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Viscount Breckenridge to the Rescue

The 16th Cynster Novel
First Volume in the Cynster Sisters Trilogy
In Paperback & E-book from Avon Books
ISBN 978-0-06-206860-6


Three heros, three rescues, three weddings.

You are cordially invited to the wedding of Miss Heather Cynster

...but not before she encounters kidnappers, danger, and a daring rescue at the hands of Viscount Breckenridge.

Determined to hunt down her very own hero, one who will sweep her off her feet and into wedded bliss, and despairing of finding him in London's staid ballrooms, Heather Cynster steps out of her safe world and boldly attends a racy soiree.

But her promising hunt is ruined by the supremely interfering Viscount Breckenridge, who whisks her out of scandal-and straight into danger when a mysterious enemy seizes her, bundles her into a coach, and conveys her out of London.

Now it's up to the notorious Breckenridge to prove himself the hero she's been searching for all along



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Viscount Breckenridge to the Rescue Interview

30th August, 2011

It's been a long time since we've seen the Cynster girls. What sent you back to do their stories?

Their stories were always destined to be told - when was always the issue. I had an insistent feeling that I had to wait - I explained it at the time as waiting for them to grow up, and in part it was that. I needed to let them evolve in my head to the point where their characters had matured enough for me to see them as adults instead of the girl-children they were in, for instance, Devil's Bride. Without having mature characters to work with, it was very difficult to foresee what sort of hero they'd have to play against them. In short, their characters had to come first - without that, I couldn't see the rest, the details of their heros or their stories. And then, suddenly, the time had come, and I knew who Heather, the eldest's, hero was, and then Eliza's, and lastly Angelica's. Once I had the first story - Heather's - then the other two rolled on from that, the concept of the trilogy was born, and I was ready to write.

In your last set of works, the Black Cobra Quartet, the four stories ran largely concurrently - quite a difference to the sequential stories of most standard trilogies or quartets. All your previous Cynster stories were connected by characters and set at a specific date, but weren't connected via the storyline. But this trilogy is different from all the above.

Yes, it is - while we have three, distinct and complete in themselves romances, the three books form a true trilogy in that there's one overarching storyline, not the romances but a different storyline, that runs through the three books. That storyline starts in the Prologue of the first book and ends in the Epilogue of the third book. In between, however, as with all my books, you get three romances, and each book can be read on its own and the reader will get the full romance story experience. However, as with the Black Cobra Quartet, to get the full impact of the overarching story, you will need to read all the books in the trilogy. I am aware that some romance readers grumble and "demand" that every last thread in every story is tied off and completed, all revealed, in every individual book, but frankly, if you read or wrote nothing but such books, life would be boring - I make no apologies for every now and then doing something different. Trying something new makes life interesting. I believe the majority of readers appreciate something a touch different and interesting, as long as they get their romance as well - that certainly seems to have been borne out by the response to the different structure of the Black Cobra Quartet.


Were there any special challenges in plotting this trilogy?

Whenever you are working with more than one book, there's an additional challenge in scripting the overarching storyline. However, working with a set of three, consecutive-in-time - meaning running directly one after the other in time - books for this trilogy was a lot, lot easier than the work involved in scripting and working with the concurrent villains' storyline in the Black Cobra Quartet. That was a real headache, and not something I'll soon do again! In comparison, the trilogy was relatively easy, although of course more work than three entirely separate books. In the case of the overarching story in this trilogy, the principal decision to be made in progressing through the books is how much to reveal in each book - however, there is, of course, a twist to the tale, as there so often is in my books! - and that, I've discovered, imposes additional demands on how much must be revealed of that overarching story earlier rather than later.

Most of the action in the trilogy occurs in Scotland. Why Scotland?

