When I first published A Brooding Beauty, the first novella in The Wedded Women Quartet, I didn't think anything would really happen. I figured I would chalk it up to a big learning experience, and move on to what I thought I really wanted to write: YA. Fast forward four months and ABB is still going strong, averaging around 20 sales a day (by my personal standards, that's great). A Ravishing Redhead, the second novella in WWQ, is doing slightly better, although they tend to go back and forth. Catherine and Margaret are very competitive.
This morning I woke up, made my coffee (heart you keurig), and checked Goodreads. I was beyond delighted to discover both ABB and ARR had two new reviews, both four stars. To read the reviews in their entirety skedaddle over to Steffi and Karla's blog, Swept Away by Romance.
"[A Brooding Beauty] is full of drama and romance but also laughter and a light-hearted style of writing that I really liked."
"[A Ravishing Redhead] is a short, steamy, and sweet novella for romance lovers."And, my personal favorite:
"I have to say that out of the four friends, Josephine and Grace intruige me the most. Josephine's story is next in A Lascivious Lady. I can't wait!"I am super excited for all of you to read Josephine and Traverson's story. It has been by the far the hardest in the quartet to write so far, simply because they are such polar opposites and have a lot going against their happily ever after. A Lascivious Lady will be released in August (exact date still TBA). Until then, I can give you an exclusive sneak peak at the first chapter. Enjoy!
CHAPTER ONE, A LASCIVIOUS LADY
"It is sunrise. You may leave now." Lady Josephine Marie Gates sat up one elbow and stared down at the man in her bed with an expression that bordered on disgust. "Leave," she repeated. "Now."
Lord Richard Penny, an unmarried Viscount of considerable holdings, rolled off the side of the bed and landed on his feet with a groan. He ran his hand through his short brown hair and yawned before offering Josephine a slumberous smile that never failed to get him pulled back under the covers.
She gazed up at him, heedless of her nudity or the sheet that had slipped, and he allowed his eyes to wander down across her breasts. Good God, but she was a fetching creature. Her blonde hair curled over her shoulders and down her back like a cloak of spun gold. Heavy eyes, tilted at the corner and just a tad too large for her face, were the color of glimmering amethysts. And her body... Richard sucked in a breath as he recalled the slender curve of her hips, the plumpness of her backside, the swell of her -
"You do speak English, do you not, Lord Penny?" Josephine purred, tilting her head to the side and running her tongue across her full bottom lip.
Had Richard known more about the woman he had just bedded, he would have recognized that while her body suggested things only a wicked man would dare dream of, her eyes told a different story entirely. Unfortunately for the Viscount, he was not a man who picked up on subtleties.
"You know I do," he said as he leaned forward to rest his hands on the edge of the mattress. "Did you not hear all the naughty things I whispered to you last night?"
"Yes, I did."
"And?" he said expectantly.
"I have heard them all before. Really, Lord Penny, you have far outstayed your welcome. If you do understand English, which I can see that you do, although some of the larger words seem to escape you, then you must understand when I tell you this: get out."
Thoroughly taken aback, Richard straightened and looked around for his trousers.
"On the back of the rosewood chair in the corner of the room," Josephine supplied helpfully before she fell back onto the pillows with a little sigh and crossed one arm over her face.
Her breasts were still exposed, the morning light from the window dancing across her dusky nipples, and Richard snuck another look as he yanked on his pants and slipped on his shirt. Giving up his cravat for lost, he hurried to the door and hesitated, still rather unsure where he had gone wrong, or why the infamous Lady Gates was kicking him out of her bedroom at such an indecent hour.
Had he not pleased her? Richard scoffed at the thought. Her throaty moans and breathless cries had said otherwise. Not once, not twice, but thrice he had taken her during the hours between dusk and dawn. Though five years his senior she had sated his lust as no other woman had before her, or - he feared - no other woman would after.
"Marry me," he said impulsively.
"Marry you?" Josephine echoed. Leaning up her elbow she finally drew the sheet up to cover her breasts and arched one eyebrow. "Why in the world would I do that?"
Richard flushed, but did not back down. He was not a man without means. He was a bloody Viscount, for heaven's sake. Had he not already been chased to the ends of the earth and back by half crazed mothers looking to marry off their daughters? Vain, insipid, ugly chits, the lot of them. No, what he desired - what he deserved - was a real woman. A goddess, just like the one sprawled before him.
"I will spoil you beyond measure," he said. "You shall never want for anything. Jewels? They are yours. Furs? I shall strike the beasts down myself. Mansions? I will -"
Josephine waved her hand in the air, cutting him off. "Do stop," she implored, her lower lip jutting out in a pout that made his loins surge anew. "I fear you are making my head ache. Really, Lord Penny, you are only embarrassing yourself. Rather like a flea ridden dog begging to be taken back by his master after he has been thrown on the street."
Richard gaped. "A... A flea ridden d-dog," he sputtered, his cheeks growing mottled as humiliation and anger swept through him. Never, in all of his twenty one years, had he ever been so insulted. And by a woman, no less! Hands curling into fists, he said, "Now see here, you have no right to speak to me in such a manner! I am a Viscount, and -"
"Yes, yes, so I have heard," said Josephine. Yawning, she stretched out one arm and rang the small silver bell that sat on the corner of her nightstand. A maid appeared almost immediately, stepping through the door and past Richard to stand attentively at the foot of the bed.
"What do you need, mum?" she asked in a chirping voice.
