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K.J. Jackson

Vow: A Lords of Action Novel 1, (EBOOK)

Vow: A Lords of Action Novel 1, (EBOOK)

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Steamy Historical Regency Romance

He saved her...
Six years ago
, Caine Farlington, the Earl of Newdale, bought Ara by mistake, saving her from the worst possible fate.

He meant to buy the love of his life. Ara was what he got.

Now she’s an indispensable part of his life, helping him run his estate, their history binding them. But after one disastrous, misguided night long ago, he swore he would never touch her again.

The problem? Ara is hopelessly, ridiculously, in love with the man. And now he needs to marry an heiress to keep his estate afloat.

It’s too late for them. Or is it?

The Lords of Action books are each stand-alone stories, and can be read individually in any order. These historical romances are set in the Regency and Victorian eras, and do not shy away from naughty language, scenes with steamy heat, and moments that might possibly make you squirm.

The ebook of Vow is currently available on Amazon to buy or read for free in Kindle Unlimited.


{ Chapter 1 }

London, England
May, 1816

Putrescence infested his nostrils, invading upward, dulling his wits.

Unable to hold back any longer, Caine Farlington, younger brother to the fifth Earl of Newdale, pulled free from his pocket a small, round silver vinaigrette, flicking it open under his nose and leaning back. The half-rounded rungs of the rickety chair creaked, threatening to snap under his frame.

Casual. He had to portray casual even if he couldn’t breathe. It was crucial.

A long whiff of the spice and vinegar, and Caine dropped the vinaigrette from his nose, slipping it back into his jacket.

The sharp stench of sewer and rot instantly flooded his nose again. No reprieve.

He had been in a sufficient number of brothels in the East End in his day. But this. Nothing like this. Filth. Decay. Timbers half rotted above him, threatening to collapse at any moment. Liquid dripping down along the wall next to his head, even though it wasn’t raining. Half of the floor wooden planks, half of it indiscernible muck.

Squalor. A word that did not come close to doing justice to this devil’s den.

Caine let his elbow slip off the arm of the chair in slobbery drunk fashion as a barmaid clad only in an apron and thick skirts clattered two mugs onto the askew table. He made sure to move his hand slowly, missing the handle of the mug three times before making contact and lifting the tankard to his lips.

He swallowed a gag. Even the blasted ale was rancid in this place.

Fletch’s grey eyes shifted to Caine from across the table, the other tankard hiding his friend’s cringe as he swallowed. Good man. Caine hadn’t been able to let the vile liquid breach his lips. But Fletch did.

If anyone could play the role of gutter-drunk rakehell, it was Fletcher Williams, Marquess of Lockston.

Fletch’s left eyebrow cocked ever so slightly at Caine.

Caine knew his friend would be laughing at him if the business in this whorehouse weren’t so gravely serious.

That they had even gotten past the burly guards had been a feat. Drunk, a fool, he would have played any part to gain entrance to the auction. Caine had been terrified he’d missed it until they made entrance and found an open table in a dark corner, and he had recognized the place still buzzed in anticipation of the upcoming sale.

Caine’s eyes haphazardly swept the room. Bustling crowd—surely more crowded than this place saw nightly. Half-dressed women draped over disheveled drunks, a few of the girls slipping sticky fingers under jacket lapels to snatch coins.

But there were a handful of patrons sitting serious, sober, and impervious to the debauchery around them.

Those were the men Caine knew he needed to worry about. The sober ones. Here for a purpose—not just for the entertainment, the sport of it.

A ruckus started at the far end of the room by the bar that stretched almost across the depth of the building.

The bar ended just to the left of a door that flipped open. Caine could see it was an interior door leading to stairs. A tall man dressed in shiny peacock colors emerged, raising a silver-encased cane high in his hand. He tapped the cane on the top seam of his ridiculously tall, purple satin hat as he walked along the edge of the room, jumping onto the stage that centered the room.

“Gentlemen, and to the rest of you scrubs, welcome. You have waited long enough. It is time we offer this night’s entertainment.” His arms swinging wide in flamboyance, the barker’s voice boomed over the laughter of the women and the grunts of the men in the room. His face cracked into a wide sneer—almost vicious—emphasizing the wide gap from four missing front teeth.

