...The tension and attraction between Tom Shaughnessy and
Sylvie Lamoureux has been building for days now, but Tom
knows the beautiful, feisty French dancer he's hired harbors a
few secrets. And in this quick excerpt, Tom discovers one of them.
And right below this excerpt is a quick and steamy little scene
found deeper in the book...and if you check
my blog, especially before Friday, August 18th, you'll find
yet another excerpt...and you might win a signed book, too!
[note: you can read the first part of WAYS TO BE WICKED, where
Sylvie and Tom meet, in the back of BEAUTY AND THE SPY!]
On the last day of the week, Tom looked up from his work and saw
a woman dressed not as a fairy or a pirate or a water nymph, but
in a walking dress, a rather nice one, and it took him a moment
to recognize Molly. It wasn't the sort of dress one could afford
to have made on The White Lily's salary unless one saved for a
good, long time. He wondered, briefly, if the bordering-on-demure,
well-cut gown meant that yet another girl had acquired a wealthy
protector or a willing husband and had decided to retire from
The White Lily.
The timing would be inconvenient regardless, given Molly's role
in the Venus show. But Tom philosophically began considering alternatives
even before he spoke.
"You're early today, Molly, aren't you?"
"Josephine needed 'elp wi' the sewing, an' so I offered to
Molly had never struck Tom as the type to volunteer for extra
work. He frowned a little, bemused, but willing to believe just
about anything. "She needs additional help? Isn't Sylvie
helping her with the sewing?"
"Well, that's just it, Mr. Shaughnessy. Sylvie ought to 'elp,
but she goes off to meet 'er lover midday of late, so Josephine
asked fer me help."
Time stopped. Tom's breathing stopped as well.
"Sylvie goes off to meet her lover?" He managed to repeat
Molly fingered the corner of his desk. "Every day, middle
o' th' day, Josephine says. Past few days." Molly was the
very picture of innocence. "All of a sudden, like. She leaves
early, and comes back mussed and red in the face, like, and she
'appy. Real 'appy."
"Thank you, Molly." Tom breathed in, breathed out, to
get his lungs, his heart moving again. He didn't want to hear
She looks 'appy.
"Yer own needs bein' met, Mr. Shaughnessy?" Molly asked
"Mr. Shaughnessy?" she repeated, when he didn't answer
He did manage to get his mouth to turn up, but the motion was
painful, seemed as unnatural as bending in half backwards. "Your
concern is touching, Molly, but I haven't any complaints in that
"My concern is
touching, Mr. Shaughnessy,"
she said quite seriously, with a duck of her head. She trailed
a hand provocatively across her collarbone, and then down across,
very casually, one full breast.
He was a man, after all; he watched the hand's entire journey.
The trouble was, it all looked rather like choreography to him
Molly always had been the most persistent of all the dancers in
seeking his attention. Most gave up after a few good-natured attempts;
few women enjoy being rebuffed again and again and again. Molly
was undeniably lovely. Tom was pleased to be able to employ her;
he enjoyed admiring her. But that was about the extent of her
appeal for him.
"Thank you for considering my needs, and I am flattered.
But I believe you know my policy." He said the words firmly,
with a smile to soften them.
Leave, he thought. He wanted her to leave so he could be
alone with the alien sensation pressing inside is chest. If he
didn't know better, he would have called it an ache.
He kept his voice level. "You said you believe Sylvie creeps
off to see her lover rather than doing the work she was hired
"Oh, yes," Molly said somberly. "Right about this
time 'o day."
The determined sunlight filtered through dust-caked windows, creating
a sort of twilight in the room; the floor, he noticed, had been
swept for perhaps the first time in decades, barrels and crates
pushed aside to create a clearing. A stage.
Tom had watched her leave her room, close the door behind her,
and furtively, hurriedly take the stairs up a flight toward the
attic room, her feet touching the stairs lightly as a cat. Inexplicably,
as the day was warm and the heat had risen to fill the upper rooms
with a sultry density, she had covered herself in a cloak. A disguise?
Or did she spread the cloak over the floor so she could lie upon
it with her lover?
His hands squeezed closed into involuntary fists, echoing what
his heart had done at the thought.
But he was behind her, took the stairs as lightly as he could,
and kept his head down. What did he intend to do? Leap out and
He should leave.
He couldn't leave.
And then, at last, the foreign tightness in his chest eased a
little when all he saw was Sylvie.
She was standing in the middle of the room, head down, shoulders
back, arms curved out from her body as though she cradled a great
invisible heart between them, the fingertips of each hand just
shy of meeting below her belly. Her feet were pointed out, her
hair pulled up, combed smooth and pinned so tightly the sun glanced
off of it as though the surface was mirrored: sable with a sheen
The cloak had been folded neatly and set aside; he saw it. And
she wore a dress that, scandalously, remarkably, exquisitely,
exposed a length of elegant ankle and calf. The cloak had disguised
Her throat was long and white, so fair he could see the faint
blue trace of a vein in it. It should have made her seem vulnerable;
instead, everything about how she held her body at the moment
spoke of power and intent.
And for a moment, it seemed, he couldn't know for certain whether
the light radiated from her or came through the window, or if
it was merely an agreed-upon exchange between Sylvie and the sun.
