Sabrina Eversleigh runs away from home after her brother-in-law tries to rape her. Caught in a blizzard, she is rescued by Phillip Mercerault. After nursing her back to health, Phillip learns that he is not a hero. Instead, he is a gentleman who has compromised a lady. Now there's only one thing to do: marry her! Sabrina, however, turns him down. But things don't turn out the way Sabrina has planned, and it is she who must now propose to Phillip
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September 30, 1997
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Excerpt from The Offer by Catherine Coulter
"If you don't get away from me I'll scream."
"Of course you won't, my pet. And that's what you are, you know -- a little pet, my little pet. I can caress you and fondle you and you will stretch and moan with delight beneath my hand."
The portrait gallery was dim and shadowy and cold in the early-afternoon winter light. "Yes," he said, smiling at her as he walked slowly toward her, one graceful white hand outstretched, the emerald on his index finger glittering, "you will enjoy what I will do to you, Sabrina. I've known from the beginning that you're eager for me. I had to wait until I had wed Elizabeth. You understand. Now, that's done and I'm here. Now we can be together."
Sabrina watched his fingers curl as if touching her flesh. She backed up until the corner of a huge gilded frame dug into her back.
Suddenly the memory of the portrait gallery faded into blinding white. Trevor was gone. She was alone.
She doubled over with the cough that gripped her so deeply. The pain continued even after the spasms subsided, making her feel as if her ribs were caving inward, grinding and shifting. She was shuddering with the pain. She managed to get hold of herself. She forced herself to straighten. She looked around. The whiteness of the snow was blinding. She had no idea where she was. She remembered reading that in Dante's inferno the deepest circle in hell was cold, not hot. She was ready to accept it without question. She knew now this was what hell was like -- a colorless cold, so cold, so intense, that her breath froze into nothingness in the frigid blank air. She clutched the palm of her gloved hand against her breast for warmth and drew to a stumbling halt against a large gnarled elm tree. She hugged its trunk and let the rough bark dig into her cheek. It hurt. At least she could still feel her face. She felt the bark through her cloak, digging deeper, through her gown, through her chemise. She savored for the moment the illusion of shelter it offered. The wind swirled about her, making her cloak billow at her ankles, making the naked branches overhead whip back and forth, tangling with other branches, rending and tearing, like fingernails pulling at flesh.
She gazed up. The snow wasn't too terribly heavy yet. But the full fury of the storm would soon be upon her, and she knew that unless she found her way out of the forest, she would die. She forced herself to look about again. Was the snow coming down harder?
She pushed herself away from the tree and forced her feet to move forward, in what she prayed was a southerly direction. She had been so certain of herself, even after her mare had gone lame, sure that she would find her way through Eppingham Forest. After all, she'd lived here all her eighteen years and knew the forest well. She wondered now if she would ever find her way before the thickening snow blanketed any landmarks she might recognize.
The thorn of a bramble tore into her beautiful crimson velvet cloak, a present from her grandfather the previous Christmas. She bent to pull the cloak free. The pain in her chest gripped her again, and she doubled over with the cough that had become harsh so very quickly, and tears fell, cold and slick down her cheeks. She dashed her hand across her eyes, but when her vision cleared, it was Trevor's face she saw again, a pretty face, indeed, its finely chiseled features almost too pretty for a man. She saw his hooded pale green eyes were darker now as he stalked her. His lashes were too long and thick for a man, her sister Elizabeth had told her, but perhaps if she birthed a daughter, she would have her father's beautiful eyes and lashes.