Too Wicked to Wed

Too Wicked to Wed

CAN THE ROGUE WHO WON HER VIRTUE…

Helen Mansfield’s reckless brother has done the unthinkable, gambling away his sister’s chastity to save his father’s estate. When Helen visits the lodgings of the gentleman who has won her, hoping to make him see reason, she interrupts a carnal scene as outrageous as it is erotic. Luke Westmoreland, the illegitimate son of a duke, is clearly a rogue… and he’s also the most wildly attractive man she has ever met. He offers Helen a new bargain that will give her one more year in her home. But their daily meetings quickly become sizzling lessons in wanton desire…

TEACH HER THE MEANING OF DESIRE?

Once branded a smuggler and thief, Luke Westmoreland is now hailed a hero, thanks to an act of bravery at sea. Although he has taken full advantage of the women his fame has enticed, none of the strumpets lining up to share his bed has intrigued Luke as much as beautiful, spirited Helen. Their trysts are abandoned, sensual adventures that deepen into a love neither dares to admit — until another man’s twisted obsession places Helen in danger…

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Top Pick
USA Today
K.I.S.S. Award Winner, Romantic Times Magazine

Nominated Best Sensual Novel of 2006

“A SCORCHER!…Holt delivers a delicious erotic romance with heart and soul. There’s lust, love and laughter, which add another dimension to the passion… She allows fantasies to soar and hearts to fly in this powerful new novel.” — Kathe Robin, Romantic Times Book Reviews

“Loved it! Cover is great and the story is fun, but the conversational banter you’ve got going on between the hero and heroine left me in stitches! Also, Westmoreland reminded me of a Johnny Depp type character, probably because I just saw Pirates of the Caribbean — but LOVE THIS BOOK!” — Susan Grimshaw, Romance Buyer, Borders, Borders Express and Waldenbooks Stores

“Packed with emotion, sensuality, and surprising twists and turns, TOO WICKED TO WED is too delicious to pass up! Holt has come up with the perfect combination of intrigue, sensual love scenes, and tender emotion, which I haven’t read in a historical romance in a very long time.

For fans of Cheryl Holt, I am sure no recommendation from me is needed. But if, like me, any of you have not had the pleasure of escaping into a world created by Ms. Holt, don’t waste another moment to do so. TOO WICKED TO WED is just too delicious to pass up. Happy reading!” — Deana Monteleone, Romance Reader at Heart.com

“Best selling author Cheryl Holt spins another stunning erotic historical with the dark brooding hero and the sizzling sex scenes she is well known for. Strong characters, witty dialogue, and very sensual love scenes keep this tale moving. Interlaced with bitter betrayal, heartache, and twisted desires. Set at a steady pace, this tale is pulled together by the action, danger, and intrigue. This story will captivate you from beginning to end. An absolutely delicious tale you will not want to miss.” — Wateena, Coffee Time Romance

“With sinfully seductive Luke, and endearingly innocent Helen, Too Wicked To Wed is a highly sensual, thrilling and romantic story. The combination of eroticism, evilness and budding love is captivating. Too Wicked to Wed is a deliciously wicked story indeed!” — Nannette, Joyfully Reviewed.com

“TOO WICKED TO WED is such fun. It’s always such a pleasure to read your books. The hours just fly by!!” — a quote from my editor, Jennifer Enderlin, on reading the finished manuscript

“I finished LOVE LESSONS las night and enjoyed every minute. thank you for bringing such a wonderful story to me.” — Gail

“I just finished reading LOVE LESSONS. I LOVED it!” — Wateena K

“I loved LOVE LESSONS. Great erotic book!” — Joey

“WOW!!!!!!!!! I’ve defnitely missed some fantastic reading if your other books are as good as this one. I couldn’t put it down for more than a minute. WOW!!! THANKS FOR THE GREAT READ!!!” — Margaret

“Just a quick note to tell you how much I enjoyed reading LOVE LESSONS. Abigail was a terrific hero, and James was a wonderful, tortured hero. LOVE LESSONS is the first book of yours I’ve read, but I’m going to look for the others. Thanks again for a great read and I look forward to many more.” — Cindy C

“I just finished reading your newest book–LOVE LESSONS. This was one of the most sensual books I read in a long time and I read plenty. Congratualtions. Keep up the good work.” — Dianne

“This is no doubt the greatest book I have ever read.” — Cindy P

CHAPTER ONE:

London, England 1814

The front door to the house was wide open.

