The Daughters of Erin
Three tales of the extraordinary Blacknall sisters, as they find love, danger, and adventure amid the splendors of Georgian Ireland! Coming in 2010 and 2011 from Grand Central Publishing…
Book Two, Duchess of Sin
Anna has snuck out of the house in the middle of the night to visit the secret and scandalous Olympian Club—only to come face-to-face with the past she’s trying to outrun…
As her friend Jane disappeared into the crowd, Anna finished her champagne and took another glass, making her way around the edge of the room. It was decidedly not a place her mother would approve of. It was too strange, too dark—the dancing much too close. One man leaned over his partner, kissing her neck as she laughed. Anna turned away from them, peeking into the card room where roulette and faro went on along with more intimate card games. There seemed to be a great deal of money, as well as piles of credit notes, on the tables.
No, the Olympian Club was assuredly not Dublin Castle, the seat of the British government, and not some stuffy Society drawing room either. And that was what she wanted. There was no forgetfulness in staid reels and penny-ante whist.
She took another glass of champagne. The golden froth of it along with the rich scent of the flowers was a heady combination. For a moment, the room swayed before her, a gilded mélange of red and black and laughing couples, and she laughed too.
“You shouldn’t be here, beag peata,” a deep voice said behind her, rough and rich, touched at the edges by a musical Irish accent. Though the words were low, they seemed to rise above the cacophony of the party like an oracle’s pronouncement.
Anna shivered at the sound, the twirling room slowing around her as if in a dream. Her gloved fingers tightened on the glass as she glanced over her shoulder. And, for the first time since she stepped into the alternate world of the club, she felt a cold frisson of fear trickle down her spine.
The man stood far enough away that it would be easy for her to run and melt into the crowd. Yet something in his eyes, a fathomless, burning dark green behind the plain white mask, held her frozen in place as his captive.
He was tall and strongly-built with his broad shoulders and muscled chest barely contained in stark black-and-white evening clothes. And he was so dark—bronzed, almost shimmering skin set off by close-cropped raven-colored hair and a shadow of beard along his sharp jaw. Dark and hard, a Hades in his Underworld realm, yet his lips seemed strangely sensual and soft.
They curved in a wry smile, as if he read her fascinated thoughts.
“You don’t belong here,” he said again.
Something in that gravel voice—the amusement or maybe the hint of tension—made Anna prickle with irritated anger. He did not even know her; how dare he presume to know where she belonged. Especially when she did not even know that herself.
She stiffened her shoulders, tilting back her head to stare up and up into his eyes. He really was cursed tall! She felt like a delicate and small beside him when she wanted to feel like a powerful goddess.
“On the contrary,” she said. “I find this all remarkably amusing.”
“Amusing?” His gaze swept over the room before landing on her again, pinning her as if she were some helpless butterfly. “You have strange taste in amusement, beag peata.”
“You should not call me that. I am not that small.”
One dark brow arched over his mask. “You know Gaelic?”
“Not a great deal. But enough to know when I am insulted.”
He laughed, a harsh, rusty sound as if he did not use it very often. “It is hardly an insult. Merely the truth—little one.”
Before Anna could tell what he was doing, he grabbed her wrist, holding it between his strong, callused fingers. Though his touch was light, she sensed she could not easily break away. That eerie fascination, that hypnosis he seemed to cast around her, tightened like a glittering web.
Unable to breathe or to think, she watched as he unfastened the tiny black pearl buttons at her wrist, peeling back the silk. A sliver of her pale skin was revealed, her pulse pounding just along the fragile bone.
“You see,” he said quietly. “You are small and delicate, trembling like a bird.”
He lifted her wrist to his lips, pressing a soft kiss to that thrumming pulse. Anna gasped at the heat of that kiss, at the touch of his tongue to her skin, hot and damp. She tried to snatch her hand away, but his fingers tightened, holding her fast.
“You should not be here among the hawks,” he muttered, his gaze meeting hers in a steady burn.
There was something about those eyes…
Anna had a sudden flash of memory. A man on a windswept hill, his long, black hair wild. A man who held her close in a dark, deserted stable, who kissed her in the midst of danger and uncertain fates. A man all tangled up in her blood-soaked memories.
A man with dark green eyes.
“Is—is it you?” she whispered without thinking.