His name is William Pilcher,” said Catherine’s brother. “And it’s no wonder if he stares. He has proposed to marry you.”
Catherine choked on her champagne. From her vantage point across the crowded room, William Pilcher made a very poor picture. It was not his looks to which she objected; he had a blandly handsome face, square and straight-boned, and a full head of brown hair. But he hunched in his seat with the gangly laxity of a scarecrow leaking its stuffing.
That posture was probably intended to convey a fashionable insouciance. But it looked distinctly foolish on a man in his forties. Indeed, Mr. Pilcher’s confidence annoyed her. At the beginning of the musicale, she had noticed how fixedly he gazed at her. That was not unusual; men often stared. But by the third aria, Pilcher’s look had grown lecherous. Realizing now that he had finally caught her eye, he offered her a thin, twisting smile. He was congratulating himself, no doubt, on encouraging a spinster’s dreams.
Catherine snorted and turned to her brother. At last, she understood his mood tonight—the high color on his face, the poorly restrained excitement. “Peter.” She spoke in an undertone, as the soprano launched into Verdi’s “O Patria Mia.” “For the final time. You will not choose my husband.”
It was a matter of private regret that she resembled her brother so closely. The cross look that came into his face, and the temper that narrowed his lavender eyes, mirrored her own—as did the fall of blond hair he brusquely hooked behind his ear. “You make no effort to find one,” he said. “And Mr. Pilcher is a fine choice. Assistant chairman in the St. Luke’s vestry, with no small prospects. Besides, he has agreed to your terms.”
Astonished, she opened her mouth—then thought better of it as the soprano descended into a low, soft note that provided no cover for arguments. Instead, she clutched her program very tightly and glared at the small type: “An Evening of Musical Delights from Italy.”
For weeks now, ever since Catherine had broken her engagement to Lord Palmer, Peter had been harassing her to find a new suitor. He claimed to think of her happiness. She was nearly twenty-seven, he pointed out. If she did not marry this year, she would remain a spinster. By the terms of Father’s will, you cannot assume equal governance in the company until you are wed. Isn’t that your wish?
But her happiness did not truly concern him—much less the power she might gain, once she married and became his full partner at Everleigh’s. What he wanted was to marry her to some man who would forbid her to work at all. Then, Peter would have free rein to loot the place. He was already embezzling from the company to fund his political ambitions. He imagined she didn’t notice, that her attention was swallowed wholesale by her duties. But he was wrong.
And now he’d solicited a stranger to accept her terms? He could only mean the marriage contract she had drawn up with Lord Palmer. But that had been the product of a different moment: Palmer had needed her aid in drawing out a villain, and she, having just discovered Peter’s embezzlement, had felt desperate for a powerful ally who might force her brother into line.
In the end, fate had saved her from the rash plan to marry. Palmer had fallen in love with heRomance sizzles between a famous heiress and an infamous crime lord in this fourth sexy novel in the Rules for the Reckless series from the USA TODAY bestselling author of Fool Me Twice.
THE WALLFLOWER They call her the “Ice Queen.” Catherine Everleigh is London’s loveliest heiress, but a bitter lesson in heartbreak has taught her to keep to herself. All she wants is her birthright—the auction house that was stolen from her. To win this war, she’ll need a powerful ally. Who better than infamous and merciless crime lord Nicholas O’Shea? A marriage of convenience will no doubt serve them both.
THE CRIME LORD Having conquered the city’s underworld, Nick seeks a new challenge. Marrying Catherine will give him the appearance of legitimacy—and access to her world of the law-abiding elite. No one needs to know he’s coveted Catherine for a year now—their arrangement is strictly business, free from the troubling weaknesses of love. Seduction, however, is a different matter—an enticing game he means to ensure she enjoys, whether she wishes to or not...