Authors: Complete Abandon
“I want to make love to you
. . .
“Here in the forest.” John’s voice was tempting, seductive, urging her to do what she oughtn’t.
“No, someone might come by. Someone might see us.”
“These woods are deserted. It will be fine.”
She glanced around. They were so isolated. They could . . .
No! What was she contemplating? They couldn’t!
He let go of her, guiding her so that she slid down his front, every titillated inch taking a leisurely trip across his anatomy. He unfastened her cloak and spread it on the grass. Pensively, she watched, not assisting or hindering him, not running off as she knew she should. He knelt and brushed the cloak flat, a smooth, inviting bed where they could romp and rollick. Then, he sat and held out his hand to her. She was so apprehensive, yet so excited, that she was paralyzed. If she joined him, she wouldn’t be able to contain her baser impulses.
“Come to me, Emma.” His ravishing eyes were beseeching, his smile beguiling her, luring her to her doom. He clasped her hand in his, his thumb tracing captivating circles in the center of her palm. “I won’t hurt you.”
Gently, he tugged on her wrist, and her knees buckling, she collapsed down. He reached out and petted her hair, her shoulder, his hand descending to her breast. He seized her nipple, squeezing the raised peak.
“What do you want from me, Em?”
There were dozens of potential answers she could give, from simple to difficult, from cheap to expensive. But what she said was, “I want you to touch me. All over. With your hands and your mouth . . .”
. . .
“A deliciously erotic romance . . . the story line grips the audience from the start until the final nude setting, as the lead characters are a dynamic couple battling for
. The suspense element adds tension, but the tale belongs to Sarah and Michael. Cheryl Holt turns up the heat with this enticing historical romance.”
“With her well-defined characters, even pacing, and heated love scenes, Holt makes an easy entry into the world of erotic romance . . . readers will enjoy
“Very well written . . . I would recommend it to those who like Thea Devine or the later books of Susan Johnson.”
Romance Reviews Today
“A very sensual novel in the manner of Susan Johnson . . . Holt does an excellent job of raising one’s temperature.”
Old Book Barn Gazette
“Cheryl Holt is a fresh new voice in historical romance that is truly delightful. Bravo!”
Affaire de Coeur
“The Wedding Night”
If you purchased this book without a cover you should be aware that this book is stolen property. It was reported as “unsold and destroyed” to the publisher, and neither the author nor the publisher has received any payment for this “stripped book.”
Copyright © 2003 by Cheryl Holt.
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews. For information address St. Martin’s Press, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010.
Printed in the United States of America
St. Martin’s Paperbacks edition / September 2003
St. Martin’s Paperbacks are published by St. Martin’s Press, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010.
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Wakefield, England, 1813
Fitzgerald left the groomed path that skirted Wakefield Manor. She rose on tiptoe and peeked through an open window into one of the lavish parlors. And what an eyeful she received! At ten o’clock in the morning!
Inside, a woman was reclined in the middle of the room, her body artfully draped across a fainting couch. She was buxom, striking, her lustrous auburn hair piled up on her head. Attired solely in a flimsy white robe that was loosely cinched at her waist, one of her breasts was completely exposed, the nipple large and attenuated. She sipped on a glass of wine—so early in the day!—clutching the stem of the ornate goblet, and swirling the contents round and round.
As she rolled to her side, her robe widened further to reveal her curved stomach, her shapely thighs, her long legs, her . . . her privates. Astoundingly, she had no hair down below, her nether lips smooth as a baby’s bottom.
“Oh, my goodness,” Emma murmured as she evaluated the lewd scene.
How—and why—would a woman do such a thing to herself?
Considering the stories circulating about John Clayton, Viscount Wakefield, and his dubious associates who’d ensconced themselves on the property, the extravagant
woman’s behavior was hardly surprising. But to have such an offensive, risqué episode so conspicuously displayed was reprehensible. Anyone might stroll by.
The degeneracy seemed beyond the pale, even for the notorious aristocrat.
The ravishing woman laughed, the sultry, feminine chortle billowing out, and Emma liked the sound. She paused, curious as to what was happening that had put the lady in such a playful mood. From the gossiping in the village, she’d anticipated that the mansion was inhabited by bossy, cantankerous snobs, so the spontaneous burst of merriment seemed peculiar.
She studied both directions, realizing that she was sheltered by the meander of the walkway and the shrubbery. If she dawdled, no one could see. Risk of discovery was slim, and a mischievous imp must have been egging her on, because she continued to observe, exhaustively examining every aspect of the indecent exhibition.
A man strutted into view. Partially clothed, he wore no shirt, but his lower torso was covered by tan pants and black riding boots. His back was to her, and entranced, she surreptitiously assessed his anatomy.
