Charmed and Dangerous

Charmed and Dangerous

by Jane Ashford

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780553577730
Publisher: Bantam Books
Publication date: 09/01/1998
Pages: 384
Product dimensions: 4.26(w) x 6.96(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

Jane Ashford discovered Georgette Heyer in junior high school and was captivated by the glittering world and witty language of Regency England. That delight was part of what led her to study English literature and travel widely. She's written historical and contemporary romances, and her books have been published all over Europe as well as in the United States. Jane has been nominated for a Career Achievement Award by RT Book Reviews. Find her on the web at www.janeashford.com and on Facebook. If you'd like to receive her monthly newsletter, you can sign up at either of those sites.

Read an Excerpt

"You are looking very lovely this evening," said Gavin as he led Laura onto the dance floor at the Austrian embassy ball.

Startled, Laura looked up at him. It was the first compliment he had ever offered her, and she didn't trust it for a moment.

"That gown is unusual. But then, your clothes are all quite elegant."

She gazed down at the folds of her ball gown, fashioned of a silk that shimmered between bronze and deep green, depending on the light. She had been exceedingly pleased with the fabric and design from the moment she saw them. Looking at the gown now, she was filled with suspicion.

Gavin grasped her waist, and they began to dance, falling naturally, once again, into rhythm with each other. It was a waltz. Of course it was a waltz, Laura thought. A country dance or quadrille would offer him less scope to unsettle her.

"You're not usually so silent," commented Gavin, turning her deftly at the end of the room.

The strength of his arm was palpable, and his hands--on her back and laced with hers--held an unnerving heat. He was a man who demanded notice, Laura thought. You couldn't ignore him, and it would always be a serious mistake to discount him. At the same time, he made it terribly difficult to keep one's wits about one. It was a devastating combination. "Your coat is very well cut," she managed.

His eyes flickered, and one corner of his mouth turned up for a moment. "Thank you."

Evening dress did particularly become him, Laura thought. And he wore it with unmatched ease. She felt a flutter in her midsection, and wondered if her dinner was about to disagree with her.

"Having established that we are both creditablydressed, perhaps we could move on to some other topic," he added.

Always mocking, Laura thought. Did he speak seriously to anyone? To Sophie Krelov, perhaps? "Is Lord Castlereagh here tonight?" she asked him. "I haven't yet seen him."

"I believe so." Gavin turned his head to search for the chief of the English delegation at the congress. "He had planned to be."

"He must be eager not to offend the Austrians." Laura was also scanning the huge room.

"Indeed?"

Laura looked up at his surprised tone.

"And why should he be?" wondered Gavin.

"I assume he wants their support against Russia's demands," she replied.

"Has the general been educating you?" he said, with predictable irony.

"The general shares the common opinion that women understand nothing about politics," she responded tartly. "I believe he would sooner explain such matters to his horse."

"Oh, I think he would speak to the dog first," answered Gavin.

Laura stared up at him, not sure she had heard correctly. A spurt of laughter escaped her.

"Where do you get your information, then?" he added.

"I am quite capable of reading."

"Reading?"

For some reason, the way he said the word made Laura recall the very unpolitical things she had read in the earl's private library. She flushed deep scarlet.

"Newspapers?" continued Gavin, looking fascinated at the reaction his remark had produced.

Unable to speak, she nodded.

"Perhaps not only the English papers? You seem to have a talent for languages."

"I have been reading all the accounts of the congress that I can find," she answered, regaining some measure of composure. "Hard as it may be for you to believe, I am deeply interested in what is going on here."

"It isn't at all hard for me to believe," he replied, in a tone that left Laura wondering whether he meant this as an insult.

"It is oppressively warm in here, isn't it?" he continued. In the next moment, he had whirled her into a tiny alcove and opened one of the French doors. Then they were somehow through it and on a flagstone terrace that flanked the building. A large garden spread into darkness on their left. "There, that's better."

"Mr. Graham!" Laura struggled a little in his grasp. "Excuse me. I wish to go back in." It was quite unsuitable for them to be outside alone.

"But it is such a beautiful night," he argued, his arm adamant around her waist.

"On the contrary, it is quite chilly," she said, trying to step out of it.

He swung her down two shallow steps into the garden. It was all Laura could do to keep her feet. Beyond the squares of light from the ballroom windows, the night was lit by a half moon, which turned the landscape into a maze of black and silver. Gavin swept her along to a row of shrubbery, inky masses against the stars, which Laura recognized only when their needles brushed her arm.

"Mr. Graham," she protested more loudly. "I ask you, as a gentleman, to--"

"You and the general make the same mistake in thinking I am a gentleman." With a jerk, he pulled her tight against him, his lips capturing hers in a hard, inescapable kiss.

Laura stiffened in surprise and outrage. She pushed against his shoulders--with no effect. She wriggled, and managed only to make herself even more conscious of the contours of his body melded to hers. She had never been in such intimate contact with anyone. One of his hands had slid well below her waist and was pressing her even closer. The muscles of his chest caressed her breasts in the most amazing way. And his lips moved confidently on hers, rousing sensations that she couldn't evade.

It was unthinkable. It was intolerable. It was rather like some of the things she had read, Laura mused dizzily. One couldn't really understand, through mere words, how it felt, how one's whole being could suddenly turn traitor and melt like ice in a conflagration.

In the next instant, she was thrust roughly away and left swaying on her feet at arm's length.

"There," said Gavin unevenly.

Laura could see his face only dimly in the light from the distant windows. She thought for a moment that he looked almost shaken. But in the next, the sneering mockery was back.

"Was that what you wanted?" he said.

"I . . . ?"

"When you allowed me to bring you out here?"

"Allowed?"

"If the general suggested such a ploy, he is even denser than I realized."

"You practically dragged me out of the ballroom," Laura accused.

"Dragged? I think not." He said it in a caressing tone that made Laura's face go hot.

"You . . . you bastard."

"Tch. Is this language for a lady?"

Sweeping back her skirts, Laura kicked him in the shin with as much force as she could muster. "Be thankful I am a lady," she said over her shoulder as she strode back toward the ball. "If I were not, that might have hurt a good deal more."



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