To Annabelle, With Love
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“Julianne MacLean has once again penned a novel of great worth and utter enjoyment.”– Romance Junkies
“A special kind of love story…truly compelling.”– Romance Reader
Return to the glittering world of Julianne MacLean’s popular American Heiress Trilogy with this romantic, emotionally powerful spin-off series—Can This Be Love
If the man is as wicked as they paint him to be, why does he make Annabelle feel so wonderful?
Annabelle Lawson knew nothing about the handsome and charismatic stranger she met on the train—only that he would make an ideal model for the budding young artist—and that she desired him more than she ever believed possible. She is soon lured into a passionate and romantic summer affair, but after she is seduced, she learns that she'd also been betrayed.
The man she thought she loved was really Magnus Wallis—a scoundrel like his father before him, the loathed and vengeful cousin of Annabelle's benefactor, the honorable Earl of Whitby.
Older and wiser, no longer the naïve, romantic girl who would fall for a rogue, Annabelle cannot avoid a reunion with Magnus, who wants to include her paintings in his new London gallery. She means to show him her coldest face—but upon seeing him again, her every intention melts from the heat of his touch. It is clear that Magnus still burns for her, but is he the villain he once was, or can he be redeemed and become a man Annabelle could dare to love?
NOTE: This novel was originally published under the title PORTRAIT OF A LOVER in 2006.
Release date: September 3, 2020
Publisher: Julianne MacLean Publishing Inc.
Print pages: 342
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To Annabelle, With Love
You did not reply to my previous letter, so I have taken the liberty of writing again to request an appointment with you regarding the painting.
I implore you—please do not let the past dictate your decision in this matter. Come and meet me at the gallery before the exhibition. The painting deserves this recognition.
Annabelle Lawson tipped her head back against the rough bark of the oak tree on the hill and laid a hand on her stomach. Her heart pounded uncontrollably. She’d always feared this day would come—that after all these years, Magnus would be bold enough to contact her.
She took a deep, slow breath, telling herself that at least this way she’d been warned that he had returned to London. It would have been excruciating to meet him unexpectedly somewhere. Not that this wasn’t excruciating enough on its own.
Meet me at the gallery.
Her stomach began to churn. He wanted to see her. But how could she see him? She had not forgiven him for what he’d done all those years ago. He’d ripped her heart to shreds and stomped on it. He’d treated her appallingly. Inexcusably. He was her brother’s vengeful enemy and had no heart of his own.
No. She could not see him. It would be too painful and agonizing to revisit all those feelings.
A cool breeze fluttered the letter in her hand, and Annabelle gazed beyond her easel, down the grassy hillside toward her home. Or rather, her brother’s home, which she had been struggling to capture on canvas.
She folded the letter and stuffed it into her pocket. Picking up her palette and brush, she took a step forward, but stopped and laid a hand on her stomach again, waiting for the churning sensation to pass.
She had not felt anything quite so intense in years, she realized suddenly. Eight, to be exact, because that was the last time she had dealt with Magnus—the day he left England for America. Permanently.
She had been so very relieved that day. Relieved that he would disappear and never bother her or Whitby again. Whitby had made sure of it. He paid Magnus handsomely to leave, with an allowance forthcoming as long as he remained in America. Magnus knew that if he ever returned, the payments would cease.
But he was here now, wasn’t he? Here on English soil, opening old wounds and causing Annabelle to question whether he had ever really been gone. Because the scars he had left were still etched sorely on her heart.
Forcing herself not to let those thoughts distract her further, because she wanted this painting finished, she assessed and appraised her work. It was nearly complete but did not yet convey what she wished it to convey. Determined to get it right, she dipped her small flat bristle brush into the black paint and redefined the outline of the far side of the house. She tried to touch-up the other side as well, then used her painting knife to delineate the lines she’d just added.
Annabelle stepped back again to examine the subtle changes. She’d been working on this for what seemed like forever, and still she wasn’t happy with it. It was dull. It evoked no emotion. Anyone could have painted it. Whitby would be just as well off with a photograph.
Letting out a frustrated sigh, she set her palette down upon her paint box and backed up against the tree once again. She continued to stare at the painting. What was wrong with it? What was missing?
The same thing that was missing from all her paintings, she supposed. Originality. Passion. Life. She didn’t take chances with them and she was never happy with them. She was her own worst critic, and she would tinker with them forever if she could.
