The Legend of a Rogue by Darcy Burke

“I can definitely understand the benefits of that. Perhaps I might change my mind.”

“You cannot, I’m afraid. The cloak has been spoken for—it is mine. You may have the heart. It’s made of tourmaline and quite pretty, it’s said.”

Elspeth grinned. “You’re a beast, but fine, I’ll take the heart.”

They continued to the stalls, where Elspeth introduced him to everyone she knew. They sampled ale and fresh-baked pastry, and watched a trio of musicians. By the time they’d made their way to all the stalls, it was late in the day.

“I must return home to have dinner with my father,” Elspeth said reluctantly. She’d enjoyed their afternoon together.

“Would it be wrong of me to ask for one more story?” He grinned. “That makes me sound like a child.”

Elspeth was inordinately flattered. “It does not. Must you leave on the morrow?”

He nodded. “I’m afraid so.”

“Perhaps you’ll stop by again on your return trip. My father is the physician here—you can find us on the other side of town.” She gestured past the square toward the road that led to the river.

“I may do that.”

They found themselves removed from the stalls, in a quiet area off the road. Elspeth took her hand from his arm and allowed herself to stare up into his striking blue eyes.

“I hope you will,” she whispered.

He took her hand. “I did not expect to find you here, Miss Marshall. You are an impressive woman—smart and confident. Most women of your age are already married or nearly so.”

“My father would like me to be. I am too interested in books, however. The reading and writing of them.” She blushed. “Most men—of any age—find me…odd.”

“That is their misfortune,” Mr. Williams said softly. “I hope your father won’t press you into a union you don’t want.”

“He won’t.” Of that, Elspeth was certain. He wanted her to wed, but more than that, he wanted her to be happy. “He knows and accepts that I am content with my library. For now.”

For the first time, Elspeth glimpsed a shared future. With a strong man who found her interesting.

“I am glad to hear it, Miss Marshall. Perhaps when I come by again in the future, you will still be unmarried.”

What was he saying?

Before she could ask, he shook his head. “Forgive me. That was inappropriate. I shall hope our paths cross again. Until then, be very well, Miss Marshall.” He bent his head and brushed his lips across her cheek.

Lightness filled her, as if she might float away. She clasped his hand tightly so that he might anchor her to the earth.

Without thinking, she put her other hand on his neck and held his head down. She moved so she could put her lips to his.

Shocked by her action, she gasped as she pulled back. “My apologies. I don’t know what I was thinking. I wasn’t, actually.”

“Sometimes thought is overrated.” His eyes gleamed with heat. “Don’t apologize. I am not in the least offended.”

Elspeth relaxed slightly, even as a wonderful current of anticipation flowed through her. “I really must go.”

“You look as if you don’t want to.”

“I do not. Maybe just one more—” She cut herself off and wrinkled her nose. “You’ll think me a wanton.”

“One more kiss?” He leaned close as he steered her toward the side of a shop. Blocked by the stalls, they could not be seen from the square. “If you are a wanton, then I am a rogue.”

She smiled up at him. “Oh, I like rogues. Remember, I write down stories. And rogues usually make the best characters.”

“How lovely to hear.” He swept his mouth over hers, gently at first, then with more pressure, his lips molding against hers.

They were soft and wonderful, and the energy coursing through Elspeth intensified. She put her arms around his neck and stood on her toes as he clasped his arms around her.

His tongue licked along her lower lip. “Open your mouth,” he whispered.

She did and was simultaneously shocked and thrilled when his tongue stroked inside. Somehow, she knew to use her tongue too, and the kiss became something far more intimate…and passionate.

His hands moved over her back as she clutched at his neck. She never wanted this moment to end, and yet she knew it must.

And just like that, it was over. He released her and stepped back, his eyes a storm of desire. She knew it because she felt the same.