She Challenged His Pride
Lady Amelia Bertram may have a reputation as the most brazen beauty of the ton, but she shocks even herself when she accidently--and loudly--derides one of society's most eligible bachelors in the middle of a crowded ballroom. The timing of her faux pas couldn't be worse, for her father is seeking someone to take her off his hands that very night. . .
He Challenged Her Willpower
But when Thomas Armstrong overhears the so-called "Lady" Amelia slandering his sexual prowess in public, he cannot help but accept the dare implicit in her words. To her father's great delight, he offers to take her to his secluded country estate--properly chaperoned, of course--to teach the girl a lesson in ladylike behavior. . .
Praise for Sinful Surrender
"A delightful debut! Beverley Kendall writes with wit and passion!" --Sophie Jordan, USA Today bestselling author
"A fresh new voice in historical romance." --Anna Campbell, author of Captive of Sin
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A Taste of Desire
By BEVERLEY KENDALL
ZEBRA BOOKSCopyright © 2011 Beverley Kendall
All right reserved.
Chapter OneLondon, 1856
As Thomas, Viscount Armstrong, digested Harold Bertram's words, he came up straight in his seat, his hands finding the curved arms of the chair. Although the marquess delivered the request with all the gravity of a clergyman officiating a funeral, Thomas prayed he hadn't heard him correctly.
"You would like me to do what?" Thomas issued the question in a soft voice and an even calmer tone, but the sound cracked the air like the report of a rifle.
The marquess gave a mirthless laugh and shot a quick glance at the study doors before shifting his regard back to him. "I am asking you to-to take my daughter under your care during my stay in America."
Thomas suffered through the second such insupportable request in as many daysthis one even more painful than the last.
Only the prior day, a peer in the House of Lords had presented him with the kind of offer that sent honest men hurtling full-tilt down the unsavory road to perdition. He hadn't thought it could possibly get more unseemly than that.
He was wrong.
What Harry spoke of was not about politics and one-thousand-pound bribes; this was one hundred times worse.
"It would beerup until the new year unless I could conclude the negotiations in less time."
Harold Bertram, the Marquess of Bradford, or Harry as he preferred close acquaintances to call him, was not a lack witthough many might doubt that assertion at the present time. He possessed the sharpest mind in matters of finance and business, and could articulatewhen not suffering a brain lapsewith the eloquence of an orator the likes of which Caesar and Henley never saw. However, his nineteen-year-old daughter could fray the nerves of even the most battle-seasoned soldier. Thomas himself could attest to that.
Fixing the marquesswho had fallen conspicuously mutewith an unblinking stare, Thomas cocked his brow. Harry must have indeed taken leave of his senses. The chit had finally driven him to that.
"If this is a joke, I assure you, I do not find it the least bit amusing," Thomas replied, when he finally recovered enough to speak. "I mean, we are speaking about Lady Amelia, are we not? Unless, pray tell, you have yet another daughter hidden away who is not a disrespectful termagant?"
A round of uncomfortable clearing of the throat ensued, followed by a weary-to-the-bones exhalation. "Heavens, then tell me what I'm to do with her? If I take her with me, I would have neither the time nor energy to keep her out of her usual mischief, especially in a country where I lack familiarity. At present, you are the only person I trust enough to come to regarding this matter. Perhaps if the trip weren't of such importance, and I could rearrange my schedule...." Harry sent him a silent look of appeal.
At his words, Thomas's conscience received a faint prick, but thankfully, the feeling lasted no more than a few seconds. In his estimation, voyaging to America in the interest of a business endeavor could not compare to subjecting himself to playing taskmaster to Harry's recalcitrant daughter.
Leaning forward, Thomas's fingers curled into the napped fabric of the armrest. "If you requested I take your place at the guillotine or the hangman's noose I would consider that less of an imposition."
Harry's eyebrows met above a straight patrician nose as his mustachioed mouth gave a faint twitch. "I am going to be frank with you. That girdaughter of mine seems most determined to deliver me to an early grave. She's managed to embroil herself with yet another ne'er-do-well. This time, if my manservant hadn't been so careful, I would be forced to call that worthless Clayborough my son-in-law." He spat the man's name as if a more foul sound could not pass his lips.
"Harry," Thomas said on a long, drawn-out sigh, subsiding back into the chair. "Perhaps it would be best if you permitted her to marry whomever she pleases. Wouldn't it be easier than chasing her across the wilds of every county in England? She has reached the age to wed." Let some poor unfortunate bastard take her on. Thomas was certain the man would be crying foul within months of the marriage once he realized the bargain he'd struck.
