Read Taming Rafe Online

Authors: Suzanne Enoch

Taming Rafe

Taming Rafe
Bancroft Brothers [2]
Suzanne Enoch
Avon (2006)

No Woman Could Tame Him

Rafe Bancroft was nothing but a scoundrel! But the sexy, infuriating man was now the owner of Forton Hall, Felicity Harrington's ancestral home. The fiery beauty was determined to save her family-and herself-from ruin at the hands of the handsome rake. But how can she, when she lies in bed each night longing for her irresistable enemy's touch?

Until He Met The Right One . . .

Rafe might have won Forton Hill in a card game, but he had no intention of settling down. No, his plan was to sell the place and be off on his next adventure-until he met Felicity. Suddenly days-and nights-spent with Felicity in his arms seem far more alluring than any exotic land. His roguish heart can't explain it...unless love is the greatest adventure of all!

Amazon.com Review

Setting: Regency England
Sensuality Rating: 9

Rafe Bancroft suffers from terminal wanderlust, much to the dismay of his family. They want him to settle down, while he wants to set sail for China. Unfortunately, he doesn't have the funds to wander so far. But when he wins Forton Hall in a card game, it seems as if fortune has finally smiled on him. Planning to sell the Hall in order to finance his next adventure, Rafe is disappointed to find that it is nothing more than a ramshackle estate--a money pit rather than the money tree he had first envisioned. But Rafe has no idea just what price fortune is going to exact, for the Hall may be nearly derelict, but it isn't empty of inhabitants. Residing in the once grand old house is beautiful Felicity Harrington and her precocious 8-year-old sister, May, both of whom will go to any length to protect their ancestral home. At first Rafe has a difficult time convincing the two women of his legitimate claim to their home, but, inevitably, they concede.

Ever the practical woman, Felicity makes plans to apply for governess positions--and desperately tries to suppress her growing attraction to the handsome charmer. Meanwhile, Rafe struggles with his own feelings for Felicity as well as his growing pride for his possession and his commitment to the Hall and its people. Will Rafe's urge to wander the world win out, or will his love for Felicity keep him at home? Before the two have time to work out the problems that may keep them apart, greed and danger raise their ugly heads and threaten not only the two lovers, but May and the Hall itself.

Fast-paced and witty,
Taming Rafe
is a sexy Regency romp underlaid with heart and humor. There's nothing quite as fun as watching a rake who considers himself beyond redemption be saved by the good woman who believes in him.
--Lois Faye Dyer

Review

“Each and every Enoch romance is a sparkling gem brimming over with marvelous characters, depth of emotion, intense sensuality and a plot that twists and turns, leaving readers breathless and deliciously satisfied.” (Romantic Times )

“Indulge and be delighted!” (Stephanie Laurens )

“Lively, fast-paced and utterly delightful tale...Fun from beginning to end!: (Romantic Times BOOKclub )

Top pick! “Dynamic and exhilarating...a complete joy to read and Enoch is a maestro.” (Romantic Times BOOKclub )

Suzanne Enoch
Taming Rafe

Again, for my sister, Nancy,
who makes me be historically accurate
even when I don’t want to be

Contents

Prologue

“This place is a damned sieve,” Rafael Michelangelo Bancroft complained,…

Chapter 1

“May?” Felicity Harrington called, anxiety making her voice shake. “May,…

Chapter 2

Rafe arrived in Cheshire three days later. By the time…

Chapter 3

By the time she undid the last of the ropes…

Chapter 4

Rafe lifted his arms, examining the loose, ivory-colored sleeves. “By…

Chapter 5

Sometimes, Rafe decided, he could be an absolute blithering idiot.

Chapter 6

Felicity Harrington was an absolutely remarkable female, Rafe decided as…

Chapter 7

“So we don’t have to leave Forton,” May stated, circling…

Chapter 8

Rafe slammed his fist against the desk, and had the…

Chapter 9

Rafe might never have hosted a soiree before, but he…

Chapter 10

Rafe started the letter to Quinlan three times.

Chapter 11

Rafe sprinted into the foyer. May, her hairbrush clenched in…

Chapter 12

Now that London had arrived in Cheshire County, Rafe only…

Chapter 13

Felicity chuckled as Francis Henning and Rose Pendleton performed a…

Chapter 14

“That’s number seventy-four!” May shrieked, laughing.

Chapter 15

Felicity lay awake for most of the night.

