Series Spotlight, Excerpt & Giveaway: Ex-Con by @katanacollins

Who likes their bad boys EXTRA bad and EXTRA sexy? I have your next addiction right here!!

Ex-Con is the first book the newest Harrison Street Crew series from author Katan Collins and you don’t want to miss it. This Sons of Anarchy meets Fast and the Furious series is a gritty, erotic romance featuring the quintessential “bad boy” hero and kick ass heroine. Though the Harrison Street Crew is a series, each book is a stand alone novel featuring a different member from the car club. The second book in the series, Outlaw, is scheduled to release on March 7th, 2017. Book 1 is being released as a serialized novel, in 3 parts in the span of 3 weeks, and part 1 and 2 are already available now! Part 3 is releasing on February 14, 2017.


Ex-Con (Part 1)
Author: Katana Collins
Serialized in 3 Parts, Roughly 350 pages
Genre: Contemporary, Erotic Romance
Release Date: January 31, 2017
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press (Swerve)

Ex-convict Shane McGill is as rugged and wild as they come. Bad to the bone and back on the streets, he’ll do anything and say anything to survive. Even if that something means joining the one car club he had worked so hard to avoid. But there’s one person out there who can match him toe-to-toe…the hot mechanic pin-up doll of a woman with the body of a goddess and tomboy attitude would even give him a chance.
Charlize “Charlie” Wakeman fixes cars and doesn’t suffer fools. But when the hot as hell ex-convict Shane McGill enters her mechanic shop, she can’t resist one wild night with him. It was just meant to be a fling…the wildest, most thrilling fling of her life. But Shane’s too ruthless, too bad to ignore, and Charlie can’t stop herself from coming back for more.
Shane McGill learned one thing from prison—if you get a second chance, don’t screw it up. Shane doesn’t regret a single second of his life once he’s found Charlie. She’s the happiest, hottest, most important thing to happen to him. But as tensions rise in the Harrison Street Crew, his relationship with Charlie takes on a new level of heat, and danger…

Ex-Con: Part 1Ex-Con: Part 2Ex-Con: Part 3

 “He’s the one. I can feel it.” Charlize “Charlie” Wakeman could feel the flush in her cheeks and the grin on her face as she reclined in her office chair.

You say that every time, Charlie,” Michelle, her best friend since kindergarten, said.

Kicking her feet onto her desk at back of the garage, she cradled her cell phone between her ear and shoulder. The Tiffany-blue accents created a peaceful work environment against the stark white walls. Most people would think she was crazy to have sleek white furniture in her mechanics’ shop office, but to Charlie? It was calming and a much needed reprieve from the greasy garage. Not that she didn’t love the grease. But just because she could kick ass under a hood didn’t mean she didn’t also love her more feminine side as well.

No, Michelle, this is it. I’m telling you. He’s perfect.”

You do this every time. You tell yourself things are perfect and within a week you’re threatening to remove parts piece by piece.”

It’s different this time.” Charlie stood, peering out into the front of the garage where Rick waited. She stared, her mouth watering. Needing, wanting. “He needs a little work, yeah. But a few tweaks here and there—”

See? That’s how it begins.”

I’m gonna go for it. I need to at least try. No regrets, right?”

Charlie, no—”

She hung up before her friend could talk some sense into her, and stole a quick glance in the mirror. “Shit,” she muttered, grabbing a tissue and wiping a bit of grease off her temple. The black oil streaked her red hair and she sighed, flipping her part to the other side to cover it. It would have to do. Nothing short of a hot shower would remove that black smear from her hair.

Reaching for her checkbook, she took a quick glance at her balance in the business account. Eight thousand. Sure, that seemed like a lot, but for a garage, it was barely enough to make rent, electricity, and water; pay for supplies and parts; and pay off her monthly business loan. Not to mention her personal bills—rent for her house and little things like, you know, food. That number was low. Too low for her liking. Especially since she’d missed her last three months of the loan payment. That damn interest was killing her. Sucking in a sharp breath she tossed the checkbook back down onto her desk beside the stacks of overdue bills.

One thing at a time,” Charlie whispered to herself before shutting her office door behind her.

Rick,” she said entering the garage. Her eyes flicked to the 1971 AMC Hornet and her whole body purred at those sleek lines. Oh, how she wanted that car. Needed him. She could see herself riding it late into the night, windows down during the balmy Boston summers. “I crunched some numbers and I’ll be honest with you, it’s a great car. He’s in rough shape, though. Despite that, I’m interested in him.” Interested? Ha. That was the understatement of the year. She was wet for that car.

Rick gave a chuckle and shook his head. “Him? Sweetheart, this baby is all woman. At least until your check clears. Then it could be a damn hermaphrodite for all I care.”

Until your check clears. His statement caused her heart to stumble. Would her check clear? If she could get the car for a decent price, Charlie was certain she could flip it for a profit within a few weeks. She needed that. She needed the big-ticket item to get her garage back in the black. Though she had enough money to pay most of this month’s bills, she still had the previous three months’ debt. Not to mention her personal rent at home which she didn’t pay last month. She needed a big payoff. Something that would not only allow her to pay off this month’s bills, but catch up on the previous as well. Without that, next month she’d have just as many bills, even more debt, and nothing in her account to pay it all off with. At least by spending that money now on a car, she could keep the garage going another month. Maybe two. And if she gets the car for cheap enough, she could even do it all over again next month. Find another fixer-upper and turn it for a profit.

Sweeping her gaze across the garage, the parking lot was lined with small jobs. Oil changes, tire rotations; small gigs that took time and paid very little. Her dad was trying to help by bringing in the Boston PD car maintenance to her shop. But in the end, those small jobs were reducing her hourly bottom line. Even still, money was money. She couldn’t turn away business, no matter how small or low-paying the job was. “So? How much for it?” she said, purposefully leaving gender out and wetting her lips nervously.

I need at least twenty. And I’m losing money at that.”

Fuck. Charlie shook her head and turned back for the office. “I’m happy to negotiate, Rick, but don’t insult me. We both know that you couldn’t get twenty thousand for that car in its current condition if it came equipped with a gold dashboard and a man to give me head while I drove. Now give me a real number or get the fuck out of my garage.”

Rick sucked his teeth, but there was a smirk twisting at the corners of his mouth. “You know the drill. It’s your turn to throw down a number.”

Two.”

He snorted, shaking his head. “Bitch,” he muttered.

You throw an insulting number my way, but when I do the same I’m a bitch?”

He rushed to the hood, throwing it open. “This is a V8, two-barrel carb, 245 gross horsepower. It’s the rarest AMC muscle out there.”

Yeah, but you and I both know that the four-barrel is faster and more cherished by collectors. And the two-barrel is a helluva lot more work.” She gave a light kick to the back bumper. “And this thing is in rough shape. Seventy thousand miles on it.”

Lucky you’re the best mechanic in Southie.”

It’s a little late to try buttering me up, Rick. All that’s gonna do is give you a fat ass,” she said.

Only if I eat you.” He grinned.

She fiddled with some cables, dipping her head back into the engine, ignoring that comment. They hardly fazed her anymore. One year owning her garage in Southie, and she’d fucking heard it all. “Three thousand,” she said, knowing he’d never take a number that low.

Fifteen,” he countered. He was still shitting her. For a Hornet in this condition? That was an insane number. That’s what she was hoping to sell it for once she finished fixing it up, for Christ’s sake.

Look at all that rust. Finding original parts is going to be a bitch.” Except that she already had a bunch of parts stored in the back of her garage. Not that she’d be telling him that. She’d been saving them, scrapping them together when she found them at the perfect price, and digging through the scrap yard on her days off. All waiting for the day she found the Hornet of her dreams. Don’t get attached, she told herself. She had to sell this baby for a profit.

Who are you kidding, Charlie? You love that shit. You live for it.”

Not at fifteen thousand, I don’t. Besides, even if you don’t sell it to me, there’s only a handful of garages in this neighborhood. There’s a pretty good chance that whoever buys it will be bringing it in here to fix up anyway. I get to work on this car regardless. The question is, do I get to drive it after?” She paused. “Four thousand.”

He sighed. She was breaking him down and they both knew it. “Eight. That’s more than fair and you know it.”

It was his first reasonable offer. And yet still two thousand higher than her budget. She needed to keep at least a couple thousand in her account to order parts and pay Declan his rent this month. She paced around to the back of the car, kicking the tires. “It’s got the original sea-foam green interior leather,” he added.

Yeah, shitty and cracked. Again, the amount of patchwork that’s gonna take to restore it to period is more than the damn thing is worth. Fifty-five hundred. My final offer.” Charlie held her breath . . . she’d even given herself extra breathing room in case he countered one last time.

He nodded, holding out his hand, and Charlie grasped it quickly before he could pull it back right along with the offer. If there was one thing she’d learned living in Southie, it was that no one went back on a handshake. “Excellent. You got the title with you?”

Sure do. Lemme just go grab it.” Rick walked out into the parking lot, and Charlie waited until he was out the door before launching herself into the air, jumping around and dancing. Bending at the waist, she dropped a kiss on the hood. Yes! This was what she needed. It might deplete her bank account momentarily, but overall this restoration project was going to do well for her. At fifty-five hundred, after expenses, she could easily make ten to twelve thousand of profit off of this car, finally paying off her debt and be in the black with her business.

Well, you sure as shit ripped that guy off.” The low voice was deep with a quiet intensity that permeated Charlie’s bones. The blood rushed away from her face, and her entire body solidified with clenched muscles. Shit. She hadn’t realized she had other customers waiting.

Standing straight, she smoothed her T-shirt, pulling the hem lower and clenching her teeth to keep herself from biting her lip. “What are you talking about?” she said as she turned toward the voice. And if Charlie thought his voice was sexy . . . holy hell. It was nothing compared to the man standing before her. He wore faded jeans with the beginnings of holes at the knees and a tight white T-shirt that gripped bulging muscles beneath. The material hugged his biceps so tightly that she feared any movement would result in a Hulk-like tearing of the material off of his body. A tattoo, something angular looking, started below his sleeve, curving around his bicep before dipping under the shirt which hid the rest of it. His long, light brown hair was wavy, edging just below his ears, with stubble a shade darker covering his sharp jaw.

You got a Hornet two-barrel for under ten thousand?” he said. “Either he didn’t know what he had, or he was hypnotized by your tight jeans.” Moss-green eyes pierced into her, a smile softening the back handed compliment, and Charlie felt her body shiver under his gaze. This guy was bad news. And she should know; she’d seen enough guys like him in this part of town this last year. She’d sworn to herself that she wouldn’t get involved with any of the local guys here. Too much of pissing where you eat. Even as her brain was telling her to step back, her body was clenching with desire for the stranger.

It’s business,” she countered when she finally found her voice again. “And speaking of, what can I help you with?” Charlie grabbed a rag on the shop table and wiped her hands. Anything to keep herself busy and not stare at this guy. Or worse, touch him.

She looked up in time to catch his green eyes still on her. Faint wrinkles fanned from each corner, and smile lines framed his mouth spotlighting the exact area she wanted to press her lips against.

My cousin told me this was the best place in town now that Dec’s retired. I got a car that ain’t running so good.”

Charlie licked her lips and jerked her head into the empty spot beside her new Hornet. “Pull her on in, and let me have a look.”

I’d love to . . . but she won’t even make it inside on her own. Barely got her the five blocks here in the first place.”

Five blocks. This guy only lived five blocks away? And yet she’d never seen him around before today. He didn’t wait for Charlie’s response before he turned and walked out for the parking lot. He dragged one leg with a slight limp. Very slight. She wouldn’t have really noticed it if she hadn’t been staring so damn hard at his ass. She followed him to where a smoking 1976 Corvette Stingray was parked. Literally smoking, with stacks of dark gray clouds streaming out of the open hood. “What the—”

She hasn’t been driven in almost four years,” he said, reading her thoughts.

Well, that’ll do it.” Charlie sighed, waving away the smoke. “I can’t even take a look until the engine cools. There’s a waiting room right inside. Grab yourself a coffee. I’ll settle up on my Hornet, then have a look.”

Coffee,” he repeated as though she had mentioned a long-lost lover he hadn’t seen in years. Like the very mention of her name conjured visions and memories. And Charlie could have gotten lost in that dreamy gaze of his.

Um, yeah,” she said, barely recognizing her own voice as it came out a few notes lower and more gravely than intended. “Through that door.” She swiped her hand across her jeans before extending it to the man. “I’m Charlie, by the way.”

Charlie?”

Short for Charlize.”

His hand curved into hers, the pad of his thumb skimming over her skin. The tenderness of his touch lurched through her body, and she locked her grip in his palm as though maintaining that handshake could somehow steady her. His eyes studied hers, moving quickly across her face, and she momentarily feared that he could see everything. His penetrating stare could have sliced her right open, spilling her feelings and secrets right to his feet. “Shane,” he answered.

There was something in his eyes; something different than how other men looked at her. She wasn’t blind. She knew the reason most of the local guys came to her shop. It wasn’t just because she knew her way around a 396-cubic-inch engine . . . it was because she knew her shit about cars, but she also looked damn good while working on them. And they loved to watch as she bent into their hoods, probably imagining that she was bending over their dicks. But Shane seemed different. He didn’t just look at her—he saw her, his gaze intense and hungry. The sort of lust she hadn’t allowed herself to give into in a year.

He pulled his hand back, and Charlie watched as he took his time walking inside before she allowed herself to catch her bottom lip between her teeth. Damn, that was a fine man. Typically, she found herself lusting for horsepower and engines and mufflers. But today? It was the man behind the wheel she craved, not the engine beneath the hood.

She didn’t have time for a boyfriend. If there was anything her previous relationship had taught her, it was that no man was better than the wrong man. With her business coming up on its first year anniversary and the fact that she couldn’t afford any employees to help tackle the work load, almost every free moment she had was spent here at the shop. But damn, would he be fun to take home for a night.

In the year Charlie had been working in Southie, she’d learned that the men here cherished their cars . . . and it was bad news if someone treated something they cherished like shit. And that guy in there? He’d barely given his “baby” any attention in years, to the point that she was barely running. Using her phone as a decoy, she watched him through the window. Despite the hard veneer, he seemed to have a gentleness to him that she hadn’t seen in men around these parts before. Rough, but pliable. Like sandpaper that bristles against your skin on one side, but with hardly any effort can rip right in half.

Christ, what was she doing? She wasn’t looking to marry the guy. Sandpaper or velvet or fucking steel, he could still be good for one thing . . . one night. Just because she didn’t want to tie him down with a wedding band didn’t mean she couldn’t tie him down to her bedpost. One and done, a little voice said in her head. Would one night be so bad? A relationship would be too much work at the moment . . . and she already had one job taking up most of her time. But one night did not equal a relationship . . .

It had been a year since Charlie had been with a man. A year since she’d felt the weight of him on top of her or his scratchy scruff brush between her legs. A year too long. She watched through the window as Shane limped to the coffee machine and carefully poured the ebony liquid into a paper cup. He cupped it gently, bringing the cup to those full lips of his and pausing, inhaling deeply before taking a long, lingering sip. His pink tongue darted out and he licked his top lip in a long, luxurious swipe.

Shit. She needed that tongue on her body.

She was going to fix his Stingray, and before he left her shop today she was going to convince him to give her a ride . . . and not in his car.

Found it!” Rick called from the other end of the lot, waving the Hornet’s title. “You’re going home with one hell of a catch tonight.”

You bet I am,” she said.

DREAM CAST

Katana Collins is lucky enough to love her day job almost as much as she loves writing. She splits her time evenly between photographing boudoir and newborn portraits and writing steamy romances in a variety of genres — paranormal, contemporary, new adult and suspense.

She lives in Portland, Maine, with an ever-growing brood of rescue animals: a kind of mean cat, a very mellow chihuahua, and a very not mellow lab puppy… oh yeah, there’s a husband somewhere in that mix, too. She can usually be found hunched over her laptop in a cafe, guzzling gallons of coffee, and wearing fabulous (albeit sometimes impractical) shoes.

www.katanacollins.com

Follow her on Instagram and Twitter @katanacollins

Enter HERE for a chance to win an ebook of EX-CON (Part 1)

McNaught-E Mondays: Excerpt from Kingdom Of Dreams

McNaught E-Mondays continue today with another excerpt. This one from a book that comes highly recommended to me by everyone I know and I can’t wait to read; KINGDOM OF DREAMS.

If you missed the other posts, then I am so excited to share with you that since November 1, the fourteen Judith McNaught titles listed below are available for the first time in E-Book! If you previously read any of these amazing titles, revisiting them in E-Book is not “All for Naught,” as each E-Book will contain original, new content (a letter) from Judith McNaught.

About The Book A Kingdom of Dreams

cover-akingdomofdreams

Abducted from her convent school, headstrong Scottish beauty Jennifer Merrick does not easily surrender to Royce Westmoreland, Duke of Claymore. Known as “The Wolf,” his very name strikes terror in the hearts of his enemies. But proud Jennifer will have nothing to do with the fierce English warrior who holds her captive, no matter what he threatens. Boldly she challenges his will—until the night he takes her in his powerful embrace, awakening in her an irresistible hunger. Suddenly Jennifer finds herself ensnared in a bewildering and seductive web of pride, passion, and overwhelming love. This beloved tale about two defiant hearts clashing in a furious battle of wills in the glorious age of chivalry “will stay in your heart forever and be a classic on your shelves” (RT Book Reviews, Top Pick).

