The Wicked Baron  -  Blackhaven Brides, Book 1

Light, fun Regency romance from Mary Lancaster.

Welcome to Blackhaven, where the great and the bad of visiting Regency society turn local life upside down...

Orphan Gillie Muir makes ends meet by holding genteel card parties for friends and visitors to the newly fashionable spa town of Blackhaven. But when Lord Wickenden, known as the Wicked Baron, makes her a shocking proposal, her world is turned upside down.


Jaded and bored, Lord Wickenden has his own reasons for joining the house party at Braithwaite Castle.  One of them is to oblige an ex-mistress by detaching her son from the local gaming den hussy who has ensnared him. But, confronted by Gillie’s unexpected charm and innocence, Wickenden abandons his original plan of simply taking her for himself. Instead he becomes embroiled in her bizarre problems, which include saving her reputation and her life, keeping the Watch away from her card parties, and hiding an injured smuggler who was once kind to her.
 
The infuriating and devastating Wickenden soon has Gillie’s heart in a spin. But when she discovers he means to fight a duel over her – and everyone knows the wicked baron never misses - she’ll go to any lengths to save his life and his soul. Even elope with another man.

Read an excerpt below

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REVIEWS:

 

"a delightful heroine... full of diverse adventure, with romance being only one steamy thread." - InDTale

"Wickedly wonderful! ...I absolutely loved this story! ...great fun" - Amazon

 

"a fun story with mystery, drama, and humor" - Amazon

"Delightful read...so vivid" - Amazon 

"The humor in it sneaks up on you... If I could give this 10 stars, I would." - Amazon 

Chapter One

 

Smuggler Jack had undoubtedly been shot. Gillie stared at the hole in his chest, just below his right shoulder, from which blood had spilled all over his clothes. In fact it still bled sluggishly.

Jack’s comrades heaved his body on to the wooden table in the center of the cellar, and he groaned and opened his eyes before squeezing them shut again in obvious pain.

“See, Miss? He’s not dead,” one of smugglers assured her.

“Yes, but you can’t leave him here or he soon will be!” Gillie exclaimed. She wasn’t at all prepared for this. She and her brother were in the middle of hosting one of their regular card parties. She’d only come down to the cellar herself because she didn’t want the servants to discover the “gentlemen” making their normally silent delivery. It had certainly never entered her head that she might be presented with a bleeding smuggler along with her contraband brandy. Even more distressing, she knew Jack, and had done since childhood.

“You must take him to a surgeon,” she instructed. “Or better still, take him home and tell his wife to send for Doctor Morton. In my name, if she wishes.”

“Can’t take him through the streets in that state, can we?”  the smuggler said reasonably. “The Watch will nab him sure as day and we’ll all be done for.”

Although he had a point, Gillie was about to insist, on the somewhat panicked grounds that her house was full of guests—until she remembered that one of those guests was, in fact, Doctor Morton. She closed her mouth.

“I’ll do my best for him,” she promised.

 As she ran back upstairs into the main part of the house, she concentrated hard on how to save Smuggler Jack’s life while hiding his presence from her guests, to say nothing of the Watch.

And of course, this was the best-attended party they’d yet held, which would have been wonderful in other circumstances. More guests were arriving in the front hall. Surreptitiously, she shook the cellar dust from her dark grey gown, whose dull color at least hid most of the dirt. Thank God we are still in mourning!

Greeting the newcomers in her usual friendly fashion, she slipped between them and made her inexorable way to the large salon, where she was sure to find Doctor Morton.

In the doorway lounged a tall man in impeccable black evening clothes. One ankle crossed over the other, his arms folded across his chest, he leaned against the doorframe. His posture betrayed insufferable boredom. Guilt smote her—for this venture of hers and her brother Bernard’s, could not work with bored guests—until she flicked her gaze up to his saturnine face. Short, black hair framed a stunningly handsome countenance. Or at least it would have been handsome were it not for the upward slope of his somewhat satanic eyebrows and the discontented curve of his full, decadent lips. Disconcertingly, his hard, grey eyes were fixed on hers.

 

A flush rose to her cheeks, adding to her flustered state. She had to force herself to a vague, distant smile and a slightly breathless, “Excuse me,” as she hurried past. Although he unfolded his arms, he certainly didn’t jump to give her room,

London manners, she assumed scathingly. If she hadn’t been in such a hurry, she’d have been disappointed. Such a good looking man should have been better natured.

