My newest release, In Bed with the Earl, features an unlikely Regency hero. He was born to nobility, was kidnapped, and grew up in the roughest streets of London, as a ‘tosher’…a sewer scavenger. Nothing about Malcom or his past is in any way conventional, but he also represents how our pasts shape who we are. And there is no doubting, his past molded him into who he is… a man who doesn’t let people close…and who protects what he does have. Which is why…when he does meet Verity, someone who wants to be close for him (first, for reasons related to her work…and then, the more she knows him, simply because she’s falling for him) he resists.
People are impacted by life, in different ways. We all have many layers; and for Malcom, those layers are protective ones; a shield to protect himself from being hurt…because he’s already known so much. Yes, he’s coarse and ragged, and rough, but beneath that, readers (I hope) will see what Verity sees…that he has a good heart, and is deserving of a happily-ever-after, not only for who he is to others, but because, with the life he’s lived, he deserves it for himself.
“May I help you, Miss Lovelace?”
That lethal purr sounded from the front of the room, a silky taunt.
With a gasp, the page slipped from her fingers and fluttered to a damning place at her feet.
Mr. Bram yanked the cloths from his eyes, and he took in Verity beside Mr. North’s open desk. And all the color left his face. “Oh, bloody hell.”
Oh, bloody hell, indeed. And all thoughts of having been rescued by a savior, and even the importance of this story, fled in the face of the danger staring back at her in his ruthless gaze.
He is going to kill me…
Verity swallowed hard. “If you’ll excuse us?” Mr. North murmured.
Verity took a step toward the door.
“Not you, Miss Lovelace.”
Mr. Bram climbed awkwardly to his feet. “Oi’m so sorry,” he said hoarsely, an apology that went ignored by Mr. North.
Her heart lurched. Every muscle in her body lurched. This was bad. Which would have been the understated statement of the century. She curled her toes into the soles of her borrowed slippers and followed the stranger’s—nay, he was no longer a stranger in name—the Earl of Maxwell’s gaze. As dread slowly wound its way through her, Verity curled those digits all the tighter.
And as it was all the easier to focus on matters within her control, she looked to her older patient as he limped across the room. “Be sure and try out those remedies, Mr. Bram.” She felt Mr. North sharpen his gaze on her person. “And I’ve something that might help with that limp, too,” she promised.
The older man stopped. “Do ya, now?”
She may as well have promised him the sun, moon, and stars for the way he looked at her. “Oh, yes. You’ll require—”
“Bram,” Mr. North snapped, and the older man instantly scuttled off, but not before flashing her an apologetic look.
“It is really not Mr. Bram’s fault. He’s not done anything wrong. You really shouldn’t take your…”
Not taking his eyes from her person, he reached behind him with an agonizing slowness and drew the door shut. Click. That soft but decisive snap that served as a seal of her fate.
Just like that, Verity’s bravado flagged. She clutched at the fabric of her skirts. Wanting to be the composed reporter gathering her research, and undaunted in the face of peril.
And she came up … pathetically empty.
That cold smile affixed to hard lips remained in place, a grin that no person would dare mistake for anything but the feral threat it was. He pushed away from the door and started a languid stroll toward her.
Had she truly been relieved about determining the identity of her savior and captor?
It was now all muddled.
“Now, Miss Lovelace? If that is your name?”
“M-my name?” Wasn’t it? Even her name eluded her in that moment. “Of course it is.” Her voice ended on a croak as he drew ever closer; the ice that frosted his gaze sprang her to the reality now facing her, the menace that spilled from his broad frame. Mayhap she’d been wrong. Because she’d experience with earls—was, in fact, the daughter of one. They were nothing like the predatory devil that stalked her now. “I am Miss Verity Lovelace. What grounds would I have to lie?” She hurried to place the chair of his desk between them as another barrier.
He stopped his pursuit. “And how may I help you?”
Ironically, the stranger—the gentleman—could have uttered no truer words than those.
They fortified her, and sent resolve creeping back into her spine as she brought her shoulders back. Verity met his gaze squarely. “Are you the Earl of Maxwell?”
Except, she already knew as much … she simply sought the confirmation from the gentleman’s mouth.
His eyes grew shuttered, but not before she caught the flash of horror in their blue-black depths.
He was a man unaccustomed to being challenged. And his unsettledness eased away further frissons of fear. Verity slid out from behind his desk chair and glided slowly across the room. She stopped when only a handful of steps separated her from the very stranger who’d put a knife to her earlier that night.
“Do I look like an earl?” he countered, belated with that reply—that deliberately evasive one.
Taking that as an invitation to study him, Verity peered at Mr. North. That slightly hooked nose, which had been broken one or more times, did little to conceal the aquiline appendage that served as a signal of his birthright. The small white nicks and scars merely marred a canvas of otherwise flawless high, chiseled cheeks and a hard, square jawline.
Glorious. Her pulse throbbed a beat harder. His features, melded with those flaws, only served to mark him beautiful in his masculinity.
His mouth crept up in a tight, one-sided smile that didn’t meet pitiless eyes. “Did you have a good look, Miss Lovelace?”
He’d noted her appreciation. Verity’s cheeks burnt, and she curled her toes into the soles of her borrowed slippers. He merely sought to disconcert her. It was a familiar state she’d found herself many times before, with many men before him. Feigning nonchalance, Verity gave her head a little toss. “You have the look and the tones of an earl,” she pointed out. “And more…” She gestured to those private missives she’d availed herself to. “You have letters written regarding the Baron Bolingbroke.” Verity stretched up on her tiptoes so she could at least hold his gaze and not be peered down at. “Therefore, Mr. North, I would say you are, in fact, the Earl of Maxwell, after all.”
To solve a mystery that’s become the talk of the ton, no clues run too deep for willful reporter Verity Lovelace. Not even in the sewers of London. That’s precisely where she finds happily self-sufficient scavenger Malcom North, lost heir to the Earl of Maxwell. Now that Verity’s made him front-page news, what will he make of her?
Kidnapped as a child, with no memories of his well-heeled past, Malcom prefers the grimy spoils of the culverts to the gilded riches of society. Damn the feisty beauty who exposed the contented tosher to a parade of fortune-hunting matchmakers. How to keep them at bay? Verity must pretend to be his wife. She owes him.
The intimacy of this necessary arrangement—Verity and Malcom thrust together in close quarters—soon sparks an irresistible heat. But when the charade ends, the danger begins. Will love be enough to protect them from a treacherous plot devised to ruin them?
USA Today Bestselling, RITA-nominated author Christi Caldwell blames Julie Garwood and Judith McNaught for luring her into the world of historical romance. While sitting in her graduate school apartment at the University of Connecticut, Christi decided to set aside her notes and pick up her laptop to try her hand at romance. She believes the most perfect heroes and heroines have imperfections, and she rather enjoys torturing them before crafting them a well deserved happily ever after!
Christi makes her home in southern Connecticut where she spends her time writing her own enchanting historical romances and caring for her three spirited children!