Thursday, January 26, 2012

The Baron's Lady - Chapter 3, Part 1

Late June, 1213

Sitting at her dressing table, Isabella’s eyes shifted to a nearby trunk. In it, tucked underneath several gowns, was the sheet of parchment Rene had written. The words on it were embedded in her mind. The paper itself was worn from the frequent contact with her fingers. But after months of the author’s absence, she felt the influence of the words fading.

After a journey of nearly four weeks, she and Gilbert had arrived in Calais, where they had remained until the end of March. Her days were spent partly in the tedious company of fellow ladies and their lords, and partly in the great joy of being with her son. Sebastian had grown so, she could hardly believe her eyes, and already he was proving to be an able rider and marksman. It was with reluctance that she left him each evening, turning him over to the care of his nurse. Gilbert chastised her for the tears she shed, but she was quite indifferent to such treatment from him. When they parted ways each night, both of them retiring to separate quarters, she had found much comfort and joy in reading Rene’s letter. When she fell asleep, her mind was filled with memories of him, and her heart was filled with the hope of one day seeing him again.

They had spent several April weeks enduring the journey home, and at last, on the second of May, they had returned home.

But she had been back in Marseilles for more than six weeks. Each day passed, and there was no word from her lover. No appearance, no messages. Not the smallest sign from him. He seemed to have vanished into thin air, and with a heavy heart, she began to wonder if he had forgotten her entirely. Her head was almost convinced of it. But a small, wayward part of her soul hoped she was wrong.

He will return, she told herself. When I least expect it, he will return to me.

She sighed as her hair was tended to by Therese. When it was finally done, she waved her servant away, wishing to be alone. With her arms resting on the table, she slowly lowered her head, closing her eyes. But a moment later, she bolted up.

A bird call. But not from a winged creature. It was a distinctly human sound. Rising from her chair in a swift movement, she took an urgent step forward. Her heart beat wildly in her breast. But then, she paused. An overwhelming sense of pride gripped her.

Who was he to show up so suddenly, and after all this time? He probably expected that she would open her arms to him without question.

Pompous bastard, she thought. Does he think me so weak?

The answer to her own inner question was an obvious one. He knew she could not resist. Whether or not he had missed her was a futile subject to ponder. He was here, at last, and that was all that mattered.

But she refused to go rushing to him in desperation. He had, after all, been away a long time. There would have to be a penance done for his neglect. Stepping forward, she quickly parted the curtains. And there he was, crouched on her balcony. Water dripped from his nose and hair, which was a bit longer than before. His jaw was covered in a light beard, giving him the air of a vagabond. He was soaked through from the rain...and maddeningly gorgeous, especially when he flashed that dashing smile of his.

"Lovely weather tonight, is it not?"

She was torn between two desires – one of which was to slap him for all the heartache he had caused her. But she felt an equal desire to throw her arms around him in a crushing embrace. Doing neither, she chose instead to appear unmoved, looking at him with a frosty expression.

"Oh lovely Baroness,” he pleaded. “Might you spare a meager place on the floor for a drenched, tired, hungry soul such as I?"

When he literarly sat up and begged, looking very much like the scandalous dog he was, she chastised him for his pathetic attempt to sway her…and promptly, she stepped back, allowing him in. As he stood there, soaking wet and offering explanations for his absence, she scowled at him.

"Rene-Jean Bastien, why do you creep about my terrace?"

She instantly felt his eyes roaming over her body, and such blatant admiration stirred warm sensations within her. As he rubbed the towel over his face, he gave her a tender and appreciative smile.

"I missed you, love. And I knew you could not cast me out on a night such as this."

Lord, he knew her so well. It was likely he was aware of the wicked thoughts running through her mind at that moment. But her pride reminded her of the need to resist – if only for a little while longer. She looked at him with a cross expression.

"If you missed me so, why have you not come to see me in nearly two months?"

As he shifted from one foot to another, removing his footwear, he explained himself. "Forgive me for denying you my company. I was employed and quite short on time."

She raised an eyebrow raised in suspicion.

"Was?” she said. “Hearing your words uttered with a past tense, I take it to mean you are no longer earning an honest living? Pray, what mischief caused your termination this time?"

He shook his head. "I assure you, it was but a simple misunderstanding. A navigational error in the home of my employer. Entirely not my fault."

"Oh no?" she replied, her eyes full of skepticism at his words. "Somehow I doubt you were guiltless."

Looking at him, she dared him with a glance, challenging him to tell her a lie. By now, she knew him well enough to know that he was a notorious rascal, and there was little that she wouldn’t put past him. When he shrugged, his answer was proof of her wisdom regarding him.

"Perhaps I pocketed a few baubles."

She replied was a little huff of satisfaction. "So I thought."

His words became strangely defensive, as though he truly believed he had been wronged. "Had my master's daughter not encountered me, I might have escaped undetected."

Curiosity was in her question. "She revealed your crime to her father?"

He shook his head. "Not quite so."

There was a slight pause as she waited for him to reply, and she asked, "What then?"

A smirk formed at the corner of his mouth. Arrogant pup, she thought. It was clear from his expression that he was about to reveal something she would not be pleased to hear.

"She did not see what I had stolen,” he said. “Her interests were of a more...carnal nature."

Her expression grew dark as she took a step towards him. "Have you come to me straight from the bed of another woman?" Knowing his reputation, it had often pained her to think that she was merely another woman lumped together with the many he had known. Responding to her anger, he only sighed.

"Sheathe your claws, ma belle. She was but fifteen. I delight in all women, but I am not an absolute letch. I declined her invitation. But she did not take kindly to my rejection. She told her father a tale of impropriety, and he promptly set a band of mercenaries upon me."

As she watched him drying his hair, she felt a sensation of pity come over her. Stepping forward, she took the towel from his hand. He had said he was tired and hungry from being on the run. Despite his badness, she could not help feeling a need to care for him. But she was careful to control herself, especially with the tone of her voice.

"Remove yourself from those wet things before you catch your death."

He smirked, clearly relishing the opportunity to tease her. When he pulled his wet shirt over his head, reaching out to drop it to the floor, she could not help staring at him. It had been so long since she had seen him, literally, in the flesh. It sent tremors of warm pleasure pulsing through her. True to form, he noticed her admiration and made a sly note of it.

"You wish to admire me, do you?"

Her eyes flashed with an indignant light. She wasn't quite ready to let down her guard, and as if to emphasize it, she threw a coverlet at him, purposely aiming at his head.

"Cheeky bastard,” she cursed him. “Cover yourself. And then go into my dressing room. I will have a meal brought up, but I will not have the servants knowing of your presence."

He shrugged. "It is not as though they are unfamiliar with me."