Hastily, she returned the good evenings of the elderly Misses Dundas at the whist table, and waved in friendly manner to the many greetings called out to her by the officers playing piquet and hazard.

“Doctor Morton,” she exclaimed in relief, as she finally reached her grey-whiskered quarry in his regimental red and gold coat. He stood, drinking tea with another officer and a visiting gentleman with gout.

He beamed upon her. “Ah, there you are, Gillie! How are you?”

“Perfectly well, Doctor,” she said thoughtlessly, before realizing she could have used ill-health as a reason to extract him from the company. Oh well. “But I wondered if we might have a word on another matter?”

Giving him little choice, she relieved him of his cup and saucer, setting them down on the side table. Then she simply took his arm and tugged.

Doctor Morton, who’d known her since childhood—had indeed delivered both Gillie and Bernard to their proud parents— patted her hand in a soothing kind of a way.

“What’s up, little lamb?” he asked jovially.

She barely noticed the nick-name, which had been given to her when she was about eight years old and imitating the jumping of spring lambs for the entertainment of her parents’ friends.

She lowered her voice so that he had to duck his head to hear her. “We have an injured man in the cellar and I’m afraid he’ll die if you don’t help him. Or even if you do,” she added honestly.

“Not sure the cellar’s the best place for an injured man,” the doctor observed.

“I’ll move him when I can,” Gillie promised. “But if you would be so very good as to look at him now in the cellar—” She broke off, , for by then they’d reached the salon door, where the dark, satanic stranger still lurked, still watching her. At least he’d uncrossed his ankles by then, and he did move aside with the faintest, ironic bow as they brushed through the door.

Annoyingly, the entrance hall was now clear, leaving the stranger a direct view of her passage with the doctor across the hall to the basement stairs. God knew what he imagined, although she comforted herself with the undoubted fact that it was none of his business.

The rest of the smugglers had cravenly vanished, presumably back along the tunnel to the Black Cove and their ship, leaving poor Jack behind on the wooden table surrounded by bottles and kegs. There was a lot of blood, clearly visible, even in the dim light, although Jack  himself had blessedly lost consciousness again.

“You’re still buying from smugglers?” Doctor Morton said, scowling, as he took in the situation and lifted a lit lantern from the floor. “You do know they’re in league with Bonaparte himself now, don’t you?”

“Oh, I don’t believe ours are,” Gillie said staunchly. “Not directly, at any rate. They bring the stuff north from colleagues on the south coast. Who may well,” she admitted honestly, “be in league with Bonaparte. But where else would I get brandy of this quality?”

Doctor Morton grunted. “Go away, Gillie. Send me some water and bandages and preferably a maid you trust—or even Bernard—to assist me.”

“I can assist you,” she offered.

“Your absence will be noted,” Morton said, already cutting away the man’s coat with a knife from his belt. “It already has been, you know. I’ll speak to you later.”

She hesitated only a moment longer. “Thank you, Doctor,” she said awkwardly, then, pausing only to pat the unconscious Jack’s good shoulder, she hurried back upstairs.

Forcing herself not to glance in the direction of the salon in case the satanic gentleman was still there, she crossed the hall and ran up the main staircase, calling for Dulcie who had been nursemaid and surrogate mother to both herself and her brother.

“Dulcie, you must take bandages to Doctor Morton in the cellar, and collect a bowl of fresh water from the kitchen for him, too.”

Dulcie, somewhat erratically mending stockings by the old nursery lamplight, stared at her. “What’s the doctor doing in the cellar?”

 

“Hopefully sewing up a shot smuggler,” Gillie said frankly. “I can’t help since we have a house full of guests who mustn’t know anything about it.”

“Where is your aunt?” Dulcie demanded, hurling stocking and needle from her. “I don’t know what she’s thinking of, allowing these ridiculous parties—which will be the end of you, Gillie Muir, mark my words! It just isn’t a respectable way to go on. And now she’s allowing smugglers in the cellar!”

“Dulcie, please will you look after Jack?” Gillie begged. “We’ll put him somewhere more comfortable later, but truly, we can’t let him die. He took Bernie and me fishing when we were children. You came once, too.”

Dulcie sniffed and stood up. Reaching to the top drawer of the dresser, she extracted long strips of bandage, stuffing them into her work bag on top of whatever else was in there. She added scissors and several jars and bottles familiar to Gillie from childhood scrapes and bruises. What use they might be to a man with far more serious injury, Gillie didn’t care to guess. But at least they proved Dulcie’s cooperation.

