Hooray!! You did it! I’m so thrilled that 348 of you have signed up to read Miss Featherton’s Christmas Prince!! As promised, here is an exclusive excerpt!
After dinner, Meg sought out Daphne, yet Meg’s gaze strayed to the door each time she heard a sound that could be the gentlemen joining them. At first she attempted to tell herself she was waiting for Amanda, who had not joined them for dinner. Yet the truth was Meg could not be still until Hawksworth arrived.
She encouraged Daphne to talk about her new house, the baby she was sure would be a boy, and, of course, her husband, who was perfect in every way. Several times she started to say something, then blushed and changed the subject. It was then that Meg remembered, with more than a little irritation, that her friend would be holding back some information because she was still unwed. When she was eighteen, and even nineteen, she had accepted the idea that maidens should be kept in the dark when it came to relations between men and women. But the past year had made her impatient with that way of thinking. Although to be fair, it was her miserable experience with Swindon and Tarlington that caused her change of mind.
The door opened, and all their heads turned toward it. Preceding the gentlemen were the Hillers and the Grantvilles. Then all her attention was riveted on Hawksworth. He and Fotheringale headed directly to her and Daphne.
Fotheringale took his wife’s hand. “Forgive us for being so long. Sir Randolph received a letter about more riots that have taken place.”
Meg looked at Hawksworth. “Where?”
“In the north. With the laws the government has, it is no wonder, but Lady Bellamny will not appreciate our bringing that debate into her drawing room on Christmas Eve.”
As far as Meg was concerned, it was this type of discussion that ought to dominate the conversation, but he was right. It would not be welcome.
Footmen started snuffing the candles, and a huge, shallow silver bowl filled with brandy and raisins was set on a round table that had been placed in the middle of the room. The purpose of the game was to pick out the raisins and not get burned as one ate them.
She placed her fingers in Hawksworth’s hand, and rose. “It is time for Snap Dragon.”
“That bowl is large enough to accommodate everyone.” He wasted no time in finding a place at the table. The Fotheringales were on one side of them and the Culpeppers on the other side. Across the table, Amanda wiggled her fingers at Meg, and mouthed, “I will tell you soon.”
Soon the only light in the long room came from the fireplaces at either end. Then the brandy was lit, creating an eerie blue blaze.
Meg gave a shiver of delight as she reached out and plucked a burning raisin from the bowl. Hawksworth got two of them, handing one to her. Then she did the same.
“You’re very good at this.” His voice was warm with praise.
“So are you.” Even though the fire burned off most of the alcohol in the brandy, the flavor was still strong.
Shrieks of laughter filled the room, as he leaned close to her. “A passionate game.”
Oooh, she was going to murder him right here. Not wanting anyone else listening, she kept her voice low. “We have already had this discussion.” Easing herself out of the circle, she murmured, “I need some air.”
Hawksworth caught up to Meg at the end of the long terrace. “What is it about passion you do not like?”
She closed her eyes and counted to ten before turning to face him. “What has passion to do with anything?”
He prowled slowly toward her. The torches reflected the fire lurking in his eyes, making him more dangerous than ever before. She took a step back toward the wall, and before she knew it her back had hit the cold stone.
“If you do not want love, you must at least have passion.” Bracing his hand on the wall next to her cheek, he leaned forward until his breath caressed her face. It was sweet with raisins and brandy.
Nervously, she licked her lips. Would her breath smell the same? “I want . . . I want . . .” Oh God! Why was it so difficult to articulate what she desired and that it did not include him? “I do not need passion. I want respect from a man who will never betray me.” Not someone who made her head spin and stirred strange feelings in her body and heart. “I want a calm life and children.”
“Children.” He spoke the word as if it had made his argument. “And how do you plan on getting children?”
How dare he mention what went on between a man and a woman? Her sister-in-law had given Meg some information. Still, an uncomfortable heat rose in her neck and face as she realized that he probably knew much more about the subject than she ever would.
Unable to stop the threadiness in her voice, she forced the words out. “In the usual way.”
Before she knew it, his lips were next to hers. “You have no idea.” The tip of his tongue trailed languidly along her bottom lip, and her knees began to turn to marmalade. “Will you lie in your cold bed with your nightgown on while your husband ruts?”
She should be shocked. No one had ever talked to her like this. The image Damon brought up held no appeal. Mary had said when a man and woman loved one another . . . But that was not something Meg would have.
His wicked tongue moved from her mouth to her ear, as he whispered, “Or do you want to scream as he takes you to heaven and back?”
How weak did he think she was? Despite her shock, she managed to answer. “I never scream.”
Damon chuckled, a low, sinful sound. “I’d make you scream and enjoy doing it.”
She was sinking, and she had to find a way to fight back before she lost the argument and herself. “You will never have the opportunity.”
He smiled, his teeth flashing white. “Afraid of what you might feel?”
“Do not be ridiculous. I feel nothing for you, or any other man. I refuse to.”
“Poor Meg.” His finger caressed her jaw. The palm of his hand cupped her cheek, as she had dreamed about doing to him, and he pressed his lips to hers.
His mouth was open and hot, but not wet. She opened her lips to tell him that she had not given him permission to use her name, but his tongue invaded, and conquered, and she was lost in the heat that speared through her from her breasts to her thighs as he explored her mouth.
She should pull away. She should slap him. Instead she slid her arms up over his shoulders, allowing her fingers to play with his soft, waving hair as she pressed her body to his.
He slanted his head, and Meg moaned. Even through the layers of muslin and velvet, she felt the hard warmth of his chest. His arms wrapped around her, and his legs pressed against hers. Then his tongue stroked hers, insisting she return the caress. An urgent throbbing started low in her belly. She should stop, but she didn’t want to.
This was what she would be giving up by marrying Lord Throughgood. He would never hold her like this, kiss her like this. No one had ever kissed her as Hawksworth did. Other than on her hand, Tarlington had not even attempted a kiss.
She gave a small sob, and he lifted his head, capturing her gaze with his fathomless dark eyes. “That is passion.”