Posts tagged with: second chance at love

ARC Giveaway! THE GREATEST LOVER EVER

Greatest Lover Ever, the (revised)I’m so excited to be offering an Advance Reading Copy of my December 31 release THE GREATEST LOVER EVER today. For those of you who are reading the Ministry of Marriage/Westruthers series, this is Beckenham’s book.

I thought you all might like a sneak peek into THE GREATEST LOVER EVER and see the scene that inspired the U.S. cover :) .

It’s been six years since Georgie Black jilted the Earl of Beckenham. Georgie goes in disguise to an extremely lewd party to rescue her sister, who has unwisely accompanied friends there. Circumstances conspire to find Georgie alone in a bedchamber with her erstwhile fiance. But does Beckenham recognize her? You be the judge!

“Take your clothes off,” he said to her over his shoulder. “I’ll be with you in a moment.” 

The room spun. Georgie put out a hand to steady herself against the mantel. She could not have heard correctly. Surely, she could not.

But she didn’t ask him to repeat his words because she knew very well her ears hadn’t deceived her. He’d just told her, bluntly, to undress. Because he thought that they… that she… Georgie’s face flushed with scalding heat.

After Steyne’s advances, she ought not to be so shocked. But this was Beckenham. Beckenham, who had never once gone beyond the line with her, even when they were safely betrothed.

Heedless of her reaction to the peremptory command, the earl stripped off his superfine coat and tossed it carelessly onto a chair.

Such a casual gesture. As if for him this encounter were the most mundane of occurrences.

A disorienting sensation came over her, as if the world swung upside down on its axis. Could it be true that Beckenham did this sort of thing all the time?

He continued to undress. Those large fingers unfobbed his watch and set it on the wash stand, then went to work on the buttons of his waistcoat. She quickly shut her eyes. But listening to him remove his clothes was almost as tantalizing as watching him.

Silk slid against cambric. A hush of cloth and a soft clack of buttons as the waistcoat joined his coat…

In moments, she opened her eyes again, hussy that she was, helpless to stop herself. She saw that he had indeed shed his waistcoat and was deftly undoing the ruffled cuffs at his wrists. He pushed his shirtsleeves up strong forearms before plunging his hands into the basin of water.

The intimacy of standing here in a bedchamber with the Earl of Beckenham as he performed his ablutions made Georgie ache for what might have been. If only she hadn’t been so rash, so stupid. If only he’d loved her. If only he’d understood.

Greatest Lover Ever Aus FinalHe splashed his face—once, twice, and dried it with a towel. Then he pulled his billowing shirt over his head in one deft movement. She ought to look away, but she couldn’t. She was too awe-struck by the solid, beautiful strength of his back and shoulders as he vigorously rubbed at his torso with a wet flannel.

Things were moving too fast for her reason to catch up. Dimly, she knew she ought to leave, and do it now, before this went any further. But threading through such self-preserving logic was a dark thrill of excitement. And a deep, powerful longing that had been inside her, suppressed, unacknowledged, ever since they’d met.

Georgie remembered—oh, how well she remembered—the firm, smooth texture of Beckenham’s lips against hers. He’d set her alight until her entire body was incandescent with longing for him. She’d burned to make him lose that awe-inspiring control. Yet, throughout their courtship, his kisses had been gentle, unthreatening. The air of danger that clung to him tonight was foreign to her.

Perhaps he reserved his true passion for females of quite a different sort?

The thought stiffened her spine.

Instead of explaining herself, or even making a hasty exit, she drawled, “My lord, you lack finesse.”

For a fraction of time, he froze. Then he laid the flannel down. Slowly, he turned. The gleam of candlelight slid along his bare skin.

His dark eyes glinted. “Is it finesse you want, sweetheart? I thought you were here for something quite different.”

BanditBootyOK my lovely Bandita Buddies! For a chance to win the ARC of THE GREATEST LOVER EVER, I want you to exercise those mad writing skills of yours and come up with the next line after this excerpt ends (you can write more than one line if you feel so inclined!) This is for a paper ARC, international.

Magic, Murder, and Lost Love Found – Guardian Launch Party!

