When Jack Dalton escapes from Dunmoor Prison, he has only one thing in mindfinding the nobleman who murdered his sister and making him pay. But when he reaches the inn where the Lord Rockley is rumored to be staying, three well-dressed strangers are there to meet him instead. And the pretty blonde is aiming a pistol right at his head …
Joining Nemesis, Unlimited has made Eva Warrick much more than the well-mannered lady she appears to beone who can shoot, fight, and outsmart any man in the quest to right the injustices so often suffered by the innocent. She's not afraid of the burly escaped convict, but she is startled by their shared attraction. She and her partners need Jack's help to get to Rockley, but Eva finds she wants Jack for scandalous reasons all her own…
About the Author
Zoë Archer is an award-winning romance author who thinks there's nothing sexier than a man in tall boots and a waistcoat. As a child, she never dreamed about being the rescued princess, but wanted to kick butt right beside the hero. A graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop, she now applies her master's degrees in Literature and Fiction to creating butt-kicking heroines and heroes in tall boots. She is the author of the acclaimed BLADES OF THE ROSE series and the paranormal historical romance series, THE HELLRAISERS. She has also written steampunk romances, SKIES OF FIRE and SKIES OF STEEL. Zoë and her husband, fellow romance author Nico Rosso, live in Los Angeles.
Read an Excerpt
Yorkshire, England, 1886
Most prison escapes took months, sometimes years, of planning. Jack Dalton had one day.
He stood in the rock-breaking yard of Dunmoor Prison, hammer in hand, waiting for the warder to secure a shackle around his ankle, chaining him to the other convicts. Unrelenting afternoon sun beat down on him and the two dozen men. Squinting, Jack stared up at the sky.
Bloody perfect. The only sodding day it’s clear on the moors, and it’s the day I have to break out of this shithole.
It didn’t matter if ten thousand suns shone in the sky. He had to get out today.
Lynch, the warder, moved from convict to convict, fastening iron bands around each man’s ankle, and the band attached to a chain that stretched between the prisoners, who stood in two parallel rows. The chain rattled whenever someone moved. A scar encircled Jack’s ankle, a thick ridge of skin he had developed after five years of hard labor. The first few months had been rough. The shackle had dug into his requisition striped worsted stockings, gouging into the flesh beneath until he’d bled. The wound had gone putrid, a fever had burned through him, and he had almost lost not just the leg but his life. Yet Jack was a tough bastard. Always had been. Hatred kept a bloke tough. He lived, kept the leg, and got stronger.
Today he would need all of his strength. Impatience stung like hornets beneath his skin. Lynch was almost done with the first row of convicts. In another minute, the warder would start moving down Jack’s line, and then the window of opportunity would slam shut. Already, Jack’s gaze moved through the yard, looking toward the thirty-foot-high wall that kept the convicts of Dunmoor from the miles of rolling country, and the freedom that lay beyond.
“D.3.7., eyes straight ahead!”
Jack’s gaze snapped back to a blank stare, retreating behind the false front of apathy. No one had called him by his name in over five years. Sometimes he forgot he had a name, just a letter and a number. Once, he’d been Diamond Dalton—not because he favored diamonds. Hell, he had never owned a single diamond, and had seen a real one only a handful of times. No, they called him Diamond because he’d been formed by crushing pressure into the hardest thing to walk the streets of London.
Only Edith had called him Jack. Sometimes, when she was feeling nostalgic for their childhood, she had called him Jackie.
“Jackie,” she had whispered, reaching up to him with a blood-spattered hand. “Jackie, take me home.” And then she had died.
Even after all this time, the memory scoured Jack. The burn of rage pulsed through him. He knew it better than his own heartbeat. It was more important than the beat of his heart, for anger remained the only thing that kept him alive. Anger, and the need for vengeance. He would have his revenge soon.
Lynch reached Jack’s row. It had to be now.
“Oi,” Jack whispered to the convict standing next to him. “Stokes!”
The thick-jawed man flicked his gaze toward Jack, then straight ahead. “Shut it, idiot!” The punishment for talking could be the lash, or if the governor was feeling particularly brutal, time in the dark cell, deprived of light and all human interaction. Sometimes for weeks. Men went mad in the dark cell. God knows Jack almost did.
He didn’t fear punishment now. The only thing that scared him was not making his escape in time.
“You hear Mullens is getting out next week?”
“So what? I ain’t gettin’ out for eight months.”
Jack’s sentence had been much longer, thanks to the manipulation of the justice system. If he didn’t try this breakout, he would be stuck in Dunmoor for thirty-seven more years. Making him seventy-three years old by the time he tottered out the front gate—if he survived that long.
He would likely die today. So long as he took care of his business beforehand, he didn’t much care about dying afterward. It wasn’t as though his life merited clinging to.
“I heard…” Jack glanced quickly at Mullens, who stood in the row in front of them, and then at Lynch, moving closer. “When he gets out, he’s going straight to your mollisher.”
Stokes frowned at the mention of his woman. “Lizzie? But he ain’t even met her.”
Jack shrugged. “Maybe he heard you talking about her so nice, he had to see for himself. Said he’d give it to her right good. And she’d want it, too, not having a man around all this time.” He clapped his mouth shut as Lynch approached.
The warder glowered at Jack. “Better not be talking, D.3.7. The governor got a new flogging pillory, and he’s keen to try it.” Lynch’s eyes gleamed with eagerness.
