Velvet has sworn--not even
the handsome outlaw who abducts her--
is going to stand in her way.
Martin shimmers like a
bright diamond in the genre."
Moran has renounced all thoughts of love. To save her family from
ruin, she will wed the hard-faced Duke of Carlyle. But instead of
becoming a nobelman's prize -- her resolve to escape his forest lair
warring with the wicked heat sparked by his caresses.
branded a murderer, Jason Sinclair has secretly returned to clear his
name and stop the wedding that would deny him his stolen dukedom. In
an outlaw masquerade, he'll kidnap this sensuous minx and detain her
as long as is necessary. But can he bridle the surge of passion that
has captured his soul ... and could imperil them both?
The time had
skipped several beats then started thrumming.
Scrambling up from her seat, Velvet grabbed the heavy
iron poker in front of the hearth and raced upstairs. She
couldn't afford to wait any longer. She should have acted
first thing this morning, but something had held her back.
She glanced toward the boarded up window in her bedchamber, noting the
bright rays slanting in through the cracks.
remained high; there would still be plenty of light before nightfall.
This time she was taking his horse, and if all went as planned, he
wouldn't be in any shape to follow. Her hand felt sweaty around the
long length of iron she carried. She wiped her palm against her brown
woolen skirt and pressed an ear to the door, listening for the
highway- man's return downstairs. It wasn't long before she heard him
moving about. Removing the bright yellow daffodils from the vase on
the dresser, she emptied the water into the chamber pot below the bed.
Holding the poker in one hand, she knocked the vase to the floor,
unleashing what she hoped would pass for a shriek of pain as the glass
crashed into splintery shards.
His worried voice drifted up the stairs. Velvet made a weak little
sobbing sound she hoped sounded like crying, then quickly climbed up
on the chair she had draggedbehind the door. Her stomach felt tied in
knots, her mouth cotton-dry, but her resolve remained steady.
you all right!" His heavy boots took the stairs two at a time.
Velvet took a
breath for courage, raised the poker with shaking hands, held it aloft
and waited till he burst through
felt leaden--dear God she didn't want to hurt him--but she tightened
her hold and swung the poker down full force. His black eye patch
flashed as his head came up. A single blazing blue eye caught the
movement, went wide with astonishment. At the last possible moment he
twisted. The poker caught the side of his head and glanced off his
shoulder, but the blow did its job and he went crashing to the floor.
Velvet's stomach knotted.
Lord." Scrambling down from the chair, her legs weak and trembly, she
tossed the heavy length of iron away, knelt down and touched his
cheek. "I'm sorry," she whispered, trying to ignore his pitiful groan
of pain. "I had to do it. I have to get away." His skin felt warm. She
hadn't killed him, thank God. Hopefully he wasn't hurt too badly.
Stumbling in her haste to leave, both knees shaking, she raced down
the stairs, stopping only long enough to grab the highwayman's cloak
and the bread and cheese she had man-aged to stash away. Then she was
out the door and running toward the stable. His big black horse was
there but thankfully the stable boy was gone. Shehad prayed he
wouldn't try to stop her.
Blackie," she whispered, remembering the name the outlaw had called
him, leading the animal from the stall by his halter, fastening the
lead rope around his head to use for reins. The saddle pad was all she
had time for. Pulling the horse through the door of the barn, she
climbed up on the fence and dropped down on its back, adjusting her
skirt around her, ignoring the stockinged legs she exposed below the
hem of her skirt. "Good boy, just take it easy." He was a spirited
horse, but she was a passable rider. Better than most women when she
was properly mounted. Surely she could manage the big black stallion
well enough to make it to some sort of town.
that's what she told herself as he dug her heels into the animal's
ribs and leaned forward, but at the first leap the tall horse made,
big hands seized her waist and jerked her roughly off its back. Velvet
screamed as One-eyed Jack Kincaid swung her to the ground in front of
him, his face a dark mask of rage. Her breath caught. She whirled to
flee, but his fingers caught her arms, dug into the tops, and halted
any possible movement. A trickle of blood ran from his hair line and
as much as she wanted to escape her insides clenched to see how badly
she had hurt him.
somewhere, my lady?"
through her at the cruel set of his jaw. Sweet God, mayhap now he
would kill her. She bit down on her trembling lips. "I-I'm sorry. I
had to get away."
twisted cruelly. "Sorry to disappoint you."
increased, a chilling tingle that slid down her spine and settled like
cold steel in her belly. She stared into his features and for the
first time it occurred to her that instead of a single blue eye
glaring down at her with menace, this time there were two.
Jesus," she whispered, suddenly transfixed. "Who are you?" Certainly
not One-Eyed Jack Kincaid. His features turned even more harsh.
nemesis, my lady. A man who has underestimated your will for the very
last time." A shrill whistle brought the return of the horse. With a
death grip on her arm, he led the animal back to its stall, dragging
her along in his wake. He jerked off the saddle pad and unfastened her
makeshift reins, then dragged her back toward the house, his big rough
fingers digging into her flesh all the way. She tried not to cry, but
his painful hold combined with her failure had her cheeks wet with
tears by the time they reached the door. The highwaymen saw them,
cursed, and surprisingly his hold on her gentled. "Get inside," he
said gruffly. She did as he commanded, taking several wary steps out
of his reach. He rounded on her with the full force of those
penetrating eyes. "Dammit, woman. Can't you understand? I'll let you
go when it's time and not before then. Make it easy on us both and
resign yourself--you aren't leaving until I say!" She sniffed and
wiped the wetness from her cheeks. "Bloody hell!"
back outside, slamming the door so hard it rang into the
smoke-darkened rafters. Through the window she saw him heading for the
watering trough. He ducked his head beneath the surface, then shook
the water from his wavy dark hair like a dog emerging from a stream.
Streaks of pink ran along his cheek, and guilt sifted through her.
Good Lord, she had never hurt another human being. She hated herself
for it, yet couldn't deny she'd had good cause. She retreated several
paces as he strode back in, but he made no move to approach her, only
sank down on the sofa, closed his eyes, and rested his head against
the back. Velvet eyed him warily. A bruise was beginning to form on
the side of his face, and another spasm of guilt lanced through her.
She moved a little closer.
wanted to hurt you," she said softly. Two blue eyes cracked open. She
felt them on her face as if he touched her.
woman. I should have known better than to trust you."
sighed. "If you would tell me the truth, tell me what this is about,
perhaps I could help you. I don't believe you are really Jack Kincaid.
I'm not even sure you're after the ransom. Please...if you would
"Lady, if you
would just keep quiet, maybe my head would
stop hurting." Velvet bit down on her lip. The man was in pain and she
was the cause. Making her way to the bucket of water by the fire, she
dampened a cloth then returned to the sofa, carefully placing it
across his forehead.
piercing blue eyes slid open. Something dark and turbulent swirled in
their depths, something of hurt and betrayal. Something that made her
wish she could change what she had done. "I had to do it," she
whispered. "I wish you could understand." They drifted closed again.
I do," he said without looking at her. "Perhaps I even admire you for
it. I still can't let you leave."
nothing more. She had never met a man like this one. She couldn't
begin to understand him, and yet she was drawn to him. Fascinated by
the danger that seemed to surround him. Touched by the gentleness she
had glimpsed in him more than once. She would continue to fight him.
She had no other choice. But she knew no matter what happened, she
would never hurt him again.