Damon, the earl of Mardoun, is smitten the moment he meets Meg, the village healer — but she rejects every advance from the earl and will have none of him, even if he is the most handsome man she’s ever laid eyes on. They both know an earl could never marry an unsuitable bride, but when unforeseen circumstances bring them together, Meg’s conviction begins to fade . . .
Meg Munro was accustomed to being in control. She went where she wanted, she did as she pleased.
She made her remedies from precise recipes; she measured, never estimating, never substituting or deviating unless she had thoroughly tested it. When she birthed a babe, she gave orders and others followed. She set the limits for her suitors with equal certainty.
But this afternoon, she had been swept away by his kisses, swamped by sensations and emotions she’d never known. She had been a stranger to herself, not a reasonable, intelligent woman, but a roiling mass of need and desire. She had wanted, she had ached, she had rushed on thoughtlessly. It was not that she had not heeded her wiser instincts — she had not even considered them. She still tingled with energy, every sense awakened, her body alive and hungry. And what she hungered for was him.
Meg cast a sideways glance at Mardoun. He was a handsome devil, she’d give him that. He had the sort of jaw a man should have, and long, mobile fingers that caused her insides to dance just looking at them. His thick, black hair, those dark, piercing eyes, deep set beneath fierce slashes of brows, the long torso, tapering into narrow hips. She had never posited what features in a man appealed to her, but she knew now, looking at him, that he possessed them.
She wanted him; it would be foolish to deny it. She ached to feel again the storm that had rolled over her when he kissed her: the rush of heat and excitement, the pure pleasure that had invaded every inch of her from head to toe.
But that was impossible. In those moments with his mouth on her, his heat and scent enveloping her, she had thought of nothing else. If the power of her feelings had not been so strong that they frightened her, she would have gone further, deeper, more headlong into the passion. If she kissed him again, if she let him glide his hands over her, she knew it would not end until they were in bed.
Damon sat up, pulling away from her, and tore at his own buttons. Meg shoved her dress down and untied her chemise, pulling it over her head and tossing it aside. The evening air caressed her naked breasts, nipples tightening. She saw that Damon’s fingers had stilled on his shirt as he watched her. She saw the passion on his face, the slackening and softening of his lips, the hunger that heated his gaze.
Meg felt none of the shame or embarrassment she would have supposed she would at baring her breasts to him, only pleasure and a kind of power, even pride, that she could affect him so.
With a huff of breath, he yanked off his shirt and spread it out on the ground, then lowered her to it.
Lying down beside her, propped up on one elbow, he laid his other hand upon her and moved over her. His hands were surprisingly gentle, given the avidity in his eyes, as he traced the lines of her collarbone and ribs, curved over the swell of her breasts, and trailed onto her stomach.
“I have never seen aught so beautiful,” he murmured, and leaned down to kiss her breast, the upthrust nipple, the quivering flesh of her stomach.
With the tip of his tongue, he traced one nipple, startling a shiver of pleasure from her. When he pulled the nub of flesh into his mouth and settled down to suck at it, Meg gasped and reached out blindly, digging her fingers into his shoulders. His mouth was hot and wet and insistent, a wealth of extraordinary new delights, and some invisible cord running through her throbbed at the pull of it.
Eyes closed, she struggled to suppress the moans that sought to rise to her lips, but then his hand delved down beneath the waist of her dress and under the thin cotton of her underclothes, slipping between her legs, and at the touch, she could not hold back a soft cry of surprise and pleasure. Digging her heels into the ground beneath her, Meg bowed up against his hand.
Damon’s mouth turned searing, and she could feel the tension in his muscles beneath her hands, the taut coiling of leashed strength, as his fingers gently explored her, opened her, teased rippling threads of desire through her. He lifted his head and Meg opened her eyes to find him watching her. She saw the quickened rise and fall of his chest and the flame in his eyes, the raw need that stamped his face, and the sight of his hunger only deepened her own.