Book Series: anthology

Four Dukes and a Devil

Fall in love with the unpredictable and irresistible dukes (and one dog named Duke) in this collection of stories by bestselling authors Cathy Maxwell, Elaine Fox, Jeaniene Frost, Sophia Nash, and Tracy Anne Warren, for tales of noble danger and devilish desire. Delicate young ladies must be protected from him. First he steals her clothes, then he steals her heart. Most would be terrified of this powerful vampire—but not him. He’s “the catch of the century” . . . but she’s the one he can’t have.

A young miss demands a kiss. But he won’t rest once she’s touched her lips to his. With four dukes and one devil, there’s no limit to love.

Publisher: Avon
July 2009 | Anthology
ISBN-10: 0-06-178736-1
ISBN-13: 978-0-06-178736-2

The One That Got Away

He was the first…he was the best..he was the one that got away!
Now he’s back…but do you still want him?

Four all-new, irresistibly romantic tales of
second chances from bestselling authors.

NIGHTINGALE by Cathy Maxwell

Every woman remembers that one special man who slipped through her fingers, leaving her not only asking the question “What happened?” but also wondering about what could have been if she hadn’t let him go.

Now four of today’s bestselling historical romance writers—Victoria Alexander, Liz Carlyle, Eloisa James and Cathy Maxwell—show us what can happen when the man you thought was out of your life forever returns.

In this stirring quarter of original novellas, four sets of star-crossed lovers are given the golden opportunity to relive the passion . . . and set the past right. Fate has brought these couples back together, but only love can determine if each is just momentary madness or a reunion that will last for all time.

Publisher: Avon
November 2004 | Anthology
ISBN-10: 0-06-054026-5
ISBN-13: 978-0-06-054026-5

Wild West Brides

National Bestselling authors Cathy Maxwell, Ruth Langan, and Carolyn Davidson team up to bring you Wild West Brides, a collection of three brand-new stories about women who conquered the West and found their soul mates . . .

Flanna and the Lawman by Cathy Maxwell

Desperate for someone to help her protect her land, a female con artist saves an ex-lawman from the hangman’s noose by claiming him as her no-good husband, and finds herself wanting to turn their charade into a real marriage.

Publisher: Harlequin
May 2002 | Anthology
ISBN-10: 0-373-83508-6
ISBN-13: 978-0-373-83508-9

Chapter One


Trace Cordell stared ahead stoically, determined to die better than he’d lived.

The ruddy-faced deputy serving as hangman set the noose around his neck. Trace wove to keep his balance, his hands tied tightly behind his back. His vision blurred as he looked out at the crowd of cattlemen, hired hands, and local citizens gathered around the gallows built special in the middle of the street for his hanging. The prickly hemp of the new rope burned his skin and he could smell his own fear.

“Ex-Sheriff Cordell, do you have any last words you’d like to say,” Judge Rigby drawled from his front row seat at the base of the gallows. The boys had brought out a table and chair from the saloon for the monkey-faced jurist to sit in comfort while he witnessed the hanging, a whiskey bottle in his right hand, a fat, half-smoked cigar in his left.

Trace shook his head. He couldn’t answer. His throat was dry and there was a buzzing in his head right behind his eyes from a night of hard drinking.

Besides, what could he say he hadn’t already in the kangaroo court they’d held minutes ago? He’d told the truth. He’d not remembered killing the man. That sometimes, lately, drink made him forget and lose time? Half the men in the crowd had the same problem, including the judge. The last thing Trace had remembered from the night before was the joy of being dealt a winning poker hand.

He woke to his own trial for murder.

“You’ve got nothing to say for your last words?” Rigby repeated as if he couldn’t fathom such a thing. He pushed his bowler hat back from his forehead and looked over his shoulder at the crowd. “Doesn’t seem right a man should pass from this life to the next without last words.”

“How ’bout good-bye?” a cowpoke shouted.

“And good riddance?” another chimed in. The others laughed.
Rigby banged his bottle on the table for order. “We’ll have some respect here. A man is about to die. And if he don’t have anything to say, then as a fellow lawman, I think I will speak for him.”

His audience groaned. Judge Rigby was a man who liked to hear himself talk. Well, he could talk to Doomsday as far as Trace was concerned, anything to put off the inevitable.
Carefully, the stubby judge placed the butt end of his cigar on the edge of the table and stepped up on the chair so he could best address the crowd. More than a bit tipsy himself, he had to hold the bottle out for balance. He removed his hat. The few strands of reddish hair on his bald pate stood straight up in the air like tiny flagpoles.

