An Enduring Legend
Rumor has it she broke Lyon Redmond's heart. But while many a man has since wooed the dazzling Olivia Eversea, none has ever won her—which is why jaws drop when she suddenly accepts a viscount's proposal. Now London waits with bated breath for the wedding of a decade . . . and wagers on the return of an heir.
An Eternal Love
It was instant and irresistible, forbidden . . . and unforgettable. And Lyon—now a driven, dangerous, infinitely devastating man—decides it's time for a reckoning. As the day of her wedding races toward them, Lyon and Olivia will decide whether their love is a curse destined to tear their families apart . . . or the stuff of which legends are made.
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The Legend of Lyon Redmond
By Julie Anne Long
HarperCollinsCopyright © 2015 Julie Anne Long
All rights reserved.
The first week of February ...
She's getting married on the second Saturday in May.
Nine words scrawled across a sheet of foolscap. He stared at them until they blurred into a single gray mass.
When he lifted his head, his ears were ringing and he was as dazed as if he'd literally been dragged backward through time.
For Lyon Redmond, there had always only ever been one "she."
He was momentarily disoriented to find himself on the deck of a ship docked in Plymouth, not on the Sussex downs, waiting by the double elm tree. The one with the "O" carved into it.
A dozen pairs of eyes were on him, waiting patiently for the command that always came.
His crew was a carefully curated, casually lethal lot of men and one woman, the versatile Miss Delphinia Digby-Thorne, she of the many languages and surprisingly useful acting talents — she had once spilled ale all over his sister, Violet.
They had nothing in common apart from mysterious pedigrees, ambiguous morals, and unswerving loyalty. To him.
Unlike, alas, Olivia Eversea.
But then, every last one of them had prospered the moment they'd aligned their fortunes with him. He was cynical enough to know it was all of a piece, the loyalty and the prosperity. He didn't care.
The bearer of this news, a man dressed in footman's livery, took Lyon's silence as dismissal and turned rather too optimistically to leave.
"Hold," Lyon said sharply.
The swords of his men came up swiftly to bar the man's way.
"I'm unarmed," the footman said hurriedly, holding up his hands. "And alone. You have my word."
Lyon smiled a smile that would have had many a man wetting his smallclothes. It bore more resemblance to the curve of a cutlass. "While I'm certain your word is indeed priceless, you've naught to fear. I just cleaned my sword, so there will be no running through of anyone for at least another few hours."
This elicited chuckles from his crew.
The footman gave a wobbly, uncertain smile. Lyon knew a surge of impatience, which he rec ognized as shame. He was not in the habit of intimidating clearly unarmed and outnumbered men for the sport of it.
Then again, given how history often treated bearers of bad news, the man was probably fortunate he still drew breath.
"Your name, please."
"You're in no danger as long as I believe you are answering my questions truthfully, Ramsey."
"Of course, sir."
But judging from how the footman blanched, he didn't miss the implicit threat.
"Who sent you, Ramsey?"
"Begging your pardon, but Lord Lavay said you would know when you read the message. I am in his employ. I'm a footman, sir." He squared his shoulders and touched the silver braid on his coat, as if for luck. "And I won the coin toss."
"I was a reward, then, was I, Ramsey?" Lyon drawled, to another scatter of chuckles. "Please describe Lord Lavay to me."
Ramsey furrowed his brow. "Well ... he's a big gentleman. Perhaps as tall as you, sir. French. He often waves his hands when he talks, like so." He began to demonstrate with a sweep of his own hands, then clearly thought better of it when all the swords aimed at him twitched a warning. "Took quite an injury in a fight not too long ago, but he's fit now."
Lyon studied the footman unblinkingly, searching for the faintest hint of perfidy in the flicker of an eyelash or the tensing of a muscle.
He knew all about that fight and that injury. Lyon and his crew had found Lavay bleeding to death on the Horsleydown Stairs in London.
Lyon was in fact the reason Lord Lavay still walked the earth.
Then again, indirectly, Lord Lavay and his friend the Earl of Ardmay were indirectly the reason Lyon still walked the earth, and they had sacrificed a fortune in reward money to allow him to walk away. Though Lyon primarily had his sister, Violet, to thank for that. Men will do things for women they wouldn't otherwise in their right minds do.
No one knew that better than Lyon.
"I'm glad," he said, at last. Curtly. But he meant it. Lavay was a good man, and Lyon had learned that good men were too scarce, and the loss of one was a loss for all.
Lavay was also the only man in the world who knew where to find Lyon Redmond right now. And one of the very few people in the world who knew him by his three identities: The real one. The assumed one.
And the one that could get him hanged.
Even if this message was a trap to lure him back to Sussex or into the Crown's custody, it mattered little. Lyon had become a man who could elude or escape any trap, by any means necessary.
In all likelihood this message was Lavay's way of discharging a debt of honor.
