Hello and thanks for stopping by! It’s day 3 of my world tour promoting my newest release, Saving Lady Ilsa. I’m grateful to Jasmine for having me.
I was doing research of clothing for Claiming Lady Marianne, my first historical romance with Ellora’s Cave, when I came upon a passage that sparked my imagination. It described the pitifully low wages of seamstresses, and how not only many of them barely survived on what they made, but many also suffered unbearable cruelty from their employers. At once, my abused and undervalued heroine Ilsa Bergstrom was conjured. Ilsa is trapped in a wretched shop owned by her brother-in-law, who not only made her to do the housework and cooking as well as sew, but forced her take on her late sister’s “wifely” duties. I hope you like her spirit and determination.
For your enjoyment, here’s chapter three of Secret Seduction, my free short story which takes place parallel to Bradford and Ilsa's story in the servants' quarters.
Chapter Three: Secret Seduction
Vander stayed to the shadows while Angelina danced with an imaginary partner. She waltzed across the narrow path beside the library, listening to the delicate notes streaming through the open windows of the ballroom above.
“That would be more fun if you had a real partner,” he said, announcing his presence.
She whirled around, hands clasped over her mouth. “Oh, you startled me!” she whispered through her fingers. He knew being caught would earn her a firm reprimand, if not dismissal.
“Dance with me.” He offered his hand. “No one shall see us.”
She teetered on the edge of refusal, but risked a glance upward. No one lingered near the balustrade above. “We must be very quiet.”
Not a sound, he mouthed, and she smothered a giggle.
Another moment’s hesitation lingered as she looked at his offered hand before she stepped closer and took it.
Vander’s heart gave a little jump. Her hand was work-roughened, yet small and delicate in his. When she moved into his arms in closed position, he suppressed a murmur of pleased surprise. It soon became evident, however, that she’d never been properly taught the dance. He realized he must pretend a small amount of clumsiness himself, or risk giving himself away. It helped that the path between the darkened library and the immense pine trees lining the side of the manor gave them such a small space. They stepped slowly and quietly in an abbreviated box step.
“You are an exquisite dancer, Miss Angelina.” Truly, though it was a harmless little lie, he had never enjoyed a waltz more. Maybe it was the comfortable rags he wore in his disguise, or the lack of scrutiny typical at those infernal soirees.
Or maybe it was the delicate creature in his arms who smelled of cinnamon and vanilla. Maybe it was this brief, magical moment in which she gazed up at him with moonlight shining in her eyes. And, he dared hope, a teaspoon of affection as well.
She stepped on his toe. He smothered a grunt.
His body coursed with heat and his manhood reacted mutinously. She fit so perfectly in his arms he wished never to let her go. These days at Huntington house had been both a brutal eye-opener, and a startling revelation. He’d learned how truly hard the common class worked, and for what little reward. Yet they possessed lively spirits, and complained less than some fops he knew. At this moment, while he knew he would like to hold her like this forever, the idea of simply bedding her had lost its appeal. He needed more than a simple romp.
“Yes, Miss Angelina?”
“The waltz has ended.”
A tittering of applause carried across the evening breeze from the ballroom above.
“Then our dance has ended, as well.”
“I’m sorry about your foot.”
He grinned. “A kiss will make it forgotten.”
Angelina eyed him and he held his breath. He would either receive that kiss, or a stinging slap.
When she hid her eyes, he knew good fortune was on his side. She tilted her head and peered up at him coquettishly, and leaned toward him.
The kiss she placed upon his lips touched him as light as a feather. He slipped his arms around her waist and dragged her close, deepening the kiss. She tensed and braced against his shoulders, but in the next instant her body relaxed against his.
Vander tilted his head and urged her lips apart. She went still, and then, to his utter delight, she met his daring with her own. She tasted of sweet confections and magic.
Her body arched against him, sending another flood of heat raging through his core. She fit against him like a puzzle piece that had been missing his whole life, soft and warm, curvy in all the right places. Her kiss ended on a sigh of longing, and for a moment her eyes remained closed.
She touched a fingertip to her lips and looked up at him with awe, as if she’d been somehow changed by that kiss.
“Thank you, Mr. Jones.”
“For the dance?”
She turned away and slipped into the shadows without answering.
* * *
The word in today’s treasure hunt: “play”
Thank you Jasmine for having me! Don’t miss me tomorrow at Debra Glass’s blog for another hint and chapter four of Secret Seduction. For more on this contest and to find links to the previous excerpts, or if you think you can guess the phrase and want to submit your entry, click here.