A dull thud echoed throughout the study as Harry's fisted hand collided vigorously with the glossy veneered finish of his mahogany desk. "No! The last thing I want is that wastrel for a son-in-law. Heavens above, I am well aware my daughter is a considerable handful, but I have a duty as her father to protect her from such men." His voice dropped low. "Her poor mother would turn over in her grave if she knew what has become of her only child."
A poignant sadness dimmed the light in his friend's eyes at the mention of his departed wife, and in that moment, Thomas was ashamed of his unfeeling suggestion that he knowingly allow Harry's daughter to wed a gambler and fortune hunter. But good God, if any woman deserved such a fate, surely LadyAmelia Bertram topped that ignominious list.
To even contemplate Harry's requestwhich he certainly was notwould be a hairbreadth shy of insanity, but the friend in him felt compelled to justify his refusal. "Just what would you have me do with her in that time? I will assume you wouldn't allow me to put her to work?" Though, the thought did bring a rueful smile to his face. It would be nothing less than she deserved. Thomas was certain she didn't even know the meaning of the word, much less participate in any activity more taxing than angling her insolent nose in the air.
Harry's face brightened like a street urchin spying a crown on a sidewalk along the streets of the East End. "Now that is something I never considered. It is really a capital idea, albeit somewhat unorthodox. Yes, it might be just what she needs to acquire a modicum of temperance. This time I am determined she learn her lesson. Mind you, the work itself cannot be menial or anything of that sort." The latter he added more solemnly.
So, Harry would be amenable to putting her to work. Thomas had only intended it as a joke. The notion was absurd. He smiled. But so fitting.
After a moment, the marquess's eyes sparked again. "Perhaps she could act as a companion to your sisters?"
Thomas sobered immediately. The gleam in his friend's blue eyes signified hopes soaring high, something he had to quash before he found her deposited on his front doorstep, trunks and all. "My sisters will be accompanying my mother to America for six weeks this winter." And one of the ten plagues of Egypt would plunge London into utter darkness for three days if he even considered thrusting Lady Amelia upon his family.
Plowing a hand through his hair, Thomas sighed again. "Lord, you've seen us together. I'd have an easier time taming a wild boar. She'd exhaust my patience in the first hour, never mind days, much less weeks on end. What your daughter needs is a guard dog."
Harry compressed his mouth into a straight line.
"Or perhaps you can find her a suitable gentleman who will divert her from her more, er, spirited activities," Thomas corrected more judiciously. He really must remember to whom he spoke. As close as he and Harry were, the poor man was the girl's father.
Harry tugged at the brass closures of his navy blue waistcoat as if it had suddenly become too tight. "Well, I cannot say that I particularly blame you, as the two of you did not have an auspicious start."
Ha! That was like saying Waterloo had been a mere spat between neighboring countries. "I'd say that would be phrasing it nicely," Thomas said, his tone arid.
Pushing the chair back, Harry slowly arose. Thomas took his cue and came swiftly to his feet. With resignation sketching his features, the marquess extended his hand across a desk surfeit with plumed pens, elegant black inkwells, and stacks of papers and books. Thomas accepted it with a flash of regret. Not regret for refusing his request, but regret that it had been one he could not in his right mind accept. Had he been feeble of mind, perhaps. Sound of mind, never.
"I bear you no ill will, although I had hoped ..." Harry offered a faint smile. "It is quite unfortunate that Amelia did not choose to take up with a man more like you."
Thomas's gaze probed his friend's as he disengaged his hand. He had known Harry for six years and was well aware of the man's deep affection for him. But surely Harry hadn't made this proposal with hopes that he and Amelia would ...?
He tried to veer away from the thought before it could fully form in his head and take up residence in his mind. Unfortunately, the thought had a life of its own. The utter notion was beyond absurd, but in all likelihood would send Harry into fits of jubilationwere he inclined to such behavior. A union between he and Amelia would not only give the marquess a son-in-law he both admired and respected but more important, someone with mettle enough to control his unruly daughter.
A dark laugh emerged from somewhere deep in Thomas's throat. "That would indeed be a match bound for the fires of perdition."
A wry smile twisted Harry's mouth. "Yes, it appears so."
In silence, both men made their way to the study entrance. While they paused at the door, Harry clapped his hand across the width of Thomas's back, giving his shoulder two solid thumps.
"I still have another month before my departure. If you should reconsider, please let me know."
Thomas admired the man's doggedness, but he'd willingly board a ship of prisoners bound for New South Wales first.
Amelia knew her father was angry.
He'd spoken not one word to her since that loathsome Mr. Ingles had dragged her, quite literally, from the coach not even two miles outside of town. With the crush of conveyances on Piccadilly and Regent Street, she and Lord Clayborough would have been better served if they'd attempted their elopement to Gretna Green on foot.
