Saturday, September 22, 2018

Book Spotlight on A Billionaire Wolf for Christmas by Terry Spear (GIVEAWAY)

It’s an exhilarating tale as two shifters work together to save their kind from a rapidly dangerous disease while dealing with pack politics that could tear all of them to shreds.  Keep reading to get a tempting taste of A Billionaire Wolf for Christmas by Terry Spear, then get ready to add this thrill ride to your bookshelf when it releases on September 25th.  In honor of this 26th installment in the Heart of the Wolf series make sure to fill out the form below for the chance to win 1 of 5 copies of the 20th book in this series too!

When the wolves’ own blood betrays them, they risk their lives to find a miracle.
Wolf shifter Dr. Aidan Denali has been working day and night to find a cure for werewolves’ alarmingly sudden decline in lifespan. The key to the problem eludes him. But when Aidan grudgingly leaves his work to do some holiday shopping, he meets a remarkable she-wolf whose mysterious pack could bring him one step closer to the answer.
Dr. Holly Gray is thrilled to meet the wolf who’s been working so hard to help others. Now, it’s her turn to help him. But while their attraction is sizzling, the packs are at odds, and the danger is increasing. It’s going to take a holiday miracle for Holly and Aidan to get themselves—and their loved ones—out of this alive…

EXCERPT:

Before they had supper that night, Ted had put on some nice instrumental Christmas music and God Rest Ye Merry Gentleman was playing. Even though they hadn’t intended on staying here for the holidays, hadn’t even planned to be here for it, the guys were making an effort to add a little Christmas cheer for their unexpected guests, and Aidan really appreciated it.
Ted and Mike were speaking in private in the kitchen, but Aidan overheard a little of the conversation while he, Holly, her brother, and Nick were piecing together a 1,000-piece wildlife puzzle on the coffee table in the living room. Everyone who visited the cabin tried piecing the puzzle together for a time. Though they usually did so many outdoor activities, that this was a nighttime activity when they wanted to wind down, drink beers, sit before the fire, and have something more to do while having a conversation.
Ted and Mike were saying something about making spaghetti for Nick, Greg, and themselves, because they didn’t have enough for all six of them. Aidan knew better. They always overbought food supplies when they picked up groceries as if they were cooking for a whole army of wolves for a month so they’d have plenty of meals. They planned to serve a special dish of veal parmesan, new potatoes, asparagus, and wine for the docs. They sounded like they had taken on the role of matchmakers too. Maybe they believed Aidan needed help in the romance department. With Holly, he didn’t need any encouragement or assistance, though he could use more privacy.
He eyed the puzzle, but then looked again at Holly when she pushed another piece into place. She’d done it with twice the number he’d placed. He and Rafe and the others who came here with them hadn’t finished a lot of the puzzle, maybe a hundred pieces since they bought it a few months ago and hadn’t been up here but once since then. But at the progress she was making, she’d have it done in short order. He was trying his darnedest to find another piece that would fit in next to some of the border, since that was completed.
She watched him for a minute and pointed to a puzzle piece that was lying among the ones he’d spread out. “Can you hand me the blue one that has a couple of orange leaves floating on the water?”
He was looking for the one she meant. There were lots of blue ones. And lots of fall leaves. Any of which could be the one she was looking for. He looked at the spot she wanted to add it to, but he couldn’t see any that might work there.
She smiled at him and leaned over him, brushing her body against his in a sexy way when she could have easily avoided touching him. He took advantage of the opportunity to wrap his arms around her and kiss her cheek. “Have you put this puzzle together before?”
“No.” She reached for the puzzle piece. “This one. See how that part of the leaf fits in there with the partial leaf on that part?” She pointed out the parts of the small puzzle piece, but he still couldn’t see that it would work.
He also realized, even if she had put the puzzle together before, the puzzle had too many pieces to be able to know where they would all go again. She’d eyed the picture of the finished puzzle on the box cover for a long time before she had begun doing her part.
He was still trying to find a puzzle piece when she placed three more. If he was in a race and not doing this just for fun, he would have felt outdistanced in a hurry. Then he studied her for a minute more, watching her place another piece, and frowned. “Are you eidetic?” It was rare to find an adult who was.
“Some think so. I can see a visual of something, like the puzzle box cover, and remember where everything goes for a short time. When I see the pieces, I can recall the bordering pieces they connect with. But not long term. If we did this for a couple of hours, I would have to look at the cover again.”
“That’s a heck of a lot better than I can remember. We’ve got to do this as teams when we go to the chalet, just for kicks.”
She laughed. “You mean you and I would team up against Rafe and Jade? That would be cheating. Now, if Jade and I took you guys on—“
“You’d have an unfair advantage.”
She laughed again.
Greg shook his head. “I’m still looking for my first piece and she’s already filled in fifteen pieces.”
“That’s a remarkable gift,” Nick said.
“Some children have it, but unless it’s nurtured, the ability is lost. I guess I just was interested in recalling visuals I’d seen, and it helped to keep that ability alive.”
“I wish I’d done that. Not long enough attention span for me though,” Greg said.

