Charming and dangerously sensual, Dominic has desired the stunning beauty from the first moment he spied her. Now, with Katherine's reputation in tatters, it's the ideal opportunity to bed her—though it will take wedding vows to do so. But can a rogue be reformed by the unleashed passion of a normally reserved lady? And can a marriage made for all the wrong reasons flame into the love match of the season?
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By Jenna Petersen
HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.
Copyright © 2006
All right reserved.
Dominic Mallory had never been one to debauch virgins, but he was beginning to think he should make an exception for this beauty. He took a quick glance around the wide stone terrace before he stepped farther back into the shadows. Good, they were alone. He ground out his cigar as he blew a last circle of smoke into the cold air. If he had it his way, nothing would disturb this moment. Rushing a seduction took all the anticipation out of it.
Seduction hadn't been his plan when he arrived at his family's estate. In fact, he'd come straight to the terrace in order to avoid the celebration inside. Now he knew he'd made the right choice. He could have a much more interesting party alone with this young woman.
She leaned on the terrace wall, completely oblivious to his presence. He had been more than aware of hers from the moment she slipped from the crowded ballroom into the frosty night. Now she stared up at the stars, giving him the impression that her heart and mind were leagues away. Her jet black hair matched the inky sky. Somehow during the evening, a few long, curly strands had come down from the elaborate pile on her head, leaving a tantalizing trail down the middle of her back. A trail he longed to follow with his lips.
He sighed softly. But, if she was a guest at his brother's wedding soiree, she was surely a virginalmiss who would only be interested in a marriage proposal. If he revealed himself to offer her a night of pleasure, she'd probably swoon.
But then again, if she swooned, hecould catch her.
Dominic grinned as he took a few quiet steps out of the shadows. He had the benefit of a thin dusting of snow on the stones, which muffled his approach. Even when he was right at her side, she didn't glance his way.
"Good evening," he whispered, just a touch too close to her ear to be proper.
She turned toward him with a blush and he finally had the pleasure of seeing the color of her eyes. Jade green. Magnificent. Even if this woman proved to be an unattainable challenge, he'd certainly chosen well.
"G-Goodevening," she stammered as she straightened up to smooth the front of the gown that matched those jade eyes perfectly. She pulled a darker emerald shawl tighter around her shoulders as she smiled. "I'm sorry, sir, I didn't see you there."
He shrugged one shoulder and gave her his most dashing wink. Insincere, but always effective. "You were wishing on the stars. I wondered what you might have wished for."
He was being completely and inappropriately forward and he knew it. Judging from the wary surprise in her eyes that accompanied his impertinent question, she recognized it, too. Yet instead of hurrying away or calling for her chaperone, her face slowly relaxed and she said, "I didn't wish for anything. I have everything I've ever wanted."
Dominic frowned, all his lustful thoughts pushed aside, at least for the time being. How was that possible? No one ever obtained everything they wanted. There was always something lacking. At least, there always had been in his life.
"My, how lucky you are," he drawled, then shut his eyes in exasperation. His voice was brittle and forced. Not the way to talk to a lady he wished to seduce. With effort, he softened his tone. "But perhaps I'm not enough of a romantic to believe in wishes, after all."
She laughed and his eyes flew open at the light, melodic sound. Her pale face flushed, but this time it was with mirth, and her eyes shone like precious jewels in the moonlight. He wouldn't have believed it possible, but she was even lovelier when amused.
"Well, if you cannot be a romantic at a wedding celebration, perhaps you're a lost cause, sir," she teased.
He had often thought that himself.
With a shrug, he said, "Yes, well the wedding isn't for another three days. Maybe I'll find a little romance in me during that time."
He tilted his head to lock gazes with her. Now that he'd talked to her for a few moments, he was sure she was an unmarried, eligible lady. Still, he felt an inordinate amount of heat coming from her. Like there was something a bit wild hidden beneath all the pretty clothes and small talk. Something well worth exploring.
She broke their stare with a startled flash in her eyes, as if she remembered where they were and that they were alone. Her spine stiffened as she leaned away.
"I don't think this is a very appropriate conversation to be having with a stranger on a terrace." Her voice was breathy.
He stifled a laugh. There were the maidenly refusals. The wild thing was stuffed back under a layer of propriety. But oh, the challenge of coaxing her out again.
"So you're telling me we could continue to talk about things a little more interesting than the weather if we weren't strangers?" he asked with a cocked eyebrow.
Slowly, she allowed her gaze to flit to his face, but gave no answer.
He laughed. "Very well, my lady. Why don't you tell me who you are first?"
She backed away a long step and her eyes darkened. "D-Don't you know? I thought for sure you must. I'm--"
Before she could finish, the terrace door opened behind them and she spun around to face the intruder. Dominic stepped into the shadows instinctively. No use causing a scene with some fawning mama.
Excerpted from Scandalous
by Jenna Petersen
Copyright © 2006 by Jenna Petersen.
Excerpted by permission.
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