Kate Duncan agrees to help her young cousin land a husband though she draws the line when she learns the foolish girl wants to use an apothecary's love potion to snag the notorious Marcus Pelham! To prove the elixir a fake, Kate drinks it herself-and experiences the most erotic moment of her life when she stumbles upon Marcus in a most compromising position. Every nerve in Kate's body sings as she watches from the shadows, but is her response a result of the potion...or the man? Luckily, Marcus is far too busy to notice Kate's spying-or so she thinks...
As the Earl of Stamford, Marcus has his choice of willing ladies to share his bed. Yet nothing has ever aroused him as much as the image of Kate watching him. Marcus tries to have a little fun with Kate by drinking the elixir-and then appearing to lose all control every time she's near. But the prank goes awry when Marcus finds himself wildly and truly attracted to the innocent Kate. As he teaches her the passionate art of seduction, will he lose his heart for the very first time?
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About the Author
Cheryl Holt is a lawyer, mom, and bestselling novelist who lives on the Oregon coast. Her varied employment history includes public school teacher, mediator, cook, bartender, lobbyist, musician, and political activist. A graduate of the University of Wyoming College of Law, she worked as a law clerk for the Attorney General of Colorado and Wyoming. Later, she served as a deputy district attorney in metro-Denver. She has numerous national writing awards to her credit, including the prestigious Reviewer's Choice award from Romantic Times magazine. Further Than Passion is her thirteenth book.
Cheryl Holt is a lawyer, mom, and best-selling novelist. Her hot, sexy, dramatic stories of passion and illicit love have captivated fans around the world, and she's celebrated as the Queen of Erotic Romance. Due to the ferociousness of some of her characters, she’s also renowned as the International Queen of Villains. Her books have been released to wide acclaim, and she has won or been nominated for many national awards. She is particularly proud to have been named, “Best Storyteller of the Year” by Romantic Times BOOKreviews magazine.
Currently, she lives and writes in Los Angeles, where her teenaged son is pursuing his dream of becoming a Hollywood movie star.
Read an Excerpt
Further Than Passion
By Cheryl Holt
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2005 Cheryl Holt
All rights reserved.
LONDON, ENGLAND, 1813 ...
"A love potion?" Kate Duncan scoffed. "Tell me that you're joking. Please."
"For what could you possibly hope to use it?"
Her distant cousin sixteen-year-old Lady Melanie Lewis was mutinous. "What would you suppose? I intend to make Lord Stamford fall in love with me."
Kate could barely keep from laughing aloud. "Lord Stamford? Fall in love?"
Struggling for calm, Kate took a deep breath. "Where did you obtain it?"
"From an apothecary." Melanie leaned in and whispered, "The man swears it's extremely potent, so I have to be careful that I administer it appropriately, lest I set off unforeseen consequences."
"What sort of consequences might those be?"
"Well, if I was careless, two unsuitable people could be brought together. It would be a disaster."
Kate rolled her eyes. "Melanie, you can't believe this tonic is real."
"Why would you say it isn't?"
"There's no such thing as a magic potion."
"Hah! That shows how little you know. I paid a fortune for it. It must be genuine."
Kate raised the vial and tipped it toward the lamp. It was filled with a dark liquid, and she'd bet her last penny that it was red wine. "What — precisely — am I to do with it?"
"You're to administer it, right before I'm scheduled to meet him. You'll slip it in his brandy or his soup. When he's not looking, of course."
"Oh, of course."
"Tomorrow evening might be best, when we're first introduced. I want him smitten from the start."
Kate sighed. Over the years, she'd served as Melanie's companion, tutor, governess, and chaperone. The girl had instituted a gaggle of nonsense, had developed numerous silly and bizarre ideas, but this was the most outrageous by far.
By all accounts, Marcus Pelham, the thirty-year-old Earl of Stamford, was a cold, dissolute, aloof scoundrel, and Melanie's yearning for him to be besotted was folly. Nay, beyond folly. It was lunacy. Was she off her rocker?
Marcus Pelham would never love Melanie. Despite what type of concoction she added to his supper entree, he wouldn't grow infatuated. Surely, Melanie understood the boundaries and ramifications of an aristocratic marriage! Her mother, Regina, had been tedious in expounding on the details. If Lord Stamford chose Melanie for his bride, it would be for the accepted reasons: money, property, familial alliances.
Affection would play no part.
"The timing is critical," Melanie continued. "You must talk with the staff, to learn when and where he'll be most likely to —"
"Melanie, listen to me." Kate grabbed her by the upper arms and shook her. "We're not going to do this. I am not going to do this."
