Lady Elizabeth Arundale has been alone for ten years—or worse than alone. Her husband left for Jamaica soon after their wedding night, leaving her responsible for his catty, high-maintenance cousin and his wastrel brother. Elizabeth knows the secret that caused her husband to flee—when his passions are roused, he turns into a ravening Beast.
Lord Joshua has no choice but to return to Arundale Hall when his man of business tells him there has been a murder on the estate—a murder that bears all the hallmarks of the Beast. He fears that his brother, too, may have inherited the curse. And he fears that he will be unable to control his deviant desires. The dark sexual practices that keep the Beast at bay. The unspeakable perversions he wished to spare his wife. The brutal bonding his inner animal is desperate to experience with its mate.
“I am looking for Mr. Perry Arundale.” She swept up the stairs. “It would be easier if you would lead me to him, but I won’t expect it,” she said contemptuously.
The man’s gaze narrowed. “I am the lord of this house, my lady. I can assure you Mr. Arundale is not here.”
Elizabeth’s blood boiled. She hated these smug purveyors of forbidden pleasure, who played on the fear and anguish of her family. “I hope you won’t mind if I assure myself of that?”
She reached the landing and the man studied her from head to toe. Jaimison stiffened beside her. The man’s glance touched Jaimison and the other three men behind him. “I seem to have little choice in the matter.”
“Thank you,” she said sarcastically.READ MORE
Room to room, Elizabeth searched along the passageways. In the fifth room, after viewing some of the most perverted and fascinating sexual tableaus, she found Perry. He was restrained to a huge four-poster bed, his face in the pillow and his bare arse up in the air. His back was criss-crossed with red marks that glowed wickedly in the flickering candlelight.
Jaimson and the other men untied Perry. They lifted him and carried him from the room. Elizabeth followed and kept her gaze ahead of her. The strange lord was still at the top of the stairs as they progressed to the exit.
“I see you found your missing lord.” His smile was razor-thin and Elizabeth noted the pinched expression around his eyes. The man was angry with her.
She faced him, suddenly frustrated, her blood burning. “I found him. It’s a shame there are those who would use his torment against him.” The words tumbled from her mouth. “I don’t doubt he came here of his own free will and begged for the treatment meted out to him. But it disgusts me that no one, none of his so-called friends, or those who take his money for these excursions, have the wits to see he is in pain.”
Her breath came fast and her heart raced. Normally Elizabeth said nothing to these people. She retrieved her brother-in-law and walked out, dignity intact. But for some reason, tonight she had reached her limit.
The man stared at her for a moment. “What do you know of torment, my lady?” he sneered.
She glared, her fists clenched. “What do you know of my knowledge, my lord?” she snapped. “How easy it must be to provide these pleasures and know nothing of the anguish behind them. I congratulate you on the ease with which you distance yourself.” She tipped her chin and placed her hand on the banister. “I bid you goodnight with the doubtful hope I will never see you again.”
Jaimison’s face was carved in stone as she reached the front door, her hands shaking. What had possessed her to confront that dissolute aristocrat about his deviant pleasure house? Especially since she couldn’t remain unmoved when she saw some of the things he provided.
Perry remained in a stupor even when the men deposited him in his bed. Elizabeth’s stomach rolled and she felt exhausted.
“Are you all right, my lady?” Jaimison asked.
“I’m fine. Thank you.” She saw him to the door.
What a fool. She was the biggest fool in England. She loved a man who had abandoned her, took care of the man’s brother, and for what? For love? She shook her head and stripped off her gloves. Yes, for love. Ten years and that hadn’t changed.
From the moment she’d met Joshua she’d loved him. He had cared for her, given her an escape from her drunken father. Then he had left her.
A loud thump sounded from the front door.
She whirled around and stared at the heavy wood etched with the coat of arms that represented the Arundale family. The faded wolf’s head perched on top of the knight’s headpiece and the graceful flock of swallows suddenly seemed menacing.
Ridiculous. It was just Jaimison or one of his men. She strode to the door and jerked it open.
On the doorstep lay a disfigured body, blood running over the ancient stones and oozing from myriad wounds. The face was obliterated, the clothes tattered. The coppery smell of blood hit Elizabeth full blast and she froze, unable to look away, unable to move.
She opened her mouth and screamed and screamed.
Her hand was still on the polished doorknob when she slid to the floor and drifted into oblivion.COLLAPSE