Blog Tour: Wicked Designs Excerpt + Giveaway


Hello friends,
Valentines Day is just right around the corner and we have the perfect book for you to read to get you in the mood: Wicked Designs by Lauren Smith! Read on for an exclusive excerpt and enter for a chance to win your own copy of Wicked Designs.

The League of Rogues takes what they want—but have they taken on too much?

For too long Miss Emily Parr has been subject to the whims of her indebted uncle and the lecherous advances of his repulsive business partner. Her plan to be done with dominating men forever is simple—find herself a kind husband who will leave her to her books.

It seems an easy enough plan, until she is unexpectedly abducted by an incorrigible duke who hides a wounded spirit behind flashing green eyes.

Godric St. Laurent, Duke of Essex, spends countless nights at the club with his four best friends, and relishes the rakish reputation society has branded him with. He has no plans to marry anytime soon—if ever. But when he kidnaps an embezzler’s niece, the difficult debutante’s blend of sweetness and sharp tongue make him desperate for the one thing he swears he never wanted: love.

Yet as they surrender to passion, danger lurks in Godric’s shadowed past, waiting for him to drop his guard—and rob him of the woman he can’t live without.

Product Warnings:
This novel includes a lady who refuses to stay kidnapped, a devilish duke with a dark past, and an assortment of charming rogues who have no idea what they’ve gotten themselves into.

Excerpt
Early morning light danced through the lilac curtains, casting purpled shadows across the counterpane. Emily woke, aching and sore. The sensations puzzled her. As she sat up in the massive bed, her gaze skimmed a room elegant enough for a queen. For a brief moment, as the beauty of the furnishings sank in, she reveled in the strange fairy tale surroundings.

She slid from the bed and approached the wood and gold-filigreed dresser, tugging gently on the handle of one drawer. It slid open to reveal a collection of chemises as thin as spider-spun silk. Emily fingered the finery, sighed and turned away, only to catch sight of herself in the dressing-table mirror. A loud gasp escaped her lips as she slapped a hand to her mouth. Her gaze fell on the set of reflected eyes, open wide as they took in the sight of her dirty and disheveled dress.

Memories flooded through her while terror gripped her anew, fraying her self-control. Where was she? Where had they taken her?Emily’s hands shook as she tried to tame her hair. She grimaced.

What am I going to do?

She could barely think as the dull throb of a headache pounded behind her eyes, an aftereffect of the laudanum, she supposed. She had the vaguest sense that they’d knocked her out a second time, when she’d started to wake from all the rough jostling.

Her dress was beyond repair, but that didn’t matter. She needed to escape.

Emily stumbled across the room, but paused when she noticed a sky blue muslin day gown laid out on a chair, alongside three petticoats and dark blue slippers and hair ribbons. A little note was pinned to the gown.

Dear Miss Parr,
I hope you slept well.
I took the liberty of having this gown altered this morning after Mrs. Downing obtained your measurements. Please come down for breakfast at your leisure.
Sincerely,
Mr. Simkins, butler, and Mrs. Downing, housekeeper
for His Grace, Godric St. Laurent, the Duke of Essex


Emily stared at the note.

The Duke of Essex? Her devilish captor was none other than Godric St. Laurent? At least she wasn’t in danger as she had first worried. These men were peers of the realm and would not murder her or otherwise harm her like the highwaymen she’d first believed last night.

Her friend Anne Chessley had told her quite a bit about Godric and his friends. She’d called them the League of Rogues, a name she’d whispered half afraid and half fascinated. They were men without rules and morals as far as she knew, if one could trust gossip and stories printed in The Quizzing Glass Gazette.

She’d also heard the name Ash last night, most likely Ashton Lennox, a wealthy baron. The other two men were no doubt Lucien Russell, the Marquess of Rochester, and Charles Humphrey, the Earl of Lonsdale. Emily swallowed down a bitter laugh. What young debutante wouldn’t dream of such a romantic experience as being abducted by the five most handsome, rich, influential and eligible men in all of England?

