In what feels like a moment, Beatrice Edmund goes from being a proper lady cooped up in a stuffy Scottish castle to traveling miles from anything she's ever known, in the midst of the wildest adventure of her life. And at the center of that adventure is the most infuriating, puzzling scoundrel on earth. She cannot take her eyes off him.
Colin Fitch cannot deny he's drawn to Beatrice--but lust is all he could possibly feel for the sharp-tongued minx. Still, if there's a chance she can help him stop the madman he pursues, he must withstand her obvious disapproval. Yet withstanding the longing he feels for her is growing more troublesome by the second. . . And Colin has never been terribly good at staying out of trouble. . .
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March 01, 2011
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Excerpt from Wild Desire by Lori Brighton
She was naked. Naked as the day she was born. Naked as the winter was long in Scotland. Naked as the days were hot in India. Naked.
But the drunken sod who'd burst into her room didn't seem to notice. He didn't bother to glance Bea's way as he cursed in slurred words and wavered about the moonlit bedchamber as if he owned the small abode and had the right to be there, which he most assuredly did not.
Completely and utterly shocked, Bea stood frozen in the dark corner. Not bolting. Not screaming. Not fainting into a naked heap at his feet. Even when the wet cloth that was pressed to her chest dripped warm water between the valley of her breasts, over her stomach, and tickled lower regions a refined woman best not mention, she didn't dare move.
He turned. The moonlight filtering through the open windows hit his face. In one breathless moment, Bea took in his features. High cheekbones, square jaw, and an aquiline nose were highlighted under a silver glow. Mythical, really. Or perhaps the light was playing tricks, for he looked almost handsome. One would think he was a spirit, or some beast come to seduce her soul. Yes, at first glance one would think he was magical, and that person would most definitely be wrong.
Bea didn't need a lantern to know this person was nothing otherworldly. And he was no gentleman. A gentleman would not burst into a lady's bedchamber. A gentleman would not curse. And a gentleman would most assuredly not smell of alcohol, smoke, and the same spice that seemed to permeate the entire blasted country.
"Damn it," he growled in what sounded decidedly like an American accent.
Surprised, the grip on her washing cloth eased. What was an American doing in Delhi?
Better yet, what was an American doing in this tiny room? He stumbled closer to her cot, closer to her. Bea swallowed her squeak of protest and stepped back until the sensitive skin on her shoulders rubbed against the rough stone of the walls. Her breasts rose and fell with each sharp intake of breath, but he didn't seem to hear. In fact, he seemed completely unaware of her presence.
She thought for sure he'd collapsed upon her tiny cot, but somehow the inebriated man managed to keep to his feet, wavering closer to her. Sweat beaded on Bea's brow, her toes curling into the reed mats that covered the floor. Oh, how dreadful! How wretchedly dreadful! Why had she ever agreed to leave the sanity of Britain? Because Leo and Ella had practically begged.
"Come along," Ella had urged. "My dear cousin Colin is in Delhi and we'll reside with him. When would you have another chance to visit such an interesting country? Think of all the butterflies you'll be able to study."
Bea almost snorted. Interesting, indeed. If one found extremely hot weather, the constant feel of sand in your corset, and horrible men bursting into your bedchamber interesting. Oh yes, she'd pay dearly because of her urge for adventure, just as Grandmother had always warned. Stuck in a moldy, drafty castle in Scotland for the past ten years didn't seem so terrible now.
Not only was Colin's home ridiculously primitive and small, but the man was nowhere to be found, leaving dear Ella to worry and pace all night before she'd finally given up hope that he'd return home. Ella and Leo had retired to their room next door only two hours earlier. Were they fast asleep, or were they alert and awake enough to hear her scream?
"Damn boots," the intruder snapped, spinning around and stumbling farther away.
Bea released the air she hadn't realized she held. The bloody humidity pressed down on her lungs. The urge to cough settled on her chest like an anvil. A blasted cough she'd picked up only days after arriving in India. Dear Lord, she couldn't cough now. She closed her eyes for the briefest of moments. Concentrate, Beatrice Edmund. She prayed until the spasm passed.
But as the urge to cough faded, she was once again left with the realization that she was naked. Completely and utterly naked. And even in the dark, the man would surely notice. Frantically, she searched the room until she spotted her white robe lying like a sleeping spirit on the end of her cot.
Could she reach it before he spied her?
