Exclusive Extract: A Rogue’s Rules for Seduction

Exclusive Extract: A Rogue’s Rules for Seduction

Eva Leigh is back with the final installment in her Last Chance Scoundrels series! And we can’t wait to catch up with Dominic and Willa as they head to the Scottish Highlands for a gorgeous and super-sexy second chance romance! Read on for an exclusive first look at Chapter 1 of A Rogue’s Rules for Seduction… and if you love Chapter 1, make sure to pre-order now!


Scotland, Inner Hebrides, 1819

“Fucking aristos,” Dominic Kilburn muttered as the boat pitched beneath his feet.

Through sheer force of will—and using the strength of his admittedly thickly muscled thighs— he managed to keep from tumbling headlong into the churning waters, but it was close. If he wasn’t such a stubborn bastard, refusing to let this sea get the better of him, he would have fallen in. Which was a slight problem. He couldn’t swim. Men of low birth like his seldom could.

“What has my class done to you now?” Finn Ransome asked, standing at the railing.

“This damned sea is rough as a bottle of gin from a Ratcliff tavern,” Dom snarled at his friend.

“Being on the water has got your nerves just as choppy as the waves,” Finn noted. “I’m hearing your old neighborhood creeping into your accent.” “Damn gambler’s insight.” But there was no hiding it. “No matter how many elocution lessons Da made me take, whenever I’m feelin’ rattled, I can’t stop droppin’ consonants like rotten flesh. Guess

I’ll always be Ratcliff born and bred.” “It’s charming,” his friend noted.

Dom snorted. “Ain’t too many of your class that think so. And you bein’ an earl’s second son, you got a voice as smooth and cultured as cream from the top of the milk bottle.”

Finn also seldom revealed much emotion, not even when a twenty-foot boat heaved and rolled across Scottish waters. The vessel was just large enough to accommodate Dom, Finn, Finn’s wife, Tabitha, their luggage, and the skipper—who moved around the craft with the practiced ease of someone who had likely been born on the deck of this very boat.

“You may as well be dealin’ another round of faro,” Dom accused, “you’re so damned com- posed.”

“There’s nothing I can do about the state of the sea,” his friend said mildly. “It stands to reason that I should permit myself to enjoy it. Why are you standing in the middle of the boat? Come to the rail and savor the view.”

“I’m stayin’ right here.” Dom remained rooted to his place in the middle of the boat’s pitching deck. “As far away as possible from the rail and the chance of a watery death. I ain’t sinkin’ to the bottom of the frigid Scottish sea.”

Not without seeing her first. If he was going to end his miserable time in this godforsaken world, he wanted his last view to be of Willa’s face. Even if she was scowling at him and calling him every known curse word, it would be enough merely to look upon her one final time. He might not die happy, but he’d die content in the knowledge that she was alive and might have a chance at actual happiness.

Yet he hadn’t seen Willa’s face or heard her voice in nearly a year, not since the night before that terrible spring day. Dom had run out on her in the moments before their wedding ceremony, assisted by Finn and his brother Kieran, which was bad, but even worse was the fact that Willa was their sister.

“And I fail to see why you’d be angry with my class,” Finn said evenly. “Though the British aristocracy does have an unequal and unfair amount of power, you cannot claim the gentry can actually affect the elements, and make a sea choppy.”

“But it’s members of your class that decided to have this ruddy house party on some tiny Scottish island,” Dom fired back, bracing as another swell lifted the boat high before slamming it back down, “rather than at any one of their countless country houses paid for with others’ blood and sweat.”

“Oliver Longbridge said his manor on the island would be the perfect place for a house party,” Finn pointed out. He barely blinked when sea spray dashed across his face before calmly using a hand- kerchief to dry himself. “One unfettered by the traditional rules and conduct of polite society, thanks to its removed location. Besides,” he added, when Dom would have complained again, “you decided to come to the party of your own volition. No one threatened the life of your favorite racehorse.”

“Except you and that cursed brother of yours kept wheedlin’ me to go,” Dom countered. With an exaggeratedly affected patrician accent, he drawled, “‘Do come to the party, Dom. It will be ever so droll to escape the tedium of London, and promises to be such a jolly time, there’s a chap.’”

