The general release of The Outcast Earl is THREE DAYS AWAY. Seriously, can you hear me squeal from here?
As soon as I find direct links to it on Amazon and other sellers, I’ll post them to the blog and twitter, because (let’s face it), I’ll be too excited to do anything else that day. I had scheduled a dentist appointment for the morning, but apparently my hygienist is too excited to go to work that day either… oh wait, I mean, she’s taking a vacation day, so they re-scheduled me for this week and it’s already over!
If you don’t know why I’m so excited, it’s because I am totally in love with the Earl of Meriden. Charles is pretty damn arrogant, but worth every minute of effort that Abigail puts into making him into a respectable husband. I’m not sure he’ll ever have an innate understanding of society or the finer points of etiquette, but she’s making a concerted effort.
Read an exclusive excerpt from The Outcast Earl below, only available here, from me. Then go pre-order the book from Total-e-bound. Or, you know, wait until you can buy a version from your favorite e-retailer.
From The Outcast Earl by Elle Q. Sabine. Copyright 2012. Used with permission.
Abigail remained calm and confident until they reached the top of the stairs. Automatically, she turned to the right, towards her room, and looked up in surprise when he didn’t release her arm. Glancing up, he raised his eyebrows and ushered her to the left with his free hand, which held the candle.
Her heart fluttered, but all Abigail could manage to say was, “But I haven’t done anything wrong!”
Meriden’s delighted smile would have been warning enough to worry any female. “No,” he agreed. “You’ve done nothing wrong. Nevertheless,” he said, turning them insistently while Abigail’s breath caught, “it will please me to have you come with me.”
Abigail dragged her feet. She was anxious. It wasn’t that her last visit to that room had been unpleasant. If it wasn’t for the scene after, perhaps she wouldn’t be so hesitant—
“Remember what happened last time, after? Suppose someone sees us again?” she asked nervously.
“Milton is hardly likely to be haunting the upper gallery in the pre-dawn,” Meriden pointed out logically, “especially as he’s no longer welcome in it.”
Abigail took another step—
Suddenly, she stopped, shaking her head. “No, we can’t,” she objected in a frantic whisper. “Aunt Betsy isn’t under the laudanum, she could wake and call for me.”
“The maid is sitting with her,” Meriden assured her huskily, just as quietly, but now his smile was replaced by a harsher mien. She wavered, indecisive, until Meriden sighed and blew out the candle. In the sudden, inky blackness, Abigail swayed. Lightning flashed beyond the great windows in the bay and she saw Meriden bending towards her for a moment. Then the blackness returned and her world tipped as he lifted her in his arms—a familiar enough refrain that she automatically reached out to his shoulders to balance herself.
“I can see we’re going to have to have a chat,” he growled against her ear, moving forwards suddenly.
Abigail couldn’t see even his face with all of the lights extinguished, but she believed he must have known where he was headed. Closing her eyes, she laid her cheek against his shoulder and waited.
Perhaps, she thought, it was just simpler to do what he asked, at least this time. It was dark, the servants were abed, and he’d proven that physically resisting him was a lost cause.
“Where are we going?” Abigail murmured, her nose nuzzled into the collar of his dressing gown, when she realised they had proceeded past the few remaining steps to his sitting room door.
“Somewhere private,” Meriden grunted in return. “I’ve shared you all damn day,” he added after a second of silence. In the blackness, Abigail felt him still, then cautiously step forward. They touched a door, and he expertly jostled the handle with his knee until the door fell open. “Your aunt, every lady in the village, Franklin. You even had time for the bloody servants,” he went on. “I waited patiently all day, and by then you were so tired you were asleep before the dinner bell. It was—it is—my turn, and I want more than a shared strudel and your gentle reminder about my manners.”
“Were you jealous?” she asked in disbelief, half amused by his suddenly petulant tone. He didn’t answer, but they were inside the room so Abigail looked up and about. The room was significantly larger than his sitting room, and a fire burned directly in the grate. She frowned, looked around, and realised.
