Tanya Wilde

Book Cover: An Earl's guide to catch a Lady
Editions:Kindle - First Edition

Evelyn Tremaine HAS DREAMS TO TRAVEL THE WORLD…

 

And being outwitted by fate will not deter her!

But even she has to admit that waking up in the bed of a stranger with no memory might be a tiny wrinkle in her otherwise grand plan. Was he a peasant? A gunman? Perhaps a duke? Or was he just a figment of her imagination? Evelyn wasn’t about to lurk around and find out. But she will soon learn the mysterious stranger was a force much larger than fate to be reckoned with and he has set his sight firmly on her.

 

Matthew Langdon HAS DREAMS OF ENTIRELY A DIFFERENT NATURE…

And they all include reckless, unpredictable, and completely dangerous to his hardened heart, Evelyn Tremaine.

While he might have decided long ago never to get caught up with any woman ever again, he is enchanted by this remarkable lady and her fiery imagination. The only thing is she is mad as a March hare. Winning the exquisite lady’s love will be a trial, but Matthew has a will of iron and he would stop at nothing, fair means or foul, until he has her complete surrender.

Excerpt:

Chapter 1

Pain. There was so much pain and wretchedness it made it impossible to summon even one coherent thought. Torturous. Lifting one heavy lid Evelyn shut it instantly as more blinding pain pierced her skull. Damn wretched head. That much could at least be determined. A soft groan escaped her lips. She remembered nothing except a vague recollection of consuming a rather large amount of… something. Wine perhaps?

A vile taste coated her mouth and her stomach roiled in protest. She wanted nothing more than to be swept into the sweet allure of darkness, but the continued throb prevented sleep from claiming her. It left her no choice but to be brave. One eye popped open, then another. Gah! She squinted as light invaded her vision. After what felt like hours of torment, the blur of brightness disappeared and Evelyn found herself staring at the unfamiliar face of a male. The breath stilled in her lungs. Her eyes widened. The world stopped.

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It had to be a dream. Yes, she was still caught in a marvelous stupor. It was the only acceptable reason. Perhaps she should first assure herself that he was a figment of her imagination before she gave into hysterics.

With a feather-light touch, she brushed her index finger against his nose. Flesh met her fingertip. Her hand snatched back as she let out a tiny screech.

Oh, stars! He was as real as her ruination. Her eyes clamped shut and she forced the wave of panic down that threatened to consume her. No! No! No! All the hours spent pouring over maps, carefully selecting every country, every city she wanted to explore in her quest to become a world renowned traveler evaporated in the sleeping face of this stranger.

With a sudden movement his leg brushed up against hers and she scrambled out from under the covers, nearly toppling over when her foot got caught in the sheets. In a daze, she glanced down at her attire, which comprised only of her chemise. She cringed. It barely covered her legs.

A loud snore drew her gaze back to the stranger. Goodness! She took a moment to inspect his face. No recognition lit in her, yet somehow he seemed familiar. A glance around the room revealed two empty wine bottles, along with her scattered items on the floor. By some small miracle, whatever had transpired hadn’t been in her room.

That might be the only thing that had gone right since Evelyn’s ill-fated journey began two days ago. First, her maid unexpectedly fell ill and had to remain with her family, leaving her unchaperoned. Then the carriage had broken down in the rain.

Henry. Hope bloomed as she remembered her footman. He would have sent for the repairs of the carriage. Flee. That was her single course of action. Later she would try to piece together her memories but first, she must put as much distance as possible between her and this man.

She jumped as he stirred and gave another loud snore, terrified that he would wake up before she left. She snatched up his shirt, having spotted no sign of her dress. It gave her the impression of a large man, much larger than he appeared to be.

With a cautious step forward, she moved toward the bed and inspected the sheets. It didn’t appear to be all that rumpled. Her eyes took in every small detail. She released a shaky breath. He had an impressively strong face, which looked almost innocent while he slept. Even his snoring didn’t subtract from his handsomeness. Black hair fell over thick brows and Evelyn had to tamp down the urge to run her fingers through them. She almost regretted that she did not remember the color of his eyes, but if she had to guess, she’d say blue.

His face committed to her memory, she turned and edged toward the door. There was a moment of brief anticipation when she heard him stir again.

Please don’t wake up. Please don’t wake up.

She crossed her fingers as she peeked over her shoulder, her mouth agape at the sight that greeted her. His face and body had turned away from her so she had a full view of his back and thighs. The covers must have slipped when he’d turned, she mused in wonder. Her mouth went dry as her eyes roamed the length of his magnificent body.

His back was broad and muscular. The word powerful came to mind as her gaze ventured even lower. In fact, nothing about him looked innocent anymore. His thighs were big and strong and... So... So... Hairy?