That's one of those questions that I really don't have an answer for - I just always knew that Heather and her hero ended up with Richard and Catriona, their family and household, at the manor in the Vale of Casphairn. That was one of those "story" things that simply always was - I had no idea how they got up there, or why. I just knew that's where they ended up. Later in the interview I'll touch on how that "story fact" for want of a better term played into the rest of the story that unfolds in Viscount Breckenridge to the Rescue.


How did the "searching for a hero" concept come about?

This was one of the earliest elements of the trilogy to become clear to me - from the time I wrote the Cynster twins' stories, On A Wild Night and On A Wicked Dawn, way back in 2001, I knew that this - actively searching for their hero - was what would motivate Heather and Eliza especially in proactively initiating their stories. As younger girls, schoolgirls at that time, they saw their older cousins, Amanda and Amelia, go out and seek their heros, both stepping beyond the accepted social lines to do it, and saw them succeed in every respect. After that, of course Heather and Eliza would have similar hero-standards, and once they failed to find their heros in the obvious places, neither would hesitate to look beyond polite circles for their man. From that background, I knew that they would actively do something that would precipitate the action - they would be actively searching for their hero, would do something, go somewhere, and that would lead them to him, albeit in ways neither of them anticipate.

You've described these three books as: 1) Errol Flynn rescues Jane Austen in the wilds of Scotland; 2) Errol Flynn rescues Jane Austen in the wilds of Scotland; and 3) Jane Austen rescues Errol Flynn in the Scottish highlands. Why those descriptions?

As authors we are often asked to describe our books - the essence of our stories. As all my heros have a certain swashbuckling charisma, Errol Flynn - or more accurately the heros he depicted on the screen - is in many ways the epitome of the type, so "Errol Flynn" becomes a shorthand way of referring to that sort of male character. My heroines, are, likewise, more like Jane Austen's characters than Jane herself, but again it's the same shorthand way of evoking that concept. As for the "wilds of Scotland" versus the "Scottish highlands" that's literally correct - the first two books have the heros and heroines unexpectedly and unintentionally exploring two different, wild and rugged areas of the lowlands of Scotland, while the third book takes place primarily in the Scottish highlands.


It's been quite some time since we've seen abducted heroines, yet it is a classic historical romance plot. What prompted you to return to it?

That came about because of another of those muselike flashes of story - like knowing that Heather and her hero end up in the Vale of Casphairn. A few years ago, I "saw" - basically simply knew - that Heather's hero was Breckenridge, and the way their story started was that Heather - taking her first step to actively search for her hero outside the ballrooms of the ton - was seen by Breckenridge, and he essentially evicts her from a "soiree" she shouldn't be attending. She gets on her highhorse, of course, and miffed, marches off down the street to her carriage…but is kidnapped along the way, right under Breckenridge's nose. I didn't need to see anything more to know he would of course race after her…and from that initial scene, the rest of their story unfolded. It also gave me the overarching story, because who on earth would kidnap Heather, and why? That single flash of story more or less gave me the whole trilogy - from that point, all the rest followed.



Were there any special challenges in working with such a classic romance concept?

Not really. I didn't use an abduction plot because it was a classic plot - I don't come at my stories that way, by deciding what sort of story I'm going to write and then making my characters up to fit. Instead, as noted in the last several responses, my stories arise organically from the characters I already have, and their already existing backgrounds. The instant I had that kidnap scene with Breckenridge looking on, I knew how and why it was perfect for those two characters. I suspect if it hadn't been the perfect initiating event for those two characters' romance, it wouldn't have occurred to me in the first place, but once it had, it became an integral part of the overarching story plot - which is the reason behind, and what drives, the abduction. Therefore, in regard to the question, as the abduction plot is driven by the overarching plot - and therefore doesn't just "happen" - and also strongly affects and impinges on the hero and heroine, who then react and take the plot and run - meaning because they are not passive but very proactive characters, they react, act, and affect the outcome of the abduction in major ways - then the "classic" plot is transformed into a novel, different experience that's very personal to these two characters, and is therefore fresh and different to any other "classic abduction plot" ever written. These three books, each of the books in the trilogy, are examples of how a "classic" plot is transformed and made fresh by the characters involved.

