Scandalous LiaisonsBy: Sylvia Day
There are many people who deserve recognition for their contributions. The following list is just the beginning.
Many thanks to:
Lori Foster for offering the Novella Contest and choosing my entry as a finalist. I appreciate your generosity and advice. You’re a gem.
Morgan Leigh for liking my entry enough to pass it along to Lori and for being an all-around great gal.
Everyone who voted to make Stolen Pleasures the Reader’s Choice winner. Thank you so much.
My agent, Evan Fogelman, who has to put up with me. Poor guy.
My mother, Tami Day, who introduced me to romance novels and is my greatest cheerleader.
My husband, Kevin, who always believed.
Samara, for being a friend as well as my sister. I love you.
Huge hugs go out to my critique partners Annette McCleave, Jordan Summers, Sasha White, and Celia Stuart, whose invaluable assistance and support helped me shape the stories within this book.
A giant heaping of undying gratitude to my fabulous editor, Kate Duffy. I can’t say enough about her. She’s been wonderful to me.
And last, but never least, to the hundreds of readers who visited my website, signed up for my mailing list, and clamored for my stories while I was still aspiring. Your faith in me pushed me forward. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.
British West Indies, February 1813
He’d stolen a bride.
Sebastian Blake gripped his knife with white-knuckled force and kept his face impassive. If the beauty in front of him were to be believed, he’d stolen his own bride.
He watched as her chin lifted with defiance and her dark eyes met his without fear. She was tall and slender, with blonde curls tumbling down from a once-stylish arrangement. Her lovely watered-silk dress was torn at the shoulder, revealing a tempting display of creamy breast. A sooty handprint marred her flesh, and unable to help himself, Sebastian reached out and rubbed the offending mark away with gentle strokes of his thumb. She stiffened, and lifted her bound hands to knock his away. He met her gaze and held it.
“Tell me your name again,” he murmured, his hand tingling just from that simple contact with her satin skin.
She licked her bottom lip, and his blood heated further. “My name is Olivia Merrick, Countess of Merrick. My husband is Sebastian Blake, Earl of Merrick and future Marquess of Dunsmore.”
He lifted her hands and stared at her ring finger, noting his crest etched in the simple gold band she wore.
He scrubbed a hand over his face and turned away, striding to the nearest open window for a deep breath of salt-tinged air. Staring out at the water, he espied the debris from her ship bobbing in the waves. “Where is your husband, Lady Merrick?” he asked, keeping his back to her.
Hope tinged her voice. “He awaits me in London.”
“I see.” But he didn’t, not at all. “How long have you been married, my lady?”
“I fail to see—”
“How long?” he barked.
“Nearly two weeks.”
His chest expanded on a deep breath. “I remind you that we are in the West Indies, Lady Merrick. It is impossible that you were married only a fortnight ago. Your husband would not be able to await you in England if that were true.”
She was silent behind him, and finally he turned to face her again. It was a mistake to have done so. Her beauty hit him with the force of a fist in his gut.
“Would you care to explain?” he prodded, relieved he sounded so unaffected.
For the first time, her bravado left her, her cheeks flushing with embarrassment. “We were married by proxy,” she confessed. “But I assure you, he will pay whatever ransom you desire despite the unusual circumstances of our marriage.”
Sebastian moved toward her. His calloused fingers caressed the elegant curve of her cheekbone and entwined in her hair. Her breath caught, and her lips parted in response to his gentle touch. “I’m certain he would pay a king’s ransom for beauty such as yours.”
Through the smoky smell that clung to her, he could detect the arousing scent of soft woman, warm and luxurious. He reached for the blade strapped to his thigh and withdrew it.
She flinched away.
“Easy,” he soothed. Sebastian held out his hand and waited patiently for her to step forward again. When she did, he sliced through the rope that tied her hands together, and sheathed his knife. He rubbed the marks on her delicate wrists.