Book Series: Scandals and Seductions

The Seduction of Scandal

It’s never wise to blackmail a highwayman.

Lady Corinne, rebellious daughter of the duke of Banfield, refuses to marry Lord Freddie Sherwin. Yes, he’s the catch of the Season and the man her father chose for her. He’s also the most despicable male of her acquaintance. With her wedding only weeks away, she flees and finds herself a prisoner of the notorious Thorn!

Who says the devil isn’t a woman?

The rich and powerful tremble at the highwayman’s name, while England’s villagers rejoice in his bold exploits. His identity is a secret; his life a mystery— until Lady Corinne tumbles into his arms. If the Thorn wants her silence, he must hide her until her wedding day passes. It’s a devil’s bargain and one that can only lead to a hangman’s noose.

Corinne believes it the perfect plan—until her highwayman reveals a passionate lover’s heart, and she realizes that in the seduction of scandal, she may have found the hero she’s been waiting for her whole life.

(A portion of the proceeds from the sale of this book and others (up to $25,000) will be donated to the Ovarian Cancer National Alliance.)

AVON Books | Paperback | eBook | Audio

Publisher: Avon Books
October 2011
ISBN-13: 978-0-061-77212-2
ISBN-10: 0-061-77212-7

He turned, ready to eat her up alive with his tongue. If it hadn’t been for her foolishness, he wouldn’t have had to spend the night traipsing back and forth fetching bandages, worrying if he was doing the right thing, worrying if she’d stay alive.


The tongue lashing he’d wanted to deliver evaporated from his mind at the sight of Lady Corrine standing in the narrow doorway between the two rooms wearing little more than one of his shirts.

Dear God. He leaned forward onto his knees. He remembered too clearly how soft her skin was and how full, how perfect, how luscious her breasts were.
It had been his penance to undress her, to keep his hands off of her.

And it didn’t help his sorry state to have her standing there as proud and demanding as a Teutonic goddess. Her pale blonde hair caught the beams of sun coming in from the back room, creating a halo of light around her. The backlight also delineated the shape of her amazingly long legs, which could be seen clearly beneath the sheer, fine material of her petticoats.

Her feet were bare and as perfectly formed as the rest of her.

She was The One. The Incomparable.

The Unattainable … and whoever had christened her such had named her right. The lure of a siren mixed with the scorn of a harpy in the duke of Banfield’s willful daughter.

Will came to his feet, needing his extra height to keep her, and his lust, at bay.

Her intelligent blue eyes swept his person.

“You appear the worse for wear, Reverend.”

He was conscious that he needed a shave. His beard was such that he looked quite vicious if he didn’t keep it under control. And there were probably circles under his eyes that matched the weariness in his bones. Yesterday had been a very demanding day before he’d made an appearance at his foster father’s dinner table. Certainly his hair must have been going every which way now.

In contrast, she appeared well rested and amazingly fresh and lovely.

“I needed to see to your welfare, my lady. You are lucky I discovered you injured on the side of the road on my way home last night.” If there was a chance she didn’t remember anything after being shot, Will was going to play it.

“And my undressing?”

“Necessary for attending your wound.”

“So you didn’t believe Major Ashcroft would return for me?”

There was an edge to her voice. “You remember,” he said. He might as well lay it all on the table. He had to remember how willful she was, how bold. Dislike and distrust were good foils for lust.

“Not the undressing,” she said. She crossed her arms as if protecting her breasts from view. The movement caused her to wince, but she bravely, stubbornly kept her hands where she’d placed them. “But I remember everything else.”

“I feared you would.” He tucked the flint and stone in his pocket. “So what happens now? Are you going to go running to Freddie with your discovery of who I am? I don’t believe so. There was a reason you were stowed away in that coach last night.”

There, straight talk for straight talk – and it worked. A small frown appeared between her brows.

“You saw me?” she asked.

“You came from somewhere, and Ashcroft was obviously surprised at your presence. I had been inside the coach, and you hadn’t been there. I was very careful to ensure I’d accounted for everyone present.”

She dropped her arms, reached up, and placed a hand on her left shoulder, as if the bit of pressure relieved the pain. “You truly are frightening as the Thorn.”

“I try to be, my lady,” he said. “Although you don’t seem frightened now, and perhaps you should be.”

She cocked her head at his warning, considered him, then shook her head. “You won’t hurt me.”

“Don’t be so certain.”

