USA Today Bestselling Historical Romance

The Lady Hellion Christmas Prequel

An unedited Christmas bonus! This was originally written for the Ramblings From This Chick blog’s 2015 Christmas Historical event. See where Quint and Sophie first kiss…

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Quint hated Christmas. The holiday, derived from pagan origins in the winter solstice, had a false sincerity to it. People annoyingly cheerful. Decorations of mistletoe and holly only doomed to die. One day of frenetic charity, with little regard for the other three hundred and sixty-four selfish days of the year.

And fêtes held for the occasion? Utter torture. He’d much rather celebrate the publishing of Newton’s Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica, an occasion much more deserving of the world’s accolades. But his closest friend, the Earl of Winchester, had insisted on Quint’s company this Christmas eve, so the evening was to be borne, no matter the agony.

Therefore, Quint escaped to his usual retreat during a ball as boring as Byron: the host’s library. Here he’d entertain himself with books until they could leave. He removed his gloves and tucked them in his pocket as he studied the Greek titles and debated which one to select.

A noise caught his attention. Glancing over his shoulder, he found Lady Sophia there, breathtakingly beautiful in a cream-colored gown that shimmered as she moved. He froze, surprised, yet not surprised. Though unmarried and only a few years past her debut, Sophie was bolder than any woman he’d ever met. The two of them had begun a casual flirtation of sorts over the last nine months, with her teasing him more often than not. Interacting with her had become the highlight of his social season.

He hadn’t told anyone of his feelings for her, how aware of her he was at all times. How his eyes sought her out in every crowd. How the hint of her perfume caused his skin to prickle with a gut-wrenching craving. The idea of courting her had crossed his mind. Different than the rest of the insipid young girls, Sophie was quick-witted and unafraid to voice her opinion. An outsider, someone who did not quite fit in. Precisely like him.

She shut the door, locked it, and Quint’s pulse leaped. “You should be in the ballroom, Sophie.”

The edge of her mouth kicked up as she drew near. “Are you ever going to kiss me, Quint?”

He wanted to laugh the question off as a jest, but her expression was deadly serious. He swallowed, hope rising in his chest at an alarming speed. “Do you want me to?”

“I followed you in here, did I not?”

“You answered a question with another question, Sophie.”

“As did you.”

He smiled, unable to resist her, and stepped forward. Without asking permission, he placed one hand on her hip and another around her neck, thinking she’d back away. Instead, she leaned into his touch, welcoming it, her skin soft and warm under his bare hands. Her chestnut eyes grew dark, fathomless pools of invitation, and he was lost. “Yes, then. I should quite like to kiss you,” he admitted. “But I should not.”

“Life would hardly be worth living if we were to obey all the rules.” Her hands reached up to tangle in his hair, pulling him closer, and he bent to seal his mouth to hers.

She surprised him—again—with her response. Instead of turning tentative or shy, she kissed him eagerly, as if she’d dreamed of it as often as Quint had. Her mouth slid over his, fitting perfectly, deliberately like they were meant to do this. Like they weren’t mere yards away from a crowded soirée, where discovery meant her ruination. She tasted sweet and spicy with a hint of the exotic, an intoxicating combination as mysterious as the heavens.

Just one more minute, he promised himself. Then he would put an end to this madness.

And then her mouth parted, the tip of her tongue flicking against his lips, and Quint thought he might lose his mind. Clasping her tighter, he deepened the kiss, pressing his tongue to hers, stroking the lush softness until she moaned into his mouth. And he continued to kiss her, long after she became willing and pliant in his arms. Long after their breathing turned ragged. London could burn down around them and he would be hard-pressed to stop, in fact.

He sensed movement behind her and quickly lifted his head. A door on the opposite side of the room, one she hadn’t locked, had opened. Quint saw Winchester’s shocked face an instant before the door softly closed. Merde.

Clearing his throat, Quint stepped back and attempted to regain some semblance of control over himself. What was it about this woman that robbed him of his intelligence? “Sophie—”

Brown eyes dancing, she reached to pat his chest, startling him into silence. “Quint, this is not the time for reason or logic.” Spinning on her heel, she sauntered toward the door, her bearing tall and proud as if she’d accomplished something remarkable. She unlocked the door and paused. “Indeed, it’s Christmastime, and I can think of no better way to have celebrated tonight than with you. So thank you.”

She disappeared into the corridor, leaving him alone, and a wide grin broke out on Quint’s face. Perhaps he’d been wrong about Christmas after all.

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