A little background: If you read the blurb above, you know
our intrepid hero, one of the most popular criminals in recent
English history, Colin Eversea, is snatched from the gallows,
only to find himself still a captive of an elusive and irritatingly
intriguing woman. In this snippet of a scene, we're in an what
Colin believes is a sort of abandoned basement, and he's still
bound to a chair. For the moment. :)
As for Madeleine Greenway, she can't wait to free herself from
Colin Eversea. But fate has other plans, naturally. [Note:
and you can read another saucy, exclusive little excerpt over
at Romantic Inks!]
Madeleine reached for a broom, but behind her the chair creaked;
she turned her head swiftly just as Colin Eversea was turning
his toward her. Her narrowed eyes met his bright pale ones in
that sliver of sunbeam.
He went oddly motionless then, as if the very act of turning had
Colin knew this definitively at last, and it made no sense, given
the algebra of her features. It was something his gut told him,
rather than his eyes. And somehow the impression was so singular
and total he needed a moment of stillness to absorb it.
And then the woman used a broom handle to slide the crate over
the window, and they were in total darkness.
Just as Colin worked his wrists free from the last of his bindings.
He touched one hand to the other, surreptitiously, one old friend
He heard a soft metallic clankthe sound of the handle of
a lamp being liftedfollowed by the strike of a flint, and
then a feeble light flickered and pulsed into the room. The small
lamp propped on the barrel illuminated a circle just large enough
to encompass her and Colin, and only just lit the things beyond
that circle, including the stairway.
She'd palmed the watch again and had just begun to hold it up
to the lamp to review the time when the sound of a key rattled
in the lock.
The woman whipped toward it so quickly Colin felt the breeze
of her skirts.
She went still. Her surprise was palpable, and he could very
nearly hear the hum of her mind as she reassessed her circumstances.
Since her movements had thus far been obviously timed and precise
and planned, this troubled him.
Though he still hadn't the faintest idea if she were friend or
He froze as the doorknob turned and the door opened. Slowly,
inexorably, with the slightest of creaks. In came an expanding
wedge of sunlight, a gust of air...and a single footstep.
There was a brief pause.
And then another footstep as their visitor committed to entering
The door began to creak shut under its own weight, but their
visitor stopped it with a foot; they heard the soft, dull thud
of an inserted boot. The rectangle of light remaining at the entrance
threw a bulky, cloaked and hatted shadow against the wall.
The short hairs on the back of Colin's neck rose. He tensed the
muscles of his thighs, and slowly, slowly, began to rise from
the chair, which mercifully didn't creak at all. The woman didn't
turn toward him; her eyes were fixed on the doorway.
"Greenway?" The shadow spoke. Hoarse and baritone.
A disguised voice, Colin would have guessed.
The woman said nothing, but Colin heard a whisper of sound. His
eyes sought the source: he saw her hands moving subtly in her
"Madeleine Greenway?" The hoarse voice seemed to need
Her uncertainty was tangible. Nevertheless, at last she said:
"Mission accomplished." Her voice low and steady.
The shadow shifted slightly, as Colin suspected it would. It
had needed only to properly locate Madeleine to carry out its
And Colin threw his body at her legs just as the pistol exploded.
She went down hard just as a sickening crunch of wood told them
the ball had struck the pillar just feet away from them. Splinters
sprayed like shrapnel; Colin threw his palms over his face, felt
spikes of wood strike off his hands and shoulders. Something metallic
skittered across the floor. Colin uncovered his eyes and saw on
the dusty floorboards the unmistakable outline of a pistol.
Of course she would have a pistol. She must have dropped
it when he'd thrown her to the floor.
Madeleine Greenway had rolled onto her side, and was propped
on one elbow, her hand outstretched for the pistol. But Colin's
arms were longer. He stretched and closed his hand over ita
decent stick, this one, and where in God's name had she hidden
it on her person?rolled onto his stomach, unlocked it
Only to find the crack of light rapidly vanishing as the heavy
door swung shut hard.
They were alone again.
"Who else has a damned key?" he rasped.
"Give my stick to me," Greenwayif that
indeed was her namehissed.
That was gratitude for you.