“Trace Cordell was at one time a good lawman. One of the best. Fierce and proud. We’ve all heard tales of him. But those who live by the sword will die by it and you other fellows out there better look at this man and heed the warning in your own lives.” He nodded toward the broken door and glass windows of Birdie’s Emporium, a saloon for the hard-bitten. “Justice is the rule of law, even for ex-lawmen and we don’t ignore killing . . .” He then went off into a lecture about what makes a man a man in the West.

Trace stopped listening. Instead, he shifted his focus to the blueness of the sky that seemed to stretch out forever. The dry, ever present Kansas wind swirled around him, carrying with it pieces of dust and grit and the hint of summer heat.
He didn’t want to die like this with his feet dancing on air and everyone watching. He’d seen too many men hanged not to know the indignities of this death.

And yet, he’d killed a man.

It wasn’t as if he’d not killed before. As sheriff back in Loveless, he’d sent more than a dozen men to meet their Maker. But he could remember the look in their eyes, the determination in their faces. However, this man–? No face formed in Trace’s mind. His head throbbed harder the more he tried to remember. Whatever had happened was lost to him.

He wasn’t a praying man, but a prayer formed in his mind, Dear God, please, not like this.

There was no answer. No clap of thunder. No giant hand coming down from the sky to save his unworthy soul.

He was going to hang.

Rigby wound up his eulogy/lecture by placing his hat on his head with a flourish and jumping down from the chair. He picked up his cigar butt, clamped it between his teeth and said, “Let’s get on with it.”

The crowd cheered.

Rigby’s henchman tightened the noose around Trace’s neck.

“Won’t be long now, Cordell.” He gave Trace a friendly pat on the back and went down the steps to yank down the trap door beneath Trace’s feet on command. Two other fellows stood ready and armed with shotguns in case Trace attempted to escape.

A preacher man stepped forward, opened his Bible, and began to recite some last words.

Trace saw some men remove their hats out of respect for the Good Book while others stepped forward for a better view of his death. He deliberately kept his mind blank. The pounding in his head increased.

Then, from the far corner of the crowd, he noticed movement. A woman in straw bonnet worked her way forward, elbowing this man and that out of her way. She appeared anxious to get to the front row for his hanging.

The preacher finished. Rigby stood, his expression solemn. He raised his hand. “Now, with the power inves-

The bonneted woman shouted, “Wait! Don’t hang him! I saw what happened. Trace Cordell is innocent. He didn’t shoot anyone.” There was a hint of Irish in her voice, a voice Trace instantly recognized and he groaned aloud.

Flanna Kennedy.

If his life was in her hands, he might as well step off the platform and hang himself.

She and her father had traveled Texas peddling rotgut in medicine bottles with enough charm and false promises to sweet talk a month’s wages out of a saint. Trace had had to personally escort them out of Loveless. Unfortunately, he hadn’t stopped them before they’d bled everyone dry and the reason for his carelessness was he’d fallen in love with her. Head over heels. His meeting her was the beginning of the end of his career as sheriff of Loveless.

Stood to reason he’d see her again with a noose around his neck.

Not that she didn’t make a credible impression on his behalf. She was dressed for church, her straw bonnet trimmed in yellow ribbons and the blue of her sprigged calico dress the perfect match for her catlike eyes. Her hair was the vibrant strawberry blonde of the Irish and the few artful curls around her face caught and held the sunlight.

She even wore gloves. White leather ones. Obviously the year and a half since Trace had last seen her had been prosperous ones for Flanna.

He scanned the crowd searching for her rogue of a father. The over protective Rory Kennedy was never far from his daughter. He wondered what game the old scoundrel was playing now?

Like so many others before him, Rigby fawned over Flanna’s beauty. He pulled his hat off his head and slicked by his few hairs. A half dozen love-struck cowpokes did the same. “Miss Kennedy, we didn’t know you were in town for the day.”

Trace almost barked out in surprised laughter at the respect in the judge’s voice. Obviously he didn’t know Flanna well.

“I know who shot that man and it wasn’t Sheriff Cordell,” she said to Rigby in a breathless voice.

“Ex-sheriff,” Rigby corrected with mild distraction, then said, “We’ve already had the trial.”

“But you’ve had no justice.”

The judge frowned. The crowd inched closer to hear better. Trace was listening especially closely, stunned by the revelation that he may not have committed the murder.

