The following is an excerpt from Chapter Four of A Gentle Grace, the final installment in the Wedded Women Quartet!
The stranger did not wear gloves, as proper gentleman did, although that did not take Grace by surprise as she had already decided he was no proper gentleman. She hesitated before placing her hand – covered, of course, in white gloves of the softest linen – ever so lightly over his. Their eyes met, and Grace drew in a sharp, sudden breath as she felt a tingle race from her head all the way to her toes. She started to snatch her hand back, but with a cluck of his tongue the man closed his fingers, effectively locking their palms together.
There was heat there, more heat than there should have been, and even though Grace knew the proper thing would have been to demand her release or call for help, she could do nothing save gaze upon her captor in stunned silence.
Was this what it felt like, she wondered dazedly, to fall in love at first sight? She had heard women murmur about the phenomenon amidst themselves more times than she could count; their faces always alight with a soft rosy glow and their eyes sparkling bright with hope and promise.
Grace did not feel like she was glowing or sparkling. She felt as though she had taken a hard kick to the chest, so quickly had all of the air fled her lungs, leaving her gasping for air like some landed fish.
“Your name,” the man said softly. “What is it?”
“Grace.” The moment her name was past her lips she winced, regretting the informality even as the stranger seemed to savor it.
“Grace,” he repeated, rolling the syllables off his tongue in slow, leisurely succession. “Grace,” he said again, and she felt the press of his hand as surely as he must have felt the answering tremble of her fingers. “It is a lovely name. A fitting one as well.”
At that she smiled and ducked her chin in an effort to disguise the emotions that were running rampant across her countenance. Unlike her dear friend Catherine, Grace had never been able to conceal what she was feeling. If she was happy she looked happy. If she was sad she looked sad. If she was falling head over heels for a perfect stranger… Well, she was not quite sure what that looked like precisely, but she did know she did not want him to see it!
“If you think my name is fitting than you do not know me at all,” she murmured, peeking up at the stranger from beneath her lashes. “I am quite certain my mother tempted fate when she chose the name for me, as I am far from graceful. Did your mother do the same with you?”
“I am named after my great grandfather, a noble man of upstanding moral character,” he drawled. “So yes, I suppose you could say she did tempt fate.”
Grace blinked. “Are you admitting you do not have upstanding moral character?”
“It is not something I have ever been accused of possessing, thank God.”
“You are quite candid,” Grace observed.
The stranger grinned, revealing a dimple high on his left cheek that did the silliest of things to Grace’s belly. “A high compliment indeed, my lady.”
“And very evasive.”
“Evasive?” One eyebrow arched. “How so?”
“Well, you know my name. My Christian name,” she said in a whisper, “and I do not know who you are at all.”
His thumb played across her knuckles, gliding across the thin linen of her glove so lightly as to barely be felt. “Stephen Melbourne, Earl of Terraview, my lady. It is a pleasure to make your acquaintance.”
No, I don't have a release date -- but I'm getting closer! Hope you all had a wonderful holiday. I am happy to reveal I am snowed in at my parent's house in Maine after making a surprise appearance on Christmas Eve. I was supposed to fly home today, but as you can see by the picture, I'm rather stuck at the moment! Oh darn...