Sexiest Rock Stars (And What Makes Them So Hot!) with Dawn Ryder
Rock Stars…some are just lick-able….
Let’s face it, there is something about a man in leather, who can bring a stadium to its feet. I know there are all sorts of different music out there but heavy metal in all its formats has a certain, gut-wrenching appeal that just gets girls wanting to squeal. So here’s one of my favorites:
Tim McGraw – Fine, he isn’t a heavy metal musician, but he is absolutely lick-able. There are a lot of reasons that I find this man fascinating, one of which is his music writing range. Everything from songs about ‘being a bad boy but a real good man’ to something soul wrenching like ‘Live like you were dying.’ The music moves something inside me and that was exactly what I wanted to come across in this book, Rock Me Two Times. I wanted to take readers to the person behind the fame, the one that struggles with self-esteem like every one of their fans and also has to contend with the fact that because they are at the top, they know everyone is going to judge what they come out with next. Sure, I wanted Syon to be a strong hero type, but I also wanted the reader to see that he had a need for a soul mate too.
There are so many types of passion, and music is one that the world stops and listens to. If I’m lucky, someday, one of my books will captivate a reader just as completely as some of the great songs out there that everyone knows.
Title: Rock Me Two Times
Author: Dawn Ryder
Series: Rock Band, Book 1
Pubdate: November 3, 2015
Genre: Erotic Romance
Imprint: Sourcebooks Casablanca
First in Dawn Ryder’s sizzling new Rock Band series.
Rock star Syon Braden writes and plays the most extreme—and profitable—music from the depths of his shredded heart. He’s got a double platinum record, adoring fans, and success for his band Toxsin—but it’s what he can’t have that he craves. Custom leather designer Kate Napier has her sights set on success, and that means keeping irresistible rock stars like Syon out of her bed. The chance to tour with the band and provide them with a fantastic custom wardrobe is too major an opportunity to turn down. But immersion in the dark, wild world of Toxsin on tour means Kate’s about to get rocked…hard…body and soul.
The Staples Center was roaring.
It sounded like a tsunami coming in, or a freight train passing three feet in front of her face. It was more than sound; there was a vibration that traveled through her body, all the way down to her bones. There was a current in the air that practically crackled with excitement.
The bodyguard-slash-security guy showed Kate up to a private box. She followed because she didn’t want to squeal like a little girl and ask to be taken home.
She’d never lost her head like this before.
It was embarrassing on an epic scale. She was pissed at herself for rolling over so easily for a man who wouldn’t recall her name by the end of the night.
The box had plush seats and an open rail overlooking the stage. The lights went down, and the drummer started up. The beat was infectious, taking over her heart until she was sure the muscle was keeping the same rhythm.
The crowd roared again, thrusting their hands up into the air as two guitars joined the drummer. Her nipples puckered again, her memory offering up an image of Syon arching back as he played those final chords. It was like he was pushing the music out of himself, almost as if he were giving birth.
On stage, he was just as raw.
Syon took command of the space completely. The audience ate him up.
And were they screaming. Syon worked them just as skillfully as he did his guitar. He really was lord of all he surveyed. Kate discovered herself leaning forward, being drawn toward the spellbinding energy pulsing on the stage. Sitting still was impossible; her body wanted to move in time with the notes Syon was wringing out of his instrument. She became fixated on his hands; the way he worked his fingers was downright dominant.
Her teeth were clenched by the time the last song finished, she was panting softly and felt wrung out.
But it was fucking wonderful. She was drifting on a high and collapsed back into her padded chair, her composure scattered around her like fall leaves. She felt spent but amped up at the same time.
Fangirls were definitely climbing the respect ladder in her book.
Okay, so she was drooling over a rock star like some high schooler, but at least B.O.B.—her battery-operated boyfriend —was waiting for her at home. All in all, the buzz was worth the slightly stinging blow to her pride, because in some corner of her mind, she believed she should be grown-up enough to realize fantasies weren’t mature. So disappointment wouldn’t stalk her in the wee hours of the night.
A hollow feeling in her gut warned her she was hoping in vain.
As Syon and the rest of the band left the stage, Kate indulged herself in a long moment of reflection. Syon had worked that guitar until it wailed. He had to be hell in bed if he applied even half that effort to pleasing his partner.
“So, what’d you think?”
She jumped, grabbing the armrests of the movie theater-style chair. Her eyes popped open wide, and her belly did a triple flip when she found Syon watching her.
“Ah…” Her tongue suddenly felt like a wad of cotton in her mouth as she scrambled to stand up and turn around to face him. “It was fantastic…”
He grinned at her, a huge, arrogantly pleased expression that showed off his perfect teeth.
God, she wondered if he knew how to bite…
The Joys of True Gentlemanliness… by Grace Burrowes
About twenty books ago, I lamented (whined) to one of my brothers that coming up with ways to challenge a romance hero into facing his worst fears and risking all to win the heroine’s heart was taxing my imagination. My brother, without a heartbeat’s pause said, “Make him choose between the competing demands of honor.”
THAT was great advice. Make the hero choose between the woman who needs him, and the military unit depending on him. Make him choose between avenging injustices from his past, or respecting the wishes of the pacifist woman he loves. Make him decide whether to be publicly vindicated or privately forgiving… Delightful stuff, for an author!
And yet, to travel along these brilliant character arcs, our hero must have one characteristic: He must have a well-developed sense of honor. To me, that means this fellow must be honest and kind. He can be poor, grouchy, lacking in charm, without prospects, unlucky in love—Daniel Banks is nodding his head—but ideally, he will still be a truegentleman at heart.
The true gentleman, alas for him, can be tormented from page one by the author and by the story, but from the start, the true gentleman will play by the rules of decency.
Rules are tough. The true gentleman will never misrepresent himself, which means Daniel Banks must inform Lady Kirsten that a) he’s married, and b) he won’t disrespect his vows. Too bad for Daniel, this honesty only raises him in the lady’s esteem, when he’s trying to emphasize his unsuitability.
The true gentleman will lend a hand—or an ear—to those in need. When Daniel Banks realizes that Lady Kirsten has been overlooked by her entire family, and is as lonely as an earl’s daughter can be, the least he can do is listen when she explains the misery in her past. Again, his respect for, and understanding of her increases, but what else could a gentleman have done?
The true gentleman is kind. He does not ignore the suffering of others, even if that means, he’s left with a bigger helping of suffering on his own plate. When Lady Kirsten needs a champion to fight her battles with an overbearing brother,Daniel steps up, though it might cost him his position. Once again, Daniel’s decency only gets him in hotter water, because now Kirsten’s brother is also viewing the impecunious, reserved, sometimes grouchy, vicar with renewed respect.
This business of being a true gentleman is darned hard, and darned heroic. What Daniel has to learn, though, is that truegentlemanliness begins at home. When he’s honest with himself, and shows himself the compassion we all deserve, all the inconvenient rules, tough choices, and honorable standards turn out to have been his second-best friends.
