First of all, I want to thank each and every one of you for your patience with me. As you can see I’m all over the place and barely grasping at threads. My apologies. I know it’s obviously not Tuesday, but I FUBAR’d the ALBTALBS schedule and Valerie Bowman was very gracious and said she didn’t mind turning Saturday into Tuesday. Incidentally, don’t expect much better anytime soon because I’m trying to do my taxes…
Anyway. Clearly Valerie is a wonderful woman. So without further ado – a snippet from Secrets of a Runaway Bride which will be available this Tuesday March 26!
THE THRILL OF ESCAPE
Miss Annie Andrews is finally free to marry the man she loves. With her overprotective sister out of the country on her honeymoon, nothing can prevent her flight to Gretna Green—nothing, that is, but an abduction by the wrong gentleman.
THE SWEETNESS OF SURRENDER
When Jordan Holloway, the Earl of Ashbourne, promised to look after his best friend’s sister-in-law, he didn’t realize she would prove so difficult. But when he spirits her away to his country house to prevent her elopement, he discovers that the tempting beauty knows how to put up a fight. To make matters worse, he’s stuck playing the role of honorable protector…when what he really wants is to run away with her himself.
“I will not ask again. Tell me where Miss Andrews is and tell me immediately.” Jordan’s voice boomed through the town house. Devon’s normally staid butler had managed to summon both Evans and Mary and now, all three servants stood quaking in front of him in the foyer, while he asked for the third time where their mistress had gone.
Evans gulped and pulled at his neck cloth. “I told ye, milord. I haven’t seen Miss Annie today.”
Jordan’s raking gaze settled on Mary.
“You must believe me, Lord Ashbourne. I’m quite sure Miss Annie told me, but I cannot remember. It’s an affliction I’ve ‘ad, ahem, had, for quite some time. Ye can ask these gents.” Mary gestured to Evans and the butler with her thumb.
“Aye, that I can vouch fer milord,” Evans replied. “She can’t remember a thing wot happened five minutes ago.”
Jordan turned his piercing gaze on the butler. “Nicholls, I’m counting on you to be the only sane member of this trio. Tell me where Miss Andrews is.”
Nicholls bowed. “My lord, I assure you. I’ve already related all of which I am aware. Miss Andrews had a caller around ten o’clock this morning. It was Mr. Arthur Eggleston. He left his card.”
Jordan had already seen the damned card. He’d crumpled it in his fist.
“Mr. Eggleston and Miss Andrews spoke in the blue salon until half eleven,” Nicholls continued. “Then he took his leave.”
Jordan paced. “What did they speak about?”
“That I don’t know, my lord. I was not asked to bring refreshments and I pride myself on never eavesdropping.” He gave Evans and Mary a stern look.
“And I might well have been eavesdropping, milord,” Evans admitted with a wry smile. “Had I known there was anything to hear, but I swear upon my honor I wasn’t even awake at ten o’clock.”
“That I can vouch fer, me lord,” Mary interjected. “Saw ‘im meself, upstairs dozing in a chair by the window ‘round that time.”
Jordan paced back and forth across the fine Indian carpet that adorned Devon’s foyer. “Annie did not order a coach?”
Nicholls shook his head. “No, my lord.”
“She did not leave a note?” Jordan continued.
“No.” Mary shook her head.
“She did not go on an errand with a friend?” Jordan ground out.
“No. I went ‘round to Miss Birmingham’s house me’self and Miss Frances hadn’t seen nor heard from her all day,” Evans assured him.
“Has Aunt Clarissa seen her?”
“My lady has been…indisposed…” Nicholls cleared his throat. “Most of the day, sir.”
Jordan raked a hand through his hair. It was nearly ten o’clock at night and apparently Annie had been missing all day. How had this happened?
