A Touch of Scandal


By Jennifer Haymore

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The last thing Garrett, Duke of Calton, expects to find while tracking his sworn enemy is the delectable, mysterious Kate. This beautiful servant girl rouses a longing the battle-scarred ex-soldier had never hoped to feel again. But when she turns out to be the sister of the man he seeks, he’s convinced he’s been betrayed.

Kate knows her duty to her family, yet how can she ignore Garrett’s powerful pull on her heart? Or the heady temptation of his stolen-and sizzling-kisses? Scandal has followed the duke since the war. Now the greatest shock of all is on its way-the one that can separate Garrett and Kate forever.


"You should stay away from me."

Garrett took a step closer to Kate, close enough to feel the sweet heat cascading from her body. She smelled of cinnamon and pine.

She stood her ground. "I don't fear you."

"I'm dangerous."

"Perhaps," she breathed. "But not to me."

"Associating with me will only bring you pain."

"How can you say such an awful thing?"

"I have that effect on people."

She reached out and brazenly placed her hand flat on his chest, scorching him through the thin linen of his shirt. "So be it. But no matter how much pain associating with you might bring me…" Her words dwindled as he pressed his palm over her hand.

She stared at his hand engulfing hers on his chest. Raising his other hand, he touched one finger to the soft skin beneath her chin and pressed upward, forcing her to face him.

"Tell me what you were going to say."

Her eyes shone, and she blinked. "I'll never regret it."

Bending his head, he touched his lips to hers.

"Jennifer Haymore's books are sophisticated, deeply sensual, and emotionally complex. With a dead sexy hero, a sweetly practical heroine, and a love story that draws together two people from vastly different backgrounds, A TOUCH OF SCANDAL is positively captivating!"

—ELIZABETH HOYT, New York Times bestselling author


"Full of suspense, mystery, romance, and erotica… I am looking forward to more from this author."

—Las Vegas Review-Journal

"A clever, provoking, and steamy story from an upcoming author to keep your eye out for!"

— BookPleasures.com

"Haymore is a shining star, and if A Hint of Wicked is any indication of what's to come, bring me more."

— FallenAngelReviews.com

"Debut author Haymore crafts a unique plot filled with powerful emotions and complex issues."

RT BOOKreviews Magazine

"A unique, heart-tugging story with sympathetic, larger-than-life characters, intriguing plot twists, and sensual love scenes."

—NICOLE JORDAN, New York Times bestselling author

"Exhilarating… a thrilling historical."

Midwest Book Review

"Complex, stirring, and written with a skillful hand, A Hint of Wicked is an evocative love story that will make a special place for itself in your heart."

— RomRevToday.com

"Jennifer Haymore is an up-and-coming new writer who displays a skillful touch in her erotic tale of a woman torn between two lovers."

—SHIRLEE BUSBEE, New York Times bestselling author of Seduction Becomes Her

"Recommended for readers who enjoy steamy Regency-era romance… there's a surprising lightness and tenderness to the love story."

Historical Novels Review

"A story of life and death, revenge and true love… filled with passion, intrigue, and suspense… I look forward to reading much more historical romance from Jennifer Haymore."

— ArmchairInterviews.com

"Sweet and satisfying… refreshingly honest… a gripping read."

— LikesBooks.com

"A new take on a historical romance… complicated and original… the characters are well crafted… surprisingly satisfying."

— TheRomanceReadersConnection.com

"The characters in this book are easy to love… I can't wait to read the next book!"

— TheBookGirl.net

"What an extraordinary book this is!… What a future this author has!"

— RomanceReviewsMag.com


A Hint of Wicked


This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is coincidental.

Copyright © 2010 by Jennifer Haymore

Excerpt copyright © 2010 by Jennifer Haymore

All rights reserved. Except as permitted under the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976, no part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, or stored in a database or retrieval system, without the prior written permission of the publisher.


Hachette Book Group

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New York, NY 10017

Visit our website at www.HachetteBookGroup.com.


Forever is an imprint of Grand Central Publishing.

The Forever name and logo is a trademark of Hachette Book Group, Inc.

