Noble Passions Series from Sabrina York
Follow the decadent exploits of friends and enemies as they find love and passion in the glittering world of the Regency—and its dark underbelly. All books are stand alone titles.
Book 1 in the Noble Passions Series from Sabrina York
2014 Carolyn Reader’s Choice Award
When Lady Helena Simpson flees an unwanted marriage to a revolting lord, she finds refuge with James, a charming, handsome man unlike any she’s ever known. Helena concocts the perfect solution to her problem. She asks—begs—James to ruin her. Surely her betrothed will repudiate her if she is no longer pure. And if all her efforts fail and she still ends up married to a horrid man until the end of her days, she will at least once have known true passion.
But James is not all he seems. He is, in fact, a wicked lord with a dark fancy. When Helena awakens his desire, he becomes determined to take everything she has to offer and more. No matter the cost.
Read an Excerpt:
James stared at Eloise, brave, proud, innocent Eloise. He could relate to the passion in her plea. He had a sudden desire to be released from a betrothal himself. He fiddled with the corner of his napkin. “There is always the chance your betrothed won’t care if you’re ruined.” Some men did not.
Her lashes fluttered. When they rose again, there was a look in her eye that sent lust coursing down his spine. It settled in his cock. “If I’m to be married to a bilious flounder of a man for the rest of my life, I should like to know passion just once. Just once, James.”
“J-just once?” His voice cracked.
Her smile blossomed. “Perhaps more than once.”
He had to laugh, although this was clearly no laughing matter. “My dear. I would be happy to oblige.”
“Excellent!” She clapped her hands with glee.
Unfortunate, that, because it made her look, once again, like a little girl. But then she picked up her cup and ran her pink tongue around the rim, lapping at the wayward drops. He reached for the second bottle.
She held out her cup for a refill. “You will need to show me what to do.”
He almost forgot to stop pouring. Hell yes. He’d love to show her what to do. He’d love to instruct her—in elaborate detail—what, precisely, to do. Something snarled in his belly. His palm itched.
He forced down that decadent desire. Chained the beast.
For God’s sake. She was an innocent, a virgin. If he opened with that card, not only would she truly be ruined, she would probably hie off to the nearest nunnery and spend the remainder of her life in seclusion.
Oh, he would bed her. He would despoil and beguile her, but only in the very gentlest of fashions.
But his fantasies, the darkling imagery of what he would truly like to do, simmered.
“Are you…” He cleared his throat. “Are you ready for your bath?”
“Heavens, yes.” Once again, she clapped her hands.
The childlike gesture was off-putting since, at the moment, he was thinking of sinking his cock into her body and swallowing her moans with his mouth. But he liked her enthusiasm. It also made him desire—very deeply—to tie those hands to the bedposts. So she couldn’t clap them.
Why that thought made him salivate, he didn’t know.
Ah hell. Of course he knew.
Despite the lust snarling through him, he managed a modicum of chivalry, although it was perfunctory at best. “I’ll fashion a curtain.”
Her next words nearly unmanned him. “You don’t need to.”
“I b-beg your pardon?”
“You don’t need to bother with a curtain.” For a shy and demure innocent, she had something of a brazen streak. “I mean, if we’re going to…you know…”
“Yes. If we’re going to make love, you will see me naked anyway.” A frown crossed her brow. “Won’t you?”
He chuckled. “Most certainly.”
“I thought so. But people are not very forthcoming when one asks about such things.”
“Really?” That had not been his experience in the slightest. Then again, she was a girl. The world sought to save and protect innocence. Until it ravaged it.
He did not know why he trembled as he poured the heavy buckets into the tub. He was a man of the world. Jaded and used to much more decadent fare than initiating virgins to the delights of the flesh. He should hardly be nervous about the prospect of having her.
Then again, maybe it wasn’t nerves. Maybe it was just pure, seething desire.
He had planned to seduce her—expected it to take hours of sweet whispers and furtive caresses. Never in his wildest dreams could he have anticipated this—that she would gaze at him across the dinner table and politely ask him to ruin her.
She was, altogether, a different kind of woman. Unlike any lover or mistress or professional girl he’d ever been with. And the prospect delighted him.
He swished his fingers in the water and added another bucket of cold to balance the temperature. He didn’t want her delicate skin burned because he was in such an all-fired hurry to get her naked. “There. Perfect.”
“Thank you, James.” Her voice was low, melodious. It sent a ribbon of pleasure through him.
“Are you ready?”
“I cannot tell you how ready.”
