I spent a summer touring around Europe on the back of a BMW 750cc motorcycle, which was not quite as romantic as it might sound. (Imagine going over a Swiss mountain pass at night in a July snowstorm and you will begin to have an inkling of why.)
The youngest of the Hellions of High Street, Caro Sloane has watched her two sisters have exhilarating encounters with dashing heroes, and now she is longing for some excitement of her own. After all, how can she write truly passionate poetry until she has experienced a Grand Adventure? But that seems unlikely to happen as she’ll be spending the next few weeks in the quiet spa town of Bath, where nothing grand or adventurous ever happens . . . until she and her new friend Isobel are nearly abducted while walking on a quiet country road-only to be rescued by Alec McClellan, the moody and mysterious Scottish lord she met at Dunbar Castle.
Alec has come to England to deal with a treacherous betrayal and fears that his half-sister Isobel is in peril from an old enemy. Does he dare share his secrets with Caro? The bold and brave beauty leaves him no choice, and together they are quickly caught up in a swirl of dangerous intrigue . . . where fiery desire between them may ignite into the greatest danger of all.
“One would almost think you were going out of your way to avoid speaking to me.”
“We’re speaking now,” he pointed out.
“I would call it verbal sparring.” Caro edged around impatiently, forcing him to look her in the face. “But now that I have you alone, I’d rather not keep trading thrusts and parries. I would rather discuss far more important matters—such as whether you have learned anything new about the attack on your sister?”
Pursing his lips, Alec shifted his stance just enough to allow him to return to his perusal of the lettering on the column. “Not really.”
“Ye gods.” She restrained the urge to take hold of his arm and give him a hard shake. “What sort of answer is that?”
“The only one I intend to give,” he replied calmly.
“Fine.” Caro watched the breeze ruffle his long hair, causing a tangle of red-gold strands to curl around his ear and dance down the freshly shaven line of his jaw. The faint scent of bay rum tickled at her nostrils.
“Fine,” she repeated, after forcing herself to exhale. “Then I’ll just have to do a little poking around on my own.”
That got his attention. He looked around abruptly, his gaze narrowing to a slitted stare. The movement was quick, but not quick enough to hide the sudden darkening of his eyes.
“That wouldn’t be wise,” he growled. “The only thing I will add for now is that you should stay well away from Edward Thayer.”
“Because…” He let out an exasperated grunt. “Must you always plague me with questions?”
“I wouldn’t have to if you would stop treating me like a feather-headed wigeon.”
Alec’s scowl became more pronounced.
“Haven’t I proved myself trustworthy and capable?”
A small muscle on his jaw twitched. “I am not at liberty to give you any more details right now. All I can say is that…” As he drew in a breath, he seemed to change his mind about what to say. “Thayer is a charming fellow. No doubt his smooth words are more to your liking.”
Deciding Alec deserved a bit of teasing, Caro pretended not to notice the roughness edging his voice. “Yes, he’s exceedingly charming.”
If his storm-blue stare squeezed any tighter, it would be sharper than a razor’s edge.
“And scrupulously polite,” she added.
Alec was becoming more flustered. Small sounds were beginning to rumble in his throat, like the growling of a bear. “I do not have Thayer’s gift of making myself agreeable. He has a honeyed tongue, which seems to appeal to all the ladies.”
“Honey is, after all, a great deal more palatable than vinegar,” Caro pointed out.
He now looked utterly nonplussed.
Caro let him stew for a moment longer before huffing an exasperated sigh. “Oh, for heaven’s sake, give me some credit for having a brain, Lord Strathcona! Of course I don’t find Thayer appealing. When honey drips that freely, it ought to catch naught but flies.”
The growls ceased.
Caro waited for him to speak.
Ever so slowly, Alec shifted his feet, stirring tiny puffs of pale dust beneath his boots.
The flicker of dark leather caused a momentary spasm of doubt as she recalled her chilling encounter in the churchyard.
Alec as evil? She couldn’t explain how, but she knew with a certainty that resonated right down to her very heartbeat that it couldn’t be true.
“Are you saying you would trust my word over his?”
“Yes, you big lummox! I don’t know why I should, but I prefer your snaps and growls.”
A dappling of sunlight seemed to catch on the curl of his lashes, gilding them to a gleaming gold.
“You are forthright, you are honorable in your own maddening way,” she went on. Oh, no man ought to have such beautiful eyes.
She found herself staring, and at that moment, all rational thought seemed to dance away in the breeze. His face was utterly intriguing—a mix of chiseled planes and well-defined features that hinted at hidden secrets.
“And… well, you are quite the most interesting man I have ever met.” Her legs suddenly seemed a little unsteady, so Caro reached out and caught hold of his lapels.
Looking up, she found his mouth was only inches from hers.
“Oh, bosh—I shall probably regret this…” Standing on tiptoes, Caro kissed him. Not a mere feathering of flesh against flesh, but a hard, hungry embrace that she let go on for far, far longer than any proper young lady should dare.
“There, I have no doubt shocked you.”
The tip of his tongue traced along the swell of his lower lip.
“I imagine you think me a wanton hellion, and I suppose I am. It must be my eccentric upbringing. I don’t care very much for rules.”
Caro knew she was babbling but she couldn’t seem to stop. “You may consign me to the Devil. But at least I shall dance a merry jig on my way to perdition.”
Was that finally a hint of smile?
She finally dared pause to take a breath. A long, shuddering breath. Now was the time to flee, before she made an even bigger fool of herself.
But Alec suddenly shifted again, blocking her way.
“I, too, shall probably regret this,” he said as he slowly circled his arms around her and pulled her close.
She opened her mouth. To protest?
Before she could make any sense of what she had set in motion, their lips met again, setting off a fierce jolt of fire.
(Clearly she has a thing for Men in Boots!) A graduate of Yale University, she lives and works in New York City.