Love the Man

Love the Man

Amanda Tilney loves her sedate life among her books, and all is well until Simon Harris walks in. His love transforms her life, and her love is passionate in a way she never thought possible.

Simon wants her, and his love is demanding. She feels his power on her own body, and is torn between her love, her fear, and something other that is awakening inside. How can something so humiliating be so desirable?

Sample Chapter

He made me feel like a princess. Which really means that he made me feel far more glamorous than I was. He made me believe I had it in me to be more glamorous than I was.

That sense, that sense of being a princess, a very glamorous princess, was just the side effect of him, what he made me feel. He made me feel special, special and loved. Despite everything that should have made me doubt him, doubt the reality that faced me, he made me feel attractive and sexy. He loved me. And I loved to be loved by him.

I was completely lost to him. I was smitten. I was helplessly in love with him. I didn?t deserve him, he was out of my league, but I loved him, with the stubborn right of a woman in love.

I was standing behind the desk in my library when he first came in and changed my life. It sounds very melodramatic, but that was what happened. Not instantly, not like snapping your fingers, but from the moment he walked into my library, things changed. I changed.

He was tall, and dressed in a grey suit, white shirt, and red tie. He moved with the confidence of a man who knew he had the right to be content. There was a slight air of arrogance around him, the kind you are not sure will annoy you to death, or you will forget when you get to know him.

I had no thoughts of getting to know him. He impressed me; he was unlike anyone who entered my library. First and foremost, he was a man. Not many men came in, and those who came were ordinary, nice but ordinary. This man was not like that.

With him was a woman, dressed in a tight black dress, and a jacket over her arm. She was blond and had sunglasses. Inside the door she stopped, leaned on the man, and adjusted a strap on her high heel sandal.

They were a striking couple, like something from a film. They were real, though, and they came in through the door. I had no choice but to follow them with my gaze, as they stood for a while, looked around, and then noticed the desk, the desk where I stood.

It was only natural that they would approach me, yet I was terrified. I felt intimidated by their presence, by their sheer elegance and style.

Then he smiled. That smile changed everything. I could forgive him his assumed arrogance, his impeccable dress sense, and even his glamorous company, because of that smile. Suddenly I was part of his world.

He told me that the woman, whose name I didn?t get, had implored him to read Heart of Darkness. He explained that she thought it a great white spot in his education not having read it. I nodded in consent, and showed him the shelf where it was.

I acted in a kind of haze, as I helped him fill out the form for the library card. He thanked me, took the book and left. Before leaving, he fired off his smile, again, that smile that made me feel as if he saw me, as if I existed in the same world as him.

I was shaken and upset when he had left. He had been so strikingly, terrifyingly handsome, and in the company of a dazzling young woman. I hated her. She had done nothing to earn my hate. She had smiled at me, a friendly smile – the kind of smile that came from knowing you were more glamorous and more successful, but that you had no need to impose it on others. It was, in truth, a friendly smile, but I hated her.

I hated her because that smile made me feel frumpy, and ugly, and terribly unglamorous. I was a librarian. I was 21, but I lived among books. Wearing a red scarf was daring, and although I tried to dress a little modern, I found myself standing there, behind the desk, in tweed, or brown, all too often.

I hated her because she was together with that man, that strange and overwhelmingly beautiful man, that man who seemed to be man through and through, not in any sweaty, hairy and brutal kind of way, but in an elegant, stylish, yet determined kind of way.

I wondered who he was, what he was, what he was doing in my library? Who was she? Where they engaged, or even married?

His name was Simon Harris. I knew because I had helped him fill out the form. I knew that he was Doctor Simon Harris, although I didn?t know what kind of doctor he was. I knew he lived in a street where the houses were tall, and the flats expensive. He was, without doubt, a wealthy man.

I was stricken, but I was also a sensible woman. I had no illusions, and I wasn?t prone to pointless romantic longings. I was fascinated, but I had no thoughts, whatsoever, that this would be more than an event in my life, something I would, perhaps, think of during years to come.

All this changed when he came back, a week later. This time he was alone. His tie was dark blue, and the suit a shade lighter, still grey, though.

?What did you think?? I asked, surprised that I had dared to address him.

?Oh, the book,? he said, ?it was very good, kind of mysterious.?

?Quite unusual,? I tried.

?I know there is a lot written and said about it, and I don?t know half of it, but I can understand why.?

?Why is it then??

?So many layers of meaning, hard to explain…?

