New Release: I’VE GOT MY DUKE TO KEEP ME WARM by Kelly Bowen

I've Got My Duke Blog Tour**I was provided an e-ARC from the publisher in exchange for my honest opinion**

Author: Kelly Bowen
Availability: December 16, 2014 (Forever, Grand Central Publishing) e-Book and Mass Market
Series Info: Book #1 The Lords of Worth Series
Where to Buy:
Amazon |  B&N |  iTunes  |  Kobo  |  BAM!   |  Goodreads


I've Got My Duke to Keep Me Warm by Kelly BowenWHERE SECRETS SMOLDER . . .
Calm. Cool. Collected. Gisele Whitby has perfected the art of illusion-her survival, after all, has depended upon it. Years ago, to escape an abusive husband, Gisele “disappeared.” Now she must risk revealing her new identity to save another innocent girl from the same fate. But she needs a daring man for her scheme, and the rogue in question shows a remarkable talent . . . for shattering Gisele’s carefully constructed facade and igniting her deepest desires.

This isn’t the first time Jamie Montcrief has awakened naked and confused from a night of drinking. It is, however, the first time a stunningly beautiful woman offers him payment afterward. Gisele has a business proposition for him, a mission involving cunning thievery and a brazen rescue.  How can he say no to a plot this dangerous . . . and a woman this delectable?

Giveaway Info: 5 winners to receive a copy of  I’VE GOT MY DUKE TO KEEP ME WARM hosted on Rafflecopter (or click on Giveaway Kitty for your chance to win!)

Giveaway Kitty!

Author Kelly Bowen’s Top Five Literary Heartthrobs:

1.)   Jamie Lost  (Defiant – Kris Kennedy) (e-Book on sale for $1.99 at various retailers)

2.)   Griffyn Renaud (The Last Arrow – Marsha Canham)

3.)   Godric St.John (Lord of Darkness – Elizabeth Hoyt)

4.)   Jamie Fraser (Outlander series – Diana Gabaldon)

5.)   Connor Riordan (The Runaway Duke – Julie Anne Long)

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About Author Kelly Bowen:

Kelly Bowen grew up in Manitoba, Canada. She worked her way through her teenage years as a back country trail guide and ranch hand and spent a year working on a cattle station in Australia.  She attended the University of Manitoba and earned a Master of Science degree in veterinary physiology and endocrinology.

But it was Kelly’s infatuation with history and a weakness for a good love story that led her down the path of historical romance.  When she is not writing, she seizes every opportunity to explore ruins and battlefields.

Currently, Kelly lives in Winnipeg with her husband and two boys, all of whom are wonderfully patient with the writing process.  Except, that is, when they need a goalie for street hockey.

Connect with Kelly’s Social Media:

WEBSITE  |  TWITTER: @kellybowen09  |  FACEBOOK

Ciate London Mini Mani Manor: Day 2

Send those winter blahs away with today’s nail polish selection from the Ciate London Mini Mani Manor ‘Cha Cha Cha’. It’s a festive nearly neon orange that makes me want to paint my toes and head to the beach. *sigh*


Ciaté London Mini Mani Manor: Day 1

As a young girl, one of my favorite parts of the holiday season was opening my Advent calendar every day from December 1 through 24. I had my grandmother’s calendar from Germany that was gift from her mother. No candy or goodies, just beautiful holiday pictures. Now with 4 sons of my own, I keep that treasured calendar far away from grubby fingers – and keep the Advent calendar tradition alive with the candy filled versions for my boys.
And a nail polish filled version for myself.
Yes, that’s right … a nail polish filled calendar from the creative folks at Ciaté London, featuring 24 days of lacquer goodness.
I give you the Ciaté London Mini Mani Manor:

Here’s the inside, isn’t it adorable?

Day 1 features the cheerful pink creme finish entitled ‘Kiss Chase’

This color just makes me happy (and such smooth application too!).

Can’t wait to see what the next 23 days brings! Happy Polishing!

