When Juliana Stevenson’s father dies under suspicious circumstances, her greedy uncle betroths her and her sister to vile men for his profit. They refuse to be part of his plan and flee, but her uncle hires an arrogant, demanding man to bring them back.
Needing money to care for his brother and sister and repair a manor in disrepair, Nicholas Blackstone agrees to find the women. He captures Juliana but not her sister and imprisons her in his manor until he can discover the whereabouts of her sibling.
Juliana’s body calls to Nicholas, but she can never be his — her life is already mapped out. Can they fight the passion pulling them together while her father’s killer stalks them?
The small, warm form lay still below him. Had he killed her? No. Her ragged gasps penetrated his fear. Nicholas hadn’t meant to land so hard, but the aggravating chit deserved it. She held a gun on him and threatened to shoot!
But she was a woman, and a small one at that. He jumped off her, grabbed her arm, and hauled her to her feet.
“Let go…of…me.” She panted as she fought to catch her breath.
“Are you hurt?”
“I don’t…know. Probably. You pounced on me.” She fought to free herself.
He released her. “You had a gun.”
Miss Stevenson brushed the dirt from her bodice and skirt. “You tried to kidnap us.”
“I wasn’t kidnapping you. I was returning you and your sister to your uncle. He is worried about you.” He strode to one side of the cave and scooped up the gun lying beside the wall.
“He doesn’t care for us. His concern is how much money our marriages will bring him.” She examined her palm and winced. “We won’t go back.”
“He is your guardian.” He peered at her hands. “You cut yourself.”
She glared at him. “It’s your fault, and he’s not my guardian. I am of age.”
“Well, Miss Emily isn’t, and he wants you both. Where will your sister hide?”
“I have no idea.”
She walked away. This female who didn’t reach his shoulder actually walked away. He thought this job would be quick and easy, and he would soon be with his brother and sister with money to start repairing the crumbling estate he inherited, so he could return to the army where he belonged. Where exasperating women didn’t question his orders and answered when asked for information. He ran to catch up and grabbed her elbow. “Where are you going?”
With defiance flashing in her green eyes, she jerked from his grip. “To wash my hands.”
He let her leave. She wouldn’t travel far. She didn’t have a horse. And neither did he. Her bag sat on the ground with supplies strewn around it. He stuffed the items inside and scanned the cave. He hadn’t missed anything. He exited and stalked to the ocean.
Miss Stevenson crouched at the water’s edge, swishing her hands in the cold water. The sun starting its descent highlighted the honey-colored swirls in her cinnamon-brown hair. She had removed her leather half boots and cotton stockings, and lifted the hem of her blue skirt and white petticoat to avoid the waves. White, slim ankles peeked out and called to his fingers to wrap around the fragile bones and caress the warm, soft skin. To continue up the leg…
What was he thinking? He had taken this job for the money not a sexual interlude. Other females could take care of those needs. Ones who wouldn’t point a gun at him. He ambled to Miss Stevenson and stopped behind her. “How are your hands?”
“Fine, no thanks to you.”
Exasperating chit. “Where will I find your sister?”
“I told you, I don’t know.” She swept her hands through the water.
“I think you do. Get up.”
She stilled and looked at him, her eyes wary. “Why?”
“Because we are leaving.”
She rose and faced him. “I am not returning to my uncle.”
“We are not going there. He wants you and Miss Emily taken to him together. Since I don’t have your sister… But I will find her with or without your help and when I do, you will go back. Now, put on your boots and stockings.”
“We’ll see about that,” she whispered to herself but loud enough for him to hear. She snatched her footwear and marched up the sand to a dry spot away from the waves. She jammed them on her feet muttering to herself. When she finished, she hugged her knees and stared at him. “If not to my uncle’s, where are we headed? As you can see, we have no horses.” A self-satisfied smirk spread across her face.
She would be trouble, but he had led hardened, seasoned men and she was a slip of a girl. “Warrior wouldn’t have wandered far. We will find him and then search for your sister.”
Her smile fell. “Forget my sister. You have me.”
He started toward her. She tensed.
He was glad to see he had some impact on her. “Your uncle stressed he particularly wanted Miss Emily. And I can see why. She is pretty and obeys orders. Now let’s go.” He stomped past her.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Loreen Augeri has always wanted to write. As a child, her stories were about the horses she enjoyed riding. Later in life, after taking a course taught by Hannah Howell, she turned to writing historical romances. She is a member of RWA and the New England Chapter. Loreen lives in Massachusetts with her husband and two daughters. Graduating with degrees in sociology and computer science, she now works in her local library. She loves to read historical romances, the hundreds of books stored in her basement attest to that, walk, dance, and spend time at the beach in the summer.
Visit Loreen on her website: http://www.loreenaugeri.com/