"Are you hurt?" he pressed, still struggling for breath.
"Give that stick to me right"
"Christ," he said, and pushed himself upright, instead,
ignoring her. He kept the pistol trained on her, half-dragged
himself to the chair and lifted it in one hand, fully intending
to jam it as quickly as possible beneath the doorknob at the top
of the stairs. He had no intention of allowing her to leave until
he had answers.
But God help himthat modest flight loomed like a mountain.
His legs were still re-learning to walk without shackles.
Although fury might have helped propel him up.
She had pushed herself to her feet. It occurred to him that it
had hardly been gentlemanly of him to leave her to accomplish
that on her own, but then again, he also sensed the rules of chivalry
didn't quite apply under these circumstances, given that this
particular lady was demanding the return of her pistoloh,
correction, her stick and given that he hadn't the
slightest idea what she might do with him now. Someone had tried
to kill her.
He wondered what incentive she now had to allow him to live.
"Cover me," she said tightly. "I'll do it. And
faster," she added unnecessarily.
"Do what?" he demanded, angry now. A test. He'd aimed
her pistol right between her breasts.
"The door. That's what you were about to do, was it not?
Jam the door?"
A charged and complicated second followed. Did he trust her?
No. Would she bolt out the door once up the stairs? Unlikely,
given that someone who had just come through it had tried to kill
her. Would he shoot her if she tried? She had no way of knowing.
He had just saved her life, after all. Doubtless she would assume
he wasn't eager to kill her.
So he nodded. After all, he was the one with the pistol. Unless
she had another hidden on her person.
She limped a little as she passed himcarefully beyond his
immediate reachand cast an unreadable glance up at him.
But she swung the chair up in both hands easily enough and she
shook off the limp as she took the stairs, rapidly despite her
skirts. Strong, for a small woman.
Then again, he'd heard madwomen possessed uncommon strength.
He kept the pistol trained on the door and on her, but because
he was Colin Eversea and he did it like breathing, the admiring
of women, he couldn't help but admire the line of her spine as
she made her way up the stairs. There was something marvelous
about the brisk grace with which she did everything.
She expertly wedged the back of the chair under the doorknob.
And then, to his awe, she jammed the lock, too-by thrusting her
own key hard into it. So she was no amateur at
Whatever in God's name this was.
Who was this woman?
When she was on her way down the stairs once more, Colin obeyed
an impulse. He examined the stick; handsome thing, ornately decorated
with nacre over a grip that looked like polished walnut. Brass
fittings. He locked the pistol and checked the pan. It was indeed
On impulse, on suspicion, he sniffed the powder.
And then handed the stick back to her.
"You can have your stick, Miss Greenway. Your powder is
bad. You never would have got off a shot."
Madeleine stared at the pistol as though her favorite pet had
turned snarling on her. She recovered swiftly and took it gingerly
from Colin Eversea, her mind spinning. She couldn't speak.
"Who the devil are you, Madam?" Colin Eversea's voice
was low and furious.
"Madeleine Greenway," she said faintly. "I believe
you heard the man." It was difficult to speak over the clamor
in her mind. Who had just tried to kill her?
And then a sudden realization set her world on end: she wasn't
entirely certain she would know bad powder from good. She was
brilliant, she could shoot the heart out of a target, but if Eversea
She was a fraud. Because she was a woman, and didn't know good
powder from bad, and she hadn't noticed Colin Eversea's bindings
were loose enough for him to free himself.
"What are you, Madam? What is the meaning of this?"
"I was hired to rescue you, Mr. Eversea. And someone just
tried to kill me. It all seems rather obvious to me." Her
answers were curt and distant. She wished he would stop talking.
It was noise to her.
She needed to leave now.
Because she needed to have a little word with Mr. Croker.
"Obvious? Who hired you? Did my family hire you? You?"
Colin Eversea sounded baffled and incensed. Well, that made two
"I don't know who hired me, Mr. Eversea. I never do. The
transactions begin with my broker."
"Yes. With Mr. Croker," she clarified impatiently.
"Croker the broker?" And now Colin Eversea sounded
bewildered and a little incredulous.
