WHEN A LADY IS ABDUCTED BY MISTAKE…
Melinda Starling doesn’t let ladylike behavior get in the way of true love. She’s secretly helping with an elopement, when she’s tossed into the waiting coach and driven away by a notorious rake.
REVENGE REALLY DOESN’T PAY.
Miles Warren, Lord Garrison, comes from a family of libertines, and he’s the worst of them all—or so society believes. When Miles helps a friend to run away with an heiress, it’s an entertaining way to revenge himself on one of the gossips who slandered him.
Except that he drives off with the wrong woman…and as if that wasn’t scandalous enough, he can’t resist stealing a kiss.
Setup: Melinda Starling was abducted by mistake and is now being returned home by her abductor. She falls asleep in the carriage.
Melinda dreamed she was safe in the arms of a truly wonderful man. He adored her with a passion that knew no bounds; she loved him with all her heart. The swaying of the coach pressed them together. She inhaled his warm, male scent and snuggled closer, savoring the way her breast rubbed against his arm. She ached for the pressure of his lips on hers, yearning, yearning… She always woke before her dream lover kissed her.
Not this time. His lips were warm and soft, his breath hot and laced with brandy. Her lips parted instinctively beneath his, and she heard herself give a little moan of pleasure. The tip of his tongue slipped between her lips and touched hers.
The coach came to a halt. Her eyes fluttered open as she woke. The obnoxious lord who’d sworn he wouldn’t touch her broke the kiss, still holding her in his arms. She shoved at him, but he held fast.
“How dare you?” she cried.
The interior of the coach was still cloaked in gloom, but dawn was well on the way. She caught a glimpse of amused eyes before he pulled the brim of his hat over his face. “You fell asleep and slid right into my arms,” he said, his calm voice feeding her rage. “I couldn’t resist.”
She wiped a hand across her mouth. “I was—I was—” She couldn’t get the words out. She’d been saving her first kiss for the man she would marry, and this dastardly person had stolen it.
Thank God she was home. She wrenched herself from his arms just as the groom opened the door. She tumbled out of the coach without waiting for the steps, gathered the skirts of her costume, and ran up the pavement to the house.
She lifted the knocker and rapped it hard against the door, and rapped it again. And waited, shivering in the chill dawn wind, her arms tight about herself. Hurry!
No one answered. The servants must be asleep, but surely Grandmama would have left someone on watch for her. She knocked once again. And waited.
Silence, but for the shuffling of the horses, the barking of a dog, and the rumble of a wagon in the next street. London was coming to life.
She turned, anxious now. Why did the coach still wait? “You needn’t stay any longer. Someone will wake up and let me in.”
“Someone should already be awake and waiting,” the man said irritably from within the coach. He didn’t give the order to leave.
Melinda rapped again. What was going on? She thought she heard a sound within the house, thought she heard a voice, and knocked once more… Nothing. This was ghastly. She had to get indoors before someone saw her.
“Miss Starling, are you sure this is the right house?” The man who’d kissed her was framed in the coach window, his hat low over his brow once again.
“Of course I’m sure. Why don’t they answer?”
“Try the area stairs,” he suggested softly.
She’d never gone in by the servants’ entrance, but it was a good idea, the sort she would usually think of herself, but she couldn’t get her mind to work properly. She lifted the latch and hurried down the steep, winding stairs, shivering now from anxiety as much as the chill dawn air. She banged hard on the door. It was close to the housekeeper’s room, so surely that kindly woman would hear.
From inside the house came a furious bellow. “No! Do not open that door.”
Melinda froze. That was Grandma’s voice. She was…ordering the housekeeper not to let Melinda inside.
Her shiver became a tremble. She stumbled up the steep, narrow stairs and through the gate. She gaped at the dark house, her home, its curtains drawn like the blank eyes of a statue, cold and forbidding and utterly silent again.
“Damn,” the man who had kissed her said. “What the devil is going on?”
The sky lightened, and it finally dawned on Melinda. Grandmama wasn’t going to let her in. She’d been turned away from her own home.
“Did I hear her say not to open the door to you?” the man asked in a low, disbelieving voice.
Melinda blinked back hot, horrified tears and faced him, away from the house and the grandmother who had always wanted to be rid of her. “She used to threaten to wash her hands of me,” she said. “And now she has done it.”
Winner of the Holt Medallion, Maggie, Daphne du Maurier, Reviewer’s Choice and Epic awards, Barbara Monajem wrote her first story at eight years old about apple tree gnomes. She published a middle-grade fantasy when her children were young. When they grew up, she turned to writing for grownups, first the Bayou Gavotte paranormal mysteries and then Regency romances with intrepid heroines and long-suffering heroes (or vice versa). Some of her Regencies have magic in them and some don’t (except for the magic of love, which is in every story she writes).
Barbara loves to cook, especially soups, and is an avid reader. There are only two items on her bucket list: to make asparagus pudding and succeed at knitting socks. She’ll manage the first but doubts she’ll ever accomplish the second. This is not a bid for immortality but merely the dismal truth. She lives near Atlanta, Georgia with an ever-shifting population of relatives, friends, and feline strays.