Emily Micklen is proud, passionate – and left with no option after the death of her loving fiancé, Jack, but to marry the scarred, taciturn, soldier who needs to secure a well-connected wife.
Major Angus McCartney hopes that marriage to the unobtainable beauty whose confident gaze about the ballroom once failed to register his presence will offer both of them a chance to put the past to rest.
Emily’s determination to be faithful to Jack’s memory is matched only by Angus’s desire to win her with honour and action. Sent to France on a mission of national security, Angus discovers how deeply Emily has been duped, but the secrets he uncovers lead them both into danger. Can Angus and Emily unmask the real conspirators before they lose everything?
The gentle breeze seemed to whisper Jack’s teasing challenge, its soft, silken fingers tugging at Emily’s ingrained obedience. She put down her basket and stared with longing at the waters below, sweat prickling her scalp beneath her poke bonnet as desire warred with fear of the consequences.
‘Where’s your sense of adventure, Em?’
Still resisting, Emily closed her eyes, but the wind’s wicked suggestiveness was like the caress of Jack’s breath against her heated cheek; daring Emily to shrug aside a lifetime of dutiful subservience – again – and peel off her clothes, this time to plunge into the inviting stream beneath the willows.
She imagined Jack’s warm brown eyes glinting with wickedness. Taunting her like the burr that had worked its way into the heel of her woollen stockings during her walk.
Exhaling on a sigh, Emily opened her eyes and admitted defeat as she succumbed to the pull of the reed-fringed waters.
Desire had won, justified by practicality. If she had to remove one stocking to dislodge the burr she might as well remove both.
Scrambling down the embankment, she lowered herself onto a rock by the water’s edge. Her father would never know. If he glanced from his study in the tower room, where he was doubtless gloating over his balance sheet, he’d assume she was a village lass making her way along the track. Emily had never seen him interest himself in the poor except …
Like most unpleasant memories, she tried to cast this one out with a toss of her head, still glad her father had never discovered what she’d witnessed from her bedroom window one evening five years ago: the curious sight of Bartholomew Micklen ushering the beggar girl who’d arrived on his doorstep into his carriage. Then climbing in after her before it rumbled down the driveway and out of sight.
By the time the first stocking had followed Emily’s boots onto the grassy bank she was bursting with anticipation for her swim.
What did one more sin matter when she’d be Mrs Jack Noble in less than a week?