(Ladies Least Likely, #1)
Published by: Oliver Heber Books
Publication date: Dec. 5, 2023
Genres: Adult, Historical Romance, Romance
When the war-scarred Viscount Penrydd washes up in 1799 Newport minus his memory, Gwenllian ap Ewyas decides not to tell him he owns, and threatened to sell, the property she’s made a refuge for her and other lost souls.
Gwen found healing from her haunted past by making St. Sefin’s into a sanctuary for the hurt and abandoned, and she’ll do anything to preserve the place—including lie to the English lord who owns it until she can win him to her cause. But making Penrydd her stableboy is a dangerous game, especially when he’s a target for an outside menace moving into Newport. Even more unsettling for Gwen, under the scars and arrogance is a man she can admire and possibly love. But as shadows from both their pasts appear at St. Sefin’s, Gwen risks losing her livelihood, her home, and her heart when Penrydd learns just how far she’s gone to deceive him.
In which Gwen approaches the viscount to offer to buy his property, and he thinks she’s soliciting something else.
Pen’s boots hit the floor as he sat up. Speaking of pleasure. His capricious God had consented to smile on him for once. The most exquisite female-shaped creature he had ever beheld stood at the parlor door.
She wasn’t dressed like a lady of the night. Her petticoat was clean and white, over it a gown of buttermilk muslin trailing vines of red flowers. It was a quaint style, quite outdated, but one that followed a woman’s curves. A delicate lace crossed her bodice, tied at her back. He wanted to unwrap her, like a present.
An absurd cap of lace and silk roses covered curls of a dusty brown, the color of the paths at his favorite hunting property when they had baked in the sunlight on a summer afternoon. Her face was extraordinary. She didn’t have the pasty complexion of a woman who never went about in the sun, rather a healthy glow and the tiniest dusting of freckles along a nose that suggested a personality both strong and pert. Independently the wide thick-lashed eyes, high cheekbones, lush lips, and arrowed jaw were pleasing yet unremarkable, but put together, the effect was mesmerizing.
“Fifty pounds,” Pen blurted.
Her eyes rounded in surprise. They were some shifting, undefined color, the grey-green of the sea on a cloudy morning. Was she worth more? “A night,” he added. He’d pay anything. He wasn’t even going to pretend to negotiate.
His secretary, Ross, raised his thick brows. Pen ignored him, as usual.
“A night?” Her voice rang clear and fine, trained, the voice of a singer. But her tone held dismay. The lace over her bosom fluttered as she put a hand there. Long, delicate fingers, a fine-boned wrist with an elegant turn. He stared at her hands and imagined them trailing over his skin.
His rough, scarred, contemptible skin. “Not enough? Name your price.”
“I hadn’t arrived at a number, actually. I suppose I ought to have asked Mr. Barlow.”
Who was Barlow? Her flesh broker? Her go between? Pen envied the man who had any hold over her. But she had a proud tilt to her head, that of an independent woman who answered to no one. He’d make her forget Barlow. He’d make her forget everything but her name. What was her name?
“In truth, I’m not certain what the going rate for such things is,” she said.
Pen’s head reeled with a grand, desperate notion. She wasn’t a hedge whore or a public ledger, open to all comers. But a lady of easy virtue nonetheless, perhaps a high flyer or a quality courtesan. Pen wiped his sweating palms on his breeches. He couldn’t afford her. Look at her skin; she wasn’t starving or diseased, nor beaten into submission. Her eyes were clear and steady, if her expression was somewhat baffled, and she smelled like spring. A field of bluebells filled his mind, kissed by a warm sun.
Ah, God. For the first time he understood why a man would go to the trouble of keeping a mistress. So he could have sole access whenever he wished and keep her hidden from the outside world. He swallowed. How could he manage to keep her? Most of the letters on Ross’s blasted table were bills and accounts of some sort, reminders of funds his rotter of a brother had died owing.
“I’m certain we can come to an agreement.” Pen’s voice scratched his throat. Where was the boy with the rum? The tremor was starting again, but the need this time was not for alcohol. He couldn’t remember the last time he had wanted anything that had to do with another person. Wanted closeness. Affection. Approval.
Ah, yes. He’d wanted affection from his mother, approval from his father, company and camaraderie from his brother. And the evil-minded universe had laughed in his face and stretched him out upon the rack. Pen sweated underneath his neckcloth and worked with a finger to loosen it. This woman wouldn’t be withholding, mocking, or cruel. She was warm and soft all over, inside and out.
She blew out a stream of air and Pen stared, arrested by the shape of her anemone-red lips. They would purse in exactly that fashion when he kissed her.
“I don’t suppose you would consider simply giving it to me,” she said. “Out of charity, you know.”
Giving her—oh, he’d any number of notions of what he could give her. Starting with certain attentive parts of his body. Then the rest, all of him, for eternity.
Author Bio:Misty Urban is a medieval scholar, freelance editor, and college professor who likes to write stories about misbehaving women who find adventure and romance. She holds an MFA and Ph.D. from Cornell University and lives in the Midwest in a little town on a big river.
a Rafflecopter giveaway