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Tell no one! A lady calling upon a gentleman in her nightrail?

I write to you today to tell you of a most outlandish tale I heard. That of the Whiskey King’s daughter. (I dare not say her name.) And that she visited the Duke of M—’s son in her nightrail!

Now I know that seems impossible, but one of her neighbors swears it was she who scampered out of her house toward the duke’s.

Who else could it be? That man has no other girl so bold.

Or I do believe it to be so. What say you of his second child?

***

THE RAVEN’S LAST BET in THE WEDDING WAGER

BUY LINK: 

https://books2read.com/u/3JZQLJ

 

Desperate Sara Fleming decides the only way to escape her father’s plan is to make her newest betrothed a bet he can’t refuse.

Never good at gambling, Harry Seymour bets he can find a better way to win her heart! 

But he better hurry!

 Harry Seymour is home from years of fighting abroad to clean up the mess his roguish brother left upon his untimely death. Worse, his father, the Duke of Meredith, demands Harry honor a deal he made with his best friend to marry the man’s eldest daughter…for money.

Harry, who’s loved Sara Fleming since she was four, has no problem marrying her. He never did, even when she was denied him because she was the Whiskey King’s daughter. But not for money. 

Sara cannot accept the bargain her father made with the duke. She’s already left two men at the altar because she didn’t love either one. And if she can’t wed Harry for love, she’ll marry no one. But she wagers she’ll walk away happy if Harry will do her the favor of ruining her. It’s a bet Harry can’t refuse.

Can he?

Excerpt, All rights reserved. Copyright Cerise DeLand 2022.

        “Listen to me, Sara. I have a plan. It won’t be one either of our fathers likes but it might work.”

She pulled away. Peering into his magnificent eyes clouded her judgement. His green-brown orbs reflected a sadness in the faint lights that matched her own. “Tell me.”

“We announce that we intend to marry others.”

“I’ve already left two men alone before the vicar. Now there’s this gossip in the Gazette—?”

“Forget those other two men. And hang them at the Gazette.”

She put a hand to her hip. “We’ll send them new stories. Marvelous. I dislike your thinking, Harry. Totally. Marry another? Ba! Precisely who did you have in mind?” 

He gave her a look that said he had the right answer. “A man who makes you tingle.”

“Of whom there is no one.” Which is a lie.

“For each woman, there is a man. A perfect match.”

“I’ve not found him in four years. Why now?”

“You will lure him.”

 By some folly, to be sure. “How?”

A wicked gleam lit those iridescent eyes. “With kisses.”

“You expect me to kiss men?”

He shrugged a shoulder. “How else will you discover the right fellow?”

“How else will I go down as a scarlet woman? I’ve climbed enough fences barring me because I am of the dreaded merchant class. Papa’s money might continue to buy me entry, but if I degrade myself further, no one will touch me!”

He tipped up his chin. “You will be discreet. I will help.”

“You’ll bar doors?”

“And divert traffic.”

She scowled at him. “You’ve been away much too long, sir. You think me so brave. I am different from that child who tagged along behind you and tucked frogs in your pants.”

He scoffed. “Remind me. Who came to me night before last in her nightrail?”

”Dressing gown.”

He waved that away. “Exactly my point.”

Exasperated, she huffed. “The fault, dear Harry, is not in our stars, but in myself.”

“I agree.”

Oh, he infuriated her! “I do not know how to kiss.”

“And so you will learn.”

Only one way. She could barely say it. “By doing.”

“Indeed.” He winked. “With me.”

That way lay disaster and hopeless ruin. She’d should return to this party, because this was hopeless. She’d given up wanting him so long ago. Or thought she had. She threw up her hands. “Absurd.”

“Is it?” He took a step toward her, so near she inhaled his scent, imbibed his familiar allure that she could not allow to thrill her. “You said my kiss left you with no…what is the word?”

“You know perfectly well the word.”

“Tickle?”

If only. “Tingle.”

“Well then, my darling.” With one hand he caught her wrist while he swept his other hand around her waist. “Let’s see if this fits the bill.”

“No, stop!” Wonderful. Now she sounded like the village crier. 

