A Return of the Wicked Earl (Serial Novel)

Annalise was a wide-eyed debutante when she fell in love with Blake and wed him. The marital bliss did not last long, however. Her husband started treating her abominably and three months later completely disappeared. Now, after one year of absence, he’s suddenly back and determined to prove he’s a changed man. Only Annalise is not as naive as she once was. She is not about to fall for his false platitudes, relentless wooing and scorching kisses again.

Blake, the Earl of Payne, had it all: a hefty inheritance, a respectable title, a beautiful wife. But it all crumbles when he is abducted, tortured and almost killed three months after his wedding. Now that he’s back he is determined to win back his wife and take revenge on whomever is responsible for his abduction. Neither task is going as planned, especially since his wife has moved on and his abductors have a plan of their own.

Chapter 1

Spring, 1741

Blake heard a clink of metal as he tried to move his hands. Right, he was shackled. He almost forgot. His head lolled forward as it was too heavy for his neck to hold upright. He opened his eyelids and saw his bare chest covered in dirt and blood, with slash marks and burns all over his flash. His breeches were likewise torn and frayed. At least they were still keeping him modest. He heard a menacing snort and raised his head.

“Passed out again, mate?” said the man in front of him.

He was a big man, over six feet tall, broad shouldered and with fists like sledgehammers. His long hair was dirty and covered with blood, probably Blake’s, his clothing filthy and disarranged. He was holding a small hammer and a tall, dirty, rusty nail in his hands.

“I need you awake,” he growled between his brown, crooked teeth. “So you can tell me what you know about them shadows. Otherwise—” He looked appreciatively at his nail and rotated it between his fingers. A not too subtle gesture meant to convey exactly what would happen to Blake if he didn’t divulge the information the bandit wanted from him. The bandit shrugged his enormous shoulders, bringing the nail and a hammer into the thin line of light cracking through the veiled window, making the instruments glint ominously.

Blake felt sweat running down his forehead and the back of his neck. The sight of that rusty nail alone would make Blake blab all the secret in the World, even if he hadn’t already endured hours of torture. The trouble was, Blake had no idea what the foul smelling ruffian wanted from him. He was prattling on about some covert group of criminals called The Shadows. Blathering on about how nobody knew who their leader was and where they were based. And somehow he thought that Blake had answers to these questions. Well, Blake hadn’t.

He tried pleading ignorance. He tried professing innocence, denying any knowledge of The Shadows and anything related to them, but it did no good. In fact, it only made things worse, since his captor enjoyed making him cry and beg. The nail and hammer were only the latest additions to other cruel implements the thug used on Blake’s body. Besides that, he was starved and showered exclusively with ice-cold water.

Blake quickly learned that keeping silent was the only way to lessen the abuse inflicted by his tormentor. That knowledge, however, didn’t prevent his limbs from trembling and his throat from making small, pathetic mewling sounds in terror. He shut his eyes tightly, so he wouldn’t see his knees shaking in trepidation.

“You not speaking again,” the thug continued his monologue. “Which means only one thing.”

He advanced on Blake, kneeled in front of him, and Blake felt the nail being placed right below his kneecap. Blake tried to pull his leg away with a whimper, but he was shackled to the floor by the ankle and the movement only caused him pain. He gritted his teeth and started breathing frantically in panic.

“The Shadows, mate.”

Blake opened his eyes and saw the thug looking up at him. Then he suggestively placed a hammer to the bud of the nail and lifted his eyebrows.

“No?” The thug lifted the hammer, preparing for the swing, not taking his eyes off Blake.

“NO!”

Read the rest here…

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