Thursday, June 16, 2011
Today, I have the opportunity to sit down with Lady Chloe Pembridge. She's a debutante and attended her first Wednesday night ball at Almack's! She has graciously allowed me to question her on the accident that occurred last evening, as it is the talk of the ton!
HC: Lady Chloe, thank you so much for speaking to me.
CP: Don't be silly. I would love nothing more than to tell the true story of what happened last night.
HC: Before you tell us your side, allow me to remind our readers that the rumor has it you were drinking in excess, danced one too many dances with the same suitor and then spilled a glass of red wine all over Lady Theodora Ethridge.
CP: Miss Channing, please, that rumor is damaging to not only my reputation but the reputation of the gentleman in question.
HC: The gentleman in question is hardly a gentleman. I have on the best authority that last autumn this particular man was seen in the company of the notorious Lady Archmont and that she believed he intended on wedding her.
CP: I am offended by how you bandy about innuendo and gossip, Miss Channing. If you continue spewing offensive stories I will be forced to end our interview.
HC: Lady Pembridge, my deepest apologies. I meant no offense. Please, sit back down and tell me your side of the sordid tale.
CP: It is not a sordid tale. I simply danced three dances with my stepbrother. There is no scandal in that. And the drink I spilled on Lady Etheridge was lemonade and allow me to assure you that is the strongest beverage to cross my lips last night.
HC: Really, Lady Pembridge, I don't know how you expect the readers to believe you, for Lady Ethridge herself told me not twenty-minutes ago that her pale pink satin gown is ruined!
CP: Good day to you, Miss Channing. It is such a shame that you would choose to believe a falsehood over the truth.
HC: Hmm, I suppose I didn't handle that very well…was Lady Pembridge drunk at Almack's last night? You're going to have to decide for yourself.
Lady Chloe Pembridge is the heroine in my current release, AN UNWILLING BARONESS.
Three long years ago, Lady Chloe Pembridge made a mistake. She allowed her pride
to push away the man she loves. Can she make him see her feelings are real, or
is it all too late?
Jude Arden left a bitter, broken man when the love of his life rebuffed his affections. But seeing her again, he wonders if maybe, in his haste, he misjudged her. Now, with the Baron von Richter in the picture, has he lost her
Jude looked over the top of his spectacles, his dark eyes flashing with mischief. Mischief that had her wondering what he was up to and if it would get her into trouble. Since the union of his mother and her father less than two years prior, she'd seen more delightful tribulations then her entire seventeen previous years combine.
"Chloe, do you suppose your father would allow you to accompany me to London to visit Mother?"
It was an awful idea. Jude wasn't so much older than she was and tongues would continue to wag if she were to travel into town, unchaperoned with her
stepbrother. There was already gossip of a romance between them because of how much time they spent together. It wasn't natural, she'd heard more than once.
"I don't know," she replied smoothing the silk of her turquoise skirt. "Do you suppose your mother would allow me to accompany you? She detests my sense of humor and abhors my country mannerisms."
Of course, it didn't matter to Chloe what the old bat thought. She wasn't her true mother. In fact, she was nothing like the sweet angel that had given her life. Dorothea was an unfortunate addition to her family. She looked at Jude and smiled. He was truly the only benefit from her father's latest union. "Would I not embarrass her showing up on the arm of her beloved son? My antics at the last ball were truly scandalous."
She rose from her perch on the edge of the crimson settee and stared down at him. He shook his head, his chestnut curls glowing gold in the lamplight. Dear Lord but he was handsome.
"You mistakenly spilled lemonade on the hostess, you hardly did anything wrong. My mother is the one the one who married your father for his money," he replied bitterly. Removing his glasses, he rubbed the bridge of his aristocratic nose.
"Everyone knows that. Surely, she can't think a brother and sister coming to visit would be all that scandalous."
"I'm not your sister," she reminded gently. "Our parent's are nearly newly weds and you and I are both fully grown."
"That you are, dear Chloe and you're lovely." She fidgeted under his direct, amber eyed-gaze that oft times left her unnerved. He knew how to play with a woman's emotions and she refused to allow him the chance to nestle next to her heart for fear he would toy with it as he had so many others.
She looked away. He would wink, touch her arm, or whisper something into her ear and her mind would drift toward places she dare not venture. He was a rapscallion, to be sure, but not a rake that she truly feared. Generally, she didn't gush and simper over him as many of her daft friends had. Chloe was happy and content in his company.
Of course, she shielded her heart from his flattery. It was a must, for despite her protests, she did find herself curious about his kisses. Wondered what it was that made the women give themselves to him so freely and without expectation. She knew a good part was simply the glorious god-like beauty of the man. But there was more then just his physical attributes, there was a spark about him. His charm drew the fairer sex to him like moths to flame. And despite her attraction, she refused to allow him to singe her wings.
Uncomfortable heat inched up into her cheeks. How she loathed her propensity to reveal her emotions by her blushes. "I do appreciate the compliment," she replied.
"Yes, I see that by your adorable flush."
She lifted her hands to her face, her palms cool against her flesh. "Stop it," she ordered. "You do that on purpose and I don't appreciate your teasing at all."
