From New York Times bestselling author Iris Johansen comes a thrilling tale of abduction, seduction, and surrender that sweeps from the shimmering halls of Regency England to the decadent haunts of a notorious rogue.
SHE IS A HOSTAGE TORN BETWEEN PASSION AND LOYALTY
Marianna Sanders realizes she cannot trust this dark and savagely seductive stranger who has come to spirit her away across the sea. She possesses a secret that can topple an empire, a secret that Jordan Draken, the duke of Cambaron, is determined to wrest from her. In the eyes of the world the arrogant duke is her guardian, but they both know she is to be a prisoner in his sinister plot--and a slave to his exquisite pleasure.
HE IS THE FABULOUS RAKE THEY CALL THE DUKE OF DIAMONDS
For years, brilliant, deadly Jordan Draken has schemed to destroy the emperor who threatens everything he values most in the world. Now that he holds this defiant woman who is the key to his final triumph, he feels a fierce sense of satisfaction . . . and the first stirring of desire. She was only supposed to be a pawn in his plans, but once alone with his captive, Jordan realizes she is a prize he could never surrender.
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February 27, 2007
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Excerpt from The Beloved Scoundrel by Iris Johansen
February 16, 1809
The Window to Heaven was shattered.
Only moonlight and cold wind streamed through the huge circular cavity where splendor and beauty had once reigned.
Marianna dug her fingers into the door to keep herself upright as she stared at the devastation. The journey had taken too long. She had failed Mama. The pattern was smashed; the Jedalar was gone. Then she forgot everything else as the deep sense of loss over the act of sheer desecration hit home. She knew the Jedalar should be more important to her but, dear heaven, all that wonder and beauty gone forever.
Why was she so stunned? They had destroyed everything else in her life. Perhaps it was even fitting that this last beautiful remnant had died.
"Marianna." Alex tugged at her arm. "I think I hear them!"
She went rigid, listening. She heard nothing, just the wind whistling among the shelled and deserted houses of the town. She looked away from the shimmering splinters of glass scattered across the floor of the church, her gaze searching the ruins that had once been the town of Talenka. She still heard nothing, but Alex had always possessed sharper hearing than she. "Are you sure?"
"No, but I think . . ." He tilted his head. "Yes!"
She should never have come back. She should have taken the road to the south. Her mother would have forgiven her. They had not taken quite everything from her. She still had Alex, and by God, she would not let him die.
She slammed the heavy brass-studded door and dragged Alex behind her as she tore down the long aisle toward the altar, stumbling over a broken iron candelabra and several fat white candles scattered on the marble floor. The soldiers had wreaked their usual havoc here, she thought grimly. Everything of value had either been stolen or destroyed. The gold crucifix that had once adorned the wall beneath the Window to Heaven had vanished; the statue of Mary and the Child to the left of the altar had been toppled from the pedestal.
"Horses," Alex whispered.She heard them now too. The sharp clip-clop of hooves on the cobblestoned street outside.
"They won't find us," she whispered back. "They didn't see us come in, and those pigs can have no traffic with either churches or prayers." She pulled the little boy behind a column beside the altar and crouched down beside him. "But we will stay here awhile and wait for them to go away."
Alex shivered and drew closer to her. "What if they do come?"
"They won't." She slid an arm around his shoulders. He was thinner than he had been last week, she realized in concern, and he had been coughing all day. The scraps of food she had managed to salvage from the deserted farmhouses outside the town had barely been enough to keep them alive.
"What if they do?" Alex repeated.
Heavens, he was persistent. "I said they-" She stopped. She didn't know the duke's soldiers wouldn't come, she thought wearily. She could not be sure of anything or anyone. She doubted if those monsters would come to worship, but they might come to loot and burn again. "If they come, we will hide here in the shadows and be very quiet until they leave. Can you do that?"
He nodded, his weight heavier against her. "I'm cold, Marianna."