Authors: Bronwen Evans
A Taste of Seduction
is a work of fiction. Names, places, and incidents either are products of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
A Loveswept eBook Original
Copyright Â© 2016 by Bronwen Evans
A Night of Forever
by Bronwen Evans copyright Â© 2016 by Bronwen Evans
All rights reserved.
Published in the United States by Loveswept, an imprint of Random House, a division of Penguin Random House LLC, New York.
is a registered trademark and the
colophon is a trademark of Penguin Random House LLC.
This book contains an excerpt from the forthcoming book
A Night of Forever
by Bronwen Evans. This excerpt has been set for this edition only and may not reflect the final content of the forthcoming edition.
Cover design: Carrie Divine/Seductive Designs
Cover photographs: Period Images (couple), FairytaleDesign (Malgorzata Patrzyk)/Depositphotos.com (background)
The shade of the weeping willows protected her from the heat of the afternoon sun, but nothing could cool Evangeline's blood. She fondled the note Stowe had given her half an hour ago. She'd never regretted saving the young stable boy from his brute of a father two years ago. Stowe worshiped her and was the key to keeping her relationship with Hadley a secret from her mother.
She reread the missive. Hadley wanted to see herâurgentlyâso she'd saddled Rosten, her dapple-gray gelding, and galloped straight to their usual meeting place.
“Urgently” could mean only one thing: he had news on their planned elopement.
Her nerves on edge, her body strung as taut as a bow, she had to use all her mental strength to sit patiently waiting for her love in their favorite spot under the willow tree in the paddock behind his stable.
Lord Hadley Fullerton, the second son of the Duke of Claymore, was prepared to defy Evangeline's mother, and his own family if need be, to make her his wife. Her heart burst with joy.
How had she got so lucky?
She'd met Hadley three years ago, when she was a young girl of sixteen. He'd been staying at his hunting lodge, which bordered her family's crumbling estate. She hadn't understood at the time, but the morning she stumbled upon him he'd been out drinking in the local tavern, as any young man of twenty-two would have been, and he'd ridden straight into a low-hanging branch, knocking himself off his horse. He'd fallen into a drunken sleep right where he'd landed on the path.
Evangeline had almost ridden over him. However, when she rolled him over, she'd thought him the most handsome man she'd ever clapped eyes upon, and when he'd woken up to find her cradling his head in her lap, he'd asked if she was an angel. That was the exact moment she'd fallen in love.
They had stayed in contact, writing to each other and seeing each other whenever he visited his hunting lodge, which was every month once she'd turned nineteen, a little over eight months ago. A neighbor, Sir Clifford, had held a small ball on her birthday, which her mother had allowed her to attend, and when Hadley danced with her, she'd known he was the one. Over the past eight months their relationship had strengthened and developed into something more grown-up.
grown-up. Sensual awareness flickered over her body. When Hadley kissed her she wanted to melt. Melt into him. She wanted to be claimed by him so badly, but like the gentleman he was, he refused to compromise her and was content to wait until they wed.
Finally she heard footsteps approaching, and she ran her hand over her hair, pinched her cheeks, and tugged the bodice of her gown lower. More than determined that she would not wait any longer to be made love to, she needed to look like a temptress. If the elopement was organized, then she wanted the first time Hadley made love to her to be here, beneath their tree, on the estate that would be their home, rather than in some coaching inn at Gretna Green.
The branches were swept aside and Hadley walked toward her. Her heart thrilled at the sight of him, while her thighs clenched in heightened anticipation. What would he feel like on top of her, in herâ¦.She waved her hand in front of her face, trying to quell her lustful hunger.
Upon seeing her, he lengthened his stride. He moved with a combination of polished elegance and raw virility that saw her body respond as if it had a mind of its own. Heat and moisture gathered at her womanly core, while his handsomeness stole her breath.
His smile turned sensual, as if he could read her thoughts and had already agreed that they no longer needed to wait.
He stopped before her, and she had to crane her neck to look up the long, muscled length of him. His light brown hair appeared darker in the shade, as did his blue eyes, which were an even deeper blue than normal, almost black-blue, full of heat and desire. He was endowed with a masculine beauty that startled at first glance. It was likely women would deny him nothing; God knew she couldn't.