“What’s that?” Lynch leaned closer. “Sounded like talking.”
Jack shook his head, hating the bastard. Some of the warders were decent enough, just trying to do a job for rubbish pay, but other screws, like Lynch, enjoyed their power and spent their time thinking up new ways to bully and harass the prisoners. Lynch particularly liked making up perceived infractions.
With a smirk, Lynch bent down and secured the shackle around Jack’s ankle. Damn it. He’d been hoping to goad Stokes enough before the shackle was clapped on, but Lynch had put an end to that plan.
It took everything Jack had not to smash his sledgehammer down onto Lynch’s head, knocking off the warder’s blue shako hat and spilling his brains all over the rock-breaking yard.
Stay fixed on your goal, Dalton. Killing Lynch might be satisfying, but it also meant he’d be taken down by the other warders, locked in the dark cell for months, and then dragged out only to be hanged.
So he let Lynch finish fastening the shackle and move on, keeping the bastard warder’s brains inside his skull.
“Next week,” Jack hissed at Stokes. “Mullens goes for Lizzie.”
Stokes wasn’t known for having a long fuse. He exploded like a burning arsenal at the smallest hint of provocation.
“I’ll beat your damned face in,” Stokes snarled. The convict broke rank, lunging for Mullens. Everyone in the row stumbled forward, pulled by the connecting chain.
Startled, Mullens barely had time to turn around before Stokes tackled him. Convicts fell, shouting out in anger and confusion. Others cheered Stokes on as he rained punches down on Mullens. More yelling filled the yard as warders came running. Chaos filled the enclosure, a blur of the dark blue warders’ uniforms and the pale, coarse uniforms of the convicts. Fists were thrown. Some of the warders had clubs, beating down the prisoners whether they fought or no. Jack grunted when he caught the back of a club across his shoulder, but he didn’t fall.
Hefting his hammer, Jack brought it down hard onto the chain binding him to the other convicts. The thick links shuddered, but stayed intact. He slammed the hammer down again, and again. The vibrations carried all the way up into his leg, jarring him until his teeth rattled. The weight of the hammer felt like nothing. He’d been swinging it for five years. When he had been tried and convicted of attempted murder, he’d already been strong. Now, years of hard labor had transformed him, and the heavy hammer felt like a bird’s hollow bone.
He kept on pounding until, at last, the chain broke.
He ran from the yard. Sounds of fighting and confusion echoed behind him. No one noticed him amid the chaos.
His thoughts spun out of control, his heart racing like a locomotive, but he forced himself to be cold, logical. In his mind, he pictured the layout of the prison. Six main buildings radiated out like spokes, with narrow walls leading straight out from three of those buildings toward the huge double walls that encircled the whole prison. He’d never be able to climb the outer wall, not without a ladder, and those were in short supply in the clink. Instead of heading straight to the wall, Jack ran toward one of the smaller, two-story buildings that served as a dormitory for the unmarried warders who lived on prison grounds.
Pressing himself back against a low outbuilding, Jack watched as warders streamed out of the dormitory, all of them speeding toward the yard. Too focused on the riot, none of them saw him.
Once he felt certain the warder house had cleared, he sprinted to it. He tried the door. Locked. Jack swung his hammer again. It pounded against the lock, splintering the edge of the door. Finally, the door flew open.
Jack quickly took in the rows of tables covered with the remains of half-finished tea, the potbellied stove in the corner, photographic prints of the queen and the royal family. Nothing here would help him. He ran the stairs two at a time, the wooden steps shaking beneath his heavy boots.
Upstairs, beds formed two orderly lines. Unlike the convicts, who had to roll their straw mattresses up every morning for inspection, these beds were all made, tight as a parson’s arse. Jack wondered what it would be like to sleep on actual horsehair, or even feathers. He couldn’t remember if he ever had. What would it matter? His next sleep would be his last.
He ran between the rows of beds, until he reached the window at the far end of the room. Setting the hammer down, he pushed the window open. Unfortunately, he needed both hands for this next stage, so the hammer had to stay behind. Having a weapon was added insurance, but his fists could inflict plenty of damage. He planned on using them later, beating Lord Rockley into pulp, and then wrapping his fingers around the murderer’s throat until his breathing stopped.
Jack smiled grimly to himself. He couldn’t wait.
Climbing from the window, Jack hauled himself out, grabbed hold of the roof’s edge and pulled himself up onto the roof.
Jack crouched down. From his vantage, he could see the continued commotion in the yard, convicts and warders brawling. He turned his gaze from the riot to the rest of the prison. Never had he seen it from so far up. The windows in the cells were tiny notches set high in the wall, and the only way to look out of them would be to stand on a bucket or a stool. But that was a punishable offense, so he seldom tried it.
He didn’t care about the prison anymore. All that mattered was the rolling heath that surrounded the prison, stretching out for miles. That’s what he had to reach. The next stage of his escape.
Still crouched low, Jack moved along the roof, until he positioned himself directly above a brick wall that stood about fifteen feet high. This wall ran straight toward the circular stone walls that surrounded the prison, the last obstacles between him and freedom.
