One of the things I’ve been working on is the start of a seriously spicy Regency novel called His to Pleasure. I’m aiming for a winter release, which I’ll lock down sometime this fall. This is less an excerpt and more a prequel to help me get a handle on the characters – though I might wind up including it as part of a prologue or even a later scene.
If you’d like the longer excerpt, it’s available in this month’s newsletter. If you haven’t received it, just drop me a line at email@example.com, and I’ll make sure to forward it to you.
Let me know what you think!
HIS TO PLEASURE
CECELIA LANDON, THE COUNTESS of Hargate, was relieved that no one expected her to attend her husband’s funeral. After all,it wouldn’t do for a gently bred lady to be seen in something so common as a cemetery. Why, she might scandalize Society with an unseemly display of emotion. Or — Heaven forbid — splash the hem of her gown in mud. No, better for all concerned to leave such things as the entombment of the stately Everett Landon, Earl of Hargate, to the menfolk of the household, sparse though their number might be.
When young Felix Landon, the newly christened Earl of Hargate, had left this morning under the watchful eye of Captain Egan, Everett’s closest friend and the nineteen-year-old’s new guardian, he’d been shaking like a leaf. Cece had kissed the lad on the cheek, whispered to him to ignore his Aunt Evelynne’s lecture on how earls conducted themselves at funerals, and sent him on his way. She was fond of the boy, had been since the day he’d arrived on the steps of Hargate House at the age of thirteen, all arms and legs and frightened eyes. His parents, an estranged and impoverished younger brother to the earl and his wife, were no more — lost in a house fire at one of the smaller Hargate properties far to the north. With no children of her own, Cece had taken him under her wing, though he was a scant eight years younger than herself.
If anyone suspected the boy had any ambitions to grow up to take Everett’s place, they would have been put to rest upon seeing Felix’s reaction to the news that he had inherited the earldom. He’d gone sheet white and had to be fortified with copious amounts of brandy.
Cece had expected it – though not for several decades yet, as Everett had been barely a man of forty upon his untimely demise. While Evelynne wrung her hands about her brother’s death without issue, Cece had kept the secret to herself…there would never have been any children.
She just wished Everett had taken more time to prepare young Felix for the role that would someday be his, but as with everything else that wasn’t pressing, Everett simply dismissed him, leaving him to Cece’s capable hands while he amused himself with his clubs and the horses he was so mad about.
Cece stifled an unladylike huff of frustration as the carriage jerked forward, and then stopped.
“At this rate, we won’t be home for ten thousand years!” exclaimed Isadora, fuming as she flopped back into the overstuffed blue cushions, her ire taking up more space than her diminutive frame, golden curls bouncing in indignation.
Her sister craned her neck for a better look at the problem ahead, where two merchants’ wagons had collided in a mess of boxes and upset horseflesh. A posting carriage had attempted to steer around the chaos, only to become entangled.
“Cordelia! Pull your head inside the carriage this instant! What on earth are you thinking, child?”
The girl obediently sat back at her mother’s retort, wincing as her sister elbowed her for more room in the cramped space. Flaxen-haired like her twin, Cordelia lacked the sparkle that would someday make Isadora a force to be reckoned with in any Society ballroom. She was also far less of a shrew, Cece often thought to herself uncharitably, but it was a shame the girl had the personality of blancmange. Cece had hopes they would both grow out of it, remembering that fourteen was a wretched age for anyone.
Evelynne fanned herself, though the flapping did little to assuage the stifling July heat, and every flick of her wrist enveloped Cece in the heavy scent of lavender, which was better, she had to admit, than the rotting fish and stale saltwater drifting from the nearby docks.
“Today of all days,” said Evelynne, resettling her voluminous skirts over her awkwardly tall frame, “My brother lies dead and here we are, trapped.”
“Calm yourself, my dear,” said Cece, “Just a few more minutes and we’ll be on our way.”
“Thank goodness I had the foresight to send our things on ahead.”
Cece barely held back a retort, recalling the scant twenty-four hours that had passed after her husband’s death, when her sister-in-law had decided, assumed, that the best way to mourn her brother and provide comfort to his widow was by moving into the house. This trip – a visit to the modiste for her mourning clothes – marked Cece’s last public outing until her mourning period was over.
Cece swallowed a lump at the thought of the mountain of black dresses that would take up residence in her wardrobe.
It isn’t fair.
The thought was disloyal and filled Cece with guilt and sadness over her secret sham of a marriage. But there it was. A year of mourning ahead of her. A year in practical exile, with only Evelynne, her daughters, and Felix. Another year where the servants kept secrets from her, loyal to her husband, but not his young bride.
Yet another year without being touched.
And oh, how Cece longed to be touched.
She turned to the open window to hide the tears that sprang up as Evelynne began a long and droning lecture to her daughters about the virtues of patience.
The carriage had slowed to a stop near the docks, and as Cece tried to compose herself, she watched the crews load and unload boxes and trunks from the tall ships that crowded the port.
The shout came from a grimy lad working with two burly men to hoist a huge crate down from the deck of a gleaming ship called The Black Orchid that teetered ominously and threatened to crash to the dock.
Cece missed what happened next, and how the crate was maneuvered safely to solid ground, because he appeared, seemingly out of nowhere. One minute there was shouting, cursing, and general panic, and the next, a giant of a man had stepped in to take control. He was bareheaded, dark hair ruffled lovingly by the wind, his profile sharp and slightly sunburned as he barked orders, his magnetism clear even from Cece’s view from far across the wharf.
His clothes marked him a gentleman, though Cece felt she might have to revise that impression as he began tugging at his cravat and shrugging out of his coat and waistcoat.
He’s disrobing. Oh, heavens.
In shirtsleeves, the man seemed even larger, the thin linen plastering itself against wide shoulders, an impressive chest, and a firm, muscled torso. Even his legs were lovely, with sculpted thighs that spoke of horsemanship.
He probably has a fine seat, thought Cece, and blushed, her mouth going dry as he turned, giving her a glimpse of his most excellent seat.
The stranger got to work, giving his crew a hand – for there was no doubt this man was the Captain, this ship his own, and Cece watched, mesmerized, as he hauled cargo from deck to dock with his men, uncaring of the stifling heat as he toiled. Sweat dampened his hair and shirt, causing the material to cling to all those muscles.
Would he feel hot to the touch? What would it be like to feel those hard muscles moving beneath warm skin?
Pressed against her.
Cece felt unsettled, her corset tight, her breasts full. Her stomach fluttered as her eyes drank in the fine male specimen in front of her, and she pressed her thighs together to assuage the sudden spear of desire.
It did little good.