CHAPTER FOUR EXCERPT OF SOPHIE JORDAN’S THE VIRGIN AND THE ROGUE
Something was not right.
All throughout dinner the sensation, the aching discomfort, only grew.
Following dinner, Charlotte excused herself and managed to make it to her bedchamber, where she hastily shed her clothes as though they burned her skin and climbed into bed.
It was bad. Terrible. The queasiness was unlike any other time.
The symptoms were different. More . . . pronounced.
She curled into a ball and dragged the pillow between her legs, hugging it tightly. Usually she endured the twinges of pain until they passed.
The slight cramping that was improved by hot water bottles and Nora’s tonic. She would keep to bed for twelve hours until it passed.
This was not like that.
This did not feel in any way endurable.
She was vaguely aware of her bedchamber door opening and closing and footsteps approaching her bed.
She inhaled and exhaled in slow, even drags of air, her fingers digging into the soft linen pillowcase.
Her sisters’ voices carried to her ears. Even in her current condition, there was no mistaking the agitation in Marian’s voice floating above her. “What did you do, Nora? She does not look right at all.”
“It was simply a draught, Marian. A cordial of various herbs. Nothing I haven’t prepared before . . . just not in that precise arrangement. And I might have added a few new ingredients. You know I’m always trying to improve my tonics.” Nora waved a hand weakly in Charlotte’s general direction.
Her words penetrated the dull fog of her brain. Charlotte lifted her head from the bed and focused on her sisters. “She’s poisoned me!” she managed to spit out between her teeth, pushing the pillow harder, deeper between her thighs, as though that might quench the growing ache there.
“Oh, don’t be so melodramatic.” Nora tsked. “I gave you nothing dangerous and the doses were all well within reason.”
The throbbing in her abdomen gave a deep tug, almost seeming to belie her sister’s words. Charlotte curled up tighter and moaned.
“Nora!” Marian said in sharp reprimand, waving to Charlotte on the bed. “Look at her!”
“She’s not dying,” Nora insisted, but there was a wobble of uncertainty in her voice that Charlotte did not miss even in her agitated state. “It was merely a remedy to help relieve her women’s pains.”
“I am dying!” Charlotte insisted as she pressed the pillow ever deeper between her legs.
Marian frowned down at her. “Well, let’s make some tea for her. Papa always insisted on the importance of fluids to help flush the sickness through one’s body.”
Nora nodded and left the room. Marian sank down on the bed beside her and pressed a hand to her forehead. “Oh, dear. You are a bit warm.”
Charlotte whimpered and looked up at her sister. “Marian this is wretched.”
“I know, dear. Just close your eyes. Sleep is healing. I’m sure you will wake refreshed in the morning.”
Charlotte managed a weak nod.
Marian was right, of course. She usually was.
Please, please, let her be correct.
She would sleep. Yes. And when she woke up in the morning she would feel refreshed.
She would feel as though this had all been a bad dream.
Charlotte woke alone to a silent bedchamber.
Logs smoldered in her fireplace, emitting a low glow, saving her from complete darkness.
Beside her bed, her long-cold tea sat. Her sisters had forced a cup down her throat and she had soon managed to fall asleep after that. The hour was late. An inky darkness swelled between the crack of her damask drapes. It was the kind of darkness that only existed in the quietest, loneliest hours of night. Her sisters had clearly gone to their own beds.
Now Charlotte was awake. Achingly and miserably awake. Sleep could no longer shield her. It could not suppress the wild fury that roared within her, singeing her blood.
When she had fallen asleep before, her body hurt.
At least she had thought her body hurt. Now she knew true misery.
Her body was afire.
Usually her discomfort was centered in her abdomen, low in her belly, but this time it was different. Vastly different. Terrifyingly different. All of her hurt. Every fiber and pore. Her body was a plucked and vibrating string, humming out her pain.
She couldn’t make sense of it.
The only thing different this time around was the tonic Nora had given her. It had tasted different, and Nora admitted it was different.
Maybe she truly was dying. She turned her face into her pillow and released a muffled sob as her stomach twisted.
She was responsible for this. She could fix it. She had to fix it. Otherwise, Charlotte would die. She felt certain of that. Nora was the only one who could help. Dear God. She had to stop it.
She could not tolerate another moment of this.
She swung her legs over the edge of the bed and sucked in a deep breath. It didn’t help. If anything, it made the burn worse.
