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Authors: Kate Walker

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BOOK: The Duke’s Secret Wife
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‘So what brought about this change of—of attitude?’

‘Change of heart’ didn’t describe it properly. There seemed to be no bit of his
involved in the decision to take her back, if the bald, blunt declaration he had made was anything to go by.

‘It’s not so much—Isabella—

It was hard and sharp, sounding a note of warning, and it froze her to the spot.


The word was still on her tongue when Luis grabbed her, powerful hands clamping tight over her arms, and twisted her around and away from the stove. The movement took her into his arms, close up against the hard wall of his chest so that she gasped in sudden shock, not sure whether it was the unexpectedness of his reaction or the pounding of her heart as a result of being so close to him that was making her feel this way.

‘L-Luis… What are you doing?’

Her voice sharpened as she felt his hands at her throat, fumbling for and finding the clasp that held the long, swirling cloak fastened.

‘No, Isabella.’

Roughly he pushed her restraining fingers aside, his dark head bent, attention totally on what he was doing. With an impatient movement he snapped it open, tossing the garment aside with an impatient exclamation.

‘Hey, that…’

Her protest died as she suddenly saw why he had reacted as he had. On one side of the cloak, just at the edge, a long, brown mark showed where the flames from the gas ring had caught it, scorching it to the point where a ragged hole had appeared in the fabric. Another couple of seconds and it would have been alight.


All the strength seemed to leave her legs at the thought of what might have happened. Visions of the cloak catching fire, the flames taking hold, engulfed her thoughts. She could have been so badly burned.

‘Luis, thank you…’

Or perhaps the way she was feeling had nothing to do with what might have happened, but rather just what was happening now.

His arm was tight around her waist, supporting her with easy strength. She was so close that she could hear the thud of his heart beneath the soft material of his shirt, feel the way his chest rose and fell with every breath, inhale the intensely personal scent of his skin.

And everything stilled, held immobile.


She was back where she had been in the past. Back where she belonged. In his arms, held close. And it felt so right. So very, very right.

A tiny adjustment of her position, a small twist of her body, brought them to face each other. Breast to chest, pelvis to pelvis, legs tight against the muscular length of his.


He should never have taken off that damn cloak, Luis told himself furiously. Should never have exposed himself to temptation like this!

Oh, it had been bad enough before. Simply seeing her face, the blonde sheen of her hair, the emerald brilliance of her eyes had been hard enough. The sound of her voice, soft and slightly husky in his ears, had awoken memories best left buried. It had set his pulses thudding, reminded him of hunger he preferred not to recall.

But now…

‘What happened to us?’

It was just the faintest thread of sound, so thin that without thinking he dropped his head instinctively to catch her hesitant words.

And immediately regretted it.

His cheek was now lying against the softness of her hair and the temptation to turn, just so, and press his lips to the silky strands was almost more than he could resist. The scent of her body rose towards his nostrils, flowers and rain; the sweet, subtle aroma of her skin, tormented him with the recollection of how it had once been so that his body stirred, hardened, demanded. His senses were swimming, swirling on a warm sea of desire, and deep inside the hunger of physical need clawed at him remorselessly.

He couldn’t fight it any longer. Couldn’t hold back, couldn’t hide the way she affected him.

Slowly his proud head lowered, and, sensing his intention,
Isabelle lifted her own face to his, her mouth softening, lips parting instinctively in anticipation of his kiss.

Behind them the kettle, knocked off the flames by being moved slightly to one side, came to the boil again with a wild shriek. Startled and confused, Isabelle took a step backwards, blinking in shock.

Por Dios!
’ Luis muttered, darkly savage, though whether he was swearing at her, the kettle, or himself, Isabelle had no way of knowing.

She didn’t have time to decide before he had wrenched himself away from her, releasing her arms with a speed that made it look as if he feared it might actually contaminate him to keep hold of her.

‘Luis…’ she tried, but the moment was gone, destroyed in a second, and there was no way she could get it back.

But it had happened. And the fact that it had told her something very deep and very important about this husband of hers. Something she was sure that he would have preferred to keep totally secret. That he would have died rather than have her find out.

‘Where’s the coffee?’ Luis snapped, snatching the kettle up off the stove. ‘Mugs?’