Finn laughed. “My God, if Kieran and I truly sound like that, you’ve my permission to tip me overboard.”

“That would mean moving from the safety of where I stand,” Dom answered, “riskin’ my life to end yours.”

There was no rancor in his words. Ever since Dom’s father had made his fortune nearly twelve years ago through the leasing of dockside warehouses, the companionship of the Ransome brothers had been Dom’s sole consolation as he’d navigated the treacherous, insular world of England’s elite. Dom would sooner throw himself into the water than hurt his two closest friends.

“I think I see the island,” Tabitha Ransome said excitedly.

She came to stand at her new husband’s side, and Finn’s arm immediately curved around her waist, holding her close. It was a gesture that was at once protective and adoring, just as the expression on Finn’s face was protective and adoring. Though he was a man who seldom let anyone know what he was thinking or feeling, those bar- riers fell away whenever Tabitha was near. For her part, the scholarly Tabitha appeared equally smitten when in the presence of her husband.

Dom’s heart clenched. He didn’t begrudge Finn his happiness—but it only reinforced just what Dom had lost, and would never have for himself.

And now that both Finn and Kieran had found themselves brides, Dom was left almost entirely on his own to prowl London after dark. Given the grim humor that had gripped him ever since jilting Willa, that meant that most mornings found Dom crawling home after either wearing himself out at the all-hours pugilism academy or trying to find consolation at the bottom of a tankard.

Whether his sore head those mornings came from the punches he took from his sparring opponents or the vast amounts of alcohol he’d swallowed was anyone’s guess. But boxing and drinking did the job of distracting him from the fact that he’d lost Willa, would never have her, and had to go through the rest of his cursed days corroded with guilt.

Well—they used to distract him. More and more lately, there weren’t enough sparring opponents or casks of ale to keep him from sinking into a mire of shame and rage.

And that was the only reason why he’d accepted the Ransome brothers’ invitation to join them at Oliver Longbridge’s house party on this private island in the Hebrides. Because anything had to be better than his existence now. There might not be a boxing ring, but he could always drain someone else’s cellar. He might also sleep better in a different bed, because God knew he wasn’t sleeping now.

“It certainly appears the part of a wild, wind- swept retreat,” Finn noted as the boat neared the island. He added warmly to Tabitha, “Looks as though it’s stepped from one of our favorite gothic novels, love.”

“Will you prowl after me as I roam the corridors, holding my candle aloft as I wear nothing but my night rail?” his wife asked with a teasing, affectionate smile.

Finn’s eyes darkened. “I look forward to catching you.”

Dom kept his gaze trained on the island, growing larger with each moment, rather than watch the intimacy between Finn and Tabitha. From this distance, he could just start to make out details of Longbridge’s private retreat. Rocky cliffs formed a border around a beach, and on one of those cliffs perched a three-story stone building with pointed roofs and even a crenelated tower. Behind the manor house stretched rugged terrain, velvet green in the early spring, and though the trees dotting the landscape were minimal, they formed little adornments here and there.

“The island is beautiful,” Tabitha said, gazing across the water. “Don’t you think so, Dom?”

“I suppose. Kieran’s the poet and likely’s got any number of pretty and ornate metaphors and similes to rattle off.” But for someone who had spent the first eighteen years of his life in the riverside Rat- cliff slum, wide open spaces like this island only created a seething uneasiness in his gut, as if there was nowhere to hide, and no means of fighting.

That’s all it had to be, just a city bloke’s apprehension at being in an unfamiliar environment. Not a premonition.

Dom’s mother had been a modern woman of profound sense and reason. She also held a touch of her old Welsh foremothers’ superstition. She was always careful with wrens’ nests found in the eaves of their tenement, and she wouldn’t allow any- one to bring hawthorn flowers into their rooms. Perhaps some of Ma’s old beliefs had seeped into Dom, making him susceptible to suggestion. He couldn’t shake the feeling that something loomed on the horizon. Something other than the sprawling stone manor house perched atop a lonely and remote island.

