The Ravenels & The Hathaways
A woman who defies her time
Dr. Garrett Gibson, the only female physician in England, is as daring and independent as any man—why not take her pleasures like one? Yet she has never been tempted to embark on an affair, until now. Ethan Ransom, a former detective for Scotland Yard, is as gallant as he is secretive, a rumored assassin whose true loyalties are a mystery. For one exhilarating night, they give in to their potent attraction
Devil In Spring
An eccentric wallflower
Most debutantes dream of finding a husband. Lady Pandora Ravenel has different plans. The ambitious young beauty would much rather stay at home and plot out her new board game business than take part in the London Season. But one night at a glittering society ball, she’s ensnared in a scandal with a wickedly handsome stranger.
A cynical rake
After years of evading marital traps with ease, Gabriel, Lord St. Vincent, has finally been caught by a rebellious girl who couldn’t be less suitable. In fact, she wants nothing to do with him. But Gabriel finds the high-spirited Pandora irresistible. He’ll do whatever it takes to possess her, even if their marriage of convenience turns out to be the devil’s own bargain.
A perilous plot
After succumbing to Gabriel’s skilled and sensuous persuasion, Pandora agrees to become his bride. But soon she discovers that her entrepreneurial endeavors have accidentally involved her in a dangerous conspiracy—and only her husband can keep her safe. As Gabriel protects her from their unknown adversaries, they realize their devil’s bargain may just turn out to be a match made in heaven . .
A ruthless tycoon
Savage ambition has brought common-born Rhys Winterborne vast wealth and success. In business and beyond, Rhys gets exactly what he wants. And from the moment he meets the shy, aristocratic Lady Helen Ravenel, he is determined to possess her. If he must take her virtue to ensure she marries him, so much the better . . .
A sheltered beauty
Helen has had little contact with the glittering, cynical world of London society. Yet Rhys’s determined seduction awakens an intense mutual passion. Helen’s gentle upbringing belies a stubborn conviction that only she can tame her unruly husband. As Rhys’s enemies conspire against them, Helen must trust him with her darkest secret. The risks are unthinkable . . . the reward, a lifetime of incomparable bliss. And it all begins with…
Marrying Mr. Winterborne
A twist of fate
Devon Ravenel, London's most wickedly charming rake, has just inherited an earldom. But his powerful new rank in society comes with unwanted responsibilities...and more than a few surprises. His estate is saddled with debt, and the late earl's three innocent sisters are still occupying the house - along with Kathleen, Lady Trenear, a beautiful young widow whose sharp wit and determination are a match for Devon's own.
A clash of wills
Kathleen knows better than to trust a ruthless scoundrel like Devon. But the fiery attraction between them is impossible to deny - and from the first moment Devon holds her in his arms, he vows to do whatever it takes to possess her. As Kathleen finds herself yielding to his skillfully erotic seduction, only one question remains: Can she keep from surrendering her heart to the most dangerous man she's ever known?
Love In The Afternoon
New York Times Bestseller
Excerpt from Love In The Afternoon,
the 5th & final in the Hathaways Series
Captain Christopher Phelan has been corresponding with the beautiful golden-haired Prudence Mercer while he was away fighting in the Crimean War. What he doesn’t know, however, is that the woman who wrote to him is actually Prudence’s best friend, Beatrix Hathaway.
Upon his return home to Hampshire, it becomes clear that Christopher’s experiences in war have changed him. In this scene, Beatrix and Christopher argue over the dog he brought back with him, a regimental mascot named Albert . . .
When Christopher Phelan’s tall form entered the front receiving room, Beatrix was instantly covered with a nervous, full-bodied flush.
“Miss Hathaway,” Christopher said, bowing with meticulous politeness.
The dark smudges of sleeplessness beneath his eyes made him even more appealing, if that was possible, lending a human texture to the hard contours of his face.
Beatrix managed to pull up a casual smile. “Good morning, Captain Phelan.”
“Oh, is it?” She glanced over his shoulder at the mantel clock. Half-past twelve. “Good afternoon, then.”
One of his brows lifted. “Is there something I can do for you?”
