Today's excerpt is from Battle for Love by Valerie Bowes.
We hope you enjoy today's tease!
Normally a place of bustle, full of horses and ostlers and boys who darted about on errands, the yard was eerily quiet. She could see lantern-light shining through a stall door where the grooms had taken refuge from the chill in one of the stables, and hear the muffled shouts as they indulged in a game of cards, but no-one came out to challenge her as she took a few deep breaths of the cold air.
A spatter of raindrops brought goose-bumps to her arms, and she turned to go back indoors. Before she could reach the doorway, there was a flicker of movement on the dark stair, and Boult stepped out in front of her.
“It is only I, Miss Worth,” he said, seeing her start at his abrupt appearance. She could see his satirical smile in the faint light that filtered down from the windows above, and the suspicion struck her that he had seen her leave the room and followed her.
“The attractions of the inn-yard would appear to have visited us both at the same time,” he added smoothly, and she was sure of it. Perhaps he thought she had done it deliberately, to entice him? The idea brought the hot blood of anger rushing to her cheeks.
“Indeed, I was so heated that I felt the need of some coolness, but it is far too chilly to remain out here,” she said. “Please to let me pass, sir. I wish to go upstairs again.”
He stood back, but the doorway was narrow and she had no intention of squeezing past so close to him. The memory of what had happened the last time stirred in her stomach. The hard maleness of him brought thoughts to her mind that she was ashamed of. She stood still and directed a pointed stare that held no more warmth than the yard behind her.
“I most humbly beg your pardon.” He moved aside, but she could hear the laugh in his voice and her temper rose. With her nose in the air, she marched past him but, as she set her foot on the first stair, he stayed her with a hand on her arm.
“I have to admit to a certain subterfuge, Miss Worth. You are quite right. I did come in search of you. You see, the second waltz is yet to come and I was hoping that you would reconsider my request and grant it to me. I assure you that, unlike your previous partner, I’m accounted a dancer of some accomplishment.”
Thoughts tumbled through her head. Why shouldn’t I? It will show everyone I’m not an old maid yet. Anyway, what harm could he do, in a room full of people? It’s only one dance, and he’s easily the most good-looking man in the room. He said I have kissable lips. And Will is not here.
“Very well, Mr Boult,” she said.
She came face to face with Will Carlton the moment she walked through the door into the bright ballroom.