Read an Excerpt
Praise for the authors of
WHAT DREAMS MAY COME
“A grand dame of the paranormal.”
“A wild, wicked delight . . . No one does sexy, tormented heroes better—or more inventively—than Sherrilyn Kenyon.”
—Nicole Jordan, bestselling author of Ecstasy
“York delivers an exciting and suspenseful romance with paranormal themes that she gets just right . . . a howling good read.”
“A true master of intrigue.”
“[Her] books deliver what they promise: excitement, mystery, romance.”
—The Washington Post Book World
Robin D. Owens
“Owens writes the kind of futuristic romance we’ve all been waiting to read . . . She provides a wonderful, gripping mix of passion, exotic futuristic settings, and edgy suspense. If you’ve been waiting for someone to do futuristic romance right, you’re in luck, Robin D. Owens is the author for you.”
—Jayne Ann Krentz
“[Will] sweep readers into an unforgettable adventure with every delicious word, every breath, every beat of their hearts.”
Rebecca York Robin D. Owens
“Well,” Taryn Edwards said into her cell phone as she stood beside the road, watching the steady Dallas traffic pass by her broken-down car, “I would throw myself under the nearest bus, but considering my luck today, I’m sure it would break down less than a millimeter from me and just ruin my clothes. . . . Probably break my watch, too.”
“You wear a Timex.”
She snorted. “Trust me, today not even my Timex could take a licking and keep on ticking. Give me a Tonka truck and I’ll squash it with my ink pen.”
Janine’s laughter echoed through the static. “Taryn, is it really that bad?”
Holding her cell phone in a tight grip, Taryn looked at her stalled-out Firebird, which was the prettiest, most expensive lawn ornament she’d ever purchased.
Of all the rotten luck, especially since all she wanted to do was get home and drown her woes in gallons of Ben & Jerry’s Phish Food. “Considering the fact that I’m stuck out in this wretched heat wearing high heels with a black car that currently wouldn’t go downhill with a hurricane pushing it, I’d say yes.”
Janine laughed again. “Do you need me to come pick you up?”
“No. I appreciate the thought, but I have to wait on the tow truck, which seems to be the only thing moving slower than my DOA Firebird.”
“Jeez,” Janine said. “You are in a pissy mood.”
That’s because I just caught my boyfriend in his office with his secretary showing her a position I’m sure would qualify them for the Kama Sutra Hall of Fame. . . .
Pain sliced through Taryn’s heart as she remembered the sight of them going at it on his desk. Unable to breathe for a moment, she wanted desperately to tell Janine the whole story, but the last thing she needed was to cry on the side of the road. Her dignity was all she had left, and she had no intention of giving Rob that last piece of her.
“Taryn, why don’t we . . .”
All of a sudden the phone, much like her car, went dead. “Janine?”
Taryn tried to redial the number, but the static was so severe, she couldn’t hear anything.
“Great,” she mumbled, turning the phone off and glancing at the shopping center across the street. It would be a bit of a hike through screaming traffic, but at least it had a grocery store where she could grab something cold to drink and a few shops she could browse in to pass the time until the tow truck could get here.
And with any luck, a car or truck might plow into her and put her out of her misery.
Dodging traffic, she made her way over to the shopping center. Damn, she actually arrived without bodily injury. It really wasn’t her day.
Disgusted by that, she headed for the grocery store, but as she drew near the entrance for it, she happened to see the small bookstore next door.
Taryn paused and frowned at the cozy-looking place. When had they opened that? She couldn’t recall ever seeing it here before.
She stared up at the hand-painted sign: DAYDREAMS AND RAINBOWS.
Well, thank God for small favors. A good book would cure her woes tonight almost as much as Ben & Jerry.
Heading inside the cheery store lined with bookshelves, she saw an elderly woman straightening the books on the wall to her right. There was something about the old woman that appeared youthful, almost sprite-like as she came off her ladder to greet Taryn. The woman moved with surprising agility. Her platinum gray hair was pulled back into a tight bun, and she wore a pair of faded blue jeans and a pink summer sweater.
The store smelled like musty old books, and there was a small café in a corner on the far left where a pot of coffee percolated.
“Welcome,” the woman said, her brown eyes bright with friendship. “I’ll bet you’re looking for something to read.”
For the first time that afternoon, Taryn smiled. “You must be psychic.”
