Title: Highway Revenge
Author: Nadine Millard
Genre: Regency Romance
Publisher: Blue Tulip Publishing
Evelyn Spencer has spent the last ten years living in her uncle’s house and longing for the day when she can leave and make her own way in the world.
When she finds out her uncle’s terrible, hidden secret, Evelyn decides that she will first get revenge then leave and never set eyes on her wicked uncle again.
Everything is going according to plan…until Viscount Andrew Ashdon comes along.
Andrew has been coerced into coming to spend a dull few weeks at his friend’s country estate. Used to intrigues, seductions and debauchery as a spy for the Crown, Andrew can think of nothing worse than rusticating in the country with no one around to entertain him…until he meets Evelyn Spencer.
The race is on for Evelyn to get the proof she needs to prove her uncle’s deception and the last thing she needs is to be distracted by the devilishly handsome, rakish Lord Ashdon.
Can she achieve the impossible with Lord Ashdon’s help, by finally getting her revenge? And, more importantly, can she do it while keeping hold of her heart?
Being alone with her thoughts on a darkened, rarely used road was not good for her frame of mind, Evelyn decided.
For one thing, it left her to stew over her uncle’s horrid betrayal and her complete inability to do anything about it.
For another, it gave her far too much time to remember every tiny detail of her encounter with Lord Ashdon and his magical lips, the touch of which still felt imprinted on her own.
Evelyn lifted a hand to her mouth and pressed her fingers to the spot that still tingled in remembrance of his touch.
Perhaps she hadn’t handled the aftermath in the sophisticated, worldly way she would have liked.
Sprinting back to the house, nearly bursting a lung in the process, then barricading herself into her room with another faux headache was neither sophisticated nor clever, as it turned out, since she had both Anna and Jonathan demanding that Mr. Carver, the aptly named surgeon be called.
It took so long convincing them that she was perfectly fine, that she’d had a genuine headache by the time they left and she’d been grateful for Molly’s herbal remedy and insistence that she be left alone in a darkened room.
Lord Ashdon hadn’t asked after her welfare at all, she thought snippily.
Which just went to show; the man was a veritable rake who had felt nothing when they’d kissed and should be avoided like the plague.
And Evelyn had every intention of staying as far away from him as humanly possible from this day forward.
“Lovely evening for a robbery, my lady.”
Evelyn screeched in fright as a deep, mellifluous voice penetrated the still night air, and she nearly fell off her horse as she spun to see to whom it belonged.
But of course. She already knew, didn’t she? Nobody else’s voice had the power to completely steal her breath away.
And wasn’t that just the way her luck had been going anyway? When she’d decided to avoid him, lo, here he was, ruining her robbery again.
“What are you doing here?” she demanded indignantly as she tried to keep control of the stallion who she’d once again frightened half to death.
I’ll make it up to him, she assured herself, choosing to ignore the fact that the list of living things she was having to make things up to was growing steadily by the day.
“Oh, I’m just out for a night-time ride. May I enquire as to what you’re doing?”
His faux politeness was stirring her temper, but she refused to give in to it. The best way to deal with the interfering cad was to coolly dismiss him, then ignore him.
“You may not,” she snapped, her tone as freezing as she could make it. “Good evening to you.”
“Oh, come now, my lady. What harm in having a friendly chat?” he asked jovially as he moved his horse to stand beside hers.
“I am not your lady,” she retorted. “I am a dangerous, hardened criminal, and you are interfering yet again in my robbery.”
“But, of course. A thousand apologies.” He swept his hat off his head and executed a dramatic bow that almost unseated him from his mount.
Evelyn gave a regal nod of her head, which she hoped was dismissive enough for even this most obtuse of men, then turned again to concentrate on the empty road.
“And how is the business of robbing passing carriages? Slow? Lucrative?” he continued in that polite tone that would have been better suited to a ballroom in the height of the Season.
Evelyn took a calming breath and pointedly ignored him.
“Of course, I, myself, would never rob someone. Too ethical, you understand. But I can appreciate that some highwaymen do quite a trade in the area.”
Evelyn clenched her teeth so hard she was afraid she’d never pry them apart again. Still she remained silent.
“But then,” he continued, and she wanted to smack him again, all thoughts of their earlier kiss forgotten in her rage, “I have never known a woman to be involved in the business. You’ll forgive me if I think that rather singular.”
Evelyn gazed at the stars and counted to ten, trying desperately to calm her beating heart, to unclench her death grip on the reigns. Poor Midnight was having a horrid time of it with her. There weren’t enough apples in the world to make up for it. Not if she were to bake John Coachman’s pies too.
“And, you must admit, my dear, you aren’t very good at it, are you?”
“That is it,” she snapped and whirled round to face him. “Whatever is the matter with you?” she began. “I’m not going to rob you, and I want absolutely nothing to do with you. Nothing,” she emphasised as she leaned toward him. “So why do you insist on bothering me?”
He merely smiled as though he found the whole thing vastly amusing.
She growled low in her throat.
“Pardon me, my dear, but did you just growl?”
