Title: Once a Rake, Always a Rogue
Series: Potions and Passions #3
Author: Catherine Stein
Release Date: March 23, 2020
Cover Design: Impluvium Studio
He’s mended his ways.
Dr. Ernest Montford has left behind his rakish youth for a respectable life mixing medicinal potions and helping patients. So when his best friend’s sister is threatened with incarceration in an asylum, he rushes to help. But Lady Astrid Wembley isn’t keen to heed Monte’s medical advice. Worse, she’s part of his wild past: the mysterious girl he could never forget.
But the woman he can’t forget…
Astrid has fond memories of her long-ago passionate encounter on the beach. Unfortunately, the Monte who kissed her so thoroughly that day shows little resemblance to the stuffy, abstemious doctor with absurd health advice. Still, she has little choice but to put up with him until her sanity is proven and she can return to her life of scientific study.
Might be his undoing.
Dangerous potions and unethical experiments await Astrid if she fails, and only with Monte’s help can she expose the true horrors of the asylum and thwart the plans of the men controlling it. But the longer Astrid and Monte are together, the more their old passion sparks, and the more she longs to unleash the rogue that still lurks inside him.
Monte swiveled just in time to see a woman step through the doorway—a dark-haired, curvaceous, and far-too-familiar woman.
“Oh, fuck,” he blurted.
By some miracle, his profanity was lost beneath Cal’s introductions.
“Astrid, please allow me to present my dear friend, Dr. Ernest Montford. Monte, this is my sister, Lady Astrid Wembley.”
Monte was dead. Deceased. Bereft of life. Cal was going to drag him into the well-trimmed gardens and beat him senseless with the rocks Lady Astrid was so fond of. He would be left for the ravens to pick at. Then the young lady would be sent to the asylum and Cal would return to kill him once again for his failure to help. Maybe he was dead already. This certainly felt like hell.
Why now, of all times, must he reap the reward of his misspent youth? It put not only his friendship at risk, but her future as well. He had envisioned finding her in a hundred different ways, but never had he even considered something like this. This was the price, it seemed, for attempting to seduce an innocent young lady.
It’s been seven years, he told himself. Perhaps she doesn’t remember you.
“I’m pleased to make your acquaintance at last, Dr. Montford,” Lady Astrid greeted him, eyes sparkling. Her plump, pink lips grinned up at him. “It feels as though we ought to have met years ago.”
So much for that hope. She not only remembered, but she was taunting him. Her piercing gaze caressed him head to toe, just as it had that day on the beach, sending a rush of arousal straight to his cock. Damn. Thank God long coats were in fashion.
“Yes,” he replied idiotically.
His memory was faulty, it seemed, because she was vastly more beautiful than he recalled. Or perhaps she had simply fully grown into her womanhood. Her face transfixed him, so round and cheery, with clear, wide eyes. Her shapely little nose sported a small silver ring in the left nostril that he found curiously appealing.
And those lips. Lush, kissable lips. Monte remembered the taste of those lips. Crisp, tart, with a deep, subtle sweetness. As perfect as a fruit plucked at the peak of ripeness.
He had to wrench his gaze from her mouth, but only made the situation worse by allowing himself to examine the rest of her body. Someone had forced her sumptuous figure into a rigid, conservative day dress of the type worn by any number of respectable ladies. It did nothing to flatter her, though it couldn’t disguise her generous bosom. Monte would much rather have seen her in peasant dress.
“I understood you to be a dissolute rake,” she said, “but Cal tells me you have become quite respectable and boring.”
Lord, but she was impertinent. Her sass made words like “delightful” and “refreshing” spring to mind. Why did he like that about her? He oughtn’t like that. He glanced over at Cal, because looking anywhere in the vicinity of Lady Astrid caused nothing but rakish thoughts.
Monte steadied himself with a deep breath and addressed the lady, determined to proceed in a calm and civilized fashion. “Er, yes. I admit to a certain foolishness in my youth, but I believe any man can reform himself should he make the effort. I do my best to live by moderate and healthful habits.”
“How interesting.” Her flat tone implied he was the dullest man she’d ever met, but her eyes had lost none of their sparkle. Tantalizing, teasing woman.
He wanted to push her up against the wall and smother her taunts with kisses. His disobedient body took a step toward her. Hell. He needed to escape before the situation got any more out of hand. Before he did something unforgivable. Before Cal began to suspect he already had done.
“You must excuse me, but I need to check that my trunks have been delivered and get settled in. We needn’t conduct any interviews or the like until tomorrow.”
He gazed into her eyes, narrowed in puzzlement but deep with curiosity. Sharp, intelligent eyes. Studying him like a specimen in her collection.
“I must conduct and record proper medical examinations if we are to prove you to be of sound mind and body.”
“Ah. So that is how you are to ‘help.’”
“I’d hoped for something more like advice. Ideally better advice than, ‘act normal.’” She cast an irritable look at her brother.
“I will do my best to offer what professional wisdom I possess. Please excuse me. I will see you at tea.”
Assuming he could get himself under control by tea time.
Would that he were able.
Award-winning author Catherine Stein believes that everyone deserves love and that Happily Ever After has the power to help, to heal, and to comfort. She writes sassy, sexy romance set during the Victorian and Edwardian. Her books are full of action, adventure, magic, and fantastic technologies.
Catherine lives in Michigan with her husband and three rambunctious girls. She loves steampunk and Oxford commas, and can often be found dressed in Renaissance Festival clothing, drinking copious amounts of tea.