BOOK BLURB: Amongst the gossip-hungry ton no name has become more synonymous with sin than that of Lady Caroline Rider. Cast out by her husband and disowned by her family, rumor has it that the infamous ‘Caro’ is now seeking oblivion in the opium dens of London!
There’s only one man who can save her—notorious rake Sebastian Conway, Marquis of Ardhallow. With Caro installed in his country home, warming his bed, their passion may not be enough to protect them once news of their scandalous arrangement breaks out…
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The woman was lying with her back to the door, her figure obscured under a swathe of shawls and embroidered throws. It wasn’t her, and even if it was, he had sworn he would have nothing to do with her ever again. If she chose to make herself insensible with opium, it was none of his business.
Thus spoke his head. Sebastian’s feet were already moving of their own accord towards the divan, his heart thudding hard and fast in his chest, his skin suddenly clammy with sweat. If it was indeed her, and he simply couldn’t bring himself to believe it was, then the wisest thing he could do would be to turn around and leave forthwith.
He leant over the divan and roughly pulled back the covering from the comatose woman’s body. She did not stir. Sebastian swore heavily, reeling with shock. He barely recognised her. Thin, painfully so, under the emerald gown which hung loosely around her, the only sign of life was the pulse fluttering under the fragile skin at her temple. He cursed again. Her eyes were closed. Wisps of copper hair clung to her high forehead, which had a glistening sheen of perspiration. Her hand, when he touched it, was clammy. The skin which had once been so milky-white was ashen. Her cheekbones were too prominent, flushed not with health but fever. Her mouth, whose sensual, teasing smile he had once found irresistible, was drawn into a tight grimace.
Beneath her lids, her eyes fluttered. Her hand gripped him like a claw and she moaned, a tiny, hoarse sound of protest against the opium-induced hallucination she was experiencing. Hers had always been the kind of beauty which reflected her mood, sometimes in full bloom, at others so withdrawn into itself as to make her look quite plain. Now, she looked more like a cadaver than a living, breathing woman.
Scarcely-breathing woman, Sebastian corrected himself as he bent his head towards her face. Her breath was the merest whisper upon his cheek. What had happened to her? The woman he knew was so strong, so full of life, so vibrant. She had been patently unhappy when last they met, but this stupor went way beyond the seeking of painless escape. What had befallen her to make her so careless of her life?
Telling himself again that it was none of his business, he knelt down next to the prone figure, a terrible suspicion lodged in his head. Her lips were cracked and dry. He bent closer and touched them with his own, the merest contact, yet enough to confirm his fears. She had not smoked the drug but consumed it. ‘Caroline?’
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AUTHOR INFO: Marguerite Kaye writes hot historical romances from her home in cold and usually rainy Scotland. Featuring Regency Rakes, Highlanders and Sheikhs, she has published almost thirty books and novellas.
When she’s not writing she enjoys walking, cycling (but only on the level), gardening (but only what she can eat) and cooking. She also likes to knit and occasionally drink martinis (though not at the same time).