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K.J. Jackson

A Savage Deception, Guardians of the Bones 3 (EBOOK)

A Savage Deception, Guardians of the Bones 3 (EBOOK)

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Steamy Historical Regency Romance

A scandalized lady in need of a fresh start. A guardian determined to avenge the death of his wife. With one simple kidnapping, he’s determined to ruin her in every way possible.

A scandalized lady in need of a fresh start, free of her past mistakes.
Georgina Constantine has made mistakes. A lot of them. Mistakes that are determined to haunt her at every turn. But when her life goes into a tailspin, she reaches out to the one person she has grown to trust, Lord Atwell.

A guardian determined to avenge the death of his wife, savage hatred driving his every action.
Silas, the Marquess of Atwell, is determined to find the person that killed his wife in cold blood. He doesn’t have time to get involved with the latest diamond of the 
ton. Except that Miss Georgina Constantine has become an obsession. An obsession he has no business pursuing.

One simple kidnapping.
Until the day he learns she was the one that caused his wife’s death. Now, the only thing he’s obsessed with is vengeance. With one simple kidnapping, he will ruin her in every way possible for her part in his wife’s death. But the last thing he expects to fall to ruin, is his heart.


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{ Prologue }

London, 1820

He found her in the bowels of the building.


He could hear her tears even as he stepped down the stairs, his feet light, his skill at silent footfalls so ingrained that he walked covertly even when he didn’t need to.

His steps could be heavy, loud, here at the main building of the Guardians of the Bones. He could be himself, but he’d found it hard to switch back and forth at this point. To be one person one minute. Another the next.

All necessary for his job as a covert guard for hire, but he hadn’t been himself in a long while.

At the bottom of the stairs, he stopped, his head cocking to the side to follow the sound.

To the right.

To the servants’ table that would be empty at this time of night.

He hadn’t taken even a step into the room with the wide rough-hewn table and thick stone walls before Josie turned her head to him. She could hear anything. Even his silent steps. Even when she was crying.

“Silas.” Her eyes were red, swollen like someone had landed not just one blow on her but two. That would be unusual, for Josie was nothing if not quick and agile. One blow maybe. Not two.

She swiped her fingers across her wet cheeks.

“Josie, what is this? If it’s tears about the news Hector had, there is no need for them. You know what this will mean for us—both of us?” He moved fully into the room, stopping in front of her sitting on the end of the long bench that flanked the table. Even though they were below ground, the cinnamon that cook always had simmering filled the room, somehow taking the dankness out of the space.

His fingers unconsciously went to her dark brown hair, the color so rich one would swear there was a nighttime rainbow glowing under the darkness, and he slid back the strands that had fallen from her chignon.

He hadn’t seen her with her hair askew in a long time.

“I would have thought you’d be waiting for me with champagne and a smile on your face with the news. Not this.”

A crushing smile twisted her lips as she pulled away from his hand. “No. It isn’t that. The title—that is good news. I’m happy he chose you, especially as Leander was a contender.”

Silas stared down at the crown of her head, for her gaze had dropped to his shoes. “Then what is this about?”

Long seconds passed and his pulse started to quicken. Something was wrong—terribly wrong.

She finally lifted her chin to look up at him. “My father is coming back. He’ll arrive in a month.”

Instant fury kicked into his chest, so thick it had nowhere to go but to crawl up his throat, choking him.

She expelled a shaky sigh, her fingers rubbing against her brow. “And you know what he will do.”

“He doesn’t know where you are.”

“He’ll find me. He always does.”

His anger spun into full-on rage and he couldn’t force air into his lungs, much less force a breath out enough to speak. A snarl curled his lips as he choked out words. “I won’t let it happen.”

Her big brown eyes looked up to him. Eyes that held everything that was good and right in this world. “You can’t do anything to stop it, Silas. He’s my father. I’m his property.”

“Then you need to become someone else’s property.”

She scoffed an acerbic chuckle. “Is it so wrong to want to be no one’s property?”

He shook his head. It wasn’t wrong. But they had little choice in the matter. It was what it was.

He met her red-rimmed eyes. “So we marry.”

“No. We cannot.”

“Of course we can.” He knew that would be her answer, as it had been countless times before. But now, with her father coming back, he wasn’t going to let it go so easily—he wasn’t going to let it go at all.

