In Bed with a Stranger
The McJames Series, Book 1
Kensington Brava (May 26, 2009)
ISBN-13: 9780758234636 ♦ ISBN-10: 0758234635
An Imperfect Match
Brodick McJames is an earl in name only. To secure his clan’s future he needs an English wife. Mary Stanford, daughter of the Earl of Warwickshire, will suit perfectly. He’s never met her, but what matter? She’ll grace his bed eventually, and once she bears his child he need see her no more.
Anne Copper looks just like her noble half-sister, but she was born illegitimate, and can never forget it. The best she can hope for is to stay a serving girl in her own father’s house. But when Lady Mary finds herself betrothed to a Scot, it seems there’s a use for Anne after all…
The woman who arrives in Alcaon is not what Brodick expects, and the passion that grows between them promises far more than a marriage of convenience. When fate draws two together, it may take more than a noblewoman’s plot to part them…
Connected Books: The McJames Series
Read an Excerpt
“Are you actually intent on running off into the night?”
There was no mistaking the anger that colored his voice. He frowned at her, distrust etched into his face.
“I simply wanted to refill the skin.”
He snorted at her. “And you just did that little chore without telling anyone where you were going. Slipping off into the darkness quiet as may be.”
“I certainly didn’t think of it like that.”
But she should have. It was another error. Mary would have sent someone to fill the skin, never mind that there were the horses to tend to.
“I’d appreciate you staying with my men. We don’t need to be fetching you away from the men of any other clans that stumble upon you without escort. If you’ve no care for the harm they might do ye, have a bit of concern for the blood that will be spilt when we have to fight to take you back.”
Her mouth formed a little round expression of horror. “I want no one fighting over me.”
His face was as serious as an executioner. “Be very sure of that. I dinna let anyone take what is mine, madam. Run away and I’ll fetch you back.”
His words were as hard and unrelenting as the arm binding her to him.
“I wasn’t fleeing.”
He snorted, clearly doubting her. Anne snapped her lips shut because her temper was rising. Labeling him a presumptuous clod wouldn’t help matters. However, she could at least take solace in the fact that insulting him was definitely something Mary would have done. His lips pressed tightly together as she failed to answer.
“Are you ever going to take that thing off your head? I thought it was against the law to be a nun in England.”
Anne raised her chin to find the earl frowning at her again. His eyes were a darker blue than his brothers.
She shivered, a chill shooting down her spine. His eyes narrowed as the hand pressing across her back felt the ripple of reaction. Heat bled across her cheeks once again as she inhaled the scent of his skin. Her belly suddenly tightened with the oddest sensation. With a hard shove she tried to escape from his hold.
He scoffed at her. A soft sound of male disgruntlement. “Since you’ve been at court, I don’t see the need for feigning innocence, Mary. I’m no the first man that’s held you.”
Her eyes widened as he retained his hold. His arm was like steel, binding her to his body.
How presumptuous… “I pretend nothing, sir.”
His gaze narrowed once more. A moment later her French hood was tugged off her head, pulling her hair as he plucked it free. He studied her face for a long moment before releasing her. “I’ll be the judge of that matter myself.”
One foot plunged into the mud as she placed distance between them. A flicker of amusement entered his eyes as he stood blocking her path, using the river and his larger size to keep her at his mercy.
“If you’ve become accustomed to lose morals at your English court, best you ken that I will not be shamed.”
Her chin lifted, no amount of better judgment interfering. “You’ve made yourself clear.”
She pushed past him, uncaring of how close she was to his body anymore. There were very few things she had the right to call her own, but she wasn’t a light-skirt.
“Good.” Command edged his voice. He followed her up the bank. “It pleases me to find your face beneath that veil instead of a courtesan’s. All covered in paint.”
He reached out, stroking a finger over one of her cheeks. “Aye, I am pleased.”
She shivered again, this time in some odd response to the way his tone had softened. He was no longer angry with her.
Anne turned quickly to hide the strange reaction from his keen stare. Her face was hot where he’d touched it, the skin oddly alive with sensation. There was a part of her that liked hearing that he approved of her. A man such as he was far above any that she might hope to have of her own.
“Face me, Mary.”
Hearing her half-sister’s name was like icy water being tossed onto her feet. She turned slowly, struggling to conceal her emotions before facing him once more. This man would not take being deceived very well. Now that her face veil was gone, she needed to be more attentive to concealing her feelings.
“I’ve no taste for timid women.”
The gruff tone of his voice annoyed her once again. “You may always return me home.” She looked at the ground, doing her best to look like a coward. For one brief moment hope flickered in her heart that he might reject her.
“You should take me to my father. He is returned to court.”
A hard hand cupped her chin, raising it to lock stares with him. “It’s clear you’ve been at court. That place is ripe with schemes.” His lips lost their hard line as he stepped up closer holding her jaw in a firm grip. “Do I really look like a man who would cry surrender so soon after greeting you?” He chuckled, the sound sending a quiver through her belly. His warm scent filled her head with each breath as he titled his head so that his breath teased her lips.
“You dinna know very much about Scotsmen, wife. We’re no intimidated by a few cold glances. In Scotland, we’re more practiced in the arts of warming up our women.”
He touched his mouth to hers and she jerked away from the contact. It burned clear through her, all the way to her toes. Her freedom was short-lived. With a twist of his larger body, he snaked an arm around her waist. He moved towards her in the same moment, surrounding her and pinning her against his hard body.
“Now that won’t do.” He pulled her flush against his frame, tight enough to feel his heart beating. His gaze settled onto her mouth as he slipped a hand up the back of her neck to hold her head. “It won’t do at all. Kissing my new wife is something I’m no in the mood to miss.”
He touched his mouth to hers again, this time slowly. She twisted in his embrace, too many impulses shooting along her body to understand. The few kisses in her past had been stolen ones and brief. Brodick lingered over her mouth, gently tasting her lips before pressing her jaw to open for a deeper touch. His embrace imprisoned her but not painfully. He seemed to understand his strength perfectly, keeping her against him with exactly enough force, but stopping short of causing her pain.
She shivered as the tip of his tongued glided across her lower lip. Sensation rippled down her spine as she gasped in shock. Never once had she thought that a touch might be so intense. Her hands were flattened against his chest and her fingertips were alive with new desires. Touching him felt good. She opened her fingers wider, letting them smooth over the hard ridges of muscles that his open doublet had allowed her to see. Pleasure moved through her in a slow cloud that left a haze over her mind. Forming thoughts became slow and cumbersome as he teased her upper lip, tasting her.
His eyes were full of male enjoyment now. It was mesmerizing, so much so, she stared at him, forgetting that keeping him at arm’s length was in her best interest.