Monday, April 4, 2022

A Diamond of the Season in search of a Diamond of a husband! How difficult can it be?


BUY LINK: https://amzn.to/3uKpdC
    Sitting beside him, Addy held his hand, no matter propriety. He needed her. She knew enough of his malady to sit for many minutes without a word between them. He recovered himself, but slowly. And when a footman approached with a tray of wine or whiskey on offer, Gyles would have taken one.

“Do not,” she admonished. 

He stared at her. “No?”

“Spirits will only aggravate your condition.”

He looked away, but grimaced at the bright light of candles in a nearby sconce.

“Close your eyes. Turn toward me.” She stroked his hand and wrapped her fingers around his wrist and counted. “There. Your heart beat slows. You will be well. Give this a few minutes.”

He did as she bade him and in his time, he opened his eyes to consider her with quiet appreciation shining there. “You know my condition.”

“Bold sounds. Bright lights. Alcohol. Late nights. Exertion. They all contribute to your headaches. How long have you suffered them?”

He exhaled. “Since I was imprisoned by the French when I was young.”

“I see.” She squeezed his hand in sympathy. About that, she would learn more but not tonight. He had to recover first before he relived the cause of his distress. “You should not be at balls, sir. But home where you can be quiet and untroubled.”

“But if I did not attend here tonight, I would not have found you again.”

She bobbed her head to and fro. “We might have met in more sedate gatherings.”

“Perhaps. I would have chanced missing you.”

She had never been so sweetly entranced by a man who confessed to his liking for her in so unique a manner. “My sisters and I are in Brighton specifically to enjoy the Season. We will be…” she said as she circled a hand in the air, “everywhere.”

“Addy, how may I press my advantage?”

“You made an impression on me yesterday, Gyles. I will not soon forget you.”

He grasped her hand tightly. “Don’t forget me at all.”

“I won’t. How could I? You like my syrup.” She had to tease him and make him smile.

“I do. Among other things.”

She nodded, compassion in her heart for so afflicted a darling man. “Perhaps my dancing, too?”

“Indeed,” he said. “I’d like to kiss you for it.”

She gave a shocked little laugh. Since Grandpapa died and she knew she’d have to find a husband soon, she’d taken to kissing any man who appealed. Alas, she’d found none. But now, she was not only complimented but tempted to kiss this man. “Not here.”

“No. But somewhere and soon. With my thanks for the syrup, the dance and the laughter.”

Oh, my. Was he much too chivalrous? Was he a rake of no morals? A man who complimented women? Women like her? Young and naive. For all her good looks, for all her pride in them and understanding of them as a tool to attract men, she was still untried, uninformed of much of the physicality of mating. She could be all too easily influenced by a practiced man’s charms. Of that she had always been on guard. 

“A kiss for relief from a headache? Oh, surely that would be—”

“Bliss,” he vowed. “I will try for it tomorrow.”

“When you come for tea?”

“I come for you, Addy.”

He lifted her hand and pressed his firm lips to her glove in a stunning kiss. Had he blessed her bare skin with his mouth, she would have taken him to an alcove in the hall and tasted the flavor of his desire and called herself barely satisfied.

“Tomorrow then,” she whispered and longed to taste his lips on hers.


Friday, January 7, 2022

Want to have Fun, fun, fun til Your Daddy takes your phaeton away?

Remember that famous song by the Beach Boys?


Here is my version!  A part of this wonderful funny box set this summer!


Well, she got her papa’s phaeton. 

And she crashed the village vegetable stand, now

Seems she forgot all about the library

Like she told her old man, now

And with the villagers yelling

She goes cruising just as fast as she can now

Til her papa takes her phaeton away.


The younger ladies can’t stand her

Cause she drives like an ace now

She makes the drive thru town look like a chariot race now.

A lot of men try to catch her

But she leads them on a wild goose chase now.

She vows she’ll have fun fun fun, but no husband’ll ever take her phaeton away!


Years later, she knew all along

That her marquess was getting wise to her, now

And when he eyed her set of horses

She’s been thinking that her fun was all through now

But he’s caught her and his kisses say

They’ve got alot of loving to do now

They’ll have fun, fun fun as her husband drives her and her phaeton away!


***

The Preorder is LIVE! 