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Friday, September 21, 2018

Book Spotlight on Got It Bad by Christi Barth (GIVEAWAY)


A man forced into Witness Protection because of familial lies finds himself attracted to the woman sworn to keep him safe in this sensual and suspenseful tale of giving in to temptation.  Keep reading to get a tempting taste of Got It Bad by Christi Barth, then add this deliciously decadent contemporary romance to your bookshelf.  In honor of this third installment in the Bad Boys Gone Good series US readers need to make sure to visit the link below for the chance to win 1 of 3 paperback copies of the second book in this series too!

In USA Today bestseller Christi Barth’s last Bad Boys Gone Good novel, the brother who’s always followed the rules finally gets to be a little bad.
Kellan Maguire was a semester away from becoming a lawyer when his life imploded. Now he’s in Witness Protection, hiding from the mob and mad as hell that his brothers lied to him about, oh, everything. The only bright spot in his new life is their drop-dead-gorgeous U.S. Marshal handler. Yeah, he wants to handle her... a lot.
Federal Marshal Delaney Evans has protected her fair share of dangerous criminals. But Kellan is a whole different kind of dangerous—dangerously hot, to be specific. The charming, handsome, and utterly law-abiding Maguire brother got under her skin the moment they met and the more time she spends with him, the harder it is to deny their attraction. Delaney’s willing to give Kellan one night—to get him out of her system—and then it’s over.
Except one night isn’t enough and soon they’re breaking every rule of WITSEC to be together. Kellan’s got it bad for her, but Delaney’s career, her entire life, would fall apart if anyone found out. And then the biggest complication of all hits…
EXCERPT:

