Excerpt from Never a Bride

Never A Bride

Lord Stonehurst folded his arms across his chest and glared at Mirabella. "An apology from me? Whatever for?"

"For being gone six years and not returning to claim me for your bride."

"You jest, Miss Whittingham. I'm certain there wasn't a time limit on our families' arrangement."

"A properly brought up gentlemen would have been aware of the passing time and not have kept his fiancée waiting so long."

The muscle at the corner of his mouth twitched with tension again. "So in my absence, you decided to seek solace in the arms of another man?"

Solace is not the word she would have used, and Mirabella wasn't about to admit to anything. "I'm sure you never sought the comfort of a woman's arms these years you've been gone." She took a step closer to him and lowered her voice even more. "If you haven't, then I confess to being weaker than you, Lord Stonehurst."

A slight flare of what she thought to be admiration glinted in his eyes for a few seconds, but all too quickly the anger returned. "You give me too much credit, Miss Whittingham."

"Accept only what's deserving."

"Are you in love with him?"

"Who? Mr. Farthingdale?" She lifted her chin. "Certainly not."

"You were kissing him. Obviously I am to assume you make a habit of kissing men you don't love?"

Oh, why had she been so enchanted by him last night that she kissed him? She was trapped. "It would appear to you that is the case, for I have no affectionate feelings for Mr. Farthingdale."

He unfolded his arms and advanced one step toward her. "You puzzle me, Miss Whittingham. Last night I found you walking the streets alone. You kissed me when we parted."

"It was a little buss." A powerful kiss.

"A kiss nonetheless. And tonight I find you wrapped in the arms of a man. What am I to think?"

"It is your fault, Lord Stonehurst."

He frowned deeply and tensed again. "Mine?" he asked ruefully.

She wouldn't back down. "Yes."

"This is because I've been gone longer than what you deemed proper? Longer than you'd hoped?"

"I dared not hope," she said, her own anger rising. "I overheard you tell my father you would not return until you were old and gray. Congratulations, sir, you almost made it."

"You were eavesdropping?"

She ignored his accusation and allowed him to add it to his ever growing list. She was guilty of far worse.

"After my first Season passed and you didn't return I assumed I'd been put on the shelf. If you'd been here three years ago, or two months ago or even last week, I wouldn't have been kissed by another man. Therefore it is your fault."

"Your courage is extraordinary."

Mirabella's voice grew softer. "I resigned myself to never being a bride, Lord Stonehurst. Must I go through life without a kiss, too?"

His eyes narrowed. His expression softened, but only for a flash.

"A kiss is all you wanted?" His voice lowered. His eyes grew fierce. Fury radiated from him. "Very well, Miss Whittingham."

Camden grasped her upper arms and pulled her to him. His lips covered hers quickly, hard and hungrily, completely scorching her with his strength, his heat, his desire. Blood rushed to her ears. Her breasts pressed against his chest. Breath swooshed out of her lungs. She felt his power, his anger, his punishment.

As suddenly as he had grabbed her, he let her go and stepped away unapologetically.

Goosebumps rose on her skin.

Mirabella was astonished, frightened, exhilarated. Lord Stonehurst's kiss was nothing like the flat pressing together of dry lips that she had endured from fumbling gentlemen all week. There was nothing awkward or hesitating in the Viscount's kiss.

"You should have waited until I returned." His words spilled from a ragged breath.

Behind an unexpected broken gasp she whispered, "If only I had known you would. Right now, I feel as if I haven't ever been kissed before you."

Lord Stonehurst looked stunned, caught off guard by her words.

Coming in June!
304 pages (June 5, 2001)
Jove Pubns; ISBN: 0515130621

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