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My Lord Wicked

(Winner Best Historical Novel in the 2012 International Digital Awards)

What woman would dare make her home at eerie Marshbanks Abbey, perched on a stony hill in remote Northumbria? It is said its owner, the brilliant botanist, Lord Stacks, killed his beautiful bride there ten years earlier.

Unaware of the tales of Lord Stacks' wickedness, Freddie Lambeth comes to live with her guardian, and through his caring blossoms from a plain, shabbily dressed girl to a lovely young woman. Freddie and Lord Stacks come to need each other as his flowers need sunshine, but Stacks cannot allow himself to love her. His own wickedness has destroyed any chance for happiness.      

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Was he in a hurry to be rid of her?  At least he wanted a sensational mate for her.  There was only one mate for her, she thought morosely.  And he would be sensational.  She closed her eyes and thought of being enfolded in Lord Stack's strong embrace, of resting her face against his chest, of lifting her lips to his.  She grew hot as she imagined what it would feel like to have his mouth on hers, his tongue parting her lips.  A wet heat centered between her legs.  Her thoughts drifted even further away.  She thought of lying with him, wet flesh against wet flesh.  She could almost feel his mouth close around one breast.

"You do not look happy," he said.

She drew a deep breath and faced him. "It seems my company grows tedious for you.  You are in so great a haste to marry me off, to be rid of me."

He reached out and touched a finger to her cheek. "I attempt to be selfless, Miss Lambeth.  I want what is best for you.  For myself, I would have you at Marshbanks Abbey until the end of my days."

Until the end of his days.  If only. . . He studied her face for a moment.  "I believe the prospect does not offend you."

"You must believe me when I tell you I've never been happier than in these past few months at the abbey."  She had wanted to say these past few months with you

"Then your life must have been singularly uneventful before."

She smiled.  "That, too."

He took a sip of wine, peering at her over the rim of his glass.  "Do you miss your father?"

She gathered a handful of soft fabric from her skirt into her hand.  "To be honest, no."

His brows lowered.  "How can that be?  You seem to worry over every creature.  You are so very caring."

"The exact word I would use to describe you, my lord.  However, caring is not a word I would use to describe my father, although he did care very much for my mother.  Unfortunately, he held me responsible for taking her from him."

"But that's ridiculous!  You didn't ask to be born!"

"He did not see it that way."

Stacks watched the leaves of the tree shimmer in the breeze and did not speak for a moment.  "So that explains why your education in the feminine arts was so neglected."

She nodded.  "You have shown me more love in these past few months than I received in an entire lifetime."  She felt her cheeks growing hot.  Why had she used the word love?  She had not meant to burden him with details of her unhappy life, but she felt incredibly open whenever she was with him. "That is why I've been so happy here, why I am in no hurry to leave the walls of Marshbanks Abbey."

He reached out and took her hand.  "You have a home here for as long as you want."

She looked up at him, her eyes swimming in pools of unshed tears. 

Lord Stacks was moving to her.  She felt his arms close around her.  She felt his warm breath on her cheek, and she lifted her face to receive his kiss.

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