Category Archives: Excerpt

Teaser Tuesday!

HOW TO LOSE A DUKE IN TEN DAYS releases in less than a week (April 21!). Squuueeee! And to celebrate, I’m sharing Chapter One!


London 1814

If Miss Pippa Welby had learned anything in her short twenty years, it was that one must be prepared for anything.
But this was quite beyond the pale.

She stood paralyzed at the threshold of her father’s study, eyes fixed on the gentleman standing just a few feet away.

“You asked to see me, Father?” she said finally, turning her gaze away from the austere gentleman who stood by the mantel.

Her father turned, but the gentleman didn’t acknowledge her presence. He merely stared into the flickering amber flames, one polished Hessian boot perched arrogantly on the lip of the hearth.

She had recognized him instantly. Indeed, his tall, imposing frame, dark hair, and dashing good looks weren’t easily forgotten. He was Lucas Victor Alexander, ninth Duke of Arlington, and quite possibly the most sought-after bachelor in London.

His presence in her father’s house was startling, if not puzzling. She’d met Arlington only once, last year in Yorkshire at the Tisdale ball. Indeed, the disastrous meeting had been branded into her memory forever. Even now, it often crept into her thoughts with little provocation. Someone might comment on the weather, for instance, and the flurry of unpleasant memories would come rushing back—a figurative tidal wave of mortification. It galled her that he’d gotten under her skin so completely, but there was no helping it. And she should know. She’d dedicated the last six months to expunging him from her thoughts, only to be met with his image every time she closed her eyes.

“Come, sit down, Pippa.” Her father gestured to the blue-striped chair nearest Arlington. “His Grace has something he wishes to discuss with you.”
Narrowing her eyes, she had the sudden, inescapable feeling her father had led her into a trap. She’d been summoned to the study without the barest hint that Arlington had come to call. She shouldn’t be surprised. Her father was no fool, and he likely realized she’d have no interest in visiting with the gentleman who’d slighted her in front of everyone.

“Oh?” she said in a coolly unaffected tone. “Will it take long? I’m absolutely famished and breakfast will be laid out soon.”

Mortification swept over her father’s plump face. He was a proud, self-made man, and quite willing to pour money into his daughter’s upbringing, especially if that meant entrapping a titled husband. It didn’t matter how successful his investments were, or how much wealth he amassed; noble blood would never pulse through his veins. Certain members of the haute ton had made that painfully clear. Admission into their ranks could not be purchased. His only glimmer of hope was in Pippa—his only child—marrying into the crème of society, which would elevate him, at last, to the upper echelons.
She hadn’t the heart to tell him that his dream was all but impossible.

“I hope you will forgive my daughter’s lack of manners,” her father said after an awkward moment, eyeing her sternly. “I’m afraid your visit may have caught her off guard.”

Arlington remained leaning against the mantel but turned his head to look at her. For the first time since entering the room, she saw his face. His straight, aristocratic nose and the firm line of his jaw, one dark eyebrow arched at her father’s words . . . and his eyes. They were the most uncommon shade of blue, like a cloudless sky, and they stared at her with such intensity, she thought she might wilt under his penetrating gaze. Instead, she lifted her chin a degree.
“Miss Welby’s priorities are perfectly understandable,” he said lazily, as though her blunt dismissal hadn’t offended him in the least. He flicked his gaze in her father’s direction. “Leave us, Welby. I’d like to speak with your daughter alone.”

Her father didn’t hesitate to do as bidden, coming around his massive mahogany desk to lay a kiss on her cheek. Then he was out the door, leaving her completely, helplessly alone with the duke.

She glared as she lowered herself into a nearby chair, perching on the edge, poised to escape at the first opportunity. The way he ordered her father around like a servant in his own home was positively reprehensible. He might intimidate all of London, but Pippa refused to yield to such arrogance. He had no right to barge into her home and start making demands.

“Well, since I have breakfast waiting and you have”—whatever scoundrels do first thing in the morning— “whatever it is you have to do, why don’t we cut straight to the matter, Your Grace? What is your purpose in coming here?”

His lips twisted into a faint smile. “Playing games, are we, Miss Welby? You must know why I’m here.”

“I haven’t the slightest idea,” she said. “Nor do I care, particularly.”

That nonchalant comment nettled him, as she had suspected it would. She could see it in the way he glared as he moved to the sideboard and poured himself a generous helping of her father’s finest brandy. His posture was rigid, every move stiff and deliberate. Women didn’t speak to men of his ilk with such indifference, especially women of her “tainted” breeding.

“You haven’t the slightest idea why a man might prevail upon you and your father at this early hour?” He took a healthy sip of brandy, then set his glass on the small, circular table beside her. “Perhaps I misjudged you, Miss Welby. What I perceived as intelligence is clearly no more than artfully concealed ignorance.”

