Debutantes, spare heirs and murder — these are the makings of an intriguing historical romance we can’t wait to read! Elizabeth Michels’s The Infamous Heir offers mystery and romance in one seductive story. You can get your hands on this RT Top Pick! today, but first we’d like to share an excerpt — and a giveaway!
Elizabeth herself sets the scene for us: “In the excerpt I’m about to share with you, Roselyn and Ethan have broken into a warehouse by the London harbor in the middle of the night. They are in search of answers and hoping to find those answers buried within one of the crates of jet jewelry—only Ethan has no idea Roselyn is there with him as he chats with his friend. Roselyn and Ethan are constantly ripped apart and pushed together by the details of a recent murder. They don’t see eye to eye on anything involved with the investigation—mostly because for a time Roselyn believes Ethan is the killer.”
Roselyn peeked through the gap between the crates, watching the two men.
“You have the Ayton courtesy title now. In my experience, the title bit is halfway to being saddled with a wife,” Hardaway said.
“It’s not working out to be as simple as that in my case,” Ethan replied as he ripped into another crate.
Roselyn held her breath and listened more closely.
“You almost sound as if you want to be wed. I’d happily trade circumstances,” Hardaway said with a loud laugh.
“It’s complicated,” Ethan muttered. “She was engaged to my brother. I’m told it isn’t done and people would talk.”
He didn’t only want an evening’s amusement? If that was true, why had he said otherwise?
“Aren’t you turning into the right fancy gentleman, considering society talk? Next you know, you’ll be taking up needlework. Stitch me a nice pillow for the drawing room, won’t you, Ayton?” Hardaway said the last bit in what was clearly meant to be a lady’s voice.
Ethan shoved Hardaway in the shoulder, and the crate toppled to the floor with a bang. Then Hardaway jabbed Ethan in the ribs and laughter rang through the nearly empty warehouse. A dog barked outside and Hardaway extinguished the candle, throwing them into complete darkness.
Roselyn stood. There was no need to hide when it was so dark no one could see their hand before their face.
“Damn it all, Ayton,” Hardaway said in something that was intended to be a whisper. “This is why I don’t bring you with me on Spares business. Tossing crates around with no thought to where they land. You’re a great bull of a man and you make a racket. This is to be a secret investigation. I have a mission. I know this is personal for you, but it’s my work. Only last week, I was saying…”
“You’d talk to the empty room if I left you be,” Ethan countered.
“I’m someone who has much to say.”
“People find me quite entertaining.”
“And humble,” Ethan said.
There was a shuffling of boots on the wood plank floor, and another round of laughter cut short by what she guessed was a friendly punch to the gut.
Roselyn shifted closer. What was Spares Business? Were Ethan and Hardaway involved in some enterprise together? Perhaps Ethan had more than one reason for keeping her away from this place tonight. And Victoria had been correct about Hardaway from the beginning. She wasn’t sure what was happening, but she knew she would have to get closer to find out more.
She felt her way forward, making sure she didn’t walk into anything or anyone. If she could circle the crates they were investigating, then when they relit the lantern, she would be able to see inside. Walking on the tips of her toes and gritting her teeth against the slight pain that still plagued her ankle, she was almost through the open area where the men stood. Barely daring to breathe, she stepped past them. The hem of her dress brushed something. She froze.
“What was that?”
“Something brushed against my leg.”
“I would think this a rather nice home by rat standards— close to the water, within walking distance of several taverns,” Ethan mused.
“Shut it, Ayton. You know I can’t abide rodents.”
“All those years living in the Dillsworth home have made you weak. You should have seen the accommodations I had in Spain.”
“Remind me not to return to Spain any time soon. Once was plenty for me.”
A gnawing sound echoed in the room. It was much too loud to be a rat, and yet she jumped anyway. And so did Hardaway, it would seem from the commotion at her side.
“Was that you?” Hardaway asked.
“No, it was a rat the size of an alley cat.” Ethan cried out, “It has my arm!”
“Not your pathetic attempts at rat noises, you arse. I heard footsteps.”
Before Roselyn could move, the lantern blazed to light. She wasn’t two paces from Ethan.
“I believe I found our rat,” Ethan offered as he stared her down like he would one of his opponents in a fight.
“I didn’t know rats dressed up so,” Hardaway answered with a grin.
“Could you give us a minute? I think Lady Roselyn and I have a few things to discuss.”
“Don’t mind me,” Hardaway tossed out as he replaced the lid on the crate they’d been searching and lifted the lantern high in the air. “I’ll just be rooting through crates of jewels in search of… What are we looking for again, Ayton?”
