Excerpt from The Tiger Lily

  
     He made a romantic figure as he stood there in the flickering lantern light, the scarlet sling vivid against his white shirt, the black breeches hugging his long, muscular legs, the black boots gleaming. A lock of thick blue-black hair had fallen across his forehead, increasing his rakish air, and as the dancing light played across his hard face, Sabrina muttered, "No, as I'm certain you know very well!"
     It was as if the two of them were alone on the patio, Alejandro's presence forgotten. Intently Alejandro watched them, not displeased by the tangible tension between them, or the sarcastic exchange of words. They strike fire from each other, he thought with pleasure. A fire that could consume them both and burn forever.
     Brett grinned at Sabrina's reply, his strong white teeth a brief flash in the darkness of his face. "Such graciousness, infant! You'll unman me!"
     Unsettled, confused by the emotions he aroused within her, she abandoned any attempt at politeness. He was laughing at her, teasing her, mocking her, and Sabrina's volatile temper rose. Under her breath, she hissed, "I'd like to unman you—with a razor-sharp blade!"
     Brett's infuriating laughter rang out across the patio, and an imp of mischief dancing in the depths of his eyes, he murmured silkily, "It's been tried, infant, believe me." The mischief vanished from his eyes, and he added, "It's been tried by women far more proficient than you at castrating a man!"
     Staring at that unexpectedly dangerous face, Sabrina shivered, angry and wary at the same time. We're like two mortal enemies, she thought wildly, compelled to fight the moment we see each other, for reasons neither of us even knows. Why? Why do I feel the need to quarrel with him, she wondered painfully, and at the same time long for...? Even she wasn't certain what she longed for, and bewildered, she searched his face, seeking an answer.
     His eyes were on hers, his gaze as intent as hers, and catching a glimpse of the expression buried in those jade-green eyes, she was very glad that she was a woman—and that her father was seated nearby.
     Alejandro had not heard their last exchange, but he was aware that something had passed between them, something that wasn't making either of them happy, and knowing how quick-tempered his daughter could be, he called out hastily, "Come now, you two, you must share this conversation with me."
     Brett tore his eyes away from Sabrina's, and shrugging his broad shoulders, he said easily, "I was merely agreeing with your earlier statement—Sabrina is indeed lovely. You have good reason to be proud of your daughter... even if she has a tongue that can wound fatally."
     Alejandro smiled wryly and nodded his head. "Si, this is true. Often I have wished that she had been born dumb."
     The tense moment disappeared and with an unladylike snort, Sabrina started to turn away, but Brett reached out and captured her arm. Adding to her confusion and conflicting emotions, he took her hand, and bending low over it, he pressed his warm mouth into the palm. His lips seemed to sear where they touched, and her heart began to behave most erratically.
     An unbelievably attractive smile on his mouth, he said huskily, "Shall we cry peace, infant? I promise to behave myself—as best I am able—if you will promise to curb that wicked little tongue of yours."
     Suffused with an inexplicable, intoxicating burst of happiness, all her earlier reservations gone, she gave him a radiant smile. An enchanting dimple appeared in one cheek, and she agreed almost shyly, "Si, Señor Brett, I would like it above all things."
 
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