Please welcome bestselling historical author Vicky Dreiling back to the blog!! Vicky will be giving away a copy of her latest release, What a Devslish Duke Desires to one of you. All you have to do is leave a comment saying you want it.
Now, onto the cover!
WILL A FEW FLIRTATIOUS STEPS
Harry Norcliffe never wanted to inherit his beloved uncle’s title. The rigidity of the ton, the incessant reminders from his marriage-minded mama that he must settle down with a highborn lady and produce an heir and a spare: it’s all such a dreadful bore. So when his mother asks him to take part in a dancing competition, he patently refuses. The last thing he needs is another chore . . . until a beautiful, brilliant, delightfully tempting maid makes him rethink his position.
LEAD TO A SCANDALOUS SEDUCTION?
Most women would be over the moon to be pursued by a wickedly handsome-not to mention wealthy-duke like Norcliffe. But Lucy will not be any man’s trophy. She could use a friend, though, and what begins innocently soon ignites into desire. As Lucy tries to resist Harry’s scorching kisses, he makes an utterly irresistible offer. Enter the dance contest with him, and win a prize that could change her life forever . . . if falling in love doesn’t change it first.
Bio: Triple RITA finalist Vicky Dreiling is a confirmed historical romance junkie and Anglophile. Frequent business trips to the UK allowed her to indulge her passion for all things Regency England. Bath, Stonehenge, and Spencer House are among her favorite places. She is, however, truly sorry for accidentally setting off a security alarm in Windsor Castle. That unfortunate incident led her British colleagues to nickname her “Trouble.” Vicky is a native Texan and holds degrees in English literature and marketing.
And an excerpt.
As they walked out into the night, the jingle of the shop door sounded altogether too cheerful, given her bad news. Lucy pulled the hood of her cape over her head, because the night air was damp and chilly. The misty fog swirled all around them. It had become their habit to walk together until their paths divided. It had made her feel safer, for at least part of the walk.
“Lucy, I know something is wrong,” Evelyn said. “Your face was very pale after Madame took you to the sewing room.”
“She sacked me, but I expected it. Madame cannot afford four seamstresses and needs someone who can work twelve hours—and for less pay in all likelihood.”
Mary exchanged a long look with Evelyn. “That explains why she hired Ida. No doubt the girl accepted a pittance for wages.”
“I suspect Ida is working in exchange for sleeping on the shop floor,” Evelyn said.
Lucy winced. “That is awful.”
Mary halted. “Lucy, I can loan you a bit of coin.”
“So can I,” Evelyn said.
“Oh no, I cannot allow it. I’ll earn wages tomorrow after my dance lesson. I’ll find a second position soon.” She must find it quickly. Her earnings as an assistant to Mr. Buckley, the dancing master, were barely sufficient, and more than once he’d shorted her based on some trumped up mistake she’d supposedly made.
Lucy held her basket closer as they approached a street vendor. She bought two meat pasties and a quarter loaf of bread for dinner. Then they resumed their walk.
“We will all persevere so that we can look forward to bright futures,” Lucy said. Her words were at odds with the fear gripping her, but she mustn’t give in to despair. She’d managed to pay for lodgings and food for herself and her grandmother these past six months, and she would manage again. A bit of pluck and a prayer would see her through this latest setback.
“I’m done up tonight,” Evelyn said.
Mary sighed. “I shall dream about the future tonight. Billy says we’ll marry when he saves up enough money.”
Lucy shared an inscrutable look with Evelyn. Billy made promises to Mary, but according to Evelyn, he spent most of his wages in the tavern. Lucy had never met him, but she feared Billy would break Mary’s heart. Perhaps it would be for the best if he did. Mary deserved better treatment.
“We’ll miss you at the shop,” Mary said.
Lucy’s breath frosted. “We could meet at Green Park on Sunday afternoon if the weather is nice.”
Evelyn sighed. “Madame needs us to sew this Sunday, too.”
Lucy feared Madame would pressure them to work seven days a week.
The three stopped at the corner of Piccadilly and Regent, where their paths would split.
“Lucy, I know this is hard for you now,” Evelyn said, “but if you continued to work for Madame, you would not be able to teach dance.”
Mary nodded. “Do whatever you must to earn wages, but don’t give up your dream of having your own dance studio.”
She hugged her friends quickly. “Thank you for believing in me. Now I must go.”
“Be safe,” Evelyn said. “Remember the story we told you about the girl who disappeared forever after she let a man take her up in his carriage.”
