Available now from Blue Castle Publishing
How To Make Two Lovers Of Friends
His true love has his heart…but can he win hers?
Bother! was Margaret’s unspoken thought as the train’s convulsive jerk flung her forward. Futilely, she thrust out her hands to arrest her fall, only to find herself caught and securely held against a solid masculine chest. The collision jarred the breath from her all the same, and she grasped Gervase’s upper arms, trying to steady them both. He regained his footing almost at once—not for nothing did he have reflexes like a cat—and glanced down at her.
Still too winded to speak, Margaret looked up at him, into the face she’d known since childhood . . . and saw someone who was almost a stranger looking back at her. The grey eyes had lost their habitual coolness, were alive with concern—and something that would have taken her breath away if she hadn’t already lost it. At that same moment, she became conscious of the strength of him, the hard contours of the torso against which her own body was pressed. And the scent of him, fresh linen, clean male skin, overlaid with a hint of some crisp cologne. Lemon—or perhaps, bergamot? Different from the bay rum Alex had used, but just as pleasant in its way. She found herself breathing it in, breathing him in, as they stood locked together in their unexpected embrace.
Afterwards, she could not have said who moved first, but between one breath and the next, his lips were warm on hers, their touch light and seeking. Closing her eyes, she leaned into the kiss, seeking something as well . . . though she could not have said what. Something was stirring deep inside of her, something she hadn’t felt in almost two years.
He pulled back, his eyes staring dazedly into hers, and then the curtain descended, leaving them cool and opaque once again. “For luck,” he explained, and was she imagining the trace of huskiness in his voice? “We’re about to spend Christmas with my family, after all.”
Margaret moistened her lips. “Gervase . . .” Her own voice was a mere thread.
A corner of that sardonic mouth hooked up. “Didn’t you tell me that spontaneity was not a sin?” he inquired lightly. “Bon courage, ma belle amie. The Lyons den awaits.”
She pulled a face and managed to rally. If, after all, he meant to make light of what had just happened, she could do no less. “Two puns in one utterance? For shame, sir!”
“Blame it on the circumstances, which are dire enough to warrant puns,” he retorted. “Now, as this infernal train appears to have stopped moving, shall we descend?”
The train might have stopped, but Margaret’s legs felt as unsteady as though it were still hurtling along the tracks at top speed. She took a breath and an extra moment to compose herself before replying. “Yes. Time we were off.”
Gervase dropped his arms, and she experienced a feeling almost of loss as he moved away from her and turned to tackle the carriage door. Surreptitiously, she moistened her lips again, recalling the taste and feel of that kiss. Not casual, more than friendly. Too affectionate to be resented, but too . . . intimate to be ignored—or dismissed. Or was she reading too much into it? All she knew for certain was that the kiss had shaken her to the core—and possibly Gervase as well.
The door opened, and the wind gusted in, cutting through the coach’s warmth like a blade of ice. Grimacing, Gervase stepped back. “The air bites shrewdly. It is very cold . . .”
“Nothing like stating the obvious,” Margaret observed tartly, shivering as she drew her cape around her. “Let’s go—before we both change our minds and run off to holiday in France or sunny Spain!”
“Too late,” he reported, peering out onto the platform. “Unless I’m much mistaken, there’s a man in Whitborough livery, waiting for us.”
A Holiday Surprise
He had his future all planned out–until she turned it upside down…
They found a much narrower portion of the stream and crossed it without mishap, then started back the way they had come. Lady Madeline set a leisurely pace—giving the mare a chance to recover, Hugo realized and liked her the better for it. She might not care for sport as much as he did, but she knew how to treat her cattle.
She glanced at him through the veil of her riding-hat. “I can’t say I much regret missing the hunt, but I am sorry to have taken you away from it, Lord Saxby.”
“Not at all.” And much to his surprise, Hugo found he meant it. After all, what was one hunt, when he’d ridden in so many?