The fact that with modern historical romances it is the characters that determine the story, not the plot, is wonderfully clearly illustrated in the two anthologies It Happened One Night and It Happened One Season, in each of which four authors take one plot, and generate four utterly different novellas by putting their own characters into-and therefore their own spin on-that single plot.


In this first book of the trilogy, Gretna Green is a featured spot, one in which the characters spend quite a bit of time, yet there is no wedding over the anvil.

No, indeed. Again, Gretna Green was a serendipitous fact - there were numerous logistical story reasons why the traveling abduction party had to stop at that point in Scotland, just over the border with England. It just so happened that that spot on the map was in fact Gretna Green. So the blacksmith's forge, which incidentally still stands, and its famous anvil, play a part in the overarching story, and lend a certain sinister tension to the by then evolving romance between the hero and heroine, neither of whom is at all happy about the abduction party halting and waiting at an inn across the road from the blacksmith's forge for the to them unknown man behind the abduction to arrive. The relevant facts about marriages performed over the anvil in the blacksmith's forge at Gretna Green were a) that the woman could be much younger than allowed in England, and did not need her parents' or guardians' permission to marry, just as long as she freely agreed to the wedding, and b) that such marriages were legally binding in England as well as Scotland. So in this case, rather than Gretna Green being a destination our lovers look upon as a romantic place, because of the story, it's transformed into a threat - a bit of a twist.


In the first section of this book, the abducted heroine is being driven north in a coach, which stops at various small towns and villages. How do you work out which villages to use?

Determining the speed of a private coach-and-four, driven under various conditions along the highways of England in 1829, was a point I had to research thoroughly for this trilogy. I eventually found sufficient references from that time to be certain of the likely speeds of travel. From that I worked out how far the kidnappers' coach in the first book would go each day. I then spent quite a bit of time poring over old maps to determine exactly which towns the kidnappers, who wanted to avoid notice and therefore wanted to stop in small, out-of-the-way hostelries, would have used. Once I had the likely small towns and villages, I use the internet and satellite maps to drop in on the main streets and check the age of the buildings. England being England, in small villages I can often find inns and taverns that, from their architecture and construction, I can tell would have been there in 1829. That said, I don't use the same names for the hotels unless those names appear in the historical record for that period.


In this first book of the trilogy, we meet a past hero and heroine, and catch up with their lives, and their now established family. Was it part of your original concept to revisit a previous hero and heroine?

As mentioned earlier, I knew from the first that Heather and her hero ended up with Richard and Catriona in Scotland-presumably because Richard, Catriona, and their family and household had some role to play in the story. I tend to initially assume that it's just as background, a need to catch up as it were, and any actual role in the action will be incidental, but once I was in the throes of writing the story, I discovered - as I often do - that the real reason the hero and heroine are with Richard and Catriona and company is far more intrinsic amd important to the story. As it transpired, many of the primary characters in the Vale had active roles to play, and for three of them - Catriona, and her eldest children, the twins Lucilla and Marcus - their roles were absolutely vital to the story in this book, and also to a contuing theme that will continue over all the Cynster girls' books to come. That last was one of those lovely aha! moments in story evolution that authors live for.



March, 1829
Wadham Gardens, London

Heather Cynster knew her latest plan to find a suitable husband was doomed the instant she set foot in Lady Herford's salon.

In a distant corner, a dark head, perfectly coiffed in the latest rakish style, rose. A pair of sharp hazel eyes pinned her where she stood.

"Damn!" Keeping a smile firmly fixed over her involuntarily clenching teeth, as if she hadn't noticed the most startlingly handsome man in the room staring so intently at her she let her gaze drift on.

Breckenridge was hemmed in by not one but three dashing ladies, all patently vying for his attention. She sincerely wished them every success, and prayed he'd take the sensible course and pretend he hadn't seen her.

