What could be more romantic than stolen kisses at a lovely gazebo on a starry summer night?
Let's face it, that charming white folly in the middle of Moonlight Square's private garden park sees a LOT of action. ;> As we enjoy the sultry nights of summer, I thought I'd share an excerpt from the scene where it all began ONE MOONLIT NIGHT...
A Chance Meeting
To set the scene for you: Suave, worldly rakehell, Gable, Viscount Roland, is playing cards at the Grand Albion gentlemen's club with his fellow lords of Moonlight Square when he receives a frantic note from his latest paramour begging him to go and find the diamond earring she apparently lost at the gazebo that afternoon during their (hot, sweaty) assignation.
Gable duly takes leave of his fellow rakehells and heads over to the park to see if he can find it. Instead, he discovers pretty redhead and self-described bluestocking Lady Katrina Glendon crying her eyes out over a jilt.
Mortified that this handsome stranger should come along and find her blubbering like a watering pot, Trinny quickly dries her tears. But rather than go home and face her disappointed parents, she endeavors to help him find the missing earring.
Touched by her vulnerability, Gable endeavors to cheer her up, in turn. And does he ever succeed.
Excerpt from One Moonlit Night "An Inconvenient Meeting"
Hurry, Roland! You must find it and get it back to me at once! My husband gave me those earrings. If one turns up missing, he'll fly into a rage. He may even call you out! ~ Lady H.
Unconcerned about old Hayworth or his drunken temper, Gable strolled out of the club into the agreeable spring night, then narrowed his eyes as he gazed across the street at the garden square. He walked over to the shoulder-high wrought iron fence around the park.
They kept it locked at night, but he did not feel like running home to get his park key, so he clenched his cheroot between his teeth, took off his tailcoat, and vaulted over the fence, landing on the other side.
Slinging his coat over his shoulder, he tucked a hand in his pocket and strolled back to the scene of his tryst with the infamously willing Lady Haywood that afternoon. A quick romp in the garden folly had quite taken the edge off.
He was bemused to hear she had lost the earring, for that matter, since they had barely undressed. There had been no need, with her sitting on his lap, both of them swept up in the cheap thrill of maybe getting caught. The only real surprise was that he hadn’t accidentally swallowed the thing.
Gable suddenly stopped short when he stepped around a bend in the winding path and the gazebo came into view.
His eyes narrowed, and his brow slowly furrowed as his gaze homed in on some poor female sobbing her heart out there.
Gingerly venturing closer, he softened his steps so the gravel wouldn’t crunch. It felt wrong to invade her grief, whoever she was.
I could wait, he thought. Finish my cheroot. Maybe she’s almost done.
But future earls didn’t like waiting, as a rule.
He took another drag, frowned to note that his cheroot was down to a nub anyway, then tossed it down and crushed it out under the heel of his new boots, unsure how to proceed.
Wonder what’s so wrong, he thought. Then it occurred to him that if the woman accidentally found the diamond first, she might try to claim it. He had no intention of buying his paramour another, so he concluded, I’ll just try not to disturb her.
As he walked on, her crying grew louder. Her shoulders shook, and he felt a tug of amused sympathy. Poor thing.
As he neared, the moonlight gleamed off her smooth, shiny, pale-red hair, alerting him that she must be one of Lord Beresford’s daughters.
How many of them there were exactly, Gable did not know. He could not tell the lot of pretty little redheads apart. Nor had he tried.
It was not wise for a dedicated rakehell to stare overlong at the daughters of a neighboring lord, unless he wished to have a bride thrust upon him.
Which Gable wanted like a hole in the head, so he kept his eyes to himself whenever he saw them.
Impatient to get his task over with, he cleared his throat as politely as possible. “Ahem.”
* * * Pretty well cried out by now, Trinny looked up abruptly. Her swollen eyes widened as she spotted the tall, broad-shouldered figure standing in the moonlight.
Oh, just when I thought I could not be any more humiliated!
The dashing fellow sauntered forward down the path with a suave air, his coat slung over his shoulder.
“I say,” he called in a deep voice as breezy as the night, “sorry to bother you, but it seems a lady friend of mine dropped an earring here earlier today. She’s quite frantic to have it back, so if you don’t mind, I should like to have a quick look round. This will only take a minute.” He hesitated. “Er, carry on.”
