Lady Charlotte Stanton was officially on the shelf. Her first offer to be a chaperone had sealed her fate at the advanced age of eight-and-twenty. Yet, one magical evening a mysterious gentleman took pity on her and danced with her clandestinely under the stars. He refused to tell her who he was—other than unsuitable. It has ruined her peaceful existence as an aging spinster.
“Sometimes I think I have more in common with the moon and the stars than Polite Society,” a deep, baritone voice said from behind her, as if the man had heard her thoughts.
Charlotte managed not to flinch. She was unused to anyone seeking her company in dark places. “Yes, I was brought up amongst the ton, yet it is not often comfortable,” she replied, still looking at the night sky.
“That is the last word I would use for it,” he said as he came to stand next to her. He was so close she felt warmth radiating from him and smelt his scent of spice and pine. She was afraid to turn and look. She did not wish to ruin the moment with reality, yet the arm of his coat appeared to be well made, and his hands appeared to be strong.
They stood there in silent kinship, listening to the sounds of laughter and dancing coming from the ballroom.
“Would you care to dance?” Charlotte did not answer. This man must be someone new in Town, someone who knew not who she was, or could not see her clearly in the moonlight. What did it matter? It was only a dance. One dance would change nothing.
She held her hand out to him and finally allowed herself to look up.
“Have we been introduced?” she asked, annoyed at her inanity. She had never before seen this man, of that she was certain.
His light grey eyes twinkled in the moonlight, and they were looking at her—her!—flirtatiously. Crinkles formed at the edges of his eyes, indicating an experience and maturity that made him more handsome when he smiled. It was devilish cruel that men became more striking with age.
“You know very well we have not,” he answered.
He pulled her close—too close—and began to twirl her around. The moment was too intimate for mere words. Charlotte felt light and dainty for the first time ever as this man spun her in his arms. She must be dreaming. It was a heady, delicious feeling as her pulse raced and her insides quivered.
When the music ceased, they stood there still, retaining the position of the dance as their breathing slowed. Charlotte grew self-conscious as the man studied her.
“Am I to know your name?” she whispered.
He took her hand and brought it to his lips, sending shivers through her.
“Some things are better left unspoken, my lady.”
National bestselling author Elizabeth Johns was first an avid reader, though she was a reluctant convert. It was Jane Austen's clever wit and unique turn of phrase that hooked Johns when she was "forced" to read Pride and Prejudice for a school assignment. She began writing when she ran out of her favorite author's books and decided to try her hand at crafting a Regency romance novel. Her journey into publishing began with the release of Surrender the Past, book one of the Loring-Abbott Series. Johns makes no pretensions to Austen's wit but hopes readers will perhaps laugh and find some enjoyment in her writing.