My friend Alanna Lucas joins me today with Dancing Around the Truth, Book 4 in the Waltz with Destiny Series. The new cover is gorgeous!
Mrs. Philippa Keates thought she’d found her happily ever after when she eloped, but two years later, she’s named a widow. The horror of her husband’s death, and then the shock of discovering that Alfred was a dissolute gambler, has forced Philippa into a life of seclusion. But when she is paid a visit by a woman claiming to be her late husband’s wife and demanding recompense, Philippa knows she must emerge from mourning and discover the whole truth about Alfred. The one person who can assist her is her childhood friend, Benjamin Weston, for whom she once held a tendre until she realized he didn’t feel the same.
Benjamin Weston, the illegitimate son of the late Baron Albryght, has made a name for himself conducting investigations for those willing to pay a high price for discretion. When Philippa arrives on his doorstep, begging for his assistance, Weston fears most of all that she will discover the truth. He insists that his investigations will be done on his terms, vowing to himself that he will continue to keep his distance from Philippa. But as he unravels her mystery, secrets of his own begin to come to light, and soon it becomes clear that there is more at stake than just Philippa’s reputation.
She passed several horses, but still did not discover the source of the humming. There were only a couple of stalls left in this row, and she knew Epona’s was next. She came to the wooden dividing wall and peeked around the corner.
The sight that met her eyes stopped her heart. There, in front of her, was the object of her girlhood dreams. Weston had taken his shirt off and had tossed it over the rail. His back glistened with sweat. His muscles were taut from exertion. By all things holy, he was magnificent.
Standing beside Epona’s front leg, holding her hoof, with his back to Philippa, gently he picked out muck and stones. He had not yet noticed her. Retreating a step, she was careful to stay hidden in the shadows. She wanted to watch, steal these moments of indiscretion, take in his perfect form, etch this vision in her memory while not alerting him or Epona to her presence.
He dug the pick under the packed dirt until a small clump fell onto the cobbled floor. Within a short amount of time, he was finished. The muscles in his arm tensed as he brought Epona’s hoof gently down and rubbed her leg.
“That’s a good girl,” he cooed.
His gentle murmur struck a chord with Philippa. Her jaw clenched tight, and a slight annoyance began to build. What was wrong with her? She couldn’t possibly be envious of the attention her horse was receiving.
She blinked several times as dawning set in.
Unbelievably, she was jealous of Epona. Absurd. Jealous of a horse. She was supposed to be a widow in mourning, not a swooning adolescent. But this was Weston. Feelings from the past that she’d been trying hard not to remember started to bubble to the surface. I need to get out of here. She had just turned to leave when she heard his deep voice.
“Philippa, what are you doing here?”
She whipped around and crossed her arms. “I could ask you the same thing.” Her tone was unintentionally harsh. She had been caught watching him, was envious of her horse, and didn’t know quite how to react. She did not think she could take his scorn or refusal. She didn’t know why she was treating him thus. Irritated with herself, she began to apologize. “I’m sorry. It’s just…”
“Come here.” The words left his mouth in a slow drawl. It wasn’t a command, more like a gentle caress. She edged closer to Epona, trying to hide her fear and uncertainty. But she wasn’t sure to whom those emotions were directed—Weston or her horse.
“Epona has missed you.” The horse whinnied as if she understood and agreed with Weston’s sentiment.
Philippa had missed her horse too, but she was still afraid. No matter how hard she tried, she could not shake those haunting images her mind had conjured. She could feel the air constrict in her lungs. The wooden stall faded into a haze, her body becoming paralyzed. Hot tears stung her eyes as thoughts of being thrown from her horse and trampled to death clouded her mind. An image of her body slamming onto the hard ground moments before the horse’s hooves met her fragile flesh rushed to the forefront of her imagination. She could almost feel the bones in her body crushed beneath the horse’s heavy weight.
Why couldn’t she control those thoughts?
Everything around her was out of focus, a blur saturated with tears. Muted colors swirled before her eyes. Suddenly, she was pulled forward, her hand being guided, masculine warmth surrounding her, protecting her.
“Philippa, Epona won’t hurt you.” A gentle voice brought her back in slow measures. The moment her hand touched Epona’s smooth, velvety black coat, the world around her came into focus. Weston’s words continued to soothe her. “She won’t hurt you. Epona missed you, Philippa.”
Epona’s head brushed against her, and everything became clearer. Scratching under Epona’s jaw, she leaned against her beautiful horse. It seemed as if they both sighed in relief. The hot tears continued to stream down her cheeks. “I’m so sorry that I neglected you.”
A gentle hand cupped her shoulder. “It’s all right, Philippa. She knows you still love her.”
His words went straight to her heart. The feeling of emptiness that had consumed her for such a long time was slowly dissipating.
“I never stopped loving her.” As the words came out of her mouth, she realized something else, something that she was too afraid to confess. Although Weston had broken her heart once, she’d never stopped loving him. She did not think she could take that sort of refusal again. She had to put a stop to those feelings before she was hurt. It was one thing to let go of the past and start a new chapter in her life, and quite another to subject herself to further heartache.
Dancing Around the Truth has been reissued in a new series with a beautiful new cover!
Buy Link: https://books2read.com/u/4AjRON
About the Author:
Bestselling, award-winning author, Alanna Lucas pens Regency-set historicals filled with romance, adventure, and of course, happily ever afters. When she is not daydreaming of her next travel destination, Alanna can be found researching, spending time with family, tending to her garden, or going for long walks. She makes her home in California with her husband and children, and too many books to count.
Just for the record, you can never have too many handbags or books. And travel is a must.