Alone with a Rogue on Christmas Eve - Julianne MacLean
Julianne MacLean is a USA Today bestselling author of 15 historical romances, including The Highlander Trilogy with St. Martin's Press and her popular Pembroke Palace series with Avon/Harper Collins. She also writes contemporary mainstream fiction under the pseudonym E.V. Mitchell, and her recent release THE COLOR OF HEAVEN was an Amazon bestseller. She is a three-time RITA finalist, and has won numerous awards, including the Booksellers' Best Award, the Book Buyers Best Award, and a Reviewers' Choice Award from Romantic Times for Best Regency Historical of 2005. She lives in Nova Scotia with her husband and daughter, and is a dedicated member of Romance Writers of Atlantic Canada.
Places to find Julianne:
Read on for an exclusive excerpt from THE PRINCE’S BRIDE - the third book in Julianne’s Royal Trilogy, which won’t be released in May 2013. This excerpt has never been seen or published anywhere yet, so we are getting the exclusive at Ramblings From This Chick!
Christmas Eve With A Rogue
by Julianne MacLean
Paris, December 24, 1815
This was wrong, so very, very wrong…
She was a villain tonight, there could be no denying it, but any guilt was somehow eclipsed by the unexpected pleasure of this wicked and very sinister charade on the night before Christmas.
The passion is not real, Veronique reminded herself as she took hold of Prince Nicholas’s gloved hand, met his gaze with a mischievous look of desire through her half-mask, and allowed him to assist her into the coach.
Quickly, before he joined her, she glanced around at the cushions placed just so, the bottle of spiced rum in the corner, and breathed in the subtle scent of the festive pine boughs, which she had hung from the windows a few hours ago, before she’d entered the Christmas Eve ball.
The coach lamp flickered wildly as the wintery night breeze blew giant snowflakes onto the seats. With graceful, controlled movements, she sat down and reclined seductively.
Prince Nicholas, her quarry, followed her inside and closed the door behind them.
At last, they were completely alone.
As he slid onto the seat beside her, the lamplight reflected off the brass buttons of his royal regalia and sparkled in his enticing blue eyes. His mask covered most of his face, but not those luscious full lips. Not that it made a difference. She already knew what he looked like. He had been shown to her the day before, pointed out like a partridge in the wood.
“Look, that’s him down there--in the black coat.” Pierre Cuvier handed her the spyglass. “Will you be able to pick him out in the crowd?”
Leaning out over the rail of the stone arch bridge which spanned across the River Seine, Veronique shut one eye, peered through the lense, and focused on the man standing on the bow of the boat as it passed beneath them.
She had been briefed about Prince Nicholas’s extraordinary good looks, but had not expected to nearly lose her breath as she caught him in her sights.
She’d also been warned about his notorious reputation with women. According to Pierre, he was a flagrant charmer and heartbreaker. A rogue of the highest order.
Now that she had seen him in the flesh, she understood why he could get away with such wicked behavior. Not only was he a royal prince of Petersbourg--a small but powerful European nation on the North Sea--but he had the face of a Greek God with jet black hair and blue eyes, a teasing smile that could charm all the angels out of heaven, and a strapping muscular build, unquestionably fit for a throne.
Though he would likely never wear the crown, for his brother’s wife, Queen Alexandra, had recently given birth to a son.
None of that concerned Veronique, however. She had a job to do, and she must stay focused on the task at hand.
“Yes, I will be able to pick him out,” she replied as she snapped the spyglass shut and handed it back to Pierre.
“He’ll be wearing a mask,” he warned.
Veronique turned to walk back to the coach. “Don’t worry. It won’t be a problem.”
Yet here she sat this evening, reclining on the soft upholstered seat in the coach, smiling at her captured prince with tempting allure, wondering how much time she had. How long would they be alone before the laudanum took effect? Five minutes? An hour?
Her desire for him was alarming, and she realized she may not be in full control here. She supposed she had known that before she stepped into the coach, for everything had turned rather warm and hazy in the ballroom when they first met. Something very potent had sparked between them, and now she was caught up in a delicious sexual current, which she feared might sweep her off her feet.
“I didn’t expect this tonight,” Nicholas said in a low, husky voice that heated her blood. “It was supposed to be all about celebrating Christmas. We didn’t even stay for the gift exchange.”
“I believe you are the best gift I could ask for,” Veronique replied.
Nicholas slid closer, slowly removed his gloves one finger at a time, then cupped her chin in his hand. “Indeed. Shall we unwrap each other, then?”
