Liam Cavanaugh, the scandalous Earl of Wolford, is startled when he awakens in an unfamiliar bed, wrapped in bandages that hinder his eyesight, with no memory of why he was beaten half to death. Although he can't see the witty young woman who tends to his wounds, her alluring voice--and a single stolen kiss from her soft lips--help soothe his pain. But when he is fully healed, Liam is not ready to let go of the one woman who stirs his deepest longings.
Liam will do whatever it takes to see Adeline again, even if it means giving up his rakish ways. But his disreputable past is not so easily forgotten and his secrets are far more dangerous than he-or Adeline-ever imagined.
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USA Today bestselling author, VIVIENNE LORRET loves romance novels, her pink laptop, her husband, and her two sons (not necessarily in that order … but there are days). Transforming copious amounts of tea into words, she is an Avon Impulse author of works including: Tempting Mr. Weatherstone, The Wallflower Wedding Series, The Rakes of Fallow Hall Series, The Duke’s Christmas Wish, and the Season’s Original Series.
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Liam Cavanaugh grinned at the corrugated lines marking his cousin’s lifted brows. It wasn’t often that Northcliff Bromley, the Duke of Vale and renowned genius, showed astonishment.
Bending his dark head, Vale peered closer at the marble heads within the crates. “Remarkable. Even seeing them side by side, I hardly notice a difference. The fellows will be fascinated when you present this to the Royal Society at month’s end.”
“It was pure luck that I had the original as well.” Liam shrugged as if he’d merely stumbled upon the differences between a genuine article and an imposter.
Vale turned, and his obsidian eyes sharpened on Liam. “No need to play the simpleton with me. You forget that I know your secret.”
Liam cast a hasty glance around the sconce-lit, cluttered ballroom of Wolford House, ensuring they were alone. Fortunately, the vast space was empty aside from the two of them and a dozen or more large crates filled with artifacts. “By definition, a secret is that of which we do not speak. So lower your voice, if you please.”
No one needed to know that he actually studied each piece of his collection in detail—enough that he’d learned how to spot a forgery in an instant.
“Afraid the servants will tell the ton your collection isn’t merely a frivolous venture? Or that your housekeeper’s complaints of dusty urns and statues crowding each room would suddenly fall silent?” Vale flashed a smile that bracketed his mouth with deep creases.
Liam pretended to consider his answer, pursing his lips. “It would be cruel of me to render Mrs. Brasher mute when she finds such enjoyment in haranguing me.”
“She may have a point,” Vale said, skirting in between two crates when a wayward nail snagged his coat, issuing a sharp rip of rending fabric. He stopped to examine the hole and shook his head. “Your collection has grown by leaps and bounds in the past few months. So much so that you were forced to purchase another property to house it all.”
“The curse of immense wealth and boredom, I’m afraid.”
His cousin’s quick glower revealed that he was not amused by Liam’s insouciant guise. Then, as if to punish him for it, he issued the foulest epithet known to man. “You should marry.”
Not wanting to reveal the discomfort slowly clawing up his spine, Liam chuckled. “As a cure for boredom?”
Vale said nothing. He merely crossed his arms over his chest and waited.
It was a standoff now. They were nearly equal in regard to observation skills, but apparently Vale thought he had the upper hand.
Liam knew differently. He crossed his arms as well and smirked.
If anyone were to peer into the room at this moment, they might wonder if they were staring at matching wax figures. The two of them looked enough alike in build and coloring to be brothers, but with subtle differences. Vale’s features were blunter, while Liam’s were angular. And Vale’s dark eyes were full of intellect, while Liam’s green eyes tended to reveal the streak of mischief within.
“Marriage would do you good,” Vale said.
Liam disagreed. “You’re starting to sound like Thayne, always hinting of ways to improve my social standing.”
The Marquess of Thayne was determined to reform Liam into the ton’s favorite pet—the Season’s Original. In fact, Thayne had been so confident in success that he’d wagered on the outcome. What a fool.
“I never hint,” Vale said.
Liam offered his cousin a nod. “True. You are a forthright, scientific gentleman, and I appreciate that about you. Therefore, I will give you the courtesy of answering in kind: No. I should not marry. I like my life just as it is.” He lifted his hands in a gesture to encompass his collection within this room. “Besides, I could never respect a woman who would have me.”
Vale scoffed. “Respect?”
“Very well. I could never trust a woman who desired to marry me. Not with my reputation. Such a woman would either be mad or conniving, and I want neither for a wife.”
He’d nearly succumbed once, falling for the worst of all deceptions. After that narrow escape, he’d vowed never to be tricked again.
“Come now. There are many who care nothing for your reputation.”
That statement only served to cement his belief. If his despoiled reputation were the only thing keeping him far afield of the ton’s conniving matchmakers, then he would make the most of it. And the perfect place to add the crème de la crème to his list of scandalous exploits would be at Lady Forester’s masquerade tonight.
After all, he had a carefully crafted reputation of unrepentant debauchery to uphold.
Liam squared his shoulders and walked with his cousin to the door. “If the Fates have it in mind to see me married before I turn sixty, then they will have to knock me over the head and drag me to the altar.”