I really like Lisa Kleypas‘s novels. I’m sure you all know that. I don’t know Ms. Kleypas as a person, but I’m sure I’d like her in real life as well. Regardless, I can wax poetic on a number of her novels. Prince of Dreams, Dreaming of You, Suddenly You, and Because You’re Mine are some of my favorites.
But this is a post about the Wallflower Series. (I suppose I could talk about the most recent A Wallflower Christmas, but … why when you can win one and find out for yourself?)
Opinions seem to differ vastly about this series… but I really like Secrets of a Summer Night. Maybe because I’m traditional, or I just have major positive association with it because it was first. Accordingly, I’ve found a passage I liked. (Ok, I admit I basically thumbed through pages, and stopped, and voila! But it is cute. Not a sexy tension filled scene, but pretty adorable all the same.)
“Mr. Hunt,” she said carefully, “there is something I must ask you…”
“Yes?” His eyes were definitely his most attractive feature, Annabelle thought distractedly. Vibrant and full of life, they made her wonder why people generally preferred blue eyes to dark ones. No shade of blue could ever convey the simmering intelligence that lurked in the depths of Simon Hunt’s sable eyes.
Try as she might, Annabelle could think of no subtle way to ask him. After grappling silently with a variety of phrases, she finally settled for a blunt question. “Were you responsible for the boots?”
His expression gave nothing away. “Boots? I’m afraid I don’t take your meaning, Miss Peyton. Are you speaking in metaphor, or are we talking about actual footwear?”
“Ankle boots,” Annabelle said, staring at him with open suspicion. “A new pair that was left inside the door of my room yesterday.”
“Delighted as I am to discuss any part of your wardrobe, Miss Peyton, I’m afraid I know nothing about a pair of boots. However, I am relieved that you have managed to acquire some. Unless, of course, you wished to continue acting as a strolling buffet to the wildlife of Hampshire.”
Annabelle regarded him for a long moment. Despite his denial, there was something lurking behind his neutral facade…some playful spark in his eyes… “Then you deny having given the boots to me?”
“Most emphatically I deny it.”
“But I wonder…if some one wished to have a pair of boots made up for a lady without her knowledge… how would he be able to learn the precise size of her feet?”
“That would be a relatively simple task…” he mused. “I imagine that some enterprising person would simply ask a housemaid to trace the soles of the lady’s discarded slippers. Then he could take the pattern to the local cobbler. And make it worth the cobbler’s while to delay his other work in favor of crafting the new shoes immediately.”
“That is quite a lot of trouble for someone to go through,” Annabelle murmured.
Hunt’s gaze was lit with sudden mischief. “Rather less trouble than having to haul an injured woman up three flights of stairs every time she goes out walking in her slippers.”
Annabelle realized that he would never admit to giving her the boots-which would allow her to keep them, but would also ensure that she would never be able to thank him. And she knew he had-she could see it in his face.
“Mr. Hunt,” she said earnestly, “I …I wish…” She paused, unable to find words, and stared helplessly at him.
Taking pity on her, Hunt stood and went to the side of the room, picking up a small circular game table. It was only about two feet in diameter, constructed with a clever mechanism to allow a player to flip the top from a chessboard to a draughtsboard. “Do you play?” he asked casually, setting the table in front of her.
“Draughts? Yes, occasionally-”
“No, not draughts. Chess.”
Annabelle shook her head, shrinking back into the corner of the settee. “No, I’ve never played chess. And I don’t wish to sound uncooperative, but… the way I feel at present, I have no desire to try something as difficult as-”
“It’s time for you to learn, then,” Hunt said, heading to a niche of shelves to retrieve a polished burl-wood box. “It’s been said that you can never really know someone until you play chess with him.”
Annabelle watched him cautiously, feeling nervous at the prospect of being alone with him …and yet she was thoroughly beguiled by his deliberate gentleness. It seemed almost as if he were trying to coax her to trust him. There was a softness in his manner that seemed utterly at odds with the cynical rake she had always known him to be.
“Do you believe that?” she asked.
“Of course not.” Hunt brought the box to the table and opened it to reveal a set of onyx and ivory chessmen, carved in scrupulous detail. He slid her a provocative glance. “The truth is, you can never really know a man until you’ve loaned him money. And you can never know a woman until you’ve slept in her bed.”
Next, is It Happened One Autumn. I’m not sure why but Lillian and Westcliff, while great, aren’t my favorite characters. I think Lillian’s personality is way too different/foreign from mine. And Westcliff while “perfect” isn’t that personable. But there’s definitely one part that comes to mind.
