Tuesday, December 18, 2012

An Accidental Fire...with Elizabeth Essex and Giveaway

An Accidental Fire on Christmas Eve - Elizabeth Essex

When not rereading Jane Austen, mucking about in her garden and simply messing about with boats, award-winning author Elizabeth Essex can be always be found with her laptop, making up stories about heroes and heroines who live far more exciting lives than she. It wasn’t always so. Long before she ever set pen to paper, Elizabeth graduated from Hollins College with a BA in Classics, and then earned her MA in Nautical Archaeology from Texas A&M University. While she loved the life of an underwater archaeologist, she has found her true calling writing lush, lyrical historical romance full of passion, daring and adventure.

Elizabeth lives in Texas with her husband, the indispensable Mr. Essex, and her active and exuberant family in an old house filled to the brim with books.

Places to find Elizabeth:

When last we saw the crew of HMS Audacious, in ALMOST A SCANDAL, they were recovering in the wake of the battle of Traflagar, and the assigning of a new captain, David Colyear. We visit them now, one year later, as Audacious makes a Christmas visit to the Caribbean island of New Providence, where Captain Colyear is to be reunited with his wife.

H.M.S. Audacious
West Indies Station, Caribbean Sea
December 1806

It was a blasted book that started all the trouble. Just a plain-looking little book with the unassuming but intriguing title, “Pyrotechniques of the Italians: Being a Translation of the Arte Pirotecnica,” embossed in tiny, wormy letters across the red leather spine.

Will Jellicoe, fifteen-year-old acting second lieutenant of His Majesty’s Ship Audacious, had discovered the gem some months ago, in a dusty English bookshop in the port of Leghorn, Italy. He had picked the book up thinking it might be an amusing counterpoint to the perilously dry required reading of “Robinson’s Complete Rules of Navigation.”

And amusing it had proved. As well as instructive. Vastly. It had given him all sorts of brilliant, highly combustible ideas. Ideas whose time had come.

“I know just the thing for a Christmas celebration.” Will announced his brilliant idea to the gunroom at large.

“Venetian fireworks.”

Will’s friend Ian Worth, a lowly acting lieutenant like himself—“acting” because only two of their requisite six years of duty as midshipmen had passed in order to qualify them to sit their lieutenancy exams—let out a low whistle of appreciation, while at the same moment Charles Dance, first lieutenant, tossed his hat upon the table and scoffed, “You’re mad.”

“I’m not mad. I’m serious.” Will felt the familiar warm clutch of excitement fire his gut as the idea took hold.

“We’ll make it a Christmas eve to remember. In honor of Kent’s coming back.”

“You are mad,” Dance confirmed. “Kent’s not coming back, Jellicoe. The captain’s wife, Mrs. Colyear, is coming aboard. And if you had the sense God gave a holystone, you wouldn’t refer to her as Kent. At least not within the captain’s hearing.”

“Now, don’t be such a wet old hen, Mr. Dance,” Will groused with the contemptible familiarity that came from having lived cheek by jowl with the slightly older first lieutenant in both the cramped cockpit—back when they had all been infant midshipmen—and now in the roomier, but still crowded confines of the gunroom. “It will be a marvelous lark.”

“A lark?” Dance echoed in disbelief. He shook his head, wary to his core. “You are completely mad.”

“A terrific lark,” Will insisted as his enthusiasm for the notion grew. What better way to celebrate both Christmas and her arrival aboard than with fireworks? We’ll set them off from the stern, during the captain’s supper.” Everyone on board knew that Captain Colyear had planned a celebratory supper for the officers in his cabin on Christmas eve. And now that it appeared they would make landfall on the island of New Providence by that date, Will’s old friend Kent, who had been visiting friends there, could join them as well. “She’ll be able to see the display through the stern gallery windows. Or come on deck. However she likes.”

“However the captain may not like.” Mr. Dance remained both unimpressed and unaffected by Will’s fervor.

But perhaps sensing Will’s characteristic heedless intransigence, the first lieutenant tried another tack. “Do you actually know anything about Venetian fireworks?”

“I’ve got a book, haven’t I.” Will held up the slim volume in proof.

“A book?” Dance’s voice was dark with skepticism. “Damn your over-reaching eyes, Jellicoe. You can’t expect to learn something from a bloody book! Have you ever actually made, or even shot off, a real, powder-charge firework?”

“Well...” Will’s enthusiasm flagged a little with the first stinging application of logic. “No, but how hard can it be? I’ve shot off plenty of cannon.”

“Under an experienced gun captain’s supervision.”

“I like it,” Ian Worth broke in loyally. “And Moffat is sure to help. He likes Will, and he owes Will a favor or two, doesn’t he?”

“More like three.” Moffat was former gunner’s mate and warrant officer who had recently been appointed to the august and important office of gunner. He and Will had always had a good working relationship, as Will had always supported Moffat, and had seen to it that Moffat had been accepted and made comfortable upon his recent promotion to the gunroom, where the senior warrant officers were invited to sleep and eat their mess with the commissioned officers.

“That’s right. Moffat is sure help.” Which was a very good thing, as Will realized he would never be able to procure enough black powder to make firework rockets without the gunner’s consent. “And he likes Kent. Always did, anyway. Don’t you remember how Kent used to call Moffat ‘an anvil of a man’?”

“Mrs. Captain Colyear,” Lieutenant Dance emphasized Kent’s newer, formal name, “can call Moffat whatever she likes, and it’s no business of ours. But I tell you plainly, Jellicoe, I don’t like it, even if you do get Moffat to agree to your cock-brained scheme. If anything goes wrong, I will disavow any and all knowledge of your intentions. And I’ll see to it that Moffat does as well, for he’s too good a gunner to let get mixed up in one of your scrapes.”

Will’s scrapes, as Dance called them, had been steadily acquiring an admiring reputation, but Will felt he had only taken up where Kent had been made to leave off a year ago, after her legendary poisoning of the former bully-boy of the cockpit, Mr. Gamage. In Kent’s absence, Will had slowly built up his own impressive resumé of pranks, including stealthily tossing off a delightfully malodorous stink-ball in the officers’ gunroom; anonymously hoisting a banner upon the mizzen mast to announce the end of Charles Dance’s virginity; and stealing a milk cow from its home in a field in the French countryside under cover of night, and installing her in the forecastle.

With such successes behind him, Will was flush with confidence. “Nothing will go wrong,” he vowed with the blithe certainty of a born prankster who had once attached a live chicken to a string tied to the sailing master’s shoe—the resulting tangle of invective, feather and shin bone had been worth every stoke from the bo’sun’s cane.

And what had Kent always said? If you succeed, no explanation will ever be asked. And if you fail, no excuse will ever be enough. Better then to succeed and ensure that the fireworks were a triumph. And best to enlist Moffat’s professional help.

