Excerpt: The Scandalous Bride

Excerpt: The Scandalous Bride

Book Two: Dangerous Masquerade

“Sir, you are no gentleman to hold me against my will,” Kassandra snapped, her eyes flaring.

“And you are no lady,” Stefan replied easily, “to spy on lovers and frequent lowly taverns for your amusement.”

Kassandra gasped, her mind racing wildly. He knows! He had recognized her! She raised her hand to slap him, but he caught it and brought it to his lips. He kissed her open palm, his burning gaze never leaving her face.

Kassandra jumped at the touch of his lips against her skin, a thrill of fire streaking to the core of her being, memories of shared, tempestuous passion flooding her mind and threatening to overwhelm her. She stared breathlessly at the unmistakable challenge in his eyes… It seemed she had given herself away without saying a word.

Damn him! Damn his kisses and damn his eyes! she raged, swept by a terrible storm of emotion that battled within her until she thought she might be torn apart. She hated this man. God, how she hated him…for what he had done to her, and for the awful predicament she now faced.

It was obvious from his attire, a rich brocade overcoat, waistcoat, and dark breeches, which he wore with casual flair, that he was a member of the aristocracy and not the common soldier she had thought. Would he cause a scandal?

But all thoughts fled as he once again kissed her palm, lingeringly, possessively, his warm breath making her shiver. Unconsciously she leaned against him, unaware of the smoldering desire reflected in the depths of her eyes, conscious only of the feel of his lips upon her skin and the wild beating of her heart within her breast…

“So beautiful…” Stefan murmured, a rakish smile tugging at his lips. The feel of her lithe body pressed against him was the sweetest torture; his blood raced hot through his veins. He could swear she was the woman he had been seeking.

Kassandra blinked at the sound of his voice, the taunting smile on his face shattering the spell that held her captive. She tore her hand from his grasp, her eyes glinting fire.

“How dare you,” she whispered, steeling herself against trembling desire, a determined resolve forming in her dazed mind.

She would give him no further indication that she had ever seen him before, she vowed. And if he challenged her, whoever he was, soldier, aristocrat…yes, and most certainly a scoundrel, she would deny everything. He had no proof, other than her own admission, and that she would never give him.

Kassandra drew herself up, meeting his gaze unflinchingly. “As I said before, my lord, you are mistaken,” she stated with icy reserve. “We have never met. And if we had, I am sure I would recall your brutish manners. As for spying on lovers and your strange talk of taverns”—she paused, drawing a deep breath—“it appears the full moon has addled your senses. Now release me at once.”

Stefan gazed down at her, amazed by her sudden transformation. Damn! but she was a tantalizing mystery, one he felt compelled to pursue…

“If you truly wish it—”

“I do wish it.” Kassandra cut him off curtly.

“Very well.” Stefan released her so suddenly that she lost her balance. He caught her arm before she fell, steadying her, but she wrenched from his grasp. He merely smiled at her, a rogue’s smile. “It has been a pleasure, my lady,” he murmured with a gallant bow.

“You are both mad…and a blackguard!” Kassandra tossed over her shoulder as she forced herself to walk calmly along the path leading to the palace. Yet she was shaking uncontrollably, her foremost thought to leave the reception at once.

“Hardly mad, my lady,” Stefan said softly under his breath. “Captivated.” He waited for a few moments, then followed, determined not to let her out of his sight.