…”Yes, Salter,” he said brusquely, resenting the interruption.
“There is a…a situation, my lord, that I felt certain you would wish to be informed of.”
“What kind of situation?”
“It involves one of the guests, my lord.”
“Well?” Marcus demanded, annoyed by the butler’s diffidence. “Who is it? And what is he doing?”
“I am afraid the person is a ‘she,’ my lord. One of the footmen has just informed me that he saw Miss Bowman in the library, and she is…not well.”
Marcus stood so suddenly that his chair nearly toppled over. “Which Miss Bowman?”
“I do not know, my lord.”
“What do you mean, ‘not well’? Is anyone with her?”
“I do not believe so, my lord.”
“Is she hurt? Is she ill?”
Salter gave him a mildly harried stare. “Neither, my lord. Merely …not well.”
…His hands gripped into white-knuckled balls, and his pace quickened. It seemed to take forever to reach the library. By the time he crossed the threshold, his heart was driving in sharp blows inside his chest …a rhythm that owed nothing to exertion and everything to panic. What he saw caused him to stop short in the center of the large room.
Lillian stood before a row of books, with a pile of them surrounding her on the floor. She was pulling rare volumes from the shelves one by one, examining each with a puzzled frown and then tossing it heedlessly behind her. She seemed oddly languid, as if she were moving under water. And her hair was slipping from its pins. She didn’t look ill, precisely. In fact, she looked…
Becoming aware of his presence, Lillian glanced over her shoulder with a lopsided smile. “Oh. It’s you,” she said, her voice slurred. Her attention wandered back to the shelves. “I can’t find anything. All these books are so deadly dull…”
Frowning in concern, Marcus approached her while she continued to chatter and sort through the books. “Not this one…nor this one…oh no, no, no, this one’s not even in English…”
Marcus’s panic transformed rapidly into outrage, followed swiftly by amusement. Damnation. If he had required additional proof that Lillian Bowman was utterly wrong for him, this was it. The wife of a Marsden would never sneak into the library and drink until she was, as his mother would phrase it, “a trifle disguised.” Staring into her drowsy dark eyes and flushed face, Marcus amended the phrase. Lillian was not disguised. She was foxed, staggering, tap-hackled, top-heavy, shot-in-the-neck, staggering drunk.
More books sailed through the air, one of them narrowly missing his ear.
“Perhaps I could help,” Marcus suggested pleasantly, stopping beside her. “If you would tell me what you’re looking for.”
“Something romantic. Something with a happy ending. There should always be a happy ending, shouldn’ there?”
Marcus reached out to finger a trailing lock of her hair, his thumb sliding along the glowing satin filaments. He had never thought of himself as a particularly tactile man, but it seemed impossible to keep from touching her when she was near. The pleasure he derived from the simplest contact with her set all his nerves alight. “Not always,” he said in reply to her question.
Lillian let out a bubbling laugh. “How very English of you. How you all love to suffer, with your stiff… stiff…” She peered at the book in her hands, distracted by the gilt on its cover. “…upper lips,” she finished absently.
“We don’t like to suffer.”
“Yes, you do. At the very least, you go out of your way to avoid enjoying something.”
By now Marcus was becoming accustomed to the unique mixture of lust and amusement that she always managed to arouse in him. “There’s nothing wrong with keeping one’s enjoyments private.”
Dropping the book in her hands, Lillian turned to face him. The abruptness of the movement resulted in a sharp wobble, and she swayed back against the shelves even as he moved to steady her with his hands at her waist. Her tip-tilted eyes sparkled like an array of diamonds scattered over brown velvet. “It has nothing to do with privacy,” she informed him. “The truth is that you don’t want to be happy, bec-” She hiccupped gently. “Because it would undermine your dignity. Poor Wes’cliff.” She regarded him compassionately.
At the moment, preserving his dignity was the last thing on Marcus’s mind. He grasped the frame of the bookcase on either side of her, encompassing her in the half circle of his arms. As he caught a whiff of her breath, he shook his head and murmured, “Little one…what have you been drinking?”
“Oh…” She ducked beneath his arm and careened to the sideboard a few feet away. “I’ll show you… wonderful, wonderful stuff… this.” Triumphantly she plucked a nearly empty brandy bottle from the edge of the sideboard and held it by the neck. “Look what someone did…a pear, right inside! Isn’ that clever?” Bringing the bottle close to her face, she squinted at the imprisoned fruit. “It wasn’ very good at first. But it improved after a while. I suppose it’s an ac”-another delicate hiccup- “acquired taste.”