“How do you know who shot William Bates?” Rigby asked suspiciously.

“I was there at Birdies,” she confessed.

Now the idea of Flanna Kennedy patronizing a saloon did not surprise Trace at all . . . but apparently it did the good folks of Harwood. They acted like she was all milk and honey and not the stone-cold thief he knew.

A cowboy named Curly who had testified to the shooting murmured to his companions, “I would ‘ave noticed her if she’d been here. Wouldn’t ‘ave been able to take my eyes off her.” The others agreed.

“What were you doing there?” Rigby asked Flanna with interest. He dropped his cigar butt to the ground and pulled a fresh one from his suit coat. “Birdie’s isn’t the sort of place for a fine young woman like yourself.”

Trace almost choked. Rigby didn’t know Flanna at all.

“I came looking for Sheriff Cordell,” she said “I’d heard he was in town and we had some, um, business to attend between us. I saw everything that happened. I was standing in the backroom trying to manage a way of catching Mr. Cordell’s attention without drawing notice to myself when the fight over a hand of cards broke out.”

Rigby clamped the unlit cigar in his mouth, interested. “Go on.”

Miss Kennedy continued, “The gentlemen who was killed–”

“Bates,” the judge supplied.

“Yes, Mr. Bates. He pushed over the card table and accused Mr. Cordell of cheating, but before Mr. Cordell could speak, that gentleman with curly hair–”

“Curly?” Rigby asked. The cowhand of the same name stood close to the judge’s elbow, a scowl on his face.

Flanna nodded. “Curly broke a chair over Mr. Cordell’s head and knocked him out cold.”

“Me?” Curly protested.

No wonder Trace’s head hurt so bad.

“So if Cordell didn’t shoot him, who did?” Rigby asked.

“Curly.” She pointed a gloved finger right at him. “When Mr. Cordell went down, everyone started fighting save for Bates and Curly. Bates hurriedly grabbed up the money off the floor while Curly picked up Mr. Cordell’s famous pearl handled colts. I thought it best to hide. No sense advertising my presence what with a group of wild men going at it. They were all acting like barbarians.”

Several people nodded agreement.

“Curly and Bates ran for the back door where I was hiding,” Flanna continued. “There they stopped and Curly demanded the money. Bates refused. They had angry words and Curly shot him. Bang! Just like that.”

The accused cowhand doubled his fist. “I never did no such thing. Bill and I rode the trail together.”

“But you never liked each other,” a grizzled cowpoke pointed out.

“Yup, there was bad blood between them,” said another.

“I liked him well enough,” Curly shot back.

“Oh, yes,” Flanna agreed. “You liked him to take the money. Then you went back into the saloon, and put the gun close to Mr. Cordell to make it look like his doing. I saw it all, you shot poor Mr. Bates right in the back.”

During Trace’s trial it was the shot in the back that had so many folks riled up. Flanna’s comment spurred their sense of injustice.

For a moment, Curly appeared ready to argue-and then, he bolted for freedom, an action more telling than any admission of guilt. He was stopped by his compatriots before he’d taken three steps.

Rigby shouted for order. Curly shoved his way to toward the judge. “I had to shoot him,” he told everyone. “He was stealing our money. Just like she said.”

“And what were you doing?” someone challenged.

“I bet the money is in his saddlebag,” another answered. “He told me he was leaving town after he saw Cordell hang.”

“Yeah, with our money!”

The call went out for someone to check Curly’s horse and a party of men charged off to do exactly that.

Curly fell to his knees, shaking. He turned to the judge. “I didn’t mean to shoot him. Just made me so mad he’d start a fight and then would try and steal it all. He was selfish that way.”

Rigby answered by biting off the tip of the cigar and spitting it down at Curly. “You can tell me all about it later when I re-convene my court. Keep an eye on him, boys. I’ll deal with him in a moment.” He looked up at Trace. “Looks like what they say about you having nine lives is true, Cordell. Thanks to Miss Kennedy, you are going to walk. It’s too bad. I was looking forward to hanging you.”

“Maybe some other day,” Trace said. And if he had his way, never. He couldn’t wait to kick the dust of Harwood from his heels-especially now he knew Flanna was here. She may have saved his life, but he knew her too well. He wanted no part of Rory’s schemes. The cost of the last one had been too high. “Someone get up here and cut my hands loose.”

Rigby signaled his deputy to take care of the matter. The portly man climbed the stairs with obvious disappointment but did what he was told, slicing the ropes with a knife.

