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Beneath the prim and proper surface of the ton, intrigue and scandal was only a gossiping word away. For many men and women, the fear of ruin and worse accompanied them at all times. Some defied propriety, took hold of their happiness and hoped for the best.
Meet Ivo, Auberon, Ranulf and Ashley; prepared to defy convention to win their ladies. But are Serena, Arabella, Hermione and Adriana prepared to let them have it all their own ways? Of course not. For their partnerships were as unconventional as the ladies themselves.
Joanna Daniels is a widow who wants a father for her son. Tem Lovell is a widower hoping to find a mother for his children. They are perfect for each other except for one thing: she's a destitute English gentlewoman who is being courted by a wealthy lord, while Tem is a Gypsy laborer who lives hand-to-mouth.
As the ardor she shares with Tem grows stronger, Joanna is forced to decide between the financial security the cold and controlling lord can provide and the uncertainty of the open road coupled with the passionate love Tem feels for her—that is, if Tem is willing to take an English gentlewoman as his bride.
He lifted her as though she weighed no more than a small child and she twined her arms about his neck. He looked down at her and he moved as though to kiss her—oh God, how she wanted him to do so. But he pulled back, shaking his head slightly and the moment passed. He carried her to the door of her house, which he opened with one hand and brought her inside.
The door closed behind them, and Joanna reached up and brought his head down so his lips met her own.
Tem felt his blood heat as their lips touched. He had dreamed of this, but always believed it could be nothing but a dream. Could it be that she wanted him as he wanted her—or was she a wanton as his fellows had suggested?
He pulled his head back and studied her face. His very heart and soul cried out for her as much as his body, but he would not be a plaything, a casual amusement for a Gadji. He placed her gently on a sofa and knelt beside her as she reclined against the pillows. Her amber eyes and black lashes stood out against her milky pallor and some of her deep golden hair had escaped its tie and curled against her neck.
She reached out and took his hand. A flush crept into her cheeks. "Do you not want to kiss me?" He thought her voice shook slightly.
He could not keep himself from bringing her hand to his cheek for an instant, although he knew he should not. "I do not make love with every woman who wishes it, not even when I myself wish it. "
"Do you wish to make love to me?"
"With all my heart I do, but there is no future for us and I care far more for you already than I should."
She ran her fingers softly, tantalizingly, through his hair. "And I feel the same for you. I—I think of you so often. I so often have dreamed that you would touch me or kiss me. I long for it." She lowered her eyes as the flush on her cheeks turned darker and spread across her face, her neck. "We would harm no one."
He frowned and released her hand. "No one except ourselves, if indeed you feel as I do. I am already pained that I shall have to leave in a few days when our work is done here, perhaps sooner if Sir Edward does not pay as agreed. If you and I do what we wish to do, the pain of parting will be worse."
"I don't care," she cried. "I would willingly suffer later if that is the price I must pay."
Her lower lip trembled, and she bit it as though to still it. He could resist no longer, and he brought his lips hard against hers, his arms tight around her. He felt as though the floodgates controlling his pent-up desire for Joanna opened, and he drowned in his passion for her. He wanted nothing but to kiss her, to caress her, to love her in every way a man can love a woman.
Nolan and Alexandria fight their sexual attraction, but can't deny the pull of being mates, despite a serial murder investigation.
Nolan Littlebull is the alpha of the Wahpawhat pack of Werewolves and the lead detective on a series of murders of pregnant women from his pack. Torn between human justice and were justice, he travels deep onto the Yakama Reservation tracking the ones responsible. He is attacked by one of the rival pack, only to be defended by another from the rival pack.
Alexandria George is the healer for the Lupins. She defends the mysterious wolf in their territory from her pack's bully and escapes with the stranger.
Nolan and Alex face the complications of being mated and together they must find and identify the killer while facing an uncertain future.
"Thanks," he said, his voice muffled through the shirt. "For the rescue as well," he added quietly after pulling the shirt she had dug out from behind his dirty truck seat.
"You're welcome," she replied as she stepped off the truck's running board. "Lead me to my room. I'm exhausted and need my beauty rest." As she came around the front end of the truck, she smiled.
"From where I'm standing, you get plenty of that."
Her face heated as a blush crept along her cheekbones. "Thanks." She walked up the front steps to his two-story home. It looked like a phantom rising out of the ground. The windows reflected the mesmerizing moonlight and the glow made her think of stars in the predawn just before the sun rises to take away their backdrop.
He unlocked the door, opened it, and waited for her to precede him. Gentleman? Or the training of law enforcement to never have their backs turned to a criminal? She tried to read his mind, but he held it carefully blank.