“Hell if I know. But keep looking.”
Hardaway nodded and walked away to the far side of the warehouse, taking the light with him.
Ethan didn’t know what he was searching for either. That was interesting. Disappointing, but interesting. What of the business Hardaway had referenced? Tonight certainly had created more questions than answers. She met Ethan’s hard stare in the dim light.
“A black mourning dress?” he asked with an arched brow as he prowled closer to her.
She glanced down at her spy ensemble and smoothed the folds of the fabric. “It’s perfect, isn’t it?” But when she looked back up at Ethan, he was only glaring at her. Clearly, he didn’t mean his question as a compliment. She shrugged.
Unlike in the cool moonlight of last night, this evening he looked dangerous. It must be the atmosphere in this place. A terrace on an unseasonably warm night it was not.
“I thought I told you not to come here,” he said, taking another step in her direction.
“You shouldn’t have told me where you were going, then.”
“A mistake I won’t repeat.”
Why couldn’t he understand that she needed to be here searching for answers every bit as much as he did? She was not going to sit by while he sniffed out a killer without her involvement.
“You need my assistance,” she said in a soft voice.
“No, I don’t.” Even in the gray haze of light between them, she could see his jaw tighten as his gaze pierced through her.
“Of course you do. Have you uncovered any murderous plots yet?” She smiled, knowing her blow had hit its mark.
Ethan turned away with a muttered curse on his lips. He took two steps, ran a hand through his hair, and turned back to her, covering the ground he’d lost and then some. He didn’t stop until he was looming over her. “If you think turning up here in a fancy dress is helpful…”
“This is a day dress,” she corrected. Her heels knocked against wood as she hit a stack of crates, stopping her retreat.
He leaned toward her, resting his hands on the crate on either side of her shoulders. “You can’t be here, Roselyn. Do you truly think dressing in dark colors will hide you from danger?” His brows drew together as he looked at her, concern hanging heavy in his eyes. “You can’t hide from this.”
“I’m here to catch a murderer just as you are. Now, if you will excuse me, I need to search for evidence. I don’t have time to poke fun at your clothing when there is work to be done.” She tried to duck under his arm but he stopped her with a touch to her shoulder.
“Roselyn, I have to keep you safe.” His hand drifted down her side in a possessive motion.
“My safety isn’t your responsibility,” she said, trying not to think about the warmth of his hand where it rested on her hip. She’d stood with him too long, and the temptation to stay longer warred within her. She swallowed the treacherous thoughts. “You’re of no relation to me. I’m not sure what you are to me. You’re not even my future brother- in- law anymore.”
“A fact I’m most thankful for,” he growled as he lifted her from her feet and tossed her over his shoulder. Again.
He was too fast for her, and now she was winded and had a jostled view of the world from his back. She tried to push free of him, but he only tightened his grasp on her hip.
“What are you doing?” she snapped as soon as she could breathe.
“Seeing that you return home.” He was already striding toward the door to the office.
“Is this your solution to every problem? Hauling me away to my carriage?”
“If my problems continue to be you showing up where you shouldn’t be, then yes.” He was already throwing open the door that led to the street. “I will toss you onto my shoulder every day if I must.” He ran his other hand over the back of her thigh in a bold gesture as the night air whipped around her exposed ankles. Was he enjoying this?
“I’m not your problem,” she choked out as she jabbed him in the shoulder with her elbow, but he barely flinched. If anything, he increased his pace away from the warehouse door. Shifting about, she tried to free herself of his grasp. Even if her efforts landed her face down on the street as a result, they would be worth it. But the more she wiggled, the more indecent his grasp on her rear became.
She gasped, torn between aggravation and her own shameful enjoyment of his touch, but aggravation won a second later when he grumbled, “Solve this problem for good.”
“Put me down!” She pounded her fists against his back.
To her surprise, he stopped. They were close to the corner where she’d left the carriage, yet still too far for the driver to see the commotion on such a dark street.
“My pleasure,” he murmured in a low— somewhat dangerous— voice.
She stilled, waiting for him to lower her to the ground. But instead of setting her down as if being handed down from a carriage, he moved his hands farther around her back, roaming them over her body and pulling her close. “What are you…” she began, but her words faded as he lowered her from his shoulder.
He slid her down his body in one seemingly endless motion until they were face- to- face. He had a reckless gleam in his eyes and a hint of a smile on his lips that she’d only seen once before— last night just before he’d kissed her. Was that his solution to the problem she represented? If he thought to distract her from their disagreement by seducing her, then he…could try his best. She was a worthy adversary after all. Her heart pounded as she met his wild gaze.
