Julie Garwood, New York Times bestseller and undisputed queen of romance, knows how to tell a great love story: Give us some English dukes and a secret past, and we’re sold!
In THE LION’S LADY, feisty Christina dares not surrender to the love of an arrogant nobleman unless she reveal her secret…and sacrifice her promised destiny. Check out this beautiful, brand-new cover and read on for an exclusive excerpt!
London, England, 1810
Lettie’s screams were getting weaker.
Baron Winters, the physician in attendance to the Marchioness of Lyonwood, leaned over his patient and frantically tried to grab hold of her hands. The beautiful woman was writhing in agony. She was clearly out of her head now and seemed determined to tear the skin off her distended abdomen.
“There, there, Lettie,” the physician whispered in what he hoped was a soothing tone. “It’s going to be all right, my dear. Just a bit longer and you’ll have a fine babe to give your husband.”
The baron wasn’t at all certain Lettie even understood what he was saying to her. Her emerald-green eyes were glazed with pain. She seemed to be staring right through him. “I helped bring your husband into this world. Did you know that, Lettie?”
Another piercing scream interrupted his attempt to calm his patient. Winters closed his eyes and prayed for guidance. His forehead was beaded with perspiration, and his hands were actually shaking. In all his years, he’d never seen such a difficult laboring. It had gone on much too long already. The Marchioness was growing too weak to help.
The door to the bedroom slammed open then, drawing the baron’s attention. Alexander Michael Phillips, the Marquess of Lyonwood, filled the doorway. Winters sighed with relief. “Thank God you’re home,” he called out. “We were worried you wouldn’t return in time.”
Lyon rushed over to the bed. His face showed his concern. “For God’s sake, Winters, it’s too early for this to happen yet.”
“The baby has decided otherwise,” Winters replied.
“Can’t you see she’s in terrible pain?” he shouted. “Do something!”
“I’m doing everything I can,” Winters yelled back before he could control his anger. Another spasm caught Lettie, and her scream turned Winter’s attention back to her. The physician’s shoulders heaved forward with his effort of restraining her. The Marchioness wasn’t a small woman by any means. She was extremely tall and well rounded. She fought the physician’s hold on her shoulders with a vengeance.
“She’s out of her mind, Lyon. Help me tie her hands to the posts,” Winters ordered.
“No,” Lyon shouted, clearly appalled by such a command. “I’ll hold her still. Just be done with it, Winters. She can’t take much more. God, how long has she been this way?”
“Over twelve hours now,” Winters confessed. “The midwife sent for me a few hours ago. She ran off in a panic when she realized the baby isn’t in the proper position for birthing,” he added in a whisper. “We’re going to have to wait it out and pray the baby turns for us.”
Lyon nodded as he took hold of his wife’s hands. “I’m home now, Lettie. Just a little longer, my love. It will be over soon.”
Lettie turned toward the familiar voice. Her eyes were dull, lifeless. Lyon continued to whisper encouragement to his wife. When she closed her eyes and he believed she was asleep, he spoke to Winters again. “Is it because the baby is almost two months early that Lettie is having so much difficulty?”
The physician didn’t answer him. He turned his back on the Marquess to lift another cloth from the water basin. His motions were controlled, angry, but his touch was gentle when he finally placed the cool cloth on his patient’s brow. “God help us if she gets the fever,” he muttered to himself.
Lettie’s eyes suddenly opened. She stared up at Baron Winters. “James? Is that you, James? Help me, please help me. Your baby is tearing me apart. It’s God’s punishment for our sins, isn’t it, James? Kill the bastard if you have to, but rid me of it. Lyon will never know. Please, James, please.”
The damning confession ended with a hysterical whimper.
“She doesn’t know what she’s saying,” Winters blurted once he’d recovered his composure. He wiped the blood away from Lettie’s lips before adding, “Your wife is delirious, Lyon. The pain rules her mind. Pay no heed to her rantings.”
Baron Winters glanced over to look at the Marquess. When he saw the expression on Lyon’s face, he knew his speech hadn’t swayed the man. The truth had won out after all.
Winters cleared his throat and said, “Lyon, quit this room. I’ve work to do here. Go and wait in your study. I’ll come for you when it’s over.”
The Marquess continued to stare at his wife. When he finally lifted his gaze and nodded to the physician, his eyes showed his torment. He shook his head then, a silent denial, perhaps, of what he’d just heard, and abruptly left the room.
His wife’s screams for her lover followed him out the door.
It was finished three hours later. Winters found Lyon in the library. “I did everything I could, Lyon. God help me, I lost both of them.”
The baron waited several minutes before speaking again. “Did you hear what I said, Lyon?”
“Was the baby two months early?” Lyon asked.
Winters didn’t immediately answer. He was slow to recover from the flat, emotionless tone in Lyon’s voice. “No, the baby wasn’t early,” he finally said. “You’ve been lied to enough, son. I’ll not add to their sins.”
The baron collapsed in the nearest chair. He watched Lyon calmly pour him a drink, then reached forward to accept the glass. “You’ve been like a son to me, Lyon. If there is anything I can do to help you through this tragedy, only tell me and I’ll do it.”
“You’ve given me the truth, old friend,” Lyon answered. “That is enough.”
Winters watched Lyon lift his goblet and down the contents in one long swallow.
“Take care of yourself, Lyon. I know how much you loved Lettie.”
Lyon shook his head. “I’ll recover,” he said. “I always do, don’t I, Winters?”
“Yes,” Winters answered with a weary sigh. “The lessons of brotherhood have no doubt prepared you for any eventuality.”
“There is one task I would give you,” Lyon said. He reached for the inkwell and pen.
Long minutes passed while Lyon wrote on a sheet of paper. “I’ll do anything,” Winters said when he couldn’t stand the silence any longer.
Lyon finished his note, folded the sheet, and handed it to the physician.
“Take the news to James, Winters. Tell my brother his mistress is dead.”