And sat up straight—very straight.
“I can’t be here,” she insisted, struggling. “It’s not proper.”
“Why the devil not?” Meriden grunted, shifting her so that he could grip her more tightly. “No one else knows.”
“It’s your bedchamber!” Abigail returned, twisting a little. At her attempt, he shuffled her around in his arms and, alarmed, Abigail found herself dropped over his shoulder. He wrapped one strong arm around her thighs to control her kicking. “My lord!” she gasped.
Abigail heard the key turn in the lock with a definite snib. She couldn’t see it, despite the dim shadows in the room cast by the fire, but then he was moving across the room. “Our bedchamber,” he articulated, emphasising the first word.
She made a desperate look around. The shadows ahead appeared to be—were—bed curtains. Abigail made a little squeak. “We’re not married yet,” she reminded him, shuddering suddenly as his free hand deliberately reached across him and settled on her bottom.
“That’s been the damn problem all along,” he growled, turning to kick off his slippers, then sitting back on the bed. “I ought to have set aside my bloody principles and just gone to the bishop when I was in London, for the love of God. Then we would have been married today. Or maybe yesterday. Even last week. This eternal waiting would be over and I could legitimately keep you here for as long as I liked, and no one would think twice!”
“What are you going on about now?” Abigail retorted, then felt herself sliding down his arm and onto the silky counterpane of the bed.
With a gasp, she rolled away from him, onto her back and began to sit up, but he was there before her. “This!” he returned—then, Abigail realised, the only place she was going was underneath him.
Just before his lips met hers, Abigail frantically tried to decide if her racing heart was owing to alarm or excitement. In the end, it didn’t matter. His tongue was hot, he cupped her face fiercely and his body hardened as he knelt over her.
She moaned and arched and met his lips with her own, sliding her hands into his hair.
The world spun away, then, until all that mattered was Meriden tasting her lips and her jaw and her neck, and his hands tangling in the buttons of her dressing gown. His tongue invaded her mouth and she welcomed it, arching her body when he cupped her breasts through her chemise. He did nothing to tease her nipples, but they hardened anyway into anxious, pointed peaks, eager to experience the sensational thrills her body remembered from their last encounter.
It was somehow odd to Abigail, in the back of her mind, that she could be so lewd and unafraid in this dark room, when moments before she had felt so constrained. Now, every touch rubbed and burned, where before she had tingled and shuddered. It was still strange and new and she couldn’t help but arch up against his chest, trying her best to rub her bosom against his shirt.
To her surprise, he chuckled huskily. “What do you want me to do, mine?” he growled against her lips.
Abigail blushed then, in the dark, but her body seemed to be someone else’s. And he couldn’t see her, at least. “Touch… Touch me,” she whispered, slipping her hands down and in between his shirt and coat. His skin was hot—she wondered if hers felt the same?
“Touch you where?” he teased roughly, his lips caressing her collarbone so that she arched her head up and back, offering him the skin.
“Me.” The word slipped out. Even with the burning in her skin and her ears, Abigail knew the word was a plea, a desperate bid.
Meriden was not immune, but did not totally acquiesce. “Touch your breasts, your nipples?” he questioned, moving his hands a fraction of an inch inward, pressing those swelling orbs together and up. “Say it for me,” he demanded after she moaned, twisting in a futile effort to encourage him.
“Yes!” she cried out, almost frantically as he trailed his thumbs up the bottom of each mound in a teasing motion. At his hesitation, she emitted a frustrated, desperate sob. “My bosom, damn you, Meriden.”
Her desperation drew a guttural noise from his throat. Still, he obliged her, moving to palm them in his hands before cupping them with his fingers. “Charles,” he returned automatically, playing lightly through the chemise. “My name is Charles.”
“Your name could be Frederick the Great, for all I care,” she said with sudden waspishness. “Just touch me!” As if to prove her point, her hands left him to cover his, clenching tight.
