Married by Moonlight (Distinguished Rogues series #9)
Married by Moonlight (Distinguished Rogues series #9)
Compromising shy beauty Anna Beasley is something Lord Sorenson can’t regret, especially if marriage keeps her safe from a killer targeting the ton’s debutants…a killer who’s closer to home than either would ever suspect.
- Murderous Marriage Mart
- London Season
- Honorable Marriage
Nearly twenty, Anna Beasley despairs of ever finding a husband. Eligible bachelors seem to avoid the stuttering, blushing debutante in favor of her bolder, more adventurous friends. Much to the delight of her father, who’s determined to marry her off to his godson, Lord Carmichael, despite Anna’s refusal. Her lifelong nemesis, Carmichael has kissed half the young women in London.
Surely Carmichael’s friend, Lord Sorenson, newly arrived in Town, is cut from the same cloth. Anna decides to stay away from him…despite his wicked smile that makes her quiver.
Gilbert Bowen, Earl of Sorenson, had planned to live out his days as a country vicar. But when his old friend Carmichael sends a desperate plea for help, he can’t say no. There’s a murderer among the ton—and every death leads back to Carmichael. Catching a killer during the social season is difficult enough…and then Anna catches his eye. The shy beauty is a distraction he can ill afford but scarcely resist.
When the pair are caught in a compromising position, Sorenson needs little convincing to claim her, especially if it keeps Anna out of harm’s way. But with as many twists and turns as there are suspects, this case may find no one safe—especially when the killer is closer to home than they ever dreamed.
Intro to Chapter One
Intro to Chapter One
Gilbert Bowen, Earl of Sorenson, burst through the swirling fog into the torch-lit rear courtyard of Lady Berry’s home in a violent temper a little before six o’clock in the morning. Mr. Albert Meriwether deserved to be horsewhipped, and so did the Runners for going along with this arrest.
A tall, narrow fellow, probably one of them, too, peeled himself off a wall by the servants’ entrance and moved to block Gilbert’s path.
Gilbert wasted no time on pleasantries. “Where is he?”
The man looked him up and down, taking in his fine clothing and superior size. “Who are you?”
“A man not to be trifled with.” He passed over his card and letter of introduction from a mutual acquaintance, hoping the man knew how to read.
Apparently, he did, for the Runner’s eyes widened and he swallowed hard.
The man handed them back, hand shaking a little. “We were not told to expect you, my lord.”
Gilbert scowled. “My presence should not have been needed if reason had prevailed. Take me to Mr. Meriwether, now.”
“Of course, my lord. He’s still interrogating the suspect inside.” The man smiled quickly. “The name is Davis.”
Gilbert recognized the name but made no further comment. Bow Street Runners were generally good men, thorough and effective at their jobs on most occasions. Except this one. They had little reason to rub shoulders with members of the ton or they would not have detained the man inside at all. He hated to think what had happened overnight inside Lady Berry’s home.
Davis may be one of the best. But Albert Meriwether, the investigator wrongly holding a suspect inside for interrogation, was definitely not of that quality, from all he’d heard tonight. Gilbert was here to put a stop to his interrogation before any lasting harm was done.
Davis led him swiftly down halls overflowing with chairs, folded tables and piles of soiled linen ready to be taken into the country for laundering. Gilbert should have attended the ball held here last night. Unfortunately, fate had not been on his side.
He stepped into a disordered drawing room and took stock of the situation.
Lady Berry was sobbing on a fainting couch by the far window, a maid hovering ineffectually at her elbow wearing an expression full of fear.
Gilbert swung his gaze to the man tied to a chair in the center of the room like a criminal. His temper did not improve to see fresh blood spotting his friend’s shirt front. His cream knee breeches were soiled by old blood too, likely the victim’s.
The investigator looked up slowly, his expression annoyed. “Sorenson? What the devil are you doing back in London?”
Gilbert raked his gaze over Meriwether, noting his bloodied knuckles and the sheen of sweat glistening on his face. “I’m here to rectify the grievous mistake you’ve made tonight before it is too late.”
“There is no mistake,” Meriwether insisted, circling his innocent captive.
“There most certainly is,” Gilbert insisted, withdrawing his orders from Bow Street and holding them out. “Read this.”
The investigator snatched them up and read every line—twice, he suspected. Gilbert moved to check that Lord Carmichael still breathed. He turned his friend’s face up to the light, appalled by what he saw. “Dear God. What has been done to you?”
Carmichael shuddered. His left eye was swelling shut and his lip had been split from a beating and was dripping blood down his chin. Meriwether had not been gentle or within his rights to do this. The magistrate would not be pleased.
“No. This case is mine,” Meriwether complained. “He’s all but confessed to the murder. He’s covered in her blood.”
“Old blood, judging by the state of his knees.” Gilbert grimaced, reaching into another pocket for a week-old letter. “You should read this, as well, before you say another word to implicate him further.”
Meriwether read the letter Gilbert had recently received from Lord Carmichael and Miss Berry, announcing their impending wedding, and their request that Gilbert come to London for the announcement last night. Rain had prevented Gilbert from reaching London in time.
“Lord Carmichael was in love with Angela Berry, and she with him. He would not kill her when he was about to announce their marriage, of that I am certain.”
“This gives him motive if she refused him,” Meriwether crowed. “Look at him.”
“Did you not read her own words in the letter?”
“Anyone could have written it.”