"Main living area is upstairs. You keep going right as you get up the stairs, and the bathroom is at the end of the hall. The guest room is the last one on the left. My room's on the right if you need anything." Even his voice was neutral.
She looked at him curiously for a moment before heading to the bathroom. When she stepped under the shower's stream, she sighed in relief. Her skin itched and felt over tight from the dried gunk left on her skin and in her hair after the shape-shifting.
As she relaxed under the spray of warm water, pictures of her in the shower started playing through her head. She was washing her hair and lathering the soap across her breasts when Nolan arrived. Her belly quivered with lust which pooled, then spread as she envisioned him in there with her.
When her daydream reached the point of him entering, she realized it was his thoughts in her head. The fantasy abruptly stopped as if someone had switched the channel. She tried to feel annoyed that his fantasy had intruded on her quiet moment, but the heat in her abdomen kept her from lying to herself.
She wanted him as much as he wanted her. She was aware of his struggle to control his thoughts and appreciated the attempt at valor. However, she knew that a single, healthy man with a woman he found attractive using his shower was bound to have sensual thoughts.
She finished, dressed in the clothes provided by him, and walked out to the main living area. He stood by a large bay window, looking out at the mountain in the distance. He turned toward her slightly, then shifted his gaze back to the picturesque view.
"I'm sorry," he said quietly and with dignity. "I've always judged other men for how they seemed to objectify every woman they see. Then I go and do it with a woman in my protection. I'm aware that you saw what I was thinking. I—"
She put a finger on his lips. "I too have read men's thoughts regarding women. Regarding me. You tried to keep yours in check. We saved each other's lives. We're coming down off the adrenaline high of battle combined with the lust of our animal sides. It's natural and healthy for you to see me as desirable. It's also honorable of you to stop them when you realize what you're doing."
Nolan looked at her intently, and she could feel him in her mind probing her for truth. She thought he didn't even know he was doing it. It was probably a technique he had employed since childhood. She smiled at him and kissed him softly on the mouth.
From the cradle of human civilization comes the story of a woman caught between duty and desire; an erotic interpretation of the Epic of Gilgamesh.
Gilgamesh is the greatest warrior on earth. He has slain every enemy that has come against him. Many believe he is the physical embodiment of the Bull God. He rules as a king from the rich, walled city-state of Uruk. His body is uniquely flawless and his visage is fresh and wholly masculine. Yet he is troubled and this lends his countenance a scowl which nearly spoils his looks as much as it corrupts his demeanor. Since his rivals have all accepted vassalage he has no more battles to win. He has grown bored with matters of state. His mood has soured. Those he rules suffer most from his melancholy.
Stories come from the edges of his realm; tales of a wild-man that runs with the antelopes. Some say it is half man and half beast. Others posit it is a different kind of animal all together. He sends a newly acquired plaything to investigate and charges her to bring the mysterious creature to his court. Gilgamesh instructs her to seduce the beast with her voluptuous body. The tablet’s name her Samhat. This is her tale.
I stood alone in a darkened room for some while, my hands tied above my head. A rope was knotted among the laces of my wrist bindings. Appan-Il had seen to that. The cord had been tossed over a support beam above my head and pulled taut so that I was forced to stand on my toes. The High Priest had gazed on me longingly as he wound the slack about a copper cleat mounted in a cedar post in the corner of the chamber. When he left a dim light had been blazing in a large brazier. It quickly reduced to mere embers. I had been relieved of even the flimsy strip that covered my sex. I shivered in the blackness. My fate was unknown and a thousand and one horrors crept into my mind.
When Gilgamesh came he was not alone. On either side of him was a voluptuous, dusky skinned girl. His heavy arms draped about their waists, their silhouettes entered first, lit by the coruscating sconces in the passageway behind them. Once inside he tossed several hefty wedges of wood upon the copper fire pit and puffed life into the coals. The fragrant wood ignited, and the chamber was illuminated by leaping flames. As he did so, the girls crawled upon his sleeping mat with the fluidity of motion normally confined to felines. In fact, their eyes were heavily painted and very nearly resembled those of a cat. With long, slick, dark hair, the pair appeared very much alike.
"Ah yes, the girl who would tell her king how to conduct himself," Gilgamesh said softly as he stepped before me. "Don't think I have forgotten you. Were you a man I would have killed you on the spot for striking me."
I looked down to the floor, but Gilgamesh would not allow it. He placed a firm finger under my chin and titled my face up to gaze on him. I felt my cheeks burning with a blush, and I tried to turn away, but he held me transfixed.
