Cold-Hearted Rake





  Praise for Lisa Kleypas:

  ‘Kleypas launches the Friday Harbour trilogy with a delightful portrait of a picturesque town where people know everything about everyone and look out for each other… She enchantingly weaves together additional connections with relatives and friends, leaving many dangling threads that will lead the reader straight to book two’ Publishers Weekly

  ‘Flawlessly written… Kleypas brings together richly nuanced characters, an emotionally riveting plot, and a subtle touch of the paranormal to create an unforgettable romance that is pure reading magic’ Booklist

  ‘Magical’ RT Book Reviews

  Lisa Kleypas is the author of a number of historical and contemporary romance novels that have been published in fourteen languages. In 1985, she was named Miss Massachusetts and competed in the Miss America pageant in Atlantic City. After graduating from Wellesley College with a political science degree, she published her first novel at age twenty-one. Her books have appeared on the New York Times bestseller lists. Lisa is married and has two children.

  Visit Lisa Kleypas online:

  www.lisakleypas.com

  www.facebook.com/LisaKleypas

  www.twitter.com/LisaKleypas

  Also by Lisa Kleypas

  Crystal Cove

  Dream Lake

  Rainshadow Road

  Christmas Eve at Friday Harbour

  Seduce Me at Sunrise

  Mine Till Midnight

  The Wallflower Series

  A Wallflower Christmas

  Scandal in Spring

  Devil in Winter

  It Happened One Autumn

  Secrets of a Summer Night

  The Travis Family Series

  Sugar Daddy

  Blue-Eyed Devil

  Smooth Talking Stranger

  Brown-Eyed Girl

  COPYRIGHT

  Published by Piatkus

  978-0-3494-0761-6

  All characters and events in this publication, other than those clearly in the public domain, are fictitious and any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

  Copyright © 2015 by Lisa Kleypas

  The moral right of the author has been asserted.

  All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, without the prior permission in writing of the publisher.

  The publisher is not responsible for websites (or their content) that are not owned by the publisher.

  PIATKUS

  Little, Brown Book Group

  Carmelite House

  50 Victoria Embankment

  London, EC4Y 0DZ

  www.littlebrown.co.uk

  www.hachette.co.uk

  Cold-Hearted Rake

  Table of Contents

  Praise for Lisa Kleypas:

  About the Author

  Also by Lisa Kleypas

  COPYRIGHT

  Dedication

  Chapter 1

  Chapter 2

  Chapter 3

  Chapter 4

  Chapter 5

  Chapter 6

  Chapter 7

  Chapter 8

  Chapter 9

  Chapter 10

  Chapter 11

  Chapter 12

  Chapter 13

  Chapter 14

  Chapter 15

  Chapter 16

  Chapter 17

  Chapter 18

  Chapter 19

  Chapter 20

  Chapter 21

  Chapter 22

  Chapter 23

  Chapter 24

  Chapter 25

  Chapter 26

  Chapter 27

  Chapter 28

  Chapter 29

  Chapter 30

  Chapter 31

  Chapter 32

  Chapter 33

  Epilogue

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  To my wonderful and gifted editor, Carrie Feron –

  thank you for making my dreams come true!

  Love always,

  L.K.

  Chapter 1

  Hampshire, England

  August 1875

  “T

  he devil knows why my life should be ruined,” Devon Ravenel said grimly, “all because a cousin I never liked fell from a horse.”

  “Theo didn’t fall, precisely,” his younger brother, Weston, replied. “He was thrown.”

  “Obviously the horse found him as insufferable as I did.” Devon paced around the receiving room in restless, abbreviated strides. “If Theo hadn’t already broken his damned neck, I’d like to go and break it for him.”

  West sent him a glance of exasperated amusement. “How can you complain when you’ve just inherited an earldom that confers an estate in Hampshire, lands in Norfolk, a house in London —”

  “All entailed. Forgive my lack of enthusiasm for land and properties that I’ll never own and can’t sell.”

  “You may be able to break the entailment, depending on how it was settled. If so, you could sell everything and be done with it.”

  “God willing.” Devon glanced at a bloom of mold in the corner with disgust. “No one could reasonably expect me to live here. The place is a shambles.”

  This was the first time either of them had ever set foot in Eversby Priory, the ancestral family domain built over the remains of a monastic residence and church. Although Devon had become ennobled shortly after his cousin’s death three months ago, he had waited as long as possible before facing the mountain of problems he now confronted.

  So far he had seen only this room and the entrance hall, the two areas that were supposed to impress visitors the most. The rugs were worn, the furniture threadbare, the plaster wall moldings dingy and cracked. None of this boded well for the condition of the rest of the house.

  “It needs refurbishing,” West admitted.

  “It needs to be razed to the ground.”

  “It’s not so bad —” West broke off with a yelp as his foot began to sink into a depression in the rug. He hopped away and stared at the bowl-shaped indentation. “What the deuce…?”

  Devon bent and lifted the corner of the rug to reveal a rotting hole in the flooring beneath. Shaking his head, he dropped the rug back into place and went to a window fitted with diamond-shaped panes. The lead came that joined the window glass was corroded, the hinges and fittings rusted.

  “Why hasn’t that been repaired?” West asked.

  “For want of money, obviously.”

  “But how could that be? The estate comes with twenty thousand acres. All those tenants, the annual yields —”

  “Estate farming is no longer profitable.”

  “In Hampshire?”

  Devon sent him a dark glance before returning his attention to the view. “Anywhere.”

  The Hampshire scenery was green and bucolic, neatly divided by bottle-green hedgerows in bloom. However, somewhere beyond the cheerful huddles of thatched-roof cottages and the fertile tracts of chalk down and ancient woodland, thousands of miles of steel track were being laid out for an onslaught of locomotive engines and railcars. All across England, new factories and mill towns had begun to appear faster than hazel catkins in the spring. It had been Devon’s bad luck to inherit a title just as a tide of industry was sweeping away aristocratic traditions and entitled modes of living.

  “How do you know?” his brother asked.

  “Everyone knows, West. Grain prices have collapsed. When did you last read an issue of the Times? Have you paid no attention to the discussions at the club or the taverns?”

  “Not when the subject was farming,” came West’s dour reply. He sat heavily, rubbing his temples. “I don’t like this. I thought we ha