Today is the official release date for The Troublesome Apprentice and it appears Liza has sent over every character from her book.
Melissa: Listen up people! I’m telling you right now, you cannot all talk at once. So I’ll do a short interview with some of you and that’s it. We’ll start with the character I recognize from the cover, which hopefully means you are a main character.
Vic: I am a main character. In fact, I am the troublesome apprentice that the great Xavier Thorn hires.
Xavier: And I am Xavier Thorn and thus should have been addressed first.
Melissa: you look a bit rumpled to be the greatest sleuth in England.
Xavier: I’m in disguise! Egads! You are as troublesome as my pup.
Melissa: You have a puppy?
Vic: No, he calls me his untrained pup.
Melissa: Don’t you find that annoying?
Vic: Not nearly so much as Xavier calling himself my ‘master’. I don’t like that at all.
Melissa: Nor would I. Why do you put up with him?
Vic: Because he’s an extraordinary, brilliant man whom I find most challenging…and I do love a challenge!
Melissa: Oh dear, it sounds like to me that you’ve fallen in love with the annoying fellow.
Vic: What? Nonsense. I’m a young man. Why would I fall in love with a man?
Melissa: That sometimes happens in life, but from reading Liza’s blurb, I’ve discovered you aren’t a young man but a young woman who dresses like a man. May I ask why?
Vic: Because these are exciting times IF you are a man. If you are a woman, you are advised to bath twice and change your clothes five times each day. I much prefer to only bath once a week and wear my suit the entire day, thus leaving me ample time to learn to be a great detective from the brilliant Xavier Thorn.
Melissa: And did Xavier Thorn change the way he treats you once he discovered you are a woman?
Vic: *smiles* Not at all. He still yells for no reason, gives me impossible tasks, and torments me with my ignorance.
Melissa: Sounds delightful. Perhaps we should get to the mob of people hanging about?
Xavier: Yes. Allow me to introduce my people, so they can return to their jobs.
Davy is my driver. Before acquiring him, I would fire a 2-3 drivers day. He’s been with me many years now and has become like family.
Davy: Nice to meet you, ma’am.
Xavier: Then there is Jacko.
Jacko: You appear concerned that I look like a pirate. However, I’m a good pirate now, so you’ve no need to worry. I only steal kisses from pretty ladies…like you. But a kiss shouldn’t concern you…
Xavier: Settle down, Jacko. Born a gypsy, raised as a pirate, Jacko has a true talent for stealing. A most useful fellow.
*Xavier stares at the next guy in line*
Gads! Who put Jacko next to the Chief Inspector of Scotland Yard? Stone, when I said Jacko has a talent for stealing, I was referring to kisses, nothing more.
Stone: *rolls eyes* I’m well apprised of both Jacko’s and Davy’s pasts. Davy has truly reformed, Jacko…I suspect stealing is second nature, but I trust you to keep him in line. Now may we go? I’ve a great many cases to work.
Xavier: Yes, go on. Vic perhaps you would like to parade in your family.
Vic: We’ll start in the right hand corner and go clockwise. First, there is Gregory, officially he’s the butler, but in truth he is like a bossy surrogate father to me. When I decided to be a boy at 13, he took me under his wing and taught me how to behave like a proper young man.
Gregory: And he was a very fine young gentleman until he went to work for Xavier Thorn.
Vic: Next, is my sister Claire. She has decided never to marry and has chosen Jonas, a servant to be her lover. That way she can always have her way and no one can tell her what to do, which would certainly not be the case if she were to marry a gentleman.
Claire: We both wanted our freedom, I just chose a different way than Vic.
Vic: Next is Jonas, my former—dare I say—unwanted manservant. He’s now the butler in training. He won’t speak, so let’s move on to Aunt Maddy. I’m sorry to say she can’t speak either. She was pushed before a carriage. That’s the first mystery Xavier and I solve, although to be honest, discovering the truth didn’t make me feel better. It just made me want to catch and imprison all criminals in England.
Xavier: Speaking of which, we need to be getting back to our investigations. Crime waits for no blog.
Melissa: I suppose you are right. Thanks for stopping by, and I’ll carry on from here without your help.
*Waves goodbye as they leave and then sighs with relief*
Melissa: Honestly, Liza has lost her mind. Who else would send over EIGHT characters and a corpse for me to interview? Well’ let’s learn more about this book.
The Adventures of
Xavier & Vic
The Troublesome Apprentice
By Liza O’Connor
The Key to Aunt Maddy’s Death
The Missing Husband of Mrs. Wimple
The Disappearing Scarlet Nun
The Clever Butcher’s Wife
The Rescue of Lady Anne
While investigating the death of a friend and client, Maddy Hamilton, Xavier Thorn (reputed to be the greatest sleuth in England) is greatly impressed with Maddy’s nephew, Victor, and offers him a job as his secretary. Aware of Xavier’s history of firing secretaries, Victor garners a promise that for three months he cannot be fired. Vic then proceeds, in Xavier’s view, to be cheeky and impertinent at every turn. Xavier endures the impudent pup because Victor is most skilled in extracting the truth from clients and intuiting facts with little evidence to assist.
As they solve a string of cases, Xavier discovers a few more important details about his troublesome apprentice, such as her true gender, and the realization that she has awakened his long dormant heart.
“Heed my words, Victor, for if you disobey me tonight, I will torture you each day forthwith and you will never be allowed to accompany me on another mission.”
His dark eyes narrowed as he studied her, evidently trying to determine if she intended to obey his orders. “Consider it a test of your ability to follow my instructions and do not dare fail.”
“I won’t.” Vic ensured her response sounded less surly and more sincere in tone.
Xavier placed his hand on her back. “Good lad. Now, if Inspector Stone received my note, his men are probably watching the exterior of your house. When this man…, let us call him Mr. GewGaw, arrives, they will no doubt insist upon sneaking up the stairs to stand ready outside the door. I’ve forewarned your impudent butler, lest we have a commotion. However, the key reason I mention this, Victor, is to warn you to remain in the closet. If Inspector Stone burst into the room, he might mistake you for the murderer. You will thus remain hidden until I retrieve you. Do you understand?”
With a sigh, Vic nodded her head.
“Good. Now not another word or you will find yourself in hell.”
She wanted to say threats were not necessary, but she feared her protest might toss her into the promised hell, since he had said ‘not another word’.
Vic learned much about her new profession over the next four hours.
Lesson one: Waiting for a criminal to show might rank the most tedious and boring occupation in the world.
Lesson two: Remaining perfectly still, stuffed into a dress closet for hours, causes muscle cramps that hurt like bloody hell.
Lesson three: The desire to sniffle can reach a level of mental anguish in less than an hour.
Lesson four: One should always go to the water closet before beginning a surveillance mission.
Lesson five: If not for the mental torture of sniffle prevention, the pain of muscle cramps, and great need for a toilet, a person waiting to assist would surely fall asleep, for the body is accustomed to sleeping when it’s dark and nothing is going on.
Lesson six: The profession of banking has its good points and should be reassessed.
A soft bumping noise distracted Vic from her list. At first, she suspected Xavier had dozed off and fallen onto the floor. However, as further noise sounded, including the breaking of glass, Vic knew their plan had come to fruition. Soon, they would have Aunt Maddy’s killer.
Vic listened as the window opened followed by a great deal of huffing and wheezing. Finally, the sound of feet thudded onto the floor. Drawers opened and closed while someone systematically searched Aunt Maddy’s room. As time went on, Vic questioned the wisdom of her hiding place. Soon, the man would open the closet to search it as well. Vic readied herself to leap out, deciding surprise would be her best defense.
She could hear the man breathing outside the closet and readied herself for attack. Before the door actually opened, the lights in the room came on and Xavier spoke with a deadly calmness that sent chills down her spine. “Lost something?”
The Troublesome Apprentice
I’m tired of telling my proper bio. So you get the improper bio.
Liza O’Connor was raised by feral cats, which explains a great deal, such as why she has no manners, is always getting in trouble, and doesn’t behave like a proper author and give you a proper bio.
She is highly unpredictable, both in real life and her stories, and presently is writing humorous romances. Please buy these books, because otherwise, she’ll become grumpy and write troubled novels instead. They will likely traumatize you.
Mostly humorous books by Liza:
Saving Casey – Old woman reincarnates into troubled teen’s body. (Half funny/half traumatizing)
Ghost Lover--Two British brothers fall in love with the same young woman. Ancestral ghost is called in to fix the situation. There’s a ghost cat too. (Humorous Contemporary Romance)
A Long Road to Love Series: (Humorous Contemporary odd Romance)
Worst Week Ever — Laugh out loud week of disasters of Epic proportions.
Oh Stupid Heart — The heart wants what it wants, even if it’s impossible.
Coming to Reason — There is a breaking point when even a saint comes to reason.
Climbing out of Hell — The reconstruction of a terrible man into a great one.
Don’t Forget to enter to win one of the two $25 Amazon Gift Cards.
Shyanne, a widow with twin sons, is forced back into the realm of vampires, humans, and shifters when a college research project lands her in an exotic dancing club where she discovers a sexy shifter called Meat who sparks her interest in dating once more.
Shy juggles motherhood, taking college classes, dealing with her eccentric adoptive family, and work. She finds herself battling for Meat’s attention with a cover model shifter, while trying not to think about Meat’s nun fetish, and her hit and miss—emphasis on the miss—teleportation abilities.
Can they work out their differences and love one another for who they are? Or will they discover that humans and shifters really don’t mix, especially when life’s monkey wrenches keep getting in the way?
He stood, grinning widely down at me. "You got any money?"
Without thinking, I burrowed into one of my pockets, pulling out a quarter. I reached out, unfolded my fingers and showed him what I had.
His low laughter followed. Digging into one of his pockets, he pulled out a bill and dropped it onto the table in front of me.
"What's this?" I looked at the ten dollar bill, then back up at him.
"Do me a favor. Get some change." He arched an eyebrow, looking at me like he expected a light to come on.
Nope. My light stayed dim as ever. "I don't get it."
