WIP: The Ghostly Highwayman Prologue

This is absolutely a rough first draft and prone to change in the final novel.

The man in the coach was small, slender and utterly unimpressed by the terrifying highwayman currently pointing an enormous weapon at his pretty face.

Charlie Archer had been robbing coaches at gunpoint for the better part of five years. It had taken him a long time to cultivate this current iteration of the Ghostly Highwayman, selecting each component of the disguise with special consideration of how frightening it made him. An enormous black hat cast him in shadows; a soft black mask pulled up to just below his eyes hid his identity entirely. Thick kohl around his eyes drew attention to how dark and cruel they were. His clothes were entirely black and form-fitting, highlighting the fact that Charlie was an enormous, physically imposing man. He opted for a lot of leather.

He was terrifying; Charlie knew that he was damn good at what he did. Nobody had ever faced the Ghostly Highwayman with anything less than absolute horror in their eyes. Certainly, Charlie had never experienced a victim sighing and rolling their eyes.

Until today.

The man folded his arms. “Can I help you?” he prompted, reminding Charlie that he had forgotten to offer the customary choice between money or life. The man had plummy, aristocratic tones, cool and refined.

“Your money or your life, if you would,” Charlie said, making his voice rough and dangerous.

His victim actually snorted. He was a pretty little thing, unfortunately, with a head of caramel coloured curls and big, clear green eyes. There was something vaguely familiar about him. Several years had passed since Charlie had last spent time around the aristocracy, but he supposed this sense of familiarity around them would never pass. “No,” the man said.

The response was unprecedented. As the man was such a tiny, well-to-do fellow, the stark refusal to participate surprised Charlie.

“I’m only going to ask you once more,” Charlie said, stepping up into the coach so that he could point the gun even more closely at this man’s pretty face. The ceiling was far too low, and he ended up squatting before the stranger, trying to crowd him with his superior size.

“Please do. I can see it means a lot to you.”

The sarcastic little shit. Charlie always remained calmly threatening throughout these robberies, but this man seemed absolutely unaffected by it. Well, Charlie could change that.

“What’s your name, toff?” he snarled.

Rolling those beautifully bright eyes, the man sighed once more. “Alex,” he said, surprising Charlie by the offering of a first name, rather than a surname or title.

“Well, Alex,” Charlie said, and his name came out rough, velvety, a tone he might use with a lover. It wasn’t deliberate, but he noted with some satisfaction that he had finally made the little man shiver. “I strongly suggest you hand over your valuables and rid yourself of the danger I pose to you.”

“If you were truly dangerous, you would have shot me already,” Alex observed.

“Do not mistake my patience for virtue, boy.”

Alex’s eyebrows both flew upwards at the insulting name. “Well, shoot me then.”

Charlie hesitated. What was the correct course of action now?

To his shock, Alex dived at him, his body unsurprisingly light but far stronger than it appeared. The gun fell from Charlie’s gloved fingers with a clatter and he found himself on the bench opposite the one Alex had been sitting on, the smaller man in his lap.

It was not, Charlie noted with a wince, entirely uncomfortable.

Alex smelled of citrus, and this close, Charlie could see the unfashionable freckles which dotted his face. The highwayman was possessed of a strange urge to reach up and trail his fingers across them. It was tragic, really, that he had met Alex as a victim; in any other circumstance, he rather felt he might reach up and kiss the headstrong little bastard.

“Now, listen,” Alex said, in those self-assured tones, “I will have the coach ride onto the nearest town, where you will be arrested and promptly hanged. Or, you can leave now and stop bothering people on the highway. You are clearly dreadful at it.”

This bizarre man was offering him a chance to escape. Not that Charlie needed one, really; he could flip them around in an instant. The only thing stopping him was that the thought of having Alex’s lovely little body beneath him was causing him to have quite impure thoughts. Really, it would be awfully satisfying to shut Alex’s cocky little mouth up with a kiss.

