Rescuing a Tantalising Heiress (Preview)

Chapter One

Hampshire, England, Spring, 1812.

“You must sit still, my lady. I can’t get the pins out otherwise,” Isabella Burlington’s maid, Anne, said, tutting, as Isabella flinched.

“Oh, leave it, Anne. I think I heard the carriage outside,” Isabella replied, rising to her feet and hastening to the window.

But it was a fool’s errand, and the forecourt at the front of Burlington Grange was empty—as it had been the previous half a dozen times Isabella had checked that evening. She was waiting for her father, the Duke of Burlington, to return from an evening of playing cards, and would not settle until he was home. Dusk was falling, and the moon was climbing into the sky, the sun setting over the wooded parkland beyond the gardens, and Isabella sighed, sinking down onto her bed and picking up a volume of poetry she had been idly flicking through.

“I’m sure he won’t be long, my lady. And he’ll go straight to bed. You know what your father’s like. He detests late nights. He’ll demand a brandy from Jenkins and go straight to his bed,” the maid said, and Isabella tossed aside her book and rolled onto her side.

“I know, but…I worry about him. What if something has happened? What if the carriage is lying upturned in a ditch, or bandits have seized him, or…” she began, working herself up into a frenzy of worry as she rose again to her feet, unable to keep still in her agitated state.

Her dog, Caesar, barked, jumping up at her as though assuming it was time for his walk. He was a delightful creature, a yappy little thing with a chestnut brown coat and big, droopy ears. He had been a present from her father at her coming out, and she doted on him, always spoiling him with titbits from the table, and allowing him to sleep on her bed.

“Oh, my lady. Don’t worry yourself so. He’ll be back. Have no fear of that. Now, why don’t I go down and fetch you a nice cup of chamomile tea? You can get into bed and read your book. You’ll be asleep in no time, and you’ll wake up to find your father home, safe and sound,” Anne said, giving Isabella a reassuring smile.

Anne had always indulged Isabella. She had been her maid since she was a child, and had been something of a mother to her, as well as a friend, following the tragic death of the duchess when Isabella was only nine years old. It was for that reason Isabella worried about her father. Ever since her mother’s death, she had been gripped by a pathological fear of being orphaned. Her mother was dead, and if her father died too, she would be forever alone. At least, that was how she thought of it. She had no siblings, and only distant relatives to call her own. Her father meant everything to her, and until she knew he was safely home, there would be no possibility of sleep.

“A cup of chamomile tea would be nice, but…oh, I can’t settle, Anne. Is that a carriage I hear?” Isabella said, springing to the window as Caesar bared excitedly.

But there was no carriage and no sign of her father’s return. Isabella sighed, knowing she would never, and only feeling more agitated as she paced up and down on the rug in front of the hearth. Her bedroom at Burlington Grange contained all manner of distractions—piles of books, her easel and paints, a pianoforte and several other musical instruments, all of them indulgent gifts from her father. But until he was safely home, Isabella could find no satisfaction in anything.

“My lady, please—you’ll have me fetching the smelling salts if you don’t calm down,” Anne said, but Isabella could not calm down, and seizing Caesar’s lead, she called for a shawl.

“I’m going to take Caesar out for a walk. We’ll go to the folly by the lake and back. Perhaps my father will be back by then,” Isabella replied.

Her maid looked doubtful, but Isabella would hear no argument. Her mind was made up, and despite the gathering dusk, she was determined to take Caesar for a walk, hoping the fresh air might calm her nerves. Anne did as she was told, though she insisted on Isabella having her travelling cloak wrapped around her shoulders.

“A spring evening can bring a chill with it, my lady. It’s a clear sky. There might even be a frost tonight. I’ll have your cup of tea ready for your return. And try not to worry about your father, my lady. He’s old enough to take care of himself. He’ll be back. You’ll see,” she said.

Isabella nodded. She would not argue with Anne. Her maid was the most loyal of friends—her only real friend, despite their differences of class. Isabella had lived a lonely childhood in Hampshire. She did not make friends easily, for she found the company of other women dull and their conversation tedious. Isabella was a blue stocking—interested in intellectual pursuits and was far happier in a library than a salon.

