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A Most Disturbing Report of a Royal’s Dire Jeopardy!

A most noble lady

Gentle Reader,

Is there anyone who doesn’t love a royal? Well, clearly, there is because we are extremely disturbed to inform you that the newest amongst our ranks has suffered not one but two attempts on her life! And yet, despite this horrors of such a thing occurring to one who could possibly be the sweetest, most demure royal we have ever encountered, she was seen at a ball less than twenty-four hours after her latest attack! Not only that, but telling anyone and everyone who would listen how imperative it is that she stand up not only herself, but her country, and the memory of her dearest, departed brother. We were nearly swooning at the girl’s bravery! I tell you, dear reader, if anyone can capture the villain responsible for attempting to harm our beloved princess, he will be declared a hero in truth.

In Lieu of a Princess by Meredith Bond

“This isn’t her Royal Highness,” the headmistress told the man and the woman who were staring at Lucinda with their mouths hanging open.

“But it could be.”

These words turn the life of Lucinda North upside down. Within hours, she agrees—against her better judgement—to impersonate the missing Princess Louisa of Aachen-Düren. Within a week, she meets the queen and the handsome and charming Lord Melfield. Within the month, she is living at Buckingham Palace, lying about her true identity not only to Queen Charlotte, but to all of Regency society, while someone is trying to kill her. Within her lifetime, she will never regret a moment of it.

 Anthony Melfield would rather not waste his time helping a spoiled princess learn how to conduct herself. He would certainly rather not have to return to society after a heartbreak. And he most definitely would rather not have feelings for the princess, no matter how sweet, funny, and beautiful she is. To top it all, he would much rather not have to use his skills to save her life and figure out who wants her dead.

Hidden identities, a princess on the run, and three lives at stake… despite this, these royals and rebels must learn to trust and open themselves to a lifetime of love.

Purchase Link at Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Lieu-Princess-Royals-Rebels-Book-ebook/dp/B0BL1886VZ  This book is enrolled in Kindle Unlimited

Excerpt: 

“You said you had an opening for a language teacher? I, er, I brought references as you asked. I’m afraid two of them aren’t in English, but I do hope that won’t be too much of a problem,” Lou said, fumbling as she opened her portfolio while still standing in front of the headmistress. “I also have an essay which I—”

“But you look…” the woman started, completely ignoring the letters Lou was trying to hand her. “You are the spitting—”

“She cannot be found anywhere. I have ridden…” A man’s deep, accented voice made Lou spin around. “Oh! Eure Hoheit! Meine Prinzessin! Wo bist du gewesen?” He started to scold her gently in German before Lou held up a hand. He was a large man, probably a full foot taller than Lou, and looked strong enough to pull a horse rather than the other way around. His pale blond hair was windblown, and he was wearing riding clothes. He smelled as if he’d been in the saddle for some time.

“I’m terribly sorry,” she told him in German, “but you seem to have mistaken me for someone else. I am Lucinda North. I’m here to apply for a teaching position.”

He stopped and stared at her as if she had just grown a second head. “Was? Ist das eine Art Spiel?” He gave her a tentative smile.

Lou shook her head. “No. This is no game. Truly, I—”

“Oh, thank goodness!” Another woman joined them, also speaking German. “Where were you, Your Highness? You should know better than to scare us like that!”

“It’s not her,” the man said, turning to the middle-aged woman. She had dark blonde hair pulled into a tight chignon and a fashionable yet sensible gown of deep blue that made her cheeks look flushed.

“What do you mean? What nonsense are you—” The woman came forward and stopped just in front of Lou. Her eyes widened. “Your eyes. They are brown. Why are your eyes brown?”

“This isn’t Her Royal Highness,” Mrs. Carter told the man and the woman who were now staring at Lou with their mouths hanging open.

“It could be,” the woman said in strongly accented English. She stared at Lou as if she were a painting, examining every detail. “She’s got the same heart-shaped face, the same features, her height, build… She even has the same shade of blonde hair… But for the eyes.”

“What are you saying, woman?” the man snapped, turning to look at the lady.

“Who is she?” the woman asked the headmistress, ignoring him.

“She’s here for a teaching position,” Mrs. Carter told them.

The Author, Meredith Bond

Meredith Bond’s books straddle that beautiful line between historical romance and fantasy. An award-winning author, she writes fun traditional Regency romances, medieval Arthurian romances, and Regency romances with a touch of magic. Known for her characters “who slip readily into one’s heart,” Meredith loves to take her readers on a journey they won’t soon forget.  

