Read Almost an Angel Online

Authors: Katherine Greyle

Tags: #Fiction, #Romance, #Erotica, #Historical, #General, #Regency

Almost an Angel

BOOK: Almost an Angel
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"Katherine Greyle writes with humor and crafts an enjoyable, fast-paced read."—
Romantic Times Book Club

"
Miss Woodley's Experiment
is just the ticket for anyone who wants to kick back and relax."

—All About Romance

"Katherine Greyle's writing has a definite spark." —All About Romance

CAROLLY
'
S
FATE

 

"I do not want love or a wife," James said firmly.

"Everyone wants love, James."

He looked closer, finally seeing the small red blood vessels in Carolly's eyes and the slight puffiness in her cheeks. Just as he feared. She had been crying. "What about you?" he pressed. "Do you want love?"

"I'm dead, James. Dead people don't love."

"You breathe," he whispered. Then he lifted his thumb to caress her beautiful neck. "Your skin is warm." He pushed aside her high collar to stroke the pulse at her throat, wishing he could press his lips to it instead. "Your heart beats. You are alive."

She pushed away from him, but not before he saw new tears form in her eyes. He moved to follow her, but her obvious pain kept him from doing so. He did not wish to hurt her by forcing his attentions on her; and so he watched helplessly as she walked unsteadily away from him, half falling into a large maple before steadying herself with one hand on its rough bark. When she spoke, her voice held such flat certainty that part of him wanted to believe her.

"In the last ten years, I have died six times. First in a car crash, then of TB. I've been beaten, stoned, and shot in the back. And I've suffocated from pneumonia." She turned, pinning him with her angry, wounded gaze. "I'm dead, James, and I will keep dying until I become an angel. And nothing you or I can do will change that."

Copyright © 2003, 2011 by Katherine Grill

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including photocopying, recording or by any information storage and retrieval system, without the written permission of the publisher, except where permitted by law.

ISBN 978-1-937198-09-1

PRAISE FOR

Wicked Surrender

By Jade Lee

“[A] darkly sensual, erotically complex historical romance. 
Wicked Surrender
is a definite keeper.”  -- Elizabeth Hoyt,
New York Times
bestselling author

“Lee’s beautifully nuanced characters and impeccably crafted historical setting are guaranteed to cast their own seductive spell over readers.”  --
Chicago Tribune

And for the other novels of
USA TODAY

 bestselling author Jade Lee

“[A] refreshingly different, sexy Regency romance.”  --
Chicago Tribune

“Lovely historical romance.” – Publishers Weekly

“It’s unflinching and unabashed in historic social and cultureal detail…Elegant complexity and beautifully rendered.”  --
Booklist
(starred review)

“Strangely hypnotic.”  --
Romance Reviews Today

“An exotic and emotional historical romantic tale.”  --
ParaNormal Romance

“I enjoyed the sensual and hot love scenes, and boy were they hot.  WOW!”  --
Night Owl Reviews.

“Lee…[has] brought something new and intriguing to erotic romance.  This is what places her in a class with the best.”  --
Romantic Times