The man waited several beats for the crowd to quiet, then spewed with enthusiastic aplomb, “Virgins, virgins, virgins. I know you’ve been waiting. And let me assure you, these were worth the wait. Integrity, gentlemen. All verified to be clean and unspoiled by our own Ma Betty. Highest price, gentleman. You know the rules.” He paused, bowing slightly for effect before splaying his arms wide, his cane flourishing out to the side. “Welcome to the Jolly Vassal, lads—it be virgin time.”

The point of his cane landed to the right of the bar, and the door he had come through swung open again.

Caine’s breath stopped.

A hulking thug stepped through the doorway, pulling a rope with him. The room erupted, and a splattering of men in front of Caine stood, vying for a glimpse of what was attached to the rope.

Long seconds passed before the thug stepped up onto the stage, truly just a wobbly platform along the edge of the room. He tugged the rope as he stepped behind the barker.

Caine leaned far to the side, his breath still frozen. At least from this angle he could see most of the stage.

The rope snapped, dragging three girls single file up onto the stage. All three girls had the long rope tied about their waists, each of them clad only in a sheer, threadbare chemise that hid no skin from the eyes of the crowd. Heavy veils—almost hoods—covered the girls’ heads, hiding their faces from the room.

“Shit.” Caine hissed out his held breath. He had known the veils were a possibility—the mystery of the faces spurred higher bids, while hiding the tears and terror—but Caine hadn’t wanted to take the slightest chance. He couldn’t afford to. Not tonight.

The first girl stepped farther onto the stage where Caine could see her clearly. Too short. Too rotund.

The second girl. Tall. Very tall, gangly. Elbows like razors popping from her skinny arms as she tried to cover her body. Not her.

The thug behind the barker moved to the rope slacking between the second and the last girl and jerked it, yanking the third girl fully onto the platform. She stumbled over the lip of the stage and fell with the force, her long blond hair tumbling out from under the veil to curl around her body.

“To yer feet, wench.” The thug snapped the rope.

Half on her knees, the blond girl staggered across the stage away from the man, her bare feet gaining traction. But before she could reach the far end, the thug pulled the rope, jerking her to a stop. He strode across the stage and grabbed a fistful of her hair, shoving her against the wall next to the tall girl.

His stomach churning, Caine’s eyes ran over the last girl’s body.

The hair. The hair was the right color, had the right waves to it. Right height. She wasn’t scrawny, nor did her frame carry any extra weight. She stood proudly. Not trying to cover herself with nervous palms stretched wide like the other two.

She just stood. Still. Solid. Not even a twitch under her translucent bright pink chemise.

Caine swallowed, forcing breath into his lungs.

It had to be her. It had to be.

Only his Isabella would have poise like that in this god-forsaken place. On that god-forsaken stage.

The jeering from the crowd reached a pitch, and the barker raised his cane, smiling, waiting for the mouths to quiet.

“These be the three beauts, lads. We done ye well, as I said we would.” The gleam in the barker’s eyes shone as brightly as his purple hat. The bastard was clearly relishing the current affair. “Nothin’ but the best from the Jolly Vassal. Tell yer friends.”

Fletch set his tankard down hard onto the table, ale flying and drawing Caine’s attention from the stage.

Both of Fletch’s eyebrows were raised. Caine nodded, tapping three fingers on the table.

Fletch’s eyes travelled from Caine’s fingers to meet his eyes. He nodded, understanding exactly what Caine was telling him. Fletch turned back to the stage.

Caine stared at the three figures lining the back of the stage, his jaw clenching. The visceral need to smash every single face in this hellhole into the ground ripped through his body. He leaned forward, his chin dropping to his chest as he tamped down on his rage.

Rage would not serve him at this point in time.

Only money would. And that, he had plenty of.

It was time to get his love back.


Shoved into the carriage by the rope-holding brute from the stage, she landed in a thud at Caine’s feet. His love’s wrists were still bound together, and the veil sat like a hood over her head. The translucent chemise draped around Isabella’s body offered only a thin layer between her and the chill of the night.

