The Rake (Boston Belles #4) by L.J. Shen

To my brother, who will never read this.

I ran out of people to dedicate my books to, so here we are.

rake, n.7 - A fashionable or stylish man of dissolute or promiscuous habits.

For the sake of this story, I took creative liberty in how property and holdings are handled by the British Monarchy.

It should be noted that Whitehall and Butchart are not current noble titles.

“Some of the most beautiful things worth having in your life come wrapped in a crown of thorns.”

—Shannon L. Alder

Boston’s most infamous femme fatale meets her match in a dangerously mild Englishman who has vowed to never marry.

Emmabelle Penrose has cruised through life never needing a man, a plan that has worked stunningly well until about five minutes ago, when she decided she must have a baby.

Devon Whitehall is 6’2” of premium DNA, financial security, and British royal titles. Best of all, he fears the one thing she dreads the most: getting hitched.

Emmabelle figures it’s a no-brainer when Devon offers his services—sperm and involvement in her future child’s life.

What begins as an innocent, modern-family arrangement, quickly erodes into a web of lies, dark pasts, and unfurled secrets.

Inside this chaos, Emmabelle and Devon are forced to face the awful truth—they are capable of love.

Even worse, they might feel it toward each other.

Trigger Warning: this story contains subject matters some may find triggering, including child abuse and grooming.

This book is not meant to make you feel comfortable and fuzzy inside.

Please take this into consideration before starting it.

Empara Mi: “Alibi”

Purity Ring: “Obedear”

Rolling Stones: “Under My Thumb”

Young Fathers: “Toy”

Everybody Loves an Outlaw: “Red”

I’d been betrothed shortly before I was conceived.

My future written, sealed, and agreed upon before my mother had her first ultrasound appointment.

Before I had a heart, a pulse, lungs, and a spine. Ideas, wishes, and preferences. When I was no more than an abstract idea.

A future plan.

A box to be ticked off.

Her name was Louisa Butchart.

Lou, really, to those who knew her.

Though I would not be aware of the arrangement until I turned fourteen. Told right before the traditional pre-Christmas hunting trip the Whitehalls had with the Butcharts.

There was nothing wrong with Louisa Butchart. Nothing that I could find, at any rate.

She was lovely, well-mannered, of excellent pedigree.

Nothing wrong with her at all, except for one thing—she wasn’t my choice.

I suppose this was how it all started.

How I became who I am today.

A fun-loving, whiskey-drinking, fencing, skiing hedonist who answered to no one and tumbled into bed with everyone.

All the numbers and variables were there to create the perfect equation.

Great expectations.

Multiplied by crushing demands.

Morally divided by more money than I could ever burn.

I’d been blessed with the right physique, right bank account, right smirk, and right amount of charm. With only one invisible thing missing—a soul.

The thing about not having a soul was that I wasn’t even aware of it.

It took someone special to show me what I’d been missing.

Someone like Emmabelle Penrose.

She cut me open and tar spilled out.

Sticky, dark, and never-ending.

This is the true royal rake’s secret.

My blood never ran blue.

It was like my heart, pure black.

Fourteen Years Old.

We rode at sunset.

The hounds led the way. My father and his comrade, Byron Butchart Sr., followed closely. Their horses cantered in perfect rhythm. Byron Jr., Benedict, and I trailed behind.

They gave the young lads the mares. They were unruly and harder to break. Taming young, spirited females was an exercise men of my class had been given from a young age. After all, we were born into a life that required a well-trained wife, pudgy babies, croquet, and alluring mistresses.

Chin and heels down, back ramrod straight, I was the picture of a royal equestrian. Not that it helped me avoid being thrown into the sweat box, curling into myself like a snail.

Papa loved throwing me in there for the sake of watching me squirm, no matter how hard, how diligently, how desperately I tried to please him.

The sweat box, also known as the isolation bin, was a seventeenth-century dumbwaiter. It had a coffin-like shape and offered the same experience. Since I was notoriously claustrophobic, this was my father’s go-to punishment whenever I misbehaved.

Misbehaving, however, wasn’t something I did often, or even at all. That was the sad part. I wanted badly to be accepted. I was a straight A student and a gifted fencer. I’d even made it to the England Youth Championship in sabre, but was still thrown into the dumbwaiter when I lost to George Stanfield.

Perhaps my father always knew what I tried to keep concealed from view.

On the outside, I was perfect.

On the inside, however, I was rotten to the bone.

At fourteen, I’d already slept with two of the servants’ daughters, managed to ride my father’s favorite horse to its untimely death, and flirted with cocaine and Special K (not the cereal).