Lady Sophia has long been estranged from her husband, Vane Barwick, the Duke of Claxton, whose rumored list of amorous conquests includes almost every beautiful woman of the ton. Yet a shocking encounter with him in a crowded ballroom-and a single touch-are all it takes to reawaken her furious passion for him. But how can she trust the man who crushed her dreams and took away the one thing she wanted most?
A Love Beyond Reason
Claxton has never forgiven himself for the youthful mistake that ruined his marriage to Sophia. Now, after nearly a year abroad, the reformed rogue vows to win back the only woman he's ever truly loved. He'll do whatever it takes to prove he can be the honorable husband she deserves-and the passionate lover she desires. As the snowdrifts deepen outside their ancestral home, can they rekindle the flame that burned so bright and find a new path to forever?
Lily Dalton grew up as an Army brat, moving from place to place. Her first stop after relocating was always the local library, where she could hang out with familiar friends: Books! Lily has an English degree from
and after graduation worked as a legal assistant in the fields of accident reconstruction and litigation. She now lives in Texas A & M University , with her family. When she isn't at work on her next manuscript, she spends her time trying out new recipes, cheering on her favorite Houston, Texas football teams and collecting old dishes, vintage linens and other fine "junque" from thrift stores and flea markets. Texas
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For Sophia, there was something devastating about the knowledge they would never spend another moment alone again until after the details of their separation—settlements and annuities and agreements—were negotiated through intermediaries and finalized. In these last moments could he not speak to her with some gentleness out of respect for the happier times they’d shared?
With all the force within her, she yanked the case back, inadvertently jerking his hand in her direction, because he did not let go. His eyes flared wide with surprise.
Of course she overreacted, and in a most irrational and childish manner, but in this moment she did not care. Her mind buzzed with hurt and anger, and she didn’t even feel the cold anymore. Did he not wish for them to have a decent and meaningful goodbye? They had once loved one another.
His jaw flexed. “This excursion was utter folly. Admit you were wrong in leaving the house.”
That he would be so obstinate here, on the threshold of the place where she would say goodbye to him forever, upended her composure. Once she regained full possession of her case, she could go inside, shut the door on Claxton and convince her heart to forget him.
“Of course I was wrong. I’m a foolish, silly woman. Thank you, your Grace, for being such a gentleman as to point out my every failing,” she said archly. “And for being so much larger and stronger than me, your helpless, little wife.”
She backed away in an attempt to free the handle, but still he did not release it. Indeed, he gritted his teeth and held tight.
“Sophia—” he warned.
“But I’m not your wife any longer.” She jerked the case, throwing all her weight into the effort. “Not really, not for long, because you’ve made it clear, not just to me, but the whole of England that you prefer to be anywhere in the world and with anyone but with me.” And jerked it again. “So you’re not a gentleman after all, and most certainly not my hero, so no, I’m not inclined to thank you for anything.”
For a moment, there was nothing but the sound of the wind and ice cracking, and the echo of her words in her ears.
“Not a gentleman, you say?” he said in a hushed voice.
His expression dangerous, he yanked the handle hard, gaining possession of the valise and Sophia, who pitched forward, along with it. The force of it brought her crashing against him. The valise between them halted her abruptly, her face inches from his. Her heartbeat raced wildly, but not in fear. With the attraction she struggled even now, in her anger and hurt to conceal.
“It took you until now to realize?” he said, nostrils flared.
With a downward shove, he wrenched the case from her hand, throwing it to the ground. He stepped toward her.
“Don’t you touch me,” she gasped and retreated toward the steps, thinking to escape him but he lunged, closing the distance between them to capture her face in his hands.
“Dear God, you drive me mad,” he growled, his eyes alight with blue fire.
She waited for the squeeze of his fingers, for him to twist off her head in the middle of the lane, for being such a tiresome, troublesome wife, who had ceased to bring him a single moment’s peace or pleasure.
His mouth fell on hers.
Stunned, she grabbed his hands to remove them, but…
She gasped against his lips, inhaling in his breath, and in an instant remembered all she craved. His full lower lip. The bristly texture of his unshaven skin. The taste and scent that was only, deliciously Claxton. Every particle of her being exploded with need. His hands found her waist. She grasped his upper arms. He groaned, devouring her.
The world around them faded into a maelstrom of desire, she only vaguely aware of the snow crunching under their feet as they danced, struggled…his hands—her hands—tangled in hair and wool. On skin.
“Claxton,” she breathed.
He made a guttural sound.
In wild surge, all the anger of the past months exploded inside her, transforming the kiss into some thing more primal. She bit him. He nipped her back, a moment before his tongue entered her mouth, to slide over hers. Consciousness blurred into a frenzy of pleasure and not-so-terrible pain.
With a gasp, she thrust her hands against his chest and pushed.
Dazed and heavy-lidded, he stared at her, his cheeks ruddy with passion, his arms bent at his sides, almost as if he’d never seen her before.
“Oh, my God,” he exclaimed thickly.
Touching her fingertips to swollen and tender lips, she teetered on unsteady legs, and wholeheartedly concurred with his assessment. They’d shared thousands of kisses, but never anything as magnificent as that.
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