?Sorry, I didn?t mean to…?

?Do you take lunch breaks??

?Sorry??

?It?s one o?clock, and a great many people have their lunch now. Do you take lunch??

?Yes, I do.?

?When??

?Now-ish, in ten minutes.?

?If you don?t mind. We could go and have a sandwich, and I?ll tell you about my impressions of Heart of Darkness.?

He smiled his smile. I decided to disregard my lunch-box and go with this man for lunch. There was nothing that would have made me think otherwise, not when that smile was shining.

It was a warm day, so I wasn?t in tweed, but my skirt was black, and my top was a demure red. There was nothing glamorous about me. Where would we go, where wouldn?t we clash against each other?

He took me to one of those modern coffee bars, where it wasn?t that obvious that either of us didn?t fit in. He insisted on buying me tea and a sandwich.

He did talk about Heart of Darkness. He told me about what he thought it was about, how the journey up the mysterious river was a journey into the mind. But he also said that this was not very clever, since Conrad himself, actually explains this, in the book.

Our conversation moved on to other things. And despite my sense of being too frumpy, too ordinary, he made me feel comfortable, and I launched into a long rant about my books, my favourite authors, what they did to me, and how wonderful I thought it was reading them.

During that hour, in the coffee bar, across the table, two worlds clashed, but he created a bridge between them. He made me feel at home. He made me feel listened to, made me forget how boring and ordinary I was. He nullified the gap between us, and made me, for a short moment, believe we lived in the same world.

Afterwards I tried to be rational about it, used all my logical thinking, my ability to analyse, but there was no denying it. I was helplessly in love with him. I was aware that this kind of man might well be able to make me feel this way, only fooling me, making a na?ve woman like me believe she was someone, while he was cold as stone inside.

But why would he do that? I had nothing that would attract him. I was nothing compared to him.

He was a scientist. I hadn?t expected that. He was one of those who hurried between laboratories all over the world, doing strange and abstract research, the kind of research that needed big expensive machines.

I had thought that that kind of scientists would be bespectacled grey men, in white coats, hunched over tables and calculators, if they weren?t staring at computer screens with strange images of traces of subatomic particles.

He was very different. He looked like a businessman, or a successful artist, or actor. It was hard to imagine him locked away beside a humming accelerator, deep underground, or standing in front of the audience at a conference, explaining some anomaly in the behaviour of quarks.

What was even more extraordinary about him was that he came back. The next time he didn?t even have an excuse. He just told me he wanted lunch with me. I forgot about my lunch-box, yet again, and had lunch with him.

He told me he wanted lunch. He didn?t ask me, nor did he tell me we would have lunch. He just told me he wanted lunch with me.

It happened again, and yet again, and when he asked me out for dinner, I was amazed. A rational part of me told me he wanted dinner with me because he liked being with me, that he maybe even was interested in me. That was what it would seem like. Still I couldn?t believe it. I couldn?t accept the thought that he saw something in me. Why would he do that? I had little to recommend myself.

I told myself he was just being kind, or just found me amusing, or interesting to talk to. Yet, I fretted for days about what to wear. I wanted to look nice, not as if I was dressing up to impress him. How could I possibly impress him? And besides, for all I knew, he was together with the glamorous blond woman.

In the end I got myself a red sleeveless linen dress that was modest, yet nice. I took sandals, with a bit of heel, even if it made me almost keel over.

I fully expected him to start laughing at me, laughing at my pathetic attempts to look nice. He didn?t. Instead he looked at me, and smiled. It was an inclusive, warm smile, and for a moment my heart fluttered in my breast.

It was painful to have dinner with him. I was helplessly in love with him, but didn?t think he wanted anything but friendship. My heart was aching, although I cherished every moment with him. I was determined to make the most of the time I had with him, and save the memories to my lonely life that would follow.

The way he looked at me, across the table, was devastating. I melted. I was smitten. I was helpless. I stared at his eyes, his lips as he spoke. I had to tell myself not to stare, not to behave like a love-stricken teenager. I even imagined that there was something happening between us. I loved that thought, the illusion that he was falling for me, that he actually enjoyed being with me, as much as I enjoyed being with him.

When he kissed me, all the calm I had so desperately tried to hold on to was shattered. It happened at the end of our date, our dinner, when we had stopped outside my flat, and was about to go our separate ways.

My whole being cried out for him. I wanted to ask him to come with me to my flat. I wanted to offer him, tea, or coffee, or wine, or spirits. I wanted to offer him my body, my soul, and me.