“I’m going to have to decline,” Charlie said.

“Why are you doing this?” Alex asked.

What a question. Charlie was, for one wild moment, tempted to tell him, but he remembered himself at the last second, pushing Alex back firmly so that he fell onto the opposite bench. The gentleman offered him a reluctantly impressed smile. He had surprisingly crooked teeth. It should have been unattractive, but instead it was quite charming.

“Your coach driver fled,” Charlie said. The gun was on the floor between them, but neither moved for it. “We are quite alone here. I suggest you do as I ask.”

Alex reached up and ran a hand through his curls, his green eyes never straying from Charlie’s. “What’s your name?” he asked.

Charlie knew that he should be running out of patience with the little bastard, but he realised that he was enjoying his company. There was something incredibly enticing about the smaller man. He wished they were meeting in different circumstances. “It’s the Ghostly Highwayman.”

“Legally?” Alex asked sarcastically. “Gosh, what cruel parents you had.”

This was taking too long. Every moment Charlie spent in this carriage with Alex heightened the risk of getting caught. He needed to end this.

He crowded Alex once more, placing one hand on either side of the small man’s head, resting his knees on either side of Alex’s slim thighs. Looming above him, Charlie felt enormous and powerful; the contrast in the size of their bodies was strangely erotic. Indeed, Alex seemed to realise this too, staring up at Charlie with one crooked tooth biting into his lower lip. It was only the second time during this entire strange confrontation that he had seemed even vaguely troubled by Charlie’s presence, the first time being when the highwayman had uttered his name in a rough, sensual way.

It occurred to Charlie that Alex felt the same strange attraction as he did.
The pupils of Alex’s beautiful eyes were blown as he stared up at Charlie, and the freckled flesh of his slender throat moved as he swallowed visibly. Tentatively, as though asking for permission, he raised one hand slowly, moving it towards the mask on Charlie’s face. The tip of one finger, impossibly warm and soft, brushed the skin just beneath Charlie’s eye before working beneath the edge of the mask.

Charlie reached up and wrapped his hand around Alex’s wrist, stilling him. “No,” he said. The word came out choked. He wanted nothing more than to ravage the strange, pretty man he had encountered quite accidentally, but he needed to escape. He decided he would simply leave Alex without robbing him.

He wasn’t sure he could bring himself to threaten him anymore, not when Alex was looking up at him like he wanted to be devoured.

Charlie realised he was breathing heavily, his chest rising and falling in time with Alex’s. The slender wrist in his grasp did not move, but Alex’s other hand did, pressing something heavy and metallic into Charlie’s other glove.

“I hear horses,” Alex whispered.

It took Charlie a moment to realise that he, too, could hear distant hooves approaching. It was time to leave. He sat back, reaching for his gun and reluctantly stepping out of the coach, away from Alex.

“Ride, you fool,” Alex said. He was sat perfectly still, his expression unreadable, looking barely ruffled in his perfect, green suit.

Charlie needed to listen. He allowed himself one final, hungry look at Alex before nodding, turning to the woods he had come from. He rushed between the dense trees to find his mount, Mortimer, snorting in a displeased fashion. He swung himself up lightly and dug in his heels, sending Mortimer galloping off through the woods to safety.

Away from Alex.

What on earth had just happened? As Charlie rode, he tried not to get distracted by thoughts of the eccentric young man he had just met. It was difficult not to. Those green eyes and adorably crooked smile were intoxicating.

Charlie hadn’t ever failed a robbery. The Ghostly Highwayman was notorious in these parts, a whispered, fearful tale told to travellers as a warning. This was the first time he had ever let a victim escape without taking anything from them. Charlie’s heart hammered in his chest as he thought about his latest victim. He was losing it.

Finally, when it was safe, Charlie slowed Mortimer, resting on a cliff overlooking the sea. The sun was beginning to set, giving the horizon a pink glow, and Charlie pushed down his mask to breathe in the fresh, cool air gratefully.