“There, there. Don’t be shy. An experiment, eh?” He lifted her hand toward his mouth. “Or shall we call it…” he murmured, as he put her index finger, fully gloved, against the neat cleft in his chin, “…a demonstration? Visible to the naked eye.”

He smiled. Or was that the show of teeth of a predator? A creature who…gloated? 

He caught the point of her glove between his long white incisors. The act of a male bent on taking a bite of her, he tugged. The fabric slid along her finger, silk on silk, a glissade of shivering delight. Her glove glided from her elbow in a silent skim of her nerves. She shivered.

He halted. Glanced up at her, those long dark lashes of his rising to reveal the facets of a Harry she’d never known. A ravenous devil appeared there, one who pulled at another fingertip, starving for more of her until her hand was bare. Nipping her third finger and the next, he sent tremors up her spine. Her mouth fell open as he took her smallest finger, fabric and all, and bathed the whole of it in his hot moist mouth. His tongue served as succor—and as torture. 

She panted as if she’d run a mile. Her gaze glued to his voracious teeth, she dare not look away or lose a second. What he gave, she took. If it was instruction, it was also a revelation. Though she knew not how to interpret his lips to her fingers as lips to lips, she reveled in whatever he’d choose next. 

With a yank of his teeth, he pulled and her glove slid slowly down her arm and fell to the floor. She was bare to the night air, chilled and burning, as he caught her fingers and pressed them to his open mouth. He cupped her elbow, and her wrist was once more his. Bare skin gave him no pause, but encouragement to lift her hand once more. 

He groaned and crushed her torso fully against him. His possession, from her breasts to her hips, left her pulsing. 

He put her palm to his lips and licked the hollow of her hand. She moaned at his luscious homage and her knees gave way. As he caught her up, he bit the heal of her hand. She yelped. He gave a grunt, nigh unto laughter or triumph, she knew not which, then wrapped her arm around his waist. As he sweetly backed her to the wall, his hair fell loose over his brow and he focused on her lips. 

Then he took them.

Cerise DeLand is the USA TODAY Bestselling author of more than 60 historical romances…and a few other bits, too! 

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What Happens at The Soho Club? Should Stay there!

That most scandalous of establishments, The Soho Club, is more popular than ever in Regency Society – and this time, there are festivities afoot.

You may recall that this unique and exclusive club maintains both a male and female membership. All appetites are welcome at The Soho Club, a haven for those who wish a moment’s indulgence away from prying eyes and scurrilous gossips. Only the premiere scandal sheet in the capital is even aware of this place where one’s most daring appetites are expected, encouraged, and even shared.

The Soho Club has only one rule: Discretion above all things. It’s the ‘all things’ that the members enjoy, because sharing secrets at Christmas time so often leads to love.

Eight steamy Regency romance novellas to ring in the season!

Heidi Wessman Kneale, The Freedom of a Widow
Master Bisou gives kissing lessons at The Soho Club, but what to do with a young widow, who wants to learn so much more?

Renée Dahlia, The Widow’s Modiste
Lady Merryam, widowed and bored, only attends the Soho Club’s latest ball to help raise funds for her son’s orphanage. The last thing she expects is a one night stand with the mysterious woman wearing ‘that’ dress. Could spending more time with her be the answer to her ennui?

Charlotte Anne, Violet Evergreen Seduces a Rogue
Wallflower Violet knows there’s more to the world than parties and fine gowns, and she’s determined to experience it all. With a little light bribery she convinces the great nonpareil of London’s gambling dens, Morgan Turner, to gift her some ‘experience’ at The Soho Club for Christmas.

Clyve Rose, The Case of the Black Diamond (Part II)

Much has changed since the events of Part I. Ada Ryan is caught up in her sister’s intrigues and her sister’s colleague Mr Felix is too attractive for a mere valet, but is that all there is to this man? Mr Felix is working to solve a maid’s murder and uncover a conspiracy. The last thing he needs is a distraction from one of the loveliest and most talented women in London – but he’s under orders to see to Ada Ryan’s safety. He’d best keep her close.

This novella includes links to a free bonus download featuring more espionage, adventure and passion. The bonus book is a bonus gift to all who purchase this collection – Merry Christmas!