He leaped down onto the brick wall. It was narrow, and he struggled for balance. He felt himself start to slip. Boots dug in for stability, he righted himself, then ran lightly along the top, heading toward the first stone wall. The two walls were the same height, and they intersected. He continued on the brick wall toward the final border at the edge of the prison, looming ahead. Below him was the barren outer yard. No one ever walked among the patches of dead earth and dying weeds. It served as a space for attempted escapees to be caught before they reached the outside world. Sometimes, Jack had heard gunfire, and the shouts of guards. Sometimes, but not often. Few tried to escape, and even fewer made it.
“But I will,” he muttered to himself.
It looked like he would, too. So far, no one had noticed him, too busy beating down the riot in the stone yard.
Jack sprinted the last stretch of the brick wall. The outer wall rose up taller than the one on which he ran, looming high and daunting. He shoved past uneasiness and kept on running, gaining momentum. Though his heavy boots wanted to drag him down, he leaped, scrabbling for a hold on the outer wall. His fingers clutched at the top edge, hands burning as they took the full brunt of his substantial weight.
As he hung there, someone at a distance shouted. “Oi! Escaping prisoner!”
Fuck. Jack did not waste time seeing which warder had spotted him. He pulled, hauling himself up.
“Stop immediately,” the warder yelled, “or I’ll be forced to shoot!”
Ignoring him, Jack continued to draw himself higher, muscles clenching with effort.
A whine, and then chips of granite exploded around him. Jack cursed. The warder had fired on him. Then did so again.
Jack didn’t want to attempt crossing the moors leaking blood. He would lose precious energy, and he needed it to end Rockley’s miserable life.
With a burst of strength, he heaved himself up, then over. Still dangling by his fingers, the ground spun thirty feet below. Here was another hazard. If he landed wrong, he’d break a leg, maybe his back. He couldn’t hesitate, though. The screws and governor would be alerted to his escape, and he didn’t have much time before they massed in pursuit.
Jack drew a breath, forcing himself to relax, then let go.
The ground rushed up to meet him, and he bent his knees in preparation for the landing. He hit the earth boots first, keeping on the balls of his feet. The impact jarred through him, and he quickly tucked his head against his chest and rolled.
Rocks dug into him as he tumbled. He fought to keep his wind and his stability. Finally, he slowed, and straightened to stand.
He staggered for a moment, balance thrown by the impact and roll. As the world settled from its mad spin, he saw the stretches of scrub-covered moor, the merciless blue sky. No walls, save for the ones behind him.
“Freedom,” he said roughly.
But it wasn’t true freedom. He had a responsibility to carry out, an obligation driving him to run toward certain death in pursuit of vengeance.
Voices rose up from the other side of the wall, warders assembling to go after him. He’d come down far from the main gate, though, and it would take the screws a few minutes to reach him.
With his head still reeling, he took off at a run, determined to lose himself in the moors.
* * *
Jack threw himself down beneath a thicket of gorse. Thorns scraped his face and tore his uniform, but his attention remained pinned on the sounds of shouting men and baying dogs. His lungs burned and his legs ached. For hours he’d been running across the heath, always staying just a few steps ahead of his pursuers. Mud spattered his clothes and face, blisters burned on his feet inside his heavy boots, and he felt himself more hunted animal than man.
But he was getting close. So close.
He waited, panting, listening.
“Think he went this way.”
“We got to round him up soon. Night’s falling.”
“I got some tracks over here! And here’s his jacket.”
Jack held his breath. The screws’ voices faded, and he allowed himself a small exhale. The dummy trail seemed to be working, but he wouldn’t chance a dash until he was well sure the warders were gone.
He wanted to run, feeling time slip away like a slackening noose. His prey was near, and the predator in him wanted nothing more than to make the kill. But he had to be smart.
His mouth quirked in a bitter smile. No one had ever hired him for his brains. Don’t think, Diamond, Fowler used to say. You’re a big, mean bastard. You’re what keeps the riffraff from getting to his lordship.
Fowler might be there tonight. Him, and Curtis. Maybe Voss. But Jack couldn’t count on their friendship. Rockley paid them to do a job, and friendship didn’t buy pints. So when Jack came for Rockley, he’d have to take the others out. Suited him just fine.
Jack’s conscience was a mean thing, no bigger than a pebble. He’d mow down any obstacle to get what he was after, even men he once considered friends. His conscience had room for only two regrets: the first, that he hadn’t protected Edith. And the second, that he’d failed the first time he had tried to kill Rockley.
This time, he’d get the job done.
He listened to the fading voices of the warders as twilight fell in heavy waves. His throat burned with thirst, his lips were cracked. He almost longed for the weak, piss-flavored beer they doled out at mealtimes in the prison.
The warders’ chatter finally stopped. His false trail wouldn’t distract them for long, though. Time to get moving again.
He scrambled out from beneath the gorse and studied the sky to get his bearings. The village of Cambrey was situated some four miles to the northeast of Dunmoor Prison, and that’s where he would find the Queen’s Consort Inn. The same inn where Rockley now stayed.
Keeping low to the ground, Jack ran.
It had been damned lucky, if a man like Jack could ever consider himself lucky. Only that very morning, he’d finished cleaning his cell. Usually, prisoners waited outside their cells during inspection, but as he was stepping out into the corridor, the inspecting warder had stopped him.
“Nice bit of news, eh, D.3.7.?”
Knowing he could not speak, Jack had only looked at the warder.
