Greta Zwieg forges masterpieces. With her copies on their walls and the original paintings safely hidden, the noble families of Austria can rest assured their treasures will survive Napoleon's advances. But now Greta's uncle is changing the rules, selling her counterfeits as originals. Greta abhors the deceit. Anxious for her family's safety in a perilous time, she is nevertheless determined to put things right.***
Oliver Doerger is living a lie of his own. Acting as valet for his aristocratic half brother, Oliver thwarts an attempt on Greta's life and is overwhelmed by the forbidden passion that flares between them. Although he's not truly a servant, he is a bastard and a spy--certainly no match for a woman of such exquisite quality.
Though both fear discovery, they cannot resist each other. When the truth comes out, and the city falls into chaos, Greta and Oliver will be forced to choose: love or duty?
"I'll leave now, if you ask me to." His mouth was near enough to brush the bridge of her nose. "Or I can stay."
She licked her lip. "Stay."
He closed his eyes and exhaled. When he opened them again, he revealed such an expression of longing that Greta's knees nearly buckled. She wilted toward him, neck tipped back, leading with her bust. Oliver groaned. He pushed her hands behind her back and dipped his head. When warm, firm lips touched her throat, she was lost. And she reveled in it.
Oliver skimmed his mouth down along her skin, nuzzling the edge of lace along the high collar of her nightgown. Greta's world had gone dark, her eyes drifting closed on the waves of gathering pleasure, but bright lights fired off behind her lids. Oliver scooped her into his arms, adding to her dizziness. She gasped, then laughed into his chest. So warm and solid. He held her closer and she burrowed into his strong torso, still wondering how far he would let this go.
A detached place in her brain made a promise. She would enjoy these moments. She would savor them and hoard them for the day, not so long from now, when being cradled by Oliver Doerger was no longer a prospect. And in the meantime, she would speak her mind. She would do what she wanted. She would not be a shy, intimidated fool who swallowed her own tongue at the faintest hint of displeasure from others. If he wanted to be with her, he would be with the woman she had always hidden--brave and curious, honest and strong.
Such a promise. One she made herself honor straight away.
"What are your intentions, Herr Doerger?"
He still held her, their breaths mingling, their mouths so near to touching. "My intentions?"
"Yes. Are you here to kiss me until your conscience makes you stop? Or are you here to show me how a man and woman fit together?" She traced the shell of his ear. "Oliver, I've been so curious."
He lifted his brows in silent reply.
"All of my art books and pictures of sculptures by the old masters--they tell me so little."
"You know the male form. That's more than most gently bred young women."
She smiled sadly. "Only half of me is gently bred, mein Lieber. I want to talk about seeing you in the training room."
Slowly, with infinite patience and muscled arms that remained sure and steady, he lowered her onto the bed. The sheets and counterpane were cool compared to how hotly her skin burned. She stretched fully, amazed by the way his gaze absorbed every movement. There was power in being able to command such attention. She could get tipsy on that alone--the thrill of being the center of his world, no matter how briefly.
"Truly, marble sculpture does not do a man's physique justice. When I saw you earlier, you were just so...hairy."
Oliver pressed a fist against his grin. "I'm not that bad."
"Not bad. But not marble and stone, either. You looked breathless and hot. Utterly alive." She inhaled, pressing on. "I wanted to touch you. I still do."
"And if the masters got the vitality of a man's body wrong, then it leaves me to wonder what else they botched. Books of poetry, even descriptions of the sex act itself--I have to assume it must be experienced to be understood."
Although astonished at how giving herself permission to speak freely had produced such scandalous words, she felt freer for being able to say them, to speak her fantasies aloud. Oliver's avid stare and parted lips said he did not mind.
"I don't want that first experience to be with Herr Weiser." She looked down to where her hands clasped together on her stomach, so nervous that every inch of her shook. Still, he deserved to see her earnestness. Gathering a fortifying breath, she met his avid stare. "Oliver, I want it to be with you."