Helen Mansfield looked up and down the busy street. No one was paying any attention to her, and without pausing to reconsider her plan, she slipped inside.

Due to the delicacy of her mission, she’d come alone, without benefit of maid or footman, and her heart pounded with dread. The clandestine visit was the first really bold, exotic thing she’d ever done, and she yearned to conclude her business quickly and quietly, and without making a fool of herself.

After being out in the bright July sunshine, the vestibule seemed very dark. She tarried, her eyes adjusting to the shadows, while hoping that the butler would step forward to welcome and announce her, but it was eerily silent.

She studied her surroundings, finding the lodging to be well-built and appropriately fashionable, but it had an air of abandonment. The entryway was empty, with a lone table positioned down the hall, and it was covered with a sheet as though the current occupant hadn’t yet had occasion to tug it off so the space would be more habitable.

Of course, that occupant being a notorious, barbaric pirate, perhaps he didn’t realize that civilized people lived any differently.

She tamped down the uncharitable thought, refusing to proceed on a sour note. Her feelings were sufficiently conflicted, her temper adequately ignited, and she was determined to remain calm and courteous, regardless of how humiliating her appointment proved to be.

Noise erupted on the stairs, and she leapt away as a barefoot, scantily-clad woman came racing down. Her clothes — if one could call the garment an outfit — consisted of only a summery shift, the hem of which fell to mid-thigh. It was constructed from a slinky red material that hugged her torso like a glove, revealing each of her curves and hiding nothing that ought to be concealed.

Her breasts were enormous, and they bounced gleefully as she passed, the mounds swaying in tandem, her nipples jutting against the bodice.

The woman was obviously a strumpet, and Helen couldn’t stop gawking.

What sort of bawdy abode had she entered? What mischief was occurring that a gentlewoman — such as herself — could stumble into it? Who was in charge?

As the woman reached the foyer, she gazed up the stairs and shouted, “Catch me if you can, you surly lout.” Laughing, she vanished down the corridor.

A man scurried after her, his arms stretched out to grab her, but she was too fast and easily evaded him. He was a grubby fellow, with a scraggly beard, a gold earring, a knife in his belt, and numerous teeth missing, and he embodied every low trait Helen had expected to observe among the residents.

With how her luck was running, he would likely turn out to be Mr. William Lucas Westmoreland, the man she was seeking. What if he was? How would they have a rational conversation?

He hesitated, struggling to detect how his prey had escaped, when he espied Helen cowering in the corner. With unrepressed lechery, he scrutinized her, and the odor of alcohol around him was so strong that she was amazed he could walk. She gagged and lurched away.

“You’ll be next, my pretty little thing,” he promised. “Don’t go anywhere.”

“Your next what?” she mumbled as he tottered off.

She checked to be certain she’d brought the kitchen knife she’d sewn into the seam of her skirt. After all, she wasn’t stupid. She was in the lair of treacherous, violent bandits for whom no deed was purported to be too evil. If she was threatened, she hadn’t the temerity to use the weapon, but still, she felt better knowing she could yank it out and wield it with great relish.

Her fury with her younger brother, Archibald, surged anew. How typical that he would immerse her in such a wretched jam! His dominant attribute was his total ability to wreak havoc. He was immoderate in his appetites, passionate about his pleasures, and never fretted over anyone but himself. As a twenty-five year old spinster, she’d eschewed marriage to stay at her beloved home of Mansfield Abbey where she diligently worked to curb his worst excesses.

He was her sole kin, so she’d always been too protective of him, had rescued him from too many scrapes, and he was positive that she would rescue him from this latest one, too. The notion had her so angry that, if he’d been standing there with her, she’d have clasped him by the throat and strangled the life out of him.

From down the hall, commotion drifted toward her. People were talking, and there seemed to be a party in progress — in the middle of the day! — but the social event sounded different from any to which she’d ever been invited.

