Can he trust his instincts, or is she playing him for a fool?
Driscoll Rose and his two brothers own and run The Rose Room, a well-known and profitable gaming club in London. Unknown to those who visit and spend their money there, the brothers also work for the Crown in positions only known to a mysterious man at the Home Office.
Miss Amelia Pence is on the run from her step-brother who has nefarious plans for her. Late one rainy night she crawls into Driscoll’s office window and falls at his feet. Intrigued by the woman, he offers her a job as the only female dealer in the Rose Room.
Much to Driscoll's frustration, Amelia is secretive about who she is, and where she lives since she can trust no one. The growing attraction between them and his desire for her is causing him to dismiss the fact that crowds of gamblers swarm her table each evening, but the profits she turns in are not what they should be.
Can Driscoll convince Amelia to trust him with her secrets or will he discover a deception that contradicts everything he believes in his heart about heart?
Just when he decides to confront her, she disappears. . .
Mr. Driscoll James Rose, second son of the late Earl of Huntington, brother to the current Earl of Huntington, and part owner of The Rose Room, the most exclusive and popular gaming club in all of London, tossed his pencil down on his desk in frustration.
Bloody, bloody, hell.
He removed his spectacles and rubbed his eyes with his fists. No matter how hard he tried, of late he could not keep his mind on his work.READ MORE
The malaise he’d been suffering from the past few weeks was not going away. His intelligent mind knew there was no reason for it. He had no money worries, the ladies considered him handsome, he could pretty much pick and choose whatever woman he wanted, either for an evening or a lifetime, and although not a titled lord himself, he was a member of the nobility through his father and brother. So why the hell did he feel lost? Like he was floating, just getting through each day? Waiting for something to happen?
The excitement of owning, running, and making a success of a gaming club had worn off. Now it was only work. And drudgery at that.
Three years ago, he and his younger brother, Dante, had approached Hunt, the eldest of the Rose brothers with a plan to open a gaming club. Although gambling was illegal, there were several places in London that offered such entertainment. The authorities were willing to look the other way for an owner who was a member of the ton, as well as the recipient of an occasional evening of gratis entertainment for themselves.
The brothers had worked out a plan where Hunt would provide the initial financing of the business and would hold a small interest in the profits. Driscoll and Dante would do the bulk of the work, although Hunt would appear every so often to mix with the clients and observe that his investment was doing well.
Driscoll pushed away from his desk and slumped in his chair, his legs stretched out, his feet crossed at the ankles. Why wasn’t it enough anymore? According to his younger brother, he needed to avail himself of an exclusive mistress to see to his needs. Hunt, on the other hand, who was recently wed and nauseatingly besotted with his new wife thought Driscoll should join him in the chains of matrimony.
The first seemed like too much involvement, and the second was unquestionably too much involvement. He’d heard Dante’s grumbling about the demands his mistresses made. That usually happened a week or two before he gave said mistress a fine piece of jewelry along with her congé and moved onto the next one.
That was much too intricate for Driscoll. Not that he never indulged, he was a man after all with a man’s needs, but the thought of providing a woman with clothing, food, housing, and expensive trinkets for the sole purpose of satisfying his sexual needs left him cold.
And doing the same for a life-long commitment of a wife left him terrified.
“It looks like we need to offer an escort home to Lord Benson again.” Dante entered the office and dropped into a chair and leaned back linking his fingers at the back of his head.
“In his cups?”
“Yes. Absolutely sotted. He can barely make it from table to table. I’m afraid he might decide to bring up all that expensive brandy he’s been drinking onto the gaming floor.”
Driscoll stood. “I need a break from these financial records, anyway. I’ll take care of it.”
Dante plunked his feet on his desk and closed his eyes. “Good. I could use a break.”
Driscoll made his way down the thick-carpeted stairs to the gaming floor. As expected, the room was crowded and the gaming tables full. He nodded to Stephen Welsh, the man running the Hazard game for a nice group of gamblers. As he made his way through the room, moving from table to table, he commented and joked with various members until he spotted Benson.
