The Cornish Coast
He had the look of danger about him.
Kitty Robertson recognized it the moment she spotted him,
standing alone on the rocky shore, gazing out to sea,
toward the horizon, as though he were daring the sun to
Or perhaps he was commanding it not to.
Because its brightness would surely reveal what the dawn
shadows were presently hiding, what had immediately
captured her breath and her attention when she'd clambered
over the rocks, hoping for a bit of isolated seashore: his
perfect, naked form standing proud as though he had been
carved from the very boulders on which he stood.
He was truly magnificent. It took every bit of willpower
she possessed to stay rooted exactly where she was when
she desperately wanted to cross the short distance that
separated them and touch him. Trail her fingers over those
sculpted muscles that were burning bronze as the sun
pushed back the last remnants of night.
She'd never seen anything so glorious -- except in that
secret, dark corner of her mind where lustful thoughts
tempted her with wickedness, shamed her with their
clarity. She knew a lady of her upbringing shouldn't
harbor such vivid, carnal images -- much less crave the
sight of them. And yet she did. Whenever her mind had
occasion to drift, it was lured toward perilous thoughts
that threatened her purity.
And that was the very reason that this man was so
extremely dangerous. Because he embodied every sinful
fantasy that she'd ever dared to dream.
As the morning's light faded from gray, she could see that
the thick, black strands of his hair were too heavy with
dampness to move much with the breeze that wafted in
across the sea. He'd been swimming no doubt, and she
marveled that he wasn't shivering. The waters off the
coast of England were cold, not nearly as welcoming as the
warm currents that washed in off the Texas coast in summer.
She'd often swum in the Gulf of Mexico, had actually been
contemplating a quick dip into these chilly waters.
Until she'd happened upon Poseidon here. The man did truly
resemble a god. From the top of his head, along the entire
length of his long torso and longer legs, down to his
rounded heels. As unacceptable as it was, she wished he'd
turn so she might glimpse a full view of him.
A decent woman would have averted her gaze immediately
upon spying him; she wouldn't have ducked back and prayed
that she wouldn't be sighted while she leisurely took her
fill of him, cataloging each dip and curve and flat plane
that had come together to create such perfection.
Unexpectedly, he twisted and crouched, to retrieve his
clothing she realized at the exact moment that his gaze
fell on her, holding her captive as easily as his lean
body had only moments before. He seemed slightly startled,
not overly alarmed, more curious than anything else. And
she realized the sun that had so clearly revealed him was
now also exposing her.
She spun on her heel, lifted her skirts, and darted back
the way she'd come, scampering over the rocks until they
gave way to the pebble-and-sand shore. She broke into a
full run, the wind whipping her hair in her face, pressing
her skirt against her legs. She ran until she reached the
path she'd followed to the shore. Ran until she reached a
less desolate area, where her passing would no longer be
marked. When the brush thickened, she found a place where
she could lie on the cool grass unobserved. She curled
into a tight ball, wrapped her arms closely around
herself, and wept.
Wept because she was as wicked as the woman who had given
birth to her without the benefit of marriage. Wept because
no matter how hard she tried, she never was as pure as the
woman who had raised her.
Wept because her body was hot with lust, and she feared a
time would come when the lust would consume her.
Richard Stanbury, the sixth Duke of Weddington, pressed a
light kiss to the papery-thin cheek the duchess had turned
up toward him as soon as he'd entered the dining
room. "Good morning, Mother. You're up early."
"Not nearly as early as you apparently."
Deigning to ignore the tone of chastisement in her voice,
he walked to the sideboard and exhibited unparalleled
interest in loading his plate with the varied offerings.
He was always starving after an early-morning swim.
Starving and invigorated.
He was especially invigorated this morning after catching
sight of the siren who'd been watching him from behind a
massive boulder. He'd wanted to follow her, but he'd
hardly been in a state to do so, and by the time he'd
thrown on his clothes, she'd disappeared. Not that his
damp and rumpled appearance would have impressed her or
caused her not to fear him. Still, it might have been
worth the effort and the risk. He was trying to determine
whether he should be embarrassed, intrigued, or merely
amused by the fact he'd been caught -- quite unawares and
obviously naked -- by the young woman.
He sat at his place at the head of the table, set down his
plate, and took a sip of the tea that the footman had
already prepared and sweetened to his liking.
"I'm not quite certain it's seemly for you to be going out
at dawn," his mother said.
"It would be more unseemly should I be arriving home at
dawn, I should think."
His mother harrumphed. Deducing that he'd expertly put an
end to that avenue of conversation, he enjoyed his first
bite of poached egg before opening The Times, which his
butler had dutifully ironed and set at Richard's place
before his arrival -- exactly as it had been prepared for
his father when he was alive. More than sixteen years had
passed since Richard had easily, albeit guiltily, stepped
into his father's shoes and inherited the daily rituals