A Passionate Pursuit

Clifton, Bristol. 1802


Rowena Fallows must marry, and marry well - her father has made unwise investments and now faces financial ruin: a situation, which may be averted if only Rowena can make a fortuitous marriage

Thomas, Lord Brickdale is one of the richest men in the land, and has bedded some of Society's most beautiful and alluring women and has no wish to be shackled in matrimony, but there is pressure from his family to marry and produce an heir. Rowena Fallows is the acknowledged beauty of the Season and it would be a dazzling match.

But Rowena - often frowned upon by Society for what they deem to be her indecorous behaviour - is headstrong. Adamant that she will not be coerced into what will surely leave her trapped in a love-less marriage, she determinedly refuses to consider Brickdale's offer.

Unused to rejection, Brickdale regards Rowena's cool indifference as a challenge. Desire consumes him as he thinks of the delectable beauty with whom he shared one unforgettable encounter. He wants nothing more than to put the wilful lady in her place - and in his bed but the eminently beddable Rowena resists his well-practised art of seduction.
If as you say you are a victim of some circumstance or other, perhaps you can tell me what happened, or is it a secret; something of a personal nature? Perhaps it is something you do not wish to share for fear that to divulge it would ruin your reputation?" His eyes narrowed speculatively. "Though I venture the opinion that there is little more you can do to hasten that unhappy state of affairs."
   Rowena felt her cheeks redden still further. "How dare you say such a thing, when you know nothing of me?" she snapped.
   A sensuous smile curved the strangers lips, "Ah, but there you are mistaken. I do know something of you for I know what my eyes tell me, and that is a young woman who appears to be in the late stages of getting dressed after an assignation with her lover; probably a man of whom your family disapproves, hence the need for a secret tryst in a secluded area where you would be unlikely to be discovered. What has happened to your lover now? Has he, perhaps, returned to his wife? If this be the case I am of the opinion that he is no gentleman and not worthy of your future attention."
   "Sir. I believe you have said more than enough. Although I agree that the unfortunate circumstances in which you found me leaves much to be desired, I resent you speaking to me this way, and I would like you to leave now so that I can make my way home." Rowena retorted; endeavoring to keep her voice from betraying the alarm she felt. She was alone and vulnerable. And anything could happen to her at the hands of this stranger.
   "I'm afraid that I could not do such a thing. You must realize that I cannot possibly leave you here alone and unable to fend for yourself. Therefore I see it as my duty to personally escort you home. Now please replace your boot, I fear the ground is rough and hard, but perhaps you have discovered that already."
   How dare he make such a shameful presumption! Numb with shock at his outrageous insinuations, Rowena struggled to replace the boot. But it was quite useless; her ankle had swollen making any attempt impossible. "I think it would be better to walk without the boot, sir, if you would be kind enough to help me to stand." But as she took his arm and attempted to walk she was again was rocked off her balance and stumbled, this time falling quite hard.
 "Oh!" she cried in mortification as he lifted her to her feet, holding her against his chest. With a wildly beating heart, she tried to regain her balance.
  "Ye gods, you are a rare beauty - whoever your lover might be, he is without doubt a very lucky man, he murmured, huskily. "You have a body that was made for loving."  And without warning, he crushed her to him; bending his head, his lips warm and possessive, parting her own lips with his tongue; exploring and teasing; evoking a thrill of pleasure and sending sensuous waves coursing through her body, a body which, for one brief moment rose to meet his burning touches, leaving her trembling and breathless as his arms tightened around her slim waist; pressing her against the length of his long hard body. Escape was impossible as his fingers reached for the curve of her breast, light and caressing; awakening a flood of desire within her; only the high neckline of her day-gown prevented further intimacies. With a pounding heart she felt herself lifted into his arms.
   "You forget yourself, sir. This conduct is reprehensible," she cried, now struggling to escape from his hold. "Put me down at once. How dare you" But the more she struggled the more determined was the stranger not to relinquish her.
  "Spare me your protestations." He laughed, holding her more tightly as he strode on, away from the rocks. A lone coach waited on the edge of the grass verge, and on seeing this Rowena increased her struggling, terrified that she was about to be abducted. But this only made the stranger hold her more firmly. I am lost, she thought, wretchedly.

GLORIA BURLAND
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