Read an Extract
‘Stand and deliver.’
highwayman? They really said that? Sarah discovered
her mouth was open and shut it. The figure confronting
her was straight off any broadsheet telling the shocking stories
of Dick Turpin or “Hell” Hawley. A big,
ugly grey horse, a tricorne hat, a cloak thrown back over
his shoulders despite the heat and a black mask covering the
upper half his face.
She dragged Sir Jeremy’s string of pearls over her
head and held it out. He was welcome to them.
‘No, I don’t want those, sweetheart.’
His voice was amused, educated and deep: it seemed to resonate
at the base of her spine. A gentleman gone to the bad?
From somewhere she found her voice. ‘What do
you want then?’
‘One kiss and a little token to show for it.’
He urged the horse up alongside her mare and she realised
it was not just the horse that was big. She made herself
sit still and not flinch away.
And then she found she did not want to. ‘A kiss?’
He was clean-shaven, his teeth white as he smiled in the evening
light. The breeze brought her not the rank smell of
unwashed robber that she had been expecting, but the clean
odours of leather and citrus. ‘It is not gallant
to jest! You may have the pearls and welcome.’
‘No.’ He took the pearls in an ungloved
hand and dropped them back around her neck., holstered the
pistol and leaned towards her, doffing his hat. ‘I
do not jest.’
His hair was dark brown, over-long, waving from the pressure
of the hat. His eyes were green, shadowed by the mask,
and yet when he smiled she could just see the laughter lines
in the corners, the humour.
‘Just one kiss?’
He nodded as she bit her lip in indecision, his mouth curving
in a way that made her want to touch it. ‘If you
will grant it. I do not steal from women.’
What if she should kick her heels and send the mare plunging
past him? He leaned down and took the rein as though
he could read her mind. Sarah stared at him, wondering
why she did not scream. He really was a very strange
highwayman. And she was in a very strange mood.
She was conscious of her heart beat – that was trepidation,
no doubt – but what to make of the warm feeling low
in her belly or the fact that her lips were dry? Sarah
licked them and saw his eyes follow the movement.
‘Why have you a corn dolly in your buttonhole?’
‘A token from the donor of my second kiss. It is a
fertility symbol, I believe, but don’t worry, kisses
An interesting definition of harmless! ‘Very
well. I have nothing better to be doing this evening,
after all.’ She tipped up her face, turning her
cheek towards him and closing her eyes. And then she
felt his breath warm on her skin and realised he really was
only going to take what she offered and some madness seized
She opened her eyes and moved her head and met the hooded
green gaze and his mouth found hers. ‘Oh!’
As she gasped his tongue slid between her lips and his free
arm went around her shoulders and he lifted her against him
so she was standing in the stirrup while the kiss went on…and
on… and the warm evening world spun around her and
his heat and the questing invasion of his tongue filled her
senses and she gripped his lapels and touched her tongue to
his and thought she would faint with the intensity of it.
And then she was back in the saddle and they were looking
at each other as though the earth had just shifted beneath
them. He seemed to be breathing rather heavily.
She rather thought that if she did not loosen her stay-laces
that breathing would no longer be possible.
‘Madam,’ he said at last. ‘I must
thank you for giving me the most precious thing in your possession.
May I ask for a token, also?’
Sarah took hold of three or four hairs that had come down
from her topknot of curls, tugged them free and held them
out to him. He bowed slightly and curled them with care
around the corn dolly. He thought her kiss precious?
A highwayman’s opinion of her kiss was certainly more
acceptable than Sir Jeremy’s hypocritical valuation
of her virginity.
that is not the most precious thing I possess.’
The words left her lips without conscious thought.
‘It is not?’ The green eyes rested on her
‘No. I am a virgin.’
The grey tossed its head as though its rider had clenched
his hand on the reins. ‘Ma’am?’
She saw him swallow.
‘And that is something of a burden to me, just now,’