"Lord Lavay is a fine man, the finest I know, sir," the footman maintained stoutly, into the silence. "He married his housekeeper. Mrs. Fountain."
This was startling.
"Did he, now? Quite the epidemic of marriage in Sussex lately, isn't there?"
Lyon said this so bitterly everyone blinked as if he'd flicked something caustic into their eyes.
He drew in a long breath.
"And where is Lord Lavay at this very moment, Ramsey?"
"I expect he's still in Pennyroyal Green sir, a village in Sussex, where I left him. You see, given that he's newly married and ... well, he's quite taken a shine to the place. Right nice town, it is," he extemporized, brightening.
"Is it?" Lyon said with such flat and brutal irony that his crew swiveled toward him in surprise, eyes wide.
He was beginning to alarm them.
He was beginning to alarm himself.
Because for the first time in years time Lyon wasn't certain what he wanted to do.
Damn Olivia Eversea, anyway.
She'd knocked his world off its axis from that first moment in the ballroom, when she'd turned to him and smiled, and ...
Even now. Even now the memory of that smile could stop his breath.
He'd last seen Pennyroyal Green in the dead of night almost five years ago. His trajectory since then had been as swift and mindless as if he'd been shot from a cannon. And it wasn't just because of what Olivia had said to him in the garden after midnight, in the pouring rain. Though after she'd said what she'd said, for a time he'd stopped caring what became of him.
No, that fuse had been lit for longer than anyone knew.
No one from Sussex had seen him since.
Though one had certainly tried. He half smiled at the thought of Violet.
And it was this that had broken the speed of his trajectory.
He'd had his own methods for remaining, however tangentially, informed about the lives of those he'd left behind. He'd proved something over the past five years. He'd at first thought it was all for Olivia. But he was no longer certain. He'd tried to purge his life of her, relinquishing even her miniature.
Clearly it hadn't worked.
But what no one knew, not even his crew, was that this was his final voyage. He'd risked this trip into London to track down the source of a little mystery that could devastate Olivia and her family.
He now had his answer.
He was, strangely, not surprised by it.
But he hadn't been prepared to make a decision about what to do next so soon.
Oh, Liv, he thought.
Suddenly it hurt to breathe. Fragments of memories rushed at him, each distinct as stained glass.
Olivia walking along the road to the Duffys' house, then breaking into a run when she saw him waiting beneath the elm tree, her face lighting like a star. As if even a second away from him was wasted.
That was the memory that always came to him in his darkest moments.
And now she was giving herself to another man.
His fingers curled on a surge of emotion. But he stopped just short of giving the message the crushing it deserved.
She. If Lavay had indeed written that word, he might have seen her, or even talked to her, or ...
He couldn't do it.
He couldn't bloody do it.
And this is what decided him.
He tucked the message into his coat. "You can go, Ramsey," he said. "Thank you."
The footman spun and nearly bolted, silver braid glinting in the sun.
Lyon turned to face all the expectant faces of his crew.
"And we," he told them, "are staying in England." It was time for a reckoning.
Three weeks later ...
Olivia Eversea sighed in the soothing, well-sprung recesses of her family's barouche, grateful for the solitude if only for the duration of the drive from St. James Square to the Strand.
It was perhaps an acknowledgment of how insufferable she'd been lately that her family had let her go to Madame Marceau's alone.
The discussion over whether she ought to have silver trim on her wedding dress, like poor Princess Charlotte, or perhaps even beading along the hem, which would be much more expensive, but wouldn't she just glow like an angel (her mother's words) in it, had become absurdly impassioned, and subtle insults may even have flown, and her even-tempered sister, Genevieve, may even have slammed a door. Or, rather, shut it emphatically, which was close as Genevieve ever came to throwing a tantrum.
Minutes of sullen silence later, they had fallen into each other's arms, all apologies.
Olivia knew she was being difficult and prickly and she was somehow skillfully bringing out the worst in everyone she knew, herself most particularly. She was doing all of them a mercy by taking herself off to the modiste's alone.
And she still didn't know what kind of trim she wanted.
Did no one see the irony in choosing the same trim as the poor doomed Princess Charlotte, who had married the man she wanted to marry, rather than the man her father preferred her to marry? She had promptly then died horribly in childbirth, casting all of England into mourning.
Olivia wondered how many parents in England used Charlotte as a cautionary tale. See what awaits you if you don't listen to me?
Olivia was satisfied that she, at long last, had made a sensible choice from the years of suitors. Everyone in her family approved of him.
She peered out the window as the Eversea barouche rolled through the noisy, colorful, lively throngs of the Strand. Pye men and puppeteers and costermongers and pickpockets wove in and out of gorgeously dressed men and women aglow with wealth and flawless breeding. The Strand's lively dissonance would resonate nicely with her mood and she expected to find it soothing. And she liked Madame Marceau's shop, she truly did. It was a hushed, feminine paradise. It was just that she'd had so many fittings she'd begun to feel a bit like a calf being measured for chops.
