• A Regency Romance Novel

    Amanda Sinclair is forced into a loveless marriage with a handsome but brooding earl. James Cavendish is in love with another woman, but no matter how hard he tries, he is unable to resist Amanda's charms. The morning after their wedding night, James returns to London, leaving Amanda at his Sussex estate. Taking the reigns in her hands, Amanda follows her husband, determined to win his heart and claim her status as his wife.
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  • Storm over Sussex Gainsborough Woodcutter's Cottage Sussex Woods in Spring Downsley Hall South Downs Rosewood Manor Rosewood Manor's Drawing Room Ancient Roman villa, mosaic tile floor, Sussex South Down Sheep Bottle feeding lambs

02 – Chapter Two

Amanda Sinclair eyed the dark-haired stranger with a mixture of anger and apprehension. Anger won out, and she shot him a quelling look, daring him to come closer.

Given her rotten day thus far, the man’s appearance shouldn’t have surprised her. The storm had materialized out of nowhere, and she had found shelter only after she’d been thoroughly soaked. She was cold, hungry, and distinctly unhappy, and now she had to contend with this strange man.

Amanda inspected his arresting features and tall, slim form, and realized he was the most spectacularly handsome man she had ever seen in her life. From the cut of his simple but stylish clothes and his aristocratic bearing, she deduced he was a gentleman and accustomed to having his way.

Her gaze met his, and she looked away quickly, reddening under his intense scrutiny.

“Sir, who are you?” she demanded, momentarily forgetting her state of undress.

Before he could answer, Rascal, her tan-and-black terrier streaked across the small space, barking, his fangs bared in defense of his mistress. He had been asleep in front of the fire, lulled by its warmth. Thunder and rain had masked the sound of the man’s entrance, but the stranger’s deep voice and the smell of his mistresses’ fear had roused the dog from his dream of chasing rabbits.

“Call off your dog,” the man commanded with an air of easy authority.

“Come here, Rascal,” she said, reassuring her dog with a pat on the head and gesturing him to her side. As she leaned over, the neckline of her chemise gaped open, exposing her breasts.

She heard his sharp intake of breath.

Mortified, Amanda turned to him, her arms covering her breasts. “I’d like you to leave my cabin – NOW.”

“Your cabin?” He glanced with disdain at the shabby contents. Dust lay thick and undisturbed on the meager pieces of bare wood furniture. Massive cobwebs hung from the rafters, and a faint, rotting stench permeated the room.

She noticed his faint look of distaste. “Very well, then. It’s not my cabin. Nevertheless, you must go.”

“Cavendish.”

She looked at him puzzled.

“You asked for my name. It is Cavendish. What’s yours?” His hot breath reeked of brandy. Comforted by the presence of her dog, Amanda remained quiet. One signal from her and Rascal would be at the man’s throat.

He stepped closer.

“Don’t,” she said, putting out one hand. “Stay where you are.” She shuddered, but not from the cold. The room felt too small for comfort, and she could not back away without stepping too close to the fire.

“I had not expected to find anyone here,” he said.” He had not once taken his eyes off her since he entered the room.

Hugging her arms to her chest, she began to babble. “My-my dog ran away chasing a rabbit. I got lost searching for him. Then it began to rain. I managed to find this cabin, and – and … start a fire …” Her voice trailed off.

When she grew silent, he said, “You are soaking wet.”

Heat suffused Amanda’s body. She clenched her fists and began to shake with anger. The sheer insolence of the man! He still had not made a move to leave.

“My God, Mouse” he muttered. “You’re trembling from cold. Should you not be drying yourself off?”

What had he thought she was doing when he trespassed? And why was he calling her a mouse?

“Only after you’re gone!” she hissed.

He smiled, showing off a row of brilliant white teeth.

God help her, but he was simply too gorgeous for words. If she didn’t watch herself, she’d find herself in deep, deep trouble. “I am Miss Sinclair,” she announced in her haughtiest voice, hoping her name and standing in the community would convince him to go.

A frown creased his brow. “Miss Sinclair,” he repeated, as if her name sounded familiar. Then he shivered. “Mind if I take this off?” Without waiting for her answer, he shrugged out of his waterlogged greatcoat and flung it on a dusty stool.

“Now, step aside, Miss Sinclair, and share your fire. Unless you’d prefer to warm me yourself?” He lifted a brow and waited expectantly, the flashes of intermittent lightning lending his features a predatory look.

