Hello everyone! Welcome to Monday, November 13, 2017. I got a full slate of authors this week and today, I start with Regina Jeffers and her release, The Earl Claims His Comfort, a wonderful historical romance. Without any further ado, please help me welcome Regina to my blog today. Regina, tell us about The Earl Claims His Comfort.
The Earl Claims His Comfort: Book 2 of the Twins’ Trilogy
~ 2016 Hot Prospects Award Finalist
Hurrying home to Tegen Castle from the Continent to assume guardianship of a child not his, but one who holds his countenance, Levison Davids, Earl of Remmington, is shot on the road and left to die. The incident has Remmington chasing after a man who remains one step ahead and who claims a distinct similarity—a man who wishes to replace Remmington as the rightful earl. Rem must solve the mystery of how Frederick Troutman’s life parallels his while protecting his title, the child, and the woman he loves.
Comfort Neville has escorted Deirdre Kavanaugh from Ireland to England, in hopes that the Earl of Remmington will prove a better guardian for the girl than did the child’s father. When she discovers the earl’s body upon road backing the castle, it is she who nurses him to health. As the daughter of a minor son of an Irish baron, Comfort is impossibly removed from the earl’s sphere, but the man claims her affections. She will do anything for him, including confronting his enemies. When she is kidnapped as part of a plot for revenge against the earl, she must protect Rem’s life, while guarding her heart.
In the deepest recesses of Rem’s mind, he thought he could hear someone talking, but the words remained garbled. His last conscious thought had been of his impending death. Therefore, he wondered if the voices were those of God’s angels. Although he was certain his expression had not changed physically, the thought brought a smile to his lips. “More likely the Devil’s disciples,” his mind announced. “You are not of the nature to know God’s mercy.”
The voices dwindled to an uncomfortable silence, and Rem fought for the clarity his injury denied him. For several elongated moments, his unconscious mind claimed dominance, and Rem found himself tumbling toward the darkness once again, but just as he had abandoned the hope of the angels claiming him, a comfortably heavy weight landed upon his chest.
The suddenness of the attack had Rem searching for his next breath.
“Here!” A harsh squealing voice demanded. “Down here!”
There was fear and anxiousness in the tone, and something in Rem’s body reacted to the cry for assistance. His mind shut the door leading to the dark pit and began its climb toward the speck of light beckoning to him.
“Wake up!” the voice demanded.
Hands caught the lapels of his jacket to tug him forward. Even so, it was several seconds before he ventured to open his lids. When he did, the light caused him to blink hard.
“Can you hear me?” the voice screeched as a body blocked out the sunlight to tower over him.
“I’m not deaf, demme it,” he hissed as he cracked his eyelids open to claim the light once more.
In the end, the face hovering above his took on a familiar form. Dark curls. A heart-shaped face. The soft complexion of youth. The image brought him comfort while it frightened him beyond reason, for he knew the figure before him was dead.
“So, it is true?” Rem struggled through a dry throat, swallowing hard against the unreality of the situation. “God prefers his angels to possess the innocence of children.”
“I am no angel,” the face assured him.
“You are…” Rem stumbled over the familiar name.
They said in unison.
Rem squeezed his eyes shut to clear his vision, but when he opened them again, the childlike image remained.
“Are you or are you not Lady Delia?” he demanded testily.
“Not,” the figure pronounced as confusion crossed her features.
Yet before Rem could gather his thoughts, the image retreated to be replaced by another. Blue-green eyes. Golden-red wisps of hair flamed with the light behind it. Full lips. Creamy white skin touched with flecks of the sun’s kiss. Although concern crossed the celestial being’s expression, the countenance before him was his idea of an angel.
“Can you tell me what occurred? Are you injured?”
The “angel” ran her hands over his body to search for wounds, but he held no thoughts of the woman’s charity. Her clean, slightly floral scent tempted him as nothing had in some two years.
“Oh, my,” she said on a gasp as her fingers grazed his leg and came back bloody. She jerked a scarf from her head and leaned over Rem’s body to wrap the cloth about his leg.
Rem knew he should warn her not to touch his wound, but the heat of her body draped over his danced through his veins. Her breasts brushed against his manhood, and despite his every limb feeling the numbness of inaction and the overnight rain, his body reacted to her closeness.
“We must remove you to safety,” she said in anxiousness as her image returned to a point above him. Without the scarf to cover her locks, the woman was more angelic looking than before for the sunlight set the fire dancing in her tresses, and Rem permitted himself the hint of a smile.
