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The Earl's Stowaway

The Earl Series : Book One

By: Krystina Daryl
Published By: Blushing Press
Copyright: ©2015 by Blushing Books® and Krystina Daryl
Seventeen Chapters / 85,317 Words
Heat Level:
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Melanie's life has been full of heartache ever since her mother's death, and it only gets worse once her father remarries. Geraldine is the epitome of an evil stepmother. Though Melanie detests the woman, she loves her two siblings and becomes a surrogate mother that Jesse and Jessica adore.

Geraldine's next plan, however, is one that even Melanie could never predict. On the day on which two strangers appear to take custody of their newest possession, Melanie learns the depth of her her stepmother's hatred as she is sold to slave traders. Standing on an auction block in a strange country, Melanie finds herself sold to the highest bidder, who is quite anxious to claim his prize. Managing to escape, Melanie's choice of a hiding place changes her life.

Christopher Ashworth and his best friend, Nicolas, have spent several enjoyable nights at the White Palace. Neither has any reason not to sample the wide variety of delights offered by the whores, who are all eager to please. Upon hearing that there is to be a slave auction, however, they are disgusted, and Christopher climbs into his carriage, ready to return home and resume his duties as Earl. He never expected to discover a stowaway.

Melanie awakens naked and in bed beside a total stranger. This was not the man who had purchased her. The two have an instant connection, and yet trust is not something that is given easily. Love is something Christopher has an even harder time accepting. The lessons he learned from his grandparents, Earl Thomas Ashworth and his feisty wife, Nancy, have taught him how to be an Earl but that no longer seems to be enough.

Can Melanie show him that he is worthy to receive the gift of her love? Will Christopher's promise of helping her find her siblings and bring them to her come true? Or will the stress of keeping secrets tear them apart? What happens when Christopher's demons convince him that Melanie is using him? Will his temper drive her so far away that there is no path back?

Chapter One

America- August 1856 

Melanie giggled as she pulled free her long hair and watched as it danced in the wind. She wanted to be exactly like that, free, without a worry in the world. Turning her face to the sky and closing her eyes, she loved the feel of the sun's heat caressing her face as she held her hands out high and leaned forward like a bird ready to take flight.

Her body tingled and her heart raced with excitement. The feel of the wind against her body spelt freedom to her.

How she wished she was free!

"Lanie, you'll fall!"

Her smile deepened at the small voice. She looked at the little girl, with curls shining like strawberry-golden strands on her head and sparkling eyes that matched the sky.

Melanie's chest tightened at Lyly's memory. Jessica was the splitting image of her. It had been a decade, but her face was still etched in Melanie's mind.

So long ago, they would have had each other, and now Lyly had no one. But Melanie had Jesse and Jessica. Yes, she felt guilty for her fortune, but it equaled her misfortune.

Mayhap Lyly is lucky. Anyone who doesn't have to live with my parents is lucky , she thought to herself.

"Lanie, get down here this instant!" Jesse ordered with a stern tone. He looked more like Melanie, with amber eyes and raven black hair.

Melanie laughed. The boy's behavior, like that of the man of the house amused her, but the reason behind it didn't. Their father didn't pay any of them any mind. He was a drunk and only went home to sleep, at whatever time of the day. Her step-mother, Geraldine, didn't care where he passed the night. She was always relieved at his absence, as it meant she could bring one of her male friends home.

Her betrayal towards her father angered Melanie, but what else could she expect? The woman married her father for the vast lands he owned, only to find out after Jesse's fourth year that he lost it gambling. She threatened to leave, without her son of course, but her father wouldn't stand for it.

What started as a quarrel, ended with her father taking Geraldine forcefully in Melanie's presence. She wanted to help, but feared she would suffer the same fate. He wasn't the father she knew anymore.

Nine months later, a little girl was born. Geraldine wanted nothing to do with her and less to do with Jesse. Melanie named the girl Jessica, to rhyme with Jesse. And since the first day Melanie held the little girl in her arms, she became her daughter and Jesse her son. At the age of four and ten, Melanie was a mother.

"Lanie!" the two voices yelled in unison.

She laughed, "Fine, I'm coming down." She used the tree branches to lower herself to a height where she could jump without hurting herself. They rushed to her, Jessica holding her arms up, meaning she wanted to be carried. Melanie picked her up and kissed her pink cheeks. "Sweetheart, one day you'll become too big to carry."

She shook her head. "Never."

Melanie smiled pulling all her gold locks free from her bonnet. She twirled around with her, releasing squeals and giggles from Jessica. Melanie stopped and knelt down next to Jesse. She pulled him to her lap and squeezed them both in a tight hug.

She kissed their cheeks and placed her head between theirs and whispered, "I love you both very much."

"We love you too, Lanie," Jessica chirped reaching up to kiss her sister's cheek.

"And Lyly too," Melanie added.

Jessica nodded, giving her another kiss. "For Lyly."

Jesse moved to sit on the ground across from Melanie. His fingers moved anxiously on his lap, his eyes looking up at her in earnest. "Have you thought over what I asked?"

Melanie gave him a weak smile and cupped his chin gently in her hand. "We can't run away, Jesse."

His brows furrowed deeper with anxiety. "We can go to Lyly! She can help raise Jessica. I know she won't refuse!"