Evelyn scowled as she inspected his hairy thighs. Was it common for a man to be that hairy? Another loud snore jerked her from her inspection and she marveled at how she’d slept an entire night without being disturbed. It was the first time she had ever heard a man snore and it was rather hypnotic, a low rumbling noise she could grow used to.

Drat! If she had to be ruined, her mind might at least have given her the courtesy of remembering the experience.

Lady Josephine and Lady Belle, her dearest friends, were always prompting her to be more adventurous. How ironic, that when she finally found an adventure, it ruined her and she did not remember any of it.

If she left now there might not even be a scandal. Not that it mattered. She had no intention of ever taking a husband. And she would never see this gentleman again.

A crack of light drew her attention to the window. Dawn would be upon them soon. There would still be plenty of time to leave the Inn undetected if she left now. She stole one last glance at the handsome stranger, opened the door and slipped out.

 

***

 

Moments later Evelyn was pacing up and down the Inn’s muddy stables lecturing the stable doors for not knowing her footman’s location. In all likelihood, he was off arranging for the repairs of the carriage, but not even that knowledge quelled her frustration. He might just as well be snoring the dawn away. She cursed her lack of attention. Where were her horses? Was there another stable perhaps? It was only a matter of time before someone found her lurking about. Country folk were notoriously early risers. If she had any common sense she would go back to her room and hide until her footman sent for her. It would seem, however, that her common sense had evaporated at the sight of a naked man.

Her fingers pinched the bridge of her nose as the ache in her head that had all but disappeared returned with force. She needed to avoid running into the stranger at all cost, but it would be impossible without her carriage. A horrific thought occurred to her. What if the stranger remembered her? What if she had given him her name?

Good morning Mr. Stranger. Might you recall me from last night? I was the strumpet in your bed, but I have no memory of our night together.

How awkward it would be to run into him again. She did not trust that she could manage a confrontation without taking to the hills.

A sudden shiver raced down her legs as cold stabbed at her feet. Her slippers weren’t made for wet weather. She sighed in misery, shooting them a disgusted glare. It was then she noticed a note sticking out of a pocket of the stranger’s shirt.

Without thought, she snatched the damp note between her fingers and unfolded it. Much of the words were blotched, making it difficult to read. It still might supply a clue to the stranger’s identity. Lifting the note up to her face, Evelyn studied each word with great care.

“The Black Night Inn,” she read in a soft whisper. It was the name of the Inn they were lodging at.

Her fingers ran over a name she could not identify. They stopped, however, at the words that followed. Slaughter. Some blotched words. Means possible. More blotched words. Execute. More blotched words.

Slaughter whom? Confusion lit her brow. Again she studied the cryptic words but the rain had almost destroyed the entire content of the note. She had an odd sensation of falling as her eyes lifted in horror. Was the stranger here to slaughter some poor soul?

Don’t be ridiculous, she chided herself, remembering his innocent face as he lay in a peaceful slumber.

She could not fathom that her inebriated state would have afforded such a lapse in judgment on her part. The words of the note, however, were unmistakable.

Her heart drummed against her chest. Then the realization hit her. She had possession of the note, a fact he would soon become aware of once he opened his blue-green-brown eyes. No blue, they would most certainly be blue. Gah! Her hapless adventure that boasted a fatal lapse of memory had just turned into a nightmare. And she was thinking about his eyes! Her teeth captured her lower lip. Oh, she had truly done it now.

Oh, Henry. She would have to leave him behind. No need for him to get hacked into pieces as well.

Her mind raced as she studied her surroundings and considered a plan of escape. Leaving on foot would not be wise. She would never outrun the stranger if he gave chase. But then she had no carriage, no means to hire a coach. No, what she needed was a horse, and since she didn’t have one, she would have to steal one.

No, she corrected, borrow one, believing she needed to draw the line somewhere. Her hands settled on her hips as she considered how to proceed. How to go about borrowing a horse?

No answer came.

Drat, who was she fooling? She was becoming a thief. A dreadful one at that.

All those years of learning Latin and French, how to paint and play the piano, one would have thought they would teach young ladies the basic skills for survival. But no, they were delicate petals that should be protected at all times.

She snorted. It wasn’t as though she had been schooled for thievery, but damnation, she hadn’t been schooled for this sort of circumstance either. With a tiny shake of her head, she made her way toward the back doors of the stable. The only sounds to be heard were the soft padding of her feet.

There might be a coach waiting to be borrowed, she mused hopefully, pausing upon reaching the doors. One swift glance confirmed she wasn’t alone.

A few feet away stood a giant black horse. It was hard to miss, given its size. At least she thought it was a horse. It looked more like a demon from hell.

“Well I never,” Evelyn muttered under her breath, inspecting the empty courtyard. No groom appeared to be in sight. How odd. Who would leave such a creature unattended? Had she been wrong about her luck? No, luck would have been a pony, not the monster standing a few feet away. If the horse was any indication of his owner, she would be better off not borrowing it.