She narrowed her eyes at the insult. “You slighted me at the Tisdale ball last year. Why would I have any reason to believe you would call upon me, of all people?”

He raised one elegant brow. “Slighted you, did I?”

Now that nettled her. Good heavens, she wasn’t even worth remembering! To this day, she relived that horrid moment, agonizing over every humiliating detail. His blank, slightly horrified expression as Mr. Tisdale had introduced them. His subsequent silence. Then finally, his curt dismissal as he turned and walked away, in front of everyone.

Word of her humiliation had spread rapidly, of course. They’d called her presumptuous for wrangling an introduction to a duke, and though it was Mr. Tisdale’s oh-so-brilliant idea, not hers, she was still somehow at fault. She was arrogant, pompous, assuming, pretentious—the list of vicious names multiplied for weeks until the story grew tiresome and the gossips found another poor soul to torment.

“What would a duke want with a tradesman’s daughter?”

He chuckled then, a dangerously seductive tone that Pippa struggled—unsuccessfully—to ignore. His voice was deep, masculine, and it rumbled through her like a gathering winter storm.

“You astonish me, Miss Welby. I would have thought the reason was quite clear.” He leaned down and placed a hand on each armrest, caging her in. For a brief moment, it felt as though all the air had been sucked from the room. She could scarcely draw in a breath. Her heart fluttered at his nearness, but she didn’t lean back. She wouldn’t give him the satisfaction. “I want you in my bed, of course.”

Bewilderment struck her first, followed swiftly by disbelief, then pure, unfettered outrage. He wanted her for his mistress! Perhaps she hadn’t been born a true lady, but she was certainly a lady now, in spirit if not by blood, and she would not be used for the singular purpose of warming a man’s bed, duke or not.

With one hard shove, she pushed him out of the way, stood, and snatched a carved ivory letter opener off her father’s desk. The ivory was a beautiful piece, made by the master carvers in the seaport village in Dieppe, France, where her father had often traveled before the war. It’d be a pity to get blood on it. She wondered briefly if it’d stain. The surface of the ivory blade was smooth, unblemished. She was fairly certain Arlington’s blood would just wipe off with nary a sign she’d plunged it into his cold, unfeeling heart.

“Just six months ago you gave me the cut direct.” Pippa leveled the blunt letter opener at Arlington’s chest. “Now, you dare saunter into my house and propose I be your mistress?”

Arlington curled his long fingers around her wrist and pulled it aside, effectively thwarting any attempt on his life. “Much as you’d like to stab me, that wouldn’t be wise, Miss Welby. People will ask questions, and I’m not entirely sure you are ready to hang for a simple misunderstanding. I don’t want you for my mistress,” he said. “I want you for my wife.”

All of her anger drained away instantly. She blinked several times; certain she’d heard him wrong. “Your wife?”

With his free hand, he plucked the letter opener from her grasp and let it fall with a heavy thud on the desk.

He was too close, hand still curled around her wrist, his tall, powerful body just inches away. The heat of his skin, the smell of brandy on his breath, coiled around her senses. If she were any other woman, she might tilt her head up and taste those wicked, wicked lips, perhaps trace their outline with the tip of her tongue. For the flicker of a second, she wondered if he would taste as delicious as she imagined. But the moment the thought formed, she pushed it away. She would not be seduced, and certainly not by him. A woman had her dignity, after all.

More than that, he couldn’t possibly be in earnest. He was a duke of the realm, and would naturally be expected to marry high. What in heaven’s name did he want with her?

She pushed at Arlington’s chest. He released her wrist, but he didn’t retreat. Her heart skipped, then galloped. “What game is this, Your Grace? Tell me, so that I may at least know the rules.”

“No game, Miss Welby.” He straightened and took a step back. “I’m a practical man. I see something I want and I take it. It’s quite simple.”
“I’m a woman, not property. I will not be taken, as you so eloquently put it.”

“You have a duty to accept me.”

Yes, society would see it that way, and her father certainly would as well. But none of that really mattered—she would never marry him. Her mother had been a member of the aristocracy—the granddaughter of a baron—and when she’d married Pippa’s father, society had treated her with such contempt, she’d refused to venture out of the house for fear of the scorn and ridicule she would have inevitably faced—if only in her own head. During the last years of her life, she only left the house to attend church on Sundays, or to visit very close friends—but even that was a rarity.

Pippa had sworn to herself, long ago, that she would never run in such circles. Never in a million lifetimes.

“Be that as it may, I’m afraid I cannot accept you.”

There was a fierce, slightly dangerous look in his eyes. “Yes, you can,” he said. “And you will, or it shall be my singular purpose to convince you otherwise.”
The rough, erotic way he said the last sent tingles sweeping through her body. She had little doubt how he intended to convince her, and despite herself, she wondered just how far he would take his threat.

