19 December 2013

Excerpt Thursday: Enticing the Earl by Christie Kelley

This week, we're pleased to welcome author Christie Kelley with her latest novel, ENTICING THE EARL. Join us on Sunday, when the author will offer a free copy of Enticing the Earl to a lucky blog visitor. Be sure to leave your email address in the comments for a chance to win. Here's the blurb.

With his estate near bankruptcy, Simon Blakesworth, Earl of Hartsfield already has a perilous secret to keep. Still, when he finds Mia Featherstone badly beaten, he doesn't hesitate to shelter her in his home and offer marriage to protect the lovely healer from her attacker. But Mia is concealing a danger this honorable earl never imagined-and can't resist.

Mia's valuable discovery on Simon's land saved her patients' lives. Now the only way she can help the man she's always loved save his home is to secretly find the rest of a cache of hidden artifacts. But their passion is making it impossible for Mia to ever walk away-even from a love that may not survive the truth.

**An Excerpt from Enticing the Earl**

“Mia,” he started softly. “Mr. Tanner still believes you are in danger. No one knows this man. North asked his tenants and I asked about him in Cheadle. Only a man hiding something or hiding from something does this.”
Her brown eyes widened. “Are you trying to frighten me?”
“I am trying to make you understand the dangers of this situation and why your mother insisted you stay here.” Damn, he didn’t mean to blurt that out.
“You know about that?”
He nodded sharply. “Your mother and I both agreed that you should stay here for your safety.”
“I see.”
Hearing the bitterness in her voice, he had to calm her down. “Mia, it is for your own good.”
“For how long?”
“At least until Davies is caught,” he said cautiously.
“At least?” She glared at him. “What do you mean by at least?”
“Mia, I would like to suggest something to you but you need to hear me out before answering. Is that all right?”
She tilted her head in a questioning manner. Her eyes narrowed slightly. “Very well, what are you suggesting?”
He might not be so nervous if the tone of her voice had been a little warmer. “I need a wife.”
“You are not—”
“You said you would hear me out,” he interrupted. “I am almost thirty. I need a wife and I want children.” He watched her eyes grow wide as her head started shaking. “I can keep you safe. No one can touch you here.” He took a deep breath and said, “I would like to marry you.”
“No? That’s all you can say? You haven’t even heard my reasons.”
“Of course I did. You want a wife and children. That’s understandable so go find a lady in London. I am not the type of woman a man like you marries.”
He laughed. “You know that is not true. Look at your best friend. She married a duke.”
“Selina was a proper lady until she met North. I am not. You know I have been with Davies and I was with Smyth before that.”
Simon shook his head. Her virginity was the issue? “I have not been celibate, Mia. Does that bother you?”
“No, but you are a man and it’s expected that you would be with women before you married.” She struggled to sit up against the pillows. “My being with other men can only embarrass you if it gets out.”
“I can handle the embarrassment. I rarely go to London so who would know?”
“Everyone here and at your other estates. Gossip spreads like fire, Hart. They all know that a man abused me. The servants will all assume what happened, and they would be right.”
“Not one of the servants would dare to speak ill of you. They all love you.” He leaned in closer. “And fear your mother, I believe.”
Defeated, she glanced down at her hands on her lap. “Why do you want to marry me, Hart?”
“To protect you.”
She blinked quickly as if trying to fight back more tears. “I see. With you, I would be safe. You would never hurt me physically.”
Simon moved to the bed and held her hands. “I would never hurt you in any way.”
She went silent in thought for what seemed like the longest minute Simon had ever waited to pass. As she mentally debated the merits of marriage, her head would shake and then nod. Finally, she looked back up at him and said, “I have several conditions that must be agreed upon before I give you an answer.”
What was she up to? “Very well, tell me your conditions.”
“You will teach me to shoot.”
He smiled knowing how important it was now for her to be able to protect herself. “I will teach you to shoot and throw knives and most importantly, I will teach you the same things I taught my sister.”
“How to take down a man trying to harm you.”
“How can I bring a man down who is taller and stronger than I?”
“It can be done in just a few easy steps. And it works. You may write my sister Caroline if you wish. She actually used it on her husband before they were married. It was not intentional, he thought she was someone else, and she thought he was a man trying to abduct her. It all worked out in the end, once his nose healed.”
Mia giggled. “She hurt his nose?”
“She broke his nose and hurt him in another very uncomfortable place. Fortunately, they were still able to have children after that.”
Mia laughed aloud this time. “That story is not true.”
Simon held his hand up as if taking an oath. “Every word. Now what are your other conditions?”
“You will never hit me.”
He waved a hand at her. “We have already been through that.”
“Very well. We must wait until after I have my next monthlies. I will not let you raise another man’s child.”
Simon glanced away. While he knew she was right, he also knew if she were with child she would need his protection even more. “How long should that be?”
“Hopefully, no more than a fortnight.”
“I agree, then. Are there any more conditions?”
She nodded slowly. “Yes. Before I agree to marry you, you must do one more thing.”
“What is it?” He wondered how hard this last condition could be. It seemed to be taking her forever to tell him.
“You must kiss me.”

Author Christie Kelley blogs with Romance Bandits on the 17th of every month and sometimes on other days. www.romancebandits.com

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