For my next post today I wanted to share an exclusive excerpt of 100 Nights with the Duke, my May 10th release and my 100th published novel! It’s a standalone book, so if my very large backlist seems overwhelming, it’s a great place to start. It’s also super sexy, a reunited lovers story, a duke/courtesan story and a “if we just stick to these rules, somehow I won’t get hurt” story. Some of my favorite tropes. Edward, the Duke of Lockhart, was madly in love with his mistress, Sophia, when he was forced to marry for propriety. Now a widower, he is determined to win the heart of the only woman he’s ever loved, and never lost her again. Here is a brief scene (followed by the pre-order links if it catches your fancy):
She worried her hands in her lap. “Edward, I have not been able to stop thinking about you…about us…since you last left me. I want to stop. I keep trying to stop. I use every trick in my expansive book to do so, and yet you appear in my dreams. You invade every corner of every place I try to find escape from you.”
He leaned closer. “Should I apologize? I feel I must because your description doesn’t sound positive.”
She shook her head. “No. I would not ask for that. When I picture you, it isn’t with anger or regret. It is because…because what we spoke of that day in my parlor is true. I did think of you while we were parted, Edward. I did want you, even when I knew that was impossible. And having you touch me like you did at Vivien’s party, having you take me as you did in my home…that has only increased my physical longing.”
He wanted to jump to his feet and crow, even though she had only admitted to desire. Desire was a step. And it was an open door to the rest of what he wanted from this glorious woman before him.
He resisted the urge and instead gripped his hands against his knees. “Well, you know my thoughts on the matter. I want you so very desperately, Sophia.”
She held his gaze a moment, then two, studying him without revealing her hypotheses about what she observed. “Then I would be open to being together again.” She held up a hand when he drew a breath to speak. “Wait, before you celebrate your victory, we need to establish some rules.”
He blinked. That was certainly unexpected. “Rules?” he repeated. “I’m not certain I understand.”
“Yes, I realize it is an odd thing, but for me to feel comfortable in moving forward, I need there to be boundaries we will not cross.”
The disappointment that moved through him could not be denied, even if he was able to tamp it down. He looked at her a long moment and saw the fear buried deep in those eyes of hers. That she was willing to overcome it to be with him was still a good sign.
So he would have to follow her rules, even if the concept chafed. He would have to prove himself and his intentions to earn her back. He could do that.
“Tell me your rules,” he said softly.
She nodded, but it was an anxious movement. She kept rubbing her hands against the silky fabric of her dress as she drew a deep breath and said, “Firstly, we will never again meet for an assignation at my home.”
He blinked. “I…see. Do you mind if I ask why?”
“When you and I were lovers before, the place was where we often met, yes. But since you gifted it to me…” She trailed off and worried her lip. “Since we parted it has become my…my oasis. My escape.”
He frowned. “Was my coming there a few days ago so much of an invasion?”
“I…” He could see her struggling and finally she huffed out a breath. “Already I cannot think of anything but you when I look at my settee. It will take months and months for that association to fade. If you come into every room, there will be memories you leave behind and they will haunt me.”
He bent his head. “I do understand that, Sophia. I felt the same about this place, after we parted, and about many of the places we visited together. I have no desire to make you uncomfortable in your own home. I apologize for doing so. And yes, I can agree to that term.”
She almost sagged with relief. “Very good. The next rule that I must insist we agree upon is the definition of this affiliation.”
“The definition,” he repeated slowly.
“The last time we were together, you were my protector. That position gave you both responsibilities and power. But you are not my protector this time, Edward. I do not expect for you to provide for me. And you cannot expect that I will never say no to you.”
He drew in a sharp breath. “Protector or no, I hope you never thought you couldn’t say no to me before.”
“Of course,” she hurried to say, reaching for his hand. She held it tightly. “I could always say no, that isn’t what I meant. I meant that courtesans know their role. I was to smile, even if I didn’t feel like it. To adorn your arm even if my feet hurt. To go to just one more gathering even if I wished to go home.”
Edward flinched because what Sophia described was a job: a duty. Perhaps one done with pleasure and joy at times, but never with full autonomy. He lifted her hand to his lips and gently kissed her knuckles before he released her. “You may say no to me about anything you like, Sophia. I never owned you just because I was your protector. I would never want to own you if I were lucky enough to be more than that. Say no to me. Loudly and firmly and sweetly and however you wish to do so.”
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