I just started the third and penultimate book of Jacquie D’s Mayhem at Mayfair series – Seduced at Midnight – and it’s not going too good. I’m not gonna blame the book yet. I just read two books back to back that I really liked – Tempt the Devil by Anna Campbell and Just One of the Guys by Kristin Higgins – and it’s hard to come down from that. I decided to turn to the end to see if there is an excerpt of the last book of the series, poor Logan’s story. You know, the unfortunate slob who got dumped by the heroines in the first two books? Like the good American that I am, I root for the losers.
Anyway, there is and since JacquieD rarely updates her very bare site and you cant even find her at the Avon Authors Forum since she moved to Berkley midseries, I’ll post the excerpt for it from my ebook.
(All rights to Jacquie D. Dont sue.)
Tempted at Midnight by Jacquie D’Alessandro
A desperate beauty concocts a perfectly outrageous scheme for success—and not only attracts the attention of the Ladies Literary Society of London, but also the last man she’d ever expected to tempt.
Lady Emily Stapleford never dreamed that the burden of saving her family from financial ruin would rest on her lovely, resourceful shoulders. Since she’s only willing to marry for love, and not money, Emily pens a story she hopes will bring her fortune—only to have it rejected by every major publisher. After all, what respectable reader would dare embrace a vampire heroine?
Not to be dissuaded, Emily generates publicity by attracting attention with a vampire masquerade. Overnight London is abuzz with the sightings. With renewed interest in Emily’s book, she’s guaranteed success—if it wasn’t for the mysterious American, Logan Jennsen. He’s on to Emily’s duplicity and he has every intention of using it to his advantage. If only he wasn’t falling in love with this unabashedly creative hothouse flower. And if only he didn’t have a scandalous secret of his own—one that’s putting both their lives in danger…
I held him in thrall, my lips hovering just above his. I could feel his heat, smell his desire, sense his pulse pounding at his throat. Need poured through me at the thought of my fangs puncturing his skin, his hot blood flooding into my mouth. And even though I afforded him the opportunity to push me away, to escape the impossible, dangerous situation in which he found himself, I knew he was exactly where he wanted to be…
The Lady Vampire’s Kiss by Anonymous
“Do you see anything suspicious?”
Logan Jennsen paused beneath one of the soaring elms lining the gravel path in Hyde Park and slipped his watch from his waistcoat pocket, his casual actions in complete contrast to his tension-laced voice.
“Suspicious in what way?” Bow Street Runner Gideon Mayne asked in an undertone.
Logan made a pretext of checking the time. “No one appears to be paying the least bit of attention to me, but I can’t dismiss the strong sensation that someone’s watching me.”
He noted how Gideon’s sharp-eyed gaze immediately scanned the area as he too pretended to consult his own timepiece. Thanks to the bright afternoon sunshine after more than a week of gray, dismal January weather, the park was crowded with pedestrians, riders, and elegant equipages.
“From your tone I gather this isn’t the first time it’s happened,” Gideon said, slipping his watch back into his pocket then bending down. He brushed a bit of dirt from the toe of his black boot, but Logan knew the Runner’s gaze was further observing their surroundings.
“No. This is the third time in as many days. Which is why I asked you to meet me here. I hoped you’d see what I was missing.”
“I don’t see anything out of the ordinary,” Gideon said, rising. “Yet. So let’s keep walking.”
That was one of the things Logan liked about Gideon and the reason why he’d asked the Runner to meet him—the man didn’t waste time with unnecessary questions such as Are you sure? Or suggestions like Maybe you’re imagining it. Over the past several months Logan had hired Gideon to perform investigative work relating to his business ventures and had been extremely impressed with the results. So much so, he was considering hiring him on a full-time basis, provided he could tempt Gideon away from Bow Street . But Logan was confident he’d prevail. As he knew, every man had his price. And Logan had the money to pay it.
They stepped back onto the path and continued walking. “Anything else unusual going on?” Gideon asked, his tone as casual as if he were discussing the weather.
Logan considered for a few seconds, then said, “Two nights ago an intruder tried to board one of my ships. The first mate gave chase, but the man got away.”
“Any description of the man?”
“Only that he could run like the wind and clearly knew his way around. Otherwise, it was too dark.”
“You make any new enemies lately?”
A humorless sound escaped Logan . Based on the work Gideon had performed for him over the last few months, the Runner knew damn well that along with wealth such as Logan ‘s came an influx of people who didn’t necessarily wish him the best.
“Not in the last few days—that I know of. Or so I’d thought. Until my instincts began screaming that I’m being watched.”
“Never ignore your instincts,” Gideon said quietly.
