Excerpt & Giveaway: Lady Windermere's Lover by Miranda Neville

Lady Windermere’s Lover
The Wild Quartet Series Book Three
By: Miranda Neville
Releasing June 24th, 2014

Damian, Earl of Windermere, rues the day he drunkenly gambled away his family's estate and was forced into marriage to reclaim it. Now, after hiding out from his new bride for a year, Damian is finally called home, only to discover that his modest bride has become an alluring beauty—and rumor has it that she's taken a lover. Damian vows to keep his wife from straying again, but to do so he must seduce her—and protect his heart from falling for the wife he never knew he wanted.

Cynthia never aspired to be the subject of scandal. But with her husband off gallivanting across Persia, what was a lady to do? Flirting shamelessly with his former best friend seemed like the perfect revenge . . . except no matter how little Damian deserves her loyalty, Cynthia can't bring herself to be unfaithful. But now that the scoundrel has returned home, Cynthia isn't about to forgive his absence so easily—even if his presence stirs something in her she'd long thought dead and buried. He might win her heart . . . if he can earn her forgiveness!

Attending the theater with the Duke of Denford was not the wisest way for Cynthia to spend her first evening back in London. He’d escorted her before, to plays, the opera, and less decorous events like masked balls at the Pantheon. But this was the first time she’d been out with him when she, Denford, and her husband were in the same country.
Receiving word from the Foreign Office of Windermere’s imminent arrival from Persia, she’d pressed the horses over winter roads from Wiltshire, thinking she’d find him already at home in Hanover Square.
Her stomach fluttering, she had climbed down from her chaise and up the steps into the marble hall. She found all serene: no excitement at the presence of the master of the house, no evidence of luggage from abroad. The Earl of Windermere wasn’t at Windermere House. The servants hadn’t seen him or even heard of their master’s return. The surge of optimism that she’d maintained for two days on the road dissipated like heat through a leaking roof. There and then, Cynthia determined to deny that foolish hope had ever existed.
There was no reason to be disappointed, she told herself firmly. Disappointment suggested the existence of expectations. Cynthia would be a fool to expect anything from Windermere. He hadn’t disappointed her, merely let her down. During just over a year of marriage, most of it spent apart, Damian Lewis, Earl of Windermere, had been consistent in that regard.
Lord Windermere might not have been present to greet his faithful wife, but the devil next door was. Not half an hour after her arrival from the country, the Duke of Denford stepped along the pavement from his house and welcomed her home as Windermere had failed to do. Despite at least two very good reasons why she should refuse, Cynthia was now dressed in her favorite evening gown, sitting in a box at Drury Lane with temptation incarnate.
I didn’t expect to see so many people in town just before Christmas.” She leaned over the rail, peering at the sweep of seats opposite, five tiers of them, thronged with increasingly well-dressed patrons, ranging from clerks and servants in the highest gallery under the roof, down to the expensive and fashionable boxes nearest the pit. She and Denford occupied one of the latter, the sidewalls of which offered an illusion of privacy, despite being open to the gaze of the world.
What an excellent box, Julian. You know I like being near the stage.”
You also like being invisible to most of the gossiping tabbies.” He knew as well as she that her flouting of convention was largely bravado. Fewer than half the occupants of the vast horseshoe-shaped theater could see the inhabitants of the front boxes.
I don’t even know why I worry about being discreet. I’m not well-known in town.” She waved her hand to indicate the opposite seats. “It’s quite possible that not a soul in the place knows who I am.”
They know me.”
That’s because you are notorious and therefore interesting to everyone.”
The world is filled with fools.”
She turned to look at her companion, whose low voice dropped to an impossibly deep bass when he was particularly amused or especially cynical. His appearance alone was enough to make him stand out. His tall, lean figure was habitually clad in unrelieved black—this evening in satin breeches and an evening coat and waistcoat of velvet embroidered in black silk. Even his neckcloth was black. The gloom of his costume enhanced the satanic effect of dead-straight black hair, which he wore long and tied back in a queue with a silk bow. He sat upright beside her with arms extended, hands resting on the silver-chased knob of the ebony walking stick he rarely left at home. His dependence on the elegant staff was an affectation for a man under thirty in perfect health. Some people, including Cynthia, found it amusing. Others found it just one more reason to detest him. The Duke of Denford had plenty of enemies.