“The reverse, I hope. I would like to keep Albert with me at Ramsay House while you are away to London.”
His eyes narrowed. “Why?”
“I want very much to help him adjust to his new life. Albert would receive the best of care, and I would work with him, train him . . .” Her voice faded as she saw his forbidding expression. It had not occurred to her that he might refuse her offer.
“Thank you, Miss Hathaway. But I think it in his best interests to remain here with my servants.”
“You . . . you doubt I could help him?” Beatrix managed to ask.
“The dog is excitable. He has need of absolute peace and quiet. I mean no offense in saying that the atmosphere at Ramsay House is too tumultuous for him.”
Her brows rushed downward. “I beg your pardon, Captain, but you are entirely wrong. That is the precisely the kind of environment Albert needs. You see, from a dog’s perspective—”
“I don’t need your advice.”
“Yes, you do,” Beatrix said impulsively. “How can you be so certain that you’re right? You could at least spare a moment to listen—I daresay I know more about dogs than you.”
Christopher skewered her with the hard stare of a man who was not accustomed to having his decisions questioned. “No doubt you do. But I know more about this one.”
“It’s time for you to leave, Miss Hathaway.”
Beatrix was filled with a surge of bitter disappointment mingled with outrage. “What do you think your servants will do with him in your absence?” she demanded, and rushed on before he could reply. “They’ll keep him shut away in a shed, or locked in a room, because they’re frightened of him, and that will make Albert even more of a danger. He’s angry and anxious and lonely. He doesn’t know what’s expected of him. He needs constant attention and care, and I’m the only person who has the time and the willingness to provide those things.”
“That dog has been my companion for two years,” Christopher snapped. “The last thing I would subject him to is that bedlam of a household. He doesn’t need chaos. He doesn’t need noise and confusion—”
He was interrupted by a explosion of wild barking, accompanied by an earsplitting metallic crash. Albert had come racing through the entrance hall and had crossed paths with a housemaid bearing a tray of polished silver flatware.
Beatrix caught a glimpse of forks and spoons scattering to the doorway, just before she was thrown bodily to the receiving room floor. The impact robbed her of breath.
Stunned, she found herself pinned to the carpet and covered by a heavy masculine weight.
Dazedly she tried to take in the situation. Christopher had jumped on her. His arms were around her head . . . he had instinctively moved to shelter her with his own body. They lay together in a confusion of limbs and disheveled garments and panting breaths.
Lifting his head, Christopher cast a wary glance at their surroundings. For a moment, the blank ferocity of his face frightened Beatrix. This, she realized, was how he had looked in battle. This was what his enemies had seen as he had cut them down.
Albert rushed toward them, baying furiously.
“No,” Beatrix said in a low tone, extending her arm to point at him. “Down.”
The dog’s barking flattened into a growl, and he slowly lowered to the floor. His gaze didn’t move from his master.
Beatrix turned her attention back to Christopher. He was gasping and swallowing, struggling to regain his wits. “Christopher,” she said carefully, but he didn’t seem to hear. At this moment, no words would reach him.
She slid her arms around him, one at his shoulders, the other at his waist. He was a large man, superbly fit, his powerful body trembling. A feeling of searing tenderness swept through her, and she let her fingers stroke the rigid nape of his neck.
Albert whined softly, watching the two of them.
Beyond Christopher’s shoulder, Beatrix glimpsed the housemaid standing uncertainly at the doorway, stray forks clutched in her hand.
Although Beatrix didn’t give a fig about appearances or scandal, she cared very much about shielding Christopher during a vulnerable moment. He would not want anyone to see him when he was not fully in command of himself.
“Leave us,” she said quietly.
“Yes, miss.” Gratefully the maid fled, closing the door behind her.
Beatrix returned her attention to Christopher, who didn’t seem to have noticed the exchange. Carefully she drew his head down and turned her cheek against his glinting amber hair. And she waited, letting him feel the even rhythm of her breathing.
The scent of him was clean, summery, like hot sun and saffron. Her eyes closed as she felt his body press along hers with intriguing firmness, his knees digging into the billowing mass of her skirts.