The woman laughed as she closed the distance between them. “Not really. You are in a bookstore, after all.” She winked as she came to rest in front of Taryn. “So, what’s your pleasure? Thrillers, science fiction . . .” The older woman tapped her chin as she studied Taryn. “No. Romance. You look like you need a good romance to read.”
Taryn wrinkled her nose at the very thought. She’d given up reading romance novels a long time ago. She had buried that naive Cinderella-wanting-Prince-Charming part of herself in the closet along with her Barbie dolls, and other childish fantasies and beliefs. “To be honest, I don’t read those.”
The woman looked offended. “Why not?”
“One man, one woman. Happily-ever-after. Forever and ever . . . baloney.”
The woman shook her head at her. “My name’s Esther,” she said, extending her hand.
“Taryn,” she said as she shook a hand that felt like warm velvet in her palm.
Esther gave her a probing stare. “Now, tell me about this man who stole that dream from you.”
Taryn had never been the kind of person to confide in anyone much, least of all a perfect stranger, and yet before she knew it, her entire history with Rob Carpenter came pouring out of her right down to the grittiest of details.
“It was horrible!” she said, taking a tissue from Esther to dab at her eyes as she continued to tell her the whole miserable event. “I believed in that snake and he lied to me.”
Esther led her to a small table in the café area and made her a cup of coffee.
“So you see,” Taryn said before she blew her nose, “he told me that I was the only woman for him. That he would love no one else. And then the next thing I knew, he was calling me by the wrong name when he answered the phone. Good giveaway, you know?” She sighed. “I should have known then, but I stupidly believed his lies and now . . .”
Again, she saw Rob and his secretary on the desk, their clothes scattered on the floor around them.
Taryn fisted her hand in her hair as pain, embarrassment, and grief assailed her anew. “How could I have been so stupid? How could he be so damned clichéd?”
Esther patted her hand. “It’s all right, love, and I am so sorry, but you shouldn’t base your opinion of all men on the actions of one thoughtless ass.”
Taryn smiled at that, even though her heart was broken. “He was an ass.”
“Of course he was. You’re a beautiful young woman with your entire life before you. The last thing you need is to be so jaded. What you need is a good old-fashioned hero.”
Taryn sighed dreamily at the thought as that buried part of her reared its ugly head. Whether she wanted to admit it or not, there was that tiny, infinitesimal part of her that still believed in fairy tales. At least, it wanted to. “Some knight in shining armor, come to sweep me off my feet. It does sound nice, doesn’t it?”
“Yes, it does.”
She watched while Esther got up and went to the shelves on her left. After a minute Esther came back with a book in her hand. “You need a champion, my dear, and I know just the man. Sparhawk the Brave, the fourth Earl of Ravensmoor.”
Taryn studied the purple paperback where a handsome, bare-chested man with a sword grinned roguishly at her. The wind swept at his ebony hair, and his honest eyes were a deep, vibrant green. A wicked green that was tinged with a look of esoteric knowledge and intelligence, and they bore the glint of a man who knew his way around a woman’s body. A man who would take his time and make sure he did the job right.
Oh, yeah, he was a major hottie.
His smile was devilish and there was something captivating about him. His arms bulged with strength and power, and he wore a gold, wolf-tipped torc that deepened the perfect tan of his skin.
He was striking and gorgeous, and the woman in her responded automatically to such overt masculinity. It might only be a drawing, but it was a damn good drawing. The kind that made a woman wish for one minute that she could find such perfection in the flesh.
At least for a night or two.
The title, Knightly Dreams, swept across the cover in gold foil, but the name of the author appeared to have been worn off.
Oddly enough there was no blurb on the back and she didn’t recognize the publisher. “Ma Souhait?”
“They’re an old publisher,” Esther said. “Been around since before I was born.”
“Oh, yes. You’ll like it, trust me.” Esther looked out the windows to where Taryn’s Firebird was waiting. “Your tow truck is here. You’d better run.”
Taryn pulled her wallet out.
Esther waved her hand at her. “Oh, pooh, dear, after the day you’ve had, consider it a gift.”
“Are you sure?”
“Absolutely.” Esther walked her to the door. “Good luck to you and Sparhawk. And remember, sometimes our dreams appear where and when we least expect it. Sometimes, just sometimes, you can even find them waiting in your own bed when you open your eyes.”
Taryn arched a brow at the odd comment, but then Esther was quite a wonderfully eccentric character. “Thank you, Esther.”
