When her younger sister is abducted, strong-willed Emma Linley-Kirov will make a deal with the devil himself to rescue her. Devastatingly handsome, Dimitri Tipova is a scoundrel, seducer
and the only man who can help her, though his motive is cold, hard vengeance. Emma dares to trust him, but at what price?
As prince of Saint Petersburg's underworld, Dimitri has wealth, power, womeneverything but revenge against his nefarious father. Emma is an enchanting means to an end. But as their dangerous pursuit sweeps them from the ballrooms of Russia to the steamy streets of Cairo, his savage desire for her grows. And leads him to a crossroads between his dark obsession and the promise of love.
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About the Author
Bestselling author Rosemary Rogers, dubbed "The Queen of Historical Romance" by the New York Times Book Review, was born into a wealthy family in the colonial splendor of Ceylon, now Sri Lanka. Prone to daydreams and fantasies since childhood, she wrote her first novel at the age of eight, and throughout her teens penned passionately romantic epics in the style of her favorite writers.
Rosemary began her writing career while working full-time as a secretary for the California Parks Department.
A divorced mother of four, Rosemary was struggling to raise her children on a meager secretary's salary. During lunch hours and late at night after the children had fallen asleep, Rosemary put pen to paper, capturing the steamy romantic fantasy that played itself out so vividly in her imagination.
A stickler for detail, Rosemary rewrote her first manuscript 23 times, toiling over the historical accuracies. Until the day her teenage daughter found the manuscript in a drawer, and encouraged her mother to send her novel off to a publishing house.
The hours of revision paid off when the unsolicited, unagented manuscript was accepted immediately for publication.
That novel, Sweet Savage Love, skyrocketed to the top of bestseller lists, and became one of the most popular historical romances of all time. Throughout her career, Rosemary has written over 16 novels, sold millions upon millions of copies worldwide, and her novels have been translated into 11 languages.
Rosemary makes her home in Connecticut.
Read an Excerpt
The village of Yabinsk in the Volga River Basin near Moscow was the typical cluster of low, sturdy homes scattered near a wooden church. On the distant hills the wealthier citizens built their redbrick mansions to overlook the lesser folk, while small fishing boats painted in cheerful colors lined the meandering river.
On the very edge of the village, a three-storied coaching inn with attached stables squatted next to the narrow road leading to Moscow to the south and St. Petersburg to the north. With a tile roof and recently painted shutters the building managed to appear respectable, if not prosperous. It was an image that was enhanced by the meticulously clean foyer and the small chambers upstairs that smelled of wood polish and dried flowers.
Behind the stables was a small wattle-and-daub cottage nearly hidden behind the stone wall that divided the property.
It was little more than a kitchen, a front parlor and two bedchambers in the attic, but it was sturdily built to keep out the worst of the Russian winters and filled with delicate birch and cedar furnishings that were more suitable for the palaces of St. Petersburg.
In truth, Fedor Duscha had been a master craftsman before his untimely death and in great demand by many of the finest noble families. The furniture was worth a tidy sum of rubles, but his daughter Emma Linley-Kirov would have starved before selling it off. It had been wrenching enough to convert her father's precious workshop into the coaching inn for a means to make money for her and her younger sister, Anya.
On this cool autumn day, however, she barely noted the scrolled settee set beneath the window of the parlor or the hutch that held her mother's English china.
Instead, she paced the threadbare carpet, her stomach knotted and her hands shaking as she smoothed them down her plain gown of brown kerseymere. At last she turned to meet the concerned gaze of Diana Stanford, who was currently seated on the settee.
Although nearly ten years older than Emma, the English nanny was her dearest friend. Emma's own mother had been raised in England and after her death there had been a comforting familiarity in Diana's companionship.
A traditional English rose, Diana possessed fair hair and blue eyes that lent her an air of deceptive fragility. Emma on the other hand had inherited her father's honey-brown hair, which she kept pulled into a knot at the nape of her neck, and a pair of hazel eyes that regarded the world with a grim determination that tended to intimidate any who hoped to take advantage of a woman forced to stand on her own.
A necessity for keeping her inn profitable and for raising her sixteen-year-old sister, but decidedly detrimental to her relationship with the local villagers. Most of her neighbors condemned the mere thought of a lady attempting to run her own business, let alone raise an impressionable girl. A proper, well-behaved female depended upon a man. Only an overly forward tart would dare to toss aside convention and remain independent.
