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Some like it wild, p.1
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       Some Like It Wild, p.1

           Teresa Medeiros
 
Some Like It Wild


  Teresa Medeiros

  Some Like It Wild

  To the memory of Eric Myers. You were the rarest of creatures—a natural athlete and a gorgeous geek who loved volleyball and Star Wars equally. Nobody imitated Christ more gracefully than you, dear friend. See you on the other side.

  To Eric Medeiros—I’d always wanted a brother and then God gave me you, which means you should be careful what you ask for. Thanks for reading my books and letting me write at your house!

  And for my darling Michael—my husband, my hero, and my heart. You make every day a grand adventure.

  Contents

  Chapter 1

  I need a man,” Pamela Darby proclaimed with the same…

  Chapter 2

  In his twenty-nine years of life, Connor Kincaid had been…

  Chapter 3

  The coachman squeaked in shock as the pistol appeared in…

  Chapter 4

  Neither,” Connor replied, shaking the length of rope from his…

  Chapter 5

  As Connor sprang to his feet, Pamela took a step…

  Chapter 6

  Now that the dam was broken, the words came pouring…

  Chapter 7

  The future Duke of Warrick leaned back in his chair,…

  Chapter 8

  Get the women to the vault!” Connor snapped, shoving both…

  Chapter 9

  I’m sorry, miss, but the duke refuses to receive you.”

  Chapter 10

  The duke jerked upright in his chair, feverish spots of…

  Chapter 11

  That miserable scoundrel! That wretched blackguard! That—that—” Pamela struggled to…

  Chapter 12

  Pamela winced in alarm as Connor rose to his full…

  Chapter 13

  Pamela opened her mouth but Connor’s hand was there, warm…

  Chapter 14

  When Connor awoke the next morning, it hardly improved the…

  Chapter 15

  Dread quickened in Pamela’s heart as Crispin came sauntering across…

  Chapter 16

  Pamela’s voice came out of the darkness, strained and breathless.

  Chapter 17

  What’s wrong with what you’re wearing right now?” Connor asked…

  Chapter 18

  Pamela felt as if she were floating down the grand…

  Chapter 19

  Pamela’s heart sank like a stone in her breast. Connor…

  Chapter 20

  Connor groaned, accepting her unspoken invitation to ravish her mouth…

  Chapter 21

  Although Crispin would have thought it impossible, the young maidservant…

  Chapter 22

  Pamela rested the back of her head against Connor’s shoulder,…

  Chapter 23

  Pamela’s breath quickened as the mirror revealed a man standing…

  Chapter 24

  The Duke of Warrick’s ball quickly became the most coveted…

  Chapter 25

  It appears that someone is trying to upstage you,” Connor…

  Chapter 26

  The duke sat behind the immense desk in his study…

  Chapter 27

  If Connor were dressed all in black and gripping a…

  Chapter 28

  When Crispin opened his eyes to find Sophie hovering over…

  Chapter 29

  Catriona Wescott gazed down at the letter in her hand…

  Chapter 30

  For an agonizing moment Connor thought his heart was going…

  Epilogue

  As Pamela carried a piping hot tray of shortbread onto…

  Acknowledgments

  About the Author

  Other Books by Teresa Medeiros

  Copyright

  About the Publisher

  Chapter 1

  The Scottish Highlands

  1814

  I need a man,” Pamela Darby proclaimed with the same matter-of-fact conviction she would have used to announce “I need a scrap of lace to mend my hem” or “I need a fresh turnip for tonight’s stew.”

  From the coach seat opposite her, her half-sister Sophie glanced up from studying her worn copy of La Belle Assemblée. The periodical was two seasons out of date, but that didn’t stop Sophie from sighing over its colorful fashion plates or poring over its recommendations for the rouge most likely to grace a young lady’s cheek with a flattering hue.

