Lady Unveiled ~ The Cuckold Conspiracy
Four very different sisters compete for love during an exciting London season: a celebrated actress with a heart of gold, a shy yet daring wallflower, and the artistic, illegitimate daughter of a nobleman. Caught up in a high-stakes game of intrigue and deceit orchestrated by their sister, the ton’s reigning beauty, each must play their part to bring a dangerous traitor to justice while finding a man deserving of their love and special talents.
Lady Unveiled ~ The Cuckold’s Conspiracy is Book 5 in the Daughters of Sin Series. It follows Beyond Rubies and winds up the turbulent love affairs of Lord Partington’s two nobly born, and two illegitimate, daughters.
Kitty has the love of the man of her dreams but as London’s most acclaimed actress and a member of the demimondaine, she accepts she can never be kind and handsome Lord Silverton’s lawful wedded wife.
When Kitty comes to the aid of shy, accident-prone and kind-hearted Octavia Mandelton, her sense of justice leads to her making the most difficult decision of her life: Give up the man she loves for the sake of honour. For Octavia is still betrothed to Lord Silverton who’d rescued Kitty in dramatic circumstances only weeks before.
Cast adrift, Kitty joins forces with her sister, Lissa, a talented artist posing as a governess in order to bring to justice a dangerous spy, villainous Lord Debenham. Complicating matters is the fact Debenham is married to their half-sister, vain and beautiful Araminta.
However, Araminta has a dark secret which only Kitty knows and which she realizes she is duty-bound to expose if she’s to achieve justice and win happiness for deserving Lissa and Lissa’s enterprising sweetheart, Ralph Tunley, long-suffering secretary to Lord Debenham.
All seems set for a happy ending when Kitty tumbles into mortal danger. A danger from which only a truly honorable man can save her. A man like Silverton who must now make the hardest choice of his life if he’s to live with his conscience.
Buy Lady Unveiled~The Cuckold Conspiracy to see how love, duty and honor dictate the just desserts of these four very different sisters.
Book 1: Her Gilded Prison
Book 2: Dangerous Gentlemen
Book 3: The Mysterious Governess
Book 4: Beyond Rubies
Book 5: Lady Unveiled~The Cuckold Conspiracy
Lucinda’s angry, discordant note on the piano brought Lissa’s head up sharply. It seemed her disgruntled charge had finally—like Lissa—had enough of the muffled and completely inappropriate giggles of Lord Beecham’s ‘special friend. For the last hour, Lissa had sat quietly sewing by the window, as well behaved as any good governess could be suffering such trials.
Meanwhile, seated on an elegant blue and silver silk-striped settee opposite the piano, Lord Beecham seemed wholly occupied with his increasingly regular guest, Lady Julia and, until now, impervious to his ward’s attempt to regain his attention.
Lissa slanted a glance at Lucinda. When Lucinda was angry she was not a pretty girl. Her peaches and cream complexion became red and mottled, her rose-bud shaped mouth flattened into a harsh, thin line and her normally luminous blue eyes seemed almost black beneath beetling brows. This was how she looked now as she hunched on the piano stool, glowering at Lady Julia—or Lady Ledger, wife of Sir Archie Ledger if she were happy to be properly identified, which, judging by the surreptitious fondling the pair were engaged in today, she would not.
Lady Julia, supposedly an earl’s daughter fallen on hard times, was supposedly Lucinda’s very young godmother. She arrived at Lord Beecham’s London townhouse at regular intervals, heavily veiled, to instruct Miss Lucinda Martindale in the musical arts though she could not—as far as Lissa could tell—play a note. At least, Lissa had never heard her play a note, though she’d heard a lot of other noise emanating from Lady Julia during her visits to his lordship’s bedroom between music lessons.
Finally, it seemed, Lucinda had got what she’d been after: Lord Beecham’s undivided attention.
“What an infernal noise!” he exclaimed, the dewy adoration as he’d gazed at Lady Julia instantly replaced by a thunderous scowl as he jerked his head round to look at Lucinda. “I spend a fortune on your musical education! Surely I should expect better than that!”
Lucinda’s mobile face went through a gamut of emotions: devastation then outrage, however her mouth remained a thin, tight line. It was quite obvious the girl was desperately in love with her benefactor into whose care she’d been placed the previous year upon the death of her parents and younger brother during a scarlet fever outbreak in their village. But while Lucinda was obstinate and demanding of her governess, she had never, as far as Lissa knew, openly challenged Lord Beecham.
Nevertheless, there was an underlying challenge now in the girl’s demure: “Perhaps Lady Julia would care to demonstrate how Pachelbel’s Canon in D should really sound.”
Lady Julia, who had attempted to discreetly put at least several inches between her thigh and that of his Lordship’s, smiled sweetly. “My dear, I don’t want to show you up.” She patted her bright golden hair. “Please, play it again. With just a little more practice you will have mastered it, and Lord Beecham and I are quite happy for you to entertain us while I continue to outline to him my hopes on how your general carriage, demeanor and…might I add without offence…character itself, might be improved sufficiently to make your come-out without undue embarrassment to either yourself or his Lordship.”
She must remember every nuance, the exquisite sensation of his heated skin, lightly sheened with sweat, his chest hair tickling her cheek, the wonderful essence of him wafting through her senses.
He felt rock solid and he was in so many other ways, too. But he would not be there in the way she needed him to be; not if she were to escape the miserable cycle into which she’d been born. She wanted children. Children born within wedlock. Granted, Lord Silverton would be a more constant and loving parent than her own father—Lord Partington—had been. However, while her children by Silverton would enjoy their father’s protection and affection they’d not have his name and, in this world, one’s name was everything.
And so she must leave him but, dear Lord, making that break would be the most painful thing she would ever do.