It was the sort of place nobs believed romantic but working people like Dom thought were out of the way, hard to care for, a bit frightening, and overall, a substantial pain in the arse.

The best part about this place was that it was far, far away from anywhere that could make Dom remember Willa. Every corner of London was saturated with her—parks where they’d strolled together, tea shops, museums. Everywhere genteel courting couples could be found, and since she was an earl’s daughter, that’s exactly where they’d gone.

The city was haunted by Willa. Even when she’d fled to the Continent in the wake of their disastrous almost-wedding.

But now she was back in England, back in Lon- don. He’d done his utmost to avoid seeing her, which meant hiding at home during the day and only going to the city’s seediest corners at night. A prisoner of his own guilt. Longbridge’s far-flung Scottish retreat seemed exactly where Dom needed to be, at least for the next fortnight.

“The party’s already underway?” Dom asked while the heaving boat drew nearer to the island.

“A week’s passed since Longbridge opened his doors to what I’ve been promised is the most amusing and uninhibited company,” Finn said with a smile.

“By uninhibited,” Dom said dryly, “you mean a collection of sluts of all genders.”

“The same,” Finn replied.

Dom waited for a kick of expectancy at the prospect. He’d be far away from the wagging tongues, disapproving eyes, and suffocating morals of the ton, and no doubt there’d be plenty of bed hopping. But while the pitching of the boat didn’t disturb his stomach, he grew nauseated at the thought of welcoming anyone into his bed. Anyone who wasn’t her. And since that wasn’t ever going to happen, he’d have to settle in for a long two weeks of listening to other people fuck in adjoining rooms.

Worse yet, he might be next to Kieran and Celeste’s chamber. Kieran had married Dom’s little sister last year, and it was evident through their heated looks and lingering touches that the two were ardently in love. The very last thing Dom wanted to hear was his own baby sister in the throes of passion. If that was the case, Dom would go sleep out on the moor or the heath or whatever these country folk called a big plot of dirt.

Kieran and Celeste had left for the island three days ago, so if, by some horrendous stroke of mis- fortune, Dom’s room was next to theirs, hopefully they’d gotten all the passion out of their systems.

Casting a wary eye toward Finn and Tabitha in their own heated embrace on the deck of the boat, he thought it seemed unlikely. In their bachelor days, the Ransome brothers had been infamous, and now that they had both found love matches, they seemed randier than ever, always fondling their brides and whispering things that made their wives blush. It was enough to make a man want to swallow rocks.

Dom turned to the skipper, a bloke with the requisite full gingery beard and knit cap.

“Do you live on the island, too?” he asked the man. “Where you boarded the boat, in Oban,” the skipper answered in an accent so thick it would require ten lanterns to see through. “That’s my home. I come back to Mr. Longbridge’s as he needs me, but as soon as I drop you folk off, I’m headed back.”

“So, you’ll return daily to reprovision,” Dom surmised.

The bloke only gave him a craggy, weathered smile. “Nearly there.”

That wasn’t an answer, and apprehension prick- led along Dom’s nape. He ought to tell the skip- per to turn around, but that was ridiculous. It had already taken days on bumpy roads to reach the port, and then there’d been this boat trip of several hours just to reach Longbridge’s front door. Turning around now would make him look a ruddy ass, and he’d no real proof that anything did await him, so he’d continue on this journey and make himself enjoy this bloody house party. If not enjoy, then tolerate. As much as he’d been able to tolerate anything since last spring.

At last, the boat reached a small jetty that arrowed out from the beach. Several uniformed footmen stood at attention, clearly having seen the craft’s approach, to await the visitors’ arrival. The skip- per brought his vessel in and tied off before helping Finn to disembark. In turn, Finn assisted Tabitha in climbing onto the little pier. When it was Dom’s turn, he waved off offers of assistance.

“Eighteen years climbing on and off ships,” he said gruffly, “I should be able to do this on my own.” From the time he’d been able to walk, Dom had worked the London docks as a stevedore, his size and strength invaluable assets. On the wharf, at least. In the ballrooms of the ton, the fact that he was built like a hulking stone tower made him the object of ridicule and disdain.