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B&N - https://bit.ly/32OUM4D

KOBO – https://bit.ly/3pYSBV7

Apple - https://apple.co/3JD4cka




Monday, September 13, 2021

How big is your dowry? Can we afford to get married?

🍒TALES FROM MY RESEARCH and TRAVELS WITH CERISE!

Dowries! How big could they be? How small?

As large as a father’s generosity and prosperity or as tiny, a bride’s dowry was a moveable feast. A few, such as that of the daughter of the Duke of Marlborough (c. 1719), could be as large as 6,000 pounds with a yearly jointure of 800 pounds. This plus property could signal quite an alliance that kept control of large swaths of land in the extended family.

A tiny dowry could mean the difference between life and death, providing food and clothing for an impoverished couple—and little for a daughter of that union.

Usually a father paid for the wedding, the party or breakfast if any, and the trousseau, if any. Wealthy fathers often gave their daughters ample new wardrobes and accoutrements for their new home. Less prosperous fathers gave little or nothing. 

But the settlement of money and any other items such as land was negotiated by the bride’s father with the groom’s and perhaps the groom, himself.

After the wedding, the (hopefully happy) couple were to take a few days or weeks in a honeymoon. Afterward, they were to return and call upon certain others in town or in their social sphere.

So much of weddings then are so similar to ours now!

Here, the drawing of Princess Charlotte's wedding to the Prince Leopold of Belgium (1816) and her actual wedding gown!



Saturday, July 24, 2021

How to turn a friend into a lover!


Friends for a decade, Camille Bereston and her step-brother, Pierece Hanniford suddenly discover they ant more from their relationship. Here in their first kiss, they learn that more means a new way of thinking too.

They go on to a glorious few weeks discovering more than kisses in this family saga series, THOSE NOTORIOUS AMERICANS!

EXCERPT, RAVISHING CAMILLE. Copyright, 2021, Cerise DeLand. All rights reserved, 

“How would you kiss a woman you loved?” Oh, yes. She was a fool to ask.
But in her curiosity, she knew power. Because he blinked and yet he did not pull away, she had the control. Instead, he stood immobile as she stepped against him. She lifted on her toes, for he was so tall. And she slanted her head to one side, her gaze fastened on his, her mouth a heartbeat away from his. “How would you?”

“Camille.” Her name was not a sound.
She heard it as a warning, but took it as an appeal. One she’d waited for nearly half her life. One she would take advantage of now. For if anything, she was a woman of action. And in regard to him, she’d always been a woman of desire.
She sought purchase with her fingers going round his upper arms. “Shall I kiss you on the cheek?”
He gave a small shake of his head.
Accepting his feeble answer, she put her lips to his nose. A peck. An acknowledgment of affection. “Like one gives a child.” Or a brother.
He seemed to vibrate beneath her hands. 
Beneath her fingertips, he went still as death. Her time grew short and so she pulled away ever so slightly and said, “But I would want more from a man I cared for. Much more.”
Her education in the art of kissing was poor. She’d had weak precedents. A wet thing from a twelve-year-old boy who’d come to visit with his parents. A grasping thing from an Eton lad who petted her with clammy hands before he tried to stick his tongue down her throat. A ravenous thing from a sullen lord who should have known better than to seize her as if he were a pirate and she his booty. Only once had she been swept away by the artfulness of a man who knew his way around a bedroom and a woman. She’d enjoyed the kiss…or rather kisses, but later, refused the man his suit.
So it was her imagination and her eternal curiosity about Pierce as a lover that led her on. A frantic seizure of the minute, the night, the topic, led her to brush her lips on his and stifle the moan that rose in her throat.
She took his broad firm mouth with her own in a grand claim that had him drawing her near and allowing her the range of his lips. He was hers, faintly groaning in objection or passion, she did not know. But he pulled her flush to his torso and she surged with triumph at the rigid expression of his lack of control.
Surrendering to what she wanted, she slid her hands up his shoulders and cupped his nape. Her fingers wound through his satin hair. He hauled her closer, his cock harder, slipping against the hollow between her thighs as he kissed her.