He leaned down, hands flat on the table, eye to eye with me. "Get some change. I'm on next. Management frowns if you stick your hand in my thong without leaving money." Meat grinned once more, then stood and turned.
"Wait!" I picked up the money. "I'm confused. You gave me your own money to use. How does that benefit you?"
Straight white teeth flashed as he smiled. "I get your hand in my pants."
Coming soon to Barnes and Noble.
Author bio and contact links:
Growing up in the Midwest, I began reading romance novels in high school, immediately falling in love with the genre, to the point where I decided to write professionally for a career. However, that dream splattered against a brick wall, resulting in a quick death in my first writing class in college when my professor told me bluntly that I wasn't any good at it. I shifted gears quickly, and left my writing dreams behind, eventually settling on becoming a nurse.
A few years back, I stumbled across a fan-fiction writing site on a favorite author's webpage. I began to read stories others wrote, not only making some wonderful close friends from the experience, but also, really learning to write for the very first time. Here I was able to share short stories, practice my writing skills, and truly develop into a writer. More than that, the experience allowed me to revitalize my dream, as I rediscovered joy in writing.
Now, I spend my days off with my alpha male characters, quick witted heroines, and see how much trouble everyone can get into. When I'm not working or writing, I enjoy working in the garden, canning, and seeing my backyard as a living canvas for my whimsical landscaping, and, of course, reading romance novels.
Sally Eldridge was confident, savvy and competitive, excelling in the male-dominated field of Grand Prix sport bike racing until a life-shattering accident severely damaged her body and psyche. Twenty-seven years of marriage to Richard McCoy served as a buffer from life’s uncertainty. Over time, she surrendered self-reliance to Richard’s control.
Life changes abruptly when Richard dies while on a business trip. Overwhelmed by the devastating loss, Sally is forced to relearn skills she relinquished during marriage to a willful man. She initially accepts Richard’s death until shocking details emerge that upend thirty years. She uncovers his covert life of sexual affairs, illegitimate children, and hidden assets in an obscure corporation. Her investigation exposes her to one man desperate enough to kill her, and another who has been in love with Sally for a decade.
To take control of her future, Sally must expose every truth, even if it means risking her life in the process.
“Mrs. McCoy, if you’re hell-bent on selling then why not sell only forty-nine percent of the winery to your employees and retain control of fifty-one percent?”
“Why not?” she said, futilely trying to put aside her oversexed drama.
She was relieved Vic Callahan hadn’t asked to sleep with her, though she was disappointed that he wouldn’t be servicing her physical needs. What a perfect arrangement it would be, a virile man at her disposal and too past his prime to demand carnal access to her morning, noon, and night, like a sex-crazed college student. Not that she’d mind, but--
“Mrs. McCoy, are you all right?” Vic asked, because her eyes had a faraway quality, and her cheeks were flushed.
“Yes. I’m fine,” she said, annoyed with her sexual single-mindedness. She imagined the expression of idiocy on her face. She couldn’t support her cause as a widow with wherewithal by behaving as though she had brain damage, when all she needed was a vigorous roll in the hay.
“I’m sorry, Mr. Callahan, I am considering your suggestion. It actually makes a lot of sense financially.”
“Thank you, Mrs. McCoy. Seems to me companies do better when they’re employee owned. And this way, you’d still get to keep major control of the winery.”
“It’s a very intelligent idea,” she agreed. She pushed away from the table, and stood, feeling the heat disperse from her inner thighs. She hoped he wouldn’t pick up on her horniness from his side of the room.
Vic got up quickly, and placed his hat on his head.
“Thank you, ma’am. Now, if I were you, thinking about selling a share of my winery, I’d pay for a smart attorney to keep in my pocket, one that’s versed in corporate law, to make sure I don’t get screwed.”
Screwed. She burned at that word intoned in Vic’s voice, and involuntarily licked her lips.
He smiled again, and she clenched her teeth to keep from reacting on a physical level. The man spoke with care in low tones and she supposed his face would eventually look like soft leather from years of exposure to the sun and wind. But at this age, he was attractive, his eyes sharp, and mannerisms infinitely seductive. That physically conditioned body of his was…well, beautiful came to mind, though she figured a man would be less inclined to consider this description of his own physique acceptable.
She decided he was sexy then, a must-ride. She could feel herself getting wet at the mere thought of straddling Vic Callahan buckaroo, draped across his willing hips, and feeling the smooth stroking of a stiff cock that surely must match his lithe, ageless build. Maybe he would grip her waist with those strong hands, encircling her naked buttocks, and draw her in.
She let her eyes rove, taking in his broad shoulders and wide chest, curving into muscled loins and a round posterior, a body a woman could enjoy in an erotic sense, even if the man who owned it seemed impervious to love. They were matched closely in height. The thought of kissing a man as enticing as Vic with a mere tilt of the chin made her heart pound. She wondered how his whiskers would feel brushing across her nipples and imagined pulling him in by his narrow hips, wrapping her legs around him while he thrust into her, uttering primal groans of pleasure in her ear.
When not writing, Karen Kennedy Samoranos co-manages a music education business in the Bay Area with her husband, Clifford, focusing on jazz theory and live stage performance for children ages 5 through 18. She has four adult children, and four young grandchildren. In her off hours, she hikes, and is an avid fisherman, and motorcyclist (both dirt and street), and an advocate for regular exercise, red wine and whole foods.
Author contact links
Web Site: http://www.saraville.com/
Author Blog: https://karenkennedysamoranos.wordpress.com/
Author Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
by Ashlynn Monroe
Genre: Erotic Science Fiction Romance
Will Franny choose to live or just to survive?
Hardship, pain, and strife describes life on Utopia, a mining colony far from Earth. Women are a rare commodity. When an alien trade ship arrives with a cargo containing a human woman, every man on Utopia shows up to bid. Three friends pool their funds in the hope they'll have a human woman in their beds to keep them warm on the long nights of the coming harsh winter.
Francesca Dehart suffered the terror of aliens abducting her from a country road. The horror of being kidnapped and then sold as a sex slave is beyond anything Franny has ever imagined. With no hope of being rescued she finds herself with a new definition of hell—Utopia.
Can Cade, Nebraska, and Dawson show Franny her new life is more than a prison? They need her, but will she stay with them or run at the first opportunity? Can they hold onto the woman they've grown to love and protect her from the others who will stop at nothing to have her?
Content Warning: graphic sexual content and multiple partners
The reality of the danger put Franny's relationship with these men in an entirely different light. She needed them to want to keep her, to fall in love with her. Her protection demanded she seduce them, all of them. Franny felt sick. She wasn't into mind games, but she didn't want them tossing her out into the fray when they tired of her. Love was the only thing that could keep her from that fate.
If she resisted, eventually they'd decide to recoup the investment. It was common sense. Playing mind reader was dangerous, but these men weren't under the same social and moral constraints as the men of Earth. She saw the lust, and it was time to make a decision.
Franny put her hand on top of Dawson's and watched his eyes widen just a little before he glanced at the door and glared more fiercely. She could almost feel the barbaric change in him. He was going to keep the inquirers from becoming rapists with all of his might. Somewhere in her brain, in the primal part she thought she was too good for, she liked knowing he'd protect her.
Cade put his hand on the doorknob. "I'm goin' to count to three before I shoot. One…you still out there? Two."
"Fine, Cade. We're going, but if you change your mind, the offer stands. When you get sick of her, we'll pay good money for a turn."
"Do I have to say three?" Cade asked. There was no mistaking the anger in his tone.
There was a long pause. Cade gave Dawson a look, and then he opened the door a crack, sticking the riffle barrel outside. He looked out before he shut the massive slab and replaced the heavy bar again. Cade visibly sagged with relief. "They're gone," he said.
Franny relaxed, but she wasn't sure how long her security would last.
When there was another knock at the door, Cade's posture said he was ready to fight. "Who's there?"
"I'm back," Nebraska said.
Cade opened the door and Nebraska came inside. Cade went over to the stove. He stirred something that she assumed was the stew. She'd never seen a real woodstove in action before, and watched him with fascination. He grabbed a pan and added a little water. Nebraska went over to a small cupboard and took out bowls and wooden spoons. He looked fresh. His hair was damp, and he was wearing clean clothes.
Watching the males in this domestic setting, she could almost forget they'd bought her as if she wasn't a person. The room grew overly warm. She suspected they'd normally have had the shutters open, if not the door too. After the visitation, she understood why they didn't open everything up, but that didn't make it any cooler.
Cade took the antique basin from where he'd put it on the floor and poured the water in. He came over to her, holding the large, ornate porcelain bowl and a dingy rag. She flinched as he started wiping at her face, but then forced herself to hold still. She'd forgotten her head hurt until he disturbed the wound. His large hands awkwardly cleansed her face. His mouth was set and his eyes gazed at her with an intensity and focus that seemed to define this man.
He wasn't like any of the men back on Earth. He looked at her in a way that made her feel raw. His eyes bore into her soul. She bit her lip to keep from asking him why he was looking at her as he did. When he finished with her face, he started to wipe at the dried blood on her shoulder.
His touch was gentle. She didn't turn away from him, instead she let him touch her and found herself enjoying it. That fleeting desire burst into flame inside of her, and for the second time since her ordeal began, she found herself liking what he was doing.
"I…Thank you," she whispered softly.
His gaze met hers and a smile slowly curved his lips. "You're welcome, darlin'."
The endearment made her stomach feel funny. She hated that she liked the deep cadence of his voice. She detested how right his use of the generic sweet talk sounded. She should be trying to escape, not sitting there wanting him to act on his claim of ownership.
Beachwalk Press Amazon Barnes & Noble
~About the Author~
Ashlynn Monroe is a busy wife and mom. She enjoys writing about anything and everything paranormal or fantasy related. She spends most of her time daydreaming up her next tale of romance.
Author Links: Site Facebook Author Page
Ashlynn is giving away Two Swag Packs during her Tour. For a chance to win please fill out the rafflecopter below.
by Ellie Potts
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Can one secret stop two broken hearts from mending?
