Jul 29 2014 1:00pm
H&H Quickies #4: Valerie Bowman Presents a Prequel Scene to The Unlikely Lady
Today we are over the moon to bring you an exclusive Quickie scene from Valerie Bowman, whose brand new series—The Playful Brides—began with The Unexpected Duchess in April.
Back in June, we asked you to offer suggestions (“prompts”) as inspiration for a short original scene, and you blew us away with a ton of great prompts.
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Valerie is here today to introduce you to her scene—along with two characters that are very familiar to fans of The Playful Brides series. Thanks to everyone who left a suggestion, because there were so many fantastic options:
Hi everyone! Many readers have written to tell me how much they love Jane and Garrett, two secondary characters from my latest novel, The Unexpected Duchess. Jane and Garrett have very little use for one another in the book but they do indeed get their own happily ever after next spring in the third book in my Playful Brides trilogy, The Unlikely Lady. I’ve had such a good time writing about these two that I thought it would be fun if I based my quickie on a scene that’s alluded to, but never shown, in The Unexpected Duchess—Garrett and Jane’s trip to the Bath Houses. So, without further ado, here is the quickie. I chose the prompts: pea-green waistcoat, a pair of red leather boots, and missing cravat (wink).
“Oh, come now Upton. Must you dawdle?” Jane Lowndes rolled her eyes, her arms crossed tightly over her chest, her foot impatiently tapping along the stone steps leading to the Bath House.
“I’m hardly dawdling, Miss Lowndes. I’m merely not in the rush you seem to be. The Bath Houses have been here for centuries, I doubt they will crumble before I have a chance to exit the carriage.” Garrett Upton stuck his head and shoulders through the door to his coach and jumped to the ground. He straightened his hat and gloves, then turned to Miss Lowndes who had already been helped down by the footman who’d ridden with them. “Satisfied?” he asked her with a smirk.
“The less time we spend in each other’s company the better, no?” Miss Lowndes replied returning his smirk.
Garrett sighed. “I don’t know why I agreed to accompany you to the baths today.”
Miss Lowndes adjusted the strings on her a reticule. A reticule that no doubt contained a book. Miss Lowndes never went anywhere without a book. “You agreed because Cass is pretending to be sick and Lucy is otherwise engaged with the Duke of Claringdon. I for one want to see the baths so badly, I’m willing to accompany you, which says quite a lot, so step lively,” she said.
Garrett ushered Miss Lowndes into the Bath House. Their little group of friends had all come to Bath for the summer to get away from the heat and stench of London in July. Garrett owned a home in Bath and he’d invited his cousin Lucy and his friend Cassandra to stay with him. Miss Lowndes was an unfortunate addition but one upon whom Lucy insisted. When he’d mentioned that he intended to see the baths this morning over breakfast, he’d been quite shocked when Miss Lowndes had piped up and asked if she might accompany him. Miss Lowndes was no more interested in his company than he was in hers. But they both had a shared interest in seeing the history of the town, apparently, and shared interests could make strange bedfellows, er, that wasn’t the correct thing to think. No, not at all. Garrett shook his head.
He concentrated on accompanying Miss Lowndes through the large archway of cool stone that led into the house. The archway led into a cavernous room of more dark cool stone. Miss Lowndes turned in a circle and took in the large space. “I’ve been here before but it takes my breath away every time.”
“It is impressive, isn’t it?” Garrett replied.
Miss Lowndes didn’t answer. Instead, she motioned with one gloved hand and issued a terse, “This way.” She marched off toward a small doorway on the far side of the room.
Garrett followed her down a dark, dank tunnel until they came out into another private cool stone room with a wide green bath in the center.
“This is what I remember,” Miss Lowndes breathed. “I love this room. It is my favorite.”
“Why?” The word escaped Garrett’s lips before he knew why he was asking.
Miss Lowndes took a deep breath. Her voice was soft and sweet, a tone he’d never heard from her before. “Because it’s so quiet and lovely. It seems a hundred miles away from the hustle and bustle of town, and carriages, and people.”