She was certainly going to pretend that she hadn't seen him.

Refocusing on the surprisingly large crowd Lady Herford had enticed to her soiree, Heather determinedly banished Breckenridge from her mind and considered her prospects.

Most of the guests were older than she-all the ladies at least. Some she recognized, others she did not, but it would be surprising if any other lady present wasn't married. Or widowed. Or more definitively on the shelf than Heather. Soirees of the style of Lady Herford's were primarily the province of the well-bred but bored matrons, those in search of more convivial company than that provided by their usually much older, more sedate husbands. Such ladies might not be precisely fast, yet neither were they innocent. However, as by common accord said ladies had already presented their husbands with an heir, if not two, the majority had more years in their dish than Heather's twenty-five.

From her brief, initial, assessing sweep, she concluded that most of the gentlemen present were, encouragingly, older than she. Most were in their thirties, and by their style - fashionable, well-turned out, expensively garbed, and thoroughly polished - she'd chosen well in making Lady Herford's soiree her first port of call on this, her first expedition outside the rarefied confines of the ballrooms, drawing rooms, and dining rooms of the upper echelon of the ton.

For years she'd searched through those more refined reception rooms for her hero - the man who would sweep her off her feet and into wedded bliss - only to conclude that he didn't move in such circles. Many gentlemen of the ton, although perfectly eligible in every way, preferred to steer well clear of all the sweet young things, the young ladies paraded on the marriage mart. Instead, they spent their evenings at events such as Lady Herford's, and their nights in various pursuits - gaming and womanizing to name but two.

Her hero - she had to believe he existed somewhere - was most likely a member of that more elusive group of males. Given he was therefore unlikely to come to her, she'd decided - after lengthy and animated discussions with her sisters, Elizabeth and Angelica - that it behooved her to come to him.

To locate him and, if necessary, hunt him down.

Smiling amiably, she descended the shallow steps to the floor of the salon. Lady Herford's villa was a recently built, quite luxurious dwelling located to the north of Primrose Hill - close enough to Mayfair to be easily reached by carriage, a pertinent consideration given Heather had had to come alone. She would have preferred to attend with someone to bear her company, but her sister Eliza, just a year younger and similarly disgusted with the lack of hero-material within their restricted circle, was her most likely co-conspirator and they couldn't both develop a headache on the same evening without their mama seeing through the ploy. Eliza, therefore, was presently gracing Lady Montague's ballroom, while Heather was supposedly laid upon her bed, safe and snug in Dover Street.

Giving every appearance of calm confidence, she glided into the crowd. She'd attracted considerable attention; although she pretended obliviousness, she could feel the assessing glances dwelling on the sleek, amber silk gown that clung lovingly to her curves. This particular creation sported a sweetheart neckline and tiny puffed sleeves; as the evening was unseasonably mild and her carriage stood outside, she'd elected to carry only a fine topaz-and-amber Norwich silk shawl, its fringe draping over her bare arms and flirting over the silk of the gown. Her advanced age allowed her greater freedom to wear gowns that, while definitely not as revealing as some others she could see, nevertheless drew male eyes.

One gentleman, suitably drawn and a touch bolder than his fellows, broke from the circle surrounding two ladies, and languidly stepped into her path.

Halting, she haughtily arched a brow.

He smiled and bowed, fluidly graceful. "Miss Cynster, I believe?"

"Indeed, sir. And you are?"

"Miles Furlough, my dear." His eyes met hers as he straightened. "Is this your first time here?"

"Yes." She glanced around, determinedly projecting confident assurance. She intended to pick her man, not allow him or any other to pick her. "The company appears quite animated." The noise of untold conversations was steadily rising. Returning her gaze to Miles Furlough, she asked, "Are her ladyship's gatherings customarily so lively?"

Furlough's lips curved in a smile Heather wasn't sure she liked.
"I think you'll discover-" Furlough broke off, his gaze going past her.

