Viscount Breckenridge to the Rescue
(The Cynster Sisters Trilogy #1)
Three heros, three rescues, three weddings.
You are cordially invited to the wedding of Miss Heather Cynster
...but not before she encounters kidnappers, danger, and a daring rescue at the hands of Viscount Breckenridge.
Determined to hunt down her very own hero, one who will sweep her off her feet and into wedded bliss, and despairing of finding him in London's staid ballrooms, Heather Cynster steps out of her safe world and boldly attends a racy soiree.
But her promising hunt is ruined by the supremely interfering Viscount Breckenridge, who whisks her out of scandal-and straight into danger when a mysterious enemy seizes her, bundles her into a coach, and conveys her out of London.
Now it's up to the notorious Breckenridge to prove himself the hero she's been searching for all along..
Chapter OneMarch, 1829
Wadham Gardens, London
Heather Cynster knew her latest plan to find a suitable
husband was doomed the instant she set foot
in Lady Herford's salon.
In a distant corner, a dark head, perfectly
coiffed in the latest rakish style, rose. A pair of sharp hazel
eyes pinned her where she stood.
"Damn!" Keeping a smile firmly fixed over her involuntarily
clenching teeth, as if she hadn't noticed the most
startlingly handsome man in the room staring so intently
at her, she let her gaze drift on.
Breckenridge was hemmed in by not one but three dashing
ladies, all patently vying for his attention. She sincerely
wished them every success and prayed he'd take the sensible
course and pretend he hadn't seen her.
She was certainly going to pretend that she hadn't seen him.
Refocusing on the surprisingly large crowd Lady Herford
had enticed to her soiree, Heather determinedly banished
Breckenridge from her mind and considered her prospects.
Most of the guests were older than she—all the ladies at
least. Some she recognized, others she did not, but it would
be surprising if any other lady present wasn't married. Or
widowed. Or more definitively on the shelf than Heather.
Soirees of the style of Lady Herford's were primarily the
province of the well-bred but bored matrons, those in search
of more convivial company than that provided by their usually
much older, more sedate husbands. Such ladies might
not be precisely fast, yet neither were they innocent. However, as by
common accord said ladies had already presented their husbands with an heir,
if not two, the majority had more years in their dish than Heather's twenty-five.
From her brief, initial, assessing sweep, she concluded
that most of the gentlemen present were, encouragingly,
older than she. Most were in their thirties, and by their
style—fashionable, well-turned out, expensively garbed,
and thoroughly polished—she'd chosen well in making
Lady Herford's soiree her first port of call on this, her first
expedition outside the rarefied confines of the ballrooms,
drawing rooms, and dining rooms of the upper echelon of
For years she'd searched through those more refined
reception rooms for her hero—the man who would sweep her
off her feet and into wedded bliss—only to conclude that he
didn't move in such circles. Many gentlemen of the ton,
although perfectly eligible in every way, preferred to steer well
clear of all the sweet young things, the young ladies paraded
on the marriage mart. Instead, they spent their evenings at
events such as Lady Herford's, and their nights in various
pursuits—gaming and womanizing to name but two.
Her hero—she had to believe he existed somewhere—
was most likely a member of that more elusive group of
males. Given he was therefore unlikely to come to her, she'd
decided—after lengthy and animated discussions with her
sisters, Elizabeth and Angelica—that it behooved her to
come to him.
To locate him and, if necessary, hunt him down.
Smiling amiably, she descended the shallow steps to the
floor of the salon. Lady Herford's villa was a recently built,
quite luxurious dwelling located to the north of Primrose
Hill—close enough to Mayfair to be easily reached by
carriage, a pertinent consideration given Heather had had to
come alone. She would have preferred to attend with someone
to bear her company, but her sister Eliza, just a year younger
and similarly disgusted with the lack of hero material within
their restricted circle, was her most likely co-conspirator and
they couldn't both develop a headache on the same evening
without their mama seeing through the ploy. Eliza, therefore,
was presently gracing Lady Montague's ballroom, while
Heather was supposedly laid upon her bed, safe and snug in
Giving every appearance of calm confidence, she glided
into the crowd. She'd attracted considerable attention;
although she pretended obliviousness, she could feel the
assessing glances dwelling on the sleek, amber silk gown that
clung lovingly to her curves. This particular creation sported
a sweetheart neckline and tiny puffed sleeves; as the evening
was unseasonably mild and her carriage stood outside, she'd
elected to carry only a fine topaz-and-amber Norwich silk
shawl, its fringe draping over her bare arms and flirting over
the silk of the gown. Her advanced age allowed her greater
freedom to wear gowns that, while definitely not as revealing
as some others she could see, nevertheless drew male eyes.
