Title: The Viscount’s Seduction
Author: Alina K. Field
Genre: Regency Romantic Suspense
Searching for the Truth
Lady Sirena Hollister has lost her family, her home, and even her fey abilities, but somehow the fairies have handed her an unexpected chance at a Season in London. From her place on the fringes of high society, she resolves to find the truth about her only brother’s vanishing, and settle her family’s score with the wily English Spy Lord, the Earl of Shaldon. Soon enough, her schemes stir up an unknown enemy…and spark danger of a different sort, in the person of the Earl’s handsome heir, Viscount Bakeley.
Seducing the Beauty
The impertinent hoyden Bakeley met years earlier was as wild as her Irish roots, and just as unlucky. And she’s still an Irish traitor’s sister! But Lady Sirena has grown into a beauty whose charm and courage intrigue him. When danger threatens, Bakeley comes to her rescue, risking scandal, the ton’s disapproval, his interfering father’s ire…and his own heart.
Sirena patted the dappled patch on Pooka’s nose and slipped the filly a carrot. “They’ll change your name, you know,” she said, blinking back moisture.
Pooka’s jaws worked and she turned away. Already the two-year-old was ignoring her.
Pooka had taken to the dark, arrogant lord who’d come calling the day before. Tomorrow, he would ferry the horse away, along with most of the best of their blood stock.
What could Papa be thinking?
Angry tears spilled over and she swiped them away with the back of her hand.
She yanked at the waist of her drooping trousers, picked up a shovel and began mucking the stall, tears streaming. Papa needed money, of course, to buy more spirits.
A stable door closed and boot heels clacked on the bricks. She turned her head away. Old Patrick didna need to see her so weak.
“What are you doing in there, boy?” The haughty words filtered through the slats, as if the speaker had got his nose caught in the gate. Or maybe he was pinching it to find the right accent and tone, the ones her last governess had tried to beat into her.
Her chest burned, and she swallowed her anger. She’d been confined in her room for two days. Papa had bade her stay out of the stables, out of his lordship’s way. The housekeeper said ’twas not against Sirena, ’twas only her papa’s worry about her breasts coming in.
She couldn’t let Pooka leave without saying goodbye.
It would be all right. She was just a scruffy stable boy fiddlin’ about with his lordship’s new horses, seein’ to their needs. For all she knew, this lord didn’t know she existed.
“Muckin’, sir,” she said, deepening her voice.
Pooka, the disloyal beast, sashayed over and sniffed through the slats.
“And what is she chewing? You’ll not foist a colicky horse on me tomorrow. I’ve already paid your master too much for the beast.”
“Too much?” Sirena’s blood rose, and she risked turning to face him. In the dim light, only slivers of white linen and skin showed. All else was blackness, and wasn’t that a sure sign?
“This beast’s granddam won first at Thurles. She’s good Irish Connemara and the best hotblood lines, as fast as any of your English hacks, I’d b-bet you.” She coughed and went back to her shoveling.
Shoveling shite. Aye, it was a perfect picture. She’d make her way in the world shoveling shite, she would, with her father drinkin’ away their horses and her dowry.
And now this man, whose eyes burned her back, let him discover her sex, let him try to take a pinch at her breasts. He’d have this shovel up his arse, he would.
“If I were to stay longer,” he said. “I’d take that wager.”
And lose it. She straightened. Perhaps this lord was a great gambling fool like the rest of them. Perhaps he’d wager Pooka. Perhaps they could have at it tomorrow at the crack, like the fools who fought duels.
Her shoulders sagged again. What did she have to wager? Naught but her valueless person.
She shook her head. “No.”
“No, my lord,” he said.
She gritted her teeth. “No, your esteemed English lordship. I’ve naught to wager.”
“No? Even a stable boy has a ha’ penny tucked away. What is your name, lad?”
Her name? Papa would bring out the strop again if he thought she’d caught some randy lord’s eye. Her mind raced through the names of their dwindling staff of grooms. Dark, they all were. Though her cap hid her yellow hair, the rest were all older, all shorter. There was naught for it. “Patrick,” she said.
Old Patrick would cover for her, that much she knew.
James Everly, Viscount Bakeley, heir to the Earl of Shaldon, wished a good night and tromped off, creaking the stable door open and closing it without passing through.
He found a dark corner and waited. Soon enough, he heard it—quiet sobs, weeping, and a choking voice talking to a horse.
A girl’s voice.
The pall of hopelessness dogging him since he’d come through the gates of Glenmorrow descended fully upon him, shame flooding in with it. He was here on his mother’s behest, buying the Earl of Glenmorrow’s prime bloods, no expense to be spared, and even beyond, the only high limit being Glenmorrow’s pride.
A crooning song started and seeped into his bones, soothing him in just the same way it was settling the whole stable.
Bloody Ireland. Fairies and gremlins, and a horse named Pooka.
The Earl of Glenmorrow had been tied up with Father’s schemes somehow, and it was clear from the state of the roads and the linens, the man needed money. This purchase was paying both men’s debts.
And anything left over, Glenmorrow would drink away.
Well, why wouldn’t he? The man had lost his son and his wife, and surely that crooning girl in the stall was the daughter who the stable boys whispered had a spooky way with the horses.
She would need some of this money set aside for a dowry. She would need a keeper when her father drank himself to death.
He watched as she slid out of the stall, extinguished her light, and left.
Ye gods, it was true what he’d heard—Glenmorrow’s daughter was as wild as this unlucky country.
Mother had been hinting about a wife for him. Thank all the stars he’d come for the horses and not the girl. Let her be some other man’s to tame.
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