I’m glad you all stopped by to get a glimpse of Megan Mulry’s new book Bound to be a Groom from Riptide Publishing. This is not your mamma’s historical, so sit back and enjoy the excerpt and please, don’t forget to enter the Rafflecopter for your special prize. ;)
I am thrilled to be touring around the blogosphere introducing everyone to my new book Bound to Be a Groom! I loved researching and writing this steamy story and can’t wait for readers to get their hands on it. Speaking of hands…while a reviewer was reading an advance copy of the book a few weeks ago, she bemoaned the fact that she had run out of double AA batteries. This led to a hilarious conversation on Twitter about the wide range of sex toys and vibrators at our disposal and my editor, to whom I defer on all things technical, said the Hitachi Magic Wand was the be-all-and-end-all of “personal massagers” (<-that’s the technical name, just in case you were wondering). It never runs out of batteries…because it plugs in! So, of course I went online and bought one (which also involved research because there are cheap imitations galore…do not be fooled!). And holy hell! Okay. First of all, it is loud and heavy and enormous…there is no pretending you are just *whistles innocently* hanging out in bed with a good book. It’s more like shouting, “OKAY NOW I AM GOING TO PLUG IN THE BROBDINGNAGIAN VIBRATOR AND HAVE AN ORGASM!” Which is also fine. So, yeah, I tried it. Two times. And then I realized it was really an excellent, LITERAL, personal massager. I sit at a desk eight hours a day and have tons of muscle strain in my neck and shoulder. And the Hitachi is AMAZING for that shit. I’m not joking. Give me five minutes on low, right there at the base of my neck…and I’m ready to walk upstairs and have sex with my partner. So to celebrate this rite of passage (I used a vibrator! Yay!) and save you the trouble of ever running out of AA batteries (You can too! Yay!), I’m giving away (a brand new lol!) official (do not accept cheap imitations!) HITACHI HV250R MAGIC WAND MASSAGER.
This priceless (okay, it’s about $75) item will go to ONE lucky winner. The 2nd place winner will receive a $10 gift card from Riptide Publishing, and the 3rd place winner can choose any book from my backlist (excluding Bound to be a Groom). Entries close at midnight, Eastern Time, on April 25, and winners will be chosen on April 27. Contest is valid worldwide. Good luck and thanks for being a part of the blog tour!
CHAPTER ONE Badajoz, Spain – June 1808 Anna Redondo was unaccustomed to feeling at a disadvantage. It was not in her nature. She knew she’d been born on the wrong side of the blanket, but that had never prevented her from knowing her own mind. Having spent her first eighteen years within the walls of a convent might have limited her experience, but it had not curtailed her imagination. And she could imagine all sorts of things with this man. Regrettably, imagining would only take her so far; she needed to act. Taking a fortifying breath, she turned to face him. “It’s going to be quite a long afternoon for those two, don’t you think?” she ventured, gesturing toward the bride and groom. Isabella and Javier were walking at the front of the wedding party with the bright morning sun, so particular to this part of southern Spain, glinting off the beautiful silks and polished leather of the aristocratic guests all around them. “Pardon me?” Sebastian de Montizon asked, clearly surprised at the audacity of a polite young miss speaking to him so directly. “They look miserable, don’t you think?” Anna mused. She had left the convent in Burgos two weeks ago and traveled to Badajoz in a carriage, chaperoned by one of the older nuns. Apparently, the short time away had already emboldened her. Sebastian stared down at her as they walked, assessing her through hooded eyes while the clank and clop of horses and regal hardware around them seemed to fade. “I think they look blissfully happy. Whatever do you mean?” But she suspected he knew what she meant and was only pretending to be confused by the demure front. “Of course they’re happy to be married,” she said brightly, then, in a lower voice, “but now they have to wait and wait until they can be alone . . . on their wedding night . . .” Over the past week, dignitaries and aristocrats from all parts of Spain and Portugal, and even a few from France and England, had filed into Badajoz. Sebastian had swept into the main hall shortly before supper three days ago, looking like he had spent the past month splitting his time between a bar and a brothel. His dark hair had