He was tall—at least six feet—and broad shouldered, but thin at the waist and hips. His arms were muscled and defined, and he had the countenance of a gentleman who utilized fencing or pugilism as a technique for keeping himself in commendable condition.
Whatever his mode of training, it worked. He had an amazing, manly physique that gave him an air of elegance.
He sauntered to the sideboard, converging on the spot where she was hidden, and she shrank into the foliage. With the angle of sun and shadow, she couldn’t be detected. Not that he was looking. He was too intent
on a beverage, and he reached for a crystal decanter and poured himself a glass of amber liquid, swilling it down in a quick gulp, then he poured another and drank it down, too.
Turning toward the window, he gazed across the lawn. His stance and nearness afforded her the ideal excuse to furtively spy, and spy she did. She was transfixed.
He was gorgeous. Nay, beyond gorgeous. Into the realm of godlike.
As though some deity had taken a special interest in his formation, his features were perfectly constructed, each bone and stretch of skin flawlessly situated for maximum effect. His hair was lush, blond, the color of ripened wheat, the type that made a woman eager to run her fingers through it. A few of the untamed locks dangled rakishly over his noble forehead and, as if he’d been too busy to have his valet render a necessary trimming, the back was too long and deliciously curled.
His eyes were blue and penetrating as the waters of the Mediterranean Sea were said to be. Not that she’d been to the Mediterranean, or would ever go, but she imagined that the shade was an exact match.
A tempting layer of hair coated his immense chest. It was a tad darker than the golden hair on his head, and it was matted in a thick pile across the top, then it narrowed to disappear into his trousers and masculine points below.
He tucked both hands behind his neck and stretched, and she was presented with a mesmerizing glimpse of the tufts of bristly hair under his arms, the bones of his rib cage.
As he arched out, the tightness of his pants was more noticeable, his powerful thighs splendidly delineated, his vital regions explicitly outlined. She could
make out ridge and contour, and there was certainly a great deal to investigate.
He shifted to the side, furnishing her with a profile of his John Thomas. It was larger now, having increased in length, probably from his contemplation of the nude beauty loitering behind him. In visible discomfort, he pushed the heel of his hand at the erect rod, striving to ease the constriction.
Hung like a racing horse
The crude phrase echoed past, and she blushed to the tips of her toes.
What was she doing, skulking and prying, while cogitating as to the genital size of the robust rogue? No doubt, he was about to participate in a tryst with the woman on the sofa, and Emma refused to watch.
In a temper, she reminded herself of why she’d come, of the righteousness of her mission. It had naught to do with the virile scoundrel, and she wouldn’t be dissuaded by him or the sordid spectacle that was about to unfold.
Annoyed with herself, she stepped away, and above her, she could make out the white shutters and trim, the gray bricks of the majestic mansion. It was perched on a hill so that its wealthy occupants could loftily stare down on the land and the poor inhabitants living below. In the July sunlight, the panes in the dozens of polished windows sparkled like diamonds.
She peered across the expanse of rear yard. Despite the current dour state of the local economy, the estate grounds didn’t look any the worse for wear. The bright green lawns were meticulously swathed, the gardens carefully pruned, the bushes and hedges painstakingly sheared, the flower beds weeded and arranged in eyecatching designs.
When people in the surrounding villages were struggling
so terribly, the flaunting of such blatant affluence made her furious.
In her fist, she clutched the eviction notices that had been sent to various acquaintances the previous day by the viscount. The ruthless missives had targeted widows and the elderly, those least inclined to self-sufficiency, those who were most in need and, in some perilous cases, who were owed lifetime compensation from the Clayton family.
Most of the recipients couldn’t read the horrid tidings. Seriously agitated, they’d rushed to the tiny, ramshackle cottage where she’d moved—with her disabled mother and younger sister—after her father had died and his housing and income allowances had been terminated.
Imploring her for information and encouragement, they’d come to her as they always had in the past, pleading for a reassurance she couldn’t give.
Why, she, herself, had received one of the spurious orders for displacement. After her father’s nearly half a century of dedication to the Wakefield district.
Had the viscount no shame? No sense of obligation or fealty?
Well, she wouldn’t submissively tolerate such abhorrent nonsense, particularly when it was being dished out by a pampered, rich, self-indulgent ne’er-do-well such as John Clayton. She’d once relinquished the roof over her head without a whimper of protest, and she wasn’t about to do so again. If the viscount was resolved to proceed, his edicts would not be implemented easily or peacefully.
Not if Emma Fitzgerald had anything to say about it.
With a fresh wave of ire and conviction shooting through her, she tried to picture him.
What would such a despicable lout be like?
“Majestic as an angel painted on a church ceiling,” the housekeeper’s sister had maintained.