Meet Lavinia Parkem.
Her life is...complicated.
She’s a talented seamstress on the eve of a royal visit which means she has lots of orders to fill. She’s also got a charming but disreputable brother, and a landlord who really wants her to become his mistress because he’s awful like that.
Oh yeah, and she was once engaged to her childhood sweetheart, Andrew Colter, but when he was presumed dead after being lost at sea she married someone else. And then Andrew showed up two days after the wedding.
Warning: This book contains spies, no nonsense seamstresses, a hero who's pulled back in for just one more job, enemies to lovers, childhood sweethearts, second chances, action, adventure, and a creative use of a cloak pin. (Keep reading for a sneak peek!.)
The Allure of Attraction releases on June 25th at these fine retailers:
Your Sneak Peek of The Allure of Attraction
The delicate sleigh bells mounted above the front door jangled, and Lavinia prepared a wide smile. But when she turned around, it dissolved like sugar in water. Wark had come calling.
“Good day, Mrs. Parkem,” said the man, sticking his thumbs in the slit pockets of his waistcoat. The gesture had the unfortunate effect of emphasizing his paunch, which had been growing steadily since she met him, although she was certain the man’s vanity blinded him to the fact.
“Mr. Wark,” she said. “I suppose you are here about the rent.”
“Among other things. I’m delighted to find you alone,” he said.
“Is that so?” She kept her voice clipped and cold, hoping that Wark would realize he was not welcome. Of course, it wouldn’t work. It never worked.
“Do you know how rare it is to claim a moment of your time, Mrs. Parkem? I’d almost think you were avoiding me if I didn’t know any better,” he said.
“You don’t know better,” she said, adding an icy “sir” at the last possible moment so she couldn’t be accused of being unforgivably rude. The man might be odious, but he was still her landlord and could make her life very difficult indeed.
He laughed. “You’ve always been a coy one.”
And you’ve always been a slobbering brute.
“I can assure you that being coy is the last thing on my mind. I have a business to run,” she said, reaching for the banknote she’d stored under the counter just before the Fosters arrived. “Here is what I owe you.”
He took the note and folded it into thirds before slipping it into his pocket. He did not, however, turn and walk out the shop as she’d hoped he would.
“It’s always business with you, Mrs. Parkem. Tell me, what do you do for recreation?” he asked, sidling up to the gap in the counter.
She brought down the counter flap with a satisfying bang, cutting off his path to her. “I’m a shop owner. I don’t take recreation.”
“Everyone does something for pleasure,” he said, rolling his lascivious tongue around the last word.
She held up her hands to show him the tips of her fingers that had been scarred from being pricked over and over again. “These hands never stop making your mother’s dresses.”
Wark’s expression darkened with lust, rather effectively turning the contents of her stomach upside down.
“I can think of far better occupations for your hands,” he said.
One of these days I’m going to pop you in your fat nose.
“That’s funny, I can’t think of a one,” she said as she snatched up a pair of scissors she kept under the counter and held them up so that their blades caught the light. Caleb had been wrong. She would sacrifice a good sharp pair of scissors if it meant this lout would never bother her again.
The confident smile on Wark’s face wavered, and he took a tiny step back. From a safer distance, he said, “I’ve always found that women who play games are the most fun to catch.”
The blades opened with a sinister snick. “I’m not fond of games.”
The jangle of the front-door bells robbed Wark of his retort. Her gaze flicked past her landlord’s shoulder, and that was the moment hell froze over. It was the only explanation for how a stony-faced Andrew Colter had been induced to step across the threshold of her shop.
It was the first time she’d seen him since that horrible moment she’d last laid eyes on him—two days after her wedding to another man. She could still remember the breathtaking thrill of discovering he was alive and the crushing realization that, when he understood what she’d done, his fury would burn white-hot.
Now, caught between the present and the past, she watched the man who’d broken her heart into a million pieces take another step into the room, his gaze falling on the scissors. Then his stern expression transformed, replaced by a wry grin she remembered well and had never imagined she’d see again.
“Have I come at an inconvenient time?” Andrew asked.
“Actually you’re interrupting a rather important conversation,” Wark threw over his shoulder without bothering to turn.
Lavinia’s fingers gripped the scissors so hard that she wouldn’t have been surprised to find them a twisted wreck in her hands.
This is not happening.
With a weather-beaten face and hair more sun-bleached then she’d ever seen it, Andrew stood before her, not as she’d last seen him in the modest dress of a sailor waiting for his next voyage, but as a man of comfortable affluence. He’d always been tall and rangy, but now he seemed to fill the entire front room of her shop. He was forcing her to pay attention to him. To notice the way his jacket stretched over well-muscled shoulders. To fight a blush that spread as her eyes raked over his body, taking all of him in and finding him—despite her better judgment— just as attractive as the last time she’d seen him.
“Why are you here?” she choked out.
“You know this man?” Wark asked, putting his body between Andrew and her.
She pushed out a breath as though she’d been forced underwater and only just allowed to bob to the surface. “I do.”
Preorder The Allure of Attraction and start reading it as soon as it releases on June 25th!