Their voices were odd and furtive, as if the participants had been naughty — or were about to be. Women were cooing and sighing, oozing with a bliss Helen didn’t comprehend.

She yearned to investigate, but she was staunchly convinced that, whatever was transpiring, she couldn’t bear to learn the details. Without a doubt, she should simply stomp out and let Archie handle the mess for once — it would serve him right — but she wouldn’t.

He was incredibly spoiled, so she shouldn’t have been surprised when he’d informed her that he’d lost Mansfield Abbey in a card game. But even for him, the behavior was extreme. He’d frittered away every last chattel, every candle and fork, every horse and hoe.

There was nothing left.

The villain, Mr. Westmoreland, had won it all, and if she couldn’t persuade him to give it back, she couldn’t predict their fate. She had to reason with Westmoreland. She had to! The estate was a small place, a pittance, a veritable hovel compared to the other grand properties in their neighborhood. Why couldn’t he have coveted somebody else’s home?

Despite his savage reputation, he was alleged to possess a shred of integrity. During a terrible sea storm, he’d risked life and limb on a ship of drowning British sailors. Using daring sailing skills, he’d maneuvered through the gale, plucking those he could from the turbulent waters. Then he’d personally pursued the floundering stragglers, braving thirty-foot waves in a dinghy, and finally, even diving in to the raging tempest to prevent what would have been instant death for some of the Navy’s finest.

Every man had been saved.

As a result, he was the darling of the kingdom, his courage bandied over in every tavern in the land, and as a reward, he’d been pardoned for his previous crimes by the Prince Regent.

Surely, such a dashing hero could find it in his heart to heed an anxious woman’s plea for mercy.

Ready for anything, she squared her shoulders and marched down the corridor to the closed door at the end. It was ajar, and she peeked through the crack into a cavernous room that had probably been the prior owner’s library. The walls were lined with bookcases, but they were empty of books, and there were dilapidated pieces of furniture that didn’t match. It appeared as if the individual who’d purchased the items had no clue as to what was needed to fill a fancy house. Boxes were stacked, waiting to be unpacked, but there were no servants who might be set to the task.

A dozen gorgeous women were present, and they sprawled like lazy mermaids on pillows and daybeds, sipping wine and purring to each other. They were scandalously garbed in only their undergarments, fancy corsets and colored pantaloons that were festooned with ribbons. Their slender calves were concealed by lacy stockings, their tiny feet balanced on spiky heels.

They were attractive and alluring, and in contrast, she felt dowdy and provincial. With her brunette hair tucked into a tidy chignon, her hazel eyes that were too wide and saw too much, her drab brown traveling dress and shabby cloak, she was a boring, unsophisticated country girl. She was too skinny, too old, too plain, and so far out of her element that she might have laughed had she not been so desperate.

In their midst, a man lounged on a lavish sofa. While he was strikingly handsome, with golden-blond hair and piercing blue eyes, he exuded a tough and dangerous air that made her pause. He reminded her of a wolf on the prowl, alert and prepared to attack with the slightest provocation. He was muscular and fit, tall and robust, and his features were arresting, but in a rough fashion that added to his aura of menace and peril.

She imagined he’d had a hard life. Years of toil were etched in his face, yet he was so imposing and unusual that she was fascinated.

He was naked to the waist, attired in a peculiar pair of trousers stitched from a light, flowing fabric that was likely intended for hot weather. The material hinted at burly thighs and long legs, and was the style a sultan in Arabia might wear while entertaining his harem.

His shoulders were brawny, his stomach flat as a board. To her astonishment, he had a matting of hair across his chest. She’d never seen a man’s chest before, so she hadn’t known hair would grow there, and she suffered from an outlandish urge to tromp over and riffle her fingers through it.

There was a covey of the blond sirens hovered around him, with one snuggled on his lap. They were caressing him all over, and they took turns leaning down and…and… kissing him on the lips!

She tried to remember if she’d ever viewed two people kissing, but she couldn’t recollect a single occasion where it might have happened. Her world was so staid, couples so restrained, that a display of affection was beyond anyone of her acquaintance.

She was spellbound.