He swallowed. Yes. He felt the same. His pulse thrummed in his temple. And elsewhere. “Milady, your bath awaits.” He gave a great flourish, his gaze firmly fixed on her.
She reached for her hem and then stilled. “Could you turn around?”
Disappointment raked him. “Of course.”
“I’ve just never disrobed before a man before.”
“I understand.” Damn. Damn, damn and damn. He turned his back. Every rustle of fabric grated on him. He wished—oh so fervently—that Babbage had a mirror. He so would have liked to watch.
A small splash.
He winced. His pulse pounded. God. She was in the water. Naked.
She sighed. Moaned.
His cock lurched.
“Is it good?” His words were, at best, a strangled rumble.
“Oh yes. Yes.”
He had to look. He couldn’t not.
The sight he beheld was exquisite. Eloise had leaned back in the water to wet her hair. Her breasts, delectable pink islands in the sea, thrust up. The nipples were fat and hard, distended.
He swallowed around the tight ball in his throat. His nails scored his palms.
Though he was rooted to the spot, determined to give her some modicum of privacy, his imagination ran rampant. What he wouldn’t like to do to those tempting tips.
“James?” Her soft call wrenched him from a delirious fantasy. Her expression was tentative, shy, but he could see the light of determination flickering there.
“Do you suppose there’s any soap?”
He blinked. Soap? He had trouble interpreting the word. His mind was occupied elsewhere. “Ah. Soap.” He rummaged around in Babbage’s cupboard, cursing himself for not remembering soap. He found a thick chunk of lye soap and brought it to her. How he hated that it wasn’t something more delicate. Something lilac-scented.
“Thank you.” She didn’t take his offering. Rather she peered up at him with those beautiful emerald orbs and said, “Will you wash my hair?”
His breath stalled. Would he? He fell to his knees at her side—unmindful of the puddles on the plank floor—and looked at her. Her nipples pebbled even more at his perusal. His mouth watered.
He dragged his attention back to her face. “Y-yes?”
God. Yes. He made a lather and scrubbed it into her hair. It was glorious, golden, smooth and silky. He worked the soap through the strands and as he did, massaged her scalp. She closed her eyes and groaned.
Thusly freed from her inspection, he allowed his attention to wander. He nearly expired when it lit on that tempting triangle of fair curls at the crux of her thighs. He imagined her touching herself there. Then imagined him touching her there. Then imagined opening her and stroking. Licking—
“Are you finished? I’d like to rinse.”
“Of course.” Reluctantly, he drew away. And she submerged.
This time he could not resist.
GET IT NOW: Dark Fancy (Noble Passions Book 1)
Edward Wyeth, the Dark Duke of Moncrieff’s life has been turned on its end. His well-ordered home has been invaded. By destitute relatives. From Scotland. How on earth can he write Lord Hedon’s salacious novels with hellions battling in the garden and starting fires in the library? But with the onslaught has come a delicious diversion. His cousin’s companion, the surprisingly intriguing Kaitlin MacAllister. He is determined to seduce her. Using her desperate need for funds and her talents as an artist, he convinces her to draw naughty pictures for his naughtier books…and he draws her into his decadent web.
But Kaitlin has a secret. She’s fled Scotland—and a very determined betrothed. When Edward’s cousin is kidnapped and held in her stead, Kaitlin is honor-bound to return to her homeland and rescue her—much to Edward’s chagrin.
Because suddenly he can’t bear the thought of Kaitlin marrying another man. He can’t bear the thought of losing her at all.
Read an Excerpt:
Edward skirted the mêlée in the garden and made his way to the far end of the estate, where there was nothing but flowers and trees and a placid little pond. Nothing to attract diminutive fiends bent on mischief. He would sit in the folly until his temperature returned to normal.
Perhaps until spring.
Dear God. He’d had no idea having the Wyeths of Perth take over his house would be such a nightmare. If he had suspected as much, he would have turned them away at the start. They would probably have crawled in under the door. Through the cracks in the flue. Vermin had a way of finding entrance.
But now. Now they were here.
He had to get rid of them.
Perhaps he could send them back to Scotland.
Scotland would revile him for it, but he had little use for rocky tors, lochs and sheep.
Then he thought of Violet and his heart lurched. It would crush her to be trundled back to what she referred to as “the bleak wilderness.” She was looking forward to a glittering season in London. She was seventeen. She needed a husband. A husband of quality. That might be difficult to find in the wilds of Scotland.