“Maxwell charms and delights with each book. Here she brings a delectable highwayman, pulse-pounding adventure and plenty of suspense and romance to a Robin Hood-themed tale that will sweep readers away.”
Kathe Robin, RT Book Reviews ( )

“Intriguing… an entertaining read that helps steal away the afternoon.”
—Night Owl Romance (also appears on Cocktails and Books)

“Entertaining… Cathy Maxwell wraps up her fabulous Scandals and Seductions series with this buoyant fifth installment… wonderful protagonists… Ms. Maxwell had my undivided attention… [she] also managed to have me on the edge of my seat… a heck of a climax…I’ve come to love this charming series.”
Joyfully Reviewed

“A thrilling tale complete with secret identities and runaway brides, a notorious English highwayman and dangerous intrigues…and, of course, wildly passionate love! This is romance, adventure, sensuality, and wit blended to perfection.”
DFW Tea Readers

“A witty, sensual historical romance that will have you eagerly turning pages to see what happens next… with secrets, surprising plot twists, engaging characters,
witty repartee, treason, blackmail, jealousy, intrigue and tender love,
this story is a delight… Maxwell brings the story to life right before your
eyes in a way that will have you empathizing with Will and Corinne
and rooting for their happily ever after. I could not put this book
down and read it in one day. Do not miss this amazing story!”
Romance Junkies

“THE SEDUCTION OF SCANDAL has a promising start, and the delightful heroine drew me in to the story… Cathy Maxwell managed to surprise me with a neat twist… something I didn’t see coming… enjoyable.”
The Romance Review

“Twists and turns in the plot take the reader on a rollercoaster ride that…swoops up to a breathtaking climax… an undercurrent of humor… compelling… [Maxwell’s] skill depicting the emerging of gentle, pure love that trusts and gives
without reserve captivates… touches the heart.”
Long and Short Reviews

“Fresh characters, incredible twists, and fascinating turns readers do not expect… [it] adds in a few feisty women, some heart wrenching moments of sadness, startling revelations…”
Café Libri: Reviewing Books and More

“Enjoyable…fun…[a] strong quirky support cast… the lead couple is
a nice pairing of an unlikely duo falling in love.”
Genre Go Round Reviews (and on The World of Romance)

“There are some really exciting twists and turns in this story. And just when I thought it was resolved and over, even more surprises occur. I began to despair at the end of the book because I couldn’t find any way—in my mind—that the issues could be resolved. I found Cathy Maxwell’s conflict and resolution to be one of the most engaging storylines I’ve read in a long while. This charming story turned me into a Cathy Maxwell fan. I’m looking forward to reading more books written by her.”
Robyn Roberts, Reviewer, One Upon A Romance

The Marriage Ring

The woman who will wear Richard Lynsted’s ring will be genteel, dainty, and well-bred.

This eliminates Grace MacEachin on all three counts. A hellion of the first order, the alluring, infuriating woman would be nothing more than a passing temptation to an upstanding gentleman like Richard–if it weren’t for the fact that she’s trying to blackmail his father!

Or, as Grace sees it, trying to get justice–and maybe just the slightest hint of revenge on the family that tore her life asunder when she was just a girl. And as for Lynsted, well, the stuffy, humorless man wouldn’t suffer for time spent in company more exciting than that of his company ledgers. Only when Richard gets Grace alone, she discovers he many know a thing or tow about excitement after all . . . .

AVON Books | Paperback | eBook | Audio

Publisher: Avon
March 2010
ISBN-10: 0-06-177192-9
ISBN-13: 978-0-06-177192-7

“You are not the sort of woman a man marries,” he said, speaking more to the newspaper he held in front of him like a barrier between them than to her.


Grace MacEachin knew that. She’d told herself as much many times. But she’d not have the Honorable Mr. Richard Lynsted say such to her and not be brought to heel, especially when there was only the two of them in the rolling confines of the drafty, rattlely old coach.

“And why not?” she challenged. “Because I’m an actress? Because I have a history?” She purred that last word wanting to needle this insufferable, arrogant man with the most potent weapon in her arsenal—her blatant sexuality.

His kind was always aloof and sanctimonious and usually the first to pant all over her if she let him.

“Because you think nothing of blackmailing my family,” he replied without so much as a sideward glance.

All thoughts of making him squirm dropped from Grace’s mind. “It’s not blackmail to speak the truth. Your father and uncle stole that man’s money and made it appear my father was the thief. Your complete family fortune down to the last penny is based upon those ill-begotten gains.”

He shot her glance, his eyes alive with fury. “A charge I have repeatedly refuted. I manage the accounts for my father and uncle’s business interests. I know exactly how their money was made.”

“And they couldn’t have been too clever for you? Lied to you? Or pulled the wool over your eyes?”

“Never. They are honorable men.”

Grace almost barked her disdain. “God, I hate that word—honorable. It usually means there are sticky fingers in the pie somewhere.”

“Do not compare my father and uncle to the sort of low characters with whom you rub shoulders.”

“Are you speaking of real people, Mr. Lynsted? Hardworking men and ladies who earn an honest wage for work instead of whatever games you, your father and uncle play with other people’s money?”

