Scandalous Summer Nights


By Anne Barton

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From “a delightful new voice in historical romance” (Tessa Dare, New York Times bestselling author) comes a scandalous Regency romance about a sinful rogue who falls in love with his best-friend’s little sister.

Lady Olivia Sherbourne isn’t shy about speaking her mind, except when it comes to James Averill. For ten long years he has been her brother’s best friend and her heart’s only desire. But when Olivia hears James will soon set sail for an expedition to Egypt, she knows the time has come to make her move. It’s now or never . . .

James has always found Olivia bewitchingly attractive, but what kind of gentleman takes up with his best friend’s sister? Not that he’s thinking particularly gentlemanly thoughts when she appears on his exploratory trip-three hundred miles from home — and incites a tavern fight. No matter what the devil she’s doing there, it’s his duty to see her safely back to her family. But how safe will she be when every starlit night brings wicked temptation?


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Table of Contents

A Preview of One Wild Winter's Eve


Copyright Page

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Chapter One

Authentic: (1) Referring to an antiquity or artifact that is genuine; not a fake or forgery. (2) True and real, as in

Her feelings for the dashing solicitor were authentic—and, vexingly, unreciprocated.

London, 1817

Any girl with a smidgen of good sense would have given up on James Averill years ago.

Olivia Sherbourne's problem was not so much a lack of good sense as it was an abundance of stubbornness. She'd pined after James for ten long years. No matter that he gave her scarce little encouragement; her patience was born out of a love that was deep, abiding, and true.

Also, she'd once seen his naked chest.

It was magnificent. And it had sustained her for the better part of a decade.

Even now, as Olivia surreptitiously watched him from across Lady Easton's brilliantly lit ballroom, she could well imagine what lay beneath his finely tailored jacket. Warm, sun-browned skin, sinewy muscle, and a sculpted abdomen to rival Apollo's.

Indeed, she could imagine all sorts of things. And she often did.

At the moment, as she spied him talking with her brother, Owen, the Duke of Huntford, she couldn't help thinking about how she'd love to slide her hands beneath James's lapels and up his chest, nudge his jacket off his impossibly broad shoulders, and spear her fingers through his short brown curls.

Normally, Olivia was more given to action than fantasy. She spoke her mind freely—her brother might say too freely—and did what she thought was right, even if polite society disagreed. She unapologetically pursued the things she wanted: an education that extended beyond music and French; some semblance of control over her future; and meaningful, if unconventional, friendships. She was not shy about chasing her desires.

Except when it came to James.

Because he mattered more than everything.

She'd loved him, her brother's childhood friend, from afar for so long that some might think her rather, well, pathetic. But he'd given signs of noticing her of late—distracted glances and puzzled frowns. Granted, they weren't the most encouraging of signs, but who knew? Perhaps tonight would be the night he finally asked her to waltz. A girl could dream.

And she was willing to wait for his feelings to catch up with hers. In fact, she would have been content to stand there, on the perimeter of the dance floor, catching glimpses of him here and there all evening. She easily spotted him in the throng. His athletic physique and easy smile turned her bones to jelly, and a soft sigh escaped her lips.

A throat cleared, and she wrested her gaze away from James, focusing it on the classically handsome face of the man standing before her. "My apologies, Lord Dixon. I fear I was woolgathering." Her cheeks warmed.

"It is I who should apologize, for startling you." The young marquess smiled reassuringly. "And I must confess I find your ability to daydream amid the chaos of a ball impressive. Not to mention charming," he added, blue eyes twinkling.

"You are most kind." Lord Dixon was just the sort of gentleman Owen would like her to marry: well respected, titled, rich, and unfailingly proper. Olivia herself could find only one flaw with him—he wasn't James.

The marquess smoothed a hand down the front of his waistcoat and cleared his throat once more. "Lady Olivia, would you care to—"

"Ah, there you are." Rose, Olivia's younger sister, rushed to her side, breathless and uncharacteristically agitated. "Good evening, Lord Dixon." She half curtsied. "I hope I'm not interrupting."

"Not at all. We were just about to—"

"I wondered if I might have a word with you, Olivia." She cast an apologetic glance at the marquess. "In private."

