Tortured duke Gibb Alford has vowed never to love again… until a beautiful French knife thrower brings him to his knees
When Gibb Alford, Duke of Menteith, saves a beautiful French knife thrower from the unwanted attentions of a fellow aristocrat he is ill-prepared for the immediate tug of attraction to the beautiful Evangeline. Widowed, he has sworn off love forever, so he can well do without this temptation.
Evangeline certainly doesn’t want the complication of being in the sights of one smoky-eyed Scottish Duke. She’s a lady on a mission, with no time for love or dalliance.
However, fate and life have other plans and gradually Gibb and Evangeline become a couple.
As each struggle with the demons of their pasts, Evangeline finds life in the ton difficult. The spurned aristocrat Gibb saved her from, is not prepared to give in and retire gracefully. And while Gibb fights the man, he also declares war on his own emotions. When Evangeline’s past is revealed to her, everything changes. She has a decision to make.
Fight for Gibb—or flee to a safe but unfulfilled future.
As for her Duke… All is fair in love and war—right?
Ohhh Raven, the arm twisting has begun yet again. Regency romance, as you all probably know, this is not a favorite catagory of mine. If it were anyone other than Raven, I probably would run off in the other direction, but somehow, Raven makes a subject that gives me hives more palatable. (Yes, that is a HUGE compliment!) I actually enjoyed this book, read it from cover to cover without stopping.
Our Hero in The Duke’s Temptation meets our heroine when she’s performing as a knife thrower. Evangeline is then attacked by a rogue jerk. Even though Gibb is there, she does quite well for herself. The two of them begin a friendship because Gibb is a widower who vows to never marry again. Because of the threat against Evangeline, Gibb sticks around, and they both have to fight the attraction they feel for one another. Will they stay in the friend zone? Or will friends become much more? Grab yourself a copy of the Duke’s Temptation and find out for yourself, you’ll be glad you did!!!
Whenever had a knife twirled so fast it became a vicious, glittering blur of metal?
Gibb Alford, the Duke of Menteith, had expected to be bored. Or on guard against any female who had somehow wangled her way into the spectacular. Or, although he devoutly hoped it wouldn’t be so, both. Not that any woman should be there, but he was by now much too cynical to expect what should be so to actually be thus.
What he also hadn’t envisaged was this unfamiliar tug of arousal directed toward the main act of the night. Who was a female, although he presumed an invited one. One who stirred his senses in a manner he’d almost forgotten.
Gibb didn’t do arousal. Not now. Or, he amended, he hadn’t. He stood on the terrace, amidst his peers but alone, a glass of the finest French brandy in his hand. In silence he watched the Chinese firecrackers and flaring sconces set around the lawn vie with the moon and stars for brightness, and willed his body to behave. Not for the first time he wondered what he was doing there. Why wasn’t he at home on his beloved Scottish estate? At times being a conscientious peer was annoying to say the least.
Someone bumped into him and apologized as Gibb scowled. He didn’t want his concentration spoiled, or his brandy spilled by an idiot like Algernon Follet.
As Follet swayed, Gibb held his goblet out of the way. Good brandy was not to be wasted. Gibb watched his fellow spectator stumble away, miss the fishpond by inches and lurch round a statue, before he ignored the man and instead turned his attention back to what was happening on the lawn. Only to tug at his suddenly too tight cravat because of what he once again saw in front of him.
In the middle of the perfect, manicured, luscious grass, a wooden platform had been erected in front of a large, plain white, thick canvas screen. Before it, the curvaceous raven-haired beauty who had attracted him minutes earlier stood with her arms outstretched, her crimson lips wide and an invitation to every man in the vicinity to stop, stare and give her their undivided attention. Dressed in something made of two-tone material, the like of which he’d never seen before, with hidden slits up each side, she presented a picture of contradictions. Gibb was sure she made each and every one of the audience imagine what the gown might or might not conceal.
The illusion of material not really there was very clever, Gibb mused. The flesh-colored silk that swung loose from her shoulders matched her skin, so he couldn’t see where skin finished and material began. The bodice fit snug around her generous breasts in such a way he had to wonder just how it stayed in place. Her lustrous hair swung loose over her shoulders in a riot of curls and sparkling jewels hung from her ears and around one ankle, just above one of a pair of sandals that from a distance appeared flimsy and delicate. In her left hand she held a wicked-looking knife—a stiletto, he noticed—now still and unmoving. Even so, it shone in the twinkling lights that surrounded her.
