The official blurb:
Follow acclaimed author Ashley March, praised by Booklist for her “elegant writing [and] sizzling sexual chemistry,” into the world of Victorian romance, where Lady Cecily Bishop—promised by her parents to a stranger—must fend off the seductive games and heady caresses of Baron Sedgwick….a task that becomes more difficult with each soul-searing kiss…
“Cecily.” She shivered when he spoke her name, the heated stroke of his breath against her throat stirring lust and want and every unspeakable sensation she’d prefer to ignore. How many times had she told herself she would no longer be moved by him—by his voice, his gaze, his touch . . . his kiss? He had no right to intimacy with her. And she had no right to give it to him.
When she tried to turn her head away again, his hand left her breast and touched gently at her chin, drawing her gaze back toward his. “Why are you crying, kitten?”
She closed her eyes. At the moment she wasn’t strong enough to resist the entrancing pull of his gaze, those black eyes which could insinuate with one glance every dark and terribly delicious thing they could do together.
“Shall I force you to tell me, then?” he asked, the words murmured low, rough like velvet, causing a flush to rise to her skin.
“No. You shouldn’t have asked me to come. It was a mistake to follow you.”
“Perhaps. But it’s always a mistake to follow me, isn’t it? What would your betrothed think, I wonder? Surely you haven’t mentioned in your letters how you allowed me to lie you down in the grass and raise your skirts to your thighs, or how you begged me to kiss your—”
She covered his mouth with her hand, ignoring the way her fingers trembled against his lips. “I am well aware of my faults, my lord. I would ask you to release me now. Let me leave.”
His mouth moved beneath her palm, forming the shape of a kiss against her flesh. Cecily’s pulse leapt as she remembered the last time she’d tried to keep him from speaking, from employing his voice and words to seduce her. She hadn’t succeeded very well then, either.
But this time he lowered his arms to his sides and leaned away, against the soft-as-butter leather squabs at his back. It had been more than a month ago, and yet still she couldn’t forget the supple caress of the seat against her bare skin in contrast to the rough abrasion of his jaw along her inner thigh. “You may leave,” he said, gesturing grandly toward the carriage door. “Hurry now, before your servant returns home and your family begins to question your whereabouts.”
Cecily narrowed her eyes at the obvious taunt. They both knew the footman had turned in the opposite direction of her house when he’d left her with the baron.
Still, grateful for the reprieve, she lifted herself from his lap and reached for the handle. It twisted easily beneath her hand and she pushed, the door giving way until a spatter of raindrops fell in the space between.
He said nothing, but she could feel his stare. Watching her, waiting as he always did. As if hoping that one day she might do something to surprise him. And oh, how she longed to surprise him, if only to comfort herself with the knowledge that he didn’t know her as well as he assumed he did.
He expected her to run away, but she wouldn’t. Not today, at least. Cecily held herself still as she crouched beneath the carriage ceiling, gripping the handle, her head and face sluiced by the rain. She counted for ten seconds. Long, interminable seconds, an eternity’s passage of time. Anticipating an unknown answer, hoping he might give in first and demonstrate a similar weakness for her.
At twenty seconds, she wished him to hell.
When she reached thirty-seven seconds his hands gripped her waist. She heard him give a low curse, and then he was pulling her back, reaching around her to shut the door. He sat down and pulled her onto his lap again, then lifted his fist to knock against the roof and signal the driver.
The carriage began to move. Cecily’s eyes were swollen, her nose likely red and her cheeks pale from the cold. But for the first time since she’d heard the news of Angela’s death, she smiled when his eyes met hers.
“You think you’ve won, don’t you?” he asked, his gaze trailing down to her lips, then lower still to where her bodice lay plastered against her breasts. “I wish you could see yourself. Your cheeks flushed with triumph, your eyes shining in victory. But what you don’t realize, my dear, is that I was prepared to let you walk away. I would have let you go. I wouldn’t have followed you, and I wouldn’t have called you back. Do you know why, Cecily?”
She forced her lips to remain curved. “Why?” she asked, whispering lest he hear the truth she denied to both of them.
“Because you always return to me.” He tilted his head, his lashes lowering to where his fingers played with hers, his large, black-gloved hand appearing even more wicked and erotic against the backdrop of her delicate white one. “Even now you did not wish to leave, rather waited for me to insist that you stay. It appears, my darling, that despite all of your words to the contrary, you have actually begun to develop a tendre for me.” His lashes lifted, his onyx eyes stifling the breath in her throat.
Cecily swallowed and shook her head. A stream of water trickled from her temple down her cheek. “No.”
“No? Then perhaps it is something different, something entirely separate from mere romantic sentiments. Perhaps it is this.” He disentangled his hand from hers and followed the path of water with his finger, caressing her jaw before slipping below to her throat, down the slope of her chest and halting at the line of her bodice. He teased her, the pressure of his touch feather-light as he stroked back and forth across the swell of her breasts. She closed her eyes and arched against him.
She heard the swift intake of his breath, the satisfied sigh which followed. “Ah, Cecily,” he murmured low in her ear, his voice filled with dark amusement. No doubt he smiled as well, pleased to make such a fanfare of her weakness. The cool slide of leather moved upward, pausing over the frantic thrum of her heart. “Is it me for whom your heart quickens?”
His other hand reached below, to the sodden hem of her dress. Cecily moaned, then bit her lip, her legs quivering as she imagined the next path his fingers would take. “Is this why you stayed? Is this why you continue returning to me?” One damp stocking rolled to her ankle.
She couldn’t speak. She could hardly breathe, convinced that the barest touch from him now would send her flying apart, helpless in his arms.
“Answer me, Cecily. Is this what you wanted?”
She waited, a wordless plea that he would continue without her response. The rain pattered ceaselessly against the roof, the slosh of the wheels and stomp of the horses’ hooves louder for the silence within the carriage. She sensed his stare on her, a presence which evoked the same impulse to surrender as the sensual drag of his lips across her skin. Her memories were slaves to him, tormenting her with the knowledge of the pleasure he could give her if only she answered as he wished.
Minutes passed. A quiet expectation weighted the air between them, the substance of her desire a tangible, relentless compulsion, more inevitable even than the draw of oxygen into her lungs. It was cruel of him to force her to say the words, when he knew that someday she must deny him and instead turn to another.
Still, when his hands fell away and he began to withdraw she panicked. She caught his arm, pressed his palm over her heart once again. “Yes,” she whispered, meeting his black gaze, blushing at the dark promises within. “This is why I stayed.”
And God help her, because when the day of her wedding finally came, she didn’t know if she would be able to find the strength to leave.
Whew! *fans self* I just read this excerpt for myself and I must admit, it’s a bit spicier than I usually write. Which might explain why I enjoyed writing ROMANCING LADY CECILY so much. =) Some people say that the heat level in romances seems to be increasing across the board, no matter what sub-genre. Some readers rejoice in this, while others complain. What type of heat level do you prefer, dear reader?
One random commenter will be chosen to win a copy of my newest book, ROMANCING THE COUNTESS (open internationally)! Also, find out how to win the ROMANCING THE COUNTESS Book Tour Grand Prize of 50+ romance novels by visiting www.ashleymarch.com!