The Wicked Earls’ Club
By Tammy Andresen and Maggie Dallen
The Earl of Coventry had a secret.
Some days this secret proved to be a burden, but tonight… well, tonight it amused him to no end. The next stage of his plan would be set in motion as soon as he completed his correspondence. Sitting behind his massive mahogany desk, he signed his name with a flourish as the voices of several men and a few women wafted through the halls of the Wicked Earls Club. He couldn’t make out any individual words, just the tone, but the conversation seemed pleasant, the mood light, his earls content.
Many of them had already left the club for the evening to participate in the social gatherings of the ton, but this club was for the activities best kept out of the public’s eye and quite a few were still in attendance. He’d bet his fortune he knew who was still there, lingering over their whiskeys and settling in for one last round of cards before heading off to fulfill their social obligations. It was always the same crowd who lingered here until the last possible moment. The worst of the worst, the most wicked of them all.
As if summoned by his thoughts, the Earl of Davenport appeared in the doorway to his study. Coventry laughed softly at the sight of him. “Speak of the devil.”
The other man glowered at the jest. The Devil of Davenport. That was how the ton referred to him behind his back and the young earl seemed to go out of his way to live up to the name. “You requested I inform you when the clock struck nine,” Davenport said.
Coventry smiled. Ah yes, he’d nearly forgotten. Of course, Coventry had a pocket watch. But for reasons that were his own, he’d wanted Davenport close tonight. Davenport, like all the rest of the earls who haunted the halls of this club, was not used to doing favors or following orders. But when Coventry asked something of one of them, they were sure to comply.
Why? Because he was the man who’d given them salvation. With this club, he offered these nefarious gentry refuge. A place where they could revel in freedom and operate beyond the strictures of society.
Or so they thought, his simple foolish boys.
Coventry hadn’t founded this club—oh no, this elite society had been around long before he was born. Originally formed as a guild of earls, it was intended to be a place where the country’s most prominent and powerful could meet in secret, to make deals and curry favor without facing the public’s judgement. But somehow over the years, the club had turned corrupt. The earls who graced its halls no longer came for business, but solely for pleasure.
No, Coventry had not founded the club, he’d merely changed its title. He renamed it for what it had become rather than what it should have been. A society for the wicked. A refuge for rakes and scoundrels with too much unchecked power and too little love.
The earls in his club were not evil, but they needed guidance. A helping hand, a nudge from someone who saw their true potential.
Someone like him.
Coventry had given them their moniker, just as he’d taken the defunct guild and turned it into a brotherhood. After all, if there was honor among thieves, surely there could be loyalty among earls. But creating a safe haven, a place where these powerful men could find the support and solace they so often lacked—that had merely been the start. Coventry had more in mind for these gentlemen, and that…that was his greatest secret and his most important undertaking.
His earls would flee like rats from a fire if they knew what he had in store for them. He nearly laughed aloud at the thought but tamped his enthusiasm as he rose from his desk.
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