It’s Tuesday! Today we’re lucky enough to have Maggie Robinson sharing with us from her upcoming book. (Out next week!) Yes, Seducing Mr. Sykes will be out on June 20th! Read on for the book blurb and the exclusive excerpt!
In Maggie Robinson’s sparkling new series, the quaint village in Gloucestershire is where the wayward sons and daughters of Great Britain’s finest families come for some R&R—and good old-fashioned “rehab”. But sometimes they find much more . . .
No one at Puddling-on-the-Wold ever expected to see Sarah Marchmain enter through its doors. But after the legendary Lady’s eleventh-hour rejection of the man she was slated to marry, she was sent here to restore her reputation . . . and change her mind. It amused Sadie that her father, a duke, would use the last of his funds to lock her up in this fancy facility—she couldn’t be happier to be away from her loathsome family and have some time to herself. The last thing she needs is more romantic distraction . . .
As a local baronet’s son, Tristan Sykes is all too familiar with the spoiled, socialite residents of the Puddling Rehabilitation Foundation—no matter how real their problems may be. But all that changes when he encounters Sadie, a brave and brazen beauty who wants nothing more than to escape the life that’s been prescribed for her. If only Tristan could find a way to convince the Puddling powers-that-be that Sadie is unfit for release, he’d have a chance to explore the intense attraction that simmers between them—and prove himself fit to make her his bride . . .
The words died on Tristan’s lips. He could do nothing but stare.
At first he thought she was covered only by a scarf, but the edge of an embroidered corset peeked out from under the paisley and straps as pale as her shoulders revealed she was wearing a shift as well. But not much of one. Lady Sarah Marchmain stood in a swirl of golden dust motes, strands of her coppery hair tumbling from its pins, her white legs mostly bare and endless.
He had come to tell her that Mr. Fitzmartin was unwell, that she was saved from another lecture. Instead, he was mute, his eyes blinking when he really needed to avert them, his cock behaving as if he were a schoolboy looking at naughty pictures.
She stared right back at him, frozen.
He should excuse himself and dash back down the attic stairs.
His feet refused to move.
One of them should say something. Hell, she should be shrieking her head off. She was practically naked. To be discovered like this was the most compromising of positions. A normal woman wouldn’t just stand there.
She was as brazen as her legs were long. Lady Sarah Marchmain had invaded his privacy in the bath, tried to kiss him, and was now tempting him, making him forget why —
This is what Tristan had feared all along—that something would happen between them that was inescapable. If they were in some foolish novel, he’d find himself in “parson’s mousetrap” before the week was out.
Was that her plan? No, she claimed she didn’t want marriage, at least to Lord Roderick Charlton. Or any of the other men who’d sought her hand—and the rest of her luscious self—since her debut. And besides, Tristan was at fault this time, coming upon her without notice. Why hadn’t he sent Mrs. Anstruther or another servant to the attic?
The truth was, he’d wanted to see her face light up when she learned her afternoon was free of the vicar’s intervention. He’d been only minimally polite at lunch, trying to control the unwanted storm she created inside him—trousers, again!—and felt a trifle guilty. As a form of apology, he had planned to invite her to walk with him in the garden.
Right now, she’d give the marble statuary outside some competition. She was utterly still, pale and beautiful.
Let’s see. To speak, one opened one’s mouth. Arranged teeth and tongue in familiar combinations. Pressed one’s vocal chords into service. Breathed too, somehow. All of that was quite beyond him at the moment.
And her as well. Her eyes were locked on his, her usually pink cheeks devoid of color.
He threw a hand over his eyes, because they didn’t seem to want to look anywhere else but in her direction. “I—I beg your pardon.”
“What do you want?” Her voice was thin, higher-pitched than usual.
By God, his hand was shaking like an old man’s. “I came to tell you Mr. Fitzmartin cannot come today.”
There. That was sufficient information, wasn’t it? Time to turn around and go down the stairs.
But no. Here he was, rooted to the floorboards. Tristan peeked through his fingers.
“He is indisposed. Mr. Fitzmartin, that is.”
Her knuckles were white from clutching the fringed scarf, but her lips curved slightly. “He probably ate too many biscuits.”
Biscuits? This encounter was proving more absurd by the minute.
He cleared his throat. “Well, then, I’ll be leaving.”
“Yes, that’s a very good idea.”
From somewhere below, Tristan heard loud voices and doors slamming. Lady Sarah was standing quite near the window, but there was no hope for it—he had to go near her in all her half-naked glory. He edged around the boxes and baskets and cast-off furniture trying to keep his distance and looked down onto the curved drive of Sykes House. A dusty crested carriage was heading toward the stables, and the footmen were racing to bring in the baggage that was tumbled about on the cobblestones.