His lips were warm, reverent. At once, he pulled back and stared at her, shock his first emotion. But need was his next as he cupped her cheek, sighed her name and took her mouth once more. This time, he savored her mouth in lazy caresses. She clutched him closer and he darted the tip of his tongue between her lips. But with one touch, he gasped and was gone. 
She hung in his arms, triumph rushing through her veins. 
He stared down into her eyes. 
She swallowed.
He searched her expression. Of course, he did. 
He searched for himself. For his motivation. For definition of his own desire.
She let him do as he wished, but regarded him with languor, for she had no such query.
She knew what she wanted.
Him. Always him. Ever him.
And she had him in this moment. As she had always wanted the fullness of his passion. The madness of his attentions. 
“Forgive me.” He stepped back even as he braced her arms to ensure she stood upright.
Well. Just barely. But gentleman that he was, and lady that she had been born to be, she would stand and she would forgive.
He cleared his throat. “That was…”
Exquisite.
“I apologize, Camille. That should not have happened.”
I wanted it to. “I’m the one who started it.” And I won’t apologize.
He gave her a watery smile. “We will forget this.”
Not if I can make you remember.
“Good night.”
With a few quick steps, he strode away.
https://books2read.com/u/bMRvzG


Thursday, June 10, 2021

The youngest member of the Hanniford family finds love with another! RAVISHING CAMILLE on pre-order now for 99 cents!

Books2Read links!   A nibble of my new cherry! All rights reserved. Copyright, Cerise DeLand. 2021.

https://books2read.com/u/bMRvzG

“How would you kiss a woman you loved?” Oh, yes. She was a fool to ask.

But in her curiosity, she knew power. Because he blinked and yet he did not pull away, she had the control. Instead, he stood immobile as she stepped against him. She lifted on her toes, for he was so tall. And she slanted her head to one side, her gaze fastened on his, her mouth a heartbeat away from his. “How would you?”

“Camille.” Her name was not a sound.

She heard it as a warning, but took it as an appeal. One she’d waited for nearly half her life. One she would take advantage of now. For if anything, she was a woman of action. And in regard to him, she’d always been a woman of desire.

She sought purchase with her fingers going round his upper arms. “Shall I kiss you on the cheek?”

He gave a small shake of his head.

Accepting his feeble answer, she put her lips to his nose. A peck. An acknowledgment of affection. “Like one gives a child.” Or a brother.

He seemed to vibrate beneath her hands. 

Beneath her fingertips, he went still as death. Her time grew short and so she pulled away ever so slightly and said, “But I would want more from a man I cared for. Much more.”

Her education in the art of kissing was poor. She’d had weak precedents. A wet thing from a twelve-year-old boy who’d come to visit with his parents. A grasping thing from an Eton lad who petted her with clammy hands before he tried to stick his tongue down her throat. A ravenous thing from a sullen lord who should have known better than to seize her as if he were a pirate and she his booty. Only once had she been swept away by the artfulness of a man who knew his way around a bedroom and a woman. She’d enjoyed the kiss…or rather kisses, but later, refused the man his suit.

So it was her imagination and her eternal curiosity about Pierce as a lover that led her on. A frantic seizure of the minute, the night, the topic, led her to brush her lips on his and stifle the moan that rose in her throat.

She took his broad firm mouth with her own in a grand claim that had him drawing her near and allowing her the range of his lips. He was hers, faintly groaning in objection or passion, she did not know. But he pulled her flush to his torso and she surged with triumph at the rigid expression of his lack of control.

Surrendering to what she wanted, she slid her hands up his shoulders and cupped his nape. Her fingers wound through his satin hair. He hauled her closer, his cock harder, slipping against the hollow between her thighs as he kissed her.

His lips were warm, reverent. At once, he pulled back and stared at her, shock his first emotion. But need was his next as he cupped her cheek, sighed her name and took her mouth once more. This time, he savored her mouth in lazy caresses. She clutched him closer and he darted the tip of his tongue between her lips. But with one touch, he gasped and was gone. 

She hung in his arms, triumph rushing through her veins. 

He stared down into her eyes. 

She swallowed.

He searched her expression. Of course, he did. 

He searched for himself. For his motivation. For definition of his own desire.

She let him do as he wished, but regarded him with languor, for she had no such query.

She knew what she wanted.

Him. Always him. Ever him.

And she had him in this moment. As she had always wanted the fullness of his passion. The madness of his attentions. 

“Forgive me.” He stepped back even as he braced her arms to ensure she stood upright.

Well. Just barely. But gentleman that he was, and lady that she had been born to be, she would stand and she would forgive.