That mark struck home. “We invest, Miss MacEachin, a concept you wouldn’t understand.”

“Oh, I understand investing, Mr. Lynsted. I invest in myself all the time.” She ran a gloved finger along the velvet bodice of her expensive, provocatively cut dress.

He frowned in disapproval as her boast, even as his gaze dropped to her breasts—and she could have laughed her triumphant.

She knew men. She knew their weaknesses. And he was no different than any other. He had been more reserved than most, but he had succumbed.

With deliberate movements, she buttoned her cloak closed at the neck. She would never let him, the son of the man who ruined her family, have a sample. “And we shall see what you believe when we reach Scotland and you have the opportunity to hear the story from my da,” she said.

Mr. Lynsted leaned back in his corner of the coach as if she were the devil. “Yes,” he agreed, his deep voice harsh. “We shall hear that story—especially when he is confronted by the son of the man he is maligning.” He raised the paper with a snap between them.

Grace had needled her way past his façade of control and righteousness he wore like armor. Her victory made her hungry for more. It was a long way to Inverness and she wasn’t about to let this trip be comfortable for him.

Besides, she had to entertain herself some way, didn’t she?

“I don’t know why I worried about traveling with you,” she confessed, settling herself in. She smiled at the newspaper he held as if it were a shield between them. “You think I’m a tart. You’re right. I’ve slept with many, many men. And I enjoyed it.”

He didn’t answer.

She watched him a moment before observing, “I don’t see how you read the paper the way you do. You never turn the pages.”

In response, he flipped a page over and she laughed quietly.

Oh, yes, she had his attention.

She tapped her foot on the floorboard, beating out the passage of time. They traveled in silence with only the sound of the sound of horses, the rattling of chains, and the squeaking of lose hinges. The coach really was old and uncomfortable. She shifted her weight on the hard leather seat so that her thigh touched his.

He pulled away although he couldn’t go far. After all his big body took up most of the room in the coach.

“Granted, I wouldn’t consider marrying you,” she informed him as if they’d been discussing the matter.

He concentrated on his paper.

“Not only is your family guilty of destroying mine,” she continued, “but I wouldn’t want someone with your priggish attitude. Did you hear what I said?” she asked the newspaper. “I said you were priggish. Priggish, priggish, priggish.”

He turned his shoulder away from her.

“And as out-of-fashion as this coach,” she added.

The newspaper came down.

“It is not priggish to have standards,” he bit out. “In fact, it is a necessity—but then, you wouldn’t understand because you don’t have any.”

“I have one standard–truth,” she insisted. “It’s the only one that matters.”

His gaze narrowed. “I wouldn’t be making this blasted trip if I didn’t seek truth.”

He really was roughly masculine—in his own priggish way. And Grace found herself attracted to the size of the man. She’d always liked big men. Especially deceptively strong ones.

Mr. Lynsted was all hard lines and muscle. A man who had not yet tested his own physical strength. A man who might be rock hard under the veneer of civilized clothing—

The direction of her thoughts startled her.

It had been a long time since she’d felt even the whisper of an attraction for a man. How perverse was her nature that she would sense it with this one?

He’d returned to his paper, once again attempting to shut her out.

She didn’t want to let him succeed.

“So what sort of standards do you have for a wife?”

“What do you care?” he said to his paper.

“I don’t. I’m merely making conversation.”

“She won’t be an actress,” he muttered. “Or a Highlander.”

“Am I to be offended?” Grace wondered, laughing to herself. “I ask a simple question and you turn it into an insult.”

His paper came down. “There is nothing simple about your questions, Miss MacEachin,” he said, his expression stony. “You are baiting me plain and simple. You enjoy mocking me. Now here is the truth, the woman who wears my marriage ring will be all a gentlewoman should be. She’ll be reserved, conservative, genteel, well-bred–”

“And boring,” Grace assured him.

“She won’t be boring.”

“She will,” Grace pronounced with the voice of experience. “Because you can’t make a list and order a wife to be fit to your personal specifications before you meet her. Wives don’t come that way. They are people and people are always complex and challenging.”

He snorted his opinion.

“And then there is romance,” she continued. “Marriage is a partnership of lovers. Romance is an essential ingredient.”

“I am romantic enough.” He sounded annoyed with the accusation.

“Truly? How romantic is it to order a woman as you would a steak pie? I want her plump but not too plump. Maybe plump here and slender there. And her hair must be yellow unless I’m in the mood for something red, or purple, or green—

Women don’t have green hair, or purple hair,” he grumbled. “And I didn’t talk about personal features but qualities of character. There is a difference.”

“So you would marry a woman with green hair if she was boring?”

His jaw muscle tightened. “Boring was not on my list. You added it.”

