Lady Hero Batten

The elegant and somewhat shy eldest daughter of the powerful Batten Family, Lady Hero hides a wicked sense of humor.

Heroine of Notorious Pleasures.

Also appears in Wicked IntentionsNotorious PleasuresScandalous DesiresThief of Shadows, Lord of DarknessDearest Rogue, and Sweetest Scoundrel

* * *

Hero took a deep, steadying breath and fixed a social smile—neither too wide nor too small—upon her face. It was a very middling expression that in no way revealed the shock of finding out that Lord Shameless would soon be her brother-in-law. “I’m very pleased to meet you, Lord Reading.”

“Are you?” He was still half bent over her hand so only she could hear his murmur.

“Naturally.”

“Liar.”

Her middling smile became a bit rigid as she hissed under her breath. “Don’t you dare cause a scene!”

“A scene? Me?” His eyes narrowed and she realized that she might have made a tactical error. 

Hero tried to retrieve her hand, but the awful man tightened his hold as he straightened unhurriedly. “How delightful to finally meet my new sister. You don’t mind if I call you sister do you, my lady? I feel as if we already know each other. Soon we’ll be rubbing shoulders at every family gathering—dinners, breakfasts, tea, and the odd snack here and there. The prospect simply takes my breath away, dear little sister. What a jolly family we’ll be.”

He grinned wickedly at her.

Hero’s soul revolted at this rogue using such a familiar term. He was in no way fraternal to her. “I don’t think—”

“I’m so sorry to hear that,” he murmured.

She grit her teeth and surreptitiously yanked on her hand. His grip held firm. 

“Lord Reading, I—”

“But pray will you dance with me, my lovely new sister-to-be?” he asked with jaw-dropping innocence. 

“I don’t—”

He raised his eyebrows at her words, his green eyes sparkling with sly mirth.

Believe,” she gritted, “that would be a good—”

“Of course.” He bowed his head, his eyes downcast. “Why would such a proper lady wish to dance with a wastrel such as I? I’m so sorry to have importuned you.”

His lips actually trembled. Hero felt her face heating. Somehow he had made her the villain of this piece.

“Well…” She bit her lip.

“It’s a pretty offer, Hero. What do you say?” Maximus rumbled beside her.

She started—just a little bit, but Lord Reading squeezed her fingers in warning. Good Lord! She’d almost forgotten they were in the midst of a crowded ballroom. Such a thing had never happened to her before. No matter where she was, Hero was always completely conscious of being a duke’s daughter, completely conscious of how she should act.

She looked at Lord Reading in consternation and saw that he had lost his mocking smile. In fact, there was no expression at all on his face as he turned to his brother. “With your permission, of course, Thomas.”

–from Notorious Pleasures