Sometimes there is hope for a sinner…
Lords of Disgrace quartet Book Three
(Although part of the Lords of Disgrace quartet this may be read as a stand-alone novel. For more about the Lords of Disgrace, please see the Book Series page.)
A broken heart wouldn’t kill him but the icy sea off the North Devon coast probably would… Only will-power got Cris de Feaux ashore naked and half-dead and into the arms of Tamsyn Perowne, smuggler’s widow and the last woman on earth a marquess should fall for. But she’s in danger and he’s unable to resist her even though he should, even though loving this woman adds one more sin to those he already carries.
Time passed, became simply a blur of pain and effort. He was conscious, somewhere in the back of what was left of his consciousness, that he could not stay afloat much longer. He lifted his head, a lead weight, and saw land, close. A beach, breakers. It seemed the scent of wood smoke and wild garlic cut through the salt for a second. Not a mirage.
But that is. In the moment of clarity he thought he saw a woman, waist-deep in the water, thick brown hair curling loose on her shoulders, calling to him. ‘Hold on!’
Mermaid… And then his body gave up, his legs sank, he went under and staggered as his feet hit sand. Somehow he found the strength to stand and the mermaid was coming towards him, her hands held out. The water dragged at him, forcing his legs to move with the frustrating slowness of dream-running. The sand shifted beneath his feet as the undertow from the retreating wave sucked at him, but he struggled on. One step towards him, then another and, staggering, four more.
She reached for him as he took one more lurching step and stumbled into her, his hands grasping her shoulders for balance. Under his numb hands her skin was hot, burning, her eyes were brown, like her hair. There were freckles on her nose and her lips were parted.
This was not a mermaid. This was a real, naked, woman. This was life and he was alive. He bent his head and kissed her, her mouth hot, his hands shaking as he pulled her against him.
She kissed him back, unresisting. There was the taste of woman and life and hope through the cold and the taste of salt and the hammering of the blood where his hands rested against her throat.
The wave broke against his back, pushing them both over. She scrabbled free, got to her feet and reached for him, but he was on his feet now, some last reserve of strength coming with that kiss and with hope. He put his arm around her waist and lifted her against him.
‘I do not require holding up, you do,’ she protested as they gained the hard sand of the beach, but he held on, stumbling across the sand, over stones he could not feel against his numbed soles. Then, when they reached the grass, his legs finally gave way, and he went down again, hardly conscious that he was falling onto rough grass and into oblivion.
Tamsyn stared down at the man at her feet, Adam-naked, pale, tall, beautifully muscled, his hair slicked tight to his head, his face a mask of exhaustion and sheer determination even in unconsciousness. A sea god, thrown out of his element.
You could not live on this coast for long without knowing what to do when someone was near-drowned. Tamsyn did not hesitate, for all that her head was spinning and an inner voice was demanding to know what she thought she had been doing just then in his arms. She threw all the towels over the still body, then her cloak, dragged her shift over her head and set off at a run up the lane that sloped up past the front lawn of the house on the left and the steep flank of Stib’s Head on the right, shouting for help.