“Very well,” Grace said, enjoying herself at his expense, “I will amend my statement. It’s not a concern if your wife has ten fingers and ten toes provided she go to Church every Sunday and prays at six on Tuesdays and never expresses an opinion than the one you decide for her since intelligence wasn’t on your list–”

“Why are you doing this?” He threw his paper to the floor. “Why are you spouting such nonsense?”

“Nonsense? I’m not the one ordering up a wife, Mr. Lynsted,” she said primly.

“No, there is something else at work here. You are attacking me, but it isn’t just me, is it, Miss MacEachin? This is something that has been on that female mind of yours a long time. You don’t like men very much, do you? You think we are fools.”

He was right.

How quickly he had summed up her nature.

Now it was Grace’s turn to feel a bit uncomfortable. “I’m merely calling you on a hypocrisy, sir,” she said. “You aren’t alone in your lists. Every man had them. The image of what his dream wife will be. They all want virgins while they chase me relentlessly. And once they do marry, they take on mistresses whom they treat better than those perfect wives.”

“And you hate that, don’t you? Being left out, knowing you will never be the wife?”

Grace crossed her arms against her waist. “I prefer my own company.”

“Liar,” he accused softly.

He was right, but she’d not admit it. Not ever.

Suddenly, he moved as if to throw himself across her.

Panicked, she reached down to her walking boot, her fingers searching for the small dirk hidden there even as his body came across hers. She whipped the knife up in time to pressing the razor sharp edge against his throat.

Surprise crossed his face. He went still. Her heart pounded in her throat.
“No one touches me,” she said, forcing the words out. “No one. Not ever again.”

His gaze held hers.

She swallowed, prepared to carry through her threat.

Slowly, he lifted his hand. She tensed, wondering if he dared her.

He reached, his hand away from her and going for the door just as it started to swing open with the movement of the coach. A blast of damp, frigid air enveloped them before he pulled it shut.

“The door comes loose,” he said, the muscles of his throat moving against her knife. “I didn’t want you to fall out.” Raising his hand to show he meant no tricks, he sat back up.

Grace didn’t move immediately. It took several moments for her heartbeat to return to normal, and she was all too conscious of the fact that she’d tipped her hand. She’d overreacted and confirmed his suspicions. It made her feel naked, vulnerable.

Mr. Lynsted had picked up his crumpled paper and was once again pretending to read.

She slipped the knife back into her boot and sat up.
They rode in silence for a moment and then Mr. Lynsted broke it by murmuring, “One other item to my list, the woman I marry won’t pull a knife on me.”

“More’s the pity,” she replied.

The Earl Claims His Wife

She’ll be his perfect wife . . .

Preoccupied with fighting Napoleon and making love to his mistress, Brian Ranson has ignored his wife since their wedding. But now that he’s become the Earl of Wright, he’s ready to fetch his bride back to London. He’s shocked to find she’s become a bold, beautiful woman, exactly the kind he lusts after . . . and she wants nothing to do with him.

Gillian, Lady Wright, is desperate to seize the love she’s been denied . . . but not with her rakish husband! So she makes a bargain—for thirty days she’ll be the perfect wife, then he’ll set her free. But no matter how she hardens her heart against her damnable earl, her body begs her to surrender . . .

AVON Books | Paperback | eBook | Audio

Publisher: Avon
October 2009
ISBN-10: 0-06-135099-0
ISBN-13: 978-0-06-135099-3

“Are you challenging me to a duel?” Wright asked.


“I am,” Andres answered.

Gillian’s tears evaporated, replaced by stunned horror.

“Swords?” Wright suggested without missing a beat. “I’m afraid it must be done now. I don’t have time to waste. I wish to be back on the road as quickly as possible.”

“Then you may leave now,” Andres said amicably.

“Not without my wife,” Wright answered quietly.

Andres shrugged. “Swords is fine.”

“No, you mustn’t,” Gillian said to Andres.

“I do it for you, amor,” he said quietly in his Spanish accented English. “I love you, Gillian. From the moment I saw you, I knew I was to be with you. Do not worry. All will be well. There isn’t an Englishmen who is a better swordsman than I.”

He loved her. He’d said it aloud. She’d never had anyone say those words to her before—and he’d said them in front of husband.

But right now was not the time for her to be distracted. What if Wright ran him through? What then? Did all men think themselves immortal?

Gillian turned away from him and walked over to where her husband now stood preparing for the duel.

“Wright, you must not fight. Not over me.”

Her husband folded his well cut coat and placed it on a stump by the stable door that was used as a stool or a mounting block. “I take care of what is mine, Gillian.”

She made an impatient sound. “Don’t claim this is about me. Never me. I matter little to you.”

A spark of fire came to his eye. “Obviously you matter a great deal or I wouldn’t be here.”

