Authors: Lynne Connolly
Ever ready to do the right thing, The Emperors of London act bravely—and when it comes to matters of the heart, impetuously…
Despite her cover as the daughter of the land steward for Lord Malton, Marcus Aurelius, spirited
Viola Gates is tied by birth to the treacherous Jacobite legacy. Not that this keeps her from falling for the dashing Lord from afar. Despite his staid demeanor, Marcus is devastatingly handsome—and hopelessly beyond her reach. Then Viola’s father is mortally wounded and her secret identity revealed, sending her straight into danger’s path—and Marcus’s arms…
For years, he’d only known her as a wild child, the tempting—and forbidden—daughter of his trusted steward. But when Viola’s life is threatened, Marcus must act as duty—and his barely contained passion—dictates. Ferrying the bold beauty on an eventful journey to safer quarters, he offers her the protection of his name. Their tempestuous union might succeed in vanquishing their enemies, but will the chivalrous lord and his unsuitable wife surrender to the power of love?
“Lynne Connolly writes Georgian romances with a deft touch. Her characters amuse, entertain and reach into your heart.”
“Plots, deviousness and passion galore…a truly enjoyable read.”
Temptation Has Green Eyes
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Emperors of London
Temptation Has Green Eyes
Danger Wears White
Reckless In Pink
Published by Kensington Publishing Corporation
An Emperors of London Novel
Kensington Publishing Corp.
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Copyright © 2015 by Lynne Connolly
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First Electronic Edition: April 2016
First Print Edition: April 2016
Printed in the United States of America
A cloud of dust puffed out of the window of one of the state apartments at Haxby Hall. It was about time someone shook out the rugs.
Standing at her drawing-room window, Viola Gates had a good vantage point of the great building, the pride of the neighborhood. By her reckoning, the cleaning team had reached the double salon.
She turned around to face the other occupant of the room.
“What are they doing, girl?” her father asked.
“Bottoming,” she said succinctly. “Nobody bottoms like Mrs. Lancaster.” She cast a backward glance at the hall. “I should go and help, since it’s your fault the marquess is coming.”
Her father chuckled. “They didn’t expect him for another month. More fool they. And do you know why he is coming?”
She turned her attention to his heavily bandaged foot, wondering why he was stating the obvious. “To see you, Papa. You’re an old retainer.”
He snorted. “I’m a bit more than that, my girl. I’m related.”
“In a way.” He was a cousin of a cousin of a cousin. Her father had used the nebulous connection many years ago, and the previous marquess had given him the position of land steward here. Well, not land steward immediately, but he’d gained the position, and he wasn’t about to give it up any time soon.
Situations like his often ran in families, but since she was the only child, they weren’t about to give her the job. “Do you think they’ll use your broken ankle as an excuse to force you into retirement?”
Her father shook his head. “Not a chance.” He fidgeted, wincing when his foot shifted on the padded footstool. Mrs. Lancaster had brought it from the house for his use while he recovered. She’d always been a bit sweet on Viola’s papa, but he wasn’t buying her careful solicitude. Not yet, at any rate. She wouldn’t surrender her position at Haxby yet. If she married him, she would probably have to retire, and she was queen of the hall, except when the marchioness was in residence.
“His lordship is sick and tired of London. Any excuse will serve to get him back. He’s probably made out I’m at death’s door. That’s the actual reason he’s coming.”
The Gates household had heard the marquess was coming yesterday. From what she knew of the current incumbent of the Strenshall title, that information meant he’d arrive soon.
Her father was right. The family had lingered in London this year. His lordship was probably aching to get back to the country. Viola should really go to the hall to help.
The drawing room she currently stood in was beautifully neat and tidy, its comfortable furnishings inviting guests to take their ease. They did not want for visitors, especially since her father’s recent fall. Nobody expected George Gates, who was perfectly at ease on a horse, to fall, much less suffer a tumble bad enough to cause his horse distress. However, he had, and now both participants were recovering in their respective residences. The land would hardly go to rack and ruin in the two months it would take her father to fully recover.
The great hall drew her. Mrs. Lancaster would need all the help she could get. Her father was comfortably ensconced in his favorite armchair with the newspapers that had been brought to the hall fresh off the mail. After tomorrow, the staff would keep them at the hall for the use of his lordship. Her father would only receive them in the afternoon.
Apart from that small hitch, estate managers at Haxby tended to live well. They even had the use of this house for the duration of her father’s tenure, though he owned a perfectly good one in nearby Scarborough. Too far to travel when his impatient lordship required his presence.
