A Promise of Pure Gardenias
Book 2 in the Untamed Regency Series
Copyright©Jackie Williams 2015
A Promise of Pure Gardenias
Drat the woman! Did she have to be so beautiful, to smell so enticing? A year of avoidance and she still tempted him beyond distraction. Made him want her with a passion that almost frightened him, but he knew better than to go there again...
He had been about to go down on his knees, beg her to make him the happiest of men, when Sophia Barclay had suddenly spoken, her lilting tones ringing loud and clear. ‘I won’t marry Brendon Spencer! I absolutely refuse!’ Saved him a world of indignity, he supposed, but the rejection still cut deep. Even taking a mistress hadn’t lessened the pain. Especially when that mistress might have spilled his secret. A secret that he would rather cut off his nose than reveal.
Drat the man! How dare he barge back into her life and make assumptions. Brendon Spencer had abandoned her, and had taken a mistress for a whole year! What gave him the right to become so affronted? Sophia would go to breakfast with whomsoever she liked, regardless of propriety! Why should she care what he thought? No one had worried about her while she was alone, certainly not that pompous arse!
But her heart throbbed at the sight of him and her insides fluttered alarmingly, even while the humiliation of unrequited love burned deep. How could she still want him when he clearly thought nothing of her?
With his father in imminent danger and responsibility threatening fast, can Brendon face his fears and contain his legendary temper long enough to win the woman he most desires?
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Excerpt from A Promsie of Pure Gardenias
Sophia sat back in her seat again feeling rather faint. Her nerves had jangled all the way to Fallows, her last recollection of Brendon riding off into the drizzle, his back as stiff as a poker, not the warmest of memories. She had told herself to put all her bitterness and disappointment and be civil. But she had found it hard to even speak.
Brendon had looked as good as she had ever seen him, with his dark hair plastered to his perspiring forehead and his open collared shirt stuck to his chest. The man clearly had no clue he appeared so devilishly attractive after a morning’s hard labour.
She caught Anna looking at her and wafted her fan to cool the blush that had risen to her cheeks.
“Sorry, I wasn’t expecting to see him looking like that. I’ve only ever seen him wearing a jacket or coat before,” she explained to the wide-eyed girl, her voice a little breathless even to her own ears.
Anna gave the smallest nod before her gaze returned to the passing estate grounds.
Sophia worried the lace at the edge of her sleeve.
“He looked well. I never realized how pasty he had become while residing in London. Being outdoors appears to have done him good.” Sophia carried on, hoping for more of a response. The girl had been silent the whole journey.
Anna glanced back at her.
“He looked very hot,” she whispered nervously as she wrung her hands in her lap.
Sophia smiled, delighted to hear some words on the girl’s lips at last. She was attractive, but so painfully shy and withdrawn and it had taken four days for Felicity to persuade her to come on the visit.
“He did, didn’t he.” Sophia laughed. “I don’t think I have ever seen Brendon perspire before. He is normally so debonair, not a hair out of place, but I think this new look suits him.”
Anna wrung her hands some more.
“The grounds seem qui, quite neglected. Is, is he poor?” The young woman stammered her questions.
Sophia considered the question as she glanced out of the window. The grass verges were trimmed, but without much finesse. They would need further maintenance to keep them neat.
“I don’t think so. His family have always seemed rich to me, but I really don’t know their circumstances. All these big houses cost a fortune to run. You know what it has been like at Sommersford, how difficult maintaining it can be. And you heard Lord Spencer say that he is economising. That generally means that you don’t have a lot of money to spare, but who knows. He might have simply discovered that he likes gardening.” And even if he didn’t like it, it certainly suited him, she thought appreciatively. Sophia used her fan once again.
“But his hands looked sore. Surely he doesn’t like that.” Anna began to gain confidence.
Sophia tilted her head.
“No, probably not. But then he is not used to manual labour.” She thought about how he had looked the last time she had seen him.
It had only been a few days previously, but then he had been impeccably dressed, his hands soft and his nails buffed. How different he appeared now with his hair damp with the efforts of hard labour and his clinging shirt revealing... She blinked rapidly as her heartbeat fluttered wildly. She really shouldn’t think about what his sweat soaked shirt revealed. But she couldn’t help it.
With his sleeves rolled up beyond his elbows, his shoulders appeared so broad, his arms corded with muscle. And his stomach had odd looking ripples down the front where he had tucked it firmly in the waistband of his breeches. Could those ripples possibly have been muscles too? She recalled the medical books Brendon had once given her. The indentations and bulges were definitely too central to be ribs, and besides, Brendon had more than enough flesh on him to cover his bones. But those tantalizing ridges were certainly something.
