by Nicola Davidson
Release Date: December 12, 2016
About Surrender to Sin
To save her, he must ruin her.
Lord Sebastian St. John, dedicated bachelor and a co-owner of Fallen, the most scandalous pleasure club in London, is known as Sin for good reason. Orphaned by a shocking accident, Sin long ago vowed a life of solitude and decadence. Yet when Lady Grace Carrington begs for his help destroying her reputation, Sin can’t turn the ton’s most proper lady away.
Obedient daughter, wife, and young widow, Grace has had enough of being controlled. After her father arranges a second loveless marriage to an eminently respectable ancient, Grace plans a fortnight of defiance and self-ruination to stop the wedding. But as Grace enters the heady, risky world of an affair with Sin, she finds herself inexplicably drawn to him—and she soon realizes two weeks won’t be nearly enough.
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An Excerpt from Surrender to Sin
Unable to sit still for a minute, Grace circled the elegantly furnished parlor. On another occasion, another address, she might have curled up on the overstuffed chaise and gazed for hours at the exquisite paintings on the walls, or perhaps ran her fingers over the keys of the polished pianoforte.
Today, her stomach was in knots, perspiration misted her skin, and only through some sort of miracle had her feet obeyed the command to walk up to Fallen’s front door. It was one thing to ponder solutions, but being here at the entirely unfashionable hour of ten o’clock in the morning to begin the boldest, riskiest, most ill-thought out plan of her life, was something else entirely.
“Lady Carrington. My sincere apologies for keeping you waiting.”
The rich, deep voice nearly made her jump a foot in the air, but straightening her shoulders, Grace turned in a swirl of lavender-striped skirts.
And nearly swooned.
It was him. The lord they called Sin was the same man she’d fantasized over since that long ago day in Hyde Park, and if anything, he was even more divine up close. Short-cropped chocolate brown hair, exotic amber eyes, strong, square jaw, perhaps a touch under six feet in height, but so broad in the shoulders he appeared much bigger. Under that shirt, trousers, and crisp cravat she would wager he was sculpted muscle all over.
“Good morning, Lord St. John,” she replied quickly, trying to gather her scattered thoughts while ignoring her hardening nipples and an unfamiliar throbbing between her legs. “Thank you for seeing me at this hour and on such short notice. I know it is most, ah, irregular.”
One eyebrow arched, but there was an unexpected kindness in his crooked grin. “I must admit, my lady, you are not someone I ever thought to welcome through Fallen’s doors. Is there something I can assist you with?”
“Yes,” she blurted, but the rest of her carefully rehearsed speech dried up, and she wanted to scream in frustration. This devastating man would hardly be inclined to assist a stranger behaving like a gormless twit.
“And that is?” he prompted.
Feeling a blush storm across her cheeks, Grace swallowed hard. “Forgive my hesitancy. It is a most delicate matter.”
“Are you in trouble? Is your late husband’s family causing you grief?”
“No. Nothing like that. It’s my father. He…he has contracted me a second marriage to a most unsuitable man and I simply cannot do it.”
The baron tilted his head, his expression curious. “Did you come here seeking an alternative husband, Countess? Because I have no desire whatsoever to marry, despite your obvious charms.”
“No! Ah, no, my lord…” Grace broke off, and took a long, deep breath. Courage, girl. “What I would like, is for you to partially ruin me.”
“Partially ruin you?” he said, amusement returning as he settled onto the nearby chaise, one booted foot resting casually across the other. “My dear lady, while you are absolutely in the right city and the right club for ruination, I’m not sure I understand the partially part.”
“Oh dear, that did sound odd, didn’t it? What I meant was, creating a mild scandal with, no offense intended, the most notorious rake in London, believable enough for my new fiancé to be so horrified he cries off and leaves me in peace.”
“Please, do call me Grace,” she said, daring to take a few steps closer.
“Very well, Grace. You realize this plan has numerous glaring flaws? If this fellow is a man with any sort of sense, he wouldn’t give you up for anything. Not even a, er, mild scandal with…come on, I’m only about fourth or fifth on London’s notorious rake list…hmmm, perhaps third. But you’re a widow, with a widow’s experience and needs, not a silly chit fresh out of the schoolroom.”
