Graeme McCracken, Lord Hamel, is cursed. Loving him is deadly, so he vows never again. Never fall in love, never risk another woman. Then he rescues Felicity Worthington and falls in love with the feisty beauty—but his love is fatal. Now, only God can save her…but will He, when He is the very God who cursed Graeme to begin with? Felicity Worthington is on a mission from God: Kill Graeme McCracken and avenge her friend’s death. But the lord of the manor is strangely alluring and mysteriously magnetic—not at all the cold-hearted murderer painted by her mind’s eye. As she begins to trust, to love, she is devastated to find that Graeme is indeed the Butcher of Beacon Hill. When her life is threatened, she learns that only faith and love can save her from becoming the next victim on the moor.
Corpulent clouds bloated with rain cast restless shadows over Beacon Hill moor. Felicity Worthington tightened her grip on the horse’s reins as the curricle jostled over uneven ground. The impending storm gave her a moment’s pause. Was this venture worth the risk? She would end up in Bedlam, or worse, should her action prove to be folly. Still and yet, she snapped the leather, urging the black stallion to press on. Folly, or no, she would have the truth before this journey was complete. And her revenge.
Thunder rolled across the darkened sky, an angry mirror to her own knotted emotions. A bolt of lightning shattered the dusk. The horse reared, and Felicity’s hold on the reins slipped. With a violence, she was thrust to one side, her pelisse flying open to the icy, howling wind. A startled scream escaped her as the chill penetrated her walking dress, her petticoats, her skin. The blood in her veins seemed to freeze.
As the clouds gave way to their burden, she struggled to right herself, to grasp the strap before she was cast off the seat completely. Rain came in torrents. Her soaked, gloved hand slipped ever-so slightly before finding blessed purchase along the leather.
Thank You, Lord. I knew we were in accord. Please help me to reach Hamel House without further delay, that I may kill Graeme McCracken in due course. Clarissa’s death would not be in vain. Felicity had vowed it. So it would come to pass.
Rain slapped at her skin, stinging her cheeks, blurring her vision in the waning light as the horse flung itself wildly, then grappled for foothold as the road turned to thick, innavigable mud.
Thunder and lightning dueled once again. The stallion reared then faltered. A carriage wheel slammed hard into a rut. The vehicle swayed violently. Felicity lost the reins, her arms and legs flailing as her body launched into the air. The curricle keeled, the stallion collapsed. Felicity landed hard on the wheel then rolled off, hitting the mud face-up. Pain exploded in her body. Rain poured into her mouth as she struggled for breath. She coughed. The clouds billowed across the sky. The horse whinnied.
Then, all went black.
“Eleanor, fetch me clean water.”
The masculine voice penetrated the walls of Felicity’s unconscious mind. The words were plain, but the deep tone, made musical by a Scottish lilt, reverberated like a melody. She tried to open her eyes, to seek the sound, to partake of it once again, but she could not.
Something soft traced across her forehead. Then something cool. “Awaken fair stranger. You shall be fine in no time at all.” That voice. That touch. Come again, her mind beckoned.
“But, I am not a servant.”
Felicity winced. The female voice was shrill and whiny. Harsh.
“I need clean water, Eleanor. Why must you argue? Mrs. Haggerty is abed.”
A door opened. Closed.
Something moved, caused Felicity to shift. Again, she struggled to open her eyes.
“Ah, that’s it.” The voice.
Light filtered in slowly. Her eyelids parted, and she focused on eyes as green as moor grass after a spring rain. They reflected compassion. Mesmerized, she could not look away.
“Welcome back to the living.” That voice. He leaned over and gently brushed hair from her cheek. “Can you tell me your name?”
She breathed in the scent of him. A genuine and pleasant masculine aroma not covered by the harsh colognes one tended to wear in the City. Refreshing.
She gave him a faint nod; her head felt heavy as a sack of flour. “Felicity Worthington?”
“Are you not quite sure, then?” His voice blanketed her in warmth, distracting her mind.
She thought she was sure. “Of a certain,” she said. Although, she wasn’t.
He studied her with those green eyes as he rubbed an open palm across his stubbled chin. So out of fashion, she thought. And so handsome. The dark shadow lent him a mysterious air and formed a perfect frame for his light eyes as it joined his shock of black hair. “Well, you certainly gave us a fright. No one tackles these moors at night, especially during a storm.”
“What do you mean, ‘at night’?”
Felicity turned her gaze towards the harsh voice. She hadn’t heard the door open, but now there stood a woman on the threshold holding a porcelain jug.
“No one tackles these moors at all anymore,” the woman said.
He glanced at her for a moment and then cast his gaze upon Felicity. A sadness was etched beneath those green eyes that tugged at her heart. “’Tis true.” He placed a cloth that Felicity had failed to notice earlier into a basin beside the bed. “Well, Eleanor, thank you for fetching the water. Please come and make the acquaintance of Miss Felicity Worthington.” He smiled at Felicity, but she took note that it did not meet his eyes.
The woman scoffed and dropped the pitcher onto the sideboard that sat to the left of the door. Liquid sloshed, leaving droplets of water on the rich mahogany surface. “I do not know what is wrong with you. I neither care to make the acquaintance of Miss Felicity Worthington, nor believe you should be playing nursemaid to her, Graeme. She is obviously ill-mannered and a trollop! Why else would she be out after dark and quite literally alone on the moor?” She spun and exited the room, the door slamming behind her.
Felicity lay stunned.
“I must apologize for my sister-in-law. She but worries on me overmuch and thinks I should have a care for my reputation.” He shook his head, and ebony strands glided to and fro across his brow. “Why, I do not understand. My reputation is a shambles. I could do naught to worsen it.”
Graeme. Surely it was not so! This beautiful male specimen with the voice like smooth, polished marble. A voice that stirred the soul even whilst it lay unconscious. This…this was Graeme McCracken, the very devil himself?