I did nothing of it. The thought that he would have wanted it was so completely alien that I couldn?t make myself ask him. He didn?t ask me either, and that sealed it.

Yet the kiss had been delicious. It hadn?t been a fleeting kiss, a friendly kiss on the lips. Neither was it a passionate kiss, but it was a kiss that lasted a fraction longer than I had expected, or could have hoped for. Not that I had expected to be kissed at all, but when it happened, I was puzzled.

It meant a lot to me, and the way he did it, the way he gently, but determinedly kissed me, and lingered for a moment, made me believe, against all rational thinking, that it meant something to him too.

The next day, I talked to my friend, and colleague, Diana. She was in her thirties, and the one in the library with a little bit of dress sense. She wasn?t glamorous, or stylish, but she looked nice, often in black dresses, and elegant shoes.

I told her about Simon, what had happened, how he had kissed me. I told her about how impossible the thought of loving him was, how unbelievable it was that he would even take his time to be with me.

?Go for it,? was her assessment, ?you?re such a stupid woman, Amanda. A gorgeous man comes into the library, asks you out, and kisses you, and you don?t think there is something going on. If you don?t want him, hand him over to me.?

?Do you think he means something with it??

?Of course he means something. Maybe he?s a player, but go for it, anyway. You?ll have a great time as long as it lasts.?

?Why would he want to be with someone like me, I mean, if he?s just after…you know…??

?Because you?re a gorgeous little thing, and you do your best to hide it.?

?Don?t be daft.?

?Run with it, Amanda, keep your head calm, but run with it. If it is for fun, have fun, if it is serious, then go for it. If that?s what you want.?

It was very easy for Diana. She was confident. She knew she was attractive. In her own way, she was attractive. Not like the blond woman together with Simon, the very first day, but yet attractive.

Talking to Diana didn?t calm me. Instead I thought I had blown it, that I had, finally, scared Simon away.

I didn?t see or hear of him for some days, and I was convinced he was gone forever. When he finally phoned me, I was relieved to hear his voice. I could hardly hear it because of the banging of my heart.

He wondered if I would care to go to the theatre with him. I said yes, a little too quickly, a little too eagerly.

This time I wore a green satin dress, still quite modest, but a little bit more elegant than the last time. I felt bold and daring, trying to trust myself, trying to believe I might have something that was interesting to him. I didn?t believe it was true, but I pretended I believed it.

Despite his smile, despite his willingness to listen to me, despite his attention, and sweetness, I believed he only wanted friendship. I was desperate, wanted to explain to him, wanted to finally tell him what he meant to me, desperate to make a fool of myself, terrified he would turn and run, yet wanting to come clean.

We had dinner, and then went to the theatre. It was Beckett, and he looked as if he enjoyed it. I should have enjoyed it. I was a great fan of Beckett?s, but I could not think, nor react, being preoccupied by Simon.

In the dark night, outside the theatre, I asked him to kiss me. I couldn?t take it any longer.

?Kiss me,? I said.

For a moment my heart stood still. I expected him to start laughing. He didn?t, instead he kissed me. This time his lips lingered.

When he broke off the kiss, he smiled at me. Then he kissed me again. This time was more demanding. I yielded. I surrendered to his kiss. His tongue felt my tongue, and my body was traversed by something that felt like an electric current.

?What do you want to do now?? he asked.

?I don?t care, I?ll go with you anywhere.?

?I live round the corner.?

?I don?t care if you will laugh at me in the morning, I?ll come with you to your place, or hell, if you ask me, right now.?

We walked to his flat. In the lift, I stood trembling. He held his arm around me. I was terrified, yet, happy. I thought of Diana?s words about running with it. I thought I should, and leave tomorrow for tomorrow, hoping it wouldn?t hurt too much.

Inside his door, he wasted no time. He kissed me. I slung my arms around his neck, and kissed him back. His hands moved across my back, down to grab my buttocks, then up over my shoulders.

I felt his hand unzip my dress at the back, and how his hand found their way across my naked skin on my back.

?Oh, no bra,? he said, as he let his hand slide across by back.

?I need no bra, I?m not that well equipped.?

The dress I had chosen had the kind of top that allowed me to skip the bra. I hadn?t thought much about it; only that it was so much more comfortable. Now it had taken on a new and intense meaning.

?I?ll have to inspect,? he growled, and caressed my dress down my shoulders, down my body. He stared at my breasts as they came free.

