Welcome back to The League, Tracy Sumner's fantastic gathering of the Occult in the late 1800's. Readers of THE LADY IS TROUBLE will be happy to welcome with open arms, Fin Alexander, the devastatingly handsome, and wickedly gifted "bastard" brother of Viscount Beauchamp. Able to read the thoughts of those around him, it's next to impossible to keep a secret from Fin, but Lady Victoria Hamilton has supernatural talents of her own. Referred to as a "parlor trick", Victoria is able to erase the recent memories of her targets, but even more importantly, she has the talent only referred to in rumor: she can block the supernatural abilities of others. When Victoria and Fin are together, Fin is finally able to be alone with his thoughts and Victoria learns what a relationship involving more than a business arrangement feels like.
Sumner seamlessly blends a sensual romance with the lights and soot of the London ton. Add in a splash of the fantastic with the League's extraordinary abilities, and the result is a recipe as delicious as one of Lady Victoria's pastries. THE RAKE IS TAKEN picks up right where THE LADY IS TROUBLE leaves off, and paves the way for a certain hot-handed Duke. This reader can hardly wait.
A gorgeous psychic. An unwanted betrothal. A tantalizing compromise.
An independent hellion, a stealer of time, and the only woman who can capture his heart…
Lady Victoria Hamilton has a supernatural gift, a fiancé, and a guardian angel. She just never expected her protector to be the most dazzling man in England, a devilish scoundrel they call the Blue Bastard. Victoria has agreed to marry for duty, not love, but her unforeseen desire for her mystical angel threatens to destroy not only her plans for the future but the armor surrounding her susceptible heart.
A confirmed scoundrel, a mind reader, and the only man she desires…
Illegitimate son of a viscount and reigning king of London’s gossip sheets, Finn Alexander has spent a lifetime hiding his ability to read minds behind charming smiles and wicked behavior. No one knows the real man, and he likes it that way. Until he meets the lone woman who sees the man beneath the disguise—a blue-blooded temptress with the power to bring him to his knees.
As they embark on a journey of passion and friendship, Victoria and Finn must decide if they’re willing to risk everything for the promise of true, magical love.
Second novel in the tantalizing Victorian paranormal League of Lords series!
Finn back-armed sweat from his brow and settled his mount with a reassuring glide of his palm across the horse’s neck, his untucked shirt riding high with the movement and exposing a minute strip of tawny skin above his waistband before linen resettled over his lean hips. A tantalizing encounter she would have missed without the aid of Lady Beauchamp’s marvelous—and apparently little-used—opera glasses. Missed if he wore a waistcoat or topcoat, which he did not.
Curiously, it wasn’t Finn’s undeniable beauty or lack of clothing that held her captivated. Rather, it was his continued effort to hide behind an aimless veneer, his countenance melancholy, his ready smile locked away when she caught him unaware, like the night on the veranda. A man grossly different than the one who’d wooed society with such wicked carelessness. There was nothing careless about his soulful glances, the impenetrable, shimmering intelligence held deep within.
She wanted access to that man more than she should.
Only, she didn’t know how to ask for access. Not when he seemed to be struggling to settle back into family life and had avoided her for two days despite his promise to tellall.
Through the open window, the sound of a pan striking the kitchen floor had her turning, the glasses dropping from her hands to dangle from the wrist chain. Her heartbeat stuttered, her mind blanking for a brief moment. Turning back, she found Finn’s riderless horse standing beside the hedge, her head twisting as if on too short a lead.
Victoria’s terror was immediate and impregnable.
Her shawl flew from her shoulders as she raced down the marble steps and across the lawn, her hair plunging from its delicate coiffure to streak her cheeks and tangle in her mouth. Her slippers were dew-soaked when she reached him, the hem of her dress soiled beyond repair, but she cared little, dropping to her knees and grasping the arm he’d flung out when he’d tumbled from his mount. His hand still clutched the reins, which she released, allowing the mare to settle. Finn’s chest rose and fell in a slightly staggered rhythm, but unlike her brother’s after his fall, it rose and fell.
He was covered in grass and earth, staining his clothing and his face. The side of his lip was cut. She dabbed at the blood with a wild glance thrown over her shoulder, a fruitless search for a footman, groom, maid. She’d finally come to understand Finn’s comment to her on the ride to Harbingdon about magicalattendance by the staff. The estate operated on the unpredictable sovereignty of those gifted with a supernatural ability, upper house to lower, garden to stable, sitting room to parlor. Doors opened before she reached them, gas lamps flared without her touch. Formidable, yet no one seemed trained for even the simplest household position.