“You have my word.”
“Great. The word of an almost lawyer,” Delaney said mockingly. “That and twelve dollars will buy me a martini.”
Then she instantly regretted pushing his buttons. It was habit. It was fun.
It was dangerous.
One thick, dark eyebrow winged up, like an arched frame around his stunning ice-blue eye. “First you call me spoiled, and now you’re insulting my near-lawyerness? If I didn’t know better, I’d say the lady doth protest too much.”
“The lady has her hands full dealing with your troublesome brothers. She doesn’t need to waste her energy constantly fending you off, too.”
“I think you do.” Kellan set his cup down.
Delaney gaped at him. Because she’d been oh-so-careful never to give away with so much as a flicker the fact the she was still interested. How could he tell something that Delaney barely admitted to herself? “You think I want to keep fending you off?”
“Yes.” Kellan stepped closer. In fact, he moved in way past what would be polite. Invaded her personal space just as much as he’d been invading her mind. “You like fighting with me. You could ignore my compliments, my flirty remarks. You don’t. You rise to the bait every time. I think you’re every bit as frustrated as I am.”
“You don’t know anything about my life outside the time I spend working on your case.” Heat flashed across her cheeks and chest. And she stepped in, too. To where the tips of her breasts brushed his chest, and her feet bumped against his. “Don’t begin to think you know me.”
“I don’t think. I know. I know that you may have been on dates since you met me.  But none of them distracted you from whatever’s simmering between us. You want to turn back the clock to the day I asked you out and follow through on it.”
“I don’t.” Her words were the verbal equivalent of a foot stamp. Then, softer, as if she didn’t mean to speak it out loud at all, Delaney said, “We can’t.”
In response, Kellan framed her face with his hands, tilted her head back more, and kissed her.
Not the light, polite, introduction kiss they’d shared the first time. Delaney had obviously pushed him past that step. Kellan kissed as if he needed her to know just how badly he wanted her. His lips worked across her mouth, moving and kneading. Kellan nipped at her wide bottom lip. It felt like punishment for her making him wait so long.
It also felt like a reward for waiting so long, and she rewarded him with a tiny moan.
Delaney’s hands fisted in his thick hair, pulling and tugging. It undoubtedly showed him the insta-heat burning her up inside as much as the way her leg wrapped around his calf.
She wanted more.
His tongue teased at the seam of her lips, and Delaney opened for him like they’d already done this dance a hundred times. She tasted the sweetness lingering from his drink. Desire rocketed through her, turning her nerves to lava. From the way his penis had hardened to pure steel against her belly, Kellan felt the same.
He streaked the backs of his knuckles down the undersides of her raised arms. Kept going to just lightly brush them along the sides of her breasts, her ribs, the flare of her hips to finally land on the curve of her ass.
Kellan dug his fingers in and lifted. Just high enough to press her center against his penis. Instantly, she got on board with the position, rocking against him even as her tongue twined and teased.
It was impossible to stop the little, breathy moans that kept escaping from her. It was impossible not to undulate against his rock hard abs and dig her fingers into the sculpted muscles of his back. Kissing Kellan wasn’t foreplay. It was a sex act all by itself. Utterly satisfying even as it drove her hunger up immeasurably.
And while Delaney would’ve sworn it was impossible, he was a million times better in reality than all the ways she’d fantasized being with him over the past months. Kellan ripped his mouth away to burn a trail of kisses down the side of her neck.
A semi rolled by, and the driver honked for a long time. It had been easy to ignore the white noise of the cars passing, but the horn broke through to Delaney. It reminded her they were on the edge of a green-scummed pond, across from a strip mall. The world could see them making out. And they’d already shot way past a reasonable stopping point.
So she unwound her leg and put her foot back down on the ground. Kellan seemed to get the signal. He dialed back the intensity on his kisses and rained them up the side of her face, down her nose, to end with a light peck on her mouth before easing back. Then he moved his hands to her shoulders.
It took a moment for her eyes to re-open. When they did, it took another moment before Delaney fully focused on him.
“Not only can we kiss,” Kellan said with enough authority to make her realize he wouldn’t allow her to pretend this hadn’t happened. To pretend that she hadn’t just climbed him like a tree and responded with a fervor that matched his own. “We’re absolutely doing it again.”


BUY LINKS:  AMAZON  |  AVON BOOKS  |  BN  |  GOOGLE PLAY  |  iBOOKS

AUTHOR INFO:

USA Today bestseller CHRISTI BARTH earned a Masters degree in vocal performance and embarked upon a career on the stage. A love of romance then drew her to wedding planning. Ultimately she succumbed to her lifelong love of books and now writes award-winning contemporary romance.
Christi can always be found either whipping up gourmet meals (for fun, honest!) or with her nose in a book. She lives in Maryland with the best husband in the world.


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Book Spotlight on More than a Phoenix by Ashlyn Chase (GIVEAWAY)

Get a double helping of sexiness as two shifter brothers find romance with women just discovering the truth about themselves in this exhilarating paranormal tale.  Keep reading to get a tempting taste of More than a Phoenix by Ashlyn Chase, then start counting down the days until it releases on September 25th.  In honor of this second installment in the Phoenix Brothers series make sure to fill out the form below for the chance to win 1 of 3 copies of the first book in this series too!

What do you get when you take
Two phoenix shifter brothers
Throw in one powerful witch
And one…monkey shifter?
Mallory Summers is losing it. She’s discovered she can talk to dead people—and she might be able to shift to monkey form. Firefighter Dante Fierro knows the quirky beauty isn’t crazy—just supernatural. But what would she think if she knew his secret?
Hothead Noah Fierro has his own sparks flying with gorgeous ER doctor Kizzy Samuels. While the attraction is mutual, so are the supernatural secrets. With this much sizzle going on, how do you not get burned?
Fighting fires is easy... Finding love is the hard part.

