A Kiss with Scandal (Scandals & Secrets 4)

By: Janelle Daniels
The Scandals and Secrets Series - Book 4

For my fans.

You’ve been amazingly patient waiting for this story. I couldn’t have done it without your support.

And Dan. The ultimate hero for all my stories.

Chapter 1

If Charlotte had to suffer through one more idiotic comment from a pea-brained lord, she couldn’t be held responsible for her actions.

It was a gorgeous night. Balmy, clear. The Leatherbys were lucky when they held their social events. But instead of slipping through one of the many windowed doors into the torch-lit garden, she burrowed in the overheated house instead. She knew what was outside. She’d come across her fair share of lovers in her three years on the marriage mart.

Three years. How had it gone by so quickly?

She wasn’t still unmarried for lack of offers. Quite the opposite, actually. Since her debut, when her sister, Aubrey, married the Duke of Wathersby, she’d had numerous proposals, but none of them interested her. None of the men interested her.

She crept into an empty sitting room. A fire popped in the grate, filling the air with hints of wood smoke, but no candles were lit. The dim light cast shadows around the lavishly furnished room, and her muscles loosened, eased by the quiet.

Alone at last.

Sinking into the ivory, silk-upholstered couch, a sigh escaped her. She peeled off her gloves one finger at a time, slumping into an unladylike posture that would have made her mother faint.

Oh, sugar lumps. Is this what her life would consist of? One boring row after another? Her days filled with monotonous calls to people who would relish the chance to turn on her if she ever stepped a toe out of line, and her nights with perfume-drenched dandies that wore corsets to hide their bulging bellies? She had been so sure during her come out that this is what she wanted. That this life would fulfill all her dreams.

But where was passion, fire, adventure? Where was the man who would sweep her off her feet, who would free her while keeping her safe? She had never begrudged her sister anything, but she wanted what Aubrey had too. Oh, she didn’t want the duke for herself. He was perfect for her sister. She wanted someone of her own. Someone she could love with her whole heart.

Instead, she found herself alone in a random dark room in the Leatherbys’ townhouse, no closer to finding that man than she was three years ago.

And now she was wallowing. Perfect.

Gliding her fingers over the cool rose silk of her skirt, she prepared herself to enter the foray after her short reprieve. She wouldn’t find what she was looking for in here, holed up and alone. She had to go out there, to smile, to pretend to hang on every word each of her dance partners said. One of them had to be the one she wished for. Right?

Hunting for her gloves, she swiped them off the cushion. There was no time like the present. She fitted one of the gloves on, adjusting the fingers until they were comfortable.

She paused, cocking her ear. Her eyes widened. Footsteps. Someone was coming this way.

Sugar lumps! She whirled around, her eyes darting to places large enough to hide her. She wasn’t doing anything wrong, but sitting alone in a dim room did not appear innocent.


She couldn’t let that happen. She would not be compromised just for wanting to escape boring conversation.

Whispered words were spoken outside the door, a man’s voice, low and dark. She gulped, diving behind the couch, praying the shadows hid her form pressed against the base of the furniture.

The door handle turned, squeaking in the silence. More whispers, but this time a woman’s. Oh no. She groaned. Not lovers.

Maybe she should announce herself, pretend she’d dropped something. They might believe she’d merely wanted a moment to herself. Especially if they sought their own rendezvous.

The door closed. Well, now or never. She gripped the couch to pull herself up.

“I won’t tolerate your failure,” the woman snapped.

Charlotte’s hand froze.

“All I need is a little more time. I won’t let you down.” The man’s words ended on a whine.

“See that you don’t. I don’t want to clean up another mess. Lord Barnsal was close to outing us. But killing him was a mistake. They’re onto us now.”

Breath clogged her lungs. Lord Barnsal. She’d heard he died, but hadn’t known how. Murder. The word skittered along her spine. These two had killed him.

Feet shuffled on the wood floor. They must have moved off the runner toward the fire. Toward her. She slowly withdrew her hand from the sofa’s back, burrowing further in the shadows, and prayed she wouldn’t be seen. She closed herself into a ball, hoping to block out the world, to make herself as small as possible.

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