A Rogue Worth the Risk
The Honorable Rogues®, Book Eight
Love favors the bold. But who’s to say the risk is truly worth the reward…
Caspian Graystone, Baron Strathmore, has no plans to wed. He survived the inferno that claimed his entire family, but the scarred, intolerant man he’s become has no need of society or the gossipmongers who think he started the blaze to inherit the barony. That is why he’s shocked when he finds himself drawn to the vivacious and spirited Corinna Brockman. He has no business seeking out her company. But that’s exactly what he does…
Corinna faces spinsterhood and is generally fine with the prospect. She prefers the study of architecture and ancient languages to most traditional pursuits and has no interest in opportunistic suitors who care more for her beauty than her mind. Which is why her sudden interest in Caspian makes no logical sense whatsoever. But, as it turns out, her heart cares not one whit about logic…
Can an avowed bachelor and a spinster find the courage to take a chance on love—and each other? Or will they decide the risk to their hearts isn’t worth a potential happily ever after?
See What Readers Are Saying about A Rogue Worth the Risk
★★★★★ “A charming read & I loved their journey to finding love…” ~ Janet Barrett
★★★★★ “The first couple are trying to get over their own imperfections. But what a way to start. A wonderful setup it is. Engaging and not without a pitfall or should I say spiteful people to help separate them” ~ Ceara Merkle
★★★★★ “a lovable hero and heroine, a happy ending, and a lovely epilogue.” ~ Peggy
★★★★★ “This is a really fun story with a few twists and turns that I didn’t expect.” ~ iread
★★★★★ “A delightful story that will make you smile!” ~ Lori D
★★★★★ “This is a sweet romance is the most you’ll read about is kissing, but honestly, the plot moved quickly and was entertaining …” ~ Amy
★★★★★ “This was an engaging read with very likeable main characters.” ~ Cheryl
★★★★★ “Awwww!! I love that this was a straight shot of romance. It was fun watching Caspian and Corinna get to know each other and fall in love. Made for a very entertaining read!!” ~ EstelReadsRomance
★★★★★ “This is a short, clean, sweet book that is character-driven with a satisfying ending. I enjoyed every minute of it.” ~ K. Hudecek
★★★★★ “A Rogue Worth the Risk is book 8 in Collette Cameron’s Honorable Rogues series. This book is as well-written as the others and will tug at your heartstrings, just as they do. The ending and epilogue were superb!” ~ Terrie
★★★★★ “This books is entertaining and well executed.” ~ Rainelle
★★★★★ “This is an another wonderfully crafted love story by a favorite author that may be read alone or as part of the series.” ~ Nancy H
Home of Lady Pandora Osborne
Middle of January — Evening
I shouldn’t have come.
This was a monumental mistake. A sodding, imbecilic, bloody mistake.
Putting two fingers to the jagged scar zigzagging across his left cheek, Caspian Graystone, Baron Strathmore—called the blackhearted baron behind his back and occasionally to his face—paused inside the ballroom’s glittering entrance.
Why had he allowed Ronan Brockman and Manchester, Marquess of Sterling, to talk him into attending what was certain to be a week-long, excruciatingly tedious pain in the posterior? Cynicism bent Caspian’s mouth upward, and anyone glancing in his direction would recognize him for what he was—a jaded, sardonic skeptic.
Elegantly coiffed ladies draped in sparkling jewels and swathed in silks and satins in every shade of the rainbow twirled around the chalked parquet dance floor with gentlemen attired in the first stare of fashion.
Pretentious popinjays and conceited coxcombs, the lot.
Nay, not all of the fellows.
According to Brockman, a few other sensible chaps made the coveted guest list, though how Brockman came by that exclusive information was anyone’s guess. The Earls of Hythe, Bixley, and Barington, as well as Viscounts Harcourt, Silverton, and the Duke of Sedgewick were expected. Whether the lords chose to subject themselves to this gratuitous torment or not, however…
They were the only thing that kept Caspian from turning on his heel and sequestering himself for the evening in the study or library with a bottle of prime scotch. Mayhap not a bottle, but a dram or two.
In truth, the notion tempted greatly.
Though an aristocrat by birthright, Caspian didn’t belong here—didn’t belong amongst le beau monde. The ton had made that perfectly clear six years ago. Regardless, he’d made his friends a promise, and if nothing else—despite the smudges upon his dented reputation—Caspian was a man of his word.
In point of fact, just appearing tonight would suffice as the fulfillment of his pledge to attend the house party. No need to torture himself and stay more than a day or two.
Besides, he preferred to monitor Thirkwick Park’s reconstruction progress himself. He’d far rather be there laying bricks, hoisting lumber, nailing flooring, or performing any number of other tasks required to rebuild the once-magnificent manor that had sustained grievous fire damage.
The very inferno Caspian had escaped by diving through an upper-story window—hence his scarred face and arm. The blaze had also taken the lives of his entire family: father, brother, pregnant sister-in-law, and demented stepmother, Florinda. Caspian would go to his grave convinced Florinda had set the fire in one of her frequent and ever more irrational frenzies.
