When Aurora Hyatt loses her journal in Hyde Park, her ruin is a foregone conclusion. After all, if anyone discovers her writings, they’ll find scandalous fantasies involving the newest rake in Town alongside entirely-too-candid thoughts about her typical dreary suitors. Aurora will either be forced into a loveless marriage with the first nodcock to make an offer, or she’ll be assigned a permanent position on the shelf. Oh, dear good Lord. What catastrophe will God smote down upon her next?
If Niles Thornton, Baron Quinton, desires to maintain any semblance of his current lifestyle, he must fulfill the requirements his grandfather has set for him. First and foremost: he must marry and begin filling his nursery within the year. When he is nearly barreled over by a racing curricle and a journal flies out to land at his feet, his troubles are over. Inside the journals pages, Quin discovers a scandal waiting to happen. Surely a young lady who would write such brazen things in a journal (and then dare to lose it) must recognize the necessity of a hasty marriage, even if the gentleman making the offer is rather less-than-honorable.
In a drunken haze, Quin kisses Aurora on a crowded ballroom floor, necessitating their immediate marriage. Quin’s troubles are only beginning, however, as Aurora’s writings are soon the focus of both gossip rags and drawing room conversation. When word arrives of an even greater scandal following in his wife’s wake, will he prove himself a drunken abuser like his father, or will he become the loving husband of Aurora’s fantasies?
Aurora heard no music. She saw nothing but him, Lord Quinton, staring down at her with an intensity she’d never experienced. He smelled of brandy and heat. She was nearly intoxicated just from his sheer proximity.
After moments or hours, she would never know, she finally found her tongue. “My lord, how did you know who I am?” What a foolish, silly question. She was a ninny. What did that matter? Not a whit.
“I would imagine in the same manner you knew who I am.” His eyes bored into her. “You do know, do you not?”
She would be perfectly content to never take another breath so long as he never stopped looking at her like that. Aurora tingled everywhere he touched her, with the delicious gooseflesh spreading through her limbs, up to her head, and then plummeting all the way down to her toes—which somehow curled beneath her.
“Yes. You are the mysterious Lord Quinton.” And he would think her an utter dolt if she did not manage to remove the derisible grin from her face. There was also the rather embarrassing problem of a blush spreading over her cheeks and all the way to her bosom. The heat flowed like gauze in the wind. She looked down to see how bad it was, only to realize too late she had drawn his gaze to that very same place.
“That I am.” He stared at the low bodice of her gown, or rather at the display just above it, for an inordinately long period of time. Finally, his eyes moved slowly up her chest to her neck, to her chin, to her lips—where they paused yet again.
She felt parched. She needed something—something—something to calm her nerves and to cool her off. Yet all she wanted to do was move closer, still.
Aurora licked her lips.
Lord Quinton’s hand at her waist flinched and grew tense, pulling her in as though on command.
“I am also, Miss Hyatt, not the kind of gentleman a proper young lady should have anything to do with—not if she wishes to keep her reputation intact.”
“I am aware of that.” Too aware. But that was the last thing she wanted to think of at the moment. She preferred to focus on the day’s growth of stubble lining his jaw and to imagine how it might feel if she drew her hand across it.
The corners of his lips quirked up in the slightest hint of a rakish grin. It looked lascivious. Fiendish. And entirely too appealing. “Then you must also be aware, Miss Hyatt, that every eye in the room is trained upon the two of us. Including those of your chaperone. Perhaps even your father.”
“Yes,” she said, with a slight tremor in her voice. Blast him for reminding her of all the reasons she should run screaming from him. And blast her for not doing as she ought.
Lord Quinton’s eyes smiled at her then, a smile only a true rogue could muster. “And yet you remain with me. Dancing.” He twirled her about so fast she would have lost her feet, but for his strong arm at her waist pulling her ever closer. “Waltzing.”
At this new distance she smelled his cologne, much like she had imagined it in her story. “Yes,” she whispered, no longer trusting her voice not to fail.
He stood still and held her steady before him. “Lovely,” Lord Quinton growled just before his lips descended upon hers in a kiss. A kiss nothing like what she imagined.
This was nothing tender or chaste. It was needy and possessive and hot.
He pulled her closer until her body was melded into his, her curves tucked neatly into his angles and planes like they had been made just for that purpose. One hand moved up into the chignon at the nape of her neck, fisting and tugging and drawing her ever closer.
His lips were hard and demanding. The stubble along his jaw assaulted her tender skin in a way that left her panting for more. He bit her lower lip and she cried out, but it was muffled against his tongue as it moved inside her mouth.
Aurora tasted his brandy—smooth and dark.
Lord Quinton moved his tongue in and out and around. When he suckled, her toes sang and the tips of her fingers trembled and something both terrible and wonderful happened between her thighs.
She wanted more.
She wanted to do the things to him he was doing to her, to make him feel these wanton feelings.
She wanted it never to end.
But then he pulled his head back, the absence of his lips leaving hers aching for their return.
Lord Quinton stepped away from her. Removed his hands from her. He bowed his head briefly. “Miss Hyatt. I bid you good evening.”
And he left.
Catherine Gayle has been an avid reader of romance novels (and almost anything else she can legally get her hands on) for as long as she can remember. Her mother might say it started in the womb. When she is not writing or reading, she can often be found buried beneath her sleeping cat or chasing the Nephew Monster. She’s a reality TV junkie, a hockey addict, and experimental cook.
Catherine Gayle’s books are available from: Second Wind Publishing, LLC