“I won’t be long. But I just can’t settle, Anne,” Isabella said, tugging on Caesar’s lead and hurrying the dog out of her bedroom.

Caesar thought it a marvellous adventure, and he barked happily as they made their way downstairs and through the darkened hallway, where the portraits of Isabella’s ancestors looked down on them imperiously. A single candle burned in a sconce by the door, the key hanging ready for the butler to admit the duke at whatever time he returned. Isabella let herself out, making her way down the steps from the main door of the house and onto the forecourt. The silvery light of the moon illuminated the house, the grand edifice rising above her, and her own window the only one illuminated.

“Come now, Caesar, to the folly and back. There’s a good boy,” Isabella said.

Caesar was tugging on the lead. In the daytime, she would let him off, allowing him to roam freely in the shrubberies and sniff away to his heart’s content. But with darkness falling, she was more cautious, only letting him go when they were in the middle of the lawn, and she could watch him running back and forth in the moonlight. Anne had been right about the chill. The sun had shone during the day, but the evening was cold, and she pulled the cloak around her, glad of her maid’s insistence on her wearing it.

“I wonder where he could be? I do hope Sir William doesn’t keep him at Seymour House all night,” Anne thought to herself, glancing along the dark driveway in the hope of seeing her father’s carriage approaching.

But all was quiet on the estate, the hooting of a distant owl the only sound to break the stillness. Burlington Grange stood in lonely isolation at the centre of a large estate, bordered by the River Burl, which arced its way around the small village, which also bore the duke’s name. The church clock was striking midnight, and Anne called to Caesar, who had disappeared from sight as they approached the folly.

“Caesar? Where are you? Oh, I shouldn’t have let you off the lead. Come here, Caesar,” Isabella called out, just as the dog yelped, as though in pain.

The folly was a fancy of her grandfather’s—a neo-classical temple in miniature, built of white marble, which stood ghostlike at the far end of the lawns, facing the boating lake. Isabella had never liked it—it spoiled the view across the parkland and was hardly built to exacting terms. One afternoon, Isabella had identified twenty different faults with the design, when compared to actual examples in her books. But now, she stood on the steps, calling to Caesar, who was nowhere to be seen.

“Where are you, Caesar? I can hear you, but I can’t see you. Come along, don’t dawdle. We should be getting back. You know what Anne’s like—she’ll be running across the lawns at any moment in search of us,” Isabella said.

Caesar yelped again, the sound appearing to come from the far side of the folly by the lake. Isabella sighed. She had been far too indulgent of Caesar—he was poorly trained and never came when she called him. With an exasperated shake of her head, she made her way around the folly, following the line of the wall until she came in sight of the lake. The moon was reflecting on the surface, the ripples casting a path of light across the water. She looked around, calling for Caesar once again.

“Come here, Caesar!” she exclaimed, in what she hoped was a more forceful tone.

But as she spoke, a hand grabbed her, pulling her backwards as three figures emerged from the shadows. Isabella tried to scream, but a foul-smelling rag was pushed into her mouth, her hands pulled behind her back, and the sting of sharp cords binding her wrists together. She struggled, trying desperately to free herself, even as Caesar gave another yelp.

“Hold her. Stop her struggling,” a voice growled.

The cords cut into Isabella’s wrists, and the men had her in an iron grip. Tears welled up in her eyes—she did not understand what they were doing or why they were doing it. Was she being kidnapped? Did they mean to rob her? The men’s faces were obscured, and they leered over her like black shadows, terrifying her as to what they intended to do.

“Where’s the dog? Keep it quiet,” another of the men said.

To Isabella’s relief, a fourth figure, holding Caesar, emerged from the shadows. Her relief turned to fear as the dog barked, and the man struck him hard on the nose.

“Stop your yapping,” he snarled, and Caesar whimpered.

“Where now?” one of the men holding Isabella said.

“Let’s get her to the carriage. We’ll have the whole household roused at this rate. At least she’s made it easy for us—wandering around the grounds like this. I didn’t like the look of the ivy outside her bedroom—we’d never have climbed it. This whole thing is…” he began, but he was interrupted by one of the others.

“Stop your complaining. Think of the money. Now get moving. We’ll soon have her away from here,” he said, and Isabella was dragged into the shrubbery, her hair and cloak catching on overhanging branches as they went.

