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Friday, December 20, 2019

A Historical Christmas Event with Sofie Darling


Sofie Darling is an award-winning author of historical romance. Her debut novel, THREE LESSONS IN SEDUCTION, won the Writers’ League of Texas’ Manuscript Contest in the Romance Category in 2016.

She spent much of her twenties raising two boys and reading every book she could get her hands on. Once she realized she simply had to write the books she loved, she finished her English degree and embarked on her writing career. Mr. Darling and the boys gave her their wholehearted blessing.

When she’s not writing heroes who make her swoon, she runs a marathon in a different state every year, visits crumbling medieval castles whenever she gets a chance, and enjoys a slightly codependent relationship with her beagle, Bosco.



Miss Violet Hotchkiss has long accepted her status as a confirmed bluestocking. But never once has she been able to resist the lure of a ball, and the Earl and Countess of Stapleton’s annual Christmas Ball is the crowning event of the neighborhood. This year, however, she has her eye on the perfect man. But appearances can be deceiving . . .


No one expected a wallflower to love a ball, but Violet Hotchkiss always had.

Even if that fact wasn’t apparent from simply looking at her. For Violet, with her spectacles and general air of erudition, was a confirmed bluestocking. Some might even whisper, a spinster.

It was true that she didn’t dance as much as other young ladies and that her dance card accrued fewer names with each year that had passed since her come-out seven years ago. But those trivialities could never interfere with her enjoyment of a ball, particularly one as splendid as the Earl and Countess of Stapleton’s annual Christmas Ball. The lively strings. The gleaming dancing floor. The sparkling chandeliers. Even the stifling heat. Every element combined to form an atmosphere of vibrancy and life lived in its most giddy state.

How she loved to soak it in, her toes tapping beneath her dress, the blood effervescing through her veins. If this ballroom were a glass, its occupants would be the champagne, their laughter and delight fizzing up its glittering walls. This was where life was truly lived, inside this joy.

Of course, the fact that she had danced the opening set with Mr. Quincy might have something to do with this feeling shimmering through Violet. It was the most perfect set she had ever danced. Truly, she should have known Mr. Quincy would excel at dancing, as surely he did in every other aspect of his life.

Simply look at him now, dancing with yet another partner. He hadn’t skipped a single set, as was his duty as an eligible, single gentleman. He must be exhausted. But the fact that he had singled her out for the first set spoke all the volumes Violet needed to hear.

Still, it wasn’t as if Violet had been sitting with the other wallflowers this entire time. She had danced sets with two other partners, in fact. Even Will Sinclair had approached her with a request to dance. She’d stuck him near the bottom of her dance card in the hope that she would have already left the ball by the time his turn arrived. Will Sinclair . . .

He had been gone these last five years, traveling the world to this and that exotic locale. His parents, Sir John and Lady Sinclair, had kept the neighborhood abreast of Sinclair’s latest jaunt, but Violet had barely paid attention. Will Sinclair, for all they’d grown up in the same environ, had always discomfited her.

His height was too towering. His shoulders too massive. His face too handsome. He was quite simply too everything.

And since his return, he was still in possession of all these qualities, yet somehow different, as if a sharper edge ran along the length of him. And something else, too, something she couldn’t quite identify that made him all the more forbidding.

She much preferred the elegant and learned Mr. Quincy, a man who wasn’t too anything. Not too tall. Or too massive. Or too handsome. He didn’t discomfit Violet in any way.

Speaking of Mr. Quincy, she had somehow lost sight of him on the dancing floor. Her gaze searched the room, lighting through the gay crowd—the sparkling laughter, the glittering tiaras, the rustling silks, the flirtatious rap of a closed fan, the couple staring a touch too deeply into one another’s eyes—when, at last, she spotted him. He stood, alone, at the edge of the crowd. Brow crinkled and intent, he, too, was surveying the ballroom.

Then his eye caught on Violet’s. It was only for the flash of a second, but long enough to set her heart racing. She only noticed he was near an exterior door when he stepped back, cracked it open, and disappeared outside.

Violet’s heart lurched into a full gallop. What had just happened? Had she been summoned for a secret rendezvous?

