Excerpt from To Marry a Stranger

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To Marry a Stranger


Helen heard the cry of a wounded beast--or was it the groan of warped floorboards? Either way, something, or someone, was coming. How could that be? The mansion had been empty and locked up for years. Nobody was supposed to be there.

Her eyes grew more accustomed to the darkness, and she could distinguish shapes. She was in a paneled den, the furnishings shrouded in white, making the place appear to teem with ghosts. She had removed the dust cover from the velvet sofa where she's fallen asleep, but was too frightened to replace it. After all, which was more important, her life or a little dust on a couch?

The window she's slipped through was on the far side of the musty room. As she took a step toward it, she thought she saw a shadow pass across the room's entrance. She spun in that direction, but could distinguish nothing but a shrouded wingback chair. Swallowing around the lump of terror in her throat, she decided she must have been wrong, for there hadn't been any sound. Or had there? Unfortunately, she couldn't be sure, since her ears were roaring with the rush of blood from her pounding heart.

Still, not long ago, she had heard movement. Someone or something was prowling the mansion. As she scurried to make her escape, she berated herself for her cowardice. For once in her life she'd taken her destiny in her own hands, and now, with her objective in sight, she was chickening out. The noise might be nothing more than the settling of the old mansion. But her flight couldn't be helped, she was simply not a brave person.

The faint moonlight that seeped between the drawn curtains was her beacon, and she ran around a massive desk to reach it. What a dreamer and a fool she'd been to think that testing the D'Amour mansion myth was a good idea. Her sisters would be livid if they found out. Well, since she'd failed so miserably, this escapade would be her guilty secret. The devil himself could never drag the truth from her.

She grabbed the curtain to move it aside, but as her hand touched the brocade she was captured in a hard grasp, and yelped in shock. She found herself spun around to face--what? Before her, vague in the blackness, loomed a dusky phantom. Heavens! Had she conjured up the very devil she'd boldly vowed never to admit her folly to?

She struggled in alarm but was held fast. "Please--please..." Her fragile plea faded, her voice failing. Shuddering with dread, she shrank as far away as she could, though her wrist was seized in a firm grasp.

"What the hell are you doing?" the apparition growled.

"I--I..." Nothing more would come out, for her thumping heart blocked her throat. Terror-stricken, she could only gape, fearing for her life. The massive specter was obscured in shadow, but Helen thought she could see a fall of ebony hair masking part of an angular face. She had the impression of a piercing gaze and a forbidding frown. yet, more important than what she could visibly identify, she sensed great power in her captor--and even greater anger.

From the book TO MARRY A STRANGER, by Renee Roszel
Published by Harlequin books S.A. Copyright © 1997 by Renee Roszel
Publication Date (USA), August 1997, ISBN: 0-373-03470-9
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