradley. Fascinated and enchanted by her, and inspired by her dedication saving her brother from the horrors of the Incurables ward, he includes them in his rescue mission. But woo her he cannot—not with a fatal disease that saps more of his strength every day.
When Gerard discovers he is the god Jupiter, they face a deadly enemy—Kronos, whose plan to regain power includes Gerard’s death. To foil his plan, Gerard and Faith must defy Fate itself.
Each book in the Even Gods Fall in Love series is STANDALONE.
- Lightning Unbound
- Mad For Love
- Arrows of Desire
- Forged By Love
- War Chest
- Her Quicksilver Lover
About the Author
L. M. Connolly, also writing as Lynne Connolly, writes historical romance, paranormal romance, and contemporary romance. She loves the conflicts and complications that come about if someone lives their life to the full.
She has her own blog, but she also blogs for The Good, The Bad and The Unread, the UK Regency/Georgian writers' blog and Heroes and Heartbreakers. She lives in the UK with her family and her mews, a cat called Frankie. She also enjoys making and decorating dolls' houses. She visits the US at least once a year, attends conferences and has a great time.
Visit her at: http://lynneconnolly.com.
Read an Excerpt
Hell stank. Gerard held his handkerchief over his nose, but it did nothing to suppress the pervasive aroma of urine, shit and vomit. This was hell on earth. This was the Incurables ward of the Bethlem Hospital.
Gerard gave up and stuffed the cloth in his pocket. At least his eyes had stopped watering. He concentrated, searching for his quarry, surveying the large room before him. Black and green slime streaked the walls, and the only windows were high and unglazed. Buckets lay dotted about on the filthy stone floor, for the use of inmates who cared for personal hygiene. Not many did, hence the smell. People who could afford it had their lunatics locked away in private institutions. Only the uncared for and the destitute ended here.
Ah yes, there he was. Dressed in what had been an exquisite evening coat, now turned into a filthy rag, Lord Stretton lay slumped in the far corner of the large room. The bright colour of his coat stood out from the drab clothes of the people around him like a red flag in a mud patch. Chains fastened to a large ring on the wall shackled his wrists, hauling them uncomfortably high. He lay passively, unlike most other occupants of the room, who groaned, wailed and writhed in the throes of madness. The cacophony hurt Gerard's ears and he knew the sound would return in his dreams, if he slept at all.
He'd heard Stretton calling to him last night, seen this room as though he lay where his new friend was now. Before that, he'd thought the mental communication he and his sister Deborah shared was unique to them. Now he knew it was not and he wanted answers.
His quarry would be in the far corner. Gerard grimaced in distaste and turned to make sure the turnkey was still with him. The man jingled his keys and displayed a gap-toothed smile. "I'll foller yer, m'lord."
Gerard ensured he planted one foot securely on the floor before he took another step. The floor sucked at him when he lifted his foot, as if it wanted to hold him there. He shook off the anonymous hands clutching at him and ignored the pleas of the inmates, his mood plummeting even further.
When they reached the other end of the room, Stretton blinked and stared at him, his eyes bleary. Gerard let out a sigh of relief. He was cogent, then. The man on the floor smiled. In any other place it might have shown devastating swagger, but here it seemed pathetic and out of place. "Ellesmere." The voice shimmered, an echo of sanity in this inferno of madness.
The jingle of keys alerted Gerard to the turnkey. "This is the man. Release him."
The turnkey scratched his unshaven chin. "Are you sure, my lord? When he was brought in 'ere 'e was ravin'. 'E's not safe, if you arsk me."
"Nobody's asking you. Release him."
When the man didn't immediately obey, Gerard fixed him with a cold stare. "You heard me?"
The man grunted and edged forward, reaching for the padlocks.
A sound distracted Gerard, a small, feminine cry of distress, and he glanced down, to the other side. A young woman gazed at him, her face one of the sweetest he'd ever seen. She crouched low, but unlike most of the inmates she was respectably and neatly dressed, the stains on her brown gown fresh.