Gillie blew her a kiss. “Thank you, Dulcie!” Pausing only to check her hair and gown in the glass, she hurried back downstairs.

To her relief, the strange gentleman no longer propped up the salon doorway. It hadn’t been comfortable to have her comings and goings observed quite so closely, although she couldn’t help a flicker of interest in return. She wondered who he was and why he had come to a place which so clearly bored him.

However, her respite was short-lived, for as Dulcie began to hobble downstairs behind her, a movement caught Gillie’s eye at the basement stairs.

Her stomach lurched with quick alarm, for she knew Doctor Morton could not have finished with his patient so soon. Since no one else was around to see, she leapt the last three steps at once and bolted across the hall to the cellar stairs. An elegant, dark-haired gentleman in black had almost reached the shadows at the bottom. Worse, she was sure she recognized him.

“Sir!”

He paused, glancing over his shoulder. It was indeed the satanic gentleman.

“Madam,” he returned, with the faintest bow. His voice was cool, deep, and far from unpleasant. Nor did he seem remotely embarrassed to be discovered at the foot of a stranger’s cellar stairs.

“If there is something you require, allow me to fetch it for you,” she said as civilly as she could.

“A key to this door would be appreciated.”

In fact, she hadn’t even locked it, but something about his face told her his outrageous request wasn’t entirely serious.

“Unfortunately, I cannot help you there,” she said regally. “But I assure you we don’t require our guests to fetch their own wine from our cellar. The servants will bring it to you.”

“I’m disappointed. It seemed such a busy place that I was sure there was some much more interesting entertainment going on down here.”

“Hardly,” Gillie said hastily, ignoring the not-so-veiled insult. “Unless you find broken bottles diverting.”

Part of her itched to descend the rest of the way, seize him by the arm, and drag him back up the stairs before he could reach out and open the cellar door. But somehow, he didn’t seem the kind of man one would touch let alone drag around without permission. Which was ridiculous when he was undoubtedly in the wrong. She hoped she wouldn’t need to summon Danny from his watch position outside… She struggled to find polite words to order the stranger back up.

Unexpectedly, he smiled. “Don’t spare my feelings. I’m well aware I have no business exploring your house wit     hout permission.”

 

She swallowed, for even in the poor light, that smile was devastating. A little desperately, she lifted her chin. “Then please be so good as to return with me to the salons.”

Before she’d even finished speaking, he moved with unexpected speed and no less elegance, climbing the steps three at a time. By her last word, he stood on the same step as she, gazing down at her with remains of that overwhelming smile still lurking on his sensual lips.

“With pleasure,” he murmured.

There was something altogether too large and disturbing about his person so close to her. He smelled very clean and fresh…apart from the hint of wine on his breath that reminded her to turn hastily and take the last two steps back up to the hallway.

 

Although he followed her obediently, she was sure his gaze mocked her. She could feel it burning into the back of her neck as they walked in silence to the salon.

 

From the whist table between the Misses Dundas, her aunt Margaret cocked an interrogative eyebrow. Gillie nodded reassuringly and turned straight into an officer who seized both of her hands and spun her around in a circle before kissing her cheek.

 

“Gillie Muir! It is you!”

 

“Kit!” she exclaimed with delight, recognizing an old friend who had been in Spain for the last several months. “How wonderful! I didn’t know you were back.”

Kit released her hands to point at his leg with a grimace. “Wretched thing’s misbehaving, so they sent me home on leave. Which is dashed annoying when I could be helping kick Bonaparte out of Spain!”

“They sent him to Doctor Morton,” one of his companions, Major Randolph, explained, “whom he’s avoiding like the plague. Which is no way to get back to Spain in a hurry.”

Kit—more properly, Captain Grantham, whom she’d known since he was a very green and youthful coronet—aimed an easily dodged kick at Randolph’s shins. “You just want to take my place,”

“I do, dear boy, and more,” Randolph said lazily, “but there, someone has to shuffle the regimental papers.”

Major Randolph, once tipped to be the new commander of the 44th when Colonel Fredericks retired, had been passed over for a new man from a different regiment altogether. Randolph had never shown the slightest sign of disappointment or complained about being part of the staff left behind when half the regiment joined Lord Wellington on the Peninsula. Gillie liked him for that, although not for drawing attention to Doctor Morton’s absence.

“Where is the old quack?” Randolph inquired, looking around him.