Alisa, bank clerk by day-self published writer by night, gets a phone call that will change her life. Hollywood wants to make one of her books into a movie. The news comes on the day she starts vacation, excited, she leaves work early to surprise her husband. To her surprise he is already home, and well even more surprising he is sexing up the neighbor in their bed.
Heartbroken and angry she makes a decision to head off to Hollywood on her own. Before the meeting she meets her TV crush Logan Rider. Logan has not only read her book Portals, but he wants to direct the movie. The offer is almost too good to be true! Alisa is thrown into a whirlwind of Hollywood as she sees stars, learns the movie business, and uncovers a few secrets. Secrets that prove actors are just as flawed as regular people. But there is one secret that can destroy Logan’s career. Will Logan be devoured by this secret, or can he find the strength to conquer it with Alisa’s help?
“I’m too shy. I was horrible in drama in high school. They teamed me up with my first high school crush on our first partner thing. And I was just trying not to do anything embarrassing. I end up transferring out.”
“What did you take instead?”
“A study class was open.”
“I take it you were bored?”
“Not at all. I wrote.”
“I wish I had some other talent.”
“You act,” Alisa replied.
“Well, yes, but I wish I could do something else. Do you have any other hobby then writing?”
“Well that is something I would like to learn.”
“I do it on looms. It is pretty simple.”
“Can you show me?” Dawn asked her eyes shining with anticipation.
“Cut!” Roman shouted. “Okay we are going to set up for Logan and Dawn. Ten minutes!”
Ray Day sat down heavily in a chair beside them. “I really hope we get done soon. I have to start Twin Falls in a month, and I really wanted a few days off. I want to have mimosas and spend a kidless day in Disney.”
“If my kids found out I went without them they would shank me,” Dawn said seriously.
“You break too easy. Send them to school and get your Disney on.”
“I heard Disney what is going on?” Logan said as he walked over to them.
“I was talking about mimosas and then Disney without kids,” Ray said with a small sigh. “Before I have to go to Canada to film Twin Falls.”
“I will pass on the mimosas, but would love some Disney time. It’s been a few months. How about you Alisa, when was the last time you went to Disney?”
“Uh—” She thought about it. “Maybe ten years I want to say.”
“Do you not like Disney?”
“I love Disney, it is just kind of expensive to go,” she said, shrugging.
Logan put his hand on her shoulder. “Maybe we need to make a trip.”
“No trips!” Roman shouted. “Dawn and Logan, come on.”
Ray sighed again watching Logan leave. “That ass is amazing.” He looked at her. “I see that smile. You can agree.”
“I do agree.”
“Good. Step one of surviving actors. Some of us are loud and outspoken, don’t be shy jump in.”
“Check, jump in.”
“It’s nice seeing Logan happy. After the breakup he was so sad. I believe he thought she was the one.” She watched Logan and Dawn have an argument, until someone said the wrong line and they started giggling.
“CUT!” Roman screamed making Alisa flinch.
“Step two. Some directors are just assholes. You just learn to deal.” Logan turned to them and winked
“You are cute. I think we need to go on a double date.”
“I have no double,” she said turning to Ray.
“There is Logan.”
“Ah—We’ve only known each other for two days.”
Ray shrugged. “You guys could have been married and divorced by now, you know typical celebrity life.”
They laughed as they turned back to watch. After Dawn and Logan it was the whole cast, then Logan and his pretend off and on crazy girlfriend. Alisa watched Roman, she watched the stage hands, she watched the camera people, sound people, and all the rest.
A little nagging voice sprang forward. You don’t belong here.
But I want to belong here, she replied to the voice.
Buy Link: Amazon
Somebody told Ellie Potts you had to be rich to be eccentric otherwise you were plain crazy. She set out to prove them wrong doing things she was told she couldn't do like dressing for pirate and renaissance faires, get her stories published, playing video games, planning to survive a zombie apocalypse, and other antics most women stay away from.
She is also a Whovian, Browncoat, Star Wars addict, and collector of arcane knowledge. Now she lives in California's Central Valley where most of her stories and books take place. Her and her husband are owned by their attack Bugg, and her red eared slider turtle minion who live in the backyard.
Author Links: Site Blog Facebook Twitter Goodreads
The Heartsong Cowboy (Work in Progress- unedited)
Thank you for stopping by today and reading a snippet of my latest work in progress. I hope you'll visit the other authors who are sharing six paragraphs of their stories.
Usually a touch wakes her. This must be a bad one. She sat on the edge of the bed and pulled Taylor into her arms, before she cradled her tight against her heart.
“Shhh. I’m here. Wake up. It’s okay.” Taylor’s arm flailed out smacking Angela’s face. She pulled her tighter and shook her gently. “Taylor, it’s mommy. Wake up.” Her voice louder and more demanding.
Taylor’s eyes shot open. Her gaze latched on Angela’s as a silent scream formed on her lips. Taylor’s body stiffened in her mother’s arms. When will this trauma ever go away? Angela reached up brushing the hair from her own eyes. She felt the wetness on her cheek and realized she’d been crying.
“Taylor, honey, Mommy’s here. I have you. There’s no bad man here.” Angela’s soft voice choked on her tears. “I won’t let anything happen to you.”
As her gaze focused, Taylor’s body relaxed. Her brow puckered in what Angela called her “question face.” Taylor’s small hand reached up and touched the tear trailing down Angela’s cheek.
Raising Her Hopes
A Historical Victorian Romance
Turquoise Morning Press Vintage
When Sidney White arrives in England, he seems like the perfect man for Belinda Ferguson.
She wants to love him, but first she must overcome her past before she is free to raise her hopes.
Sidney Ferguson has one objective when he arrives in Bath, England. He plans to leave his daughter with relatives before returning to the United States to embark on a dangerous mission for the Union Army.
An encounter with the beautiful Belinda Ferguson strikes like lightning at his heart, but she doesn’t give her love or attention freely. Belinda’s past makes her cautious about placing her trust, especially in a man who must leave her to complete his task.
Despite the separation his work requires, Sidney convinces her to risk loving him and she dares to raise her hopes.
Belinda barely made it twenty paces outside the Hazel’s door when Sidney came alongside her and fell into step. He didn’t reach for her arm as she expected, but he was close enough that they bumped shoulders.
“I believe it was my job to see you home this evening,” he said as they crossed the center of the square.
“You’re undoing years worth of work on my part.” She tried for a light, breezy tone as if his presence were entirely superfluous.
“I’d finally convinced Benjamin that I didn’t need an escort. After you return to the States, I’m sure he’ll go back to walking me home and I shall have to start all over again.”
“My apologies, but there’s an obvious difference between his intentions and mine.”
“Is there?” she questioned. “The walk is the same.”
“I’m sure Benjamin does not wish to kiss you as I do.”
“Mr. White.” She stopped in the glow of a street light and faced him, trying to formulate a firm rebuff and control her rapidly beating pulse.
“Please, will you call me Sidney?”
“No, I don’t think I shall. You may turn back now. I can see my gate.” She resumed walking. Any man of sense would cease following her.
“Do you dismiss Mr. Barth in the same way? Or is he allowed a kiss and entrance past your door?”
“My relationship with Mr. Barth is not your concern. Please leave me or I shall have to assume Benjamin’s ill opinion of you is correct and my hasty judgment a few nights ago was erroneous.” She tried for a haughty tone to use as a weapon against him, but as usual it failed her. Being too nice could be a curse at times. “Perhaps you are a rogue after all,” she finished, slightly breathless, with one hand on her gate and the other held out in a gesture meant to stop him.
Brushing by her upraised hand, he closed the distance between them. “I hate the thought of proving my brother-in-law correct,” he put a finger under her chin and tipped her face up, “but some things are worth the risk.”
His lips were soft, yet demanding, as they met hers. She wanted to resist, to seal her lips tight, but the stirring of passion she felt in him under the controlled surface matched hers. When his arms circled her, she placed her hands on his lapels not to push him back, but to touch him, to have the impression of his strength on her fingers.
He broke the kiss she’d been unable and unwilling to resist and mercifully stayed silent while her world righted itself. No man other than Heath had ever kissed her, held her like this. She’d evaded Mr. Barth and he was too nice to press her. This man was different. He had no fear of demanding what he wanted. She had every fear of giving in to his demands.
“Goodnight, Belinda,” he whispered close to her ear.
About the Author:
May loves romance. Big pink roses, chocolate hearts, sunset walks, but, most of all, she loves romance novels. She’s been reading romances since she first discovered the public library where the librarians didn't notice or didn't care what she was checking out even though she hadn't hit puberty yet.
Since then, May has continued to read every genre of romance, but she writes mostly historical. Places and time periods have stories to tell. And she likes to listen. Her most recent novels are Victorian era pieces where she can imagine beautiful gowns and elegant teas.
When May’s not writing, she manages a houseful of children, pets, and flowers grown in her garden.
Giveaway: $15 Amazon Gift Card
Sunny's Second Chance
by Nola Cross
Genre: Contemporary Romance/Interracial Romance/Holiday Theme
What if love really is better the second time around?
It's a rough Christmas for just-divorced Sunny Williamson and her six-year-old daughter, Jasmine. When your no-good husband leaves you for a pretty young dancer, it's hard not to feel old, fat, and frumpy. But then she meets a handsome widower, Ben Stillman, and his young son, Spencer. The two kids hit it off, dragging their parents into an unwitting friendship.
Sunny's never thought about dating a white man. The whole interracial thing seems risky, especially since Jasmine is still struggling with adjusting to her father's defection. What if the little girl gets attached to Ben and Spencer and things don't work out?
Ben has been struggling under the weight of grief since his wife's death a year ago. He suspects it's too soon to move on, but somehow he wants to make Christmas special for Spencer. Then he meets Sunny and everything changes. She chases away the darkness and makes him feel alive again. Can the two of them learn to trust the magic between them long enough to give love a second chance?
It had snowed lightly overnight, dusting the ground and rooftops like confectioner's sugar. There was just enough snow to be pretty and festive without causing issues with driving, or necessitating boots, and the skies had partially cleared, allowing bright white sunlight to peek through.
