Meredith Duran Bound by Your Touch

ISBN 13: 9781416592631

Bound by Your Touch

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9781416592631: Bound by Your Touch


From the exciting new historical author Meredith Duran comes two back-to-back dark and sexy Regency historical novels that follow her thrilling debut The Duke of Shadows.

Lydia Boyce, heroine of Bound by Your Touch, is a spinster with sophisticated interests, for she knows that an unblemished reputation is the only protection in a judgmental world. But when a mysterious forgery threatens to sully her family and her father’s legacy, she finds her only hope for salvation in a man who has no use for the rules of good society—or those who follow them. The Viscount Sanburne is a society darling, but a dark past has left him aimless and uninterested in anything but self-destructive amusement. He has no interest in a bluestocking bent on justice—until she flashes a dimple, and he realizes that corrupting her might prove as pleasurable as scandalizing her does.

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About the Author:

Meredith Duran is the USA TODAY bestselling author of ten previous novels. She blames Anne Boleyn for sparking her lifelong obsession with British history (and for convincing her that princely love is no prize if it doesn’t come with a happily-ever-after). She enjoys collecting old etiquette manuals, guidebooks to nineteenth-century London, and travelogues by intrepid Victorian women.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

One

Four years later.

In this new electric light, the white marble blinded. James Durham propped his elbows on the balcony, laced his hands together, and stared down into his foyer. It had been a bit dramatic, he supposed, a bit too Grecian, paving the foyer with flagstones. At the time, he'd considered it the epitome of pure aesthetics. Now it nauseated him. Too much white: a funeral shroud of a foyer. Silent but for the buzzing of the lights, like vultures in the distance. He felt dizzy. His mouth was dry. It would be so easy to trip over this rail. One careless movement, a sweet swan's dive downward, and the floor would not be so white anymore.

His breath left him in a shudder. He stepped back, and his head seemed to soar from his shoulders. Good God. He was never trying another of Phin's little concoctions.

Hmm. That resolution felt...familiar. As if he'd made it before. Several times, in fact. How hopeless he was. He laughed softly. Yes, how predictably, tediously hopeless.

"Sanburne!"

The word came spearing through his consciousness, scattering the fog. With a start, he realized it had never been silent. Music, laughter, high-pitched squeals were spilling down the stairs. Yes -- that was right! He had twenty-odd guests above; there'd been a party afoot since last evening, and he was the host. "Bloody hell," he said, and the astonishment in his voice sounded so queer and overdone that he had to laugh again.

"Sanburne!" It sounded very close now, this shrill cry, which might or might not belong to Elizabeth; he could never be sure without looking, not in this state. Then look up, you idiot. Yes, excellent idea. In one moment, he would.

"Sanburne, have you gone deaf?"

With an effort he raised his head. It was indeed Lizzie; she appeared to be floating down the staircase. Magic? But no; if there were any magic in the world, it would not reside in Elizabeth, no matter how she might need it. Poor, luckless darling. He walked toward her with sympathetic intentions, intending to take her hands, for she looked distraught, her once-rakish coiffure now slipping over a tear-filled eye.

But walking proved beyond him. He tripped over the first stair and sat down. The impact astonished him. What had he been thinking, not to carpet the place?

He shook his head and reached for the banister. Before he could pull himself up, Lizzie was at his side, her skirts -- stained by something; wine, smelled like -- bunching around her calves. "Sanburne, he -- he's got a w-w-woman -- " She sobbed a breath that brought her décolletage into his nose. A bit of caviar had gotten lodged in her neckline. He brushed it away. Most mysterious. What the hell were they doing up there?

"He's got a woman on his lap! One of your maids! Fondling her right in front of me!" Elizabeth's fingers fastened onto his upper arm, digging for attention. "Do you hear me? Are you awake?"

He was curious about that, too. "Are my eyes open?"

She made a noise of exasperation, then took his chin in her grip, yanking it up so their eyes met. "They are open," she said. "Behold: it is I."

"It is you," he agreed. "Your eyes are particularly lovely when you've been crying, my dear. So green. So much lovelier than white."

The corners of her mouth began to tremble. "Nello's got one of the maids," she said.

Something...insistent there. He did not like her look, suddenly, but he could not break from it. It made the world around him take on weight. Stairs, his house, a party. For one last second, the giddiness remained. And then his mind clicked, gears grinding. "One of the maids, did you say?" He pulled himself up by way of a baluster. The first step was the hardest. Damn Nello for a tosser; he always made a scene.

"Wait!" Elizabeth came scrambling up behind him. "James, you won't...hurt him, will you? He's just a bit drunk, is all. Or whatever it is that Ashmore gave him. I didn't mean to start a fight!"

"Of course you bloody did." He said it without rancor as he mounted the staircase. The drug was still coursing within him; he felt incapable of dividing his attention. Nello! Chap knew the rules. One couldn't break host's rules. Deuced poor taste!

