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Authors: Nicole Jordan

Tags: #Fiction, #Romance, #Romance: Historical, #General, #Historical, #Fiction - Romance, #Romance - General

Velvet Embrace

BOOK: Velvet Embrace
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SWEET SEDUCTION

Brie stared at Dominic, her heart pounding in her throat. The flickering firelight accented the hard masculinity of his carved features.

His thumb swirled lazily against her palm. "You know I want you," he murmured, his voice low and caressing.

The husky tone sent shivers up Brie's spine. She wanted to look away, to break the spell he was weaving around her, but her eyes seemed to be locked with his. Mesmerized, she nodded wordlessly.

Dominic reached up to stroke her cheek. His touch left her breathless, and when his gaze settled on her lips, Brie found
herself
unable to move.

Taking his time, Dominic ran his fingers through the burnished flame of her hair. Then, cradling the back of her head, he drew her closer. His lips touched hers softly at first, in a tantalizing butterfly kiss, and her token resistance soon faded beneath his gentle persuasion.

She felt herself losing all sense of reality, yet all her senses seemed infinitely sharper. She pressed closer against his hard, lean body, wanting something more from him but unable to name what it was . . .

ZEBRA BOOKS

are
published by

Kensington Publishing Corp.

475 Park Avenue South

New York, NY 10016

Copyright © 1987 by Anne
Bushyhead

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any means without the prior written consent of the Publisher, excepting brief quotes used in reviews.

First printing: June 1987

Printed in the United States of America

CLS 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

 

To Candy and Vickie for the stars;

To Loretta for the rarest of wines;

To Paula and Marcy for the music;

And most of all,

To Jay for the romance.

Prologue
Chapter One
Chapter Two
Chapter Three
Chapter Four
Chapter Five
Chapter Six
Chapter Seven
Chapter Eight
Chapter Nine
Chapter Ten
Chapter Eleven
Chapter Twelve
Chapter Thirteen
Chapter Fourteen
Chapter Fifteen
Chapter Seventeen
Chapter Eighteen
Chapter Nineteen
Chapter Twenty
Epilogue
Prologue

France, 1792

Although the fire in the grate burned steadily, its flickering light presented only a feeble challenge to the deepening shadows of the bedchamber. No candles had been lit to ward off the approaching dusk, nor had the velvet hangings of the windows been drawn against the night air.

Suzanne Durham failed to notice the increasing gloom, however, as she knelt before the hearth. Such things hardly mattered when her safe, serene world had shattered like fragile crystal in the space of a few days. Dead! Her mother was dead. And now it seemed her father's desire for revenge would result in another life lost. At the very least there would be bloodshed if a due!
took
place in the morning. Yet there must be a way to prevent it from happening!

Suzanne bent her dark head and clasped her hands, but she found herself unable to pray. Apprehension overshadowed even her grief as she remembered her father's rage that afternoon. Shivering as if the warmth of the fire were insufficient, she drew her shawl more closely about her slender shoulders. When a log became dislodged and crashed in the grate, she started violently and stared at the exploding shower of sparks. Then rising, she began to pace the floor, her black
silk skirts rustling with each agitated step.

She paused from time to time, tilting her head to one side to listen intently. Where in God's name was Katherine? Would she never come? Together they might think of a way to avert the impending duel and thus prevent another tragic death.

At last Suzanne heard the anticipated footsteps. When the chamber door opened, she gave a sob. "Katherine!" she cried, flinging herself into the arms of the middle-aged woman who entered. "Where have you been? I have been worried to distraction, not knowing where you or Papa had gone."

Katherine pulled back, frowning. "Suzanne, please. This behavior is unbecoming." Her efficient gaze swept quickly around the room. "Why, whatever are you doing alone in the dark? Come, my dear, sit down."

Not waiting for a reply, she led Suzanne to a chair, then busied herself lighting the candles and removing her cloak. When she finally turned to the young woman, though, Katherine paused. Seeing Suzanne's pinched, white face, she felt compassion wring her heart. The girl was so young, so innocent. Certainly she didn't deserve to suffer such anguish.

Coming to stand before her, Katherine took Suzanne's chilled hands in her own. "My dear, we must talk. I fear what I have to say will come as a shock to you so soon after losing your mother. However . . ." She hesitated, gazing at the beautiful young face. "However, I must return to England. All the arrangements have been made. The coach leaves in a few hours. I should reach Calais by—."

"You cannot mean it," Suzanne protested, her dark eyes widening in fear. "You mustn't leave me, Katherine. I need you."

Katherine attempted to smile. "I know, my dear. But there is no possibility of my staying. Sir Charles—"

"What has Papa done? Don't tell me he has dismissed you. He cannot. I won't allow it."

Gripping the girl's hands, Katherine gave them a little shake. "Suzanne, you are behaving hysterically. Now listen to
me, I beg you. Permit me to speak without interruption. This is difficult enough, so please do not make it any harder for me."

When Suzanne bowed her head submissively, Katherine continued with her usual briskness, although her tone held deep regret. "Yes, I have been given my notice. But Sir Charles was correct in his actions. You will return to school shortly and will have no need of me. The fact remains, however, that I am not fit to chaperon you. I was negligent in my duty to your
mother,
I will be the first to admit. As
Lisette's
companion, I was the one closest to her. Had I . . . had I been more on my guard, she would still be alive today."

Suzanne looked up in bewilderment. "How can you say that? You could no more have stopped Mamma than you could have commanded a butterfly to be still. I loved her, Katherine, but I wasn't blind to her failings. She was beautiful, but so very temperamental. If you must find fault, then blame my father. He was the one forever dashing about the continent, leaving poor Mamma alone. Why, he barely arrived in time for her funeral yesterday! Don't look so shocked. I am no longer a child. I can see things clearly. And now," Suzanne added bitterly, "now Papa has dismissed you, all because of Mamma's stupid letter. Heaven only knows what he intends for the
comte
!"

At the mention of the letter, Katherine's face drained of all color, her aging skin appearing harsh against the starkness of her black gown. "Dear God," she breathed. "How do you know about the letter?"

Freeing her hands, Suzanne rose and resumed her pacing. "I was outside the study this afternoon when you and Papa were arguing. After you left, Papa discovered me behind the stairs where I had hidden. He started shouting at me, brandishing the letter in my face, demanding to know if you had shown it to me. That was nonsense, of course—you never even mentioned it. Papa was hardly coherent, but I gathered somehow he thought Monsieur Philippe responsible for Mamma's death. Oh, Katie, it was horrible! Papa kept saying over and over again that the
Comte de
Valdois
was a murderer who had defiled the Durham honor. And then . . . then I said things I should not have said. I told Papa he was mad, that the
comte
would never have hurt Mamma. Papa was furious when I defended Philippe. I couldn't stop him from storming out of the house."

BOOK: Velvet Embrace
3.88Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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