Sunday, September 21, 2014

Cerise DeLand's #Regency #Romp #2 RENDEZVOUS WITH A DUKE! Out! Need a nibble of my new cherry?

Regency Romp #2
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 Nibble on my newest cherry! RENDEZVOUS WITH A DUKE!  The second in my Regency Romp series, this one has a touch of suspense.
     If you've read the first in the series, LADY VARNEY'S RISQUE BUSINESS, then you already know Justin and Kitty Belmont. Kitty, a baroness in her own right, has married Viscount Belmont, the love of her life. She once operated a match-making service for the nobs solely to pay off her deceased first husband's gambling debts. Now in RENDEZVOUS, she assist Hugh Lattimer, Duke of Kendal, in finding a lovely young woman whom he met in a piano shop. She has fallen on hard times, as indicated by her threadbare clothing. But she is industrious, composing beautiful compositions and selling them to those noblemen who appreciate fine music.
     Here they meet for the first time.
Copyright 2014, Cerise DeLand/WJ Power. All rights reserved.
Hugh Lattimer closed the door of the piano shop, sighing in relief at the warmth. He’d spent the last five years freezing his bits to nubbins in every damn parlor and palace from Vienna to Paris to London and he was sick of the deprivation. Nearly three decades of war on the Continent had leveled more than the forests. It had destroyed men’s daily lives and reduced them to rats huddled together in the rubble of their existences. He had seen it firsthand on the torn battlefields, in the shambles of the towns—and in the hearts of men, women and children high-born and low.
He unbuttoned his greatcoat and looked around for the proprietor.
In the far room, he heard murmurs of a conversation and then spied the owner of the establishment. “Ah, there you are. Guten morgen. Good morning, Herr Breyer. How are you this cold day?”
“Your Grace.” The pudgy shopkeeper beamed at him and inclined his head in greeting. “I am well. And you, sir?”
“Quite well.” In the far room, someone at the keys filled the air with a melody new and refreshing.
“I am happy to see you again. May I take your coat? Have my frau make you tea?”
Nein, Herr Breyer. Danke shon. I will not stay long. But came to make my decision.” Here twice last week to examine the pianofortes, he had been torn between one of Viennese manufacture and another completed in Munich. The Viennese had been hand tooled by a man whom Hugh had come to know socially when he had been posted to the Austrian capital after Napoleon’s surrender. The Munich piano though interested him for its larger keyboard. The tune emanating from the far room had him pausing to listen. “Who is that at the keys?”
“A young lady has come to buy sheet music for her cousin. The song she plays is—“
“Pleyel?” Hugh named the popular composer and went quite still, struck by the facile ability of the pianist in the far room. The song she played was airy, ethereal, yet of quick tempo and complex.
Ja, Your Grace.”
The piece demanded someone who could be bold and attack the keys with alacrity, yet caress them when the mood changed. Hugh had not heard anyone play so well since he was stationed in Stuttgart and the Austrian composer Hummel had graced a consulate meeting with his newest composition. “Astonishing. She is quite accomplished.”
“She sight reads very well.” Breyer nodded, pleasure on his face. “The piece is new to her just now. And I must tell you that she plays the Stein pianoforte from Vienna, Your Grace.”
Hugh lifted his chin, listening to her with concentration. “Does she? How wonderful.”
The German rocked on the balls of his feet, clasping his hands before him, closing his eyes in contentment.
Hugh drifted toward the inner room. He moved quietly, drawn as he was by the melody that spoke of eloquent delight, a pastoral scene, perhaps, or a meeting of lovers. The woman at the piano was absorbed in her effort. Eyes upon the sheets, leaning forward now and then to ensure she read the notes correctly, she swayed in a tempo that spoke of her devotion to conquer the song.
Absorbed in her challenge, she did not notice him. Her bonnet, a brown leghorn of straw, capped her dark red curls, and the brim cut her side view. Unseen, Hugh could admire her at leisure. He reveled in her rapture as she opened her mouth on execution of one passage or wrinkled her brow at another. She ran her hands along the keys, strident or delicate, as the notes required. She cast up the lieder as it’s composer would have admired—with flair and panache. And at the end, she widened her eyes, and sat back on the stool, hands to her lap, sighing in satisfaction at her own accomplishment.
And Hugh applauded.
She startled, turned and snared him in her amber gaze.
That striking color, he had not expected. Hazel would have been his first assumption because it would complement the river of rich auburn that was her hair. Grey, even, to match the faint tones of pink on her cheeks or the blush on her lips. But the tawny was riveting.
“Sir?” She cast glances from him to Breyer.
The proprietor scurried forward, clapping himself. “Wunderbar, wunderbar. Permit me to introduce you.”
Hugh strode forward himself, ignoring the demands of etiquette. “Allow me to say how marvelous that was.” How gorgeous you are. How accomplished.
“Oh, I—I thank you, sir.” She managed to get to her feet, pushing back the stool and clasping her hands together. “I dabble—“
“On the contrary, you are a musician of talent.”
“She composes,” Herr Breyer said with as much pride as if she were his prodigy.
“Do you? How enchanting.” He stood over her now. She was taller than most women, the top of that terrifying hat reaching his chin. She was lovelier than most, too, her complexion flawless ivory and brightened by the warmth of the shop’s fire. Or was she flustered by his surreptitious observation of her?
Regency Romp #1
Whatever the cause, he wanted her at ease.
“Forgive me for startling you.” He took her hand and stunned as she was, she let him. “I do not usually shock women.”
Those compelling eyes of hers melted to mellow tones, even as she sought to retrieve her hand from his. “That is good to know, sir.”
Hugh kept her hand in his. “I had told Herr Breyer long ago I wished to hear someone play this instrument who had the ability to draw out its full potential. I did not expect my wish to be fulfilled by accident nor to see such a lovely woman do me the honor.”
“Oh, sir, thank you. You are too kind.” She blushed, her cheeks turning a delicate rose.
The porcelain perfection of her skin suffused with a fair tint that inspired him to imagine her breasts budding, her body bare to him. He smiled at her, hopefully covering his magnetic attraction to her with some politesse. Certainly, her talent and her beauty belied her diminished means. She was a study in dramatic contrasts. And soldier, spy, peer of the realm that he was, he was rarely fascinated by a person. Hardly ever by a woman.
“I have heard many play,” he told her, “but few with such verve.” Or beauty. “And Herr Breyer tells me you have not seen the composition before you sat down here to play.”

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