Emily, however, wanted nothing more than to escape, not entertain notions of marriage to any of them. They weren’t the type of men to marry. Still, she wondered what sort of husband the Duke of Essex would make. A good lover if whispers were true, but more likely to marry for purpose rather than love.

After a decent wash with the fresh water from the basin, she donned the gown Mr. Simkins provided, a lovely, simple design that buttoned up the front. The skirts had been cut high enough to display the tips of her slippers, and the sleeves puffed out slightly at the shoulders.

Emily yanked at the door handle. It didn’t budge. How on earth was she to get to out? She was locked inside. Trapped. Her body tensed as a wave of panic swept through her. She ran to the windows and pulled at the sill but it wouldn’t lift. To her horror, she noted a pair of nails embedded deep in the wood, sealing it. She frantically scanned the room, noticing a narrow, barely identifiable door to the left of her bed.

Where on earth does this lead to? A discrete servant’s entrance, perhaps? “Might as well try it.”

The handle gave way and swung inward to a second room.

A massive four-poster bed stood against one wall. Her eyes latched onto the body tangled in the sheets. She caught a wide view of a sun-kissed muscular back and a head of dark hair…the duke. He’d put her in an adjoining chamber. Emily padded softly to his door. It too was locked. She rushed over to his window and, like in her room, it refused to open.

She returned to his door, pressing herself against the wood, and debated screaming for help. Her lips parted, a shout on the tip of her tongue, then stopped. She was in his house, with his servants. There would be no help here, not for a captive of the duke. Anger replaced part of her fear, at least temporarily.

“Oh, for heaven’s sake,” she growled under her breath and turned back to face Godric.

The distant gleam of gold on the opposite side of the bed, near the wall, caught Emily’s eye. She tiptoed across the wooden floor, toward him. His breathing was soft and slow; still fast asleep.

“Ah, yes.” A small set of brass keys, secured to Godric’s wrist by a leather string, gleamed underneath the sunlight. Emily debated: wait until he woke on his own, or try to escape now and chance waking him in her attempt to snatch the keys.

The hand with the keys lay on the opposite side of the bed, which was a little too close to the wall for her to get to. To reach them, Emily had to crawl over him. Her pulse beat wildly and her blood roared in her ears as she tried to accept what she would have to do. She’d have to touch him, the man who’d kidnapped and drugged her. Not just touch him…but crawl over the length of his body…in his bed. Could she do this? Her father had always called her brave. But being so close to a man, alone and locked inside with him in a bedroom, was she brave enough to get the keys?

Her eyes closed and she summoned the courage she’d called upon so easily the night before.

I can do this. I must do this.

She lifted her skirts past her knees and put one foot on the oak bed frame as she climbed. Hands and knees far apart, she dispersed her weight. The last thing she needed was to dip the bed and waken the devil.

Godric was so big, she had to reach with much care to grab the keys without falling. Emily held her breath and leaned over, her breasts inches from skimming over his back as she sought the tools to her freedom. She looped one finger under the leather strap around his wrist, and pulled it toward her, but the leather stuck to his skin.

She would have to touch him. For a moment, she couldn’t breathe. The air in her lungs burned and she tried in vain to find an alternative. There wasn’t one. She needed the keys and they were attached to the man in the bed.

Emily used her thumb and forefinger to lift his wrist an inch off the bed as her other hand dragged the keys from under his arm.

The fabric around her knees started to slide. Gravity worked against her precarious position. Another second and she’d—

Thump!

Emily fell onto Godric’s back lying perpendicular to him. He groaned softly, rolling onto his back beneath her and she shifted over him to stay on top. His right hand—the keys still laced there—settled on her lower back, patting it.

Emily inhaled sharply. She was stretched out across his stomach and groin. He was still asleep. She shifted, trying to reach his hand without alerting him.

