This week, the work of Lily Silver is in the spotlight here on Nesie’s Place! Get ready for adventure, intrigue, and of course, romance! Lily is also sponsoring an awesome Rafflecopter with a Kindle Fire as the grand prize! ($50 gift card for an international winner!) Check out the excerpt, then scroll down for the Rafflecopter and a FREE gift from Lily!
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“Noble Assassin, Reluctant Heroes Book 4”
Author: Lily Silver
Genre: Historical Romance/Regency/Suspense
Release Date: February 10, 2016
Noble Assassin feature, day 5
Noble Assassin is the fourth book in the Reluctant Heroes Series. It was a challenge to write.
This book features Ambrose Duchamp. He was Donovan’s henchman in Dark Hero, and even the stalwart men who followed Donovan in piracy found Mr. Duchamp to be a creepy sort. So, the challenge was to take this super intimidating trained assassin and make him into a hero.
In the first book, Dark Hero, Elizabeth is shaken at their first meeting. But she has the gift of second sight, so she could see that Ambrose Duchamp was a deeply scarred and wounded soul. Elizabeth came to see Ambrose as an object of pity as time went by, instead of an object of fear. Most people don’t have the ability to see into someone’s soul so everyone else, aside from Elizabeth’s husband Donovan, fears Ambrose Duchamp and avoid him.
The heroine in this story is a fugitive. She’s hiding in the West Indies. She’s the governess for Elizabeth’s children. Juliet Wallingford is in big trouble. She was a governess for a widower in England, and the man attacked her. She defended herself against his attack, and ended up wounding him severely. It’s eighteen months later and he wants revenge. At the beginning of the book, Juliet has received word from a friend in England that he is coming to the Indies to find her and exact it.
This is where Ambrose comes in. He’s a trained assassin, lethal to the core. He was trained from his youth in how to kill an opponent, how to strike a blow using the most mundane objects as weapons. He has both a dark and sinister past, and a deeply tragic one. Juliet doesn’t want her new employers to know her troubles, but she desperately needs help. She needs someone strong enough to take on her former employer and his henchmen. She asks Ambrose to protect her. At first he’s not so sure he wants to get involved in her troubles, but he reluctantly agrees.
Ambrose is a complex man. He’s an illegitimate offspring of a high ranking French noble, and he has some resentment toward his family for forcing him into the assassin trade like pawn, essentially used to protect the family. He didn’t have a normal childhood. He was taught how to kill at a tender age, and was expected to protect his father’s legitimate heirs. He fled France at the start of the French Revolution, and Donovan (Dark Hero) is the one who helped him escape an angry mob demanding his blood.
Juliet wishes she could change her life, but she too, was born on the wrong side of the blanket. Her father was noble, and paid for her to be educated at the school to become a governess. He never acknowledged her, and she doesn’t know his name. She finds herself envying her employer, Elizabeth, and wishing she could find a husband and have a family and a charmed life instead of taking care of another woman’s children for all her days. Being a governess is hard, when rich little boys put spiders in your shoes and play pranks on you to alleviate their boredom in the schoolroom.
Ambrose agrees to protect Juliet, mostly out of pity. He suggests they use the deception of a courtship to explain their time spent together and protect her reputation (yeah, that nobility rears it’s head often with him). Before long, Juliet starts to wish that the courtship was not merely a ruse. Ambrose slowly reveals his softer side, charming her and hopefully the reader, too.
With such a dark and deadly character, it was a challenge to make him a romance hero. But, one of Ambrose’s strengths is that he is incredibly noble, it’s in his blood and he can’t fight it.
These two lonely souls, the discards of polite society as they are both of illegitimate birth, find a common bond through Elizabeth’s children. Juliet’s role of governess actually brings her closer to Ambrose as his weakness seems to be the Beaumont children, especially those darling little girls. If you’ve watched cable TV, Dexter might come to mind . . . but Ambrose is not sunny and cheery like Dexter. Hopefully he’ll become likeable, lovable even, to readers as the story progresses. Warning, this book does have a touch of the Gothic and the paranormal, as Elizabeth, the support character in this story, has very profound magical gifts and she uses them to protect those she loves when they are in danger.
In before this excerpt, Ambrose and Juliet have been meeting secretly in the stable office late in the evenings, after the family she works for has retired. Ambrose has been teaching Juliet how to defend herself against an attacker.
Juliet is not sure if the pretend courtship he proposed to cover their activities is false any longer as his behavior in private has become more charming and less insolent and condescending. This time, however, when they go to the stables to start their lessons, they encounter Donovan and Elizabeth (Dark Hero couple) in a scorching embrace.