She shook her head. “Wright, our marriage was a sham. It was one of convenience. You married me because of my father’s political influence.”

He released an impatient sigh. “Gillian, this is an old argument between us. So what if those were considerations when I asked for your hand? You could have refused. Why didn’t you?”

Now it was her turn to take a step back. She could never tell him the truth—that from the moment she’d first laid eyes on him, she had tumbled in love with him. He’d think her even more provincial than he already did.

Besides, that heady, earnest young love had long since died. Her heart was now as hard as a metal shield against him.

“We all make mistakes, Wright,” she said, proud at how imperial and cold she sounded.

A flicker of emotion she could not name seemed to pass through his eyes. He looked away and it was gone. The man she knew as her husband returned. “Yes,” he drawled, “apparently we all do.”

“I hope he runs you through,” she said. Turning, she walked away.

A few moments later, the men faced each other, swords in hands.

Gillian crossed her arms. A part of her didn’t believe this was going to happen. Men didn’t fight over her. Especially her husband.

“First blood wins,” Wright said calmly.

“As you wish,” Andres answered without any sign of emotion.

And then they raised their swords.

Wright was a bruising swordsman. Gillian had heard him described that way by an officer who had served with him on the Pennisula. For the first time she realized her husband had killed men.

She didn’t know Andres’s experience but she knew his heart. He would fight to the death for her.

There was the slide of steel on steel and then both men drew their arms back, preparing to fight–

Gillian found her voice. “No.” She rushed forward, even daring to step between them. They pulled their weapons back just in time, but Gillian was not concerned with her own safety.

“This is nonsense,” she informed them. “I’m not worth fighting over.”

“We disagree,” Andres said.

Wright was quiet, wary and impatient. Both men were anxious to continue their duel . . . and Gillian knew what she had to do.

Her husband would not give up. Not with his pride at stake.

And Andres . . . Andres so much wanted to be her champion. His love, his loyalty pierced her soul.

She had only one option. “I’ll return to London with you, Wright. You’ve won. Have a coach readied. We’ll leave as soon as I pack.”

She did not wait for a response but started walking toward the house.

A Seduction at Christmas


Desperation and an empty stomach forced Fiona Lachlan to agree to a plan that ended up luring the wickedly notorious Duke of Holburn into trouble. Everything went terribly wrong, and now she has found herself posing as his ward! And while she swore nothing could make her desire a scoundrel, even if he was a duke, she is now drawing ever closer to the one man she cannot have . . .


The Duke of Holburn had spent years heeding this warning, and in doing so, managed to avoid the virginal young ladies who had been put in his path. But now his wild ways have gotten him into real danger. There are killers at the door and a temptingly beautiful woman in his arms. He is about to find himself seduced . . . and he isn’t quite sure he wants to resist this time.

AVON Books | Paperback | eBook | Audio

Publisher: Avon
November 2008
ISBN-10: 0-06-135098-2
ISBN-13: 978-0-06-135098-6

Dominic Lynsted, the Duke of Holburn or “Nick” to his friends, didn’t want to wake. He didn’t want to open his eyes, but a blast of cold air was not going to let him sleep. His valet, Gannon, must have left a window open, which was decidedly odd. Gannon never made mistakes.

Furthermore, his gut hurt. True, there were many mornings he felt this way. Excessive drinking was never good for one’s constitution. However, today was worse. His stomach muscles felt as if they had been turned inside out. Or perhaps the pain was more distinctive because it was his mind that was sharper—

Nick was startled to realize he was sober.

His mind was actually alert.

He couldn’t remember a time since boyhood when he’d been so aware of his senses. It was as if his body had been purged of all poisons.

Nick lay still. While he’d always meant to change his ways, he was uncertain if he was enjoying this new sensation. He felt like hell. His head might be clear but his body had obviously been trounced on by a herd of goats. Even the muscles in his ear lobes ached.

A drink would take those muscle aches away.

Slowly, Nick opened his eyes and swore. This was not his bedroom in Holburn House. He closed and opened his eyes again before accepting that what he saw was real. He really was in a tiny room that resembled a prison. The place was tidy but nothing could hide the squalor. The walls really were a drab gray from years of soot. The air smelled of a hundred different meals being cooked and from someplace in the building, above or below him, a baby cried, while from another quarter a man gave into his morning hacking.

Instead of a feathered mattress, he lay on one filled with straw and lumpy in all the wrong places. His stockinged feet—the only clothing he was wearing—hung off the end of the bed.

Thankfully, the sheets smelled clean, but a wise man would climb out of this bed before bugs found him. Nick started to rise—and couldn’t.


“What the bloody—?” Ropes banded his body that had been covered by a thin quilt.

At that moment, he heard a sound at the open window beside the bed.