Her ever logical mind quickly retraced the order of events. She had been scanning the ballroom. Mr. Quincy had been scanning the ballroom. His eye met hers. Then he slipped through the outside door.

What gave her pause, however, was the length of time their eyes met. It had been a fleeting contact, undeniably. But . . . wasn’t that the way of discretion?

Again, her mind ran through the logic. This was a ball. Secret assignations occurred at balls.

Well, not to her.

Not . . . until tonight?

Violet’s mouth went dry, and her feet started moving. As she pushed the exterior door open, a blast of wintry air greeted her full in the face, but it gave her no pause as her eyes cast about for Mr. Quincy. She detected not a sign of him on the terrace.

On quick feet, she took the stone staircase that led down into the garden. It was midnight dark, but the chandelier light that poured from the house and sporadically hung globe lights scattered throughout the shrubberies enveloped the garden within an otherworldly spell. She wouldn’t be at all surprised to learn that fairies frolicked here every Christmas season. She felt herself swept up in the magic as her pace slowed along the garden path, the light crunch of gravel beneath her feet.

She rounded a shrubby corner and, at last, found Mr. Quincy. His back to her some distance away, he stood alone.

He was waiting.

For her.

Violet opened her mouth to call his name and stopped herself. It wouldn’t do to attract unwanted attention. After all, she was a respectable young lady. Instead, she stepped forward, an indiscreet smile on her lips, an incautious joy in her heart.

Movement beyond Mr. Quincy’s shoulder stopped Violet in her tracks. There had appeared another figure appear in the small clearing. Her smile faltered. The figure was a young lady, and she, too, was wearing a smile, the same indiscreet one that had curled about Violet’s mouth but a moment ago.

As if time slowed its tick-tock, Violet watched in budding horror as the young lady rushed toward Mr. Quincy. If Violet had been harboring any doubts as to the scene before her, they were erased when Mr. Quincy’s arms opened and took the young lady into his embrace.

Violet’s hand flew to her mouth, muffling her gasp. Hot tears flooded her eyes as the truth walloped her: Mr. Quincy had been making a secret assignation.

But not with her.

She’d had it all wrong.

Oh, that a hole would open in the ground and swallow her.

Then she remembered something: her pride. She must flee before they caught her staring and matters became even worse.

Violet’s feet kicked into motion, and she ran. Soon, however, she realized that instead of returning to the house, she’d gone in the opposite direction.

The tears she had been holding back finally fell. Tears of hurt. Tears of stupidity. But, mostly, tears of humiliation.

She gave her eyes an unthinking swipe and, in the process, knocked the spectacles from her face. “Oh, bollocks!” she exclaimed, squinting at the ground, but the combination of darkness and near-sightedness made it impossible to see.

Frantic, she crashed down onto her knees to search with her hands. She felt them in the same instant she heard them. Crunch! Her eyes squeezed shut, but she knew: she’d come down on her spectacles. Gingerly, she lifted her knee and picked up the mangled mess of wire and glass. She attempted to perch them on her nose, but one of the lens had shattered and the frame had twisted, so they sat lopsided.

More tears sprang to her eyes, and she collapsed onto her backside with an unladylike thud. These tears, however, were of frustration as the enormity of her mistake sank in, followed swiftly by a clearing dose of reality.

Mr. Quincy had only ever been polite to her.

Mr. Quincy had only danced with her first to get their set out of the way.

Mr. Quincy was never going to meet her for a secret rendezvous, because he saw her for who she truly was: a bespectacled, bluestocking future spinster.

Violet Hotchkiss would never have a secret rendezvous. She would never have a kiss stolen in the dark to distant strings playing a mazurka. She would never be seen the way Mr. Quincy saw that other young lady.

Violet inhaled a wretched sob. Feeling the ridiculousness of her situation, she exhaled a wobbly laugh. At least, no one was here to witness her humiliation.

“Miss Hotchkiss?” came a deep, masculine voice.

She went utterly still.

“Miss Hotchkiss?”

Her eyes squinched shut. No. It couldn’t be.

“Miss Hotchkiss?”

It could be, and it was.

From her seated position, she twisted around. Sinclair. Still too tall, too massive, and, presumably, too handsome, though she couldn’t see his face as his back was to the dim light. What in the blazes was he doing here?