“No.” Her head started to swing back and forth. “Hector would never allow it.”

“Hector doesn’t get a say in the matter. We take time to travel to Scotland. Elope. Then we come back to the Guardians and continue on with our posts. Hector will accept it.”

“Or he’ll take the title away from you.”

“It’s already a done deal. Hector wouldn’t have told me until it was definite.”

She expelled a long sigh. “You know I cannot marry you, Silas.”

“There is no reason why you cannot. No good reason.”

Her look pinned him, slicing his heart in two.

He glared back at her—at her stubbornness and her ridiculous resistance. “Those reasons that you think you have—they don’t matter.”

“Except they do. You will come to resent me.”

“Never. You’re my best friend, my love. I would never resent you.” He dropped down to balance on his heels and set his hands on top of her knees. Her legs jerked, but for once, didn’t dodge his touch. “We can and we will do this. Hector doesn’t want me on any more jobs until the title he has for me is secure. You can feign an illness for a few weeks. That will give us enough time to get to Scotland and back. And with the title—that title is what we have always needed. Power comes with it and it will afford us more security than we ever could have dreamed of.” His fingers squeezed, desperate, into the fabric of her dark violet dress draped over her legs. “Tell me we can do this. I cannot lose you, Josie. I refuse it.”

Uncertainty reigned on her delicate features for long breaths, until finally, surrender. She nodded. “Fine. I’ll marry you.”

{ Chapter 1 }

London, April 1827

It had to be done. There wasn’t anything for it.

It had to be done.

Georgina pulled the dark shawl around her shoulders and slipped through the cool night air into the gardens that sat behind the London townhouse her uncle had rented for the season. A season where she was supposed to, finally, find a grand love match.

Her aunt and uncle had put off bringing them to the London marriage mart long enough—so this was to be the year both she and her sister, Willow, were expected to find matches.

They certainly had the inheritances to make the grand matches happen. Love or not.

That had been their very first folly upon entering the marriage mart. Too-large dowries, ripe for the taking, always dredged up the worst muck of the ton. They should have realized that when they arrived in London.

Her second folly—one that was hers and her alone—she was about to meet head-on.

Passing by the wrought-iron metal gate, she turned and let the cool metal slip from her fingers as she closed the gate without a sound. She’d been in a stupor for the last two days, trying to reconcile the news in her mind, all to no avail. So she needed action.

Action. A plan would help her. Would pull her out of the shock.

Her feet quick across the coaching lane to the shadows along the mews, she slipped into the carriage house and headed directly to the sleek black coach with her family’s crest on the side. The robin and the rose entwined above a ship were barely visible in the light of the one lit lantern that hung along the wall in the front of the building. The crest that had been her father’s, once upon a time, before he died and left her and Willow in the care of their uncle and aunt.

The carriage door opened in front of her. She quickly found her footing on the step that had been pulled and lifted herself up into the confines of the carriage, closing the door behind her as she sat on the back cushions.

His scent enveloped her, a scent she had once found earthy and exciting and dangerous. Hay and horse touched with an indescribable scent that unconsciously made her tongue water.

Leroy’s hands were instantly on her upper arms, pulling her into him. “I got yer note.” He leaned in, trying to find her lips with his.

Georgina threw her hand up, pressing against his chest to stop him, and she pulled back as much as his grip on her would allow. “Obviously.”

Leroy was a simple man, a coachman was all he would ever be, but he would have to do. She didn’t have much choice.

She pushed at his chest harder, scooting her backside into the corner of the bench, as far as she could away from him. “And no, Leroy. This isn’t about that.”

She’d stopped meeting him for these misguided trysts a month ago, yet he had refused to give up on what they had shared, convinced she would fall back into his arms. She had another opinion. She had no intention of repeating her transgressions with him. Ever.

At her coldness, he stiffened and his fingers tightened, digging into her upper arms before he forcibly relaxed himself and released her. “Then what is it about?”

There was no use prolonging what she most wanted to avoid.

“I’m with child.”

He jumped back on the bench like she had just grown two extra heads. “What?”

“Do you really need me to repeat it?”

It took him a long moment, his look going everywhere in the carriage but at her, before he shook his head. “How long?”

She shifted, rearranging the shawl around her shoulders that he’d set askew when he’d grabbed her. Her arms folded under her now-heavy breasts. “I don’t know, a month, maybe more.”