But Moffat had already been enlisted.

“Beggin’ your pardon, sir,” Moffat apologized not more than twenty minutes later, when Will approached him at the change of the next watch, “but Mr. Dance says I’m to have nothing to do with you.”

“Well, blast Mr. Dance for a killjoy. But it’s for Kent, don’t you see?” Will tried to appeal to the big gunner’s loyalty as he steered Moffat into the shadow of the foremast, well away from the quarterdeck where the soft, steady Caribbean breeze might blow their scheme into their captain’s sharp ears. “Just a few Venetian fireworks to celebrate Christmas, and Kent’s return. Here, have a look for yourself, and see what you think.”

Moffat took the proffered book, and silently paged through the drawings, giving each and every one of them a long, slow, careful perusal. For the longest time Will worried that perhaps Moffat couldn’t read, and was trying to suss the particulars from the inked drawings alone, but in the end the big man finally folded the book closed, looked to Will, and nodded.

“I don’t think I can help you with the colored sparks, seeing as we’ve only the standard black powder, but I think we might should be able to come up with summ’at that will do the trick nicely for our young Kent.”

“Brilliant, Moffat!” Will let out his breath on a tide of relief. “I knew I could count on you.” And then he got right to business. “We’re scheduled to make landfall at New Providence Island by the dog watch tomorrow, which should give us ample opportunity for making a firework or two before her arrival, don’t you think?

Now, I was thinking four rockets of these larger kind-”

“Four? Now, sir, you just said two.”

“Yes, two, at a minimum, and perhaps...perhaps one or two more—three if we can manage it—of the smaller ones, here.” Will reached to show him the page in the book. “Do you ken?”

“Oh, I ken, sir. I ken. And I’ll just keep ahold of this book, if you don’t mind. for safe keeping.” Moffat stowed it into his coat pocket with a pat. “If you’ll find your way down to my place of business later this forenoon, sir, I’ll see what I can fashion up for you.”

Moffat’s place of business was the powder magazine deep in the bowels of the ship, where the two of them sequestered themselves within the tight confines of the felt lined, spark-proof room. There, through the next twenty hours and the passage of five long, alternating watches—two on duty and three off—Will foreswore sleep and worked his arse off under Moffat’s exacting tutelage.

The gunner set Will to sifting an arcane mixture of powders. “Handsomely now, sir,” he cautioned. “That’s the flash, sir. Terrible volatile, it is, so you’ll need to control your movements. Go at it easy. No banging, no clanging. Move carefully and deliberately, and we’ll all live to see another day.”

They worked steadily in the perpetual night of the magazine, where the only light came from the safety lanterns encased behind thick glass on the other side of the wall, mixing and sifting, and weighing careful measures of powder into wooden pestles and bowls. Moffat added rice hulls to another powder mixture, while Will wetted and rolled a different mixture into hard round pellets. “It looks like grapeshot,” he observed through weary eyes stinging with the sulfurous vapors.

“That it does, sir,” Moffat confirmed easily, quite used to the fumes. “Only this is all powder and no iron. The flash without the pan, so to speak.”

“And the rice hulls?”

“That’s for a spark trail, sir, if I’ve read this right.” Moffat shrugged his big shoulders. “I suppose we’ll see.”

“I suppose we will.” But Will knew Moffat was nothing if not methodical and thorough, and he had every confidence that the gunner was following the recipes outlined in the book as exactly as possible, and would do them proud.

Yes. It was all going to be brilliant. Kent was going to be astonished and impressed. And Kent would know that his old friend Will Jellicoe had done right by him.

Or rather, her old friend Will had done right by her. He really ought to remember that she was a she—Sally Kent—and not Richard. And also that she was Sally Kent Colyear now. Captain Colyear’s wife. He somehow kept forgetting that.

But it was too hard to remember anything in the grips of the jangling excitement that came when the call for all hands to make anchor went up, and Will emerged on deck at the first bell of the dog watch to find Audacious coming up into the wind under the personal direction of her captain. They dropped anchor in the lee of a low promontory on the northwest side of the island, and no sooner had the anchor chain run through the cat head, than the lookout called, “Deck! Launch ahoy.”

And there she was, Kent, at the oars of a sleek little gig, rowing out to their anchorage, a figure recognizable even at the distance of a cable length—her bright, carroty hair streaming in the evening wind like a flag at the masthead, and her wide smile gleaming from her freckled face as she looked over her shoulder toward the ship.

Will felt a lurch somewhere deep in his midsection that didn’t come from the perturbation of the deck beneath his feet. Damn, but he had missed Kent. Even though more time had passed aboard Audacious without Kent than the few long weeks she had been with them, he had missed his supremely confident friend. He had missed the sureness he felt when Kent had been around. With Kent, everything had seemed possible—even the most daunting tasks had seemed easy and enjoyable.

Will moved to the fo’csle rail, to ensure that the anchor was indeed properly set, and to give himself an unobstructed view of the approaching boat.

And then she turned, and let go of one oar, and waved to him, and a wonderfully strange mixture of gleeful anticipation and trepidation dropped like a cannonball into the bottom of his stomach, making him even more unsteady on his pins. Sending him adrift, as if something had unmoored inside him. Something both happy and unhappy. Something unsatisfied, and filled with a strange, bittersweet longing for something....he had no name for.

But seeing her also filled Will with a sort of relief, too—a sureness that, at last, all would be right with the world.

“Ahoy, Audacious!” Her merry voice filled his ears as she called out, “Hello, Will!”

“Kent,” he called back, recalling himself to his usual brash, cocky self. “About damn time you got here.”

She answered with a laugh. “I could say the same for you, Jellicoe! Permission to come aboard?”


“Huzzah!” was her laughing response before she turned her attention to the lines that were thrown down to her gig to make it secure. And then she was shipping her oars, and flying up the ladder as fast as her skirts—skirts! Good Lord, she was wearing skirts—would allow, and before the bos’un had finished piping her aboard, she was moving through the entry port toward Will.

He couldn’t contain his smile as he struck his hand out to greet her. She shook it at once, all comfortable friendly firmness. “Mr. Jellicoe. Good Lord! Look at you. You’ve grown as tall as a masthead.”

It was as if his spine grew straighter, and his chest grew broader at her words. “Kent.” Will heard his voice crack and pitch somewhere in the middle of the syllable, but at that moment, he didn’t care if he did sound like an idiot. He was too happy. Kent had come home. “Damn me if it isn’t fine to see you.”

“And you as well,” she said. Her smile was the same as always, sunny and bright, but she looked different, too. Not taller, but older perhaps, and wiser, with the strong line of the scar cutting across her temple. But so very much like a girl—so soft and rounded and sweet smelling—he hardly knew what to say to say. But there was nothing more to say, because she was already letting go of his hand, and turning away. And moving beyond.

