Today we have a special treat for you in honor of the third book of the Steam and Seduction series, Gilded Lily releasing this Tuesday, July 1, 2014. It’s our first Double Feature Sunday Snippet! Enjoy a snippet from the first novel, Gossamer Wing to be followed by a snippet from the second novel, Scarlet Devices. Hope you enjoy these as much as I enjoyed selecting them.
Author: Delphine Dryden
Publisher: Berkley Sensation
Released: November 5, 2013
That gentleman began his turn, faring somewhat better than Johnson, as Dexter shrugged out of his harness with a resigned expression. “He’ll want to yammer about it for the next hour, mark my words.”
“Darling,” Charlotte said a bit too loudly, warning Dexter with a nod that Johnson was headed their way, “You were brilliant, simply brilliant! You are going to teach me to use one of your splendid harnesses, aren’t you? Remember, you promised. And when we get back home I want a robin’s-egg blue one, with pretty gemstone rivets, exactly like my very dear friend Meggie’s. But not paste! And one for riding to the hounds, as well. But in scarlet kid, to look well with my new riding habit.” She giggled again, forcing the sound to pitch and frequency that had seemed most distasteful to Lord Johnson on previous occasions. “Only that one wouldn’t be for a fowling piece of course!” She tapped her folded fan smartly against Dexter’s broad shoulder.
“Of course, my darling. Anything you like. I shall send a message to Pence to have him begin work right away.” He was almost as effusive as she, and sounded disgustingly besotted, but to no avail.
“Sorry, it didn’t work,” she whispered, and pretended tremendous interest in Mr. Tanaka’s skill as the odious Lord Johnson ahem-hem-hemmed at Dexter’s side.
“The Hardison Harness not quite performing as expected this morning.”
Dexter allowed a tiny, polite smile to bend his lips for the slightest second. “I have never referred to the style or the product as the ‘Hardison Harness,’ sir. But I’m sure if you try it again with the shoulder seated correctly and all the buckles, ah, buckled–”
“Quite. But you know –”
“I say, Hardison. Might want to look to your wife,” another one of the waiting shooters suggested.
Charlotte had placed herself near the rail and was now leaning over it, pointing with dangerous enthusiasm at the wake in which she had just seen absolutely nothing unusual.
“Darling, a porpoise! I’m certain I saw a porpoise!” Hooking one foot under the lowest bar of the rail for safety, she let herself bend forward until anyone watching would surely think her set to pitch herself straight off the edge into the briny deep. “Look, over there!”
It had worked, she saw. In his need to rescue his obviously feather-brained wife from unintentional porpoise-motivated suicide, Dexter had ample cause to abandon all attention to Lord Johnson.
She could only hope that at least a few of the other passengers suspected she was not really as stupid as all that.
Then the boat hit a swell large enough to register despite the vessel’s mass. Charlotte’s body tilted and her stomach lurched, and she was suddenly incredibly grateful for the large, firm hands at her waist. And terribly, terribly sorry for the absolute mess she proceeded to make of the deck as she relived her breakfast in the most violent and graphic way imaginable.
Dexter muttered his thanks to the nobly silent, efficient stewards who swarmed to the spot and began to sand and swab before Charlotte had even quite finished retching. He tipped them handsomely, she noted with the one eye that seemed still able to open without causing her stomach to lurch again. Then he picked her up gingerly, without seeming to mind too much about the horrible state of her garments, and was almost all the way to their stateroom before giving in to the urge to say anything the least bit snide.
It wasn’t snide at all, really, just, “And you didn’t even have the fish.”
Which was true, she hadn’t.
Dexter was experiencing difficulty keeping his rationalizations straight. He had explained his actions to himself at every step of the way, and at each juncture things had made a certain kind of sense.
His companion, his wife, had been unspeakably sullied by the products of her gastronomic upset. It only made sense to remove her clothing upon their return to the stateroom. He had called for the ship’s surgeon, naturally, and that gentleman had arrived so quickly he encountered a baroness still clothed in her chemise and drawers, and wrapped in Deter’s dressing gown. She still had her stockings on, in fact. It was all quite modest.
