Secretly Bound to the Marquess


 

An emotional Regency reunion story

One passionate night
A seven-year-old secret…
Widowed Lady Eliza Varden must endure one more ball before she can politely return to the country. Only her last dance brings her face-to-face with Nathaniel, the new Marquess of Hale. It’s been years since their steamy encounter, but the spark between them is as alive as ever. Yet Eliza knows it’s not just their mutual attraction that binds them now… But is she ready to risk her independence with the truth? 

From Harlequin Historical: Your romantic escape to the past.

 

 Coming October 2022



Excerpt

 

           Henry smiled when Eliza approached. She floated towards him, her heart pounding, the filmy fabric of her morning dress wafting around her, clinging to her body, transparent enough to reveal every curve, the rose red of her nipples, the flush of excitement tinging her skin. She came closer, not speaking, but reaching for him.

A look of horror crossed his face and he pushed her away. She flew backwards into a dark tunnel, but the face receding before her was not Henry’s, but the captain’s.

She jolted awake.

So this was to haunt her nights as well as her days? The memory of Henry’s rejection? The humiliation of her pushing herself so aggressively on him? To make love to her. To fulfill the promise of the marriage bed.

She’d thought Henry merely shy, merely having difficulty transitioning from friends to husband and wife. She’d thought perhaps she’d not been alluring enough, so she’d dressed to seduce him. No undergarments. As near as naked could be while covered with cloth. He could not mistake her for his childhood friend then, could he?

Had this been what fueled her anger? What made her flee? By not confiding in her about his nature, his attachment to his friend Ryland, he’d led her to this humiliation.

She winced at the memory. She’d fled to her bedchamber through the connecting door to his. He’d followed her. She’d curled up on her bed, covering her body and her shame, as he explained why he did not wish to bed her. He loved another, pledged fidelity to another, the man he’d known since they were both at school together, then university.

Like the captain had said. Happens sometimes.

Henry had insisted he loved her. As his dear friend and he’d gladly saved her from the old widower her father wanted her to marry; he’d gladly paid her family’s debts and would gladly take care of her family as if it were his own.

She’d screamed at him to leave her alone, for the whole household to leave her alone. He retreated. And she ran.

Eliza sat up in the cot and hugged her knees, just as she’d done in her bed chamber. She ached inside for that young wife so eager to experience all that marriage could offer. She ached for what she would never know. No man would ever hold her, gaze upon her body. No man would ever warm her bed and show her what transpired between husband and wife. She’d heard of its pleasures, shockingly from some of the maids, but also surmised the pleasure because her parents seemed to seek it out in one affair after another.

She wanted nothing to do with that sort of loving, though. She’d wanted a husband to love her, to want to bed her, to give her children. She’d wanted a true marriage.

She rocked, back and forth.

“Eliza?” The captain’s voice came from his dark corner.

She heard him rise and move towards her until he was close enough she felt his warmth. His steadiness.

He brushed her tangled hair from her cheek. “You are awake.”

She lifted her face. “I had a bad dream. Of my husband’s face when I tried to seduce him. He will never bed me. Never give me children. I tried. I repulse him.”

He sat next to her and put his arm around her as he’d done before. “I am sorry for it, Eliza. It is so much less than what you deserve.” He touched her hair again. “A woman so beautiful—”

She pulled away to look at him. “You think I am beautiful?”

He averted his gaze before meeting hers again. “Quite.” He no longer touched her, though.

She looked into his eyes. “No one ever told me that before.” 

A warmth spread like honey inside her. It jarred her.

It was because she could confide in him, she told herself. Even about her humiliation. It was safe. He was safe.

“The thing is,” she went on. “I will never know that pleasure between man and woman.”

His hand dropped. “You—you could take a lover—”

She shook her head. “Never! My parents—well—they have lover after lover. I will not do that.” So much drama. Lovers angry and threatening. Her mother wailing if one left her before she could leave him. Her father pushing away women whom he once happily bedded. “So I’ll never know.”

He gathered her in his arms again, letting her feel his warmth, his strength. She placed a hand against his strong chest and felt the beating of his heart. He stroked her hair, like her nurse once did when she fell or skinned a knee, but it did not feel at all like that. Desire rushed through her. She became acutely aware that the cloth of Nate’s shirt was the only thing between her hand and his bare skin. 

Would he? Would he?

She brought her lips close to his ear. “Nate,” she whispered. “Would you show me? Show me how it is between a man and a woman? Just this once?” 


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