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Proud and penniless, Olivia Sherwood is forced to take employment at Ravenwood Hall, where Gypsy earl Dominic St. Bride has arrived to claim his birthright… Dominic has encountered suspicion all his life . But Olivia's father was murdered by Gypsies . . . how can she ever come to love him?

 

Re-released with a new cover
May 27, 2008 · Avon Books
(See the original cover)

ISBN 0-380-78609-5


One Moonlit Night received a makeover in June 2008 – I just adore this lovely new cover! Of course, I suspect in part it’s because my favorite color is blue . . .

While the cover changed, the words have not. The story is exactly the same as it was when released in 1998... In red.

 


regency romanceMuse arrives in the strangest places sometimes. The idea for ONE MOONLIT NIGHT arrived in the waiting room of a doctor's office. I was thumbing through reading material when I noticed an article from a reader who'd written about a nostalgic memory of a Gypsy caravan coming through town when he was a child. Coupled with the fact that one of my daughters had a friend whose grandmother was a Gypsy . . . well, I knew I had my story then and there.

Although ONE MOONLIT NIGHT is set in England, my visit to Scotland provided yet more inspiration. While we were there, we stayed at a castle that had been converted into a small hotel; the surrounding countryside fueled my image of the village setting where ONE MOONLIT NIGHT takes place.

It was great fun coming up with the names in this book. Coupled with a Gypsy curse and hero Dominic's dark past, I wanted to come up with names that were . . . well . . . dark. Thus, Ravenwood Manor came about. And the big black dog that nearly frightens Olivia out of her wits in the opening chapter . . . well, I just couldn't resist calling him Lucifer (he was just being friendly, honest!).

Besides our heroine Olivia and her hero Dominic, there's a secondary love story featuring Olivia's sister Emily, who had been stricken with hysterical blindness. Somehow I couldn't write about Emily, and her loneliness, without making sure that she, too, had her own happy ending.

And yes, yet another book with a title change! I originally called it GYPSY MOON.

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USA Today bestseller

Waldenbooks bestseller

Romantic Times nominee for Best Regency Historical Romance

One Moonlit Night

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One Moonlit NightOne Moonlit Night
Ravenwood Manor, 1821

"There was a terrible storm last night," said Charlotte. "The thunder was so fierce, why, it nearly shook me from my bed!"

Olivia smiled slightly. "We're often given to such storms in summer, I'm afraid. My father used to say it was the angels clapping in time to the Lord's music."

"Angels clapping in time to the Lord's music," Charlote repeated. Her eyes lit up. "Why, I think I'll tell that to Colin, so he won't be so frightened again!"

"Charlotte! Olivia!" The whisper came from Fanny, another of the maids. "Hurry! We're all to assemble in the entrance hall to greet the new master."

Olivia's heart sank like a weighted stone. The moment she had dreaded had arrived.

As luck would have it, she and Charlotte were among the last to fall in line. Under Mrs. Templeton's watchful eye, she stood smartly alert.

From the corner of her eye she saw him. Faith, but he was tall! He towered over Franklin, who was certainly not small in stature. Her stomach churning, she waited, praying this would all be over as quickly as possible. But Providence was not smiling on her today, for he stopped before each and every servant, calling each by name and exchanging some pleasantry.

Her nerves were screaming as he came near. She longed to sink through the floor to the depths below. At last he stood before her, his hands behind his back, looking so relaxed and at ease she longed to scream.

"My lord, Olivia Sherwood, one of the maids."

Olivia searched deep for the courage to meet his gaze—oh, a mistake, surely! His regard, though ever so brief, was intensely penetrating. No sign of a smile broke the plane of his lips. No hint of recognition flickered in his eyes, which she was stunned to discover were not dark at all, but a piercing shade of blue.

He inclined his head. "Miss Sherwood, I'm exceedingly pleased to have you here at Ravenwood."

He moved on to Fanny.

Olivia blinked. 'Twould seem he didn't remember her! Was she insulted . . . or relieved? She decided most heartily in favor of the latter.

regency romanceAt last it was over. They were dismissed, free to go back to their duties.

The other maids were all a-twitter.

"Did ye see him? No wonder all the fine ladies of London were fallin' all over 'im!"

