Excerpt from Fortune’s Pride

EXCERPT From Fortune’s Pride
Irish woke up when she felt the sheet lift and the bed dip.

“Paddy?” she murmured and reached to pat the dog.

But it was not Paddy’s soft, floppy ears or wet tongue her hand encountered. It was firm, warm flesh. Puzzled, she splayed her hand over that flesh. The skin was smooth, the muscles hard and the body leapt off the bed.

“What the hell?” a deep masculine voice yelped.

She sat up, pushing hair out of her face. Her eyes widened as she recognized her intruder. “Tyrus Fortune! What are you doing here?” she demanded.

“What am…?” He seemed genuinely confused, but that changed quickly to belligerence. “What are you doing here?”

“Sleeping.”

She was wide awake now and could see him dimly against the window. He was certainly one fine figure of a man, with or without clothes. She saw him plant angry fists on his hips and lean forward.

“Did my brothers put you up to this?” He threw up his hands. “I thought they had grown up a little. I’m going to have their hides for this.”

“What are you talking about?” she asked.

“You—being here.”

“Why should your brothers have anything to do with it?”

His fists went back to his hips and he stalked closer to the bed, blocking out what little light there was with his broad shoulders. “So this is all your idea?”

She rubbed her eyes. Maybe she wasn’t quite awake. But this was too bizarre even for a dream. Of course it was her own idea to be asleep in bed in the middle of the night. “Yes,” she said.

He reached over and jerked the sheet away, uncovering her, then, taking her by the arm he began pulling her from the bed.

“What are you doing? Let go of me!” She struggled, but her strength was no match for his. Panic began welling inside her. This couldn’t happen again. She wouldn’t allow it! This wasn’t St. Augustine and this family was good and upright. But maybe one of them had learned a few things while he was in London.

By this time she was on her feet beside him. She opened her mouth and began to scream. He stopped her with a hand clamped over her mouth.

“Do you want to wake the whole house, you little tart?” he snarled.

Yes, that’s exactly what she wanted to do. They would believe her. They had to. She had been safe here for two years. She tried to free herself but he held her tighter.

“Be still,” he commanded. “I’m trying not to hurt you, but if you keep this up you’ll only hurt yourself.”

Oh, no, he wasn’t going to hurt her. A man never seemed to think that a little unwanted ‘poking’ hurt a woman. It was what they were made for, wasn’t it? She struggled harder. She was not about to be used by any man, ever again. Suddenly she was swept off her feet and tossed onto the bed, the full weight of Tyrus Fortune on top of her, pinning her down, his hand still clamped over her mouth.

She could feel his hard length, but his elbows were propped on the bed on each side of her, keeping most of his weight from crushing her. She went limp. Maybe if he thought she had given up he would let down his guard and she could escape.

“I’m going to take my hand off your mouth,” he said. “Just keep quiet.”

Like hell, she thought. As soon as his fingers moved away she took a deep breath, but before she could scream he clamped his hand back across her mouth.

“So that’s your game, is it? It won’t work, you know. No one is going to force me to marry you just because they find us in bed together. Especially since you obviously came to my bed. I certainly didn’t force my attentions on you in yours.”

Her eyes widened. Was he insane? Then her brain began to work and she realized what was happening. She could smell the wine on his breath. He had mistakenly come to the wrong room, and the wrong conclusion.

She struggled to free herself but he held her closer. Too close.

“Will you stop struggling!” It was a command, not a question.

Feeling him rise hard and long between her legs, she stilled instantly. He took several deep breaths. “Now will you keep quiet if I let you go?”

She managed to nod and he slowly took his hand away. When she didn’t scream, he rolled off of her to lie face up beside her, taking slow, deep breaths and scrubbing his hand over his face.

“All right, now get out,” he said, “and we’ll pretend this never happened.”

“You insufferable cad!” She kicked him in the side and began pushing him toward the edge of the bed with her feet. He was so surprised by her attack that he toppled over the edge and landed on the floor in an undignified heap.

He sat up, rubbing one shoulder. “You’re insane!”

“You’re the one in the wrong room,” she countered.

He looked around. “It might be dark in here but I think I can recognize the room that–except for the last two years–I’ve slept in my whole life.”

Now she understood what had happened! She started to laugh. She drew up her knees and hugged them, laughing harder.

“You really are insane,” he grumbled, getting to his feet.

“Your room is next to this one,” she explained.

Those fists were back on his hips. “I told you, this is my room. I’ll thank you to get out of it.”

“Out of your room, out of your house, and out of your life. That’s what you’d like, isn’t it, Mr. Tyrus Fortune?” She lifted her chin. “But I’ll do none of them. Your mother gave me this room when I first came here. ‘Tis mine now and I’ll be keeping it, thank you. You’ll find your things in the guest room next to this one. I prepared it for you myself. Now, if you don’t mind, I’d like to get a wink or two before the sun comes up. I’ve a fine lot of work to be doing in the morning.” With that she plopped back onto the pillows, pulled the sheet up and turned her back to him.

“Get back to sleep? I got the impression you were expecting someone, Miss Irish,” he snarled at her.

She turned back toward him. “No, Mr. Fortune, I was not expecting anyone. What gave you the idea that I would welcome any man to my bed, seeing as how I’m not married?”

“Then who is this Paddy you were reaching for so eagerly?” he asked triumphantly.

The click of dog nails interrupted, they both looked down and saw Paddy outlined beside him wagging his tail.

“Oh,” he said. “Oh, the dog.”

She could imagine his face turning a bright red. It was surprising that it didn’t light up the room. At least she had the good sense not to laugh out loud as she heard him stomp across the room, grab his clothes and leave.

 

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