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Диксон Хелен

One Reckless Night

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«One Reckless Night» - Хелен Диксон

Indulge in the passion of the past with these short, sexy and scandalous eBooks!Hester Atkins was always a quiet, unassuming woman until she's driven to commit a crime of desperation.Now on the run, she takes refuge in the home of her former suitor, Lucas Fryston. The Grange has stood abandoned since he sailed to America to begin a new life after the English Civil War or so Hester thought.Lucas has returned to England, and their reunion reawakens a passion that neither can deny. But with Hester's past catching up to her, will one night of pleasure be all they can ever share?
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Hester Atkins was always a quiet, unassuming woman—until she’s driven to commit a crime of desperation. Now on the run, she takes refuge in the home of her former suitor, Lucas Fryston. The Grange has stood abandoned since he sailed to America to begin a new life after the English Civil War…or so Hester thought. Lucas has returned to England, and their reunion reawakens a passion that neither can deny. But with Hester’s past catching up to her, will one night of pleasure be all they can ever share?

One Reckless Night

Helen Dickson


Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Author Note

About Destitute on His Doorstep

About the Author


Chapter One

The young woman who got on the coach at Wellingborough drew Hester’s attention. She could not be more that eighteen, yet the pallor and sadness of her delicate features made her look younger. She glanced at her fellow passengers, her gaze finally settling on Hester. She smiled shyly before turning her head to look out of the window.

Hester was apprehensive about returning to Northampton and the house where her father’s presence would be felt, which was why, on leaving Avery where she had been staying with her good friend Jane and her husband, Francis Russell, at Bilborough Hall, she had gone to Goodmanchester to spend a little time with a maternal aunt. She didn’t believe that the dead could come back, but that didn’t stop her from feeling the brush of her father’s fingertips against her flesh.

On reaching Northampton she looked around her. Under the Puritan government, there was austerity everywhere, everything joyous forbidden. About to move on, the young woman caught her attention. She looked quite lost.

‘Can I be of help? Are you a stranger to Northampton?’

‘Yes, I am.’ Her voice was polite.

‘Are you visiting relatives?’

She nodded. ‘My name is Ruth Henshaw. Both my parents died recently and without means, I had to leave the house.’ She averted her eyes. Her shoulders shook in a silent sob, which she controlled, her voice quivering. ‘Forgive me.’

Her distress touched deep within Hester. ‘I’m so sorry. I’m Hester Atkins and I live here in Northampton. Where do your relatives live?’

‘It’s my aunt—Mrs Hobbs. She lives on the outskirts of the town—in a cottage off Houghton Road. Perhaps you’ve heard of her?’

‘As a matter of fact, I have.’ Mrs Hobbs—or Widow Hobbs as she was known locally, was an elderly lady who lived alone along Houghton Road, a road Hester knew very well. She forced to the back of her mind the disturbing thoughts this evoked. ‘I can direct you, but it’s a long way for you to walk.’

Now she smiled. ‘I don’t mind. I may not look it, but I’m quite strong really.’

After giving her directions, Hester watched her go on her way.

* * *

A coach from Cambridge had arrived and passengers were climbing out.

Two men in particular caught Hester’s eye. One of them, a short, squat man she had seen before. She experienced a shudder of cold dread. He was a warder at the gaol in Avery. What was he doing here? What did he want? Her instinct for self-preservation caused her to shrink out of sight to the rear of the coach, but still within earshot. The other man was dressed like a country lawyer in dark, sober clothes. When he spoke it caused Hester to listen intently. Disturbed by what she heard, for it was of herself that they were speaking, her first instinct was to turn on her heels and run, but, in a moment, common sense prevailed over the terror which had taken hold of her.

Her heart beating wildly, she pressed herself against the back of the coach. Somehow they had found out what she had done—that she had killed her father—and had now come after her.

‘We’ll find her and question her and if we find her guilty of Jacob Atkins’s death by poison, we’ll take her back to Avery to stand trial,’ the soberly attired gentleman said. ‘She’ll not escape. The noose is already waiting for her.’

Hester thought she would faint at the grisly prophecy. The two men were walking on. She could almost feel the rope tightening around her neck and instinctively put a hand to her throat. What could she do? She could not go home. But where could she hide? That was when she looked in the direction Ruth had taken. Yes, there was somewhere she could go—Fryston Grange, two miles along Houghton Road.

