Excerpt: Forever His

Excerpt: Forever His

Book One: Stolen Brides Series

France, 1300

He spoke again, his voice even deeper, softer, just a notch above a whisper. “Come back to bed, cherie. I will seduce you this time.”

“No!” Celine squeaked, not sure whether she was objecting to his command or to her body’s reaction. She was shivering, and not because the room was so cold. That tone he was using sent an unexpected electricity through her, tingly currents that ran from her fingertips to her bare toes and back again in a heartbeat. It left her trembling. It also made her vividly aware of just how little she was wearing: nothing but her silk-and-lace teddy.

She backed away a step, only to come up against the cold stone wall. “Monsieur, I’m–I’m afraid you don’t understand. One of us has made a mistake–“

“The only mistake, ma petite, would be for us to waste the hours left until dawn.”

That confident voice reached out to Celine through the shadows and cold, wrapping around her, warm and rich and dark as sable. She swallowed on a dry throat. Who the heck was this guy? A voice like that should belong to a hypnotist. To a deejay whispering above love songs on late-night radio.

To a suave playboy who could easily seduce unseen women in the darkness.

Celine froze at that thought, remembering her conversation with her sister earlier. Maybe this man wasn’t here by mistake after all! “Oh, God,” she whispered in shock and dismay, “did my sister put you up to this? I can’t believe she would really– Listen, I don’t know what she told you about me, but I am not–“

“Again you speak in riddles, cherie. I know naught of you but that you felt good beside me. Very small and soft and good. Come back to bed. It is cold without you.”

“You’re only cold because it’s freezing in here!”

“I must have been too deeply in my cups to light the hearth last night. Or too eager for you to bother.” He chuckled. “It is naught. Come here to me and we will light a fire of our own.”

“No! I can’t–“

“Then I will come fetch you, shy demoiselle.”

Celine could hear him getting out of bed. “No! Wait!” She turned and ran but barely made it two steps before her injured ankle gave way and she fell, hard.

Before she could do more than utter a sharp cry of pain, he was beside her. He had moved almost silently despite the crunchy stuff on the floor. The man lifted her to her feet–and into his embrace.

“Shh, sweet, you have naught to fear. Are you hurt?”

Celine couldn’t answer. The sensation of being held against him stole her voice, her breath, her mind. She could not see him in the darkness, but she could feel him.

Oh, God, could she feel him!

His hands–large, warm, callused hands–drew her close until her breasts flattened against the solid wall of his ribs. She gasped at the contact, her heart thrumming wildly. The textures of her lingerie only intensified the friction of his body against hers–heat and muscle sliding across silk and softness and lace.

He stroked her temple, her jaw, then gently pressed her head to his chest. The fact that he had moved so quietly belied his size. She was tall, but he towered over her. A dense mat of hair covering broad, flat muscle roughly pillowed her cheek. His other arm flexed across her back, holding her, soothing–an arm that was hard and brawny and probably strong enough to bend steel pipe. She could only guess, because he was being very careful with her. He smelled of woolens and woodsmoke, and of a tangy, masculine spice that she sensed was not some expensive designer cologne, but him.

Celine didn’t know which surprised her more: that such a powerful man could be so gentle, or that she had stopped shivering.

She no longer felt cold or terrified. It was ridiculous–insane!–to feel safe in the arms of a naked stranger, especially one with the build of a world-class weight lifter…but she did. She couldn’t explain it. She only knew that she hadn’t seen him at the party or anywhere before. No man like this could walk around without drawing the stunned attention of every red-blooded female over fourteen!

“I-I …” She struggled to find her voice and answer his question, but couldn’t think over the thunder of his steady heartbeat beneath her cheek. “Wh-what did you ask me?”

“It was naught, ma petite.” He laughed again, and she felt as well as heard the easy, pleasant sound this time. His voice, however, sounded strained, unsteady, as if he were just as affected as she by the unexpected currents flowing between them. “Fie, but I am hard put to remember who you are. I truly do not recall taking a woman to my bed last night–certainly not you. Even drunk, I would remember making love to you.”

“We didn’t make love,” she said breathlessly. “That’s what I’ve been telling you all–“

“It matters not. You are here now and we shall remedy the oversight. Tell me, are you one of the beauties who came to the feast with Edric and his party from Languedoc?”

“No, I’m …” She lost her voice again. His hands were moving, to her shoulders, down her back, to her waist in a slow caress. “I’m … from Chicago.”

He lowered his head to hers. “I know not this land ‘Chicago,’ ” he whispered, his breath warm against her lips. “But let me sample the sweetness of one of its fair flowers.”

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