Read an Extract
The Dangerous Mr Ryder
No one had told him that she was beautiful. Jack Ryder crouched precariously in a stone window embrasure two hundred feet above the ravine river bed and stared into the candlelit room. Inside, the woman he had been sent to find paced to and fro like an angry cat.
It was definitely time to get off this window ledge. He grasped the frame, put his feet through and swung himself down into the room. There was no way he could land silently, not dropping eight foot onto a stone-flagged floor in nailed boots. She spun round on her chair, gripping the back of it, her face reflecting the gamut of emotions from shock, puzzlement, fear and finally, he was impressed to see, imperious anger masking all else. They had not told him about her courage.
‘Who the devil are you?’ she demanded in unaccented English, getting to her feet with perfect deportment, as though rising from a throne. Her right hand, Jack noted, was behind her; he searched his memory for his survey of the room. Ah, yes, the paperknife. A resourceful lady.
‘You speak English excellently,’ he commented. He knew from his briefing that she was half-English, so it was only to be expected, but it was a more tactful beginning to their conversation than Put down that knife before I make you! might be. ‘But how did you know that I would understand you?’
She looked down her nose at him. Jack registered dark eyes, thinly elegant eyebrows arched in distain, a red mouth with a fullness that betrayed more passion than she was perhaps comfortable with and one deep brown curl, disturbed from her coiffure and lying tantalisingly against her white shoulder. He focussed on those eyes and banished the fleeting speculation about just how the skin under that curl would feel.
‘You will address me as your Serene Highness,’ she said coolly. ‘I was thinking in English,’ she added, almost as an afterthought.
‘Your Serene Highness.’ He swept her a bow, conscious of his clothing as he did so. He was dressed for the purposes of shinning down castle walls, not making court bows, but he managed it with a grace that had one of those dark brows lifting in surprise. ‘My name is Jack Ryder.’ He had wrestled with whether or not to tell her his real name and decided against it. His nom de guerre would be safer in the event they were captured.
‘Then you are English, Mr Ryder?’
‘So you have not come to kill me?’
The Outrageous Lady Felsham
I want a hero. The words stared blackly off the page into her tired eyes. ‘So do I, Lord Byron, so do I.’ Bel sighed, pushed her tumbled brown hair back off her face and resumed her reading of the first stanza of Don Juan. She and the poet did not want heroes for the same reason, of course. The poet was despairing of finding a suitable hero for his tale; Belinda, Lady Felsham, simply yearned for romance.
No, that was not true either. Bel marked her place with one fingertip and stared into space, brooding. If she could not be honest in her own head, where could she be? Her yearnings were not simple, they were not pure and they certainly were not about knights errant or romance.
Bel rolled over on to her back on the white fur rug and tossed the book aside, narrowly missing one of the candelabra which sat in the hearth and lit her reading. It was well past two in the morning and the candles were beginning to gutter; in a few minutes she would have to get up and tend to them or go to bed and try to sleep.
She stretched out a bare foot, ruffling the silken flounces around the hem of her nightgown, and with her toes stroked the ears of the polar bear whose head snarled towards the door of her bedchamber. ‘That’s not what I want, Horace,’ she informed him. ‘I do not yearn for moonlight and soft music and lingering glances. I want a gorgeous, exciting man who will be thrilling in bed. I want a lover. A really good one.’