SHE KNOWS HIS SECRET…
For Marie-Laure Vernet, serving as a scullery maid to a bored, aristocratic family isn’t without its dangers. Trying to avoid the unwelcome predations of the men and their guests is one. Keeping the china in one piece is another – especially when she finds herself serving Vicomte Joseph d’Auvers-Raimond. Only Marie-Laure knows that Joseph is also a smuggler of forbidden books who’d once fallen ill in her late father’s bookshop. That meeting led to an innocent flirtation, fueled by a shared passion for books and ideas, but it awakened desires that changed Marie-Laure forever.
HE SENSES HER DESIRE…
Joseph hasn’t forgotten the encounter either. His papers are littered with drafts of an erotic story about a girl who bears a distinct resemblance to the servant spilling his tea. While pleasuring the jaded women of the aristocracy, he’d pictured this girl with the coppery hair and the ink-stained fingers who could indulge both his intellect and his most feverish desires. Now, the only way to save her from becoming his family’s plaything is to seduce her first, and the lady seems extremely willing to comply…
ALL THEY CAN TRUST IS THEIR PASSION
In the shadow of the French Revolution, two lovers embark on a seduction that plunges them into the heart of the aristocracy’s most vindictive, carnal games, where white-hot desire is exceeded only by deception, betrayal – and murder…
In future years Marie-Laure would never be quite sure what had really happened during the next moments. Of course she’d recall it with vividness and clarity, joy and delight. But she’d never truly be able to separate perception from imagination or distinguish memory from surmise. For how could she possibly have experienced every astonishment, decoded every sign, interpreted every wonder of that first embrace?
He’d mumbled something when she opened the door and looked up into his dark eyes. Pardon me, Mademoiselle Vernet, I’ll explain all this later, was what she thought she heard; perhaps he’d also said something about “danger” or “protection.” But the only words she could be sure of were “Mademoiselle Vernet,” the only emotions she’d be able to swear to were giddy delight and delirious elation — silly, selfish relief and prideful vindication, in truth — that he hadn’t forgotten her name after all.
He wasn’t wearing his coat or waistcoat. She’d caught a quick glimpse of his hips and thighs in pearl-gray velvet breeches. The lights and darks of the velvet, illuminated by her flickering candle, revealed rather more than she was prepared to admit that she’d understood.
Nonsense, she’d think later. Of course she’d seen the bulge between his legs. After all, she wasn’t a child or a fool — the velvet was definitely stretched by the tumescent flesh beneath it. And even if she’d been embarrassed to bring it to consciousness upon first observation, there could be no doubt of what she’d felt a moment later, no mistaking the urgent press of him against her own hips and thighs. And no use pretending that she hadn’t been thrilled by it.
The weave of his linen shirt had grazed her chest and shoulders; his hand cradled her breast. She’d gasped with surprised recognition: somewhere, in some secret place at her center, she’d wanted his hands on her breasts ever since she’d watched him pile books onto Papa’s desk.
Was that the sound of cloth ripping? It was hard to discern behind the sound of her heartbeat and her breath, hard to concentrate with his mouth against hers, opening it, probing and teasing it with his tongue.
His other hand was tight at the small of her back. Well, it had been tight at first. Yes, she was sure of that. He’d held her closely — for a moment. And . . .she was pretty sure of what had happened next, almost certain that his hand had loosened, had become more adventurous. It had moved downward, slowly but confidently lingering over the curve of her buttock, while it gathered her skirt and petticoat out of the way. And as for where his hand was poised to go next, and where he might put his fingers.
She’d marvel, later on, that she hadn’t been shocked or frightened by how indecently he was touching her. But wasn’t she also caressing him under his shirt at the back of his waist? How could she take offense at his wandering hands, when her own hands were touching him everywhere she could reach? She could feel the ache starting up in her belly, the trembling, like that night in Montpellier.
Such a jumble, such a torrent of sensation. And such a mystery, for she couldn’t think how they’d come to be in each other’s arms in the first place. It didn’t seem quite accurate to say he’d “swept” her into his arms — or, for that matter, that she’d “rushed” into his embrace. If there had been a crucial gesture, a shy or importunate first touch, she couldn’t specify what it had been or who had made it. The embrace had simply — happened, like a bolt of summer lightning.
It ended just as quickly.
end of excerpt
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