“I shall return to the manor and plead for assistance,” she said as she prepared to stand. “You must have the services of a surgeon.”
Her words cleared the fog clinging to Rem’s mind. “No!” he snapped as he caught the stranger’s arm to stay her rise.
“You require a surgeon,” she reiterated.
Rem knew her correct, but his wound was no accident. He did not know whom he might trust among those at Tegen Castle.
“Even though I’ve recovered your horse, I cannot permit you to ride on your own.”
“You found Draco?” he asked with an attempt to sit up only to have the woman shove downward on his shoulders.
“You cannot think to ride,” she insisted. “You’re too weak.”
“You are not my demme mother,” Rem accused.
She shoved hard against his frame, and although he knew the woman meant it as part of her chastisement, his mind returned to the pleasure of having her so draped across his body.
“First, you, sir, will not speak so freely before the child. If you continue to act without respect for Miss Deirdre’s tender nature, I shall leave your carcass here to rot.” The woman poked Rem’s chest with her finger to punctuate her threat, but all his faculties could claim was the floral-scented drape of her hair as she leaned over him. His fingers itched to run them through the heavy ring of fire. “Moreover, from the cut of your clothes,” she continued without an acknowledgement of his distraction, “you are a gentleman. Therefore, you must be expected at Tegen Castle.”
“Is Lord Remmington at the castle?” Rem said suspiciously. Some of his renowned reasoning had returned. After all, the woman leaning over him was a stranger. Though he prayed it not so, perhaps she was involved in the attack upon his person.
“The earl is expected,” the woman repeated in what sounded of earnestness. But when she looked with more purpose upon his countenance, Rem noted a flicker of confusion crossed her expression.
“Despite your objection,” Rem spoke with the authority he had developed during his time serving under Wellington, “I mean to mount Draco and seek my own care giver.”
The woman continued to study Rem’s expression closely—too closely for his ease. “Very well,” she said at length. “Permit me to lead your stallion to the shade of the tree. Draco will be waiting for you there.”
With that, she strode away, catching the girl by the hand and tugging the child along behind her. In her anger, the female was magnificent. Rem raised himself to his elbows so he might observe her retreat. It was as he had expected. The sway of her hips as she sidestepped across the short expanse leading to the back road of his estate was a magnificent sight to behold.
Swallowing a cry of pain as he lifted his weight to a seated position, Rem calculated how many steps it would take to reach the large elm.
“Twelve,” he grunted while rolling to his one good knee. Not placing weight on his left leg, he grabbed the spindle-like branches of a large shrub, pulling himself to a standing position. Blowing out a short breath, he took a tentative step forward, followed by a hobble step. His good leg remained numb from a lack of use, while his injured one shot pains through his body to lodge in his tightened jaw, but his determination won out.
“Four,” Rem hissed as he repeated the maneuver, and his resolve took a firmer hold. However, the rocky path had a mind of its own, and it meant to bring him down. As if the land rose up to claim his footing, he stumbled to land face first in the mud.
“Hold the horse,” the woman instructed the child.
When he looked in her direction, she was scampering over the short distance to reach him. “Keep back?” Rem growled as he shoved himself upward. The woman came to a stumbling halt. “I require no assistance,” he insisted in sharp tones.
Biting down on his stubborn will, Rem slowly repeated the process of standing—this time without the aid of the shrubbery. Yet, his earlier resolve had suffered a blow with his fall, and he swayed in place. His disorientation was enough to send the woman into action again. She rushed forward to brace Rem’s stance, and her floral scent filled his lungs with an enticing aphrodisiac.
“Please permit me to assist you,” she pleaded.
“It is not necessary,” Rem insisted.
“Allow the woman her due,” a very masculine voice called out from behind where the child waited with Draco.
“What the bloody hell are you doing here?” Rem snapped as he took in the countenance of his former friend. “You’ve no demme business in York.”
Yet before the Marquess of Malvern could respond, the woman shoved hard against Rem’s chest, sending him backward to land upon his posterior.
“I warned you, sir, I would not tolerate your foul tongue!”
Rem would have preferred to scramble to his feet and turn the blasted woman over his knee to exact his revenge, but today was not a “scrambling” kind of day. Today was a roll-onto-one’s-side-and-bite-one’s-tongue to disguise the pain type of day.