There it was…the famous charm. She would have liked to believe she was immune to it, for she was the seducer in this situation, but when he spoke to her in that velvety voice and touched her with those strong, gentle hands, she melted like every other woman who found herself blinded by his impossible charisma.
Keep your head, Veronique. It won’t be long now….
“Are we going somewhere?” he asked, while his gaze dipped to her parted lips. “Or did you invite me to your coach for some other decadent purpose?”
She raised an eyebrow. “Such as?”
The corner of his mouth curled up in a devilish grin. “I’m not sure, darling, but you seemed rather determined to lure me out of there. Where do you live? Is it far? Or do you have some other plan for me? A hotel perhaps, or a long, leisurely drive through the city to hear the carolers?”
The coach lurched forward just then and pulled away from the curb.
Prince Nicholas’s eyes remained fixed on hers, and he smiled. “A drive it is, then.”
With a simmering look of desire, he kissed the side of her neck, and the moist heat of his lips lifted her into a dreamlike cloud of arousal. Letting her head fall back on the seat cushion, she laid her hands on the gold epaulettes on his broad shoulders and closed her eyes. How relaxed she felt in his arms.
It wasn’t supposed to be like this. She wasn’t supposed to let it go this far….
Nicholas continued to lay a trail of hot kisses across her collarbone and down to her cleavage. “You taste sweet, my darling” he whispered. “Like a Christmas candy cane.”
Then he lifted his head and gazed intently at her for a heart-wrenching moment.
Slowly he reached up and pulled his own mask away. Tossing it to the floor, he said, “I am glad I found you tonight, and that you dragged me out of there.”
Seeing his whole face for the first time in the golden lamplight caused a shiver in her heart—a sudden twinge of uncertainty. Or perhaps a better word was regret for what she was about to do to him.
What was it about this man? she wondered frantically. Was she foolish to think there was something more between them than a devious plot on her part, and a casual sexual seduction on his? Perhaps he made all women feel this way when he held them in his arms, as if there was something deep and profound between them. True love at first sight, so to speak.
She didn’t love him. No, of course she didn’t. To her, he was a just a means to an end.
“May I have the pleasure of removing your mask, Veronique?” he asked. “I would like to see your face.”
She laid her gloved fingers upon it to hold it securely in place. “But isn’t this part of the allure?”
Her voice was full of a confident, teasing melody, but she felt her lip twitch at the dishonesty, for they were alone now, like true lovers. She reminded herself that she was being paid to seduce him, and very soon the mood in the coach was going to take a severe turn.
He surprised her then, by sitting back, slouching in the seat, and grasping her gloved hand. He looked down at it with curiosity as he weaved his fingers through hers. “You still haven’t told me your full name. Why ever not? Do you feel you must keep secrets from me? Is it because of who I am?”
A ball of heat caught fire in her belly. “I didn’t think the details of my identity—or yours--should matter to either one of us tonight. Besides, I am no fool. I know your reputation. You want a single night of pleasure with me, no strings attached, isn’t that right?”
He paused. “Is that really what you think of me? Of this?”
She chose her words carefully. “Am I wrong?”
He said nothing for a moment while he rubbed the pad of his thumb over the back of her gloved hand, which made her breath catch in her throat. Then he raised it to his lips.
“I don’t know what has been happening to me lately,” he confessed, with eyes closed. “I am not myself.”
He shook his head as if he had no answer to give, then he looked at her. “Perhaps it is the end of this bloody war With Napoleon. The world seems different somehow. Or maybe it’s the fact that my brother now has a wife and a son, and my sister has gone off to become a married woman as well.”
“Do they seem happy?” Veronique asked, curious about his perceptions of the world, and his illustrious family.
His chest heaved with a long exhale. “My brother does. I am not sure about my sister. She is in Austria now, and I worry for her.”
“She is married to the future emperor. I am sure she will be fine.” Veronique looked out the window and wished she did not have to do what she must this evening. She wanted things to be different.
The coach rocked back and forth as they made their way to the outskirts of the city.
“God, I’m tired all of a sudden,” he said as he reached out to pull her into his arms. “Come here, I want to hold you.”
She snuggled closer and rested her cheek on his shoulder.
“You smell so good,” he whispered, as he kissed the top of her head.
He smelled good, too. Veronique turned her face into the crimson wool of his jacket, which was decorated with a navy sash and a black belt with brass buttons. Closing her eyes, she breathed in the delectable scent of his body.
He was a handsome royal prince, and his clothes smelled clean and regal, like nothing she’d ever smelled before.
