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A WICKED REPUTATION
Once WickedBook 3
BY LIANA LEFEY
Betrayed by her fiancé and her best friend, Lady Diana Haversham’s reputation is left in ruins, and she is unjustly cast out by her family. Left with little choice, she agrees to pretend to be a courtesan to protect her benefactor’s secret. What she didn’t count on was meeting temptation in the form of one Lord Lucas Blackthorn.
Lucas is fascinated by the shameless Diana, whom his friends claim is his perfect counterpart. He can’t stop thinking about her sultry smile and captivating eyes, but what draws him most is the sharp mind she reveals—and the certainty she’s hiding something.
When Lucas learns the scandalous truth, Diana will have to make a life-and-death choice.
About the Book
A Wicked Reputation
by Liana LeFey
Once Wicked Book Three
February 25, 2019
My life is over. Lady Diana’s hand trembled as she handed the paper back to her furious uncle, Lord Bolingbroke. Her fiancé had disappeared last week and, according to this morning’s Gazette, had yesterday returned from Gretna Green a married man. Lucille, her best friend—former best, she corrected herself—was now Lady Grenville.
Aunt Jane, her normally timid voice shrill, shattered the stifling silence. “I warned you what would happen if you lifted your skirts before his ring was on your finger!”
Diana’s temper flared. “And I told you it’s a lie! I never allowed—”
“Oh, stop it, girl!” snapped her aunt. “Everyone thinks you did, and that’s what matters. That, and the fact that Grenville is now lost to us forever.”
“I beg to differ,” Diana shot back, folding her arms across her chest so they wouldn’t see her shaking hands. “The facts matter a great deal. Aunt Jane, you’ve been with me to every ball, every party. When has there ever been an opportunity for me to behave in such a manner? You know it’s not true! You can tell all those gossiping old—”
“Not every party,” interjected her uncle. “Your aunt did not attend the Hancocks’ party with you a fortnight ago. Idid, and you were out of my sight for quite some time.”
The insinuation elicited a pain in Diana’s heart such as she’d not felt in years. She was accustomed to her uncle’s hard ways, but this was too much. In spite of the rage and fear coursing through her, she kept her voice calm. “If you will remember, Uncle, you went to play cards in the library with the other gentlemen and I was not permitted to accompany you. But I remained in the ballroom the entire time, as you instructed. I did not even visit the powder—”
“It matters not where it happened,” he said, cutting her off with a look of cool disdain. “Thanks to your imprudence, you’ve been painted in an ill light, and us along with you.”
Her gasp was a sound halfway between laughter and horror. “What imprudence? I beg you tell me so I may know what lie dares threaten my good name.”
“It is no lie,” he replied, narrowing his eyes. “Grenville told everyone you invited him to take liberties with you, and I know it to be true. Your aunt told me you let him kiss you.”
She let out an incredulous laugh. “I allowed him a chaste kiss the day I accepted his proposal. Nothing more! One simple kiss with one’s fiancé surely cannot be equated with ‘liberties’.”
But his expression remained unmoving. “He intimated it was far more than ‘one simple kiss,’ which you should never have permitted in the first place. That…among other things.”
Heat crept into Diana’s cheeks, and her heart began to pound anew. “It was once, Uncle, and only once. He’d only just asked for my hand, and you specifically ordered me not to discourage his affection for fear of endangering the match with—how did you put it? Ah, yes: ‘female frigidity’.”
Bolingbroke’s beefy face darkened to an ugly purple. “Insolent harlot! You dare cast my own words back at me?”
“I am no harlot!” Diana shouted, past caring. “And you were the one to speak them. Do you deny them now?” She braced herself as he took a step toward her.
Aunt Jane stepped in, her cheeks as pale as parchment, and laid a restraining hand on his sleeve. “Arthur, please—”
“Enough!” shouted Bolingbroke, shaking himself loose with a growl. “I will not tolerate defiance in my household. Not from her, and certainly not from you,” he rasped, shoving a fat finger in his wife’s face and causing her to flinch. “There is more to this than one kiss. Grenville said he’d heard tales concerning her lack of propriety on other occasions from several different men.”
Shock coursed through Diana, swiftly followed by anger. “What men? Who has spoken such lies?”
But her uncle ignored her outraged inquiry. “Being a gentleman, he had refused to believe them—until he’d witnessed it himself. It is an embarrassment not to be borne!”
“But she claims to be innocent,” pleaded Aunt Jane in a small voice. “Surely there must be some way to prove—”
His eyes widened until the whites showed all around his small brown irises, and Diana shook her head slightly, willing her aunt to be silent.
