To celebrate my new release, I am participating in New Release Monday with the girls over at the Excerpt Monday Blog.
Excerpt From Lady Northam’s Wicked Surrender
Cheshire, England, March 1816
The wind whipped around them, lashing Rowena’s hair and making her gray wool cloak fly up and ripple out behind her. It was a dark hour, rather late to arrive for a country visit, but Rowena despaired at the thought of another night at an inn. The inclement weather had already delayed the visit long enough.
Rowena tucked the wild, dark brown wisps of hair under her bonnet. Her hair was too fine and straight to hold a curl the way her sister’s hair did. Even after so many hours of travel, Delphine’s black curls were neatly arranged under her bonnet and her blue pelisse had nary a wrinkle. Thank God no one but Alice, Lady Chilton, was there to see them. Discounting the servants helping them with their things, of course. On a country estate, no doubt they were used to worse.
Three servants shuffled about helping the coachman with the trunks. As she wiped her foot on a stone to get the mud off her boot, she overheard a footman say, “No, it isn’t him. ‘Tis her ladyship’s guests come from Town. But Lord Rutherford is due any day now.”
Rowena spun her head around. No. NO. Simon was in India. He couldn’t be on his way to Cheshire. She dug her nails into her hands as she gripped her fingers into a fist. She had no desire to see Alice’s brother. Six years had not been nearly enough time to forget the way he’d cruelly jilted her then ran off to India when she’d later married his friend instead.
She went to Delphine and gripped her forearm tightly. “Did you hear that?” she whispered. “Lord Rutherford is due here any day.”
A tightness spread through her chest and she rubbed her gloved fingers over her heart for a moment.
“I thought he was still in India,” Delphine whispered.
Rowena tipped forward. Her stays were constricting. She needed to lie down. “Apparently not. God, why did he have to come now?”
“Perhaps the storms will hinder his arrival. If it took us two days, perhaps he may get delayed at sea and you won’t have to see him at all.”
Rowena prayed her sister was right. Please let him be at sea and not already in England. Because God help her, she could think of nothing worse than having to spend two weeks trapped at the Chilton estate with Simon.
They were ushered inside and shown to the parlor while their belongings were taken upstairs. A fire was lit and they warmed themselves beside the huge stone hearth. The charming 16th century country manor was impeccably maintained. Even in the golden glow of the fire, she could see that the settee had been reupholstered in a blue and gold damask and the wallpaper looked new. The furniture was classic, yet made the room somehow feel warm and inviting. Alice’s impeccable taste never failed to impress.
As Rowena removed her gloves, they heard a voice calling to them.
“How lovely to see you both.” A very round Alice gracefully walked toward them. Blonde tendrils peeked from her thin cap. She was still dressed for evening, wearing a pretty, lavender gown that had a sheer overlay, embroidered with gold dots, and a full satin gown underneath. Even out here in the country, with no one to impress but the local farmers, Alice managed to look regal. Rowena admired the lovely gold rope, which trimmed the bodice, empire waist and sleeves. Her white gloves were also trimmed in gold.
Though Alice was in a ‘delicate condition’, she moved with barely a hindrance. She hugged Rowena warmly, and gave each of them a kiss on the cheek. The playful look in her blue eyes and the wide smile she gave reminded Rowena a bit of Simon. Both had high cheekbones, blond curls, and mischievous smiles. The only difference was in their eye color: Rowena caught her breath at the memory of Simon’s blue-grey gaze, heated when he looked at her. Until the last time. Quickly she banished the image of blue-grey steel and brought her attention back to Alice, who was reaching for the bell pull by the fireplace.