S&S | iBOOKS | AMAZON | B&N | GOOGLE PLAYExcerpt

CHAPTER 1“A toast to the duke of Claymore and his bride!”

Under normal circumstances, this call for a wedding toast would have caused the lavishly dressed ladies and gentlemen assembled in the great hall at Merrick castle to smile and cheer. Goblets of wine would have been raised and more toasts offered in celebration of a grand and noble wedding such as the one which was about to take place here in the south of Scotland.

But not today. Not at this wedding.

At this wedding, no one cheered and no one raised a goblet. At this wedding, everyone was watching everyone else, and everyone was tense. The bride’s family was tense. The groom’s family was tense. The guests and the servants and the hounds in the hall were tense. Even the first earl of Merrick, whose portrait hung above the fireplace, looked tense.

“A toast to the duke of Claymore and his bride,” the groom’s brother pronounced again, his voice like a thunderclap in the unnatural, tomblike silence of the crowded hall. “May they enjoy a long and fruitful life together.”

Normally, that ancient toast brings about a predictable reaction: The groom always smiles proudly because he’s convinced he’s accomplished something quite wonderful. The bride smiles because she’s been able to convince him of it. The guests smile because, amongst the nobility, a marriage connotes the linking of two important families and two large fortunes—which in itself is cause for great celebration and abnormal gaiety.

But not today. Not on this fourteenth day of October, 1497.

Having made the toast, the groom’s brother raised his goblet and smiled grimly at the groom. The groom’s friends raised their goblets and smiled fixedly at the bride’s family. The bride’s family raised their goblets and smiled frigidly at each other. The groom, who alone seemed to be immune to the hostility in the hall, raised his goblet and smiled calmly at his bride, but the smile did not reach his eyes.

The bride did not bother to smile at anyone. She looked furious and mutinous.

In truth, Jennifer was so frantic she scarcely knew anyone was there. At the moment, every fiber of her being was concentrating on a last-minute, desperate appeal to God, Who out of lack of attention or lack of interest, had let her come to this sorry pass. “Lord,” she cried silently, swallowing the lump of terror swelling in her throat, “if You’re going to do something to stop this marriage, You’re going to have to do it quickly, or in five minutes ’twill be too late! Surely, I deserve something better than this forced marriage to a man who stole my virginity! I didn’t just hand it over to him, You know!”

Realizing the folly of reprimanding the Almighty, she hastily switched to pleading: “Haven’t I always tried to serve You well?” she whispered silently. “Haven’t I always obeyed You?”

“NOT ALWAYS, JENNIFER,” God’s voice thundered in her mind.

“Nearly always,” Jennifer amended frantically. “I attended mass every day, except when I was ill, which was seldom, and I said my prayers every morning and every evening. Nearly every evening,” she amended hastily before her conscience could contradict her again, “except when I fell asleep before I was finished. And I tried, I truly tried to be all that the good sisters at the abbey wanted me to be. You know now hard I’ve tried! Lord,” she finished desperately, “if you’ll just help me escape from this, I’ll never be willful or impulsive again.”

“THAT I DO NOT BELIEVE, JENNIFER,” God boomed dubiously.

“Nay, I swear it,” she earnestly replied, trying to strike a bargain. “I’ll do anything You want, I’ll go straight back to the abbey and devote my life to prayer and—”

“The marriage contracts have been duly signed. Bring in the priest,” Lord Balfour commanded, and Jennifer’s breath came in wild, panicked gasps, all thoughts of potential sacrifices fleeing from her mind.

God,” she silently pleaded, “why are You doing this to me? You aren’t going to let this happen to me, are You?”

Silence fell over the great hall as the doors were flung open.

“YES, JENNIFER, I AM.”

The crowd parted automatically to admit the priest, and Jennifer felt as if her life were ending. Her groom stepped into position beside her, and Jennifer jerked an inch away, her stomach churning with resentment and humiliation at having to endure his nearness. If only she had known how one heedless act could end in disaster and disgrace. If only she hadn’t been so impulsive and reckless!

Closing her eyes, Jennifer shut out the hostile faces of the English and the murderous faces of her Scots kinsmen, and in her heart she faced the wrenching truth: Impulsiveness and recklessness, her two greatest faults, had brought her to this dire end—the same two character flaws that had led her to commit all of her most disastrous follies. Those two flaws, combined with a desperate yearning to make her father love her, as he loved his stepsons, were responsible for the debacle she’d made of her life:

When she was fifteen, those were the things that had led her to try to avenge herself against her sly, spiteful stepbrother in what had seemed a right and honorable way—which was to secretly don Merrick armor and then ride against him, fairly, in the lists. That magnificent folly had gained her a sound thrashing from her father right there on the field of honor—and only a tiny bit of satisfaction from having knocked her wicked stepbrother clean off his horse!

The year before, those same traits had caused her to behave in such a way that old Lord Balder withdrew his request for her hand, and in doing so destroyed her father’s cherished dream of joining the two families. And those things, in turn, were what got her banished to the abbey at Belkirk, where, seven weeks ago, she’d become easy prey for the Black Wolf’s marauding army.

And now, because of all that, she was forced to wed her enemy; a brutal English warrior whose armies had oppressed her country, a man who had captured her, held her prisoner, taken her virginity, and destroyed her reputation.

But it was too late for prayers and promises now. Her fate had been sealed from the moment, seven weeks ago, when she’d been dumped at the feet of the arrogant beast beside her, trussed up like a feastday partridge.

Jennifer swallowed. No, before that—she’d veered down this path to disaster earlier that same day when she’d refused to heed the warnings that the Black Wolf’s armies were nearby.

But why should she have believed it, Jennifer cried in her own defense. “The Wolf is marching on us!” had been a terrified call of doom issued almost weekly throughout the last five years. But on that day, seven weeks ago, it had been woefully true.

The crowd in the hall stirred restlessly, looking about for a sign of the priest, but Jennifer was lost in her memories of that day.

At the time, it had seemed an unusually pretty day, the sky a cheerful blue, the air balmy. The sun had been shining down upon the abbey, bathing its Gothic spires and graceful arches in bright golden light, beaming benignly upon the sleepy little village of Belkirk, which boasted the abbey, two shops, thirty-four cottages, and a communal stone well in the center of it, where villagers gathered on Sunday afternoons, as they were doing then. On a distant hill, a shepherd looked after his flock, while in a clearing not far from the well, Jennifer had been playing hoodman-blind with the orphans whom the abbess had entrusted to her care.

And in that halcyon setting of laughter and relaxation, this travesty had begun. As if she could somehow change events by reliving them in her mind, Jennifer closed her eyes, and suddenly she was there again in the little clearing with the children, her head completely covered with the hoodman’s hood . . .

“Where are you, Tom MacGivern?” she called out, groping about with outstretched arms, pretending she couldn’t locate the giggling nine-year-old boy, who her ears told her was only a foot away on her right. Grinning beneath the concealing hood, she assumed the pose of a classic “monster” by holding her arms high in front of her, her fingers spread like claws, and began to stomp about, calling in a deep, ominous voice, “You can’t escape me, Tom MacGivern.”

“Ha!” he shouted from her right. “You’ll no’ find me, hoodman!”

“Yes, I will!” Jenny threatened, then deliberately turned to her left, which caused gales of laughter to erupt from the children who were hiding behind trees and crouching beside bushes.

“I’ve got you!” Jenny shouted triumphantly a few minutes later as she swooped down upon a fleeing, giggling child, catching a small wrist in her hand. Breathless and laughing, Jenny yanked off her hood to see whom she’d captured, mindless of the red gold hair tumbling down over her shoulders and arms.

“You got Mary!” the children crowed delightedly. “Mary’s the hoodman now!”

The little five-year-old girl looked up at Jenny, her hazel eyes wide and apprehensive, her thin body shivering with fear. “Please,” she whispered, clinging to Jenny’s leg, “I—I not want to wear th’ hood—’Twill be dark inside it. Do I got to wear it?”

Smiling reassuringly, Jenny tenderly smoothed Mary’s hair off her thin face. “Not if you don’t want.”

“I’m afeert of the dark,” Mary confided unnecessarily, her narrow shoulders drooping with shame.

Sweeping her up into her arms, Jenny hugged her tightly. “Everybody is afraid of something,” she said and teasingly added, “Why, I’m afraid of—of frogs!”

The dishonest admission made the little girl giggle. “Frogs!” she repeated, “I likes frogs! They don’t sceer me ’tall.”

“There, you see—” Jenny said as she lowered her to the ground. “You’re very brave. Braver than I!”

“Lady Jenny is afeart of silly ol’ frogs,” Mary told the group of children as they ran forward.

“No she isn—” young Tom began, quick to rise to the defense of the beautiful Lady Jenny who, despite her lofty rank, was always up to anything—including hitching up her skirts and wading in the pond to help him catch a fat bullfrog—or climbing up a tree, quick as a cat, to rescue little Will who was afraid to come down.

Tom silenced at Jenny’s pleading look and argued no more about her alleged fear of frogs. “I’ll wear the hood,” he volunteered, gazing adoringly at the seventeen-year-old girl who wore the somber gown of a novice nun, but who was not one, and who, moreover, certainly didn’t act like one. Why, last Sunday during the priest’s long sermon, Lady Jenny’s head had nodded forward, and only Tom’s loud, false coughing in the bench behind her had awakened her in time for her to escape detection by the sharp-eyed abbess.

“ ’Tis Tom’s turn to wear the hood,” Jenny agreed promptly, handing Tom the hood. Smiling, she watched the children scamper off to their favorite hiding places, then she picked up the wimple and short woolen veil she’d taken off in order to be the hoodman. Intending to go over to the communal well where the villagers were eagerly questioning some clansmen passing through Belkirk on their way to their homes from the war against the English in Cornwall, she lifted the wimple, intending to put it on.

“Lady Jennifer!” One of the village men called suddenly, “Come quick—there’s news of the laird.” The veil and wimple forgotten in her hand, Jenny broke into a run, and the children, sensing the excitement, stopped their game and raced along at her heels.

“What news?” Jenny asked breathlessly, her gaze searching the stolid faces of the groups of clansmen. One of them stepped forward, respectfully removing his helm and cradling it in the crook of his arm. “Be you the daughter of the laird of Merrick?”

At the mention of the name Merrick, two of the men at the well suddenly stopped in the act of pulling up a bucket of water and exchanged startled, malevolent glances before they quickly ducked their heads again, keeping their faces in shadow. “Yes,” Jenny said eagerly. “You have news of my father?”

“Aye, m’lady. He’s comin’ this way, not far behind us, wit a big band o’ men.”

“Thank God,” Jenny breathed. “How goes the battle at Cornwall?” she asked after a moment, ready now to forget her personal concerns and devote her worry to the battle the Scots were waging at Cornwall in support of King James and Edward V’s claim to the English throne.

His face answered Jenny’s question even before he said, “ ’Twas all but over when we left. In Cork and Taunton it looked like we might win, and the same was true in Cornwall, until the devil hisself came to take command ’o Henry’s army.”

“The devil?” Jenny repeated blankly.

Hatred contorted the man’s face and he spat on the ground. “Aye, the devil—the Black Wolf hisself, may he roast in hell from whence he was spawned.”

Two of the peasant women crossed themselves as if to ward off evil at the mention of the Black Wolf, Scotland’s most hated, and most feared, enemy, but the man’s next words made them gape in fear: “The Wolf is comin’ back to Scotland. Henry’s sendin’ him here with a fresh army to crush us for supportin’ King Edward. Twill be murder and bloodshed like the last time he came, only worst, you mark me. The clans are making haste to come home and get ready for the battles. I’m thinkin’ the Wolf will attack Merrick first, before any o’ the rest of us, for ’twas your clan that took the most English lives at Cornwall.”

So saying, he nodded politely, put on his helmet, then he swung up onto his horse.

The scraggly groups at the well departed soon afterward, heading down the road that led across the moors and wound upward into the hills.

Two of the men, however, did not continue beyond the bend in the road. Once out of sight of the villagers, they veered off to the right, sending their horses at a furtive gallop into the forest.

Had Jenny been watching, she might have caught a brief glimpse of them doubling back through the woods that ran beside the road right behind her. But at the time, she was occupied with the terrified pandemonium that had broken out among the citizens of Belkirk, which happened to lie directly in the path between England and Merrick keep.

“The Wolf is coming!” one of the women cried, clutching her babe protectively to her breast. “God have pity on us.”

“ ’Tis Merrick he’ll strike at,” a man shouted, his voice rising in fear. “ ’Tis the laird of Merrick he’ll want in his jaws, but ’tis Belkirk he’ll devour on the way.” Suddenly the air was filled with gruesome predictions of fire and death and slaughter, and the children crowded around Jenny, clinging to her in mute horror. To the Scots, be they wealthy noble or lowly villager, the Black Wolf was more evil than the devil himself, and more dangerous, for the devil was a spirit, while the Wolf was flesh and blood—the living Lord of Evil—a monstrous being who threatened their existence, right here on earth. He was the malevolent specter that the Scots used to terrify their offspring into behaving. “The Wolf will get you,” was the warning issued to keep children from straying into the woods or leaving their beds at night, or from disobeying their elders.

Impatient with such hysteria over what was, to her, more myth than man, Jenny raised her voice in order to be heard over the din. “Tis more likely,” she called, putting her arms around the terrified children who’d crowded against her at the first mention of the Wolf’s name, “that he’ll go back to his heathen king so that he can lick the wounds we gave him at Cornwall while he tells great lies to exaggerate his victory. And if he does not do that, he’ll choose a weaker keep than Merrick for his attack—one he’s a chance of breeching.

Her words and her tone of amused disdain brought startled gazes flying to her face, but it wasn’t merely false bravado that had made Jenny speak so: She was a Merrick, and a Merrick never admitted to fear of any man. She had heard that hundreds of times when her father spoke to her stepbrothers, and she had adopted his creed for her own. Furthermore, the villagers were frightening the children, which she refused to let continue.

Mary tugged at Jenny’s skirts to get her attention, and in a shrill little voice, she asked, “Isn’t you afeert of the Black Wolf, Lady Jenny?”

“Of course not!” Jenny said with a bright, reassuring smile.

“They say,” young Tom interjected in an awed voice, “the Wolf is as tall as a tree!”

“A tree!” Jenny chuckled, trying to make a huge joke of the Wolf and all the lore surrounding him. “If he is, ’twould be a sight worth seeing when he tries to mount his horse! Why, ’twould take four squires to hoist him up there!”

The absurdity of that image made some of the children giggle, exactly as Jenny had hoped.

“I heert,” said young Will with an eloquent shudder, “he tears down walls with his bare hands and drinks blood!”

“Yuk!” said Jenny with twinkling eyes. “Then ’tis only indigestion which makes him so mean. If he comes to Belkirk, we’ll offer him some good Scottish ale instead.”

“My pa said,” put in another child, “he rides with a giant beside him, a Go-liath called Arik who carries a war axe and chops up children . . .”

“I heert—” another child interrupted ominously.

Jenny cut in lightly, “Let me tell you what I have heard.” With a bright smile, she began to shepherd them toward the abbey, which was out of sight just beyond a bend down the road. ‘7 heard,” she improvised gaily, “that he’s so very old that he has to squint to see, just like this—”

She screwed up her face in a comical exaggeration of a befuddled, near-blind person peering around blankly, and the children giggled.

As they walked along, Jenny kept up the same lighthearted teasing comments, and the children fell in with the game, adding their own suggestions to make the Wolf seem absurd.

But despite the laughter and seeming gaiety of the moment, the sky had suddenly darkened as a bank of heavy clouds rolled in, and the air was turning bitingly cold, whipping Jenny’s cloak about her, as if nature herself brooded at the mention of such evil.

Jenny was about to make another joke at the Wolf’s expense, but she broke off abruptly as a group of mounted clansmen rounded the bend from the abbey, coming toward her down the road. A beautiful girl, clad as Jenny was in the somber gray gown, white wimple, and short gray veil of a novice nun, was mounted in front of the leader, sitting demurely sideways in his saddle, her timid smile confirming what Jenny already knew.

With a silent cry of joy, Jenny started to dash forward, then checked the unladylike impulse and made herself stay where she was. Her eyes clung to her father, then drifted briefly over her clansmen, who were staring past her with the same grim disapproval they’d shown her for years—ever since her stepbrother had successfully circulated his horrible tale.

Sending the children ahead with strict orders to go directly to the abbey, Jenny waited in the middle of the road for what seemed like an eternity until, at last, the group halted in front of her.

Her father, who’d obviously stopped at the abbey where Brenna, Jenny’s stepsister, was also staying, swung down from his horse, then he turned to lift Brenna down. Jenny chafed at the delay, but his scrupulous attention to courtesy and dignity was so typical of the great man that a wry smile touched her lips.

Finally, he turned fully toward her, opening his arms wide. Jenny hurtled into his embrace, hugging him fiercely, babbling in her excitement: “Father, I’ve missed you so! ’Tis nearly two years since I’ve seen you! Are you well? You look well. You’ve scarce changed in all this time!”