“Are you injured?” he asked, his voice ripe with concern.

Violet held up her destroyed spectacles. “’Tis only these which are injured.”

“May I assist you to your feet?”

Violet’s first instinct was to refuse his offer. Then she realized he wasn’t truly asking. His hand was extended, implacable. She must accept his help. She placed her hand in his, and, through the satin of her gloves, she felt his strength as he pulled her to her feet without effort.

But it wasn’t that sensation which sent the blood fizzing through her veins. It was the warm male feel of him. In all their childhood spent in proximity to one another, she had never once touched Sinclair. She would have remembered this feeling, this response.

“Can you see without them?” he asked.

“Not very well,” she confessed.

But she didn’t need spectacles to see something that was becoming crystal clear to her. This feel of Sinclair . . . his strength, his masculinity . . . Had she always suspected it, and therefore shied away from him?

Will Sinclair had ever overwhelmed her, from the first moment she’d met him when she’d been a girl and he a boy. This moment was no different.

Except it was.

She glanced down at his large hand wrapped around her smaller one. The descriptor for him, the one that hovered just out of reach when she thought of the newly returned Will Sinclair, came to her: experienced.

Sinclair had returned to their quaint neighborhood an experienced man. And that experience suited her needs perfectly at the moment, even as it made her quake in her slippers.

His brow furrowed. “Is there something more I can do for you?” he asked, the question a velvety rumble that inspired a melting sensation inside Violet.

She gave her bottom lip a nervous lick. Sinclair’s eye followed the motion, sending a frisson of anticipation through her. “Yes.”

The fact was she didn’t have to miss out on everything a young lady enjoyed. She could, in fact, take a bit of life’s wild, indiscreet joy for herself.

An expectant air hung about Sinclair as he waited for her to continue. Her heart raced.

Could she speak the words suspended on the tip of her tongue?

If she didn’t, what then? What would she have gained?

What would she have lost?

Violet stiffened her spine and met Sinclair’s questioning eye. “Kiss me.”


Will blinked.

“Kiss you?” He had to ask.

Miss Hotchkiss blinked her wide violet eyes. “Unless,” she began.

Was that a wobble in her voice? Will was helpless against a wobble in a woman’s voice.

“Unless you wouldn’t care to.”

Will’s brow knitted together. “Unless I wouldn’t . . .?” he trailed.

She inhaled a deep, shaky breath. “I am, after all,” she continued, “a bespectacled future spinster.” She swallowed. “And you are the most handsome man in any room.”

Somewhere between an inhale and an exhale, the breath froze in Will’s chest, her words catching him on his heels. They didn’t sound like a compliment. Had he, in fact, just been insulted?

When Miss Hotchkiss opened her mouth to keep talking, Will did the only thing that could possibly shut her up. He angled his face down and pressed his mouth to hers. Her eyes went wide for a shocked instant. Then she sighed a little groan, and he caught it in his mouth.

His hand felt for the small of her back, and she swayed forward, erasing the distance between them. Her hands found the nape of his neck, her nails a light scrape against his skin, fine hairs prickling with goose bumps. The kiss had no choice but to deepen as his tongue slid along her plump lower lip. She gave a tiny gasp. But shock quickly became curiosity as her tongue poked forward, then tangled with his.

How many times had he imagined this taking of Miss Hotchkiss in his arms? Of kissing her? Her sway, her surrender . . . The feel of her lithe body, the taste of her pert mouth. Spiced pear.

He felt hot and alive, and he wanted more.

He wanted everything.

But . . . she hadn’t asked for more.

And certainly not for everything.

With a resoluteness Will hadn’t known he possessed, he pulled away and broke the kiss. Surprise traced through Miss Hotchkiss’s glazed eyes, and her breath puffed white through the upturned “O” of her kiss-crushed lips. It was all Will could do not to pull her into him and claim them again.

He was opening his mouth to offer her an apology—although for what precisely he wasn’t exactly sure since she’d asked for the kiss, except it seemed the gentlemanly thing to do—when it happened: a snowflake fluttered through the air and landed on the tip of her nose. Then fell another, which tangled in her eyelashes. She blinked the snowflake away and breathed out a little laugh as her head tipped back to take in the snowflakes arabesquing about them, an awed smile curved about her mouth.
Oh, Violet Hotchkiss was a temptation.

