Sunday, June 16, 2019

Book Spotlight on The Mad Lieutenant by K Webster & Nicole Blanchard (GIVEAWAY)

It’s an exhilarating sci-fi romp for a man weighed down by his past as his unwelcome attraction to a human female leaves him wanting more.  Keep reading to get a tempting taste of The Mad Lieutenant by K Webster and Nicole Blanchard, then add it to your bookshelf.  In honor of this third installment in the Lost Planet series make sure to fill out the form below for the chance to win a $20 Amazon GC along with a signed print copy of this book too!


Her voice brought me back from the darkness, but I don’t want the sweet relief she promises. Unlike the rest of the morts on my planet, I don’t want a mate. Especially not her.
She’s loud, boisterous, and doesn’t take no for an answer.
Unlike the rest of the alien females my brothers have woken from cryosleep, Molly doesn’t find my growls intimidating. The more I try to ignore her, the more she tries to befriend me.
I’d been taken captive once by the virus that nearly killed me. I bear its scars, not only on my body, but in my thoughts. No woman, not even one as beautiful as Molly, can heal me.
I don’t want her, but she needs me.

FIND AT GOODREADS here.


BUY LINKS:  AMAZON (US)  |  AMAZON (UK)  |  AMAZON (CA)  |  AMAZON (AU)



PREVIOUS INSTALLMENTS IN THE LOST PLANET SERIES:

THE FORGOTTEN COMMANDER (Book 1)
FIND AT GOODREADS here.
BUY LINKS:  AMAZON (US)  |  AMAZON (UK)  |  AMAZON (CA)  |  AMAZON (AU)

THE VANISHED SPECIALIST (Book 2)
FIND AT GOODREADS here.
BUY LINKS:  AMAZON (US)  |  AMAZON (UK)  |  AMAZON (CA)  |  AMAZON (AU)


AUTHOR’S INFO:

K Webster is the author of dozens of romance books in many different genres including contemporary romance, historical romance, paranormal romance, and erotic romance. When not spending time with her husband of twelve years and two adorable children, she’s active on social media connecting with her readers.
Her other passions besides writing include reading and graphic design. K can always be found in front of her computer chasing her next idea and taking action. She looks forward to the day when she will see one of her titles on the big screen.


Nicole Blanchard is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of gritty romantic suspense and heartwarming new adult romance. She and her family reside in the south along with their menagerie of animals.


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Saturday, June 15, 2019

Book Spotlight on The Friend Zone by Sariah Wilson (GIVEAWAY)


Readers will find themselves captivated by this sexy tale of second chances set in the football world as a forbidden romance flares back to life.  Keep reading to get a tempting taste of The Friend Zone by Sariah Wilson, along with hearing from the author who talks about why football players make delicious heroes too.  In honor of this first installment in the End of the Line series make sure to fill out the form below for the chance to win a $25 Amazon GC along with a digital copy of this book too!

Why Football Players Make the Best Book Boyfriends.....I got inspired to write the “End of the Line” series after seeing the Netflix documentary Last Chance U. I loved the idea of a junior college that gave Division 1 football players a second chance at the NFL or to play for a Division 1 school again after they’d screwed up their scholarships. I chose football because while my family is not a typical sports family (my husband doesn’t watch at all), my oldest son played football all four years of high school and I’ve always enjoyed watching the game. Plus, isn’t there something just inherently appealing about football players?
It’s part of what makes them such great heroes—they’re strong, athletic, talented, protective. They’re committed to playing their sport and playing it well, which can also translate off the field and make them the types to seriously commit to a relationship because they’ve shown they’re willing to do the work to get what they want. I think that level of dedication speaks a lot to the kind of boyfriends they turn out to be.
My current project is THE FRIEND ZONE, and it’s a story about Logan Hunt, a disgraced football player being given a second chance to play and graduate from college, which he is determined to do. His new coach has a lot of rules he expects his players to follow, including no dating. Jess is Logan’s math tutor and off limits, especially since she’s the coach’s daughter. They decide to stay just friends and try to fight off their growing attraction to one another. He’s the perfect guy to start off this series because he’s someone who has overcome a lot and exemplifies what EOL means for the players—the chance to start over.

