Scandals Are Forever
At sixteen, Vivienne Montgomery was utterly unprepared for the scandal that erupted when Aidan Kavanaugh abruptly left Galway for London, abandoning Vivienne to her ruined reputation. Ten years later, Vivienne has a new life, far from those who know of her pastuntil she and Aidan are both invited to a weeklong house party.
Aidan Kavanaugh never forgot the magical summer he and Vivienne shared, or the betrayal he felt on finding her in another man's arms. Since leaving Ireland, Aidan has embraced his duties as Earl of Whitlock, including impending marriage to a young lady who will be the perfect wife in every way but one: she is not Vivienne. . ..
Days and nights in close quarters quickly erode Vivienne and Aidan's reserve, leading to breathless trysts that are as passionate as they are dangerous. For others are determined to keep them apart. And if one week is not enough to undo ten years of mistrust, Vivienne will lose her reputationand her heartall over again. . .
Praise for Kaitlin O'Riley and Secrets of a Duchess
"A well-written, lively romance!"-Kat Martin, New York Times bestselling author
"A talented author. . .O'Riley's plot twists add. . .freshness to the genre."Romantic Times
Read an Excerpt
The House Party
"Come and meet my cousin now," Gregory Cardwell said eagerly.
"You mean the pretty one?" Aidan Kavanaugh, the Earl of Whitlock, asked with slight skepticism, fresh drink in hand.
For the last few minutes Gregory had been extolling the heavenly attributes of his newfound cousin. Truth be told, Aidan had only been half-listening to his garrulous friend, although the point that Gregory was describing an unusually attractive person had penetrated his preoccupied mind.
"All my cousins are pretty, my fine friend," Gregory explained with an unabashed grin, his merry eyes twinkling. "We're a handsome family."
It was a true enough statement, for Gregory was an attractive man despite his ruddy complexion and many freckles. Since their days at Cambridge years ago, he and Aidan had been good friends.
"You know I was speaking of your meeting my most beautiful cousin. But I must warn you, Aidan. She may just tempt you away from the fair Helene." Gregory raised and lowered his eyebrows in a devilish manner.
Aidan gave him a doubtful look as they made their way through Bingham Hall's massive ballroom, where sophisticated and fashionably dressed people swarmed about. A full orchestra played at one end of the elaborately decorated ballroom and couples danced in the center. The Duchess of Bingham's invitations were always extremely popular and highly coveted, for she was renowned for her lavish and extravagant entertaining. Her informal style and manner were often imitated but never matched, for no one could host a party quite like the Duchess of Bingham and her house parties, like this one, were particular favorites. Tonight was the Welcome Ball to commence the weeklong round of lively and engaging activities for the fortunate guests who were extended an invitation.
As he and Gregory pressed through the crowd, Aidan ignored the heads that turned in his direction, the majority of which were of the female persuasion. As one of the most eligible bachelors in England, he was used to women flirting with him and fawning over him. In fact, he would be surprised if women did not look his way, but he paid no attention to them. He idly wondered where Helene was and knew he would have to seek her out sooner rather than later.
A decision about Helene Winston was one that Aidan needed to make in the near future. He probably should just propose to her and be done with it. She expected it by now, and perhaps even deserved it, but she was too much of a lady to ever pressure him about it. Somehow he could not bring himself to take that final step and ask her to marry him. Oh, Helene was desirable enough for a wife. He did not know why he held off on this, much to his mother's dismay and, he presumed, Helene's.
He truly did not even wish to be at this house party in the first place.
More than a little worried about his shipping business, Aidan recalled the dreadful week that passed. After one of his largest shipments ever of cotton from America was mysteriously lost, there had been a disastrous fire at his shipping warehouse two nights ago. The double financial blow of missing an entire cotton shipment in addition to losing a large warehouse filled to the brim with merchandise was almost ruinous, but fortunately not one of his employees had been injured in the terrible, late-night blaze. For that Aidan was most thankful. He had spent years building his shipping company up from nothing, devoting himself to making it a success. He was not about to let it go up in smoke.
Yet he had his suspicions that the fire was not accidental. There had been too many "accidents" lately, and the events of the past week were clearly deliberate.
And he had a fairly good idea of who was responsible for it. Proving it would be a most challenging enterprise, however. He would rather have stayed in London to manage these matters personally, but he had made a promise to his mother, as well as Helene, that he would attend the Binghams' party, and he could not break it. He had finally arrived at the estate, although rather later than expected. His mother had not been pleased by his delayed appearance but, then again, she rarely was pleased by anything.