A minute passed, and another. For the rest of her life she would remember this, lying alone with him in a bright square of sunlight from the window . . . the delicious weight of him, the intimate heat of his breath collecting against her neck. I love you, she thought. I am madly, desperately, permanently in love with you.
His head lifted, and he looked down at her with bewildered gray eyes. “Beatrix.” His ragged whisper thrilled along her nerves. His hands cradled her head, long fingers weaving gently through her tumbled dark locks. “Have I hurt you?”
Beatrix’s stomach went tight. She shook her head, unable to speak. Oh, the way he was looking at her, really looking at her . . . this was the Christopher of her dreams. This was the man who had written to her. He was so caring, and real, and dazzling, that she wanted to weep.
“I thought . . .” Christopher broke off and drew his thumb over the hot surface of her cheek.
“I know,” she whispered, her nerves sparking in excitement at his touch.
“I didn’t mean to do that.”
His gaze went to her parted lips, lingering until she felt it like a caress. Her heart labored to supply blood to her nerveless limbs. Every breath caused her body to lift up against his, a teasing friction of firm flesh and clean, warm linen.
Beatrix was transfixed by the subtle changes in his face, the heightening color, the silver brightness of his eyes.
She wondered if he were going to kiss her.
And a single word flashed through her mind.
St. Martin’s Press, June 2010
Married By Morning
New York Times Bestseller
Except from Married By Morning, fourth in the Hathaways Series
Leo, Lord Ramsay, makes the unwelcome discovery that he and the other Hathaways may lose their beloved Ramsay House . . . unless he marries immediately and sires a son within a year . . .
“Leo,” Amelia said as Leo entered the breakfast room, “you have to get married.”
Leo gave her a warning glance. His sister knew better than to start a conversation with him so early. He preferred to ease his way into the day, whereas Amelia liked to fling herself at it full-tilt. Moreover, he’d slept badly the night before, plagued by erotic dreams involving Catherine Marks.
“You know I’ll never marry,” he said.
Marks’ voice came from the corner. She was perched on a small chair, a sunbeam glancing off her fair hair and causing dust motes to glitter around her. “Just as well, since no rational woman would have you.”
Leo took up the challenge without hesitation. “A rational woman . . .” he mused aloud. “I don’t believe I’ve ever met one of those.”
“How would you know if you did?” she asked. “You wouldn’t be interested in her character. You would be far too busy examining her . . . her . . .”
“Her what?” he prompted.
“Her dress measurements,” she finally said, and he laughed at her prudishness.
“Is it really so impossible for you to name ordinary body parts, Marks? Breasts, hips, legs–why is it indecent to talk about the human anatomy in a straightforward manner?”
Her eyes narrowed. “Because it leads to improper thoughts.”
Leo smirked at her. “Mine already are.”
“Well, mine aren’t,” she said. “And I would prefer them to remain that way.”
His brows lifted. “You don’t have improper thoughts?”
“But when you do, what are they?
She gave him an indignant glance.
“Have I ever been involved in your improper thoughts?” Leo persisted, causing her face to flame.
“I told you I didn’t have any,” she protested.
“No, you said ‘hardly ever.’ Which means one or two are rattling around in there.”
Amelia broke in. “Leo, stop tormenting Miss Marks.”
Leo barely heard her, his attention fixed on Catherine. “I wouldn’t think badly of you at all if you did,” he said. “In fact, I’d like you much better for it.”
“No doubt you would,” Catherine shot back. “You probably prefer women with no virtues at all.”
“Virtue in a woman is like pepper in the soup. A little makes for a nice seasoning. But overdo it, and no one wants very much of you.”
Clamping her mouth shut, Catherine pointedly looked away from him, putting an end to the rapid-paced argument.
In the silence, Leo became aware that the entire family was staring at him with collective bemusement.
“Have I done something?” he demanded. “What’s going on? And what the devil are you all reading?”
Amelia, Cam and Merripen had spread papers over the table, while Win and Beatrix appeared to be looking up words in a massive legal tome.
