The Forgiven Scoundrel

Secrets have a way of coming to light ….

She never allowed her heart to love another. He had never forgotten her. Will their secrets keep them apart? Or would their love overcome them?

Belle portrayed herself as two different women in London. To the lower class she was Rosie, a young widow who lost her husband too soon. A generous lady who befriended all, always helping those in need. To the peers of the realm, she was the notorious Madame Bellerose. Her establishment in Covent Garden was the most sought after to gain membership. Every gentleman attempted to bed the sultry Belle, but she favored no man with entry to her boudoir. She gave her soul away to one man years ago and there would be no other for her. Belle found contentment in the life she created to survive with her flourishing business and her new friendships. Until the man who stole her heart and abandoned her years ago returned. Phillip dominated her senses, making her crave what they once had. Can Belle forgive Phillip for abandoning her and risk her heart to loving him again?

Lord Phillip Delamont had only one purpose for his return to London. And that was to find the woman he loved. To his surprise, his young son befriended the lady he desired. However, at every turn her friends would thwart his attempts to seek her attentions. His frustrations would only leave him wanting her more. A chance invitation for a game of cards leads Phillip into discovering Belle’s true identity. Once he realized the woman Belle had become his need to make her his again became his primary goal. Can Phillip convince Belle that they are meant to be together forever?

Secrets. As Phillip pursues Belle, they keep their secrets hidden from one another. Secrets that could help to heal their hearts. Will they let their past continue to haunt them? Or will they confess their true love?

The Forgiven Scoundrel is the final book in Laura A. Barnes’s Tricking the Scoundrels series. If you enjoy reading about long lost loves then you’ll love Belle and Phillip’s passionate affair.

Enjoy The Forgiven Scoundrel today.

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Chapter One

Rosalyn stared out the window, jumping at every movement. Her gaze searched the lane for any sign of Phillip’s arrival. He was late. Phillip had promised they would meet this afternoon. She had much to tell him. Rosalyn hoped the joy of her news would bring him the same happiness as she felt. She rested one hand on her flat stomach and smiled. The hour grew late and her need to return home grew closer. But not before Rosalyn spoke with her true love.

The last few months spent in Lord Phillip Delamont’s company had been the most enjoyable time in her life. Rosalyn had never expected to hold a love for another so deeply. The word love didn’t even come close to the emotion she held for Phillip. He was the other half of her soul. She'd known this from the moment their eyes met, the touch of his hand when they danced, the first taste of his kiss invading her senses. The world spun with Phillip in Rosalyn's universe. She reflected on Phillip’s care when they made love for the first time. His gentle, loving nature. His passion. Phillip held himself back for her pleasure until Rosalyn’s curiosity convinced him she wasn’t a fragile miss. Rosalyn’s smile widened, recalling the pleasure Phillip showed releasing his passion. Phillip left no part of her untouched. His kisses, his touch, and the whisper of his voice, wrapped Rosalyn in love.

A flicker outside the window caught Rosalyn’s eye. She peered out from behind the drapes, admiring Phillip riding his horse to the front of the cottage. Rosalyn’s anticipation intensified at the sight of him. His muscular thighs gripped the horse, while his sandy locks blew in the air. Phillip had let his hair grow longer through these summer months. Rosalyn couldn’t wait to brush the hair behind his ears while she welcomed Phillip with a kiss. She whirled away from the window, rushing through the open door to fly into his arms. Phillip caught her and held Rosalyn close. His grasp tightened before abruptly pulling away.

Rosalyn, too caught up in his appearance, didn’t notice Phillip’s serious demeanor. She laughed at his attention and smoothed her dress, trying to press out the wrinkles. Since Phillip had arrived later than they'd planned, Rosalyn would need to leave soon, before her parents discovered that she had snuck away. She would share the news with Phillip and then agree to meet him later after her parents retired for the evening. Rosalyn grabbed his hand and tried to pull him into the cottage. When Phillip wouldn’t budge, she turned.

“Phillip?”

Phillip stared at Rosalyn. There were no words to describe what he must do. He must give her no reason to doubt him. Every cell in his body wanted to gather her close and never let her go. Phillip wanted to spend the rest of his life showering Rosalyn with love. To kiss her lips every morning and devour her body long into the night. She was the very air he breathed. However, his wishes would be forever denied, because of circumstances out of his control. Phillip would never get to awaken with Rosalyn by his side again. Never watch her grow with a child. Never hold her hand.

