Being kidnapped was not nearly as fun and exciting as Lady Emily Wilmington thought it would be… Emily is the privileged daughter of a duke, raised in the lap of luxury. West is an orphan, raised in London’s most nefarious rookery. Their paths never should have crossed, but as Emily and West are about to discover fate doesn’t always adhere to the rules of society… It should have been an easy plan. Kidnap the girl, collect the ransom. Just another day’s work for the Duke of St. Giles, a man whose ruthlessness is rumored to know no bounds. But from the first moment West meets Emily, a woman who is as infuriatingly stubborn as she is breathtakingly beautiful, he knows nothing is going to go according to plan. From the slums of London to the rolling hills of Southampton, join Emily and West as they partake in a journey of danger, passion, and love that will change both of their lives… forever.
“The inn seems rather small,” Emily said, biting at her bottom lip. “And I cannot quite make out the name.”
West didn’t need to look at the wooden sign hanging crookedly above the front door to give her the answer she sought. “The Three Pigs.”
Emily sat back. “The Three Pigs?” she repeated, tucking a curl behind her ear. “From the children’s fable? That actually sounds quite nice.”
‘Nice’ had nothing to do with it. The Three Pigs got its name from the three brothers who owned it, each one more of a swine than the last. They’d been running the inn into the ground for the better part of a decade, but it was still a popular destination for those who wished to pass on through to Southampton without notice.
“Yes,” he lied without a sliver of guilt as he slanted Emily a sideways glance. “That is precisely where they got the name. Now there are a few things we need to go over, Princess, before we go inside.”
“I do wish you would stop calling me that.”
“Why?” One dark eyebrow shot up. “I like it.”
“Regardless of whether you like it, I am not a princess.”
“You are the daughter of a duke,” he reminded her. “You might as well be royalty.”
Emily sighed and muttered something under her breath that sounded suspiciously like ‘pick your battles’ before she said, “Very well. What would you care to discuss?” Her eyes narrowed, and wariness crept back into her tone. “You are not going to bind my hands or place a foul rag in my mouth, are you? I promise not to attempt an escape. It would be a foolhardy endeavor, as I have no idea where we are.”
The battered coach creaked to a halt. There was a loud thump outside the door as the coachman dismounted, followed by the muffled sound of voices as footmen from the inn came forward to assist in unbuckling the trunks from the roof.
In a less seedy establishment West wouldn’t have bothered unloading all of his belongings, but he knew the sort of crooks that frequented The Three Pigs, just as he knew anything left behind in the carriage would be gone by morning. It was the main reason he’d elected to travel in his oldest coach, a rickety old beast of a vehicle that would neither incite jealousy nor attract undue attention.
“I told you,” he said, swiveling his head to face Emily. She watched him like a hawk, her blue eyes intent on his face and her lips compressed in a thin white line. “We are in Guildford.”
“I do not know where we are, but this is certainly not Guildford. You lied to me,” she accused, jabbing a finger at his chest.
West shrugged. “So I did. But I could hardly let you know exactly where we were going, could I? You have beenkidnapped, Princess. I really do not have to tell you anything.”
She didn’t like that, and he was rewarded when she grinded her teeth yet again. “Are we even going to Southampton?”
The door opened with a whiny creak to reveal West’s coachman and personal valet, a thin, weedy looking man with a thatch of greasy blond hair protruding from the brim of his hat. His jacket was ill fitting and there was a yellow stain on his sloppily tied cravat, but despite his questionable hygiene Niles remained one of West’s most loyal men. He was a bit of a jack-of-all-trades, often taking on two jobs at once, as he was doing now. Once he delivered West and Emily to their final destination he would take the coach straight back to London, making it impossible to trace. He would also ensure things ran smoothly in St. Giles during West’s absence, and was more than capable of handling any emergencies that might arise. In short, he was nothing less than West’s second-in-command.
“Are ye ready?” Niles asked now, his watery brown eyes flicking from West to Emily and back again.
“We are. If you would assist my wife out first—”
“Your wife?” Emily squeaked.
West’s teeth flashed in a grin that would have been the envy of the Cheshire cat. “I told you there were a few things we needed to discuss. You can be my mistress if you like, but you’ll need to pick one or the other. Unless, of course, you would like every male within ten miles breathing down your neck. This is not Grosvenor Square, Princess. Any woman not attached to a man is considered fair game, so I suggest you play whichever part you pick very convincingly.”
“Couldn’t I be your sister?”
She scowled at him. “Why ever not?”
“Because they would know it was a lie.” Uncoiling his long, lanky body West leaped down from the carriage and extended his arm. “I would never stare at my sister the way I stare at you.”
Their eyes met, angry blue clashing against amused gold. West waited for her to throw a tantrum – something he knew all women were prone to do when they didn’t get their way – but to his surprise she wrapped her fingers around his forearm and jumped down beside him without so much as a rebellious head toss.
Standing side by side their differences in height could not have been more obvious. The top of Emily’s head barely reached his shoulder, but what she lacked in size she more than made up for in temperament.
“I will pretend to be your mistress,” she said, surprising him yet again, “for if we are going for believability, I doubt anyone would think it plausible that someone like myself would agree to marry someone like you. You are a rogue of the worst order, you know.”
He grinned. “Thank you.”
Her mouth opened. Closed. With a little huff of breath she drove her heel into the ground, shoved her bonnet down over her head, and stomped past him.
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About the Author
Jillian is twenty seven years old and grew up in Maine. No, she (unfortunately) did not have a pet moose. She did, however, start writing when she was in the first grade and hasn’t stopped since. Back then her stories revolved around fairy princesses, unicorns, and big smelly trolls. Now she enjoys writing historical romances and young adult novels, but one day hopes to get back to the fairy princesses and big smelly trolls. She absolutely loves to hear from her readers, and can be contacted through her Facebook page or her blog.