He has a way with women . . .
Thomas Ashe, the brooding Viscount Blackfield, is a man any lady would shun. But Patience Harrington, try as she might, has never been a proper lady. Her bumbled London season left her with no marital prospects and no recourse but to accept her father's invitation to travel to gloomy Blackfield Castle. Surely, spending a few nights in the presence of priceless antiques and a devilish viscount can't be as bad as facing the ton gossip.
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March 31, 2006
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Excerpt from The Viscount's Wicked Ways by Anne Mallory
Patience Harrington shivered with excitement and anticipation as she stared at the massive doors adorned with pointed crowns, sinister ravens, and trailing ivy. The work of the carvings was intricately and painstakingly detailed, as if hewn in offering to an ancient god of the underworld.
Lightning split the sky, illuminating the courtyard, turrets, and stone carvings of the night-shrouded castle. A thunderous boom shook the ground beneath her feet, causing her to wonder if Hades was just then reaching up to seize his gift.
The bestial sculptures lining the courtyard called out to her. Protectors fending off evil spirits. Heroes slaying dragons. Warriors surging into the fray armed and ready to best the enemy.
A low groan shifted her attention back to the castle's magnificent doors as one slowly swung open. A distinguished figure stood backlit in the doorway -- an archangel welcoming them to heaven -- or a demon summoning them to hell.
The figure motioned them inside.
Patience took an enthusiastic breath, pushed up her spectacles, and walked into the large, marble vestibule. A towering ceiling and stark frescoes were her first impressions of the main hall. The ceiling captured the fierce battle between the ancient Greek gods and the Titans. The battle with Cronus was at center, the hundred-handed, fifty-headed Hecatonchires, the Gigantes, and Cyclopes forming a ring of arms, heads, bodies, and eyes around the edges. The shadowed gods cast their eyes upon the travelers as if to judge their worth.
Patience reveled in the feel of the art and of the myth. Of the pure atmosphere of the lightning-kissed illusions and the rumblings as the sky stroked the earth. This was the real joy of her work. The feel of it. The imaginings. The true sensory experience. Later she would delve closer to poke and prod, to examine, dissect, and discuss, but for the moment she would simply feel and enjoy.
She was jostled from behind as one of her fellow travelers pushed forward to escape the storm and enter behind her. She realized the great doors had only been opened partway, to keep out the sheeting rain, and that she was blocking the entrance. She immediately shifted to the side, giving the jostler an apologetic smile and lift of her shoulders. It was just her luck that it was Mrs. Tecking, the person least amused by Patience's somewhat frequent flights of fancy.
Chastened by the glare she received from the impatient blonde, Patience stepped aside before continuing her perusal of Blackfield Castle's entrance hall.
A cantilevered staircase dominated the space, its mahogany railing rising majestically upward. Newel warriors guarded each landing, warning invaders of dire consequences if they continued their ascent.
Colorful rugs, fierce statues, decorative entrance tables, and priceless paintings framed in gold leaf adorned the floor and walls around, under, and over the grand staircase. Strange-looking sconces cast a golden light that alternated between somber and soothing depending on where she looked. Patience was impressed by the way the hall could feel both intimidating and inviting at the same time.