Gently disentangling her arms from about his neck, Lord Merrick set his daughter slightly away from him while his gaze drifted over her tousled hair, rosy cheeks, and badly rumpled gown. Jenny squirmed inwardly beneath his prolonged scrutiny, praying that he approved of what he saw and that, since he’d obviously stopped at the abbey already, the abbess’s report had been pleasing to him.

Two years ago, her behavior had gotten her sent to the abbey; a year ago, Brenna had been sent down here for safety’s sake while the laird was at war. Under the abbess’s firm guidance, Jenny had come to appreciate her strengths, and to try to overcome her faults. But as her father inspected her from head to toe, she couldn’t help wondering if he saw the young lady she was now or the unruly girl she’d been two years ago. His blue eyes finally returned to her face and there was a smile in them. “Ye’ve become a woman, Jennifer.”

Jenny’s heart soared; coming from her taciturn father, such a comment constituted high praise. “I’ve changed in other ways too, Father,” she promised, her eyes shining. “I’ve changed a great deal.”

“Not that much, my girl.” Raising his shaggy white brows, he looked pointedly at the short veil and wimple hanging forgotten from her fingertips.

“Oh!” Jenny said, laughing and anxious to explain. “I was playing hoodman-blind . . . er . . . with the children, and it wouldn’t fit beneath the hood. Have you seen the abbess? What did Mother Ambrose tell you?”

Laughter sparked in his somber eyes. “She told me,” he replied dryly, “that ye’ve a habit of sitting on yon hill and gazing off into the air, dreaming, which sounds familiar, lassie. And she told me ye’ve a tendency to nod off in the midst of mass, should the priest sermonize longer than you think seemly, which also sounds familiar.”

Jenny’s heart sank at this seeming betrayal from the abbess whom she so admired. In a sense, Mother Ambrose was laird of her own grand demesne, controlling revenues from the farmlands and livestock that belonged to the splendid abbey, presiding at table whenever there were visitors, and dealing with all other matters that involved the laymen who worked on the abbey grounds as well as the nuns who lived cloistered within its soaring walls.

Brenna was terrified of the stem woman, but Jenny loved her, and so the abbess’s apparent betrayal cut deeply.

Her father’s next words banished her disappointment. “Mother Ambrose also told me,” he admitted with gruff pride, “that you’ve a head on your shoulders befitting an abbess herself. She said you’re a Merrick through and through, with courage enough to be laird of yer own clan. But you’ll no’ be that,” he warned, dashing Jenny’s fondest dream.

With an effort, Jenny kept the smile pinned to her face, refusing to feel the hurt of being deprived of that right—a right that had been promised to her until her father married Brenna’s widowed mother and acquired three stepsons in the bargain.

Alexander, the eldest of the three brothers, would assume the position that had been promised to her. That, in itself, wouldn’t have been nearly so hard to bear if Alexander had been nice, or even fair-minded, but he was a treacherous, scheming liar, and Jenny knew it, even if her father and her clan did not. Within a year after coming to live at Merrick keep, he’d begun carrying tales about her, tales so slanderous and ghastly, but so cleverly contrived, that, over a period of years, he’d turned her whole clan against her. That loss of her clan’s affection still hurt unbearably. Even now, when they were looking through her as if she didn’t exist for them, Jenny had to stop herself from pleading with them to forgive her for things she had not done.

William, the middle brother, was like Brenna— sweet and as timid as can be—while Malcolm, the youngest, was as evil and as sneaky as Alexander. “The abbess also said,” her father continued, “that you’re kind and gentle, but you’ve spirit, too . . .”

“She said all that?” Jenny asked, dragging her dismal thoughts from her stepbrothers. “Truly?”

“Aye.” Jenny would normally have rejoiced in that answer, but she was watching her father’s face, and it was becoming more grim and tense than she had ever seen it. Even his voice was strained as he said, “ ’Tis well you’ve given up your heathenish ways and that you’re all the things you’ve become, Jennifer.”

He paused as if unable or unwilling to continue, and Jenny prodded gently, “Why is that, Father?”

“Because,” he said, drawing a long, harsh breath, “the future of the clan will depend on your answer to my next question.”

His words trumpeted in her mind like blasts from a clarion, leaving Jenny dazed with excitement and joy: “The future of the clan depends on you . . .” She was so happy, she could scarcely trust her ears. It was as if she were up on the hill overlooking the abbey, dreaming her favorite daydream—the one where her father always came to her and said, “Jennifer, the future of the clan depends on you. Not your stepbrothers. You.” It was the chance she’d been dreaming of to prove her mettle to her clansmen and to win back their affection. In that daydream, she was always called upon to perform some incredible feat of daring, some brave and dangerous deed, like scaling the wall of the Black Wolf’s castle and capturing him single-handedly. But no matter how daunting the task, she never questioned it, nor hesitated a second to accept the challenge.

She searched her father’s face. “What would you have me do?” she asked eagerly. “Tell me, and I will! I’ll do any—”

“Will you marry Edric MacPherson?”

“Whaaat?” gasped the horrified heroine of Jenny’s daydream. Edric MacPherson was older than her father; a wizened, frightening man who’d looked at her in a way that made her skin crawl ever since she’d begun to change from girl to maiden.

“Will you, or will you no’?”

Jenny’s delicate auburn brows snapped together. “Why?” asked the heroine who never questioned.

A strange, haunted look darkened his face. “We took a beating at Cornwall, lass—we lost half our men. Alexander was killed in battle. He died like a Merrick,” he added with grim pride, “fighting to the end.”

“I’m glad for your sake, Papa,” she said, unable to feel more than a brief pang of sorrow for the stepbrother who’d made her life into a hell. Now, as she often had in the past, she wished there were something she could do to make him proud of her. “I know you loved him as if he were your own son.”

Accepting her sympathy with a brief nod, he returned to the discussion at hand: “There were many amongst the clans who were opposed to going to Cornwall to fight for King James’s cause, but the clans followed me anyway. Tis no secret to the English that ’twas my influence which brought the clans to Cornwall, and now the English king wants vengeance. He’s sendin’ the Wolf to Scotland to attack Merrick keep.” Ragged pain edged his deep voice as he admitted, “We’ll no’ be able to withstand a siege now, not unless the MacPherson clan comes to support us in our fight. The MacPherson has enough influence with a dozen other clans to force them to join us as well.”

Jenny’s mind was reeling. Alexander was dead, and the Wolf really was coming to attack her home . . .

Her father’s harsh voice snapped her out of her daze. “Jennifer! Do you ken what I’ve been saying? MacPherson has promised to join in our fight, but only if you’ll have him for husband.”

Through her mother, Jenny was a countess and heiress to a rich estate which marched with MacPherson’s. “He wants my lands?” she said almost hopefully, remembering the awful way Edric MacPherson’s eyes had wandered down her body when he’d stopped at the abbey a year ago to pay a “social call” upon her.

“Aye.”

“Couldn’t we just give them to him in return for his support?” she volunteered desperately, ready— willing—to sacrifice a splendid demesne without hesitation, for the good of her people.

“He’d not agree to that!” her father said angrily. “There’s honor in fighting for kin, but he could no’ send his people into a fight that’s no’ their own, and then take your lands in payment to him.

“But, surely, if he wants my lands badly enough, there’s some way—”

“He wants you. He sent word to me in Cornwall.” His gaze drifted over Jenny’s face, registering the startling changes that had altered her face from its thin, freckled, girlish plainness into a face of almost exotic beauty. “Ye’ve your mother’s look about ye now, lass, and it’s whetted the appetites of an old man. I’d no’ ask this of you if there was any other way.” Gruffly, he reminded her, “You used to plead wi’ me to name you laird. Ye said there was naught you wouldna’ do fer yer clan . . .”

Jenny’s stomach twisted into sick knots at the thought of committing her body, her entire life, into the hands of a man she instinctively recoiled from, but she lifted her head and bravely met her father’s gaze. “Aye, father,” she said quietly. “Shall I come with you now?”

The look of pride and relief on his face almost made the sacrifice worthwhile. He shook his head. “ ’Tis best you stay here with Brenna. We’ve no horses to spare and we’re anxious to reach Merrick and begin preparations for battle. I’ll send word to the MacPherson that the marriage is agreed upon, and then send someone here to fetch you to him.”

When he turned to remount his horse, Jenny gave into the temptation she’d been fighting all along: Instead of standing aside, she moved into the rows of mounted clansmen who had once been her friends and playmates. Hoping that some of them had perhaps heard her agree to marry the MacPherson and that this might neutralize their contempt of her, she paused beside the horse of a ruddy, red-headed man. “Good day to you, Renald Garvin,” she said, smiling hesitantly into his hooded gaze. “How fares your lady wife?”

His jaw hardened, his cold eyes flickering over her. “Well enough, I imagine,” he snapped.

Jenny swallowed at the unmistakable rejection from the man who had once taught her to fish and laughed with her when she fell into the stream.

She turned around and looked beseechingly at the man in the column beside Renald. “And you, Michael MacCleod? Has your leg been causing you any pain?”

Cold blue eyes met hers, then looked straight ahead.

She went to the rider behind him whose face was filled with hatred and she held out her hand beseechingly, her voice choked with pleading. “Garrick Carmichael, it has been four years since your Becky drowned. I swear to you now, as I swore to you then, I did not shove her into the river. We were not quarreling—’twas a lie invented by Alexander to—”

His face as hard as granite, Garrick Carmichael spurred his horse forward, and without ever looking at her, the men began passing her by.

Only old Josh, the clan’s armorer, pulled his ancient horse to a halt, letting the others go on ahead. Leaning down, he laid his callused palm atop her bare head. “I know you speak truly, lassie,” he said, and his unceasing loyalty brought the sting of tears to her eyes as she gazed up into his soft brown ones. “Ye have a temper, there’s no denyin’ it, but even when ye were but a wee thing, ye kept it bridled. Garrick Carmichael and the others might o’ been fooled by Alexander’s angelic looks, but not ol’ Josh. You’ll no’ see me grievin’ o’er the loss o’ him! The clan’ll be better by far wit’ young William leadin’ it. Carmichael and the others—” he added reassuringly, “they’ll come about in their thinkin’ o’ you, once they ken yer marrying the MacPherson for their sake as well as your sire’s.”

“Where are my stepbrothers?” Jenny asked hoarsely, changing the subject lest she burst into tears.

“They’re comin’ home by a different route. We couldn’t be sure the Wolf wouldn’t try to attack us while we marched, so we split up after leavin’ Cornwall.” With another pat on her head, he spurred his horse forward.

As if in a daze, Jenny stood stock-still in the middle of the road, watching her clan ride off and disappear around the bend.

“It grows dark,” Brenna said beside her, her gentle voice filled with sympathy. “We should go back to the abbey now.”

The abbey. Three short hours ago, Jenny had walked away from the abbey feeling cheery and alive. Now she felt—dead. “Go ahead without me. I—I can’t go back there. Not yet. I think I’ll walk up the hill and sit for a while.”

“The abbess will be annoyed if we aren’t back before dusk, and it’s near that now,” Brenna said apprehensively. It had always been thus between the two girls, with Jenny breaking a rule and Brenna terrified of bending one. Brenna was gentle, biddable, and beautiful, with blond hair, hazel eyes, and a sweet disposition that made her, in Jenny’s eyes, the embodiment of womanhood at its best. She was also as meek and timid as Jenny was impulsive and courageous. Without Jenny, she’d not have had a single adventure—nor ever gotten a scolding. Without Brenna to worry about and protect, Jenny would have had many more adventures—and many more scoldings. As a result, the two girls were entirely devoted to each other, and tried to protect one another as much as possible from the inevitable results of each other’s shortcomings.

Brenna hesitated and then volunteered with only a tiny tremor in her voice, “I’ll stay with you. If you remain alone, you’ll forget about time and likely be pounced upon by a—a bear in the darkness.”

At the moment, the prospect of being killed by a bear seemed rather inviting to Jenny, whose entire life stretched before her, shrouded in gloom and foreboding. Despite the fact that she truly wanted, needed, to stay outdoors and try to reassemble her thoughts, Jenny shook her head, knowing that if they stayed, Brenna would be drowning in fear at the thought of facing the abbess. “No, we’ll go back.”

Ignoring Jenny’s words, Brenna clasped Jenny’s hand and turned to the left, toward the slope of the hill that overlooked the abbey, and for the first time it was Brenna who led and Jenny who followed.

In the woods beside the road, two shadows moved stealthily, staying parallel with the girls’ path up the hill.

By the time they were partway up the steep incline, Jenny had already grown impatient with her own self-pity, and she made a Herculean effort to shore up her flagging spirits. “When you think on it,” she offered slowly, directing a glance at Brenna, “ ’tis actually a grand and noble thing I’ve been given the opportunity to do—marrying the MacPherson for the sake of my people.”

“You’re just like Joan of Arc,” Brenna agreed eagerly, “leading her people to victory!”

“Except that I’m marrying Edric MacPherson.”

“And,” Brenna finished encouragingly, “suffering a worse fate than she did!”

Laughter widened Jenny’s eyes at this depressing remark, which her well-meaning sister delivered with such enthusiasm.

Encouraged by the return of Jenny’s ability to laugh, Brenna cast about for something else with which to divert and cheer her. As they neared the crest of the hill, which was blocked by thick woods, she said suddenly, “What did Father mean about your having your mother’s ‘look about you’?”

“I don’t know,” Jenny began, diverted by a sudden, uneasy feeling that they were being watched in the deepening dusk. Turning and walking backward, she looked down toward the well and saw the villagers had all returned to the warmth of their hearths. Drawing her cloak about her, she shivered in the biting wind, and without much interest, she added, “Mother Abbess said my looks are a trifle brazen and that I must guard against the effect I will have on males when I leave the abbey.”

“What does all that mean?”

Jenny shrugged without concern. “I don’t know.” Turning and walking forward again, Jenny remembered the wimple and veil in her fingertips and began to put the wimple back on. “What do I look like to you?” she asked, shooting a puzzled glance at Brenna. “I haven’t seen my face in two years, except when I caught a reflection of it in the water. Have I changed much?”

“Oh yes,” Brenna laughed. “Even Alexander wouldn’t be able to call you scrawny and plain now, or say that your hair is the color of carrots.”

“Brenna!” Jenny interrupted, thunderstruck by her own callousness. “Are you much grieved by Alexander’s death? He was your brother and—”

“Don’t talk of it any more,” Brenna pleaded shakily. “I cried when Father told me, but the tears were few and I feel guilty because I didn’t love him as I ought. Not then and not now. I couldn’t. He was so—mean-spirited. It’s wrong to speak ill of the dead, yet I can’t think of much good to say of him.” Her voice trailed off, and she pulled her cloak about her in the damp wind, gazing at Jenny in mute appeal to change the subject.

“Tell me how I look, then,” Jenny invited quickly, giving her sister a quick, hard hug.

They stopped walking, their way blocked by the dense woods that covered the rest of the slope. A slow, thoughtful smile spread across Brenna’s beautiful face as she studied her stepsister, her hazel eyes roving over Jenny’s expressive face, which was dominated by a pair of large eyes as clear as dark blue crystal beneath gracefully winged, auburn brows. “Well, you’re—you’re quite pretty!”

“Good, but do you see anything unusual about me?” Jenny asked, thinking of Mother Ambrose’s words as she put her wimple back on and pinned the short woolen veil in place atop it. “Anything at all which might make a male behave oddly?”

“No,” Brenna stated, for she saw Jenny through the eyes of a young innocent. “Nothing at all.” A man would have answered very differently, for although Jennifer Merrick wasn’t pretty in the conventional way, her looks were both stiking and provocative. She had a generous mouth that beckoned to be kissed, eyes like liquid sapphires that shocked and invited, hair like lush, red-gold satin, and a slender, voluptuous body that was made for a man’s hands.

“Your eyes are blue,” Brenna began helpfully, trying to describe her, and Jenny chuckled.

“They were blue two years ago,” she said. Brenna opened her mouth to answer, but the words became a scream that was stifled by a man’s hand that clapped over her mouth as he began dragging her backward into the dense cover of the woods.

Jenny ducked, instinctively expecting an attack from behind, but she was too late. Kicking and screaming against a gloved male hand, she was plucked from her feet and hauled into the woods. Brenna was tossed over the back of her captor’s horse like a sack of flour, her limp limbs attesting to the fact that she’d fainted, but Jenny was not so easily subdued. As her faceless adversary dumped her over the back of his horse, she threw herself to the side, rolling free, landing in the leaves and dirt, crawling on all fours beneath his horse, then scrambling to her feet. He caught her again, and Jenny raked her nails down his face, twisting in his hold. “God’s teeth!” he hissed, trying to hold onto her flailing limbs. Jenny let out a blood-chilling scream, at the same moment she kicked as hard as she could, landing a hefty blow on his shin with the sturdy, black boots which were deemed appropriate footware for novice nuns. A grunt of pain escaped the blond man as he let her go for a split second. She bolted forward and might even have gained a few yards if her booted foot hadn’t caught under a thick tree root and sent her sprawling onto her face, smacking the side of her head against a rock when she landed.

“Hand me the rope,” the Wolfs brother said, a grim smile on his face as he glanced at his companion. Pulling his limp captive’s cloak over her head, Stefan Westmoreland yanked it around her body, using it to pin her arms at her sides, then took the rope from his companion and tied it securely around Jenny’s middle. Finished, he picked up his human bundle and tossed it ignominiously over his horse, her derrière pointing skyward, then he swung up into the saddle behind her.


