A marriage of convenience leads to unexpected attraction for a man disillusioned by his new bride’s past and leads to a reunion months later that has him seeing his bride in a whole different light. Keep reading to get a tempting taste of All Dressed in White by Charis Michaels, then add this emotional and captivating historical romance to your bookshelf. In honor of this second installment in The Brides of Belgravia series make sure to visit the link below for the chance to win a Brides prize pack featuring a paperback copy of this book along with an e-copy of Any Groom Will Do being awarded to two winners!
Self-made shipping magnate Joseph Chance never planned on falling in love. He simply needed financing for a new business venture and a marriage of convenience provides it. Then he meets Tessa St. Croix, his future bride, and is instantly smitten. But when the angelic beauty reveals a life-changing secret on their wedding night, Joseph thinks maybe some dreams shouldn’t come true. He leaves England, reconciling himself to a detached, convenient marriage after all.
Eleven months later, Tessa Chance has built a new life for herself in the heart of London. She’s learned her new husband's business and is determined to support herself and her responsibilities. When Joseph returns to London unexpectedly, nothing is as he imagined. His estranged wife has become the one person who can help him secure his company’s future, and her allure can tempt him still. Determined and hopeful, Tessa jumps at the chance to prove herself and justify the secret that tore them apart.
Although bruised pride and broken hearts lie between them, Joseph and Tessa realize the love they once felt has never truly left. If they can learn to forgive each other, they’ll soon discover the truest love can heal all wounds.
In the stable, Tessa busied herself untying the goat and stringing the rope on a peg. “There is something I should like before I go, Joseph,” she said, giving the animal a final pat.
“What have we forgotten?” he asked.
“A kiss.” She left the animal and started to him.
“I beg your pardon?” he said stupidly, uselessly, the best he could do. His actual thought was thank God, which was surely the wrong reaction. His pulse leapt and his hands tingled, itching to scoop her up.
His distress must have been obvious, because she chuckled. Her blue eyes lit up the dim stable. She said, “And it’s not because I am grateful that you have taken my idea of Hartlepool so very seriously.” She stepped to him and placed her palms on his lapels. Joseph stared at her hands.
“I am grateful,” she went on. He had trouble focusing on her words. He stared at her mouth.
She went on, whispering, “Even if the idea is utter folly—especially if it is folly—I am grateful. But I want to kiss you for no other reason than I enjoyed it so very much before.” She paused, holding his gaze. Her speech felt a little prepared, but he didn’t care. He would hear it again and again.
“I know my final reaction alarmed us both,” she said softly, “but I want you to understand that my final reaction was not my only reaction. I have not stopped thinking about all the things I loved about that kiss.”
And then the speech ended, and she raised her chin, and lifted onto her toes.
She looked so very earnest and excited and delicious, he’d almost been too enchanted to respond.
Instinct prevailed, and he dropped his mouth onto hers. He had the fleeting thought, This is actually happening, and stifled a groan. He widened his stance and swept her against him, his hands surging up the curve of her back, kneading every vertebra of her spine. Restraint deserted him. When he reached her neck, he cradled her head.
She kissed like a woman, he thought, not a girl. He loved her proficiency, her confidence. Her anxiety aside, there was no shy, halting uncertainty in the way she kissed. She slid her hands from the rough wool of his lapels to the slick waistcoat beneath. Nuzzling close, she wrapped her arms around him him beneath his jacket, sharing warmth, sharing a heartbeat.
He pulled away to trail kisses down her neck. “I should be going with you,” he rasped against her skin.
“You should not,” she sighed. “You should oversee delivery of your guano and sell the next lot. You should provision for the next expedition. Perry and I have are accustomed to managing tight spaces and long stretches and babies. I am quite talented.”
You are torture, he thought.
And this had been an ancillary reason he wouldn’t travel with her. The thought of ten nights in ten inns seemed almost inhuman for him to endure. Not now. Not when there was so much to explore about their future.
The thought of exploring while also sharing a country inn suite with a chatty nursemaid? Thin walls and adjoining doorways and the four of them in a coach? It would require an amount of restraint and patience that he did not possess.
He’d been working beside her with maps and open trunks for a week and not touched her once, and now she was veritably climbing his body—and thank God for that. But when they finally, truly delved in to the topic of their life together, whatever it might be, and—hallelujah—when he could touch her all night long, he wanted to be in one location, and he wanted a locked bloody door.
“I pray God you are safe and comfortable,” he said, and he scraped his stubble-rough face against her cheek.
“But we will miss you,” she said. “And there is so much yet to say. And do.”
He swiped his mouth across her lips and she strained to catch it.
“Yes,” he rasped, burying his face in her neck. “So very much yet to do. In Hartlepool, whatever it turns out to be, we will take the time, however long. I can depend upon it, Tessa? Right?”
“Uh-hmmm,” she agreed, searching for his mouth.
Joseph growled, swept away by her enthusiasm and the promise of more. He gathered her so close, he worried she couldn’t draw breath, but then she was grabbing fistfuls of his shirt, wrestling him closer still. She met his passion kiss for kiss, deeper, more urgent.
Joseph swept his hands down her ribcage and beneath her bottom, pressing her to him. She made a whimpering nose and bowed in, swaying, clinging. He dragged his hands to her waist and lifted her, staggering to the stable wall. She released one hand and reached behind her, feeling for the smooth stones, but he pivoted and fell against it. Tessa collapsed against his chest with a sigh.
Joseph turned his head to break the kiss, gasping for air. “Tessa,” he said, a plea, a prayer.
“You came every day,” she panted, “but . . . never . . . once . . . kissed—“
He captured her mouth. “I didn’t realize,” he said, dropping his lips to her neck, “we could enjoy the privacy of the mews.”
She laughed and arched her neck. “Boot rooms and stables,” she said. “I’m beginning to doubt your affinity for the finer things.”
“My affinity is for you, madam,” he growled in her ear, “and there is no finer. Never has a woman excited me as you do.”
“Joseph,” she breathed, straining for his mouth.
“It will be my greatest pleasure to show you every finery.”
“Your greatest pleasure?” she teased.
Joseph paused, reared back, and stared into her face. She looked at him from beneath lowered lashes, an expression of mischief and affection and need.
He made a strangled noise and descended on her mouth again. “Hartlepool cannot come soon enough,” he said between kisses. “Not soon enough.”
USA Today bestselling author CHARIS MICHAELS believes a romance novel is a very long, exciting answer to the question: "So, how did you two meet?" It's a question she loves to answer again and again with different characters, each time she writes a book. Prior to writing romance, she studied Journalism at Texas A&M and managed PR for a trade association. She has also worked as a tour guide at Disney World, harvested peaches on her family's farm, and entertained children as the "Story Godmother" at birthday parties. She has lived in Texas, Florida, and London, England. She now makes her home in the Washington, D.C.-metro area.
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