Kimberly Cates Angel's Fall

ISBN 13: 9780671568726

Angel's Fall

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9780671568726: Angel's Fall

A vicar's daughter, Juliet Grafton-Moore is also the proprietress of Angel's Fall, a house where London's ladies of the night recieve shelter from their past. It is an institution despised by distinguished peers and peasants alike, a place where the women learn by Juliet's pristine example -- and no men are allowed. But this rule is soundly broken when Juliet, suddenly besieged by an angry mob, is swept to safety by the dark-eyed, notorious Sabrehawk....

This sword-wielding legend, also known as the dashing Adam Slade, expects merely to fulfill a promise when he takes this spirited beauty under his wing. But upon seeing Juliet he is moved by her gentle blue eyes, her golden curls, and her admirable will. A man who has fought the fiercest of foes, Adam now finds his greatest challenge in protecting this lady...and resisting the unimagined heights of their growing passion....

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Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Chapter 1

Someone had shattered the window again. Juliet Grafton-Moore's hands trembled as she stared at the jagged shards of glass scattered across her desk, the plane of wood gouged by the chunk of brick in its center.

She sucked in a steadying breath, trying to still the erratic thud of her heart. But it plunged to her toes as she glimpsed the grimy bit of paper tied to the missile. Another warning. There had been so many, they blurred in her mind.

Wary, she reached out and tore the note from its mooring. She opened it with fingers that trembled.

This time the window, a crude hand scrawled. Next time your face.

She dropped the missive as if it were a snake, rocked to the core by the violence in the threat. God in heaven, who would write such a hateful thing? But the instant she conjured the question, she crushed it. How could she even begin to count the legions of enemies she'd made? Half of London would cheer at any attack on one of the most notorious and hated women in the vast city.

"You should be used to such nonsense by now, Juliet," she chided herself sternly. "Last week they shattered all the windows on this side of the house."

But never, in the year since she'd left the village of Northwillow, had she been able to become inured to such loathing. Never had she stopped being afraid.

"Papa always said it was all right to be afraid as long as you still did what was right," she murmured. And she was trying. Trying desperately hard.

But she was failing. Miserably. And her gentle father could not help her anymore. A blade of grief imbedded in her heart, twisted, pain rippling out afresh.

He was dead, his compassionate eyes closed forever, his gentle hands stilled, the glow of faith and hope and love he'd worn like a mantle snuffed out.

And she could never return to the rose-draped vicarage in sleepy little Northwillow. Never run to him with her troubles, kneel down at the foot of his chair, and be told everything would be all right.

"Papa, I'm sorry," she whispered through the raw void that was her throat. "I'm so sorry."

Sorry for so many things she could never make right.

That they'd parted in anger. And that the gentle man who had guided so many souls to the gates of heaven had died forsaken by the side of an Irish road, with only a stranger at his side.

Juliet sank down on the worn chair and opened a tiny door in the desk's center. Pooled upon the golden lilies of her mother's necklace lay a note from a man she had never met. She drew it out, her talisman, to shore up her father's belief that most men were good, that dignity of spirited triumphed, and that guardian angels watched over all.

It was unfortunate there was no one to hand but a gruff old soldier like myself to help, but I did the best I could by him. Your father asked me to send you this necklace. I did my utmost not to break the thing. I gave your father my word of honor that I would come to you. I will do so as soon as I am able. Yr. most obedient servant...
Adam Slade

Adam Slade. She'd pictured him so clearly in the months that followed. Grizzled and gallant, with dozens of scars upon his jowly face and gnarled hands. One of those military men who would rather face a firing squad than anyone in petticoats. A man who turned brick red and blustered with excruciating shyness around females. She'd imagined him bent over his desk, blotting up a letter to a girl he'd never met, trying so valiantly to get the words right.

She'd had a hundred questions she'd wanted so desperately to ask about her father's final hours. And she'd wanted with all her heart to thank this generous stranger for caring for her father when he could so easily have turned away. But Adam Slade had never marched up the winding road to the vicarage.

She'd waited for him while she packed her few belongings. She'd watched for him as she tidied up the only home she'd ever known for the sour-faced new vicar and his prim spindle of a wife. And the instant she'd unpacked her inkwell in the little house she'd bought with her modest inheritance, she'd written a letter to old Widow Widdlemarch telling her where the old soldier could find her should he still come seeking.

But he had never come.

Juliet smoothed out the deep creases her fingers had worn into the parchment, an unexpected ache in her chest. Perhaps the old gentleman had grown ill. Maybe he'd even died. She hoped that there had been someone there for him, that he hadn't died alone. But, most assuredly, she was certain that her papa had been waiting to welcome him into heaven.

Every night, she'd offered up prayers for his soul. But considering the crusty old man's kindness and tender heart, she was certain he didn't need them. He'd doubtless spent his life doing just such good works. And he'd not have allowed anyone to frighten him into behaving otherwise.

She stiffened her shoulders, her spirits shored up just a little. She'd clean up the glass as she always did, summon a glazier to mend the window. Her enemies would never drive her out with shattered glass or crude threats. She'd go on just as she had from the beginning. Marching off about her business, smiling in their faces, and wishing them good day as she passed.

