Award-winning author Jillian Hunter weaves another enthralling tale in which the path down the aisle is paved with startling twists of fate . . . and temptation. Lord Heath Boscastle's attraction for Julia Hepworth begins with a bang. She shoots him at a hunting party-accidentally, of course. Though the shot grazes his shoulder, her beauty pierces his heart. Sparks fly soon after when they find themselves dangerously close to a compromising position. Too inexperienced to understand such overwhelming emotions, Heath and Julia part ways. Now, years later, Heath is a high-ranking intelligence officer, asked to protect his commander's fiancee, Julia, while he chases down an elusive spy. Heath quickly regrets his promise when he meets Julia again-and their mutual desire still burns hotter than ever. Of course he will protect her. There is danger in the air. And Heath would never think of betraying his friend, until he learns that Julia herself has been betrayed. Suddenly seduction Boscastle style is the name of the game. Yet Julia has a trick or two up her own sleeve-and is determined to be a player, and not a mere pawn, in his wicked game.
Another tale of the Boscastle family.
Jillian Hunter has received several awards in the Romance Community, including Romantic Times Career Achievement Award. She lives in Southern California with her husband and three daughters.
Chapter 1 Mayfair 1814 Until this evening Lieutenant Colonel Lord Heath Boscastle had been living under the pleasant illusion that he was the master of his own fate. It wasn''t that he had escaped bad fortune. On the contrary. He had met and overcome more than his fair share of adversity. It seemed that he deserved peace. After all, he''d survived war, torture, espionage, two volatile mistresses, and a family that challenged the rules of Society on a regular basis. It was, perhaps, a credit to his cumulative experiences that he managed to hide his astonishment at what his friend, Colonel Sir Russell Althorne, had just asked of him. A man less adept than Heath at concealing his emotions might have given himself away. He displayed no reaction whatsoever. Most likely he was in a mild state of shock. He''d half expected Althorne to call him back into military service. As a soldier, that is, not a lady''s companion. He had not anticipated a reminder of a past sexual escapade . . . as unforgettable as that escapade had been. "Well," Russell asked him for the second time, "will you do it or not? I would prefer to leave London with an easy mind. Will you take care of Julia for me while I''m gone?" "You might have given me a little more notice." "You''ve been in Hampshire." "You could have written." "What? So that you had time to refuse?" Heath shook his head. "You''re all damned heart, aren''t you?" The two men stood at the top of the Mayfair mansion''s magnificent stone staircase. To anyone observing them from the candlelit ballroom below, they appeared to be a pair of bored male guests who had retreated from the noisy crowd to puff their cigars in peace. They had strengthened their friendship as raw light cavalry officers in Sahagun when ambushes and battles, intelligence gathering and patrols in the icy dark had beckoned to their thirst for adventure. Unfortunately Heath had gotten caught on one of those adventures, and it had been Colonel Sir Russell Althorne, his superior officer, who had rescued him, losing his left eye in the process, and earning a hero''s acclaim. "I can''t do it." Heath gazed through a cloud of smoke at the figures that wove through the porphyry marble columns below. He wondered distractedly if the woman he and Russell had been discussing was down there in the crush. Would they recognize each other? What would they say? It would be damned uncomfortable, considering their short but memorable history. "I haven''t seen Julia in years. I had no idea her husband was dead, or that she''d returned to England." Or that Russell, predator and hero of the hour that he was, had already gotten himself engaged to her. Althorne had always been an ambitious, competitive sort, even as far back as their college days. He seemed determined to leave his mark on the world. "I had to talk her into accepting my proposal," Russell said, his voice more than a little baffled. He stood several inches shorter than Heath, with a heavier frame, rust-brown hair, hazel eyes, and rugged features. His was a rough appeal; what he lacked in refinement he made up for in resolve. "Can you believe it? Julia refusing me." "What could she have been thinking?" Heath murmured. "Obviously she wasn''t." Russell smiled down at a young debutante who had caught his eye. Flustered, she bumped ungracefully into her dance partner. Russell laughed. Heath sighed. "Is she in danger?" "I don''t know," Russell replied. "Julia''s aunt is convinced that their town house is being watched. I doubt it. Lady Dalrymple is a notorious corkbrain. Still, I do not think it is wise to underestimate Auclair. The man fights deadly duels for amusement. His quest for revenge seems personal." "How do you know this?" Russell''s jaw tightened. "He''s made it known in underworld circles that he wants to destroy me." "The war is over." "Apparently Auclair''s taste for violence has not been sated. He was last seen haunting Tortoni''s and other caf