Merry loves connecting with readers. Be sure to find her:

Website: https://meredithbond.com

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Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Meredith-Bond/e/B001KI1SNE/

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Newsletter: http://meredithbond.com/subscribe/

A Meeting in a Folly…is a folly?

Dearest Reader, 

It is not unusual to hear whisperings from the countryside, but there often is no way to verify the veracity of such rumors. Woodfield Park has long been the source of much speculation with the Earl of Woodfield’s years of isolation and his failing heart, but with the unexpected death of his eldest son, the gossip mongers have been ripe with conjecture. It does leave one wondering why Lord Walford was out in the woods hunting off season and how such a careless accident could possibly have occurred. But, as I’ve pointed out, there has been no way to confirm goings-on so far from town. Until now.

As luck would have it, a well-known fully-respectable artist acquaintance of mine has found himself in the surprising position of witness to something that perhaps might at least explain more recent events. While I cannot disclose his name—as he was somewhere he oughtn’t have been, and despite the fact that his reasons are entirely harmless, he did not seek permission first, so his transgression might be considered trespassing—I can personally vouch for his integrity. 

The artist was casually sketching the folly at Woodfield Park when the sound of hooves drew his attention. At the time he did not recognize the lovely woman in green, but with subsequent happenings, one must surmise that it was the Woodfield neighbor, Miss Baring, only daughter of Baron Stratton. He, of course, thought nothing of it and continued with his sketching until his attention was once again drawn to the folly as another horse and rider approached. He had heard rumors that the remaining son, Mr. Nicholas Sinclair, now the new Viscount Walford and only heir to the Woodfield estate, had returned from the battlefield, and felt certain he was the man standing at the entrance of the folly. 

Now, the artist was unwilling to posit what he thought their meeting was about, but he did note they were alone together for quite a length of time and, as they left, they appeared inordinately affectionate even from his distance from the other side of the lake. Considering the hasty marriage ceremony the next day, it is difficult not to jump to conclusions. However juicy a tidbit that might be, it is not what leaves this writer wondering what is afoot at Woodfield Park. For although the Woodfield servants are an unusually tight-lipped ensemble, there is one who is more than happy to tell others what she knows. Apparently, the tension is so thick in the manor you could cut it with a butter knife. And Lord Walford, a man so anxious to claim his wife he appears to have anticipated the marriage bed, is keeping his days busy on the estate and spends each night in the study. Alone. If indeed this was a marriage born of passion, what could possibly be keeping the newlyweds apart? 

Was the dalliance at the folly, indeed true folly?

*****

 Years separated them. The past keeps them apart. Can a lifetime of loving bring them together again?

Catherine Baring has chased her brother Laurence, and the neighboring Sinclair boys, through childhood into adulthood. She adores all three, but it is the younger Sinclair, Nicholas, who owns her heart. When Nicholas leaves to join the fight against Napoleon, she vows she will wait for him. However, four years is a long time and circumstances change. Faced with the threat of a scandal that will lead to penury and, worse, possible criminal charges, Catherine agrees to do the only thing that might deflect attention from their families—marry the elder Sinclair, Daniel.

Daniel is killed before the two are wed, and Nicholas is summoned from the battlefield to assume the role as heir to Woodfield Park. Disillusioned by the atrocities committed on the continent, his brother’s death is another blow. He clings to thoughts of Catherine, certain that in her arms he will find the solace he craves.

Instead, Nicholas finds betrayal and deceit. Catherine claims to love Nicholas, but she refuses to repent for the betrothal to his brother. Nicholas buries his conflicting feelings, and himself, in the neglected affairs of the estate. But a lifetime of loving is hard to set aside, and when he discovers a series of letters that reveal the truth behind the traitorous engagement, he’s not sure he can.

As they struggle with loss and longing, one thing becomes clear to both Nicholas and Catherine. Only in confronting the past can they hope to build new dreams for the future.

Available on Amazon for $0.99, or read for free in KU: https://amzn.to/3o1qZNd

And, for the curious, at the folly…

Excerpt:

She dismounted, leaving Star to graze. There was no need to tie the horse, as it would not leave. This was familiar territory to the mare, and she always waited patiently.

There was no sign of Nicholas. Well, that in and of itself was telling, was it not? If he did not come today, then he had truly severed her from his life. She could not blame him one whit. No, she could not fault him at all. Yet she would be forever tormented by his rejection, rightful or not.

She drifted up the steps of the folly, caressing the flower petals as she went. They were vibrant velvet, four years of growth obscuring the pillars with their beauty. She opened the oversized wooden door and entered the vast chamber. Nicholas had not wanted to break up the majestic interior. 