In a minute she would escape him. She would slip away, away from the muscular arms that held her, and away from the hungry stare from the man she desired. But perhaps not just yet. Right now she wanted nothing more than to discover where this clandestine meeting would go. What would happen next? Caught up in this increasingly heated exchange, she wound her arms around his neck and held on tight instead of letting go.
His hands moved to her hips as she slipped down the hard planes of his stomach by tiny fractions, the friction stirring a greater need within her. He followed her descent with his head, his lips only a breath away from hers. She arched into his grasp. Her hands trailed down his chest, sensing every beat of his heart, every breath he took— an action that stole her own breath away.
“Roselyn,” he whispered against her lips. She didn’t know if it was a warning or a plea, but she understood it nonetheless.
She couldn’t be warned away, not tonight. She wanted the adventure, the excitement of being with him like this, and the freedom she knew could only be found when she was in his arms. It was a desire matched in the untamed look in his eyes. Her lashes batted shut as his lips met hers. She kissed him back, meeting his seeking kisses and demanding more. Their connection turned from needy to raving mad, and for the first time in her life she didn’t care if anyone who might see her thought her mad. She was mad— mad for this man.
Time stretched out on the dark London street in a frenzy of tangled tongues and playful bites, but she wanted more. She began pulling at the knot of his cravat with hasty tugs. She needed to touch him, more of him. Clearly he felt the same since a second later he shifted his grip on her and she found her hips pulled tight against his as he held her rear.
“Ethan,” she breathed in desperation. But he caught her bottom lip between his teeth and pulled her back into another scorching kiss. She didn’t know where this was leading, but as long as she was with Ethan, she didn’t care. The feel of his hard body against hers— while he plundered her mouth and she plundered his right back— left her wanting more. More wild kisses, more excitement, just more.
He pulled back a second later and pressed his forehead to hers as he caught his breath. “I want this, but you’re not safe here.” His voice was rough, and the deep vibration of it sent shivers down her spine in spite of the words he spoke.
But a second later he was kissing her again, his actions contradicting the thoughts that must be pounding in his head. He finally released her enough for her toes to touch the ground. But he didn’t let go, instead moving forward to trap her against the stone wall of the warehouse. He bent to trail his lips down the side of her neck as he framed her breasts with his hands.
“I’m safe with you,” she murmured as she delved her fingers into his dark hair, holding him to her.
“That’s debatable at the moment,” he said between the kisses he was placing on the exposed skin above the neckline of her dress.
“I want to be here with you,” she said, not caring how wanton it may sound. It was true.
He sighed and straightened. Lifting her once more from the ground, he began to move down the street with her in his arms.
“Where are you taking…” But then he was kissing her again, though this time he seemed to be savoring every moment like she was the last bite of cake in the country. She would memorize this kiss to keep with her forever. Slow and sweet, leading her to… Where was he leading her?
Just then she heard a clunking noise at her back and Ethan set her down on a cushioned seat. A cushioned seat? She blinked up at the velvet interior of her carriage, and every fond thought she’d had for this man shattered. “You tricked me.”
“I know,” he said sheepishly.
Well, he could look sheepish all he liked, that didn’t change what he’d done. “You know?” she asked, her voice growing louder by the second.
“Roselyn, you should be at home where you’re safe, in your bedchamber.”
“Do you think I will sit by, brush my hair, and lounge about on my bed while you prowl through the worst parts of London without me?”
“Yes. You must.” He was shifting his weight as if expecting her to throw a punch in his direction…and he wasn’t wrong.
He couldn’t throw her into a carriage and walk away. She wouldn’t allow it. Lunging forward, she braced her hand against the door, coming face- to- face with Ethan in the process. “How could you do this? You are the one who suggested I step out of my doorway and live life.”
He reached up to brush a fallen curl from her forehead, trailing his fingers down her cheek. “I will be the one at risk in the damp London streets tonight.” The set of his shoulders, the stern look in his eye, everything about his stance said he was willing to fight her on this point. Why did it matter to him?
She’d been near Trevor’s killer before, had even warned Ethan of danger at last night’s ball. So why did he send her away now?
Had he only kissed her to manipulate her without any true desire on his part? It was a horribly embarrassing thought that had her shrinking into the corner of the carriage even as anger raged within her.
But as he closed the door she could have sworn she heard a faint, “Lounging about on her bed…in your dreams, Ethan.”
It was odd for a man who only used kisses as a distraction to dream of her at all. Then with a swift bang on the side of the carriage, he was gone.
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