On His Honor – Excerpt

Peace and quiet surrounded Jamie. He imagined Emilia preparing breakfast. He could almost smell the delicious scent of eggs and bacon. With all his travels in England, he had discovered a liking for the traditional morning meal the villagers ate. Growing up in France, he'd always eaten fresh bread with jam and cheeses.

With his stomach growling, he looked in the kitchen for leftovers. On the table, loaves of bread sat in a wicker basket. Emilia wouldn't mind if he took a morsel to quell his hunger. Jamie took out a few gold coins and placed them on the table. He sat and took a piece of bread. The warm and delicious scent reminded him of home.

"What are you doing here?" The familiar feminine voice spoke behind him.

Jamie turned around and looked at her. Emilia held a small knife in one trembling hand while she balanced a load of wood in her arms.

"I'll ask you only once, sir."

"Forgive me. I was hungry."

She regarded him for a long moment before she put the wood down beside the hearth and placed her knife in the pouch at her thin waist. "Care for some jam with that, sir?"

He heard her annoyed tone. His gut tugged with regret for hurting her. With care, he answered, "Yes, please."

Emilia walked in front of him, pulling out a jar of jam from the cupboard. He controlled his desire to touch her. Their gazes met when she turned.

"Here." She untied the cloth over the jar and sat it on the table.

His mouth watered when the delicious smell of the dark blue jam reached his nose. "Blackberries."

"Yes, that's right. How do you know?"

"My mother used to make jam all the time when I was a child."

Again, she stared at him, questioning. "What are you doing here?" she repeated, sitting in the chair across from him.

"I wanted…" Her beauty distracted him. Her rosy lips tempted him. For a moment, his imaginings overtook reason. No one and nothing else existed.

"You wanted what?" Her harsh voice broke through his thoughts.

"To make sure you weren't planning an attempt to rescue your father," he said, hoping she believed his half-truth. She'd think him mad if he told her how much the desire to kiss her filled his head. If he didn't kiss her just once, he wouldn't be able to concentrate on his duties. One kiss, that's all he wanted. His gaze went to her rosy lips. He imagined tasting them until he no longer felt his own mouth. He squeezed his eyes shut.

"Don't worry, sir. I have no intention of going after my father."

"Why don't I believe you?"

She stood and started making tea.

"You didn't answer my question, Mistress Crawford."

Taking a deep breath, she turned and faced him. "I won't go after my father."

He chuckled. "I don't believe you. Nothing I say will convince you to change your mind?"

Emilia pulled back her shoulders. "You're right, and I will succeed in getting him back. You took away my brother. Now you've taken my father as well."

Jamie stood in front of her. In her eyes, he saw the pain King Henry and his law had caused her. Damn King Henry! She had no family left. He had no idea what had happened to her brother, but he was taking her father.

He cupped her chin. A pang of regret resounded within his body. Part of him wanted to return her father and make things right for her. He hated seeing her with such sadness in her pretty eyes. She stilled under his touch. Her innocence caught him off guard and called out to him. She pulled at his heartstrings and twisted them until he no longer thought with a clear mind. Her hot breath teased his thumb as he glided the tip along her lips.

Dammit! Why couldn't they have met under different circumstances? His gut told him she'd refuse any aid from him. Her pride would tell him where he could shove his generosity. Desire overtook reason when he lifted her chin and wondered what her lips tasted like. Just this one time.