Its lushness still made her happy. Nicholas had adhered to the barren beauty of classical structures but had furnished it like a Turkish palace—plush carpets, comfortable settees, and extra wide chaise lounges abounded. Sheets of sheer curtains billowed in the breeze that flowed freely through the upper arches. The tall main windows remained fast against the weather but he’d cleverly included upper arcs of open space, unimpeded by glass. He wanted the building to remain fresh at all times. Fresh as their new found love. She smiled at the memory of his declaration.

“Catherine.”

Not a declaration but a prayer. His voice was reverent. Did she imagine it? She turned. He had come, his silhouette tall against the morning sun, his face hidden in the shadow. 

She bit her lip to stop the trembling.

He entered, his dark shape transforming into defined features much as her furniture had done in the early light. His eyes were indigo with emotion. Was he angry? Forgiving? Full of love? No, he was tense. So, not here to grant her absolution.

“Nicholas,” she started, not quite sure what she could say to make him understand. No words came.

In a few quick strides, he was with her, taking her into his arms, and seizing her mouth with his. She surrendered easily, relishing his attack. Oh, how she had dreamed of this. The reunion of her fantasies. He was not gentle and she was glad of it. He was angry. He was needy. So was she. She met his every volley, craving this as much as he did.

He shuffled with her backward until her legs hit furniture, and they buckled upon a chaise. His weight was a comfort, the hardness pressing against her stomach a joyous relief. She wanted to shout in triumph. He wanted her. He loved her. He must, must have forgiven her! Her kisses became feverish as she pushed at his open shirt, her hands caressing his warm chest. She whimpered. For so long, she’d imagined touching him again.

“Catherine,” he murmured, grabbing her hand and pressing it to his heart. “My Catherine, my love.” He raised her hand and kissed it with such aching veneration, tears blurred her vision.

“How I have yearned to be with you again. How memories of you have sustained me through endless nights.” His eyes darkened further. “Picturing you here at the folly kept me going. Knowing that you had yet to know the pleasure of our joining ensured I did not capitulate in battle. I knew I must come home to you. That you waited for me. To fulfill my promise of loving you.” He rested against her neck, gently nuzzling.

Oh yes, she’d waited. She’d longed. She had spent each night lighting a candle and praying for him. That he come home safely. That he come home to her. That, after his worldly experience, she would still be enough.

How many nights had she dreamt of this? She ran her hand through his hair, relishing the familiar feel of the thick strands, of his breath on her neck, of the spicy scent of him. The last thing she wanted was to shatter the moment, but she needed to know for sure, needed to hear the words. “You forgive me?” she asked quietly, going still, hope and fear mingling together.

He raised his head and stared at her. His brow furrowed and her heart skipped a beat. “Forgive you, my love? There is nothing to forgive. I don’t fully understand what happened, but I know if there is blame it rests entirely upon his shoulders.” He kissed her forehead and then pulled back again, locking gazes. “His actions are not yours. I do not forgive you because there is nothing to forgive.”

“I didn’t think you would understand. I love you so. I never stopped even when…” Her voice caught in her throat. No words could express her relief, her joy. So, instead, she pulled his head down and lost herself in a kiss that left her panting with need.

She touched his face, tracing his sharp cheekbone down to the slight cleft in his chin, not knowing what to ask. 

“Nicholas? I want…” She wanted more of him. She wanted all of him. 

“Shhh, my love, I know. I need more too. We’ve waited so long.” 

***

LOVE DENIED is the first book in the HONORABLE INTENTIONS series by Rose Phillips. You can find her at various places in the cyber universe including:

https://rosephillipsrambles.blogspot.com

https://www.facebook.com/RosePhillipsAuthor

https://www.amazon.com/Rose-Phillips

Rose Phillips

Must we speak ill of a gentleman returned from the wars? Never!

Dear readers,

No one likes to speak ill of a gentleman returned from the wars.

We must pay our respects to that country baronet who has returned as gallantly as any ancient knight to take on his father’s title.

And surely all will… if Sir M. is ever seen at any social function, here or in the country, at all.

Apparently the gentleman is of good nature apart from the occasional raising of his voice. He has not inherited the icy sharp tongue of his mother, that Miss H. our readers may still remember for her public and very cutting rejection of her most highly-placed suitor.

Indeed, if the rustic reports are true, Sir M. is appropriately and publicly entertaining a young lady at his estate right now. And whether she is teaching him to ride again after the loss of his leg, or whether she is, as reported, a distant relative making him a gift of a biddable horse, surely the gentleman will be of better temper once he is astride again.