“Finn,” she whispered and gave his hand a squeeze, her brother’s still form lying beside his horse, the awkward twist of his neck, roaring through her mind. She closed her eyes and concentrated, finding the racing pulse at Finn’s wrist and smoothing it with her thumb. Like she would if she sought to steal time. Perhaps she could shock him back to consciousness.
“Stop. It’s beginning…to hurt to hold you off.” Finn’s lids fluttered, his hand shifting in hers. His hair was a dark spill across his cheeks, the strands longer than current style endorsed, giving him the look of a ruffian and effectively hiding his expression. “I landed hard…on my back. My breath…” He inhaled shakily. Twice more before trying to speak again. “The reins, thank you for taking them as I’m guessing no groom is around. Someone who sees the future could have helped in this situation. We have one of those, you know. Edward, the footman, but I guess this tumble escaped his purview. Or maybe it’s Old Neddie. No, no, he sees the past. Edward, definitely Edward.” He dragged his tongue along his teeth. “Blast, I think I cracked one.”
Victoria rocked back on her haunches, tossing his arm aside, irritated to the soles of her leather slippers. Indeed, he’d chipped the edge of his front tooth, a minor imperfection, the first she’d found on the man aside from his unaffected arrogance, his lackadaisical indifference to everything. She was finished with men who gave less than a farthing about their futures, less than a farthing about their families. Rising to her feet, she wiped his blood on her skirt. “They’re right, you don’t care what happens to you. Go to it, then, Blue.”
He blinked hard and elbowed to a wobbly sit. “What the hell does that mean? And who, exactly, is they?”
She shook her head, thoughts piling up on each other like mud sliding down a slope. All that came out was an aggravated oath as she turned and marched back to the house, the opera glasses beating a rhythm against her hip. Imprudent, conceited toad…
He was beside her in three strides, out of breath, disheveled, dogged, blood dotting his lip and cheek. “Explain that comment to me, will you, my lady?”
Oh, would she. She halted so suddenly he had to skip back to reach her. His gaze when it hit hers was running as hot as hers felt. “Have you considered what it would do to those who love you should something dreadful happen? The carriage races, the brawls, the slums. Second story windows, gaming hells. Where is the care for your family, your future?” Her brother had lost his wife and infant son to illness, and he’d given up. Victoria had tried, but she’d been unable to save him. Now she was left with nothing, alone without her closest ally. She wasn’t walking that joyless path again, not even for the enticing man standing before her.
“The women,” he snarled, the first time she’d seen him act anything but bored, “you forgot about the women. The lightskirts, the demimondaines, the jaded widows. I’m jumping out of those windows for a reason, my dear.”
She tapped his chest, right above a rip in his shirt and on the edge of that wicked scar, tears of sorrow and frustration pricking her lids. He was so tall she had to stretch to reach him and the fingertip she trailed across his bare skin burned. “You forget yourself, Mr. Alexander. The women don’t matter, the slums and the faro tables don’t matter. The clubs and the fisticuffs are meaningless. Your family—” Her words dissolved, and she turned away from him.
Or tried to.
He seized her chin, his fingers trembling against her jaw. “What is this?” he asked, a soothing tone ironing out his earlier ire, a cloud of heat and recognition unfurling around them. He tipped her gaze high, his regard penetrating. “Did this little tumble of mine truly upset you?”
She pressed her lips tight, a tear she couldn’t contain spilling free. His fingers were scalding her skin. Add to that the glorious pain of being able to, for the first time in forever, talk to someone about something real. Even as she knew talking about real things brought her closer to Finn—when being closer was a danger to her future and her heart. Swallowing, she whispered, “My brother, Charles. He reacted thus, caring nothing for life after his wife and child died of scarlet fever. I couldn’t save him from himself, a riding accident. Although I tried. At least, I think I did.”
Finn stepped back, gradually relinquishing his hold, as if he’d rather step in, comfort she feared she’d gladly accept in this fragile state. “You’re quite adept, in the most unsophisticated way, at making me feel a cad. I’ve never known a woman to be candid and gain so much through such lack of artifice. A solitary tear enough to rip my heart from my chest.” He fingered a gash in his trousers and sighed, gazed across the distance, then, finally, back at her.
