One Magic Night
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A man branded a scoundrel by the ton, his family the scandalous Sinning Flynns . . .
A woman burdened with the reputation of her own promiscuous family . . .
Fate brings them together on one magical night . . .
Though he physically resembles his older brothers, Aiden Flynn is not close to being a rogue, though Polite Society lumps him in with the other Sinning Flynns, one of England’s most notorious families. He is more like his maternal grandfather, the Duke of Savernake, the man Aiden models himself after.
Lady Larissa Warren, the product of her mother’s long-ago affair with Viscount Silverton, has yet to find a suitor, thanks to her amoral family’s behavior. Her legal father, Lord Campton, has issued Larissa an ultimatum—find a husband at the annual Savernake Stag Ball—or he will see her married to the ancient Lord Langdon.
A chance meeting brings Aiden and Larissa together just as Aiden learns from his dying grandfather that he will inherit Larkhaven from the duke—if Aiden finds a bride at tonight’s Stag Ball—and weds her before the duke’s impending death.
Aiden decides Larissa is the one for him, but she is determined never to wed a man who would be unfaithful to her, especially one of the infamous Sinning Flynns. Will Aiden convince Larissa he is nothing like his rakehell brothers and win the auburn-haired beauty’s hand?
Find the answer in One Magic Night!
Release date: December 12, 2022
Publisher: Dragonblade Publishing
Print pages: 149
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One Magic Night
He looked like his Flynn brothers. Moved like them. Spoke like them.
Yet Aidan Flynn felt nothing like a Sinning Flynn.
His family had descended from a long-ago Irish pirate who had fallen in love with a Cornish lass and settled in Cornwall. Flynns had continued the family tradition of smuggling for several generations, including his own father, Sean Flynn. Da had continued smuggling and apparently was involved in other mysterious activities, which the crown had decided to reward, much to the chagrin of the ton. King George III had bestowed upon the commoner from Cornwall an earldom and land. With the title Earl of Sinbrook, a large estate, and his own vast wealth behind him, Da had married a duke’s daughter, who had jilted her betrothed for the darkly handsome Sean Flynn.
And thus was born the legend of the first Sinning Flynn.
Though Da had taken the Flynn family business to legitimacy in recent years and now owned a large shipping empire with a huge fleet that traveled the globe, his four sons’ legacies had been to live down the unscrupulous Sinbrook reputation. The ton had no idea why the king had bestowed an earldom upon Sean Flynn. Thanks to George’s periodic bouts of madness, no one in Polite Society was quite sure if it had been the mad king who had presented the gift of an earldom—or the rational one who appeared from time to time.
That led to the vicious gossip throughout the ton as to the enigmatic circumstances surrounding the Earl of Sinbrook. That murkiness, coupled with Da’s smuggling and Mama’s rejection of her oh-so-suitable fiancé, led to the division in Polite Society, where half its members accepted the Flynns because of their ties to the crown and the powerful, influential Duke of Savernake, while the other half rudely ignored them—although no one had ever been brave enough to give any Flynn the cut direct.
Instead of trying to assimilate into the ton and show they were beyond reproach, Aidan’s three older brothers had embraced the family’s blackened reputation, showing Polite Society that they were even wilder and more reckless than Sean Flynn ever dreamed of being.
From a young age, Aidan had sensed he was different from his brothers, more like his mother’s side of the family. His brothers were all intelligent men, yet they scoffed at book learning. Carmack and Kellen had refused to go to university altogether, though Rory had attended Oxford. Aidan had insisted upon going to Cambridge, which his beloved grandfather, the Duke of Savernake, had attended. Aidan was drawn from an early age to Doo, his nickname for his grandfather. Apparently, he had not been able to say Duke when he was learning to talk and it had come out Doo. The nickname had stuck and Aidan was the only one of the four Flynn brothers who called the duke such.
He had insisted upon spending a portion of his summers with Doo after he turned eight. Those times away from his family with his grandfather were treasured ones. Doo took him out on his various estates and taught Aidan the lessons needed on how to run one successfully. Not that Aidan would ever inherit such an estate. As the youngest of four brothers, he would not inherit the title Earl of Sinbrook or receive any of the entailed lands belonging to the earldom. Any land he got, he would have to purchase himself. That had been a goal he’d set from an early age.
Because of it, he had also worked in his father’s shipping business. Aidan had a head for figures, the same as Doo, and he worked closely with the manager who kept the ledgers for Flynn Fleet. By the time Aidan finished university and came to work fulltime in his father’s shipping enterprise, Da had told Aidan he was the best prepared of all his Flynn sons to run a business. Any kind of business.
The gleam in his father’s eyes let Aidan know that Da approved of him stepping out on his own. So while he maintained an office at Flynn Fleet in Falmouth, most of his time was spent managing his own private business.