Caine fought the instinct to grab her arm, help her up, cover her in his warmth.

He looked to the thug, his mouth drawing tight. “That will be all.”

“Ye be able to control ‘er?”


The thug stood there, staring at Caine, his hand not leaving the carriage door.

Caine dipped into an inner pocket and pulled out a shilling, flipping it to the man as he knocked on the carriage roof.

The horses started moving before the carriage door closed. Caine leaned forward, quickly pulling the dark curtains on the windows. One lamp by his head lit the interior.

The jolt of the carriage sent Isabella scampering, her hands flailing about, trying to find her way to the bench across from him. Whimpers came between gasping breaths as her bare feet kicked at the squabs of the bench, and she tried to make herself as small as possible in the corner.

Caine shifted to her bench, grabbing her thrashing arms. “Bella, Bella. It is me.”

She fought him, growling, kicking at his legs.


She tried to wrench herself from his grasp, screaming.

A kick, and her heel dug hard into his side.

Grunting, Caine shifted without freeing her arms, wedging his leg over her thighs, and effectively stilling her kicks.

Her head flew back and forth, the whimpers increasing. She couldn’t see.

He realized she wasn’t listening because she couldn’t see.

“Bella. It’s me.” Keeping one hand clamped onto her wrists, Caine grabbed the veil covering her head and tore it from her face.

He froze.

She froze.

Eyes impossibly large, she stared at him, only her heaving breaths cutting through the silence.


She cringed, her captured body trying to curl away from him.

He dropped the veil to the floor, shoving off from her as he punched the back of the opposite cushions. “Bloody fucking hell.”

He turned back to the crouching girl and his fists slammed into the cushions on either side of her head. Growling, he leaned over her.

“Where the hell is she? I just spent a fucking fortune on you. And you’re not her. She was supposed to be there. That was the damn place. The only damn place and you were bloody well supposed to be her. They said Bella. Bella. They said you were Bella. Who the hell are you and what did you do to her?”

He saw it then. Her entire body shaking in the shadows. Vibrating. Terrified. Terrified of him.

It halted his rant.

Her eyes were wide open. Watching him. Waiting for whatever he was about to unleash on her. But she didn’t hide from it. As terrified as she was, she was one to meet her fate as it came to her.

He pushed himself from the cushions, sinking to the bench opposite the girl.

He stared at her for a long moment in silence. “You are not Isabella. They said you were Bella. Where the hell is Isabella?” He knew he wasn’t keeping the desperate rage from his voice—the accusation—but blast it, she wasn’t Isabella.

She shook her head.

“What, girl? What? Bloody well speak.”

Her bare arms tried to cover her body, but her wrists still bound by rope prevented the movement.

“Bloody hell.” Caine grumbled, grabbing the dagger he had along his boot and leaning forward, slicing through the rope in one ripping motion.

Her hands flapped, shaking from the rope like it was locust on her skin. She wrapped her arms around her body, covering her chest and belly as she drew her legs up underneath her, shrinking into the corner.

But her eyes didn’t leave him with the movement. No. The wide eyes stayed fixed to his face. Her mouth opened, her words a shrinking whisper. “You look for Isabella? They confused us.”

Caine sat upright, leaning forward, but stayed on his bench. He didn’t need to scare her more than she already was. “You met Isabella? You know where she is?”

“We were together in the carriage.” Her soft voice shook. “Isabella has blond hair, like me—my height?”

Caine nodded.

“One of them, those men—those vile men—he asked our names, but he did not hear me—not correctly.” Her words were creeping slowly, barely audible over the clomping of horses’ hooves and the racket of the carriage wheels. “He called us both Bella. Bella one. Bella two. Then they all did the same with our names.”

Caine held back the need to shake her. Shake her until answers flew fast. “So where the hell is Isabella? They only sold you tonight. You and two others that looked nothing like her.”

Her head dropped as her arms tightened around her body. It was the first time her look had left him.

Caine’s eyes narrowed. “Where is Isabella?”

