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Authors: Tessa Dare

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“The heart is not the only organ involved.” Lucy gave Sophia a wicked smile.

“Perhaps I could be persuaded to marry,” Bel continued, “if I could find a man of consequence and principle, who possessed a keen sense of justice and shared my passion for charity …”

“I hope you do find such a man,” Sophia said. “But, Bel … to have a happy marriage, two people must share a passion for something other than charity.”

Bel looked up. “Truly? Like what?”

Lucy broke into laughter, and Sophia could not help but join her.

“No, really,” Bel insisted, looking from one to the other. “Tell me what you mean.”

“Miss Grayson, never fear,” Lucy said. “We will expand your education.” She looked to Sophia. “You do still have
The Book?”

Sophia choked on her tea. Under no circumstances would she permit Gray’s sister so much as a glance at that book—not after the way she’d illustrated it.

“Well,” she hedged, avoiding Lucy’s inquisitive look, “you see, it isn’t—”

The house keeper saved her, thank goodness.

“Beg pardon, my lady. There’s an urgent matter requiring your attention.” Mrs. Prewitt gave a cryptic nod and disappeared into the corridor.

With relief, Sophia muttered her excuses to Lucy and Bel as she rose to her feet. By the time she reached the hallway, however, the house keeper had disappeared. Frowning, she wandered toward the rear of the house. Perhaps there was some problem in the kitchens, or with the coal delivery?

As she passed the door to Gray’s study, a familiar, muscled arm shot out into the corridor, catching her by the waist.

Laughing, she stumbled into the room, quickly finding herself caught between cool walnut paneling at her back and the hot, solid wall of man before her. Ever since their wedding—or since the
Kestrel
storeroom, more likely—Gray seemed to find it an irresistible challenge, to catch her unawares in an unlikely location and pull her into a feverish embrace.

Sophia had no wish to discourage the habit, but this wasn’t the ideal time for a tryst. “Gray,” she chided between kisses, “what are you about? The house keeper said there was an urgent matter requiring my attention.”

“And so there is. I require your attention. Most urgently.” His hands slid to her bottom, and he lifted her easily, pinning her to the wall with his hips. The beaded ridges of the wainscoting dug into her spine. “Don’t think we’ve used this room yet,” he murmured, nibbling at the curve of her neck.

“I’m entertaining,” she protested.

“Yes, you are,” he said, grinding against her. “Highly entertaining.”

Sophia sighed with pleasurable frustration. “I mean, I have a guest. Lady Kendall’s in the salon, with Bel.” She levered her arm against his chest, carving out some space between them. “And I thought you were at your shipping office.”

“Yes, well …” Mischief gleamed sharp in his eyes. “I decided to go riding instead.”

“Riding? To where?”

Relaxing his grip on her bottom, he slid her downward until her toes met the floor. “Out to Kent.”

Her breath caught. There wasn’t any reason for him to go to Kent, not unless he meant to visit—

“Gray, you didn’t.”

“I did.” His expression turned to seriousness. “Don’t be angry, sweet. I know you wrote to them, but … I felt I owed your father that much, to pay a call and face matters straight on. It’s the man’s way, you understand.”

She nodded, a lump of anxiety forming in her throat. She wouldn’t have asked him to call on her father, but she understood why he had. It wasn’t just the man’s way, it was the honorable thing to do—and therefore, she knew Gray couldn’t have done otherwise. He truly was the best of men.

With unsteady fingers, she smoothed the lapel of his coat. “Dare I ask how you were received?”

“Warily, at first. Then somewhat belligerently.” His eyebrow quirked. “But my reception improved markedly, once I extended the invitation to a dinner party with my aunt.”

A rueful smile curved Sophia’s lips. Yes, that would be her parents’ reaction. They’d dine with the Devil himself, if a duchess were in attendance. “They are dreadful, aren’t they?”

He shrugged. “Isn’t everyone’s family? I doubt your father and I will ever be great friends, but we did discover one interest in common.”

“What’s that?”

“You.” Strong fingers cupped her chin. “We both want to see you happy. We both love you.”

For a moment, Sophia did not trust herself to speak. Relief and joy swelled within her, until there was room for nothing else.

His lips brushed hers in a gentle kiss. “Am I forgiven, for not telling you first?”

Yes, yes. Forgiven, cherished, treasured, adored. Loved, beyond reason
.

“I suppose,” she said coyly, tracing the line of his jaw with her fingertips. “So long as you will extend me the same forgiveness.”

“Why?” His eyes narrowed. “Have you been keeping secrets again?”

“Just one.” Smiling, she took his hand and pressed it meaningfully against her gently rounded abdomen. “A very, very tiny one.”

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

This book is the product of more than a year’s work. Courtney Milan and Amy Baldwin were there from the roughest of rough beginnings. Lindsey helped point the way when I was hopelessly adrift. Lenore, Maggie, Elyssa, Manda, Darcy, Lacey, and Erica all came along for the ride, reading drafts and providing invaluable perspective. Thanks to Jennifer, for really, truly going sailing with me. And lastly, much gratitude to my editor, Kate Collins, for helping me shape the manuscript into an even stronger story.

A note to readers: In this story, “dolphin-fish” refers to the deep-sea fish we now commonly call mahi-mahi—not the friendly, intelligent mammals we know as dolphins today. Please be assured that no dolphins, fictional or otherwise, were harmed in the writing of this book!

Surrender of a Siren
is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

A Ballantine Books Mass Market Original

Copyright © 2009 by Eve Ortega

Excerpt from
A Lady of Persuasion
by Tessa Dare copyright © 2009 by Eve Ortega

All rights reserved.

Published in the United States by Ballantine Books, an imprint of The Random House Publishing Group, a division of Random House, Inc., New York.

Ballantine and colophon are registered trademarks of Random House, Inc.

This book contains an excerpt from the forthcoming book
A Lady of Persuasion
by Tessa Dare. This excerpt has been set for this edition only and may not reflect the final content of the forthcoming edition.

eISBN: 978-0-345-51684-8

HYPERLINK "http://www.ballantinebooks.com/"www.ballantinebooks.com

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