He supposed it was in his blood to be a smuggler as his ancestors had been. While his three older brothers often took risks in real life, Aidan was willing to take them as he smuggled goods. And smuggling was very, very profitable with the war with Bonaparte going on. His ships had increased in size and number and now, at twenty-eight, Aidan was wealthy in his own right, independent of his family’s wealth. Mostly, he smuggled French luxury goods, keeping Doo and his ton friends in French brandy, silks, and perfumes. The war had gone on for what seemed to be forever but with the new allied coalition formed, consisting of England and six other powerful countries, Aidan knew the day was coming when the Little Corporal would taste defeat. The English were notoriously stubborn people and felt their naval superiority, coupled with the officers among their ranks, would defeat Bonaparte in the end, no matter how long it took.
Until then, Aidan planned to make as much money as possible. When the war was finally over, he would be able to retire with a massive fortune.
He supposed he would start some kind of legitimate business after that, most likely in shipping since it was what he knew. A part of him, though, longed for the life of a country gentleman. He was interested in crops and breeding animals, especially horses. Doo had taught him quite a bit about horse breeding and encouraged his grandson in his endeavor. Because of it, Aidan actually had bought a few racehorses and kept a small stable. Instead of living near the sea, he might move further inland, closer to Doo, whose ducal country seat at Summerwood was twenty miles northeast of Dorchester.
All this led him to the idea that he would need to take a wife. Especially if he wanted to pass on his wealth and property to someone other than his brothers or their children.
That would be hard to do, though, thanks to the reputation he held as a Sinning Flynn. Carmack and Kellen, the two oldest Flynns, had been outrageous rakehells, cutting a large swath through the ton with their sexual escapades. Rory was now following in their footsteps. He was a womanizer, gambler, and known card sharp. The few times Aidan had bothered to attend events during the Season over the past few years, his brothers’ reputations had preceded him. Though he was the grandson of a duke and the son of an earl, many in Polite Society viewed him with suspicion, mainly because of the Sinning Flynns’ reputations and labeled him thus.
Because he wanted to fit into his family, Aidan had tried to live up to his brothers’ roguish reputations, figuring he would never take a bride who came from the ranks of Polite Society and might as well enjoy his time whenever he came to town. When in London, he frequented gaming hells and found himself winning more often than not. He had one of the finest pairs of matched bays and would race anyone in his phaeton through Hyde Park, the higher the stakes, the better.
He had never lost a race.
He also had had a string of mistresses over the years when he came to town, keeping away from the houses of ill repute. He found he preferred getting his satisfaction from a mistress. He knew what to expect from them and the understanding was reciprocated on their part. Usually, their affair would last a few weeks, no longer than a month or so, and then he would end it amicably, awarding his mistress with some pretty bauble for her time.
He was back in London now for the Season, arriving late last night. He had not come in the spring when it began because his smuggling operations had needed his full attention. Recently, however, Doo had sent him a letter, asking him to come by summer solstice, when Doo’s famous Stag Ball would be held. The ball achieved its nickname because the Duke of Savernake’s standard was a stag. Aidan and his brothers always tried to attend the Stag Ball, which had a reputation of wild and wonderful things occurring during it. In fact, both Carmack and Kellen had found their brides during this very ball. Even Aidan had heard the old saying that a reformed rogue made for the best husband—and he had witnessed this with his two older brothers. Both Carmack and Kellen had been tamed by strong women and now they stayed happily in Cornwall, not bothering to attend the Season, much as his parents did.
Aidan knew, however, that Rory would be at the Stag Ball, too. He had said as much before he left Cornwall. His hot-headed, brilliant brother had bragged, telling Aidan that he planned to land a bride at the Stag Ball—one taken for revenge.
Without being told, he knew exactly what that would entail—ensnaring one of the daughters of the Earl of Exford. Exford was the man their mother had tossed aside decades ago when she had fallen in love with the new Earl of Sinbrook. Lord Exford had never forgiven his former fiancée for that particular sin. While Exford had married well and had two daughters, he continually badmouthed the Flynns to anyone willing to listen. In fact, Aidan wouldn’t be surprised if had been Lord Exford who had hung the albatross moniker about their necks.
“Sinning Flynns,” he muttered to himself, disgusted by it.
His family was a good one. Hardworking. Loyal to a fault. If only his brothers hadn’t raised so much holy hell when they were in town, leaving him with a reputation already in tatters before he ever stepped into Polite Society.
