Book 1 in the Lords & Masters Series
Lady Primrose Black has a dilemma. Her father-in-law’s dying wish is that she reunite with her estranged husband and produce an heir. She hasn’t laid eyes on Lord Black since their wedding night five years ago, when he left Scarborough Hall in a rage. Nevertheless she resolves to find him, knowing once she does she will have to use every method at her disposal to entice the rake she never stopped loving.
Viscount Adam Black harbors dark needs and he will accept no less than his wife’s complete and utter surrender. Each sensual encounter leaves Primrose wanting more but as she submits to her husband’s every decadent desire, she resolves not to lose him again. For the secret that drove Adam away still haunts him. And this time it could prove fatal for them both.
Buy Digital Ebook
Read an Excerpt from Rakehell
“You ain’t one o’ them singers o’ Psalms are ye now?”
Primrose didn’t know which of her senses assailed her the most. She flinched at the grating sound of the woman’s East End accent and struggled against the urge to avert her gaze from the soot-covered face, the soiled and gaping bodice of a threadbare frock, the almost maniacal gap-toothed grin.
The bitter almond stench and brown smoke of opium hung heavy in the air, compelling Primrose to plunge her hand into her reticule and retrieve a handkerchief with which to cover her nose.
“Wotch yerself, Trudy!” a second woman blared and then raked her hand under her nose as she sniffed mightily. “That’s a regular lady yer addressin.’”
Trudy scoffed. The fetid air she huffed set a strand of her greasy brown hair in motion. “She ain’t no lady, Betsy. By the sound of her she’s an American!”
Betsy slapped at her compatriot to shush her. “Don’t mind her none, ma’am.” She grinned with pride. “I knows a lady when I sees one.”
Primrose straightened, refusing to retreat behind the two burly stable hands she’d brought from Scarborough Hall.
Clad in a loose-fitting suit of gray, a sallow-skinned Chinese man with a long rat’s tail of a braid slithering over his shoulder approached. He bowed slightly. “You here to partake?” he asked in thickly accented English.
Primrose nervously wound the drawstring on her reticule around her fingers. He’d just asked her if she intended to smoke one of the opium pipes!
In looking around at the odd conglomeration of classes lolling on pallets and shelf-like beds lining the walls like corpses in the catacombs, she wondered if other ladies, such as her, came to this squalid place. Here, there existed no distinction between the haves and the have-nots. The fine hairs prickled at her nape. “No,” she said blurted. “I was told I might find…Lord Black here.”
“Ah, Lord Black! Good customer,” the little man said. His thin lips stretched into a smile. He stepped aside and gestured toward the back of the squalid den. “Lord Black in back.”
Primrose gulped. She’d ventured quite far enough into this den of iniquity. Acrid bile rose in her throat at the very idea of entering further. Fear that she might not ever see the light of day again bedeviled her, but she willed it away. If Black was indeed in this awful place it was up to her to drag him out.
His most recent brush with an untimely end was incentive enough to retrieve him but today, Primrose had a more pressing reason to return Black to Scarborough Hall.
She glanced back uncertainly at Mathers and Hawkshaw before she lifted the hem of her day gown off the grimy cobbled floor and started toward the rear of the den. On her left and right men of the peerage and the lower classes alike lay in all states of undress alongside naked women Primrose could only presume were prostitutes. One couple was actually copulating out in the open for all to see. Not that anyone seemed to care. Still, Primrose shielded her peripheral vision with her hand.
Most of these people were under the spell of the demon drug. In spite of propriety, the sight of the woman astride the man’s…privates…magnetically compelled Primrose to peep between her fingers. Warmth flooded her and she quickly squelched her immoral yearnings. “Such vile and wanton behavior,” she snapped under her breath.
Toward the back, terraced berths filled with all manner of people, mostly sailors with their heads thrown back, their chins tipped up, their dulled gazes turned on the newcomers.
Was it any wonder Black had been beset by bandits?
She flinched, recalling the headline brought to her attention only yesterday. Lord Black Foils East End Burglary and Attempted Murder.
But were it not for the news she probably would have never found him.
From the black shadows, red lights waxed and waned in the bowls of the pipes.
This place must truly be hell and its denizens the very devils spoken of in the good book. Primrose swallowed thickly as she peered closely at a man to determine he wasn’t the one she sought. If this is hell, then why do their expressions indicate such rapture? She shook off the sinful voice in her head and silently prided herself that she had never fallen prey to such hedonistic desires.
“My lady?” Hawkshaw asked softly as if he might rouse some of the demons from their opium-induced stupor. “That him?”
Primrose squinted as she stepped toward what appeared to be a man lying on a silk bed between two completely nude women whose limbs draped possessively over his. One of the long, narrow opium pipes lay discarded at the side of the bed.
She hadn’t laid eyes on Lord Black in the five years since their wedding night. But even in this sordid place, her heart fluttered as she recognized her husband.
But for the nasty bruise over his left eye, he looked content—so unlike the last time she’d seen him, his expression stormy and black, his hair wild about his swarthy face, his amber eyes glittering like the garnet pin secured in the folds of his snowy neckcloth. In his wedding finery, he’d been devastatingly handsome.
Naked, even after all this time, he was magnificent.
Dark hairs wisped across the muscled plane of his chest, growing thicker and wilder as they formed a tight trail leading from his navel downward. Primrose pursed her lips as she looked her fill at his flaccid phallus, lying so innocently in its nest of curls.
Her breathing hitched as she recalled how that particular part of his anatomy had looked on their wedding night. Erect, proud—and terrifying.
Then she’d been but a green debutante, barely old enough to marry and wholly unprepared to become a wife.
Well, she was different now. Older. More mature. Better acquainted with the depths of deception men would go to in order to advance themselves in the world.
Lord Black hadn’t changed. That was obvious. He was still a rakehell and a rogue.