She lifted a brow. “I should like to see you try.”

As soon as the words slipped past her lips, she wished she could call them back. Perhaps it wasn’t wise to challenge a well-seasoned rake on his ability to seduce, especially considering the disturbing swiftness with which her body responded to his nearness.

He lowered his head until his lips hovered dangerously close to hers. Just an inch or two more, and they would be touching. A thrill of anticipation skipped up her spine and spread through her limbs. Her heart thudded frantically against her ribs.

His eyes darkened, and for a moment she thought he might kiss her. Instead, he stepped back. “I accept your challenge.” His smile was slow, wicked. “Good day, Miss Welby.”

With that, he was gone.

For one wild, impossible moment, she thought she might have dreamed the whole dreadful conversation. Had she really just refused a duke of the realm? Now, in the cold aftermath, it hardly seemed possible.

Moments later, her father rushed back into the room, his features drawn tight. He held a folded piece of sealed parchment in his hand, and Pippa wondered idly what it was. An order of execution? Death by hanging might be preferable to her father’s anger once he discovered she’d thrown the duke’s proposal back in his face.

Her father handed her the parchment. With numb fingers, she unsealed it and read the contents. “It’s an invitation to an engagement ball,” she said.
“Whose engagement?”

“Mine.” She swallowed. “And it’s in ten days.”

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Filed under Excerpt, How to Lose a Duke in Ten Days, Teaser Tuesday

A Countess by Chance First Chapter

I’m so excited! Only one week until A Countess by Chance releases! Woot! And to celebrate, I’m posting the first chapter here!


A gambler’s daughter, Sophia Weatherby knows her way around a deck of cards. So when her family estate becomes threatened, she has no choice but to use her skills at the gaming tables to save herself from ruin. A lavish house party affords her the perfect opportunity-until the newly minted Earl of Huntington arrives. Adam Greyson has never forgotten the day Sophia rejected his proposal. Now to even the score, he challenges her to a shocking wager-his two thousand pounds against the one valuable commodity she has left: her virtue.


He’d come.

Against all of Olivia Dewhurst’s hopes for a quiet, peaceful visit to her cousins’ country estate, Adam Rycroft, newly minted Earl of Huntington, had arrived last night.

It was inconsiderate, really. This was her cousin’s house party, after all, and Huntington had no conceivable reason to invade it with his dashing good looks and roguish charm. Indeed, every woman present had nearly swooned before he’d even dismounted from his horse.

All night, she’d imagined the clever things she would say when they finally spoke. In every scenario she was completely at ease, exuding charm, wit, and effortless poise. She was grace itself.

When the sun finally rose, she joined the rest of the ladies for their morning ride. She’d dressed in a pale green riding habit and mounted a chocolate-colored horse, cleverly named Chocolate, which the stable hand assured her was unusually gentle.

Yes, well, “gentle” translated to slow and lazy, apparently. Chocolate refused to move unless Olivia swatted her on the rump with such vigor that the creature was forced to acknowledge her presence.

The other ladies were tolerant for a long while, but by the end of the first hour, their patience had given way to thinly veiled annoyance. Their loud exhalations and pointed glares were like needles to her pride. If a hole had opened up right then, she would have gladly climbed into it.

“You don’t mind if we go on ahead, do you, Miss Dewhurst?” Annabelle Wood said with an edge of censure in her voice. The others smiled atop their horses and said nothing, poised to ride off the moment she gave her consent. Her cousin Margaret, ever the incompetent hostess, had already wandered ahead of the group, unknowing or uncaring if the rest followed.

“No, not at all,” Olivia lied. Anxiety swamped her, but she’d die before she let it show. “Please, go on ahead. I’ll be along shortly.”

The words had hardly left her mouth before they were off, leaving her completely alone with the beastly horse in the middle of a muddy field. Meanwhile, Chocolate had found a patch of freshly sprouted grass, and was munching away happily, with no inclination to move whatsoever. Not even a swift kick to the flank could inspire movement.

Olivia was sitting, looking out over the field, then looking back at the house, now just a white speck in the distance, when a strong, male voice rang out somewhere to her left.

“Well, well.”

She twisted to see Lord Huntington approach, and her heart instantly leapt into her throat. Mortification swept over her, and she wished were anywhere but here. She’d wanted him to see her strong, in control, confident…not stuck on the back of a horse, helpless.

He rode a grey, sleek-looking mount with the agility of a true horseman, his body swaying gracefully with each movement, strong and in control.

He sidled up to her. “Miss Dewhurst.”

Her eyes met his. Her cheeks flamed, and for a moment, her breath held. He was just as handsome as she remembered, with dark, wavy hair and chocolate brown eyes that flicked over her with interest.