"Wait here, kiddos," he said as Jasmine clamored into the back seat.
He rounded the rear of the car just as Sunny came out of the front door of the house and turned to lock it behind her. She was dressed in jeans and a hooded parka, the hood laying back on her shoulders. Her black hair glistened in the sunlight, and a pair of dark glasses hid her eyes. Over one arm was the handle of a large picnic basket.
She smiled broadly. "I made sandwiches," she called as she came toward him.
"Great! Thank you!" He took the basket and held the passenger door open for her as she got in. As he went around to stow the basket behind the back seat, his heart began to pound. Something had changed, hadn't it? The other night it had been like pulling teeth to get her to agree to come today. But there she was making her own contribution to the festivities. That was a good sign, right?
He lifted the lid of the basket for a quick peek. Oh, man! These were no ordinary, slapped-together, Wonder Bread sandwiches. Made on long, crusty bakery rolls, they were closely wrapped in plastic, but he could make out several layers of meats and cheeses, lettuce and pickles too. Nestled next to the sandwiches was a big baggie full of chocolate chip cookies that looked homemade. And there was also a thick, blue thermos and four plastic cups. If the time and care she'd taken in preparing the lunch was any indication of her interest in their friendship, things were beginning to look very promising!
He broke into a happy whistled rendition of Let It Snow as he closed the trunk and headed around toward the driver's side.
The trip through Portland and across the Columbia River to the small town of Brush Prairie, Washington, took nearly an hour. On the way, they must have sung Jingle Bells at least twenty times. In between, they took turns trying to name all of Santa's reindeer and the gifts from The Twelve Days of Christmas song. Sunny was the only one who could name them all in order. Being a grade school teacher, she had a natural advantage at that type of game.
Several times during the singing she laughed out loud. Ben glanced her way, trying to gauge whether she was genuinely having a good time. He couldn't see her eyes behind the dark glasses, but her smile seemed real enough.
As they left the freeway behind and meandered down a series of curving country roads, snowflakes began to drift down here and there. The kids pressed their noses to the windows, watching the little flurries.
"Do you think we'll get stuck out here, Mama?" Jasmine asked, a note of anxiety in her voice.
Sunny pointed toward the south. "See the sun peeking through over there? These clouds aren't thick enough to make very much snow at all. We have nothing to worry about."
"That's good. Who would feed Mr. Trix if we got stuck in the snow?"
Sunny laughed softly. "Mr. Trix would be fine on his own for a day or two."
"Who's Mr. Trix?" Ben asked.
Ben felt a prick of anxiety. He was allergic to some cats. Hopefully, Sunny's Mr. Trix was kept outdoors. As he realized that he'd been envisioning himself as a guest in her home, he chuckled to himself. To be perfectly honest, he'd been imagining her inviting him into her bed. Talk about jumping the gun!
Buy Links: Beachwalk Press Amazon
~About the Author~
I've always, always wanted to be a writer. It's funny—and kind of sad—to look back and see how "real life" has gotten in the way of those dreams. Despite being a Golden Heart finalist twice in past years, it's only recently that I've carved out the time and energy to get any serious writing done.
For the past three years I've been penning erotic fiction under a pseudonym. I have to admit it was fun to explore my "darker side". But now I am hearing the call of my heart: to write bigger stories that focus on emotion, loss, spirit, and true love; stories I hope my readers will relate to and want to read more than once. Small town America is my favorite fictional setting.
I live in a rambling fixer-upper on three wooded acres in the foothills of the Cascade Mountains, in southwest Washington state. My husband and I run a family business together in a small town nearby, a town very similar to the ones I write about. Our younger son works with us too. At home, three fine cats and a collie dog act as my muses. And last year we welcomed our first grandchild, a pivotal event. It's a truly wonderful life.
Author Links: Site Facebook Twitter
Nola is giving away a $10.00 Amazon Gift Card during her tour. For a chance to win please fill out the rafflecopter below.
by Cory Rivers
Genre: F/F Adult Nature Adventure
Each year during the field season, an expedition of biologists plunges into the Amazon rainforest. They live and work together at a field station so remote that telephones and Internet access are a distant dream, and the only entertainment they have is one another. Peggy Cole is a natural at the nature side of things. She faces down vipers, tarantulas, and jaguars while spearheading a groundbreaking project on short-eared Amazonian bush dogs. Peggy’s real struggle is with people. She must grapple with her unexpected love for Julie and a shattering betrayal from her beloved mentor.
Just like her professor, Peggy Cole knew at once that she was in a sacred place. The canopy was so dense that they walked in light made green by leaves hundreds of feet overhead. The air was alive and heavy. It vibrated with the breath of insects and the hum and song of birds. Peggy felt as if she could dissolve into it.
“What do you think?” Professor Jay Lions asked her. He always went by Jay with his students, even his undergraduates.
“It’s unreal,” Peggy said, tilting her head back. The rainforest was rich in all three dimensions. Vines twined up the tree trunks and a group of monkeys swung about the top of a tree that sprawled across the sky. Peggy had never seen wild monkeys before, and she pointed them out to Jay. When he saw that the monkeys were wearing magnificent white handlebar mustaches, he took off his hat and put it over his heart.
“Those are good friends of mine,” he said. “They got me my PhD.” Peggy knew what they were because Jay had been telling her about them for years. She named them out loud - Emperor Tamarins - and saw the subtle shift of a fine facial muscle at Jay’s temple. Peggy suspected he was pleased, but she did not realize that he was ecstatic. He was home.
“Soon all this will be yours,” Jay said to her, sweeping his one free hand around him in a grand gesture as the other tugged on a wheeled duffel bag. Now, as Peggy helped lug the expedition’s equipment from the boat landing up a treacherous staircase and to the field station laboratory, she understood that none of her previous fieldwork could compare to this. This was the most alive place on earth.
Lunch didn’t much interest Peggy, even though she was ravenous. She would eat thousands upon thousands of lunches in mundane places. Now she was in the Amazon rainforest and there was no sense being inside.
“Jay, Daphne, can I go have a poke around?” Peggy asked after she had cleared her plate. Jay’s wife only went by her first name with older students, but Peggy had been underfoot for so long that it would be bizarre to call her anything different.
“Hold on just a second, I have to give a quick introduction,” Jay said. Peggy looked at him keenly for a moment and turned to chat with her soon-to-be roommate. Someone pointed to a sizeable rat near the ceiling on a support beam, and Peggy looked up. It was gigantic, and not like the ones Peggy had seen before. It was tawny-colored and stocky and watched them with impunity.
“Don’t mess with the rats,” Daphne warned them, and Peggy laughed with the rest of the students. “You laugh, but you know what happened to the old freezer? A rat chewed through it. True story,” Daphne said. With that, she stood and Jay joined her. Peggy looked around as they started the introduction. The dining hall had a high lofted roof and a seating area with old couches in the corner. It was the centerpiece of the field station, flanked on both sides by laboratory facilities, with three dormitories in front of it, between it and the main river. All of the buildings on the field station’s main campus had metal roofs and were connected by an elevated wooden walkway covered in palm thatching. Behind the dining hall was a facility to dry equipment, a grill, and a diffuse cluster of cabins that trailed into the forest. All together the station could house 60 people and host 40 active researchers, although it rarely ran at full capacity.
Daphne explained the location of all the facilities and reminded everyone that other research groups would be joining them, and they should expect to share their dormitories with those students. They then went over the projects with everybody again. Peggy’s boyfriend, the only other undergraduate on the expedition, was working with a pair of grad students on one part of Daphne’s macaw feces composition project and listened carefully while Daphne explained where the refrigerator for their samples was and where they should do their fecal dissections.
“I don’t want the bench next to theirs,” Peggy’s roommate muttered to her during Daphne’s introduction. The affectionately labeled “bird-shit project” was in the far lab near the dissecting equipment and refrigerator. Jay’s projects, which as far as Peggy knew involved observing monkeys, were in the main segment of the lab on the left side of the dining hall.
“Okay, my group, let’s go check our equipment,” Daphne announced. She stood up, and her students and postdoc followed her to the lab. Peggy’s roommate and boyfriend made exaggerated sad faces as they left her, but they were distracted before they left the dining hall. They had spotted a lizard basking on the walkway.
“My group, go unpack the equipment and sort it out. Meet in your project groups and get ready for an orientation hike before dinner,” Jay said.
Peggy waited as the other students congealed into their groups and gravitated to the lab. She looked out the window to the lab building and saw Daphne showing her students around. Daphne smiled faintly at Peggy as Jay’s other students lingered to see which team Peggy would be joining. Her official expedition title was ‘field assistant’, and that could mean anything. She waited for one of the groups to claim her, but they all trickled out of the dining hall and disappeared into the lab.
Buy Links: Amazon BookStrand Crimson Frost Books
~About the Author~
Cory Rivers is a tropical field biologist, or at least a graduate student. She does the bulk of her fieldwork in the Peruvian Amazon rainforest but has also studied at field stations in Costa Rica, Panama, and Mexico. Her fascination with tropical biology began when she was a young kid listening to her mother’s stories about growing up in a tropical village in Tanzania. Unlike her mother, she never got to school too early and found a lion on the swing set, but during her own field seasons she was treed by a stampede of tropical boars called peccaries, shared a bathroom with a spider the size of a dinner plate, and had the spectacular luck of twice seeing a short-eared Amazonian bush dog.
In fact she has been very fortunate to behold some of the rainforest’s grandest wonders. She has followed a family of giant river otters on canoe and spotted a jaguar lurking on the riverbank by night. She has seen tapirs, giant anteaters, caimans, and the extremely dangerous bushmaster viper (which she was happy to see from a comfortable distance). Unlike some tropical biologists, Cory has only been set upon by wasps once, and was lucky that they were a relatively lazy species that did not chase her too far. She also, by complete accident, interrupted a pair of 10-foot-long boa constrictors during their mating ritual. They were very gracious about the disturbance. Cory has sparred with army ants and been bullied by Capuchin monkeys. During one field observation session a flock of toucans settled right above the field site and heckled her for nearly an hour.
