Lenora Bell is a third generation Alaskan and her hometown still has no traffic lights or fast food, but the public library is going strong!
An English teacher with an MFA in Creative Writing, Lenora has traveled the globe using music to bring smiles to classrooms. She currently lives in Wisconsin with her carpenter husband and two naughty tiger-striped kitties.
In 2014 she won the Romance Writers of America's Golden Heart® Award for Best Historical. Her debut novel, How the Duke Was Won, was recently named one of Booklist’s Top Ten Romance Debut for 2016.
Greetings Dani’s Rambling Chick readers! I’m so honored and thrilled to visit the Historical Christmas Event for the first time. I’m a huge historical romance fan so I’ve really been enjoying reading the other holiday scenes from some of my favorite authors!
I’m one of those writers who started dozens of manuscripts before publishing my debut historical romance series, The Disgraceful Dukes, this year. Let me tell you, seeing my books in print for the first time was the best present ever! This holiday scene was adapted from one of those early unfinished novels…
Ivy Crowe has had a very bad year. She and her younger sister lost their beloved mother two years ago, and now it’s Christmas Eve and her grieving father has just gambled away all her hard-earned savings. Is all hope lost? Or could hope arrive in the most unexpected guise of all…a wickedly handsome warrior with a scarred heart…and the tempting promise of a new future in his eyes.
A Wicked Christmas Wager
London, Christmas Eve 1820
Ivy Crowe searched the crowd of drunken, cheering men for her father.
She shouldn’t be here.
She’d never even set foot inside a tavern before.
No one paid her any attention, their gazes fixed on the two pugilists circling with fists raised and heads lowered like stags about to lock horns, their bare chests glistening with sweat and tight white trousers molding thighs as thick as tree trunks.
Catching a glimpse of her father’s rumpled green neckcloth and snowy white whiskers, she gathered her courage and darted forward.
She had to shout to be heard over the din. “Papa, I’m here to take you home.”
“Ivy?” He kept one eye on the boxing match. “How did you get past the doorkeep?”
“Please, Papa. Come with me.”
“Go on, girl. This is no place for you.” His breath was heavy with the sharp juniper smell of cheap gin. In the two years since Mama’s passing he’d rarely been sober.
“Papa,” begged Ivy, grasping his arm and attempting to pull him toward the door. “It’s Christmas Eve. You must give me back the money and come home.”
There, she had his attention now. Did he think she wouldn’t notice that he had stolen her savings?
“That chap is your fortune now.” Papa jabbed an unsteady finger at the heavier of the pugilists. “Jack ‘Jolly Giant’ Gantry. Isn’t he a beauty?”
She stopped breathing. “You can’t have wagered all of it.”
He avoided her eyes. “Jolly’s a sure thing. I’ll double your money, never you fear.” He patted her arm.
He may as well have struck her with his fist.
Two years of her life. Two years of scrimping and saving, saying she wasn’t hungry in order to give her portion to her younger sister Meg, mending and turning the same dresses until she wanted to scream.
And her father had wagered all of it.
On Christmas Eve.
She’d been planning to use the money to pay Meg’s tuition at a respectable boarding school in the New Year.
The sickening thud of fists against flesh sounded and the bloodthirsty crowd roared.
The Jolly Giant had a thick neck, close-cropped red hair, and fists as large as Christmas hams. His bare knuckles crashed into his opponent’s jaw and Papa surged forward with the rest of the crowd.
“First blood for Jolly!” he yelled.
Jolly’s opponent was tall and his powerful chest and arms rippled with well-defined muscles, but he moved gracefully, and his damp black hair framed intelligent and finely-cut features.
“Who’s the other pugilist?” Ivy asked, all of her hope now riding on the man’s defeat.
“Some aristocratic nob having a thrill,” Papa replied, his gaze remaining riveted on the stage. “Lord Holyfield’s his name. Don’t worry, love, he doesn’t stand a chance. Now fly away home. I’ll bring you the money later.”
Ivy wasn’t about to leave. She couldn’t trust her father to bring home the winnings.
She mouthed a silent prayer that the Jolly Giant ended the match swiftly.
His fists swung wildly, forcing his opponent to retreat.
Holyfield sidestepped but he wasn’t quick enough, and took a fierce clip on the ear. He staggered, trying to restore his balance, and then plummeted off the stage.
Straight into Ivy’s arms.
A massive wall of chest hit her and the world tilted sideways.
His arms wrapped around her and aborbed the bulk of the impact that jarred her whole body and stole the breath from her lungs.
There was a distant rumbling of excited voices, the animal tang of sweat, the rusty taste of blood.
How many seconds did they remain like that, his heart pounding against her breast, his body pinning her against the sticky wooden floor?
“Back on your feet, Holyfield!” roared the crowd.
“Well, you’re a soft landing,” Lord Holyfield said, his green eyes glinting with humor and his lips mere inches from her face.
Ivy blinked, a reckless idea pounding through her mind with the force of a pugilist’s fists.
Quickly, before she lost her nerve, she did the most bold and wicked thing she’d ever done in her life.
In the sight of her father, and all the gathered men in the tavern, she threaded her arms around the gentleman’s neck and lifted her lips to his.
His body went rigid above her, hard and unyielding, but Ivy threw all her desperation into the kiss. All her hope.
Finally, he relaxed, returning the kiss, his firm lips hot and urgent against her mouth.
This was definitely not the setting she’d imagined for her very first kiss.
The crowd’s shouting turned to laughter and loud whistling.
“Must be mistletoe on the ceiling,” someone called.
“Back to the ring, Holyfield,” someone else shouted. “You can kiss the ladies later.”
Holyfield broke the kiss. “Excuse me, angel, I’d love to unwrap you like a Yuletide gift, but I’ve a boxing match to win. We’ll continue this later, shall we?”
She gathered her courage and gave him what she hoped was a seductive, alluring smile.
Lifting her head, she whispered in his ear. “The name’s Ivy. And I’ll fulfill your every fantasy this Christmas season, Lord Holeyfield, if only you will promise to lose.”
The pleasure of your company is requested at Warbury Park. Four lovely ladies will arrive… but only one can become a duchess.James, the scandalously uncivilized Duke of Harland, requires a bride with a spotless reputation for a strictly business arrangement. Lust is prohibited and love is out of the question.Four ladies. Three days. What could go wrong?She is not like the others…Charlene Beckett, the unacknowledged daughter of an earl and a courtesan, has just been offered a life-altering fortune to pose as her half-sister, Lady Dorothea, and win the duke’s proposal. All she must do is:* Be the perfect English rose [Ha!]* Breathe, smile, and curtsy in impossibly tight gowns [blast Lady Dorothea’s sylph-like figure]* Charm and seduce a wild duke [without appearing to try]* Keep said duke far, far from her heart [no matter how tempting]When secrets are revealed and passion overwhelms, James must decide if the last lady he should want is really everything he needs. And Charlene must decide if the promise of a new life is worth risking everything . . . including her heart.
Check out the Disgraceful Dukes series:
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- 1 $15 Amazon Gift Card + choice of print or Kindle copy of How the Duke Was Won
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