She wanted to know so much more about him. If only they could continue talking this way, but the drug was taking effect. Soon he would be unconscious, they would reach the little farm house on the outskirts of the city, and everything would change. He would not say caring words to her when he learned what she had done to him.
She sat very still for the next few minutes. She did not move a muscle, nor did she initiate any further conversation. When the sound of his breathing grew slow and even, she carefully lifted her head to study his profile.
What a beautiful man he was. His dark features were perfectly sculpted. He had the enticing aura of someone born to be a woman’s dream lover, her prince charming in every way. It was almost comical that he was a true prince.
In that regard, his brother, King Randolph, would no doubt take notice of his mysterious disappearance from the Christmas Eve ball, and leave no stone unturned in the quest to locate him and punish those responsible for the abduction.
With a sudden pang of dread for all that she would face in the coming weeks, Veronique carefully disentangled herself from Nicholas’s embrace, placed his arm gently upon his lap, and slid across to the opposite facing seat.
She watched him for a long time and wondered what he would think of her when he discovered her treachery.
She regretted it already, for there had been something truly extraordinary between them this evening. It had been both sexually exciting and surprisingly intimate in a way she had not expected. As a result, this mercenary task had become a secret indulgence. For a while, she had forgotten that this was wrong, and that she was a corrupt, false-hearted charlatan.
If things were different, she would not have chosen this path for herself, but she was duty-bound to her family. She could not allow their entire world to come crashing down around them, especially at Christmas.
Veronique would therefore do what was required and pray that somehow she would emerge unscathed.
The coach pulled to a halt, and she peered out the window.
The door flew open suddenly and banged against the outside panel. A gust of wind blew snowflakes inside. Veronique frowned at her sister Gabrielle, who wore a black cloak with the hood pulled up to hide her fiery red hair.
“For pity’s sake, be quiet,” Veronique whispered to her sister. “We must be careful not to wake him.”
Somewhere in the distance, she heard sleigh bells jingling.
Gabrielle grabbed hold of the rail and swung into the dimly lit interior. She took a seat beside Veronique and stared with fascination at Prince Nicholas, who was sprawled out on the opposite seat like a gorgeous work of art. He slept soundly.
“How long has he been out?” Gabrielle asked.
Veronique removed her mask and gloves and rubbed her fingers over her cheeks where the stiff fabric had been too tight. “Not long. Ten minutes perhaps?”
Gabrielle inclined her head and leaned a little closer. “Upon my word, he is deadly handsome. How in the world did you keep your head?”
“It wasn’t easy, I assure you.”
“Did he kiss you?”
Veronique let her memory take her back to those first few moments…
“Not on the mouth.”
Gabrielle’s eyebrows lifted. “Not on the mouth?” She spoke as if scandalized, but Veronique knew her sister was thrilled at the possibilities. “Care to explain?”
“No,” Veronique said. “There’s no time for that. I don’t know how long he will sleep. Did you bring the rope?”
Gabrielle pulled it from her cloak--like a rabbit out of a hat. “I’ve got it right here. Which one of us gets to do the honors?”
Veronique immediately snatched the rope from her sister. “I caught him,” she said, “so it’s only right that I get to bag him.”
Exclusive Excerpt from THE PRINCE’S BRIDE - coming in May 2013
From St. Martin’s Press
She’s engaged to be married—to the wrong man…
The royal, Regency-era trilogy continues in this sensational new novel from bestselling author Julianne MacLean.
Leopold Hunt, Marquess of Cavanaugh, is a secret Royalist with a distant hereditary claim to the throne. He has been groomed to one day overthrow the king and rebuild his family’s dynasty. Only one thing stands in his way: the king’s daughter, Rose.
Princess in Love…
Princess Rose has loved the marquess her entire life, but she is about to enter a political marriage—one that promises to help keep her father in power. There is virtually no way for Rose to escape her fate…yet she cannot resist the unstoppable passion she feels in the arms of the handsome and charming marquess. When a dangerous plot unfolds and puts their love to the ultimate test--Leopold must make a desperate choice: To honor his family or follow his heart….
Purchase: | Amazon | Kindle | Barnes & Noble | The Book Depository |
Check out the Royal Trilogy series:
Click for more info.
Want to win some goodies from Julianne? Check out whats up for grabs.
Up For Grabs:
- 1 lucky winner will win their book of choice from Julianne's backlist.
- Leave a meaningful comment or question for Julianne
- Please fill out the Rafflecopter
- International Shipping Available
Good Luck and Happy Holidays =)