You read it here first folks! PHS's exclusive Free Read is an extract from Virginia Heath's The Disgraceful Lord Grey.
I do love a meet-cute. The wonderful moment when the hero and heroine clap eyes on one another for the first time. Here is that moment from my new release, The Disgraceful Lord Gray. Miss Theodora Cranford is walking through her Uncle’s estate with her older and incorrigible friend Harriet, discussing her lacklustre latest suitor, Mr. Hargreaves…
"He’s handsome though. If one has to be bound to a man for all eternity, it’s best he is easy on the eye. I insisted upon that when I had to marry. Crudge, God rest him, was exceptionally easy on the eye and liked to ride. Such pursuits do wonders for a gentleman’s buttocks. In my humble opinion, there is nothing better than a pert pair of cheeks encased in tight buckskin." Her incorrigible older friend had a wicked glint in her eye. "Did I ever tell you I seduced him first?"
"Repeatedly." And in intriguing detail. Practically all of Thea’s knowledge of procreation came from Harriet’s detailed confessions.
"I was already falling in love with him, was certainly in lust with him, and saw no point in beating around the bush with a long and protracted courtship. Obviously, it all turned out for the best. We married in haste and got to enjoy seeing each other naked a great many more times than we would have done had we adhered to the fashion for protracted courtships." She sighed again. "And, by Jove, did that man look good naked… Mr Hargreaves has a pleasant posterior. Or at least I think he has. I haven’t managed a thorough scrutiny yet to be completely sure, but I did catch a hint of a glimpse at last month’s hunting party. Decent thighs—which usually are a good sign. They suggest a certain robustness. Although, in truth, I want more for you than him. I want you to have some adventure and excitement first. Your life is far too predictable and regimented for one so young. It’s a crying shame…wait… Is that a dog barking?"
They both paused and listened. After a beat of total silence broken only by the chirping sounds of the morning chorus, a succession of rapid, high-pitched woofs could be heard coming from the trees.
"That doesn’t sound good."
"No, it doesn’t." The bushes beyond rustled violently and the dog barked again, setting her vivid imagination whirring with possibilities. "Do you suppose the poor thing is in distress?"
Thea adored animals. The thought of one in pain was too awful to bear. More barking set her heart racing, but answered her question. With images of a poacher’s trap and a grisly death in her mind, Thea picked up her skirts and broke into a run. Twice this last month her uncle’s gamekeeper had found snares on the estate and evidence that someone was helping themselves to his pheasants. If the poor dog’s paw was caught, it would panic and injure itself in its quest to free it.
Thea plunged into the trees following the sound, then skidded to a halt at the top of the bank at the unexpected sight of an exceedingly pert pair of male buttocks.
Very nice and very naked male buttocks.
A pathetic squeak of shock popped out of her mouth before she covered it with her hands and the buttocks disappeared beneath the water a second before the owner of them turned around, his own hands covering the most important part of his modesty. Which was now quite submerged, but leaving little else to her imagination. Her eyes travelled upwards from those hands to the flat abdomen bisected by an arrow of intriguing dark hair which widened over a broad chest. Muscled shoulders. A gloriously strong set of biceps. Twinkling blue-grey eyes stared cockily right back at her, clearly amused and set in one of the most outrageously ruggedly handsome faces she had ever seen.
"Good morning, ladies."
"Er…" For the first time in her life, Thea had no words at all. Her cheeks were glowing scarlet and it took all her strength to stop her eyes wandering back to where they had just feasted, making her blink and gape like a hooked fished. Because it was the right and proper thing to do, she immediately averted her badly behaved eyes and stared off into space, mortified.
"Good morning, sir," said Harriet’s voice over her shoulder, then she unsubtly nudged Thea with her elbow. "I take back everything I said about buckskin, Thea. It is vastly overrated." Shamelessly, her friend barged past—no doubt to get a closer look. Harriet would never avert her eyes. "And who might you be?"
"Lord Graham Chadwick." In her peripheral vision, the naked man executed a courtly bow with one hand still clutching his unmentionables, apparently completely comfortable and unrepentant in his nudity. "But do call me Gray. I am new to the parish…"
Virginia Heath's latest book, The Disgraceful Lord Grey is available for preorder now. You can find out more about Virginia and her writing on Facebook and Twitter or on her Website.
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