Authors: Sabrina Jeffries
Tags: #Fiction, #Romance, #Historical
A Notorious Love
To Liz and Debbie,
who keep me sane.
And to all the ladies at
The Romance Journal
who know how to show an author a good time.
The Well-bred Young Lady avoids the merest hint of scandalous…
Half an hour later, Daniel paused outside the lodging house…
Daniel barely stifled his laughter. Smugglers? In Aylesbury, the heart…
The next morning, Helena entered a small, neat building in…
Jarred from a deep sleep, Juliet Laverick opened her eyes…
It took them an hour to escape London’s tentacles. Midday…
Daniel was talking to the ostler when the innkeeper’s daughter…
The coach rattled along the road to Tunbridge as Daniel…
Helena sat on a chair in the common room of…
Daniel had to get them both out of here before…
Juliet shivered and rubbed her arms beneath her cloak. In…
Damn it, he’d lied to her, Daniel thought for the…
A sickening premonition settled in Helena’s belly as she watched…
So much for friendly farmers, Daniel thought as he turned…
It’s not fair, Helena thought as Daniel’s mouth plundered hers,…
Helena lay in Daniel’s arms spoon fashion, filled with a…
In his dream, Daniel was in the workhouse again, scrabbling…
His own blood.
“You’re not putting that thing on me, Jack, so just…
It was dawn, the light growing too quickly. Soon the…
Juliet and Morgan stood hidden in an alley where they…
Nothing in fashionable London had changed in eight years, Helena…
The hero now I speak of, he was proper tall and straight,
Like to the lofty poplar tree, his body was complete;
His growth was like the tufted fir that does ascend the air,
And waving o’er his shoulders broad the locks of yellow hair.
anonymous Irish street ballad
he Well-bred Young Lady avoids the merest hint of scandalous behavior.
Helena Laverick couldn’t help remembering that stricture as she surveyed the deserted hallway of the St. Giles lodging house. For she was about to break it most flagrantly.
Her sister Rosalind had always criticized their late mother’s favorite instruction book,
Mrs. Nunley’s Guide to Etiquette for Young Ladies.
Rosalind’s philosophy was to follow Mrs. N’s rules when possible, but ignore them when they were impractical. Helena usually considered that her excuse for disregarding any checks to her outrageous behavior.
But in this case she had a point. Their young sister Juliet’s mad dash into trouble made it impossible for Helena
to break the rules. And by venturing into this strange lodging house, where rats scrabbled all around her and burning rushlights clogged the air with their scorched mutton scent, she was breaking quite a few.
The Well-bred Young Lady does not take long trips alone
—she’d broken that one when she’d traveled alone to London from Warwickshire. Since Rosalind and her new husband, Griff Knighton, were honeymooning on the Continent and Papa was unable to leave his bed,
had to handle this messy situation.
The Well-bred Young Lady never ventures outdoors without her maid
—that one was laughable. The fewer servants involved in her secret mission, the better. Servants did have a tendency to talk.
Her grip tightened on her cane as she stared at the scarred oak door before her, the one that belonged to Mr. Daniel Brennan, her brother-in-law’s unmarried man of affairs. Now she was about to violate one of Mrs. N’s most serious strictures—
The Well-bred Young Lady does not call on a gentleman in his lodgings unchaperoned.
And certainly not at dawn. Why, Mr. Brennan’s own
landlady had refused to risk his ire by rousing him so early.
A shiver ran down Helena’s spine as she remembered the last time she’d provoked Mr. Brennan’s ire, when he and Griff had been guests at Swan Park this past summer. Not that he’d had any right to be angry.
been the one in the wrong.
been the one shamelessly taking money from Griff for misleading them all, for pretending to court them while undoubtedly laughing at them behind their backs for believing his kindnesses and compliments…
No, she mustn’t think of that. All that mattered was saving Juliet. Which was why she must swallow her pride, rouse her courage, and awaken Mr. Brennan. And soon, too, because her bad leg pained her from the arduous climb up the steep stairs, and nothing would be more mortifying than having it give out in front of
So before she could change her mind, she rapped sharply on the door.
At first she heard nothing. Merciful heavens, what if she had the wrong place? She’d wondered why Mr. Brennan would reside in a slum like St. Giles when he surely could afford better, but Griff’s coachman had insisted that the man lived here.
She knocked again, this time more loudly. Nothing. Might he refuse to answer? Panic seized her at the thought, so she rapped the silver head of her cane on the door repeatedly, loud enough to raise the dead.