She had an instant's warning - a primitive prickling over her nape - then long steely fingers closed about her elbow.

Heat washed over her, emanating from the contact, supplanted almost instantly by a disorientating giddiness. She caught her breath. She didn't need to look to know that Timothy Danvers, Viscount Breckenridge - her nemesis - had elected not to be sensible.

"Furlough." The deep voice issuing from above her head and to the side had its usual, disconcerting effect.

Ignoring the frisson of awareness streaking down her spine - a susceptibility she positively despised - she slowly turned her head and directed a reined glare at its cause. "Breckenridge."

There was nothing in her tone to suggest she welcomed his arrival-quite the opposite.

He ignored her attempt to depress his pretensions; indeed, she wasn't even sure he registered it. His gaze hadn't shifted from Furlough.
"If you'll excuse us, old man, there's a matter I need to discuss with Miss Cynster." Breckenridge held Furlough's gaze. "I'm sure you understand."

Furlough's expression suggested he did, yet wished that he didn't feel obliged to give way. But in this milieu, Breckenridge - the hostesses' and the ladies' darling - was well nigh impossible to gainsay. Reluctantly, Furlough inclined his head. "Of course."

Shifting his gaze to Heather, Furlough smiled - more sincerely, a tad ruefully. "Miss Cynster. Would we had met in less crowded surrounds. Perhaps next time." With a parting nod, he sauntered off into the crowd.

Heather let free an exasperated huff. But before she could even gather her arguments and turn them on Breckenridge, he tightened his grip on her elbow and started propelling her through the crowd.
Startled, she tried to halt. "What-"

"If you have the slightest sense of self-preservation you will walk to the front door without any fuss."

He was steering her, surreptitiously pushing her, in that direction, and it wasn't all that far. "Let. Me. Go." She uttered the command, low and delivered with considerable feeling, through clenched teeth.

He urged her up the salon steps. Used the moment when she was on the step above him to bend his head and breathe in her ear, "What the devil are you doing here?"

His clenched teeth trumped her clenched teeth. The words, his tone, slid through her, evoking - as he'd no doubt intended - a nebulous, purely instinctive fear.

By the time she shook free of it, he was smoothly, apparently unhurriedly, steering her through the guests thronging the foyer.

"No - don't bother answering." He didn't look down; he had the open front door in his sights. "I don't care what ninnyhammerish notion you've taken into your head. You're leaving. Now."

Hale, whole, virgin intacta. Breckenridge only just bit back the words.

"There is no reason whatever for you to interfere." Her voice vibrated with barely suppressed fury.

He recognized her mood well enough - her customary one whenever he was near. Normally he would respond by giving her a wide berth, but here and now he had no choice. "Do you have any idea what your cousins would do to me-let alone your brothers-if they discovered I'd seen you in this den of iniquity and turned a blind eye?"

She snorted and tried, surreptitiously but unsuccessfully, to free her elbow. "You're as large as any of them - and demonstrably just as much of a bully. You could see them off."

"One, perhaps, but all six? I think not. Let alone Luc and Martin, and Gyles Chillingworth - and what about Michael? No, wait - what about Caro, and your aunts, andthe list goes on. Flaying would be preferable-much less pain."

"You're overreacting. Lady Herford's house hardly qualifies as a den of iniquity." She glanced back. "There's nothing the least objectionable going on in that salon."

"Not in the salon, perhaps - at least, not yet. But you didn't go further into the house - trust me, a den of iniquity it most definitely is."


"No." Reaching the front porch - thankfully deserted - he halted, released her, and finally let himself look down at her. Let himself look into her face, a perfect oval hosting delicate features and a pair of stormy gray-blue eyes lushly fringed with dark brown lashes. Despite those eyes having turned hard and flinty, even though her luscious lips were presently compressed into a thin line, that face was the sort that had launched armadas and incited wars since the dawn of time. It was a face full of life. Full of sensual promise and barely restrained vitality.

