Here it is, the first peek inside Confessions of a Little Black Gown. I thought with the holidays being over and all of us having to get back to work, I’d extend the season just one more day and give everyone a little treat. Hope you enjoy it!
I’ll set the stage by saying this is a fun scene from Chapter 4. Our hero, Lord Larken is posing as the Duke of Hollindrake’s cousin, Mr. Ryder, in hopes of finding Captain Dashwell who has mysteriously escaped prison. Gee, I wonder who helped Dash escape??? Our heroine, Tally Langley suspects Mr. Ryder, a vicar of all things, isn’t who he says he is, and has donned the black gown to see if she can get him to slip up. Let’s see how she does when her dog Brutus has run into a vast maze at night and Tally insists our hero go after her precious pet:
A Sneak Peek inside Confessions of a Little Black Gown:
While he could return to the house and send the gardener after her, which is most likely what the duchess would expect Mr. Ryder to do, his host was another matter. Hollindrake’s expectations of him would be more exacting, for he knew exactly who Larken was.
And he’d expect Larken to do the honorable thing.
Larken’s jaw worked back and forth. If it was any other man than Hollindrake . . . for the duke was one of the few men in the ton who didn’t look askance at him. Avoid his company. Then again, the duke had served in the field under Wellington and shared, Larken guessed, many of the same experiences war left upon a man’s heart and memories.
They might not have ever spoken of it, but they didn’t have to. Each knew. And would expect nothing less than doing the right thing from the other. The honorable thing.
Shaking aside his annoyance as he stepped inside the maze, Larken set to work. For wasn’t lurking about and finding unsuspecting people what he did best, as he had in Madrid or Marseilles?
Yes, and this time he wasn’t even expected to kill anyone, though Miss Langley was certainly stretching his patience.
Taking a deep breath, he closed off the regular sounds of the evening, the hum of the insects, the whisper of a light summer wind, the lowing of a beast in a far meadow, and Brutus’s barking. Finally he settled in on the sound of Miss Langley’s determined tread, trying to discern exactly where she was, recalling the twists and turns he’d memorized from his bedchamber window earlier while trying to avoid going down to dinner.
As he marched forth, he made his list. First, he’d find her (and to hell with her little dog) and drag her back inside. Then, he’d deposit her in the care of her sister and brother-in-law and make his excuses to escape them all. Finally, he’d find Dashwell, even if it took him all night.
Then as if the Fates had ruled in his favor, he heard her gasp and tumble over.
“Bother!” came her exasperated sputter, and he couldn’t help himself, he grinned.
That was all he needed, for as he listened, he saw her, head over heels in the grass, and knew without a doubt which direction he needed to go–for she hadn’t stopped muttering her complaints.
He wound through the hedges, following the paths the best he could, listening for her complaints and threats—directed toward Brutus, thankfully—each one like a bread crumb trail, until he thought he was very close. “Miss Langley?” he said as calmly as he assumed a vicar might.
“Mr. Ryder!” she huffed from the other side of the hedge, as she tip-toed along. “Do be quiet. I’m trying to find Brutus.”
“You would do well just to leave him out here overnight—”
“Overnight? Are you mad?”
Larken glanced up at the moon above and shook his head. “I wager by morning you’d find a contrite and well-behaved dog awaiting you.”
There was an aggrieved harrumph from the other side of the thorns, and still she continued along. Stubborn chit. “I do wish you would be still,” she whispered. “I think I know exactly where he is.”
Oh, yes, now she was the expert in these matters. Then again, he had a good reckoning where the mutt was as well—so could anyone within the Hollindrake park lands given the little beast’s growling and yapping–Brutus was far deeper into the enormous maze than Larken wanted to venture. He had no intention of spending the night hunting for a spoiled dog or the exit when he had more important matters to attend to . . .
Yet this time, when he closed his eyes and tried to recall the pattern of the maze, all he saw was her.
Miss Langley. In that dress of moonlight and shadows. With her blond hair curling down in reckless tangles from its pins, her arms outstretched, her lips parted.
There were no more secrets between them, just the two of them on this moonlit night, and no boundaries, no rules to keep them apart.
Come to me . . . she’d whisper through the hedges. Take me, my lord . . . if you can catch me.
“Oh, heavens, no!” she gasped.
Larken’s eyes sprang open. Though his blood pounded in his ears, the very real sound of Brutus growling as if he’d caught the largest rat in England wiped away the last vestiges of any thought of passion.
“Do you hear that? He’s in terrible trouble,” she said. “We must save poor Brutus!”
Poor Brutus, indeed! When this assignment is over, Larken, he promised himself, you are going to take a long, holiday in some quiet seaside resort. That or spend a week in London’s most expensive brothel and get every recollection of this assignment out of your memory . . . Every thought of her.
He shuddered and contained the very rash and thorough curse that nearly sprang to his lips.
Vicars, as he recalled, were not prone to using profanity or even the occasional obscenity.
No wonder they always looked so miserable.
“Oh, heavens, I do hope he hasn’t caught anything too filthy. But at least I know exactly where he is,” came Miss Langley’s excited whisper. “Stay here while I go get him.”
This time he couldn’t stop himself. He cursed as he listened to her take flight yet again.
And Temple has the nerve to call me rash.
He chased after her, turning one corner, then another until he was ahead of her. He wheeled sharply around the corner of a hedge, thinking he was enough ahead of her to cut her off.
Miss Langley was closer than he thought and she ran straight into him, their collision complete.
In so many ways.
She barreled into his chest, and they fell together, her atop him, her hands grappling to catch hold of his lapels.
And onto the grass they tumbled, a tangle of limbs, one hand winding around her and pulling her closer, even as his other reached out to brace their fall. And while he shielded her from the worst of it, he found himself branded with every curve of her body, the fullness of her breasts, the feminine line of her hips, her long legs wound with his, her breath hot and indignant upon his neck.
It happened in the blink of an eye, but from that moment on, Larken knew he’d be marked by this troublesome bit of velvet, this woman who confounded him at every turn.
Everything around them faded into the background. There was only them. It was a magical sort of thing, one that left a practical man like Larken utterly confounded.
And when she looked back at him, her fingers still wound into his jacket, her eyes widened with the same passion, he’d wager, that was enveloping in him. Her lips opened to say something, but the words escaped her and instead, they parted only enough to form the sort of invitation that needed no explanation.
She glanced at him warily, but the curious desire in her eyes caught him, lured him closer. Made him forget that he was supposed to be Hollindrake’s eunuch of a cousin, not the rake this lady brought out in him.
Kiss me, her half parted lips seemed to whisper. Kiss me now before this moment ends.
Confessions of a Little Black Dress is available to pre-order on Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble and at Books-a-Million.