(Book #3 in the Pirates of Flaundia series)
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Synopsis: Mrs. Julia Whitney, a widow of two years, blames herself for her husband’s suicide. She hides a dark secret that could ruin her good family’s name, which has become the target of cruel gossip about her sister who has been locked away in an asylum for the criminally insane. Julia has no one to turn to for comfort, even though Isaiah, her former childhood friend, and father’s protégé wants to marry her.
Things become complicated when Julia makes the acquaintance of Katherine, the Countess Guetall, who happens to be the cousin of the man Julia’s sister attacked and kidnapped. Kat holds no ill will, and extends an olive branch in the hopes she and the timid widow can become friends.
Kat’s affection heals Julia’s broken heart, and soon these two embark on a secret love affair. When Isaiah learns of the affair, he resorts to blackmail and threats to claim Julia as his own. Julia may have no other choice but to comply with Isaiah’s wicked plan even if it means sacrificing herself in order to protect those she loves.
“Why do you think I’m nervous?” Julia asked, glancing at Kat’s hand on the middle of her chest. All Kat had to do was lower her hand and she could cup one of Julia’s breasts.
“You haven’t stopped moving since we came to your bedroom, and you have this habit of rubbing your stomach, which you’ve been doing most of the night.”
Kat moved her hand, but not over Julia’s chest. Her hand drifted over Julia’s arm and slipped down, stopping to trace the back of Julia’s hand and then alongside Julia’s hip, ending with a caress over Julia’s stomach with the tip of her finger.
Julia moistened her lips and her eyes dipped down further. Kat inhaled sharply, and her finger continued circling around, causing a drowsy calmness to overtake Julia.
“You should get undressed.”
Julia eyes shot open. “Wh-why?”
Kat’s hand dropped away and a small smirk rose on her face. “To try on some of your dresses, like your mother said.”
Julia’s mind was a haze. It took her a few seconds to brush away the cobwebs in her head. Kat rested her hand on her bosom, near enough to touch her nipple that Julia caught spearing her bodice. Kat’s eyes were heavy-lidded and her cheeks stained with red.
Her own nipples tightened in response and a trickle of sweat slipped down the side of her face.
“Ah, why don’t we wait for mother to return? Oh! We should go out on my balcony for some fresh air. The view is breathtaking.” Julia waved her hands in front of her face to show how warm she was.
Kat shifted in close, a breath away. Julia hurried across the room to open the French doors leading out to the balcony. She didn’t wait for Kat to follow and walked out, the night’s air cooling her heated face.
Kat strolled out and stopped at the edge of the balustrade. Julia peeked at Kat’s hands. Her fingers were elegant and long, the nails perfectly manicured; unlike Julia’s, which were too bony with trimmed nails.
“I would love to see the sunrise from here. It must be a wonderful sight,” Kat said with a wistfulness Julia hadn’t heard before.
“I spend most of my mornings eating breakfast here,” Julia said, wishing it was lighter to see the vast property of rolling green hills and trees. The moon hid behind clouds and not one star shined in the sky.
“And what do you wear while you nibble on your toast and jam? A nightgown or perhaps a robe with nothing underneath it?” Kat asked, facing Julia.
“That’s a very forward question to ask,” Julia said, cursing silently as her voice broke.
“It is, isn’t it? I’m a very forward woman who enjoys asking questions of those I want to get to know better.” Kat shrugged and inched near while Julia retreated.
“That’s far too personal. I refuse to answer.” She lifted her chin, daring Kat to argue.
Kat’s laugh, although enticing, now made Julia anxious. Or perhaps it could have been Kat’s calculated look. She was out of her element with this woman who had exceeded her boundaries.
She bit off a gasp when her back hit the brick wall. She held up her hands to keep Kat away, but realizing how ridiculous that would be, she dropped her arms to her sides. She rolled back her shoulders and took a few steady breaths. It wasn’t like anything amiss would happen. Her mother would return at any second and all would be right.
“You can feel it also.” Kat stopped a mere inch away, her skirt tangling with Julia’s.
“Feel what?” Julia peered up at the sky. “If you mean snow, yes. With the drop in temperature—”
Kat landed her hand on Julia’s shoulder. “I don’t mean the weather. We should address this attraction we have for one another.”
“Why?” Julia squeaked and clapped a hand over her mouth. She had just given Kat the ammunition to proceed further.
The woman’s face lit up in satisfaction. “You agree, then. There’s something strong between us.” Her fingers stroked gently, sliding down Julia’s side and landing on her hip.
The buildup of pressure inside her core threatened to explode. Her chest heaved from her inhales. “All I feel for you is curiosity, Countess.”
Kat snorted and stroked the indentation of Julia’s waist. “Your curiosity is exactly what I’ve been hoping for. I would love to answer any questions you may have.”
“What type of questions would you allow me to ask?” Julia asked.
“Such as, when did I make love to a woman the first time and how did it feel?” Kat’s voice lowered to an intimate whisper and she dipped her face down and kissed the side of Julia’s throat.
“What are you doing?”
“I’ve admired this spot since we first met, and have wanted a taste.”