Romancing the Duke (Castles Ever After #1)

And she was well-enough acquainted with loneliness to understand that the worst part wasn't having nobody caring for you - it was having nobody to care for.

Any self-respecting rake had two kinds of women in his life: those he took to bed at night and those who made him a pancake in the morning. If he suddenly wanted both from the same woman, it was a warning flag. One big and red enough for even a blind man to see.

Astonishing. In the morning, when she sat working at that table of correspondence, silhouetted by sunlight . . .

Her hair truly did look like an octopus.

It was the way she wore it, he thought. Or maybe the way it wore her. It all sat perched atop her head in that big, inky blob. And no matter how strenuously she pinned it, dark, heavy curls worked loose on all sides, like tentacles.

Of course, it was an entrancing, strangely erotic octopus. Ransom worried this might be how fetishes developed.

Everything’s more amusing when read in voices.

Every time you wake up, you let fly the most marvelous string of curses. It’s never the same twice, do you know that? It’s so intriguing. You’re like a rooster that crows blasphemy.

For God’s sake. Don’t do that.”

“Don’t do what?”


“How do you know I’m smiling?”

“I can hear it. Hell, I can feel it. It’s all warm and sweet and . . .” He scowled. “Bah.

He laced his hands behind his neck and propped his boots on the opposite arm of the sofa. If an artist were to capture this image, it would have been labeled,Smugness: A Portrait. She wanted to shake him.

He let his eyes flitter over her. “I don’t see anything ‘precisely.’ I can tell you’re slender. I can see you’re wearing white, or some light color. Your face is pale, your lips are reddish. And there appears to be a dark brown octopus attacking your head.”

“That’s my hair.”

Ransom shrugged. “You asked what I see. I see tentacles.

He rubbed his hands up and down, warming her. “Then that’s all you need to know. I have you. If there are beasties in the dark, they have to get through me

I can’t judge how beauty looks anymore,” he said. “But I know the sound of it. It sounds like a flowing river of wild, sweet honey. Beauty smells like rosemary, and it tastes of nectar. Beauty sneezes like a flea.” She smiled. That beautiful smile. How could she ever doubt her effect on him? “This is how plain you are.

I didn’t do it on purpose.” His arms went around her. “I just . . . I just needed to keep you up here.” He walked her backward until her knees met the edge of her bed, and they both tumbled onto the mattress. “In this bed.”

He stroked her hair, fanning it out over the pillows, and framed her face in his hands. “But I couldn’t discern what it was you needed to feel safe. I tried everything. Finally, tonight, you gave me the answer. Light. So now you have as many candles as you please. But now it’s gone all wrong. Because you’re here in this bed. But I’m here, too. And God help me, Izzy.” His brow pressed to hers, and his weight settled over her, crushing and warm. “I don’t know how to leave.

I don't care who he is. He needs to disappear." Ransom turned and called out the window. "For the love of G-d man. I have England's sweetheart bent over the desk and panting for me. Go away and come back tomorrow.

It started to rain. Fat, heavy drops of summer rain - the kind that always struck her as vaguely lewd and debauched. Little potbellied drunkards, those summer raindrops, chortling on their way to earth and crashing open with glee.

I’ve always tried to make the best of what life gave me. When I was a girl, I longed for a kitten. Instead, I got a weasel. Not the pet I wanted by I’ve done my best to love Snowdrop just the same… Since my father died, I’ve been desperate for a place to call home. The humblest cottage would do. Instead, I’ve inherited a haunted, infested castle in Nowhere, Northumberland. Not the home I wanted, but I’m determined to make it a home.

Izzy had always been raised to believe that “please” was a magic word. She’d been misled. Apparently, the magic word was “dinner.

Izzy was utterly convinced. Never mind Arabian horses, African cheetahs. No creature in the world could bolt so quickly as a rake confronted with the word "marriage". They ought to shout it out at footraces rather than using starting pistols.
Ready, steady... matrimony!

Listen to me. When a man wakes, he wakes wanting. He wakes hard and rude and aching with need.” He shifted, pressing his massive erection against her hip. “Do you feel that?”

She gasped. “Yes.”

“It wants in you,” he said.

“In . . . in me

“Yes. In you. Hard, deep, fast, and completely. Now don’t wake me at this hour again unless you’ve found the perfect retort to that.

Look at him. The man’s not delusional. He’s in love.

No man deserves a woman like that. He mortgages his very soul to win her and spends his life paying off the debt.

Of course one kiss changes things. If it's done right, a kiss changes everything.

Of course you don't deserve her. No man deserves a woman like that. He mortgages his very soul to win her and spends his life paying off the debt.

Oh, but this gift isn’t the same as an ermine. This is property. Don’t you understand how rare that is for a woman? Property always belongs to our fathers, brothers, husbands, sons. We never get to own anything.”

“Don’t tell me you’re one of those women with radical ideas.”

“No,” she returned. “I’m one of those women with nothing. There are a great many of us.

Perhaps he would have no title or fortune to offer her, but he was determined to see her safe.

Everything he did, from this point forward...

It was all for her.

Prithee," He protested, "if thou wouldst waiteth a goddamned second-

She’d always envied beautiful women. Not solely for the beauty itself but because when attributes were parceled out by whatever deity assigned them, beauty seemed to come tethered to confidence. She craved that more than anything.

She was entirely unaware of the protocol when becoming acquainted with a man’s rampant sex organ. Did she reach out and give it a handshake? Touch one finger to the tip? Bid it a polite howdoyoudo?

Sometimes he wondered if women were all lawyers, with an extensive code of Romantic Law that they kept stubbornly hidden from men.

Then she sighed. Just the faintest, softest release of breath. The sound swept through his chest like a hurricane, with the force to topple trees.

These kisses... they were confessions. Tastes of everything she had stored inside her. Everything she could give a man if he was brave enough to accept. Kiss by kiss, she was baring herself to the soul.

Why must this be so mortifying? Oh, that's right. Because its my life.