October 22nd, 2019
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MURDER IN THE FIRST EDITION

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Excerpt of Scandal at the Midsummer Ball by Bronwyn Scott

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Harlequin Historical Romance
June 2016
On Sale: May 24, 2016
288 pages
ISBN: 0373298846
EAN: 9780373298846
Kindle: B0191U9Z50
Paperback / e-Book
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Romance Historical

Also by Bronwyn Scott:

Scandal At The Christmas Ball, November 2017
Mass Market Paperback
Unbuttoning the Innocent Miss, July 2016
Paperback
Scandal at the Midsummer Ball, June 2016
Paperback
A Lady Dares, July 2013
Hardcover
How To Sin Successfully, November 2012
Paperback
Secret Life of a Scandelous Debutante, September 2011
Mass Market Paperback
Delectably Undone!, April 2011
Paperback
A Thoroughly Compromised Lady, February 2011
Paperback
Untamed Rogue, Scandalous Mistress, July 2010
Paperback
The Viscount Claims His Bride, January 2009
Mass Market Paperback
Notorious Rake, Innocent Lady, May 2008
Paperback
Pickpocket Countess, March 2008
Paperback

Also by Marguerite Kaye:

A Wife Worth Investing In, June 2019
e-Book
The Earl's Countess of Convenience, May 2019
Paperback
A Scandalous Winter Wedding, December 2018
Paperback
His Rags-to-riches Contessa, October 2018
Paperback
From Courtesan to Convenient Wife, April 2018
Paperback
From Governess to Countess, March 2018
Paperback
Scandal At The Christmas Ball, November 2017
Mass Market Paperback
Claiming His Desert Princess, April 2017
Paperback
The Harlot and the Sheikh, January 2017
Paperback
Sheikh's Mail-Order Bride, July 2016
Paperback
Scandal at the Midsummer Ball, June 2016
Paperback
The Widow And The Sheikh, April 2016
Paperback
The Soldier's Rebel Lover, September 2015
Paperback
The Soldier's Dark Secret, March 2015
Paperback
Never Forget Me, July 2014
Paperback
Rake With A Frozen Heart, April 2012
Paperback
Gift-Wrapped Governess, October 2011
Paperback
Delectably Undone!, April 2011
Paperback

Excerpt of Scandal at the Midsummer Ball by Bronwyn Scott, Marguerite Kaye

The Debutante's Awakening. Chapter 2

Kael Gage recognised a cat-and-mouse game when he saw it. He and the striking woman in the butter-yellow muslin were initiating a subtly aggressive flirtation, each of them seeking to command the other, their roles switching from pursuer to pursuant with a motion of the eyes and the flick of a fan from across the room.

It was his turn to answer and he would do so with a calculated move. He would wait and make her wonder if he would indeed respond. There was no need to rush over immediately. To do so would concede early victory and put him in her power as a man she could manipulate. It would not enhance his appeal. A woman liked nothing as much as the man she couldn’t have. Likewise, a woman lost interest in a man who was too easily won. Near unattainability was key.

Kael turned his attentions back to the conversation between Falkner and Farthingale, which had its own engaging value, Falkner in his dark, puritanically plain clothing questioning the business practices of the flamboyantly garbed Sir Timothy Farthingale, but there were practical reasons too for not approaching his lovely butter-gowned flirt just yet. To do so while she was in the duke’s company and her mother’s would be to court rejection outright.

He didn’t need to be a mind-reader to know what the duke was whispering to the pretty brunette right now, or to know the meaning behind her mother’s brief, shrewd glance in his direction. Kael smiled in their direction, indicating he was aware of their polite censure and that he didn’t care a whit. During his ten years on the town, he’d fought three duels of honour—two with pistols which meant he’d faced mortality at twenty paces at dawn, one of the more frightening things a man could do. He would not be intimidated by a matchmaking mama’s stare and a duke’s whisper.

