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Hi! It’s time to wrap up our month of short stories to celebrate Valentine’s Day here on the Femmes. Below is mine, a Regency Valentine. I hope you enjoy it, and don’t forget to comment to be entered for a chance to win a bouquet of flowers with a box of Valentine’s chocolates!

Thanks for reading, and I hope you enjoy Robert and Alex.

Joanna


Mr. Robert Giles slapped his riding gloves against his thigh. He glanced at the clock on the mantle and swiftly calculated Wortley’s tardiness at a quarter of an hour.

Almost every morning, the two friends rode together along Rotten Row, long before the tedious precession of ladies and carriages came out. Wortley hadn’t sent over a note to cancel and he was a punctual sort of fellow. So what the devil could be—

The slide of metal from behind the study wall caught Robert’s attention. Before he could discern the cause for such a sound, the bookcase began to swing open, creaking under the strain. He leapt to his feet, bracing himself for whatever may appear. Was this Wortley’s idea of a joke?

A petite brunette stepped out from behind the bookcase, and his shoulders relaxed. He grinned and offered Wortley’s younger sister a polite bow. “Lady Alex.”

“Mr. Giles.”

She strode into the room, seeming very composed for a girl of eighteen in her modest lilac morning dress. He’d known her forever, of course. Alex had been following him and Wortley around since they were lads and she wore pigtails. At some point in the last three years, she’d gone from an awkward, brown-haired imp to a beautiful young woman.

“Quite a clandestine entrance, Alex. I had no idea there was a passage back there. Where does it lead to on the other end, if I might inquire?”

“The kitchens. I assume it was a servants’ passage before the house was rebuilt after the fire. Shall we sit?” She gestured to the chairs facing the desk.

“Well, your brother may come along any minute.” He glanced toward the closed door of the study. “He might interpret this as unseemly. Perhaps we should—”

“Please sit, Robert.”

Resigned, he took a seat and Alex did the same. She carefully arranged her skirts, and it struck him again how grown up she appeared. Her body had lost its willowy boyishness in favor of…breasts. Lovely breasts, small and high and perfect for a man’s hand—not that he’d noticed.

“My brother has been delayed. There’s an issue with his boots, so I suspect he’ll be some time.”

It was the way she said it, the pride in her voice that gave her away. “I know that tone, Alex. What have you done?”

She pressed her lips together in an attempt to keep a straight face but failed. “Nothing serious. But his boots will take some time to clean, I suppose.” Raising her head, she looked him square in the eye. “I needed to speak with you. Alone.”

“Me? Whatever for? Is there something wrong?”

“Did you hear I’ve received two offers of marriage?”

He nodded. “Indeed, I had. Congratulations are in order, I suppose. You’ll choose between a marquess and a wealthy earl. Well done, Alex.”

Stop calling me that!

Robert flinched at her tone. He’d heard her angry plenty of times, like the time he and Wortley used all of her dolls as soldiers in a war inside the gardens at Fairbrook Estate. She’d screamed at them and then sulked for two days.

This, however, was something else entirely.

“Stop calling you what? Alex?”

“My name is Alexandra, Robert. Or haven’t you noticed?” She flew out of her chair, so he stood as well, of course, now watching as she paced the floor of the study. Wisps of brown hair slipped out of her coiffure, making her more like the girl he remembered, the one who’d climbed every tree she could find. “Really, Robert. You are not as smart as I credited you for.”

He frowned. “I don’t understand. I’ve called you Alex since you were—”

“A little girl. Yes, I know.” She stopped and put her hands on her hips. “Did you know today is Valentine’s Day?”

No, he hadn’t. What was it but a silly holiday for young girls to imagine themselves in love with—

Oh, no.

No, no, no. His eyes flew to hers. “Alexandra,” he began, carefully.

“You know what they say about Valentine’s Day, don’t you? That the first man you see is the man you’re going to marry.” She walked toward him, slowly, her eyes locked on his. “I stayed in my room, waiting for you to arrive, and then—”

“Alex, wait.” Robert backed away, his hands up as if to ward her off.

