Tall, Dark and Royal

Tall, Dark and Royal

The Renegade Royals, Book 2.5
Kensington Books
November 2014
ISBN: 978-1420131314

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He’s the man behind the mission to track down the illegitimate children of England’s Royal Princes and help them get their due. But his deepest desire is far more personal…

Magnificent and stubborn. Over twenty years apart had not changed Chloe Steele, or Dominic’s love for her. He’d been a street urchin, a boy raised at court, and finally a magistrate, yet he’d never belonged anywhere—except by her side. Now Chloe devoted herself to girls threatened by scandal—like she had been. But she was in danger, and Dominic was determined to help—and hopefully make up for lost time…

Even in childhood, Dominic had made Chloe feel safe. Now she also felt thrillingly flustered by the powerful man he’d become, and by the longing he inspired. Because Dominic meant not only to protect her, but to untangle the lies that had separated them. Yet for Chloe, surrendering to temptation may be easier than risking a future that could ruin them both…

“With each adventure of the Renegade Royals, author Vanessa Kelly has created a nearly epic storyline that just keeps getting better and better as it goes.” ~4.5 stars, Night Owl Reviews

“What a love story! Touching, tender, and until the very end you are left guessing as to what will happen. Were Ms. Kelly to write the whole story in one book, it could definitely be considered a modern classic! Although a novella, TALL DARK AND ROYAL could well be the most beautiful book of the year!” ~Fresh Fiction

“Vanessa Kelly always creates characters and dilemmas that are truly realistic plus constantly enjoyable. TALL, DARK AND ROYAL is profoundly moving with deeply affecting emotions all the way through.” ~Single Title Reviews

“An intriguing tale of love and mystery, TALL, DARK AND ROYAL, a novella in award winning author Vanessa Kelly’s RENEGADE ROYALS series, is a witty, endearing historical romance that will soon have you caught up in the tale and rooting for this appealing couple…I recommend this novella as well as the rest of the series to lovers of historical romance and intrigue!” ~4.5 blue ribbons, Romance Junkies

“Okay, when I saw this cover I had to know what it was about. When I read the description and saw the names “Chloe” and “Dominic” I knew exactly who this was about! I HAD TO READ IT. And boy, was I glad I did!” ~GourmondeGirl

Tall, Dark, and Royal makes me a very happy reader. I highly recommend this story and I hope that you all will pick up each and every book in this series and savor them as I have. I eagerly await the next instalment of the Renegade Royals and Vanessa Kelly’s masterful storytelling.” ~5 Moons, Book Obsessed Chicks

“It is a beautiful love story about two people who survive the hardships in their lives and find themselves with another chance at happiness if they can overcome their pasts. Vanessa writes stunning stories with adventure, that are emotionally satisfying and a true pleasure to read. If you have not read The Renegade Royal Series, now is the time to start.” ~The Reading Wench

“My, oh my! This novella was absolutely fantastic. Full of intrigue, and the perfect amount of romance. This is my first book from Ms. Kelly, and while it’s 2.5 books into the series, I’m eager to read the others now. Dominic Hunter is a hero definitely worth swooning over, and I absolutely adore the torch he held for Chloe Steele after all these years.” ~5 stars, Layna Pimentel

“Finally Dominic gets his happy ending. I know it’s really only the 4th story in but Dominic is such a pivotal character throughout each and every book that we needed his story NOW…while Tall, Dark and Royal is just a novella there is so much texture and richness to this love story that it feels like a thousand page novel. Beautifully written! Especially since Ms. Kelly doesn’t rest on what was but creates a dangerous and intriguing story that brings these two together for good!” ~Bodice Rippers Reviews

“A really well-crafted novella that shows the author’s skill for plotting and characterization, and has me anxious to read the other titles in the series.” ~I am, Indeed

“There are some books that you pick up and they make you squee like a rabid fangirl. This was one of them for me. I loved Tall, Dark and Royal. So much.” ~5 stars, Books Like Breathing

“I really enjoyed Tall, Dark & Royal. I found it to be well-written, with characters I really liked. Even though its only a novella the story is full of suspense and romance; what else could you ask for in a story. If you haven’t yet tried her this is the perfect book to do so.” ~Romancing The Readers

