The Viscount’s Wicked Ways

The Viscount's Wicked Ways Cover

A brooding and mysterious viscount with too many secrets…An earnest young woman with a penchant for trouble and a taste for unraveling mysteries…

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Excerpts
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The Viscount’s Wicked Ways
Anne Mallory
April 2006
ISBN: 0-06-087292-6

Back cover blurb

He has a way with women…
Thomas Ashe, the brooding Viscount Blackfield, is a man any lady would shun. But Patience Harrington, try as she might, has never been a proper lady. Her bumbled London season left her with no marital prospects and no recourse but to accept her father’s invitation to travel to gloomy Blackfield Castle. Surely, spending a few nights in the presence of priceless antiques and a devilish viscount can’t be as bad as facing the ton gossip.

Focused solely on his secret government project, Thomas cares little for the valuable antiques he’s recently inherited. The troublesome young woman who has come to assess them, however, stirs his senses in every way. Patience is a distraction Thomas can ill afford – a beautiful temptation that makes him ache with desire. For a spy is threatening to destroy all he has built, and Patience is hiding something. With so much at stake, Thomas must do whatever it takes to seduce the truth from Patience’s lips before lives – and his own heart – are lost.

Reviews

I found the THE VISCOUNT’S WICKED WAYS to be as charming and irresistible as the viscount himself! Anne Mallory gives classic romance a fresh and delightful spin with her clever plots and winning imagination.
-Teresa Medeiros, author of After Midnight

Every historical romance fan will LOVE this story. Anne Mallory brings to life characters who will steal your heart and give you warm fuzzies all day long…It’s a real page turner and a keeper for every historical romance fan.
-Debbie – Read the full review at A Romance Review

Mallory’s novel approach to the far more serious Gothic will have readers grinning more than shivering with suspense. She breathes fresh air into the tried-and-true, and her talents seem to grow with each charming tale.
Kathe Robin – 4 Stars – Read the full review at Romantic Times

The Viscount’s Wicked Ways is filled witty dialogue, fun characters, and plot twists that keeps the reader turning the page. Anne Mallory has written another must read. Bravo!
Anne Lum – Read the full review at Writer’s Unlimited

…a fun gothic historical romance that uses amusing scenarios to refresh and lighten the usual serious tone of the sub-genre.
-Harriet Klausner – Read the full review at The Best Reviews

…a charming romance filled with Gothic overtones…
-Suan Wilson – Read the full review at Fresh Fiction

The story is fast paced and filled with people who pique our interest and make us want to get to know them better… THE VISCOUNT’S WICKED WAYS is a juicy romp through English society and its foibles. Perfect to read on the patio with a glass of ice tea this spring…
-Carolyn Crisher – Read the full review at Romance Reviews Today

Excerpt #1 – meeting

The same curiosity that had caused her to open the door at the Speckling Rout when she had heard moaning and stifled screams, only to discover Lord Seagram doing interesting things to Lady Hillshine, prompted her to open the door here too.

Except for a faint light cast by a softly banked fire in the grate, the room was dark.

Patience stopped, listened, then cautiously slipped inside. A window was sliding upwards. A flash of lightning highlighted a figure wearing a pointed collar drenched in blood as he grasped the open window ledge. A scream stuck in her throat as the vampire hauled himself up and over the sill, his long cloak slithering behind.

Recovering from her initial shock, Patience grabbed the first objects at hand, statues that had been displayed on twin pedestals near the door. Arms outstretched, she crossed the statues before her.

“Stop! Fiend!”

The vampire dropped to the floor and raised his dark head in surprise. “Who the devil are you?”

She shook the statues at him, keeping them in a crossed position. “Go on, get out of here. The lord of the castle and his servants will be here shortly. Best get out while you still are able.” Her voice wavered as the figure stepped forward.

He snorted and brushed water, not blood as she had initially thought, off his sleeves, before removing his wet cloak and casting it aside. “Now that would be amusing. Go tell the lord of the castle that I’m waiting.”