With pure determination, he took a firm grip on his memory and veered his disquieting musings from that fateful night. With bored disinterest, he surveyed the festive tableau before him. The merest pinch of a headache throbbed behind his eyes as it inevitably did when he entertained recollections of the deadly conflagration that had left him alone in the world.
The fire that had also left Caspian a pariah to Society.
In an effort to ease the aggravating ache prodding his skull, Caspian rubbed the bridge of his nose. He stopped as two ladies passed, their eyes widening in recognition, before they dipped their graying heads together. The feathers in their silk turbans battled for dominance in a comical duel as the women broke into frenetic whispers.
Indulging the wicked urge to take them down a peg, Caspian gave them a devilish wink and skewed his mouth into a mocking grin. He knew full well that his scar pulled his mouth into a cockeyed, rather macabre grimace. More than one child had broken into frightened cries when he’d smiled at them.
So he’d stopped doing so.
He might be a monster in appearance but wasn’t so in character. Unless one counted cynicism and taciturnity as character flaws.
Clutching one another’s arms in alarm, the be-ribboned and be-ruffled dames practically fell over each other in their haste to put distance between him and them. It would serve the biddies right if they toppled, ample bosoms over even ampler bums, onto the dance floor.
Though he was loath to admit it, the encounter bothered Caspian more than it ought. Hadn’t his pride been bludgeoned enough? Why put himself through this farce?
He searched the teeming ballroom for a single friend. He hadn’t many left, truth be told. Merely a handful of loyal men who valued character over rumors. Friendship over titillating tattle. Who believed him and not the embellished gossip still circulating certain elite drawing rooms.
To be perfectly honest, the invitation to attend Lady Pandora Osborne’s house party had taken him aback. They didn’t travel in the same social circles, although she had been a close friend of his mother’s many long years ago.
Perhaps pity or a misguided sense of obligation had spurred her to include Caspian. A perverted sense of curiosity or anticipation his presence would liven up an otherwise predictable gathering weren’t farfetched motivations either.
In retrospect, the latter two were the more likely possibilities.
Barely suppressing a peeved sigh, Caspian pulled his watch from his pocket.
Not even ten of the clock yet.
Where was Brockman? Sterling?
Had they deserted him this early on?
Caspian skimmed his gaze across the crowd again. Hundreds of candles in the crystal chandeliers cast an ethereal glow onto the guests, creating a fairytale-like atmosphere.
Balderdash and twaddle.
He’d put aside fanciful childish notions twenty years ago. When his invalid mother had died, and Father had married Florinda—the unbalanced mistress he’d unabashedly flaunted—less than a fortnight later.
There wasn’t anything magical or mystical about the people gathered at Lady Osborne’s ostentatious manor house. With few exceptions, the guests were shopping the Marriage Mart, hunting matrimonial prey, or intent on engaging in a clandestine assignation—perchance more than one naughty tryst.
A derisive snort escaped Caspian.
Heaven save him from such obvious machinations.
The bachelor’s life suited him very well.
Very well, indeed, thank you.
He felt no pressing need to sire an heir—no need at all, in point of fact. As the second son, that task wasn’t ever to have been his responsibility. Which was why—even as the barony’s heir—he’d never entertained notions of marching down the aisle and voluntarily relinquishing his freedom for matrimonial imprisonment.
“Ah, there you are, Strathmore.”
A sharp swat to his arm brought his attention to the formidable lady attired in black whose silent approach he’d missed.
His daunting hostess.
“I didn’t believe you’d actually come.” Lady Pandora Osborne, Pansy to her closest friends, scraped a probing gaze over him through her lorgnette. “Although Sterling assured me you would.”
“My lady.” Caspian dutifully bent into a bow. “A delight.”
Though the silver curls artfully arranged upon her noble head scarcely reached Caspian’s shoulders, Lady Osborne was a force to be reckoned with. A veritable dervish when she put her mind to something. Her ladyship was also the ton’s most prestigious unofficial matchmaker and was renowned for her brilliant matches.
An aptitude she took tremendous pride in.
Toying with the lace edging her hand-painted fan, she eyed him critically then gave an approving nod.
Evidently, Caspian had measured up. To what, he wasn’t certain.
“You clean up well, Strathmore. Black suits you.”
What else would the Blackhearted Baron wear?
Lady Osborne artfully swept a hand from her neck to waist. “I favor the shade myself.”
Neither apologetic nor contrite, she shifted her bold scrutiny to his disfigured face, and Caspian raised a sardonic eyebrow.
“Even with that scar.” She pointed her fan at his disfigured cheek. “You’re more handsome than either your brother or father were.”
“High praise indeed from one as estimable as yourself, my lady.”
“Pshaw. Poppycock.” She cut him a teasing glance, humor twinkling in her eyes. “Don’t waste your glib tongue on me, rapscallion.”
Her gaze took on a cunning gleam, and Caspian had the distinct impression she was up to something. Something he wasn’t going to like.
“There are plenty of young ladies who would swoon for an opportunity to dance with you tonight, Strathmore.”