He shrugged. “I was always the tallest kid in my class, and the skinniest. But I was bad at sports. So who’d want to go out with a big gork like me?”

Oh, I dunno, anyone with half a brain?

“Uh, let me see if I can find something better than my old cardigan.” She turned to go into her bedroom, but he came up behind her and put a hand on her shoulder, gently turning her around.

“It’s fine,” he said. “It’s the least of my problems, believe me. What the hell am I going to do about that poor guy at the restaurant?”

“Uh…well, I…uh…” Blue eyes were filling her world, her universe. They were getting closer and closer. There was nothing else: no house, no living room, no cardigan, no dead guy.

She felt his lips on hers and she put her arms around him—she could hardly reach, his shoulders were so broad. Her mouth opened beneath his and his tongue touched hers, tentatively and then with more assurance, licking her teeth and nibbling her lower lip. She pulled and the cardigan was on the floor, and her hands were running across his fine chest, and…

(Dead guy, dead guy!)

…she yanked herself away. “Stop that! This is totally inappropriate!”

“Hey, you kissed me.”

“I did not!” Oh, wait. Maybe she did. “Well, it doesn’t matter. This isn’t the time or place.”

“I know. That’s why I didn’t kiss you. Although, I have to say,” he added cheerfully, “I’ve been dying to all night. But you’re right, this isn’t the right time. Bad, sweetie.”

“Oh, like you were really fighting it!”

“It seemed rude to give you the brush-off,” he said, sounding wounded. “You know, me being a guest in your home and all.”

“Well, never mind that. Let’s stay focused. Put your sweater back on.”

“I didn’t take it off,” he grumbled, but did as she asked.

“Let’s figure this out. We have to be back there in fourteen hours. So, if you didn’t kill the guy—”

“Charley Ferrin.”

She gasped. “You know him?”

“No, no.” He held his hands up, palm out. “Calm down, don’t have a coronary.”

“I’ll have one if I damn well please!”

“It’s not like that. Detective Hobbes told me his name. I swear, I have no idea who he is. The name meant nothing to me.”

“Okay, okay.” She forced herself to calm down. He was right, this was no time to burst a blood vessel. “So, if you didn’t do it, who did? Who had a motive and could do it quick, and avoid the cops, and stick you with a murder charge?”

“Honey, I got nothin’. I’ve been trying to figure it out all night. I was minding my own business, waiting for you, and the next thing I know, I’m wearing handcuffs. And not in a good way.”

She felt the blood rush to her face as she pictured him cuffed to her headboard. “All right. Did you overhear any arguments? See anybody fighting? Anything weird at all?”


“Come on. There must be something.”

He shook his head. “No. And no, and no. I told the cops all this already.”

“Well, now tell me,” she snapped.

“Don’t boss me!”

“I’ll boss you if I like! If it wasn’t for me, you’d still be rotting in jail!”

“The hell. My lawyer would have vouched for me.”

“Yeah, I could tell what a great job he did by the way it took him hours and hours to not show up.”


She had kissed him again. What was wrong with her?

“Not that I mind,” he gasped, extricating himself from her grip, “but, again, don’t you think this is a little inappropriate? Given the circumstances?”

She got up to pace. “Of course it’s inappropriate—it’s nine kinds of inappropriate! What the hell is wrong with me?”

He opened his mouth, but she beat him to the punch. “I’ll tell you, it’s this fucking holiday! It’s killing me! It’s making me act in ways I would never normally act! God, I hate it, I hate it, I hate Valentine’s Day!”

Here’s a scintillating peek at Sylvia Day’s

“Stolen Pleasures”

in her new anthology


Available February 2006 from Brava.

British West Indies, February 1813

H e’d stolen a bride.

Sebastian Blake gripped his knife with white-knuckled force and kept his face impassive. If the beauty in front of him was to be believed, he’d stolen his own bride.

He watched as her chin lifted with defiance and her dark eyes met his without fear. She was tall and slender with blond curls tumbling down from a once-stylish arrangement. Her lovely watered-silk dress was torn at the shoulder, revealing a tempting display of creamy breast. There was a sooty hand-print marring her flesh, and unable to stop himself, Sebastian reached out and rubbed the offending mark away with gentle strokes of his thumb. She stiffened and lifted her bound hands to knock his away. He met her gaze and held it.

“Tell me your name again,” he murmured, his hand tingling just from that simple contact with her satin skin.

She licked her bottom lip and his blood heated further. “My name is Olivia Blake, Countess of Merrick. My husband is Sebastian Blake, Earl of Merrick and future Marquis of Dunsmore.”

He lifted her hands and stared at her ring finger, noting his crest etched in the simple gold band she wore.

He scrubbed a hand over his face and turned away, striding to the nearest open window for a deep breath of salt-tinged air. Staring out at the water, he spied the debris from her ship bobbing in the waves. “Where is your husband, Lady Merrick?” he asked, keeping his back to her.

Hope tinged her voice. “He awaits me in London.”

“I see.” But he didn’t, not at all. “How long have you been married, my lady?”

“I fail to see—”

“How long?” he barked.

“Nearly two weeks.”

His chest expanded with a deep breath. “I remind you that we are in the West Indies, Lady Merrick. It is impossible that you were married only a fortnight ago. Your husband would not be able to await you in England if that were true.”

She was silent behind him and finally, he turned to face her again. It was a mistake to have done so. Her beauty hit him with the force of a fist in his gut.

“Would you care to explain?” he prodded, relieved he sounded so unaffected.

For the first time her bravado left her, her cheeks flushing with embarrassment. “We were married by proxy,” she confessed. “But I assure you, he will pay whatever ransom you desire despite the unusual circumstances of our marriage.”

Sebastian moved toward her. His calloused fingers caressed the elegant curve of her cheekbone and entwined in her hair. Her breath caught, and her lips parted in response to his gentle touch. “I’m certain he would pay a king’s ransom for beauty such as yours.”

Through the smoky smell that clung to her, he could detect the arousing scent of soft woman, warm and luxurious. He reached for the blade strapped to his thigh and withdrew it.

She flinched it away.

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