Hi friends! Welcome to 2020 and our first “guest post!” I’m actually really surprised to say this, but I think it’s our first from Jess Michaels! And – as you see, it’s an excerpt from her book A Reluctant Bride that is out today! So you can read this snippet then go snag yourself a copy! Win!
When the Jasper Kincaid, the Earl of Harcourt, offered to marry one of the infamous Shelley triplets, he was doing it for the dowry to refill his depleted coffers, not for anything so silly as love. But when he realizes it is Thomasina Shelley masquerading as his fiancée at their final engagement ball, not his true intended, a desire for her that he has been ignoring sparks. And when it becomes clear her sister has run away with another, an opportunity arises for a marriage with a much deeper connection.
Thomasina’s feelings for Jasper have never been appropriate and she doubted the prudence of pretending to be his even for just one night. Once she’s caught, everything escalates so quickly. Suddenly she’s going to marry this stern, fascinating man who is not particularly pleased at her perfidy. Add to that her worry about where her wayward sister has gone and it’s a recipe for both passion…and disaster.
As the two slowly grow closer, Jasper realizes his former fiancée’s disappearance may have more to do with his own past than he originally realized. And the longer he keeps that from Thomasina, the more painful it will be when the truth comes out. Can they let each other close enough to fight together against the dangers right around the corner? And will they survive to meet the future they could have if they do?
Thomasina couldn’t feel her legs. Or her arms. They were all tingling out of control and she had no idea how she was keeping herself upright as she walked across the ballroom, forcing a smile at the felicitations her sister’s guests called out. She had played the role of Anne before, of course, but she regretted agreeing to it this time. Schoolgirl pranks were nothing like this…monstrosity.
“Good evening, Anne.”
She froze and slowly turned to her left to find Harcourt standing at her elbow, his chocolate gaze sweeping over her from head to toe, taking in every inch of the exposed skin her sister loved to display. Thomasina felt almost naked with the top swell of her breasts lifted just above the line of the fabric.
“G-good evening, my lord,” she managed to breathe as she let herself look at him. By God, but he was handsome. Why was he so handsome? And he was also observant, which was very dangerous in this situation.
She shoved aside the star-struck response he always engendered in her and tried for the cool smile her sister could easily find. “Quite a gathering,” she mused, and wished her voice didn’t tremble ever so slightly.
He moved a fraction closer and his hand settled into the small of her back as he guided her toward the edge of the dancefloor. She tensed at the touch, so familiar, so warm, even through the layers of her gown. He had touched her before, of course, when they danced or if he helped her into a carriage.
But this was something else. There was something…possessive about his fingers curling so low on her back. But of course there would be. She wasn’t Thomasina to him, she was Anne. She was his. He could be a little possessive if he wished to be.
“You look lovely,” he said, his gaze sweeping over her face a second time. He was really looking at her, too. So very dangerous.
She dropped her chin even though it wasn’t an action Anne would take in the face of a compliment. Her sister did not demur. But it was better than being caught. “Thank you, my lord.”
He stared at her a beat longer, then looked off into the crowd. “It is quite a crush,” he said. “You must be pleased.”
She blinked out at all the people swirling around. Too many of them and it was hot. “Pleased?” she repeated.
“You said you wanted the wedding of the decade,” he explained, arching a brow in her direction. “It seems you shall have your wish.”
Thomasina swallowed hard and reminded herself that she was meant to be Anne, who loved to be the center of attention. She could not forget that at her own peril.
“I am very pleased,” she said with a forced smile for him. “I hope you are, as well.”
His brows lifted, and for a moment it seemed like he was going to say something. Then he looked away and focused on the crowd again. They stood in silence for a moment, though she would not call it companionable. He was too stiff and she too terrified to label it as such. Then he faced her again. “You know who I have not seen this evening?” he asked.
She tilted her head. “Who?”
“Miss Thomasina.” He held her gaze. “Where is your sister?”
Thomasina cleared her throat and tried to calm her racing heart. He was bound to hear it if she didn’t settle herself. “Er, a headache,” she lied. “Poor dear. I tried to talk her into joining us, but she declared it was too painful.”
“That sounds serious,” he drawled. “I could call for a doctor for her. He could be here in less than half an hour if I send my best horse. I could even go myself if you think it is truly dire.”
Thomasina shook her head swiftly. “Oh no, my lord. I promise you it is not serious. She would greatly appreciate your kind concern, I’m sure, but it is not needed. My sister will likely be right as rain tomorrow.”
He nodded slowly. “That is good news. But I suppose Thomasina is not overly brokenhearted about missing the ball. She does not like such things, I think. Or at least not as much as you do.” He glanced over the crowd again. “Or is it me she does not care for?”
Thomasina pivoted on him in shock. He could not truly believe she didn’t like him! The very idea was terrible. “My lord,” she said. “I assure you I—she…no, she isn’t as comfortable at a ball as An—er, as I am or as Juliana is, but Thomasina thinks only the highest of you. Why would you think otherwise?”
He shrugged but continued to keep his gaze away from her. “I don’t know. Only that she flees every room I am in. And she will not meet my stare sometimes.”
The blood was draining so rapidly from Thomasina’s cheeks that she feared she might collapse right here in the middle of the engagement ball and cause the kind of scene that would be talked about for decades. Especially if her ruse was uncovered. She dragged in a ragged breath and smiled at her sister’s fiancé.
“You know Thomasina,” she said, waving a hand to dismiss her own actions. “She is shy. I’m certain her behavior has nothing to do with her esteem of you. Quite the opposite.”
“Quite the opposite,” he repeated, and now the corner of his lip lifted in half a smile. A rare expression, indeed. “And what does that mean?”
Congratulations on your newest release, Jess! Thank you for sharing this excerpt with us!
So, friends, what’d you think? Have you read Jess Michaels before? Did this excerpt convince you to buy a copy? 😀 It’s the first in a series! (Looks like a trilogy if it’s about the triplets – The Shelley Sisters series – but maybe there will be more?) Anyway, you can get yourself a copy here. O:-)