Lover Be Mine: A Legendary Lovers Novel

“I cannot kiss you,” Sophie protested.

“You are not engaged to Dunmore yet, are you?”

“No.”

“Then what is the impediment?”

Her gaze dropped to his mouth, then lifted again, but she offered no reply.

“Think of it as an experiment,” Jack urged when she kept silent. “I simply want to
test my sister’s hypothesis.”

A true statement, he rationalized. If Sophie Fortin was easily frightened by kissing
him, then she couldn’t possibly be his ideal mate.

When she remained unmoving, he leaned forward until her lips were close enough to
capture. He breathed in her sweet, feminine scent, then let his mouth caress hers
with a featherlight pressure.

She gave a soft gasp at that mere contact, while he turned instantly hard at her delectable
taste.

Jack drew back sharply. He’d known very few females who could arouse him so quickly,
which in itself was an ominous sign. The stark attraction was there between them,
without question.

Sophie had felt the same intense spark, too, he could tell, for she raised her fingers
to her lips, eyeing him in wonder.

After a long moment of silence, she cleared her throat. “Did you learn what you wished
to know?”

“Not in the least,” Jack replied, cursing mentally. Kissing her had left him even
more conflicted. There might be something to Kate’s bloody theory after all.

Lover Be Mine
is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the products of
the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events,
locales, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

A Ballantine Books eBook Edition

Copyright © 2013 by Anne Bushyhead
Excerpt from
Secrets of Seduction
copyright © 2013 by Anne Bushyhead

All rights reserved.

Published in the United States by Ballantine Books, an imprint of The Random House
Publishing Group, a division of Random House, Inc., New York.

B
ALLANTINE
and colophon are registered trademarks of Random House, Inc.

This book contains an excerpt from the forthcoming novel
Secrets of Seduction
by Nicole Jordan. This excerpt has been set for this edition only and may not reflect
the final content of the forthcoming edition.

eISBN: 978-0-345-52530-7

www.ballantinebooks.com

Cover design: Lynn Andreozzi
Cover illustration: Alan Ayers

v3.1

Contents

London, June
1816

Her beauty held
an uncommon allure, much to his regret.

Swearing an amused oath at himself, Lord Jack Wilde surveyed his quarry from across
the dimly lit garden. Despite his better judgment and his instincts for self-preservation,
he’d walked headlong into the matchmaking trap laid by his female relatives. He’d
planned to inspect the young lady in question and then leave without a backward glance,
but Sophie Fortin had thoroughly captured his interest.

Jack let out a slow breath as he watched the captivating Miss Fortin execute the lively
movements of a contra dance. There was considerably more lurking under her surface
than mere beauty. She had an enchanting smile, an intensely feminine grace, and a
delectable body that set all his primal male urges on full alert.

He wanted her, without question. Even worse, he was seized by a need to know much
more about her.

Schooling his lustful thoughts, Jack pondered his options while recalling his cousin
Skye’s ardent prediction:

“Miss Fortin is not the grasping husband-hunter you seem to think her, Jack. And she
certainly is no spineless ninny either—which you will discover for yourself if you
ever deign to meet her. You will like her prodigiously, I swear it.”

He had yet to contrive an introduction to Sophie Fortin tonight, or even approach
her. Indeed, because of the long-standing feud between their families, he’d had to
employ subterfuge simply to attend the masquerade ball hosted by her great-aunt.

Sneaking behind enemy lines in disguise seemed a craven way of investigating a prospective
mate, Jack reflected with dark humor. Yet here he stood, garbed as a swashbuckling
pirate, contemplating a path that could seriously endanger his bachelorhood.

Clearly he’d been struck by a brain fever. Or bewitched by a spell.

The current setting argued for bewitchment. The gardens of her aunt’s London residence
had been converted to an open-air ballroom, faintly illuminated by colored lanterns.
Undeniably, Sophie Fortin stood out among the crowd of costumed dancers like a diamond
among lumps of coal.

Jack couldn’t keep his eyes off her, in no small part because she seemed a profusion
of contradictions.

For her costume, she wore a glittering tiara and the gossamer, flowing gown of a royal
princess, yet her grace and loveliness had little to do with her attire. Her hair
was an ordinary shade of dark brown, but the lustrous, curling tendrils piled high
on her head
had a life all their own. A demi-mask concealed her eyes but not the delicacy of her
face or the sensuality of her mouth.

Miss Fortin was just as comely as advertised, but with none of the cold remoteness
he’d expected. Instead, she had life, vitality, warmth.

That, and a generous, kind smile.

He hadn’t anticipated the vibrancy, much less the kindness or warmth. From what he
knew about her, he’d imagined either a submissive young miss or a calculating social
climber. Why else would she allow herself to be sold to a widower more than twice
her age for the price of a dukedom?

Observing her, Jack wondered how he had possibly overlooked her among this season’s
insipid crop of debutantes. And why the devil did she have such a powerful effect
on his senses? He’d known a number of striking beauties in his time, and bedded more
than a few of them. It was rare that a woman could attract him so strongly at first
glance, certainly not a green girl only a few years out of the schoolroom.

And he most definitely was not in the market for a wife of any age. But he’d agreed
under duress to arrange a meeting with Miss Fortin.

For that he could only blame the tenacity of his adopted sister, Katharine, and his
youngest cousin, Skye. Kate’s romantic schemes would put Napoleon Bonaparte to shame,
Jack suspected. Her campaign to marry him off had begun in earnest last week, the
morning after their brother Ashton’s wedding, which she had also plotted.

When Kate was younger, the family had generally indulged her idealistic machinations
with raillery
and good humor. But her latest flight of fancy was patently absurd. Kate theorized
that the five Wilde cousins—Ashton, Quinn, Jack, Skye, and Kate herself—could find
true love by emulating legendary lovers throughout history.

Beyond all expectations, Ash had recently succeeded in falling in love with his “Cinderella,”
Miss Maura Collyer of Suffolk. Jack’s supposed legend was not a fairy tale but one
of the Bard’s most famous tragedies,
Romeo and Juliet
—with him cast in the leading role of Romeo and Miss Fortin as his Juliet.

“Have your wits gone addled, Kate?” was his first reaction after a bark of laughter.
“You can’t honestly expect me to play the pathetic hero who dies.”

He put little credence in his sister’s unshaken belief in romantic destiny. And even
though he was usually ripe for a challenge, he had adamantly refused even to meet
Miss Fortin.

In response, Kate and Skye had endlessly sung her praises in an effort to rouse his
interest.

“Sophie Fortin has beauty in abundance,” Kate professed.

“She is clever and kind,” Skye added.

“It is not
her
fault that her parents are determined to land a high-ranking title for her,” his
sister repeated for the umpteenth time.

Jack’s scoffing amusement remained the same. The Fortin chit had to be a timid dormouse,
allowing herself to be married off to an older nobleman who had already buried one
wife.

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