And Ned. Ned was twenty. He was just starting to find his way with the ton. He’d made some friends—decent fellows. He’d even been receiving invitations to game at White’s.
The two of them—the normal two—deserved better than being lumped in with the rest.
He whacked at a rosebud as he passed. It exploded into a flutter of petals. He refused to feel any sympathy.
He couldn’t send them packing.
Hell. He was a duke of the realm. He had six houses spread throughout the empire. Why hadn’t he thought to purchase a spare in London?
That was brilliant.
He would. He’d buy them their own house. Move them all, lock stock and—well, maybe not the barrels, as the older boys did like to drink. He’d move them all into their own domicile.
With Aunt Hortense. Let her manage them.
His life would once again be orderly. He would be the master of his own abode. Free to pursue the life of a wealthy dilettante.
He rounded the bend with a satisfied smile on his face. The trickle of the fountain in the pond was a balm to his tormented soul. Birds sang in the trees. The sun—well, it almost shone. It was a beautiful day.
Soon, the world would be right again.
Soon, they would all be gone.
He skipped up the steps of the folly with a lightness of heart he hadn’t felt in ages. A book on the bench snagged his attention and his mood dipped, but only a bit. Someone had been here. But they were gone.
He picked it up and flipped through it and stilled.
It was a sketch book.
The first page was an attempt at this scene. The flowers and trees, the pond and the little fountain. Not very good. But the second arrested his attention. It was a simple line drawing of Violet. And it was stunning. The artist had managed to depict her beauty, but also captured that glint in her eye, the particular quirk of her lips. Her soul.
The next sketch was one of Ned, showing a brash young man, standing insouciantly with his hands shoved into his pockets, whistling a silent tune. The next was of the twins—whatever their names were—dark heads together plotting some manner of mayhem.
It was so realistic Edward expected them to leap from the page and whack him with a cricket bat.
But it was the last sketch in the book that stole his breath. It was a portrait, in profile. His own face. But not an Edward he would ever recognize. This man was heroic, tragic, a solitary soldier. It was only a few lines drawn in charcoal, but it revealed so much about him. Things he didn’t want anyone to ever know.
It was horrifying. And remarkable.
He snapped the book shut and spun around.
Of course. What’s her name. The girl. The owl. From last night.
“Oh, you found it.” She stepped into the folly and took the book from his hands. He did not know why he let it go.
“You left it here.” An accusation. Really? He hadn’t intended for it to come out like that.
She chuckled. “I had to go rescue Hamish. I was coming back.”
“What…why did you have to rescue Hamish?” This was her work? She saw him like that? And hell, she was a damn fine hand. How he would love to turn such talent to…darker purposes. What a pity she was such a prude. The kind of work he could offer her would make her rich—rich enough to quit serving as Violet’s companion.
But she would never do it. No decent woman would.
He must be crazed, truly crazed, to even think on it.
The gripping sketch of his wounded countenance lingered in his brain. If she could do that, if she could see through to his soul and bring it to life on paper—
“And then he got stuck. In the tree. So I had to rescue him.”
Lord. She’d been talking. He’d missed the entire explanation. No matter. The question had been purely rhetorical.
“How long have you been drawing?”
She winced, clutched the book to her breast. He recalled what fine breasts they were. “I… What?”
“How long have you been drawing? You’re quite good.”
“You looked at my book?” She squawked as though he’d just admitted to peering up her skirts. The lemony face returned. A beetled brow and pursed lips. It was, upon reflection, rather adorable.
“It was lying here.”
“You shouldn’t look at someone’s sketchbook.”
“You shouldn’t leave it where it can be found.” He crossed his arms over his chest and grinned at her. Damn, he loved her accent.
She sputtered. “I told you. Hamish and Tay—”
“Taylor. Hamish and Taylor were building a fort in a tree—”
“Yes. Yes. I know. You had to rescue him. Tell me, have they always been this much trouble?”
She blew out a breath. “You have no idea.”
They both laughed. It was a nice moment, because it seemed, for that brief flash of time, they were friends, bound in mutual misery.
And then he went and ruined it by letting his lust intrude. “So tell me, what did you think of that book?”
She tipped her head. “What book?”
“The one I gave you last night.”
She blinked several times, as though she had to try very hard to remember. “Oh. That book. I didn’t read it.”
He stepped closer. “Ah. You like to look at the pictures, then?” He knew the sort.
“Look at the… What? No, your Grace—”
“Edward.” He infused his voice with a low thrum.
“Your Grace. I didn’t have a chance to open it.”