Linda Rae Sande, The Holiday of a Marquess
A widowed countess who knows her numbers and a marquess in need of an accountant. When a will reveals her late husband’s secret, Elaine succumbs to Edward’s advances and discovers a second chance a love is possible at The Soho Club.

Ebony Oaten, Scandalous Charlotte

Charlotte, Lady Durham, has a terrible secret that weighs more heavily upon her by the day. If Charlotte thought she could have a quiet Christmastide as a widow, she did not count on Brabham, the ever-so-helpful footman whose well-meaning goodwill threatens to expose everything she holds dear.

Fiona M Marsden, Thursday’s Child

Newlyweds Will and Bella are struggling after their disastrous honeymoon and a family Christmas looming before them. They agree to rebuild their marriage kiss by kiss, touch by touch, in the scandalous private reading room of The Soho Club. 

This collection includes 2 BONUS NOVELLAS:

Pamela Hart, A Generous Heart
Accessing her substantial inheritance from conservative trustees is proving impossible for Adeline Edmonds. Her heart is set on creating a charitable school for the poor of London. Viscount Marryam has his heart set on Adeline Edmonds, but the company she keeps could derail his ambitions.

Ebony Oaten, There’s Something About Miss Mary
Miss Mary Callingsbrooke knows there’s something terribly wrong with her. Her body reacts in such an unnatural way when she’s close to a handsome gentleman. Mary meets the mysterious Mr Smith at the Soho Club, who shows Mary that her ‘faults’ are in fact incredibly attractive features. He’s more than happy to marry Mary, but why the haste?

About the Book: Christmas Secrets of the Soho Club

Eight Regency novellas for less than $1 (plus your BONUS CHRISTMAS GIFTS).

NOW AVAILABLE FOR PREORDER:

https://www.amazon.com/Christmas-Secrets-Soho-Club-Season-ebook/dp/B09THYGPX4/

Release Date: 15 September 2022

Multiple Authors:

Heidi Wessman Kneale

Renée Dahlia

Pamela Hart

Charlotte Anne

Clyve Rose

Linda Rae Sande

Fiona M Marsden

Ebony Oaten

Excerpt from The Case of the Black Diamond (Part II), by Clyve Rose:

Felix moved towards her. “May I assist you?”

“You’ve done nothing but assist me since I made your acquaintance.” Ada’s bluntness surprised them both, if Felix’s raised brows were any indication. Is this what working without a script feels like? The parlour door swung slightly ajar, a crack of light between the wood and the jamb. Did propriety matter when a woman had already kissed the gentleman in question? In such cases as these, it matters more. Ada’s inner pragmatist made little sense today. She stared accusingly at the nearly-closed door.

Felix’s gaze followed hers before returning to fix on her face – and there it was, the blush she’d managed to keep at bay since she’d met this man. Kissed him. Been kissed by him… Something real, warm, and wonderfully powerful rushed through her, like winter sunlight after frost. She shivered, opening her mouth to speak and banish this strangeness but no words came out. For the first time since she’d stood before an audience, Ada Ryan closed her lips without uttering a sound. Her gaze found Felix’s. He studied her face as though enchanted. His strong jaw relaxed, lips parted in the beginnings of a smile, his dimple half-visible, half-lost.

“Are you thinking of our kiss?” She asked, her cheeks heating further.

“Five weeks ago,” he replied, still smiling. Heavens, that dimple.

Five weeks, three days, and twenty-two hours. Ada nearly pouted at her memory’s stubborn persistence. She reached towards him as though she’d lost control of her limbs. Felix was across the room in an instant. His palm cupped her cheek, his eyes staring searchingly into her face.

“Ada, are you certain?”

Ada placed one palm over his, the other reaching up to stroke his hair. Tugging gently, she settled his mouth over hers, tasting citrus and scotch, intoxicating, enthralling, and gently questing. Ada sighed, nestling closer as his mouth teased hers, nipping at her lips while his palms cradled her face in the gentlest caress. His fingers moved delicately against her cheeks, as though she were precious, important, and valuable simply as Ada. So she kissed him as Ada; gently, wonderingly, with a hesitancy she’d not felt before…a kiss that was not ‘business’, or theatrics, or demanded. A kiss that was quiet and deliciously sweet, balancing desire with depth.