Toward Captain Colyear, who was reaching out his upturned hand to her from the quarterdeck stair. It was as if she saw nothing else—she had eyes only for the Captain. Her captain. Her husband.

That same unsettling feeling of being upended slid into Will’s gut, but there didn’t seem to be anything he could do about it. And he couldn’t stop his feet from following her across the deck toward the quarterdeck ladder. He couldn’t stop his slow, stubborn brain from watching her face light with joy when she grasped Captain Colyear’s hand as if it were a lifeline in a shipwreck.

And Will could not shut his eyes when Captain Colyear clasped her hand to his chest, and without saying a word to anyone, led her directly across the waist of the ship, and under the shade of the quarterdeck. Will continued to watch the scene that played out there in the relative privacy of the passageway, out of sight of most of the ship’s people, as if he were seeing it at the end of his telescopic glass—the captain pushing his wife up against the batten door to his cabin, and kissing her with a force and a passion that hit Will like a grenade to his chest, shredding his expectations as if they were made of canvas and cobwebs.

Captain Colyear—a man who always appeared calm and collected, who never lost his cool composure, or gave in to temper—was kissing his wife as if he were a drowning man gasping for one last, desperate breath of air. As if she alone had the power to keep him afloat. As if she alone could give him anything he wanted, and everything he could ever need.

And then the captain was opening the door and pushing her inside, and she was gone.

And the ship, which had seemed to hold its breath for the few magical moments that she had walked across its deck, let out a breezy sigh, and resumed its ordinary, work-a-day routine, and everything went back to normal.

But Will wasn’t normal. He was entirely flummoxed. “What the hell was that?”

Will hadn’t realized he’d spoken aloud until Moffat came up behind him. “They do say the Capn’ and his missus have been apart a six-month.”

“So? I haven’t seen her in over a year, and I didn’t fall upon her like”

“Like a husband, sir?” Moffat asked, not unkindly. “That’s what married people do, lad.” A comforting hand patted Will on the shoulder. “They miss each other something fierce.”

“I missed her too,” he groused. “I daresay we all did, but-”

Moffat’s only response was silence, but his look was telling enough that Will shut his mouth, and held his selfish opinions behind his teeth, where he was left to grapple for this own answers. He was.... Will didn’t rightly know what he was. He was disappointed—he had been looking forward to seeing his friend. And chagrinned that she had not so much as looked at him but once. And angry—angry at Captain Colyear for taking her away. And angry at Kent for going.

And doubly angry at himself for not understanding that that’s what it meant for people to be grown up and married. Kent and Captain Colyear were married. And they missed each other in a way that was different than the way Will had missed his friend. And very different from the way Kent might have missed Will. If she had missed him at all.

Kent had grown up, and now it seemed, it was time for Will to do the same.

But a miserable business growing up was. For the realization brought no comfort, only a tight heat building in his chest and throat, and burning behind his eyes. “Damn gunpowder,” he muttered as he swiped the back of his sleeve over his eyes, glad of the excuse.

Moffat, bless his leathery hide, said nothing of Will’s unseemly display of emotion, but cleared his throat and changed the topic while Will hauled his composure back into place.

“Now, I’m to take the supper in the cabin as well.” Moffat’s delight in his first invitation to the captain’s cabin was evident in the way he rubbed his hands together, chafing to set about getting himself ready. “So’s I’ll not be on deck with you, but I’ve had a word with Fisk, there, and he’ll have the slow match at the ready for you.”

By the time he was required to speak, Will had his hatches firmly battened down. “Good man, Moffat. Good man.”

Will had volunteered to be the officer of the deck during the supper, which Captain Colyear normally held across the changing of the watch, so the midshipman and officer of the deck coming off duty—namely Will—could partake of at least half of the meal, as could the officer going on duty—Ian Worth. It was a civilized, generous arrangement, and one Will was doubly grateful for today, because it meant that he would be on deck, and not have to look Kent in the eye after what he had seen in the doorway. Just the thought of that kiss brought a strange, uncomfortable heat scalding the surface of his skin.

And the only way he knew how to rid himself of his misery, was by applying himself to his work. So while the rest of the ship prepared for the changing of the watch, Will set up his small store of rockets—which Moffat had constructed so they could be fired out of a mortar gun set up beside the taffrail for the purpose. The gunner’s mate, Fisk, also brought up a tub filled with sand to hold the slow match, which Will would use to ignite the fuses.

“You’re set here then, sir?” Fisk, too, seemed anxious to be off. “Mr. Moffat said as I was to make myself scarce aforehand. But he also wanted me to remind you to make sure that mortar is aimed downwind, sir.”

Perhaps because he had already suffered one disappointment, the warning got Will’s back up. “Damn your insolent eyes, Fisk.” Will didn’t care if he sounded peevish and annoyed. Damn all their eyes. He was a blasted officer of the Royal Navy, acting lieutenant or no. He was no longer an infant midshipman who didn’t know his business from a hole in the hull. “I know what I’m doing.”

“Yessir.” Fisk tugged his forelock in deference, and left the quarterdeck to Will to stew over his misery in peace. Though not in peace and quiet.

A rising din wound its way up from the the small skylights that lit the captain’s cabin in the daytime. Will had made sure that they were left open, so he could follow the progress of the dinner below. The conversation was already lively, and Will found himself straining to pick Kent’s bright voice out amongst the other, deeper voices. And it wasn’t as if there were anything else for him to do—the deck was nearly empty. Audacious was riding safely in the calm, deep water of the bay just off the point where Captain Sir Hugh McAlden’s house stood, and the majority of the crew and been piped to their supper. The ship could be left to itself for the time being.

Will leaned his elbows on the rail, and let the warm velvet of the night wind flow across his skin, and try to blow away the uneasiness still tight in his lungs—the restlessness—the tiring mixture of confusion and frustration and hope that rose within him at the mere sound of her voice.

What had he expected? That she would come aboard, and take up her old place in the gun room with the rest of the officers? That she would be dressed in her old uniform, and take up her duties alongside Will? That she would have more time and affection for him than she would for her own husband?

Yes, actually. That was exactly what his immature brain had envisioned—an impossible day-dream—a fantasy conjured out of a heretofore undiscovered infatuation for his captain’s wife.

An infatuation he would have to conquer. Immediately. Or he would never again be able to look Kent—or his captain—in the eye. He would never again be able to look himself in the eye. He would have to grow up, damn it, just as she had.

Lord, but all this introspection was wearying. What he wouldn’t do for a nice, thoughtless four hours of sleep.

But sleep was not on his duty roster, because from below, the sound of Ian Worth scraping his chair back to stand recalled Will to this purpose. He scrambled for the slow match.

“Gentlemen,” Ian said exactly according to their plan, “I invite you to charge your glasses.”