His heart sank at the sight of such a tragedy. Why had this happened to her? If he hadn't known better he would have said the light of intelligence shone in her eyes.
She got to her feet. No chains clanked when she stood.
She was not an inmate, but a visitor. Gerard let out a long sigh of relief, a gentle warm suffusing his body. He tensed again. He didn't want to feel this, not here, not anywhere. Desire had no part in his life. It couldn't. He couldn't do it, couldn't go there. Mustn't.
He gazed at her, transfixed. She seemed as out of place here as a rose, her plain, neat clothes a frame for a body that curved beautifully, the promise of soft swells nestling under the plain but clean fichu.
A needle-sharp thought pierced his mind, in a clear, feminine tone that effortlessly stabbed through all his protective layers to his heart. Help us!
Gerard closed his eyes, trying to absorb the shock. He'd only ever heard one female voice like this before, internally, deep at his heart.
He opened his eyes to see her gazing at him, small creases of puzzlement between her brows. Did she know she had spoken to him that way? Gerard remained silent and didn't communicate in return. He had to know more.
"Good morning, sir." He heard her low and melodious voice easily over the wails and moans of the madmen. He started back when she took a step closer, unsure if she were real or something his fevered mind had conjured.
Her motion revealed the figure she was shielding. A young man, filthy and curled into a small, miserable hunch. Gerard looked away, unable to tolerate this epitome of human misery. He concentrated on the woman instead.
She was slight, but with a well-formed figure. When she stood, he got a whiff of her perfume. Soap and cleanliness, welcome in this stink. Did she know how much of herself she was revealing to him, just with those expressive eyes? Even with his mental barriers in place, he knew what she was thinking. He stared into despair.
She indicated the turnkey with a disdainful wave of one hand. "Have you any influence with — him?"
"Some." He didn't want her to inveigle him into anything he might regret. The boy she sheltered might be a raving lunatic, safer in this hellhole than in the civilized world outside.
"Help her," came Stretton's voice, tinged with amusement that raised Gerard's ire. How could he find anything amusing here? "The boy's simple, not mad. He should never have been put in here. He's a danger to no one."
The woman glanced down at Stretton. "Thank you, my lord. You're perfectly right." She turned back to Gerard. "I would offer to reimburse you, but I have very little money."
Gerard let his gaze sweep and down her body once. She flushed. "You're dressed very well for a beggar."
She swallowed and looked away. "It isn't my habit to beg, but I will do it if you wish."
Gerard answered brusquely. "There's no need for that. Who are you?"
"My name is Faith Bradley. I'm the widow of Sir William Bradley and the daughter of Viscount Pendford. This is my older brother, George." Her voice, clear, beautifully modulated, spoke to the inner man, the one Gerard rarely let loose on the world and his body stirred at her call. Inappropriate, totally wrong, and she shouldn't have this power over him.
He gave a small bow. "Gerard, Lord Ellesmere, at your service, ma'am."
Taking his attention away from her, he glanced at the youth once more. The boy was so slender — how could he be her older brother?
"He's seven and twenty, my lord. Strong, but small for his age."
The boy — young man — spoke for the first time. "Faith?" He lifted his face to his sister, then turned his attention to Gerard.
Gerard suffered a shock. George had old eyes, as though they had seen more than they should. This person had suffered. Despite the slack mouth, Gerard saw reason in his face. He was not mad. The man's attention returned to his sister, his lodestone.
She put her hand on his sleeve without flinching at the filth crusting it. "It's all right, my dear. I won't leave without you." Her voice was soft, immediately calming the desperately anxious youth. Around them the wails and moans seemed to fade. Gerard heard only her.
A rattle of keys recalled him to the time and place. With an effort, he wrenched his attention away to the man who had finally succeeded in freeing Stretton from the heavy chains. "I'll take this one too." He gazed at the man. You will release him into my care.
"This ain't a shop," the man grumbled. "You can't let madmen loose willy-nilly."
