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Authors: Delphine

Clockwork Countess

BOOK: Clockwork Countess
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ALSO BY DELPHINE

WRITING AS

LYDIA STORM

 

Moonlight On Diamonds

 

Cleopatra's Secret: Keepers of the Light

 

 

Praise for Lydia Storm

 

“Storm has written a book brimming with twists and turns.”

– Romantic Times Book Reviews

 

"
Embrace of the Vampire
plays the vampire/victim dynamic to the hilt and packs a substantial erotic punch!" 

– Entertainment Weekly

 


This is a book you will not be able to put down.”

– You Gotta Read Reviews

 

“Moonlight on Diamonds
is a pleasure to read, with layers of mystery that will keep you guessing to the end.”


Long and Short Reviews

 

“Anyone who loves a good thriller involving jewel thieves and romance would LOVE this book.”


Between the Lines

 

“Moonlight on Diamonds
was like an interactive game of Clue…full of surprises all around.”

– Romance Junkies

             

“If you like humorous characters, impossible odds, and a twisted plot, you will find lots to love in
Moonlight on Diamonds
!”


Manic Readers

 

 

 

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the
product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

 

Clockwork Countess

 

COPYRIGHT

2012 by Nicole Coady

 

All rights
reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission of the author except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews.

Contact Information: [email protected]

 

Cover Art by Thomas A. Padovan

 

Baby's First Shakespeare

11 Mcmaster Street

Ballston Spa, NY 12020

 

Publishing History

First Edition, 2012

ISBN:
978-0-9847957-2-7

 

Published in the United States of America

 

 

 

Clockwork Countess

Delphine

 

CHAPTER ONE

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Soft billows of steam swirled around Rowan as she stepped off the train onto the lonely platform.  The train let out an earsplitting screech into the dark country air as its engines churned back to life and the great iron machine
chugged out of the station.  Rowan
clutched her threadbare satchel to her, holding the few possessions she refused to be parted with.  The Countess’s letter
had indicated
all was to
be provided for
her
upon Rowan’s arrival at Heartwycke Park.  It had not taken much penetration to understand that anything she deemed to bring with her would be considered far too shabby for what they intended.

Rowan p
eered through the wisps of gray
as the steam began to clear
.
Her eyes were drawn to t
he
silhouette of a man
who
stood
staring at her
from
the entrance to the deserted platform.  Goose bumps prickled her skin under the intensity of his gaze.  She glanced nervously at the departing train and then back at the tall figure
as h
e stepped forward into the glow of the gas lamps.

He was a striking figure
, dressed in the dark cloak and well-
tailored clothes of a gentleman.  Grasped in one hand he
carried a silver-
headed walking stick baring the strange features of a wide-eyed owl.  His
tousled hair fell across his
brow and the black smoldering eyes of a gypsy prince sent a shiv
er of anticipation through her.

Rowan struggled to take a deep breath and compose herself as he approached but her stays were laced too tightly.  All she could do was gulp and tuck a lock of flaming red curls more firmly beneath her
somber
mourning bonnet.

“You are Miss Brompton?” he enquired politely.

She nodded.  “Yes, you must be from Heartwycke Park?”

He gave her an elegant bow.  “I am your second cousin, Roderick Heartwycke.  We are very pleased you have agreed to come to us now in your…” he paused for a moment and his formality eased.  “I’m truly sorry to hear of your father’s passing.  I lost my own father not so long ago and I know how difficult it is.” 

Moved by the sincerity of his expression
and the kindness of his voice, Rowan blinked back tears.  “Thank you, Mr. Heartwycke.”

“You must call me Roderick,” he insisted, “as we
are
distantly related.”

“Yes
,
of course.  I’m so used to being addressed as Rowan anyway.  At the theater people are not so formal as in Society.”

“I can imagine.”

She looked up sharply, ready to do battle at any perceived insult, but
she saw only the same kind
eyes looking down at her.  For a moment she just stood there, held by his gaze.  It had been such a long time since anyone but her father had looked at her w
ith anything like compassion or s
poken a sympathetic word.  So long since anyone had seemed even remotely like a friend.  To her horror, his
considerate manner made her
tear up
even
more and she swallowed hard to keep down a sob.  Grateful for th
e
veil tha
t
shielded
her features
, she quickly glanced away and fiddled with her satchel.

“I’ll see to your trunks and we’ll be on our way then.” 
Roderick offered his arm to guide her from
the station.

She bit her lip.
“This is all I have.”

For the first time he smiled and his f
ace transformed from a
brooding
mask
to the dazzling
brightness
of an angel.  “Well, that will make lighter work for my coachman.  Between you and me,
Meriwether
is getting older now.  I’ve begged the man to retire but he won’t hear of it.  Cons
equently, I end up hauling
everything
about
myself to spare his back!” 

Rowan smiled too.  “That’s very kind of you to consider your servants.  Far too few people do, you know.  But don’t you have footmen to assist you?”

His face darkened again
as they reached the coach,
the family crest
of that strange silver owl
emblazoned upon the glossy black exterior.  “Our staff have much to endure at Heartwycke, and as we crave privacy, we keep household retainers to a minimum.”  His frown deepened as he turn
ed to her
.  “Heartwycke is no
t a
cheerful place.  It is

" he paused and seemed to think better of what he had been about to say
.  "At any rate,
I imagine you will not be ther
e for long.  By this summer you wi
ll be out of mourning and off to London for the Season.  You’ll make some sort of suitable match
I imagine
and be done with us.”

“Surely, it can’t
be as bad as all that?” she said with a mock smile
, attempting
to make light
of his gloomy
description
.

But his face settled into a grim line and a haunted expression flickered in
the depths of his
eyes.  “You may judge for yourself.”

