Adam Caldwell, Viscount Riverton, the hero of HEALING HEARTS, is a veteran of the Napoleonic Wars.
In honor of Memorial Day, here's an excerpt:
A hint of English rose splashed Emma’s cheeks. Adam could not allow himself a moment to appreciate the pretty blush—or to acknowledge that he was actually enjoying this absurd banter with her in the midst of his increasing discomfort. But something about Miss Emma Whiteside—something apart from her striking looks and his immediate physical attraction—caused his blood to race and all his senses to go on alert.
He shut his eyes and ground his back teeth, hoping to ward off the worst of the attack he knew was coming—at least until he could whistle Champion back to his side and swing himself into the saddle.
But his strenuous exercise and the harsh weather, combined with his horrific memories of combat, blasted him like an explosion of enemy artillery. Thunderbolts lanced his leg, flooding him with agony so intense he nearly doubled over. He felt the blood drain from his face and he staggered.
Emma leaped forward to support him. Concern replaced the belligerence in her eyes, darkened to gunmetal-gray.
“This will not do, Riverton. You must lean on me.”
“Still the bossy little harridan.”
She sighed and reached for his forearm.
The brush of her fingertips sent a coil of shock through him more stunning than the waves of searing fire radiating from his leg. He’d anticipated that pain. But he had not expected the soothing glow generated by the touch of Emma’s hand or the warmth flowing through his linen sleeve. His reluctance to accept her help evaporated.
Nor was Emma unaffected by the contact, he decided. He heard the small hitch when she inhaled, the low huff of breath she expelled with an odd little choking sound. The slightest of tremors shook the fingers that gripped him.
Despite his misery, Adam remained completely aware of her clasping his arm as if her slight frame could prevent a man of his size from toppling. Though wracked by pain, his body still hummed with arousal.
Adam inhaled. The scent of her hair reminded him of the tart fruit of the Portuguese strawberry tree, used to make potent aguardente de medronho. He’d often drunk himself senseless on the powerful brandy, trying to numb his physical agony as well as the hollow ache that gnawed the dry bone of his heart.
Now, pondering his reaction to the dauntless Emma Whiteside—and hers to him—he decided he might benefit from the more restorative tonic of her touch. This girl rejuvenated his exhausted spirit more than any forced march over the cliffs helped to rehabilitate his leg.
He slid his arm around her waist, dragging her closer. She fit comfortably against his side, as if she belonged there. Her breath caught again, then settled into a ragged, irregular cadence. Her response seemed to invite a more seductive touch from him. His fingers splayed against her rib cage and slid toward her breast, drawing a gasp from her.
“I don’t think…” Emma’s words trailed away.
Adam’s gaze slid down her, eliciting a sultry flush, a more rapid thrumming of her heartbeat beneath his hand. Her eyes still snapped at him with pique even as his proximity coaxed her nearer.
“I—I am but trying to help you.”
“There are many ways a woman might ease a man’s pain,” he murmured, his gaze locking on hers. She did not look away. She did not move away. But plainly she understood him.
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