  “What I need—what we need,” Pamela amended, “is not just any man, but some strapping Scots lad with more brawn than brains.” She deepened her voice, faking a burr that would have done Bonnie Prince Charlie proud. “A lad easily led by two canny lasses with more wits than he.”

  “And I’m guessing those lasses would be us?” Sophie ventured, cocking a knowing eyebrow. She winced and wiggled on the battered cushions as the coach shuddered and began to grind its way down another rocky trail that insulted their intelligence by calling itself a road. “Just how do you propose we find this handsome dullard? Should we ask the coachman to stop at the next village and post a broadsheet?”

  Trusting that her sister would play along with her silly scheme, if only to pass the long hours on the road, Pamela bit her bottom lip. “Hmmm…that’s not a bad idea. I hadn’t considered a broadsheet. How about one that reads, ‘WANTED: Thick-Witted, Thick-Necked Scotsman to Masquerade as Duke’s Long Lost Heir.’ Perhaps we could nail one up in the market square of each village we pass through.”

  “Just like that one we saw in the last village, warning us that there’s a dangerous highwayman with a price on his head terrorizing these very roads—robbing travelers and ravishing innocent women?”

  Sophie’s mocking words brought Pamela’s flight of fancy crashing down on the jagged rocks of reality. She remembered that broadsheet only too well. A crude sketch had accompanied it, depicting a masked man with a rugged jaw, a pistol in his hand and a ruthless light in his eyes. She had been drawn to it against her will, her fingertips lightly tracing the incongruous dimple set deep in his right cheek. She could not help wondering what would drive a man to defy both the law and God’s commandments by stealing what he wanted instead of paying for it. When Sophie had approached, Pamela had quickly turned away from the broadsheet, afraid her sister might find an echo of her own growing desperation in the highwayman’s steely gaze.

  The memory of that gaze sent a faint shudder down her spine. She was painfully aware that two women traveling alone through these wild and rugged climes could easily become the target of more than just mild suspicion and disapproving glances. But they hadn’t the means to employ maidservants to give them an air of respectability or outriders to protect the carriage they’d hired after disembarking from the public coach in Edinburgh. They would simply have to depend upon the elderly coachman and his ancient musket to defend both their lives and their virtue.

  She forced an airy smile. “From what I’ve heard about these Highland savages, they’re more inclined to ravish their sheep than their women.” She ran a hand over her reticule, deriving her own comfort from what she’d tucked away in the little silk purse.

  Twirling one of her curls around her forefinger, Sophie sighed. “I still can’t believe we’ve come all this way for naught. You heard that old crone in Strathspey. According to her, the duke’s heir died nearly thirty years ago, when he was still a babe. Neither he nor his mother survived their first Highland winter.”

  “I can certainly understand why,” Pamela muttered, tucking her hands deeper into her fur muff. She had been even more dismayed than Sophie to discover that the trail they’d been faithfully following for the past month had gone cold. Colder even than this godforsaken country where the wind whipped right
through you—even when the sun was shining. Colder than the icy drops of rain that began to pelt you the second you decided it was safe to put away your parasol. Colder than the dampness that sank deep into your bones, making you feel as if you’d never truly be warm again.

  “Why don’t we just forget all about the reward and go home?” Sophie suggested.

  “A sound plan indeed…if we still had a home.”

  As a mist of sadness dimmed the sparkle in Sophie’s light blue eyes, Pamela immediately regretted her sharp tone. Until six months ago, the Crown Theatre off of Drury Lane had been the only real home either one of them had ever known. They’d both been born backstage and pronounced ‘very fine productions indeed’ by their actress mother. But now the theater was gone, reduced to rubble and ash by the same tragic fire that had killed their mother and would have killed them as well had they not been sleeping in their nearby lodgings at the time. Pamela’s throat tightened around a bitter and familiar ache. Her only comfort lay in knowing that their mother had never wanted to outlive her legendary beauty—or its devastating effect on her admirers.