"Which is precisely why they will not know you are here," she replied. "The last time you visited, I caught two of my maids whispering about you. I had to convince my husband that the pair were plotting against me, telling malicious lies. Fortunately the dolt believed it and had the pair sacked."

Glancing around the room, he seemed to feel a brief moment of concern. "By and by, where is the baron? At tables, or with his mistress?"

She snorted in disgust. Gilbert had left that morning without a word, and she could not have been happier to see him go.

"I know not,” she replied. “Perhaps he ventures between the two. I am only aware that he is not home, and I hardly anticipate his return in the near future."

Rene's expression warmed, knowing the element of danger was removed. "So we are quite alone then?"

His words had a clear meaning…one she felt herself responding to in a very physical way. But she wasn’t quite ready to forgive him. Not yet. With a serious expression, she gestured her head towards a nearby room.

"Into the dressing room, Rene.”

She turned away, holding to the last bit of her self-control – and knowing that it would not last much longer.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

The Baron's Lady - Chapter 2, Part 3

This is short, but I wanted to add it to the end of Chapter 2. Enjoy!


Returning to the great hall, Isabella felt an odd sense of curiosity about Owen. Had she detected a note of displeasure in his voice when she told him she was leaving?

She shook her head, thinking what nonsense it was. They hardly knew one another. What cause had he to be troubled by such a revelation as her departure? On one hand, the notion of it seemed quite absurd. But on the other hand, it was flattering to imagine that her absence might be of note to someone.

If only her absence meant something to the man she desired.

In traveling to Calais, she would be leaving behind any remnant of happiness she possessed. There would be no visits to this lovely home, where there was always such a feeling of warmth. But sadder was the thought that her nights would be long and lonely, for Rene was now gone. He would likely be finding company with someone else, and though it filled her heart with jealousy, she reminded herself that he was not hers to keep. Perhaps it was best that they would be long separated. In time, the wounds of her heart would heal, even if the mark would always remain.

The only light of hope that remained was the prospect of seeing her son. Lord, how she missed him. Sebastian was only eight years old, but like any noble boy of his age, he was away being schooled. It had always been her hope that Gilbert would keep their son near home for his education. But her husband had chosen a place that was far away in the north of France. They visited once a year, and though they stayed for several months, it hardly seemed enough.

As she neared the other guests, who were still enthralled by the voice of the troubadour, Lady Emma approached her. At first she was smiling. But seeing Isabella’s expression, her joy lessened.

“What is it, dearest?” she asked.

Isabella sighed. “The prospect of a tedious journey. It will take many weeks to reach Calais.”

With a nod, Emma gently grasped her friend’s hand. “Yes, that is unfortunate. But think of what awaits you at the end of your journey. A most pleasant reward.”

The thought of it gave Isabella courage, and she managed a smile. “That, it will be. My love for him gives me wings to fly.”

Only her deep and abiding maternal love, that bond between a mother and child, gave her the courage to endure a nearly seven-hundred mile odyssey with Gilbert. To think of Sebastian, who was such a sweet and loving child, was to know that fate had given her something precious that was entirely her own. For him, she would sacrifice her own happiness. Even it meant enduring the company of a complete and utter cur.


Standing in her room, watching the preparations for the coming journey, Isabella was startled by the sudden sound of her husband’s voice.

“Make haste,” he barked. “We depart at dawn.”

As he left, she cursed him under her breath. In the morning, he would be more surly than ever, for when he set his mind to traveling, he felt the need to bully those who tarried even in the slightest way. It was only a sign of the miseries to come, and it vexed her just to think of it.

While she pondered her troubles, Therese approached her. In her hand, she held a tightly rolled parchment.

“Ma Dame, ce message est arrivé pour vous.”

“My lady, this message has arrived for you.”

“Un message ? De qui?”

“A message? From whom?”

She had not expected written word from anyone.

A sudden realization came over her. It could not be, she thought.

“Je ne sais pas, ma Dame,” said Therese. “Je fus chargé de voir qu'il livré à vos mains le moment que vous revient.”

“I do not know, my lady. I was instructed to see it delivered to your hands the moment you returned.”

Isabella felt her heart grow wild, knowing the hand that had written a forbidden note. What words did it contain? She fought the urge to unroll the parchment with great haste and read…to hear his words spoken in her mind, in that powerfully bold and devil-may-care way of his.

But somehow, she kept control of her emotions, even managing to give an air of coolness and poise to her tone as she spoke to her maid. There could not be the slightest hint of anticipation in her words, lest she wished to arouse suspicion about the source of the message.

“Merci, Therese. Je verrai plus tard pour elle. Il y a beaucoup à faire avant le matin.”

“Thank you, Therese. I will see to it later. There is much to be done before morning.”

Clutching the message in her hand, she calmly placed it in her bed-stand drawer. Closing it, she prayed for the patience to wait until a safe moment could be found.

It was late when the moment arrived. And after the house had retired for the night, and Therese had taken to her pallet in the next room, she seized the moment. Yanking the drawer open, she snatched up the message, unfurling it, and her heart soared as she read…

My dearest Isabella,

Word has reached my ear that you are soon to depart for Calais. Though it pains my heart to know that you will be far from me, please know that you will not be far from my thoughts. I will think of you often, and my heart will be warmed by the remembrance of our time together. I pray that you will remember me with fondness. A safe journey, my lady.

Your devoted servant,


It was much too brief. But the happiness it gave her was more than she could have imagined. He had not forgotten her. She clutched the note to her breast, sighing with joy. The trip to Calais would be endured, with the aid of a man who was fast becoming the most important part of her world.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

The Baron's Lady - Chapter 2, Part 2

Owen felt his sister’s eyes on him. They sat beside each other at the table, and while the other guests were enjoying the wine and food, he found himself hardly touching a bite. Evelyn, ever the curious one of the family, saw his distraction. Her kind blue eyes searched his face.

“Owen, what troubles you so?”

Stiffening his posture, he shook his head in denial. “Nothing at all.”

“Come, brother. Do not attempt to fool me,” she said. “There is something on your mind.”

He knew that she meant well. Unlike Thea, Evelyn did not seek information in the hopes of finding trouble to exploit. Evie was simply inquisitive, and her inquiries were most times meant to be helpful. But in this matter, he felt it best not to confide in her.

“It is nothing, sister.”

A moment passed. But he knew his sister well enough to know that the passage of a quiet moment, however long, did not indicate that she had dismissed the subject from her thoughts. He was not at all surprised when she posed a guess about the source of his distraction.

“It is a woman, perhaps?”

He felt a bolt of nervous energy shoot up his spine. His eyes involuntarily widened a little, reacting to the directness of her question. But he put on a cool, defensive air.

“Do not be ridiculous, Evie. A woman?” He snorted, sipping his wine as he added in a pointed tone, “I am not a romantic fool.”