Amanda’s eyes grew wide with alarm. “Sir! I asked you to leave, and I meant it. Where’s your decency? I’m barely clothed as it is.”

He gave her a bemused smile. “Oh, I’m fully aware of that, Mouse, believe me.”

“Stop calling me Mouse!”

“As you wish.” He sketched her a bow. “Since I’m unable to persuade you to make yourself more comfortable, mind if I do?”

Infuriated that he’d mistaken her for a working girl, she tried to speak. Instead, she gawked at him like a slatternly tavern maid, and before she could utter a word he had removed his coat. She looked on helplessly as he quickly took off his waistcoat and cravat, keenly aware of how dangerously handsome he looked clad only in his boots, breeches, and soggy linen shirt. Rivulets of water dripped down his dark locks, over winged eyebrows and thick lashes, and onto the exposed flesh of his neck.

Lord a mercy, she thought in desperation, feeling her pulse quicken. Never before had she been alone with a strange man, much less with one who was in such a state of dishabille. Transfixed, she surveyed his lithe, muscular body, his wide shoulders, and narrow hips and long legs, and moistened her dry lips with the tip of her tongue.

He caught her furtive movement and cast her a knowing look.

Amanda held her breath, feeling for the first time the hot, pulsing need of sexual desire. Her nipples tightened and she felt a stirring sensation deep inside her womb. Mortified, she turned from him, facing the fire, and held out her hands towards its warmth. Her heartbeat sounded unnaturally loud to her ears. Distantly she was aware of the rumble of thunder and the rain pounding the roof.

The stranger stepped up to stand beside her, crowding her.

Her instinct was to move, but she remained rooted to the spot. Forbidden thoughts – thoughts so daring they made her blush – came to her mind. Amanda glanced sideways, and stared with fascination at the dark hairs that curled over his open collar. She wondered how he would look bare chested and … Lord a mercy, what was the matter with her? She’d been raised a lady, yet her she was ogling a complete stranger and wishing … She shook her head to clear it.

How could she be so entranced by mere physical charms? She had waited her entire life for the right man to come along, a man she could love and cherish, and who would love her equally in return. Those lofty goals bore no resemblance to the strange emotions she was presently feeling. Besides, she was no coy schoolroom miss, but a sensible woman of two-and-twenty, one who had too much self-respect to throw herself at the first man she found even remotely attractive.

Searching for the words that would make this obstinate man leave, Amanda hoped to appeal to his sense of decency. “Sir…Mr. Cavendish…you simply cannot stay here. This is highly unseemly. I beg of you, please go.”

“You’re trembling, Mouse,” he murmured, ignoring her. “Let me warm you.” He placed his hands on her shivering shoulders and pulled her to him.

That did it! Amanda whirled away from him. “Sir, take your hands off me and leave me alone! Have you not heard one thing I’ve said? I’m Amanda Sinclair. My father will tear you from limb to limb when he learns that you’ve …”

At that moment, Rascal, a low growl emanating from his throat, sunk his sharp canines into one muddied boot, and began to shake his head to and fro.

“What the devil…!”

Caught off guard by the ferocity of the dog’s attack, the man shook him off with one hard flick of his leg. The tiny dog landed with a thud on the floor, stunned, and with the breath knocked out of him.”

“You’ve killed him!”

Starting towards her dog, Amanda felt a hand restrain her. She wrenched herself free, then froze at the sound of ripping cloth. Instantly it dawned on her what had happened.

“I am so sorry,” she heard him say, his voice thick and barely above a whisper.

Amanda felt the air cooling her exposed breasts. Her cheeks blazing from shame, she tugged the torn edges of her chemise together and rushed towards Rascal’s prone body.

“At least allow me to cover you.”

“One step closer,” she said with clenched teeth, “and I will do you serious damage.” She experienced a short moment of relief when she saw Rascal’s chest rise and fall in a shallow but regular rhythm.

“I’ve overstayed my welcome. Believe me if you will or not, Miss Sinclair, but I am truly sorry for what has happened. For ripping your chemise. I will pay for another, of course.” He inhaled a long shaky breath, and reached for his clothes. As he grabbed his cravat and waistcoat, the front door flew open.

Michael Sinclair barged inside the room, his bulky form filling the small cabin.

“Papa,” Amanda whispered in horror.

“Bloody hell,” Michael uttered. “What the devil have you done to my daughter, Downsley? And what in blazes are you doing here?”

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Copyright, 1999

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One Response

  1. […] Click here to go HOME                                       Click here to read the next chapter […]

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