Last week I promised more information on two upcoming releases.
Here’s the first, The Impetuous Heiress.
This is the third novella in The Upstart Christmas Brides series, and was previously published in the Christmas Kisses Regency Holiday Romance Anthology.
Can a dashing baron uncover his neglected fiancée’s secrets before he loses her altogether?
When dashing Fitzhenry Lovelace escorted sensible Mary Elizabeth Parker to a once in a lifetime meeting with her estranged grandfather, an unexpected romance bloomed that had nothing to do with her grandfather’s immense wealth. Throwing caution to the wind, sensible Miss Parker said a wholehearted yes to Fitz. But before they could finalize their nuptials, a family emergency called Fitz away. Then he stopped answering her letters.
Months pass and the Yuletide arrives, and Miss Parker faces the fact that her impetuosity has led to a Dilemma. Then word arrives that her ruthless mother and stepfather, suspecting a possible inheritance, are descending upon her with a horrid replacement for Fitz in tow. Miss Parker bolts, but her meddling cousin plans an unexpected stop on the journey.
Having made a hash of his finances and neglected the lady he still loves, Fitz, now Lord Loughton, realizes he must make amends with the woman he still loves. But before he can act, Miss Parker arrives on his doorstep. He soon senses more is amiss with her than just his careless courtship. Can he uncover her secrets and win her back before he loses her altogether?
A rich carpet ran the length of the corridor, stretched between the paneled and wainscoted walls, and oil lamps hung at intervals between paintings of landscapes. It was altogether far more elegant than any home she’d ever lived in, and there had been many over the course of Papa’s military career. Her natural habitat was far less refined than this, but she was more comfortable there.
Mrs. Turner bent and picked up something from the floor, tsking over it. She tucked the object into the deep pocket of her smock.
“Was that a ball?” Mel asked.
“I do beg your pardon, Miss. The children sometimes play bowls here.”
Elegant and yet not altogether formal. That last bit made her feel less of a fish out of water.
They reached the stair landing and Mel spotted the long kissing bough hanging there.
“The girls put that up, Miss Cassandra and Miss Nancy, and their guest, Miss Cartwright. You’ll meet Miss Nancy at dinner. The two older girls are away visiting some of Miss Cartwright’s relations for a few days.”
Mel paused to stare up at the massive clump of greenery studded with white berries. It was a fanciful item, reminding her of a Yuletide party in Colchester where three of Papa’s officers had kissed her and then proposed, one after the other. On the same night. The nodcocks had all been deep in their cups, and of course, she’d refused them and refrained from telling Papa. Had he known he would’ve packed them off to the Peninsula that very night.
“Your room is just here.” The housekeeper pointed down the continuing corridor. “Second door on the right.”
The nudge was subtle, and politely done, and it jarred Mel out of her woolgathering. They were short-staffed and Mrs. Turner must be terribly busy.
“We’ve no maid to spare, so I’ll help you out of your gown if you’d like to rest now.”
Quiet footsteps behind them made them both turn. Mel’s heart plummeted and rose again with a fresh wave of the nausea she thought she’d conquered.
A gentleman had arrived on the landing, and now stood directly under the mistletoe. His blue eyes locked with hers and his smile slowly faded to shock and then something like dismay, or perhaps even horror.
Her stomach made a great leaping somersault and air whooshed from her as she remembered: resting her cheek against his bare shoulder, raking her fingers through the thick tousled hair, and the touch of his lips, so soft yet commanding…
But he wasn’t happy to see her. Of course, he wasn’t. No more so than she was to see him. Fitz had frozen in place under the mistletoe, paralyzed, shocked, utterly devoid of his usual charm. Or perhaps the charm had been a drawing room façade.
A bedroom façade as well.
She swallowed again. Very well, she would break the silence. “Mr. Love, er, I suppose it is Lord Loughton now.” She took a step closer.
Not too close. He was, after all, standing under the mistletoe. Though she had little to worry about. She’d rendered him speechless; any closer and he might actually recoil.
Anger sparked in her. “You are surprised to see me. I am surprised to be here, as well.”
“Not…not at all, I—”
“No.” She shook her head. “Don’t pretend you’re not surprised. You didn’t know either that your mother invited my cousin to visit on our way to…”
A wave of nausea swelled in her and she gulped it back. And in fact, he didn’t need to know her destination. The future they’d planned had been no more than a passing whim on his part and wishful thinking on hers.
“I’m sorry to have intruded. I’ve informed your mother already.” The tea bubbled inside her. She tasted the biscuit she’d nibbled. “I release you from any promises made. From our so-called engagement.” Her cheeks flamed. Oh, Hades, she must make quick work of this. “You are free to marry… oh.” Hand pressed to her mouth, she hurried to the door the housekeeper had pointed to, rushing around the servant, desperately seeking a basin of some sort.
She found her way to the screened washstand and its china basin and bent over, retching, hands braced on the table.
Strong arms came around her and the air filled with the scent of horses and a man’s soap.
Release Day is March 1, 2022…
Just around the corner, so preorder your copy today for only 99 cents:
Universal buy link: https://books2read.com/u/3yKOzB