His mother's wishes were not easily thwarted; she had wrangled this particular promise out of him when he had been overly distracted with work and afterward he had seen no decent way out of it. If it had not been for the mysterious fire the night before last, he actually might have enjoyed a week of relaxation in the country: going for long walks, riding and hunting. Lord knew he needed to clear his head. However, he was too anxious about the cause of the fire to relax now.
Clearly not in the mood for the evening's unavoidable social obligations, he took another sip of the excellent whiskey in his glass and followed his friend around the crowded and noisy perimeter of the dance floor, nodding briefly in greeting to the many faces who recognized him.
Then Gregory stepped aside, nudging Aidan lightly with his elbow and whispering to him in a low tone, "There she is."
As Aidan glanced ahead, he stopped short, almost spilling his drink down the front of his expensive, finely cut evening jacket.
There, on the arm of Gregory Cardwell's identical twin brother George, was a woman of incredible beauty.
He stared as she gracefully turned her head and laughed at something George said to her, the sound of her laughter rich and warm. Her luminous smile lit up her exquisite face, which would melt the heart of any man looking at her, including — obviously — George Cardwell's. But then, how could a heart not melt?
Silky black hair framed a face flawless and delicate in its bone structure. Her deep blue eyes were fringed by long, dark lashes with graceful brows arching lightly above them. She had a small, straight nose with high cheekbones in a slightly heart-shaped face with a creamy complexion. Full, sensual lips smiled charmingly to reveal pearly white teeth. As he watched her, the breath in his chest constricted and his heart pounded forcefully.
He could not move.
Suddenly Aidan was hundreds of miles away. Rolling green hills spread before him, covered in a soft gray mist. The waves of a wild surf crashed on the shore below high, windswept cliffs. The fresh scent of the sea saturated him. Heated kisses and sweet words; hands clasped and promises made. He could feel his heart pounding and his gut clenched.
He knew this woman.
No one else could have that face. That hauntingly beautiful face.
It couldn't be anyone other than Vivienne Montgomery.
He could tell by the elegant curve of her neck. The graceful way she held herself. The ivory white skin that beckoned to be touched. The sultry sapphire eyes that sparkled and teased. The black hair that would fall in long, silky waves to her waist. He knew, for he had seen her wear it that way. God, he had run his fingers through it! Now those glossy tresses were piled fashionably around her head in sophisticated ringlets. The pale blue gown she wore covered perfectly rounded breasts that gave way to the slender waist of a petite body.
Desire coursed through his blood at the sight of her, although he fought against it. Anger surged through him next. White-hot anger.
What in hell is Vivienne Montgomery doing in England?
Gregory pulled Aidan closer and said in a low, satisfied voice, "As you can see for yourself, I did not exaggerate her beauty. You can close your mouth now."
At his friend's words, Aidan mentally shook himself and closed his mouth, unaware that he had been gaping like a callow school boy.
Good Lord! The enormity of the situation hit him. Vivienne Montgomery is Gregory Cardwell's cousin!
"Vivvy, dearest, this is my good friend, Aidan Kavanaugh, the Earl of Whitlock," Gregory introduced them easily. "Aidan, may I present my beautiful cousin, Miss Vivienne Montgomery."
He stepped forward woodenly to greet the only woman who had ever turned his world upside down. She stood there composed and serene, looking for all the world like she had never laid eyes on him before. There was no air of recognition about her. Did she not remember him? Was she going to ignore him? How could she possibly have forgotten what had happened between them? So many years had passed, but not a day went by that he did not think of her, however unwillingly.
Vivienne's sapphire-blue eyes were looking up at him from beneath her long sooty lashes. Aidan's heart almost stopped beating completely. She had become more breathtakingly beautiful than he remembered. Even in his dreams. Perhaps dreams were not an accurate description. Tortured nightmares was the more precise term for the images that endlessly haunted him in his sleep.
He simply stared at her, not oblivious to the watershed of emotions that were crashing through him at the sight of her before him. He had never thought to see her again. Yet here she was, in the flesh and more beautiful than ever.
"Vivienne has just come to live with us," Gregory had gone on to say in his usual blithe manner, unaware of the stilted silence between Aidan and his cousin.
Aidan cleared his throat. "Miss Montgomery and I have already met."
The surprised expressions of the others were not lost on Aidan as he waited for Vivienne's response to him. Had she wanted to pretend they did not know each other? That they had never met? Well, he was not going to let that happen.
"Has it been ten years already, Aidan?" she asked softly.
The subtle brogue in her voice was one that Aidan recognized instantly and again it pulled him back to another time and place. He felt himself immersed in emotions he had long since buried of a time he most definitely did not wish to recall. Their eyes locked and, for a moment, it was as if they were the only two people in the room.