Another breeze blew by, gusting through the leaves overhead. Annabelle spent a few more minutes staring with dissatisfaction at the painting, wondering what she could do to fix it, then at last shook her head and decided to give up. The truth of the matter was—she hadn’t the slightest idea how to make it better without taking the chance of spoiling it. Best not to risk it.
Consequently, she cleaned her palette and brushes, set all her supplies into the paint box and closed it.
Perhaps Whitby would think it was fine. He always disagreed with her about her paintings, after all, and fought to convince her they were marvelous, when she invariably thought they were catastrophes.
Lying back on the grass to give the paint time to dry, she laced her fingers together over her stomach—which thankfully had settled somewhat—and crossed her legs at the ankles. She squinted up at the leaves against the bright white sky, listened to the whispery sound they made in the wind, and thought again of the letter in her pocket.
The painting deserves this recognition.
She realized then that she had been so shaken by the thought of seeing Magnus again, she hadn’t considered the larger picture. He wanted to show one of her paintings in an exhibition.
No, not just any painting. He wanted to show The Fisherman—which she had not seen in thirteen years. She could barely remember what it looked like and wasn’t even sure she wanted to see it. She’d always regretted painting it and had wished it did not exist in the world. Many times. over the years, she had wished she could get it back and destroy it.
But he seemed to think it was praiseworthy.
Was it possible he was right, and this exhibition could be the key to her future as an artist? And if that were so, could she ignore this opportunity, because of her personal feelings toward Magnus?
Surely, she was stronger than that, wasn’t she? She knew the truth about him now, and she was a woman, no longer the naive girl she had been so many years ago when she’d stepped onto the train....
Thirteen years earlier...
“That shawl is entirely too young for her,” Aunt Millicent said as she smoothed her skirts on the train seat. “She’s turning seventy-five. The color is far too daring, and it’s not even fashionable. Speaking of which, why in the world did you wear that hat? It is the worst thing I have ever seen. It looks like a purple haystack on your head.”
As always, Annabelle ignored her aunt’s narrowminded taste in millinery, because she was not giving up the hat. It was satisfyingly unique.
“I suppose it suits our surroundings,” Aunt Millicent added with a self-important, haughty tone. She glanced around the second-class carriage, while looking down her nose in repugnance at the merchants and tradesmen.
Annabelle ignored her aunt’s snobbery as well, for they’d had no choice about the traveling accommodations. First class was full, and they couldn’t possibly wait for another train, for, as it was, they were already late for Aunt Sadie’s birthday party.
“The shawl is a very tasteful shade of blue, Auntie,” Annabelle replied, trying to distract Millicent from her discontent. “It’s like the sky. It will accentuate the vivid color of her eyes.”
“Her eyes do not need to be noticed in that way. Not at her age.”
Growing frustrated, for she knew Aunt Millicent wouldn’t budge about the blue shawl, Annabelle turned her eyes toward the window. They were slowing down. The train was screeching to a halt to pick up passengers at Leicester Station.
Steam spurted and hissed from the engine as a crowd gathered on the platform. Annabelle looked out and smiled at a family—a young couple standing in the shade of the station overhang with their baby in a brand new pram. The woman, wearing a fashionable green plumed hat, raised a gloved hand and waved, and Annabelle waved cheerfully in return.
“Now that is a lovely hat,” Aunt Millicent said, wagging a finger. “See how it fits in with all the others?”
Continuing to ignore her aunt’s harangue and thinking they might be stopped for more than a few minutes, Annabelle reached into her bag for the book she’d packed. She was bent forward, quite distracted by the inconceivable mess inside the bag—why in the world had she put a cigar cutter in there?—when the door to their carriage suddenly swung open, startling her, for she was seated next to it. She jolted upright.
“I do beg your pardon,” a man said, stepping inside behind an elderly lady and looking around the full carriage. He gestured to the seats facing Annabelle and Millicent. “These appear to be the last available seats. May I?”
Naturally, Annabelle left it to her chaperone to respond, but even if she had been the one required to reply, she wasn’t sure she would have been able to speak, for her heart was racing in her chest and her mouth felt strangely tingly inside. Because the man standing before her, removing his black overcoat right in front of her eyes was, in a word, magnificent.