She hadn't the patience or time for this. "Mr. Eversea, I
wish I could say it had been a pleasure, but it's urgent that
I leave now. If you'll ex"
"Who arranged for Croker the Broker to hire you? Are you
telling me it wasn't my family?"
"Your family was never mentioned to me." She said this
in a rush and took two steps backward. She didn't owe him any
information. She was, in fact, sorry she'd said anything at all.
"Then who?" He demanded. "And who wanted
to leave me tied?"
She'd said too much. "Mr. Ever"
"Help me, Miss Greenway. Take me to Croker. I need to talk
"I killed no one," he said curtly.
"I don't ca"
"I. Killed. No. One."
The words neatly cleaved her sentence.
Madeleine stared back at him. His face was still partly in shadow.
Anger, or fear, or weaknesshe'd been in prison for a few
months, after allmade his breathing audible.
Panic had begun to amplify her own sense or urgency. Colin Eversea
could be a martyr; he could be Satan's minion. She simply didn't
care. She resented the need to consider Colin Eversea at all.
He'd been cargo she'd been paid to liberate and the portal to
her future, and for a few minutes, he'd been her greatest triumph.
And now her future was unraveling and she was penniless and he
was nothing but a burden.
She would find answers more quickly on her own.
"I killed no one, Miss Greenway." His tone was quieter
now, his control regained, but the words were still taut. "I
believe someone made Horace Peele disappear, because someone wanted
me to hang. And now it seems someone wants me to live
on their terms. I want answers. I need your help."
Madeleine was distantly amused that the bloody man hadn't yet
Yet he seemed genuinely bewildered and righteously furious, and
He's too thin.
The traitorous thought crept in beneath the panic from some other
place within her, and once she had thoughts like those, Colin
Eversea would become a person to her, and this she could simply
"I'm sorry, but you're as weak as a kitten, Mr. Eversea."
There might have been a kernel of apology in her soft scorn, but
as soon as she uttered the last word she whipped around for the
window to leave Colin Eversea to his fate.
She'd scarcely taken one step when her body was jerked backwards.
In less time than it took to gasp, she was unable to move at all.
A heartbeat's worth of disorientation later Madeleine understood
what had happened: Colin Eversea had managed to snap out his hand,
seize her arms and twist her around to face him. Magically, the
angle at which he held herher arms bent upward so that her
fists nearly met her chinimmobilized her all but completely.
He now stood scarcely an inch away from her, so close she could
feel within an instant the heat of his body. With it rose a slightly
dank odor, which must have been hiding in the folds of his beautiful,
limp coat. Eau de Newgate.
There was nothing at all gentlemanly about his grip.
Too curious, and frankly, too certain of herself to be truly afraid,
Madeleine tilted her head back. In the lamplight, his Newgate
pallor made his eyes brilliant, nearly feverish, and now she could
see they were an unusual shade, more green than blue, but not
decisively either color. She'd seen that color just once before:
in the sky just before a thunderstorm. They were set deep above
strong cheekbones, and dark hollows of sleeplessness curved beneath.
The pallid light outlined the slightly too-pronounced bones of
his face, the broad planes and elegant hollows, that bold nose.
A long face, but it suited him. Long lashes, too.
This last absurd observation floated across her awareness, welcome
as a gnat.
She mentally batted it away, freed herself with some difficulty
from his gaze and frowned faintly down at the large hand encircling
It had been a breathtakingly quick maneuver. How on earth would
he have known how to
"War," he said with grim humor, surprising her by answering
that unspoken question. "And three older brothers who taught
me to fight."
In the brief silent stalemate that followed, Eversea's grip eased
not at all, and a pye man's enthusiastic bellow, the very sound
of optimism, came to them through the walls. One could always
count on a hanging to stimulate appetites, even if the hanging
never actually took place. The world outside was clearly beginning
to right itself.
For a dizzying moment, Madeleine felt as if she existed outside
of time. Regardless of the outcome of this moment, whether she
or Colin Eversea lived beyond today, London would go on as usual,
closing over the hole they'd left the way a river fills in the
dimple left by a skipped stone.
"Impressive, I grant you, Mr. Eversea." Madeleine said
quietly. She'd decided to appeal to his sense of chivalry, even
as her heart beat in time with the precious seconds she was losing.