The man would dally with one woman, then another, and while Helen wasn’t positive, it seemed as if they were putting their tongues in each others’ mouths. The discovery did something to her insides. Butterflies swarmed through her tummy, her womb shifted and stirred, the mysterious feminine spot between her legs was relaxed and moist.

The female on his lap moaned and arched up and, mesmerizing Helen even further, the man nibbled down her neck, where he proceeded to bare her breast and suck on her nipple.

“Oh, my Lord!” Helen murmured, as a man spoke from directly behind her.

+ Awards

Top Pick
USA Today
K.I.S.S. Award Winner, Romantic Times Magazine

Nominated Best Sensual Novel of 2006

+ Reviews

“A SCORCHER!…Holt delivers a delicious erotic romance with heart and soul. There’s lust, love and laughter, which add another dimension to the passion… She allows fantasies to soar and hearts to fly in this powerful new novel.” — Kathe Robin, Romantic Times Book Reviews

“Loved it! Cover is great and the story is fun, but the conversational banter you’ve got going on between the hero and heroine left me in stitches! Also, Westmoreland reminded me of a Johnny Depp type character, probably because I just saw Pirates of the Caribbean — but LOVE THIS BOOK!” — Susan Grimshaw, Romance Buyer, Borders, Borders Express and Waldenbooks Stores

“Packed with emotion, sensuality, and surprising twists and turns, TOO WICKED TO WED is too delicious to pass up! Holt has come up with the perfect combination of intrigue, sensual love scenes, and tender emotion, which I haven’t read in a historical romance in a very long time.

For fans of Cheryl Holt, I am sure no recommendation from me is needed. But if, like me, any of you have not had the pleasure of escaping into a world created by Ms. Holt, don’t waste another moment to do so. TOO WICKED TO WED is just too delicious to pass up. Happy reading!” — Deana Monteleone, Romance Reader at Heart.com

“Best selling author Cheryl Holt spins another stunning erotic historical with the dark brooding hero and the sizzling sex scenes she is well known for. Strong characters, witty dialogue, and very sensual love scenes keep this tale moving. Interlaced with bitter betrayal, heartache, and twisted desires. Set at a steady pace, this tale is pulled together by the action, danger, and intrigue. This story will captivate you from beginning to end. An absolutely delicious tale you will not want to miss.” — Wateena, Coffee Time Romance

“With sinfully seductive Luke, and endearingly innocent Helen, Too Wicked To Wed is a highly sensual, thrilling and romantic story. The combination of eroticism, evilness and budding love is captivating. Too Wicked to Wed is a deliciously wicked story indeed!” — Nannette, Joyfully Reviewed.com

“TOO WICKED TO WED is such fun. It’s always such a pleasure to read your books. The hours just fly by!!” — a quote from my editor, Jennifer Enderlin, on reading the finished manuscript

+ Fan Reviews

“I finished LOVE LESSONS las night and enjoyed every minute. thank you for bringing such a wonderful story to me.” — Gail

“I just finished reading LOVE LESSONS. I LOVED it!” — Wateena K

“I loved LOVE LESSONS. Great erotic book!” — Joey

“WOW!!!!!!!!! I’ve defnitely missed some fantastic reading if your other books are as good as this one. I couldn’t put it down for more than a minute. WOW!!! THANKS FOR THE GREAT READ!!!” — Margaret

“Just a quick note to tell you how much I enjoyed reading LOVE LESSONS. Abigail was a terrific hero, and James was a wonderful, tortured hero. LOVE LESSONS is the first book of yours I’ve read, but I’m going to look for the others. Thanks again for a great read and I look forward to many more.” — Cindy C

“I just finished reading your newest book–LOVE LESSONS. This was one of the most sensual books I read in a long time and I read plenty. Congratualtions. Keep up the good work.” — Dianne

“This is no doubt the greatest book I have ever read.” — Cindy P

+ Sneak Preview

CHAPTER ONE:

London, England 1814

The front door to the house was wide open.

Helen Mansfield looked up and down the busy street. No one was paying any attention to her, and without pausing to reconsider her plan, she slipped inside.