 Judith McNaught Historical Romances:

Let New York Times bestselling author Judith McNaught who “is in a class by herself” (USA TODAY) sweep you off your feet and into another time with her sensual, passionate, and spellbinding historical romance classics, featuring her “unique magic” (RT Book Reviews)! 


SEQUELS SERIES


 Once and Always

cover-onceandalways

Victoria Seaton, a blithe and fiercely independent orphan, leaves her home in America to travel across the vast Atlantic to claim her long-lost inheritance: a labyrinthine English estate named Wakefield. There she encounters her distant cousin, the notorious, proud, and mysterious Lord Jason Fielding. Drawn to his magnetic charisma, Victoria can’t help but suspect that like her, he harbors a dark and painful past. Neither Victoria or Jason are able to resist one another’s charm but, in a moment of blinding anguish, Victoria discovers the shocking truth that lays at the heart of their love—a love she had dreamed would triumph.

S&S | iBOOKS | AMAZON | B&N | GOOGLE PLAY


 Something Wonderful

cover-somethingwonderful

“Judith McNaught not only spins dreams but makes them come true” (RT Book Reviews) in this sensual and moving tale of a tempestuous marriage facing its ultimate test. Alexandra Lawrence, an innocent country girl, and Jordan Townsende, the rich and powerful Duke of Hawthorne, have always had a stormy relationship. But when she is swept into the endlessly fascinating world of London society, free-spirited Alexandra becomes ensnared in a tangled web of jealousy, revenge, and overwhelming passion. But behind her husband’s cold, haughty mask, there lives a tender, vital, sensual man…the man Alexandra married. Now, she will fight for his very life and the rapturous bond they alone can share.

S&S | iBOOKS | AMAZON | B&N | GOOGLE PLAY


Almost Heaven

cover-almostheaven

Elizabeth Cameron, the Countess of Havenhurst, possesses a rare gentleness and fierce courage to match her exquisite beauty. But her reputation is shattered when she is discovered in the arms of Ian Thornton, a notorious gambler and social outcast. A dangerously handsome man of secret wealth and mysterious lineage, Ian’s interest in Elizabeth may not be all that it seems. His voyage to her heart is fraught with intrigue, scandal, and a venomous revenge.  As a twisting path of secrets takes them from London’s drawing rooms to the awe-inspiring Scottish Highlands, Elizabeth must learn the truth: is Ian merely a ruthless fortune hunter at heart? “Well-developed main characters with a compelling mutual attraction give strength and charm to this romance set in nineteenth-century Great Britain” (Publishers Weekly).

S&S | iBOOKS | AMAZON | B&N | GOOGLE PLAY

 


WESTMORELAND DYNASTY SAGA


 Whitney, My Love

cover-whitneymylove$2.99 (Offer Valid November 1st – December 4th, 2016)

A saucy spitfire who has grown into a ravishing young woman, Whitney Stone returns from her triumphant time in Paris society to England. She plans on marrying her childhood sweetheart, only to discover she has been bargained away by her bankrupt father to the arrogant and alluring Clayton Westmoreland, the Duke of Claymore. Outraged, she defies her new lord. But even as his smoldering passion seduces her into a gathering storm of desire, Whitney cannot—will not—relinquish her dream of perfect love. Rich with emotion, brimming with laughter and tears, Whitney, My Love is “the ultimate love story, one you can dream about forever” (RT Book Reviews).

S&S | iBOOKS | AMAZON | B&N | GOOGLE PLAY


Until You

cover-untilyou

In this unforgettable romantic adventure, a teacher of wealthy young ladies finds her life changed forever when she travels from the wilds of America to elegant London. Sheridan Bromleigh is hired to accompany one of her students, heiress Charise Lancaster, to England to meet her fiancé. But when her charge elopes with a stranger, Sheridan wonders how she will ever explain it to Charise’s intended, Lord Burleton. Standing on the pier, Stephen Westmoreland, the Earl of Langford, assumes the young woman coming toward him is Charise Lancaster and reluctantly informs her of his inadvertent role in a fatal accident involving Lord Burleton the night before. And just as the young woman is about to speak, she steps into the path of a cargo net loaded with crates. Sheridan awakens in Westmoreland’s mansion with no memory of who she is; the only hint of her past is the puzzling fact that everyone calls her Miss Lancaster. All she truly knows is that she is falling in love with a handsome English earl, and that the life unfolding before her seems full of wondrous possibilities.

S&S | iBOOKS | AMAZON | B&N | GOOGLE PLAY


Miracles (in A Holiday of Love)

cover-miracles

Now available for the first time ever as an e-novella, New York Times bestselling author Judith McNaught’s short historical romanceMiracles—which ties up ends left open in the Westmoreland Dynasty Saga—is available for the first time ever as a standalone e-novella. In Regency London, world-weary lord Nicki du Ville receives an outrageous proposal from Julianna Skeffington, who is Sheridan Bromleigh’s charge from Until You.

S&S | iBOOKS | AMAZON | B&N | GOOGLE PLAY


Judith McNaught Contemporary Historical Romances:

Discover the sensual and sweeping power of love in New York Times bestselling author Judith McNaught’s contemporary romances that will make “you laugh, cry, and fall in love again” (RT Book Reviews)!


STAND-ALONES


Tender Triumph

cover-tendertriumph

On Friday, a sensuous stranger enters Katie’s life. By Sunday, her life is irrevocably changed forever.

Katie Connelly submerges her painful past in a promising career, an elegant apartment, and men she can keep at a distance. Yet something vital is missing from her life—until she meets proud, rugged Ramon Galverra. With his charm and his passionate nature, Ramon gives her a love she had never known. Still she is afraid to surrender her heart to this strong, willful, secretive man—a man from a different world, a man with a bold, uncertain future. Will Katie’s relationship with Ramon survive once the thrill of their simmering passion subsides?

S&S | iBOOKS | AMAZON | B&N | GOOGLE PLAY


Double Standards

cover-doublestandards

In the exclusive, glittering world of business superstars, Nick Sinclair is a legend. The ruggedly handsome president of Global Industries handles his business the way he handles his women—with charm, daring, and ruthless self-control. A man used to the very best, Nick hires Lauren Danner and assumes the proud beauty will soon be another easy conquest. But Lauren’s flashing wit and rare spirit dazzles him and slowly, against his will, he’s intrigued, challenged, and in love. Yet he doesn’t know that Lauren is living a lie and, trapped in a web of deceit, she fights her growing love for Nick. Her secret could destroy his fragile trust and the promise of life with the most compelling man she has ever met.

S&S | iBOOKS | AMAZON | B&N | GOOGLE PLAY


FOSTER SAGA


Remember When

cover-rememberwhen

When multinational tycoon Cole Harrison approaches her on a moonlit balcony at the White Orchid Charity Ball, Diana Foster has no idea how life-changing the night ahead will be. The most lavish social event of the Houston season had brought out Texas aristocracy in glittering array but Diana only agreed to attend to save face after reading about her fiancé leaving her for an Italian heiress in a sleazy gossip magazine. Her Beautiful Living magazine is her family’s success story, and Diana knows that as a single, childless, and suddenly unengaged woman, she is not living up to its lucrative image of upscale domestic tranquility. But when she spots the pride of Dallas billionaires, Cole Harrison, closing in on her with two crystal flutes and a bottle of champagne, she has no idea that he has ulterior motives for seducing her tonight. And he certainly has no idea that a match made in what he considers logic’s heaven might be headed straight for an unexpected, once-in-a-lifetime love. “Judith McNaught once again works her unique magic in this charming, sparkling romance” (RT Book Reviews, 4 stars).

S&S | iBOOKS | AMAZON | B&N | GOOGLE PLAY


 PARADISE SERIES


 Paradise

cover-paradise

“Judith McNaught comes close to an Edith Wharton edge” (The Chicago Tribune) in this stylish and fast-paced classic. Ruthless corporate raider Matthew Farrell is poised to move in on the legendary department store empire owned by Chicago’s renowned Bancroft family. In the glare of the media spotlight, it’s a stunning takeover that overshadows the electric chemistry between Matt, once a scruffy kid from steel town Indiana, and cool, sophisticated Meredith Bancroft. Their brief, ill-fated marriage sparked with thrilling sensuality but ended with a bitter betrayal. Now, locked in a battle that should be all business, dangerous temptations, and bittersweet memories are stirring their hearts. Will they risk everything for a passion too bold to be denied?

S&S | iBOOKS | AMAZON | B&N | GOOGLE PLAY


Perfect

cover-perfect

A rootless foster child, Julie Mathison has blossomed under the love showered upon her by her adoptive family. Now a lovely and vivacious young woman, she is a respected teacher in her small Texas town and is determined to give back all the kindness she has received, believing that nothing can ever shatter the perfect life she has fashioned. Zachary Benedict is an actor whose Academy Award-winning career was shattered when he was wrongly convicted of murdering his wife. After the tall, ruggedly handsome Zack escapes from a Texas prison, he abducts Julie and forces her to drive him to his Colorado mountain hideout. She’s outraged, cautious, and unable to ignore the instincts that whispers of his innocence. He’s cynical, wary, and increasingly attracted to her. Desire is about to capture them both in its fierce embrace but the journey to trust, true commitment, and proving Zack’s innocence is just beginning.“A mixture of virtue and passion that is almost—ahem—perfect” (Kirkus Reviews) this is a captivating tale that fans will adore.

S&S | iBOOKS | AMAZON | B&N | GOOGLE PLAY


Night Whispers

cover-nightwhispers

In this “exciting tale of loyalty, love, and danger” (Publishers Weekly), Sloan Reynolds, a small-town Florida policewoman, knows that her modest upbringing is a long way from the social whirl of Palm Beach, the world inhabited by her father and her sister, Paris. Total strangers to Sloan, they have never tried to contact her—until a sudden invitation arrives, to meet them and indulge in the Palm Beach social season. Reluctant to accept the long-overdue familial gesture, Sloan is convinced to visit when an FBI colleague informs her that her father and his associates are suspected of fraud, conspiracy, and murder. The only catch is she must hide her true profession from her family. Sloan is on top of her game until she meets Noah Maitland, a multinational corporate player and one of the FBI’s prime suspects. She finds herself powerfully attracted to him, against her deepest instincts. When a shocking murder shatters the seductive facade of the wealth and glamour surrounding her, Sloan must maneuver through a maze of deceit and passion in this superb and enthralling tale of breathtaking suspense.

S&S | iBOOKS | AMAZON | B&N | GOOGLE PLAY


Someone to Watch Over Me

cover-someonetowatchoverme

Leigh Kendall is relishing her stellar Broadway acting career in her marriage to Logan Manning, scion of an old New York family, when her husband finds the perfect mountain property for their dream house. But while driving upstate on a winter’s night, Leigh is run off the road in the midst of a blinding blizzard. When she awakes in the local hospital, seriously injured, the police inform her that her husband has mysteriously disappeared, and Leigh becomes the focus of their suspicions. The more she discovers about her husband and his business affairs, the less she realizes she knew about Logan Manning. Now, Leigh is heading deeper and deeper into unknown territory—where friends and enemies are impossible to distinguish, and the truth becomes the most terrifying weapon of all in this thrilling tale filled with unrelenting suspense, unforgettable characters, and powerful traces of greed, ambition, and desire. 

S&S | iBOOKS | AMAZON | B&N | GOOGLE PLAY


About the Author

Judith McNaught is the New York Times bestselling author who first soared to stardom with her stunning bestseller Whitney, My Love, and went on to win the hearts of millions of readers with Once and AlwaysSomething WonderfulA Kingdom of Dreams, Almost Heaven, ParadisePerfectUntil YouRemember WhenSomeone to Watch Over Me, the #1 bestseller Night Whispers, and other novels. There are more than thirty million copies of her books in print. She lives in Houston. Please visit her at JudithMcNaught.comand on Facebook at AuthorJudithMcNaught.

McNaught-E November! #Giveaway & ::Whitney My Love:: Excerpt

I am so excited to share with you that the fourteen Judith McNaught titles listed below are available for the first time in E-Book today, November 1st! If you previously read any of these amazing titles, revisiting them in E-Book is not “All for Naught,” as each E-Book will contain original, new content (a letter) from Judith McNaught.

Excerpts:

To celebrate this abundance of new material from Judith McNaught, we kick off McNaught-E November today with an excerpt for Whitney, My Love ($2.99 special price November 1st – December 4th, 2016). Please check back on McNaught-E Mondays (every Monday in November) to enjoy additional excerpts for the other thirteen E-Books.

 Giveaway

Want to win a promo code for EACH of these amazing 14 titles? For McNaught-E Cyber Monday (11/28) I will announce the winner of 14 promo codes, one promo code for each title. That’s right, one winner will get 14 promo codes for each of the books listed below! Enter to win today! 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

You can enter on all blogs on the tour listed below, but you can only win once.


 Judith McNaught Historical Romances:

Let New York Times bestselling author Judith McNaught who “is in a class by herself” (USA TODAY) sweep you off your feet and into another time with her sensual, passionate, and spellbinding historical romance classics, featuring her “unique magic” (RT Book Reviews)! 


SEQUELS SERIES


 Once and Always

cover-onceandalways

Victoria Seaton, a blithe and fiercely independent orphan, leaves her home in America to travel across the vast Atlantic to claim her long-lost inheritance: a labyrinthine English estate named Wakefield. There she encounters her distant cousin, the notorious, proud, and mysterious Lord Jason Fielding. Drawn to his magnetic charisma, Victoria can’t help but suspect that like her, he harbors a dark and painful past. Neither Victoria or Jason are able to resist one another’s charm but, in a moment of blinding anguish, Victoria discovers the shocking truth that lays at the heart of their love—a love she had dreamed would triumph.

S&S | iBOOKS | AMAZON | B&N | GOOGLE PLAY


 Something Wonderful

cover-somethingwonderful

“Judith McNaught not only spins dreams but makes them come true” (RT Book Reviews) in this sensual and moving tale of a tempestuous marriage facing its ultimate test. Alexandra Lawrence, an innocent country girl, and Jordan Townsende, the rich and powerful Duke of Hawthorne, have always had a stormy relationship. But when she is swept into the endlessly fascinating world of London society, free-spirited Alexandra becomes ensnared in a tangled web of jealousy, revenge, and overwhelming passion. But behind her husband’s cold, haughty mask, there lives a tender, vital, sensual man…the man Alexandra married. Now, she will fight for his very life and the rapturous bond they alone can share.

S&S | iBOOKS | AMAZON | B&N | GOOGLE PLAY


Almost Heaven

cover-almostheaven

Elizabeth Cameron, the Countess of Havenhurst, possesses a rare gentleness and fierce courage to match her exquisite beauty. But her reputation is shattered when she is discovered in the arms of Ian Thornton, a notorious gambler and social outcast. A dangerously handsome man of secret wealth and mysterious lineage, Ian’s interest in Elizabeth may not be all that it seems. His voyage to her heart is fraught with intrigue, scandal, and a venomous revenge.  As a twisting path of secrets takes them from London’s drawing rooms to the awe-inspiring Scottish Highlands, Elizabeth must learn the truth: is Ian merely a ruthless fortune hunter at heart? “Well-developed main characters with a compelling mutual attraction give strength and charm to this romance set in nineteenth-century Great Britain” (Publishers Weekly).

S&S | iBOOKS | AMAZON | B&N | GOOGLE PLAY

 


WESTMORELAND DYNASTY SAGA


 Whitney, My Love

cover-whitneymylove$2.99 (Offer Valid November 1st – December 4th, 2016)

A saucy spitfire who has grown into a ravishing young woman, Whitney Stone returns from her triumphant time in Paris society to England. She plans on marrying her childhood sweetheart, only to discover she has been bargained away by her bankrupt father to the arrogant and alluring Clayton Westmoreland, the Duke of Claymore. Outraged, she defies her new lord. But even as his smoldering passion seduces her into a gathering storm of desire, Whitney cannot—will not—relinquish her dream of perfect love. Rich with emotion, brimming with laughter and tears, Whitney, My Love is “the ultimate love story, one you can dream about forever” (RT Book Reviews).

S&S | iBOOKS | AMAZON | B&N | GOOGLE PLAY

Excerpt CHAPTER 1 EXCERPT!

Whitney, My Love
1As their elegant travelling chaise rocked and swayed along the rutted country road, Lady Anne Gilbert leaned her cheek against her husband’s shoulder and heaved a long, impatient sigh. “Another whole hour until we arrive, and already the suspense is positively gnawing at me. I keep wondering what Whitney will be like now that she’s grown up.”She lapsed into silence and gazed absently out the coach window at the lush, rolling English countryside covered with wild pink Foxglove and yellow Buttercups, trying to envision the niece she hadn’t seen in almost eleven years.“She’ll be pretty, just as her mother was. And she’ll have her mother’s smile, her gentleness, her sweet disposition . . .”Lord Edward Gilbert cast a skeptical glance at his wife. “Sweet disposition?” he echoed in amused disbelief. “That isn’t what her father said in his letter.”As a diplomat attached to the British Consulate in Paris, Lord Gilbert was a master of hints, evasions, innuendoes, and intrigues. But in his personal life, he preferred the refreshing alternative of blunt truth. “Allow me to refresh your memory,” he said, groping in his pockets and retrieving the letter from Whitney’s father. He perched his spectacles upon his nose, and ignoring his wife’s grimace, he began to read:

“ ‘Whitney’s manners are an outrage, her conduct is reprehensible. She is a willful hoyden who is the despair of everyone she knows and an embarrassment to me. I implore you to take her back to Paris with you, in the hope that you may have more success with the stubborn chit than I have had.’ ”

Edward chuckled. “Show me where it says she’s ‘sweet-tempered.’ ”

His wife shot him a peevish glance. “Martin Stone is a cold, unfeeling man who wouldn’t recognize gentleness and goodness if Whitney were made of nothing else! Only think of the way he shouted at her and sent her to her room right after my sister’s funeral.”