Rose's normally serene expression was marred by worry lines on her forehead. A chill slithered up Olivia's spine. Her sister wouldn't dream of impolitely whisking her away unless the matter were truly urgent.

"Of course." Lord Dixon bowed graciously. "Don't let me delay you. We may resume our conversation later, if it pleases you."

"I shall look forward to it," Olivia said. "Thank you for your understanding."

"Yes, thank you," Rose echoed, even as she began tugging Olivia by the arm. She led her to a secluded spot between two potted palms and wrung her hands.

"You're frightening me, Rose. What's happened?"

"I've just learned some news. And I wanted to tell you before you heard it from someone else. I'm afraid you'll find it… distressing."

Olivia's fingers went numb. "Is someone ill? Anabelle's mother? Or the baby?"

"No, no. They're fine. It's nothing like that."

"Then what?"

Rose's eyes shone with compassion. "It concerns Mr. Averill."

"James?" Olivia's knees wobbled, and she grasped the edge of a pot for support. "Is he"—dear God, she could barely bring herself to utter the word—"engaged?" Her voice cracked.

Rose shook her head emphatically. "No."

Olivia took a gulp of air and nodded. "That's good." If James was neither engaged nor dead, the news could not be that devastating. Could it?

"He just made an announcement. It seems that he's preparing to travel to Egypt."

The ballroom tilted. "Egypt?"

"Yes, where he'll participate in an archaeological dig—for two years."

Olivia blinked. "Did you say two years?"

"I'm afraid so."

Olivia swallowed the painful lump in her throat. "When? That is, when will he leave?"

"At the end of the summer. I'm so sorry, Olivia."

"It's all right," she lied. "I knew he was fond of antiquities, of course. I just never imagined…" A future without James in it.

"Would you like to leave the ball? I could tell Owen that you have a headache and we could return home."

"No. No need to spoil your night."

"I don't mind—"

"I know." Olivia smoothed a few stray locks behind her ears as though composing herself were just that easy. "Summer's end. That's only, what, eight weeks away?"

"Yes." Rose looked as distraught as Olivia felt.

"Then that's all the time I have."

"For what?"

"To make him fall in love with me." Of course, she would first have to make him notice her. And treat her as something other than a piece of furniture that one avoided so as not to stub a toe.

Rose's brow furrowed with empathy. "I'm not certain it's possible to make someone fall in love." As always, Rose was the voice of logic and reason. But certainly there was also a time for passion. Olivia decided that time was now.

"You are right, as usual. Still, I must try."


"I wish I knew." She'd already tried daring gowns, turned ankles, and moving bits of poetry. "None of my more subtle tacks has succeeded in capturing his attention."

"You must remember," Rose said sympathetically, "that Mr. Averill is a close friend of Owen's. Our brother can be terribly intimidating."

Olivia loved Rose for suggesting their brother might be the cause of James's apparent lack of interest, but she knew better. "James isn't afraid of Owen—or anyone." Though James looked a perfect gentleman, he was arguably the best boxer in all of London.

"True. But Mr. Averill is an honorable gentleman and, as such, would respect Owen's wishes with regard to you. A boxing match is one thing. Sisters are quite another."

"This is one aspect of my life that I refuse to let Owen dictate. And given tonight's news, I think I must resort to drastic measures."

Rose paled. "Your impulsive nature is one of the things I love best about you…," she began.


"You must think carefully about what you will say to Mr. Averill tonight. Your actions could have serious and lasting consequences—for both of you."

"I know." Olivia swallowed, sobered by her sister's words. "Wish me luck?"

Rose hugged her. "You know I do. Just… be careful. I don't want to see you hurt."

Olivia smiled weakly. "Neither do I." But she knew heartbreak was a distinct possibility.

Her unrequited love must seem ridiculous to her family and friends. Indeed, she questioned her own good sense on a daily basis. But this was no fleeting infatuation. She had a connection with James, understood him. She was charmed by the way his lips moved when he was deep in thought—as though he were talking himself through a difficult problem. She loved the way his eyes lit up when he recounted the latest additions to the British Museum. She even adored his tendency to become distracted by a rare plant when she endeavored to show off a smart new pair of slippers.

Still, she'd never stoop to snaring James in a marriage trap. She didn't want to trick him into taking her as his wife.