Still, whatever they whispered to his flirt was undoubtedly true. That he was no good; he fraternised with the wrong sort of women—opera singers, actresses, jewels of the demi-monde and a certain kind of experienced tonnish woman. He couldn’t deny it. He did more than fraternise with them. He seduced them, bedded them, found physical pleasure with them. But a lot of men did that, even married ones. What was probably less forgivable in their eyes was that he had no prospects. His family tree was a stump with broken branches everywhere. His grandfather had been an earl with a prolific ability to produce reckless sons—seven of them, in fact, only the heir still living—but a less prolific ability to generate income which had left six of those careless sons to fend for themselves, his own father included.

As a result, Kael had his good looks to recommend him, but not much else except a small horse farm in Sussex. It meant he was fit for a squire’s daughter or a gentleman farmer’s girl—a lesson that had been drilled into him since he was eighteen; the fine debutantes of the ton might flirt with a man like him, but they’d never marry him. It had been a hard lesson for an eager grandson of an earl to learn, no matter how pretty the face delivering it.

Now, at the age of thirty, he knew very well for a fine diamond of the first water like Miss Butter-Gown, he was persona non grata, which served to make him contrary. It made him want to play the game all the more, just to be contrary, simply because he could. From the flick of her fan, she did too. She was restless. It was there in her gaze, hidden behind that confident smile of hers as she moved from group to group, and in the defiant tilt of her head that she couldn’t quite hide. She didn’t want to be here. How very interesting. Most women would kill to be here. To find someone who would not, was intriguing. It made her different, it made her stand out. It made him want to know her. What sort of woman would willingly eschew this opportunity?

This was shaping up to be quite the entertaining house party. He’d not expected it. This was not his usual venue. He’d merely come as a means of getting out of London, all too happy to be Jeremy Giltner’s guest. The city had become rather ‘hot’ for him at present in a way that had nothing to do with the weather.

 

Kael waited until after the acrobatic display by the Flying Vengarovs that evening to make his response. It had been a scintillating performance, leaving spirits high and imaginations aroused. Perhaps exactly what their host intended, Kael thought with cynicism. The Silver Fox did nothing by accident. Katerina Vengarov had been nearly naked as she’d navigated the tightrope strung across the ballroom high above the floor, igniting all sorts of fantasies in the male mind, while her chiselled brother had likely made the same impact on the female population.

Kael’s particular quarry slipped from the ballroom on to the terrace, cheeks flushed from the heat and maybe more. She’d been restless all night. He’d watched her at dinner; her eyes too bright, her laughter too forced. No one else would notice, it would be beyond their imagination to conceive of someone not wanting to be here. But it was not beyond his, especially now that he knew who she was. Miss Zara Titus. He’d asked around, discreetly of course. Haymore’s intended, or should he say ‘unintended’? Rumour had it, the split was mutual. But Kael had his doubts. What was politically correct was often not exactly the truth, but a polite rendering of it. The chit was beautiful, captivatingly so with intelligent hazel eyes, piles of satin-shiny coffee-coloured hair and a body that did a dressmaker proud. He’d seen her in two gowns now, each one showing her to be more stunning than the last. Haymore must have been out of his mind to let her go. Then again, he’d heard rumours about Haymore too. It wasn’t beyond the realm of possibility.

Kael counted to five and began to make his way towards the doors, sidling out into the cool night. He found her easily in a far corner of the veranda, the silver of her gown giving her away in the moonlight although her posture clearly indicated she wanted to be alone. Ah, defiant and restless. A potent combination and one he understood. He’d been defiant and restless since he was twenty and Miss Ella Davison had informed him she was far above his reach no matter how much she liked his kisses. It had only become worse in the intervening decade.

He leaned against the stone balustrade overlooking the gardens and gave her an assessing smile, letting his eyes hold hers with a brazenness that would have sent a shy miss like Ariana Falk running for the shelter of the ballroom. ‘So, you’re Miss Zara Titus, the jilt.’

