In Nicole Jordan's dazzling new Regency series, the scandalous Wilde cousins seek true love by imitating history's legendary lovers . . . beginning with Ashton Wilde, Marquis of Beaufort, who takes on the daunting role of Prince Charming to an unlikely Cinderella.
Thanks to the mischievous meddling of his matchmaking sister, Ashton Wilde meets a damsel in distress during the midnight magic of a lavish ball. But Maura Collyer isn't looking for a prince--or an intimate pairing with any member of the scandalous noble Wilde family.
Intrigued by Maura's beauty and daring, Ash is determined to aid in the rescue of her beloved stallion, gambled away by her wicked stepmother to an evil viscount. As their adventure becomes rife with peril and passion, Ash suspects he's found his heart's desire.
Even though her dearest friend may be her self-proclaimed fairy godmother, Maura is mortified at being pushed into a romance with a notorious rake such as Ash. Dashing and charming, he comes to Maura's rescue just in time to help her steal back her precious horse. As they flee across the countryside, she can't resist his sweet seduction. But is her prince playing a role in a fairy tale to test an improbable theory, or is the love awakening in her heart proof of her own happily ever after?
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January 31, 2012
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Excerpt from Princess Charming by Nicole Jordan
The flash of amber silk intrigued him, although not as much as the lovely woman wearing it.
Lounging negligently against a column in his crowded ballroom, Ashton Wilde, eighth Marquis of Beaufort, narrowed his gaze in speculation. The blond beauty had followed one of his noble male guests through the French doors onto the terrace beyond.
Maura Collyer, his sister's bosom friend. What the devil was she up to
Curiosity warred with odd disappointment as Ash considered her intent. It appeared that Miss Collyer was trysting with Viscount Deering.
For all her beauty, he would never have taken Maura for the scarlet woman sort. As far as he knew, she didn't even like most men, and at four-and-twenty she was long on the shelf. And yet she had accompanied Lord Deering onto a moonlit terrace in the middle of a grand ball for what looked like an assignation.
His boredom suddenly evaporating, Ash pushed away from the column and forged a path through the glittering, bejeweled sea of company. He had expected better of Miss Collyer--
Wry amusement twisted his mouth at the quaint thought. That the leading member of the passionate Wilde clan could condemn a lady for flouting propriety with a lovers' tryst was the height of irony. The Wildes had long been legendary for their scandalous exploits, their surname synonymous with a blatant disregard for the rules governing the Beau Monde, and Ash himself was currently his family's worst offender.
Still, he couldn't banish his contrary stab of displeasure at the notion of Katharine's closest friend taking Deering as a lover.
The terrace doors had been flung open to alleviate the heat from the chandeliers and the crush of perfumed bodies. Upon reaching the threshold, Ash paused to let his eyes adjust to the dimmer light on the terrace and focus on the couple near the stone balustrade.
Although not embracing, they were standing close together--or rather the lady was standing before the gentleman. Her position offered Ash a view of her profile, so he could see that her delicate jaw was set while her hands were tightly clenched.
It did not appear to be a romantic tryst but a confrontation, he decided. He could overhear her low, impassioned voice imploring the viscount, although the noise from the chattering, dancing throng behind him drowned out most of her words.
Ash moved a step closer just as a momentary lull in the music brought Miss Collyer's urgent declaration to him.
"Emperor did not belong to her, I tell you! She had no right to sell him to you."
"I have a legal deed of sale that says otherwise," Deering responded in an arrogant drawl that evidently grated on the beauty's nerves.
She inhaled a deep breath, as if striving to maintain control of her emotions. "Then allow me to buy him back . . . Please."
"You cannot afford my price, Miss Collyer."
"I can raise the funds somehow. I will sell the entire stables if I must."
When Deering laughed in that supercilious way of his, Ash felt the same grating irritation.
He knew Rupert Firth, Viscount Deering, fairly well. Of similar age--a year past thirty--they had attended Cambridge at the same time. Like Ash, Deering had dark curling hair, a noble title, and a significant fortune. But there the similarities ended. Most notably, the viscount was a head shorter, with a body that was turning to flab from an overindulgence of fine port wine.
Ash had never liked Deering, mainly because of his attitude of snide superiority. That dislike only increased as the discussion continued:
"I might be persuaded . . . for a price," Deering said with a smirk that made Ash itch to intervene.
"What price" Miss Collyer asked warily.
In answer, the nobleman reached out and trailed a languid finger along her bare throat to the low neckline of her gown.
When she visibly gritted her teeth, Ash felt some satisfaction that she wasn't soliciting the viscount's advances, far from it. Yet he was surprised by his own violent reaction: The urge to wrap his hands around the lecher's throat speared through him.
Then Deering gave a low, seductive laugh that raised his ire even further.
"I see you take my meaning, Miss Collyer. If you are truly interested in regaining your property, you will accommodate my wishes. You are quite lovely. I find I want you almost as much as I coveted your magnificent stallion."
Flinching, she took a step backward, out of reach, distaste written in every line of her face. "I regret I must decline your proposition, Lord Deering."
"You should realize that beggars cannot be choosers."