Garrett studied her face. For a moment Miss Lowndes actually looked girlish and soft, with the light off the water reflecting on her pink cheeks. And she was correct. That was exactly why he favored this room as well. Crowds and noise had never been his preference either, though he doubted Miss Lowndes would believe it if he told her as much. He watched her as she pushed up her silver spectacles to settle more firmly upon her nose. Her dark hair and eyes were fetching. If only she wasn’t so . . . Miss Lowndes-like.
She made her way to the edge of the pool and bent down to run her fingers along the smooth surface. “You’re supposed to throw in a coin, you know? It’s good luck and your wish may come true.”
Garrett arched a brow. “Really?”
She tossed him an irritated glance over her shoulder. “Yes.”
He dug in his waistcoat and pulled out a pouch. After extracting two coins, he returned the pouch to his pocket and strode over to hand one of the coins to Miss Lowndes. “One for you and one for me.”
Taking the coin from his hand, she actually smiled at him. Miss Lowndes could smile? Did wonders ever cease? He would have given her all the coins in his pouch for another of those smiles.
“Thank you,” she said quickly, standing before promptly closing her eyes, squeezing the coin in her hand and tossing it into the water with a flick of her wrist.
“What did you wish for?” he asked with a sly grin.
She turned to face him with a wicked grin this time. “Beast. I cannot tell you that. The wish won’t come true.”
He raised both brows. “Why not?”
She put her fists on both hips. “I don’t know why not, it’s just how it’s done. Now, you go.” She motioned with her chin toward his hand that held his coin.
“Is closing one’s eyes necessary?” he asked.
“Perhaps not, but I prefer to concentrate intently upon my wish.”
“I see.” He’d humor her. Garrett closed his eyes, squeezed the coin, and then tossed it. It made a plopping noise as the water enveloped it.
“What did you wish for?” Miss Lowndes asked promptly.
He couldn’t stop his smile. “I believe you called me a beast when I asked that question.”
“I was merely testing you,” Miss Lowndes said as she picked up her skirts and made her way to the far end of the pool.
He gave her a skeptical glance. “Testing me?”
“I wouldn’t want to ruin your chance at a wish.”
He squinted at her. “How long does it take for the wishes to come true?”
She shrugged. “I suppose it depends upon what you wished for.”
“Well, then, mine might come true at any moment,” he replied.
“Shh.” She stopped walking and put a finger to her lips. “You’re not to even hint at it.”
“Is that part of it, too?”
Garrett shook his head. Miss Lowndes had removed her reticule from her wrist, climbed up on an outcrop of rock and leaned over the edge of the pool. She was attempting to push a coin off a small ledge at the far end of the outcrop.
“What are you doing?” Garrett asked.
“That coin is stuck on the ledge. I want to push it in so that someone’s wish can come true.”
“The wish won’t come true if the coin isn’t in the water?” he asked.
“Of course not.”
Garrett exhaled deeply. “Is there a rule book somewhere? I question how you know all of these things.”
She glanced up at him with a long-suffering stare. The coin was just out of reach. She leaned over farther, farther.
Garrett cleared his throat. “Do you think that wise? What if the wish is caught in limbo on purpose? What if it’s not meant to go into the water yet?”
“What if I’m meant to push it in today?” Miss Lowndes countered. The woman had an answer for everything. She also had her tongue between her teeth and was straining her arm to reach the coin. She’d hoisted up her skirts. “Why Miss Lowndes, are those red leather bootlets you’re wearing?”
Color washed over her cheeks. He’d never seen Jane Lowndes blush before. It was becoming. Quite becoming.
“Don’t be impertinent, Upton. I love these boots. And you shouldn’t be looking at my ankles. Besides, you shouldn’t talk, you happen to be wearing a pea-green waistcoat.”
“What is wrong with a pea-green—?” He glanced down at his attire. “The boots are quite smart. I simply never—Be careful!” Garrett called just before Miss Lowndes toppled headfirst into the water.
By the time Garrett dashed around the side of the pool, Miss Lowndes had already dragged herself most of the way out of the water and was a sopping wet mess, sitting on the jagged stone edge of the pool.
“If you wanted to take a swim, you merely had to ask,” he said with a grin, trying for all he was worth not to laugh.
Miss Lowndes twisted her skirts in her hands to wring out the water. “It is funny, isn’t it?” She laughed out loud and the hearty, healthy sound bounced off the stonewalls of the room.