“That toff you tried to kill, Rockwell, Rockburn? Heard he’s out at Cambrey, lodging at the inn. Guess he’s here to hunt. Can’t think of another reason why some la-di-da gent would come out to Satan’s arsehole.” The warder had laughed. “Ain’t that a pretty business?”
No time to be surprised by the news. He’d had to act on the opportunity given to him. Jack had spent the hours between inspection and afternoon work fixing a plan for escape. Having Rockley so close, when he spent most of his time in London, had been chance, or fate, or, as the chaplain said, providence. And Jack wouldn’t waste this rare opportunity.
Night fell in a thick black shroud. But distant lights served as his direction. He stumbled on, keeping that glimmering in his sight. It had to be the village of Cambrey. The final step of his journey to hell.
He kept well away from the rutted road leading into town, even though he spotted only one cart jouncing down the lane.
As he jogged nearer, the shapes of the village buildings turned solid and defined. Merchant shops, a church, a few houses lining the high street. The only building that snagged his attention, though, was the inn. It stood at one end of the high street, a two-story structure with a yard and a stable. Light poured from the windows, pushing back the darkness, and the sounds of a piano and cheerful talk tumbled out. Beyond the tuneless, cheerless hymns they sang in chapel, he hadn’t heard music since before his imprisonment. He wanted to soak it in, the sounds of normal life. Music, gossip, and petty grievances that might result in sore feelings but not death.
It seemed everything in Jack’s life resulted in death. Including his own.
Crouching behind a low stone wall, he assessed the inn. Lights shone in the second story. Some of the rooms looked small, cramped. Rockley wouldn’t stay in any of those.
The room at the end, though, looked promising. It appeared larger than the other rooms, with a canopied bed and its own fireplace. The finest accommodations the inn had to offer. Rockley had always flaunted his wealth and rank, and it made sense that if he stayed at this inn, he’d take the best room in the place.
Jack’s gut clenched when a man’s silhouette appeared at the window. With the light behind him, it was impossible to make out details of the man’s face, but he definitely had the size and form of Rockley. Tall, wide shoulders of a sportsman, and upright, proud posture that screamed out privilege and noble blood. The kind that literally got away with murder.
Hatred darkened Jack’s vision, and he choked on bile. He spat on the ground.
Rockley moved away from the window, but he didn’t appear to leave the room. Perfect.
Prowling through the shadows, Jack closed the distance to the inn, until he stood at the base of the inn’s wall. Rockley likely had men in the taproom, if not outside his door. Jack had been one of those men once. He knew where they would be, and that they’d use fists and pistols to keep anyone from getting to his lordship.
Wiping his damp hands on his thighs, he stared up at the second story. Exhausted and thirsty, dizziness swamped him. So bloody close.
He shook his head, forcing it to clear, then began to climb. He grappled for hold into the masonry’s gaps, pushing his fingers into the worn mortar. Biting back curses, he climbed higher, trying to go as quietly as possible. If he got caught now, with Rockley only twenty feet away, he’d lose his sodding mind.
Nearer, nearer. The window to Rockley’s room drew closer. And as it did, Jack’s pulse hammered violently, rage growing with each handhold, each inch higher.
Finally, his fingers closed around the windowsill. Thank the devil the night was a mild one, and Rockley had left the window open. No shattering glass to alert the men stationed in the corridor or downstairs. With a final heave, Jack pulled himself up and through the window, and then he stood in the room.
He’d almost reached his goal, and now he was ready to kill. But he froze before taking a single step.
He faced the most beautiful woman he’d ever seen. Trim and tall, blond hair, sherry-brown eyes. Angular jaw and unsmiling mouth. Clothing smart but not fancy. And she pointed a revolver at his head.
* * *
Evangeline Warrick stared at the man at the other end of her Webley .450. Though calling him a man seemed inapt. The term brute had been coined to describe such a … male.
Dark eyes, wild as an animal’s, burned into her. He took a step toward her.
“Hands, Mr. Dalton.” Eva was careful to keep her voice steady, calm. “Let me see them.”
“Easy, love.” He spoke as though calming a startled horse. “Not here to hurt you.” He took another step closer.
Eva cocked her gun, her aim holding. “Put up your hands, Mr. Dalton. And do not take another step.”
His hands came up, and dear God, were they big. Just like the rest of him.
“I just want Rockley,” he said. His accent was rough, his voice deep.
“You aren’t going to get him.”
Dalton raised a brow. Or she thought he did. In truth, grime coated the convict so thoroughly, she could barely make out the details of his face. Mostly, she saw those eyes, keen and hard. She had seen the gazes of desperate men before, men driven to the very edge, but none of them sent a thrill of caution down her spine the way Jack Dalton’s eyes did.
“Now he’s using women as bullies?” His mouth curled into a sneer. “Gun or no, you’d be wise to be careful around Rockley. Better yet, put a bullet in his brain, not mine.”
“That isn’t how we work,” she answered.
“We,” answered Simon, stepping from the shadows in the corner. Marco came forward, as well. Neither of them had their weapons out, though they were both armed. They knew she could handle herself with a gun, and trusted her to keep Dalton reasonably controlled. She knew precisely where to shoot a man to incapacitate him.
Dalton snarled, his gaze darting back and forth between Simon and Marco. Then back to her. “Where’s Rockley?”
“Not here,” she replied.
“Tell me where he is.” Menace poured from Dalton in waves, and Eva wondered if she truly was going to use her revolver. She didn’t want to. Shooting a man could be loud and messy, and complicate things unnecessarily.
“In London, I presume.”
“I was told—”
“That Lord Rockley was staying here,” Marco supplied. “It’s what is known as baiting the trap.”
Dalton moved far more quickly than his size would suggest, and too quickly for even an experienced shot like Eva to fire. One moment, he stood near the window, hands upraised. The next, he had Marco on the floor, one hand around Marco’s throat. Marco fought against him, but Dalton’s sheer size and brawn rendered Marco’s training almost useless.
Simon got himself behind Dalton and looped his arm around Dalton’s neck. He grasped his wrist to capture Dalton in a headlock.
Stepping close, Eva placed the muzzle of her Webley against Dalton’s temple, making sure that, if she had to fire, she wouldn’t hit her colleagues.
“If you want your chance at vengeance,” she said, low and quick, “release Marco immediately.”
Slowly, Dalton’s hand uncurled from around Marco’s throat. The only sound in the room came from Marco, dragging air back into his lungs and coughing. Simon kept his arm tight around Dalton’s neck, slightly loosening the pressure so the convict would not asphyxiate.
“Go sit on the bed, Mr. Dalton,” Eva commanded. “And I ought to warn you, this gun of mine has been complaining for weeks that it hasn’t had a drop of blood. Do not give me a reason to satisfy its thirst.”
Dalton stared at her from the corner of his eye. This close, she could see that his eyes were the color of darkest coffee, verging on black. A feral intelligence shone in his gaze, like a wolf learning the ways of man in order to stalk and kill human prey.
He had enough astuteness to recognize that he had to comply. He nodded tightly.
Simon released his hold on Dalton and stepped away. With that peculiar savage grace of his, Dalton rose up. Marco scrambled to his feet, rubbing at his throat and scowling.
Eva edged back, not wanting to be within striking distance of Dalton. And his size made her distinctly uncomfortable. She was not a small woman, nor especially delicate, but she knew with absolute clarity that Dalton could snap her into matchsticks.
He sent her a glare, then walked toward the bed. As lightly as he moved, his boots still shook the floorboards. She had heard that the boots of prisoners were especially heavy, weighing as much as fourteen pounds, as if trying to pin them to the ground. Yet the sheer muscle mass of Dalton seemed to rattle the whole inn. Did the governors of prisons realize that hard labor turned rough men into weapons? Dalton’s arms appeared to be as thick and tough as coiled rope.
Approaching the canopied bed, he eyed it warily.
“Sit,” she ordered.
Teeth gritted, he did so. Strange—he looked almost uncomfortable. Eva had sat upon the bed earlier and felt its plush softness. One could have a very good sleep there. Or a very pleasant night with the right company.
Realization struck her. For the past five years, Dalton knew only his crude bed in Dunmoor Prison. At best, that meant a straw mattress on an iron-slatted frame, with coarse woolen blankets for warmth. Such luxury as this feather mattress and the fine-combed cotton bedclothes must feel alien to him, or worse, a taste of comfort he had not experienced in a long time—if ever.
She shook her head. Dalton was a means to an end. Likely he would crush the life out of her without a moment’s hesitation. She could not afford to feel sympathy for him, or endow him with a sentiment he probably didn’t feel.
In his filthy and torn prison uniform, radiating animal energy, he presented a strange picture as he sat upon the rosewood bed, lacy fabric hanging from the canopy. Everything looked impossibly fragile in comparison.
“Talk,” Dalton growled. “Tell me who you lot are, and how you know my name.”
She almost smiled at this. The gun was in her hands, and yet he had the boldness to issue a command.
“We know all about you,” she replied.
“There’s a file at headquarters,” added Simon. He held his fingers an inch apart. “This thick.”
Eva had studied the file thoroughly, including the photograph from Dalton’s admission into prison. Sometimes, prisoners fought against having their pictures taken, since it meant having their face on record. More than a few photographs showed prisoners contorting their faces to disguise their features, or being held down by force. Not Dalton.
He had stared at the camera boldly, defiantly. Take a good look, his expression seemed to challenge. The countenance of a man who had nothing left to lose.
But he did have something to lose. Eva and her colleagues counted on it.
“Headquarters.” Suspicion sharpened Dalton’s gaze. “You’re coppers?”
“Strictly a private organization,” she said. “We operate entirely outside of official channels. No one in the CID or government knows we exist.”
“Which is precisely how we want it,” Marco added.
“Mercenaries,” Dalton surmised.
Eva smiled a little at that. “Of a sort.”
“So, Rockley hired you to lure me out of Dunmoor.” He snorted. “Couldn’t kill me behind bars, so he finds a way to kill me on the other side of the wall.”
“We do not work for Rockley,” she insisted, voice tight. The very idea that they would work with someone like the baron filled her with a toxic sickness.
“Then who do you work for?”
“A girl. You wouldn’t know her.” She kept her gun pointed at him. He would be waiting for her to drop her guard, but that was not going to happen. “About a month ago, this young woman, whom I’ll call Miss Jones, was mostly wickedly seduced and abandoned. Her reputation was destroyed. Now she and her parents seek restitution, which we will help obtain.”
“Some gentry mort falls for a line, winds up on her back, and I’m supposed to care?”
