In a Moonlit Garden by Cathy Maxwell
Posing as a tea merchant, Colonel Michael Sanson infiltrates an eccentric chemist’s household in search of a stolen formula. But as soon as he lays eyes on the thief’s niece, Lady Jocelyn, he is sidetracked into doing the fair lady’s bidding. Little does Michael know that assisting in Jocelyn’s scheme to make her former suitor jealous will send him into a tailspin of love and white-hot passion.
Michael had a problem-he still loved Ivy or so he reminded himself . . . but he couldn’t stop thinking about Jocelyn.
Again, tonight, he’d spent time around a table and was reminded of being with his family. What he had tossed aside so callously years ago, now meant something to him. And his parents, his brothers and sisters would all adore Jocelyn if they were ever to meet her.
Nor did Kenyon strike Michael as a thief. The man was very forthcoming about his experiments-even his work with rubber, leaving William’s motives suspect.
Michael had always prided himself on his sense of honor. For Ivy’s hand, he’d undertaken the most havey-cavey of escapades and he felt he’d compromised not only his reputation but perhaps his heart as well.
There was only one way to discover the truth to this situation and that was to take a look at the formula for himself. If it was Sir William’s, it would be in his flowing script.
Michael decided to break into Kenyon’s laboratory.
He wasn’t going to make the same mistake he had the night before. This time, he hid in the line of woods bordering the property until he saw all the lights go out in Kenyon’s house and he knew they were asleep.
Carefully, he moved through the shadows to the laboratory windows. To his good fortune, he found one that was open a crack. Straining his eyes, he peered into all the corners to make sure Kenyon wasn’t asleep in a chair like he’d been the night before. The good-sized red leather chair in a corner was empty and there were no bear-like snores to disturb the night.
Michael eased the window up, lifted himself onto the sill, and climbed inside. He started combing through the papers on the desk. He soon began to recognize Kenyon’s squiggly writing but the formula could be anywhere. Kenyon was an eccentric thinker and had a habit of sticking notes and papers between the pages of books he had stacked all over his laboratory.
Perhaps the formula was over on the table Kenyon used for work? Michael started leafing through the papers there and was so busy, he didn’t hear a footfall until it was too late.
He looked up, suddenly aware he wasn’t alone.
Jocelyn stood inside the doorway. Her glorious curls were down around her shoulders and she wore nothing save for a thin cotton night gown with a shawl thrown over her shoulders. Her feet were bare.
She didn’t appeared surprised to see him. “This is the second time, I’ve caught you snooping, Michael. What is it you want?”
He cleared his throat. “This isn’t what it seems.”
Her shrewd glance took in the open window. “You didn’t come in through the door.”
“I didn’t want to wake you.”
“How polite,” she returned coldly. “Why are you searching my uncle’s laboratory?”
There it was, the dreaded question. A thousand lies leapt his lips . . . he chose the truth. “I was searching for the formula to adhere rubber to cloth.”
She obviously hadn’t been expecting that answer. “Why?”
“Jocelyn, please hear me out and I’ll tell you everything.”
“You’re not a tea merchant.”
“God no. I’m a military officer.” It felt good to say those words, to be who he was.
She pulled the shawl tighter around her. “And your name is not Donaldson, is it?”
“No.” She’d suspected. Her intelligence was keener than he had imagined. “It’s Sanson. Michael Sanson.” And then, because he wanted her to know, he added, “Colonel Michael Sanson.”
“Ah,” she cooed before adding softly, “And the army sent you here because they are afraid Napoleon had escaped again and could be found in my uncle’s laboratory?”
He deserved her sarcasm. “I’ve reason to believe your uncle stole a formula from another scientist.”
Her reaction was immediate. She walked right up to him. “He’d never do such a thing! Who made such a vile accusation?”
“Sir William Lewin.”
“The man you asked me about earlier?”
“The name means nothing to me.”
“Your uncle path must have crossed his at one time or the other. Otherwise your uncle wouldn’t have the formula.”
She shook her head. “My uncle would never steal another man’s work. He’s been asked to help others solve problems but he’d never claimed work that wasn’t his as his own. This Sir William must be lying. Besides, I know a Mr. Redding requested his help and sent the basics of the formula to him.”
Michael seized the opportunity to persuade her. “That’s why I’m here. I want to know the truth.”
Jocelyn wasn’t that gullible. “So you steal into a man’s house and expect him to prove your unfounded suspicions are wrong?” He knew she was seeing him with new eyes. Gone was the softness and in it’s place was suspicion and doubt. “There’s more to this than is on the surface.”