Disgraced college quarterback Logan Hunt was on his way to NFL stardom when he messed up big-time. Now the Texas star player with a bad temper has a new option: Seattle’s EOL College—as in End of the Line, to his fellow misfit recruits. It’s Logan’s last chance. If he can follow the rules. No parties, no fighting, no swearing, and oh, no dating the coach’s daughter, Jess. Simple. Yeah, right. For Logan, there has never been a rule he’s more tempted to break.
The deal is “just friends.” The pretty, confident, and fiercely smart math whiz is fine with pizza, tutoring, and keeping Logan in line. But the closer Jess gets, the more receptive she is to his warm heart and spirit—not to mention his irresistible off-field passes. With defenses down, they’re both heading into the danger zone.
It’s more than thrilling. It’s love. It’s also a game changer that could sideline Logan’s NFL goals—and more important, a future with Jess. But dreams are worth fighting for, right?

EXCERPT:

“Welcome. To those of you that I haven’t met personally, my name is Stan Oakley, and I’m the head coach of EOL’s Owls.”
A couple of the players made hooting noises in response.
“I thank you all for being here, for taking time out of your lives to hear what I have to say. Either one of the members of my staff has spoken to you or I have, and we have mentioned that this team has some serious rules. I’d like to talk to you about that now and what exactly those rules are.”
Here it was. I straightened in my seat and wondered what he could possibly throw at us that would be bad enough that Jess thought she’d be taking me right back to the bus station.
Coach nodded at Ford, who walked over to the white board and picked up a marker.
“First, punctuality. You will be on time. To class, to practice, to tutoring, to everything in your life that you need to show up for, you will respect the time of everyone around you and be there when you’re supposed to be.”
Ford wrote “#1 Be on time” on the board.
“There will be no drinking at all, ever. No drugs of any kind. You will be randomly drug tested on a regular basis. First time you fail, you’re out. There will be no second or third chances here.”
I felt Bash sinking down in his seat next to me as several of the guys murmured. “How are we supposed to let off steam?” someone asked behind me.
Coach kept talking. “There will be no swearing or cussing.”
“That’s not even realistic!” a guy in the front row protested.
“It is realistic. And you will do it because you represent me and you represent this team and you can do it without swearing. Next, in accordance with NCAA standard, you will maintain a minimum of a 2.5 GPA. I may give more playing time to guys with a higher GPA. The more playing time you get, the more likely you’ll be seen by a scout or a recruiter. Especially in the playoffs and the national championship game. Take your academics seriously. Keilani Kahananui will be talking to you about your options later and how we can help.”
There was more dissent among the ranks, more guys murmuring and complaining about the rules. None of them seemed that bad to me.
But I had the feeling the worst was yet to come.
“Next rule—no fighting. On or off the field.”
Now it was my turn to slouch down in my seat. As if that one had been directed specifically at me.
The marker squeaked against the whiteboard as Ford continued writing down Coach’s rules.
“In addition to being punctual, you will treat authority figures with respect. You respect your teachers by showing up to class. By not talking back. By turning in your assignments. You respect your coaches by showing up to practice ready to give a hundred percent every time. By listening and doing as you’re told.”
Off to my left somebody shouted out, “Yo, Coach! Respect has to be earned.”
“It absolutely does not,” Coach Oakley quickly countered. “Respect will be given without reservation. If you think that it must be earned, there’s the door. Because there’s no way you’re going to be playing on my team.”
The coach fell silent, waiting to see if anybody would leave.
No one did.
“I won’t get to coach most of you for four years. My goal is not to build a program that keeps you all here. My job is to get you to the next stage of your life. To turn you into men.” There were some more sounds of discontent, and the coach held up his hand. “I know a lot of you think you’re already men. But you’re not. Not yet. I expect you to all to start behaving like real men. Like gentlemen. For your entire lives, because you had some talent to play football, nobody cared how you behaved off the field. I care. I’m holding you to a higher standard. Better today than you were yesterday. Especially when it comes to women.”
My spidey sense started tingling. Whatever he was going to say next, I knew I wouldn’t like it.
“And our final rule for the evening: no women. No girlfriends, no dating, no one-night stands.”
That led to a loud and physical reaction in the room. Which I got, because I felt like I’d been sucker punched. It was one thing to be asked to give up most of the things you did to entertain yourself and relax.
But women? How were we supposed to go an entire season without girls? I didn’t know if I could do it.
“How will you know?” somebody asked. It was a legitimate question. Short of installing hidden cameras in our dorms, which at that moment I wasn’t putting past him, there was no way for Coach to know if we were messing around.
“I’m expecting you to behave like gentlemen, with honor and integrity. I’d like to be able to take you at your word.”
“No way! That’s it! I’m out!” one guy declared.
“That’s fine,” Coach said, shrugging one shoulder in the same way Jess had earlier. “Some of you may think that because once upon a time you were recruited by a Division 1 school, you’re better than this place. You’re not. I don’t have to play any of you. I don’t have to keep any of you on scholarship. And for anyone who thinks this team will fall apart without you, you couldn’t be more wrong. This team will be just fine.”
That one word, “scholarship,” made my decision easy. I didn’t necessarily need women in my life. It would probably help to have one less distraction as I went about dedicating all of my time to school and football.
“You really expect us to live like monks? Will we at least get to hang out with girls in the off-season?” another man asked.
Coach Oakley was silent, again giving off that commanding vibe that made people sit back down and be quiet. “You all know why you’re here and what’s at stake. For most of you, this is the end of the line. There is no somewhere else. But if you feel like you can’t live with my rules, again, there’s the door. You all have round-trip tickets to take you back home.” He turned and faced the dude who had asked the last question. “There is no off-season at EOL. You are my players until I say you’re not. I am holding you to a higher standard. But I know every person in this room is capable of rising up to do what I ask of you. Of being better. Prove me right.”

