The spark of attraction . . .
sometimes ignites a dangerous passion .
the early mornings he rode. At night he walked the streets. Adam
Hawthorne, Fourth Earl of Blackwood, had spent nearly eight
years in the cavalry, living out of doors, free of the confines
of the city, a circumstance that made it nearly impossible for
him to fall asleep, at least without a little fresh air.
nightly outings had quickly become a habit, and Adam knew every
lane and alley in London's exclusive West End.
the exact house, a huge Georgian mansion in Brook Street, where
the Earl of Fenwick lived.
didn't understand was what had drawn him there tonight.
swore a quiet oath, thinking of Jillian Whitney, fighting the
attraction he had felt for her since the first moment he saw her.
Forgodsake, the girl was the old man's mistress! She had bartered
herself like a piece of meat for the expensive clothes she wore,
for the fancy black coach and flashy matched grays that carried
her each morning to the park.
about women like Jillian. Hadn't he nearly married Carolyn
Harding? Would have, if he hadn't found her in bed with his cousin
there was Maria. The duel he had fought with her husband left a
far deeper scar on the inside than the one he carried along his
when he thought of Jillian, sitting on the bench beside the pond,
when he remembered the sound of her laughter as she sat there
quietly feeding the ducks, he didn't feel the anger and hostility
he felt when he thought of Caroline or Maria, instead he felt an
odd sort of peace he hadn't known since before the war.
stone house loomed ahead, lamplight gleaming from a dozen
different windows on the first and second stories. He wondered
which room was Jillian's, wondered if the old man was brazen
enough to install her in the countess's bedchamber next to his
own. He imagined how the servants must feel about the old earl's
mistress being kept right there in the house and almost felt sorry
for Jillian Whitney.
in the shadows across the street, leaned back against the trunk of
a tree. Had she really been so desperate? Had her father left her
with no other choice?
speculations rose into his mind, but the echo of a gunshot brought
them to a sudden end. There was no mistaking the sound, not after
eight long years in the army. And the shot had come from inside
the Earl of Fenwick's house.
moved in that direction, careful to stay in the shadows. A scream
came from somewhere inside and a few seconds later the front door
a watchman! Someone call a watchman! The Earl of Fenwick has been
corner of his eye, Adam caught a flicker of movement between the
mansion and the house next door. A small, cloaked figure ran from
the rear of the house toward the alley behind the mews. Moving
silently, ignoring the shouts of the servants who streamed out
into the street, he rounded the house next door and headed toward
the mouth of the alley.
in the darkness at the entrance, he could hear the pounding of
light, frantic footfalls. Beneath the hood of a billowing cloak,
he could barely make out the shape of a woman. Adam stepped out of
the shadows directly in front of her and she careened hard into
tightened around her and she started to struggle in a futile
effort to break his hold.
go!" She tried to kick him but the skirt of her gown got in the
way. "Dear God--please let me go!"
smile etched itself into the corner of his mouth. "Why, Miss
Whitney. I hadn't expected we would meet again so soon."
breath seemed to freeze in her lungs. She tilted her head back to
look up at him and the hood of her cloak fell away, exposing her
glorious red hair.
swallowed her eyes locked on his face. "Blackwood..." she
whispered. And that was
all she said.