With Sparhawk in her hand, Taryn headed across the parking lot, then crossed the street and told the driver where to take her car.
Later that night, after she’d had a good cry over Rob, a pint of Phish Food, and a long geld-the-useless-bastard conversation with Janine, Taryn pulled out her book and decided to give Sparhawk a try.
And reading this book will help you how?
It was stupid, she knew that, and yet she couldn’t seem to help herself from wanting to read the book and get Rob-the-Prickless-Bastard off her mind before she fell asleep.
She skimmed the first paragraph.
The Earl of Ravensmoor was a hero like no other. Tall, powerful, and magnetic, he had windswept jet hair and a ruggedly handsome face that was neither pretty nor feminine. He was all male.
Rumor said he’d killed over a thousand men in battle, and as he walked through the crowded hall of bejeweled nobles with one masterful hand on his gilded sword hilt, his arrogant swagger bespoke of a man whose very presence had devastated over a thousand women. . . .
Taryn smiled at the image. Oh yeah, he definitely sounded like someone who could get Rob Dickhead off her mind.
She sighed as she read more about the wandering, rogue champion and his quest to claim his fair, if somewhat insipid, maiden. It was a pity they didn’t make guys like this in modern-day America.
“Sparhawk,” she whispered, smiling slightly, “I wish for two seconds that you were real.”
Closing the book, Taryn laid it on her nightstand, turned out the light, and settled down to sleep. But as she lay there, all she could see was the last image she’d read of the hero.
A knight in armor on the back of his huge white stallion, riding into the forest to seek out the village enchantress . . .
Sparhawk dismounted halfway through the forest, his heart pounding in expectation. The brush was so thick, he knew from this point on he’d have to travel afoot.
Not that he minded. He would traverse the very fires of hell to escape that which he was sworn to.
Life with Alinor.
A shiver of revulsion went down his spine. He had to find some way to escape his fate, and if the town gossips were to be believed, the old witch in the woods should have some miracle that could save him.
He picked his way through the dense underbrush. No one ever ventured this deeply into the forest. No one except the Hag. This was her home and it kept her safe from any who would see her harmed.
As he walked, he felt an eerie presence. Almost as if the trees themselves were watching him.
But he feared not at all. Not this man who had stared down the heathens in Outremer. This man who had built his wealth on the strength of his sword arm and sweat of his brow. There was no ghoul or demon inhabiting these woods that was more dangerous than he.
Indeed, it was said that the devil himself was terrified of Sparhawk.
He walked forward until at last he found the earthen hut draped with twisted vines. The only sign of life from within was the flicker of a large, tallow candle.
More determined than before, Sparhawk knocked upon the vine-encrusted door. “Witch?” he called. “I mean you no harm. I come seeking your guidance and help.”
After a brief pause the door slowly creaked open to reveal an old woman with long, silvery-gray hair. Her old brown eyes glowed with the vigor of a much younger soul, and her long gray hair fell loose about her frail shoulders.
“Milord,” she greeted, opening the door to allow him entrance. “Come and be seated and tell me of this matter that has you venturing into my realm.”
Sparhawk did as she bade him. He followed her into the small, cramped hut and took the seat she indicated by the window. He sat there for a few minutes to collect his thoughts. ‘Twas the first time he’d told anyone of his problems with Alinor, and once he started to speak, all the sordid details came pouring out.
“So, you see,” he said gently as the old woman handed him a strange black and bitter concoction she’d brewed by the fire. “’Tis not my duty I find offensive so much as milady’s presence. I would give aught I own to have a lady who . . .” Sparhawk didn’t finish the sentence. He couldn’t.
What he wished for was something more fable than reality. No one married for love in this day and age.
Not that he knew anything of love anyway. He who had never known a kind touch. Never known what it felt like to be welcomed. He’d spent the whole of his life alone and aching.
His parents had died when he was scarce more than a babe, and he had been cast off first to his uncle, who despised his very presence, then squired to a man who thought nothing of him at all.
While other boys looked forward to trips home to their families, he had been left to muck out the stables and fetch for his lordly knight. He’d spent his holidays in a corner of the hall watching the families around him celebrating their gifts while he had nothing at all to call his own.
As a man, he’d carved out his destiny from the point of his sword and found plenty of women eager for his titles, wealth, and body, but none of them were ever eager for his heart. He’d found them all selfish and vain.
