Authors: Meagan McKinney
WHEN ANGELS FALL.
Copyright © 1990 by Ruth Goodman. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without permission in writing from the publisher, except by a reviewer who may quote brief passages in a review.
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A mass market edition of this book was published in 1990 by Dell.
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“I’D LIKE A WALTZ, LISSA,” IVAN SAID WITH A WICKED SMILE.
“It’ll be a cold day in—” Before she could even finish her oath, he had taken her by the waist and in moments they were dancing among his guests.
“You are an arrogant, self-serving, licentious, dissolute . . . rakehell!” she whispered furiously.
“Try bastard, sweet. That word always works well.”
“Only because you work so hard at being one,” she hissed.
“Believe me, it takes no effort at all.” His hand tightened at her waist possessively and he swept her toward the balcony. When she tried to pull away he caught her. “Don’t fight me any more,” he whispered.
She shook her head. “Ivan, we’ll destroy each other.”
“So let’s destroy each other,” he answered huskily before claiming her mouth in a soul-searching kiss.
“McKinney’s third novel is her best yet.
Her exuberant sense of wit and style make
WHEN ANGELS FALL the perfect Valentine.”
A Selection of the Doubleday Book Club
Also by Meagan McKinney
MY WICKED ENCHANTRESS
Romance Writers of America Golden Medallion Finalist
NO CHOICE BUT SURRENDER
Winner of the 1987
award for Best Historical Romance by a New Writer
To Vivian Vincenta Koebel
and Anita DiBernardo Kirk,
those dear ladies who look out for my father.
During the Regency period, Parliament standardized titles of the peerage, thus changing the title of marquis to marquess. Those families, however, who had possessed the title of marquis for centuries still retained personal use of that title, and do so to this day, such as the Marquis of Queensbury and the Marquis of Winchester.
Revenge is a dish best served cold
. . .
The gentleman’s house on Piccadilly was elegant, expensive, and aristocratic. But far from awestruck, Holland Jones merely stood before the baroque wrought-iron gates of No. 181, shaking his head.
It was the perfect dwelling for the eleventh Marquis of Powerscourt. The Sir John Soane red brick Georgian had become renowned for its gatherings of wits and beauties, poets and antiquarians. For three years the marquis had lived there, had thrived there, so it would seem. And for three years the marquis had been happy—that is, Holland thought, if happiness could ever be described as passing over the implacable features of Ivan Comeragh Tramore, the eleventh marquis.
Through the bars, Holland took one last look at the house. His position as Powerscourt estate manager had been his birthright, but Holland still found himself dreading any kind of meeting with his relatively new yet already notorious master. The marquis was always civil with those in his employ, but Holland, for his own personal comfort, preferred to avoid the icy pauses and black, brooding stares that the marquis was known for. Holland particularly wanted to avoid them this day because for the first time since he’d been with the new marquis, he had bad news. Resigned to his duties, however, Holland Jones had no other choice but to enter No. 181 and inform the marquis of the current situation of his estates.
The marquis was expecting him. As the majordomo held the door for him, Holland heard bells ringing belowstairs—for brandy, no doubt. Looking up, he saw an abovestairs maid lighting the gasoliers for the evening.
“I suppose he’s in the library?” Holland faced the ma
jordomo and wearily rubbed his eyes beneath his spectacles.
“Hrrrrumph . . . Ah, yessir,” the majordomo answered, clearing his throat and lifting his chin in one practiced motion.
“Then don’t bother to show me the way, my good man.” Holland looked toward the mahogany library door. “I shall face the beast alone,” he added under his breath as he stepped across the black marble floor. Pausing, he ran a finger along his starched collar, shrugged his shoulders, and entered the marquis’s bastion.
The light and the bustle in the hall had no impact on the library whatsoever. Rows upon rows of leatherbound tomes covered the entire four walls, including the back of the door through which Holland had entered. Heavy red velvet draperies were closed against the drafts from the windows. The only light came from a small, lusty fire in the hearth. The flames lit up the huge gold tassels on the pelmets and, also, the unsmiling face of the marquis.
Unwittingly, Holland was once more struck by the incongruity of the marquis to his surroundings. Ivan Tramore was the sort of man one would have expected to find jousting at a medieval tourney, not sitting in a room full of books. He was better suited to armor, and German armor at that, Holland thought unkindly, recalling the particularly evil-looking armor he had once seen at the Queen’s Exhibit. Yes, black steel would have befitted Ivan Tramore far better than the dark trousers and civilized silk paisley waistcoat he was wearing. Holland knew he himself was more suited to a gentleman’s lifestyle than the grand marquis. This thought brought him little comfort, however.
“Very good to see you, my lord.” Holland waited for a nod before he went to the club chair next to the marquis’s. At the hearth, two huge brindled mastiffs raised their heads from the carpet to stare at the visitor. Noting
their unwelcoming stance, Holland took special care easing himself into the chair.
Typically the marquis dispensed with any greetings and proceeded directly to the business at hand. “You’ve been there, then?”
“Yes,” Holland answered, a wariness to his eye.
“And?” The marquis shot him a glance.
“And . . .” Holland straightened, forcing himself to meet his master’s fury head on. “And as expected the castle is in ruinous condition. Being the Powerscourt estates manager, I heartily advise you against removing yourself there.”
Holland peered at the marquis through his smudged spectacles. The marquis did look as if he was taking the news rather well. Ivan Tramore was quiet for a long while, and, as Holland had seen him often do while deep in thought, he rubbed his right cheek. Some time in his past he had acquired a neat slash of a scar there, and, watching his hard, aquiline profile, Holland didn’t doubt the rumors of the widows and the debutantes who had thrown themselves at Tramore’s feet, so enamored were they of that particular scar. Such women had probably read too many penny gothics, he surmised, for he didn’t doubt, either, that the marquis’s fierce countenance had sent just as many women scurrying away.
“How much will it cost, do you think? To put the castle in order.” The marquis’s deep voice startled Holland out of his musings.
“Too much, my lord. A king’s ransom. As we speak, there are rats gnawing at the tapestries—”
“Have I that much? Have I a king’s ransom to restore the castle?”
“My lord, your fortune has at least tripled since you inherited. I think it was your investment in iron that really—”
“So I have enough,” the marquis stated impatiently.
“Aye, my lord.” Holland put his spectacles on his
forehead and pinched the bridge of his nose as if to ward off a headache.
“Good.” The marquis stood and rested his arm on the mantle after motioning Holland to remain seated. “There’s another matter I want you to take care of for me.”
“And what is that, my lord?” Holland lifted his head and let his spectacles fall back onto his nose.
“Miss Alcester. I want her cut off. After next month’s allotment, she is to receive no more money.”
Holland could barely believe what he was hearing. “But, if I may, my lord, you just sent me to Nodding Knoll to check up on her.”