You read it here first! Our FREE READ for March is from Virginia Heath, who brings us an exclusive extract from A Warriner to Seduce Her.
Here’s an exclusive snippet just for The Pink Heart Society from the final instalment of my Wild Warriner’s quartet, A Warriner to Seduce Her, which comes out next month. The hero, devoted ladies’ man and dashing rake, Jake Warriner, has just met Miss Felicity Blunt for the first time in an alcove at a ball where they are both hiding. The heroine, who is in London for the first time on a visit from the north, is not happy at being dragged to the ball in the first place and is lamenting her displeasure to the hero…
A sensible schoolmistress…
Awakened by the notorious rake! In this The Wild Warriners story, schoolmistress Felicity Blunt feels old beyond her years―and desperately dull. Meeting confirmed rake Jacob Warriner brings her gloriously alive, and yet no matter his allure she must remain immune to his obvious charms and unashamed flirtation. But is Jacob merely a mischievous scoundrel? Or is there much more to this Warriner than meets the eye…?
And now for the fun stuff! Here is an exclusive extract from Virginia’s book, A Warriner to Seduce Her:
‘Not every soirée is as dull and constrained as Almack’s.’
‘Perhaps. But being paraded around town like meat on the butcher’s board is not what I had in mind when I agreed to this visit.’
‘It’s just a visit, then?’ Clearly Miss Blunt was not aware of the fact Uncle Crispin was intent on marrying her off.
‘Yes. A month. Then I shall return to Cumbria where I belong. Perhaps two at the most, although after tonight I sincerely doubt I’ll manage two. It has been less than a week and I already find London society suffocating. I find I am fiercely wedded to my freedom, you see, while here it is stifled. At home, I can walk outdoors where and when I please, say what I think, do what I want. Here I have chaperons and all these rules I have to adhere to.’
‘Where to start? How to dress, how to walk. The correct way to curtsy to a duchess, which is I now know quite different from the way one curtsies to a countess or a queen. Who I should speak to, who I shouldn’t, how to behave when dancing.’ Another put-upon sigh. ‘I was promised I would have an adventure and so far it has been anything but. However, at least I was dragged here by my family and had no idea it would be this awful. What’s your excuse? Seeing that you loathe the place.’
‘I, too, was dragged here, in a manner of speaking.’ He gave in to the urge to touch her again and scandalously allowed his thumb to caress the centre of her palm where it rested among the folds of her skirt. Her eyes dropped to the spot. Stared. When her lush lips parted slightly he raised her gloved hand almost to his lips. He gazed up at her with the hooded eyes women always found appealing, knowing the deep blue soulful depths were his best feature. ‘Although now I am very pleased I was. Else I never would have met such a rare bird of paradise in this tiresome cage full of sparrows.’
If he said so himself, Jake was rather pleased with the symbolism even if the words themselves were a tad triter than he would have liked. But a seduction was a seduction and there was no point in beating around the bush. The rakish smile he bestowed upon her was second nature. It suggested he had a poetic heart beneath the cynical irony she found so amusing. He had certainly amused her enough that she had happily confided in him. A total stranger. In his vast wealth of experience, the sensible ladies adored both a man who made them smile and one with romantic sensibilities who listened to them. A deadly combination which had served him well since the day he had turned sixteen. Being used to forthright and charmless northern men, she would doubtless find his easy, open manner disarming.
Her eyes locked with his.
And before he could kiss her hand, she snatched it away.
‘Are you flirting with me, Mr Warriner?’
‘I would certainly like to, Miss Blunt.’ His voice was low and silky, the practised tone in a timbre he knew to be his most seductive. ‘Do you mind?’
‘I most certainly do.’ Both gloved hands came to rest imperiously on her hips, giving her more of the appearance of a schoolmistress than an intriguing temptress. ‘I have remained lost these past thirty minutes to avoid such nonsense.’
‘Ah—in the main here at Almack’s it is reliably all nonsense, but that is because the gentlemen over at the auction block are all shamelessly on the market for a wife. It is contrived and insincere. Here in the alcove—like you—I was content to hide and had no plans to flirt with anyone until fate introduced us. Do you believe in fate, Miss Blunt?’
‘Good lord! Did you really just say that?’ Her brows furrowed. ‘Do I look as green as grass, Mr Warriner?’ She was positively glaring down her nose at him in bemused outrage. And if he was not mistaken it was tinged with real outrage rather than the feigned outrage he usually encountered when he turned on the charm. Her green eyes hardened; her honey brow furrowed slightly. Tiny, physical nuances that could not be faked. There was no hint of interest on her face—only disbelief. Making him feel like a fool for flirting. That made him uncomfortable because it was so…so…unheard of. He always flirted as a matter of course and had never once felt foolish in doing so. But Miss Blunt-by-Name-and-Nature seemed to see right through him to the hard kernel of insincerity buried deep in his chest which he had never noticed before. Now that he had—well, frankly, he felt queasy. At a loss for charming words for once, Jake simply stared at her and she began to giggle at his shocked expression.
‘Do such hackneyed and slapdash endearments garner you much success with the ladies, Mr Warriner?’
‘While the prose might have been slapdash, the sentiment was not.’ He could save this. He was a master in the art of seduction. A maestro. ‘But usually I am not so overawed by the beauty of my companion that my tongue becomes twisted.’ Once again the rote phrases sounded hollow and unoriginal, making Jake want to wince at his own crassness. What the devil was wrong with him? ‘In the few short minutes I have spent in your company, Miss Blunt, you have made a great impression on me and—’
‘Oh, goodness.’ She snorted and covered the offending sound with her hand. ‘I must give you credit for perseverance, but really…’ She eyed him as if expecting him to finish her sentence. He schooled his features into a look of the utmost sincerity although his toes had begun to curl uncomfortably in his boots.
