It's all about the Story...

When the woman of his dreams holds Lord Castleton at arm's length, the dashing baron embarks on a subtle campaign to win her heart.
Love's at stake... Let the game begin.




Read an excerpt from A Game of Pleasure...

His blue eyes caught and held her own. The wood seemed suddenly airless. Portia struggled for breath, intensely aware of Castleton: his height, his figure, his perfect symmetry of features, the muscles of the arm beneath her hand, the way he altered his step to accommodate her stride.

Despite the diligent gardener beyond the trees and the knowledge Sarah and Vivian would return presently, they were alone. And though the height of foolishness, it felt iniquitous.

“If we strolled the lawn, Miss Christopher and Miss Barstow could see us from the top of the pagoda.”

“And we might entertain them by fainting from the heat. That sun is punishing. Aren’t you warm?”

Portia slid her hand off his arm and clutched at the buttons of her pelisse. “I’m fine,” she said, though she was suddenly so very warm she thought she might swoon.

“Where is the carriage? By the sheds? We can walk back to it and stow your wrap away.”

“That isn’t necessary.” Portia took two steps away from him, the need to put distance between them so strong she could not convince herself to do otherwise.

Castleton latched her arm. “What’s wrong?”

“We should be where the young ladies can see us.”

“I assure you, the young ladies are giving us no thought at all. They’ll take all of twenty minutes to complete their task. I would rather spend that time in the shade, wouldn’t you?”

“We should not be alone here,” Portia blurted.

“Ah. I see.” His eyes sparkled with amusement and something more unsettling. “You think I have designs on your honor.”

“No, of course not! It’s just...”

“Yes?”

“Yesterday I required a chaperon. This feels... improper.”

“I suppose it would look so to anyone who happened upon us,” Castleton mused. “Or would it? Consider, ma’am. Two people of middling years strolling a garden path. Would you really spare them a censorious thought?”

“No,” Portia replied, breathing a little easier.

“It’s positively lowering,” he said in theatrical tones. “The average passerby would likely mistake us for some old married couple on holiday. I’ll wager we could even do something dreadfully shocking and no one would remark on it.”

“Shocking?”

An unholy grin lit his face. He knocked the parasol from Portia’s hand, and startled her further when his arm circled her waist. The arm tightened, drawing her body into contact with his.

Portia’s head snapped up and her lips parted in shock. The reaction placed her in perfect alignment for his unexpected kiss.

*****

Her curves fit Castleton better than any coat Weston ever fashioned for him. Her figure was riper than he’d imagined. While the hip he splayed his hand upon was generous, it curved up and inwards. Allowing for the bulk of her clothing, her waist must be incredibly small. And yet the fullness of the bosom pressing his rib cage was evident through his shirt, his waistcoat, his coat, her coat and whatever else she wore beneath it. Glorious.

Her sweet breath escaped in ticklish puffs from their joined lips, inciting Castleton to a more passionate embrace than he’d first intended. He tightened his grip, his mouth moving over Portia’s to explore its silken contour.

For one heady instant she responded to him. Her lips pressed back at his and parted further.

Castleton leaned into the pressure, his tongue stealing forward to lightly caress the curve of her lower lip.

Portia wedged her hand between their joined breasts and pushed away. One look told Castleton he’d made a capital error. Her eyes were bright with fury, not with a lover’s passion.

She stormed down the garden path. Castleton paused long enough to recover her parasol and pursued. By the time he drew along side and pulled her to a halt, his leg throbbed.

“I think I strained it,” he murmured through gritted teeth. He dropped the parasol to rub his calf. He dare not loosen his hold on her.

“It serves you right,” Portia seethed.

“Come now, Miss Kirby. Didn’t you say a solitary kiss was of no moment?”

Her flushed and angry countenance remained unconvinced.

“Pretend I am a mongrel.”

“An apt comparison.” Reluctant laughter escaped her lips, but the bruised look in her eyes said he was not forgiven. “If you meant it as a jest, I don’t think it was funny.”

“But you laughed.”

“Only at your relationship to dogs.” Tears shimmered on the surface of her eyes. “I don’t appreciate being made sport of...”

“I wasn’t making sport of you,” Castleton asserted.

“Then why did you...? Why did you?”

A hundred answers sprang to mind—including the truth—but instinct warned him any suit offered now would be rejected.

“I was... curious.”

“Curious? Curious!?” Portia shook her arm but he held firm.

“Yes, curious. I am a man, you are a woman, we deal well together. You were worried about your reputation. I wondered if anyone had ever stolen a kiss from you. Then I wondered what you would do if I did. Unfortunately, now I know.”

“It was very bad of you,” At least now her tone was only troubled. “Not to mention dangerous. What if someone saw us?”

“I suppose they would expect me to offer for you. But you wouldn’t marry me for such a paltry reason. What do you suppose that would do to your reputation, Miss Kirby?”

Portia thought about it a moment.

“Actually,” she said, “It would raise my consequence considerably. I’d progress from unknown to notorious in one rash act.”

“Then perhaps I should kiss you again, more publicly.”

Her cheeks pinked to a very becoming shade. “What you say may mean nothing to you, but it smacks of ridicule to me.”

“My dear...” He tried to take her hand, but Portia pulled away. Castleton sighed. This would not do at all. “I truly meant no harm,” he said. “I beg you to accept my apology.”

Portia searched his face and he mustered every ounce of remorse in his being to show in his expression. She nodded, but only placed fingertips on his arm when he offered it again. She withdrew from conversation, answering his innocuous remarks about the weather, the landscape, and what ever neutral topic popped into his head with polite monosyllables. After a while, Castleton gave up and they walked together in silence.

And if a casual passerby saw them now, they would appear two strangers forced into each other’s company by some grudging sense of politeness. He had lost a lot of ground in this engagement, and he did not know how to gain it back.

Copyright 2006, Barbara Satow