At last! Kim Bowman and I will be releasing the sequel to A Lot Like a Lady. In the meantime, I thought you might enjoy a lengthy sample.
Unsure whether to turn around and stalk off or grab Annabella by the shoulders and give her a good shake, Jon simply stared. Candlelight limned her face and gilded the honey-gold curls that cascaded about her shoulders. Her skin glowed peachy soft and her unusual dark green eyes gleamed like twin pools at midnight. She should have made him think of an angel. What she brought to his mind, though, was his gran’s favorite cat — the disagreeable brown tabby that hated everyone, particularly him, and never failed to spit and hiss whenever he got too close to her favorite perch.
Annabella jerked backward, reminding Jon that he’d been gaping. He raised an eyebrow and waited for her to gather her wits. As she straightened her back, she released an indignant gasp. Unfortunately, the sound only served to enhance the image of the angry tabby. Jon’s lips twitched as he fought a losing battle with a smile.
“Just what do you think you’re doing? Sneaking up on a body in the middle of the night!” She raked him with a scathing glare. “And in a most indecent state of undress.”
His struggle with the smile long since abandoned, Jon allowed his mouth to widen into a grin.
Predictably, the lady became even more incensed. “What is that — that —that look on your face?” She motioned with the candle in his direction.
Jon took an involuntary step away from the flame, but he refused to stifle his sudden good mood. “Beg pardon?”
“Why are you — grinning like a jackanapes?”
All hope of containing his mirth abandoned, Jon tossed back his head and loosed a hearty laugh. Then, crossing his arms over his chest, he shook his head. “Once again, the lady seeks to mortally wound me. I merely came rushing to the aid of a damsel in distress, and here she stands calling me a monkey.”
Annabella’s jaw dropped and her eyes widened into saucers. After a moment she snapped her mouth shut and narrowed her eyes into angry slits. Her heated glower slammed into him, as tangible as a punch to the jaw. Jon’s heart stammered and then thudded hard against his chest. Something about the light flickering over her face, or maybe it was the way her chin quivered and her lips twitched until she rolled them inward… Vulnerability threatened to overtake her natural defiance.
Oh, no. No, that would never do. Defiance he could handle. Vulnerability… vulnerable women. That was another story altogether. Run!
Inwardly reeling, Jon took a second step back. “Right, then. Well… as it seems you are not, after all, in dire need of assistance, I shall get back to what I was doing when your shriek interrupted me.” Which had been pacing the confines of the bedchamber after lying on the lumpy mattress for a brief time in fruitless pursuit of sleep.
Annabella pulled in a long breath. “I. Do. Not. Shriek.” The frostiness in each bit-off word could etch a window pane.
Good. Better that image in his head as he returned to the elusive endeavor of seeking sleep than one of pouting lips and trembling chin.
He inclined his head and smirked. “Oh well, if the lady doesn’t shriek, then it must have been a banshee I heard calling my name.”
“I did not call your—“ She clapped her mouth shut and glared. Her pale chest rose and fell with each harsh, indignant breath she pulled in. A tight smile widened her lips, though her eyes remained chilly. “Well, if a banshee is coming for you, I’ll be certain to welcome her at the door. At least she won’t be sneaking around and striking terror in unsuspecting hearts.”
Her quip sparked something inside — gave life to something that had too long lain quiescent. Jon stepped forward again, choosing to risk the heat of the candle should the lady decide to retaliate.
“Is that what I did?” he whispered. “Struck you in your heart?”
Her eyes grew impossibly wider until they took over her entire countenance, threatened to draw him into the unguarded reaches of her soul. The sweet scent of flowers mingling with the tart aroma of lemons rose to tantalize. Too close! Much too close, but too late to back off, so he held his ground and waited, well aware of the heated darts currently prowling his veins.
“Oh, I beg your pardon. One would first have to have a heart in order for it to be struck.” His grin widened. “Is that not what you told me at our first meeting?”
Annabella released an angry gasp, but she didn’t back down. She pushed her chin out and stood straighter. “Yes, that is what I said. And it has become painfully obvious that I was correct in my assessment. If you must know, a mouse jumped out of a pot and bared its teeth at me.”
The light of the candle washed her exposed skin. Jon closed his eyes against the image then opened them again and deliberately leveled his gaze on her eyes. “And am I to understand your shriek had the desired effect? You have successfully dispatched the mouse to the devil? Because I’ve had a long day traveling and I should find it sheer bliss were I able to sleep the night undisturbed by screams over unsuspecting rodents.”
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