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Wicked and the Wallflower by Sarah MacLean Read Online (FREE)

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Wicked and the Wallflower by Sarah MacLean read online

Originally published: June 19, 2018
Author: Sarah MacLean
Followed by: Brazen and the Beast: The Bareknuckle Bastards
Genres: Romance novel, Historical Fiction, Regency romance, Regency Fiction

Read Wicked and the Wallflower: The Bareknuckle Bastards by Sarah MacLean full novel online free here.

 

Prologue

The Past

 

The three were woven together long before they were aware, strands of spun, silken steel that could not be separated—not even when their fate insisted upon it.

Brothers, born on the same day, in the same hour, at the same minute to different women. The high-priced courtesan. The seamstress. The soldier’s widow. Born on the same day, in the same hour, at the same minute to the same man.

The duke, their father, whose arrogance and cruelty fate would punish without hesitation, stealing from him the only thing he wanted that his money and power could not buy—an heir.

It is the Ides of March the seers warn of, with its promise of betrayal and vengeance, of shifting fortune and inalienable providence. But for this sire—who was never more than that, never close to father—it was the Ides of June that would be his ruin.

Because on that same day, in that same hour, at that same minute, there was a fourth child, born to a fourth woman. To a duchess. And it was this birth—the birth all the world thought legitimate—that the duke attended, even as he knew the son who was to be his heir in name and fortune and future was not his own and still, somehow, was his only hope.

Except she was a daughter.

And with her first breath, she thieved future from them all, as powerful in her infancy as she would become in her womanhood. But hers is a story for another time.

This story begins with the boys.

 

 

Chapter One

 

The Present

May 1837

 

The Devil stood outside Marwick House, under the black shadow of an ancient elm, watching his bastard brother within.

Flickering candles and mottled glass distorted the revelers in the ballroom beyond, turning the throngs of people within—aristocrats and moneyed gentry—into a mass of indiscernible movement, reminding Devil of the tide of the Thames, ebbing and flowing and slick with color and stink.

Faceless bodies—men dark with formal dress and women gleaming light in their silks and satins—ran together, barely able to move for the craning necks and flapping fans waving gossip and speculation through the stagnant ballroom air.

And at their center, the man they were desperate to see—the hermit Duke of Marwick, shining bright and new, despite having held the title since his father had died. Since their father had died.

No. Not father. Sire.

And the new duke, young and handsome, returned like London’s prodigal son—a head taller than the rest of the assembly, fair-haired and stone-faced, with the amber eyes the Dukes of Marwick had boasted for generations. Able-bodied and unwed and everything the aristocracy wished him to be.

And nothing the aristocracy believed him to be.