Why petulance curled within him, he had no clue. “What do you mean you didn’t have a chance to open it?” She was supposed to have read it. Or at least looked at the pictures. She was supposed to be gazing at him, right now, with a dewy look.
She brushed an invisible speck from her skirt. “There was…a distraction.”
Well hell. “What kind of distraction?”
Her lips pursed. The look she shot him was not dewy in the slightest.
Still, he wanted to kiss her.
He wasn’t sure why. She was certainly not the most beautiful woman he’d ever seen. But her face had character and charm—especially when she smiled. Her figure was full—the way he liked them—but she didn’t show it off to its best effect. In fact, if he hadn’t known what lay beneath the thick layers of crinoline and bombazine, he would have been fooled. She was prickly as a hedgehog and smacked him down at every turn.
So why did he want to pull her into his arms and smother her mouth with his?
Perhaps because of all those things.
Then again, perhaps just because.
So he did.
He took the girl—whose name he could not remember, whose face he could not forget—into his arms and kissed her. It was a gentle buss, as kisses went, but extremely sublime. Because he’d surprised her.
Her lips were open, as though poised to speak. He took full advantage, sweeping in his tongue to dab at hers, nibbling and licking and tasting her sweet breath.
The prick at his side was not a surprise. He’d expected it.
He lifted his head and stared down into her eyes. Her expression was dazed and determined and perhaps a little dewy. “Not this time, darling,” he murmured. He took the knife from her hand and tossed it aside and then pulled her more fully against him.
And ah. She was soft. Sweet. Her breasts pressed against his chest. Her hips molded the cradle of his groin. Of course, he was the one doing the molding, but she didn’t fight him.
No. She sighed and tipped her head to the side so he could deepen the kiss. She tasted like ambrosia. A tantalizing flavor of cinnamon and woman and surrender. His ardor rose, and with it, his cock. He rubbed it against her belly.
She stiffened and tried to push away, muttering something into his mouth that sounded like “No.”
He changed his tack, running his lips down her cheek and along the line of her jaw to nestle in the crook of her neck. She shuddered. Some groan-like sound emanated from her throat. She clutched at his hair.
Thusly encouraged, he sucked at the tender skin of her neck. Nipped.
“Oh! Saints preserve us,” she whispered.
“The saints don’t care,” he responded, switching to the other side of her neck. He found a spot that delighted her even more and feasted there. In her distraction, she didn’t stop the palm skimming over her ribs to cup a breast.
He encased her. Ah. Exquisite. Full and round and pliable. He thumbed a nipple, testing its rigidity. She dipped as her knees gave way. He caught her. Swung her up in his arms and carried her to the bench.
From long experience, he knew better than to give a woman a moment to think. So as soon as he had her settled across his lap and firmly braced against the wall of the folly, he kissed her again. With one hand, he stroked her nipples while with the other, he slowly drew up her skirts.
GET IT NOW: Dark Duke (Noble Passions Book 2)
Kidnapped and held prisoner by menacing Scottish brigand, the notorious McCloud, Violet Wyeth does her best to persevere…and resist his rakish charms. But when she realizes The McCloud is really Ewan St. Andrews, the boy who once saved her life, the boy who once kissed her and made her heart flutter, she is lost.
Ewan has every intention of marrying Lady Kaitlin MacAllister. He desperately needs the entrée into the ton this bride can provide. But when his bride is delivered—bound and gagged—it’s not Kaitlin. It’s Violet Wyeth—the girl who betrayed him and ruined his life when he was a boy. He keeps her, determined to punish her for her sins. But when he discovers the truth about what really happened so long ago, and seething passion rises between them, he can no longer hold on to his rusty grudge. By the time he realizes how much he loves Violet—that he always has—he’s lost her.
All he can do is follow her. Follow her into the bowels of hell—and partake in the torment of the glittering London Season, where the harpies are far more dangerous than a Scottish brigand.
Read an Excerpt:
Holy Heaven. She would never take a bath for granted again.
Violet stumbled on the stairs and the water in the heavy bucket sloshed, dousing her with hot water. She sucked in a breath as pain seared. She set the bucket down on the landing and pulled her skirts up. Her skin was red. She ruffled the tatters of her petticoats, waiting for the sting to subside.
The door to the Laird’s solar swung open. She stepped back so it wouldn’t hit her and it slammed into the wall. The McCloud glowered down at her. His gaze stalled on her bare legs. It was riveted—until she dropped her skirts—then he snapped, “What the hell is taking so long?” His glanced back at her damp skirts and his frown darkened. He picked up the last bucket and carried it to the tub, dumping it in himself. “For god’s sake. How long does it take to bring a few measly buckets up from this kitchen?”
