Novella Excerpts

Adam guid­ed his horse in front of hers and they reached the water quick­ly. He dis­mount­ed and then went to aid Thea. He cap­tured her waist, his hands span­ning it, and brought her to the ground.

And didn’t let go.

They con­tin­ued gaz­ing at each word­less­ly, some­thing pass­ing between them that he might nev­er be able to explain.

Then she said, “I’ve missed rid­ing. Remind me nev­er to break my leg again.”

I’ve oth­er things to remind you of, Thea,” he said, his voice husky and low. “Impor­tant things.”

She licked her lips ner­vous­ly. “What, Your Grace?”

This.”

He bent and touched his lips to hers. His fin­gers tight­ened on her waist. Her palms flat­tened against his chest. He pressed soft kiss­es against her mouth, his thumbs stroking her ribs. She sighed.

Adam longed to taste her. He urged her mouth open and his tongue swept inside.

Her fin­gers clutched his waist­coat. She whimpered—and he delved deep­er, doing more than mere­ly sam­pling. She tast­ed divine. Like the best sweet he’d ever indulged in, though a thou­sand times bet­ter. Her tongue met his and begin teas­ing it as she kissed him back. His hands moved to her slen­der back and trav­eled the length of it, up and down, as they con­tin­ued to kiss. And kiss. And kiss. Adam had nev­er known a kiss such as this. One that caused his heart to beat rapid­ly. That filled him with a gid­di­ness that made him want to shout with joy. A kiss that told him every­thing he need­ed to know.

He want­ed this woman in his life. Now. For­ev­er.

Derek couldn’t take her. She belonged to anoth­er, even if her hus­band had no inter­est in her. By law, Amelia could nev­er be his. Kiss­ing her now was mad­ness and would only result in heart­break for them both.


Break­ing the kiss, he touched his fore­head to hers. They both breathed quick­ly, almost pant­i­ng. He inhaled her per­fume as he brought her flush against him, feel­ing her breasts press­ing against his chest. What he wouldn’t give to erase the mis­takes he’d made, know­ing she’d rushed into Trumbull’s arms mere­ly because Derek had cast her aside. He would have to live with that the rest of his life. See her unhap­pi­ness as the years unwound. Watch her grow old and bit­ter, nev­er ful­filled with chil­dren, much less have a lov­ing hus­band and safe home.

Derek?”

Yes?”

I know you are not only a man of prin­ci­ple but very kind­heart­ed because you brought Diana back into your fam­i­ly.”

He lift­ed his head from hers. “I loved her. Father ban­ish­ing her from Ester­ley nev­er meant I stopped lov­ing her. I brought Diana home as soon as I could.”

Amelia stud­ied him, a slight frown creas­ing her brow. “I know it’s ask­ing a lot. I’m not ask­ing for love. I’m just so lone­ly, Derek. I was hop­ing you would agree … to become my lover. For just one night.”

I’d like to see you beyond tea, Diana,” he said, his voice low as his gaze sought hers.

You … would you like … to go for a dri­ve after tea?”

That would be nice—but I can think of some­thing even nicer.”

Oliv­er cupped the nape of her neck and saw her eyes widen. The iris­es dark­ened. He didn’t say any­thing, giv­ing her time to refuse his advance if she wished.

And antic­i­pate what would come if she didn’t.

Her tongue dart­ed out and moist­ened her lips. She didn’t say no. He took that as an encour­ag­ing sign.

I’m going to kiss you, Diana. Do you want this as much as I do?” he asked soft­ly.

Yes,” she whis­pered. “Maybe even more than you.”

He sensed the cur­rent that ran between them as his fin­gers tight­ened slight­ly. His thumb stroked her neck and final­ly stopped where her pulse flut­tered wild­ly.

I promise you won’t for­get this first kiss between us.”

Oh, I for­got my retic­ule in Walton’s office,” Car­o­line told Luke, wor­ry­ing her bot­tom lip.

He couldn’t under­stand why women even car­ried them, much less why Car­o­line fret­ted, espe­cial­ly since they’d be back at Evie’s tomor­row morn­ing. “Do you need it?”

A blush tint­ing her porce­lain cheeks. “Actu­al­ly, I do. I’d ordered a … spe­cial book. It came in and I slipped it inside my retic­ule.”

He cap­tured her waist, his thumbs mas­sag­ing her ribcage. He loved watch­ing her eyes go large and the hitch in her breath. “How spe­cial?”

It was … some­thing I thought … we might look at tonight. Togeth­er,” she demurred.

He low­ered his face till his lips were hov­er­ing above hers. “It’s naughty?”

Yes,” she said, the cor­ners of her mouth turn­ing up. “Rachel told me about it.”

He chuck­led. “Leave it to my sis­ter to find some­thing like that.”

Rachel said it’s very inter­est­ing. And there are all kinds of things to … try out.”

