Entangled recently announced their newest Historical Romance line, Scandalous. One of the books kicking off the new line is Catherine Hemmerling’s Taming Her Forbidden Earl. Catherine has written original extra scene just for Fiction Vixen readers.
Everyone knows William Bredon, the earl of Pembroke, has a reputation as a captivating rogue, determined to never marry until his duty to produce an heir requires it. So when he invites Lady Hannah Rochester to dance, Hannah vows to keep her distance. But the undeniably gorgeous William, with his dark humor and seductive gaze, draws her in nonetheless.
Of course, Lady Hannah is not completely what she seems, either. A member of the dowager Lady Lancaster’s Garden Society, she secretly spends her days solving mysteries and uncovering intrigues, and when she brings William into the fold, a sinister plot develops that brings the two closer together. William’s protective nature ensures he remains by Hannah’s side, but he will not surrender his anti-marriage stance.
Can intrigue, passion, and maybe even a little bit of scandal reform the most notorious of rakes?
It Is Better To Give Than Receive
Hannah let out a deep sigh as she stepped into the Payne parlor. There were a number of people already seated in the neatly arranged rows of chairs. The chairs were facing a makeshift stage where there was a small semi-circle of stools and music stands.
So it’s to be a quartet this year, Hannah thought to herself. That could be good or bad. Less instruments could mean less chance of discordance or more chance of one especially bad performance to stand out. It was always nicer is you couldn’t pick out exactly who was going “off” at these things.
These things being the Payne Musicales. The Payne family (Hannah tried, in vain, to ignore the unfortunate pun) put on musicales two or three times a year. It was a tradition, but no one could figure out when and why they started. And no one could remember if they had ever been any good, for certainly they were no longer. It was apparent any musical talent had been bred out of the family line decades ago, if there had ever been any at all, but they were such a nice, charitable group, no one had the heart to tell them how awful their presentations were. But neither could people stand to attend every performance scheduled in the year. Therefore, attendance varied from event to event, with some unspoken regularity among the ton. Undoubtedly, there was friendly badgering and negotiations behind the scenes to ensure a respectable, if not repeatable, audience at each musicale.
But friendly badgering was not the reason Hannah was in attendance. Her reason for being there was downright hostile manipulation.
According to British custom, the first male to visit a person’s home was to bring the family their good fortune for the year … by way of a gift. As it happened, the Rochester’s first visit was from the Duke of Cardigan and his daughter, Lavinia Brudenell. Lavinia and Hannah were not fond of each other, but kept up appearances as their fathers were the best of friends. When the time came for the gift giving, Lavinia sweetly asked her father for the honor. Hannah was immediately suspicious, but the duke gave into his daughter without pause.
It was in this way that Hannah ended up with the ticket to the Payne musicale. It was given with a curtsy and a smirk and could not be turned down.
As Hannah fumed silently in remembrance, she quickly scanned the room for a familiar face. The evening would be far more enjoyable with someone to commiserate with.
It was then she spotted William Bredon, the Earl of Pembroke. And her heart began to flutter.
William was eyeing the stage with discomfort. What implements of torture would be used tonight, he mused silently. Usually he avoided these things like the plague, but this year … this year he had had no choice.
“Lord Rochester, how nice to see you.”
William turned at the familiar, and very welcome, voice.
“Hannah,” he said in relief, when he saw her beautiful face and sparkling eyes, “you don’t know how glad I am to see you.”
William resisted the urge to sweep her into his arms and kiss her. Such a greeting had been their habit as of late, but this parlor was more than a little too public for such a display. Instead he just took her hand and gave it a light caress.
Hannah laughed, even as she blushed. “I believe I know exactly how glad you are to see me.”
William grimaced. “Then you have been to one of these ordeals – ahem, recitals – before?”
“Sadly, yes. Why may I ask are you in attendance?” Hannah asked curiously. “Was it your mother’s doing?”
“Alas, no,” William replied, with an exaggerated air, “I am here to exercise my year’s good fortune.”
Gasping, Hannah said, “No, not you too?”
William looked at her surprised and raised an eyebrow in query.
Hannah wasted no time in explaining her reason for being there.
William could only shake his head. “Bradbury did much the same thing to me; however, I am sure it was done without malice. He has not had the opportunity to, ah, hear the Payne’s talent, as he has been off fighting in the war. He was very sorry to give the ticket up, but would only do so ‘to ensure my good year’s fortune.’ Said in such earnestness, how could I refuse?”
