Devices & Desires: Excerpt

His true love has his heart…but can he win hers?

Bother! was Margaret’s unspoken thought as the train’s convulsive jerk flung her forward. Futilely, she thrust out her hands to arrest her fall, only to find herself caught and securely held against a solid masculine chest. The collision jarred the breath from her all the same, and she grasped Gervase’s upper arms, trying to steady them both. He regained his footing almost at once—not for nothing did he have reflexes like a cat—and glanced down at her.

Still too winded to speak, Margaret looked up at him, into the face she’d known since childhood… and saw someone who was almost a stranger looking back at her. The grey eyes had lost their habitual coolness, were alive with concern—and something that would have taken her breath away if she hadn’t already lost it. At that same moment, she became conscious of the strength of him, the hard contours of the torso against which her own body was pressed. And the scent of him, fresh linen, clean male skin, overlaid with a hint of some crisp cologne. Lemon—or perhaps, bergamot? Different from the bay rum Alex had used, but just as pleasant in its way. She found herself breathing it in, breathing him in, as they stood locked together in their unexpected embrace.

Afterwards, she could not have said who moved first, but between one breath and the next, his lips were warm on hers, their touch light and seeking. Closing her eyes, she leaned into the kiss, seeking something as well…  though she could not have said what. Something was stirring deep inside of her, something she hadn’t felt in almost two years.

He pulled back, his eyes staring dazedly into hers, and then the curtain descended, leaving them cool and opaque once again. “For luck,” he explained, and was she imagining the trace of huskiness in his voice? “We’re about to spend Christmas with my family, after all.”

Margaret moistened her lips. “Gervase…” Her own voice was a mere thread.

A corner of that sardonic mouth hooked up. “Didn’t you tell me that spontaneity was not a sin?” he inquired lightly. “Bon courage, ma belle amie. The Lyons den awaits.”

She pulled a face and managed to rally. If, after all, he meant to make light of what had just happened, she could do no less. “Two puns in one utterance? For shame, sir!”

“Blame it on the circumstances, which are dire enough to warrant puns,” he retorted. “Now, as this infernal train appears to have stopped moving, shall we descend?”

The train might have stopped, but Margaret’s legs felt as unsteady as though it were still hurtling along the tracks at top speed. She took a breath and an extra moment to compose herself before replying. “Yes. Time we were off.”

Gervase dropped his arms, and she experienced a feeling almost of loss as he moved away from her and turned to tackle the carriage door. Surreptitiously, she moistened her lips again, recalling the taste and feel of that kiss. Not casual, more than friendly. Too affectionate to be resented, but too … intimate to be ignored—or dismissed. Or was she reading too much into it? All she knew for certain was that the kiss had shaken her to the core—and possibly Gervase as well.

The door opened, and the wind gusted in, cutting through the coach’s warmth like a blade of ice. Grimacing, Gervase stepped back. “The air bites shrewdly. It is very cold…

“Nothing like stating the obvious,” Margaret observed tartly, shivering as she drew her cape around her. “Let’s go—before we both change our minds and run off to holiday in France or sunny Spain!”

“Too late,” he reported, peering out onto the platform. “Unless I’m much mistaken, there’s a man in Whitborough livery, waiting for us.”

 


Reviews

“I loved these characters and their journey. The writing was elegant… the characterization was excellent, with the characters’ perceptiveness and their emotional maturity conveyed so well. After finishing Devices & Desires, I had such a good book afterglow that it took me several days to move on to another”Janine Ballard, Dear Author


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