Not Quite a Wife (Lost Lords #6)
Author: Mary Jo Putney
Release Date: 26 August 2014
Marry in haste, repent at leisure.
James, Lord Kirkland, owns a shipping fleet, half a London gaming house, and is a ruthlessly effective spymaster. He is seldom self-indulgent…except when it comes to the gentle, indomitable beauty who was once his wife.
Laurel Herbert gave James her heart as an innocent young girl—until she saw him perform an act of shocking violence before her very eyes. That night she left her husband, and he let her go without a word of protest.
Now, ten years later, a chance encounter turns passionate, with consequences that cannot be ignored. But as they try to rebuild what was broken, they must face common enemies and a very uncommon love….
Laurel’s remembering ended when Kirkland moved restlessly, his face shiny with perspiration. She frowned and poured another cup of the fever tea. He needed both the remedy and the fluids. She’d treated enough patients with fever to know how unpredictable the course could be, alternating between chills and fever and at its worst, delirium.
She propped him up on the pillows and slowly coaxed him into drinking more tea. His dark hair was matted with perspiration and needed a cut. He always wore it a little longer than fashion decreed. Though she could see fine lines of strain around his eyes, she was struck by how little his appearance had changed.
He was, what thirty-two now? A man in the prime of life. When they’d met, he’d been twenty-one. Young. He was only recently down from Oxford, and had been in possession of his full inheritance for less than a year.
To her, he’d seemed like a mature man of the world, but looking back, she realized that they were barely more than children. If only they’d had sense to wait! But with passion blazing through their veins, waiting was intolerable, and there were no barriers to prevent them from marrying.
“Damn you, you’ll not get away with that!” Kirkland cried out, his voice harsh. He swung his arm, striking Laurel across her cheek and almost knocking her to the floor.
He began thrashing as if in a fight for his life. Fearing he’d fall from the examination table, she caught his shoulder. “James, stop struggling!” she said briskly. “You’re safe now. I’m with you and you’re safe.”
He stopped trashing and raised his head to stare at her with mad, unfocused eyes. “Laurel? Is that really you?”
She stroked his damp hair back and said soothingly. “Indeed it is, James. You’re having one of your fever attacks, but you’re safe here. You’ll be all right.”
“Oh, God, Laurel!” He caught her around the waist and puller her onto the table beside him in a crushing embrace. “I had the most ghastly dreams that I’d lost you. I looked everywhere and couldn’t find you.” His grip tightened as he said in a hoarse whisper, “You were gone and I was so afraid. So afraid…”
She gasped, shocked by being held full length against his barely clothed body. She knew she should break free, but the sheer physical rightness of being in his arms paralyzed her.
Even more shocking was the raw emotion and need in his voice. When she’d left him, he’d seemed cool and uncaring, as if relieved that she’d no longer require time and attention. He’d shown no signs of pain.
Trying to control her trembling, she said, “I’m not lost, I’m right here. You need to rest and drink more Jesuit’s bark tea. By morning you should be fine.”
“Now that I’ve found you again” – he rolled over so that he was braced above her – “I’ll never let you go.