~ Excerpt ~
Pushing the shirt from his shoulders, she gritted her teeth at the sight of bunched muscles marred with several bruises. One on his upper arm and a scattering across his abdomen. Her fingers flexed as she imagined spreading her palms across his chest and through the scattering of dark hair. Maybe she would even nuzzle against it.
Heat flooded her face. She’d been caught admiring when she should be nursing. Avoiding his gaze, she scooped up some of the cool salve and smeared it over the bruise on his arm. In spite of the kitchen not being particularly warm, his skin was. The little lines of muscle intrigued her and she couldn’t help trace them as she smoothed in the lotion.
“Do you box often?” Her voice came out thin and weak like a cheap broth.
That would explain his build. She’d always puzzled over how a man who spent most of his life in the study was so strong and—she glanced down the rippled lines of his abdomen—firm.
“At least until Elsie arrived.”
His voice sounded gritty. Not weak like hers, but certainly strained. Everything about him from the bunching of his muscles to his continued grip on her skirts screamed of his need to break free of restraint.
And she could not help believe he was holding back for the same reason she was. He wanted to kiss her, maybe even touch her. She felt it in her bones, in her blood. As elemental as the air in her lungs. Ivy feared if he did not break and give her that kiss, her body might waste away, starved of his touch.
Licking her lips, she steeled herself for what was to come next. “Lift your arm.”
She used the cloth to clean away some more of the grime and sweat from his body. “You are filthy,” she murmured in a bid to distract herself from the way his stomach muscles tensed as she slid the cloth down them.
“Boxing rings are filthy places.”
Suddenly the distance between them seemed so very great. He built railways and knew more than she ever would. He frequented places she would never step foot in. She might have some noble blood running through her but he was far superior to her in every way.
What could she say for herself? She sang. If she could bring her voice out to the world then perhaps she might be able to say she brought joy to people but, for now, she could not even bring herself to sing in front of August. It frustrated her beyond all belief.
She peered down and realised she was absently stroking his firm stomach with the cloth. “Oh.” Abandoning the cloth, she reached for the salve and bent to rub it over the marks on his ribs. “I hope nothing is broken.”
“No, just bruised. I’d know if it was.”
She lifted her gaze to his and found that her mouth was mere inches away from his. Her breath near froze in her throat. “Have you broken a rib before?” she asked huskily.
“Yes, a long time ago when I first started boxing. I didn’t...” His words trailed off and she saw his gaze drop to her lips.
In response, she tucked her bottom lip under her top teeth. A sharp hiss echoed from him and her mouth tingled. She searched his gaze and saw it there—the same need flaring through her. So why did he not move? Why did his grip on her skirts tighten and why did his muscles bunch?
“Please,” she whispered before she’d even thought about it.
“What do you want, Ivy?” he asked in a low, rough voice.
Did she have the courage to say? Few things held her back in life and she could rarely claim to have control of her tongue, but she hesitated for a moment. Perhaps because the stakes were so high. Her heart throbbed painfully as if to remind her exactly what was at stake. It would be so very easy to fall for him. But a kiss? Maybe more? Would that be so bad?
“I want you,” she replied.
August Avery, a renowned civil engineer, has found himself the sole custodian of his cousin’s six month old daughter and he needs assistance—fast. He understands how to build railways, to construct bridges and to save the railway tycoons thousands of pounds.
He doesn’t understand, however, how to care for a child When Ivy Davis turns up at his door looking for work, he believes his prayers are answered. If only the exotic, exuberant young woman did not prove to be such a distraction from his busy workload.
Unsure if she is even up to the task of looking after a baby, Ivy finds herself swayed by the handsome and slightly desperate August into working for him. With her singing career failing before it even started and no other talents, she decides looking after a young child cannot be so hard... surely?
But the child may turn out to be the least of her worries. Her handsome, brooding master seems to keep her awake more than the baby. Add to that her desire to achieve her dreams of singing on stage and the machinations of the indomitable Mrs Pepperwhite who sees her as competition for August’s hand, Ivy finds this simple job growing harder by the day—as does her desire for her master...