BUY AT AMAZON here.

AUTHOR INFO:

Bestselling author Sariah Wilson has never jumped out of an airplane or climbed Mount Everest, and she is not a former CIA operative. She has, however, been madly, passionately in love with her soul mate and is a fervent believer in happily ever afters—which is why she writes romance series like The Royals of Monterra and #Lovestruck. After growing up in Southern California as the oldest of nine (yes, nine) children, she graduated from Brigham Young University with a semi-useless degree in history. She currently lives with the aforementioned soul mate and their four children in Utah, along with three tiger barb fish, a cat named Tiger, and a recently departed hamster who is buried in the backyard (and has nothing at all to do with tigers).


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Friday, June 14, 2019

Book Release Blitz for Crow by Erin Trejo (GIVEAWAY)

Readers will find themselves captivated by this dark and gritty romance set in the MC world, a world inhabited by an unforgettable cast of tarnished heroes and admirable heroines caught in a hard-fought journey to HEA.  Keep reading to get a tempting taste of Crow by Erin Trejo, a tale with a plus-sized heroine and a hero weighed down by loss, then add this just-released book to your shelves.  In honor of this fourth installment in the Soulless Bastards MC So Cal series make sure to fill out the form below for the chance to win a signed print copy of the previous book in this series too!

Four minutes. That's all it took to change my life forever.
I once had a purpose in life. Had a direction.
Four damn minutes changed it all.
I tried to live for my club. I was doing what I needed to do each day.
I was in a bad place when I met Lyric.
She wasn't much better.
Together we found a way to move on.
I found some sort of strength in her and she found safety and love in me.
The only question now is...
Is that enough for me?

EXCERPT:

