Sir Duncan de Ware is a sworn champion of the common man and a master of disguise. So when he finds plucky maiden-in-distress Linet de Montfort facing off against a notorious pirate, noble Duncan goes undercover to come to her rescue, despite her insistence that she can take care of herself. When the pirate abducts her, Duncan and Linet are caught up in a breathless adventure of danger and romance on the high seas. And soon Linet realizes her only hope is to trust her mysterious hero—with her life and her heart.
Targeted Age Group:: All audiences
Heat/Violence Level: Heat Level 3 – PG-13
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
I grew up on tales of King Arthur and his noble knights. But I always wondered about medieval heroes who were more at home sporting a cloak and dagger than shining armor. Pitting that kind of hero against a spirited and independent woman of the merchant class was an irresistible challenge!
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
I loved the idea that Sir Duncan, who would one day inherit the de Ware holding, was keenly interested in the commoners who lived there, enough so that he would disguise himself in the style of "The Prince and the Pauper" to get to know his future subjects. For scrappy heroine Linet de Montfort, who was used to judging a book by its cover, Duncan represented everything her father had warned her about–and it was an engaging challenge to watch the snobbish merchant awaken to her own shortcomings and prejudices.
“You, Linet de Montfort,” Duncan said, “are afraid of me.”
Her mouth fell open, and for a moment she could think of nothing to say in her defense.
He shook his head. “You, who so boldly insulted El Gallo on the docks, who dared to confront Sombra himself, you’re afraid of a lowly beggar.”
“I’m not afraid,” she whispered in denial. Yet deep in her heart, she knew it was true.
“You cower from me. You pretend it’s disgust,” he announced with self-mocking arrogance, “but I hardly think—“
“I do find you disgusting,” she tried to convince him. But she couldn’t look him in the eyes with the lie, not while that wild black curl fell across his forehead, not while his eyes shone with blue mischief.
The last thing she expected was his roar of laughter.
“Oh, aye—disgusting! And what in particular do you find disgusting?” he inquired, closing in on her again.
She eased backward. Nothing about the beggar was disgusting. Everything about him was fascinating—fascinating and dangerous.
“My nose? My eyes?” His voice softened, luring her in even as she retreated across the barn. “My mouth?”
She started to take another step away, but a spade abandoned on the stable floor tripped her up, making her stumble backward. The beggar reached out for her elbow just in time to keep her upright. But by then her back was against the planking of the stable.
“Perhaps it’s my…touch that disgusts you,” he said.
She was trapped now, pinned between a wall and a man whose sheer, raw masculinity rivaled the wood for strength.
“Shall I show you,” he whispered, “how I kissed the crofter’s wife?”
“Nay.” She stiffened like a stick. Not a kiss—anything but a kiss, she thought, even as her lips tingled in anticipation. No matter what he did to her, no matter how her heart raced, she refused to bend beneath his onslaught.
“I placed my disgusting thighs here.” He stepped between her legs, nudging them apart with his knee until his body was pressed intimately against hers, leaving her breathless, leaving no doubt as to his desire. “Then I placed my vulgar arms thus.” With one hand, he trapped her wrists against the solid wall of his chest, slipping the other gently around her throat. His fingers were like Lucca silk against her skin as they slid up the side of her neck and tangled in the curls at the back of her head.
Her breath grew shallow. She dared not look at him.
“Then,” he breathed against the corner of her mouth, “I pressed my crude…lips…so.”
His mouth closed over hers as if she were a chalice of sweet wine, his tongue flicking lightly along the rim of her lips, tasting her, tempting her. She closed her eyes tightly, fighting her own desires, willing the embers glowing inside her to subside. But it was useless. His kiss stole the very thoughts from her brain.
For one brief moment, he withdrew, granting her respite from the chaotic emotions clouding her mind. For an instant, she could almost think.
Then he kissed her again. This time he embraced her completely, plundering her senses, devouring her with all the ardor of a starving man. Her blood rushed through her ears, as if he’d summoned it all the way from her toes. Every inch of her skin responded to his touch like iron filings awakening to a lodestone.
Even when he pulled away at last, when his thumb brushed her bottom lip, she felt the lingering molten heat of his kiss. She could no more silence the ragged sigh that slipped out between her teeth, the sigh that pleaded for more, than she could stop the tides.
She never meant to surrender. But once she felt the demand of his searching mouth, once the muscles of his body contoured themselves to her, all care ceased. She knew only that she wanted…something more.
Duncan knew what she wanted. And he fully intended to appease her. He released her hands—hands grown limp in his—to wrap one possessive arm around her back. Then, to his amazement, before he could muster his forces for another onslaught, the hungry little vixen threw herself with abandon against him, into a kiss of her own making. She crushed her breasts against his ribs and opened her mouth to him, exploring his shoulders, his face, his hair with frenzied hands.
And he lost control.
Never, never had it happened before. He’d made love to dozens of women, kissed scores more. God’s bones, the de Ware brothers were the envy of the barony when it came to seduction. But always he was in control. It was he who set the pace, planned each move, each word, and knew the moment of surrender. He always knew how far he could go and how to gracefully back away. Now, for the first time, he was utterly and completely powerless to stop himself.
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