Giveaway Update (February 15th, 2021)
We have winners!!!
Shirley Halverson is the winner of my $10 Amazon Gift Card prize
Traci Bell has won the Grand Prize of $75 US
Congratulations, and a huge thank you to everyone who joined us for this party!
The original post:
If you’ve joined me from Sherry Ewing’s blog, thank you!
And thank you, Sherry Ewing, for sharing your book, Before I Found You, and for your Valentine’s Day gift of a story.
I have a special flash fiction story for you today. Keep reading to find out how to collect a prequel to my Sons of the Spy Lord Series, and don’t forget to comment to go into the draw for the Grand Prize of a gift card (USD75 value). More below, but first:
The Touch of Love
Brussels, June, 1815
Tristan Hamilton Howton, Earl of Rudgwick, Captain in His Majesty’s Horse Guards and a decorated veteran of the Peninsula, inspected the gaily attired dancers in Lady Conyngham’s rented ballroom, watching them turn, and cross, and promenade in the intricate steps of the country dance. Spotting the ginger-haired lass who’d enchanted him ought not to be so much of a challenge.
He had it on good authority—no less than that of her father, that she would be here this night. She wasn’t dancing this set, and whyever not?
His gaze moved to the sidelines where men—mostly men—and women gathered in groups, talking, and where a handful of older ladies perched on chairs, heads bent together, perhaps worrying about sons and husbands here for the fighting.
Men outnumbered women these days in Brussels, despite the fact that so many of the British had brought wives and daughters, and despite the fact that even before Bonaparte’s escape from Elba, the town had been flooded with Englishmen and women eager to visit the Continent after twenty years of war.
He spotted a full head of red hair and headed to it. Major Macbeth would be keeping an eye on his daughter—that was likely the reason she wasn’t dancing. Macbeth stood at the far side of the room, talking with two gray-haired fellows in dark coats, their backs turned.
As he neared, he caught Macbeth’s eye. The major smiled and the gray-haired men shifted.
And his heart leapt as if he was a silly schoolboy catching sight of a pretty milkmaid. Lucie was here, standing next to her mother. Greer Macbeth sent him a smile, but Lucie pressed her lips together in an exasperated look that was not quite a frown.
Caught. He almost laughed. The lady had been dodging him.
She looked well tonight. Oh, the dress was too plain for this sort of gathering, even he knew that, yet it suited her perfectly, allowing her beauty to shine. A topaz pendant touched the top of her breasts above the modest bodice and echoed the sparkle in her wary eyes.
They exchanged greetings all around. He knew the other two, Englishmen who’d come to Brussels months earlier to spare their household budgets. Mrs. Macbeth’s warm greeting contrasted sharply with Lucie’s scant curtsy.
The set was breaking up, the dancers milling about looking for their next partner.
“Miss Macbeth,” he said. “You are looking well. Major, I wonder if I might have the next dance with your daughter.”
Macbeth chuckled. “If it’s naught but a dance ye’re requesting, I give my blessing.”
“You see, Rudgwick,” one of the other men said. “That’s just how Macbeth frightened away all the other young men wishing to take his daughter’s hand tonight.”
He bowed. “A dance is all I request, miss.” For now.
A smile twinkled in her eyes and at the corners of her lips. She wasn’t uninterested, that much he’d surmised from the eventful March evening spent in her company. She wasn’t a tease either, nor would she let him misbehave, more’s the pity.
“Very well.” She dipped her head, crossed between the two older men, and gave him her hand.
The touch jolted him, a lightning strike that stirred the devil in him—excitement, desire, and a warning all mixed together. Her grasp was firm, and she went along, allowing him the lead yet letting him know that she was able to pull it back, just as if he was one of the horses she managed so well.
He’d never held Lucie Macbeth’s hand in his own before. He’d set his cape over her shoulders, he’d passed her the dagger her mother had been carrying, but not once during that wild March night had he touched her.
A violin squealed out a long note and his heart leaped. The next dance was to be a waltz. He’d hold more than her hand this night.
“Do ye s’pose the fiddle player is bosky?” She threw the words out in a careless brogue meant to be off-putting, hiding her nerves behind a show of humorous bravado.
Desire sparked in him. He schooled his face to contain the lust lurking there—no doubt Macbeth would be watching, along with his lady—and turned to face Lucie, as close to an improper distance as he might risk without rousing her father’s ire.
“Have you waltzed before?” he asked.
“Aye. Quite badly. I fear I’m not easily led. If you wish to sit out—”
“No.” Ever honest, was Lucie. “My boots are sturdy. You’ve not danced with the proper partner. You’ve not danced with me.”
