Portrait of Passion

Portrait of Passion

Idyllwild, Book 1

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“Barron’s tale builds a lush sensual world filled with vivacious characters who lead readers down a path of lies, lust and betrayal. Sexual tension reigns supreme and explodes into a passion that shocks and ensnares the hero and heroine with its intensity. A well-plotted storyline keeps readers engaged in this emotionally heartfelt journey toward redemption.” – RT Book Reviews

What’s a gentleman to do when a mysterious lady with a secret past and a reputation frayed around the edges suddenly appears in London in pursuit of his naïve young cousin, setting the gossips’ tongues wagging, stirring his family into pandemonium and driving him mad with her irreverent ways?

If the gentleman in question is Simon Carlisle, Viscount Easton, the answer is quite simple. Seduce the beguiling lady.

But Miss Beatrice Morgan isn’t your average tarnished lady. She’s lived a slapdash life wandering the globe like a gypsy, painting fantastical portraits and landscapes featuring a crumbling old fountain, all the while harboring a secret desire to return to the only home she’s ever known.

Will Beatrice sacrifice her honor, her virtue, her very heart to reclaim Idyllwild?

Available now on Amazon.

Read an Excerpt

As they walked side by side up the broad staircase, Bea could feel his curious gaze. She stared straight ahead, afraid of what he might see in her eyes. Sorrow. Bitterness. Deceit.

Bea entered her room to find her maid asleep in a chair.

“Abby,” she whispered, gently shaking her shoulder.

“Oh, Miss Beatrice,” Abby cried sleepily, jumping to her feet. “I am that sorry to have fallen asleep!”

“It is late. Of course you fell asleep.”

“Shall I undress you?” she asked before spotting Simon standing just inside the door. She blushed and bobbed a clumsy curtsy.

“Would you be an angel and find us a bottle of wine?” Bea asked the girl.

“Yes, Miss Beatrice, right away,” Abby agreed and fled past Simon and out the door.

“Poor dear,” Bea murmured, staring down at the chair the maid had abandoned. For some reason she could not explain, she suddenly felt ashamed—angry and ashamed. The sight of the sleeping girl, her eagerness to please, her blushing acceptance of the lord in her mistress’s bedchamber, it all combined to make Beatrice feel dirty, dishonest.

Finally she looked over her shoulder. Simon had not moved, simply stood by the door regarding her silently.

“Why are you standing there?” she demanded, her voice low and deep. She heard the building fury, felt it rush through her blood. She did not understand where it came from. She did not know how to stop it, was not sure that she wanted to. The anger felt safe, necessary. It would drown out the shame, allow her to get through this night and the days to follow.

Simon quirked a brow at her. Bea felt mean laughter rumbling up her throat, hitching her breath. She spun away from his intent gaze, going to the window to stare sightlessly out into the dark night. She heard Simon moving about the room.

“Please make yourself comfortable,” she invited and realized she could see him reflected in the window glass. She watched him remove his coat, fold it and lay it over a chair.

A soft knock on the partially open door announced Abby’s return. Bea turned from the window. “Will you set it up on the table by the bed?”

“Yes, Miss,” the girl replied, again sidling around Simon, who stood before the table Bea had indicated. Simon stepped out of her way then sat in a chair before the empty fireplace.

“Shall I pour for you?” Abby asked, addressing the question to Simon.

“Please,” he replied with a smile that caused the girl to blush yet again.

Bea studied Abby’s efficient movements, her hands agile and graceful as she poured a measure of wine into each glass. Her gaze wandered over the girl, taking in her soft, blue eyes, the strands of dark-blonde hair that had escaped from her mobcap, the gray dress and white apron she wore.

She was a pretty girl. Had Abby been born into a different family, she would be making her debut soon, perhaps next year.

Instead she waited upon a dishonest, lying, scheming woman. A bastard.

Bea could not hold back bitter laughter at the thought. Simon turned his head to look at her in surprise. Abby froze, her gaze flying to Bea’s face.

“You are a very pretty girl,” Bea said and watched the blush deepen on the girl’s cheeks.

“Thank you, Miss Beatrice,” she shyly replied, bobbing another quick curtsy.

When Bea only watched her silently, Abby looked to Simon, who gave her a subtle shrug, before she asked, “Is there anything else I can do for you, Miss Beatrice?”

“You may undress me.”

“Beatrice,” Simon protested quietly.

“I would like Abby to undress me and brush out my hair,” Bea insisted. She forced herself to raise her eyes to his, unsure what they would reveal to him. She was confused, an awful feeling of desperation mingled with the banked rage and shame. Would he see?

Simon captured her gaze, his eyes dark, not angry, uncertain perhaps. She knew she was behaving irrationally. She did not care.

“I’ll step outside,” Simon finally replied.

“Do not,” Bea said, waving her hands about in agitation. “Please, stay.”

Simon looked from her face to her hands, suspended in midair. She dropped them to her sides, clenched her fingers in her skirts, grabbing fistfuls of the dark silk.

Bea looked at Abby, standing as still as a statue, her eyes wide as she looked back. Bea realized it was the first time the timid girl had ever looked her mistress in the eye. As if reading her mind, the maid tore her gaze away and bent her head down.

“You may undress me,” Bea whispered, wishing she had not started down this path, unable to retreat from it.

As Abby approached her, Simon rose to retrieve the two glasses of wine. He handed one to Bea, his fingers brushing against hers as she reached for it. Her gaze flew to his face, to see a small, infinitely sad smile upon his lips. His eyes were sober, steady. Bea was struck with the notion that he understood the rage and shame that had taken hold of her, that he understood her erratic emotions.

He nodded at Abby, as if encouraging her to continue. Bea sensed the stiffening of the girls back, though she could no longer see her. She had stepped behind her mistress to unbutton her gown.

Bea sipped her wine, hoping the cool liquid would somehow soothe the heat racing through her body.

Simon resumed his seat and silently watched as Abby efficiently unbuttoned her lady’s gown and carefully eased it over her shoulders, expertly catching it as it fell to her hips, and easing it down to the floor. She knelt to the side and held up her hand for Bea to hold for balance as she stepped from the pool of deep-blue silk. Bea was left in her thin cotton chemise and light stays over lacy drawers and silk stockings. She looked down at her feet encased in dainty slippers.

Bea brought her eyes up to find Simon’s gaze fixed upon the swell of her breasts over her stays. He swallowed, his throat working as if to get around a lump wedged there. He clenched his jaw once, relaxed and raised his glass to his lips, his gaze never wavering.

Bea took a long swallow of her own wine, looked down at Abby silently kneeling before her and realized that she still held the girls hand. She gave her fingers a gentle squeeze and Abby looked at her questioningly.

“Your slippers?” she asked.

Bea lifted one foot then the other to allow the girl to remove her slippers, placing them on the floor beside her gown.

She felt Abby’s nimble fingers releasing the ribbons that held her stockings in place and closed her eyes in relief. It was almost done. Soon she would be naked before Simon and could send the girl to her bed. Regret for her actions toward her maid left a sour taste in her mouth. She raised her glass to wash it away.

When she opened her eyes, she found Simon watching her, studying the line of her throat, the lift of her chin, the movement of her tongue as she licked the drops of wine from her lips. His eyes lifted to hers and Bea was startled by the naked desire she saw there.

Abby delicately cleared her throat, slowly reached up and under Bea’s chemise to the ribbon of her drawers. Bea guessed the girl was giving her time to stop her, time to find a modicum of modesty. Bea did not halt her, only waited until the lace and cotton crumpled to the floor to lift her bare feet and allow the maid to add the garment to the growing pile of clothing next to her.

Available now on Amazon.