Read an Extract
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?’