?They are of absolutely the right size, round and proud, standing by themselves. Let me kiss them.?

He kissed my breasts. I felt his lips against my hard nipples. I felt his teeth against them too, as he bit me, just a little.

I had never thought my tiny bosom could be of interest for a man like him. The way he kissed and licked them, made me believe they were something precious.

He continued caressing my dress down my body, while he sank to his knees, kissing my skin. He let his tongue lick my navel, and when my dress, finally fell to the floor, he took hold of my knickers with his teeth and continued down.

When I finally was naked, he stood up. He stood tall in front of me. He took me in his arms, pressed me to his chest. I felt his hard body through his clothes, felt my very naked skin touch his clothes. I felt naked, gloriously, and helplessly naked in his embrace.

He took me by the hand, and led me into his flat. He led me through the grand living room, with the luxurious sofa and armchairs, with the bookshelves, and oak table. He took me up the few steps to the bedroom, the very Spartan but elegant bedroom. He laid me down on the bed, and stood back, regarding me.

?How sweet you are,? he said.

I wasn?t sure if I wanted to be sweet, but the way he said it, seemed to indicate that sweetness wasn?t just innocent, that it meant something more to him.

He lowered himself on top of me, kissed me again, withdrew, and made me lift my head for him. He teased me by kissing my body, my breasts, and my belly, my thighs and my knees, only to return to my lips.

He kept his clothes on, making me feel exposed, and vulnerable. Yet I felt blessed. I slung my arms around his neck, to pull him down to me. I wrapped my legs around him, to come closer to him. I pressed my nakedness against his clothes, against his hard body.

Then he decided it was time. He rose and unbuttoned his shirt. He pulled it off, and then unbuttoned his trousers. He doffed his clothes, while I lay there watching him reveal his beauty, his soft skin over hard muscles, his maddening combination of glowing soft, and unyielding hard.

When he lowered himself on top of me, in his glorious nudity, I was ready for him. He slipped into me with little effort, and I gasped as I felt him fill me up. I sighed as I felt him move inside me, how his hardness touched me there, where I was most sensitive, where I was most soft.

He kissed me; he nibbled my lips, and caressed my breasts, as he moved inside me. Soon there was no return, no way of stopping it. I whimpered as I came, only to feel him come soon after.

I lay close to him, moulding myself to his body, relaxed, blessed, and exhausted. I had never thought something like this could ever happen to me, to the librarian I was. I couldn?t simply believe it.

?Do you want me to leave?? I whispered in his ear.

?Why?? he said, ?why would you leave??

?It?s over now, we have done it. And perhaps your friend is coming.?

?My friend??

?The blond woman. She was with you in the library.?

?Tanya?? He laughed. ?Don?t think of her, she?s just a friend.?

?She doesn?t want to find me here.?

?What makes you think she would come here, and find you here, and have opinions about it??

?You seemed very close.?

?Are you jealous??

?Believe me, Simon, I am not jealous. I just know my place, what I am.?

?What are you then??

?A boring librarian, being blessed by you.?

He rose to his arms, looked me in the face.

?Stop that. You insult me. Why would you think I would be with a boring librarian??

?Because you have just done that.?

?I have been with you, Amanda. I have just spent a very great moment with you, Amanda Tilney. And I have no intentions of turning you away. Tell me you will stay.?

?Do you want me to??

?I very much want you to.?

?Why??

?I didn?t think you were stupid.?

?I?m not stupid.?

?There you go.?

That?s how it started, my love for Simon Harris, the bliss of being loved by Simon Harris. I was still full of disbelief, but the signs spoke another language. He obviously saw something in me. And when he spoke to me, like that, I believed it. I felt blessed.

Patriot Bride

Patriot Bride

Hannah Cooper fled England to escape the aristocratic marriage her father had arranged for her. Now in the Colonies as a "widowed seamstress," she’s poor but content with her modest and independent life. But War has come to the Colonies and with it, the dreaded "quartering act." All households are ordered to feed and shelter British troops.

When Hannah finds Colonel Wolfgang Preston at her cottage’s modest gate, her first thought is, of course, to refuse him. He is an officer and could commandeer much more lavish quarters; she’s a single woman with a one room cottage. But he won’t take no for an answer and soon the reason why becomes obvious: Wolfgang Preston is the Duke of Northumberland and is the very man her father had arranged that she married. And he’s found her. And he can’t decide what he’s going to do with his lovely bride first: put her over his knee or into his bed.