“Ma’am,” he heard the marquess say with kindness, “perhaps you should assist the young miss with his lordship’s horse. Draco is remarkably strong, and such a pretty miss should not muddy her dress in an attempt to hold the animal. I will assist the—”
“Marquess,” Rem groaned. For some reason Rem did not want the woman to know his identity. It was more than his angry response to an innocent. He did not know who wanted him dead. The woman was a stranger, and she would not be the first female who had practiced a deceit against him.
“Yes, the Marquess of Malvern,” Huntington McLaughlin said in what sounded of confusion.
Rem remained curled in a tight ball as the marquess approached. McLaughlin knelt beside him and gently rolled Rem to his back. “Where are you injured?” he asked in quiet tones.
Rem draped an arm across his eyes, not wishing to observe the sympathy on the marquess’ features. More than a year prior, he had wished Malvern to the devil when Rem received word that Miss Angelica Lovelace had accepted Malvern’s proposal. Now Fate meant to throw him and his former friend together again.
“Cut on the back of my head.” He repeated the litany of aches and pains. “More bruised pride than for which I care to account. Loss of blood. There’s a bullet in my upper thigh.”
Malvern growled, “Dear Lord, Rem, why did you not say so previously? I will ride to the castle to summon a surgeon.”
Rem lowered his arm to catch Malvern’s shoulder. “I told the woman I wanted no surgeon. Someone shot me less than a quarter mile from my threshold. I do not know whom I can trust. You can remove the bullet.”
Malvern grinned sheepishly. “How do you know you can trust me?”
Rem presented the marquess a hard stare. “I have known your betrayal previously, and I survived. You already have Miss Lovelace to wife, and you are the heir to the Duke of Devilfoard. I own nothing of interest to invite your dishonesty.”
Malvern’s frown lines deepened. “One day soon you must agree to listen to my explanation. I promised the marchioness I would speak to you as I should have done long ago.”
Rem did not wish to hear the marquess’s apology. There was nothing the words could change. Marriage was forever. “Not today. I am too weak to stomach your portion of humble pie.”
“As you wish, but know this chasm between us will be closed whether you care for the return of our association or not.” Malvern braced Rem to a seated position before wrapping one of Rem’s arms about the marquess’ shoulders to heft Rem to his feet. “Steady now,” Malvern cautioned.
Rem gritted his teeth. As they took short, stumbling steps toward where the woman waited with his horse, Rem hissed from the corner of his mouth, “Do you know her identity?’
“Mrs. Stoddard explained that the woman and the child were the reason your housekeeper sent for you.” Malvern spoke in tones so soft Rem had to listen with care to hear his former friend. “The child is Lady Delia’s daughter,” the marquess shared.
Rem halted their progress. “That explains why the girl appeared so familiar.” He scowled his disapproval. “Though for a moment I thought that God changed all his angels to childlike forms. Why is the girl in the neighborhood? Is Lady Delia’s father not at Phillips Hall?”
Malvern tightened his hold on Rem before responding. “From Mrs. Stoddard I learned that Phillips Hall was not Phillips’s primary seat, nor was it entailed upon the title. Viscount Phillips disposed of it recently to a Mr. Haughton.”
“Then who tends the child?” Rem asked suspiciously.
Malvern nodded toward where the pair waited. “Kavanagh employed the woman to escort the child to York, not to Phillips Hall, but rather to Tegen Castle.”
Rem’s reasoning was not so sharp as customary. He missed a few details in Malvern’s explanation. “Why here? Was Kavanagh aware of Phillips’s exit from the neighborhood? You said the land purchase was a recent one.”
“By recent, I mean some time after Lady Delia married her Irish baron. It is my understanding that Kavanagh disowned the child after Lady Delia’s passing. The baron instructed the woman who came to your aid to deliver Miss Deirdre to her real father.”
It took an extra heartbeat for Rem to understand the marquess’ words. “Oh hell, no,” Rem declared vehemently. “I was in Spain when Delia conceived her first born.”
“Keep your voice down,” Malvern cautioned. “It is not the child’s fault her legal father is a prig. Kavanagh has his heir so the baron has no more need of Lady Delia or the child. With Lady Kavanagh’s demise, after a reasonable time, he can remarry and produce a brood of little Irish babes.” The marquess paused dramatically. “According to your housekeeper, Miss Deirdre possesses your eyes, Remmington.”