The man was swaying on his feet while he watched the dice play. Dante had been correct. The man appeared a bit green. Driscoll looked around and waved David Jenkins, one of the security men, over.
“Yes, Mr. Rose.” The dark-haired guard stood almost as tall as Driscoll. He’d been in their employ since they opened and had the ability to handle delicate matters without causing a scene.
“We need to get Benson out of here.” Driscoll nodded in the man’s direction. “Use one of our older carriages in case he casts up his accounts during the ride home.”
“I believe his lordship arrived in his own carriage.”
Leave it to Jenkins to know everything that needed to be known. “Perfect, then. Assist him outside and get him on his way.”
The guard nodded and strode to where Benson stood. He leaned down and said something that had the man immediately straightening up. Jenkins patted him on the shoulder in a friendly but determined manner and led him from the room.
Driscoll wandered the area, but the usual thrill he received from watching what he and his brother had accomplished was just not there. Maybe it was time to visit with Sir Phillip DuBois-Gifford, their contact at the Home Office to see if there was an assignment for him to add some excitement to his life.
Unbeknownst to practically everyone in London, the Rose brothers were oftentimes called upon by Sir Phillip to handle delicate matters for the Crown. Sir Phillip was not on any record of employment with the Home Office, but he managed to work behind the scenes and correct sensitive situations near and dear to the Prime Minister and sometimes the Queen herself.
After Driscoll had spent another thirty minutes meandering the rooms while consuming two brandies, he returned to the upstairs office. Dante was still in the same position, snapping a rubber band.
“All right, little brother. Break over.” He shoved Dante’s feet off the desk.
“Benson on his way?” Dante asked as he stood and stretched.
“Yes. Luckily the man brought his own carriage so any consequences from his overindulgence would be his own mess.”
Dante left the room and Driscoll sat once again at his desk in the corner and pulled the ledger closer. He had to push himself to focus, but eventually settled down and continued his work, albeit with no more enthusiasm than when he’d left.
It was nearing midnight when a noise startled him, and he looked up. The sound seemed to come from the window on the far side of the room. He’d left it open earlier when the room seemed to grow stuffy. Perhaps it was a branch from the tree outside hitting the side of the building.
He shrugged and continued with his work. Within seconds, another thump caught his attention. He looked up to see a young man climb through the window, stumble, then fall to the floor with a crash.
* * *
Miss Amelia Smythe grunted as her hip hit the floor and a sharp pain shot down her leg like an arrow hitting its mark. She winced, but didn’t cry out, trying to remain as silent as possible. From what she had observed perched on the tree branch from which she’d just jumped, this room was unoccupied.
She climbed to her feet and straightened her jacket.
“May I help you, sir?”
Amelia almost fell back out the window at the sound of a man’s voice. She whirled around and stared for a few seconds at two deep brown, possibly angered, eyes. “Why are you here?” She barely got the words out.
The man, his dark brown hair falling over his broad forehead, was quite good-looking the female part of her noticed. He merely raised his eyebrows and continued to stare at her. Given this unexpected setback, it was probably best if she got out of there as quickly as possible. “Um, if you will excuse me, sir, I will leave now.” She waved at the window.
“Wait!” He walked toward her, his full lips tipped in a slight grin. “You’re not a young man.”
She shook her head and sucked in a breath as the room seemed to shrink as the man grew closer. He was broad-shouldered, tall, and quite imposing. His aristocratic features blended well with his deep brown eyes. A slight tingling erupted in her middle and all the available air in the room had seemed to rush out the opened window.
She’d watched the space from outside on her perch while another man had sat with his feet up on a desk, snapping rubber bands. Eventually, he got up, stretched, and left. She hadn’t seen anyone else enter.
“No. I am not a young man. I’m sorry for the disturbance, sir.” She nodded toward the desk she hadn’t seen from the tree and said, “I will leave you to your work, then.”
He reached out and grabbed her hand, a frown of curiosity on his face. “Why did you crawl through my window?”
In full panic now with the man gripping her hand, she blurted the first thing that came to mind. “It’s raining outside.”