"Stamford is an intelligent, shrewd, and clever gentleman. What if he caught me? How would I explain myself?"
"Honestly, Kate. You have no imagination." Melanie shoved her away. "You have to invent a story before you begin. That way, if you're discovered, you'll know in advance what your excuse should be. Now, when should we try it?"
Kate counted to ten, praying for patience. Melanie had always been intractable, and Kate was so weary of her moods. "Let me be more clear: I forbid you to attempt this. If you persist, I will speak to your mother and have her stop you."
Upon the mention of Melanie's mother, Regina Lewis, the Dowager Countess of Doncaster, Melanie's temper flared, her blond ringlets bouncing with fury. "If you dare," she threatened loudly, "I'll spend the rest of my life making you sorry."
"Be silent, before you waken the entire house," Kate answered, just as furiously. She'd lived with Melanie much too long, and had endured too many tantrums, to brook one with any grace. Especially in the middle of the night. She set the vial on the dresser, prepared to leave in a huff. "It's very late, and on the morrow, we have a busy day."
"Take the potion with you!" Melanie commanded, and she snatched up the vial, wielding it like a weapon.
"You can't order me about."
"If you won't take it, I'll do something drastic. I'll ... I'll ..."
Apparently, on the spur of the moment she couldn't devise a reprehensible behavior, but judging from her mottled countenance, she was on the verge of throwing a major fit.
"For pity's sake," Kate grumbled. "Give it to me."
She marched over and retrieved it, as Melanie glowered in triumph, having been confident that she could coerce Kate into whatever conduct she demanded.
Gnashing her teeth, Kate stomped out and closed the door. Their hostess, Lady Pamela — Lord Stamford's glamorous stepmother — was free with her coin, so a lamp burned next to the landing, illuminating Kate's route. She trudged toward the stairs, ready to climb to her bedchamber, but she was fatigued, exhausted from traveling to London, from dealing with Regina and Melanie. By the third step, she plopped down, her head in her hands.
There was no need to rush. Her room was tidy, clean, comfortably furnished, but it was sparse and quiet, at the end of a deserted corridor. The isolated location only underscored how alone she'd recently been feeling.
At least she hadn't been lodged in the attic with the servants! Since she'd been orphaned at age eight she'd suffered many slights, but her pride couldn't have borne that one.
It had been so many years since her father had reigned as Earl of Doncaster, since he'd passed away and Regina's son, Christopher, had been elevated from modest means and obscurity to assume the title. Kate could hardly remember that period of wealth and privilege.
Had she really been born the daughter of an earl? Had her mother really been the most beautiful female in England? Had she lived like a princess? Or was it all some odd, recurring dream?
Kate's mother had been wed too young. She'd been restless, unhappy in her marriage, and ultimately, she'd fled to Italy with a lover. The shame had been too much for Kate's father, and he committed suicide, leaving Kate unprotected, with no funds, no dowry, and no guardian designated to watch over her.
Before the shock of events had fully registered, the indomitable Regina had moved to Doncaster and seized the reins of power. For a few brief weeks, her ailing husband had inherited the earldom, but he'd conveniently died, so she was a widow, her baby son the new lord. Ever since, she'd ruled the property like a despotic queen, managing with an iron fist, and bullying everyone until they ceded to her mandates.
Regina never let Kate forget that she was an aging, irksome burden, that her selfish parents had declined to see to her welfare and had abandoned her to the vagaries of Fate. Regina constantly harangued as to how weak and crazed Kate's parents had been, how their tainted blood flowed through Kate's veins. She berated so vociferously and so often that Kate had taken the criticisms to heart and, in case others learn of her appalling lineage and judge her harshly, rarely told anyone her last name.
There was a mirror on the wall, and she studied her reflection. In the dim light, she didn't look anywhere near twenty-five, even though that was her age.
Her auburn hair was luxurious and rich, and not an indicator of a hedonistic temperament as Regina regularly proclaimed. Regina maintained it was witch's hair, that the color was an enticement to wild ways, and had been the ruination of Kate's mother. For fear that she be deemed loose of character, as her mother had been, Kate kept it concealed under caps and hoods.
In the shadows, her green eyes were sparkling and alive, her face pretty and appealing. Her thin figure was feminine, her curves defined and alluring, and she could detect no hint of the pathetic creature Regina had dubbed her. It was as if she was staring at the woman she yearned to be, rather than the woman she was.