The Grange belonged to the Fryston family. They had been manufacturers of leather, but like every family that had remained loyal to the Royalist cause during the Civil War, they had suffered severe hardships. Only Lucas Fryston survived his parents. Following the Royalist defeat at Dunbar in 1850, managing to escape his captors, and refusing to live under Puritan rule, Lucas had gone to America to start a new life. The Grange had remained empty and by some miracle had survived sequestration, despite Northampton’s support of Parliament during the war.

Drawing the hood of her cloak over her head, Hester set off along Houghton Road. The sky in the west was growing prematurely dark. An ever-deepening chill made her shiver.

Chapter Two

It was almost dark and the first heavy raindrops began to fall as she approached Fryston Grange. The house was set well back from the road and surrounded by trees, the rain isolating it in a dark grey pall. No lights shone from the windows. Approaching it from the back, she paused to listen, unable to hear anything above the wind and the creaking limbs of the trees.

Suddenly a shape carrying a lantern came out of the stable. She stayed rooted to the spot, her eyes fixed on the figure. Whoever it was had seen her and the tall, cloaked form was approaching with long, purposeful strides. She gasped, clutching a hand to her throat in sudden dread.

When he stood in front of her the man raised the lantern to see her face, the light illuminating his own beneath his dripping hat. He looked puzzled for a moment, then he recognized her.


She caught her breath, and her trepidations rapidly vanished. For a moment the two of them were immovable, facing each other, straining through time, and across a divide too deep, too impenetrable to cross.

Lucas Fryston stiffened, his whole body tensing into rigid lines. His eyes actually widened on meeting hers, then narrowed with fury. He stared at her for a moment, his jaw tight and hard, then he turned away from her. In a paralysis of fear Hester waited, before he turned back.

‘You must forgive me if I seem surprised,’ he said coldly. ‘You are the last person I would expect to come calling.’

‘I thought the Grange would be empty. I’m sorry. I wouldn’t have come had I known…’

‘What? That I would be here? Sorry to disappoint you, Hester,’ he drawled. ‘I’ve come back to sell the Grange, then I shall return to America for good.’

Tears sprung to her eyes.

She couldn’t shape a single thought, nor speak. She was aware only of sensations of the most agonizing pain. Lucas was reluctant to come near her because even now, after two years, he had not forgiven her for refusing to become his wife and go with him to America. She felt a wisp of sorrow. Seeing him gave rise to thoughts she’d been valiantly struggling to put behind her, thoughts of what her life might have been, what it should have been, a full and happy life with a good man and a family of her own.

‘I apologize for disturbing you, Lucas. I see it was a mistake to come

here. I won’t bother you further.’

When she turned and retraced her steps across the yard, Lucas dropped any pretence of ignoring her, yet only the jagged pulse that had leaped to life in his throat attested to his own disquiet as he stared after her with mingled feelings of regret and concern.

‘Hester, wait.’ Striding after her he took her arm and turned her to face him, noting that she was shivering in her wet clothes. ‘Look at you. You’re dripping wet. You’d better come inside.’

Hester followed him to the house. Holding the lantern high, he gestured her inside. She shivered as she peered past the beacon toward the interior.

‘Unfortunately I cannot offer you much in the way of hospitality. In its present state the house is devoid of home comforts. I’ll light the fire.’

After several minutes he’d lit candles and set light to the fire in the oak-panelled hall. Hester held out her hands to feel its warmth. Having removed his cloak and hat, Lucas came to stand beside her. His hair was raven black, thick and gently curling to his shoulders. Looking up at him she saw those beautiful warm amber eyes, like his whole being, still blazing with raw emotion. His gaze never left her face.

‘You look tired,’ he remarked. ‘How are things at home? How are your sisters?’

‘To the best of my knowledge they are well, thank you. And you, Lucas?’

‘As you see I have survived without you very well,’ he replied, his voice heavily laced with irony.

And he had—or he thought he had, until now. A long time ago, before England had been torn apart by the Civil War, Lucas had been destined for a wonderful future. He had wealth, influence and raffish good looks to accompany undeniable and winning charm. For all his sophistication and urbanity, though, he had later turned to putty under the assault of a pair of light blue eyes. At just sixteen years old, despite being the daughter of Jacob Atkins, a man locked in bitter rivalry with his own father, Hester had captured him completely. He loved her smile, her sincerity, her goodness and her touch that set his heart thudding like that of a callow youth. But the relationship had soured under the possessive bullying of her father.