“A highly enjoyable read.”  --
All About Romance

“Delightfully different.”  --
Midwest Book reviews

BOOKS BY JADE LEE

Devil’s Bargain
(7-04)    ISBN: 978-1-937198-10-7

Seduced By Crimson
(3-06)–Dorchester/Love Spell – 0-505-52672-7

The Dragon Earl
(9-08)   ISBN: 978-1-937198-11-4

Wicked Surrender
(9-10)
– Berkley Sensation – ISBN  978-0-425-23636-9

Wicked Seduction
(4-11) – Berkley Sensation – ISBN: 978-0-425-24015-1

TIGRESS SERIES

White Tigress
#1  (1-05)      ISBN: 978-1-937198-19-0

Hungry Tigress
#2  (6-05)     ISBN: 978-1-937198-18-3

Desperate Tigress
#3  (11-05)   ISBN: 978-1-937198-17-6

Burning Tigress
#4  (6-06)    ISBN: 978-1-937198-16-9

Cornered Tigress
#5  (1-07)  ISBN: 978-1-937198-15-2

Tempted Tigress
#6  (6-07)    ISBN: 978-1-937198-14-5

BLAZE

The Tao of Sex
(1-08) – HQ Blaze – 978-0-373-79378-5 / ISBN 10: 0-373-79378-2

Getting Physical
(9-09) – HQ Blaze   ISBN: 978-0-373-79493-5

The Concubine
(2-09) – HQ Blaze–HISTORICAL  ISBN: 0-373-79453-3

FANTASY

Dragonborn
(3-08) – ISBN: 978-1-937198-01-5

Dragonbound
(4-09) –  ISBN: 978-1-937198-02-2

Bundled
Dragonborn
and
Dragonbound  
ISBN: 978-1-937198-03-9

ANTHOLOGIES

Shards of Crimson
(1-07)–Dorchester/Love Spell – 0-505-52710-3

Winter Heat
(1-09) Anthology – Harlequin ISBN: 0-373-83730-5

NOVELLAS

Kung Fu Shoes
– ISBN: 978-1-937198-13-8

SHORT STORY

The Time
– ISBN: 978-1-937198-00-8

BOOKS BY JADE LEE
writing as KATHY LYONS

Under His Spell
(4-10) – HQ Blaze ISBN: 0373795394

Office Ups and Downs
(9-10) – HQ Blaze ISBN: 0373795807

In Good Hands
(3-11) – HQ Blaze ISBN: 978-0-373-79603-8

Night After Night
(3-12) – HQ Blaze

BOOKS BY JADE LEE
writing as KATHERINE GREYLE

Oracle
(8-98)   ISBN: 978-1-937198-04-6

Rules for a Lady
(1-01)    ISBN: 978-1-937198-05-3

Major Wyclyff’s Campaign
(10-01) ISBN: 978-1-937198-07-7

Miss Woodley’s Experiment
(4-02)   ISBN: 978-1-937198-06-0

Playing with Matches
anthology
(4-03) – New American Library / Signet – 0-4512-0830-7

No Place for a Lady
(5-03) ISBN: 978-1-937198-08-4

Almost an Angel
(10-03) ISBN: 978-1-937198-09-1

By Fate’s Hand
anthology (6-04) – Imagine Books – 1-893896-20

A cloud does not know why it moves in just such a direction and at such a speed, it feels an impulsion . . . this is the place to go now. But the sky knows the reasons and the patterns behind all the clouds, and you will know, too, when you lift yourself high enough to see beyond horizons.

—Richard Bach, Illusions

Chapter One

May 20, 1815—England

Carolly stumbled and fell into the grass, letting its cool, sweet scent envelop her. She tried to move her right arm, but pain shot through her ribs and she groaned into the dirt. Thank God she always healed quickly at the beginning of each life.

Another life. Another incarnation. That could only mean she hadn't done enough or learned enough or given enough in her last life. So, now she had to start all over. Maybe this time she could earn her wings.

She didn't know how long she lay there, her body throbbing with agony, but eventually the steady thud of hoofbeats penetrated her consciousness. Someone was riding. On a horse. Coming toward her. If only she had the strength to lift her head to see. With a grunt of effort, Carolly managed to roll over to stare at the sky. Once upon a time she'd thought being dead meant she didn't have to hurt any longer. Boy, had she been wrong.

The hoofbeats pounded through the ground, adding to the steady thrum of her pain. Carolly remained still, unable to work up the enthusiasm to rise and grab the person's attention. If whoever it was rode on by, then it was his loss. If he stopped, he'd get his reward. That, at least, she'd managed to figure out in her first few incarnations: The person she met first needed her the most.

Except, she reminded herself sternly, she was the one working at something. She had to earn her wings. She sighed.
Time to go to work.

Carolly pushed upright, moaning as she did, trying to see beyond the grassy hill where she lay. Off in the distance, she heard a shout and turned toward the sound. A man on a horse. He'd seen her and was riding fast straight at her.

Her strength gave out, and Carolly dropped back onto the ground. She waited.

Before long, a man knelt beside her. Carolly saw dark hair and pale blue eyes, so light they were almost gray. She saw a stem jaw in a face unused to smiles.

"Good God, what happened? Where does it hurt?” His voice sounded rough, but not ungentle as he carefully slid his arms beneath her. "Tell me if this hurts."

She smiled through her pain, enjoying the warmth of his touch. Then he lifted her up, and she had the briefest impression of a muscled chest broader than she might have guessed from her first glimpse. He held her firmly, and she smelled the musky scent of horse and leather and man.

Carolly sighed, this time with delight. Some pleasures never faded. "Thank you," she whispered.

Then she slept.

***

James Oliver Henry Northram, Earl of Traynern, did not like surprises. He liked half-naked and battered women who collapsed on his near lands even less. Which was reason enough, he told himself, to perform his Christian duty by calling for medical help, and then—now—wash his hands of the situation. His staff and the doctor would see to the woman's care. He need not think of her again beyond a simple order to make sure she did not steal anything. Yet, here he stood, glowering at both physician and patient, as the examination continued.