He looked down at his hand, opening his fingers and seeing the thing Alex had pressed into them. It was a golden ring, engraved with a family crest.

And just like that, Charlie knew exactly who Alex was- and where to find him.

The Ghostly Highwayman will have a release date soon.

Current Projects


I’ve been taking a bit of a break from my own writing projects recently; the way the world is at the minute is not ideal for creativity, at least as far as my own is concerned. I’m not focused on any one project, therefore, but just jumping around between stories when the mood strikes me.

At some point (soon, I hope) I’m going to choose one of these projects to focus on and bring to completion, but at the minute, I’m enjoying the freedom to just do what I fancy.

Here is a summary of what I’m working on:

Scandal At Midnight Series 2: A Scandalous Heritage

The sequel to my novel The Scandalous Viscount, in which Frederick Black, bastard cousin of Nick & Elizabeth Balfour, falls for Arthur, a small but furious scandal sheet writer. Together, they discover that the truth about Fred’s heritage is nothing if not scandalous.

This one is fairly close to being drafted, actually.

Untitled Paranormal Romance

Catchy title, eh? This one is about a vampire hunter and how he falls for a cynical newspaper editor who doesn’t believe in vampires. It’s set in the regency era and is m/m.

M/M Highwayman Romance

Again, good title. I actually can’t remember writing the first few chapters of this, but they exist on my Google Drive, and they’re pretty interesting.

The Scandalous Viscount

The final edits are done, the manuscript is ready to be uploaded and The Scandalous Viscount will be released on 1st February 2021 on Amazon Kindle & Smashwords.

If you like stories with pining, brooding heroes, forbidden love and sweet sauciness, you will love The Scandalous Viscount.

I can’t tell you how excited I am- this is the first novel that I have written, and I feel incredibly proud of it. It is the start of a series, so I can’t rest too long- I need to move onto the second book!

The rest of the series will follow characters from the first story as they find love of their own.

If you would like to support me, please preorder The Scandalous Viscount on Amazon.

Thank you so much!

Ana Cole x

Extract from The Scandalous Viscount: Prologue

The Scandalous Viscount ebook is available for preorder on Amazon.
Coming February 1st!

