A warm Casa welcome to regency romance author Jayne Fresina, whose new book, Lady Mercy Danforthe Flirts with Scandal, hits stores this month!
I'm so pleased, proud and grateful to be here with my third Sourcebooks Casablanca release, LADY MERCY DANFORTHE FLIRTS WITH SCANDAL. This time around I've brought you a little taste of the fun about to ensure between Rafe Hartley and Lady Mercy. These two characters have grown up over the course of the series and now, at last, they get their own story.
Readers briefly met Rafe in the first book of the Sydney Dovedale series, when he was a cheeky, street-wise ragamuffin, already very much a survivor. In book two, Lady Mercy made her appearance as a naughty, opinionated, extremely bossy little girl with a crush on Rafe's father, James Hartley. Book three begins twelve years later. It's time for stubborn, "chip-on-the shoulder" Rafe and Lady Mercy "frosty drawers" to face a few facts, including why, exactly, they've been fighting their mutual attraction for a dozen years.
Well, most of the time they've fought it. Except for once, five years ago, when they ran away. Together. And got married.
Yep, the prim and very proper earl's daughter and the salty-mouthed farmer once eloped in a moment of sheer madness. It lasted for all of three hours, until her brother, the Earl of Everscham, caught up with them.
Don't tell a soul, because they never have either.
Of course, an earl's daughter and a farmer should never have met socially, let alone kissed. But fate brought these two to Sydney Dovedale when they were children, circumstances and mutual friends drew them together and somehow they could never let go again. For Lady Mercy, their marriage is the one dirty secret that spoils her otherwise spotless past and she's afraid that Rafe Hartley, who nearly tempted her into bed once before, could tempt her into scandal again. Knowing him, he will get it into his thick head that she still owes him a wedding night.
They might not be able to agree on which of them was to blame for that marriage misadventure, but they have agreed to keep it a secret. For the past five years they've done their best to forget what happened. Deep down inside, however, they both know this is unfinished business.
An annulment, as Rafe says, is just fancy words on a paper. And he doesn't much care for those.
Well, I hope he would like the words I put on paper. I don't think he could take much issue with them, for I did make sure I got his side of the story too!
Here's an excerpt from LADY MERCY DANFORTHE FLIRTS WITH SCANDAL. (Thanks for reading!)
Why did she have to taste so sweet? Smell so damn good? No woman this mouthy and stubborn should feel so soft and tempting. It wasn’t right. Wasn’t fair.
He let his knuckles brush her silken ringlets, but he wouldn’t unfurl his fingers. That would be too dangerous. Putting his hands around her waist had been a daring move. Not many men would venture into that treacherous territory with this haughty madam, but he couldn’t let her leave with the last word. Rafe decided to kiss her until she lost the will to argue. But he knew that if he touched her again the way he wanted to, he would forget himself completely. Her fingers, meanwhile, seemed to have no such quandary, no such reserve. They clung to his shirt and then spread, boldly sweeping to his shoulders, then his neck, finally losing their tips in his hair.
Groaning softly, he leaned his body to hers, devoured her lips, ate the shocked sounds off her tongue. His arousal sprang to life, aching with raw need. The yearning was more than he could bear. Yes, he now knew for sure what he wanted from life. The one thing too far out of his reach.
Suddenly she pressed her hands to his chest, gentle but insistent.
Their lips parted enough to allow speech, even if it was of a slightly hoarse variety.
“How dare you?” she gasped.
“How dare you?” he demanded, his voice gruff, terse. More so than he meant it to be. He wanted to touch her, put his hands all over her. Instead, he wrapped his fingers around the stair railings again, keeping her trapped.
She lowered her lashes. His body still touched hers, and he felt every breath squeezing through her in a halting pattern of shattered sighs. At last he’d unsettled the wench. There were few things more satisfying in life than getting her to bite. Despite her attempts to retain control, she never could resist the bait he dangled, and she’d get caught on it for a while, until she wriggled free. He wished he could reel her all the way in.
Rafe leaned closer, wanting more, but she ducked under his arm to escape. “That’s quite enough of that, young man. You know where a kiss took us once before.”