Kitty reached across to stroke his face and murmured, “Your conscience must smite you,” then gave a gentle, ironic laugh as she felt him stiffen, the only indication that her words had found a mark.
“It’s not as I would wish.” He spoke with difficulty as he stared at the ceiling, one hand resting behind his head, the other tightening over her fingers as he turned to face her. “I love you, Kitty, but I am duty-bound to Miss Mandelton.”
“And to the rest of your family. I understand.” A searing pain ripped through her but she showed no emotion as stared into his eyes, mirroring the flickering candle that sat on a low table beside the bed. “I thought I could accept it too. Your arrangement, I mean. I thought I only wanted your heart…that I didn’t need more than that.” She swallowed, trying to keep at bay the rising tide of emotion. “But I know, now, that it’s not enough. If I were to sacrifice my hopes of children it would be different, but that’s too much a risk and too much for me to accept.”
He reached up to clasp her shoulders. “What are you saying, Kitty?”
“That I will never risk having a child that would be branded a bastard. I have endured that burden my whole life. And if I cannot be your wife, I cannot risk such a possibility as your mistress.”
“You would leave me?”
Her sigh felt as if it were dragged from her very depths. “I am leaving you, Silverton.” She felt like weeping but knew she must be strong. This was the only future for her. Gently she stroked his beloved features, both to comfort him and to commit them to memory as she tried to strengthen her argument. “It’s not just the children we might have together…out of wedlock. It’s what I’d be doing to Miss Mandelton, too. After my performance at The Grange I chanced upon a woman who confided to me the pain she’d endured as an unloved, legally wedded wife. I would not do that to anyone and I would not repeat the situation my mother has endured for the past twenty years.”
“We can make it work, kitty,” he whispered as he pulled her into his arms but Kitty shook her head as she stared over his shoulder at the wall and repeated dully, “I want marriage, Silverton. I told you from the start, when we were simply friends, only it was such a strange and dramatic set of circumstances by which I became your mistress with you on the way to meeting the wife your family had chosen for you. I always felt confident of your love but when you marry your first obligation would be towards your wife and—when they start arriving—your children. You would soon be out of my reach. I can’t do it.”
“I would always be within your reach. You have my heart, Kitty. You will always have my heart.”
“But at what cost, Silverton? I’ve met Miss Mandelton. She deserves better than what she’d have to make do with if you remained true to me.” She brushed away a tear, adding, “What we have together is pure and true. I know you don’t love her and I understand the duty that compels you to follow through on an obligation made a long time ago but that’s not compensation enough for me.” Gently but firmly she pulled out of his arms, finishing her speech from the safety of the carpet as she draped her discarded shawl over her nakedness. “Miss Mandelton’s life would be barren and miserable if she learned your heart belonged to another. Believe me, I know what that feels like from experience and I could not live with myself for thrusting it upon someone else. Certainly not someone as good and deserving as Miss Mandelton.”
Wearily Silverton stepped across the threshold into his dimly lit townhouse, surrendering his hat and coat. He wouldn’t go straight to bed, though it was late and he had an early start with meetings at the Foreign Office.
“M’lord, you have a visitor waiting for you in the drawing room.”
Silverton couldn’t have been more surprised—and delighted—at the identity of his unexpected visitor who leapt up in a rustle of silken skirts as the butler discreetly withdrew.
“Kitty! What are you doing here?” He barely dared hope yet he had to ask the question, the affirmative to which would have made him the happiest man on earth. Right now he felt like the loneliest. “Have you come back to me?”
“Oh Silverton, you know I can’t do that when you’re to be married in a little over a week.” She looked truly regretful yet her smile, tinged with sadness, was the most glorious sight he could remember seeing as the last few weeks of London revels blurred across his mind.
“You don’t love me quite enough to do that, eh?” It was a low shot but, emboldened by the fact he’d just knocked back more than a few brandies shortly before, he wanted to needle her into some declaration that would hint at the truth of her feelings for him.
“I love you too much to force you into such a conflict with your sense of honor, my dearest.”
He was disappointed when she took a step back as he approached and said, softly, “Please don’t touch me, Silverton, for you know how susceptible I am to your overtures and I’m really here for a very noble reason which would be entirely spoiled if it resulted in anything physical between us.”
“But the physical between us has always been so mutually satisfying, hasn’t it? And we both feel exactly the same about each other as we did—” he paused, then added with difficulty— “before you left me.”
“That might be true but that’s not what I’ve come here to talk about.” Her words were truncated on a slow sigh for Silverton had succeeded in breaching the distance between them and now his fingertips were gently caressing her cheek.
She closed her eyes but did not move other than to whisper, “It’s about Lord Debenham.”
“Such a ghastly man, indeed,” Silverton murmured, hoping that concurring with what he knew she felt about the man was appropriate under the circumstances. “I hope you’ll stay well clear of him.” Carefully he drew Kitty into his embrace. He needed to manage this encounter with the greatest skill. Holding the most exquisite woman he’d ever met, the woman he’d made his mistress when he’d wanted so badly to make her his wife, simply reinforced how right she made him feel. She was bright, intelligent, a lively companion, and so very beautiful.
And she was so hell-bent on doing what was right.
Silverton was hell-bent on doing what was right, too, which was why he’d never held his wife-to-be in anything more intimate than a waltz hold for fear it would be the death-knell to his resolve that he could act in the interests of his family and marry Octavia.
“And what is it about villainous Viscount Debenham that brought you to my townhouse so late at night?”
Kitty twined her arms about behind his neck and nestled her head against his chest. Her soft sigh of contentment was like a hot needle in his most tender parts for Kitty was so transparent about her affection for him.
She smiled up at him, biting her lip as a shadow of doubt crossed her features. “I told him you were a spy.”
[End of Excerpt]