“The gentleman in question is Lord Baxter.”
Lord St. John’s lips tightened, and just for a moment something dark and dangerous swirled in his amber eyes. “Baxter?”
“You know him?”
“Indeed. A creature of the most stringent taste and morals, dedicated to cleansing society. That we could all be as purebred and without taint as him.”
For the first time in days, true hope flared. “The wedding date is set for June first. I was permitted to come to town with just my maid-companion to have a new wardrobe measured. She is completely loyal and will make excuses for me if needed. And…and I can pay you! Here, take this, it is all I saved from my allowance,” she said, striding forward to drop a drawstring purse into his lap.
“Grace,” he said with a sigh, tossing the purse back to her. “Keep your pin money. If your mild scandal idea does work, we’ll discuss terms once your situation is settled. Besides, I have a weakness for beautiful damsels in distress, and ladies forced into situations they have no desire to be in angers me. Especially when said situation involves men with…a highly inflated sense of entitlement.”
She choked on a relieved sob. “Oh th-thank you. Thank you, thank y—”
“All right, pet, enough. Now, come and sit down and tell me exactly what you consider a mild scandal for partial ruination to include.”
Lord St. John’s tone was idle, yet those fascinating eyes were fixed on her with an unsettling directness, the kind of focus that implied he learned a person’s strengths and weaknesses, truth and falsehood, in a heartbeat. If she answered with anything less than absolute honesty, he would know, and probably change his mind.
Grace sank onto the chaise next to him and stared at her clasped hands. “I’m not sure. But I know it must be public. Perhaps kissing and touching at a ball or in a carriage?”
His lips twitched. “Kissing and touching. I see.”
“Is that so unexceptional here?” she said hotly, hating her own naïveté. “Do people walk around Mayfair wearing nothing but rouge and a smile nowadays? Are there lewd displays atop horseback on Rotten Row?”
“Restricted to Thursdays,” St. John said, nodding gravely. “And not so popular a pastime in the winter months. Embarrassing for certain gentlemen, you understand.”
“But never for you,” she replied, then clapped her hand over her mouth. Where on earth had that comment come from?
He burst out laughing, a delightfully warm and hearty sound that spoke of humor regularly indulged. “Thank you, but saddle chafing and windburn are rather off-putting. I must admit to a definite preference for indoor fucking. Beds, desks, window seats, walls, chaises…”
Like this one? Grace’s cheeks heated to boiling point. “I’ve only known the marriage bed. And that taught me relations between a man and woman meant enduring pain in darkness twice a week. But I’m sure there is so much more. There must be. My maid tells me women flock to you quite willing to risk all, so I imagine you offer a far different experience.”
“Christ, Grace,” he said, all humor vanishing as he took an audible breath. “Look at me.”
“I said look at me.”
Slowly, reluctantly, she lifted her head. His gaze was sympathetic, but barely leashed heat burned as well, making her gown feel far too tight. Seconds later, a rough, slightly callused fingertip dragged a tingling path of fire across her lower lip, then darted down to caress her collarbone and the lace-edged bodice of her gown.
Grace’s nipples hardened further and she shivered. It should be embarrassing, how fast a brief, expert caress from a near-stranger aroused her, but all she could think of was offering anything he wanted to continue, mild scandal be damned. “My lord, please, I—”
“Lovers should be on a first name basis, even temporary, fake ones. Call me Sin.”
“I am very grateful for your assistance.”
He shrugged. “Well, it is a most intriguing challenge, devising a deliberate yet mild scandal for partial ruination. But in the interests of science and justice, I shall ponder some options. Regrettably I have a series of meetings today, but be here tomorrow morning at eleven, and do not be late. Tardiness results in penalties.”
Grace nodded quickly, desire and relief and uncertainty coiling tightly within her.
The betrothal-ending mission had begun.
About Nicola Davidson
Nicola Davidson worked for many years in communications and marketing as well as television and print journalism, but hasn’t looked back since she decided writing wicked historical romance was infinitely more fun. When not chained to a computer she can be found ambling along one of New Zealand’s beautiful beaches, cheering on the champion All Blacks rugby team, history geeking on the internet or daydreaming. If this includes chocolate–even better!
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