And that was before adding the effect of a slender figure, sleek rather than curvaceous, yet invested with such fluid grace that her every movement evoked thoughts that, at least in his case, were better left unexplored.

The only reason she hadn't been mobbed in the salon was because none but Furlough had shaken free of the arrestation the first sight of her generally caused quickly enough to get to her before he had.

He felt his face harden, fought not to clench his fists and tower over her in a sure-to-be-vain attempt to intimidate her. "You're going home, and that's all there is to it."

Her eyes narrowed to shards. "If you try to force me, I'll scream."

He lost the battle; his fists clenched at his sides. Holding her gaze, he evenly stated, "If you do, I'll tap you under that pretty little chin, knock you unconscious, tell everyone you fainted, toss you in a carriage, and send you home."

Her eyes widened. She considered him, but didn't back down. "You wouldn't."

He didn't blink. "Try me."

Heather inwardly dithered. This was the trouble with Breckenridge - one simply couldn't tell what he was thinking. His face, that of a Greek god, all clean planes and sharp angles, lean cheeks below high cheekbones and a strong, square jaw, remained aristocratically impassive and utterly unreadable no matter what was going through his mind. Not even his heavy-lidded hazel eyes gave any clue; his expression was perennially that of an elegantly rakish gentleman who cared for little beyond his immediate pleasure.

Every element of his appearance, from his exquisitely understated attire, the severe cut of his clothes making the lean strength they concealed only more apparent, to the languid drawl he habitually affected, supported that image - one she was fairly certain was a comprehensive faade.

She searched his eyes - and detected not the smallest sign that he wouldn't do precisely as he said. Which would be simply too embarrassing.

"How did you get here?"

Reluctantly, she waved at the line of carriages stretching along the curving pavement of Wadham Gardens as far as they could see. "My parents' carriage - and before you lecture me on the impropriety of traveling across London alone at night, both the coachman and groom have been with my family for decades."

Tight lipped, he nodded. "I'll walk you to it."

He reached for her elbow again.

She whisked back. "Don't bother." Frustration erupted; she felt sure he would inform her brothers that he'd found her at Lady Herford's, which would spell an end to her plan - one which, until he'd interfered, had held real promise. She gave vent to her temper with an infuriated glare. "I can walk twenty yards by myself."

Even to her ears her words sounded petulant. In reaction, she capped them with, "Just leave me alone!"

Lifting her chin, she swung on her heel and marched down the steps. Head determinedly high, she turned right along the pavement toward where her parents' town carriage waited in the line.

Inside she was shaking. She felt childish and furious-and helpless. Just as she always felt when she and Breckenridge crossed swords.

Blinking back tears of stifled rage, knowing he was watching, she stiffened her spine and marched steadily on.

From the shadows of Lady Herford's front porch, Breckenridge watched the bane of his life stalk back to safety. Why of all the ladies in the ton it had to be Heather Cynster who so tied him in knots he didn't know; what he did know was that there wasn't a damned thing he could do about it. She was twenty-five, and he was ten years and a million nights older; he was certain she viewed him at best as an interfering much older cousin, at worst as an interfering uncle.

"Wonderful," he muttered as he watched her stride fearlessly along. Once he saw her safely awayhe was going to walk home. The night air might clear his head of the distraction, of the unsettled, restless feeling dealing with her always left him prey to - a sense of loneliness, and emptiness, and time slipping away.

Of life - his life - being somehow worthless, or rather, worth less-less than it should.

He didn't, truly didn't, want to think about her. There were ladies among the crowd inside who would fight to provide him with diversion, but he'd long ago learned the value of their smiles, their pleasured sighs.

Fleeting, meaningless, illusory connections.

Increasingly they left him feeling cheapened, used. Unfulfilled.
He watched the moonlight glint in Heather's wheat gold hair. He'd first met her four years ago at the wedding of his biological stepmother Caroline to Michael Anstruther-Wetherby, brother of Honoria, Duchess of St. Ives and queen of the Cynster clan. Honoria's husband, Devil Cynster, was Heather's oldest cousin.