The married couple has just returned from a moonlight ride about the island, and as they believe Ambrose and Juliet are courting, they insist Ambrose take Juliet for a moonlit ride along the beach in the carriage before it is unhitched. The ruse between Ambrose and Juliet has brought unexpected consequences as they are caught in a trap as Elizabeth tries her hand at matchmaking. Elizabeth gives Juliet her velvet cloak to keep her warm, confusing Juliet in the gesture as the tropical night is quite warm enough without it.
Excerpt from Noble Assassin, Book 4 of Reluctant Heroes, Lily Silver, copyright 2016
The sandy beach to the north stretched the width of the island. The windmills were dark silhouettes on the hill behind them. Their muted sails flapping mingled with the sound of steady waves as the sea rushed in to embrace the shore before them and then retreat.
She could see bits of light from the small settlement hugging the shore at the far end of the beach, but she and Ambrose were too far away from it to be of notice without a fire or a lantern to give them away. It was darkness around them, the sea before them, and the dome of stars above their heads.
Of all the things Juliet experienced in her life, this was a crowning moment. She had never experienced such serene majesty in nature before this.
And she was sharing the moment with a man who had shared so many things with her in the past week. A first kiss, a romantic walk in the garden each night, a ride alone in an open carriage under the stars.
“Shall we walk the beach, ma petite?”
His voice startled her. It was like someone talking in church when the congregation was in silent prayer. She turned her face from the multitude of stars. He was looking at her, not the beauty surrounding them.
Ambrose turned about and felt around the back cushioned seat. Not finding what he was searching for, he placed his knees on the seat and hung over it attempting to bring something clunky up from the floor. A wine bottle was thrust into her lap, and something long, hard and cool. It felt like a metal shaft.
Juliet was still disappointed by his movement when she’d been thinking about a kiss, so the sudden intrusion of the cool glass wine bottle and the even cooler spyglass pushed upon her was dream shattering. He appeared all business and cool detachment again.
It was probably galling for the man to be forced to take her out on a romantic ride by their employer, as one didn’t typically say no to the countess. He hopped down from the seat and moved along the back of the carriage, appearing to her right with his hands upraised. “Down you come, ma cher.”
She swung her legs about and set the items on the floor at her feet so she could reach for his shoulders for support. “You don’t have to keep calling me sweet names. No one is here to overhear you.”
His hands on her waist distracted her momentarily, as their faces hovered close until he set her on the ground.
“Suppose I wish to, does that offend?”
“No, I simply wish for us to be honest with one another when we are alone. No need to fain affection.”
A sharp snort came from his silhouette. “I will keep that in mind. If ever I feel the need to fain fondness for you, I shall refrain from it.”
“Thank you,” she replied, regretting her remark. That kiss would not be coming now as she’d undoubtedly offended him.
He handed her the wine and kept the spyglass for himself. The beach was dark, but the white sands were easy to navigate beneath the stars. He kept a steadying hand on her elbow as they trudged across the expanse of sand toward the rolling waves. It was awkward with her long skirt and petticoat as she needed one hand to hold up her dress and one to hold the wine bottle.
At last, they reached a fallen palm tree just a few yards from the wet shoreline. Ambrose gestured for her to sit down. Something tickled her hand as she placed it palm down on the hard bark and she snatched it back, expecting it might be a spider or a lizard. Ambrose was standing with his back to her, looking up at the stars with the spyglass.
Juliet leaned closer as the twin tails of black wafted in the breeze, realizing the tickling sensation had come from a ribbon caught on the rough bark. It was black silk, similar to the one the count wore to keep his hair clubbed at the back of his neck.
She noticed a long white strand of fabric near her foot and reached down to pick it up. A woman’s silk stocking. She smiled in the darkness. Apparently the lord and lady were doing more here than merely watching the stars.
Ambrose came back to her and sat down on the tree trunk. There was a comfortable space between them as he fiddled with the spy-glass and kept trying to focus on different things, the sea, a palm tree a fair distance away and so forth. “The lens is smudged. I can’t make out anything through this.”
“Do they go out riding late at night often?” That scorching kiss she witness between the master and his lady would not leave her mind. Both parties appeared to enjoy it immensely.
Ambrose set the spy-glass down on his thigh with a chuckle. “Oui, ma Cherie. At least once a week. They are to be congratulated on their attempts to keep the romance alive after so many years of marriage.” He pushed the three tiers of brass together, closing the spy-glass with a sharp click. “You were embarrassed by their affectionate display, no?”
“Perhaps a little,” she admitted. “I never dreamed a man and woman could kiss like that.”
“Ah, you are being honest as we are alone. I like this, ma petite.” He set the spyglass on the tree and reached for the wine she’d propped between them in the sand. “We must always be honest with one another, sweetheart.”
Juliet straightened. Every muscle in her body was alert with excitement. He was still using those irresistible endearments and it was making her blood race through her veins at a rapid pace. “I’ve never been kissed before. As a teacher at an all girl school and then a governess on a remote estate, I’ve never had much opportunity to be alone with a handsome man before.”
