Sunday, 28 August 2011

Extract from 'The Earl & His Tiger'

An extract, as promised, from my latest Regency, The Earl & His Tiger, which is currently in both the Kindle Historical Romance Top 100 and the Top 100 Historical Romance fiction charts on UK Amazon.

The rakish Earl of Stanton is snowed into a deserted cottage with his trusty young tiger, Jem, after a wager goes badly wrong ...

Please note, the 'tiger' of the title is the nickname given to an elite Regency groom!

Hope you enjoy it!

The fire was smoking furiously in the front room – snow blocking the chimney, no doubt. Jem was still crouched on the hearth, his wet breeches steaming, his hair lank about his face.

The boy looked round warily as the Earl returned, his dark gaze fixing on the clothes over Stanton’s arm. ‘Thank you, my lord,’ Jem began, ‘ but I’m quite comfortable in what – ’

‘Nonsense.’ Stanton dismissed his protests briskly, prepared for them and rather enjoying his own unexpected generosity. ‘Put these on, and when we’ve eaten some of the cold ham from the pantry – yes, and enjoyed a hot cup of tea too, with maybe a dash of rum in it – I’ll be the one to go back into the snow and set covers over the horseflesh. You can take the bed in there. No, no, I insist. I was inside the coach, you were the one riding in the wet all day. Now don’t argue, just get dressed and do what you’re ordered for a change. I’ll not have your death on my conscience, damn it.’

Still the boy hesitated, a slight flush on his pale cheeks, even though he had accepted the bundle of clothing from his master’s arms.

Stanton frowned. ‘What is it? Too shy to strip off in front of me?’

He saw the hurriedly lowered gaze, the flinching look, and could have kicked himself. Of course, the boy had insisted on his own room above the stables. ‘No room-mates,’ he had stipulated on first coming into the Stanton household. He liked his privacy, and was no doubt one of these religious types – didn’t believe in baring the flesh, and all that. And Stanton had agreed readily enough. One of the best tigers in London, he would have been a fool to refuse, knowing himself to be the envy of most of the whipsters in town, dashing through Hyde Park with Jem up behind him in the curricle.

‘My fault,’ he muttered, turning his back. ‘I’ll fetch that cold meat and the rum. Now that’ll set you up for the night!’

Stanton stood in the pantry, peering about for the ham in the darkness, having forgotten to bring the candle. Best give the lad some privacy for a few minutes. The place was illuminated only by pale snow-shine through a small square of net-covered window high up on the wall, but he found the bottle of rum easily enough.

Then he saw the glimmer of metal – the hook! And was just reaching up to unhook the delicious-smelling ham when he heard a dreadful noise from the front room. A sort of unearthly wailing, high-pitched, like a soul in torment.

The hairs stood up on the back of his neck, hearing such a sound in that desolate place, and for a brief moment Stanton had such visions of ghostly apparitions that it took all his good sense to shake them off.

He crashed back through into the front room, the bottle of rum clutched in his hand, almost falling over the old woman’s knitting basket.

‘Jem, what the devil was that noise?’

And saw, as through a shivering mist of smoke from the fire, the young woman who spun in horror at his entry, her lips parted on some wordless cry, clad in rough men’s trousers but nude from the waist up, breasts shining and perfect.

The Earl and His Tiger is available for Kindle on or on the US site,