He cleared his throat. “That was…”

Exquisite.

“I apologize, Camille. That should not have happened.”

I wanted it to. “I’m the one who started it.” And I won’t apologize.

He gave her a watery smile. “We will forget this.”

Not if I can make you remember.

“Good night.”

With a few quick steps, he strode away.


Saturday, April 17, 2021

An interview with Lord Stanton hero in SHELTER & STORM Box Set with the Bluestocking Belles!


When a storm blows off the North Sea 
and slams into the village of Fenwick on Sea, the villagers prepare for the inevitable: shipwreck, flood, land slips, and stranded travelers. The Queen’s Barque Inn quickly fills with the injured, the devious, and the lonely—lords, ladies, and simple folk; spies, pirates, and smugglers all trapped together. Intrigue crackles through the village, and passion lights up the hotel.

One storm, eight authors, eight heartwarming novellas.

Lord Stanton’s Shocking Seaside Honeymoon by Cerise DeLand

Regency short story and part of the Storm and Shelter collection by The Bluestocking Belles and Friends.

Storm and Shelter is available now.

Book heat level (based on movie ratings): PG-13


Lord Stanton is about to marry for the second time. But his bride is so different from his first wife, now deceased. Josephine Meadows is her father’s heir to his far-flung merchant marine trading company. She’s smart, savvy and beautiful. What’s more, she’s in love with Stanton. Madly. And she has been for lo, these past six years. 

But now, just as they marry and go off to their first night together, and just as each is ready to prove to the other, their love, an agent of Josephine’s goes missing on the high seas. And both of them, though eager to consummate their vows, must go off to discover if the agent is dead…or alive.

Know the Hero of Lord Stanton’s Shocking Seaside Honeymoon

It’s late, he’s bored. What does he do?

Stanton, of late, likes poetry. Love sonnets to be exact! He’s eager to claim his new bride in all ways and reading erotic words is not what he should be doing!

What kind of food would he impulse buy if hungry?

“I have simple tastes. But I do enjoy a finely done roast of beef.”

Describe the kind of clothes he prefers to wear.

“I wore a uniform whilst in the Hussars and now I prefer my black superfine. My tailor is a marvel and I need not appear in his shop to be fitted. This is a blessing as I am a busy man working in Whitehall to defeat that scoundrel Napoleon.”

Valet or takes care of himself?

“I do employ a valet. A fine fellow who knows how precisely I wish to dress. More than that, he is astute and knows when to appear and when to vanish!”

Necktie/cravat or open shirt?

“I do appreciate a cravat tied in such a manner as to remain tied!”

Carriage or horseback?

“Both means of conveyance have their uses. A horse is a proper beast for quick travel. Also, sadly, for the battlefield. Of carriages, I demand comfort and the best springs. No use breaking one’s bones in order to arrive at a tea party, eh?”



Where to buy Storm and Shelter to get Lord Stanton’s Shocking Seaside Honeymoon

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Kobo https://bit.ly/3o0z977

Cerise DeLand Social Media

Cerise DeLand has written since she was eight years old and had a piece published in The Baltimore Sun newspaper! With more than 40 novels published, she is known for writing works with historical accuracy, humor and eloquence.
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Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Who is that Teatime Tattler Reporter? The Blog Hop!


Dear Reader,

Your Faithful Correpondent is thrilled to share with you that among those sheltering from a dreadful storm in the Queen’s Barque Inn in Fenwick has come a new bride, the lovely Lady S—!

She arrived in a hired hack (of all things!) with her little dog…but without her husband!

Did the new couple quarrel? Over what? So soon after the nuptials too! The ton had speculated that theirs was a love match, especially because the bride is of the merchant class, so far beneath his lordship’s vaulted status. 

But we do have sympathy for dear Lord S—. As we are all well aware, this revered hero of the Peninsula Wars did not enjoy wedded bliss in his first marriage! We feared he’d never find happiness again. And yet we’ve come to this debacle!

I ask you, why would the new countess leave her husband? And why hare off to Fenwick?

Does she seek someone else? Alone? 

Who can it be?

Your Faithful Correspondent promises for reveal more as news develops!

*****

Josephine crushed the horrid newspaper, seething at the very idea that she had abandoned her bride groom on a whim! Or worse because they’d had a falling out!

Never! 