She was smiling. He could see it from the corner of his eye.

“Perhaps not,” she replied. “But you are in search of a bride, are you not?

He shrugged. “What of it?”

“I thought perhaps you had a lady already in mind.”

He did have a lady on his mind. But not for the reasons she thought of. With a purposeful tone, he tried to turn her away from the subject.

“I will not rush headlong into a decision. I intend to give most careful consideration to my choice of wife.” He waved a hand at her. “Remove it from your thoughts, sister. You know the subject of matrimony is a burden to me.”

Evie smiled and shook her head, but glancing at her expression, it seemed she had at last turned her attention to other matters.

His own thoughts, however, remained firmly fixed.

She sat several seats down and across from him, and his vantage point was quite good. Since the archery tournament, she had changed her hairstyle, sweeping it up into a more formal style crowned by a wreath of red flowers. Her dress had changed as well. She now wore a wine-colored gown of crushed velvet, etched with a pattern of winding vines colored a darker shade of violet. It hugged her slender waist, and accentuated the roundness of her bosom and the fineness of her shoulders. The soft look of her skin, bathed in candlelight, was so beautiful to behold that he found his breath accelerating.

Good God man, he thought. She is only a woman. Do not let her feminine powers of persuasion take control of you.

For a moment, he was resolved to control his unruly feelings. But the moment quickly passed.

The sensations he felt were not restricted to the portions of his body that had always reacted to women. This was different. His mind seemed to be not his own. Had she unknowingly cast some magic curse upon him? Females were rumored to possess fantastic powers of persuasion. Did not the mighty Caesar himself fall under the spell of a woman? Cleopatra, it was said, hid herself in a carpet that was presented to Caesar, and when he discovered her, he was instantly bewitched. Was the Trojan War not started because of a wicked temptress? Did not three brothers…Paris, Hector, and Deiphobus…all love Helen of Troy, only to be destroyed as a result of their ardent admiration?

He shook his head, knowing he would be quite arrogant if he were to compare himself with such figures of history. But then again, a man was a man, no matter the differences in time or place. And women were women. They were all temptresses in their own way. And Isabella was no different.

But I am not so weak as other men, he said to himself. And I will prove my strength.

He would speak to her. They had never shared more than a few polite words, despite being neighbors. What better way to purge himself of her curse than to converse with her, and discover that she was a woman in truth. He would find her incapable of conversation that would hold his interest, and there would be the key to breaking the spell. How could one remain infatuated with someone of an inferior mind?

For some time, he waited for the opportune moment to present itself. After supper, the guests spread out to converse and listen to the minstrels play. Owen managed to keep his attention focused on a conversation with other men, enough to avoid suspicion. But his eye occasionally wandered to the baroness, and when he saw her enjoying a moment on her own, he gathered his courage. Now was the time. Quietly excusing himself, he casually moved towards a nearby hall, where she was examining a tapestry. As he approached, she gave him a little smile.

“Good evening, my lord.”

Politely, he bowed. “Good evening, baroness. I trust you are well and enjoying our hospitality?”

She nodded. “I am. Very much.”

“I see you are admiring our tapestries.”

Turning her attention back to the woven display, she nodded. “I have always found them pleasing. This one in particular. The unicorn is a most interesting creature, do you not think so?”

Her voice, he thought. Why is it so pleasing? Despite the distraction, he managed to reply.

“I suppose it is.”

She reached out to touch the embroidery. “It is said that the beast with a single horn can only be held by a virgin. And some scholars believe they are a representation of Christ's relationship with the Virgin Mary.”

Damn, he said to himself. A wise reply. His intention to find fault with her mind appeared to be a misstep.

“I was not aware of such a fact,” he answered her. Looking at her, he saw a lovely shade of pink come to her cheeks.

“Forgive me for my wandering thoughts and ceaseless speaking. I did not mean to go on so.”

Shaking his head, he smiled a little, despite his desire to keep their conversation formal. “No apologies needed,” he said.

She sighed, and her gaze moved away from him as she looked at her surroundings. “I have found great delight and comfort in this house.”

There was a pleasantness in her expression he had not seen before. It made her look more lovely than ever, but he tried not to let it sway him. He focused on the pride she took in his home, and he gave her an appreciative smile.

“We are quite content here.”

“I can see how one would be so. I have found much joy in my visits. I shall miss them very much.”

Miss it? He thought. What is this declaration, and why does it strike me with a strange poignancy? In his tone, there was a touch of eagerness he could not hide.

“You do not plan to soon visit us again?”

This time, when she replied, it was without a smile. There was a light of despondency in her eyes. “Tomorrow, I travel to Calais with my husband. We shall winter there, and spend time with our son.”

He was unprepared for the feeling her words brought. Why was he troubled by the thought of her leaving? They meant nothing to one another. They were barely even friends. And yet he found himself somewhat distraught by the thought of not seeing her for many months. Clearing his throat, he tried to maintain a stoic disposition.

“I wish you a safe journey, then,” he replied.

Her smile was lovely, but rather sad in its way. Why it moved him, he did not know, but it did. She curtseyed respectfully.

“Thank you, my lord.”

As she walked away, his eyes followed her, and he fought a most curious desire to call her back.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

The Baron's Lady - Chapter 2, Part One

Another celebration.

Isabella sighed, bored with watching the archery tournament. It was part of a series of events, held over a two-day period, to celebrate the announcement of Lucien and Thea’s coming child. But neither the sunny afternoon, nor the cheering crowd, could keep her attention for more than a few moments. No one seemed to notice her distraction. Gilbert was happily partaking of their host’s hospitality while noisily cheering on his favorite archer. She was glad to have his attention so diverted – particularly when her own thoughts were so very far away.

She tried not to look conspicuous. This she did by making brief attempts to concentrate on the happenings around her. Sir Lucien, Guy of Gisborne, and his two sons were competing against a number of men, both noble and commoner alike. Sir Guy looked very well, of course. And his sons matched their father in athletic form and ability. Owen, in particular, looked dashing in a white shirt, dark-red tunic, and black breeches. What was it about the baron that caught the eye? She knew she was not the only female to notice it. Like his father, Owen Gisborne had a way about him that could not be defined…except to say that it was difficult to take one’s eyes away from him. But at that moment, there was another on her mind. And he was a far greater source of distraction than any Gisborne.

Rene had left the chateau, and his position as a stable-boy. Where he had gone, she did not know for certain. She only knew that he was gone, and her life felt emptier now than ever before.

Rumors of the affair had been exchanged between several of the servants. But in a blessed turn of luck, she had discovered just who it was in particular that was generating such gossip. She had gone to her husband straight away, alerting him to the presence of several troublemakers who wished to slander the LaCroix name with false rumors and accusations. In her heart, she knew she was doing wrong. But when Gilbert dismissed the accusers, she chose not to dwell on her own transgressions. She considered herself fortunate to have escaped discovery, and she was thankful for it.

