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EXCERPT FROM SURROGATE LOVER
The woman who opened the door was tiny, with honey-brown hair and huge blue eyes that dominated her waifish face. She looked him in the eye for a second, then nervously glanced away.
"You must be Dr. Ross," she said.
He smiled, even though she wasn't looking at him. "Call me Adrian. And you must be Sarah."
She nodded, then stepped back from the doorway. "Come in."
He shut the door behind him and followed her down the short hallway and into a room. Her bedroom. As if she expected him to get straight to work. Before he could speak, she turned to face him. "Can I ask you a personal question?"
"Of course." She could ask, but if it was too personal, he might not answer. After all, he was here as a therapist.
"Are you married?"
"Do you have a girlfriend?"
She let out a breath in an audible rush of air. "Good."
"Why is it important to you?"
She shrugged and looked away.
"Sarah, if I'm going to help you, I need you to be honest with me."
"If you had a girlfriend, I wouldn't ... I couldn't ... it just wouldn't be right."
She couldn't even say the words, give the act a name. No wonder she couldn't enjoy it. "This isn't an issue of right or wrong, Sarah. I'm here to help you. All you have to do is concentrate on what feels good to you."
"Nothing feels good to me. Didn't Dr. Lansing tell you that?"
In a few minutes, he'd show her just how good she could feel. "No, she didn't." He moved to the bed and sat down on the edge. Before he could ask her to join him, she came over and sat next to him, not touching but close.
She gave a nervous little cough, as if her throat was dry. "You're not what I expected."
"What didyou expect?"
She thought for a moment. "I don't know. But I didn't expect tall, dark, and handsome."
"I'm not that tall."
She laughed, a brief, quickly stifled laugh, as if she was afraid to let her feelings out. Typical. He patted her thigh reassuringly.
She turned toward him and slowly, cautiously, brought her hand up to rest on his shoulder. "I guess you want to get started."
He took her hand from his shoulder and lifted it to his lips for a gentle kiss. She didn't pull away, even though her hand shook. God, her tentativeness was sweet, and arousing more than his protective instincts. Surprising. He usually controlled his arousal, decided consciously when to let his body react. "We don't have to rush things. I'd rather wait until you feel comfortable. Until you're ready."
"I'm as ready as I'll ever be."
He'd heard that before. It meant that she wasn't ready at all. "Just relax. We don't need to do anything tonight, if you don't want to."
She raised her chin, looking like a brave martyr going to the guillotine. "I'd rather get it over with."
EXCERPT FROM SNOWBOUND
Justin Stowe, fifth Earl of Howden, splayed the invitations in his hand as he would a deck of cards. Intimate little suppers, a ball or two, three musicales, whist parties and the theater. Grimacing, he looked from them to the view beyond the tall windows of his library. The blizzard still raged, white whirling flakes that blotted out the landscape and threatened to keep him marooned for days. Excellent. He tossed the invitations in the fire and watched the papers catch. The last to go was a card bearing his name in a flowery, female script. The flames teased at the writing, devouring his family name, but leaving his title. How appropriate. It wasn't he who was so desirable a mate, but his prospects.
It amazed him that, despite his reputation as a rake and hell-raiser, his title made him the catch of the season. Perhaps when he was more used to being the fifth Earl, after his cousin's untimely demise half a year past, he'd grow accustomed to the plots to leg-shackle him. Even here, in the wintry depths of Hertford, merciless matchmakers had descended on him from every quarter. He had begun to think of himself as the fox in a particularly single-minded hunt.
He grinned at the image and, with the toe of his polished Hessian, pushed the rest of the card into the flames. While the blaze consumed it, Justin raised a glass of brandy, saluted the fire and swallowed a generous mouthful. The storm would provide a few days respite before the hounds gave chase again.
A discreet knock at the mahogany door ushered in Ordway, the butler he'd inherited along with Howden House.
"My lord? There is a female at the door "
"A female? Out in this?" Justin glanced through the windows at the snowdrifts piling high against the panes. Ice-crusted tree branches sagged under the weight.
"Is there no end to their machinations?"
"I would not venture to say, my lord."
Justin sighed. "I suppose you had better show her in."
"Perhaps you could come out, my lord. The lady appears to be near expiration."
"Near exp... what the hell?"
EXCERPT FROM ROARKE'S PRISONER
Michael Roarke filled the forward screen, the blue and gray uniform of the Rebellion Starforce stretching across his muscled torso. Even Elise had to admit he was a handsome bastard, with broad, angular cheekbones and an aggressive chin. The bridge of his nose was narrow, yet the nostrils flared, a combination that gave him a faintly wolfish appearance enhanced by the pelt-short cut of his hair. His eyes were black, intelligent and wary, deep-set under thick dark brows. In contrast to those cool lupine features, his mouth was blatantly erotic, with lips that were every bit as hot, soft and skilled as they looked.
Best not to think about that.
"I've been evaluating our options, Captain Morrell," Roarke told her, his voice rich and faintly British.
Elise leaned back and crossed her legs, lifting an inquiring eyebrow. Her heart was pounding. "That's kind of you, Captain Roarke," she said, too sweetly. "And what are your conclusions?"
He smiled like a courtly wolf. "You can surrender, or I can blow you to hell."
EXCERPT FROM SAVAGE GARDEN
The mountains to the west of the French army stronghold turned purple as the sun slipped down behind their massive shoulders. An owl hooted from the gnarled branch of a tree; crickets chirped. A warm breeze shivered softly through the white lace curtains of the glassless window, promising little relief from the intense heat of the night.
In her room, Lady Raine LeFleur inhaled the sweet scent of the desert in bloom. The fragrant flowers of the feathery-leafed mesquite enveloped her senses. As her gaze scanned the savage garden beyond the fort, her hands shook and the delicate tea cup rattled on its china saucer. She steeled herself as she lifted the cup to her lips and swallowed the last of the tea-like concoction. The housekeeper had promised that the ancient remedy would bring on a blissful night's rest. She would believe it when it happened.
Raine made an abrupt turn and plunked the empty cup and saucer on the vanity. Her bare footsteps moved across the room making quick, angry strides. In only fourteen days, she would say good-bye to her father and return to France. The thought of her wedding set her teeth on edge.
Lately, she suffered from insomnia and seldom slept more than a few hours a night. Worried over her uncertain future, she shifted her gaze to the bed that brought her no rest. Discarding her silk robe, she stretched. The warm air was a pleasant and balmy caress on her naked skin. With a small smile on her lips, she headed for the bed.
When Raine caught sight of her fiancé's photograph on the bedside table, her eyes narrowed. He was the reason for her sleepless nights. Though she knew young women married men they didn't know every day, distress filled her being at the thought. Was it so unreasonable to want love to come before the marriage?
With a groan, she reached and flipped the ornate sterling silver frame face down with a thump. Arranged marriage or notduty or notshe didn't want to marry this man. She hadn't seen him in three years. How could she love him?
The air felt thick and heavy as Raine put out the lamp. She stifled a yawn as the housekeeper's ancient remedy began to work its magic. She crawled into bed and slipped between the crisp white linen sheets. Her body settled into the softness of the feather mattress. Under the cover she laid defiantly nude. In Mexico's oppressive climate it was more comfortable, although she knew even to think of such an act was considered sinful. Her father and most of his troops were out on patrol. She was alone in the house. With a rebellious little smile, she flung the top sheet aside and fell into a deep sleep. Half the night was gone when the dream began.