What she wanted—what she'd dreamed of every single night for the last ten years—was his complete and utter adoration. She wanted to wake up beside him and have cozy conversations over breakfast. She wanted to ride with him all afternoon and then find a shady spot where they could eat sliced chicken, crusty bread, and strawberries. She wanted him to pick wildflowers and tuck one behind her ear and look at her as though he couldn't believe how fortunate he was that he'd found her.

Although, in actuality, she had found him. But she loved him too much to quibble over such trifling matters.

And that's why the thought of confessing her feelings to James terrified her.

After tonight, she wouldn't be able to delude herself with platitudes like He simply isn't aware you hold him in such high regard or He must believe his attentions would be unwelcome.

She had to face the very real and terrifying possibility that he did not return her affections.

A shiver stole through her limbs, but she shook it off. Ten years of dreaming and two and one-half seasons of waiting could not be for naught.

Their fairy-tale romance would begin tonight.

Olivia simply refused to believe anything different.

James Averill could be forgiven if he arrived at the Easton ball slightly foxed.

He was celebrating, damn it.

In a couple months he'd be on a ship headed to the land of archaeological wonders.

It had taken years of meticulous planning, but he'd finally realized his dream. He'd saved enough money to ensure his mother and brother would be comfortable. He'd taken on a partner so that his clients wouldn't be left in a lurch.

In just eight weeks, he'd leave behind his office, complete with stacks of mind-numbing contracts and sleep-inducing law books, and set off for the adventure of a lifetime.

Which called for another drink.

He swept his gaze around the already bustling ballroom. Huntford and Foxburn were a head taller than most of the other guests and easy to spot in the crowd.

James smiled and nodded politely to a viscount and several older ladies as he meandered toward his friends. Thanks to his finely tailored coat and practiced manners, he blended into this privileged world rather well. Like certain species of lizards in the desert, he was capable of mimicking the landscape. However, at times such as this, he was acutely aware that ballrooms were not his natural environment.

He was a solicitor, someone who worked. For his living. Huntford and Foxburn didn't hold that against him, but then, they both knew he could kick their asses from London to Edinburgh and back again.

"Good evening, gentlemen." James had to admit that marriage agreed with both the duke and the earl. Huntford still brooded, but James suspected it was mostly for show. Foxburn now smiled with startling frequency.

"Averill," Huntford replied, welcoming him with a slap on the shoulder. Foxburn signaled to a passing waiter and James deduced that his drink was on its way.

The duke leaned his large frame toward James and lowered his voice. "There's a matter I need to discuss with you."

"Business?" James hoped it was nothing terribly complex. His mind was not at its sharpest.

Huntford frowned. "Of a sort. Can we meet at your office tomorrow?"

James raised a brow. "Of course."

"Very good. We will deal with it then." The duke pinched the bridge of his nose and shook his head, as if to clear his mind of troubling thoughts.

Foxburn idly tapped the foot of his cane on the parquet floor. "I understand congratulations are in order, Averill."

"Yes. Everything's been arranged. I leave for my expedition at the end of the summer."

"Egypt." Foxburn seemed to consider this as he took a large swig of his drink. "You're giving up all this"—he waved his cane in an arc to indicate the sparkling ballroom—"to ride camels?"

"And unwrap mummies," Huntford added.

"And sleep in a tent." Foxburn was really enjoying himself now. "Be careful you don't get sand in your drawers."

All three men squirmed at the thought.

"The discomfort will be worth it," James said confidently, "if I unearth one ancient artifact—one clue to the civilizations that came before us."

"What might that be?" Huntford asked, skeptical. "A bit of broken pottery? Something that might have been the tip of a spear but is more likely a plain old rock?"

"Well, yes." Actually, he hoped to discover something with pictures or writing—a unique piece that had never been seen before—but explaining himself to these two seemed a waste of breath. "If I find some old pottery or rocks, I'll consider the trip a success."

Huntford and Foxburn stared at him as though he should be carted off to Bedlam.

James was about to say the devil could take them both when the waiter returned with his drink. He took a long draw and found his mood improved almost immediately.

As the strains of a waltz carried through the ballroom, the duke and earl craned their necks in search of their wives. The duchess and countess were sisters, and although they didn't resemble each other, each was beautiful in her own right.