Guardian is out today!  Woot!  Some of my favorite heroes have started out as the best friends of other heroes.  That’s what happened with Dr. Stefan Harper, the hero of Guardian, who first appeared in Renegade.  

The hero of that book, Griffin Dare, made a passing reference to him at the end of Chapter 1.  I hadn’t given him much thought at that point.

GuardianA couple of days later, I got to the second second scene of Chapter 2.  Griff (the renegade of the title and the top guy on the mages’ Most Wanted list) stepped out of the bedroom, where he’d been talking to the Valeria Banning, the injured heroine. 

There stood Stefan, waiting to tell Griff just how many ways rescuing the sheriff could go sideways but ready to help any way he could, no matter what the risk.  Stefan seemed to know who he was from the moment he and Griff made eye contact.

I decided I liked him.  So I left him pretty much as he was.  What I didn’t expect was that other people would like him enough to email me and tell me they hoped his book was next.   I can tell you, that was a huge and unexpected thrill.

I hate disappointing people, so I’m happy to say his book is not only next, it’s here!  Woot!  I am so excited.  Fill a plate from the buffet, give Sven your drink order, and pull up a chair because we’re partying to celebrate the arrival of Stefan and Mel’s book.

In Guardian, the ghoul threat intensifies as we learn more about them.  We also meet the woman Stefan loved, lost, and never forgot.  Here’s the blurb:

TORN APART BY MAGIC

Sworn to protect the mage world, Stefan Harper was forced to hide his powerful magic from the beautiful Mundane woman he loved as a student.  Backed into a corner one painful night long ago, he let Mel believe he’d been unfaithful rather than put her at risk by revealing who—and what—he was.  Now she’s back, and the attraction burns hotter than ever. 

REUNITED BY MURDER

FBI agent Camellia “Mel” Wray has vowed to avenge an old friend’s brutal murder. When the investigation requires forensic consultation by the only man she ever loved—and lost—one look at the gorgeous doctor makes Mel realize he’s still impossible to resist—and still harboring a secret.

A SECOND CHANCE AT LOVE

Caught in a deadly ghoul trap, Stefan has one chance to save the woman he loves.  He must take the risk he once avoided and reveal the full extent of his powers. Can Mel accept the unbelievable and trust him? Or will love cost them everything?

Creating Mel, I worked backward from Stefan.  He loved music, so it made sense that maybe she did, too.  He’s a member of the mage Council, enmeshed in that world, but not everybody wants to believe such things are possible.  If the woman he loved didn’t…then all sorts of possibilities opened up.

A lot of writers pick actors and model the characters after them.  I’ve never done that.  I tried it once, and the characters felt less mine.  So I come up with descriptions and then, when asked go looking for actors who resemble them.

With Stefan, again, no looking or work was involved.  I turned on the TV show Haven, Det. Nathan Wuornos, Haven PD, stepped into frame, and I grabbed the dh’s arm.  ”Stefan,” I cried.  ”That’s Stefan.”

Startled, the dh tried to make appropriate noises.  But I knew he didn’t really get how fortuitous it was that I just happened to look up and see Lucas Bryant.

He looks so much like Stefan, it’s uncanny.  Stefan’s hair is very dark and worn longer, and his eyes are brown, not blue, but he’s the same tall, lean but muscular body type and has the same angular, rugged face.  Here’s a link, which should open in a separate window, to Bryant’s photo on IMDb .

For Mel, I had to go looking.  I found Kathleen Munroe, also, coincidentally from Haven as well as  Alphas.  Here’s another IMDb link, which also should open in a separate window, to a photo of her.  Mel’s hair is shorter now, per FBI regulations, but it’s about the same color.  Munroe’s eyes could be Mel’s gray ones, they’re so light.

Before we get to the excerpt, is everybody having a good time?  Anyone need anything?  Sven’s making the rounds with petit fours.

Everybody good?  Okay, then.  Here’s a short excerpt:

“There’s other strange factors we’ve managed to keep a lid on,” Burton said.  The Wayfarer County Sheriff shook his head. “Report’s in the file, but I’ll go ahead and tell you, most of Miss Baldwin’s blood was gone, and what was left had a strange substance in it Milledge couldn’t identify. Like the Great Dismal case.”

