Drake's Rakes are an informal collection of heirs
and aristocrats kept from the battlefield by the
needs of their families and their positions. But
wars are also fought behind the lines; in drawing
rooms and government buildings. And mostly civilian
gentlemen can protect their country just as surely
by ferreting out traitors. Their stories have
begun to be told in Barely a Lady, Never a Gentlleman,
and Always a Temptress. But they had lives before
this, history which will impact what happens now.
This is a short prequel to the story of Pippin
Knight and Beau Drummond, who will meet up again
in Twice Tempted, coming out in 2013. But, as
you can see, their story starts well before then.
By the time Pippin Knight learned that Beau
Drummond was a spy, she'd already been in love
with him for years. Seven years, to be exact,
since the day Beau had saved her from her ill-advised
ride on her papa's best hunter. She had challenged
Beau's brother Henry to a race up Feversham Hill
for the prize of bragging rights. Henry had mounted
his pony. Pip had jumped bareback atop Champion
and set off at a gallop.
She never did admit it, but it had only taken
two minutes to realize that she had made a dreadful
mistake. Champion had no patience for little girls.
And little girls had not the muscles nor command
to control a full-size hunter. It had taken some
brilliant riding by the then eighteen-year-old
Beau, along with a string of curses the likes
of which Pip hadn't even heard in the stables,
to rescue her with no more damage than a cut hand
from trying to hold onto the bridle.
“You stupid, immature, thoughtless, selfish
brat!” he'd bellowed at her the minute they
were back on safe ground and Champion corralled.
“You should be horsewhipped for endangering
such a valuable animal.”
Pip might have demanded to know how Beau could
consider a horse more valuable than she, but as
he was yelling, he knelt before her and whipped
out his handkerchief. With inexpressibly gentle
movements, he wrapped her hand, checked her for
other injuries and then brought her into his arms
when the trembling of shock got the better of
“Don't you ever frighten me like that
again,” he demanded, but Pip was sure she
heard a rough affection in his voice. She knew
that she'd never felt so safe, not even when her
papa held her. She could have stood there all
day with her ear against Beau's heart. Instead
Henry hadn't come thundering up whooping with
delight at Beau's circus trick in getting Pip
off the horse, and the moment was gone.
She'd been only eight then. Rambunctious, fearless
and furious to discover everything she could,
a female Magellan, and Henry had been her stalwart
companion. They had roamed over the countryside
with impunity, because between the two families
they had owned most of the countryside. Pippin
had been safe and loved and sure that the world
The world had changed, of course. It was inevitable.
But Pip's relation to the Drummond brothers had
remained the same. Henry was her best friend,
and Beau was her love. This Christmas she was
bound and determined to make sure he knew.
“What are you doing lurking back here?”
her sister Louisa demanded, coming upon her in
the corridor back by her father's office. “Our
guests are arriving.”
Pip could hear them, the old manor house echoing
with distant chatter and the first strains of
music. Pip smoothed the skirt of her emerald velvet
dress, wishing her palms weren't so damp and her
heart racing. “I'll be along in a minute.
I just have to...”
Louise, a perfect pocket Venus of a blond with
lustrous blue eyes and a Cupid's bow mouth, tilted
her head in observation. “He's not coming,
Pip. I thought mama told you.”
Pippin froze, her heart stuttering badly. “What?”
“Beau Drummond. I know that's who you've
dressed up for. He and Alex have gone off somewhere.”
Louisa's smile was rueful. “So you might
as well take off that dress. If mama sees you
in it, she'll have a seizure.”
Pip couldn't manage an answer. Beau not come?
No, it was impossible. She'd planned for this
moment for seven years. She'd worked so hard to
become the woman he could be proud of. She'd prepared
tonight as if she were dressing for her wedding,
sewing her own dress with the tiniest stitches
she'd ever set, the velvet bought with her own
pin money, the design from the latest edition
of the Ladies Journal. Except for the bodice.
That she'd lowered just a bit. But she had breasts
now. She needed Beau to realize that.
But Beau wasn't coming.
It wasn't in Louisa to be actively cruel, so
she gave Pip a hug. “I don't know what you
see in him anyway. He's a dark as a gypsy and
skinny as a wharf rat.”
Not skinny. Lean. And yes, he was dark, as if
left in his blond family's nest by a passing magpie.
