Hi, everyone! I’m Samantha Grace, historical romance author, and I’m very grateful to Buried Under Romance for this opportunity to share an excerpt from my newest story, Must Love Majors from Winter Wishes. It’s exciting to be part of this great group of authors.
Here’s a quick set up for the scene. When Major Phillip Rowland arrives at Everly Manor with a claim to the beloved springer spaniel Lady Ambrosia rescued from an alley in London, the two are instantly at odds. They can’t even agree on the dog’s name—Orion or Mr. Perkins—but Ammie sees a glimmer of hope that she might be able to change the major’s mind about leaving the dog in her care when the time comes to rejoin his men. Surely, even the major realizes an Army training field poses too many dangers for a pampered pooch. Therefore, with her father’s blessing and a younger brother as a buffer, Ammie arranges to meet Phillip in the snowy pasture to put her plan into motion. I hope you enjoy this first look at Must Love Majors.
With her brother occupied and entertained for the moment, Ammie fell into step with Major Rowland.
“I was sorry to hear about your carriage troubles,” she said, not bothering to hide a gloating smile. “It must have been disappointing to have your plans thwarted.”
He glanced sideways at her, his expression unreadable. “You know what they say, one must bend or break when confronted with the unexpected, my lady.”
“I have never heard that saying.”
“Of course you have. I just said it.”
Ammie stopped in her tracks. He smirked, roguishly baiting her. She rolled her eyes. “No one of consequence, then.”
He laughed. “Touché, Lady Ambrosia.”
“One must bend or break,” she mused. “It is a solid philosophy when given proper consideration.”
“I have always found it helpful.” He clasped his hands behind his back as they resumed trailing Hugh and Mr. Perkins, albeit at a more leisurely pace. “I assume you didn’t summon me to discuss life philosophies, though.”
“Are you always this direct, sir?”
“Yes.” The corners of his mouth twitched as he fought not to smile. She was beginning to suspect his boorish presentation was more facade than substance. “Some have accused me of lacking finesse, but in my defense, I find it exhausting to be charming all the time.”
“How well rested you must be,” she said. “I don’t believe I have seen you employ charm since your arrival.”
“You didn’t attend supper last night. If you had, you would know I had the crowd eating from the palm of my hand.”
“Did someone break the china plates?”
“You are a cheeky one, Lady Ambrosia, and a masterful banterer.” His smile was like a ray of blinding light when turned full force on her. The sight briefly stunned her. She blinked, willing herself not to be tricked by his appearance. He was still the man who wished to steal her happiness.
“Considering your aversion to social graces,” she said, “I will not expect you for charades this evening—or any other festivities.”
“Perhaps I will surprise you.” He tapped a finger to his temple and grinned. “I like to keep a watchful eye on my foes.”
The slight crinkle at the corners of his blue eyes lent him a boyish charm that made him seem much more approachable today.
“About us being foes,” she said, “must we be? I can see no reason we shouldn’t attempt to get along while you are staying as my father’s guest. We have at least one thing in common. We both love dogs.”
“I love a specific dog, my lady. I hope you aren’t suggesting I accept a hound from your uncle to replace him. Orion cannot be replaced in my heart.”
His answer should have been discouraging, but it elevated him in her eyes. Blast it all! She didn’t want to like him.
“The dog in question is named Mr. Perkins,” she teased, “but for the sake of keeping the peace, I will overlook your blunder.”
“Did I mention you are stubborn, too?”
She laughed, enjoying their tête-à-tête more than she should.
Watch your step, a voice in her head warned. He isn’t a man to be trifled with. Uneasy with the thought he might think she wanted something more than a civilized talk, she rushed to fill the silence. “I feel the same as you about Mr. Perkins. Orion Perkins? Maybe we could call him Opie. Should we call him Opie?”
“It is simply a suggestion,” she said and flicked her hand, “a compromise of sorts.”
He tested the name aloud. “I’m not sure it suits him. It is not as dignified as Orion, or even Mr. Perkins.”
She snorted. “Dignified? Have you seen him bathe himself?”
The moment the mortifying words left her mouth, she prayed the ground would open and swallow her. He had the decency to stare straight ahead to allow her to squirm in her scalding pool of embarrassment in private.
“Opie it is,” he said. “Was that all you wished to discuss? A common name for the dog?”
She cleared her throat, wondering if she should apologize for her own lack of social finesse. “No, there is more.”
It seemed prudent to take care with her strategy when it came to Major Rowland. He had the fortitude to withstand and deflect a direct attack.
“I would like to suggest sharing the dog while you are a guest,” she said. “We could alternate nights—one night he sleeps in your chambers, the next in mine. We could share responsibility for exercising him. Daily walks perhaps?”
He stopped. She reluctantly halted, took a deep breath, and turned to face him. His gaze pierced through her. Hugh praised the dog in the distance. Major Rowland’s attention didn’t waver. Her mouth grew dry when he didn’t so much as blink. It was as if he could see into her soul and know every thought, dream, and fear she had. No one ever looked at her, not like someone who wished to memorize every inch of her and uncover her vulnerabilities. She felt stripped bare by his gaze, her emotions raw. His face blurred and her chin quivered.
“I am unprepared to say good-bye to Mr. Perkins.” She fluttered her lashes frantically, attempting to hold back tears. “Please, sir, allow me to enjoy his companionship a while longer.”
Major Rowland’s razor-sharp jawline softened, and the stern set of his mouth slacked. When he spoke, his voice was soothing, slightly husky. “I can see you hold a tender spot for him in your heart.”
She nodded, swallowing to ease the tight ache in her throat. “H-he notices when I enter a room, and he’s always happy to see me, like I am important and special.”
Law. Her most rewarding relationship was with a dog. How silly and pathetic she sounded. She braced herself for mockery.
Major Rowland sighed, his breath creating a cloud in the frigid air. “I understand, Lady Ambrosia,” he murmured. “I do.”
His sincerity knocked her off balance. She no longer recognized her enemy, and it frightened her.
“How do we decide which bedchamber Opie will stay in tonight?” he asked.
Ammie laughed, her relief too great to bottle. “Perhaps we should settle the matter with a round of whist when we return to the house?”
“I prefer chess.”
She shrugged to indicate she didn’t care how the matter was decided, and she didn’t. Although she would probably lose to the major, she had gained valuable ground today. Besides, Mr. Perkins had stayed with her last night. It was only fair that Major Rowland should get his turn.
When it was time to return to the house, Ammie slid a look in his direction. “You seem different from when we met,” she said. “More at ease.”
“I prefer the outdoors. I always have.”
“Me too,” she murmured. “You are very patient with Hugh.”
“He is a good boy, I think, just eager. I have encountered lads much like him in the Army. It requires patience to train them properly.”
“I hope you will be as understanding with the valet my mother chose for you. Charlie is one of my favorites.”
“You have my word,” he said. “I will treat the lad well, but don’t expect me to show you any mercy during our chess match. I am not that nice.”
She chuckled. “Yesterday’s news, Major Rowland. Yesterday’s news.”
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About Samantha Grace:
Samantha Grace’s storytelling has received starred reviews from PW and critical acclaim from Booklist and Library Journal. She has written over fifteen Regency historical romances and uses her degree in behavioral psychology to create engaging, multidimensional characters. Samantha lives in Wisconsin with her real life hero and their family.
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