“A letter was just delivered from our London solicitor, Mr. Gadwick,” Merripen said. “It seems there are legal issues that weren’t made clear when you inherited the estate.”
“No surprise there,” Leo said. He went to the sideboard, where breakfast had been laid out. “The estate and title were tossed in my direction like used fish wrappings. Along with the Ramsay curse.”
“There is no Ramsay curse,” Amelia said.
“Oh?” Leo smiled darkly. “Then why did the last half-dozen Lord Ramsays die in quick succession?”
“Pure coincidence,” she replied. “Obviously that particular branch of the family was clumsy and inbred. It’s a common difficulty for bluebloods.”
“Well, we certainly don’t have that problem.” Leo returned his attention to Merripen. “Tell me about our legal issues. And use small words. I don’t like to think at this hour of the morning. It hurts.”
Looking none too happy, Merripen sat at the table. “This house,” he said, “and the parcel of land it stands on—about fourteen acres in total—were not part of the original Ramsay estate. It was added later. In legal terms, it’s a copyhold portion, which is a separate property within the main estate. And unlike the rest of the estate, the copyhold can be mortgaged, bought or sold at the will of the lord.”
“Good,” Leo said. “Since I’m the lord, and I don’t want to mortgage or sell anything, it’s all fine, isn’t it?”
“No?” Leo scowled. “According to the rules of entailment, the lord always retains his land and manor home. It’s non-partible. And nothing can change that.”
“That’s right,” Merripen said. “You are entitled to the ancient manor home. The one on the northwest corner of the estate where two streams meet.”
Leo set down his half-filled plate and stared at him blankly. “But that’s a pile of rubble covered with scrub. It was built at the time of Edward the Confessor, for God’s sake.”
“Yes,” Merripen said in a matter-of-fact tone. “That’s your true home.”
Becoming more and more irritated, Leo said, “I don’t want that bloody wreckage, I want this house. Why is there a problem with that?”
“May I tell him?” Beatrix asked eagerly. “I’ve looked up all the legal words, and I know it better than anyone.” She sat up with her pet ferret Dodger draped around her shoulders. “You see, Leo, the original manor home was left to ruin a few centuries ago. And one of the ancient Lord Ramsays acquired this fourteen-acre parcel and built a new home on it. Ever since then, Ramsay House has been handed down to each new viscount by special custom in the manor. But the last Lord Ramsay–the one just before you–found a way to leave all partible property, including the copyhold, to his widow and daughter. It’s called an award of enfranchisement, and it’s theirs for life. So Ramsay house and the fourteen acre parcel it stands upon have been left to the widow, Countess Ramsay, and her daughter Vanessa Darvin.”
Leo shook his head incredulously. “Why haven’t we learned of this before?”
Amelia answered in a glum tone. “It seems that the widow had no previous interest in the house, because it was a shambles. But now that it’s been restored so beautifully, she has informed our solicitor that she intends to move in and take possession.”
Leo was filled with outrage. “I’ll be damned if I’ll let anyone take Ramsay House from the Hathaways. If necessary, I’ll bring this to chancery at Westminster.”
Merripen pinched the corners of his eyes wearily. “Chancery won’t take it.”
“How do you know?”
“Our solicitor has talked to the copyhold specialist at his firm. Unfortunately there was never an entail placed on Ramsay House, only on the original manor home.”
“What about purchasing the copyhold from the widow?”
“She has already stated that no amount of money would induce her to part from it.”
“Women’s minds are frequently changed,” Leo said. “We’ll make her an offer.”
“Very well. But if she refuses to negotiate, there’s only one way for us to keep this house.”
“I can’t wait to hear this,” Leo said.
“The last Lord Ramsay made a provision that you would retain the copyhold, including the house, if you married and produced legitimate male issue within five years of ennoblement.”
“Why five years?”
Win answered gently. “Because in the last three decades, no Ramsay has managed to live longer than five years after receiving the title. Nor have any of them sired a legitimate son.”
“But the good news, Leo,” Beatrix said brightly, “is that it’s been four years since you became Lord Ramsay. If you can stay alive for just one more year, the family curse will be broken.”
