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Authors: Victoria Lynne

With This Kiss

BOOK: With This Kiss
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With This Kiss

 

by

 

Victoria Lynne

This novel is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

 

Copyright © 1999 by Victoria Burgess

 

Digital editions copyright © 2011 by Victoria Burgess

 

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without the written permission of the Publisher, except where permitted by law.

 

eBook edition by
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High Praise for Ms. Lynne’s Novels
 

With This Kiss

 

A
Romantic Times
‘Top Pick’

 

“Ms. Lynne weaves her magic to bring the reader a bit of poignancy along with a sexually charges romance in this very satisfying historical romantic suspense. Find a place for this one on your special shelf.”
—Romantic Times

 


With This Kiss
is a delightful read. Full of strong imagery, slow burning passion, and lots of quick-witted dialogue, Morgan and Julia are an odd match which grows into a seamless, perfect fit. Ms. Lynne is a fabulous storyteller!” —
Rendezvous

 

“The unexpected twists and turns in Ms. Lynne’s newest historical entertain and satisfy.”
—Publisher’s Weekly

 

“A smoldering Victorian era romance.”
—Booklist

 

What Wild Moonlight

 

“From the mesmerizing beginning to the surprising climax,
What Wild Moonlight
is a wild ride of an adventure romance, destined to keep you reading all night. Simmering with sexual tension and the perfect amount of suspense, Victoria Lynne secures a place on readers’ bookshelves” –
Romantic Times

 

“Ms. Lynne combines adventure, suspense, and romance in a tale that will delight any reader.” –
Rendezvous

 

“Readers need to provide themselves adequate time when they begin
What Wild Moonlight
in order to avoid sleep deprivation, because this is a one-sitting tale. The action-packed storyline is suspense at it’s most intense. The characters are charming, and placing this Victorian couple in the new aristocratic playpen of Monaco adds freshness to the novel.” –
Harriet Clausner

 

Romantic Times
Reviewers Choice Finalist: Best Historical Romantic Adventure

 

Chasing Rainbows

 

"Extremely well-written, fast-paced and funny,
Chasing Rainbows
is a pot of gold from this talented, up-and-coming author. One for your keeper shelf."
—Romantic Times

 

"A feisty yet vulnerable heroine who's had her share of pain and a sexy hero who pretends to have a hard heart come together in this warmly tender love story filled with perils and excitement."
—Rendezvous

 

Romantic Times
Reviewers Choice Finalist: Best Western Romance of the Year

 

Captured

 

“This book is a pure delight!”
—Rendezvous

 

“A wonderful, madcap adventure from beginning to end.” —
Affaire de Coeur

 

RITA Award Finalist: Best Short Historical Romance and Best First Book

Contents
 

Title Page

Copyright

High Praise…

 

PROLOGUE

CHAPTER ONE

CHAPTER TWO

CHAPTER THREE

CHAPTER FOUR

CHAPTER FIVE

CHAPTER SIX

CHAPTER SEVEN

CHAPTER EIGHT

CHAPTER NINE

CHAPTER TEN

CHAPTER ELEVEN

CHAPTER TWELVE

CHAPTER THIRTEEN

CHAPTER FOURTEEN

CHAPTER FIFTEEN

CHAPTER SIXTEEN

CHAPTER SEVENTEEN

CHAPTER EIGHTEEN

EPILOGUE

 

About the Author

PROLOGUE

London, 1855

 

London slept.

A curtain of darkness blanketed the city. The gaslights that lined the grand boulevards had flickered off, as all respectable folk had long since abandoned their evening pursuits for the safety and comfort of their beds. Silence echoed from within the shops, pubs, and alehouses. The cab drivers, costermongers, coal porters, and crossing sweepers had retired. Even the thieves and prostitutes that normally filled the narrow alleys and darkened doorways had returned to their homes, content with whatever meager profit they had gained from their night’s work.

And so it was that Morgan St. James, Viscount Barlowe, made his way alone through the deserted streets. He had dismissed his driver hours earlier, sending Markum home rather than expecting him to wait while he conducted what had evolved into a series of lengthy business meetings, followed by an equally long evening at Black’s, his private club. Prowling the dark streets of London on foot was admittedly a peculiar pleasure but one Morgan had indulged in for nearly a decade. Besides, Markum’s wife had only recently given birth to a baby boy — the couple’s fifth child in as many years. Although his driver had taken pains to hide it, he had clearly been anxious to return to his family and had been effusively grateful when Morgan had sent him home.

The night sky was clear and cloudless. Although the moon was not full, it provided ample light. But as Morgan made his way from Regent Street onto Oxford, an early morning fog began to creep in. It was not a timid fog, the kind that curled softly around corners and seeped between passageways, but a bold, assertive fog that rolled over the city, wrapping everything it touched in a shimmering, shifting blanket of glistening silver.