EXCERPT:

Mallory Summers was trying to chat with a nice young man about the weather, but couldn’t help being distracted by two old biddies sitting on the bus bench, peaking at her from under their umbrellas.
One old woman leaned toward the other and whispered loudly, “Tsk. Tsk. Such a sweet young thing...”
“It’s a shame,” said the other one.
Shame? Should I be ashamed for chatting up a nice-looking guy and offering to share my umbrella?Just to make sure the gossips knew how unashamed she was, she turned back to the young man and spoke louder. “Yeah, I saw the weather report this morning. It’s supposed to rain until about noon.”
The guy just nodded. He was a little hard to engage in conversation.
Still, she persisted. “That will probably keep people at home, so my work at the mall will be slow.”
Out of the corner of her eye, she spotted one of the women waddling up to a guy in uniform. They were farther away, so she couldn’t hear what they were saying.
A few moments later, he approached her slowly. He was a handsome devil. She could only imagine what the interfering old woman had said. Probably warned him not to be taken in by the young lady’s flirtatious ways.
“Uh, hi,” the guy said, smiling. He had stunning brown eyes, with thick, dark lashes most women would envy. One of the patches on his uniform looked just like the one on her uncle’s Boston Fire Department uniform.
She suddenly realized he looked familiar. “Hi. Do I know you?”
The young man paused. His smile turned into a grin, lighting up his handsome face. “I know you. You’re Mallory Summers.”
“Right—and you are...”
“Dante Fierro, and I’m wondering who you’re talking to.”
“Huh?” Well, that’s rude. Why should anybody care? She was about to say as much when she turned back to the guy in question to apologize for everyone else’s bad manners—but he was gone.
“Where did he go?” she asked.
“Where did who go?”
“The man… I don’t know his name. And—wait a minute… You’re the Dante Fierro from high school?”
“Yup. So you do remember me.”
“Of course.”
“Do you always hold conversations with blank air?”
“What the heck are you talking about?”
“Mallory, these ladies have seen you at this bus stop three times, talking to yourself. They won’t call the cops, because you’re not doing anything illegal, and they don’t want to call an ambulance, which would be expensive, but they’re worried about you.”
Mallory jammed her hands on her hips and strode over to the two old ladies. “You should be minding your own business.”
They leaned away from her as if they might catch an airborne virus.
“Mallory…” Dante gentled his voice. “I don’t live far from here. Why don’t you come over for coffee and we can talk.”
“Because I have to go to work. I take two buses to get to my job at the Union Mall.”
“I can drive you.”
The weather didn’t look like it was going to let up, and a nice warm car sounded good. She shrugged. “I don’t want to put you out. You look like you’re on your way to work too.”
“I’m on my way home, actually. Come on. It’s no trouble.”
She smiled. “Well, now that I realize who you are, it would probably be okay to accept a ride. After all, it’s not like you’re a complete stranger.”
“Good.” He stuck out his elbow like he was escorting her to a fancy ball. “Let’s go.”
She slipped her hand into the crook of his arm and gave the old busybodies a glare as they passed.
He lived around the corner in a nice two-family house on L Street, a stone’s throw from the main drag, which bordered the beach.
“I shouldn’t stay for coffee. I can get coffee at the mall. Is that your car?” She nodded toward a black Camaro with bright-red racing stripes down the side.
“Yup. My brother Noah calls it my wife.”
“Your wife? Why?”
“Because I named her Joanna, and I take good care of her. He says it’s because she eats up half my paycheck.”
She giggled. “Okay. Well, nice to meet you, Joanna.” As they approached the passenger’s side, she realized how talking to an inanimate object might also make her look like a crazy person—and he’d already caught her talking to, what…a dead guy? Maybe someone who stepped in front of a bus many years ago… She still wasn’t sure what was going on. Could two old ladies be punking her?
He just smiled, dug the key fob out of his pocket, and opened the door for her.
She settled herself on the comfortable leather seat and looked around. His car was indeed in pristine condition. It didn’t have that new car smell, but it looked as if it could have.
He jumped into the driver’s seat and pulled out of the driveway. “Where to?”
“I work at the mall in Somerville. I thought I already said so.”
He drove in the general direction of the expressway, but stayed quiet for a few moments. At last, he asked, “Mallory, are you sure you should be going to work?”
She reared back and stared at him. What was he saying? And did she want to know? “Yeah. Why wouldn’t I?”
He glanced over at her. “It’s just that… Well, you… I mean...”
“Just say it, Dante. You think I’m nuts.”
“No, not nuts. I wouldn’t put it that way, but maybe…I don’t know, stressed?”
“Nope. I’m an artist, and having a creative outlet decreases stress. To pay the bills, I take professional portraits at the mall. Kids’ photos mostly. But I like kids, so that’s not very stressful either.”
“Please don’t be offended, but…are you on drugs?”
She burst out laughing. “No. Are you?”


