It’s Excerpt Monday again!
Bria and Mel are at it again. Everyone wants to play along with Excerpt Monday! If you’d like to join in this meme, visit their Guidelines page for more details.
This month’s excerpt is from Sweet Temptation. We’ve been sick as dogs at my house, so I’m hoping this’ll be coherent! I went for something that put me in the mood for summer: ices at Gunter’s! Apologies to those who’ve read this before.
Camilla Fairchild breathed a sigh of relief as she stepped down from the stuffy confines of the carriage. The sun and humidity reminded her less of early May and more of July when London became unbearable.
Every patch of shade beneath the Maples lining Berkeley Square was occupied. At the first hint of warm weather the haut ton flocked to Gunter’s pineapple-adorned confectionary to partake of the English, French, and Italian wet and dry sweetmeats. Especially the ices.
Millicent Allenby had suggested meeting inside where their unblemished reputations would be preserved and chaperones rendered unnecessary. Camilla surveyed the gathered crowd and hoped her friend had secured a table.
“Feel free to take some time for yourself this afternoon, Abigail. Meet back here at three o’clock.” Camilla dismissed her maid and driver as she descended from the carriage.
As she entered the teashop and searched the room for her friend, she passed fashionable young couples filling the tables closest to the door and a weary mother and governess who attempted to contain the excitement of three young boys.
“Milla, over here!” Millicent’s frantic wave drew attention to the table for two she had commandeered in the center of the shop.
Camilla wove her way through the other patrons and dropped into the chair across from her friend. “I think everyone else had the same idea today.”
“Even better.” The gleam of mischief in Millie’s eyes alerted Camilla that she had been duped again. “The more people here, the more who can truthfully say they saw us or admit it was too crowded to say for sure.”
“Millie,” Camilla rolled her eyes and shook her head. “Why do I allow you to talk me into your mad schemes? Who is it this time?”
“Lord Estewicke.” Millie tugged at the cuff of her glove and took an extreme interest in straightening the seams, neatly avoiding Camilla’s gaze.
“Have you no sense of decency?” Camilla noted her perfunctory objection had lost the edge of shock and dismay over the last three years since their debut.
Millie shrugged and a wicked grin spread across her features. “Have you no sense of adventure?”
“I don’t suppose you’ll listen to reason?” Camilla sighed, the pattern of their banter long established. Her friend was incorrigible but she loved her anyway.
A server came and placed a chocolate ice before Millie. An unusual choice. Millie preferred bolder, more exotic flavors. Chocolate was quiet, conventional, safe. More like herself.
Millie’s ritual reply never came. Instead, her friend tilted her head to one side and stared thoughtfully at her. “I suppose you’ve never been tempted, Milla?”
Elderflower might be a good option as warm as it was, but Millie’s expression was far too serious to be talking about ices. “By what?”
Millie frowned and plucked a flower from the vase between them. “What you’ve been missing?”
“I’ve missed nothing. I experience it all vicariously through your escapades. Honest, that’s enough.”
The flower twirled in Millie’s fingers. “Since you don’t needn’t worry about attracting an offer, why not live a little until your betrothed shows up to claim you?”
Camilla took a deep breath and braced her hands on the table’s edge. She took no pleasure in the confused and concerned look that crossed Millie’s features. “I’m surprised the news hasn’t reached you. Lord Dendridge called on my parents this morning.”
“Oh, Milla. I’m so sorry.” Her hand clasped on top of Camilla’s.
“Sorry? That’s not even the worst part.” She wanted sympathy, but she needed understanding more. “Apparently he had no inkling what his letter of introduction contained while Mother was ecstatic he’d finally come up to scratch and with a special license in hand.”
“And?” Millie pressed.
She knew what Millie was asking, but the sting of rejection was still too fresh and she didn’t have the answer. She released the breath she’d drawn in a sigh. “And he was quite incensed by the time he left.”
“But did you find Lord Dendridge handsome? Good calves?” Millie leaned closer, eager for details.
“I haven’t any notion. I didn’t see him.” Trust Millie to focus on the important issues. “But I’ve never been so humiliated in my life. His shouting carried all the way to the library.”
“Goodness.” Millie’s laugh pealed above the murmur of conversation around them. “I still say, your opportunities for exploring temptation may have diminished, but not expired.”
Millie always tried to push her beyond her comfort zone. Camilla just didn’t crave excitement and found no need to stretch the bounds of propriety at every turn. “Well, not like there has been anyone tempting thus far. Certainly not Mr. Swinburne.”
Millie grinned and glanced knowingly at her bodice. “Your, ahem, dowry isn’t big enough to tempt him either.”
Camilla chuckled. “You know what I mean. It hasn’t signified for none of the gentleman mattered.” Yesterday, she’d been complacent. Her future was secure even if it promised to be as boring as the past three Seasons.
“How about that one? He appears significant.” Millie took her time inspecting the fellow in question, practically salivating over the man as if he were some sweetmeat. “I’m tempted.”
Her friend’s usual taste in gentlemen was superb, but with her betrothed returned to London with a special license already in hand, she couldn’t afford to look long or closely.
In her experience, a quick glance out the window to confirm Millie’s tastes, a smile with a nod and perhaps a brief word of praise on her part would suffice before redirecting the conversation. Just a peek. Just one glance.
Camilla turned to peer out the window where Millie gestured. Except when her gaze raked over his form, her eyes refused to move on.
The gentleman in question stood gazing at the display in the window with an almost visible aura of longing. His black hair curled just past fashionable below his collar. The seams of his marine blue tailcoat strained to contain the breadth of his shoulders and the cutaway exposed not only a good two inches of his primrose waistcoat and his watch fob, but it followed a distinctive curve along his hips and down his thighs drawing her gaze to where his calves disappeared into his gleaming Hessians. No padding required anywhere.
Beyond the boyish charm, which emanated from him as he eyed the sweets, she sensed a core of Sheffield crucible steel. “He seems frightfully intimidating, Millie.”
“I should say compelling, intriguing or even enticing. Intimidating seems far too lackluster for him.” Millie rose and gathered her reticule, her ice untouched.
“Is something wrong?”
“I must go, I promised Mother I’d be home in an hour and a half. You can stay at least an hour, can’t you?”
“Thanks. I knew you could be relied on.” Millie swept in, kissed her cheek and then she was gone.
Camilla sighed and figured she might as well eat the chocolate ice since they were both there. An hour would be an interminably long time to fill by her self as she watched the patrons in the crowded shop laugh and gossip around her.
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