• • • The Privileged and the Damned • • •
Introducing The Marshalls…
A rich, powerful family that mixes business, politics… and pleasure.
If the US had a royal family — this would be it!
Running scared, Lily needs a fresh start – and, fingers crossed, she’s found one. After all, why would any of her new employers, members of the hot-shot Marshall dynasty, even think to look beyond her humble façade?
Until she catches the roving eye of infamous heartbreaker Ethan Marshall…
A fling with one of the Marshalls is a bad idea – especially for a girl with a scandalous past. But Lily is terrifyingly susceptible to Ethan’s lethal brand of high-class charm…
Don’t miss this provocative tale of secrets, lies… and blistering seduction!
Download and read the first chapter from Harlequin.com.
Read an Excerpt
He was efficient and oddly professional as he wrapped a cold pack in a small towel and indicated she should use it on her head. Another towel went beneath her leg before he produced a bottle of saline from the first aid kit. “This might sting a little,” he warned.
“You don’t have to – ouch!”
“Wimp,” he teased and grinned at the dirty look she shot him. “How’s the head? Any blurriness or double vision?”
“Nope.” She pulled the towel away from her forehead and noticed the blood on it. “Boy, I’m really a mess. I don’t need stitches, do I?”
“It’s just a scrape. Keep the ice on it. Anything else hurt?” Ethan dabbed at her shin with gauze.
“That does,” she gritted out. “Look, I’m okay, really. I appreciate the help, but I can take of it.”
He waggled his eyebrows. “And give up the chance to fondle your leg? No way.”
It was such an odd, out-of-place comment that the absurdity of it made her laugh out loud. Ethan grinned. She sat back against the pillows and put the ice pack on her forehead. She wasn’t concussed, and she wasn’t imagining things. Ethan was actually flirting with her. In the privacy of her apartment. While she wasn’t really wearing all that much…
Maybe he was just the kind of guy who flirted with every woman who crossed his path. Maybe it was just part of that whole “being friendly” thing. She really shouldn’t read anything into it – after all, hadn’t she already made that mistake once today already? It was still fun, though – except for the blood and pain part. Her ego was enjoying it enough, however, to scrape the rust off her own flirting skills. “Do you fondle all the stable girls’ legs?”
“Only if they’re bleeding.” He grinned as he worked. “I don’t want to get slapped, you know.”
“Good policy.” She examined the bandage on her shin as he taped it into place. “I’m impressed.”
“So am I.” He shot her a sideways smile. “You’ve got great legs. Very fondle-able.”
If her heart beat much faster, she’d pass out. Maybe she wasn’t quite ready to scrape all the rust off those skills just yet. “I meant the bandage. Very nicely done.”
“I have many talents.”
I’ll bet, she thought before she squashed it.
Ethan tidied up after himself and carried the trash to the can. “You’ll probably want to take some aspirin or something. Your head – and everything else – is going to start hurting soon. Do you have any?”
“I do.” She started to slide her legs off the bed, only to have Ethan stop her.
“Just sit for a minute, okay? You nearly gave me a heart attack out there.”
“Maybe you should be the one resting then,” she mumbled. Ethan looked at her expectantly. “Fine. In the bathroom. Medicine cabinet.”
He nodded and went to get it. She heard the cabinet door open, and the thought of Ethan riffling through her private items bothered her. Then he was back, fixing her a glass of water and handing her two tablets.
He leaned a hip against her table and watched while she swallowed the pills obediently. “Thank you, Ethan. I’m not normally so accident-prone. But I do appreciate the save. And the bandaging.”
“Does that mean I’m forgiven for whatever I said this morning that ticked you off?”
He really didn’t shy away from the direct questions, did he? “I think I’m the one who owes you an apology. Again.” She tried to laugh it off, but it was hard to do so with Ethan staring at her. “I guess I’m not what you’d call a ‘people person.’ I should probably just stick with the animals. Speaking of, I should probably get back to work.”
“I think you should take it easy for a while.”
“Nah, I’m fine.” She removed the ice pack from her head and touched the sore spot with her other hand. Her fingers came back clean. “The bleeding seems to have stopped.”
“Well, quit touching it. Here.” Ethan dug through the first aid kit and pulled out a Band-Aid. He sat next to her again on the bed and leaned across her to inspect the cut. “You’ll probably have a bruise tomorrow, but I doubt it will leave a scar.”
Lily heard the words, but they weren’t making a lot of sense. Ethan was really, really close, and all of the oxygen in the room seemed to disappear. She tried to inhale but only got a lungful of his unique scent that sent shivers through her racing bloodstream.
She closed her eyes and tried to calm her pulse. Bad idea. Without visual distraction, she felt his touch more keenly. His fingers were gentle as they smoothed over her forehead, but the skin felt scorched.
“Am I hurting you?”
Her eyes flew open; a big mistake because now Ethan’s attention was focused on her, not her injuries.
And he was still really really close. Close enough for her to see the tiny flecks of gold in the green of his irises and count each of his eyelashes. Now she really couldn’t breathe, and she felt light-headed.
Time froze as his eyes darkened and then moved slowly over her face. Her heart was in her throat, and a warm, melty feeling oozed through her chest. Ethan was only inches from her; she could feel his breath against her lips already, and the trail of his fingers from her injury to her chin was a feather-light touch, hypnotic and paralyzing.
Then his mouth met hers. A soft, slow, barely-there touch that teased her, making her lips heat and tingle. His thumb slid along her jaw and down her neck, and the melty feeling in her chest developed sharp edges of want.
It was those sharp edges that focused her. Weakly, she put her hand on his and felt the tension there. He was holding back. She dragged air into her lungs painfully. “Wh-what are you doing?”
His chuckle was the sexiest thing she’d ever heard, rolling over her skin like a caress. “Kissing you.” Ethan punctuated the statement with a slide of his tongue against her bottom lip. “Unless you want me to stop…”
No! Every nerve ending in her body screamed in unison, nearly – but not quite – drowning out the alarm bells in her head. Ethan’s other hand slid to the pulse at the base of her throat. Focus. She closed her eyes. “But… why?”