Date Published: February 18, 2020
In the first in Tracy Sumner’s sizzling League of Lords historical series, mysticism in Victorian England is the setting for a captivating love affair . . .
He’s a viscount with a dark past who yearns for the one woman he can’t have. She’s rebellious, spurned by society and determined to change his mind.
What’s a defiant woman to do when the man she’s meant for doesn’t believe in love?
After three years of waiting for Julian Alexander to realize they are destined to be together, Lady Piper Scott takes matters into her own hands. Because her gift as a healer has never done anything but distance her from the most principled man in England. A meaningless diversion as a medium, all done to gain a certain wandering viscount’s attention, backfires. As most endeavors have for a woman known in the ton as Scandalous Scott.
What’s a reluctant viscount to do when the woman he can’t have becomes the woman he can’t live without?
Julian Alexander, Lord Beauchamp, battled his way from the lowliest slum to assume his title. He carries not only a turbulent past, but a mystical psychic gift that separates him from society. Honorable to his core, he is committed to protecting a community of outcasts with abilities like his own. He has no time, no place, for love. Or repeatedly rescuing the most outrageous, beguiling woman he’s ever known. Even if she needs his protection most—and he desires her above all others.
Seduction, intrigue and desire lead to an explosive passion…
Julian vowed to shield Piper from the deadly foes seeking to possess her powerful gift. Although he needs her help in controlling his own, the mix could be deadly. Soon what was once a simple agreement to work together becomes enchantingly complex as they surrender to a timeless love…
Praise for Tracy Sumner’s novels:
“Delicious and amusing…witty dialogue, sparkling humor and a snappy narrative. A must read!” —The Best Reviews
“Terrific dialogue…and hot loves scenes. If you haven’t read Tracy Sumner before, Tides of Passion is a good place to start.” —All About Romance
“A powerful relationship novel that explores the heartache and triumph of love.” —Romantic Times
“The battle of the sexes heats up the pages of this fun and fresh romance by talented new writer Tracy Sumner.” —New York Times bestselling author Susan Wiggs
There is nothing stable in the world; uproar’s your only music. John Keats
Allowing the lady to lure him into her carriage had been a brilliant idea.
Julian Alexander stared at a spider crack in the ceiling of his Mayfair town home and wondered when he might start to believe it. He could presume encountering a former lover outside Hatchards on an otherwise lonely evening was a fortuitous event if there weren’t the niggling—familiar—pinch of regret the moment his cock settled.
A faint sense of having erred, gone off the path and into a twilight woodland where one could be easily lost.
As lost as he’d felt stepping into her dimly lit carriage.
Julian watched Marianne wrap herself in his silk dressing gown, her chatter lulling him into a state of satiated distraction. Only the first and third word of each sentence filtering through, he found the conversation definitively complete. Earl, garden, tryst, scandal. Titles and the men who held them occupied her undivided interest. Each day spent investigating a riddle that had no solution.
Was not, in fact, worth the attention she devoted to it.
In all fairness, Julian could not judge.
His mystical gift separated him from a normal existence and made the world he’d been born into at times unrecognizable. Out of a sense of duty, he played the part of the gentleman for
the solitary purpose of propping up the viscountcy, adhering to society’s rules while struggling to preserve his secrets and the secrets of those he protected. Of course, he tendered his title when it benefited himself or the League. But a barony would have profited as well and knocked him down a notch, perhaps enough to slip beneath the waves and be carried from view.
He closed his eyes and let the waves crash over him.
Then Marianne mucked it up by kicking the door to the past wide open.
He rose to his elbow, knocking the counterpane aside. Dragging his hand through his hair, he asked, “Repeat that, will you?” Alarm vibrated through his belly, like swimming in the sea and realizing a massive wave crested behind you. No, it couldn’t be. “Come again?”
Marianne’s gaze settled where the sheet hung low on his hips. “So, you were listening.” She reached to touch, a stroke on air. Licked her lips in the event he didn’t register her appreciation. “Jules, with you, I never know.”
He slid high in the bed, suppressing his annoyance. Jules. He’d asked her to refrain from calling him that. Too. Many. Memories. “Marianne, the clairvoyant?”
Her smile grew luminous, her delight underscoring the scant attention he offered. Without trying to be a disdainful cad, it seemed he was precisely that. “Oh, darling, it was the most farcical evening! Ashcroft arranged for a fortune teller to entertain, and you know him. For a duke, he pushes the boundaries of propriety while always staying within the limit.” She leaned in, clutching the lapels of his dressing gown to her bosom. “I heard there was absinthe served to the men. Why, the festivities were enough to make a stuffed bird laugh!”
Julian hummed low in his throat and rose from the bed. He didn’t know but could imagine. Hell’s teeth, he thought and reached for his clothes, which lay in a tidy pile next to the chiffonier. Taken off without haste, neatly folded.
He frowned. How little had he wanted this encounter?
“I didn’t glean any outrageous tidbit about my future. Though I tried.” She lifted a delicate shoulder beneath silk. “More the delight just being there.”
He buttoned his shirt, slipped his braces over his shoulders. “You mentioned the woman had an unusual accent.”