Cory’s observations of people and animals have provided a fruitful avenue for storytelling, and began during her undergraduate years. While in college Cory won the Hoopes Prize and the Blumberg Creative Science Prize for her writing in and out of the classroom. She has been an aspiring novelist for many years and Field Season is her first novel.
The Scarlet Bond
(The Vampire Bond Trilogy Book 2)
On the run after killing clan leader Etienne Corbeau, beautiful young vampire Willow Jackson finds sanctuary in Miami with her lover, Corbeau’s wife Elouise. But their hard-won freedom can’t last—when Elouise is snatched by a rival vampire clan, Willow is forced to confront a terrifying truth. The only chance to retrieve Elouise lies in raising Etienne from the dead. As his killer, she alone can perform the ritual—but how will her former lover, indeed the very man who made her a vampire, react when he’s resurrected?
Forced to seek help from a lover she can’t trust, attacked by a vampire she created and endangering the life of her mentor, Willow is in a race against time to rescue her soul-mate from the evil Rakim Argent and his clan. Friends become enemies, enemies become lovers and as the situation spirals out of control, Willow doesn’t know who to trust…
The Scarlet Bond is the continuing story which started with the first book of The Vampire Bond Trilogy, The Crimson Bond. The Crimson Bond tells how Willow is first seduced and then transformed into a vampire by the irresistible Etienne Corbeau—and how she goes on to form a bond with his beautiful wife, Elouise.
Excerpts from The Scarlet Bond
If the sign on the door said closed, the message didn't appear to have been taken on board inside Nosferatu's Bar. In flickering candlelight, amid dancing shadows, four bodies entwined, writhing in time to a throbbing beat that threatened to blast the speakers off the wall. Two women and two men caught up in the drunken moment when dancing turns into something else—something purposeful, elemental, which no longer depends on the music for its rhythm.
But Willow Jackson hadn't drank any alcohol. She had a thirst of a different nature. She sank her teeth into the tan skin at the base of the blond man's neck, laughing as the first taste of blood bubbled into her greedy mouth. The man bucked and moaned but she distracted him from the pain of her bite by rubbing a hand across the front of his groin. He was well endowed, growing bigger as she touched. A pair of arms encircled her waist from behind. Small, familiar hands undid the top of her leather shorts. Elouise Day, her vampire lover, had already drunk blood from the blond man's friend—now she turned her attention to Willow's pleasure.
Weak from blood loss, the blond staggered back onto a banquette, as his friend slumped down onto the beer-spattered floor. Without losing suction on his neck, Willow released his cock from his pants while Elouise helped her out of her shorts. She straddled the man, wet enough to impale herself on his impressive erection with ease—only at the moment of full penetration did she gasp and lose her grip on his throat. Immediately Elouise's mouth attached to the wound in the man's neck as she swooped onto the banquette beside them. Bereft of her blood source, Willow scrambled to pull up Elouise's T-shirt so she could latch onto her lover's breasts instead. Beneath them, the man grunted, thrusting his hips as Willow pumped up and down on his cock.
She sucked hard on Elouise's nipples, pulling at them with her teeth in the full knowledge the pain would make her lover bite down harder on the man's neck. She watched a trail of blood trickle down his chest from where Elouise tore at his flesh as she silenced his scream by placing one of her hands across his mouth. If he'd understood his predicament, he would have had the sense to bite her wrist to suck out as much blood as he could take—a way to grab immortality for himself. But Willow and Elouise were careful who they invited to their after-hours sessions, spiking their victims’ drinks before the bar closed to ensure co-operation. Instead, Willow felt the blond’s back stiffening. He pushed his hips up hard against hers as his most memorable-ever orgasm ripped through him.
When Elouise's fingers started working on her clit, Willow could feel the burgeoning pleasure of her own orgasm on the horizon. A divine throb that would spread through every nerve and muscle of her body, building and intensifying until she surrendered completely… But on the verge of surrender, a loud splintering crack pulled her back from the brink.
"What the fuck?"
She grabbed Elouise by her short peroxide hair to yank her off the man's neck. Elouise shrieked, turning to her with a look of fury.
"There's someone here," said Willow as Elouise's anger turned to shock—followed closely by fear.
Together they tumbled off the banquette, leaving the semi-comatose man to slump over to one side, his blood soaking invisibly into the red velvet upholstery.
"It can't be Etienne, can it?" said Willow, dragging on her shorts.
Elouise shook her head.
"No one can wake Etienne from the dead but you or I."
But the splintering noise continued, followed by shouts as the outer door gave way and crashed back against the wall. Willow ran to the bar and grabbed a bottle to defend herself with. As she turned back, the inner door burst open. Dark figures poured into the room, but in the flickering candlelight Willow could see the glint of metal. The men were armed with guns and blades. One of them carried a silver stake, making her blood run cold. She backed up until she stood next to Elouise, pressed against the bar.
"There's no money here," said Elouise. Her mouth and chin were still red with blood.
Her voice held steady but only because she thought they were being robbed. If she'd seen the stake, Willow knew there would have been a tremor of fear. She grasped Elouise's wrist. Elouise glanced at her.
"They're not here for cash." She nodded toward the man with the stake.
"Very perceptive." The speaker towered over them, his close-cropped silver hair and shorn black beard making his age hard to determine. "Elouise?"
Elouise's head jerked up like a puppet on a string.
"Take her," he barked.
Four men had piled through the door behind him. From their eyes and their demeanor Willow felt sure they were all vampires. With the leader in the center, they stepped forward in unison, guns and machetes raised as they closed in.
As she spoke, Willow became aware of Etienne's eyes upon her. He moved closer to the bed, his breath rasping in his throat.
Those two little words gave Willow the power she needed. A second later, Etienne's weight crushed her back against the mattress. His hands tore away her dirty T-shirt before he scraped her jeans down her thighs, still done up. Overwhelmed by desire once more, she could hardly breathe. The feeling transported her back to when Etienne had first come to her in her room in Santa Fe. She plunged her hands into his dark hair, hardly daring to believe it was genuinely him, rather than another dream. But his hands on her body were as real as anything, raking her skin, clutching her breasts and forcing entry between her legs. She kicked her jeans off her ankles so she could open her thighs for him, not caring that he still wore the mud-stained clothes she'd found his body the night before. She pulled up his shirt and the buttons ripped away easily from the rotten fabric. Her mouth found his neck to kiss and bite. A familiar taste flooded her mouth. She felt the same hard body under her hands. She gasped.
As Etienne plunged into her. he took hold of her throat with one hand. She felt his breath on her neck, his teeth on her earlobe.
"You don't need Elouise," he whispered. His voice sounded inside her head again. "We could be together without her."
He grunted as he rammed into her again and again.
"She's always wanted Rakim Argent."
Etienne's grip tightened on her throat. Willow put her hand on his shoulders, pushing back against him as hard as she could.
"No…I don't believe you."
"It's true," said Etienne.
His thrusts came faster and Willow felt her own climax closing in. When he let go of her neck and pushed his hand down between them to find her clit, she soared. Only Etienne could take her this far outside herself. She tumbled into an oblivion of twisted nerve endings and for the first time in a year, she felt she'd come home. Finally, things were as they were meant to be.
Secret Cravings Publishing: http://store.secretcravingspublishing.com/index.php?main_page=book_info&cPath=4&products_id=900&zenid=6aeefb24bf08ddac4160e332727f5256
Barnes & Noble:
About Tamsin Flowers
Tamsin Flowers loves to write light-hearted erotica, often with a twist in the tail/tale and a sense of fun. In the words of one reviewer, 'Ms Flowers has a way of describing sexual tension that forces itself upon your own body.' Her stories have appeared in a wide variety of anthologies. She has now graduated to novellas and novels - The Vampire Bond trilogy is her first series but she has several more planned in her head! In the meantime, like most erotica writers, she finds herself working on at least ten stories at once: while she figures out whose leg belongs in which story, you can find out more about her at Tamsin's Superotica or Tamsin Flowers.
Tamsin Flowers Links
Superotica - www.tamsinflowers.com
Tamsin Flowers - www.tamsinflowers.blogspot.com
Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/tamsin.flowers.7
Twitter - https://twitter.com/TamsinFlowers
Pinterest - http://uk.pinterest.com/tamsinflowers/
Tumblr - http://tamsinflowers.tumblr.com/
New Year’s Eve is hot and sultry—in more ways than one, when the tall, handsome Prince of Lochac fixes the newest lady in his court with his magnetic gaze, and crosses the hall to bow to her.
Who can say No to a prince? Especially a charmer like Will Bradshaw? Caitlin has to wonder, when people mention his reputation.
Will is wondering too. It’s been seven years since his divorce. Has he found the woman he can place on a pedestal, high above the hurts of the past?
There’s a couple of problems. What if the one ill-judged mistake of Caitlin’s past happens to be the one fault he can’t accept? Can he overcome his emotional conflict, and can Caitlin deal with her lack of trust, surging up as jealousy and fear that she’s about to lose the love of her life?
Other formats; http://tinyurl.com/mlqc4rq
Biographical note: Margaret is a New Zealand author who lives in Australia. She has written modern and historical fiction, a book for children and several short story collections.Her earlier novels and short stories have won several major prizes including a New Zealand Scholarship in Letters and two Australia Council awards. Her latest books are warm-hearted romances with dogs expressing their personalities in the stories. Margaret’s website is at www.margaretsutherland.com
EXCERPT FROM VALENTINE MASQUERADE
Lifting the hem of her skirt above the summer dust, Caitlin followed Heather and the girls toward the entrance of an unimpressive hall. The paint was flaking and the building looked like the site of a scout meeting or country dance.
Inside, she drew an involuntary gasp. The change was miraculous. Candles sent fluttering shadows through the twilight, burnishing the metallic shields and suits of armor of two attendants who waited to receive new arrivals. Silken banners embroidered in fantastic designs swayed in the gentle breeze blowing through open windows. Men and women in gorgeous-hued dress stood in groups or glided among tables set with platters, goblets, old-fashioned spoons and large forks.