Yes, he mused, all the way to Gretna Green in the middle of the night. One heated, forbidden kiss had been all it took to turn his world on its head five and a half years ago.
Now she was aloof again as she retrieved her bonnet from the flagstones and looked for her gloves. Back to the ice princess.
“Was that meant to be your apology for the bride you cost me?” he demanded, arms at his sides, hands trying to stay out of trouble. “Twice.”
“I did not come here to apologize. Only to set you straight.”
Oh, she’d set him straight, all right. Straight, tall, and hard as marble. Now, apparently, the rotten tease was leaving. Again.
While she tied the ribbons of her bonnet, she lectured him about making sure he ate some food and got some sleep, but he noticed she couldn’t look him in the eye. “I’ll come back tomorrow, when you are in a more sensible frame of mind, and help you write a letter to Molly.”
He scowled. “She can write to me. She’s the one who left.”
“You’ll do as I say, Rafe Hartley, and we’ll have no more of this nonsense.”
“You don’t own me, woman.”
“Oh, yes, I—” She stopped short. “I know what’s best for you and for Molly. I came here for a wedding, and there will be one.”
The bossy wench didn’t like her plans spoiled, or things falling out of place. Years ago, at his uncle’s harvest party when they were children, he’d watched Mercy spend half an hour organizing a pyramid of apples on the sideboard, patiently picking up each one that fell, polishing it again on her silk kerchief, and setting it carefully back in place. Naturally, he’d waited until she was done, then walked by and removed an apple from the bottom layer, causing her neat arrangement to tumble all over the room. He’d received a slap ’round the ear for that from his uncle, but, as he’d protested at the time, it was her fault for tempting him with the opportunity.
She’d begun pulling on her gloves, but her fingers fumbled and, if he was not mistaken, her hands trembled. Even so, she kept her tone curt. “You see, this is why you need my help.” One of her gloves fell to the floor because she was too rattled to keep control of it. “You’re a male,” she added, stooping to retrieve the fallen item, “oblivious.”
Rafe wanted to be annoyed but couldn’t; he was too amused by her funny, nervous little gestures as she tried to ignore what just happened between them, tried to maintain her customary frosty edge. “And you’re a woman. Fickle.”
She dismissed the statement with a shake of her head and a wrinkle of that prim nose. Her lips appeared darker, fuller, as if his kiss had stung them.
Mayhap he’d test the waters a little further.
Big thanks to Jayne for joining us today! To enter to win one of two copies of Lady Mercy Danforthe Flirts with Scandal, leave a question for Jayne to answer, or tell us about your own childhood sweetheart in the comments! (US and Canada mailing addresses only; please leave an email address so we can contact you easily; winners will be announced Monday morning in the comments and notified via email).
LADY MERCY DANFORTHE FLIRTS WITH SCANDAL BY JAYNE FRESINA – IN STORES JUNE 2013
When a Perfectly Proper Lady...
Lady Mercy Danforthe always has a plan. It's what makes her such a successful matchmaker, and why she's obligated to spend a great deal of time generously organizing the lives of her friends and family. But there's one man beyond her help. One man whose recklessness she can't rein in; whose chaos she can't contain. Her ex-husband, Rafe Hartley. Her one—and only!—mistake.
Flirts with a Reckless Rogue...
Rafe has never forgiven Mercy for running out on him. Their hastily annulled marriage may have one lasted three hours, but that doesn't mean he needs her help finding a proper wife. Someone needs to teach little Miss Know-It-All a lesson about keeping her adorably freckled nose out of other people's business. And it just so happens that Mercy "Silky Drawers" Danforthe still owes him a wedding night...
A Scandal's Never Far Behind!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jayne Fresina sprouted up in England, the youngest in a family of four girls. Entertained by her father’s colorful tales of growing up in the countryside, and surrounded by opinionated sisters— all with far more exciting lives than hers— she’s always had inspiration for her beleaguered heroes and unstoppable heroines. Look for the fourth book in the Sydney Dovedale Series, Miss Molly Robbins Designs a Seduction in March 2014. For more information, please visit www.jaynefresina.com.
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