Although Breckenridge had first met Heather on that day in sunny Hampshire, he'd known the male Cynster cousins for more than a decade - they moved in the same circles, and before the cousins had married, had shared much the same interests.

A carriage to the left of the house pulled out of the line. Breckenridge glanced that way, saw the coachman set his horses plodding, then looked right again to where Heather was still gliding along.

"Twenty yards, my arse." More like fifty. "Where the damn hell is her carriage?"

The words had barely left his lips when the other carriage, a traveling coach, drew level with Heather.

And slowed.

The coach's door swung open and a man shot out. Another leapt down from beside the driver.

Before Breckenridge could haul in a breath, the pair had slipped past the carriages lining the pavement and grabbed Heather. Smothering her shocked cry, they hoisted her up, carried her to the coach, and bundled her inside.

"Hey!" Breckenridge's shout was echoed by a coachman a few carriages down the line.

But the pair of men were already tumbling through the coach door as the coachman whipped up his horses.

Breckenridge was down the steps and racing along the pavement before he'd even formed the thought of giving chase.

The traveling coach disappeared around the curve of the crescent that was Wadham Gardens. From the rattle of the wheels, the coach turned right up the first connecting street.

Reaching the carriage on the box of which the coachman who'd yelled sat stunned and staring after the kidnappers' coach, Breckenridge climbed up and grabbed the reins. "Let me. I'm a friend of the family. We're going after her."

The coachman swallowed his surprise and released the reins.

Breckenridge swiftly tacked and, cursing at the tightness, swung the town carriage into the road. The instant the conveyance was free of the line, he whipped up the horses. "Keep your eyes peeled-I have no idea which way they might go."

"Aye, sir - my lord."

Briefly meeting the coachman's sideways glance, Breckenridge stated, "Viscount Breckenridge. I know Devil and Gabriel." And the others, but those names would do.

The coachman nodded. "Aye, my lord." Turning, he called back to the groom, hanging on behind. "James - you watch left and I'll watch right. If we miss seeing them, you'll need to hop down at the next corner and look."

Breckenridge concentrated on the horses. Luckily there was little other traffic. He made the turn into the same street the coach had taken. All three of them immediately looked ahead. Light from numerous street flares garishly illuminated an odd-angled four-way intersection ahead.

"There!" came a call from behind. "That's them-turning left into the bigger street."

Breckenridge gave thanks for James's sharp eyes; he'd only just glimpsed the back of the coach himself. Urging the horses on as quickly as he dared, they reached the intersection and made the turn-just in time to see the coach turn right at the next intersection.

"Oh," the coachman said.

Breckenridge flicked a glance his way. "What?"

"That's Avenue Road they've just turned into - it merges into Finchley Road just a bit along."

And Finchley Road became the Great North Road, and the coach was heading north. "They might be heading for some house out that way." Breckenridge told himself that could be the casebut they were following a traveling coach, not a town carriage.

He steered the pair of blacks he was managing into Avenue Road. Both the coachman and James peered ahead.

"Yep - that's them," the coachman said. "But they're a way ahead of us now."

Given the blacks were Cynster horses, Breckenridge wasn't worried about how far ahead their quarry got. "Just as long as we keep them in sight."

As it transpired, that was easier said than done. It wasn't the blacks that slowed them, but the plodding beasts drawing the seven conveyances that got between them and the traveling coach. While rolling along the narrow carriageways through the outskirts of the sprawling metropolis, past Cricklewood through to Golders Green there was nowhere Breckenridge could pass. They managed to keep the coach in sight long enough to feel certain that it was, indeed, heading up the Great North Road, but by the time they reached High Barnet with the long stretch of Barnet Hill beyond, they'd lost sight of it.