Mel shook her head. “Curiouser and curiouser, as the saying goes. But you think the yard is the murder scene, even with no blood?”

“We do.” Rubbing his chin, he added, “There’s signs of a struggle in the grass. Anyway, Milledge recommended a toxicology consult, so I phoned the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. Their top choice is a fellow who’s just an hour or so away.” His glance shifted past her. “And here he is.”

 Before Mel could turn around, a man spoke in a rich, clear baritone behind her. “Good morning, Angela, Corey,” he said to the clerk and dispatcher.

A shiver of recognition rocked through Mel. But surely this couldn’t be Stefan Harper. She risked a quick glance over her shoulder at the man strolling around the end of the counter and into the territory reserved for those with badges and weapons.

Oh, God, it was him.

Her heart skipped a beat. A buzz filled her ears, and she lost the thread of the sheriff’s comments. Stefan Harper. Voice of an archangel, hands of a sex god. Or so she’d once described him, back when she’d thought he was the one person who loved her completely, who was wholly in her corner.

Her mistake.

“Hey, Stefan.” Sheriff Burton walked forward to meet him.

Mel turned hastily back to the desk, toying with the paper in the file. She was over him, had been for years. So why wouldn’t her breathing settle? It must be the shock of seeing him. It could only be that.

Instead of the jeans and T-shirt combo he’d favored in med school, he wore a charcoal suit that fit as though it’d been tailored for him. Otherwise, he hadn’t changed in the past nine years. Same thick, dark hair neatly combed but in need of a trim. Same strong chin and straight, aristocratic nose. Same serious brown eyes with gold glints that never showed in photos.

Same generous mouth so adept at rousing her body.

Breathe, damn it.

“Thanks for coming,” Sheriff Burton said, his gravelly voice a sharp contrast to Stefan’s almost liquid one. “I don’t guess you’ve had a chance to go to the hospital yet.”

“No, sorry. I’ll listen in on the press conference from the back, then talk to the crime scene unit before I go to the morgue. Milledge agreed to meet me there.”

“That works. Come on, I’ll introduce you to the FBI agent working with us on this.”

Footsteps came closer. Mel steeled herself. Deep breath. In. Out. In.

“Stefan, this is Special Agent Wray. Mel, meet Dr. Stefan Harper, our medical consultant.”

Mel squared her shoulders and turned to greet the man who had broken her heart.

And things get tougher for them both from there.  If you want to read all of Chapter 1, it’s on my website.

renegade_finalIf you missed the first book, Renegade, Griff and Val’s story, this is the cover, which I truly love.

If you looked at the blog earlier and it’s not the same now, that’s because I did some editing.  I was informed I had buried the lead. *g*

I never posted my winner from the 26th.  Jane wins NetGalley access to read Guardian for free!

Forever Romance is giving one commenter today a chance to read Guardian for free via NetGalley.  So tell me, do you have a favorite hero you first met when he was serving as another hero’s best friend?  Do you have a favorite second chance at love story?

Kimberly Hope Introduces Her Billionaire Bachelor

Banditas and Buddies, I am thrilled to welcome my dear friend Kimberly Hope back to the Lair today for the 6th Bandita Day Of Christmas! You may recall she was with us on Dec. 2 as one of four authors from the eclectic holiday anthology A Season For Romance. Well, today Kimberly is here to talk to use about her new romance The Billionaire Bachelor’s Revenge. I was lucky enough to be a beta reader for this book, so I have known for a while now how fabulous it is. I insisted Kimberly come tell you all about it so you can enjoy it, as well.

Kimberly, welcome back to the Lair! Pull up a chair by the fire. Cookie? We are awash in them these days. Really, take three, they’re small. Sven, can we get some eggnog over here? Thank you. So, we’re talking billionaires and cookies today instead of Disney princesses?

I am so excited to be back with you guys again this month! I had a lot of fun considering everyone’s choices for which Disney character they’d be when we released A Season For Romance. So, pralines and something that goes well with pralines (vodka tonic, maybe?) to you, Caren, for letting me come hang with you guys twice this month. Thanks!

Sven, cancel the eggnog! Looks like we’re having vodka tonics – olives, no lime, please. That should be divine with pralines! Well, maybe not, but it is my go-to drink. Anywho, back to the cookies and billionaires!