This brand-new exclusive Carolyn Faulkner is Carolyn at her best; hot explicit love, hard no-nonsense bare bottom discipline, and a great love story to tie it all together.
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Sample Chapter

Chapter One

Hannah Cooper tucked her chin to her chest as she strode across the common, pulling her cloak tight about her and wishing she could afford warmer clothes as a damp chill slipped beneath both her skirt and her layers of petticoats. The mobcap on her head helped a little, but not enough. April in Boston wasn?t the warmest of times, but the wind across the bay cut that much quicker through the thin cloth of her well worn cloak and almost ratty dress. Driven from England under duress, she had truly adopted her current homeland as her own, despite the fact that she wasn?t a native and hadn?t been there very long. She had already taken their causes to heart ? railing with her fellow employees against all of the unfair taxes that were being imposed by the Crown and Parliament, so far away.

Not that she was dressed much better than anyone else, really, except those toffs who decided to break the boycott of British goods and have new dresses made, consequences be damned. Hannah?s head shook from more than the chill as she dodged the cows grazing placidly and hurried towards her landlord?s certain warm welcome, but a group of townspeople who were gathered around cackling at each other and waving some pamphlet or other caught her attention.

After several unsuccessful attempts, bobbing up and down in a most unseemly fashion, trying to get a glimpse of what Old George was try to do to them now, she was able to skim quickly over a short man?s shoulder at a proclamation entitled ?The Quartering Act,? which apparently required that the colonist give food and shelter to the very British Army that was repressing their rights to live as free men.

Almost as soon as she finished reading and turned to continue to Mistress Wentworth?s, only to be confronted by the very reason for such an act ? a regiment of British soldiers, a bright swath of blood red across the still late winter bland backdrop of the park, lead by a huge man on a large white stallion. One of the things that struck Hannah about the man was that although he was wearing a spit polished uniform and all the regalia of a British officer, he was not wearing a white wig, which set him apart from the rest of the dandified officers that accompanied him. She could hear him issue several curt orders, and felt a chill run through her at his tone, then realized she was standing in the middle of the common and staring up at him like a lack wit. She?d always been just the slightest bit worried that her intended might send someone looking for her ? not that he?d have any idea where to look. But still, the worry was always there, in the back of her mind.

Before anyone else noticed her slack jawed response to this strange man, she hurried herself off to work, knowing if she was late the kindly Mistress Wentworth would be worried. But she couldn?t keep him out of her mind, for some strange reason. He kept popping up at the oddest of times ? when she was sipping some of the strange tasting coffee her employer served with cream and scant sugar, when she was working on sewing the stomacher to the stays of a fine dress for one of their wealthier customers. Why that face should reappear in her mind for no reason, she had no idea. Perhaps she was just a bit tetched today, and that strong, masculine face was well burned into her memory.

Hanna tried desperately to turn her thoughts away from him and back to the task at hand. As much as she?d hated learning the needlecrafts her mother had insisted upon ? she was much more facile at cooking and basic medicines, it had saved her life when she?d arrived in the Colonies, with little more than those skills to keep body and soul together. ?You cannot deny me, Mistress Cooper.?

Obsidian black eyes collided with startling blue ones that refused to yield demurely, as they should, if not merely to the man then to the uniform. Sweet merciful Heaven, it was the commander of the regiment she?d seen earlier that day. She?d never forget that face for the rest of her days.

Hannah continued to stare up at him ? and up it was. He had to be at least a foot taller than she was ? he was the tallest man she?d ever seen, and broad as a barn, to boot. The crisp red of his uniform only served to accentuate his size. ?I most certainly can and will deny you, Sir. We poor colonists are merely supposed to give you redcoats,? she gave that last word a twist that left no room for doubt that it caused a bad taste in her mouth just to say it, ?food and shelter at public houses and unused shelters. I?m certain there?s room for you at one pub or another . . .? She did her best to close the door in his face, but he had one gigantic spit shined black booted foot that remained on the doorsill, regardless of how she tried to crush it.

Colonel Wolfgang Anders Preston III, Duke of Northumberland, Viscount Wexley, and Baron of several small dominions, could not believe that this little slip of a thing was actually leaning all of her inconsiderable weight against her front door ? such as it was ? in an obvious attempt to shoo him away like some common beggar man or thief. Even the women in this savage, upstart country were rebellious colonials.

