March 21, 2017
Bound By Their Secret Passion
A forbidden attraction… A hidden desire!
Years ago, penniless Lorene Summerfield wed for duty, giving her siblings the chance to marry for love. But now the generous-hearted countess finds herself widowed…and the man she’s loved in silence for years is falsely accused of her husband’s murder!
Although he closed his heart to love long ago, the Earl of Penford has always found Lorene irresistible. Their newly ignited passion may be scandalous, but now he’ll stop at nothing to clear his name and win Lorene’s hand!
The Scandalous Summerfields—
Disgrace is their middle name!
Bound By Their Secret Passion
Bound By Their Secret Passion
They talked until the serving girl brought tea and dessert.
Dell felt more content than he had in a long time—certainly since…his life had changed. They talked until the sky sparkled with stars around the soft glow of a full moon.
Lorene glanced towards the window. “It is late. We should retire.”
He did not want to part from her. “As you wish.”
He stood and held her chair for her. She took his arm as they left the dining room and walked through the public rooms, still noisy with a motley crew of travelers.
When they entered the hall she hesitated. “Would you do something for me, Dell?”
“Of course.” He would do anything for her.
“Would you step outside with me? Just for a little while? I cannot go by myself and I would love a bit of fresh air.”
“It will be cold for you,” he said.
She wrapped her shawl around her shoulders. “I have my shawl to keep me warm, and we will not stay for more than a little while.”
He gestured towards the door. “Then we shall go.”
The door led to the yard where ostlers were still tending to horses and carriages.
She looked up at the sky. “It is so clear out tonight. I think I am able to see every star.” She glanced back at him. “Might we walk around the inn to the river?”
They passed through an archway that led to the back of the inn and the small park they’d seen from their dining room window. The moonlight and light shining from the inn’s windows made it bright enough to see where they were walking. The air was crisp and clean. They walked to the water’s edge.
“Isn’t it lovely?” she said. “I can almost forget we are in a village and that there are other people about.”
A sudden breeze chilled them.
Dell put his arm around her to keep her warm. “Is that what you want, Lorene, for there to be no people about?”
She turned to face him, tilting her head back to gaze into his face. “I don’t want anyone around me who would talk about me. Or who would tell me what I must do or must not do.”
He held her still, almost in an embrace.
She turned her gaze away. “I’ve had too much of it. I merely want peace. Like right now.”
Like right now? Yes, it was peaceful holding her under the stars.
At the moment it was all he wanted as well.
His arm felt wonderful across her shoulders. The heat of his body warmed her more than her heaviest cloak.
She turned to face him again and he held her with both arms. “We—we should go in.”
She did not move and neither did he.
“It is cold out,” he said.
Another breeze blew as if proving his words. His arms tightened around her. She let him hold her close, savoring the warmth of his body, the scent that was only his. How wonderful it was to be with him again. How easy she felt in his company. They had talked for hours, so comfortably, she’d not even thought once about when they’d last been together.
At her husband’s inquest.
It seemed a decade ago, even if it was only just over a year. She trembled with the memory.
“We should go in,” he said, thinking she was having a chill, no doubt.
“Yes, it is becoming a bit cold,” she agreed.
He released her, and they walked back in the inn and up the stairs to the first floor, stopping in front of her door.
“Good night, Dell,” she murmured. “It was quite the loveliest dinner.”
He merely stared down at her, his face illuminated by the sconce by the stairway. His blue eyes seemed to glow in the dim light, not looking as sad as they usually did. Now, though, she was filled with the overwhelming sense of how much she cared for him and how grateful she was for all his kindnesses to her.
She reached up and touched his face, her fingers scraping against his day’s growth of beard. “Good night.”
He leaned closer, close enough that it seemed their lips might touch, but he quickly straightened.
Good God! What was he about?
Dell returned to his room and paced the floor.
Had he almost kissed her?
Very shabby of him to take advantage of her that way, especially when he was contemplating a courtship with another lady. He could not turn romantic on her, not after all that happened a year ago. Tinmore accusing them of having an affair. Tinmore going into a rage. Falling to his death.
No. He could not start something with Lorene. She could too easily become very important to him.
He must remain firm on his plan. Live for the family he lost. Continue his father’s legacy. Carry on the family name.
And do all of it without engaging his emotions.
The next morning Lorene rose early. She and her maid ate a hurried breakfast and walked into the yard at the time she’d arranged her hired coach to be ready. As she and her maid waited for their portmanteaux to be loaded onto the coach, she spied a horse and rider leaving the stable.
It was Dell, riding comfortably in the saddle of a chestnut Arabian, his hat tall, his topcoat billowing behind him.
Her breath caught.
How handsome he looked!
She remembered her first glimpse of him the night before, on the stairway behind her. He’d looked rakish with his beard shadowing his face and his brown hair tousled as if he’d just come in from a windy day. She had steeled herself to see him in London—how could she not see him when he was the close friend of Genna’s husband?—but she’d been totally unprepared to run into him at this inn in Cambridgeshire.
It had been quite the loveliest dinner she’d ever had, spending so much time with him. Every now and then during the dinner it would strike her that she was with Dell and without a care. They would never have another chance like that one. Walking in the moonlight with him had been magical, almost like her youthful romantic dreams, the ones she used to have before she married.
Her romantic notions must have been running amok, because afterward she even fancied he’d been about to kiss her. Now she was certain she’d been imagining things.
He rode away without having made any effort to say goodbye.
The snub pained her.