BUY LINKS:  AMAZON  |  BN  |  iBOOKS

AUTHOR INFO:

Ashlyn Chase was a registered nurse for twenty years.  During those years she wrote articles for professional journals and a thesis, but eventually, thank goodness, discovered the joy and freedom of writing fiction.
Ashlyn considers herself lucky.  Her degree in behavioral sciences is a combination of psychology and sociology, so she has studied people most of her life.   She doesn't have to write out exhaustive character sketches to understand her characters or predict how they will behave.  That doesn't mean they don't surprise her.  Sometimes they take her on grand unexpected journeys.
Ashlyn has learned to go with the flow.  To enjoy the journey is not only one of her writing goals, but also a challenge in life.  She tries to follow where the story takes her.  Her identified theme involves characters who reinvent themselves.  And why not?  She has reinvented herself numerous times—from artist, to nurse, to hypnotherapist, to author, and she has lived in seventeen different places.  At last, she's all settled down and comfy in New England.

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Thursday, September 20, 2018

Book Blast for Taken by the Beast by Anya Summers (GIVEAWAY)


It’s a fast-paced thrill ride for readers as a trio of friends get trapped in another universe full of danger and unexpected attraction in this erotically-charged paranormal romance.  Keep reading to get a tempting taste of Taken by the Beast by Anya Summers, then discover even more about this exhilarating romance by visiting the other sites hosting this tour.  In honor of this first installment in The Alcyran Chronicles make sure to fill out the form below for the chance to win a $15 bookstore GC too!

Gemma’s life was nearly perfect. She’s just graduated from college and is heading off to graduate school in the fall. She and her best friends are taking a trip she’s always dreamed about. Only, nothing goes as planned. After being chased on the streets of Dublin by a freaking monster, they get sucked into a portal and wind up on another world. As in, not Earth. Now she can’t find her friends, but there is this really hot, naked guy who calls himself a king and is offering her aid.
There’s only one teensy little problem: He says she’s his mate and is planning on keeping her—forever. Oh, and there’s one more thing: He’s a beast most of the time. And Gemma has to decide if she’s willing to give up everything for the one man she’s meant to be with in the universe.

EXCERPT:

The big beast followed them from above. Its great wings stirred air currents and created a wind tunnel in the alley. Dust and rocks pelted them. She searched for an escape, a doorway or a window they could climb through to safety. But the windows were too high up for them to reach. Their footsteps slowed as they reached the gray brick wall. A dead end. Their dead end.
“What are we going to do?” Moira gasped, frantically searching for a way out of their situation.
Anna whimpered. “I’m not seeing this. We’re not here. We just had something put in our drinks, and we’re back at the hotel. This is just a nightmare.”
Gemma glanced down the alley, attempting to divine their odds of making it back out the way they’d run. And then the thing, for she couldn’t call it anything else, landed in the alley and blocked off their escape route. They were fucked.
They flattened themselves against the brick wall. Gemma searched for a way out, a way to survive.
Moira and Anna flanked her. She wished she could cry like they were doing. Anna was hysterical, telling herself to wake up. Moira was whimpering, her fearful moans guttural, sounding more like they were coming from a wounded animal than a human. But for Gemma, the night had taken on a surreal bent.
The creature approached. Its booted feet crunched over the pavement. What kind of monster wore leather boots? Her scientific brain tried to make sense of the tableau. The thing appeared to be male, judging by the lines of its chest on down to its groin. His large wings, even at rest behind him as he crept toward them, spanned the width of the alley and cut off any chance of escape. The pointed tips of his wings dragged along the brick, scraping the stone. The sound was like nails down a chalkboard.
That’s when things got really weird.
As if their entire night hadn’t become completely FUBAR. They awaited their fate. Pressed against brick. Gemma had always wondered how she would feel at the end of her days, and now she knew. Thoroughly livid. She was incensed that this thing thought to screw up her well-laid plans.
His glowing silver, otherworldly gaze stoked her fury. Anna and Moira were devolving into fear. Their choked sobs filled her with dread. She was the one who had suggested this trip to celebrate their graduation. Her best friends, her sisters of the heart—their deaths would be on her. Anna had wanted to go to the Bahamas. But Gemma had swayed them, persuaded them to go to Ireland instead.
Before she could apologize and tell them she loved them, the wall they were backed up against, awaiting their fates and most likely their final moments, dissolved. Although, maybe that was too simple a term. It melted. The bricks liquefied into nothingness. Instead of stone at their backs, a swirling black mass that reminded Gemma of clouds spiraling inside a tornado, took the brick wall’s place.
The monster was close. Too close now. And he—it—picked up its pace to capture them. She didn’t want to know what the creature had in store for them.
“Go,” Gemma cried, urging her friends to step into the swirling black mist.


