Kasey Michaels

Much Ado About Rogues


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      Praise for USA TODAY bestselling author

      KASEY

      MICHAELS

      ‘Kasey Michaels aims for the heart and never misses.’

       —New York Times bestselling author Nora Roberts

      ‘The historical elements…imbue the novel with powerful realism that will keep readers coming back.’

       —Publishers Weekly on A Midsummer Night’s Sin

      ‘A poignant and highly satisfying read…filled with simmering sensuality, subtle touches of repartee, a hero out for revenge and a heroine ripe for adventure. You’ll enjoy the ride.’

       —RT Book Reviews on How to Tame a Lady

      ‘Michaels’s new Regency miniseries is a joy… You will laugh and even shed a tear over this touching romance.’

       —RT Book Reviews on How to Tempt a Duke

      ‘Michaels has done it again… Witty dialogue peppers a plot full of delectable details exposing the foibles and follies of the age.’

       —Publishers Weekly, starred review, on The Butler Did It

      “Michaels can write everything from a light-hearted romp to a far more serious-themed romance. [She] has outdone herself…’

       —RT Book Reviews on A Gentleman By Any Other Name (Top Pick)

      ‘[A] hilarious spoof of society wedding rituals wrapped around a sensual romance filled with crackling dialogue reminiscent of The Philadelphia Story.’ —Publishers Weekly on Everything’s Coming Up Rosie

      Dear Reader,

      It’s always a bit sad for me when I have to say goodbye to beloved characters. But having been the one to set the Blackthorn brothers on their journeys in the first place, it was wonderful to watch them as they found their way to their destinations.

      You see, with the Blackthorn brothers, as with any book I write, my ‘people’ take over. They go where I never planned to send them, do things that surprise and even shock me, and say things that make me laugh and cry.

      Jack Blackthorn and his Tess, for instance, kept me up nights worrying about them. These are two people who could very easily have become victims, were it not for their strong characters, their determination and the love they share… even when they’re butting heads.

      In all three books, The Taming of the Rake (Beau’s book), A Midsummer Night’s Sin (Puck’s book) and Much Ado About Rogues, there are a lot of outside struggles, dangers to be met and defeated, problems to be solved. But the real stories between the covers are Beau and Puck and Jack, and the sort of men they are… the kind of men they become. And, most definitely, the women who dare to love them.

      Happy reading!

       Kasey Michaels

      Much Ado About

      Rogues

      Kasey

      Michaels

      THE BLACKTHORN BROTHERS

      

       www.millsandboon.co.uk

      To Marcia Evanick,

       one of the best friends a person could have, a marvellous writer and truly the bravest lady I know. I love you, Marci!

      Speak low if you speak love.

      —William Shakespeare Much Ado About Nothing

       PROLOGUE

      DICKIE CARSTAIRS, pudgy of body and pleasantly vacant-eyed, stood a little too close to the yellow circle of lamplight across the street from the Duck and Wattle to remain undetected. That was Dickie’s job, to be detected, and he performed this office with such brilliance that government clerk Miles Duncan was not only confident but smiling as he nipped out the back door of the inn whilst Dickie was so obviously watching the front.

      The smile faded quickly as a firm hand clapped down on his shoulder even as a sharp tug on the satchel he carried relieved him of its burden. “Good evening, Mr. Duncan. Going somewhere? Mind if we join you?”

      Miles Duncan did mind, but not for long, all his earthly cares forgotten as he slipped almost gracefully into the fetid puddle that had once been the contents of several chamber pots recently dumped from an upstairs window. Poor Miles Duncan, another victim of the violent crime rampant in certain quarters of London.

      Will Browning calmly retrieved his knife from Duncan’s mortal remains and wiped the blade on the deceased’s coat. He then slid the weapon into the cuff of his boot before relieving the dead man of his purse and inferior garnet stickpin, to lend credence to the crime of robbery. “Jack? Mind if we join you? What a strange choice of words. Not where he just went if you don’t mind, thank you.”

      Don John Blackthorn, best known as Black Jack, was already undoing the flap of the satchel, to assure himself the pilfered papers the prime minister had commissioned them to retrieve were inside. “Very well, Will. Next time you talk, and I’ll wield the sticker.”

      “Ha! Isn’t it just like you to want the fun for yourself.”

      Jack ignored the remark, knowing Will Browning employed his knife and sword without conscience or compunction. It was probably a good thing he’d found government service; otherwise, he’d have been hanged by now.

      They were an odd trio of rogues. Dickie, third son of an earl, was socially inept, regarded as pleasant enough but rather dim, yet one of the bravest men Jack had ever met. Not just anyone would constantly set himself up as the most visible and vulnerable target. Dickie’s was the public face that made it possible for the rest to work.

      Will was the weapon. Handsome, wealthy, smooth, an impeccably dressed darling of the ton, and always ready with a pleasant word and a smile. His sense of right and wrong, however, was his own, and quite singular. There was a certain civilized madness about Will. If you knew you weren’t quite a friend, you never wished to be his enemy.

      And then there was Jack, the brains and nominal leader of the trio. Jack, who’d never quite felt at home anywhere. Bastard son of the Marquess of Blackthorn, he hadn’t felt at home on the estate, with his brothers, or with the world in general. He was different, and he’d recognized that difference early in life. He had a fire deep inside him, a need that he couldn’t articulate, let alone grasp. That had made him a wild, impulsive youth, and he’d learned life’s lessons the hard way.

      Finding work as one of the government’s most trusted covert agents had fed the fire, for a time. Now he was growing tired of always being on the outside of life, the observer, never a real participant. Once, he’d thought he’d found the answer, a way to the unnameable acceptance he’d always been seeking, the one place where he knew he would fit. But then he’d lost his way, his purpose in living, and knew he could never get it back. Get her back. What he did now was merely exist from mission to mission.

      “It’s all there?” Will asked as Dickie joined them, both of them leaning in to see the contents Jack quickly began returning to the satchel.

      “I wasn’t made privy to an inventory, but there’s enough here that Lord Liverpool should be satisfied,” Jack answered noncommittally. “And more diligent about whom he trusts with the Crown’s business in future. In any event, we’ll be well recompensed for tonight’s work, and that’s what matters—correct, gentlemen?” He hesitated for a moment, and then pulled one of the pages back out of the packet when he saw a name he recognized. “Damn.”

      “Shouldn’t be reading that, Jack,”