There's nothing quite like scandalous behavior hidden behind a mask of elegance, and Lilith Mallory knows the truth of this more than most. The owner of the most prestigious club in London, and wealthier in her own right than most would believe, she's considered too scandalous for polite society. But that doesn't stop the men of the ton from eating her food, enjoying her wine, or gaming at her tables.
Then, into her life, strides Gabriel Warren, the Earl of Angletwood. He had broken Lilith's heart years ago, and now he has returned from his life in the 'colonies' to discover his family fortune ruined. Now he comes to her with an outrageous proposal...if she will help him financially he will give her the respectability she craves under the guise of marriage. But given the strictures of society is this a bargain she is willing--or able--to accept?
A decade had passed since she'd left him. One hundred and twenty months.
Over the years, there had been times when he hadn't thought of her. The period he'd spent in Nova Scotia had been one of those. Being in a strange place had given him more to see, more things to concentrate on, other than how much he still missed her.
Now that he was back in London amongst the familiar, with the anniversary of her betrayal upon him, the memory of her flooded his mind like water fills a cup. It had been ten years since he'd lost the woman he loved, and the heart she had unknowingly taken with her.
Oh, yes. It was also the anniversary of his father's death, but that gave him far less pain than it once had. Far less than the loss of his heart, because he'd let his heart go in order to clean up the mess his father had left behind.
Standing at one of the many windows that lined the wall of his study, Gabriel Warren, Earl of Angelwood, braced his forearm against the polished oak frame and leaned forward until the sill bit into his thigh and his forehead brushed his wrist. The eyes that stared back at him in the glass reflected not only the grayness of the day, but the cold bleakness of his mood as well.
He was lonely. In Halifax, there had been scores of people willing to keep him entertained with a story or two over a pint of ale. There was always a dance or a tavern to visit, always someone to welcome you into their home and feed you until you were close to bursting. Of course, he hadn't been an earl in Halifax. He'd simply been. Garnet's partner -- a businessman of some importance.
Now that he was home, he was back in his own sphere. He didn't mind reverting to the familiar -- at times being an "ordinary man" had been rather trying -- but he missed the company of his friends. Julian had yet to return from the Continent and Brave, a new father, was happy to stay as far away from London as he could with his wife and son. Gabriel had missed the birth of his honorary nephew, and that bothered him as well
As was his habit, he searched the street beyond with a keen eye, hoping that this day would be different, and that she would suddenly appear on his doorstep with an explanation as to where she had disappeared to eighty-seven thousand, six hundred hours ago because he still wanted to know.
He still needed to know.
With a disgusted snort, Gabriel withdrew from the window. Not even a week back in London, and already he was falling into old habits again.
He would need to find something to throw himself into. Something that would put an end to this obsession. Perhaps it was time to continue his fight against gambling in England.
A knock sounded on the door. Uncharitable and angry at himself, Gabriel barked, "What is it?"
The door opened, revealing Robinson, Gabriel's butler. The man looked more like a laborer than a servant, with his thick neck and massive shoulders, but he possessed the most piercing set of pale blue eyes Gabriel had ever encounteredand the driest wit. His family had been with the Angelwood earls for generations. He was the only servant Gabriel employed who treated him more like a man than a master. One of the side effects of having grown up together, Gabriel supposed. It made the butler too familiar, but Gabriel really didn't mind.
"Lord Underwood is here, my lord. He says it is a matter of great importance," Robinson informed him gruffly, meeting his gaze with a flat stare that said he didn't think it could possibly be that important.
Blaine Foster, Viscount Underwood, had been a friend of Gabriel's for years. He had also been a friend of Phillip, Gabriel's father. Blaine had helped him pick up the...