All he’d ever wanted was to see one face, either fair or foul, to light up when he entered a room. To find a pair of open arms to greet him when he returned and a pair of eyes to weep for him when he was gone.
But it was a foolish wish and well he knew it.
“I want out of this story,” he said at last. “I cannot marry Alinor and live here with her another moment. I have seen my ending and it is a pale one indeed. Please, I beg you, tell me how to change this.”
The old woman touched him lightly on the arm. “I can help you, milord.”
“Can you?” he asked, noting the lack of enthusiasm in his voice. He doubted if even the saints above could aid him through this plight. But he hoped. He always had hope.
She nodded. “I shall send you to a world of many miracles. A world where anything is possible . . . A place where your ending isn’t yet set.”
Sparhawk held his breath. Dare he even hope for such? “At what cost?”
She smiled gently. “There is no cost, milord. What I do, I do for love.”
“Aye. I know I am not to meddle, but every so often—it’s rare mind you—but every once in a while there are special cases that call for special measures. And you, good Sparhawk, are just such a case. Have no fear, I won’t see you suffer through this anymore.”
Sparhawk offered her a smile. The villagers were wrong about this woman. She wasn’t a witch. She was an angel.
“Have you a name that I may know so that I can say a prayer of thanks for you?”
She smiled kindly at him. “Aye. They call me Esther.”
“Then I owe you much more than I can every repay, good Esther.”
“But,” she said, a note of warning in her voice, “what I give you is only a chance. My powers, such as they are, are limited. I can give you no more than seven days to work your miracle. If you cannot find love within that time, then you must return here and marry Alinor.”
His stomach turned with the thought of it. Still, the woman before him offered him a chance, and the good Lord knew he had been given far worse odds than that and returned victorious.
“Then I shall work this miracle,” he breathed. “No matter what it takes.”
“Then drink, milord,” she said, lifting his hand that held the cup. “And remember, sometimes our dreams appear where and when we least expect it. Sometimes, just sometimes, you can even find them waiting in your bed when you open your eyes.”
Sparhawk came awake with a start. His head pounded from a severe ache as if he’d drunk far too much mead the night before. By the light of the early morning sun, he would judge the day to be just starting. The faint butter rays spilled from the unshuttered window across the wooden floor and onto the bed wherein he lay.
’Twas a bed he knew not at all.
Immensely large, with a light yellow blanket, the bed easily accommodated his full six-foot-four height. As well as that of the woman lying beside him.
Arching his brow, he studied her beautiful brown hair that barely swept past her shoulders. It was thick with strands of russet and honey laced liberally through the darkness. She was not Alinor, but a new heroine for him to pursue.
His lips curling into a smile, he felt a stab of desire lance through his middle. What treasure was this to be found in this bed?
And truly she was a treasure, all warm and soft as she slumbered. Her long lashes resting gently on her cheeks, her rosy lips parted.
He reached out to touch the silken curls of her hair. The soft strands wrapped about his fingers, firing his blood instantly.
Who was she? And how had he happened into her bed?
He frowned as he struggled to recall what had happened. The last thing he could remember was leaving the witch’s hut and coming face-to-face with a most angry Alinor.
He flinched at her name. He was supposed to marry her in a handful of days, and yet the very sound of her voice grated on his ears. Even though she was without a doubt the most beautiful woman on earth, the image of her face and form turned his stomach.
Cease! She is to be your lady-wife and you will honor her.
Aye, he would. Even if it be the death of him.
And quite frankly, he might one day cast himself off the nearest mountainside to be rid of her. It was quite an intriguing possibility.
But not nearly as intriguing as this stranger at his side.
This stranger with the small pixie face and dark brows that arched above eyes closed in sweet slumber. He slid his thumb over her rosy cheek that was softer than the king’s down and touched the gentle petals of her lips.
She lacked the great beauty of Alinor, and yet something about her drew his notice anyway, letting him know that even as he lay here, his story was changing. He thanked the Lord for that. Finally he’d found something new.
And she was a fetching morsel. Her looks were earthy and sweet, not perfect and sharp like Alinor’s. Before he could stop himself, he pulled back the blanket to better study her. And as his gaze roamed her partially clothed body, heat surged through him, straight to his groin, which ached with want of her.
By her clothes he would guess her to be a tavern maid of some sort, though the color and style of her garment was unlike anything he had ever seen before.