been too long even by today’s liberal standards, and the scruff of his beard had looked untended. For the wedding, he had reacquainted himself with his valet, and he now looked like many of the other perfectly turned-out aristocrats. But there was still a look of something wild about him. Anna’s first thought upon seeing him had been that he needed to be taken in hand . . . and that she’d be the one to do it. “What do you know of wedding nights, little convent girl?” He smiled and stood straighter as he kept walking alongside her through the winding cobbled streets. He clasped his strong hands confidently behind his back, as if he’d assessed her and seen all he needed to see of the little flower. Perfect. Think of me like that. “Nothing firsthand, of course. Only what I’ve imagined.” That got his attention. “Imagined?” His voice cracked. She smiled at the small victory. Anna needed experience, and here was a man who obviously had it. She assumed he would be discreet—he was a devoted and loyal friend of Javier de la Mina, her friend’s new husband—so he wouldn’t betray Anna’s secrets. In short, he would suit. Sebastian continued to look at her, and she felt her cheeks flush. The slightest narrowing of his eyes told her the rising color pleased him. “I have a very vivid imagination,” she whispered with throaty promise. She licked her lower lip, tipping her face away from his, hoping it was just enough to make him want to dip his head to look longer. “And I know how it feels to postpone my own desire.” Finding her pace, she sallied forth into his stunned silence. “I think once you feel something, it’s easier to discern in others.” She paused for effect. “Do you agree?” When he nearly stumbled on a cobblestone she feared she’d gone too far. Neither she nor Pia had any experience with men, of course, but they’d convinced themselves that if they could make each other shudder and beg, surely a brutish man would succumb to far less. It appeared they had been quite right. Sebastian looked as if he were about to make love to her reticule as it bounced back and forth against the apex of her thighs with each of her steps. She held it slightly away from her body. “Do you fancy my reticule?” His eyes flew up to hers. Spectacular eyes, she had to confess. They were just like Pia’s—that familiar greenish blue that made her think of the Caribbean Sea and the places the two of them had dreamt of spending their future. Places like Cartagena or Hispaniola, where she and Pia would live a quiet life of spinsterhood, disguising their passion for one another behind practical worsted dresses and massive studded doors that hid all manner of things. “Such eyes . . .” She hadn’t meant to say it aloud, but the color reminded her so much of Pia. Regardless, Sebastian seemed to enjoy the attention. Useful information, she thought. He likes to be noticed. His smile encouraged her to go on admiring him. It should have been irritating that he wanted his ego stroked—that such a gorgeous man seemed to crave endless praise—but Anna found it endearing. She was surprised to realize how much she liked the idea of Sebastian softening under her care, bending to her will. She wanted to stroke him. “The blue of your eyes reminds me of—” She hesitated, then continued more carefully. “—places in the New World, places I’ve heard of but never seen.” He looked interested then, and not merely in the flush of her cheeks or the moisture of her plump lower lip. “I was on my way there . . . before this transpired.” He said the last with an impatient toss of his gloved hand in the general direction of the bride and groom. She admired the way the kidskin molded to his strong fingers. “Your hand is quite something, as well,” she said in a slightly rougher voice. He smiled again, turning his hand this way and that, as if he’d never before taken a moment to look at it. “Really? I have two in fact.” He presented his left hand as evidence, then lifted his right forearm for her to rest her hand upon. “May I escort you into the alcázar, Lady Anna?” “I’m no lady, I’m afraid. A lowly miss.” He kept his arm extended. “The offer still stands . . . my dear Anna.” And there it was. My. For a few minutes or hours or days, she would be his. He had knowledge and experience. She needed both. She placed her gloved hand on the fine fabric of his dark-green jacket, lightly at first, then with a grip borne of excitement as his muscles flexed and shifted beneath her fingertips. She was loath to admit that the low, throbbing heat between her legs was not entirely the result of conjuring her passion for Pia.
