Title: Mine, Forever and Always
Author: Tammy L. Bailey
Genre: Historical Romance
Just shy of fifteen years old, and during a fake an impromptu wedding ceremony, Lily Scott married her best friend's brother, Henry Dalton. It seemed harmless enough until he leaned in and whispered to her his true feelings, amorous words she has been unable to forget: Now you're mine, forever and always.
Unfortunately, growing up places obstacles in their path, pulling them apart and turning Henry into a pompous rake. Can a mischievous matchmaker, a mysterious letter, and a scandalous house party be enough to reunite these two misguided hearts and give them a second chance at true love?
Henry felt Lily’s thunderous heartbeat against his chest, felt the naïve tremble in her kiss. He had guessed she’d do something to retrieve the letter from his pocket, he’d just never assumed she’d go this far. He, of course, should have expected it.
More than aroused, he allowed the softness of her mouth to press against his. As she fumbled for the letter, he cupped his palm behind her head, coaxing her closer. Her kiss, sweet like honeysuckle and soft like silk, ignited the blood in his veins. Furious by her attempt to distract him, and yet entranced, he parted her lips with his tongue. She tensed, her fingers halting inside his jacket. Too late to turn back, he stroked the inside of her mouth until he drew a moan from deep in her throat. Her response was a glorious sound, a sound he’d forbidden himself to imagine, until now.
When she’d succeeded in retrieving the item she sought, he pulled away and half-placed, half-plopped her on the bed, grasping her wrist and leaning down toward her reddened, slightly bruised lips.
“The only reason I allowed you to take back the letter is that I’ve already read it and memorized each word. Although I loathe my sister’s parlor games, I have now made it my sole purpose to discover the unfortunate man for whom those words were written.”
Her sharp and shallow breaths fanned across his face. “I’m afraid, sir, you will be greatly disappointed at whom you find.”
He straightened and left the room. Downstairs, he could not shake what had transpired between himself and Lily. He hated himself for allowing her to kiss him. He hated himself more for allowing himself to enjoy the intimacy between them, if only for that brief moment.
“How is Miss Scott?” Jane asked beside him.
“Slightly…bruised,” he answered shortly.
Jane’s thin eyebrows rose over her furious blue eyes. “Please tell me you were civil to her.”
Henry twisted to face his sister. He knew she remained oblivious to the reasons why he’d chosen to stay away for so many years. Her whimsical illusions regarding love seemed impenetrable, while his had been punctured and left to bleed.
“I am only required to remain civil to those whom I regard as close acquaintances. Miss Scott is a stranger to me, especially since I see her but once every year, and at those times, she can only manage to sputter one-syllable greetings as if my presence offends her.”
“She’s coy, Jane. Women like Miss Scott are not who they appear. I would almost tell you not to see her again.”
“You contradict yourself, Henry. First, you say you do not know her, and then you proceed to call her a flirt. Well, which one is it?”
He opened his mouth, only to slam it shut again.
“You could at least get to know her, again.”
He lifted his head and inhaled. “I do believe I know her better than anyone else in this room.” At least he guessed he did. Of course, he wasn’t certain how many other men she’d kissed to get what she wanted.
“Oh, do you claim to know her better than Miss Appleton?” his sister asked, her tone dripping with sarcasm. She sighed loudly before projecting her opinion without pause. “I’m more vexed than offended that you made me invite the woman. It might do you well to stand with someone who hasn’t caused a scandal in one way or another.”
Amused, he leaned forward so no one else could hear. “And arranging parlor games for young, irrational girls who believe the gentleman whose card they’ve received will someday want to marry them is not a scandal?”
“Miss Scott is not irrational,” his sister hissed, her mouth pursed with irritation.
Henry thought Jane had done a good job of changing the subject back to her friend.
“I beg to differ.” He paused, unable to forget how wonderful Lily’s soft lips had felt against his. “Regardless, the next time you arrange one of these parlor games and wish to include me, make sure to invite a few ladies who are inclined to converse more than flirt.”
Jane scoffed. “Miss Scott is a lovely girl with more intelligence than that…that Miss Appleton you have attached yourself to recently.”
Henry wanted to laugh. “I don’t like Miss Appleton because of her intelligence.”
“Well, that’s obvious.”
His sister stormed away, going to the writing table to scribble the ladies’ names on the cards so the gentlemen could pull them. Not that he admitted to looking, but he found Lily had returned and settled herself on a gold and mauve striped settee next to the window. She had her head bent toward a small book, her teeth biting into the pink flesh of her lower lip. He didn’t deny the fact that Lily intrigued him. She had blossomed into such an enticing creature; he could not stop staring at her.
He supposed she sensed him gazing at her and lifted her head to send him a curious glance. She reminded him of their youth and a fleeting time when he thought—
“Pull your card.”
Henry bent his head to find Jane standing in front of him, holding a bowl full of shuffled, folded parchment paper.
“Would it do any good to ask which one is Miss Appleton’s?”
His sister scrunched up her pert nose and shook her head. Henry wondered how she had not found her own match. Both beautiful and bright, she had her handful of suitors, all of which would have made her a good and proper husband. He imagined she was too romantic to settle for anyone who was not Lord Byron himself.
“If I must say, it would serve you right to pull Miss Scott, Henry.”
He had to disagree, for both his and Miss Scott’s sake. Nonetheless, he reached in and plucked out a piece of paper. In the glinting firelight, he glanced at the woman’s name.
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Tammy L. Bailey writes historical, contemporary, and fantasy fiction with clever, romantic, and unexpected escapes combining delicious tension and laugh out loud humor. Before she began writing romance, Tammy served in both the active Army and the Air National Guard.
Today, she lives with her husband and two sons in Northeast Ohio where she balances her time between family, her full-time job as a nursing secretary, and being a writer. When she’s not writing, her favorite pastime is watching hockey (her favorite team is the Columbus Blue Jackets #cbj).
Whether it's historical or contemporary romance, for her, there must always be a happy ending.
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