Three brothers, bound by a secret they cannot escape . . .
The Devil, all vengeance and vice
The Beast, all fists and fury
The Duke, all power and past
. . . and the women who bring them to their knees.
THE BAREKNUCKLE BASTARDS
A NEW SERIES FROM SARAH MACLEAN
BRAZEN AND THE BEAST
Bareknuckle Bastards, Book II
The Lady's Plan…
When Lady Henrietta Sedley declares her twenty-ninth year her own, she has plans to inherit her father’s business, to make her own fortune, and to live her own life. But first, she intends to experience a taste of the pleasure she’ll forgo as a confirmed spinster. Everything is going perfectly…until she discovers the most beautiful man she’s ever seen tied up in her carriage and threatening to ruin the Year of Hattie before it’s even begun.
The Bastard's Proposal...
When he wakes in a carriage at Hattie’s feet, Whit, a king of Covent Garden known to all the world as Beast, can’t help but wonder about the strange woman who frees him—especially when he discovers she’s headed for a night of pleasure . . . on his turf. He is more than happy to offer Hattie all she desires…for a price.
An Unexpected Passion...
Soon, Hattie and Whit find themselves rivals in business and pleasure. She won’t give up her plans; he won’t give up his power . . . and neither of them sees that if they’re not careful, they’ll have no choice but to give up everything . . . including their hearts.
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Excerpt from Brazen & the Beast
The last thing Beast remembered was the blow to the head.
He’d been expecting the ambush. It was why he’d been driving the rig, six fine horses pulling a massive steel conveyance, laden with liquor and playing cards and tobacco, destined for Mayfair. He’d just crossed Oxford Street when he heard the gunshot, followed by a pained cry from one of his outriders.
He’d stopped the conveyance to check on his men. To protect them.
To punish any who would threaten them.
The last thing he remembered was the blow to the head.
Not until an insistent tapping against his cheek returned him to consciousness, too soft for pain, but firm enough to be irritating.
He didn’t open his eyes, years of training allowing him to feign sleep as he got his bearings. His feet were bound, his hands as well—behind his back. He resisted the urge to stiffen. To rage.
Beast didn’t rage; he punished. Quick and devastating and without emotion.
He was on the floor of a moving carriage. A well-appointed one, if the soft cushion at his cheek was any indication, and in a decent neighborhood for the smooth rhythm of the cobblestones beneath the wheels.
Whit considered his next move—envisioning how he would incapacitate his captor in spite of his bindings. He imagined breaking a nose with the flat weapon of his forehead. Using his bound legs to knock the man out.
The tapping at his cheek began again, and then a whispered, “Sir.”
Beast’s eyes flew open.
His captor wasn’t a man.
His gaze narrowed as the wash of golden light in the carriage played tricks with him—seeming to come somehow not from the lantern swaying gently in the corner, but from the woman leaning over him.
Seated on the bench above him, she looked nothing like the kind of enemy who would knock a man out and tie him up in a carriage. Indeed, she looked like she was on her way to a ball. Perfectly done, perfectly coiffed, perfectly colored—her skin smooth, her eyes kohled, her lips full and stained just enough to make a man pay attention. And that was before he got a look at the dress—blue the color of a summer sky, perfectly fitted to her full figure.
Not that he should be noticing anything about that, considering she had him tied him up in a carriage. He shouldn’t be noticing the curves of her, soft and welcoming at her waist, at the line of her bodice. He shouldn’t be noticing the smooth, golden skin at her rounded shoulder, gleaming in the lantern light. He shouldn’t be noticing the pretty softness of her face, or the fullness of her lips, stained red with paint.
She wasn’t for noticing. She was the enemy.
He narrowed his gaze on her, and her eyes—was it possible they were violet? What kind of a person had violet eyes?—went wide. “Well. If that look is any indication of your temperament, it’s no wonder you’ve been tied up.” She tilted her head. “Why are you tied up?”
Whit did not reply.
“Who tied you up?”
Again, silence. He did not believe she didn’t know the answer.