“And furthermore,” Amelia added, “you have to marry and sire a son as soon as possible.”
Leo stared at them all blankly in the expectant silence. A disbelieving laugh escaped him. “You’re all mad if you think I’m going to be forced into a loveless marriage just so the family can continue living at Ramsay House.”
Coming forward with a placating smile, Win handed him a piece of paper. “Of course we would never want to force you into a loveless marriage, dear. But we have put together a list of prospective brides, all of them lovely girls. Won’t you take a glance and see if any of them appeals to you?”
Deciding to humor her, Leo looked down at the list. “Marietta Newbury?”
“Yes,” Amelia said. “What’s wrong with her?”
“I don’t like her teeth.”
“What about Isabella Charrington?”
“I don’t like her mother.”
“Lady Blossom Tremaine?”
“I don’t like her name.”
“Oh, for heaven’s sake, Leo, that’s not her fault.”
“I don’t care. I can’t have a wife named Blossom. Every night I would feel as if I were calling in one of the cows.” Leo lifted his gaze heavenward. “I might as well marry the first woman off the street. Why, I’d be better off with Marks.”
Everyone was silent.
Still tucked in the corner of the room, Catherine Marks looked up slowly as she realized that she was the focus of the Hathaways’ collective gaze. Her eyes turned huge behind the spectacles, and a tide of pink rushed over her face. “That is not amusing,” she said sharply.
“It’s the perfect solution,” Leo said, taking perverse satisfaction in annoying her. “We argue all the time. We can’t stand each other. It’s like we’re already married.”
Catherine sprang to her feet, staring at him in outrage. “I would never consent to marry you.”
“Good, because I wasn’t asking. I was only making a point.”
“Do not use me to make a point!” She fled the room, while Leo stared after her.
Tempt Me At Twilight
New York Times Bestseller
Poppy Hathaway loves her unconventional family, though she longs for normalcy. Then fate leads to a meeting with Harry Rutledge, an enigmatic hotel owner and inventor with wealth, power, and a dangerous hidden life. When their flirtation compromises her own reputation, Poppy shocks everyone by accepting his proposal—only to find that her new husband offers his passion, but not his trust.
Harry was willing to do anything to win Poppy—except to open his heart. All his life, he has held the world at arm’s length…but the sharp, beguiling Poppy demands to be his wife in every way that matters. Still, as desire grows between them, an enemy lurks in the shadows. Now if Harry wants to keep Poppy by his side, he must forge a true union of body and soul, once and for all…in Tempt Me at Twilight, the third book in Lisa Kleypas’s Victorian romance series.
This is an excerpt from “Tempt Me at Twilight” the third in the Hathaways Series:
Poppy Hathaway, who has always longed for a normal, ordinary life, has been abandoned by her true love, Michael Bayning. Caught up in scandal, she has only one way out– to marry Harry Rutledge, a handsome and mysterious hotel owner. But Harry is a man of many secrets, and eventually Poppy faces a heartwrenching question: What does a heroine do when she ends up married to the villain?
In this scene, Harry endeavors to persuade Poppy to marry him.
“You are persistent,” Poppy said as they walked through the rose garden behind the hotel. “They told me you would be.”
“I’m everything they told you and worse,” Harry said without hesitation. “But what they didn’t tell you is that you are the most desirable and fascinating woman I’ve ever met, and I would do anything to have you.”
It was insanely flattering to have a man like Harry Rutledge pursuing her, especially after the hurt inflicted by Michael Bayning. Poppy flushed with cheek-stinging pleasure, as if she’d been lying too long in the sun. She found herself thinking, Perhaps I’ll consider it, just for a moment, in a purely hypothetical sense. Harry Rutledge and me . . .
“I have questions,” she said.
Poppy decided to be blunt. “Are you dangerous? Everyone says you are.”
“To you? No.”
Harry shrugged casually. “The most valuable commodity in the world is information . . . and I have a lot of it. I suppose that could be considered dangerous.”
“You garner that information at your hotel?”
“And you propose to have a family in such an environment? Do you want children?”
“Yes, and yes.”
