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ZEBRA BOOKS are published by Kensington Publishing Corp. 119 West 40th Street New York, NY 10018 Copyright © 2019 by Jane Feather All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any means without the prior written consent of the Publisher, excepting brief quotes used in reviews. To the extent that the image or images on the cover of this book depict a person or persons, such person or persons are merely models, and are not intended to portray any character or characters featured in the book. If you purchased this book without a cover you should be aware that this book is stolen property. It was reported as “unsold and destroyed” to the Publisher and neither the Author nor the Publisher has received any payment for this “stripped book.” All Kensington titles, imprints, and distributed lines are available at special quantity discounts for bulk purchases for sales promotion, premiums, fund-raising, educational, or institutional use. Special book excerpts or customized printings can also be created to fit specific needs. For details, write or phone the office of the Kensington Sales Manager: Attn.: Sales Department. Kensington Publishing Corp., 119 West 40th Street, New York, NY 10018. Phone: 1-800-221-2647. Zebra and the Z logo Reg. U.S. Pat. & TM Off. First Printing: February 2019 ISBN-13: 978-1-4201-4360-7 ISBN-10: 1-4201-4360-3 ISBN-13: 978-1-4201-4361-4 (eBook) ISBN-10: 1-4201-4361-1 (eBook) 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 Printed in the United States of America

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Chapter One

London, August 1902 Rupert Lacey, as was his habit, moved from sleep to wakefulness in a matter of seconds. He opened his eyes abruptly, aware of the faint gray light of dawn showing between a gap in the curtains and the unmistakable sense that something was happening in the house. There was nothing specific to give him this feeling, no particular sound, just a stirring of the air, a sense of motion. He sat up, reaching for the bellpull on the wall beside him. It was answered within minutes. Davis, his batman, came into the bedroom carrying a tea tray. “Good morning, Colonel.” He set the tray by the bed and went to draw back the curtains. “Seems we have a visitor, sir,” Davis continued, imperturbable as always. “Miss Sommerville arrived a short while ago . . . with her household, it appears.” “Oh, did she indeed?” Rupert took a fortifying gulp of the strong morning brew that his years in

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South Africa had made a morning necessity, swung his long legs out of bed and rose to his feet. He slept naked as always, another habit acquired during the hot African summer nights. He stood for a moment, holding his teacup with one hand, stroking his chin with the other. Then he drained his cup and said briskly, “Pass me my dressing gown, Davis?� He would have preferred to greet Diana fully dressed but there was no time now for such niceties. He had wondered how she was going to react, and when. He had expected her to bring the fight to him one way or another. Diana had never been able to resist a challenge or a battle of wills. But what if her arrival had nothing to do with the will? What if she didn’t know about the will as yet? Dear God, he hoped she did. Either way, all hell was about to break loose. He shrugged into the robe Davis held for him and made for the door, tying the belt securely. He stepped out onto the wide gallery that ran along either side of the horseshoe staircase that rose from the marble-floored hall of the elegant Cavendish Square mansion. He hung back in the shadows for a moment, looking down into the hall at the invasion below. Steamer trunks and hatboxes were piled high, and in the midst of them Diana Sommerville stood, stripping off her gloves, issuing crisp orders to two servants. On either side of her sat two magnificent South African Ridgebacks, the original lion hunters. They appeared placid enough, gazing around them with their sharp, intelligent eyes, their long, sleekly muscled bodies poised for instant movement.

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“Barlow, would you organize the library and yellow parlor for my immediate use? I doubt we’ll have callers for a few days, but just in case, we should have the drawing room fit for visitors as soon as possible. Mrs. Harris, would you go to the kitchen and create order there? I expect it will take some work to put the house to rights again.” A dazzling, conspiratorial smile accompanied her words, and the two retainers returned the smile with understanding nods. “I’ll have it all back to normal in no time, ma’am,” Mrs. Harris declared. “I daresay the Trimballs have done their best to keep the house in good shape, but . . .” She gave an eloquent shrug. Caretakers could not be expected to keep an empty house up to snuff. “Come, Izzy, I shall need your help if Mr. Barlow can do without you for the moment.” She swept away in her black bombazine dress, a small parlormaid trotting at her heels. Rupert hadn’t known how he would react when he saw her again, but now he knew that nothing had changed. He had wanted to punish her for the hurt and disappointment she had inflicted upon him, but all he could see now was that Diana was as wonderful as ever, and he responded as ever to the imperious, arrogant set of her small head, the richly luxuriant coffee-colored hair curled fashionably into a fat chignon at the nape of her long neck, the tall, slender frame that seemed to throb with energy, the pleats in her rich silk skirt moving gently, hinting at the restlessness of the long legs beneath. Such wonderful legs. For a moment, he was distracted by a