Thirty minutes gone, her father had requested her presence in the study. Still more than piqued at the unfairness of her three-day confinement to her bedchamber, she'd dawdled, doing absolutely naught before commencing the interminable walk downstairs to meet with her irate parent.
Upon reaching the study, she blithely thrust open the door, only to make jarring contact with a body standing on the other side.
She heard the thwack and a low masculine gruntthe sound a mixture of surprise and pain. Instinctively, she took a quick step back, her hand still clutching the knob. Lord, what was her father doing?
Before she could complete the thought, Lord Armstrong's imposing form stepped into view, tapered fingers rubbing a spot near his right temple. He observed her through narrowed eyes, emerald green and ponderously lashed, pinning her with the type of look meant solely to make a person squirm.
Squirming was not in her nature, but her heart performed an odd lurch and her pulse quickened at the sight of her father's protigi. She was once again unsettled to discover that with each meeting, the golden-haired viscount could elicit such a response in her. But thenshe made a surreptitious sweep of his bodyhe did exude an elegance and raw masculinity she grudgingly conceded might appeal to a less discerning womanwhich, thankfully, she was not.
"Pardon me." Amelia kept her tone level and polite. Easing the door open wide enough to allow for the sheer volume of two layers of stiff petticoats beneath her blue, flounced skirt, she entered the room. She immediately blinked against the glare of the sun pouring through large paned windows dominating the eastward-facing walls.
She caught the clean, subtle whiff of bergamot and rosemary. His scent. She'd recognize it blindfolded and spun around. How she'd grown to thoroughly dislike that scent. She loathed the man with whom she'd forever associate it even more. Inhaling a breath deep and slow, she took up a spot on the area rug, a comfortable distance from both men.
"I didn't expect someone would place himself so near a closed door," she added in case he'd misconstrued her statement as an apology.
Her father's face seized up as if in the midst of an apoplexy. Lord Armstrong's mouth flattened, his regard narrowing to a squint. Amelia returned his stare placidly. He could stareor glare, as it wereat her all he wanted. She didn't give a whit, ignoring her heart knocking a frantic beat beneath her breastbone.
"It is also customary to knock before opening a closed door," came the viscount's glib reply.
"Might I remind you, my lord, it is I who resides in this house." The gall of the man, trying to chastise her. Who told him he should situate himself thus? Hinges on doors were not meant as frivolous ornaments; they did have a purpose.
"Amelia is regrettably sorry," her father hastily interjected.
Like hell she is. The bloody woman had probably parked herself outside waiting for the opportunity to bash his head in. Thomas wouldn't put anything past her.
Tamping down his growing irritation, he replied smoothly, "Yes, Harry, I am quite certain she is."
"I do hope I'm not preventing you from leaving. You were on your way out, were you not?" she asked in dulcet tones, a smile curving her lips.
If it had been any other woman, Thomas could have envisioned many other uses for such a mouth, with plump lips the deep pink of a man's erotic dreams. And if one were dealing purely in aesthetics, who could fail to appreciate the dark-haired beauty's jaw-dropping figure, shown to its best advantage in a gown the exact sapphire blue of her eyes, the fitted corsage allowing for the glorious display of creamy skin. But as stunning as she was, he wouldn't have her if she begged him. Not that he would mind the begging part. That he would relish if only to have the pleasure of refusing her.
"Er ... Thomas, thank you for calling. I expect I shall see you again before my departure."
Thomas issued Harry a curt nod. "Yes, I expect you will." He returned his attention to her. "And as always, Lady Amelia, it was a pleasure," he said, managing to remain quite straight-faced, for surely Judas could not have told a grander lie.
For a brief moment, something sparked in her blue eyes, breathing life into the flawless, glacial beauty of her countenance and hinting at a slumbering fire. If he gave a damnwhich he most assuredly did notit'd give him cold satisfaction to see her icy hauteur reduced to a puddle on the floor.
"Yes, but as we are both well aware, if I claimed likewise it would be a blatant untruth."
The cheeky little piece!
The sound of Harry's sharp intake bounced off paned glass and dark paneled walls. "Amelia"
Thomas held up his right hand to forestall Harry's coming reprimand. She must always have the final word. God, he'd sooner strip naked and immerse himself in a vat of leeches than spend a minute in her company, which meant he'd already remained in her presence at least four minutes too long.
"That's quite all right, Harry. I certainly wouldn't want your daughter to lie."
"I'm glad we can agree on that," she said tartly.
Not trusting himself to issue her another wordat least not a civil oneThomas dipped his head in a shallow bow, giving her one final glance. Lord, what was it about her that always had his control splintering under the weight of her acerbic tongue? And just what was her grievance against him? In dealing with him, she was more than merely cold-as was her reputation. She wore the requisite pointed black hat and rode about perched on a broom like her sisters of the dark craft.
