Authors: Anabelle Bryant
When rules are made to be brokenâ¦
Viscount Kellaway may sound like a gentleman, but he doesn't act like one. As far as Kell is concerned, drink, women and the wrong side of the law are much more attractive indulgences than could be found in polite society â much to the scandal of the ton.
With all of Brighton's women to choose from, Kell has never settled for one â and his devilish good looks have meant he's never had to. But when he spies Angelica Curtis walking on the beach by moonlight, the living vision of a familiar dream, all that changes.
Suddenly, Kell finds himself craving the touch of a single womanâ¦and it just so happens that the woman in question won't have him! But if Kell's bad ways have taught him anything, it's that
is truly out of boundsâ¦
Three Regency Rogues
To Love a Wicked Scoundrel
Duke of Darkness
The Midnight Rake
Defying the Earl
Undone By His Kiss
Society's Most Scandalous Viscount
began reading at age three and never stopped. Her passion for reading soon turned into a passion for writing and an author was born. Happy to grab her suitcase if it ensures a new adventure, Anabelle finds endless inspiration in travel; especially imaginary jaunts into romantic Regency England, a far cry from her home in New Jersey. Instead, her clever characters live out her daydreams because really, who wouldn't want to dance with a handsome duke or kiss a wicked earl?
Though teaching keeps her grounded, photography, running, and writing counterbalance her wanderlust. Often found with her nose in a book, Anabelle has earned her Master's Degree and is pursuing her Doctorate Degree in education. She proudly owns her addiction to French fries and stationery supplies, as well as her frightening ineptitude with technology. A firm believer in romance, Anabelle knows sometimes life doesn't provide a happily ever after, but her novels always do. She enjoys talking with her fans. Visit her website at
Much gratitude to my clever editors, Clio and Nicky, who truly understand my voice. Heartfelt appreciation to everyone at Carina/Harlequin/HarperCollins for my gorgeous cover and dedicated hardwork bringing this novel to completion.
And thank you, to every reader, blogger, and reviewer, who has taken the time to let me know they enjoy this series! I love you all!
For my dearest friends.
Like the charms on the Regency bracelet, I value you all, each possessing a happiness of spirit, encouragement and joy that you graciously share with me.
I'm so lucky to have such a valuable treasure in my life.
Benedict Hampton, Viscount Kellaway, reached across the bed in search of warm luscious curves only to discover the cool linen sheets void of his desire. He flicked his eyes open with an appalled jolt of reality. He hadn't enjoyed the company of a generous widow or obliging mistress last evening. Struggling through the haze of lingering imbibement, he recalled choosing brandy for a bed partner instead. As if to assure himself he wasn't dreaming, he slued his eyes to the side table where a near-empty bottle stood as evidence of his recently formed conclusion. He exhaled his disappointment and sat upright.
Night reigned, though he had no clue as to the hourâthe clock on the mantle indistinguishable, the fireplace abed with embers. Moonlight cast fickle shadows through the gauzy curtains framing the open French doors that led to his terrace. A slight breeze provoked an eerie undulation of fabric as if ghosts stood sentry, daring him to approach and breach the night. Few things pleasured more than a good challenge and having already ascertained no woman awaited his attention, he rose. He nabbed the brandy as he strode toward the terrace in trousers, his pants further confirmation he hadn't sunk into a willing female. Kell usually slept in the nude.
Casting a sardonic glance toward the apparitional curtains, he advanced to the stone terrace, the marble cold against the soles of his feet. Stars littered the night, diamonds on velvet, and after a short swig, he put the bottle aside and spun his telescope to the sky. With a curt toss, he forced his hair over his shoulder, the length grown long since he'd left London three months earlier. He wore it outside fashion, tied neatly in a queue whenever forced to bow to society, but here in Brighton in a home he'd created as an escape and sanctuary, he could do anything he bloody well chose. Society be damned.
He gazed through the eyepiece of the telescope, his mind anxious to resurrect the reason he'd left London, his heart refusing the argument. Instead he made a slight adjustment to the lens and admired the heavens, lost in the resplendent beauty of the constellations until a bright streak of light dissected his view. With innate efficiency, he traced the shooting star's path, watched as it dimmed, fell, faded toward the ocean waters in a flash of muted golden fire, dropping from the sky in a nuance of beatific light, burning itself out, reminding him of all the bridges he'd burned of late. He kept his scope poised on the exact location where the star had ceased to exist, all too aware of the ironyâextinguished like his hope for happiness, faded as his ability to love, lost as his vitality for life.
Again the bite of his father's recriminations threatened to surface and Kell successfully tamped them down, swinging the scope toward the coastline where the waters scoured the sands, their tumultuous assault to defeat the solidity of the shore relentless. He remained as strong. The past would not defeat him, no matter how determined its attempts to erode.
Mesmerized by the motion of the tide, he might have missed the glimmer of light caught in the periphery of the lens, but no, a tiny glow existed on the sands. A lantern? At this hour?