Edward recognized the mutinous set of his wife’s chin and put his arm around her shoulders in a gesture of conciliation. “I’m no fonder of the man than you are, but you must admit that, just having lost his young wife to an early grave, to have his daughter accuse him, in front of fifty people, of locking her mama in a box so she couldn’t escape had to be rather disconcerting.”

“But Whitney was scarcely five years old!” Anne protested heatedly.

“Agreed. But Martin was grieving. Besides, as I recall, it was not for that offense she was banished to her room. It was later, when everyone had gathered in the drawing room—when she stamped her foot and threatened to report us all to God if we didn’t release her mama at once.”

Anne smiled. “What spirit she had, Edward. I thought for a moment her little freckles were going to pop right off her nose. Admit it—she was marvelous, and you thought so too!”

“Well, yes,” Edward agreed sheepishly. “I rather thought she was.”

*  *  *

As the Gilbert chaise bore inexorably down on the Stone estate, a small knot of young people were waiting on the south lawn, impatiently looking toward the stable one hundred yards away. A petite blonde smoothed her pink ruffled skirts and sighed in a way that displayed a very fetching dimple. “Whatever do you suppose Whitney is planning to do?” she inquired of the handsome light-haired man beside her.

Glancing down into Elizabeth Ashton’s wide blue eyes, Paul Sevarin smiled a smile that Whitney would have forfeited both her feet to see focused on herself. “Try to be patient, Elizabeth,” he said.

“I’m sure none of us have the faintest idea what she is up to, Elizabeth,” Margaret Merryton said tartly. “But you can be perfectly certain it will be something foolish and outrageous.”

“Margaret, we’re all Whitney’s guests today,” Paul chided.

“I don’t know why you should defend her, Paul,” Margaret argued spitefully. “Whitney is creating a horrid scandal chasing after you, and you know it!”

“Margaret!” Paul snapped. “I said that was enough.” Drawing a long, irritated breath, Paul Sevarin frowned darkly at his gleaming boots. Whitney had been making a spectacle of herself chasing after him, and damned near everyone for fifteen miles was talking about it.

At first he had been mildly amused to find himself the object of a fifteen-year-old’s languishing looks and adoring smiles, but lately Whitney had begun pursuing him with the determination and tactical brilliance of a female Napoleon Bonaparte.

If he rode off the grounds of his estate, he could almost depend on meeting her en route to his destination. It was as if she had some lookout point from which she watched his every move, and Paul no longer found her childish infatuation with him either harmless or amusing.

Three weeks ago, she had followed him to a local inn. While he was pleasantly contemplating accepting the innkeeper’s daughter’s whispered invitation to meet her later in the hayloft, he’d glanced up and seen a familiar pair of bright green eyes peeping at him through the window. Slamming his tankard of ale on the table, he’d marched outside, grabbed Whitney by the elbow, and unceremoniously deposited her on her horse, tersely reminding her that her father would be searching for her if she wasn’t home by nightfall.

He’d stalked back inside and ordered another tankard, but when the innkeeper’s daughter brushed her breasts suggestively against his arm while refilling his ale and Paul had a sudden vision of himself lying entangled with her voluptuous naked body, a pair of green eyes peered in through yet another window. He’d tossed enough coins on the planked wooden table to mollify the startled girl’s wounded sensibilities and left—only to encounter Miss Stone again on his way home.

He was beginning to feel like a hunted man whose every move was under surveillance, and his temper was strained to the breaking point. And yet, Paul thought irritably, here he was standing in the April sun, trying for some obscure reason to protect Whitney from the criticism she richly deserved.

A pretty girl, several years younger than the others in the group, glanced at Paul. “I think I’ll go and see what’s keeping Whitney,” said Emily Williams. She hurried across the lawn and along the whitewashed fence adjoining the stable. Shoving open the big double doors, Emily looked down the wide gloomy corridor lined with stalls on both sides. “Where is Miss Whitney?” she asked the stableboy who was currying a sorrel gelding.

“In there, Miss.” Even in the muted light, Emily saw his face suffuse with color as he nodded toward a door adjacent to the tack room.

With a puzzled glance at the flushing stableboy, Emily tapped lightly on the designated door and stepped inside, then froze at the sight that greeted her: Whitney Allison Stone’s long legs were encased in coarse brown britches that clung startlingly to her slender hips and were held in place at her narrow waist with a length of rope. Above the riding britches she wore a thin chemise.

“You surely aren’t going out there dressed like that?” Emily gasped.

Whitney fired an amused glance over her shoulder at her scandalized friend. “Of course not. I’m going to wear a shirt, too.”

“B-but why?” Emily persisted desperately.

“Because I don’t think it would be very proper to appear in my chemise, silly,” Whitney cheerfully replied, snatching the stableboy’s clean shirt off a peg and plunging her arms into the sleeves.

“P-proper? Proper?” Emily sputtered. “It’s completely improper for you to be wearing men’s britches, and you know it!”

“True. But I can’t very well ride that horse without a saddle and risk having my skirts blow up around my neck, now can I?” Whitney breezily argued while she twisted her long unruly hair into a knot and pinned it at her nape.

“Ride without a saddle? You can’t mean you’re going to ride astride—your father will disown you if you do that again.”

“I am not going to ride astride. Although,” Whitney giggled, “I can’t understand why men are allowed to straddle a horse, while we—who are supposed to be the weaker sex—must hang off the side, praying for our lives.”

Emily refused to be diverted. “Then what are you going to do?”

“I never realized what an inquisitive young lady you are, Miss Williams,” Whitney teased. “But to answer your question, I am going to ride standing on the horse’s back. I saw it done at the fair, and I’ve been practicing ever since. Then, when Paul sees how well I do, he’ll—”

“He’ll think you have lost your mind, Whitney Stone! He’ll think that you haven’t a grain of sense or propriety, and that you’re only trying something else to gain his attention.” Seeing the stubborn set of her friend’s chin, Emily switched her tactics. “Whitney, please—think of your father. What will he say if he finds out?”

Whitney hesitated, feeling the force of her father’s unwaveringly cold stare as if it were this minute focused upon her. She drew a long breath, then expelled it slowly as she glanced out the small window at the group waiting on the lawn. Wearily, she said, “Father will say that, as usual, I have disappointed him, that I am a disgrace to him and to my mother’s memory, that he is happy she didn’t live to see what I have become. Then he will spend half an hour telling me what a perfect lady Elizabeth Ashton is, and that I ought to be like her.”

“Well, if you really wanted to impress Paul, you could try . . .”

Whitney clenched her hands in frustration. “I have tried to be like Elizabeth. I wear those disgusting ruffled dresses that make me feel like a pastel mountain, I’ve practiced going for hours without saying a word, and I’ve fluttered my eyelashes until my eyelids go limp.”

Emily bit her lip to hide her smile at Whitney’s unflattering description of Elizabeth Ashton’s demure mannerisms, then she sighed. “I’ll go and tell the others that you’ll be right out.”

Gasps of outrage and derisive sniggers greeted Whitney’s appearance on the lawn when she led the horse toward the spectators. “She’ll fall off,” one of the girls predicted, “if God doesn’t strike her dead first for wearing those britches.”

Ignoring the impulse to snap out a biting retort, Whitney raised her head in a gesture of haughty disdain, then stole a look at Paul. His handsome face was taut with disapproval as his gaze moved from her bare feet, up her trousered legs, to her face. Inwardly, Whitney faltered at his obvious displeasure, but she swung resolutely onto the back of the waiting horse.

The gelding moved into its practiced canter, and Whitney worked herself upward, first crouching with arms outstretched for balance, then slowly easing herself into a standing position. Around and around they went and, although Whitney was in constant terror of falling off and looking like a fool, she managed to appear competent and graceful.

As she completed the fourth circle, she let her eyes slant to the faces passing on her left, registering their looks of shock and derision, while she searched for the only face that mattered. Paul was partially in the tree’s shadow, and Elizabeth Ashton was clinging to his arm, but as Whitney passed, she saw the slow, reluctant smile tugging at the corner of his mouth, and triumph unfurled like a banner in her heart. By the time she came around again, Paul was grinning broadly at her. Whitney’s spirits soared, and suddenly all the weeks of practice, the sore muscles and bruises, seemed worthwhile.

*  *  *

At the window of the second floor drawing room overlooking the south lawn, Martin Stone stared down at his performing daughter. Behind him, the butler announced that Lord and Lady Gilbert had arrived. Too enraged at his daughter to speak, Martin greeted his sister-in-law and her husband with a clenched jaw and curt nod.

“How—how nice to see you again after so many years, Martin,” Lady Anne lied graciously. When he remained icily silent, she said, “Where is Whitney? We’re so anxious to see her.”

Martin finally recovered his voice. “See her?” he snapped savagely. “Madam, you have only to look out this window.”

Bewildered, Anne did as he said. Below on the lawn there stood a group of young people watching a slender boy balancing beautifully on a cantering horse. “What a clever young man,” she said, smiling.

Her simple remark seemed to drive Martin Stone from frozen rage to frenzied action as he swung on his heel and marched toward the door. “If you wish to meet your niece, come with me. Or, I can spare you the humiliation, and bring her here to you.”

With an exasperated look at Martin’s back, Anne tucked her hand in her husband’s arm and together they followed Martin downstairs and outside.

As they approached the group of young people, Anne heard murmurings and laughter, and she was vaguely aware that there was something malicious in the tone, but she was too busy scanning the young ladies’ faces, looking for Whitney, to pay much heed to the fleeting impression. She mentally discarded two blondes and a redhead, quizzically studied a petite, blue-eyed brunette, then glanced helplessly at the young man beside her. “Pardon me, I am Lady Gilbert, Whitney’s aunt. Could you tell me where she is?”

Paul Sevarin grinned at her, half in sympathy and half in amusement. “Your niece is on the horse, Lady Gilbert,” he said.

“On the—” Lord Gilbert choked.

From her delicate perch atop the horse, Whitney’s eyes followed her father’s progress as he bore down on her with long, rapid strides. “Please don’t make a scene, Father,” she implored when he was within earshot.

I make a scene?” he roared furiously. Snatching the halter, he brought the cantering horse around so sharply that he jerked it from beneath her. Whitney hit the ground on her feet, lost her balance, and ended up half-sprawling. As she scampered up, her father caught her arm in a ruthless grip and hauled her over toward the spectators. “This—this thing,” he said, thrusting her forward toward her aunt and uncle, “I am mortified to tell you is your niece.”

Whitney heard the smattering of giggles as the group quickly disbanded, and she felt her face grow hot with shame. “How do you do, Aunt Gilbert? Uncle Gilbert?” With one eye on Paul’s broad-shouldered, retreating form, Whitney reached mechanically for her nonexistent skirt, realized it was missing, and executed a comical curtsy without it. She saw the frown on her aunt’s face and put her chin up defensively. “You may be sure that for the week you are here, I shall endeavor not to make a freak of myself again, Aunt.”

“For the week that we are here?” her aunt gasped, but Whitney was preoccupied watching Paul help Elizabeth into his curricle and didn’t notice the surprise in her aunt’s voice.

“Good-bye, Paul,” she called, waving madly. He turned and raised his arm in silent farewell.

Laughter drifted back as the curricles bowled down the drive, carrying their occupants off to a picnic or some other gay and wonderful activity, to which Whitney was never invited because she was too young.

Following Whitney toward the house, Anne was a mass of conflicting emotions. She was embarrassed for Whitney, furious with Martin Stone for humiliating the girl in front of the other young people, somewhat dazed by the sight of her own niece cavorting on the back of a horse, wearing men’s britches . . . and utterly astonished to discover that Whitney, whose mother had been only passably pretty, showed promise of becoming a genuine beauty.

She was too thin right now, but even in disgrace Whitney’s shoulders were straight, her walk naturally graceful and faintly provocative. Anne smiled to herself at the gently rounded hips displayed to almost immoral advantage by the coarse brown trousers, the slender waist that would require no subterfuge to make it appear smaller, eyes that seemed to change from sea-green to deep jade beneath their fringe of long, sooty lashes. And that hair—piles and piles of rich mahogany brown! All it needed was a good trimming and brushing until it shone; Anne’s fingers positively itched to go to work on it. Mentally she was already styling it in ways to highlight Whitney’s striking eyes and high cheekbones. Off her face, Anne decided, piled at the crown with tendrils at the ears, or pulled straight back off the forehead to fall in gentle waves down her back.

As soon as they entered the house, Whitney mumbled an excuse and fled to her room where she flopped dejectedly into a chair and morosely contemplated the humiliating scene Paul had just witnessed, with her father jerking her ignominiously off her horse and then shouting at her. No doubt her aunt and uncle were as horrified and revolted by her behavior as her father had been, and her cheeks burned with shame just thinking of how they must despise her already.

“Whitney?” Emily whispered, creeping into the bedroom and cautiously closing the door behind her. “I came up the back way. Is your father angry?”

“Cross as crabs,” Whitney confirmed, staring down at her trousered legs. “I suppose I ruined everything today, didn’t I? Everyone was laughing at me, and Paul heard them. Now that Elizabeth is seventeen, he’s bound to offer for her before he ever has a chance to realize that he loves me.

“You?” Emily repeated dazedly. “Whitney Stone, Paul avoids you like the plague, and well you know it! And who could blame him, after the mishaps you’ve treated him to in the last year?”

“There haven’t been so many as all that,” Whitney protested, but she squirmed in her chair.

“No? What about that trick you played on him on All Soul’s—darting out in front of his carriage, shrieking like a banshee, and pretending to be a ghost, terrifying his horses.”

Whitney flushed. “He wasn’t so very angry. And it isn’t as if the carriage was destroyed. It only broke a shaft when it overturned.”

“And Paul’s leg,” Emily pointed out.

“But that mended perfectly,” Whitney persisted, her mind already leaping from past debacles to future possibilities. She surged to her feet and began to pace slowly back and forth. “There has to be a way—but short of abducting him, I—” A mischievous smile lit up her dust-streaked face as she swung around so quickly that Emily pressed back into her chair. “Emily, one thing is infinitely clear: Paul does not yet know that he cares for me. Correct?”

“He doesn’t care a snap for you is more like it,” Emily replied warily.

“Therefore, it would be safe to say that he is unlikely to offer for me without some sort of added incentive. Correct?”

“You couldn’t make him offer for you at the point of a gun, and you know it. Besides, you aren’t old enough to be betrothed, even if—”

“Under what circumstances,” Whitney interrupted triumphantly, “is a gentleman obliged to offer for a lady?”

“I can’t think of any. Except of course, if he has compromised her—absolutely not! Whitney, whatever you’re planning now, I won’t help.”

Sighing, Whitney flopped back into her chair, stretching her legs out in front of her. An irreverent giggle escaped her as she considered the sheer audacity of her last idea. “If only I could have pulled it off . . . you know, loosened the wheel on Paul’s carriage so that it would fall off later, and then asked him to drive me somewhere. Then, by the time we walked back, or help arrived, it would be late at night, and he would have to offer for me.” Oblivious to Emily’s scandalized expression, Whitney continued, “Just think what a wonderful turnabout that would have been on a tired old theme: Young Lady abducts Gentleman and ruins hisreputation so that she is forced to marry him to set things aright! What a novel that could have made,” she added, rather impressed with her own ingenuity.

“I’m leaving,” Emily said. She marched to the door, then she hesitated and turned back to Whitney. “Your aunt and uncle saw everything. What are you going to say to them about those trousers and the horse?”

Whitney’s face clouded. “I’m not going to say anything, it wouldn’t help—but for the rest of the time they are here, I’m going to be the most demure, refined, delicate female you’ve ever seen.” She saw Emily’s dubious look and added, “Also I intend to stay out of sight except at mealtimes. I think I’ll be able to act like Elizabeth for three hours a day.”

*  *  *

Whitney kept her promise. At dinner that night, after her uncle’s hair-raising tale of their life in Beirut where he was attached to the British Consulate, she murmured only, “How very informative, Uncle,” even though she was positively burning to ply him with questions. At the end of her aunt’s description of Paris and the thrill of its gay social life, Whitney murmured, “How very informative, Aunt.” The moment the meal was finished, she excused herself and vanished.

After three days, Whitney’s efforts to be either demure or absent had, in fact, been so successful that Anne was beginning to wonder whether she had only imagined the spark of fire she’d glimpsed the day of their arrival, or if the girl had some aversion to Edward and herself.