Good advice, although Logan didn’t need it. Listening to his instincts and acting upon them were how he’d escaped the poverty into which he’d been born. What had kept him alive through more harrowing experiences than he cared to recall. And he intended to listen to them now, even if Gideon couldn’t confirm his suspicions.
“A man in your position … lots of people are going to be looking at you,” Gideon said.
“They have been,” Logan said dryly. He’d quickly grown accustomed to being the cynosure of all eyes after his arrival in London nearly a year ago. “The members of society regard me as if I’m some exotic, predatory bird who’s landed uninvited in their cozy nest. The fact that I’m an American only serves to cast more rancor and suspicion my way. I’m well aware the only reason the ton tolerates me in their lofty ranks is because of my wealth.”
“Does that bother you?” Gideon asked.
“It occasionally annoys me but mostly amuses me. As much as the esteemed peers would like to send me packing on the first ship back to America , they’re even more anxious to seek my advice on financial matters and investment opportunities.” A grim smile lifted one corner of his mouth. “Since there are numerous such opportunities in my own companies, I take full advantage of their unwilling interest in me—which has proven very profitable all around.”
Then he frowned. “But this recent feeling … it’s different. A sense of menace.” Indeed, it raised the hairs on the back of his neck and slithered eerie dread down his spine even on this bright, sunshine-filled day.
“In my experience, such a sense should never be ignored.”
“Nor in mine,” Logan agreed.
Gideon turned toward him. “You’ve felt this menace in the past?”
Too many times. “Yes, but not recently. And not since my arrival in England .”
“Do you know what—or who—caused it in the past?”
Logan ‘s jaw tightened. He’d never forget. “Yes.”
“Perhaps this episode is from the same source.”
He shook his head. “Impossible.”
Gideon’s eyes narrowed. “It would only be impossible if that source was … permanently extinguished.”
Logan met the Runner’s gaze. “As I said—impossible.”
Gideon studied him for several seconds with an inscrutable expression, then gave a quick nod and returned his attention to their surroundings. Logan liked that Gideon accepted his word and didn’t press him for details. Especially as it had saved him the trouble of lying. While he knew the lies he’d told countless times would slip from his lips once again without hesitation, he couldn’t deny his relief in not needing to utter them now, particularly to this man he regarded as a friend. He knew all too well the havoc lies could wreak on friendships. As a result, it had been a damn long time since he’d had a friend.
The path veered into two forks just ahead. When Logan struck out toward the right, Gideon asked, “Do you have a particular destination in mind, or are we just taking a turn around the park?”
“ Park Lane ,” Logan said. “I’ve a meeting. With William Stapleford, the Earl of Fenstraw.”
He felt the weight of Gideon’s stare.
“You don’t seem pleased about it.”
Damn. Was his discomfort so transparent that anyone could notice it? Or was Gideon’s observation simply the result of him being extremely perceptive? He hoped the latter.
“I’m not pleased,” he admitted. “There are financial matters the earl and I need to discuss, and I suspect it’s not going to be pleasant.”
Indeed, he knew damn well his discussion with the earl would be most unpleasant. Yet just as unsettling, if not more so, was the possibility of seeing Fenstraw’s daughter, Lady Emily.
Logan ‘s jaw tightened. Was it possible his sense of dread was somehow connected to his imminent arrival at the earl’s town house, courtesy of either the earl himself or his daughter? He hadn’t seen her for the last three months as the entire Stapleford family had retired to their country estate. But they’d arrived back in London yesterday, and Logan knew it was only a matter of time before he and Lady Emily ran into each other at some function or another.
An image of the woman he’d been attempting—and irritatingly, failing—for months to forget flashed through his mind, and he bit back a growl of annoyance. Damn it, why couldn’t he forget her? She was beautiful, yet beauty rarely captured his attention for more than a fleeting moment. He’d always preferred the unusual to utter perfection. And Lady Emily’s gorgeous face and form were undeniably utter perfection.
Of course, her shiny dark brown hair was shot with those unusual deep red highlights that seemed to capture and reflect every bit of light in a room. She stood out among the pale blonds preferred by so many men of the ton like a glossy ebony stone on a whitewashed sandy beach.
And her eyes were an unusual shade of green. Rather like viewing an emerald through an aquamarine. Every time he looked into her eyes he felt as if he were gazing into a fathomless sea whose bottom was a verdant lawn. He’d observed those clear, sparkling eyes twinkle with intriguing mischief and warmth while she was in the company of her friends, but turn arctic whenever her gaze collided with his.