My Dear Charley: Never before have I left a hunt before the kill…
No doubt she’d laugh herself into stitches at that one! And then avidly demand to know the reason why.
“It’s kind of you to say so, Lord Saxby,” the reason why observed. “And chivalrous of to offer your escort. Not many men would be so willing to forego a day’s sport for such a reason. You ride splendidly, by the way—just as well as my brothers.”
“Thank you. Having seen your brothers in the field, I realize this is no mean compliment. Lord Reginald, especially, rides like one born on horseback.”
“Oh, Reg is practically a centaur!” she exclaimed, smiling. “He means to join a cavalry regiment once he’s finished at university.”
“He appears well-suited to it. I once dreamed of joining the army, but an heir’s place is at home—or so I was told.” Especially after one’s father suffers a crippling accident. “So now I chase foxes instead of ‘foes of England,’” Hugo added with a self-deprecating shrug.
She made a sympathetic moue. “Being the eldest isn’t always an unmitigated blessing, is it? Everyone expects you to be the responsible one.”
“Ah. I’d forgot you and Denforth were twins. You were born first?”
“Ten minutes earlier, though sometimes it feels like ten years,” she added, with a rueful little grimace. “And after today, it will almost certainly feel like twenty! My own fault—I always forget how punishing the pace can be in a hunt!”
“I gather you’re not exactly an enthusiast, Lady Madeline?”
She flashed him a half-guilty smile. “Oh, I enjoy a good ride in the country, but I confess it’s a matter of indifference to me whether or not we take a fox. Half the time, I’m quite happy to see it live to run another day. Heresy, I know!”
“The veriest blasphemy,” Hugo agreed, grinning. “But your secret is safe with me, I assure you. So, what are your preferred activities?”
“Reading, dancing, and I have—well, something of a passion for the theatre.”
“Seeing the latest plays, you mean?”
“Oh, certainly, but not just that. Putting on plays as well. Amateur theatricals,” she explained. “And quite decent ones, if I do say so myself, with family and friends taking part. I suspect most people have a bit of frustrated actor in them. Denforth Castle has a salon that was made over into a private theatre years ago. So I couldn’t possibly let it go to waste, and we’ve acquired some decent scenery and a wardrobe full of costumes too!”
“What plays do you put on?” Hugo asked, intrigued. He liked the theater well enough, but to judge from the light in her eyes, Lady Madeline was indeed passionate about it.
“Shakespeare, mostly, though we’ve also done a few French comedies to please Maman. We did A Midsummer Night’s Dream last Whitsun.” Lady Madeline smiled at the memory, her changeable eyes warming and her full lips curving; Hugo felt his heart give a curious stutter in his chest. “Our party was smaller than it is now, but we contrived nicely in spite of it all.
“I persuaded Gervase, Alasdair, Margaret, and Elaine to be the four Athenians—they were the perfect age for it, and they play well against each other, though Ger balked at first, because he thought the lovers were too silly. He was very conscious of his dignity.” Her lips quirked. “He still is, though perhaps a bit less stiff-necked about it now.”
“Was Miss Christabel your Titania, by any chance?”
She shook her head. “Christabel is lovely to look at and she moves beautifully, but she has a memory like a sieve when it comes to recitation. She can’t be trusted with any speech longer than a few lines, and sometimes not even then. I cast her as Peaseblossom, who has only to say ‘Ready.’ And for far too many rehearsals, she wasn’t.”
Hugo stifled a laugh. Lady Madeline’s tongue was as sharp as her wit—and yet there was no malice in her assessment of her friend’s abilities, or lack thereof. She was candid, even incisive, but not unkind. “How did you manage?”
“Her sister Olivia—our Hippolyta—took her in hand, fortunately and she had her lines down for the performance. I ended up playing Titania to Hal’s Oberon, and Reg was Theseus.”
Lady Madeline as the fairy queen. Hugo suspected she’d been enchanting in the part: elegant and regal, but with a touch of vulnerability; Titania did have her gentler moments. “And your Puck? That can be a hard role to play.”