Dexter declined the offer of a nurse to assist in bathing Lady Hardison and putting her to bed because, after all, he was supposed to be an ardent young husband on his honeymoon. It didn’t make sense, viewed that way, to accept help from a nurse. Why would he require or want that?
So after the doctor had poured his restorative if highly narcotic tonic down Charlotte’s throat and taken his leave, Dexter did what was necessary to see his young wife safely to bed. The dressing gown was removed — and sent out for cleaning — but it was clear the undergarments were also in need of removal. And once he had the giddy, woozy lady down to her stockings, it was also clear that actual bathing off was desperately needed.
He did that because it was necessary, keeping his sleepy wife wrapped in a blanket as much of the time as he could and carefully washing her off in sections. Charlotte was less than cooperative. She kept slumping to one side or the other in her chair as he sponged her off with a warm wet rag, or making giggling slurs on the shooting abilities of certain decidedly plump lordlings on the ship. Dexter wondered if he could get the doctor to prescribe some of that seasickness medication for his own use.
Then Charlotte raised a leg to the table and started to peel a stocking off, and Dexter was both chagrined and fascinated by the complete lack of modesty his overmedicated companion displayed. He could see things he had intended to studiously avoid seeing.
“You should put your leg down, Charlotte,” he suggested in a hoarse voice he barely recognized as his own.
“Oh, Dexter.” Her broad gesture swept the blanket free of her shoulders, revealing most of her bosom and taking with it the rest of the thinking portions of Dexter’s brain. “You’re bathing me off. That’s so thoughtful, especially…”
After a moment, he prompted her. “Especially?”
“Especially what?” She blinked at him and smiled slowly. She looked barely able to keep her eyes open. “So kind. And so very, very…” She reached out to pat his cheek lightly, then lowered her hand and gave his shoulder a little pat as well. And then a shake. She was so small, it moved her more than it did him. She jiggled quite deliciously as she shook his shoulder, in fact. “So very big,” she finally finished. “Like a lovely big wall. Or a bear. I do like your big, clever paws, Mister Hardison. Baron…thing.”
She nodded off all at once, snoring in a way that was not dainty or charming at all, and with the most appalling breath… in only one stocking, her modesty hopelessly compromised by her foot still propped on the table’s edge, and by the slipping blanket.
Dexter tortured himself by finishing Charlotte’s bath before he slipped the clean night rail over her head and tucked her into the berth to sleep off the surgeon’s remedy. The last thing he did, because he was a glutton for punishment he supposed, was reach under the fragile lawn gown to loosen her other gaiter. He rolled her stocking down her sleek thigh and trim calf until it popped off her foot in a silken ring.
Dexter forced himself to back away after that, wondering all the while if perhaps the good doctor was amenable to bribes.
Author: Delphine Dryden
Publisher: Berkley Sensation
Released: February 4, 2014
When Whitcombe and Cantlebury launched into a round of off-color jokes, however, Matthew decided enough was enough.
“Eliza, I think it’s time you retired.”
“Sorry, I didn’t catch that? Oh, bravissima, Madame Barsteau!”
“Eliza. This isn’t appropriate.” He clasped her wrist, holding firmly when she tried to shake him off. “It’s time to take your leave.”
The look she leveled at him could have boiled a frozen Alpine lake in midwinter. “I’m sure I can’t have heard you correctly, Mr. Pence.”
He glared right back, lowering his voice to a harsh whisper. “Parnell is looking down your dress. So is Madame Barsteau, by the way. And Cantlebury’s next anecdote, if his repertoire hasn’t changed since Oxford, involves nuns and a pony. No young woman should be in the room when he tells that one. Please come with me now.”
“A pony? Really?” She made little attempt to lower her voice, and Cantlebury heard her clearly.
“Oh, I could tell you a tale about a pony,” he volunteered to the general approbation of the group. “And some nuns!”
A cheer went up, and Matthew used the noise as cover for another fiercely whispered admonition. “Your cousin would skin me alive if he found out you’d been a party to this sort of thing and I did nothing to stop it.”
