Time for another blog tour today, and I’m thrilled to be hosting an excerpt of Raven McAllan’s new novel, The Duke’s Temptation, which is out on 21st November, published by Totally Bound. I’ll be reviewing the book in due course, but for today, enjoy this little taste of Regency London to whet your appetite:
Whoever said history never repeated itself was wrong. Several days later Evangeline sighed, checked her stiletto was within her reach and dropped her carpetbag on the ground beside her. Trust her to decide to leave by the garden gate and once more be accosted by Lord Crowe.
Stupide. Idiot. When will I learn? However, she hadn’t even known he was there. This event had seemed much too mundane for the likes of him, and on not spying him in her audience she had relaxed.
“My lord, desist this ridiculous behavior,” she said. “I am no one’s mistress nor ever will I be. You are wasting your time and getting very close to losing part of your body.” She stared at him and expected him to back down. She had worsted him last time and who in their right mind would risk such a thing again?
He scowled at her sullenly. “You think not?” His eyes flicked to someone behind her and before she had a chance to react Evangeline found her arms pinned to her sides and her feet several inches off the ground.
Hot, smelly, beery breath surrounded her and she did her best not to gag. Someone’s sweaty hands over her breasts made her cringe. Nevertheless, she stared at Crowe stonily. He was one person she would never give the satisfaction of seeing she was apprehensive.
“Not so cocky now, are you?” he sneered as he moved one hand to stroke her neck, and slid his fingers to probe beneath her pelisse. “No protector around to help out.”
Evangeline did her best to keep her expression blank and held back her revulsion by sheer will. Crowe had more sense than she had given him credit for. She hadn’t thought he would resort to such tactics and she’d walked, unheeding, into his trap. It served her right for not listening to what she’d been told about him. She could hear Gibb’s voice echoing in her head. ‘He’s more than a bully. He is uncouth, uncaring and dangerous. He holds a grudge so beware.’
Crowe seemed to be waiting for an answer, or maybe a plea for…for what? Lenience? She didn’t deign to answer him. Never would she show fear, especially to someone like Denby Crowe. Her mind raced as she feverishly tried to think how she could salvage the situation. Nothing sprang to mind.
“What are you going to do, eh, now you can’t get to that knife up your sleeve?” Crowe asked, mocking her. “No help at hand. What next?”
A frisson of fear slithered down her spine, and she silently berated herself once more. Why, oh why hadn’t she expected this and been vigilant? Apart from Gibb, Eloise had told her that Denby Crowe had a reputation for underhandedness and was not one to take a slight or put-down lightly. She also had warned Evangeline to be on her guard, but Evangeline hadn’t thought he would attend such a low-key gathering as the one she had just performed at. Tea, buns and not enough sandwiches. Inferior musicians, wittering, twittering debs and a mere handful of gentlemen.
How wrong could she have been? Now it seemed complacency was to be her downfall. Evangeline wriggled and tried to hit something—anything—with her legs. Preferably whoever held her tight in his grip.
“Give up, you’ll ’urt yursul.” The voice was rough and uncultured. She didn’t know enough about British accents to decipher from where it originated. Not that it mattered, the brute was there at that moment and not elsewhere. Knowing his origins wouldn’t help her get out of the predicament. She swore pithily in French. The fact neither man commented showed they had no idea just what she had called them. It was no doubt just as well. Doubting their ancestry in such a way was guaranteed not to win her any favors.
Crowe laughed. “Oh, she doesn’t like it, what a pity. I wager she won’t like anything else either.”
“Couchon.” Evangeline spat on his immaculate Hessians. “I will carve your gonads out slowly and painfully.”
His eyes narrowed and his face tightened into a cruel mask. “You won’t get the chance. Joe here will see to that.”
Joe—she presumed it was he who held her—sniggered. “Argh, be good to sort this one out.”
A movement behind Crowe caught Evangeline’s eye. She blinked and was rewarded by a slight shake of a very familiar head. She bit her lip and looked at the ground.
“Ha, so you are worried, eh? As you should be.” Crowe tugged hard on her hair and made her lift her gaze to his. His features contorted and he laughed harshly. “You, my dear, made me a laughing stock.”
“I doubt it,” she said in the most indifferent voice she could manage. “You did that yourself.” In truth, before he’d accosted her in the garden that night, she’d thought he had conducted himself in as proper a manner as could be expected after the way Gibb had showed him up. But that had not been bandied about, so why then was he in this state of ire? She didn’t believe for one moment Gibb had spread the story about how she had worsted him.
“You think so? You are wrong,” he said in a furious voice. “Others heard how you behaved and decided I was not enough of a man to show you what is what. They will not think that anymore.”
“You think not?” the newcomer said as he moved forward without a sound, grabbed hold of Crowe’s arm and pushed it up his back. Crowe squealed and Evangeline watched with interest and yes, she admitted, glee, as Gibb twisted that little bit harder and Crowe moaned.
“I wonder?” Gibb said in a contemplative voice. “How small this will make you in the eyes of the ton? After all, you needed hired help to accomplish anything. You.” He stared toward Evangeline and her captor, but spoke to the man. “Unhand the lady and get going. If I ever see or hear of you again, you’ll swing.” The moon came out from behind a cloud just in time for Evangeline to see the man blanch as he dropped his arms from her and pushed her to one side.
Sadly for him, not fast enough to distance himself before she managed a swift kick to his knees. He went down like a felled tree.
If you’d like to find out what happens next, then you can preorder The Duke’s Temptation now.
This post is part of an ongoing blog tour in advance of the release of The Duke’s Temptation, so please do take a look at some of the other great blogs hosting this week.