Marianne crossed the room, slippers striking the floor in an eager rhythm. “It was dark, too dark to see anything. Very mysterious. Madame wore a veil, and there was candlelight. The ideal setting. Although Ashcroft seemed oddly anxious the entire evening, adding nothing to our merriment.” At Julian’s impatient look, she rushed on, “Madame’s accent came out on one word. She sounded almost…” She twirled her hand in a languid circle, finger pointed toward the plaster ceiling rose. “Ad-ver-tise-ment. That’s what she called the sheet she handed me. She sounded, can you imagine, American? Would that not be a vulgar surprise?” She laughed it away, swept beneath the Aubusson at her feet. “Although I’m sure I misheard. Doubtless, an upstart trying to hide cockney.”
Julian’s fingers twitched, missing a button on his waistcoat. He moved too forcefully across the room as she took a stumbling step back. “Where is it?” He drew a breath laced with the scent of Marianne’s perfume and the acrid aroma rolling in the open window. Soot, sewage. That damned river. Christ, he hated London. “The advertisement.” He extended his hand, controlling the tremor that wanted to travel from his fingers to his heart.
Could. Not. Be. Piper was tucked away in Gloucestershire. Under armed guard. Protected. Safe. Their enemies had been searching for her since she’d arrived from New York all those years ago. But they wouldn’t look in Gloucestershire. She knew this. He’d cautioned her more times than he could count. Had been advising her for years, it seemed.
Marianne regarded him through eyes the color of fresh cow dung. “Why, darling, I fear I’ve not seen you react…to anything. Appetites fed but the heart untouched.” She waved away her discomfiture and a statement she likely wished she’d kept to herself. Turning in a crimson whirl, she moved to rifle through the reticule sitting atop the chaise lounge, one just the shade of emerald eyes Julian had tried with little success to forget. “Lucky for you, I saved it. As proof, I experienced such an evening. Who would believe otherwise?”
Julian flexed his fingers, preparing for the transmission. His gift didn’t marry well with a lack of sleep. Touching an object and being pulled into the otherworld of someone who had touched it previously was brutal enough. Stepping into that world when exhausted was reckless and allowed the experience to control him.
Maybe it wasn’t Piper, and this endeavor would be nothing more than supernatural experimentation. He’d sent Finn to visit her last month. Or had it been May? A headache moved to the base of his skull. Lifting his hand to his brow, he pressed hard.
Blast it, had they not visited since the spring?
Marianne thrust the advertisement at him, and he hesitated. Taking time to notice she’d only secured an ear bob, and it dangled there without a partner, bouncing as she did. Her lips canted, though he’d bet a half-sovereign the smile would disappear if she fathomed the source of his reluctance. If she had any idea who he truly was and how his gift of sight forever separated them, she would run screaming into the misty night. “If you’re interested, Julian, and I’m shocked you are, Madame DuPre is doing a reading tonight. The address is listed.”
His breath seized. Madame DuPre. The name conjured forgotten summers of youth. Running through fields of grass so tall the blades hit his thigh; swimming in shallow lakes on moonlit nights; climbing trees until he was breathless surveying all that fell below. Laughter and
foolishness—even love by some arcane definition—on a scale he and Piper could no longer afford.
Julian huffed a sigh and grabbed the sheet before he could think better of it. Or stop himself, which he would not, because it appeared Piper had jumped off another goddamn ledge.
And he was her rescuer. Her caretaker.
I’m going to throttle her, was all he managed as he crushed the foolscap in his hand and stepped into the otherworld.
Shadow and candlelight bathed the room. The curious combination of burnt ashes, spice, and lilac. Piper was settled over a desk, her gown as golden as the Kingcup scattered along Harbingdon’s riverbank each spring. Moonlight carved a path along the floor and Julian followed the dazzling footpath of silvery blue. The walls surrounding her were covered in tattered wallpaper, peeling at the ceiling and seams. The furniture was scuffed, the rug threadbare. The dwelling was nothing like Finn’s description of the modest but opulent manor in Gloucestershire.
His heart thumped desperately against his breastbone. She was more vivid than any model he’d ever painted, and he had tried to recreate her, a thousand strokes of brush to canvas.
Her vibrancy eluded him.
Stumbling back, he tried to step out of the trance. It was a problem lately that he had trouble doing so. The otherworld had a voracious claim on him. Through eyes drawn to slits, he observed Marianne’s lips moving, but he was too entrenched in another space and time to respond.
Too entrenched in her.
Independent of his gift, Piper Scott had a stronger hold over him than any woman could ever hope to have.
Muttering a harsh oath, he dropped the advertisement like it burnt his skin and the image of Piper spiraled away, water down a drain. Forcing him from the room with the tattered wallpaper and the girl he’d sworn to protect with his life but never touch again to preserve hers.
The woman for whom he hungered.
Dear God, Piper, what have you done?
He was through the door and into the hallway before another breath had passed, ducking as a vase accompanied Marianne’s shriek of rage.
About the Author
Tracy’s story telling career began when she picked up a copy of LaVyrle Spencer’s Vows on a college beach trip. A couple of degrees (BA, Journalism-MA, Media Arts) and a thousand romance novels later, she decided to try her hand at writing a southern version of the perfect love story. With a great deal of luck and more than a bit of perseverance, she sold her first novel to Kensington Publishing.
Tracy has been awarded the National Reader’s Choice, HOLT Medallion, the Write Touch and the Beacon – with finalist nominations in the HOLT Medallion, Heart of Romance, Rising Stars and Reader’s Choice. Her books have been translated into German, Dutch, Portuguese and Spanish.
She lives in the south, but after spending a few years in NYC, considers herself a New Yorker at heart. She loves hearing from readers about why she tends to pit her hero and heroine against each other or that great novel she simply must read.