• Title: A Summer Seduction (Legend of St. Dwynwen)
  • Author: Candace Camp
  • Released: 2012-06-19
  • Language: English
  • Pages: 384
  • ISBN: 1451639511
  • ISBN13: 978-1451639513
  • ASIN: 1451639511
About the Author Born into a newspaper family, some of Candace Camp’s earliest memories are of making up stories which she played out on the floor of their den with whatever objects were handy. She is currently the author of over sixty novels, including the bestselling Regency romances The Courtship Dance, The Wedding Challenge, and The Bridal Quest.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
One

Her body was warm and yielding in his arms, her mouth sweet beneath his. The very air around them was electric with promise. A breeze touched his skin, sending a shiver through him, and in the distance, there was a low rumble of thunder.

“Jocelyn,” he murmured, his arms tightening around her, and at that instant, she turned and slipped away from him, laughter trailing over her shoulder.

Alec started after her, his body thrumming with need, the thrill of the chase rising in him. She was white and silver in the moonlight, her gown fluttering behind her, dark gold hair streaming like a flag. Airy as a dream, she darted between the stones, always just out of his reach. He turned a corner, and she had vanished. He realized with a chill that the stones around them were grave markers.

Then her arms wrapped around him from behind, and her scent teased at his nostrils. Alec turned to her and claimed her lips, his hands sinking into the thick mass of her hair. Heat flared through him, his body hard and eager. She pressed up into him, her soft breasts flattening against his chest. He wanted her. Ached for her.

He lifted his head and gazed down into the huge amethyst pools of her eyes. Her alabaster skin gleamed in the moonlight, her thick black hair twining around his fingers. And in that moment he realized that she was not Jocelyn at all.

“Damaris!”

Thunder rumbled, and Alec jolted awake.

He lay for a moment, disoriented, the room unfamiliar, before his groggy thoughts gathered and he recalled that he was in an inn on his way to visit Lord Morecombe. Soft summer air wafted through the open window, stirring the sheer curtains, and thunder sounded again, low and distant. Alec’s body still surged with lust. Was it for Jocelyn, he wondered, or for Damaris?

Letting out an impatient sigh, he sat up and swung his legs out of bed. It didn’t matter. Either way, it was folly. Jocelyn’s place now was in the graveyard. She had never been his, not really. As for Damaris… His thoughts turned to the attractive young widow who was Lady Morecombe’s good friend. Hair thick and black as midnight… wide, expressive eyes of a deep blue, almost purplish hue, a distant look of cool amusement in them… an enticingly curved body that seemed to beckon a man’s hand.

Alec shook his head, as if to dislodge his thoughts. However alluring the lady might be, Damaris Howard was not for him. He had not, he reflected, made the best of first impressions upon her, storming into Gabriel’s house six months ago and launching into a fistfight with him. He had compounded his sins by being rude to the lady, flatly refusing her offer to show him the way to the village. Pride was a failing of his—an overweening pride, some might say—that disdained help as equally as it did pity or contempt.

After that inauspicious beginning, Mrs. Howard had regarded him with a prickly politeness that bordered on disfavor. That fact would not have stopped him from pursuing her, of course, for Alec Stafford was not a man to avoid a challenge. But she was a lady and, what was more important, a friend to Thea, one of the few people Alec respected, which meant that Damaris was not a woman with whom he could casually tumble into bed. And Alec was not foolish enough to be interested in a woman in any other way. Whatever mawkish feelings of love and marriage had once glimmered in him had died with Jocelyn.

He shoved away from the bed and strode to the window. The sheer curtain billowed out, brushing over his naked flesh, and he shivered once again, just as he had in his dream. There was no moon in the sky; it was growing close to dawn and the sky had begun to lighten.

Sleep, he knew, had been thoroughly chased off, so he turned away and began to pull on his clothes. It was less than a day’s ride to Chesley, where Gabriel Morecombe now lived with his new wife and the baby boy they had adopted. If he set out now, he could reach the village by midafternoon.

By the time the sun came up, Alec was well down the road. He stopped for breakfast and to rest his mount, but as the miles passed and the village of Chesley grew closer, his pace quickened and his stops were more and more infrequent. He was not sure where the restlessness that had plagued him the last few months had come from, but it was becoming more and more familiar. It seemed as if no place contented him for long now. After visiting Chesley for young Matthew’s baptism, he had returned home to dutifully escort his sister to London for the Season. A month later, boredom had sent him ricocheting back to Northumberland. But, unlike in the past, he had not been content at Castle Cleyre either. The days had seemed long and empty, the nights dull, until finally he had decided to return to the city early, making a side trip to visit his friends the Morecombes along the way, as if he had not just visited them in February.