The short gown barely trailed past her hips and betrayed a pair of stunningly smooth and shapely legs. Legs he desperately wanted to sample with his lips. Legs he ached to feel wrapped around his hips as he made love to her slowly and completely until they were both well spent and fully sated.
Sucking in his breath in appreciation, he ran his palm down her outer thigh. His body grew even harder in response as the woman sighed in her sleep and shifted dreamily.
His heart stopped as the gown rose higher, betraying a tiny, thin covering that concealed the moist, female part of her.
Just who was this temptress?
Was she the one the old witch had told him of?
She must be. Only that would account for his presence here in this very strange place.
And as he watched her respond to his touch, he knew he wanted nothing more of Alinor and her mewling ways. He wanted this woman by his side with a ferocity that was as stunning as it was demanding.
Her and her lush, full curves so unlike Alinor’s thin, frail frame. This woman’s body was made to comfort a man on a cold winter’s night. Aye, her high breasts would spill freely over his palms and her thighs were made for cradling a man’s hips as he sank himself deep inside her body.
Hungry and aching, he slid his hand back up the curve of her thigh to the hem of the short, dark blue gown.
Taryn sighed from her hot dream of a hero larger than life. Of a man who controlled the world around him and made no apologies.
All night long she’d been dreaming of the handsome, dark stranger who had flashing green eyes and strong arms to hold her. He had whispered to her in a deep, evocative voice. Tormented her with images of his life and with a need to make his life better.
Sparhawk the Brave.
What a stupid name and yet . . .
Somehow it suited the hero of the story.
Even now in her dreams she could see his handsome face from the book’s cover, feel his warm hand sliding down her outer thigh, then up the front of her leg. Her body rolling into his caress, urging him on as a fire and fever consumed her.
She held her breath as that hand moved to her waist, then higher. Over the curve of her stomach and up to her . . .
Her eyes flew open as someone touched her breast.
Screaming, Taryn jumped out of bed to see a tall man dressed in medieval clothing staring at her with one arched, arrogant brow.
“Who the hell are you!” she demanded, realizing too late she had jumped to the wrong side of the bed.
He was between her and the door.
Dear God, help her!
But he didn’t make a move toward her. He merely watched her from the bed with a look that could only be called patience. His silver chain-mail suit shimmered in the light, and he wore a white surcoat that held a red crescent moon and a stag.
He looked just like . . .
Her head swam at the implication. It couldn’t be. It just could not be.
“I am the Earl of Ravensmoor. And you are?”
“Totally freaking out,” she said.
“’Tis a most peculiar name, milady. Are you by chance Welsh?”
Taryn struggled to catch her breath as she stared at the gorgeous man on her bed who talked with a deep, evocative English accent. A man who looked entirely too much like the hero on the cover of her book.
He even wore the same gold torc around his neck. . . .
What the hell was going on here?
In that moment she half expected to hear the theme from The Twilight Zone start playing and for Rod Serling to begin his spiel about dimensions.
“How did you get into my house?” she asked.
It was only then he moved from the bed. Like some languid, graceful predator coming out of a crouch, he approached her. His muscles literally rippled with movement as his mail suit rasped slightly with his steps. A wickedly warm smile toyed at the edges of his handsome lips as he tilted her chin to where he could stare down into her eyes.
The power of him overwhelmed her. He was massive and tall, and so incredibly gorgeous that all she really wanted to do was take a bite out of him. The manly scent of sandalwood and leather invaded her head, making her breathless and warm.
His fingers stayed against her jaw, raising chills over her as she looked into eyes so incredibly green they barely seemed real. Eyes that hypnotized her with the danger and intelligence they revealed about the man who possessed them.
He was being gentle with her, but there was no doubt he could be lethal. No doubt he had the strength to do with her as he pleased.
And yet he made no other move to touch her. He merely stared at her with a leashed hunger that burned her from the inside out.
When he spoke, the deep possessiveness of his voice actually sent a shiver through her. “In truth, milady, I know not. I only know that I am here to win you.”
Win me? She frowned at his strange choice of words. “Win me how?”
“With whatever it takes.”
Oh, yeah, this was weird. Had she hit her head on something? Was she still dreaming? Maybe she had a fever that was causing delusions. Early dementia? Taryn bit her lip as she tried to sort through this to come up with a plausible explanation for why this gorgeous piece of anachronistic male flesh was in her house and not trying to rape her.