Wolf was not entirely unsympathetic to the plight of these ?Americans?, as they had come to refer to themselves ? especially having spent as much time here has he had; he?d come to recognize a certain grudging respect for them and their savvy leaders ? John Hancock, George Washington, Samuel Adams. They were all smart men with sound thoughts and ideas. He just thought there were better ways of going about it than the direct conflict with the largest military power in the world that they were heading towards, and which they would most certainly lose. But these colonists had spunk, he had to give them that, case in point the small woman who was still pushing against her door, her Sampson to his Goliath, as headstrong and impulsive and bullheaded as the rest of her kind, despite her feminine appearance.

And she certainly was in the flower of her femininity, he had to give her that, despite the grunts and groans she was emitting while trying to stem the tide of his invasion. And despite his vast family fortune, he was the type of man to look past the rags she was wearing to see what was beneath them. He could see the masses of clean, curly blonde hair piled on top of her head, a few delicate ringlets framing her face. Her clothes were near worn clear through in spots. The fabric was so thin it was nearly an obscenity for her to wear them, but they were clean, and she smelled faintly of the wildflowers he?d seen blooming in the yard.

Wolf could feel a most ungentlemanly strain against his breeches, but he brought that to a full stop immediately, giving a carefully controlled shoved against the door so as not to hurt her, but enough to assure that he would gain entrance to her less than enchanting abode. It was like trying to discourage a grizzly bear, no matter how hard she tried. She was leaning her entire weight against the door, and it was having absolutely no effect. He was slowly, and with depressing ease, gaining entry to her house and there didn?t seem to be anything she could do about it.

Finally, Hannah just let go and walked away, getting no small amount of satisfaction when he stumbled badly nearly fell flat on his face. She knew that that victorious feeling when he?d almost hurt himself was wrong, and said a quick prayer for forgiveness as she bustled about the place, suddenly realizing just how small it was with his imposing presence. Hannah had never regretted leaving England, not from the moment she set foot on the ship at Portsmouth harbor ? despite the fact that she nearly died of the seasickness throughout the entire voyage, along with everyone else who had booked passage. They were all held below decks nearly every day, herded together next to the animals, the air wreaking of both human and animal wastes, and the crew looking them all over as if they were going to be next in the pot ? or worse, for the women.

It wasn?t as if she?d had much choice in the matter, regardless. Women in this world didn?t have much in the way of choices, which was probably why she?d taken the Colonists? cause so much too heart. She had thrown off the yoke of her father?s oppression; why shouldn?t they do the same? While they were living in their father?s houses, as she had been, they were subject to his rule, benevolent or dictatorial. Then they were sold by virtue of their dowry, or the lack thereof, to the man most likely to aid her father in whatever his pursuits were, no matter that the man was ancient or a drunkard or likely to haul off and hit whoever was within striking distance for no particular reason.

Like her father. Hannah wasn?t about to marry the man her father had chosen for her, although she knew that he expected her to do her duty as his daughter and simply surrender herself to his will. Deferring to her Father was the healthier thing to do, if one was interested in keeping body and soul together and avoiding broken bones and black eyes. She had done that only for her mother?s sake. Momma had made everything all right, while bearing the brunt of her husband?s anger herself to save her children from his wrath.

Despite his love for whiskey and not much else, William Cooper was a successful merchant with an eye on things well above his station. He wanted a title of any sort. He wanted to weasel his way into the landed gentry, into the posh set. And he most certainly wasn?t above using his children to do so. William liked to brag to his friends at the pub and anyone else who would listen that although every other man in the country prayed for sons, he was just as happy that his wife had seen fit to give him daughters for whom he could arrange advantageous marriages. Hannah ? as the eldest girl ? was the first candidate to be married off to some viscount or baron she had never even met, or anyone else he could wrangle into while holding out the carrot of a tidy dowry.

Hannah had stayed as long as she could ? long enough for her mother to die in her arms, gasping for breathe from the consumption. She desperately wanted to take her two younger sisters with her, but she couldn?t afford passage for the three of them, so she decided to go on ahead, lest her father get wind of her plans.

She thought about her sisters nearly every waking moment, wondering how they were faring. Their father had gotten wilder after Momma died, staying out even longer than he had and drinking non stop. Hannah had told Mary, who was ten and the next oldest, that if their Father stayed away for any longer than a day, she was to take little Priscilla and hightail it over to their aunt?s across town. Kindly old Aunt Polly would take them in, Hannah had no doubt.