"He has his father's eyes. Blue as sapphires, I tell ye!"

"He deigned to smile at me. Did ye see it? He smiled at me!"

"He took my hand. Why, it nearly made me swoon!"

Meeting Charlotte's gaze, Olivia smiled and shook her head.

Charlotte leaned over and whispered, "Oh, come now, luv. Ye have to admit it, 'e is a handsome devil!"

All of a sudden a hush fell over the group. Olivia soon saw the reason.

Mrs. Templeton had appeared—and she was marching straight toward her!

Olivia's heart sank. What had she done that the housekeeper looked so disapproving?

Mrs. Templeton stopped before her. But first her snapping gaze swept toward the others. "Do none of you have duties to attend?" she snapped.

The group dispersed in a heartbeat. Olivia started to leave as well, but the housekeeper's hand on her arm forestalled her.

"He's asked for you," the woman said tersely.

Olivia was confused. "Ma'am? I beg your pardon?"

"He's asked for you. The master." Mrs. Templeton's lips were thin. "He wishes to see you in the library."

Olivia swallowed. She didn't like the sound of that, nay, not at all! "Very well," she murmured.

Olivia turned to leave. Mrs. Templeton's voice stopped her. "One more thing, Miss Sherwood."

She glanced back.

"A good servant is neither seen nor heard, young woman. In future, you'd do well to bear that in mind."

Her stomach felt as if it were tied up in knots.

But so was his.

He stood near the marble fireplace, his hands behind his back, his mind still reeling. Never had he thought to find her at Ravenwood. He'd thought of her last night—and again this morning when he woke. He'd been faintly irritated that their encounter had taken place in the dead of night; he'd wanted to see her in the full, stark light of day, to see if she was as fair as she'd appeared in the moonlight.

Now he knew.

She was exquisite, as exquisite as he'd somehow known she would be.

Her face was oval, her skin smooth and the color of Devonshire cream. Her eyes were the color of jade, wide and thickly lashed; the arch of her brows was slightly piquant. The sun streamed through the window, gleaming on her hair—it was part gold, part russet. Oh, she'd not have been considered a beauty by London standards—her hair was not pale and blond, and she was far too slender.

"You wished to see me, my lord?"

Direct and to the point. Dominic liked that, just as he liked her quiet dignity. She stood with her hands folded primly before her, her narrow shoulders squarely set. She was nervous, he decided, but determined not to show it. That made her rather brave . . .

"Mrs. Templeton tells me you been employed here only a short time, Miss Sherwood."

"Yes," she said quickly. "Much of the staff has been employed but a short time. The house has been closed up since the earl—-I mean the old earl . . . I mean your father-"

"I take your meaning quite well, Miss Sherwood."

One Moonlit NightA faint coolness had crept into his tone. Olivia fell silent; she couldn't help but take note of it. Her fingers curled into her palms. She couldn't have taken her eyes from him, even if she'd wanted to.

She would not have called him swarthy, for his hair was not black—but rather like darkest chocolate—and a trifle longer than was the fashion. And his skin looked as if it had been kissed golden brown by the sun.

It struck her anew . . . he did not look like a Gypsy. Yet neither did he look like any gentleman she'd ever seen. He was dressed in a snowy white shirt and cravat, tight doeskin breeches and shining knee-high boots. Yet he possessed a curious roughness that was almost at odds with his elegant clothing. But there was no denying it . . .

He was almost sinfully handsome.

It was he who broke the silence. "Finished?" he said quietly.

The thoroughness of her perusal had not gone unnoticed. Never in her life had she been so embarrassed!

She shifted uncomfortably. "Sir, I—"

"Look as long as you like. I'm sure you find me quite the oddity."

His tone was ever-so-pleasant. Olivia flushed. "I'm sorry."

"No need to apologize. I've grown accustomed to it."

He hadn't; there was an edge in his tone that told her so.

She clasped her hands before her. "Sir," she began, her voice very low, "if you've no further need of me—"

"I would like for you to show me about the house."

Her lips parted. "But . . . I've only been here a scant week. May I suggest that someone else—"

"No. I want you, Miss Sherwood."

I want you. She had an uneasy feeling he meant something else entirely.

