The author of The Millionaire Rogue returns to her dazzling series about a bygone era filled with romance, espionage, and one dangerously seductive diamond…
Mr. Henry Lake spent the past twelve years uncovering the most scandalous secrets of Europe’s wealthy and powerful, serving as one of His Majesty’s most decorated spies. But when a mission to find the legendary French Blue diamond brings him back to London, and face to face with a beautiful noblewoman he once loved, it’s his own hidden passions that are uncovered…
Lady Caroline, dowager Duchess of Berry, knows better than to lose her head over a man. After an embarrassing romantic entanglement forced her into a loveless marriage and early widowhood, she learned to never trust in desire, especially when it comes to the man who once broke her heart. Only, despite her good sense, she finds Henry impossible to resist—even when he once again places her in deathly danger…
Caroline had been ducking in and out of the crush with exhausting futility all evening.
Holding her fan just beneath the reach of her bottom eyelashes, she’d searched the ballroom, from the balcony to the floor and back again. She hoped she was as discreet as she thought she was being in her pursuit; surely in the midst of all this merriment and mayhem, no one would notice her looking, quite ardently, for a pale-haired giant?
Caroline’s eye caught on a flash of gray-blue brilliance across the ballroom, widening at the realization that it was a diamond—the diamond, King Louis’ French Blue. It was enormous, even from a distance; there was something distinctively seductive about the way the jewel sparked and glittered in the low light of the chandeliers above, winking red one moment, flashing white the next.
Perhaps it was the lady wearing the French Blue who was so alluring. She was tall and shapely, and wore a gown of diaphanous pale gauze that left very little to the imagination. The jewel hung from a collar of wisplike diamond threads, resting just above the inviting crease between her breasts. Like the diamond, her eyes flashed a bold shade of blue; but even as the pert slope of her nose, the knowing smile of her lips exuded confidence and coolness, the woman’s color was high.
One need only look slightly to the left to know why.
Caroline’s brother William, despoiler of debutantes, voluptuary extraordinaire, was grinning down at the lady as if he might enjoy that ample bosom for dessert.
Caroline rolled her eyes. So much for finding London and its dissipated amusements dull; a few coupes of punch and William was back to his old tricks. Hopefully the poor girl knew better than to indulge him.
Who was she, Caroline wondered, and why had this Mr. Hope chosen her to wear his prized jewel? Perhaps he wanted to display his wealth before all the world, or at least all of London, and there was no better way to do that than to wedge it between a pretty girl’s breasts.
But even as curiosity prickled in the back of her mind, Caroline’s thoughts returned again and again to Henry.
Was he here at the ball? She was beginning to feel foolish for even thinking such a thing; she was beginning to feel foolish for thinking she’d seen him at all earlier this afternoon in Hyde Park.
Yet it was him. It had to be him. She’d felt it in her skin, in her heart. Henry Lake was back in London.
But even if he was back, even if he was here, what did she hope to accomplish by chasing him down? He disappeared twelve years ago with hardly a handshake; no one had heard from him since. It was obvious he did not want to be found.
Caroline turned, and so did her heart inside her chest.
He was here. He was real, and alive.
And he was looking at her.
She looked away, heart pounding, heat rushing to her face. She felt unsteady on her feet, as if the ground had suddenly shifted, jolting her to life. Her ribs fought against the prison of her stays as she struggled to catch her breath.
Meeting his eyes—his one eye, which at the loss of its partner seemed to have taken on twice the intensity, twice the heat—made Caroline feel as though she was going to cry; like she was falling into the deep well of emotion that had lain hidden inside her all these years.
Caroline began to move if only to keep from fainting. She inched sideways through the crowd, feeling the heat of Henry’s gaze on the back of her neck. Was he following her?
She glanced over her shoulder. Oh, he was definitely following her.
About the Author:
Jessica Peterson began reading romance to escape the decidedly unromantic awkwardness of her teenage years. Having found solace in the likes of Rhett Butler and Mr. Darcy, it wasn’t long before she began creating tall, dark, and handsome heroes of her own.
A graduate of Duke University, Jessica worked at an investment bank before leaving to pursue her writerly dreams. She lives with her husband, the tall, dark, and handsome Mr. Peterson, in Charlotte, North Carolina.