Meanwhile Rigby turned his full flirtatious attention on Flanna. “So, tell me, Miss Kennedy, why were you searching for Cordell last night?”

Yes, why was she? Trace wanted to pretend he wasn’t interested in the answer, but he was. He rubbed numb wrists, the pain of what felt like a thousand needles shot through them as his blood started circulating again. He couldn’t even lift the noose from his neck.

She hedged, apparently at a loss for words. “Why I was looking for him?” she repeated. Trace could see the wheels in her wily brain churning, and knew whatever she was about to say would be a lie. She’d never learn. She and her father were the devil’s own playmates.

But even he, who knew her so well, was unprepared for what popped from her mouth.

“Oh, I was looking for him . . . because, he’s, um, he’s me husband. Yes. He ran out on me almost two years ago and I’ve come to fetch him back.”

Trace surged forward. “What a load of bull–!” His words were cut off as the noose still around his neck pressed his windpipe.


Tea For Two

In a Moonlit Garden by Cathy Maxwell

Posing as a tea merchant, Colonel Michael Sanson infiltrates an eccentric chemist’s household in search of a stolen formula. But as soon as he lays eyes on the thief’s niece, Lady Jocelyn, he is sidetracked into doing the fair lady’s bidding. Little does Michael know that assisting in Jocelyn’s scheme to make her former suitor jealous will send him into a tailspin of love and white-hot passion.

Publisher: Pocket
May 2002 | Anthology
ISBN-10: 0-743-44581-3
ISBN-13: 978-0-743-44581-8

Jocelyn Kenyon thought she knew what she wanted out of life–until a dark stranger came to town and turned her world upside down . . .


Moonlit Encounter

Michael had a problem-he still loved Ivy or so he reminded himself . . . but he couldn’t stop thinking about Jocelyn.

Again, tonight, he’d spent time around a table and was reminded of being with his family. What he had tossed aside so callously years ago, now meant something to him. And his parents, his brothers and sisters would all adore Jocelyn if they were ever to meet her.

Nor did Kenyon strike Michael as a thief. The man was very forthcoming about his experiments-even his work with rubber, leaving William’s motives suspect.

Michael had always prided himself on his sense of honor. For Ivy’s hand, he’d undertaken the most havey-cavey of escapades and he felt he’d compromised not only his reputation but perhaps his heart as well.

There was only one way to discover the truth to this situation and that was to take a look at the formula for himself. If it was Sir William’s, it would be in his flowing script.

Michael decided to break into Kenyon’s laboratory.

He wasn’t going to make the same mistake he had the night before. This time, he hid in the line of woods bordering the property until he saw all the lights go out in Kenyon’s house and he knew they were asleep.

Carefully, he moved through the shadows to the laboratory windows. To his good fortune, he found one that was open a crack. Straining his eyes, he peered into all the corners to make sure Kenyon wasn’t asleep in a chair like he’d been the night before. The good-sized red leather chair in a corner was empty and there were no bear-like snores to disturb the night.

Michael eased the window up, lifted himself onto the sill, and climbed inside. He started combing through the papers on the desk. He soon began to recognize Kenyon’s squiggly writing but the formula could be anywhere. Kenyon was an eccentric thinker and had a habit of sticking notes and papers between the pages of books he had stacked all over his laboratory.

Perhaps the formula was over on the table Kenyon used for work? Michael started leafing through the papers there and was so busy, he didn’t hear a footfall until it was too late.

He looked up, suddenly aware he wasn’t alone.

Jocelyn stood inside the doorway. Her glorious curls were down around her shoulders and she wore nothing save for a thin cotton night gown with a shawl thrown over her shoulders. Her feet were bare.

She didn’t appeared surprised to see him. “This is the second time, I’ve caught you snooping, Michael. What is it you want?”

He cleared his throat. “This isn’t what it seems.”

Her shrewd glance took in the open window. “You didn’t come in through the door.”

“I didn’t want to wake you.”

“How polite,” she returned coldly. “Why are you searching my uncle’s laboratory?”

There it was, the dreaded question. A thousand lies leapt his lips . . . he chose the truth. “I was searching for the formula to adhere rubber to cloth.”

She obviously hadn’t been expecting that answer. “Why?”

“Jocelyn, please hear me out and I’ll tell you everything.”

“You’re not a tea merchant.”

“God no. I’m a military officer.” It felt good to say those words, to be who he was.