"I know that too, but I don't know where to find her."

Jesse bowed his head, the familiar sadness causing his shoulders to sag.

The sight broke Melanie's heart. How she wished there was another way to ensure their happiness, but the only thing she could do was pray that God would finally grant it to them. She also prayed for a husband who would permit her to take the children to her matrimonial home. But with no dowry, the only thing she could depend on to catch a husband was her beauty.

The only reason Melanie knew she was beautiful was because of the deathly glares Geraldine gave her when she declared her beauty superior to Melanie's. She'd threatened to cut all her hair off once when Melanie had let it flow down to her waist. Since that day, she always held it in a tight braid around her head when Geraldine was around. Melanie's hair was all she had that reminded her of her mother and she couldn't permit the dragon to shave it all off!

Melanie put a brave smile on her face. "Not to worry. When I marry, I'll take you both with me. I promise."

"But what if he doesn't want us?" Jesse whispered, dragging his head up to look at her.

"He will, won't he, Lanie?" Jessica chirped with conviction.

"I highly doubt that!" Geraldine's harsh voice made them freeze with fear.

Melanie jumped to her feet dragging the two to stand behind her. "Mother, we weren't expecting you so soon," she said, masking her fright with a smile.

Geraldine looked at her from the bottom hem of her dress to the top of her head with a stilling glare, and then sneered. When she turned around, Melanie felt like she'd been released from the dragon's unseen clutches and her body relaxed with a relieved sigh.

Geraldine stepped back into the house. "She's here," she called out.

"You brought guests?"

Melanie hadn't meant to sound harsh but she couldn't help the anger that stirred inside her. Her father may be a good for nothing drunk, but he did not deserve the blatant disrespect Geraldine showed him. Worse of all, she was going to expose him—most probably them—to her siblings. She hadn't worked so hard to shield the children from Geraldine's wanton behavior to corrupt them now.

"Yes, I brought guests." Geraldine glared at her once more. "Does the princess take offense?"

"No." Melanie felt a faint tickle to her jaw and quickly realized her hair was down—it did explain the jealous tone in her step-mother's voice that accompanied the snarl. She quickly wrapped it into a bun and held it in place with pins. She pulled her lips into a smile, "I will go prepare some beverages and a light snack."

Geraldine held her hand up to stop her movement and then she stepped away from the door. "That is not necessary. They won't be staying long."

Melanie nodded with a weakening smile. But once the two large men stepped out of the house, the smile completely disappeared. She felt tense, a cold chill rushing through her entire being. Something was wrong, something was very wrong.

One of the men had an eye patch and his wide grin exposed his missing front teeth. The other had long blond hair and a scar that ran across his face, making his smile lopsided.

Melanie took a few steps back, pushing the children with her. "Good afternoon, gentlemen," she squeaked.

"Gentlemen?" the one with the scar scoffed.

Melanie bit her lips together. How else was she to refer to them? Ugly criminals whose stench matched and surpassed that of a pig sty did come to mind, but she had no intentions of aggravating them.

"She's a beauty!" The one with the patch spoke, taking a step towards her. "Are you sure she's not like you?"

Geraldine snorted. "She's a pure one, in body and soul." Her lips curled up in a sneer. "She sickens me!"

The one with the scar moved forward and Melanie's eyes reluctantly shifted to him. The leer he gave her made her skin crawl. "If it wasn't for all the money we would make from a virgin, I would have granted myself a taste."

Melanie felt her legs buckle at the comment. She felt her chest constrict and her breaths shorten. "I am not a whore!" she yelled with a shaky voice.

"We know," the man with a scar spoke to her with a soothing voice. He raised his hand to touch her and she rushed back, tightening her hold on the children.

"What is your age?"

Melanie stayed quiet, her eyes shifting between the intruders.

"She is nine and ten," Geraldine spoke in betrayal. "She should fetch a good price."

Melanie felt her heart stop. "What?"

Geraldine moved to her, a sadistic smile on her face. "Yes, gentle dove, I'm selling you to the highest bidder."

"Father will never allow this!" Melanie yelled, her voice cracking with emotion.

Geraldine grabbed her chin roughly and laughed. "Your father doesn't care."

Melanie wasn't sure how her heart still broke at that reality. With suffering disappointment for over a decade, there should be nothing left to break. She knew that her father wouldn't care, but still, she was his daughter! He promised his mother he would protect her!

Jesse jumped from behind her. Melanie reached to pull him back but he shook her hold off. "Mother, no! Please don't do this!"

Geraldine stared at him with a gaze full of anger that would make a grown man quake in his boots. But Jesse stood firm, his fists held tightly at his sides.

Jessica leaned forward, her face partially hidden by Melanie's skirt. "Mommy, please!" she begged in a small voice.

With a growl, Geraldine reached for her but Melanie quickly moved to cover the girl. "Take her too!" she bellowed.

"No!" Melanie yelled, picking Jessica up and holding her tight against her. Jessica circled her arms tightly around Melanie's neck as she sobbed loudly, her tiny body shaking in fear.

Jesse rushed to stand in front of them. "Leave her alone, Mother!" he yelled.

Geraldine's lips rose to a smile. "You can take him too if you want. I'm sure there is someone looking for a chimney sweep."