A huge dog, the size of a small deer, leapt into the room. He gave Nick no more than a passing glance as he padded through a curtain hung across one side of the room.

Nick amended his earlier theory: he obviously was drunk.

A hand pulled the curtain back and a serious-eyed young woman entered the room. The dog followed her in, sitting on his haunches by her side.

She wore a simple plain blue wool dress, the clothing of a shop girl, and yet carried herself with the air of a queen.

Memory returned with a vengeance. The details were still murky but he remembered her . . . and the potion she’d poured into his drink. After that, events were unclear. All he remembered was being violently ill.

She was just as lovely as he remembered, although this morning, her eyes were tired. He almost felt sorry for her until she said in her crisp accent, “You are my prisoner, Your Grace.”

“That is one of the most ridiculous statements I’ve ever heard anyone make,” he replied. “Now come untie me.”

“I can’t,” she answered.

“You can,” he said.

“You threatened to harm me—”

“I’m certain with good reason,” he cut in. He didn’t have patience. He needed a pint, or a little cider to take the edge off the morning. “Now, untie these knots and fetch me something to drink. Then, we can reminisce about last night.” Before she could respond, a wild, almost dreamlike thought struck him. “Did we really have Irishmen shooting at us . . . or was I having a bad dream?”

“They weren’t shooting at us. They were shooting at you. They had other plans for me.”

“Did I shoot back?” he wanted to know, the haze starting to lift from his memory.

“Yes, you did.”

Now he remembered all. “I merely wounded the man. I’d wanted him dead. They shot Hester Bowen. They were aiming at me and they shot her.” He frowned at the young woman. “Your name is Fiona.” He caressed the word, giving it three distinct, flowing syllables.

She nodded, watching him warily as if she hid a secret.

He plowed on, trying to make sense of it all. “Hester didn’t deserve that. I wish I’d killed the man. Those small pistols aren’t always reliable when you aiming at a man while in a moving coach.”

Her head tilted in surprise. “Do you shoot people often?”

“Only when necessary,” he answered enjoying the response. He relaxed and took a moment to give her a good look over. Drunk or sober, she was a beauty. And being tied up was rather intriguing . . .

“I thought I was waiting for Andres Ramigio,” he said, “but you arrived instead. And you thought you were to meet Belkins.”

“Who told you the Spaniard would be there,” she answered.

Nick looked up at the ceiling, thinking. “There’s a mystery here,” he said, speaking more to himself than Fiona. “But why? It doesn’t make sense.”

She took a step closer to the bed. “Hester wanted to teach Lord Belkins a lesson. He’d jilted her without offering a parting gift. So she sent him a note from Annie Jenkins arranging a private supper at The Swan.”

“Who was Annie Jenkins?”

“She is my neighbor,” Fiona said. “But she eloped yesterday morning and asked me to go in her place.”

“And why would you do that?” Nick wanted to know, searching for anything that made sense out of last night.

“Hester was going to pay me twenty pounds.”

“Ah, yes, money.” Nick remembered his coin purse. “Isn’t that the reason for everything?” He took in her body, noting all the assets that a woman could use to make money, and felt disappointment.

He’d wanted her to be better than that. She wasn’t. “Twenty pounds seems a pittance to what a woman like you could earn.”

Indignation brought color to her cheeks and a flash of fire to her brown eyes. “I’m not a whore.”

“Of course you aren’t,” Nick agreed briskly. “Neither is Hester Bowen or any of her friends. And I’m practically ready for sainthood.” He smiled, his lips twisting cynically. “I don’t know why I’m irritated with you. You are nothing but a pawn in this game. A beautiful plaything who can be bought for twenty pounds.”

Her hands formed fists at her side. “How dare you insult me?”

He laughed, the sound bitter. “You insulted yourself for twenty pounds. Now, untie me and let’s be done with this. Someone attempted to murder me last night and I’d like to discover who.”

Her jaw tightened. Her eyes had grown large in her face as he spoke, but she didn’t move.

Nick frowned. “You aren’t going to untie me, are you?”

It took her lips a second to form the word, “No.” She was obviously aware he wouldn’t like her answer.

She was right.

He kept his voice quiet, controlled, silky—the better to make her realize she’d best do as he said. “Do you know who I am, Fiona? How powerful I am?”

She nodded, and then dispelled his notion that she feared him by saying, “But right now, you are naked and tied to my bed and there isn’t anyone who knows where you are save for myself. You are at my mercy, Your Grace. And if you want to be free, you’ll be paying me five hundred pounds for the privilege.”

Now it was Nick’s turn to be speechless.

“What was it you called me, Your Grace? A plaything? A pawn?” She smiled at him. “I don’t believe those words apply any longer. You’ll have to choose new names for me.”

