Kitty Robertson has grown up wealthy and influential, and sheâs never more at home than when in an English parlour displaying her social graces.
When she looks for a husband, of course she seeks a man just as home in his position â hopefully a lofty one â as she is. Nicholas Glenville, Marquess of Greystone, is just such a man. He is so attentive and gentlemanly that she canât help but accept his proposal of marriage, and is now looking forward to this Season being her last one as a single woman.
But at the very first ball of the year she meets an enigmatic, gorgeous duke who asks her for a dance. That duke is Trevor Nicholson, a man who knows the marquess well enough to know that he would not make her any kind of husband at all. Instead he nominates himself for the position, but as he soon finds, convincing the beautiful Miss Robertson to marry him instead will be the trickiest â and most worthwhile â task of his life.
He had the look of danger about him.
Kitty Robertson recognized it the moment she spotted him, standing alone on the rocky shore, gazing out to sea, toward the horizon, as though he were daring the sun to rise.
Or perhaps he was commanding it not to.
Because its brightness would surely reveal what the dawn shadows were presently hiding, what had immediately captured her breath and her attention when she'd clambered over the rocks, hoping for a bit of isolated seashore: his perfect, naked form standing proud as though he had been carved from the very boulders on which he stood.
He was truly magnificent. It took every bit of willpower she possessed to stay rooted exactly where she was when she desperately wanted to cross the short distance that separated them and touch him. Trail her fingers over those sculpted muscles that were burning bronze as the sun pushed back the last remnants of night.
She'd never seen anything so glorious—except in that secret, dark corner of her mind where lustful thoughts tempted her with wickedness, shamed her with their clarity. She knew a lady of her upbringing shouldn't harbor such vivid, carnal images—much less crave the sight of them. And yet she did. Whenever her mind had occasion to drift, it was lured toward perilous thoughts that threatened her purity.
And that was the very reason that this man was so extremely dangerous. Because he embodied every sinful fantasy that she'd ever dared to dream.
As the morning's light faded from gray, she could see that the thick, black strands of his hair were too heavy with dampness to move much with the breeze that wafted in across the sea. He'd been swimming no doubt, and she marveled that he wasn't shivering. The waters off the coast of England were cold, not nearly as welcoming as the warm currents that washed in off the Texas coast in summer.
She'd often swum in the Gulf of Mexico, had actually been contemplating a quick dip into these chilly waters.
Until she'd happened upon Poseidon here. The man did truly resemble a god. From the top of his head, along the entire length of his long torso and longer legs, down to his rounded heels. As unacceptable as it was, she wished he'd turn so she might glimpse a full view of him.
A decent woman would have averted her gaze immediately upon spying him; she wouldn't have ducked back and prayed that she wouldn't be sighted while she leisurely took her fill of him, cataloging each dip and curve and flat plane that had come together to create such perfection.
Unexpectedly, he twisted and crouched, to retrieve his clothing she realized at the exact moment that his gaze fell on her, holding her captive as easily as his lean body had only moments before. He seemed slightly startled, not overly alarmed, more curious than anything else. And she realized the sun that had so clearly revealed him was now also exposing her.
She spun on her heel, lifted her skirts, and darted back the way she'd come, scampering over the rocks until they gave way to the pebble-and-sand shore. She broke into a full run, the wind whipping her hair in her face, pressing her skirt against her legs. She ran until she reached the path she'd followed to the shore. Ran until she reached a less desolate area, where her passing would no longer be marked. When the brush thickened, she found a place where she could lie on the cool grass unobserved. She curled into a tight ball, wrapped her arms closely around herself, and wept.
Wept because she was as wicked as the woman who had given birth to her without the benefit of marriage. Wept because no matter how hard she tried, she never was as pure as the woman who had raised her.