Isabelle obeyed the note of command in his tone automatically, but her thoughts weren’t on the simple task at hand. Instead they were centred on those few moments in Luis’s arms and the seconds when she had
, when on the deepest, most intuitive level of understanding, she had sensed just what had been happening to him.

He still wanted her.

He might try to deny it to her face. Might act as if he were totally indifferent to her, but the truth was something else.

He couldn’t hide the reaction of his body. And she had felt the hard, hot response that had revealed the desire he couldn’t control. But it was more than that. In the moment she had looked into his eyes, she had seen the dark, fierce blaze of something
very strong and very primitive. Something more potent than thought and more forceful than any attempt at restraint.

And she knew she could use that against him to try and discover the truth about how he really felt.


we take our coffee into the other room?’

Luis didn’t look at Isabelle as he spoke, already heading into the small sitting room. He needed to put some space between them. He had to regain control of his senses, force his clamouring body under control before he could take things any further.

‘The fire must have warmed the place up by now.’

He had known he was lost in the seconds that he had tossed aside the enveloping cloak, and seen her standing before him, tall and slender in the clinging green velvet dress. Long and flowing, it shaped her delicate ribcage, the narrowness of her waist, with sensual intimacy, hugged tight by the elaborately embroidered belt.

The colour did amazing things to her skin and hair, making her eyes gleam like polished emeralds, the soft flush of her cheeks matched by the lush curve of her mouth. And standing so close, inches taller than she was, he had had the best view possible of the warm curves of her breasts, the opulent cleavage created by the corsetry of the boned bodice.

She’d filled out in the years since he’d last seen her. She was no longer just a girl burgeoning into maturity, but a woman in her prime. Stunning, sexy and enticing.

And he wanted her.

, he wanted her more than he had ever wanted any
woman in his life. More than the sensual madness that had pushed him towards her in the first moments that they had met. More than the aching hunger that had made him propose marriage far too soon, and well before either of them had actually been ready.

‘It still isn’t all that warm in here.’

Deliberately, Isabelle came to sit beside him on the small settee, curling her legs up underneath her in a way that brought her even closer to him.

‘We need to sit right in front of the fire,’ she added by way of a belated excuse for her action. ‘So—now I think you owe me an explanation of why you’re here.’

‘I’ve explained.’

He was definitely on the run, mentally at least. Those copper-coloured eyes wouldn’t look directly at her, but stared straight into the small gas fire. And the long, lean body was held unnaturally taut, as far away from her as was possible on the two-seater settee, making her determined to press home the advantage he had unexpectedly given her.

‘I told you, I want you to be my wife again. If you do, then you’ll want for nothing. You’ll live in luxury; you’ll only have to think of something you’d like and it will be yours.’

‘And you think that will be enough?’

Heavy lids dropped down hastily over gleaming bronze eyes, hiding their expression from her.

‘What else could you want?’

Deliberately Isabelle leaned nearer, almost but not quite touching him.

‘Is this to be a proper marriage, Luis? A

‘Of course.’

She ran her tongue over her lips with slow provocation and watched as his gaze darkened, his pupils widening in response.

‘But—we might not be—compatible.’

Luis’s response was a short, hard bark of laughter.

‘Not compatible! Oh, Isabella,
mi esposa
, you cannot think that. That
was the one thing that brought us
together. The thing that never died between us. It will still be there. You need have no fear of that.’

‘Would you like to prove that?’

There it was again. That sudden stiffening of the muscular frame, the wariness in his eyes. He might act the hard, invulnerable, untouchable male, but every once in a while something flickered in that polished amber gaze, revealing a hidden emotion he couldn’t quite conceal.

But what was that emotion?

Isabelle leaned even closer, looked deep into those dark, watchful eyes.

‘Why don’t you kiss me, Luis?’

Luis stilled suddenly and the narrow-eyed glance he shot her was sharp, assessing, full of suspicion.

‘What is this,
?’ he demanded harshly. ‘Are you planning on seduction?’

She tried a smile to disarm him but even she could feel it wavering at the corners.

‘You’re going to have to do it some time. That is, if we’re to have this proper marriage.’

‘Oh, I see. This is a way of saying yes without actually admitting that you’re giving in?’