She inclined her head. "Very well then." She gestured toward the door. "Shall we proceed?"

"Indeed we may."

Olivia stiffened. Was he making light of her? She could have sworn a faint mockery dwelled in his voice.

It didn't make the next half-hour any easier. As they moved through the house, she prayed he would not discern her nervousness.

In the study, she dared to breathe a little easier. They were almost done. There was a portrait of his father there, hanging over the mantel. He stood before it for the longest time, his hands behind his back, the set of his shoulders rigidly square. Though James St. Bride had hair of light brown, there was a marked resemblance between father and son. Both possessed the same square chin, the same high cheekbones. . . the same intense blue eyes.

Dominic St. Bride had yet to move. He stood as if frozen in place, his gaze locked on the portrait of his father.

There was a protracted silence. "You favor him," she said awkwardly, not knowing what else to say.

"I have his eyes, but I should like to think I am not like him." His voice was clipped and abrupt.

He had yet to look away from the portrait. An odd prickle crept down her spine. He hated him, she realized. He hated his father. Olivia sensed it with every ounce of her being. Yet when at last he turned toward her, his manner was as easy as ever.

"Pray let us continue, Miss Sherwood."

All that was left was the conservatory. To her surprise, Olivia was curiously reluctant to rush, for in her mind, the conservatory was the loveliest room in the house. It was immense, with an extraordinary sense of light and grandeur. On the far wall, double doors opened onto a stone verandah. Just beyond was a little garden crammed full of roses.

A feeling of wistfulness welled up inside her. She sighed, for it reminded her of the house she'd grown up in, the house that the new vicar, Mr. Reynolds, now lived in. She and Mama had spent many a happy hour tending the tiny rose garden outside the back door. Lord, but she missed it!

"Do you live alone, Miss Sherwood?"

A deep male voice jarred her from her reverie. It gave her a start to realize Dominic St. Bride stood directly behind her.

She turned that she might see him—and retreated a step in the bargain. "No," she murmured.

"I see. You've a husband then?"

"No. I live with my sister Emily."

He continued. "You are extremely well spoken, Miss Sherwood."

One Moonlit NightHer chin came up a notch. "Thank you, my lord."

"And I assume well bred."

"My mother, God rest her soul, would like to think so."

"And well educated, I presume?"

"My father saw to it that I was well-schooled, yes." Olivia was uneasy. What was he about?

"Then I must say, I find it odd that a woman such as you would take a position in my household."

Olivia stiffened. She knew what he meant now—that she was out of place. Taking a deep breath, she chose her words carefully. "My father always said that hard work was good for a man's soul, and I daresay, a woman's as well. But if you must know, 'tis a case of needs must. I have no family other than my sister, so 'tis up to me to care for her."

His eyes flickered. "I didn't mean to offend you, Miss Sherwood."

Only then did she realize she'd been a trifle defensive. "You did not, my lord."

For the longest time, he said nothing. His gaze roved over her face, making her pulse quicken. Then, before she had a chance to think, he raised a hand and brushed his knuckles across the scratch on her cheek. "It's hardly noticeable," he murmured.

Her heart lurched. She felt a rush of heat in her cheeks. "Yes," she said breathlessly. "'Tis hardly serious."

But he was not finished. He took her hands within his and turned them palm up. With his thumb he traced the blisters that had risen there. Olivia flushed. Her heart stood still. What was he thinking? she wondered frantically. That she was unsuited for the work here? Nay. She couldn't even contemplate such a thing. If she were without employment, how would she and Emily survive?

Their eyes met. A lazy half-smile curled his mouth. "I thank you for your time, Miss Sherwood," he murmured, "and I trust we'll meet again soon."

With that he carried one small hand to his lips. To her utter shock, he kissed the back of each hand in turn, a fleeting brush of his mouth upon her flesh.

He turned and strode away. Olivia was left standing there, her pulse hammering wildly.

It was quite improper, the way he'd touched her cheek. The way he'd kissed her hands . . .

But he was no gentleman.

And she was no lady—not a proper lady, like those in London. ..

If Charlotte was to be believed, he was a rake of the highest order—a profligate rogue, no doubt! She could not approve. She did not approve.

Yet all she could think was that Charlotte was right. He was a handsome devil.

 


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