Lady Kirsten is, of course, his very best friend, being a true lady. But that’s another story…
Title: Daniel’s True Desire
Author: Grace Burrowes
Release Date: November 3, 2015
Genre: Historical Romance
Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca
An honorable life
Daniel Banks is a man of the cloth whose vocation is the last comfort he has left-and even his churchman's collar is beginning to feel like a noose. At the urging of family, Daniel attempts to start his life over as vicar in the sleepy Kentish town of Haddondale, family seat to the earls of Bellefonte.
Challenged by passion
Lady Kirsten Haddonfield has resigned herself to a life of spinsterhood. Then the handsome new village vicar, ReverendDaniel Banks, becomes a guest of the Haddonfield family while the vicarage is being renovated, and Kirsten finds herself rethinking her position. Lady Kirsten does not know that Daniel's past is about to cast a shadow on love's future.
Title: First Time with a Highlander
Author: Gwyn Cready
Series: Sirens of the Scottish, #2
Pubdate: October 6th, 2015
From the “master of time travel romance”, award-winning author Gwyn Cready continues her steamy Sirens of the Scottish Borderlands series.
She needs a man—but only for a night
What do you get when you imbibe centuries-old whiskey—besides a hangover the size of the Highlands? If you’re twenty-first century ad exec Gerard Innes, you get swept back to 18th-century Edinburgh and into the bed of a gorgeous, fiery redhead. Gerard has only a foggy idea what he and the lady have been up to…but what he does remember draws him into the most dangerous and exhilarating campaign of his life.
Be careful what you wish for…
Serafina Seonag Fallon’s scoundrel of a fiancé has left her with nothing, and she’s determined to turn the tables. If she can come up with a ringer, she can claim the cargo he stole from her. But the dashing man she summons from the future demands more than a night, and Serafina finds it easier to command the seas under her feet than the crashing waves he unleashes in her heart.
Gwyn Cready is a writer of contemporary, Scottish, and time travel romance. She’s been called “the master of time travel romance” and is the winner of the RITA Award, the most prestigious award given in romance writing. She has been profiled in Real Simple and USA Today, among others. Before becoming a novelist, she spent 25 years in brand management. She has two grown children and lives with her husband on a hill overlooking the magical kingdom of Pittsburgh.
This October the second in Gwyn Cready’s Sirens of the Scottish series, First Time with a Highlander, comes out! To celebrate, Gwyn’s here to tell us a little bit more about the inspiration behind her time-travel romances AND play a quick game of “Would You Rather.”
“People often ask me why I like to write time travel romance, and it’s a two-part answer, because there are really two questions in there—why do I like to write romance, and why do I like to write time travel.
I began to write with the intention of getting published in June, 1997 to honor my younger sister, who was a poet and photographer and who had died suddenly the month before. The sort of book I wanted to write was a book like the one a friend had given me a few months earlier--Outlander. At that time, I’d never read a romance before, and I COULDN’T PUT IT DOWN. Jamie is the best sort of hero—devoted, funny, brave, smart, and supportive of the heroine. I was so hopped up on the first three Outlander novels, it was pretty much all I could talk about in the spring of 1997—and it was one of the things I talked to my sister about since her college boyfriend had been named Jamie and like the heroine in Outlander, my sister’s name was Claire. It was the last conversations I ever had with her.
So there I am, in 1997, wanting to honor my sister with a book, and certain the book I want to write is a romance like Outlander. Time travel fit in nicely for me. Outlander is a time travel novel, of course, but I’d been a time travel fan before that. The Back to the Future movies are my holy grail of time travel. I loved Somewhere in Time, of course, as well as the Terminator movies, Time After Time, and Groundhog Day. Time travel lets you quickly throw your character into adversity and see if he/she sinks or swims. The question you want readers asking in romance novels is “How, with all these challenges, will the hero and heroine still end up together?” Time travel adds another layer to that tension, specifically, “How will they end up together when each is destined to be in his/her own time?” In my mind, one of the most heroic things a character can do is give up his own time in order to be with the person he/she loves, and that’s always a tender and gripping moment to write in my books.
Which brings us to First Time with a Highlander. Serafina and Gerard were such fun characters to chase through a novel. As with Just in Time for a Highlander, the first book in the Sirens of the Scottish Borderlands series, I wanted to shake things up a bit by having the hero be the person who travels to the past. Gerard is an ad man—and since I spent twenty years working in brand management at a big pharma company, I know what ad men are like. The women in this series hold positions of unusual power for women in the eighteenth century, and Serafina is no exception. She inherited a shipping concern from her father, but her blackguard of an ex-fiancé has run the business into the ground. He’s ruined her socially and financially, but Serafina is not one to take things lying down. She uses herbs she’s, ahem, “borrowed” from a famed spell-caster to summon a man to help her claim the cargo from the ship’s final voyage before her fiancé can get his hands on it. She only needs a man for one night and…well, you can imagine what that leads to in the hands of an inexperienced spell user. But Serafina is willing to pay the price—in fact, she’s quite willing once the smart, dashing Gerard appears.
Would You Rather Question: Would you rather cross the Atlantic Ocean by boat during the 1700s or travel west across the United States on horse and buggy in the 1800s?
Ugh. Believe me, both of these things are much more fun to write about than actually do. I guess I’d pick the wagon out west. I’m trying not to think of the bears, bison, and poisonous snakes, and instead focus on making love under a lambent sky, but I know the ship would have me vomiting day and night for three months.
Title: First Season/Bride to Be
Author: Jane Ashford
Release Date: October 6, 2015
Imprint: Sourcebooks Casablanca
Two classic Regency romances by beloved bestselling author Jane Ashford celebrate the adventures of a London Season
Widowed Lady Anabel Wyndham was married right out of the schoolroom and has never before experienced the delights of a London Season. She’s dazzled by the attention of the fascinating Sir Charles Norbury, a man whose touch seems to melt her very soul, but a notorious rake. She’s drawn to handsome friend-of-the-family Christopher Hanford and the comfort and serenity he offers. But how does one choose between two such charming suitors? Anabel is finding that love is so much more dangerous the second time around.
BRIDE TO BE
Emily Crane is the toast of the ton—and she couldn’t find it more tedious. Until she encounters the darkly sensual stranger whose life she once saved and the London Season becomes infinitely more exciting. Recently returned from the wilds of South America, Lord Richard Sheldon has only contempt for tiresome London chits, but he finds himself stunningly intrigued by the dauntless Emily Crane. When the two become embroiled in a budding scandal and are forced into an engagement, they discover a passion more dangerous than any killer…
First Season Excerpt
“There you are,” said someone from the hall below. “They said you had gone upstairs.”
Anabel looked down to find Sir Charles Norbury gazing up at her. A tingling shock ran through her body, and the candle trembled a little, dripping wax.
“You have missed the first waltz,” he added, meeting her at the bottom of the staircase and taking the candlestick from her hand. He snuffed the flame between forefinger and thumb and set it aside. “And I came early especially to engage you for it.”
“I wanted to look in on the children.” As always, his presence overwhelmed her. He seemed to tower over her, yet his pale green eyes felt close and compelling. She found it hard to breathe.