Her expression turned sweet. Poisonously so. “Matthew, if you’re not having any fun, I suggest you go elsewhere and find some. But you should know better than to try to spoil it for other people. I’m staying.” Distracting him with a condescending pat to his cheek, she twisted her other wrist sharply against his thumb to break his hold, then turned one slim shoulder to him, giving all her attention to the end of the table where Whitcombe was taking up Madame Barsteau’s challenge to another round of smoke rings, and Cantlebury was launching into the pony story with his usual gusto.
Worn out from the drive and his day’s worth of worry over Barnabas, Matthew growled in frustration and rose abruptly from the table just as the waiter was passing by to pour another round of port. Physics and coincidence mated with spectacular results, and Eliza shrieked as half a bottle of port burbled down her cleavage.
“What in the — good lord, that’s cold!” She stood, worsening matters. The port that had pooled in her lap began to soak all the way down her skirt, dripping to the floor.
“Begging your pardon! Begging your pardon, miss! I’ll get–I’ll fetch a — I’ll”– The poor young waiter fled the room before finishing his utterance, leaving Matthew and the others to fling napkins Eliza’s way to try to soak up the worst of it.
“Well, now I’ve completely lost my train of thought,” quipped Cantlebury, who didn’t seem terribly upset. He leaned forward, in fact, seeming to enjoy the unexpected entertainment.
“It was a lovely ensemble,” Madame Barsteau lamented. “Qu’elle dommage.”
“Perhaps it can be salvaged,” Matthew offered dubiously. None of them had changed from their driving clothes before dining — it was the wild frontier, after all — and Eliza was still in a midnight blue skirt that could probably be cleaned. But she’d removed her smart bolero jacket to attend the meal, and the deep red wine had clearly ruined the delicate silk blouse she’d worn beneath.
Delicate, and now rather transparent. Her chemise and the lines of her corset were visible through the sodden fabric.
If Dexter would flay him for letting her hear the pony story, Matthew couldn’t begin to imagine what the man would do for letting Eliza display her undergarments in public. “Let me help you to your room, Miss Hardison.”
“Oh, you’d like that, wouldn’t you?” She snapped over a sudden lull in the babble around the small room. Anyone whose attention hadn’t already been riveted on the spectacle of the spilled port was now fully engaged in minding Miss Hardison’s business. “That may have been an accident, but it was certainly a convenient one for you.”
Matthew pulled his jacket off, mourning the potential loss of the fine linen even as he slung it around Eliza’s shoulders. Settling it into place, he realized she was trembling. With rage, embarrassment or something else, he couldn’t tell. It didn’t matter.
“Please have a bath and a maid sent to Miss Hardison’s room immediately,” he instructed the flustered waiter, who had just dashed back into the dining room with the maitred’ close behind. Matthew offered Eliza his arm and sighed with relief when she took it. They left to a chorus of apologies and “right away, sir” and so forth from the staff.
He’d stopped the pony story in its filthy tracks and gotten Eliza out of the room, all in one fell accidental swoop. As far as Matthew was concerned, the unfortunate incident with the port was a godsend. Eliza obviously held a different perspective on matters.
As soon as they’d entered the relative privacy of the elevator, Eliza flung Matthew’s jacket off and slapped it into his chest. Her silent glare spoke volumes. The elderly lift attendant never so much as looked their way.
“Were you aware,” Matthew said as calmly as he could manage, while trying not to look at the area in question, “that your shirt and chemise have been rendered somewhat transparent?”
She dropped her head to look, then gasped and snatched the jacket back, clutching it to her bosom. Her lips tightened, and he was treated to another few seconds of silence.
“Thank you,” she finally blurted, as though it pained her. She shrugged the jacket back over her shoulders.
“You’re most welcome.” Matthew was in a different kind of pain, himself. He hadn’t been able to avoid looking entirely. He was only human after all, only a mortal man, scarcely able to control himself in the presence of the divine — which Eliza’s figure was, even when not outlined in filmy port-soaked cloth. He’d caught a glimpse, just a fraction of a second of a peek, and seen that the cold had hardened her nipples. Now he felt lightheaded and stupid with longing to look again.
Instead, he stared hard at the ancient lift attendant’s bony shoulder blades under their dark red livery and tried not to let the color remind him of port.