Poppy gave him a dubious glance. “Would you have any time for them? For . . . us?”
“As a man who resides and works in the same place,” he pointed out, “I would be at my wife’s beck and call.”
“Or she at yours,” Poppy said.
He smiled slightly. “Touché. Let’s say it would be a convenient arrangement for both sides.”
“Would you ever use physical force against your wife?”
“No.” His answer was gratifyingly immediate, the syllable roughened as if the very notion offended him.
“Would you keep your wedding vows?”
Harry held her gaze, his green eyes steady. “I wouldn’t make them otherwise.”
Poppy decided that her family’s worries about letting her talk to Harry had been entirely justified. Because he was so persuasive and appealing that she found herself beginning to seriously consider the idea of marrying him
It occurred to her that she was not the only one taking a risk. There was no guarantee for Harry that he would end up with the kind of wife he needed.
“It’s not fair for me to ask all the questions,” she told him. “You must have some as well.”
“No, I’ve already decided that I want you.”
Poppy couldn’t prevent a bemused laugh. “Do you make all your decisions so impulsively?”
“Not usually. But I know when to trust my instincts.”
It seemed Harry was about to add something else, when he saw a movement on the ground from the periphery of his vision. Following his gaze, Poppy saw her sister’s pet hedgehog Medusa pushing her way through the rose arbor, waddling innocently across the path. The little brown and white creature looked like a walking scrub brush. To Poppy’s surprise, Harry lowered to his haunches to retrieve her.
“Don’t touch her,” Poppy warned. “She’ll roll into a ball and sink her quills into you.”
But Harry settled his hands on the ground, palms up, on either side of the inquisitive hedgehog. “Hello, Medusa,” he murmured, gently working his hands beneath her. “Sorry to interrupt your exercise. But believe me, you don’t want to run into any of my gardeners.”
Poppy watched incredulously as Medusa relaxed and settled willingly into the warm masculine hands. Her spines flattened, and she let him lift and turn her so she was tummy-upward. Harry stroked the soft white fur of her underbelly, while Medusa’s delicate snout lifted, and she regarded him with her perpetual smile.
“I’ve never seen anyone except Beatrix handle her like that,” Poppy said, standing beside him. “You have experience with hedgehogs?”
“No.” Harry slanted a smile at her. “But I have some experience with prickly females.”
“Excuse me,” Beatrix’s voice interrupted them, and she came beneath the rose arbor. She was disheveled, bits of leaves clinging to her dress, her hair straggling over her face. “I seem to have lost track of . . . oh, there you are, Medusa!” She broke into a grin as she saw Harry cradling the hedgehog in his hands. “You can trust a man who can handle a hedgehog, that’s what I always say.”
“Do you?” Poppy asked dryly. “I’ve never heard you say that.”
“I only say it to Medusa.”
Harry carefully transferred the pet to Beatrix’s hands. “‘The fox has many tricks,’” he quoted, “‘the hedgehog only one.’” He smiled at Beatrix as he added, “But it’s a good one.”
“Archilochus,” Beatrix said promptly. “You read Greek poetry, Mr. Rutledge?”
“Not usually. But I make an exception for Archilochus. He knew how to make a point.”
“Father used to call him a ‘raging iambic,’” Poppy said, and Harry laughed.
And in that moment, Poppy made her decision.
Because even though Harry Rutledge had his flaws, a man who could charm a hedgehog and understand jokes about ancient Greek poets was a man worth taking a risk on.
She wouldn’t be able to marry for love, but she could at least marry for hope.
“Bea,” she murmured, “might you allow us a few moments alone?”
“Certainly. Medusa would love to grub about for worms in the next row.”
“Thank you, dear.” Poppy turned back to Harry, who was dusting his hands. “May I ask one more question?”
He looked at her alertly and spread his hands as if to show he had nothing to hide.
“Would you say that you’re a good man, Harry?”
He had to think about that. “No,” he finally said. “In the fairy tale you mentioned last night . . . I would probably be the villain. But it’s possible the villain would treat you far better than the prince would have.”