On the fourth day, when Whitney breakfasted before the rest of the household was up, and then vanished, Anne set out to discover the truth. She searched the house, but Whitney was not indoors. She was not in the garden, nor had she taken a horse from the stable, Anne was informed by a groom. Squinting into the sunlight, Anne looked around her, trying to imagine where a fifteen-year-old would go to spend all day.

Off on the crest of a hill overlooking the estate, she spied a patch of bright yellow. “There you are!” she breathed, opening her parasol and striking out across the lawn.

Whitney didn’t see her aunt coming until it was too late to escape. Wishing she had found a better place to hide, she tried to think of some innocuous subject on which she could converse without appearing ignorant. Clothes? Personally, she knew nothing of fashions and cared even less; she looked hopeless no matter what she wore. After all, what could clothes do to improve the looks of a female who had cat’s eyes, mud-colored hair, and freckles on the bridge of her nose? Besides that, she was too tall, too thin, and if the good Lord intended for her ever to have a bosom, it was very late in making its appearance.

Weak-kneed, her chest heaving with each labored breath, Anne topped the steep rise and collapsed unceremoniously onto the blanket beside Whitney. “I-I thought I’d take . . . a nice stroll,” Anne lied. When she caught her breath, she noticed the leather-bound book lying face down on the blanket and, seizing on books as a topic of conversation, she said, “Is that a romantic novel?”

“No, Aunt,” Whitney demurely uttered, carefully placing her hand over the title of the book to conceal it from her aunt’s eyes.

“I’m told most young ladies adore romantic novels,” Anne tried again.

“Yes, Aunt,” Whitney agreed politely.

“I read one once but I didn’t like it,” Anne remarked, her mind groping for some other topic that might draw Whitney into conversation. “I cannot abide a heroine who is too perfect, nor one who is forever swooning.”

Whitney was so astonished to discover that she wasn’t the only female in all of England who didn’t devour the insipid things, that she instantly forgot her resolution to speak only in monosyllables. “And when the heroines aren’t swooning,” she added, her entire face lighting up with laughter, “they are lying about with hartshorn bottles up their nostrils, moping and pining away for some faint-hearted gentleman who hasn’t the gumption to offer for them, or else has already offered for some other, unworthy female. I could never just lie there doing nothing, knowing the man I loved was falling in love with a horrid person.” Whitney darted a glance at her aunt to see if she was shocked, but her aunt was regarding her with an unexplainable smile lurking at the corners of her eyes. “Aunt Anne, could you actually care for a man who dropped to his knees and said, ‘Oh, Clarabel, your lips are the petals of a red rose and your eyes are two stars from the heavens’?” With a derisive snort, Whitney finished, “That is where I would have leapt for the hartshorn!”

“And so would I,” Anne said, laughing. “What do you read then, if not atrocious romantic novels?” She pried the book from beneath Whitney’s flattened hand and stared at the gold-embossed title. “The Iliad?” she asked in astonished disbelief. The breeze ruffled the pages, and Anne’s amazed gaze ricocheted from the print to Whitney’s tense face. “But this is in Greek! Surely you don’t read Greek?”

Whitney nodded, her face flushed with mortification. Now her aunt would think her a bluestocking—another black mark against her. “Also Latin, Italian, French, and even some German,” she confessed.

“Good God,” Anne breathed. “How did you ever learn all that?”

“Despite what Father thinks, Aunt Anne, I am only foolish, not stupid, and I plagued him to death until he allowed me tutors in languages and history.” Whitney fell silent, remembering how she’d once believed that if

she applied herself to her studies, if she could become more like a son, her father might love her.

“You sound ashamed of your accomplishments, when you should be proud.”

Whitney gazed out at her home, nestled in the valley below. “I’m sure you know everyone thinks it’s a waste of time to educate a female in these things. And anyway, I haven’t a feminine accomplishment to my name. I can’t sew a stitch that doesn’t look as if it were done blindfolded, and when I sing, the dogs down at the stable begin to howl. Mr. Twittsworthy, our local music instructor, told my father that my playing of the pianoforte gives him hives. I can’t do a thing that girls ought to do, and what’s more, I particularly detest doing them.”

Whitney knew her aunt would now take her in complete dislike, just as everyone else always did, but it was better this way because at least she could stop dreading the inevitable. She looked at Lady Anne, her green eyes wide and vulnerable. “I’m certain Papa has told you all about me. I’m a terrible disappointment to him. He wants me to be dainty and demure and quiet, like Elizabeth Ashton. I try to be, but I can’t seem to do it.”

Anne’s heart melted for the lovely, spirited, bewildered child her sister had borne. Laying her hand against Whitney’s cheek, she said tenderly, “Your father wants a daughter who is like a cameo—delicate, pale, and easily shaped. Instead, he has a daughter who is a diamond, full of sparkle and life, and he doesn’t know what to do with her. Instead of appreciating the value and rarity of his jewel—instead of polishing her a bit and then letting her shine—he persists in trying to shape her into a common cameo.”

Whitney was more inclined to think of herself as a chunk of coal, but rather than disillusion her aunt, she kept silent. After her aunt left, Whitney picked up her book, but soon her mind wandered from the printed page to dreamy thoughts of Paul.

That night when she came down to the dining room, the atmosphere in the room was strangely charged, and no one noticed her sauntering toward the table. “When do you plan to tell her she’s coming back to France with us, Martin?” her uncle demanded angrily. “Or is it your intention to wait until the day we leave and then just toss the child into the coach with us?”

The world tilted crazily, and for one horrible moment, Whitney thought she was going to be sick. She stopped, trying to steady her shaking limbs, and swallowed back the aching lump in her throat. “Am I going somewhere, Father?” she asked, trying to sound calm and indifferent.

They all turned and stared, and her father’s face tightened into lines of impatience and annoyance. “To France,” he replied abruptly. “To live with your aunt and uncle, who are going to try to make a lady out of you.”

Carefully avoiding meeting anyone’s eyes, lest she break down then and there, Whitney slid into her chair at the table. “Have you informed my aunt and uncle of the risk they are taking?” she asked, concentrating all her strength on preventing her father from seeing what he had just done to her heart. She looked coldly at her aunt and uncle’s guilty, embarrassed faces. “Father may have neglected to mention you’re risking disgrace by welcoming me into your home. As he will tell you, I’ve a hideous disposition, I’m rag-mannered, and I haven’t a trace of polite conversation.”

Her aunt was watching her with naked pity, but her father’s expression was stony. “Oh Papa,” she whispered brokenly, “do you really despise me this much? Do you hate me so much that you have to send me out of your sight?” Her eyes swimming with unshed tears, Whitney stood up. “If you . . . will excuse me . . . I’m not very hungry this evening.”

“How could you!” Anne cried when she left, rising from her own chair and glaring furiously at Martin Stone. “You are the most heartless, unfeeling—it will be a pleasure to remove that child from your clutches. How she has survived this long is a testimony to her strength. I’m sure I could never have done so well.”

“You refine too much upon her words, Madam,” Martin said icily. “I assure you that what has her looking so distraught is not the prospect of being parted from me. I have merely put a premature end to her plans to continue making a fool of herself over Paul Sevarin.”


 A Kingdom of Dreams

cover-akingdomofdreams

Abducted from her convent school, headstrong Scottish beauty Jennifer Merrick does not easily surrender to Royce Westmoreland, Duke of Claymore. Known as “The Wolf,” his very name strikes terror in the hearts of his enemies. But proud Jennifer will have nothing to do with the fierce English warrior who holds her captive, no matter what he threatens. Boldly she challenges his will—until the night he takes her in his powerful embrace, awakening in her an irresistible hunger. Suddenly Jennifer finds herself ensnared in a bewildering and seductive web of pride, passion, and overwhelming love. This beloved tale about two defiant hearts clashing in a furious battle of wills in the glorious age of chivalry “will stay in your heart forever and be a classic on your shelves” (RT Book Reviews, Top Pick).

S&S | iBOOKS | AMAZON | B&N | GOOGLE PLAY


Until You

cover-untilyou

In this unforgettable romantic adventure, a teacher of wealthy young ladies finds her life changed forever when she travels from the wilds of America to elegant London. Sheridan Bromleigh is hired to accompany one of her students, heiress Charise Lancaster, to England to meet her fiancé. But when her charge elopes with a stranger, Sheridan wonders how she will ever explain it to Charise’s intended, Lord Burleton. Standing on the pier, Stephen Westmoreland, the Earl of Langford, assumes the young woman coming toward him is Charise Lancaster and reluctantly informs her of his inadvertent role in a fatal accident involving Lord Burleton the night before. And just as the young woman is about to speak, she steps into the path of a cargo net loaded with crates. Sheridan awakens in Westmoreland’s mansion with no memory of who she is; the only hint of her past is the puzzling fact that everyone calls her Miss Lancaster. All she truly knows is that she is falling in love with a handsome English earl, and that the life unfolding before her seems full of wondrous possibilities.

S&S | iBOOKS | AMAZON | B&N | GOOGLE PLAY


Miracles (in A Holiday of Love)

cover-miracles

Now available for the first time ever as an e-novella, New York Times bestselling author Judith McNaught’s short historical romanceMiracles—which ties up ends left open in the Westmoreland Dynasty Saga—is available for the first time ever as a standalone e-novella. In Regency London, world-weary lord Nicki du Ville receives an outrageous proposal from Julianna Skeffington, who is Sheridan Bromleigh’s charge from Until You.

S&S | iBOOKS | AMAZON | B&N | GOOGLE PLAY


Judith McNaught Contemporary Historical Romances:

Discover the sensual and sweeping power of love in New York Times bestselling author Judith McNaught’s contemporary romances that will make “you laugh, cry, and fall in love again” (RT Book Reviews)!


STAND-ALONES


Tender Triumph

cover-tendertriumph

On Friday, a sensuous stranger enters Katie’s life. By Sunday, her life is irrevocably changed forever.

Katie Connelly submerges her painful past in a promising career, an elegant apartment, and men she can keep at a distance. Yet something vital is missing from her life—until she meets proud, rugged Ramon Galverra. With his charm and his passionate nature, Ramon gives her a love she had never known. Still she is afraid to surrender her heart to this strong, willful, secretive man—a man from a different world, a man with a bold, uncertain future. Will Katie’s relationship with Ramon survive once the thrill of their simmering passion subsides?

S&S | iBOOKS | AMAZON | B&N | GOOGLE PLAY


Double Standards

cover-doublestandards

In the exclusive, glittering world of business superstars, Nick Sinclair is a legend. The ruggedly handsome president of Global Industries handles his business the way he handles his women—with charm, daring, and ruthless self-control. A man used to the very best, Nick hires Lauren Danner and assumes the proud beauty will soon be another easy conquest. But Lauren’s flashing wit and rare spirit dazzles him and slowly, against his will, he’s intrigued, challenged, and in love. Yet he doesn’t know that Lauren is living a lie and, trapped in a web of deceit, she fights her growing love for Nick. Her secret could destroy his fragile trust and the promise of life with the most compelling man she has ever met.

S&S | iBOOKS | AMAZON | B&N | GOOGLE PLAY


FOSTER SAGA


Remember When

cover-rememberwhen

When multinational tycoon Cole Harrison approaches her on a moonlit balcony at the White Orchid Charity Ball, Diana Foster has no idea how life-changing the night ahead will be. The most lavish social event of the Houston season had brought out Texas aristocracy in glittering array but Diana only agreed to attend to save face after reading about her fiancé leaving her for an Italian heiress in a sleazy gossip magazine. Her Beautiful Living magazine is her family’s success story, and Diana knows that as a single, childless, and suddenly unengaged woman, she is not living up to its lucrative image of upscale domestic tranquility. But when she spots the pride of Dallas billionaires, Cole Harrison, closing in on her with two crystal flutes and a bottle of champagne, she has no idea that he has ulterior motives for seducing her tonight. And he certainly has no idea that a match made in what he considers logic’s heaven might be headed straight for an unexpected, once-in-a-lifetime love. “Judith McNaught once again works her unique magic in this charming, sparkling romance” (RT Book Reviews, 4 stars).

S&S | iBOOKS | AMAZON | B&N | GOOGLE PLAY


 PARADISE SERIES


 Paradise

cover-paradise

“Judith McNaught comes close to an Edith Wharton edge” (The Chicago Tribune) in this stylish and fast-paced classic. Ruthless corporate raider Matthew Farrell is poised to move in on the legendary department store empire owned by Chicago’s renowned Bancroft family. In the glare of the media spotlight, it’s a stunning takeover that overshadows the electric chemistry between Matt, once a scruffy kid from steel town Indiana, and cool, sophisticated Meredith Bancroft. Their brief, ill-fated marriage sparked with thrilling sensuality but ended with a bitter betrayal. Now, locked in a battle that should be all business, dangerous temptations, and bittersweet memories are stirring their hearts. Will they risk everything for a passion too bold to be denied?

S&S | iBOOKS | AMAZON | B&N | GOOGLE PLAY


Perfect

cover-perfect

A rootless foster child, Julie Mathison has blossomed under the love showered upon her by her adoptive family. Now a lovely and vivacious young woman, she is a respected teacher in her small Texas town and is determined to give back all the kindness she has received, believing that nothing can ever shatter the perfect life she has fashioned. Zachary Benedict is an actor whose Academy Award-winning career was shattered when he was wrongly convicted of murdering his wife. After the tall, ruggedly handsome Zack escapes from a Texas prison, he abducts Julie and forces her to drive him to his Colorado mountain hideout. She’s outraged, cautious, and unable to ignore the instincts that whispers of his innocence. He’s cynical, wary, and increasingly attracted to her. Desire is about to capture them both in its fierce embrace but the journey to trust, true commitment, and proving Zack’s innocence is just beginning.“A mixture of virtue and passion that is almost—ahem—perfect” (Kirkus Reviews) this is a captivating tale that fans will adore.

S&S | iBOOKS | AMAZON | B&N | GOOGLE PLAY


Night Whispers

cover-nightwhispers

In this “exciting tale of loyalty, love, and danger” (Publishers Weekly), Sloan Reynolds, a small-town Florida policewoman, knows that her modest upbringing is a long way from the social whirl of Palm Beach, the world inhabited by her father and her sister, Paris. Total strangers to Sloan, they have never tried to contact her—until a sudden invitation arrives, to meet them and indulge in the Palm Beach social season. Reluctant to accept the long-overdue familial gesture, Sloan is convinced to visit when an FBI colleague informs her that her father and his associates are suspected of fraud, conspiracy, and murder. The only catch is she must hide her true profession from her family. Sloan is on top of her game until she meets Noah Maitland, a multinational corporate player and one of the FBI’s prime suspects. She finds herself powerfully attracted to him, against her deepest instincts. When a shocking murder shatters the seductive facade of the wealth and glamour surrounding her, Sloan must maneuver through a maze of deceit and passion in this superb and enthralling tale of breathtaking suspense.

S&S | iBOOKS | AMAZON | B&N | GOOGLE PLAY


Someone to Watch Over Me

cover-someonetowatchoverme

Leigh Kendall is relishing her stellar Broadway acting career in her marriage to Logan Manning, scion of an old New York family, when her husband finds the perfect mountain property for their dream house. But while driving upstate on a winter’s night, Leigh is run off the road in the midst of a blinding blizzard. When she awakes in the local hospital, seriously injured, the police inform her that her husband has mysteriously disappeared, and Leigh becomes the focus of their suspicions. The more she discovers about her husband and his business affairs, the less she realizes she knew about Logan Manning. Now, Leigh is heading deeper and deeper into unknown territory—where friends and enemies are impossible to distinguish, and the truth becomes the most terrifying weapon of all in this thrilling tale filled with unrelenting suspense, unforgettable characters, and powerful traces of greed, ambition, and desire. 

S&S | iBOOKS | AMAZON | B&N | GOOGLE PLAY


About the Author 

Judith McNaught is the New York Times bestselling author who first soared to stardom with her stunning bestseller Whitney, My Love, and went on to win the hearts of millions of readers with Once and AlwaysSomething WonderfulA Kingdom of Dreams, Almost Heaven, ParadisePerfectUntil YouRemember WhenSomeone to Watch Over Me, the #1 bestseller Night Whispers, and other novels. There are more than thirty million copies of her books in print. She lives in Houston. Please visit her at JudithMcNaught.comand on Facebook at AuthorJudithMcNaught.

Blog Tour:

*****Harlequin Junkie: Spotlight Q&A with Judith McNaught!

A Midlife Wife

Agents of Romance

Alpha Heroes

Always Reviewing

Art, Books & Coffee

Black ‘N Gold Girl’s Book Spot

Books and Boys Book Blog

Books, Movies, Reviews! Oh My!

Celticlady’s Reviews

Dark Faerie Tales

Dear Author

Dew On The Kudzu

Dirty Girl Romance

Feeding My Addiction Book Reviews

KT Book Reviews

Live to Read

Mrs. Leif’s Two Fangs About It

Poof Books

Romancing the Readers

Romantic Reads and Such

Stephanie’s Book Reports

Temppatt

The Book Enthusiast

The Qwillery

The Romance Reviews

Treat Yourself With Books

Undeniably Book Nerdy

Wrapped Up In Reading

WTF Are You Reading?