“He’s here tonight, somewhere,” Gillie said hastily, reminded to glance around for her satanic stranger while she pretended to search for the doctor. She caught a glimpse of his back wandering into the smaller salon, but before she could analyze whether her deep breath was one of relief or disappointment, her restless gaze found yet another old friend.

Her eyes widened. “Good grief!”

The Earl of Braithwaite stood up from the hazard table and grinned as she approached. “My lord!” she exclaimed.

 

“Miss Muir,” he returned mockingly, as he took her outstretched hand. “You’ll be telling me next what an honor it is to receive me.”

 

“Well, I suppose it is that, too,” she admitted. “But mostly it’s a surprise. How long have you been home?”

 

“Just a day or so.” His smile faded and he squeezed her hand before releasing it. “I was so sorry to hear about Captain Muir.”

Over the few months since her father’s death, she’d learned to deal with the frequent lump in her throat. “Thank you.”

 

“You’ll tell me if there’s anything I can do?”

“Of course, but truly we are managing. Thank you.”

Relief tinged his face as he changed the subject. “I hope you’re coming to this wretched ball tomorrow evening.”

“Wretched?” she repeated in mock outrage. “Wretched? My dear, sir, the entire county has been looking forward to it for weeks.”

 

“How so when my mother has been so eclipsed as Blackhaven’s most notable hostess? All we hear about now are Miss Muir’s card parties.”

“Quiet and select gatherings, my lord,” she said primly, although she allowed her eyes to dance. “Nothing on Lady Braithwaite’s scale!”

 

She passed on between the tables and into the smaller salon where the deeper gaming tended to take place, and where they served smuggled brandy and fine wine instead of tea. She assured herself she was checking to see there were enough refreshments available, that observing the stranger was merely a secondary chore. When she had a moment, she should ask Bernard who he was. He didn’t look like the sort of man who came to Blackhaven for the beneficial water. He looked to be, in fact, one of the healthiest and strongest people she had ever encountered. Although he could well be accompanying a sickly parent or friend…or wife.

 

In the smaller room, she was greeted by her brother Bernard and several jovial young men at the faro table.

 

“A little more brandy here, since you’re passing, Gillie,” Bernard requested.

 

As she walked toward the sideboard where the decanters sat, she become aware of the tall, dark figure who stood in front of them, pouring brandy into a glass. For no reason she could account for, her heart seemed to flutter.

 

He actually turned and bowed to her with perfect civility, although if she were being critical, it was more of an inclination of the head.

 

“May I pour you a glass of brandy?”

 

The deep, modulated voice sent shivers down her spine. The man had a most peculiar effect upon her.

 

“Thank you,” she managed lightly. “But I was just going to leave them an entire decanter and let them pour as they will.”

 

One sloping eyebrow lifted. “Leave whom with an entire decanter?”

 

She waved one hand toward Bernard’s table of players. “My brother and his friends.”

 

“I have no intention of serving them,” her stranger said with distaste. “My offer was to you.”

She smiled involuntarily. “I don’t drink brandy, sir!”

His eyes dropped to her lips. “You should when it’s as good as this.” A glass was thrust toward her and she was just bemused enough to take it. “Miss Muir, I apprehend.”

“Yes, but you have the advantage. I don’t believe I know you, and I usually remember everyone.”

“We’ve never met,” he acknowledged. “I’m afraid I came with Braithwaite.”

“Oh,” she said, relieved that he wasn’t simply some stranger who’d turned up uninvited and would have to be asked to leave, by Danny if necessary. “Then you are most welcome!”

“I thought I might be,” he murmured. “Tell me, was that young Kit Grantham I saw you with in the other room?”

“Yes indeed. That is, I did speak to him. Do you know Kit?”

“Not in the slightest. I’m acquainted with his mother.”

“Let me introduce you,” she said at once, forgetting she didn’t actually know the stranger’s name as yet in her determination to be an excellent hostess.

“On no account,” the stranger said at once, “would I willingly exchange your company for his.”

She cast him a quick glance, uncertain if he were mocking her.

He sipped his brandy. “I was merely trying to establish if he were the kind of hotheaded young officer to call me out for monopolizing your company.”

She laughed. “Kit? He’s far too good-natured to quarrel over trivia.”

The devil’s eyebrow rose again. “You regard yourself as trivial, Miss Muir? I must disagree.”

