August 10th is Excerpt Monday! Has it REALLY been another whole month?
Bria and Mel are hosting Except Monday again! Once again they’re inviting everyone to play along with Excerpt Monday! You don’t have to write romance or belong to any special group, you just need to write and want to share your stories. If you’d like to join in this meme, visit the Guidelines page for more details.
Alex paced before the stables. He flipped open his pocket watch again. Anthea was late. Lady Rylestone hadn’t managed to trap her inside the house, had she?
He had asked his friends to keep a watch on her, but he suspected they were enjoying themselves far too much this evening. An heiress had hopelessly intrigued Friend1 and she had seemed to return his interest this evening. The lure of food, drink and cards was nearly impossible for Friend2 to resist and Lady Rylestone had made sure all three were available in excess tonight.
His friend had boasted of a rendezvous with one of the maids in the library earlier. The room had been deserted and the girl willing. They hadn’t worried about discovery because the heavy drapes had been pulled shut and the room had fallen to near blackness. Who needed a book to read during a ball?
Alex spun on his heel and thrust the image of Rylestone standing too close to Anthea in some darkened, secluded room as Lady Rylestone and several unsuspecting guests looked on from the doorway.
Where was she?
His gaze traveled the path from the stables to the manor house. The distance wasn’t far, but several trees and shrubs lining the path made visibility difficult. A flash of movement caught his attention. There. Was that her?
Relief flooded through him as he recognized her easy stride. She carried a small valise and was dressed in her darkest riding habit. The corners of his mouth tugged upwards as he remembered the clever split that allowed her to ride astride. They would make good time tonight.
He welcomed her into his arms and kissed her soundly. The taste of her mouth under his tempted him. With effort, he lifted his head and broke the kiss.
“I feared you were not coming.”
“After tonight’s events, I had no choice.”
“I know not what I might have done. I would have stormed the ballroom to collect you.”
“I could not stay and be trapped, not when the man I—” Anthea blushed and stared at his cravat. “Not when I knew you awaited me.”
Alex tipped her chin up so their gazes met. “I regret that you feel corralled. I would not wish that upon you, ever.”
He sensed the shift in her mood when she pulled away from his embrace and cloaked herself in practical matters. “Are the horses ready?”
“Nearly, I shall send for the ones I purchased from Rylestone once any gossip settles.” He patted his coat pocket where the papers transferring ownership of two mares and two foals were tucked. He hoped she would be pleased when he presented her with the news.
“I should have realized you were not here solely for the house party.”
“No, I would not have been included in the invitation by choice. I tagged along with FRIEND2 after speaking with Rylestone in London about improving my own stables. I—”
Anthea chopped through the air with her hand in an impatient gesture. “Hush! I hear someone coming.”
Alex turned back to the path and a woman approached with a lantern. Not stopping to identify her, he grabbed Anthea’s hand and pulled her into the stables, where their mounts were waiting.
His frustration intensified as Anthea wasted precious moments dropping the stirrup to assist her mounting. “Let me give you a boost. It will be faster.”
“I’ve got it.” She jammed the toe of her boot into the stirrup and grabbed the front and back of the saddle, preparing to mount.
“Stop where you are,” an old woman’s cold, imperative voice commanded.
Alex felt as if the wind had been knocked out of him. Lady Rylestone.
The dowager countess stood framed in the doorway.
“We had a lovely time at your ball, Lady Rylestone. However it is late and I fear we cannot tarry any longer.” Anthea’s gaze darted back and forth between them.
“You are not going anywhere, young lady. What would your dear mother say, Anthea?”
“My mother would applaud my good judgment.”
“You ungrateful little wretch!” Lady Rylestone pointed a gnarled finger at Anthea and the lantern trembled in her precarious grip. “I would make you a countess and you repay my kindness and by slinking off to the stables with a man in the middle of the night like a whore.”
Anthea stiffened, her spine rigid and her shoulders thrown back. “Better to be mistaken for one than procured as one.”
Alex’s heart swelled with pride. Pride for the woman he loved. He reached toward her, but she hauled on the saddle and pulled her self up.
“You little viper!” The dowager countess dropped the lantern as she made a wild grab for Anthea’s legs, but only snagged a fistful of skirt in her clawed fist.
