The Passion of Darius

 Somerset, 1837

‘Ti amo, mia cara’

The fine art of persuasion.

Darius Rourke and his burning passion for a woman.  The gentle Marianne…as beautiful as she is mysterious.

When presented with an opportunity to make her his bride, Darius takes it, and knows Marianne will finally belong only to him.  Or will she?

Marianne carries a secret.  Something she believes will prevent her from ever being worthy to be loved by any man—even the masterful Darius, despite the fact he captivates her utterly.

A look…  A caress…  A kiss…  A brooding sensuality.  A lushly passionate tale of lovers entangled in the discovery of each other’s sins and secrets.  As Darius and Marianne embark upon a journey together, they will find that learning to command is just as important as learning to surrender.

A man who knows what he wants…

A woman who needs him in order to know her worth…

‘Ti amo, mia cara’

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Excerpt:

Darius felt he could be in heaven, or possibly as close as he would ever get. For the moment, he had Marianne all to himself. Slowly, he’d steered her away from the others to where he thought the quietness might relax her a little. Darius didn’t fool himself. He knew she was wary of him and realized that if his plan were to work he’d have to earn her trust.

He found Marianne mesmerizing and could just watch her unendingly. He admired how graceful her hands were, watching as her fingers gently pushed aside green leaves to search for the heart-shaped fruit. She parted her lips just a bit whenever she found a cache of berries hidden beneath the greenery. The pleasure of observing as she ate a few of the berries had been the definite high point. Marianne had a beautiful mouth.

“Oh! A blackberry vine has pushed in over here,” she said.

Darius came right to where she peered into the tangle, standing just behind her shoulder. “They grow as wild as weeds, sprouting up in new spots each year, so I’m not surprised.” A few errant curls had come loose, and there was a bit of leaf right above her ear.

Delectable.

He wanted his lips right above her ear so he could flick out his tongue and get a taste of her. What would she taste like? He had to force himself to respond coherently. “But it’s a tad early for blackberries yet. By the end of July they’ll be bursting with sweet juice. You’ll come back then,” he told her.

Her spine stiffened, and she faced him. Little creases marred her brow. “Mr. Rourke, you mustn’t presume that I—”

“—only an invitation to pick berries, Miss Marianne, and only if you wish it,” he said smoothly. He disarmed her with his response. He could see it happen and knew the second she regretted her comment, as clearly as if he could see inside her head.

“Of course it is.” Her blue eyes swept down. “Please forget I said anything.”

Impossible to forget anything about you.

He reached out his hand, helpless to restrain himself. Darius was going to touch her. She saw what he meant to do, though, and reacted by backing right up and away from him. He followed her anyway, deftly plucking the small, dry leaf from her hair.

He held it up to show her. “You had this trapped in your hair.”

“Ahhh,” she breathed out, looking relieved. “Th—thank you, Mr. Rourke. We should probably go back now,” she said softly, her eyes fluttering down once again.

The urge to take her further into the berry thicket and kiss her senseless flashed as a possibility, but sanity overruled it.

“As you wish.” He offered his arm. They had not taken even a step before the rending of fabric sounded below them.

“Oh blast! The brambles have caught me!” She turned, reaching for the thorny vine embedded in her skirt.

“Careful! You don’t want to get—”

“Ouch!” she cried.

“—pricked.”

The basket dropped to the ground in a rush as she gripped her injured hand, palm-up.

“Here, let me.” He took her hand for inspection. A large thorn was indeed buried in the pad of her index finger, the black strip a garish invader on such lovely skin. “I’ll get it for you. Hold still and squeeze your finger on the sides as I remove it.” She followed his directions perfectly and hardly winced when he pulled the thorn away. A bead of dark blood chased the thorn, welling up red on the pad of her finger.

Darius couldn’t help what he did next. His mind and body were operating independently of the other, and he just reacted without conscious thought of how he would be perceived. Before he knew it, he had her hand drawn to his lips and was sucking the blood away. Earthy spice met his tongue and the merest moan escaped him. Her horrified gasp followed his moan. She jerked her finger away.

“Mr. Rourke!” she scolded, frowning at him before dropping down to retrieve the strawberry basket.

He couldn’t hold in the grin and bent down to help her with the berries. “Sorry. I assure you I am no vampire.”

She looked up at him sharply. “You don’t look very sorry. About being a demon, I’m sure I couldn’t comment.”

She was flustered and irritated with him and so utterly adorable it required everything he had to refrain from pulling her against him and taking her mouth. In her present state he might just get a smack if he did though.

“Just trying to close the wound, and I am indeed sorry for your injury,” he told her. “Now, if you’ll stand still, I’ll get this vine detached from your skirt.”

Her soft breathing came faster as he worked on the blackberry thorns. She obeyed and stood still for him, but her lush body trembled mightily in response underneath all those layers. God, it would be good between them—sex. He told himself to focus on the goal. It was time to tell her.

“At the conclusion of the party today, I’ve asked your father to stay. I have some business to discuss with him, and I’d like for you to be present as well, Miss Marianne.”

She nodded once in agreement. “We must go back now, Mr. Rourke.” He could tell she had been pushed as far as she would go…for now.

“Of course we must.”

She didn’t speak again for the rest of the party. That was fine. Darius could enjoy her simply by having her near…for now.