This beguiling pair of novels from author Mary Blayney delivers a double dose of romance and intrigue as two people from one extraordinary family find themselves on the right--and wrong--sides of love, and the law....
When an enigmatic beauty rescues accused traitor Lord Gabriel Pennistan from a French prison cell, it's just the beginning of an adventure in mystery and seduction. For Gabriel has no idea who Charlotte Parnell is, or why she has saved him... and Charlotte has underestimated the sensual stranger who awakens in her a passion that culminates in a night of exquisite lovemaking. But when she abruptly vanishes, Gabriel will not rest until he finds her--no matter what the cost....
In her worst nightmares, Lady Olivia Pennistan never imagined she would be kidnapped. And retired soldier Michael Garrett never expected to be her rescuer. But he could hardly ignore the naked young beauty scrambling through the forest. Neither anticipates sharing a kiss--or wanting another. The final surprise comes when Garrett is hired to protect Olivia and her family from the insidious threats that persist. As their simmering attraction ignites, rumors of Olivia's indiscretion surface--rumors she longs to make come true....
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October 27, 2008
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Excerpt from Traitor's Kiss/Lover's Kiss by Mary Blayney
Charlotte! Where have you been? You make me cry with frustration." The vendor leaned on his cart and added a lewd gesture, leaving no doubt of his interest.
His French was of the gutter and Charlotte Parnell answered with the same accent. "Later!" she called, smiling over her shoulder and tossing her skirt so a little ankle showed. She took Georges's arm as further proof she was already occupied.
They turned down an alley and left the crowded streets behind them.
"That man is harmless, madame."
"Few men are harmless, Georges," she said, and was annoyed when a shiver came with the thought.
"The winter light is fading. Will you be warm enough with only that shawl?"
"Yes," she snapped, then closed her eyes and drew a deep breath. "My apologies, Georges. This is a complicated venture and I am . . ." she hesitated, "uneasy. You are taking a chance and I am not sure the man is worth it."
"We are both taking a chance, madame. We do it because the money is too great a temptation to resist."
"You are so practical," she said with a little laugh. "And you are right. We will rescue a man who will be hanged as a traitor so that we have the money to save others."
"Madame," Georges began and then cleared his throat, "if he has betrayed England for France, how is it that he is in a French prison?"
"It is curious, is it not." Charlotte waved to the flower seller, who waved back. "Perhaps he has managed to offend the French as well as betray the English, or it is some political game the French are playing. In fact, Georges, I do not care as long as we are paid."
"If both sides are angry at him, the chances of his safe return are lessened. I hope that your patron agreed to pay even if this man does not survive."
"Is it murder to allow a guilty man to die in order to save ourselves?" Charlotte asked as she stopped to look at him.
"I am not sure what murder is anymore." Georges gestured to the everyday scene around them. "Despite the fact that we still eat and sleep, Napoleon has embroiled us in a fight for our lives since 1793. These last twenty years all of Europe has suffered. Even England and Russia, Austria." He ticked off the list on his fingers.
"And our small corner of the world here in Le Havre," she agreed. "We are all living in hell." Charlotte watched a man and a young woman cross the street. The girl looked back at her with curious eyes. Her companion pulled hard on her arm. "Most often a hell of our own making," she added when the girl stumbled a little as she turned away. "As for the terms of this contract, my patron and I have agreed that he will pay us a thousand pounds for the effort and double that if the man reaches England safely."
Georges nodded. They made their way past neighborhood shops competing with the vendors, who were as much entertainers as salesmen.
Charlotte paused at one shop to smile at a toddler sitting on a cushion just on the other side of the window. "It is as though we are his personal theater." Charlotte tapped her fingers on the glass.
When the tot saw her watching him, he laughed, slamming his little hand flat against the glass. Charlotte kissed her fingers, then pressed them against the pane and his hand on the other side.
The boy's mother came to him, took one look at Charlotte and Georges, scooped the child up and turned her back on them.
"Children see so much more clearly than adults," Georges said.
"And adults see exactly what I wish them to see." With a glance at her reflection she moved on. Her hair was so bright a red that anyone would know it for a wig. She loved it anyway. The color and the tousled curls always attracted attention.
As they moved out of their neighborhood, Georges dropped her arm and drifted away.
A man whistled and she did no more than wave a hand in his direction.
Charlotte did her best to move at more than a promenade and less than a hurry, not on parade to attract customers, but like a woman with a destination in mind.
At the next corner she had to wait for a cart to pass. She made a show of wrapping her shawl around her shoulders and under her arms. The trick accented the decolletage of her gown even if it did little to protect her from the cold. She would be warm enough if she kept moving.
A few steps more and a man walked up to her. This one was not as easily discouraged as the others, and with a glance, Georges was at her side once again.
She took Georges's arm, acting the lady. A curtsy gave the man an excellent view down her bodice, a reward for her dismissal.
The stranger was ready to fight for her, but Charlotte knew Georges's stare would convince him otherwise. The man settled for an insult and moved on.
"Il n'y a pas de quoi, comme toujours, madame."
You are welcome as always, madame. It was one of the most generous phrases anyone had ever spoken to her. The men in Le Havre had been attentive. Georges was the only one who had been kind as well as loyal.