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372 pages, Mass Market Paperback
First published August 30, 2011
"We have to get out of here, Bram. Before they take our bollocks and use them for pincushions."
Bram made his way to the nearest wall and propped one shoulder against it, resting his knee. Damn, that climb had been steep. "Let me understand this," he said, discreetly rubbing his aching thigh under the guise of brushing off loose dirt. "You're suggesting we leave because the village is full of spinsters? Since when do you complain about an excess of women?"
"These are not your normal spinsters. They're...they're unbiddable. And excessively educated."
"Oh. Frightening, indeed. I'll stand my ground when facing a French cavalry charge, but an educated spinster is something different entirely."
"You mock me now. Just you wait. You'll see, these women are a breed unto themselves."
"My pride's not wounded, for God's sake. And no, I'm not disappointed. Nor haunted, nor embittered, nor threatened. Stop trying to pin all these emotions on me like frilly pink ribbons. I'm not one of your delicate spinsters, Miss Finch. This isn't about my tender feelings. I have things to accomplish, and you"--he poked a single finger into her shoulder--"are hindering me."
Here it was, his secret. No childhood trauma, no ravages of war. Just a deep, unspoken desire for closeness.*sigh* How can you not be sucked in by such a man?
"No, Susanna," he said. "I cannot love you just a little. If that's what you want, you must find a different man." His green eyes were breathtaking in their intensity. His thumb brushed her bottom lip. "Because I can only love you entirely. With everything I am, and everything I will be. Body, mind, heart, soul."
"Tonight," he announced, "is the night we take back that village. And we're not going to do it by marching in lines or committing acts of brave idiocy. We're going to do it by being men. Manly men. The kind of men a woman wants to take control."
Brows wrinkled in confusion.
"But..." The blacksmith looked around the group. "We are men. Last I checked, anyhow."
"It's not just a matter of having the proper equipment. It's using the equipment properly." Leaping up on a crate, Colin spread his arms wide. "Look at me. Now look at yourselves. Now look back at me. I am the man you want to be like."
Dawes crossed his arms. "Why is that, precisely?"
"Do you know how many women I've bedded?" When Rufus and Finn perked, he waved at them. "Have a guess, boys."
"Seventeen," offered Finn.
"Oh, for the love of God," he muttered. "We'll be here all day. Let's just call the number more than you can imagine. Because clearly, that is the case." Under his breath, he added, "Perhaps higher than you know how to count."
"We're going to have this out, you and me. Right here. Right now. I'm going to tell you every wild, erotic, depraved thought you've inspired, and then you're going to run home scared. Lock your bed-chamber door and stay there for the next month so I can concentrate and do my damned duty."But instead of LAUGHING in his face, she goes along with it. She's so overcome at the thought of this guy being into her, that I guess she's into him too? I guess?
"That sounds like a very poorly thought-out plan."