He ought to look away. The doctor had to inspect the lovely young woman; he did not. Still, for some bizarre reason, James felt the strong need to stand here, watching the doctor push into obviously broken ribs and press the woman's thick, black bruises. Couldn't the man see she'd been beaten to within an inch of her life? Did he truly need to prod her more?

"Will she live?" James's voice was harsh even to his own ears.

The doctor shrugged. "Perhaps" was his only comment.

James should quit the room. He did, in fact, order his feet to perform that task. They remained grounded, frozen, immobile, his legs aching from his wild ride back to the house. Why, oh why, did he insist on torturing himself?

The answer, of course, remained both obvious and illogical. He stayed because the unknown woman was fair-haired and polite. Many women in England possessed those qualities, he knew. But despite all reason, the echo of a battlefield haunted him, memories of another young person—a teen with flaxen hair and a chest that bullets had torn asunder.
Daniel.
James had failed to save him. He had tried, even gotten himself wounded as he dragged the boy's body back to safety. But it had been too late.

Danny's last words had been, "Thank you." As if James had done enough.

Now, here James stood over another fragile blond who'd given him thanks, and he knew that fate had decided to kick him again. God, how he hated surprises.

"You say you just found her?" interrupted the doctor, his second and third chins quivering. "Lying in the field? Like this? She's probably a highwayman's doxy. I suggest you send for the runners immediately."

James shifted, finding a victim for his ill humor. "What do you suppose the runners will find? That she was nearly beaten to death? That she ran from her attacker?"

The doctor flushed a dull red, but did not hold his tongue. "Do not let sentiment interfere with your judgment, milord. She is likely a cheap—"

James cut him off. "Doctor! I suggest you treat the woman and leave my
sentiments
to me."

But he didn't understand his own ill humor. Certainly the doctor merely voiced what everyone believed. After all, no respectable woman simply appeared in such a state without someone, somewhere raising a cry of alarm—a husband or father, likely in grave distress at her disappearance. And this doctor, whose profession carried him great distances, had obviously heard nothing.

Since only ruffians kept silent when one of their kind disappeared, the man's beliefs had merit. And yet, James could not bring himself to damn a lone, lost woman, no matter what her past associations.

His thoughts were cut off as the strange woman moved. Her breathing hitched and her eyes shifted beneath her lashes. "I believe she's waking," he said.

"I shall bleed her, for safety's sake," the doctor proclaimed, ignoring the change in his patient. He tugged at her slender arm, heedless of the bruises. But, just as he pressed his instrument against the crook of her elbow, the woman gasped, scrambling backwards.

"Stay away from me!" she cried, gasping and cringing as her other hand moved to press against her bruised ribs.

"You are awake," the doctor said.

The woman looked up, her beautiful blue eyes shifting between her rescuers. She was obviously nervous, and James stepped forward, hoping to reassure her.

"Welcome," he began—but was interrupted as the doctor fought to bring his cupping instrument to the crook of the woman's arm.

"Remain still!" the physician snapped. "I am a doctor!"

With surprising strength, the woman wrenched her arm away. "I don't care if you're Hawkeye Pierce, you're not cutting into me!" She matched him glare for glare.

James stepped between them before the situation could worsen. "Perhaps, Dr. Stoneham, as she is awake now, you could leave off cupping her." He turned back, expecting to see a quivering, terrified woman. Instead, the patient seemed to have gained control of herself. Her light blue eyes sparkled with intelligence, and she boldly surveyed not only her surroundings but him.

"I must be allowed to work," the doctor said darkly.

"Not on your life!" the woman replied. She took a deep breath, obviously trying to calm herself. "Look, doctor," she said, though from her tone James could tell she doubted the man's credentials. "Cupping doesn't help anyone, least of all me.”

"It will bleed off your ill humors."

"Not possible," she shot back. The quick sparkle of her laughter surprised both James and the doctor with the sound of its bitter mirth. "Look, the sad truth is there's nothing wrong with me that a little time won't cure."

She looked away, and James was once again struck by her vulnerability. With her flaxen hair making a soft halo about her face, she seemed like a lost angel. He stepped closer before even realizing his intention.

Fortunately, the doctor interrupted. "You will draw an infection!" the man stated, puffing up with outrage. "Mark my—"

"Thank you, Dr. Stoneham," James interposed, once again regretting that this was the nearest physician within three hours' hard ride. "I will send for you immediately should she take a turn for the worse."

Stoneham nodded. "I shall be waiting." He spoke as if pronouncing her doom, then stomped out the door.

The woman snorted in derision. Flipping back the covers, she climbed out of bed. She wore a baggy white nightgown three sizes too wide and about five inches too short. The hem flapped just below her knees, but she did not seem to care that her trim ankles and shapely calves were exposed.