He held out his hand and she placed hers in his firm grasp.  Even through her
glove she could sense
the warmth of him as he held her securely in balance while she negotiated the step
s into the coach.  His grip was
so comforting and solid, she was reluctant to let go, but feeling foolish, she quickly released him and
sank back into the luxury of
midnight blue cushions. 

As he climbed in after her, the w
arm
light of the coach’s running lamps flickered across his face and she was struck again by his dramatic looks.  He could earn a fortune on the W
est End stage as a matinee idol, she mused.
What a Hamlet he would make!  But then that only brought back memories of her father and the great acclaim he had garnered before his own too brief candle flickered out.
She turned towards the
window to hide her emo
tions as Roderick settled
a
cross from her

With the crack of his
whip, old
Meriwether
sent the
storm
gray stallions
cantering and the coach swayed along the cobbled streets of the sleepy village. 

“You’re shivering.”  H
is voice was like deep velvet in the darkness and she was acutely aware of the low masculine tones, the unmistakable good breeding of aristocracy in his voice.  Though her father had insisted she study with his vocal coach, and everyone at the theater swore she spoke with the perfect cadence of a lady of the
ton
, she felt she had never qui
t
e
lost the lilt of her native Ireland. 

“I a
m qui
t
e
alright,” she insisted.

“Don’t be
silly,” he unfolded a thick fur-
lined blanket.  “
It gets beastly cold in the country
this time of year.”  He moved to sit at her side, draping the cozy blanket carefully across her shoulders, his warm fingers tucking her in, protecting her from the chill mists rising from the damp earth outside. 

She felt the gentle,
firm pressure of his hands through the silky fur, his face was shrouded in shadow, but the force of his presence so close to her in the dark enclosed space made her pulse race.  She could feel his strong thigh pressed against her own as he
leaned
in to arrange the blanket more securely.  She fe
lt herself instinctively angling
closer to his warmth, to his magnetism that seemed to draw her in.  His hands went quiet on her shoulders as he looked into her eyes through the black tulle of her veil.  The carriage rocked them back and forth as they sat staring at one another, unable to break away. 

Slowly, as if it had a will of its own, Rowena’s hand reached up to pull back her veil and she was exposed to the full heat of
the yearning kindling
in
his gypsy
eyes. 

Her breath suspended.  Time slowed as the dark wood whirred past and the sound of the horse’s hooves clattering on the road seemed like the rhythmical round of an eternal clock. 

Rowan hardly u
nderstood what was happening
,
as
drawn inevitably to one another as if by some prearranged ordainment, their lips brushed softly in the darknes
s
.
  She inhaled the scent of him––
horses, pine boughs
and a shade of
bergamot
soap
as he kissed her again,
the tentative warmth of his lips sending tingles of pleasure all the way to the tips of her toes.  She leaned into him, wanting more of this lovely heady sensation. 

The swaying of the
carriage
rocked them gently
together
as his em
brace tightened around her
, his lips pressing more urgently against hers.  H
er mouth opened under his
,
like a rose blooming in the sunlight, opening
to the warmth of his
tenderness
, the ardent longing that called to her as their kiss deepened into something luxurious and blissful, his tongue awakening hers as they brushed together.  Sweet and warm as melted caramel.

With a deep groan, his hands encircled her waist and he pulled her against him, running his palms up the length of her back to cup her head firmly as his kisses strayed from her lips to the tender flesh of her throat.

Her eyes fluttered back at the trail of fireworks his kisses sparked across her skin.  When he
reached the collar of her high-
necked mourning dress, Roderick paused, but she found herself
wantonly pressing
her taut
breasts against him, hung
ry for something she did not
understand. 

His breath came
in ragged pants
as
he claimed her sweet lips again, kissing her with a passion that erased all reason.  She clung against him, her blood pumping in her ears, her body filling up with heat.  She felt his fingers roaming down the back of her gown, unhooking the little fastening
s
that held her strict black dress in place.  Suddenly her bodice felt like a
prison she couldn’t escape quickly
enough, as he slid her gown down her white shoulders to her waist exposing the fullness of her aching breasts beneath the barest whisper of her muslin chemise. 

Rowan sucked in her breath as his hand cupped her generous flesh, his thumbs circling the tips of her nipples through the thin muslin until s
he cried out in pleasure and
felt a warm tingling in her sex, a rising heat that longed
for more
.
  Moved purely by in
stinct, she leaned in closer,
straddling him
, so she could feel
the hard bulge of his arousal
even through his trousers and
the layers of her petticoats. 

She felt his strong hands encircling her corseted waist, holding
her slightly away from his body,
his breath coming in
short
ragged
bursts
as he looked up at her with a fire raging in his eyes.  “We shouldn’t be doing this…”

But she
couldn’t bear for him to stop.  E
very primal urge in her screamed out for his heat and his touch as she arched her back, exposing the full ripeness of her breasts to his view, the stays of her corset only accentuating the heavy fullness of her creamy flesh beneath the
almost transparent
chemise.

Cursing, he pulled the muslin from her breasts so he had full view of her
rosy
nipples and brought his
mouth
tantalizingly close to
her skin.  She could feel the warmth of his breath on her exposed flesh and it only made her hunger for the feel of his mouth, his tongue.

She grasped at her own breasts, squeezing them and offering her body up to his lips.  “Please…” she whimpered, pulling his head closer, running her fingers though his soft dark hair.  He responded with the tip of
his tongue, teasing at her tau
t nipple until the throbbing ache between her legs was unbearable.  She brushed her tingling flesh against the bulge in his breeches and his eyes shot open.

BOOK: Clockwork Countess
8.75Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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