Each week a guest author shares an excerpt of a first meeting. Today Shelley Munro joins me for First Sight Saturday with her slightly mysterious historical romance, Mistress of Merrivale.
Here is a fun fact from Shelley: About ten years ago, despite my protests, my husband purchased two bicycles. I’d never owned a bike before and thought it was a waste of money. Now, all these years later, I go for an eight kilometer bike ride most days. My husband hasn’t ridden his bike for months. I’ve fallen off three times—don’t ask!—and the last time ended up with a black eye. My husband refused to walk with me at the shopping mall because people kept giving us weird looks!
Well, Shelley, we have something in common though somewhat reversed. My husband is an avid mountain biker while my bike sits neglected for months (years) at a time. Bruises and cuts are normal for him, though he’s never gotten a black eye!
On to the excerpt…where a courtesan meets the man who wants to marry her.
Woodley tapped on the parlor door and entered. “Mr. Leo Sherbourne to see you.”
“Show him in, Woodley.” Amazed at her calm voice, she concentrated on presenting a serene front.
Woodley directed Mr. Sherbourne into the parlor, and she forced her lips to curve upward when she really wanted to gasp aloud.
Leo Sherbourne was stunningly handsome, his dark eyes piercing and direct. Taller than Melburn, he’d clubbed his midnight black hair in a tail, and this highlighted the stark planes of his face, his olive complexion. Impeccably dressed in a navy blue suit with a pale blue waistcoat embroidered in a deeper blue, he appeared the wealthy gentleman. His choice of color matched her attire perfectly. A sign, perhaps.
“Good morning, Mr. Sherbourne.” She finally rediscovered her manners.
“Miss Townsend.” He regarded her steadily and not a measure of flirtation showed on his features. “Thank you for agreeing to meet with me.” His deep voice caressed her senses, and she stared, mesmerized for an instant. He was…unexpected. Why would he want to take her as his wife? Young misses likely fluttered their eyelashes at him in flirtation, and she imagined older, more experienced women offered to jump into his bed on a regular basis. He didn’t seem like a man who’d experience difficulty in attracting the fairer sex.
“Please take a seat,” Jocelyn said, her mind twisting and prodding this new development. Her right hand rose to check her cap, and she forced herself to still the self-conscious action. Despite her fidgeting, her cap was likely still straight and hid a large portion of her red hair.
He waited until she seated herself before taking possession of the same chair his cousin had sat on the previous night.
“Why are you entertaining marriage with me, given my history?” Jocelyn almost winced at her forthrightness. She caught the flash of surprise in him, the slight narrowing of his eyes then his slow smile. Her heart beat a little faster at his approval. It seemed devastating smiles were one trait borne by both cousins. She found it difficult to focus with his full attention directed at her, almost impossible not to gasp at her physical reaction to his potent masculinity.
“I have a young daughter and require help with her.”
“Forgive me, but surely there is no shortage of women willing to accept you as husband.” More candor. This was not the impression she wanted to present, yet she required answers. To her relief, he didn’t take umbrage and merely scrutinized her closely in return.
“My first marriage wasn’t an enjoyable experience. This time I seek a marriage where both parties know their duty from the beginning and are under no illusion as to how the liaison will proceed—the way I want.”
Well, he was blunt too. Jocelyn wrenched her gaze from his face and concentrated on her lightly clasped hands. The romantic part of her faded under reality. This wasn’t a love match. She had to remember that, yet the situation was strange. He hadn’t told her everything. There was more. She lifted her head. “Did you beat your wife?”
His dark brows shot upward. “I’m not a brute.” He half stood as if he intended to leave, and her hand shot out to grasp his forearm. Muscles flexed beneath her fingers, leading her thoughts directly to the marriage bed. Like a hot coal, his heat burned her palm, and she released her hold.
“Forgive me. Please, don’t leave. This is an unusual situation and my nerves are ruling my manners. Stay. Tell me exactly what you expect from me.”
Instead of sitting again, he prowled the parlor, putting her in mind of a caged beast. And, despite her growing alarm that she’d destroyed any chance of a marriage, she couldn’t tear her gaze off him. He was a man in his prime, strong and sure of himself—an attractive quality in a husband. Her breasts prickled against her chemise, and her stays felt suddenly unbearably tight. Heat bloomed between her legs. The unusual reaction took her by surprise.
Mr. Sherbourne ceased his pacing and spun to face her. Determination etched his face, giving him the look of cool marble. “I want a wife who gives her loyalty to me, a woman to raise my child and warm my bed. Someone to instill order in my home and do things the way I direct.”
Jocelyn nodded. That sounded reasonable. “And what would I receive in return?”
“In return, my wife will receive the security of my name and home. She’ll want for nothing, and I hope she’ll find happiness.”
“What about my past relationship with Melburn? If I agree to wed you, there might be times when we socialize with Melburn and his new wife. Will that create difficulties?”
He laughed softly, a gleam entering his eyes. “Are you asking if I’ll experience jealousy?”
“Yes.” Nothing like a little honesty to get to the heart of a matter.
“Melburn and I have discussed this. He told me if you agreed to marry me, you’d also give your loyalty. He said you possess both honor and discretion. Integrity. I hadn’t heard a single rumor of your relationship. This reassures me that we might suit. Will you miss your close…friendship with Melburn?”
“Melburn and I have always been friends. I hope our friendship will continue in the future—in a platonic way, of course. Your cousin is right in that I refuse to play games or pit gentlemen against each other to ensure a better offer or a richer lover. If I agree to become your wife, you’ll receive everything you require in a spouse.”
His brows rose again. “It’s not often a woman surprises me.”
“I’m not an ordinary woman.”
END OF EXCERPT
I can see the fire getting ready to kindle for these two already! You can find Mistress of Merrivale at the following vendors.
To keep in touch with Shelley Munro, visit her here:
Shelley and I both welcome your questions and comments. Be sure to stop by every Saturday for a new excerpt from a visiting author on First Sight Saturday.