“What is this?” She sits up and looks down at the shirt in her hands.
“That,” I say pointing at it, “is my shirt. Put it on. You slept in yours,” I remind her. Her eyes jerk to mine, something’s off in them.
“What now? You don’t like my shirt?” I ask playing with her. I hold my hand over my heart to fake emotion.
Lyric shakes her head before looking away. “I get that guys think it’s sexy for the woman to wear his shirt, but that’s when it looks like a dress on her. This won’t fit me.” I sigh and run my hand through my hair.
“It will fit you and you will look sexy as fuck in it. You have to stop downin’ yourself like that, Lyric,” I tell her. My patience with this “I’m fat thing” is wearing thin. I’ve had about all I care to hear about it.
“I’m not, Crow. I’m telling the damn truth. I’m too fat to wear your clothes,” she snaps.
“What size is that goddamn shirt you have on?” I snap back.
“An extra extra large,” she says almost sounding embarrassed.
“Well, what the fuck do you know? So is mine! Put it on or I will do it for you, Lyric,” I demand. She looks up at me with tears in those blue eyes. I walk over and sit on the edge of the bed, grabbing her face in my hand.
“I get why you feel like you do. I don’t see you like that. I think that you look sexy as hell in whatever the fuck you have on. Don’t compare yourself to others. You aren’t them.” I press a kiss to her forehead before standing and watching her.


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PREVIOUS BOOKS IN THE SOULLESS BASTARDS MC SO CAL SERIES:






SMOKEY (Book #1)

FIND AT GOODREADS here.

BUY AT AMAZON here.














DRAVEN (Book #2)

FIND AT GOODREADS here.

BUY AT AMAZON here.













RUGER (Book #3)

FIND AT GOODREADS here.

BUY AT AMAZON here.




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Thursday, June 13, 2019

Book Tour for How to Best a Marquess by Tina Gabrielle (GIVEAWAY)


It’s a scorching attraction between the pages for a woman gaining societal notoriety as well as financial wealth in the gaming underworld and her reunion with the sexy and smart man with a head for business.  Keep reading to get a tempting taste of How to Best a Marquess by Tina Gabrielle, then add this book to your bookshelf.  In honor of this second installment in the Raven Club series make sure to fill out the form below for the chance to win a $25 Amazon GC too!

Lady Ellie Swift learned at an early age that men were more trouble than they’re worth. Now she’s all grown up and is the toast of society. Only she has secret ambitions to run her brother’s infamous gambling establishment—the Raven Club. Everything is progressing as planned until the man who broke her heart, Hugh Vere, the Marquess of Deveril, wants to take over the club. Dark, dominant, and strikingly handsome, Hugh’s reputation for sin precedes him, and suddenly, her dreams—and her heart—are in jeopardy.
As rakish as Hugh appears, he has a sharp mind for business. No one stands in the way of what he wants, not even the fiery-haired beauty from his past. From the moment he sees her again sparks fly, but he knows better than to fall for the lady. According to Ellie, the battle lines have been drawn and Hugh doesn’t stand a chance. But the nearly combustible chemistry between them is hard to ignore, and soon the club is not the only prize he wants…

EXCERPT:


Chapter One
April 1825
The Raven Club
An Undisclosed Location in London
Grunts echoed off the paneled walls.
The sickening sounds of flesh hitting flesh.
Ellie Swift’s breath stalled in her throat. From the look of things, the boxing match would soon be over. In the center of the large room was a square ring roped off with stakes anchored to the hardwood floor at each corner. In the ring, the two opponents circled each other, rocking back and forth with nimble footwork. Both men were bare-chested and bare-fisted. One fighter was huge, a towering hulk of a man—a well-known pugilist aptly called Bear. The other’s back was to her, smooth muscle and bronzed skin glistening beneath the blazing candlelight of the chandeliers. He was tall, just over six feet, but standing in the same ring with Bear seemed to diminish his size.
The crowd cheered, and one could feel the vibrant energy among the gathered spectators as wagers were swiftly made and money exchanged hands. As far as Ellie could discern, most of the wagers were in favor of Bear.
“Who is he?” Ellie strained to see the mysterious fighter’s face from her vantage in the crowd. Her fingers itched to remove her feathered mask to get a better look. But her mask shielded her identity. All the women who attended the Raven Club wore them, especially the wives of wealthy aristocrats who frequented the casino or had a preference for the boxing matches in the back room adjoining the gaming floor. She was drawn to the fights even though her brother, the owner of the club, did not always approve.
She watched, enthralled, as sweat glistened on their brows and backs and ran into the band of their trousers. She’d observed matches before and had seen men’s naked chests. She’d roamed the gambling floor and seen her fair share of the pugilists in the boxing room. At twenty-three, she was five years past her first Season, and she’d heard many whispers that she was on her way to becoming a spinster. The whispers hadn’t bothered her. She’d much rather spend time in her brother’s club than at a ball. Still, despite attending more matches than any young lady should have, she found herself studying the unknown fighter.
“He’s a blue blood,” a man with a gold front tooth, standing to her right, said.
Nobility? Ellie shifted, but she still couldn’t make out his face through the throng of people. Something was familiar about the way he moved—powerful, purposeful…elegant, but she couldn’t place him. He had dark hair and broad shoulders. Not uncommon.
“A marquess who likes adventure. Bad that he chose Bear to challenge,” a bearded man to her left said.
Bad indeed.
Yet, as she watched, the man’s footwork was as swift as his fists. He ducked and wove and avoided blows that would surely have felled any man if Bear’s fists had made contact.
The nagging in the back of her mind continued. What was it about him?
Determined to find out, Ellie wove through the crowd to get closer to the ring. Just as she reached the front, a gasp and shout arose among the crowd. Bear’s uppercut connected with his opponent’s chin. The dark-haired man’s head whipped back, and he staggered, then stumbled forward to catch himself on the ropes.
For a heart-stopping moment, he was inches from her face.
Recognition jolted through her.
Along with a deep-seated dread and a maddening pounding of her heart. The vibrant green of his eyes, the divot in his chin, the full lips, and—
“A kiss from a lovely lady for luck,” he said, breathing heavily.
Before she could blink, those perfect lips pressed against hers. Hot. Swift. Over in seconds, he turned to face his opponent.
Ellie, on the other hand, was not as quick to recover.
Oh my God.
It was the devil returned.
Her only consolation was that he didn’t recognize her with her mask.
She turned and fled into the refuge of the casino...
There was something about her, Hugh Vere, the Marquess of Deveril, did not consider himself a superstitious man. But the lady’s kiss had surely turned luck in his favor.
He’d defeated the monster of a man named Bear soon after he’d kissed the lady. Landing a blow to Bear’s right temple, his opponent had dropped like a stone.
Hugh wiped his brow with a towel and dipped a dented metal cup in a bucket of water. The cool drink eased his parched throat. He hadn’t been in the best position to study the woman closely. His teeth had rattled in his skull after Bear’s fist had made jarring contact with his jaw. She’d worn a peacock-feathered mask, and he hadn’t made out the color of her eyes. But he had glimpsed her hair. Had it been as vivid a red as he’d thought?
Could it be her?
He’d only known one female who’d had that hair color. The young girl from his past would be a woman now. His brow creased as he tried to recall the details of the masked female he’d kissed moments ago.
He remembered her lips. Soft and inviting. His daring kiss had paid off in a win. Had she stayed to watch?
He tossed the towel to a boy, one of many he’d noticed working at the Raven Club. “The lady with the peacock mask. Who is she?”
The lad shrugged slender shoulders. “No one asks at the Raven, me lord. The ladies wear masks to gamble and watch the fights.”