Tall, Dark, and Royal was a sweet historical romance novella that I truly enjoyed. Romance lovers, this one is worth looking up.” ~4 roses, Imagine a World

Lost in a Royal KissSecrets for Seducing a Royal BodyguardConfessions of a Royal BridegroomTall, Dark and RoyalHow to Plan a Wedding for a Royal SpyHow to Marry a Royal HighlanderThe Season for LovingThe Buccaneer DukeThree Renegades and a Baby

Village of Camberwell

April, 1815

Dominic Hunter wheeled his curricle between the iron-mounted gates that bracketed the forecourt of the handsome Jacobean manor house. Peter, his groom, leapt down before the carriage came to a full stop at the portico.

“Stable the horses,” Dominic ordered. “I don’t know how long I’ll be staying.”

“Aye, Sir Dominic. I’ll give ’em a rubdown myself.”

Dominic had crammed the horses more than he normally would on the busy road from London to Camberwell because the message he’d received this morning had made him break out in a cold sweat.

Chloe is in need of your assistance. She claims to be fine, but I think it best you come immediately. 

—Griffin Steele

How typical of Griffin to refer to his mother by her given name, as typical as his lamentably terse note. But Griffin would never summon Dominic unless the situation called for it, which meant things were far from fine.

The fact that it was Griffin rather than Chloe asking for his help was an added irritant. After her dramatic and emotional reappearance a month ago, Chloe had subsequently adopted a calm, carefully polite manner to keep Dominic at bay. She’d spent the long years of their separation building walls around her heart, walls she seemed reluctant to dismantle. Dominic understood better than anyone the wounds Chloe had suffered. Any reasonable man would give her the time she needed to adjust to the momentous change in her circumstances. After all, for years, Dominic and Griffin had feared she was dead. To have her suddenly back in their lives was a shock for all of them.

Still, when it came to Chloe, Dominic was anything but reasonable. He wanted to blast through the barriers to reach the sweet, innocent girl he’d loved, the girl he’d spent fourteen long years searching for. That Chloe was still sweet was undeniable, and her innocent and loving heart burned bright and true as the North Star. But layered over those gentle qualities was a wary approach to life that spoke of abuse and pain and exposure to an uncaring world. Every time Dominic saw Chloe’s gaze turn inward, her fawn-colored eyes growing dark with quiet desolation, he wanted to tear something—or someone—apart.

He was one of the most powerful men in England, but in the face of Chloe’s pain he felt utterly helpless.

Hill, Chloe’s butler, opened the door at Dominic’s knock and ushered him into the old-fashioned entrance hall.

“You’re expected, Sir Dominic.” Concern lent Hill’s aging, narrowed features a sharp look.  “Mrs. Piper and Mr. and Mrs. Steele are waiting in the back drawing room.”

Although Chloe’s true name was Steele, she’d been living in Camberwell for years as Mrs. Piper, a wealthy but reclusive widow from Northumberland. She’d maintained that fictitious persona with rigorous discipline. It had prevented even Dominic, with the resources of the Intelligence Service at his disposal, from finding her. It baffled him why Chloe had chosen to hide when she must have known he’d do anything for her, make any sacrifice necessary to protect her. All she would say was that she’d been convinced everyone thought her dead, and she’d believed her sudden reappearance in their lives would be too disruptive.

It was the most absurd thing he’d ever heard. And he was beginning to suspect she’d convinced herself that she was more a burden than a blessing in their lives, and that her past would bring her son and her friends nothing but shame and disgrace.

“How is she?” Dominic asked.

The butler grimaced. “Mrs. Piper is being obstinate, I’m sorry to say. Told me I was an old hen to carry on so.”

Dominic wasn’t surprised by Hill’s blunt speech. The man was more than Chloe’s butler—he was a trusted confidant and had for years been providing discreet assistance in her sometimes dangerous charitable work. Dominic suspected he provided another kind of support, too, standing in for the father she’d lost a long time ago.

“I suppose if she can gripe at you, then she’s not in too bad a shape,” Dominic said cautiously.

“You don’t know Mrs. Piper,” Hill muttered.