Her eyes took on a reminiscent gleam. “Oh, we’d a stroke of luck there! The Middleton boys brought along a friend of a friend—a Rufus Godolphin. He was very good—playing the part seemed to come naturally to him. I’m rather sorry he didn’t come to this house party, but he’s apparently a hard man to pin down. Pity.”
“I take it you mean to stage a play this time too?” Hugo inquired.
She nodded. “Scenes from Romeo and Juliet—partly to help Juliana. Her governess, Miss Withersedge, is teaching it to her now, and she’s finding it sadly dull. But seeing Romeo and Juliet put on, and taking part might change Juliana’s mind. I do wish Mr. Joliffe hadn’t retired,” she added wistfully. “He was our tutor until two years ago—and he was wonderful when it came to plays and poetry.”
“Lady Juliana seems a little young to play the lead.”
“Oh, I have Elaine or Margaret in mind for that, but Juliana could still be a page or a lady in waiting. Same with Jason and the other children—we always try to include them in some way. Christabel can be Rosaline, so she won’t have to memorize anything. And Hal wants to play Mercutio—he claims it’s the only decent male role.”
“It’s certainly among the liveliest. Do you mean to have Lord Reginald as Tybalt?”
“Serve them both right if I did!” their sister retorted. “I’ve noticed that Romeo and Juliet seems quite popular with young men—mainly because of all the duels!”
Hugo chuckled. “Nothing like swordplay or murder to arouse interest, even among amateurs! I remember when I was at school, the most popular choices for acting out were Caesar’s assassination and the fencing match between Hamlet and Laertes!”
“Did you get to play a part in either of them?”
“Yes, actually. I was a senator in Julius Caesar. And Fortinbras in Hamlet, coming in to clean up the mess afterwards.”
Lady Madeline pulled a face. “Not the most rewarding of roles!”
“He’s still alive at the end. And the King of Denmark as well as Norway.”
“True,” she conceded, lips twitching into a reluctant smile. “And it’s a better fate than Rosencrantz and Guildenstern received.” She paused and Hugo could sense what was coming next, even before she spoke again. “So—might I persuade you to lend your talents to this enterprise, Lord Saxby?”
Hugo opened his mouth to decline, politely, but what came out was not at all what he’d intended. “I’d—be happy to oblige, Lady Madeline, but I should warn you, I am the rankest of amateurs! You may end up putting me in a corner with no lines and a spear in my hand!”
“I very much doubt that, my lord!” Her eyes sparkled at him—bright, clear green at this moment, the exact shade of new leaves. “If you like, I can offer you first pick of all the men’s roles, including Romeo!”
“Thank you, but that won’t be necessary!” Hugo said hastily. “It wouldn’t be fair to have such an advantage over the rest of the cast, especially those with more stage experience than I. Besides, I think a… mature character might suit me better.”
“Escalus, then,” she suggested. “Or even Paris. We don’t know his age, except that he’s older than Juliet. But whoever you choose, I promise you won’t regret taking part!”
Her enthusiasm was nothing if not infectious. Smiling back at her, a touch uncertainly, Hugo could only hope that she was right.
Available now from Blue Castle Publishing
A world she never imagined–and choices she never thought possible . . .
The prince always comes, true to his moment. Time and again, he happens along just as the enchantment ends, the hedge of brambles and briars that claimed so many luckless contenders bursting into radiant bloom and magically parting to let him through.
Strange, is it not, that simply being in the right place at the right time, should win one man the throne, the castle, and the hand of the slumbering princess within? What test is there to prove him braver, nobler, or worthier than those who perished among the thorns for attempting the castle too soon? For all we know, he might be a rogue, a scoundrel, a careless seducer like the prince of Signor Basile—who took his pleasure of the fair sleeper and spared no further thought for her until one of the babes so begotten woke her by sucking the splinter from her finger.
