This week’s theme is water and I thought I’d share a snippet from the first book in the June Girls series, No Recourse. Last week I shared a bit from the second book, No Regrets. These are time travel/Regency novels that explore the adventures of a trio of modern-day girlfriends who are magically transported back in time to Regency England. No Recourse is the very first book I ever wrote from beginning to end and Jack and Hayley hold a special place in my heart.
He slowed his approach as he drew nearer. He could see Hayley better now, her long red hair loosely pulled back in a ribbon. The curls were swinging side to side as she kept a fierce pace. Glancing back toward the Grange, he realized they must have come well over two miles down the beach. Amazed by her strength and stamina, he wondered if he could run so long and so far without a rest. Not ready to announce his presence, he kept Lancelot close to the tree line and followed at a slower pace, retaining his distance. Enjoying the view, he was curious to see what this firebrand would do next.
After more than a quarter of an hour, she ceased her run and began to walk, arms akimbo, apparently catching her breath. He nudged Lancelot off the beach and into the cover of the trees, while keeping her within view. Eventually, she ceased walking, turned to look at the water and stretched her arms up into the air while curving her back. After a quick look around, she sat on the sand and began to take off her shoes and stockings.
Certain she was unaware of his presence, he’d decided to approach her when she stood quickly and, with another glance around, took off her shirt. Stunned, he stared as the beautiful redhead then pulled off her pants. She stood on the shore in the tiniest drawers he had ever seen and the strange, small corset he had briefly uncovered during their heated interlude in the cabin. Her breasts were firm and full, and he noticed how they rose and fell rapidly as the result of her strenuous run. His gaze admired the sleek curves of her buttocks and the shapely muscles of her legs. He had no idea how beautiful well-defined calf muscles could be on a woman. She had the most striking figure he’d ever seen. She was muscular, yet feminine at the same time. It was a heady combination.
Without hesitation, she began to walk into the channel. When the water reached the top of her thighs, she raised her hands in front of her and lightly dove under the water. Mouth dry, he watched as she swam with strong, sure strokes against the current going farther and farther out to sea. His admiration quickly turned to fear as he realized exactly how far she was going. Without a thought, he tied Lancelot to the nearest tree and took off down the shore toward the water. As he hurriedly walked, he shed his waistcoat and shirt. Stopping at the water’s edge he quickly removed his boots and stockings. Leaving his breeches on, he dove into the cool water and swam after her.
Hayley stopped swimming when she heard splashing behind her. Turning, she felt a jolt of fear as she saw a man swimming toward her. Her fear quickly receded when she noticed the familiar dark hair and realized it was Jack. Treading water, she waited patiently until he reached her. As he approached, she admired the muscles of his arms rippling through the water. He was a good swimmer and he reached her quickly. She wondered how long he had been following her. She’d sensed someone behind her during her run, but when she’d looked around, she hadn’t seen anyone. As he pulled up even to her in the water, she saw that he was angry. Actually, he always seemed to be angry with her.
“What–the hell–are you doing?” he asked, between attempts to catch his breath.
“Swimming,” she replied with a grin. She was really starting to enjoy pushing his buttons. “What the hell are you doing?”
His eyes narrowed as he winced at her use of foul language. Despite being quite accomplished at provoking him to extreme anger, she realized with some alacrity she would probably be wise not to push him too far. Problem was she simply couldn’t seem to help herself.
“I was coming to help you. Do you realize how far away from shore you are?”
Glancing back at the shoreline, she could see that she was not as far out as she normally swam.
She shrugged lightly. “Yes.”
Her lack of concern, and clothing, apparently left him completely unnerved. “You are naked.”
At this, she laughed. “No, I’m not. This is typical of what women wear to go swimming in my time. It’s called a bikini. Well, actually, this isn’t a real bikini, but it does run along the same lines.” Her undergarments were perfectly respectable for the twenty-first century, although she belatedly realized she must look shocking to this nineteenth century man.
He snorted in disbelief. “It is indecent. Where are all the men in your time when women are paddling around in next to nothing? I cannot fathom that this is permitted, let alone accepted.”
“The men are usually paddling around in next to nothing with the women. People shed their inhibitions about revealing their bodies over the next couple hundred years. My bra and panties are downright conservative compared to most bathing suits.” Imagine if she were wearing a thong.
She could see it was better that she had stepped through the tree rather than Jack. The idea of him trying to adjust to life in two thousand eight tickled her. She laughed, splashed him and began swimming back to the sandy beach. While she had worn bikinis in her time, being so close to him with so little on did make her feel a bit uncomfortable. His attitude toward her swimming attire affected how she felt in it, and any time he came too close, she felt an unfamiliar, overwhelming heat course through her body, which she decided was a bad sign given the chill of the water.
Hayley stopped swimming as she neared the shore, her feet firmly on the sandy bottom. She remained where the water still reached her neck until he caught up to her.
“I need to get out and get dressed,” she said simply.
“Fine,” he replied. “Go right ahead.”
She blushed slightly at the idea of him watching her get out of the water. She realized the feeling was foolish as she’d often sunbathed like this in front of men all the time. It was his feelings about it that made her uneasy to reveal so much of herself to him.
Then she recognized his comment for what it was–a dare. Hayley loved dares. Grinning, she threw her head back proudly and walked through the white foam and across the cool sand to her clothing. Instead of dressing quickly, she sat down and lifted her face to the sun, letting it dry her body.
He stood in the channel, watching her and clenching his jaw so tight she thought it must hurt. She wondered if the cool water would calm his temper. After several minutes, he managed to rein in his emotions, both the anger and what she was certain was a touch of lust disappeared. She actually felt a bit of uncharacteristic guilt when she saw his previous emotions replaced with concern.
He emerged from the water and sat down beside her. When he spoke, it was in a quiet, almost pleading voice. “Hayley, I realize you are not familiar with how things are done in this time period. However, I can assure you that the way you are dressed and acting right now will get you ravished or worse. If any man other than myself had come upon you this morning that is exactly what would have happened.”
She listened to his words and noticed that for the first time, his tone was actually reasonable and polite. He was not barking commands at her. His anger seemed to have evaporated, and it dawned on her she liked him this way.
“I understand,” she said in a softer voice. “Really, I do. I’m just used to doing things my own way. Jack, I can’t give up my exercise routine while I’m here. It makes me feel happy and healthy–I enjoy it. Isn’t there anyway I can continue to run and swim safely?”
“You should have an escort with you any time you are away from the Grange. It is not proper for young, unmarried ladies to go anywhere unchaperoned. However, no escort is going to approve of your swimming attire.” She recognized an undeniable spark of appreciation in his eyes as he tried to hide the fact he was looking at her body.
Jack disliked the thought of any man ogling her luscious body as she propelled herself gracefully through the waves wearing what she called a bikini. What an odd term. He rather wanted to keep that image as his own personal gift. It was a vision he expected to see in his dreams for the rest of his days.
“Don’t women swim in this time?”
“Some do, but they wear considerably more clothing,” he answered. “I am sure Erin can have her seamstress make you a bathing costume in addition to the dresses you will no doubt need made.”
“I think that more clothing would make it harder to swim, but I suppose I could try it. Erin has offered to have some dresses made for me, so I’ll ask for a swimsuit as well.”
Standing, she brushed the sand off her bottom as he glanced toward the house. If Alex came upon them now, his friend would not believe him innocent of seducing her, and he certainly would not believe they had merely gone swimming. In fact, if anyone spied them in their current state, he had no doubt he would be saying wedding vows with this unconventional woman with Alex’s pistol at his back. Somehow, the thought did not upset him as much as he thought it should.
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