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Tropical heat…burning passionDaphne had sacrificed everything to remain unknown in her tropical paradise. But if Lord Lockwood recognized the woman who had fled England with a crime on her conscience, nothing could keep her safe….Even the thought of future punishment could not dampen present desire. Lockwood's lips reawakened the passionate woman she had once been. What harm, Daphne reasoned, could come from one stolen kiss? Still, she could not allow her feelings to overpower her sense–it was too dangerous. She'd denied herself for five years. Surely she could deny Lockwood for a few weeks?

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It had been months since he’d kissed a woman as enticing as this one.

Slowly, allowing her to escape if that was her wish, he bent to her lips. To his profound relief, Daphne did not demur. When her lips parted ever so slightly, he was quick to take the gift she offered. Her mouth was plush and tasted of a subtle honey blended with flowers and heat.

Lockwood met her tongue, shared his fire and hunger with her. A shivering sigh was her only response, as if she was struggling to regain her senses. Dear Lord, he knew he was lost. A single kiss, and he wanted her with an intensity that nearly doubled him over.

Instead, she placed one trembling palm against his chest and pushed him away with a little gasp.

What a sweet little fool she was if she thought they could recork that bottle. Once opened, that particular brew was too intoxicating to leave untasted.

Praise for Gail Ranstrom

The Courtesan’s Courtship

“This book should not be missed.”


The Rake’s Revenge

“Ranstrom crafts an intriguing mystery, brimming with a fine cast of strong and likable characters and a few surprises.”

—Romantic Times BOOKreviews

The Missing Heir

“Ranstrom draws us into this suspenseful tale right up to the very end.”

—Romantic Times BOOKreviews

Saving Sarah

“Gail Ranstrom has written a unique story with several twists that work within the confines of Regency England… If Ranstrom’s first book showed promise, then Saving Sarah is when Ranstrom comes of age.”

—The Romance Reader

A Wild Justice

“Gail Ranstrom certainly has both writing talent and original ideas.”

—The Romance Reader


Gail Ranstrom

For Shirley, Fritzie, Winnie and Sadie, who taught me

all I needed to know about being a lady. And for Cheryl, Tanya, Christine and Sandi, who taught me all I needed to know about being a woman.

And with everlasting gratitude to Lisa, Suzi,

Eileen and Tracy.



Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Sixteen

Chapter Seventeen

Chapter Eighteen

Chapter Nineteen

Chapter Twenty

Chapter Twenty-One

Chapter Twenty-Two

Chapter Twenty-Three

Chapter Twenty-Four




August 11, 1815

T he second blow sent sudden pain racing along Elise’s nerves to explode in her brain. She cringed and raised her arms to protect her head. Striking back only angered him further. Oh, but the last little shred of pride and self-respect she still possessed demanded that she defend herself, no matter what the cost. No matter what the consequences.

She skittered backward until she cleared his reach and then staggered to her feet. “No, my lord! Back away now, before I call for help.”

Her husband laughed at her hollow threat. “The servants won’t come, madam. They’d lose their living, and they know it. And you, pathetic cow that you are, will not leave me because you’d have to leave your brat behind.”

“Your heir,” she corrected.

“Heir,” Barrett snarled. “You gave me a puny, sickly squalling little brat. That’s what I get for marrying a chit barely out of the schoolroom. But you’re going to remedy that now, aren’t you, Elise? Spread your legs and I might not hit you again.”

He unfastened his trousers and bile rose in her stomach. His eyes were wild and his breath stank of whiskey. If he touched her, she would vomit. She’d had enough of his brutal lovemaking. She shook her head. “Go back to your mistress, Barrett. There is no comfort for you here.”

He launched at her with a strangled cry. “By God, your brother did not warn me of your stupidity when I bought you. Give me value for my money. Do your duty!”

Her back hit the wall, trapping her. A thin wail drifted from the adjacent room. Their voices had woken William. She turned toward the sound. The governess had quit after Barrett’s last fit of temper, and she hadn’t been able to find a replacement. “Let me go to him, my lord. He needs me.”

“Your duty is to me, Elise, and ’tis time you learned it.” He turned and headed for the adjoining door.

Terrified, she followed. “Wait, my lord. Let him cry. I… I will give you what you want.”

“Aye, you will. When I’m done here.” He threw the door open and crossed to the bed. Seizing the three-year-old, he held him aloft. “Is this what you love best, madam?”

“Barrett, please,” she choked, fear clogging her throat. She tore off her wrapper, exposing herself in her thin nightdress. “Put him back and…and I…”

“I’ll have it anyway, madam. It’s mine to take as I please.” He tucked little William under one arm and headed to the window. “But first I’ll rid us of this useless appendage.”

Oh, dear God! He meant to throw William out the window and he was drunk enough to do it! He had his back to her and, without thinking, she seized a brass candlestick and hit him over the head. He dropped to his knees and William tumbled onto the woven rug, still crying and hiccupping.

Barrett turned toward her, hatred in his eyes and a trickle of blood oozing down his cheek from his temple. “You will pay for that!” He staggered to his feet, the child forgotten in his fury.

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