But in the aftermath, Rene chose not to endanger her by staying. She could not forget their last night together. It had been so bittersweet. Even now, she recalled every moment…


Their second night together had easily eclipsed the first, and when the morning had broken, she knew that her vow of forgetting him would be impossible to keep.

It was not love. She had not forgotten herself so badly as to become a complete fool. But now that she had been with him, she felt a helpless need to keep him. He fulfilled her desires, not just of the body, but of the soul. It was immoral and unwise to be so taken with him, but she could not bring herself to end the affair. When the time came, and circumstances forced them both to face their farewell, she could hardly bear it. As dawn approached, they stood near the terrace doorway, sharing an embrace. As he prepared to leave her., she expressed her deeply felt pain.

“My only happiness will be torn away with you.”

Tears spilled from her eyes. She knew she was a desperate fool, but her heavy heart overwhelmed her pride. He smiled at her, speaking so gently that it only pained her more deeply.

“Is this the same gentle lady who feared me not long ago?”

As her frown deepened, she lowered her head, muttering sadly.

“Do not tease me now. I cannot endure it.” She felt his hands touching her face, gently forcing her to raise her head and look at him. He brushed the tears from her eyes.

“Do as I do,” he replied, “And find solace in dreams.”

She clasped his hands, pressing their warmth firmly against her skin. “Will I ever see you again?”

Taking her hands in his own, he kissed her fingers. “Perhaps one day, our paths will cross again.”

When he kissed her, she cried and tried to hold to him, but he gently extracted himself from her arms. Before she could delay him further, he moved to the balcony railing, where he looked at her one last time. He threw a kiss to her, and then he was gone. And she buried her face in her hands, weeping…



Isabella shook her head, bringing herself back to the present. She tried to smile at Lady Cassia, who was looking at her with an air of concern.

“Isabella, are you well?”

She nodded, brushing away a tear that had escaped her eye. “Forgive me. My mind was drifting to past events best forgotten.” Taking in a calming breath, she tried to direct the subject on a different path. Looking at the players on the field, she gestered her head towards the Gisborne men. “Your family is looking well today. And performing well, if I may say.”

Cassia smiled proudly. “They are all competitive creatures. Even dear William. Even he, on occasion, commits the sin of pride. But, I suppose they cannot help such weaknesses. They are men, after all.”

A slight smile came to Isabella’s lips. Lady Cassia had a lovely sense of humor. She was, indeed, a lady. But she expressed her opinion quite freely at times, almost as freely as a man was permitted to. She was fortunate to have a husband who allowed her such a liberty. The thought of it brought a slight twinge of envy to Isabella’s senses. But she suppressed her feelings, for she knew that her own misfortunes were not the fault of Lady Cassia or anyone else. Slowly letting out a breath, she remarked on a particular member of the Gisborne family.

“Your younger son seems quite intense in his concentration and strong in his display. He seeks to impress.”

Cassia replied with a nod. “He does indeed. In recent days, he has made know to his father and myself that he intends to find a bride. I wonder if, perhaps, there is a lady among us whom he favors.”

With a wry expression, Isabella replied. “Whomever he chooses, she will be a fortunate lady.”

To have a Gisborne for a husband, she thought. She will be a most fortunate lady indeed.


His shot hit the target dead center. Stepping back to take another arrow from his quiver, Owen glanced over at the box where his mother, his sisters, and several of their friends were gathered. Without hesitance, his glance fell on Isabella. She was stunning in a dark shade of violet, and with her hair gathered in a mass of golden coils at the base of her neck, she looked so very regal.

Infatuated, he silently said. I am infatuated. He knew now that to deny his attraction was to lie to himself. But it was a secret admission. No one could know that he thought of her on a daily basis…that in looking at other ladies, he found each of them lacking in some way. They did not have her eyes, nor her smile. Not a one of them carried themselves with the proud dignity that the baroness possessed. And none among them had her inner strength.

It was no secret that the baroness was unhappy with her husband. But she soldiered on gracefully, as a proper wife was meant to do. Gossip still persisted that she was not as faithful as she appeared to be, but Owen wondered if there was some doubt to the rumors. There had never been proof of her wrong-doing, so who was to say what was true and what was not?

He sighed, wondering at his own foolishness. For a moment, he was able to focus on his goal of showing off his expertise in archery. Secretly, he hoped that the baroness was watching and admiring him. In reality, they could never be anything to one another. But in secret, he could seek her favor, and imagine that she returned it with passionate eagerness.


Saturday, January 14, 2012

"Darcy's Decision" by Maria Grace

I'm always excited to hear about up and coming writers and their work. It makes me even happier when the subject matter comes from classic literature, and how can one get more classic than Pride and Prejudice?

Author Maria Grace has just released her new book, entitled "Darcy's Decision," and I am very excited about it. Mr. Darcy is a favorite of mine, and this story promises to delve deeply into his character. I love getting into a character's head, so I know I will enjoy this. As soon as I finish reading it, I will be leaving a review post here, and I might just do a giveaway. :)

"Darcy's Decision" is available on Kindle and in paperback. Support this lovely author by having a look for yourself. And if you like what you read, why not leave her a review? Every author needs encouragement, so please offer all the support you can.

Thanks Maria, for giving us a new Darcy story to savor. Good luck in all your writing endeavors!


The links are not joined on Amazon, but you can find them here...

Thursday, January 12, 2012

I've been nominated for a Shorty Award!

I don't know exactly how it happened, but I've been nominated in the author category for the Shorty Awards! This is an award for social media, and the categories are numerous. I've been nominated as a favorite Twitter author, so if you have a Twitter account, I would love to have your vote! This is just for fun, so please don't think I'm expecting to win, especially when I'm up against such company as J.K. Rowling and Stephanie Meyer. Just for the heck of it, let's see how many votes I can get. :) Here is the link, just in case you want to take a look...

Monday, January 9, 2012

The Baron's Lady - Chapter One, Part Two

Owen knocked on the door of his parents’ bedchamber. The hour was late, but he was certain they would not be abed. His mother was overwhelmed with excitement about Thea’s announcement. His father too, although he was much calmer about it. No doubt, the entire household would be talking of little else for days to come. His mother and father were likely talking of it at this very moment, which was why he dared to disturb them. There was something on his mind, and he wished to address the issue before retiring to bed, so he could sleep without troubled thoughts.

The door opened, and his mother smiled at him. “Owen, my love. You should be asleep. Is something amiss?”

“No, Mama. All is well. I wished to speak to Papa.”