But it wasn't his striking looks or his family's status that drew her to him. She could probably have married a title if she'd wanted to, and certainly a peer with more money. It was the man who had won her heart. He quite simply was the sweetest, most honorable, kindest, and cleverest man she'd ever met. He'd cared not a fig about her lack of dowry or her family's dire financial straits. He loved her exactly as she was: a little bit wild, mostly unconventional, and quite outspoken.
Despite her mother's doing her utmost to keep her locked away, parading her only when rich gentlemen came to call, she had found love on her terms, in the arms of a handsome man who would cherish herâeven though she was the penniless daughter of an almost bankrupt deceased earl.
She finally looked into his eyes. His gaze was fixed intently on her, the flare of heat turning his eyes the deepest of blues. She wished he'd say something, anything, but most of all she wished he'd tell her that the plan they had devised would work.
Finally he gave a slow smile that made her flush deepen. “I have my brother's blessing. He'll stand by our elopement and welcome you into our family.”
Her mouth dried as she felt the tears of joy well. The Duke of Claymore accepted her. “I knew I'd love your brother.”
“He even agreed to loan me the money for my vines. He recognizes that he owes me for all the times I took the beatings from Father when it should have been him.”
She winced recalling the stories Hadley had told her about his father's brutality. Why were men so cruel? Both Stowe's father and Hadley's father had seemed to take pleasure in hurting their children. She would never understand how any person could hurt a child, not to mention their own.
Hadley continued. “It will take a few years before the grapes produce enough high-quality wine to earn well, but when they do, we will never have to worry about money again. We won't be wealthy, but you won't want for most things.” He looked at her as if she were his whole world. “I can't believe you've given up the chance to take the
by storm. You could marry a man who could clothe you in silks, house you in a castle, and give you the biggest sapphires to match your eyes.”
“I don't want a big house, loads of jewels, or the most fashionable gownsâwell, maybe a bit of fashion,” she said jokingly. He smiled at her honesty. She reached out her hand and entwined her fingers with his. She pulled him down to sit next to her. “All I have dreamed of for the past three years is being your wife, your lover, and the mother of your childrenâour children.”
“You will be.”
She nodded, excitement building. “My mother would never openly object to our marriage if the Duke of Claymore gave us his blessing.”
“I'll do everything I can to try to help your younger brother keep the estate afloat until he's old enough to sort out your family's financial woes. Your mother will have to live very frugally, but she won't be thrown out on the street.”
She flung her arms around his neck and kissed him with all her heart. “Thank you. I feel a weight is lifted knowing I'm not abandoning my brother to the poorhouse. I almost felt obliged to marry one of Mother's men. Since it was Mother's gambling that saw us ruined, I will ensure that you hold the purse strings, so that there is an estate for Edward to run.”
“In three days we will elope to Gretna Green. I've organized to borrow Augustus's coach, and once we are married, my friend Lord Arend Aubury has loaned us his hunting lodge near York for a short honeymoon.”
She steeled herself against the hollowness in her chest. This was not how she envisaged her wedding, but if she ended up married to the man sitting next to her, she didn't really care how that occurred. She was the daughter of an earl, yet she had to sneak away as if in disgrace to wed the second son of a duke, all because of her mother's greed. If her mother had her way, she'd be sold off to the highest bidder.
At her quietness, he said, “You are not having second thoughts? You do love me?”
She cupped his face in her hands. She loved Hadley so much it was an ache inside her. Yet she could not help but think of Edward and the lean years ahead for him. “I hope Edward can forgive me.”
“When he's old enough he'll understand. He loves you. He wouldn't want you to be unhappy.”
She lay down in the cool moss, pulling Hadley with her. “Nothing would make me happier than being your wife. Well, maybe one thingâ¦make love to me, here, now.”
How was a man to deny such a sensual offer? His body burned to be buried deep within Evangeline. All his life he'd strived to be a better man than his brutal, scandal-ridden, and probably pox-riddled father; unlike his departed father, Hadley held his honor in high regard.
