Mine Till Midnight
New York Times Bestseller
In this excerpt of my first book in the Hathaways Series, “Mine Til Midnight”, Cam Rohan, the sexy half-gypsy from “Devil In Winter” saves Miss Amelia Hathaway from the thing she fears most . . .
Anxious to demonstrate her competence, Amelia strode to the other window and began jerking at the closed draperies. “Thank you, Mr. Rohan, but as you can see, I have the situation well in hand.”
“I think I’ll stay. Having just stopped you from falling through one window, I’d hate for you to go out the other.”
“I won’t. I’ll be fine. I have everything under--” She tugged harder, and the rod clattered to the floor, just as the other hand done. But unlike the other curtain, which had been lined with aged velvet, this one was lined with some kind of shimmering rippling fabric, some kind of—
Amelia froze in horror. The underside of the curtain was covered with bees. Bees. Hundreds, no, thousands of them, their iridescent wings beating in an angry relentless hum. They lifted in a mass from the crumpled velvet, while more flew from a crevice in the wall, where an enormous hive simmered. The insects swarmed like tongues of flame around Amelia’s paralyzed form.
She felt the blood drain from her face. “Oh God--” “Don’t move.” Cam Rohan’s voice was astonishingly calm. “Don’t swat at them.”
She had never known such primal fear, welling up from beneath her skin, leaking through every pore. No part of her body seemed to be under her control. The air was boiling with them, bees and more bees.
It was not going to be a pleasant way to die. Closing her eyes tightly, Amelia willed herself to be still, when every muscle strained and screamed for action. The air moved in sinuous patterns around her, tiny bodies touching her sleeves, hands, shoulders.
“They’re more afraid of you than you are of them,” she heard Rohan say.
Amelia highly doubted that. “These are not f-frightened bees.” Her voice didn’t sound like her own. “These are f-furious bees.”
“They do seem a bit annoyed,” Rohan conceded, approaching her slowly. “It could be the dress you’re wearing--they tend not to like dark colors.” A short pause. “Or it could be the fact that you just ripped down half their hive.”
“If you h-have the nerve to be amused by this—” She broke off and covered her face with her hands, trembling all over.
His soothing voice undercut the buzzing around them. “Be still. Everything’s fine. I’m right here with you.”
“Take me away,” she whispered desperately. Her heart was pounding too hard, making her bones shake, driving every coherent thought from her head. She felt him brush a few inquisitive insects from her hair and back. His arms went around her, his shoulder hard beneath her cheek.
“I will, sweetheart. Put your arms around my neck.”
She groped for him blindly, feeling sick and weak and disoriented. The flat muscles at the back of his neck shifted as he bent toward her, gathering her up as easily as if she were a child. “There,” he murmured. “I’ve got you.” Her feet left the floor, and she was floating and cradled at the same time. Turning her face into his shoulder, she let him carry her.
His breath fell in a warm, even rhythm on the curve of her cheek. “Some people think of the bee as a sacred insect,” he told her. “Its presence in your home is a sign of good things to come.”
Her voice was buried in the fine wool of his coat. “Wh-what does it mean if there are thousands of bees in one’s home?”
He shifted her higher in his arms, his lips curving gently against the cold rim of her ear. “Probably that we’ll have plenty of honey for tea-time. We’re going through the doorway now. In a moment I’m going to set you on your feet.”
Amelia kept her face against him, her fingertips digging into the layers of his clothes. “Are they following?”
“No. They want to stay near the hive. Their main concern is to protect the queen from predators.”
“She has nothing to fear from me!” There was a catch of laughter in his throat. With extreme care, he lowered Amelia’s feet to the floor. Keeping one arm around her, he reached with the other to close the door. “There. We’re out of the room. You’re safe.” His hand passed over her hair. “You can open your eyes now.”
Clutching the lapels of his coat, Amelia waited for a feeling of relief that didn’t come. Her heart was racing too hard, too fast. Her chest ached from the strain of her breathing. Her lashes lifted, but all she could see was a shower of sparks.
“Amelia . . . easy. You’re all right.” His hands chased the shivers that ran up and down her back. “Slow down, sweetheart.”
She couldn’t. Her lungs were about to burst. No matter how hard she worked, she couldn’t get enough air. Bees . . . the sound of buzzing was still in her ears. The sparks danced and collided, and when they faded there was nothing around her but layers of gray softness. She sank into the quiet billows without a sound.
After what could have been a minute or an hour, pleasant sensations filtered through the haze. A tender pressure moved over her forehead. The gentle brushes touched her eyelids, slid to her cheeks. Strong arms held her against a comfortingly hard surface, while a clean, salt-edged scent tickled her nostrils. Her lashes fluttered, and she turned into the warmth with confused pleasure.
“There you are,” came a low murmur.
Opening her eyes, Amelia saw Cam Rohan’s face above her. They were on the hallway floor--he was holding her in his lap. As if the situation weren’t mortifying enough, the front of her bodice was gaping, and her corset was unhooked. Only her crumpled chemise was left to cover her chest.
Amelia stiffened. Until that moment, she had never known there was a feeling beyond embarrassment, that made one wish one could crumble into a pile of ashes. “My . . . my dress . . .”
“You weren’t breathing well. I thought it best to loosen your corset.”
“I’ve never fainted before,” she said groggily, struggling to sit up.
“You were frightened.” His hand came to the center of her chest, gently pressing her back down. “Rest another minute.” His gaze moved over her pale features. “I think we can conclude you’re not fond of bees.”
“I’ve hated them ever since I was seven.”
“I was playing out-of-doors with Win and Leo, and I stumbled too close to a rose bush. A bee flew at my face and stung me right here.” She touched a spot just below her right eye, high on the crest of her cheek. “The side of my face swelled until my eye closed . . . I couldn’t see from it for almost two weeks—”
His fingertips smoothed over her cheek as if to soothe the long-ago injury.
“—and my brother and sister called me Cyclops.” She watched him struggle not to smile. “They still do, whenever a bee flies too near.”
He regarded her with friendly sympathy. “Everyone’s afraid of something.”
“What are you afraid of?”
“Ceilings and walls, mostly.”
She stared at him in puzzlement, her thoughts still coursing too slowly. “You mean . . . you would rather live outside like a wild creature?”
“Yes, that’s what I mean. Have you ever slept outside before?”
“On the ground?”
Her bewildered tone made him grin. “On a pallet beside a fire.”
Amelia tried to imagine it, lying undefended on the hard ground, at the mercy of every creature that crawled, crept or flew. “I don’t think I could fall asleep that way.”
She felt his hand playing slowly in the loose locks of her hair. “You could.” His voice was soft. “I would help you.”
Romantic Times Review for Mine Till Midnight
"Here's vintage Kleypas: an unforgettable story peopled with remarkable characters and a depth of emotion that will leave you breathless with the wonderment of knowing what falling in love is really like. "
Summary: When Amelia Hathaway's brother disappears into the gambling hells and brothels of London she turns to half-Gypsy club owner Cam Rohan (from The Devil in Winter) to find him.
Take the quiz to find out which animal Beatrix Hathaway would think you're like.