She?d been here, living on the outskirts of Boston for almost a year, as a widow. She?d known that people would accept her as a widow sooner than a single female traveling alone, so she?d invented a husband, becoming Mistress Cooper instead of Miss.

In those long years, she?d had but one letter from Mary that told of their Father?s further decline and mentioned that she and Priscilla were going to take her advice and go to their Aunt?s shortly. Though the cottage she lived in was owned by the woman she worked for as a seamstress and it wasn?t nearly big enough for three people, Hannah ached to bring them to her.

She was scrimping and saving every tuppence and shilling she earned, and, if things continued as they were, it would be another six months or so before she was able to send the money for their passage.

Wolf watched her as she wandered about the tiny room, sweeping a gnarly broom uselessly over the dirt floor. Despite the dilapidated appearance of her little hovel, and beyond that which was on the floor, there wasn?t a spec of dust or dirty anywhere. It was tiny, but it was scrupulously clean. Along one wall was a large stone fireplace, from which hung a smallish black kettle that simmered something that made his mouth water with the scent of onions and bay leaf. One corner had a small, rough table, and the other a rope bed with a feather mattress.

There was a tiny china figurine on the mantle, as well as more books than he?d seen in one place since he was at home in his own library ? everything from several volumes of Shakespeare and Chaucer to one of the more scandalous authors that really should not have even been in her possession, in his opinion.

?You read?? he asked, unable to quite control his amazement. Most of the ladies of quality that he knew didn?t take the time to read, although they were certainly taught to by the various tutors their wealthy fathers hired for them ? but their mothers were busily whispering to them that it was not something one did for entertainment, but merely to avoid the cane. And it didn?t help one to appear any too smart when trying to catch a husband, which was, after all, the entire reason for a young girl?s existence.

Wolf?s mouth twisted at the thought. He should have been married by now himself, and he knew his mother and uncle were hard at work on arranging that, but he?d never really had the time to woo and win a woman. He?d barely been back to his estates in the past ten years, despite the long distance needling from his mother about not paying attention to his heritage. Wolf felt that his career in His Majesty?s service spoke volumes about himself, and he never bothered to explain himself to much of anyone.

Hannah eyed him distrustfully from across the room where she was fussing with the spare bedclothes. ?Yes, I do,? she answered, rather defiantly. Her father had never missed an opportunity to berate her for her intelligence, and her desire to read and learn more than he thought was necessary. Her Mother was at least somewhat gentle about her reproaches. Father had felt no such compunction.

She tried to cross to his side of the room, to the fireplace he was standing in front of in order to check and stir the meager dinner she had boiling in the kettle, but the closer she got the bigger he got. The cottage was so small that wherever she looked, there he was, standing therein all his glowering, unnerving glory. Even with his hat off, he was just enormous ? a veritable mountain of a man ? and she decided to be cowardly and veered away from him at the last minute, then berated herself as she fiddled with the chipped vase with two wilted wildflowers that served as decoration for the tiny table.

He didn?t say anything else, just stood there like an angry lump, staring at her. She really didn?t think he had any right to be there, but what was she to do against a man his size? Hannah figured that she probably had to put up with him this evening, but tomorrow she would make sure that her rifle was more at the ready, and he?d find himself staring down its muzzle if he tried to get in here again.

Finally, she?d gathered up enough courage to stand before him and glower right back at him. ?If you expect to have anything edible this evening, Sir, I suggest that you move aside, unless you?re also an expert in tending to venison stew.?

The only part of Wolf that moved at her order was his eyebrow, which rose nearly into his hairline. Few people in this world would dare to address him so, and even fewer of those were women. Actually, only one was a woman ? his mother, and even then it would have had to have been a matter of life or death since he?d come into the title and taken firm control of her runaway purse strings.

Yet here was this little strip of a girl, with probably less than twenty years to her credit, obviously of no social rank whatsoever, taking him to task for standing in front of her kettle. No matter that she was right, and he moved away immediately, if not quickly. He was amazed at her spunk – her downright Colonial spunk, with no appreciation or deference whatsoever for her betters.

He watched avidly as she bent and stirred the pot vigorously, then reached up without looking to grab a crude wooden bowl, ladled some out, then moved to sit at the table and begin to devour it with delicate greed. She was obviously doing her best to be discourteous and ignore him entirely.

So Wolf proceeded to be discourteous to her, removing his uniform coat without asking, hanging it off one of the pegs in the wall next to the door, where her tattered cloak already resided.

