Hell will freeze over before Miss Philomena Aubrey willingly marries the insufferable Honorable Luther Whyte. Her mother had angled Mina’s quite hefty dowry in front of the vicar and secured him, but Mina still resisted. When Mrs. Aubrey threatens to force her into the marriage, Mina’s father hides his daughter with a friend of his as he leaves for an extended business trip.
A wounded war hero, burdened by guilt after inadvertently sending his French fiancée to death, Lord James Darling keeps his family as far away from his tormented heart as possible. But as he keeps bumping into his mother’s new lady’s maid, he grows suspicious—is she a spy?—and sets out to expose her, only to find himself mesmerized by her feistiness and her warm heart.
“Miss Ayle,” he greeted her coldly, and she made sure to curtsy as humbly as she could muster.
“If you are searching for my brother, you will probably have to go back to where you came from. If I know him correctly, he is still in bed.”
She wanted to roll her eyes over his rudeness but managed to keep her eyeballs still as she recognized the jealousy oozing from him. So instead she shrugged lightly, hiding her excitement. “I wouldn’t know, my lord, I haven’t seen him since we parted in the gallery last night.”
He didn’t answer that, but as he dismounted she thought he looked a bit less rigid.
“Did my mother send you for me?”
She almost groaned. Why hadn’t she thought of that? It would have been a much better and much more valid excuse for seeking him out, rather than mumbling something airy about how she had happened to bump into him while visiting the horses. Had she been a bit better on planning ahead, thinking one step further, she could gladly have told him that his mother wanted to see him, because that would have meant walking with him through the castle.
But unfortunately she hadn’t thought so far. To be completely truthful, she hadn’t thought much about it at all, as she had been too excited to see him again after her nightly conclusions. So she simply made another curtsy and shook her head as solemnly as she could muster. “No, my lord.”
He didn’t say anything in response, only handed the horse’s reins to the stable boy and watched the beautiful animal disappear deeper into the large stable, while she grabbed the sudden opportunity to gawk at him.
He was the picture of a country gentleman, beyond splendid even if he was clad in a scruffy brown riding outfit which had seen better days a decade or two ago. But the rich brown color of the worn cloth made his blond hair shine and his light gray eyes glisten. He was such a handsome man! The more she took in his appearance, the more certain she became about him being the one for her.
Lord James Darling had none of what she considered the less attractive qualities the Honorable Luther Whyte possessed and rejoiced in showing off. Instead he was a wallflower by choice, always on the edge of whatever company wherein he found himself. His body was in one place, but his mind, his heart, and his soul were elsewhere. He had an air of loneliness, but instead of seeking the company of others he preferred to keep everyone at as many arms’ lengths as he could.
Especially when it came to his family.
Looking at him, she couldn’t help but think she had to save him. She had to bring him back to life. Back to his family. Something dark bothered him—it was obvious to anyone who took a good look at him, and she had to admit she was desperate to find out what it could be.
Jamie was a mystery, and for better or for worse, she couldn’t walk away from the riddle he presented.
When he noticed her staring at him, he frowned, unimpressed. “Was there something else, Miss Ayle?”
“No. my lord.”
“Are you curtsying to me?”
He seemed aghast, as if something with her bobbing her knees bothered him. Of course she had to do it again, to tease him, and received yet another frown.
“We both know you are anything but a maid, so please stop the knee bending.”
“Yes, my lord.”
“And stop calling me that.”
“Yes, my lord.”
“I said stop it.”
She kept quiet for a second more before lowering her gaze so he couldn’t see the twinkle in her eyes. “Of course, my lord.”
He surprised her by being quite resourceful, grabbing her chin with his strong fingers and forcing her to look him in the eye. “I said stop it.”
“Yes, my lord.”
“I mean it.”
“Of course, my lord.”
“Stop it before I do something we both will regret,” he said, lowering his head until their noses almost met.
Feeling his breath against her lips stirred something inside her, and she couldn’t hold back a shiver of delight. Mesmerized, she stared into his eyes, watching them as they turned warmer, burning into her.
“Whatever you say, my lord.”
His gaze turned darker, hotter, and before she could think one straight thought he lowered his head until their lips almost touched. “What would you say if I do the unthinkable and kiss you?”
He stared at her for a second, as if in shock over her honest and direct approach. His normal coldness disappeared as he reluctantly smiled down at her. Slowly, he lifted his other hand and put it around her neck, stroking the sensitive skin of her neck with his thumb.
“Remember that you asked for it,” he whispered.
“I did.” Her voice was only a whisper away from audible, but he still caught the meaning of what she’d said to him, and before either of them had a chance to stop this insanity, he lowered his head until his lips pressed against hers determinedly.
The groan which slipped out from him as their lips met made her knees weak, and a moan ripped itself out from her chest in response to his pleasure and the divine feeling of his full lips against hers. He planted small, delicious kisses on both her lips before returning to her upper lip and the corner of her mouth, as if he couldn’t decide which part of her mouth he liked best. Tenderly, he nibbled on her lower lip, sending waves of pleasure through her. Just as she thought this couldn’t get any better, his tongue forced its way into her mouth, and she died a thousand divine deaths.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
So who am I? Well, to do it the short way… I’m a devoted mother of four children (beloved little monsters), married to my very own hero and best friend (deeply in love for more than twenty years), owner of one cat (whom I didn’t get to name Elvis) who rules our home without mercy. Completely addicted to coffee (who isn’t?). I live in western Sweden, in a house that is constantly growing and therefore is never finished. Did I mention my husband is a builder…
I’m totally addicted to TV shows such as Elementary, The Blacklist, Person of Interest, Bones, Criminal Minds, NCIS and Castle to mention a few. I’m still in mourning as a few of my all time favourites was cancelled this spring. Rest in Peace CSI and The Mentalist.
I’m currently writing on a fifth novel in The Royal Family series in which Lord Sebastian Darling will meet his match.