‘I’m not sure I follow, Miss Blunt.’
‘Oh, Mr Warriner! You are funny. Are London ladies so daft that they do not know a philanderer when they see one? Why, I saw it the moment I first encountered you, you have the look of one. And the manner.’
‘The manner?’ Jake usually enjoyed the sparring. It was part of the game and a part he loved. However, sparring with the blunt Miss Blunt was making him uncomfortable. Especially as she had his full measure and he didn’t particularly like the label of philanderer. He was a rake. A proud one. Rakes were dashing and roguish. Philanderer sounded sordid. Cynical. Oily. Good grief! Was he oily? The urge to find a mirror and check he had not turned into a simpering toad made him self-conscious. ‘And now I suppose you are an expert on philanderers?’ Why didn’t he correct her and say rake?
‘Indeed I am. So much so I could probably write a book on the subject. The self-assurance and smug satisfaction in your own allure was as plain as the nose on my face—although while you weren’t practising your philandering on me I was prepared to overlook it.’
Blast—she could see right through him. He was confident in his allure. So confident he had made a career out of it. Obviously he had become too complacent. A new, and worrying development Jake was ill prepared for. He must have slipped up somewhere. He had probably bared his hand too soon to this canny northern lass because he was too used to the relative ease of the pampered society ladies. He was tired. Desperately needed a holiday—and, if he was honest, he had rushed things because he was attracted to her. Very attracted to her. ‘Forgive me. In my haste, perhaps I have overstepped the bounds.’
‘There is no perhaps about it.’
‘As I said, forgive me. When I see something I want, I am inclined to listen to my heart rather than my head.’ He knew instantly he had laid the charm on too thick again, he didn’t need to witness her exasperated eye-roll or to hear her amused snort to confirm it. What on earth was the matter with him? Jake wasn’t usually this ham-fisted. He couldn’t remember the last time he had run roughshod over a seduction and she had called it correctly. Tonight he was no better than a hackneyed philanderer. Maybe there was still time to fix it? And maybe the damage was done and was probably irreparable. He stopped himself trotting out more banalities because of the inevitable humiliation which would follow. Rowley’s gorgeous niece was not the normal run-of-the-mill society miss. Judging from her incredulous scowl, he was in for another skewering for the heart and head claptrap. Miss Blunt didn’t disappoint. Those playful, inviting eyes froze again.
‘You are in danger of ruining a perfectly pleasant conversation with your contrived, insincere—and while I am being completely frank—tired, overt and practised attempts at seduction.’
That stung. Jake was the master of subtle. ‘Hardly practised, Miss Blunt.’
‘Oh, dear. I can see I have hurt your feelings and that was not my intention. I simply wanted you to be aware that I am more than accustomed with men of your ilk. You’re not the first scoundrel to try your luck and I dare say you won’t be the last. All the clues were there right from the outset. The oh-so-casual lingering hold of my hand. The heated look. The purposefully intimate and sultry whispering. And do not get me started on the crass and unspontaneous way in which you tossed my own words back at me to try to convince me of your sincerity. Kindred spirits and birds of paradise indeed. What rot. I’m sure a handsome man like yourself is used to gullible women falling for your lies, but…’
‘I don’t lie.’ Although Jake was internally wincing at the falsehood. He lied so much nowadays he had to keep a notebook of what he said and to whom to avoid tripping up. He even lied to his own family and had done for years. Nobody had called him on it before, that was all. Because usually he was damn good at it. He forced himself to smile. Forced himself to appear amused. ‘When you walked into that palm I was charmed. I’m still charmed, despite your inaccurate and mean assassination of my character. But I can see I have inadvertently insulted you with my honest enthusiasm, which I never meant to do because the truth is…’ The gloved hand appeared palm up near his face and the lush lips were grinning behind it.
‘Let me save you from further embarrassment, Mr Warriner—I wasn’t born yesterday. Save your insincere seductions for the silly girls in the ballroom. As undeniably attractive as you are, I have less interest in being seduced by a man of your ilk you than I do for this cattle market. I am only sorry that all these young ladies are not as pragmatic about men as I am.’ Her fingers went to the fan hanging from a ribbon on her wrist and for a moment Jake experienced the forlorn hope she might snap it open and use it to flirt over the top of in the customary manner he understood so well. However, she wielded it like a broadsword aimed directly at his ribcage.
‘And for future reference should we collide again in the foreseeable future, if you are going to throw about bird analogies, I’m neither a feeble sparrow nor an exotic bird of paradise, Mr Warriner. If I am any bird, I am an owl. Wise. Older than the rest of these foolish girls and blessed with the ability to see danger coming from all angles. And you, sir, are a hawk, circling the sky for unsuspecting prey.’ Her arms folded across her chest and the stance did wonders for her figure—just to taunt him further.‘You are a very charming hawk and I like you for it, but I am far too prudent to fall for your nonsense. Please, take my advice and heed it well. Never flirt with me again, Mr Warriner, else I will stop liking you and I would hate to do that. Now, if you will just point me in the direction of the refreshment table, I fear I have been lost long enough.’
A Warriner to Seduce Her releases April 2018, and is available for pre-order right now! For all the details check out Virginia's website and follow her on Facebook, and Twitter.
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