Rake to Riches
by Nicola Davidson
With a fallen angel face, devastating charm and impeccable connections, life appears perfect for ton king George Edwards. Yet elaborate facades hide brutal family secrets and crippling debt, and when a blackmail letter threatens to reveal all, he has one chance at financial salvation: transform a wayward miss into a lady, and secure her a titled husband.
Heiress Louisa Donovan is desperate. Bad enough she must wed at all, but giving up science for embroidery and a loveless future is unendurable. She is ready to wage war on her latest comportment tutor…until she discovers he is the infuriating rake who long ago stole her heart with a scorching kiss. But even as two fiercely guarded souls learn to surrender, treachery awaits. Can new love conquer determined enemies with murder in mind?
George glared at Caroline. “What the hell is Louisa doing here playing doctor? Does she need reminding I’m neither a moldering marquess nor a destitute duke?”
Before his twin could say a word, Louisa stood and growled, “Good morning to you, too. Your sister collected me on the way. Voila. Two brains in the house instead of none.”
“Believing the pair of you equates half a brain let alone a full one is pure delusion. But you aren’t required, Miss Donovan. In fact I suggest leaving immediately or I’ll quite happily escort you from the premises—”
She snorted. “Oh, escort me, will you? On your hands and knees? In a wheelchair?”
“Whatever it takes. And whether you land feet, head, or arse-first on the footpath is entirely your decision.”
“Forever the gentleman.”
“When in the presence of a lady.”
“Argh,” spat Caroline. “You two are worse than half-starved barn cats. Lulu kindly accompanied me here. I was worried after the message arrived stating it was an emergency and I must come at once. What happened, George?”
“Nothing,” he said quickly as he sat up, immediately regretting the decision when his stomach lurched and several anvils collided with his temples. A painful but timely reminder—only a damned idiot turned their back on Sir Malcolm Edwards.
“But Pearce talked about loud noises and you falling...”
“Christ. Pearce needs to up his hartshorn intake. Or lower it. I got home from the Kenwood ball, tripped on a rug and obviously gave myself a goose egg. That’s all.”
“Really,” said Caroline suspiciously, and he wanted to heave her out a second-floor window. What did she think he would confess in front of Louisa? Oh yes, our bastard thug stepfather tried to stab me with his cane blade, but only succeeded in a sound beating and stair fall. Tea?
Bracing himself, George forced a careless shrug. “Indeed. Must learn to call a halt at four bottles during a night out. Five just isn’t the thing.”
“Five bottles?” said Louisa, her hands alternately resting on damnably lush hips and flailing in front of her. “You were lucky you didn’t break your wretched neck, you drunken fool. Don’t you ever consider those who...who care? Who worry?”
He raised an eyebrow, managing not to wince at a second anvil attack. “Why are you still here?”
She made a hissing sound and his lips twitched. Louisa Donovan losing her temper was always an intense fire-and-ice affair, flame-red tresses bouncing, rosy cheeks glowing and stormy silver eyes nearly shooting bullets. A gentleman wouldn’t rile her just for the show, but then he could hardly claim that particular title. Actually, it was hard to believe he’d once been more than a little infatuated with the startlingly clever beauty who preferred gunpowder experiments and scientific tomes to dancing and tea parties. Until that night in Kent.
“As a matter of fact,” snapped Louisa, “I was just leaving. Perhaps next time you’ll show more sense, drink six bottles and climb London Bridge on stilts.”
He sketched an exaggerated bow, somehow staying upright as a wave of dizziness hit. Shit, he felt unwell, the black spots dancing again, the places he’d scraped burning, the bruised areas throbbing fiercely and no doubt already turning the delightful shade of blue-purple he knew so intimately. Why couldn’t the damned woman leave so he could empty his stomach contents into a chamber pot in peace?
“Always a pleasure, Miss Donovan. Don’t let the door smack your ample derriere on the way out.”
“Go to hell, George,” she flung over her shoulder as she stormed from the room.
“Already there, pet,” he muttered, gratefully collapsing back onto the chaise. “Already there.”
NICOLA DAVIDSON worked for many years in communications and marketing, as well as television and print journalism, but hasn’t looked back since she decided writing wicked historical romance was infinitely more fun. When not chained to a computer she can be found ambling along one of New Zealand’s beautiful beaches, cheering on the champion All Blacks rugby team, history geeking on the internet, or daydreaming. If this includes chocolate—even better!
Keep up with Nicola’s news on Twitter (@NicolaMDavidson) Facebook (Nicola Davidson—Author) or her website