She pulled the shawl tighter around her. “And your name is not Donaldson, is it?”

“No.” She’d suspected. Her intelligence was keener than he had imagined. “It’s Sanson. Michael Sanson.” And then, because he wanted her to know, he added, “Colonel Michael Sanson.”

“Ah,” she cooed before adding softly, “And the army sent you here because they are afraid Napoleon had escaped again and could be found in my uncle’s laboratory?”

He deserved her sarcasm. “I’ve reason to believe your uncle stole a formula from another scientist.”

Her reaction was immediate. She walked right up to him. “He’d never do such a thing! Who made such a vile accusation?”

“Sir William Lewin.”

“The man you asked me about earlier?”

Michael nodded.

“The name means nothing to me.”

“Your uncle path must have crossed his at one time or the other. Otherwise your uncle wouldn’t have the formula.”

She shook her head. “My uncle would never steal another man’s work. He’s been asked to help others solve problems but he’d never claimed work that wasn’t his as his own. This Sir William must be lying. Besides, I know a Mr. Redding requested his help and sent the basics of the formula to him.”

Michael seized the opportunity to persuade her. “That’s why I’m here. I want to know the truth.”

Jocelyn wasn’t that gullible. “So you steal into a man’s house and expect him to prove your unfounded suspicions are wrong?” He knew she was seeing him with new eyes. Gone was the softness and in it’s place was suspicion and doubt. “There’s more to this than is on the surface.”

“It is as I told you.” He needed her to believe him.

She took a step back. “You want me to trust you,” she said quietly, “even though you came to Wye to rob my uncle–”

“Robbery is too strong a word.”

She almost laughed, the sound bitter. “Or not strong enough. Because, everything you’ve done, from letting a room from Lucy and Kent to spending time with me has been a scheme to gain the formula, hasn’t it?”

He did not want her to form this conclusion. “No. Not quite. I mean, I can explain, Jocelyn. ”

She wasn’t in the mood for explanations. “And the kiss last night–! It was a ruse. Thomas probably wasn’t even there. You were going to break in then and I discovered you.”

“I hadn’t intended on kissing you. What happened between us-none of that was planned.”

“No, of course not,” she agreed brittlely. “I was supposed to be snug in my bed while you rifled my uncle’s possessions.”


“I trusted you.” Her words damned him. “I was starting to fall in–” She broke off, unable to speak the thought . . . but he knew what she had been about to admit. She’d started to fall in love with him, and he felt like the blackest of scoundrels. He’d always done what was right, what was honorable.

Michael stepped forward, coming around the table toward her. He wanted to reassure her, to touch her and make amends. “You can trust me. I merely want the truth.”

“Get away from me!” She backed toward the door, her eyes angry glints. “You don’t have to apologize. You said your affections were spoken for. My gullibility is my problem. However, I must fetch my uncle. He will want the magistrate to see to you.”

The magistrate! Michael did not want the authorities involved. He was feeling foolish enough as it was. She started out the door, but he reached out, snagging her arm, drawing her back.
A hand on each arm, he said, “You must listen to me, Jocelyn–”

She kicked him firmly in the shins with her bare feet and attempted to jerk herself out of his hold.

He grunted, but not really hurt. Catching her by the wrist, he prevented her from running from the room. “Jocelyn, please–”

She started to scream. He instantly cut off the sound by placing his hand over her mouth, avoiding her sharp teeth.

Kicking shut the laboratory door, he moved the two of them to the leather retiring couch and unceremoniously dropped her into it. He leaned over to angrily inform her, “I’m not here to hurt you, so stop behaving like a madwoman.”

Her answer was to raise her knee and almost unman him. She hit his thigh with bruising force and pulled back, ready to try again. He fell on her, trapping her thrashing legs and holding them in place.

She glared at him, their faces so close together they breathed the same air. He saw the fear and pain of betrayal in her eyes . . . and the desire.

Suddenly, he was aware she wore nothing beneath her nightdress, that the hem was up to her waist, and that they were very alone. Lust as he’d never know it before replaced anger.

“Jocelyn,” he said, the musical sound of her name his benediction, his request begging her to understand. Then, slowly, he leaned forward and kissed her.

She could have turned away. She could have rejected him. She didn’t.

Instead, she held herself very still, the small frown between her eyes that he’d come to know as concern. It was as if she did not trust herself.

As for himself, he was dangerously close to the point when he would not be able to turn back. From the moment he’d laid eyes on her, he’d wanted her. Her skin was soft and smooth and the scent of woman filled his senses.