Although it seemed impossible, he raised his brows even higher. “You do not possess an umbrella?”
She shook her head, wondering if she could make an escape before he called the Watch. Although truth be known, if they hauled her off to jail it would be better than what she had waiting for her at home.
No. She mis-spoke. Or rather, mis-thought. She had no home. Her horrid stepbrother, Randolph had committed the shocking offense of using her to pay a gambling debt to the ghastly Daniel Lyons. She felt the need to roll her eyes every time she thought of the man’s name.
Randolph, the Viscount Newton was her thirty-year old stepbrother. With nine years between them and no common parents, they’d never been close in the fifteen years their parents had been married to each other.
When not away at school, Randolph had spent a good part of his time teasing and tormenting her. When he grew to manhood, his form of torture turned to reminding her he was the heir and when his papa died, control over her person and dowry would pass to him. With her mother dead these past few years, and then her stepfather, the former Viscount Newton, it hadn’t taken long for the snake to drag her to London and offer her services as mistress to Mr. Lyons in lieu of paying his losses in a card game.
Once Randolph had told her to prepare herself because Mr. Lyons was to arrive at their doorstep in two days to ‘claim’ her, she had no choice but to run. Her dilemma was being without sufficient funds, and since she’d spent most of her life in the country, she had no friends in London to turn to, either.
Of course, it would have been better had she not panicked, and instead thought carefully about her circumstances and made a plan for herself before she fled the house. At least a plan better than tumbling through the window into this man’s office to escape the bad weather.
She cleared her throat, pushing her thoughts from her old dilemma to this new one. “Actually, I do possess an umbrella, but unfortunately, I do not have it with me.” She tugged her hand from the man’s hold and edged back toward the window, keeping her eye on him. “Now if you will excuse me. . .”
Quickly, he reached out and took her hand again. “No. I am not going to let you crawl back out the window and possibly break your neck.”
She huffed. What was it with men who thought they could tell one what to do and what not to do? She was a woman grown of twenty-one years.
Adopting a pleasant demeanor, she said, “No need to concern yourself, sir. I will be fine, I can assure you.” She wiped the rain from her cheeks. “I made it up here, didn’t I?”
Apparently, her attempt at levity fell flat as the man continued to stare at her. “You will tell me who you are, why you are dressed like a man, and why you climbed through my window.” He nodded in the direction of the window.
She shifted from one foot to the other. Mayhap if she gave him some information, he would let her go. “I am Miss Amelia Pence.” There was no point in offering her correct name. The last thing she needed was him tracking down her stepbrother. “It is quite wet out there and I saw the light in your window and hoped to spend only a short time attempting to dry off and warm up.” As if to validate her words, she shivered, then raised her chin.
There. She had given him an almost-honest answer.
“Did it not occur to you to enter through the front door to do the same?” She hated how he seemed to switch from anger to laughing at her. “And why the outfit?” He flicked his finger up and down.
He was becoming quite vexing. Amelia drew herself up, attempting to look impressive even though she was in trousers, soaking wet and just made a complete cake of herself by falling through the window. “Why I am wearing these clothes is none of your concern, sir. Now if you will excuse me and seeing that you won’t let me go back out the way I entered, I will just use that door behind you to make my way downstairs and exit the building.”
Feeling less confident than her words, she moved to go around him and came to a complete halt when he stepped in front of the door. “No.” He shook his head, again with a bit of levity in his look. “I am afraid I demand more answers from you before I let you go.”
Amelia groaned and shivered again. This solution to escape Randolph was becoming more vexing than her problem.COLLAPSE
Liz, Amazon wrote:
I LOVED the Rose brothers when I first met them in A Scandalous Portrait and this lovely addition to the series just further cements that. Driscoll is a delight and for his HEA to drop into a second-story window of the Rose Room, almost into his lap, is just the right thing.
Lady Moon, Amazon wrote:
Ms. Hutton has again delivered a witty, interesting and suspenseful story.
I thoroughly enjoyed this engaging, thrilling, and wild adventure these two take you on.