Frances Snowden can hardly believe her good fortune when she’s whisked away from her boring life by her sister who is now a duchess. Instead of becoming the third wife of her parents’ stuffy neighbor, she can be anything she wants: a doting aunt to her newborn niece, a debutante in London, or even an independent spinster. But when she meets and kisses a mysterious man on a walk in the countryside, she knows exactly what she desires—him.
David Langley, Earl of St. Ives, is resigned to marrying the dull woman his parents chose when he was a child. His future is suddenly, and happily, diverted when he encounters a captivating young woman who shows him everything he’s been missing. Ready to embark on a blissful life together, a long-buried feud between their families makes their marriage impossible. Nothing is more important than duty and family, but can he turn his back on love?
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“Why do you live with your sister? Is it because she’s sponsoring your Season?”
“Yes, and because my life in Yorkshire with my parents was unfathomably dull.” Particularly after her dearest—and really only—friend had married two years ago. Fanny suppressed a shudder when she thought of how she could be married to the odious Mr. Duckworth. “I hail from a small village called Pickering. It’s just north of Nowhere, right next to Nothing.”
His mouth ticked up in a slight smile. “Sounds heavenly.”
“It isn’t. Or at least, it isn’t with my family. With the right person, it might be. There is an astounding amount and variety of birds. I’ll return at some point. I wish to start a—never mind.” She was beginning to learn that she didn’t need to tell everyone everything, and doubted he’d care to hear about her workhouse idea.
“I shall make a point of visiting someday, especially if you’re going to be there. Were you going to say something else?”
He looked at her with such avid curiosity that she wondered why she would keep anything from him. “I plan to start a workhouse that will help unmarried mothers and orphans. We’ll train them to find positions outside the workhouse to give them the best possible life.”
His gaze swept over her face with warmth and admiration. “You’re still testing my resolve, Fanny.” The words came out soft but with a scalding heat.
She edged closer, scooting an inch or two along the bench. “I wasn’t trying just then, but I’ll take what I can get.”
“I really should resist.” He leaned closer. “But you make it blessed difficult.”
She tipped her head back as he loomed over her. “And I’m trying to be a proper young Society miss, but I’d much rather kiss you.”
“Then we are in agreement there.” He hesitated the barest moment before muttering something she couldn’t quite understand. Then his lips claimed hers and his arms came around her back, pulling her closer.
She’d dreamed of this moment so many times but had long ago given up hope. Until she’d seen him at the ball the other night. Then her imagination had taken flight once more, and now here they were. She put her hands on his chest and slid them up his coat as his lips opened over hers.
Sensation threatened to sweep her away when her tongue touched his. The memory of his kiss had filled her for four long months, but the reality was more intense than she imagined. There was wet heat and a surprising urge to thrust into his mouth and claim what she wanted. She felt brazen and seductive. Powerful. But also a willing recipient of his boldness, of his seductive power. He might not make a habit of kissing women, but he was certainly skilled.
One of his hands cupped the back of her neck as he tilted her head and slanted his mouth over hers, gaining deeper access and joining them more intimately. With his other hand, he pulled her flush against his chest so that her breasts tingled from the contact. Indeed, her entire body came alert with sexual curiosity and need. An image of herself throwing her leg over his lap and straddling him invaded her mind and set off a burst of heat between her thighs.
She clutched at his neck, returning his kiss with all the fervor bursting inside her. The hand on her neck moved to cup the side of her face as he drew away—not far, just enough to look into her eyes. His had darkened to flinty steel. “Fanny, this is dangerous territory.”
“It’s lovely territory. I’m keen to explore more of it.”
Darcy Burke is the USA Today Bestselling Author of sexy, emotional historical and contemporary romance. Darcy wrote her first book at age 11, a happily ever after about a swan addicted to magic and the female swan who loved him, with exceedingly poor illustrations. Join her reader club at http://www.darcyburke.com/readerclub. A native Oregonian, Darcy lives on the edge of wine country with her guitar-strumming husband, their two hilarious kids who seem to have inherited the writing gene, two Bengal cats and a third cat named after a fruit.
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