Will could hear the company, to a man, push back their chairs and raise their glasses in salute.

“To Mrs. Colyear,” Worth said. “Welcome back!”

At that signal, Will touched the match to the first rocket fuse, and the quiet evening air was immediately rent by the awful tearing sound of the fuse burning away and then igniting with a deafening explosion. Away the rocket flew, arcing into the night sky, until, after the suspension of a moment, another dense, ear-shattering concussion shook the night, and sent a shower of bright white sparks cascading from the sky to sternward.

It was brilliant. No other word described the sight of the crystalline sparks of bright light, sharp against the night sky. No other word could contain all the joy and strange heartache he felt thinking of her, watching below, with her husband. Looking out from the stern gallery at the display Will had so painstakingly orchestrated for her. His gift to her.

But there were more rockets to ignite. Another touch of the slow match to the quick burning fuse, another pounding explosion of sound, and another rocket sprinkled the sky with twinkling light. Another concussion resounded in his chest as the charge rent the silent night. And then he began again.

Around him a cloud of sulfurous vapor rose, wreathing him in the smell of victory. The smell of triumph. The burning smell

“For Lord’s sake. Will!”

He turned to find Kent, Mrs. Colyear, rushing across the deck toward the signal locker—the long, low piece of deck furniture behind him, abaft the mizzen, honeycombed with cubby holes where the signal flags were stored—which was bright with flame.

Will was poleaxed—for the longest moment, his feet felt as if they were nailed to the deck by the dread that only a seagoing man can feel at the knowledge that the deck beneath his feet, the island of his life, was aflame.

An errant spark must have lit upon the waxed canvas cover to the locker. And Kent—intrepid, two-steps-ahead-of-everyone-else Kent—was already stomping on the glowing sparks and tongues of flame with her big feet, and beating at the fire with her shawl. Her bloody shawl—which in another moment, was going to catch fire itself.

That thought galvanized Will into action. “Fire!” he called at the top of his lungs as he ran to the buckets of brine and sand stored just as they ought to be—thank bloody God—at the foot of the mizzen mast, before he dashed to her side to try and douse the growing fire licking its way up the lacquered, thin wooden partitions of the locker, consuming the brightly colored cloth flags as if they were so much dry tinder.

And before he could push Kent back, or warn her that her skirts were in danger of becoming just such tinder themselves, he heard her shocked cry. “Will!”

He would have pushed her down onto the deck to smother the flames crawling up the back of her skirts, but he was nearly knocked over himself when the Captain sprang up the quarterdeck ladder, and flew past him like a fury.

“Damn your eyes,” the captain roared as he barreled across the deck and swept Kent up, flaming skirt and all, and carried her away in his arms clear over the taffrail and straight into the sea.

But Will couldn’t allow himself to feel relief, and couldn’t go to the rail to see how they faired, because he had more pressing concerns. Like putting the rest of the damn fire out.

And Captain Colyear would see to Kent—nobody better.

The alarm had been raised throughout the ship, and the deck began to fill with a steady stream of men with buckets and dampened gunnysacks.

“Get a bucket over there,” Will directed, as he continued to swat and stamp on the flames, and in no time the orange blades of fire licking around the upper edges of the locker were finally doused.

As were all his hopes. With the fire under control, there was nothing left for it but the reckoning. A reckoning he would face like a man.

Will immediately went to the waist, where the Kent and the Captain—where Mrs. Colyear and the Captain—were being assisted aboard.

“Kent!” WIll gave her his hand to pull her up to the deck. “Are you all right.”

“Yes. Effectively doused.” She lifted the soaked ends of her blackened skirts with her characteristic laugh.

“I’m only a little charred around the edges.”

Captain Colyear was having none of Kent’s easy dismissal. “Mr. Jellicoe.” The captain’s flinty gaze fell squarely upon Will. “I can only assume I have you to thank for this unholy mess upon my quarterdeck.”

“Yes, sir.” If you fail, no excuse will ever be enough. Best to be straightforward then. “I am sorry, and I take full responsibility, sir.”

“Sorry? Damn your eyes, sir,” the captain roared. “You set my wife and my ship on fire.”

Technically, Kent had set herself on fire, but now was not the time to argue technicalities. Not when Captain Colyear, a man who never showed his emotions, was near flaming with anger. “Yes, sir. I apologize again, sir. That was not my intention.”

“And just what the hell was your bloody intention?”

Will’s eyes slid to Kent—to Mrs. Colyear. “To celebrate Christmas, sir. And honor Mrs. Colyear, sir.”

“You have a very curious sense of honor, sir,”—every one of the captain’s words dripped ire—“that would include setting your captain’s wife on fire! You-”

“Col.” Kent’s voice was quiet, but forceful enough to stop her husband. “It was an accident.”

But the captain had nothing of understanding left in him. Not even for his wife. “Madam, I warn you. Do not think to take this boy’s part in this matter-”

“No, Col,” she cut in calmly, but firmly again. “But in your cabin, if you please. I’m quite soaking wet. And growing cold.”

An almost animal sound of frustration and rage clawed it’s way out of the captain as he wrapped his arm around his wife to propel her into the relative privacy of his cabin.

Will would have turned back to assess the extent of the damage, and direct the clean-up efforts, but the captain growled, “Mr. Jellicoe. You as well,” and so Will followed.

Kent must have slipped into the captain’s sleeping cabin to get out of her wet clothes, because Will was left to face his captain—and the remains of the unfinished dinner—alone.

His captain’s voice was low and clipped. “What in hell did you think you were doing with fireworks, Mr. Jellicoe?”

Will came smartly to attention, and affixed his gaze on the ceiling beams—just as Kent had taught him. “A celebration, sir. I am sorry.”

The captain peeled off his soaked, dripping coat, and threw it on a chair. “And who else of my crew was foolish enough to assist you in this cock-brained scheme? Dance? Worth? Or Moffat?” The captain fixed him with an unforgiving, piercing eye. “I want the name of every man jack aboard this ship who had a hand in this idiotic scheme.”

The faces of Moffat and Fisk arose like ghosts of sins past before Will’s eyes, as did Charles Dance’s voice. He’s too good of a gunner to get caught up in your scrapes. “No one, sir. I take full responsibility.”

“You most certainly will take responsibility, Mr. Jellicoe. You most certainly will.” The captain turned to stare out the stern gallery windows into the night. “No one else? You made powder charge fireworks all on your own?”

“Yes, sir. I had a book.” That at least was entirely true.

Captain Colyear raised his brows in skepticism. “A book?”

“Yes, sir.” But lest blame fall where it shouldn’t, he added, “Moffat confiscated it from me.”

“I see. It gives me no pleasure, sir, to have to demote you back to midshipman, but I can only hope that you will spend your time returned to the cockpit in thinking seriously upon your sins.”