Richard could not help notice that the maid ignored him completely, as if she had found a man in her mistress's chambers more than once and had grown used to it. For some reason that annoyed him even more than being compared to a flea ridden dog. Was he... jealous? His skin grew clammy at the very thought. No, surely not.
"Amelia, please escort Lord Penny outside. I fear he has overstayed his welcome," said Josephine.
"Of course, mum." Pivoting crisply on her heel, the maid marched back across the room and held open the door. "My lord?" she said, keeping her eyes downcast. She could not, however, completely control the twitch of her lips as she stifled a laugh.
A common servant, laughing at him? It was the last straw. "I shall see myself out!" Richard snapped. Wrenching the door free from the maid's grasp, he slammed it forcefully behind him and stormed down the stairs.
Josephine peeked between the fingers she had covered her face with to contain her own laughter. "Oh, Melly, is he truly gone?"
Slouching against the door, Amelia drew off the lace cap she had placed haphazardly over her unruly red curls and rolled her sparkling blue eyes. "As gone as he is going to get. May I go back to bed now? You said I could have Friday mornings off and I am quite tired."
A frown flitted across Josephine's mouth, pulling the corners down and causing her forehead to wrinkle. "I forgot. I apologize, Melly. Take the entire day if you need. I will not be doing anything."
"You are not going out? 'Tis a beautiful day, mum." Walking briskly to the floor to ceiling windows, Amelia drew back the heavy velvet curtains with a flourish, exposing the bustling street below. Already the merchants were setting up their wares, carts drawn by drowsy draft horses ambled past, and paper boys ran this way and that, dashing through London's foot traffic with ease. Spring was in full bloom and as Amelia huffed and puffed to get one of the windows open, the sweet, heavenly scent of cherry blossoms and tulips began to trickle into the room.
Closing her eyes Josephine inhaled deeply, reminded once again why this time of year was her favorite. Everything was so fresh and new... It was a time for second chances, an opportunity to turn over a new leaf, such as it was. For everyone but her, of course.
"No," she murmured wistfully, sinking back down and bringing the sheets to her chin. "I fear I am not feeling well today. You go out, Melly. Enjoy the sunshine for me."
"Are you certain, mum? Perhaps a bit of sun is just the thing to get you out of your -"
The gunshot that sounded from down stairs caused both women to shriek. In a flash Josephine was on her feet and at the door, her face pale but determined. There had been a rash of daytime burglaries as of late. Just three days ago Mrs. Dobson from only two houses down had been robbed of all her jewels and treasured paintings. Josephine would be damned if she let some lily livered thief steal from her.
"Has Bates arrived yet?" she asked, referring to the brawny retired boxer who now earned his living as Josephine's butler.
"N-no," said Amelia. "It is just y-you and m-me and c-c-cook."
Cook, who was no doubt cowering under the kitchen table at this very minute. If he had not already dived out the window.
"Stay here and lock the door behind me," Josephine ordered.
"What are you going to do?" Amelia cried, wide eyed.
Holding the sheet around her body with one hand, Josephine reached out the other to grasp a heavy poker resting next to the dormant fireplace. Her arm trembled as she lifted the poker, but her grip was sure, and her determination strong. "Stay here and lock the door," she repeated. Taking in a deep breath, she slipped from the room and crept silently down the stairs. At the bottom of the landing she stopped and tensed, brandishing the poker as if it were a club. Too late she realized that the decision to face down a possible robber wearing nothing more than a sheet had not been a wise one, but what other alternative did she have? Sit idly by and let her precious things be stolen? Josephine's lips thinned as her resolve strengthened. Certainly not.
It was not a thief, however, that she came upon when she reached the front parlor, drawn by the sound of muffled yells.
Oh, but how she wished it had been.
The fireplace poker clattered to the floor as Josephine drew in a sharp gasp at the sight that greeted her when she drew back the pocket doors.
Hopping on one leg and clutching the other at the knee, Lord Penny was howling in pain. Yet that was not the worst of it, for sitting across the room, calmly cleaning out his pistol, was the last man she had ever expected to see. He did not look up when she stumbled inside the parlor, but Lord Penny did.
"Josephine," he gasped, his face a mask of agony. "I have been shot!"
Dazedly she looked back and forth between the two men, quite incapable of saying a word. Oh dear God in heaven, she thought, yearning to be swallowed up on the spot, for surely being cast into hell would be better than this.
"Did you hear me?" the Viscount yelped. "That - that bloody bastard shot me! He shot me, Jo!"
No one called her Jo. No one but her husband. Her eyes flicked to Lord Penny, taking note of the blood that seeped between his fingers as he clutched his leg, then skittered across to the other man who had finally set his gun aside. He did not rise, merely crossed his legs at the ankle and lounged back, propping his hands behind his head as if nothing was amiss. His gray eyes studied her, traveling with detached, scientific appraisal down her body and up again before easily dismissing her.
Josephine swallowed hard and pulled the sheet tighter around her bare shoulders. "I... I do not..." The words stuck in her throat, refusing to come out. Panicked, she began to retreat from the room with slow, measured steps.
"Do you know who he is, Jo?" Lord Penny said, effectively halting her in her tracks. "The man who shot me! Do you know him?"
Her cheeks paled. She pressed one hand to her chest, feeling the rapid beat of her heart. "Yes," she managed to squeak, all of her carefully constructed layers of confidence stripped to the quick. "Yes I do."
Lord Penny's eyes bulged. "Then who is the damn cur?" he demanded.Josephine braced one arm against the doorframe to hold herself up. "My husband," she said, finally meeting Traverson's cold gaze. "He is my husband."