ONE WILD NIGHT . . .
Widowed and lonely, Bridget O’Shaughnessy Black indulges herself in a night of pleasure. After all, she’s in disguise. And the baby girl? An unexpected blessing…until an old flame claims the child as his own to force Bridget to marry him.
ONE DETERMINED LADY. . .
Many women pursued Colin Warren, but only one climbed in his bedchamber window. When Bridget does it for the second time, she needs his help. Colin knows he’s unfit to be a parent, yet he has no choice but to acknowledge the little girl.
RISKING EVERYTHING FOR LOVE
Together they must solve the mystery of the old flame’s intentions—but can they reconcile their divided loyalties—Irish and English—through the power of love?
Bridget was a fool to want Colin, but she couldn’t help it. What had come over her? Suddenly, stupidly, she was willing to risk another illegitimate child by him.
They were almost at the inn. She dreaded another restless night. She needed something to distract her. “Where are those apples? The horses deserve a treat.”
Colin passed her the basket. She took four of the wrinkled apples. They pulled up in front of a battered old building with weathered timbers and dormers peeking from under a thatched roof. No eager servant came rushing out of the inn to greet them.
“House!” Colin bellowed, opening the coach door. Without bothering to let down the steps, he took Bridget by the waist and lifted her down into the rain. His hands didn’t linger. “Hurry up and give them the damned apples. Let’s get out of this bloody rain.”
“Would you stop fussing?” she cried. “We’ll catch up to Martin eventually.”
“That’s not what I’m fussing about,” he snapped, heading for the rear of the coach. Bridget offered apples to the wheeler and leader on one side and then stalked around to treat the others.
A spare, grizzled man limped out of the inn. “Come in, come in,” he said, but his eyes widened at the sight of Colin, in his wet but obviously costly clothing, unearthing two valises from the boot. “I’m that sorry, sir, but I don’t have accommodation for the likes of you.”
“Does your roof leak?” Colin demanded. “Do the fireplaces smoke?”
“No sir, but—”
“Will the horses be warm and dry too?” Bridget piped up, and suddenly she began to shiver.
“Aye, the stables is fine,” the landlord said.
“Then we’ll do fine, too.” Colin dropped the valises on the doorstep. “Warm and dry is all we ask, and I’ll pay handsomely for it.”
A stout lady in an old-fashioned mobcap appeared in the doorway. “What are you waiting for, Stan? I’ll light a fire in the guest chamber. Let the gentleman and his missus in before they catch their deaths.”
The landlord still seemed uneasy. “I’m sorry, sir, but we’ve only the one small guest room, and not even a private parlor.”
“We’ll do fine,” Bridget and Colin said simultaneously. Their hands touched and twined together. Clung together, as if one or the other of them—or both—was afraid the other would let go. Or as if they were about to plunge off a cliff and holding on for dear life.
Bridget’s heart began to pound. She slid her gaze surreptitiously toward Colin. He wasn’t looking at her but rather straight ahead. A drop of water rolled from his wet hair, over his brow, and down to his upper lip. His tongue flicked out and licked it up.
Desire roared through her. She shuddered. His right dimple appeared, but so briefly she almost didn’t see it.
The landlady bustled away, and the landlord grabbed the valises. “Just you follow me, then. I’m Stan Butterworth, and that’s my rib, Martha.” He led them through the taproom. “You’ll want to change out of them wet clothes first of all, and then we’ll see to your supper.” He preceded them up a narrow flight of stairs. “My Martha’s a right good cook, and we had mutton stew to our dinner, but it won’t be what you’re accustomed to.”
“I’m sure it will be delicious,” Bridget managed. Could food possibly have been farther from her mind?
“It can get right rowdy in here on a fair evening,” Mr. Butterworth said, “but we won’t have much custom tonight, what with the storm and all. You’ll have a peaceful sleep.”
Colin made a sound between a snort and a laugh, but he didn’t let go of her hand.
Mrs. Butterworth bustled past them in the passage above, carrying a lit taper. “I’d just lit the fire in our chamber to ward off the damp,” she said. “It will take no time to get yours going as well. And the sheets is fresh today.”
They followed the landlord into a bedchamber under the thatched roof. The small dormer window let in little light—just enough to see the small bed which would fit them both, but only if they slept very close together.
Bridget said nothing. Nor did Colin. The landlord set down the bags, and Bridget shivered.
“You poor young lady,” Mrs. Butterworth said. “Better get out of them wet clothes. Take care of the fire, Stan. I’ll fetch some towels.”
Colin let go of Bridget’s hand and helped remove her pelisse, which clung to her wet sleeves. He set it over a chair, shucked off his own coat, unknotted his cravat, and tossed it to the floor. The landlady bustled in with an armful of towels. Colin grabbed one and passed it to Bridget, then toweled his own hair. It stood up every which way.
Bridget couldn’t help but smile, but he didn’t return it, so perhaps she had read him wrong. Perhaps he intended to sleep on the floor or something equally stupid. She took refuge in toweling her own hair, which doubtless looked almost as ridiculous as his.
The kindling caught hold, and the landlord plied the bellows. Flames licked around the logs.
“There, that’s good enough,” Colin said. “I’ll take care of the fire from here on.”
“Aye, Stan, leave the lady and gent to take off them soggy clothes and warm up,” Mrs. Butterworth said, driving her husband through the door. “Unless you need me to help with your laces, ma’am?”
“No need,” Colin said, at the same instant as Bridget said desperately, “No, thank you.” She tried to stifle a breath of relief.
The landlady smiled indulgently. “Such a fine young couple you are. I’ll have a good hot supper for you in the taproom whenever you’re ready.” She went out and shut the door.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Winner of the Holt Medallion, Maggie, Daphne du Maurier, Reviewer’s Choice and Epic awards, Barbara Monajem wrote her first story at eight years old about apple tree gnomes. She published a middle-grade fantasy when her children were young, then moved on to paranormal mysteries and Regency romances with intrepid heroines and long-suffering heroes (or vice versa).
Barbara loves to cook, especially soups. There are only two items on her bucket list: to make asparagus pudding (because it’s too weird to resist) and succeed at knitting socks. She’ll manage the first but doubts she’ll ever accomplish the second. This is not a bid for immortality but merely the dismal truth. She lives near Atlanta, Georgia with an ever-shifting population of relatives, friends, and feline strays.