The elderly lady removed her coat, too, but Annabelle was only aware of the man—tall, broad-shouldered, and dark. His hair was shiny black, his eyes brown. He turned to face her again, and she had to struggle to keep her eyes downcast, though she did glance up briefly to observe the fine lines of his shoulders and back as he assisted the elderly lady by hanging her coat with his on a nearby hook. He was attentive to her, but they did not appear to be traveling together.
Then all at once he turned and glanced down at Annabelle’s feet—his eyes lingering there for a moment.
For the first time in her life Annabelle was embarrassed by her boots. They were made for boys, and they were not the least bit fashionable, but they were so much more comfortable than ladies’ boots, especially when she spent most of her time tramping around the countryside with her easel under her arm.
She quickly drew her feet under her skirts.
When the man finally took the seat facing her, he smiled politely, first at Aunt Millicent, who looked down her long, aristocratic nose suspiciously at him, then at Annabelle, who managed to smile casually in return.
She hoped she wasn’t blushing. That would be mortifying.
Determined not to stare, she raised her book, opened it, and pretended to read. Yes, pretended, because she could hardly concentrate with such a handsome man sitting not three feet away from her, facing her squarely.
Trains could be decidedly awkward sometimes.
The train blew its whistle and they lurched forward, rocking back and forth as the locomotive began to slowly move away from the station. Annabelle looked out the window at the young family again and watched them through the spiraling coal dust until they disappeared from view.
Soon they were under way, the wheels clacking fast beneath them as they gained speed on the tracks.
Feeling the chugging sensation beneath the soles of her boots, Annabelle peered over the top of her book to steal another glance at the gentleman across from her. He gazed absently out the window, so she recalled her artist’s mantra—there is no substitute for close observation—and studied his face meticulously.
It was pure perfection—a straight nose, a strong chiseled jaw, and high cheekbones. Yet, accompanying all those sharp, manly angles was a set of full, moist lips that looked quite agreeably soft. What she wouldn’t give to paint him.
It was an odd thought, because she never painted people. She only did landscapes, preferably rugged ones, which was perhaps where this marked fascination with this man came from. He, too, was rugged, like the jagged English coastlines that captured her imagination more than any other place or thing.
She loved the sound of the sea, surging and crashing up against the rocks, and she loved to try to capture the unfathomable depths and distances that were an intrinsic part of the ocean and coastline.
She couldn’t explain it, but strangely, this man made her body feel the same way. He made her blood quicken, made her mind tick like a clock wound tight. Just looking at him made her feel happy to be alive when there were so many beautiful, wondrous things to comprehend.
Though of course he was not a thing. He was a man.
Just then, he gazed directly at her, and she froze, caught in the embarrassing circumstance of ogling. She almost panicked and lifted her book to cover her face, but that would have been childish, and she was not a child. She was twenty-one.
Instead, she smiled politely and lowered her book to her lap, lowering her gaze along with it. It was at that instant she noticed she had been reading the same page for the past ten minutes.
“Are we all traveling to Edinburgh?” the elderly lady asked, causing Annabelle to look up again. The wrinkles on the lady’s face were in happy places, at the outside of her eyes, suggesting a lifetime spent smiling.
The handsome gentleman replied, “I’m going past Edinburgh and on to Perth.”
The lady leaned closer, raising a hand to her ear. “Where?”
The lady stared for a few seconds, as if trying to decipher what she’d heard, then nodded. “Oh, yes, yes! I once had an uncle in Perth.”
The gentleman looked curiously at Annabelle and her aunt, waiting for them to respond to the question as well, but Aunt Millicent turned her face away, no doubt finding the exchange intrusive.
The elderly woman turned to the gentleman beside her and began a conversation about whom she was going to visit in Edinburgh—her daughter and children—and how long she would be there, but it was a rather awkward conversation, as the woman was almost completely deaf and had to hold her hand up to her ear every time the man spoke.
The two of them were shouting by the end of it, and when they finally stopped talking, Annabelle glanced up and found herself sharing an amused grin with the handsome man.
It was not a grin at the expense of the elderly lady; they were not making fun of her. On the contrary, Annabelle recognized a look of compassion in the gentleman’s dark eyes. He, like she, was able to see the humor in life sometimes. What a dear lady, they both seemed to be saying to each other.
