Lilith adored walking about the city, rubbing elbows with its inhabitants. The rush of the metropolis exhilarated her. She delighted in mounting the top of the omnibus and gazing up at the buildings as the cumbersome vehicle lumbered through the streets. However, George wheeled about London in a lonely bubble of glass and luxury. Being inside it made her feel even sadder, as if she had been plucked from her colorful life and put in a sealed, hermetic bottle.
As she gazed out the window, her eyes burning and head aching from lack of sleep, her thoughts tangled up. Her own life fused with Colette’s.
The sultan, having finally captured Colette, bound her with silken sashes. She was his slave to do with as he pleased.
“You shall eat proper meals,” he growled in menacing tones. His brows drew down in a hawkish manner. “You’ll receive plenty of sleep each night and do calisthenics each morning.”
A shiver ran down Colette’s back at his unsavory demands. He may be the master of her body now, but her spirit would soar free from its bodily cage.
“Are you even paying attention?” the sultan demanded. Colette answered in a broken whisper, “Ahhbuhh,” and bowed her head.
“What? You’re not making sense,” the sultan spat. “This illustrates my point. You’ve beaten your wings to exhaustion because you’ve had no proper guidance. Well, that has changed.”
He seized her elbow as the carriage rolled to a stop. She tried to protest his brutal treatment, but his retinue descended upon her, ripping her from the carriage. His enormous tent was ablaze with torches.
“Show her to the parlor.” His powerful voice thundered in her ears.
Colette was taken inside the tent, ordered to wait upon plush cushions for her master’s cruel bidding, and asked if she required “a spot of tea or a biscuit.”
She tried to speak but her lips wouldn’t move. Her eyelids were closing fast. The sultan must have poisoned her. She fought to remain conscious.
She heard a female voice behind the tent door. “Lilith is staying with us! No, no. What will Mother say?”
Ah, yes, Lady Marylewick, that beautiful, perfect valide sultan—queen of the harem.
“Hush, my dear Penelope, she will hear you,” the sultan barked.
Penelope, Lady Fenmore? Why was the sultan’s sister with him and not with the harem of her husband? Those were Colette’s last thoughts before being carried away in the swift, black undertow of sleep.
* * *
George entered the parlor to inform Lilith of her waiting bedchamber. He found her collapsed on a sofa, sound asleep. Her hat had toppled from her head, freeing her auburn hair. Her lashes cast shadows on her face. A beautiful sleeping tigress. He knelt beside her and studied the lines and planes of her face. Her symmetry.
She hummed and shifted onto her side.
“Miss Dahlgren,” he whispered. He rested a hand on her shoulder and squeezed. “Lilith.”
She clasped his hand, slid it under her cheek and cuddled around his arm. Warmth flowed from her body into his.
The clock on the mantel chimed five. Parliament had begun. Outside, the long shadows of the afternoon were beacons of the coming gloaming. After Parliament, he had several balls to attend. Today’s adventure had set him behind in his estate work. He had a multitude of reasons to hurry on, but he couldn’t stop gazing at the picture she made and enjoying the tingle of his skin where it touched hers. “What am I going to do with you?”
She drew up her legs and snuggled even closer. “So tired,” she mumbled and rubbed her cheek against his arm, as if settling into a pillow.
He knew it was improper and unwise, but he wanted to feel more of her. He brushed a stray lock, the color of brandy and firelight, from her face. How could he make her mind as delicate as her nose, her manners as pleasing as her lips, and her ways as soft as her silky hair? If only he could find a way to temper her wild, disorderly nature and keep her as gentle as this moment.
He lingered five minutes longer, savoring the soothing rhythm of her breath on his face, until he couldn’t put off his responsibilities any longer.
“Come.” He tenderly gathered her up. “Let’s tuck you in bed.”
TAKE ONE MARQUESS: Proper, put-upon, dependable, but concealing a sensitive artist’s soul.
ADD ONE BOHEMIAN LADY: Creative, boisterous, unruly, but secretly yearning for a steadfast love, home, and family.
STIR in a sensational serialized story that has society ravenous for each installment.
COMBINE with ambitious guests at an ill-fated house party hosted by a treacherous dowager possessing a poison tongue.
SHAKE until a stuffy marquess and rebellious lady make a shocking discovery: the contents of their hearts are just alike.
Take a sip. You’ll laugh, you’ll swoon, you’ll never want this moving Victorian love story to end.
Romance Historical [Sourcebooks, On Sale: November 1, 2016, Paperback / e-Book, ISBN: 9781402283635 / eISBN: 9781402283642]
About Susanna Ives
Susanna Ives started writing when she left her job as a multimedia training developer to stay home with her family. Now she keeps busy driving her children to various classes, writing books, and maintaining websites. She often follows her husband on business trips around Europe and blogs about the misadventures of touring with children. She lives in Atlanta.