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memory of her naked body hovering above him, her legs scissoring his thighs. He stepped forward out of the shadows. “Good morning, Diana.” He rested his elbows on the gilded railing as he looked down. Diana Sommerville’s head jerked upward. She stared at the figure standing on the galleried landing. “You? What in the devil’s name are you doing in my house?” Her eyes were purple fire, her complexion ashen as she stared in bewildered fury at the man she had hoped never to encounter again. He was wearing a brocade dressing gown, the tie accentuating the slim waist and his copper curls fell in that familiar, unruly tangle on his brow. He had just got out of bed. In her house. It made no sense. He couldn’t possibly be here, the man she had sworn never to speak to again. And yet he was. Just as if time had slipped away and it was as it always had been in the days when Rupert Lacey was as welcome on Sommerville property as the Sommerville children themselves. “Get out,” she demanded. “Now.” But to her frustrated bewilderment, she could hear the futility of the demand. She was no physical match for him, and if he wouldn’t go, she couldn’t wrestle him out of the door. But why was he here? Rupert cursed silently. So she didn’t know what had happened. How the hell was he to handle this? “I said, get out of my house,” Diana repeated, ignoring the sense of futility even as she wondered why he wasn’t saying anything. If anything, he looked vaguely discomfited, not an expression she would ordinarily associate with Colonel Lacey.

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“I have no idea how you got in, or why you’re here, but you are trespassing.” Rupert sighed. Explaining this situation to Diana in full combat mode was not something he wanted to do. “As it happens, Diana, I am not trespassing. I assume you have not yet visited Muldoon?” “Muldoon? The solicitor?” She looked even more bemused. “What has he to do with your breaking and entering my house?” “A great deal, as it happens,” he said dryly, beginning to descend the stairs. “Not that I did either of those things.” The two dogs, who had been sitting alert but quiet at Diana’s heels, growled in unison, a deep and threatening sound. Rupert blinked in surprise. He and the dogs were old friends. Nevertheless, he took a step back to the gallery. Diana’s hostility was enough to provoke their instincts to defend her even against someone they had known since they were puppies. Diana laid a hand on each dog’s head, saying softly, “Hera, Hercules.” They subsided, but their eyes never left Rupert and the muscles rippled beneath their sleek coats, their long bodies still very much on the alert. Rupert decided to take the coward’s way out and let a professional handle the situation. Sometimes discretion was indeed the better part of valor. “When did you arrive in England, Diana?” “Yesterday evening, as it happens. But I fail to see what that has to do with your illegal presence in my house.” Her eyes challenged him in a way that was achingly familiar, but he resisted his usual response

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to meet and match the challenge. This was neither the time nor the occasion for the old ways. There’d be opportunity enough later, he was sure of it. “Muldoon will explain it to you, Diana. I suggest you visit him at once. I know you won’t listen to me, but you will listen to him.” Diana turned away from him, her gaze sweeping the mountain of luggage as if somehow its very presence could make sense of this impossible, unbelievable situation. Her butler and personal maid were trying not to look fascinated by the scene being played out before them. They had known Colonel Lacey since he was a lad at boarding school with a penchant for mischievous adventures. And they knew the present state of affairs between Miss Sommerville and the colonel. Diana made up her mind. She couldn’t unravel this craziness alone, and if Muldoon could offer some kind of explanation, she needed to hear it at once. She hated to leave the house with Rupert still in possession, but it seemed the only way, because he clearly had no intention of going anywhere. “Barlow, would you see if the hackney is still outside?” The butler bowed and hurried to the still-open door. Two hackney carriages stood at the door. Both drivers were wrestling with the last few pieces of baggage fastened on the roofs. “Still here, Miss Diana. Still unloading.” He stepped aside as one of the men staggered past with a heavy steamer trunk, setting it down with a sigh of relief. “Then please tell one of the cabbies I need to be taken to Chancery Lane.”

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“Right, ma’am.” He turned back to the still-open front door and sent a piercing whistle through the early morning air. “One of you needs to take Miss Sommerville on to Chancery Lane.” “Should I accompany you, Miss Diana?” asked a thin, angular woman, who had been standing to one side, her sharp gaze moving between her mistress and the man on the gallery as if she were watching a tennis match. “No, thank you, Agnes,” Diana replied. She didn’t need a chaperone, and her personal maid had better things to do in the next hour. Resolutely, she kept her back to Rupert, as if by ignoring him she could convince herself he wasn’t there. “Would you see to the unpacking? I’d like to settle in as soon as possible.” “Indeed, ma’am. Izzy can help me once Mrs. Harris doesn’t need her.” Diana nodded, drawing on her gloves again. She felt very strange, disoriented, bewildered and not really in control of anything, however much she tried to give an impression of imperturbable command. Muldoon, the family solicitor, would restore that control. He’d make damn sure Rupert Lacey left her house in short order. “The cabbie’s ready, ma’am.” “Thank you, Barlow.” She inhaled deeply and walked to the open door, her head high and back straight, telling herself that she was not leaving Rupert in possession of the field. When she returned she would come armed.

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Tempt Me With Diamonds by Jane Feather  

A sparkling new series about love, loss, and lustrous gemstones, from New York Times bestselling author Jane Feather . . .

Tempt Me With Diamonds by Jane Feather  

A sparkling new series about love, loss, and lustrous gemstones, from New York Times bestselling author Jane Feather . . .