From the first time they’d met ten months ago, she’d looked down her aristocratic nose at him, and he’d dismissed her as but yet another pampered, spoiled, supercilious society diamond, the exact sort of woman he had no liking or use for. He’d take a fun-loving, bawdy, unspoiled barmaid any day over these stick-up-their-arse, blue-blooded society chits who, with their fancy gowns, glittering jewels, and supercilious airs, clearly believed themselves superior to mere mortals.
Yet, as he’d become better acquainted with Lady Emily’s circle, he found himself drawn against his will to that devilish gleam in her eyes and wondering what sort of mischief a proper earl’s daughter could wreak.
Then he’d found out.
Three months ago. At Gideon’s wedding to Lady Julianne Bradley—an event that had turned society on its ear. And prompted—at Lady Emily’s suggestion—a brief, private interlude between her and Logan. An interlude that had led, at her initiation, to an unexpected kiss.
That damn kiss had turned him inside out. And utterly shocked him as until that point she’d made it abundantly clear she regarded him with all the liking of something foul she’d scrape off the bottom of her dainty satin slipper. And instantly—or as soon as he’d recovered the wits she’d very effectively stolen—filled him with suspicion as to her motives. He didn’t for a minute believe her claim that she merely wanted to satisfy her curiosity. Why would he when up until then she’d gone out of her way to avoid him, so much so he wasn’t certain if her avoidance more aggravated or amused him?
No, it seemed much more likely that she’d discovered her father owed him a fortune and had decided to play with Logan , attempt to lure him into forgiving the debt. As if a mere kiss—or anything else she might offer—could accomplish that goal. He never allowed personal feelings or pleasures to interfere with business.
Still, her sudden turnaround had thrown him completely off balance. If he’d been able to think clearly, hell, if he’d been able to form a coherent sentence, he would have demanded the truth from her regarding her motives. But speech had been beyond him and she’d left the room before he’d gathered his incinerated wits. And that single kiss, which within seconds had burned out of control, had lit a fire in him he’d been unable to extinguish. And had rendered her frustratingly unforgettable.
The day after the wedding and that damn kiss, she and her family had departed for the country, and she’d been out of his sight ever since.
Unfortunately, she’d not been out of his thoughts.
“Does that meet with your approval?”
Gideon’s voice yanked Logan from his reverie, and he turned toward the Runner. And found him staring at him with an inquiring expression. “I beg your pardon?”
One of Gideon’s dark brows hiked upward. “I said I’ll accompany you the rest of the way to Lord Fenstraw’s town house, then spy around outside for a bit. See if anyone’s lurking about or if anything strikes me as odd.”
“Thank you. I’ll of course compensate you for your time.”
Gideon’s lips twitched. “Then I suppose I shouldn’t tell you that the task is no hardship as it gives me an excuse to wait around to accompany my wife home. She’s visiting with Emily right now, along with Sarah and Carolyne. A book club meeting. The Ladies Literary Society or some such.”
Gideon’s statement distracted Logan from his concerns of being watched, and his pulse jumped in the most ridiculous way at the knowledge that Lady Emily was indeed at home.
“I must admit I find myself very curious about what goes on at those book club gatherings,” Gideon muttered.
Logan raised his brows. “At the Ladies Literary Society? What’s there to be curious about regarding women chatting about Shakespeare and such?”
“They’re not reading Shakespeare.”
“Oh? What are they reading?”
“Stories that could make a courtesan blush. In fact, one of their previous selections was actually written by a courtesan. Very interesting information in that one. Some of it damn near made me blush.”
Logan didn’t believe anything could make a man like Gideon blush. He also found it difficult to imagine Gideon’s very demure and proper wife reading such salacious material. And unsettlingly arousing to think of Lady Emily doing so.
A thought struck him and his steps slowed. Was it possible that Lady Emily’s claim of curiosity had been her true motive in kissing him? Had her scandalous readings left her wondering what it would be like to experience such intimacies? Hell, if that was the case, what else might she be curious about? Heat that had nothing to do with the bright sunshine sizzled through him.
But then his suspicions returned. Even if curiosity had played a part, clearly something more was afoot—and he had no doubt that that something had to do with the money her father owed him. Otherwise, why choose him to satisfy her curiosity—a man she obviously didn’t like? Immediately on the heels of that question came a mental image of er … kissing a man who wasn’t him. A lightning bolt of something that felt exactly like jealousy, but surely couldn’t be, tore through him.
He blinked away the disturbing mental picture, then asked Gideon, “You don’t object to Julianne reading such sexually explicit books?” he asked.
“Hell no. And if you had a wife, you wouldn’t object to her reading them either.” Gideon slanted him a brief sideways glance. “Trust me on that.”