Nothing like dignity of spirit to put such cowardly foes in a murderous temper. But it was getting harder to keep her chin up every day.

A timid knock at the door made Juliet straighten her shoulders, her chin bumping up a notch as she smoothed the last ripples of trouble from her lake-blue eyes.

"Come in."

The door creaked open, the woman revealed in the opening hovering there like a wary fawn. Huge dark eyes bruised by secret sorrow peered out from a fragile face that looked far younger than her twenty-two years, the soft pink of her lower lip caught between her teeth. A tumble of dark gold hair flowed in a nimbus of curls around cheeks pale as porcelain.

Juliet felt the familiar urge to hasten over to Elise St. Aubin and shelter her from whatever was draining the light out of her eyes.

"They -- they broke the window again," Elise quavered, eyeing the mess, her lips trembling.

Juliet hastily scooped the scrawled threat up, crumpling it into the depths of the pocket tied round her waist. "I'm beginning to think that the glazier sends his apprentices around to do it so they can be assured of work. I vow, they must be eating beefsteak seven days a week on what I pay them." She flashed the girl a smile, but it died upon her lips. "Elise, what is it? What's wrong?"

"Th -- they're coming again," the young woman's eyes glistened with tears. "A whole m -- mob of them."

Juliet didn't even have to ask who Elise meant. She raced to the window on the east side of the room, and gazed down into the street below. The distinguished homes of bankers and merchants were closed up tight with disapproval where they faced the brick front of Juliet's Angel's Fall, their stuffy facades seeming puffed up with the righteous indignation of a row of crabbed spinsters.

It was as if the buildings were drawing their skirts of stone out of the way, so they wouldn't brush the crowd of people jostling its way toward Juliet's red brick house. Torches ripped orange holes of flame in the twilight, raucous voices slurred with gin battered against the prudish rows of houses. Juliet could imagine the uproar the crowd was causing behind each of her neighbor's shuttered windows.

"Oh, bother!" Juliet said, bolting to her feet. "The last time these fools charged down here, Solicitor Barnes summoned the charley to accuse me of disturbing the public peace!"

"What are you going to do?"

"Go out there and chase them off, of course."

"No, Juliet! You cannot! It's too dangerous!"

"If I don't chase them off, the constable might be inclined to take me on a visit to Newgate!"

She winced, cursing herself for her carelessness as she heard Elise's tiny cry. The girl's face turned ashen with panic -- the legacy of a childhood spent with her debtor father behind the prison's cold walls. "I'm sorry, Elise," Juliet said, laying a hand on the girl's cheek. "I was only jesting. Nothing is going to happen to me."

"You can't be certain of that. They're in an ugly temper, Juliet. Even uglier than last week. I -- I heard them."

Juliet battled the urge to dive under the covers and drag pillows over her head, blotting out the sounds until the mob tired of tormenting her and wandered off to find other prey. She shoved down the lump of dread in her throat and forced a game smile. "Listen to me, sweeting. These people are cowards. Cowards only fling words and nasty threats. But if they're confronted face to face, they flee."

"You don't know these men like I do. You don't know how -- how cruel they can be."

Yes I do, a voice echoed in Juliet's head. I see it every time I look into your eyes, into the eyes of all the other angels of Angel's Fall. And I vow, they'll never be able to hurt you again.

"Stay up here, Elise. Lock yourself in your room. I'll come for you when it's over and we'll go down to the kitchen for a bit of tea."

"N -- no. I...oh, please, Juliet. Please don't do this!" Two huge tears welled up, flowing down Elise's cheeks.

But Juliet was already hastening down the stairs. She heard the hesitant patter of Elise following her, saw a half-dozen other ladies peering at her from doorways or behind corners.

She reached out to open the door when a hand caught her elbow. She turned, to find Elise thrusting something into her hand. A frilly parasol.

"I don't think I'll have to worry about my complexion out there," Juliet said gently.

"I thought...if you needed to -- to drive them away...

Juliet couldn't help the wry smile that tugged at the corners of her mouth as she imagined this surly mob confronted with such a fearsome weapon.

But she'd never hurt the fragile girl's feelings. "Lock the door behind me," she said gently.

Elise nodded.

Sucking in a steadying breath, Juliet opened the portal and stepped out into the twilight. Hostility hit her in a blistering wave, a roar erupting from the mob as they saw her.

She battled not to flinch, show her fear. But the crowd was larger than before, and angrier. Twenty-five, maybe thirty people. Mostly men, from half-pay officers eagerly flinging away their fortunes to rough-hewn sailors red-faced from gin.

But all of them had traits in common as well. Their eyes were heavy-lidded from debauchery, their mouths curled in ugly sneers. At their head sailed a woman decked out in puce satin, her eyes hard as agates, her hands thick and strong as a man's.

Juliet could imagine just how hard those hands could be, cuffing frightened girls as she forced them into the elegant rooms she kept for her wealthy patrons.

Mother Cavendish. Of all the wicked people she'd met in her year in London, there was no one Juliet loathed more. Notorious for her nursery for courtesans, Mother traveled the London stews, paying coin to starving families to sell their most beautiful daughters -- promising they'd never be hungry again. And they hadn't been. They'd traded the crude gnawing in their stomachs for a more exquisite kind of hell.

