In this scene, our intrepid heroine Emily Claire Scarborough comes face to face with her rescuer Justin Connor after falling off a boat and washing up on a moonlit beach...
A man unfolded himself from the shadows with lanky grace. He stepped into a beam of sunlight, tilting back a battered panama hat with one finger.
Their eyes met and Emily remembered everything. She remembered swimming until her arms and legs had turned leaden and her head bobbed under the water with each stroke. She remembered crawling onto the beach and collapsing in the warm sand. Then her memories hazedóa man's mouth melted tenderly into hers, his dark lashed eyes the color of sunlight on honey.
Emily gazed up into those eyes. Their depths were a little sad, a trifle mocking. She couldn't tell if they mocked her or himself. She forced her gaze down from his, then wished she hadn't.
Her throat constricted. His physical presence was as daunting as a blow. She had never seen quite so much man. The sheer volume of his sun-bronzed skin both shocked and fascinated her. In London the men swathed themselves in layers of clothing from the points of their high starched collars to the tips of their polished shoes. Shaggy whiskers shielded any patch of skin that risked exposure.
But this man wore nothing but sheared-off dungarees that clung low on his narrow hips. The chiseled muscles of his chest and calves drank in the sunlight. To Emily's shocked eyes, he might as well have been naked.
Another unwelcome memory returnedódamp sand clinging to her own bare skin. The pulse in her throat throbbed to mortified life. She glanced down to find herself wrapped in the voluminous folds of a man's frock coat. The sleeves hung far below her hands.
"My man Penfeld was kind enough to lend you his coat." The husky scratch of the stranger's voice sent shivers down her spine.
Disconcerted to find her thoughts read so neatly, she shot him a nasty look. A dazzling smile split the somber black of his stubbled chin. Dear Lord, the amiable wretch had kissed her! What other liberties had he taken while she lay in his embrace? Emily buried her fists in the coat and hugged herself, fighting a sudden chill.
His man Penfeld leaned forward in his shirtsleeves and suspenders and peered into her face with concern. "You look a trifle pale, miss. Would you care for some tea?"
"Coffee please. Very strong and very black."
Penfeld looked as dismayed as if she'd asked for a straight shot of arsenic. His whiskers quivered.
"You'll have to forgive him," her host said. "He's been waiting years for a lady to fall off a boat so he could offer her some tea."
"He'll have to wait a bit longer then, won't he?" she snapped.
She couldn't tell if it was laughter or reproach that kinked the corner of the man's well-shaped mouth. She nodded toward the grinning native squatting in the corner. "Fix some coffee for the cannibal, too. Or does he prefer blood."
The stranger crossed his muscular arms over his chest. "Only the blood of virgins."
Emily pasted on her cockiest smile, determined to bluff her way past these half-naked rogues. "Then I've nothing to worry about, have I?"