CHAPTER TWO His eyes came to rest on her lower lip, wet from her constant back-and-forth nervous licking with the tip of her tongue. “Do stop that, please,” he begged. But she didn’t stop. She only paused for a moment, and instead of withdrawing that flicking little pink tip, she challenged him with her eyes. The flare of her audacity sent fire into his blood. She opened her lips wider and let her tongue drag a leisurely circle around the entire red, wet opening. He did stumble that time. Sebastian was no longer deceived by all that virginal frailty—that impossibly elegant neck with the birthmark at the base near the lacy edge of her gown, the arms and legs that moved like delicate damselfly wings. “I see you use a convent education and a pale dress to disguise yourself, much as I use a family name and a sword.” Her eyes widened at his brash speech, but she didn’t reply. “I know what it is to live behind a mask, Anna.” He also knew what rested behind her careful shell: something hot and honest and demanding. The man he presented to the world was the strong, strapping soldier; the agile, competent horseman; the eldest son of a powerful landowner; the heir being groomed to follow in his father’s illustrious footsteps; even the rebellious rogue. Not one of them was the real man, the lover who craved nothing more than to be completely subdued by a powerful, knowing partner. Or two. To be taken in hand and made to fulfill every outrageous need, to experience the freedom he only found in submission. He must have sighed at the thought as he looked ahead to the castle in the near distance. Anna squeezed his arm to get his attention. “Perhaps the two of us shall find one another behind the mask, then?” she offered. He took his time meeting her gaze, letting his eyes slowly caress the turn of her bodice. Her breasts were small, but he saw them respond to his consideration, two firm, puckering tips forming beneath the pale silk as he rudely stared. If he could please her with a look, he could only begin to imagine how he might please her with his fingers or lips. When their eyes met, he was certain she knew the nature and extent of his thoughts. “I should like that very much,” he replied softly. Their intimate conversation had slowed their pace somewhat, but they were nigh on the castle walls when one of his friends jabbed his ribs as he passed. “Step lively, Seb. Don’t want to hinder the lady.” This was no lady, he wanted to call after his mate. This was a hidden world of sensual delight, his for the plucking. “Where did you learn to do that with your tongue?” His voice was rough around the edges, hard from repressing the urge to drop to his knees and burrow under her gown right there in the shadow of the castle’s portcullis. She smiled, tightening her lips around her teeth, then spoke with that soft convent voice he was coming to recognize as another subtle layer of her nuanced disguise. “I’m sorry. My lips . . . they tingle sometimes, and it helps to . . . soothe them.” She tested the theory, letting her tongue pass slowly across her upper lip. “Yes. It makes them feel better somehow.” Enough. Enough about tongues and desire and soothing the tingling feelings or some such rot. He hustled her into the castle along with the sea of other guests. He knew the layout of the alcázar from several visits in his childhood. Guiding Anna gently away from the masses of people, down a separate hallway, as if he were innocently leading her to a view of the mountains from a particularly scenic balcony, he turned the black wrought iron handle on a heavy wooden door and pulled her inside. He shut the door behind him and peeled off his gloves. The two of them were in a vast library with thousands of volumes and nary a human in sight. “Do it again, please,” he asked. “With your tongue.” Slowly untying the silk ribbon of her bonnet, Sebastian let his knuckles trail along her milky skin as he spoke. She was distracted by the grandeur of the room, marveling at the countless books. “I’ve never seen anything like it,” she whispered. “Neither have I,” he agreed, touching the sensitive edge of her lower lip with two fingers. She gasped briefly and looked so genuinely surprised by his touch that he faltered. “You can’t possibly play the blushing virgin now . . . after you . . .” But he didn’t move his fingers, and she didn’t pull away. Her dark-amber eyes were now fixed on his. Then she did the most miraculous thing imaginable. She opened her mouth wider and drew his bare fingers into that wet, succulent warmth. Her eyes were still wide for a moment, but then they fluttered closed in sensual delight. She worked his fingers with her mouth, letting her tongue swirl and lick as she sucked and moaned. He could have come from that—from looking at the way her cheeks drew in and from her guttural moans vibrating from the tips of his fingers to the throbbing tip of his cock. “Good God, woman!” She emerged from her temporary reverie—eyes glassy, lips wet—and slowly withdrew his fingers from her mouth. She still held on to his wrist with both her small hands. She’d grabbed him in that way at some point in her ecstasy, controlling his pace in and out of her mouth. “Did it feel as nice for you?” she asked, almost innocent. He shook his head in stunned disbelief. She was an angel from heaven. From some carnal heaven, he amended, that produced an angel born wanting to suck a man’s cock for the sheer pleasure it brought her. “Yes,” he croaked, then cleared his throat. “It felt very nice.” “For me too,” she said, but she released him and wandered away toward the endless shelves of hand-tooled leather, as if her enjoyment of the act had been somewhat unexpected, something to be examined rather than indulged. Sebastian followed her. That in itself was remarkable. He could not recall willingly following a woman. In bed, of course—more than willingly—but not like this. Anna was a lady, no matter how lowly a miss she claimed to be, and it was as if his two distinct worlds were colliding. Social obligation and base desire were finally making one another’s acquaintance, like two people who turn a corner and hurtle into each other. She was trailing her fingertips lightly across the bindings of a complete set of Shakespeare. “So you can read, I take it?” He came up behind her and circled her waist with his arms. She leaned back into him, but again, it was almost absently, as if he offered a convenient perch for her to use while she perused the library. Nothing more. The idea pleased him, the idea of making it his purpose in life to be of use to this woman. “I can. I love to read.” Her finger came to rest on The Tempest. “But I’ve had very little access to . . . so many things.”
