Today, I bring you a little taste of the soon to be released How to Capture a Countess (out September 18!!)! This book launches a whole new series and introduces an entire new cast of characters – including some somewhat nontraditional additions to the fun. I hope you enjoy the excerpt and be sure to read to the end for some additional fun, including how to win free books!
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“Dear me,” Lady Charlotte said as she lowered her bow and arrow and squinted down the lawn. “Where’s the target?”
Rose looked at the large wooden target sporting a painted red square over a purple background. “It’s in the center. Can’t you see it?”
“I think . . .” The older woman bent forward at the waist, her eyes squinted almost shut. “I think I . . . ah! There it is.” She pointed to the large fountain close to the house.
Miss Muriella tittered. ”That’s the fountain.” She took Lady Charlotte’s arm, and – squinting down the lawn, too – turned the older lady a quarter turn away from the fountain. “That’s the target.”
Sin clearly heard Rose mutter, “Oh dear.” Miss Muriella had turned Lady Charlotte toward the vicar’s buggy, which was tied up by the door, waiting for a groom to drive it around to the stable.
A footman gave a startled exclamation and hurried forward to show the target to Lady Charlotte. He gently too her arm and turned her yet more. He then looked over her shoulder to make certain she was aiming toward the target and nowhere else.
Sin stifled a laugh. Crisis averted. For now.
From where she sat under the huge tent off to one side, Aunt Margaret clapped her hands. “Ladies! It’s time to begin! Lady Charlotte, you may proceed.”
And thus it began. For the next thirty minutes, arrows rained upon the lawn. Some hit the ground. One or two went almost straight in the air. Another plunged into a closed shutter. One hit the fountain. One embedded itself in Aunt Margaret’s tent, which caused a commotion, but did nothing to stop the contest.
From his perch in the billiard room window, Sin didn’t know when he’d ever been so entertained and his laughter drew the other men from their game. Soon, chairs were drawn up, port and cigars handed out as they all watched the show.
By the end of the third round, only five arrows had made it to the target and three of them were Rose’s.
Lady Charlotte stepped forward to take her turn, but just then, there was a loud bang followed by a shout, and then a flurry of fur bounded across the lawn.
The Roxburghe pugs were on the loose.
A footman holding a tray of strawberries tripped over a small brown pug. His tray flew into the air and landed on a large bowl of jam, splattering those sitting under the tent, while the strawberries rained upon Mrs. Stewart who futilely batted at them with her fan. Another footman, distracted by the fall of the first footman, tripped over the end of Lady MacFarlane’s chaise, hit the corner of the serving table, and knocked over a small burner used to reheat the teapot. The resultant flames caused additional mayhem until her grace had the presence of mind to throw her shawl over the burning tablecloth and put out the flames.
Meanwhile, outside the fence, two pugs had found the ribbons that wafted from one of the tent poles and had begun a brutal, no-holds-barred tug of war. Yet another pug, growling as if ready to kill, chased a screeching housemaid around the fountain.
“What madness!” Lord Cameron leaned forward, his chair next to Sin’s. “One normally has to attend a theatre for amusement like this.”
The pugs tugging on the ribbons moved and were suddenly tugging in the same direction. Once. Twice. On the third jointed tug, the entire tent collapsed with a spectacular whoosh.
Startled mid-shot, Lady Charlotte had released her arrow straight into the air. It arced in the air and came down in a small thicket near the small lake.
Mr. Munro, holding his side, wiped his eyes with the back of one hand. “That was the best entertainment I’ve had in some time!” He chuckled for some more moments, though he finally regained control enough to say with only a faint quiver in his voice, “Of course, I hope no one was hurt.”
Mr. Stewart, whose wife was still struggling to free herself from the tent, puffed his cigar. “None of the poles are even close to where they were sitting.”
“Should we go down and help?” Lord Montrose asked between sips of port.
“No,” Mr. Stewart said flatly. “MacDougal is already helping the ladies and they seem fine.”
Indeed, the butler, MacDougal, and his legion of footmen were even now assisting her grace and her guests from the collapsed tent. The duchess was the first to appear and, except for her obviously frayed temper, seemed none the worse for wear. Somehow, she’d miraculously kept her wig upon her head, too, a feat that impressed Mr. Stewart so that he mentioned it several times over the next ten minutes as the rest of the rescued guests gathered on the lawn.
The men chuckled and laughed, but Sin’s smiles faded as he watched the duchess gesture toward the large archery stand and arrows, which were packed up and hauled by cart back to the barn. Damn it, how am I to win my wager with Rose if the target and all are removed?
His jaw firmed. He wasn’t certain how, but he’d find a way. There was too much at stake not to, even if he had to haul everything out and set it up by himself . . .
Now it’s your turn! I want to hear your fun dog stories! It can be dog mischief, personality quirks or anything else memorable the four legged friends in your world have done. One story will win a prize pack of signed books – and we may just share some of your fun stories on my Facebook page!
(Comments will be considered for the drawing through midnight Pacific time on Sunday, September 2. The winner will be chosen at random from all comments submitted before the deadline. If the winner resides outside the US, we reserve the right to substitute an online gift card in lieu of physical books.)