What comes to mind when you think of a diamond slipper? Cinderella, perhaps? That's what Cordelia Brandenburg imagines when her godparents arrange a
marriage for her with a man she's never met--a marriage that will take her to Versailles, far from the rigid confines of her childhood home. The betrothal
gift is a charm bracelet with a tiny, glittering diamond slipper attached...as befits a journey into a fairy-tale future.
But Cordelia--young, headstrong, and completely adorable--runs into trouble right away. Her escort to the wedding is the golden-eyed, sensual, teasing Viscount Leo Kierston. For Cordelia, it's love at first sight. Yet Leo seems to see only a spoiled child--perhaps it's the way she cheats at chess--and Cordelia is determined to show him the woman beneath.
There is, however, no escaping her arranged marriage. She's devastated to discover that her new husband is an utterly loathsome tyrant who will stop at nothing to satisfy his twisted desires.
My heart went out to Cordelia as she struggles courageously against a man determined to break her spirit. But her husband has a secret, one that will bring down the vengeance of Viscount Kierston and all who have reason to hate him.
I hope you'll enjoy this love story of two of my very favorite characters.
P.S. The charm bracelet makes its next appearance in The Silver Rose.
Look for it next summer.
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
"Which hand do you choose, my lord?"
It seemed that short of bodily removing her, he was destined to play chess with her. Harmless enough, surely? Resigned, he tapped her closed right hand.
"You drew black!" she declared with a note of triumph that he recognized from the afternoon's dicing. "That means I have the first move." She turned the chess table so that the white pieces were in front of her and moved pawn to king four. Then sat back, regarding him expectantly.
"Unusual move," he commented ironically, playing the counter move.
"I like to play safe openings," she confided, bringing out her queen's pawn. "Then when the board opens up, I can become unconventional."
"Good God! You mean there's one activity you actually choose to play by the book! You astound me, Cordelia!"
Cordelia merely grinned and brought out her queen's knight in response to his pawn challenge.
They played in silence and Leo was sufficiently absorbed in the game to be able to close his mind to her scantily clad presence across from him. She played a good game but he had the edge, mainly because she took risks with a degree of abandon.
Cordelia frowned over the board, chewing her bottom lip. Her last gamble had been a mistake and she could see serious danger in the next several moves if she couldn't place her queen out of harm's way. If only she could intercept with a pawn, but none of her pawns were in the proper position, unless...
"What was that noise?"
"What noise?" Leo looked up startled at the sound of her voice breaking the long silence.
"Over there. In the corner. A sort of scrabbling." She gestured to the far corner of the room. Leo turned to look. When he looked back at the board, her pawn had been neatly diverted and now protected her queen.
Leo didn't notice immediately. "Probably a mouse," he said. The woodwork's alive with them."
"I hope it's not a rat," she said with an exaggerated shiver, and conspicuously united her rooks. "Let's see if that will help."
It was Leo's turn to frown now. Something had changed on the board in front of him. It didn't look the way he remembered it, but he couldn't see... and then he did.
Slowly, he reached out and picked up the deviated pawn. He raised his eyes and looked across at her. Cordelia was flushing, so transparently guilty he wanted to laugh again.
"If you must cheat, why don't you do it properly," he said conversationally, returning the pawn to its original position. "You insult my intelligence to imagine that I wouldn't notice. Do you think I'm blind?"
Cordelia shook her head, her cheeks still pink. "It's not really possible to cheat at chess, but I do so hate to lose. I can't seem to help it."
"Well, I have news for you. You are going to learn to help it." He replaced her rooks in their previous position. "We are going to play this game to the bitter end and you are going to lose it. It's your move, and as I see it, you can't help but sacrifice your queen."
Cordelia stared furiously at the pieces. She couldn't bring herself to make the only move she had, the one that would mean surrendering her queen. Without it she would be helpless; besides it was a symbolic piece. She would be acknowledging she'd lost once she gave it up. "Oh, very well," she said crossly. "I suppose you win. There's no need to play further."
Leo shook his head. He could read her thoughts as if they were written in black ink. Cordelia was the worst kind of loser. She couldn't bear to play to a loss. "There's every need. Now make your move."
Her hand moved to take the queen and then she withdrew it. "But there's no point."
"The point, my dear Cordelia, is that you are going to play this game to its conclusion. Right up to the moment when you topple your king and acknowledge defeat. Now move."
"Oh, very well." She shot out her hand, half rising on her stool, leaning over the board as if it took her whole body to move the small wooden carving. Her knees caught the edge of the table, toppling it, and the entire game disintegrated, half the pieces tumbling to the carpet. "Oh, what a nuisance!" Hastily, she steadied the rocking table.
"Why, of all the graceless, brattish, mean-spirited things to do!" Leo, furious, leaped up. Leaning over the destroyed board, he grabbed her shoulders, half-shaking, half-hauling her toward him.
"But I didn't do it on purpose!" Cordelia exclaimed. "Indeed, I didn't. It was an accident."
"You expect me to believe that?" He jerked her hard toward him, unsure what he intended doing with her, but for the moment lost in disappointed anger that she could do something so malicious and childish. He moved his grip to her upper arms, half lifting her over the board, Cordelia's protestations of innocence growing ever more vociferous.
Then matters became very confused. He was shaking her, she was yelling, his mouth was on hers. Her yells ceased. His hands were hard on her arms and her body was pressed against his.