Charles Huntley, Lord Ryevale, infamous rogue…and government agent.
In unsettled times, with England at war with France, Ryevale is assigned to covertly protect a politician’s daughter, Miss Verity Verrinder. To keep Verity under his watchful eye, Ryevale plots a campaign of seduction that no woman can resist– except it seems, Miss Verrinder. In order to gain her trust Ryevale enters Verity’s world of charity meetings and bookshops…where the unexpected happens and he falls in love with his charge.
When Lord Ryevale turns his bone-melting charms on her, Verity questions his lordship’s motivation. But with her controlling father abroad, Verity wishes to explore London and reluctantly accepts Ryevale’s companionship. As the compelling attraction between them strengthens, Verity is shattered to learn her instincts are correct after all – and Ryevale is not what he seems. If Lord Ryevale can lie, then so can she…but with disastrous consequences.
But as Verity circled the exhibit, she began to think her father was right after all. Was it not sad to see these dignified animals consigned to collect dust, in the name of entertainment? She turned to Miss Mowlam to make this remark, only to find her companion shifting from foot to foot and clutching her belly.
“Miss Mowlam? Are you unwell?”
Her chaperone frowned. “Excuse me, Miss Verrinder, but I must find a place of easement and quickly.”
“Shall I come with you?”
Such was Miss Mowlam’s haste that she answered with a flap of the hand and was gone. Verity was torn; it was irregular to be without a chaperone, but Miss Mowlam would not welcome a witness to her discomfort. As her ample derriere had already disappeared back the way they came, it seemed to stay put was the best option, so that Miss Mowlam could find her again.
The elephant’s sad eye made her uncomfortable, so Verity investigated the cabinets. But as she turned, a figure caught her eye. Even with his back turned and leaning forward to inspect an exhibit, there was no mistaking the powerful shoulders and graceful elegance of Lord Ryevale. The hall suddenly shrank in size and her heart catapulted against her ribs. She swallowed hard. What if he saw her, what should she do? Without a chaperone she felt exposed. This panic felt most peculiar; a jumble of excitement and caution.
Verity drifted to one of the cabinets to better study him covertly. No one else filled a jacket quite so well as Lord Ryevale. A curl of dark hair contrasted with his white stock, and the detail thrilled her. Even the arrogant tilt of his head befuddled her thoughts—such a handsome profile; the jut of his chin, the curve of his lips and the hollowed cheeks that evoked an insistent beat in her chest.
To her horror, Ryevale glanced towards her, then turned away. Her fingers curled into her palms in an agony of embarrassment. Had he seen her looking? Clumsily, she feigned interest in a stuffed puffin. She held her breath, but when no one approached she let it out again. She frowned. Instinctively, she knew he was ignoring her. After a minute, the seconds measured by her racing pulse, she permitted herself another glance. He had moved onto the next cabinet.
Verity froze. Her skin still sang from where his eyes had grazed it; beyond a doubt he had seen her, which meant he had deliberately cut her. How dare he! This man who seduced a married woman in her father’s library refused to acknowledge a respectable lady! If anyone was to cut the other it would be her.
Without pausing to consider the wisdom of her actions, Verity stalked across the hall and tapped him on the shoulder.
“Lord Ryevale, why did you pretend not to see me?”
With suave nonchalance, Ryevale bowed. “Ah, Miss Verrinder, delightful as ever.”
“Why did you ignore me?”
“I did no such thing.”
“I don’t believe you.”
One corner of his mouth twitched into a teasing smile. “Perhaps I was thinking of your reputation. After all, being seen in the company of a rogue is not the done thing.”
Of course he was right, which only irritated Verity more because it hadn’t occurred to her. Stubbornly, she pressed on. “Miss Mowlam is escorting me…and will return any second.”
“Glad to hear it.” He pursed his mouth, which made Verity unexpectedly hot between the breasts. “Why did she leave you alone?” Was it her imagination or did he seem concerned?
“A call of nature.”
“Ah. And you didn’t think to go with her?”
Verity spluttered. “I am an adult. I can take care of myself.”
“I did not imply differently—merely that you never know which unsavory character you may bump into.” He raised an ironical brow.
“Touché. So what are you doing here?”
Ryevale hesitated. “Have you considered that I might have an assignation with a young lady?”
His eyes were such a rich deep brown—darker than cocoa and deeper than sherry—that made her quiver inside, and at that moment she hated him very much indeed.
“Miss Verrinder, if you recall, you approached me.”
“Humph.” Infuriating man, now he implied she couldn’t keep away.
“But now you have sought me out, and it seems my friend has forsaken me, perhaps we could call a truce and examine the exhibits together.”
“That’s not a good idea.” A voice nagged in her head, saying that Ryevale’s company was not appropriate, especially as he addled her judgment so.
“Come now, I am a family friend, and your father would not be happy if I left you without an escort. I promise to go when your chaperone returns.”
It seemed churlish to refuse. “Very well.”
“Besides, I enjoy your company.”
Remembering how she despised women who were easily flattered, Verity fought off the urge to blush.
“You are allowed to enjoy yourself, Miss Verrinder. I have a theory that you don’t get much opportunity for smiling.”
What else had he guessed? This man was dangerous. “Let’s walk.” Verity said, “People are looking.”
“Are you surprised?” his velvet tone teased. “I have something of a reputation, don’t you know?”
Author Bio and Links
Grace Elliot Grace Elliot leads a double life as a veterinarian by day and author of historical romance by night. Grace lives near London and is passionate about history, romance and cats! She is housekeeping staff to five cats, two sons, one husband and a bearded dragon (not necessarily listed in order of importance). “Verity’s Lie” is Grace’s fourth novel.
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