Dangerous to Hold

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Author: Thornton, Elizabeth
"Once again, Elizabeth Thornton has taken the perfect ingredients--tight plotting, strong conflict, and smooth characters, and sewn them into a seamless romp!"--Literary Times\n\nSearching for his missing wife but finding instead her look-alike, fiery-tempered Catherine Courtnay, Marcus Lytton, the Earl of Wrotham, asks Catherine Courtnay to pose as his wife in order to help his investigation.\n\n"A major, major talent . . . a genre superstar."--Rave Reviews\n\nEditorial Reviews\n\nReview\nIt's 1815, and Catherine Courtnay lives the life of an independent woman in London, writing opinion pieces for one of the city's leading newspapers. Until the evening Marcus Lytton, Earl of Wrotham accosts her outside a brothel, sure she's his missing wife, Catalina. Catherine may look exactly like his Spanish bride, but as he gets to know her, Marcus sees that Catherine is nothing like the deceitful wench who tricked him into marriage and ruined his life three years before. But Catherine may be able to help him anyway. Marcus believes Catalina is in England. He also believes she intends to remain hidden until he has been killed and she can claim the Wrotham fortune. Marcus wonders what his wretched wife would do if her place was usurped, if an impostor paraded around London as Lady Wrotham. It might just be enough to bring Catalina and her helpers out into the open where he can deal with them. To Marcus's surprise, Catherine agrees to his half-witted scheme. Catherine may not be his Spanish wife, but she has her own reasons to hate the Earl of Wrotham. Indeed, her only reason for agreeing to pose as his wife is to bring the mighty Earl down herself. She more than anyone else knows just how black his heart truly is. And finally, irrevocably she is going to make him pay for destroying her life.A page-turning adventure from the very beginning! Don't start this book near bedtime, or Dangerous to Hold will become dangerous to your sleep. You'll have to stay up half the night to find out what happens! Once again, Elizabeth Thornton has taken the perfect ingredients--tight plotting, strong conflict, and smooth characters, and sewn them into a seamless romp! No one knows how to keep the action building better than Elizabeth Thornton!Annette Carney -- Copyright © 1994-97 Literary Times, Inc. All rights reserved -- From Literary Times \n\nFrom the Publisher\n"Spellbinding, intoxicating, riveting . . . Elizabeth Thornton's extraordinary gift for romance is nothing less than addictive. Dangerous to Hold spans three years and two countries, weaving a tale of deception all the while. From beginning to end, Ms. Thornton keeps you interested and wanting more. A definite must read." Hilary Flynn, The Time Machine, May 1996\n\nFrom the Publisher\n"Spellbinding, intoxicating, riveting . . . Elizabeth Thornton's extraordinary gift for romance is nothing less than addictive. Dangerous to Hold spans three years and two countries, weaving a tale of deception all the while. From beginning to end, Ms. Thornton keeps you interested and wanting more. A definite must read." Hilary Flynn, The Time Machine, May 1996\n\nAbout the Author\nBestselling, award-winning author Elizabeth Thornton was born and educated in Scotland and lived in Canada with her husband for more than forty years. She was a teacher, a lay minister in the Presbyterian Church, and a full-time writer. She died in 2010.\n\nExcerpt. ® Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.\nChapter 1\n\nEngland, August 1815\n\nCatherine heaved a sigh, straightened in her chair, and rubbed the small of her back with the knuckles of one hand. Long tendrils of vivid red hair had escaped their pins, and she took a moment to secure them to the loose knot at her nape. A dozen balled papers littered the floor at her feet; ink stained her fingers. She had been writing for hours and she still wasn't satisfied. Though she wanted to stop, she had to continue. Her employer, Melrose Gunn, who was proprietor of The Journal, would expect to have her article on his desk by tomorrow afternoon at the latest. There was another reason for her determination to finish the piece. She really needed the money. She wasn't a pauper by any means. There was this small house and an annuity from her father's estate, but it was barely enough to meet her expenses. Doctors, especially army doctors, did not make a fortune from practicing their profession.\n\nAnother long sigh, then she picked up the pages she had completed and quickly scanned them. This was to be the first in a series of essays describing the atrocious living conditions of soldiers and their families and demanding that the government make radical changes. Now that the war was over, and with Napoleon exiled on Saint Helena, there would never be a better time to implement the changes she was suggesting. And she knew what she was writing about. She should. She'd observed everything with her own eyes when she'd followed her father to Spain, when he'd served in the medical corps.\n\nAccuracy. That was the hallmark of A. W. Euman, the name she'd chosen to write under. If she wrote about Newgate, her readers could be sure that she'd investigated the prison in person. He, not she, she amended. Women were only taken seriously if they wrote tracts on domestic trivia. If they tried to step out of the domestic sphere and use their God-given talents, they were held up to ridicule. It was an iniquitous state of affairs, but that was the way things were. If it became generally known that A. W. Euman was a woman, no one would take her seriously or read her articles, and she would be out of a job.\n\nFrowning, she brought her mind round to the matter at hand. There was something about this article that missed the mark. Then she had it. The tone was wrong. It was too serious, too censorious. This wasn't the voice of A. W. Euman. Humor and irony were the tools he used to make his point. She would have to do it over.\n\nShe groaned and looked at the clock on the mantel. It would have to wait until later. Soon it would be dark, and she had an important appointment to keep. Appointment? She supposed that was the right word for it, though her sister would not be expecting her, not at this time of night. She'd made two attempts to gain admittance to the house during the daylight hours, and footmen had turned her away both times. She'd written letters which had never been answered. This time around, nothing was going to stop her from seeing Amy.