Thomas Carrick is determined to make his own life in the bustling port city of Glasgow, far from the demands of the Carrick clan, eventually with an appropriate wife on his arm. But disturbing events on his family’s estate force Thomas to return to the Scottish countryside—where he is forced to ask for help from the last woman he wants to face. Thomas has never forgotten Lucilla Cynster and the connection that seethes between them, but to marry Lucilla would mean embracing a life he’s adamant is not for him.
Strong-willed and passionate, Lucilla knows Thomas is hers—her fated lover, husband, protector, mate. He is the only man for her, just as she is his one true love. How can he ignore a bond stronger than reason and choose a different path? She’s determined to fight for their future, and while she cannot command him, she has enticements of her own to wield when it comes to tempting Thomas Carrick.
He knew they had to stop, to cease and desist before he lost all hope of ever stepping back from her. Of ever letting her go.
But her hand remained on his cheek, her touch scalding in a way that had nothing to do with heat, effortlessly holding him captive. Holding his senses, snaring them in a net of want from which he couldn’t break free.
His senses and his mind were literally reeling.
She seemed to know, to realize.
But instead of comprehending the danger, pulling back, and letting him go, she reached—with her lips, with her body, with the gentle pressure of her hand on his cheek.
A sudden clattering clang of hooves on cobbles snapped them both free; on a mutual gasp, both pulled back from the kiss.
The sharp clatter was followed by shouts and calls.
For one instant, they remained locked together, gazing into each other’s eyes. Both of them were breathing rapidly. His pulse thudded in his ears.
Then the calls rising from below hauled them both fully back to the here and now.
They stepped apart. Side by side, they moved to the window.
That end of the disused wing overlooked the stable yard. On the cobbles below, they saw Nigel and Nolan, still mounted, their horses dancing, infected by the brothers’ transparently ebullient spirits.
Nigel had called for the stablemen—that had been the summons Thomas and Lucilla had heard—but Sean, Mitch, and Fred were taking their time.
Thomas watched as the stablemen slowly ambled across the yard and—it seemed grudgingly—held Nigel’s and Nolan’s horses. Apparently oblivious to the almost sullen disapprobation radiating from their clansmen, the brothers continued exchanging comments with each other as they dismounted, then haphazardly flung their reins toward the stablemen and started toward the house.
There were no greetings exchanged between the stablemen and the young masters of the house. As far as Thomas could see, there hadn’t even been any true acknowledgment of each other—a remarkable contrast to when he’d ridden in.
Frowning, he stepped back from the window. Less than a second’s thought sufficed to suggest that making his presence known to Nigel sooner rather than later would serve everyone, Manachan especially, best.
He looked at Lucilla. She was still gazing down at the stable yard, at the stablemen leading the horses away. Even though he couldn’t see her eyes, from her pensive, assessing expression it was clear that she’d detected the strain between the two groups of men and, like him, found it curious.
“I should go and break the news to Nigel.” He took another step back. When she turned to look at him, he pointed over his shoulder at the door just along the corridor. “That’s the door to the gallery in the main wing.” Briefly, he met her gaze. “I’ll see you later.”
He didn’t wait to see if she would reply; he turned on his heel, strode to the door, and escaped.
Lucilla watched him go. He left the door ajar; whether he’d meant to or not, it was a clear invitation to follow. Which she fully intended to do.
The kiss…had been everything she’d wanted. Even more than she’d dreamed of. But now Nigel and Nolan had arrived, such personal matters had to be set aside—for the moment. Until later.
ABOUT THIS LITERARY CHEF
#1 New York Times bestselling author Stephanie Laurens began writing romances as an escape from the dry world of professional science. Her hobby quickly became a career when her first novel was accepted for publication, and with entirely becoming alacrity, she gave up writing about facts in favor of writing fiction.
Laurens’s novels are set in the time period of the British Regency, and her settings range from Scotland to India. Laurens has published fifty works of historical romance, including 29 New York Times bestsellers. All her works are continuously available in print and digital formats in English worldwide, and have been translated into many other languages. An international bestseller, among other Stephanie’s email contactsaccolades Laurens has received the Romance Writers of America prestigious RITA Award for Best Romance Novella 2008, for The Fall of Rogue Gerrard.
Her continuing novels featuring the Cynster family are widely regarded as classics of the genre. Other series include the Bastion Club Novels and the Black Cobra Quartet. For information on upcoming releases and updates on novels yet to come, visit Stephanie’s website.
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