“It is a country dance now, unfortunately. Mayn’t we wait outside here for the next and hope?” He smiled and reached for her hand to lead her across to a small empty anteroom.
Anabel knew she should say no, but her voice seemed to have died, and she went with him silently and allowed him to escort her to a sofa and sit beside her, his arm thrown along its back.
“You look exquisite tonight,” he said softly. “The loveliest woman at the ball.”
This outrageous compliment revived her. “What a plumper. There are dozens of prettier ones.”
“Flatterer.” She smiled, but when she met his eyes, they were very serious.
“No,” he said again. “To me you are the most beautiful.” He held her gaze for a moment, then slowly bent forward and took possession of her lips, his arm tightening around her shoulders.
Anabel’s slight trembling increased, and her mind dissolved in confusion. She should pull away, part of it cried; this was terribly fast, and someone might come in at any moment. But another part urged her on, fascinated by Sir Charles’ attractions and filled with curiosity.
His kiss was very expert, and nothing at all like her deceased husband’s, Anabel’s only standard of comparison. His lips seemed to draw all strength out of her, leaving her limp and pliant, yet she felt disconnected from the expected sensual pleasure. He knew how to draw response from her body, clearly, but her heart and mind remained in turmoil.
Norbury, on the contrary, was in the grip of feelings stronger than any he had ever experienced, and for him the kiss confirmed a decision. This was the woman he wanted. Never had his passions been suffused with such emotion. Beyond thinking, he moved his free hand to Anabel’s knee and slid it upward caressingly, savoring the curve of her waist under the thin satin dress and cupping his fingers around her breast. She drew her breath in sharply.
A scuff of footsteps in the hall, followed by a scrap of conversation and a laugh, jerked Anabel upright. She pulled away from him only just in time to avoid being caught by two couples coming into the room. But it was obvious in the way that the newcomers stopped, smiled, and apologized that their appearance gave them away. Anabel rose and hurried from the room, Norbury behind her. Her cheeks were flaming, and she felt that she could not possibly face the crowd in the ballroom.
Jane Ashford discovered Georgette Heyer in junior high school and was captivated by the glittering world and witty language of Regency England. That delight led her to study English literature and travel widely in Britain and Europe. Her historical and contemporary romances have been published in Sweden, Italy, England, Denmark, France, Russia, Latvia, Slovenia, and Spain, as well as the U.S. Twenty-six of her new and backlist Regency romances are being published by Sourcebooks. Jane has been nominated for a Career Achievement Award by RT Book Reviews. She is currently rather nomadic. Social Media
Spotlight on Alessandra Torre
About the Author
Alessandra Torre is an award-winning New York Times bestselling author of ten novels. Her books focus on romance and suspense, all with a strong undercurrent of sexuality. Torre has been featured in such publications as Elle and Elle UK, co-hosted Dirty Sexy Funny with Jenny McCarthy, as well as guest blogged for the Huffington Post and RT Book Reviews. She is also the Bedroom Blogger for Cosmopolitan.com.
You can learn more about Alessandra on her website at www.alessandratorre.com
, or you can find her on Twitter (@ReadAlessandra) or Facebook.
Connect with the Author
Cole Masten. Abandoned by his superstar wife, Hollywood’s Perfect Husband is now Hollywood’s Sexiest Bachelor: partying hard and screwing even harder. Watch out Los Angeles, there's a new bad boy in town.
Summer Jenkins. That’s me, a small town girl stuck in Quincy, Georgia. I cook some mean chicken and dumplins, can bluff a grown man out of his savings in poker, and was voted Most Friendly my senior year.
We were from different worlds. Our lives shouldn’t have collided. But then Cole Masten read a book about my small town. And six months later, his jet landed on our dusty airstrip, and he brought Hollywood with him.
From the start, I knew he was trouble. For our town. And for me.
Sometimes, opposites just aren’t meant to attract..
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What's next from this author
═══ COMING NOVEMBER 10th ═══
Equal parts Dexter and 50 Shades, this is the eagerly awaited new novel from A. R. Torre, author of the award winning erotic thriller, The Girl in 6E.
The rules are the same. I can’t open the door. I can’t leave. I can’t kill anyone.
The only difference is, I don’t set the rules anymore. Guards in grey uniforms do. It is everything I never wanted and everything I always deserved. I write to you now, from a prison cell. My home for the next twenty to thirty years.
That’s the going term for murder.
*** Spoiler Free ***
“Where were you last night, Ms. Madden?”
I brought my eyes up from the water bottle and into the woman’s eyes. “I was here. In my apartment.”
The woman’s eyes darted, from left to right, like a pong paddle. “All night?”
“Can anyone verify that?”
When she spoke, her eyebrows pinched together in a sharp V of distrust. I watched their narrow exclamations and wondered what they have on me. Anything? Was this a fishing expedition or a sharpening of the nails that would seal my coffin?
“Umm… yes. My next-door neighbor. Simon.” I tried to push into last night’s vault, but found nothing. Strange.
“He was with you?”
I felt the upward curl of my lip. “No. But he locked me into the apartment. From nine till sometime this morning.”
That surprised them. I felt the shift of air, the rigid tilt of the woman as she fought against turning her head to the man. He leaned in a little and spoke, “I don’t understand.”
I sighed, an action that bought me a moment to deliberate the wisdom of information sharing. “Simon lives a few doors down. He locks my door at night. So he can verify that he locked me inside last night, and I was here all night until he unlocked me.”
“Your door locks from the outside?” EyelinerCop found this very interesting. I watched the tip of her pen, the increased tremor of it as it scratched against the page of her notebook.
“Yes.” I lifted my eyes from the pen. “What evidence do you have against me?”
Her mouth widened into a grin, a stretch of raw lips that looked painful. I didn’t like that grin, that tell that I’d just stepped into a pile of shit. “Why, Ms. Madden, what an interesting question. An innocent person would be more interested in finding out what crime was committed.”
“Who said I was an innocent person?” The response slipped out, snarky and unnecessary. I’d wanted to shut the cop up, to wipe that smug grin off her face. The question was much more passive than what I wanted to do. To spring across the table and claw at her throat. Yank at her belt and palm her service revolver. Celebrate the gun’s weight in my hand in the moment before I pointed the gun at her temple and pulled the trigger. Take that, bulletproof vest. Compared to that scenario, my egotistic response was tame. Tame and stupid. The pair of detectives all but high-fived each other with their eye contact. I settled back in my chair and waited. Counted to ten and swore to behave.
The woman composed herself and spoke. “What are you guilty of, Ms. Madden?”
I wondered why she was in charge of this interaction. If it was her rank or if it was because they thought I’d associate with a woman more. Thought I would buddy up and confess away, all because a penis didn’t hang between her legs. I tapped my fingers against the arm of the chair. “I’d like you both to leave now. Unless you have something to charge me with.”
They had to have something. Surely they didn’t show up at my apartment on a whim. I must have slipped up somewhere, forgotten something. Left a gaping hole big enough for them to stick an arrest warrant through.
The man spoke. “Let’s get back to the neighbor. You said he locks you inside? Why would you let him do that?”