She drew back, swallowing the taste of him deeply, holding this honeyed moment still. When she nerved herself to meet his gaze, Ada saw warmth and gentle acceptance. She saw hunger too – fierce and potent. A trilling laugh bubbled up from her throat. She bit it back, forcing it away from this sensation that didn’t belong to staged scenes. It belonged to Ada and Felix. Laying her eyeglasses on the desk she stared at this man, awake to the shock of being real.

I liked kissing you she wanted to say, but confidence was one thing; brazenness was quite another. There were rumours all over London about the ‘new duchess’ at Drury Lane. Perhaps Mr Felix believed them. She swallowed. “I like kissing you.” She whispered, trembling in every nerve.

“Then I am the luckiest man in London.”

Author Bio:

Clyve Rose is an award-winning, Amazon-bestselling author of historical fiction in Australia and the US. She has been writing historical romance for the best part of two decades. Clyve believes that love is the highest and strongest force known in the world, and that it only manifests when we are our best and truest selves. 

Her debut novel Always a Princess was a finalist in 2020’s ARRA Awards. The Soho Club collections were also finalists in these awards, as was the sweet romance novella Love’s Sweet Arrow. She is also the recipient of a Passionate Ink award for The One Below.

Website & blog: www.clyverose.com

Follow Clyve on social media:

Twitter: @clyverose

IG: #clyverose

Facebook: Clyve Rose (@clyveroseauthor)

 

A Lady who Pursues a Diplomat Could Ruin Affairs!

“There is something strange afoot, Mrs. Ardmore.” Helen, Dowager Countess Ettesmere, frowned as the housekeeper came into the morning room.

“How do you mean, my lady?”

“Just this.” She folded her hands atop her secretary, much to quell their shaking as much as to project a calm appearance. “Lady Sophia has got it into her mind to romantically pursue Ambassador Mattingly.”

There. She said it aloud. Perhaps now it would make her feel better.

The housekeeper’s graying brown eyebrows rose, but that was the only evidence of her surprise. “Your daughter is in love with the ambassador?”

Oh, if only! Helen giggled and feared it sounded more hysterical than anything else. “I would have no idea, but she has the look.”

“I beg your pardon, my lady, but what look?”

A huff of frustration escaped her. “That look which says a woman is more than interested in a man, and since Ambassador Mattingly only just came to our door the day before, I am a bit concerned of my daughter’s mental state.”

“Due to the ongoing troubles with her heart?”

“Yes, some.” Knots of worry went through Helen’s stomach. Her only daughter, though long a woman grown, and over the age of forty, had received the worst diagnosis a person could—she would die soon of a weak heart. “I suppose if it were me who was facing imminent death, I might wish for one last tryst before crossing over.” Though, that still didn’t excuse the incoming scandal she suspected her daughter was planning.

The housekeeper shifted her weight from foot to foot. “Does the ambassador return her interest?”

“I would have no idea, but he regards her with an attitude that smacks of infatuation.” Helen put her hands in her lap. Oh, this was a terrible mess, and it hadn’t even happened yet. “I’ve seen the way Lady Sophia looks at the man. Why, she practically goggled him up at tea yesterday with her eyes. It would have been the height of scandal had anyone else beyond the family been in attendance.”

“I see.” One corner of Mrs. Ardmore’s lips twitched, but full-blown amusement never materialized. She was too well-trained for that. “Well, if he does return her interest, perhaps it isn’t a bad thing. Given the circumstances.”

Helen groaned. She rubbed her fingers over her eyes. “All my life, I have trained my children to be proper members of society. I orchestrated their first marriages and assumed those matches would have lasted.”

“Nothing is permanent in this life, my lady.”

“No, I suppose it’s not. Even my own husband succumbed to death.” She met the housekeeper’s eyes. “I wanted something lovely for each of my children, but Sophia doesn’t seem interested in anything proper now. Not with death looming. It’s simply too scandalous to let her conduct an affair under the nose of her impressionable daughter. My granddaughter!”