Aidan rose from his bed and rang for hot water so he could shave himself. He didn’t employ a valet, another breech the ton would never forgive. He thought the idea ridiculous, one man dressing another, as if he weren’t capable of doing so himself. In fact, he thought most of the unwritten rules of Polite Society to be completely absurd. He was only here because Doo had asked him to come. He had no plan to attend any ton events beyond his grandfather’s Stag Ball. He would visit his banker and solicitor while in town. Aidan had men in the same positions back in Falmouth but he also employed ones here in town. He wanted to discuss some of his investments with them because he had plans of adding another ship to his smuggling operations. Since he believed the war would come to an end in the next year or two, Aidan wanted to get as many black market goods out of France as he could, making as much profit as possible.
Then he would see about turning his small enterprise legitimate. Perhaps Da would wish for Flynn Fleet to buy Aidan’s ships. If not, he had made connections in London and could sell off what he owned, making a tidy profit from the sale. Or he might even do what Da had done and become a true, law-abiding citizen and simply operate a small shipping company. He might need to relocate, however, because he wouldn’t want to be in direct competition with Flynn Fleet. And there was still the thought of buying land and breeding racehorses. He was young and still had time before he needed to finalize the plans for his life, including settling down.
A servant appeared with the hot water. “Anything else for you, Mr. Aidan?”
Having arrived at Doo’s London townhouse late last night, Aidan wondered if Rory was already in residence.
“Has my brother arrived by any chance?” he asked.
The servant nodded. “Mr. Rory came four days ago. I haven’t seen him in the last day or two.”
That meant Rory was on a winning streak and had probably stayed at one of the gaming hells he frequented.
“Will His Grace be downstairs for breakfast?”
“His Grace is always at breakfast, come rain or shine, Mr. Aidan.”
The servant left and he washed and shaved before dressing, making his way downstairs to the breakfast room. As he did, he saw the flurry of activity as servants scurried back and forth. With the Stag Ball happening tonight, the household would be a busy one today, reason enough to get out and see to some of his business interests.
He passed Simms, Doo’s longtime butler, and nodded a greeting. Doo thought so much of Simms that he took the butler with him to whichever of the five households he traveled to. Doo once said Simms was brighter and wiser than any man in the House of Lords.
Entering the breakfast room, he saw Doo already present and went to hug his grandfather. Though they regularly exchanged letters, Aidan had not seen his grandfather since last autumn. It surprised him how thin Doo had grown in that span of time. Though eighty, the old man still had a headful of hair, which had finally grayed a decade ago and then turned white during the last two years. As always, his posture was that of a duke, as he sat ramrod straight in his chair.
As Aidan approached, worry filled him. Doo had never appeared old to him yet he seemed so now, prominent lines about his eyes and mouth.
“Good morning, Doo,” he said, embracing his grandfather and inhaling the familiar bergamot scent he always associated with Doo. It alarmed him just how thin Doo was beneath his tailored coat.
“Grandson. How are you?”
“I am well. Business is booming.”
Aidan took a seat to Doo’s right and they spoke of inconsequential things after that, neither man being one to openly speak in front of servants regarding anything of consequence, though many of the ton did so, spilling their secrets as servants waited upon them hand and foot. Doo had emphasized to Aidan from a young age to keep his mouth shut until behind closed doors—and even then speak very softly—because servants listened behind every door.
“What will you do while in town?”
“I plan to see my solicitor and banker and also stop at Tattersall’s. I was hoping you might wish to go with me.”
Doo’s eyes gleamed. “I do love a trip to Tattersall’s. What are you interested in purchasing?”
“This is more of a browsing trip. Unless a particular horse catches my eye.”
“I read in the newspapers how Dandy won his last two races.”
Doo referred to the best racehorse Aidan owned. “Yes, and Galahad will soon be running in his first race.”
“I believe that horse has immense potential.”
They discussed both horses and racing in general and then Doo asked, “Would you care to come to my study? I have a few matters to discuss with you.”
He rose and saw Doo was having a bit of trouble doing the same so he helped move the chair out and assisted his grandfather to his feet. This troubled him. Doo had always been physically fit and of sound mind, even at his advanced age.
“Take my arm,” he urged quietly and Doo did so as they left the breakfast room and moved at a much slower than usual pace to the study.
This room held wonderful memories for Aidan. He and Doo had spent countless hours in it, discussing everything from history to horses to crop rotation. The room smelled faintly of the pipe tobacco Doo frequently used.
He helped seat his grandfather by the window and took a chair opposite him.
“I have things to say to you, Aidan,” Doo began.
“I thought as much when I received your summons to come to town.”
“I know you aren’t much for the Season and its many events.”
“Can you blame me?” he asked, honest as always when in his grandfather’s presence. “Polite Society has never welcomed the Sinning Flynns into their fold. Oh, we are invited to affairs, mainly to allow the ton to be entertained by their gossip regarding us. At least my brothers’ antics have entertained the masses up until now.”
