BECAUSE OF YOU
In Stores Now!
November 2011 – Re-Issue | Avon Books
ISBN-13: 978-0-380-79710-3 | ISBN: 0-380-79710-0
Is a reckless rogue worthy of the love of an innocent enchantress?
Pretty Samantha Northrup knows it is her duty to marry—but the chaste English vicar’s daughter secretly desires to be swept off her feet by a man whose kisses leave her breathless. And when a seductive stranger arrives at her door one stormy night, Samantha’s neat and orderly life is turned upside down—especially when she finds herself in a most compromising position . . . and is forced to marry a man she barely knows!
Samantha is unaware that her mystery bridegroom is Yale Carderock, the dashing, disinherited rakehell son of a duke, banished by his father years before. Now Lord Yale has returned—wealthier but only somewhat reformed—and he is bewitched by his lovely new bride’s awakening sensuality and innocent fire. But can this marriage of convenience be something more . . . and can a confirmed cad and society outcast truly change his ways enough to merit the lady’s tender love?
The persistent banging woke Samantha Northrup from a sound sleep.
She lay in bed, hoping it was only another of the vicarage’s many loose shutters being buffeted against the side of the house by the north wind. A visitor in the middle of the night meant bad news.
“Wake up in there!” a man’s voice shouted. “I need help!”
The man’s words, and years of serving the parish’s needs, roused Samantha. She threw a heavy wool shawl over her flannel nightdress, slipped her feet into a pair of old boots, and shuffled out of the bedroom into the kitchen.
The small house was attached to St. Gabriel’s Church, a stone Norman building that had weathered many a Northumberland winter, although this one promised to be colder than most. Samantha shivered as a draft skittered up beneath her nightdress.
Her visitor pounded on the door again, the force of the blows making the heavy cedar door shake.
“I’m coming, I’m coming,” she said crossly, her words coming out in little puffs of frigid air. No fire burned in her hearth. Not at night, when she could conserve fuel by sleeping under a mountain of blankets.
She lit a candle and glanced at the clock on the sideboard. It was shortly past midnight.
Samantha could usually tell who was outside by peeking out the window to the side of the door. However, the night was too dark for her to make out anything but the man’s tall shape. He could be any of a number of the villagers.
He was just starting to knock again when she threw back the bar, opened the door—and found herself staring into the eyes of a tall, dark stranger.
She immediately attempted to close the door.
The man had anticipated her move and put his foot in the door so she couldn’t shut ft. He was tall, broad shouldered, with a headful of dark hair and glittering, angry eyes. She didn’t know how she could have thought he looked like any of her friends or neighbors.
He didn’t force the door open but held his ground.
“What is it you want?” she asked through the crack in the door.
“I want the keys to the Ayleborough vault.”
Samantha almost laughed in his face. “Are you daft? Those keys are for the family only. Besides, it is the middle of the night.”
The stranger’s voice hardened with determination. “I want the keys.” He spoke in the clear, concise English of an educated man. But she bristled at his high-handed attitude and was all too conscious of the slight lilting burr of the northlands in her voice.
“You cannot have them without the permission of the duke of Ayleborough,” Samantha answered, with an authority gained from years of making grown men cringe in guilt and recalcitrant schoolboys swallow cod oil. She attempted to close the door but he pushed it with his shoulder, throwing it open and shoving her aside.
He was so tall, he had to stoop or hit his head on the low ceiling. His presence filled the room. “I want the keys.”
Another woman might have quaked from fear—and the truth be known, Samantha’s knees were shaking—but she was six-and-twenty, a woman in charge of her life. The Vicarage of St. Gabriel’s had been responsible for the Ayleborough family vault for almost two centuries. It was a sacred trust between the vicar and the noble family that paid St. Gabriel’s benefice, and she would not betray that trust.
She moved around the table, wanting to put something between herself and this intruder. The candle’s wan light cast ghoulish shadows behind him. “You can’t have them.”
The stranger’s eyes narrowed. “I must not have heard you correctly,” he said in a low, silky voice. His gloved fingers opened and closed menacingly.
Samantha’s throat went dry, but if need be, she’d die to protect those keys. Since her father’s death a year ago, the villagers had been hinting broadly that the time had come for her to move out of the vicarage. Now was her opportunity to prove her worth. “You can’t have them,” she repeated stubbornly.
His eyes took on an almost unholy light of anger. He was obviously unaccustomed to being defied. Well, so was she.
She just wished she wasn’t so aware of how big and brutally strong he was.
Then, to her relief, he took a step away. He pushed his thick, heavy hair back from his face with his hand. His was a strong face with a straight nose and a lean, square jaw. When he attempted a smile, the expression seemed almost uncomfortable for him.
“I’m sorry,” he apologized, his tone brisk. He looked around the small kitchen. “I imagine my behavior appears rude to you, barging in as I have in the middle of the night.” He didn’t sound apologetic at all.
“Who are you?” she dared to ask.
He ignored her question. His dark gaze flicked over her half-dressed appearance with disinterest. “Where is the vicar? I must speak to him.”
“He’s not available,” she announced curtly, and prayed the man wouldn’t realize she was alone. She should never have opened the door to him. How often had the villagers warned her to be more careful?
She crossed her arms against her breasts, suddenly aware of her vulnerability as a woman.
“But I must see him,” the stranger insisted.
“And who are you?”
Samantha drew a deep breath. “I’m his daughter. I am responsible for the Ayleborough vault.”
“Well, Miss—?” He paused.
“Northrup,” she said, for the first time a little self-conscious of her unmarried state.
“Well, Miss Northrup, I have traveled a long way. I want the keys to the Ayleborough vault.”
“I was immediately engrossed… the tone of the writing strikes a rare balance between seriousness and humor…a charming story with delightful
characters… you won’t want to put it down.” —The Romance Reader
“Cathy Maxwell brings both a luscious sense of humor and a special poignancy to her romances that allow readers to laugh and cry simultaneously. You’ll savor BECAUSE OF YOU.”
― RT Book Reviews (4 1/2 stars)