Alex rushed to right the lantern, but the damage was done. Oil spilled from the overturned lantern to puddle beneath the loose straw. The flame hadn’t gone out and the oil and straw ignited.
Anthea’s mare reared and pawed at the air, terrified by the scent of smoke and the flames spreading quickly across the stable floor.
“Look what you’ve done!” Alex whirled on Lady Rylestone. He grabbed her upper arms and shook her.
She stared back at him, looking through him. A peculiar smile drew her lips back from her teeth. “If she will not bear my son’s heirs, no man will reap the benefits of the Penrose bloodlines.”
Alex’s hands fell to his sides as her words swapped his anger with disbelief. “Have you no care for the other lives you’ve endangered?”
“Horses can be replaced. I daresay grooms can be too. You and your whore? I could care less.”
A horse screamed in terror as the fire spread into its stall. A hoof kicked through the wall nearest him. Billowing smoke clawed at his watery eyes and his scratchy throat. He cleared his throat but all that came out was a rasping sound at first. “Anthea!” What if she couldn’t hear him? His muscles seized as he imagined her lying unconscious, trampled beneath her panicked mare’s hooves.
Where was she?
If you enjoyed this, you might enjoy some of my other Excerpt Monday offerings.
Also, be sure to check out these other excerpts, but please note the genre and rating so you don’t get any surprises! (Please note: not all participants may have their excerpts available before 8:30 am EDT Monday Morning).
Mel/Alexia Reed, Urban Fantasy (R)
Bria Quinlan, Rom Com (PG)
Joining us this week:
AJ O’Donovan, Poetry (PG13)
Stephanie Draven, Paranormal Romance (PG 13)
Heather S.Ingemar, Dark Fantasy/Poetry (PG13)
Babette James, Fantasy Romance (PG 13)
Cynthia Justlin, Romantic Suspense (PG 13)
Kaige, Historical Romance (PG 13)
Julia Knight, Fantasy Romance (PG13)
Ansha Kotyk, Middle Grade Adventure (PG13)
Adelle Laudan, Contemporary Romance (PG 13)
Jeannie Lin, Historical Romance (PG 13)
RF Long, YA Paranormal (PG13)
Caitlynn Lowe, Epic Fantasy (PG13)
Shawntelle Madison, Paranormal Romance (PG 13)
Crista McHugh, Contemporary Erotic Romance (PG 13)
Bria Quinlan, Rom Com (PG)
Leigh Royals, Historical Romance (PG 13)
Megan S., Paranormal (PG13)
Dara Sorensen, Historical Paranormal (PG 13)
Bethanne Strasser, Historical Romance (PG13)
Melissa Aires, Futuristic Romance (R)
Melissa Blue, Contemporary Romance (R)
Jax Cassidy, Contemporary (R)
Christina DeLorenzo, Furturistic Sci-Fi (R)
Maya Doyle, Parnormal Romance (R)
Ginny Glass, Paranormal (R)
Amber Green, Romantic Suspense (R)
Cate Hart, Paranormal YA (R)
Kinsey W. Holley, Erotic Romance (R)
Ali Katz, Erotic Paranormal Romance (R)
Aislinn Kerry, Fantasy (R)
Elise Logan, Fantasy Romance (R)
Inez Kelly, Fantasy Romance (R)
Cherrie Lynn, Contemporary Erotic Romance (R)
Mel/Alexia Reed, Urban Fantasy (R)
Rebecca Savage, Romantic Suspense (R)
Fae Sutherland, Contemporary Erotic Romance (R)
Stephanie Adkins, Paranormal Erotic Romance (NC 17)
Evie Byrne, Erotic Historical Romance (NC17)
Ella Drake, Erotic Contemporary (NC17)
Dawn Montgomery, Erotic Paranormal Romance (NC17)
Lauren Murphy, Erotic Romance (NC 17)
Kim Knox, Erotic Paranormal Romance (NC17)
Emily Ryan-Davis, Historical Western Romance (NC17)
Kirsten Saell, Erotic Fantasy Romance (NC 17)
Jeanne St. James, Contemporary Romance (NC 17)