But even more appalling than his presence is the brazen kiss he plants on her shocked lips — and her response! Especially since Arabella clearly has secrets of her own. Author Karen Hawkins is a budding Julia Quinn, master of the mad romp. I highly recommend A Belated Bride!
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In alarm, Arabella Hadley threw open the carriage door and peered through the night gloom. She halted when she came to the front of the carriage.
Wilson pointed with a grubby hand to the side of the road. Arabella turned with apprehension. In the dim light, she could just make out the form of a large man lying prone in the dirt.
Her heart sank when she noted his multi-caped coat and the unmistakable gleam of a costly pair of Hessians, shined to mirrored perfection. The old groom poked at the man with the tip of his worn boot. Master Robert would have liked such a prime goer. I must see how badly this poor man is injured. Lady Durham and Lady Melwin would never forgive us if anything happened to you. Aunt Emma and Aunt Jane were both addicted to flights of romantic fancy. Fortunately, life had cured Arabella of that fault long, long ago.
She bent closer to the fallen man. He lay on his side, his broad shoulders rising and falling in a reassuringly steady rhythm. Black as midnight, his hair fell across a large purple lump on his brow, while the rest of his face remained obscured by the folds of a woolen muffler.
The wind rose, carrying with it the faintest taste of snow. Arabella shivered and tugged her cloak closer. She had little choice but to take their guest back to Rosemont. Her aunts would look after him until the doctor could be sent for. As Arabella was turning away from the fallen man, something caught the light. Hardly aware of what she was doing, she set the lantern on the frozen road and sank to her knees.
She reached for the muffler, numbed as if she were in a dream. Just as her fingers closed over the wool, a powerful hand enclosed her wrist like a band of warmed steel.
Slumberous and seductive, his gaze held her prisoner. She knew those eyes. Knew them better, perhaps, than her own. She knew, too, what she would see beneath the muffler: golden skin and a bold, patrician nose over a sensuous mouth designed for forbidden pleasures. Though his hand still gripped her wrist, she pulled the muffler free, her knuckles brushing against his stubbled jaw. A bolt of raw heat lanced through her fingers and settled in her breasts, then slid lower.
Arabella hunched her shoulders at the strength of her reactions, panic rising. God help her, but she was still under his spell. His gaze flickered and his mouth curved in a lazy smile. But Arabella refused to respond. Whatever she may be, she was no longer an inexperienced miss of sixteen. Why did you come back? Arabella stumbled to her feet, her hands clenched in the folds of her skirt. For an instant she contemplated leaving him where he lay, alone and helpless.
But the brisk wind cooled more than her burning cheeks. Neither her conscience nor her aunts would allow her such a luxury. With a heavy sigh, she picked up the lantern.
My aunts can tend him until we locate his mount. Arabella had just gathered her skirts to climb in herself when Ned stopped. Eyes wide, he held out his hand. Blood glistened on his fingertips. Wilson blanched as Arabella pushed Ned aside and climbed onto the seat.
Ned hurried to assist her, and between them, they removed it and the tight-fitting coat beneath. From the snug fit of his breeches to the intricate folds of his cravat, Lucien Devereaux looked every inch the Duke of Wexford. Only the rip in his shirt and the bloodstain around it marred the perfection. Ned shook his head, disgust wrinkling his nose. The howling echoed across the mist-shrouded moor and dissipated into the black night. Wilson turned a white face to Arabella.
Please, God, not now. She had been so careful, so cautious that no one learn the reason for her late-night jaunts. Heaven help them all if she was discovered. Unaware of the tension, Ned rubbed his chin where a small layer of red fuzz had lately begun to grow. Arabella turned back to Lucien. And quickly. The stable hand scurried off, Wilson hard on his heels, and within seconds the coach was careening down the road at breakneck speed.
Arabella set to work loosening his cravat, but the stubborn knot held. Frustrated, she shoved it to one side and pulled his shirt free, ripping it open when it resisted her efforts. She faltered at the expanse of naked skin. He was more muscular than she remembered. But the Lucien Devereaux she had known had been a self-indulgent viscount kicking his heels in the country while waiting for the season to begin.
Wildly handsome, he had been a shameless hedonist and a Corinthian of the highest sort, excelling in every sport from fencing to riding. She used the edge of his torn shirt to wipe the blood from his shoulder so she could see the wound. The tree branch had inflicted more damage than a bump on the head. A long, jagged gash followed the curve of his shoulder across sinew and muscle. Relieved he was not mortally wounded, she looked about for something to serve as a bandage, but found nothing.
I should have left you in the road, Lucien Devereaux, and let the mice have you. Then she folded it into a neat square and strapped it into place with the thick muffler, tying the ends as tightly as she dared. That should hold you until we get to Rosemont. A faint smile tugged her mouth at the thought, though it did little to untie the knots in her stomach. She was so close to success. She might even have enough left to complete the improvements on Rosemont.
All she needed was time. Time and a little luck. Of course, luck did not seem to be favoring her just now. She stole a glance at Lucien from beneath her lashes. He lay sprawled in the corner, muttering restlessly at each bump and dip. Though she knew it was childish, Arabella only wished he were fully conscious so she could enjoy his discomfort. The lumbering coach struck a particularly deep rut and Lucien let out a low groan, his hand reaching for his wounded shoulder.
Arabella dived across the coach just as his fingers settled about her hastily tied dressing. His brows lowered and he struggled to free himself from the bandage. Refusing to give way, she held tight, wrapping both of her hands about his. After a moment, he subsided and slipped sideways until his head rested in her lap, his breathing shallow but steady. Arabella waited until his brow had smoothed before she carefully pulled the blanket back into place.
He looked peaceful, his thick lashes resting on his cheeks, as innocent and guileless as a boy. But she was not fooled. She knew him too well. His head lay nestled in a warm, soft cushion while the delectable scent of raspberries sparked visions of lazy summer days. Except for the occasional sway and creak of a poorly sprung coach, he could almost believe himself to be ensconced in a wondrously soft bed, suffering from no more than an enthusiastic night of brandy.
He shifted and an icy cold stab dispelled his pleasant fantasy. No night of overindulgence had ever hurt this much.
He raised a hand, his fingers instinctively reaching for his shoulder. Husky and low, the faint Yorkshire accent sparked a distant memory. For an instant, Lucien had a clear vision of warm brown eyes and petal-soft lips. Distracted from his pain, he forced his eyes open. A sweet, heart-shaped face stared down at him, the delicate sable brows lowered. His heart thudded an extra beat.
A Belated Bride
In alarm, Arabella Hadley threw open the carriage door and peered through the night gloom. She halted when she came to the front of the carriage. Wilson pointed with a grubby hand to the side of the road. Arabella turned with apprehension. In the dim light, she could just make out the form of a large man lying prone in the dirt. Her heart sank when she noted his multi-caped coat and the unmistakable gleam of a costly pair of Hessians, shined to mirrored perfection. The old groom poked at the man with the tip of his worn boot.
A BELATED BRIDE KAREN HAWKINS PDF
Sagor Like Arabella, Lucien had faced monetary difficulties in his recent past. In this way he had a lot in common with Arabella, but it took them too long to share this. February 15, A belated bride is a straightforward novel but lacks the romantic fizz of a romance novel. I thought Arabella being a smuggler was interesting and while Lucien was dreamy, he was a bit standard, expected.