Twice Tempted by a Rogue – Stud Club Read Online Tessa Dare

Categories Genre: Historical Fiction, Romance Tags Authors:

Total pages in book: 119
Estimated words: 112133 (not accurate)
Estimated Reading Time in minutes: 561(@200wpm)___ 449(@250wpm)___ 374(@300wpm)

Horses, gambling, and secrets are the game played by the men of the Stud Club--until love raises the stakes in Twice Tempted by a Rogue.

Luck is a double-edged sword for brooding war hero Rhys St. Maur. His death wish went unanswered on the battlefield, while fate allowed the murder of his good friend in the elite gentlemen's society known as the Stud Club. Out of options, Rhys returns to his ancestral home on the moors of Devonshire, expecting anything but a chance at redemption in the arms of a beautiful innkeeper who dares him to take on the demons of his past--and the sweet temptation of a woman's love.

Meredith Maddox believes in hard work, not fate, and romance isn't part of her plan. But when Rhys returns, battle-scarred, world-weary, and more dangerously attractive than ever, the lovely widow is torn between determination and desire. As a deep mystery and dangerous smugglers threaten much more than their passionate reckoning, Meredith discovers that she must trust everything to a wager her heart placed long ago.

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Chapter One

Rhys St. Maur, newly Lord Ashworth, was a broken man. Literally.

By the age of twenty, he’d fractured his left arm twice—once in a schoolboy brawl at Eton, and then again during an army training drill. Cracked ribs … he’d lost count of those. Fists driving through barroom haze to connect with his face had snapped the cartilage in his nose a few times, leaving him with a craggy profile—one that was not improved by his myriad scars. Since sometime around his thirtieth birthday, the little finger on his right hand just plain refused to bend. And in damp weather like this, his left knee throbbed with memories of marching through the Pyrenees and surviving the Battle of Nivelle unscathed, only to catch a Basque farmer’s hoe to the knee the next morning, when he left camp for a predawn piss.

That left knee was on fire tonight, sizzling with pain as Rhys trudged through the granite heart of Devonshire, leading his horse down the darkened road. The moisture in the air kept dithering between fog and rain, and the night was thick with its indecision. He couldn’t see but a few feet in front of him, which was why he’d decided to dismount and lead his horse on foot. Between the poor visibility and the surrounding terrain littered with chunks of stone and boot-sucking bogs, the risk of fatal injury was too great.

For the horse, that was. Rhys wasn’t in the least concerned for himself. In fact, if he thought this godforsaken moor had any chance of claiming his own life, he’d cheerfully saddle his gelding and charge off into the gloom.

But it wouldn’t work. It never had. He’d just end up with a lamed or dead horse, another broken rib perhaps, and the same curse that had haunted him since boyhood: unwanted, undeserved, and wholly wasted good luck.

No matter what misfortune befell him, this or any night, Rhys St. Maur was doomed to survive it.

The wind’s low moan played his spine like a fiddle string. Behind him, the gelding balked. With a reassuring shush for the beast’s benefit, Rhys marched on, turning up the collar of his coat to keep out the mist.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil…

He’d been walking through this valley for a long, long time. Trod so far into death’s shadow he’d felt his feet turning to dust in his boots, the breath in his lungs burning acrid as sulfur. A living ghost, that’s what he was. He’d returned from war to a newly inherited barony, and his sole duty now was to haunt the English aristocracy. Hulk awkwardly in the corners of their parties, terrify their delicate young ladies, and cause the gentlemen to rub their temples self-consciously as they tried not to stare at the gnarled scar marring his own.

As Rhys rounded a sharp curve in the road, a vaguely familiar sight emerged from the gloom. If he’d read his landmarks right, this had to be it. The tiny village of Buckleigh-in-the-Moor. At this distance, just a meager constellation of amber pinpricks against the black night.

The horse, scenting straw and safety, picked up his pace. Soon the cluster of stone and cob buildings came into focus. It must not be as late as it felt. A fair number of the cottages still showed light through their windows—yellow eyes peering out from beneath thatched-roof hats.

He halted in the center of the road. Wiping the moisture from his eyes, he squinted in the direction of the old inn. Fourteen years he’d been gone, but the same sign still creaked on its chains above the door. It read, in retouched gilt letters, The Three Hounds. Below the words, the pictured trio of dogs remained at perpetual attention. A burst of coarse laughter rattled one of the inn’s unshuttered windows. Old Maddox was still doing a brisk trade, then.