Success at last. Through the thin walls, she heard heavy steps and a male voice growling, “I’m coming, devil take you!” If not for her mission, she might well have fled. Instead she braced herself for whatever might happen.
But nothing could prepare her for her first sight of the burly giant. Bare-chested, clad only in his drawers.
Struck speechless, she gaped at him. Despite what her sisters thought, she did have
curiosity about men,
especially half-naked ones of such impressive dimensions. Mr. Brennan was a veritable Samson, with the muscular shoulders of a pugilist and the broad, sculpted chest of a laborer, thickly sprinkled with dark blond hair. As for those arms swathed in sinew…she could easily imagine them pulling down a temple.
Just now, however, the Samson was staring at her, perplexed. “Lady Helena?” He shook his head as if to clear it. “It is you, isn’t it?”
She kept her eyes trained on his face as a blush crept up her cheeks. “Good morning, Mr. Brennan. I’m sorry if I awakened you.” Not that there was any question of it—his tousled sandy hair and lack of attire confirmed it.
“Is everything all right at Swan Park? Your father is well?”
“Yes…no…I mean, I…” Her lame attempt at coherent speech came crashing to a halt when he leaned one huge forearm against the doorframe, unwittingly causing all his muscles to shift and flex.
How in creation could a lady converse rationally when such a magnificent display of male flesh was before her? Despite his size, he hadn’t an inch of fat on him—no hint of unwanted flesh on the chest and arms, no telltale thickness about the waist. Not a woman above the age of fifteen could miss that Mr. Brennan in his drawers was a fine figure of a man.
“M’lady, are you well?” he queried.
Only when her head snapped up did she realize her gaze had wandered down to his bulging drawers. “Yes!” she cried too loudly, then added in a more subdued tone, “I’m fine. Quite well. Yes.”
He cocked an eyebrow, as if knowing precisely how much his appearance unnerved her. “Forgive my inappropriate dress, but I wasn’t expecting company at dawn.”
“No need to apologize. I hadn’t even noticed your draw—I mean, your dress—I mean, your lack of—” Heavens, she was being a complete ninny. She started again, futilely attempting to regain some shred of composure. “I hadn’t noticed a thing, I assure you.”
“Nothing?” His gray eyes danced with mischief. “D’you mean to wound my pride, Lady Helena?”
“Of course not! That is…well…”
“It’s all right.” He idly rubbed his hairy chest, and her gaze greedily fixed there. “Why don’t you tell me why you’re in London calling on me at such an ungodly hour?”
“Certainly.” She drew herself up, trying to recover her badly slipping ladylike demeanor. “You see, Mr. Brennan, I…er…require your assistance in a personal matter.”
it, do you?” His eyes narrowed. “Has your ladyship not heard that I’m no longer in your brother-in-law’s employ? Although I’m running Knighton Trading until his return, I’m not his man of affairs anymore, so anything you want in
“No! It’s nothing to do with Griff. Not exactly.”
“Then p’raps you’d better tell me what it
have to do with.” He pushed away from the doorframe, looking impatient.
“You see, I—” She broke off when another lodger emerged from the stairs. As soon as the unkempt man skulked past and shuffled into his own room, she lowered her voice. “Please, Mr. Brennan, I must keep this conversation private. May I come in?”
A devilish smile touched his lips. “In here? With me? Isn’t your ladyship worried about your reputation? About being alone with a man of
Though he said it with a trace of sarcasm, his assumption was not entirely wrong. Mr. Brennan might be respectable these days, but he’d spent his youth with
smugglers. The bastard son of a notorious highwayman, he was also known to live rather wildly—or so Rosalind said. And considering his scanty attire…
“I’d rather you put on some clothes, of course,” she ventured.
“And I’d rather return to my bed. So why don’t you go back to wherever you’re staying in London, and I’ll come ’round this afternoon. Then we can have all the private conversation you like.”
“No, no,” she protested, “I must speak to you now. It’s urgent.”
“Oh, Danny Bo-o-o-y,” a melodious voice suddenly sang out from the inner recesses of his rooms. “Don’t you want to see the nice surprise Sall’s got for you?”
Helena froze. Lord, this was worse than she’d feared. He had a woman with him.
Mr. Brennan groaned. “Go back to sleep, Sall,” he called out. “Be there in a bit.”
But apparently his companion wasn’t to be put off so easily. As Helena watched in horrified fascination, Sall emerged behind him. She was one of
women and fresh from his bedchamber, judging from her disheveled hair and brazen manner. Not to mention her state of undress, which exceeded Mr. Brennan’s.