The Mammoth Book Of Regency Romance Part 79

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"I don't want everything. I only want you." He reached into his pocket and removed a folded parchment. "A letter from your solicitor, confirming that I have signed settlement papers that prevent me from taking any of your property or money."

"Why would you do that?"

"Because I need a champion. Someone who believes in me when I fail to believe in myself."

"You will be ostracized for marrying me. You must know that."

"At first, certainly. But you will be my countess and, in time, I think you will charm society until they no longer care about your origins."

"Why?" she asked, her voice breaking. "What changed your mind?"

"I'm not sure. I only know that I want you to be my wife, that someone who has overcome her past as you have can help me overcome mine."

"Yours is not nearly so ruinous."

"Then it should be easy enough for us to conquer it."

They were married in the gardens. Her mother was able to stand at her side and Jones stood beside Harteley. The ceremony, although brief, was almost too much for her mother. When she began to sway, Jones was the first to reach her and sweep her up into his arms.

"We'll need one more ceremony before you go, vicar," Jones said.

"We don't have a licence," her mother muttered.

"Doesn't matter. I want the words between us if nothing else," Jones said.

Her mother had merely nodded and there in the garden she married the butler.

Arianna and Harteley travelled to London for the night. His residence was far from what it would become, but that night she was only interested in sharing his bedchamber.

Wearing only her nightdress, she waited expectantly for him. Strange, considering her mother's occupation, that she was so nervous.

"Tell me what I should do," she'd urged her mother.

All her mother had given her was a smile and the soft words: "Enjoy him."

Enjoy him. How could she when she could barely draw in a breath?

The door opened. He walked in wearing only trousers and a silk dressing robe. Before she could utter a word, he took her into his arms and began to plunder her mouth. Then he gentled the kiss and she swayed into him.

Heat surged through her. She was barely aware that he'd unb.u.t.toned her gown until it slithered along her body to land on the floor.

"My G.o.d, but you're beautiful," he whispered.

She looked up at him, held his gaze. "So are you."

He cradled her face. "How can you be so innocent?"

"Perhaps because my mother wasn't. She protected me."

He lifted her into his arms. "I shall strive to do the same."

He laid her gently on the bed. He discarded his dressing gown and began to work on the fastenings of his trousers. "Would you rather I douse the lamps?" he asked.

She shook her head. "No. I want to see you."

And she was grateful that he allowed her request. She knew the human form was beautiful, but she thought he was magnificent as he shoved down his trousers and joined her on the bed. She touched his shoulders, toyed with the light sprinkling of hair on his chest. "I've so often dreamed of this."

"I suspect I shall lie on my deathbed still wondering why you chose me," he said.

"And I shall always wonder why you came back."

He shook his head, a smile playing over his lips. "Because for once in my life, I listened to my heart."

Her heart soared, swelled to such an extent that she was surprised her chest could contain it.

Then his hands and mouth were exploring every inch of her, with tenderness and deliberation. Pleasure ebbed and flowed through her. Each caress brought her closer to the edge of something she couldn't quite fathom. Each stroke urged her to touch him as well.

She loved the texture of his body. Firm, strong muscles undulating beneath her fingers.

Then he rose above her and gazed down on her. His mouth covered hers. His body plunged into hers. His cries mingled with hers.

He rocked against her and the pressure built. Sensations she could have never imagined travelled through her. He was hers now, just as she'd always dreamed.

She was his, just as she'd always wanted.

The pleasure spiralled through her until it burst forth into a conflagration that had her calling out his name. She was aware of her name escaping through his clenched jaw as he thrust into her one last time, his body taut, his muscles quivering.

He lowered himself to her, buried his face in the curve of her shoulder. He pressed his lips to her dew-covered neck. "Arianna."

Her name was a whispered benediction.

And she knew that love wouldn't be far behind.

Author Biographies.

Leah Ball.

Mammoth debut author and second-prize winner in the R.W.A. Royal Ascot's Hot & Wild Regency category, her first novel, Secret Possessions, is currently on submission.

Sara Bennett.

Bestselling author of historical romance for Avon, she writes pa.s.sionate Victorian- and Regency-set romances. She has just finished the second book in her latest series, The Husband Hunters Club, and also writes paranormals as Sara Mackenzie.

Elizabeth Boyle.

