Tempt Me at Twilight
New York Times Bestseller
This is an excerpt from “Tempt Me at Twilight” the third in the Hathaways Series.
Poppy Hathaway, who has always longed for a normal, ordinary life, has been abandoned by her true love, Michael Bayning. Caught up in scandal, she has only one way out-- to marry Harry Rutledge, a handsome and mysterious hotel owner. But Harry is a man of many secrets, and eventually Poppy faces a heartwrenching question: What does a heroine do when she ends up married to the villain?
In this scene, Harry endeavors to persuade Poppy to marry him.
“You are persistent,” Poppy said as they walked through the rose garden behind the hotel. “They told me you would be.”
“I’m everything they told you and worse,” Harry said without hesitation. “But what they didn’t tell you is that you are the most desirable and fascinating woman I’ve ever met, and I would do anything to have you.”
It was insanely flattering to have a man like Harry Rutledge pursuing her, especially after the hurt inflicted by Michael Bayning. Poppy flushed with cheek-stinging pleasure, as if she’d been lying too long in the sun. She found herself thinking, Perhaps I’ll consider it, just for a moment, in a purely hypothetical sense. Harry Rutledge and me . . .
“I have questions,” she said.
Poppy decided to be blunt. “Are you dangerous? Everyone says you are.”
“To you? No.”
Harry shrugged casually. “The most valuable commodity in the world is information . . . and I have a lot of it. I suppose that could be considered dangerous.”
“You garner that information at your hotel?”
“And you propose to have a family in such an environment? Do you want children?”
“Yes, and yes.”
Poppy gave him a dubious glance. “Would you have any time for them? For . . . us?”
“As a man who resides and works in the same place,” he pointed out, “I would be at my wife’s beck and call.”
“Or she at yours,” Poppy said.
He smiled slightly. “Touché. Let’s say it would be a convenient arrangement for both sides.”
“Would you ever use physical force against your wife?”
“No.” His answer was gratifyingly immediate, the syllable roughened as if the very notion offended him.
“Would you keep your wedding vows?”
Harry held her gaze, his green eyes steady. “I wouldn’t make them otherwise.”
Poppy decided that her family’s worries about letting her talk to Harry had been entirely justified. Because he was so persuasive and appealing that she found herself beginning to seriously consider the idea of marrying him
It occurred to her that she was not the only one taking a risk. There was no guarantee for Harry that he would end up with the kind of wife he needed.
“It’s not fair for me to ask all the questions,” she told him. “You must have some as well.”
“No, I’ve already decided that I want you.”
Poppy couldn’t prevent a bemused laugh. “Do you make all your decisions so impulsively?”
“Not usually. But I know when to trust my instincts.”
It seemed Harry was about to add something else, when he saw a movement on the ground from the periphery of his vision. Following his gaze, Poppy saw her sister's pet hedgehog Medusa pushing her way through the rose arbor, waddling innocently across the path. The little brown and white creature looked like a walking scrub brush. To Poppy’s surprise, Harry lowered to his haunches to retrieve her.
“Don’t touch her,” Poppy warned. “She’ll roll into a ball and sink her quills into you.”
But Harry settled his hands on the ground, palms up, on either side of the inquisitive hedgehog. “Hello, Medusa,” he murmured, gently working his hands beneath her. “Sorry to interrupt your exercise. But believe me, you don’t want to run into any of my gardeners.”
Poppy watched incredulously as Medusa relaxed and settled willingly into the warm masculine hands. Her spines flattened, and she let him lift and turn her so she was tummy-upward. Harry stroked the soft white fur of her underbelly, while Medusa’s delicate snout lifted, and she regarded him with her perpetual smile.
“I’ve never seen anyone except Beatrix handle her like that,” Poppy said, standing beside him. “You have experience with hedgehogs?”
“No.” Harry slanted a smile at her. “But I have some experience with prickly females.”
“Excuse me,” Beatrix’s voice interrupted them, and she came beneath the rose arbor. She was disheveled, bits of leaves clinging to her dress, her hair straggling over her face. “I seem to have lost track of . . . oh, there you are, Medusa!” She broke into a grin as she saw Harry cradling the hedgehog in his hands. “You can trust a man who can handle a hedgehog, that’s what I always say.”
“Do you?” Poppy asked dryly. “I’ve never heard you say that.”
“I only say it to Medusa.”
Harry carefully transferred the pet to Beatrix’s hands. “‘The fox has many tricks,’” he quoted, “‘the hedgehog only one.’” He smiled at Beatrix as he added, “But it’s a good one.”
“Archilochus,” Beatrix said promptly. “You read Greek poetry, Mr. Rutledge?”
“Not usually. But I make an exception for Archilochus. He knew how to make a point.”
“Father used to call him a ‘raging iambic,’” Poppy said, and Harry laughed.
And in that moment, Poppy made her decision.
Because even though Harry Rutledge had his flaws, a man who could charm a hedgehog and understand jokes about ancient Greek poets was a man worth taking a risk on.
She wouldn’t be able to marry for love, but she could at least marry for hope.
“Bea,” she murmured, “might you allow us a few moments alone?”
“Certainly. Medusa would love to grub about for worms in the next row.”
“Thank you, dear.” Poppy turned back to Harry, who was dusting his hands. “May I ask one more question?”
He looked at her alertly and spread his hands as if to show he had nothing to hide.
“Would you say that you’re a good man, Harry?”
He had to think about that. “No,” he finally said. “In the fairy tale you mentioned last night . . . I would probably be the villain. But it’s possible the villain would treat you far better than the prince would have.”
Poppy wondered what was wrong with her, that she should be amused rather than frightened by his confession. “Harry. You’re not supposed to court a girl by telling her you’re the villain.”
He gave her an innocent glance that didn’t deceive her in the least. “I’m trying to be honest.”
“Perhaps. But you’re also making certain that whatever anyone says about you, you’ve already admitted it. Now you’ve made all criticism of you ineffectual.”
Harry’s expression changed, and he blinked as if she’d surprised him. “You think I’m that manipulative?”
Harry seemed stunned that she could see through him so easily. But instead of being annoyed, he stared at her with stark longing. “Poppy, I have to have you.”
Reaching her in two steps, he took her into his arms.
Review from Publishers Weekly