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WHAT IT’S ABOUT:
Angelica Douglas has no idea that she’s the Countess of Melrose. What she does know is that she needs to support her family as a card shark, while finding a way to seek revenge on the men who ruined her father and sent her family spiraling down into poverty.
Robert Campbell, Marquess of Argyll, heir to the Duke of Inverary, has no idea who Angelica truly is. He just wants to watch over her and make her his mistress.
Angelica thinks Robert is simply a dashing rogue who is far too dangerous for her peace of mind. Robert thinks Angelica is an angel except when she’s being a pain in the behind.
When Robert finds out that his own father may have been one of the men who ruined Angelica’s family, he vows to keep a careful eye on her. When Angelica finds out that Robert’s father may have been one of the men responsible, she vows to stay as far away from Robert as possible. But when danger threatens, both Robert and Angelica must face the truth and let fate take the upper hand.
“I would love to throw with you,” answered a voice in a tone suggesting intimacy.
The crowd parted for the handsomest man Angelica had ever seen. Older than she by ten years at least, the black-haired and dark-eyed English Adonis carried his tall, well-built frame with athletic grace. Though commonly dressed in black breeches and white shirt, the man had the bearing of an aristocrat.
Sacred sevens, Angelica thought, his devilishly good looks startling her. She felt as if Old Clootie, in all his sinful perfection, had stepped out of the crowd to lead her astray.
Towering over her, the man stood ten inches taller than her petite height of five feet, two inches.
Angelica tilted her head back to look into his black eyes.
Long moments passed. The sights and sounds and scents of the crowded Midsummer Fair disappeared as they gazed into each other’s eyes.
Recovering herself, Angelica gave him a sunny smile and produced a pair of ivory dice. She offered them to him for his inspection. Their fingers touched as he lifted the dice out of her hand; a jolt of excitement shot through Angelica, and she wondered if he felt it, too.
“I’m Robert,” he introduced himself in a husky voice. “What’s your name?”
“Are you a good angel or a bad one?” Robert teased her.
“I was wondering the same thing about you,” she answered.
He smiled at that and asked, “How much have you won today, angel?”
“Then let’s set the stake at four pounds,” Robert suggested.
Angelica hesitated and worried her bottom lip with her small white teeth. If she lost the whole day’s earnings on one toss of the dice, her family would go hungry. But if she won, she’d have eight pounds for her day’s work. Ensuring her own victory wouldn’t be difficult, but this man frightened her in some indefinable way.
“Four pounds,” Angelica agreed, unable to resist the temptation of doubling her winnings.
“What’s your main?” Robert asked, passing her the dice without bothering to inspect them.
“Seven.” Tossing twelve or crabs was the only way to lose by choosing seven, but there was no chance of that happening with her loaded dice.
Angelica shifted the dice back and forth in her hands, as if trying to get the feel of them. When she tossed the dice, a four and a three came up.
“Let it ride,” Angelica said, casting him a side-long glance, hoping to double the eight pounds.
Robert inclined his head. He placed eight pounds down to match the eight on the table.
“Sacred sevens,” she whispered, and tossed the dice. This time a six and a one showed up.
Angelica gifted him with a sunny smile and dragged the sixteen pounds closer. Good Lord, her family could eat on this for a month. If her father didn’t steal it for drink . . .
“Do you play?” she asked him, feeling confident.
Robert fixed his dark gaze on hers, and Angelica suffered the uncanny feeling that he knew she was cheating. Then he dropped sixteen pounds on the table.
A four and a three appeared on her next throw. Angelica stared at the thirty-two pounds she’d won. “Let it ride,” she said, casting him a flirtatious smile.
Surprising her, Robert dropped thirty-two pounds on the table. Angelica tossed the dice; a five and a two appeared.
“This must be your lucky day,” Robert remarked in an amused voice. Carelessly, he dropped sixty-four pounds on the table and challenged her. “Will you let it ride, angel?”
Shocked by the size of his bet, Angelica flicked out her tongue to wet her lips. Should she meet his challenge?
Angelica tossed the dice. A six and a one showed up.
“I’ll pass,” she announced, dropping the one hundred and twenty-eight pounds into her pocket.
Afraid to look at her victim, Angelica walked away without another word. She hadn’t gone more than a few feet when someone grabbed her arm. She whirled around, ready to defend herself.
“May I escort you home?” Robert asked, his smile charming.
Angelica was instantly suspicious. Did he want to steal her winnings? Or was his intention even more sinister? He was incredibly handsome, but her family came first. They depended on her for their survival.
“No, thank you,” she refused.
“You need protection,” he told her. “You carry a great deal of money.”
“Who will protect me from you, sir?” Angelica asked, arching a perfectly shaped brow at him.
“You don’t trust me?” Robert asked, giving her a lopsided grin.
“I trust no one,” she told him. “Especially men I don’t know.”
“We are merely friends who haven’t known each other very long,” Robert argued. “I let you cheat me out of a hundred and twenty-eight pounds. The least you can do is allow me to escort you home.”
“I never cheat,” Angelica insisted, and walked away.
“I suppose you don’t lie either,” he called.
Angelica quickened her pace. She squelched the urge to turn around to see if he was following her.
ABOUT PATRICIA GRASSO:
Patricia Grasso is the author of eighteen historical romances including the Douglas Series which follows the love stories of the amazing Douglas sisters (Angelica, Samantha and Victoria) in Regency London.
Her books have won various awards including the National Readers’ Choice Award, New England Readers’ Choice Award, the Romantic Times Reviewer’s Choice and KISS Awards as well as the B. Dalton and Bookrack Awards for bestselling first-time author.
A native of Massachusetts, Patricia makes her home in the Boston area. She earned Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in English and, for many years, used her “leisure” time to teach in a public high school.