The search for legendary painting Venus de Lavinium brings Devlin Weston, Earl of Windham, to Essex – and to Danielle Langston. Seeing the attractive widow stirs memories of magical kisses some midnight a long time ago, and sparks feelings he didn’t know existed.
But for Danielle, Devlin’s hunt for the Venus turns into mortal danger…
Historical Romance, 130 Pages in print
Midnight Kisses, Book one of the Midnight – Series
Danielle prayed for the ground to open up and swallow her whole, when she realized that the pair had not noticed her and had apparently decided to dispense with common morality. The man made great, confident strides to reach the lady and put his hands around her small waist. In a husky voice, he whispered something in her ear, and she threw back her head seductively, allowing him to kiss her neck.
Danielle stared at her with her eyes wide open. This was the most beautiful woman she had ever seen. Her red dress, with an almost indecently low neckline, and her long hair freely plunging down her back and side in a waterfall of shiny dark waves: an open rebellion against conventions. When the man brushed the top of the dress off the woman’s shoulders and cupped her full, bare breast in his hand, Danielle quickly shut her eyes. But then she heard the lustful moan of the woman, which forced her to open her eyes again and peek at the busily-engaged pair through the leaves of the plant. The man was tall. Quite a bit taller than his lady friend, and also the young men she had seen fawning over the debutantes earlier. In fact, Danielle had never seen him before, not at any of the dances she attended, and she was quite sure she would have noticed him. He exuded an air of masculine strength and dominance that sent shivers down her spine. She barely dared look at him, and so she lowered her gaze. But that didn’t help, because now she was able to admire his strong thighs that were muscular, yet elegant underneath the fine fabric of his breeches. The woman’s hands wandered shamelessly down the man’s back and over his buttocks, and Danielle found herself reaching out her hands, too. Quickly, she stopped herself from pursuing such nonsense and yet found it impossible to avert her eyes. After all, she had never seen two people doing that!
The tall stranger moaned and kept urging his companion on and on. His hands pulled her skirts up higher, and he lifted her upper thigh while his other hand disappeared deep inside the layers of fabric billowing out around her hips.
“Milord!” the woman gasped, and Danielle drew a sharp breath. Should she come to the woman’s aid?
“Oh, Milord! Don’t stop!” the lady begged, throwing her head back. With a triumphant smile, the man opened his eyes—and froze when he noticed Danielle.
“Milord!” the woman now pleaded desperately, pressing herself up against him.
Danielle’s cheeks were ablaze from the shame and embarrassment she felt, and tears were welling up in her eyes. What must those two think of her? But her fear of unleashing a scandal, now that she had been found out, proved unfounded. The man’s smile widened ever-so-slightly. He winked at her, and, without taking his eyes off her, continued his game of seduction. He brushed the lady’s shiny hair off her shoulders, thus offering Danielle an unobstructed view of his face while his lips continued caressing the woman’s neck.
He’s playing with me, Danielle suddenly realized, but she couldn’t help but notice her own breath quicken along with the other woman’s.
“Devlin!” the raven-haired beauty screamed against his chest as she sank against him, spent and breathing heavily.
The man named Devlin lifted his face, his burning eyes resting on Danielle’s blushed cheeks and her quivering lips. His wide, diabolical grin showed off a row of beautiful white teeth before he pressed a firm kiss against his lover’s brightly painted lips.
“Claire, my dear, it is time for you to go back inside before anybody notices we’re missing. I’ll follow you in a few.”
Gently, he steered his beautiful companion back toward the door, all the while smoothing down her skirts. His broad shoulders shielded Danielle from any curious glances, but she could clearly see every movement of the other woman. With her eyes glazed over and a satisfied sparkle in them, the woman named Claire pressed herself against her lover one last time, before pulling the bodice up over her breasts and returning to the ballroom that was slowly filling up with partygoers again.
Danielle fought hard against blacking out. What she had just witnessed was not meant to be seen by a seventeen-year-old virgin—of that she was sure. And the worst thing was that this awful man was still here. Why couldn’t he take his leave without making this situation any worse than it had to be? Didn’t he know how uncomfortable he made her feel?
Danielle contemplated escaping through the gardens, but she wouldn’t get very far in her velvet shoes.
The man turned around.
He moved in, and Danielle had to tilt her head back so she could look up at him. This was not something that happened to her often, since she was as tall as many of the men she usually met. But did she really expect a man named Devlin to just walk away and pretend nothing happened?
He reached out for her hair and, without taking his amused eyes off her frightened-looking face, pulled out a hairpin.
“Milord, please!” Danielle begged, tearing her head away and unwittingly pulling out a second hairpin in the process.
He paid no attention, but instead buried his hands in her hair, causing all her carefully-arranged locks to come undone and the hairpins to drop to the floor with a soft clink.
“Ah, that’s what I’ve been wanting to do this whole time,” he muttered matter-of-factly, taking a step back and admiring the downpour of honey-colored waves.
“I beg your pardon?”
Danielle was afraid of losing her mind. Was she even awake? Was this reality, or just one of those bizarre dreams where you’re glad you wake up at the end?
“This whole time, while I—”
“Milord!” Danielle interrupted him. “Please, not another word! I am well aware of what you’re trying to say, but I don’t understand why you would find it necessary to do this! Please, let me go. Lady Lockworth must be so worried.”
“Why I’m doing this? Because it amuses me. Indeed, I must confess that your presence here has entertained me more than lovely Lady Winther, whom you just had the pleasure of meeting.”
“You must be out of your mind! And now I’m going to leave, for it would certainly not be appropriate for me to be spotted here alone in the presence of a . . . a . . . a man!”
Danielle was annoyed that her flushed cheeks were probably putting her in an even more unfavorable light than she was already in. She had to look truly pitiful compared to stunning, raven-haired Lady Winther from before.
“Of course, you should leave right away. To be seen here with me would ruin your reputation and destroy any chance of a suitable marriage arrangement.”
With an elegant bow he took a step back and cleared out of the way.
“How kind of you to worry, but since my future apparently lies in a convent you can save yourself the trouble!”
With a small sense of satisfaction Danielle noticed that Devlin raised his eyebrows with some surprise.
“A convent?” He came closer again. “Why would you want to join a convent?”
“I don’t, but since when are women being asked what they want?”
He remained silent. She was unable to read the expression on his face and therefore curtsied politely before pushing past him.
He reached out his hand, stopping her. For a long while he stared at her face before taking it in his hands and tilting his head. Tenderly, delicately, his lips touched hers. Danielle tried to object, but he traced the outline of her lips so deliciously with his tongue before he firmly, decisively slipped it into her mouth.
Danielle’s quiet whimper ended their kiss, and Devlin brushed the hair out of her face.
“You are a young girl who burns with passion! You don’t belong in a convent. If you have any other choice, you should take it!”