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Lord of Scandal [Secure eReader]
eBook by Nicola Cornick

eBook Category: Romance
eBook Description: Scandalous and seductive, Hawksmoor is a notorious fortune hunter. A man women want to bed--and men want to do away with. Now he has tasted the woman of his dreams, Catherine Fenton, and he will do anything to make her his. Though heiress to eighty thousand pounds, Catherine is trapped in a gilded cage, and duty bound to a man she detests. The ton has woven a fantasy around Ben, Lord Hawksmoor, that any woman would find hard to resist, but she senses there is more to the man behind the glittering facade. She believes he can rescue her--but has she found her hero, or made a pact with the devil himself..."

eBook Publisher: Harlequin/HQN
Fictionwise Release Date: June 2007


23 Reader Ratings:
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"Nicola Cornick knows her period well, and in it she pairs a handsome, dangerous lord, well known for his scandalous reputation, with an innocent but not quite malleable heiress. Readers will relish this sensual and emotional love story and its unexpected climax." -Romantic Times BookClub Magazine

-- Romantic Times Book Club


CHAPTER ONE

January, 1814

Never look at any strange man as you approach him in passing by, for sometimes a look may be taken advantage of by forward and impertinent men. It is generally a girl's own fault if she be spoken to, and as such, is a disgrace to her of which she should be ashamed to speak.
Mrs. Eliza Squire, Good Conduct for Ladies

IT WAS A FINE DAY for a public hanging.

Above the Newgate scaffold, the sky was a high, pale blue. The noose swung in the cold winter breeze. The nobility packed the pavilion behind the gallows. The victim was a gentleman and that always drew a good crowd. This was the execution of the Season; Ned Clarencieux, gambler, adventurer, whose ill luck at the card tables had led him to pass forged money to buy his way out of debt and murder his banker in a vain attempt to cover his tracks. The ladies who packed the gallery had danced with Clarencieux in Ton ballrooms all over London. Now they came to see him die.

Below the ranks of the aristocracy swarmed the mob, pressing about the foot of the gallows, laughing, joking, good-humored with gin and anticipation. They clambered up the lead drainpipes and onto the roofs of surrounding houses for a better view. They jostled and shouted and drank a toast to Clarencieux, and placed bets on how long it would take the failed gambler to die.

In the press of people behind the scaffold sat Miss Catherine Fenton, pretty, privileged and heiress to eighty thousand pounds, wedged between her fiancé and the squirming body of her six-year-old half brother, John. Despite the coldness of the day, she felt hot and dizzy and sick. She had doused her handkerchief in rosewater and pressed it to her nose, but the faint sweetness of the perfume could do nothing to mask the smell of rank bodies and fetid excitement. To be the only young lady present at a public hanging was no great privilege, but the man Clarencieux had murdered had been one of her trustees, Sir James Mather. Catherine had not wanted to come but her father, Sir Alfred Fenton, could not understand her scruples. He said that she must see justice done. Sir Alfred was a nabob, a man who had lived and worked in India and was accustomed to the sudden and bloody experience of death that living on the subcontinent could provide. He had a cast-iron stomach and an attitude to match. Catherine did not. She knew she was in disgrace because Sir Alfred considered her weak and foolish for begging to be excused the trip to Newgate. Her little brother had begged to be included. In the event, John had got his wish and she had not got hers. That was no surprise to her. John was loved, spoiled and indulged. She was not.

"Oysters for sale! Whelks ten a penny!" An enterprising street seller was struggling up the steps toward them, a basket of seafood balanced on her hip. Catherine felt her stomach heave as the smell of hot fish mingled with the scent of hot sweat.

"Yes, please!" John said, bouncing with excitement. He proffered his penny to the girl. Catherine turned her head away and pressed her handkerchief more firmly over her nose.

"You are unwell, my love?"

Catherine looked up to see that her betrothed was looking at her with a spurious sense of concern. Algernon, Lord Withers, liked to think of himself as Catherine's fiancé. Catherine preferred not to think of him in any way at all. She hated the relentless manner in which he pursued her and the hold, whatever it was, that he appeared to have over her father. She had been postponing the wedding since the summer, pleading first a mysterious feminine indisposition, then mourning for a second cousin she had not known well but whose death had been providentially timed. Now she had run out of excuses and the wedding date was set for later that spring unless she could come up with a new ruse.

"Oysters are not to my taste," she said, noting that Withers had already lost interest and was now admiring the ample bosom of the street seller instead.

"A shame." Withers's narrow gaze came back to her with a lascivious gleam. "They are accounted to be the food of love, my sweet. You should indulge. It might make you more… kindhearted… to me."

"I think not!" Catherine snapped. The thought of indulging in any kind of lovemaking with Withers was anathema to her. In her opinion, he would not recognize love if he tripped over it in the street. He would merely grind it beneath his heel.

Plenty of men professed to be in love with Catherine, but her fiancé was not one of them. Until her betrothal had been announced, Catherine had been courted and complimented, harassed by poets with bad sonnets, her hay fever exacerbated by the endless flowers delivered by the cartload to Guilford Street every morning. But Catherine was not a nabob's daughter for nothing. She suspected that the gentlemen's affections were reserved for the bags of money she would inherit from her mama's estate. It was tied up in trust until she was twenty-five—or until she married. Algernon Withers's determination to wed her sprang, she thought, from the same source as that of all her other suitors. Greed. And a deeply unpleasant lust that made him determined to possess her.

He had taken her hand in his now and was pressing it tightly until she felt the bones start to crack in protest. Catherine caught her breath. The gleam in Withers's eye had turned to triumph now. He liked to hurt things, particularly pretty things.

Copyright © 2007 by Nicola Cornick.


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