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Authors: Amanda Quick

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With This Ring

BOOK: With This Ring
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With This Ring by Amanda Quick

 

If you start an Amanda Quick book in the late afternoon; you'll probably spend the night with it -The Denver Post

Her heroines are "originals," her humor is witty, and her hero hold you spellbound which is why every book Amanda Quick writes novel

her fourteenth treasure

is a

to irresistible historical f.

Now, in

-)mance, the New York Ti"ws bestselling ant lor returns to the world of Regency England where a bold widow and an enigmatic schokit are drawn by a bewildering mystery into a perilous brew

of passion and danger...

Beatrice Poole may be a vicar's daughter, but that doesn't mean she's a stranger to the darker passions. Indeed, she knows enough about gothic terrors to have carved out a highly successful career penning "horrid novels." But now the talented authoress finds herself in

the midst of an ominous adventure that rivals anything she's ever written.

Her beloved Uncle Reggie is dead, his house has been ransacked, and Beatrice suspects that he was murdered-all because of his keen interest in a fabled treasure that may not even exist. Rumors abound that the Forbidden Rings of Aphrodite, said to give their possessor

the most unnatural powers, have surfaced in London. Yet Beatrice needs more than rumors to uncover the truth. That's why she's braved the wilds of Devon to seek out a leading authority on antiquities and ancient legends:

the famously eccentric, unquestionably reclusive, possibly dangerous Earl of Monkcrest, a man believed to dabble in the supernatural.

REN TIAL 50c

 

But bearding the Mad Monk of Monkcrest in his den and dangling the possibility of uncoverMg a fabulous artifact before him may be the

biggest mistake of Beatrice's life. For suddenly she finds herself joined in an uneasy alliance with a man who is every bit as fascinating as one of the heroes in her novels.

Five minutes in her company--that's all it takes for Leo Drake to realize that never has he met a woman more stubborn, more infuriating...

or more likely to rescue him from boredom than the alluring Beatrice Poole. So when the daring widow insists upon haring off after a mythic treasure that has no doubt lured any number of men to their doom, Leo refuses to let her go alone. Yet keeping Beatrice out of mischiefand in his arms-won't necessarily keep her safe. For somewhere in the netherworld of London, a villain lurks, waiting for the lovers to unearth the Forbidden Rings-knowing that when they do, that day will be their last. AMANDA QUICK, a pseudonym for Jayne Ann Krentz, is a bestselling, award-winning author of contemporary and historical romances.

There are nearly twenty-two million copies of her books in print, including Seduction, Surrender, Scandal, Rendezvous, RaVished, Reckless, Dangerous, Deception, Desire, MiStreS, mystique, miscbief, and Affair. She makes her home in the Pacific Northwest with her husband, Frank.

jacket design by Yook Louie jacket art C Alan Ayers Hand-lettering 0 Ron Zinn

Bantam Books

1540 Broadway

New York, New York 10036

Visit Bantain's Web site at www.bantam-com P,inted in the United States of America

 

With This Ring

 

Bantam Books by Amanda Quick Ask your bookseller for

the books you have missed AFFAIR DANGEROUS DECEPTION

DESIRE MISCHIEF MISTRESS MYSTIQUE RAVISHED RECKLESS

RENDEZVOUS SCANDAL SEDUCTION SURRENDER

WITH THIS RING

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BANTAM BOOKS

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WITH THIS RING

A Bantam Book / April 1998

All rights reserved. Copyright @ 1998 by Jayne A. Krentz.

BOOK DESIGN BY CAROL MALcoLm RUSSOISIGNET M DESIGN, INC.

No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any

information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher. For information address: Bantam Books.

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Quick. Amanda.

With this ring / Amanda Quick. p. cm.

ISBN 0-553-10083-1

1. Title. PS3561.R44W58 1998

813'.54-dc2l 97-35524 CIP

Published simultaneously in the United States and Canada

Bantam Books are published by Bantam Books, a division of Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group, Inc. Its trademark, consisting of the words "Bantam

Books" and the portrayal of a rooster, is Registered in U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and in other countries. Marca Registrada. Bantam Books,

1540 Broadway, New York, New York 10036.

PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

BVG 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

 

With This Ring

 

Chapter 1

The ancient ruin's darkened windows offered silent

warning of the temperament of the master

of the house.

