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Confessions of a Scoundrel

Confessions of a Scoundrel by Karen Hawkins
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Legend says that whomever possesses the St. John talisman ring will find their one true love. Now that the ring rests in the pocket of renowned scoundrel Brandon St. John, the dashing rake must decide whether it is a blessing…or a curse.

Never has the irresistible rogue, Brandon St. John, pursued a woman with more fervor—but his ardent suit of Lady Verena Westforth has a different purpose. The delectable blond lovely is indeed enticing, but Brandon suspects her of hiding a valuable missive that he has sworn to recover. With a sensuous kiss and a passionate caress he intends to lower Verena’s guard…and then discover where she’s hidden “the goods.”

Without the missive, Verena stands to lose the one thing dearest to her heart. And now an extraordinary man has entered her life…at the worst possible time! Vulnerable though she may be, Verena vows she will not be just another of Brandon’s “conquests,” even as she aches to melt in his arms. But is he a needed friend or a foe in alluring disguise…and will she be able to prove to him that love is their true destiny?

HarperCollins; March 2009
384 pages; ISBN 9780061896088
Read online, or download in secure PDF format
Title: Confessions of a Scoundrel
Author: Karen Hawkins

Chapter One

Brandon St. John is a very sensual man. Whenever

he looks at me, I get the most delicious shivers

right down to my toes, just as if -- Oh! Sorry. forgot I was talking to you.

Miss Liza Pritchard to her fiancé, Sir Royce Pemberly, on Bond Street, while shopping for a present for Sir Royce's sister

"He's dead."

From the depths of a brandy-fumed slumber, Brandon St. John heard every word, recognizing his younger brother's voice instantly.

Damn it, what is Devon doing in my dreams? Devon was an annoyance when Brandon was awake. During sleep, he was a positive menace.

"He cannot be dead," someone else answered. "He's too stubborn to die in such a neat fashion, stretched out in his own bed."

Brandon groaned at the new voice -- it belonged to his half-brother, Anthony Elliot, the Earl of Greyley.

Just to make Brandon's dream a true nightmare, Marcus, his oldest brother, added in a deep voice, "Brandon is not dead; he was snoring when we came in."

"A pity we can't set him afire," Devon said cheerfully. "That would wake him."

Someone grabbed Brand's foot, jerking him the rest of the way into wakefulness. "Go away," he ordered, his voice muffled by his pillow.

Devon shook him again. "Rise, Brand! You've work to do."

"I've sleep to sleep, first," he muttered.

But there was no swaying Devon. "Get up!" he demanded.

Brandon started to lift his head, but the pounding behind his temples made him think better of it. "Poole!" he called in a rusty voice. Poole served as Brand's valet, butler, and general manservant. "Where is that man? I need my pistol."

"Pistol?" Anthony's voice deepened with amusement. "Are you going hunting?"

"Yes," Brand answered. "I'm going hunting for the damned rodents who've infested my chambers."

"Poole cannot fetch your weapon now," Devon said, always eager to spread bad news. "We told him we were famished and he's gone to find us some breakfast."

Bloody hell, what a horrid way to start the day. Brandon hated mornings. They were filled with annoyingly cheerful people who liked to aggravate other, more important individuals who needed extra sleep to make up for the fact that they had not slept the night before.

"Perhaps we should call for a nice cool pitcher of water," Anthony said, his deep lazy voice filtering through the air. "That should get this slugabed on his feet."

Brand pulled the pillow over his head. His throat felt like the bottom of a salt barrel -- scratchy and dry. And that was just the beginning of his complaints; his head ached, his stomach roiled, and the inside of his mouth tasted like chalk.

He had a vague memory of the night before. Of a beautiful woman with reddish gold hair and a card game where the stakes had gone from guineas to articles of clothing to other, far more stimulating wagers. Celeste was perfect for him in every way -- beautiful, intelligent, talented in bed, and married to someone else. No man could ask for more. Except Brandon.

Marcus's dry voice came from the foot of the bed. "It appears our brother has had yet another difficult night."

Brandon would have shrugged if it hadn't meant he'd have to move. Marcus was wrong -- it hadn't been a difficult night at all. And that was the problem. No matter how much Brandon enjoyed a dalliance, within two weeks he inevitably found himself looking for a new challenge.

The sad truth was that every amusement of late had seemed flat. Brandon was living beneath a horrible pall -- a feeling that somehow, some way, he was missing out on something important.

What maudlin nonsense. Brandy apparently had the unfortunate side effect of making one mawkish. From now on, he'd stick to port. Brandon lifted his aching head and forced his lids to rise. Blinding light pierced his eyes. He groaned, and then groped blindly for the half-finished glass of brandy that rested beside his bed. He gulped it down, his throat stinging as he thunked the glass

back on the stand.

"Hair of the dog?" Anthony said with amusement.

Brandon wiped his mouth with the back of his hand and turned to squint over his shoulder. "Just tell me what you want and then get the hell out of here."

"How rude," Devon said. "I expected a greeting, at least."

"From Brandon?" Anthony appeared astonished. "Unless you wear skirts, have a full bosom and a husband, Brandon will not give you the time of day."

Brandon tried to decide whether to glare or just ignore Anthony. Truthfully, of all his brothers, Brand was closest to his half-brother. Anthony's sleepy air was a hoax -- he had more energy and determination than any man half his size. And he had a sharp wit that always made Brandon grin.

Not now, of course. No one could smile at this time of the morning. Brand eyed his half-brother blearily. "I thought you were still on your honeymoon."

"Anna and I returned last night, just in time for the meeting."

Oh bloody hell, the meeting. Brandon rubbed his temples. "I'd forgotten."

"We noticed," Marcus said, his blue gaze coolly reproachful. The oldest, he ruled the family fortune, his life and those of the younger members of the St. John family with an iron fist.

As the next oldest in line, Brandon should have been deeply involved in the family financial endeavors. But even at an early age, Marcus's unrelenting need to control everything and everyone around him -- especially the family fortune -- had set Brandon's teeth on edge.

Thus it was that at the genteel age of twenty-two, when most of his friends were drinking and whoring their way through London, Brandon had collected what money he could and purchased two ill-kempt estates outside of Shropeshire. That had been many years ago and the estates were now merged into one, a very productive and profitable venture providing Brandon with an astonishing income. It had been years since he'd drawn on his St. John accounts, a fact that had infuriated Marcus even more.

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