This was wrong, bad. I shouldn’t be here, shouldn’t be talking to them. I had asked them to leave, didn’t that mean they had to? I took a sip of my water and looked away from the man, making accidental eye contact with the woman. She leaned forward and pointed, her finger one long arrow of invasion. “What happened to your nose, Ms. Madden?”
“My nose?” I reached up and touched it. Felt the caked blood, the split across my bridge. I fought the urge to follow suit with my second hand to fully explore the damage. Focused on my pain and suddenly realized how much it throbbed.
“It looks broken.” She looked concerned, but she wasn’t. She was giddy, would probably have reached out and gripped my nose herself if she could have.
It looks broken. It felt broken. I pushed on the tip and got lightheaded. Pulled my hand away before I fainted. I stared at a strand of the woman’s hair that had escaped her ponytail. Focused on it until the spots cleared from my vision.
“Ms. Madden?” the man prodded.
“What happened to your nose?”
Good question. I looked away from the strand of hair and into the man’s eyes. “I’m not sure.”
The seed of unease was growing in my stomach. Why was I talking to them? Why were they here? Why was I offering information when I wasn’t getting any? I stood up and watched for a reaction. A reach for a paper, for evidence to wave in my face, but they did nothing, just stayed in place and watched me. “I’d like to be alone.”
I walked to the door and waited, the pair slow in their stand, step, then pass through the open door. I was almost free, about to shut it, when the woman’s hand settled on my arm, a firm and hard grip that tightened against the sleeve of my Marilyn Monroe sweatshirt. I turned, raising my brows at her in question.
“Why did you kill him?” the cop whispered, her eyes glued on me.
I didn’t answer her. I held her eye contact while I reached down and pulled back on her index finger until she released my arm. Then I dropped my hand, stepped back, and shut the door, the slam of the steel against the frame loud and unfamiliar.
I didn’t not answer to be smart or mysterious. The main reason I didn’t answer was because I wasn’t sure how to answer. I wasn’t sure which death she was asking about. To be honest, I was starting to lose track.
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PRE-ORDER YOUR BOOKS FROM ALESSANDRA HERE Sassy in Savannah Author Event October 3rd, 2015 from 12 - 4 p.m. Held at the Hilton Garden Inn Savannah Midtown, 5711 Abercorn Street, Savannah, GA 3140 Website
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Book: Beautiful Imperfection
Author: Hayley Oakes
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Hosted By: Francessca’s Romance Reviews
Failure wasn’t what Cassidy Sinclair expected when she got married … but that’s exactly what she got.
Instead of getting her happy ever after she is struggling to adjust to living back with her unconventional parents and the chatter of small town gossip.
Desi Cardwell was never known for his interpersonal skills and being back in small town Tolvey, sending the rumour mill into overdrive, was not what he wanted for himself.
Both forced home after a decade away, Cassidy and Desi begin an unlikely alliance when she agrees to train with him at his newly opened gym.
Desi is mysterious, guarded and borderline rude but what he lacks in charm he more than makes up for with his hard body and devilish good looks.
Desi does not need anything to keep him in Tolvey longer than necessary.
Cassidy needs something mind-numbing to help her forget her ex.
Both beautifully broken can they find in each other a light in the dark?
The phone kept ringing.
It was buzzing on the bedside table, on silent, but I was fucked if I could figure out how to turn the stupid vibrate off. I didn’t want to see anyone, I didn’t want to talk to anyone and I certainly didn’t want to have to discuss the fucking incident for the hundredth time with Paul Bentham. Paul Bentham, the beady eyed, grey skinned, Crane nosed stuffed shirt who I worked for. He was one of those headmasters who was wheeled in to save the school and so he didn’t excel at being personable. That suited me because I wasn’t a talker and I didn’t want to be micro managed by a suit but shit, since the incident he had been all over me like a rash.
I had always delivered as a PE teacher, always got results, the kids liked me and I didn’t need to report to anyone. Now that had changed, I couldn’t bear the attention and I didn’t want to talk to Paul Bentham again.
I wanted to stay in bed, drink myself stupid, wallow in my own self pity and never ever face another single mother fucker ever again. I was cocooned under my duvet despite the fact that it was midday and I was sure that the whole apartment stunk of my unwashed misery after almost a week holed up alone.
I liked being alone.
The buzzing stopped, I reached out from under the comfort of my duvet and pulled the phone underneath to check it. Oh shit, it was worse that Paul Bentham, worse that the God damn police, it was Janice, the girl who currently thought she was my girlfriend.
We’d been ‘seeing’ each other for about six months and the sex was pretty good but she wasn’t really hitting all the right buttons. She had a phenomenal body, knew how to turn me on, knew how to cook, wow did she know how to cook, and she was there whenever I fancied seeing her but … she was so bloody annoying. It was mostly her laugh, potentially the fact that she over emphasised her words and there was a lot of chatter. Inane, none-sensical, constant chatter. I’m not a talker, I said that, but shit I don’t talk because I like quiet. I’m pretty sure Janine thought I was quiet so she could talk.
I groaned and threw the phone out from under the covers again.
There wasn’t one person I wanted to see.
He left me.
My husband left me.
How dare he leave?
I couldn’t get through half an hour without crying. The crying was not quiet, it was not subtle and it did massively affect my whole facial appearance. I looked like a Puffer Fish.
I had run out of sick leave at work, six months off was all I could get before it started to affect my pay and so I went back. I needed the money now I had to cover the bills all on my own, I needed to face reality and live my life. The problem was my life had crumbled and I wasn’t quite sure what was left. It was like raking through the ashes after a fire to find your precious memories. I was choking on the dust as I searched for something salvageable.
I was back at work as a journalist but I had spent most of my first day hyperventilating in the toilets. I would sit at my desk, stare at the screen and try … really try to write something but before I could focus, Jack’s face would pop into my head, the tears would come and it was all I could do to stop myself from banging my head on the desk.
I sat in the toilet stall breathing deeply to ward off the panic attack that was building.
“Cass?” I heard my colleague Rebecca shout, she knew I was here. If she didn’t before she came in then the heavy breathing and garbled crying would have tipped her off.
“Yesh,” I answered, my words muffled by the misery.
“Let me in,” she said, knocking on the door.
“No, I’m a mesh.” I screeched, “I just need a minute.” The last word came out in a squeak and I struggled to control my emotions.
“You need to go home Cass, you’re not ready for this, you’re not strong enough.” I heard her just outside the door but I couldn’t bring myself to let her in.
I closed my eyes and the misery engulfed me, pulled me in tighter, took hold of me, restricting my every essence like a Boa Constrictor that only tightened as I struggled. I wanted to shout out, I wanted to reach forward and unlock the door, I tried to breath, tried desperately to let air into my lungs. I started to see black spots and my mouth flapped open as I tried to shout for Rebecca, warn her, tell her how much I loved Jack just before I died. I was pathetic, I was a lost cause, I couldn’t work, I couldn’t live, I couldn’t exist and all these people knew it. I hated myself and in this toilet stall my body had finally given up.
The blackness came, I gasped for air but it refused to enter my lungs.