Spotlight & Excerpt: The Playbook by Kelly Elliot

playbook-0-days-banner-1THE PLAYBOOK
Genre:
Contemporary Romance
Author: Kelly Elliott
Release Day: Sept 13, 2016add-to-goodreads-button-2

playbook_amazon

My life revolved around two things. Football and my cock. And not necessarily in that order.

Being the head football coach for a top university in Texas had its ups and its downs.

The ups? Endless women to f*ck.

The downs? The politics that came with the job.

From the moment Aubrey Cain walked into my office, she turned my world upside down. Being forced to have her follow me around for a month was going to be a pain in the ass. Especially since I couldn’t keep my eyes off of her.

The best I’d hoped to come out of this was a few nights with her in my bed. I never imagined she’d be the game changer.

Brett Owens was my assignment.

Head football coach for a top college, bad boy reputation, short temper, and handsome good looks should have scared me off. But I was tougher than that.

From the first words out of his obnoxious, dirty-talking mouth, I knew it was going to be a long month. It wasn’t five minutes after meeting him, he hit on me. If only I had known his blue eyes would haunt my dreams and awaken a desire inside of me I never knew existed.

This was business. There was no way I would be tempted by him no matter how good looking he was or how many things he whispered in my ear.

He was only supposed to be my assignment. Not the man who threatened to destroy both my heart and my career. I would follow along with his playbook for now. But who would end up winning was anyone’s guess.

The Playbook is a stand-alone novel.

Buy LinksAMAZON playbook-teaser-2-1

Excerpt

Reaching into my brief case, I took out my notebook that I had already filled with research on Brett and the university college program.I flipped through the endless pages of notes until I found a blank page.

“So, I’m assuming since it’s spring training, I’ll be granted full access to the stadium.” Peeking up at Brett, I added, “That includes the locker rooms.”

His jaw muscles flexed and I couldn’t help but smile. “I’d like to really observe you, Mr. Owens, for the first week or two here at work. Really get an understanding of your work habits and ethics with the team and, of course, your habits away from the team as well.”

His lips parted to say something, but Mr. Stevenson coughed and Brett shut his mouth.

“This piece is going to be about getting to know Brett Owens. Three-time national championship winner. Youngest head football coach in college football, and rumored ladies’ man.”

“What?” Brett gasped, nearly chocking on his own spit.

I shrugged and flipped through my notes where I found a reference to picture in People magazine.

“Yes, here it is. A picture of you with two women on your arms exiting a bar in downtown Austin. I believe it was on New Year’s Eve.” I held it up for him to see.

His eyes narrowed and I swear they turned black. “What in the hell do you have written down in that book?”

I pointed to my notebook, while keeping my focus fixed on him. “This notebook?”

When his hand combed through his hair, I felt a tug in my lower stomach that I quickly pushed aside.

“Yes, that notebook, Aubrey! I don’t see another notebook on the fucking table.”

My head drew back with raised eyebrows. I quickly flipped back to the empty page and wrote a note.

Curses like a damn sailor.

“Wh-what are you writing?”

I couldn’t help but feel giddy knowing I was getting to him. “Just taking some notes, that’s all.”

Brett leaned closer to me as I covered the note with my hand. “What did you say? I saw sailor written down!”

I flashed him an evil smile which only irritated him more, causing him to curse more under his breath.

Mr. Stevenson sighed heavily next to me. “Oh, for the love of God. The two of you are going to have to learn to play nice. Your boss, Ms. Cain, and the president of the university, want this thing to happen. Now I hope you will shine a more positive light on Mr. Owens and not focus on his… on his um—”

Brett and I both looked at him, anxiously waiting for him to finish his sentence.

“On my what?” Brett questioned.

With a roll of his eyes, Mr. Stevenson answered, “On the colorful lifestyle you lead outside of work.”

“That was gently put,” I mumbled.

“Ms. Cain,” Mr. Stevenson started.

“Please, call me Aubrey.”

He nodded. “Aubrey, you will have full access so getting in places will not be an issue. I advise you to stick close to Brett until you learn your way around.”

“Thank you, Mr. Stevenson.”

“Pat will be fine.”

“Pat, it is.”

“Now, I believe, Brett, you have a staff meeting at noon.”

I swear it looked like Brett was sitting over there pouting. It probably killed him he had no safe-zone to hide in. I was going to be stuck to him like glue. Oh, this made me all kinds of happy right now.

“Yeah. It’s at noon.”

Pat stood. “Good, show Aubrey around and to the office she’ll be using.”

My heart skipped a beat in my chest. “Thank you, Pat. That means a lot to me to have a place to work while I’m here. That’s very thoughtful of you.”

He looked at Brett and then me. “Don’t thank me, thank Brett. It was his idea.”

My head snapped to the side as I looked at him. That was totally unexpected, and I couldn’t hide the fact that it made my chest tighten some.

playbook-teaser-blast-1

About the AuthorkellyelliottKelly Elliott is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling contemporary romance author. Since finishing her bestselling Wanted series, Kelly continues to spread her wings while remaining true to her roots and giving readers stories rich with hot protective men, strong women and beautiful surroundings.

Her bestselling works include, Wanted, Broken, Without You, and Unconditional Love, to name just a few.

Kelly has been passionate about writing since she was fifteen. After years of filling journals with stories, she finally followed her dream and published her first novel, Wanted, in November of 2012.

Kelly lives in central Texas with her husband, daughter, and two pups. When she’s not writing, Kelly enjoys reading and spending time with her family. She is down to earth and very in touch with her readers, both on social media and at signings.

To find out more about Kelly and her books, you can find her through her website.

WEBSITE | FACEBOOK | TWITTER | AMAZON | GOODREADS

Spotlight: The Dirty Players Duet by Tia Louise

tia-louise
THE PRINCE AND THE PLAYER
Series: The Dirty Players Duet #1
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Author: Tia Louise
Release Date: May 17, 2016add-to-goodreads-button34

tptp-with-series

Let the games begin…

Runaway Zelda Wilder will do whatever it takes to secure a better life for her and her sister Ava.  Crown Prince Rowan Westringham Tate will do whatever it takes to preserve his small country.

When Zee is blackmailed into helping a vengeful statesman take down Rowan, she never expects she’ll be pulled into a web of lies and international intrigue–much less that she’ll find herself falling for Cal, Rowan’s “playboy” younger brother.

Ava’s no help, as she finds quiet walks in the moonlight discussing poetry and leadership with the brooding future king irresistible. Even more irresistible is kissing his luscious lips.

They’re in over their heads, and the more time passes, the more danger the sisters are in. Shots are fired, and it’s soon clear even a prince might not be able to rescue these players.

Buy LinksGet THE PRINCE & THE PLAYER for just .99c now

AMAZON | iBOOKS | B&N | KOBOARe

Excerpt

Cal steps between me and looking for Ava. “You walked out on me last night.” His full lips narrow into that sexy grin. “I want to be angry, but… Damn. Look at you.”Not going there with him. “I like your coat,” I deflect, flicking a finger over his black sleeve. “Interesting detail. Is that paisley?”

“Who gives a fuck?” He lifts his arm, and in the bright light, the faintest design appears in the fabric. “It’s Ming dynasty, I think. Pretty basic for Balmain.”

“Is he the royal designer?” “If he is, he wouldn’t work with me. I picked this out at a show last spring.”

“Wearing a year-old tux? Shocking! No wonder he skipped you,” I tease, walking slowly across the polished marble floor. An enormous black star is in the center. “You know, they have a replica of this place in Vegas? They have replicas of all the great casinos there.”

“Have you been?”

I shake my head. “Now I never will. It would be too depressing.”

“No arrogant princes following you around?”

Glancing to the side, I smile. “You’re not so arrogant.”

“I must be. I’m convinced you should choose me over him.”

The tone in his voice is serious, and a little charge moves through my stomach. It makes me miserable. I’ve already chosen him over Rowan, but I can’t let it happen. As much as I prefer spending time with him, I can’t blow this opportunity for Ava and me.

“Speaking of him, where is his royal majesty?”

“Probably playing Baccarat. Are you asking me to take you there?”

I can’t tell if he’s angry or not. He has an impeccable poker face. “You can get me a drink.”

“Your wish is my command. Champagne?”

“I think I had enough champagne last night. Gin and tonic.”

“Shit. I was hoping to cloud your judgment again.” He gives me a wink and saunters off to the elaborate bar.

I look down at my fingers twisting together. I’ve got to find Rowan. I’ve got to get my head out of the clouds and my ass with the crown prince. I wore this dress, these heels, all of it to entice him. Here I am reveling in the attentions of the wrong man.

pp-tablet


 About A PLAYER FOR A PRINCESS (releases September 20th)

apap-for-web

From the Mediterranean to the Caribbean, the game continues…

Zelda Wilder is on the run, this time from the ruthless assassins who’ve decided she knows too much to live.

“Playboy Prince” MacCallum Lockwood Tate isn’t about to let the beautiful player who stole his heart get away—if only he could decide whether he wants to save her or strangle her for her dangerous choices.

After tracking her down to a casino in St. Croix, Cal follows Zee back to Tortola where he intends to keep her safe. One problem: Zelda’s criminal liaisons are two steps ahead of her.

Lives are threatened, and all of the players’ skills are tested in this plot to capture a killer and save a princess.

Cinderella meets Ocean’s Eleven in this CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE DUET featuring secrets, lies, royal high jinks, scams and double-crosses; breathless, swooning lust, cocky princes, dominant alpha future-kings, and crafty courtiers, who are not always what they seem.  

Buy Links

★★★ PRE-ORDER TODAY! ★★★

AMAZON | iBOOKS | B&N | KOBO | ARe

About the AuthorThe “Queen of Hot Romance,” Tia Louise is the Award-Winning, International Bestselling author of the ONE TO HOLD series.

From “Readers’ Choice” nominations, to USA Today “Happily Ever After” nods, to winning the 2015 “Favorite Erotica Author” and the 2014 “Lady Boner Award” (LOL!), nothing makes her happier than communicating with fans and weaving new tales into the Alexander-Knight world of stories.

A former journalist, Louise lives in the center of the USA with her lovely family and one grumpy cat. There, she dreams up stories she hopes are engaging, hot, and sexy, and that cause readers rethink common public locations…

Connect with Tia:

Amazon Author Page | Facebook | Website | Pinterest | Tsu | Newsletter 

Instagram & Twitter: @AuthorTLouise 

Author Q&A & Giveaway: Roman Crazy by @ninabocci & @alice_clayton

Roman Crazy SpotlightRoman Crazy
Series: The Broads Abroad #1
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Authors: Nina Bocci & Alice Clayton
Release Date: September 16, 2016add-to-goodreads-button-2

roman-crazy-9781501117633_hr

Avery Bardot steps off the plane in Rome, looking for a fresh start. She’s left behind a soon-to-be ex-husband in Boston and plans to spend the summer with her best friend Daisy, licking her wounds—and perhaps a gelato or two. But when her American-expat friend throws her a welcome party on her first night, Avery’s thrown for a loop when she sees a man she never thought she’d see again: Italian architect Marcello Bianchi.

Marcello was the man—the one who got away. And now her past is colliding with her present, a present where she should be mourning the loss of her marriage and—hey, that fettuccine is delicious! And so is Marcello…

Slipping easily into the good life of summertime in Rome, Avery spends her days exploring a city that makes art historians swoon, and her nights swooning over her unexpected what was old is new again romance. It’s heady, it’s fevered, it’s wanton, and it’s crazy. But could this really be her new life? Or is it just a temporary reprieve before returning to the land of twin-set cardigans and crustless sandwiches?

A celebration of great friendship, passionate romance, and wonderful food, Roman Crazy is a lighthearted story of second chances and living life to the fullest.

Buy-Links10AMAZON | iBOOKS | KOBOAuthor Interview

DGR: Hi Nina and Alice! I’m so thrilled to have you at DGR today and picking your brain about all things Roman Crazy 🙂

So first things first, I’m so curious to know what inspired you to write this book together?

Nina/Alice: We had talked about writing something together for years. We didn’t know what, just that we wanted to do a book or two together. When we were chatting about this, it became pretty obvious that this was to be the book we collaborated on. I’d never collaborated with anyone, but I knew if I was ever going to do it that it would this chick that I’d do it with. We already share a brain, so it made sense.

DGR: How did the idea for Roman Crazy come about? Was there food and wine involved?

Nina/Alice: Ha, I wish. A friend of mine had just told me she was getting a divorce and I had literally just returned from a trip to Italy. I was chatting with Alice about the ugliness of the divorce and all the arms and legs that goes into a marriage like theirs and we both agreed that what she needed was a torrid affair with a stunning Italian. And once we started thinking about that stunning Italian it became obvious that there was a book there. Plus we know American women love an accent 😉

DGR: Would you say you were like peanut butter and jelly? Each one adding something different to the mix and coming out with something verra delicious? (Sorry, clearly I’m still stuck on the food part)

Nina: Maybe chunky peanut butter and jelly. We had it very detailed as far as an outline went so there were only a few sideways turns that it took once we chatted with Lauren our kick ass editor. We had a very specific idea of what it was to be at the end. Getting there was a trip 😉

Alice: Did she just call me chunky? I think we each have a very similar sense of humor, but a very different sense of romance, so it was an interesting mix of ideas. At the end of the day, we just wanted to make sure we melded together, and it was a seamless story, rather than a reader being able to clearly say “Oh that’s a line Nina must have wrote.”

DGR: Let’s talk Roman Crazy. Can you give us a quick summary of what it’s about?

Nina/Alice: Abby from Gallery called it, Roman Holiday for a new generation and I love that description! It is 100% a second chance romance but not just with the heroine and the hero but the heroine finding her happiness and passion. I think everyone likes to imagine what you’d do differently if you could start over, press the reset button. And our girl has that chance. Plus she gets to press the restart button while eating pasta, so there’s that.

DGR: What would you say was your favorite part to write in the book?

Nina/Alice: All of it. I loved writing about Italy. It really is a love letter to a country that I adore. I have always dreamed of going to Italy and writing this story made it go right to the top of my bucket list.

DGR: So Marcello….rarrr…even his name sounds hot. What can you tell us about him?

Nina/Alice: He’s yummy, surly at times and passionate. A typical Italian man that loves his woman. Plus he has a Vespa…

DGR: What about Avery? What would you say is your favorite part about her character?

Nina/Alice: That she doesn’t give in anymore. She had a path that she was on and changed courses. That’s a huge thing for anyone to do and it made me happy for her. I love that she remembers that she’s fearless, and more than just her cardigan.

DGR: If you had to pick a favorite short quote from the book, what would it be?

Nina/Alice: “What am I to do with this?” It sounds dirty but it’s not 😉 My favorite quote is almost like an easter egg because it shouldn’t have been left in but it was when we realized we loved it. I was writing a scene where Marcello was on the phone and Avery is listening at the door and it’s clear that Marcello is upset about something and the quote is “Angry Italian words!” Which is actually a note I left for Nina to make sure she actually came up with some angry Italian words…but we both laughed so hard we left it in!

DGR: And since I’m a visual dirty bird, I gots to know; if you were to case Marcello and Avery in a movie, who would be your dream cast?

Nina: For me it’s Simone Bredariol and Elizabeth Olsen.

DGR: Thanks again for being here! Anything you’d like to leave the readers with?

Nina/Alice: A big huge thank you to everyone and a reminder that it’s never to late to make a change.


Giveaway

Want to win a paperback of Roman Crazy? Enter on my Facebook page HERE

Blog Tour, Author Q&A, & Giveaway: Furious Rush by S.C. Stephens

FURIOUS-RUSH-BLOG-TOUR-GRAPHIC-2-3FURIOUS RUSH
Author: S.C. Stephens
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Release Date: August 23, 2016
Publisher: Forever
add-to-goodreads-button-2

Stephens_FuriousRush_TR

The first in an emotion-fueled, New Adult series from the #1 bestselling author of the Thoughtless novels!

Too fast, too furious—and way too hot to handle…

Mackenzie Cox has a lot to prove. Daughter of a racing legend, she is eager to show the world that she has inherited her father’s talent in the male-dominated sport of professional motorcycle racing. The last thing Kenzie needs is to be antagonized by her rival team’s newest rider, Hayden Hayes. Plucked from the world of illegal street racing, Hayden immediately gets under Kenzie’s skin. His insinuations that Kenzie is a spoiled princess who was handed her career fuels her desire to win, and much to her surprise, Kenzie soon learns she performs better when she’s racing against Hayden.

As Kenzie and Hayden push each other on the track, the electric energy between them off the track shifts into an intense—and strictly forbidden—attraction. The only rule between their two ultra-competitive teams is zero contact. Kenzie always does her best to play by the rules, but when her team slips into a financial crisis, she has no choice but to turn to Hayden for help. The tension simmers during their secret, late-night rendezvous, but Kenzie has too much to lose to give in to her desires. Especially when she begins to doubt that Hayden has completely left his street life behind…

Buy LinksAmazon | B&N | B-A-M | Google Play | iBooks | IndieBound | Kobo

Furious-Rush-Quote-Graphic-#2

Author InterviewSo why choose to write about motorcycle racers specifically?

I wanted a heart-of-gold bad boy who did something sexy for a living. Kellan already owned the rock star market, so I started looking around for other avenues for Hayden. My brother had just purchased a shiny, red street bike, and when I saw it, I couldn’t help but notice that the bike was super-sexy. I knew right then and there that bikes were going to be Hayden’s “thing.”