“Yes, sir.” He took his captain’s punishment without demur. It could have been much worse. Kent could have been hurt. Or Audacious could have been more badly damaged. Or the fireworks might not have worked.

With that sanguine thought, Will took his leave of the captain, and would have made his way down to the gunroom—where through the almost uncanny communication of the ship, his mess mates would no doubt already know of his fate—to clean out his cuddy.

But a voice from the dim, lantern-lit companionway stopped him. “Will.”

“Mrs. Colyear.” She was attired in a dry gown of some indeterminate color that was covered over by one of her husband’s summer weight coats. “You’re quite sure you’re not harmed?” Will asked. “I don’t think I could forgive myself if you-”

“No. No harm done. Or if so, only to my skirts. And I think you know how I feel about them.”

Against what was left of his better judgement, Will could feel himself smile. “I guess I do.”

“And I also wanted to make sure you were in no doubt of how I feel about the fireworks display, which from my husband’s absolute surprise at dinner—Oh, Will, I do wish you could have seen that—I collect was all your doing.”

This time, it felt good to take all the credit along with the blame. “Yes. Well, there may have been one or two others. Anvils, as it were, upon which the plan was hammered out.”

“Ah. Brilliant,” she said with such lovely, mischievous delight that, no matter the punishment, Will was glad he had done it. Glad for it all.

“You must know,” he said before he could stop himself. “You must know we did it all for you.”

Her smile never faltered, and her laughing gray eyes never left his, but something within her stilled into consciousness.

“I’m sorry,” he began, to cover the abominable heat rising up his neck. “I didn’t mean-”

“No.” She laid a hand upon his arm. “Will. I know. I know you did. And I am honored. Deeply, deeply, honored. It’s the nicest thing anyone has ever done for me.” And then she stepped back. Just enough. Just enough for him to understand that the space between them was unalterable. Permanent.

She saw it as well. “You’ve grown up.” Her smile was all in her eyes, clear and gray and full of understanding.

“Yes. I suppose I have.” He stepped back a fraction too, to show her it was true.

“But not too much, I hope.” She smiled and tipped her head sideways, in a way that nearly made his heart ache within his chest. “Not too much to still have some fun.”

“No, not too much for that. Just enough.” But more than enough for one day. “Happy Christmas, Kent.”

“Happy Christmas, Will.” She smiled, those clear gray eyes of hers twinkling with mischief. “Next year, do you think you can promise not to catch me on fire?”

Will could only laugh. “Oh, no. Next year, I’m sure I’ll do something even worse.”

But first, he was going to have to buy another book.

Thank you so much for visiting the blog today. If you enjoyed this little story, and are hopeful that young Will Jellicoe will get the happily ever after he deserves, you don’t have long to wait. His book, A BREATH OF SCANDAL will be released December 26, 2012.

Wishing you and yours a holiday season filled with comfort and joy.

Shockingly brash and scandalously independent, the Reckless Brides are boldly rewriting the rules of love and marriage—one smitten bachelor at a time…

In the game of kiss and tell, there are no rules…

Forced by her family into an engagement with a man she can never abide, Antigone Preston knows only a scandal will save her from a loveless marriage. But knocking a man down to the ballroom floor with her fists brings dangerous consequences. She may have ruined her reputation, but now she’s endangered her heart…

The son of an earl and a career navy man, Captain William Jellicoe has no interest in the frivolities of London—and even less in the institution of marriage. But there’s something steering him toward Antigone. He has never met anyone as brazen and unconventional as…himself. But will he risk it all for a woman who still has the breath of scandal hot on her lips?

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Want to win some goodies from Elizabeth? Check out whats up for grabs.

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**Don't forget to head over to Not Another Romance Blog to check out author, Carolyn Jewel's story.

Good Luck and Happy Holidays =)
a Rafflecopter giveaway


  1. New author for me but now i want more

    thank you a lot for sharing with us and for opening your giveaway to international.

    do your books work as stand alone or they must be read in order absolutely?

    happy holidays

    1. Miki,

      All the stories I've written (both the Reckless Brides and my first series for Kensington Brava) are stand-alone stories. However, they are all set in the same fictional word, so you'll see some characters who are secondary characters in one book, who then get to be the hero in the next book. :)

      All my heroes tend to be associated in one way or another with the Royal Navy, so they are a brotherhood of sorts, even if they aren't a real family.

      Thanks so much for stopping by to chat, and glad you enjoyed the story. Cheers!

  2. New author for me but now i want more

    thank you a lot for sharing with us and for opening your giveaway to international.

    1. Laurie,

      So glad to be finding new readers! And nice for you as well, since I'll have five books out come Dec. 26th, that you can still find in print.

      And I'm always happy to include international readers. :)

      Cheers, good luck and happy reading.

  3. You are new to me too, and I can't wait to read your books. Thanks for the chance to win and the giveaway and Happy Holidays

    1. LS,

      So glad you had a chance to read a sample of my work today, although I will say that generally my full novel-length stories have more requited love and romance that this short. But if you liked young Will Jellicoe, you'll get his story in less than ten days!

      Best of luck in the giveaway and I hope you have a lovely holiday. Cheers!

  4. You are a new author to me and I have now put you on my list! Thanks for sharing.

    1. Sheryl,

      I am thrilled at how many readers are discovering me today! And since there are so many of you (Huzzah!) I'm going to go ahead and give you the titles of all my back catalogue: The Pursuit of Pleasure, A Sense of Sin and The Danger of Desire (which was nominated for a RITA! :) and the first two books of the Reckless Brides, Almost a Scandal, and A Breath of Scandal (available 12/26).

      So I hope you'll find something that you like in that selection! :)

      Thanks again for stopping by today and good luck in the drawing. Cheers!

  5. I would love to read Will's HEA.

    1. Ora,

      Huzzah! You don't have long to wait! I wish I had copies of A BREATH OF SCANDAL to give away, but alas, my publisher hasn't sent me any yet. :(

      But ALMOST A SCANDAL has a very young and brash Will Jellicoe in it, as well as Captain Colyear and his Sally (it's their story), so best of luck in the drawing, and thanks so very much for stopping by to chat today! Cheers.

  6. i love ur books elizabeth ..
    thx for ur donation :)

    1. Nurmawati,

      Thanks so much for stopping by to read the story today! Best of luck int he drawing. Cheers!

  7. Ooooh! A new to me author, new books to read, woohoo!

    1. Beebs,

      So happy to oblige! And I am thrilled as well to to finding new readers. :)

      Best of luck in the drawing, and happy reading! Cheers.

  8. This book sounds very interesting.

    1. Scarlett,

      So glad you liked what you read! This little story serves as a bit of a bridge between ALMOST A SCANDAL and the next book in the Reckless Brides, A BREATH OF SCANDAL. In both of those books you'll get to see all the characters from this short story.