To hell with those snobs, he told himself, which had been his motto for over a decade.

Thank God he didn’t embarrass himself as he stepped from the boat to the jetty. Da might not have been proud of him these last few years, but he didn’t disgrace his father now.

It likely would have shamed social-climbing Ned Kilburn when the skipper began to hand over the luggage to the waiting footmen, and Dom stepped in to take his bags. Both the footmen and the ship’s captain looked perplexed that a man in the expensive clothing of a gentleman not only insisted on carrying his own belongings, but didn’t stagger as he bore the weight.

As he watched everything, a corner of Finn’s mouth quirked up. Yet he kept silent. As well he should. Finn and Dom had known each other a long time, and it was precisely their lack of interest in adhering to stifling rules that had made them friends in the first place.

The footmen pressed on, taking Finn and Tabitha’s luggage.

“Felicitations on your crossing,” a cultured voice said, “and welcome to Creag Uaine. While you’re here and beneath my roof, you’ll want for nothing, and your every whim will be indulged.”

Dom, Finn, and Tabitha turned to see Oliver Longbridge striding up the pier toward them. As usual, Longbridge was dressed in the height of fashion, his exceptionally stylish long coat billowing out behind him as he approached with his hand outstretched in greeting. Longbridge was the son of a Black West Indian father and a white English mother, and he’d made a fortune between his inheritance and shrewd investments. In London, he was a popular and well-respected figure—yet only a select few knew that the decorous Mr. Longbridge held clandestine parties notorious for their unbridled hedonism. The fact that Longbridge was hosting this particular house party ensured that it would be infamous for years to come.

After Longbridge shook Finn’s hand and pressed a suave kiss to Tabitha’s knuckles, he faced Dom with a wide smile.

“At last, we’ve pried you away from your be- loved London,” Longbridge said cheerfully.

“They said you’ve got matchless cellars.” Fortunately, Dom had collected himself enough since disembarking so that he was able to use his elocution lessons, and could now sound more like a gentleman.

“And you plan to empty them,” Longbridge answered, chuckling. “There are other delights to entice you.” He waggled his brows.

“So I’ve been told, but I’ve more of a taste for whisky than anything else.”

They began walking from the pier to a set of wooden steps that climbed up the cliff. Finn was all solicitousness as he kept a hand at the small of Tabitha’s back, and Dom winced.

“Is there anything else you might desire?” Long- bridge asked as they ascended the steep, worn wooden steps.

Dom frowned at this pointed question. But then, Longbridge was only playing the attentive host.

“Getting away from London is all I want,” he answered.

“The city is far behind us,” Longbridge said magnanimously. “Here on Creag Uaine, we’re free to do what we like, when we like. Become better acquainted with who we like.”

Having been to a few of Longbridge’s parties, Dom had seen his host and the guests eagerly becoming acquainted with many people. Dom himself had lost the taste for such wild and fickle activity the moment he’d met Willa, and had never recovered that appetite.

Still, he made himself say, “Brilliant,” as if the idea didn’t completely turn his blood to icy slush.

Finally, they reached the end of the stairs, which terminated at the top of the cliff. Hard not to feel slightly pleased with himself when he was the only one of their party who wasn’t out of breath, including the trailing string of footmen.

A gravel path stretched from the top of the stairs to the front of the manor house. This close to it, Dom whistled in appreciation. Sizable as the house was, the manor wasn’t flashy, more like a product of the rugged land surrounding it. It sprawled in several directions as if it had grown and evolved with the progress of centuries, and had a charming ram- shackle quality in its organic structure. The house wasn’t an obvious display of wealth and power that often marked the residences of the elite. This had served as a home, with quirks and minute flaws.

Hearing Dom’s whistle, Longbridge beamed. “I like the heap, myself. Came down to me through my mother’s side. Legend has it that in its earliest days, it helped repel seaward invasions from the English and there are supposedly hulks of English ships rotting beneath the waves just off the beach. You can see some timbers when the tide is out.”

“I’d wager there are more than a few ghosts,” Finn noted.