He crested the stairs to discover the party had spilled out of the salon. Elise Strathern was weaving her way down the corridor, Christian Tilney nipping at her heels. Colin Muir, scoundrel Scot, was trying to feed liquor to the stone bust of one of James's forebears, while his audience -- the Cholomondley twins, who else? -- giggled appreciatively.

Inside the yellow room, things were no more civilized. Glass crunched beneath his feet and the air held a stinking miasma of opium and cigar smoke. Someone had broken the palm fronds that screened the musicians from the gathering, and damn if the violinist did not have a cummerbund tied around his head as he manfully sawed out the latest music hall ditty. The flutist had given up, and was watching with avid amazement as Mrs. Sawyer turned a jig atop the banquet table -- beneath which the cellist, and his instrument, were sleeping in a pool of punch.

And there was Nello, arguing in the far corner with Dalton. Elizabeth was right (but she was always attentive to detail in this one regard: namely, the idiotic regard she felt for Nello). He'd lodged one of the parlormaids beneath his arm, and she was thin-lipped, squirming. James picked his way through the debris and came up just as Nello lifted his fist for the first punch.

James caught him by the wrist. "Now, now, children."

"Damn his eyes, Sanburne! I'll have at him! A cheating swot, am I?"

"Just about," said Dalton, grinning drunkenly. "Why, you swived that Egyptian wench so hard that Sanburne just about puked to death from the boat rocking."

"You little -- "

James wrapped his forearm around Nello's neck and hauled backward. The parlormaid shrieked and fell to her bum, from which position, James ascertained with a glance, she crawled toward safer quarters. "As for that," he said into Nello's ear, "you are a cheat, and if you don't believe me, Lizzie will set you straight."

Nello abruptly ceased struggling. "Lizzie...?"

"Indeed," Elizabeth said, coming round to confront him. "You pig!"

James loosened his hold. "Just full of snap, ain't she?"

Indeed, her face was pinched with rage. She stepped forward, her hands raised over her head -- and in them, James spotted something he'd been meant to deliver this morning. His Egyptian funerary stela!

"Lizzie, no!"

The rock slab smashed down on Nello's shoulder. The awful cracking sound caused even the violinist to falter. With a cry of agony, Nello dropped to his knees. "My shoulder!"

"Broken it," Dalton predicted, and slid down the wall to nap.

"Dear God!" James pried the stela from Elizabeth's fingers. He turned it over, searching anxiously for damage. He'd been coddling the thing for days, toasting it with evening brandy, gloating over the bitter envy his father was sure to feel at the sight of it. And Lizzie used it to bludgeon someone!

"Have I broken it?" she asked. She was looking down at Nello, a curiously blank expression on her face.

"No," he decided, on a long breath of relief. "It looks intact."

"His shoulder, you buffoon, not your precious rock."

"My precious -- ? Priorities, Elizabeth!"

She snorted. "Oh, stuff. My priorities do not include your foolish antics with your father."

James grinned. His father, indeed. Moreland would be at the lecture by now, blissfully ignorant of what was in store for him. There was no way he'd be able to resist this piece. "Lizzie, love, your priorities have nothing to do with me. Now look here," he said more briskly, "be a dear and send round for the doctor. Also, tell Gudge he may set up Nello in the blue bedroom." Nello moaned again, and James bent to eye him. "Perhaps with a very large bucket," he added. Old boy was looking rather green.

"Don't go," Nello managed. "I need...help."

Lizzie was more shrill. "You're leaving me? With Nello nearly dead?"

With a reassuring pat to the stela, James rose. "Never. Friendship is eternal, etcetera. But I have an appointment at the Archaeological Institute, you might recall." A month in Egypt, spent suffering seasickness off the edge of a houseboat that -- Dalton was correct -- rocked like a pendulum. Countless letters to and from Port Said. A fortune spent on various, ultimately second-rate antiques. Thousands of pounds to finally secure the right one. Six months of work leading to this moment, and he'd almost forgotten! Phineas certainly had a way with the toxins.

"Oh, of course," Lizzie said, "the Archaeological Institute. If Nello were dead, I doubt you should miss your appointment!"

For Nello? "You might be right." He gave Lizzie a quick kiss on the cheek, then picked his way out of the salon, eager to depart before she started crying again.

Lydia had managed to keep her voice from shaking. Nor had anyone yet stood to decry her as a lunatic. Sophie was falling asleep -- her hat tipped, abruptly righted when Antonia poked her, then began tipping again -- but that was not unusual. Most importantly, Lord Ayresbury, in the front row, was listening with every sign of interest. All in all, she thought cautiously, it was going very...well.

The hope she'd been repressing for days swelled and burst free. It washed through her at such dizzying speed that she actually stuttered from the impact. "If -- ah, if my father's findings are correct, then this strongly suggests..."

A door slammed open at the back of the hall, admitting a much-rumpled gentleman. The sight startled her into a pause. It was coming on noon, and he was wearing evening attire, black tailcoat and bow tie.

Some of the audience turned to mark his advance. He was trailed by a footman in garish crimson livery, who cradled a greatcoat in one arm, and some sort of slab in the other...

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