I’ve been fighting with my site, friends, and it got ugly. But I emerged victorious. And for those of you sticking around, I have a treat for you. An exclusive excerpt of a book not out until September! Whoo! Early sneak peeks!
Though he lost the use of an arm in the Napoleonic Wars, Henry Middlebrook returns to London society and begins an ambitious courtship of the ton’s reigning beauty. When he experiences limited success, he decides to ask for assistance from the beauty’s companion, Frances Whittier. A soldier’s widow with a murky past, Frances admires Henry’s courage and sends him a secret letter. He thinks the letter is from her mistress, and Frances must correct his mistake if she wants to engage his heart.
She also provided us with this explanation. To intro these excerpts a bit: our hero Henry, wounded near the end of the Napoleonic Wars, has slipped out of a ball being thrown by his family in his honor. Our heroine Frances, whom he’s used to thinking of as a friend, comes along with him–and soon friendship takes a turn for the romantic.
Who doesn’t love a good kissing scene? 😀
He’d seen Frances, talked to her, many times in the past few weeks. He’d even been alone with her, touched her, a not-quite-proper clasp of fingers. But now… he’d really talked to her. They were truly alone. And he was finally seeing her, clever and desirable—and oh God, did he want to touch her some more.
She held his face in light fingertips, waiting for him to say or do something. Her breathing was shallow and quick.
Henry was not sure he was breathing at all.
Before his brain could voice a contrary opinion, he leaned forward and brushed her lips with his. Ah.
Soft as the feather of a quill, faint as the line drawing that guided the form of a painting. It was an art, the touch of mouth on mouth, and he was out of practice, but it did not matter. Her lips parted for his, and her hands pulled his face closer with the desperate truth of her own desire.
He slid his hand up her side, finding her shoulder, tickling her neck with the lightest brush of his thumb. Up it whisked, then down, and she shivered and made a little sound in the back of her throat. Mmmm. Her fingers slid over his face, sweet and tender, then ruffled through his hair, her nails lightly raking his scalp.
All sense vanished beneath the primal triumph of pleasing a woman. Somehow he would persuade her to want him, this clever and mysterious woman who sat aside, who noticed everything, who let him kiss her when he’d feared no one would want him again.
He should not use her—not to fill his roiling emptiness. But it was Frances, and she always knew what to do. Her mouth felt so good against his; the taste of her lips almost unbearably sweet and intoxicating. Not since he was a youth had he grown so drunk on kisses. He could have kissed her for hours, exploring her mouth, winning precious little moans from her.
The hands fisted in his hair let go suddenly, and she pulled away, breathing quickly, and stood. In the shaded light of the eagle chandelier, he could see the darkening of her cheeks, the flush on the exposed portion of her bosom. He wanted to follow that color beneath her clothing, see where it ended, trace her nipples with his tongue.
But no—she’d ended the kiss.
Thump. He let his head fall back against the wall. “I’m sorry. Just… give me a moment to compose myself.”
“Why would I want to do that?” Still standing, she began to wrestle with the heavy mass of her skirts. She gathered and bunched them until her legs were bare to the knee, then plumped down again on the sofa next to Henry. “When I’m working so hard to discompose myself?”
And here’s some angst to follow.
Henry raked his hand through his hair, taming and flattening the wild peaks she’d made with her eager fingers. “No. I shouldn’t have done this.”
Frances’s proud posture sagged. “You shouldn’t have… what? Met me alone?”
“Yes, and—and touched you.” He stammered, hating his own uncertainty. None of the social rules he remembered had prepared him for this: seeking advice about courtship then mauling the advisor.
Carefully, she pushed away to a respectable distance. Her face fell into shadow against the deep blue of the wall. “I touched you too,” she said in a bland voice. “Do you want me to apologize? Should I be ashamed of having kissed you?”
“I hope not,” Henry blurted. He pressed his hand to his temple. It was far too hot in here suddenly; he wished he could lie down on the plush-carpeted floor and wait for his shuddering limbs to return to normal.
“You hope I won’t apologize.”
“No,” he barked. “I hope you won’t feel ashamed. That’s not why I stopped.” He drew in a hesitant breath, focusing on the minute physical sensations of his body: the soft abrasion of starched linen around his neck, the tight embrace of snug-buttoned waistcoat around his torso. His clothing kept him from pulling in a deep, down-to-the-toes breath. It also reminded him where he was.
“I… liked… kissing you.” The words fell from his lips haltingly, as though it was the first time he’d translated such sensations into speech. “Very much.”
“Oh.” She bent forward, her long body folded up. Those tip-tilted hazel eyes wouldn’t meet his, but at least he could see her face again. “I suppose that’s something to be glad for.”
“Is it?” He let out a harsh laugh. “Where can it lead us? Nowhere. You deserve better than…” He gestured wildly with his left arm, not knowing if he meant himself or something clandestine or something that wasn’t completely wholehearted. Though it had felt awfully wholehearted for a few free, unfettered minutes, until he remembered the world outside.
“You have no idea what I deserve,” Frances said with a wry smile. “None at all.”
“We should go back,” he said in a voice thick with thwarted arousal, sorrow, pain. He swallowed it all, and it stayed within him, deep and hidden. Deep enough that he could muster a smile, a courteous bow, and a graceful offer of a hand.
She took his fingers in hers, and he ignored the quick squeeze of longing. The light of the chandelier glossed her eyes with gold, and he could not see their true color.
So. That was that. He tugged her to her feet and escorted her to the door.
When they opened it, they were hit by a tidal wave of sound and heat. Stomping feet and shrill laughter and sawing strings and the light of a thousand candles.
This was reality. The blue room was nothing but an illusion of peace.
He could hide from the world for a few minutes, but eventually he had to live in it, to conquer it. And so he would have to keep his guard always up, more than ever before—because now he knew he could not ask Frances to help him.
He could not be trusted to take from her only what he ought to take.
So what do you think? And because Theresa is a lovely and awesome lifesaver, I want to offer a giveaway. A kindle copy of one of her Season series books (Season for Temptation, or Season for Surrender) to someone who comments. Either – have you read any of her books? What did you think of this excerpt? Or Regency set romances? Or even – do you subscribe to ALBTALBS?