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Authors: Kasey Michaels

A Reckless Promise

BOOK: A Reckless Promise
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London's Little Season has never been so scandalous

It's the kind of vow often made on the battlefield. Darby Travers, Viscount Nailbourne, never imagines he'll have to honor it. Yet here she is on his doorstep—his late comrade's young daughter, and Darby's new ward. Worse, she comes with the most overprotective, mistrustful, bothersome chaperone—the child's aunt, Sadie Grace Boxer. Darby is quite sure that behind her lovely facade, the woman is guarding a secret.

Sadie Grace faced many trials working in her brother's surgery, but none prepared her for the world she's thrust into with his passing. Navigating the ton, with its endless ball gowns and parade of parties, is difficult enough, but hiding the truth about her niece while the sophisticated viscount watches her every move proves nearly impossible—particularly when his searing gaze tempts her to bare all. But when her family's past catches up with her, she'll have to trust in Darby…no matter the cost to her heart.

Praise for
New York Times
bestselling author
Kasey Michaels

“Kasey Michaels aims for the heart and never misses.”

—
New York Times
bestselling author Nora Roberts

“Michaels holds the reader in her clutches and doesn't let go.”

—
RT Book Reviews
on
What a Gentleman Desires
,
4½ stars, Top Pick

“Michaels…outdoes herself… For lighthearted fun,
you can't do better than this.”

—
RT Book Reviews
on
An Improper Arrangement

“This mistress of the genre is on the peak of her career.”

—
RT Book Reviews
on
A Scandalous Proposal
,
4½ stars, Top Pick

“A poignant and highly satisfying read…filled with simmering sensuality, subtle touches of repartee, a hero out for revenge and a heroine ripe for adventure. You'll enjoy the ride.”

—
RT Book Reviews
on
How to Tame a Lady

“Michaels' new Regency miniseries is a joy.… You will laugh and even shed a tear over this touching romance.”

—
RT Book Reviews
on
How to Tempt a Duke

“Michaels has done it again.… Witty dialogue peppers a plot full of delectable details exposing the foibles and follies of the age.”

—
Publishers Weekly
, starred review, on
The Butler Did It

Also available from Kasey Michaels
and HQN Books

The Little Season

A Scandalous Proposal

An Improper Arrangement

The Redgraves

What a Hero Dares

What a Gentleman Desires

What a Lady Needs

What an Earl Wants

Rules of Engagement


The Wedding Party

The Blackthorn Brothers

The Taming of the Rake

A Midsummer Night's Sin

Much Ado About Rogues

The Daughtry Family

A Lady of Expectations and Other Stories


How to Woo a Spinster

How to Tempt a Duke

How to Tame a Lady

How to Beguile a Beauty

How to Wed a Baron

The Sunshine Girls

Dial M for Mischief

Mischief Becomes Her

Mischief 24/7

The Beckets of Romney Marsh

A Gentleman By Any Other Name

The Dangerous Debutante

Beware of Virtuous Women

A Most Unsuitable Groom

A Reckless Beauty

Return of the Prodigal

Becket's Last Stand

Other must-reads

The Bride of the Unicorn

The Secrets of the Heart

The Passion of an Angel

Everything's Coming Up Rosie

Stuck in Shangri-La

Shall We Dance?

The Butler Did It

KASEY
MICHAELS

A Reckless Promise

Dear Reader,

A promise is a promise is a promise.

Darn.

Darby Travers, Viscount Nailbourne, may have used stronger language to express his reaction to discovering that a promise made has become a promise he must keep.

Not that he considers reneging, not even for a moment, for he is an honorable if suddenly suspicious gentleman.

Darby is also a sigh-worthy hero: witty, urbane, sophisticated, rakishly handsome, apparently carefree. But scratch the surface and find the man beneath: the steel, the loyalty…and the carefully guarded heart.

Now imagine this man saddled with a female ward…because of a promise.

Grab a box of chocolates, curl up on something comfy and come along as seven-year-old terror Marley Hamilton turns the viscount's life upside down, while her unimpressionable and secretive aunt, Sadie Grace Boxer, confounds his head and heart at every turn.

Is
A Reckless Promise
the next great American novel? Nah. Sometimes a girl just wants to have fun!

Happy reading!

