16 April 2009

Excerpt Thursday: Jennifer Mueller

Thursdays on Unusual Historicals mean excerpts! This one is from the April 30 release A RUINED SEASON by our long-time contributor, Jennifer Mueller. Her April is shaping up to be very busy! We'll be featuring Jennifer on Sunday, so stop back for your chance to win a free book.

Sophie Greenwood went to London to have her season hoping to find a husband. If only they had told her that her father had lost all his money, but gossip spreads quickly around London and everyone knew Baron Canmore's scandal. Now two years later, will Sophie ruin another season? No one seems to want to make staying scandal-free an easy task. Almost everywhere she turns, someone is trying to make her the laughing stock. "Fleeing London" once more seems to be her only option. What hope is there for a life of her own?

How many times had she been told in the last weeks she couldn't go for a walk as she had in the country? Not without a chaperon at least. Even now, Anjanette walked alongside her just to visit three doors down. Riding in the morning was about the only time she had alone, all else was in accompaniment of her host and cousin. They were fine, it was all the visiting they did that wore on her. Not being talked to, all but snubbed while they gave her just enough attention to not label it a cut. They dare not provoke the displeasure of Lady Sandbourne. Her censure would not be advisable.

Anjanette's cry was the only warning Sophie had before powerful arms closed around her throat. Sophie could do nothing as she watched Anjanette hitting the ground hard. A nasty voice filled her ears. "Tell me where to find Greyfriars and you'll stay alive."

The smell of the man was bad enough, something good came from being choked so she couldn't breathe. "I don't know what you're talking about."

"Don't lie to me, I've seen you wearing your finery. Tell me where to find him." His hands tightened. "I've seen the letter. Tell me where he is."

Just as she was about to run out of air, Anjanette finally found her tongue and started yelling. Sophie sank to the ground when she could suddenly breathe while the sound of heavy uneven footsteps ran quickly away. Strong hands helped her up as Lady Sandbourne and Mariah came at haste, along with most of the other residents of the street. Their manservants at any rate.

"Get away from her, you blackguard," Roberts, Lady Sandbourne's butler, ordered.

Sophie's voice strained, the words unable to form.

Anjanette spoke instead. "He's the one that saved her."

Turning to look at her savior, it was no wonder Roberts was skeptical. The man's strong jaw was covered in stubble, tanned as few gentlemen are in England making his piercing blue eyes stand out all the more. Sun had bleached his dark hair and she could smell the sea on him. Somehow, she couldn't pull her eyes away from his.

"Thank you." Sophie was finally able to whisper.

"You're sure he isn't the one?" Lady Sandbourne pressed.

Sophie shook her head forcing the words to come. "The man that attacked me stank. I'm sure you can smell it even now on my clothes. It was not the sea I smelled."

Her rescuer smiled faintly. "Are you quite well? Nothing was stolen?"

A neighbor's servant sniffed disdainfully. "Not from her, nothing to take." The group broke up without orders, she was certain, so they could go report to their ladies how she made a spectacle of herself by being attacked.

Lady Sandbourne slipped in at her side fretting and clucking like a hen as Mariah helped Anjanette. "I can't believe you were attacked outside my own home. Mayfair is supposed to be above that sort of thing." She was escorted away from her mystery rescuer before she could find out his name to thank him properly.

"Did you see the one that saved her? He looked as disreputable as the man that attacked her must have," Mariah announced once the door was closed.

Sophie saved her throat though Mariah's disdain was unfounded. Sophie would stake the last of her reputation on that fact. A long sea voyage perhaps and he had just docked by the smell he carried. Not yet had time to shave.

"Fearful handsome, though." Lady Sandbourne commented leaving Mariah to be scandalized, never expecting such a thing from her aunt.

All Sophie could think of in order to forget almost being strangled was the look in the man's eyes. Even after it was mentioned she had nothing, those eyes kept smiling at her.