Luke’s lips touched hers and he took his time leisure­ly explor­ing her mouth, enjoy­ing those lit­tle nois­es that came from the back of her throat. He broke the kiss.

Then I bet­ter go back and retrieve it. We’ve only tonight to our­selves to enjoy total peace and qui­et till the mon­sters return tomor­row.”

Car­o­line swat­ted him play­ful­ly. “They are not,” she protest­ed. “They are the sweet­est of chil­dren and you love them dear­ly.”

I do love them dear­ly,” he agreed, nuz­zling her neck. “And I adore their mama even more.”

Just as Ferand reached where two hall­ways inter­sect­ed, a fig­ure round­ed the cor­ner at blaz­ing speed and crashed into him. Instinc­tive­ly, Ferand grabbed on to someone’s elbows and looked down.

His gaze met the deep, green eyes of Elia de Wolfe.

Come back!” a voice called from a dis­tance.

Lady Elia cursed under her breath. She removed a scroll hid­den inside her kir­tle and slammed it against his chest.

Take it!” she hissed.

Ferand released one of her elbows and accept­ed the small scroll. The seal remained affixed. On it was a head of a wolf. He assumed it was a mis­sive to her from a fam­i­ly mem­ber, most like­ly her father.

Hide it,” she com­mand­ed as the foot­steps grew loud­er.

She pulled on him, lead­ing him around the cor­ner. “Promise me you will not read it.”

He saw the pan­ic welling in her face and how she fought against it.

I won’t.” Ferand slid it inside his tunic.

Lady Elia!” The voice came clos­er.

God’s Bones,” she mur­mured. Look­ing around, she pulled Ferand toward a near­by alcove and pushed him par­tial­ly in it.

Kiss me,” she ordered. “And make it look like the kiss of your life.”

Ferand need­ed no fur­ther invi­ta­tion.

Geof­frey said, “I have some­thing for you this Christ­mas Day.”

Sur­prise filled Merryn’s face. “Me? That wasn’t nec­es­sary.”

It was to me.”

He stood and went into their bed­cham­ber, fetch­ing the pair of ear­rings he’d had the vil­lage jew­el­er craft. He wrapped his fin­gers around his palm so they couldn’t be seen and returned to the solar, wrap­ping his arms around his wife’s waist and pulling her close.

Do you remem­ber what I gave you on our wed­ding night?” he asked.

You gave me a brooch from France. I wear it every day.” She fin­gered the piece rest­ing on her breast.

I told you the sap­phire stones remind­ed me of your eyes.”

Mer­ryn smiled. “I remem­ber. I remem­ber every­thing about that night.”

He brought one arm between them and opened his hand, palm up. “These also are the deep blue of your eyes.”

Oh, Geof­frey!” She stared at the ear­rings. “They’re love­ly.”

Put them on,” he urged.

His wife took one and fas­tened it to her ear­lobe and then did the same with the oth­er.

They match your eyes,” he told her. “I’ve nev­er seen eyes as blue as yours.” Geof­frey cupped her cheek. “This Christ­mas is the first of many we will spend togeth­er, Mer­ryn.”

He brushed the back of his fin­gers against her bel­ly. “Next Christ­mas, our fam­i­ly will grow by one. I hope more chil­dren are to come.”

I love you so much, Geof­frey.”

I will always love you, Mer­ryn. For­ev­er and ever.”

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Stand­ing before him was a woman of incan­des­cent beau­ty.

Her hair drew Godwin’s eyes. It spilled about her shoul­ders and down past her waist. It was as if it had been lit afire and burned with all of the shades found in flames. He itched to run his fin­gers through the silken waves. Vibrant, green eyes dom­i­nat­ed her oval face, though pink, full lips tempt­ed him to kiss her before he spoke to her.

Push­ing that notion aside, he asked, “What’s your name, pet?”

Her eyes nar­rowed in dis­plea­sure. “What is yours?” she coun­tered, rais­ing her chin a notch.

Beau­ti­ful and brave. A lethal com­bi­na­tion.

God­win couldn’t help but chuck­le at her dar­ing, a mere slip of a woman stand­ing up to a pirate. “I am Cap­tain God­win Trenoweth of Poseidon’s Legion. Some even call me God of the Seas.”

Her nose crin­kled in dis­gust. “Oh. A pirate. I’ve heard of them. They take what isn’t theirs.”

He closed the dis­tance between them. “They do,” he con­firmed. “Your name, my lady? I’ve told you mine.”

She hes­i­tat­ed a moment and then said, “Melisent Win­ches­ter.”

God­win knew the king had been known as Hen­ry of Win­ches­ter before he took his Plan­ta­genet throne. Clever of her to use that sur­name. She also wore some­thing shape­less of undyed wool, a gray, col­or­less thing that was no bet­ter than a sack cov­er­ing her, instead of the fin­ery that a princess would wear.

Idly, he won­dered what lay beneath the sack.