When a little brown wren of an Englishwoman bursts into Jamie Heyworth’s private hell and asks for help he mistakes her for the black crow of death. Why not? He fled to Rome and sits in despair with nothing left to sell and no reason to get up in the morning. Behind him lie disgrace, shame, and secrets he is desperate to keep even from powerful friends in London.
Nora Haley comes to Rome at the bidding of her dying brother who has an unexpected legacy. Never in her sunniest dreams did Nora expect Robert to leave her a treasure, a tiny blue-eyed niece with curly hair and warm hugs. Nora will do anything to keep her, even hire a shabby, drunken major as an interpreter.
Jamie can’t let Nora know the secrets he has hidden from everyone, even his closest friends. Nora can’t trust any man who drinks. She had enough of that in her marriage. Either one, however, will dare anything for the little imp that keeps them together, even enter a sham marriage to protect her. Will love — and the truth — bind them both together?
Purchase Links: Amazon US * ~ * ~ * Amazon UK * ~ * ~ * Amazon Canada
Jamie’s senses began to clear, and he realized some woman pounded on his door. The vexatious chit from last night, he thought. The woman had invaded the tavern he frequented like the black crow of death and would not leave.
The little blackbird had good credit, he remembered. He eyed the three empty wine bottles on his table. He distinctly remembered only having money for one. He had spent his last coin on that bottle. She must have funded the other two. There had been food, too, he remembered, and a very fine cheese. Jamie Heyworth never forgot a good meal.
“Major, please! It is past nine in the morning, and we will be late,” the woman’s voice called.
Late for what? He struggled to recall.
After he plied her with tea and calmed her down, she had fed him some tale about dying brothers, evil nuns, a menacing count, and nieces held prisoner in a tower. Maybe not a tower, he thought. He felt sure he remembered the rest correctly.
Ah! Bently. Using his mother’s maiden name amused him when he gave it to her. Major Lord James Phineas Heyworth, Fourth Baron—and so on—sounded ludicrous attached to his pathetic self even if he didn’t have good reason to avoid being found. He preferred not to use it. Bently sounded safer. He hoped it was.
Did I promise anything?
“You promised you would meet me by the fountain in the piazza at 8:30 this morning,” said the voice behind the door.
Her answer stunned him. He could think of no reason why he would promise some chance-met blackbird anything, much less an early morning rendezvous.
“Are you well?” the voice persisted.
No, damn it, I feel like the very devil.
“Yes. I am well. We were to meet at 8:30 in the evening, were we not?” he responded.
No sane person runs about at 8:30 in the morning. He began to wonder if the woman really was mad, one of those hysterical females who reads too many novels.
“Don’t be ridiculous. The nuns wouldn’t let us in the hospital in the evening,” she said.
Nuns again! And more infernal banging. He doubted the door, though thick as a post, could stand against his ravening crow.
“Major, you promised! You said—”
Jamie threw the door open. The woman stumbled against him. Soft curves pressed against his entire length and jarred his sluggish body awake.
I’m not dead yet! The thought improved his mood considerably. He produced his cheekiest grin and made no effort to remove her soft body from his person.
“What did I promise, exactly?” he asked, staring down into a delicately sculpted face, inches from his. He liked the feel of her. She’s hiding her best parts under all that English wool. Doesn’t the foolish woman know she is in Rome?
The chit pushed herself away, slipped under his guard, entered the room, and frowned in distaste. No schoolroom miss, this one.
In daylight, she looked more like a wren than a raven. Dressed in sensible brown, she radiated bright, searching eyes and flowing energy. Too damned much energy for so early in the morning. Her eyes darted over the bottles, scattered clothing, and the dirty dishes on his broken chair.
“You said that you . . .”
She stopped abruptly and gaped.
He glanced down.
“Luckily, I fell asleep in my shirt,” he said, lips twitching. “I’m sure I can locate my trousers and smallclothes, if you’ll give me a moment.”
For an instant, blue sparks flared in her eyes, which were rimmed by thick honey-gold lashes. Just as fast, she turned her back.
“Quickly, please.” She spoke toward the window. He wondered what color she would turn if she knew how well she showed off her derrière when she pulled her frock tightly to one side with white-knuckled fury.
“What exactly did I promise that has brought you running, fleet of foot, to my quarters this morning?” he asked.
He moved with deliberate slowness around the room, picking up clothing discarded the night before and searching his brain for promises discarded just as easily.
“You agreed to speak with the nuns, to interpret for me,” the woman said.
That was it. The wren needs an interpreter, needs one so badly that she let some excitable waiter drag her into a seedy tavern she had no business entering to meet an English “gentleman.” More fool she.
“I should not be surprised you don’t remember. You were much the worse for drink last night,” she complained.
She has me there.
“You’re acquainted with the effects of drink?” he asked. Intriguing.
“More than I wish. My husband—oh, do hurry up!” She stomped her foot and, much to his regret, let go of her skirts.
Husband? Pity, he thought. Inevitable though.
“Are you ready?” she demanded.
“You might wait until I’m finished with my trousers. Your husband will—”
“Do nothing!” She sounded furious.
“I beg your pardon?” He buttoned the fall of his trousers.
“My husband will do nothing. He died three years ago.”
“Ah, then there is no one to be concerned about your presence in a man’s room in a foreign city in which you speak not a word of the native language. What’s the hurry?”
“The hurry, Major,” she almost spat out his rank, “is that I am only permitted to visit Isabella during very strictly set hours.”
Of course. The niece.
“Do pay attention. Sister Amelia Maria will be at the hospital, but I am told the others will allow me a visit, only the briefest visit, in their common room,” she went on.
Ah. No tower. The niece is imprisoned in a—Good Lord!
“You are taking me to a convent?” he gasped.
“I must have been ‘much the worse for drink’ indeed, if I agreed to that.”
FOR THE CHANCE TO WIN A COPY OF DANGEROUS SECRETS AND THE CHANCE TO NAME THE CHARACTERS IN A FORTHCOMING NOVELLA, ENTER AT RAFFLECOPTER. THE GIVEAWAY IS OPEN FOR SEVEN DAYS AND THE WINNER WILL BE NOTIFIED SHORTLY AFTER THE CLOSING DATE.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Caroline Warfield has at various times been an army brat, a librarian, a poet, a raiser of children, a nun, a bird watcher, a network services manager, a conference speaker, a tech writer, a genealogist, and, of course, a romantic. She is always a traveler, a would-be adventurer, and a writer of historical romance, enamored of owls, books, history, and beautiful gardens (but not the act of gardening).
This book began with the thought, what could I do with English regency-era characters if I put them in Rome?