Melanie pulled the boy to her side. She felt like the world was coming down around her fast, and there was nothing she could do to protect either of them. She understood Geraldine wanting to sell her. She has always despised Melanie, but her own children, from her own womb. How is that possible?

Melanie turned her head to the men. She pushed down the sob in her throat and held back the tears. "I will go with you, as long as Mother promises not to do them any harm."

Jessica's hold tightened, her cries growing loud. Jesse turned his head into her skirt and sobbed quietly.

"Please!" Melanie begged.

Geraldine shrugged. "Fine, but don't expect me to look after those brats!" She then marched back into the house, leaving Melanie at the mercy of the two men.

The one with the patch spoke, "I admire your courage, but it will do very little for you in the future."

"Hurry up, the boat leaves soon," the one with the scar bellowed.

Melanie nodded and sank down to the ground. With much effort, she pulled herself free from Jessica's hold and pushed her into Jesse's arms. "Take care of each other. I promise I will find a way to come back to you."

"Don't make promises you can't keep, girl!" the one with the scar hissed, pulling Melanie up by the hair. Jesse yelled, rushing for his legs but got kicked down. He held his arms around his stomach as he rolled on the ground crying. Jessica stood where she was, crying loudly, her tear filled eyes shifting between Melanie and Jesse.

"No!" Melanie cried, struggling to get out of his hold. "Let me go! Jesse!" Then she felt a sharp pain at the back of her head that brought darkness to her eyes.

*****

England- October 1856

Christopher slapped the whore's ass and backed away from her, fully sated. He moved to the basin and washed himself, proceeding to wipe the sweat off his body.

Krystal stretched and purred like a cat. "Milord, I've heard about your instrument, but until now, I thought it was just a tale."

Christopher's smile grew as he turned to her. She was spread out on her back, her legs wide in invitation. "I've also heard of your talents but forgive me if I do not take the time to experience them myself. I have to leave."

She stood up and moved to where he was and pressed herself firmly against his back. "But the night is already here. Why not stay with me for the night? I promise you will enjoy my talents."

"And pay more coin for your time?" He chuckled, pulling away from her. "I'm already fully sated." He picked up his drawers and pulled them on, tugging his breeches up after.

She ran her finger around his chest. "But it was only an hour? Surely you can't be fully sated."

Christopher wrapped his hand around her small one and halted its movement once it reached the top of his breeches. "I had two others before you, and that was just today. I've been here four days already."

Nicholas had somehow convinced him to take a much needed vacation, in a brothel of course. He refused at first, but when Nicholas asked him when last he had a woman, he shamefully could not remember. Once the ship they were on from America docked at the port, Nicholas dragged him to the brothel for a day of fun, which turned into four entertaining days and four active nights.

He was sure his grandmother was maddened by the excuse he sent for his delay, but he hadn't realized how much he'd missed a good tapping, until he saw all the women parade naked in front of him for his choosing.

A loud rap sounded on the door before it swung open. "Brother!" Nicholas announced with a deep grin. "Come join me below stairs. There is an auction about to start!"

Christopher chuckled, pulling on his stockings then his shirt. "They are auctioning whores now?"

"Not whores just yet," Krystal announced, spreading her body out on the bed again. She had a glimmer in her eyes as she stared at Nicholas, drinking him up with her gaze. Christopher laughed. The woman didn't whore herself for the money but for the lust of a man's cock inside her. He should have guessed from all her prompting screams. "Those are virgin slaves being auctioned."

Christopher's mouth dropped open, and he saw the mirror of his horror on Nicholas's face. "Are they willing or unwilling?" he hissed.

She shrugged, running her hand over the inside of her thigh. "Some aren't, some are."

That only angered Christopher more. He picked up his waistcoat and jacket. "Brother, I think I'll be leaving now. I have business that can't be postponed by another day."

Nicholas nodded his brows in a furrow. "I'll be here for another night and leave early tomorrow. My mother is impatient for my return."

Christopher patted his shoulder as he walked out. "I hope you aren't going to the auction."

Nicholas leaned back in shock. "Ashworth, I only take what is offered freely!"

Christopher smiled at his offended tone and use of his title. Nicholas only used his title to refer to him when Christopher had angered him. "I know, just making sure."

"I maybe a womanizer, but I am not an animal!"

"Forgive me." He turned to the whore on the bed. "You can have her. She's worth every coin."

Nicholas turned to her, his hard lips relaxing to a devilish grin. "If she survived you, she'll survive me."

Christopher chuckled. "I highly doubt that. I'll send another one up, to express my apologies."

Nicholas pulled his jacket off. "The apology is not necessary, but the whore is highly appreciated. See you soon, Christopher."

Christopher laughed, closing the door. He walked down the hallway and to the ground floor, admiring the merchandise as he passed, until he heard the cheers of excited men. His jaw tightened as the anger quickly made its way to the surface. He marched into the room, just in time to see a girl fight her way off the stage, after the gavel as to how much she was worth hit the table to end the bidding. He admired her, and as much as he wished he could help her, he couldn't. She was a slave, owned by someone else.

Unless he was to purchase her; and do what with her? He had enough workers in his house, and as appealing as it may be, he didn't need an unwilling whore in his house.

