Face of the Maiden
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by Emma Wildes
Category: Romance/Historical Fiction
Description: Her arrival stirs something deep and dark. Perhaps even deadly ? Celia Fairmont's new home on the wild coast of Cornwall is a sprawling ancient mansion steeped in history and deep, dark secrets. From the first night her dreams are plagued by images of clandestine meetings with a handsome, reckless lover. The man in her visions looks disturbingly like the oldest son of her new guardian, the Earl of Ashbourne, but there the resemblance stops. Phillip Leighton is practical to a fault and too preoccupied with estate business to even notice her presence. Phillip Leighton does not have time for illogical romantic fantasies about his father's young ward. The very lovely Miss Fairmont is unsophisticated and innocent--not at all suited to be the next Countess of Ashbourne. And besides, he is practically engaged to a titled widow. But erotic dreams disturb his nights, and by day she preoccupies his thoughts, and he finds himself fascinated against his will. Phillip can't seem to keep Celia out of his head--or out of his arms. When a series of puzzling accidents begins to happen, he knows with chilling certainty that their future is on a collision course with the past? Product Warnings This title contains explicit sensual love scenes, sexy ghosts, violence, some bad language in a polite Regency way, and a devilish wayward rake or two.
eBook Publisher: Samhain Publishing, Ltd., 2008
eBookwise Release Date: February 2011
9 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [474 KB]
Reading time: 292-409 min.
She might have been a statue carved out of marble. Soft lips parted, eyes dark and dilated, Celia Fairmont stood awkwardly in the road, not moving a muscle. The bright stain of embarrassment faded from her face, leaving her ivory pale.
Hell and blast, Phillip thought darkly. His anger had been with Jason, not her particularly. Many women much more sophisticated than she had been victim to Jason's easy charm, though from the little he knew of her he had thought her too intelligent to fall from grace so easily.
But she was also perhaps too beautiful for Jason to resist. Even as he stood there in the wake of the ugly argument, he found himself involuntarily admiring the graceful curves of her slender body, the shimmer of her tumbled pale hair, the dark beauty of her long-lashed eyes...and wondered waywardly what it would be like to hold her, soft and willing, in his arms.
Which made him every bit as much the predatory male as his brother, and it was entirely out of character, for he liked sophisticated, experienced women, not young ingenues.
Realizing he was standing there just staring at her, he cleared his throat, wondering what on earth to say. He tried first, "I apologize for both that scene and any language that offended you."
Her gaze shifted to him and seemed to focus. He found the vague accusation in those dark blue eyes a bit unsettling. Her hands plucked unsteadily at her skirt but she said plainly enough, "What you saw was no attempt at seduction."
Phillip arched a brow. "Forgive me, but--"
"You jumped to conclusions." It was a flat statement, at odds with her usual quiet demeanor.
"What I saw seemed obvious enough." He felt irritated with the edge of defensiveness in his voice. After all, he had stopped a potentially disastrous moment.
Hadn't he? All he knew was the tableau of his brother holding her--touching her--had sparked a volatile reaction.
Celia said, "I fell from my horse and twisted my ankle. Jason was simply trying to persuade me to remove my boot before the swelling got too serious."
It was as if she had slapped him. He stared at her, suddenly taking in the loose tumble of her bright hair with the pins still hanging, the streaks of mud on her skirt and sleeve, the way she was standing, with her weight shifted to one foot...
He was a fool. In fact, he was suddenly conscious that perhaps he had overreacted and lost his head over the sight of her and Jason together, though why he would feel such unreasonable anger over it when he barely knew her was disturbing.
Miss Fairmont affected him. He was at a loss to explain why, but she did.
It was his turn to feel the burn of discomfiture heat his face. He bowed. "My error, it seems. I apologize again, Miss Fairmont. Perhaps if you could have seen how it looked you would understand the conclusion I reached."
"Do you always suspect the worst of your brother?" It was a sharp question.
Stung, Phillip said, "He has given me little reason to suspect otherwise."
"Jason has been a gentleman in my presence. Always," she vowed, the wind tugging at her skirts, the rain beginning to dampen her jacket. Long loose tendrils of golden hair teased the delicate curve of her cheekbone and brushed against her lips.
She looked young, very lovely and quite vexed with him.
Phillip wasn't even sure he didn't deserve it. He felt like a complete buffoon.
"I'm delighted to hear it," he muttered, putting up a hand to calm his skittish horse. He glanced at the sooty skies above. It was beginning to rain in earnest now, and he recognized the signs of a serious storm. "If I owe Jason an apology, feel confident he will wrest it from me. In the meantime, we appear to be destined to journey the rest of the way together. Can you ride?"
She shivered as a gust of damp wind swept past, whipping her skirts around her slender form. Her dark lashes drooped. "I can try."
It took just seconds to lift her sideways onto the saddle of his horse. He then found himself in the uncomfortable position of asking, "Which ankle?"
"It's fine," Celia said hastily. "It hardly hurts at all."
"That's a lie. You are as pale as a ghost. I'm afraid Jason is correct. The boot should come off before the swelling gets serious. I promise to be as gentle as possible."
She looked down at him, apparently stricken silent. She shook her head.
He threatened, "I will remove both if you don't cooperate, Miss Fairmont."
"The left." After her confession, she averted her face, spots of bright color staining her cheekbones.
Phillip grasped the heel of her left boot with his right hand, sliding his left hand up over the supple leather until he felt the smoothness of her slender upper calf under his questing fingers. The betraying jerk of her body as he found the sensitive spot beneath her knee emphasized her discomfort at his touch. He tugged gently until the boot slipped free, watching her profile for any signs that he was hurting her too badly. Cupping her foot in one hand, he lifted her skirt just enough to be able to peer at the injury. Through her silk stocking, he studied the shapely turn of her ankle.
This close, he caught the faint drift of lilacs from her warm skin, and an alluring vision of her naked form in his bed suddenly invaded his mind. She would be warm and welcoming, and he would urge those slender legs apart as he kissed her soft mouth, stroke her firm breasts as he slid his hard cock inside her...
And where the hell did that thought come from, he asked himself, disturbed and unaccountably shaken.
"It isn't bruising yet," he announced, twitching her skirt back into place. "Let's hope that means it isn't broken."
She mumbled a thank you as he handed her the boot, and he swung up behind her, taking the reins so that she sat in the circle of his arms. Nudging his mount over to where her mare was quietly nipping the grass, he grasped the lead and turned them toward home.
Her slim body was tense, her back as straight as a rod. He could hardly blame her, he thought with grim resignation. Not only had she fallen and been injured, but he had all but accused her of a rather serious moral lapse and then prodded his brother into abandoning her in the middle of a muddy road during a rainstorm.
Then he had lifted her skirt and touched her leg in a fairly intimate place. If she knew the lustful thought that had crossed his mind a few seconds before, she would be even more affronted and shocked.
"Relax." He sighed, not having any idea how to make amends to the very wronged, irritated and embarrassed Miss Fairmont.