One Wicked Winter Night
First published in the 2019 anthology SEDUCTION ON A SNOWY NIGHT.
Dressed as a veiled princess, Lady Diana Lawrence is shocked to discover that the mysterious corsair who tempts her away from the costume ball is the duke she once loved and lost. Now snowed in with Castleton at a remote lodge, will she surrender to the passion still burning hotly between them?
One Wicked Winter Night by Putney (Once a Spy, 2019, etc.) is, by far, the standout of this trio, with a lovely second-chance romance as lovers reunite at a magical costume ball.
Putney’s books are the literary equivalent of catnip to historical romance fans.
Laughing and heated from dancing, Diana smiled under her veil as Gabriel swept Rory away. It was time now for Diana to withdraw and vanish before midnight.
Then a tall man dressed all in black as a corsair approached the stage and lifted a beckoning hand, his cape swirling around him as if he were the devil coming to tempt a maiden to sweet damnation. The eyes framed by the black mask were a piercing blue.
In a deep, lightly accented voice he asked, “Dance with me, mysterious exotic lady?”
She had noticed him earlier because he was such a fine figure of a man and he danced very well. She’d also noticed that he chose a variety of partners, some of whom she suspected were shy young girls who blossomed under his attention. He might be a nice man under his menacing masquerade costume, but that didn’t matter. What interested her was that he could dance.
“Gladly, Sir Corsair,” she purred as she took his hand and skipped lightly to the dance floor, her bangles chiming on her wrists. Since she intended to stay anonymous, she didn’t lower the veil wrapped over her forehead and lower face.
Now that she was on the dance floor, she realized he was even taller and broader than she’d thought, which had the happy effect of making her feel delicately female. She rather enjoyed the feeling after so many years of taking care of herself under sometimes-challenging circumstances.
He clasped her hands and drew her into waltz position. Then they spun across the ballroom. Diana always felt sensual awareness when she danced with a man, and never more so than tonight. She guessed that was because dancing with Rory had already heated her blood and made her feel a little reckless. The champagne earlier hadn’t hurt, either. She asked, “Did you enjoy our little performance?”
“You and your partner were superb,” he said seriously. “I’m glad you chose to honor us with your skill. It was like traveling to another land.”
She smiled, glad they’d invoked such feelings. “The dancing was our pleasure, though not something we’ll make a habit of. Lady Aurora thought it would make her ball memorable.”
“It is a night I shall remember,” he said softly.
She realized that sensual awareness was moving into intense attraction and the feelings were mutual. And wasn’t that an outrageous thought? He was a stranger and his easy confidence suggested that he was a married man. Even if he wasn’t, she was not about to give up her independent life, and she was not a woman to take casual lovers.
Though there was nothing casual about how she felt tonight. As they waltzed, their bodies drew closer than was respectable. He was all male heat and strength, a wordless invitation to sin.
She felt reckless and a little wild, and she made no protest when he swept them into one of the ballroom’s shadowed alcoves. “You are enchanting, my exotic lady,” he breathed. “Will you join me for the supper dance?”
He wanted more than that, and so did she. “Perhaps I will. But first . . .” She tugged her veil from her lower face in a not very subtle invitation for a kiss.
An invitation he accepted. Their lips met in a warm, sweet thank-you for the pleasure of their dancing. Then his arms closed around her, and lightness dissolved into a desire that scorched her to her marrow. She leaned into him, their bodies molding together as the kiss deepened. He kissed like a god, she thought hazily. She’d never before experienced such a fierce response--
No, she had felt this scorching sensuality before! She jerked away until her back was pressed against the wall. “Anthony?” she gasped as she reached up to yank off his mask, revealing the face and deep blue eyes that were burned on her heart by the flames of first love.