Ten years ago Ivy Breckenridge’s life was ruined. She had to reinvent herself, and now, after painstakingly making her own way in the world, she’s nearly forgotten the dreams of home and family she’d once nurtured. Until one man peers into her soul and awakens every one of her hidden desires. But no matter how good he makes her feel, she can’t trust him—alone by choice is better than alone by necessity.
With a notorious reputation for training married women in the art of passion, Sebastian Westgate, Duke of Clare, is reviled by some and celebrated by others. He doesn’t allow anyone close enough to see past his charming exterior. When Ivy uncovers the man beneath, the seducer is suddenly the seduced. Enraptured by her mind and spirit, he wants more but revealing his darkest secrets is a price he won’t pay.
“What are you doing?” She looked utterly bemused, her red-gold brows pitched. It was rather fetching. She was normally quite self-possessed.
“Waiting for the Travills to finish their rendezvous behind the bushes over yonder.”
“Their wh—” She blushed. “Never mind. How do you know they’re there?”
“I was going to conceal myself while I waited for you. Apparently it’s an excellent location for...concealment.”
“I see.” She looked around. “As is this.”
He took a small step toward her. “Are you suggesting we have a rendezvous?”
“Isn’t that precisely what we’re doing?” She blushed again. “Sort of.”
“I don’t know precisely what we’re doing. I’d be more than happy to copy the Travills, however.”
“I don’t—” She pressed her lips together. “No. I came to walk. If that no longer interests you, I’ll return to the house.”
She started to turn, but he touched her elbow. It was the slightest connection, but he felt it in every bone, every muscle, every nerve. “Please don’t. I’ll behave.”
She arched a brow at him. “Do you know how?”
He chuckled. “Clearly I do. I’ve been on excellent behavior since you took me to task.”
She nodded primly. “Indeed you have.” She exhaled and brushed her gloved hands down her skirt. “What are we to do then?”
“They shouldn’t be too long. I’ll keep an eye out.” He peered around the shrubs and looked toward where the Travills were hidden.
“How do you know?” she asked.
Given Travill’s open fall and the way his hand was lifting the hem of his wife’s dress, West was certain they wouldn’t be enjoying a protracted interlude. “If you recall, I’m very observant.”
She brought her hand to her mouth. “Oh goodness. Were they...in flagrante dilecto?”
He laughed and had to modulate his volume before he drew attention to their presence. “Not quite.”
“Then how do you know how long they’ll be? Maybe you ruined the mood.”
He laughed again then sobered, looking at her a bit differently all of a sudden. “What do you know of that?”
She turned her head, but he caught the slight coloring of her cheeks. “Nothing. Just what I’ve heard.”
Confident she was the most fascinating woman he’d ever met, he was eager to spend the afternoon with her. He peeked around the hedge again and saw the Travills making their way toward the house.
He turned to Miss Breckenridge. “They’re finished.”
“I’m beginning to think we should be too.”
He didn’t like the sound of that. “Why?”
She hesitated. “I don’t know. Because.” She looked as if she might say more but then only added another “because.”
“That’s a riveting reason to be sure. I think we should take our walk. It’s not raining, and the view atop Wendover beckons.” He held his arm out for her. “Will you allow me to escort you?”
She glanced at his sleeve and her lip twitched, as if she’d nibbled the inside. “What if someone sees us? If the Travills were out here, someone else could be too.”
She had a point, but he wasn’t deterred. “It’s unlikely. And if we do encounter someone, I’ll come up with an excuse. I’m quite good at that.”
She eyed him warily. “I’m sure you are.”
“Shall we then?”
She tentatively put her hand on his arm. “I hope I don’t regret this.”
He covered her fingers with his. “I promise you won’t.”
“Stop promising me things.” She took her hand back. “On second thought, I shouldn’t be touching you. That surely won’t help with any of your possible excuses should we run into anyone.”
“Fair enough.” He gestured for her to precede him. When she’d moved past him, he let her walk several steps before catching up with her. “And Miss Breckenridge?” She turned her head to look at him, her green eyes bright and intelligent. “I only promise things I know I can deliver.”
West and Ivy are both against marriage for their own personal reasons that we learn about as they get to know each other. He is known for his many affairs with married women, so his nickname fits him quite well. But there is so much more to him and the reasons he does what he does - until he meets Ivy at least. Ivy's past has colored her view on men like West, and at first does what she can to avoid him, but little by little, he wears her down. I love the friendship that develops along with the romance, and the chemistry between these two is present from the beginning. It was also great to see characters from the previous books in the series. While not necessary to read them prior to this one, I would recommend them as they are all great. Can't wait for the next book!
I voluntarily reviewed an advanced reader copy of this book. I was not compensated for this review, all conclusions are my own.
Darcy Burke is the USA Today Bestselling Author of hot, action-packed historical and sexy, emotional contemporary romance. A native Oregonian, Darcy lives on the edge of wine country with her guitar-strumming husband, their two hilarious kids who seem to have inherited the writing gene, and three Bengal cats. Visit Darcy online at www.darcyburke.com and sign up for her newsletter, follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/darcyburke, or like her Facebook page, www.facebook.com/DarcyBurkeFans.