Who was this person who had taken too much upon themselves?  Whoever they were, they had gall. And opportunity to observe not only her but so many who’d taken shelter in the Inn. Josephine had a mind to send the scoundrel out into the flood from the storm. What drivel to write this and publish it for the world to read!

“We have work to do to defeat that hideous little Corsican!” She balled up the paper and threw it against the wall.

“My darling!” Stanton addressed her, the door to the hall opening as he entered their intimate little room in the Queen’s Barque Inn. “What vexes you so?”

“Gossip! I hate it.”

He strode two steps, picked up the crinkled pages and read. Then he arched two long dark brows high. “You hate it only when it does not benefit you or your network. This is harmless, my love.”

She pouted. And relented with a sigh and a smile. “You’re right, of course, Russ. If this person were one of my spies, I’d praise them.”

“Perhaps they need a new employment?”

She rolled her eyes at him. “Or you do.”

“Now that idea,” he crooned as he strolled forward and took her in his arms for the third time today, “is the best you’ve had yet!”

*****

WHO IS THE SNOOPING REPORTER?

As told in Storm & Shelter in eight original novellas, refugees—the injured, the devious, and the lonely, lords, ladies, and simple folk; spies, pirates, and smugglers all sheltered at the Queen's Barque Inn. Now concern is buzzing in Fenwick on Sea and across these United Kingdoms, as scurrilous gossip about the goings on during the recent storm spread through the reports in that scandal rag, The Teatime Tattler. Who is the snoop?


YOU CAN HELP


Correctly identify the reporter and be entered to win a $100 gift card and other great prizes. There are details and instructions for entering here: https://bluestockingbelles.net/.../wanted-the-snooping.../


CLUES

There are clues in every story in Storm & Shelter. Find more clues by following on to each stop in our Snooping Reporter Blog Hop. The next stop is https://alinakfield.com/blog/


ABOUT THE BOOK ~ Storm & Shelter: A Bluestocking Belles Collection with Friends


When a storm blows off the North Sea and slams into the village of Fenwick on Sea, the villagers prepare for the inevitable: shipwreck, flood, land slips, and stranded travelers. The Queen’s Barque Inn quickly fills with the injured, the devious, and the lonely—lords, ladies, and simple folk; spies, pirates, and smugglers all trapped together. Intrigue crackles through the village, and passion lights up the hotel.


One storm, eight authors, eight heartwarming novellas.


MY CONTRIBUTION TO THE SET: Lord Stanton’s Shocking Seaside Honeymoon by Cerise DeLand

She is so wrong for him.

Miss Josephine Meadows is so young. In love with life. His accountant in his work for Whitehall. Her father’s heir to his trading company—and his espionage network.

Lord Stanton cannot resist marrying her. But to ensure Wellington defeats Napoleon, they must save one of Josephine’s agents.

Far from home, amid a horrific storm, Stanton discovers that his new bride loves him dearly.

Can he truly be so right for her?

And she for him?


Buy Links:


Amazon US |  Apple Books | Barnes & Noble | Google Books | Kobo

Amazon AU |BR |CA |DE |ES |FR |IN |IT |JP |MX |NL |UK

Angus & Robertson


A GIVEAWAY FOR THIS STOP!


To be in the running for an eCopy of REGENCY ROMPS, Box Set comment below and tell me where is your favorite place to vacation. I’ll generate a random winner Sunday, April 18th.


Good luck and don't forget to continue on to the next stop on our blog hop at CarolineWarfield’s : https://www.carolinewarfield.com/an-earls-daughter-hits-hard-times/

Monday, March 22, 2021

First kisses are dangerous! A nibble of my newest Cherry!

LORD STANTON'S SHOCKING SEASIDE HONEYMOON

Buy Links!

Excerpt, Copyright 2021, Cerise DeLand. All rights reserved. 


SETTING: March 28, 1815

Townhouse of Russell Downey, the sixth earl of Stanton, the night before his wedding to Miss Josephine Meadows, the daughter of his associate, a merchant with whom he often deals to buy supplies for Wellington’s Army on the Continent.


Stanton took her hand. “Come. I’ve something to show you.” 

Josephine could have sworn his bright blue eyes danced, declaring enticing things.

Up the grand main staircase he led her to the second floor, down the long hall, to stand before a set of double doors.