“—I took the secret passage straight here. You are the first man I’ve seen today. Well, besides Harold, the footman, but I don’t think he counts.”

His back hit the wall but Alex—no, Alexandra—kept coming. Stalking him, her gait steady and confident as she approached. He had to stop this madness before it got out of hand. “Wait, I—”

“It means you are going to marry me, Robert.”

She stopped barely an arm’s length away. So close he could see that her skin, normally as smooth and creamy as a fresh peach, was slightly flushed. His insides were a strange mixture of dread, amusement, disbelief, and…arousal. Christ. Wortley would kill him.

He swallowed. “Alexandra, this is crazy. You don’t want to marry me. I’m the third son of a viscount, for God’s sake. You can do better than me.”

She tilted her head, faced him calmly almost as if she expected this argument. “I do not care about a title. I never have.” She lifted her hands and placed them square on his chest. Her touch was warm and soft, but had she taken leave of her senses? Disbelief had him trying to get away, only to find himself trapped by the blasted wall.

Then her lids fell and she let out the softest, prettiest sigh he’d ever heard. Small, delicate fingers worked their way up his cravat to the bare skin of his neck…and he forgot all about getting away.

“I’ve always wanted it to be you,” she breathed, darting a quick glance to his mouth. His skin prickled, suddenly alive with need. Need for the one girl he’d been friends with his whole life.

“And I’ve seen you look at me when you think I won’t notice.”

True, but he hadn’t wanted to look at her. She was his best friend’s little sister. He shouldn’t have feelings for her. While he had money, he had no title or lands. Alex deserved better.

Then she rose up on tiptoe, and his mouth went dry. Part of him longed to kiss her, and the other part wanted to run out of the study—because if he kissed her, everything would change. Without a doubt, he wouldn’t be able to let her go.

Holding perfectly still, his heart pounded in his chest as her hands slid to his shoulders, gripping him to pull herself up. She came closer until her lips were a mere whisper from his, her warm breath teasing his skin. “Kiss me, Robert.”

Before he could stop himself, his head dipped, lips pressing against the sweetness of her mouth, nibbling gently to taste her. His hands found her back and brought her into the cradle of his body while he learned the shape of her. She kissed him back, eager and innocent, encouraging him. When her lips parted, he took advantage and found her tongue every bit as hot and urgent as his own. It was so much—more than he’d ever hoped for—but still not enough.

Without releasing her mouth, he spun them around, reversing their positions, to press her into the wall. Barely registering the bite of her fingernails as she clutched him closer, he deepened the kiss. Had he ever wanted a woman with this all-consuming desperation? The smell of her, the taste of her, all so familiar, as if he’d lived it in his dreams a hundred times.

He pulled back and fought for breath. Her eyes, heavy and glazed with passion, had never appeared more beautiful. A smile broke out on his face. He’d made her feel that way, this delightful, feisty girl he’d grown up with. Primitive, male possession swept through him. “You’re mine now, Alexandra. I’ll never let you go.”

She grinned. “Good. And I’ll never—”

The latch on the study door clicked, the heavy wood swinging inward, and they both froze.

“Sorry about that, Rob. I—” Wortley stopped short, quickly taking in the scene before him. Adopting a brittle smile, he propped a shoulder against the doorjamb and crossed his arms. “I hadn’t thought to get up at dawn tomorrow, Robert, but if you’d care to oblige me—”

“Wait, Evan.” Alexandra took a few steps toward her brother. “Robert has asked me to marry him.” She glanced back. “After a proper courtship, of course.”

He nodded and pulled her to his side. “Indeed, I have.”

Wortley smiled and strode forward to embrace Alexandra. “Then congratulations to you both.” He shifted to shake Robert’s hand. “I wondered when she would finally wear you down, Rob.”

“Really? You knew?”

“Seems you were the only one who didn’t.”

Alexandra pinched her brother’s arm. “Evan, do shut up and give me five minutes alone with my fiancé before you tell Mama.”