As the swirling mist increasingly obstructed his vision, his other senses grew sharper. The odors that surrounded him seemed more pungent: the sharp tang of fried eel, the rank stench of manure, and the sweet spice that drifted from the darkened tobacco stand. He was pleasantly aware of the cool dampness of the fog against his skin. The echo of his boots striking pavement seemed unnaturally loud, as did the snorting protests of the tired nags that pulled the milk carts as they were hitched for duty. Even the low calls of the stevedores and sailors, furiously loading cargo in hopes of catching the morning tide, seemed to come from a point just over his shoulder rather than the distant docks.

Morgan reached Bond Street and glanced east. Sometimes, if his timing was just right, he was rewarded with a view of the early morning sun gilding the cross upon the summit of St. Paul’s. But not that morning. He was too early and the fog was too thick. He walked on, his long strides carrying him swiftly to Mayfair.

His home did not sit in the fashionable West End. Unmoved by the splendor of Park Lane — an area where the real estate had become so prime the stately homes were packed shoulder to shoulder like workers on an evening trolley — he had purchased instead a five-acre tract of land east of Grosvenor Square. There he had constructed a town house that rivaled any in London, complete with private stables, manicured gardens, indoor plumbing, and a formal ballroom. Rather than razing the original estate that stood on the grounds, he had converted the modest structure into separate living quarters for his servants.

He reached his home and stopped. His gaze moved automatically toward the window of his bedchamber. A single candle flickered softly against the glass pane, as though bidding him welcome. Inside, Isabelle Cartwright lay waiting for him in his bed. A familiar scene, but one of which he doubted he would ever grow weary. He took a moment to picture her: dark hair cascading over his pillow, full lips slightly parted in sleep, lush body completely bare save for the soft linen of his sheets.

In two weeks’ time she would be his wife.

Morgan stood in the predawn silence, contemplating his future. He was thirty years old and anticipating his upcoming nuptials with a sense of smug contentment that was as absurd as it was embarrassing. Theirs was not a love match; neither of them was foolish enough to expect that. Isabelle was undeniably beautiful, gracious, cultured — perhaps a bit pampered and spoiled, but the ideal wife nonetheless. He certainly had his own faults — far too many to list.

Still, they would do well together. They both enjoyed a strong sexual appetite and a prominent position in society. Moreover, they had reached that critical understanding of roles that was so essential for a contented marriage. She would handle their social calendar, the running of their home, and God willing, the care of their children. He, in turn, would provide her with his title, money, and lands. An arrangement that was eminently satisfactory for them both.

She had spent the past months completely immersed in planning the details of the wedding: checking and rechecking the silver, the china, the linen, the candles, the flowers, the guest list; flitting to never-ending meetings with seamstresses, bakers, chefs, wine stewards; and generally turning his house upside down. To that end, she had insisted on moving in her own staff to help prepare for the wedding.

The unfortunate result was a veritable plethora of groomsmen and gardeners, housemaids and butlers, cooks and laundresses, all of whom were adjusting to the unhappy disruption in their lives. A situation undoubtedly made worse by the cramped quarters under which they were forced to dwell — in some cases, three to a room that had been designed for one. Markum, his wife, and their four children — now five, he amended silently — shared one single apartment, Morgan let out a sigh and shook his head. The joining of two households was always a messy business. There was no way around it.

At least he was taking steps to relieve the pressure. Plans had already been drawn up that would more than triple the size of the narrow four-story structure that served as the servants’ lodgings. Great piles of brick and lumber were stacked haphazardly against the side wall, awaiting the tradesmen due later that morning. A small frown touched his lips as he considered that. The sleep he had envisioned would be impossible once the din of construction was under way. He shook off the thought with a shrug. The work was being done, and that was what mattered.

That resolved, his mind moved on to a more pleasant occupation. He imagined slipping into bed beside Isabelle and taking her in his arms while she was still drowsy with sleep, making slow and languorous love—

A movement near the lumber pile caught his attention, cutting off his thoughts. At first he thought it was a trick of the fog or a shadow cast by one of the aged oaks that bordered the grounds. But the shadow moved: stealthily at first, crouched low, then gaining speed as it crossed the lawn between the servants’ quarters and the main house.

A thief, by God.

“You there! Stop!” Morgan cried instinctively.

The thief moved faster.

Cursing his stupidity at having lost the element of surprise, Morgan sprinted after the man, chasing him down the street and into an alley. He almost lost him as the thief disappeared into the swirling fog. Then he heard a man’s sharp grunt, followed by the sound of stumbling feet scraping cobblestone. The thief was closer than expected, merely two arm’s lengths away.

Morgan doubled his speed.
Got you, you son of a

His grim flush of triumph abruptly dissipated as a large shape suddenly loomed in the foggy mist before them. A horse. The thief had a horse waiting.

Damn it!

The man leaped for his mount. Morgan lunged after him in a flying tackle, throwing his arms forward to catch the thief before he hit the saddle. But he was too late. He felt the brush of the man’s leather boots against his fingertips, the coarse hair of the horse’s tail slapping him in the face, then nothing. He fell hard, sliding headlong against the damp cobblestones.

BOOK: With This Kiss
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