Logan didn’t doubt him, and much to his annoyance, he found himself imagining Lady Emily … reclined in his bed. Wearing nothing save a wicked grin. Looking at him over the top of a salacious novel. “Quite the mischievous group, aren’t they?” he murmured, pretending his skin didn’t feel uncomfortably tight.
“Very much so,” Gideon agreed. “Especially Emily. Got the devil in her eyes, that one.”
Hmmm. Yes, she did. And she also read sexually explicit books. How utterly unexpected. And disturbingly arousing.
“What was their latest selection?” he asked—merely to continue the conversation and make it appear to anyone who might be watching that they were simply two friends out for a walk. It wasn’t as if he were really curious. Or would consider purchasing his own copy to read.
“The Gentleman Vampire’s Lover.“
“Did you read it?” Logan asked.
“And? Was it good?”
Gideon’s lips twitched slightly. “Let’s just say I found it very … stimulating. You might want to ask Emily about it.”
Logan turned to stare at Gideon. “Why the hell would I want to do that?” The question came out much sharper than he’d intended.
Gideon shrugged. “Something happened between you two after my wedding ceremony. In the library. Based on what I observed, I thought maybe it was something … good.”
Logan suddenly recalled that Lady Emily had literally bumped into Gideon when she’d fled the library following their kiss. How Gideon’s amused voice asking Is there a problem? had yanked him from the stunned trance he’d fallen into. And Logan ‘s assurance it was nothing he couldn’t handle.
Something good? It wasn’t good, it was great. Incredible.
He cleared his throat. “You thought wrong.”
Gideon said nothing and Logan wondered what the other man was thinking. Like a damn sphinx, Gideon was—silent and inscrutable. Logan supposed that was useful for his Bow Street job, but it sure as hell was frustrating otherwise. Couldn’t read his thoughts worth a damn.
“I like her,” Gideon finally said.
“Who?” Logan asked, although he knew damn well.
“Emily. She and Julianne have been close since childhood, and she’s been a good friend to my wife.”
“In what way?”
“Julianne’s an only child, and her parents…” Gideon’s words trailed off and a muscle ticked in his jaw.
Logan nodded. “I’ve met the earl and countess. I’m no more fond of them than you. Very cold, overbearing people.” Who’d disinherited and banished their daughter when she’d gone against their demands to marry a titled gentleman and instead wed Gideon, a lowly commoner. As far as Logan was concerned, it was no loss to the newlywed couple, and he greatly respected Lady Julianne for choosing the man she loved over everything else.
“Those are actually polite ways to describe Julianne’s parents. Emily brought laughter and fun into what would have otherwise been a very lonely childhood for Julianne. I find myself fond of anyone who makes my wife smile.”
Logan shook his head and chuckled. “Good God, that little bastard Cupid shot you with an entire quiver of arrows. I can practically see little hearts floating around your head, like a love-induced halo.”
“No halos on me. But yes, that little bastard Cupid got me but good. And damned if it wasn’t the best thing that ever happened to me.” He shot Logan a sideways glance. “Why aren’t you married? Hard to believe some matchmaking mother hasn’t clubbed you over the head and forced you to the altar.”
“The fact that I’m an uncouth colonial gives them pause, although I’ve no doubt my wealth would balance that out in the end. Plus, I seem to posses an unfortunate penchant for being attracted to women whose hearts are already involved elsewhere.”
“That must be difficult.”
“Indeed. Several lovely women have slipped through my fingers since my arrival in London .”
“No, I meant about your wealth. Never knowing if your money is the attraction. It’s a problem Julianne knew her entire life. One I’ve never known. Nor would I care to.” He flicked a glance at Logan . “Can’t say I’d want to be in your position.”
A huff of surprise escaped Logan . “Well, that’s not something I’m used to hearing. I’ve become accustomed to being envied. In fact, I can’t ever recall anyone pitying me because of my wealth.”
“Before Julianne, I would have said you’re too bloody rich to pity. But money never brought her true happiness. I’ve never been wealthy, yet I didn’t really know what happiness was until I met her.”
“So you’re saying it’s not money or things but people that make the difference.”
Gideon shrugged. “Seems that way to me.”
Interesting. Logan knew damn well people sought his acquaintance based solely on his money. God knows it was the only reason with most of the arrogant, puffed-up British peers, and he couldn’t deny he’d grown more suspicious and cynical as his wealth had grown. But having spent his formative years barely one step above abject poverty, he was very adept at sidestepping frauds and fortune hunters.
