Winter glared at the butler for making him feel guilty. “No. Call for my horse. I’m going out.”
“You just returned home, my lord.”
“Are you my keeper now?”
Ludlow’s mouth had gone so thin, it was nearly invisible. “Someone has to be.”
“Now, see here—” Winter had had just about enough. He turned to give the man the blistering he deserved and stiffened as the front door to his house crashed unceremoniously open, letting in a burst of cool, fragrant wind.
A cloaked vision stood there as the enticing waft of flowers slammed into Winter. He couldn’t see beyond the heavily-brimmed bonnet, and for a moment, he thought the actress, Aline, had changed her mind about a frolic in the sheets with Matteo.
But Aline was petite. This new arrival was not.
Ludlow rushed toward the door in greeting, and froze as the woman chuckled and said something to him in a low, sultry voice. He couldn’t quite see the butler’s face. He also couldn’t catch the lady’s tones to recognize its owner, but they were decidedly refined. Most of his callers were from the demimonde, but the occasional aristocratic lady still found her way to 15 Audley Street looking for trouble and a tumble.
He caught his breath as Ludlow took her cloak, and her bonnet was removed in slow motion. A skein of silken, wheat-colored hair shook loose and a heartshaped face came into view with glowing pinkened cheeks. Full, luscious lips parted, and he exhaled as a pair of unforgettable frosted-ocean eyes met his.
Recognition and lust hit him like a runaway carriage.
Because the stunning, surprising, and gracefully elegant vision standing in his foyer was none other than his lady wife—the Marchioness of Roth.
What the bloody devil was she doing here?
Winter stood stock still in utter disbelief as liquid heat unraveled in his groin, bursting through his veins like the fireworks over Vauxhall. He blinked, but the vision did not dissipate. Time had only fulfilled its promise with her youthful beauty, and the svelte changeling who now stood in his bride’s stead was a radiant goddess.
“Husband,” she said in a low greeting that went straight to his groin.
“What are you doing here?” he choked out.
A blond brow arched. “This is your home, is it not? And by extension, mine as well?”
The corners of those kissable lips drifted upward at his curt denial. “Whyever not? Surely you haven’t forgotten you have a wife? Despite not having seen you in years, I hadn’t expected you to be in your dotage at so young an age, my lord.”
His jaw slackened. Winter was at a loss. He simply could not reconcile the confident virago who stood on his threshold with the demure, shy mouse he’d left behind three years ago. That girl had been unable to look at him without blushing. Without complete adoration glowing in her gaze. This woman looked like she could tear him apart with her eyes alone, chew him up and spit him out…spent, trembling, and gratifyingly wrecked.
To his utter dismay, the crotch of his trousers crowded to the point of pain, arousal shunting through him like a flood.
In three years, his attraction to her hadn’t abated in the least. No, it had grown like a furtive beast, feeding on the scraps of his memory. The fragrant scent of her, the slick velvet feel of her. The moans she made as she came apart, her body convulsing around his, and his given name a benediction upon her lips. He’d hoarded the precious fragments like a beggar hoarding coin.
“This is no place for a lady. You should be at Vance House,” he told her in a hoarse voice. His father’s ducal residence was a few streets away, which, while still not far enough away, was not here.
Disdainful eyes traveled the ostentatious decor of the foyer and then flicked to his disheveled form. In his current state, cravat missing and coat discarded, Winter knew he looked like he’d been well and truly corrupted by his evening activities, even though he had spent the better part of four hours at his club poring over tedious expense accounts. Hence his rumpled appearance, though she wouldn’t know that.
A tiny grin touched her lips, throwing him for a loop.
Did she find something amusing?
“What’s wrong with me staying here?” she asked innocently, though her arctic eyes warred with her soft words. For some reason, Winter had the feeling his wife was furious, though nothing showed in her calm demeanor…except for those eyes that glittered like sharpened ice, threatening to dagger him at any moment. The contradiction thrilled him and irritated him all at once, sliding under his skin like silk over a blade.
“It’s a gentleman’s residence.”