Hugh knew secrecy was prized at the club. It was one of the numerous reasons the place took in a fortune in coin every evening.
“Where did she go?”
The boy pointed to a set of doors at the far end of the cavernous room. “Back to the casino floor.”
Hugh had business to conduct at the casino. If he was lucky, he’d spot her on the way and offer his thanks.
The doors led from the boxing room to the main casino floor. It was an ingenious design, in Hugh’s opinion. Every vice resided beneath one roof. Almost every vice. From what he’d been told, the Raven Club did not offer demimondes. Only bored widows looking to gamble and some seeking to engage in a night of physical pleasure.
Not much difference in Hugh’s estimation. He’d enjoyed the attentions of willing widows and actresses since his return from war months ago.
The casino was busy tonight. Every table on the floor was filled with gamblers hoping to win at a game of chance. The crack of the dice across the green baize of the hazard table drew his eye. The sound of the roulette wheel as the little white ball spun and spun combined with the excited shouts of the players and the call of the croupiers. Men and women gazed at their cards in avaricious intensity at the whist, faro, and vingt-et-un tables. Liveried servers with an embroidered R on their waistcoats delivered tumblers of amber-colored alcohol on trays to the gamblers. The scent of cigar smoke wafted to him.
He recognized many of the spectators from the boxing match, now eager to spend their winnings on games of chance. Most would lose. Another efficiency of the club he admired. Have them wager on the fights, then pass through the doors and turn around and give their money back to the club at the tables.
“Lord Castleton is waiting for you upstairs,” a tall, broad-shouldered man with a brick-like chin said. Hugh had learned his name was Brooks and he was the head guard on the casino floor.
Hugh scanned the room for the red-haired woman in the peacock mask, but she was nowhere to be found. He followed Brooks up a winding staircase to a second floor. The man opened the first door on the right.
It was a spacious room with an oak desk, matching leather chairs, and a thick Oriental carpet. Papers beneath polished stone paperweights and leather-bound ledgers were piled upon the desk. A globe rested on an end table in the corner.
Hugh turned at the sound of a throat clearing to find the earl and his countess standing at the sideboard in the corner of the room.
“Welcome, Lord Deveril. It is a pleasure to see you again.” Lady Castleton came forward and curtsied. She was an attractive woman with dark hair and blue eyes. She was also large with child. Her husband, Ian Swift, the Earl of Castleton and the owner of the Raven Club, stood beside his wife.
Hugh hadn’t expected the countess to be present. He’d just stepped out of the ring, so he hadn’t bothered with a waistcoat and cravat. He wasn’t properly attired to meet her.
Hugh bowed. “Thank you, my lady.”
“Congratulations on defeating Bear,” Lord Castleton said.
Hugh didn’t try to hide his surprise. “News travels that quickly?”
“I know everything that happens in the Raven soon after it occurs.” Lord Castleton waved toward a window overlooking the casino floor. “I may not be able to see the boxing room, but my workers below deliver messages with simple hand motions. See for yourself.”
Hugh walked to a window in the paneled wall that overlooked the casino floor. He could see everything clearly from this vantage point—the flurry of the dealer’s hands, the slight sheen of sweat on the gamblers’ faces as they placed their wagers, the painted lips of the masked women as they coyly smiled and flirted, and even the satisfied expression of a waiter who received a gold coin after delivering a whisky to a lucky winner.
He was fascinated. It was like a play, the most absorbing performance of human behavior and emotion he’d ever witnessed. It was intoxicating to gaze down and simply watch. No wonder Castleton was considered one of the most powerful men in all of London before he’d inherited the earldom.
Hugh coveted the man’s good fortune. As well as his dark reputation. Hugh had forsaken his own reputation years ago. After learning of his father and brother’s deaths from pneumonia, he’d resigned his army commission and returned to town. He may have taken his place as the Marquess of Deveril, but he no longer cared what others thought, including his miserable mother who currently resided in the country and whom he’d long ago dismissed from his life. When he’d heard rumors that the Raven Club was for sale, he’d reached out to Castleton straightaway.
The door opened, and Hugh turned away from the window.
He froze as the lady with the peacock mask entered. He was able to study her in detail now. Her eyes were a piercing blue from behind the mask. His initial guess had been correct.
Ellie Swift was here. And her ringside kiss had given him the luck he’d needed to defeat Bear.
