After four unsuccessful London seasons, Lady Julia Tenwick despairs of ever making a love match. With spinsterhood looming on the horizon, she and a friend set sail for America on one last adventure. When her travels take her to northern Maine, Julia meets a reclusive but handsome artist, whose rudeness masks a broken heart Julia feels compelled to mend.
Still haunted by the betrayal and death of his pregnant wife two years before, Geoffrey Jordan is determined never to risk his heart again. Certainly not with the gorgeous and impetuous aristocrat who intrudes upon his small-town solitude, and is far too similar to his late wife to tempt him to take another chance on love.
But when Julia and Geoffrey find themselves united in a reckless plan to save Julia’s friend from ruin, they discover that temptation is impossible to resist.
The snow began to fall faster, swirling around as she clambered over the large rocks at the water’s edge. The sky was streaked with red, orange, blue, and gray, and she stopped, perched, just to watch.
“Get out of the way!”
She jumped at the strident tone, nearly toppling into the water. Regaining her balance, she turned carefully, and sighed.
Geoffrey Jordan sat on a neighboring rock behind her, sketchbook in hand. His expression was darker than the sky had been when she started on this walk. Julia was unable to stop herself from stepping back in surprise. Apparently there were bears near the shore as well.
“You’re blocking my view.” The muscles of the man’s face settled into a grimace which Julia found only marginally less frightening than his scowl.
“All right, I’m sorry! I didn’t see you there.” Julia took another step back and cried out in pain as her foot slipped into a crevice between the rocks.
Geoffrey swore and tossed his sketchbook to the side. He strode over to her and held out a hand.
Given his expression, Julia considered whether it might be safer to remain where she was. Geoffrey stuck his hand out again, waving it impatiently.
Julia finally realized she was more annoyed than afraid. “How am I supposed to grab your hand when you wave it about like that?”
“Oh, for God’s sake!” He reached down with both hands and grabbed her waist, pulling her to her feet. She ignored the tingling of her skin where he touched her and focused on her anger instead.
“I don’t know why you’re so angry at me. It’s not my fault I fell. You startled me.”
“You stepped into my line of sight. And now the sunrise is nearly gone, I’ve missed it, and it’s entirely your fault.”
Julia realized his hands still rested on her hips, and she pushed them away. “You sound like a petulant child.”
He returned to his sketchbook and sat down again. He started scribbling, ignoring her. She ignored him as well and gingerly ran a hand over her throbbing ankle. Her stocking was torn, and a shallow cut showed through it. Deciding she should return home to clean the wound, thanks to this odious man, she slowly made her way across the rocks past him. She caught a glimpse of his sketch as she passed. Intrigued, she stopped and bent at the waist, looked over his shoulder.
“You’re barely drawing anything at all. What does that say?”
He scowled again, but he answered, “Scarlet.”
She pointed at the corner of the drawing. “And that?”
“Azure. I thought all proper English ladies could read.”
“Your handwriting is terrible. What does that say?” She pointed again.
She peered closer. “It does not. It looks like ‘crindle.’”
He laughed, and she turned her head to look at him. He was much less frightening when he laughed. Handsome. She blinked and unbent.
“‘Crindle’? What on earth does that mean?”
Her cheeks warmed. “Well, I don’t know, do I? It’s your drawing.”
“And it says ‘orange.’ What are you doing out here anyway?”
“I wanted to go for a walk.”
“At the crack of dawn?”
“I didn’t think I would see anyone.”
“Why didn’t you want to see anyone?”
She sighed. “Because conversation tires me, sometimes. This one in particular.”
“I don’t disagree.” He stroked his pencil across the paper a few more times, and she craned her neck to look.
“Why didn’t you just paint the sunrise? Why describe it?”
“Because the sunrise is a fleeting thing. It never lasts long enough for me to paint it, so I sketch the scene and write the names of the colors, to jog my memory when I am in my studio.”
Julia turned to look at the sky. It was gray now, with little wisps of blue and white streaked across it. All of the stunning red and orange hues were gone. She suddenly felt terrible for ruining his view.
“I am sorry I got in your way. I don’t suppose you could try again tomorrow?”
He shrugged. “A sunrise like that one is rare.”
Now she felt even worse. “Well, I am sorry.”
“Where did you think you were going? The rocks lead out into the water, and the tide will be in soon. What if you’d fallen when I wasn’t here to help? You’d have drowned.”
Shame was quickly replaced by annoyance. “I wouldn’t have fallen if you hadn’t startled me!”
“Well, it was careless.”
Julia placed both hands on her hips and stared at the insufferable man. “You haven’t a very high opinion of my intelligence, have you?”
“I have no opinion of your intelligence at all. I think you take risks that a lady shouldn’t take.”
“I was hardly doing pirouettes out here! I would have been fine if you hadn’t yelled at me.”
“I didn’t yell at you.”
“Yes, you did!”
“Fine! I’m sorry I yelled at you. Now go home, before you truly hurt yourself.” Before she could reply, he tucked his sketchbook under his arm, stood, and scrambled away across the rocks like a crab.
She watching him go, annoyed with him and herself in equal measure. Well, mostly with him. Insufferable man. She gingerly followed, lifting her skirts higher to avoid the rising water. The tide was indeed coming in.
She hated that he was right.
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A northeast Ohio native, Marin McGinnis has been a voracious reader ever since she could make sense of words on the page. She’s dabbled with writing for a long time, but didn’t start writing in earnest until she discovered historical romance about a decade ago. Marin has three historical romance titles published with The Wild Rose Press, and is a member of RWA and its Northeast Ohio, Hearts Through History, and Kiss of Death chapters. She will serve as President of the Northeast Ohio RWA chapter in 2017. Marin lives in Cleveland Heights, Ohio, in a drafty 100 year old house with her husband, son, and two standard poodles named Larry and Sneaky Pete.