The Sweetest Revenge
When the Earl of Leothaid took Isabelle Frasier’s innocence, the resulting scandal drove Isabelle to England in humiliating exile. Seven years later, she befriends Anna Newton and Susan, Lady DeLinn, two other women whom Leo has similarly debauched and abandoned.
Isabelle joins with Anna and Susan to seek vengeance on the man who ruined them. But when her friends choose Isabelle as the instrument of their revenge, she faces an impossible choice: stand by Anna and Susan, or betray them by surrendering to her reawakening feelings for the wicked earl.
When Leo lost the woman he loved, he sank into a life of depravity and vice. Now, nothing and nobody can seep into his hard shell of a heart. But when three mystery women abduct him and shackle him in a dark cellar, Leo just might rediscover his humanity…and a love that may lift him back into the light.
Please note: This book does not shirk away from the dark consequences of a dissolute rake’s behavior. It contains rough language and erotic situations. You’ve been warned.
We have all read wonderful stories about the handsome rakes and dashing scoundrels; the debauched dukes, the wicked earls, and the roguish viscounts. In these stories, the mad, bad aristocrats find the woman who ultimately tames them, who turns them into a monogamous man, a loving husband and father.
I have always wondered, though, what happened to all those women who came before that woman who tamed him? What happened to those poor souls he debauched and ruined? How did they survive the scandal? How did they go on after the rake left them behind?
This is the story of three women in that exact situation—three women who’ve been the victims of one rake who has compromised them all. These three women have decided that enough is enough, and while they can’t take on society, perhaps—just perhaps—they can change one man. This is the story of his reformation.
This is the story of their revenge.
A strip of linen blindfolded him. Susan had planned this—to keep him blindfolded and the ropes lashed to his hands at night in the event something should happen, or in the event one of them wished to make a nighttime call. At the time, Isabelle thought Susan’s decision extreme, but here she was.
She stared at the blindfold and remembered his eyes. Dark, stormy blue with hints of metallic gray that glimmered when he was angry…or aroused.
His wide lips parted slightly in sleep. Facial hair covered the edge of his jaw. She remembered running her lips over his jaw, up his hairline, across his forehead. She remembered stroking his torso, learning every muscle, every dip and curve of his form. She’d loved touching him. He’d told her he loved touching her, too.
But he’d lied. Just as he had lied to Anna and Susan and countless others.
Isabelle released a long, slow breath.
“Belle?” he said in a rough voice. “Is that you?”
She froze. How long had he been awake?
She had to breathe or her lungs would burst. She inhaled shallowly, trying desperately to be silent.
“Don’t hide from me.” Awkwardly, he kicked the blanket away and shifted his body so he sat upright. The chain clanked on the floor, and Isabelle winced.
She could not peel her eyes away from him. He sat on the edge of the chaise, fully awake now, his body alert, so alert he reminded her of a lion studying a mouse, seconds from leaping on its prey.
When she was eighteen, she’d believed he was the handsomest man in the world. Since then, she’d privately scoffed at her immature infatuation.
She’d been wrong to scoff. He was beautiful. He was larger now than he’d been seven years ago—thicker through the shoulders and in the thighs. His muscles had grown to mouthwatering proportions.
He was a dissolute, spoilt rake. How on earth had he grown so strong?
She studied his feet, awed by them yet again. They were so big, so naked. The nakedness extended up his manacled ankles to the bottoms of his crumpled black trousers.
The only other thing he wore was a blousy white shirt, which opened at his neck in a vee.
She gazed at his chest, her heart thudding in her ears. Surely he must hear it as well.
Was it her thunderous heartbeat that had woken him?
“Take off the blindfold, Belle.” It was a whisper, a seduction. “Let me see you.”
She shook her head.
“What are you afraid of? I never thought I’d lay eyes on you again.” He coaxed with his voice, as if speaking to a temperamental horse. “It’s been seven years and three months, almost to the day. Please, Belle. I’ve wanted so badly to see you. Keep me bound, but let me look on you again.”
No. He was lying; he was full of lies. He had abandoned her, left her alone and loveless, while he…
All he wanted was to be set free. He would coax her to remove his blindfold; then he would wheedle freedom from his bonds. He could easily subdue the stick-thin boy on guard outside.
“God, I can feel you,” he whispered. “Come closer.”
Nay, she couldn’t.
“It has been so long. How is it that you are here? What are you doing with those women?”
Those women? Isabelle stiffened. “They are my friends,” she whispered.
“How? Why? Where have you been for all these years?”
“It doesn’t matter.” Tears pricked at her eyes. “But I know where you have been.”
He bowed his head.
“Why?” she whispered, no longer bothering with her attempts to mask her Scottish accent.
“Why did you hurt us?”
And why, after all the pain he had caused, did every inch of her skin cry out for his touch?
“I never meant to hurt anyone. Especially you.”
“But you did.”
And, glutton for punishment that she was, she still wanted him. Despite all the pain he had caused her and her friends, and who knew how many others.
Her knees wobbled. The image of him bowing his head in shame swam before her eyes.
Oh dear God.
This was not what she had expected when she’d agreed to go along with Susan and Anna’s scheme. She had expected to calmly close the book on her heartbreak by discovering the true reasons behind his callous abandonment.
She still didn’t know why he’d left her. But it didn’t matter, really, because against all reason, she wanted him.
His voice was low, steady, and earnest, as earnest as he had sounded when he’d held her in his arms so many years ago. “I didn’t intend to hurt you. I wanted you, Belle. Just you.”
Isabelle swallowed hard. She clenched her fists to keep her hands from reaching out toward him. What would she do? Slap him? Hold him?
She was so confused. This raging desire, unbridled anger, desperate pain. All of it had been simmering within her for seven years, and now, seeing him again brought all the feelings to a boiling point, flooding through her veins and over her skin.
She didn’t know what to do, to say. Her heart pounded. This was Leo. So close. Saying she was the only woman he’d ever wanted. She wanted to fall into his arms and curl up in the comfort of his embrace and forget everything in the world but him and how she knew he could make her feel.
She closed her eyes and clenched her fists and fought that compulsion with every bit of strength she possessed.
She won. Her raging need was under control. She’d turn on her heel and leave.
She opened her eyes and saw him, tense and still on the edge of the chaise longue. Looking at her as if he could see through the blindfold.
She lunged across the floor and knelt before him. Grabbing him behind his neck, she pulled him forward and pressed her lips to his.
He tasted so good. So familiar. She kissed him hard, and he responded, his lips taking control, even though he couldn’t touch her.
Guilt slammed into her with the force of a hurricane.