      Wishing you luck in the drawing and all the best for the holidays. Cheers!

  9. Thanks for the great short story and for another look at our old friends from Almost a Scandal. I loved that book and can't wait to see Will get his HEA. He deserves it.

    1. Joanne,

      So glad these characters are old friends! That's how I think of them as well, and to be honest, I get a little lonely for them after I've finished each book. :) I think that's why I like to bring characters back in book after book. :)

      And I'm thrilled that you are looking forward to Will's HEA. I had a wonderful time playing with his marvelous sense of humor in A BREATH OF SCANDAL.

      Best of luck in the drawing, and thanks so much for stopping by to chat today! Cheers.

  10. Great story! :) Can't wait to read it!

    1. May,

      So glad you liked it! I have to admit that I really liked the character of WIll Jellicoe and was particularly thrilled to have a chance to write a short story for him that bridged the time span between ALMOST A SCANDAL and A BREATH OF SCANDAL.

      (AND, just between you and me, and everyone here at RFTC, I have more short stories like this one in the works, as well as a few novellas with secondary characters from both THE DANGER OF DESIRE and ALMOST A SCANDAL. )

      Best of luck in the drawing and thanks so much for chatting with me today. CHeers!

  11. Great post. Loved the excerpt. Definately adding to my must try list. You are a new author for me, but want to check out this series.
    My question for you is how many books are going to be in this series total? Any other books/series in the works?
    Thanks for the giveaway.

    1. Chrisbails,

      I am thrilled that you liked the excerpt and beyond happy to be finding so many new readers here today!!

      There are going to be three books total in the Reckless Brides series, BUT I ALWAYS have more stories in the works! And even if I start a new series, I usually like to keep the same fictional world, and I most often find my heroes and heroines in the secondary characters from my last books. Soooooo.... I will tell you the secret that I am working on at least two novellas featuring characters from ALMOST A SCANDAL (Owen & Grace, and Ian Worth & someone I haven't thought of yet) as well as a story I'm calling Adventurous Bride #1, which will feature one character from A BREATH OF SCANDAL and another from THE DANGER OF DESIRE.

      So you see I like to keep every new story related to one of the old ones. :)

      Thanks so much for stopping by to chat, and best of luck in the drawing. Cheers!

  12. I had not heard of these books yet! Not sure why - they sound like they are great books.

    1. Jasmyn,

      Thanks so much for your kind words. And I am happy, happy, happy to find new readers any day! And it's actually nicer for you, because now you have more books to choose from all at once instead of having to wait for months! :)

      I know I am always thrilled to find a new-to-me author with a deep back catalogue. I remember the day I discovered Stephanie Laurens I felt like I had chanced upon a treasure trove. :)

      Best of luck with the drawing and thanks so much for stopping by to chat today. Cheers!

  13. I can certainly see from reading the terrific excerpt where your love of boats must has come in quite handy when writing "Almost a Scandal." You really grabbed by attention and now I am adding this book to my Wish List to read. Thanks so much for the giveaway!

    1. Connie,

      I DO have a great love of the sea and sailing, but I can also assure you that all the stories are flat-out Romances (with a capital R,) and the ship stuff just serves as a backdrop for a glorious adventurous romance. (As a matter of fact, I will toot my own horn a bit to say that ALMOST A SCANDAL has been nominated for RT Reviewers Choice Award for Historical Romantic Adventure!)

      And AAS was the first of my books to be actually SET on a ship—it's a bit of a hard sell to publishers. I've set books in Dartmouth, London, the Hampshire countryside, and next summer will expand my repertoire to pre-colonial India with SCANDAL IN THE NIGHT!

      So rest assured there is a setting for everyone, and PLENTY of Romance for all!

      Best of luck in the drawing and my thanks for stopping by to chat today. Cheers!

  14. You are a new author for me but this series sounds like one I would greatly enjoy! Love the covers!

    Thanks so much for sharing!

    1. Texas Book Lover,

      First—love your online name, as I am also a Texas book lover. :)

      And I am thrilled that you found me here today, and got to read a little sample of my work.

      And I LOVE my covers, too. I know everyone likes "the dress" covers, but I tend not to write girls in dresses. I think the couple style cover is intended to tell the reader that is will be an adventurous type of story, with two people out in the world learning things about each other and about themselves. :)

      So glad you stopped by today, and best of luck in the drawing. Cheers!

  15. I'm looking forward to reading the Reckless Brides series! This excerpt truly hooked me. :)

    1. Leah,

      So glad it hooked you! As I said (above) this little story is a sort of bridge between the first two books of the Reckless Brides, so both books should bring you back to the characters I've introduced here.

      Best of luck in the drawing and thanks so very much for stopping by to chat today. Cheers!

  16. That's a lovely story with Will. I look forward to his story in A Breath of Scandal.

    I very much enjoyed your other books and can't to start this series.

    arrmiefox at yahoo dot com

    1. Armenia,

      I know I've said how happy I am to find new readers, but you must know it truly warms my heart to find you've already read the other books! (You must imagine me making 'jumpy claps.') :)

      And you don't have long to wait for Will's story—he'll be here in less than 10 days! (And not to be too crassly commercial, A BREATH OF SCANDAL is available for pre-order now.)

      But best of luck in the drawing, and thanks so very, very much for finding me here today to chat. Cheers!

  17. I enjoyed the bittersweet story. I am glad that Will is going to get his own HEA.

    1. Cheryl,

      It was a bit of a gamble to write a story about unrequited love for romance readers, but I knew you wouldn't have long to wait to read Will's HEA, so I thought it was worth the risk. :)

      Best of luck in the drawing and thanks so very much for stopping by to chat about books. Cheers!

  18. I love your books! !! I hope I win! !! Cool giveaway! !! :)

    1. Hey Ebony,

      So nice to 'see' you here as well as on FB! I am so thrilled that you love the books, too! Best of luck with the giveaway and thanks so much for taking the time to stop by! Cheers!

  19. I absolutely LOVE your covers and thanks for the post!

    1. Brittany G,

      So glad you like the covers! I did a blog a while back where the blogger started a discussion about what kind of covers readers like, and overwhelmingly they all said the like 'the dress.' And all I could post was a sort, of 'Yeah, I haven't got that, have I?" It was a little sad. :)

      So I adore that you like my covers! And I have to say, I am especially fond of the cover that will be coming out later in the summer of SCANDAL IN THE NIGHT, so keep your eyes peeled for that one! In the mean time, enjoy A BREATH OF SCANDAL!

      Thanks so much for stopping by to chat today and best of luck in the drawing! Cheers.