A few measly buckets? It had taken twelve trips, each with a bucket that weighed near as much as she. Violet glared at him. “Is that enough?” She probably didn’t need to clip the words quite so much, but she had already worked for hours. She was tired and sweaty and her skin ached and Morna was waiting for her to come help prepare dinner.
He swished his hand in the water. “Yes. I suppose that will do.”
Not a thank you. Not a smile. Nothing.
She whirled and started for the door.
“Where do you think you’re going?” His voice rumbled through the room, a deep tenor. Her steps slowed.
“Back to the kitchen.” She frowned at him over her shoulder. “I have work to do.”
“You have work to do here.”
“I beg your pardon?” What did he want her to do now, wash his bottom?
“You’re going to bathe me.”
Her heart stilled at his words, his intent, and especially the look in his eyes. “Wh-what?”
“Come now Violet. The laird of the manor can’t be expected to scrub his own back, can he now? Be a good girl, close the door and come over here.”
She gaped at him. Gaped. He expected her to remain in a room with a naked man? He expected her to touch him?
“Close your mouth. You look like a trout.”
“But…I c-can’t. I can’t b-bathe you.”
“Of course you can. And you will.” His eyes glinted with something other than humor. The unspoken threat hummed in the stony chamber. “You may want to turn around while I undress, unless you want an early education.” He began to unbutton his shirt.
With an undignified “eep” Violet whirled and showed him her back until she heard the splash and his gusty sigh.
“All right, girl. Get to work. Scrub my back.” He gestured to a chunk of soap and sponge on a small table. She picked them up, approached the tub and knelt behind him, trying not to stare at the bunching muscles, the broad expanse of tanned skin. She couldn’t help but notice it was covered with scars. Long and short, criss-crossing over one another. As though he’d been brutally beaten and lashed time after time after—“Did you close the door?”
Her bubbling sympathy evaporated in a rush. She stuck her tongue out at him, but only because he couldn’t see. Then, with a heavy sigh, she levered herself up off the floor and closed the door. Well, slammed it, perhaps.
His chuckle annoyed her more.
He leaned forward and peeped at her over his shoulder. “Come along now. My back isn’t going to scrub itself.”
She took her place behind him again, being very careful not to look at his broad, be-furred chest as she approached. She wet the soap and sponge and created a lather. Being very careful not to touch him, she began to scour his back. He winced. “Not so hard.”
His plaintive tone probably shouldn’t have sent a shard of evil satisfaction through her, but it did. This man had been a boor to her from the moment he’d found her on the floor in Callum MacAllister’s cottage. She dug deeper.
He lurched forward. “Ouch!”
“Hold still,” she muttered, making a wide swath across the ridged skin. “You’re filthy. I need to scrub.”
“I am not filthy.”
“You are. Stop wriggling.”
Amazingly, he did, even though she knew her efforts bordered on abuse. But my, it felt good.
When she started on his neck and ears, he caught her wrist. “All right. I think that’s enough.”
“I’m not done.”
“Oh, you’re not done.” He tugged her around to the side of the tub so she faced him. She focused on his crooked nose, schooled her gaze not to drift lower. “Now it’s time for you to scrub my front.”
She really disliked the look in his eye. There was mischief—and something much darker—coiling in there. “Fine.” She dropped to her knees and wet the sponge again, but rather than dunking it, merely skimmed the surface of the water.
Fortunately the bath was murky, so she couldn’t see anything. But she knew what was down there and she didn’t want to find it by accident. She trained her attention on his chest, and her heart lurched.
A long, nasty scar scored him. Like a puckered lightning bolt, it made its jagged way from his left nipple down to his belly. Her pulse skittered. Her breath snagged in her throat. She’d only ever seen a scar like that once before.
A scar exactly like that.
Her gaze snapped back to his face. She looked at him. Really looked at him, perhaps for the first time. Her mouth went dry. The gray eyes laced by thick black lashes. The broad smiling mouth. The curve of his jaw.
It couldn’t be. Could it?
“W-where did you get that scar?”
He glanced down and stilled. Annoyance flickered across his features. “Every man has scars.”
“Not-not like that.” She sat back on her haunches. She didn’t realize she was squeezing the sponge until water seeped through her skirts.
“All right. A knife fight.”
“Knives don’t cut like that.” It was uneven and rippled, like the flesh and been shorn off in places and sliced in others.
