Brazen and the Beast (The Bareknuckle Bastards #2)

She grasped the lapels of his coat and pulled him close. “The future.”

He growled, low and lush. “You’ve had that from the start.”





Acknowledgments


When I conceived of the world of the Bareknuckle Bastards, I had no idea that I would fall so thoroughly in love with Covent Garden and the London Docklands, and I’m indebted to so many for time and knowledge. I could not have written Whit and Hattie’s story without the extensive collection of the Museum of London, particularly Charles Booth’s anthropological survey of Life and Labour of the People of London, as well as the incredibly knowledgeable staff of The Museum of the London Docklands and the Covent Garden Area Trust, and the stunning standing exhibitions of the Foundling Museum.

I’m very lucky to write with the unflagging support of the brilliant Carrie Feron and the entire team at Avon Books, including Liate Stehlik, Asanté Simons, Angela Craft, Pam Jaffee, and Kayleigh Webb. Eleanor Mikucki never fails to make me look better, and Brittani DiMare’s immense patience is a tremendous gift.

Whit and Hattie would never have made it to the page without a collection of women far smarter than I am. I’m forever grateful for the brilliant minds of Louisa Edwards, Carrie Ryan, Sophie Jordan, Sierra Simone, and Tessa Gratton, and the precious friendship of Jennifer Prokop and Kate Clayborn.

For Eva Moore, Cheryl Tapper, and all the members of OSRBC: As promised, a violet-eyed heroine—I hope she is a worthy addition to the canon.

And for Eric, the silent hero of my heart—thank you for always knowing when I need your words.





An Excerpt from Daring and the Duke


Keep reading for a sneak peek at the next Bareknuckle Bastards novel



Daring and the Duke



Coming 2020 from Avon Books!





Daring and the Duke


He was rescued by angels.

The explosion had sent him flying through the air, knocking him back into the shadows of the docks. He’d twisted in flight, but the landing had dislocated his shoulder, rendering his left arm useless. It was said that dislocation was one of the worst pains a man could experience, and the Duke of Marwick had suffered it twice. Twice, he’d staggered to his feet, mind reeling. Twice, he’d struggled to bear the pain. Twice, he’d sought out a place to hide from his enemy.

Twice, he’d been rescued by angels.

The first time, she’d been fresh-faced and kind, with a wild riot of red curls, a thousand freckles across her nose and cheeks, and the biggest brown eyes he’d ever seen. She’d found him in the cupboard where he hid, put a finger to her lips, and held his good hand as another—larger and stronger—had reset the joint. He’d passed out from the pain, and when he woke, she’d been there like sunlight, with a soft touch and a soft voice.

And he’d fallen in love with her.

This time, the angels who rescued him were not soft, and they did not sing. They came for him with strength and power, two of them, strong and agile, cloaks over their heads, turning their faces dark, coats billowing behind them like wings as they approached, boots clicking on the cobblestones. They came armed like Heaven’s soldiers, blades at their sides made flaming swords in the light of the ship that burned on the docks—destroyed at his command, along with the woman his brother loved.

So, it seemed like justice that the angels who came were soldiers. That they would come to punish and not to save.

Still, it would be rescue.

He pushed to his feet as they approached, to face them head on, to take the punishment they would deliver. He winced at the pain in his leg that he had not noticed earlier, where a shard from the mast of the destroyed hauler had seated itself in his thigh, coating his trouser leg in blood, making it impossible to fight them.

He lost consciousness.

When he woke, it was night still—Night again? Night forever?—he was alone in a dark room, and his first thought was the one he’d had upon waking for twenty years. Grace.

The girl he’d loved.

The one he’d lost.

The one for whom he’d searched for a lifetime.

His shoulder had been set and his leg bandaged. He sat up, too busy hating the truth and the darkness to think of the pain that seemed to come from everywhere, within and without. His head throbbed a fog that could only come from laudanum as he reached for the low table near the bed, feeling for a candle or a flint, and knocked over a glass. The sound of liquid cascading to the floor reminding him to listen.

That’s when he realized he could hear what he could not see.

A cacophony of muffled sound, shouting and laughter nearby—just beyond the room?—and a roaring din from farther away—outside the building? Inside, but at a distance? The low rumble of a crowd—something he never heard in the places he usually woke. Something he barely remembered. But memory came with the sound, from a similar distance—from farther away, from a lifetime ago.

And for the first time in twenty years, the man known to all the world as Robert Matthew Carrick, twelfth Duke of Marwick, was afraid. Because what he heard was not the world in which he’d grown.

It was the one into which he’d been born.

His heart began to pound, wild and violent in his chest, and he stood, crossing the darkness, feeling along the wall until he found a door. A handle.

Locked.

The angels had rescued him and brought him to a locked room in Covent Garden.

He did not have to cross the room to know what he would find outside, the rooftops filled with angled slate and crooked chimneys. A boy born in the Garden did not forget the sounds of it, no matter how hard he’d tried. He stumbled to the window nevertheless, pushing back the curtain. It rained, the clouds blocking the light of the moon, refusing access to the world outside. Denying him sight, so he might hear sound.

A key in the lock.

He turned. The door opened, the hallway beyond barely brighter than the room where he stood—just bright enough to reveal a woman in shadow. Tall. Lean.

She stilled and the darkness gifted him sound from the other side of the room. A little intake of breath. Barely there and somehow sharp like a gunshot.

And like that, he knew.

She was alive.