As I mentioned a while ago, I woke up to the exciting news that my racy Regency Romp, Rake’s Honour had been shortlisted for Favourite Historical of 2012 by Australian Romance Readers Association. You can read the list of ARRA’s other shortlisted nominees here.
So I’ll be heading up to the ARR Convention in March on the Gold Coast and, even if I don’t win, know I’ll have a wonderful time meeting all those lovely readers and the other 60 authors who will be attending for book signings and panel discussion.
Well, here’s an extract from Rake’s Honour which takes place when my heroine, Fanny, appeas at a grand ball and meets the man she’s recently enjoyed an intimate encounter with in a boat on the Thames. She’s horrified when he recognises her, for she’d been in masquerade during her visit to Vauxhall Gardens.
Fanny watched the fulminating look cross her erstwhile admirer’s face. A thug in gentleman’s attire, with his thick nose and close-set eyes, George Bramley had never forgiven her for spurning his advances the previous summer.
A supercilious smile replaced the young man’s ill humour. Bowing, he said smoothly, “Evening Uncle; Miss Brightwell. Allow me to introduce my old friend, Lord Fenton.”
Fanny inclined her head, her smile brittle as the object of her palpitating heart rose from his bow. Adept in the art of using her fan, she was uncomfortably aware it was of little use in concealing the deep blush that spread upwards from her bosom at the memory of their recent intimacy. A discomfort not eased by the intensity of his gaze and the knowing smile that turned up the corners of his handsome, generous mouth. He was making no secret of the fact that he knew exactly who she was.
Another moment under his searing gaze and she would have a fit of the vapours, run screaming from the room or hurl herself upon his person and scandalise the entire company.
The strains of the orchestra tuning up for another cotillion drifted from the next room. Lord Fenton held out his hand.
“Miss Brightwell, would you do me the honour…?”
Her skin prickled under his assessing look as they arranged themselves in a group of four couples. She felt as exposed as if she were standing, naked, under a blazing sun.
“With your dark hair and proud blue eyes you’d have made the perfect Anne Boleyn at the Vauxhall masquerade,” he murmured.
Fanny stared fixedly ahead as she prepared for the dance. It was the only way she could maintain even shaky control of her feelings, especially as Lord Fenton made it clear there was to be no coy tiptoeing around the truth.
“You certainly risked that beautiful neck of yours,” he went on, as they performed their figures in the centre of the group before returning to the sidelines. With a smile as cloying as a teaspoon full of sugar, he murmured, “I just want to assure you that, as a gentleman, your secret is safe with me.”
Was this sport at her expense?
“A great relief, sir,” she responded warily as they watched the other dancers go through the motions, “though I believe that in carrying me off forcibly yours was the greater crime. I had become separated from my friends and Lord Alverley was about to help me find them before you took advantage of the situation.”
Though she said it with hauteur, the memory of the burning kisses this man had trailed over her throat and across her collarbone made her desperate for more. The other liberties she’d allowed made her want to crawl into a dark hole.
“You’re flushed, Miss Brightwell. Perhaps you need air. Shall we step outside?”
“How dare you—?” she began in an angry undertone, but was cut short by the realisation that indeed he was only teasing her.
His deep brown eyes held laughter. “My dear Miss Brightwell, you surely do not imagine I would be so bold as to whisk you away from tonight’s company as I did two nights ago?” He grazed the sensitive skin of her forearm with his hand and she shivered as he added, “Much as I would like it. Nevertheless…”
She glanced at the nearest couple, afraid their conversation might be overheard, relieved when he murmured with surprising intensity, “Let me assure you, that was between you and me…alone.”
Holding Lord Fenton’s gaze, Fanny executed her dance steps like an automaton. They’d been drilled into her as thoroughly as her need to perform in the marriage mart. Was he no longer mocking her?
The brittle pride that had armoured her against the damage he could do her—in so many ways—was replaced by a tiny kernel of hope. Lord Fenton was studying Fanny with the greatest interest and, despite all that had passed between them, she’d venture, respect.
She thought of her impending marriage to Lord Slyther and whispered, “In your arms, my Lord, something came over me… I don’t know how to explain it, but I’d never felt it before and”—she kept her eyes trained on his as they linked elbows to dos-à-dos down the centre of the room—“I felt I was in heaven.”
Clearly he was not used to such plain talking and clearly he liked it. Looking decidedly pleased, he put his head close to hers before they separated briefly once more. “Then we shall have to do it again, Miss Brightwell—only this time I promise to proceed in a far more gentlemanly manner.”
Was there any clearer way for him to indicate his interest? She was about to respond, to indicate her pleasure and hopefully prolong the boyish charm that had replaced for the moment his rakish self-confidence, but her words were truncated by a gasp. Right before her very eyes she was bearing witness to what threatened to be her sister’s greatest impropriety yet.
End of Excerpt
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