FRom CHAYrER ONE OF The Ruin BY MRs. AmELiA YORK

/he Mad Monk of Monkcrest brooded in front of the fire.

It was as if he stood at the edge of a well and looked down into the dark waters of melancholia. He had not yet fallen into the depths, but lately, on occasion, he sensed that his balance was disturbingly precarious.

For many years he had resisted the temptation to gaze into the shadows. His scholarly studies together with the task of raising two lively, motherless sons had gone far to ensure that his attention remained fixed on more important matters.

But a month and a half ago his heir, Carlton, and his Younger son, William, had departed for the Continent in the company of their old tutor. They were on the Grand Tour.

 

The Mad Monk had been surprised to discover how empty the old halls of Monkcrest Abbey were these days. He was alone now except for his faithful staff and his great hound, Elf. He knew that when Carlton and William returned, things would never be quite the same. At nineteen and seventeen years of age, his sons hovered on the brink of manhood. They were strong, intelligent, and independent, young eagles ready to fly on their own.

He knew that this tendency to look into the shadows was in the blood, passed on to him by his ancestors, that long line of men who had held the title of Earl of Monkcrest before him. There were several among them who had been responsible for the unfortunate epithet that haunted all the rest: the Mad Monks.

The great hound stretched out in front of the fire, stirred as if he sensed his master's restlessness. The beast lifted its massive head and regarded Leo Drake with a disconcertingly direct stare.

"It's the storm, Elf. All that energy charges the atmosphere with electricity. Bound to have an unwholesome effect on a man of my temperament."

Elf did not appear completely satisfied with that explanation, but he nevertheless lowered his head back down onto his huge paws. The metal studs in the broad leather collar around his thick neck glinted dully in the flickering firelight.

Leo studied the flecks of silver in the hair around Elf's muzzle. Recently he had noticed similar shards of ice in his own dark hair when he faced himself in his shaving mirror.

"Do you think it's possible that we are getting old, Elf ?" Elf huffed with soft disgust. He did not bother to open his eyes.

"Thank God for that. You relieve my mind."' Leo picked up the nearly finished glass of brandy on the nearby table and took a swallow. "For a moment there I was a trifle concerned."

T h i s R i n g

Outside, Ithe wind howled. For the past hour a storm had unleashed its ill temper on the walls of the ancient stone abbey that had housed the Mad Monks for generations. Lightning still snapped occasionally in the distance, illuminating the library with an unholy glare, but the worst was over. The fury of the elements was fading.

Leo contemplated the fact that increasingly of late his researches into the arcane lore of ancient civilizations were no longer enough to divert his attention from the bleak waters of the well.

"The problem may be too much study rather than too little, Elf. Mayhap it is time we hunted again."

Elf's tail thumped once in complete accord with that suggestion.

"Unfortunately we have not had any interesting prey in the district for months.' Leo downed more brandy. "Nevertheless, I must find something to amuse myself or I shall likely end up like a character in one of those bloodcurdling novels that are so popular in the circulating libraries."

Elf twitched one ear. Leo suspected that his hound had even less interest in the tales of romance, horror, and dark mysteries known as "horrid" novels than he did himself.

"I can see myself now, passing the nights stalking from one empty, decayed, cobweb-filled chamber to the next, searching for specters and strange apparitions in the shadows. And all the while waiting for the beautiful, helpless heroine to fall into my clutches."

The notion of a beautiful, helpless heroine in his clutches did nothing to improve his mood. The truth was, he had not had any sort of female, helpless or otherwise; in his clutches in a very long while.

Perhaps that unfortunate circumstance was the cause of his restlessness'-tonight.

He glanced a It his heavily laden bookshelves. Nothing there appealed to him. The ennui seemed to have settled

 

A m a n d a

into his very bones. He thought about refilling his brandy glass.

