His lust for revenge will be his downfall…
Eliza Somerton has a dangerous secret. As the daughter of the infamous art forger who duped half the ton, she’s rebuilt her life under a new name. But when an old forgery goes up for auction, her father’s enemy, Grayson Montgomery, outbids her and presents her with an unimaginable choice: help him find her father or he’ll ruin her.
For years, Grayson, the Earl of Huntingdon and one of London’s top art critics, has sought justice. His well-laid plans finally come to fruition when he learns of his enemy’s beautiful daughter. But Eliza possesses a sensuality and independent spirit that weakens his resolve, and as the heat between them sizzles, what started as revenge soon blossoms into something sinful…
Eliza had prepared for his visit. The floor was swept, the counter polished with linseed oil until it gleamed in the sunlight from the large front window, paintings hung on the walls, prints were displayed in racks around the room, and most importantly, Amelia’s forgeries were well hidden in the back workroom.
She took great pride in the welcoming character of her shop, ensuring it was well lit, comfortably warm during business hours of the winter months, and offering her customers a pleasant experience.
But now with Lord Huntingdon—the important and influential art critic—standing in the center of her shop, studying his surroundings, she felt oddly nervous. She couldn’t help but wonder what he thought. She knew the shop didn’t compare to the opulence of Ackerman’s. Her customers were wealthy merchants, not aristocrats or members of the beau monde.
And she certainly never, ever entertained art critics.
She bit her bottom lip as he moved about the room.
Sunlight from the window glinted off his dark hair and highlighted his chiseled features. The lighting was one of the reasons she had initially rented the building. The artwork could be displayed in the most favorable natural light. The rent was costly and there had been months she feared they couldn’t afford to pay the landlord.
Huntington flipped through several prints on a rack. “I must admit I’m pleasantly surprised. Your establishment is not what I expected.”
Looking up, his gaze caught hers and he smiled. There was something lazily seductive in his look, and she felt a flutter of excitement in her stomach.
“Impressive, very impressive, Mrs. Somerton,” he said.
Sweet heavens! Was he still speaking of her shop?
Feeling self-conscious, she smoothed the skirts of her gray alpaca gown. For a brief moment, she wished she was wearing a fine gown like the ladies of his acquaintance, then inwardly shook herself at her folly. The dress she’d worn to the auction and to visit him at his home, had been her finest and a previously owned and made-over gown. But the dresses she wore during working hours were plain, respectable for a shopkeeper, and much less costly. She was no longer in his realm.
“The artists are unknown, but the paintings are of good quality. How do you afford to buy the artwork?” he asked.
“I don’t. Local artists need a place to sell their works and agree to display their prints and paintings in my shop. Once a piece sells, we split the profits. It’s a mutually beneficial arrangement,” she said.
He pointed to Amelia’s landscape of Hyde Park. “Did you paint this?” he asked.
The signature in the bottom corner wasn’t legible. It was one of Amelia’s tricks. Many customers didn’t want works of art produced by female artists, and they always assumed the work belonged to a male.
“Yes,” she lied.
“What about your sisters? Are they artists as well?”
“Oh, no. They help me with the day-to-day business of the shop. Nothing else.”
“Are they present?”
“Of course.” Eliza went to the bottom of the stairs leading to their living quarters above the shop and called out their names.
Her sisters came down, exactly as they had rehearsed. Chloe carried a tea tray, with a steaming teapot. Amelia’s paint-stained apron was gone, and she had changed into a different dress.
“May I introduce Amelia and Chloe,” Eliza said. “I took the liberty of preparing tea.”
Lord Huntington bowed gallantly before the two women. “It is a pleasure to meet both of you lovely ladies.”
Amelia curtsied properly, but eyed him speculatively.
“Thank you, my lord,” Chloe said, her blue eyes widening at the sight of the earl. She curtsied with enthusiasm. “It’s a pleasure to have you in our shop.” She set the tray down on an end table beside the settee.
“Go on, girls,” Eliza said. “There’s work to be done in the back room and Lord Huntington and I have business to discuss.”
“Thank you for the tea, ladies,” Huntingdon said. “Your shop is quite lovely, but pales in comparison to you both.”
Amelia tugged on Chloe’s sleeve to get her to leave. Chloe tripped as she strained to glance back.
Once they were alone, Eliza motioned for him to join her on the settee, poured the tea, and handed him a cup and saucer.
Dark eyes surveyed her. “Have you learned anything of interest?”
“I doubt you will believe me, but I recall very little of my father’s acquaintances.”
He sipped his tea. “You’re correct. I don’t believe you. Have you a name for me?”
She sat forward. She was expecting him to be difficult and was prepared with her answer. “There is a man who owns a warehouse. He knew Father. I buy art supplies from him, and gilt frames for the artwork I display in the shop. He may have information. I shall meet with him and relay anything I learn—”
“I shall accompany you.”
“That’s not necessary.”
“I shall accompany you and question the man,” he said firmly.
“You don’t trust me?”
He flashed a wolfish grin. “As much as you trust me.”
Oh, what she wouldn’t give to wipe the smug grin from his lordly face.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
For as long as I can remember, I have loved books. As a teenager, I used scotch tape to hold my peeling laminated library card together. I spent many nights reading in bed well past midnight to finish a book, only to start another. I know my mom was aggravated waking up a tired teenager every morning!
I wrote my first book when I was sixteen. I remember typing furiously on the family computer, only to get frustrated when I was interrupted by one of my siblings. I thought the book was the greatest ever written, a Jackie Collin’s spin off, and believed it was my ticket to instant fame. How little did I know!
Since then, I obtained a J.D. in Law and a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering. My love of romance novels helped me get through the tough years of academia. I often picked up a romance and let my fantasies of knights in shining armor and lords and ladies carry me away. And always, spinning in my mind during my lunch hour and my long commutes, were untold stories of heroes and heroines that I yearned to write about. I started writing books, only to be pulled away by work and family, but I kept trudging forward, learning as I wrote. After multi-publishing for a law journal, I have finally fulfilled my dream of writing fiction.
I hope you enjoy reading my books as much as I love writing them!