She knew she should make the effort to reach her dressing robe across the room where it draped over the settee, but she couldn’t be bothered. The struggle to reach the bedchamber door was great enough. Besides. It was late. The entire household was asleep. She would not be bumping into anyone in the corridor who might see her attired in her nightgown.
She managed to stagger from her room without collapsing. With one hand pressed against the wall of the corridor, she dragged herself down the hall toward her sister’s room. Each step was an act of labor. The hardest thing she had ever done. Walking had become a challenge.
Good heavens, she was in trouble.
All the more reason to reach Nora’s room. She pressed on.
Her palm skimmed the wood paneling as she advanced, the cool texture under her skin doing nothing to ease her full-body burn. There was no way she could move any faster. Her legs felt leaden. The fever was too great . . . the throbbing in her stomach clawing now. She choked back an undignified sob.
“Are you unwell?”
The deep masculine voice shot through her like a bolt of lightning.
She jerked with a whimper, flinging her body against the wall, arms wide at her sides in a gesture of surrender.
She froze, pressing against the paneling as though she could somehow meld herself into the wood where she would be protected.
Her gaze found the owner of that voice. No. Not him.
That dreadful man from dinner. Nathaniel’s stepbrother.
His expression at dinner had alternated between boredom and contempt. She’d felt his judgment keenly. He hadn’t been impressed with her. With any of them. Clearly they did not meet his sophisticated tastes. She was relieved when, at the end of dinner, he had announced he would be leaving the next morning.
Now his expression was one of mild concern. She’d prefer he look bored again. Right now he looked far too interested in her. She did not want his interest. She wanted him gone.
Especially considering her physical state.
For some reason the throbbing between her legs tightened and twisted as he approached, closing in on her.
She shook her head. No. Go away.
The closer he drew, the greater the agony. She bit her lip until she felt the wash of blood against her teeth–and still that pain was nothing compared to her body’s torment.
Her condition seemed to be worsening the closer he drew to her. She had to get away.
She held out a hand in an attempt to ward him off–and that was its own form of anguish because she had the awful and completely foreign impulse to grab him, pull him in, bring him closer.
It was horrifying, but so was the completely out- of- control way she felt.
Her body was in rebellion–its own master. Rejecting her thoughts . . . her will, her commands . . . willing her to do terrible things, impulses she had never even known existed.
Like touch a man. Burrow her nose in his neck and breathe him in.
He stopped in front of her, his gaze fixing on the hand she held out to stop him and then flitting back to her face.
She knew. Deeply. On a primordial level. He could not touch her. She would not survive that.
(C) Sophie Jordan, Avon Romance, 2020 Reprinted with permission from the publisher
Continuing her bestselling Rogue Files series, Sophie Jordan brews up a scintillating romance about a timid wallflower who discovers a love potion and ends up falling for a dashing rogue.
A love potion. . .
Charlotte Langley has always been the prudent middle sister, so her family is not surprised when she makes the safe choice and agrees to wed her childhood sweetheart. But when she finds herself under the weather and drinks a “healing” tonic, the potion provokes the most maddening desire. . . for someone other than her betrothed.
With the power. . .
Kingston’s rakehell ways are going to destroy him and he’s vowed to change. His stepbrother’s remote estate is just the place for a reformed rogue to hide. The last thing he wants is to be surrounded by society, but when he gets stuck alone with a wallflower who is already betrothed. . . and she astonishes him with a fiery kiss, he forgets all about hiding.
To alter two destinies.
Although Charlotte appears meek, Kingston soon discovers there’s a vixen inside, yearning to break free. Unable to forget their illicit moment of passion, Kingston vows to relive the encounter, but Charlotte has sworn it will never happen again–no matter how earth-shattering it was. But will a devilish rogue tempt her to risk everything for a chance at true love?
Romance Historical [Avon, On Sale: April 28, 2020, Mass Market Paperback / e-Book, ISBN: 9780062885449 / eISBN: 9780062885395]
About Sophie Jordan
Sophie Jordan grew up in the Texas hill country where she wove fantasies of dragons, warriors, and princesses. A former high school English teacher, she’s also the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of Avon historical romances. She now lives in Houston with her family. When she’s not writing, she spends her time overloading on caffeine (lattes and Diet Cherry Coke preferred), talking plotlines with anyone who will listen (including her kids), and cramming her DVR with true-crime and reality-TV shows. Sophie also writes paranormal romances under the name Sharie Kohler.