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Fernsby Ladies Literati Series
May 1789, near the village of Fernsby, Kent, Lady Anne Dankworth sits in her bedchamber in fear. Her husband, a nationally acclaimed military hero, has just threatened to have her deported. There is only one man in the whole of England she can trust with her secret.
Wylde by name and by nature, disgruntled rogue and sea-merchant Sir John needs only to gaze into her dark fathomless depths to know he is still affected by her. But after 20 years, Anne is a changed woman. Gone is the hot-headed temptress from their youth, replaced instead by a cool, serious, good-wife.
In this race against time, admitting their true passion is only the start. The scandal Anne and John uncover will strike fear in the heart of England's elite—where integrity, love and honour—may well cost them their lives.
All the while, the enemy prepares to strike.
“You must not ever mention this visit to my husband,” she called back. If he could not bother, neither would she.
“Oh, believe me, this visit is forgettable.” He laughed humorlessly.
Her hands shook as she placed her reticule into the crook of her arm so as to readjust her hat as she followed him out to the hall. “You haven’t changed, John. Always running away when situations became tough. Even now. I did wrong to believe more of you.”
“That was always your problem, wasn’t it, Anne? You never believed in me at all.”
“You never gave me reason to.” At his growl, she let her mouth break into a gaping hole making hollow sounds. “So, thank you, on behalf of the Fernsby Ladies Literati, for your kind and generous donation.” She paused, letting her eyes rake over him one final time. She wanted to unglove her hand and hold it out to him, to have his angry hot lips graze her bare knuckles. One last touch to brand his name into her bones.
But she also longed to slap him. Hard. To hear her hand crack sharp against his arrogant stubbled cheek. To have it hurt him red stinging sore, to leaving him feeling, but for a moment, some of her pain.
Instead she nodded, turned, and crossed the hall to the door his manservant held open.
“See you in another twenty years,” John said, his tone full of boredom.
His stick tapped on the tiled hall, and she turned at the doorway determined to have the last word.
But all utterance died.
Two young women waited halfway on the stairs, holding their arms out to him, crimson and indigo dresses falling off their shoulders, disheveled hair, smiles wide, inviting him up in lewd whispers. He stretched out his arms to them, then leaned forward to get his foot balanced on the stair, his vest rising against his white shirt, as if already undressing. A gray pistol nestled near his spine, close to the hand of the coaxing woman. Not so crippled.
Stinging needled the back of her eyes, her ears hummed, her throat gripped tight, and her chest hurt to breathe. She turned and stepped into the afternoon sunshine, while a pickaxe mined rock-hard ruby chambers in her heart.
Dear God, the agony of scars ripped bare. Neither good enough, nor bad enough.
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