“Well it’s very kind of you to say so,” she said, amused. “I suppose I just mean that we’ve known each other forever and he has no interest in who speaks to me.” She considered. “Unless you were a villain of some kind,” she added in the interest of honesty. “Which I doubt you are!”

“Opinions vary,” the stranger said sardonically. “Shall we sit here?” He moved, ushering her toward the little alcove where two armchairs were set in the window.

Since it was her part of this enterprise to make guests comfortable, she made no demur. She only hoped he couldn’t hear the strangely quickened beat of her heart. Something about him intrigued her.

“Hoi, Gillie! The brandy!” Bernard called after her.

The stranger paused, his hand on the alcove curtain, and glanced over his shoulder. “Shift for yourself,” he advised, and let the curtain fall.

Gillie couldn’t prevent the gurgle of laughter escaping her throat. “Oh dear, I am a poor hostess!”

“Not in the slightest, you are entertaining me.”

“Am I?” she said lightly, concerned that the curtain was drawn, isolating their alcove, although she imagined it was an accident on his part. Unobtrusively, she tweaked the curtain back. “Then at the very least, you should tell me your name.”

“Keith. David Keith.” He clinked glasses with her, a rather charmingly casual gesture, and held one of the chairs for her to sit. “What sort of a name is Gillie?”

She wrinkled her nose as she sat down. “Short for Gillyflower. I’ve insisted on Gillie since I could talk.”

“Why? I rather like Gillyflower. It suits you.”

She laughed. “No, it doesn’t! There is nothing flower-like about me!”

A faint smile of response lingered on his lips, but as though he’d forgotten about it. He gazed at her without blinking.

 

Disconcerted, she blurted, “I saw you earlier, in the doorway. You looked…bored.”

“I was until I saw you.”

She flushed, covering her unaccustomed gaucheness by nervously rearranging her skirts. “Then you don’t care for cards?”

 

He took a sip of his brandy. “Sometimes. When the stakes are high enough to excite me.”

“Ah. We are too provincial for your taste,” she said deprecatingly.

“I didn’t say that. It would give me no pleasure to fleece your squire of his sheep.”

“He might fleece you of yours.”

He appeared to consider that. “I don’t know that I have any, though I suppose I must. At any rate, it would take either of us weeks to win anything worth having at those stakes, which is damned dull when there’s a girl as beautiful as you in the house.”

 

She blinked. “I’m not beautiful.”

He raised one eyebrow. “I don’t lie. Or repeat myself. Drink your brandy.”

She glanced at the glass, almost surprised to see it still in her hand. “I don’t believe I like brandy. I took a sip of my father’s once and it was nasty.”

“This isn’t, I assure you. But if you’re not responsible for it, who is?”

“My brother Bernard. My father always said his palette was his only sign of intelligence.”

Mr. Keith looked faintly amused. “Is it?”

“No,” Gillie allowed. “He’s pretty good at cards, too.”

“Are you warning me he’s a sharp?”

“Lord, no, he never cheats,” Gillie said, genuinely shocked. “Besides, I thought you wouldn’t play for such paltry, provincial stakes?”

 

“I might for the pleasure of exposing a sharp.”

“You have very odd pleasures,” she said tartly.

His lips curved. He lowered his hip onto the arm of her chair, which brought him a little too close for comfort. “You don’t yet know anything about my pleasures.”

Defiantly, she counted them off on her fingers. “Brandy, card sharps, lack of sheep…”

Quite suddenly, his smile was genuine. “Are you making fun of me, Miss Muir?”

“Only in a friendly way.”

“Then you may add that to your list of my pleasures.” He set his glass on the table, straightened, and strolled out of the alcove.

 

Gillie blinked after him in mingled surprise and disappointment. Really, his manners were quite eccentric. She wondered if her humor had offended him, though it hadn’t appeared to. Or perhaps he was just over-haughty—which begged the question why he’d spoken to her in the first place. Boredom, no doubt, clearly unrelieved by her conversation.

She had just risen from her chair again when he walked back into the alcove, a pack of cards in his left hand. His right reached for the curtain, then catching her eye, he released a silent breath of laughter and left the curtain alone.

“Shall we play for love or money?” he asked, taking the other chair, and shuffling the cards.

“I think it would bore you to play snap for either.”

“On the contrary,” he said at once.

Again, she caught a faint whiff of wine and brandy on his breath, but neither his speech nor his movements were those of a man in his cups. “Er…what is snap?”