He sighed, turning around and leaving before he lost his restraint. It was her fate, and there was nothing he could do about it. He paused at the entrance of the brothel and turned to the footman. "My carriage," he ordered.

The man bowed. "Right away, Lord Ashworth," he said, and rushed away into the night.

Christopher took in a deep breath of the cool air. It had been a long time since he felt so relaxed and unknotted. The four day 'vacation' wasn't a loss after all. He'd have to make it a point to come back, if not for pleasure, for the relaxation.

"Milord, your carriage," the footman spoke holding the carriage door wide open.

Christopher placed a coin in his palm and climbed in. He took off his cloak, hat and jacket and placed them opposite him. Although it would be a short drive, he wanted to rest for he had much work waiting for him. When the carriage jostled forward, something heavy rolled to his feet. He looked down and his eyes widened in shock. It was a girl!

She was wet, and seemed unconscious. He placed his hand on her pale forehead and she shivered. She was cold. What had happened to her?

Christopher knocked the top of the carriage with his fist. "Driver, we are going to spend one more night here. Take me to the inn."

He reached down and pulled her up into his arms. Once she was on his lap, he pulled her unsupported head up to examine her face. He sucked in a breath.

She was beautiful, and those lips, slightly parted in a quiet invitation, were full and enticing. She wasn't a tiny thing either. Unlike most women he'd met, she was shaped like her architect curved her to answer all men's lustful dreams. Her body was voluptuous, with large breasts and a copious rear, both big enough to compliment her small frame.

He lifted her small pale fingers in his hand. They seemed childlike compared to his, but yet very pleasingly soft against his skin. They would probably set a fire in him if she ran them...

What the devil! Put those thoughts out of your head, Christopher!

He quickly pulled his cloak off the seat and covered her alluring body with it, but he could do nothing about her face. Cautiously, he ran his finger down the side of her face. She turned her head into his shoulder, and her hair fell free. He ran his hand through the long, wet black mane and growled with frustration. A few minutes ago, he was fully sated, but now...

Why did you have to have such beautiful hair to match the body of a goddess!

He pushed her derrière away from his growing erection and leaned back, holding his eyes shut tightly. This isn't going to end well!

*****

Melanie stretched out on the softness under her. She'd never slept on anything as soft, it felt wonderful! She stretched her hands out and felt the warm body next to her and froze. Confused she leaned up, and her heart stopped when she saw the large man next to her.

The coverlet draped from his waist to his feet, leaving his toned chest, outlined abdomen and large arms exposed. His face was turned to her and his raven black hair covered his eyes, but she could clearly see his hard features that suited his dark skin. 

Her muscles tightened as her thoughts cleared.  He is a hallucination! She thought with conviction. She slowly inched her finger towards him and gently but quickly poked his shoulder. He stirred, and then she felt a warm grip on her knee tighten.

She cringed. She slowly lifted the coverlet and looked down at her bended knee. She gasped releasing the coverlet. Her naked knee was completely covered by his large hand.

She felt her stomach knot. Naked?

She lifted the coverlet again just to make sure. She looked away feeling nauseous. Yes, she was completely nude!

What happened? What have I done!

She looked around the unfamiliar room with shortened breaths.  Where am I?

Her eyes widened as the memory flooded her mind, provoking a piercing headache.

* * * * *

She had been in a ship's cargo hold for weeks. She'd shared the small quarters with five other girls, equally scared of their unknown fate and seven others who sniggered and jeered at them. They had loved to share their own thoughts on what was to befall them. They seemed pleased about the future, eager to meet it. When they finally docked, she'd tried to escape only to receive another blow to the head that rendered her unconscious. Then she was awakened by the shock of cold water on her skin, only to be pulled onto a stage with no time to recover. She'd frozen when her head was finally clear enough to see the sea of men, bidding fiercely for her.

She'd tried to run but the man with the scar held her arms in a crushing hold, aborting her escape. Then the loud bang sounded, echoed with the yell 'sold' and a cheer erupted through the room. Her heart attempted to beat out of her chest when her eyes landed on the man who'd purchased her. He was as tall as she and fat, with a dangerous glimmer of lust in his eyes as they travelled over her body.

She'd never felt as dirty as she did under his leering gaze. The man with the scar released her to him. He grabbed her waist and pulled her flush against him. She looked straight into his eyes, hers filled with horror.

"You and I are going to have so much fun!" he hissed pressing his lips against hers.

She placed her hands under his chin and pushed his head away. "May God strike you dead!" she cried, making him laugh.

"I've changed my mind." Melanie felt her body relax at his announcement. "I don't want her just for the night... I want to own her."

Melanie felt her body go rigid again. He couldn't be serious! She belonged to no one but herself and God! Was this man the devil? "No, I do not accept!"

He grabbed her chin and steadied her head for another disgusting kiss. "It is not your choice to make."

"Our money, before you take her," the man with the scar yelled, halting their exit.

"Have one of your men follow me to my house," the devil yelled excitedly, as he dragged her behind him.

There was no way she was going to allow him to touch her. She'd die first! She fought him, hitting the back of his knee hard. With a groan, he fell to the floor, releasing his hold on her. Not wasting another moment, she ran out into the dark, jumping into an open carriage to hide. Her head had hit the floor hard and she blacked out, only to wake up naked and ruined.