Yanking a stalk of grass from his hair, he said softly, “I don’t ride often, or as often as I’d like due to the persistent drumbeat of thoughts in my head. It makes for a distracted trek, I realize, even though I love it. Dangerous not only for myself but the mount, a risk with a beloved beast I wouldn’t take. But you’ve been blocking, clear across the lawn, across every sitting room we’ve shared, the breakfast parlor this morning. Even from another floor in the main house, the whispers in my bedchamber are muted. I’ve been testing distances, making notes. Today, for instance, a hundred yards, maybe one-twenty. I reached the edge of the pine thicket before the voices started flowing back in. But something happened, you got sidetracked, or I did, and a thought shot right through my skull. I tried to cut it off, which is quite shocking for the person whose mind I’ve entered, hence her dropping the pan…me misjudging the height of the hedge. Bad timing all the way around.”
“There was a kitchen maid quite taken with you upon our arrival. Was she daydreaming, I wonder? Shocking you when you received her lurid thought—shocking her when you tried to give it back.”
His cheeks flushed, a confession in dazzling sunlight. “If I said yes, I don’t think it will further our friendship. So I shall remain mum on the subject.”
He was so bloody gorgeous standing there, mussed and apologetic, shuffling from one glossy boot to the other, covered in dirt and blood and ignominy, that chip in his formerly flawless smile winking at her. How could she renounce a lovesick girl right now cleaning up whatever she’d dumped out of that pan when Victoria wasn’t thinking about the man in strictly polite terms herself? “Are these the start of our experiments then?” she asked and blew a lock of hair from her face, exasperated with him and herself.
He shook his head, his lips falling open. “Pardon?”
She dropped her gaze to the opera glasses dangling from her wrist, sunlight bouncing off the gilded metal and throwing glints at their feet. She’d have given a gold sovereign to know what he was thinking, a clue to how she’d managed to disconcert the Blue Bastard when most failed. With ‘unsophisticated candor’, no doubt. Her lack of charm. “My parlor trick. The testing of distances. Your promise to enlighten me, Blue. The chronology, the League. Is this where my education starts?”
He walked back a distancing step, tugged another reed of grass from his hair. “Are you willing?”
It depends on the request, she wanted to say with an adoring look. Artifice in spades, a playful glance fired through what she’d been told were fetching eyelashes. She knew how to flirt, how to captivate. She’d kissed three of the most eligible men in the ton, at their request, although she hadn’t enjoyed it. They were destitute, unable to help with her financial predicament, and she unable to help with theirs. But she hadn’t wanted to waste everything on her intended when she and Rossby created less spark than a damp fire. Anyway, she’d be damned if she cried again if it caused this exquisite mindreading goat to look at her with pity. She wasn’t used to being on the receiving end of anything but admiration herself, she’d love to tell him.
“That dark look has me almost frightened to ask about the dreams. Tori, I need to know about the dreams.”
She found his gaze, an opaque flood as vibrant as the sky. She wondered if Julian Alexander had attempted to capture the color on canvas. Unique. And familiar. Even before she’d met him, a secret she wasn’t sure she should divulge.
The mystery of his past was unfolding in the gentle twilight of her sleep—but the answers might be disturbing.
At some point, and soon, she’d have to tell Finn about the dreams.
After all, they were, in essence, his.
“I’m willing,” she said. But you may not be. Then she reached out, later she couldn’t have said why, brushing a strand of hair from his cheek. It was as silky as it looked, dark as coal, streaking amber in the sunlight, the ends curling slightly. She gave it a gentle tug before releasing it to the wind. His reaction would have been gratifying, the hushed intake of air, hand clenching into a fist at his hip, the subtle lean. If not for her own overriding it. Desire, blistering and heavy and terrifying, sending her heart to her knees. She shrugged, admitting, “I used to cut my brother’s hair so he could ride without it whipping in his eyes. I could do this for you, for your safety.”
“I’m willing,” Finn murmured, gaze fixed on her even as he took a halting step back, firmly out of reach. The air around them shimmered like waves of heat over a barren desert. One breath, two, then he strode to his mare and swung gracefully into the saddle without looking back.
She watched him ride away, wondering what they’d agreed to.
Wondering how in heaven she was going to survive a month of gazing into the saddest eyes in England.