Like No Other Lover

November 2008


SECOND book in the Pennyroyal Green series!

Now or Never . . .

It's the last chance for Cynthia Brightly, the ton's most bewitching belle. Driven out of London by a secret scandal, she must find a grand husband at the Redmonds' house party before word of her downfall spreads all over England. Unfortunately, someone at Pennyroyal Green is already privy to the whispers of broken engagements and dueling lovers: Miles Redmond, renowned explorer and—thanks to his brother's disappearance—heir to the family's enormous fortune.

Miles set his sights on Cynthia once, at a time when the ambitious beauty thought herself too good for a second son. But now he's the heir apparent, relishing in his control. He strikes a bargain with her: he'll keep Cynthia's steamy secrets and help her find a husband among the guests—in exchange for a single kiss.

What could be the harm in a simple kiss? Cynthia is about to discover that it's enough to unleash fierce passion-and that Miles Redmond is most certainly like no other lover in the world.

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In this excerpt, Miles Redmond, renowned explorer and heir to the Redmond family fortune, has just sorted out a bit of house party mayhem and is on his way up to bed when some instinct makes him stop on his way up to his chambers...where he encounters the cause of the evening's mayhem, and proves to himself just how dangerous it is to be alone with Cynthia Brightly.

And later, he would never be certain why he paused near the library door on the way up to his chambers. When his faculties were finally returned to him, he would, of course speculate in terms of the properties of physics: magnetic attractions, atmospheric disturbances, things of that sort, because analysis was what gave order and meaning to his world.

Regardless, pause he did.

And in that dark room, two things created light: the dying fire, and the shining head of the person bent toward it from a perch on the settee. An unmistakable head.

For an instant, Miles went still and admired it the way he might the moon: with a helpless, impartial wonder. All those burnished shades of—

Oh, for God's sake. Brown. Her hair was brown. Her dress was also some shade of brown. And the fact that Cynthia Brightly was still wearing it meant that she hadn't yet gone up to bed.

She was perched on a settee, her body curled forward towards the fire, her face cupped in her hands. Something about the pose implied… Was she…could she…could she be weeping?

He froze, instantly restless and panicked. He took a step forward.

A step backward.

And then her body slowly curled upright again, as lyrical as a flower blooming, and one hand dropped to her lap, and—

For God's sake. She'd been leaning over to light a damned cheroot in the fire.

She balanced it at her lips with a disconcertingly practiced motion and was clearly about to suck it into full flaming life when he spoke.

"Where did you find a cheroot?"

Her head whipped toward him and she launched her cheroot-holding hand the entire length of her arm away from her mouth, looking like a chaste maiden fighting off a zealous suitor. She froze that way, her eyes round and white as eggs.

Miles tried and failed to turn his laughter into a cough.

She reeled her arm back in. "I nearly swallowed this thing whole," she said peevishly. "I searched the house over for it, too."

"You went…searching…for a cheroot."

She stared at him, her head at a slight tip, dark brows diving toward the bridge of her nose. And then with pointed theatricality she slowly, slowly—pruriently slowly— inserted the tiny cigar between her lips, pursed them around it. And sucked until the tip was tiny, angry red dot.

Miles was undecided as to whether he was fascinated or repelled. Though he was certain he was aroused. Out of genuine curiosity, he waited to see if she would cough or tear.

Instead she sagged elegantly against the generously curved arm of the settee, cast her head back, and released a slim geyser of smoke toward the ceiling.
The elegant sagging shifted her bosom in the confines of her bodice, which was suddenly beautifully illuminated by firelight, soft, round, inviting. He stared.

And he was, in just about a thrice, hard as a rock.

"I searched the house over, and at last I found three of them in the humidor in this room. Fortunately this room already smells of cheroots."

"Muskets, sherry, and a room that stinks of tobacco. The stuff of every young lady's dreams."

"I find cheroots relax me."

"I suppose hunting heirs can ride roughshod over the nerves."

She rewarded this terse witticism with a duck of her head and held the little cigar out before her to study the burning tip reflectively.

"The thing is … I find being incessantly… good…and sparkling leaves me strangely depleted. And as I will be allowed no habits at all when I am married—or rather, honor dictates that I continue with the habits I've demonstrated thus far—the urge suddenly overcame me."

Miles was silent. He didn't know which part of this revelation to address.

" 'Honor,' Miss Brightly?"

Her head turned sharply toward him. "I've more notion of honor than many of the people sleeping under this roof tonight, I'd warrant, Mr. Redmond."

She left her gaze level with his. He wondered suddenly whether he was included in the remark. Thinking of Lady Middlebough. Third floor, fourth room from the left. Which is where he should be right now.

She took his silence for the apology it was.

"What precisely was the nature of the game tonight?" he genuinely wanted to know.

"We were all to drink when Lady Georgina said, 'Oh, Mr. Redmond. You're so interesting.' "

He was struck. Imagine Cynthia noticing such a thing. And once again, he was torn between hilarity and anger.

Georgina did say it rather a lot.

"Perhaps she thinks I'm very interesting." He said this dryly.

"That could very well be," Miss Brightly allowed skeptically.

He couldn't help it. He smiled. She shifted again on the settee, and her dress pulled at the swell of her breasts, and his smile vanished, and he felt that familiar difficulty with his breathing.

"She's very nice," she added. It sounded almost like an accusation.

"That isn't her fault," Miles said quickly.

Which then struck both of them as funny, and they both smiled. The smoke she'd released now hovered over them like a net about to drop.