“Really, Horatio, is there no way to make your hair lie flat?” George Newton demanded, leaning across the carriage crossly to attempt in vain to tame Horatio’s wild curls. “It is not at all the fashion.”
Horatio shied away from his brother’s fingers, scowling at him. “Don’t! Seb will murder me if you spoil my hair.”
George snorted at the mention of Horatio’s valet, but fell back, crossing one long leg elegantly over the other. Horatio watched enviously; he was eighteen now, but his body was showing no sign of catching up to his brother’s impressive height. He seemed cursed to remain short and stocky forever. The emerald green jacket and brocade waistcoat Seb had selected especially for this evening felt tight across his broad frame. However, nothing could spoil his excitement. Finally, George was allowing Horatio to accompany him to White’s.
“Remember what we discussed,” George reminded him. “You are dreadful at drinking. Do not make a scene, or get into a state. Do not spend too much at the card table- but do not appear reluctant to spend, either.”
“I am more than capable of socialising with other human beings, George.”
George sniffed, rolling his eyes. “I suppose I should consider myself lucky, really. Poor Somerset has to contend with his dreadful younger brother.”
This was one of George’s favourite topics: William Marwood, a second son whom he had gone to school with. Marwood was a good deal older than Horatio, who remembered a small, nervous boy who used to be forced to visit George with his elder brother, Viscount Alexander Marwood, Lord Somerset. George despised Marwood for reasons that had never seemed clear to Horatio; as far as Horatio could tell, Marwood’s crime was being awkward.
Horatio could sympathise with that. He knew that his own loud, boisterous and sunny disposition was quite at odds with the way a gentleman was supposed to compose himself.
The carriage slowed to a stop.
“For the love of God, be careful about how you discuss women,” George said, reaching for his hat.
George paused, blinking across at his younger brother as though he was a specimen he had found floating in a particularly unpleasant stream. “Women, Horatio. The fairer sex.”
“Why would I discuss women at all?”
George frowned. “You are a man, are you not? Men love to discuss women, to talk about how they have wooed them.”
Horatio had yet to woo a woman. He felt no particular inclination towards it, despite the fact he was certainly of an age where it was expected. He simply assumed it would happen later.
George sighed, apparently reading this information on Horatio’s baffled face. “Just don’t tell a lie which will involve the need for details you clearly have not got, brother.”
With that warm and loving advice, George climbed out of the carriage. Horatio breathed in deeply. Finally, he was a man. For a long time, he had longed for the excitement of the company of other men at a gentleman’s club. He had been begging George to bring him here for three years.
Following George inside, Horatio took another deep lungful of the warm, alcohol-scented air. His hands were trembling slightly, his stomach fluttering nervously. He remembered to give the man who opened a door for them a smile and stepped into a warm, busy room.
Men were everywhere, sat sprawled at tables, sleeves pushed back to reveal forearms. More than one gentleman was well into his cups, peals of drunken laughter echoing over the general din. Cards were being played with furious intent. Horatio glanced at George, watching his brother’s green eyes sweep the room. George held himself with an impressively aloof air. Horatio thought again how much he envied George at times.
“Somerset is approaching,” George muttered, without glancing at Horatio.
Somerset was indeed approaching, and the viscount was clearly popular; he flashed a wide, winning smile at many men as he passed, receiving an equal amount in return. He was a tall, handsome man with dark hair, clearly at ease with himself and the world. When he reached George, he shook his hand with an easy grin.
“Newton!” he greeted. “Is this young rogue your brother?”
Horatio found himself pinned in the glittering stare of the viscount. “Horatio Newton, sir. It is good to meet you.”
If it was possible, Somerset’s smile widened. He took Horatio’s hand and shook it, looking down at him. “I am Alex Marwood, Newton. I am sure we have met before.”
Somerset did not mention that they had met before when Horatio was a mere child, and Horatio found that he appreciated this immensely. He smiled gratefully at the viscount.
“You both must come and drink with us,” Somerset boomed. “Black is here- as is Will.”
Will Marwood. George’s inexplicable nemesis. But George merely smiled coolly. “We would be honoured, Somerset. Lead on.”
Somerset led them across the room, through crowds of men, exchanging those easy, happy smiles with practised grace as they passed. They headed over towards a table by the fire. A broad, chiselled man sat at the table, talking animatedly with a blond-haired man. Standing by the fire, his back turned to the others, was a tall, narrow gentleman dressed in black.
Will Marwood had been a frequent visitor when he was a child; George and Alex Marwood had been friendly as children, and Will was often around. Horatio had been too small to really engage with them, but he remembered the younger Marwood brother as bookish and quiet, nothing special.
There was nothing particularly special about this man in black. He was more slender than the other men, taller than average, and his stance was rigid. If Horatio were feeling uncharitable, his mind may have provided the adjective awkward as fitting.
