A legendary lover and spymaster, the darkly sensual Earl of Wycliff eludes matrimony until a brush with death makes him yearn for a son to carry on his name. The moment Lucian spies the alluring Brynn Caldwell on a Cornish beach, he knows he has found the woman he wants for his bride. Brynn believes the notorious rake's fascination with her is driven by a centuries-old curse that dooms the women of her family to tempt men-only to lead those they love to their death. Compelled by dire circumstances to marry Lucian, Brynn surrenders her body to his caresses but dares not give him her heart. Locked in a battle of wills with his bewitching wife, Lucian begins to suspect that Brynn is a traitor. Before long he finds himself lured into a web of danger and betrayal, where the price of winning his bride's elusive heart may be his own life.
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October 29, 2001
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Excerpt from Desire by Nicole Jordan
The Cornish Coast, three months earlier . . . It was not one of her better days. Brynn Caldwell dove beneath the warm surf, trying to drown her simmering anger in the deep tidal pool. Her frustration with her oldest brother Grayson had reached the limits of her endurance.
With a muttered oath, she surfaced and rolled onto her back, willing herself to calm. This was not the first time she had futilely argued with Gray and sought refuge in the secluded cove below their house. The inlet was flanked on two sides by jagged boulders and behind by a low cliff that shielded the natural rock pool from prying eyes. She came here whenever she could, or whenever she felt a need for peace, as now.
Here she could be free of the confining restrictions she imposed on herself. Here she could forget the troubles that constantly worried her: how to make ends meet for her impoverished family, how to protect her youngest brother, Theodore, from Gray ' s dangerous notions of upbringing.
The afternoon July sun was warm on her face as Brynn floated, the salty seawater soothing her frayed temper. Yet she had never felt so helpless. Gray intended to take Theo out on a midnight smuggling excursion tonight, and despite arguing herself hoarse, she could do nothing to stop him.
' Devil take him! ' she murmured, an imprecation she used frequently of late toward her oldest brother. Grayson was very dear to her, but dragging a mere child into their illicit activities was utterly criminal.
It galled her to feel so powerless. She had raised Theo from a baby ' ever since their mother had died in childbirth twelve years before ' and she was desperate to spare him the danger that had ensnared her four other brothers and herself as well.
Smuggling was a way of life on the Cornish coast. Having grown up here, she accepted the illegal means to which the local folk resorted simply to survive, trafficking goods such as brandy and silk past government revenuers to avoid crushing taxes.
But Free Trading was so very perilous. Her father had perished in a storm several years ago while trying to elude a revenue cutter. And so had numerous other men of the district, leaving behind widows and young children with no means of support.
And now Grayson meant to involve Theo in an upcoming brandy-smuggling foray so he could ' learn to pull his weight ' and help relieve the oppressive debts their father had amassed. It was enough to make Brynn want to do violence.
She made herself float awhile longer, then swam some more, trying to burn off her frustration ' to no avail. She was physically spent by the time she turned toward shore, but her feelings of guilt and anger and helplessness were just as strong as she clambered onto the ledge of the rocky pool.
For a moment she stood dripping wet in her shift, wringing out her long hair. The sea breeze would dry it quickly, for this stretch of Cornish coast boasted one of the warmest climes in England.
When she started to reach for the towel she had left lying on the ground, however, she realized it was gone. Her gaze lifted, searching, then fell upon the intruder in her private sanctuary. Brynn froze, her heart thudding in her chest.