From his place on the bed, where he relaxed in breeches and a loose shirt, Guy answered.

“What is it, my son?”

He glanced between the two of them, and gave his mother a sheepish look. “It is a matter between men.” He gave her an apologetic expression. “Forgive me, Mama.”

Cassia gave him a sweet look, and glancing at Guy as she went into the next room, she allowed them their privacy. As Owen closed the door, Guy moved from the bed to his favorite chair near the window. He sat back and linked his fingers together, gathering them against his chest. Stretching out his legs, he looked at Owen.

“Well, son?” he said. “Crack open your head and share your thoughts.”

Moving forward, Owen came to stand in front of the window, clasping his hands behind his back. Despite the close relationship he had with his father, he often found himself feeling intimidated. It was a respectful fear, of course. But it sometimes made him uneasy when having a conversation. Still, he tried not to show what he felt, taking on a serious tone and expression.

“Papa, I have been doing much thinking today. I have come to the realization that my childhood has long since passed, as it has for all of my siblings. The news of Thea’s condition has only served to remind me that the passage of time is swift.”

“Owen,” Guy interjected, “Is there a point you intend to come to? It is late, and I am quite tired.”

Owen took in a calming breath. “Forgive me for prattling on, Papa.” He let out the breath he had taken in, and spoke. “I wish to choose a bride.”

Guy’s eyebrow rose in stunned curiosity. “A bride?”

With a nod, Owen replied. “Yes, a bride. I take pride in doing my duties, but I have been remiss in the one duty that is most important. I wish to choose a wife.”

Turning to see and judge his father’s reaction, he saw that Guy had risen from his chair. He walked slowly back and forth, an intrigued expression softening the fierceness of his face.

“Have you given thought to any woman in particular?”

Owen shrugged. “No. But I am certain there is a suitable female to be found who will please me. So long as she has beauty and rank, and will bear me sons. That is, after all, a wife’s purpose.”

To Owen’s surprise, Guy made a sound of amusement, giving a kind of small laugh.

“It seems you think of this matter as a mere business transaction.”

“Papa?” Owen inquired, wondering at his father’s reaction. Guy’s tone became quite fatherly.

“My son, I advise you not to be hasty in the matter of selecting a mate. The woman you choose is the one you will spend the rest of your life with. Be certain she is worthy.”

“I fully intend to find a woman of means, Papa. One with a healthy dowry.”

Guy came to a stop, looking at Owen directly. “I do not mean worth in that sense. A dowry is a fine enough thing. But do not think only of her looks or the heaviness of her purse. Many a woman has those qualities, but nothing else of substantiality. A wife must have sense enough to manage your home when you are absent, and she must be a companion for you when you require it. But most importantly, she must suit your character. I will not allow my son to make a poor choice that he will come to regret.”

Now it was Owen who folded his arms. Leaning against the window casing, he considered his father’s words.

“I had not thought of such things,” he said.

“Nor did I, when I first thought to have a bride. That was before your mother came along. I was fortunate that fate guided me in the right direction.”

Surprise came over Owen’s face. He knew something of his father’s past. It was no secret that Guy of Gisborne was devoted, body and soul, to the woman he loved. Owen had always thought of them as being each other’s first and only love.

“I did not know there was another,” he said, a note of awe in his voice. He watched as Guy took to pacing again, and Owen noted the change in his father’s demeanor. There seemed to be a shadow of darkness there, as if he now spoke of something that deeply troubled him. His tone became austere – almost bitter in its way.

“Regrettably, yes,” Guy replied. “There was another. A woman of beauty, rank, and intelligence. But she had no heart for me, and I was too blind to see that she was not meant to be mine. I was reckless in my pursuit of her. But I was fortunate that fate intervened. Had it not directed me on the proper path, this family would not exist. But let us turn away from such thoughts. They disquiet the mind.”

“Of course,” Owen said, clearly seeing that such talk was troubling. He sighed, taking in the new perspective that had been put before him. “You have given me much to consider, Papa.”

Coming forward, Guy clasped him on the shoulder. “Sleep on it, then. And tomorrow, we will consider this matter more carefully.”

Owen nodded, and as he stood, he saw his mother returning to the room. She came to him, smiling, and he smiled back, kissing her cheek. As he left the room, his mind was full of new thoughts.

Why had he not considered such matters before? In his hastiness to get past the initial decision of getting married, he had not considered the possible consequences of such a choice. What if a rash decision caused him to be chained to some brainless shrew? He did not intend to spend every moment with the woman he married. The knighthood, and the duties it entailed, were of greater importance to him. But he would have to spend some time with his wife…especially if he wanted heirs.

It was strange, but he suddenly thought of the Baroness LaCroix. He had tried not to think of her, but for some reason, she was often on his mind. He remembered the last time he had seen her, at Thea and Lucien’s wedding.

She was beautiful. But there was more to her than that. On the hunt, he had discovered what a fine horsewoman she was. And she was a creature of sharp wit and mind, judging from the brief conversation they had shared. How disappointing to remember that she was already married. She might have made the perfect bride. He could only hope that somewhere out there, a woman like her was waiting for him. He had only to seek her out.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

My New Blog is Complete!

It's taken me a while, but I've finally finished the update of my blog. As a friend pointed out, it is now more of a writer's blog rather than a fan blog. I've added some new pages, and I'm hoping it will make things easier to access, such as my writing and the places to read and purchase them.

About "The Baron's Lady"...

For those who are reading this story, I've condensed the introduction into three parts, and you can access it on the left hand side of the blog using the archive. I created the "Introduction" as a way to explain how Isabella and Rene began their affair. From this point on, the story will focus mostly on Owen and Isabella, with a few dashes of Guy and his family thrown in. And Rene will feature a bit too. :)

About "Of Dark and Bright"...

I've provided a link to this story in my Langdon stories section. I'm not posting it in full here due to space limitations, but you use the link to reach Wattpad, where you can read it and watch for updates.

Thanks for stopping by. :)

Happy Reading!

Saturday, January 7, 2012

The Baron's Lady - Chapter One, Part One

Hello, readers. If you are new to this story, be sure to read the three part introduction, now found in the archive on the left side of the home page. Enjoy!


Owen hefted his practice sword up above his head, and then swung it down. It met Lucien’s sword with a solid blow. Owen swung from the right, only to have his endeavor and his arm flung aside. He tried again, attempting a mighty jab, using all of his energy and might in the effort…only to find himself face down in the dirt when Lucien countered, and then used his heel to take Owen down.

“You have great passion,” said Lucien. “But you must learn to attack with purpose. Use your head, and not your heart.”

Rising to his knees, he took Lucien’s extended arm. It was not the first time his brother-in-law had bested him. Lucien was, admittedly, much stronger and greater in size. But he knew that it was not the height and breadth of a man that truly mattered. It was the strength of his spirit. Determined not to be morose, he held out his sword, challenging Lucien once more. A slight smile of self-confidence graced his lips.