“Cass!” Rebecca was shouting, “Cass!” she kept shouting and she started to bang on the door. I heard her, I could no longer see, I heard my heart, I heard it racing, was I dead or dying? The last thing I remembered hearing was Rebecca’s panicked screams, “Heeeelp! Oh someone please help.”
I hadn’t saved much money and I couldn’t pay the rent without a job. I handed my notice in, wrote a letter to Bentham and didn’t look back. I was no longer a PE teacher, three years of university had gone up in smoke and I no longer had a profession. I had fucked every single thing up with one mistake.
I was in the city that I loved, the city that had given me a new life and a new identity. In Manchester I wasn’t one of the Cardwell brothers, I wasn’t one of the motherless wretches who all Tolvey women wanted to mother. No one knew me in Manchester and no one gossiped about me, it was refreshing after my small town upbringing but now I was going to have to leave it all behind.
I had run out of money, I had run out of options.
My big brother Santi was on my case, he’d been threatening to come up to Manchester since the boy died in my care. I hadn’t told him, hadn’t contacted him but when I dumped Janine, she had. She got it in her head that I needed them, she was mistaken in thinking I had any emotional attachments to my family. I was numb, I didn’t have the same feelings as the rest of them and I certainly didn’t want Santi up in Manchester holding my hand.
Certainly not now, not since I’d become a monster.
I wanted to be alone.
The problem was I had no money, the rent was due and I was running out of options.
I woke up lying on the bathroom floor, my head facing the sink unit and various members of staff leaning over me. I felt sticky, I felt hot, so hot and every part of me was throbbing in pain.
“Cass,” Rebecca was leaning over me, “we’ve called Jack.” She said breathlessly, her hand squeezing mine. I couldn’t look at them, I turned my head away, the words just wouldn’t come. That’s when the paramedics entered the bathroom and she let my hand fall from hers. I led on the floor whilst the paramedics asked for my name, speaking to me slowly, asking me questions and I tried to answer but my brain couldn’t tell my voice to work. I heard the words but somehow they didn’t compute.
I was loaded into the ambulance, the lights were flashing and I could see faces staring, judging, shaking their heads with disdain.
I was a fully fledged fruit loop who no longer had a voice. I had lost all my senses and every aspect my mental capacity. I was aware of this but lost the ability to let it bother me.
We made it to the hospital, there was nobody sat there holding my hand. I was placed in a cubical, I vomited, I silently sobbed and they took my blood.
If this wasn’t rock bottom then I had no idea what was.
“Love,” a rotund nurse with a tight, unforgiving uniform said, placing her hand on mine, “we’ve contacted hubby and he’s given mum and dad’s number.” I didn’t have the energy to argue even though she was speaking to me like a child. I didn’t even move my head, keeping my eyes trained on the various fliers pinned up around the room. The one I kept my eyes on was offering help for weak bladders.
“You’ll be fine girl,” she said rubbing my arm gently, I didn’t speak, “at the minute it feels as if the world is over, it feels like you’re down a dark pit and there’s no way out but love, let me promise you that one day you’ll find the light and somehow it’ll all be right.”
I moved my head slowly, even though pain jolted through me as I did and I looked at her seeing sympathy in her tired eyes. She moved her hand to my forehead and held the eye contact, “I’ve been here love, I promise it will get better.” I couldn’t speak, I couldn’t even tell her how nice it felt for her to rub my head.
I didn’t believe a word she said, I didn’t in that moment ever imagine that I would feel one iota of happiness ever ever again.
“Dad’s in hospital,” Santi said when I finally answered the phone, after a text full of swear words and ten missed calls. “He’s had a heart attack.”
“Oh,’” I mumbled, “Um, will he be okay?” My voice sounded strange, it was the first time it had been used in a week or so.
“I don’t know man, it’s serious, he’s on a machine, you need to get down
“Um,” I rubbed my head as my mind desperately tried to think of a reason why I couldn’t do that.
“He’s our dad you idiot, our only fucking parent and he needs you.”
“Okay,” I said defeated, “fine.”
“Good.” Santi said, “when are you setting off?”
“Actually,” I said gruffly, “actually I think I’m just gonna come home .. for good.” My announcement was met with resounding silence and I tried to still my breathing so I could hear his response.
“What’s happened up there Des?” Santi asked, his voice seemed pained by my omission.
“I’m done.” I said simply, “Nothing left up here for me.”
He was quiet again, “be good to have you back Des,” he said simply.
We said our goodbyes and I hung up. I sighed and looked around my apartment, there wasn’t much to pack and I didn’t want any of the furniture. Nothing that I owned was something that I couldn’t live without. I packed a few suitcases and stuffed as much as I could in my car.
It was time to go back and accept that my life had fallen apart. It was time to go back to the town that had once been my home.
I admitted defeat and that I hadn’t managed to find happiness. It was time to realise that life wasn’t meant to be peachy for me, as soon as something was going right I would fuck it up and force it be snatched away.
I was on my arse and I needed help.
I was heading back to Tolvey and I couldn’t have felt worse about it.
About The Author
Hayley Oakes is a loving wife and doting mother. She loves being a mum and is a proud smother to a perfect four year old girl. She works full time as well as writing and loves her job. She adores her work friends who keep her sane, support her writing with vigour and are her biggest fans. She loves ‘the 100’, ‘the Goldbergs’, reading LOTS and is constantly concocting stories in her head!!
I have been writing stories from a very young age, my very first tool was an electronic typewriter than my Dad saved from being thrown away at work when I was ten. I tapped away on that for hours and hours.
I have always told stories and written stories and my favourite ones are the ones that people have told me. I collect people’s lives in my head, storing the most interesting and wacky anecdotes that I utilise without even realising.
I also collect mannerisms and when I’m with someone for long periods of time I start copying their facial expressions and habits. It’s a curse but I am a natural mimic.
I love life and love making people laugh. Stalker Links Facebook
Title: Her Shirtless Gentleman
Series: The Gentleman Series
Author: M.Q. Barber
Genre: Contemp/Erotic Romance
Published: August 4, 2015
Her heart is in his hands…
After her marriage ends in betrayal, Eleanora Howard finds herself struggling to navigate the
dating scene as a thirtyoneyearold
divorcee. But feeling undesirable and living alone in the
house she once shared with her ex is hardly the recipe for finding new love—until she meets
Rob. He’s just the kind of charming, oldfashioned
guy she needs—but he’s also eager for
After serving in the Air Force and getting a wellpaid
civilian career, Rob Vanderhoff planned to
settle down with the right woman and raise a family. But at thirtysix,
he’s still single and
searching—until he meets Eleanora. She’s everything he wants. All he has to do is draw her out
of her shell. Soon he’s taking her on high schoolstyle
dates, fanning the flames of her
Rob examined Eleanora the way she pored over ledger sheets, but what she added up to in his
head, she couldn’t say.
“We’ve got the best pie in town waiting, and you have to try both.” He switched sides, coming to
rest alongside her with his legs stretched to the far edge atop the curving wheel well. The pie
wedges sat in a paper boat he nestled in one hand. He picked up the lone fork. “Which one do
you want to try
She could’ve protested. Procured her own plastic cutlery and asked him to divide the slices.