* * * * *

But this wasn't the same man. Did he pass her to his friend once he was done defiling her, so he too could have a turn?

How many men had tainted her before this one?

She felt disgust, her stomach turning as the bile stung her throat.

She covered her mouth to keep the sob in and slowly slipped out of the bed and retreated to a corner. She'd pulled the sheet with her and wrapped it tightly around her frame. "I know this isn't right to ask, but Lord, I wish this man and every other man who defiled me dead!" She prayed, burying her face in her knees.

*****

Christopher felt the cold rush over him. He reached for the coverlet only to find nothing. He turned to his side and opened his eyes; the space next to him was empty as well. He shot up and searched the room, his eyes settling on the dark mane, spread out around the white sheet in the corner.

His heart jumped, and the pit of his stomach burned. That woman was a temptation he'd never felt before. It was a miracle he restrained himself all night.

He pulled his breeches over his drawers and quietly moved to sit on the bed facing her. She was crying and mumbling something that wasn't audible, but he could hear the pain in her voice.

But why? 

He slapped his forehead and chuckled. The girl woke up naked, next to a half-naked man. She might think herself ruined and taken against her will.

He crouched down and touched her head. His hand had barely settled when she shot up, pushing him back. He fell on the bed and watched her take flight towards the door, her hair flying behind her. He jumped off the bed in pursuit, shutting the door before she could open it any wider.

She turned around and began punching his chest. He chuckled until he felt her knee move up his thigh. He grabbed it before it made contact with his groin, "Calm down!" he ordered.

"I hate you! You've ruined me!" she cried, punching him painfully harder.

He stepped back, rubbing his chest and she attempted to open the door again. He pushed it shut, pressing his hand on it, but kept a large amount of space between them. "You leave this room donning only a bedcover and you  will be ruined!" he hissed.

She stared up at him and he sucked in a breath. Her amber eyes burned with anger and pain, but yet were as beautiful as the sun. Unconsciously, his hand rose to touch her wet cheek and she quickly moved away, ducking under his raised arm and rushing to the table.

She grabbed a paper knife and turned to him. "Touch me again and I will run you through!" she threatened.

Christopher pushed the door's lock in place then dragged his heavy chest to block it before he turned his full attention to her. She moved back when he stepped forward. Her struggle to hold the sheet in place and the paper knife amused him, but the fear in her eyes kept him from laughing.

He held his hands up in mock surrender. "I don't want to hurt you. I just want to help you."

She huffed, "Help me into your bed." Then her lower lip quivered "Again!" she cried. The thought of it seemed to drain all the strength she had left out of her.

Christopher moved closer to her with the intention of comfort, but she swung her armed hand and the tip of the blade grazed his chest.

He jumped back. "Why the hell did you do that!" he yelled, wiping the small trickle of blood with his fingers.

"I'm sorry..." she began an apology then bolted for the door again.

Christopher caught her, and easily hoisted her up with one arm. He pulled the weapon from her hand and threw it to the far wall.

"Let me go!" she screamed, squirming in his arms. She was beginning to annoy him. He moved to place her on the bed but somehow, her leg got caught behind his knee, tripping him, and they both landed on the bed, him on top of her.

"Ow!" she squealed as his hand popped hard against her hip.

"Settle down or I'll give you a proper tanning," he warned as he grabbed her hands and pinned them next to her head. When she continued to arch and twist, he quickly rolled her to her side and popped her a half-dozen times as she continued to squeal loudly. "Stop! I mean what I say and your bottom will pay a price if you don't obey!" he bellowed and she quickly settled, her eyes wide with fear.

Rolling her to her back again, he exhaled loudly and placed his forehead on hers. He'd never been so exerted by a woman, and worse off with no pleasure.

His throat dried as he finally realized where he was. His weight was pressed on her, and he could feel her breasts against his chest. He was settled between her legs. Thankfully, his shaft was far away from her warm body as it pushed hungrily against his breeches.

He leaned up and looked at her. Her small shoulders were exposed, the sheet having been pulled down and resting over her nipples, exposing the lush swellings on her chest. He swallowed hard and winced. His erection was growing painful.

"Please not again!" she begged in a whisper, tears spilling down her face.

He looked into her amber eyes, and the fear in them made his need cold. He knew he should move off her, but he didn't want to. He loved how their bodies were pressed against each other, skin to skin.

"I did not touch you," he whispered back, sincerity in his voice.

She turned her head to her side and closed her eyes. "Then-then why am I naked? Why did I wake up in bed next to you?"

He chuckled. "You were wet and I feared you would catch a fever. And to answer your second question, I paid for the bed, and it is large enough for the both of us."

She looked back at him, her eyes wide in earnest. "You didn't..."

He held back his grin. He couldn't show amusement if she was to believe him. "Tell me, does your body ache?" She gave him a puzzled look then shook her head. "Are your thighs or breasts bruised?" He smiled when he saw the heat rise to her cheeks. She shook her head. "What about what lays between your legs, does it hurt? Do you feel invaded?"

Her face creased with horror. "No!" she blurted out, making him laugh.

"Then there is your proof. I did not lay a hand on you, except to carry you into my room and strip you of your clothing."

Her face flushed a darker shade of pink. "I had my eyes closed the entire time," he added and noted the relief on her face.

