Disfigured in battle against Napoleon's forces, Captain Graham Veall has become a recluse, spending months alone on his estate and appearing masked in public. Yet Graham is determined not to forgo life's pleasures forever...especially the delight of a woman's touch.
He hardly expects virginal Miss Margaret Leigh to respond to his advertisement for female company, thinking he sought a lady's companion. Still, the impoverished vicar's daughter is a surprising temptation he can't ignore. His proposition? That she live with him for two months as his mistress in exchange for supporting her and her brother for the rest of their lives.
But Margaret has a secret. Graham once saved her life as a child and she has dreamed about him ever since. As he awakens her desire, she longs to soothe his inner wounds--though only two months with her damaged hero may not be enough....
An Undone Short Story
Graham caught his image in the mirror as he untied the lacings of his mask and pulled it off so he could splash cool water on his face.
He’d just put the towel down when the door opened. Clapping his hand over his scars, he spun around.
Margaret stood in the doorway that connected their two rooms looking like an angel come to earth in her white muslin night dress and her hair loose about her shoulders.
He turned away from her and grabbed his mask. As he fumbled for the laces, he heard the swish of her skirts and felt her fingers take the laces and tie them.
“Have I positioned it correctly?” she asked.
He adjusted it. “Yes.” He turned to her more slowly. “You did not have to come. I will require nothing of you, Margaret.”
She looked up at him. “I had to apologize once more.” She lifted her fingers to his mask, but lowered them again. “It is your right to hide beneath your mask if you wish.”
He checked the laces to make certain they were tight enough.
She licked her lips and he felt desire pulse through him once more. It must have taken a great deal of boldness for a virginal vicar’s daughter to agree to bed a disfigured stranger.
“I came here to make you happy,” she said. “Not to cause you distress.” The rapid rise and fall of her chest, distracting in itself, suggested she was not as calm as she sounded. She touched the cloth of his shirtsleeve, and he felt it as if she’d caressed his skin. “May we not simply…proceed?”
The Unlacing of Miss Leigh hit Waterstone’s Top Ten eBook Best Seller List in the UK.
The Unlacing of Miss Leigh is my homage to Phantom of the Opera.
My dear friend Patty Suchy first insisted I see the 2004 movie, Phantom of the Opera on my second trip to England in 2006. Patty was the agent and host of the England trip that followed the Great North Road from London to Edinburgh, and gave me so many wonderful memories.
After the trip was over, though, renting the movie was not high on my list of things to do. I happened upon it when it wound up on cable, though, and, my gosh, I finally understood what Patty was telling me. Gerard Butler’s performance of the Phantom was a perfect depiction of a tortured, wounded hero and, like Patty, I just fell in love with it—and with him. So did legions of other fans, so many and so dedicated that they sponsored Gerard Butler fan conferences all around the world. In fact, Patty and I attended part of one together.
In writing The Unlacing of Miss Leigh, I aspired to write my version of a tortured, wounded hero like the Phantom, to honor that performance, that movie, and, most of all, Patty who sadly lost her battle with cancer in 2014.
This time, for Patty, the Phantom gets a happy ending.