A ruined woman, two powerful
men . . .
Elizabeth Beckenham, a strong-willed, passionate young woman with no future except to serve as companion to her cousin in her uncle's house.
Adam Black a wealthy, handsome rogue, born on the wrong side of the blanket, determined to buy his way into the peerage by marrying a title.
David, Earl of Leicester, a wealthy aristocrat at the top of ton, entirely unaffected by society's mores.
Three strong characters, a single raging romance . . .
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EXCERPT: After the men ate, they drifted away, their dishes piled into the basket with little care for breakage. Three, including Adam, strode down the beach for a morning walk, while another pair set off for the house in search of a fishing pole and line. Only David remained to sit beside her in the sunshine. Seated a respectful distance away, he offered her another glass of wine. "Really, its wonderful what amusement women provide," he said when she declined. "A meal outdoors, such a novel concept. Rather more wholesome than we are used to." "I'm sure," Elizabeth offered with a small smile, "you gentlemen are quite capable of feeding yourselves." "Don't be too sure," David replied as he fell back onto the sand. “We've been known to starve for days.” For a time they sat in a companionable silence, Elizabeth watching the waves while David appeared to sleep. His words, when he spoke, surprised her, "How long have you been with our man Adam, if you don't mind my asking." Elizabeth debated her response, deciding that she had no reason to lie. "That is a difficult question. I've been under his protection, in the most innocent sense of the word for about a month. But . . . very recently things changed . . ." She stopped, not knowing how to continue. "I see. You are the first woman I've ever seen him actually care for. He’s never taken a mistress," David replied, his tone conversational. “Not that he's never had a woman-” Elizabeth made no comment, wondering where this might be leading. Surely men did not discuss one another with lovers, did they? On the other hand, she wanted to hear what he might say. "Adam can be a hard man. He's brutal, even dangerous from time to time. He has a number of lower class attitudes . . ." David didn’t look at her, as though their discussion were of something quite remote and unimportant. "Really," Elizabeth replied. Where was all this leading? “A dislike of mistresses is a common affliction among the lower class?” "By and large," David replied with a smile. "Sin, infidelity, those are ideas that are easily out grown when the opinion of others is of no consequence." Though his tone was light, it was apparent to Elizabeth that he only half jested. "Perhaps we who are born to our position," he continued, "can be flexible. Immorality, except as narrowly defined as cheating at cards, ceases to have real meaning." "Goodness," Elizabeth found it hard to conceal her amusement, "I am sure this conversation will come to a point soon." At this David sat up, his tone still conversational although his eyes were very serious, "You are a beautiful woman, obviously in love. I think it is a pity that you have selected Adam for your first . . . experience. He is not an easy man, and his own personal demons, shadows from his past, will quickly come to trouble you." "Your concern is kind," Elizabeth replied, "albeit unwelcome. You know nothing of me, and I find your . . . interest in my life . . . offensive." "So you should," David conceeded, "I should not offer advice to someone I don't know." For a moment he was quiet, openly staring at her as she packed up the last of the meal she had brought to the beach. "When the time comes, if it comes, that you need a new protector, I hope you will consider me," he said suddenly. Before she could protest, he went on, "Here is my card. Go to the address I've written on the back - I'm never at the other place - and ask for me." When she would have handed the card back, he held up his hand. “I've known Adam since he was a school boy. Take the card in case I'm correct. That is . . .” and he paused as if considering his words carefully, “unless you have somewhere else to go.” (You can read four chapters online for free at http://www.ruinedromance.com)