Well, he wasn’t acting like she assumed a vampire would, but he certainly looked the fiend, shadows clinging to his form, cloak enveloping him in darkness. She wasn’t going to get close enough to examine his teeth for verification though.

“Well?” he asked, a touch impatiently.

In her imaginings, Vampires weren’t impatient. They tended toward guile and seduction. Hence, the intruder obviously wasn’t a vampire, but a…

“Thief!” She exclaimed. A thief obviously touched in the head. In the latest novel she had read, the heroine had successfully negotiated with the insane madman and appealed to his better nature. “Go on, leave now before they arrive, and you won’t get hurt or jailed.”

Firelight illuminated sardonic features. “You’re going to hurt me with those?” He pointed to the statues before turning his back, completely ignoring her.

“Wh-what, yes!” She waved them, not needing to hold them crossed anymore since she had ruled him out as a vampire, but he didn’t seem impressed or concerned.

What to do next? As a guest at the castle, she felt obliged to prevent a robbery, but she wasn’t foolhardy enough to think she could do this man bodily harm. He outweighed her by at least four stone. A well-muscled four stone from the breadth of shoulder and fit of his trousers. She would need help in her adventure.

The thief lifted two logs from the firebox and placed them on the coals. Grabbing a poker he shifted the wood and stirred the embers, nursing the fire to life. Patience shivered. The long trip, the chill of the night and her nerves had finally caught up with her.

He must have seen it. “Miss Whoever-You-Are, put those statues down and come sit by the fire before you collapse.” He ran a hand through his drenched hair, spraying droplets of water in every direction. Clumps of raven locks fell across his face in a decidedly wicked manner. He turned and opened a lacquered cupboard.

Thieves did not light fires, then rummage through liquor cabinets. At least none in her frame of reference. Her imagination once more disappointingly turned into reality.

He seemed to find what he was looking for and poured himself a glass. “Port?”

She shook her head, and he sat down and swallowed a healthy portion. “I’m not gong to harm you. The door is partially open, and you can always scream for assistance. A loyal retainer is bound to come running,” he said softly, but added with a sneer, “I can assure you that my intent is not to steal any of the viscount’s priceless relics.”

He motioned to her. “Come and sit down. I don’t bite. Much.” He raised a mocking brow and revealed a mouth full of straight white teeth without a point in sight.

Intrigued, despite herself, with the miscreant who was obviously not a thief or vampire, she sat in a chair across from him, and maintained a firm grip on both statues.

Patience studied his features and allowed the fire to warm her. He wasn’t classically handsome, but there was a definite virility to his features, a rakish quality, that probably earned him a faithful following among her gender. Dark slashing brows and brooding features. Perfect for a dark, yet heroic and redeemable vampire. Yes, the kind of man who would love deeply, and perhaps tragically. The kind of man-

“Invited by Caroline, were you?”

Caught in her musings, she looked at him in surprise. “Ah, yes, were you invited as well?”

He snorted, but continued to drink. “I’m sure to be on the morrow. Can’t have female guests at the castle without my attendance.”

“I’m not sure I understand, sir.”

He waved a hand in dismissal without answering. He drained the glass and set it down on the table with a thud. Lounging back in the chair while tapping a finger on the arm, he openly studied every detail of her traveling attire. She stilled her hand from smoothing the skirt. She now understood how the antiquities she examined would feel if they were animate – catalogued from top to bottom. His eyes lingered on her lips then rose back to search her eyes.

“What are you doing back here, in any case? Shouldn’t you be with a chaperone?”

Patience shifted uncomfortably. “Yes, well, it was a long trip and the servants disappeared before they could direct me to the necessary area.”

His eyes lit with amusement. “So you endeavored to find the ladies area on your own?”

“Yes,” she said a bit defiantly.