The rag in her mouth was making her nauseous. She could hardly breathe, and her legs suddenly gave way beneath her. As she collapsed, the two men dragging her let out angry exclamations as Isabella fell to the ground.

“Get that rag out of her mouth. Let her breathe. We’re far enough away from the house now,” one of them said, and the rag was pulled from Isabella’s mouth.

She gasped for breath and sobbed as she tried feebly to fight them off.

“Please…let me go. Why…why are you doing this? I’m the daughter of the Duke of Burlington. You’ll pay dearly for this,” she said, but the men only laughed.

“It’s your father that’ll pay dearly for it. Why else would be doing this?” one of them said, and the others laughed.

Isabella felt faint, and it was all she could do to let out a feeble cry as they dragged her further into the shrubbery. She knew the path well—it was one she had often taken as a child, hiding herself away from her governess and sitting for hours in the depths of the bushes, reading her books, and making up stories about far-off worlds and magical lands. But this was no make-believe, and she felt terrified to think what they were going to do with her. From the way the men spoke, it had all been planned—a kidnapping, a ransom demand, the threat of something dreadful occurring if her father did not give into the demands of these wicked men. Isabella felt helpless, entirely at the mercy of the four men who continued to drag her through the undergrowth.

I’ll be missed by now. Anne will know something’s wrong, Isabella told herself, reassured by the thought of her maid raising the alarm.

The footmen and other servants would be sent out to look for her, and the road to the village would be searched. If these bandits thought they could get away with kidnapping her, they would surely be sorry.

“They’ll find me, you know,” Isabella said, finding the courage to speak, but the men only laughed.

“You’ll be long gone before anyone knows you’re missing, my lady,” one of them said.

They had emerged from the shrubbery now and come to a place just off the main drive leading to the house. A carriage was standing there, with two black horses at the front, and a fifth man waiting at the reins.

“Put her inside. We need to leave as soon as it’s clear. Did you check the length of the drive?” one of the men said, and the one standing with the horses nodded.

“The gates are still open. The duke’s not back yet. Let’s hope the damaged spoke on his carriage did the trick. It should’ve come off during the journey. He’ll be stuck for hours—or he’ll have to walk back,” he said, laughing as Isabella was dragged into the waiting carriage.

They threw her inside, where she landed hard against the seat, knocking her head and rolling to one side, dazed and in pain.

“Let me go!” she cried out, struggling to sit up and kicking out at the carriage door.

But it had been bolted from the outside, and her struggle was in vain. One of the men banged on the side of the compartment, and she heard Caesar yelp in pain.

“Be quiet in there,” he snarled.

“If you hurt my dog, I’ll—” Isabella called out, and the man banged on the side of the carriage once again.

“Keep quiet, and no harm need come to him. He can run off, for all we care,” he said, and Isabella fell silent.

Tears rolled down her cheeks, but she managed to get herself up onto the seat, sitting back and catching her breath. Her wrists were tightly bound, the cords cutting into her skin, but her legs and feet were free, and she felt for the ends of the cord, willing herself to find a way to untie her wrists.

Come on, Isabella. You’re not like those silly salon women. Enough tears and feeling sorry for yourself, she said to herself, for the shock of her kidnapping was now subsiding, replaced by a feeling of anger as to what these men had done.

Isabella could hear them talking outside the carriage. They were preparing to depart, muttering to one another about their expected reward.

“If she’s the daughter of a duke, we’re in line for a substantial reward,” one of them was saying.

“But I still don’t understand why he wants her. Is it because of the duke?” another asked.

Isabella listened to these words with interest. It seemed these men were hired bandits—they knew nothing of the reason for her kidnapping.

“Who knows. We’re not paid to know. Come on. It’s time to go. We’ll risk the road through the village, then make for the moorland. We’ll have our money by the morning and be on the way to London,” another said, and with that, the carriage set off into the night as Isabella awaited her fate.

Chapter Two

The carriage drove on for several hours. Drapes were pulled down across the windows, and Isabella had no sense of the direction in which they were travelling. The men rode on the buckboard, and she could hear them shouting to one another, buoyed up by the victory of their criminal venture. From them, she learned she was not to be harmed, but delivered as requested to an unnamed man who had ordered the kidnapping. Isabella could only assume the man to be an enemy of her father, and she feared the discovery of his identity, knowing her father was disliked by many due to his forceful dealings in business.