Still, she resisted. He wanted her to understand. He needed her forgiveness. He deepened his kiss, searching for a response.

And he received one.

With a sigh, she gave in. Her lips parted and her arms slid up around his neck. She drew him down to her.

Michael wanted to shout joyful hosannas. He would explain and she would understand now . . . but as their mouths melded together, explanation ceased to be important. And when she lightly stroked him with her tongue, he was lost.

The man who prided himself on control vanished. In his place was a man who had one simple need-Jocelyn. He wanted her with a passion that bordered on savage.

Perhaps if she had struggled. Perhaps if she’d protested or let him know in word or deed that she wished him to stop, he could have.

But she didn’t.

Instead, she became a willing accomplice to her seduction. She offered no protest as he slipped her night dress down around her shoulders, the shawl having fallen away when she’d first landed in the chair. He cupped her breast, reveling the firm weight of it. Her nipples were bold and proud . . . perfect. He broke the kiss and took one into his mouth.

Jocelyn cried out his name in surprise and then pleasure. Her hands tugged at his jacket, his neckcloth, his shirt as if not wanting any barriers between them. Michael bent her to his will, not hesitating in showing her the joys of lovemaking. And bless her, she offered herself to him with soft sighs and sweet moans of passion and gratitude.

Who cared about science and formulas and petty betrayals when he had such a magnificent, responsive creature in his arms? One that at this moment he’d give his life to possess?

He began unbuttoning his breeches.

From Publishers Weekly

While Carlyle (A Woman of Virtue) delivers a fast-moving, vibrant romance in Hunting Season, the second of two Regency-era novellas in this volume, Maxwell’s (The Wedding Wager) trite offering, In a Moonlit Garden, lacks inspiration and originality. In the latter, Colonel Michael Sanson, naive about the woman he thinks he loves, allows himself to be pressured by her father into retrieving a scientific formula that has ostensibly been stolen from him. However, immediately upon meeting the supposed thief’s niece, Jocelyn, Michael’s affections shift, and he agrees to be a part of her plan to make her former beau jealous. Maxwell’s protagonists are engaging in a familiar way, but her formulaic plot and transparent secondary characters make this a difficult draught to swallow. In contrast, readers will drink their fill of Carlyle’s aptly titled Hunting Season, which is a play on the time of year as well as the Marquis of Grayston’s pursuit of Lady Elise Middleton. Grayston is determined to destroy Denys Roth, the fortune-hunter who ruined his sister and led her to commit suicide, but Roth’s new quarry, the beautiful Elise, may tempt Grayston to choose love over vengeance. Although both entries nicely convey the flavor of the period, it is Carlyle’s heady and highly sensual romance that will slake the reader’s thirst.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Although, linked by the taste of tea, heroes with ulterior motives, and Regency settings, this pair of novellas by two of the genre’s more popular writers are diverse enough to treat readers to two quite different, but equally enjoyable, experiences. In Maxwell’s “In a Moonlit Garden,” the lighter and more sensual of the two stories, a young man agrees to pose as a tea peddler and retrieve a stolen formula in order to win the woman he thinks he loves but instead falls in love with another. A tale of suicide and vengence, Carlyle’s engrossing “Hunting Season,” is a darker, more sexually graphic, but no less romantically satisfying read. Running a bit on the long side, these novellas read more like short historicals and may appeal to those readers who generally avoid anthologies.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.

In Praise of Younger Men

What is the invigorating appeal of the younger man? Is it his boyish charm, his enthusiasm for life? His appreciation of a woman’s experience, and his eagerness to learn more? Or perhaps it’s his vigor, his unending appetite, and his willingness to please. In this scintillating quartet of stories by four of today’s most popular romance writers, the answers are discovered in a younger man’s embrace…in tender promises of pleasure whispered behind closed doors…in the hunger of his deep, soft, candlelight kisses…and in his ability to reawaken in his lover the joyous simplicity of a past innocence.

Cathy Maxwell’s “A Man Who Can Dance” introduces readers to Graham McNab, a man standing on the cusp of achieving his lifelong dream of becoming a physician. However, fate intervenes in the form of woman–a gorgeous, flaxen-haired woman. Graham will do anything to make the vision his own, even if it means entering into a bet with his nasty cousin Blair. To win the bet, Graham must rely on his best friend, governess Sarah Ambrose to teach the untutored doctor to dance, in spite of his two left feet. Close proximity and the rhythm of the dance emulate the rhythm of love for Sarah and Graham. Will they become partners for life?

