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One Knight Only
by Julia Latham

A dangerous journey, two people in disguise--and a love that won't be denied.
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Daring and adventurous, Anne Kendall would give anything to join the secret band of warrior knights known as the League of the Blade, and she eagerly agrees to a perilous masquerade. But then Sir Philip Clifford, a reckless, brutally handsome knight, joins their party, bringing back memories of stolen kisses, passionate longings, and one night when she would have done anything to be his.

Anne would prefer to concentrate on the dangerous mission at hand.....but the glorious, savage passion that begins to develop between her and this unruly warrior may prove him to be the knight of her dreams...and her fantasies.

Book 2 of the "League of the Blade" series
(the books don't have to be read in order)
One Knight Only

"A story of passion, mystery, and adventure...an excellent read!"
Romance Reviews Today

"Latham crafts a thrilling adventure romance with the flavor of the era and a complex, intriguing plot."
Romantic Times Magazine
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Excerpt from Chapter One

(The following is the property of the author and Avon Books, and cannot be copied or reprinted without permission.) 

(Plot Summary: Anne is working undercover for the League of the Blade, posing as a noblewoman. She saw Philip, a man she's known previously, earlier in the evening, and is worried he'll identify her as a fraud.)

When the maid had gone, Anne pushed the heavy coffer against the door, angry with herself for feeling torn. She would not think of Philip. He was a connection to her past, to a time when she'd first realized she'd liked being needed, when she'd helped save Elizabeth from an unwanted marriage. She was needed now, urgently so. She had a mission and a focus, and it was a good feeling.

She had once thought Philip needed her, and with him she had shared her feelings of newly blossoming passion, ignoring her better sense. She'd been in a weakened state, she silently reminded herself; her parents' rejection had left her feeling angry and adrift. She had to stop dwelling on it.

The bathing tub was a rarity, deep enough for a woman to sink into, and the pages had been generous with the amount of water. She soaped herself leisurely, then settled back to enjoy the comfort and warmth while it lasted. She closed her eyes and let her thoughts drift away.

The shutters covering the window suddenly rattled. Frowning, she opened her eyes in time to see one of the shutters slowly open. A foot appeared on the windowsill.

With a gasp she sat up, clutching the linen cloth to her bosom. This had happened to her once before, she thought, feeling a flood of anger. Another foot appeared, then a hand gripping the sill, then a face peering in from above. Although the light of the candle did not easily reach the far wall, she already knew who it was. Her traitorous heart began to beat madly.

Philip Clifford.

He dropped into a sitting position and ducked his head inside. Grinning, he said, "Might I come in? I just missed having the contents of a chamber pot dumped on my head."

"You could have just knocked on the door!" she hissed, sinking down as far as she could in the water. The cloth and the water obscured her, but she felt dangerously exposed.

"I didn't knock the last time," he countered.

"The last time I was a prisoner, and desperate for company—and I was not bathing!"

He dropped to the floor, but came no farther, for which she was grateful.

"Well, that's why I came—not because of the bathing part, although that is an interesting bonus."

He glanced lower than her face, and she wondered what he could see.

"Aren't you a prisoner again—Lady Rosamond?"

His voice deepened with suspicion—with worry? She didn't know him well enough to know the difference.

But she knew what his kiss tasted like, how his hands could work magic on her body.

She took a deep breath to steady herself against the memories. "I am here quite willingly."

"You were willing the last time, too, but you were still a prisoner."

"The soldiers are my guards, not my captors. Thank you for your concern, Sir Philip, but you should leave now."

Instead of leaving, he walked forward into the candlelight. His features sharpened. He was not a man of softness. He was composed of angles: prominent, lean cheekbones, square jaw, and heavy forehead above his brows. His body, though muscular, was thinner than some of his bulkier opponents, and therefore deceptive. She imagined many men thought the advantage of their substantial weight alone could defeat him. But he was powerful and strong, and she felt an embarrassing warmth remembering how he'd swept her onto his lap in front of the entire tavern—

—And how he'd stalked her for days at Castle Alderley when she was at last free of captivity, playing a powerful game she'd felt reckless enough to enjoy.

