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Sugar and Spice
By Leda Swann
HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.Copyright © 2006 Leda Swann
All right reserved.
"Please." To her horror, Gwendolyn Farrell felt tears well up in her eyes. She blinked them back, not wanting Adam to see just how desperate she was. He could not refuse her. His refusal would toll the death knell of their marriage, a marriage that she was not willing to give up on. Not yet. Not until she had done everything humanly possible to win him back, to make him love her even just a tiny fraction as much as she loved him.
She gazed at the man in front of her, at the hard planes of his face and the even harder look in his eyes. Being married to him was supposed to be her dream come true. Instead, it had turned into a waking nightmare.
She swallowed convulsively. The very worst of it was that he was in no way to blame. Their estrangement, the utter desolation of their marriage, was all her fault.
"You want me to come away with you to a house in the country?" His lip curled into a sneer. "It sounds like hell."
"Would you not like to take a week's holiday out of the London fog and the miasma of the City?" Almost imperceptibly she inched closer to him, hoping to persuade him with her closeness if she could not persuade him with her words. "To walk in the fields and along the rocky beaches, and breathe the clean sea air?"
"The country I couldhandle. But the company?"
"It would just be me." Despair, thick and black, boiled up in her soul. He had to come with her. Her happiness, her very life depended on it. "There would be no one else there you know."
He lifted one eyebrow. "Exactly."
"You have to come." She could not hide the pleading tone in her voice.
"And if I do not? What then, princess? Will you bribe the footmen to waylay me, truss me up like a goose ready for the oven, and deliver me to you?"
Her eyes dropped to the floor as she fought back the telltale blushes. How had he guessed her plan? She had not so much as spoken to the footmen about it yet, though she did have a secret stash of gold sovereigns tucked away in her reticule for just such an eventuality. It was a mark of her desperation that she would entertain such a wild idea even for a moment, let alone plan to bring it about.
He cursed under his breath. "You were planning to abduct me, weren't you?"
For the briefest moment she thought she saw a flash of amusement in his eyes, but it was gone so quickly she must have been mistaken. "Only if you refused to come with me."
"What a pearl of a woman I have married," he said, his voice full of mocking self-contempt. "I knew you would lie and steal to get your own way, but I had not thought you would stoop to outright violence."
His words dripped burning acid into her soul. She dropped to her knees in pain and threw her arms around his knees. "Please, I am begging you. If you ever held any affection for me at all, do this for me. I will never ask anything else of you ever again."
"You do not have the right to ask anything of me. I thought we had already agreed that. A twelve-month ago, on our wedding night," he added cruelly.
The blood rushed from her head so fast she almost fainted, and she had to clutch his knees tightly to stop herself from toppling over onto the floor. That awful night was engraved forever on her memory. It would never leave her. "I know I have no right to ask you. That is why I am begging."
"It means so much to you?"
"It means the world to me."
His chest rose and fell in a sigh of irritation. "Then I suppose, just this once, I can suffer a week in the country with you. Particularly if it will save me from your importuning in the future."
She raised her eyes to his face, but it was as hard and closed as ever. His eyes gave away none of his secrets. "You will come with me?" Was he going to allow her this one last chance to save them both? To save their marriage from becoming a wasteland of spoiled hopes and despair. She hardly dared hope that he would come with her willingly.
He shrugged. "I suppose I will make the effort. If I have nothing better to do."
Adam disengaged himself from his wife with a grimace of distaste. There was no need for her dramatics or her falling on the floor in front of him and clutching at his knees as if he were an ogre. He had treated Gwendolyn well enough during their year of marriage. Better, certainly, than she deserved.
She, more than anyone, had reason to know that he was an honorable man. If he had not been so damned honorable, he might never have married her. For all the dark temptation of her lush body and the way her naked skin smelled so tantalizingly of warm, ripe peaches, he had married her out of honor and nothing more. She knew that as well as he did.
Despite his noncommittal words, however, he was intensely curious as to why his dear Gwendolyn was so set on taking him to a health spa in the wilds of Cornwall of all places. When she had first asked him to accompany her, he'd been concerned she might be secretly ill, but she had insisted she was perfectly well, and he did not think she was lying. Not this time.
Still, she had some scheme or other planned. He could feel it in his bones, and, despite himself, he was eager to discover exactly what it was. Just exactly what was his sneaky little wife up to now?
Excerpted from Sugar and Spice by Leda Swann Copyright © 2006 by Leda Swann. Excerpted by permission.
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