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Six months after burying her wastrel husband, Lady Arabella Woodbridge has resigned herself to a lonely life in the countryside with only her two adopted nieces for company. Being a young, respectable widow is – frustrating. Then the charming and wickedly handsome Samuel Payn takes up residence in the neighboring manor house.
Retired explorer and occasional pirate Samuel Payn is on a two-fold mission – retrieve buried loot, and locate the father who abandoned his mother to a life of poverty. But a gang of murderous villains is also after the buried treasure. And someone is threatening to tear apart the lovely widow’s family.
Will Sam’s single-minded determination to uncover his true identity threaten Arabella’s happiness - and his life?
Page Count: 260
Word Count: 62590
Mr. Payn stood nearby, shouting encouragement, pointing to butterflies swooping and dodging, doing their best to avoid being caught. And they were succeeding.
Arabella slowed her step, quite breathless at the sight of the man having fun with the children. He was without a jacket and had rolled up his shirtsleeves, exposing muscular, tanned forearms. Pale trousers hugged his powerful thighs and showed off his firm backside. He ran about, lithe and limber, keeping up with the antics of the young children. She’d happily stand there all day and watch his excellent masculine form.
Well, no, what she’d like to do was something else entirely, something improper for a widow in the first year of mourning.
Mr. Payn must have sensed her perusal, for he looked up and met her gaze. His smile widened, and she felt his kind regard all the way to her belly. Butterflies inhabited her chest, making her want to giggle. Her skin tingled and her nipples tightened, all from his smile. She was in great danger of losing all common sense.
She gave an answering smile and hoped he’d attribute her flushed cheeks to the excessive warmth of the day. Merely watching him walk toward her was arousing.
“I hope my girls haven’t been bothersome, Mr. Payn.”
“Not at all. Edwards had the brilliant idea to search out the nets. I’d not noticed the wide variety of butterflies in the garden, not until we tried to catch them.” He chuckled. “I’m afraid the insects have outwitted us.”
She laughed, gazing up into his gorgeous blue eyes, almost silver in the bright light. She breathed in his spicy scent, and every part of her came alive. She fought the urge to lean into him, wrap her arms around his slender waist, and bury her face in his chest.
Glancing away to gain time to recover from the onslaught of desire, she watched her nieces play. “They appear to be losing interest in a game they can’t win.”
Mr. Payn took her hand. She met his gaze, and his eyes darkened. “Some of us don’t give up after the first attempt or two.”
He was not speaking of catching butterflies. He was speaking of catching her. A tremor passed through her, ending at the juncture of her thighs. Wouldn’t it be fun to be caught?
“Come.” He tucked her hand in the crook of his arm. “It is time for our tea.” He lowered his voice and leaned closer, his warm breath tickling her ear. “Then perhaps we can convince the girls to visit the horses.” He winked and waggled his eyebrows. She couldn’t hold in her delighted laughter. He was a rogue who enjoyed life and was inviting her to join him in play.
If only she could add some frivolity to her life. She clasped his arm, feeling his muscles flex beneath her fingers. Though not overly large, he was powerful, no doubt from climbing masts, and whatever else one did aboard a ship.
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