Would you ever write a sports romance about football, baseball, etc.?

I think professional football could be interesting. The dramas between the wives, the egos of the players, and of course, the forbidden romance with the cheerleader… Sounds like fun!

Was it challenging to write about something completely new after spending so much time with the characters in the Thoughtless series?

Yes and no. It was very freeing to be able to write new characters with no set-in-stone back stories, no previous timelines fixing them to a certain path. What I did find challenging however, was the endless possibilities. So many options can be overwhelming, and it took some time to narrow the scope into something more manageable.

What is one book you are dying to read but haven’t gotten the time to do so yet?

Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas. It’s literally sitting on my nightstand right now, but I haven’t had a chance to read it yet. I’ve only heard good things about this entire series, and I can’t wait to start it.

Furious-Rush-Quote-Graphic-#-1-2About the AuthorS.C. Stephens CREDIT Tara Ellis Photography

S. C. Stephens is a #1 bestselling author who spends her every free moment creating stories that are packed with emotion and heavy on romance. In addition to writing, she enjoys spending lazy afternoons in the sun reading, listening to music, watching movies, and spending time with her friends and family. She and her two children reside in the Pacific Northwest.

 

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

FOLLOW FOREVER ONLINE

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Pinterest

 

Giveaway 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

New Release Spotlight & Giveaway: Hard Rules by Lisa Renee Jones

Hard Rules SpotlightHARD RULES
Series: Dirty Money #1
Genre: Erotic Romance
Author: Lisa Renee Jones
Release Date: August 9, 2016add-to-goodreads-button-2

Hard Rules Cover

Wall Street meets the Sons of Anarchy in Hard Rules, the smoldering, scorching first novel in the explosively sexy new Dirty Money series from New York Times bestselling author Lisa Renee Jones.

How bad do you want it? 

The only man within the Brandon empire with a moral compass, Shane Brandon is ready to take his family’s business dealings legitimate. His reckless and ruthless brother, Derek wants to keep Brandon Enterprises cemented in lies, deceit, and corruption. But the harder Shane fights to pull the company back into the light, the darker he has to become. Then he meets Emily Stevens, a woman who not only stirs a voracious sexual need in him, but becomes the only thing anchoring him between good and evil.

Emily is consumed by Shane, pushed sexually in ways she never dreamed of, falling deeper into the all-encompassing passion that is this man. She trusts him. He trusts her, but therein lies the danger. Emily has a secret, the very thing that brought her to him in the first place, and that secret that could that destroy them both.

Buy LinksAMAZON | B&N | iBOOKS | KOBO | GOOGLE PLAY 

Hard Rules Teaser 6Excerpt

Say it.” he demands.“We’re just fucking.”

He leans in closer, his breath a warm tickle on my neck, his voice a firm demand. “You do what I say. You trust me. Without question.” Trust. It is not something I give easily, and yet, I sense that this isn’t about just wanting my trust. It’s not even really about trust, but rather the control death steals from you.

“Emily—” he begins.

“Yes,” I say. “You can have the control.”

“I asked for trust.”

“Same thing,” I say, and he must not disagree, as he unzips my skirt, letting it fall to the ground, and already he’s dragging my jacket down my shoulders, his fingers caressing my skin and leaving goose bumps in their wake. I shiver and oh so easily, I am lost, not in worries or fears, but in this man, a thunderstorm of emotions and sensations assaulting my senses. There is no time for anything else but him, no room, and already my shirt has fallen to the ground, my bra is unhooked. Another blink, and Shane is on one knee, his fingers twining in the lace strips at my hips, dragging my panties down to my ankles. I have an instant to realize just how naked I am, inside and out, before his teeth scrape my backside, and I moan with the tightening of my sex and nipples. I’ve barely recovered from a rush of pleasure, before he’s standing again, lifting me, and kicking aside my clothing, my shoes lost in the process.

And then he is turning me to face him, tearing away my bra, his hands bracketing my waist, eyes lowering to rake over my breasts, then lifting to my face. “Trust has to be earned. Control can be taken and if you think control and trust are the same thing, you’ve been with the wrong man. I’m not the wrong man. At least, not tonight.”

“No,” I agree. “You are not the wrong man.”

“No, I am not, but right now, I just need to fuck. Hard and fast, and then we’ll do it right.”

“Hard and fast is right, if that’s what you need.”

“What do you need?”

“You,” I say, repeating what he’d said to me that first night we were together. “Just you.”

His eyes darken and he tugs his shirt off over his head. Before it even hits the ground, my hands are on his chest, fingers nestled in the springy hair there, heat seeping from his body, to mine. He cups my head and kisses me, and I sink into him, melting … Oh yes, I am melting into one big puddle of lust and desire, free in a way with this man that is indescribably different than with the men of my past. The way everything is indescribably different with Shane. And he is touching me, caressing me, pinching my nipples one moment, his fingers in the slick wet heat of my sex the next. We are wild. We are ready for more and more and more, but he pulls back, pressing his hands on the wall behind me. “Holy fuck. I don’t have a condom.”

“I’m on the pill,” I blurt out, and quickly add, “I don’t do unprotected sex. I just … I’m on the pill. I swear to you. The last thing I want is to get pregnant.”

He cups my face. “For who?”

“What?”

“Who did you go on the pill for?”

“Me. I did it for me.”

“Are you running from a man who’s going to show back up?”

“No. God no, Shane. And if we’re just fucking why does it matter anyway?”

“Don’t talk,” he says, his voice low, gravelly, his mouth slanting over mine. And then he is kissing me, and there is more than guilt on his lips now. There is hunger, lust, demand. And I answer him, holding nothing back, wild, frenzied, and everything is a whirlwind of sensation that burns through me until there is nothing but my hands on him and his on me. Somehow, his clothes are fully gone, and I’m against the wall, or the front door I think, and he is inside me, cupping my backside and lifting me. I respond instantly, my legs automatically wrap around his waist and I don’t know how, or why, but we still, our bodies locked together, our breathing heavy whispers, coming together as one. We are one in this moment, two people lost and found in each other, both of us fighting a battle the other understands in ways no one else can.

Seconds tick by, and he whispers, “What the hell are you doing to me?” but I never get the chance to ask him the same. He lifts me off the wall, one hand pressing between my shoulder blades, molding me to him, the other cupping my backside as he pulls me down on the hard thick ridge of his erection, and thrusts into me again. I pant, curling forward and holding on to him, burying my face in his neck. And then we are moving, swaying, a grind to our hips, a raw urgency to every glide and pump, the sounds he is making, low, guttural, and oh so sexy, drive me to the edge. Tension builds between us, and in my sex, that sweet spot spiking my nerve endings, and pushing me to that place of no return. My sex clenches like a vise around his shaft, every muscle in my body tenses with it. He groans, his hands flexing into my back and bottom, and he starts to shake. I think I am shaking too, and everything fades into bliss. I don’t know how much time goes by until I come to the present. And he is back too. I feel it like I feel him.

Giveaway

For a chance to win an amazing Hard Rules prize pack, drop by my FB page and enter HERE

Blog Tour: Afterglow by Maria Monroe

Afterglow-BlogTour-BANNERTitle: Afterglow
Author: Maria Monroe
Genre: 
Apocalyptic Romance
Cover Design:
Pink Ink Designs
Release Date:
July 13, 2016add-to-goodreads-button-2

Afterglow-ebook

Who knew the apocalypse could be so sexy?

Nina can shoot a gun, start a fire, and kick some serious ass. So when a killer virus and solar storm decimate the country, she’s as prepared as possible to survive. She just needs a motorcycle to navigate the cluttered roads and meet up with her family.

Creed, former Marine, is tattooed and tough. He’s scarred inside and out. Loss is no stranger to him, and he avoids getting close to anyone at all costs.

When Nina tries to steal his motorcycle they have a vicious fight, but necessity and attraction force them into an uneasy alliance. They travel together through the dangerous landscape, where trouble lurks around every corner and they need each other to survive.

But the biggest danger just might be falling in love.

Equally as exciting as it is sexy, Afterglow contains graphic sex and some violence, so please read at your own risk. 18+ recommended.

This is a standalone

Buy LinksAMAZON AFTERGLOW-teaser3

About the AuthorMaria Monroe writes sexy and smart romance, often focusing on new adult characters. Bad boys, especially gruff and sexy ones, are her favorite alpha males to read (and write) about.

She also enjoys reading, playing Pokemon, drinking wine, sarcasm, hiking, and laughing about inappropriate things.

She’s from Chicago and currently lives just outside the city with her three awesome kids, two rescue dogs, two rescue cats, and the most supportive husband in the world.

AUTHOR LINKS

Amazon | Facebook | Twitter

motorcycle at sunset

motorcycle at sunset

New Release Spotlight, Giveaway & Author Interview with @HaysonManning

Spotlight-Hayson Manning with DGR

Back in October of 2013, I read this one book called Winning The Boss’s Heart and fell in love with Hayson Manning’s writing. I’ve been not so subtly stalking the poor woman since in eager anticipation of any new books that she may have in the works for the future. So suffice it to say that when I saw that not only is she coming out with a bran new book called BOUND TO THE BOUNTY HUNTER, but it’ll be book one is a brand new sizzling BOUND series?

*cue pervy happy dance*

CYZ8w

Let’s just say I was VERY happy 😉

About The Book

Bound_to_the_Bounty_Hunter-Cover-Hayson-Manning

Harlan Franco, Colorado’s busiest bounty hunter, and security expert, lives by his rules: be in control, be detached, and never touch the asset. These rules are tested when the asset he’s being paid to secretly guard is none other than his rival, sexy, unpredictable, pain in the butt, Sophie Callaghan––a woman determined to stay away from him. If she finds out he’s in her life on an assignment, he’ll never get the info he needs. But those lips, those curves, that attitude, he bets he’ll have her for one night where she’ll play by his rules.

He didn’t expect his heart to have an opinion.

Freedom loving private investigator Sophie Callaghan is on a mission. The daughter of a con-artist is not going to be used by a man again. What she doesn’t need is hot, broody and controlling Harlan barging into her life and digging into her past. Her brain may say no, but her body craves this bad boy. After a night where both live their darkest desires, Sophie must fight their explosive chemistry because one wrong move could destroy her. She bets he has to stay far, far away.

As the stakes ramp up and secrets explode around them, both are determined to win the bet.

But there can only ever be one winner.

ADD IT TO GOODREADS | BUY IT ON AMAZON


Bound by The Bounty Hunter released today, and I’m beyond excited to have Hayson herself here at DGR to answer all of my questions and then some! Don’t miss the amazing giveaway for a chance to win a signed paperback of Winning The Boss’s Heart, a $15 Amzon GC and an ebook of Hayson’s brand new release! It will be posted on my Facebook page . I’ll make sure to post a link to it at the bottom of this post. Now without further ado, let’s get to the interview!


Author Interview

DGR: Hi Hayson! So happy to have you here at DGR today!

HM: Thank you so much for having me. I am thrilled to be here.

DGR: Let’s start with something easy. Can you introduce yourself to readers that may not have read your books yet?

HM: Hi everyone! My name is Hayson Manning and I write alpha dudes and feisty women who challenge them. I’m originally from New Zealand and now live in gorgeous Redondo Beach, California. I have two boys who speak in mysterious grunts and hub is known as The Fake Gordon Ramsay.

DGR: You have a super sexy new release coming up on July 18. Can you tell us a little more about that?

HM: Well, we’ve got Harlan Franco, Colorado’s busiest bounty hunter and security expert, who’s a little broody, a little controlling and has enough testosterone to fuel the NFL. He’s on a mission to protect his rival, sexy, unpredictable, pain in the butt, Sophie Callaghan. But if she finds out he’s in her life on an assignment, he’ll never get the info he needs. But those, lips, those curves, that attitude? He wants her for one night on his terms. Small problem. Sophie’s having none of it.

Private investigator and Young and the Restless addict, Sophie Callaghan, (don’t ask if she’s team Newman or Abbot – she won’t tell) does not need Harlan Franco in her life. He’s humiliated her once when she thought they had something going on. She was wrong. Way wrong. They engage in a dangerous cat and mouse game where Harlan bets he’ll have her for one night, while Sophie bets that he’ll stay away from her.

Both are determined to win the bet, but there can only ever be one winner.

DGR: What was your favorite scene to write in Bound to The Bounty Hunter?

HM: I really loved the scenes between Sophie, Annie and Gemma. They were the easiest to write. Who doesn’t want to drink margaritas, eat prunes wrapped in bacon and critique bad porn with girlfriends?

I totally loved the whole Vegas scene from the beginning at the airport with the bingo ladies talking about stuffing dollar bills into the Calvin Klein’s of the hottie walking toward them (Harlan). The bar scene where Sophie surprises Harlan big time (I loved that). Fun research!! Sophie’s realization of where their relationship sits with her and the explosive scene at the end.

DGR: What about your favorite scene to read?

HM: The last ‘Backyard Thursday’ scene. Oh, I laughed and cried (I do cry at Super bowl commercials so there is that.) I loved that scene. Grabs tissue.

DGR: Can you describe the hero, Harlan Franco, to us in a few words?

HM: Broody, protective, controlling, kind, compassionate, strong.

DGR: Bound to The Bounty Hunter has a little bit of everything; intrigue, suspense and a whole lot of sexy. What made you decide to write something so different from your other books?

HM: I was so freaking nervous that I couldn’t pull this story off. I was the crazy woman wandering around the neighborhood muttering like I was off my meds. I had an idea of where I wanted to go and my awesome editor, Lewis and I hammered out a story and I threw away my inhibitions and wrote. The central theme of family held the story together. Not necessarily blood relatives, but the people who come into your life that become your family.

If only Uncle Len buys it, I’ll be okay. I think I found my voice in this book and wrote the story I’ve always wanted to write, but was afraid to.

Actually, I don’t want Uncle Len to buy it. I’d never be able to look at him over the Christmas ham again.

DGR: I loved how bad-ass Sophie was. This is a woman that could kick butt and take names. Was it as much fun writing her as it was reading her?

HM: I am so glad you liked reading her. Thank you! (Do I need to pay you later?) It was fun writing Sophie who has to kick butt with the boys, but when she’s at home she’s messy, eats Pringles and catches up on Young and the Restless. I loved the two sides of her.

DGR: If you had to case Sophie and Harlan for a movie, do you have anyone in mind?

HM: Thank you for the hours I spent on the internet drooling over hot dudes. Yum.

I think Emma Stone would be an awesome Sophie. I love her. I’m always up for a Hemsworth for Harlan, but then who isn’t!! I do like Jake Gyllenhaal. He’s got the broody down. I’m sold.

DGR: What are your plans for the series because I have to admit I’m already salivating for the story on a few secondary characters…

HM: Oh, yay. I am excited you’re excited. (You’re not Uncle Len in disguise are you J)

Well, next up as you know is Dug and Arabella. I can’t wait to share what they get up to. Annie and Zeb or Gemma and Thor? Who would you want to see next?

DGR: Gotta say I’m pretty eager for Annie and Zeb’s book. The vibe between those two? Yowza! 

I absolutely LOVE the set up for this series and can’t wait for more. How many books are you planning on writing for it?

HM: I hope I get to write four books. That would be a dream. Though, I kind of have a soft spot for Pipe as well. I can see his story… (My publisher has no idea I have typed these words.)

DGR: Can we get a little taste for this book? Pretty please?

HM: Here’s a peak.

 

“Hello,” Sophie answered in a rusty voice.“This is Franco. We need to meet. How long would it take you to get here?”

“I’m not meeting you. Go away.” She ended the call and flopped back on the bed.

Her sluggish brain started to jog into life. Did he know about the recording? Had he followed her last night?

Crap.

Fully awake, she threw back the covers and stumbled to the bathroom where she had a shower, a quick shampoo, and an even quicker condition. She slapped on her favorite raspberry-scented body butter, brushed her teeth, then pulled her wet hair into a band.

Her home phone roared to life.

She ignored it for ten rings but, worried it might be Titus in trouble, she picked up the receiver, keeping silent.

“Did you hang up on me?” Harlan’s clipped voice made her smile.

“New experience I gather.”

“How long would it take you to get here or I’ll come to you.”

She clutched the cordless phone while dashing around the room, pulling on her boots. “It’s illegal to obtain an unlisted number. I could have you charged and arrested.”

His voice purred. “The strangest thing, I found your number on a piece of paper you left for me last night at Hostage.”

Her blood started a slow boil. “I swear to God, if you were standing in this room I’d squeeze the life out of you, and no jury would convict me.”

Amusement softened his sexy voice. “You’re into dirty talking this early in the morning? Interesting.”


Intrigued? You should be! I was lucky enough to read an ARC of this deliciousness and I’m already hooked!

Want to connect with Hayson? She loves to hear from her readers!

You can Email her or find her on Facebook and Twitter. Don’t forget to check out her blog too!

Want more? Hayson was generous enough to offer a SIGNED PAPERBACK of WINNING THE BOSS’S HEART and a $15 Amazon GC! I’ll be gifting an ebook of Bound To The Bounty Hunter! That’s three chances to win and three winners in total! *ENTER HERE*

 

Copyright © 2015 · Dirty Girl Romance

%d bloggers like this: