Title: Caitlin’s Duke
Author: Christine Young
Genre: Historical Romance/Regency
Book Heat Level: 4
Roc Leighton knows the first time he watches Caitlin O'Shea play the fiddle and dance around the pub she will be his.
BLURB: Caitlin's Duke
She played a fiddle in an Irish pub....
Caitlin O'Shea Is the most beautiful woman Roc Leighton has ever seen. With her blue violet eyes and long black hair she captivates him. In turn he mesmerizes Caitlin. Caught in the power of his gaze as he watches her, she is wise enough to know he desires her but will never give his heart to her. Caitlin has vowed to never be any man's mistress.
And fell in love with an English Lord...
Roc knows the first time he watches her play the fiddle and dance around the pub, she will be his next mistress. Despite her protest, he will find a way to convince her that her place is with him. While Caitlin's determination to keep her vows, fate takes a cruel turn and she is forced to seek refuge with Roc.
EXCERPT: Caitlin's Duke
“You say things that confuse me,” she told him as she stepped over a large rock, lifting her skirts high enough he could see more than just her ankles.
He recalled a short glimpse of her legs earlier today when the dog knocked her over, but he’d uncharacteristically averted his gaze.
“If you were wise to the world, they wouldn’t confuse you, but I like you just the way you are.”
They stepped onto the sand, water whirling only a few feet away. She sat down on a rock, taking her shoes and stockings off. With her skirts lifted, she waded far enough for the water to cover her ankles and splash against her knees.
“Oooo, It’s cold.” Cat ran backwards away from the water then followed the tide out a ways. “You want to join me? Or are you too much of a coward to get your feet wet?”
The simple query gave him reason to pause. He was sure his grin spread from ear to ear. He couldn’t remember the last time he played in the waves. It seemed his life over the last ten years had been a bit stoic even though he’d faced life-threatening danger more than once. “Like watching you better.”
“Chicken,” she said, kicking up the water so the spray filled the air around her. “You will get used to the cold.” She turned toward him.
“Don’t want to get used to numb feet or wet pants. If you don’t watch yourself, you’re going to get all wet.” But he definitely didn’t believe he’d ever get used to seeing her ankles. They were so slim, tiny and her feet were narrow as were the muscles of her legs. A ragged breath caught in his throat as he imagined seeing other parts of her. Bloody hell, he had to stop thinking this way. When he was with her and even when he was not, it seemed his body was in a constant state of arousal.
A large wave caught her by surprise, reaching past her knees. She turned to run but not before her dress was soaked nearly to her waist. He stepped into the receding water, heedless of his perfectly shined Hessians, drawing her into his arms and striding to dry ground.
She was laughing and the sound was contagious. He sat on a large boulder, holding her close, their laughter echoing in the small area.
“You’re all wet?” He brushed her hair away from her face, taking the moment for a quick kiss.
“And your boots are most likely ruined.” She laughed, touching his lips with a fingertip. “Do you care?”
“My boots are meant to protect my feet, and they did the job perfectly. But your dress...” He paused before committing to his next words. “You’re going to have to take it off and let it dry or you most assuredly will catch cold. See, you’re already shivering. I can give you my jacket.”
“I can’t take off all the layers, so I might as well leave the dress on,” she told him, pushing slightly away as if she meant to see into his heart and soul.
If she did, she might find him lacking in too many ways to count. “I’ve an extra shirt and a pair of buckskins in the carriage. You can put those on while your dress and petticoats dry. I don’t want to take you home before the sun slips below the ocean. I won’t let a soaking wee dress ruin the day I planned for us.”
“They will be huge on me. How will I keep the pants up?” She set her hands on his chest.
“I’m sure I’ve got something that can be used as a belt. Otherwise, you’ll have to wear just the shirt and that won’t keep you warm either. As I said, I’d rather not end this outing before we’ve watched the sunset,” he repeated. Truly, there were too few alternatives here. He tugged on the leather thong holding his hair back.
“I’m really not cold.”
“No, of course you’re not. That’s why your lips are blue and you’re shivering so hard the quaking would wake the dead. If I didn’t know better, I’d think it’s an earthquake upon us.” He wrapped the leather around her waist. “Plenty to spare so you can keep the pants from falling down.”
“I am a bit cold,” she tried to stand but he swept her into his arms and strode up the path to the carriage.
“I can walk.”
“But I adore holding you.”
“Cat. Cat! Wake up. I want to show you something. I know it’s late but you’ve just got to see this. Cat.” Roc called, banging on her door eager to show her the shooting stars. He’d never seen so many sailing through the sky at one time. He looked in the window to see if he woke her.
“Roc?” She sat up, brushing her hair from her eyes. Swinging her legs over the side of her bed, she stumbled sleepily from the bed to the door. “You’re back. Is that you?”
“Only an hour ago.” He stepped inside the now open door. “Put your coat on and come. Never mind.” Grabbing a quilt off the bed, he wrapped it around her. “You always sleep in wool socks?” he laughed, wondering if she would do the same when she slept in his bed.
“When it’s cold, they keep my feet warm.” She sounded miffed and defensive to him, but he didn’t care. He was so happy to see her and have all his business deals wrapped up. He was going home in the morning and he hoped she’d go with him, but even if she didn’t, he’d come back as soon as he shared all the details of his mission with his boss.
“I’d like to keep your feet warm,” he blurted while he swept her into his arms and made his way down a path to a rock wall overlooking a field. “I saw these on my way home and knew you had to see this dazzling light show.”
Beast woke up and danced around the couple barking and seeming to cry out, Look I’m here. Pet me. Get me out of here.
For a moment he set her aside to pick up the dog. “You best behave or I won’t take you on another outing with your mistress,” he told Beast, roughing his ears.
“What are you talking about?” She snuggled against him and he guessed it was for warmth more than anything. The night was a cold one but clear which made this meteor shower more impressive.
Beast followed them, prancing around Roc’s feet then racing ahead only to return a few minutes later. He was so full of energy, Roc realized he must have spent most of his time in the pen.
Gently, he set his precious cargo on the stone fence before sitting down beside her. He pulled her close, making sure the blanket covered her. “Look in the sky and make a wish.” He pointed heavenward.
“Why?” She sounded petulant as well as sleepy. She rubbed her eyes, staring into the night sky.
“It’s a meteor shower. Most people call them shooting stars, but they aren’t stars at all.” He watched in awe as the show continued.
Beast stood on his hind legs, begging to be picked up but there was no room on his lap. “Lie down, Beast,” he told the dog who didn’t obey.
“What are they?” she asked, finally seeming interested in his excitement over rocks falling towards the earth.
Beast finally settled at his feet, his head resting on one foot. The dog would be loyal to her and possibly to both of them. He could only pray the animal wouldn’t have to prove his loyalty.
“They are,” he paused, thinking about Cat and all she meant to him, “what we call meteors, but they are really rocks falling through the earth’s atmosphere. The heat so far above us sets them on fire. Now make a wish and it’s sure to come true.”
She looked for seconds upon seconds and he didn’t know what she was thinking, perhaps she was wishing to come with him. Well, all she had to do was say the words and he’d have her on his ship in the morning, and they’d say goodbye to Portrush together.
“Did you make a wish?” she asked, finally smiling when she looked at him. “I did too.”
“Good, are you warm enough?” He tucked her in closer to his side. “Tell me what you wished.”
“My nose is cold.” She laughed, what about yours? “Nope,” she said when she touched his. “Can’t tell a person your wish or it won’t come true.”
Holding her close and watching the stars shoot from the sky was the best thing, he’d done in a long time. Their visit to the beach five days ago had been fabulous, but sharing something that he was excited about with her was heaven in disguise. He needed to savor this moment with her, keeping it tucked inside his mind.
“Can’t say I’m sorry I woke you but...” He didn’t want to tell her he was leaving with the morning tide. Didn’t think he stood one chance in hell of talking her into leaving with him, but he did need to know if anything happened during the week he’d been gone.
“I’m glad you woke me up. I was dreaming of you.” She picked up his hand in hers.
