Today I am so pleased to welcome Annabelle Greene to Joyfully Jay. Annabelle has come to talk to us about her latest release, A Winter’s Earl. Please join me in giving her a big welcome!
Hi everyone! It’s always lovely to be back at Joyfully Jay with all of you. I’m here to share a special excerpt from A Winter’s Earl, a second chance m/m Regency romance which is being released on November 9.
In this excerpt, Sherborne Clarke has finally goaded his old flame Richard into a battle of both swords and wills. He’s always considered himself the more jealous of the two, but Richard has other ideas—and as they fence their hearts out in a crumbling castle surrounded by snow just a few days before Christmas, surprising revelations come to light…
Finally. He had lived for this in his youth, lived for Richard focused on fighting him, fucking him, or both. A lightning thrill ran through Sherborne as the air filled with the clatter of blades, his body moving for him as his heart leapt.
Richard was right. He had never obeyed the rules. Rules were expectations, and he had always delighted in defying those. But Richard had never truly understood how Sherborne had won their matches more often than not.
It all lay in the quality of attention. While Richard concentrated on winning, he concentrated on Richard. The taut, indignant lines of the man’s fencing stance hadn’t changed, and neither had the rhythm of his attack, frenzied with impatience. The typical anger of a privileged youth, used to getting his own way, an anger that hadn’t faded with either time or tragedy.
‘Oh dear.’ He deflected Richard’s lunge with a single swipe of his foil. ‘Still predictable, I see. All spit and sizzle, but no meat.’
‘I am exerting my energy. Nothing more.’ The fury in Richard’s eyes betrayed the falseness in his words as he redoubled his attack. ‘I am using you. You are a means to an end.’
‘You’ve used me as a means to an end before. I recall it being much more enjoyable.’
Foolish to expect a reply. Foolish to speak as if they were young men again, testing one another’s mettle in front of a roaring fire only to be overcome by passion minutes later. As he fought off Richard’s blade, the cold of the room fading as he grew hot and limber, the memories of what had come after victory or defeat filled his mind with vivid intensity.
‘Ha!’ Richard’s foil came within striking distance of his cheek; Sherborne jumped backwards, momentarily unsettled. ‘Not so smug now, are you?’
‘Not so detached now, are you? I knew you wanted to win.’
‘I don’t want to win. I want to be better than you.’ Winter light shone on Richard’s foil as he hastily thrust. ‘The better man can still lose.’
‘What sounds like wisdom can also sound like jealousy. Perhaps you’d be better at fencing if you were less envious of my skill.’
They stopped, Sherborne panting with exertion. When Richard spoke again, his voice was lower. Pained. ‘You consider jealousy one of my flaws?’
‘We’re not speaking only of fencing.’
‘I see. Then forgive my impertinence—we both know jealousy has never been one of your afflictions.’
‘What’s that supposed to mean?’
‘If we’re going to speak of the past, then we’ll speak of the past.’ Sherborne lunged without warning, satisfied as Richard scrambled to deflect. ‘When it came to you and me, you certainly felt no sense of possession.’
‘You have no idea how I felt.’
The tingling shiver that ran down Sherborne’s spine was wrong but welcome. He tried to ignore it, thrusting again and again with blows that grew more inexpert as memories assailed him. ‘I know. You never told me how you felt.’
‘I didn’t think I had to tell you.’
‘Of course you didn’t. All I had to go on were your actions.’ Sherborne parried and thrust, more than aware that he had lost the upper hand. He was on the back foot now, with Richard advancing. ‘And if you recall how you acted with Henry Meadcroft in the week before the Summer Ball—’
He jumped back, a cry of surprise on his lips, as Richard’s blade hit his own with unmannerly force. Richard moved closer, his foil a hair’s breadth from the skin of Sherborne’s neck. ‘He meant nothing.’
‘Oh, really?’ Sherborne couldn’t help but laugh, a breathless, desperate sound. ‘Then what did I mean?’
He hissed with pain, a line of fire blazing across his chest as Richard’s foil slipped downward. Both swords clattered to the floor; Richard dug his hands into Sherborne’s shoulders, pinning him against the nearest wall.
‘Everything, you stupid bastard. You meant everything. I was jealous of sunlight because it could touch your face without anyone commenting on it.’ Richard’s low, anguished murmur sent sparks through him. ‘I was jealous of the water you drank, the air you breathed, because they got to be inside you and I didn’t.’
God, the pain of those words now. The aching, horrible pleasure of them. ‘You never said.’
‘By the time I wanted to, we were done.’
‘We’ve never been done.’
‘I was done with you the moment you betrayed me. I’ve spent years without you. A long, long time.’
‘Don’t pretend that you believe in time.’ If only he would move closer. If only he could feel Richard’s body fully against his own, tense and heated with exertion. ‘Time is nothing. Less than nothing, when I look at you.’
Come to me. I need you. It’s a matter of life-and-death.
Infamous poet Sherborne Clarke is a scholar, a lover—but not a father. When he finds a baby abandoned on the steps of his crumbling castle, he knows he must get her to London and an orphanage. It’s the perfect excuse to contact the one person he trusts…the man whose love he stills yearns for, and whose heart he broke years before.
Richard Ashbrook was groomed from birth to become the Earl of Portland, until Sherborne betrayed him, exposing his sexuality to the papers and forcing him into exile. But as much as he hates Sherborne, Richard has never managed to break their link or let his confusing sentiments concerning him subside. When he receives a missive implying that Sherborne’s life is at risk, he knows it is time to return home.
Richard undergoes the perilous journey from Sicily only to find the other man untouched. Furious, he agrees to transport the baby to London—whatever gets him out of Sherborne’s life once and for all. But when a snowstorm leaves them stranded, they’re forced to confront the past—and deal with the love between them that’s all too present.
Annabelle Greene writes hot, heartwarming historical romances with plenty of humor. When she isn’t crafting the perfect HEA, she’s making pasta or walking along Italy’s beautiful Adriatic coast. Her newest book, A Winter’s Earl, is out in November.