If only he’d been a little kinder, she thought to herself as she tried for the umpteenth time to loosen the cords binding her wrists.

The wooden seats of the carriage were covered by plush cushions, but the edge was at an angle, and Isabella had found she could rub the cords back and forth, creating a slow movement in their cutting. It was a laborious task, and she was making little progress. But her mind was focused and determined—no longer did she feel sorry for herself, but angry at the bandits, angry at their mysterious employer, and angry with herself for allowing such a fate to befall her.

But they’ll be looking for me now. All of them. My father’s bound to have returned, and if Caesar finds his way back to the house, they’re bound to know something’s happened, Isabella told herself, comforted by the thought of her father doing everything he could to find her.

Her father had enemies, and whilst kidnapping seemed an extreme form of revenge for a failed business dealing or underhanded exchange, it did not surprise Isabella to think someone had a vendetta against him. Who it was, or what they would do to secure it, was to be revealed, and when the carriage came to a halt, Isabella was ready for a fight. She had not yet loosed the cords binding her wrists, but they had frayed sufficiently to allow her some movement in her hands, and as the carriage door was opened, Isabella was ready.

“Get out,” one of the men said.

It was still dark, and they had pulled up on a moorland, a lonely heath, the night sky lit with stars, the moon casting its silvery glow over the heather. Isabella got to her feet, swaying a little, still feeling dizzy, and yet determined to do something to escape. Stooping, she emerged from the carriage onto the step. The other men were standing at the side of the track, one of them attempting to strike a tinder to light a clay pipe, the others passing around a bottle of liquor.

“Down from there. We’re to wait here now,” the man standing by the door said.

But as he reached out to grab her arm, Isabella lashed out. She caught him squarely in the stomach with her foot, winding him as he fell backwards. The other men turned, but as they did so, Isabella banged her foot against the carriage, startling the horses, who took off in fright. As the carriage lurched forward, Isabella fell back into the compartment, the door slamming behind her, as angry shouts could be heard from outside.

“They’re loose! Why weren’t you holding them, you fool?” one of the men cried out, and it seemed no one had been holding the horse’s reins as the carriage swerved back and forth, charging at a colossal speed in a direction Isabella could not discern. She had been thrown to the floor of the compartment by the sudden movement of the carriage, and now she struggled to sit up, fearful the horses would charge off the track into the heathers or pull the carriage into a ditch.

What was I thinking? she thought to herself, even as the carriage showed no signs of stopping.

The horses were running, and a startled horse could run for miles in its flight. Isabella knew the men would give chase, but without horses of their own, the advantage was hers. She had been thrust from one danger to another, but she trusted the horses far more than the bandits, and as she tried desperately to hold on, the compartment jolting from side to side, she prayed she might be delivered from her calamity, willing the carriage to come to a halt.


They drove on for what seemed like hours, the horses relentless while pursued by their fear. The dawn was breaking, and through the gaps in the drapes, Isabella could see the first rays of sunlight. She knew nothing of where they were—the brief glimpse of the moorland and the heath had given her no clue as to where they were, for she rarely set foot outside her father’s estate and knew little of the surrounding countryside.

But we must’ve travelled for many miles, she reasoned to herself, even as a sudden jolt announced the stopping of the carriage.

The compartment veered to one side, and had Isabella not thrown herself towards the door, she may well have found the whole thing upturned. As it was, the door flew open, and she rolled out, landing on a tuft of grass, the horses now standing perfectly still, as though held by an unseen hand. Looking around her, she saw they were on the edge of the moorland, pastures and meadows stretching out before her, and the far side of the path bordered by woodland. She got to her feet with difficulty, her hands still bound, though, mercifully, looser.

“Where am I?” she said out loud, glancing at the horses, as though one of them might be able to answer her.

There was no one else around, and looking back along the track, Isabella could see no sign of pursuit. But that did not mean pursuit was not being made, and Isabella was under no illusion as to the intentions of the bandits—they would surely stop at nothing to realize her return and claim their money. Straightening up, Isabella looked around her for a solution to her predicament. She did not know where she was or which direction led back to her father’s estate.