His eyebrows rose. “It feels better for me to squeeze, then?” he asked, and Abigail nodded. Something was still missing—something was still driving her wildly out of control. She couldn’t see it, but felt as if the air was teasing her with it. He seemed to understand, for he shifted and suddenly Abigail found his knee pressed up between her thighs, through her chemise and dressing gown.
She wasn’t sure, but pressing back seemed to encourage him. In any event, it relieved some of the pressure building there, although the strange moistness grew dramatically.
“Do you know what I want?” he growled suddenly. Abigail had no idea, and shook her head helplessly. She didn’t have the focus or desire to pay attention—easing the ache in her body was the only consideration of importance. He answered anyway, “I want you naked underneath me, writhing just like this. I want your pert little bottom warm from my hand and your nipples hard and begging for my tongue, and I want your legs spread to welcome my seed.”
Abigail couldn’t have identified the heat spinning through her body and head even if it had mattered. All she knew was that he took his right hand from her nipple and was reaching beneath her chemise to find the place where she was grinding in a hapless rhythm against the leg of his trousers. Then he found something, because Abigail could feel his rough finger rubbing against her, but the world was breaking into an unfamiliar realm of fractured blackness.
* * * *
“The French call it le petit mort, the little death,” Charles explained, settling her onto his lap in the armchair. She was mostly dressed, except for the slippers she had lost beside the bed. The buttons on her dressing gown were only done up as far as necessary to hold it on her shoulders, and Abigail still shivered. “We English call it climax, or any number of other euphemisms. I am afraid many women cannot find the pleasure of it in marriage, either because the passion has been bred or foolishly beaten from them, or because of their clumsyhusbands. As for me, I am an exceedingly lucky man in that you are passionate in and out of the bed, and I intend to enjoy it to the hilt.”
In his arms, Abigail shuddered and yawned at the same time. She’d hesitantly asked him to explain what had happened—he’d accepted that she needed time to recover before he made his announcement.
They were silent for several moments, until he judged Abigail’s increasing weight in his arms as evidence of her relaxed and sleepy state. “Nevertheless,” he added in a low whisper, close to her ear, “the next time I have you to myself—which will be sooner than you think, mine—I shall have to strip you of your clothing and spank you thoroughly. Not for the climax, of course. No, I would prefer to reward you for that.”
“But why then?” Abigail yawned, obviously still foggy and acquiescent from their interlude.
“Besides your trying to avoid spending time alone with me when we came upstairs, struggling as I carried you into our room, then cursing me for making you admit to your own needs? The simple truth is that you need to understand who directs our time together in this room.” He chuckled. “And to learn that sometimes pain can be immensely pleasurable.” He’d have to be clever and careful in how he proceeded, so as not to discourage her passion. It had not been an exaggeration, to his mind, to say that the sexuality of many women had been beaten from them—for many, prior to leaving the schoolroom. Clearly, Abigail’s had survived thus far intact. It would now be his privilege to foster and direct it towards those pursuits he most enjoyed.
“Right now, I just need to sleep,” Abigail mumbled, and rolled into him a bit as her breathing noticeably slowed and deepened. Clearly, either she didn’t believe he would actually harm her or she was exhausted. Given the last week of her life, plus her first experience with bliss, both possibilities were likely. With a tired sigh, he contemplated the long trudge down the corridor and the inevitable discovery that her slippers were missing. Then he reconsidered the relative closeness of his bed, and the luxury of waking up with her in his arms.
It was early Wednesday morning, and the wedding was scheduled for next Tuesday morning. The banns would be read for the third time in five days.
Her Aunt Betsy would not be haunting Abigail’s door—she had not yet left her bed.
Why shouldn’t Abigail sleep in his bed, anyway?
If you’d like to participate in a drawing for a free copy of The Outcast Earl in .pdf or Kindle format, visit my earlier blog entry here about gifting and giving and follow the directions. And check back in the coming weeks. I have background material from The Outcast Earl ‘s world of The Misbegotten Misses that I’ll be posting here exclusively.