Due to the delicacy of her mission, she’d come alone, without benefit of maid or footman, and her heart pounded with dread. The clandestine visit was the first really bold, exotic thing she’d ever done, and she yearned to conclude her business quickly and quietly, and without making a fool of herself.

After being out in the bright July sunshine, the vestibule seemed very dark. She tarried, her eyes adjusting to the shadows, while hoping that the butler would step forward to welcome and announce her, but it was eerily silent.

She studied her surroundings, finding the lodging to be well-built and appropriately fashionable, but it had an air of abandonment. The entryway was empty, with a lone table positioned down the hall, and it was covered with a sheet as though the current occupant hadn’t yet had occasion to tug it off so the space would be more habitable.

Of course, that occupant being a notorious, barbaric pirate, perhaps he didn’t realize that civilized people lived any differently.

She tamped down the uncharitable thought, refusing to proceed on a sour note. Her feelings were sufficiently conflicted, her temper adequately ignited, and she was determined to remain calm and courteous, regardless of how humiliating her appointment proved to be.

Noise erupted on the stairs, and she leapt away as a barefoot, scantily-clad woman came racing down. Her clothes — if one could call the garment an outfit — consisted of only a summery shift, the hem of which fell to mid-thigh. It was constructed from a slinky red material that hugged her torso like a glove, revealing each of her curves and hiding nothing that ought to be concealed.

Her breasts were enormous, and they bounced gleefully as she passed, the mounds swaying in tandem, her nipples jutting against the bodice.

The woman was obviously a strumpet, and Helen couldn’t stop gawking.

What sort of bawdy abode had she entered? What mischief was occurring that a gentlewoman — such as herself — could stumble into it? Who was in charge?

As the woman reached the foyer, she gazed up the stairs and shouted, “Catch me if you can, you surly lout.” Laughing, she vanished down the corridor.

A man scurried after her, his arms stretched out to grab her, but she was too fast and easily evaded him. He was a grubby fellow, with a scraggly beard, a gold earring, a knife in his belt, and numerous teeth missing, and he embodied every low trait Helen had expected to observe among the residents.

With how her luck was running, he would likely turn out to be Mr. William Lucas Westmoreland, the man she was seeking. What if he was? How would they have a rational conversation?

He hesitated, struggling to detect how his prey had escaped, when he espied Helen cowering in the corner. With unrepressed lechery, he scrutinized her, and the odor of alcohol around him was so strong that she was amazed he could walk. She gagged and lurched away.

“You’ll be next, my pretty little thing,” he promised. “Don’t go anywhere.”

“Your next what?” she mumbled as he tottered off.

She checked to be certain she’d brought the kitchen knife she’d sewn into the seam of her skirt. After all, she wasn’t stupid. She was in the lair of treacherous, violent bandits for whom no deed was purported to be too evil. If she was threatened, she hadn’t the temerity to use the weapon, but still, she felt better knowing she could yank it out and wield it with great relish.

Her fury with her younger brother, Archibald, surged anew. How typical that he would immerse her in such a wretched jam! His dominant attribute was his total ability to wreak havoc. He was immoderate in his appetites, passionate about his pleasures, and never fretted over anyone but himself. As a twenty-five year old spinster, she’d eschewed marriage to stay at her beloved home of Mansfield Abbey where she diligently worked to curb his worst excesses.

He was her sole kin, so she’d always been too protective of him, had rescued him from too many scrapes, and he was positive that she would rescue him from this latest one, too. The notion had her so angry that, if he’d been standing there with her, she’d have clasped him by the throat and strangled the life out of him.

From down the hall, commotion drifted toward her. People were talking, and there seemed to be a party in progress — in the middle of the day! — but the social event sounded different from any to which she’d ever been invited.

Their voices were odd and furtive, as if the participants had been naughty — or were about to be. Women were cooing and sighing, oozing with a bliss Helen didn’t comprehend.

She yearned to investigate, but she was staunchly convinced that, whatever was transpiring, she couldn’t bear to learn the details. Without a doubt, she should simply stomp out and let Archie handle the mess for once — it would serve him right — but she wouldn’t.