“Hmm…you naughty girl.” Godric’s face broke into a dreamy smile. “Evangeline, now don’t squirm.”

Evangeline? Probably his mistress. Emily scowled and reached for his hand again, but her movement was pointless. Godric’s hand drifted over her backside and struck her bottom in a playful spank.

She wrenched her body free. “How dare you!” Her feet tangled in the covers and she tripped onto the floor, trying to escape the bed.

Godric blinked at her. “What the—Miss Parr? What in God’s name are you doing in my bedchamber?” He shot up but fell back down against the pillows, slinging his forearm over his eyes with a groan.

Emily fled to the far corner of the room, heart beating against her ribs like a caged bird. His muscles flexed as he moved, like a large, sleek panther. For a second, she imagined the protection he could offer—his body cast before her as a shield, his muscles taut and forearms tense. Then she remembered how he’d taken her from the coach and the violence of the battle between them.

“Let me go at once!”

“I’m not holding you,” he said in an irritated growl.

“I meant, let me leave. My chamber is locked.” She stamped her slippered foot and glared, but the force was lost on him because he remained flat on his back, his eyes shut. “I demand to be released!”

“I demand peace and quiet in the morning,” Godric muttered under his breath.

“Well?” Emily stamped the ground again, rather annoyed that she had no other means to get his attention. She didn’t dare go closer. The memory of his body overpowering hers the previous night left her quaking anew with fear, but she was determined to maintain a brave front.

He cast off his bed sheet and sat up. She nearly swooned upon the glimpse of his bare chest. He smiled and took his time reaching for the sheet to recover himself. Emily struggled to breathe, her face afire. Was that what a half-clothed man looked like? He looked…fierce. Every strip of muscle and corded steel beneath his flesh whispered of violence and danger. Her throat went dry and she licked her lips as she tried to calm her racing heart.

“Care to join me, Miss Parr?” He patted the bed.

Emily took an involuntary step back, her shoulder blades hitting the door behind her.

“I was only joking.” A slight frown wilted his lips, as though her reaction unsettled him.

“A joke? Please, Your Grace, enlighten me as to how this situation is remotely amusing. I must get back to London immediately and try to repair the damage you’ve wrought to my reputation.” To my life. She wrung her hands together, trying anything to ease the anxiety that rippled just beneath her skin.

“I’m afraid that’s not possible.” His reply didn’t make sense at first, because she hadn’t expected him to deny her the right to leave.

“What? Why not?”

“Because I brought you here to ruin you.”

Like it? Buy Wicked Designs or add it to your wishlist.

For more info about Wicked Designs and other books by author Lauren Smith, stop by her website, Facebook and Twitter.

Giveaway
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Happy reading,
Michelle

P.S. We will be featuring more Valentine's Day themed books in the coming weeks--just look for the banner above for more book recs that we guarantee will put you in a romantic mood. <3

6 comments

  1. I want to find out what happened to Emily and why can't she remember ~

    ReplyDelete
  2. It sounds like a really good read. Thanks for the giveaway.

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  3. I loved Historical romance, especially the Regency era. I enjoyed the excerpt . Unfortunately more and more of these Rafflecopter forms require certain Social Media entries that not all followers have or belong to. So I will juts put it n my TRL.
    Carol L
    Lucky4750 (at) aol (dot) com.

    ReplyDelete
  4. hi carol! i'm sorry about that. this rafflecopter is one of those "shared" ones among blog tour participants and created by the person who arranged the tour. i had no control about the kind of entries this rafflecopter has.

    but for michelle & leslie's book picks-original giveaways, there will always be a free entry (like our Maya Banks giveaway: http://booksandmakeup.blogspot.com/2014/01/review-excerpt-giveaway-letting-go-by.html)

    -michelle

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  5. You had me at "a lady who refuses to stay kidnapped." I love devilish dukes and charming rogues as well, so I really want to read this story. :D

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Thank you so much to stopping by today and taking the time to comment.