Lucy shuddered. “I remember.”
“If a man offers to escort you, run,” Evelyn said.
“Remember, speak to no one, and make sure no one follows you,” Mary said.
She nodded, remembering her friends’ many warnings. Their tales of girls snatched off the street and sold into prostitution had made her skin crawl.
“I’ll not forget,” Lucy said. “Godspeed.”
Lucy shivered more from the frigid wind than the threat of danger. She stood beneath the lighted gas lamp, watching her friends walk away until they were no longer visible. Her chest tightened. It would be harder to meet them now that she’d lost her sewing job, but Lucy swore she would make it happen.
In that one unguarded moment, a filthy man grabbed hold of her basket and tugged hard.
The misty fog swirled around Harry as he strode along Piccadilly, but it wasn’t too dense tonight. Soon he must buy a carriage. He’d need one for inclement weather, and now that he was a bloody duke, he supposed he ought to have a decent vehicle for traveling. God knew he’d inherited an enormous fortune and could afford whatever caught his fancy. He’d always thought money would bring him happiness, but it hadn’t. Perhaps in time he would feel differently.
He was only a block away from his rooms at the Albany when he saw a thief tugging on a woman’s basket. When she screamed, Harry ran as fast as he could and shouted, “Stop, thief!” The ragged man took one look at him and ducked down an alley.
“Are you hurt?” Harry said as he reached the woman. Lord, his heart was hammering in his chest.
“No, but I thank you, kind sir,” she said, picking up the small loaf of bread and dusting it off.
He couldn’t help noticing her shabby glove as she set the bread beneath a cloth in her basket. Yet she spoke in a crisp, educated manner. The hood of her red, threadbare cloak fell back as she straightened her small frame. The lighted oil lamp nearby revealed her thick, red curls. She had the kind of hair that made a man want to take it down, but that only reminded him of her peril. “You ought not to be on the streets alone at night,” he said. “It’s dangerous for a woman.”
She pulled her hood up and scoffed. “Sir, I assure you, I would not set foot on these mean streets if I had any other choice.”
The woman’s plump lips and bright emerald eyes drew him. She was a rare beauty. “If you will allow it, I will escort you for your safety,” he said, smiling. “Surely you will not object to protection.”
Her eyes narrowed. “You’ve done your good deed for the evening, Sir Galahad.” She reached in her basket and brandished a wicked-looking knife. “My trusty blade is protection enough.”
Holy hell. It was a large blade, but she held it too low. He also noticed her arm trembled. She clearly had no idea how to use the blade. One sharp blow to her arm would incapacitate her, and the knife would fall to the ground.
She looked him over and shook her head. “Perhaps I should escort you for your safety.”
He laughed. “That’s rich.”
“Evidently, so are you.”
She’d obviously taken stock of his clothing and deduced he was wealthy. “Come now, I’m a man and far stronger than you. I can defend myself.”
She angled her head. “Have a care, sir. I quickly deduced you have a full purse inside your inner breast pocket. And if I can surmise that this quickly, you can be sure ruffians will, too.”
“You heard the coins jingling while I ran.”
She looked him over. “I wager those boots were made at Hoby’s. They’re worth a fortune. So is all of your clothing. At the very least, you ought to carry one of those canes with a hidden blade. Not everyone is as merciful as I am.”
“You believe I am in danger?” How the devil had this conversation taken such a bizarre turn?
She regarded him with a world of knowledge in her eyes. “Tonight, Sir Galahad, you are far more vulnerable than I am.”
Stunned into silence, he watched her disappear into the wispy fog. Then he reached inside another inner pocket and took out his penknife. A second, longer blade, far more wicked, folded out at the opposite end. He’d kept it hidden because he didn’t want to frighten her. So much for gallantry, he thought wryly. He wrapped the wool scarf around his neck to ward off the chill and continued on his way home, her impertinent green eyes haunting him the entire walk. And damned if they didn’t coax a smile out of him.
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Triple RITA finalist Vicky Dreiling is a confirmed historical romance junkie and Anglophile. Frequent business trips to the UK allowed her to indulge her passion for all things Regency England. Bath, Stonehenge, and Spencer House are among her favorite places. She is, however, truly sorry for accidentally setting off a security alarm in Windsor Castle. That unfortunate incident led her British colleagues to nickname her “Trouble.” Vicky is a native Texan and holds degrees in English literature and marketing.