I'm totally exhausted, which is definitely the wrong way to be on release day. Pompeia, the heroine of my new release, was a joy to write, and I was hoping to post something more than just an excerpt, but I'm falling asleep as I type... so here goes.
Harlequin Historicals publishes two short e-novellas in the Undone series each month, and this month one of them is mine! It's a Regency romance called The Wanton Governess. I simply love the cover, because it conveys the heroine's nature so well. Here's a brief blurb:
In exchange for a few days’ shelter, dismissed governess Pompeia Grant pretends to be the wife of a man who spurned her years earlier. James Carling, the man in question, is in America, so he’ll never know.
And it’s only for a couple of days.
And she’s helping a friend, so she’s doing a good deed…
But the next day, James comes home.
And now the excerpt:
“What in hell’s name were you thinking?”
At this furious bellow all the ladies froze, then gaped. “Who was that?” Clarabelle faltered.
Pompeia rose in horror. She would know that enraged shout anywhere. She had heard it only once before, and she would never forget it.
But this time it was surely directed at her.
Footsteps hammered on the staircase, and her heart abandoned itself to terror. She had to run. She had to flee.
No! She had to do something.
“James, wait!” That was Sally’s voice. “Please, just let me—”
“James wasn’t supposed to be home yet,” Clarabelle moaned, and meanwhile the footsteps pounded down the passage.
Think, think! There must be some way to avert disaster. Not to Pompeia herself—that was impossible—but to Sally, to whom the vouchers for Almack’s meant so much. But there wasn’t time, because it would mean convincing Sir James to talk to her privately before exposing the deception. It would mean making him want to. Inexorably, the footsteps approached the drawing-room doorway.
I know how to make a man want to, said the Wanton Within.
Not that! Pompeia’s rational mind screamed. Not now! But after a second’s furious pause, she realized that for once the Wanton might be right. She got her feet moving and went straight for the door.
He came into the room like a thunderstorm. It was James indeed, older, broader and even more beautiful than four years ago, from his dark, wavy hair and grey eyes to his well-worn leathers. The Wanton Within applauded, but mostly, Pompeia cringed. She closed her eyes, desperate to compose herself. A babble of voices roiled around her, but she was poised only for his, for the fatal words exposing her as a fraud, commanding her to leave.
Open your eyes, said the Wanton. Look at him.
She did. He stared back, the anger slowly draining from his features, surprise taking its place.
That’s a good start, the Wanton said. Now, let your eyes do the talking. But Pompeia had done that once before to Sir James—accompanied by words that permitted no misunderstanding—and received a stinging refusal.
That was then; this is now, the Wanton insisted. Smile, for pity’s sake!
Pompeia felt her lips tremble into a travesty of a welcome.
Sir James’s mouth quirked the tiniest bit in response. “Pompeia,” he said.
She forced her tongue into motion. “J-James.”
“Unbelievable.” Slowly, he shook his head. “Oh, Pompeia.” His eyes rested on her, warmly approving. No, wickedly so.
This was astonishingly different from the last time they’d met, when the chill in those eyes had made even the Wanton cower. No, particularly the Wanton, who had gone into hiding for quite a while after that.
What had happened to change things?
Ah. James did know about Pompeia’s disgrace, just as she’d assumed. And, in the way of all men, he anticipated that she would willingly be just as disgraceful with him.
Yes! Do let’s! Just this once! the Wanton said.
The Wanton Governess is available at e-Harlequin, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Books-a-Million and possibly other places where e-books are sold. So is this month's other Historical Undone, Unlacing the Lady in Waiting by Amanda McCabe, which takes place during the Renaissance in Scotland.
Happy reading to all! (And to all a good night!)
BULLETIN!! Amanda McCabe just sent me her cover art and blurb, so here goes:
Scotland, 1561Lady Helen Frasier thought Highlanders were barbaric—until she shared an intimate encounter with her betrothed, James McKerrigan. Though their families were enemies, the Highland lord roused a surprising passion in Helen. Then she was chosen to become a lady in waiting to the queen, and their engagement was broken.
Now, Helen has returned to Scotland and her jilted lover, who has vowed to take revenge and claim his promised bride....