Excerpt: The Impostor Bride

Excerpt: The Impostor Bride

Book Three: Dangerous Masquerade

“What…what are you doing?” Susanna sputtered in panicked disbelief. She tried to twist away from him even as he tugged sharply on the tie and wrenched open the front of her gown, revealing her lace-trimmed stays and hoop-petticoat.

“Surely you can see, my love,” Adam said, shoving from his mind the horrible memories he had aroused and, along with them, any regret over his brutal haste with her. Fueled by raw anger and overcome with desire, he could not stop himself. “I’m undressing you.”

“No!” She pushed against him so suddenly that he almost lost his balance. Grabbing for the chair behind him, he released his hold on her. As he righted himself, cursing under his breath, she dashed to the table near the balcony doors where Prue and her maids had left their supper, and took refuge behind it.

“And since you’ve seen fit to give me your list of dos and don’ts, I have one for you,” she blurted with furious indignation, clutching her gown together. “Don’t you ever call me ‘my love’ again! You don’t love me—”

“You’re right, I don’t,” Adam lied, certain that he saw a flicker of pain cross her lovely features as he slowly advanced upon her, then shrugging off the idea as impossible. “But I’ve desired you since the first moment I saw you, and I believe you want me, too.”

“You’re wrong!” she cried. “I detest you—”

“You lie,” he said, facing her across the table now. He didn’t want to dwell on how deeply her words had pierced his heart. He only wanted to feel again the lush wonder of her body pressed against him. “You can’t tell me you didn’t enjoy the kisses we’ve shared, the times I’ve held you in my arms, or the night when you let me caress your beautiful body.”

“I didn’t! I loathed every moment we spent alone together. I just let you think I liked everything you did to me. You’re an easy one to deceive, Adam Thornton.”

He shook his head, his senses flooded with the warmed scent of her jasmine perfume. “Such things you cannot fake. I know when a woman’s desire is as strong as my own, and no woman I’ve ever held has a spirit as wanton as yours. Now stop playing the trembling virgin and take my hand. Remember, we’re husband and wife now. I have complete rights to your body, just as I have complete charge over your wealth.”

Susanna jumped as a sharp crack of thunder rumbled outside, harbinger of an approaching storm that heightened the tension between them.

She couldn’t believe this was happening despite how Adam hated her! He had just said so, proving to her at last that he had sought to mislead her as surely as she had misled him.

She didn’t want to admit how deeply his words had hurt her, nor would she ever give him the satisfaction of knowing she had actually believed herself in love with him. To think she must spend the rest of her life with this cruel, heartless man! And did he truly think that because she had been a waiting-maid she was no longer a virgin? He must!

“I—I’ve already given you what you wanted, Adam,” she stammered, the lustful way his eyes were raking over her filling her with dread. “Briarwood. The Cary fortune. You can have mistresses if you want, a dozen or more if that’s what it takes to satisfy you. I don’t care, but just leave me alone. You seem to have forgotten that half of this miserable charade depends upon me. I swear if you touch me I’ll go to the county constable and tell him the truth!”

“And settle a noose around your lovely white neck when I counter your truth with mine? I don’t think so.” As he began to stalk her around the table, he threw off his coat, his waistcoat, and then began to work at the buttons on his sweat-dampened shirt until it hung open, his magnificent chest bared to her gaze. “Come to bed, wife.”

“No,” Susanna whispered, tripping on the hem of her gown as she tried to maintain a distance between them. She quickly kicked off her shoes so they would not hinder her. “I’ll scream if you so much as touch me—”

“Only in pleasure,” he countered, his darkening expression suggesting that he was growing more than a little impatient. “Only in pleasure.”