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AUTHOR INFO:

Born in St. Louis, Missouri, Anya grew up listening to Cardinals baseball and reading anything she could get her hands on. She remembers her mother saying if only she would read the right type of books instead binging her way through the romance aisles at the bookstore, she’d have been a doctor. While Anya never did get that doctorate, she graduated cum laude from the University of Missouri-St. Louis with an M.A. in History.
Anya is a bestselling and award-winning author published in multiple fiction genres. She also writes urban fantasy and paranormal romance under the name Maggie Mae Gallagher. A total geek at her core, when she is not writing, she adores attending the latest comic con or spending time with her family. She currently lives in the Midwest with her two furry felines.


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Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Book Tour for Summer of Scandal by Syrie James (GIVEAWAY)


Two independent thinkers find themselves attracted to each other despite family obligations in this fun and flirty romance full of heartwarming encounters and tough decisions.  Keep reading to get a tempting taste of Summer of Scandal by Syrie James, then add it to your bookshelf.  In honor of this second installment in the Dare to Defy series make sure to visit the link below for US readers to have the chance to win a paperback copy of the first book in this series too!

Madeleine Atherton is no typical American heiress, sent to England to marry an English lord. A brilliant college graduate who secretly dreams of becoming a published author, she wants to marry for love. After receiving a proposal from a future duke, Madeleine flees the London Season for Cornwall to seek her sister’s advice, never expecting her decision to be complicated by a charming, handsome earl she’s certain she dislikes—even though his every touch sets her blood on fire.
Charles Grayson, the Earl of Saunders, has secrets and ambitions of his own. Although under pressure from his mother and gravely ill father to marry his cousin, Charles cannot find the words to propose. But this fascinating American visitor does not figure into his plans, either.
Thrown together unexpectedly at Trevelyan Manor, Madeleine and Charles struggle to rise above their intense attraction. But as things heat up between them over a summer that becomes increasingly scandalous, Madeleine and Charles will both be forced to make a difficult choice. Can two dreamers dare to defy convention and find their own happily ever after?
EXCERPT:

Charles’s heart began drumming to a different cadence as he made his way across the golden expanse of sand. The ocean setting in all its fresh, morning glory was a fitting backdrop for the woman who, in a peach-colored dress that clung to her perfect figure like a second skin, resembled a goddess newly risen from the sea.
“Miss Atherton!”
Charles wasn’t certain if his voice had carried over the crash of the waves and the raucous calls of the gulls. He tried again.
This time, she turned in surprise. Good lord, she was beautiful. The wind brought out the roses in her cheeks and whipped through her skirts and the loose tendrils of her upswept hair.
He ventured closer and tipped his hat. “Good morning.”
“Good morning.” Her eyes and voice held a note of reluctance, as if undecided as to whether or not she was pleased to see him.
“Collecting seashells?”
“I am.” She held up a small cloth bag. “And stones. For Julia and Lillie. They are fond of them.”
“What a nice gesture.” Standing this close, looking down at her lovely face, he realized he had been wrong about the color of her eyes. Under the bright morning sun, they were more cobalt than indigo.
Stop waxing poetic about her eyes.
He drew a line in the sand with the toe of his boot. “I understand you are leaving us today?” Despite himself, he couldn’t disguise the remorse he felt at the prospect.
She hesitated, as if surprised by his tone and what it implied; yet her guard was still visibly in place. “A carriage is coming for me in a little over an hour.”
“I am glad, then, that I caught you before you left. I wanted to make sure I had an opportunity to say farewell.”
“That was thoughtful of you.”
He gestured for them to walk on together. As they strode across the hard-packed sand, he groped for words. “I hope you did not suffer a chill from our little adventure in the rain the other day?”
“Thankfully, no.”
He darted a glance at her. Their eyes briefly met and held. He saw her cheeks grow rosy. Was she thinking about the horseback ride? The near-kiss? Or both? She looked away without further comment.
“I know you felt uneasy about riding astride,” he commented. “I hope you have not berated yourself for that.”
“I haven’t. It was the sensible thing to do at the time.”
“I hope, as well, that you will forgive me for joining you on Tesla’s back. It was not, perhaps, the most gentlemanly thing I have ever done . . .” He broke off.
“It’s all right. It was pouring cats and dogs. We had to get back to the house as quickly as possible.”
“And so we did.”
“And so we did,” she repeated.
Her eyes met his again, now visibly and unexpectedly on the edge of mirth. They both let out a laugh, relieving the tension between them. A seagull squawked overhead, then swooped down to collect some unseen tidbit from the wet sand nearby.
“If it helps, I promise to never breathe a word of it to anyone,” he told her.
“Well. Just so you know: I saw a curtain fluttering when you rode off. I’m pretty sure Woodson saw us.”
“How do you know? Did he say something?”
“Just that he understood why we had both missed tea. And he gave me . . . a look.”
“Ah. A look from Woodson can speak volumes.”
“He didn’t seem to be passing judgment, though.”
“As well he shouldn’t. We were the bedraggled survivors of a downpour, returning to home and hearth.”
“Indeed we were.” Miss Atherton laughed again. “He also mentioned that he is married. To Martin! I had no idea.”
“They are the heart and soul of our household, and have been these many years. I cannot imagine what we should do without them.” The morning sun was growing hotter. Charles lifted his hat, running his fingers through his hair to cool his head, wishing this moment could last forever.
“They are certainly devoted to your family,” Miss Atherton agreed. “I have been meaning to ask. Is there any news about your father? He has been indisposed almost the entire time I have been here. I worry about him.”
“I worry, too. Dr. Hancock has apparently been here every day. All we can do, I am told, is to pray for my father.”
“I have been, and will continue to do so. I wish with all my heart that he will soon be well.”
“You and me both, Miss Atherton. We should probably make a wish on that at the wishing pool.”
“The wishing pool? What is that?”
“It’s a pool of freshwater which, according to legend, is magical. If you drink the water and make a wish, it will come true.” He pointed to the nearby cliffs with a smile. “We have our own local wishing pool just around that bend.”
“Is that so? I would love to see it.”
“Would you?” He paused. “It is in a cave.”
“I love caves almost as much as I love legends.”
“Well, then. Come with me.” Charles led the way down the beach to the mouth of the cave, which was so hidden by the enclave of craggy black rocks surrounding it as to be imperceptible to anyone casually strolling by.
“What a charming spot,” Miss Atherton commented. “I would never have found it on my own.”
“All part of its magic.” Charles hesitated, uncertain of her intention. “If you prefer to go in on your own, I would understand. I can try to tell you how to reach the magic pool. But it is a bit tricky.”
“I see. I suppose it would be most improper for us to venture in at the same time, without a chaperone.” As she said it, her lips curved up mischievously.
He found himself staring at those lips. Imagining what it would be like to taste them.
It was no wonder she was talking about chaperones. Charles gave himself a mental shake.
“I was just teasing.” She laughed lightly, and in a more determined tone went on, “Please, lead the way.”
He wasn’t sure if it was the best idea in the world to go into such a secluded place with her alone. But any further protest would only make clear his own secret longings. So he did as bidden, determined to be a gentleman. Inside the cool interior, the cave opened up into a space the size of a small bedroom, its dark granite walls carved by water and time.
“Follow me,” Charles told her. The profusion of small stones which infused the sandy floor crunched beneath their feet as they advanced, the light growing dimmer with each step. “Can you see?”
“Not very well,” she admitted.
“If you will allow me to take your hand,” he offered, “I can better guide you from here.”
