Home Excerpts Exclusive Excerpt from The Thief Steals Her Earl by Christina McKnight

Exclusive Excerpt from The Thief Steals Her Earl by Christina McKnight

by Aleen @ Lampshade Reader

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Title: The Thief Steals Her Earl
Series: Craven House Series, Book One
Author: Christina McKnight
Genre: Historical Romance, Regency
Release Date: July 26, 2016
Word Count: 82,000


Blurb:

Following the passing of his father and an unforgivable act by a family member ending in near ruin for his family, Simon Montgomery, the new Earl of Cartwright, is forced to return home without finishing his education. However, that doesn’t stop Cart from absorbing every morsel of knowledge he can.

Unfortunately, doing so and applying his every moment to restoring his family’s lost heirlooms while seeing to his sister’s upbringing and attempting to wrangle his mother’s frivolous spending habits has made him somewhat of a recluse, a man unsure of how to live life unless it’s focused around academia, order, and routine. But what happens when Cart is faced with a woman as intelligent as he but far more cunning?

Miss Judith Pengarden has lived her entire life under her eldest sister’s firm yet loving guidance. When she discovers her family is in jeopardy of losing their home, Jude decides to use her skills to help them pay off their unsettled debts. However, when Jude attempts to steal from the wrong house, she finds herself alone, locked in a dank room at the night watchman’s residence, and she vows to stop thinking so spontaneously and risking her family’s name to scandal. Unfortunately, there are some loose ends that need to be tied up before she can. Luckily for her, however, she may have just met the man who can help her family and also steal a piece of her heart.

When Jude meets Lord Cartwright at a London garden party, he seems the perfect man to solve all her problems—a recluse unfamiliar with London Society and studied in antiquities. A lord like none she has met, Jude soon realizes that Cart is more valuable to her than any painting, sculpture, or vase. But when she’s caught in possession of Cart’s long-lost family heirloom, completely unaware of what it really means, can she convince him that things are far from what they seem? That despite the deceit and subterfuge, her heart is in the right place. With her family…and with him.

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excerpt

Prologue

London, England
March 1818

Miss Judith Pengarden should be anywhere but edging down the darkened halls of Lord Gunther’s London townhouse, the chilled wall pressed to her back. Possibly having a late meal with her siblings or trying her hand at yet another card game her youngest sister insisted she learn. Or even attending the opera house. However, she was, indeed, sneaking through the drafty interior of a home long past needing a complete renovation. It was difficult to understand why her twin sister, Samantha, thought there was anything of value in this long-forgotten, ramshackle house.

In the hour Jude had scoured the musty second floor by candlelight, she’d discovered nothing but molding draperies, neglected family heirlooms, and unpolished wooden furniture. It was impossible to envision someone living within these walls, let alone storing a precious, ancient, and very valuable vase, carelessly placed on an end table.

“Oh, I should have known better than to trust you,” Jude mumbled, cursing her own inability to see past her twin’s many fables. It was more likely Sam hadn’t even met Lord Gunther, nor overheard him boasting about his prized vase.

She searched the all-but-abandoned townhouse with only the current wing left to explore. Making one final turn, Jude looked down the short, dim corridor, knowing this was her last hope of finding what she’d come for; what she’d risked her neck to procure.

Immediately, she noticed that this hall was better kept than the rest of the home; the floors were swept clean, if not polished to shine, the long draperies were held back by finely tied lengths of cord, and a small table sat just to the left of a set of double doors.
Jude had found the lord’s private chambers.

Finally.

She grasped her long skirt in her hand and sprinted to the end of the hall, pausing before the table.

Nestled securely on it was what she’d risked all to find; its porcelain surface recently wiped clean, removing any dust that may have gathered to dull its fine colors and artfully crafted exterior.

Her breath left her as she admired the piece’s eternal beauty—only overshadowed by its worth.

It became increasingly difficult to draw air in as she lifted her fingers and gently touched the vase, feeling the slight ripples of the artist’s brushstrokes as he—or she—used delicate hands to paint the piece. Or so she imagined.

The thought of taking the artifact in her hands and descending the flight of stairs to scurry to her carriage, which was waiting several houses down the street and around the corner, terrified her.

Not that she—and Sam—hadn’t planned this ruse carefully, but never had Jude imagined herself breaking into another’s home to steal something of great import. Once she held the vase, removed it from Lord Gunther’s home, and traded it for enough pounds to settle her family’s debts and feed all of Craven House’s occupants for many years, a weight would be added to her shoulders. A line would be crossed and it wouldn’t be easy to step back over.

Jude pulled her hand back as if the vase had burned her.

Maybe she could tell Sam that she hadn’t found the piece, convince her it likely never existed, that their plan had been flawed from the start and they’d find another way to help their family. But she knew their options were limited and their time quickly running out.
Jude shook her head, casting out any lingering doubts. Her family needed help, and if she and Sam could provide their eldest sister with a fraction of financial security, then they owed her that.

And that safeguard, the answer to Craven House’s dilemma, sat before her—waiting to be taken…all but calling to Jude to remove it from this dusty, dilapidated house and transport it to a new owner who would worship its delicacy as was deserving.

The vase was practically begging her to take hold and liberate it from its cruel circumstances.

The intricately crafted piece belonged in a museum; a place where the public could admire its beauty and historical worth, not hidden away in this dusty old house.

That Jude would also gain something from the transaction was a bonus she could live with.

Not one to turn down the opportunity to give something a freedom formerly denied, Jude grabbed the vase, surprised at its weightlessness in her hands.

She wondered if she let the vase go if it would float to the floor, gliding like a feather.

When images of it shattering as it hit the ground flooded her mind, Jude tucked the piece under her arm securely and retraced her steps to the servants’ stairs.

Holding her breath once more, she descended the stairs two at a time before halting at the closed door that separated the stairwell from the hall that led from the front of the house to the kitchen.

Jude set her ear to the dull, cold door and listened.

Not a sound could be heard beyond.

No footsteps, no quiet whispers, no closing doors.

Not even a clock sounded anywhere in the house.

A shiver went through her. Her body was alert to the oddness of it all, but she pushed the door open and made her way to the room right off the main foyer. There, a window still stood ajar, waiting for her to crawl back through and lower herself to the shrubs below.
She was horrified at the exhilaration she felt as she moved through the abandoned house.

Jude only prayed she made it home safely—and that Marce, her eldest sister, appreciated all Jude did to help support everyone who sought refuge at Craven House. Not that Marce could ever know where the money came from, only that it appeared in her private chambers—as if from thin air.

The cool night breeze brushed across Jude’s face as she stared out the open window.

It was her last opportunity to turn around, return the vase to its rightful place, and depart with no one the wiser.

And her conscience clear of any wrongdoing.

With a deep breath, Jude made the only decision that made sense for her and her family’s future; she held the vase out of the window and released it, allowing it to fall.

…Directly into her twin sister’s waiting hands below.


about the author

Christina McKnight Author photo

Christina McKnight is a book lover turned writer. From a young age, her mother encouraged her to tell her own stories. She’s been writing ever since. Christina enjoys a quiet life in Northern California with her family, her wine, and lots of coffee. Oh, and her books…don’t forget her books! Most days she can be found writing, reading, or traveling the great state of California.

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My pleasure Christina!! <3 I'm loving it so far!

Christina McKnight
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Thank you for having me! I hope you enjoy THE THIEF STEALS HER EARL!

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