One gentleman, suitably drawn and a touch bolder than
his fellows, broke from the circle surrounding two ladies
and languidly stepped into her path.
Halting, she haughtily arched a brow.
He smiled and bowed, fluidly graceful. "Miss Cynster, I
"Indeed, sir. And you are?"
"Miles Furlough, my dear." His eyes met hers as he
straightened. "Is this your first time here?"
"Yes." She glanced around, determinedly projecting
confident assurance. She intended to pick her man, not allow
him or any other to pick her. "The company appears quite
animated." The noise of untold conversations was steadily
rising. Returning her gaze to Miles Furlough, she asked,
"Are her ladyship's gatherings customarily so lively?"
Furlough's lips curved in a smile Heather wasn't sure she
"I think you'll discover—" Furlough broke off, his gaze
going past her.
She had an instant's warning—a primitive prickling over
her nape—then long, steely fingers closed about her elbow.
Heat washed over her, emanating from the contact,
supplanted almost instantly by a disorientating giddiness. She
caught her breath. She didn't need to look to know that
Timothy Danvers, Viscount Breckenridge—her nemesis—had
elected not to be sensible.
"Furlough." The deep voice issuing from above her head
and to the side had its usual disconcerting effect.
Ignoring the frisson of awareness streaking down her
spine—a susceptibility she positively despised—she slowly
turned her head and directed a reined glare at its cause.
There was nothing in her tone to suggest she welcomed
his arrival—quite the opposite.
He ignored her attempt to depress his pretensions; indeed,
she wasn't even sure he registered it. His gaze hadn't shifted
"If you'll excuse us, old man, there's a matter I need to
discuss with Miss Cynster." Breckenridge held Furlough's
gaze. "I'm sure you understand."
Furlough's expression suggested that he did yet wished
he didn't feel obliged to give way. But in this milieu,
Breckenridge—the hostesses' and the ladies' darling—
was well nigh impossible to gainsay. Reluctantly, Furlough
inclined his head. "Of course."
Shifting his gaze to Heather, Furlough smiled—more
sincerely, a tad ruefully. "Miss Cynster. Would we had met in
less crowded surrounds. Perhaps next time." With a parting
nod, he sauntered off into the crowd.
Heather let free an exasperated huff. But before she could
even gather her arguments and turn them on Breckenridge,
he tightened his grip on her elbow and started propelling her
through the crowd.
Startled, she tried to halt. "What—"
"If you have the slightest sense of self-preservation you
will walk to the front door without any fuss."
He was steering her, surreptitiously pushing her, in that
direction, and it wasn't all that far. "Let. Me. Go." She
uttered the command, low and delivered with considerable
feeling, through clenched teeth.
He urged her up the salon steps. Used the moment when
she was on the step above him to bend his head and breathe
in her ear, "What the devil are you doing here?"
His clenched teeth trumped her clenched teeth. The
words, his tone, slid through her, evoking—as he'd no doubt
intended—a nebulous, purely instinctive fear.
By the time she shook free of it, he was smoothly, apparently
unhurriedly, steering her through the guests thronging
"No—don't bother answering." He didn't look down; he
had the open front door in his sights. "I don't care what
ninnyhammerish notion you've taken into your head. You're
Hale, whole, virgin intacta. Breckenridge only just bit
back the words.
"There is no reason whatever for you to interfere." Her
voice vibrated with barely suppressed fury.
He recognized her mood well enough—her customary
one whenever he was near. Normally he would respond by
giving her a wide berth, but here and now he had no choice.
"Do you have any idea what your cousins would do to me—
let alone your brothers—if they discovered I'd seen you in
this den of iniquity and turned a blind eye?"
She snorted and tried, surreptitiously but unsuccessfully,
to free her elbow. "You're as large as any of them—and
demonstrably just as much of a bully. You could see them off."
"One, perhaps, but all six? I think not. Let alone Luc and
Martin, and Gyles Chillingworth—and what about
Michael? No, wait—what about Caro, and your aunts, and . . .
the list goes on. Flaying would be preferable—much less
"You're overreacting. Lady Herford's house hardly qualifies
as a den of iniquity." She glanced back. "There's nothing
the least objectionable going on in that salon."
"Not in the salon, perhaps—at least, not yet. But you
didn't go further into the house—trust me, a den of iniquity
it most definitely is."
