Title: Courting Lord Whitmire: A Regency May-December Romance
Author: Regina Jeffers
Genre: Regency Romance; Historical Fiction
At the bend of the path, an unexpected meeting.
She is all May. He is December.
But loves knows not time. Colonel Lord Andrew Whitmire has returned to England after spending fifteen years in service to his country. In truth, he would prefer to be anywhere but home. Before he departed England, his late wife, from an arranged marriage, had cuckolded him in a scandal that had set Society’s tongues wagging. His daughter, Matilda, who was reared by his father, enjoys calling him "Father" in the most annoying ways. Unfortunately, his future is the viscountcy, and Andrew knows his duty to both the title and his child. He imagines himself the last of his line until he encounters Miss Verity Coopersmith, the niece of his dearest friend, the man who had saved Andrew’s life at Waterloo. Miss Coopersmith sets Whitmire's world spinning out of control. She is truly everything he did not know he required in his life. However, she is twenty-two years his junior, young enough to be his daughter, but all he can think is she is absolute perfection.
She was a jewel, a jewel he could not possess, even if he desired her more than he thought possible. He purposely slowed his breathing and concentrated on an image of Miss Coopersmith’s dear countenance, attempting to drive the horror of war from his mind. The lady tempted him more than he thought practical. Without considering where he was or with whom he shared the blanket, Andrew gave himself up to the image. He felt himself begin to harden. The breath that filled his lungs warmed in a pleasant manner, laced with the scent of her. Without realizing what had occurred, he had been lulled by the sounds of the night into his favorite dream of her. They made love on a blanket, much like the one upon which he rested but in a field of wildflowers. He was about to reach for her and pull her into his embrace when the buzz of the crowd in the distance turned violent.
Immediately, Andrew bolted upright. Disoriented, he looked about him, but nothing appeared from place until a fiery ball was launched into the air. The sky lit up with first one whistling explosion after another. Although a part of him knew the source of the noise, another part—one honed from ten years of war and another five upon the Canadian wilderness—told him to seek shelter. He scrambled to his feet, turned to the wooded area rimming the park and started off at a trot, bent over at the waist to keep himself from view of the enemy. Behind him, he heard someone call his name, but he did not look back, seeking cover from the enemy fire his only thought.
Darting into the stand of trees, he clung to the bark of one of them. He peeked at the way he had come, but he noted no one following him. “Does not mean the enemy is not there,” he murmured, as he gasped for air. The smell of gunpowder whiffed across the trail he had crossed. He turned his back to the tree and prepared to run again, but something slapped his chest.
“No, my lord.” The voice was soft and enticing, but he had encountered French spies who were female, and who used their “charms” to trick British officers. The woman caught the lapels of his coat. “Stop now!”
His eyes settled upon her, but he still did not fully comprehend what had occurred. Another round of explosions had him ducking his head and digging his nails into the tree’s bark.
“It is well,” the woman said, pressing herself against him. “I am here. I am Verity.”
The scent of lilacs, rather than gunpowder, filled the raspy breath he took, and his gaze met hers.
“There is no danger,” she said softly, as she caressed his cheek. “We are in Richmond, not Belgium.”
With a blink, he realized something was different from his usual nightmares. “Not Belgium,” he repeatedly lamely.
“No.” Her other hand caught the back of his neck. “I am Verity. We are together.”
He attempted to shove aside his tangled thoughts. “Verity?” he whispered, as reality crowded in around them. Still partially lost in the nightmare, he caressed her cheek, as she had done his. Her skin was the softest he had ever touched, and, in spite of the flashes of light bouncing before his eyes, calm began to trickle through his veins.
Unfortunately, another round of explosions had him again looking around for an escape, but she had other ideas. The lady had done the unthinkable, something he would never have done, even in a moment of sanity: She shoved him against the tree, went up on her tiptoes, and pressed her lips hard against his.
Obviously, Miss Verity Coopersmith knew nothing of the impact of a kiss, even one executed poorly. She had presented him permission to do what he had desired to do since their first meeting. He caught her jaw in the palms of his hands and eased her lips from his, but only for the briefest of seconds—only long enough for him to position her mouth where he might lead. His lips closed over hers. She tasted of wine and perfection. She tasted exactly as he had expected her to. She tasted of sweetness and something for which there was no name, but something for which every man, whether he would admit it or not, sought.
“I have wanted to do that since I first laid eyes on you,” he murmured against her mouth when they broke for air.
“Have you?” she asked as her arms came around his neck. “I would not have objected.” She did not retreat, instead asking for more, and Andrew was only too happy to oblige.
He kissed her as he had never kissed another. He kissed her with his heart involved. Kissed her quick. Then kissed her long and hard. Demanding her submission. Seeking the power only she could provide him. Stealing her voice. Giving himself permission to know her as a woman.
She clung to him, and his arms locked behind her, pressing her closer, where she might feel through their clothing what she did to him. Her mouth was warm and welcoming, and Andrew wished to be nowhere else in the world. His blood pounded in his ears, and he was completely lost to the moment.
Then, all at once, she shoved her way from his arms. They stared at each other, both breathing fast and hard. He thought to reach for her again, but she had her wits about her, where he did not.
“The...the fireworks,” she stammered. “They are...are finished. The crowd.”
Andrew’s mind finally left the fog of desire behind, but his body wished for nothing more than to continue kissing her and see what came next. Instead, he said, “It grieves me to sound so abrupt, but straighten your gown. People cannot view us this way.”
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Regina Jeffers, an award-winning author of historical cozy mysteries, Austenesque sequels and retellings, as well as Regency era romances, has worn many hats over her lifetime: daughter, student, military brat, wife, mother, grandmother, teacher, tax preparer, journalist, choreographer, Broadway dancer, theatre director, history buff, grant writer, media literacy consultant, and author. Living outside of Charlotte, NC, Jeffers writes novels that take the ordinary and adds a bit of mayhem, while mastering tension in her own life with a bit of gardening and the exuberance of her “grand joys.”
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