“Well, it was a goddamn knife fight. I was in a vicious battle with a man in an alley. I gutted him.” His lip curled into a sneer. “Does it frighten you, my lady?”
“No.” But that was a lie. It did frighten her. Because Ewan, her friend, the boy who had saved her, had gotten an eerily similar wound rescuing her from a watery grave. And surely this wasn’t Ewan. It couldn’t be.
Ewan was gentle and sweet. He had liked her, maybe loved her. He had kissed her. And this man… This man had taken her prisoner and mauled her and put her to work.
And she hated him.
He couldn’t be Ewan. He couldn’t. It would break her heart.
He narrowed his eyes and barked, “Goddamn it, girl, finish washing me. The water’s getting cold.”
But she couldn’t. She needed to know. She had to know.
“It wasn’t a knife. It was ice.” A whisper, but he heard it. He froze, his gaze locked to hers. “You jumped in and found me in the water. Lifted me out. But you couldn’t get out yourself.”
“I don’t know what you’re babbling about.”
But he did. She could see it in his eyes. There, for a flash of a moment, she saw that boy in his eyes.
She licked suddenly dry lips. “Ewan? Is it you?”
He rose from the tub in an unholy rush. She didn’t have time to look away. The vision of his naked body, hard and lean, scarred and perfect, burned on her brain. He grabbed a cloth and covered his loins.
“This bath is over. Get out.”
She stood. Tried desperately not to tremble. “It is you. It is.”
“Get out. Go!”
“What happened to you, Ewan?”
A dark cloud lowered on his already stormy brow. “What happened to me? You mean, how did I become the beast that I am?” The vitriol in his voice made her shake, but she didn’t back down.
“No, Ewan. Where did you go? No one would tell me and I always wondered…”
Every muscle in his body tensed, vibrated. Violet knew, because she could see them all, a magnificent panoply.
She should have been afraid. She should have been horrified. She should have skittered from the room like a frightened little rabbit. But she wasn’t afraid. She didn’t run.
She knew—knew—her Ewan would never hurt her.
Indeed, as he stared into her questing eyes, his fury passed. He scrubbed a palm over his broad face. “Go,” he croaked. His tone was laced with an emotion she couldn’t decipher. Desolation, perhaps. Greif. “Just go.”
This time, she did.
GET IT NOW: Brigand (Noble Passions Book 3)
When rakish Ned falls in with the wrong crowd, his brother decides to send him to the Continent for “seasoning”. For Sophia, this just won’t do. She’s loved Ned for ages—and also longed for adventure. She runs away from her boring suitors and disguises herself as a cabin boy on the Defiant, the ship sailing Ned to Italy.
Ned knows he’s not good enough for Sophia, but once they’re on the Defiant, he can’t stop himself from touching her, tasting her, loving her. Not when a wild tempest and a band of ruthless pirates threaten them. Not when every look from her gives him such pleasure. And certainly not when she comes, warm and wild and willing, to his bed.
If they survive their voyage, Sophia’s brother might kill him, but it will have been worth every moment and every hot, sweet kiss.
Read an Excerpt:
When she once again stood in his chambers, she realized the folly of her actions. She hadn’t brought a change of clothes and she was drenched. So was he. Without a word, he relit the lamp and then opened his trunk and pulled out several shirts, two of which he tossed to her. “Change.”
That was it. One word. Just “change” and then he presented her with his back. She huffed a breath, but did as he asked because she was really rather cold. The feel of the cloth falling over her chilled flesh warmed her. Because it was his shirt. It had touched his skin. She wasn’t sure why the thought sent heat scudding through her belly.
“Use the other shirt to dry your hair,” he suggested, as he began toweling off as well.
She huffed a laugh. “All of your clothes will be wet.”
“They’ll dry. Are you clothed?”
He turned. And froze. His gaze locked onto her bare legs. “I-I thought you said you were clothed.” A squawk.
“I am.” But the intensity of his stare made her self-conscious, so she slipped into the bed.
“Close your eyes,” he said as he unbuttoned the damp linen clinging to his chest.
“I need to change as well. I’m f-freezing.”
“Okay.” She did. But she peeked.
He ripped off his wet shirt and her breath caught at the sight of his broad back. Muscles rippled as he moved and she swallowed. He was beautiful. He tugged the fresh shirt over his head and she nearly whimpered as that magnificent vision disappeared. But then, he unfastened his trousers.
All pretense of not peeking evaporated.