Rem turned his head to disguise his ire from the watchful eye of the ladies. “I do not care what shade the child’s eyes claim. Although I dreamed often of bedding the girl’s mother, I was up to my ears in Froggies when Lady Delia permitted another what she promised me.”
Malvern nudged Rem to resume their trek. “We can decipher what is what once we see you to the safety of your home.”
“Not at the castle,” Rem insisted.
“Then the dowager house,” Malvern assured. “It is closer, and the woman and Miss Deirdre took sanctuary there.”
“Why not at the castle?” Rem demanded.
“Mr. Flood refused them shelter. Your housekeeper permitted them to remain at the dowager house, but there are no servants to assist the woman. She and the child have been there nearly a month.”
Somehow the idea impressed Rem. The stranger was resourceful. “As far as the woman knows, I am Malvern, and you are Remmington,” Rem instructed. “I just need to tend this wound, and then we can determine what occurred. I am too weak to defend myself for now.”
“Easy enough,” Malvern declared. “I still am missing gaps in my memory from my accident in Oxfordshire. Forgetting names is commonplace for me.”
Rem did not like to think with empathy upon Malvern. Rem’s pride still stung with stubbornness after losing Miss Lovelace to the marquess, but he realized that forgetting people and places must be quite daunting to a man who prided himself on his excellent memory. Their conversation ended while Malvern carefully boosted Rem into the saddle.
“I will lead the horse,” the woman assured the marquess. “If you will move the vegetable cart off the road. I shall return for it later.”
Now that he listened with his ears and not his fears, Rem could hear her Irish lilt accenting her words. Despite his best efforts, he enjoyed the musicality of it.
Malvern made easy work of the vegetable cart before catching the reins to Alibi to walk beside Draco. “Easier to catch you if you decide to fall,” he teased with a grin.
“Does your leg hurt much?” Miss Deirdre asked with the curiosity of the young.
“Very much,” Rem growled through a harsh breath. He did not wish to encourage the child to ask more questions. Rem had a hard enough time concentrating on his balance to remain in the saddle. Entertaining a child the world saw as his would never happen.
“You may make your inquiries of the…the marquess later,” the woman assured the child.
Rem wondered why the female stumbled over the word “marquess.” Did she recognize the deception he practiced? He looked up as they approached the estate grounds. How often had he raced up and down these lanes? Robby always beat Rem until they were strapping youths. Then his brother’s longer legs no longer provided Robinson an advantage.
“I know we agreed to the dower house, but explain to me why we are on the road circling the old castle,” he instructed as the scenery confirmed Rem’s suspicions.
Malvern screwed up his face in confusion. “It would take too long to circle back to the main road to the castle’s manor,” the marquess explained. “Moreover, I thought we decided the dowager house was closer, and you required a bed and someone to tend your wound.”
Rem turned his head too quickly, causing a swish of the tree line before his eyes, and he swayed in the saddle before he could right his seat. Both Malvern and the woman caught at him to prevent his falling off the horse.
Reseated, although a bit unsteady, Rem kept his eyes on the distant scenery. “I did not make myself clear earlier.” He pronounced the words in distinct syllables, as much for him as for his audience. “Before I was shot, I was gazing upon the old castle form of Tegen Estate in the distance. I could view the ramparts behind the current manor. How did I manage to be discovered upon the ground nearly a half mile removed from the original scene? I assure you I was in no condition to wander about the Yorkshire countryside.”
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Here's a little bit about Regina.
With 30+ books to her credit, Regina Jeffers is an award-winning author of historical cozy mysteries, Austenesque sequels and retellings, as well as Regency era-based romantic suspense. A teacher for thirty-nine years, Jeffers often serves as a consultant for Language Arts and Media Literacy programs. With multiple degrees, Jeffers has been a Time Warner Star Teacher, Columbus (OH) Teacher of the Year, and a Martha Holden Jennings Scholar, as well as a Smithsonian presenter. In 2016 and 2017, she was a finalist for the Daphne du Maurier Award for Excellence in Mystery/Suspense, the Frank Yerby Award for Fiction, the Derby Fiction Award, and the Chanticleer International Book Award.
Every Woman Dreams: https://reginajeffers.wordpress.com
Austen Authors: http://austenauthors.net
Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Regina-Jeffers/e/B008G0UI0I/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1479079637&sr=8-1
Thank you so much, Regina, for stopping by and sharing the excerpt from your book, The Earl Claims His Comfort. I wish you great success with the book, and hope you'll come back again, soon.
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