A Midsummer's Kiss, book 4 in my best-selling Farthingale series has arrived! Though the book officially released a month ago, we're still celebrating. In honor, one lucky reader will win signed paperbacks of all of my Farthingale books. You can enter to win at the bottom of the post.
First, let me introduce you to A Midsummer's Kiss.
Here's a special excerpt just for you...
Laurel settled in one of the two red silk chairs placed
beside the open window. The stool was tucked beside his bed, and kept out of
the way as it had been for her last few visits. She suspected that maintaining
identical chairs beside the window was Graelem’s way of keeping them on equal
footing. Equals in the marriage. Equals in their seating arrangement. Equals in
everything but the decision on whether or not to marry.
She was eager to learn why they had
to wed by Midsummer’s Day. The more he confided in her, the better the plan she
could devise to thwart him. She watched him settle into the seat beside hers,
her heart tightening as he held his breath and tensed his shoulders while
easing against the bright red silk with slow, painful movements.
She knew that she could never be
completely angry or indignant with him. He was suffering and she was the cause
of it. “Tell me why we must marry.”
“Because I’ll lose my inheritance if
I don’t have a wife by Midsummer’s Day.”
That was simple and direct. She
frowned. “So that’s all I am to you? A means to an inheritance? No noble
reason? You want the wealth and standing in society.”
“I don’t give a damn about society.
I give a damn about the people who live and work the Moray lands, the families
that have called it their home for generations. The title is mine whether or
not we marry, of course. So is the manor house since it is entailed. However, that
house needs a lot of work to bring it back to its former glory. Silas, the old
Baron Moray, was not one to spend on basic comforts.”
She tipped her head, confused. “So
you’re marrying me for my dowry?”
“No. Silas died a wealthy man. He
could have left it all to me without restraint or restriction since I’m his
closest surviving male heir, albeit through the maternal line. But he wanted to
be sure I’d continue the Moray bloodline, hence the requirement for me to marry
within the month.”
“And if you don’t?”
He ran a hand roughly through his
hair. He’d obviously washed it shortly before she’d arrived so that it was
clean and shining, and yet a few thick curls remained damp and refused to
behave. The style was not elegant, but his slightly too-long hair and those few
wayward curls suited him to perfection. Drat!
He cleared his throat and shifted
uncomfortably. Clearly he did not like to speak about himself. “I’ll lose the
farms and other land holdings, the bonds and investments, the mining and
shipping partnerships. I’ve spent most of these last fifteen years building
them up for Silas and I’ll be damned if I’m to quietly turn everything over to
some worthless popinjay distant cousin who’ll gamble through the assets within
“Fifteen years? He put you to work
by the time you were, what... about ten years old?” She gasped. “He treated you
like an orphan in a workhouse.”
“He treated me like a strict,
elderly uncle who believed in working for one’s supper. That’s all. Don’t make
more of it than that.”
But for one brief moment, she saw
the loneliness and bitter struggles of his childhood years reflected in his
gaze. “So Silas gave you only a month to find a wife?”
Once again, he shifted
uncomfortably. “He gave me a little longer than that. He died almost three
She pursed her lips, struggling to
rid herself of all sympathetic feelings for this man. It wasn’t quite as easy
as she had hoped, but she finally managed to do it. After all, he really didn’t
need her. Any girl would do. “Three months is still not a very long time to
find a proper wife. However, you have a wide field of prospects available to
you in London. If you’re truly to inherit wealth in your own right, and don’t
“I don’t. Lass,” he said, his dark
green eyes rounding in surprise, “I’d never touch a shilling of yours. What
comes from your family is yours to keep.”
She was relieved he wasn’t after her
trust fund, but that only heightened her confusion. “If you don’t need my
“All I need is Moray.” There was a
stubborn set to his jaw, a nice jaw that any young lady would be tempted to
caress. Just not her, because no matter how appealing he might be under other
circumstances, he had unfairly trapped her into a betrothal and she could never
forgive him for that.
“Then any young lady will suit your
He cast her a hard stare that caused
her to blush by its heat and intensity. “I won’t be meeting any of them for
another week or two at the earliest. I can’t take the risk of running out of
time. Moray means too much to me.”
But I don’t.
“Can’t take the risk or won’t?” she
asked, repeating the same question Eloise had asked of her when discussing
their impossible situation and their not-going-to-happen marriage.
The solution to this problem was so
simple that Laurel wanted to grab Graelem by his shirt collar and shake him
soundly. “I’ll speak to your grandmother and we’ll arrange a small tea party
right here. I’ll also speak to my parents and insist on our hosting a dinner or
musicale in our own home. I’m sure you will easily manage to walk next door
given a few more days.” The ideas continued to whirl in her head. “I have
several friends making their come out this season. They’ll trip over themselves
to meet a wealthy baron.”
