Thanks for inviting me here today to share my favorite scene from LADY MERCY DANFORTHE FLIRTS WITH SCANDAL.
In this scene, Rafe Hartley has been invited to dine at his father's house where Lady Mercy Danforthe is a guest. Rafe and Mercy have known one another since childhood, although they were born into different worlds. She's the daughter of an earl and he's the illegitimate son of a housemaid and a gentleman. Lady Mercy has grown up in a life of privilege where rules and duty keep everything in order - oh, and she needs that sense of control. Mercy doesn't like anything out of place and she has her reasons for that.
Unfortunately for her, Rafe Hartley, former prize-fighter and now a hard-working farmer, refuses to obey her rules. And he doesn't seem to recognize his place, or hers.
These two strong and stubborn characters are destined to quarrel every time they're together. But they have a secret - a three-hour marriage in their past - a fact they've kept from his family and almost everyone else they know for five years. Now that they're unexpectedly thrown together again, can they manage to keep their scandalous secret? Or will they find a way to overcome their differences and let love break the rules?
This is one of my favorite scenes because it's a turning point. Rafe is just realizing the truth - that he's not going to be happy with any other bride except "Lady Bossy Drawers". Even if she once ran out on him after three hours.
Lady Mercy, on the other hand, is still trying to keep her precious control of the situation. It's a battleground. And she 's about to be reminded that dangerously charming and thoroughly rebellious Rafe fights dirty!
Hope you enjoy the excerpt!
His stepmother eyed him above her fan. “I see you made an extraordinary effort with your own grooming this evening, Rafe.”
“Yes. I do manage to scrape the dirt of the farmyard off me from time to time.”
“Just for us. We are honored.”
“I hope so,” he replied tightly, his gaze focused across the room on the pianoforte. “Lady Mercy does not appear in any haste to return home. Odd, is it not?”
“Not especially. She enjoys the country.”
Enjoys meddling, he thought.
“And her company is most entertaining. Don’t you agree, Rafe?”
He snorted. “Like a public hanging. Morbid curiosity makes it impossible to look away.”
“That’s a fine way to talk of an old friend.”
“Friend? We do naught but quarrel. Her view of the world is the very opposite of mine. We agree on nothing.”
His stepmother laughed in her easy, infectious way. “Exactly. If you were not dear friends, you would never bother to argue. It would not be so important to make the other person understand.”
He squared his shoulders against the back of the couch. “She’s a menace.”
“Your father used to say that of me.”
“She gives me a headache.”
“Poor Rafe.” She beamed over her fan. “I daresay it’s the…tension.”
“Tension?” He didn’t like the sound of that, or the pause before it.
“Better stock up on the apothecary’s powders, because I suspect she means to stay a while yet.”
He winced. “God help me.”
Miss Milford now took over the entertainment, and Rafe’s stepmother stood quickly, beckoning to Mercy as if she had something to say. The young woman walked over, smiling expectantly, poised to hear whatever urgent message Mrs. Hartley had to impart, only to discover that she merely meant to give up the seat beside Rafe.
There was no time to escape the proximity for either of them.
Mercy, cornered, sat tentatively and folded her hands in her lap. His stepmother, meanwhile, fanned herself rapidly and gestured to the footman for some wine. “Is it just me, or is it dreadfully warm in here?”
“It’s just you,” the two younger people replied sternly in unison.
Mrs. Hartley persisted. “You look a little flushed, Lady Mercy. Are you sure you do not feel the heat?”
Rafe stole a glance at Mercy and saw her face glowing with a tint of pink. “Quite sure,” she answered softly. The slight vibration of a copper ringlet by her cheek was the only thing that moved, apart from her lips.
“We were just talking of headaches, Lady Mercy,” said his stepmother wickedly. “Rafe seeks a reliable cure. Do you know of any?”
“Our housekeeper makes an excellent elderberry wine,” came the cool response. “Although, as I advise my brother, refraining from the known causes of his headaches would be more beneficial than any cure.”
“There, Rafe, see? I knew Lady Mercy would have a cure for what ails you.” Having amused herself, Mrs. Hartley wandered off, leaving them alone together.
Mercy's lips were pressed tight, her chin lifted, her eyes determinedly focused across the room. While she was this close and they were separated from the others by a good distance, he felt the urgent need to make her talk to him. If he did not, the moment would pass. Always someone or something intervened.