First eBook Edition: April 2010

ISBN: 978-0-446-55865-5

This book is dedicated to my husband,

who chases after our children, brushes their teeth, and

has even been known (albeit only in extreme circumstances)

to cook a meal or two so I could meet my deadlines.


Thanks to my super agent, Barbara Poelle, who has more energy than all three of my children put together (and if you knew my children, you'd know what a feat that is!).

Thanks to my editor, Selina McLemore, who always amazes me with her skill and insight.

Special thanks to all the people who read A Hint of Wicked and took the time to e-mail me about the book.

Thanks to the people who read this story before I turned it in: Tessa Dare, Evie Byrne, and Kate McKinley for their critiques; and April Morelock, Amanda Brice, Cindy Benser, and Maya Banks for beta reads. I appreciate your helpful suggestions more than I can say!

And thanks to my patient and ever-supportive family: Alex, Nicholas, Natasha, and Lawrence—I love you all!

Chapter One

Kenilworth, England

September 1823

A bothersome heat crept into Kate's cheeks as she hurried through the narrow, dimly lit passageway. If only she could learn how to hide her thoughts.

Taking a deep breath, she forcefully slowed her step, squared her shoulders, and lowered her eyes. She was simply a servant, finished with her duties for the day, ready to take the three-mile walk home. Not a flustered woman rushing out to a secret secluded spot to watch a strange man—no, a god, more like—bathe in the nude.

Kate paused at the threshold of the parlor. "Pardon me, my lady?"

She bobbed a curtsy as her mistress looked up from the novel she was reading. Lady Rebecca always kept her head firmly tucked in a book. A pang of sympathy shot into Kate's heart when the younger woman's haunted blue eyes met hers.

"Yes?" Lady Rebecca lowered the thick volume to her lap.

Lady Rebecca was the sister of a duke, and her breeding showed in her expression, in her bearing, and in her mannerisms. Today she wore a plain white muslin gown with a gauze fichu tucked into its rounded neckline, but neither the simplicity of her dress nor her relaxed position on the sofa diminished the evidence of her nobility. She'd kicked her shoes off and settled on the plum-colored velvet with her legs tucked beneath her. With her slender build, her coal-black hair, and her midnight-blue eyes, Lady Rebecca was one of the most beautiful women Kate had ever laid eyes on, but there was a sweetness about her, a vulnerability, that drew Kate, that made her want to protect her, even to share secrets.

No, Kate reprimanded herself. A shiver skittered down her spine. Some secrets were best left unspoken. Forever.

Had circumstances been different, she and Lady Rebecca might have been friends. Sisters. But Kate was merely a servant, albeit an unconventional one, given that she slept apart from the rest of the household. Still, she wished she had the freedom to sit beside Lady Rebecca and engage in a lively discussion about whatever it was she read with such passion.

"What is it, Kate?" Lady Rebecca gazed at her without really seeing her, but Kate was accustomed to it. It was how aristocrats always looked at her—as an object rather than a human. She couldn't blame them, for they didn't know any better. It infuriated Mama, though.

"Might I be dismissed, ma'am? I've prepared your bed, brought up fresh water, and set out your nightclothes for Annie." Kate's smile wobbled. The knowledge that she might see him again had butterfly wings tickling her insides. She fought not to squirm, but the mere thought of the handsome stranger made her skin prickle.

Lady Rebecca frowned. "Is it your little brother? Is he very unwell?"

The lady knew Reggie was the sole reason Kate walked home every night. Her younger brother was a sickly boy, and while Mama cared for him well enough during the day, she didn't like her sleep interrupted, so Kate was there for him through the long, sometimes difficult nights.

"Well…" Kate was a horrible liar, but she needn't exaggerate in order to answer the question. It also wasn't necessary to explain that her reasons for wanting to leave early today had nothing to do with Reggie's health. "He has been coughing quite a lot."

"Oh, the poor thing." Lady Rebecca waved her hand. "Of course, Kate. Please do go—I know you've a distance to walk, and"—she squinted at the drab chintz curtain covering the single square window—"it's near dark, isn't it?"

"I think so." Oh, please, Lord, let him be there today. Let me not be too late.

"Yes, well…" Lady Rebecca glanced across the room at the door that led downstairs. The hope in her eyes was unmistakable. "The master should be home soon."

