A Seductive Offerby Kathryn Smith
A proposal of marriage she could not refuse...
Lord Braven has saved Rachel Ashton's life twice, it seems-when he snatched her from the icy Yorkshire river...and when he offered to marry her. Now the desperate miss will be rid forever of the repulsive husband-to-be her horrid stepfather has "sold" her to. But though both agree their marriage is in name only,/p>
A proposal of marriage she could not refuse...
Lord Braven has saved Rachel Ashton's life twice, it seems-when he snatched her from the icy Yorkshire river...and when he offered to marry her. Now the desperate miss will be rid forever of the repulsive husband-to-be her horrid stepfather has "sold" her to. But though both agree their marriage is in name only, Rachel finds she cannot dismiss her burning need to taste the sweet kiss of her dashing benefactor.
A passion they could not resist
Having a real wife is unthinkable, since Braven must never love again. And as long as this sham marriage is not consummated, his heart will remain safe -- and his secret can go untold. But the exquisite beauty tempts the haunted lord unmercifully with her deep lavender eyes and sensuous full lips. How can he resist this most perilous desire, when his heart swears it would be more dangerous still to deny himself the ecstasy of true love?
Read an Excerpt
A scream pierced the darkness.
Balthazar Wycherley, seventh Earl Braven -- known to his intimates as “Brave” -- froze as the earsplitting shriek turned his blood to ice. He'd never heard anything like it before. There was something unholy about such a sound on a cold damp night like this.
The banshee's wail echoed off the wall of trees surrounding him, fading into an eerie whisper as the cold October wind swept it away. He looked up at the clouds, indistinguishable against the black sky, save for where the frosty touch of the moon turned them into puffs of luminescent silver. Perhaps it wasn't a banshee bringing news of his demise. Perhaps it was a ghost from the past. Or more likely, the one of his guilty conscience. The forest was now perfectly silent. No specters slipped from the darkness to claim his soul. His heart still beat in his chest -- with uncomfortable determination, in fact.
He stood there for a moment, listening for the rattle of ghostly chains, before chuckling bitterly. So this was what he'd become -- a coward quivering in the woods, waiting for the dead to claim their -- her -- revenge.
Another scream tore through the night, raising the hair on the back of his neck and sending his heart pounding against his ribs. If it was a ghost, it was a terrified one.
Brave didn't think. He simply reacted. He ran in the direction of the scream, crashing through the trees and dodging roots that would pull him to the ground with the agility of one who knew theland like he knew his own face. Anxiety swelled within him, drove him. He had to find the woman whose fear shivered down his spine. Whether it was out of a sense of heroism, or the hope of coming face-to-face with the ghost that haunted him, he couldn't say.
Seconds later, he stood on the bank of the Wyck. Recent rains had swollen the river so that it tumbled and roared in its bed. Moonlight spilled across its path, turning foaming whitecaps to silver against the inky water. He shivered,knowing how cold it would be at this time of year.
An arm rose from the raging flow, and Brave's eyes widened as he realized it belonged to a young woman clinging tenaciously to a large rock in the roughest part of the river. He watched in dry-mouthed horror as she struggled to hang on to the slick stone as the current pushed against her. If she lost her grip, the river would kill her for certain.
“Please, help me!”
No, not Miranda. This voice was far too low and far too alive to be Miranda.
Which meant it was up to him to keep it that way.
“Hang on!” he yelled, cupping his hands around his mouth in an effort to be heard above the raging river. There was a bridge just a few yards upstream. He could cross it and attempt to rescue her from the opposite shore -' although hehad no idea how such a feat was to be accomplished.
An eternity passed as he raced along the bank to the bridge. As he ran toward her, he could see the girl struggling to keep her head above water as the belligerent current tossed wave after wave into her face. Gasping, she pulledherself farther up onto the rock. Her face was strained with the effort.
As he came to a halt beside a towering old tree, Brave realized just how difficult rescuing her would be. He might very well risk his own life in the process. He tossed his gloves to the ground.
She watched him intently in the frosty moonlight, her expression both relieved and fearful. Her eyes, round and black with panic were almost too big for her stark white face. Lord only knew how long she had been hanging off that rock, and if the cold didn't soon conquer her, the strain in her shoulders just might.
As if to prove just how cold the water was, frothy droplets sprayed his face as a large wave smashed against the bank. Icy pinpricks stung his cheeks.
Surprise coursed through him. She knew him. Startled, and more than a little wary, he took a good look at her.
Long blond hair that shone like tarnished silver in the moonlight obscured some of her face. But there was no mistaking the owner of those huge, waiflike eyes and strong nose. It was Rachel Ashton -- the daughter of one of his father's closest friends. All the more reason why he had to save her. Rachel was in serious danger of drowning, not to mention freezing to death, and only he could save her.
It had been a long time since he'd saved someone. Wishing he had didn't count.
Pushing all thought except the present from his mind, Brave yanked off his coat and rolled up his sleeves. The autumn air bit through the thin lawn of his shirt, and he shivered, knowing the river would be much colder.
“What are you d...doing?” Rachel cried.
“Rescuing you -- if all goes according to plan.” Eyeing the branches hanging just above his shoulder, Brave hesitated. What he was contemplating was madness -- the servants would have a fit when they found out. Odd, but as crazy as his plan was, he hadn't felt so right about anything in a long time.
And perhaps saving her would take away some of the pain for the one he hadn't saved.
Grasping a low branch, Brave pulled his weight upward, swinging himself into the yawning embrace of the tree with surprising ease. Bits of bark clung to his reddened palms, and he brushed them against his trousers before easing himself into a horizontal position on the branch.
He inched forward, the muscles of his fingers and thighs clenched...
A Seductive Offer. Copyright © by Kathryn Smith. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
Meet the Author
Kathryn Smith has always loved happy endings. From the bedtime stories her wildly imaginative mother told, to the soap operas she wasn't supposed to watch, Kathryn loved to speculate as to how the characters would end up. Needless to say the entire Smith household heard about it when things did not go as young Kathryn thought they ought. Through her school years, Kathryn wrote stories and books for her friends to read. Even during college, when she studied journalism, her need to make up her own tales often drove her to late nights at the typewriter, writing about sexy men and the women they fell in love with. Fortunately, Kathryn's idea of sexy has changed over the years. Instead of rock stars and spies she writes about lords and...well, spies. The best part is she gets to share these stories with a few more people than were in her homeroom class!
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