"He is a friend of mine. He shouldn't be here. Let him go." Reinforcing his mental suggestion, Gerard put his hand in his pocket and drew out another handful of guineas. "Twenty." He'd come well prepared with gold to ease his way in and out of this dreadful place.
The man grumbled. "Twenty-five," Gerard suggested. More than the man would earn in a year.
After a prolonged grumble in which curse words played a large part, the turnkey rattled his large bunch of keys. He made great play of sorting out the right one before bending to the wall and unfastening the chain. He faced Gerard, glaring at him. "Any more?" London humour prevailed, even in this place.
"No." Gerard handed over the money, which the turnkey shoved into his pocket, not bothering to bite the gold coins to confirm their veracity. The jailer led the way out, grumbling under his breath.
Gerard tried to clear a path for the lady over the sticky, uneven flagstones, avoiding the groping arms and legs snaking at them as they passed. He was glad to see her gown held clear of the floor by her high pattens, and he wondered anew how women managed to walk in such high, stacked contraptions, more like acrobat's stilts than proper shoes. She obviously knew more about this place than he had. His own shoes were ruined. He kept going, trying to keep his attention on the woman walking in front of him. The two men he'd just freed could make their own way out.
They didn't stop until they stood outside. Gerard took several deep breaths of the crisp, spring air to empty his lungs of the stench of madness.
"It could be a country house," said the lady.
Gerard glanced at her. "From the outside." The gleaming white pilasters adorning the front door looked like the entrance to any great mansion. Only the shadows of the bars set behind the glazed windows revealed the true nature of this monstrosity. Perhaps the gates of hell looked as civilized.
His coach waited a short distance away, but the young lady needed to get her breath.
It was unnaturally quiet here. The Bethlem Hospital, known to everyone as Bedlam, fronted Moorfields, one of the largest open spaces in London, cultivated and civilized; a cruel juxtaposition, if one happened to be on the wrong side. Gerard was glad to be out, although he'd never forget what he had seen today.
A familiar lethargy swept over him, the exhaustion that seemed so much a part of him these days. He would have to fight unconsciousness until he could rest. He beckoned to his footmen, standing near the coach he'd arrived in. The men walked towards them.
Stretton groaned and slumped to the ground. Gerard turned too late to catch him, but his footmen sprang into action and hurried to support the nearly unconscious peer. Stretton's grey eyes glinted through half-closed lids. "Need a bed. I'll be all right now, but I need somewhere to sleep." He sniffed. "And a bath."
"Will your servants be expecting you?" Gerard asked.
Stretton shook his head. "House closed." He passed out.
Gerard sighed. "We'll take him to Boscobel House." Two burly footmen lifted the recumbent earl and bore him away to the coach.
Gerard addressed his next problem. "May we take you somewhere, ma'am?" A pang of compassion went through him, unusual because it affected him without warning. The woman appeared ready for anything, feet set apart in a determined stance, mouth set in a firm line, but her tilted chin and the pain in her eyes told a different story. Her brother stood next to her, head bowed submissively, waiting for his fate to descend.
She forced a smile, which trembled slightly at the corners before she controlled it. "I have a lodging at Vinegar Yard. It's not far."
Gerard couldn't believe the address. "Vinegar Yard? You can't possibly mean it! That place isn't fit for respectable people, much less viscounts' daughters."
Lady Bradley shrugged. "It's quiet, and that's what George needs. And my father won't think of looking for us there."
Gerard's attention snapped back, fighting through his lethargy. "Why don't you want your father to find you?"
Lady Bradley glanced at her brother, her softened gaze compassionate and loving. Gerard knew a desire for her to look at him in the same way and was surprised. He tried very hard not to see women, not to connect with them. It was better that way.
This young lady appealed to his protective instincts, her slight form, proudly erect, inviting no pity. "He committed George. Had him put in the Incurables ward."
"Is your brother dangerous? Does he have fits or mania?" Without thinking, Gerard stepped closer, the better to protect the young woman from her mad brother. She stepped closer to George.