  20. Love the book cover. Sounds like a very interesting read. Thanks for the giveaway.

    1. Olga,

      So glad you liked the story. There's LOADS more romance (especially more naughty bits) in the books, so you've lots to look forward to. :)

      Best of luck with the giveaway, and thanks for taking the time to stop by to chat today. Cheers.

  21. I think the Reckless Brides series sounds fantastic and I'm looking forward to reading them.

    1. Barbara,

      So glad you dropped by! The short story puts you about halfway in time between ALMOST A SCANDAL and A BREATH OF SCANDAL, so no matter which Reckless Bride you choose, you'll get a fun story with Will Jellicoe. :) I have to tell you that he was the absolute first hero I ever started to write. I wrote my first story with him, but as most first stories go, it was rubbish, so I tossed it in the bin, but I kept HIM, and knew I would write another story with him someday. ;) A BREATH OF SCANDAL is my 4th published book—NO 5th!!!!—so I guess I had learned how to write a good story by the time I got back to him. I like this character so much because he was so fun, and funny, to write. Hope you think so too. :)

      Thanks so much for stopping by to chat with me, and best of luck in the drawing. Cheers.

  22. Great short story of a changing relationship.
    bituin76 at hotmail dot com

    1. Jan,

      Thanks so much for stopping by to read. I really had a lovely time with this story, and it's the first time I've written something romantic that didn't quite have a happily ever after. But I wrote it knowing that you'd only have 10 days to wait for Will Jellicoe to have his own full book and get his hearts desire. (Which is always a tricky proposition—our hearts don't always want what is good or wise, do they?) :)

      Best of luck in the drawing, and thanks again for stopping by to chat. Cheers!

  23. there's something about a navy man that has always appealed to me - perhaps because it is such a dedicated life.
    sallans d at yahoo dot com

    1. Di,

      I could not agree more! The navy men have always appealed to me, too. Perhaps I can lay some of the blame (thanks?) on Ioan Gruffudd for looking so handsome in Horatio Hornblower, but I fear my love for sailing men goes allllll the way back to dear Ratty in WIND IN THE WILLOWS!

      And I do understand exactly what you mean by 'a dedicated life.' I have a line that a friend who was a career navy said to me, that I have ALL my heroes say: "I don't have politics, I have duty." And choosing duty over love, or love over duty, or trying to find a balance between both is a very, very tricky proposition, and makes (from my point of view) great fodder for romance novels. :)

      Thanks so much for stopping by to chat and best of luck with the drawing! Cheers.

  24. Wonderful post..your author to me and I can't wait to read some of your books

    1. Auburn Girl,

      First, I love your user name, although it's left me wondering if you've ginger hair (I have a huge propensity to write ginger-haired heroines) or if you went to Auburn for university (which my niece did). But either way, you're already a favorite. :)

      And I am just tickled at the number of people who are discovering my books here today. So glad you got to read this short story to get a feel for my fictive world.

      Best of luck in the drawing and thanks so much for stopping by to chat tonight. Cheers!

  25. Replies
    1. bn100,

      Thanks so much! I'm really happy with the Reckless Brides books. ALMOST A SCANDAL has already been nominated for the RT Critics Choice Award for Historical Romantic Adventure, and I hope that A BREATH OF SCANDAL will be just as well received. I really had a lot of fun with the conversations and banter between the hero (Will Jellicoe) and heroine (a rather reckless young lady with the rather ridiculous name Antigone).

      Hope you have a grand, fun time reading. :)

      Best of luck in the drawing and thanks so much for stopping by to chat. Cheers!

  26. The Reckless Brides Series sounds great can't wait to read more about will and the other books. How many books will be in the series?


    1. Joy,

      There are currently 3 books in the Reckless Brides series, ALMOST A SCANDAL, A BREATH OF SCANDAL, and SCANDAL IN THE NIGHT (coming in the summer), but I also have ideas for at least 2 more (although I am privately calling those 2 the Adventurous Brides until I know where they will fit publishing-wise).

      Generally, I write about men of the Royal Navy (great uniforms, sexy windburned scowls) and unconventional, adventurous young women. I hope you like them!

      Best of luck in the drawing, and thank you for taking some time to stop by and chat today. Cheers!

  27. I can't wait to read Will Jellicoe's story~! He's such a trouble maker but so sweet~ Thanks for the sweet story.


    1. Kipha,

      YES! You've captured the essence of Will Jellicoe perfectly. He is a troublemaker, but he has a sweet, dedicated core within. And in A BREATH OF SCANDAL you'll see that innate kindness mingling freely with the puckish prankster. :)

      This was the first time I have written a short story, and I wanted to use the opportunity to write something that didn't require a HEA. But then again, I knew that you COULD find Will's complete story shortly (in about 10 days!) so it wasn't too much of a gamble. :)

      Thanks again for stopping by this evening to chat, and best of luck in the drawing. Cheers!

  28. "THE LADY IS A KNOCKOUT": i thought it meant she was gorgeous, didn't think it would mean literally a knock out! Sounds like a heroine after my own heart. Love the feisty type.

    1. Linda,

      I have to tell you that my editor came up with that marvelous teaser, and when I saw what she had written, I laughed and smiled and did what the eldest Essex sprig calls 'jumpy claps.' And I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE writing what you've called the feisty types (although I can't call them that because 'feisty' is an American slang word from the turn of the 20th century—who knew?) because they are such good fun, and they do the most marvelous things that make for an adventurous romance.

      Hope you enjoy the books! Best of luck in the drawing, and thanks so much for stopping by to chat tonight—oops—THIS MORNING! Cheers. :)

  29. Fun read! Can't wait to read about Will all grown up.
    winnie968 at yahoo dot com

    1. Winnie,

      I am so glad you can get your wish so soon—Dec. 26th!!! And in A BREATH OF SCANDAL Will will be very much grown up and ready for an adventurous romance. (And once you've read ABOS, I can tell you that his siblings are all in line to have their own romances as well!)

      Thanks so much for stopping by to chat in the wee small hours of the morning—I do hope you're in another time zone, and that you're up in the middle of your day! Best of luck in the drawing (which is open internationally). Cheers!

  30. That was a fun story! Can't wait to read about the grown-up Will in A Breath of Scandal.

    1. I'm so glad you liked it. It's a little light on romance, except of the bittersweet, unrequited type, and we romance readers do like our love requited don't we. :)

      But I promise you will get your fill in the grown-up Will's story. :)

      Thanks you so much for stopping by to join our chat today, and best of luck with the drawing. Cheers and happy holidays.

  31. Thanks for the short story Elizabeth. And now I can't wait to read about Will in A Breath Of Scandal. I'm also glad you listed your books. I'm going to increase my TRL now. :)
    Happy Holidays.
    Carol L
    Lucky4750 (at) aol (dot) com

    1. Oh, huzzah, Carol!

      I am really just thrilled to be finding so many new readers here! What a lovely Christmas present to me!

