by Jenny Holiday
Trevor Bailey is on the cusp of opening the greatest hotel in London. His days as a gutter snipe are behind him, as he enjoys a life of wealth, society, and clandestine assignments as a spy in the service of His Majesty. Until one tumultuous night churns up the past he’d long left behind…
Turned out by her employer for her radical beliefs, Lucy Greenleaf reaches out to the man who was once her most beloved friend. She never expected that the once-mischievous Trevor would be so handsome and gentleman-like and neither can deny the instant attraction.
But Lucy’s reformer ways pose a threat to the hotel’s future and his duties as a spy. Now Trevor must choose between his new life and the woman he’s always loved…
Who was this man? He was the Trevor of her youth, yet he was not. The boy would not have touched her like that. Would not even have noticed her face long enough to bother with a dab of pudding gone awry. The boy had reserved that sort of intense scrutiny for lock picking and cake filching.
The man, by contrast, was causing her stomach to feel like little wings were fluttering inside it.
It was almost as if she wasn’t in the room, which was ridiculous because of course she was. It was her lip he caressed. But he stared so intently at her mouth that the encounter seemed somehow to be unfolding between him and it without her presence mattering at all.
She lifted herself onto tiptoes, and the tiny birds inside her took off, a great flapping flock of them. They were propelling her toward him, and she wasn’t in charge anymore. She pressed her lips against the spot of chocolate near the corner of his mouth. If she’d thought the chocolate tasted sinful before, she’d been naive. The tang of his skin magnified it, made it magnetic.
“Lucy,” he rasped, his lips moving against her skin as he spoke her name. She waited for more, for him to cry halt. He did not. So she remained where she was, her lips pressed against the corner of his mouth but not moving, the roar of blood in her ears a rushing waterfall.
Beneath her mouth, his jaw clenched, became hard like iron, and his breath, already short, took on a ragged quality. Warmth pooled low in her belly like that chocolate, liquefied and hot. Every second they stood there, unmoving, something coiled more tightly inside her. It was almost painful, but it was impossible to imagine stepping away.
He moved only an inch. Less than an inch. His lips grazed hers, and though they barely touched hers, the warmth in her belly became fire. How was that possible? They weren’t even kissing, not really, and yet she felt as if she were at the gates of Bedlam.
A thought crept in. She tried to push it away, but it persisted. This is why Mary had fallen victim to her bouts of suicidal behavior. This—this unnamable compulsion—would grow and grow until it took over, displacing everything else, everything that made her herself. Unlike Mary, she wasn’t capable of producing great works of philosophy with the potential to change the world, but she did have a life. A hard-won life she’d made for herself through sheer force of will. Trevor was helping her—she’d had no choice but to permit it given his logical argument that their arrangement would benefit them both. But she needed to remember why she had agreed to stay only for six months. Because men were dangerous—even him. Even Trevor. Perhaps especially him.
So she stepped away.
AUTHOR Bio and Links:
Jenny Holiday started writing in fourth grade, when her awesome hippie teacher, between sessions of Pete Seeger singing and anti-nuclear power plant letter writing, gave the kids notebooks and told them to write stories. Most of Jenny’s featured poltergeist, alien invasions, or serial killers who managed to murder everyone except her and her mom. She showed early promise as a romance writer, though, because nearly every story had a happy ending: fictional Jenny woke up to find that the story had been a dream, and that her best friend, father, and sister had not, in fact, been axe-murdered. From then on, she was always writing, often in her diary, where she liked to decorate her declarations of existential angst with nail polish teardrops. Eventually she channelled her penchant for scribbling into a more useful format. After picking up a PhD in urban geography, she became a professional writer, and has spent many years promoting research at a major university, which allows her to become an armchair astronomer/historian/particle physicist, depending on the day. Eventually, she decided to try her hand again at happy endings–minus the bloodbaths. You can follow her twitter accounts @jennyholi and @TropeHeroine or visit her on the web at jennyholiday.com.
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