“The ruin of any woman isn’t to be taken lightly.” Simon spoke through gritted teeth. “And she isn’t gentry. Just a merchant’s daughter.”
“Little difference.” Dalton shrugged. “Girl gets charmed into opening her legs, winds up with a bastard child or nothing at all. And the gent goes about his merry business. Not saying it’s right, but it’s an old story.”
“This time,” said Eva, “the story will have a different ending.”
“Cheers if you can make the cove pay.” Cynicism dripped from Dalton’s voice. “But what happened to the girl ain’t my business.”
“It will be,” she answered.
He crossed his arms over his chest, and the coarse fabric of his shirt pulled against his muscles. Both Marco and Simon were exceptionally fit men—their work demanded it. But Dalton possessed an animal strength, brutal and uncivilized. Simon, Marco, and her other male colleagues were trained warriors. Dalton was a beast.
“Love,” he rumbled, “I’ve got the screws hot on my tail. They’ll be here in an hour—”
“Less,” Marco said.
Dalton shot Marco a glare before returning his gaze to Eva. His words had been terse and impatient, but the way he stared at her made her think he hadn’t seen a woman in a very long time.
“So either speak plain or shoot me,” he continued, “’coz I don’t plan on lingering.”
She drew a breath. “The man who seduced Miss Jones is Lord Rockley.”
Dalton’s arms uncrossed as if readying for battle. His smirk fell away, replaced by cold, brutal hatred. Even knowing the details of Dalton’s history, she had not fully anticipated seeing such naked enmity, devoid of all pity. A shiver struggled to work its way through her body, but she ruthlessly suppressed it. Dalton was the sort of man to exploit any weakness. She could show none.
“We’re going to make Rockley pay.” She made certain to keep her voice level, as though the slightest hint of emotion would tip Dalton into crazed fury. “And you, Mr. Dalton, are going to help us. If you do not agree to do so, we’ll keep you here until the warders arrive. Escaping from prison is a serious crime. One that will see you well punished.” She stared coolly at him. “Time is running out, Mr. Dalton. A decision has to be made.”
For a moment, he did not move, did not speak. Then, “Who the hell are you people?”
She spoke before Marco or Simon could answer. “Nemesis, Unlimited.”
Copyright © 2013 by Zoe Archer
What People are Saying About This
“Sweet Revenge is an intense, fast-paced read. A strong plot, memorable characters, genuine emotionsnot to mention plenty of heat. What more can a reader want?” —Sherry Thomas, author of Tempting the Bride
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"A dark, riveting tale from beginning to end. Zoë Archer's books are not to be missed!"—USA Today bestselling author Alexandra Hawkins
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5 out of 5 for this reader folks! Sweet Revenge by Zoe Archer is the first book in a brand spanking new series call Nemesis Unlimited. This book is classified as a historical romance, but most certainly, it can be debated to be an action/adventure, mystery/suspense with a dash or erotica (got to say, the juicy bits were juicy ;)). This book had EVERYTHING one could possibly want in a novel. I loved this book so much, that I am currently rubbing gritty eyes writing this review because I inhaled and gobbled it done in one night (leaving me to function on 1 1/2 hours sleep). NOW THAT IS A GREAT BOOK! :) We are taken back into England 1886 when the book opens with our hero "Diamond" Jack Dalton (seriously mansome, gigantic in size, intimidating, animal like brute, out for blood .. *shudders*) creatively finding a way to escape the prison he has been a confined to for the past 5 years. You see, Jack is doing time for an impulsive, anger driven attempted murder of a fancy, real SOB Lord (oh just wait till I cut into this jerk face) and his former boss. Just relayed to him by a guard, jerk face just so happens to be at a local inn which means he is accessible to Jack. Out busts Jack ready to finish the murder he never quite had the chance to complete but has dreamed of for the past 5 years. Crawling up the window isn't he surprised to find himself at gun point by three strangers, more specifically, the most enticing female he has ever laid eyes on (our beloved heroine Eva Warrick), at the other end of that pistol. Within minutes, and quite against his will I may add, Jack has escaped one prison only to be scooped up into another form of prison. These three strangers have set Jack up to break out of prison and recruit him to be a key player in their latest mission at Nemesis Unlimited. Pretty much it's "play with us or we turn your sorry rear end in to the coppers!" Poor Guy! Nemesis Unlimited consists of a group of people who feel that sometimes vengeance needs a little help with ensuring that the bad guys really do get their day in hell. Our specific bad guy is Lord Rockley. Lord Rockley is a real scumbag who enjoys using his privileged standing in society and wealth to get all he wants without a care for anyone else. He is a sadist that likes to prey on young innocent girls or prostitutes alike and it just so happens that he preyed on Jack's sister Edith and caused her tortuous death. He is also a treacherous wretch who is scamming the government by producing sub par ammo for the soldiers while pocketing half the coin that should of been used for proper materials. Wherever he goes, he causes death and mayhem. My goodness he was so easy to hate! So .... the Nemesis Unlimited crew lay out all the cards on the table and tell Jack that he holds vital information about the Lord, as he use to be his personal bodyguard and knows his inner circle and schedule. Jack doesn't care and doesn't want to hear it ... he wants blood NOW. Through gentle encouragement and bold directness presented by Eva, and a deep serious intense attraction they have each other, Jack agrees to dig deep and help this team out. Off we go on a full on adventure through the sewer streets of England, the snobbery of the ton, and the middle class common folk and experience the twists and turns that are developed and