As you may have heard, one of my stories, “A Woman of Uncommon Accomplishment,” is eligible for Circlet Press’s upcoming best-of collection. Eee! Naturally, I am hoping that everyone will vote for it and it’ll be included! And of course I’d hope that for any of the stories I’ve written. But “A Woman of Uncommon Accomplishment” is the story that snuck up and stole my heart, and it would be particularly wonderful to have this one make it into a print anthology.
I thought I’d post an excerpt to try and encourage some more votes, and I’ve decided on the first kiss between our heroine, Mary Bennet (yes, that Mary Bennet), and the incubus she has accidentally summoned and bound to her, who calls himself Nick. Romantic, eh?
As we join them here, they are finishing up a crash course in magic that Nick has been giving Mary in hopes of fulfilling the terms of the spell she cast. There’s a bit of saucy language in the scene I’ve chosen, as well as the kissing, but nothing too scandalous. So read on for an excerpt from “A Woman of Uncommon Accomplishment,” originally published in Circlet Press’s Sense and Sensuality:
They made speedier progress than Nick had gloomily anticipated. Within ten days, they had covered all of the spells in the book. And though Mary had not tried to cast all of them–there were some she would never wish to attempt, and others that she felt no immediate need for–those she had tested worked just as they were meant to.
She closed the book with a happy sigh. “I thank you, sir,” she said, with a touch of the dramatic. The moment seemed to call for it. “You have truly done me a service.”
But Nick was frowning, pacing back and forth across the room. “I’m afraid I have not, no.” His form wavered, becoming transparent for a moment before solidifying again. He groaned, and cast himself violently onto the bed, where he covered his eyes with one forearm. “Bloody fucking arse!”
Mary was too shocked to reply. She stood up and, her cheeks burning, left the room.
Perhaps Nick would benefit from some time to compose himself, she thought. And in the meantime, she would go for a walk, and consider the problem.
After a quarter of an hour touring one of Pemberly’s gardens, she was no nearer to a solution than she had been when she left her room. Her idea of substituting one kind of service for another had seemed sound, particularly when Nick examined the spell which had summoned him and said that it was constructed rather obscurely. But it had not worked, as evidenced by Nick’s… passionate complaint.
Still, perhaps there was some merit in the idea of skirting the conditions of the spell.
When Mary returned to her room, Nick was in much the same state as when she had left it, though he had moved his arm and replaced it with a pillow that more fully covered his face. Mary sat down next to him, perching on the side of the bed. It was astonishing, how quickly she had become used to Nick’s presence in her room. The idea of being anywhere near both a man and a bed at the same time would have seemed so scandalous to her only a fortnight ago.
“What if I let you kiss me?” she suggested.
The pillow shifted slightly. “I beg your pardon?”
Mary leaned over and removed the cushion. “A kiss,” she said, looking into Nick’s face. “Only a kiss, mind you. But could it be enough to satisfy the spell?”
Nick’s expression was thoughtful. “Possibly.” He sat up. “Are you certain?”
Mary took a deep breath, steeling herself, and closed her eyes. “Yes. You may proceed.”
She thought she heard Nick chuckle, but then she felt the bed shift as he moved, and his breath against her cheek, and gave no further thought to it. His lips were dry and warm against hers. It was not unpleasant. She had allowed one of the Lucas boys to kiss her once and regretted it heartily. His mouth had been sticky, he had been rough, and the experience was wholly disgusting. But Nick was all gentleness, soft and light.
And then the dry brush of his mouth over hers changed slightly, a thin line of moisture passing over the seam of her lips, and Mary opened her mouth without thought. As soon as she realized that she had done it–that Nick’s mouth was open, too, and his lips pressing to hers more firmly–his tongue had slipped between her teeth, and she was too fascinated to make him stop. What was he doing? It felt… good. Strange, but agreeable.
His scent, which she caught clearly now that their bodies were so close, was agreeable, too. As was the heat of his body, and a low sound he made in the back of his throat as she slid her tongue against his.
One of his hands went to her waist, drawing her closer. The other curved over her breast, fingertips questing dexterously under her fichu within the space of a breath.
Mary jerked backward and slapped him with as much force as she could manage.
He laughed, and raised his hands. “I apologize, Miss Bennet. I found I could not help myself.” Seeing that she did not intend to slap him again, he relaxed, and rubbed the side of his face. “You served me out soundly for it. My compliments to your boxing teacher.”
Mary’s palm was stinging; she hoped that it had hurt him. The skin of her bosom felt as if he had branded it with his touch. “Did it work?”
Nick’s violet eyes went hazy for a moment as he focused on something Mary could not see. “No.” He looked at her again, and grinned, the light from the window glinting on his earring. “But we could try again.”
Mary picked up the pillow he’d been using earlier, and held it in front of his face. Then she pushed, hard, until Nick fell over backward on the bed, his protests that he “hadn’t meant it, Miss Bennet, take pity!” muffled in cotton and feathers.
Angry and embarrassed, she left the room in a hurry for the second time in one day, and did not return until well after midnight.
If you enjoyed that, please go and vote for ” “A Woman of Uncommon Accomplishment” by Elizabeth Reeve (from Sense & Sensuality)” in the poll!