Regency romantic fiction from Evernight Publishing. Best to grab it there (you can get all e-formats separately or in a bundle); also available at All Romance eBooks, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, BookStrand, eBook Eros, and other fine etailers.
In the earlier excerpt of A NOTE OF SCANDAL, Will was entranced by Olivia. Here, Olivia finds herself thinking of Will in a new way as they enjoy a performance of sizzling Spanish guitar:
Olivia’s face mirrored her surprise. She had lost track of him for only a moment, and yet he had snuck all the way up on her. Had he caught her surreptitiously watching him?
“The music does not inspire you?” He gestured at Rosa, but his gaze remained on her.
“It does,” she said, trying to pull on her familiar careless-girl mask. “I must ask after her tailor.”
“That sentiment isn’t worthy of you.” He whispered, but he could have spoken aloud, as little attention as anyone was paying them in the midst of Rosa’s aggressive arpeggios. “Jealous?”
Her mask faltered. “I did not mean it so.”
“Then how?” He slipped to her other side, effectively cutting her off from Mr. Mellon, who did not seem to notice. Too close. She took a step to the side, turning to face her interlocutor.
“I heard you arranged this performance.” He stepped closer. “That shows a spirit of generosity, despite your words.”
“She deserves the opportunity. And it is right to salute Spain.”
“Our esteemed ally.” He nodded, leaning in. “But perhaps it is difficult, to see a woman who is allowed the freedom to perform, to create? Who can let her hair down in mixed company?”
He looked away from her a moment, gazing at Rosa. Olivia did not dare look away from him. She let out the breath she didn’t realize she had been holding. Her mind was addled; she was reacting too strongly to this man, to his words. To his smell, deep and rich. Sandlewood, but hints of the flesh within.
The corner of his mouth turned up. He teased her? The thought cast out her breath again. Her ears had a buzzing in them, unrelated to the passionate rhythm of the guitar.
He could read her. He saw far too much. She reached out to touch him, no, to push him away. He turned at her movement, stepping into the path of her hand.
A thrill of power coursed through her arm. It filled her center with energy of an unfamiliar sort. Unable to stop herself, she jumped. Then quickly looked around to see if anyone saw.
She could never make a scene. Not here in public. She took another step back, pulling her hands tightly behind her, as if they were tied.
Step by step, they sidled to the side of the great room. Toward the shadows.
“Are you disappointed your fiancé found someone else?”
“It isn’t that.” She was not quite sure she could call up a vision of Richard at the moment. Her awareness was centered on the man in front of her.
They passed the seven-foot-high sterling candelabra and into the shadows, far from the crowd. Olivia would not have believed she could feel so alone in the midst of a gala. Alone, but for one other.
“His new wife is quite beautiful. And talented.” He stepped closer. She felt the fabric of the curtain behind her. No more room to maneuver.
“But no match for you.”
He reached out, his hand grazing the slope of her jaw. It felt like she imagined a caress would feel.
It was a caress.
Sighing, she tilted the side of her face into his hand. Warm and firm, its strength seemed to soak into her skin. He had roughness on the tips of his fingers. Callouses. Her fingers must feel that way now, too, on her left hand. From the guitar.
She closed her eyes, savoring the moment. The passion of the music seared the air, painting her skin with extra sensation, releasing her busy mind from its binds.
With a flurry of notes and crescendo of sound, Rosa finished the piece. The whole room was silent a moment, still. Then crashed into a thunder of applause, even stomping. The effect was startling, and as loud as it had been for Olivia’s march. Although the march had had applause from the fields and the street, while Rosa’s guitar did not carry that far.
In the shadows, whatever spell it had on her broke. Olivia’s head snapped away from his hand.
He pulled his hand away, fisted it, put it in his pocket. His eyes seemed to hold a summer storm in them, blue-green swirl. His jaw clenched, released.
“Beg your pardon, ma’am.”
“Olivia,” she said. She didn’t know why, but as he had read her thoughts, her feelings, at the least he could use her name. “In private.”
“Will.” His gaze flicked to the crowd, then back to her. “I like your idea of private.” He took a step back from her. He couldn’t leave now.
“Wait. Rosa – Mrs. Avery – is scheduled to play two pieces.”