“It appears you’ve succeeded in acquiring it,” Marcus remarked, following her.
“You won’ tell anyone, will you?”
“No,” he promised gravely. “But I’m afraid they’re going to know regardless. Unless we can sober you in the next two or three hours before they return. Lillian, my angel …how much was in the bottle when you started?”
Showing him the bottle, she put her finger a third of the way from the bottom. “It was there when I started. I think. Or maybe there.” She frowned sadly at the bottle. “Now all that’s left is the pear.” She swirled the bottle, making the plump fruit slosh juicily at the bottom. “I want to eat it,” she announced.
“It’s not meant to be eaten. It’s only there to infuse the-Lillian, give the damned thing to me.”
“I am going to eat it.” Lillian tottered drunkenly away from him as she shook the bottle with increasing resolve. “If I can just get it out…”
“You can’t. It’s impossible.”
“Impossible?” she scoffed, lurching to face him. “You have servants who can pull the brains from a calf’s head, but they couldn’ get one little pear out of a bottle? I doubt that. Send for one of your under-butlers-just give a whistle, and-oh, I forgot. You can’t whistle.” She focused on him, her eyes narrowing as she stared at his mouth. “That’s the sillies’ thing I ever heard. Everyone can whistle. I’ll teach you. Right now. Pucker your lips. Like this. Pucker… see?”
Marcus caught her in his arms as she swayed before him. Staring down at her adorably pursed lips, he felt an insistent warmth invading his heart, overflowing and spilling past its fretted barriers. God in heaven, he was tired of fighting his desire for her. It was exhausting to struggle against something so overwhelming. Like trying not to breathe.
Lillian stared at him earnestly, seeming puzzled by his refusal to comply. “No, no, not like that. Like this.” The bottle dropped to the carpet. She reached up to his mouth and tried to shape his lips with her fingers. “Rest your tongue on the edge of your teeth and…it’s all about the tongue, really. If you’re agile with your tongue, you’ll be a very, very good”-she was temporarily interrupted as he covered her mouth with a brief, ravening kiss-“whistler. My lord, I can’t talk when you-” He fitted his mouth to hers again, devouring the sweet brandied taste of her.
She leaned against him helplessly, her fingers sliding into his hair, while her breath struck his cheek in rapid, delicate puffs. A tide of sensual urgency rolled through him as the kiss deepened into full-blown compulsion. The memory of their encounter in the hidden garden had haunted him for days …the delicacy of her skin beneath his hands, her small, exquisite breasts, the enticing strength of her legs. He wanted to feel her wrapped around him, her hands clutching his back, her knees clamped around his hips…the silky-wet caress of her body as he moved inside her.
Pulling her head back, Lillian stared at him with wondering eyes, her lips damp and reddened. Her hands left his hair, her fingertips coming to the hard angles of his cheekbones, delicate strokes of coolness on the blazing heat of his skin. He bent his head, nuzzling his jaw against the pale silk of her palm. “Lillian,” he whispered, “I’ve tried to leave you alone. But I can’t do it anymore. In the past two weeks I’ve had to stop myself a thousand times from coming to you. No matter how often I tell myself that you are the most inappropriate…” He paused as she squirmed suddenly, twisting and craning her neck to look down at the floor. “No matter what I-Lillian, are you listening to me? What the devil are you looking for?”
“My pear. I dropped it, and-oh, there it is.” She broke free of him and sank to her hands and knees, reaching beneath a chair. Pulling out the brandy bottle, she sat on the floor and held it in her lap.
“Lillian, forget the damned pear.”
“How did it get in there, d’you think?” She poked her finger experimentally into the neck of the bottle. “I don’ see how something so big could fit into a hole that small.”
Marcus closed his eyes against a surge of aggravated passion, and his voice cracked as he replied. “They… they put it directly on the tree. The bud grows …inside…” He slitted his eyes open and squeezed them shut again as he saw her finger intruding deeper into the bottle. “Grows…” he forced himself to continue, “until the fruit is ripe.”
Lillian seemed rather too impressed by the information. “They do? That is the cleverest, cleverest …a pear in its own little…oh no.”
“What?” Marcus asked through clenched teeth.
“My finger’s stuck.”
… and you know, the rest gets even better 😉
Ok – I can’t resist. One more impassioned paragraph.