‘It might be.’


It was a growl of warning, impatient and rough, making her stomach clench in sudden apprehension. But she’d started this. She had to go on—right to the finish.

‘I’ll tell you what…’

She tried to pitch her voice at a huskily seductive level and knew that she had succeeded as she saw the flare of response deep in his eyes.

‘Why don’t you kiss me and we’ll see? If what you say is true—if that
is still there, then maybe I will agree to your terms.’

And she would know from the way he kissed her whether she was deceiving herself totally or not.

Her mouth was almost touching his now, and the sweet scent of her skin surrounded him, awakening every cell in his body, sending the hot, honeyed pulse of desire raging along his veins. He couldn’t have resisted her if he’d tried.

And he didn’t want to try.

One kiss, he told himself fiercely. One kiss and one kiss only. Just enough to prove to himself that he wasn’t the fool he feared he was where this woman was concerned.

Está bien!
’ he muttered roughly, reaching out and closing his hands hard over the fine bones of her shoulders.

With a rough, jerking movement he pulled her towards him in the same moment that his head came down and his mouth fastened over hers. He took her lips with such force that they opened involuntarily under his, giving him access to a more intimate invasion.

She gave a small, gasping sigh into his mouth as her tongue met his and her hands slid up to tangle in the raven silk of his hair, pulling his head down even further, to deepen and prolong the kiss.

And in that second he knew he was helpless. Knew that he could no more deny his feelings than he could tear himself away from her. His heart was racing, his breath coming in raw, uneven snatches, his head swimming under the sensual onslaught of the passion that blazed deep inside.

His body was hard and tight, his need so intense it was a burning pain. He couldn’t get her close enough, couldn’t touch her enough, his hands moving restlessly over her slender frame, stroking, caressing, feeling. Yearning fingers closed over the thrusting curves of her breasts and his breath caught roughly in his throat.


It was a moan of response against her lips and she crushed herself even closer, pushing the warm weight of her flesh into his cupped palms.

, Isabella,
mi belleza

All his English had deserted him. He couldn’t have formed a
single word in any language but his own to save his life. He couldn’t think, could only feel, only knew that if he didn’t possess her here, now, this very second, he would die from wanting…

Isabelle felt as if her bones were melting in the heat of her desire. She had lost track of just why she had started this in the first place, only knew that it felt right, perfect, the most natural thing in the world. The
thing in the world she wanted.

She shifted slightly on the settee as Luis pulled at the enfolding weight of the velvet skirt, tugging it upwards. Her heart seemed to beat high up in her throat as he slid hot fingers up the length of her legs and along the soft whiteness of her thighs to the spot where the sharpest pulse of hunger throbbed in aching need, then slowly, agonisingly, away again.

‘You want to know why I’m here,’ he muttered against her mouth. ‘Well, I’ll tell you. I’m here because when I got that letter I realised there was no way I could let you go. In all the time we’ve been apart, no woman has ever had the effect on me that you had. I can’t eat—I can’t sleep for wanting you. I haven’t lived these past years, couldn’t rest until I had you back in my arms, in my bed. And then when I saw you again—just one look was all it took to revive the old feelings—the hunger, the desire…’

He paused, looked deep into her eyes, then lifted one hand to trail the backs of his fingers slowly down the side of her face, his darkened gaze holding her mesmerised as he did so.

‘And I know you’re feeling the same.’


She didn’t even think of trying to deny it. Each tiny touch had triggered off explosions of desire along every nerve in her body. It was as if she were a ready-laid fire, primed with finest kindling, dust-dry logs. All it needed was the spark of a single match to set light to everything, send the flames of passion roaring through her, drying her mouth so that she licked nervously at painfully parched lips.

‘Yes,’ she croaked again. ‘That’s exactly the way I’ve been feeling.’

The way she was leaning towards him was inviting him to do exactly the same. The way she was looking at him was like a magnet, drawing him closer and closer. The way her mouth had softened, her lips parting, was an open invitation for his kiss again.

And Luis took it without hesitation.

His hands came out, slid round the back of her neck, up into the golden fall of her hair. The pressure of their hold brought her face to his, angling her head so that their mouths fitted perfectly together.