It’d been two long years since she’d seen him last—since the night she’d jilted him. He was much the same—authoritative with a hint of devilish charm. Only his outward appearance had altered. No longer did he wear the crisp, serviceable attire of a tradesman. This morning, he wore a blue coat of the finest quality, tan breeches and a pair of Hessians that were a stark reminder of his new, elevated station.

His smile was slow and lazy, as though he sensed her unease and relished it.

Her heart thudded wildly against her ribs. She closed her eyes and tipped her head up casually, as if enjoying the sunshine. “Hello, my lord. Beautiful morning, isn’t it?”

“You appear to be having difficulties.”

If she had any sense at all, she’d ask him to help her dismount and drag the plodding beast back to the stables. Instead, she lifted her chin a notch. “No, indeed. Chocolate and I are just enjoying the sunshine.”

“In a muddy field?”

“As you see.” She spared a quick glance at him. He was looking down at her suspiciously. “What’s wrong with a muddy field?”

He shrugged his broad shoulders. “If you ever wish to return to the house, that horse won’t do.”

Chocolate’s ears twitched, as though she sensed the criticism, and she moved to another patch of grass, taking Olivia right along with her, as though she were nothing more than a flea on her back.

“She’s a bit stubborn,” Olivia admitted. “I think she may have issues with authority.”

“She just needs a strong hand, like most females.”

Olivia pursed her lips. She remembered his strong, capable hands, and the wicked things he’d done to her. While she was still strictly a virgin, they’d stretched the definition of the word to its very limits.

“A strong hand.” She rolled her eyes. “What a masculine thing to say.”

He didn’t even have the decency to flinch at her comment. “Why on earth would you consent to such an outing when you clearly have no talent for riding? You would have done better to stay home.”

She stiffened, indignant. “I ride exceptionally well, thank you kindly.”

He smiled, flashing that damnable dimple in the side of his cheek. “I think we both know you can ride only marginally well. I wouldn’t even venture to call your skills on a horse sufficient. Certainly not well enough to be traipsing through muddy fields alone.”

Her cheeks heated. How dare he! The truth of his statement was of little consequence. Her pride flared, and before she could think better of it, she said, “My skills can hardly be measured while riding such an impossible creature. This horse is unnaturally ornery. I venture to say that even you, my lord, couldn’t command her.”

“You are wrong about that, Miss Dewhurst. I can be quite persuasive when the mood strikes.” His hot gaze raked down her body, briefly stopping at her breasts, then meandering down to the V between her thighs. His lips twisted into a delicious, knowing smile. “Or don’t you remember?”

Heat surged through her like a cresting wave. Of course she remembered. One didn’t easily forget passion so potent, so unyieldingly intense.

Swallowing, she glanced away. “You seem quite sure of yourself.”

He shrugged. “I’m capable enough.”

She licked her lips. “In that case, how about a little friendly wager?”

Her father, a retired gambler, had taught his only child a great many things. First among them, strike quickly when you have the advantage. Huntington would be fortunate to get Chocolate to move, let alone run.

His lips twisted into that arrogant smirk that had never failed to annoy her. “That all depends on the prize, Miss Dewhurst.”

“Two hundred pounds says you cannot outrun me with this horse.”

With his sleek gelding, she was sure to win. And two hundred pounds would be enough to pay for her father’s medicine, and a little extra besides. She smiled sweetly.

He leaned in, his big, imposing body impossibly close. “Two thousand.”

Her breath caught. She had no hope of paying him two hundred pounds if she lost, let alone two thousand. “You know I don’t have two thousand pounds.”

It was no secret. While she and her father struggled to conceal the true desperation of their situation, all of England knew the money—everything—was gone. Only the family estate remained, derelict and neglected, but untouched by creditors.

Boldly, he reached out and traced her lips with the tip of his finger, a barely there touch that sent shivers of awareness skipping down her spine. She should push him away. It was the proper thing to do. Instead, her eyelids fluttered closed as she absorbed his touch. It took every drop of self-control not to reach out and pull him into a deep, delicious kiss. She still remembered the feel of his lips against hers, the fierce, unrelenting need that followed in the wake of his touch.

“As it happens, you do have something I want.” His voice was low, seductive, and it reminded her of the warm afternoons they’d spent together, talking, laughing, kissing…

His hand fell away and she opened her eyes, blinking. That she had something he wanted seemed impossible. She was destitute, on the brink of ruin. She had nothing.

He leaned in closer, his warm breath brushing over her cheek, and whispered in her ear. “Two thousand pounds if you win.”

She swallowed. “And if I lose?”

“I get you.”

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Filed under A Countess by Chance, Excerpt, Forever Yours