Henry looked like a Viking, all broad shoulders
and bluff, hearty humor. Beau was darker, deeper,
the still surface of more perilous water.
And he'd been gentle and kind to a scrubby brat.
But he wasn't coming.
“How could Alex go off somewhere?”
Pip demanded, now pleating the skirt she'd just
smoothed. “He was to light the Yule log.”
The heir of Feversham Manor was always given that
“I have no idea,” Louisa said, much
less concerned than Pip thought she should be.
Linking arms with Pip, she turned her toward the
front of the house. “Now then,” she
said. “I think we need to sneak up the back
way so nobody sees that neckline.”
Pippin pulled out of her sister's hold. “In
a minute.” She shook her head, the disappointment
too big for words. Too big for etiquette, since
disappointment bred anger. Pip was afraid hers
would spill out at the first inconsiderate question.
So, Pippin, looking for Beau Drummond? Did he
ever forgive you for painting his horse blue?
Didn't he snub you at church last Sunday?
She couldn't bear it. Without another word, she
turned and ran.
She made straight toward her father's study.
She often went there when she needed to think
or just be alone. There was something about being
wrapped in the scent of cigars and vetiver cologne
that soothed her. Something about settling into
that deep nest of books that righted her. History
and adventure waited along those walls, exotic
names graced the great globe that took up position
of honor by the window. She would escape there
for a bit to nurse her wounds.
So Beau wasn't coming. It was his loss. He could
have seen how beautiful she...no. Not beautiful.
She had to be honest. She was passably pretty.
Cute, with an upturned nose and Irish skin from
some ancestor or another and rather unremarkable
brown hair. Elfin, another word she loathed. She
was all of those.
But now she was an elf with breasts. And Beau
It was as if she'd called him. She wasn't really
paying attention as she threw open the study door.
She just hoped for a few minutes alone, a curl-up
on one of papa's deep wingback chairs by the fire.
Instead, she found herself frozen there on the
threshhold, her hand still out as if she could
retrieve the doorknob she'd just pushed, her attention
caught by the lean body bent over her father's
desk rifling through the drawers.
“Beau?” was all she could think
As if she could mistake him for anybody else.
He jumped up as if he'd just scalded his hand.
Pippin noticed the strangest things, all at once.
That he wasn't in formal attire. That he was pale
and perspiring. That he seemed to be favoring
his right arm. That even strained and wary, he
still looked more beautiful to her than any other
person in the world.
“What are you doing here?” he accused,
his voice unaccountably harsh.
She wanted to laugh, although she didn't know
why. “Oh, no,” she said with a tight
smile. “I'm not the one in the wrong place.
What are you doing here?”
Immediately he stepped away from the desk. As
ever, his movements were sleek and fluid, as if
he walked on the balls of his feet. A predator's
gate, Pip thought, and fought an odd shiver. He
was coming closer; she didn't even have to look
to know. She could feel his approach in her chest,
her belly, the fine hairs along her arms. Even
her breasts, so recently appeared, felt suddenly
heavy and taut. It was as if a current flowed
through him that only she felt, and it set her
body to humming in the oddest way. Not frightening.
Well, a little frightening, the way anything unfamiliar
was. But exhilarating, agitating, unsettling.
“You're all dressed up tonight, Pip,”
he said, letting his gaze slowly travel down her
body. “Does your mother know you have that
“What does it matter to you?” she
asked. “And why are you going through my
papa's things? Don't think you can distract me
Another step. Two. Even her lungs were beginning
to feel odd, as if he was crowding out the very
“But I didn't compliment you yet,”
he said. “Would you like me to?”
“Only if you mean it.” She could
only manage a whisper; she wondered if he could
even hear it over her heart. She barely could.
He stopped right in front of her, his Hessians
bumping up against her satin dancing slippers,
his body so close she swore she could feel it
brushing against her poor, tender breasts. She
was wiping her hands on her skirts again, trying
to anchor herself. Beau smiled, and she thought
she'd simply soar up and out the window.
“The color of your dress exactly matches
your eyes,” he whispered. “They're
He lifted a hand to brush a loose tendril of
hair behind her ear and let it trace the contour
of her jaw, her throat, her shoulder. Chills cascaded
from his fingertips, until she was trembling with
them. She'd never had anything like this happen
before. She didn't know what to do with it; she
didn't know if her body could tolerate it. It
felt as if she was flying apart.