"But I'm still stronger than you are at the moment. I assure
you I shall be safer without you. And as you are a gentleman,
I would ask that you unhand me, and leave me to go."
"I saved your life." It wasn't a petulant statement.
It sounded like the curt resumption of a negotiation by someone
who suddenly found himself with the upper hand.
"Then we are even, as I saved yours, Mr. Eversea. Release
me, please." She shifted her eyes, which gave her a view
straight up into his nose. Reluctantly she shifted her gaze back
to those unexpectedly compelling eyes and gave a minute, reflexive
tug at the same time.
His grip budged not a hair.
"Ah, but you were paid to save my life, Miss Greenway. I
saved your lovely hide voluntarily. Which means your act was commerce,
and mine was
" Colin paused. "
To his credit, that last word did arrive with a whiff of irony.
"Correction, Mr. Everseait would have been commerce,
if I had been paid. I was instead fired upon for
my services, and this, I hardly need point out, would not have
happened had I not rescued you from what was very likely your
She'd meant to goad him. This was a bad sign. It meant he'd managed
to stir either her temper or her pride, both of which were formidable,
and either of which could cause an inconvenient tipping of her
It meant she had begun to panic in earnest.
"In short," she continued quickly, "you are bad
luck, Mr. Eversea. I would prefer to be on my way without hurting
you, but regardless, I shall go. And I assure you that I know
a variety of ways to hurt you, despite our current
she gave another minute tug of her wrists; they budged not at
Hmm. Well, she could drive her knee into his
Almost absently, Colin Eversea planted both his booted feet around
her feet, trapping them.
They were so close his knees were virtually between her legs.
It was perhaps the most intimate she'd been with any man in
it wasn't as though she'd actually kept count of the days.
The corners of the devil' s mouth turned up into a faint, hard
"You might very well have a point regarding my current physical
condition, Miss Greenway. But I've lately learned that desperation
is astonishingly motivating. Care to take the measure my desperation?"
She'd seen any number of desperate men in her day; desperation,
in fact, rather kept her in blunt. But none had looked quite like
this, however. Or spoken quite like this. With obvious intelligence,
or a penchant for irony, or a gentlemanly menace.
"You need me," he pressed a few heartbeats later. It
was a guess on his part, and a good one. "My family is wealthy."
"I need you to release me," she corrected.
"You need me because my family will pay for my safe return,"
he corrected bluntly. "They shall be
happy to have me
returned alive to them, regardless."
Interesting hesitation. "You don't sound convinced."
His smile was rueful, but this time it reached his eyes. "I'm
not. At least, I'm not certain they all will be happy. But I am
certain you will be paid to return me to them. For we've honor,
you see. We Everseas do." More irony. "And something
tells me it's urgent that you're paid."
"Mr. Eversea, more specifically, it's urgent that I am paid
very quickly. I haven't time to waste on"
"Ah, once again we are in accord, then, as it's urgent that
I return to Pennyroyal Green quickly. It's beginning to feel a
bit like destiny, wouldn't you agree, Miss Greenway?"
Mrs., she almost corrected. Though it hardly seemed relevant
"Why do you need to return urgently?" she demanded
instead. She wanted a fact, something convincing, by way of collateral.
She wanted proof his urgency equaled her own.
"I need to stop a wedding in Sussex. And I need to prove
my innocence before I do it."
Oh, for God's sake. Excessive sentimentality ought to be
a hanging offense.
"Who is this paragon?" He wasn't the only one who could
construct a sentence out of irony. "I imagine her name is
"She's not a paragon. She's a flesh and blood woman. And
she belongs with me."
The words were terse. The sun rises in the east. It's dark
at night. She belongs with me. Same tone. There was an odd,
faint answering echo of pain somewhere inside Madeleine when she
heard them. She took in a deep breath.
"If this is true, whom is she marrying instead?" There
was no pain Madeleine's sharp mind and a sharp retort couldn't
Another of those funny, brief hesitations followed. "My brother
Ah. So he'd decided to be honest, as that confession could
not have been pleasant for him.