“You left an item behind at my house, Lady Mercy.”
“I believe I did,” she replied hesitantly.
“When will you retrieve it?”
“That will not be possible.”
“Lost the use of your legs?”
Her lips barely moved, her reply little more than a ruffled breath. “Only my wits. Briefly.”
“They are recovered, then?”
“Quite robustly recovered,” she assured him firmly.
He was disappointed to hear it, although it was no less than he expected. A few nights ago, this woman had lain on his bed, exploring his body with eager hands, her warm laughter tickling his cheek. Now she was cold marble again, a statue in a museum or a grand house, something to be admired from a distance. No touching. No trespassing.
In his peripheral vision, he watched each deeply troubled breath lifting the sweet mounds that peeked shyly above her jade-green bodice. Her stiff demeanor was betrayed by that clue—a hint of vulnerability. His hunger quickened, pulse pacing like the paws of a caged tiger. “I suppose I can make use of what you left behind.”
She drawled wearily, “As you wish.”
“I’ll put it on my scarecrow. That should scare the blackbirds from my seed beds.”
He watched her feign a yawn, but she could not hide the indignant flame in her eyes at the idea of her corset being used in such a manner.
“Miss Milford plays very well,” he said, swallowing a chuckle.
“I suppose she does.”
“I suppose it was lucky you played first. Miss Milford would be a hard act to follow.”
She tapped her closed fan against the palm of one hand. “Do you infer that my skill is inferior?”
“I merely point out that she is very accomplished.”
“At the pianoforte, certainly.”
“She is also a young lady with humility, and has a very sensitive way about her.”
“How observant of you to know this already.”
“I find her conversation light and civil, her manner pleasingly demure.”
“You spoke to her for five minutes. I daresay that was not quite enough time for her to disagree with you on any point.”
“Some women could learn from her example.”
The tapping of her fan quickened.
“Perhaps you don’t like my honest opinion, my lady?”
Her delectable breasts, enticingly flushed, rose and fell ever more rapidly. He wondered if they might spill out with a little more encouragement. His stepmother was right, he realized; it was a form of tension he felt around her. A tightening of all his nerves and tendons. It couldn’t be healthy to let it continue without relief of some kind.
“I’m sure I don’t care one way or the other for your opinion, Rafe Hartley.”
“No. But everyone must always care to hear yours.”
Her lips moved, ready to argue.
“One should learn to admit one’s faults,” he added, reminding The Brat of her own words to him just a few days prior. “Or else one might never improve.”
To his surprise, she was silent. Even seemed to shrink slightly. Had he made a dent in her armor? He stretched his fingers over his knees, before they might feel tempted to start cracking knuckles. Or reach for her hand.
LADY MERCY DANFORTHE FLIRTS WITH SCANDAL BY JAYNE FRESINA – IN STORES JUNE 2013
When a Perfectly Proper Lady...
Lady Mercy Danforthe always has a plan. It's what makes her such a successful matchmaker, and why she's obligated to spend a great deal of time generously organizing the lives of her friends and family. But there's one man beyond her help. One man whose recklessness she can't rein in; whose chaos she can't contain. Her ex-husband, Rafe Hartley. Her one—and only!—mistake.
Flirts with a Reckless Rogue...
Rafe has never forgiven Mercy for running out on him. Their hastily annulled marriage may have one lasted three hours, but that doesn't mean he needs her help finding a proper wife. Someone needs to teach little Miss Know-It-All a lesson about keeping her adorably freckled nose out of other people's business. And it just so happens that Mercy "Silky Drawers" Danforthe still owes him a wedding night...
A Scandal's Never Far Behind!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jayne Fresina sprouted up in England, the youngest in a family of four girls. Entertained by her father’s colorful tales of growing up in the countryside, and surrounded by opinionated sisters— all with far more exciting lives than hers— she’s always had inspiration for her beleaguered heroes and unstoppable heroines. Look for the fourth book in the Sydney Dovedale Series, Miss Molly Robbins Designs a Seduction in March 2014. For more information, please visit www.jaynefresina.com.
To purchase Lady Danforthe Flirts with Scandal:
One lucky person will win a copy of The Wicked Wedding of Miss Ellie Vyne (the book directly preceding Lady Mercy Danforthe Flirts with Scandal in the Sydney Dovedale Series). Contest is open to US and Canada residents only. Leave a comment and make sure to include your email address, winner will be drawn June 26th.