Kate nodded. Her elder brother, William, was Lady Rebecca's husband, and he liked Kate to be gone before he arrived. He found it awkward to be with his sister and wife in the same room, and he feared Kate would betray them both. Kate didn't blame him. First of all, it was horribly awkward to her as well. Second, deception was not her forte. From the beginning, she'd felt the worst part of this whole arrangement was the duplicity inherent in it. She understood why it must be, but it still twisted her stomach.

Lady Rebecca turned back to Kate. "Of course you may go."

"Thank you, ma'am. I'll be here when you wake in the morning." Kate dipped into another curtsy and tried not to break into a run as she crossed the room to the opposite door. Even so, the clack of her shoe heels on the wood floor announced her hasty departure, and from the corner of her eye, she saw Lady Rebecca's brow tilt in bemusement as she watched her go.

The cottage was elegant and expensive, but certainly neither as elegant nor as expensive as a duke's sister was accustomed to. Willy was in financial straits and only employed four servants—Kate, the cook, the maid-of-all-work, and the manservant, John. The other female servants lived in the small room in the attic and John slept in a loft above the stable, but Kate walked back and forth to her home at Debussey Manor daily.

It was far less help than someone of Lady Rebecca's breeding expected. Yet she never complained. Kate admired her for that.

Her cheeks flaming despite all her efforts to douse the fire in them, Kate descended the last step and emerged into the drawing room. Glancing up, she stopped in her tracks, stiffening. John lay on the tasseled chaise longue, his stockinged feet crossed atop the cream-colored silk and his arm flung over his forehead.

He cracked one lid open to gaze at her with a green eye, and Kate pursed her lips in distaste.

"Leaving?" he asked.

"Yes," she answered curtly. Untying her apron, she spun round and strode to the closet behind the stairwell.

Feeling John's reptilian eye on her, she pulled off her apron and cap, hung them, and after a moment of consideration, decided to leave her cloak here overnight. It had been a warm day, so surely it wouldn't be too cold to walk without it in the morning, and it would be a nuisance to carry both ways.

"You look pretty today, Kitty. That color becomes you."

She cast a look down at her dull pale brown work dress. How pleasant to know that brown was her color. "Thank you," she pushed out.

He chuckled but Kate didn't look in his direction. John was negligent, arrogant, lazy, and, with his greased hair and pointed beak nose, unappealing. Whenever Willy was near, John's manner was obsequious to the point of inducing nausea, but when Willy wasn't home, he strutted about the place as if he owned it, even going so far as to be disrespectful to Lady Rebecca. Nothing raised Kate's ire more than to see that man's disdainful behavior toward her mistress.

She turned from the closet and strode to the front door. Opening it, she stepped into the pleasant late-summer evening. As she closed the door, John's voice drifted lazily out. "Tomorrow, then, pretty Kitty."

Her lips twisted, and when the door met its frame, she shoved it hard. The tiny slam brought her a small measure of satisfaction.

If John thought to seduce her with false flattery, he ought to think again. No man had seduced her yet, though a few had tried. She'd promised herself long ago to never go down that particular perilous road. And with a man like John… not a chance.

Still, it was best to stay away from him and make certain to avoid being alone with him. He didn't strike her as the kind of man who'd take her rejection to heart.

Kate paused on the tiny landing and took a deep breath. Was she a hypocrite? She shook her head, thinking not. Watching was a wholly different action from doing, after all. And John the skinny, lazy manservant was a wholly different creature from the bronze god at the pool.

Kenilworth's gently curving High Street was deserted for the moment. The setting sun cast an orange glow across the rooftops, and the houses and shops abutting the road shimmered in the haze.

She turned and strode down the street with purpose, her shoes scraping against the hard-packed dirt. Ahead, the shoemaker's widow, dressed in black with a dark shawl draped over her shoulders, emerged from one of the pretty neighboring cottages. Kate bobbed and murmured a polite greeting when they passed each other. The woman wished her a good evening as the clatter of wheels and the sound of hooves heralded a coach and four coming from behind. Kate glanced over her shoulder to see the carriage, a closed, lacquered black beast, approaching, tossing up a billow of dirt in its wake.

