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Tilly Wallace

Kisses to Steal

Kisses to Steal

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One kiss at a time, he plans to steal her heart.

Ianthe Wynn is weary of life as a courtesan and longs for quiet green pastures to raise horses. The only problem is her distinct lack of cash and a chilling new patron. There’s also the matter of the youth lounging in her parlour with his feet on the furniture and promises in his gaze that she could never accept.

Quinn Muir might be the only wolf unable to shift, but he knows his mate when he spies her. He just needs to break through the wall she has constructed around her heart. Winning a bet and moving into her house for a week should do it, one kiss at a time.

But demons lurk in the shadows and they are reaching for Ianthe. Quinn must rescue her before her heart and life are lost forever…

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London, April 1812

The wolf bared its teeth and exposed long white fangs that glistened in the moonlight. Its front paws rested on the fallen body of the horse. In the shadows, another creature scuttled back and forth. It might have once been human, but no longer. Long skinny arms ended in talons, it crawled hunched over, and its skin was blackened and peeling as though it had walked through fire. It gave a high-pitched scream and jumped forward, gnashing its teeth at the wolf and tearing a chunk of flesh from the slain equine.
Ianthe squeezed the bridge of her nose and willed the vision away. She didn't want to watch the two creatures feast on the horse. It was enough that life cursed her with the sight; she didn't need such gruesome images played out in her mind.
A great-great-uncle of Ianthe's had been mage-born. At any one time, there were only a dozen mages in all of England, Scotland, and Wales. Mages were powerful men and women who could wield frightening magic and bend the laws of nature to their own dictates. Once a family had a mage born into it, the following generations would see a scattering of those known as aftermages. A faint magical trace ran through their veins and bestowed a range of lesser abilities.
Ianthe had a particularly useless form of second sight. The snatches she saw never made any sense, except in hindsight. Who would lay coins into the hands of a seer who could only tell you what had already occurred?
Life had further cursed her as she left childhood with a form that attracted the attention of men and the envy of women. After suffering a broken heart and body at seventeen, she found her way to London and the welcome embrace of the demi-monde.
Ten years later, at age twenty-seven, Ianthe was so very tired of it all. Not the muscular ache of a hard day's physical labour, but the heartache of walking a lonely, empty road. This was the deep, unrelenting mental fatigue that arose from being trapped on a path that held no appeal—a path scattered with images that had no meaning except to torment her.
Ianthe's life was defined by shallow appearances and useless fripperies, and it ate at her. Over the years, all the hopes and dreams she'd ever held as a young girl had been slowly drained away, until she had become an empty shell. Now she was merely a decorative vessel to be filled by the leavings of men.
She sighed, scrubbed her hands over her face, and tucked a red curl back behind her ear. Phillip would be here soon and he had paid for a bright and vivacious mistress, not a woman so bone-weary she could lie down and sleep for a century.
Ianthe uncorked a bottle of tonic and poured a scant inch into the tumbler on her dresser. Taking a breath to steel her nerves, she downed the brown concoction. It tasted vile and burned a path down her gullet. She washed it down with cold tea and waited for the mixture to work its way through her limbs and up to her head. The tonic performed a dual role—it would banish the visions and provide a burst of energy through her veins that would make the evening bearable. Not that Phillip was a problem. No, the issue was most definitely her.
Ianthe stared into the mirror and examined her appearance for any sign of wrinkles or grey hairs. Courtesans had limited reigns, for there was an endless supply of younger, firmer, and perkier bodies waiting to replace them. Wealthy men could grow old and fat, whereas the women reliant upon those men were discarded at the first signs of age.
While men might not realise there was a mind hiding behind her porcelain exterior, Ianthe approached her career with a business-like attitude. She learned the lessons of other women who had fallen from favour before her. By taking a patron instead of a regular clientele and keeping herself apart, she maintained an air of the exotic and unattainable. Ianthe was a rare bloom men wanted to pick, but could not grasp. Many sought her, but few had her.
Seconds elapsed and the tonic worked its magic, loosening her limbs and diminishing her worries. Selling her body kept a roof over her head and food in her stomach, but it hollowed her out. Ianthe promised herself she would escape before she turned thirty, or there would be nothing left of her worth saving. There were few prospects for aging courtesans, and she didn't need the sight to foretell her future. She would slip from the upper echelons and slide down to the brothels. It was a continuous tumble. Before you knew it, you were fifty and fighting over the best street corner in Whitechapel.
After a few more minutes, Ianthe's world looked a little brighter. She powdered her already pale face, added more rouge to her lips, and practiced her smile. Being a courtesan was like being an actress, only the audience was smaller. Ianthe played for one man and hoped her performance pleased him. Her patron paid for her modest town house, and a year ago he'd promised to make over the deeds in her name. Tonight she planned to ask, again, to have them in her hands. Owning the house was a step toward independence and it would give her an asset to sell—other than herself.
"Let the performance begin." Smile in place, Ianthe rose, brushed out her skirts, pulled down her bodice to reveal more of her bosom, and headed downstairs.
She found Phillip drinking in the room that fronted the road. Ianthe called it her library, but it wasn't really; it was just a parlour that she'd converted to a cosy snug lined with books. There was a desk by the window and large armchairs to either side of the hearth. Her patron sat in one of the armchairs, staring at the dancing fire. Phillip called the room his petite office, and he often met associates here to discuss things of a sensitive nature. The courtesan's discretion extended to all that happened under her roof, and she would never surrender a confidence.

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Customer Reviews

Based on 3 reviews
Cirra Sarto

Already read the ebook but had to get the audiobook just to hear Marian Hussey do that Scottish brogue

Kris Wren
Kisses to Steal

Whew! This is a spicy novel. It has it all: intrigue, romance, werewolves. It was a lot of fun but don't listen to the audio outloud in public. There were a few times that I had to move to another room so my teenager couldn't hear.

Pauline Burrill
Loved it

I’ve already read this book and the narrator brought it to life beautifully. I love this series.