Tonight she could easily believe in time travel. Strolling players wove among the groups, making music with recorders, flutes and other instruments she was unfamiliar with; perhaps lutes or viola da gamba. She was greeted and introduced with courtly bows and gracious phrases of welcome that somehow inspired similar responses to trip from her tongue as though she’d been groomed for just such occasions. The atmosphere seemed to mask something significant; some important event that was about to touch and even change her. Alert, she sat quietly next to Heather on the wooden bench and drew her two nieces to sit on either side of her like small golden shields.
“Stay with me for a little while?”
The girls were content to sit and stare at the activity, as members set up a mock throne and unfurled a roll of ruby carpet. Apparently the coronation was about to begin.
“Which one is going to be crowned?” she whispered, and her nieces stared around.
“That’s the prince!” Jackie sounded awestruck. She was pointing to a tall figure, resplendent in royal purple cape, who had just entered from a side door. Looking every inch a man who could carry a crown, he stood quietly, scanning the room. Draped cuffs fell gracefully over long hands as he gestured to various friends. Masculine boots set off muscular legs, confirming his strength and regal appearance.
“That’s Will Bradshaw,” murmured Heather. “I think he’s seen the new lady in his court.”
Other Titles with Secret Cravings Publishers
SEVEN LITTLE WORDS
SAVING SHELBY SUMMERS
BLURB: Shelby Summers has serious problems. A mysterious stranger, a demanding boss, a lost child and two stray dogs are only the beginning…
During a wild storm, Shelby Summers is rescued by a mysterious stranger who then disappears, leaving no way for her to thank him. The man haunts her memory. At twenty-two, Shelby is trying to understand why she attracts men who don’t respect her. Her traumatic adolescence has left scars. How can she become assertive and find a loving partner?
Fate brings Shelby and her rescuer together again. Nathan Monroe, a country veterinarian, has reluctantly moved with his four-year-old daughter Caity to the city. He needs to begin life again after a personal tragedy.
When he offers Shelby employment as a nanny for Caity, she is hopeful. Might she even build a life with this enigmatic man, his daughter, and the two stray dogs that need a home? Shelby must make a confronting choice. It is time to claim her personal strength, and face her worst fear of all.
Nathan Monroe parked his mud-splattered Nissan Patrol on the cliff top overlooking the beach and sat looking down at the turmoil of whitecaps and hissing surf. The wild, lonely vista matched his mood. The past came with you, however far you traveled.
Shrugging on his oilskin coat, he stepped out into the rain and stood facing the icy southerly. The wind whipped his brown hair as he strode to the cliff edge. Legs planted apart, arms hugging his chest, he was a dark, unapproachable figure, defiant in his stance. At the end of the beach, spray geysered high as waves smashed onto the rocks. Lashing rain, almost horizontal, stung his face and he pulled up the black hood. His vision was blurred as he squinted, peering downwards. Had he imagined movement on the beach? A vague shape interrupted the otherwise deserted vista. Large logs, washed up and rolled about by the ferocity of the current? Surely not a swimmer on such a day? An uneasy premonition gripped him. Instinctively he began to run downhill, digging the heels of his boots into the steep track to gain purchase as his stride lengthened.
His senses kicked in. He heard screams for help and saw the horse half-buried in black mud. The smeared rider, also caught in the sinkhole, was supporting the terrified animal’s neck above the encroaching waves. The tide was coming in.
“Please help.” The boy sounded desperate. “Help us!”
Nathan had reached the perimeter of the sand and the boy waved frantically. “Get back! If you get caught, we’ll all...”
“We’ll have you both out in a jiffy.” Would he? Time was critical. Stay calm. His trained veterinary mind went into analytical mode. The Nissan’s towing capacity would easily handle a horse weighing around four or five hundred kilograms. Fortunately he had heavy ropes. He'd even tossed his stun gun in with his vet case before driving down from Roma for the interview. He must get the four wheel drive down to the beach, get the horse roped, free the rider then use the vehicle to ease the horse free.
“Try not to panic. Talk to your horse. Keep him calm if possible. I’m bringing transport now.”
The boy’s muddy features dissolved into terror at the prospect of being left alone. He was only a teenager, as far as Nathan could judge. The waves were already creeping closer. Would he have time to carry out a rescue? The thought of the boy and his horse vanishing from sight was too horrible to bear.
“Hang in there!” Turning, he sprinted towards the steep track. Was it the only vehicle access? He’d be at a forty five degree angle, and he had no time to consider tire pressure. Compelled by the plea of the trapped boy, he had to stop calculating and simply do it. Panting, he arrived at the Nissan, engaged the low range gear and took an involuntary deep breath as he went over the edge and the horizon disappeared.
Plunging down the steep slope, the Nissan angled sharply, on the verge of rolling. Nathan forced that image out of his head and concentrated on reaching the beach below. The tires slipped and skidded, the body swaying from side to side and lurching horribly as it hit buried logs and debris. Miraculously, he was on the beach, desperately seeking traction in the sand.
The rider and horse looked smaller, as though they’d sunk further into the treacherous pit. He could see the muddy arm flail, waving to him. Poor kid! This must be what pure terror felt like. As he came closer, he could see the whites of the horse’s eyes as it struggled to break free.
“Hold on, fella!” Delivering the steady patter of words he’d so often used to calm a birthing cow or a sheep tangled in a barbed wire fence, Nathan grabbed the heaviest ropes.
Coming July 27, 2014: TEMPTED BY HIS TOUCH
A boxed set of ten scorching hot historical romances featuring dukes, rogues, and alpha heroes and the women who can’t resist them. Fall in love with tales of intrigue, suspense, wit, and passion.
For a limited time (July 27-Sept. 21), you can purchase TEMPTED BY HIS TOUCH for just 99 CENTS. That’s a savings of almost $35! That’s at least a week’s worth of coffee! Or a really nice bottle of wine!
We’re so excited to reveal the cover of TEMPTED BY HIS TOUCH here at Sexy Between the Covers! Without further fuss . . . ta da!!
And now to tempt you with the books included in Tempted by His Touch . . .
Sonata for a Scoundrel
By Anthea Lawson, RITA-nominated author
Clara Becker is a supremely gifted composer—a talent of little to no use to a woman in 1830s Europe. Her compositions are only worth something when published under her brother’s name, yet this deception barely enables them to scrape out a living in the poorest quarter of London. When Darien Reynard, the most celebrated musician in Europe, comes across Becker’s compositions, he knows this music will secure his place in history. Darien invites the composer to tour with him, but must agree to a most unusual demand—that he bring along his sister . . .
Scoundrel Ever After
By Darcy Burke
When wallflower Audrey Cheswick runs away with England’s most wanted criminal, she learns adventure comes with a price—not just her reputation or her virtue, but her heart. If Ethan Jagger can escape the hangman’s noose and start anew, will she consent to love a scoundrel ever after?
Once Upon a Duke
By Eva Devon
Everything is going swimmingly for Kathryn Darrell. She's got an annuity of a hundred thousand a year, her lecherous-heart breaking husband has had the good graces to pop off, and best of all, she has her freedom—something she has every intention of reveling in to the fullest. And who better to revel with than Ryder Blake, the infamous Duke of Darkwell?
By Erica Ridley
Violet Whitechapel committed an unspeakable crime to save a child. To escape the hangman’s noose, she takes refuge in a crumbling abbey with secrets darker than her own. But when those secrets begin to unravel, none of the abbey’s residents will be able to remain hidden . . .
By Lila DiPasqua
One sinfully seductive hero on a dangerous mission. One mysterious beauty intent on guarding her secrets. One steamy, emotionally charged historical romance from the acclaimed Fiery Tales Series…Inspired by Rapunzel…Rescuing this beauty from the ‘tower’ is only the beginning…
To Dare the Duke of Dangerfield
By Bronwen Evans, USA Today Bestselling Author
Harlow Telford, the Duke of Dangerfield, is amused by his hellion neighbor, Lady Caitlin Southall. When she bursts into one of his private gatherings, he mistakes her for the entertainment. Her slap across his face sets him straight and raises the absurd desire to seduce the unconventional beauty into his bed. When she issues her daft challenge to win back her father's pile of rubble, the terms are set. And he'll do anything to win--except fall in love...
The Problem with Seduction
By Emma Locke
Elizabeth Spencer needs a man, one who won't be too picky about his reputation. Lord Constantine Alexander can't afford another trip to debtors' prison, which makes him the perfect candidate. She doesn't expect him to have a heart of gold, nor does she expect to find him irresistible—because while she needs a man, she doesn't particularly want one.
A Dangerous Invitation
By Erica Monroe
Struggling to survive in London's dangerous rookeries, Kate Morgan is determined not to give into the temptation of past love Daniel O'Reilly when he returns to win back her heart and prove he's innocent of murder.
Great & Unfortunate Desires – NEVER BEFORE RELEASED!
By Gina Danna
Tristan, the Marquis of Wrenworth and British spy, must marry but he’s haunted by guilt of war. Lady Evelyn Hurstine’s past makes her fear men but for Tristan, she’s willing to overcome her fear. Caught in a world of intrigue and mayhem, can they find love before the traitor destroys them both?
Lady of Pleasure
By Delilah Marvelle, RT Award-winning Author
Lady Caroline Arabella Starling has been in love with her older brother's best friend, Caldwell, since she was thirteen. Unfortunately, too many things keep getting in the way of proving her love. Her four younger sisters, her mother, her brother, all of society and the man she loves himself. But where there is a will, there is a way, and Caroline is about to redefine not only respectability but true love.
Because TEMPTED BY HIS TOUCH features dukes, rogues, and alpha heroes, which do you prefer? Or is your ideal guy not on that list? Tell us in the comments!
Be sure to join us July 27-August 2 for a release extravaganza! Details will be posted on our Facebook page, where we’re hosting a party with fabulous teasers, giveaways, and most of all: FUN – Wednesday, July 30, 6-11 pm Eastern.
Publisher: Secret Cravings Publishing
Release date: July 1, 2014
Love brings them together. Hatred tears them apart. One man. One Woman. Between them, a precious child whose future they hold in their hands.
