Lady Diana Farren is no stranger to scandal. She's been sent abroad and instructed to behave herself. Diana has all the best intentions, but soon she is swept away by the passion of Italy--and of its most notorious seducer, Antonio di Randolfo!
Tall, dark and smooth as silk, Antonio draws out all of her sensual longings. But when Diana's past catches up with her, danger looms on the horizon, and Antonio might not be everything he seems....
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July 01, 2007
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Excerpt from Seduction of an English Beauty by Miranda Jarrett
Rome was a bore.
Lady Diana Farren stood at the parlor window of their lodgings in the Piazza di Spagna, watching the rain flatten the leaves on the trees in the garden below her. Everyone had promised her that Rome would be enchanting, fascinating, the Eternal City among all other cities on the continent.Yet after a week of steamy rain and tedious company, of endless tours of more old churches, old temples, old statues, old paintings and company old enough to be her grandparents, the only thing eternal she'd discovered here was endless, eternal boredom.
Bore, bored, boring.
If her life had gone as she'd hoped and planned, she would have been staying in her family's town house on Grosvenor Square in London by now. She would already be the prize belle of the new season, with a score of young lords vying for her attention and her hand, each willing to duel one another for the sake of a single dance with her. She was eighteen, and she was beautiful: a fact, not a boast, just as it was a fact that she was worth a fortune of at least �20,000 simply by being the younger daughter of the Duke of Aston.
But those facts hadn't saved her from Rome. Nothing had. Instead, one evening in June, she'd been caught in her father's stables with a groom whose face she tried never to recall, and she'd been sent abroad as punishment. She'd been banished, really. There was no other way to look upon Father's decision, and no chance to appeal it, either. She'd finally, regretfully exhausted Father's patience.
But matters had only grown worse in France. Through absolutely no fault of her own, she'd been knocked on the head and kidnapped at the orders of the wickedest old libertine in Paris, the Comte de Archambeault. To her great good fortune, the Comte had been mortally ill and unable to do her any harm. But the scandal had been bad enough, and a whole new set of ill-founded rumors and lies had attached to her name.
Now she was doomed to wander about Italy like some hapless gypsy at least until the spring, with her governess Miss Wood to watch her like a sharp-eyed hawk. By the time she finally returned to England, all the best bachelors would be claimed by other girls, or frightened clear away by her tattered reputation. Only the buck-toothed weaklings and spindle-shanked fools would be left. She'd never discover the kind of love her sister had found with her new husband: joyful, passionate and forever. Was it so very much to long for a love of her own? She might not even marry now, but be doomed to empty, loveless spinsterhood, just like Miss Wood.
Diana took a deep breath, trying to keep back her tears. Better to be bored than homesick, but with the gloom of this rain, the homesickness was winning out. She missed her sister and her father and her friends and her cousins. She missed all the young men who'd flirted with her and made her laugh. She missed her corner bedchamber at home in Aston Hall, and the way the sun would stream in the east windows in the morning. She missed England: the words she could understand without a pocket dictionary, the people who laughed at the same things she did, the food and the drink that could comfort her with their familiarity.
She was so lost in her own misery that she didn't hear the other person join her at the window until it was too late to escape.
"Buongiorno, mia gentildonna bella," the gentleman began. "Mi scusa, non posso a meno di--"
"Per favore, signore, no," Diana said without turning, giving her refusal the stern conviction that Miss Wood would expect from her. Please, sir, no. What could be more direct than that? She'd already had practice enough on this journey; Italian men could be persistent, and if Diana ever wished to see London again, she had to be as discouraging as possible.
"Ahh." The man cleared his throat, perplexed. "No speranza, mia gentildonna?"
Suspicious, Diana frowned. She thought he was asking her if she could offer him any hope or encouragement, but she wasn't certain. Her Italian was so limited that she had to be very careful. She'd already suffered through one unfortunate (though amusing) experience when she'd thought a servant had been offering her more tea, and instead he'd been begging to kiss her, and quite shamelessly, too.
"Sono spiacente, signore, noi non sono stato introdotto." I'm sorry, sir, but we've not been introduced. That had become her well-practiced answer to all questions. "Grazie, no. No."
But the man didn't budge, and Diana sighed wearily. Until now, she'd thought that she and Miss Wood were the only guests at Signor Silvani's palazzo, and that she'd be left alone here in the common parlor.