Oh, he had names for her. They spewed from his mouth. To her credit, she held her ground, his words bouncing off her. She was a proud, stubborn queen who listened to him with a complacent half smile.

Nick took hold of his temper. “I’ll not pay you. Not even a shilling.”

“Then you may rot in that bed,” she said pleasantly.

He had to hand it to her, the Scottish lass had courage. Most men quaked in their boots when Nick lost his temper. She hadn’t flinched. “Kidnapping is a hanging offense, Fee,” he reminded her.

The threat didn’t phase her, but her nose wrinkled at the nickname. He’d use it more often.

“Sometimes we must risk hanging to survive, Your Grace,” she announced. “Tad, guard.” The dog at her side lowered into a menacing stance, his dark eyes taking on purpose. “He’s dangerous, Your Grace. A man-eater—”

“Like his mistress?” Nick shot back.

“Yes,” she agreed. “So you’d best beware of both of us because you are now dependent upon me to eat, to drink and . . . to do other things.”

He laughed, realizing she wasn’t as invincible as she wished to pretend. “Other things?” he questioned, letting the innuendo of the words flow through his voice. It helped that, in a hair’s second, his mind had conjured all sorts of possibilities and his body had fallen suit.

She noticed the change in him. Hot color came to her cheeks.

Nick grinned, enjoying her discomfort while also admiring it. Life hadn’t hardened her yet. It would be a pity when it did.

“Is your courage wavering, Fee?” he chided. “Or was it that you were thinking of ‘other’ things and grew distracted?”

Her brows snapped together. “You are a beast.” With those words, she turned and marched back through the curtain.

Nick glowered at where she’d disappeared for a moment, but then he couldn’t help but smile.

How was she going to keep him tied up? Or do “other” things? She blushed every time she looked at him. All he had to do was look at her suggestively or say something sexual to make her run from the room.

She’d also saved his life last night. He remembered all now. Without her, he would have been an easy mark for the Irishmen.

Still, that didn’t mean he would let her ransom him. “You won’t find me an easy captive, love,” he called out. “You’ll have to work for that five hundred pounds.”

“Tad, growl,” she answered back.

The big dog lowered his head and made a low menacing sound, but Nick wasn’t afraid. In fact, his head didn’t hurt so much and he was beginning to feel entertained.

“Nice puppy,” he said. “You may have one of my leg bones after I’ve rotted in this bed.”

Tad gave him a wolfish grin as if he’d enjoy the chewing.

His Christmas Pleasure

Anything Can Happen at Christmas!

When her father threatens to marry Abigail Montross off to a man twice her age (and with thirteen children!), she decides to elope instead with the irresistibly handsome Baron de Vasconia. She know all abut his notorious reputaiton. He is the most seductive man in all of London, but he’s vowed to protect her, so she allow herself to be tempted into his bed, promising to guard her heart at all costs.

Andres believes he’s entered into nothing more than a marriage of convenience with a charming and very wealthy young woman. But the days–and nights–Abigail spends in his arms soon reform this rogue. He’ll do anything to gain her love–until they each discover the truth about the other and old wounds are revealed.

It’s the season of miracles and passion–when love not only awakens the senses but delivers the greatest gift of all . . .

AVON Books | Mass Market paperback | eBook | Audio


Publisher: Avon Books
December 2010
ISBN-10: 0-06-177206-2
ISBN-13: 978-0-06-177206-1

His Christmas Pleasure excerpt


by Cathy Maxwell

Abigail Montross took a step away from the Barón de Vasconia. Conscious that they’d become the center of attention in the crowded ball, now might be a good time to return to her parents, with or without his escort. There was a wildness in the elegant Lady Dobbins’s eyes and a tension in her body Abby didn’t trust.

But her movement caught her ladyship’s attention. Vivid blue eyes, the ones countless men had celebrated in poetry to her beauty, honed in on Abby with the intensity of a hawk seeking prey.

“This is what you think to replace me with?” Lady Dobbins murmured. Her lip curled.

“Not here, my lady,” the barón warned, steel in his low voice. “We have an audience. Let me escort Miss Montross back to her family and then we will talk.”

But Lady Dobbins either didn’t hear him or didn’t care. “Montross?” she repeated. “The banker’s daughter? The one who was jilted? Oh, I see now why she was tossed aside. Good heavens, Andres, have you no eyes? I thought you Spaniards were lovers of beauty. Or have you lost your good taste?”

Abby wasn’t the only one stunned by the woman’s meanness. A collective gasp went up all around them, sending a burst of heat to Abby’s face–which only made her look more pathetic. The crowd’s sympathy aside, she could feel their eyes dissecting her every feature. Even the musicians had not lifted their instruments to play the next set

The barón pulled Abby behind him. “Do you think you are the only beautiful woman here, my lady? You are wrong. Miss Montross has a beauty you could never hope to attain.”