delivered through this story. Eva! Now Eva is a kick ass heroine. Like all members of the crew, Eva has to live a double life in order to keep their team funded. She is quick witted, tough, beautiful, not the least bit scandalized at anything (even sexy naked guys in carriages ...WINK), cool as a cucumber and one fine operative. She can tutor a child with the greatest patience and ease one minute with her immense intelligence, and then turn around and drop kick a man to his knees the next. Jack can't resist her, nor can she resist him. The sexual tension between these two is incredible and believe me, Zoe Archer DELIVERS when that tension finally snaps. So hard not to give away anything so I will leave it at that! This was a fast paced, intense, action packed and gushworthy read. It has a real gritty feel to it with the use of time appropriate language and also because Zoe Archer is very good at writing out the small descriptive details that make the scenes so vivid in my mind I could see them so clearly. I shuddered at times when she would lay out the way the poor had to live, or cringe at the right moment when a punch would meet it's mark. I love an author who can do that so perfectly. I'll leave this review with a quote that really sums up the relationship between Jack and Eva. "Goddamn, I love you. From the first time I saw you, pointing a gun at me, I knew you'd be either my death or my salvation." Which is it?? Death or Salvation? LOL HAPPY READING! :) copy supplied by publisher via NetGallery for an honest review. Thank You for allowing me to review! :)
Zoe Archer never fails to impress me with her wonderful narratives. I loved her Blades of the Rose series, and yet Nemesis is even better. I'll never get tired of Archer's voice, and this book really delivers. I am so excited to read the stories of the other Nemesis members. Also, Archer's heroines KICK AS$. It's only one of many reasons she's on my auto-buy author list. And believe me, Eva doesn't faint or fan her face. This is a true heroine. And Jack...hot damn. The chemistry is fantastic. I can rave about this book all day. Loved it.
This is the first time I have read a Zoe Archer book. I have read good reviews on different websites about her books and have a couple on my To Be Read list. But I am sorry to say, I was a wee bit disappointed with Sweet Revenge. The writing is great. Archer is a skilled writer, and the story flows well as far as no badly written prose. The main characters were great, especially Jack! I love Alpha men! Woo, that Jack and his muscles! I think it was the plot that had gaps or was not quite believable in parts. For instance, Jack broke out of prison after being there 5 years--then why didn't he do it sooner? It only took him one day to plan his escape. Then, he has to be in hiding, but he attends a ball? Huh? It was plot devices like that that had me coming to a stop just to try and accept the story. Nonetheless, the writing is so good that I will read another book by Archer before deciding if her books are all like this one or better.
I LOVED this book. A grittier, late Victorian romance, the author shined at drawing out sensual tension between Jack and Eva. She also handled well the big bruiser hero with heart and some brains after all. I have the feeling that Zoe Archer peels back the layers of men very well. Be forewarned, there's lots of profanity and some violence. But, that's what happens when you combine a rough from-the-streets hero who wants to avenge his sister's death. I highly recommend the book and look forward to more of Zoe Archer's "Nemesis, Unlimited" series.
Good historical detail, terrific characterization, and emotional depth make for a rousing read. I will definitely be reading the next book in the series. Highly recommended. -- lyradora
Author: Zoe Archer From St. Martin's Paperbacks Published: June 4th., 2013 ARC ACQUIRED THROUGH NETGALLEY After the years of imprisonment Jack Dalton is nothing but an automated man without any humanity and all he thinks about is getting revenge from the evil that took his sister's life. When he get's news that his most hated enemy is in town he arranges a way to escape and finally get his revenge. But things aren't always what they seem and when he finds out that there is hope beyond revenge, will he take a leap of faith and save himself or will he only see deception or revenge ? Zoe Archer is what I think a perfect creator of characters, tortured heroes and ¿scenarios that come out of ancient times that have marked history, in this case England in her most dark beauty and shadows. Who doesn't love a good robin hood story combined with the methods of the greatest detective that lived: Sherlock Holmes ... This book started out being a refreshing surprise to me, a story theme that I've never had read before, with surprising scenarios and twists that leave you panting for more, a beautiful city, dark in all it's glory, with no main border between the poor and the rich, your fate decided at birth. Between Jack and Eva confidence, or the lack of it, is probably the main and first link between them. The lack of confidence that Jack feels and the belief that Eva has in Jack turn their feelings into something more than just a mere professional relationship. The growing of confidence that Jack feels influence a physical attraction to turning into a deep long lasting relationship. They are two characters that accompany us through out the book and are both the trigger for the plot that we follow closely. I can't leave out Simon, a character with an amount of mystery that grows through out the story and keeps us waiting for the second book. I personally can't wait for it and hope that light will be shed on the reasons of why and how he came into Nemesis. If you're looking for adventure, a bit of passionate romance and retribution for the villain, this is the book for you. It's an historical romance out of the ordinary, away from the glamour of the rich and influential, away from the flashing balls and beautiful dresses, and into the dark of the streets, the poor, the homeless, and like saviors, human compassion is here at it's best.