“I rather doubt Lady Sophia will have an affair. That isn’t who she is,” the housekeeper was quick to soothe. “Perhaps you should give it some time and see what comes—if anything—between your daughter and the ambassador. Perhaps it will be a love match.”

Helen couldn’t help but utter an unladylike snort. “Love? In an instant over tea yesterday? Pish posh, Mrs. Ardmore. You and I both know life doesn’t work that way.”

“But there is always room for an anomaly, and if what is between them results in love, who is to say it’s wrong?” One of the housekeeper’s eyebrows went up in inquiry. “Perhaps you should see how the relationship develops over the next few days before crying an alarm.”

“Perhaps.” Helen nodded with a sigh. “My heart goes out to my daughter. She is facing a set of horrible circumstances and is thinking about her daughter’s future, but still. I don’t want her to make a mistake in the time she has remaining.”

“Lady Sophia is clever and intelligent, my lady. Things will come out right in the end.”

“I sincerely hope so, Mrs. Ardmore.” But oh, this situation was fraught with worries.

I hope Sophia won’t be hurt merely to stave off loneliness.

Blurb for Pursuing Mr. Mattingly (Willful Winterbournes #1)

Fragile and fleeting, love is an addiction… Lady Sophia Winterbourne-Stratford-Forrester is a widow twice over. She suffers from a weak heart and has been advised to live a life without excitement or surprise. Wishing for one more romance before she leaves this mortal coil, and not wanting to leave her daughter an orphan, she begins looking, and her pulse leaps when she meets the American ambassador to England. Who gives a fig if she’s older than him?

When life is short and precious, one shouldn’t wait… Mr. Oliver Mattingly is visiting England on holiday. Vastly different from America, he’s anxious to see and experience everything, for adventure is in his blood. But when he immediately falls tip over tail for an enchanting, outspoken widow, the inexperienced bachelor knows where his next journey lies. After discovering her personal history, he asks for her hand. At least he can love her to the best of his ability before the inevitable happens.

Fate, though fickle, usually presents the perfect, if complicated, path… As the pair wed in haste and repent at leisure, they grow closer as desire only intensifies. A picnic by a rain-swollen creek turns into danger, and when Sophia doesn’t suffer ill-effects from the heart-pounding stimulation, they’re both shocked for different reasons. Could the doctor have been wrong? Love doesn’t care about misunderstandings or the foibles of life, it just is. Only they can decide if they truly want it… forever.

You can find the book here: https://amzn.to/3J2PV0j

The Duke of Glenmoor is Dead

Numerous witnesses have come forward to the Teatime Tattler with the following rather lurid story making the rounds of London salons and drawing rooms.

First a bit of background. Betting has raged the better part of summer and into autumn about the fate of the Duke of Glenmoor who went missing quite suddenly. Dukes do not, as numerous well-connected people have pointed out, “go missing,” yet this one has. This has led to rampant speculation about his heath, his sanity, and even about his survival.

Tasteless as it is to report, many of these unfortunate bets have come down on the side of the duke’s death by violence, accident, or even, sadly, his own hand. His obvious despondence just before his disappearance, lends credence to the latter. It has been said, however, that dukes do not kill themselves. It isn’t done.

What brings this unpleasantness to our attention today is a new claim. The Honorable Eustace Selwyn came forward at White’s last night with a new assertion. Several witnesses attest that he signed the betting book with the claim that the duke is dead and further that he was killed by his brother. Since said brother, rumored to be deformed and not of sound mind, has long been thought to be dead, this allegation met with disdain and incredulity.

The Honorable Eustace is known to be what one wag called, “a dunderheaded drunken rattle,” and his claims could be easily dismissed but for one fact. Eustace Selwyn had just returned from his home in Dorset, a home that is known to be the neighbor of Mountglen, the duke’s primary seat. He claimed that, while there, he actually observed the brother or a man claiming to be he. Selwyn believes him and asserts that the brother, now calling himself Gideon Kendrick, is not only alive, but much brighter than reported. The Honorable Eustace proposed “cunning,” as the better descriptor. London is not certain what to make of it, but men are lining up on both sides of the bet nonetheless, as young men are prone to do.