He was incredibly spoiled, so she shouldn’t have been surprised when he’d informed her that he’d lost Mansfield Abbey in a card game. But even for him, the behavior was extreme. He’d frittered away every last chattel, every candle and fork, every horse and hoe.

There was nothing left.

The villain, Mr. Westmoreland, had won it all, and if she couldn’t persuade him to give it back, she couldn’t predict their fate. She had to reason with Westmoreland. She had to! The estate was a small place, a pittance, a veritable hovel compared to the other grand properties in their neighborhood. Why couldn’t he have coveted somebody else’s home?

Despite his savage reputation, he was alleged to possess a shred of integrity. During a terrible sea storm, he’d risked life and limb on a ship of drowning British sailors. Using daring sailing skills, he’d maneuvered through the gale, plucking those he could from the turbulent waters. Then he’d personally pursued the floundering stragglers, braving thirty-foot waves in a dinghy, and finally, even diving in to the raging tempest to prevent what would have been instant death for some of the Navy’s finest.

Every man had been saved.

As a result, he was the darling of the kingdom, his courage bandied over in every tavern in the land, and as a reward, he’d been pardoned for his previous crimes by the Prince Regent.

Surely, such a dashing hero could find it in his heart to heed an anxious woman’s plea for mercy.

Ready for anything, she squared her shoulders and marched down the corridor to the closed door at the end. It was ajar, and she peeked through the crack into a cavernous room that had probably been the prior owner’s library. The walls were lined with bookcases, but they were empty of books, and there were dilapidated pieces of furniture that didn’t match. It appeared as if the individual who’d purchased the items had no clue as to what was needed to fill a fancy house. Boxes were stacked, waiting to be unpacked, but there were no servants who might be set to the task.

A dozen gorgeous women were present, and they sprawled like lazy mermaids on pillows and daybeds, sipping wine and purring to each other. They were scandalously garbed in only their undergarments, fancy corsets and colored pantaloons that were festooned with ribbons. Their slender calves were concealed by lacy stockings, their tiny feet balanced on spiky heels.

They were attractive and alluring, and in contrast, she felt dowdy and provincial. With her brunette hair tucked into a tidy chignon, her hazel eyes that were too wide and saw too much, her drab brown traveling dress and shabby cloak, she was a boring, unsophisticated country girl. She was too skinny, too old, too plain, and so far out of her element that she might have laughed had she not been so desperate.

In their midst, a man lounged on a lavish sofa. While he was strikingly handsome, with golden-blond hair and piercing blue eyes, he exuded a tough and dangerous air that made her pause. He reminded her of a wolf on the prowl, alert and prepared to attack with the slightest provocation. He was muscular and fit, tall and robust, and his features were arresting, but in a rough fashion that added to his aura of menace and peril.

She imagined he’d had a hard life. Years of toil were etched in his face, yet he was so imposing and unusual that she was fascinated.

He was naked to the waist, attired in a peculiar pair of trousers stitched from a light, flowing fabric that was likely intended for hot weather. The material hinted at burly thighs and long legs, and was the style a sultan in Arabia might wear while entertaining his harem.

His shoulders were brawny, his stomach flat as a board. To her astonishment, he had a matting of hair across his chest. She’d never seen a man’s chest before, so she hadn’t known hair would grow there, and she suffered from an outlandish urge to tromp over and riffle her fingers through it.

There was a covey of the blond sirens hovered around him, with one snuggled on his lap. They were caressing him all over, and they took turns leaning down and…and… kissing him on the lips!

She tried to remember if she’d ever viewed two people kissing, but she couldn’t recollect a single occasion where it might have happened. Her world was so staid, couples so restrained, that a display of affection was beyond anyone of her acquaintance.

She was spellbound.

The man would dally with one woman, then another, and while Helen wasn’t positive, it seemed as if they were putting their tongues in each others’ mouths. The discovery did something to her insides. Butterflies swarmed through her tummy, her womb shifted and stirred, the mysterious feminine spot between her legs was relaxed and moist.

The female on his lap moaned and arched up and, mesmerizing Helen even further, the man nibbled down her neck, where he proceeded to bare her breast and suck on her nipple.

“Oh, my Lord!” Helen murmured, as a man spoke from directly behind her.

+ Watch the Video