He shot her a dazzling smile and Chloe had to admit that grin was one of the reasons woman swooned and chased after him in the hopes of attention. Thank God, his magnetism didn't have the full effect on her, well hardly ever.
He had, however, found the chink in her armor. She was chronically unable to take a compliment. If the devil himself admired her shoes, she'd blush. That was a reaction from years of neglect at her father's hands. When Father did say something nice it was usually followed by a humiliating criticism. Damn the man. Compliments were never compliments. They were just unborn insults.
She moved across the Persian carpet toward the fireplace. The dying embers popped in want of fresh kindling. The chill in the room a reminder that summer was over and autumn had arrived. "I'll stop."
His abrupt tone had her turning to face him. He lowered his gaze, his fierce frown, indicating sudden displeasure. "But I do wish you would consider the trip. I could use your alliance." He reached into his pocket, pulled out a missive, and held it up for her to see. "I received this today."
"What is it, Jude?" she asked, not liking his somber expression or the way the air in the parlor seemed suddenly heavy with dread.
"It's from Mother. Apparently, my wedding day is but a month away."
Chloe grabbed the letter, unfolded it, and read its contents. The controlled flow of the ink revealed Lady Dorothea's devastating intention to have her son married off to the Dowager Duchess of Milton in thirty-four days time. Her stomach roiled with bitter bile and rage bubbled through her with such ferocity her hands quaked.
"Jude, no! She can't possibly mean to marry you off to that corpulent old woman!" She squeezed the paper in an angry fist. "She's nearly sixty! What is your mother thinking?" She paced before him. "And the Dowager…"
"She's a nice enough woman," he acquiesced, his mood lightening as quickly as it had darkened. "The dear gave me all the sweets I wanted when I was but a lad of ten."
Chloe's mouth dropped open. How could Jude make such horrible fun? "This is not a joking matter," she nearly shouted.
He raked his hands through his hair and surged to his feet. "I know, but if I don't laugh at it, I'll scream. Mother is trying to secure her future and mine…or so she says. If I don't marry the old girl, I'm cut off."
Chloe met his gaze and recognized in his eyes, his resignation.
"You can't mean to marry her."
He paced toward the window, his broad shoulders nearly filling the narrow window frame. "I don't," he whispered. "I'm taking what money is mine, which as you know, isn't a lot and buying a commission. Will you still like me if I'm a soldier?"
Chloe flopped back down on the settee and fought her irritation. "Is that what you want Jude? To be an officer?"
He faced her, his expression one of despair. "I haven't exactly met my full potential as a gentleman."
She couldn't disagree with that, for Jude had much potential but seemed completely content to live a life of indolent ease. There was no desire to better himself, to forge ahead and make his own way.
Since meeting him, he had done little to divert from the well-worn path of his ancestors. That particular path was littered with debauchery and womanizing.
"Perhaps you could change that?"
"How?" he asked, raising a dark brow. "I have been groomed for uselessness."
"I don't know, Jude." She felt like throwing her hands up in hopelessness. "What are your aspirations? What is something you'd like to do? If you truly want to be a soldier, then I support that decision."
His features visibly slumped. "I don't want to be a soldier. I want to continue doing what I'm doing. I like my life. I like to hunt, to fish, to laugh and spend time with you."
She shook her head. "You're content then to do nothing."
"I hardly call bedding Lady Archmont nothing. It was hard work. The game took me all of last summer and much of the fall to win."
His flippant reminder had her stomach aching. "All you did was chase after a notorious harlot. That in itself could not have taken much effort. Is that what you want to be remembered for?" Another reason she'd hardly ever consider giving her heart to him. He wasn't trustworthy, that was a certainty.
"And what's wrong with that? Most men in my position do exactly what I'm doing. And if they're not, they wish they were."
"Oh Jude." She shook her head disapprovingly. "I think the world of you, you know that. But if you plan on doing nothing of substance, then you may as well marry the dowager. She will bankroll your lifestyle and have as little
expectation of you as you do for yourself."
She stood and pressed her hand to her stomach, hoping to quell the upset. "I'm going to retire. I'm tired and full of despair for you. Do whatever you must, but know I wish more for you and from you."
Jude's jaw tightened, the tension in his face turned his usually light and pleasant demeanor dark. "Are you turning against me, too?" he asked. "I never thought I'd see the day you and Mother agreed upon anything."
She met his gaze. "No, I want what's best for you, but I can't make you into the man I know you can be. That's a decision you have to make on your own."
"Are you saying I'm not a man?" He came closer to her, so close she could feel the anger emanating from his core. His stare pierced her heart, for mixed with his rage was anguish and hurt. His gaze so pained that she ached for him. Had she done that to him? Had she hurt him without meaning to?
A guilty lump filled her throat. "I-I don't know what I'm saying."
He leaned in close, the whisper of his breath enticing against her cheek. "It doesn't matter what Mother thinks. It doesn't matter what society thinks, but Chloe, it does matter what you think."
"Why's that?" she asked, taking in a deep breath, alarmed by his seriousness.
"Because I'm in love with you."
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Thank you for having me today, Gabrielle! I look forward to seeing you at my blog. And to one lucky commenter I am happy to give away a free download of AN UNWILLING BARONESS.
Happy reading everyone.
at 8:00 AM