The Harlot Countess
Wicked Deceptions # 2
Wicked Deceptions # 2
By: Joanna Shupe
Releasing April 28th, 2015
Lady Hawkins’s debut was something she’d rather forget—along with her first marriage. Today, the political cartoonist is a new woman. A thoroughly modern woman. So much so that her clamoring public believes she’s a man…
FACT: Drawing under a male pseudonym, Maggie is known as Lemarc. Her (his!) favorite object of ridicule: Simon Barrett, Earl of Winchester. He’s a rising star in Parliament—and a former confidant and love interest of Maggie’s who believed a rumor that vexes her to this day.
FICTION: Maggie is the Half-Irish Harlot who seduced her best friend’s husband on the eve of their wedding. She is to be feared and loathed as she will lift her skirts for anything in breeches.
Still crushed by Simon’s betrayal, Maggie has no intention of letting the ton crush her as well. In fact, Lemarc’s cartoons have made Simon a laughingstock…but now it appears that Maggie may have been wrong about what happened years ago, and that Simon has been secretly yearning for her since…forever. Could it be that the heart is mightier than the pen and the sword after all?
Link to Follow Tour: http://www.tastybooktours.com/2015/03/the-harlot-countess-wicked-deceptions-2.html
Goodreads Series Link: https://www.goodreads.com/series/130734-wicked-deceptions
Award-winning author JOANNA SHUPE has always loved history, ever since she saw her first Schoolhouse Rock cartoon. While in college, Joanna read every romance she could get her hands on and soon started crafting her own racy historical novels. She now lives in New Jersey with her two spirited daughters and dashing husband.
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A very good thing they were not sharing tea because Maggie surely would have choked. As it was, she could hardly breathe. Did he say . . . find Lemarc?
He awaited her response, those cerulean eyes trained on her, when all she wanted to do was laugh at the absurdity of it all. Oh, what a tangled web we weave . . .
Through sheer perseverance, she hid her shock behind a mask of cool indifference. “You wish to find Lemarc? Whatever for?”
Simon shifted on his feet. “I find these Winejester drawings to be bothersome. For a number of reasons, I should like to see them stop.”
“And you believe you can convince Lemarc to stop producing them?”
The arrogance in that one word astounded her. Did Simon think Lemarc would bow to an earl’s whims merely because of his station? It was well known that artists were temperamental creatures, herself included. The idea that he could dictate to Lemarc what she could and could not draw was ludicrous—and irritating.
“Why should he cease to draw such a popular character? Winejester is one of the reasons Lemarc has been discussed so often over the last year.”
“I plan to convince him.”
She swallowed a snort. God save her from male vanity. “I do not doubt it, but no one knows the identity of Lemarc. It’s a well-guarded secret. What makes you believe I would be able to help find him?”
He lifted a broad shoulder. “A suspicion, really. Your knowledge of art and techniques may lead to a discovery. I have a number of Lemarc’s paintings at my disposal. Perhaps you could look at them and see if something strikes a chord. A tidbit you’ve heard at a lecture or seen at an exhibit. It’s likely a waste of your time, but I would be grateful for your assistance.”
Waste of time, indeed. No one could unearth Lemarc by merely looking at some bird paintings, especially not that particular series. They had been painted four or five years ago near the shore and contained only birds and water—no people or buildings. If there were distinguishing marks in her paintings, she would’ve been found out long before now.
And truly, helping him was the very last thing she wanted to do. It was bad enough he had attended her party and cornered her there. “I am afraid I cannot.”
“May I ask why?”
She hadn’t expected him to press. What excuse could she give? Because she knew the effort to be a futile one? Because he deserved whatever inconvenience Lemarc’s cartoons produced a thousand fold? Or because, after all he’d done, he still made her heart race?
Into her silence, he said, “One afternoon, that is all I ask. If you do not see anything relevant, we’ll forget it entirely.”
“If I cannot discover anything, you shall give up searching for Lemarc?”
Simon shook his head. “Absolutely not. I plan to find him by any means at my disposal.”
That set her back. He did seem rather . . . determined. Hmm. Such tenacity did not bode well. Though she believed her secret safe, there was a kernel of panic inside her that he might succeed. Simon had a reputation for doggedly wearing down his opponents until he got his way, of using whatever means necessary to win. The notion of her career as Lemarc being exposed . . . ruined . . .
A sliver of dread slid down her spine.
Of course, staying involved in Simon’s quest meant she could throw him off the scent with misleading information. Keep him guessing. The more she thought about it, the more she liked the idea. “Fine,” she agreed. “I would be pleased to aid in your search. To be fair, there are many more qualified than I to lend assistance. Perhaps you should think about asking another—”
“That is quite unnecessary,” he interrupted smoothly, smiling in triumph. “I think you are more than capable of the task.”
In a strange way, his faith in her was flattering. Little did he know she planned to undermine his efforts, ensuring his failure. In finding her. She had to bite her lip to keep a hysterical bubble of laughter from spilling out. “Very kind of you, my lord. When shall we begin our investigation?”
“As soon as possible, I think. I’ll send a note, if that is acceptable.”
“Yes.” Maggie tried not to think about how impossibly handsome he was. Of course, the light blue jacket and breeches did offset his fair coloring, making the blue of his eyes even brighter. His shoulders—
Curse her feminine biology. Being a woman was decidedly unfair.
Instead, she concentrated on the smug, satisfied smile he now wore. Yes, he’d gotten precisely what he wanted today. Oh, how she longed to wipe that expression off his face. “Does anyone ever say no to the Earl of Winchester?”
“Rarely. I can be very persuasive.”
“So I have heard. You have a reputation in Lords for getting your way. I suspect you could talk a nun into giving up the cloth and throwing in with a band of gypsies if you wanted.”
The edge of his mouth kicked up. “That charming, am I?”
She could’ve bitten her tongue. “More like full of useless wind.”