The girl didn’t lift her head, only shaking it, silent.

“You know where she is. Is she back at the whorehouse? Was she in there?” Caine couldn’t hold himself back and he jumped over to the girl, grabbing her shoulders and shaking her. He was bloody well losing time traveling away from the brothel. “You have to tell me. Tell me if she was inside that place. Tell me where.”

The girl gasped in a whimper, her head bobbing from his shaking.

“Speak—dammit, girl—speak. Where the hell is Bella?”

“Dead.” The word blurted out, loud and rash.

No. God no.

His hand flew up to slap her.

She instantly cringed away, and Caine caught himself in mid-swing—right before his palm hit flesh.

His hand hovered next to her cheek. “You’re a liar.”

Tears streaming, her head swung back and forth. “I am not.”

“You are mistaken.” The words slipped past his gritted teeth.

Her wide eyes, now wet, rose to him. “She looks like me? My hair color? My height? Our bodies?”

“Yes. But you are lying. Confused. Isabella is not dead. I would know. I would feel it.”

The girl yanked an arm free from the tangle of her body, thrusting the back of her hand in front of his face. “Her hand. Did she have a mole on her left hand? Right below her knuckle? Right here?” She pointed to the skin below the knuckle of her ring finger.

Her words hit him, blasted through his gut.

His body staggered backward, collapsing on the opposite bench. “What…how do you know that?”

“I stared at her hands in the carriage. After they took me. I stared at them for hours and hours and hours. I could not lift my eyes. So I stared at her hands. Soft hands. She had truly soft hands, so soft.”

It was Isabella.

There was no doubting it. The girl knew her. Knew the hand, the knuckles he had traced a thousand times over in a different land, in a different life.

His head fell back on the cushions, numb.

He had been so close. So close.

The words the girl spoke made sense in his mind, but could not travel down to his body. He couldn’t feel it. Not yet. Not his love gone from this earth.

“You are…you are sure?” He could not move his head to look at her, could not smooth the roughness of his voice.

“She died. I saw her.”

Each word sliced into Caine’s chest, robbing him of his breath, of his heartbeat.

She moved, sitting upright on the bench, threatening to stand. “What—”

“Sit. Shut your mouth.” His growl sent the girl back into the corner, wrapping herself into a ball.

Caine’s head fell back, his eyes closed against the horror.

His love. Dead.

He had stayed alive for Isabella during the war. For her. And now she was dead.

Thick silence swelled in the carriage, seeping into every corner to suffocate the air.

Ten minutes. An hour. Caine had no idea how much time passed before he heard the girl’s voice slip into the silence, a whisper against the pain ravaging his chest. Against the failure pounding in his brain.

“What…what are you going to do to me?” The trembling words broke through the air.

His head dropped, his eyes finding her in the corner. She had not moved a muscle. “Do to you?”



“Nothing? But…”

Caine leaned forward, his voice hard. “Do you want me to do something to you?”

She snapped back, hiding her face from him.

Dammit. How many times was he going to send the pitiful creature cowering?

He shook his head, damning himself. If Isabella were sitting across from some strange man, at his mercy, how would Caine want her to be treated?

He sighed. “I am not going to hurt you, girl. What do you want? Where do you want to be delivered to?”

Her head flew up, her eyes wide as her mouth opened and closed several times before sound made it past her lips. “Truly? You are letting me go?”

He nodded.

“Home. I want…I want to go home.”

“Where is home? Somewhere here in London?”

“I am in London?” Her hand flew over her mouth, fingers dragging across her lips. “I…I did not know that…I am from Wiltshire—the village of Marport. My father is the local vicar.”

Blast it. That was at least a twelve-hour carriage ride away. His night and the next day would be gone. But that would also place him by Isabella’s home in Somerset. He could go to see her mother and father, tell them the news, even if he wanted to put it off as long as possible. He still did not fully believe it himself.

He settled his hands on his lap, tempering his voice from the pain beginning to cut through his shock. “Then I will return you to Marport. What is your name, girl?”

“Ara Detton—Arabella Detton.”

Caine shook his head.

Of course, dammit to hell.

Another Bella.


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