"No. He's just a bit simple. He's the best brother in the world." At her fond tone, George gave her the sweetest smile Gerard had ever seen. Pure love, untinged by possession or passion.
He swallowed, subduing his unwarranted jealousy. "Why would your father put him in such a dreadful place?"
The answer was so simply put he nearly missed its significance. "He hates George because he isn't as bright as other men. He wants our younger brother Simon to inherit."
Gerard felt anger towards the unseen Simon. "Where is your younger brother?"
"Abroad, on the Grand Tour, or he would be here in my place. He's under age, so he has little choice in what he does."
"And your father allows you to live in a place like Vinegar Yard?" The idea of a father who allowed his daughter to live in such a place appalled him.
Lady Marriott faced him squarely. "I needed a place where Father couldn't find us. I'm lodged in the house of a respectable woman. I have the attic all to myself."
In common lodging houses, the attic was the cheapest place available after the cellar. She made it sound like the best place in the house. "You have no one you can turn to? No one who will take your part?"
She shook her head. Her eyes were fearless, bold and velvety brown. "We'll manage.
He couldn't abandon her. "You'll come back with me. We can deny your father the house, if necessary."
Gerard saw hope enter the young woman's eyes only to be replaced by flat despair. "Father is in the process of having George declared incurable. If he finds out where we are, he'll have George back here before the week's out, and while he can't compel me, he can compel my brother."
In a single, blinding flash, Gerard understood. Lord Pendford was trying to kill his son. By committing George to this lunatic asylum, he was driving the boy to true madness and exposing him to violence.
He felt sick, and anger welled against the unknown viscount. "You must certainly come. As my sister's guest, for propriety's sake, and we will see what can be done. Please come." He sent out his powers of persuasion, limited now by his increasing weakness, but she rejected it effortlessly. Did she know she could do this, or were her mental powers unknown to her? He couldn't let her go. He had to know more, and Stretton, who had intimated that he had information, was in no state to impart anything.
Gerard saw the moment Lady Bradley gave in. She glanced at her brother and then back at him. "Thank you, sir. We are deeply beholden to you."
Faith couldn't like it. She had heard of the Duke of Boscobel and his children — who hadn't? But it went against the grain for her to accept anything. If not for George, she would have made her excuses and left.
She stared across the well-appointed study to where the duke and his daughter stood, still and quiet. Lady Deborah was dark-haired like her brother, tall, graceful, with a Rubenesque figure encased in a gown of rose- pink watered silk, the skirts held out by fashionable panniers. Her air of confidence that might have daunted Faith was assuaged by her kindness and humanity. But gowned in full fashionable magnificence, she could hold her own with kings. Faith found her ladyship intimidating.
Lord Ellesmere's voice broke the silence. "Father, I have brought Lady Bradley and her brother Lord Fordhouse to stay for a while."
Faith curtsied, slightly too low, her worn skirts sweeping the expensive carpet. The way the duke faced her, ponderously and with deliberate hauteur, seemed to demand obeisance. At her, "George," her brother made his bow, stiff and awkward but perfectly respectable.
The duke regarded them both with a gimlet stare. "I believe you brought Lord Stretton too. Why isn't he here?"
"He's unwell," Gerard said. "I had him taken straight to a guest room."
The duke sighed heavily. "I don't approve of that young man. However, you, Lady Bradley and Lord Fordhouse, are welcome."
Hearing the duke's voice soften, Faith lifted her head. She saw a hard man, tall and craggy-featured, his grey hair tied back in a simple queue. He stood rigidly straight, despite being of somewhat advanced years. His taffeta coat was formal, unlike his son's plainer country coat, the skirts stiffly held out with buckram, the waistcoat heavily embroidered. Faith wondered how he would have appeared in Bedlam. Probably as compelling as he was here.
Excerpted from "Lightning Unbound"
Copyright © 2015 Lynne Connolly.
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.
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