Falling for Her Captor has been out for two weeks now and has already received some lovely reviews so I decided I’d celebrate with an excerpt.
It was late before the Duke allowed Aline to return to her chamber. In a daze she barely registered the fact that the door was unguarded and unlocked. Walking into the room, she stopped in shock. Seated in her chair, silhouetted in the light of the dying fire, was a figure. Her hands flew to her mouth to stifle her cry of alarm and at the sound the intruder looked up.
‘I’m sorry,’ Hugh said gently. ‘I did not mean to startle you.’
‘What are you doing here?’ Aline demanded.
Her heart thumped in her chest. Her eyes slipped to the curtained bed and she felt heat rising to her cheeks and throat as images crossed her mind that she knew were utterly inappropriate.
Hugh rose from the chair. At some point he had removed his coat. The flickering light of the fire caused interesting shadows to move across his chest, where his shirt lay open.
He smiled. ‘Waiting for you of course.’
‘But why are you here?’ Aline asked.
Hugh’s eyebrows shot up in surprise. ‘After this afternoon, where else could I be? I needed to see how you fared.’ He brushed back a stray lock of hair that had fallen across his eyes and fixed Aline with a look that sent shivers through her. ‘I had come to bid you goodbye,’ he whispered gruffly.
‘Had come?’ Aline asked, her heart missing a beat at his words.
‘I was going to leave Roxholm,’ Hugh admitted. ‘For ever. The thought of seeing you every day, knowing you belonged to Stephen, was too much to bear. But that would be the coward’s way. I will not let you face him alone and friendless.’
He took her hands, pulling her closer, and Aline felt the enticing warmth of his body.
‘Say the word, Aline, and I will be your champion, your defender. Whatever you wish of me I will do.’
Aline’s mind flashed back to Stephen’s parting words: ‘Your conduct will be impeccable. If I hear the mere hint of you casting your eyes at another man I will have him executed and brand you as an adulteress. As much as it would pain me to see your beautiful face disfigured, I will do it.’
‘No!’ she shook her head. ‘I don’t want a champion.’ She pulled her hands free and stepped back. ‘I wish I had never met you—never laid eyes on you!’
At the bitterness in her voice Hugh recoiled as though he had been stabbed. He balled his fists and lifted his chin sharply. ‘Then, if it is your wish, I shall leave Roxholm immediately.’
He stalked past her to the door. She caught him within three paces, the sound of her light step causing him to pause in his exit. ‘Don’t leave!’
‘What do you want of me, Aline?’ he asked, flinging his arms wide in exasperation.
She recoiled at the anger in his voice and shook her head, momentarily lost for words.
‘How else do you want to wound me?’ Hugh asked, his voice gentler now but full of pain.
‘I…I’m sorry… I didn’t mean… I only meant…’ Aline stopped, her eyes brimming with tears.
Hugh reached his hand to her face but stopped short of touching her.
Aline raised her face and closed her eyes. ‘Because marriage to him might have been bearable if I had never known you,’ Aline whispered, her voice trembling.
At her words a hot burst of passion raced through Hugh and he could restrain himself no longer. With a fervour that took him by surprise he pulled Aline close, his strong arms imprisoning her, one hand encircling her slender waist, the other across her back as he buried his face deep in her hair.
Aline leaned her head against Hugh’s chest with a soft sigh. Her arms found their way around his waist, pulling him closer as her breaths came deep and fast. He pulled her tighter until he could feel every contour of her body. She melted against him as if she was wax, her fingers sliding up to his jaw, brushing against his beard, and he gave an involuntary moan of desire, his lips parting in anticipation.
At the sound Aline froze, her arms dropping to her sides. Hugh opened his eyes in surprise. Aline’s eyes were closed and tears glinted on her long lashes, coursed down her pale cheeks.
‘Aline—’ Hugh began, but Aline cut his words off with a strangled sob. He wrapped his arms about her again but she broke away from him, her shoulders shaking. ‘I just want to protect you,’ he said gruffly. ‘Let me look after you.’
‘I don’t need your help—it’s too late for that now. I asked you to release me before, but you refused. I can’t blame you for all my ills, but you brought me here on his orders.’
Aline looked deep into Hugh’s eyes and he saw the anguish mirroring her own.
‘I cannot do this, Hugh. I cannot let myself get close to you. If you feel anything for me at all, go now. Please don’t make me ask again.’
Hugh nodded. He turned on his heel and left, closing the door softly. Through the heavy wood he could hear Aline’s sobs as they grew thicker and faster. He stood there, for how long he could not say, his forehead and hands pressed against the door, sharing in her grief until no further sounds came from the room. Then, with strength of will he had not known he possessed, he walked away.
Hope you liked it. Let me know what you think in the comments (and if you’ve read further then no spoilers please). x