Time for another teaser excerpt from True Pretenses! Remember, you can read the first chapter and pre-order the book here.
In this scene, Lydia takes Ash to see their greenhouse.
Left to himself, Ash would have sat by the fire until dinner, but he had no objection to a tour of the greenhouse instead. Mentally saying farewell to the shilling he would have to pay the inn’s boy to clean his flimsy evening pumps—he supposed gentlemen wore them a-purpose to show off that they could afford to be driven about—he followed Miss Reeve and her clinking pattens out the door and down a gravel path.
The greenhouse was a long, tall, narrow building of the same stone as the house, with tall, arched sash-windows and even taller arched double doors that nearly brushed the roof. Miss Reeve passed them by, unlocking a small door in the sidewall. “Quickly. We mustn’t let in the cold air.” She shut the door behind them and slipped her pattens off.
In the dim light, the smell hit Ash first: earth and green things. But not green like the English forest—this was an exotic greenness, rich and delicate and foreign. The lantern’s light glinted strangely off the glossy orange trees that marched up and down the stone floor in wooden tubs, flashes of green and gold where fruit of various ripeness hung together. Around the edges of the room, small-leaved shrubs and delicate vines grew out of pots and up the whitewashed wall, and there—Ash stared. A short line of shiny trees were in flower. Flowering in December!
He went to look more closely. The flowers were white, round, many-petaled, and peculiarly regular in shape. They looked phosphorescent in the darkness. He put his nose to one—a very faint, slightly sharp smell, like honeysuckle without the honey.
“Those are our camellias,” said Miss Reeve with proprietary pride. Really, there was nothing money couldn’t buy. Ash turned to thank her, to apologize for having wanted to stay by the fire, and realized she hadn’t brought him here to show him the greenhouse at all. She watched him with banked hunger, biding her time.
For a brief moment he resisted, wanting to explore, and then he thought about kissing her in the warm, fragrant darkness, surrounded by orange trees, and it was the most luxurious thought he’d ever had. It was exactly how he’d imagined a nobleman’s life, as a lust-addled adolescent.