"You'd better hurry to your wives' sides," James advised. "There are half a dozen rogues here hoping to claim them for a dance."

Huntford growled. "Anabelle and Daphne are more than capable of fending off advances, aren't they, Foxburn?"

The earl snorted. "I feel sorry for the poor bastards."

James had no reason to doubt his friends, but he noticed they practically plowed through the crowd in order to join their lovely wives.

He smiled to himself and looked about for an inconspicuous spot in which to finish his drink and select a couple of beautiful young ladies to later seek out as dance partners.

It was a fine plan, and the evening promised to be pleasant.

Until Olivia Sherbourne waylaid him.

Waylaid was actually too benign a word; what Olivia did could best be described as hunting him to ground.

Appearing out of nowhere was an alarming habit of hers. One minute he was relaxed and pondering dance partners; the next he was toe to toe with a brown-haired, doe-eyed force of nature. A hurricane in a pretty blue frock.

"There you are!" she announced. "You must follow me."

No greeting, no niceties, just "You must follow me." Must he? Really? Because he'd been rather content standing there with his drink.

But Olivia was already striding toward the French doors at the back of the room, assuming he was following along at her heels like a well-trained pup. She was Huntford's sister, for God's sake. He couldn't not follow her.

Bloody hell.

She disappeared briefly behind a trio of matrons before slipping out the doors. James ducked out after her, determined to steer her back into the ballroom as quickly as possible.

He stepped onto the terrace, which spanned the considerable width of the house and was softly illuminated by a few lanterns and the moon, hanging in a cloudless sky.

"Over here," she called in a loud whisper. She stood at the corner of the patio, her white gloves waving him over like a beacon on the rocky shore.

Instinct told him he shouldn't do her bidding. Instinct was practically shouting at him, in fact, and his feet remained rooted to the flagstone.

Olivia seemed to sense his hesitation and doubled back toward him. "We haven't much time," she explained, dragging him unceremoniously along by his free arm. At least she hadn't made him spill his drink.

"Where are we going?" He thought it a fair question and desperately hoped the answer wasn't, oh, Gretna Green.

"Right here." She stopped before a stone bench.


She sat and pulled him down beside her. Her expression was impossible to decipher, but her chest rose and fell as though she were frightened. Her white teeth nibbled at her lower lip. Now that she had him here, she seemed at a loss for words.

That never happened with Olivia.

"Are you in some sort of trouble?"

"No," she said quickly. "Er, not that I know of."

He grinned. "How refreshing. Even as a girl, you always seemed to find trouble. Remember the time you managed to climb into the stable with the foals and couldn't get—"

"Don't," she snapped.

"Don't what?" He'd been trying to put her at ease so she could say whatever it was she needed to say. She seemed less than grateful.

"Don't treat me like Owen's little sister."

Holy hell. James drained his glass in one gulp and set it on the bench.

"If you don't want to be treated like a child," he said slowly, "stop acting like one. Start by telling me why you brought me out here."

Olivia moistened her lips with the tip of her tongue. It didn't help. Her mouth was as dry as a dust rag. "I needed to speak with you privately."

James's mossy-green eyes flashed a challenge. "I'm listening."

Her pulse raced madly. This exchange was not going at all as she'd hoped. James was supposed to have detected the tremor in her voice and taken her hands in his, smoothing the pads of his thumbs over the backs of her gloves. By now, he should be gazing at her with concern and a healthy dose of appreciation for the revealing neckline of her gown.

But his strong arms were crossed and his normally full lips were pressed together in a thin line. He had the look of someone who had requested tea an hour ago and was still waiting. Not thirsty so much as… exasperated.

Panicked, she considered making up an excuse for her behavior. She could say she wanted to buy a gift for Owen and Anabelle's new baby and was considering a puppy. Surely James must have an opinion on that—

"Olivia." The impatience gave an edge to his voice, but she also heard a hint of compassion, and it propelled her forward.

There would be no dipping her toe in the water. The only way to proceed was to hurl herself in—even if it was way over her head.

She swallowed hard and looked directly into his beautiful eyes. "I love you."

James blinked once. He wore the disoriented expression of someone who'd been woken in the middle of the night—and was not happy about it. "What do you mean?"