In this warm summer weather, it is only reasonable to venture abroad for fresher air, and if anyone happens upon a party with Sir M., they may confirm for themselves that his tendency to take off his coat in company is his only real fault.

There is nothing to the speculation that Sir M. has given shelter to a French spy, or that he has grown dissolute in his rural isolation. The gentleman remains gallant to anyone ladylike, and is far too clever to risk his reputation on anyone not like a lady.

* * *

Not Like a Lady

Letty’s lost everything but one friend, and her horse.

She desperately needs to convince the fierce baronet to buy any horse but hers.

Now she’s causing her own problems, because she can’t stop touching the man she wanted to hate.

The only way Sir Michael Grantley knows how to be the baronet of Roseford is to do what his father did. But he’s not his father; he’s a salty ex-sailor who lost half a leg in the war with a far worse temper. Struggling to be the new baronet, he’s desperate to get outdoors again – but for that he needs a biddable horse he can ride. He’s not prepared for the horse to come with a woman who wants her own life… and who decides that the key to her future is helping him ride again.

Letty has never been anything even close to a lady. Sir Michael imagines that the lady of Roseford Manor will be like his mother: calm and elegant. Neither of them can resist the one person they ought to refuse.

A sensual, engrossing, enchanting romance between two people who can’t keep their hands off one another.

Amazon: https://geni.us/notlikealady

Apple: https://books.apple.com/us/book/id1610132457

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/not-like-a-lady-1

Google Play: https://play.google.com/store/books/details/Judith_Lynne_Not_Like_a_Lady?id=2BhYEAAAQBAJ

All buy links: https://find.judithlynne.com/950hat9ifa

EXCERPT:

“It’s hopeless.”

Michael swung himself down from the ropes using the handrails, and had only taken one crutch from Letty’s waiting hands to swing only a step or two away and then collapse on the cool grass.

Letty dropped his coat on his stomach quite unceremoniously, then plopped herself down on the grass next to him.

“Hopeless might be too strong a word,” she said but her dubious tone said that on the other hand, it might not.

Maggie had spent at least two hours walking in circles.

Michael’s thighs were aching and his frustrations had peaked at least twenty minutes ago. “Hopeless.”

Letty was watching Maggie crop placidly at the grass. Of all of them, she had to admit, Maggie looked the least exhausted. She had an infinite supply of patience, that horse. If the human wanted to walk around in circles forever, then by all that was holy, she would walk around in circles forever.

“I think we have to take off the stirrup.”

“Oh, do you?”

Letty looked down at Michael’s sweating, angry face. “I have not seen you sarcastic before, sir.”

“Does it not increase my lordly appeal?”

“I don’t know what that might be, but I daresay even without knowing what a lordly appeal should look like, I think that it does not.”

Michael sighed and closed his eyes.

She let him lie there for a moment, then one of her hands covered his and she said softly, “Don’t be discouraged, Michael, truly. It is only the first day.”

He opened his eyes and looked up at her where she sat by his side. Even the sky was gray to match his mood, but she still had her sunny hair and sunny smile, and they eased something in his chest.

He said, “If you are using my given name to appease my bad mood, it is working.”

* * *

Judith Lynne writes rule-breaking romances with love around every corner. Her characters tend to have deep convictions, electric pleasures, and, sometimes, weaponry.

She loves to write stories where characters are shaken by life, shaken down to their core, put out their hand… and love is there.

A history nerd with too many degrees, Judith Lynne lives in that other paradise, Ohio, with a truly adorable spouse, an apartment-sized domestic jungle, and a misgendered turtle. Also an award-winning science fiction author and screenwriter, she writes passionate Regency romances with a rich sense of place and time.

Come chat!

https://twitter.com/judithlynnepub

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Our great hero weds a widow and promises only companionship?

Dear Reader, 

I have it on best authority from servants in the house of a relative of the bride-to-be that our illustrious Hound of the Cavalry, decorated as he is and a newly minted earl, weds a widow today!  This is such a loss to our many younger ladies who had hoped for a chance to enchant him!

We understand however that he has made promises to his new wife that they shall be forever just friends. Friends?

Does he not deserve more?

The comfort of a loving wife? The joy of children? The certainty that his  line will be continued?

We are astonished that the lady would agree. But then, we’ve also heard that she requested this celibacy herself? What could possibly be her reason? Did she love her first husband so much? Did she promise him abstention? If so, where is her duty and her loyalty to her new husband?

Where is her love for him?

