Excerpt from The Captain’s Bluestocking Mistress
When Captain Xavier Grey finds himself snowbound with a sultry bluestocking intent on seduction, he does what any honorable soldier would do: He tries to make her think of him as “just a friend.” Unfortunately, the absence of servants means the gruff ex-soldier is force to act as lady’s maid...
Miss Downing had moved the stool before the fireplace, and sat with her back toward him. A cinnamon-colored dress gaped below her nape as she tilted her head to one side and struggled to drag a pearl comb through her long, wavy hair. Each curl glimmered in the firelight, then nestled back against the curve of her breast and the small of her spine.
He had never seen anything more erotic in his life.
“Would you like me to—” He clapped his chest when his voice came out far too husky. After clearing his throat, he tried again. “Shall I lace your stays?”
“Only if you wish to.” Rosy firelight—or perhaps a light blush—colored her exposed neck.
“I have to,” he answered, not bothering to hide the strangled desperation in his voice. “For both of us.”
“You don’t have to.” She turned around and looked him square in the eyes. “You wish to.”
A surprised laugh burst from his throat. His bluestocking might be exceptionally well read, but she knew very little about men.
“No. What I wish to do are acts so unapologetically carnal, the ink would catch fire if I attempted to commit my ideas to paper. But what I’m going to do is lace up your stays, toast some breakfast, and put you on the first coach back to London. You will thank me later.”
“I will think of you later.” The tip of her tongue ran along the bottom of her upper lip. “Just as I did last night.”
He clutched the doorjamb and held his position. If he went to her right now, it would not be to lace her stays. They were playing with fire.
She turned back to the hearth and resumed teasing the knots from her curly hair. “I don’t suppose you’ve any skill with a comb? My lady’s maid is the only one who could ever vanquish these tangles, and I fear I’m only making the matter worse.”
His jaw worked. He was profoundly grateful she couldn’t witness the naked desire writ upon his face.
Yes, he wanted to run his fingers through that long, silken hair. To touch it, to comb it, but mostly to have its softness be the sole blanket above their hot, twined bodies.
Which was simultaneously the best and worst idea to have ever crossed his mind. He liked her too much to let her throw away her future on a tryst with someone like him.
“We can’t be lovers, Miss Downing. Now or ever. You think me someone I am not.” As she met his gaze, he infused his tone with cold finality. “Your vision of me is flawed. A romanticized, idealized knight who saves the day and wins his lady’s favor. I am no knight. I do not deserve your favors. I will not be your seducer.”
She lifted a half-bare shoulder. “Right now I think you’re someone who doesn’t know how to unknot curly hair and doesn’t wish to come out and say so.”
“I know how to comb hair.” Against his better judgment, he stormed forward and snatched the pearl comb from her fingers. “Stand up. Not another word until you’re properly laced.”
She rose to her feet as docile as a lamb.
Xavier wasn’t remotely fooled.
With the comb between his teeth, he cinched her stays and buttoned her gown as quickly as possible. When she settled back on the stool, he lifted her hair in one hand and began to gently tease the tangles free, starting from the ends.
The firelight caught each curl as it released, turning the long brown waves into rippling gold.
When a little, contented sigh escaped Miss Downing’s throat, the tension in his neck muscles softened. Her eyes were closed, and a half-smile curved her lips. The corners of his mouth quirked in response.
His seductive bluestocking was a far better cat than that devil creature she’d brought in a basket. He could comb her hair for hours, just to listen to her relaxed sighs and watch the blissful expression upon her pretty face.
His fingers froze in place. He could do this for hours? Just because she liked it?
“Good enough.” He tossed the comb into her lap and stalked out the door before her big brown eyes and
sweet-smelling skin domesticated him any further. She would be gone in the next two hours. He would see
to it personally.
Let's Welcome Erica to The Reading Wench
Tell us about the Dukes of War, and The Captain’s Bluestocking Mistress!
The Dukes of War historical romance series features roguish peers and dashing war heroes who return from battle only to be thrust into the splendor and madness of Regency England.
Captain Xavier Grey returned from the Napoleonic Wars a hairsbreadth away from catatonic. No one knows what happened but him, and Xavier isn’t saying a word. He flees London for the countryside, intending to spend the rest of his days alone in his small cottage.
Jane Downing is a wallflower with a serious book habit and well-honed inner snark. She’s tired of being invisible, and sets out to turn the man of her dreams into her real life lover. She lands on Xavier’s doorstep just in time for the snowstorm of the season.
Captain Grey suddenly finds himself snowbound with a bluestocking. And she has an unbelievably tempting plan for heating up the winter nights...
When you were young, what was your favorite children's story?
I loved Where The Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak and Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst. I might even have both books memorized!
What advice would you give to an aspiring writer who thinks she'll never be good enough?
Here’s my opinion: Writers, as a whole, tend to underestimate themselves. Big time.
Even if your current draft sucks so badly that a black hole is forming in your hard drive, I’m still positive the situation isn’t as bad as you think.
Remember, first drafts are just first drafts. They’re supposed to suck.
Once you get it all down is when you go back and layer in all the good parts that pull it all together.
Don’t beat yourself up if it doesn’t look as good on paper as it did in your mind’s eye. It will eventually. That’s when layering comes in. After the first draft.
Do NOT pass judgment on yourself based on anything anybody else does, published or not. I can’t think of anything to kill momentum faster. Everyone's first draft has room for improvement. Don't compare yours to someone else's final product.
How do you balance the demands of your everyday life and your writing life?
I try to wake up early and write for a few uninterrupted hours before “real” life intrudes. I find that if I wait until after my workday ends, my brain is mush, and no longer capable of coming up with compelling scenes. Also, by putting writing first, I can go through the rest of the day feeling like I’ve already accomplished something important!
What do you do to relax?
I live on a macadamia farm in the rainforests of Costa Rica, so I can’t help but relax when I’m not writing! My front balcony has a rocking chair and a view of a volcano, and my side balcony has a hammock and a view of the largest lake in the country. Before moving to Costa Rica, I was an avid scrapbooker. Now I’m more likely to be found hiking in the middle of the jungle or relaxing on the beach.
Where do you live?
I was born in the United States, and have lived in six different countries. I currently live on a macadamia farm in the rainforests of Costa Rica, and love it immensely. (Except when I’m missing the crepe vendors of France or real Italian gelato.) Given my wanderlust, I wouldn’t be surprised if I found myself somewhere else a few years from now, but for now I’m happy in Costa Rica.
What’s next for Erica Ridley?
Next in the series in The Major’s Faux Fiancée, which releases in June. Major Blackpool returns home to play pretend beau to the girl next door to save her from an unwanted betrothal. But once they’ve announced their faux engagement, neither one can cry off without doing damage to the other’s social status.
Daphne intends to remain a spinster, so she plots to make the major jilt her first—without realizing he’s busy plotting the same thing! With both of them on their worst behavior, neither expects their fake betrothal to lead to love...
Erica Ridley learned to read when she was three, which was about the same time she decided to be a writer when she grew up. Now, Erica is a USA Today best-selling author of historical romance novels. Her latest series, The Dukes of War, features roguish peers and dashing war heroes who return from battle only to be thrust into the splendor and madness of Regency England. When not reading or writing romances, Erica can be found riding camels in Africa, ziplining through rainforests in Costa Rica, or getting hopelessly lost in the middle of Budapest.
Website: http://www.EricaRidley.com Facebook:http://www.facebook.com/EricaRidley Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/EricaRidley Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/EricaRidley
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