A LITTLE BIT WILD - The first book in a new historical series from Victoria Dahl
Coming in August 2010!
The man above Marissa York groaned loudly, his breath shuddering over her cheek.
She turned her head and frowned at the wall as the room spun slowly around her. Goodness. This wasn’t going well at all. Thankfully, it seemed it was nearly over.
After an endless summer of pretending to look for a husband in London, Marissa had thought to treat herself to a night of forbidden pleasure. It was her family’s first house party of the hunting season, after all. Everyone else was having a rollicking good time, and Marissa had thought to find some fun too. But instead she’d found clumsy fumbling, not to mention a bit of discomfort and lots of grunting. Perhaps this was why girls were ordered to keep themselves pure for marriage. No matter how unfortunate the consummation, there was no turning back afterward.
“My love,” Peter White sighed into her ear. “My sweet, sweet Marissa. That was beautiful. Perfect.”
She stretched her neck, trying to ease the strain on her back. “Um, could you please... arise?”
“Of course, I’m sorry.” He pushed up to his elbows. Unfortunately, though this eased the weight on her chest, it pushed his bottom half more thoroughly against her. Everything down there felt rather... squishy.
“Mr. White, please? Get up?”
He gave her a sly grin. “Don’t you feel silly calling me Mr. White right now?”
“When we are married, I hope you will call me by my Christian name, at least in--“
He leaned down to press a kiss to her nose. Marissa wiped it away.
“I’ll speak to your brother tomorrow,” he purred.
“You will do no such thing! Now get off. It’s taking you more time to dismount than you spent riding.”
Finally, the stubborn fool seemed to sense that she wasn’t limp with gratitude at his rutting. He drew back, squishing even more firmly into her.
“Oh, just get off me, you great dolt!” she cried.
He gasped, “Marissa!” and stared, shocked horror clear on his face, even in the dim moonlight that slanted through the drapes..
And that was when she heard the footsteps in the hall. Her eyes went wide. She pushed at his chest. And the door opened. Marissa held her breath. It was dark. The light from the hallway might not have reached them. If they just kept quiet...
Peter White cleared his throat. “If you would close the door, please. We require privacy.”
Before her shock could twist into anger, the figure in the door shifted. “Pardon me?” Her brother’s voice.
Oh, no. Not her brother.
The door flew fully open, and Marissa had to squint against the light from the hall, so she could only assume they were now visible. Her heart sunk down to rest on her spine. “No,” she breathed.
“Marissa Anne York!” her brother bellowed. Then the shadow of his head shifted and he lunged for the man atop her.
Mr. White was finally off her, but she could hardly summon a feeling of thankfulness. The shadows of the two men merged into one large beast that lurched into the darkest corner of the room. Vases shattered. A table crashed into the wall.
“Stop!” Marissa screamed, hoping her shout would put an end to the fight and stop time as well. If she could only go back to a half hour earlier when she’d finished that last glass of wine and then let Mr. White coax her into this room...
Tempted to jump up from the sofa and sprint to her chambers, Marissa instead chose the more daunting path. She tugged her skirts down and pushed unsteadily to her feet to face her brother. “Edward! Stop. Please.”
“You foul bastard,” her brother’s voice huffed.
A loud thump of flesh on flesh made Marissa flinch. The chaos ceased, and suddenly only the sound of the two men panting emerged from the dark. She could do nothing but stand there and shake.
“Edward?” she breathed.
Broken glass shifted against the wood floor. One of the shadows rose up and started toward her. Marissa backed away, afraid of her brother, only because she couldn’t see him. He would never hurt her, no matter what she did. But he looked like a goblin coming at her from the dark.
Or perhaps it was Mr. White, and her brother lay unconscious on the floor. “Edward?”
The shadow shifted at the last moment, her brother’s snarling face finally coming into the light, and he moved past her. Glass rattled. A match struck.
Light swelled slowly over the room. When it reached the farthest corner, she saw that Mr. White wasn’t unconscious at all, but sitting up with a hand pressed to his eye. At the sight of him, Marissa had to tamp down an urge to fly at his face and do further damage. Easier to be furious with him than with herself.
A shadow cast itself from the hallway, and Marissa glanced up to see her Cousin Harry standing there.
“What in the world is all the ruckus?” Harry asked. Oh, this was only getting worse. How many others had heard?
“Marissa,” her brother said, that one word full of worry and hurt and confusion and fury.
She wrapped her arms around herself and turned slowly toward him. “I apologize.” Her voice was steady, just as she wanted it to be. “I did not mean for you to see that.”
“See it?” he barked.
A maid appeared at Harry’s side, her apron clutched in her hands.
“Harry,” Edward said carefully. “Please wait for me in the study. And close the door.”
This situation would have to be handled very carefully. Her family was not known for coolness or rationality. Impetuousness flowed in their veins like blood, and she’d clearly gotten her own share of it. But now she’d need to chose her words carefully. “Edward. I’m sorry. Obviously, I acted as... I was not--“ She was interrupted by the worst possible statement.
“We shall marry immediately,” Mr. White said.
Her brother was already nodding.
Marissa shook her head to counter him. “We most certainly will not. I have no intention of marrying Mr. White. None at all.”...
# # #
“Did I thank you yet for the invitation?” Jude Bertrand asked half-jokingly as he followed Aidan York down the curved staircase.
Aidan tossed a sardonic glance over his shoulder and said nothing.
Jude had, in fact, thanked him several times already. For some reason, being on the York estate filled Jude with buoyancy. The house was large and airy, the windows looking out onto wild meadows and swaths of forest. The land enchanted him, and the family... Well, oddly enough, the family reminded him of his early childhood. Decidedly strange, as his early years had been spent in what had essentially been a French whorehouse.
Smiling at the odd comparison, Jude ran his hand down the banister, remembering his stay here last year and a certain strawberry-haired hoyden’s slide down the wood. She’d thought no one else awake at that early hour, and Jude hadn’t disabused her of the notion. He’d simply watched her slide down the banister and then he’d continued on his way, marveling that no one else seemed able to see the wildness inside her.
He was greatly anticipating seeing her again.
When they reached the first floor, Aidan York nodded to a few of the guests, but continued on toward his brother’s study. Jude followed. The door was closed when they reached it, and raised voices could be heard vibrating through the wood, but Jude felt no surprise. The York family was surprisingly dramatic for such an established peerage.
Aidan didn’t seem surprised either. He simply gave a perfunctory knock and walked into chaos.
The dowager baroness had draped herself across the settee and was weeping loudly into a lace handkerchief. The baron, Aidan’s older brother, paced in front of the fireplace, his red face giving him away as the source of the shouting. A cousin was there too. Harry, maybe? He looked decidedly morose.
Jude raised a hand in greeting to the mob.
“Aidan,” said Edward. “Thank God you’re here!” Then his gaze shifted to Jude. “Jude, you can’t be here. I’m sorry.”
“Oh. All right then.” He had spun halfway back toward the hall when Aidan’s hand stopped him.
“Don’t be melodramatic, Edward.” His dry voice was a direct contrast to his brother’s. “Of course Jude can stay. Now, what seems to be the latest crisis?”
Edward shook his head. “You don’t understand. This is serious. And a very private matter.”
“Don’t tell me you’ve fallen in love with the upstairs maid?”
The baroness finally roused herself. “Aidan! Don’t be disrespectful.” She cocked her head toward Jude, and he offered her a small bow while she studied him. “I’m sorry, Mr. Bertrand, but you’ll have to...” She stopped and frowned. “Then again, perhaps Mr. Bertrand could be of use to us. He does bring a certain... perspective.”
Jude raised his eyebrows at that, wondering what she could mean.
“Yes!” the cousin exclaimed. “His mother!”
Ah. Jude nodded. His mother. Had Edward gotten a mistress pregnant? “If I can assist you in some way, I’d be happy to. And I was raised from the cradle not to tell tales, of course.”
But Edward was shaking his head. “The matter is too sensitive.” He tossed a glare in his mother’s direction. “As you all know.”
Aidan rolled his eyes and crossed the room to the brandy decanter. “This is ridiculous. I’d trust Jude with my life. If he can help you, just spit it out, old man.” He collapsed into a chair, so Jude wandered toward the sidebar and poured himself a drink as well. He should have left, perhaps, but he was more than a little curious now.
He supposed Edward’s whisper was meant to be discreet, but it easily filled the whole room. “It’s about our sister!” he hissed.
Jude froze and spun back to face the York family. “Marissa?” he asked.
All eyes turned toward him. ...
Watch for A Little Bit Wild in August 2010 from Zebra Books!