I believe you enjoy shocking people, Julian.”
Denford’s mouth curled unpleasantly, then the thin face with the hawkish nose made one of the mercurial transformations that fascinated Cynthia, and had sent her scuttling out of town a few weeks earlier, terrified she would succumb to the heady seduction of the duke’s brilliant blue eyes.
I enjoy shocking you,” he said. A man shouldn’t be allowed such devastating features, especially when he had the ability to change them from ice to fire beneath her gaze.
I’m not as easy to shock as I was when we first met.”
No,” he said. “Thank God for that. You have become a fascinating challenge.”
It didn’t seem possible for pure sky blue to exude heat, but Denford’s eyes made every inch of her skin flush warm. How did he manage it? Without moving a muscle, he examined her face with concentrated intensity for some seconds, then his gaze dropped to the white expanse of her bosom, the bodice cut so low that the blue silk and lace barely concealed her nipples. She felt them hardening, and a curl of fire kindled in her in belly. A familiar sick panic gripped her chest at the clash of attraction and repulsion, longing and fear.
She jerked her head toward the stage and stared at the obstinately closed curtain. Surely it was time for the play to begin.
Why did you leave London?” The question was almost a whisper, close enough to caress her ear.
Anne wanted to go to Wiltshire,” she said with determined nonchalance. “As her temporary chaperone, naturally I had to go with her.”
Was that the only reason?”
Why else?”
It was true, in as far as it went. Her houseguest Anne Brotherton had a reason to visit Hinton Manor, where she’d remained. But Cynthia had seized on the excuse it offered to escape Denford’s dangerous attentions. And Denford knew it.
You like to accommodate your friends,” he said.
Am I your friend?”
She laughed nervously. “Of course you are.”
I look forward to being accommodated.”
Her laugh degenerated to a titter. She grew warmer and more panicked, torn between the competing urges of flight and surrender. Desperate to break out of the sensual net he wove about her, she resorted to frankness. “I’m not like this, Julian,” she said, staring with dogged, unfocused eyes at the mass of humanity in the crowded pit. “I am the daughter of a clergyman. I am married. I would never break my marriage vows.”
Would you not?”
I will not.”
She sensed him retreat, lean back in his chair. Julian had always been clever that way. He would press her so far, then withdraw before she became alarmed and ran away. Except that one time. The one kiss. Which had resulted in her fleeing London and the temptation to sin.
Because she was, despite everything, a married woman and she would not betray her husband, however much he might deserve it. Besides, she wasn’t sure of Denford’s motives.
He desired her. She did not believe that his carnal interest was feigned. But he had also once been her husband’s best friend.

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 Author Info
Miranda Neville grew up in England. During her misspent youth she devoured the works of Georgette Heyer, Jean Plaidy, and any other historical novels she could lay hands on. As a result she attended the University of Oxford to study history, ignoring all hints that economics might be a more practical subject. She spent several years writing catalogs of rare books and original letters and manuscripts for Sotheby’s auction house in London and New York. Much of her time in this job was spent reading the personal correspondence of the famous. This confirmed her suspicion that the most interesting thing about history is people.
Since moving to Vermont, she has worked in Special Collections at Dartmouth College and as an editor and journalist on Behind the Times, a small, idiosyncratic (and now defunct) monthly newspaper. She is the owner and editor of a weekly advertiser in the Upper Valley, a job that leaves her enough time to write fiction.
Her first book, Never Resist Temptation. was published by Avon in 2009. The first two books in the Burgundy Club series will be published in 2010.
She lives with her daugher, Becca, a college student and confirmed drama queen, and two cats who are never on the right side of any door.

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