Now he was studying her, from her face to her wet knees, which were the only things that showed above the soapy water. His eyes were a vivid green, like a grassy field under a sunny sky. Why was she feeling so intimidated by him? She knew where she stood with him—she'd been a pleasant diversion, although she'd thought he'd wanted something more permanent from her.

And now she was naked. He wouldn't take advantage—would he? She remembered his restlessness, his disquiet. Elizabeth Hutton, the lady she'd grown up serving and who had married Philip's good friend, had told Anne that Philip had not been invited to join the League of the Blade, as Lord Alderley had. Though on the outside, Philip had seemed the same amusing man, she'd sensed that something had shifted on the inside, as if the refusal had changed him in some subtle way.

What would he do if he found out that she herself had been asked to work for the League?

Oh, she wasn't a member yet, but by the end of this, she planned to be. She would convince them that she was talented enough to be the first Bladeswoman. 

Yet she couldn't tell Philip anything about the League or her mission—she'd vowed to keep Lady Rosamond's secrets.

He suddenly leaned over the tub, bracing both hands on the rim as he looked down at her. To her frustration, a hot feeling of awareness shot through her. He'd seen more of her body, given intimate kisses that even now made her want to shudder with remembered pleasure. She forced herself to ignore the sensations.

She couldn't sink any lower, so she returned his stare coolly and kept her voice level. "Why are you not leaving?"

"You know I cannot leave you here like this, masquerading as someone else."

"I'm not—"

"Do not doubt my intelligence, Countess. That is what you're pretending to be." He pointed to her gown now hung on a peg in the wall. "Those rich garments aren't yours."

She pursed her lips and narrowed her eyes. What would he do if he did not hear the truth? Could he accidentally ruin things for her—for Lady Rosamond? If the wrong people discovered the masquerade, then the countess could be in real danger.

Perhaps he would accept some of the truth. She met his gaze, striving for sincerity. The water was growing cold, and it was difficult to maintain one's composure while stifling shivers—and being stared at by a man who knew how to wield his gaze like a sensuous weapon.

"Aye, the garments," she said. "They belong to another woman, Lady Rosamond Wolsingham."

"So I was told."

"They know who I am in the public room?" she asked in astonishment and growing worry. "No one here was supposed to know that identity."

He narrowed his eyes. "You chose York deliberately?"

"Not me, I—" Then she stopped.

"Does John—Lord Alderley—know about this?"

She hesitated, then realized she was betraying too much. She shivered.

He obviously noticed. Leaning even closer, he whispered, "I'll allow you to leave the tub if you tell me everything."

"Are you daring me to stand up?" she asked, putting her hands on the rim as if to push herself to her feet. It was a bold gamble, but after all, she had nothing to lose, no dowry, no future, only what she made of this masquerade.

Philip straightened, and she insisted to herself that she felt relieved.

"You'll catch your death lingering in there," he said.

"Well, whose fault—"

"Do I have your word you'll tell me the truth?"

"Aye."

Some of it, she amended silently.



A later excerpt featuring Philip and Anne:


     She cocked her head, hands on her hips. "Isn't this the kind of woman I'm supposed to be, the kind of woman you like, the kind of woman who would boldly kiss you just because she could?"

     He tensed, feeling aroused and confused. Then she took his tunic in both hands and turned him about. He let her handle him, let her push him against the wall. He wanted to understand her strange mood—but he also recognized the darkness within himself, the lusting part that wanted not to understand, only to feel.
     
     "This is what the Lady Rosamonds of the world know all about," she whispered, her face below his. "I'm just beginning to learn."

     "If that's what you want," he said in a low growl, "then let me teach you more."

     He turned her about and pressed her into the ivy-covered stone wall, feeling every soft inch of her body along his. He took her mouth in a kiss, arching her head back so that she had no choice but to succumb to him. But he didn't need to seduce her compliance. Her hands clutched at his back, she moaned beneath his mouth, and met his tongue with eager passion.


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