Lady Vesta Chambers is accustomed to getting what she wants…and what she wants is Captain Hewett DeVere…
Coddled and pampered since her mother's death, Lady Vesta Chambers is beside herself when her father goes to London to prepare for her come-out and returns with a young bride of his own. With her world turned upside down, Vesta accompanies her godmother, Diana, to town where she is smitten the moment she lays eyes on a certain captain of the Seventeenth Light Dragoons.
But when the object of her passion has eyes for another…
Captain Hewett DeVere, younger brother and heir to Viscount Ludovic "The Devil" DeVere, has returned from the American war scarred, disillusioned, and looking forward to settling down to a quiet and respectable life. But when the handsome and straight-laced captain turns his eyes toward the widowed Diana, Vesta is prepared to take devilish measures to prove just how wrong he is.
And the Devil DeVere looks after his own…
Recruiting the aid of her godfather, Vesta vows to prove to Hew once and for all that she is no longer a little girl, but a woman with the passion of…a huntress.
While Vesta tried her best to keep her mare in step with Hew and Diana, she had to keep circling her mount that jigged and frothed with nervous energy. Laughing and chatting about some race Hew had once rode on Diana's horse, they seemed to hardly take any heed of Vesta at all. How dare Aunt Di monopolize him like this!
"Are you aright wi' the mare, miss?" Pratt asked her with solicitude not forthcoming from any other quarter.
"I am fine, Mister Pratt. It's just that she has been deprived of her normal gallop since leaving Yorkshire over a sennight ago. She is accustomed to frequent and vigorous exercise and can be a handful when denied."
Vesta continued to fume. Although she could handle her mare just fine, she wondered how they all would feel if some horrible accident befell her. They would both be sorry then!
That's it! Vesta couldn't believe the answer was right before her eyes. It only wanted the proper timing and a distraction for Pratt. Determined to put her plan into action, Vesta held back, letting the others ride farther ahead. When Pratt's head was turned, she saw her chance.
Whispering a prayer of supplication to her mama, her ever-diligent guardian angel, Vesta plucked out her hat pin and tossed the riding cap to the ground. "Oh dear, Mister Pratt," she exclaimed. "I've lost my favorite hat!"
"Ne'er fret, my lady," the elder jockey said, dropping to the ground with surprising agility. In that precious, desperate moment when he knelt to retrieve the hat, Vesta dropped her reins and spurred her mare.
Artemis, who never needed strong incentive to begin with, took off down Rotten Row like a bolt of dappled-gray lightning. Vesta hung over her mare's neck, clutching the mane as if fearing for her very life, but all the while whispering sweet endearments to her most cooperative conspirator. She knew it would be a mistake to look back. Instead, she urged and cooed and waited for the sound of thunder, for her knight in that lovely, crimson crested helmet to come to her rescue and prayed fervently that her savior would not be the grizzled, little Pratt.
When she saw Captain Hew's big bay stallion gaining on the right, Vesta once more thanked her watchful mama. Knowing he would try to grab the bridle to bring her horse to a halt, Vesta nudged the mare, urging more speed, with the cue of her left heel concealed by her voluminous and billowing petticoats. Her hair had fallen in a wind-whipped tangle about her face and neck. She felt the flush in her cheeks and her blood roaring with excitement. It was the most gloriously wild ride she'd ever had, and it was all she could do not to laugh aloud!
"Can you reach the reins," Captain Hew cried, coming upon her.
"No. I'm afraid!" Vesta whimpered.
They approached the entrance to Kensington Gardens with its myriad hedgerows. "Hell and the devil!" he exclaimed, surging forth, but still unable to claim the bridle. "Trust me, Vesta," he commanded. "Let go of the horse!"
Trust him? He was a god among mortals. She would trust him if he said she could fly! And that's exactly what she felt when he swept her off her horse and onto his own. Throwing her arms about him, Vesta burrowed into his neck and simply breathed in the heavenly essence of Captain Hewett DeVere.
Who can find a virtuous woman… Beautiful, respectable, and dutiful, Lady Diana Palmerston-Wriothesley, has long resigned herself to her twelve-year loveless and childless marriage to a feckless husband…until his gambling pushes them to the brink of financial ruin.
Sometimes the devil is in disguise…as a gentleman… Viscount Ludovic, "The Devil DeVere," is a man accustomed to taking what he wants, according to his whim and heedless of the cost…until he encounters a woman who won't be had at any price.
When dealing with the devil, it's easy to be burned… When Diana discovers a secret that shatters the carefully built façade concealing her private pain, she seeks aid and comfort from the most unlikely place…the devil's arms. But will a single night of heavenly passion damn them both forever?