Don’t miss Susan Johnson’s

sensationally romantic new novel


Published this month by Brava.

A short time later, Julius and Amanda dismounted before the house and were met at the door by a young manservant.

“The Marquis of Darley and Lady Bloodworth,” Julius said. “Come to see Lord and Lady Grafton.”

“I’ll see if my lord and lady are in.”

“No need. We’re old friends,” Julius had no intention of being turned away. He gestured the man forward.

The servant had no choice, of course, as Julius well knew.

Moments later, the flunkey opened the drawing room door and announced their names.

Lady Grafton looked up from penning a letter and went pale.

Taking note of their hostess’ stunned look, Amanda quickly said, “I thought I’d take the opportunity to call on you, Lady Grafton.” Advancing into the drawing room with a warm smile, she added, “My family has a race box in Newmarket. I believe you know the marquis.” She glanced at Julius who had followed her in. “I hope we’re not intruding.”

“No—that is…my husband is at the stables. I’ll have him summoned.” Elspeth turned to her maid as she rose to meet her guests, high color having replaced her pallor. “Sophie, have Lord Grafton called in.”

“No need to interrupt his lordship,” Amanda smoothly interposed. “We won’t stay long. We were out for a ride and found ourselves near your house.”

“I’m sure Lord Grafton would like to see you,” Elspeth countered, signaling her maid to fetch the earl. She couldn’t chance he’d find out later that she’d had guests without his permission. “Would you like tea?” It was impossible not to observe the social graces, although she found herself hoping her visitors might refuse.

“That would be lovely,” Amanda replied with a smile.

“Sophie, tea as well,” Elspeth ordered, trying to avoid eye contact with the marquis. She could feel her cheeks flushing with embarrassment. Or excitement. Or something else entirely.

“What a lovely view,” Amanda exclaimed, walking over to the row of windows overlooking a bucolic vista of green fields and grazing horses. “Do you have a favorite mount you like to ride?”

Whether intentionally or unwittingly, Amanda’s words incited an outrageously lewd image. Struggling to displace her wholly inappropriate thoughts, Elspeth found herself at a loss for words.

Aware of Lady Grafton’s overlong silence, Julius smoothly interposed, “I’ve been trying to persuade Lady Grafton to take Skylark out for a ride.”

Amanda spun around. “Skylark? You’ll absolutely adore him! He’s powerful and swift, yet gentle as a lamb. Tell her, Julius, how he took me over ten miles at top speed without even breathing hard.”

“He has enormous staying power. It’s characteristic of the Atlas Barb breed. You’d enjoy trying him out, Lady Grafton.”

Elspeth tried not to misinterpret the marquis’s comments. Get a grip, she told herself. Everyone was simply discussing horses and she was reacting like an agitated adolescent to the most benign remarks. “If it were possible, I’m sure I’d enjoy riding Skylark, my lord. However, we lead a quiet life since my husband’s illness. But thank you for the offer. Won’t you sit down,” she politely offered when she would have preferred pushing her guests out the door and avoiding any further complications. From her husband and otherwise.

“Oh, look!” Amanda exclaimed, gazing out the window. “The most precious basket of violets! I adore violets!” Contriving a moment alone for Julius, she opened the terrace door and stepped outside to inspect the willow basket on the balustrade.

“Why did you come?” Elspeth hissed the second Amanda closed the door behind her. “I’m sorry—how rude… please forgive me,” she stammered, blushing furiously at her graceless behavior. “I shouldn’t have said—I mean…I don’t know what came—”

“I couldn’t stay away.” Uncharacteristically blunt words for the marquis who only played at love. And if Grafton wasn’t about to appear at any moment, Julius would have taken her in his arms and kissed away her trepidation.

“You shouldn’t have come. He might—that is…you don’t understand my…situation.” Nervously surveying the door to the hallway, Elspeth visibly trembled. “My husband”—she took a sustaining breath—“is very difficult.”

“I’m sorry.” She was so obviously alarmed he felt a twinge of conscience—a rarity for him. This frightened child was clearly not equipped to undertake any amorous games. He shouldn’t have come. “I’ll fetch Amanda and we’ll be on our way,” he offered, moving toward the terrace door.


It was the merest whisper. His pulse quickened despite his newfound conscience and he turned back.

“God help me—for not having more restraint,” she breathed, her hands clasped tightly to still their tremors. “I shouldn’t be talking to you or even thinking what I’m thinking or—”

“Will your husband be here soon?”

She nodded, a jerky, skittish movement.

“We’ll talk later, then,” he calmly said when he wasn’t feeling calm in the least. When he was contemplating taking the lovely Lady Grafton to bed and keeping her there until he’d had his fill or couldn’t move or both. “Please, sit down.” Offering her a chair with a wave of his hand, he swiftly walked to the windows, knocked on a pane and beckoned Amanda in. Turning back, he smiled. “Don’t be nervous,” he gently said. “Relax. We’re just here on a friendly visit. Tell me something about your father’s parish. I understand he was a vicar.”

The marquis’s voice was incredibly soothing, as though they were indeed friends. She felt an instant lessening of her anxiety. “I suppose you do this all the time,” she murmured, taking a seat. “Rumor has it, you’re —”

“I never do this,” he said. In fact, the mindless craving he was experiencing was so outre, he thought he might still be feeling the aftereffects of last night’s drink. Taking a seat a respectable distance away, he added with almost an unbecoming brusqueness, “You affect me in a most unusual way.”

Have a look at MaryJanice Davidson’s

hilariously romantic novella

“Cuffs and Coffee Breaks” in


Available now from Brava.

“W ell, this is it.” Julie Kay tossed her keys on the kitchen counter. “Home sweet hell.”

“It’s nice,” he commented, glancing around the small house she rented from her brother-in-law. “I used to live in Inver, back when I was a student at the U.”

“Yeah, what, six weeks ago?”

“Oh, you’re hilarious.”

“I hate apartments. I always feel like a bee in a hive. So when my brother-in-law moved into a bigger place, he let me rent this one. It’s worked out for everyone.”

“Mmm.” Scott was prowling around the living room and dining area like a big, brunette panther. “I have an apartment, and I know what you mean. But I’m almost never there.”

“Where are you?”

“Work, usually. That’s why I was really glad when you decided to go out with me. I mean, I have no social life.”

“But you’re so…” Gorgeous. Delicious. Fabulous. Tall. “…smart.”

Вы читаете Willing
Добавить отзыв


Вы можете отметить интересные вам фрагменты текста, которые будут доступны по уникальной ссылке в адресной строке браузера.

Отметить Добавить цитату