“It is as I told you.” He needed her to believe him.
She took a step back. “You want me to trust you,” she said quietly, “even though you came to Wye to rob my uncle–”
“Robbery is too strong a word.”
She almost laughed, the sound bitter. “Or not strong enough. Because, everything you’ve done, from letting a room from Lucy and Kent to spending time with me has been a scheme to gain the formula, hasn’t it?”
He did not want her to form this conclusion. “No. Not quite. I mean, I can explain, Jocelyn. ”
She wasn’t in the mood for explanations. “And the kiss last night–! It was a ruse. Thomas probably wasn’t even there. You were going to break in then and I discovered you.”
“I hadn’t intended on kissing you. What happened between us-none of that was planned.”
“No, of course not,” she agreed brittlely. “I was supposed to be snug in my bed while you rifled my uncle’s possessions.”
“I trusted you.” Her words damned him. “I was starting to fall in–” She broke off, unable to speak the thought . . . but he knew what she had been about to admit. She’d started to fall in love with him, and he felt like the blackest of scoundrels. He’d always done what was right, what was honorable.
Michael stepped forward, coming around the table toward her. He wanted to reassure her, to touch her and make amends. “You can trust me. I merely want the truth.”
“Get away from me!” She backed toward the door, her eyes angry glints. “You don’t have to apologize. You said your affections were spoken for. My gullibility is my problem. However, I must fetch my uncle. He will want the magistrate to see to you.”
The magistrate! Michael did not want the authorities involved. He was feeling foolish enough as it was. She started out the door, but he reached out, snagging her arm, drawing her back.
A hand on each arm, he said, “You must listen to me, Jocelyn–”
She kicked him firmly in the shins with her bare feet and attempted to jerk herself out of his hold.
He grunted, but not really hurt. Catching her by the wrist, he prevented her from running from the room. “Jocelyn, please–”
She started to scream. He instantly cut off the sound by placing his hand over her mouth, avoiding her sharp teeth.
Kicking shut the laboratory door, he moved the two of them to the leather retiring couch and unceremoniously dropped her into it. He leaned over to angrily inform her, “I’m not here to hurt you, so stop behaving like a madwoman.”
Her answer was to raise her knee and almost unman him. She hit his thigh with bruising force and pulled back, ready to try again. He fell on her, trapping her thrashing legs and holding them in place.
She glared at him, their faces so close together they breathed the same air. He saw the fear and pain of betrayal in her eyes . . . and the desire.
Suddenly, he was aware she wore nothing beneath her nightdress, that the hem was up to her waist, and that they were very alone. Lust as he’d never know it before replaced anger.
“Jocelyn,” he said, the musical sound of her name his benediction, his request begging her to understand. Then, slowly, he leaned forward and kissed her.
She could have turned away. She could have rejected him. She didn’t.
Instead, she held herself very still, the small frown between her eyes that he’d come to know as concern. It was as if she did not trust herself.
As for himself, he was dangerously close to the point when he would not be able to turn back. From the moment he’d laid eyes on her, he’d wanted her. Her skin was soft and smooth and the scent of woman filled his senses.
Still, she resisted. He wanted her to understand. He needed her forgiveness. He deepened his kiss, searching for a response.
And he received one.
With a sigh, she gave in. Her lips parted and her arms slid up around his neck. She drew him down to her.
Michael wanted to shout joyful hosannas. He would explain and she would understand now . . . but as their mouths melded together, explanation ceased to be important. And when she lightly stroked him with her tongue, he was lost.
The man who prided himself on control vanished. In his place was a man who had one simple need-Jocelyn. He wanted her with a passion that bordered on savage.
Perhaps if she had struggled. Perhaps if she’d protested or let him know in word or deed that she wished him to stop, he could have.
But she didn’t.
Instead, she became a willing accomplice to her seduction. She offered no protest as he slipped her night dress down around her shoulders, the shawl having fallen away when she’d first landed in the chair. He cupped her breast, reveling the firm weight of it. Her nipples were bold and proud . . . perfect. He broke the kiss and took one into his mouth.
Jocelyn cried out his name in surprise and then pleasure. Her hands tugged at his jacket, his neckcloth, his shirt as if not wanting any barriers between them. Michael bent her to his will, not hesitating in showing her the joys of lovemaking. And bless her, she offered herself to him with soft sighs and sweet moans of passion and gratitude.
Who cared about science and formulas and petty betrayals when he had such a magnificent, responsive creature in his arms? One that at this moment he’d give his life to possess?
He began unbuttoning his breeches.