29 October 2009

Excerpt Thursday: Anthea Lawson

Today on Excerpt Thursday we're welcoming back Anthea Lawson as this RITA-nominated husband and wife team celebrate the November 3rd release of their newest exotic romance. In ALL HE DESIRES, a troubled English doctor, self-exiled on the Isle of Crete, meets the one woman who can bring him out of the shadows and into the light. Anthea and Lawson will be joining us on Sunday to discuss their latest release and give away a copy. I hope you'll join us!

Far from home and her noble relatives, Miss Caroline Huntington has been injured in a fall from her horse. Called to her side, Alex Trentham knows he must assist her, though he has not practiced as a physician for a long while. Just to see so lovely a woman in a state of undress is a hard test of his self-control. Caroline is all that is warm and feminine, beautiful and pure.

Brave to a fault, she does not flinch under his hands, and soon she is on the mend. Alex struggles to hide his feelings, knowing that his dark past shadows any hope of a future. But Caroline's radiant innocence is dangerous to a worldly man, and she seems achingly eager to experience all the pleasure he could show her...

"This husband-and-wife team's second novel sweeps from the shores of Crete to the streets of London...readers will enjoy the characters and the beautiful descriptions in this nice tale." -- Romantic Times


In this excerpt, Caroline Huntington has been thrown from her horse and is finally found after dark by her friend, Maggie, with help from an older Frenchman who has been living on the island.

Crete, 1848

"Thank you, Monsieur Legault," Maggie said. "Your assistance tonight has been invaluable. When Miss Huntington did not return from her ride..." Her breath caught on the words.

"There now. We foreigners must look after one another, is it not so? Though without the help of these good men we would not have found your friend."

"But we did. We did." Maggie supported Caroline, holding firmly to her uninjured arm. The flames reflected off Maggie's gold-rimmed spectacles. "When you had not returned by supper, I knew something was wrong. The owners of the villa directed me to Monsieur Legault, and he helped organize the search."

Caroline swallowed. "I'm so glad." She leaned against her friend and closed her eyes. How could she have been so thoughtless, so careless? She would make it up to Maggie, somehow.

"Ah," Monsieur Legault said. "Here is the cart. It will not be comfortable, but the aid we seek is not far."

Maggie led Caroline to where the rustic vehicle waited. "I would not think a village of this size boasted a doctor. How fortunate."

The Frenchman smiled, though there was something cautious in his expression. "We shall see. Come."

The cart rolled forward over the rough track, and it did not take long for Caroline to fall into a hazy, pain-filled daze. The night sky, the flaring torches, the jolting ride wove together into a disjointed tapestry. She did not realize they had halted in front of a cottage until Maggie coaxed her upright and helped her from the cart.

Monsieur Legault went to the door. He pounded, and pounded again until at last it was opened by a figure who remained in the shadows. Caroline blinked, her vision still blurred. A tall man, she thought.

"What do you want?" His voice was gruff.

"Mr. Trentham, we require your help." The Frenchman waved to where Caroline stood, supported by Maggie. "The mademoiselle is injured."

The man shook his head. "I cannot help you." He began to close the door, but Monsieur Legault set his foot in the jamb.

"I ask you not to be stubborn. She is hurt--she must be seen."

The shadow moved closer to the light. He was tall, his hair the color of night. The torchlight painted hollows under his cheekbones and cast his uncompromising nose in sharp relief. He did not look like a doctor, not with his creased clothing and untamed hair, a scowl making his face even more forbidding. When his gaze moved to her, Caroline felt it, a nearly physical sensation, like standing under a storm cloud just before the fury of wind and rain lashed down. She shivered.

He regarded her for several moments, measured by the rapid beat of her heart. His eyes seemed black in the flickering light. That intent gaze moved down to her dusty boots, then returned to her face.

At last he turned to the Frenchman. "The woman is on her feet. She looks well enough. Take her to Rethymno." He stepped back and made to close his door again.

"You must help us," Monsieur Legault said, a pleading note in his voice. "Rethymno is too far, and you know how little talent the doctor there has."

"Enough to care for an injured arm. Good night."

"Wait!" Maggie stepped forward, bringing Caroline with her. "You cannot refuse--you are English!"

"Oh?" He paused with one hand on the door frame, his lips twisted as though he had tasted something bitter. "I don't see that it signifies."

"Of course it does. This is Miss Caroline Huntington, the niece of the Earl of Twickenham. How can you consider yourself a gentleman if you turn her away?"

"Who says I consider myself a gentleman?"