Spotlight and Review: The Deepest Night by Kara Braden

Title: The Deepest Night
Author: Kara Braden
Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: The Longest Night, book #2
Buy Links:
Amazon | B&N | BAM | !ndigo | IndieBound | iBooks

My Rating: 

nail-polish fullnail-polish fullnail-polish fullnail-polish fullhalf-a-bottle-nail-polish-spill

The Deepest Night by Kara BradenWhen everything you love is on the line…

The Isles of Scilly off the coast of England are remote, windswept and wild. They’re the perfect place for Ray Powell to recuperate after the toughest Afghanistan mission the military contractor has ever run. Except instead of the peace and quiet he so desperately needs, he’s faced with a beautiful American woman who instantly challenges his iron control.

It’s best to proceed with caution…

Seeking her own safe haven, Michelle Cole is intrigued and flustered by the intensely compelling and irresistible man.

As their cautious friendship slowly builds into simmering attraction, their hearts and souls are about to be broken open…if they’ll allow it.

My Thoughts: 

I realized what a jaded reader I was becoming as I devoured The Deepest Night by Kara Braden.  I kept waiting for our hero, the sexy British military contractor Ray Powell, to show signs of PTSD or deep secrets from his ‘dark and dangerous’ past. Nope. He was well-adjusted and healthy. When asked about the mission that preceded his sojourn to his refuge on [Saint Michael], he was open and honest with Michelle.  No Drama (with a capital ‘D’), no evasion, no lies.

Then I worried Michelle was the one with the secret, maybe a crazy ex or a stalker or Mob ties or …  Again, nope. Sure, Michelle had some baggage in her past, but it only strengthened her resolve to remain an independent businesswoman, a decision Ray respected and supported.

Respect. Support. Communication.  All that plus steamy, slow-burn chemistry make The Deepest Night a refreshing must read.  I reveled in the lack of Capital ‘D’ Drama. I was giddy over the absence of a Big Misundertanding.  I fell in love with the quiet, mature, organic relationship that developed between Ray and Michelle set amongst the unique backdrop of The Isles of Scilly (the locale was so lushly described that I thought for sure author Kara Braden was a native – she’s not).  There’s enough emotional depth to this story that the plot didn’t need any padding to explore two people who were not looking for love – and are awed by the fact they found it.

I’m not the only one who enjoyed The Deepest Night by Kara Braden, it also received a prestigious starred review from Publisher’s Weekly:

“This sweet contemporary will appeal to romance fans who like their heroes powerful and smitten and their heroines capable and genuine.”—Publishers Weekly STARRED Review

See, industry experts agree – Kara Braden is an author you should check out ;-)  Click on Giveaway Kitty below for a chance to receive Kara Braden’s excellent debut novel, The Longest Night.


Giveaway Kitty!

Enter the GIVEAWAY powered by Rafflecopter for a chance to win:

  • (3) winners receive signed copies of The Longest Night
  • (10) winners get free codes for The Longest Night

About Author Kara Braden:

Kara Braden makes her debut in modern romance with a story of love in isolation. She believes that engaging, romantic fantasy can be found everywhere in the world, even in the most unlikely places. With the support of her wonderful husband, cats, and dogs, she writes from her home office outside Phoenix, Arizona, where she spends her time hiding from the sunlight and heat.

Connect with Kara’s Social Media:

Author Website  | Tumblr  | Pinterest | Twitter @KaraBraden | Facebook | Goodreads

Excerpt from The Deepest Night

But as they approached the patio stairs, Michelle slowed her steps. She wanted to preserve the night, to capture the fragile closeness she felt with Ray, to hold it tight against whatever tomorrow might bring.

She was, in fact, tempted to invite him to her room – or to go with him to his room, given the narrow single bed in the manager’s apartment. She could almost hear Vicky’s voice urging her to seize the moment, to let her hair down. To live a little.

That wasn’t her way, but she could…adapt. With a little smile, she stopped two steps up the stairs and turned. With Ray still on the grass, they were nearly the same height. She smiled at him and slipped the flashlight into his jacket pocket, but then her courage faltered. She couldn’t just lean into his arms and steal a kiss.

“Thank you for tonight,” she said, inching forward to the very edge of the step, hoping he’d read her intent and meet her halfway.

He put one foot on the bottom step and draped the blanket over the stairway railing. “Thank you for trusting me to surprise you,” he said, lifting his now-­free hand to her face.

The touch stole her breath, sparking heat across her cold skin. She closed her eyes and tipped her head, pressing against his fingers.