When Caren told me we’d be celebrating the 12 Bandita Days of Christmas with holiday recipes, the only thing going through my mind was 11 pipers piping. OK, well, I was humming it anyway, while wondering what recipe I could share, because I love to bake. And baking over Christmas is the best! Some of my favorite memories are of baking gingerbread cookies with my grandmother.

But what recipe? Irish Cream Truffles take 3 days (and about as long to explain the process). Pralines, as I rediscovered this morning while testing the recipe for you, are not easy. Butterscotch Shortbread…ooh, my favorite cookie this year!

My favorite thing about this cookie dough is that, unlike sugar cookie dough you have to refrigerate for half your life before you can struggle to roll it out and cut it, you can work with this dough immediately.

Now that’s my kind of cookie!

Butterscotch Shortbread

 1 cup (2 sticks) butter (Yes, butter. It’s Christmas. It’s Shortbread. It needs butter.)

1/2 cup brown sugar, packed

4 Tbls white sugar

2 cups, plus 4 Tbls flour

1/2 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 300° F. Cream the butter and sugars together. Mix in flour and salt. When it’s done you’ll have well-mixed clumps of dough. You should be able to form a ball with it.

Roll the dough between two sheets of parchment or wax paper to 1/4 inch thick. I’m guessing on that. Roll it until it’s cookie thickness because these guys don’t spread. Cut with your favorite cookie cutters. My kids like to decorate the cookies with sugar and stuff at this point, but this cookie tastes fantastic without the added sugar.

Bake on an ungreased cookie sheet for 15 minutes or until set. You need to be careful with these guys because they don’t like over-baking. At all. The original recipe called for them to bake longer, but for my over, it’s 15 minutes. It could be as many as 25 minutes depending on how thick you roll the dough. Keep an eye on them because due to the color of the dough, it may be hard to tell that they’re browning.

This ends the cookie portion of our presentation. Now, Kimberly, let’s move on to the billionaire bachelor!!

What better to go with a cookie, than some reading material? So here’s the opening to The Billionaire Bachelor’s Revenge. It’s my second book, and the first in a Northern California trilogy I began one day when I was homesick. It’s a reunion story because I’m a sucker for a reunion. Not sure what that says about the men in my past. Here’s the opening scene, my Christmas gift to you.

Meg looked up at the man who hated her almost as much as her father did, and said the four words that would change her life forever. “I need your help.”

Evan Alton’s slate blue eyes flashed like a cat who just received a mouse for Christmas. But he didn’t slam the door in her face. Which was either a really good sign, or the end of her peace on earth. Guessing which was more likely, she plowed on. “May I come in?”

“Why?”

She brushed her wet hair off her forehead. “Because it’s raining and you’re a nice guy.”

Evan let out a grim laugh. “I haven’t been a nice guy for a long time. And I don’t have meetings at home on Friday nights.” He shot her a pointed look, which she completely ignored. She’d passed proud months ago.

“I can’t imagine you have many at the office since you won’t take phone calls.”

“Most people would take that as a hint.”

She didn’t say a word. Nothing she could say would change anything.

“Give me one reason why I should listen.”

“Because you loved me once and I did the right thing.”

He glared at her again, but didn’t misread her reference. The way she left him eight years ago had been completely unforgivable. She could only hope her recent actions would count for something.

“If that’s the case, why are you standing on my doorstep?”

“Because you won’t let me in.” She gave him a weak smile, and for once was rewarded with one from him as well. Butterflies erupted in her stomach. She should have eaten lunch, but the thought of this meeting had ruined her appetite. The butterflies were not because of his grim smile.

“Evan, please.” Her gaze locked with his and didn’t waver. She couldn’t afford to back down. There was too much at stake. “If you’re the devil you’re claiming, making me stand in the rain is hardly payback. It’s just frustrating for me and costly for you to keep the door open.”

 ”Currently it’s money well spent.”

 Meg blew out a harsh breath. This was going worse than she’d imagined in the thousand possible scenarios she’d run through over the past week. She’d counted on his curiosity, but apparently that had disappeared over the years.

 ”You’re the only one I can turn to,” she blurted.