“Shall we begin again?”

Lucien returned the smile. But he sheathed his sword.

“Were it not for other matters, I would continue. But alas, I have made a promise that must be kept.”

Owen’s smile faded. He sighed, lowering his weapon. “To your wife, I assume?”

Lucien’s amused expression gave his answer. Owen shook his head as he put his sword away. Lucien and Thea had been married for several months, and even though Lucien was as dedicated as ever to his soldier’s duties, one could always sense that he wished to be elsewhere. Namely, with Thea. Owen found the notion difficult to fathom, but Lucien only smiled at the sour looks he received.

“When one day, you are in possession of a wife, you will come to understand,” he said.

Owen scoffed. “I understand that women are full of wicked wiles. Was paradise itself not destroyed by a woman?”

“A woman can be a paradise all on her own, if you know my meaning.”

A shudder passed through Owen’s body. He curled his lip in disgust. “Good God, man. Do not say such things in regards to my sister. You will make me ill.”

In response, Lucien only laughed. He clapped Owen on the shoulder.

“Come, brother. It is nearly time for dinner, as it is. I wish to see my wife, but I am also famished. Let us eat, drink, and make merry.”

As they made their way to the house, they heard the sound of geese softly honking. He and Lucien were not surprised to find Evelyn sitting beneath a tree, surrounded by several of her pets. The three geese, along with two greyhounds, kept company with her. While the dogs lay stretched out, absorbing the afternoon sun, the geese ate seed from Evelyn’s hands. One of the birds, all of whom were female, saw Owen and Lucien. The plump grey goose took several steps forward with her wings outstretched, hissing. Owen sneered at her.

“Do not threaten me, you waddling bag of bones. I shall truss you up and have you for dinner.”

Lucien and Evelyn both smiled, and Evelyn looked at Owen with an amused expression. “She has never favored you.”

Owen scoffed. “With the possible exception of Mama, I do not seek the approval of any woman.”

He was not surprised by Evelyn’s reaction, which was a grin and a twinkle of her blue eyes.

“A fact well known, brother.”

As he and Lucien walked away, Owen tried to suppress a smile. Despite the occasional verbal jabs that they shared, he and Evelyn were quite close. She was just a year younger than he, but she had the soul of a woman far beyond her age. As children, she had often acted in a motherly way towards him, offering him kindness and consolation, or a kick in the pants when he needed it. She had also been a great playmate, despite being a girl. She was a fantastic archer, and being lighter and swifter than he and his mates, she had always outrun them in footraces or bested them in tree-climbing. Those years were long past, but he recalled them fondly, and at times, he felt sad that time was moving so swiftly.

He shook his head, dislodging such thoughts. The prospect of dinner was a safer thought…much more so than emotions or regret, neither of which he cared to dwell on. As he and Lucien crossed the threshold, they looked up to see Thea coming their way. Owen bristled, knowing that he rarely encountered his older sister without it resulting in an argument. But for Lucien’s sake, he bit his tongue. Thea took Lucien’s arm as she came to his side.

“There you are, husband. I have been waiting for you.”

Lucien smiled. “Forgive me, love. My practice detained me.”

She nodded. “Yes, well, I am in great need of a private word with you. It is a matter of much importance.”

“Of course,” Lucien replied. “Allow me a few moments to make myself respectable, and then I shall join in the garden.” Taking her hand, he kissed her knuckles, and she smiled lovingly.

Seeing the softness between them, Owen felt a twinge of awkwardness. He was used to witnessing such gestures, but they still put him out of his comfort zone. He excused himself, and departing to wash and dress for supper, he sighed. Lucien was a fierce warrior, and he was close to being a perfect knight. If only he was not so easily swayed by his woman.

As he turned at the top of the stairs, he saw his mother and father at the end of the hall. They were standing close together, and though they were partly concealed in shadow, he could see they were smiling at one another. When they lovingly kissed, Owen quickly turned away. It wasn’t that the sight of such affection revolted him. But it seemed rather improper to his way of thinking. They were a married couple, and they were certainly not newlyweds. Why they continued to act as such was far beyond his comprehension.


There was an air of excitement at the table. Thea, especially, was all smiles and blushes, as though she held within her a very great secret that she wished to tell the world. Looking around, he saw that his mother and father were wearing similar expressions. When Guy rose to his feet, with his cup in hand, Owen knew that something momentous was about to be announced.

“I am pleased to announce a most happy and divine event that is set to occur in our lives. Lady Theodora, our beloved daughter, and her husband, Sir Lucien, will soon welcome a child.”

There were gasps from around the room, and then, a round of applause. Owen sat still in his seat, stunned. He wasn’t quite sure how to respond. He and Thea had always been at odds, and in his eyes she had always been a spoiled and childish creature. Never had he imagined her as a mother.

A mother.

The thought of it was bewildering. He slowly rose to his feet to join his father, mother, and Evelyn as they congratulated the new parents. For once, he and Thea were cordial with one another. He kissed her cheek, offering her his blessing, and she smiled happily at him, thanking him. As he stood there, watching the happy faces of his family, he felt a shove to his shoulder. It was Evelyn, who was smiling, but looking at him with a curious expression.

“You stand like a block of wood, Owen. Are you not happy for Thea?”

He nodded. “I am. Truly. But…”

She waited, her eyes all expectancy. “But what?”

Owen shrugged. “Is it really possible that she is to be a mother? I find it difficult to believe.” He sighed, thinking it a startling notion that he and his siblings were no longer children. “Time does go by,” he remarked.

“That it does,” Evelyn replied.

Time was, indeed, moving by. And too quickly. He wondered if, perhaps, the time had come to make decisions he had put off for far too long.

Monday, January 2, 2012

The Baron's Lady - Intro, Part Three

Contains adult content...

As night fell, Isabella was secluded in her chamber, resting on the pelt in front of the fire. She had turned away her maid-servant and other attendants, feigning illness. She feared they would look at her and see the turmoil in her eyes. They would look at their mistress and see that she had nearly succumbed to temptation.

But more fearful still was another thought…that they would see the longing that was now so very clear. She felt as though it was written in her every feature, there for all of the world to see. Clutching a wrapper tightly around herself, she trembled, despite the warmth of the fire. It had been hours since he had kissed her and held her, but she could still feel the heat of his lips and the solid strength of his body. She had never been so close to a man of such lean muscle and heated skin. God knew her husband had never felt like that, the few times they had been together. And Gilbert had only kissed her once, on their wedding day. He claimed to be revolted by the thought of two people’s mouths touching, and at the thought of it, she could not help being amused. What an imbecile he was. After the kiss she had shared with Rene, she could not see how anyone would be revolted by such an exhilarating act. It was sinful, yes. But now that she had discovered such sensation, she craved more of it.