He opened both wide. “Your suite. Or rather, soon to be.”

She gazed upon a sitting room, big as her bedroom in St. James’s Square. And nearly empty.

“Furnishings are spare. The two Hepplewhite chairs you may change, of course. The floor needs rugs. Come in here.” He led her into the chamber with a door ajar to a smaller room, most likely her boudoir. Here before her stood only a gigantic clothes press and smaller French lingerie chest. But there was no bed.

She swung, her mouth open to ask why not.

“I ordered my housekeeper and butler to prepare a list of items the room needed for you. They did, but I must say I failed to choose anything.”

“You’re busy,” she said in quick excuse for him.

“That’s not it at all.”

“No?” Dare she hope he intended to take her to his bed? Tomorrow night? And all the nights thereafter?

He threw out his arms in frustration. “I did not know what to get for you. What you’d like.”

I’d like to sleep with you.

“I want you to have everything you desire.”

The lump in her throat grew large.

“I want you to choose. You have excellent taste.”

“Do I?” she asked, wistful, charmed and so unaware he had ever noticed any details about her person.

That gave him pause. “I know you do. From the green gowns you favor that turn your eyes to emerald and the pinks that accentuate the blush in your cheeks. You are quite stunning.”

No one had ever called her stunning. “Thank you.”

He looked at a loss, this man who had commanded hundreds, fought his opponents to the death and who now ran the logistics of supplies that would either make or break the Duke of Wellington’s forces against the little Frenchman who would not stay in exile.

She got her wits about her. “I didn’t expect you to go to such expense for me.”

“Money has no place in marriage. Not in anyone’s. Not in ours.”

“I agree. And for this, I am delighted to do it.” She smiled and spun, arms out, in full circle to welcome the joys of her marriage. Then she went with her impulse and took two steps toward him, and on her tip-toes, reached up to kiss his lips. Briefly. Too briefly.

He clutched her upper arms and as she stepped away, cleared his throat. “I want you to be comfortable. And happy, Josephine.”

“As I will work to make you happy, Stanton.”

“You’ll make me delirious if you use my given name.”

She tipped her head to and fro. “I must practice.”

“Say it now, then.”

“Russell.”

He cocked his right brow. “Russ.”

She let her eyes dance. “Russ.”

“I want this for you, my dear. A completely new start. I owe it to you and to myself. Changing whatever relics of the past that now do not apply to our future.”

“I wish to be your loving helpmate.” 

Once more, he reached out to her and this time, stroked the backs of his fingers down her cheek. “As I will be yours. I am determined to be a good and willing partner, Josephine. Tomorrow I repeat words made by man, meant for God and others. To many who say them, hear them, they are useless. A sign, merely, of lawful commingling. A seal of financial union. I swear to you my words bear none of that. None.”

“Nor will mine.” Ever since I first set eyes on you, I have wanted you for my own. Sans title, money, land. 

His sky blue eyes grew stormy with new happiness and old pain. “Hear me, Josephine. Please, as this revelation is new for me. But I will tell you. I do not wish to belabor you with old sorrows but I will have you know this about me. This, which few have ever learned from my lips.” He seized a breath. “My first marriage was no union of like minds or pleasures.”

He had never spoken of his first wife to her and she doubted to her father, either. While the gossip about the late Countess of Stanton was sparse, the lack of information irritated Josephine especially now that she had accepted his proposal of marriage. A woman who valued an abundance of facts in her work, she knew the past would be vital to understand…and just as vital to avoid duplicating. 

He stared at her. “I married my first wife out of duty. Friendship among our families and land that marched beside each other’s led to an expectation that she and I marry to seal the union of affections. From childhood, I never questioned it. Neither did Henrietta.”

Torment sluiced over his brows and he dropped her hands as if they burned him. Josephine swayed toward him, the magnet of his touch, the hurt of his rejection had always drawn her toward him no matter where he strode.

He took up a stance near the mantel, an Adam’s creation of stark white. His severe black dinner attire created a pillar of harsh contrast to the alabaster. His hand to his lips, the swipe of his fingers across his mouth gave her notice that he meant to continue in this dark vein of remembrance. 