For her part, she'd decided to be relentless. "So it's your
brother who has the family money."
This was clearly a little too accurate, as his grip on her tightened
"My brother had the advantage of not being in Newgate."
"Presumably because he didn't stab a gentleman to death in
She'd gone too far. His eyes went dark, his mouth opened abruptly,
and it occurred to her too late that she might not like to make
this man truly angry. But then
But then he surprised her. He closed his mouth over whatever retort
he'd planned, and his brows came together in a sort of puzzlement,
and he studied her for an unblinking moment. Before her eyes,
some sort of realization gradually lit his. That frown tilted
up at one corner and
Damned if it didn't become a nearly tender smile. As though
he understood something about her she didn't quite understand
"Presumably," he said, and his words were gentle now.
"Then again, as I said before, neither did I. It's just that
I simply cannot seem to prove it." Self-deprecating
humor in the words. He was actually trying to soothe her.
A wee taste, then, of Colin Eversea's vaunted charm. It enveloped,
sliding in through chinks she didn't know she had. Madeleine hadn't
the faintest idea how to deflect it. She stood, for the first
time in longer than she could recall, without the upper hand.
It was terrifying.
With some difficulty, Madeleine tore her gaze away. Ah, that did
the trick. Her wits re-congregated and presented her with a triumphant
"Have you any sisters, Mr. Eversea?"
He went still, clearly surprised. And then head went back a little
on a genuine, appreciative little laugh. Acceding a point.
"Yes, I have two sisters, as a matter of fact. Which is how
I know very well that women aren't quite the fragile, helpless
creatures most men think they are. Or they would like men to think
when it suits them."
It was both an acknowledgement and a warning, and somehow it was
just the right thing to say.
Quite unexpectedly he released his grip at last and took a step
backward, his palms up.
And just when she was growing accustomed to that Newgate smell.
She rubbed at her wrists eloquently and stared up at him. Not
a trace of guilt altered his handsome face. Damnation.
She stopped rubbing, as her wrists weren't really troubling her.
"Have we an honorable agreement to help each other, then?"
Oh, not this. It never failed to amaze her: men and their
bloody frivolous attachment to the notion of honor. Her own notions
of right and wrong were instinctive and, in truth, quite flexible.
"Yes," she humored, tamping impatience. She could revise
her version of an honorable agreement at any time, she decided.
"Shall we shake hands, then?"
There was a glimmer of something about his mouth. Ah. And now
she knew he'd been being a devil. She wasn't eager to give her
hand or any of her other limbs back to him and he knew it. Still,
he might as well know she wasn't afraid of anything.
She thrust a hand out, he closed his large warm
hand over hers and gave it a firm shake as though she were any
gent, and released it as though the touch of a strange woman's
bare hand moved him not at all, while her thoughts, for a shocking
instant, were altogether vanquished simply by the heat of his
fingers closing over hers.
Keep reading for another saucy little excerpt, or go
ahead and preorder
The Perils of Pleasure at Amazon now, if the mood takes you!
It was early summer; hedgerows
were a riot of Hawthorne blossoms, horse chestnuts, beeches and
the occasional old oak stood sentry over the roads, and songbirds
rustled amongst all the greenery. Up ahead, around the bend, Madeleine
could see the branches of an enormous oak splaying out in every
direction, taking up more than its share of roadside.
Do you know what I havent done? Colin said
suddenly. He stopped, allowed her to catch up with him.
She brushed tears of laughter and gave an indelicate sniff. Very
little, if you believe the broadsheets.
I havent yet kissed you.
And then he snatched hold of her hand and pulled her behind that
oak, barely giving her time to squeak.
Blessed shade the tree provided, with arms that splayed everywhere
like a mad octopus. It hid two of them from the road, but not
from the gaze of a gently curious sheep, who paused in its grass
cropping to stare. Colin spun her about and had her up against
it in a thrice, pinned between his arms, and he towered over her,
staring down for a moment. At the stars in my eyes or my great
white forehead? She wondered.
Dont she began nervously.
