Title: Tempted by a Rogue
Author: Lauren Smith
Genre: Historical Regency Romance
Release Date: September 21, 2015
Cover Design: Aleta RaftonSummary:
The rogue’s temptation would be her undoing…
Gemma Haverford knows exactly who she will marry: James Randolph, the man she’s had a secret understanding with for the last eleven years. With every letter written between them while he's been off at sea, their love has grown. Now they will be reunited with his return to England.
There’s just one problem. The man whose words she'd fallen in love with isn’t James at all…
Jasper Holland, a gentleman rogue of the first order, is trapped. Talked into a scheme by his best friend, he pretended to be James for eleven years as he wrote to Gemma, even though he'd promised James he’d break it off. But now with his return to England, his secret will come out—and he’ll lose the one woman he can’t live without.
What began as a game of words, now becomes a game of hearts, and Jasper will pay any price to call Gemma his.
James take Gemma back? That was the last thing Jasper wanted. It was also the last thing James wanted. He had his sights on Arabella now and would be announcing their engagement soon.
“No, he would not hear of any excuse, no matter whose lips did the begging. He’s not the man for you anyway, there are better men out there. Men who would love you to distraction, who would want to spend every night in a garden with you. Forget James. You’ll thank me for it later.” He prayed she’d understand one day that his deception would help her. It had hurt him to betray her like he had, she was so damned lovely, so perfect in so many ways, and knowing he’d taken away her dreams hurt him as much as she was hurting. As soon as she opened her heart again, he would be there to claim her.
“Please Jasper…” she begged softly, her sweet voice a plaintive bird’s frightened trill. The shattering pain in her eyes killed him. She was a strong woman, and he’d broken her.
Hellfire and damnation, I ought to be hanged for what I’ve done.
“It would do no good…” he repeated, wishing for her sake she would not cry.
She did. The well of tears came first, glistening in her eyes like vibrant, shining jewels, then the trembling shoulders, and at last the choked sound in her little throat.
It broke him into a thousand pieces, scattering like dust in the breeze. All that cool restraint he’d been gripping tooth and nail to keep was gone.
Gemma tried to step around him, to flee the isolated confines of the small garden shed. It was too intimate a space for them both to share, not while her despair and his desire wreaked havoc on them both. Their bodies brushed against each other, fraying his control with the soft promise of what it would feel like to hold her, to ease her pain.
He blocked her path to the door, but she tried to slip to the left, one trembling gloved hand reaching for the iron door handle, but he flung his hands out barring her way to freedom. The moment he wound his arms around her waist she railed against him, fists curled tight, beating his chest. The blows didn’t hurt though, and he let her strike out, deserving every stinging punch she gave him.
“Gemma, I’m sorry, truly I am.” Take out your anger on me, little one, I’ll still hold onto you for the gift you are. The gift he wished he could lay claim to now. Knowing he couldn’t, created a sharp ache inside his chest. She would need time to come to terms with James, and he still had the problem of his confession with the letters. He didn’t want to tell her, but he knew he had to. He was damned either way.
“How could you? How could you do this to me? I hate you! Do you hear me? I hate you Jasper!” she hissed, her fingers digging into his chest, clawing uselessly at his well-protected body. Her voice had risen in pitch when she’d shouted her last statement. Jasper sighed, thankful she’d fled to a place where no one would find them…or hear them.
He pulled her tighter to him, holding her firmly, but gently while she cried herself into a soft exhausted state. Having her in his arms felt so right. He knew he shouldn’t be thinking that, and not just because he was the one who’d made her cry. This woman was too good for a man like him. He’d done a lot of things in his life he wasn’t proud of. He’d killed men in the heat of battle, he’d seen friends blown to pieces when cannon balls exploded across the decks of his ship.
Every minute he’d been fighting for his life, trying to save himself and his crew from being killed, captured or drowned; it had been this woman here in his arms that had kept him alive. Jasper had fought to stay alive because of her. Her letters had given him courage and strength. Before every battle at sea, he’d wrapped her latest letters in a flat package and secured them against his heart beneath his shirt and uniform. Like a romantic fool, he’d wanted to have that little bit of her close to him, should he perish.
And she’ll never know, can never know how much I needed her these last few years. How she saved my life by simply writing back to me. And I’m the bloody bastard who ruined her because I couldn’t say no to James.
James had forced him to choose between him and Gemma. Could he deny the man who’d saved his life countless times whatever he asked and in turn hurt the woman he’d come to cherish more than his own life. A devil’s predicament with no easy answer except that he was damned no matter who he chose. And he had the sinking feeling he should have protected Gemma over James, not that it would have helped. James would have broken her heart no matter what because he wouldn’t let himself fall for any woman, not when it would create a weakness in him that could be exploited.
His throat tightened and he closed his eyes, hating that so many lies rested between them, lies she didn’t even know he’d told.
“There now, shhh,” he hushed her gently, whispering against her ear. Every little choked sound escaping her lips was slicing him deeper and deeper inside. “Please, darling, I need you to dry your eyes.”
If she didn’t stop crying soon, he’d do something they’d both regret and enjoy. He’d have to kiss her and make her smile.
Lauren Smith is an attorney by day, author by night, who pens adventurous and edgy romance stories by the light of her smart phone flashlight app. She’s a native Oklahoman who lives with her three pets: a feisty chinchilla, sophisticated cat and dapper little schnauzer. She’s won multiple awards in several romance subgenres including being an Amazon.com Breakthrough Novel Award Quarter-Finalist and a Semi-Finalist for the Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley Award. Lauren loves hearing from readers and can be reached through her website.