To Jennifer Stevenson
Great writer, fantastic friend

PROLOGUE

March,
1814
Somewhere near Montmort-Lucy, France

R
UMOR
HAD
IT
in the camp that their guards were nervous. That Bonaparte's victory over the Allies at Champaubert had only served as a temporary delay in toppling the French emperor from his throne.

Indeed, Jeremiah Rigby had returned from his morning constitutional around the perimeter of the prisoner-of-war camp to report that he'd counted ten less guards than had been at their posts the previous day.

And eight more bodies. The wounded were succumbing with disturbing frequency over a month into their captivity, thanks to the lack of food, clean water and medicine.

“The time couldn't be better for a moonlight flit,” Gabriel Sinclair said as he and Rigby joined Cooper Townsend and Darby Travers inside the sagging lean-to they'd constructed to help shield them from a fading winter and early spring rains.

Surgeon John Hamilton didn't look up from his work, inspecting the healing wound sustained when Cooper had taken a ball in his side at Champaubert and they'd been captured along with over a thousand others. “There'll be a nasty scar, sir, but it's all healing nicely now that we're rid of that infection. You're next, my lord.”

Darby Travers, Viscount Nailbourne, pushed himself up on his elbows as the surgeon approached, duckwalking across the damp ground, bent nearly in half thanks to the low roof and his tall frame. “No need, John. No angels visited overnight, no miracle was delivered by dimpled cherubs and even the devil hasn't bothered to tempt me. The eye is all but finished, and that's that. I'm already fashioning fetching eye patches in my idle moments.”

That was Darby. He would make a joke out of most anything. Not even his closest friends were privileged to know if he was truly as reconciled to his injury as he seemed. Being his closest friends, they didn't ask, but only followed his lead.

The surgeon, however, ignored the levity and began unwrapping the fraying linen bandage that held a clean square of the same material against the viscount's left eye. “It's early days yet, my lord, and the swelling was profound. I can only hope I didn't do more damage by removing the ball, hoping to relieve the pressure.”

Darby spoke quietly, so that the others couldn't hear. “I don't remember any of it, thank God, once I'd supposedly told Rigby I needed to sit down moments before I fell down. I was all but a dead man until you showed up with your scalpel and box of leeches. I have my life thanks to you, and my gratitude is without bounds. Now, I know you overheard the captain. We four go tonight. You'll come with us.”

Hamilton shook his head as he began rewrapping the bandage. “I can't leave my patients, my lord.”

“Those who can manage have been sneaking off every night for the last week. The guards may not have noticed yet, but soon our thinning ranks will become obvious. At least a few of us will reach our lines, and a rescue will be mounted. But we all know it could come too late. Our skittish captors might dispatch the wounded before they either run off home or go to join Bonaparte. As it is, they're damn near starving us to death.”

“My lord, your duty is to return to our ranks in any way you can, as is the duty of every soldier. Mine is to remain with the wounded.” Hamilton looked behind him, where the others were deep in conversation, and leaned in closer. “You say you don't remember anything, my lord, and I agree that can be a blessing. But you did speak while you were lost in delirium. Only I heard.”

“Well, goodness me, John, you put me to the blush. Was what I said all that terrible?”

“You spoke of your childhood, my lord. A particular time in your childhood. I...I only wanted to say that what happened was not your fault. Children often assume guilt that does not belong to them. You're a good man—you are all extraordinarily good men.”

“Thank you, John,” Darby said. “I'm sorry you had to hear my ramblings. Truly, I'm long past those years. I can't imagine why I spoke of them all this time later. I would much rather have regaled you with stories of my adventures with the ladies.”

The physician smiled. “You were not without amusing anecdotes, my lord.”

“Well, thank heaven for that. John, if you can't reconsider and come with us, I want you to know that I'm aware of all I owe you, not the least of which is my fairly worthless, ramshackle life. If there is ever anything I can do for you in return, no matter how inadequate that thing might be, you must not hesitate to ask, because it is yours, on my word as a gentleman.”

“You have more goodness in you than I believe you realize, my lord.” The physician hesitated, looking out into the camp that was deteriorating daily. “I have every hope of returning home, sir, but if I don't...”

Darby pushed himself to a sitting position and held out his right hand. “Yes? Name it, John, and it's yours.”

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