"Time has done nothing to change you, I see," he answered.
"I've changed more than you know," she responded gently, although there was a wealth of meaning in that comment just for him.
"I doubt that." Aidan's words were like ice.
"How in the world do you two know each other?" Gregory asked, a curious expression on his boyish face.
"Galway. Aidan and Vivienne stated in unison, surprising each other.
"I knew you spent time in Ireland when you were a boy, Aidan, but I had no idea you were in the same town as my cousin!" Gregory exclaimed in amusement.
"What a remarkable coincidence that you two should meet again!" George Cardwell chimed in. "You knew each other as children?"
"You could say that," Vivienne retorted calmly, although her little barb was lost on the others. It was meant for Aidan alone.
It puzzled him that she could remain unruffled by his presence. How could she be so composed when he was overwhelmed with emotion at seeing her again? His jaw clenched as he stared at her. Now that he really looked he noticed a family resemblance between Vivienne and the Cardwell twins in their eyes. But while the twins' eyes were light blue, Vivienne's were a tumultuous sea-blue, constantly changing to match her moods.
"Tell us, Aidan, what was our cousin like as a little girl? We've only just met her for the first time," Gregory said, always wanting to know more than he should.
Aidan watched as Vivienne glanced up at him, meeting his eyes directly. For the briefest instant he pictured Vivienne the day he first met her. Lord, but she was pretty even back then, all dark hair and impish smiles, with the constant hint of laughter in her fascinating eyes. A vivid image of the last time he saw her immediately took its place and his stomach tightened in reflex. "I'm sure she has not changed at all."
Vivienne's expression hardened at that remark. "People rarely change their characters, although they may try to change their outward appearances to make it seem as though they have changed."
"Surely you must have a lot to catch up on," George offered with a grin that matched his brother's.
Aidan watched the briefest shadow flash across her face. "I don't believe there is anything we need to catch up on. Is there, Miss Montgomery?"
"Nothing at all that I can think of, Lord Whitlock." She glanced coolly at him, as if he did not matter a whit to her.
Gregory Cardwell, carelessly unaware of the tension between them, said, "Can you believe a girl this beautiful has been hidden away in Ireland all this time? My parents are set on finding her a husband. Don't you think she'll be the hit of the Season in London?"
Aidan could barely get his mouth to form intelligible words. "Q,uite."
"Lord Whitlock, there you are!" Lady Helene Winston declared in her typical breathless rush, as she came to Aidan's side. "I've been looking for you everywhere!"
For once Aidan was oddly grateful for Helene's presence. Smiling warmly, he extended his hand to her. Her flaxen hair was fashioned in an intricate knot of curls upon her head, which emphasized the angular lines of her rather aristocratic-looking face. She was delicately boned, willowy, and taller than average. The pale sea-green color of her gown accentuated her hazel eyes. Aidan had always believed Helene to be pretty, but now he was startled by how she paled completely in comparison to Vivienne's vivid coloring and radiant presence.
George Cardwell made the introductions between the women. "This is Lady Helene Winston. My cousin, Miss Vivienne Montgomery."
Unconsciously sizing Vivienne up and down with a cool glance, Helene uttered politely, "It's a pleasure to make your acquaintance, Miss Montgomery."
"I am pleased to meet you as well, Lady Helene," Vivienne responded.
"If you'll excuse us, I believe I promised Helene this dance." Aidan knew he seemed curt, but he could not endure standing there any longer. Good God! If he had known he would be trapped at Bingham Hall with Vivienne Montgomery all week, he certainly would have made up some excuse, any excuse, not to come.
He drained the rest of his whiskey, handed the empty glass to a passing footman, and escorted Helene to the dance floor. As the orchestra played a waltz, he maneuvered her with expert skill through the elegantly attired couples and began to dance.
"You are very late. I was afraid you wouldn't arrive in time for the dancing," Helene scolded him in a mild tone, looking up at him sweetly. She had many admirers but her mind was set on Aidan Kavanaugh, the Earl of Whitlock. "Your mother said she expected you this afternoon."
"I had some business to attend to in London that took much longer than I anticipated," he muttered distractedly. He tried to forget that Vivienne Mount-gomery was in this ballroom. In this house. With him. For the next week. "I apologize if I kept you waiting."
"I'm just grateful that you are here at all," Helene said prettily.
He forced a smile at her, thinking he would rather be anywhere else on earth than at Bingham Hall. As much as he was grateful for the temporary escape Helene presented, he could not ignore the fact that his senses were reeling.
