June 28, 2012
HOT UNDER THE COLLAR
(Lords of Lancashire, Novella 2)
Author: Jackie Barbosa
Publisher: Circe Press
Rel Date: June 24, 2012
Digital Price: $2.99
Despite the old saw about third sons being destined for the church, no one ever expected the rakish, irresponsible Walter Langston to take up the collar, least of all himself. After an accident renders him unfit for military service, however, he has few other options. When he’s given the post of vicar at a parish church in a sleepy, coastal village, he’s convinced he’ll molder in obscurity. Instead, his arrival brings a sudden resurgence in church attendance…or at least, the attendance of female parishioners. As word of the eligible young vicar spreads, every well-heeled family for miles with a marriageable daughter fills his pews, aiming to catch his eye. Unfortunately for these hopeful members of his flock, Walter’s eye has already been caught—by the one woman who doesn’t come to church on Sundays.
Artemisia Finch left a lucrative career as a celebrated member of London’s demimondaine to care for her ailing father. Returning home hasn’t been easy, though, as her past isn’t even a well-kept secret in the village. When the new vicar arrives on her doorstep, Artemisia is determined to send him on his merry, pious way. But Walter Langston is nothing like any man of the cloth she’s ever known—he’s funny, irreverent, handsome, and tempting as sin. Falling in love with a vicar would be a very bad idea for a former courtesan. Why does this one have to be so hot under the collar?
Walter paused at the parlor door, but Artemisia tugged at his hand. “The bedrooms are upstairs. Unless you fancy the settee for this sort of thing…” She raised her eyebrows.
He swallowed against the rush of lust that swelled his veins—and other parts of his anatomy. Apparently, he did fancy the settee for this sort of thing. “I didn’t want to presume an invitation to your upper floor until it was extended.”
“You needn’t play the gentleman with me, Mr. Langston. We both know you are invited to both my upper and lower floors.”
He halted at the foot of the first stair, not allowing her to pull him up after her. She stopped and turned to look at him, her eyes widened in query.
“Walter. You should call me Walter,” he said. “And I am a gentleman.” Or, at least, he was discovering that he wanted to be one. For her.
“Then you know a gentleman doesn’t keep a lady waiting.” Her hair, which she wore in a simple but elegant coil, shone in a shaft of sunlight. A smile tugged at her lips as she added, “Walter.”
He liked the way his name sounded when she said it, as though he were something both delicious and vaguely illicit, like an especially rich dessert or the last tumbler of a particularly fine brandy. No wonder she’d commanded the attentions—and wallets—of London’s wealthiest, most aristocratic gentleman. She knew how to make a man feel as though he were the center of the universe. And yet, as though she fancied herself a lump of coal rather than a diamond, she offered herself to him for nothing at all.
Nothing save pleasure.
The thought was humbling. And an implicit challenge. One he was determined to meet—or better still, exceed.
He cupped her jaw in his palm, running his thumb over the high ridge of her cheekbone. Her skin was even silkier, even softer than he remembered. “I wasn’t planning on a quick, meaningless tumble. If keeping you waiting means keeping you wanting, I’m willing to make an exception to my claim of being a gentleman.”
“What were you planning on, then?” Although her tone was teasing, her respiration was ragged and her pupils threatened to swamp her irises. Though he might be imagining it, he thought her breasts were straining against the bodice of her dark blue riding habit.
Rising up on the balls of his feet to meet her height, he feathered his lips across her parted ones in the faintest of kisses. “A long, slow, and exceedingly meaningful tumble.”
She shivered. “That sounds…promising,” she murmured.
“It is most assuredly a promise,” he answered. He only hoped it was one he could keep.