Pleasure Is On Her Dance Card
Determined to find a husband, Miss Eleanor "Nell" Bowman attends a ball put on by the Duchess of Greycliffe, fondly referred to as the Duchess of Love. But she roundly dismisses the suitors the matchmaking hostess has invited on her behalf. For it's the duchess's dashing son Ned, Lord Edward, who long ago captured Nell's heart--and roused her desire. All it takes is a pair of conveniently misplaced silky red bloomers to set the handsome widower's gaze on this unusual girl who is clearly more than meets the eye…
After more than a year of mourning, Ned longs to finally start anew. At first glance, the birthday ball his mother has thrown in his honor is decidedly lacking in suitable mistresses. But he senses something unexpectedly alluring beneath the veil of Nell's plain exterior--something she's anxious to reveal, and the lonely Lord is incapable of denying…
Praise for the Novels of Sally MacKenzie
"Naked and naughty!" --Romantic Times
"So addictive they should come with a warning label."--Booklist
"Plenty of heat and hilarity." --Publishers Weekly
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June 04, 2012
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Excerpt from Bedding Lord Ned by Sally MacKenzie
A man's pride needs careful handling.--Venus's Love Notes
Miss Eleanor Bowman stood in the Duchess of Love's pink guest bedroom and stared at the scrap of red silk spilling out of her valise, her heart stuttering in horror.
Her brows snapped down. Of course it wasn't. She was letting her imagination run away with her. The red fabric was merely her Norwich shawl. She distinctly remembered packing it, as she did every year. It was far too fine to wear to darn socks or mind her sisters' children, but it was just the thing for the duchess's annual Valentine party. It was her one nod to fashion, the small bit of elegance she still allowed herself.
She snatched the red silk up again, shook it out--and dropped it as if it were a poisonous snake.
Damn it, it wasn't her shawl. It was those cursed red drawers.
She closed her eyes as the familiar wave of self-loathing crashed over her. She'd made these and a matching red dress to wear to Lord Edward's betrothal ball five years ago, desperately hoping Ned would see her--really see her-- and realize it was she he wanted to marry, not her best friend, Cicely Headley. But Mama had seen her first, when she'd come downstairs to get into the carriage, and had sent her straight back to her room.
She glared down at the red cloth. Thank God Mama had stopped her. If she'd gone to the ball in that dreadful dress, everyone would know she wasn't any better than a Jezebel. It was no surprise Ned had chosen Cicely. She'd been everything Ellie wasn't: small, blonde, blue-eyed-- beautiful--with a gentle disposition. And then when Cicely and the baby had died in childbirth . . .
Ellie squeezed her eyes shut again, the mingle-mangle of shame and yearning twisting her gut. She'd mourned with everyone else--sincerely mourned--but she'd also hoped that Ned would turn to her and their friendship would grow into something more.
She snapped her eyes open. Poor Cicely had died four years ago; if Ned were ever going to propose he would have done so by now. She'd faced that fact squarely when she'd turned twenty-six last month. It was time to move on. She wanted babies, and dreams of Ned wouldn't give her those.
She picked up the drawers. She'd dispose of this ridiculous reminder of--
"Ah, here you are, Ellie."
"Ack!" She jumped and spun around. Ned's mother, the Duchess of Love--or, more properly, the Duchess of Greycliffe--stood in the doorway, looking at her with warm brown eyes so like Ned's.
"Oh, dear, I'm sorry." Her grace's smile collapsed into a frown. "I didn't mean to startle you."
Ellie took a deep breath and hoped the duchess couldn't see her heart banging around in her chest. "You didn't s-startle me." If she looked calm, she'd be calm. She'd been practicing that trick ever since her red silk disgrace.
And what was there to be anxious about after all? The duchess's house parties were always pleasant.
Ha! They were torture.
"I was going to look for you later." Ellie tried to smile. "Then I've saved you the trouble." The duchess had an impish gleam in her eye. "I thought we might have a comfortable coze before everyone else arrives."
Ellie's stomach clenched, and all her carefully cultivated calm evaporated. There was no such thing as a "comfortable coze" with the Duchess of Love. "That would be, ah"--deep breath--"lovely."
"Splendid! Come have a seat and I'll ring for tea." Her grace grasped the tasseled bell-pull and paused, her gaze dropping to Ellie's hands. "But what have you there?" "W-what?" Ellie glanced down. Oh, blast. "Nothing." She dropped the embarrassing silk undergarment on the night table; it promptly slithered to the floor. Good, it would be less noticeable there. "I was unpacking when you came in."
The duchess frowned again. "Should I come back later then?"
"No, of course not." There was no point in putting this interview off. The sooner she knew the woman's plans, the sooner she could plan evasive--
She clenched her teeth. No, not this year.
"Yes." Ellie moved away from the incriminating red fabric.
"Excellent." Her grace tugged on the bell-pull and sat in the pink upholstered chair, her back to the puddle of silk. "I told Mrs. Dalton to have Cook send up some of her special macaroons. It will be a while until dinner, and we need to keep up our strength, don't we?"
"I'm afraid I'm not hungry." Ellie would almost rather dance on the castle's parapets naked--or wearing only those damn red drawers--than put anything in her mouth at the moment. She perched on a chair across from Ned's mother. "Oh." The duchess's face fell.
"But, please, don't let me keep you from having something." It was a wonder the woman stayed so slim; she had a prodigious sweet tooth.
Her grace smiled hopefully. "Perhaps you'll feel hungrier when you see Cook's macaroons."
"Perhaps." And perhaps pigs would fly. Ellie cleared her throat. "You had something of a particular nature you wished to discuss, your grace?"
No, good. Very good. Excellent.
The ton hadn't christened Ned's mother the Duchess of Love for nothing; she'd been matchmaking for as long as Ellie could remember, usually with great success. Ellie was one of her few failures, but this year would be different. This year Ellie was determined to cooperate.
"I was chatting with your mama the other day," the duchess was saying, her eyes rather too direct. "She's quite concerned about your future, you know."
Ellie shifted on her chair. Of course she knew--Mama never missed an opportunity to remind her that her future looked very bleak indeed. She'd been going on and on about it while Ellie packed, telling her how, if she allowed herself to dwindle into an old maid, she'd be forced to rely on the charity of her younger sisters, forever shuttled between their homes, always an aunt, never a mother.
Perhaps that's why she'd brought those damn drawers instead of her shawl; she'd been so distracted, she could probably have packed the chamber pot and not noticed. "I believe Mama likes to worry."