He leaned forward and did another slow perusal of her body. “I don’t know that I believe you. Seems more likely that you were looking for someone. A rendezvous, perhaps?”

His words were no worse than any of the others in the last few months. But still, they stung. Patience stood. “I did no such thing. But I think I’d best find someone who knows you. I have only your word that you should be here.”

His hand shot out and gripped her chin before she even realized he too was standing. “Oh, but I can’t let you leave just yet. You are the first interesting woman Caroline has brought this way.”

Despite her pique and general, although sometimes skewed, preservation instincts, the scent of something spicy and warm and the touch of his hand as he dragged it along her jaw caused fairies to dance in her stomach.

“I’m not sure…” Patience’s voice faltered as he leaned toward her. The firelight slashed across his features, and the mischievous look in his eyes mesmerized her as if she were in a vampire’s enthrall. The fairies began a rousing jig as she was drawn to him.

Knock, knock. “My lord?”

The man drew back and looked at the door, his hand still moving across her jaw, his thumb skimming her bottom lip. “Yes, Kenfield?”

About to move into his fingers’ caress, she froze in sudden recognition. Startled eyes locked with his. “You-you’re the viscount?”

One eyebrow rose. “At your service, Miss…?”

“Harrington,” she whispered, shock holding her immobile.

Kenfield pushed open the door and only a slight twitch belied his own shock at seeing Patience with the viscount in a nearly closed room. “My lord, Lady Caroline is in the drawing room attending to some of the guests.”

“Ah, yes. I saw the coaches. I suppose you came with them?” The viscount directed the question to Patience.

Now that she had time to assimilate the information, she couldn’t believe she had missed the obvious. Of course, his entry through a window had thrown her for a loop. Why in Hades had he not used the door? The viscount was reputed to be eccentric, but Patience hadn’t heard he was crazed.

The viscount was eyeing her, obviously amused, and she realized he had asked her a question. “Er, yes, we all came together.”

“What was the excuse this time? Come to see the summer wildlife? The Rose Garden? Aunt Caroline’s collection of posies?”

“Excuse me? I don’t understand.” Then it dawned on her what he was implying. She pulled herself upright. “We are here to catalog George Ashe’s collection.”

The mocking smile, and in fact all of the amusement, abruptly dropped from his face, a cold, chilly look replacing it. He looked at the butler. “So the cataloguers have arrived?”

“Yes, my lord, I was going to remind you earlier, but you were out. We tried to find you when they arrived.” He didn’t have to repeat “but you were out,” but it lingered in the air. Where had the viscount been on such a night? And why had he returned through a window?

“Thank you, Kenfield.” He turned back to Patience, a cold mask in place, the mocking look had returned, but without any of the earlier warmth. “So you are here to catalog my uncle’s relics. We should return you to the drawing room, Miss Harrington. Surely your fellow travelers are worried.”

He moved toward the door and she followed, confused and trying to reason why he had gone from amused seducer to forbidding lord so quickly. Was he upset over the donation of the collection? But, no, George Ashe had been dead for over a year. It was reputed that the viscount was on excellent terms with Lady Caroline, George’s widow. Surely if Blackfield had wanted to keep the collection, Patience’s group would not be there to catalog and transport it. Had he changed his mind? She had never heard of him being interested in antiquities.

The butler shut the door behind them and followed the viscount, who was walking quickly, almost as if he were trying to put as much distance as possible between Patience and himself. When they reached the main hall, the viscount mockingly swept his arms toward the drawing room.

“Enjoy your stay at the castle, Miss Harrington.”

Feeling completely confounded by his behavior, she nodded and walked to the drawing room. She was within five paces when a whispered voice near her ear stopped her. “If I could have my Canovas back, Miss Harrington.”

She turned quickly to find him right behind her, his features cold and inscrutable. Flustered, she thrust the Canova statues into his outstretched hands and walked into the room.

