Chapter Seven

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Chapter Seven

James played with hellfire and disaster in courting Phoebe Landon. He knew it too. The girl was forbidden fruit, and yet, he couldn’t drag himself away. The intoxicating woman consumed him. Every thought. Every desire. Truly he couldn’t get her out of his head. They’d met for daily walks or rides every morning for the past week. He liked Phoebe. Her intelligence… her wit… In all, she fascinated him.

Today was no exception. He reclined in the clover-scented grass, chewing the end of a long blade, watching her paint, taking in every facet of her luminescent eyes and the golden sparkle of her hair.

“Do you know the story of the Heart of the Nile?” She asked suddenly, setting her brush down and turning somber eyes to him. “I scarcely remember what the necklace looked like, and after my brother, Patrick, was killed no one ever spoke of it.”

James rolled onto his side, reaching out to snag a loose curl wafting on the breeze. He smoothed the tress between his fingers. “Ah, yes, the famed Egyptian jewel,” he murmured, drawing on long suppressed memories of the dreaded relic. “It is believed that the necklace was a gift to Cleopatra from her lover Mark Antony.” Phoebe’s eyes lit with the romantic prospect. “Shortly after Antony left Cleopatra’s side, never to return, the necklace was stolen. It is said the Queen’s heartbreak and wrath cast a permanent curse over the jewel, and death is rumored to follow any who possess it.”

Phoebe’s sultry eyes fixed on his. “Do you believe such?”

“I believe a man makes his own destiny.” James had no desire to speak of the contemptuous gem or be reminded of the feud between their families, though it might be wise for him to heed some measure of history—Romeo and Juliette ended in disaster after all.

Drawn to Phoebe with ethereal force, James rose up on an elbow, dropping his palm to her shoulder. His thumb stroked the exposed flesh of her collarbone. She shivered in response, eyelids drooping to half-mast. The low burning desire in his gut flared to life. She was such a sensual creature. So responsive and warm. How could anyone in London have dubbed her an ice queen? He shifted closer, gaze dropping from Phoebe’s glittering pale eyes to the full curve of her lips. So pink… the sheerest shade of a spring time rose… He’d resisted the temptation to kiss her again since that day her horse had bolted. The restraint proved torture in the truest form, but he knew the reality that nothing more could come of their friendship. He could never marry her—even if their families would allow such a thing he had no plans for a wife, he would die bloody fighting the French before he had the chance.

Phoebe leaned in ever so slightly, the invitation to take her lips clear.

James could resist no longer, he’d been hard for her since the day on the beach. With a barely stifled groan, he slipped a palm around the back of her neck, claiming her lips in a hungry kiss. The days of restraint proved too much, and at the first taste of her mouth, he lost all self-control. Rising to his knees, he thrust his tongue into her mouth, kissing her greedily.

She responded in kind, tilting her chin to grant him better access, taking all of him. She matched every erotic stroke with one of her own, and wound her arms around his neck, pulling him in until her breasts crushed against his chest.

James groaned, curling one arm around her tiny waist and the other about her neck and shoulders. He lowered her into the lush bed of grass and clover. He settled over her, relishing the heat of her petite frame. She shivered beneath him, burying her fingers in the short locks of his hair, drawing him down for another deep kiss. James didn’t know what the hell he was doing, and he didn’t particularly care. Phoebe was perfect and responsive… everything he could imagine and more.

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