      You can also find a list of my books on my website ( and images of all my covers on my FB page (

      (And a special thank you and welcome to all of you who joined my FB page in the last day—another wonderful Christmas present for me. :) )

      Thank you so much for taking the time to stop by and chat. I wish you the best of luck in the drawing, as well as plenty of time for all that reading over the holidays. :) Cheers!

  32. Hi Elizabeth,

    Love your almost of scandal, can't wait to read breath of scandal :D

    1. Eli,

      I realize now (Dec. 24th) that I didn't push the right reply button for your post (my response is below) but I didn't want you to think I had overlooked you!

      Thanks again for stopping by to read the story! Cheers, EE

  33. Hey Eli,

    So glad to see you here! And happy that I've made it an international giveaway. And I'm thrilled you love ALMOST A SCANDAL!!!! That just makes my day. :)

    Best of luck in this drawing, and thanks so much for stopping by to chat. Cheers!

  34. I am so excited! Thank you for that little short story that was just awesome and your books :D your a new author to me, but your books look delicious!

    1. Hello Lily,

      I'm so glad you found me here! It's been a real pleasure finding new readers. :)

      I had a wonderful time writing that story, as I did ALMOST A SCANDAL, mostly because it have me an excuse to write about boys, who were rarely see in romance novels. But as the mother of a batch of boys, I had inspiration all around me for this little story. Glad you liked it. And you can get the rest of Will's story, and his 'happily ever after' on Dec. 26th when A BREATH OF SCANDAL comes out!

      Best of luck in the drawing, and thank you so much for coming by to chat with me. Cheers!

  35. It's okay for Will to have just a touch of heartbreak since that will make him all the more appreciative of his true love. That was a lovely little story.

    1. Dear Jen,

      I HOPED you would feel that way when you read the story! Yeah! (And as it turns out that I'm just a little late responding to your post—I JUST finished revisions to Book III of the Reckless Brides, SCANDAL IN THE NIGHT last night!) it turns out that TODAY, Dec. 24th is the day A BREATH OF SCANDAL releases, and Will can begin his happily ever after.

      Thanks so much for stopping by to chat during this busy holiday time! Best of luck with the drawing, and happy holidays. CHeers, EE

  36. Thanks for the awesome post! This book is firmly at the top of my want list :)

    1. Erin,

      I am just THRILLED to hear that! I'm late in responding (revisions to Book III of the Reckless Brides are finally complete) but I can now tell you that A BREATH OF SCANDAL is out! Hope you get that, and everything else you want for your holiday present!

      Thanks so much for stopping by to chat with me over the holidays. Best of luck with the drawing and hope you have a lovely holiday. Cheers, EE

  37. Hi Elizabeth!

    I love your short story and especially Will because he reminded me of my sons when they were is age and that difficult age between childhood and being a man. Now that they have sons of their own it's wonderful to see the guiding hand they give them to get them through the "questioning" times as they grow up. You did a wonderful job and it brought back to me echos of the past and I loved for "Kent", Sally, spoke to him with understanding and compassion!

    The one book of yours that I haven't been able to find available is A Sense of Sin and was wondering if it might be available again in the future for my Kindle?

    1. Dear Jeanne,

      I have a house full of boys (and girls, too) but I am very sure that the Essex sprigs inspired me. :) My youngest definitely provided wonderful inspiration for the great crew of boys in Almost a Scandal (Sally and Colyear's story) as well.

      And thank you so much for inquiring about A Sense of Sin. As far as I know it is still available for Kindle. In fact, (and please forgive me for the crass commercialism) let me try this link:

      I hope that gets you what you want. And maybe Santa will get the hint! :)

      Thanks so much for stopping by to chat during this busy time of the year, and best of luck in the drawing! Cheers, EE

  38. I love the short story! Thanks for the chance to win!

    1. Natasha,

      Thank you so very much! I've been reading all the other short stories and scenes posted by the other writers, and I have to say I'm hooked! And, I've discovered authors I haven't read before. Such a pleasure.

      And thank you so very much for stopping by during your busy holidays. Best of luck in the drawing and hope your holiday is filled with comfort and joy. Cheers, EE

  39. Replies
    1. Mary Jo,

      Thank you so very much for your kind words—much appreciated. And I have to say my editor and art directors went above and beyond to make such vibrant covers. (And the next, for SCANDAL IN THE NIGHT has got to be my favorite.)

      And thank you so much for stopping by to chat during this busy time of the year. Best of luck in the drawing and best wishes for a lovely holiday to you and yours. Cheers, EE

  40. That was a fun short, thanks so much. I'm loving finding new authors, and I'm looking forward to reading more of your work! Have a Merry Christmas!
    smoofrog at gmail dot com

    1. Tonda:

      Glad you like the story and I've even more glad you found me here! It has been a terrific pleasure to find so many new readers.

      Best of luck in the drawing, and thank so much for stopping by to chat at this busy time of year. Merry Christmas to you and yours as well! Cheers, EE

  41. I have not read any of your books but I have put you on my Christmas list. So if Santa is willing I am able.

    1. I'm so very glad you found me here! And I hope that Santa is VERY generous with his gifts, especially in handing out A BREATH OF SCANDAL!

      Best of luck in the drawing, and thank you so very much for stopping by to chat. I know it's a really busy time of year (I am sooooo behind on Christmas at the Essex abode) and I very much appreciate your time. Cheers and Merry Christmas, EE

  42. Hi, Elizabeth! You are a new author for me. I enjoyed your story. Will is definitely mischievous. Thanks for the giveaway! Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

    1. Cathy,

      I am just thrilled to be finding so many new readers here! And thank you so much for your kind words about the story. I had a marvelous time writing it. :)

      Best of luck in the giveaway, and thank you for taking the time to stop by and chat during the busy holiday season! Wishing you and yours comfort and joy. Cheers, EE

  43. Oops! Forgot my email.

    kscathy AT yahoo DOT com

  44. Replies
    1. Thank you so much for your kind words. I'm so glad you enjoyed the story—I certainly enjoyed writing it. :)

      And I hope you'll be interested in reading Will's full story in A BREATH OF SCANDAL.

      Best of luck in the drawing, and thank you so very much for taking the time to stop by and chat during the busy holiday period. Cheers, EE

  45. Hi Elizabeth Your book sounds wonderful. I am really looking forward to reading this one. Merry Christmas!

  46. Hi

    I love following blogs that introduce me to "new to me" authors. I am looking forward to reading your books as I love historical romance.

    Thanks for the chance

  47. So looking forward to reading this series. I haven't read your books before so am looking forward to reading a new author. Thanks for the short story and have a wonderful new year ;)

  48. This sounds like a wonderful series! You're a new author to me...I'll check out your books! thanks for sharing and have a fabulous 2013!

  49. Loved this thank you.