Doo studied him a long moment. “You always have been different from your brothers. Yes, you resemble them physically. I know you have acted in a manner to fit in with them, wenching and gambling and racing. But you have always been more like your mother. Like me.”
It was true. Aidan’s nature was quieter than his boisterous brothers. When he had gone off to university, he had been in his element, studying the classics and history and architecture. Around his family, though, he always tried to fit in—and that meant acting like a Sinning Flynn.
“The ton thinks I am exactly like my brothers. I love them, Doo, you know that. I am as loyal to the Flynns as I can be. But am I one for madcap adventures as they are? No. Oh, I have gone along with them countless times, simply to show them that I am one of them. But my nature is different.”
“I know that, Aidan. And I have a request of you now. You have been such a blessing to me all these years. I am closer to you than my own son.”
Aidan had never liked Uncle Martin, who was the Marquess of Martindale. His mother’s older brother had been bitterly disappointed when she flouted Polite Society and jilted Lord Exford to marry the Earl of Sinbrook. Uncle Martin avoided the Sinning Flynns whenever any of them came to town. Aidan knew he regarded them all as inferior upstarts. The few times Aidan had been in Uncle Martin’s presence, the marquess had displayed such an air of superiority that it sickened him. Aidan was just as embarrassed to be related to Uncle Martin as his uncle apparently felt about the familial connection with all his Flynn nephews.
“I have always enjoyed time spent with you, Doo. You know that.”
Doo’s gaze penetrated to Aidan’s soul. “I have already arranged matters with my solicitors and now I am sharing this information with you. Larkhaven is to be yours. With conditions.”
Shock rippled through him. “What?”
Larkhaven was Doo’s favorite estate, small when compared to Summerwood, the ducal country seat located ten miles northeast of Dorchester in Dorset. Many times when Aidan had come to Doo during the summers, they would wind up journeying to Larkhaven, which was twenty-five miles east of Dorchester and only three miles outside Swanage, a coastal village in southeast Dorset. They both enjoyed being close to the sea and enjoyed hours of sailing and fishing together.
He shook his head vigorously. “You cannot do that, Doo. When you are gone, Uncle Martin will inherit Larkhaven.”
“No, he won’t,” his grandfather said, steel in his voice. “Two of my estates are unentailed, which means I do not have to pass them along to my heir apparent. I know how much you love Larkhaven, Aidan. I want the property to be yours. You love the land. You could continue to have tenants farm it. A portion of it could be used to raise your horses. And you could even settle down and bring up your family there.”
His head swirled with thoughts. It was true. Larkhaven was embedded in his soul. Living there would always bring sweet memories of his times with Doo. Then he recalled what his grandfather had said.
“You mentioned conditions. What exactly would those be?”
“Ah, we get to the heart of the matter now,” Doo said. “You will inherit Larkhaven if you wed in the next two weeks. In fact, that is why I wanted you present this evening. I would prefer that you find your bride at my Stag Ball.”
“Are you joking?” Confusion filled him. “Why would I need to wed within two weeks?”
“Because I am dying.”
Aidan felt as if he’d been punched in the gut. “No,” he said hoarsely.
Doo gazed at him in sympathy. “I am sure you noticed I have lost weight since we last saw one another. I have also grown weak and frail.”
“I don’t believe it,” he said stubbornly, ignoring everything he had seen this morning.
“You must, my boy. I lost my appetite around Christmastime. The doctors—and I have consulted several—all say there is something eating me up inside. This will be my last Stag Ball, though I do hope Martindale will continue the tradition.”
He heard Doo’s words but his mind refused to comprehend a world without Doo in it.
“My brothers would object if you give me land,” he said. “It would anger them that you favored me in such a fashion. I don’t wish to create animosity between us.”
Doo shook his head slowly. “They know how close we are. None of them would care. They have never been interested in land. They are tied to the sea, as Flynns always have been. Besides, they are wealthy in their own rights—and I will bequeath something to each of them, as well. They will not be neglected.
“But you, Aidan, have always seen me for who I am. Not a duke, but a man. The bond between us is unbreakable. I wish for you to realize your own dream. To own land. Land you love. You could move your smuggling operation to Swanage if you must. Frankly, I hope you will decide to step away from it altogether. Being an earl’s son will not protect you if you are caught by the authorities.”
“Why should I retreat? The war is still going on. My profits are skyrocketing. Many of the ton, including your closest friends, greedily look forward to what I provide for them.”
“My advice to you—and I hope you will take it—is to quit while you are ahead. That has been my philosophy when playing cards and I have found it to be useful in other areas of life, as well.”
Doo looked at him sternly. “You are to find a bride at my ball or there will be no Larkhaven for you. I want a wedding no longer than two weeks from today, Aidan. Because I want to see you wed while I still can.”
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