“Naturally,” his wife interrupted, retrieving her cloak and bonnet from Ludlow, who stood with his mouth uncharacteristically agape. She favored the butler with a sweet smile that made him snap to attention, a smitten look clouding his normally austere features. “You are right, my lord. I do intend to stay at Vance House.” Her mouth curved more as she turned back toward Winter, the decadent curve of those plump lips knocking him like a hammer to the ribs. “Your father insisted, of course. But I wanted to inform you myself that I was in town.”
Winter scowled at the mention of the duke, his eyes narrowing at the fact that his father had known of his wife’s visit. “Why are you here, Isobel?”
“A marchioness should be at her husband’s side, don’t you think?” A pair of brilliant, jewel-hard eyes speared him, daring him to challenge her. “I’m here for the season.”
“The season?” he echoed, his brain slow on the uptake.
“Yes.” His marchioness smiled, that full pout twisting in a way that made him suddenly want to do untoward, debauched things to it. “We wouldn’t want the ton to think you’ve lost your touch, would we, Winter?”
His eyes narrowed. “In what way?”
“That the Marquess of Roth can’t handle his own wife.”
The words registered like fired shots. Winter blinked. Did his prim, shy bride just insult his masculinity? But then something like excitement licked up his spine. Strangely, it was the most alive he’d felt in months. Years. A slow grin replaced his scowl. His demure kitten had grown into a feline with razor-sharp claws, but whatever game his little wife intended to play, Winter would see it won.
And then he would send her back to Chelmsford.
“Trust me, love, you couldn’t be more wrong.”
The Marchioness of Roth turned in a vicious whirl of satin skirts and glanced over her shoulder in the doorway, a sultry gaze boring into his, one that promised both satisfaction and destruction in equal measure. “Prove it then, love.”
She made those four parting words sound like a gauntlet: See you at dawn.
Winter stood there, stunned, for several loud heartbeats after his wife had left, leaving shrapnel in her wake.
Ludlow pinned him with a gratified expression. “So, roses to Vance House, then, my lord?”
“Sod off, Ludlow.”
From the look of his wife, he was going to need a lot more than roses.
© Amalie Howard, Entangled, 2021. Reprinted with permission from the publisher.
The Regency Rogues #2
In this game of seduction, the rules don’t apply. . .
As owner of the most scandalous club in London, the last thing the notorious Marquess of Roth wants is a wife. Keeping up his false reputation as a rake brings in the clients with the deepest pockets–money he needs to fund a noble cause. Even though everything inside tells him not to leave his beautiful, innocent wife behind at his country estate. . .he must.
But three years later, tired of her scoundrel of a husband headlining the gossip rags, Lady Isobel Vance decides enough is enough. She is no longer a fragile kitten, but as the anonymous author of a women’s sexual advice column, she’s now a roaring tigress. . . and she can use her claws.
Isobel decides to go to him in London, channeling her powers of seduction to make him beg to take her back. But she didn’t expect her marauding marquess to be equally hard to resist. Now the game is on to see who will give in to the other first, with both sides determined like hell to win.
Romance Historical [Entangled: Amara, On Sale: February 9, 2021, Mass Market Paperback / e-Book, ISBN: 9781682815151 / eISBN: 9781682815168]
About Amalie Howard
AMALIE HOWARD grew up on a small Caribbean island where she spent most of her childhood with her nose buried in a book or running around barefoot, shimmying up mango trees and dreaming of adventure. Twenty-five countries, surfing with sharks, and several tattoos later, she has traded in bungee jumping in China for writing the adventures she imagines instead. She isn’t entirely convinced which takes more guts. She is the award-winning author of several young adult novels critically acclaimed by Kirkus, Publishers Weekly, VOYA, and Booklist, including Waterfell, The Almost Girl, and Alpha Goddess, a Spring 2014 Kid’s INDIE NEXT title. Her debut novel, Bloodspell, was a #1 Amazon bestseller, and the sequel, Bloodcraft, was a national IPPY silver medalist. She is also the co-author of the adult historical romance series, The Lords of Essex. As an author of color and a proud supporter of diversity in fiction, her articles on multicultural fiction have appeared in The Portland Book Review and on the popular Diversity in YA blog. She currently resides in Colorado with her husband and three children.