And then he noticed the smile. Faint, but so privately, confidently
joyous Tom could nearly feel it. Nearly. It was both bitter and
sweet, taut and rich, like the first bite of a plum, because he
was certain he'd never worn that kind of smile, felt that kind
It was very like the smile one would give a longtime lover, he
The smile became softly inviting; she stretched her arms out toward
some invisible partner, and balancedfloated, it seemedon
Then she swiftly gathered her limbs together and pirouetted, rising
all the way up on her toes, and like a dandelion caught in a breeze,
spu and leaped, covering the distance of that rough floor before
stopping to arch backward, one knee drawn up.
Mesmerized, Tom watched, pressed back against the stairwell, breathing
all but suspended, the better to hear, to feel her dance.
Awe and panic warred inside him, and amused him distantly: truly,
he felt as though he'd stumbled, sober, across an actual fairy,
the sort his Irish mother had so fervently believed in and feared,
not the sort that he and The General swarmed the stage with to
ribald acclaim. Sylvie no longer seemed to belong to the same
species as he did; she didn't seem crafted of flesh and bone.
Rather, suddenly she was made of fire or water, something that
burned or flowed.
And Good Godjust look at that. She could bend nearly in
The prurient possibilities of this did not escape him.
He could almost hear the music Sylvie moved to in his head, could
feel the story of it as she danced. He knew, even through the
pleasure on her face, that she was meticulously counting the steps
off in her head, each placement of her foot precise and calculated
as it thumped lightly on the floor in satin slippers, though to
the viewer it would all seem entirely artless.
He knew it was beautiful; he in fact knew that "beautiful"
was an inadequate word for it. This was artistry, and in a way
he resented it: for in watching it he felt every bit of his own
roughness, the roughness he had ruthlessly wrestled into submission.
And at the same time, he knew learning to dance like this would
have required a superhuman determination.
The determination of someone who was resolved to be something,
anything other than ordinary. A determination, in fact, rather
similar to his own.
The pieces fell into place: the source of this woman's confidence.
The reason she would have taken a lover. Her determination, perhaps,
to move out of the shadows of the demi monde Perhaps she,
like he, was beginning to understand the limitations of the shadowy
place within society they occupied.
Somehow he had known from the moment she'd landed in his lap
in the stage coach that this woman was far, far from ordinary.
And now he realized why watching her wield cutlasses, and pat
was rather like watching a unicorn pulling a plow.
Then again, he rather liked seeing Sylvie in her fairy wings.
He rather liked seeing her dressed as a pirate, and patting derrieres.
Somehow, they seemed all simply seemed aspects of her: the delicate,
the ethereal, the magical. The dangerous, the wicked, the fearless.
Although he'd begun to suspect he'd rather like seeing her dressed
in anything at all.
Tom watched, and knew the longer he watched, the greater the
risk she would see him. And now he almost wished he hadn't followed
her, for he knew the image of her dancing, of that smile, would
haunt him. He felt nearly as conflicted as if he'd actually caught
her with a lover. And in a way, he knew, he had.
He backed slowly, carefully, down the stairs, wondering why
he should feel guilty, why he should feel as though he'd been
intruding, when everything in this theater belonged to him, including
the room she'd cleared to become her own private stage. His own
determination and passion had made it so.
It was the final step that had always creaked just a little.
And it made no exception for him this time.
[end of exerpt]
Keep reading for one more quick, steamy little excerpt, or preorder
your copy now if you like!
It wasnt until he heard the creak of a light
step on the stairs to his room that he admitted to himself that
hed been waiting to hear it for days now. That hed
lain awake for nights desperate for it, every one of his senses
honed to razor alertness, hoping for it. Declined invitations,
conducted a campaign of quiet seduction so unlike him it unnerved
and distantly even amused him. Never had he wanted anything
more, it seemed. Never had he been so uncertain about getting
Tom sat up in his bed, struck the flint to light the lamp next
to his bed, and the tiny room glowed in the warm light. His
hands shook, for Gods sake, even as he did it. His heart
had set up a drumming in his chest.
He saw the light of her candle quiver against the wall first,
and then the shadow of her, and then the woman herself. Her
cloak was wrapped round her; beneath it, he saw light muslin.
Her hair was down, a sheet of silky darkness burnished by the
dueling lights of her candle and his lamp. He could scarcely
breathe. When she saw his lit lamp, she lifted her own candle
up with hands that trembled, and puffed it out.
He couldnt speak.
In silence, he watched her drop the cloak. Saw, in the shadows,
the outline of her slim body through her dress, her long legs,
slim waist. And in silence he watched as matter-of-factly she
reached for her dress, and pulled itOh Godright
over her head.
The site of her body completely bare to him all at once was
an exquisite physical shock. He stopped breathing.
She began to fold the dress.
He remembered to breathe again. For the love of God,
Sylvie, leave the dress.
She dropped the dress and laughed then, a soft, shaky little
laugh. Lifted her hand to push back the long mass of hair, and
he watched, mesmerized, the lift of her small perfect breast
when her arm rose, then the waterfall sheen of the hair spilling
Okeydoke, if you like it, you can go ahead preorder if the mood