Poppy wondered what was wrong with her, that she should be amused rather than frightened by his confession. “Harry. You’re not supposed to court a girl by telling her you’re the villain.”
He gave her an innocent glance that didn’t deceive her in the least. “I’m trying to be honest.”
“Perhaps. But you’re also making certain that whatever anyone says about you, you’ve already admitted it. Now you’ve made all criticism of you ineffectual.”
Harry’s expression changed, and he blinked as if she’d surprised him. “You think I’m that manipulative?”
Harry seemed stunned that she could see through him so easily. But instead of being annoyed, he stared at her with stark longing. “Poppy, I have to have you.”
Reaching her in two steps, he took her into his arms.
. . .
Seduce Me At Sunrise
New York Times Bestseller
Kev Merripen has longed for the beautiful, well-bred Winnifred Hathaway ever since her family rescued him from the brink of death when he was just a boy. But this handsome Gypsy is a man of mysterious origins―and he fears that the darkness of his past could crush delicate, luminous Win. So Kev refuses to submit to temptation…and before long Win is torn from him by a devastating twist of fate.
Then, Win returns to England…only to find that Kev has hardened into a man who will deny love at all costs. Meantime, an attractive, seductive suitor has set his sights on Win. It’s now or never for Kev to make his move. But first, he must confront a dangerous secret about his destiny―or risk losing the only woman he has lived for…in Seduce Me at Sunrise, the second book in the Hathaways series by beloved author Lisa Kleypas.
Mine Till Midnight
New York Times Bestseller
In this excerpt of my first book in the Hathaways Series, “Mine Til Midnight”, Cam Rohan, the sexy half-gypsy from “Devil In Winter” saves Miss Amelia Hathaway from the thing she fears most . . .
Anxious to demonstrate her competence, Amelia strode to the other window and began jerking at the closed draperies. “Thank you, Mr. Rohan, but as you can see, I have the situation well in hand.”
“I think I’ll stay. Having just stopped you from falling through one window, I’d hate for you to go out the other.”
“I won’t. I’ll be fine. I have everything under–” She tugged harder, and the rod clattered to the floor, just as the other hand done. But unlike the other curtain, which had been lined with aged velvet, this one was lined with some kind of shimmering rippling fabric, some kind of—
Amelia froze in horror. The underside of the curtain was covered with bees. Bees. Hundreds, no, thousands of them, their iridescent wings beating in an angry relentless hum. They lifted in a mass from the crumpled velvet, while more flew from a crevice in the wall, where an enormous hive simmered. The insects swarmed like tongues of flame around Amelia’s paralyzed form.
She felt the blood drain from her face. “Oh God–” “Don’t move.” Cam Rohan’s voice was astonishingly calm. “Don’t swat at them.”
She had never known such primal fear, welling up from beneath her skin, leaking through every pore. No part of her body seemed to be under her control. The air was boiling with them, bees and more bees.
It was not going to be a pleasant way to die. Closing her eyes tightly, Amelia willed herself to be still, when every muscle strained and screamed for action. The air moved in sinuous patterns around her, tiny bodies touching her sleeves, hands, shoulders.
“They’re more afraid of you than you are of them,” she heard Rohan say.
Amelia highly doubted that. “These are not f-frightened bees.” Her voice didn’t sound like her own. “These are f-furious bees.”
“They do seem a bit annoyed,” Rohan conceded, approaching her slowly. “It could be the dress you’re wearing–they tend not to like dark colors.” A short pause. “Or it could be the fact that you just ripped down half their hive.”
“If you h-have the nerve to be amused by this—” She broke off and covered her face with her hands, trembling all over.
His soothing voice undercut the buzzing around them. “Be still. Everything’s fine. I’m right here with you.”
“Take me away,” she whispered desperately. Her heart was pounding too hard, making her bones shake, driving every coherent thought from her head. She felt him brush a few inquisitive insects from her hair and back. His arms went around her, his shoulder hard beneath her cheek.
“I will, sweetheart. Put your arms around my neck.”
