“I once stared down a bull that got free of its rope in a crowded souk. I’ve climbed a banyan tree— barefoot in a monsoon— to rescue a litter of stranded kittens, and I helped a lady give birth in a flood-trapped barouche while the men around me flew into hysteria….I don’t like too many bows on my bonnets or sugar in my tea, and roses bring me out in a rash…So that’s me for you. Now might we proceed? I’m in rather a hurry if you don’t mind. I’ve got a pair of abandoned breeches to rescue from a stray bathing machine.” ~ Miss Rebecca Boudicca Sherringham introduces herself to Colonel Luke Wainwright.
In SINFULLY EVER AFTER Rebecca Sherringham has lived a busy life traveling with her father— a major in the Army— and rescuing both him, and her rakish brother Nathaniel, from various scrapes. By the grand age of twenty two, she’s had quite enough adventure. Now her father is retired, she’s delighted to settle with him in the quiet village of Hawcombe Prior, where she can finally make lasting friendships and take a well-earned rest from all the excitement.
But despite her desire for a tranquil life, she’s still very much in charge and does not easily relinquish control. As she says to her friend Justina, “When there is drama in real life , at least one person has to remain sensible, and in my family that person is me.”
It is a role she’s grown up playing out of necessity, since her mother died years ago, and it hasn’t left much time for her to enjoy more “ladylike” pastimes. She considers herself the least likely romantic heroine that ever lived and refuses to encourage suitors. As for a real life hero, she tells her friend, “I’d prefer him to live in the pages. Then I might shut the book whenever I’m tired of him, and if he does something intensely stupid, I can even throw him at a wall.”
And then along comes Colonel “Lucky” Lucius Wainwright, a man who is supposed to be dead, is rumored to have kept a harem at one point in his unruly life, and appears to have fathered at least one illegitimate child. Unlike Rebecca he apparently enjoys an utterly carefree existence. In her scornful view, Lucky Luke is a man who avoids his responsibilities and therefore could never be trusted or believed. She’s all too familiar with the type.
Unfortunately, thanks to one of her brother’s gambling debts and her own need to manage the family’s troubles, she owes scandalous Lucky Luke a kiss. She’s always taken charge and picked up the pieces. The paying of this debt will be no different.
Surely she can retain her supreme self-control in this adventure. It’s only a kiss.
But Rebecca is about to find out that she doesn’t know everything about men after all and there is one thing she can’t control. Her heart.
* * * *
“Kiss me then,” she demanded.
“Where? On the lips of course, where else?”
Slowly—very slowly— he smiled.
She released his shirt sleeves. “I cannot think where else—”
He raised his free hand to the tiny seed pearl buttons that closed the lace above her bodice. Very carefully his large fingers worked each one free, his dark gaze following their progress. He swept the delicate lace aside to expose skin at the base of her throat.
“You should never have agreed to pay your brother’s debt this way, Miss Sherringham. I’m the last man you should ever permit to kiss you.”
She gasped, annoyed that he still delayed. Even further irritated by his attempts to teach her about men. “If I didn’t already have functioning eyes and ears in my head, I might need the caution. But even if was the stupidest girl in the world, isn’t it rather late to be telling me this now? The debt, sir, was agreed upon.”
He ignored that and continued with his warning. And the teasingly slow unbuttoning of her lace. “I’m too old, Miss Sherringham, too damaged, too selfish and set in my ways. Too dangerous for you.”
She scoffed, “What makes you so dangerous?” It wasn’t as if he could catch her if she ran away and made him chase her around the table, was it? Not that she felt inclined to run anywhere. It was really quite sweet and comical that he thought he had to warn her.
“I’m a sinner with no heart,” his fingertips trailed gently over the base of her throat and down across the upper curve of her breast. “No conscience. No soft words and tender feelings. I’d never court you with posies and love letters. I don’t dance and I don’t know the first thing about poetry.”
“Sakes! You don’t say!”
“I’m not the faithful kind to sit at your feet and pine.”
“Of all this I am well aware,” she exclaimed, tension and anticipation making her sound cross. “Just because I once saw you cuddling a pup inside your coat doesn’t mean I’m fooled into thinking you Prince Charming.”
He growled, “For the last time wench, I wasn’t cuddling or coddling—”
“This is only one kiss. I’m not expecting courtship from you, sir.”
Luke’s gaze followed his fingers across her bosom, tracing a light, ticklish pattern over the goose-bumps he’d conjured with his touch and his whispers. “So you want nothing more from me? You have no romantic expectations?”
“I am no naive fool! I agreed to pay a debt for my brother and I don’t go back on my word.”
“Good.” His eyelids lowered as he popped the final button free with his rough finger.
Becky tried to swallow, but found her throat too dry.
“Because the last thing I need,” he added, “is a woman hanging on me. I’m not a man to be trapped, Miss Sherringham. I’m happy alone on my island. Let me be clear. I’m not a marrying man.”
It was almost as if he said all this to reassure himself, she mused. “What makes you think I’m a marrying woman?”
“All girls are, of course. You can’t help it. ‘Tis the way you are made.”
“I’m not a girl. I’m two and twenty. You don’t have to worry that I want anything more from a man like you.”
“Just to be sure of where we both stand, Miss Sherringham.” Lucky Luke bent his head and she felt his warm breath on the bared skin of her breast. “One kiss and no more.”
She closed her eyes, barely listening, drawing a deep breath of wonderment as his warm lips made contact with her flesh at last.
* * * *
You can read more about the strange courtship of Rebecca the Bold and scandalous Lucky Luke in SINFULLY EVER AFTER. Thank you for reading!