Maybe this was just some hallucination brought on by too much stress and too much caffeine.
But the hand on her face felt too real and the man before her too commanding to be imagined.
“Look, Mr. Freaky Man, I don’t know how you got in here, but you need to leave or I’m calling the cops.”
“Police. Bobbies. You know, the law.”
He frowned at that. “I am the law, milady. I answer to no one save myself.”
Oh, this was so not good.
He dipped his head down until his dark whiskers scraped her cheek, and he whispered in her ear. “Never fear me, little one,” he breathed huskily. “You are my heroine and I have no intention of harming you. Ever.”
“Then what do you intend to do?”
He pulled back and gave her a devilish grin. “I intend to woo you. To make you head over heels in love with me by week’s end.”
Nervous laughter bubbled up through her. This was just too bizarre for words.
“You don’t believe me?” he asked with an arrogant look.
“Buddy, I don’t know what to believe.” She really didn’t. “How did you get into my house anyway?”
He shrugged. “One moment I was in front of my . . .” His eyes turned sharp with anger as he hesitated. He cleared his throat. “I blinked and here I was.”
“You blinked like Jeannie, right?”
He moved his fingers down her jaw, then laced them through her hair. And when he dipped his head toward hers, she quickly stepped out of his embrace and moved to the door. Halfway there, she stumbled to a standstill as her gaze caught the book on her nightstand.
Her dark knight with the sword was gone, and in his place was a blond guy holding a bouquet of flowers.
Disbelief ran through her. It couldn’t be. It just could not be. . . .
He cocked his head at her. “You know my name?”
“Okay,” she said slowly. “I’m on drugs.” It didn’t really matter to her that she had never once taken any, but there seemed no other logical explanation. Esther must have slipped her a mickey in her coffee. Though why it had taken seventeen hours for it to work, she didn’t know.
There just had to be some sane, logical reason why the stupidly named Sparhawk the Brave, Earl of Ravensmoor was here in his armor and she was losing her mind.
But there really wasn’t one.
I need to call Esther.
If anyone knew what was going on, it would surely be her. After picking up the phone and dialing for information, Taryn quickly learned there was no listing for the store.
And honestly, it wasn’t really a surprise. Somewhere deep in the back of her mind, she had figured as much.
Still, she felt the need to find out whatever she could. “Tell you what, I’m going to get dressed real fast and you and I are going to take a trip.”
“To a little bookstore.”
He frowned at her. “What is a bookstore?”
She rubbed her temple. “I guess they didn’t have those in the Middle Ages, did they?”
“Middle Ages? Lady, you use very strange words.”
She gave another nervous laugh. “Yeah, okay, let me not tarry,” she said, using words she hoped he’d understand better. “I shall dress forthwith and hasten myself back to thee or thou or whatever it is.”
If anything his frown increased, and as she headed for the bathroom, she could have sworn she heard him say, “She’s a strange demoiselle, but a highly amusing one.”
Sparhawk ventured from the room as he waited for Lady Totally Freaking Out to return. The witch had not been jesting when she said this world would be filled with strange marvels. There were plants inside containers that held no water or soil. Strange furniture covered in dark green fabric. Nothing in this woman’s dwelling appeared even remotely familiar to him.
What was this place the witch had sent him to? Was it another planet perhaps? A world of sorcerers?
Perhaps he should fear for his immortal soul, but then, given the thought of returning to Alinor, even something that threatened his eternity had to be better than her cloying smile and lackluster wit.
As he poked at the plant that had a strange, unnatural texture to it, he felt a presence behind him. Turning his head, he froze. His new lady wore a strange short-sleeved tunic and a pair of breeches that had been shorn off high on her thighs. The sight of those long legs made him think of how soft her skin had felt in his palm and of how much better it would taste under his tongue.
He trailed his gaze over her lush curves to her face, where her pink cheeks told him his stare made her uncomfortable. He smiled at the knowledge.
Taryn couldn’t move as she watched Sparhawk watch her. The man was so incredibly hot. His green eyes filled with heat and carnal knowledge. She knew what he was thinking, and quite honestly, she was thinking it, too. Imagine having that naked and spread out on her bed . . . over her body.
He filled out that armor in the way she was sure medieval smiths had meant for it to be worn. His broad shoulders were thrown back with pride, and he bore the presence of a man confident in himself.
The man in him devastated the woman in her.