Your life is at stake, this is not the time to develop scruples, her inner voice chastised. She had stolen a villain’s shirt which carried a rather damning note. Why stop at a monstrous-looking horse?

Filled with uneasiness she approached the beast and soothed her thoughts with images of her brother, Simon, and her friends. They would be devastated if anything were to happen to her.

The elusive groom had yet to make an appearance and Evelyn took that as a sign of luck. Her eyes watchful she moved closer still. The beast did not look all that approachable and worse, it was much larger than it appeared from a distance.

But what did she know about horses? Except that, one could ride them. She should have taken more interest in being taught to ride. Perhaps then she would not be hesitating now.

“This is a terrible plan.” Her words of dismay echoed through the courtyard.

The horse watched her with big black eyes as she reached its side. She chuckled as it snorted against her face, smelling her hair.

“That’s not straw you big silly beast,” she murmured and reached out to gently run her hand over its thick neck. This was good, she thought on a nod.

With slow, cautious movements Evelyn took hold of the reins and put her foot in the stirrup when the sight of her bare leg reminded her of her state of undress. She was a lady. Now look at her. She was scandalous!

A hint of a smile touched her lips.

If anyone saw her now, she would be ruined. She ought not to have this feeling of brilliance in the midst of terrifying danger, but she attributed her feelings toward the sense of adventure she was experiencing. Her plan, however, was quite simple. Get to Bath and then decide what to do, all the while hoping no one would recognize her.

She shot up a quick prayer as she hoisted herself onto the black demon. Once settled on top she took stock of her surroundings. When there was still no sign of the groom Evelyn let out a breath of relief. That was until she noticed how much of her naked legs were visible.

“Outrageous!” she muttered but forgot about her nakedness when she saw how high above the ground she sat. She whispered another quick prayer to the heavens and nudged the beast like she’d seen her brother do countless times. The beast did not move. It seemed to snort at her attempt. To Evelyn’s ears, it sounded much more like a smirk. Ghastly animal. She nudged it again, harder this time. It just snorted louder.

“Dratted beast,” she muttered glaring at the back of its head.

What did her brother do when he urged Apollo to go faster? Evelyn nudged harder still, but the horse stood there with no intention of moving. Then, just when Evelyn would have given up hope, two little rats scurried out of the stables in their direction, causing the horse to panic. A blood-curdling scream ripped from her throat as the horse reared.

Evelyn’s heart lurched in her chest, but then instinct took over and she wrapped her arms around the thick neck of the horse, holding on for dear life. She felt the legs of the beast hit the ground and without even the slightest hesitation it started forward, racing out of the courtyard, away from the Inn and—mercifully—away from the dangerous man.

 

***

 

Matthew Langdon, the sixth Earl of Grey was woken by a sharp noise that pierced his skull, stabbing at the throbbing ache in his head. He groaned in misery.

What in the blazes? His eyes shot open and then to the empty space beside him as he recalled his beautiful, albeit foxed guest.

Evelyn.

His lips twitched as he recalled the fascinating creature whose dress hugged her curves almost too tightly, seductively. She’d stumbled into his room with a bottle in each hand, and when she lost her balance she’d laughed at her own clumsiness. He’d been about to make his presence known when she’d spotted him and hiccupped. “You sir—hic—are in the—hic—wrong room.”

He chuckled at the memory as he stretched languidly across the bed. She’d been the most adorable foxed woman to ever accidentally stumble into his room. The only one as it happens.

Her beautiful heart-shaped face held the most tempting full lips. They begged to be kissed. Thin brows defined the shape of her eyes. And what eyes! They were a haunting shade of violet-blue with lashes so long her eyes took on a dreamy appearance. Her hair had fallen from their pins and appeared brown until she stepped into the candlelight and hues of red highlighted the freckles on her nose.

Mine.

The ferocity of that one word robbed him of his breath. It punched him in the gut and tempted him to go where he vowed never to go again. Then his mind filled with her laughter and he remembered the sound to be mesmerizing. When she’d spoken his fate had been sealed.

She had believed him to be the devil and like an idiot all he had done was stare at her face. To his utter surprise, she’d then stumbled further into his room and closed the door with a resounding kick, offering him one of her bottles. He had taken it without a word, not certain what else to do, and still in a state of wonder. Then she’d numbed him with a smile so radiant any intelligible speech disappeared from his brain. She was the most exquisite creature in existence. If he were any kind of gentleman he would have directed her back to her room. He wasn’t a gentleman.

It shouldn’t have come as a surprise that she believed him to be a dream. If one took into consideration the amount of wine she’d consumed it was quite possible. After all, the bottles she clutched in each hand had been empty. Throughout the entire exchange, which consisted of hiccups and gaping, she’d never once perceived him to be a man but continued to believe him a dream. A fact finally confirmed when she simply undressed and climbed into his bed. Her name had been the last whisper on her lips.