She nodded. "Thank you. But... but you weren't the man..." She stopped, biting her lips together to hold back a sob.

Christopher knew what she was going to say next. It angered him, and he felt relieved at the same time. "If I release your hands, do you promise to behave?"

She nodded. "Yes," she whispered in a quivering voice.

He released her hands and planted his elbows next to her shoulders, waiting for an attack. She did nothing; her hands remaining where they had been pinned.

Her brows furrowed. "I thought you said you would release me?"

"Your hands and I have." He put the right amount of firmness in his voice to show he wasn't moving from a top her. "Now, tell me how you ended up in my carriage?"

"You are not moving, are you?"

He shook his head.

She sighed in resignation. "Then allow me to cover myself properly?"

He nodded, hoisting himself up and staring straight at the wall. He felt the cover come up with him and knew her breasts were completely exposed when she gasped. "I was raised a gentleman," he said, his voice strained.

"I believe the men bidding for my virtue like a pack of wolves would utter the same words!" she hissed bitterly.

He chuckled. "I am an Earl. And believe me, I do not need to bid for a woman. They willingly come to my bed."

"Aren't you full of yourself," she chastised, making him laugh.

"I believe I have a right to be," he countered.

"The only woman you should be taking to your bed is your wife, not every random woman that raises your fancy."

He laughed again. No one had ever dared to speak to him like that, either because of his station as the Earl of Ashworth or his eruptive temper. "I suppose that's what you hope for?"

She stilled beneath him and the quiet sniff pulled his attention. She looked so unhappy and defenseless. "My step-mother made sure I would never have that joy," she whispered.

Christopher put his weight back on his elbows and moved his legs from between hers. "Put your legs together," he ordered gently.

Her eyes widened in realization, and then her legs quickly snapped closed. He laughed lowering himself back on her. "You are welcome."

She raised the sheet to cover her flushed face. He brushed her hair back with his fingers then moved to pull down the sheet. Her fingers tightened on it, holding it in place. He sighed. "How are we to have a discussion if you cover your face?"

"Get off me then." Her muffled voice came through in a whisper.

"I like it too much here." He yanked the cover and she yelped, her wide eyes meeting his. "Now, tell me how you came to be in my carriage?"

He felt her relax beneath him as she looked down at her fingers, wringing between them. "It was the first place I sought to hide."

"And you fell asleep?"

She shook her head. "I hit my head and became unconscious."

Instinctively, he placed his hand in her hair and rubbed her scalp, searching for the bump. She winced when he touched a small hot bump. "The skin didn't break," he muttered pulling his hand away. "Who were you hiding from?"

She glanced at him and shifted her gaze back to her wringing fingers. "The man who bought me," she whispered. "I couldn't allow myself to be chained to his bed for the rest of my life."

Christopher growled and her body tensed. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath. "Forgive me. My temper sometimes precedes my manners."

She smiled weakly. "It's all right. I've experienced my father's temper before. Your control over yours is far better than his."

He smiled. "Only towards women, men aren't as lucky." Unconsciously, he wrapped her hair around his finger. "Did you father ever hit you?"

Her smile shrunk. "A few times, but mostly when I was defending my brother." Her lower lip quivered and more tears spilled. "Jesse and Jessica! Who's taking care of them now?"

He brushed her cheek dry with his thumb soothingly. "I'm sure your mother will."

She creased her face in anger. "My step-mother cares nothing for them! I had to agree to go with those horrid men. I-I didn't want to but she threatened to sell them as well! I had no choice!"

Christopher clenched his jaw angrily, his entire frame going rigid. What happened to mothers? They are supposed to be loving, caring and protective towards their children. Or did she and he just share the bad luck?

"Your real mother, did she love you?"

She nodded, a sweet smile commanding her face, making his throat dry. "She was wonderful! I show my siblings the same love she showed me. A child should never feel unloved."

His lips rose in half a smile. "Where were you during my childhood?" he whispered. He hadn't intended on her hearing, but the look on her face said she did.

She felt her fear abating as her compassion rose. "And yet, you've shown me more compassion than anyone has ever shown me since my mother's passing. Surely, someone must love you, for you to be so kind. A wife perhaps?"

He laughed. "I have not been shackled yet, my grandparents raised me."

She looked at him confused. "How old are you?"

"Eight and twenty. I am required to marry and produce an heir, but I am not ready for that yet."

"An heir?" she uttered confused. "Shouldn't you marry for love?"

Now he was confused. He was too busy fighting and admiring her to ask before but, her ridiculous question brought the question forward. "Your accent sounds western, what are you doing so far away from America?"

Her eyes widened. "Where are we?"

"In England."

She sobbed again. "I'm so far away from them!"

He cradled her head against his shoulder. "I would return you home, but not at the risk of your step-mother selling you as a slave again."

She placed one hand on his shoulder, the other on his neck. "If it is not too much to ask... help me bring my siblings here."

He was enjoying the feel of her warm cheek against his, until she uttered those words. "What?" he exclaimed leaning up to look at her. The look in her eyes was pleading, "You can't be serious!"

She moved the hand on his shoulder to cup his neck. "I beg you! I'll do anything you want. I'll cook and clean for you. I won't give you any trouble. They won't either!"

