Here’s a juicy excerpt to whet your appetite for THE TWELVE NIGHTS OF CHRISTMAS, the Regency novella Nina’s releasing on July 17:
Rollo’s stomach tightened as he opened the door. There stood Penelope, like the heroine from one of Ann Radcliffe’s Gothic novels. Yes, yes. She could quite easily be Adeline from The Romance of the Forest, seeking refuge inside the ruined abbey she happened upon in the dark woods.
But which of the male characters was he? The evil Marquis who sought to seduce her? The noble Louis, who loved her in vain? Or Theodore, the condemned man who returned her love?
Or was he perchance a composite of all three?
He studied her as he considered the question. Her golden hair hung in ringlets around her face and at the nape of her neck. The rest was pulled back into a mass of cascading curls. Fixating on her mouth, he watched the color come and go in her bottom lip as her front teeth worried the plump flesh there. When the tip of her tongue darted out to bring moisture to the area, the urge to kiss her overpowered him.
Fighting the compulsion, he moved his gaze southward. The wind was blowing her frock in a way that revealed to him the most intimate contours of her figure. The small swell of her belly … the gentle curve of her hips … the long muscles of her thighs … the soft triangular rise where her legs and hips converged.
As desire surged through him, he recalled the long-ago day he’d first shown her his penis. She asked to see it and, when he said she could—for why would he deny either of them that amusement?—she opened the flap of his breeches.
While she regarded his upstanding member with undisguised fascination, he got a wicked idea. Penelope might be proper, but she also had game. “Kiss it,” he told her. “Go on, I dare you.”
She made a face of disgust, then sportingly bent to the challenge. As her petal-soft lips brushed the tip, pleasure shot through him with such blistering intensity, he nearly embarrassed himself.
When he regained his senses, he said to her with a tilting smile, “Now, I double-dare you to lick it like a lolly-pop.”
With narrowed eyes, she met his gaze across the length of his body. “What will you give me if I do?”
God be praised. She seemed willing. “The same gift you will be giving to me.”
She blushed scarlet. “Is that even possible?”
“I have read that it is.”
His father kept a copy of The Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure, a book banned in England, in his library. At night, Rollo would sneak downstairs and read a chapter or two by candlelight. Needless to say, he found the narrative not only titillating, but also exceedingly illuminating.
Up to that point, however, he’d only read about the delights of the flesh. And reading and doing were very different things. How long he’d wondered what it would feel like to be inside Penelope … or to receive her oral caresses down there.
Well, the latter felt bloody brilliant, he discovered as soon as she wrapped her mouth around his cockstand. When she added suction to the equation, he came off within seconds.
Penelope disengaged at once. “Goodness me,” she cried, meeting his pleasure-drunk gaze head-on. “I did not expect that to happen. You should have warned me.”
“There was no time,” he replied, shamefaced.
As Rollo returned to the present, a new thought turned his blood to liquid fire. Had she extended to Frank the same favors she’d extended to him? Had she let him go even further? Had she allowed that dirty claim-jumper to put his cock in her? Judas God. If he had not already, he certainly would on their wedding night.
Unless, of course, he could compel her to call off the marriage.
He still had time, he reminded himself to ease his distress, though not nearly enough to instill confidence.
He smiled at her to hide his unease. “Good morning, Sweet Pea. Did you sleep well?”
“No.” The word came out in a puff of white.
“Neither did I.”
Lowering the hood of her cape, she looked past him into the deteriorating manor. “How bad is it inside?”
“It can be set to right,” he said with more optimism than he felt, “given enough time and money.”
“I suppose so,” she said. “But it does seem a shame that they put you and your father out only to let the house fall into disrepair.”
Umbrage tightened his stomach. “How funny that you should say so. For I had the very same thought just now as I explored the wreckage within.”
His own derelict interior tremored as she moved nearer to him. He bent to kiss her cheek, inhaling her heady rose-water fragrance. Though red from the cold, her skin felt warm against his lips.
He prayed she might turn so that her mouth would meet his. When she didn’t, he stepped back, nursing his disappointment. In the pale gray light of the overcast morning, he could see the fine lines the years had wrought at the corners of her eyes and mouth.
Penelope flushed under his gaze and looked away. “You must have been surprised to learn of my understanding with Frank Blackmore.”
“I was indeed,” he said, startled by her bluntness.
She turned back to him with tears in her eyes. “Please believe me when I tell you I remained true to you … and my promise … as long as I was able.”
Rollo’s anger rose in step with his anxiety. “Why must you break your promise now? For you need only break off the engagement and marry me instead of Frank.”
The need to make her his struck a match inside him. Seizing her by the upper arms, he pulled her to him and captured her mouth with his. When she parted her lips a touch, he pressed his tongue between them, tasting marmalade and happier times. He savored her flavor, and everything else his senses took in as her mouth yielded to his. The sweet perfume in his nostrils … the pliant flesh under his fingers … the warm, willing body fitted to his like a well-cut garment.
All of these delights were torn from him when she abruptly pulled away. “I can’t do this.”
His bloodless brain failed to comprehend her meaning. “Can’t do what, Sweet Pea? Kiss your future husband?”
“That’s just it.” She forcefully extracted herself from his embrace. “You’re not my future husband. Frank Blackmore is.”
The words were more painful to Rollo than the musket ball he took in the shoulder at Plattsburgh Bay. Desperately, he sought her gaze, but she was looking out toward the frozen pond where they used to skate in winters gone by.
Needing an outlet for his frustration, he bent to pick up a large stick and struck at the snow with it. “And whose idea was that?”
“Ultimately, the decision was mine.” After a pause, she added, “I’m sorry, Rollo, but I waited for you long enough. Too long, some would say. The best years of my life, many more would remind me. And I would have to agree with them.”
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