Despite his noble birth, Wolf had been on enough campaigns and had spent enough time well away from the reaches of what society considered civil surroundings that he was quite comfortable serving himself. As a matter of fact, much to his mother?s disgust, the older he got, the less patience he had with the trappings of his existence as a member of the landed gentry.

Recent years had brought him to the New World. He?d fought in the French and Indian war, and had spent some time in the beautiful area around Quebec, as well as the Ohio valley and Fort Frederick on Lake Champlain. It was God?s own country, full of incredible promise for any man brave enough to seize it and defend it against all comers.

Sometimes he wanted nothing more than to leave his commission ? which was up in about eighteen months anyway, and just ride west, completely ignoring the King?s command that no Englishman was to venture past the Mississippi.

But here he was, watching this tiny woman ignore him completely, as if nothing was amiss. He grabbed the other wooden bowl off the mantle and served himself some of the stew, not paying much attention to what he was dishing up until he found himself across the small, wobbly table from her. She staunchly refused to look up at him, her eyes never leaving the enthralling contents of her bowl.

Suddenly hungry from the wonderful aroma that drifted to his nostrils, Wolf took a big spoonful, and wasn?t disappointed. The broth was just right thick and hot and full of flavor, slipping down his throat and warming him from the inside out. He bit down on a tender potato chunk, a small onion, and some carrot, but no venison whatsoever, not in the entire bowl. ?This is venison stew?? he asked doubtfully, cleaning his bowl nonetheless.

?Yes,? came the reluctant answer.

?I don?t see any venison in it.?

Hannah got up from the table, using a small bucket of water to rinse and wash her bowl and spoon, placing them back on the mantle to dry. ?There isn?t. It?s venison stock. If you?d like meat in your stew, I suggest you go hunting. I can?t afford to buy it.?

Wolf made a note to stop by a butcher tomorrow before he called formation and send an order of meats to her cabin, and leaned on the table as he got up, noting the irritating wobble and reaching down to see if there was something he could quickly do to fix it. What he found were several pieces of parchment stuffed beneath the shorter leg.

He opened the carefully folded papers, and read them while she puttered nervously about the cabin. They were all inflammatory treatise against the Governor of Massachusetts and even the King himself, citing a lot of pure rubbish about taxation without representation and how the Colonies were being treated unfairly and punitively in regards to trade arrangements and having to provide room and board for the King?s troops at their own expense.

Wolf threw the pamphlets onto the table, adding fixing the table to his list of things to do to make this place a little more habitable. ?I see you side with the rabble rousers in town,? he commented lightly, watching her with narrowed eyes.

Hannah was folding the bare blanket she kept at the food of her small bed, but his low, accusatory voice stopped her in the act for a long moment, then she reassumed her nervous straightening, knowing those piercing black eyes were watching her every move she made, and trying to come to grips with the fact that it didn?t look like he was going to go anywhere. He apparently had every intention of just blithely moving in with her, right or wrong.

And of course, as an officer in His Majesty?s Army, he felt he was well within his rights.

Grabbing a firm hold on her gumption, Hannah turned to face him, her legs quivering beneath her skirts and against the bed frame. ?You aren?t really going to stay here, are you? I?m sure there are plenty of places – ?

That bushy dark eyebrow rose nearly to his hairline, but he didn?t seem to be angry ? quite – just firm and unyielding, and obviously not much interested in explaining himself to the likes of her. ?Not that are in quite this strategic a spot. And yes, I fully intend to quarter myself here, Mistress Cooper.?

Something about the way he said her name put Hannah on alert. He said it as if he didn?t believe it ? whether it was the married part or the surname part, she didn?t much care. She was already wary around him ? how could she not be? A small woman alone in her house with a huge man who was not her husband.

In a voice much shakier than she would have liked, Hannah asked as she kept her hands busy worrying a handkerchief, ?And have you no care for my reputation whatsoever??

To her complete horror, this question motivated him to stand and walk silently over to her. Overwhelmed by his presence, she found herself sitting on the edge of the bed and craning her head to see him.

?No, Mistress Cooper,? he accented her last name in a tone that left absolutely no doubt that he questioned its status, ?I have no care for the reputation of a woman who runs away rather than fulfilling her obligations, and who assumes a false identity, lying to everyone who has befriended her in this small town.?

Hannah?s open mouth went completely dry. The man in front of her, the huge, physically imposing man who had barged his way into her little house by virtue of his brute strength and his uniform, was the man her father had contracted for her to marry!