Olivia took a deep breath. "It happened in the summer of 1807, when you visited my brother at Huntford Manor. Owen preferred to spend summers with his friends, but Father insisted he spend at least one week with us, and he always brought you. I was eleven years old that summer, and one day I wanted to fish with you and Owen but he said I couldn't because I would only scare the fish and annoy him. I refused to leave—"

"Of course you did," James mumbled.

"So you remember that day?"

"No. Please, go on." He picked up the glass beside him and looked at the bottom forlornly.

"Owen threatened to throw me in the river if I didn't return to the house."

"Let me guess." James dragged a hand through his hair, leaving it charmingly mussed. "I championed your cause—bloodied your brother's nose so you could have your way."

"No. Even better. You gave me a chance to prove myself. You said that if I could bait my own hook with a live worm—without squealing—I should be allowed to stay and fish. Otherwise, I had to go."

"And how did you fare?"

"I succeeded. Well, Owen tried to say that it didn't count because of the retching—"

James cringed. "You didn't."

"A little. But you said that retching had not been prohibited by the agreement, so I must be permitted to stay and fish."

"I see." He looked over his shoulder toward the terrace. "So, I gather you wanted to express your gratitude, and now you have. Excellent. Shall we return to the ballroom?"

With a boldness that was shocking, even for her, she placed her hand on his leg. More precisely, his very hard and muscular thigh. "I haven't told you everything."

His gaze flew to her hand and remained there as he said, "I'm not certain we have time for the entire story, Olivia. We've been out here for a quarter of an hour and you're still in 1807."

She angled her head so that he was forced to look into her eyes. "I've waited ten years to tell you how I feel. Please, let me finish."

James placed a palm over her hand—the one still on his leg—and a delicious warmth traveled up Olivia's arm and throughout her body, leaving her breathless and tingling all over.

"If someone discovers us alone out here," he said softly, "your reputation will be shattered. Also, your brother will skewer me on the spot. If you feel that there's more you must say, we can arrange another—"

"This won't take long." She could feel him retreating and doubled her resolve. "I didn't fall in love with you that day, but I started to. Every summer I learned more about you, and you always made me feel important—like I was more than Owen's bothersome little sister. I lived for the moments I would see you again."

"You were young," James said. "It was infatuation."

Angry tears sprang to her eyes. "Then why have I waited for you? Why am I devastated at the thought of you leaving for Egypt? Why do I dream of you every single night?"

James stood and dragged his hands down his face. "You don't know what you're saying."

Olivia leaped off the bench and stood before him. "Look at me, James. I'm not a little girl." She put her hands on her hips for emphasis. "This is not a schoolgirl crush—not anymore."

"Have you been drinking?"

She heaved a sigh—he would have to ask that. "I may have nicked a few sips of Owen's brandy earlier today. But that was hours ago."

"You are incorrigible. Do you know that?"

She fingered the long curl that had been artfully arranged to fall over her right shoulder. "I can see that I have shocked you for the second time this evening, and I'm glad."

He clenched his jaw, and she longed to touch the faint shadow of stubble along his chin.

"I have half a mind to march into that ballroom"—he pointed behind her—"and inform your brother that he needs to find you a chaperone and tether her to you for the remainder of the season." His broad shoulders strained at the confines of his jacket each time he waved his arm for emphasis.

Olivia inched closer to him, so that only a breath separated her chest and his torso. The one she had seen in all its naked glory. He smelled like leather and ink and pure male.

"You won't do that," she said.

A feral smile lit his face. "Oh yes, I will."

Her heartbeat thundered in her chest. She knew what she must do.

Before she could lose her nerve, she threw her arms around his neck and stood on tiptoe.

And she kissed him.

Chapter Two

James inhaled sharply as Olivia's body collided with his. Her hands locked behind his head and she pressed her lips to his.

He grabbed her by the elbows and ducked out of her embrace. "What the hell are you doing?"

She took two steps back and pressed one hand over her mouth, the other over her belly.

"This is madness," he muttered, more to himself than to her.

His blood was boiling—and not from desire. How dare Olivia spoil their friendship? Things would never be the same between them now. No more playful banter, no more gentle teasing. She'd ruined everything. Including his lifelong friendship with her brother.

