Best laid plans. I had hoped to get this out around June 20th, but things didn’t work out. So, I’m putting it on sale at half price after doing a little tweaking to the last two books in the series.
I had more fun writing this series even though it is not even remotely related to Jane Austen except the time period is roughly around 1820. These four guys, who are the best of friends, have sown some wild oats and are not really looking to become leg-shackled anytime soon. However, underneath all the fun and games is enough dissatisfaction at their lifestyle that it makes each of them vulnerable to the sweet ladies that will eventually capture their hearts.
Enjoy an excerpt from Lord Windmere, the first book in the series.
Lady Jane Thornton and Lord Windmere have known each other since they were children but haven’t seen each other for over two years. The two meet again at a house party and begin renewing their earlier friendship. However, there are several woman at the same house party who would give their eyeteeth to capture the man with the newly minted title, even one willing to kill if necessary to win his regard. Lady Jane has already had hot tea spilled on her necessitating a short recovery period but this will not be all that will occur during what should have been a fun fortnight.
Lady Jane never did return to the drawing room that day. Although, she had not sustained a serious burn, her skin was sensitive to the fabric of any dress she would wear so she changed into and remained in her nightrail for the remainder of the day. Her cousin, Mrs. Millicent Willingham, loaned her one of Mrs. Radcliff’s novels, and Janie read for a while, took a long nap, had her supper on a tray, and retired early. The salve that the housekeeper brought was helping with the burn, and the maid did wonders with her dress by removing the entire stain. But she missed seeing Matt later in the day. Her only consolation was that the house party was to last for a fortnight.
The watcher rejoiced in the fact that she didn’t see the little nobody until the next morning. She spent the entire time in futile pursuit of Lord Windmere, who made it a point to enter a lengthy chess match with Lord Mooring and then played vingt-et-un with several other gentlemen winning over £25 much to their chagrin. However, she was most irritated that Lord Windmere remained out of reach in spite of the fact that Lady Jane was not in sight.
Matt, in the meantime, fretted at not seeing Janie even for a short while. When he inquired of her cousin as to the severity of the burn, he was told that Lady Jane was fine but a trifle overset at what happened and would rest until the morrow when she would join the other guests. This, however, did not satisfy Matt as they were to ride the estate at seven o’clock again, but Mrs. Willingham assured him Janie would be fine after a night’s rest. He had to be satisfied with that.
Come evening, supper was a little boring again because Janie did not come to the dining room. The two young ladies who were his seated companions were nice but with not much personality. When he thought about it, the problem with them was that neither one was Janie. He missed her.
After the gentlemen joined the ladies in the drawing room, some of the women exhibited on the pianoforte, the harp, and with singing. Lady Penelope immediately accosted Matt. “Lord Windmere, would you do me the honor of turning the pages for me?”
He felt he had no choice and said, “Of course.” He would rather have been polishing his boots, although, he never did as his valet had that luxury.
“If you sit on the bench with me, you will be able to turn the pages much easier,” Lady Penelope said with a smile.
Rather than argue the point, Matt joined her on the bench, but almost immediately regretted doing so.
First of all, Lady Penelope hadn’t given him enough room to sit without being pressed up against her hip. But the aggravation of being there was just the beginning of her machinations. As she played and sang, she covertly brushed her arm then her breast up against his arm much to his chagrin.
His response had been to keep moving away from her toward the edge of the bench until he was in danger of falling to the floor. Matt’s irritation at what she was doing raised his ire until he was tempted to say something to her, then to get up and leave the room. Drat the woman. I know exactly what she wants, but how do I let her know I will have nothing to do with her? The only lady I’m interested in is Janie.
The more he thought about Janie, the more he was determined to ask her father to allow his courtship as soon as the house party ended. Where Lady Penelope was concerned, he had zero interest and would do everything in his power to get that point across to her, one way or another.
The minute Lady Penelope finished her songs, she thanked him profusely.
Lord Windmere politely murmured, “You are welcome.” Then he retired for the evening.
During the exhibiting, he had noticed Lady Elizabeth and her twin sitting off to the side of the pianoforte. If he had stayed one more minute, he could not have guaranteed what he might have said in a fit of pique to Lady Elizabeth as he still thought that the spilling of Janie’s tea had been done on purpose. He just didn’t understand why it happened. So, he determined that from here on out he would stick close to Janie and make sure no other harm came to her.
Matt had absolutely no interest in Lady Penelope nor several other women at the house party that were showing interest in him also. And, where Janie was concerned, it wasn’t that he felt their friendship was like a pair of comfortable, old slippers, nor was it coup de foudre, but his feelings for her were growing, and the pace was increasing, much to his pleasure. All of his attention was for Janie.
However, because he had always been careful of the machinations of conniving women—under any circumstances—he took his usual added precaution of making sure his bedchamber door was locked at all times to prevent any kind of mischief. His valet and the maids were the only ones allowed entry other than himself. And Matt would enter only if his valet was already inside.
So, in the middle of the night, the watcher reached out to turn the doorknob to Lord Windmere’s bedchamber only to find that it wouldn’t give. As she continued to try to gain entry, she rattled the knob but finally realized that it was locked. Hissing through her teeth in frustration, she cursed, stomped her foot then returned to her chamber in a rage.
Sounds of her efforts, though, had awakened Matt, who smiled and smothered his laughter while he listened to her use words that would have peeled paint off the walls. Breathing a sigh of relief that his safety measures had worked, he rolled over and went back to sleep.
