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The Rogue’s Conquest (Book 2 of the Townsends)

Wallflower Eleanor Townsend is not like most women. She has no interest in marriage, the ton, or fashion. Instead, her heart lies with science. And when the opportunity to present a paper arises, she takes it, even though it means dressing as a man. But her disguise doesn’t quite work. Someone notices—and the brute intends to blackmail her!

Former prizefighter James MacGregor wants to be a gentleman, like the men he trains in his boxing saloon. His first step is gaining a beautiful, wealthy wife. Eleanor Townsend is not that woman, but a chance encounter gives him the leverage he needs. She’ll gain him entry to high society and help him with his atrocious manners, and in return, he won’t reveal her secret. It’s the perfect arrangement. At least until the sparks between them become more than just their personalities clashing. But there’s too much at stake for James to give in to his growing attraction.

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She poured hot water over the tea leaves while the footman passed around plates of seed cake. MacGregor started eating his before the tea was ready.

She was going to reprimand him when she noticed he was staring at the cake with a strange, wrinkled expression. “What is it?”

“There are seeds in this cake.”

“It’s a seed cake,” she said drily.

“Caraway seeds. You’ve ruined a perfectly good pound cake by adding caraway seeds.”

“You don’t have to eat it,” she pointed out.

He scowled and drew the plate closer to him, before taking a large bite. “I never say no to cakes.”

Eleanor, Georgina, and Robert looked on as the man devoured a fairly sizable portion of seed cake in roughly three bites. He chewed, swallowed, said, “It’s a bit dry,” in a thoughtful tone, and then twisted toward her. “Are you going to eat yours?”

Eleanor blinked and found herself handing over her plate to his outstretched hand. He ate this piece in two and a half bites, and then looked up as hopefully as a dog at the dinner table, but Georgina and Robert had a tight hold of their own plates.

“Do you ever say no to any food?” she asked.

“Not if I can help it.”

She sighed. “Don’t ask Lady Sarah if you can have her plate. It’s not good manners.”

“Obviously,” he said. “What kind of idiot do you take me for?”

“You asked me.”

“You are not Lady Sarah,” he pointed out pragmatically.

When she poured the steeped tea into cups a few minutes later, her grip on the pot was white knuckled, and she didn’t look at MacGregor for fear she might lob a blunt object at his head if it crossed her line of vision.

***

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Enchanting the Earl  (Book 1 of The Townsends)

Llynmore Castle is the only place Annabel Lockhart has ever considered home. For years, she’s been able to live as she wished, freely roaming the wild moors. Now there’s a new earl, as arrogant as he is handsome, and he wants her out. But if he thinks she’ll go quietly, he’s in for a surprise.

Theo Townsend returned from war a changed man. After unexpectedly inheriting an earldom and a secluded castle in the Scottish Highlands to go with it, he thinks he’s found the perfect place to hide from the world—until he arrives to find a spirited, beautiful woman already in residence. He can’t just throw her out, but surely there’s a way to get her to leave on her own. The sooner she’s gone, the better, especially when he realizes there’s more than just mutual dislike between them.

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In this moment, he was not a former soldier, not haunted, not wounded, not desperately trying to hold himself together for his family.

He was just a man.

He closed the distance between them, until they were almost touching, but not quite. He could feel the rustle of fabric against his chest when she took a deep breath, felt the soft gust of air against his cheek. He had the idle thought that their bodies had been made for each other; she matched him, thigh to thigh, chest to chest, mouth to wanting mouth.

He let his cane clatter to the floor. His fingers touched her arm at the elbow, trailed down to tangle with hers. He found himself pulling her slender hand toward him and studying the shape of it by the candle light.

“Several years ago, Robert and Eleanor begged me to go with them to a fortune teller’s tent at a fair, and the woman read our palms.”

Annabel’s eyes were as dark as moss as she looked at him under lowered lashes. “That sounds frivolous.”

“Dishearteningly so,” he said with a slight smile. “They wouldn’t stop begging, though. Younger siblings can be tiresome.”

“And what was your fortune?”

“Mostly she spoke of wealth and adventure,” he said. “I think she told me what I wanted to hear. But I remember she called this line the heart line.” Theo traced the line with his thumb, gratified when he heard Annabel’s soft gasp. He lowered his head and pressed a gentle, gentle kiss to the inside of her palm.

“What did she say about your heart line?” Annabel asked quietly.

“I don’t remember,” he said with rueful amusement. “As a fifteen-year-old, I was much more interested in the wealth and adventure part. But your heart line is quite deep. I would guess you’re passionate.”

He was cheating—he already knew she was passionate. And not just physically, but about things and people—her ex-actress of an aunt, Rabbie Burns, broken shells and ugly Highland ponies and this castle and the people around it and the very land itself. He was almost jealous—he was trying to make his world smaller, trying to restrict it to just the essentials, just the people he had no choice but to care for and protect, and here she was, resigned to a remote corner of the country, just like him, but her world was infinitely larger.

“I would guess you have no notion of loving by degrees.” He caught her intent, startled gaze. “Sometimes a dangerous trait.”

“Why?” she asked, her voice just a whisper of sound.

“Love is cruel. It takes hostages with no thought or feeling, no mercy. It doesn’t care what mere mortals want. It doesn’t care when it breaks them.”

What was he saying? He knew nothing about love. He just knew he liked the way she tasted.

 

 

Content Copyright Lily Maxton