"No." Reaching the front porch—thankfully deserted—
he halted, released her, and finally let himself look down
at her. Let himself look into her face, a perfect oval hosting
delicate features and a pair of stormy gray-blue eyes lushly
fringed with dark brown lashes. Despite those eyes having
turned hard and flinty, even though her luscious lips were
presently compressed into a thin line, that face was the sort
that had launched armadas and incited wars since the dawn
of time. It was a face full of life. Full of sensual promise and
barely restrained vitality.
And that was before adding the effect of a slender figure,
sleek rather than curvaceous, yet invested with such fluid
grace that her every movement evoked thoughts that, at least
in his case, were better left unexplored.
The only reason she hadn't been mobbed in the salon was
because none but Furlough had shaken free of the arrestation
the first sight of her generally caused quickly enough to
get to her before he had.
He felt his face harden, fought not to clench his fists and
tower over her in a sure to be vain attempt to intimidate her.
"You're going home, and that's all there is to it."
Her eyes narrowed to shards. "If you try to force me, I'll
He lost the battle; his fists clenched at his sides. Holding
her gaze, he evenly stated, "If you do, I'll tap you under that
pretty little chin, knock you unconscious, tell everyone you
fainted, toss you in a carriage, and send you home."
Her eyes widened. She considered him but didn't back
down. "You wouldn't."
He didn't blink. "Try me."
Heather inwardly dithered. This was the trouble with
Breckenridge—one simply couldn't tell what he was thinking.
His face, that of a Greek god, all clean planes and sharp
angles, lean cheeks below high cheekbones and a strong,
square jaw, remained aristocratically impassive and utterly
unreadable no matter what was going through his mind. Not
even his heavy-lidded hazel eyes gave any clue; his expression
was perennially that of an elegantly rakish gentleman
who cared for little beyond his immediate pleasure.
Every element of his appearance, from his exquisitely
understated attire, the severe cut of his clothes making the lean
strength they concealed only more apparent, to the languid
drawl he habitually affected, supported that image—one she
was fairly certain was a comprehensive façade.
She searched his eyes—and detected not the smallest sign
that he wouldn't do precisely as he said. Which would be
simply too embarrassing.
"How did you get here?"
Reluctantly, she waved at the line of carriages stretching
along the curving pavement of Wadham Gardens as far as
they could see. "My parents' carriage—and before you
lecture me on the impropriety of traveling across London alone
at night, both the coachman and groom have been with my
family for decades."
Tight-lipped, he nodded. "I'll walk you to it."
He reached for her elbow again.
She whisked back. "Don't bother." Frustration erupted;
she felt sure he would inform her brothers that he'd found
her at Lady Herford's, which would spell an end to her
plan—one which, until he'd interfered, had held real promise.
She gave vent to her temper with an infuriated glare. "I
can walk twenty yards by myself."
Even to her ears her words sounded petulant. In reaction,
she capped them with, "Just leave me alone!"
Lifting her chin, she swung on her heel and marched
down the steps. Head determinedly high, she turned right
along the pavement toward where her parents' town carriage
waited in the line.
Inside she was shaking. She felt childish and furious—
and helpless. Just as she always felt when she and Breckenridge
Blinking back tears of stifled rage, knowing he was watching,
she stiffened her spine and marched steadily on.
From the shadows of Lady Herford's front porch, Breckenridge
watched the bane of his life stalk back to safety.
Why of all the ladies in the ton it had to be Heather Cynster
who so tied him in knots he didn't know; what he did
know was that there wasn't a damned thing he could do
about it. She was twenty-five, and he was ten years and
a million nights older; he was certain she viewed him at
best as an interfering much older cousin, at worst as an
"Wonderful," he muttered as he watched her stride fearlessly
along. Once he saw her safely away . . . he was going
to walk home. The night air might clear his head of the
distraction, of the unsettled, restless feeling dealing with her
always left him prey to—a sense of loneliness, and emptiness,
and time slipping away.
Of life—his life—being somehow worthless, or rather,
worth less—less than it should.
He didn't, truly didn't, want to think about her. There
were ladies among the crowd inside who would fight to
provide him with diversion, but he'd long ago learned the value
of their smiles, their pleasured sighs.
Fleeting, meaningless, illusory connections.
Increasingly they left him feeling cheapened, used. Unfulfilled.
#1 New York Times bestselling author Stephanie Laurens began writing romances as an escape from the dry world of professional science.
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(August 30, 2011)