Surprised by the simple gesture, he thought perhaps his cause was better today than when he left. He spread his fingers wide, measuring her hand with his. So tiny, exquisitely delicate and fragile, she didn’t think of those as her characteristics, and she was too bricky for his taste. She’d take on the world alone with her fearlessness. Then he let his fingers entwine with hers, bringing their hands to his lips and kissing the back of hers.
“Does that mean you might change your mind about leaving with me?” He knew it was too soon to ask her, but he supposed the answer would be the same now as it would be an hour from now. They really only had a short time to figure this out.
“Honestly, I want to be with you but I can’t become your mistress. The position is not one I would...I have to feel joy and happy about my choices. I would always regret that decision. I will miss you though.” She leaned into him, her hands wrapping around him.
His heart fell for a few seconds. It wasn’t what he wanted to hear but what he expected. “I’m leaving this morning on the tide, only a few hours from now. If you change your mind...” He could always hope. After all, that was his wish, that she come with him.
Pushing away for a moment, he looked into her blue-violet eyes. She had the most unique and beautiful eyes, but when she leaned into him again, he felt the silent sobs of pain. “I understand. I’ll never see you again. I suppose it always had to be this way.”
“I will come back.” That was a promise he intended to keep. After debriefing he would have little to nothing to do with his life. His shipping company as well as the farms they rented pretty much ran themselves. The men his mother had hired were among the most competent in all of England. He’d told Cat he wanted peace and quiet, but what he craved was her beside him, sharing his life.
“But not to stay, just to try to convince me of something I just can’t bring myself to do.” She brushed away the new tears that had fallen. “Let’s not talk about this anymore.”
As if Beast agreed with her, he stood and let out a low growl as if he sensed something was wrong.
“If you turn down this offer, you might find yourself wed to Blair. Ida told me some things before I left. I don’t like what he has planned for you. It just doesn’t bode well,” he said, wishing he didn’t have to resort to bad news to convince her what was best for her.
“I won’t marry that man, ever,” she said softly, so softly he had to bend closer to hear the words. “He’s detestable and I know he’d hit me every time he got drunk, which is every night.”
“If you stay here, you might not have a choice, He’s a powerful man who is more than willing to wield that authority to get what he wants,” he warned, wishing there was some other way to tell her that her options were limited.
“I think we’ve had this conversation before.” She stood, “Come, Beast, we’re going home,” but it seemed she realized she wore only socks and no shoes and she sat back down.
Looking forlorn and a bit lost, she looked to him, more tears filling her eyes. She sighed heavily, her shoulders slumping. He wanted to kick himself for hurting her, but short of marrying her, there was nothing he could do.
When he first looked at her feet and realized her attempt to leave failed, he almost laughed at her expression but held it back, telling himself not to add insulting her to her misery. “I’ll be pleased to carry you. That way I can hold you closer to me and your socks won’t get wet.”
“You don’t have to do that.”
“I want to carry you. Come, Beast.”
Beast became more alert and looked at them when he heard his name and started homeward, leading the way as if he was the king and they were his ever-faithful followers. Once inside, Roc closed the door with his foot and let her slide to the ground against his body.
Beast growled at the partitioned room, but Roc ignored him, thinking the animal a little bit ornery for the late night. Still holding Cat, he opened the pen for Beast. “Go on, get inside and go back to sleep. This adventure is over.” Beast trotted into the pen then lay down, closing his eyes.
Then turning his attention back to the woman in his arms, “Mon petite chatte,” he murmured against her ear. In his arms she completed him, felt like heaven to his heart and soul.
Her quilt slowly slipped off her shoulders. His hands rested on her perfectly formed buttocks, unable to stop himself and needing to feel more of her than he’d allowed himself before, he wound the cloth of her nightdress in his hands until he could touch her, feel her silken flesh the way he’d wanted to for so many weeks now he couldn’t remember.
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She played a fiddle in an Irish Pub and fell in love with an English Lord. Caitlin O'Shea is wise enough to know Roc Leighton desires her but will never give his heart to her. Caitlin has vowed to never be any man's mistress, but fate takes a cruel turn and she is forced to seek refuge with Roc.