“Show her mother and have her disprove it is her handwriting.”
Meriwether rushed to Lady Berry and thrust the letter at her face. “Is this your daughter’s writing?”
Lady Berry sat in shadows, but the maid rushed to bring a candelabra to her so she could read. After a long wait, she began to nod. “That is her penmanship. I would recognize it anywhere.”
Meriwether swung around, scowling at the maid.
Gilbert shook his head. “It is known he was found with the body and was nearly incoherent when questioned. He would have attempted to revive her, which is why his clothing is soiled with her blood, you fool.”
“She was cold when I found her,” Carmichael mumbled, clearly in pain, judging by the slurred nature of his speech. “Never even had a chance to announce we would wed…”
Carmichael sobbed and turned his face away from everyone.
Meriwether sneered. “Isn’t that a convenient tale?”
“Actually, he’s never been a good liar. I’m the reason he had delayed announcing they would marry last night. He wanted me here—which the magistrate believes too,” Gilbert told the fellow. “Now, I have Bow Street’s approval to release him, and you may go and track down a real criminal in any other case you have on your hands. You are done here. Leave the Runners behind. They are under my command now.”
“Damn nonsense! You titled bastards always protect your own,” Meriwether complained as he began to straighten his clothes. He pulled on his wrinkled coat in a furious rush, scowling like thunder. Clearly the man was unhappy but that was just too bad. “I’ll speak to the magistrate about this immediately.”
“Good. He’s expecting you,” Gilbert told him, glad to have the investigator gone.
Gilbert gently untied Carmichael’s bonds, noticing red stripes had formed around each tightly bound wrist. Meriwether would have a hard time explaining to the magistrate why he’d treated a peer with such contempt. “Carmichael?”
Carmichael turned his head, squinting at him through his long hair. “What kept you?”
Gilbert brushed his hair back, continuing to assess the damage Meriwether’s fists had caused to his face. Nothing so far suggested Carmichael would bear any scars. “The roads from Kent were muddy,” he apologized. “I had only just arrived in London when a Runner I know well came with the news you were being held as a suspect in Miss Berry’s death.”
Carmichael carefully dabbed at his split lip with his shirtsleeve. “I’m innocent, Sorenson.”
“I believe you, but Meriwether does not know you like I do. He will be reprimanded for this, I swear.”
He put his arm around Carmichael and hauled him up onto his feet. Carmichael was unsteady and Gilbert held him tightly. “Let’s get you out of here, all right? My carriage is waiting in the mews to take you away.”
“I want to help catch Angela’s killer,” Carmichael protested.
“You’re in no condition to do anything but what I say, my friend. When you’re rested, we’ll talk again. Bow Street has given me complete autonomy in the matter. I’d like to keep this quiet for now, to protect your reputation and Bow Street’s. I am sending you to my home, where my man will tend to your injuries in privacy. As soon as I finish up here and sort through this mess, I’ll return home to take your real statement and discuss what will happen next.”
Carmichael nodded but then turned. He looked across the room to where Lady Berry watched their slow progress through puffy eyes. She still had the letter from Carmichael and her daughter clutched in her hand. Her expression was decidedly ashamed.
“Thank you for believing in me,” Carmichael whispered to Gilbert.
“Don’t thank me yet,” he warned. London policing was an imprecise business at best. “Meriwether is fond of beating confessions out of his suspects, whether they be true or not. He could still cause trouble for you.”
Reputations were made or lost because of harmful gossip, and Carmichael’s standing in society was in jeopardy now.
Lady Berry drew herself up and thrust out the letter to Gilbert. “He said it had to be him,” she whispered. “He said there could be no one else.”
“I loved her,” Carmichael protested. “We were going to marry next week by special license and go home to Edenmere. Angela had already chosen the bedchamber that would become yours. I swear to you, I could never harm her,” Carmichael promised the older woman. “I’ll find out who took Angela from us if it’s the last thing I do.”
The older woman seemed to crumple back onto the fainting couch, covering her face as she began to cry again. Gilbert tried to hurry Carmichael away but the man was barely able to move.
“Be gentle with her,” Carmichael begged of him once they were a distance from Lady Berry. “As prickly as she’s always been with me, she adored Angela. Meriwether is a convincing bastard. I almost believed his arguments myself.”
“No, you didn’t,” Gilbert disagreed. But he would need to ask some hard questions of her and everyone in the household again. There was no telling what sort of nonsense Meriwether had coerced the household staff to say to implicate Carmichael. Getting to the truth might take a while.
- Purchase the eBook Instantly
- Receive Download Link via Email
- Send to preferred eReader and enjoy!
Can I buy this book from other retailers?
Can I buy this book from other retailers?
Yes! To find other retail stores CLICK HERE
Praise for Married by Moonlight...
★ ★ ★ ★ ★ “Absolutely loved this story! … It is a page turner from start to finish and I highly recommend it.” ~ Lisa J
★ ★ ★ ★ ★ “Amazing book! It was a perfect combination of love, intensity, beautiful characters and great plot.” ~ Mari S
★ ★ ★ ★ “The mystery … had some great twists and turns to it. For the most of the book I had one person in mind as the killer and I ended up being totally wrong.” ~ Melanie V
★ ★ ★ ★ ★ “All the ingredients are there: smart, beautiful heroine; brave, handsome, worthy hero, villian, friends, romance.” ~ Donna O
★ ★ ★ ★ “A really sweet read.” ~ Angela D