And if there was one thing he didn't need right now, it was a scandal. Or melodrama of any sort. Nothing that would interfere with his plans to travel and explore.

"I'm going to pretend that you didn't do that," he said carefully. "In fact, it never happened."

Her chest heaved above the neckline of her gown, which was much too revealing now that he thought on it. He was shocked that Huntford let her out of the house in that pitiful excuse for a dress. She looked as though she might cry. And she still hadn't spoken a word since he pushed her away.

He counted to ten in his head and let the anger seep out of him. Somehow, Olivia had gotten the wrong idea. The gentlemanly thing to do would be to firmly but kindly inform her that while he was flattered, he was in no way able to return her affections.

Above all else, he had to quickly escort her back to her brother's side.

He let out a long breath, grabbed her by the hand, and pulled her back to the bench. "Let's sit."

For once, she did as he asked. She was slightly more composed, but her lower lip trembled and her chin was puckered like a strawberry. He felt as big as a snail.

"I'm sorry for the way I reacted. You caught me off guard."

"I understand." She gazed at her hands in her lap.

James hated seeing her so defeated. Where was the spunk he'd always admired?

"I… ah… am very flattered that you would—"

"Brazenly launch myself at you?" The tiniest, most reluctant smile escaped her lips.

He chuckled, and the tightness in his chest eased. "As brazen launches go, it was impressive."

She giggled. "Thank you. If you were any less sturdy, we might both have landed feet-up in the hedges over there."

Ah, she was a good sport, but the hurt still showed in the tightness around her mouth.

James slipped an arm around her shoulders. "I am truly sorry. Most men would welcome the attention of a beautiful young lady, but I—"

"You think I'm beautiful?"

Had he said that?

She sat up straighter, as though his answer were very important.

"Of course you are." It was true. "And you deserve to be properly courted by the right kind of gentleman."

Olivia laughed, a throaty, lusty sound. "Alas, I've yet to be properly courted by


  • "Anne Barton is a delightful new voice in historical romance! ONCE SHE WAS TEMPTED is a charming read, with characters who are easy to love--a wounded earl and a determined heroine whose heart won't be denied."—Tessa Dare, New York Times bestselling author
  • "Sensual and solid, this debut is a story demanding to be read. The characters are believable and relatable, and Barton smartly blends issues of morality and Regency era social class with passion and excitement."—Publisher's Weekly (Starred Review) on When She Was Wicked
  • "Stunning and heart melting...When She Was Wicked is a beautifully written regency Romance that I fell deeply in love with! Anne Barton has succeeded in writing the perfect debut. This is a must read that you do not want to miss!"— on When She Was Wicked
  • "4 stars! Delightfully smart, fun, fast-paced and just different enough for readers to take note of Barton's charming voice, this novel is filled with wry humor and compassion intrigues readers. The intrepid heroine, arrogant hero, memorable secondary characters and the colorful depiction of the era add to the reading enjoyment"—RT Book Reviews on When She Was Wicked
  • "When She Was Wicked is a delightful debut! Anne Barton's cast of characters is charming and witty. Owen is the type of hero that readers fall in love with from the very first introduction, and Anabelle is ingenious and resourcefully cunning--a girl after my own heart."—Tiffany Clare on When She Was Wicked
  • "Break out the bubbly for Anne Barton's delightful debut!"—Vicky Dreiling, award-winning author on When She Was Wicked

On Sale
Oct 28, 2014
Page Count
400 pages

Anne Barton

About the Author

Anne Barton began swiping romance novels off her mom’s bookshelf as a teenager, so when she had the chance to spend a semester in London-home to her favorite heroes-she packed her bags and promptly fell in love with the city, its history, and its pubs. She dreamed of writing romance, but somehow ended up a software analyst instead.

Fortunately, a few years and a few careers later, Anne found her way back to writing the stories she loves and in 2011 won the Romance Writers of America’s Golden Heart for Regency Historical Romance. She lives in Maryland with her husband (who, sadly, is not a peer of the realm-but a great guy nonetheless) and her three children, who try valiantly not to roll their eyes whenever she quotes Jane Austen. Her weaknesses include reality TV, cute-but-impractical shoes, and caffeinated beverages of all kinds.

Learn more at:
Twitter, @_AnneBarton

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