“Growing up together we thought we knew each other. Certainly we valued the same things, didn’t we? The same friends. The Berber horses our fathers raised. The hunt. Poetry.” His pause sent a chill up her back and the hair on her arms lifted. “She wanted to marry young and quickly. Her father had died and her older brother had married. She wished to set up her own house. I agreed to that, to everything. I was free. A carefree lad. Randy, actually. And I had the money. Why should I not marry and indulge us both, eh?

“But I did not see that my agreements were one-sided. I wanted the city. She wanted the country. I wanted the work of Parliament and my friends who worked at Whitehall. She wanted the solitude of her dogs and her roses. When I heard the call of the cavalry and the need to defend my country, she did not approve of my decision to join the Hussars. She demanded I return home and give her babies, days of idling in gardens and reading and pulling deadheads from rosebuds.”

He ran a hand through his hair. The thick mass rumpled wildly around his aquiline features. “She ordered me not to join, not to leave her alone in the country. I refused. For the next few months, she ran hither and yon about the country. Without word of her whereabouts, she kept me guessing. She also kept the ton in ripe gossip. She led me a merry chase. When I learned finally that she had returned home to the Hall, I went there and confronted her. She was wild. She bargained with me. She’d stay in one place if I quit the service and came home to her. She required a constant attendance I could not give her. When I refused, she turned…ugly and took an andiron to me. I bear the scar.”

Josephine’s mouth fell open. She’d never asked how he’d acquired it, assuming it was a battle scar. Oh, my dear.” 

He swung toward her, the horrified look upon his face warning her off. “I left her that night and never returned. I went off to Portugal and Spain, and learned first-hand the delicate art of supplying thousands of men and animals on the march in a foreign land. A year later while I was there, she died of catarrh. I had her buried in her family’s crypt. Six years ago, when I returned home to England, I had the Hall in Bury St. Edmonds stripped of all she’d put into it. Since then, I’ve had a few essential rooms redecorated. That house, too, awaits your kind touch.”

He’d told her last week that he’d written to tell staff there that they would arrive at a future date for a wedding holiday and that she would attend to the renovations.

He threw her a wan smile. “When I married her, I was twenty years old. She was eighteen. I thought I knew her. She said we were…cut from the same cloth. Ah, but what does one know at eighteen?”

I knew I loved you. That first afternoon, when my father brought me into his offices and introduced his friend, the dashing creature who ensured soldiers had uniforms to clothe them, blankets to warm them, beef to sustain them, shot and rifles and cannon and boots.

“I am sixteen years older now, Josephine, and I do hope much wiser. I see in you, my dear, much that resembles my own temperament. You love people and your work, your father and young brother. You see joy in living and cultivate it. I want to make a good husband to you, Josephine, and I promise to give you the best of me.”

No declaration of love, but she would take it. “Thank you, Russ. I do not marry you lightly. I’ve had suitors.”

His face broke into a rueful smile. “I know you have. Many, I would say.”

She took his good humor and wished to build on it. “I refused them all.”

“Good prospects they were, my darling.”

At his use of that endearment, she noted progress in his regard of her. “You knew, did you?”

He grinned. “Your father and I are very good friends.”

She flowed nearer to him, her hands flat to the silk of his waistcoat. “I was never attracted to any of them.”

“I often wondered why. They were young. James Caffrey of Hammond Lane was only twenty-five when he asked for your hand three years ago. And what’s-his-name English? Thomas English is rich as Midas. Clothier to His Majesty’s Army makes him a good catch.”

She toyed with a button on his waistcoat. “Youth and money have their charms but I was not enchanted.”

“Your father was astonished you refused.”

Years ago, he was. Not lately. “Many times, he asked me why. I’m shocked he told you about their proposals.”

Russ reached for her, his large sure hands cupping her cheeks. “Your papa sprinkled details like lures to a treasure. In truth, I heard more from my friends, tidbits of gossip that you would not have any of them. And I rejoiced.”

Her heart pounded with his admission. “I wish I’d known.”

“Do you?” He hooted, hugged her close and kissed her forehead. “Minx! With every man you refused, I could not keep up with the parade.”

“Surely, sir, you can count to five.” 

He guffawed. “Your father counted eight.”

“That many? How complimentary!” She wrapped her arms around his waist and drew back to admire the man who would be hers at last. Here in this noble, honorable, hard-working creature was all she had ever desired of love. “I wanted only you.”

STORM & SHELTER, Box set, 99 cents on pre-order! 800 pages of delight!

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