The others found her a source of amusement, whispering behind her back and ensuring that she felt suitably unwelcome at the local gatherings.
Until today, she rarely allowed their opinions to trouble her.
"No, you must be mistaken," Diana said, breaking the tense silence. "Anya might be stubborn and occasionally impulsive"
Emma snorted. "Occasionally?"
Diana smiled wryly. Emma's younger, far more beautiful sister was a volatile mixture of absurd fantasies and caprice.
"But she is not utterly bird-witted," her companion continued. "She would never leave her home with two strangers who have no family connection to her."
Emma reluctantly handed over the crumpled note she had found on Anya's empty bed when she had awakened that morning.
"She would if those two strangers happened to be wealthy noblemen who promised her a career upon the stages of Europe."
Diana read through the short missive, her brows drawing together.
"You know how Anya has always dreamed of a glamorous life far away from Yabinsk."
"Fah. What young lady does not fill her head with such nonsense? Every girl in the village has dreamed of attracting the attention of a handsome prince who will carry her away." With a rustle of her pale peach gown, Diana slowly rose to her feet. "Yourself included, Emma Linley-Kirov."
Emma shrugged. Any dream of handsome princes and tender romance had died along with her mother.
"Yes, but most of us put aside such fancies with our dolls. Anya, however, refused to accept there were no such things as fairy tales." She wrapped her arms around her waist, shivering at the cold sense of dread that held her captive. "I blame myself, of course. After father's death I did not devote nearly enough attention to her."
"Good heavens, Emma, you have sacrificed everything to provide a home for your sister. You should take great pride in all you have accomplished."
"Ah, yes, my accomplishments," Emma said, her voice thick with bitterness as she glanced toward the nearby inn. "They are quite amazing."
"Yes, they are, my dear," Diana firmly said. "You were barely more than a babe when your poor mother died and you were forced to assume the duties of the household, not to mention caring for Anya. And then to lose your father." The older woman clicked her tongue. "Well, any other girl would have fled such burdens, or at least have depended upon the charity of others. But not you."
"No, I was determined to stand on my own, no matter what the cost."
"Which you have done with remarkable success."
Emma shook her head. Her friend was too loyal to mention the fact that Emma's accomplishments had barely provided the essentials for her sister. And that she had managed to ostracize them both from local society.
"At the cost of Anya."
Emma breathed in deeply, inanely astonished by the familiar scents of wood smoke and freshly baked bread. Since she discovered Anya's disappearance, she had felt as if the world had become a strange nightmare.
"I convinced myself that I was teaching Anya the importance of being self-sufficient," she rasped. "Now I have to wonder if I was merely being selfish."
"Selfish?" Diana wrapped a comforting arm around Emma's shoulders. "You are the most generous and kind-hearted young lady I have ever known."
Emma reluctantly forced herself to overcome the pained embarrassment that had held her silent since her father's death nearly four years before.
"No, Diana, I could have accepted Baron Kostya's offer."
"Offer?" The older woman dropped her arm and stepped back in shock. "He proposed?"
"Not marriage, although his arrangement did include having me in his bed." Emma grimaced, the memory of the night the baron had arrived on her doorstep with her favorite apricot-and-honey sponge cake seared into her mind. God almighty, she had been so stupidly naive. He had assured her that he was there to ease the burdens she was carrying and she had wildly imagined that he intended to invest in her coaching inn, or even to offer Anya a position as a maid at his mansion overlooking the village. It had never entered her mind that he would shame her with the demand that she become his mistress. Or his threat to make her life a misery if she did not accept. "No. He wished to offer me carte blanche and he was prepared to be remarkably generous."
"Good heavens." Diana pressed a hand to her impressive bosom. "That certainly explains his odd behavior. One day he was singing your high praises and the next"
"He treated me as if I carried the plague," Emma finished, not needing to add that his cruel attitude had only encouraged the villagers to turn their backs on her.
"Why did you not tell me?" Diana breathed.
Emma plucked at the frayed hem of her sleeve, a familiar sickness rolling through the pit of her stomach.
She had been horrified by the baron's offer, but more than that, she had been deeply hurt.
