Miss Christiana Daventry will do whatever it takes to keep from being thrown out on the streets - even accept the insufferably attractive Lord Braybrook's proposition!
Julian Trentham urgently needs to hire a governess and companion, and Christy is conveniently available. Headstrong, with charmingly mismatched eyes and soft tawny hair, Christy is unlike any woman he has ever encountered. But there is something so deliciously endearing about her that Julian quickly forgets how scandalous it would be to give in to his mounting attraction for the penniless governess . . .
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Two hours later, picking blackberries, Christy acknowledged that one of the day's memories would be blackberry brambles. She wouldn't have believed how viciously the wretched sprays could cling. As for connected, the problem was to avoid being connected. They clung to everything, her hair, her skirts; her bare arms were well and truly scratched. Her basket was two thirds full and that had taken an hour, although she admitted it might have been quicker had she not eaten so many. She loved blackberries and these, bursting with sunshine, were temptation itself.
She was slightly damp having cooled her face in the river, but it was so hot she would be dry again by the time she reached Amberley. Although she would still slip in by the side door. She was a mess, but she was having so much fun. Never had she been able to roam like this for a whole day. Always she had been kept within doors, living in town. Either with her mother or at school or in her jobs. When she had gone out it had been to do an errand. There had never been a chance simply to be. And blackberries had always been bought.
Moving around the patch, she saw a particularly luscious bunch over her head. Standing on tiptoe, she reached up, carefully lifting a prickly shoot out of the way . . . and felt it catch across the tops of her breasts through the cambric and linen of her gown and chemise.
'Bother!' she muttered and twisted around to release the clinging barbs. More snagged on her hair. With a curse she reached up to remove them. And froze as something on the ground caught her gaze. There, coiled lazily in the sun was a greeny coloured snake. She pulled back with a startled gasp, lost her balance and fell against the brambles. The snake didn't move.
One eye on the snake, Christy tried to pull free, but discovered that she was held fast. As soon as she loosened one set of barbs another gripped with even greater tenacity. The snake appeared oblivious, until it suddenly uncoiled, raising its head. Briefly the forked tongue flickered and then with a rustle of grass and fallen leaves it slithered away towards the river.
Christy breathed a sigh of relief, and continued to battle the brambles, only to hear the sound of approaching hoofbeats. She muttered a curse as she twisted to look over her shoulder. Riding towards her on his tall black gelding was his lordship, sitting easily in the saddle as if he had grown there.
Spending the rest of the afternoon entangled in a bramble bush because she was too proud to call out would be stupid. Drawing a deep breath, she yelled. He raised a hand and his horse altered course towards her.
'Miss Daventry, is something -?' He broke off and the blue eyes widened. 'Ah.' He barely supressed the grin, but swung down and came towards her swiftly. 'Are you all right?' His gaze fell on her scratched arms and his mouth set hard. 'What the devil were you doing to get that scratched?' Even as he spoke he fished an odd-looking tool out of his coat pocket, unfolded it to reveal a blade and began cutting her free.
'I was reaching for those,' she indicated the dangling blackberries, 'and overbalanced.'
He gave a disgusted look as he caught a spray snagged on her hair, cut it and cast it away. 'Miss Daventry, the first rule of blackberrying is that no fruit is worth falling into the brambles for.'
'There was a snake,' she said, feeling foolish. 'I daresay it was harmless, but it startled me.'
'A snake?' He began to unhook a shoot that had caught across her breasts, the small barbs digging mercilessly. She froze at the shocking feel of his fingers, brushing with apparent disinterest over her breasts. Her breath locked in her throat, she looked down. The long, lean fingers worked carefully, detaching the clinging prickles. She swallowed. She felt surrounded by him, by the mingled odours of leather, horse and something warm, spicy, and very male. This close she could see the faint dark shadow along his jaw, even though he would have shaved that morning. It looked scratchy, tempting, as though it invited curious fingertips. She clenched her fists, denying the thought, denying the sensation of his his fingers brushing her breasts. Several layers of cloth should have muted his touch. They didn't.
His hands stilled. 'I'm sorry. Did I hurt you?'
'Wha - pardon?' She gulped. His right hand rested very lightly on her right breast. Heat rose, aching in both breasts.
'Your hands clenched. Did I hurt you?'
'Oh. Er, no. Of course not.' She forced her hands to relax. She wasn't used to being so close to a man. That was all.
He frowned as though not quite convinced, but continued. 'What colour was it?'
'Colour?' Frantically she pulled her senses back from the accidental caress of those long brown fingers. 'Oh, the snake - greenish. It was quite long too. A yard?' No doubt he would think she was exaggerating and tell her that snakes didn't grow to that size.
'A grass snake then,' he said. 'Harmless.' There was a ripping sound as one stubborn barb tore her gown, a small, three cornered tear. His breath hissed in.
'Blast. Did that scratch you?'
'N . . . no.'
'Good. Hold still, we're nearly there.'
A moment later she stepped free, stumbling slightly. He steadied her. 'You should wash those scratches. Mrs Higgs will have some comfrey salve in the stillroom.'
She nodded. 'Thank you, my lord.' Her breath came uncertainly. He still held her. Not to steady her now. There was something intangibly different about the grip of his hands just above her bare elbows . . . something extremely unsteadying. She should step away. Should have already stepped away. Even as the thought flickered, his grip loosened, slid up her arms, his gaze questioning. And every speeding heartbeat she remained in his hold gave him the wrong answer.
'Someone in the bible found a lamb in a thicket, did they not?' His voice caressed. Hungry.
Oh, the temptation of that dark hunger! Not just his voice, but in his eyes. Her reason floundered for some sort of footing. 'Abraham,' she said. 'And . . . and it was a ram, not a lamb. He sacrificed it instead of his son.'
Heat flared in his eyes. 'As long as I am not expected to sacrifice you . . .'
From the novel Lord Braybrook's Penniless Bride
by Elizabeth Rolls
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The edition published by arrangement with Harlequin Books S.A.
Rolls' delightful Regency romance is reminiscent of Georgette Heyer. The very first sentence draws readers into the story, and engaging characters, snappy dialogue, humor and lots of sexual tension ensure that they won't put it down until the end.
Romantic Times BookReviews
Well, for goodness sake! Look who sneaked onto the page. It's Ben the Gordon Setter, six months old now and growing fast. He's here because a few readers were curious about what Julian, Lord Braybrook's dog actually looked like. In the story I described Julian's dog, Juno, as a black and tan setter. This was because they were not known as Gordon Setters until after 1827 although they had been around for a long while. They became known as Gordon Setters in honour of Alexander 4th Duke of Gordon who did a great deal to develop the breed. Julian must have bought Juno from His Grace on a shooting trip to Scotland. And yes, those of you who are taking part in the Harlequin Historical Holiday giveaway - you've found what you were looking for. Email me quickly for your chance to win a signed copy of Lord Braybrook's Penniless Bride,as well as your chance to go in the draw for the Kindle on the 23rd.