His Forbidden Kissby Margaret Moore
Beautiful orphan Vivienne Burroughs is determined to marry only for love and isn't about to allow her uncle to marry her off for a noble title. But her plans to escape this fate are interrupted by a strong and masterful man walking out of the mist. He alone offers Vivienne salvation from her dilemma...but will not reveal his identity. And/p>… See more details below
Beautiful orphan Vivienne Burroughs is determined to marry only for love and isn't about to allow her uncle to marry her off for a noble title. But her plans to escape this fate are interrupted by a strong and masterful man walking out of the mist. He alone offers Vivienne salvation from her dilemma...but will not reveal his identity. And when he kisses her Vivienne knows she won't rest until she finds her mystery man.
When Robert Harding sees a young woman teetering on the edge the of the River Thames he is certain she's a step away from plunging to her death. A man who knows what it is to be desperate, Robert has spent his life helping others -- but, there was something different about Vivienne. Her captivating beauty is too great a temptation to resist. Honor demands that Robert, let her go, even as he knows that "Vivienne: was, made to his bride. But can honor remain strong beneath the heat of a forbidden kiss?
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Robert Harding strode through the narrow alley in Bankside, that part of London South of the Thames. At a scurrying sound, his brisk steps slowed, until he spotted the rats fighting over a piece of rotting cabbage.
Deftly avoiding them, he hurried onward until he came to the end of the alley. The street adjoining it continued to the wharf and water stairs. From there, the Bankside denizens could cross the river to the richer parts of London, or those from the richer parts could disembark, ready to risk Bankside for their sport, whatever it might be.
As he got closer to the river, creeping fog began to obscure his vision, the feeble October moon doing little to provide illumination. The fog hung heavier at the wharf overlooking the dank waters of the Thames, and the moist air seemed more laden than usual with the scent of mud and decay.
A man lingered in the shadows cast by a torch stuck near a piling, the sharp stench of pitch joining that of the mud.
Alert for danger, Rob continued to walk boldly forward, his gaze trained on the man, making it clear he was not a fop or aristocrat lost and alone. The fellow slid back into the darkness, and Rob made a small, grim smile of satisfaction.
Then he saw the woman.
Shrouded in a dark cloak, she stood on the brink of the wharf, her slender form bent forward as if peering down to the murky depths below.
As Janet had probably done on the last night of her life. Was this unknown woman intending to end her life in that same watery grave?
This place was hardly conducive to soliciting business if she was a whore, and even lesssuitable for a clandestine rendezvous with a lover.
Perhaps, if someone had come upon Janet as she stood on the wharf waiting to end her life and spoken to her, she would still be alive.
Not wanting to startle the woman, for the stones were wet and slippery and a sudden movement might make her slip and fall, he moved cautiously toward her.
"Madam," he said, his voice low and gentle, "do you require assistance?"
She quickly turned around and thrust out her hand to ward him off. "Stop!"
She had nothing in her hands: no baby to abandon or drown like an unwanted kitten.
Suicide, then, like poor lost Janet.
"Leave me alone," she ordered.
She did not sound desperate, yet her imperious words and manner did not dissuade him. This could all be bravado, a show to make him go away so that she could finish what she had come here to do.
"Madam, I cannot." He took another step closer. "It is not safe for a woman to be alone in this part of the city, especially at night.
I will be safe enough once you have gone about your business, whatever it may be in this part of London at night."
Although he could not see her face because of the shadow cast by the hood of her cloak, her voice belonged to a young woman of about twenty, he would guess, and well-to-do, if her accent and that fine cloak were anything to go by.
Spurned by a lover, perhaps.
He took another step forward. "You must allow me to escort you wherever you wish to go."
"Escort me?" she demanded skeptically. "How do I know you will not murder me? If this place is not safe, what are you doing here but Mischief?"
"I give you my word that I will not hurt you. I am a solicitor, with chambers in the city."
"An attorney who does business in Bankside?"
"If my client is a poor honest widow who is being cheated out of her inheritance by her late husband's dishonest partner and can afford to live nowhere else, I do."
"So, if I believe you-and I assure you, sir, I am no babe in the woods to believe everything I hear-you are an honest man here on honest business. If so, I thank you for your chivalrous, if misplaced, concern, and now you may go on your way."
"I will not leave you here alone."
"Sir, I do not require any assistance," she repeated.
This time, he heard the slight quaver in her voice. Determined not to abandon her, he took another step forward.
"Stay back!" she cried, again holding up her hand.
Then she lost her footing on the slick stones. Her arms flailed as she tried to regain her balance, and in that instant, Rob darted forward. He grabbed her and pulled her back from the edge with so much force, she collided against his muscular chest with a dull thud.
"Good God, I nearly fell in," she panted, clutching his upper arms and steadying herself as she looked back over her shoulder into the dark water.
Rob's heartbeat thundered in his ears as he held her, acutely aware of the sensation of the voluptuous young woman in his arms. She smelled of roses and the fine fabric of her cloak slid softly under his hands.
And he could finally see her face beneath her hood.
Each dark eyebrow rose to a point in the center, as if she were some kind of questioning imp. Small, delectable little curls lay on her forehead, and longer curls bounced over ears bearing very fine earrings -- an excellent night's take for a brigand. Half parted, her lips enticed him, and her skin ... her skin looked even softer than her cloak.
A rendezvous with a lover now seemed the more likely explanation for her presence here, and given her pretty face and shapely form, he could envy her lover, as well as curse him for putting her in such danger.
As he held her, he wondered if a won-tan of her obvious social status had any real conception of the danger facing a lone woman in Bankside, or anywhere else, for that matter.
"You made me slip!" she charged, pushing him away. "'Let go of me!"
He did at once. "I didn't mean to startle you."
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