George Gates hated fuss and bother. The fewer people who disturbed him, the better he liked it. And while he was off his feet, he said, he could concentrate on going through the books. He had the overview of not just Haxby Hall, but all his lordship’s properties. That made for a lot of paperwork.
“Perhaps you should open one of those books, Papa,” Viola said.
He scowled at the stack of account books on the side table awaiting his attention, as they had for the last week. “Perhaps. Account books have never held much appeal for me, but the sooner I start, the sooner I’m done. Your dear mother always proved of signal help there.”
“She was more dutiful than I am, I fear,” Viola confessed. “But if you wish it, I’ll take half.” She heaved a heartfelt sigh, letting her shoulders rise and fall.
Her father chuckled. “You could never abide adding up, but be warned; I’ll make use of you later.” He made a scooting motion with his hand. “Go, girl. Make the housekeeper happy.”
Laughing, Viola hurried from the room, making her way to the front door before her father could change his mind.
Had she been in the city, she’d have had to don gloves, shawl, cloak, bonnet, fan, all the accoutrements of required outdoor wear, even on this glorious summer day. Instead, she crammed on her old straw hat to protect her complexion from the sun, shoved her feet into her sturdy leather shoes, and set off. Her small hooped petticoat kept the fabric of her gown away from her body. When she ran, holding on to the hoop to keep her skirts from swinging, a comfortable breeze gusted around her legs.
The hall was less than half a mile away, a distance she accomplished in very little time, around ten minutes by her reckoning. The side door to the hall was never locked, except when the marchioness took it into her head to have every door and window secured. Viola went in and grinned at the footman standing inside.
Tranmere was in full uniform, the blue-and-silver livery blinding in the sun.
“That must be hot,” she commented.
“Don’t want his lordship to catch me out,” Tranmere said, his deep voice booming across the spacious hall.
“You could always take the coat off and then put it back on when you hear he’s arrived. He won’t come in this way.”
Tranmere grimaced. “I can’t. Mrs. Lancaster’s orders. She wanted to inspect us all, although it’s not her place.”
“Don’t let her hear you say that.”
He grinned, the expression revealing the severe lack of teeth on his lower jaw. In his chequered past, Tranmere had engaged in prize fighting and had, so he claimed, won a trophy and a purse for each tooth. “She’s all right, as long as you do what she says.”
While they spoke, Viola was unbuckling her heavy outdoor shoes and putting on the light slippers she used inside the hall. Haxby had too many treasures to risk damaging the floors or the rugs. Mrs. Lancaster would have her hide if she caught Viola indoors with outdoor shoes on.
With a cheeky wave to the footman, who had taken her advice and slipped off the heavy coat, she ran up the wrought-iron staircase. It was built on a cantilevered spiral, one of the wonders of the house, based on the Tulip Stairs at Greenwich. Not that Viola had seen the Tulip Stairs, but she’d accompanied Mrs. Lancaster on so many guided tours she knew the words by heart. Almost without thinking about them.
Along the corridor, she opened a jib door and scampered up the servants’ staircase. The only stair she was forbidden to use was the grand staircase in the main hall. She rarely went that way, and in any case, she had no desire to use it. If anyone asked, she’d touch an imaginary forelock and tell them it was too good for a servant girl like her. But in reality, the estate manager was more than a servant.
If Viola had insisted on her consequence, she’d have found herself very lonely indeed. She preferred to let everyone forget she was a daughter of a cousin of a cousin. There might even be another cousin in the way there.
Upstairs she opened the door at the top and entered the great state rooms. These were the absolute pinnacle of the house’s grandeur and wealth. Public openings centered here, and when the family were in residence, they would hold balls and gatherings here. Viola had attended a few, but always standing at the back, not drawing attention to herself.
In the first room, she paused. The covers were off here, the glass, furniture, and china buffed to a fine dustless sheen. From the Meissen figures on the elaborately carved marble fireplace to the glittering crystal drops on the chandelier, the room looked pristinely perfect.
The rooms were set in a line—enfilade people called it—and when all the doors were open, a person could see right to the end. At the moment, the staff were opening the doors as they moved to the next room in the sequence.
The second chamber was the huge double room, so called because it could be split into two spacious rooms by using the panels embedded into the walls on each side. The current marquess preferred to keep it open. He only used it for large gatherings and when he wanted to impress people. A couple of maids were dusting, holding each ornament carefully while plying the feather dusters. Both greeted Viola with smiles, and she nodded back before moving on. The cleaning army had finished with the music room, too, so she passed on.