Garrett thought she might have been angry. The fact that she was laughing intrigued him.
He quickly began to unravel his cravat as Miss Lowndes shook the water droplets from her spectacles that had somehow managed to remain on her face.
“Not quite well done of me, was it?” she asked with a laugh. “But I did get the coin into the pool.”
Garrett glanced over at the spot where the coin had been resting. It was indeed no longer sitting on the edge of the rock.
“It’s so like you to not care that you’re dripping wet, as long as you accomplished your intention.”
Miss Lowndes shrugged. “It’s just water, Upton. No real harm done.”
Garrett finished unwrapping his cravat and handed the fabric to her. “It’s not much, but perhaps you can use this to dry your face and your—” He swallowed. Hard.
* * *
Following Upton’s gaze, Jane glanced down to see her bodice indecently outlining the full lines of her breasts. She quickly plucked the fabric from her chest. Upton looking at her décolletage—it was absolutely unsettling—but then again, Upton was—she gulped—without his cravat. She carefully reached out and took the rolled up fabric from him and dabbed it against her wet face. Then she clutched it against the front of her bodice. She tried not to look but she glimpsed his chest under his shirt. Were those . . . muscles? She swallowed hard. What had she been thinking, leaning over the pool so far? Yes, she’d meant to send the stranded coin on its way but not at this price. And her favorite red leather boots were most likely ruined.
Upton was looking at the walls, his hands, anywhere but her. “I, um, er, I suppose we should get you back to the coach and back home so that you might dry off and . . .”
She’d never seen Upton nervous before. Had her wet bodice done that to him? Unthinkable.
She dabbed the cravat against the tip of her wet nose. It smelled like him and it smelled good, actually. That was unsettling.
“Yes. I suppose we should,” she replied, allowing him to help her to her feet, and give her his coat to wrap around her, but also steadfastly refusing to meet his eyes. She gathered her reticule and rushed from the room.
* * *
The ride home was not only soggy, but awkward. Garrett did his level best not to look over at Miss Lowndes and remember that moment her wet bodice had been clinging to her curves, making his mouth go dry. Had he completely taken leave of his senses?
This was Miss Lowndes. Miss Jane Lowndes, bluestocking spinster and infamous know-it-all. She wasn’t someone about whose bodice he should be thinking.
Thankfully, the coach soon pulled to a stop and Miss Lowndes shot out of her seat. The footman handily helped her down and she promptly said good-bye and nearly ran up the stairs and into the house, her sodden skirts not slowing her down much in her haste.
Garrett deliberately made his way up the stairs and into the foyer, trying to get his breathing back under control and forget about glimpse he’d got of Miss Lowndes’ body. Her ridiculously well-rounded body.
It wasn’t until Garrett got all the way up to his bedchamber that he realized . . . his cravat was missing. Miss Lowndes had kept it.
Copyright © 2014 by Valerie Bowman.
Did you fall in love with Jane and Garrett? Get to know them—and all the other characters in the Playful Brides series! Learn more about or order the first book in the series, The Unexpected Duchess by Valerie Bowman, available now:
Valerie Bowman is an award-winning author who writes Regency-set historical romance novels aka Racy Regency Romps!
Valerie's debut novel, SECRETS OF A WEDDING NIGHT, is the first in the Secret Brides series. Book two, SECRETS OF A RUNAWAY BRIDE, was released March 26, 2013 and SECRETS OF A SCANDALOUS MARRIAGE was released Oct 1, 2013. A SECRET PROPOSAL, a related novella, was released 1/1/13. A Secret Affair was released 7/1/2013. The final story in the Secret Brides series, It Happened Under the Mistletoe, A Christmas Novella, was released 10/29/2013.
She is hard at work on a new series based on famous romp plays!
Valerie has a B.A. in English Language and Literature with a minor in history from Smith College. By day, she is a technical editor at a computer software company. By night, she combines her love of writing, history, and romance to craft stories about people falling in love.
Originally from Rantoul, Illinois, Valerie lives in Jacksonville, Florida with her family including her rascally rescue dog, Roo. When she's not writing, she keeps busy reading, traveling, or vacillating between watching crazy reality TV and PBS.