Glancing down, she scrutinized the vial she still held.
"A love potion," she muttered. "What next?"
Early on, she'd ascertained the idiocy of succumbing to ardor. As her parents had proven, an excess of zeal led to misfortune and tragedy, and Kate wasn't about to assist Melanie in any recklessness.
Kate pulled the cork from the vial, intending to dump the liquid into the dirt of a potted plant, when a strange impulse — puckishness? madness? boredom? — forestalled her. Instead, she raised it and drank down the contents.
The mixture didn't taste like wine as she'd anticipated. It was more earthy, more sweet and aromatic, as if brewed from flowers and mint. She clucked her tongue and licked her lips, wishing there'd been more to enjoy.
Suddenly there was a roaring in her ears, as though she could hear stormy ocean waves crashing on the beach. Overly warm, she slackened the belt on her robe, the lapels falling away, but she attained no relief. She was boiling, so she undid the buttons on her nightgown, and she tugged at the bodice, forcing air underneath. The fabric was hot, prickly, and she hated how it chafed her skin.
Though it was a pleasant June evening, the house was cold, yet it occurred to her that she was eager to shed her clothing, to run about with nothing on. As if she was drunk, she giggled at the notion.
Her hair was heavy, the lengthy braid burdensome and pinching her scalp. She yanked off the ribbon and riffled through the locks, freeing them, scandalously allowing them to hang unencumbered. The lack of restraint made her feel wanton, liberated, uninhibited.
She peered in the mirror again, and she seemed to be glowing with an unrealized attractiveness that mesmerized her. Her tresses curled around her hips, the red and gold highlights shimmering in a sort of halo. Her eyes were more emerald, and they shone mysteriously, like a cat's, and her cheeks were flushed. She appeared naughty, tempestuous, out of control, as if she'd just done something outrageous — or was about to.
Gaping around, she was surprised to discover that she wasn't sitting in the stairwell. Though she had no clue how she'd come to be there, she was in a long hallway, and she gazed down an expanse of doors that went on forever. Her vision had constricted and blurred, but her other senses were heightened. She could smell the wax on the wood trim, could distinguish the particles of dust under a decorative table, could perceive a mouse scampering inside the wall.
Where was she? She was certain she was inside Lady Pamela's mansion but confused as to her precise location.
Was this the corridor to her bedchamber? The doors were all the same. Which was hers?
Desperate to lie down, to quiet her dizziness, she started walking, the passage a never-ending gauntlet. Her limbs were like stone, her anatomy slow and listless, as if she were swimming through water.
She peeked down, and her fingers were on a doorknob, so she spun it and slipped inside, but this wasn't her room! What was she thinking?
She'd entered a grand suite — obviously a male's — complete with maroon drapes, plush rugs, and imposing mahogany furniture. The space was empty, but a second chamber adjoined at the rear, and she glided toward it, her feet not seeming to touch the floor.
It was larger than the first. There was an extravagant marble fireplace, and even though it was summer, cheery flames wastefully blazed in the grate.
In the middle, a magnificent bed was perched on a pedestal. With its sturdy frame, posh mattress, carved headboard and posts, it was the kind of bed in which a king or prince might sleep.
A man and woman were atop the blankets, sinfully naked, and Kate knew she should sneak out, but she was enthralled, and she couldn't quit watching. The man was on the bottom, the woman kneeling over him. She was blond, buxom, her golden mane flowing down her back. Her voluptuous breasts were thrust out, swaying to and fro, her hips undulating as she rocked herself across the man's loins. As if she were on a horse, she was riding him, her movements practiced, fluid, graceful.
Kate strove to identify her, deciding that she vaguely resembled Lady Pamela, but she might have been anyone. In fact, when Kate narrowed her focus, she could observe her own face where the woman's should have been.
Was she the person on the bed? She was so befuddled!
Mute and agog, she spied on them, unconcerned as to whether she might be noticed. She was invisible, floating on air, an intangible phantom, and she shifted farther into the shadows and concentrated on the man.
With his dark hair and eyes, he was the most handsome she'd ever seen, his features perfectly formed. Slender, robust, muscled, he likely engaged in fencing or pugilism as a method of keeping in shape.
Though she didn't recognize him, and had no idea who he was, he seemed familiar, beloved, as if he were a dear friend with whom she'd been reunited.
I've finally found you, she almost said, stopping herself before she spoke, but she suffered an exuberant surge of joy at the knowledge.