He arched an eyebrow and leaned
closer. “If they’re so eager, then why aren’t you?”
She tipped her chin upward in
indignation, the common ending to most of their conversations. “As I said, I’m
in love with another.”
“Ah, yes. Devlin, the man who’s
kissed you with the ardor of boiled socks.”
Her face began to heat. “If ever he
were to kiss me, I can assure you it would be with more ardor than that of
“If ever he...” He shook his head as
though confused, then gaped at her and laughed. “You mean to say that he hasn’t
kissed you yet? Not even one stolen kiss under a Yuletide bough?”
She didn’t think that her cheeks
could grow any hotter, but they did. “No. Not yet, but—”
“Blessed Scottish saints,” he said
in a husky murmur. “Are you saying that I’m the only man who’s ever
“In that crude and plundering way.
Yes.” In that wonderful, fires-of-hell-take-me-I’m-yours way that still had her
blushing and wanting to rip the shirt off his body and run her hands along his
hot, golden skin? She cleared her throat. “In any way at all? Yes. You’re the
A solemn quiet came over him, but he
shook out of it quickly. “Laurel, lass.” He spoke with a gentleness not present
before. “You can’t possibly love him.”
“I knew you were going to say that.”
She curled her hands into fists and returned his gaze with a scowl of
exasperation. “I do love him. I don’t love you. The kiss we shared was a
mistake. I wasn’t myself. I was distraught and uncertain.”
She paused a moment and swallowed hard. “But
thank you for not taking advantage of me. Had you tried, I think I would have
let you.” Because she was crazed and hurting. No other reason. Certainly not
because she felt any desire for the oaf.
Goodness and mercy! Why would she
feel anything for him?
“I know, lass,” he said with a nod.
“But I gave you my promise that I wouldn’t touch you against your will and I’ll
keep to it. You wanted the kiss and it was harmless enough.” He leaned closer
still. “Granted, you wanted more. But I will not have you shamed or living with
regrets for your actions on one of the most difficult days of your life. When
you marry me—”
“If I marry you. Which I
won’t.” Drat! The words sounded uncertain even to her ears.
“I’ll make you a bargain.”
She shot to her feet, instantly
wary. “What sort of bargain?”
“I’ll agree to attend these bloody
teas and musicales if you stop dismissing the idea of our marriage.”
She nibbled her lip in thought and
noticed that Graelem’s eyes darkened as he watched her. Honestly, why did the
oaf have to be blessed with dangerously seductive eyes? They should have been
watery or rimmed in red. They weren’t. His eyes were clear and magnificent. “No
more dismissing the idea of our marriage? I’ll agree not to mention it when we
chat”—but I’ll still think it—“so long as you don’t dismiss out of hand
the young ladies I plan to invite to said teas and musicales.”
“Agreed.” He gave her a
heart-melting smile. “Care to seal it with a handshake?”
No, she’d much rather seal it with a
kiss. A lips-locked, tongues-plundering string of kisses to be precise. “Blessed
Scottish saints,” he said in a hoarse whisper and rose from his chair to
stand beside her. “Don’t look at me that way, lass.”
“What way?” She felt her heart
beating faster and the heat in her cheeks was now spreading through her body,
blazing a fiery trail through her veins. Graelem stood too close. She put her
hand on his chest to nudge him back, but somehow her hand curled against the
front of his shirt and she found herself tugging his big body closer instead.
Oh, dear. The wrong way.
“What’s it to be, lass?” His mouth
felt feather soft against her ear. “Do we seal our bargain with a safe and
proper handshake?” His cool breath sent very hot tingles up and down her spine.
“Or would you rather we seal it with a dangerously improper kiss?”
She let out a soft gasp. Did the man
have no shame?
“A handshake, of course.” But her
wanton hands moved up to cup the back of his head and draw his mouth down to
hers. She rose on her wanton tiptoes and leaned her wanton body into his because...
all right... yes, she wanted the thrill of his mouth on hers. He was remarkably
good at kissing, and who knew how many more kisses she’d get from this big oaf
before they parted ways before Midsummer’s Day? The two of them unmarried
because she wasn’t going to be leg-shackled to a stranger for the rest of her
For now, she loved the way he looked
at her in that I’m-so-hungry-for-you way. And loved the way he held her
as though she were the most precious thing to him on this good earth. Were all
men this good at pretending? And loved the feel of his lips as they
descended on hers, the low groan as he captured her mouth, the deeper groan as
he ran his tongue across her teeth and gently parted them to plunge inside and
explore her mouth.
He overwhelmed her senses.
She couldn’t get enough of him, of
his fresh, lather scent. Of his muscled arms and hard chest. Of his—
“Laurel!” Aunt Hortensia called to
her in a raspy shriek that shook candles out of their sconces and resounded
like a trumpet blare throughout the house. “Step away from that villain at
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