This book is coming soon (like, really really soon!) and I'll let you all know as soon as it's availble.
In the meantime, here's a tiny taster...
“Miss Waterford, will you join me in the library?”
Lettie glared up at Mr Andrew Hunter from the book that she had been pretending to read for the past twenty minutes. “Whatever for, Sir?” she asked, tilting her head to one side. “Surely you do not require my opinion on which book to choose? I am certain a man such as yourself will have all his views on the matter already formed.”
Determined as she was to goad him into an act of anger or abandonment in the presence of her relations, Lettie was furious when he kept his countenance and simply repeated his calm request for her to join him in the library.
“I will not,” she whispered, turning her face a little to ensure that her family would not see.
Andrew raised his eyebrows and his expression became almost imperceptibly sterner. “I assure you that you shall, Miss Waterford. I would speak with you before I leave.”
Lettie considered further refusals or else leaving the room entirely. For one wild moment, she even considered throwing her book at his severe, self-righteous face. Instead, she drew herself up with all of the dignity that she could muster and gave him the most contemptuous curtsey she had ever given to anyone. “Come along then, if you must,” she said coldly before turning and leaving the room, with Mr Andrew Hunter following close behind her.
Though she expected the scolding to begin the moment that she and Mr Hunter were out of earshot, he surprised her by walking by her side in silence as they made their way along the corridor to the library. Only once that door had closed firmly behind them did he speak.
“Lettie, what is the matter?” he asked softly, his hand still pressed against the smooth wood of the door.
Prepared as she was for a harsh reprimand, Lettie could for a moment think of no response. Flustered, she turned away and walked into the centre of the room. “Why on earth should anything be the matter?” she asked, trying to affect her usual flippant tone but not quite succeeding.
“Do not toy with me, Lettie. We both know that you are unhappy: if nothing else, this evening’s miserable performance has demonstrated that beyond all doubt.”
“How familiar you are,” retorted Lettie, “to know all my own thoughts so intimately.”
“Do you deny it?”
“You have already declared it to be so, Sir: I rather wonder at your needing my opinion at all.”
“Have a care, young lady. You are already due a spanking: do not make it worse for yourself.”
Lettie gasped and span around at his words, her brown eyes wide and truly looking at him for the first time since she and Mr Hunter had entered this room. “You have no right!”
“We have already discussed this, Laetitia. I said that I would chastise you again if your behaviour warranted it and I must say your behaviour has more than warranted it this evening.” His voice was calm but firm as he walked towards her. “Your impertinence, your incivility and your lack of concern for the feelings of others has been unpardonable and I must confess myself surprised that you did not know what the outcome would be when I asked to speak with you.”
“I… I suppose I had believed you might have… softened towards me in the ensuing weeks… but I see now that I am mistaken… and that I mean as little to you now as I did that day at the picnic…” Lettie’s lips were trembling and she inwardly cursed herself for being so open with a man who was at this very moment preparing to chastise her. What a fool she was to waste her true feelings on him!
“Whether or not my feelings have softened would make no difference to my decision to discipline you, Lettie. And I assure you that I hold you in very high esteem, just as I did on the day of the picnic. Indeed, you should take my actions this evening as a mark of that esteem. Now come here.”
Lettie looked at his outstretched hand with trepidation, her belly clenching and unclenching like a fist.
“Come now, Lettie. I do not wish to force you again but I shall if I deem it necessary.”
After another moment’s hesitation, Lettie pressed her eyes closed and, at the same instant, placed her gloved hand in his.
“Good girl,” he murmured, and Lettie despised herself for the feelings of pleasure his approval roused within her.