Perhaps he could tempt her again.

Then her gaze returned to him, and her smile fell by slow increments. A seriousness formed about her, and her head tipped to the side. Will had known this look of Miss Hotchkiss’s since childhood. She was about to ask a question, most likely one that would make its recipient uncomfortable. He braced himself.

“Did you follow me, Sinclair?”

Will detected more edge to the question than mere curiosity. He would have to tread carefully. “I saw you leave the ballroom.”

“And?”

“You weren’t wearing a cloak.”

“So you followed me?”

“I thought you might be cold.” It was only the truth.

Miss Hotchkiss touched delicate fingertips to her mouth and took a step back. Every cell in Will’s body screamed no.

“I kissed you,” she said with no small amount of amazement, as if only now realizing it.

“I believe it was mutual.”

“I’ve been kissed.”

“I believe that fact has been fairly established.”

“I’ve been kissed by”—her eyes went wide—“you.”

For the second time in the last five minutes, Will wasn’t sure he’d received compliment. “Was there someone else you expected to kiss tonight?”

A wince passed across her face, and Will knew. Indeed, Violet Hotchkiss had expected to be kissed tonight.

By another man.

Before Will could press the matter further, two figures emerged from behind a distant hedgerow. It was a young lady and . . . Oh.

Will understood exactly who Miss Hotchkiss expected to kiss. Quincy.

Oliver Quincy was little more than a supercilious, pompous jackass and Will’s least favorite cousin. And, apparently, Violet Hotchkiss harbored a tendre for him. Him?

It was simply that since Will had been a lad, Violet Hotchkiss had been his ideal. She was bright, intelligent, and spirited, and she’d never had any use for him.

That she had any use for Quincy, well, that was mystifying. What would a milksop like Quincy know what to do with a woman like her?

The other couple turned the opposite direction and hastened toward the house, without noticing they were being watched. Miss Hotchkiss exhaled a rough sigh, shaky and shivery.

Right.

Without a staying thought, Will shed his tail coat and had the garment draped across her shoulders before she could refuse it. He liked her wearing his coat, even though she swam in it.

“I do not need this.” She shivered again.

“You do.”

“I must return to the ballroom. My sister will be wondering where I am.”

“After you.”

“You do not need to keep following me.”

The statement emerged pettish. No matter. He waved his arm forward, this time wordlessly signaling, “After you.”

With an easy stride, Will followed Miss Hotchkiss, whose shorter legs were moving at a near jog. This night had certainly taken a turn. To think he’d considered not attending the ball. But the lure of dancing a set with Violet Hotchkiss had been too great a temptation to resist. In all the years of their acquaintance, and all the assemblies and dances they had attended, he’d never once mustered up the courage to ask her to dance. Tonight, he’d meant to set that situation to rights.

And then, of all things, she’d begged him to kiss her.

He gave his head a confounded shake. The first of many, he was certain.

As they neared the stone staircase that led up to the terrace, the happy strains of violin and cello curled through the air. Light shone through ballroom windows, illuminating dancers intent on their scandalous waltz. Miss Hotchkiss stopped and shrugged off the coat.

“Keep it,” Will said instinctively.

She heaved a longsuffering sigh. “Sinclair, I cannot enter that room wearing your tail coat. I would be ruined.”

“Would that be the worst thing?” What had made him ask such a question?

A trio of shocked seconds ticked past before a laugh startled out of her. “I think you and I both know the answer to that question.”

Without another word, Miss Hotchkiss handed the coat over and nimbly ascended the steps. Will didn’t take his eyes off her until she disappeared into the ballroom. For his part, he wasn’t going back in there. He couldn’t and keep his hands off her. The two possibilities didn’t exist in the same space together.

“I think you and I both know the answer to that question.”

She might know the answer, but did he?

He couldn’t be sure their answers were the same. Yet another reason he wouldn’t go back into that ballroom. He might demand her answer.

And, really, what right had he to make demands of Miss Violet Hotchkiss? It was only a kiss that had occurred between them.

If only that were true.

