Once Upon A Lady

A Soul Mate Tree Novella

Respectable Lady Katherine Baxton, striving to meet the requirements of her station, has become the ultimate dutiful daughter. And now, the Duke of Blackthorn’s betrothed. Far from a love match, Kate is nevertheless determined to do as expected and marry.

That all changes the night she panics at her impending future and runs, stumbling upon a private grove, a mysterious tree. . . and a half-naked man.

The youngest son of a viscount widely thought to have purchased his title, Jackson Cooper demonstrates his disdain for the aristocracy by affording himself every luxury available—drinking, wenching, and gambling—while eschewing anything representing the ton. Jackson has little care for his reputation and no desire to marry. His escape from London is all but complete.

Until fate—in the form of a beautiful, mysterious lady—interrupts his plans, enticing him with the very thing he never wanted.


When she didn’t spook at his nearness, he spoke, “Are you a tree nymph or has God blessed me?”

Even knowing he wouldn’t be partaking in her exquisiteness, he couldn’t avoid teasing her. Not with his body taut with unfulfilled desire.

Instead of bolting, her brow lifted in mockery, further inciting his excitement. He doubted boredom would be a factor with her.

“Are you generally this arrogant or did God decide to punish me?”

A deep laugh rumbled from his chest. Yes, dullness would not be an issue.

“Or maybe the cold has addled your brain. Perhaps you should gather your clothing,” she added before her gaze locked on his chest.

He doubted she wanted him properly covered. At least the flash of interest in her eyes as they roamed his body suggested she didn’t.

He couldn’t resist encroaching further. “You forget, you interrupted my private party. As host, I decide the dress code, you seem to be the one overdressed.”

“Considering your lady friend vanished without a word, I’m lead to believe you are a dismal host.” The moonlight twinkled in her chocolate eyes, emphasizing her mirth.

“Should I hone my skills with you?” He eyed his mystery woman, confident she’d flee into the night at his bold overture.

Instead, she surprised him. “In order to perfect an ability, you would first have to possess the skill. Nothing I’ve seen indicates you do.”

At her insult, he stepped into the space before her and traced his finger along the curve of her collarbone, thankful her modiste had foreseen the insightfulness of a low bodice. And that she had enough sense to forge a ridiculous fichu. “Shall we see about that?”

Her gasp filled his ears but she didn’t back away. He took her stillness as encouragement and traced his fingertips down the sleeve of her gown, across the soft skin of her bare arm, and over the smooth silk of her elbow length glove. His fingers danced with hers before retreating up her arm. Only to slide back down . . . this time pulling down her glove in the process.

Her breath hitched as he gave a gentle tug and freed the delicate fabric from hand. Lost in her beauty, he tossed the glove onto a bush and tangled her warm fingers with his.

Never breaking her gaze, he raised her hand until her naked palm was positioned before his mouth. Bending ever so slightly, he placed his lips against the center. Her faint sigh encouraged him as he flicked his tongue against her sweet skin.

Her sigh morphed into a shaky moan, causing his arousal to spike and his cock to strain against his breeches.

His mouth caressed along her hand and slowly drifted to her wrist while he slipped his free hand around her waist, molding her breasts to his naked chest. He lost the connection of her eyes as he raised her arm so his mouth could feather kisses along the inside of her arm. Through it all he remained focused on his ultimate destination—the moment when he could sink into her kiss.

“You taste like forbidden fruit,” he nuzzled against her skin.

As soon as the words were out of his mouth, she tugged her arm free before clamping her hand over her mouth.

She gaped at him for a few seconds, her hand slipping down her throat as she took a step out of his reach. She finally whispered, “I’m so sorry. I don’t know what I’m doing. Forgive me.”

Her apology was contritely executed and he mourned the sprite who’d verbally spared with him—and had become emboldened by his touch. The woman standing before him was not who’d been breathless in his arms. His tree nymph’s eyes had flashed with spirit . . . not remorse.

He preferred the spark.

“There is nothing to forgive.” His assurance was given a moment too late as she spun, retrieved her discarded glove, and fled in the direction of the Hackerman’s.