The last firecracker sizzled and died, and with just the flickering torches to light her, the woman bowed to the assembled men. “I need,” she said with a husky, seductive French accent, “a man.”
The howls and catcalls would have overwhelmed anyone without a strong determination. She waited, arms folded and with an amused look on her face, until there was once more silence. Then she raised one eyebrow. Even at the distance he was, Gibb realized the woman was toying with them. Teasing them about something they thought would happen and she knew would not.
To his annoyance, his body tightened even more. He did not want this reaction to an unknown woman. Hell, he didn’t want it with regards to anyone known to him either. Gibb Alford wanted no one to disturb his well-ordered life. The life where his mind never let him shy away from the sole thing that tore into him. His wife was dead and he was to blame. He was never going to be put in a similar position again.
The lady fixed her gaze on one of the men near to the front and beckoned to him in what some might call a seductive manner. Gibb chose to interpret it in a different way. Her body language showed nothing of seduction, except for that curled finger. Was it a come-hither gesture? He thought not. However, it worked. Young Lord Denby Crowe bowed in an extravagant manner and swaggered toward her.
God, Gibb mused, he felt old and jaded. Why could they not see the act for what it was? Entertainment, not innuendo. Why was he here? Because it was better than sitting alone in an empty house and wondering why it had all gone wrong. Here were no scheming mamas or desperate debs who saw him as a challenge or a poor wounded widower who needed a new wife. To his horror, not long before, a brazen and giggling chit had even accosted him outside the card room at one of the few soirees he’d felt compelled to attend and suggested he looked at her daughter.
No, no and no.
With an inward shudder of distaste at the memory, Gibb returned his attention to the vista in front of him and the very different woman in their midst.
“Take off your coat, my lord,” the woman said with a slow and throaty drawl to her… Her what? Victim? “Pass it to one of your colleagues so it does not get in the way.”
Crowe did so, smirked at his friends and stood with one leg bent in a suggestive manner before he put his hands to his cravat.
She shook her head. “Oh no, m’sieur, I would not do that. That is a good guard in case my aim is wrong.”
Lord Crowe stiffened and half turned. “Aim?” he croaked. “What aim?”
“Scared?” she taunted Crowe.
Am I the only one to see the derision in her eyes? Gibb wondered. To realize she held them, if not in contempt, damn near it.
“Are you worried that perhaps women do not have as good an eye as men?” the woman asked with a lilt of humor in her voice. “Or indeed that we are better?”
Denby flushed. “Not a bit,” he said tersely. “You’re a mere woman.”
“You think that means I will not hit where I intend?” She quirked one eyebrow and mocked him. “Oh dear. I suspect only time will tell.” The knife in her hand soared into the air, whirling almost lazily as it did so. It appeared as if she would cut her palm as she caught it.
Gibb gulped as she put her hand out and caught the stiletto without even looking. The insolence, the certainty she had nothing to worry about hit him like a cannon shot. A woman in command of her senses. Not someone to rely on a man, or demand attention. However, she had secured his. All of it. He couldn’t remember the last time anything had done that, let alone a woman.
Not even his wife.
From behind Gibb someone shouted out, “Women can’t aim and hit to save themselves with anything. Aim for his bollocks and hit his brain.”
She laughed and gave a gamine grin that to his surprise went straight to Gibb’s groin.
“As I am the exception to your absurd rule, that is exactly what would happen, for we all know where a man’s brain is located.” The amusement that followed was good-natured and she curtsied. “Let us begin. Sir, I hope you can assure me you will stay as I direct?”
Denby scowled and pointed his finger toward her. “What are you, anyway?”
Gibb had wondered when Denby was going to get around to asking that.
“Ah, that is a question many have asked,” she said in that husky throaty voice Gibb had noticed earlier, then laughed. “Wait and you’ll find out,” she advised him as she once more twirled the knife in her hands. Even from where he stood, Gibb could accept and admire her mastery of the weapon.
So it seemed could Denby Crowe, who was getting paler by the second. Gibb had an amused idea that the man might vomit or run. He hoped he didn’t as the spectacle unfolding on the lawn looked as if it was definitely going to be the highlight of the evening, if not his whole sojourn in the capital.