“Ellie,” he said aloud before he could stop himself. He experienced a tumult of emotions—joy to see her again, an ache of desire that had never dulled, even through the years, and a heaviness in his chest for all that was lost between them.
Her reaction wasn’t as pleasant. She stiffened and shot him a hostile glare. “Good God! What is he doing here?”
“Ellie,” Lady Castleton said, in an admonishing tone. “Is that a proper way to greet the marquess?”
Hugh was quick to intervene, and he stepped forward and bowed. “Please, do not make amends. It’s lovely to see you again, my lady.”
He hadn’t been a marquess when they’d first met five years ago. He’d been a second son, untitled and without a shilling to his name. The irony was not lost on him that he’d had to give her up because of his lack of fortune, only to unexpectedly inherit the title and the wealth that accompanied it years later.
Ellie glared at him, then reached up to remove her mask. It was like a punch to the gut. She had changed, grown even more beautiful. Porcelain complexion, red hair the color of a bright sunset, and blue eyes that could devastate a man. The sprinkling of freckles on the bridge of her nose remained. She’d hated them; he’d thought they only added to her perfection.
The last time he’d seen her they had both been eighteen. He’d broken her heart, and she’d fled the gardens of Lady Something-or-other’s home with tears in her eyes.
It was a moment he’d relived for years.
“We’ve asked Lord Deveril here to discuss the future of the Raven Club,” Lady Castleton said.
“The future of the club?” From the confused look on Ellie’s face, it was clear she had no idea. Why should she? She’d seen him in a boxing ring minutes before and now he was in her brother’s private office.
“Lord Deveril seeks to buy the Raven,” Castleton said without preamble.
A gasp escaped Ellie, and she pressed a hand to her chest. “You cannot be serious!”
“Ellie,” Lord Castleton said, his tone harsh.
She appeared panicked now, and Hugh could not grasp why she had such a strong physical reaction to the news. He knew she hated him, and for good reason, but the Raven Club was business, surely nothing that she should be concerned with.
Ellie’s gaze homed in on her brother. “You know I want a chance to take over the Raven. You promised.”
The Earl of Castleton raised a hand. “I made no such promise.”
Lady Castleton touched her husband’s hand. “We said we’d consider it. We know you are more than capable, and with Brooks’s continued help to oversee the casino floor, we know the Raven Club would succeed.”
Hugh’s brow furrowed, and he looked from Ellie to Castleton, then back to Ellie. He was shocked by this turn of events. The earl and countess couldn’t possibly consider allowing a young woman to manage London’s most notorious gambling club. “You cannot be serious,” he said, repeating her phrase. “Ellie is a…is a…”
“A what?” Ellie snapped.
“A lady.” The thought of her running the place was ludicrous. How long before someone recognized her behind the frivolous mask? It would be the scandal of the year. Her future would be ruined.
“Our first child is expected in a little over a month’s time. Once, we never thought to sell the Raven Club, but the years have changed our opinion. I wish to spend time with my wife and child, not a casino,” Castleton said.
“I understand,” Hugh said.
He didn’t. Not really. His parents had been distant to their children and cold toward each other. They had never shared a bedchamber. As far as Hugh knew, the old marquess had visited his wife twice, to have two sons, and never again.
“Whoever takes over must continue the charitable works from the profits,” Castleton said.
Hugh knew about the anonymous donations. At first, the earl didn’t seem charitable, but as Hugh became better acquainted with the man, he’d realized there was much more to Ian Swift than met the eye. The earl had secrets—deep-seated ones—but what was clear was the fact that he adored his wife.
Hugh had assured the earl and the countess that he had no qualms about continuing to set aside a portion of the profits for the orphanages and asylums for women as had been established. His reasons for wanting to purchase the Raven Club were twofold: he had a strong interest in boxing, and he had a sharp business mind and knew he could successfully manage the establishment. He valued control, to be in charge. His years as an officer in the military had been regimented, and he’d discovered he was a natural leader.
It hadn’t always been this way for him. As a young man, his disciplinarian father had rigidly dictated his future. As a result, Hugh had left for the army, swearing never to allow another to control him. Since inheriting the title and returning from war, he had little patience for high society and had taken on a devil-may-care attitude when it came to the ridiculous rules of the beau monde. He wanted more out of life than to simply be a marquess and was determined to choose his own path.
“As I’ve assured you, I have no protest to donating to the charities. I still want to purchase the establishment.”
“No!” Ellie said.