I’ve had a lucky escape,” she told herself, shuddering at the thought of what would have happened had she remained in the control of the bandits.

To walk on was foolhardy; to walk back would mean certain capture. But if she could hide for long enough to allow the threat to pass, she may be able to make her way home under the cover of darkness or find an inn on the moor to take refuge in. The only possible cover was the woods and thanking the horses for what they had done—for their fear had been her salvation—she stepped off the path and into the trees. It was May, and the woodland was alive with blossoming growth; an early morning dew settled heavily over the mossy ground, and the leaves providing dappled shade from the warmth of the sun above.

But I mustn’t get lost, Isabella told herself, even as she felt certain the bandits would guess she was hiding in the trees when they came across the horses on the track.

She walked on, following dead-end paths, and stumbling over fallen trees. Isabella did not know where she was going, only that wherever it was, it was better than remaining by the carriage to await her fate. The woodland seemed never-ending, and she found no sign of life until she reached a brook, where a rickety wooden bridge crossed over to a path on the far side.

I wonder why there’s a bridge here? she asked herself, for she felt certain she was far from civilization, the moorland seeming to stretch endlessly on either side of the track.

But having crossed the bridge, Isabella found herself on a well-trod path through the trees, and to her immense surprise, the path now gave way to a lawn, across which lay a house. Her relief was palpable, even in her exhaustion. She was terribly thirsty, and her stomach was rumbling with hunger.

I can only imagine what I must look like, she thought to herself as she was about to hurry across the grass to the terrace—the front of the house being opposite the garden.

But a sudden thought occurred to her, and she shrank back fearfully. What if the occupant of the house was the very person she had been intended for? She watched for a moment, hoping to catch sight of the occupant or perhaps a servant—someone she could ask for help. The house was a handsome one, red brick, and built in the Queen Anne style. It had a gabled roof and a long terrace; the gardens were mature and walled on one side, where a gravelled forecourt opened up to stables on the far side of the house.

I’m certain I’ve never been here before, Isabella said to herself, trying to think back to the various grand houses in the district, to which she had been taken under duress by her father.

There was Lady Lastington at Finnegan Manor and the Allshotts at Dale. But neither of their houses was like this, and Isabella felt certain she did not know the occupants of the fine, red-brick house before her.

But that only makes it worse—some enemy of my father, she thought to herself.

But her thirst was growing more pronounced, and she was beginning to feel dizzy, having eaten or drank nothing since dinner the night before. The choice was stark—remain hidden in the trees and face imminent collapse or risk the very thing she had tried to escape from. But need now overcame caution, and Isabella emerged from the trees, skirting the edge of the garden and making her way up onto the terrace.

What choice do I have? she asked herself, as she kicked at one of the doors, hoping to attract the attention of a servant.

For a few moments, Isabella waited. She could hear nothing from inside, and again, she kicked at the door, her wrists still bound. As she did so, a window was pulled up above, and a woman’s face—that of a maid in a cloth cap—looked out with an indignant expression on her face.

“Oi, what do you think you’re doing, you vagabond?” she exclaimed.

Isabella was about to remonstrate with her, when she realized she must have looked quite a state—her dress and cloak torn, her hair dishevelled, her hands bound, and her face dirty and mud-stained.

“Please, I need help. Who lives here?” she asked.

The maid was about to reply, when the door in front of her was opened was an imperious-looking man with a hawked nose and a bushy brow. He was dressed in a pristine black frock coat and a stiffly starched shirt and collar, and he looked Isabella up and down with disdain.

“Yes?” he said in an icy tone.

“Send her away, Mr Marston. She’s a vagabond,” the maid called out from above.

The butler peered out of the door.

“Yes, thank you, Hetty. Return to your duties if you please. I’ll handle this,” he said, turning to Isabella, who felt suddenly weak and light-headed.

“Please, I’m not a vagabond. I’m Lady Isabella Burlington, daughter of the Duke of Burlington. I’ve suffered a terrible ordeal—kidnapped in the night, taken against my will. I was in a carriage, but I escaped and ran through the woods, and…” she exclaimed, stammering out her words, even as the butler stared at her in astonishment.

“Lady Isabella Burlington?” he exclaimed, and Isabella nodded.