The merest glimpse of that woman poured steel down Juliet's spine.

"There she is, lads!" Mother Cavendish cried. "There's the woman who's stolen what's ours!"

"We've come for our women!" a half-pay officer of about thirty called out, brandishing his walking stick in the air. "Violet!" he bellowed at the window. "Come out here at once! You know I've got just what you need tucked beneath the flap o' my breeches!"

"Violet has made it quite clear she doesn't want anything to do with you or your breeches," Juliet said steadily. "You've no right to continue harassing her this way."

"No right? I've spent a bloody fortune on that greedy little piece -- sapphire bracelets, silks, and satins. Her bill at the dressmaker's is twice as large as my wife's!"

A roar of laughter erupted from the crowd. "At that price you should own the girl, body an' soul, Percival!" a portly man with missing teeth blustered. "By damn, this bonneted thief stole three of my favorite wenches! I'm not leaving till I get 'em back."

"You'd best get used to sleeping on the cobblestones then. I'll not surrender one of them back to you."

"Then maybe we'll have to take them!" A brutish little man shouldered his way to the front. "I vow, we could tear this place down brick by brick with you inside it, and no one would lift a finger to stop us!"

It was all too true. The danger was, her neighbors would come out with their garden wheelbarrows to help.

"We don't want any trouble," Juliet said.

"Then ye shouldn't o' stole from us" Missing Teeth blustered. "Damnation, I'll not be turned away without Millicent! No bloody interfering thief in petticoats will stop me from taking her!"

Juliet glimpsed Mother Cavendish's sly eyes, her carmined lips twisted in a triumphant grin. "They're mine," the old woman murmured. "Body and soul. And they always will be." The bawd wheeled to the mob. "Fling 'er out of our way, Percival, and let's get what we came for!"

Dread thrummed through Juliet's veins, and it was as if she could feel Elise's terror, as she cowered behind the door. She'd promised she'd keep her safe....

The man called Percival took a threatening step toward Juliet.

She thrust the parasol toward him. "Come one step nearer, and I'll -- I'll stab you!"

"Be careful, or she'll skewer your man-parts so you won't be shaggin' anyone, Percival!" Mother Cavendish jeered.

"I'm bone-deep terrified, so I am! Take a hell of a lot more t' drive me off than a parasol!" The man laughed, a nasty sound. It erupted into a howl of pain as the parasol smacked dead-on into his nose. Blood spurted out, a roar of fury echoing from the rest of the crowd.

Juliet stumbled back a step, her back colliding with the door to Angel's Fall. She didn't dare ask Elise to open it. If she did, these animals would pour into the corridors and chambers.

In a heartbeat, Juliet heard a swish of steel as a swordstick was unsheathed, Percival's features twisting into a brutish snarl. "You'll pay for that, woman! I swear -- "

"You're absolutely. right, Percival," a rich baritone rang out. The crowd split in the wake of a man's massive shoulders. "Someone should definitely take the woman in hand."

Juliet gaped at the daunting figure that jostled toward her. A giant who seemed carved of stone cliffs and midnight. He towered above the other men. His ebony hair was drawn back from a face that was hard as granite, all stark planes and angles. Eyes black as the devil's soul seemed to pierce past the rigid shoulders and determined set of her chin to where her knees were wobbly with terror.

Which one of the poor ladies of Angel's Fall had been at th...

Review:

Irish rebel Adam Slade, the notorious Sabrehawk, is an adventurer, a soldier and swordsman who owes allegiance to none but himself. Until, to his everlasting disgust, he softens and makes a promise to a dying minister that he will travel to England to check on the safety of the minister's daughter. Juliet Grafton-Moore has nothing but fond feelings for the old soldier who eased her father's dying moments. This Sabrehawk has written to her several times in the year since her father's death, each time promising to see her. When the man does finally show up, he's far from the broken down old soldier she had imagined. Adam Slade is a huge, virile tower of a man and the most infuriatingly bossy person Juliet has ever met. To her astonishment, the man actually plans to tear her away from Angel's Fall, the home she created for prostitutes who wish to escape the hell that has been made of their lives. And all because a few bullies in town have threatened to tear down her little cottage stone by stone and re-capture the women they view as their property. But it will take much more than an ugly mob or a menacing soldier to sway her from her plan. Adam Slade can threaten all he wants. She isn't going anywhere. Not even when the threats from the townspeople grow uglier, and Slade's temper grows shorter. Not even when her life is threatened, and the only person there to protect her is a scarred and cynical man who doesn't believe in anything or anyone save his own wits.Hilarious, touching and suspenseful, Angel's Fall is a great, great read! You won't want it to end! With Angel's Fall , Kimberly Cates shows she's up there with the best! Great writing, witty characters, and a dazzling plot! Ms. Cates has created characters that sparkle with life, a plot that crackles with energy, and a romance that sings with passion and laughter!Annette Carney -- Copyright © 1994-97 Literary Times, Inc. All rights reserved -- From Literary Times

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