Nemesis is a group of individuals fighting for the people that have nowhere else to turn. Eva Warrick, a tutor by day, is a secret member of Nemesis and is about to embark on a life changing mission. To bring down twisted Lord Rockley, Nemesis has decided to enlist (take hostage) the prisoner Jack Dalton. Dalton is a man bent on revenging his sister's untimely death at the hands of Rockley. Jack Dalton is encourage to escape from Dunmoor Prison thinking he is on his way to kill Rockley. What he never expected was to find Eva Warrick waiting for him instead and holding a gun to his head. Jack reluctantly partners with the Nemesis group and Eva to further his own cause, ending Rockley. The fiery attraction between Jack and Eva is definitely an unwanted and unexpected side effect of their partnership but it can’t be denied, especially when the two face insurmountable danger at every turn. A fast paced, action packed adventure placed in historical England, Sweet Revenge was an excellent story. Although it is in England of old, the story read like a contemporary black ops romance. By Zoe Archer's vivid writing style, we are immersed into the dark and gritty under belly of London’s crime ridden streets. Zoe Archer created colorful characters and a riveting plot, a wonderful start to what is sure to be a fabulous series. I received this ARC of Sweet Revenge from St. Martin's Press in exchange for honest review. This book is set for publication June 4, 2013.
***Review posted on The Eater of Books! blog*** Sweet Revenge by Zoe Archer Book One of the Nemesis Unlimited series Publisher: St. Martin's Press Publication Date: June 4, 2013 Rating: 4 stars Source: eARC from NetGalley ***Warning: this is an adult book, and for the eyes of mature readers*** Summary (from Goodreads): When Jack Dalton escapes from Dunmoor Prison, he has only one thing in mind—finding the nobleman who murdered his sister and making him pay. But when he reaches the inn where the Lord Rockley is rumored to be staying, three well-dressed strangers are there to meet him instead. And the pretty blonde is aiming a pistol right at his head … Joining Nemesis, Unlimited has made Eva Warrick much more than the well-mannered lady she appears to be—one who can shoot, fight, and outsmart any man in the quest to right the injustices so often suffered by the innocent. She’s not afraid of the burly escaped convict, but she is startled by their shared attraction. She and her partners need Jack’s help to get to Rockley, but Eva finds she wants Jack for scandalous reasons all her own… What I Liked: When I finished reading this book, I could not help but thinking, wow, this book was not too bad! I am not sure what I was expecting before I read the book, but I did not think that I would like this book as much as I did! This book is not typical of what I usually read when choosing historical romance novels. Usually, I end up with the fluffy and stuffy English society ones, with lords and dukes and earls and ladies and so on. Rather than being centered around the richer class of historical English society, this book is focused on the opposite end. Neither Jack nor Eva nor the majority of Nemesis Unlimited are high-ranked nobility (one person is). I can safely say that I liked the exploration of the lower-ranked members of society! This imbalance of power in society has a great deal to do with the plot. Jack is furious and out for revenge, because of what a certain Lord Rockley did to his sister. I definitely liked the plot of this novel, because it was so lively and action-packed. I was very impressed at how the author keeps the reader's interest on the central plot of the novel, and THEN the romance. The romance is a significant, but not overwhelming, part of the novel. Jack and Eva are sweet and fiery at the same time. I enjoyed watching the sparks fly between them, and I loved how each character encouraged the other to embrace at part of them that makes them a better individual. And no love triangle! Yay! The ending is PERFECT - well, I think it is. I love the ending. It fits Eva very well, and it fits Jack very well, and it fits Nemesis Unlimited very well. Wink wink. What I Did Not Like: I had the problem of wanting more from this book. Don't get me wrong - I love the plot of this book. But I feel like there could have been more to it, that would make it even more dimensional, even more complex, even more intricate. I really did like what the author constructed, but I felt like their could have been more to the journey. The plot was pretty straightforward, and that is not a bad thing! But there could have been more. You know what I mean? I kind of wanted more background on most of the characters. Jack is the most fleshed out, which is fantastic, but many of the other characters, especially the secondary characters, are not as explored. This is a small thing, but I still would have liked to see more about most of the characters! Would I Recommend It: This one is pretty good, so I think if you want a different sort of historical romance novel, then this one is a good one to look up! I enjoyed it while reading it, but it probably is not the best historical romance novel for everyone. Rating: 3.5 stars -> rounded up to 4 stars. This book was different from the historical romance books I am used to reading, and not too bad!
Pads in, furious with her diamond shard in between my teeth. Sets it down carefully and trains against a dead yet strong tree. Thinks of my clan burning down, the fox, twilightclan, toxin, breaking my jaw, thistleclaw leaving. Hits the tree super hard and knocks it totally over, my silver heart in my chest glowing. All of a sudden, thinks about wolves and they appear. <p> Colbalt appears. <p> Emeralddeath appears right beside him. <p> "Mo..mother? Father?" <p> "Fang, we are worried about you." Colbalt starts. "This clan, endangers you. There is a rising evil. And you know you are going to die soon. <p> "Father I am never leaving Bloodclan! And my death will not happen for a while!" I snarl. <p> Emeraldheart stares at her daughter. "We just need to talk. You really need to be careful with that prophecy. You have to die. It is your destiny." <p> Deathheart stares at the ground. <p> "Deathheart we are doing this for you... I know about Jaggedstar. I like him. But you can't die with him. You MUST die before.." <p> Emeralddeath and Cilbalt disappears. Deathheart pads back to camp.