Fortunately, our prince is not such a rascal. Nor, in the age at which our tale begins, is he a prince in the strictest sense of the word. But the blood of several royal houses runs in his veins, though at considerable remove, and his manners are those of a gentleman born. Handsome, clean-living, well-bred, perhaps a trifle diffident, he is exactly the sort of fellow one might choose to stumble upon an enchanted castle and its slumbering occupants when a century-old spell finally runs its course. A fellow who would regard the sleepers with wonder and pity and the princess—the one at the heart of the spell—with something more. A fellow whose kiss would hold equal measures of desire and tenderness—and who would instantly vow to love and cherish the awakening beauty as his own, from the moment her eyes opened upon an unfamiliar world.
Surely, with such a prince, happily ever after is a foregone conclusion. For the Sleeping Beauty always loves the prince who wakes her.
Or does she?
Coming soon in Audio!
Available now from Sourcebooks Casablanca
Love Is The Sweetest Song Of All
A Woman with a Future
Aspiring singer Sophie Tresilian had the world at her feet–fame, fortune, and true love–until the man of her dreams broke her heart. Four years later, Sophie is the toast of Europe, desired and pursued by countless men. And then Robin Pendarvis walks back into her life . . .
A Man with a Past
Four years ago, Robin hoped to make Sophie his bride, but secrets from his past forced him to let her go. Seeing her again revives all the old pain–and all the old passion. Unable to deny the love that still burns between them, they risk everything to be together once more. But will the things that tore them apart in the past endanger their future as well?
Triumph–and a tryst . . .
For a moment she thought her eyes were deceiving her, that fatigue and excitement were making her hallucinate. Because the man coming towards her, his face formal and unsmiling, was the last one she’d expected to see tonight. Or any other night, for that matter.
Robin Pendarvis. Here. In London.
Like one in a trance, she watched him approach, cutting through the crowd with the swift, purposeful stride she had loved in him. A few of the fashionably dressed throng glanced at him in mingled curiosity and irritation, but none attempted to deter him. And then he was before her, close enough to touch if she stretched out her hand . . . as she must not do, lest she lose herself once more. Someone of her own, a voice half-wry, half-mocking, whispered in her head. Except that he hadn’t been–or only for a little while.
His voice was the same, deep and resonant, its slight Cornish burr more of an intonation than an accent and much fainter than her own when she’d first come to London as a wide-eyed debutante. Nor did he look so different from the way he had four years ago. Thirty-one now, and so no longer in his first youth: perhaps a little leaner, with some faint lines about his eyes and mouth. But his dark-brown hair was still thick, his eyes still blue and piercing. A visionary’s eyes, that saw how things might be and strove to transmute them into reality.
And how she’d loved that in him.
The only thing he hadn’t been able to envision, at the last, was a future for them, together. But that had been her decision as much as his. No rancor between them, ever–she’d been determined on that score–but regrets enough to last a lifetime, aching continually, like an old wound in inclement weather.
She was still staring, tongue-tied and transfixed. Remember who you are, Sophie told herself. If not a diva, she was still a professional singer of some note, no longer a schoolroom miss to be thrown into confusion by a chance encounter. Shaking off the paralysis, she swallowed dryly and managed to summon a response. “Mr. Pendarvis. Good evening–you are looking very well.”
The angular planes of his face seemed to relax at her words. “As are you, Miss Tresilian, and sounding even better. Magnificent, in fact–I congratulate you.”
Sophie found she could smile, though the expression felt strange and unfamiliar on her face. “Thank you.”
His eyes warmed, their cool blue brightening to a hue that reminded her of a sunlit summer sky. “I can’t say that I’m surprised, however. I knew you were destined for a great future, from the moment I first heard you sing.”
Memory stirred, seductive and dangerous as a siren’s song. “Thank you again,” Sophie said hurriedly, “but I still have so much to learn. I am–glad to see you here tonight. It’s always good to see a familiar face. What brings you to London?”
His face grew remote again. “Some business, of a personal nature.”