And it was then she realized she couldn’t really take him into public wearing medieval armor. Not unless they were going to a Ren Faire. People might begin to ask questions she couldn’t even begin to answer, and the last thing she needed was for this to turn into some bad low-budget B movie with the two of them ending up in a lab somewhere.
Or worse, an asylum.
While she stared, he crossed the room to stand before her. “Tell me, milady, where is your guardian?”
She frowned. “You mean my parents?”
“I mean whoever is responsible for your future.”
“That would be me.”
A puzzled look crossed his handsome features until they melted into one of amusement. “Truly? You answer only unto yourself?”
“Just like you.”
He smiled at that, and before she realized what he intended, he captured her lips with his.
Taryn tensed for a moment, and started to step back, but his arms quickly surrounded her, drawing her closer to his heat as he opened her mouth and ravished it. There was no other word for the complete possession he took.
She’d been kissed plenty of times in her life, but never like this. Never with such heated intensity. His tongue coaxed hers, his lips demanding.
And the smell of him . . .
So manly. So warm. So sexual.
Rising up on her tiptoes, she moaned from the feel of him, wanting to draw him in deeper. To taste more of this incredible male.
Sparhawk growled at the passion in her caress as she wrapped her arms about him. She clung to him and met his kiss with a hunger that surprised him. Aye, she was a wild one. One who would bed him well, and he in turn would never leave her wanting more. Never leave until she was completely spent and satisfied.
In that moment he knew she was the one he would take as his own. He would never go back to Alinor.
He cupped her face in his hands and reluctantly pulled back. She kept her eyes closed as if savoring the moment.
When she opened her large, doe-like eyes and stared up at him, he felt a strange surge through him. It was raw and aching and it demanded her in a way that stunned him.
“That was nice,” she said breathlessly.
He laughed. ‘Twas the first time any woman had said that to him.
Taryn tried to regain her equilibrium, but it wasn’t easy. Not when all she really wanted to do was step back into his arms and have her most wicked way with him. Worse was the little tiny voice in the back of her mind that kept saying having sex with a character from a romance novel didn’t count anyway. Right?
She could do anything she wanted to with him, and no one would ever know. . . .
Oh, yeah, that could be fun.
“Okay, Spar . . .” She paused on his name. Sparhawk just sounded too ludicrous for words when spoken out loud.
What had the writer been thinking?
Oh, do me, great big Sparhawk. You the man. Taryn laughed in spite of herself. Nope, that name did not work in reality.
“What would you like me to call you?” she asked.
He cocked an arrogant brow at her. “You may call me Earl.”
Taryn bit back another laugh. Yeah, right. That was probably the only thing worse than Sparhawk. And for some unholy reason the Dixie Chicks song Goodbye Earl started going through her head.
Oh, good grief!
“Okay, look, your majesty or grace or whatever, Earl and Sparhawk aren’t going to cut it for the moment, okay?”
Somehow Sparhawk managed to look ever more regal and arched. “I beg your pardon? This from a woman called Totally Freaking Out?”
This was rapidly disintegrating into even more chaos and bizarreness. “My name isn’t Totally Freaking Out. It’s Taryn. Taryn Edwards.”
He seemed to relax a bit. “Lady Taryn?”
“No, just Taryn.”
“Very well, Taryn. You may call me Sparhawk.”
Taryn bit her lip as she winced. “You know, big guy, I just can’t really do that.”
“Then call me milord,” he said, totally missing her point.
Taryn took a deep breath. “Let me explain my world to you. If I call you milord and you call me milady, people are going to lock both of us up.”
“In the stocks?”
“Sure. Um, so I need a name I can call you that won’t make anyone look at us strangely.” Or make me laugh out loud every time I use it.
“Since this is your world, mi—” He broke off his words as she cocked a brow. “Taryn. Tell me, what name should I use?”
Taryn stared at him for several minutes as she ran over the possibilities. He was too incredible to be something simple like Tom or Ken or Robert. He needed a more studly name.
Finally she settled on just shortening it. “How about just Hawk?”
Still a little ridiculous, but better.
He nodded. “Very well, Taryn. For you, I shall be known as Hawk.”
A strange flutter shot through her at his words. For you. No doubt he had meant nothing special by them; still they warmed her.
“Now we have to do something about those clothes.”
“You would change my name and my clothing, milady. Is there nothing about me you find acceptable?”