Afterward, Annabelle returned her attention to her book but the printed words on the page held little allure. For one thing, she was still on the same page as before, and for another, her dancing thoughts were making it difficult to make sense of the story in her brain.
This was going to be a very long trip indeed, she thought as she crossed her legs at the ankles and struggled not to look up again.
To be honest, she was afraid to, because—good heavens—she could sense that the intriguing man was now ogling her.
About an hour into the journey the train chugged along at full speed across the rolling English countryside, the sun was beaming in through the windows, and Aunt Millicent’s head was beginning to nod.
Millicent resisted sleep as best she could, jerking her head up every time it fell forward, but it wasn’t long before her eyes dropped closed and her mouth fell open. She tipped her head back on the upholstered seat and began to snore.
Annabelle had just become absorbed in her book again when she was interrupted by an unexpected question. “Suspenseful?” the man across from her asked.
She lifted her gaze. “I beg your pardon?”
He pointed at her book.
Glancing at the elderly lady, who didn’t seem to be aware of their conversation, Annabelle paused uncertainly for a moment before replying. The man was a stranger, after all.
“Apologies,” he said after a few seconds, apparently realizing that he’d made her uncomfortable. He went back to his own book.
Annabelle immediately regretted her hesitation. She hadn’t meant to be rude. “No apologies necessary.” The man’s gaze met hers again, making her feel strangely giddy. “It’s been very suspenseful. Have you read it?” She showed him the cover.
“I cannot say that I have. May I?”
Annabelle passed the book to him and he flipped through it—using his finger to keep her page—then handed it back. “I must pick that one up. I like a good mystery.”
He certainly was exquisite to look at, she thought. A famous sculptor couldn’t have created anything more beautiful. She’d never seen such magnetic eyes before. How old was he? Late twenties perhaps?
Annabelle glanced down at his hand and noted he wore no wedding ring. A deep feminine element of her being rejoiced. She noted also that his hands were large and rough-looking. He was no idle gentleman, that was certain, and the idea of his male strength and ruggedness thrilled her beyond all.
“Are you on your way somewhere, or returning home?” he asked, his voice deep, yet soft at the same time.
“We are going to my great aunt’s seventy-fifth birthday party,” Annabelle replied. “She lives near Newcastle. And you?”
“Business.” His eyes roamed over her face from the top of her head down to her chin, and it felt like a sensuous caress.
She couldn’t deny she secretly enjoyed it, which felt rather wicked and exciting.
A short time later, Aunt Millicent was snoring like a dairy farmer, and Annabelle had relaxed significantly regarding her conversation with the man seated across from her, even though she didn’t know him at all and they had not been properly introduced and he was very handsome and she was.... Well...she was young and unmarried and painfully aware of his attractiveness.
“What kind of business are you in?” she boldly asked.
“I’m a clerk in a bank.”
“You live in London, I presume?”
Another bold question. Annabelle glanced prudently at her aunt. Still dead to the world, thank heavens.
“Yes. My mother currently resides with me, and it’s just the two of us. My father passed away a number of years ago.”
“That is very good of you to care for your mother. She is a lucky woman, to have you for a son.”
“As is your mother, to have such a lovely daughter.” He glanced at Aunt Millicent, whose mouth still hung open. She twitched and slapped herself on the cheek.
Annabelle grinned. “She’s my aunt, actually.”
“I never knew my mother,” Annabelle blurted out, realizing too late that such a personal admission was even bolder than her earlier questions. She didn’t even know this man’s name. Yet something made her continue. Perhaps it was the transitory nature of the circumstances. She would probably never see him again after today.
“I’m sorry to hear that,” he said.
“She died when I was not quite a year old,” Annabelle continued, “and my father passed away a year later. So, I was adopted and raised by my mother’s closest friend, who had married the Earl of Whitby. They’d known each other since childhood.”
He remained silent but inclined his head.
“My adoptive parents are gone now,” Annabelle continued, “but I still have my older brother—adoptive brother, that is—to care for me, and of course, Aunt Millicent, who has been living with us since I debuted in society.”
“You were raised by the Earl of Whitby?” the man asked.
He stared at her for a long moment, appearing utterly staggered. Then his voice softened with an odd hint of resignation. “Well. It seems I am in esteemed company this morning.”
He was looking at her differently. The fire in his eyes had gone out.
Perhaps he thought she did not wish to speak to him because she had been raised in an aristocratic household while he was a bank clerk. She wanted more than anything to assure him that was not the case.
