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Romantic Times Magazine
Trust a Scoundrel
of the "Sons of Scandal" trilogy
Miss Grace Banbury was in shock. Her mother put her up as a prize in a high stakes card game, and now the gentleman who won is ready to claim her! But Grace has other plans. She just needs the dastardly rogue to go along with it...
A notorious rake from a scandalous family, Daniel Throckmorten has no use for blushing virgins. Yet there's no denying the attraction for the beauty standing before him, proposing an enticing wager: He will use all his charm and wit to seduce her into his bed...and she only has to resist. If she succeeds, she wins enough funds to secure her own future. If he wins...she'll be his. Daniel has never been so tempted--and has no intention of losing...
"Callen begins the Sons of Scandal series with the luscious tale of a rogue whose
desire to become respectable brings about intriguing consequences.
As always, she creates an original plot, three-dimensional characters
and a love story to make your heart skip a beat."
Romantic Times Magazine
(The following is the property of the author and Avon Books, and cannot be copied or reprinted without permission.)
(Story Setup: Grace Banbury has come to her brother's London town house from the country, having just discovered that her mother has gambled away all their family property. She's alone in the house, waiting for her brother to return, and has just heard the front door slam.)
As Grace hurried down the stairs toward the entrance hall, a solitary man looked up, and she stumbled to a halt, still halfway up the staircase.
It wasn’t her brother, but a stranger, dressed in elegant black evening clothes.
She caught the banister, feeling off-balance. Some distant part of her knew she should be frightened, but she couldn’t quite feel that, not when he looked like every girl’s fantasy of a dashing nobleman.
She could tell he was tall by the way he dwarfed the bare hall. He slowly crossed his arms over his chest. He wore a cool, contemplative look as he studied her, as if he sized up everyone for their weaknesses. Well, she wasn’t weak.
The lamp below him cast a yellow glow across his face, with its harsh lines and steep angles. His brown hair was dark and a touch too long, showing little concern for Society's fashions. His eyes were the deep brown of cocoa that burned if you sipped too fast. He showed his disregard of politeness by glancing down her body instead of only at her face. She suddenly remembered what she wore, and though she longed to clutch the dressing gown closed at her throat, she wouldn’t let herself betray such vulnerability.
She coldly said, “How rude to force yourself into a home not your own. If you wish to see Mr. Banbury, he’s not here. You may show yourself out.”
smile was slow and dangerous, and she
began to worry about more than bodily harm, even as her skin heated.
been foolish enough to come to
“I didn’t know that Banbury had a mistress,” the man said, his voice a deep timbre that rumbled within her.
She stiffened. “I am Miss Banbury, his sister. And again, I must ask you to leave.”
To her surprise, he straightened as his smile faded. His arms fell to his sides stiffly, almost as if he faced her across dueling pistols. She didn’t understand his wariness, and wanted to take a step back up the stairs, but feared he would take it as a sign of retreat, emboldening him.
“I don’t have to leave,” he said. “I’m Daniel Throckmorten, the new owner of this town house.”
The coldness that had been hovering in the pit of Grace’s stomach now spread across her skin, shivering out to her fingers and toes. This man had gambled against her mother, took everything a weak-willed woman could offer, took the only two homes that Grace had ever known.
“You are a bastard,” she said in a low, furious voice.
He arched a dark brow. “No, not a bastard, but a man who plays cards.”
“With a woman.”
“Yes, a woman. I don’t discriminate, or think women of less intelligence. They’re fully capable of being wily enough to gamble.”
“It does not bother you that you are putting out an entire family?”
“I know nothing of your family or its situation,” he admitted, tilting his head. “Should you not be directing your ire at your mother?”
“I cannot, because after telling me about the loss of the property, she left.”
But not before she’d taken the antique violin that had belonged to Grace’s father. Grace had been promised it since childhood, but it had disappeared the same night, another casualty to her mother’s need for gambling stakes. If Grace had it, she would discard her sentimentality and sell it if it were enough to buy them out of this predicament.
“I have the deeds,” Mr. Throckmorten said simply. “That makes me the owner.”
She had too much pride to beg for them back, and knew just by looking at his ruthless demeanor that it would be pointless. In all honor, he had won. She should not fault him—but she couldn’t help it. He had preyed upon the weakness of others. Someone had to make this man understand that gambling hurt far too many people. Her mother was no innocent, but any man should have been able to see that she could no longer control herself where betting was concerned. Or did only winning matter to him?
He smiled. “I have never cared
for my own town house. It is cramped and in a declining part of
Could he possibly think she would find him amusing?
“Come back in the morning to speak with my brother.” And she would have more time to think up a way to stop all of this.
He ignored that and walked the same path she had, peering into the dining room. “I came tonight because I’d hoped to be here before everything I now owned was cleared out. Too late.”
“It was not done because of you,” she said begrudgingly.
“Ah.” He narrowed his eyes. “Was it your mother or brother with the run of bad luck?”
“Does it matter?”
“Your brother, then. I don’t think you’d be defending your mother after all that’s happened.”
Something in the tone of his voice alerted her, but she didn’t understand to what. She watched him prowl the entrance hall, looking at all the blank spaces on the wall, conspicuously lighter than the wallpaper around them.
“Are you going to stay halfway up the stairs all night?” he asked.
She foolishly took the challenge, descending several steps to him. “You need to leave. A gentleman would—”
“But you already have proof that I am no gentleman.” He came to the edge of the stairs and looked up at her.
There were so close that if they both reached out, they would touch fingers. She should be frightened, but she was not. She felt reckless with her anger and disappointment. After what her mother had done to her, nothing this stranger said would truly matter. She was at his mercy—if he expected her to beg for it, he would be unrewarded. And if he expected something else, he would discover quickly that she had learned the hard way how to take care of herself.
But he was still looking at her, and to her chagrin, she felt overly warm everywhere his regard touched her. What was wrong with her?
And then he glanced at her mouth. She had a sudden image of feverish kisses in the dark.
She mentally backed away from the thought, knowing from experience the heartache that would follow.
Gritting her teeth, she forced herself to be humble. “Even if you are no gentleman, you must have some compassion. Give me time to make plans. Perhaps we can come to some sort of agreement.”
“Do you have the money to buy either home?”
“No.” It was so difficult to pretend calm when she wanted to fly down the stairs at him, to pound his chest in punishment for what had happened to her.
“Then we won’t come to an agreement.”
“I need time to find a position for myself.”
He cocked his head in curiosity. “A position?”
“I am unmarried, sir, as well as unbetrothed. I will need to earn my way.”
“Are you educated enough to be a governess?”
“Yes.” She fisted her hands, wishing she didn’t have to stand here and take his interrogation.
But he was watching her far too closely, and she had the strange feeling that he was humoring her.
“You have another choice, thanks to your mother.”
“She was getting rather desperate to continue the game, and another player wanted her to sweeten the pot, beyond her property.”
“What more did she have left?” Grace asked bitterly.
“You mean besides the violin?”
“You have it?” she whispered.
“What else could she have possibly offered this other player? How greedy was he?”
“Too greedy.” With a shrug of his shoulders, he added, “I had really only wanted the violin, but instead I won…everything.”
“Just tell me,” she said coldly.
“I won you.”
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