Phillip took in every inch of Rosalyn. From the moment they met, he had fallen under her spell. Her smile had fooled him. He'd never expected the desirable, sassy, lovable chit packaged under the sweet innocence. From every witty remark to every whisper of love, Rosalyn stole his heart. From every strand of her fiery hair, to her flashing green eyes, to her long lovely legs he wanted to worship at her feet. She would always be Belle to him. It was the special name given to her by him after they first made love. She rang the bell to his heart. Phillip noticed Rosalyn held a secret that she wanted to share with him, but he refused to hear it. It would only make his declaration that much harder to say. What he was about to do would crush her soul. Phillip knew what his news would do, because at this moment his soul was torn apart with bitter resentment.

Rosalyn’s excitement disappeared at the seriousness in Phillip’s gaze. When he wouldn’t respond, Rosalyn stood on tiptoes and tried to press a kiss to his lips. Any other time, this would have loosened her serious lord’s manner. Only this time was different. Phillip didn’t return the kiss, instead pushing her away to stalk across the room. The rejection cut deep. It was as if her touch revolted him. Rosalyn wrapped her arms in front of her. Phillip turned and raked her from head to toe, glaring at her appearance. This was the same judgmental stare Phillip's father had done to Rosalyn the week before, when Phillip made the introductions at his family’s annual ball. Now, Rosalyn took a step back in shock. When his glare continued, she dropped her arms. Rosalyn returned Phillip's stare, refusing to be intimidated by his aristocratic air. His father might have made her feel unworthy, but she wouldn’t allow Phillip to treat her with the same disregard. There must be an explanation for Phillip’s behavior. After Phillip had begged for forgiveness, Rosalyn would announce the news.

When Rosalyn stood proudly before him, Phillip knew in his heart she would survive. He might not, but Rosalyn would. Rosalyn’s resilient character would endure the heartache about to unfold. How Phillip craved to take those pinched lips under his until they melted. To wrap his arms around Rosalyn and reassure her of their love. To have the hostility evaporate. To strip away the dress tightened around her curves and make love one last time. Phillip moved forward before he realized it. Her eyes lit with forgiveness, and this became the fuel to destroy their relationship. Rosalyn forgave too easily. She needed to stand strong with her anger towards his behavior.

When he advanced, Rosalyn thought Phillip had let go of whatever infuriated him, but she was mistaken. Rosalyn could never have prepared herself for the onslaught of pain Phillip would deliver.

“Our time together has come to an end. My father will have the banns read this Sunday for my marriage to Lady Julia Minturn. Since we are to wed within a month’s time, I need to settle my affairs. I cannot be caught amusing myself with the lower gentry. It would not be fair to my intended. I realized what a mistake you were when I invited you to my family’s annual ball. Your inadequate manners and the status of your family made me aware of how unsuited we could ever be. While you have made my time in the country this summer a delightful affair, that is all it ever was. You, my dear, have been a fetching piece of baggage, and I have thoroughly enjoyed teaching you the finer points of lovemaking. Your innocence whetted my appetite to many pleasures that I will find hard to deny myself. But deny I must.”

Rosalyn paled at his cruelty, swaying back and forth. She might even have whispered the word no over and over, but nothing passed from her lips. Instead, the denial was shouted inside her head. Rosalyn’s heart broke into a million pieces when Phillip’s words continued to drone on. His nonchalant attitude confirmed a belief in everything he said. He meant every single word. The coldness in Phillip’s gaze froze Rosalyn still.

Phillip realized he'd convinced Rosalyn when the light vanished from her eyes, replaced by a blankness never seen before. Phillip had to leave now, before he crumbled and admitted to the lies, unable to keep the truth from Rosalyn. With one final look to last him a lifetime, Phillip strode past Rosalyn. When she choked out a sob, Phillip paused at the door. Rosalyn’s pain echoed around him.

“Phillip,” she whispered.

He closed his eyes. Phillip flung the door open and continued to his horse, not once looking back. He climbed onto the saddle and urged the horse into a sprint. He needed to put distance between them.

No matter how far away Phillip traveled from the cottage, the broken pieces of Rosalyn’s heart followed, clinging to his soul.

Rosalyn followed Phillip to the door where she watched him fly away down the country lane. Her legs gave away, and she sank to the floor. Rosalyn leaned her head against the door jamb. Tears trailed along her cheeks, landing on her clasped hands which gently rubbed her stomach, trying to help ease the pain. But the ache would never disappear. The man who she gave her heart to, who she loved with every fiber of her being, had dismissed her as one would a servant.

Phillip had never loved Rosalyn as she loved him. Rosalyn had thought she knew the true Phillip. Wasn’t he the other half of her soul? The words he'd spoken couldn’t be real. A nightmare rocked Rosalyn’s world. One she would wake from soon while Phillip held her in his arms, soothing her with loving words. Belle brought one hand up and touched her heart.

Yes, all would be well. Rosalyn had yet to tell Phillip the exciting news. Once she awoke she must tell him. They were to have a baby. A baby created from their love for one another.

© 2021 by Laura A. Barnes