  A beauty that survived in the pale shimmer of her half-sister’s curls. Curls trimmed in a fashionable bob that perfectly framed Sophie’s heart-shaped face with its Cupid’s bow of a mouth and enchantingly retroussé nose. It was whispered among the opera dancers that Sophie’s father had been a wealthy French comte who had found their mother both charmant and ravissant. That he had lost his heart, only to return to France and lose his head before he could offer for their mother’s hand.

  Pamela was convinced her own father must have been sturdy English stock. How else to explain both hair and eyes that were a perfectly ordinary shade of brown? Her features were even in her oval face but hardly memorable, and the pleasing hint of plumpness in her cheeks would have looked equally at home on a Yorkshire dairymaid. She’d curves enough to tempt a man’s eye, but nothing that would inspire him to prove his devotion by casting himself off of London Bridge into the icy-cold waters of the Thames, as one of their mother’s more passionate lovers was rumored to have done.

  Pamela regretted her careless words even more when Sophie lifted her pointed little chin, setting her jaw to hide its faint quiver. “The duke’s reward isn’t our last hope, you know. It is well within my power to provide for the both of us. The viscount’s offer still stands.”

  Pamela scowled. “This isn’t some overwrought gothic melodrama. I’ve no intention of selling my sister’s virtue to the highest bidder just to keep a roof over my own head.”

  Sophie lifted one slender shoulder in a shrug artfully designed to confirm her Gallic heritage. “You needn’t be so provincial. Maman chose a life free from the conventions of society. Why shouldn’t I?”

  “Mama always had the stage. She sold herself for love, not money.”

  “Is it so impossible for a woman to have both?” Sophie asked wistfully.

  “Oh, you might have them for a season in the viscount’s arms. Until he tires of your charms, grows infatuated with some young opera dancer and decides to pass you on to one of his friends.” Pamela reached across the gap between them and tenderly tucked a wayward curl behind Sophie’s ear. “I’m not trying to be cruel, darling, but it’s a very short path from mistress to whore. I’ve seen girls even younger and more beautiful than you plying their wares down on Fleet Street. I won’t have you dying of the French pox before your nineteenth birthday.”

  “But the viscount swears that he adores me! That ever since he saw me in the chorus of Pygmalion when I was fifteen, he can think of nothing and no one else.”

  “Including his wife,” Pamela said dryly.

  Sophie’s face fell at that stark reminder.

  Pamela squeezed her gloved hand. “Don’t give the blackguard another thought. If we can’t collect the duke’s reward, we’ll simply give the stage another go.”

  Sophie’s delicate nostrils flared in a glum snort. “Then we’re destined to starve in the gutter.”

  While her sister ducked behind the periodical to mope, Pamela settled back among the cracked leather squabs with a sigh, all out of both cheer and convincing arguments. Unfortunately, their mother had been as impractical as she was beautiful. Upon discovering from the solicitor that she had left them nearly penniless, Pamela and Sophie had sought to make their fortunes in the only way they knew how—on the stage. But their one attempt to tread the boards had begun in triumph and ended in disaster.

  Sophie’s ethereal beauty had captivated the audience, generating gasps when she first floated onto the stage. But that spell had been broken the minute she opened her mouth and began to recite her lines in a delivery so wooden that one critic had suggested the manager should have nailed her into her coffin to prevent her from taking the stage. All their dreams of fame and fortune had died in a hail of rotting vegetables and shouted insults. They’d been forced to pack up their belongings that very night and flee the theater one step ahead of a howling mob.

  They’d been running ever since. If they didn’t find some way to plump up their purses before returning to London, their next stop wouldn’t be the theater, but the workhouse.

  Pamela gazed out the carriage window at the gathering gloom of twilight. There was much more at stake than even Sophie realized. But she couldn’t bear to burden her sister with the ugly truth. Clouds drifted over the distant crests of the mountains like the ghosts of all her fears. Weary of facing them alone, she allowed the rocking of the coach and the growing weight of her eyelids to lull her into a restless doze.