CHAPTER THREE She turned in his arms, staring into those blue-green eyes of his, wondering how honest she could afford to be. Some version of the truth would free her to ask all sorts of relevant questions, to make him an accomplice of sorts. He seemed like he’d be game. “Sebastian . . .” They’d been properly introduced, but it was wholly improper for her to call him by his first name. Then again, she was already alone with him, unchaperoned, having recently lost herself in the sensation of sucking his fingers until her sex was throbbing so hard she’d forgotten her own name. Calling him by his Christian name did not seem to sit quite so high on the long list of improprieties. What with one thing and another. “Yeeessss . . .” he drawled. He’d begun swaying her gently in his arms, as if they were on the deck of a slow-rolling ship. “I . . .” She hesitated and then cursed her unfamiliar cowardice. He was quite right in letting her know she couldn’t very well play the blushing virgin when she’d more or less lured him into their current embrace. He was staring at her mouth again—making love to her mouth with his eyes, really—which made it easier to blurt out a portion of the truth. “I would very much like to . . . do things . . . with . . . to . . . I would . . .” Well, this is going abominably. He smiled and kept up that gentle motion, pulling her nearer with each sway. “That all sounds positively delightful,” he said, “but perhaps a bit vague.” “Vague?” she prompted. He inhaled. “I tend to prefer very clear directions.” He was quite close by then. In fact, the hard pressure of his cock was resting against her stomach at that very moment. “You do?” she asked, surprised and delighted at her good fortune. He nodded and then looked adorably sheepish as he pressed his length along her belly. I can do this, she thought. He felt big, but certainly no bigger than anything she and Pia had used to penetrate one another. Fingers at first. Then tongues. Then more fingers. Anna’s whole hand one time, after much patient, delectable coaxing. Anna felt the heat pool in her belly at the memory, at the way their shared desire had ultimately opened Pia up to her so completely. She closed her eyes, overcome with memories. *** Abbey of Santa María la Real de Las Huelgas, Burgos, Spain – September 1807 Initially, they had tried to ignore the heat that flamed between them. For many months in the spring and summer, they would catch one another’s eyes and quickly look away—in vespers, in the library, at mealtimes. They would speak of art and nature and herbal remedies, books and political ideas and astronomy . . . but never of feelings. Anna had tried to quash her feelings through petition and penance, with prayers for forgiveness and relief from her agitation. She had tried to deny how deeply she loved Pia, to convince herself that she only loved her as a friend. She had tried to persuade herself that her physical desire was part of a childish infatuation or sinful temptation, a brief flare of unfamiliar lust that would pass soon enough. But it hadn’t passed. It had grown. So, when she began to suspect that Pia felt the same way, there was nothing for it. Anna finally decided to declare her feelings one warm afternoon in September, when the two of them were sent to the surrounding forest to collect some late-summer herbs that would be dried during the long winter. Pia appeared serious and thoughtful as always, but Anna’s heart thudded wildly, emboldened by their exceptional solitude. The novices were rarely granted times to speak privately, so Anna saw it as an opportunity to dash her foolish hopes. Perhaps she had imagined Pia’s answering gazes, and Pia would put an end to her madness once and for all. “Do you look forward to spending your life in the convent, Pia?” Anna tried to sound casual as she bent to snip an herb. Pia turned her head slightly. “I never think about it one way or another. It will be my life whether I look forward to it or not.” Her moderate, equable nature was something Anna had come to love about Pia because it was the shell she wanted to break apart, to see what roiled beneath. Choosing her words carefully, Anna said, “I think about it.” I think about taking you away with me. Bending to pick a stalk of malva, Pia spoke without looking up. “As well you should. That is your future, is it not? To be a lady-in-waiting at court next year?” Anna couldn’t look away from the turn of Pia’s long back and strong shoulders. She could stare at her for hours. She was desperate to touch her. Her breath caught in her throat. “Anna?” Pia was standing in front of her by then, stepping closer. “Yes?” She licked her lips in the one nervous gesture she’d never been able to