“I discerned as much. Yet you seem to grasp the essentials in kissing quite well for a novice, my fair Juliet.” He was leaning close so his breath caressed her ear. “Perhaps you would like to practice kissing along with lethal knife thrusts?”
Voicing her offense at his open admittance that he could tell she’d never been truly kissed before he came along would spoil the romantic moment. She took the cool, hard bottle neck from his hand and drank deeply. She wiped her mouth with the back of her hand and gave the heavy bottle back to him.
He held it on his knee and gazed out at the expanse of sea. His hair was coming loose from its restraints as shorter dark tendrils fluttered about his head in the wind. “Do you regret leaving England?”
Juliet picked up the black ribbon from the crevice of bark and started winding it over her hand. “At first I resented being forced to leave England. I have no family, you see. Only my childhood friends from the girl’s school where I grew up, and those friendships were few. I have a confession, Mr. Duchamp. If we are being honest with one another, I will not hide my true origins from you. I am a bastard, the offspring of a nobleman who paid for my education at the school, but never made himself known to me. I do not even know his name.”
He took a swig of wine and handed the bottle back to her. “Are you hoping to shock my sensibilities, ma Cherie? We bastards are large in number, a silent, invisible nation who must steal scraps to survive because society despises us for proving the sins of our fathers.”
“You are also illegitimate?” She swung her face about to stare at him. She could barely make out his features as the shadows cast his profile in silhouette beside her.
“Oui, my father was a powerful man in France up until his death in 1774. My mother was his mistress. I am the bastard son of Louis the Fifteenth.”
“You?” she stood up, shocked beyond words as she realized she was casually sipping wine out of a bottle with a man descended from royal blood. “You’re the son of a King?”
He shrugged and waved a hand at the seat she just vacated. “Sit, Cherie. It is of little consequence. Royal bastards are treated little different than the rest of our lot. My father died when I was two years old. I was taken from my mother by the king’s advisors at the age of eight, sent to an elite core or royal guards to be trained in the art of killing. Unlike your family, mine believed in keeping illegitimate offspring close, nurturing them at some backwater estate until they were old enough to be used as chess pieces to gain political ends.”
“I am sorry.” The vision of a young child being forced to embrace violence broke her heart. Juliet thought her dishonorable origins would put him off if he had plans for a future with her, but it seemed they were very much alike; outcasts in the world that despised them for their origins.
“Which lessons do you prefer to engage in first? The kissing or the thrusting?”
Juliet folded at the waist and put her head in her hands and laughed with more gusto than was proper. His words were so funny, whether he meant them to be or not. It must be the wine making her silly. “Oh, Ambrose, you give me a hard choice.”
He shrugged, took a long swing from the bottle, and then swung it hard on the tree trunk beside him. A loud chink met her ears. He swore, stood up, and then cracked it again against the tree trunk. This time it shattered.
“What are you doing?” She was on her feet instantly, but the sand seemed to sway and pitch as if they were on the deck of a ship.
His hand caught her waist, pulling her to him firmly so her back was pressed tight against him. “Look at this. I’ve just created a weapon.”
He held up the neck of the bottle, displaying the sharp edges in an outline beneath the moon and stars. She reached out to feel the edge.
“Don’t touch.” He moved it out of her reach. “It is very sharp. But you see,” his hand moved from her waist and guided her to clutch the bottle neck as he held the sharp end away from them. Tucking his hand back at her waist, he covered her right hand with his and began showing her how to thrust at an imaginary enemy and hold him at bay.
The warmth of his body pressing into her was almost too much. Juliet wanted to turn about and face him, kiss his cheek and casually search for his mouth.
“Remember, anything can become weapon in your hand. A broken plate, a shard of glass, a bottle, or even a broken broomstick handle if you use the sharp end like a knife.”
He moved them about the sand as if they were dancing, pulling her arm, pushing, forcing her to use the bottle like a dagger. She felt a little dizzy. Finally his grip on her hand lightened, and she let the bottle drop from her fingers to the sand.
Juliet whirled on her feet and kissed him hard on the lips. She reached up and let her fingers move through his dark hair. Strong arms surrounded her. That kiss quickly became his creation and not her own. His greedy lips didn’t repulse her. She kissed him back, measure for measure, pleased by the passion of his embrace as he pulled back slightly to nip at her lips with his teeth.
The cloak the countess had given her earlier billowed about her, and came loose from her shoulders as a gust of wind came from the west. She turned, ready to snatch it from the ground before it was lost forever to the winds. Ambrose stopped her hand and began pushing the fabric back into the mound of sand. He sat down on it, and pulled her onto his lap. And in that instant she understood why the countess wore a heavy cloak when she went riding about the island in the moonlight with her spouse!
End of Excerpt
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