“I am not your bloody dear,” she exclaimed. “For heaven’s sake. Just leave me alone. You go your way, I’ll go mine, and that will be that.”
With that, she turned her horse once more and pointedly ignored him.
“I’m afraid I can’t do that.”
“Because, you are a mystery that I am determined to solve, since there are so many which are apparently too far out of my reach,” he grumbled with a frown, and Evelyn thought for one mad moment that he was speaking of her.
Her, Evelyn. Not her, mysterious highway non-robber.
“There is no mystery. Nothing to solve. I just choose to earn a living this way. That’s all there is to it,” she said decisively. She didn’t need him poking around in this as well as everything else.
Any answer he would have made was silenced by the distinct sound of approaching hooves.
Evelyn’s heart flew into her mouth.
“Did you hear that?” she asked, all animosity forgotten.
He merely nodded, watching carefully now as he usually did.
“It seems a victim is approaching.”
She tried not to flinch at his words but victim made the whole thing seem so, well… so criminal.
Perhaps she would just pretend to rob this carriage.
After all, he’d seen her again now, so there was no cause to ever do this again.
If she got rid of him quick enough, she could just loop round and go back to the manor house the long way, avoiding being seen by him, and leaving the occupants of the carriage robbery free.
Suddenly feeling much better about the whole thing, she smiled brightly.
“Well, it’s been nice knowing you,” she said and stuck out her hand, “but as you see, I have work to do, so I’ll bid you good evening.”
He glanced down at her hand and then back up at her and moved his mount closer, leaning forward to peer closer still.
“You know, you seem terribly familiar.”
Evelyn just stopped herself from leaping back in horror. Oh God, he couldn’t recognise her!
“I hardly see how,” she mumbled.
He was silent for a moment before releasing a sigh.
“No, I suppose that is impossible. Apparently, the Fates have a wicked sense of humour, throwing two impossible women with devastating eyes and annoying habits into my path.”
Evelyn was momentarily distracted by his complimenting her eyes before his words registered.
“I am not annoying,” she said, mightily affronted and doubly so, since she was both women.
“Oh, but you are. Not as much as she, I’ll grant you, but then I haven’t had the pleasure of your company as much,” he continued wryly.
“Well, you’re not exactly pleasant to be around either, sir,” she quipped.
She really shouldn’t be enjoying this.
“Me?” he widened his eyes innocently, and Evelyn had to bite the inside of her mouth to keep from laughing.
But this was no good! She needed to get rid of him so she could leave before the carriage arrived.
“Yes. You. Now, if you don’t mind I have a — er — job to get on with.”
“Oh, don’t let me stop you,” he said with a smile.
Her own smile froze.
“Wh-what do you mean? You can’t stay here?”
He shrugged his large shoulders with enviable nonchalance.
“Why not? I must admit I find the whole thing fascinating, and while I heartily disapprove, I find myself unwilling to leave you to your own devices, should anything bad happen.”
Evelyn felt her jaw drop open at his words.
He’d risk being caught here, risk being thought of as a criminal because he didn’t want to leave her alone?
The thought was humbling, and it also served to soften her toward him, which wouldn’t do at all. She needed him to leave. And quickly.
“But, you can’t risk being seen here,” she stuttered. “Suppose you should get caught. S-surely a man of your stature cannot risk such a thing.”
He raised a brow.
“What do you know of my stature?” he asked.
Blast. She’d slipped up again.
“N-nothing. But, well, I just assumed—“
“There you go with those assumptions,” he said smoothly. “No need to worry yourself about it, in any case. The problem will be mine to deal with, should anything go awry.”
Oh, but he was exasperating.
“But why?” she wailed.
He was once again ruining everything.
“As to that, I cannot tell you. I only wish I knew myself,” he muttered as much to himself as to her. “But, here I am. Unwilling to allow you to be caught or put into any sort of danger.”
It was a peculiar thing, Evelyn thought as she rubbed at a sudden headache, being jealous of oneself.
Clearly, Lord Ashdon cared a great deal about the highwaywoman she was. And yet, he had kissed her to, so intensely this morning in the gardens.
What a brute!
Well, she would never allow him to kiss her again, and that was that.
Even though he didn’t know who she currently was, he had known perfectly well who she was this morning, and he had no business getting himself embroiled with some woman now. The logical part of her brain tried to remind her that she was the some woman, but she had no interest in that.
The point was that he didn’t know who she was…
The thought brought Evelyn up short.
He didn’t know who she was!
Evelyn Spencer, lady of quality, good, well-behaved, docile miss couldn’t allow a rakish lord any liberties.
But a mysterious, masked female who lived outside the law? Well, couldn’t she do just about anything she wanted?
Her mouth curled into a slow grin as the possibilities flitted through her mind. This could be rather wonderful. Perhaps being a highway robber for a little longer wouldn’t be so bad after all.
Nadine Millard is a writer hailing from Dublin, Ireland. Although she’ll write anything that pops into her head, her heart belongs to Regency Romance.
When she’s not immersing herself in the 1800s, she’s spending time with her husband, her three children, and her very spoiled Samoyed. She can usually be found either writing or reading and drinking way too much coffee.