***

The not so Honorable Eustace Selwyn appears in Caroline Warfield’s, Duke in All But Name, currently in process. In that story the Duke of Glenmoor has indeed gone missing. He and his brother, Gideon Kendrick, first appeared in The Defiant Daughter, as step sons of the heroine. In that story moral and legal complications regarding the circumstances of their birth came to light.

About The Defiant Daughter

Madelyn assumed marriage as an old man’s ornament would be better than life with her abusive parents. She was wrong.

Now the widowed Duchess of Glenmoor, she wrestles with ugly memories and cultivates a simple life. She is content. At least, she was until her half-brother returned to Ashmead bringing a friend with knowing eyes and coal black hair to capture her thoughts.

Colonel Brynn Morgan’s days as an engineer in his father’s coal mines in Wales are long behind him. With peace come at last and Napoleon gone, he makes a life for himself analyzing the reports about military and naval facilities worldwide for a shadowy government department. What income he has is committed elsewhere. He has nothing to offer a wife, much less a dowager duchess.

More lies between the duchess and the man she wants than money and class. They have personal demons to slay.

Available for purchase or read for free with Kindle Unlimited. https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B09GL6PT1J/

About the Author

Award winning author Caroline Warfield has been many things: traveler, librarian, poet, raiser of children, bird watcher, Internet and Web services manager, conference speaker, indexer, tech writer, genealogist—even a nun. She reckons she is on at least her third act, happily working in an office surrounded by windows where she lets her characters lead her to adventures in England and the far-flung corners of the British Empire. She nudges them to explore the riskiest territory of all, the human heart.

Website:   http://www.carolinewarfield.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/WarfieldFellowTravelers

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Caroline-Warfield/e/B00N9PZZZS/

Good Reads:  http://bit.ly/1C5blTm

Book Bub: https://www.bookbub.com/profile/caroline-warfield

Twitter:   https://twitter.com/CaroWarfield

News and Appeal for Aid from a Rival Publisher!

My dear Mr. Clemens,

Though in the usual course of things we are rival publishers, I come to you today on bended knee. My printing press has broken down and I am unable to issue the latest edition of Hither and Yon, Tales of the Beau Monde. On any other day I would simply set aside the articles meant to go to print today. However, Mr. Clemens, this is no ordinary day and the news I have to impart cannot—nay, should not—be held back. It regards a certain raven-haired duke. Would you, kind sir, be amenable to printing this article of mine? I am open to negotiating the financials. 

I await your reply,

A. Ripley, proprietor—Ripley and Sons Printing

Dear Mr. Ripley,

Send the article to me with all due haste. I will share the profits of today’s edition at a 70/30 split.

S. Clemens

Sir,

I appreciate your efficiency and sense of business, however I do think 60/40 would be more appropriate. The article should read as follows:

It appears that a certain bachelor duke, of the house of T—, has at last decided to cast his eye upon the marriage mart. He not only attended a ball at Northfield House, he spoke with a number of eligible young ladies. The shock of the evening came with His Grace’s first dance. Did he escort a marquess’s daughter or an earl’s sister to the dance floor? No, dear reader, he most assuredly did not. He offered his arm to a young lady so undistinguished this author does not even know her name. The only remarkable thing about her was the monstrously hideous gown she wore. His Grace, ever the gentleman, seemed to take no notice. He did laugh, though, an achievement the young lady should take to heart forevermore, especially since she has no chance to land the illustrious duke. Oh indeed, this should be an interesting Season!

Ever grateful,

A. Ripley

Mr. Ripley,

Considering the content of your article, my final offer is 65/35. 

S. Clemens

Book title: His Duchess, first in the His & Hers series

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08WPRFTL4 

Other retailers: https://books2read.com/u/49lEd0

Blurb:

Victoria Foster needs a husband. Orphaned, nearly penniless, saddled with an indifferent guardian plus a cousin intent on sabotaging her matrimonial hopes, she cannot afford to be a wallflower. Unfortunately for her, the only man in her path is a stuffy, well-above-her-touch duke. But with every fateful encounter, she glimpses more and more of the lonely, kindred soul behind the duke’s decorous demeanor.