He sat and took a moment to work off his boots. And then he stood. His trousers were tight, as was the fashion, and he had to peel them off. As he bent, she caught a flash of his bare behind.
She must have made a noise because he whirled around. His cheek bunched when he saw her watching. “You’re supposed to have your eyes closed.”
She hunkered in the covers, as though that would disguise the fact that her eyes were open wide.
It was probably wrong to grin at him, but she couldn’t help it.
“Stop calling me that. It always makes me think I’m in trouble.”
“You are in trouble. You have no idea how much trouble you’re in.”
She tipped her head to the side. “We both know Ewan will be so relieved to see me, he’ll forget how angry he is—”
Ned stilled and fixed her with a dark glare. “What makes you think I’m talking about Ewan?”
“I’ve a mind to bend you over my knee.”
Why a shiver rippled through her, she had no idea. She’d been spanked once or twice as a child and she hadn’t cared for it in the slightest. But something dark and domineering in Ned’s tone made her womb warm.
“Wouldn’t I? Now, look away. Your brother would skewer me if I gave you the education you’re about to have.”
She attempted not to snort. Ned—and everyone—thought her a prim and innocent miss on account of the polish she’d acquired at Lady Satterlee’s. Nothing could be further from the truth. As a child, before Ewan had made his fortune, they’d lived a hand-to-mouth existence in the slums of Perth. She’d seen more than one couple rutting against a wall in a dingy alleyway. And at one point, she and her brother had taken refuge in a bordello. She’d been only seven, but if she’d had an education, she got it there. She could probably teach Ned a few things.
Still, because he seemed to expect it, she squeezed her eyes tight and didn’t hardly peek at all as he finished changing. Besides which, the spot she was interested in was mostly shadows.
With a great huff, he threw himself back into the chair. “Now, go to sleep.”
“Don’t you want me to put out the light?”
“No. I want to be able to see where you are.”
“I’m not leaving again tonight.” Probably. Unless her despair overcame her once more.
“Leave it on.” A grunt, and not a very nice one at that. Why he had call to be annoyed, she couldn’t fathom.
Blast and damn, he was an annoying man. Sophia grunted as well and rolled over, facing the wall of the cabin. She studied the patterns the swinging lamp made for a long while, listening as he shifted one way and then the other.
It was really unfair for him to have to sleep in the chair. This was his room. But he would never share her bed. She grimaced at the way the words came out, but it was true. He wouldn’t. Unless…
She rolled over again and watched him twist in the chair. He caught her eye and frowned.
An impatient groan. “Yes, Sophia?”
“Ned, I’m cold.”
He stilled. Then barked, “Put on another blanket.”
“There aren’t any more.” She faked a shiver. She wasn’t cold in the slightest. She never was. Ewan said she ran hot. “Brr. My teeth are chattering.”
His glower became a frown.
“I hope I don’t get ill.”
He paled. “You shouldn’t have gone out in the rain. Why did you go out in the rain?”
She sneezed. Or something like it. “I don’t know.”
“Am I running a fever?” She put her palm to her forehead. “I think I’m running a fever.”
His brow wrinkled. He stood and made his way across the tiny chamber as though on his death march. He set the backs of his fingers to her cheeks. His frown darkened. “You are warm.”
“No. I’m cold.” She shivered and peered up at him, her eyes as wide as she could make them. “Won’t you warm me?”
He wrenched his hand away as though she’d burned him. “What?”
“Lie here beside me and warm me up?”
“There’s not enough room for both of us.”
“Sophia.” She’d never heard her name in such a strangled voice, not even when Ewan was at his wit’s end.
“Just for a bit? You can be on top of the covers. Surely that is decent.”
The muscle in his cheek bunched again, as though he were grinding his teeth.
He gusted a sigh. “All right, Sophia. Scoot over and make room.”
She did. With alacrity.
“And roll over, facing the wall.”
She frowned at him “Why?”
“Just do it. Please.”
“Oh, all right.” But only because he said please. And because, when she was facing the other way, he couldn’t see her grin.
GET IT NOW! Defiant (Noble Passions Book 4)
Book 5 in the Noble Passions Series from Sabrina York
2014 EPIC eBook Award Finalist
2013 Passionate Plume Finalist
Widowed and threatened with penury by her heartless in-laws, Eleanor–Lady Ulster–hatches a plot to save herself. Determined to produce the Ulster “heir”, she seduces a stranger at a tawdry masquerade. Little does she know, this magnificent masked lover is none other than her husband’s greatest nemesis. And God knows Ulster had plenty.