Publisher: Avon
March 2001 | Anthology
ISBN-10: 0451203801
ISBN-13: 978-0451203809

“Love?” Sarah tested the word-and backed away from it, cautious. “Were you in ‘love’ this morning when I saw you at breakfast?”


“No. But I am now and, Sarah, you are my only hope.” Graham took both her hands. “You must teach me to dance.”

She couldn’t follow his train of thought. “Why?”

“Because I don’t know how,” he replied earnestly.

“Yes,” she agreed. “That’s usually the way it is with people who need dancing lessons.” She shook her head. None of what he said made sense, nor did she want to consider the implications to herself. If he was in love . . .

She reached for the door handle behind her. “We’ll discuss this later. I must return to the twins.” And maybe, in the meantime, she prayed he would come to his senses.

Graham covered her hand on the door handle with his and opened the door, squashing Sarah between his body and the door frame in a way that brought a hot rush of color to her face, and said, “Jean, Janet, place your slates on Miss Ambrose’s desk and run see Nurse. I think she has treacle tea for you.”

He didn’t have to make the suggestion twice. The girls jumped to obey, their slates clattering as they were thrown on the desk.

Sarah made an exasperated sound and slipped through the door to chase them back but it was too late. Janet was the last one through the schoolroom door, slamming it shut behind her.

She whirled on Graham. “Why did you do that? They are never good students in the best circumstances and, now, I won’t get anything out of them for the rest of the day.”

“Good,” he replied happily. “You have time to start teaching me how to dance.”

She stared into his light green eyes that she’d thought she’d known as well as her own gray eyes and realized he’d become a stranger. The thought was unsettling, as was her almost stomach-churning reaction to his claiming to be . . . in . . . love.

“This is sudden. Too sudden,” she avowed. He’d always been too involved in work and his studies to care about frivolities. “I mean, last night you were anticipating this day because Mister Fielder was to release you from your apprenticeship.”

“Oh, yes, he did,” Graham answered off-handedly and Sarah was more bewildered. Becoming a doctor had been Graham’s sole goal in life.

She sat in her “teacher” chair behind her desk. “Perhaps you should start from the beginning.”

“I’d rather start with the dancing lessons.” He leaned on her desk. “Please, Sarah, help me.”

She crossed her arms. “Talk first, lessons second.”

The set of his mouth flattened stubbornly. Sarah thought Graham had the most amazing mouth. It conveyed all his emotions. Now it told her he didn’t want to be questioned. Too bad. “Talk, Graham.”

He frowned but then the corners of his mouth twisted into rueful resignation. With a sigh, he hitched one leg up on the edge of her desk and launched into the most astounding story she’d ever heard about seeing a Miss Whitlow, the Garrison Commander’s daughter, who apparently had all the virtues of womanhood without opening her mouth and how her father was hosting a ball to find her a husband.

She listened, her eyebrows climbing higher and higher. “So you wish to learn to dance to impress this young woman whose father is blatantly auctioning her off?”

He frowned, then corrected, “He’s holding a search.”

“And you want to dance in such a way as to convince him and her you would be a good lover.”

Her blunt words startled him. She made an impatient sound. “Graham, I have been about in the world. I know the implications of the Scottish proverb on the invitation.”

“Yes . . . and no,” he admitted. “I mean, there should be some decency involved.”

“Exactly,” she murmured, withholding further opinion.

“There’s more,” he said, and told her about the wager, his focus dropping to the slates on her desk as he spoke, his expression taking on a new intensity.

“You didn’t accept the challenge, did you?” she asked, fearing the answer.

Graham’s gaze met hers. “I did.”

Sarah released a soft groan, but she was not surprised. Everyone knew Blair was jealous of his tall, intelligent cousin. She’d witnessed the petty insults and small cruelties he’d inflicted on Graham over the years. She’d considered it a sign of Graham’s strength that he had not struck back sooner. However, a day of reckoning was bound to have come.

What disturbed her were the whispers she’d overheard among the household staff about how Sir Edward did not want Graham to leave the shipping firm. Blair’s timing was too fortuitous.

She looked up him. “They mean for you to lose.”

Graham straightened. “I won’t.” He paused and added, “If you teach me to dance.”