He was puzzled. "What made you think you could ask this of me?"

"Because I know you are a kind man and you must understand their pain more than anyone!" She answered quickly, tightening her hold on his neck.

He clenched his jaw tightly. He never should have told her. He didn't understand why he did in the first place! Mayhap it was because he could see her gentle soul through her eyes, but she didn't waste any time to use it against him. "Why would I know their pain?"

"I believe your parents did not live in the same home as your grandparents."

"Why?"

She stroked his neck like she was trying to calm a tempered horse. "They loved you. And sparing you of your parents' distain would be want they wanted most. I had not the means to spare my siblings and now they have no one to protect them from my parents' cruelty."

He stayed quiet. He didn't trust himself to speak, he might just agree to everything she asked of him with those hypnotic eyes. He had to applaud her for her perceptive nature; it was a good quality in a woman. He wouldn't have to explain himself for her to understand and act accordingly. He would add that to his list when his search for a wife resumed.

"My father beats on my brother Jesse for sport. He is only ten and cannot defend himself without me. And my mother hates my sister Jessica for her existence. She is just six and I'm afraid my step-mother may carry out her threat." Her voice broke at the end.

He went back to stroking her hair. "What do you mean by that?"

"By what?" she whispered.

"Why does she hate Jessica's existence?"

Melanie closed her eyes. "She wasn't..." she swallowed hard, "She wasn't conceived out of love or lust... she was..."

He finished her thought. "Your father forced himself on your step-mother, and Jessica was the product of his cruelty."

She cried, "If only I had the strength to help, but I was so scared, there was nothing I could do but watch!"

Christopher stiffened. That couldn't be possible, was she sure he was her father? He couldn't be that much of an animal. "You were in the room when it happened?"

She nodded. "I hid under the table, holding Jesse tightly against me. I didn't understand what was happening... I was so afraid he would do the same to me... I just stayed hidden until it was over," she whispered.

He wrapped his arms around her shivering frame. "Why are you telling me this?" he asked confused.

She turned, her mouth close to his ear and whispered, "Why would you help me if I do not confess the truth to you?" She pushed him up to look in his eyes. "My father doesn't believe either of them are his, and my step-mother is too angry and bitter to love them. Do you now understand why I have to save them from that home?"

He nodded. His parents suddenly did not seem too bad. Despite his reservations, he said, "It will be difficult, but I will try my best. You will have to give me your name and address and write a note to your siblings. I do not believe your parents will agree to let them go willingly. The only way would be to steal them in the night, with their mutual aid." He saw her smile brighten as she nodded. "What is your name?"

"Melanie Monroe Bronson," she answered with a cheer in her voice.

"I'm Lord Christopher Ronald Thomas Wimberley, Earl of Ashworth." Her confused stare made him chuckle. She had no knowledge of titles and station. "You may refer to me as Christopher." Then he turned serious. "Melanie, I cannot promise you that the venture to bring your siblings here will be successful, but I do promise I will try my best."

She nodded with a wide smile. "As long as there is hope." Then out of the blue, she pulled his neck down and pressed her lips against his.