This time, the first touch of his lips was gentle, almost tentative, searching, questioning. But when her response gave him the answer he sought without restraint, then the kiss soon turned into a powerful, crushing demand.

And she met that too. Met it and matched it, moving from following to leading in the space of an urgent, pounding heartbeat. Her kiss told its own story of longing and hunger, of giving him of herself and taking everything he offered.

And when, with their mouths still locked together, he stood up, strong arms taking her upright with him, she knew exactly what he had in mind because it was what was in her thoughts too. She went with him, willingly and gladly, her heart recognising that this was what she wanted most in all the world.

He half walked, half carried her towards the bedroom, finding it by instinct, his lips still taking hers, tasting, giving, promising all kinds of delights ahead of them. The silence in the room was total, the only sound the pounding of their two hearts in total unison, in complete accord with each other.

There was no need for speech; no need for words. His hands told her she was beautiful as they touched and tantalised, smoothing, caressing, arousing, communicating perfectly the way he saw her. And his body proclaimed his need for her as it strained against hers, hard and demanding, fiercely aroused. He was awe-inspiring in his strength and the power of his passion, and yet she felt totally safe, completely at one with him.

Because the same hunger was burning its way through her. It made her body tremble with need as Luis’s strong hands found the zip fastening of her dress, slid it right down to the base of her spine so that all she had to do was to let her hands drop and the green velvet slithered to the floor, pooling at her feet. The fine lace of her slip, the sliver of satin that was her bra followed, removed and tossed to the floor in a series of intent, unhurried movements that spoke eloquently of his powerful restraint.

Isabelle could feel no such thing. With his mouth still working its sensual magic on her, her whole body clenched in a paroxysm of anticipation, a trembling longing for more. She was clinging to him now, her legs no longer capable of supporting her as he swung her up into his arms and slowly lowered her onto the downy quilt on the bed.


It was an incantation of longing against her skin, his mouth kissing its way from her lips, over her throat, her shoulder, and down the length of her body. Isabelle caught her breath in sharply as his lips touched the slope of her breast, brushed the pink swollen nipple, but didn’t linger. Instead they slid lower, over the tautened muscles of her stomach, his tongue briefly circling the shallow indentation of her navel.

‘Luis…’ she breathed, needing to say his name, then choked into silence again as knowing hands eased the sliver of satin that was her only covering down the length of her legs, his tormenting mouth following it all the way.

Only then did he pause to throw off his own clothes, dropping them carelessly wherever they fell, and sliding down onto the bed beside her, gathering her into the heat of his body.

And now his kisses were fiercer, thrilling in their demand. His touch had lost that careful restraint, becoming instead the urgent, hungry caress of a man close to the edge of his control. Long, tanned fingers closed over the thrust of her breasts, taking their weight into the warmth of his palms. His thumbs stroked over the creamy curves, encircling the swollen peaks
until she moaned aloud in agonised delight and arched her back against the support of the pillows behind her.

‘I’ve waited so long for this,’ Luis muttered against her heated skin. ‘So long—too long. A lifetime, it seems.’

‘Too long,’ Isabelle echoed on a sigh that broke into a high-pitched cry of delight as his mouth took the place of his hands, his tongue tracing the same tormenting path as his thumb had followed just seconds before. ‘Too long…’

‘But now there will be no more waiting…no more time. Now you are back where you belong…in my bed…’


It was a cry of affirmation, a sob of ecstasy as his lips closed over her nipple, drawing it into the heat of this mouth and suckling hard. The stinging sensation of delight made her writhe frantically beneath the imprisoning weight of his body, her head twisting from side to side on the pillows. She closed her eyes tight, the better to concentrate on the sensation that spread throughout her body. Every pleasure spot she possessed seemed to be linked in a burning golden chain of arousal, all of it centred on and radiating out from that one core point of her being.

And the hunger between her legs was a throbbing need that had her shifting restlessly, moaning her need, incapable of putting what she wanted into speech.

But Luis had no need of words, no need for instruction. He interpreted her needs, anticipated them with the intuitive instinct of a lover. His fingers slid through the moist curls at the most feminine core of her body, stroking her intimately, a rough growl of satisfaction sounding in his throat as he discovered just how hungry for him she was.

BOOK: The Duke’s Secret Wife
10.07Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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