“The dead outnumber the living,” Longbridge answered cheerfully. “It would take hours to enumerate them all. There’s no shortage of stories.”

“Quite fascinating,” Tabitha said with a studious look. She patted her reticule before pulling out a notebook and pencil. “I would be extremely interested in interviewing you and your staff to hear about the development of these stories, and the philosophical implications of affixing a kind of consciousness to a place.”

Longbridge blinked. “Ah—”

“Later, love,” Finn said fondly, guiding his wife toward the house. “For now, let us get out of the wind, fortify ourselves with some wine, and seek the comforts of the house. Then we can discuss all the philosophical implications you desire.”

Tabitha nodded in agreement, and Dom and Longbridge shared a look. There had been a few moments last year when Finn had attempted to play matchmaker between Dom and Tabitha, his rationale being that Dom had won a few academic prizes at Oxford, and Tabitha was . . . well . . .

Tabitha. Fortunately for everyone, Dom had bowed out, Finn and Tabitha had become smitten with each other, and Dom had managed to avoid having to discuss scholarly subjects before noon.

True to Finn’s warning words, the wind was in- deed starting to pick up, causing Finn and Dom to hold their hats as Tabitha’s skirts and Longbridge’s coat flapped.

“Storms happen quickly and with little warning out here,” Longbridge said above the gusts. “In- side, I’ve plenty to warm you up.”

He gestured toward the house, and they moved as a group through the arched stone above the heavy wooden front door that did in fact look as though it could hold off a group of English soldiers. Step- ping into the large entryway, Dom looked around at the dark wood paneling on the walls, and the many pieces of weaponry mounted on those same walls.

“This is Mr. Brown, and this is Mrs. Murray,” Longbridge said, gesturing to a thin man in dark, sober clothing, and a stout, red-cheeked woman with an apron and a ring of keys at her waist. “The butler and housekeeper, respectively. Anything you want, you have only to come to them and it will be provided. No questions asked. Isn’t that right, Mrs. Murray?”

“So long as everyone’s willing,” the housekeeper answered with a charming burr.

As if in response to Mrs. Murray’s words, a loud crash sounded in another room, followed by uproarious laughter. Of course—the party had al- ready begun a week ago.

“I’ll see to that,” Mr. Brown said with a bow. “And I’m sure that a broom will be required,”

Mrs. Murray added. “After which, I’ll show everyone to their bedchambers.”

The servants bowed and curtsied before departing.

In the meantime, the parade of footmen climbed a wide set of carved stairs with their bags. Two servants approached Dom, expectantly looking at his luggage. No hope for it but to give the footmen what they wanted—so he handed them his belongings. Each servant took one bag before heading up the stairs.

“Come,” Longbridge said with cheer, “I’ve got hot toddies and a variety of things to nibble on, all to refresh you from your long journey. This way.” Their host shot a meaningful look toward Finn and Tabitha. Finn’s expression didn’t change, but Tabitha gave Longbridge a small nod.

Tension constricted along Dom’s spine. What the hell was going on?

Still, as Longbridge ushered them toward a chamber just off the entryway, Dom shook his head. He was imagining things. Celeste always said he saw threats where there were none. This was likely the same circumstance. Fists swinging at shadows.

Dom entered the room adjoining the entryway. It seemed a perfectly fine chamber, also paneled in wood, with sofas and chairs scattered through- out, and a fire blazing cheerfully in the hearth. On a table in the middle of the room perched a tray with the promised hot toddies and cakes and sandwiches.

Striding toward the table, Dom picked up one of the steaming drinks and brought it to his lips.

At the same time, a door at one end of the chamber opened. A woman came through it, speaking over her shoulder to someone.

“Why do I need to come in here?” she was saying. “I was right in the middle of showing Mrs. McDaniel how to cheat at billiards.”

The woman drew up short and Dom dropped his hot toddy. Scalding liquid poured over his hands and clothes. He didn’t notice anything but the woman.

She had thick brows, a round, elfin face, and dark and piercing eyes, with energy radiating out of her like an invisible storm as she gaped at him.

“Oh, fuck,” said Willa.