Dangerous (The Outcasts #1)
by Minerva Spencer
Expected publication: June 26th 2018 by Zebra
Genre: Adult Historical Romance
What sort of lady doesn’t make her debut until the age of thirty-two? A timeless beauty with a mysterious past—and a future she intends to take into her own hands…
Lady Euphemia Marlington hasn’t been free in seventeen years—since she was captured by Corsairs and sold into a harem. Now the sultan is dead and Mia is back in London facing relentless newspapermen, an insatiably curious public, and her first Season. Worst of all is her ashamed father’s ultimatum: marry a man of his choosing or live out her life in seclusion. No doubt her potential groom is a demented octogenarian. Fortunately, Mia is no longer a girl, but a clever woman with a secret—and a plan of her own.
Adam de Courtney’s first two wives died under mysterious circumstances. Now there isn’t a peer in England willing to let his daughter marry the dangerously handsome man the ton calls The Murderous Marquess. Nobody except Mia’s father, the desperate Duke of Carlisle. Clearly Mia must resemble an aging matron, or worse. However, in need of an heir, Adam will use the arrangement to his advantage.
But when the two outcasts finally meet, assumptions will be replaced by surprises, deceit by desire—and a meeting of minds between two schemers may lead to a meeting of hearts—if the secrets of their pasts don’t tear them apart.
Euphemia Marlington considered poisoning the Duke of Carlisle. After all, in the harem poison was a perfectly reasonable solution to one’s problems.
Unfortunately, poison was not the answer to this particular problem.
First, she had no poison, or any idea how one acquired such a thing in this cold, confusing country.
Second, and far more important, poisoning one’s father was considered bad ton.
The Duke of Carlisle could have no idea what was going through his daughter’s mind as he paced a circuit around his massive mahogany desk, his voice droning on in a now familiar lecture. Mia ensured her father’s ignorance by keeping her expression meek and mild, a skill she had perfected during the seventeen years she’d spent in Baba Hassan’s palace. Appearing serene while entertaining murderous thoughts made up a large part of days spent among sixty or so women, at least fifty of whom would have liked to see her dead.
Mia realized the duke’s cavernous study had gone silent. She looked up to find a pair of green eyes blazing down at her.
“Are you listening to me, Euphemia?” His bristly auburn eyebrows arched like angry red caterpillars.
Mia cursed her wandering attention. “I am sorry, Your Grace, but I did not fully comprehend.” It was a small lie, and one that had worked well several times in the past six weeks. While it was true she still thought in Arabic, Mia understood English perfectly well.
Unless her attention had wandered.
The duke’s suspicious glare told her claiming a language-related misunderstanding was no longer as compelling as it had been weeks before.
“I said, you must take care what you disclose to people. I have gone to great lengths to conceal the more lurid details of your past. Talk of beheadings, poisonings, and, er . . . eunuchs makes my task far more difficult.” Her father’s pale skin darkened at being forced to articulate the word eunuch.
Mia ducked her head to hide a smile.
The duke—apparently interpreting her bowed head as a sign of contrition—resumed pacing, the thick brown and gold Aubusson carpet muffling the sounds of his booted feet. He cleared his throat several times, as if to scour his mouth of the distasteful syllables he’d just been forced to utter, and continued.
“My efforts on your behalf have been promising, but that will change if you insist on disclosing every last sordid detail of your past.”
Not every detail, Mia thought as she eyed her father from beneath lowered lashes. How would the duke react if she told him about the existence of her seventeen-year-old son, Jibril? Or if she described—in sordid detail—some of Sultan Babba Hassan’s more exotic perversions? Was it better to appall him with the truth or to allow him to continue treating her as if she were a girl of fifteen, rather than a woman of almost three and thirty?
The answer to that question was obvious: the truth would serve nobody’s interest, least of all Mia’s.
“I am sorry, Your Grace,” she murmured.
The duke grunted and resumed his journey around the room. “Your cousin assures me you’ve worked hard to conduct yourself in a respectable manner. However, after this latest fiasco—” He shook his head, lines creasing his otherwise smooth brow.
Her father was referring to a dinner party at which she’d stated that beheading criminals was more humane than hanging them. How could Mia have known that such a simple statement would cause such consternation?
The duke stopped in front of her again. “I am concerned your cousin Rebecca is not firm enough with you. Perhaps you would benefit from a stricter hand—your aunt Philippa’s, for instance?”
Mia winced. A single week under her aunt Philippa’s gimlet eye had been more terrifying than seventeen years in a harem full of scheming women.
The duke nodded, an unpleasant expression taking possession of his handsome features. “Yes, I can see that in spite of the language barrier you understand how your life would change were I to send you to live at Burnewood Park with my sister.”
The horrid suggestion made Mia’s body twitch to prostrate itself—an action she’d employed with Babba Hassan whenever she’d faced his displeasure; displeasure that caused more than one woman to lose her head. Luckily, Mia restrained the impulse before she could act on it. The last time she’d employed the gesture of humble respect—the day she’d arrived in England—the duke had been mortified into speechlessness to find his daughter groveling at his well-shod feet.
She bowed her head, instead. “I should not care to live with Aunt Philippa, Your Grace.”
The duke’s sigh floated above her head like the distant rumble of thunder. “Look at me, Euphemia.” Mia looked up. Her father’s stern features were tinged with resignation. “I would have thought you would wish to forget your wretched past and begin a new life. You are no longer young, of course, but you are still attractive and within childbearing years. Your history is something of an . . . obstacle.” He stopped, as if nonplussed by the inadequacy of the word. “But there are several respectable men who are quite willing to marry you. You must cultivate acceptance and learn to accept minor, er, shortcomings in your suitors.”
Shortcomings. The word caused an almost hysterical bubble of mirth to rise in her throat. What the duke really meant was the only men willing to take an older woman with a dubious past were senile, hideous, brainless, diseased, or some combination thereof.
She said, “Yes, Your Grace.”
“I know these are not the handsome princes of girlish fantasies, but you are no longer a girl, Euphemia.” His tone was matter-of-fact, as if he were speaking about the state of Carlisle House’s drains, rather than his only daughter’s happiness. “If you do not mend your ways soon, even these few choices will disappear and the only course open to you will be a quiet life at Burnewood Park, and we both know you don’t wish for that.” He let those words sit for a moment before continuing. “The Season is almost over and it is time you made a decision about your future. Do you understand me?”
“Yes, Your Grace, I understand.” All too well. Her father wished to have Mia off his hands before she did something so scandalous she would be unmarriageable. ”
About the Author&Links
Minerva Spencer is a Canadian transplant who now lives in the mountains of New Mexico. She began writing in 2013 after closing her 8-room bed and breakfast (a subject she will never write about. . . ) Minerva has been a criminal prosecutor, college history professor, and bartender, among many other things.
She currently writes full-time and operates a small poultry rescue on her four-acre hobby farm, where she lives with her wonderful, tolerant husband and many animals.
When Minerva isn’t writing or editing she’s playing with birds and dogs or doing a little DIY.
DANGEROUS Minerva’s first book in her Regency Era trilogy, The Outcasts, will be published by Kensington Press June 26, 2018, and BARBAROUS, October 30, 2018.
Minerva is represented by Pamela Hopkins of Hopkins Literary Associates.