Temptation this hot is worth the sin...***
After avenging the murders of his family, Gareth Lowell headed west to put his demons to rest. Though several years have passed, he still carries the weight of his sins and doesn't believe he deserves to be loved--even by the beautiful Portia Townsend. He's known Portia since she was a young girl, and though she's blossomed into a voluptuous woman, he resists the deep longing she stirs in him.
When Portia realizes Gareth will never see her as anything more than the feisty, silly girl she once was, she decides to move on. Trouble is, Portia has once again gotten herself into a dangerous situation, and the only way out is to marry Gareth--if only temporarily. Turns out getting hitched was the easy part, while giving up a scorching passion is the last thing either are willing to admit...
Even a devil deserves the love of a good woman.
The wind dived and tore Gareth's clothes, fast as a hawk striking at a dove. Sunshine might make the day warm and bright, but it also gave predators far too many advantages.
"It's a beautiful mosque," Portia commented.
"Even more so, on the inside," Gareth agreed absently.
Perhaps if he craned his head a little more, he might spot something which would reveal St. Arles' intentions, here at Constantinople's highest point. Or was he on a fool's errand, looking for clues amid the chaos of an old bazaar quarter?
"To have an ancient Greek church next to it, plus the ruins of another, is grand," Portia cooed in a splendid impersonation of sightseeing awe. "Where else could I see such wonders in one place?"
He grunted an acknowledgement, far more interested in that British warship. Had she moved out into the harbor a little more?
"And this Roman wall." Portia clucked her tongue. "Did it truly stop invaders for more than a thousand years?"
Gareth pulled his attention back from the distant Golden Horn's waters to his very close wife and the pile of rubble beside her.
Portia. His beautiful, courageous, stubborn friend, who insisted on calling him her husband. Even though she knew what he'd done in the past and that he planned to walk away from her in the future. Somebody to ride the river with, as his father would have said.
Portia, a woman he didn't deserve.
"Do you believe this wall could stop invaders again?" she asked, her cheeks nicely flushed by the wind.
If he bent his head a little more, he could pretend the single cypress tree concealed them from passersby and kiss her.
"Yes, it's Roman," he said softly, his lips very close to her ear.
Most importantly, he could pretend they had a future together.
"Yes, it did stand for more than a thousand years, including through multiple earthquakes."
Her lips trembled in a large, round O.
Movement beyond her shoulder caught his eye.
Gareth lifted his head--and reluctantly thanked God for the interruption. Kissing Portia rattled his wits far more than gunplay ever had and he couldn't afford to lose any edge now.
"But our Ottoman overlords let it fall into decline two centuries ago, Lady St. Arles," said a French accented voice. Familiar but not extremely so.
"In the same manner as they themselves forsook all manly pastimes and sank into the pits of degradation," growled another, far too well-known voice. The revolutionaries' leader at the palace, dammit.