He raised an eyebrow. Just one. The glint in his eyes told her he remembered how much it irked her. He was playing with her. Fine. She could play too. She stood quietly, matching his gaze, and waited. It was like playing chicken with a lion. She just prayed he didn’t extend his claws before she begged for help. She didn’t kid herself. It was going to take begging. And from his vantage point, after the way she’d left him, she deserved it.

His other eyebrow joined the first, and he stepped aside to let her in. A small victory, but she took it. Meg gave a mental sigh of relief before walking into the lion’s San Francisco County lair.

Stepping into the foyer, she brushed her wet locks off her face again, and tried to ignore the puddle she was making on the hard wood floor. Evan walked towards the living room, then paused. “Aren’t you coming?”

She could see the gleaming white carpet from where she stood. “I’ll make a mess of your floors.”

“I’ve got a service. If you want to talk to me, you’re going to do it where I’m comfortable. It’s been a long day.”

Meg watched him walk away and swallowed hard. The man was as sinfully built as she remembered, especially in the suit pants and crisp, white shirt. His black hair grazed his pristine collar. He’d shed his tie and undone a few buttons, teasing her with a hint of his strong chest. And now, looking like a drenched rat, she was facing down the one man she’d hoped never to have to see again in her life. Wonderful.

She grumbled to herself about not bringing a raincoat with her. It wasn’t as if she hadn’t heard the weather report this morning. But as usual, she ignored common sense and rushed out the door. She hadn’t planned on having to track Evan down at home.

Coming here was crazy, but he was the only person who had both the money and a reason to help her now. No one else would take her calls. Not that he had either. Her name was tainted and no one wanted a Taylor anywhere near their business. She didn’t blame them.

She slipped out of her heels, as much for her own safety on the slick floor as for the floor itself. The Celtic design of light and dark woods had clearly been hand-laid by a master and she couldn’t bear to leave wet footprints across it. Not that her wet stocking feet were doing much better.

Meg followed the path Evan had taken into the living room that was three times the size she’d thought from the entryway. The walls were stark white, and blank, except for a Chagall in one corner. It was as if the house had recently been purchased and the owner didn’t know what to do with the room yet. But she knew he moved in several years ago. The only thing breaking up the room was a wall of solid windows, giving her a phenomenal view of the rocky California coast and Pacific Ocean below. From here you couldn’t tell the city was fifteen minutes away.

That wasn’t what she was here for. She shook her head and tried to get her thoughts in order. Evan’s interior decorating –or lack thereof – wasn’t her problem.

She turned and jumped. While her mind had been wandering, so had he. From the bar to her. His eyebrow floated again. “Nervous?” he asked as he handed her a glass.

Irish whiskey. He remembered? She only drank it with him. Only when she was worried. This was never going to work if she was that transparent.

She took a sip. “Thank you. You’ve got a beautiful home.”

“You didn’t come here to talk about the house, so get on with it so I can say no and get back to the game.”

Meg glanced at the black TV screen, but didn’t contradict him. All the words she’d practiced left her and she was unsure how to begin. She’d already said what needed saying. And, years ago, a lot of things that didn’t. That bridge was toast, but there was nothing she could do about it now. “I need you to buy into Jennings.”

Ooh, I love that part! This really is a fantastic book. The conflict and stakes are so high. I was rooting big-time for these two strong-willed people to get together, but they had all those darned ethics forcing them to live by their individual codes of honor! You’ll love them, too. Promise! Oh…back to Kimberly.

Happy Holidays, everyone! Tell me your favorite thing about the holiday season and you’ll be entered to win a free Kindle copy of The Billionaire Bachelor’s Revenge. Even if your favorite thing is Christmas carols in October (that would be Snarky Daughter’s answer)!

And don’t forget to come back tomorrow for more of the 12 Bandita Days Of Christmas! (Plus, you need to check the Treasure Chest to see if you are a winner from one of the previous days.) We are building up to our Christmas Day giveaway of a huge bundle of books and goodies from Banditas and friends like Lydia Dare, Dianna Love, Liz Carlyle, Annie West, Deb Marlowe, JD Tyler, Addison Fox, Sabrina Jeffries, Miranda Neville, Marquita Valentine and Sandy Blair. This is big, people! :-D