To Hugh’s surprise, it was the countess who spoke. “We have considered both of you and have decided to see who would prove the ‘best man’ for the club. For one month, you will both run the Raven Club. Whoever is most successful will have the establishment. If Ellie wins, she will have the freedom to manage it with Brooks’s aid. If Lord Deveril wins, then our solicitors will draw up purchase papers. Your endeavors will be recorded in separate ledgers.”
“You think to hold a competition?” Ellie asked in surprise. “That’s ludicrous!”
For the first time, Hugh was in agreement with Ellie Swift. He found it hard to believe the earl and countess would even consider such an idea. One look at Castleton’s tense expression and Hugh knew it was the countess who had convinced the man to agree to a competition.
Fine. Hugh’s gut tightened with a conviction. He’d always been soft where Ellie was concerned. But not in this. It was for her own good.
He would win.
“I accept,” Hugh said....
As soon as Hugh left, Ellie faced Ian with fists clenched at her sides.
“How could you do this?” she demanded as indignation swamped her. “You are my brother.”
“I wanted to say no. I still do. Grace convinced me otherwise,” Ian said.
Again, Grace placed a hand on her husband’s sleeve. The effect was remarkable. Ian calmed and smiled down at his pregnant wife.
A knot twisted inside Ellie. Once, she thought she’d found a man who had adored her as much as her brother loved her sister-in-law.
That man had been Hugh Vere, now known as the Marquess of Deveril. She’d dubbed him the devil marquess, for certainly that was an apt name.
What a fool she’d been. Only eighteen, she’d just had her debut into Society and attended her first ball. She’d met an equally young and handsome Hugh, second son to the Marquess of Deveril. He hadn’t minded her red hair, freckles, or her love of books. They’d been drawn to each other and had quickly fallen in love.
Or rather, she’d fallen madly in love with him.
“You know about our past,” Ellie said.
Her brother and sister-in-law knew most, not all. She could never confess every humiliating moment. She’d cried in private for over a year. Her younger sister, Olivia, had attempted to comfort her during many dark and lonely nights, but Ellie had wept until she’d been exhausted and fallen into a restless sleep. Even Ian and Grace had tried to cheer her on more than one trip to Gunter’s for ices but had been unable to pull Ellie out of her melancholy.
It had taken years to harden her heart.
“You are no longer eighteen. You’ve rejected suitor after suitor ever since,” Ian said.
“I will only marry for love. Just like you with Grace.”
It was an excuse. She didn’t want to marry. She wanted to run the Raven Club and become an independent woman. Only then could she continue to use her good fortune to help others—women who were at the mercy of men who were sworn to protect and cherish them, not hurt them. If she ever chose a husband, then she preferred one who could be easily managed and fooled, who would never be a risk to her heart.
“I support your decision to choose your own husband, but not in this.” Her brother waved his hand to the window overlooking the casino floor. “This is no life for a young lady.”
Grace cleared her throat. “Contrary to my husband’s opinion, I do believe a woman has what it takes to run the Raven Club.”
“I knew you would take my side,” Ellie said, hope lifting her spirits.
Grace was talented with figures and took over the bookkeeping soon after she’d wed Ian. She’d also been teaching Ellie, who much preferred numbers and books over balls and dandies.
And rogues like Hugh.
She’d heard rumors of him in the ladies’ retiring room since his return from the army and his ascension to the title. He rarely attended the same events she did, so she hadn’t seen him. But his reputation for scandal preceded him. Widows. Actresses. Dancers. The salacious rumors had confirmed everything he’d done to her.
Grace shook her head. “I haven’t taken anyone’s side yet. But Ian and I have reached a compromise. A test, if you prefer. Whoever is most successful in one month’s time shall have the Raven.”
“You would choose Deveril over your own flesh and blood?”
Ian let out a puff of air. “Cease the dramatics, Ellie. This is business. If not for my wife’s urging, I would have had my solicitor draw up the papers a week ago. Now do you accept or not?”
“Fine,” Ellie snapped. “I accept.”


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AUTHOR INFO:

TINA GABRIELLE, an Amazon best-selling author, is an attorney and former mechanical engineer whose love of reading for pleasure helped her get through years of academia. She's the author of adventurous Regency romances In The Barrister's Bed, In The Barrister's Chambers, Lady Of Scandal, and A Perfect Scandal from Kensington Books. ""A Spy Unmasked"" is the first book in her new Regency romance series, ""In The Crown's Secret Service,"" from Entangled Publishing. ""At The Spy's Pleasure"" will be available in May 2015. Tina's books have been Barnes & Noble top picks, and her first book, Lady Of Scandal, was nominated as best first historical by RomanticTimes Book Reviews.


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