A Bride for a Rogue
The Honorable Rogues®, Book Two
Formerly titled Bride of Falcon
She can’t forget the past. He can’t face the future. Until fate intervenes one night.
Many years ago, Ivonne Wimpleton loved Chancy Faulkenhurst and hoped to marry him. Then one day, without any explanation, he sailed to India. Now, after five unsuccessful Seasons and a riding accident that left her with a slight limp, her only suitors are fortune-hunters and degenerates. Just as Ivy’s resigned herself to spinsterhood, Chance unexpectedly returns.
Upon returning to England, Chance is disillusioned, disfigured, and emotionally scarred, but his love for Ivy remains is strong. However, he’s failed to acquire the fortune he sought in order to earn permission to marry her. When he discovers Ivy’s being forced to wed to prevent a scandalous secret from being revealed, he’s determined to make her his bride.
Except, believing Chance made no effort to contact her all those years, Ivy’s furious with him. What’s more, in his absence, his father arranged a profitable marriage for Chance. As he battles his own inner demons, he must convince Ivy to risk loving him again. But will their parents’ interference jeopardize Chance and Ivy’s happiness once more?
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“Ms.Cameron creates the most delightful characters…I highly recommend the series.” ★★★★★ ~Night Owl Reviews Top Pick
“I loved all the twists and turns the author put in this book.” ★★★★★ ~BW in Texas
“Emotional and touching, you will love her characters Ivonne and Chancy.” ★★★★★ ~Nicole Laverdure
“Fast paced tale of second chances, romance and love.” ★★★★★ ~My Book Addiction Reviews
“AWESOME book. I love Collette’s style of writing.” ★★★★★ ~Janice Hoagland
“This is another excellent Regency romance from Collette Cameron.” ★★★★★ ~Bonnie Raymond
“. . . hilarious chaos that leads to a very happy ending.” ★★★★★ ~Deborah Walker
“What a treasure!” ★★★★★ ~Navy Wave
“This was a great, quick read with flawed and believable characters.” ★★★★★ ~Jen Craig
“I loved the story. It had humor and sacrifice. I couldn’t put it down.” ★★★★★ ~Dixie Lee
Late May, 1818
“There you are, Miss Wimpleton.”
Ivonne Wimpleton whipped her gaze to Captain Melvin Kirkpatrick. Groaning in frustration, she snapped her fan closed, prepared to use the frilly accessory to give him a good poke or two, if necessary.
Fiend seize it. What is he doing here?
He must have arrived after she ventured outdoors.
She’d specifically asked Mother not to invite him tonight. Somehow, the bore had finagled an invitation to accompany another guest. Ivonne had hoped he’d finally sailed for Africa and wouldn’t impose his unwelcome presence on her for six blessed months or more.
He staggered toward her secluded bench on the side terrace, a drunken smile skewing his mouth.
She shot to her feet, searching for a means to avoid him. The only possibility lay in the narrow stairway descending to the manicured garden where an occasional colored lantern glowed. Ivonne strode toward her salvation at a near run.
Captain Kirkpatrick caught her arm and pinned her against the balustrade with his great weight. Her fan fell, clattering to the flagstone.
Straining against him, Ivonne fought to breathe and gagged. Did the man ever bathe?
“What audacity. Unhand me, sir!”
He shook his head. Excitement glimmered in his glassy eyes. “I think not. You’ve played the reluctant miss long enough. It’s time you tasted what our married life will be like.”
“Are you dicked in the nob?” Though no match for his strength, Ivonne still fought to break free. As she struggled, her hair pins came loose and scattered onto the stones. “I. Am. Not. Marrying. You.”
He tightened his clasp, and she winced as he held her arms in a bruising grip.
“I prefer blondes with blue eyes, but I cannot complain about your curves.” Leering at her bosom, Captain Kirkpatrick licked his lips. He pawed her breast with one beefy hand as his other gripped her head in an attempt to steal a kiss.
His foul breath assailed Ivonne, sending her stomach pitching at the stench of strong spirits and onions. Intent on screaming like a banshee, she opened her mouth and sucked in a huge breath.
A chortling foursome of gentlemen burst through the French windows onto the other side of the terrace. Their sudden appearance rescued her from the captain’s lewd groping. Panting heavily, his bushy red eyebrows scrunched together, he released her and scowled at her brother, Allen, Lords Sethwick and Luxmoore, and the Duke of Harcourt.
A pity the new arrivals weren’t her twin cousins, Edwina and Edward. They would come to her aid and not breathe a word of the untoward situation. However, if Allen spied her in Captain Kirkpatrick’s company, there would be the devil to pay.
Ivonne tried to blend into the manor’s shadow, but the sea captain’s stout form obstructed her. Her brother had warned the widower away from her once already. If he suspected the captain dared lay a hand on her, Allen would call him out. A dab hand at pistols—all firearms, for that matter—Captain Kirkpatrick might wound, or, heaven forbid, kill dear Allen.
She shuddered. It must not come to that. She peeked at the captain from beneath her lashes. More than a trifle disguised, his drunken focus remained on the other men. Ivonne seized the moment. Without hesitation, she kneed him in the ballocks with her good leg and gave him a mighty shove.