Will shrugged on his coat and dug hands deep into his pockets, hoping to fight off the chill of the night. His fingers touched cold metal. To his surprise, his hand emerged holding Miss Hotchkiss’s spectacles. They were completely destroyed. Even so, he should hie after her and return them.

Instead, he placed them back in his pocket and strode into the night. On the long walk home, he wouldn’t think about the fact that a frisson of joy might have traced through him at the prospect of having a piece of Miss Hotchkiss. A Christmas gift, of sorts, to himself.


I hope you enjoyed this chapter from It Was Only A Kiss. More from Will and Violet will be coming in June 2020 when It Was Only A Kiss releases as part of the seven-author “Once Upon a Twelfth Night” anthology. Stay tuned!




Like a vengeful Norse god, Captain John Nylander has come from the sea to steal the only home that Callie has ever known. And that might not be all he’s after.

Can a Viking…

Orphaned as a child, Nylander has never known a real home. Now he is ready to leave the dangers of his past behind and put down the roots he has always longed for. The only thing standing in his way is a lanky aristocratic lady who is more at home on the farm than in the ballroom. And she has secrets…

And a Viscountess…

Callie, the Dowager Viscountess St. Alban, has poured all her energy into making Wyldcombe Grange her home. Managing an estate is not what she dreamed of, but her late husband’s rejection made it clear that love and a family would never be hers. Now she may lose even that to the sinfully handsome Captain. But Nylander is making her dream again…

Turn passion into love?

Nylander inspires a recklessness in Callie that she can’t control. Soon she finds herself conspiring with pirates and contemplating midnight trysts with the very Viking who has turned her life upside down. For Nylander, being with Callie embodies everything he’s always wanted—home. As midnight strikes, will all their secret, sinful dreams come true?

Purchase: | Amazon | B&N |


 


Up For Grabs:
  • 1 signed copy of Her Midnight Sin
To Enter: 
  • Please leave a comment or question for the author.
  • Please fill out the Rafflecopter for entry.

**Don't forget to enter the grand prize giveaway!


Good Luck! 

Special thanks to Sofie Darling for sponsoring this giveaway.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

44 comments :

  1. What a delightful tease. I'd love to know more about Will & Violet. Happy Holidays.
    Carol Luciano
    Lucky4750 at aol dot com

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    1. I'm so glad you enjoyed it! Happy holidays to you, too!

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  2. I really enjoyed this! thanks!

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  3. I love it when you find love in the place you were not looking!

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  4. Ooooh, loved that excerpt and now I can't wait to read Will and Violet's story!! Merry Christmas to you and yours, Sofie xo

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    1. Thank you, Carole! I'm so glad you loved it. :) Have a wonderful holiday! xoxo

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  5. It will be hard waiting till the release of Violet and Will's story. Loved the excerpt. Happy Holidays to All!

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    1. Thank you so much, Diana! :) Happy holidays! xoxo

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  6. I enjoyed the excerpt, thank you.
    Merry Christmas!

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  7. Loved the kiss! thanks for the excerpt

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  8. I love the cover of Her Midnight Sin. That green color is gorgeous

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    1. Thank you, Natasha. The cover artist did such a wonderful job! xo

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  9. Happy holidays, I want to read more!

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  10. Oh my, I totally need more of that story. And I feel like I can relate to Violet. I think I'd be that wallflower, clumsy girl shattering my glasses. *sigh*

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  11. What a wonderful Christmas excerpt! I'd love to read more about Will and Violet. Thanks for sharing.

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  12. Wonder who Violet will dream about that night?!

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  13. Hello Sofie Darling (love that name!), my question to you is if Canadians (excluding Quebec) can enter this giveaway? And thank you for sharing an excerpt. The cover design is exquisite.

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    1. Emmaline, yes, this giveaway is open to international entrants. Thank you for asking! xoxo, Sofie

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  14. Can’t wait to read how these two lost souls find their way together.

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  15. What is Bosco's favorite book, and what did he ask Santa to bring for Christmas?

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    1. While Bosco has been enjoying my Shadows and Silk series, his favorite book remains The Call of the Wild. A dog can always dream! Every year, Santa brings him a new blankie for him to snuggle with. :)

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  16. What a tease! 😁😉 I can't wait to read it.
    Happy New Year!

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