A Scandalous Melody
ISBN # 978-0373766840
Rich and powerful Chase Severin had returned for revenge on the town that had once cast him out - and the woman who had scorned him. Years ago, he and heiress Kate Beltrane had scandalized everyone with their forbidden romance - until Kate had betrayed him, tattering her own reputation and leaving Chase to a bitter fate. Or so he thought...
Kate's shock at seeing Chase again gave way to panic as he laid out his plans to take down what was left of her once-proud legacy. But there were things Chase didn't know...things that might, with a little help from a mysterious music box he'd received from an old Gypsy woman, release the passion sleeping in both their shattered hearts.
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He turned around at the sound of her voice, nearly positive it would just be the ghost that had haunted his nights for what seemed like forever. But it was the real Kate Beltrane this time, standing there with the lights streaming from the French doors at her back.
“Uh, Madame Seville said it would be all right for me to talk to you. I’m not catching you at a bad time, am I?”
Her midnight black curls were pulled back in a loose ponytail and glistened with rain. Drips of water trickled down her porcelain cheeks and clung to her dark, thick lashes. She had a khaki-colored trench coat thrown over her arm and rainwater was puddling under her as she stood there waiting for him to give her an answer.
The sight of her simply stunned him, took his words away. He reached a hand toward his shirt pocket for a cigarette without thinking, then cursed himself silently for being such a fool. He didn’t need help facing this echo of days gone by, despite the fact she was the most gorgeous creature he had ever laid eyes on.
“Why are you here?” he asked with a forced grin. “I thought we’d agreed to start on the books first thing in the morning?”
“I need to talk to you, Chase.” She raised her chin in that smug little way she’d had as a girl and took a tentative step closer.
“Talk? I’ll just bet you have a lot to say now.” He turned his back on her and spread his feet for the balance he badly needed at the moment. “You’re ten years too late. You have nothing to say that I care to hear anymore.”
“Please,” she whispered from behind him. “This isn’t about the mill. I’m hoping that will be strictly business with you. But what I wanted to talk about tonight was...”
“Not about the past, I’d wager.” He spun around and glared down at her in the slanted light. “I’d give better than even odds that you’d rather die than have to face your past sins tonight. Am I right?”
She was a good half a foot shorter and the shadows cast by the back light kept him from seeing her face clearly. But he did manage to catch the anger in her glinting stare, and he watched her work her slender white throat as she swallowed back a nasty remark.
Tempting, this ghost from his past. Too tempting.
Kate shook her head and straightened her shoulders. “I don’t think it would serve any purpose to go over our mistakes at this late date.”
Just to please himself, to give in to the urgent need to arouse her, Chase moved closer. She backed up a step and he took another in her direction, deliberately pushing her and limiting her personal space.
“My only mistake was in trusting you once, telling you that I loved you.” He heard the evil chuckle coming from his own lips and wondered at just how far he had come away from the naive young kid he had been back then. “It’s a mistake I never intend to repeat.”
Her eyes closed and he heard her soft sigh. Regrets? From the ice princess Kate Beltrane?
The silent whiff of her perfume reached icy fingers into his soul. The smell of camellias and gardenia that he’d once imagined he would never be able to get out of his mind took a swift sledgehammer to his heart.
He felt that soft underbelly of pity and desire creeping up on him again as he reached a hand toward her shoulder. Before he could give her comfort, her eyes popped open and determination narrowed those full tantalizing lips.
“I didn’t come here tonight to rehash old wounds,” she said with fervor. “I came to ask...explain...about Live Oak Hall.”
“You came here...in the rain...to explain about that broken down old plantation?” He allowed himself a sneer, but didn’t back away from her.
“It’s about the guest cottage. My friend, I don’t know if you remember her. Shelby Rousseau?”
When he just squinted at her, Kate rushed ahead. “Well, she’s a single mother now and trying to get a business started. And...I’ve been letting her trade out cleaning and cooking to stay in the guest cottage. She can’t afford to pay rent, you see, and I thought...”
“You have to start remembering that Live Oak Hall is mine now.” He shook his head and grimaced.
