When a handsome man literally fell at her feet while she was walking through a moonlit convent courtyard, Helena knew he must have been there for a scandalous liaison. Yet she kept his presence a secret from the questioning nuns -- and for her silence the stranger rewarded her with an enticing, unforgettable kiss. What Helena didn't know was that her wild Englishman was Sebastian Cynster, Duke of St. Ives ... and that this dashing, dangerous nobleman was her destiny. Seven years later, Sebastian spies Helena from across a crowded ballroom. This heiress is dazzling London society with her wit and beauty, tantalizing all the eligible men with the prospect of taking her hand in marriage. But Helena is not looking for just any husband. She wants an equal, a challenge -- someone who can live up to the promise of that delicious, never-forgotten kiss.
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October 31, 2002
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Excerpt from The Promise in a Kiss by Stephanie Laurens
December 19, 1776
Convent des Jardinires de Marie, Paris
Midnight had come and gone. Helena heard the small bell of the church chime as she paused in the doorway of the infirmary. Three o'clock. Ariele, her younger sister, was at last sleeping deeply; her fever had broken -- she would be safe enough in Sister Artemis's care. Reassured, relieved, Helena could again seek her own bed in the dormitory beyond the cloisters.
Drawing her woolen shawl about her shoulders, she stepped out from the shadows of the infirmary wing. Her wooden pattens clacked softly on the stone flags as she crossed through the gardens filling the convent's grounds. The night was icy, clear. She was wearing only her nightgown and robe -- she'd been asleep when the night sister had summoned her to help with Ariele. Common sense urged her to hurry -- her shawl was not that warm -- yet she walked slowly, comfortable in the moon-drenched gardens, confident in this place where she'd spent most of the last nine years.
Soon, as soon as Ariele was well enough to travel, she would leave forever. She'd celebrated her sixteenth birthday three months ago; her future lay before her -- an introduction into society followed by marriage, an arranged union with some wealthy aristocrat. That was the way of her class. As the comtesse d'Lisle, with extensive estates in the Camargue and connected to the powerful de Mordaunts among others, her hand would be a sought-after prize.
The branches of a huge linden threw deep shadows across the path. Passing through them, stepping once again into the silvery light, she stopped, lifted her face to the infinite sky. Drank in the peace. So close to the Lord's fete day, the convent was empty, the daughters of the wealthy already at home for the season's celebrations. She and Ariele were still here only because of Ariele's weak chest; she'd refused to leave until her sister could travel with her. Ariele and most of the others would return again in February, and their lessons would recommence. Until then ...