He'd sworn he'd claim her only when they married. He'd spent three years getting to know Evangeline, but the last eight months had been torture. She'd matured into a beautiful, sensual woman, but damn it all, he was nothing like his father, and he could wait a few days more and do this properlyâwhen she was his wife.
“I can't wait to make you my wife, but then and only then will I make love to you. I don't want anyone to accuse me of being dishonorable. We will be the subjects of gossip as it is, for eloping.”
His heart swelled with pride. This beautiful young woman had put her life, her heart, into his hands. He'd cherish her for the rest of his life.
An eager Evangeline pressed her soft curves against him. “Why must we wait?”
He inwardly smiled, his erection lengthening as she rubbed against him. “I want to do this right. I want your first time to be specialâin a bed, with your husband.” Since he was twenty-five, it was up to him to be the sensible one.
“I don't need a bed, only you. I have plans to marry only you.”
Her gaiety was infectious. Her laughter soothed his soul and sent tingles down his spine. He drew in a sharp breath as her fingers found his erection. She molded her palm to his length and rubbed. Over the last few months he had taught her too well.
He'd loved introducing her to passion. She gave herself freely and unreservedly. Her desire matched his own, and it was only through his determination and will of iron that he had not taken her maidenhood already. They had done everything but.
“Please,” she whispered in his ear. “I want to end this magical day with you inside me. To be claimed and loved by you. It won't be long until we escape to freedom, and then we will marry. I can't wait even that long.”
Her hand had worked its way through the placket of his trousers, and he gasped as her clever fingers wrapped round him. He drew back and looked into her eyes. They were brimming with loveâand desire.
“You tempt me so much,” he declared, and meant every word. How many nights had he twisted and turned in a fever, dreaming of lying above her, sliding deep within her, and claiming her forevermore. “I've waited over three yearsâI can wait another few days. Let me do the honorable thing.”
“Honor be damned. I want the first time I lie with you to be here, in our special place, in your gardenâour garden. I suspect that once we elope we will have to consummate the marriage at Gretna Green. I want to have the memory of you deep inside me, here, where we intend to live happily ever after. Please don't deny me that.”
Evangeline looked at him earnestly, and he understood her point. Every time they walked in their grounds, when their children and their grandchildren played here, they would remember this special spot and how they had marked their house, this land, with love.
With no further doubts he took her lips in a kiss meant to convey his desire to please her, to love herâalways.
They lay together under the willow tree at the end of the rose garden. No servants were about because he'd informed them to stay away. He didn't want anyone to see Evangeline visit. They had been sneaking visits, and while he knew his staff were loyal, he had to be careful, especially as her mother would try to stop them from eloping.
She wanted Evangeline to marry into wealth in order to save the estate for her younger brother, Edward. Hadley swallowed down his jealousy. She had the beauty, wit, and pedigree to do just that, yet she loved him.
She'd chosen him.
He had no idea what sums of money Evangeline's family required. Money, or more specifically lack of it, was the bane of his existence. If he had more money, he'd give her a dream wedding with the whole of the
at her feet.
What scared him was that, even without a dowry, she was beautiful enough to interest any man. She could have any man she wanted, even a duke. He still couldn't believe she wanted him. His conscience nagged him because she was still quite young. She hadn't had a season, either, so she had not had a chance to meet other men. Her mother couldn't afford a season, so instead she got invited to as many house parties as possible, so that she could shop her daughter through the pool of moneyed sharks. The urgency to elope vibrated through every bone in his body because he knew sharks didn't waste time before biting.
He couldn't help wondering if, in the future, she would think she'd made a mistake settling for him.
Her lips pressing at his throat made him refocus on the pleasure at hand. If he took her now, she'd have no choice but to wed him. He cursed his selfishness and rebuked the idea. It would have to be her choice.
“If I make love to you, you will have no option but to marry me.”
Her frown was instant. “Whom else would I marry?”
He sighed and pulled her against him. “You've not even had a season. If your family could afford it, you would take the
by storm and you could have your pick of suitors. You could become a duchess or countess orâ”
“I'd rather become Lady Hadley Fullerton.”
“How do you know, if you haven't met anyone else?”