Back Cover Blurb:
Everything they say about Tom Henderson is true. Born in a barn, the bastard son of a drunken whore, he’s got nothing to offer, and any dreams he might have are as far away as the distant snow-capped Rockies -- and probably as unattainable. He’s long had his eye on pretty Lucille McIntyre, but that’s just one more impossible dream.
Lucille has always been considered the prettiest and most popular girl in Sunset, but her father’s sudden death has left her shaken and sad. Now, life seems to be passing her by.
When a prim and proper spinster arrives to deliver a squalling 3-month-old infant to Tom, his life and Lucille’s both change. His decision to keep the baby girl sets off a firestorm among the good ladies in town who don’t consider him fit to raise a child.
Together, Tom and Lucille will do anything in their struggle for keeping Faith.
That squalling sound came again, and when Miss Christensen turned and opened the door of the coach, the sound grew louder. Louder, clearer, and too distinct to be mistaken for anything but what it was.
A baby’s cry.
“Your sister died in childbirth, Mr. Henderson. She left behind a beautiful little girl.”
“Can I see her?” Tom gestured for Lucille to join him. She’d heard every word, he suspected. Together they peered past the somber spinster, straining to get a glimpse of the infant.
Miss Christensen eyed him, checked Lucille over with an appraising glance as well, then turned and carefully removed the little blanket-wrapped bundle from the coach. Tom smiled, noting the wicker basket in which his little niece—his niece!—had made the journey from Denver to Sunset.
“It appears,” Miss Christensen said, holding the child up for Tom’s inspection, “that you’re the only family she has.”
Questions flooded his mind. He wasn’t sure if he should ask any of them.
Lucille stepped up and asked for him. “Her father? Where is he?” She reached out to touch the baby’s cheek.
“Terrible tragedy.” The woman closed her eyes as if offering a silent prayer. When she opened them again, she turned to face Tom. “The child’s father took his own life, I’m afraid. Grief sometimes makes men crazy.”
Lucille gasped, a cry of utter, heartfelt dismay. Tom felt it, too, but no sound came out when he opened his mouth. Too much bad news was coming at him all at once.
“I’m from the Children’s Foundling Home,” she explained. “The father, your sister’s husband,” Miss Christensen added, “brought the child to our doorstep, left her there, then disappeared. Although we tracked him down…” Her voice trailed off.
“What’s her name?” Tom leaned closer. Soft, crooning sounds came from his throat.
“Lafferty. Baby Girl Lafferty.”
He blinked. “What sort of name is that?”
“Her father’s name was Samuel Lafferty.”
“Yes? So, what’s the baby’s name? Her given name,” he pointed out. The thought that this innocent babe was nothing more than baby girl to the people who cared for her brought a surge of emotion so powerful it frightened him.
“It’s not our place, Mr. Henderson, to—”
“Well, whose place is it?” He reached for the infant, his movements so swift and sudden, the protective woman had no chance to put up a defense. “She deserves a name. Every baby deserves a name.”
“Once she’s adopted, her new family will decide what to call her.” A stricken look appeared on her face. Obviously she didn’t trust Tom with her precious responsibility. He understood, but he was kin. Nobody needed to adopt her. She had family.
“What of Mr. Lafferty’s folks?” Lucille asked. “Do they know about his daughter?”
“He had no family that we could find.” The woman sniffed again, then held out her arms. “I’ll take her now, Mr. Henderson.”
Tom took a step back, clutching the baby more tightly. “She’s got an uncle.” He looked up and smiled. “She’s got a grandmother, too.” Ordinarily he wouldn’t go around calling any attention to his mother’s existence, but this was far from an ordinary event. After all the hardships, all the horrors, all the sufferings and shames of Charlotte Henderson’s life, this one singular moment could change everything. What was that crazy story Ma used to tell him, about some bird rising up out of the fire? As a boy, he never understood it, but suddenly its meaning came clear in his mind. Bad things happened, but good things could still come of it. Instead of wallowing in ashes, you could look up, see the sky and choose to fly.
“Please, Mr. Henderson. It’s plain to see that you’ve got no way to provide for your niece. I suppose I should have taken time to make the trip on my own to assess the conditions, but I was hopeful you’d be in a position to take her. Optimism is one of my weaknesses, I daresay.”
She didn’t look too optimistic in Tom’s eyes. He couldn’t imagine her ever having a positive outlook about anything.
But this child! She needed hope. She deserved bright blue skies and sunny days. She deserved butterflies and flowers, and the sweet promise of spring. Not some strait-laced, tightly-corseted old biddy who thought of her as nothing more than baby girl.
Tom looked down at the tiny bundle he held in his arms. So tiny, yet so perfect. He marveled over the little fingers, touching each one by one. When the baby’s hand closed around his big thumb, he felt a tugging at his heart so real, so undeniable, he suddenly couldn’t find his breath.
“Excuse me, Mr. Henderson.” Edith Christensen’s nasally voice grated on Tom’s nerves. “I have to leave now. It’s a long trip back to Denver. You need to give me the child.”
“Not yet, ma’am. She’s my niece. I want a little time with her.” He stroked one soft, pink cheek and was rewarded with a gurgling, cooing smile. “She likes me,” he said, glancing toward Lucille.
And he liked her. No, he loved her. This precious life wrapped in a thick gray blanket was kin. Not his own child, but a child who shared his blood, all the same. She was Sally’s daughter, and Sally was gone now. This sweet, nameless angel was all that was left to him of his sister’s kindness, her goodness, her own innocence.
He wished he could have taken better care of Sally, could have helped her and given her all she needed, but he’d failed her. Too young, too mixed-up, and too bitter about his own life, Tom hadn’t been able to save Sally from the wretched evils of their childhood.
But he’d damned sure save this baby.
“I’m not giving her back,” he said in a quiet voice. “I’m going to keep her.”
Lucille grabbed a pad and pencil. Quickly she scribbled a few figures on the page. “It’s three pennies a yard. That means it would be about twelve cents, total.”
Small price to pay, he figured, counting the coins out. As she reached to wrap the ribbons in tissue, he put his hand on hers. “No need. They’re yours.”
Her chin came up. “Mine? Well, that’s foolishness if I’ve ever heard it. I don’t need you buying hair ribbons for me, Tom. Or doing anything else for me.” She bustled out from behind the sales counter and pointed to the door. “Really, you need to go. This is a dressmaking shop, and I don’t think you have much use for fancy skirts.” She eyed him up and down.
Tom noticed the way her gaze lingered on one certain part of his anatomy. He liked the hungry way she looked at him, and he took a step closer.
“You’re sure in an awful big hurry to get me out of here, and I think I know why.”
“I already told you. I’m busy.”
“No, you’re not. You’re scared.”
“Scared?” Her voice rose an octave on the single syllable. “Scared of what? You? Not in the least.”
“You’re scared of yourself. Scared of what you’re feeling right now.”
“You’re talking rubbish.”
He moved closer still, reached out, and stroked her cheek with the back of his hand. “You know, your skin’s as smooth and soft as that velvet ribbon, and every bit as pretty.”
Her breath caught, but she didn’t move away.
“Whether you admit it or not, you are afraid. You’re afraid of all those crazy feelings stirring inside you right now. Afraid that if you don’t get me out of here real quick, you might do something crazy, something you might later regret.”
“Like what?” She looked at him with hope in her eyes and an invitation on her lips.
“Like let me kiss you.”
“You’ve kissed me before. It wasn’t anything—”
He silenced her as he pressed his lips to hers. The pleasure of her hot mouth was almost too much for him to bear. His arms closed around her and she moved easily into his embrace. Waves of desire undulated through him. He tightened his hold, and her body responded at once, yielding to him, pressing against him. Tom groaned. He wanted to hold Lucille forever, to make her part of his world, part of his life, part of his future.
No woman had ever affected him the way Lucille did.
When she fought against him, it made him stronger. When she showed kindness, it made him proud. With Lucille at his side, he could be a good man, a wise man, a man whose life was truly worth living.
He felt her shudder. The way her body moved against his sent quivers down his spine, rippling through his muscles and arousing him.
Her hands went rigid against his chest. She tore away, her breathing ragged. “Please, stop.” With her hand pressed to her mouth, Lucille staggered away from him. Shaking her head back and forth, she gasped. “Tom, we mustn’t do this.”
“Things between us are too complicated, that’s why.”
Raking a hand through his sandy-blond hair, he fought to regain control. “It’s only complicated because that’s how you’re making it. Why don’t you just admit the truth?”
“About us. About kissing. You like it, Lucille. I know you do.”
The flush on her cheeks gave her complexion a soft glow. “Oh, all right. Yes, I like it when you kiss me.” A sigh fluttered from her lips. She moved closer and held her hands out to him. “I like it a lot. Maybe you’re right. I am scared, Tom.”
Christina Cole will always be grateful to her grandfather who patiently held her on his lap and taught her to read. He also told her stories of his own childhood and stirred her imagination with scenes from days gone by. From him, she developed not only a love of words and story-telling, but a deep appreciation for history and a longing to learn more about the past.
Today, she still loves reading, and loves sharing her own stories about men and women and the romance of an earlier time.
Her romantic stories have been published online and in print, and she's also published inspirational pieces, poetry, and essays.
She is happily married to the love of her life, and lives a simple, uncomplicated life in a small mid-western town.
Social Media Links
Official website: Christina Cole Romance
Website for “The Sunset Series”
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Christina Cole’s Love Notes
Other novels by Christina Cole
Happily Ever After
The Wrong Woman
Not the Marrying Kind – Book 1, The Sunset Series
Sara Winters never had reason to acknowledge the existence of Angels or Demons. Not until a rare being, half angel and half demon, rescues her from a demon attack. As an antique book dealer she has spent her adult life looking for one particular, mysterious Book, and her search has led her straight into Drake Domitaine’s arms.
Drake doesn’t have time to deal with a frail human woman but he has to protect her from the very same demons that are now planning a war on the human race.