“It wasn’t a meaningless act for me either,” Marcus said, his raspy whisper tickling her ear. “Yesterday I finally realized that all the things I thought were wrong about you were actually the things I enjoyed most. I don’t give a damn what you do, so long as it pleases you. Run barefoot on the front lawn. Eat pudding with your fingers. Tell me to go to hell as often as you like. I want you just as you are. After all, you’re the only woman aside from my sisters who has ever dared to tell me to my face that I’m an arrogant ass. How could I resist you?” His mouth moved to the soft cushion of her cheek. “My dearest Lillian,” he whispered, easing her head back to kiss her eyelids. “If I had the gift of poetry, I would shower you with sonnets. But words have always been difficult for me when my feelings are strongest. And there is one word in particular that I can’t bring myself to say to you…‘goodbye.’ I couldn’t bear the sight of you walking away from me. If you won’t marry me for the sake of your own honor, then do it for the sake of everyone who would have to tolerate me otherwise. Marry me because I need someone who will help me to laugh at myself. Because someone has to teach me how to whistle. Marry me, Lillian…because I have the most irresistible fascination for your ears.”
Sebastian pulled Evie inside the club, where the silence was startling after the tumult of the alley. She labored to keep pace with his ground-eating strides, her own breath coming fast by the time they reached the reading room on the main floor. The built-in mahogany shelves were filled with leather volumes. Against the walls, a multitude of papers and periodicals were draped over racks made with rows of clever movable dowels. Pushing Evie into the room, Sebastian closed them both inside with a decisive slam.
“Were you hurt?” he asked roughly.
“No.” Evie tried to hold back her next words, but they came out in a burst of resentment. “Why were you gone for so long? I needed you, and you weren’t here!”
“You had thirty employees to protect you. Why did you go downstairs in the first place? You should have stayed upstairs until you knew for certain who was outside.”
“Mr. Bullard told me that Annabelle Hunt was waiting for me. And then when I saw that it was my uncle, Bullard wouldn’t let me back inside the club. He pushed me right into my uncle’s arms.”
“My God.” Sebastian’s eyes widened. “I’m going to disembowel him, the gutter scum-”
“And while all that was happening,” Evie continued wrathfully, “you were in bed with a prostitute!” As the words left her lips, she realized that to her, this was the crux of the matter…even more important than Bullard’s betrayal, or her uncles’ assault, her emotions were roiling at the fact that Sebastian had betrayed her so soon with another woman.
Sebastian focused on her with an alert gaze. “I wasn’t.”
“Don’t lie,” Evie said, while their mutual fury seethed in the air. “I know you were.”
“Why are you so bloody certain?”
“Because you stayed at Madam Bradshaw’s for more than two hours!”
“I was talking about business. Talking, Evie! If you don’t believe that, then you can go to hell. Because if I had slept with someone, I guarantee you that I would be a lot more relaxed than I am now.”
Staring into Sebastian’s eyes, which were as hard as a frozen pond, Evie felt her outrage begin to drain away. She had no choice but to believe him-his offended anger was obvious.
“Oh,” she muttered.
“Oh? That’s all you have to say?”
“I suppose…I shouldn’t have jumped to conclusions. But knowing what I do of your past…I assumed…”
Her lame attempt at an apology seemed to erode the remnants of Sebastian’s self-control. “Well, your assumption was wrong! If you haven’t yet noticed, I’m busier than the devil in a high wind, every minute of the day. I don’t have the damned time for a tumble. And if I did-” He stopped abruptly. All semblance of the elegant viscount Evie had once watched from afar in Lord Westcliff’s drawing room had vanished. He was rumpled and bruised and furious. And he wasn’t breathing at all well. “If I did-” He broke off again, a flush crossing the crests of his cheeks and the bridge of his nose.
Evie saw the exact moment when his self-restraint snapped. Alarm jolted through her, and she lurched toward the closed door. Before she had even made a step, she found herself seized and pinned against the wall by his body and hands. The smell of sweat-dampened linen and healthy, aroused male filled her nostrils.
Once he had caught her, Sebastian pressed his parted lips against the thin skin of her temple. His breath snagged. Another moment of stillness. Evie felt the electrifying touch of his tongue at the very tip of her eyebrow. He breathed against the tiny wet spot, a waft of hellfire that sent chills through her entire body. Slowly he brought his mouth to her ear, and traced the intricate inner edges.