“Oh, William,” Hannah said eyes filled with a combination of mirth and pity, “you could not have said anything else. But why attend? Surely, Lord Bradbury would never have known.”
“I gave him my word,” William said briefly and pointedly.
Hannah had to smile at William’s words. Was it no wonder that she loved him? Not only was he willing to embroil himself in this smuggling scheme of their brothers, and stand up to Lord Shrewsbury’s awful demands, he was attending the worst event of the winter season because he had given his word to a friend.
Tomorrow they would be back in the middle of a nefarious blackmail plot; so tonight she would just try to enjoy this man she was coming to realize held her heart.
She was given no more time to ponder the wonderful qualities of her companion, for the servants had come into the room and began to douse the candles here and there to dim the room and announce the beginning of the musicale.
Hannah and William found seats towards the back and settled in for what promised to be an excruciated hour. Sadly, the music – if it could be called that – went on for close to two hours, but Hannah was having a marvelous time. Throughout the evening, William had been keeping a running commentary on the performance. It was quite hilarious and surprisingly, er, stimulating.
“Are you quite sure the tall redhead is playing the same tune as the rest of them?” William bent over to whisper in her ear, just as he had been doing all night. His breath in her ear did strange things to her pulse and just the slightest brush of their hands or arms made Hannah long for a moment alone with the man. Certainly these were not appropriate thoughts, but Lord, she just couldn’t help herself.
Giggling, both from her scandalous thoughts and William’s dry humor, Hannah nodded emphatically, just as another young lady joined the quartet and began singing.
“Oh, Lord, there’s to be singing too?”
“Do you think,” Hannah replied softly, wanting to give as good as she got, “that that can honestly be called singing?”
William burst out a laugh that he tried in vain to cover in a cough and it was all Hannah could do not to join him.
Apparently under control once again, William leaned over and said, “Next time we bring cotton for our ears.”
Hannah turned and looked at him incredulously. “Next time?”
Before William could respond the song came to a very loud, very discordant, flourishing finish and – thank the Lord – the performers stood and bowed. The applause marked the end of the spectacle.
On their way out of the room, Hannah and William were stopped by Lady Payne, the matriarch of most of the performers still milling around on the tiny stage.
“Oh, Hannah and Lord Pembroke,” the lady gushed, fluttering her arms like a good mother hen, “we are so pleased you could attend. I trust you had a good time?”
Hannah looked at William, unwilling to speak for fear she might begin laughing again.
Taking her cue, William said graciously, “It was unlike anything I have ever seen before. I am sure Lady Hannah and I will never forget it.”
Lady Payne beamed in response. “Oh, lovely! Well, as it happens, we are selling tickets to a Spring Festival that will include music as you have seen here and a play! You must plan to attend.”
“We shall see,” William replied evasively.
“The proceeds will go to charity, of course, and the young lady who sang tonight and the violinist will be accompanying the ticket sellers door to door to showcase some of the talent that will be seen at the festival. Don’t you think that is the most brilliant idea?”
“Oh, yes,” Hannah choked out. “When do you plan to begin this, ah, effort?”
“And in which neighborhoods?” William hurriedly tacked on.
“We will begin here in Mayfair just next week. Spring is not so far off, you know. We will skip the houses of the patrons here tonight, though, as you all now know what you will be getting when you buy a ticket.”
Hannah let out a silent sigh of relief, but then had a thoroughly wicked idea. “I know of the perfect family you should visit, Lady Payne.”
“Do you? Please do tell.”
“The Brudenells! Lavinia was forced to give up her ticket for tonight as a New Year’s gift. It would be a shame for her to miss out on the festival.”
William grinned at her and said, “You mustn’t forget Lord Bradbury, either, my lady. He is just back from the war and he would love to know about the spring fête.”
“Splendid, splendid. I will add their names to the top of the list.”
Hannah gave William a satisfied nod as they turned, once again, to exit.
“Oh, but wait,” Lady Payne called from behind them. “You haven’t bought your tickets yet.”
With an audible sigh, William turned back around and completed the transaction.
Handing one of the tickets to Hannah, he said, “I will bring the cotton.”
Hannah simply smiled as she took his arm and, trailing her fingers lightly down its length, she said, “It’s a deal.”
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