Despite this, something very strange stirred in Horatio at the sight of this man. There was something wonderful about the way his clothes hugged his narrow waist. His thick, luscious dark hair was the exact shade of Somerset’s, revealing him as Will Marwood. It looked soft, almost silky, and Horatio wondered how it might feel to run his fingers through it. The thought was striking, and he knew it in his bones as quite the opposite of what he was expected to think about another man.
He let out a breath he did not realise he was holding.
“Gentlemen, this is Frederick Black, Damien Grey and my brother Will. Gents, this is Newton’s younger brother, Horatio.”
Horatio barely heard Somerset’s words; they sounded distant and vague as he stared at the slender shoulders of Will Marwood. Horatio wondered what they would feel like beneath his hands; would they be hard and firm? Despite the acute edges of them, Horatio felt certain there was a strength there. His mouth was dry as he stared with a hunger he had never experienced before at the man’s back, his mind trying hard to make sense of the emotions welling up inside of him, the desires.
The tall, lovely man turned around, revealing his bespectacled face. He had the same dark eyes as his brother, but his were intense rather than glittering. The narrow slopes of his face were sharp and angular, and his mouth creased in a frown as he glanced at George before looking over at Horatio. He looked displeased and solemn, and not altogether kind.
Horatio wanted to kiss him.
He wanted to kiss another man.
Someone was shaking his hand, Black perhaps, but Horatio couldn’t tear his eyes away from Marwood, whose dark eyes were serious behind his glasses, fixed on him. He felt George nudge him and plastered a foolish grin on his face.
Marwood offered him a small smile, the corner of his mouth twitching up in a fashion which was almost amused.
Horatio felt a surge of longing so intense it almost made him sick.
“I have to go,” he said.
The words spilled out without any prior thought, but it was true: if Horatio stayed, he was going to say or do something unforgivable. He heard George call his name, and possibly Somerset, too, but he was gone, turning away and pushing back through the crowd with a singular focus. He was entirely unaware of the attention his flight from the room attracted, his eyes still seeing that tiny quirk of a smile Marwood had offered him.
Finally, he burst out into the cool air of the night. He took several ragged breaths, trying to understand what on earth had happened to him.
Will Marwood changed him.
But was it really a change? Horatio had never hungered for women, had he? If he was truly honest, he would admit that the nights he spent in bed, palming himself furiously, involved a lot of images of men. He had always tried to tell himself that was normal; after all, he didn’t know any girls to fantasise about.
His bizarre fantasies had never been so intensely focused on a person he knew in real life. He couldn’t recall ever looking at a man and feeling the way he did about Marwood when the viscount’s brother frowned at him, his eyes burning behind his spectacles.
Horatio’s feet carried him away from the club as he broke into a furious run. The streets were quiet at this time, which was lucky, as he probably appeared deranged. Fleeing through the street, his explosion of curls blowing wildly behind him, his movements constricted by the tight clothes he had been so proud of only hours earlier: Horatio was changed.
He tried to keep his mind clear as his body moved, but all he could think of was Will Marwood, the sardonic slope of his smile, the keenly intelligent eyes behind his glasses.
When he arrived home, he ran in through the service entrance, not wanting to disturb anyone at this hour other than Seb, who he needed desperately. He stopped in the kitchen, one palm on the table as he panted, trying to steady his breathing.
Seb appeared in the kitchen doorway in the sudden, quiet way he was so talented at; he seemed to have a preternatural understanding of when he was needed. Despite the late hour, he was still fully dressed, his bright blue eyes sharply assessing his master.
“Oh, god, Seb,” Horatio choked out.
Seb stepped forward. “Sir, what happened? Are you hurt?”
Horatio had never been more hurt in his life. He opened his mouth, then closed it again, taking a shuddering breath. “Seb, how do you feel about travelling?” he asked.

Writing goals for 2021

We almost made it! The end of 2020 is in sight, and it feels so good. If I’m being honest, 2020 has not been a wonderful time for my creativity or productivity (although I did release a short erotic story) and I am very ready to get back to writing in earnest.

So, without further ado, here are my writing goals for 2021:

  • Release The Scandalous Viscount
  • Prepare the second book in the series for publication in winter 2021
  • Work on my currently secret project 😎
  • Release some short stories
  • Work on a sequel to The Butler for holiday 2021

Here’s hoping for a productive, creative and healthy 2021. Much love from me!

Ana Cole x

Hello again!

Hello! It’s been a while since I posted here. The truth is, like a ridiculous amount of people at the moment, I am finding life extraordinarily hard. My writing has taken a backseat as I’ve tried to navigate life.

However, with that said, I am hoping to get back into writing soon. I miss it terribly. I have some projects on the horizon and details will be announced soon, so watch this space…