She groped for him blindly, feeling sick and weak and disoriented. The flat muscles at the back of his neck shifted as he bent toward her, gathering her up as easily as if she were a child. “There,” he murmured. “I’ve got you.” Her feet left the floor, and she was floating and cradled at the same time. Turning her face into his shoulder, she let him carry her.
His breath fell in a warm, even rhythm on the curve of her cheek. “Some people think of the bee as a sacred insect,” he told her. “Its presence in your home is a sign of good things to come.”
Her voice was buried in the fine wool of his coat. “Wh-what does it mean if there are thousands of bees in one’s home?”
He shifted her higher in his arms, his lips curving gently against the cold rim of her ear. “Probably that we’ll have plenty of honey for tea-time. We’re going through the doorway now. In a moment I’m going to set you on your feet.”
Amelia kept her face against him, her fingertips digging into the layers of his clothes. “Are they following?”
“No. They want to stay near the hive. Their main concern is to protect the queen from predators.”
“She has nothing to fear from me!” There was a catch of laughter in his throat. With extreme care, he lowered Amelia’s feet to the floor. Keeping one arm around her, he reached with the other to close the door. “There. We’re out of the room. You’re safe.” His hand passed over her hair. “You can open your eyes now.”
Clutching the lapels of his coat, Amelia waited for a feeling of relief that didn’t come. Her heart was racing too hard, too fast. Her chest ached from the strain of her breathing. Her lashes lifted, but all she could see was a shower of sparks.
“Amelia . . . easy. You’re all right.” His hands chased the shivers that ran up and down her back. “Slow down, sweetheart.”
She couldn’t. Her lungs were about to burst. No matter how hard she worked, she couldn’t get enough air. Bees . . . the sound of buzzing was still in her ears. The sparks danced and collided, and when they faded there was nothing around her but layers of gray softness. She sank into the quiet billows without a sound.
After what could have been a minute or an hour, pleasant sensations filtered through the haze. A tender pressure moved over her forehead. The gentle brushes touched her eyelids, slid to her cheeks. Strong arms held her against a comfortingly hard surface, while a clean, salt-edged scent tickled her nostrils. Her lashes fluttered, and she turned into the warmth with confused pleasure.
“There you are,” came a low murmur.
Opening her eyes, Amelia saw Cam Rohan’s face above her. They were on the hallway floor–he was holding her in his lap. As if the situation weren’t mortifying enough, the front of her bodice was gaping, and her corset was unhooked. Only her crumpled chemise was left to cover her chest.
Amelia stiffened. Until that moment, she had never known there was a feeling beyond embarrassment, that made one wish one could crumble into a pile of ashes. “My . . . my dress . . .”
“You weren’t breathing well. I thought it best to loosen your corset.”
“I’ve never fainted before,” she said groggily, struggling to sit up.
“You were frightened.” His hand came to the center of her chest, gently pressing her back down. “Rest another minute.” His gaze moved over her pale features. “I think we can conclude you’re not fond of bees.”
“I’ve hated them ever since I was seven.”
“I was playing out-of-doors with Win and Leo, and I stumbled too close to a rose bush. A bee flew at my face and stung me right here.” She touched a spot just below her right eye, high on the crest of her cheek. “The side of my face swelled until my eye closed . . . I couldn’t see from it for almost two weeks—”
His fingertips smoothed over her cheek as if to soothe the long-ago injury.
“—and my brother and sister called me Cyclops.” She watched him struggle not to smile. “They still do, whenever a bee flies too near.”
He regarded her with friendly sympathy. “Everyone’s afraid of something.”
“What are you afraid of?”
“Ceilings and walls, mostly.”
She stared at him in puzzlement, her thoughts still coursing too slowly. “You mean . . . you would rather live outside like a wild creature?”
“Yes, that’s what I mean. Have you ever slept outside before?”
“On the ground?”
Her bewildered tone made him grin. “On a pallet beside a fire.”
Amelia tried to imagine it, lying undefended on the hard ground, at the mercy of every creature that crawled, crept or flew. “I don’t think I could fall asleep that way.”
She felt his hand playing slowly in the loose locks of her hair. “You could.” His voice was soft. “I would help you.”
. . . .