“How do ye not know?”

Her glare whipped up to him. “I don’t know how these matters work. I haven’t exactly been able to ask any trusted source about it. I just found out for certain two days past.”

In truth, it was Georgina’s modiste that had mentioned that her body had changed, then discreetly gave her the name of a midwife in the East End she could visit to find out the reality of the situation.

“Yer right. I’m sorry.” His head was still shaking, and now his hands as well. He clasped the thick, strong fingers tight together to still them. Fingers she had once reveled in touching her. “Why didn’t ye tell me right away?”

“I have been trying to. Trying to get you alone, but it has been difficult.”

His eyes narrowed at her. “Because Miss Sanders keeps getting in the way. She has been for a long time, now.” A malicious glint flickered in his eyes that sent a shiver down her spine.

Surely she misread it. Aside from her uncle, Leroy was the kindest man she’d ever met.

“Miss Sanders is only doing her job—she’s keeping Lord Fugal and his disgusting cousins away from me and Willow, which has become quite a chore for her.”

“I told you I would protect you from those wastrels.”

“Except you cannot. You cannot be inside the balls and the dinners. Miss Sanders has been invaluable in not only protecting me, but Willow as well.”

“Yes, but she’s been keeping every other man with a beating pulse away from ye as well. Including me.”

Her shoulders lifted. “I agree, that is unfortunate as I have needed to speak with you.”

“And she hasn’t allowed it. Not for a bloody month.”

This wasn’t what she came here for—she had far more pressing matters than Leroy’s growing ire at his lack of access to her. But it was clear she needed to placate him before they could move onto the real conversation they needed to have.

She reached out, setting her fingers on his forearm. “I do wish I had more freedom from Miss Sanders’s watchful eye. But she has become my friend and she is doing exactly what we hired her to do—keep Willow and me safe from untoward advances or from being trapped into marriage by a compromising situation—so I cannot fault her for being excellent at her job.”

He nodded, his hands clenching into fists. “But if ye fired her, it would solve the problem.”

“Solve the problem?” She waved her hand in the air. “Miss Sanders isn’t the problem, Leroy. The problem is that I am with child.”

“But is it mine?”

Shock rolled through her body, stilling her tongue and making the world spin around her for several long seconds.

She stared at his handsome face in the shadows, wondering what she ever saw in it.

Of course, that was probably the answer. He was handsome. He doted on her, pined after her. Told her all the things that she had yearned to hear her entire life. All the things that had made her feel valued and loved, at least for a while.

But as for his character? His personality? She’d started to have reservations about those things a month ago and that was when she had broken things off with him.

Except everything had changed—she couldn’t afford to judge his character now. Not in her current situation. A babe was growing inside of her. A babe she wanted.

It had crossed her mind to finally let one of those fops of the ton into her good graces and to quickly marry him. But she couldn’t do it.

No one deserved to be made a cuckold. It was cruel and she would end up living a life of lies.

She set her stare on Leroy. “It is yours. You are the only possibility.”

He exhaled a long sigh.

Silent. His stare locked into the upper corner of the carriage like he was considering how he could escape the coach at this moment.

She heaved a sigh. If he wasn’t going to say it, she would prompt him until he did. “So what do we do?”

He glanced at her, the right side of his mouth pulling back. “We wait.”

“Wait for what?”

“Wait to see if it resolves itself.”

Stunned, her body fell backward, her shoulder blades hitting the sidewall of the carriage. “What?”

“Don’t look at me that way.” Leroy grabbed her hand, pulling her into his chest, trying to comfort her even as her body stiffened at his touch. Heaven help her, she wanted that—comfort. She had been flailing about, trying to not worry herself to death in the past days. That was all she had wanted when she had come out here to meet him. Comfort and a plan.

That neither had emphatically shown up was disconcerting.

His hand went to the back of her head, pushing it onto his chest. “All I am saying, Georgina, is that these things often do…resolve themselves. Or there are methods to help resolve them. Some tonics. A fall. So we should wait.”


Tonics? Falls?

She twisted her body out of his grip, her voice squeaking. “You want me to lose the babe?”

“I am merely saying we should extend caution. That we do not make hasty plans.”

It took her a full breath deep into her lungs before she could compose herself. Straighten her spine.

She looked him straight in the eye, condemning every stupid decision she had made in the last four months in London. “Fine.”

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