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Sentenced to hand for a crime she didn’t commit, former slave Mary Hamilton was exonerated at literally the last gasp. She returns to Safe Haven, broken and resigned to live alone. Never having been courted, cuddled or spooned, Mary now fears any kind of physical intimacy when arousal forces her to relive the asphyxiation of her hanging. But then the handsome stranger who saved her shows up, stealing her breath from across the room and promising so much more.
Wealthy freeborn-Black Eban Thurman followed Mary to Safe Haven, believing a relationship with Mary was foretold by the stars. He must marry her to reclaim his family farm. But first he must help her heal, and to do that means revealing his own predilection for edgier sex.
Then just as Eban begins to win Mary’s trust, an enemy from the past threatens to keep them one breath away from love…
God created something unique from Africa’s ebony clay when He made this one. Eban’s broad nose and high cheekbones belonged on a statue in a museum for all to enjoy. Legs long enough to cross the length of Texas in five strides brought Eban in her direction. An expensively tailored jacket hung off shoulders that could span the banks of the Rio Grande. A ruby glinted in his left earlobe and conspired with his shaved head to give him an air of mystery and menace.
Mary closed her eyes and again tried to resist his allure.
The devil often appears as an angel of light.
She sucked in a breath, opened her eyes, and gnawed her lip. This angel of light hadn’t stopped his approach. Clenching her thighs hadn’t stifled the desire swelling within her privates.
Hadn’t smothered the hope reviving in her heart.
Felicity slanted her head to the right. A coy smile gave the angle weight.
“And what brings you to our side of the room, stranger?” She repeated her breast-swelling move and grinned, peacock proud. “See something you like?”
Eban tapped a finger in salute at his brow. “More than like, miss.”
His smile turned up the heat in his gaze. Mary frowned, painfully aware the smell of her passion lingered in the air, despite the woolen barrier of her skirt.
He stepped forward so his hand-stitched boots stood toe-to-toe with Mary’s second-hand shoes. “Eban Thurman, at your service, Miss Hamilton. May I get you something to drink?”
At her service? The air congealed. Mary gasped, trying to suck in air too solid to inflate her lungs.
“No—no, thank you. I’m not thirsty.” Her stutter mimicked the tremor between her thighs. She clasped her hands and planted them hard against her lap.
“It’s a really hot night.” He turned his hand palm up in a silent plea. “Perhaps you’d find a waltz more cooling.” He eased his fingers into her clenched hands. “May I beg the honor of this dance?”
“Yes, Miss Hamilton.” He tilted his head, slanting his smile to the right. “Beg.”
“You don’t strike me as the begging type, Mr. Thurman.”
“To everything there is a season and a time for every purpose under heaven.” He tongue-swiped his full lips as if he’d just tasted something he wanted to taste again. “I know when it’s time to beg.”
She pursed her lips into a frown, fought back the urge to grovel and won. Barely.
The fingers around hers, clean and huge and strangely slender, hadn’t moved, hadn’t trembled. Their stillness aroused her. His stillness aroused her. Her lips quivered. She inhaled deeply against the surrender summoned by that tiny tremor.
Resist the devil and he will flee.
Silently she called upon the truth in this scripture for rescue. The devil waited. She stared at the hand on
hers, helpless against the appeal, the allure of temptation.
She swallowed hard, opened her mouth to say no, but her tongue refused to cooperate. She huffed out a breath and shook her head. “I—I can’t. I don’t know how to waltz.”
“Well, you’re in luck.” His lips bowed in a smile, full, broad, and hypnotizing. “I’m an excellent teacher and I bet you’re a fast learner.” He gave her fingers a squeeze. “Shall we?”
He really wanted to dance with her. She blinked, speechless.
A warning voice protested.
Her heart countered.