James Kilter has few illusions about himself. Maimed in a boiler accident when young and routinely reviled by those he encounters, he’s no prize for any woman. He’s content working security for a good friend until he sees Catherine Delaney disembark from an airship one May afternoon. Her fragile beauty calls up all his protective instincts. But will she accept a monster as her defender?
Having traded her own safety to save her young sister, Cat Delaney has landed in the hands of a ruthless, wealthy man who intends to use her as a pawn to his avarice. Alone in a strange city, she has nowhere to turn except to the very man hired to keep her from running. Can she trust James, with his ruined face and crusader’s spirit? Dare she give him her heart?
What the hell?” Latham barked. The ornery Englishman abhorred ostentation. So, ordinarily, did James. Yet now he narrowed his eyes in admiration.
“That’ll be our client,” Tate said. “Come on, lads. Let’s see what the man wants with us.”
The landing strip lay some three blocks over, and they went at a jog, breaking sweat in the warm sun. By the time they got there the party had begun to disembark from the gondola—and what a party it was.
The servants came first, a virtual bevy of them, all hurrying importantly. James rocked on his heels and watched them roll out a carpet—an actual frigging red carpet—from the door of the gondola across the bricks on the street. The gondola continued to spew a crowd of people, sycophants no doubt, and James became distracted by the airship itself. Tate had promised to buy him a ride someday from a man who booked excursions out over the lake, but for now he could only imagine the pleasure. He wondered what it would be like to own such a glorious toy and acknowledged he’d never know. He couldn’t even conceive of the required riches.
“That him?” Latham asked.
James switched his gaze to the three people who had just disembarked, two men and a woman, and promptly lost all the breath in his body.
They made an unlikely enough trio—one of the men willowy and slender, clad in a splendid suit that screamed wealth, the other broad and squat if also well-dressed. James dismissed both of them almost immediately, for the third of the group gathered all his attention and focused it the way a mirror gathers light.
“That his doxy?” Latham persisted.
She wore one of the new tailored gowns of some thin fabric that fluttered around her slender body in the breeze off the water. Strawberry-blonde hair clustered round her head in a woven crown of curls, and even from fifty paces away James could see the delicate perfection of her features. She stood between the two men like a doe hedged by wolves, and something about her demeanor bespoke the fact that she longed to flee. Suddenly James wanted to tear the two men apart with his bare hands, rescue her, change her world. He knew he could do it, too; at that moment he could best anyone.
“Nice piece,” Latham muttered. “Wouldn’t mind the job of guarding that.”
And just as abruptly, James wanted to tear Latham apart also, a visceral reaction that flowed from the core of his being outward to his fists.
“Button it,” Tate snapped before James could. “That’s our client, Mr. Sebastian Boyd—one of the wealthiest men you’ll ever meet.”
And with him, James amended in his head, the most beautiful woman he ever hoped to behold.