Demanded he pass over the fork and let her cut her own bites. “You choose.”
He raised an eyebrow and glanced from the pie to her. “You sure about that?”
“I expect I am.” She hoped, anyway. The usual effects of his proximity already trounced rational
“Close your eyes, Eleanora.”
She exhaled on a shuddering breath. The gruff but coaxing demand in his voice twanged a
response low in her belly. Might be enough to overcome her nerves. Trusting David would’ve
been impossible. But Rob wasn’t David. He’d been nothing but trustworthy so far. With a slight
nod, she closed her eyes.
Anticipation sluiced through her, leaving a cold fire burning in its wake. She strained to hear the
scrape of the plastic fork on paper.
“Open up.” His low command drowned out all other sound.
Had the first bite been apple or peach or coconut crème, she wouldn’t have known the
difference. Her heart ran the fourminute mile while every cell in her body, down to the ones in
her taste buds, danced with excitement the second her mouth closed around the fork. Her
shoulders unclenched, and she moaned without thought.
“Seems you’re a strawberry rhubarb woman.” Rob’s intimate whisper lacked any hint of
laughter. “If you like the apricot half as well, I’ll count my evening well spent watching you
Her internal squeeze surprised her, an involuntary response to the passionate warmth in his
voice. Leaving her eyes closed, she rolled her arm. Not much, but enough to rest the back of
her forearm and her knuckles against Rob’s thigh. The resurgent thrill zipped through her.
“Have another taste.”
She opened her mouth. Sugary-sweet fruit with a buttery crust and juice coated her tongue.
“Best pie you’ve ever had?”
Best service, for sure. She licked her lips. “I might be biased. Can I expand the sample size
before I decide?”
He fed her small bites at a languid pace matching the laziness brought on by the summer sun.
She didn’t care to open her eyes, and he never asked.
Stretching her fingers, she curled them against worn denim. The thickness had to be a seam.
The bottom hem. She traced the ridge with her index finger and grazed warm flesh.
His thigh flexed. “Last bite. Best make it count.”
She closed her lips and sucked the fork clean. Sweet, delicious strawberry. She swallowed it
down and loosed an appreciative sigh. “Definitely the best I’ve ever had.”
About the Gentleman series:
HER SHIRTLESS GENTLEMAN is the first book in the Gentleman series. Each book is a standalone HEA story with a wellintentioned hero and a strong heroine finding each other on a sweet, erotic journey.
AN ACCIDENTAL GENTLEMAN, the second book in this contemporary romance series, will be
available in 2016.
igning up for the author’s monthly newsletter at www.mqbarber.com/newsletter will deliver free
short stories and updates on upcoming books to your inbox.
HARD LOVE by Meredith Wild (September 15, 2015; Forever Trade Paperback; The Hacker Series #5)
Days after their wedding, Blake and Erica Landon embark on their honeymoon-a journey that deepens their bond and promises to fade the scars of their past. Just when their troubles seem safely behind them, scandal surrounding would-be Governor Daniel Fitzgerald's election threatens their newfound peace. Back home, Blake finds himself at the center of the controversy, haunted by the transgressions of his hacker past that he has no wish to relive.
With Blake's freedom at stake and their future in peril, Erica will stop at nothing to clear his name. But when Blake defies the authorities and refuses to seek the truth, their world gradually begins to crumble. Will he let his past win? Or can Erica convince him that their life together is worth fighting for-now more than ever...
We walked the now familiar path back to our hotel, through the dark uneven streets out of Dublin’s city center. A hint of rain and the lingering scent of the fresh flowers that had been sold on the streets hours earlier filled the air.
I held Blake’s hand, admiring the details of the building architecture framing the old streets, greeting the bright-eyed faces that met us on the sidewalk. It was almost midnight, but our schedule was a mess and I was in no rush to be anywhere as long as we were together. Seeing my old professor again had been a flashback to a simpler time in my life. So much had happened since that first meeting in the Angelcom boardroom that he’d arranged with Max’s initial support. I could have never known then that I’d fall head over heels for the cocky investor sitting across from me…that I’d be his wife. But here we were, bound together as closely as two people could be.
Blake caught me closer to his side and brushed a soft kiss over my cheek. “I like Brendan. I can see why he’s become a friend.”
I smiled. “It seems odd to call him that, but it’s true. He encouraged me to build the business when I had so many doubts. He’s the reason I took the path I did.”
“A path that led you straight to me.” He squeezed my hand. “Lucky me.”
I was lucky too. I couldn’t deny it. But I could have never imagined traveling the road I had.
“You’re quiet. What are you thinking about?” he asked.
I blew out a breath and shook my head. “The business, I guess. I can’t help but feel like I…failed somehow.”
He glanced down at me. “You didn’t fail. You learned.”
I scuffed the sole of my boots against the stones as we walked, avoiding his stare.
“I’ve been around the block a few times, you know. You should trust me.”
I smirked. “That’s why I married you, of course. For your business acumen and wealth of knowledge.”
He lifted an eyebrow.
“And your mountains of money,” I added quickly.
He frowned. “You’re trying to tell me you didn’t marry me for my dashing good looks? I might be insulted.”
I pursed my lips, trying to look serious. “If I had to pick one thing that tipped the scales, I’d say it was your exceptional skills in bed. I think that’s where you really excel.”
“Well then”—he laughed, his eyes twinkling—“at least my purpose is clear.”
He gave my ass a firm squeeze. Laughing, I pushed him away as we approached a street performer who was crooning for the barest of audiences. A small group of French-speaking tourists stood nearby, and an older man, dirty from the streets, sat on the opposite side of the street with a sloppy grin.
We slowed to listen as the tourists dispersed. The song was sad, but rich with love—raw and emotional the way he delivered each verse. Blake turned me to him, bringing us chest to chest. Our fingers laced, his breath warm against my hair, he led us into a simple nameless dance. I swayed toward him and closed my eyes, clinging to his muscular frame the way I clung to every magical moment between us.
Straining for the lyrics through the singer’s thick accent, I caught the verses.
When misfortune falls sure no man can shun it.
I was blindfolded I’ll ne’er deny.
Now at nights when I go to my bed of slumber,
the thoughts of my true love run in my mind.
Another moment passed as the young man’s voice faded into the night. The song was a somber one, made light only by his passionate delivery of it. Like so much of life, the pain was what you made it. He’d made something sad beautiful.
I sighed, still tight against Blake’s chest. His body emanated warmth. His heartbeat was a steady reminder of his support, his love—a force that had saved me, changed me, and healed me in ways I’d never thought possible. He tipped my chin up, the glint in his eyes matching the passion in my heart. He parted his full lips, but hesitated, a wordless moment passing between us.
“I’m going to show you the whole world, Erica.”
“I can’t imagine enjoying a minute of it without you,” I whispered.
He stilled our slow dance, tracing a fingertip over my lips, his countenance now serious in a way that threatened my next breath.
