A dangerous charade...
Sabrina Murphy has spent most of her life trying to live down the reputation of her gambler father. But when wrongly accused of murder, she is forced into a desperate scheme in an attempt to dodge the authorities.
When Sabrina arrives at the Trevelyan estate claiming to be a long-lost cousin, the family is justly suspicious--for acknowledging her means losing their inheritance to her. But even Lord Edward must admit that the woman bears a striking resemblance to the heiress, who disappeared when she was only a child. And there is no denying that her gentle presence works its magic on his troubled family--and that her passionate kisses help to mend his tattered heart.
But when a series of near fatal accidents threatens her life, the finger of guilt points straight at the dark lord, whose wife died under mysterious circumstances years before. Now there's more at stake than the Trevelyan fortune. Drawn together by a desire neither can resist, Sabrina and Edward struggle to uncover the truth. But her deception and his past could cost them their chance at love--and possibly their very lives....
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Praise for Gambler's Daughter by Ruth Owen:
"An engaging Regency."
"Ms. Owen's first venture into historical romance is a roaring success."
"A wonderful love story, well written, with characters you will remember long after you've finished."
--Kat Martin, author of Dangerous Passions
"Ruth Owen writes with a wonderfully original voice. Gambler's Daughter is a feast for the senses from beginning to end!"
--Joan Johnston, bestselling author of The Bridegroom
"The plot was engrossing, the characters were refreshingly realistic, their passions volatile enough to affect my own. An intensely emotional story I would recommend to anyone who loves a brooding, tormented hero and an unlikely heroine who must heal her own heart before redeeming his."
--Marsha Canham, author of Pale Moon Rider
"A marvelous read. Charming, witty and wonderful. Be prepared to stay up all night. I simply couldn't put it down."
--Patricia Potter, author of Starfinder
He was naked. Well, partly. His shirt was stuffed haphazardly into his breeches and open to the waist. The discreetly edited sketches of Grecian frescoes she'd seen in her mother's classical history books hadn't prepared her for the reality of the earl's naked chest, of the hot, heady scent of his skin, of the dusting of black, tightly curled hair that formed a dark V that tapered downward toward his--
Her chin shot up . . . and met a pair of eyes as cold and unforgiving as the rocks of hell.
"What do you want?"
Her gaze flickered once more over his state of undress. A dozen responses came to her mind, all of them shockingly inappropriate. "I . . . I wanted to thank you. For saving me. And also, I--"
"Fine. You've thanked me. Good-bye."
He started to shut the door. Sabrina stepped into the opening, blocking the door with her body. "Wait, there is more--"
"Well, I don't want to hear it," he snarled. "Get the hell out of my room."
She shook her head, unable to fathom his change of mood. He'd risked his life to save her from the sailor. And afterward, when she'd tended his arm, he'd been so gentle, so kind, so . . . She swallowed, and ignored the sharp pain that inexplicably pierced her heart. "I will not leave. Not until I've told you what I heard this afternoon."
For a moment she thought he might actually crush her in the door. Instead, he gave a raw curse and stalked away to his desk. Standing with his back to her and his legs braced in a fighting stance, he dumped the remains of a wine bottle into his empty glass. He grabbed it up, the dark wine sloshing over the glass's rim. "Well?"
She closed the door and leaned back against it. He was still facing away from her. She tried not to notice how his shirt stretched across his broad shoulders, and how his breeches stretched across his--
Rina wished quite sincerely that she had left when he'd asked her to. Still, she had a duty to tell him what she'd overheard in the alley. "Before the sailor accosted me I heard something, something I believe you need to know."
Without turning around, he shrugged. "Unfortunate that you didn't tell me this afternoon. Then you wouldn't be wasting my time now."
Rina's temper flared. "I cannot see what pressing matter I am keeping you from, my lord. Unless 'tis another drink."
The earl spun around, his gaze murderous. "These are my rooms, and in them I'll do as I please. If my drinking offends your delicate sensibilities, you are free to go."
"I intend to, but not before I've had my say." She tilted her chin defiantly. "When I was in the alley, I overheard two men. They mentioned the name Trevelyan, and spoke of an accident involving a horse. They talked of a deal--money for a corpse. 'She's still breathing and we're no richer'--that's what they said."
Slowly, Edward set down his glass. "The runaway."
"I believe that is what they meant. The snapped bridle ribbons were no accident. And if they tried to hurt me, they might try to hurt other members of your family. You, the dowager, Lady Amy, or--"
"Or my children. By God, if anyone tries to harm so much as a hair on their heads, I'll--"
All at once he threw back his head and laughed. "Sweet Christ, what was I thinking?"
"Taken in. Again! By God, I should have had Charles examine my head instead of my arm."
"But it's true!"
"No doubt. You just happened to be in the right place at the right time to hear this snippet of conversation. How do you explain that?"
"Luck?" she offered.
"More like guile." He tossed down the rest of the wine, then walked to the fireplace, still gripping the empty glass. He leaned against the mantel, his body a dark shadow against the bright, crackling fire. "Ply your lies elsewhere. I am not buying."
"But 'tis the truth. I swear it."
"Like you swear you are Prudence Winthrope?" He lifted his head, his expression holding both bitterness and regret. "If you are trying to gain my trust, you needn't bother. I have had some experience with deceitful women. You're a clever liar, Cousin, but a liar just the same. And I suspect there is nothing you would not do to further your own ends."
His words cut more deeply that she'd thought possible. She hoped--no, she'd believed--that after the way he'd come to her rescue he had some small regard for her. She saw now that that hope was in vain. No matter what she said or did, he would never see her as anything but a worthless liar.
She pressed her hand to her chest, trying to ease the fist of misery that had gathered around her heart. "If you believe all that of me, then why did you come to my rescue?"
His body went rigid. He stared at her, his eyes full of so much pain and anger that she felt it twist in her soul. She felt the battle raging inside him, saw it in the taut muscles, the subtle narrowing of his eyes. Every instinct told her to run, to get out before his fury turned deadly. But she couldn't run away from his pain. Underneath the rage was a man who had once loved a woman deeply, and had suffered for that love. She couldn't turn her back on him. Not when she felt . . . when she felt . . .
"Ah, hell!" Trevelyan hurled his wineglass into the fireplace, then stormed across the room. He took Rina's face between his hands, and covered her mouth in a devouring kiss.
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