“I am hardly that,” she explained. “My parents were simple country people.”
“It matters little what your parents were. I can see you are a charming, intelligent woman all on your own.”
Annabelle’s cheeks felt hot all of a sudden.
“I’ve embarrassed you,” he said, with an almost melancholy tone. “Please forgive me. My only excuse is that I couldn’t help myself. I was bewitched by your friendly, open manner.”
She raised an eyebrow. “Who’s being charming now?”
He quietly laughed and Annabelle laughed, too.
A moment later she leaned back against the seat and eyed him lightheartedly. “So, tell me, sir, what do you do when you’re not banking? I see you like to read.”
For a brief moment he looked as if he weren’t sure he should continue conversing with her, then he seemed to let go of his reservations and laid his hand on top of the closed book. “Reading is an enjoyable pastime, but what I really like to do is fish.”
“Yes. Nothing can compare to the experience of rowing a boat across a calm lake at dawn, when the air is crisp and your nose is chilled, and vapor rises from the water. Then you cast your line and hear the sound of it slicing through the air, and the hook hits the water with a quiet splash. Everything is so peaceful in the mornings, and the sky has a certain glow.”
Annabelle imagined what he had described. She could see herself sitting in his boat. It was a lovely thought.
“You make it sound wonderful,” she said. “I’ve never been fishing before.”
“No?” His eyes were warm and his smile calm, almost soothing. “Perhaps one day someone will take you.”
Annabelle recognized the romance in his voice. He was telling her in no uncertain terms that he wished he could be the one to take her.
An unfamiliar longing coursed through her as she imagined seeing this man again in such a private setting, being alone with him in a rowboat, sharing such a moment. There was something about him, something that stirred her blood and excited her in a way she hadn’t experienced before. It was the way he looked at her—as if he found her the most beautiful creature in the world.
“I would like that,” she replied breathlessly.
His eyes traveled from her face down the front of her bodice to her knees, then back up again before he slowly leaned forward. “Please allow me this impropriety,” he whispered, glancing briefly at Aunt Millicent, who was still snoring. “But may I ask your name?”
Annabelle experienced a surge of both apprehension and excitement. The whole tone of their exchange was highly improper. She would never be speaking to him this way if Aunt Millicent were awake, or if the elderly lady beside him could hear what they were saying. Thankfully, she had barely looked up from her lap.
Annabelle shifted nervously in her seat, then whispered in return, “It’s Annabelle. Annabelle Lawson.”
He continued to stare at her face, almost entranced, as if he didn’t know what to make of her or what to say next.
“And what is your name, sir, if I may be so bold?” The fact that she had also whispered the question gave the whole conversation an air of secrecy and subterfuge. It was without a doubt the single most exciting conversation of her life.
He leaned forward even more. “John Edwards.”
A long, lingering, and delightfully sensuous gaze passed between them. Their faces were scandalously close.
“Tell me, Miss Lawson, what do you like to do when you’re not talking to strangers on trains?”
Annabelle smirked at him. “I paint.”
“Do you indeed? You’re an artist. I should have guessed.”
“How would you guess such a thing?”
“Don’t all artists have deeply tortured souls?”
Annabelle laughed out loud, and Aunt Millicent stirred beside her. Both Annabelle and Mr. Edwards quickly sat back as Millicent opened her eyes, stared dazedly up at the ceiling, then closed them again and drifted back to sleep.
Mr. Edwards swiped a hand over his brow, as if to say, That was close.
Annabelle shook her head with mock disapproval, then leaned forward again. Mr. Edwards did the same.
“Let me assure you,” she said, “I am not tortured.”
“Are you certain?” he asked with a teasing glint in his eyes. “You don’t feel wretchedly miserable or trapped? As if the life you are supposed to lead is beyond your reach and nothing has meaning?”
He was toying with her, of course, but she could not deny her astonishment that he had hit the mark exactly, because yes, sometimes she did feel trapped. Especially when her aunt dressed her up like all the other London girls and paraded her around at balls—because she was not like other girls.
She hated the Season, she had no interest in fancy gowns and heeled shoes, she had a strange fascination with Egyptian mummies, and she had a ferret for a pet.
To be honest, there were times when she was truly screaming inside her head, trying to fit into this polished, aristocratic world, and not be a disappointment to her family, who had taken her in and loved her like one of their own. She felt she owed so much to them.