“And I’m going to make you fall in love with me all over again. Every morning and every night. In every city and at the edge of every ocean. I’ll remind you why you’re mine and why I’ve always been yours.”
I drew in an unsteady breath, feeling his promise all the way to my soul. Swallowing hard, I found my voice. “I think you’re on the right track.”
I arched toward him until our lips met. Soft and slow at first, the kiss went deeper, stealing every thought that didn’t revolve around his taste and touch.
We broke apart slightly when a gravelly voice interrupted us.
“Go make love to her, lad, before she changes her mind already.”
Behind us, the man who’d made his home for the night in the entryway of a high-end store offered an imperfect grin, pairing his words of wisdom with a friendly tip of his small bottle of liquor.
I smiled, and Blake, by the dark look in his eyes, seemed to immediately accept the stranger’s challenge.
“I plan to,” he murmured, his tone all velvet and delicious threat. My skin tingled and he took my mouth again with a kiss that promised so much more.
HARDWIRED by Meredith Wild (May 12, 2015; Forever Trade Paperback; The Hacker Series #1)
Determined to overcome a difficult past, Erica Hathaway learns early on how to make it on her own. Days after her college graduation she finds herself face to face with a panel of investors who will make or break her fledgling startup. The only thing she didn't prepare for was going weak in the knees over an arrogant and gorgeous investor who's seemingly determined to derail her presentation.
Billionaire and rumored hacker Blake Landon has already made his fortune in software, and he's used to getting what he wants with very little resistance. Captivated by Erica's drive and unassuming beauty, he's wanted nothing more since she stepped into his boardroom. Determined to win her over, he breaks down her defenses and fights for her trust, even if that means sacrificing a level of control he's grown accustomed to. But when Blake uncovers a dark secret from Erica's past, he threatens not just her trust, but the life she's fought so hard to create. Buy the book! Amazon B&N iBooks Kobo BAM GooglePlay
HARDPRESSED by Meredith Wild (May 12, 2015; Forever Trade Paperback; The Hacker Series #2)
Despite Blake Landon's controlling ways, the young and wealthy hacker finally won the trust of the woman he loves. Internet entrepreneur Erica Hathaway broke down the walls that kept her from opening her heart and her business to Blake. Ready to start this new chapter in her life, Erica is determined not to let anything come between them, even if that means giving Blake back some of the control he craves in and out of the bedroom. But when demons from her past threaten their future, Erica makes a decision that could change their lives forever. Buy the book! Amazon B&N iBooks Kobo BAM GooglePlay
HARDLINE by Meredith Wild (May 12, 2015; Forever Trade Paperback; The Hacker Series #3)
Software mogul Blake Landon has met his match in headstrong Erica Hathaway. While his controlling nature and her independent spirit continue to battle, Blake has no intention of letting her out of his life again. Erica has given Blake her trust and her love, determined that they will conquer any challenges together. But when he demands more and tests the boundaries of her commitment, she is forced to face the dark desires he's kept hidden. As their bonds grow tighter, their enemies close in. With Erica's start-up in danger, Blake's frustration grows as he tries to protect her from those who would ruin her only to get to him. Can their relationship survive when Blake's enemies cross the line and threaten more than her livelihood? Buy the book! Amazon B&N iBooks Kobo BAM GooglePlay
HARD LIMIT by Meredith Wild (May 12, 2015; Forever Trade Paperback; The Hacker Series #4)
Blake Landon is a man who has everything-wealth, good looks, and the love of Erica Hathaway. The power couple has been through hell and back, and when life has torn them apart, somehow they have always found their way back to each other, more in love and stronger than ever. On the verge of making the ultimate commitment, Erica uncovers an unsettling chapter of Blake's history. As she makes peace with her own past and the family who left her behind, she presses Blake to tear down the last walls between them. Determined to know the man he once was, she opens a door to a world beyond her wildest imagination-a world that has her questioning the limits of her own desires. As danger lurks and dark secrets come to light, will the past destroy their promise of forever? Buy the book! Amazon B&N iBooks Kobo BAM GooglePlay
About the author:
Meredith Wild is a #1 New York Times
, USA Today
, and international bestselling author of romance. Living on Florida’s Gulf Coast with her husband and three children, she refers to herself as a techie, whiskey-appreciator, and hopeless romantic. When she isn't living in the fantasy world of her characters, she can usually be found at www.facebook.com/meredithwild
. You can learn more about her upcoming projects at www.meredithwild.com
. Social Media Links: Website Facebook Twitter Goodreads
Message from the Author
My parents recently celebrated their seventieth wedding anniversary—you read that correctly, 7-0. I’m the sixth of their seven children, so I missed a lot of the opening rounds of the Burrowes family story. To make up for that great unfairness, I ask my parents and my older siblings to fill in blanks for me. What was it like for my mom, starting out with twin boys, when the nice obstetrician—who didn’t want to upset her—failed to inform her she was carrying twins?
Mom learned she was to embark on double motherhood in the delivery room, when the nurse said, “Keep pushing, Mrs. Burrowes. You’re still in labor.”
She kept pushing. My brother Dick is particularly grateful she did, too.
What was it like for my father, to be the sole support of nine people, various shirt-tail cousins, and extended family members, on just a professor’s salary?
We never did without the essentials. How did he DOOOOO that?
These stories are the stuff of family legends, and every family has them. When I’d written stories for all of the Windham siblings, I still had a sense that the family tale wasn’t complete. How did Maggie and Devlin join the family? How did Percival, occasionally more stubborn than insightful, have the great sense to marry Esther? Why has Esther remained his champion, conscience, and confidante despite all the trying moments?
To find those answers, I had to write two novellas. First, came “The Courtship”, wherein Their Graces fall madly in love, despite—what a surprise!—meddling parents. Second, came “The Duke and His Duchess”. We know Percy and Esther’s household was in some regards unconventional, but they chose love over appearances from the start of their relationship. I wanted to know how they got through the challenges created by Percy’s behavior prior to the marriage, and emerged a stronger couple and a happier family for their choices.
The Duke’s Courtship duology is the result of my curiosity about the ongoing magic of a loving family, and also a tribute to my parents, whose happily ever after continues, even as a I write this.
Title: The Duke and the Duchess / The Courtship
Author: Grace Burrowes
Release Date: September 1, 2015
Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca
Genre: Historical Romance
The first novella to be published by New York Times bestselling author Grace Burrowes features the foundation story for her bestselling Windham series. This is the tender story of love tested and won, and how Percy Windham, the dashing and brilliant man who was never supposed to become the Duke of Moreland, wooed Esther Himmelfarb, the amazing lady who became his beloved Duchess.
THE DUKE AND HIS DUCHESS
In this second prequel novella to the popular Windham series, Grace Burrowes continues the story of the Duke and Duchess of Moreland through the tumultuous and bittersweet first years of marriage and parenthood. Percival Windham is a second son and cavalry officer when he weds the beautiful Esther Himmelfarb. Percy and Esther must grow into the nobility they've been resisting and stand together, or face the threat of destroying their young family and the beautiful love that started out with such promise...