She was to have silk petticoats and fine lawn night rails, traveling dresses and walking dresses and riding habits, gloves both kid and cotton, stockings both silk and woolen, ball gowns in silks and satins in glowing, muted jewel tones, along with fascinators and feathers and furbelows. It was a veritable avalanche of finery, or perhaps a bulwark of finery, she thought dryly, for surely abandoning it would inspire such crippling guilt that Olivia wouldn't dream of fleeing?
Not only that, but nearly every relative from both sides of her family would be convening upon Pennyroyal Green, Sussex, in May, and there would be not only a wedding, but a ball. "Reinforcements" was what she called these relatives, but not out loud.
She was the last of the Eversea children to be married, and she was going to be the wife of a viscount. Her brothers had all married unusual women, not one of whom possessed a title. Genevieve had married a duke — to the quietly gleeful satisfaction of her father, for they had trumped the Redmonds, who acquired a mere earl by marriage — but she and Falconbridge had wed by special license. Olivia was the family's last chance for pomp.
And she knew everyone who loved her would exhale only when she was waving merrily goodbye from Landsdowne's carriage as they went off on their wedding journey.
No one had said as much, of course.
And this was the unspoken source of all the tension.
They had nothing to worry about. Olivia was definitely going to marry him.
The betting books at White's, of course, had it otherwise.
God, but she was infinitely weary of being a sport for the wager-happy wastrels at White's. She did not want to be an event.
But if she'd learned anything over the years, wanting something and getting it were not always sequential events. Even for Everseas.
She pressed her head back against the plump seat, which smelled vaguely and soothingly of her father's tobacco, then gave a start and fished about in her reticule.
"Blast!" Only two shillings were in there, along with her hussif, her tortoiseshell card case, and, of course, a square of linen folded in sixteenths that she always pretended not to see but that traveled with her everywhere.
It had become a personal ritual, her way of tithing, to say a few kind words and drop a few coins into the cups of the beggars who had appeared weeks ago and lingered near Madame Marceau's shop, and who reappeared no matter how often Madame Marceau tried to shoo them away. They were as intrepid as ants. They knew where to find sustenance, and that was from the affluent women who frequented the modiste.
But Olivia, as usual, always wished she had more to give.
At last "Madame Marceau, Modiste," a gaudy gilded sign swinging on chains, came into view, Olivia sat up alertly. The Strand was even livelier than usual today, apparently: she could hear a choir, of all things.
She didn't know the tune, but it was certainly infectious, lilting and lively. Her foot was already tapping before the footman pulled open the door of the carriage, and she was smiling when he handed her down.
A half-dozen men were arrayed before Madame Marceau's, arms slung about each other, swaying rhythmically, their heads tipped back in full-throated song. Another man seemed to be presiding as a conductor, strutting to and fr before them and holding a sheaf of papers in one hand.
He waved one in the air. "Get yer flash ballad here! Two pence! Be the first to teach your friends the song all of London will be singing for centuries to come!"
This was quite a claim, given that one of London's other favorite songs was all about Olivia's brother Colin, and it, like Colin, who had survived the gallows, refused to die.
Years of distributing and accepting pamphlets for the causes nearest her heart — the eradication of slavery and the protection of the poor — had Olivia reflexively stretching out her hand for it.
The man hesitated, then saw the outstretched hand was encased in an expensive blue kid glove and decided to let her hold it.
"Two pence, madame, if ye'd like to take it with you." He beamed persuasively at her.
She didn't hear him.
She was transfixed in horror by the first words on the page.
The Legend of Lyon Redmond
Her breath left her in one painful gust, surely as though a broom handle had been driven into her ribs.
But the worst was yet to come.
Oh, if you thought you'd never see
A bride called Olivia Eversea
Well come along with me, lads, come along with me!
Her pretty self was on the shelf
And at last a-wed she'll be.
Oh, everyone thought
It was all for naught
And she'd dry up and blow away.
But will Redmond return
And make her burn
For the love of yesterday?
Sensation abandoned her limbs.
Where oh where did Redmond go?
Why oh why did he flee?
Is he riding the Nile on a crocodile?
Or did he take to the wide open sea?
Did a cannibal eat 'im?
Is he living in Eden
With Adam and Eve and the Snake?
Did Miss Eversea scare 'im
Into the arms of a harem
Where he lolls about like a sheik?
Shock reverberated through her as though she'd been driven into the ground with a mallet.
And all the while the little chorus behind her sang on.
Someone back there, she thought irrationally, had a lovely baritone.
Excerpted from The Legend of Lyon Redmond by Julie Anne Long. Copyright © 2015 Julie Anne Long. Excerpted by permission of HarperCollins.
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