Leave now, you bloody, bloody fool, the voice in Miles's head said.

"Have you considered that you'll spend your entire wedded life 'depleted,' as you say, Miss Brightly?"

She turned to look at him. "Depleted but rich," she corrected slowly, deliberately.

He went still.

And then the fury was instant and seemed to come from nowhere and everywhere.

It propelled him into the room and down on his knees next to her so swiftly she didn't have time to gasp: he gained an impression of her wide blue eyes and of the cheroot tip glaring between her fingers like a third accusing eye.

And then Miles plucked it from her fingers and hurled it into the fire. They stared, astonished, toward where it vanished, devoured with a pop and a hiss.

Silently they sat. Miles watched the flame inexorably reducing the log to ashes, feeling oddly spent. After a time, he became aware of Cynthia's breathing beneath the groans and pops and hisses of the fire. The logs sounded as though they were objecting to being consumed.

He turned slowly. She wasn't staring at the fire.

She was staring at him, and some expression that haunted him fled her eyes when he turned. Shadows of flame leaped and shivered over her throat, as though she herself were being consumed.

As if to test whether or not this was true, Miles watched his hand move toward her. His fingers landed softly, softly, beneath her jaw.

Her breath snagged audibly. And so did his.

He couldn't stop.

She didn't stop him.

With two fingers he slowly, purposefully, gently, followed both the clean, fine line of her jaw and the unthinkably soft skin beneath, marveling at this contrast in textures.

Like a vigilant chaperone, he watched his own fingers as he drew them
slowly, slowly, down, down, down. Her throat was satiny and hot, frighteningly delicate. Her pulse bumped hard there, sending blood rushing through her veins, flushing her skin with a heat that transferred itself to his own skin. The surface of it felt feverish, every cell of his body alert to, craving, sensation.

Onward his fingers journeyed. They made an almost whimsical figure eight over those bones at the base of her long neck.

"I don't want you." She said. It was a cracked whisper.

Miles, the truth seeker, sought proof of this. Lower, just a little lower, just above the pale round give of her breast, his fingers found again her rapid heartbeat. Miles paused his fingers there to savor, with vindication, its tempo, and levered his head up to meet her eyes.

It was the only warning he gave her before he eased his forefinger into that alluring crease between her breasts.

Her head jerked back; her lips parted on a silent gasp; her ribcage gave a minute leap.

"I don't want you, either." He whispered, too. It seemed the proper language for the dark, the language to use when touching bare skin.

And at that, she smiled faintly: that got the lies out of the way, then.

~end of excerpt~

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"Deliciously funny, wickedly absolute indulgence! You'd better have the rest of the day off when you open LIKE NO OTHER LOVER, because once you start, you won't be able to put it down."
NYT Bestselling author Karen Hawkins




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So what's this Pennyroyal Green series about?

The Pennryoyal Green series takes us through the lives, passions, adventures and misadventures of the denizens of Pennyroyal Green, Sussex, England, a town anchored by the wealthy Eversea and Redmond families —whose relations are civil on the surface, but seethe beneath with ancient secrets and grudges and —naturally — attractions. :) We'll follow these folks wherever their passions take them —whether it's London, the gallows, a ballroom, a bedroom, the high seas, or the Sussex downs. I have major plans for these people. :) The stories are loosely connected and characters recur, but not in every book. A number of Pennyroyal Green characters will get their own stories—not just Everseas and Redmonds—and each story can be read independently of each other. Collect 'em all! LOL. The first book in the series is The Perils of Pleasure. You can find alittle background on the legend of the town and the origins of the feud between the Everseas and Redmonds in the prologue of POP, too. :)

Here's a quick Pennyroyal Green series "cast of characters." When characters are featured prominently in a specific book, I'll link to the book or make a note of it. This list will grow over time, may even sprout more branches and family names, and I'll expound a little more on each character in this space as we get to know each of them a little better throughout the series.

The Everseas
The Redmonds
Jacob Eversea—Patriarch   Isaiah Redmond—Patriarch
Isolde Eversea—Matriarch   Fanchette Redmond—Matriarch
Marcus Eversea—oldest son (POP)   Lyon Redmond—oldest son

Colin Eversea (Madeleine Greenway)

  Miles Redmond (Cynthia Brightly)
Ian Eversea   Violet Redmond
Chase Eversea   Jonathon Redmond
Olivia Eversea   Lisbeth Redmond (cousin)
Genevieve Eversea   Roland Tarbell (cousin and deceased; see POP)
Other Pennyroyal Green Denizens:
Ned Hawthorne—owner and proprietor of the Pig & Thistle, ancient pub   Louisa Porter
Polly Hawthorne—Ned Hawthorne's daughter    
Martin Culpepper    
Frances Cooke    
Miss Marietta Endicott— headmistress of Miss Endicott's Academy for Young Women (referred to as the School for Recalcitrant girls by the townspeople)    
Other Series Characters
Mr. McBride, apothecary we first meet him in To Love a Thief, which isn't a Pennyroyal Green book)    
Mr. Croker, scalliwag    
Eleanor, Countess Malmsey    
Harry the Footman    
Dr. William August    
Horace Peele (and Snap the dog)    
Pennyroyal Green Places
The Pig & Thistle, pub   The Mercury Club (London)
Miss Marietta Endicott's Academy for Girls (The School for Recalcitrant Girls)   The Velvet Glove (London)
The Church    
The Gypsy encampment