\n\nRising, she opened the top drawer of her desk and carefully slipped the pages of her article inside. From another drawer, she withdrew a pistol, a sleek piece of French design that her father had found at the siege of Badajoz. She'd always suspected that it had once belonged to a French officer's mistress, something that had been especially made for her in Paris, though really, Catherine had no way of knowing. As pistols went it was light, much lighter than her father's pistol. It wasn't loaded. From the back of the same drawer, she extracted everything that was necessary to arm the pistol. Her movements were quick and practiced. She'd armed this dainty piece more times than she cared to remember. Her father had taught her how.\n\nShe shook her head at the incongruity of what she was doing. How had it come to this? Who could have foretold that this was the way things would have turned out? Once, a century ago it seemed now, they had been happy in this little house on the edge of Hampstead Heath. It was in the country, yet it was only four miles from the center of London. They weren't rich, but they had never wanted for anything. As the local doctor, their father had good standing in the village. He was an educated man. Their mother was educated too. She'd been a governess at one time and had undertaken the education of her own two daughters. This happy world had shattered the day their mother had come down with a fever. One day later, she was dead.\n\nCatherine was twelve years old when their father's sister had come to look after them. Aunt Bea was much stricter than their mother. Catherine had adapted quite well, but Amy had rebelled. Amy was so much older than Catherine, so much prettier. At eighteen, she'd wanted to go to parties and meet other young people. She'd wanted pretty frocks and dancing lessons and all the things she thought she was entitled to. There had been ferocious quarrels. Amy had taken to slipping away to be with friends whom she never brought home to meet her family. Aunt Bea appealed to their father, but she got no help there. Martin Courtnay was either sunk in despair or off drinking somewhere. It would be a long, long time before he came to accept his wife's death, and by that time, it was too late.\n\nCatherine's fingers tightened on the pistol in her palm, and she asked herself the same question. How had it come to this? She and Amy were the only ones left. She had a sister, yet she might as well be alone in the world.\n\nThe back door slammed, and she heard the soft murmur of voices in the kitchen. It took a moment, but the tightness in her throat eased. She wasn't alone in the world. She had the McNallys with her now. McNally had been her father's batman during the Spanish campaign. Mrs. McNally had been there too, one of the few wives who had been chosen by lot to accompany their husbands to the battle zone. Catherine had to pay her own way out to be with her father, and though he'd forbidden it, she was glad that she had disobeyed him. If she hadn't, they would never have had that last year together, and she would never have met the McNallys. They were servants, and they were so much more. They had been through the perils of war together and that made an enormous difference.\n\nThat thought made her think of the article she was writing. She had to get it done. It wasn't only herself she was thinking about. The McNallys were her dependents. If she couldn't provide for them and pay their wages, she didn't know what would become of them. With so many men returning from the war, jobs were scarce, and the McNallys weren't getting any younger. She had to get that article ready for tomorrow.\n\nSpurred to action, she made for her bedchamber upstairs. Though it was August, there was a distinct chill in the air. She donned her tan coat, noting that the frayed black piping on the sleeves and hem had been replaced. This was Mrs. McNally's doing. Her black calfskin boots had been resoled. This was Mr. McNally's doing. She hadn't done anything to earn such devotion. She was her father's daughter, and that's what counted with the McNallys. Still, it brought a lump to her throat.\n\nShe glanced at her reflection in the looking glass as she began to don her high poke bonnet, and that glance became a stare, a long hard stare. On her next birthday, she would be twenty-six years old. Did it show? She was an aging spinster. Spinster. She hated that word. She studied her reflection anxiously, then became impatient with herself. This preoccupation with her looks was beneath the dignity of a woman who prided herself on her intelligence. Aunt Bea had dinned that into her as she had grown to womanhood. And she wasn't preoccupied with her looks. She wouldn't have given them a second thought if it weren't for this appointment with Amy, beautiful, sophisticated Amy.\n\nShe lowered her bonnet, and gazed blindly at her reflection as the memory of the last time she had seen Amy came back to her. Her friend Emily and her husband had taken her to the King's Theater for the performance of Bacchus and Ariadne. At the intermission, she had looked up at the boxes as Emily pointed out various personages of note who were present that evening. Catherine rarely went to the theater, and she was enjoying herself enormously when her eyes alighted on a beauty who was holding her own private court in one of the boxes. She was surrounded by admiring males. Catherine craned her neck to get a better look at the lady who was causing such a stir, and then her heart stopped beating. It was Amy.\n\n"That," said Emily, in an undertone, "is Mrs. Spencer, you know, London's most sought-after courtesan. They say the Prince of Wales is one of her lovers."\n\nCatherine had felt too ill to reply to this, and anyway, she would not have said anything. Amy was a subject that was too painful to discuss even with her best friend, Emily.\n\nShe shook off that memory and rammed her bonnet on her head, then carefully tucked every strand of her abominable red hair out of the way, concealing it completely. Her hair was sure to betray her identity, and she didn't want Amy's footmen to recognize her until she'd stepped over the threshold. Having tied the ribbons under her chin, she picked up her reticule and slipped the strings over her left arm. There would be no need for gloves. Her mother's fur muff was far more suitable for what she had in mind. It was the perfect hiding place for her pistol.
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