Cold, arrogant, and demanding Henry Eldridge, Marquess of Riverton, would never dally with a mere servant. But when Henry is injured in a horrible fire, his pretty housekeeper Cassandra nurses him back to health, throwing them together day and night. As he slowly heals from his burns, their friendship blossoms, and the class walls between them start to crumble. Cassandra is surprised by glimpses of a kind and thoughtful man beneath her employer’s hard façade—and even more surprised when she develops tender feelings for him. But anything between lord and servant is impossible...and besides, as a widow, she knows love only leads to heartbreak.
Henry is changing, as well. His close brush with death has opened his eyes to his self-imposed emotional isolation...and has urgently reminded him of his duty to marry a well-bred lady and produce an heir. Determined to do right by his family name, he immediately begins searching for a suitable bride. But Cassandra is the only woman who is never far from his mind or his heart. Contrary to everything he’s been taught to believe, he realizes his lovely housekeeper might just be his perfect match. Now, if only he could convince everyone else of that. Especially Cassandra...
“Oh, indeed?” he said softly, in a tone that scared her with its evenness. “What you feel for me is mere…servitude?”
No! Good Lord, there was nothing subservient in the way she’d pressed into his body in the snow, or when she’d cradled his face in her palms, or slept spooned up against him on the library floor. But admitting that would only make a complicated situation even more tangled. “Yes, I suppose, if that is what you wish to call it.”
He took a step toward her. “And when I recognized you even blindfolded, and your body trembled as I whispered in your ear, that was merely lord and housekeeper?”
She swallowed, her face heating. “I…” She cleared her throat. “That was a misunderstanding.”
He took her hand in his and tugged. She stumbled forward, nearly colliding with him. She would have, if she hadn’t braced her hand on his chest. She had to tilt her head back to look him in the eyes and she was very aware that he hadn’t removed his fingers from her wrist. Each one was distinct, burning her like brands.
“In that case, touch me,” he growled.
“What? No, I—”
“If you’re not affected by my presence, man to woman, I want you to prove it.” His eyes blazed with challenge.
“You are being ridiculous,” she said, her voice quaking as much as her heart.
He untied his cravat with one hand and let it drop to the floor, revealing his throat and his collarbone—smooth, pale skin, unmarred by the fire. She saw the pulse in his throat, saw that it was beating faster than normal.
“Touch me,” he ordered. Like Satan whispering temptation in her ear… Do you want the apple? Take it. Taste it. Her hand was still on his chest. Take it.
She wanted to so much, with a yearning that left her weak. She slid her hand up, her fingertips brushing his shoulder. He was tense. When she touched skin, he sucked in a quick breath.
A heady feeling, to know a simple touch could affect him so strongly. Heady and hot, and not at all servile.
It occurred to her, she was playing right into the scoundrel’s hands.
She didn’t care. The contact, the warmth of him, the way his pulse trembled under her fingers, had a similar effect to the whisky. It was like flame dancing along her limbs. Her nerves tingled, surging and alive. She let her thumb brush his collarbone, memorizing the contour of the graceful, jutting sweep, and paused at the hollow of his throat where she could feel the pounding of his heart.
No, she couldn’t… But she was already letting her head fall forward, her willpower succumbing to the hard, harsh rhythm of her body. Her lips grazed the hollow and his fingers tightened around her wrist, almost hurting her but not quite. She breathed him in, salt and spice and skin.
And licked him.
About the Author
Lily Maxton grew up in the Midwest, reading, writing, and daydreaming amidst cornfields. After graduating with a degree in English, she decided to put her natural inclinations to good use and embark on a career as a writer. When she's not working on a new story, she likes to tour old houses, add to her tea stash, and think of reasons to avoid housework.