She sighed, thinking that if nothing else, she would have pleasant dreams, and that was for the best. In dreams, all was safe, no matter the subject matter. Rising from the floor, she turned towards her bed…and gasped in shock.

There he was, sitting on the floor in front of her terrace doors. She took several fearful steps backward, but he only smiled at her nervousness.

“Good evening, my lady.”

Her response was swift. “What are you doing here? How did you get in?”

“I have my ways,” was his sly response.

“Be gone,” she demanded. “You cannot be here.”

He shrugged. “I thought perhaps you would like my company.”

She opened her mouth to speak, but her tongue failed her at that very moment, and he seemed to sense that her defenses were weak. He slowly stood, walking towards her, and she backed away. Her escape was impeded when the back of her legs hit a chair, and she nearly fell into it. But she managed to remain on her feet, rushing behind the piece of furniture so that it stood between them. His voice was as smooth as his approach as he came closer.

“You need not fear me, Isabella.”

At the use of her Christian name, rather than her title, she felt a strange tremble. Without touching her, he was stripping away the boundaries between them. And heaven help her, she knew it was impossible to resist him. He had come here to seduce her, and they both knew he had succeeded. But she had to resist until the last, even if her words held no meaning. As he came closer, standing there so close that their bodies were nearly touching, she uttered a whisper of protest.

“Why do you do this? Why can you not leave me be?”

Slowly, he reached for her hand. She made a weak attempt to pull it back, but he clutched softly it in the warmth of his grasp. The low, warm hum of his voice made her knees feel weak.

“I have tried to resist.” Lifting her hand, he brushed his lips to her skin. “But you fascinate me. You are a constant in my thoughts.”

They were nose to nose, so close that their breathing mingled, and as she closed her eyes in anticipation, his lips found hers. At first it was soft, gentle, and achingly sweet. Her fears eased away in only moments, and when his arms slowly moved around her body, she found herself cautiously pressing against him, testing the limits of her own daring. It felt so wonderful, so thrilling. So right. With growing eagerness, she let her arms return his embrace, and as a strange hunger grew within her, she pressed her lips more firmly to his, as if to silently plead for more. When he obliged her, tenderly parting her lips, she thrilled at the new sensation of truly tasting a kiss for the first time. She heard herself uttering strange little sounds. She was whimpering, she realized. God in heaven, he was stirring things in her that she had never known of before. And she wanted more.

When he gently broke the kiss, she felt a brief moment of disappointment. Until he kissed the bend of her neck. A pulse of fire flooded her body, and she was thankful that he was embracing her, for she was certain her legs were incapable of holding her up. His words only inflamed the sensation.

“You are a goddess, Isabella.”

She felt his hand at the base of her spine, pulling her tighter against him, and when she felt the evidence of his desire pressing against her belly, she instinctively pushed her hips against him. For a moment, she was lost in a whirlwind of pleasure. Until his palm cupped her breast. The sensation was exhilarating, shocking…and frightening. Gilbert had never laid a hand upon her in such a manner. Fear and uncertainty suddenly gripped her. She tried to pull away.

“I cannot…”

She grappled with her words, the spell of desire dissipated by her awkwardness. But Rene’s words were tender.

“He has never touched you in this way?”

Embarrassment flooded her, turning her face a deep shade of pink. She tried to turn away. But Rene gently cupped her face, forcing her to look at him.

“Do not feel shame,” he said. “If you are unschooled in the art of love, you must not blame yourself.”

Her pride, though slightly week, came to her aid, restoring her power of speech. She removed his hands from her face, feeling powerless when he held her that way. Her eyes lowered.

“I am not so unschooled,” she declared. “My marriage was consummated, and the proof is writ in the heir I bore for my husband.”

At the thought of her only child, she felt utterly ashamed that she had allowed so much between her and Rene. She tried to push him back.

“You have a son?” he asked, his tone too gentle for her liking.

“That is not your business,” she said, a sharpness to her tone. But Rene was tender.

“Very well, then. We will not speak of him.”

He brought his lips close to hers, attempting to kiss her again, but she tried to turn her head away. He responded with a gentle but firm embrace, pulling her into his arms.

“You want me, Isabella. As I want you. Let go your inhibitions, and you will find paradise.”

Before she could protest, he was kissing her again, and the flame that had momentarily dimmed quickly sparked anew. Their kisses grew deeper, their embraces stronger, and before she realized what was happening, they were lying on the pelt in front of the fire. She gasped at the feeling of her nightgown hem rising, and his hands slowly but surely following. His fingers grazed her skin, seeming to leave a trail of fire. Inside herself, she felt her feminine muscles pulsing with anticipation. But in her exhilaration, there was a tinge of fear. For a moment she became tense, fearing the hurt that had always come in those rare times with Gilbert. But her husband had never done what Rene was daring to do. His hands were touching her legs, and then her thighs. She closed her eyes as overwhelming pleasure took her over. She waited for the moment when she would feel his body joining with hers. But shocking feelings burned through her when she felt his fingers, touching her in a way she had never known a man could touch a woman. She tore her mouth away from his, gasping for air, and then she felt as though she was being hurled skyward. Lost in the wildness of sensation, she cried out in exhilaration.

Slowly, she fell back to earth. As she struggled to catch her breath, she felt Rene’s eyes upon her. Looking up at him for a moment, she was overwhelmed by all that she felt, and she tried not to look at him.

“What have you done to me?” she asked, still breathless. And he smiled at her.

“I have pleased you, my lady. And yet, it is but a taste of things to come. Shall I kiss you again?”

She could hardly find words to speak, and before she could protest, his mouth was on hers. This time, his kiss was more urgent. She was stunned at the feeling of not just his lips, but the rough, velvet sensation of his tongue tasting her. His hands tugged at her nightgown, and shyly, she began pulling at his clothing as well. When their clothes were finally discarded, she felt the familiar feeling of a man’s weight on her body. But now, she welcomed it. He moved with such strength, and yet such tenderness, careful not to hurt her, even as he became one with her, and gave her mindless ecstasy a second time. As they lay together, with only the sounds of the crackling fire and their hurried breathing, his tone was almost a whisper in her ear.

“Do you wish me to go?”

Without thinking, she clung tighter to him. The time for common sense had long since passed. Lost in a daze of joy and passion, she could only think of what little time they might have together, before dawn brought back the harshness of reality. The night was theirs, and she wanted to linger in every moment.

“Stay,” she replied. “The morning is far off.”

His laugh was softly triumphant. “As you wish, my lady.”