Sara and Drake’s fated love is doomed from the start. Or is it? Can a human woman and Angel-Demon be together? It’s now a race against time to find the Book which has become an important part of pending war to save humankind. And in the end, will Sara and Drake overcome the insurmountable odds of their love continuing?
Sara knocked softly on the door to room twenty-eight of the Amenity Suite Hotel. As she waited, she glanced down the hallway in both directions. At a little past midnight, the emptiness of the halls wasn't unusual but she still felt a twinge of unease. Something was out of place. Wrong. But, what? What is making me this scared?
Knocking again, she grimaced at the loud echo. No answer. Chewing on her bottom lip for a moment, she reached out and slowly turned the doorknob. To her surprise, the door was unlocked. The dire, mental warning that something was definitely wrong started screaming louder in her head, but she resolutely ignored it. That fear had passed after the last two events involving the list of names. Still, she was more than a little cautious as she stepped into the dark room. Stretching her hand out, she located the wall light switch and flipped it. The room flooded with light.
“Mr. Franklin?” She perused the unmade bed in the center of the room, and an opened suitcase on the table next to the bed. Nothing seemed out of place, or disturbed. Something isn’t right. I can feel it. Hesitant, but determined, she advanced into the room. “Hello? Mr. Franklin? It’s Sara Winters.”
Her gaze went to the bathroom. The door was ajar and the light off so she was almost sure he wasn’t in there. Where is he? I told him I’d meet him after midnight and he promised he’d be waiting. Advancing into the middle of the room, she abruptly stopped. Suddenly, she became acutely aware of the obvious sense of utter stillness, an eerie feeling of frozen time as though the entire room was enclosed in a blanket of cold nothingness. Goosebumps rose across her bare arms, and she half expected to see her breath come out in cold puffs of air.
Her mind shouted one stark word: Death.
Death was here, just like the other two times. It had been too late to talk to either men, both dead of what had been termed as natural deaths, one with a heart attack, the other with a stroke.
David Franklin was third on the list of six men. And she had the sickening feeling he was dead too.
Someone wanted to make sure that none of the men talked. But who? And why?
She didn’t want to take the time to dwell further on it. It wasn’t safe hanging around here any longer. When she turned to leave, her gaze immediately zeroed in on the bare foot partially hidden beneath the floor length bed coverlet. She bit back a gasp as a cold shiver of dread overtook her. The rest of the body lay hidden under the bed, but she didn’t have the courage to go over there and prove it was David Franklin.
The killer might still be near. Sickening fear rushed through her in forceful waves. Without hesitation, she rushed out the door, slamming it closed behind her. Cringing, she leaned back against it and attempted to calm her racing heart.
The third time she’d faced death, didn’t make it any less frightening or sickening. Her stomach rolled with the threat of vomiting. Taking several calming breaths she then exhaled slowly. It didn’t work. She was dealing with something far more sinister than she’d anticipated, leaving her feeling hopelessly clueless and she hated feeling so vulnerable. Her special vision of sight wasn’t even working. It was hard to get a grasp on anything. I can’t give up. It wasn’t in her nature. Maybe the visions would come when she most needed them. In the past, her visions of the Book had led her to clues just at the opportune time. If she was going to solve this, she had to be strong. And patient, she added.
I need answers, but I don’t think I will find them here, now. The previous two events the killer, he or she, left no clues behind. She wasn’t a detective, but she’d spent her adult life following clues to help her obtain rare books, so she recognized the signs of a clean-up when she encountered the last two murders.
I have to get away from here. For some strange reason, the fear was stronger here than at the other two deaths. Hurrying from the room and out into the night she saw movements in every shadow. The hair on her arms rose. The uncanny feeling someone was watching her made her hurry her steps. Stopping in the parking lot of the hotel she took one last thorough look around, but saw nothing out of the ordinary, then took off running toward her car.
Oddly weak and suddenly, violently nauseated, she leaned against her car door to catch her breath. A few long minutes later her body relaxed. The after-midnight air was warm and muggy, with the threat of a summer storm hovering above the city. Sweat trickled down her neck into the ‘V’ of her silk bra. Anticipating the cold blast of air conditioning, she reached into her jeans back pocket and fished out her car key.
The only warning was the soft swish of wind overhead, and the darker-than-the-night shadow that covered her and her car. Startled, she looked up.
Drake lunged to his feet and then reached down to grasp her hands in his. He pulled her up and straight into his arms. Sara threw up her hands to brace against his wide chest and leaned back defensively. For one brief moment, the touch of his hard body felt like the icy cold hand of death. Although as soon as she touched him, warmth flooded from his body to hers and she pushed the strange thought away. Her imagination had to be on overload. There was no other explanation.
“Are you okay?” His deep voice sounded rough, harsh. In answer, she sharply raised her brows at him. He grimaced, his sensuous lips tightening into a thin slash. “I didn’t mean to be so rough. You’re a little thing despite being such a strong venetrix in other ways.”
Sara didn’t know how to respond to that. One minute his voice was hard, the next he made the word venetrix sound like an endearment. She shook her head. Nothing about this enigmatic man had yet to make much sense. Ha. Will it ever?
“I’m fine.” Another push against his chest and he released her. Carefully, she moved back several steps, ready to try and run again if the chance came. Something told her that staying near Drake Domitaine wasn’t a smart idea.
“I want answers,” she said. “Now.” A nervous glance at the sky confirmed, the predawn morning wasn’t far away and no hint of any shadows marred the clear expanse above them. “What was that…shadow? How did you know it was there before it reached us?” There were too many questions and she had to fight down another wave of fear. Putting her hands on her hips she demanded, “What is going on, Drake?”
Drake glanced at the sky too. His handsome features clouded with a dark, brooding look, almost like rage. Sara’s confusion intensified.
“I promise to explain things,” he answered, his voice sounding distracted. “Later. Right now we need to get to some place safe before morning arrives in all its blazing glory.”
He took her arm and ushered her back to the car. Sara went along, grudgingly, unable to hold her tongue. “What’s the matter, allergic to the sun?”
Drake smiled down at her, but it never reached his eyes. His bitter expression matched the tone of his voice when he answered, “Something like that.”
Letting him take the driver’s seat she buckled her seat belt, and watched him from under lowered lashes. Okay, Drake. I’ll go with you for the time being. It doesn’t look like I have much choice, but I plan to get answers to all my questions. One way or the other.
“I want to ask why ‘some place safe,’ as you’ve put it, but I know you won’t tell me,” she grumbled. “Do you at least have an idea where we are going? My father’s house is on the north side of Phoenix and we can be there in about twenty minutes.”
“Too long,” Drake muttered as he increased the speed of the car once he had maneuvered back onto the highway.
Sara sighed in frustration at his cryptic answer. “Mata Hari I’m not, Drake. All this mystery is beginning to get on my last nerve. Why was a twenty minute drive too long?”
His long silence made her think he wasn’t going to answer her. Finally he replied, his tone tense, “Your father’s house isn’t safe for the moment. Chances are that we’re being followed even though I can’t detect them right now. Leading them back to your father’s home isn’t smart. We need a quick, temporary place to hide for a few hours.”
Why? Why all this mystery? Always good at solving mysteries she had the distinct feeling this wasn’t going to be one of those times. “Any idea where that might be, especially if we’re being followed?”
She looked out the back window of the car. Phoenix was already awake even though it was still predawn and countless drivers were busy maneuvering the four-lane stretch of highway. If they were being followed, she had no idea who they were. Was it the killer? And, who exactly was that? I hate not having answers.
She returned her attention to Drake. His handsome, brooding features were drawn, tense. His hands clutched the steering wheel tight. His entire body language practically shouted danger. He was definitely a mystery she wasn’t sure she wanted to try and decipher. One secret was all she could handle at a time. It took her a few minutes of reasoning to realize that she was almost sure he wasn’t the killer who had been stalking her search from day one. Although each situation with finding the dead men had shocked her into deep fear, she still hadn’t felt that strange vibe Drake gave off. Drake scared her to death, yet kept her off balance feeling as though she knew him. None of that had been present the other times. Yet, she had a feeling the strange shadow from earlier had something to do directly with the killer. Someone didn’t want her discovering the truth about the men’s deaths. Someone—or something—not natural. What Drake had to do with it all was just as baffling.
And she had the deep-gut feeling that Drake Domitaine was just as dangerous as the unknown killer. Maybe even more so.
“Damn it all to hell,” Drake muttered under his breath. Sara felt the car’s speed increase. If he didn’t slow down, they were going to get caught for speeding. Or worse, they’d end up in an accident. Although, one look at the harshness of his features and she knew that stating the obvious right then wasn’t a smart idea. Grinding her teeth together, she kept her mouth shut.
Drake braked and swerved the car off the highway and onto a narrow road without a street sign. Her father had lived in Phoenix for years. She had seldom visited and wasn’t as familiar with the area as Drake obviously was. On either side of the paved road, tall desert scrubs and countless palm trees littered the scenery. The road itself had only one-lane, and it twisted and curved sharply every few yards. Despite the harrowing turns, Drake never slowed the car’s speed. Thank you for seat belts!
A few minutes later he turned the car around a sharp bend and a small cottage loomed directly at the end of the road. Sara didn’t notice anything out of the ordinary about the house, with its whitewashed stucco, single-level size, no garage, and its bare minimum landscaping of desert scenery.
In front of the house Drake stomped on the car brakes, bringing it to a teeth-rattling stop. He yanked the keys from the ignition and jerked open the car door. With a terse, “Get out,” he jumped from the car and headed for the front door. She reluctantly followed, not sure what to think about his unsettling behavior.
By the time she reached the door, he was inside and waiting for her. As soon as she crossed the threshold, he grabbed her arm, pulled her further into the entry hall and slammed the door behind her. Waiting for her eyes to adjust to the inner darkness she heard the unmistakable sound of dead bolts—several of them—being shoved in place. Turning around to see better, she gasped.
The locks weren’t just mere deadbolts. They were wide, solid steel bars that crisscrossed across the width of the door and bolted to both sides. She counted four. That door was barricaded like Fort Knox now.
And she was trapped inside.
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Musings from Michigan