“Look—they bound my wrists with cords. Please, you’ve got to help me. Is your master here? Your mistress? Oh, please, don’t tell me they’ve left for the London Season already. Just tell me where I am, please!” she exclaimed, and the butler seemed suddenly convinced as she turned to reveal the cords binding her wrists together.

“My lady, what a terrible ordeal for you. Please, come this way at once,” the butler said, his tone changing, as he ushered Isabella through the door into the back of what was presumably the hallway, where a wide, red-carpeted staircase led up to a gallery above.

The maid who had shouted at Isabella from the window now appeared, carrying a coal scuttle, and she stared in astonishment at Isabella, whose cords were now being untied by the butler.

“You let her in, Mr Marston. How do you know she’s not here to do us all a mischief?” she exclaimed, and the butler looked up at her angrily.

“Mind your tongue, Hetty. And go and fetch his lordship at once. Tell him we’ve got a visitor—Lady Isabella Burlington, the daughter of the Duke of Burlington. Then bring her ladyship some refreshment,” the butler replied.

The maid’s eyes grew wide, and she mumbled an apology, even as Isabella knew she hardly looked like the daughter of a duke—not in her current state, at least. But now, she was curious as to whose lordship she was about to be introduced to. Fear still gripped her heart, and she wondered if the butler’s acceptance of her story was merely a ruse and recognition of the woman his master had intended to kidnap.

“Please, I’m curious—whose house is this?” Isabella asked as the maid hurried back up the stairs.

The butler had loosened her cords, and her hands were free. He stepped back, red- faced, and pulled out his handkerchief, his brow sweaty from the excitement of Isabella’s arrival.

“The Viscount Talbot, my lady,” he replied.

Isabella had heard the name of Talbot, and she believed the viscount’s name was Edward, though she could not be sure. But she knew nothing of an acquaintance between him and her father, and she felt relieved to think she had made the right decision to come to the house, for at that moment, hurried footsteps on the stairs announced the arrival of the viscount himself. He was an attractive man with light brown hair and dark blue eyes, with a tall athletic build. He was wrapped in a smoking jacket, clearly just summoned from his bed by Hetty, who stood nervously behind him. He stared at Isabella in astonishment, and as she stepped forward, grateful to at last have found safety, she promptly fainted.

“Rescuing a Tantalising Heiress” is an Amazon Best-Selling novel, check it out here!

Isabella Burlington always craved adventure, yet the one she found herself caught up in was not what she was expecting… A blue-stocking lady, more at home amongst books than in the midst of society, is forced to face the unknown with pluck and courage when danger knocks on her door. Finding herself in the remote Howdwell Heights, a place shrouded in solitude, the fiery Isabella encounters the wicked Viscount Talbot, a man who is as enigmatic as the estate itself. Drawn to his mesmerising presence, her curiosity ignites a flame of desire that burns brighter than any tale she has ever read.

Will she succumb to this man’s irresistible allure?

Edward Talbot is both a paragon of honour and a reputed rogue with an estate which he has to run by himself and a sister whom he guards with true zeal. Behind his captivating gaze lie some well-guarded secrets, intertwining duty and desire in a treacherous dance. When a dreadful turn of events brings him and Isabella unexpectedly together, Edward finds his soul entangled with Isabella’s as fate weaves them closer, defying reason and tempting forbidden passion.

Can Edward cast aside the shadows of his past to embrace a future entwined with the bewitching Lady?

As their destinies collide, scandalous twists and turns reveal themselves, Isabella and Edward embark on a journey that unearths their deepest desires and tests the limits of their devotion. Will their discoveries tear them apart or bind them together in a bond that defies all odds? Amidst the peril, can the passionate love they have for each other save them from the darkness that lures in the shadows?

“Rescuing a Tantalising Heiress” is a historical romance novel of approximately 60,000 words. No cheating, no cliffhangers, and a guaranteed happily ever after.

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One thought on “Rescuing a Tantalising Heiress (Preview)”

  1. Hello there, my dearest readers! I hope you enjoyed this little treat and can’t wait to read the rest of this fiery romance! Isabella and Edward’s story is one you won’t want to miss! I will be waiting for your first impressions here. Thank you! 📚❤️‍🔥

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