Isabella slowly came awake. For a few glorious moments, she stretched her limbs and delighted in the magnificent feeling of contentment flowing all through her body. Looking around, she realized she was no longer on the floor pelt, but in the bed. The fire had dimmed. And Rene was stretched out beside her.

Before she could take a moment to admire him, fear came over her.

“Good Lord,” she whispered out loud. What if Therese came in and found them? What if any servant came in, for that matter? Throwing back the coverlet, she started to rush for the door. But a hand reached out to hold her wrist.

“The door is bolted. There is no danger.”

His reassurance, softly spoken, hardly eased her fears. And as she grew more awake, regret inevitably came forth, causing her to shift uncomfortably. Pulling her hand from Rene’s hold, she turned away from him and curled up on her side, pressing her cheek to her pillow. A tear slid down her cheek, and at the sound of Rene’s voice, she closed her eyes, as if she could somehow convince herself that none of this was real.


She did not answer him. As she silently wept, she could find no words, and the gentleness of Rene’s words only wounded her more.

“Do not cry, my lady.”

A sniffle escaped her. “How can I not?”

There was a long moment that passed in silence before he replied.

“If it eases your hurt, you are permitted to condemn me. I will endure your hatred, if it means your suffering is lessened.”

How was she to hate him? He had been nothing but splendid in his treatment of her. He had taken her to heights of such joy. Whatever his true nature, whether he truly cared for her or thought only of himself, she could not bring herself to place blame on him. In truth, she could only find fault with herself.

“It is I who must be condemned,” she replied, “And I alone must be the hand of it. I am weak, and an admitted fool.”

When she felt the warmth of his hand, gently rubbing her shoulder, she gave a shuddering sigh. His touch was both a painful reminder of their mutual sin…and a reminder of how easily he could rouse her passions. And yet, he did not make an attempt at seduction. His method was to touch her heart, by offering comfort.

“You are not a fool, Isabella. It is not a foolish thing to crave love and human kindness.”

She could not help herself. Turning her body, resting her head against the pillows, she looked up at him as he leaned over her. As he gazed down at her, he touched her face, grazing her cheek with his fingertips.

“There are so many definitions of love. And while we may not give our hearts to one another, we might enjoy the physical pleasures of love, without the trappings of matrimony or the burden of loyalty.”

There was something marvelous about his carelessness look on things. And yet, it troubled her. Looking into his lovely green eyes, she wondered how she could allow herself to be so easily used.

“Are you loyal to no one?” she asked.

He gave her a slight smile. “I find it best to be of most concern to myself. It is a matter of survival.”

His arrogance was so clearly expressed, and without remorse. It made her frown in anger.

“Am I merely a pawn, then?”

His amused expression was hardly surprising. There was a light of such mischief in his eyes, she could feel her coldness melting away at the sight of it.

“If you are my pawn,” he said, “Then I am yours. Do with me as you will, my lady.”

He was an unrepentant devil…and utterly irresistible. She made one more attempt, however weak she knew it to be, to resist his lure.

“What if I wish you to go?”

He replied with a shrug. “Then I will consent.”

Such easy compliance confused her. Until he moved in such a way that his body was no longer at her side, but pressed against the entire length of her. In an instant, she felt the first flickers of rising desire.

“If you wish to be rid of me, I will go. But did you not beseech me to remain until morning?”

When he gently pushed his hips against her, letting her feel the heat of his arousal, she responded with only a soft moan. She closed her eyes, giving in to the hot, intense rushes of pleasure.

“There is nothing so wondrous as the human touch,” he softly said. “The pleasure. The power.” She gasped as he pushed into her, vanquishing the emptiness. His tone became a rasp as his breathing intensified. “Such power is in your hands, as well as mine.” He guided her arms around him, and without encouragement, she pulled him closer, clinging to him. When his hands grasped her legs, drawing them up, she entwined them around him, and she felt him penetrating deeper into her. He ravished her mouth, hotly, and she hungrily kissed him back. She lost herself in the madness of their coupling, forgetting all but the feeling of his powerful body claiming hers. When the last wave of sensation crashed over her, she wept with joy, shattered. Holding to Rene, she let him take her with him as he rolled to his back. She clung to her lover as she fell asleep, regret banished by the volatility of passion.


In the darkness of the night, Isabella found an intimacy she had never known before. Not just in the sharing of pleasure, but in sharing intimate words with a man who listened to her thoughts and fears. And he was not afraid to speak of himself. She learned that as a young man of fifteen, he had briefly lived in a house of ill repute. The thought of it was both shocking and scandalously fascinating. He swore that most of the “ladies” were only friends…that they found him too young for their tastes. But one of them had taken a liking to him and given him a thorough education. She did not know if he told the complete truth, but it seemed not to matter. However he had come to be a rogue, he was a genuine one. And she could not find it in her heart to hate him for it.

Just before sunrise, she woke to find him sitting beside her. He was looking down at her with a most tender smile. But seeing that he was fully dressed, she frowned, and a strange pain tore at her heart.

“I must go before I am discovered,” he said.

The thought of his leaving, and the realization that their night was over, drew unexpected tears to her eyes. When she brushed her finger over her cheek to dispel the moisture, he spoke gently to her.

“Do not be sad. We have shared a delightful evening. Let us part on terms most pleasant.”

After such a night, she could find no regret in her heart, and without shame, she looked at him with a desperate hope. “You will not return to me?”

He sighed, shaking his head. “I do not think it wise. We have already risked much. You more than I.”

Angered not so much by his answer, but by the unfairness of life, she muttered bitterly.

“By seduction, you captured your prize. Now the game is done, and your interest wanes.”

In his usually flippant way, he smiled, raising an eyebrow at her.

“Have I spoiled you?”

Angry tears spilled down her cheeks. “Yes. And now you will abandon me.”

“I must think of your well-being, Izzy. I do not wish to put you in danger.”

Izzy. He had dubbed her that at some point during the night, and hearing it again, it only fed her desperation. He had nourished her starving spirit, and she was not yet prepared to lose him. Sitting up, still wrapped in the bed linen, she put her arms around his waist and leaned her cheek against his shoulder.

“Grant me just one night more. Please. Just one, and then I promise, I will come to my senses and give you up.”

She felt his intake of breath. There was a note of hesitation in his voice.

“You truly are a temptation.”

A moment passed, and she was terrified that he would deny her plea.

Damn you, she thought. Do not suddenly become noble. Not now. But a moment later, he gently held her back so he could look at her. He smiled with a look of promise.

“I will come to you tonight,” he said. “But now, I must go, before the cloak of darkness can no longer disguise me.”

He kissed her softly, but much too briefly. Before she could protest, he made his escape, vanishing through the softly billowing curtains of the terrace. She slowly fell back against the pillows, and quietly, she wept at the loss