If he noticed, he may very well attack . . . or worse. She'd heard stories of men going mad at the mere sight of a woman's ankle. What would one do if he saw a woman completely naked? The thought sent a shiver of disgust over her skin. Perhaps before she bolted across the room she should arm herself. As Grandmother said, always be prepared. Taking her lower lip between her teeth, she eased her hands from her chest. The air instantly hardened her nipples, an embarrassing reminder of her lack of clothing. Ignoring her body's reaction, her fingertips grazed the table holding a pitcher of water and her dagger.
Her hand inched along the smooth teak toward the metal blade. A dagger Cousin Leo had given to her when they'd first arrived in India. A gift she thought completely barbaric at the time yet she'd accepted to be kind to a relative she hadn't seen in years.
The intruder turned. Bea froze, the handle just out of reach. Had he heard her? Could he see her? Dash it! She couldn't tell.
He sighed and rested his hands atop his head. "For God's sake. I know I left the damn thing here somewhere." The man shuffled toward a trunk not five feet from her.
Thank the heavens he didn't seem to see or sense her standing so close that if she exhaled too strong, the curl that touched his ear might take momentary flight. Surprise was an element still on her side. She started to reach for her dagger once more when the meaning of his words seeped through her muddled mind.
The thing. Somewhere.
He'd left something here? Bea frowned. She'd been given the room to occupy, and assumed, because of the trunks, it was used for storage. Perhaps he wasn't an intruder after all. Fear eased into curiosity. Maybe he was a servant in Colin's small household?
But no, he didn't have the typical Indian accent and she'd never heard of an American working as a servant in India. A friend of Ella's cousin Colin? Her frown deepened. Certainly Colin wouldn't befriend a drunken imbecile who barged into rooms without the mere courtesy of a knock. Then again, she'd never met Colin and perhaps he felt the need to hobnob with cads.
She gave her head a slight shake, her long locks brushing across her lower back. He most decidedly must be a friend. There was no other explanation. If so, this certainly complicated her plans, which, at the moment, consisted of screaming and slashing at the stranger with her dagger.
She uncurled her fingers, forcing herself to relax. If friend, then it was only proper she introduce herself. Her gaze traveled to the far corner where her luggage rested, her clothing still packed. Reaching her valise for her calling card wasn't possible and he'd hardly be able to read it in the dark.
Could she reach her robe before he noticed? Really, it was rather difficult to decide on a plan of action when she was naked and wasn't sure what exactly he was, gentleman or cad? Bea resisted the urge to sigh in frustration.
Steeling her resolve, she inched closer toward the cot.
Dare she ring the bell for Ella to introduce her? But if Ella didn't know the man, she'd have to ring for Leo and . . . well, that could take a rather long time with an endless line of people waiting for introductions and she doubted he'd wait patiently by. He most certainly did not seem the patient sort. As if to justify her conclusion, the man threw open a chest that had been left in the room by some unknown occupant. The lid banged against the wall with a thud that rattled the room and would surely attract someone's attention. That would not do at all. If anyone found her with the strange man, her reputation would be shattered. And even halfway across the world she knew, somehow, Grandmother would hear about it by morn.
She shuffled another step toward her robe. Best to be a brave girl and confront him herself. Of course, it would be horrifyingly shameful, but even Americans had some sense of decency. Didn't they? Yes, he'd realize his mistake, apologize, and leave. There'd be embarrassment on her part, but she could live with the repercussions as long as he kept his mouth shut.
There was a clank of metal as he tossed an object aside and it rolled across the reed mats covering the floor. Bea shook her head. Really, he'd wake the house like this. Was he completely lacking in manners?
Slowly, she dropped her washing cloth on the cot. A mosquito buzzed around her ear, humming a melody of seduction. She waved aside the pest and stepped closer to her robe. If only she could reach the garment before he noticed her, she wouldn't have to be quite so humiliated. The floorboard underfoot squeaked.
Bea froze. The man spun around. Metal flashed in the moonlight.
A sword. He had a sword in hand.
"Son of a bitch!" the man roared, dropping the sword with a clank.
Frantic, Bea stumbled back, focused on nothing but escape. Her foot caught on the netting that hung from the ceiling and gathered around her cot, tripping her steps. Off balance, she grasped on to the material. A rip screeched through the room like a dying cat. Suddenly, there was nothing but air beneath her. Steel arms banded around her waist. Was he trying to save her, or murder her?