She wafted her fan again as they turned a bend in the drive and Anna let out a small gasp.
“But the house is beautiful! I had expected a ruin.” She leaned towards the window and gazed at the huge edifice.
Sophia smiled, memories of fun filled weeks flooding her mind, as she saw the place too. Older and less grandiose than Sommersford, Fallows’ russet brickwork seemed to spring from the earth surrounding it.
“Yes, it is lovely, if a little over grown. Good heavens! Look how much Lord Spencer has cut. No wonder his hands are blistered.” She gazed at what appeared to be a field of newly scythed grass. Brendon must have worked like a demon.
Brendon stared after the carriage as it disappeared along the drive. God’s bones, but she is lovely. Five days away from her hadn’t diminished the tightness that clenched at his stomach when he thought of her. Seeing her just made matters worse. And that maddening scent! Even now he could still smell it wafting on the breeze. It seemed that he had known it all his life. Every time he smelled it, visions of Sophia intruded on his brain. And now she was here in real life.
A grin tugged at the corner of his mouth. At least she had smiled at him. He only wished she aimed it at him more often.
He looked around at his day’s work. The drive was open at last and the entrance nearly clear. Another twenty minutes and he would have it done. He swiped his hand across his brow before wielding his scythe once again. His action, now fluid after days of hard work, sent great swathes of grass and weeds toppling under his assault.
Sweat drenched him and dry grass seeds and dust stuck to his exposed skin. He wondered what Sophia had thought of his new look. She hadn’t appeared to be disgusted, though her cheeks had flushed. Indignation at being sent up to the house alone perhaps? Hardly, she was no snob and probably wouldn’t care if he wasn’t there to greet her. Perhaps she had merely been shocked at his inelegant apparel. It wasn’t as if he normally went about in his shirtsleeves, and he had made no effort to present himself differently. He thought about her expression. No, she definitely hadn’t been shocked. Embarrassed? But what had she to be embarrassed about? He was the one reduced to manual labour, not her.
He looked down at himself and his eyes opened wide as he realized that his white shirt had turned almost transparent with his own perspiration. The linen lay plastered to his body, every single inch of his flesh visible to anyone who cared to glance at him.
And she had glanced. More than once.
He grinned as a warm thrill enveloped him. Did she find him attractive? Or was it mere curiosity at the male form. He glanced down at his stomach again and frowned as he recalled the books he had given her the year before. He sucked in his belly and held it for a few moments before puffing out a breath as he let it go again. He was no sculptor’s model, that was for sure. A few less dinners out and a lot less port afterwards might help. Not that he was going to have dinners out around Fallows. Or any port.
A recent foray into the cellars had revealed nothing but a lot of empty bottles. Briggs had either taken all the stocks of alcohol with him, or drunk it prior to departure. Fortunately Andrews had the foresight to pack several bottles of brandy so at least he had something to drink after dinner until his stocks were replenished.
He squinted into the sun as a thought suddenly struck him. He would have to supply Sophia dinner. And a bed for the night! She couldn’t possibly travel back to Sommersford today. Hell! Where in heavens name would she sleep? Apart from the master bedchamber, the only other decent room belonged to his mother and that was opposite his own. Hardly proper, but at least there were no other people at Fallows to gossip about it. And it wasn’t as if he had any other choice. He could hardly put her in the servants’ quarters or suggest she slept in the drawing room.
His heart began to pound at the thought of her sleeping so close to him. A mere two yards of hallway and two oak doors separating them. Lord! If the wagging tongues of the ton knew of the arrangements, he and Sophia would be leg-shackled within a week.
The warm sensation surrounding him grew in heat. Smouldering coals suddenly filled him. Could it really be that easy? Ruin her so that he could marry her. He suddenly imagined Sophia’s radiant smile being replaced by a furious brow. She was hardly likely to feel kindly towards him if he forced her into such a situation when she had spurned him so vociferously the year before. Algernon might have a thing or two to say about it too.
Brendon rubbed his chin, remembering his friend’s rock hard fist, and he shook off the ridiculous idea. He pulled his gloves off again and spread his fingers, easing out the stiffness while wincing at the sting of the new blisters. Hopefully Mrs. Lawson would have made some more of her soothing salve. He slung the scythe over his shoulder and began the long walk back to Fallows.
I hope you have enjoyed this excerpt from
(book 2 in the Untamed Regency Series)
If you would like to catch up with the characters from other books in the series please go to:
Other books by Jackie Williams
Regency Romance (Unrivalled Regency)
Contemporary Romance (French Themes)
Hidden Gems Romantic Mystery Series
Contemporary/New Adult Romance
Jackie's Naughty Side