Inwardly cursing, Breckenridge turned into the yard of the Barnet Arms, a major posting inn and one at which he was well known. Halting the carriage, to the coachman and James he said, "Ask up and down the road-see if you can find anyone who saw the coach, if they changed horses, any information."

Both men scrambled down and went. Breckenridge turned to the ostlers who'd come hurrying to hold the horses' heads. "I need a curricle and your best pair-where's your master?'

Half an hour later, he parted from the coachman and James. They'd found several people who'd seen the coach, which had stopped briefly to change horses at the Scepter and Crown. The coach had continued north along the highway.

"Here." Breckenridge handed the coachman a note he'd scribbled while he'd waited for them to return. "Give that to Lord Martin as soon as you can." Lord Martin Cynster was Heather's father. "If for any reason he's not available, get it to one of Miss Cynster's brothers, or failing them, to St. Ives." Breckenridge knew Devil was in town, but was less certain of the others' whereabouts.

"Aye, my lord." The coachman took the note, raised a hand in salute.

"And good luck to you, sir. Hope you catch up with those blackguards right quick."

Breckenridge hoped so, too. He watched the pair climb up to the box seat of the town carriage. The instant they'd turned it out of the yard, heading back to London, he strode to the sleek phaeton waiting to one side. A pair of grays the innkeeper rarely allowed to be hired by anyone danced between the shafts. Two nervous ostlers held the horses' heads.

"Right frisky, they are, m'lord." The head ostler followed him over.

"They haven't been out in an age. Keep telling the boss he'd be better off letting them out for a run now and then."

"I'll manage." Breckenridge swung up to the phaeton's high box seat. He needed speed, and the combination of phaeton and high-bred horses promised that. Taking the reins, he tensioned them, tested the horses' mouths, then nodded to the ostlers. "Let 'em go."

The ostlers did, leaping back as the horses surged.

Breckenridge reined the pair in only enough to take the turn out of the yard, then he let them have their heads up Barnet Hill and on along the Great North Road.

For a while, managing the horses absorbed all of his attention, but once they'd settled and were bowling along, the steady rhythm of their hooves eating the miles with little other traffic to get in their way, he could spare sufficient attention to think.

To give thanks the night wasn't freezing given he was still in his evening clothes.

To grapple with the realization that if he hadn't insisted Heather leave Lady Herford's villa - hadn't allowed her to walk the twenty-cum-fifty yards along the pavement to her carriage alone - she wouldn't be in the hands of unknown assailants, wouldn't have been subjected to whatever indignities they'd already visited on her.

They would pay, of course; he'd ensure that. But that in no way mitigated the sense of horror and overwhelming guilt that it was due to his actions that she was now in danger.

He'd intended to protect her. Instead.

Jaw clenched, teeth gritted, he kept his eyes on the road and raced on.





A New York Times, USA-Today & Publishers Weekly Bestseller!

"Sweeps the reader along at the speed of the kidnappers' galloping team of horses, offering suspense, passion and intrigue in the most pleasurable of combinations." New York Journal of Books

"Likeable characters, good pacing, excellent dialogue plus a romantic tale make this a captivating you won't want to miss." Romance Reviews Today.

"Awesome! The best SL story yet! It has mystery, adventure and romance. This story will grab you in the beginning, and keep you even after the end." Valerie Valicento, Reader.

"Charming and entertaining, this tale has stong family values, passionate characters, daring madcap adventures, and heated love scenes." Romantic Times.

"If you love breathtaking pictorials that sweep you into scenes, harrowing cross-country treks and a blossoming tension-filled will really enjoy (this book)." Long & Short Reviews - 5 Book rating!

"The chemisty is sizzling. The villains are atypical. The end will leace readers satisfied and eager to get their hands on the next book." San Francisco & Sacramento Book Review

"A brilliant new series. A sensational new Cynster historical romance." Fresh Fiction



#1 NEW YORK TIMES International Bestselling Australian Romance Author

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