But she could not possibly express such an unconventional sentiment to Mr. Edwards.
“I paint landscapes,” she told him. “And I would describe my experience of painting in the same way you describe fishing. Nothing compares to the bliss of standing before a view of an autumn forest, setting up my easel and contemplating the first brushstroke. Though my favorite thing to paint is the coastline. Unfortunately, we don’t live on the coast—though I wish desperately that we did—so I must content myself with the countryside most of the time.”
He pointed a finger at her. “See? You are tortured after all. Frustrated by the geography of your existence.”
“Yes, I suppose so. You win.”
He watched her look out the window, and she could feel a glimmer of attraction in his gaze
Oh, how he flattered her, just by the way he looked at her. She didn’t think she’d ever felt so beautiful before.
“I wish you could paint me fishing,” he said. “I would hang the painting over my mantel, and every time I looked at it, I would feel content.”
Content because it would make him think of fishing? Or because it would make him think of her? She supposed she would never know the answer to that question.
“I’d enjoy painting you,” she said openly. “I’ve never painted a fisherman before.”
“Perhaps one day we’ll make it happen. We’ll take your paints and a blank canvas out to my favorite fishing hole.”
Annabelle gazed out the window, feeling dreamy. “Wouldn’t that be splendid,” she replied as she imagined such a wonderful day.
It wasn’t long, however, before reality settled in and she had to accept that it would never happen. He was not the kind of man her aunt would approve of. He was a stranger on a train, and he worked as a bank clerk.
As she watched the trees fly by outside the window—so fast she could barely focus on them—she was distressed by the extent of her disappointment. She was not free to do as she wished, for she was a London debutante.
Oh, how she hated that word. If only her life were just a little different. She could only imagine all the things she would do.
Thinking such a thing made her feel guilty, however, for she had been blessed with so many privileges. She was grateful for her life. Truly she was. She had no right to feel frustrated.
Magnus Wallis sat across from Miss Annabelle Lawson on the fast steam train to Perth and cursed the cards he had been dealt all his life—today in particular.
He had not asked to meet her. If he had known who she was, he most definitely would have waited for the next train. But bloody hell, he had not known, and he had been attracted to her the very first instant he’d noticed her—with her lovely dark hair and that eccentric purple hat.
He’d known immediately that she was one of a kind, perhaps a bit of a rebel. Not just because of her unconventional attire—not to mention those intriguing black boots—but because her eyes were so full of life, as wild and green as the irrepressible sea.
And now he was in very deep, completely over his head as a matter of fact. He was sitting forward, listening to her describe her art with passion and hunger, gesturing with her hands as she spoke, her luscious smile dazzling and intoxicating. All this, after he’d lied to her and given her a false name.
Magnus shuddered inwardly. He shouldn’t have done it. He’d known it was wrong, even as he was speaking the words, but he just couldn’t stomach the possibility that she would recoil in horror, which she surely would if she knew who he was.
Her aunt would probably go into convulsions, for he was Magnus Wallis, Whitby’s undesirable cousin, whom they all blamed for Whitby’s brother’s death. They thought he was a monster like his father, and all his life he’d been feared and loathed and shut out by the very people who had given Miss Lawson a home.
Lovely Miss Lawson....
All at once he found himself glancing down for a brief, appreciative moment at her extravagant bosom, which heaved enticingly as she took a deep breath to continue talking. He thought of their earlier conversation about going fishing together and imagined teaching her how to bait the hook and cast the line, then imagined her standing in front of her easel, dabbing paint on a fresh canvas.
In that moment, he wanted nothing more than to disembark from this train at the next stop and lead her out by the hand. To pretend they were two very different people. To continue talking like this—openly and passionately.
But no.... That could never be, because she was a member of that family. She had been raised within their walls, while he had been tossed over them, and she was under Whitby’s protection. Magnus knew she was untouchable, as far as he was concerned. He should not even be speaking to her. Nothing could come of it but frustration.
Yet he was still drinking in her every word, wasn’t he? Still eyeing her full, sumptuous mouth and stealing glances at her lavish breasts, which continued to rise and fall with her enchanting enthusiasm. She was a delicious young beauty, to be sure, and heaven help him, he was a hot-blooded man.
He was indeed in way over his head.
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