Color flooded her cheeks and she covered her emotion with a grimace.
“It’s only a dance, an exhilarating, wonderful one that will put you in mind of your first time on a galloping horse.”
She nodded. He took her right hand in his left, set her other hand on his shoulder and his on her waist, and smiled as they took the first steps. “Sometimes you have to let your mount have its head and what do you do?”
“Hunker down and make certain I don’t fall off.”
“A girl who rides as well as you can certainly waltz. Let the wind fill your sails and carry you along.”
“Ye’re mixing your metaphors, Captain Lord Rudgwick.”
“Tristan, Lucie. My Christian name is Tristan.” He spun her into a turn, and she gasped, keeping up. Her hand tightened on his shoulder, and he answered by holding her more firmly and bringing her closer—not too close because her father’s red head still bobbed at the edge of the dance floor.
He spun her again and watched as she relaxed into the steps, her face and eyes brightening, and her lips quirking in a smile that he answered. Under the thin cloth of her gown, her skin was warm, her body supple. The modest bodice covered but failed to hide shapely pert breasts.
It was maddening. A few inches more and he could press her against him and hold her the way he wanted to hold her. A few inches more and their lips could touch.
She stared up at him, her eyes darkening to deep amber, and they danced, round and round, round and round.
Too soon the music slowed, and ended. He held both her hands and squeezed them.
“Would you honor me with another—”
“No.” Her throat moved as she swallowed. “I thank ye for keeping me on my toes and off yours, Captain Lord Rudgwick—”
She shook her head. “Captain Lord Rudgwick.” Her back went up, her shoulders straightened, presenting the saucy brave girl to the world. “We shall walk to my mother and father, and if you survive the encounter, perhaps others will ask me to dance.”
He chuckled, as he was meant to and tucked her hand over his arm. “You are very special, Lucie,” he murmured.
Her hand squeezed his arm. “As are ye, Rudgwick. I ought not say it, but with battle coming… But there’s your fiancée, and she must have your heart. Whate’er ye’re thinking, it cannot be. And that’s the last we will say on it.”
They’d almost reached Lucie’s parents. Macbeth’s gaze had narrowed on them, and her mother’s smile didn’t reach her eyes.
“For now,” he whispered. “Major, ma’am, I’m delivering your daughter safely back to you. I thank you for the honor, Miss Macbeth.”
He made mindless small talk until another cavalry officer pulled him aside to speculate on the French battle plan, but his heart and his mind were with Lucie. She did dance after that, with two different dull fellows, each time sparking a jealousy he’d not felt watching his betrothed dance with others.
If he came through this coming battle there’d be another one to fight. And God help him, he would win that one.
Lucie and Rudgwick first appear in Fated Hearts, A Love After All Retelling of the Scottish Play.
Plagued by hellish memories and rattling visions of battle to come, a Scottish Baron returning from two decades at war meets the daughter he denied was his, and the wife he divorced, and learns that everything he’d believed to be true was a lie. What he can’t deny is that she’s the only woman he’s ever loved. They’re not the young lovers they once were, but when passion flares, it burns more hotly than ever it did in their youth.
They soon discover it wasn’t fate that drove them apart, but a jealous enemy, who played on his youthful arrogance and her vulnerability. Now that old enemy has resurfaced, more treacherous than ever. When his lady falls into a trap, can he reach her in time to rescue this love that never died?
Available Everywhere: Universal Buy Link
Lucie and Rudgwick’s love story will be available in Autumn 2021. I’m in the thick of writing it!
If you’d like to learn more about my books and get a free copy of The Right Earl, the prequel story to my Sons in The Spy Lord Series, sign up for my monthly newsletters, and stay tuned for more adventure!
Go in the draw to win a gift card
The contest is open for a long world-wide Valentine’s day—from sunrise on 14th February in New Zealand (noon on February 13 U.S. EST) until midnight on 14th February in Hawaii (or 5 AM February 15 U.S. EST). When the contest ends, we’ll collect all comments on all 15 blogs in the hop. We’ll draw one at random, and then announce the winner on our blogs and contact him or her with a gift card to the value of US$75. Good luck!
Plus, plus, plus
I’ll be giving away a $10 Amazon gift card to one of the commenters on this post. Winner chosen at random on February 15th. (I’ll post the winner in the comments section, along with my email address to contact me.)
Thank you for joining me today. Have a wonderful Valentine’s Day! Your next stop is Pamela Gibson’s blog. Enjoy!
Image credits: Wikimedia, Jude Knight, and the Author