conquer. Pia looked at her mouth for a split second. “Are you unwell?” “I don’t know . . .” Anna whispered, her heart pounding. “What is it?” Pia’s voice had softened to a near whisper, as well. Anna gathered all her courage. “I believe I’m in love with you.” Pia didn’t gasp or step back, as Anna had half hoped she would. They stood like that in the dappled glade—staring at one another—until the autumn noises of the forest were like clanging cymbals all around them. Insects skittered and dried leaves crackled into the air. An acorn falling might as well have been a hundred-year-old oak crashing to the earth for how the small sound resonated. Finally, after what felt like an entire rotation of the moon, Pia’s eyes blinked slowly, then drifted shut. The sparsely filled basket slid out of her weak hold. “Touch me,” Pia pleaded. “I beg you.” That was all the encouragement Anna needed. Within seconds, she had pinned Pia against one of the large oak trees. After so many months of wondering and hoping, the reality of Pia’s lips and skin and hair threw Anna into a sort of frenzy. Kissing her lips and then along the strong turn of her ivory neck, nipping at her ear, Anna reveled in the physical reality of Pia in her arms. The smell of her—a mixture of fresh autumn air and spices from the convent kitchen where Pia had baked bread that morning. The sound of her—a loving compilation of supplication and devotion. Anna began removing Pia’s clothes without asking permission, pulling desperately at her tightly wound coil of hair. The more Anna pushed, the more Pia bent. As if they were both perfectly attuned to the moment and its meaning: that they were both discovering their true natures. Pia was made to soften and sway into Anna’s controlling, greedy hands. “You are so beautiful, Pia, so strong and wise,” Anna gasped between kisses and fumbling fingers. “I watch you all the time, how you manage everyone without flouting the abbess’s authority.” Her lips trailed down Pia’s neck. “I’ve seen your lovely drawings and your modesty about them. I’ve seen your patience with the younger girls. I love watching you.” “I’ve watched you too, Anna,” Pia confessed, her breath shallow. “I’ve watched you grow into this woman who knows her own mind. I see how you look at the world. How you will take what you want.” “I will take you. I know that now.” Anna’s voice was low and demanding, and she watched as Pia’s body responded to its strength—her strength. “My wild ideas about you have become so real to me.” Pia whimpered at the words, and Anna kissed her full on the lips, savoring the texture and taste, the feel of Pia’s tongue against hers. Anna broke away for a moment. Pia leaned her forehead against hers and said, “I’ve dreamt of you so many times, Anna.” She reached tentatively to hold a strand of Anna’s silky blonde hair between her curious fingers. “You come to me at night, into my bed, like an angel.” Anna laughed, low and mischievous. “If I am an angel, I’m an angel of darkness.” She spoke as she worked, removing the last of Pia’s clothes with rough, tugging movements. Every time she gave a firm pull at a piece of fabric, Pia seemed to come emotionally, as well as physically, undone. “The thoughts I have about you, Pia, they are dark and heathenish. Beautiful and raw.” About Bound to be a Groom Sometimes our wildest dreams come true. In the tumultuous summer of 1808, Spain and England are close to war and four young lovers are close to ecstasy. To carve out an independent life with the woman she loves, ANNA knows she must leave her quiet Spanish convent to become a courtesan. To gain experience, she sets her sights on . . . SEBASTIAN, whose powerful, aristocratic confidence suits Anna’s mercenary goals. But his arrogance masks a craving for submission that Anna instinctively satisfies. Sebastian soon begs for her hand in marriage, even if it means sharing her with . . . PIA, who trusts Anna completely—with her body and her future—until she learns of Anna’s hasty marriage. Pia questions their commitment to each other as they leave for London to meet . . . FARLEIGH, the seemingly feckless duke who thinks he’s over Sebastian, the potent Spanish soldier he bedded two years ago. What begins as a series of erotic escapades soon evolves into a deep, unbreakable bond. Two men and two women who yearn to explore are about to make their wildest dreams come true. Megan Mulry writes sexy, stylish, romantic fiction. Her first book, A Royal Pain, was an NPR Best Book of 2012 and USA Today bestseller. Before discovering her passion for romance novels, she worked in magazine publishing and finance. After many years in New York, Boston, London, and Chicago, she now lives with her family in Florida.