Bolingbroke’s voice was as cold as a cheerless winter’s dawn. “You dare persist in pleading this creature’s case when the stain of her scandal threatens to taint us all? Think of your own children, woman. People will talk of this for years to come. No matter what ‘proof’ is offered, there will always be the question. Even you confessed doubts as to her virtue.”
It was all Diana could do to conceal how deeply this revelation wounded her.
“But she is our niece, Arthur. We cannot—”
“She’s none of my blood!” he snarled, his mouth thinning to a bitter line.
Dread filled Diana, along with icy calm. She knew what was coming. Aunt Jane had been kind after her parents’ deaths and had loved her as best she could, but Bolingbroke had never warmed toward his wife’s orphaned niece. He’d tolerated her, but after assuming the title of viscount last year he’d become insufferable, always reminding her she lived as befitted a lady only because of his charity and sufferance.
Puffing out his chest, he continued, relentless. “I have a responsibility to this family, to my own good name, and I refuse to shirk it. You are to leave this house at once.”
“Arthur!” gasped Aunt Jane. “You cannot cast her out into the street! Think of—”
“Silence!” he thundered, sending flecks of spittle flying. “I will not be prevailed upon to house a wanton trull under my own roof!”
Rejecting the sudden impulse to crumple to the floor, Diana squared her shoulders and stood her tallest. She’d rather die than beg this man for mercy, if such a thing even existed in his cold, empty heart. “I vow before God I’m innocent of any immorality,” she said with quiet dignity. “You accuse me wrongly and will only add to the undeserved slurs against me by refusing to deny them.”
Beneath her withering gaze, he shrank a little. But it wasn’t enough. “I have little choice but to renounce you—for the sake of my own daughters,” he countered, but his tone was less strident than before. It weakened further as she continued to stare him down. “I do it for my family!”
Unbidden, a strangled chuckle rose up in Diana’s throat. “I realize you feel no personal obligation where I’m concerned, Uncle,” she said, placing deliberate emphasis on the familial title, “but despite your fervent wishes otherwise, I am a member of your family.”
Vicious glee kindled in his eyes. “Not anymore.”
Tour Wide Giveaway
To celebrate the release of A WICKED REPUTATION by Liana LeFey, we’re giving away a $25 Amazon gift card to one lucky winner!
GIVEAWAY TERMS & CONDITIONS: Open to internationally. One winner will receive a $25 Amazon gift card. This giveaway is administered by Pure Textuality PR on behalf of Entangled Publishing. Giveaway ends 3/1/2019 @ 11:59pm EST. Limit one entry per reader. Duplicates will be deleted. CLICK HERE TO ENTER!
About Liana LeFey…
As a romance author, I delight in crafting incendiary tales that capture the heart and the imagination, taking the reader out of the now and into another world. Regardless of whether you choose to dive into the past, leap into the future, or lose yourself in another realm entirely, between the pages you’ll find deep emotional journeys and passionate romance! The splendor of the Georgian period (1714-1837) provides a lush, glittering backdrop for my sizzling historical romances. Between the pages of my early Georgian pieces you’ll find sensuous lovers, lavish royal courts, and deadly intrigues. My Regencies look back to an era of refined manners and strict propriety, while revealing the secret, wicked desires of its elegant ladies and courtly gentlemen. In my sci-fi romances, love transcends all boundaries and spans a future of endless possibility based on what we’re learning about our universe today. My fantasy romances will take you on a quest through realms both familiar and unknown, with characters and creatures from myth and folklore, and of course include powerful magic paired with that most potent of all enchantments: love. About moi? I live in Central Texas with my dashing hero/husband of nearly twenty years and our beautiful daughter. I’m also privileged to serve (and it is most definitely servitude) one spoiled-rotten feline overlord. I adore chocolate and just about anything involving the words “salted caramel.” When my brain is too fried to weave stories, I read (of course), watch movies or binge-watch television series, make jewelry and knit scarves. What do I read/watch? In addition to being a historical research junkie (there have been interventions), I’m a fan of all things sci-fi and fantasy. Star Wars is the first movie I remember seeing. I was five and watched a double feature of Episodes IV and V with my parents at the big theater downtown…and came out wanting to marry Han Solo. Fed on bedtime stories from authors like Tolkien, Baum, and Herbert, I became a language-loving, book-gobbling monster at the age of four and have yet to be sated. The Kadin by Bertrice Small was the first romance novel I ever devoured. I was fourteen, it was delicious, and I’m now thrilled to be writing romance for fellow enthusiasts.