Chase took her chin with a firm grip, frightening her at first. Then he leaned close enough that she could hear his ragged breathing and could smell his desire. The man still wanted her. After everything she’d done.
She wanted him to kiss her. They were so close that another centimeter would bring their lips together. Dreams of one more kiss from Chase had kept her going in the darkest hours.
The panic drove her back in time to become once again the ten year old girl who’d run away from home and found a scary but perfectly safe shelter with an old drunk and his twelve-year-old son. She’d wanted Chase to kiss her then too because he’d been her white knight and savior. But he didn’t kiss her that night.
She reared back out of his grasp and shoved at his arms. The coffee mug he’d been carrying all this time slipped to the granite tile floor and shattered into a million pieces.
“Oh, I’m sorry,” she cried as she kneeled to clean up the mess. She quickly gathered up a few broken shards and then looked around for some kind of cloth to wipe up the cold coffee and the tiny silvers.
“Just let it go, Kate.” He was kneeling beside her and took her arm. “Are you all right?”
“Huh?” She must be in some kind of desire filled daze.
He gently pried the broken ceramic from her hand and put it aside. “You’re bleeding.” His big hand encompassed her smaller one with a touch so light it nearly brought tears to her eyes.
“It’s nothing.” She tried to tug her hand away, but he turned it over to reveal the jagged cut on her middle finger.
Chase’s gaze locked with hers as his hard, glinting concern turned in seconds to pure lustful longing. “You need to stop the bleeding first, then clean the wound.”
Turning his attention back to her bloody cut, Chase lifted her hand to his lips and slipped the oozing finger into his mouth before she could stop him.
She heard herself gasp and then moan as the sensation of his tongue and lips on her finger became sensual and demanding. Everything else but the two of them and this minute faded into the background. But a boom of thunder cracked through the air just then and the skies opened up for one more splash of rain. The sound and the chill dragged her back to the present.
She tugged on her hand again and Chase released her. “I’ll have it bandaged when I get home.”
He stood and pulled her to her feet. “Come under the terrace cover, Kate. You’re getting soaked.”
“I won’t keep you much longer,” she told him as they ran for a drier spot. “But I...I still must plead with you to let Shelby and her daughter stay in the guest cottage. I don’t care about myself. I can find somewhere else to go, but for them...”
Dragging her up close to his body, he leaned down to whisper in her ear so that she could hear him over the noise of the rain. “What’s it worth to you, chère?”
She stiffened and looked up at him. Their bodies were touching. Sweat, heated rainwater and passion came off them in waves, steaming up the air between them. Coming here tonight had obviously been a big mistake.
But she had to keep trying, for Maddie’s sake. “I beg you, Chase. Please just consider it.” She looked down between them, away from his demanding gaze. But one look made it clear that her aching breasts were peaked and pushing against her cotton blouse, begging for his touch.
Chase saw it as well and leered down at her. “Ah yes, bébé, I can feel the heat between us, too. Odd isn’t it, that an ice princess could flare so easily for a ghost?”
He didn’t know? He couldn’t just look at her and see that her heart still longed for him and that her body still responded to his with no provocation at all?
Her heart pounded in her chest, but she pushed away from him. “Damn it. Tell me what I can do to make you change your mind and let Shelby and the baby stay.”
“Do?” he asked thoughtfully after a minute. “Ante up, Kate. It’s time to put in or fold. I want you.”
“Me?” Her knees were wobbling now and she was becoming lightheaded. “You mean to be your maitresse?”
He chuckled at her use of the old fashioned word. “A mistress? Now wouldn’t that be an amusing form of revenge.”
She scowled and clutched his arm. “You can’t mean that. You don’t even know who I am anymore.”
Kate clearly understood that Chase was her biggest weakness. She wanted him to want her. But she would never give up independence - - not even for him. If he asked for her body, fine. She would be all for it.
He would never take her soul.
“No?” Chase said with a chuckle. “Well, let’s start with dinner then. Tomorrow night. And wear something sexy. I think I’ll be needing a lot of persuasion.”
FROM THE BOOK: A SCANDALOUS MELODY
By: Linda Conrad
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