“Full of all the swoons, a dash of mystery, and punches of humor, you are going to fall head over heels with Neanderthal Seeks Duchess.” – Catherine Cowles, author of Tattered Stars
There are three things you need to know about Lady Jane Morrison:
After scandalous events during the London season, Lady Jane is attracting the wrong kind of attention. Her reputation is at risk as well as all her carefully laid plans for the future. And for better or worse, a chance encounter with a mysterious lord sets forth a series of events that will change their lives forever.
‘Neanderthal Seeks Duchess’, a Penny Reid Universe Reimagining, is a full-length historical romance, can be read as a standalone, and is book #1 in the London Ladies Embroidery series, Smartypants Romance Out of this World, Penny Reid Book Universe.
Amazon US: https://amzn.to/3h0HoOb
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Amazon CA: https://amzn.to/3I0hWo6
Amazon AU: https://amzn.to/3H4csre
Amazon Print: https://amzn.to/3FhHTi9
Audiobook: Coming this summer!
“You desire the life of a spy then?” I could tell he was teasing, but it didn’t seem the mean sort of mocking I was so often accustomed to.
“Oh, of course. I am definitely spy material. I’m sure the War Office will come calling any day now,” I managed to tease back, indulging in a mirthful laugh. Were we having a flirtation? I wondered if I was doing it right.
I was suddenly struck with a bout of nerves. I didn’t know how to carry on a flirtation with a man. Being with John didn’t require flirting on my part. We simply conversed. I never made a concentrated effort to amuse John and be amused in return. Coy and coquettish were more in line with Cassandra and her interactions in a ballroom. She laughed loudly and often, usually flapping her eyelashes in a pleasing manner. Lords were simply drawn to her. Now that I considered it, it was likely just her outgoing personality. I was… not like that.
This bantering, the back-and-forth with Q in the garden, was multifaceted. I warred between self-consciousness and butterflies erupting behind my sternum.
His eyebrows remained amused and my pulse leaped once more. “Well, I hope the crown doesn’t steal you away just yet.” Warmth pooled low in my belly at Q’s admiring look. Those butterflies were approaching maximum velocity.
In a show of sheer survival instinct, I straightened on the bench. “I should probably get back to work.”
Q’s gaze was questioning. Perhaps signs of self-preservation weren’t evident in my expression, but I felt certain he could read some inner turmoil there. Q stood slowly and held out an arm. “I’ll escort you back to the library, if that’s all right?”
I nodded and felt grateful I hadn’t ruined our time together with my abrupt decision to depart. These feelings were so new and utterly overwhelming.
We made our way along the gravel path, through the kitchens, and up the service staircase in quiet contemplation before emerging in the long hallway of the third floor. His heat and nearness were addicting. The simple act of walking by his side was fraught with tension—the good kind. The best kind.
“Perhaps you could enjoy a picnic in the gardens another day. I could let Betty know in advance and she could pack a few items for you. So you wouldn’t feel like an imposition,” Q said as he slowed our progress outside the library doorway.
I appreciated his consideration for my concerns and for Mrs. Hooper’s time and energy. “If it’s not too much trouble, that sounds lovely. Thank you.” Genuine pleasure sufficed my demeanor, chasing away my previous doubts.
“And perhaps I could join you.” At these quietly uttered words, my head snapped up abruptly to meet Lord Dashing’s patented intense stare. “If that’s agreeable, that is,” he murmured, seemingly unsure of his welcome.
I smiled then. Full and wide. I often had difficulty interpreting the reactions of others, their hidden smiles and secretive expressions. Conversing with nobility was often an exercise in subterfuge and subtlety. Both elements I struggled with and didn’t see the need for. I preferred honesty and directness. Therefore, I wanted Q to read the authenticity in my smile when I replied, “I’d like that very much.”
Lord Dashing escorted me the remaining distance to the library before lifting my hand from his arm. I assumed he’d simply deposit me at my desk and be on his way, but he lingered. Twining our fingers together, Q raised my hand to his lips. Slowly and quite deliberately, he rotated my hand and placed a kiss on the inside of my wrist just beyond the fabric of my kid gloves. The heat from his mouth was deliciously obscene and I felt my breath stutter on an inhale. I should have been shocked by his behavior and scandalized by his forwardness. And yet… All I could muster was a sense of regret that I’d cut our afternoon short in a moment of weakness.
Eyes locked, Q pulled away from my skin. Lowering my hand to my side, he retreated a pace before turning slowly and exiting the room. I stood frozen in place, staring after his departed form. With my opposite hand covering my inner wrist, I could feel the heat from his scandalous touch and sought to trap it within.
What was happening?
I spent the afternoon mostly absorbed by the ledgers lining my desk, but couldn’t help but allow my attention to stray to the gardens a time or two, remembering the sun on my face, the man at my side, and the butterflies wreaking havoc on my carefully laid plans.
Laney Hatcher is a firm believer that there is a spreadsheet for every occasion and pie is always the answer. She is an author of stories that have a past, in a language of love that’s universal. Often too practical for her own good, Laney enjoys her life in the southern United States with her husband, children, and incredibly entitled cat.
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