The next morning Matt had dressed to ride hoping that Janie had too. Leaving his bedchamber, he encountered her in her riding habit going toward the stairs. “Good morning, Janie. You look lovely. Are you feeling better?” he inquired.
“Good morning, Matt. Yes, I’m well. The salve given me by Lady Stockton worked wonders, and the burn just itches a little.” She smiled and added, “I look forward to our ride today.”
“I too,” said Matt with a sly look. “Allow me ten minutes in the kitchen, and I’ll have the cook pack some rolls and tea.”
“I’ll be waiting with bated breath. Hurry back.” The smile she gave him made his knees a little weak.
His grin almost faltered as he realized that no woman had ever done that to him. Good God. I don’t just like her but am in love with her. Can that be true…so soon? He walked a little quicker.
As it happened, Mrs. Sneed had anticipated his wants and needed only to pack the tea, and Matt was at Janie’s side in five instead of ten minutes.
“That was quick.”
He snugged her up to his side and quietly replied, “Yes. It allows me more time with you.”
For a few moments, time stood still as they gazed into each other’s eyes, and Matt contemplated kissing her right there. It would be a lovely way to start the day. Unfortunately, Billingsley walked in, and, after bowing to them, continued on his way. Matt just sighed in frustration, and Janie’s giggles made him smile.
“Perhaps, we should be on our way as the horses are waiting,” she volunteered.
Matt didn’t care who was waiting, but if they stayed, he would definitely kiss her senseless, and they ran the risk of someone else interrupting them. So, he reluctantly agreed, and they headed out the door and toward the stables.
This day they rode a little longer on a different part of the estate and were delighted when they found a small pond with cattails and water lilies. When they noticed that there was a mother duck and a number of ducklings following her, Janie suggested that they stop there and have their snack before going farther. After eating, they walked around the pond and threw crumbs to the ducklings and laughed at the antics of the little ones as they bumped each other diving after the food.
They were having so much fun, they were reluctant to leave. And Matt regretted the groom who was still in sight. He was necessary for propriety, but Matt was all but wishing him to perdition as he wanted Janie to himself, all day, in his arms, and… Ah, well, such was bad timing for a lover who was wanting so much more. He sighed and remembered he was to court and marry this young lady especially since his feelings had grown into love for her. And, although it was right and proper to think of a wife— as his thoughts were at the moment—it was not proper to wish her in his bed when they were not even affianced, much less wed. Unfortunately, his body was beginning to respond in an obvious way to his thoughts. This will not do. So, he asked about her parents and set his mind elsewhere.
When they rode away from the pond they went farther than they had the day before and found a field of wildflowers.
“Matt, can we stop so I may gather some of the flowers for my bedchamber?”
“Of course. Let me help you down, and we both can gather them.”
Putting his hands on her waist and lifting her down carried its own brand of problems. She slid down his length and found herself pressed up against him and didn’t want to move. She shivered as a frisson of desire went up her spine and gave a little gasp at the heat in Matt’s gaze.
He briefly closed his eyes, sighed, and laughed ruefully. “Yes, I would love to kiss you, my dear, but this is neither the time nor the place. Come. Let’s gather your wildflowers.”
She licked her lips as warmth invaded places in her body she had never noticed before. Not knowing what she wanted but knowing she wanted something, she looked puzzled for a moment, pinked a little, and then took his arm. After gathering a nice-sized bouquet, they remounted and headed back to the pond. There, Matt dampened a large handkerchief and wrapped the stems so they wouldn’t wilt on the way back to the manor house.
By the time they returned to Lady Stockton’s, most of the guests were up and in the drawing room. As they walked in the front door, Lady Jillian, Lady Penelope, Miss Mary, and Lady Caroline were coming down the stairs. The watcher stopped abruptly and stared for a moment in silence. Then she seemed to recover her wits. Plastering a smile on her face, she said, “Good morning.”
Matt bowed, and Janie curtseyed as the four women curtseyed in return.
“Have you been riding?” the watcher inquired.
“We have been and enjoyed it thoroughly.” Matt said and then took both of Janie’s hands. “Will you join me again tomorrow?”
Blushing, she smiled and said she would.
No invitation was issued to the other three ladies.
Nonetheless, the watcher spoke up. “I don’t care for riding, myself, but Lady Katherine loves to ride and would probably like to join you.”
Matt could hardly say no, as the horses were part of the Stockton’s stable. So, he forced himself to smile and said that Lady Katherine would be welcome, biting his tongue on what he would have liked to have said. He admitted to himself he was greedy. He had to share Janie with the other guests all the rest of the time; he didn’t want to share her on their morning rides. That was special, just for them. With a slight frown, he looked down at Janie with regret, and she smiled in understanding.
The watcher also smiled and continued on to the drawing room with the other ladies following behind her. Matt took the flowers and asked the footman to have them put in a vase and taken to Lady Jane’s room. Then, they both returned to their bedchambers to refresh and change clothes.
Have fun watching Matt fall in love with his childhood friend and appreciate his reactions to the series of events that occur to destroy his relationship with Lady Jane. Will he be a gentleman? Yes, he will because he is determined to wed this lovely lady and will do nothing to spoil her opinion of him.
The Four Lords’ Saga Collection should be on Amazon sometime next week and through the end of July at half price. It will also be sporting a brand new, romantic cover as well. Enjoy!
Copyright © 2015 Gianna Thomas