Adam Ferrour is angry. Being forced by his wealthy but decidedly common social climbing father to marry the daughter of a disgraced, gambling-mad Earl or lose any hope of his inheritance, he journeys to the crumbling castle of the Earl of Radston only to be held up by a highwayman just before reaching his destination. Later at the castle - which is just as bad as he had feared - he dutifully proposes to the pallid and boring Lady Amelia, but then is shocked to find the highwayman in the Radston stable, apparently quite at home.
He is even more shocked to find the highwayman is really a young, vibrant, beautiful woman who blatantly gives him a kiss, then has him knocked out and carried back to his room.
Suddenly and overwhelmingly in love, Adam must somehow break his engagement to the colorless Lady Amelia without causing a scandal, decide how to deal with his overbearing father, keep the card-mad Earl from disgracing the family even further, and put in his place a coarse and vulgar neighbor who is determined to own both Lady Amelia and the Radston lands. Most importantly, he must convince the beautiful highwaywoman to give up her profession and marry him. His service during the Peninsular War was nothing compared to this!
The highwaywoman’s hair floated about her shoulders like a silken cloud and glowed white in the moonlight, but Adam would have wagered that in the light of day it would be a pale gold. He wondered how it would feel to have that fair torrent spill flow over his hands, what it would look like splayed over a pillow…
He gave himself a mental shake and brought his mind back to the present. The woman before him had a pistol and probably knew how to use it quite well. He was also very painfully aware that he wore only a nightshirt, dressing gown and soft leather slippers.
“You are related to the Earl?” he asked in a conversational tone.
“And does that concern you?” she replied, a smile teasing at her softly luscious mouth.
“I am merely curious. As I am to marry Lady Amelia, I am wondering if I should be calling you cousin.”
She laughed softly, a sound that somehow reminded him of music. “That poor drab specimen of humanity?” she asked. “What makes you think of her?”
“You do resemble her… slightly.”
“My ill fortune. And you… A man of your wealth and standing could wed almost any woman in the country. What made you pick on a sad creature like Amelia?”
Adam shrugged. “My father. He has long been wanting to be allied with a noble family.”
“And so you bow to his will?”
That barb hurt, but Adam didn’t show it. He had thought the same thing many times. “I like being a rich man’s son, and such things are expected of us just as much as from the aristocracy. Besides, if I were cut off I’d have to earn my way, and I’m no good at that.”
“You think I was born a highwaywoman?”
“You, my dear rapscallion, are a remarkable woman no matter what your profession. I am a poor thing far from remarkable.”
“Yet you came out to the stables on a strange estate wearing nothing more than your nightrail. What if there had been a band of criminals in here?”
Adam could tell she was teasing him. Even in the poor light he could see her eyes sparkling with amusement, and he would have wagered that they were blue.
“Why, I would have milled them all down, of course,” he replied with a smile. “Just like a hero in an opera.”
“And singing all the while?”
“No… unfortunately, there is a limit to my talents. If they had to listen to my singing they would have run away without my having to mill them down.”
“Then I will make sure never to ask you to sing,” she said in a voice that sounded almost like a purr. With the sure, slow step of a cat on the stalk she moved forward until not even a shaft of moonlight could have come between them, and placed her hands on either side of his head.
Then she kissed him, her lips claiming his with a sure possessiveness such as Adam had never known. He had always regarded himself as something of a ladies’ man with a knowledge of the ways of the world, but this soul-searing kiss from a female highwayman – highwaywoman – was like nothing he had ever experienced. Her lips were soft but demanding, exploring the contours of his mouth. Her tongue followed, limning his lips with a teasing gentleness even as her mouth pressed more demandingly against his.
Adam felt a surge of feeling go through his body the like of which he had never before known. Of their own volition his arms went around her, a loving cage that he never wanted to release…
Then with a sharp burst of pain blackness descended and he knew nothing.