THE LYON’S SHARE by Cerise DeLand

She’d spend every last penny to marry again for security, comfort—or even friendship.

He’d win her wager, possess her, keep her for himself—even if he’d never win her love.

Excerpt, All rights reserved. Copyright Cerise DeLand 2022.

(Their wedding day in London.)

Sydney’s good friend and now his new brother-in-law, Henry, Lord Norbridge, handed him a whisky. “Welcome to the fold. Marlowe women are a unique brood.”

Sidney emptied his glass. Nerves were not a condition in which he usually indulged. “I’m pleased to be among you.”

“Do not say that too loudly.” Henry considered the three men younger than he who stood to one side of the bishop by the piano. “Our other brothers-in-law will have a thing or two to add to buck you up for the challenge.”

“Come now, Henry. You don’t want to frighten me off. I’ve had enough trouble getting this done.”

Henry clinked glasses with him. “Good job, too. However, I understand from my best source that we are still denying how good this union can be.”

Sidney frowned even as his heart swelled with the sight of his bride who stood across the room talking with her four sisters. “Adriana appears happy and …” Blast it. “Resigned to the match.”

“I hope you have plans to hasten her along. She’s been at this mourning business much too long and I dare say, it grows tedious. She needs to buck up.”

“I do agree.” I’d have her forget about Paul and focus her every thought on me.

Across the room, his new wife threw back her head to laugh at some remark of one of her sisters. Sidney vowed one day he’d make her do that whilst talking to him. She was a glory when happy. 

“Give yourself joy in this too, Sidney. You deserve it. Don’t let her cow you into a friendship with no…”

“Benefits? Yes.” He absorbed the delicate beauty of his bride. How tall she was, how elegant, her long fingers and lithe limbs. Her lovely firm breasts. Her troth was his. Her vows. Her honor. But he had yearned for decades for more. Without hope too had he pined. Like a schoolboy. Watching Paul take her hand, help her to mount her horse or a carriage, embracing her in jest or passion. 

His gaze swept down her form, her plump breasts spanning a gown of citron green velvet. She shifted to speak with one of her nieces and one long leg pulled the fabric taut to accentuate her limb. He wanted to run his hands up her leg, her arms, each inch of her. And how long could he wait to have her like that?

Forever, man. You vowed.

He put down his glass on a footman’s tray. “I have plans to draw her to me. But I have promised myself and Dove-Lyon, if she never wishes it, I will not pressure her.”

“A damn lonely way to live your life, my friend. You are Middlethorpe now. You have responsibilities.”

“That I know.”

“And needs.”

His gaze locked on Henry’s. “Never worry about that.”

“But I do. It is not natural what you promise. And I know how you truly regard my sister-in-law.”

He went to dust. “You will never say.”

“No, never. I would not break your trust. But damn it, Sidney, I like you as you are. I don’t want to see you turn bitter because you sold yourself into a bad bargain.”

“I fought one war, Henry. I can fight this one, too.”

“Can you?” His friend shook his head, weary. “It’s one thing to fight a foe with sabers and pistols. This opponent is yourself. Your very nature. Your every des—”

He clamped his hand on Henry’s shoulder. He’d had many women for a night, for the comfort and relief. One lovely French countess he’d kept in Paris last year for a month. “I will be well. I have girded myself with my own forbearance.”

“Which is strong, I do hope.”

Love. “The very stuff of life.” He smiled at his friend. “Forgive me now. I must take her away.” And begin my next campaign. The hardest one of all will be to become her best friend—and remain celibate.

The Lyon’s Share, the story

Adriana, Lady Benton, has many regrets—and one hope. To wed a good man to gain a life to which she is entitled. One free of sorrow, penury and ridicule. Appealing to Mrs. Dove-Lyon, Adriana hopes to attract one man who may appreciate her assets. But never need her love.

Colonel Sidney Wolf, once hailed as the ruthless ‘Hound of the Horse Guards’, vows to end Adriana’s hardships. He’s home from the wars and faces the daunting task of filling his father’s role as the Earl of Middlethorpe. Believing only Adriana will do as his helpmate, he strikes a deal with Dove-Lyon that brings him the one woman he admires. The one woman he tells himself he can live with—and never touch.

But the nearness of his funny, charming, beautiful bride drives him mad. Knowing she will never love other than her first husband, can he keep his hands—and his heart to himself?

And if he doesn’t, can she ever forgive him?

Cerise DeLand is the USA Today Bestselling author of romantic fiction starring sassy ladies and the charming men who adore them!

In KU on Amazon:  https://amzn.to/3bc6ri3

 

 

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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