And that was the problem, wasn’t it? Dominic was afraid he didn’tknow Chloe anymore. He didn’t know what she wanted and, more importantly, what she needed from him.

He followed Hill along the low-ceiled hallway of the old house, taking in the quiet. On most days when Dominic came to call, at least three or four of the girls would be rambling noisily about or taking lessons with Chloe. There were also two young women who’d recently given birth, finding shelter under Chloe’s generous protection.

All told, there were currently seven girls at the manor, all either pregnant or with infants. Every single one had been abandoned by her family or forced away until after the pregnancy. Through word of mouth or the help of a mutual friend, they had found their way to the refuge of Chloe’s house in the countryside.

But today, tension held the unnaturally quiet house in its grip, as if something violent had fractured the security Chloe provided for her charges.

When Hill opened the door at the end of the hall, Dominic strode through but came to a sudden halt, his heart jolting at the sight of Chloe reclining on a chaise with a bandage wrapped around her head. Justine Steele, Dominic’s godchild, sat next to her holding a teacup. Lounging in a nearby armchair was Griffin Steele, Chloe’s son and Justine’s husband.

“What the hell is going on here?” Dominic snapped. He glared at Griffin, who had a knack for finding or, indeed, creating trouble. “How did your mother get hurt?”

Griffin let out a dramatic sigh as he came to his feet. “You have a lamentable tendency to blame me for everything, Dominic. I had nothing to do with Mother’s, er, little accident.”

Chloe threw aside her lap robe and stood. “Dominic, I’m fine. There’s nothing for you to worry about.”

But when she wobbled, Justine had to make a grab for her. In an instant, Dominic was by Chloe’s side. “For God’s sake, sit down.” He gently lowered her back to the chaise.

Her tall, slender body felt fragile in his hands, as if the merest touch could break her. But appearances were deceptive. For all her pale, delicate beauty, Chloe had a strong will and character that had withstood years of tribulation.

“You know the doctor told you to stay off your feet and rest,” Justine affectionately scolded.

“I’m not sure how she’s supposed to rest with you lot fussing over her,” Griffin said. “Hill has been popping in and out like a character from a farce, not to mention all the girls sneaking in. It’s a bloody circus.”

Justine frowned at her husband. “They’re worried about Chloe.”

Dominic throttled back his impulse to snap. “I would be most grateful if someone—anyone—would answer my question. Wait,” he said to Justine. “First, tell me what the physician said.”

“Perhaps you might try asking Chloe, Sir Dominic,” Chloe said with pointed courtesy. “As you can see, she is perfectly capable of speech.”

Dominic mentally winced. Chloe only used his title when annoyed with him. “I’m sorry, my dear. But it was a shock to come upon you looking like you’d been set upon by thieves.”

Thankfully, she flashed him a wry, forgiving smile. “Apology accepted.” She shifted her legs and patted the seat of the chaise. “Sit down and let Justine get you a cup of tea while I’ll tell you all about it. Not that I wanted to drag you into this ridiculous and unfortunate episode, but my son insisted. Who knew Griffin could fuss and worry as much as any old maid?”

Her son—one of the most ruthless and powerful men in London—rolled his eyes but declined to defend himself.

“What happened to your head?” Dominic eyed the bandage wrapped around her brow.

“I bumped it, that’s all,” Chloe replied. “The doctor insisted I wear this silly thing and my son won’t let me take it off.”

Griffin narrowed his dark gaze on his mother. “You didn’t bump your head. It was bumped for you when that bloody bastard shoved you into the wall. And you will keep that bandage on for as long as is required.”

Dominic had been reaching to accept a cup from Justine, but his hand froze in midair. Slowly, he turned to Chloe. “Someone shoved you?”

Chloe’s shoulders unconsciously hiked up a notch. “Yes, but it wasn’t a very hard shove. Truly, I’m fine.

Dominic could hear Griffin grinding his teeth from several feet away. He sympathized, but the situation was confusing enough without him losing his temper, at least not until he’d apprised himself of the facts.

But once he tracked down the man who had dared to touch Chloe, the bastard would rue the day he was born.

Tall, Dark and Royal

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