“Me? If I?” she repeated blindly. She rose from her chair and stared stacking and restacking the girls’ slates with more force than necessary, her mind jumbled with objections and fears and–

“It’s an insane wager.” She shoved the slates away and faced him. “Graham, go tell your uncle you’ve changed your mind. Back out while you have time. They don’t mean for you to win,” she said, rapping her knuckles on the desk to emphasize each word. “They will take every advantage of you without any regret.”

He stepped back, his features hardened with the resolute sense of purpose that was so much a part of him. “I will win, Sarah. Miss Whitlow is in love with me.”

“Love?” The word sounded alien to her ears. “Because she looked at you? Did either of your speak? Did you introduce yourselves?” The challenges flew out of her mouth before she’d had a chance to consider their wisdom.

“Sometimes words are not necessary.”

“Not even a simple ‘hello, how are you?’”

“‘Twas love at first sight,” he replied stonily.

“‘Twas lust at first sight!” Sarah snapped back. She wanted to shake him she was so angry. Unreasonably angry.

He took another step toward the door, his sparkling eyes growing colder, more distant. “I thought you would understand.”

Oh, she understood. There had been a time when she, too, had been willing to forsake all for love. When she’d believed in shining stars, happily everafters, and, oh, yes, love at first sight. Her “love” had left her at the altar, his promises empty, meaningless.

Nothing seared the soul like love. It had almost destroyed her.

She’d needed a full year, crammed with the most painful moments of her life to recover. Even now, the feelings of shame and humiliation from his rejection hovered near her. Graham was the first man she’d opened herself to in years. Perhaps, because he was several years younger, she had not feared for her heart with him.

However, because of their close friendship, she had to make him see reason. She chose her words carefully. “This wager . . . it could destroy your life.” She paused, needing to make him understand and, yet, unwilling to confess her own miserable experience. “As a governess, I have lived in different households. My experiences have allowed me to observe human nature.” She gripped the edge of the table, her knuckles turning white. “Once the first bloom of love fades-and it fades quickly, Graham, mark my words-what is left in its place is not to be desired.”

The tension eased in him slightly. “There is a connection between Miss Whitlow and myself. Something special.”

“Graham, what if you win and are forced to marry this young woman–”

“I want to marry her.”

Sarah released her hold on the desk, pushing it back to accent her words. “Or do you just not want Blair to have her?”

Graham jerked his head to one side as if she had struck him. Sarah closed her eyes. ‘Twas not like her to lash out.

“You don’t have to help me, Sarah.”

His words pierced her heart. She opened her eyes. He was moving toward the door. He reached for the door handle. “And yes, I’m bloody tired of playing the lackey. If dancing to claim a woman’s hand is how I can make my uncle and cousin respect me, then I will.” He opened the door.


He stopped, waiting.

Sarah balled her hands into fists. She didn’t know what to say. But before her mind could form words to heal the rift between them, Betty, the cheeky upstairs maid hailed Graham.

“Mister McNab, I’ve been looking for you. What is this I hear about a wager and a dance?” Betty appeared in the doorway, a big, happy smile stretched across her face, her hips twitching saucily. Her cinch belt was laced so tight her breasts appeared to be popping forward like two beehives on a table.

Graham was forced to take a step back into the classroom lest he be run over.

“They say the Garrison Commander’s daughter practically fell off her horse when she first laid eyes on you,” Betty crooned. “Course, I don’t blame her. You would turn my head any day.” Her breasts quivered with her words.

Sarah spoke up to let the forward puss know Graham was not alone. “Don’t you have cleaning to do, Betty?”

The maid didn’t even bother a glance in Sarah’s direction. “I’ve got all my chores done and a wee bit of time on my hand. They say you might be needing a dancing lesson or two, Mister McNab. I’m a good dancer.” She bumped Graham with her beehive breasts.

Inexplicably, jealousy stabbed through Sarah with blinding force. “Mister McNab doesn’t need your help.”

Betty slipped from Sarah’s grasp and moved into the schoolroom. “Then who will teach him to dance?”

“I will,” Sarah replied.

“You?” Betty asked doubtfully.

“You?” Graham said happily.

“Yes, me,” Sarah answered.

“But I thought–” Graham started.

She cut him off, not wanting to examine her motives too closely. “‘Tis the least I can do for a friend, Graham.”

He gave a sudden, happy whoop, scooped her up in his arms, and twirled her around. “I knew I could count on you, Sarah. I knew it.”

“Yes,” she agreed numbly, her cheek against his hard chest. His movements made her a little dizzy and she was startled by tears stinging her eyes. What had she gotten herself in to?