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Still in My Heart
By Kathryn Smith
HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.Copyright © 2005 Kathryn Smith
All right reserved.
Once upon a time ...
He was drunk.
Not drunk in a silly manner, or even drunk in a vaguely belligerent fashion, but head-spinning, worldwhirling, out-of-his-mind drunk. He hadn't meant to get so foxed; it had simply happened. One brandy had led to another and then another, until his feet became as heavy as lead and his entire body was engulfed in woozy numbness.
He liked being numb.
Still, his inebriation wasn't so consuming that it kept him from remembering the promise he had made earlier that day. He had asked the fair Eleanor to marry him, and she had agreed. All that was left was to tell her father, and as the earl was a friend of his own papa, there would be no obstacles to the union. The license would be procured, and Eleanor would be his. Soon he would kiss her sweet lips, feel her luxuriant body against his, and make her his in a way that would seal his claim to her. The very thought of it caused him to stiffen with desire. Perhaps he wasn't as drunk as he'd thought.
Tossing back one more glass, he decided it was time to leave the company of these amiable gentlemen, who seemed more than happy to pour brandy down his throat by the barrelful. He could stay there all night, drinking. It made him feel so very free. Eleanor made him feel free as well. And Eleanor didn't make his head ache the next morning.
The image of her face swimming in his mind put a spring in his step as he made his way through the darkened corridors of the manor house, up the stairs to his chamber. Country house parties were always such fun.
In his room he kicked off his boots and tossed his coat on the floor. Waistcoat and shirt followed. He tripped taking off his trews and fell onto the bed with a gleeful "Oops!" He kicked at the offending garment until his limbs were finally free and lay on the bed gloriously naked and gloriously warm, as a soft summer night breeze drifted through the windows.
The world wasn't spinning, but it swayed a bit as he closed his eyes, and he gave himself up to the sensation. It was like being in a boat on gently rippled lake. He liked boats. He liked this rocking feeling. It lulled him toward the uncompromising darkness of a spirits-induced slumber. No thoughts, no insecurities, no dreams. Nothing but sweet blackness.
He was on the verge of slipping under when something touched his thigh. His brow wrinkled with the effort of trying to will his eyes open. Reluctantly the lids parted slightly, revealing the blurred vision of a woman with long blond hair hovering above him.
He smiled. "Eleanor." Even her name was calming, an audible representation of serenity. What was she doing there? They hadn't made their understanding known yet. She could still be ruined if anyone found her there in his room. He didn't want their marriage to start off with rumors surrounding it. "You should not be here."
"Shh," she replied, her soft hand sliding up between his thighs. She stroked his growing erection until he arched his hips in languid arousal. And when she closed her mouth around him, a groan escaped his lips.
Where had an inexperienced virgin learned such technique? Had he been sober, he might have given the question more thought. Had he been sober, he might have given the woman kneeling between his legs with her lips wrapped around his pole a second glance, but he wasn't sober. And he didn't do either of those things.
Later, as he slipped between her eagerly spread thighs, he thought he heard someone gasp behind him, but the sound was drowned out by Eleanor's welcoming coos and sighs as he nudged her body open and slid into her warm, welcoming wetness. There was no barrier to his possession -- a detail that should have given him pause, but didn't. Right now he didn't care if she was a virgin or not. All that mattered to him was that she belonged to him.
The amazing, wonderful Eleanor was finally his.
London, September 1819
"You are not actually entertaining the idea of accepting Burrough's invitation, are you?" The question was asked in a tone both incredulous and vaguely insulting.
Over the edge of the invitation, Brahm Ryland flashed an annoyed glance at his brother. He and Wynthrope had been on speaking terms but six months now, and the slightly younger man still knew how to get under his skin like a festering splinter.
"Actually," he mimicked dryly, "I am doing just that, yes."
Wynthrope's tanned brow creased in a scowl that told Brahm in no uncertain terms what the younger Ryland thought of that answer. "Are you foxed?"
From anyone else, that question would have been the most insulting they could ask. However, Brahm knew his brother was capable of being much, much more obnoxious than that. He leaned back in his chair, crossing his freshly polished boots on the top of his desk. "I am as sober as Aunt Jane."
His brother blinked. "Aunt Jane is dead these past twenty years."
Brahm smiled condescendingly. "I imagine it has been a while since she had a drink, then."
"Prior to her death, she was sauced every day of her life -- except for Sunday, of course."
"Of course." Closing his eyes, Brahm stifled a sigh. Was his brother deliberately provoking him, or was Wynthrope truly stupid? It had been so long since they'd had a brotherly relationship -- not that they had one now -- that there were times when he really didn't know what to think of his sibling. He loved him -- sometimes he even liked him -- but most of the time he thought ofWynthrope as the wind; the only thing constant about him was that he was never, ever constant. Not with Brahm, at least ...
Excerpted from Still in My Heart by Kathryn Smith Copyright © 2005 by Kathryn Smith. Excerpted by permission.
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