Elf stirred and raised his head. He did not look at Leo this time. His attention was focused on the library window. "Does the storm make you anxious? You've seen worse."

Elf ignored him. The hound got to his feet with leisurely effort and stood unmoving for a few seconds. Then he padded to the window. His great paws made no sound on the Oriental carpet.

Leo frowned at the hound's alert air. Someone was approaching Monkcrest Abbey. In the middle of the night. At the height of the worst of the spring storms.

"Impossible," Leo said. "No one would dare to come here without an invitation from me. And I have not issued any since I made the mistake of agreeing to see that idiot Gilmartin last month."

He grimaced at the recollection of the brief visit. Charles Gilmartin had claimed to be a scholar, but he had proved to be both a charlatan and a fool. Leo did not tolerate either sort well. It occurred to him that he must have been truly desperate for intelligent company to have wasted any time at all with the man.

Another, more distant flash of lightning lit up the night sky. It was accompanied, not by thunder, but by the muffled clatter of carriage wheels on the paving stones of the forecourt.

Someone had, indeed, had the unmitigated gall to arrive, unannounced, at the abbey.

"Bloody hell." Leo wrapped his hand around the fragile neck of the crystal decanter and splashed more brandy into his glass. "Whoever he is, he'll no doubt expect me to offer him shelter for the night, Elf."

Elf gazed silently out the window. "Finch will get rid of him.'

Finch had come to work at the abbey when Leo was a

W i t h T h

i s

R i n g

boy. He'd had a great deal of practice turning away unwanted visitors. Monkcrest legend held that the Mad Monks were notoriously inhospitable. There was more than a grain of truth in the tales of their poor manners. The masters of Monkcrest Abbey had a long tradition of avoiding those who threatened to bore them. That policy did not make for an active social life.

Elf rumbled softly. Not his usual growl of warning, Leo noticed. It sounded more like an expression of canine inquiry.

Outside, the carriage came to a halt. Hooves danced on the stones. Voices called out from the direction of the stables. A coachman shouted, demanding assistance with the horses.

"Move yer arse, there, man. I've got a respectable lady and her maid in this coach. They'll be needing a warm fire and some decent food. Be quick now. Bloody lightning's made the horses skittish."

Leo stilled. "A lady? What the devil is he talking about?" Ears pricked, Elf continued to peer intently out the window.

Reluctantly Leo put down the brandy glass, rose, and strode to the window. He stopped beside Elf and rested his hand on the beast's broad head. One floor below, the abbey courtyard was a scene of unaccustomed activity.

The carriage lamps revealed the outline of a small, mudsplashed vehicle. Two grooms carrying lanterns emerged from the stables to take charge of the team. The coachman, enveloped in a many-caped greatcoat, descended from his box and opened the door of the cab.

"Whoever they are, they must have been given poor directions," Leo told Elf. "Finch will soon set them right and send them on their way."

Down below, Finch appeared on the front steps of the abbey. The elderly butler had apparently been taking his ease in the kitchens. He carried the remains of a wedge of

 

A m a n d a

Q u i c, k

cheese. With his free hand he hastily refastened his coat around his bulging middle.

Finch shoved the last bit of cheese into his mouth and began to wave his arms. His words were somewhat muffled by a full mouth and the closed window, but Leo could make them out.

"Here now, what's this?" Finch went down the steps. "Who do you think you are to arrive without notice at this ungodly hour?"

Driven by a growing sense of curiosity, Leo opened the window so that he could hear more clearly. The rain had nearly ceased, but the gusting wind carried sufficient moisture to dampen his hair. Elf stuck his nose out the window to taste the night air.

"Ye've got visitors, man." The coachman reached up to assist an occupant of the coach.

"This is the Earl of Monkcrest's residence," Finch declared. "He is not expecting visitors. You have come to the wrong address."

Before the coachman could respond, a woman, her features concealed by the hood of her cloak, stepped down from the carriage. She was obviously not intimidated by Finch's ungracious greeting.

BOOK: With This Ring
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