The Earl I Ruined by Scarlett Peckham
Series Secrets of Charlotte Street Book Two
Genre Adult Historical Romance
Publication Date December 11, 2018
She’s beautiful, rich, and reckless…
When Lady Constance Stonewell accidentally ruins the Earl of Apthorp’s entire future with her gossip column, she does what any honorable young lady must: offer her hand in marriage. Or, at the very least, stage a whirlwind fake engagement to repair his reputation. Never mind that it means spending a month with the dullest man in England. Or the fact that he disapproves of everything she holds dear.
He’s supposedly the most boring politician in the House of Lords...
Julian Haywood, the Earl of Apthorp, is on the cusp of finally proving himself to be the man he’s always wanted to be when his future is destroyed in a single afternoon. When the woman he’s secretly in love with confesses she’s at fault, it isn’t just his life that is shattered: it’s his heart.
They have a month to clear his name and convince society they are madly in love…
But when Constance discovers her faux-intended is decidedly more than meets the eye—not to mention adept at shocking forms of wickedness—she finds herself falling for him.
There’s only one problem: he can’t forgive her for breaking his heart.
In this scene our heroine awaits our hero in a powdering closet, where she plans to be discovered kissing him to convince their families they are in love.
(It does not go well.)
She knew him by his footsteps alone. That precise clipped pace, the moderate thump of a well-kept heel articulated under a (she imagined) slender but finely muscled calf. He never shuffled or stomped. He walked the way he did everything: elegantly.
She reached out from behind the closet door and grabbed him.
Perhaps with too much force, for he came careening toward her in a half stumble and nearly crushed her against the shelves.
“What are you doing?” he gasped, bracing against the shelf above her head to find his balance. The closet was small, just big enough for two adults to stand in. It was lined with wig stands and jars of powder and smelled heavy, like starch and milled soaps. And now, like the woody, balsam scent of whatever Apthorp used to oil his hair.
“Waiting impatiently to be discovered weeping in the wig closet by my future husband,” she said irritably. “Who is four minutes late.”
“May I ask why you are in the wig closet?”
“Because wig closets are just the improbable, tucked-away kinds of places that young lovers go when they wish to steal a moment of privacy to offer each other comfort outside of the prying eyes of their extended families.”
He glanced at her face in the shadows.
“You appear decidedly dry-eyed.”
“Can you please get on with it?”
“Hurry. When we’re discovered, you can’t be freshening up your peruke. Kiss me.”
He inched backward into a stack of smocks. “Absolutely not.”
“Must I do everything?”
She latched on to his shoulders so that he could not escape and, before she could lose her nerve, planted her lips on his.
She had not taken the initiative to kiss anyone since that first fumbling attempt on Apthorp all those years ago—and it was harder than it looked to do it properly, without accidentally eating someone’s nose or clacking into his jaw with one’s forehead. She felt like a mole nosing in the dark for a berry on a bush just slightly out of reach. Under her fumbling lips Apthorp went completely rigid. She stood up on her toes, trying to get better purchase.
He yanked his head out of her reach. “My God, what are you doing?”
“Kissing you. My brother will come looking for us at any moment. We must be locked in a passionate embrace.”
He wiped his mouth with the back of his hand, his eyes flashing with some emotion she couldn’t place.
“You know, Constance, you really must learn to ask permission.”
He must really learn to stop lecturing her, but now was not the time to press the issue.
“Please just kiss me.” It was imperative that when Archer found them, they be engaged in something more convincing than a discussion of the etiquette of courtship.
Apthorp stared at her, as if debating something in his mind.
“Constance, may I kiss you?” he asked in an official, courtly tone, like he was modeling correct behavior on which she might be tested later.
Gently, he took a hand and tipped her mouth up to his. Gently, he put his lips to hers.
Given what she knew about the secret ways he spent his time, this pretension to gentlemanly delicacy was rather laughable. And they did not have time for it.
She snatched his head in her hands and mashed her face to his, trying to mount a more persuasive display of ardor before anyone witnessed this chaste, practically nonexistent peck.
She felt a rumble beneath her hands.
His shoulders were shaking.
She gasped and pushed him back. His shoulders hit the shelves, causing a wooden wig stand to fall onto a sack of lavender-scented powder, which erupted in a cloud that itched her nose. She immediately fell into a coughing fit so violent that, half-weeping with laughter, he pounded at her back.
“You cow,” she said through gasps. “Because of you, we will both suffocate.”
He stilled, clearly trying to restrain his mirth. “I’m sorry.”
“What is so unbearably humorous?”
“The fact that you are mauling me in the powdering room.”
“I was not mauling you. I was evincing passion.”
His lip quirked up. “In my experience,” he said softly, “that’s not how passion works.”
“No? It works by tiny mincing nibbles at my lower lip?”
“It builds. Lovers have to get to get a feel for one another.”
“Sounds dreadfully dull.”
He stared at her lips for a beat too long, then glanced up into her eyes.
“I assure you, Constance, it isn’t.”
She wanted to be angry at him, but she could not fail to notice that his eyes no longer held the ire they’d borne when he’d looked upon her yesterday. His gaze was earnest. Like he wanted her to understand something that was important to him.
She found herself at a loss for a response. Because for the first time, she was connecting the rumors about this man and his salacious nocturnal predilections to the person whose eyes lingered on her face rather more kindly than she’d have expected of a hell-raking letch, yet with a knowledge in them that made her shiver.
“Haven’t you ever been properly kissed?” he asked softly.
She stuck out her chin, embarrassed to admit that she was far less bold in her private behaviors than the devil-take-it portrait she liked to affect in public. “Of course I have.”
He bit his lip. “Not by anyone who knew how to do it properly, apparently.”
Tour Wide Giveaway
To celebrate the release of THE EARL I RUINED by Scarlett Peckham, we’re giving away a $25 Amazon gift card to one lucky winner!
GIVEAWAY TERMS & CONDITIONS: Open to internationally. One winner will receive a $25 Amazon gift card. This giveaway is administered by Pure Textuality PR on behalf of Scarlett Peckham. Giveaway ends 12/24/2018 @ 11:59pm EST. Limit one entry per reader. Duplicates will be deleted. CLICK HERE TO ENTER!
About Scarlett Peckham
SCARLETT PECKHAM is a four-time Golden Heart® finalist in Historical Romance who writes steamy stories about alpha heroines. Her Secrets of Charlotte Street series follows the members of Georgian London’s most discreet – and illicit – private club with lush writing, historical detail, a feminist worldview and a light touch of kink.
Scarlett lives in Los Angeles and when not reading or writing romance she enjoys drinking immoderate quantities of white wine, watching The Real Housewives, and dressing her cat in bowtie.