It burned with surety as if the lamp was set securely on the face of the rough jutting shoreline. He'd purchased this land and erected the manor house on the farthest jetty of the East Cliff where the English Channel drained from Wellesbourne. The location guaranteed privacy, the rock-strewn landscape too steep and dangerous for fishermen, bathers, or other interlopers. Yet without a doubt, that flicker of light proved his fortress was not impregnable.
He chuckled, low and throaty, amused by the mystery. Reaching for the brandy, he backed away from the telescope to drain the last swallow, the empty bottle objecting with a hollow sound when placed near his feet.
Returning to the view, his breath caught.
A woman, dressed in a thin garment as ethereal as his curtains, stood on the beach, her shadowy profile near indecipherable were it not for the bright moonlight and sharp focus of his lens. Long golden hair whipped behind her slim form, waves of spun silk as they danced on the wind, holding him captive until a strong gust applied the flimsy gown to her curvaceous figure, evoking the fanciful notion he witnessed a mermaid come ashore for a moment's respite. His attention was riveted to her every movement.
Could he be caught in a liquor-induced dream? Would he wake to find himself abed, only the sketchiest memory of the beautiful specter teasing his brain? He watched as she bent to the water, her round bottom and generous breasts outlined by the wind. His cock twitched in answer. Indeed, this was real.
She couldn't mean to enter the oceanâthe temperature inhospitable this time of yearâno matter that to swim at night was to invite danger. Lest she truly proved a mermaid, only a fool would breach the high tide. Perhaps that explained it. Was she addled? By the position of the moon, it was well past the witching hour, yet the woman stood alone, trespassing on his land, seemingly without fear for her safety in the dead of night. Were he more clear minded, he would saddle Nyx and investigate, but the rocky terrain of the decline from his estate to the waterline proved treacherous even in the brightest daylight.
He continued to watch, caught in a spell, as the woman stared into the ocean in kind to the manner he looked toward the sky; such a vast span of universe, one could only hope somewhere answers lurked. Captivated, his breathing evened. The tense energy that had prodded him awake dissolved into nothingness. Long minutes passed until she must have reclaimed her lantern, the dot of light now unsteady, bobbing in retreat. He swung the telescope to follow her departure and his foot struck the brandy bottle, causing it to fall and shatter.
Bitters would complain.
He behaved more like the master of the house than a servant. Insolent son of a bitch and loyal comrade. Kell chuckled at the man's admirable irascibility. Aside from Nyx, Bitters was his only friend at the momentâall London companions left behind in a tangle of emotion and misery.
Unwilling to dwell on the unresolved problems simmering with persistence below his veneer of calm, Kell abandoned the terrace and returned to bed, his body begging for a release the alcohol hadn't provided. The image of an angelic mermaid was vivid in his mind as he privately pursued his pleasure.
Angelica Curtis slipped through the back door of the picturesque cottage she shared with her grandmother and eased the lock closed, careful to set the lamp on the table in a soundless motion and noticing too late she'd lost the key to douse the flame. Fumbling near the cupboard, she located another lamp, borrowed the key and completed the task until she stood in near darkness among the muted rays of slanted moonlight stealing through the narrow kitchen window.
With great care, she approached the backstairs, desperate not to wake her grandmother or the housekeeper with her late-night flight of fancy. These jaunts were the only way to harness her restlessness since she'd invited herself to Brighton. Months earlier, she'd fled London and left behind too many poor decisions to confront in the light of day or middle of the evening. Avoidance seemed the smartest path for the time being.
At the least she wouldn't unburden her inner turmoil on the only relative who understood her heart. Her grandmother never questioned. Somehow, they shared the same spirit. It had always proven true.
Accomplishing the backstairs without rousing anyone, Angelica moved down the hall on padded feet and slipped into her modest room, closing the door and changing her clothes in a rush to prepare for sleep. It was another foolish decision in a long mental list, to venture outdoors, but how she needed the freedom. To breathe the salt air, gaze at the stars, and watch the rush of waves cleared her mind and soul of the harsh decisions daylight determinedly kept ever present. Somehow at night, things became a little easier.
Tonight she'd walked farther than ever before, across the rocky crag at the beach's end and along the shoreline adjacent to the private property of some long-nosed aristocrat intent on ruining the landscape with a monstrous house, likely occupied less than two months a year. She'd eyed the estate on her daily walks since appearing on her grandmother's doorstep, and it always stood empty and dark. And while she didn't dislike peers, born a lady by way of her father's lineage, she despised pretentious displays of wealth, as she surmised was the intention of the well-built country manor near the jetty, perched high above the ocean like a king on his throne, glaring down on everyone and everything below it. Tonight, she'd been the recipient of its condescending stare, no matter that it was desolate and silent. Her grandmother's quaint cottage certainly had imposing company, even though the manor stood unoccupied.