  Pamela awoke to the same sounds she’d heard in countless productions through the years—the crack of a pistol, followed by the bold cry of “Stand and deliver!”

  “Did you ’member to light the flash pots, Soph?” she murmured without opening her eyes. “And don’t f’get to bring down the curtain after the villain is vanquished.”

  She was sinking deeper into both the squabs and her dreams when a sharp claw bit into her shoulder and gave her a harsh shake. “Pamela! Pamela, wake up! We’ve been set upon by bandits!”

  Pamela’s eyes flew open to meet her sister’s frantic gaze.

  The carriage was no longer rocking, but had lurched to a shuddering halt. One of the horses let out a nervous whicker, which then subsided into ominous silence. Full dark had fallen while Pamela napped, and the window was veiled by a velvety-black curtain of night.

  She sucked in a breath laced with raw panic. What if the coachman could no longer be relied upon to defend their virtue or their lives? What if he was lying in a limp heap in the middle of the road, a ragged hole blasted through his scrawny chest?

  Swallowing her terror, she touched a finger to her lips, then clutched at Sophie’s gloved hands. They huddled together, holding their collective breath to listen.

  The silence seemed to swell and thicken. It was finally broken by the measured tread of footsteps moving around the side of the carriage. Perhaps it was simply the coachman coming to tell them that all was well, Pamela prayed. That the pistol report and the chilling cry had been nothing more than a prank played by village lads with more spirit than good sense.

  But the muffled footfalls made a mockery of that cheerful thought. It took both grace and practice to be able to navigate such a road without disturbing a single rock. And anyone who had mastered that skill could just as easily slit a man’s throat for his purse or creep into a woman’s bedchamber in the dark of night to put his hand over her mouth and have his wicked way with her.

  Since it seemed there was to be no escaping the inexorable approach of those footsteps, Pamela gave Sophie’s hand one last reassuring squeeze, then slipped her hand out of her sister’s grip and into her reticule. As her fingers curled around the solid weight of the object within, they ceased their trembling.

  The footsteps also ceased, leaving in their wake a silence that was even more chilling.

  Pamela drew Sophie behind her with her free arm, waiting for the carriage door to fly open, waiting
for a ruthless arm to reach in and yank her out by her hair.

  The carriage door slowly creaked open on its hinges. There was no sign of their attacker. There was nothing but a yawning maw of darkness that threatened to swallow them whole.

  A voice came out of that darkness, laced with gravel and menace. “I know you’re in there. I can hear you breathin’. Step out of the carriage with your hands raised or I’ll blast you straight to hell.”

  Pamela could feel Sophie pressed to her back, trembling like a baby bird in the talons of some fearsome predator. It was the scent of her sister’s fear that tightened her jaw and stiffened her spine. This faceless bully might be able to rob her of her life and her virtue, but there was one thing she’d always been able to lose without anyone else’s help—her temper.

  Ignoring the frantic clutch of Sophie’s hands on the back of her skirt, she lurched forward and went spilling out of the carriage.

  She tripped over the hem of her pelisse but quickly righted herself, straightening her crooked bonnet with a furious jerk. “For the love of God, sir, who writes your dialogue? I’ve never heard such atrocious tripe. ‘Stand and deliver’? ‘Step out of the carriage with your hands raised or I’ll blast you straight to hell’? Why, you wouldn’t last through one performance on Drury Lane! They’d bring the curtain down on your thick head before the end of Act One. Has it never occurred to you that you might make a more convincing villain if you didn’t spout such horrendous drivel?”

  As the angry ringing in Pamela’s ears subsided, she realized she was standing nearly toe to toe with a faceless shadow. A faceless shadow that towered over her by more than a foot. The imposing expanse of his shoulders blocked out the light of the rising moon.

 
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