"Great. He's gone," she said as she once again looked about the room. Her rosy toes wiggled against the chill floorboards, and she looked healthier than James expected. Her stomach growled—a loud, low rumbling that made her press her hand to her belly and giggle in embarrassment. "Oh, my," she said by way of apology. "Um. . . I know this is really rude, but could I possibly have something to eat? I'm absolutely starving. I swear I will work off double what it costs."

James felt his jaw go slack. The woman stood completely unabashed before him, her curves enticingly outlined by the light from the window. Once again, he was appalled by his lack of discipline. He should not even be in her room, much less standing there staring at her long shapely legs, perfectly rounded bottom, or at the perkiest breasts he'd seen in many a year. She could not have aroused him more with a deliberate seduction. Unfortunately, she seemed completely oblivious to her charms—which made her all the more interesting and him all the more irritated by his reaction.

"Madame," he began, his voice tight.

"Call me Caro," she answered, searching the room. For her clothing, no doubt, since she crossed to the wardrobe, opening it to find it empty.

"Please, Madame, you have been—"

"Caro or Carolly. Not Madame." She bent over, tugging open one drawer after another in the wardrobe. She found nothing, while James had to forcibly restrain himself from moving directly behind her and fitting her body to his in a most ungentlemanly manner.

"You have been severely—"

"I can't stand formality. It gets in the way of things," she went on from her bent position. She opened the lowest drawer. "It's important you feel comfortable with me."

James closed his eyes. He had to close them, otherwise the sight of her upraised bottom would have completely undone him. "You were severely injured," he reminded himself more than her.

"Really, I much prefer Caro."

"And I strongly—"

"Caro."

"Urge you—"

"Caro."

His eyes shot open and he glared at her, tunneling all his frustration into his stern tone. "Miss Carolly!"

She turned, smiling beatifically up at him. "Yes?"

He ground his teeth. "I run a formal household, madame."

"But 'madame' makes me sound like my mother!"

He regarded her silently for a moment, totally confounded. Finally he snapped, "I do not like surprises!" God alone knew why those words came forth. "Perhaps you should return to bed while I contact someone regarding your accident."

She obviously wasn't listening. She continued to inspect the room, poking at the escritoire and then heading back toward the window. He had to stop her. God only knew what he would see if she stood directly in the sunlight. The hard tips of her breasts already stood out whenever she moved. If the sunlight revealed their color, James doubted his ability to control his baser instincts.

Good God, he realized, he had been far too long without a woman if a strange female tempted him almost beyond reason! But she truly was beautiful, and . . .

With two swift steps, he caught her, being careful to touch only her arm. Her eyes widened at the contact, and she instinctively cringed away from him. He had not gripped her hard, but even so he instantly released her, belatedly remembering her bruises. She had been beaten to within an inch of her life. How loathsome of him to touch her at all, to think such lascivious thoughts about her, to want. . .

"Madame, you must return to bed," he said, "while I send a message to your family."

She shook her head, her eyes wide and her voice suddenly muted. She gazed up at him. “Sorry, no family."

"None?"

"Nope. Nada."

He stood directly before her, and though she was tall for a woman, he still needed to look down to see into her face. A bare shift in his gaze would reveal the dark shadows of her nipples.

"Perhaps a friend?" he managed to say through his constricted throat.

"I'm afraid I'm all alone in the world." She lifted her shoulders in a casual shrug, and he nearly groaned at both her words and her movement. He was losing the battle. He knew it. No man could resist temptation for so long, and certainly not one who had lived virtually as a monk since returning from the battlefield.

"I may be all alone in the world," she continued, "but I'm not a doxy like that quack physician said. That's a whore, isn't it? A harlot?”

For the first time in years, James was completely nonplussed.

"Well, I'm not one." She glanced up at him, and he made a conscious effort to regain control of his body and mind. "Look, I know things seem odd right now."

He raised an eyebrow—the only movement he allowed himself for fear of giving into his lust.

"I'm not handling this very well, am I?" she asked. Then she sighed.

He had no response except for the obvious. "Please return to bed, madame. I can only surmise your . . . behavior is due to a serious injury. Perhaps you shall feel better after a short rest."

"Pooh."

"I beg your pardon?"

"I said, pooh."

"But—"

Suddenly, she laughed. It was a gentle cascade of notes like water falling onto pebbles. He could only catch his breath at the sound, praying he would hear it again.

"Look. Thank you so much for your concern, but I feel much better," the woman said. She stretched her arms high above her head and wiggled her toes. "However," she continued with a yawn, "I'm always hungry at the beginning of one of these adventures."

As if to emphasize the point, her abdomen released another loud groan.

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