New York Times bestselling author of fifteen Regency-set historical romances, including the popular Bachelor Chronicles series, she is also the winner of the R.W.A.'s RITA award, a voracious knitter and an occasional seamstress. Anna Campbell Multi-award-winning author writing pa.s.sionate, emotional Regency-set historical romance for Avon, she lives in Australia and loves to travel, especially to the United Kingdom. Robyn DeHart Three-time Romantic Times Reviewers' Choice award nominee, her Legend Hunters series is a favourite among reviewers and fans alike. Amanda Grange Bestselling author of Mr Darcy's Diary, she has written seventeen Regency-set novels including her popular series of Jane Austen retellings. Lorraine Heath New York Times and USA Today bestselling author who has penned more than twenty-five historical romances, including her popular Scoundrels of St James series. She is also a recipient of R.W.A.'s prestigious RITA award, a Romantic Times Career Achievement Award and several other literary accolades. Candice Hern Award-winning author of Regency-set historical romances, her Regency World website features an ill.u.s.trated glossary, a detailed timeline of Regency events and an ill.u.s.trated digest of that era's notable people and places. Carolyn Jewel Writer of historical and paranormal romance, who often wishes she had superpowers. Christie Kelley Born and raised in upstate New York, she decided to write her first book after seventeen years of working in software development. She currently writes Regency-set historicals for Kensington Zebra. Vanessa Kelly Writer of sensual, Regency-set historical romances for Kensington Zebra. s.h.i.+rley Kennedy Author of numerous Regency romances for both Ballantine and Signet, she's kind to animals and has never been convicted of a felony. Anthea Lawson The pseudonym of a husbandwife team writing spicy historical romance, their debut novel, Pa.s.sionate, was nominated for a Best First Book RITA in 2009. Their most recent release, All He Desires, "deftly combines danger, desire, and a deliciously different setting into a s.e.xy version of Victoria Holt's cla.s.sic gothic romances". (Booklist Reviews) Caroline Linden Critically acclaimed author of s.e.xy, suspenseful historical romance. Margo Maguire Author of seventeen historical romances including The Rogue Prince, her latest Regency-set romance from Avon Books her adventurous and s.e.xy novels have been translated into twenty languages. Delilah Marvelle Two-time Golden Heart finalist, a Romantic Times Reviewers' Choice nominee and a double finalist in the Booksellers' Best Award, she loves writing historical romances with scandalous twists. Barbara Metzger Author of over three dozen Regency-set romances and historicals, plus a dozen short stories, she has won many awards, including R.W.A.'s RITA, two career achievement awards from Romantic Times magazine, a Madcap award for humour in historicals and, most recently, a R.T. award for Most Innovative Historical Romance. This year, her new book, The Bargain Bride, has won rave reviews from Publisher's Weekly, Booklist and Library Journal, as well as another R.T. nomination for Best Love and Laughter Romance in the historical category. She lives on Long Island with her little dog Valentino. Sharon Page USA Today bestselling author of sensual Regency-set and historical erotic romances, she has been called "a new queen of erotic romance" by Romantic Times magazine. She is a two-time consecutive winner of the National Readers' Choice award, and a winner of the Romantic Times Reviewers' Choice award. Deborah Raleigh New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of thirty-three Regency-set novels and short stories, her books have been nominated by the Romantic Times in the Best First Regency and in the Career Achievement in Regency Romance categories. She also writes the paranormal Guardian of Eternity series under the pseudonym Alexandra Ivy.

Patricia Rice.

New York Times bestselling author who has been nominated for the R.W.A.'s RITA awards for Regency romance, as well as for her paranormal historicals and contemporaries.

Julia Templeton.

Writer of spicy historical, time travel, vampire and contemporary romances, featuring s.e.xy alpha heroes and strong heroines. Aside from writing and reading, she enjoys research, haunting bookstores and libraries, travelling, riding motorcycles and spending time with family and friends. Married to her high-school sweetheart, she has two grown children and lives in Was.h.i.+ngton State.

Emma Wildes.

Romantic Times Reviewers' Choice nominee, winner of a Pa.s.sionate Plume award and an Eppie for best erotic historical, she grew up loving books, so writing just came naturally!

Michele Ann Young.

Award-winning romance author of five Regency-set historicals and a variety of short stories, she is an army brat and grew up all over Britain, developing a special love for its regional history.


The Mammoth Book Of Regency Romance Part 79

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