It’s Excerpt Monday again!
This month’s excerpt is from Sweet Temptation, a Regency-set RomCom. Our heroine (introduced in June’s excerpt) has given her best friend’s name to our hero when they are thrown together at Gunter’s Tea Shop. Her never-before-seen betrothed is only known to her as Lord Dendridge so when our hero introduces himself only by his surname, she doesn’t recognize him. The attraction between them is undeniable and neither can resist exploring it before surrendering to duty.
Camilla cleared her throat and picked up her scattered thoughts. “Have you seen the exhibition at the Royal Academy of Art yet?”
“No, but if my time were my own, I should like to do so. I quite enjoy art.” Mr. Langham’s eyebrows drew down in steep slopes, his mouth straight and taught.
She wished she hadn’t reminded him of his unwelcome obligations because that brought her own to mind. Why had Lord Dendridge chosen to show up now? Her plans need not change just because he had the arrogance to appear on their doorstep this morning. Let her betrothed stew in his expectations for a while. She was done waiting for him.
“It would be a shame to miss the exhibit. This is the final week it will be open to the public.”
“I suspect you are correct, Miss Allenby. Have you attended yet?”
“I have not. Mother has been making noises about how beneficial it would be for my character, but I find the idea of spending the afternoon at her side as she dithers on about the composition of each painting and the techniques used frightfully unappealing.” She sniffed, remembering how last year’s excursion had dragged on interminably.
The waiter returned and placed a dish of pale yellow sorbet in front of Mr. Langham. A napkin and spoon soon appeared beside the glass and the men were nodding at each other as the waiter darted away again.
“It can be truly remarkable just how the artist achieves the affects they do. However, it sounds as if your mother has not done the best job of making it an interesting outing for you.”
“I should say not.” She had enough trouble staying awake while her mother prattled on about brush loading and stretching canvasses in the proper fashion.
“Perhaps you need only the right tutor. One who is knowledgeable on the subject of fine art, yet can also make such contemplation and examination appealing.”
“Is that an offer?” Camilla couldn’t resist teasing him. She was treading into dangerous territory. Mayhap his plans would be cause for him to decline her lighthearted inquiry.
Instead, he looked surprised.
“Even though I have one offer upon the table, I suppose it was. I shall set aside time to escort you to the exhibition.”
“You needn’t trouble yourself.”
“It would be my pleasure. Now, where may I call upon you?”
Camilla’s heart stopped beating and her breath caught in her throat. Call on her? This was a fine scrape she’d gotten herself into. What would Millie do? Panic gripped her tongue and words shot out of her mouth before she could control them. “Oh, the family I’m staying with dislikes my having visitors. Perhaps we might agree upon a day to meet at the Royal Academy?”
“How unusual and unfair. I’m yet uncertain of my obligations this week. Would it be possible to send a note around? Surely, you are allowed correspondence if not visitors?”
She gulped and bit her lower lip. Lying didn’t come easily and this nice man didn’t deserve to be mistreated. Her mother would be livid when she found out.
“Couldn’t I just go every day and if you happened by, what a happy coincidence?”
He chuckled and shook his head. A lock fell forward over his forehead and she ached to brush it back into place. But even that one touch would be dangerous.
“That seems a trifle unnecessary. However, I can see my invitation makes you uncomfortable, so we shall pretend nothing was said and return to more amiable and restful conversation.”
Camilla couldn’t resist his charm. If Lord Dendridge hadn’t come around this morning, she wouldn’t be so on edge and might have furthered this acquaintance without deceit. The way Millie teased her about finding an adventure before her wedding had done her no great service.
Mr. Langham’s ice threatened to overrun his dish and drip onto the table. A shame to order it and allow it go to waste. “How is your ice, Mr. Langham?”
“First-rate, but then I expected nothing less from Gunter’s.”
Camilla laughed and agreed as she scooped up the last dribble of chocolate and savored the last of its comfort. If only her betrothed proved to be as personable as Mr. Langham, then she could relax completely.
As the crowd ebbed and flowed around them, he shared stories from his youth. She noticed the way his face lit up as he related memories of his mother when they had picked flowers in the fields and helped the cook with the baking. He had coaxed her own memories forth and she surprised herself by sharing how she had climbed trees with stains on her dress and punched the neighbor boy when he stole a kiss.
The talk of the past slid into their hopes and dreams for the future and Camilla’s anger with her parents grew. They had no right to snatch her chance at a love match. How easy it would be to develop a tendre for someone like Mr. Langham. Millie would be pleased to hear she found his disposition as favorable as his appearance.
She had barely given Millie’s current escapade another thought since Mr. Langham joined her at the table. Some friend she was. Guilt over her selfishness warmed her face. “Do you happen to have the time?”
Mr. Langham fished a silver pocket watch from his waistcoat and flipped the cover open to reveal the face. No outmoded Butterfield pocket dial for him. The gears ticked quietly beneath the murmur of the shop patrons. “Nearly half three.”
“Oh, no.” She hated to be late. Hated to keep anyone waiting.
A look of concern crossed his face. “Is something amiss?”
“No. Just late to meet my maid and driver.” And to think she’d worried about filling an entire hour to cover Millie’s adventure.
They both rose and he sketched a quick bow. Her hand trembled as he brought it to his lips and brushed them against her knuckles. “Farewell, Miss Allenby. It has been a most pleasant afternoon.”
She pulled her hand from his and headed for the door. The weight crushing her chest left a peculiar hollow within her heart at the same time. The prospect of walking away without hope of ever seeing him again slowed her steps. She could not resist a last look back. If only she were stronger. He stood still as a statue in the busy shop with his hand outstretched, reaching for her.
“Fairchilde House.” She blurted out the words that would allow a future connection and dashed out the door so he wouldn’t see her flaming cheeks.
If you enjoyed this, you might enjoy some of my other Excerpt Monday offerings.
Links to other Excerpt Monday writers
Note: I have not personally screened the other excerpts. Please heed the ratings and be aware that the links may contain material that is not typical of my site.
Joining them this week:
Danie Ford, Womens Fiction (PG13)
Kaige, Historical Romance (PG13)
Jeannie Lin, Contemporary (PG13)
RF Long, Fantasy Sword and Sorcery (PG13)
Shawntelle Madison, Paranormal Romance (PG13)
Christa McHugh, Paranormal Romance (PG13)
Debbie Mumford, Flash Fiction (PG13)
Jo Lynne Valerie, Paranormal Romance (PG 13)
Kendal Ashby, Erotic Contemporary (R)
KB Alan, Erotic Paranormal Romance (R)
Penny Dune, Romantic Suspense (R)
Cate Hart, YA Paranormal (R)
Inez Kelley, Contemporary Romance (R)
Jeannete Murray, RomCom (R)
Christa Page, Regency Paranormal (R)
Michelle Picard, Paranormal
Jeanne St James, Erotic Rom M/M (R)
Danielle Yockman, Historical Romance (R)
Sara Brookes, Fantasy (NC17)
Emily Ryan Davis, Erotic Contemporary Romance (NC17)
Ella Drake, Erotic SciFi Romance (NC17)
Angeleque Ford, Erotic Contemporary Romance (NC17)
Jamal W Hankins, Dark Fiction/Fantasy (NC17)
Bryl R Tyne, Transgender M/M (NC17)