With less than a month to go until the release of REBEL MARQUESS on April 22nd, I thought I would give a little peek into the romance of Eliza and Rutherford.
She had been sent on an errand to fetch her mother’s favorite fan and recalled the directions clearly. “Left at the top of the stairs, sixth door on the right.”
Eliza was certain she’d counted the correct number of doors along the third-floor hallway to
find her mother’s room. She may have been a bit distracted, but she wasn’t a featherbrain.
So why did she see a set of men’s clothing laid out on the grand four-poster bed?
A scowl narrowed her gaze. She glanced around for the vanity, looking for her mother’s vast collection of scented water bottles she brought with her everywhere. There was no vanity. Though there was a valet’s station all set up with shaving implements.
A frisson of fierce trepidation coursed through her. Oh, pray let it be her father’s room.
She looked again to the clothing on the bed. From the short distance, she could see the fawn-colored trousers were of soft cotton as was the fine-stitched white shirt. Her father preferred linen for his shirts. The coat was expertly tailored and far too broad of shoulder for her father’s modest frame.
As she stood in the center of the room, finally coming to terms with the fact she must have somehow gotten her mother’s directions wrong, a small door tucked unobtrusively into the corner of the room opened.
“Back so soon, Simmons?” a strong male voice inquired.
Panic flashed through Eliza in a hot arc and froze her in place on the plush carpet. Before she could gather her wits to command her body to move, a man strode through the inner door into the room.
But not just any man.
It was the Marquess of Rutherford, the most sought after and elusive bachelor in England. The prize feather that has so long eluded her mother’s match-making cap.
And he was completely naked.
The swift acknowledgment that her mother had really gone too far this time was overtaken by the shocking details of the sight before her. Heat flushed though her body in a wave. In all of her nineteen years, Eliza had not had a single opportunity to catch a glimpse of unclothed male anatomy.
And Lord Rutherford was an amazingly well-formed man.
Solid muscle defined the length of his arms and legs, which were liberally sprinkled with dark hair. Broad shoulders put to rest the rumor that he padded his coats. And his chest and narrow abdomen were cut with more ripples of muscle. A modest patch of damp curling hair covered his chest and a thin dark line extended from his navel downward.
Her curiosity was cut short by the towel he brought in front of his most masculine body part.
To Eliza, he looked more like a medieval warrior than the pampered lord of London he was. For a man who had reached his mid-thirties, an age when most gentlemen began to show evidence of their indulgent lifestyle, he was incredibly fit. Not what she would have expected by far.
“You are not my valet.”
His voice was low and curious, telling Eliza he did not yet realize who she was. Once he did, his manner would not be so relaxed or amiable.
She needed to get out of there. In fact, she wasn’t sure why she hadn’t turned tail and run already. Aside from the obvious reason that she couldn’t seem to keep her gaze from running rampant over the details of his body.
Shaking her head to unlock her gaze, Eliza managed to lift her focus to Rutherford’s face.
A bit of a mistake there.
She had only ever seen him once at a distance in Hyde Park two years ago. Her mother had been pointing him out to her sisters who were then at the start of their London season.
Impressive at a distance, the marquess was nearly devastating up close.
His was not a face one could call classically handsome. His forehead was a touch too wide, his nose had an obvious crook in it and his chin held a dimple in its center. Not to mention the fact that the imperious arch of his brows and the arrogant glint in his brown eyes made him appear unapproachable. Still, there was something about him that had Eliza casting him as one of her romantic protagonists without conscious effort. Maybe it was the overwhelming confidence he exuded in spite of his bared state.
“Can I help you?” he asked as he took another few steps into the room.
Did her imagination conjure up the smooth and suggestive note in his voice? She suddenly felt overwhelmed by the pure masculinity of his presence. Hot embarrassment and acute awareness spread through Eliza’s limbs, making her mouth go dry and her palms sweat. A previously dormant instinct for self-preservation released her frozen feet and she took a couple of steps back in response.
“I, ah…I am,” she stammered.
The marquess raised his brows as he wrapped the towel around his lean hips.
Eliza had to make a very concentrated effort to keep her gaze above his chin. She never would have foreseen she had such voyeuristic tendencies.
“You are standing in the middle of my bedroom,” he stated dryly. “Either you were looking for me, in which case I’d expect you to have a reason for doing so. Or as I’m starting to suspect, you have somehow found yourself in the wrong room.”
“Wrong room,” Eliza admitted with a decisive nod of her head.
Why on earth couldn’t she find the proper connection between her brain and her tongue? She was starting to give the impression of being short on intelligence.
“A pity.” His sigh was barely audible as his dark gaze swept over her body in a swift and proficient assessment. The way his brow furrowed had Eliza wondering what bothered him more—her intrusion or the fact that she had not been seeking him out. “I will show you out then.”
He headed to the door without bothering to see if she’d followed. When he opened it, voices could be heard coming down the hall.
“Bloody hell. That woman seems to be everywhere at once,” he muttered under his breath as he pushed the door closed again. “You will have to wait a moment until Lady Terribury and her entourage pass by.”
Alarm sparked across Eliza’s nerves and turned her fingers ice cold. “Lady Terribury? Are you sure?”
“No mistake. The voice of that woman haunts my nightmares.”
He did not bother turning around to look at her as he spoke, not even considering his less than favorable comments about a fellow guest might be considered offensive.
Eliza was well aware of her mother’s faults and the unsavory history that existed between Lady Terribury and the Marquess of Rutherford. His opinion of her mother was the very least of her concerns at that moment. Her gaze darted about the room as she grasped her skirts with both hands in preparation for flight.
“You have to hide me.” Panic laced the edges of her words.
He turned to her then. Curiosity lit his features along with the obvious note of irritation at having his decision questioned, but he showed no real concern. Yet.
“Once she passes you can be on your way.”
Eliza met his gaze with intent directness, trying to impart the urgency of the situation into the tone of her voice. “No. You do not understand. She is coming here. To this room. You have to hide me. Now.”
REBEL MARQUESS is the third story in a series that started with ROGUE COUNTESS and continued with RECKLESS VISCOUNT. All three are available at the Samhain store, Amazon, Barnes & Noble and everywhere ebooks are sold!