He also knew damn well that at this point there was no chance he’d find a woman who wasn’t attracted to his money. The best he could hope for was a woman who was at least honest about it and who found him equally as attractive as his wealth. A woman he could respect and admire, who wasn’t haughty and supercilious and fond of staring down her aristocratic nose at him, and who set his blood on fire. It had so far proven an impossible combination to find. While money made most aspects of his life easier, there was no denying it complicated his personal relationships. And caused him to view people and their motives through suspicious eyes, although he’d done that long before he’d had two coins to rub together. That wary mistrust had saved him more than once.
“We’re nearing the Fenstraw town house,” said Gideon. “So far I’ve observed nothing unusual.”
Logan yanked himself from his brown study and realized that Park Lane was indeed just ahead. His gaze scanned the row of town houses across the thoroughfare and settled on the aged brick facade of the one belonging to Lady Emily’s father. He now knew she was home, but would he see her?
Logan expelled an exasperated breath. Why the hell did he care?
Once again, the memory he’d been trying so hard to erase slammed into him with such force his footsteps faltered. Of soft, plush lips opening beneath his. Of lush, feminine curves pressed against him. Her taste and scent inundating his senses. The flood of unwanted, unexpected desire that had nearly drowned him.
He briefly squeezed his eyes shut and shook his head to dispel the unsettling mental picture that wouldn’t let him go. Damn it, this simply wouldn’t do. And it suddenly occurred to him that he hadn’t kissed or touched another woman since his interlude with Lady Emily. Good God, no wonder he couldn’t get her out of his head. He’d been more celibate than a monk.
What he needed was a woman. To put out this unwanted fire Lady Emily had started. To ease his body and fill his mind with someone else other than her. Yes, that was a perfect plan and he deserved a thump on the head for not thinking of it before now. There was a soiree this evening at Lord and Lady Teller’s house. He’d make it a point to attend and find an attractive woman and seduce her. If he couldn’t find one at the party who interested him, he’d damn well visit every pub in the city until he did. No woman at a pub would look down her nose at him.
“We’ll separate here,” Gideon said after they crossed Park Lane . “If I see anything suspicious, I’ll report to you immediately. Remain on your guard and let me know if you sense anything else. Until we determine if there’s a threat to you, don’t go out unescorted. Or unarmed.”
Logan ‘s gaze flicked down to his boot where his knife was sheathed. “I’m always armed.”
“Are you going out this evening?”
“I am. And I’ll be careful. Although, as neither of us observed anything amiss, I’m wondering if I’m merely tired and preoccupied. If you’ll come to the house tomorrow morning, I’ll see to your payment and let you know if anything happens this evening.”
Gideon nodded. “All right. Good luck with your meeting.” Logan drew a deep breath and nodded. There was business to attend to with the earl. Business that had nothing to do with Lady Emily. Her motives for kissing him were highly suspect; although, it didn’t really matter what those motives had been. He was forewarned and had no intention of falling prey to whatever devilish plot she’d concocted. He had no desire to see her, no desire to speak to her regarding what had transpired between them, and certainly no desire to repeat it.
If he kept telling himself that enough, surely it would become fact.
He was about to turn to walk up the flagstone steps leading to the double oak doors of Lord Fenstraw’s town house when the sense of menace he’d felt earlier hit him like a blow to the head. Senses on alert, his gaze scanned the entrance to the park across the street. And riveted on a man standing in the shadow cast by a soaring elm. A man whose gaze was fixed on Logan .
Everything inside Logan seemed to freeze. His breath. His blood. His heart. No … it couldn’t be.
For several stunned seconds all he could do was stare. A carriage crossed his line of vision, and when it moved on an instant later, the man was gone. Logan ‘s gaze darted about, but he couldn’t find any sign of the man.
“Are you all right? You look like you’ve seen a ghost.” Gideon’s low voice broke through Logan ‘s shock.
Damn it, it felt as if he had. “I thought I saw someone…” his words trailed off and he shook his head, feeling foolish. Yet undeniably shaken.
“Who? Someone watching you?”
There were so many people in the park. Of course the man wasn’t who Logan had thought. That was impossible. A slight resemblance combined with a trick of the shadows. “Just someone who looked like a man I once knew.”
“Maybe it was him.”
“No. That man … died. Years ago.” He looked at Gideon. “I once heard that everyone has a double somewhere. Seems it might be true.”
“Which man is it?” Gideon asked, looking toward the park.
“He’s gone. It was nothing. And I’m due for my appointment.” After one last look toward the now deserted area around the elm tree, Logan forced back the unwanted memories the sight of the man had threatened to release and made his way up the flagstone walkway to the earl’s town house.