“I see.” Sophie tried to sound neutral. “Well, I am honored that you found the time to attend this concert.”
A smile softened his features. “I would not have missed it for the world.” He paused, his eyes intent on her face. “Miss Tresilian, I wondered if we might have a private word.”
Sophie felt her pulse quicken, along with a strange flutter of what was either excitement or apprehension just behind her midriff. “A private word?” she echoed faintly.
Robin nodded. “About something that may concern us both–”
He broke off, glancing over his shoulder as the hum of conversation around them suddenly intensified. Following the direction of his gaze, Sophie saw more visitors coming in. Soon it would be impossible for that private word, if it weren’t already. And from the look she saw on Robin’s face, he’d come to the same realization.
Turning back to her, he asked almost abruptly, “Miss Tresilian, do you still ride in the mornings?”
She moistened her lips. “I do. When I can, that is.”
“In Hyde Park?”
She nodded confirmation, aware of the press of people around them, the escalating buzz of countless voices praising, exclaiming, criticizing . . .
He leaned in, his voice pitched for her ears alone. “The Rotten Row, then? Between the hours of nine and ten o’clock?”
“Yes.” The lone syllable emerged more as a breath than as a word, but he appeared to have no difficulty hearing it.
He drew back, spoke in the same low tone. “Until then, Miss Tresilian.”
A sketch of a bow, then he was gone, threading his way through the crowd. Hemmed in by the throng, Sophie could only watch as he attained the doorway and disappeared through it.
As completely as he’d disappeared from her life four years ago.
Available now from Sourcebooks Casablanca
Do I Hear A Waltz?
A man who never expected to inherit. A woman who never expected to wed. A choice that pits their honor against their hearts.
Crippled after a riding accident, Aurelia Newbold shuns Society—until a dashing stranger draws her into a secret waltz and changes her life forever. After a year abroad, she returns home and discovers that the one man she’s been dreaming of is engaged to her beloved twin sister.
James Trelawney is not prepared for the vibrant woman who returns to London in the place of the wounded girl he took pity on—or his growing need for her. But forbidden love is not the only danger…a chilling secret reaches out from beyond the grave, threatening both Trelawney and the woman he loves.
A moonlit encounter, a magical moment . . .
But, at first glance, the conservatory appeared to be deserted. Moonlight poured in through the glass-paneled walls, bathing the plants and stone benches in an otherworldly glow. Loosening his collar, James inhaled the warm, jasmine-scented air and felt himself relax for the first time that evening.
Hands clasped behind him, he strolled along the nearest walkway. Feathery ferns, sinuous vines, potted palms . . . he could not identify more than a few of the more exotic species, but it scarcely mattered: here, at last, were peace and tranquility. Then he rounded a corner, came to a halt at the sight of the figure standing in the middle of the conservatory, the moonlight frosting her golden hair and casting a silvery sheen upon the skirts of her blue ball gown. Her eyes were closed, her slim form swaying gently in time to the waltz music drifting in from the ballroom.
James wondered if he’d lost his mind. Hadn’t he just seen her mere moments ago, dancing in the arms of an earl? Then, looking more closely, he saw that the shade of her gown was closer to turquoise than azure, her hair dressed a touch less elaborately: subtle differences but telling nonetheless. What had Thomas said? “She and her mother and her sister . . .”
He must have made some sound, some movement, because the girl suddenly froze like a deer scenting a hunter, apprehension radiating from every inch of her.
James spoke quickly, seeking to reassure her. “Pardon me, Miss Newbold. It is Miss Newbold, is it not?”
Aurelia fought down a rush of panic and an irrational urge to flee–for all the good it would do her. The stranger’s voice was deep and pleasant, with a faint burr she could not place. She wondered if he was as attractive as he sounded; the thought made her even more reluctant to turn around.
But it would be rude not to acknowledge his presence. Keeping her face averted, she nodded. “I am Aurelia Newbold.”