Tristan was not expecting any visitors. What the devil? Had his father decided Paris was de trop? His last letter had been filled with cheerful descriptions of various amusements, so very different from preternaturally quiet Puddling on the Wold. The old man seemed to be having a splendid time, probably for the first time in his life.
He heard rapid thumping up the stairs. Without thinking, Tristan scooped up Lady Sarah, which wasn’t precisely easy in her current slippery-scarf state, and dropped her into a largish open trunk.
“Not one word.” He tossed what looked to be the old blue dining room curtains over her.
She pawed through the fabric like she was in the ocean coming up for air, her green eyes daggers. “How dare you?”
“Really, are you deaf? If you continue to talk, I won’t be responsible for the consequences. Someone is coming. Do you wish to be discovered in dishabille? Fancy being Mrs. Sykes, do you?”
Her mouth dropped open in what Tristan perceived as horror.
“That’s right. I see I’ve gotten through to you. Good. Now, be quiet.” With one firm flip, he closed the trunk, fairly certain he heard a muffled yelp.
One of the footmen appeared at the attic door. “Mr. Tristan, sir, you have a v-visitor.”
“I heard the commotion. Who is it?”
“It’s a bloody—I mean it’s a blooming duke, sir! Lady Sarah’s father. I’ve never met a duke before. He’s not happy. And he’s come with luggage. Tons of it, all with fancy crests and a snooty valet and everything.”
Bloody, blooming hell. It was expressly forbidden for family to interfere with a Guest’s course of treatment.
“Islesford won’t eat you. I don’t think. What does he want?”
“To see Lady Sarah. They told him down in the village she’s here. But we can’t find her anywhere. He’s in—he’s in somewhat of a state, Mr. Tristan.”
“I think I know where she is. Be a good fellow and go downstairs. Offer the duke refreshment. Tell Mrs. Anstruther to get his belongings settled in the best room.”
“That’s where the l-lady is, sir.”
“The second-best room then. She’ll know what to do. Hurry up, don’t just stand there gawking.” Lady Sarah might be suffocating even as he spoke.
The footman took off and Tristan opened the trunk. Lady Sarah rose out of the curtains like a disheveled Venus.
“You heard?” Tristan asked, trying not to notice that the shawl had slipped off completely and all of her throat and chest was exposed.
Pillowy white breasts were barely contained under an embroidered ruffle. The corset tapered to her slender waist, and a few inches of shift skimmed her milky thighs.
Milky thighs. Oh, Christ.
“Damn it! I don’t want to see my father! Tell him to go away!” Her voice was not quite steady.
“You’ll have to get downstairs to your room somehow,” Tristan said, ignoring her.
“And then what? Wrap myself up in the coverlet? I have nothing to wear, Mr. Sykes. That’s why I was up here.”
“Put on that sack you were wearing yesterday. Perhaps your father will see to a new wardrobe for you while he’s here.” Tristan rummaged through boxes, spilling unfamiliar female garments to the dusty attic floor. Surely in all this there must be something the madwoman could put on before he was turned into a madman. He seized a wrinkled pink striped dress and thrust it at her.
Her nose twitched. “Pink? With my coloring?”
“Heaven help me. Now is not the time to worry over fashion. Just get the damn thing on so you can go down the servants’ stairs to your room. I’ll keep your father busy until you’re decent.”
Unable to help himself, he watched as she tossed the garment over her head. She was perfection, and even more perfect now that something was covering her muttering mouth. Her head appeared, and the mutters became clear.
She stuck an arm through a sleeve with an ominous ripping sound. “This doesn’t fit. I’m strangling.”
“It doesn’t have to fit,” Tristan said with impatience. “It only has to cover you.”
The other arm followed suit, and she tugged the skirt three-quarters of the way down over her long legs, much to Tristan’s regret. “My hair is caught in the hooks.”
Her hair was a complete tangle. Tristan had some experience undressing women—though not lately—but dressing them back up was not his area of expertise. He wished he had a hairbrush to smooth through Lady Sarah’s truly extraordinary hair.
“Hold still.” The hooks were devilishly tiny, and even after he removed the long strands of her hair, there was no chance of doing them up. Lady Sarah, while slender, was too broad at the shoulders and the fabric gapped in the back.
He could smell her perfume. Roses. He wondered if he could cultivate a rose that would match the color of her hair.
“This will have to do.”
“I’d be better off in your Eton suit.”
Seeing her in it again would be the death of him. “You look fine. I’m sure you won’t encounter so much as a tweenie on the back stairs. Hurry up.”
And for some reason, Tristan patted her bottom. By God, it was soft, so he did it again. And that act was how the ninth Duke of Islesford discovered his difficult daughter and her apparent lover.
You can read the first chapter here or buy a copy here.
Did it make you laugh or smile? Brighten your day? Have you read anything by Maggie Robinson before? What’d you think? 😀