Ethan Pennington is mortified to arrive at a house party and discover Lady Ulster in attendance. He has wanted her and hated wanting her–his enemy’s bride–for years. When he overhears Eleanor’s predicament and her plans to place a cuckoo in the Ulster nest, he is more than willing to oblige. The opportunity to finally claim her–while taking the revenge he craves–is more than he can resist. Ethan strikes a bargain with Eleanor, promising to provide her with the heir she so desperately needs…if she will meet his needs in return. Every decadent one of them.
Read An Excerpt:
Eleanor froze as a movement in the corner of her eye caught her attention. She was not alone. Her belly dipped as she recognized a harsh, dark profile. She swallowed. “You heard?”
Pennington sighed and stood, facing her in the dancing shadows cast by the fire. “To my chagrin, yes. I heard everything.”
They’d never talked before. Not so much as a salutation. Certainly not an actual conversation. She didn’t know what to say. So she shrugged.
“I take it you are hoping to get with child and pass him off as Ulster’s heir.”
She flinched. Put like that, it sounded horrid.
“I cannot say I’m not intrigued by the prospect of planting a cuckoo in the Ulster nest. But tell me, Eleanor…” A shiver skittered up her spine as he spoke her given name for the first time. “Have you no conscience about such a deception?”
“Y-You question my conscience?” she stuttered.
He spread his hands. “Faced with the facts, yes.”
She crumpled. “Well, yes. Of course. But I have no choice. If he had left me anything, anything at all…”
“He left you penniless?”
“Everything was entailed.”
“Everything.” She barked a laugh. “His mother visited the day he died to reclaim the jewels. His cousin was not far behind.”
Eleanor shot him a look, recognizing his sarcasm for the bitter gouge it was. “I most certainly would not be considering such a thing if Berwick were not…”
“Were not what?”
She struggled with the words. It was mortifying. Truly it was. “If Berwick were not…pressuring me.”
Ethan stilled, his spine suddenly stiff, his stomach sour. “Pressuring you? For what?” The gaze she tossed over her shoulder held its own brand of bitterness. “But he’s married.”
She crossed her arms over her chest and paced the room, riffling the silk carpet with a sudden fury. “It’s not as though they’ve been kind to me. It’s not as though they’ve been fair.” A lowering desperation flooded her eyes. And tears. She swiped at them impatiently. “I wasn’t like this before. I would never even have considered such a thing. But I just don’t know where to go. What to do.”
“And they do deserve it.”
“It’s hardly my place to say what they deserve.” She threw back her shoulders. “But it is my place to try to survive. To try to make something of my life.”
“So you want to make a child.”
“Need to make a child.”
“Before Berwick returns from bounding about the Highlands.”
“Clearly his priorities are in order.”
She bit back a smile but he saw a hint of it before she turned away. “He always did like his hunting.”
“No worries. I’m sure he has the good manners to wear black.”
Now she giggled. Just the bubble of a laugh. Ethan found he liked it. He liked it a lot.
In fact, he found he liked her. And he liked her a lot.
A resolution formed in his belly, or somewhere thereabouts. He moved closer, ignoring her flare of fear at his approach. “Lady Eleanor.” He could not bear to call her Lady Ulster. “I will make you a bargain.”
“If you will consider me, my lady,” he affected a courtly bow, “I would be delighted to give you that child.”
She whirled on him, mouth agape. Tiny and pink and round. Oh my. Yes. He liked her tremendously. Her swanlike neck worked as she swallowed retort after retort after retort until she finally croaked, “What?” And then, when he did not repeat his offer, “You would do that for me?”
“My lady. It would be my pleasure.” This, he said with a smile and a glint in his eye, but she ignored them both.
“You said a bargain? What would you want in return for this…service?”
He considered her for an eternity. “In return,” he said at last, “you will do whatever I ask.”
She crossed her arms over her chest. “Whatever you ask?”
“Anything. Everything. And I do mean everything.” He looked her up and down. “I must say, I find the prospect of having such a beautiful woman at my beck and call appealing.”
“For how long?”
“The length of this party. For one month.” He smiled, a wolfish grin. “Starting tonight.”
Her Royal Hotness, Sabrina York, is the New York Times and USA Today Bestselling author of hot, humorous stories for smart and sexy readers. Her titles range from sweet & snarky to scorching romance. Visit her webpage at www.sabrinayork.com to check out her books, excerpts and contests. Newsletter: http://eepurl.com/bj8tKb.
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