A rake with a code of honor.
The scandal of the season…
And a very inconvenient marriage.
Sometimes it’s easy to find excerpts to post. Sometimes it’s really, really hard. Apart from the one on my website (which I love but won’t repeat now, as you can click here to read it), it’s been awfully difficult finding the right ones for To Kiss a Rake.
But anyway, I’ll put two of them here. The first one takes place a little while after the excerpt on the website. Melinda is concussed and unwell, and Miles hopes to sneak her into his house unseen. Good luck to him!
Ten minutes later, the coach drew up in front of Miles’s house. Melinda opened heavy-lidded eyes and groaned.
“We’ve arrived,” Miles said. “Now all we have to do is get you indoors without being seen.”
She frowned. “Where are we?”
Was that a frown of recognition? So far, he saw no sign of terror or disgust. If only he could get her safely indoors before she realized into whose clutches she’d fallen.
“This is my house,” he said. “Mrs. Timms, my housekeeper, will take care of you. She’s a highly respectable woman, so you needn’t worry.” He let the window down, wishing it weren’t so light already, wishing he carried a key to the door at the foot of the area stairs, so it might appear that he escorted a maidservant, not a lady. Dallying with one’s servants was frowned upon, but even the highest sticklers wouldn’t expect him to marry one of them.
He handed his front door key to the coachman. “Open the door. I have to get her inside quickly.”
Tradesmen’s boys had already begun their morning errands. Down the street, one of Miles’s neighbors wove drunkenly home after a night of debauchery—in the other direction, thank God. “Your red hair is too recognizable,” he told Melinda. “Can you put up your hood and hurry straight into the house?” He opened the carriage door, hopped out, and put down the steps.
She fumbled with the hood, then stopped short with a tiny sound of distress. Impatient, he reached out to help her, but drew back. He mustn’t do anything to make her mistrust him more than she already did. More than she already would when she realized who he was.
He caught her, half in and half out. She retched once, twice, and was violently ill onto the pavement. She moaned again. The moan trailed away into a whimper, then she hung still.
Miles drew her into his arms. Her head lolled against his shoulder. She had swooned. He tried to pull the hood over her hair, but it didn’t cover enough.
“Somebody had too much to drink?” Miles’s cousin and heir, Colin Warren, appeared from behind the coach. That was all right; he could trust Colin.
“Help me, will you? Cover the girl with this blanket.”
Colin goggled. “But that’s—”
“The lovely, innocent Melinda Starling.” A tall, thin fellow called Toup, one of Colin’s more dissolute associates, came into view. “And that well-known ravisher of gently-bred maidens, Lord Garrison.”
Bloody hell. If he’d had a free hand to plant Toup a facer… But it didn’t matter what anyone said about Miles Garrison. It had already been said, and said so often, that it blew away like so much chaff in the wind. Melinda’s reputation was what mattered now. Miles gave up hope of escaping this predicament lightly. He resigned himself to the worst.
Toup leered. “She’s not so innocent any more, I’ll wager.”
“If you value your life,” Miles growled, “you’ll watch what you say about my betrothed.”
Toup gaped at him, muttering an apology. He left in a hurry, agog with the news, while Colin followed Miles into the house. “You’re going to marry Melinda Starling?”
“Yes, damn you.” Before Colin could start asking questions Miles wasn’t quite ready to answer, he said, “Go wake up Mrs. Timms. Tell her I’m putting Miss Starling in the best guest chamber. Tell her she’s had a blow to the head and been unwell…” When Colin still stared at him in astonishment, he said, “Just do it, will you?” and turned for the stairs.
Yikes! Poor Miles has no choice but to ask Melinda to marry him. What a most inconvenient marriage it is! And yet…perhaps not. Here is a snippet from quite a bit later on:
Miles guided the greys between two wagons. “Putting on an act, pretending to be madly in love, worked well enough in a pinch, but now that we’re married, we should take a different approach.”
“Which is?” asked Melinda.
“We should get to know one another,” he said.
She huffed. “Obviously we’ll do that.”
“By means of flirtation.”
That delicate flush arose in her cheeks again. “I beg your pardon?”
“Think about it. If I were courting you, we would flirt.” He paused to let her absorb the notion. “Wouldn’t we? You must have flirted with many men.” His heart beat painfully at the thought that she might continue to do so.
“Only if I knew they weren’t serious,” she said. “The moment they got that intent expression in their eyes, as if they wanted to steal a-a kiss…” Her eyes widened. For a hushed second, her gaze hovered on his lips. Abruptly, she looked away. “I wouldn’t let them.”
“Ah.” He suppressed a smile. “That privilege fell to me, and I seized it most unfairly.”
She took a deep breath. Did she realize how it made her bosom rise and fall? “And if it seemed they were on the verge of making an offer, I stopped flirting straightaway.”
“But that was then and this is now, and you’re already married to me. Think of the next few days as our courtship. We’ll drive in the Park, we’ll perhaps have ices at Gunter’s, we may even get invited to a ball or two, and…”
“We’ll flirt.” She glanced at him from under her lashes—at his mouth again—and away.
“But it will be much different from before. Instead of stopping at the first sign of serious intent, you’ll carry on as if your interest is as genuine as mine.”
She chewed on her bottom lip. She toyed with the fingertips of her glove.
“As if it’s leading somewhere,” he said.
Melinda knew perfectly well that he meant the consummation of their marriage, but why must she blush so easily? She’d mentioned that kiss, and all of a sudden she couldn’t keep her eyes away from his mouth. “Which it is,” she said gruffly. There wasn’t much room on the seat of the curricle—enough for the two of them, but very little space between. She’d never flirted with a man in such close proximity before. It certainly added spice to the experience.
“So there’s no reason to shy away or give me the cold shoulder or whatever you did to those fellows,” he said. “You may indulge your natural enjoyment of flirtation as much as you like.”
She bristled at that. “Who told you I enjoy flirting?” Then she remembered. “Is it something Lord Bottleford said? He was forever reprimanding me for being too friendly, and saying a lady should maintain a proper distance at all times. To him, that meant ignoring everyone else and listening enraptured while he prosed on and on. And on.” She rolled her eyes. “And on.”
His lips twitched. His eyes gleamed. Something inside her did a strange little flip.
She pulled herself together. He disconcerted her without even saying a word. “Who, then? My grandmother?”
“No, I didn’t mean you in particular, but rather one’s natural tendency to flirt with members of the opposite sex. It’s quite primitive, I think—rather like mating rituals of birds or beasts.”
Primitive. What an odd word to use of flirting, which had always seemed a highly civilized behavior until now. And yet…how very enticing.
She wanted him to kiss her again.
That’s it for now. Here are some buy links:
And the official blurb:
WHEN A LADY IS ABDUCTED BY MISTAKE…
Melinda Starling doesn’t let ladylike behavior get in the way of true love. She’s secretly helping with an elopement, when she’s tossed into the waiting coach and driven away by a notorious rake.
REVENGE REALLY DOESN’T PAY.
Miles Warren, Lord Garrison, comes from a family of libertines, and he’s the worst of them all—or so society believes. When Miles helps a friend to run away with an heiress, it’s an entertaining way to revenge himself on one of the gossips who slandered him.
Except that he drives off with the wrong woman…and as if that wasn’t scandalous enough, he can’t resist stealing a kiss.