Women, ladies, matrons, the female population as a whole, simply did not despise him on sight.
Lady Amelia had.
Many claimed even children were not immune to his brand of wit and charm.
Lady Amelia most definitely was.
Annoyed at the direction of his thoughts, as if he gave a damn about her opinion, Thomas turned to address Harry. "I will see myself out. Good day, Harry ... Lady Amelia." He then calmly took his leave.
If Amelia was one to indulge in tears, she might have wept in relief at the sight of the broad back of Lord Armstrong exiting through the doorway. And then whooped in exhilaration when his long, unhurried strides traversed the polished hardwood floors of the corridor until he vanished from view.
Arrogant, insufferable swine.
"You were unconscionably rude to Lord Armstrong," her father said, disapproval a heavy stamp across his dignified features.
Excerpted from A Taste of Desire by BEVERLEY KENDALL Copyright © 2011 by Beverley Kendall. Excerpted by permission of ZEBRA BOOKS. 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.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I enjoyed this story! Lady Amelia is fiesty. I had a hard time putting this down. Thrilling to see the relationship between Amelia and Thomas unfold! I was excited to find that there was a separate novel about Thomas's sister, Missy, and James Rutherford.
I enjoyed the first book Sinful Surrender and wondered how the relationship with Thomas and Amelia would play out. I was not disappointed. Their battle contained all the sparks and passion from their first meeting. I liked that Ms. Kendall didn't make the father out to be as bad as I originally thought he might be. Looking forward to the next book. Carol
I enjoyed this book. And looked for others by the same author.
Overall this is a good book. I like my books with happy endings.
from beginning to end with smiles, laughter & tears.
I haven,t read a book this good in a long time. Mrs. Kendall reminds me of Johanna Lindsey so much. She created a sexual tensin that never let up and I could never put the book down. I can't wait to see what else she has to offer. This is a must buy....
In 1876 Lady Amelia Bertram's frantic father frets over her shenanigans that he always ends up cleaning up for her. After each incident including several elopements, he vows never again, but ends up cleaning up her mess. Worried what trouble his headstrong daughter will dive head first into while he is across the great pond conducting business, Bertram needs someone to control his devilish offspring though he never succeeded at that endeavor. Ata a gala, Amelia loudly derides the reputed sexual skills of Lord Thomas Armstrong. At the same time, Bertram asks a favor of Armstrong to watch over his daughter while he is in America. Armstrong reluctantly agrees to serve as surrogate guardian because he owes his mentor a lot; beside he wants to tame the shrew. In front of his family, her servants, his mistress, her former "fiancé" and a cast of quadrillion, the gender war begins in earnest. Although none of the support cast seems more than a stereotype and the lead couple not much more fleshed out, fans will enjoy this riotous Victorian romance. The witty battle of the sexes is amusing as each of the combatants vow to teach their adversary a lesson in humility; neither was prepared for the taming of their heart. Harriet Klausner
I enjoy these old english settings and the purity of that life style. Happy endings.
I've read two out of three of her books and love them all I'm reading the third one now
I enjoyed the book and I liked the story. My only complaint would be that I thought the characters got way too mean and nasty towards each other. I understand the pull of love/hate romance, but sometimes it just seemed that they were too mean to each other and I questioned why would she want to be treated like that. Other than that, I did enjoy the story.
This book was not as good as the other two, Heir of Deception was an exxcellent read from beginning to end. I think this book was boring until the last 100 pages, then the excitement picked up a little had a happy ending.
Really good book. One I am sure I will read again and again.
I know it was quite uncharateristic for a gentleman to be this mean to a lady, as what the reviews are complaining. But if one goes back to the story, the Thomas character recalled even before when they were first introduced the Amelia character has already been utterly mean to him. So I see the logic in it. Overall the story was full of delicious conflicts and satisfying resolutions.
Once again, I really like Kendall's writing. BUT I just have a problem with characters that are so angry and negative. I have difficulty believing that all will be well after they commit to each other. Passion only goes to far. Perhaps I'm too realistic....
Very disappointing book with an unlikeable hero and heroine. Amelia is a spoiled heroine who acts like a brat for most of the book. Thomas is an angry hero who must teach Amelia a lesson. However, there is a mean-spiritidness to their relationship that is just frustrating and sad.
Never really warmed up to the heroine.
Great Read! I didn't think the character's were that mean to each other, when you realize where Amelia was coming from. The love scenes I would rate medium and appropriately placed. I love all the secondary character's and can't wait for Alex story, which is already out on Nook. I have read them in order, Sinful Surrender, this one - Taste of Desire, next is 2.5 and then Alex story, which is An Heir of Deception. Would recommend this book. ljb