Once her family had been highly respected in the area, and she could have chosen from a number of eager suitors. The very fact that the baron had felt free to offer such a shameful arrangement had revealed just how far she had fallen.
"It is hardly something I wished to discuss," she muttered. "I was desperate to avoid any further gossip."
Diana regarded her with sympathy. She better than anyone understood the sacrifices a woman on her own was forced to make.
"Well, I must admit that I would have counseled you to decline such a scandalous offer, but there is no denying that he is quite wealthy and I do not doubt his offer to have been generous."
"Generous enough to ensure I could have devoted myself to Anya rather than to keeping a roof over our head."
"Yes, I suppose so, but that is no assurance that Anya would not have had her head turned just as easily."
"We both know it would have been far less likely." Emma waved a hand to encompass the barren room. "Not only would she have possessed the small luxuries she has always desired, but I would have had the opportunity to look after her properly. She spent far too much time alone."
Without warning, Diana reached to grab her hand, her eyes dark with concern.
"Hear this, Emma. You are not to blame."
"But I am." Emma heaved a sigh. "I could not bear to sacrifice my virtue, and now Anya is paying for my foolish pride."
"If you must blame someone, then it should be those horrid strangers for taking advantage of a silly young girl. What sort of gentlemen would do such a thing?"
Emma's aching fear was replaced with a flare of pure fury.
When the two elegant travelers had first arrived at her coaching inn she had been delighted. They were not only swift to pay their bills, but they were lavish with their tips. She had already begun to imagine the small Christmas gifts she could purchase with the extra funds.
Now she would give everything she possessed if they had never come to Yabinsk. "No true gentlemen."
Diana blinked. "You believe they were imposters?"
She gave a restless shake of her head. "I am not certain what I believe, but I know I must do something."
"What can you possibly do?"
That was the question, was it not?
When she first discovered Anya missing, she had been too shocked and bewildered to consider what should be done. She simply couldn't accept that her sister had truly allowed herself to be carried off by strangers.
Eventually, however, the fierce determination that had allowed her to survive any number of disasters had her thrusting aside her pained sense of guilt and considering how to rescue Anya.
"Patya overheard the men in the stables speaking of their return to St. Petersburg. At the time he thought nothing of it, but when I went to the stables to discover precisely when the gentlemen had snuck away, he conveyed their conversation."
Diana's grip on her fingers became positively painful as she regarded Emma with disbelief.
"You intend to follow them?"
"Emma, please do not be hasty," Diana pleaded. "You cannot possibly travel to St. Petersburg on your own."
"I will take Yelena with me," Emma assured her, referring to the aging maid who assisted at the coaching inn. "If we catch the stage this afternoon, we should be in St. Petersburg within two days."
"I am quite determined, Diana, and you know it is a waste of effort to argue with me," Emma firmly interrupted the looming lecture.
The older woman pressed her lips together in disapproval. "Always assuming you manage to arrive in St. Petersburg unscathed, how do you propose to find Anya? St. Petersburg is not a quiet village where neighbors are well-known to one another. You could search for weeks and never cross her path."
Emma smiled wryly. She might be a provincial old maid, but she was not without a measure of common sense. She had known from the moment she'd made the decision to travel to St. Petersburg that she could not expect to stumble across Anya.
"I intend to request Herrick Gerhardt's assistance."
"Gerhardt? The emperor's advisor?"
"Yes. He is rumored to possess mysterious powers that allow him to be aware of all that occurs in the empire. There are those who refer to him as the 'Spider' for his ability to spin webs that capture even the most clever of traitors."
Diana stepped back, studying Emma as if she feared she'd taken leave of her senses.
"Whatever they may call him, Herrick Gerhardt is one of the most powerful gentlemen in Russia. You cannot just arrive on his doorstep."
"As a matter of fact, I can."
"Do not fret." Emma held up a slender hand. "He is related to my mothera distant cousin I believeand he sent a very kind letter after Father's death inviting me to call upon him if he could ever be of service to me."
Diana did not appear particularly reassured. "I do not approve of this dangerous scheme."
Emma did not particularly approve of it herself.
Unfortunately she had no choice.
"Anya is all I have left in this world," she said, her voice raw with suppressed emotion. "I will not fail her again."