Cursed with the sight and rumors of witchcraft, Rosalind's only chance at an ordinary life is marriage to Lucien, Viscount Hastings. She doesn't expect love, only security and children of her own. Determined to go through with the wedding, she allows nothing she encounters at the gloomy Castle St. Clare to dissuade her.
Recently returned from the Continent, Lucien has no time for the English mouse his family has arranged for him to marrynot when he's plotting to avenge the murder of his beloved Francesca. He has no intention of bedding Rosalind, not even to sire an heir.
Though spurned by her bridegroom, Rosalind turns to him for protection when she is plagued by mysterious accidents and haunted by terrifying visions. Forced to keep Rosalind closeand tempted into passionate kissesLucien soon finds himself in danger of falling in love with his own wife...
Refreshed version of SECOND SEDUCTION, newly revised by author.
East Sussex, England, 1720
"Hastings, the carriage is coming. Your betrothed has arrived."
Lucien rose from a square-backed chair, flicked the lace at his cuffs and studied the elderly man stepping away from the windowthe man who claimed him as son. "My name is Lucien."
The earl ruffled up like a feisty bantam cock. "Stuff and nonsense! George is your christened name. If it's good enough for the king, it's good enough for you."
Lucien strolled past shelves of books and paused to finger an amber figurine from the Orient. From what he'd heard since his arrival in England, people disapproved of the king, who hailed from Hanover. The man didn't even speak English. Lucien looked the earl straight in the eye. "My name is Lucien," he repeated, his tone implacable and determined. "Lucien. Not George or Hastings."
"Damn it, boy, why do you persist with your gainsaying?" The Earl of St. Clare's voice held a trace of pleading. "Can't you see the likeness in the family portraits?"
Lucien grimaced. If he studied the portraits with one eye shut and the other squintedcertainly there were similarities. He replaced the figurine and stalked across a blue Persian rug to gaze out a window overlooking the courtyard.
The family and the faithful servants all backed up the Earl of St. Clare's assertion, but the role didn't feel right to Lucien. Living in the gloomy pile of rocks called Castle St. Clare made him edgy and apprehensive.
They were all mistaken.
He was not the Earl of St. Clare's son.
The idea was laughable. Himthe long lost heir, Viscount Hastings. He didn't recall any of the stories they told him of his childhood or growing up at the castle.
The study door flew open. Lucien spun around in a defensive stance, only relaxing when the honorable Charles Soulden bounded into the room. "Hastings " He faltered when he intercepted Lucien's glare. "I mean, Lucien! Your betrothed comes."
"So I'm told." Lucien sauntered toward Charles, his newly discovered cousin. "By all means, let us greet the woman brave enough to wed a man with no memory."
* * *
The carriage swayed and bounced over the rutted road. With each successive pothole, the driver cursed more colorfully. Rosalind gripped a carriage strap, the excessive jolting doing nothing for her agitated nerves. At the completion of this journey, she would meet her betrothed for the first time. Questions pounded inside her head. Would he like her? And would he accept her, despite herfaults?
Her childhood friend and maidservant, Mary, pressed her nose to the carriage window. "Oh, miss! I think we're almost there."
Rosalind tensed. She forced a smile and bit back a cry of alarm when the carriage lurched. Grabbing the seat to avoid a tumble to the floor, she righted herself and slid along the seat to Mary. "Can you see Castle St. Clare?" She peered out the dusty window, attempting to see her future home.
A snarling gargoyle appeared inches from their faces. Rosalind's breath escaped with a gasp.
Beside her, Mary screamed and jerked away from the window. "Miss Rosalind, do you think we should turn around and return to Stow-on-the-Wold?" She clutched Rosalind's forearm, her voice rising to a squeak.
Mary's dread, her frenetic thoughts of monsters, bombarded Rosalind and she shrugged from her maid's grip to break the emotional connection.
"The earl is expecting us, Mary. We can't go back."