“I think I've been waiting for you to
grow up, Pip,” he murmured.
She licked her suddenly dry lips. His eyes grew
impossibly dark as he watched. I've been waiting
too, she wanted to say. She couldn't force any
air past a suddenly constricted throat.
“Have you been kissed yet?” he asked,
bending his head towards hers. “A proper
kiss, now. Not a stolen peck out behind the barn.”
She couldn't move, caught in his predator's
gaze. “I've never been pecked behind a barn
in my life.”
That couldn't be her voice; it was too high
and breathy. But if he didn't kiss her soon, she
would die. She was sure of it.
His smile grew, as if she'd given him wonderful
news. He cupped the back of her head with his
hands and lifted her face to him. And then, as
if he knew she'd waited her whole life for it,
he kissed her. A brush of his lips against hers,
a nibble, a long, sweet savoring that took the
strength right out of her knees. She felt her
eyes close. She knew she'd reached up to clutch
his lapels, but it felt as if she knew it from
a distance, as if the only reality was the place
where their lips were joined, where he dipped
and tasted and molded her mouth with his own,
with his teeth, with the fleeting torment of his
Pip lifted up, wrapped her arms around his neck
and kissed him back, pouring every bit of young
devotion into her gift, every late night dream
and early morning fantasy. Every unspoken yearning
and shared moment. She thought for a moment that
she might be happy to die right then, with her
body alight and her brain spinning. She thought....
“Beau, really,” a bored voice intruded.
“Can't you pass up any mistletoe?”
Pip jumped as if she'd been shot. Beau pulled
back more slowly, that same satisfied smile still
on his lips. Pip's brother Alex strode past them
and into the study, shaking his head. “Go
change your dress, Pip,” he commanded. “You
look like a Covent Garden familiar.”
Flushing angrily, Pippin looked up to Beau,
hoping for his defense. He was grinning over at
Alex as if the two of them shared some unrepeatable
memory. “I consider it gift wrapping on
Pip's present to me.”
“It's the only present you'll get from
her, my friend,” Alex retorted.
“Don't you think that's for me to say?”
Neither of them so much as looked at her.
“Not when you have the questionable sense
to wear that outfit to a winter ball,” Alex
all but growled as he leafed through some papers
on the desk. “Now, go along before one of
those old tabbies out there catches you. Or worse,
Pip gave Beau one last chance to come to her
defense. He seemed to have forgotten her. “Did
you bring my winnings, old man?”
“Yes, damn you.”
Pip felt her stomach curdle. “That's why
you two couldn't come to the ball? Because of
“A wager he lost,” Alex said. “Costing
him his new stallion, I'm proud to say.”
She couldn't stay to hear any more. Gathering
her skirts, she turned and swept from the room.
For some reason, when she reached the end of
the corridor, she paused and tiptoed back. Something
wasn't right, and she had been too distracted
to notice what.
“You found the lists?” Alex was
asking, his voice carefully quiet.
“Just where you said they'd be. Why did
you show up? I have it all in hand.”
“Because I heard you'd run afoul of a
traitor. Thought you might need an escort home.”
Pippin wasn't breathing. She couldn't quite
take in the enormity of what she was hearing.
“My thanks,” Beau said, and suddenly
his voice was raw and tired. “If you'll
help me, we can get this lot copied and back on
that desk at Oxford by the time our traitor comes
“You're sure you won't be distracted again,”
Alex said. “By the mistletoe.”
Beau chuckled. “Sorry if I offended your
tender sensibilities. It was the only thing I
could think of that would distract her. Your little
sister is tenacious.”
Alex chuckled back. “Well, don't fall
into a habit of it. You don't want to be caught
out at it. Parson's mousetrap is an awfully stiff
sentence for a bit of espionage.”
Again, she waited. Again, she held her breath,
ashamed that of the revelations she was hearing,
the one she wanted was Beau's defense of her to
Not with Pippin it wouldn't be. I would marry
her in a minute. Didn't you see what that kiss
But of course he didn't say it. He said, “Not
me, lad. I know better than to get caught.”
Her body still humming, Pippin turned away.
She should have known better. Her first kiss had
been a diversionary tactic.. It was the most shattering
experience of her life, and by the time he reached
his horse, Beau would already have forgotten it.
Her hand to her chest, where she swore her heart
had cracked into pieces, Pippin finally went upstairs
to change. There was no more reason to show off.