Her lips flattened into a straight line and she said, more to herself than to him, “It’s not my business.” And then, louder, firmer, “The point is, you’re very inconvenient, as I have need of this carriage tonight.”
“Inconvenient.” He didn’t mean to reply, and the word surprised them both.
She nodded. “Indeed. It’s the Year of Hattie.”
She waved a hand, as though to push the question away. As though it weren’t important. Except Whit imagined it was. She pressed on. “It is my birthday. I have plans for myself. Plans that don’t include . . . whatever is going on here.”
He did not reply.
She blinked. “Most people would wish me a happy birthday at this juncture.”
Whit said nothing.
She nodded. “And here I was, ready to help you.”
He scowled. “I don’t need your help.”
Her brows rose. “You’re quite rude, you know.”
He resisted the instinct to gape at her. “I’ve been knocked out and tied up in a strange carriage.”
“Yes, but you must admit the company is diverting, no?”
When he raised a brow, she said, “Fine then. But it strikes me that you’re in a bind, sir.” She paused, then added, “You see how diverting I can be? In a bind?”
“I see how reckless you can be.”
“Some find me charming.”
“I’ve never in my life found anything charming,” he replied, wondering what possessed him to spar with this chatterbox.
She smiled. “That’s a pity.” It sounded like she meant it, but before he could think of what to say, she added, “No matter. Even if you won’t admit it, you do need help and, as you are quite well bound and I am your travel companion, I’m afraid you are stuck with me.” She crouched by his feet, as though it were all perfectly ordinary, untying the ropes with a soft, deft touch. “Whoever tied these knots did not want you getting free,” she said, as though they were discussing the weather. “You’re lucky I am quite good with knots.”
He grunted his approval as she set him free. “And you have other plans for your birthday.”
She hesitated, her cheeks pinkening at the words before she gave a curt nod. “Yes.”
Whit would never understand what made him press further. “What plans?”
She looked up at him then, her ridiculous eyes too big for her face. “Plans that for once don’t involve cleaning up whatever mess you are.”
“Next time I am clubbed unconscious, I shall endeavor to do it where I shan’t be in your way, my lady.”
She grinned, as though they were partners in this play. “Please do.” Before he could reply, she said, “Though I suppose it won’t be an issue in the future. We clearly don’t run in the same circles.”
He raised a brow. “We run in them tonight.”
The grin became a slow, easy smile, and Whit lingered on it. On the curve of her lips and the dimple that flashed in her right cheek. The carriage began to slow, and she peeked out the curtain. “We’re nearly there,” she said quietly. “It’s time for you to go, sir. I’m sure you’ll agree that neither of us will have any interest in you being discovered.”
“My hands,” he said.
She shook her head. “I can’t risk you taking revenge.”
He met her gaze without hesitation. “My revenge is not a risk. It’s a certainty.”
She nodded sagely. “I’ve no doubt of that. But I can’t risk you taking it via me. Not tonight.” She reached past him for the door handle, speaking at his ear, above the rattle of wheels and horses from the street beyond. “As I’ve said…”
“You have plans,” he finished for her, turning toward her, unable to resist the scent of almonds coming off her.
Her gaze found his. “Precisely.”
“Tell me the plan, and I’ll let you go.”
That warm smile flashed again. “You’re very arrogant, sir. Must I remind you that I’m the one letting you go?”
“Tell me the plan,” he said again, suddenly desperate to hear it.
He saw the change in her. Watched hesitation turn to curiosity. To bravery. “Perhaps I should show you, instead.”
And then, as though he’d said it aloud, she kissed him, pressing her lips to his, soft and sweet and inexperienced and tempting as hell, and Whit would have done anything to have his hands untied, so he might take control and show this strange, uncommon woman just how well he might see her plans through.
The universe heard the thought. There was a tug at his wrists, and the ropes loosened a heartbeat before she lifted her lips from his. Free, he moved to capture her. To resume the kiss.
The lady had other plans.
Before he could touch her, she opened the door at his back and, with a whispered “Goodbye,” pushed him from the moving carriage.