Again if he’d been any kind of gentleman he would have left, instead, he’d settled in beside her. An unusual act. He only spent the night in a woman’s bed to bed her. He left after that, having no need for what came afterward. He preferred it that way. Until the mysterious Evelyn.

He hadn’t even considered what might happen when she woke up to find him very much flesh and bone. He’d just wanted to be there when she did. She’d touched a chord deep inside his soul. How long since something had stirred within him, anything in the company of a woman? Six years if he recalled correctly. Perhaps it was her innocence that called to him, or perhaps because she had seen him as a dream, he can now pretend she had been one as well.

He let his hand run over the empty space and longed for her presence. No one had ever looked at him and seen a dream. His mouth twitched when he recalled that she snored ever so lightly, a soft sound that signaled a deep, peaceful slumber. His smile, however, faltered when a slither of unease settled over him.

She would not have thought him a dream when she awakened. She would have been shocked, even scared. He did not bother to look and see if her belongings were gone. They were. He pressed his palm deeper into the empty space beside him. Warmth still touched his skin. He sunk his face into her pillow and inhaled the lingering scent of her into his lungs.

Oranges.

He groaned and tossed back the sheets. She hadn’t been hysterical when she left. It appeared to be significant somehow. He wanted to find her. He wanted—no—needed to learn everything about her.

Yet, something nagged at him. Evelyn somehow seemed infinitely familiar… But hers was not a face he would forget.

He hoped her journey did not take her to London—the one place he swore he would never return to. He hated the city and everything it represented. The crowds, the noise, the smell, the filth, the pettiness of the ton and the games they played.

He reached for his shirt when he noticed it was missing. Muscles rippled as he pushed away from the bed with a frown and strolled over to the chair where her gown lay rumpled on the floor. She had taken his shirt. If lions could grin he would have put them to shame. She wore his shirt. A predatory glint entered his eyes. It instantly made him hard. It was all he could do not to imagine her legs wrapped around his—

The door burst open.

If he’d been less of man he would have jumped out of his skin.

“What the hell—”

His head snapped up as Carleton, his groom, filled the doorway breathing heavily. Growling in irritation that the man had interrupted his thoughts of Evelyn, he snapped, “Don’t you ever knock?"

“Yes, sir.”

“So get out and knock.”

Carleton didn’t move, ignoring his master’s command. “Sylvester has been stolen my lord,” he managed to croak, still trying to find his breath.

“What are you—”

“By a woman my lord,” he interrupted, uncaring of his master’s wrath. “Wore nothing but a shirt, saw it with me own eyes. Rode out of town like the devil himself nipped at her heels.”

Matthew blinked. A half-naked woman stole his horse? He snorted. Preposterous. “There are only two people in this world who can handle Sylvester, Carleton. A woman is not one of them,” he replied confidently.

“My lord—”

“It was not Sylvester that you saw.”

“She wore your shirt, my lord,” Carleton interrupted, yet again.

Matthew narrowed his eyes on his groom.

Carleton nodded in understanding.

“The blood stain on the back?” He had taken a fall the day before.

His groom nodded.

Matthew stared at Carleton in disbelief and growing horror.

“Describe her,” he whispered.

Matthew’s anger mounted with each word as he listened to Carleton’s description of Evelyn. Fury rose in the pit of his stomach with such force that his breath came out in gasps. Bloody foolish woman! Did she not realize that she could be killed? If not by his horse then by cutthroats?

Saints protect her; he would strangle her if she wasn’t dead already. He stilled. The thought of any harm befalling her left him cold. He cursed his growing fear. Later he would examine it and what it meant, for now, he needed to go after her. With his decision made, he ran from the room.

Naked.

COLLAPSE
What readers say:

Marvelous.. This novel had me from the first word. A little lengthy at times but but nevertheless sexy and thrilling. Enjoy! ~ Angela Malone, Goodreads

It was wonderful, I loved the story , the characters, everything. I liked seeing Evelyn ' s friends also play a role and I can't wait to read their own books. I definitely would recommend this to lovers of historical romance out there. Very nicely done. ~ Al *the semi serial series skipper*, Goodreads

A light Regency insta-love romance. ~ ML, Goodreads

Evelyn is a delightful entertaining character going from one self made humorous situation to another with her wild imagination that she lets run wild. ~ Claudine, Goodreads

I enjoyed reading this book a lot. Evelyn was funny with a crazy imagination. While Matthew was her opposite in so many ways. Both characters stubbornly refused to back down so you get a battle of wills that is both entertaining & sometime heartbreaking. I am looking forward to reading Jo's & Damian's book. ~ Rosalinda, Goodreads