The pampered daughter of a Duke . . .
Lady Arabella Tremont has spent her entire life protected and overshadowed by her restrictive father. But she is a Tremont, after all, and the morning after she is nearly ruined at a ball by a handsome stranger, Arabella’s father demands she make an arranged match with an heir to a dukedom. In desperation, Arabella takes matters into her own hands.
Takes a London holiday with the most unsuitable of chaperones . . .
Major Kingsley is in London to avoid to his parents’ dreadful house party. To his surprise he runs into the enticing – and unforgettable — minx he met at a ball the previous night. Arabella, or Birdie, as he knows her, insists he owes her three favors-for he’s put her in a terrible pinch; Kingsley agrees, if only to delay his trip home and because the notion of spending the day with this enchanting bit of muslin is too tempting to resist. But all too quickly he discovers Arabella’s requests are hardly what he expected…
“Ah, fair milkmaid,” came a rich, deep voice off to Lady Arabella Tremont’s right.
Fair milkmaid. How original. She nearly sighed. For she knew what would come next. The comparisons of her eyes to sapphires. How her hair was a river of honeyed chestnut. Her form that of a …
With this being her fourth Season out, she’d heard every compliment, every greeting men seemed capable of offering. Was there a single man in London who didn’t steal his lines of besotted admiration from the same tired book of poetry?
When she turned around she knew what she would find—some costumed blade who might be mildly handsome. He’d have come this way to claim her hand because he was “madly in love with her,” but what he was madly in love with was the prospect of her dowry, that and being married to the Duke of Parkerton’s only daughter.
So it was each time she attended a ball, a soiree, some costumed fête. There was nothing about tonight that hinted that this encounter would be any different.
Yet when she did turn, her dull, predictable world tilted. Before her stood a tall, plainly dressed gentleman—wearing what could hardly be called a costume, just an unassuming black jacket, breeches, and a simple half mask—yet there was nothing simple about this man.
His bearing came with a sense of power, strength, as if he expected his every wish, his every command to be answered. From the breadth of his shoulders, to the way they tapered down to a narrow waist, to his long limbs and the set of his solid jaw, everything about him drew her eye—such raw masculinity couldn’t have been hidden by any costume.
Certainly his plain drapings only accentuated the wide expanse between him and his preening counterparts. Set him on a commanding pedestal all his own.
A height that left him able to let his gaze rake over her with an intimacy, a claiming that had her wishing for her wrap.
Good heavens, it was as if the man was imagining her naked.
Naked, indeed! Now she was the one being ridiculous. For next he’d offer some well-practiced endearments, a bit of poetry, some offer to guess who she was, when the fellow knew very well who she was.
Everyone did. Oh, to be an anonymous miss with a world of possibilities before her.
“Lovely milkmaid,” he continued as he bowed slightly, and with daring presumption caught her hand in his steely grasp and pulled her close, so he might whisper in her ear. A smooth, quick sally that left her unable to protest.
For he was doing what no other man had ever dared—breaching the high, proper walls that were her due as an heiress and the pampered daughter of a duke. Why, the rogue was peeling her glove off with a slow deliberateness, as if it was common practice to remove a lady’s glove.
In full view of the entire ballroom.
That, and his breath was teasing over the shell of her ear in a most delicious way, leaving her feeling a bit light-headed.
Her! Lady Arabella Tremont. The girl who’d been thrown out of Miss Emery’s School for being too bold.
Not to be undone by his brazen manners, she straightened and did her best to appear unruffled and uninterested in what this rake had to say.
Save his touch was sending the most dangerous and teasing tendrils of desire through her.
This was desire, wasn’t it? Was this what it was like to be seduced?
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Elizabeth Boyle was an anti-piracy paralegal for Microsoft before settling down to write full-time. Her first novel, Brazen Angel, which won Dell’s Diamond Debut Award in 1996, also won the Romance Writers of America’s RITA Award for Best First Book, and was a finalist for Best Long Historical Romance. She lives with her husband in Seattle, Washington. She is also the author of Brazen Heiress.