She paused only the briefest of seconds, then complied. Neither of them were wearing gloves. He felt a spark ignite as his hand clasped hers and sensed, from her small intake of breath, that she felt it as well. His heart began to patter in his chest.
“It gets darker as we go,” he said, “but our eyes will adjust. At the pool itself, there is a fissure that lets in a bit of natural light.”
She nodded and they moved forward, hand in hand. It was such a casual contact, this hand-holding, yet his pulse was pounding as strongly as if he were brushing his fingers over her naked form.
There you go again. Envisioning her naked.
Stop it stop it stop it.
The sound of dripping echoed in the distance, increasing in volume as they moved deeper into the cave. He guided her through a series of channels in the rock, past columns, stalagmites, and stalactites. After one final turn through a narrow passage, they entered an open chamber at the end of the cave and stopped.
“Oh!” Miss Atherton said in wonder.
They stood in a roundish chamber, enclosed by rock walls that stretched to a high ceiling. The air felt cool and damp. A narrow fracture above connected somehow to the outer cliff, because it let in a shaft of sunlight that illuminated the interior and sparkled on the surface of the small blue-green pool before them.
“Is it really freshwater?” Miss Atherton asked, her voice echoing slightly inside the chamber. As if suddenly aware that she no longer needed guidance, she let go of his hand.
He regretted the loss of her touch. “Yes, it filters down from the bluffs above.” In confirmation, a drop of water could be seen and heard as it plinked into the pool. “There are many caves with freshwater pools all along the Cornwall coast. I am told they all come with legends, some hundreds of years old.”
She gazed about in fascination. “It is a rather magical place.”
Charles turned to gaze at her. She made such a lovely picture standing there, just a foot or two away. The damp air had caused a few of her curls to frizz becomingly into ringlets around her face. Her peach gown fit so snugly that it showed off her every curve. Her rhythmic breathing was doing its own kind of magic, drawing his attention to her bosom, which was rising and falling and making it impossible to look away.
“How does the magic work, again?” she asked.
He blinked twice, yanking his gaze back up where it belonged, on her face. “You drink the water and at the same time, make a wish.”
“I see. Shall we?”
He nodded. “You first.”
“All right.” She set her bag of shells on the damp rocky outcropping fronting the pool and bent down. After pausing in thought, she scooped up a handful of water. “I wish that Lord Trevelyan will get well soon.” She sipped from her palm.
The simple act looked so wanton to his errant brain, he struggled to regain his wits.
“Can I make another wish?” she asked, looking up at him.
“There is no limit on the number of wishes, as far as I know.”
“All right.” She dipped her hand again, this time closing her eyes and, apparently, making a silent wish before drinking. With a smile, she stood. “The water tastes delicious.”
Staring at her, Charles could think of a few other things that would also taste delicious. He cleared his throat. “What was your second wish?”
“I cannot tell you,” she answered in a tone of mock-mystery, “or it might not come true.”
“Is that an American superstition?”
“I believe it’s a commonly held superstition, where wishes are concerned.”
“It is the first I have heard of it in Cornwall.”
“Well, even an earl can learn new things.” She gestured toward the pool with a smile. “Your turn.”
Charles removed his hat and rested it on a ledge. He bent down, dipped a cupped hand into the pool, and drank, dashing off the following: “May my father live to a ripe old age.”
He stood. Silence stretched between them, slow and catlike. There was no sound other than the intermittent drip of the water and the pounding of Charles’s heart, which was so loud in his ears now, he worried that she could hear it.
“I wonder,” she said softly, “how many people have come here over the centuries, and what they wished for.”
“I suppose some were fishermen and their wives from the village,” he suggested. “Wishing for a good catch.”
“Some might have been women wishing for their husbands’ safe return from sea.”
“Or farmers wishing for a good harvest.”
“Or men and women wishing for a loved one to return to health.”
“Or lovers making a wish for their future.” His breath caught. He had not planned to say that. The words seemed to hang in the air like a live thing between them. Lovers.
Their eyes met, and for a long moment neither of them moved. Tension coiled within his body and vibrated in the air between them. He was so aware of her nearness, he couldn’t speak. From the expression on her face, she was equally aware of him.
In the small, intimate chamber, Charles could hear her every intake of breath, which was coming as fast and unsteady as his own. He felt as if he were suspended in time. They were alone in this quiet spot. In an hour or so, she would be gone. This opportunity would never come again.
Desire came over him, hot and heavy. Charles knew it was wrong. Reckless. Irresponsible. But if he did not kiss her, he would spend the rest of his life replaying this moment in his mind, wishing that he had.
His arms were out before he could stop himself. Sweeping around her waist. Drawing her to him. One hand cradling the back of her neck, angling her head so that her lips were just inches from his.
Through the layers of their clothing, he could feel the thud of her heart against his chest, a rapid pounding that matched his own. He drank in the vivid blueness of her gaze that seemed to say, Yes. Yes. Yes.
And then he kissed her.


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AUTHOR INFO:

Syrie James is the bestselling author of the critically acclaimed Nocturne; Dracula, My Love; The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Bronte (Great Group Read, Women's National Book Association; Audie Romance Award, 2011), and the international bestseller The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen (Best First Novel 2008, Library Journal.) An admitted Anglophile, Syrie loves paranormal romance and all things 19th century. She lives in Los Angeles and is a member of the Writer's Guild of America.


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