“Miss Aurelia,” he amended. “My name’s Trelawney. Again, I ask your pardon. I could not help but stare–no one told me that you and your sister were identical twins.”
Aurelia swallowed, knowing she could no longer delay the inevitable. Best to get it over with, as quickly as possible “We are twins, sir. But–no longer identical.”
She turned around, letting him see the whole of her face now–thinner and paler than Amy’s, despite their maid’s skilled application of cosmetics. But no amount of paint or powder could disguise the scar that ran along the left side of her hairline before curving sharply across her cheekbone like a reversed letter J. She forced herself to meet Mr. Trelawney’s eyes, even as her stomach knotted in dread over what she would see.
And there it was–that flash of pity in his eyes; dark eyes, in a strongly handsome face that recalled portraits of dashing adventurers and soldiers of fortune. At least they held no distaste or revulsion: a small mercy. Or perhaps he was simply better at hiding them.
“A riding accident.” she said tersely, anticipating the question he was trying not to ask. “Three years ago. It’s left me with a limp as well.”
“I am sorry.” His voice was kind. “That must be difficult to bear. Do you need to sit down? I could escort you back to the ballroom, find you a chair.”
Aurelia shook her head. “That won’t be necessary, sir. I just–came to admire the conservatory.” And to escape all the stares, whether curious or pitying. She’d have preferred to stay behind in their suite at Claridge’s tonight, but Amy had refused to attend this ball without her. Beautiful Amy, who looked the way she had used to look.
“I see.” And as his dark eyes continued to study her, Aurelia had the uncomfortable feeling that Mr. Trelawney did indeed see.
“They fade, you know,” he said, almost abruptly. “Scars. When I was a boy, I knew a man who’d served in the Crimea and had a saber cut down one side of his face. Many saw it as a badge of honor. In later years, some even thought it made him look distinguished.”
“Scars on a man may be distinguished, Mr. Trelawney,” Aurelia said, more sharply than she intended. “On a woman, they’re merely ugly. And there was nothing–honorable or heroic about the way I acquired mine.” Merely stupid.
His brows drew together. “Surely you need not be defined by your scars, Miss Newbold.”
She felt her lips twist in a brittle smile. “It’s hard not to be, when they’re the first things about me that people notice.”
“But you are under no obligation to accept their valuation of you. And would you judge another solely on the basis of injury or illness?”
He spoke mildly, but she heard the faint rebuke in his voice, nonetheless. Flushing, she looked away, ashamed of her outburst. She’d thought herself resigned, if not reconciled, to her disfigurement; what was it about this man that unsettled her so? “I would hope not, especially now. Pardon me, sir, I let my–disappointment get the best of me. A graceless thing to do, and I’m sorry for it. If you’ll excuse me, I’ll return to the ballroom.” Still not looking at him, she turned towards the conservatory doors.
“Wait.” The urgency in his voice stopped her in her tracks. “Miss Newbold, may I have this dance?”
Aurelia whipped her head around, astonished. “Dance? Pray do not mock me, sir.”
Dark eyes gazed steadily into hers. “I have never been more serious in my life. You have a fine sense of rhythm–I noticed that when first I saw you. Are you fond of the waltz?”
“Well, yes,” she admitted, after a moment; there’d been a time when she loved nothing better than to whirl about the floor in her partner’s arms. “That is, I was before. But my limp–”
“A limp is surely no worse than two left feet–and the latter affliction has not prevented quite a number of people from dancing tonight.”
A breath of unwilling laughter escaped her; Mr. Trelawney’s eyes seemed to warm at the sound. He held out his hand. “I do not ask this out of mockery–or pity,” he added, with a perception that surprised her. “Will you not indulge me? We need not return to the ballroom–we can have our dance here, unseen, among the flowers. Unless you find it too physically taxing?’
He’d just handed her the perfect excuse. All she had to do was plead fatigue or discomfort, and Mr. Trelawney, gentleman that he was, would surely let her retire and not importune her further. Instead, she stepped forward–and placed her hand in his.