Bent double and growling in fury, he stumbled backward, clutching his groin.
Ignoring his gasps of pain and vile curses, she edged away. With one eye on the laughing quartet, she crept down the stairs. Once out of their view, she flew across the lawn as rapidly as her injured leg would allow. She’d broken the limb in two places in a riding accident three years ago. The leg pained her on occasion, and she endured a permanent, though slight, limp made worse by overexertion.
She darted behind a tall rose-covered trellis. In her haste, the ball gown’s black net overskirt caught on a thorn-laden cane. Breathing labored and leg throbbing, she halted just inside the alcove and gave the skirt a gentle tug.
Dash it all. Stuck fast.
She sent a frantic glance along the footpath.
A twig snapped. Had Captain Kirkpatrick followed her?
A jolt of fright raised the hairs on her arms and stole her breath. Did she dare step outside the arbor and release the material? Would he see her if she did? She couldn’t move farther into the enclosure, though if she remained here, she risked almost certain discovery.
A sleepy dove cooed from somewhere in the garden’s trees. The night’s festivities had no doubt disturbed its slumber.
Ivonne peered through the lattice slats.
Where was he?
With her forefinger, she nudged a couple of leaves aside. Her white gloves stood out, a stark contrast against the plants. Oh, to have the mythical mantel of Arthur in Cornwall and be invisible.
A soft wind wafted through her hiding place and rustled the leaves overhead. Several spun lazily to the ground. Guests’ laughter and the lilting strains of the orchestra floated through the beveled French windows and carried to her on the mild breeze.
What possessed her to give into the impulse to venture outside alone and catch some air?
Because you dislike balls, gentlemen treating you as if you’re beneath their touch, and all the pretentious nastiness that’s generally present when the denizens of High Society gather.
Though only May, the crush of the crowd inside the mansion caused the temperature to rise uncomfortably. The heat, mixed with cloying perfumes, less-than-fresh clothing, the aroma of dozens of beeswax candles, and the occasional unbathed body, made her head ache and stomach queasy.
She’d sought a secluded niche on the side terrace to recover. Unfortunately, Captain Kirkpatrick, deep in his cups, found her there. Much like the shaggy bull he resembled, he’d stalked her at every social gathering.
A more off-putting man she’d never met.
Ivonne turned sideways and hoped the vines’ thick cover concealed her. If fear had a scent, the captain’s bulbous nose would lead him straight to her. Heavy footfalls crunched upon the gravel not more than a yard away. She closed her eyes as her heart lurched to her throat. Thank God she hadn’t tried to detach her gown. He’d have been on her like dense winter fog on the River Thames.
“Miss Wimpleton, you saucy minx, where are you?”
A low, suggestive chuckle followed. “I do like a spirited gel in my bed. I do, indeed.”
Ivonne’s eyes popped open. Captain Kirkpatrick’s gloating singsong whisper sent a shiver of loathing the length of her spine. She bit her lower lip, afraid to exhale lest he detect her presence.
He advanced another foot, pausing before the lattice.
She clenched her jaw and shut her eyes.
He stood so close, the noxious mixture of his dinner, pungent cologne, and sweat assaulted her nose. Hot bile rose to her throat, and she swallowed against the burning. Her nose twitched. Flaring her nostrils, she fought to suppress a sneeze.
If he discovered her hidden within the nook, there’d be no escaping the man’s amorous attentions. He might claim to prefer blondes, but he’d become bolder each time she encountered him. Given the opportunity, God alone knew what the foxed knave might try in this private bower. Look what he’d attempted on the veranda in full view of anyone who might have come along.
Holding her breath, she pursed her lips.
Do not sneeze.
The captain planted his hands on his ample hips and scanned the shrubberies. He turned in a slow circle. The straining gold buttons of his black tailcoat gleamed in the moonbeams bathing the path. He withdrew a silver flask from his pocket, and after a furtive glance around, took a couple of healthy gulps.
“Where are you? Come out, my sweet.” He belched and returned the flask to his pocket. “No need to be coy. I have something of importance to ask you.”
Precisely why Ivonne huddled like a timid mouse amongst the foliage outside her parents’ mansion. In the past two months, he’d asked the same question thrice before. Her firm “No” each time hadn’t deterred him in the least. In fact, her reluctance appeared to make the stocky widower more determined to win her hand.
Grimacing and cautious to keep her gown from rustling, she shifted her weight to her good leg.
Ah, much better.
Wisteria and salmon-colored climbing roses concealed the garden nook. Her favorite hideaway, normally, she would have relished the fragrant air surrounding her. Tonight, however, she could only be grateful the roses’ scent masked her perfume and hadn’t produced a fit of sneezing.
Ivonne swallowed against the tickle teasing her throat. If only she dared pinch her nostrils. She mustn’t. Her gloves against the verdant leaves might give her away. Yearning to slip into one of the nook’s inky corners, she yanked her skirt again. The fabric didn’t budge.
Captain Kirkpatrick swung his dark gaze to the trellis.