Her green eyes narrowed but held. Her response was even and neutral, but he noticed her gloved hands tightened almost imperceptibly on the balustrade. She didn’t like the term. ‘What a terrible thing to say.’

‘What an honest thing to say,’ Kael drawled. ‘It’s true, after all, isn’t it? You jilted Haymore. Why shouldn’t we speak plainly? The name’s Gage, by the way. Kael Gage.’

She straightened, her eyes firing delightful little sparks of emerald flame. ‘You assume I want to know.’

He chuckled. ‘Oh, you do.’ He flicked his gaze to the fan dangling from her wrist. ‘You all but invited me out here.’ He reached for her hand, drawing circles on her palm through the fabric of her glove as he gave her a smouldering glance through lowered eyelids. ‘I know what you want, Zara.’ He lowered his voice. ‘We were made to fly. Why do you think our “esteemed” host invited the acrobats? To set the mood rather blatantly, to stir our senses, to challenge our grasp of the possibilities that await us.’ He brought her palm against his cheek and placed a kiss at its centre, feeling her pulse catch in her wrist. ‘You want to fly. You were made to fly.’

‘With you?’ Her tone was aloof. Her body was not. There was interest in her eyes as she took him in and that interest betrayed the direction of her thoughts.

‘Absolutely with me, with a man who knows what you need.’ Kael raised his eyes to hers, his meaning naked in his gaze. She was already wondering what he might show her. Zara Titus had spirit.

‘What is it that you think I need?’ She angled her head coyly, the streamers of light from the ballroom catching the tiny diamonds at her ears, a subtle reminder that she was indeed a woman far above him in station.

‘To be kissed and perhaps more.’

‘By a man I hardly know?’ She made no move to pull her hand away, making it clear she was not challenging him, but daring him. Her body had inched slightly closer to his, her lips had parted and, by Jove, he was tempted to take that invitation, to prove himself. The night was quiet about them except for the crickets in the bushes. It was easy to forget there was a ballroom of people a few yards away. Their privacy was an illusion. He’d do well to remember that. If they were seen…well, it was far too early in the game to risk such a thing.

‘Don’t you think it’s better that way?’ Kael prompted, fuelling the flames of her defiance. ‘No expectations beyond the here and now, no plans beyond the week.’ He gave her a half-smile and released her hand, stepping away. It was always best to leave them wanting more and he was confident the seed was planted. He’d issued his invitation. It was up to her to accept it, to decide what she wanted to do with it. He gave her a last bit of encouragement. ‘To fly is your destiny, Zara. A woman such as you can hardly seek to escape it. You’ll see. Resistance is futile.’

 

What was he doing, seducing an innocent under the duke’s matchmaking nose? Kael tossed back a healthy dose of Brockmore’s excellent and expensive brandy conveniently left in decanters in the gentlemen’s chambers. This was the height of madness and he ought to know. He’d been party to plenty of madness in his day. It was insanity enough to seduce Zara Titus; a virgin, a daughter of a peer, and a wealthy heiress. To do it at party specifically designed to create marriages was a whole other level of crazy. This party would usually be off limits to him. This was rarefied air he was breathing to move in such elevated circles. He was a lowly horse breeder. These guests were the richest, the most powerful people in England. The girl was off limits too. She was the sort of woman who would claim everything a man had, body and soul, the sort of woman a man couldn’t afford to fail. He’d already failed one important woman in his life. The precedent was set. He couldn’t possibly make a woman like Zara Titus happy in the long run. It wasn’t in his scope of capabilities.

He poured another glass and swallowed it down. And yet, even knowing better than to pursue her, he couldn’t resist the allure of her confidence, of her beauty. He couldn’t resist the temptation of waking her to passion’s joys. The curiosity behind her innocence drew him, appealed to him, even as the consequences for what he was about to do terrified him. But only, his wicked conscience reminded him, if he was caught.

 

Excerpt from Scandal at the Midsummer Ball by Bronwyn Scott, Marguerite Kaye
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