She picked up her skirts and hurried across the street in front of it, slipping through a broken slat in the old wooden gate and stepping onto a narrow path in the field beyond just in time to avoid a choking spray of dust. Through the gold-tinged trees loomed the tall, ivy-covered ruins of Kenilworth Castle. Keeping the castle to her right, Kate followed the overgrown trail that led along the bank of the brook. She skirted fallen branches and dead leaves, and before long grime caked her shoes and dampness seeped through her stockings.

Her heart thudded with a dull cadence, heavy in her chest. Under the coarse wool of her dress her skin flushed with excitement. Would he be there today? He wasn't yesterday, but she'd seen him four times in the past week, swimming in the small lake created by the ruin of a dam that had once formed the castle moat.

The air grew warm and close. Branches cracked under her feet, and leaves rustled. The faint drone of insects hummed in the air as twilight approached. She'd taken the long way, and it'd be full dark by the time she arrived home, but she cared about that just about as much as she cared about her wet feet and mud-soaked hem. Not a whit.

She slowed as the creek turned northward, and with her lower lip trapped between her teeth, she concentrated on placing her footfalls so her steps would be quiet.

A splash sounded in the distance, and Kate halted and looked up. Beyond a thick copse of greenery just ahead, the pool glimmered in the gathering dusk, its surface rippling.

Someone had just dove in. He had just dived in.

Kate swallowed hard and crept forward, crouching so he wouldn't see her behind the clusters of brambles and bushes. She ducked behind a particularly dense bush at the water's edge and peeked around it.

Just as the waves on the pool's surface began to settle, he emerged from the depths with his back to her. He rose until the water lapped eagerly at his narrow waist. For the tiniest fraction of a second, she wished she could be that water.

His thick shoulder rippled with muscle as he reached up to thrust a hand through his glistening blond hair.

Surely this man couldn't be human. He was perfectly built—like one of the gods she'd learned about when she spied on Mama reading to her brothers. Tall, muscular, his skin bronzed from the sun, as hard and beautiful and intimidating as Apollo himself. He shook his head, sending blond shoulder-length curls flying and a cascade of golden drops showering into the water. Then he dove again, his taut—and quite shockingly bare—backside emerging from the water before his entire body disappeared beneath the surface.

A pleasurable shudder coursed through Kate, leaving a low burn to simmer deep inside her.

The god-man swam like a fish. Perhaps he wasn't Apollo at all, though he rather looked like she'd always imagined Apollo. Perhaps he was Poseidon—a young, clean-shaven Poseidon. Perhaps this time when he emerged, he'd be carrying his golden trident. She held her breath, waiting, frozen.

Kate had been born at Kenilworth and raised at Debussey Manor, and she knew without a doubt this man didn't hail from these parts. What was he doing here? And why did he come here—this place that had been her secret spot for so many years—to bathe? The sight of him, and his very strong, very naked body, was so far removed from her realm of reality that it didn't seem all too farfetched to think that a lightning bolt had deposited him straight from Olympus.

He rose from the water again, this time farther away but facing her. She stared in fascination at the jagged scar near his waist, and when her gaze traveled up his solid torso and over his rugged face, she saw the second scar, a terrible knot glaring red just above his left eyebrow.

The imperfections on his otherwise perfect form emphasized the fact that this was not a god, but a very human man indeed. A man who'd seen, experienced, and ultimately survived terrible things.

He rubbed the water out of his eyes and opened them. His sky blue gaze settled directly on her.

She jerked her head behind the bush, gulping back a gasp. Her heart thundered in her ears. A bead of sweat trickled down the side of her face. Controlling her breaths, she froze in her crouched position and squeezed her eyes shut. She couldn't move, because now he'd surely hear her. Her best option was to remain still and quiet, keep herself hidden behind the bush, and pray he hadn't seen her.

She should fear this giant, intimidating man, but that wasn't why she prayed he hadn't seen her. No, she prayed he hadn't seen her because if he had, she wouldn't be able to watch his sculpted nude body anymore.

She let out a long, silent sigh through pursed lips. It was the undeniable truth. As much as she'd fought against it, she was hopelessly and thoroughly debauched. If not in body, at least in thought. The man could be a murderer or a lunatic, and all she cared about was spying on him.