“Five minutes, Alex. Fiancé or not, she will have apoplexy if she finds out the two of you were alone in here.”

“Fine. Go, go, go.” She shooed him out the door, closing it behind him. When the latch clicked, she spun around. “Now. What were you saying before we were interrupted?”

Robert reached her in three strides and kissed her, hard and swift. “I believe I promised never to let you go.”

“And you do want to marry me, don’t you? Under the circumstances, I thought it the best way to appease my brother, but I don’t—”

“I do want to marry you.” He rolled the idea around in his head and realized he meant it. Desperately. To spend the rest of his life with her was precisely what he wanted. Tugging her hand, he led her to the sofa. “Come and sit with me, darling, and let me show you exactly how much.”

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18 Comments

  1. Nicole Doran

     /  February 27, 2012

    Joanna,
    Loved this story. I know it’s supposed to be a short one..but I want to know more…how they got to this point, see what happens next…etc. etc. Could it be the makings of a book?? Anyway, Robert is funny as he tries to resist and Alex seems like an interesting and spirited young lady (which I’ve always loved in books written in this period). I liked that she was the pursuer, and after he realizes it..he’s toast..LOL.
    Great!
    Nicole

    Reply
  2. Ditto Nicole, Joanna! Usually the cat-and-mouse is the other way around…love that she is the cat. And that everyone is tuned in but Robert…so typical, lol!

    Thanks for mixing it up!

    Jaye

    Reply
  3. Jennifer Sampson

     /  February 27, 2012

    Great story! I just love Regency heroes (sigh). And can I add that I wish I had a secret passageway? It’s going on my dream house list if I ever move.
    Jen

    Reply
  4. Great story, Joanna. I’d like a secret passageway, too, preferably one that leads to a beach with hot cabana guys and drinks with umbrellas! I like the part where she’s pressed against him and then he reverses it on her. Nice!

    Reply
  5. Lori

     /  February 27, 2012

    Okay where is the rest of this book? You girls all did a great job with your short stories. You should print them out, sign them, and add them to the prize.

    Reply
  6. hieubietusa

     /  February 27, 2012

    “Come and sit with me, darling, and let me show you how much.”
    Okay! This is where you end…trying to be funny?
    Talk about finishing a story where they want to turn the page…is there going to be a sequel?
    I like the change in, for lack of a better term, power positioning. I would comment on how critical it was for her pressing on him then gets reversed…but…”let me show you how much.” Come on…will it be answered in March?
    Joe

    Reply
  7. Great job. I love the addition of the title, too. Perfect. I definitely see this as either the beginning or ending of a full. Michele

    Reply
  8. Very nice story! Had me wanting more, too 🙂

    Reply
  9. @Jaye, Lori, Michele, and Marlo — thank you! Glad you liked it.

    @Jennifer and Maria — I’ve always wanted a secret passageway. Truth be told, I want to live in the game of Clue. Minus the murder, of course.

    @Joe — you crack me up. Glad you liked it. I liked the idea of having her pursue him, but telling it through his POV. Sorry to say, but this story stops here.

    Reply
  10. Finally! My first visit to Violet Femmes and I picked a good one!

    I’ll be back!

    Reply
  11. Great Story. As a short story writer and history buff, I meant to get back here for each story, but didn’t. I’m going to read them now.

    Reply
  12. @Miriam & Pat — thanks for stopping by! Hope you enjoy the bl0g and the other stories as well.

    JS

    Reply
  13. Jenna blue

     /  February 29, 2012

    I’m late posting, but love it!!!! Such fun, I’m grinning!

    Reply
  14. RoseAnn DeFranco

     /  March 5, 2012

    Love this story! The set up is one of my favorites. I love the twist, too. Clearly he was never going to come to this conclusion on his own.

    Reply
  15. Thanks, RoseAnn! Glad you liked it.

    JS

    Reply
  1. Hidden: A Regency Valentine Story » Joanna Shupe

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