I am delighted to feature an excerpt this week from Janice Preston‘s latest release Daring to Love the Duke’s Heir.
This scene takes place backstage at the Sans Pareil Theatre (now the Adephi Theatre), on the Strand in London –
Dominic entered the backstage area and immediately spied a cloaked and hooded figure lurking in a doorway up ahead. He adjusted his grip on his ebony cane, which handily concealed a sword, but the figure did not move as he passed. He’d taken two steps past before the scent of roses reached him, sending the hair on the back of his neck on end. He pivoted round to face…Miss Liberty Lovejoy.
Liberty gasped as a vice-like grip encircled her upper arm. The thick wool of the cloak she wore did little to disguise the strength in those fingers. Heart pumping with fear, she raised her eyes to her assailant and the breath whooshed from her lungs.
‘You scared me half to death. What are you doing here?’
Dominic did not answer. His fingers tightened, then he was dragging her with him, opening doors at random, muttering apologies, until he found an empty room. He whisked her inside and released her, pushing her to the far side of the small, cluttered space. A lamp illuminated the interior, revealing clothing strewn over a chair and brushes and pots of face powder and rouge scattered upon a table with a mirror fixed on the wall behind it—a mirror that reflected Dominic’s furious expression as he glared at the back of Liberty’s head. She squared her shoulders and pivoted to face him.
‘How dare you manhandle me?’
She strode for the door, but his hand covered hers on the handle before she could open it. She tugged her hand free and turned to face him, her back to the door. He was close. Too close. And his expression had, somehow, transformed from fury into… Stillness. Focus. Like a cat waiting to pounce. Heat shimmered in those silvery eyes. Liberty swallowed—hard—as her pulse hammered. His body was against hers, all unyielding muscle and spicy, musky masculinity. Her stomach fluttered and liquid heat pooled in her core. She could not tear her gaze from his as he propped his hands against the door, one either side of her shoulders, pinning her. His scent surrounded her, sending waves of pure longing crashing through her—a feeling she hadn’t experienced since Bernard had died.
And just like that, she broke free of his spell. She shoved at his chest, ducked beneath one of his arms and stalked to the furthest corner of the room. Her breathing steadied the more distance she put between them…he remained by the door and did not follow her.
‘What are you doing here?’ He growled the question out.
Liberty elevated her nose. ‘I asked you first.’
No doubt he is here to visit his amour. That’s what gentlemen do, is it not? Keep company with lightskirts and actresses and the like?
And that’s exactly what she feared her brother, Gideon, was doing here now—wasting his time and his money on an actress when he should be thinking about securing his new position as a peer. He would need an heir. He wouldn’t meet a suitable wife backstage at a theatre.
‘I am a man. I can do as I please. My reputation is not at stake.’
‘And my reputation matters not when it comes to my brother’s well-being.’
His narrowed gaze pierced her. ‘Your reputation might be of little consequence to you, but what about your sisters’ reputations?’
‘What of them?’
‘If you are seen, not only will you suffer, but your sisters will be irretrievably tainted. Is that really what you want?’
Her bravado was shrinking fast. To come to such a place unescorted was a scandalously improper way for a lady to behave, but she had persuaded herself she would not be noticed. Now, though, she was well and truly caught, and her disgrace would rebound on Hope and Verity if Lord Avon chose to reveal it.
‘Well, I have been seen now, so I have nothing left to lose, have I?’ She dipped a curtsy, intending the gesture to be ironic. ‘If it is your intention to expose my conduct, I cannot stop you. If it is not, then please allow me to leave so I can find Gideon.’
His lips firmed. ‘You asked why I am here. I shall tell you. I have come to see what your brother is up to and to ensure that his bad example does not corrupt my own brother.’
‘Oh! That is outrageous! It is yourbrother leading mineastray.’
He raised one brow, making her itch to slap him. Smug, superior know-it-all.
‘I hate to contradict a lady, but my observations thus far indicate the exact opposite.’
Their gazes remained locked for several fraught seconds until Dominic’s shoulders relaxed and one corner of his lips—beautifully shaped, mobile and enticing—twitched. They really were fascinating lips. What would it be like to kiss him? To feel his lips moving over hers? His tongue in her mouth, sliding against hers?
Oh, dear God. Forget scandalous. I am utterly depraved.
She moistened her dry lips. His eyes darkened. A pulse in her neck fluttered wildly and, without volition, she pressed shaking fingers to it. A vain attempt to suppress it? Then his gaze lowered and her nipples peaked in immediate response. She swallowed again and tugged at the edges of her cloak, pulling it across her chest in a defensive gesture. Dominic hauled in an audible breath, his broad chest swelling and then deflating again as he released his breath.
‘Let us begin again, Miss Lovejoy.’
His tone meant business. His very stance meant business. Despite herself, Liberty paid attention. This was not a man to defy, not in this mood.
Unconsciously, she raised her chin. ‘Continue.’
Drat him. There was that barely concealed smirk again.
Thank you for sharing this excerpt, Jan. I love Janice Preston‘s writing. If you haven’t tried one of her books please do, as they are real treats! Mx
About Janice Preston
Janice Preston writes emotional, sensual and satisfying Regency romance for Harlequin Mills & Boon.
She grew up in Wembley with a love of reading, writing stories and animals and has worked as a dairy farmer, a police call-handler and a university administrator. She has two children, two step-children (all now adult) and a gorgeous, cheeky grandson. She now lives in the West Midlands with her husband and two cats and enjoys swimming, yoga and pottering about the garden when the sun is shining.
She’s totally unsuitable…
…to be his Duchess!
Part of The Beauchamp Heirs: Dominic Beauchamp, Lord Avon, is a powerful duke’s heir and it’s his duty to marry well. His bride must have impeccable breeding, manners and grace. But can anyone meet his exacting standards? Certainly not the irrepressible Liberty Lovejoy, who’s been thrust into society after years of being a provincial nobody. She’s too bold, too bubbly…so why is she the only lady he’s thinking about?
To buy this Regency treat use this link – here