JK on 01/17/2016 11:54am
What an awesome story! Melanie Monroe is sold into slavery by an evil step mother, taken overseas to England and auctioned off in a brothel. She escapes the awful man who buys her by hiding in a carriage that belongs to Christopher, Earl .of Ashworth! What follows is a pretty sexy little tale that puts our two main characters into a few sexy little scenes and a whole lot of turmoil! I loved the story and I really cannot wait for the next book in the series!!
JK on 01/17/2016 11:54am
What an awesome story! Melanie Monroe is sold into slavery by an evil step mother, taken overseas to England and auctioned off in a brothel. She escapes the awful man who buys her by hiding in a carriage that belongs to Christopher, Earl .of Ashworth! What follows is a pretty sexy little tale that puts our two main characters into a few sexy little scenes and a whole lot of turmoil! I loved the story and I really cannot wait for the next book in the series!!
Margaret Corcoran on 01/12/2016 12:52pm
This is the second in a well written family saga about the Ashworth family. Melanie is a wonderful woman who has had an awful life and when she meets Christropher she thinks she has finally found love. But life is not like that. All the characters are very well written and very real. The author draws the reader into the story and holds on to them with the love of Melanie and Christopher. I am looking forward to the next part in the saga.
Margaret Corcoran on 01/12/2016 12:52pm
This is the second in a well written family saga about the Ashworth family. Melanie is a wonderful woman who has had an awful life and when she meets Christropher she thinks she has finally found love. But life is not like that. All the characters are very well written and very real. The author draws the reader into the story and holds on to them with the love of Melanie and Christopher. I am looking forward to the next part in the saga.
Marybeth Renn on 01/10/2016 09:18am
This is a play off of a Cinderella story. Melanie's father has remarried. They have two children together and Melanie loves them. Unfortunately, her “wicked” stepmother does not love her or her biological children. She sells Melanie into slavery. Melanie is transported to England and sold there. Christopher is at the same whorehouse where Melanie is being sold. She escapes into his carriage and he takes her to safety at his grandmother's house. His grandmother likes Melanie and decides to train her to become a lady. Eventually there is a HEA, but there is a long convoluted road to that ending. I give this 4 stars.
Marybeth Renn on 01/10/2016 09:18am
This is a play off of a Cinderella story. Melanie's father has remarried. They have two children together and Melanie loves them. Unfortunately, her wicked۝ stepmother does not love her or her biological children. She sells Melanie into slavery. Melanie is transported to England and sold there. Christopher is at the same whorehouse where Melanie is being sold. She escapes into his carriage and he takes her to safety at his grandmother's house. His grandmother likes Melanie and decides to train her to become a lady. Eventually there is a HEA, but there is a long convoluted road to that ending. I give this 4 stars.
SH on 01/08/2016 05:05pm
I so enjoyed this book! The plot is fantastic and I found myself drawn into the drama as it continued to unfold. The characters are strong and their backstory grabs your heartstrings. Melanie and Christopher's journey is a wild ride and at times so wonderfully frustrating! I just kept turning page after page to find out what was going to happen next and stayed up way too late trying to find a comfortable stopping spot! I adored the ending and am so looking forward to book two! Nicely done!
SH on 01/08/2016 05:05pm
I so enjoyed this book! The plot is fantastic and I found myself drawn into the drama as it continued to unfold. The characters are strong and their backstory grabs your heartstrings. Melanie and Christopher's journey is a wild ride and at times so wonderfully frustrating! I just kept turning page after page to find out what was going to happen next and stayed up way too late trying to find a comfortable stopping spot! I adored the ending and am so looking forward to book two! Nicely done!
pico1 on 01/07/2016 07:24am
The Earl’s Stowaway is the first book of a series that should be very good reading for many people. The story is complex, with well-developed characters, many interesting plot lines, and a love story that goes through a number of problems before HEA. The story has almost no spanking, but some sex and a lot about the development of the love between Christopher and Melanie, as well as the problems they face due to misinformation. My only complaint was with the ending of the book and the Epilogue, which brought back another story line, about Melanie’s missing siblings. Both leave you wondering what will happen next – which I guess is their purpose, but it left one feeling a bit incomplete.
pico1 on 01/07/2016 07:24am
The Earl۪s Stowaway is the first book of a series that should be very good reading for many people. The story is complex, with well-developed characters, many interesting plot lines, and a love story that goes through a number of problems before HEA. The story has almost no spanking, but some sex and a lot about the development of the love between Christopher and Melanie, as well as the problems they face due to misinformation. My only complaint was with the ending of the book and the Epilogue, which brought back another story line, about Melanie۪s missing siblings. Both leave you wondering what will happen next which I guess is their purpose, but it left one feeling a bit incomplete.
Redrabbitt on 01/06/2016 05:36pm
This is the continuation from Mischief Impossible, but we have advanced 63 years, and now dealing with the grandson of Thomas and Nancy Wimberly. Christopher Wimberly, Lord Ashworth has been raised by his grandparents and his best friend is Nicolas Wentworth, Lord Townson. Over in America, Melanie Monroe Bronson is a pawn in her evil stepmother’s game, sold to slavery and shipped to England. From the slave auction block, escaping and hiding in a carriage of Lord Ashworth takes this story on an amazing journey of discovery, adventure, beginnings, heartache, rejection, forgiveness and back to new adventures. This is a fascinating series with unique characters, antics, witty dialog and new mysteries that are a lead to the next book, but do not really leave you with a cliffhanger. The plot is well told and keeps the pages turning. I look forward to the next book in this romantic suspenseful series.
Redrabbitt on 01/06/2016 05:36pm
This is the continuation from Mischief Impossible, but we have advanced 63 years, and now dealing with the grandson of Thomas and Nancy Wimberly. Christopher Wimberly, Lord Ashworth has been raised by his grandparents and his best friend is Nicolas Wentworth, Lord Townson. Over in America, Melanie Monroe Bronson is a pawn in her evil stepmother۪s game, sold to slavery and shipped to England. From the slave auction block, escaping and hiding in a carriage of Lord Ashworth takes this story on an amazing journey of discovery, adventure, beginnings, heartache, rejection, forgiveness and back to new adventures. This is a fascinating series with unique characters, antics, witty dialog and new mysteries that are a lead to the next book, but do not really leave you with a cliffhanger. The plot is well told and keeps the pages turning. I look forward to the next book in this romantic suspenseful series.
Laurel Lasky on 01/06/2016 12:49pm
This intense book is the second in the Earl's series and not as lighthearted as the first book. Melanie's life had been unbelievably horrible with a drunken father and an evil, wicked stepmother who sells Melanie who escapes and is rescued by the Earl. What follows is at time heartbreaking and had me in tears. There is much suspense, mystery, romance, very light spanking, hot sex, and page turning action. I had never read anything from this author, Krystina Daryl, by she is now on my list of favorites. I can hardly wait for the next one.
Laurel Lasky on 01/06/2016 12:49pm
This intense book is the second in the Earl's series and not as lighthearted as the first book. Melanie's life had been unbelievably horrible with a drunken father and an evil, wicked stepmother who sells Melanie who escapes and is rescued by the Earl. What follows is at time heartbreaking and had me in tears. There is much suspense, mystery, romance, very light spanking, hot sex, and page turning action. I had never read anything from this author, Krystina Daryl, by she is now on my list of favorites. I can hardly wait for the next one.

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