Hope leaves are falling and pumpkins are ready to carve where you are. We’ll be carving today with our three year old grandson, who is new to the joys of anticipation. He loves to talk about events that are “coming up”—birthdays, Halloween, and Thanksgiving!
As writers we want to keep readers anticipating with every scene. Simple question: What’s your favorite thing to anticipate? The weekend, the new season of “Jane, the Virgin,” that great trip you’ve always dreamed of, your favorite time of year?
What’s coming up for me is the January 2, 2018 release of the first book in a new series--The Husband Hunter’s Guide to London from Kensington, available for pre-order in all formats here:
From now through November 9, readers may enter for a kindle giveaway for 100 readers at Goodreads at the link below:
Today, I’m sharing an excerpt from the first meeting of the hero Hazelwood and heroine Jane.
He rolled the girl onto her back and pulled the top half of the stiff black dress off her shoulders and down her arms. Her corset was remarkably ugly, almost as ugly as the gown, and he couldn’t help but pull it away, too, exposing white shoulders and the rounded tops of her breasts, watching for rise and fall of her chest. He took one of her small hands in his and pulled off the glove, thinking to chafe her hand and perhaps restore her to consciousness that way. Her other hand clutched a small blue volume. Even in a swoon she had not relaxed her grip on the little book. He could not see the title, but he guessed its importance from her hold on the thing.
He warmed her free hand between his palms. His job was going to be easier than he’d thought. She was in his debt. He had merely to explain that he had been about to enter the bank for their appointment when she fainted. He was only too glad to be of assistance in the moment, and of course, ready to be of further assistance in the weeks ahead.
She did not stir. Her pale cheeks gave no sign of a blush. He did not recall seeing such perfect stillness in a female before. The unmarried girls he remembered from before his fall from grace had never been still. Their curls bounced, their eyelashes fluttered, and their bosoms rose intriguingly in a constant motion that drew the eye, at least it had always drawn his eye.
Jane Fawkener slept like a princess under a spell, and in her face Hazelwood saw not plainness but dignity, an untainted dignity that made him feel the weight of his dissolute years. He wondered briefly how the fairy tale prince leaning over the sleeping beauty had dared to wake her with a kiss. Hazelwood had not been tempted to kiss a female, let alone a chaste maiden, in a very long time. But princes were a different lot altogether from wastrels like himself. It was their privilege to kiss a princess and claim her.
A quiet hand touched his shoulder, and he turned to look up at Violet.
“Hazelwood,” she spoke softly, “how fortuitous for Miss Fawkener that you appeared on the scene.”
“Not at all. I’m the protocol officer assigned to her.”
Violet’s dark brows knit in a little frown. “Ah, so this spontaneous gallantry is government-backed.”
“Entirely.” He smiled grimly. He had a job to do. He should be looking at the book in Jane Fawkener’s hand, not at her face. “Why is she clutching a book, Violet?”
“It’s a gift from her father.”
With one hand Hazelwood pushed the slim volume up through the girl’s fingers until he could read the title. The Husband Hunter’s Guide to London. He straightened. The title brought him back from the realm of fantasy. The girl possessed no secret papers, no map of her father’s journey, and she was not a princess after all, but a more common variety of female intent on marrying to advantage.
He felt his jaw tighten, he knew the type and had once been their quarry. He glanced at Violet for an explanation. She merely shrugged. Her expression said she would not betray another woman.
“Miss Fawkener might not wish to wake with an unfamiliar protocol officer staring down at her in a state of undress. I suggest you leave us, and let me and my female assistants help her dress before you spring that bit of information on her. ”
“Right.” He looked down at the sleeping maiden. He could not reconcile the solemn face with the light-minded pursuits of a London flirt. He should step back and let her awaken with a woman at her side, but he found himself reluctant to let go of the small hand before he received a sign of returning life. He uncurled the slack fingers in his and rested his thumb in her palm.
Violet spoke again. “You never know, my friend, with a sudden waking the lady might fall in love with the first man she sees.”
“Now that would be fatal for the aspiring Husband Hunter,” he said briskly. “I’ll let your father and brother know that she’s under your care, but promise me you’ll find her something decent to wear and burn this gown. And, Violet, I’d prefer to introduce myself, if I may.”
Violet gave him a shrewd glance. “As you wish.”
He nodded. He took the small hand and laid it gently on the sofa, and the girl exhaled a long, shaky breath. Her eyes fluttered open, and for brief moment a dark gleam of sharp intelligence met his gaze. The hand with the book clutched it tighter.
Her lips moved to form a “Thank you.” Then with a flutter of those straight lashes, light as a leaf settling, the eyes closed again.
Hazelwood stood. It was nothing to disturb his peace, after all, a mere glance, nothing that should get in the way of his assignment. It was just that those eyes had been unexpectedly keen, not dazed at all, and he’d been caught gazing at her like a man starving for a kiss from a sleeping princess.