Author: Victoria Vane
Genre: Historical Romance
Release Date: April 11, 2016
She gave him a chance to bury his past… but the price would be his heart..
Burdened by the past… Orphaned at a young age and left to run wild, at eighteen Julian Price joins the fight against Napoleon in the hope of attaining honor. Devastated when his best friend, Thomas, is killed in battle, Julian returns home burdened with guilt, only to find his wastrel uncle has squandered his inheritance.
Desperate to live her own life… Facing a future of drudgery caring for her aging mother and raising her brother’s children, Henrietta Houghton believes her chance at a real life died with Thomas, the only man who ever wanted her. But Henrietta is still full of dreams. When her wealthy aunt, offers her a gift of ten thousand pounds, Henrietta finally has the chance to choose her own destiny.
Everything has a price…With a fortune at her command, Henrietta offers Julian a marriage of convenience, unaware that she really offers Julian a means of salvation—not just his fortune, but his very soul.
“Do you remember our last summer here?” she asked.
“Yes,” Julian replied, vividly recalling that day. It was the first time he’d noticed her changing shape.
“My entire existence altered after that, and not for the better,” she added sadly.
“How do you mean?” he asked.
She handed him her bridle reins and bent to pick a Michaelmas daisy. “I lost my best friends,” she said. “It was never the same between us after . . .” She cast her gaze downward as a hint of rose permeated her face.
“How could it be once we realized?” he said.
“Realized what, Julian?”
“That you were becoming a woman.”
“But I was then, and still am, Henrietta,” she insisted.
“No, Hen,” he argued. “You were one of the chaps, and then suddenly you weren’t.” He’d been particularly affected by the revelation. The image of her naked and nubile body beneath the wet shift had filled his adolescent dreams.
“It wasn’t fair,” she said.
“You have to understand the mind of an adolescent male, Hen. Thomas and I were on the verge of manhood, a time when natural urges often prevail over good sense.”
“Natural urges? What do you mean?”
“Surely you understand what happens when a man sees a woman’s breasts?”
“No. I do not understand,” she said. “Perhaps you could explain it to me?”
Doffing his hat, Julian raked his hair with a sigh. “Must you make me say it? Are you really so innocent?”
“I’m not ignorant of the fundamentals of procreation, if that’s what you’re asking,” she replied, “but that doesn’t mean I fully comprehend the process.”
Mumbling a curse, Julian directed his gaze heavenward. “Then I shall endeavor my best to explain it. When a man sees a woman in the flesh, or even thinks about a woman in the flesh, he becomes sexually aroused.”
“That’s all it takes?” she asked, gaze wide.
“Yes. Men are exceedingly simplistic creatures. We respond instinctively to visual stimuli.”
She averted her face and began plucking petals from the purple flower. “Are you saying that you and Thomas . . .”
“Yes,” Julian replied. “We both had unseemly thoughts about you after that.”
“Is that why you tried to kiss me at the fair?”
“It is,” he confessed. “I was acting on a natural urge.”
“To procreate?” she supplied.
“Not precisely, Hen,” he answered. “Contrary to what proper young ladies are taught, the act of procreation is much more than just a means of creating offspring. Coupling is extremely pleasurable, at least to a man.”
“Is it not pleasurable to a woman also?”
“It can be,” he replied. “Unfortunately, many women don’t allow themselves to enjoy it.”
“That makes no sense!” Henrietta said. “Why shouldn’t a woman take pleasure in it if she is also capable of doing so?”
“Why not indeed?” His mouth twitched involuntarily.
“I would want to,” Henrietta said suddenly. “I would want to experience all that is possible in the marriage bed.”
Julian shut his eyes on a sudden vision of Henrietta sprawled naked in a bed . . . in his bed. He envisioned her with hair undone, arms stretched above her head, round white breasts exposed in invitation, and a sultry smile softening her quirky lips. He stifled a groan, wishing he could eradicate these lurid thoughts. She was one of his best friends for God’s sake.
He sat in silence, watching Henrietta pluck each petal from the hapless flower. He’d known her his entire life, but it was as if he were seeing the real Henrietta for the first time—the spirited, passionate young woman whose spark would soon be extinguished if her life did not change. Gazing at her now, he wondered why the devil she hadn’t wed.
Then again, since she’d come of age, most marriageable prospects had been off fighting Napoleon. She should have been happily married to Thomas Wiggington by now with a brat settled on her hip. Of all women, Henrietta deserved most to know a man’s love and devotion. He’d vowed to keep Thomas safe the moment he learned of his friend’s intentions toward Henrietta. There were no two people he cared more about, and who deserved happiness more than Thomas and Henrietta. But it was Thomas who had taken the bullet and fallen at Albuera—due to Julian’s dereliction. And because Julian had failed, Hen now had her mind set on spinsterhood. He felt another flair of guilt, deep and sharp in his gut, for his failure to bring Thomas home to her.
Victoria Vane is a bestselling author of smart and sexy contemporary romance and an award-winning author of historical romance. Her books have received many accolades to include the 2016 Red Carpet Award for Jewel of the East, 2014 RONE Award for Treacherous Temptations as well as Library Journal Best E-Book romance of 2012 for The Devil DeVere series.