His whisper seemed to come from the darkest recesses of her own mind. “If I did, Evie…then by now I would have shredded your clothes with my hands and teeth until you were naked. By now I would have pushed you down to the carpet, and put my hands beneath your breasts and lifted them up to my mouth. I would be kissing them…licking them…until the tips were like hard little berries, and then I would bite them so gently…”
Evie felt herself drift into a slow half swoon as he continued in a ragged murmur. “…I would kiss my way down to your thighs…inch by inch…and when I reached those sweet red curls, I would lick through them, deeper and deeper, until I found the little pearl of your clitoris…and I would rest my tongue on it until I felt it throb. I would circle it, and stroke it…I’d lick until you started to beg. And then I would suck you. But not hard. I wouldn’t be that kind. I would do it so lightly, so tenderly, that you would start screaming with the need to come…I would put my tongue inside you…taste you…eat you. I wouldn’t stop until your entire body was wet and shaking. And when I had tortured you enough, I would open your legs and come inside you, and take you…take you…”
Sebastian stopped, anchoring her against the wall while they both remained frozen, aroused, panting.
At length, he spoke in a nearly inaudible voice. “You’re wet, aren’t you?”
(And if you head to Ms. Kleypas’s website, the excerpt is pretty much what follows this immediately.)
And… now I’m starting to creep myself out, because some of my favorite scenes are right around/the same as the excerpts posted on Ms. Kleypas’s site, so now… here’s more bang for the… well not buck because it’s free – but this is the scene right after the excerpt (sexcerpt? 😉 for Scandal in Spring)
Matthew knew it was wrong the instant their lips met. Because nothing would ever equal the perfection of Daisy in his arms. He was ruined for life. God help him, he didn’t care.
Her mouth was soft and hot, like sunshine, like the white blaze of a heartwood fire. She gasped as he touched her lower lip with the tip of his tongue. Slowly her hands came to his shoulders, and then he felt her fingers at the back of his head, sliding into his hair to keep him from pulling away. There wasn’t a chance in hell of that happening. Nothing could have made him stop.
A tremor shook his fingers as he bracketed the exquisite line of her jaw in the open framework of his hand, gently angling her face upward. The flavor of her mouth, sweet and elusive, fueled a hunger that threatened to rage out of control…he searched the damp silk beyond her lips, deeper, harder, until she began to breathe in long sighs, her body molding against his.
He let her feel how much stronger he was, how much heavier, one muscular arm clamped along her back, his feet spread to hold her between the powerful length of his thighs. Her upper half was bound in a laced and padded corset. He was almost overcome by a savage desire to tear away the stays and quilting and find the tender flesh beneath.
Instead he sank his fingers into her pinned-up hair and tugged it backward until the weight of her head was cradled in his hand, and her pale throat was exposed. He searched for the pulse he had seen earlier, his lips dragging softly along the secret pathway of nerves beneath her skin. When he reached a sensitive spot, he felt the vibration of her suppressed moan against his mouth.
This was what it would be like to make love to her, he thought dazedly…the sweet shivering of her flesh as he entered her, the delicate chaos of her breath, the helpless sounds that rustled in her throat. Her skin, warm and female, scented like tea and talcum and a trace of salt. He found her mouth again, opened it, delving into wet silk, heat, and an intimate flavor that drove him mad.
She should have struggled, but there was only yielding and more softness, driving him past all limits. He began to ravish her mouth with deep, twisting kisses, bringing her body rhythmically against his. He felt her legs part beneath her gown, his thigh fitting neatly between them. She squirmed with innocent desire, her face blooming with the color of late summer poppies. Had she understood exactly what he wanted from her, she would have done more than blush. She would have fainted on the spot.
Lifting his mouth from hers, Matthew pressed his jaw against the side of her head. “I think,” he said raggedly, “this puts to rest any question of whether I find you desirable or not.”
So there you go – some of my favorite parts from the excellent “Wallflower” series. And… for those of you who read to the end (unless you skipped to the end and then you CHEATED, YOU WHORE) … 😀 we’re having a contest! We have a few copies of A Wallflower Christmas to give away… and also an ARC of Smooth Talking Stranger. Believe me, I’m jealous. (More posts will follow about how to get the ARC, so stick around.)
Now most importantly – how do you win A Wallflower Christmas? Comment on any post at TGTBTU that is about the Wallflowers series, or (here’s the catch) my Who Will Win pondering – but on that one you must follow the rules. And obviously this post. Let’s talk some LK love. Tell me about your favorite Wallflower, a quote, scene, etc.
There! Easy peasy! Good luck everyone, and Happy New Year!
[And remember © Lisa Kleypas. All rights reserved]