Charles Danforth, Duke of Taviston, is seeking a wife. Nothing if not methodical, he determines a set of qualities his future bride must possess—neither love nor passion makes the list. Above all, she must be free of scandal so as not to tarnish the family legacy. Soon enough though, Taviston’s well-ordered life, impeccable social standing, and not-so-impenetrable heart are in jeopardy.

What’s an exceedingly proper duke to do when he finds himself embroiled in a scandal of his own making? 

Excerpt:

“Miss Foster, would you favor me with this dance?” He stepped forward and offered his hand. Her blue eyes fixated on it as if he had six fingers.

“She would be delighted,” Louisa replied brightly as she shoved her cousin in the small of the back, propelling the lady straight into Taviston.

 He pressed his lips into a thin line to keep from bringing the uncouth woman down a peg. When Miss Foster placed her small hand in his, he steered the two of them away from their intimate assembly with more haste than was proper.

Taviston was none too fond of dancing, especially these lengthy contra dances, but right now he would have gladly participated in three or four just to escape Louisa Browne. He glanced down at Miss Foster, who had not spoken so much as a word since their departure from the group. An odd despondency shrouded her face as they lined up for the dance.

For heaven’s sakes, he had never seen a young lady so reluctant to dance with him. As the music whistled around their heads and the other couples gracefully glided down the floor, he watched a rigid paralysis overtake his partner’s body, from head to toe. What was the matter with her?

When the couple beside them finally proceeded past, Taviston reached out and lightly grasped her hand. After a brief second, he instinctively tightened his grip, not wishing to ever let her go. She must not have felt the same for she bowed her head as if concentrating on her feet. He began moving to the rhythm of the music; Miss Foster moved as well, although unfortunately nothing remotely resembling rhythm was involved on her part.

By the time they were halfway down the line she had already stepped on his toes three times. Not that this was painful, as her feet were as small and dainty as the rest of her. But in the next instant those tiny feet became tangled amongst themselves, and Miss Foster fell into a headlong trip. Taviston snaked his arm out to prevent her fall and caught her around the waist. Soft breasts on his forearm and aromatic waves of lavender caused a certain unruly part of his body to tense. He was damn lucky he didn’t drop her from the shock of it all. Instead, he effortlessly swung her back into an upright position and settled her on her feet once again. Mercifully, they reached their position in the line within a few more steps.

Taviston stared across at Miss Foster, who eyed her feet as if she wished to chop them off. Two reddening ovals outlined her cheekbones.

“Miss Foster.”

She ever so slowly lifted her head, misery, but thankfully no tears, filling her eyes. “I am so sorry.”

He shook off her apology. “Try something simpler, like a skip.”

Her eyebrows marched upward, as if to say how is that simpler? But she nodded affirmatively anyway. They promenaded around the other couples and then the dancers began moving through the line again.

Awkwardly, they made it through with only one small stumble on her part, which alas only required that he lift her hand up to help her regain her balance. He would have gladly caught her again and again, if only to touch her and experience the heady pleasure enveloping his body when he did so.

As they took their places again, he attempted to lighten her mood with conversation. “That’s an interesting gown.”

She glanced down and then back up. “I’m not sure ‘interesting’ is the word I would have chosen. I have lived in fear all evening that the staff would mistake me for a fowl to be served up at the midnight supper.”

Taviston couldn’t help it, he laughed. Exactly what he had envisioned, some rustic bird. For a brief moment she looked startled by his laughter, but then flashed him the most brilliant smile. Something tightened in his chest. Her smile gave her face beauty and passion that hadn’t been there before.

They were required to make one more pass down the line of dancers. This they did without Miss Foster tripping even once, though she did bump her hip into Taviston’s thigh three different times. He didn’t mind in the least.

Bio:

Charlotte Russell didn’t always know she wanted to be a writer. At one point she had grand plans to be an architect, until she realized she couldn’t draw anything more complicated than a stick figure. So, she enrolled at Notre Dame and studied her first love—history. Now she writes historical and contemporary romances. When not pounding on the keyboard or tending to her family, she serves the people of her community at the local public library. She’s resided in numerous locales, including Indiana, Mexico City, Phoenix, and Seattle but currently lives in the middle of the US.

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