In the three years since her husband left her, Lady Kate Carhart has managed to forge a fulfilling life for herself. But when Ned Carhart unexpectedly returns, she finds her tranquility uprooted--and her deepest secrets threatened. Though she has no intention of falling for Ned's charms, Kate can no longer deny the desire that still burns in her heart.
Ned is determined to regain his wife's trust by using unbridled seduction. But just as Kate surrenders to Ned's passion, her carefully guarded past threatens to destroy her. Now Kate must place her faith in the only man she's ever loved, and the only one who has ever betrayed her....
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September 30, 2010
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Excerpt from Trial by Desire by Courtney Milan
From the book...
shoulder-high wall hugged the dirt road that wound its way up the hill Kate was climbing. Last night, when she and the nursemaid had crept by on foot, the dark stones of the wall had seemed menacing, hunched things. She'd imagined Eustace Paxton, the Earl of Harcroft, crouching behind every rock, ready to spit vile curses at her.
But through the diffuse morning fog, she could see little yellow-headed wildflowers growing between the rocks. Even this aging edifice had become friendly and bright. And Harcroft was thirty miles away, in London, unaware of her involvement in his latest misfortunes. She'd won a respite, and for the first time in two weeks, she breathed easily.
As if to belie her certainty, the plod of horse hooves carried to her on a breeze. She turned, her heart accelerating. Despite the flush of heat that rose in her, Kate clutched her heavy cloak about her. She'd been discovered. He was here...
There was nothing behind her but morning mist. She was imagining things, to think that Harcroft would have uncovered her secret so quickly. She let out a covert breath--and then gulped it back as the creak of wooden wheels sounded once more. This time, though, it was evident that the noise came from up the road. As she peered ahead of her, the dark form of a cart lumbering up the hill resolved in the mist.
The sight was as calming as it was familiar. A blanket of fog had obscured the sound's origin. The cart moved slowly, drawn by a single animal. As Kate trudged up the hill, her calves burning with the exertion, she made out more details. The conveyance was filled with heavy wooden kegs, marked with a sigil she could not make out from here. The animal that pulled this cargo seemed some nondescript color, unidentifiable in the mist. From this distance, its coat appeared to be both spotted and striped with light gray. It strained uphill, bone and muscle rippling underneath that oddly colored pelt.
Kate sighed with relief. The man was a common laborer. Not Harcroft; therefore, not someone who posed a threat if he discovered the role she'd played last night. Still, Kate pulled her hood up to shield her face. The scratchy wool was the only disguise she had.
As if in reminder of the nightmare that Louisa had escaped, a whip-crack sounded in front of her. Kate gritted her teeth and continued up the hill. Half a minute later, and a number of yards closer, the whip cracked again. She bit her tongue.
She had to be practical. Lady Kathleen Carhart might have had sharp words for the man. But right now Kate was wrapped in an ill-fitting cloak, and the servant she was pretending to be would keep her eyes downcast. A servant would never speak up, not to a man with a horse and a whip. He would never believe her the lady of the manor, not dressed as she was.
And besides, the last thing Kate needed if she intended to keep her secrets was for society to hear that she'd been skulking about, dressed as a servant. As she climbed the hill, the lash continued to fall. She gritted her teeth in fury as she drew abreast of the cart. Perhaps that was why, at first, she didn't hear it.
Above the complaining rumble of the cart wheels, the noise had been at first indiscernible. But the wind shifted, and with it brought the rhythmic sound of a gentle canter to her ears.
Kate glanced behind her. A horseman was coming up the hill.
A simple carter might once have caught a glimpse of Lady Kathleen at a harvest festival--a close enough look to boast, over a tankard of ale, perhaps, about seeing a duke's daughter. He wouldn't recognize her when she was swathed in a heavy cloak and a working woman's bonnet.
But a man on horseback could be a gentleman. He might, in fact, be...