Carry on? Trinny stiffened with indignation. She drew herself up, mortified at being found weeping like a watering pot.
“No matter. I shall go,” she said in a brittle tone, lifting her head and avoiding the gentleman’s curious gaze in her embarrassment.
She marched across the gazebo to leave as the intruder was arriving, but when their paths crossed on the painted steps, two things happened.
One: He offered her his handkerchief.
“Here,” he said softly. “You look like you could use this.”
Two: She lifted her chin with a frosty air to decline his pity with what was left of her pride, and seeing him up close, she recognized the man.
Lord Sweet Cheeks!
Well, that was his name to the Glendon girls, anyway, and it had nothing to do with his strikingly handsome face. Trinny jolted back a bit in surprise—and nearly tumbled onto her derriere, naturally, as a result of forgetting she was standing on steps.
Instantly, his hand shot out and he steadied her with a firm grasp on her arm.
“Easy, there,” he chided, smooth as silk.
God, I really am a quiz, she concluded in despair as she caught her balance, clumsy as ever. “Th-Thank you.”
She gazed for a moment at his steely jawline, his loose fall of dark, glossy hair, and most especially, his sculpted mouth.
Then she quickly looked away and accepted his handkerchief to try to cover her awkwardness.
“You all right?” he asked.
“Oh, I’m just wonderful, thanks,” she muttered.
He stared at her as though she were a puzzle that he really didn’t have that much interest in putting together. Shrugging off a wisp of curiosity, he tilted his head and gave her a charmingly cordial smile; Trinny abruptly realized she was in his way.
He was waiting for her to step aside so he could search the gazebo for the missing item, as he had stated.
She did so, still clutching his handkerchief as the handsome rogue brushed by her. She turned to watch him pass. There was a reason, after all, that she and her sisters had mischievously named him Lord Sweet Cheeks.
My, my. The chap knew how to fill out a pair of pantaloons.
They had quite a few neighbors of his ilk here in Moonlight Square.
Dashing, gloriously handsome rakehells, highborn bachelors all, with nary a moral among them. Men who never looked twice at her or most eligible young misses, for that matter. Wealthy, loose-living rogues who Mama said had to be physically dragged to the altar.
In truth, Trinny did not hold these idle hedonists in the highest of esteem. They were overgrown boys in her view, the centers of their own worlds, living for the moment, chasing their pleasures all over Town.
Admittedly, they were nice to look at, though.
“Whatever it is, you know,” he suddenly offered out of the blue, “it’ll be all right.” He paused in hunting around the floor of the gazebo to send her a brief, reassuring smile.
Trinny’s heart quaked.
When she noticed that his eyes were kinder than she had expected, she could not help lingering on the gazebo steps for a moment to acknowledge the embarrassing state in which he’d found her.
“I’m not…usually such a watering pot.”
“I didn’t see anything. Don’t fret, my lady. I am the soul of discretion, believe me.” The words sounded wry, laden with sardonic meaning just beneath the surface.
He sent her a conspiratorial wink and turned away, continuing his search. He tossed his coat over the railing of the garden folly and crouched down to peer through a crack in the floorboards.
Trinny’s brow puckered with wariness as she watched him. If she were seen out here alone with the likes of him, she could be ruined. Then again, did it matter anymore? Would anybody even care?
The thought made fresh tears well up in her eyes, but she refused to be dragged down into self-pity and blew her nose on his handkerchief.
The sophisticated viscount looked up in surprise, as though he’d never heard a lady really blow her nose before.
Trinny didn’t care. There was no point in trying to impress the likes of Lord Sweet Cheeks. No point ruing the fact that their beautiful stallion of a neighbor had no doubt noticed her odd ways from the first instant he’d laid eyes on her sobbing like a cake head.
Why worry? She already knew full well she didn’t have a chance with a blue-ribbon stud like him. In truth, it came as a relief, not having to try for once. Not having to hold the teeth-gritting smile of a debutante and pretend to laugh at things that weren’t funny. Not having to watch the sweets at balls go by on footmen’s trays and never gobble down a one, all the while being laced into stays to smash her figure into shape.
All Mama’s rules for catching husbands…
They didn’t really seem to work, she mused. Then the thought of going home to that madhouse made her turn to Lord Sweet Cheeks.
“An earring, you say?” she asked with a last, brisk sniffle, tucking his handkerchief into her pocket. “What does it look like? I’ll help you find it.”