Midnight Meetings series, Book 8
A man in possession of a humble fortune knows the trials and tribulations of finding a wife. When said gentleman is neither titled nor well-connected in Society, the challenge grows exponentially. He must wade through a crop of wall-flowers, witless young women, and racy widows on the hunt for carnal escapades.
For if there was one thing Mr. Samuel Beckworth did possess, it was virility. In spades.
Cool and rigid, he was the product of England’s northern climes. His blond queue and ice blue eyes worked in concert with military broad shoulders, drawing the gentler sex like bees to honey. That is until they learned of his simpler, rustic life and his lack of wealth. He could pinpoint the moment interest waned. Coy lashes fluttered less. Mind-numbing giggles wilted. But, there was the other species of woman, the adventuress out for sensual romps. That female batted his shoulder often, such as Miss Phoebe Rutherford just did with her fan.
Was that her fourteenth swat to his arm since walking out to the Northampton Garden?
“Dear Mr. Beckworth, I am confounded by the size and firmness of your arms.”
His eyes sought the heavens. He was certain many things confounded Miss Rutherford, but patience was a virtue, something else he generally had in spades.
“I can’t begin to think how to answer that, Miss Rutherford. I am a simple man of the land.”
“I can’t countenance that. With all the talk about you and the Marquis of Northampton? The two of you are proprietors of a great equine concern, are you not?” She swayed against him, allowing an artful view of cleavage.
“I am in business with the marquis. And there are horses,” he intoned.
“Surely you and the Marquis have numerous men in your employ. Men who take care of the, the…details of horse care. Perhaps a man of business or two?”
He chuckled. “You are walking with the man of business…the first mucker of stalls and feeder of studs and mares.”
That pronouncement changed the complexion of things.
Miss Rutherford’s mouth formed an O. By her sluggish step, he was certain she dragged her heels through the garden path. They walked at a glacial pace. Turtles moved faster. It was a transition from a young woman on the prowl for a wealthy husband to a young woman sizing up the possibility of mindless flirtation and kisses. Perhaps a grope…of him!
But he was not out for sexual conquest. He was the rare man in want of a wife, an ideal woman to share the rest of his life with and help guide his younger brothers of whom he was guardian. His task was to separate the wheat from the chaff and find the perfect woman.
Was it too much to ask for beauty, brains, and upstanding character?
The first strains of a quadrille floated from Northampton Hall’s ballroom. “Might I interest you in a dance, Miss Rutherford?”
Her eyes took in shoulders molded by hard labor encased in form-fitting, black broadcloth. “I was thinking a walk to the folly.”
“The folly is a long way from here, not a wise undertaking for a young woman at midnight with a man.”
“But a good idea if we wanted to have a little…fun,” she said her voice dripping with suggestion.
“Not with a man you’ve just met.”
A fine pout formed. “I am young. I want some frivolity, Mr. Beckworth. There is no harm in that, is there?”
“None at all, but I’m not leaving this vicinity with you unless it’s to return to the ball. A walk to the folly would be ill-advised,” he said, patting her fingertips on his arm. “We can go back inside and get some punch.”
“I’ve had my fill of punch, sir.” Her eyes narrowed to brittle, blue slits. “I’m beginning to think the only ill-advised decision was mine in taking this garden walk with you.”
“Does that mean you’d like me to escort you back to the ballroom?”
“No. The ball is but twenty paces from here. I can manage.” She pivoted hard, a draft trailing the rapid swish of Miss Rutherford’s gold skirts.
Hands clamped behind his back, he watched and waited for the ballroom’s glittering masses to absorb her. Not until she’d disappeared did he suck in a deep, cleansing breath and exhale his relief. Her departure was akin to being winged with a bullet—joy at not being hit but a warning of danger ahead.
“Rather lowering isn’t, it?” An amused feminine voice spoke from the shadows. “To be dismissed by one of Society’s most annoying feather heads.”
He peered into the darkness. A tiny orange light glowed from a trio of well-trimmed topiaries. A thin curl of smoke escaped the greenery. He knew the voice, Mrs. Seraphina Grey: sparkling and friendly in daylight, sultry and sensual in private. This was the species of woman he avoided like the plague. The older, fast widow. They’d tasted marriage and found it wanting. The auburn-haired woman leaning a casual hip on a stone pedestal excelled at being inappropriate. She did what she wanted, when she wanted. And he resented the frisson of delight her voice sent to his breeches. Thighs tensing, he willed control.
“Mrs. Grey.” Shoulders stiff, he tipped his head in gentlemanly fashion because chivalry and good manners were two attributes he also had in spades. “Why am I not surprised to find you smoking a cheroot?”
The Story Behind the Story…
You first meet Mr. Samuel Beckworth and Mrs. Seraphina Grey in The Lord Meets His Lady (Midnight Meetings, book 3). They don’t like each other then and they barely tolerate each other now. But, circumstances bring them together at the Northampton estate (in book 8). I don’t want to say too much and spoil the fun that unfolds in book 3.
Just know, Mr. Beckworth plays a significant role in The Lord Meets His Lady. In fact, it’s the first book where I feature a buddy subplot.
Now, maybe you’re doing the math. Books 3 and 4 release in 2017. This opening is from book 8 in the Midnight Meetings series (yes, 5, 6, and 7 will come). But, I wanted to share the start of book 8 for a few reasons. I’m excited about it! Almost all the Midnight Meetings series characters will show up in this book!!
Who comes next?
Juliette Sauveterre and Tremaine
Lord Gabriel, Marquis of Northampton and Elise
Mr. Samuel Beckworth and Mrs. Grey
Thanks for stopping by to enjoy this exclusive peek~