Not only was she debauched, she was an idiot.

Perhaps he hadn't seen her. He had just opened his eyes after being submerged in water, and surely it would take a second or two for him to focus on an object as far away as her. And with her brown hair and brown dress, she blended into the landscape like a chameleon.

She'd remain hidden for a few moments longer, then make a hasty, as-quiet-as-possible retreat.

Keeping her eyes closed, she hugged her knees to her chest and counted to a hundred. All was silent for a while, but when she reached sixty, she heard splashing from the direction of the pond. Clearly he'd resumed his sport.

Ninety-nine. One hundred.

She released a relieved breath and raised her lids.

And found herself gazing into his rugged face.

She blinked several times in disbelief, trying to clear her vision as he stared at her with narrowed blue eyes from his position on his haunches an arm's length away. A frown creased his handsome features. Rivulets of water streamed from his golden hair and plastered a white shirt to his broad, imposing shoulders.

He'd been watching her. Spying on her in silence—probably throwing rocks into the water to mislead her.

With a squeal of fright, Kate stumbled to her feet. Her legs caught in her skirts, but she kicked them free. Brambles clawed at her dress, ripping the fabric as she lunged away.

She'd gone no farther than two steps when he clapped an arm around her waist and yanked her back. She stumbled and would have fallen had his hard body not ensnared her like a net.

Kate trembled all over. Small, pathetic whimpers bubbled from her throat as she futilely tried to twist away.

His warm, damp torso pressed against her back. He smelled fresh and clean, like hay drying in the sunlight, with an underlying almond scent she instinctually recognized as purely his.

His arm crossed over the front of her chest, pinning her against him. The lock of his embrace rendered her utterly helpless.

"Who are you?" he demanded. He bent his head, and the trace of beard on his jaw scraped against the shell of her ear. "And why are you watching me?"

His voice, low and rough, stroked over her body like a coarse towel, causing every inch of Kate's skin to explode into flame.

Panic wouldn't help her now. She must stave it off, be as brave as a knight battling a rampaging dragon. For several moments, trapped in the steel of the stranger's arms, she worked to control her gasping breaths and to stop her limbs from shaking like autumn leaves in a gale.

Finally, she sucked in a lungful of air. Staring straight over the pool, now glowing purple in the twilight, she said, "My name is Katherine, sir. I'm very glad to meet you. Lovely evening, isn't it?"

Chapter Two

Garrett nearly dropped the vixen. He'd expected the shivering and the fear, and he had already concluded she gave a fine performance.

When her trembling had abated, he'd readied himself for a struggle—or perhaps she would yank a dagger or a pistol from the folds of her skirt and try to kill him. He didn't expect polite conversation.

Her words shocked him so thoroughly, he loosened the hand he'd clamped around her bodice and followed her gaze to the horizon.

She didn't take advantage of his mistake—another surprise. Instead, she remained as snugly fitted against him as if she belonged there.

Layers of clouds drifted across the horizon and the dipping sun lowered behind them, infusing them with red, oranges, pinks, and purples, and sending streams of color out over the pond he'd used as his bathing spot for the past week.

He reapplied the pressure round her waist. "Who are you?" Even to himself, he sounded menacing as hell. He clenched his free hand, prepared to clamp it over her mouth should she attempt to scream for help from her accomplices. "Why are you here?"

She glanced over her shoulder at him, sparks lighting her dark eyes. Her lips twisted into a rueful expression. "Must I answer that?"

"You must."


On Sale
Apr 1, 2010
Page Count
432 pages

Jennifer Haymore

About the Author

As a child, Jennifer Haymore traveled the South Pacific with her family on their homebuilt sailboat. The months spent on the sometimes quiet, sometimes raging seas sparked her love of adventure and grand romance. Since then, she’s earned degrees in computer science and education and held various jobs ranging from bookselling to teaching inner-city children to acting, but she’s never stopped writing.

You can find Jennifer in Southern California trying to talk her husband into yet another trip to England, helping her three children with homework while brainstorming a new five-minute dinner menu, or crouched in a corner of the local bookstore writing her next novel.

You can learn more at:
Twitter @JenniferHaymore

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