Chapter 16

A few days later, Rafe was beginning to wonder whether…

Chapter 17

“A loan?” Felicity repeated, frowning. “I’ve never heard of any…

Chapter 18

“It’s actually beginning to look like something.” Rafe folded his…

Chapter 19

Beeks sat at the kitchen table and glared at young…

“T
his place is a damned sieve,” Rafael Michelangelo Bancroft complained, shaking his wet sleeve and moving his chair for the third time. “It was drier in Africa during the monsoon season.”

Half-filled buckets caught a symphony of leaks in the shabby gaming parlor. Thunder rumbled over the rooftops of Covent Garden, the lightning illuminating the damp clientele taking shelter in Jezebel’s Harem.

“Then why’d you return to England?” Robert Fields asked as he placed his wager.

Rafe shrugged. “I’d seen the whole country, so there wasn’t much point in repeating the experience. I have enough tales of Africa to last awhile.”

“Including the one about the bloody Zulus trying to serve you up for breakfast—that’s my favorite,” the third wagerer broke in.

Rafe took a long swallow of port. “Thank you, Francis,” he said dryly.

Francis Henning smiled, his round cheeks flushed from alcohol. “I know how you are. Go off on a grand adventure, and ignore the damned trouble waiting for you there until it tries to run you through or eat you.”

“What about the trouble waiting for you back home?” Rafe asked, half serious.

“At least that’s trouble you know about.” Francis tapped his chest. “Take my advice. Grand adventures are fine for stories, but not much else. The way to the good life is patience, Bancroft. Slow, simple, safe patience.”

Grinning faintly, Rafe took in Henning’s new, well-fitting gray coat and the emerald pin stuck through his cravat. “Patience…I thought you looked particularly well-heeled this evening.”

Francis’s smile widened. “You’ll never believe it, Rafe—turns out I was Grandmama’s favorite relation, after all. The old girl kicked off last January, and left me two thousand bloody quid!”

“Hope you don’t mind sharing some of it with us, Henning,” Fields said from across the table, while in the corner Sir William Thornton vomited into one of the rain buckets. “Good God, keep it down, will you, Thornton?”

Rafe chuckled. “I believe that’s the problem, Robert.”

“What? Oh. Well, blast it, Henning, place your damned wager, will you?”

Rafe’s momentary amusement ebbed. His luck at the tables since he’d returned from Africa had been abysmal, though in truth his aim had been more to occupy himself and to avoid his father, than to add to his income. But now his losses had equalled last month’s pay, and he realized what a sorry state he’d fallen into.

The fourth member of their quintet placed his own wager on the table and tucked a well-oiled lock of black hair back into place on his head. “All patience ever got me was stuck,” he grumbled, glancing uncertainly at Rafe.

Nigel Harrington had been doing that all evening, and it was beginning to wear thin. “A Bancroft,” he’d said with awe when Robert introduced them, as though he’d just come face to face with the Colossus of Rhodes. At least their tall, red-haired hostess had been equally impressed. Being the second son of the Duke of Highbarrow was mostly a damned nuisance, but he wasn’t a complete idiot about using it to his advantage, either.

He placed ten quid in the redhead’s palm. “The seven, if you please,” he murmured.

Lydia giggled and placed the wager where he indicated. That done, she settled back onto his lap and resumed nibbling on his earlobe. It had been over two years since he’d last spent an evening at Jezebel’s Harem, and if not for the amusement Henning and Fields offered, he would have gone to find plumper game. The Harem had long since ceased to be a gathering place of the ultra wealthy.

Francis leaned sideways. “I hear you sold out your commission, Rafael. The army too tame for you now?”

“You going to clerk for Papa now? Or go about taking tallies of his cattle?” Robert chuckled. “Oh, I know—you could join the priesthood, what? Father Rafael.”

Rafe narrowed his eyes. “Very amusing.”

Lydia scowled. “Don’t listen to him, love. What a waste of a fine man that would be.”

She trailed her finger down the long, narrow scar that ran from his left cheekbone to his jaw. Flinching, he curled his fingers around her wrist and returned her hand to where it had been fiddling with the buttons of his waistcoat. “Never fear, my dear. I couldn’t possibly do such a thing to myself.”

“But what’s it to be?” Robert pursued. “His
Grace won’t stand for you lounging about in gaming hells much longer.”

That was true. But at the same time his return to civilian life after seven years with the Coldstream Guards would please his father no end—no doubt the reason he hadn’t yet announced the news to his family. He looked across the table. “Are you in or out, Whiting?”

