Judith Malory knelt in front of the window in the bedroom she shared with her cousin Jacqueline, both staring at the ruined house behind the Duke of Wrighton’s mansion and formal gardens. Although Judith was the older of the two young women by a few months, Jack, as her father had named her just to annoy his American brothers-in-law, had always been the leader—actually, instigator was more like it. Jack said that she was going to be a rake, just like her father, James Malory. Jack said she was going to be a pirate, just like her father. Jack said she was going to be a superlative pugilist. . . . The list went on. Judith had once asked her why she didn’t have any goals to be like her mother, and Jack had promptly replied, “But that wouldn’t be exciting.”
Judith disagreed. She wanted to be a wife and a mother, in that order. And it was no longer a faraway goal. She and Jacqueline were both turning eighteen this year. She’d had her birthday last week, and Jacqueline would have hers in a couple months. So they were both going to have their first Season come summer, but Jacqueline’s debut was going to take place in America instead of London, and Judith didn’t think she could bear not being able to share this occasion with her best friend. But Judith still had a couple of weeks to figure out how she could change this disagreeable arrangement.
The daughters of the two younger Malory brothers, James and Anthony, the girls had been inseparable for as long as they could remember. And every time their mothers brought them to visit their cousins Brandon and Cheryl at the duke’s ancestral estate in Hampshire, they’d spend hours at this window hoping to see a light glowing eerily in the ruins again. The night they’d first seen it had been so exciting, they couldn’t help themselves.
They’d only seen the light on two other occasions since then. But by the time they’d grabbed lanterns and run across the extensive lawn to reach the old, abandoned house on the neighboring property, the light had been gone.
They’d had to tell their cousin Brandon Malory about it, of course. He was a year younger than they were, but it was his home they were visiting, after all. The Duke of Wrighton’s title and estate had passed to him through his mother, Kelsey, who had married the girls’ cousin Derek. His parents had elected to move into it when Brandon was born, so he would grow up aware of his stature and consequence. Luckily, being a duke hadn’t spoiled him rotten.
But Brandon had never actually seen the light himself, so he wasn’t the least bit interested in the vigil tonight or any other night. He was currently on the other side of the room engrossed in teaching Judith’s younger sister, Jaime, to play whist. Besides, having just turned seventeen, Brandon looked more like a man than a boy, and not surprisingly, he was now much more interested in girls than ghosts.
“Am I old enough now to be told the Secret?” Brandon’s younger sister, Cheryl, asked from the open doorway to her cousins’ room.
Jaime Malory leapt up from the little card table and ran over to Cheryl, grabbing her hand and pulling her forward before turning to her older sister, Judith. “She is. I was her age when you told me.”
But it was Jacqueline who answered, scoffing at her younger cousin, “That was just last year, puss. And unlike you, Cheryl actually lives here. Tell her, Brand. She’s your sister. She’d have to promise never to go investigating on her own#1 New York Times bestselling author Johanna Lindsey returns to the dazzlingly passionate world of the Malorys, an aristocratic family of rakehell adventurers and spirited ladies, in a thrilling new tale of unbridled desires.
Judith and Jacqueline Malory are not simply cousins; they are inseparable best friends. Refusing to miss Jacqueline’s come-out in Connecticut, Judy convinces her parents, James and Georgina, to let her delay her London debut by a few weeks so she can accompany her cousin. Neither girl intends to fall in love during her first Season. But Judy’s plans are overturned when aboard ship she comes face-to-face with the ghost who has been haunting her dreams.
Unknown to the Malorys, deckhand Nathan Tremayne is a smuggler with a noose around his neck. Determined to carry out a covert mission in America that could gain him a pardon, Nathan senses that Judith is trouble. Somehow the minx knows his secret—and now she’s blackmailing him into doing her bidding—teaching her how to climb the rigging and how to kiss. While passions can soar on the high seas, Nathan knows this aristocratic beauty is merely amusing herself with a scoundrel like him.
When the unthinkable happens in Connecticut and the elder Malorys’ hands are tied, Nathan takes command of a dire situation. Captaining his own ship, he turns the tables on Judy and steers them into uncharted waters, where a lady might just throw caution to the wind and give her heart to a scoundrel.