13 November 2008

Excerpt Thursday: Michelle Styles

Thursdays on Unusual Historicals means excerpts!

Here's one from Michelle Styles's debut release from Mills & Boon, A QUESTION OF IMPROPRIETY.


Of all the idiotic things she had done in her life, yesterday's wager with Brett Farnham was one of the worst. She should have known that the course would not be easy. She should have yielded to caution. She'd made her rules for a purpose, not to be bent or disregarded. But it was done and she would abide the terms of the wager. The next time, she would turn a deaf ear to his blandishments.

Luckily she still had the very modest ball gown from two years ago when Simon had forced her to go the Grand Allies rout at the Assembly Rooms in Newcastle. Rose had reluctantly agreed to alter it slightly, grumbling that either the blue-green or the deep rose pink would have been a better choice. After insisting on the brown, Diana retired to the summer house and furiously painted.

"I thought I might discover you here," Brett's low voice slid over her skin. "I am pleased to see that you took my advice and your feet are solidly on the ground."

"The garlands are nearly completed."

"Hopefully they give the effect you want."

"Not entirely," Diana admitted. "There is something missing."

"A perfectionist. Is this the only summer house that you have painted?"

"I painted the Bolts summer house four summers ago when the Dowager was still alive." Diana kept her gaze on the flowers. "She insisted that no one else would do."

"You did those murals?" His eyes widened. "Now I am impressed. Sir Norman showed me them the other day when I picked up my winnings."

"Thank you." Diana bowed her head as warmth infused her body. "In the end, I was very pleased with them, but the Dowager was a hard task master -- always changing her mind."

"Of course, you have completely ruined my stratagem for getting you out into the garden during the ball."

Diana looked up at him and saw a small smile tugging at his lips. "I never go into gardens during balls."

"A wise policy, but you will go to the ball and you will dance with me."

"I have not danced for years." Diana gave a strangled laugh. "Some of the newer dances were nearly beyond me. All the twists and turns. It was a nightmare at the Grand Allies ball. I was so nervous that I would be asked to dance, but thankfully only Simon bothered and that was only out of duty, so I excused him."

"Your steps might slightly rusty but you have a natural rhythm. I can see it in the way you move, the way you walk."

"Thank you." Diana took a quick glance up at him. The sunlight from the door gave him a halo, darkening his face, but highlighting his broad shoulders and well formed legs. What would it be like to be in his arms? She quickly dropped her gaze and studied her hands. A paint blotch marred the right one. Something real and solid to cling on to. He was being kind.

"I do mean it. I seem to recall you dance beautifully in London."

"You will find me a poor partner unless it is the Roger de Coverely at the end. The last time I took lessons was five years and I am certain the figures will have changed."

"I have a plan to deal with your lack of knowledge."

"You do?" Diana started to rearrange the brush in the water pot -- smallest on the left, largest to the right. Everything correct and in its place. Simply because she had abandoned her caps, she had not abandoned her reason or her rules.

"I shall to teach you to waltz. You and I are going to dance a waltz together at the ball."

"A waltz?" Diana swallowed hard and concentrated very hard on the middle brush, the one she had used for the red of the final rose. "I have no idea how to waltz."

"I suspected that. It is why I am here." He held out his arms. "I plan to educate you on the finer points of the waltz."

"You must be joking. I won't waltz."

"But you agreed, Miss Diana. You agreed to dance with me at the ball." His voice was smooth but there was a steely determination. "Unless you want me to choose another forfeit, a forfeit more suited to a wager between a man and a woman. You were the one who lost the wager. It is up to me to name the terms."

"You wouldn't dare."

"Try me."