Captain Rakehell by Lynn Michaels
Originally published by Fawcett Crest
Kindle Edition September 2010 by Lynn Michaels
Prequel to The Duke's Downfall
Back Cover Blurb
Determined to escape a match arranged by her father, Lady Amanda Gilbertson hides from Lord Lesley Earnshaw in a tree in his mother's garden. There, at midnight, Amanda encounters the black-masked Captain Rakehell, who is really Lesley in disguise.
No fop like her intended could sweep her into an embrace as potent as the Captain's. Thief or not, he has stolen her heart -- and Amanda is determined to learn his identity.
Standing dumbstruck with disbelief and as yet unseen in the parlor doorway, Amanda wished she, too, could weep. Surely the ridiculous fop seated with her father couldn't be Lesley Earnshaw, for he bore no more resemblance to the rough and tumble boy she remembered than she did to the Baroness Blumfield.
His blue superfine coat and buff pantaloons served well enough, but the pattern of his ruby waistcoat was better suited to a drapery, and she was certain if he turned his head too suddenly his incredible shirt points would lop off an ear. His cravat foamed with more lace than her petticoats, his dark hair with more curls than her own, and the gold tassels on his Hessian boots would look far better on the end of a bell pull.
"Ah, there you are, Amanda." Lord Hampton took note of her in the doorway and rose from his chair. "Come here, pet."
Yes, she'd swoon, and she wouldn't have to pretend, Amanda decided, coming slowly forward at her father's summons. Lord Earnshaw also came to his feet, levering himself up with an ebony walking stick while raising -- oh, heaven help her! -- a quizzing glass!
Which masked, Lesley fervently hoped, the incredulous leap his eyelids took. The glass warped the image of the girl moving haltingly into the room, but her face had already been indelibly etched in his mind by firelight and moon glow. The realization that he'd schemed and shammed himself into one hell of a prickly fix chased through his head, but couldn't dim the sheer delight he felt at discovering, in so unlikely a guise, the little minx who'd dropped into his life and his dreams from a tree two nights ago.
"Here we are." Lord Hampton slipped one arm around his daughter's shoulders as she stopped beside him.
"Good afternoon, Lord Earnshaw." Amanda made the small, polite curtsy expected of her and offered her hand. "How kind of you to invite me to drive with you."
There was no warmth in her eyes -- the deep blue, near-violet eyes that had haunted his sleep -- or her fingertips as he bowed and drew them to his lips. Something is sorely amiss here, thought Lesley, abandoning the glass as he straightened to better gauge the depths of ice in her gaze.
"Do call me Lesley," he replied, keeping a loose hold on her fingers. "May I say, my dear Amanda, how very lovely you've grown up to be."
"Only if I may say the same thing of you," she retorted, biting the tip of her tongue to stifle the "Ouch!" that sprang to her lips as her father pinched her arm.
There was defiance in the sharp glance she shot her parent, and a moment later, as her gaze raked Lesley from head to foot, pure revulsion. Oh, this is famous, he realized, she loathes me!
He realized, too, that Teddy had lied to him, that he'd donned this ridiculous rig for naught, but couldn't muster himself to anger. Teddy deserved, and would receive throttling for spinning this particular Banbury Tale, but at the moment the situation was too ironic to be anything but hilarious.
Lightly, and in keeping with his character, Lesley laughed. "I do so admire a sense of humor."
"Obviously, my lord." Amanda withdrew her hand and again took stock of him, this time with a distastefully arched brow.
It was the look more than the comment that nicked Lesley's ego. The little adder, he thought, torn between amusement and irritation. With such a tongue, no wonder she is still unwed. What was it the Runner, Fisk, had said to him? Appearances sometimes deceive, that was it. And didn't they just, for he was no more the fop he now appeared than he was, in the guise of the gentleman in the black mask, a thief.
Perhaps, he thought, it was time Lady Amanda Gilbertson learned you cannot judge a man by the color of his waistcoat or the amount of lace on his cravat. And who better to teach her, he decided, than Captain Rakehell?