Dont what, Mad? Colin laughed softly,
in a voice that stroked up her spine like velvet. His arms dropped
from the tree, went around her waist; he pulled her hips hard
against his hips, very familiarly; she felt the outline of everything
male about him. Dont
what? He whispered
it this time, and when his hands went up to her face, it was she
who closed her arms around his slim waist, flattening her hands
to feel the hard muscles of his back, keeping him pulled close
to her body, keeping the two of them groin to groin. She wanted
to feel again the heat of his body over the entire length of her.
His knuckles dragged softly over her cheeks, and she closed her
eyes, because his eyes were too merry and too hot and too soft
and too knowing, and she, at the moment, didnt want to be
known by a man who had known nearly every woman in London, if
rumors were true.
She did want to be kissed.
And then his fingers opened to feather across her ears, along
her throat, the nape of her neck, and she felt her head tip back
trustingly into his hands.
Cradling it, he touched his lips very, very softly to the pulse
in her throat.
Oh, Mad. It was half sigh, half soft laugh.
Colin dragged his lips softly from the arch of her throat, to
her ear, to her lips, which were parted, while her eyes were still
Now Ill kiss you properly, he murmured.
She knew how to do this. Shed done it before. Her body
knew where it wanted to be touched, and how it wanted to fit against
his, and oddly nothing had ever seemed more right. And still somehow
it became a little battle, as it always was with the two of them,
in part because Madeleine only felt safe in the midst of battle.
Their lips brushed, bumped, nipped softly, Madeleine now afraid
to surrender to this. Too late she recalled how a kiss sometimes
had the power to split one dangerously, vulnerably open. More
so even than lovemaking.
Shhhh, he whispered against her mouth, although she
wasnt making a sound. It was as though he wanted to soothe
the battle inside her. Shhhhh.
His hands were at the back of her neck, soothing, stroking, and
he brushed his lips over hers, urged hers apart with tender strokes
of his tongue, sending a rain of silver sparks down her spine,
and she gave a sigh. It was part pleasure, part some unexpressed
sadness. The sound of something released.
Madeleines hands slid up to the hard blades of his shoulders,
pulling him closer, and her lips fell open beneath his. His tongue,
at first, was a gentle invader, warm, velvety soft, finding and
twining with hers softly in a tentative foray.
He took his lips away from hers, looked into her eyes, as though
looking for some sort of answer, or wanting to see what the kiss
had done to hers. His own eyes were hazy with desire.
And then his firm, clever lips took hers again, more decisively
this time, and she was ready. Her arms slid up his chest to wrap
round his neck, and he pulled her into his body, and his iron-hard
arousal pressing against her was a maddeningly erotic contrast
to his soft lips, his soft tongue. He drove the kiss deeper, and
she met him; their tongues touching and tangling, part dance,
part duel. He moaned softly, the sound of it vibrating in his
chest beneath her hands. He withdrew his tongue to bite her bottom
lip gently, a sensation startling and erotic.
Then he took her mouth again, ferociously this time, and she
took as much as he did, devouring, needing him deeper into her
body. He tasted sweet and dark and as she kissed him everything
in her was melting, dissolving, until Madeleine knew that terrifying,
exhilarating sense of having no other existence outside the heady,
penetrating bliss of this kiss.
And then Colin suddenly broke the kiss with a gasp.
He tucked his cheek against hers. His whiskers rasped at her
delicate skin; his breath was hot and swift the crook of her neck.
He was quiet for a long time. His arms loosened on her.
Confused and strangely bereft, Madeleines clung to him
for a moment longer. Then her arms loosened about him, too, uncertainly.
Just a kiss, he whispered, sounding dazed.
She didnt quite understand what he meant.
They remained close but not nearly as close as moments before,
their breathing slowing to before-kiss rhythms.
Colin lifted his head up, looked down into her eyes. He looked
as if he was considering whether to speak.
Did you love him, Mad?
The question surprised her so completely that she didnt
have time to disguise the truth, and she was certain it was written
all over her face.
Why did he do this? How did he do this?
Life can be the very devil sometimes, cant it?
he said softly.
She stared at him.
The very devil, she agreed thickly, after a moment.
He smiled down at her, as only Colin Eversea could smile.
And when he took her by the hand back out to the road Madeleine
felt feeling as though shed been thrown from the moon back
down to earth.