The thin dandy placed his stack of coins by the seven of hearts, beside Rafe’s. “In, of course, Bancroft.”

Rafe watched him. He recognized a fellow gambler when he saw one. And Peter Whiting was cheating. He was doing such a fine job of it, in fact, that no one else seemed to have noticed.

But even studying Whiting’s technique and having a voluptuous chit wriggling about on his lap couldn’t distract him from one annoying fact: He was bored. Again. Leaving Oxford to join the Coldstream Guards had seemed exciting and challenging, and in the beginning it had been. It also had the advantage of being expressly against his father’s wishes. Wearing snappy uniforms and leading endless parades, though, had not been nearly as fulfilling as he’d hoped.

Volunteering for Wellington’s regiment at Waterloo had been Rafe’s solution. He had finally been able to put some of his hard-earned knowledge to use—but then his father had ordered him returned home as soon as the Bancrofts received word that he’d been wounded.

After that he had spent three long years in England before he’d finally argued, cajoled, and connived his way onto a schooner carrying a battalion of lancers to southern Africa. And now his father had managed to get him unvolunteered from that duty, as well. A desk—or worse yet, a pulpit—
would be next, but that would kill him.

He and Whiting won the round of faro, as Rafe had been fairly certain they would. Lydia giggled and did a bit more sliding about on his lap as she raked in his share of the winnings. Though being sluiced over the ivories and Lydia’s squirming were pleasant sensations, neither erased the fact that he had poor odds of winning enough blunt to arrange his escape—to anywhere that wasn’t London, and anywhere the illustrious fingers of the Bancroft family didn’t reach. The duke, of course, would eat coal before he gave Rafe more than ten quid for something so useless. And his older brother, Quin, the illustrious Marquis of Warefield, would require him to write a paper discussing the merits of the various peoples and countries and civilizations he encountered.

Rafe reached around Lydia for his glass and drained it. Because he’d been watching for it, he caught the swift exchange of looks between Peter Whiting and the dealer. Now, that was simply too much. He might have been counting cards himself, but at least he’d been doing it on his own. To enlist the aid of the house was just plain dastardly.

When all bets were placed, the dealer flipped the next card. This time Rafe saw the turn of his wrist, and he nodded as Peter Whiting won the hand. “Well done,” he congratulated. “What say we play one more round and then call it a night?”

Rafe leaned forward and caught the dealer a sharp blow across the jaw. With a surprised grunt, the man fell out of his chair and onto the floor.

“What in damnation are you doing, Bancroft?” Nigel Harrington shot to his feet.

“I do believe the fellow wasn’t paying the appropriate attention to his duties,” Rafe drawled. He lifted a hand and guided Lydia to the dealer’s va
cated chair. “Now. Everyone will please contribute, oh, one hundred quid, say, into the pot, and then Lydia will turn over the top card.”

“This is highly irregular, Bancroft,” Harrington protested again, flushing.

Francis chuckled. “Most things about old Rafe are. What’s your new scheme, boy?”

“India, I think,” Rafe answered, chin in his hand. “Or China. Never been there.”

“And we’re supposed to fund your travels?” Nigel glanced uncertainly at Whiting.

“Only if you lose. Are you in, or out?” Rafe asked coolly, sliding over his money.

The lad eyed the cash on the table, the unconscious dealer on the floor, the small pile of money remaining before him, and the expression in Rafe’s eyes. He licked his lips. “I don’t have a hundred quid,” he muttered, resuming his seat.

“Then good evening.”

Peter Whiting watched his companion over the rim of his glass. “Time to toddle home, eh, Nigel?”

“Blast it, Whiting, stop that.” Harrington met Rafe’s aloof gaze again. “I’ve got this,” he said, and reached into his breast pocket to produce a heavy, much-folded piece of parchment, which he dropped onto the table.

Whiting laughed. “Good God, Nigel. You
have
got balls!”

“It’s worth at least a hundred quid,” Harrington said, slumping in his chair and reaching for the port.

For a moment Rafe nearly took pity on him. But despite Harrington’s dandified aping of his crony’s manner and attire, he had to be twenty-two or twenty-three—old enough to know better than to
hang about a snake like Peter Whiting if he didn’t want to share the risks.

Rafe dragged the parchment into the center of the table with his fingertips, then poured himself another glass of port and glanced at Lydia. She smiled, running her tongue along her front teeth. “It’ll do.”

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