“Beauty?” Her ladyship snorted her opinion. “You find beauty in ruddy cheeks and a button nose?”

The barón answered. “Also her youth–?”

“She is not that young,” the countess lashed out.

“She’s much younger than yourself, but I’m talking about her spirit. It is young. She’s a believer, Carla, something both you and I gave up long ago.”

“Because we are realists,” Lady Dobbins said in her defense. “Sophisticated.”

“And value nothing,” he agreed.

“I valued you.”

“And see where you are now?”

His mark hit home.

Her ladyship drew back. She glanced at those around them as if just realizing she was creating a scene. A wiser woman would have retreated.

Lady Dobbins wasn’t wise. “All a woman has, all that is important about her, all that matters are her looks. You’ve made that very clear, barón, with so many of us. Now it appears you have developed a taste for, well, something other than the sublime. For example, her hair reminds one of a curly, overripe carrot.”

“Her hair reflects her joy in life. ”

“Natural or not, eh?” her ladyship said. “And, yes, I am older, but she is wrinkled. She’s almost as withered as a prune.”

“Those aren’t wrinkles,” he said with a sigh as if bored with the discussion. “They are the lines left from laughter. And who wants a blank canvas? A man needs to know his woman can think and feel. A rose opens as it ages, becoming more fragrant, more full in blossom, more lovely with time. I see in Miss Montross’s face her strength of character. She meets life on her terms and doesn’t need to humiliate another to make herself important..”

Several heads around them nodded agreement. Most of those nodding were men.

Lady Dobbins’s chin shot up. “Character?” she quizzed “What would you of all men know about character? You are a pretty boy, barón. A charm. You haven’t done one meaningful thing in your life, and now you are holding up this silly, gap-toothed, flat chested chit as a paragon for all of us to admire. Look to yourself, my lord, before you chastise me.”

Abby did have a small gap between her two front teeth. It was a family trait. Her mother and her cousin Corinne had gaps as well.

She wished the floor would open up and swallow her whole. She didn’t care what people thought of her chest, but that small separation between her two front teeth made her terribly self-conscious.

“Her smile is charming,” the barón said. “As for endowments, not all men like overripe melons, my lady. Especially amply displayed ones.”

“You did.”

Her words sucked the air out of the room for Abby. She’d tried not to think of the two of them together. She wanted to like the barón and she didn’t like the countess . . . but he had.

Without breaking stride, he coolly answered, “My tastes have changed.”

He was defending her, but his words struck Abby as cruel. As male.

And everyone listening would imply that now she was his next conquest. It would be her name linked to his in the papers on the morrow. She could see it now. She would be referred to as the “mysterious Miss Gap Tooth”-and she was ruined. She wasn’t a married woman whose husband obviously looked the other way from her indiscretions. She already had enough rumors swirling around her.

Worse, Freddie’s father, the earl could be smug in the knowledge that he’d saved his son from such infamy. Corinne would never find herself caught in such a scene as this. Corinne was perfect, sensible, dutiful.

Nor was Abby the only one hit by his words.

Lady Dobbins jerked as if jolted with a shot of electricity. Had she truly thought she could stomp her satin clad feet and a man like the barón would be contrite? Abby hadn’t known him long but he didn’t strike her as a lapdog.

Her ladyship’s venom came out in physical violence. She slapped the barón, the action short, to the point, insulting. Then, ignoring the scandalized gasps around her, Lady Dobbins sailed away, head high, the crowd shuffling back to let her pass.

There was a beat of assessing silence. Abby assumed most people were like herself, shocked beyond belief.

And then the low, agitated hum of conversation as word of the scene was passed from one pair of lips to another.

The barón turned to her, his silver eyes somber as if he knew the cost of this scene to Abby, but she wasn’t in the mood for apologies. Her reputation, indeed, her life was now completely in a shambles with no hope for recovery. Freddie would never marry her and her father would be hard pressed to find any husband for her.

“I am sorry,” the barón said, and Abby lost all sense.

Her hand flew through the air, powered by her frustration, her shame, and her fear.

Her slap was not as neat, concise, and ladylike as Lady Dobbins’s. It carried the full force of her turbulent emotions. Not only that, but she was a rather strong woman. The sound reverberated through the ballroom.

For a heartbeat, the world stopped.

Abby couldn’t breathe, couldn’t think, shocked by what she’d just done.

Her angry finger marks reddened on his skin. He raised a hand to his jaw, frowning, angry, confused. He’d want answers–and she didn’t want to give them. Not here.

She took the only action open to her, she ran.

The crowd didn’t part for her. She had to shove her way, heading for the only refuge she had in the room, her father.