He was completely unprepared for the desirable woman that Vivienne had become. Ten years had barely left a mark of age or time on her. He had always imagined her married and fat, with a passel of babies by now. Obviously that was not the case. What had she been doing all this time? Why had she suddenly appeared in his life now?
As he and Helene moved in time to the music, the knot in his stomach only tightened at the thought of enduring a week of Vivienne's company. Dinners, card parties, picnics, games, musicales. He would be in contact with her constantly. Even a house as massive as Bingham Hall was too small, too confining, too intimate for both of them to survive the week unscathed. There would be no polite way to avoid interacting with her.
"May I cut in on this dance, Aidan?" Gregory Cardwell asked in his casual, easy manner. "I've grown very weary of dancing with my little Irish cousin all night."
Aidan could hardly refuse Gregory's simple request without appearing boorish. And, judging from the look of surprised dismay on Vivienne's beautiful face, she was not at all inclined to dance with him either. His gentlemanly manners were too ingrained in him. He had no choice but to dance with her, although Gregory was oblivious to how much Aidan wanted to throttle him.
"Of course," he mumbled, releasing Helene.
Before Aidan quite realized it, Gregory had waltzed away with Helene and he stood alone with Vivienne. She waited, her eyes downcast, the long dark lashes contrasting against her smooth, ivory skin. Was she that nervous to be with him? Or that disdainful?
Suddenly an exuberant young couple unwittingly bumped Vivienne from behind, causing her to stumble against him. Acting on instinct he grabbed her upper arms to steady her. Her head fell against his chest and then she gazed up at him in surprise.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "One Sinful Night"
Copyright © 2008 Kathleen M. Milmore.
Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
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.
Table of Contents
THE JOYS OF BEING SINFUL,
Chapter I - The House Party,
Chapter 2 - The Last Letter,
Chapter 3 - The Morning After,
Chapter 4 - The Coincidence,
Chapter 5 - The Countess,
Chapter 6 - The Parlor Game,
Chapter 7 - The Picnic,
Chapter 8 - The Portrait Gallery,
Chapter 9 - The Musicale,
Chapter 10 - The Beginning,
Chapter 11 - The Masked Ball,
Chapter 12 - The Sinful Night,
Chapter 13 - The Second Engagement,
Chapter 14 - The First Engagement,
Chapter 15 - Consequences,
Chapter 16 - The Aftermath,
Chapter 17 - The Other Option,
Chapter 18 - The Kiss,
Chapter 19 - Another Plan,
Chapter 20 - The Truth,
Chapter 21 - The Trip from London,
Chapter 22 - The Capture,
Chatter 23 - The Confrontation,
Chapter 24 - The Wedding,
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
In Galway, Ireland, Aidan Kavanaugh is stunned to see his beloved sixteen year old Vivienne Montgomery being hugged by Nicky Foster. Angry and upset observing the woman he planned to marry in a compromising position, Aidan leaves his hometown Vivienne¿s heart is broken and her reputation ruined although she knows she is innocent and cannot understand why Nicky did what he did.--------------- A decade later in 1870, Vivienne lives with relatives in England hiding her past from them and everyone else. Successful shipping magnate Aidan has had a bad business week topped off when Gregory Cardwell introduces him to his cousin Vivienne. Aidan is engaged to someone else but like her still feels the attraction. Whereas Aidan refuses to act on it, Vivienne decides to take a chance on love even if she fails means her reputation will be destroyed again, but history repeats itself as he sees her compromised again.--------------- The key to this entertaining Victorian romance is the underlying jocularity to the warm second chance at love plot. Aidan and Vivienne are superb lead characters while the villain makes Karl Rove look like child prankster. This my first Kaitlin O¿Riley historical, but will not be my last.--------------- Harriet Klausner
I was so glad this novel became available for Nook. I had read it at the library and had been looking for it for some time. It's an awesome story and pleased to finally own a copy of my own so o can read it again sometime -it's just that enjoyable .
I have been reading romance lately, and have become familiar with the plot of historical novels set in this time period. Kind of boring sometimes and I find have to skip some pages. When I order an unfamiliar author I am more often disappointed than not, with this book I was pleasantly surprised though didn't know the author. The characters are well developed and mature in the way they are potrayed compared to other novels.. Really, really good twist and turns kept me interested did not skip pages on this one!...I plan to get more of her books, she is on to something.
I love the historical romance novels and i must say this is the best one I've read in years. I loved that the characters had such history it made their encounters so much more intimate and this book was written so very well and i read the entire thing in one night i just couldn't put it down