Miss Esther Himmelfarb has been dragooned into attending a house party to make up the numbers, and to keep an eye on a cousin with a penchant for gambling. Little does Esther know Lord Percival Windham will risk all to win her heart.
“Miss Himmelfarb, I believe?” Lord Percival winged an arm and smiled at Esther graciously. “Shall I have us introduced, or in the informality of the occasion, will you allow me to join you at supper?”
A more calculating man would have offered to escort her to whoever had the honor of dining with her, but then, Lord Percival likely did not have to be calculating.
“I will happily accept your escort to the buffet, my lord.” Esther laced her gloved hand around Lord Percival’s arm, only to encounter a small surprise.
Or not so small.
Gossip had not lied. The man was muscular in the extreme, and this close, he was also of sufficient height to uphold the fiction that he’d protect Esther from any brigands or wolves wandering about Lady Morrisette’s parlor.
“Does your family hail from Kent, Miss Himmelfarb? I know most of the local families and cannot recall Himmelfarbs among them.”
The question was perfectly pleasant, and so too was his lordship’s scent. Not the scent of exertion or the standard rose-scented rice powder—he wasn’t wearing a wig—but something elusive…
“You’re twitching your nose like a thoughtful bunny, Miss Himmelfarb. Are you in anticipation of something particularly succulent among the supper offerings?”
He smiled down at her as he spoke, and for moment, Esther could not fashion a reply. Of all the times for Charlotte Pankhurst to be right about a man’s blue, blue eyes…
“I’m trying to fathom the fragrance you’re wearing, my lord. It’s pleasant.”
“If I didn’t know better, I’d think from your expression that you do not approve of men wearing pleasant scents.” His tone, amused, teasing, suggested that sometimes, all he wore was a pleasant scent—and that just-for-you smile.
Lord Percival leaned nearer, as if sharing a confidence amid the noise and bustle of the first night of a lively, extended social gathering.
“Bay rum lacks imagination, don’t you think? I shall wear it when I’m a settled fellow with children in my nursery. There’s cedar in the scent I wear, reminds me of Canada. You’re partial to spicy scents yourself.”
He was inviting a reciprocal confidence from her with that observation. The notion of trading secrets with Percival Windham made something beneath Esther’s heart twang—disagreeably, of course.
“Lavender with a few other things.”
“My dear”—his lordship had straightened only a bit—“why is My Lady Hair Bows staring daggers in this direction?”
My lady…? Then… my dear?!
“I’m not sure what you mean, my lord.”
“You know exactly what I mean, Miss Himmelfarb.” Lord Percival picked up a plate, though they were still some distance from any sustenance. “Now the Needy girl is at her elbow, pouring brandy on the flames of gossip. You and I will be engaged by this time tomorrow, I don’t doubt.”
Did one correct a duke’s spare when he made light of marriage to a woman within staring distance of professional spinsterhood?
Yes, one did.
“Her name is Needham, my lord. And I should think an engagement unlikely when you have yet to ask for my hand and I have given no indication I would accept your suit.”
The light in his eyes changed, going from friendly—yes, that was the word—to something more intent.
“You are an impertinent woman. We shall get on famously, Miss Himmelfarb. I adore impertinent women.”
New York Times bestselling author Sandra Hill delivers a sizzling new entry in her Deadly Angels series, as a Viking vangel's otherworldly mission teams him with a Navy SEAL who's more than his match— she's his predestined mate . . .
The fact that vampire angel Harek Sigurdsson was a Norseman in his mortal life doesn't make thawing out after exile in Siberia any easier. But things heat up when his search for evil Lucipires connects him with Camille Dumaine, a human who thrums with sensual energy that can mean only one thing: she's the mate Harek's been seeking for centuries . . .
The SEALs call her "Camo" for her ability to blend into a crowd—yet Harek's intense blue gaze singles Camille out like a white-hot spotlight. The security wiz was hired to help bring down a ruthless band of international kidnappers, but Camille senses an unspoken agenda—besides Harek's bold declaration that she's his "destiny." Just Camille's luck that the sexiest man she's ever met may also be . . . a vampire!
Everything he touched turned to gold, or leastways a considerable profit, and thank the gods for that, because Harek Sigurdsson was a brilliant Viking with an insatiable hunger for wealth and all its trappings.
It didn’t matter that he had vast holdings in the Norselands, an estate in Northumbria, several hirds of warriors who served under him when called to battle by one grab-land king or another (Harek was a much-sought battle strategist), amber fields in the Baltics, trading stalls in the marketplaces of Hedeby, Kaupang, and the Coppergate section of Jorvik, a fleet of twelve longships and two knarrs, and numerous chests filled with coins, jewels, and rare spices. It was never enough! Not to mention three wives and six concubines … or was it seven?
Not that he wanted or needed any more wives or concubines. Like many Viking men (hah! men of all lands, truth to tell), he was betimes guided by a body rudder known for its lackwittedness when it fancied a woman. The Wise Ones had the right of it when they proclaimed: A cock has no brain. Well, at the ripe old age of twenty and nine, he had finally taken a sip from Odin’s famed well of knowledge. In future, when he came upon a comely
woman, he would bed her, not wed her, then send her on her merry way with a pat on the rump and a pouch of gold coins. Cheaper that way and lots less trouble!
Harek had just completed a meeting with Toriq Haraldsson, his agent here in Hedeby. Toriq had once been a hersir overseeing Harek’s Norse housecarls. Unfortunately, the fierce swordsman had lost an arm in battle. Harek had no qualms about hiring the handicapped man as his business representative. Loyalty and honesty were more important in that role than fighting skills. Besides, Toriq had once saved Harek’s life in battle at a time when Harek had been young and not yet so adept in fighting. A berserk Dane had been about to lop off Harek’s very head. Suffice it to say, the wergild for a highborn man’s head was enormous.
As they walked side by side on the raised plank walkways that crisscrossed the busy market center, men and women alike glanced their way, not just because of their impressive Norse height and finely sculpted features. Their attire—fur-lined cloaks, gold brooches fastening shoulder mantles, soft leather half boots—could support a tradesman’s family for years.
Unaware or uncaring of the attention, Toriq scowled and grumbled under his breath. Toriq was not happy with Harek today.
“Spit it out, man. What troubles you?”
“This latest venture of yours … it ill-suits a man of your stature,” Toriq said, but then he had to step aside to accommodate a crowd that had gathered to watch a craftsman blowing blue glass into a pitcher. Other artisans were hammering gold and silver into fine jewelry. In fact, Harek noticed an etched armband he might purchase later. In other stalls, workers could be seen carving wood and ivory, or firing clay pots in kilns behind the trading tables.
Hedeby was an exciting city, always something going on. To Harek, the bustle of commerce, the sounds of money being made, were like music to the ears. There wasn’t anything that couldn’t be purchased here, from the prized walrus rope that was cut in a single spiral strip from shoulder to tail, to—well—to his latest venture.
About the Author
Sandra Hill is a graduate of Penn State and worked for more than 10 years as a features writer and education editor for publications in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Writing about serious issues taught her the merits of seeking the lighter side of even the darkest stories. She is the wife of a stockbroker and the mother of four sons.Website