He’d wanted to discount Medford’s warning. Annie had seemed so sad and so repentant last night. But some niggling sense of doubt in the back of his mind, had spurred Jordan to check on her tonight. The tears in her eyes and the look on her face had convinced him that she finally understood why she should not be chasing after Eggleston. But now, standing in front of the three unwitting servants, Jordan understood that Medford had been exactly right. Annie hadn’t been ready to give up at all. It had merely been the proverbial calm before the storm. She’d regrouped, ready to do her final damage. And all on Jordan’s watch again. Perfect.
Jordan turned on his heel and reached to open the front door. Nicholls rushed to do it for him but got there too late. “Where are you going, my lord?” he asked in a strained voice.
Jordan barely turned his head, his jaw clenched. “To visit Mr. Arthur Eggleston and if he is not there, there will be hell to pay.”
Jordan left, slamming the door behind him.
* * *
Jordan’s questioning of the Eggleston servants yielded much the same information. Mr. Arthur had left around ten that morning to pay a call and he hadn’t returned since.
Minutes later, Jordan left the house with a growing sense of dread in his belly. Damn it. She’d done it again. Somehow convinced that idiot Eggleston to take off to Gretna Green. Jordan knew it. Just as sure as he knew he must follow them immediately.
Less than half an hour later, he was back home packing a bag, tossing money in a pouch for the journey, and imagining what he’d do to the errant lovers when he caught up to them. How in the hell had that young woman managed to fool him? Again? And what were either one of them thinking? No doubt she would argue that Jordan had pushed her to this. He could hear the explanation now. But putting her life and reputation in danger again was serious. The last time the little fool had done this it had taken her sister and Devon’s marriage to deflect the scandal. God only knew what it would take this time.
The good news was that no one seemed to know. The servants at both households knew the master and mistress were gone but didn’t appear to suspect they’d gone to Gretna Green together. The servants might be persuaded to remain silent.
Jordan knew one thing for certain. He was through playing the beleaguered chaperone. As soon as he found Annie Andrews, he intended to make it clear that he was in charge. He’d tried it her way for nearly two weeks now. The next fortnight would be on his terms. And she wouldn’t like his terms one bit.
Jordan hefted his bag to his shoulder. His valet, Cunningham, scurried into the room. “My lord. I didn’t know you’d returned. Do you require my assistance?”
Jordan shook his head. “No. I’m just taking a few things for now. I’m going on a trip.”
Cunningham nodded. “Is there anything else you require?”
Another shake of the head. “I’ll stop by the kitchens before I leave to get some food for the journey.”
“Will you be back soon, my lord?”
Jordan stopped for a moment in the doorway. He turned to look at the valet. “I won’t be back for a fortnight.”
BIO: Valerie Bowman is an award-winning author who writes Regency-set historical romance novels aka Racy Regency Romps! Secrets of a Runaway Bride has been named a 4.5 star TOP PICK! by RT Book Reviews. It’s been called “Too Delightful Too Miss!” by New York Times bestselling author, Lisa Kleypas, and New York Times bestselling historical romance author Sarah MacLean says it’s, “Everything a romance should be—sexy, quirky, fun…once you start reading, you won’t be able to stop!” Valerie’s debut, Secrets of a Wedding Night, the first in the Secret Brides series from St. Martin’s Press, was nominated by RT Book Reviews for Best Debut Historical for 2012!
Valerie has a B.A. in English Language and Literature with a minor in history from Smith College. By day, she is a technical editor at a computer software company. By night, she combines her love of writing, history, and romance to craft stories about people falling in love.
Originally from Rantoul, Illinois, Valerie lives in Jacksonville, Florida with her rascally rescue dog, Roo. When she’s not writing, she keeps busy reading, traveling, or watching Downton Abbey and Hoarders. You can find Valerie on the web, Facebook, and Twitter.
So what did you think of the excerpt? Do you enjoy historical romances? Two lucky people who comment today will win a copy – either print or ebook, winner’s choice. “US, Canada, and Australia only. Void where prohibited.”