He clasped the woman's nipples, massaging and fondling them, and the woman shivered with ecstasy.
Kate's torso jerked in response. It was as if he were caressing her own nipples, as if he were petting her own breasts. Her womb spasmed and twinged. In the secret area between her legs, she grew warm and moist. Her body comprehended and welcomed the libidinous conduct. She was blossoming, radiating a vigor and energy that caused her to pine and covet, and she vibrated with a need and desire for things she couldn't begin to name.
The pair was involved in an incredible dance, a ballet of exquisite sensuality and finesse, with each having a role to perform. They stretched and strained, reached and rolled, their limbs in flawless coordination, and in some primal part of her, Kate grasped that they were making love. She was viewing the secret behavior of the marital bed. The act was so beautiful, so thrilling, and she could have hovered there into infinity, studying them and wondering about their relationship, their purpose.
You could be with him, a voice whispered. You could love him. He could love you in return. Isn't that what you want? What you've wanted forever?
The voice was so adamant, so firm, and so real. It rattled her, excited her, and she suspected that if she rushed over, she could become the female with him.
She was bewildered, not able to understand what had transpired, and she tried to leave, but she couldn't tear herself away.
The man glanced to the side and smiled at her, and she could see that his eyes were not brown, but a brilliant, sweltering shade of blue. They blazed with intensity, and she could discern his regard as tangibly as if he'd touched her.
Come to me, she heard him cajole. Let me be the one.
He kneaded his partner's breast again, then traced down her stomach, until he was stroking her crotch. Kate could feel the motion herself, could perceive the heat of his palm, could smell the exhilarating musk of his skin. He'd stimulated a sensitive spot she'd never noted before, and it throbbed and ached in a rhythm that matched the tempo of her pulse — and his. They were connected, joined to the very roots of their souls.
Inside of her, there was a strange pressure building. It was so potent, and so compelling, that she struggled toward it, positive she was about to explode with pleasure, about to burst into a thousand pieces.
She blinked, and he was directly in front of her, though she didn't know how or when he'd moved. He was tall, six feet at least, and he leaned in, his solid physique pushing into hers, forcing her back against the wall.
Every inch of him was crushed into her. He was flat where she was rounded, slim where she was curved, and she had the fleeting thought that they'd been specifically created to fit together.
I love you, she murmured silently.
You always have, he replied.
He raised his hand, and on it was a jeweled ring, studded with diamonds. They surrounded a sapphire stone in the center, which was the exact color of his eyes.
This is for you, he said. Keep it so that you'll remember.
She was sufficiently cognizant to fathom that the ring was much too precious for him to relinquish and, more important, she was too insignificant to receive it. How could she explain her possession of it?
She shoved it away, but he slipped it onto her finger and curled her fist into a tight ball, sealing her grip so that she wouldn't drop it.
Excerpted from Further Than Passion by Cheryl Holt. Copyright © 2005 Cheryl Holt. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I AM A BIG FAN OF THIS AUTHOR. IF I GOT THE BOOK WITH NO AUTHORS NAME ON IT I NEVER WOULD HAVE GUESSED WHO WROTE IT. EVERY AUTHOR HAS A STINKER EVERY NOW AND THEN. MS HOLT'S TIME CAME. GOT 2 STARS JUST BECAUSE SHE WROTE IT AND NO OTHER REASON. I CONCUR WITH THE OTHER REVIEWS--SUCH A PITY AND A WASTE OF READING TIME.
I'm usallly am in high praise of Cheryl Holt but this time I have to give her a negative review. This book was horrible from start to finish. I don't know if it's me but I feel that a lot of her dialogue were from previous novels especially when they discuess the size of a particular part of his anatomy. Correct me if I'm wrong but I have all her books and this line has been used in almost all of them. I am very disappointed in this book and am upset that I wasted my money on this book, this is most definitely not her best effort.
This is not Cheryl Holts best. I could not wait for this book to come out, and what a disappointment. I do not think I liked ANY of the characters. This is the first book of Cheryl Holts that I read that I did not like. I loved all the others, but I do not think you should waste your time, or you will be very disappointed like I was. I kept reading thinking it is going to get better and it was a let down. I hope she gets back to her old self.
I have read and enjoyed Cheryl Holt's previous books and can't believe this was written by her. The story is totally predictable. It is written as I would image a high school girl attempting her first romantic novel. This is supposed to be 1813 England but much of the dialoge is 20th century. The best I can say about this book is it was a waste of time from start to finish. Full of cliches and awful characters.