“My name is La Belle Evangeline,” the woman said in a slow and husky undertone. “Stand with your back to the screen, and then be careful you make no abrupt movement.”
All of a sudden Gibb understood what she was all about. Her stiletto was not for security or effect, it was part of her act. A knife-thrower. He’d seen one, once many years before, although then it had been a man holding the knife. Now it seemed there was a woman about to do the tricks and at one of his fellow members of the ton, not at a partner.
It could be interesting.
Gibb had no idea if it was the way she caressed the knife like a lover, or how she was in control of what happened that sent his body into an unexpected and uncomfortable state of arousal. Whichever, he wasn’t amused by his visceral reaction. He didn’t need it, didn’t want it and as sure as hell had no intention of acting on it. Danger for danger’s sake should not be and would not be in his present, or his future. If it were up to him, he would never be privy to emotions that arose from such a thing.
Or from anything else.
With that resolution firmly in his mind he willed his body into rest—he was not entirely successful—leaned back on a marble pillar and prepared to be entertained.
Denby Crowe stared wide-eyed and stood as rigid as the statuary dotted around the grounds. Gibb watched, entranced as La Belle Evangeline, with a grin he decided was best described as wicked, leaned toward the man.
“Do not worry,” she purred in a voice that curled around Gibb like hot chocolate. “I rarely miss.” She paused and contemplated the knife she held. Picked up another and spun it between her fingers. The blades seemed ten times longer than before and forty times as dangerous as they shone and glinted in the flickering lights. “And if I do it will be a very sudden death.” She waited for the beat of three as the crowd erupted into nervous laughter. “Not, alas, the little death, but one of greatness and finality. So I suggest, my lord, you do not deviate from my desires.”
Within seconds, knives were thrown toward Crowe from every direction. When the sultry knife-thrower told him to spread his legs and not to flinch, Gibb wouldn’t have been surprised to see him run. She was more than most men could control, and most would not attempt to.
He could. He wouldn’t.
To Denby’s credit he didn’t move—although it was more likely a result of sheer terror than bravery—and Gibb joined in with the applause as the last knife stuck, quivering, into the screen behind Crowe, a mere three or so inches from his bollocks.
Evangeline kissed her volunteer’s cheek and held his hand so they could bow together.
The audience cheered once more, resumed their chatter and began to wander back indoors, no doubt to replenish their glasses. Gibb had no intention of drinking anything else. He considered his duty done and therefore as soon as he could find his host he’d make his farewells and head home.
He watched with interest as, once Evangeline and Crowe disengaged, she slapped the man’s hand away from her breast. Whatever she hissed at him, and he was certain hissed was the correct word, Crowe wasn’t fazed and once more tried to touch her. The knife she held up appeared as if by magic and, amused, Gibb saw Crowe hold his hands in the air and walk away with a brisk step. It seemed La Belle Evangeline knew how to look after herself. Strange, Gibb mused, that his own erection didn’t diminish at the thought of her with a readily available knife. Was he unhinged or was it just the novel experience of desiring someone without wanting to? Complicated thoughts for so late at night. Whatever, it was all immaterial. He refused to let his uncomfortable arousal take charge. He would not be at the mercy of his vagarious body.
Gibb turned back toward the house and hunted for his host. Enough was enough. Time now to go home and ponder why his body had chosen to react to La Belle Evangeline and no one else since—
Stop it now. It is over and you do as you wish. And he did not wish for emotions to hold sway. Never again would he allow that, whatever they were. It led to anguish, tortured thoughts of ‘what if’ and ‘if only’ and people hurt. He hadn’t been able—or cared enough—to curb his wife’s wild side, and she’d died because of it. Because of him.
Never again would he put himself in the position of being responsible for someone else’s happiness and wellbeing.
I’m growing old disgracefully and loving it.
Dh and I live on the edge of a Scottish forest, and rattle around in a house much too big for us.
Our kids have grown up and flown the nest, but roll back up when they want to take a deep breath and smell the daisies so to speak.
I write in my study, which overlooks the garden and the lane. I’m often seen procrastinating, by checking out the wild life, looking—only looking—at the ironing basket and assuring tourists that indeed, I’m not the bed and breakfast. That would mean cooking fried eggs without breaking the yolks, and disturbing the dust bunnies as they procreate under the beds. Not to be thought of.
Being able to do what I love, and knowing people get pleasure from my writing is fantastic. Long may it last.
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