Hearts Beguiled

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Authors: Penelope Williamson
Tags: v5.0 scan; HR; Avon Romance; France; French Revolution;
reason for the cynical glint in Max's sooty gray eyes.
    She stared at the miniature a moment longer, then gently slipped it back inside the velvet bag. Her fingers closed around the ruby ring—
    "Looking for something?"

Chapter 3

    A ny other woman in the world, thought Maximilien de Saint-Just, would have screamed. Any other woman . . . but not this one.
    She slammed shut the drawer to his commode table and whirled to demand of him indignantly, "Jesu! What are you doing here?"
    Her words surprised a laugh out of him. "Silly me," he drawled in his mocking way. "I thought I lived here."
    He leaned against the doorjamb, his long legs crossed at the ankles, his hands shoved deep into the pockets of his tight breeches. He watched her from beneath lowered lids. Her fiery hair blazed in the afternoon sunlight streaming through the window. Her skin was so translucent it seemed illuminated from within. Dark violet eyes, purple like a mountain range at dusk, glowered at him.
    Damn, but she was beautiful, he thought. But then, the most treacherous ones usually were.
    "If you're looking for money," he said, "you won't find any in there."
    Her lips curled with pure scorn. "You're a fine one to be calling me a thief after what you've done."
    Max thought of the many crimes he had committed over the years, wondering which one had managed to touch on this intriguing girl. He was sure that, until two days ago, he had never seen or spoken to her before, although she had managed to haunt his thoughts every moment since.
    He straightened and took a step toward her. Her back stiffened, but she didn't turn away or shift her eyes from his face. He stopped when he was standing right in front of her. He saw the movement in her throat as she swallowed, and the muscle in her jaw tense as she lifted her chin to look at him.
    "Gabrielle." He stared down into a pair of mesmerizing; purple eyes . . . and forgot what he was going to say.
    He slid his hand along her neck, under the heavy fall of her hair. Her skin trembled beneath his palm and he heard her breath catch. Splaying his thumb along her jawline, he tilted her face up. She started to turn her head away, then stopped as he brought his lips down over hers.
    Her mouth was warm and moist, opening and moving easily beneath his.-He increased the pressure of his lips, forcing her head back as he slid his tongue along the sharp edge of her teeth, probing the wet, silken cavity of her mouth. She made a small sound in the back of her throat—of protest or perhaps of surrender.
    He had expected anger, resistance, fear—but not this. The depth and uninhibited warmth of her response fired an answering and unexpected hunger deep within him. Surprised, he tried to repress those feelings, shuddering with the strength of will it took.
    Swaying into him, she reached up and clasped the lapels on his coat. Her tongue met his, curled around it, drew it deeper into her mouth.
    Max felt himself surrendering to the hot, hard need that surged through him. He wanted this woman, would have her, but first . . . Keeping his lips locked on hers, he moved his hand down the column of her neck and along her shoulder, following the length of her arm. The material of her dress was thin and soft with wear and repeated washings, and he could feel her skin quivering underneath it. Her flesh gave off a warmth, a vital heat, and she smelted of sunlight and summer flowers: His strong fingers encircled her wrist, around bones that were light and impossibly fragile—
    He tore his mouth from hers and jerked her curled fist up between their faces. "Open your hand," he said, his voice silken, dangerous, and more than a little breathless.
    She clenched her fist tighter. "No," she said. Her lips were reddened and slightly swollen from his kiss, but her eyes were hard and defiant. "Give me the other one first, then you can have this one back."
    "Other what? What in bloody hell are you talking about?" He increased the pressure of his fingers

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