#

Thomas Ashe, tenth Viscount Blackfield, watched her disappear into the drawing room, obviously confused by his abrupt change of demeanor. He admired the regal way she moved, shoulders back and head held high, spectacled dark eyes staring straight ahead. She moved with poise, not even the black tendrils escaping from her floppy bun disturbing the picture of quiet confidence.

It was good that she was an antiquarian. He had felt something. A spark. And sparks were dangerous.

He had forgotten himself for a moment. Yes, dangerous indeed.

Excerpt #2 – passion

The footsteps neared, then stopped. Patience closed her eyes, praying for deliverance. The pendulum of the longcase clock swung in measure with her racing heart. Time seemed suspended. Eventually, the person moved on, and she exhaled the breath she had been holding.

A hand shot out and grasped her arm, pulling her against a hard body.

“And what do we have here?”

Nerves gripped her as she recognized the viscount’s voice. “I was just picking up a book. I couldn’t sleep.”

“It’s late to be out. People could get the wrong impression.” His breath tickled her neck and she involuntarily moved back against him. “Or have the wrong intentions.”

Her muscles tightened. She stepped away and twisted to face him. “That they could. You should heed your own advice, my lord.”

She was pleased to note that her voice was cool and calm, in direct contrast to the rest of her body.

The viscount let go of her and leaned negligently against the doorframe. “And why would I do that? Of what do I need to heed?” He leaned forward, his lips inches from hers. “This is my domain, and I can take what I want.”

She forced herself to remain still, not wanting to give an inch.

His expression was both smirking and triumphant, and it was mixed with something she couldn’t identify. “I have never claimed Patience, perhaps I should work on that besetting sin.” And the last inch of space between them was lost.

Excerpt #3 – irreverance

The atmosphere inside the study was heavy with the smell of cleaning solution and anticipation. A fire crackled merrily in the hearth. The room’s shadows were warm and mysterious in the firelight. Thomas swirled a drink, the amber liquid clinging to the sides of the glass before sliding back to the base.

Patience walked around the room, absently inspecting the books on the shelves and a fresco on the wall that she hadn’t yet had a chance to study. It was of a man holding the world in his hands. The man bore a passing resemblance to Thomas.

Thomas smirked. “The second viscount. He had quite a good opinion of himself.”

An influx of cherubs sprawled across a fresco on another wall, much different in nature to the hero-centric designs of the second viscount’s. Thomas caught her gaze. “The third viscount fancied himself in love. Those were created for his bride Mary-”

“How lovely.”

“-who went on to have a lusty affair with their neighbor, Lord Pillenhurst.”

Patience blinked. “Well, the cherubs and turtle doves are lovely at least.”

Fun facts

The Viscount’s Wicked Ways was previously titled “Beneath A Wicked Sky.” (Amazon even had it listed under that title for about a month).
Prior to that it was titled “The Secrets of Blackfield Castle.”
Prior to that it was titled “The Thomas Ashe Affair.”
Prior to that it was titled “Pride and Patience.”
Prior to that it had the working title of “Gothic Charm.” I knew that one was going nowhere. :D

Inside the book

The Viscount’s Wicked Ways contains a fishing scene. I come from a fishing family, so looking up the history of fly fishing was great fun. Even more fun was finding pictures that somewhat emulated the scene in parts. While visiting a pub next to Hampton Court, my mom discovered and graciously shot the following two pictures of caricatured fly fishing scenes from the Regency time period (Thanks, Mom!). The first one is captioned, strangely enough, “Patience in a Punt.” The Viscount’s Wicked Ways was already written and into production stages when she took these shots. Seeing as my heroine’s name is Patience and she fishes in the book, we found the coincidence hilarious. :D

Patience in a Punt – click on the picture to see a bigger shot.
Patience in a Punt

Taking a Fly – click on the picture to see a bigger shot.
This print is of a fly fishing scene, also from the pub near Hampton Court. Click on the picture for a bigger pic that also includes the frame and the wall on which it is hung. :D
Fly Fishing

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