Stolen Love was originally published in 1991 by Harper-Collins. It is about 100,000 words (325 pages).
Nicholas Villines is the heir assumptive to a viscount. His father left him in dire straits, but he's managed to recover the family fortunes and re-enter society. His childhood friend Elizabeth is now in London, hoping to make a modest marriage, as she is a woman of very modest means. Not so her beautiful (and rich) cousin Amelia. Every agrees that Nicolas and Amelia would be a perfect match. As Elizabeth and Nicholas rekindle their friendship, society can talk of little but The Mayfair Thief, a mysterious and cunning person who has made off with a fortune in jewels and other valuable items. Just who is this mysterious thief, and has Elizabeth really guessed his identity?
Nicholas agrees that Amelia would be the perfect wife for him, but he can't stop thinking about Elizabeth and the beautiful woman she's become. Will he accept his feelings for her before it's too late or will she marry his best friend?
�There are some things, Nicholas, that one simply knows.� She opened her eyes. �I�d thought about it even before Aunt Mary and I talked.� She sighed.
�May I ask what she told you?�
�Mostly that a poor girl will not have many offers of marriage.�
�Do you think a man will marry only for money? There are other reasons besides that.� Well, so, she looked undeniably grown-up in that dress. If her uncle was responsible for the gown, he seemed to have known too well what he was doing.
�Perhaps so.� She smiled. �But so far, no one has fallen in love with my lack of fortune.�
He scowled, angry to hear evidence of how successful Mrs. Willard had been in keeping Elizabeth humble. �Don�t joke about it, Elizabeth. There are a thousand reasons for a man to fall in love with you, even before he knew you.� He leaned into the corner to look at her because she did not answer him. �You don�t believe I mean it,� he accused.
�If you do, I wish you would not say such things to me.�
�Why not?� He reached to take her hand and pull her to him. Strains of music from the ballroom could be heard even from their corner. He pushed one end of her scarf back over her shoulder. �I do mean it.� She shivered when his fingers brushed over her bare skin.
�You should not talk to me so.�
�Surely I have the right to tell you the truth, Elizabeth? My God! Have you seen yourself tonight?� He grasped her shoulders. �You might have any man you wanted. Even bloody Mr. Beaufort Latchley.� And to himself, he thought, She might have me.
She was looking at him, but when he mentioned Beaufort Latchley, she glanced away. �Please don�t tease me, Nicholas.�
�What makes you think I am?� She lifted her eyes to his, and it came into his head that if he was in love with her, he ought to tell her so. �Elizabeth�� His fingers slid across her cheek to curl around the nape of her neck.
He had few inhibitions about the satisfaction of his appetites, and he was not, he believed, any stranger to sexual passion, but his upbringing had been scrupulously correct about the differences between ladies and the women to whom a man might properly make love. Therefore, he knew it was wrong to want to make love to Elizabeth; but there it was, he did want to, and badly enough to risk everything to have her. He did not know if she took a step closer to him or if he pulled her to him, but they were suddenly so close it was a simple matter to tip her head so that their lips would meet. She did not pull away from him as he was afraid she might. Instead her arms went around his neck, and she melted against him.
It was not a chaste kiss. The propriety, or the stupidity, of passionately kissing a woman in a place lacking even a semblance of privacy did not occur to him. It was natural to be kissing her this way, and it was more than a little arousing that she obviously felt the same. She fit perfectly in his arms, exactly the right height for him. He deepened their kiss, opening her lips under his, oblivious of anything but the feeling of his tongue moving over her teeth, then past to explore her mouth, of being completely and exasperatingly excited. He could not get enough of her; just kissing her would never, could never, be enough.