While Atkins presented himself as an upstanding pillar of the community, he hid behind a mask of wickedness—the better to wage his shadow war on Lucas’s father. Atkins had deeply resented his success and, driven by an endless lust for power, both in his military life and his private life, he had used every dubious means at his disposal to ruin him.

Lucas was away at war when his father had died, and he was certain his inability to meet his debts and his death had more to do with Atkins’s persecution than his failed heart. When it had come to wanting to wed Hester, Atkins had told him he would see her dead first.

Hester had refused to disobey her father. With no way to douse the rage that had burned inside him like an inferno, Lucas had left England, determined to conquer his passion, but he had failed miserably. He’d been powerless to staunch the outflow of love he felt for her. And now he had come back to her, back to the woman he had tried so hard to deny.

Looking at her now he thought how lovely she was, lovelier than ever since she had grown to womanhood. Her hair was fair and thick, her figure gracefully slender. Her voice was low and pleasant to the ear, with nothing strident in its tone to evoke anyone’s attention.

‘As you see the house is not as cozy as it once was, but at least it will give you some shelter from the storm.’

Hester’s shuddering made it difficult for her to speak, but she tried. ‘I—I thank you. I must look a fright.’ Which she did, with her hair hanging in wet strands down her back. Her hands were numb and icy, her nose and cheeks red with cold.

‘You look like a drowned rabbit,’ he remarked softly. ‘I think you’d best get out of those clothes before you catch your death.’

Hester shook her head. ‘No—I couldn’t. I’ll soon dry.’

Lucas arched a brow as he peered at her. ‘Are you trying to convince me how foolish you are? Your clothes will soon dry in front of the fire.’

‘I have dry ones in my bag.’

‘You still have to remove your wet ones.’

With trembling fingers Hester began to pluck at the ties of her cloak without success.

‘Shall I help?’

‘My—fingers are quite numb.’

Gently prying her hands free, Lucas slipped the cloak from her shoulders and draped it over a metal guard in front of the fire. ‘Since you seem in great need of my services, I feel I must resume where I left off.’

His eyes swept over her in a lingering caress, evoking a blush that left Hester’s cheeks nearly as rosy as her soft lips. Nervous at being touched by him after so long, feelings she could not describe coursed through her. When he unbuttoned her dress and eased it from her shoulders, she saw his eyes flare with heat when they took in her pale flesh and the gentle swell of her breasts above her petticoat. She could not move or cry out nor stop him as he continued to carefully disrobe her. It was as if the world had narrowed and there was only the stillness of their heavy breathing, the promise and heat of his touch. She closed her eyes, certain she would swoon, and her breasts swelled, nipples tight and straining against fabric.

The sight of her nearly took Lucus’s breath away. He was transfixed. Most disconcerting was the discovery that he was as physically attracted to her now as he had been before. More so. His eyes lingered on the soft flesh of her shoulders and the play of light on her skin, reawakening fires in his own body. If his fingers noted that her shift was soft and clinging, and retained the scent of her skin, he told himself not to dwell on it. And if his head felt dizzy, as if he were becoming intoxicated, he told himself the cause was the smoke from the fire. The simplicity of her shift framed her body for him almost like a gift. It only made him ache to familiarize himself once more with what it concealed.

Hester knew that without it she would have no protection against those probing eyes. But this was Lucas! She didn’t feel that she needed protecting—not from Lucas.

Struggling with his craving lusts, with some disgust for his own lack of self-control, Lucas felt a trickle of sweat trace a cool path down his temple as he fought the raging desires that tore at him, leaving him trembling and tense. Raking his fingers through his hair, uttering a low curse, he turned away.

‘My God, Hester! Even after all this time, do you not know how the sight of you torments me—what you do to me?’

His suffering was not lost on Hester and she so dearly wished to give him release. After all that had happened to her this was the safest she had felt in a long time. Her father was dead and her whole world was about to break into pieces and dissolve in terror. But here, in this lonely, quiet house, there was only herself and Lucas, his need of her—her need of him, and she may not have much time left—just this one night, so why should she not grasp what might be her last chance at happiness? Had she not endured her fill of sorrows?


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