“The only card game I play. Bernard and I invented it as children and made our parents play. We divided the cards between us and then took it in turns to play the cards one at a time in a pile. When you play a card of the same number as the one before, you have to snap your hand over it to claim the whole pile. The winner, of course, is the person who gains all the cards. You see? No sophistication and no stakes whatever.”

“Nevertheless,” he said, beginning to deal the cards between them with quick, smooth actions, “if that is your choice, I am happy to play.”

Gillie’s eyes strayed to his face. She guessed he was veiling his expression. It made her heart beat faster to imagine he was hiding too sudden an interest in her. She could even laugh at herself for such a fantasy. And yet, what other reason could he have for singling her out like this? Playing a child’s game with her…

It all added a rather breathless intoxication to the game, which was quick and evenly matched. As they played, he distracted her with witticisms and questions until she did the same to him, when he threatened to take back his cards and play no longer.

 

“Except that the cards are mine,” she pointed out.

He shoved them toward her. “Take them, with the last of my self-esteem.”

She laughed. “Truly, I am not so petulant.”

“On the other hand, the game grows noisier with time and we shall draw unwelcome attention.”

She glanced up and saw that a few amused faces were already turned toward them, including that of Lord Braithwaite, who seemed highly entertained by the sight of his haughty and presumably fashionable London friend playing such a ridiculous game for no money whatsoever.

“I think we already have,” she said ruefully, rising to her feet. “I have been distracted from my duties long enough, sir.”

 

He stood, too. “Five more minutes to make you laugh again.” Reaching up, he drew back the window curtain next to him, to reveal the French glass door onto the little terrace and the garden beyond. The night was clear and the moon full, spilling its light across the lawn and the blossoming trees to the little summer house. “You have a pretty garden. Shall we?”

Gillie hesitated. Although she knew the rules of propriety, she’d always been among friends here in Blackhaven. And if this man was a stranger, she still knew him to be a friend of Lord Braithwaite, with whom she’d been acquainted since childhood, along with his family. Besides, it was hard to doubt a man who’d played snap with her.

But even as she stood and unlocked the garden door, she understood there was more to it than that. He intrigued her. He was different, apparently oblivious to accepted manners and etiquette, yet possessed of elegance and self-assurance beyond any she’d encountered before. And if she was honest, his interest flattered her. To most of the young men of her acquaintance, she was simply Gillie, whom they’d known forever. No one told her she was beautiful as if they actually meant it, or deliberately chose her company over that of the cards or the dice. No one had ever invited her to walk in the moonlit garden.

“You left your glass,” he observed as they paused on the terrace.

“Were you planning on making a toast?” she teased.

He raised his glass. “To the moon,” he said, but instead of drinking, he offered her the glass.

Recklessly, she took it. “The moon,” she agreed and sipped warily. The fumes caught her breath and the liquid burned its way through her mouth and down her throat. The sensation was far from unpleasant.

“I like it better now,” she said in surprise, handing the glass back. He took it quickly, trapping her hand beneath his and bending his head to drink from the exact place on the glass her lips had just touched.

Her whole body heated in the friendly darkness. “Are you flirting with me?” she asked breathlessly.

He smiled. “Most definitely. Do you mind?”

She licked her dry upper lip, and his gaze dropped, following the movement in an avid way that made her cheeks burn. “I don’t know,” she said honestly.

“Then let’s see.” He bent his head, still clasping her hand over the brandy glass and kissed her mouth.

She should, of course, have slapped his face, or at least pulled away from him at once. But in truth, his action took her so much by surprise that in the first instance, she was simply stunned that he would dare. In the second instance, she realized his lips were warm and firm and strangely exciting and that there seemed to be butterflies soaring and diving in her stomach. And by the time his free hand came up to hold her nape while he deepened the kiss, she was more afraid of it ending than of anything else.

 

Her mouth yielded helplessly, letting him explore and plunder. Her free hand clutched at his coat for support and, without really knowing how, she was returning his kiss.

“Please add that,” he whispered against her lips, “to your list of my pleasures.”

And mine. Fortunately, she couldn’t yet speak, just gaze mutely into his hot, clouded eyes—how had she ever thought them cool? His fingers caressed the back of her neck. She could no longer doubt that he liked her, and nothing in the world had ever been as sweet and arousing at that knowledge.

“I’d like to discover a few of yours,” he murmured. “Take me to your chamber.”

 

All content Copyright Mary Lancaster, 2017.

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