It was odd behavior, he knew, but perhaps a man just grew bored when he reached a certain age. Or perhaps once Jocelyn had been found and he had been freed from his long, uncertain period of waiting, he simply no longer knew what to do with himself.

He came over a rise and saw Chesley before him, the Cotswold stone buildings gleaming a pale honey in the midday sun. In the distance, on the far side of the village, the square tower of St. Margaret’s rose bluntly into the sky. It surprised him to feel his spirits rise. It was here that he had learned the grim truth about Jocelyn, not only her death, but the full measure of her deceit. She had been lost to him more than a year at the time, but he had still stubbornly clung to some small measure of hope until the events at Chesley. The village should hold naught for him but sorrow and loss, but instead he had a certain fondness for it.

He nudged his horse into a trot and was soon at the outskirts of the village. He passed the Blue Boar, where he had stayed last Christmas. When he had come for the baptism in February, Gabriel and Thea had welcomed him into their home—but Jocelyn’s leaving had set the two men’s friendship on a perilous path, and it had been only tentatively restored last winter. So he hesitated now as he rode past the inn, thinking he should perhaps stop and claim a room there. Instead he pushed forward. The road that led out to the Priory went past Damaris’s home, and it would be only polite to call upon her… but better sense prevailed, and he continued to Gabriel’s home.

The footman who answered the door at the Priory was quick to bow and usher him inside. Just as the servant turned to lead Alec to the drawing room, there was a high-pitched squeal, followed by a peal of laughter, and a small child ran out of the great hall. His chubby legs were spread wide for balance, as were his arms, and the skirts of his gown were tucked up into his swaddling band to keep him from tripping. A gleeful expression lit his face. Alec’s heart clenched almost painfully in his chest. Behind him came a tall, slender woman dressed in a fashionable gown of sprig muslin. She, too, was laughing, her large expressive gray eyes alight behind her spectacles. Her cheeks were flushed, and several strands had escaped from her upswept reddish-brown hair to curl in an unruly fashion around her face.

The baby came to an abrupt halt when he saw Alec standing in the entry, and for a moment Alec thought that the child’s laughter might turn to tears of fright. Alec was a tall, even imposing figure, and there was a certain fierceness, he knew, in his ice-blue gaze and angular, strong-boned face that did nothing to soften his appearance. More than once, children had turned and run to hide against their mothers’ skirts when they met him. Matthew Morecombe, however, was apparently made of sturdier stuff, for after that brief pause, he grinned, let out a piercing shriek, and ran forward, holding up his hands to Alec. Alec gazed down at him in bemusement, not quite certain what he should do.

“Rawdon!” The woman hurried forward as well, now beaming at Alec. She let out a laugh. “You must pick him up, you know, or he will not give you an instant’s peace.”

Alec bent down and somewhat gingerly placed his hands on either side of the child’s waist, lifting him. Somehow Matthew settled naturally into the crook of his arm, curling his dimpled fist into the lapel of Alec’s coat. The boy was heavy and soft in his arm, smelling faintly of milk and lavender and child, and something in Alec’s chest went loose and warm. The baby looked down at the woman as she stopped before them, and he let out another happy crow.

“Yes, you like being up there so high, don’t you?” She beamed at the baby, then focused on Alec. “I am so happy to see you. Gabriel did not tell me you were coming; I shall have to scold him.”

“No, pray do not; I am the one at fault. I beg your pardon, Lady Morecombe, I did not write to warn you. I was on my way back to London from home, and I decided on the whim of a moment to pay a visit to my godson.”

There was a flash of surprise, quickly hidden, in Thea Morecombe’s eyes, and Alec flushed, deeply aware—though his hostess was too polite to comment on the fact—that the village of Chesley lay a good deal off the road from Northumberland to London.

“Well, we are excessively glad that you did,” Thea said with a warm smile. “But I thought we had agreed that you must call me Thea. We are, after all, almost kin, surely, since you are Matthew’s godfather.”

Alec smiled back at her, the harsh lines of his face softening almost imperceptibly. “I am honored. Thea.” Despite holding the child in his arm, he executed a precise bow. Matthew gurgled with delight at the movement and dug his fists more tightly into Alec’s coat. “But only if you will call me Alec in return.”

“Alec!” A tall, dark-haired man came striding toward them, grinning broadly. “Whatever are you doing here? It’s devilish good to see you.”

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