And then she felt his lips on hers, deceptively soft and undemanding, though she felt the strength coiled behind that gentle touch. Her lips parted on a sharp inhale that he stole, the heat of their breath mixing, captive between them. His hand slid back through strands that had fallen free of her ponytail, cupping her nape. Shivers raced through her body, and she lifted up on her toes to lean even closer, bracing her free hand on his chest. His jacket was like ice under her palm, but the leather was soft, pliant, barely hiding the powerful chest underneath.

He chased her gasp with his tongue, a soft swipe across her bottom lip as if he were tasting her. Vertigo hit more powerfully than it had under the infinite stars. She slid her hand up over his shoulder to hold his nape, seeking his strength, his steadiness.

Keeping his fingers entwined with hers, he dropped his other hand from her hair. His arm wrapped around her body, forearm fitted against the curve of her back. She sighed into the kiss, inviting him deeper. He didn’t refuse.

Their tongues touched for a single heartbeat. Parted. Touched again. He drew back and tipped his head the other way as he pulled her close against his chest, her toes now barely touching the edge of the stair. She held tightly, trusting his strength more than her own sense of balance, and gave in to the kiss with a sense of greedy indulgence she’d never before felt.

The raw power of him was a drug to her senses. There was no hesitation in him, no wavering in his intent. Everything she offered, he claimed.

Devoted to Him Blog Tour: Q&A with author Sofia Tate

Author: Sofia Tate
Availability: December 2, 2014 (E-book)
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing (Forever Yours)
Series Info: #2 in Davison & Allegra series (Breathless for Him, #1)
Buy Links:
Devoted to Him by Sofia Tate CoverTwo months ago, Allegra Orsini nearly lost the man of her dreams. Thankfully Davison Cabot Berkeley, a powerful billionaire who always gets what he wants, had refused to allow anything-or anyone-to come between them. Now back in the arms of the man she loves, Allegra receives an incredible proposal.
Allegra is invited to study under the opera world’s most legendary diva. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity . . . but it means moving to Italy for a month. Thirty days without Davison’s touch. Allegra isn’t sure she can survive it-especially when Davison begins pulling away for reasons she can’t figure out. Is the man who has given her more passion and pleasure than she has ever known about to break her heart? Soon Allegra starts to realize that Davison could be guarding a secret even more devastating.
My Thoughts: Davison Berkeley was a handsome young billionaire from a powerful family, with a successful company and the ‘perfect’ girlfriend – and he was completely miserable.  Until one evening, a chance encounter with fledgling opera singer Allegra Orsini lit Davison’s world with passion and love.  Now, having fought the forces that tried to keep them apart (see Breathless for Him, book #1), Davison and Allegra must learn how to co-exist in a relationship, how to balance their careers and interests.   Allegra and Davison learn that lust isn’t enough to sustain them (though they sure have plenty of it!), rather it’s only through trust and true devotion that they can build the kind of partnership and future they both desire.
Sofia Tate, the author of the sensual tales of young opera singer Allegra Orsini and her love Davison Berkeley, took the time to answer some questions regarding her favorite books and guilty pleasures. I want to pop some popcorn, chill some wine and hand out with Sofia after hearing her answers!

- Is there a message you’d like your readers to take away from DEVOTED TO HIM?

Great question! I think it would be this-if the person you love is keeping something from you, then you must have trust and faith in that person that there is a good reason for it.

-Do you have a favorite book or author you like to recommend?

Many of my favorites are listed in the answer below. I will mention an author & series I recently discovered: Colette Auclair, the author of the Aspen Valley series from Pocket Star. The first two books are THROWN and JUMPED, and the third book in the series, BRANDED, will be out on December 15. It’s a contemporary romance series set in Aspen, Colorado. I love her voice, and I found a new Book Boyfriend in Jack Cormier, the hero from BRANDED.

-Do you have a comfort read?

I have a few depending on the mood I’m in: SINFUL by Charlotte Featherstone, BEFORE JAMAICA LANE by Samantha Young, THE WILL and SWEET DREAMS by Kristen Ashley, and any book in THE BLACKSTONE AFFAIR series by Raine Miller.

-What’s your guilty pleasure?

THE REAL HOUSEWIVES OF BEVERLY HILLS (my favorites are Lisa and Yolanda) and VANDERPUMP RULES on Bravo. I’m so tempted to create a character based on Jax!
Also, every Monday night, I watch reruns of BATTLE OF THE NETWORK STARS on ESPN Classic. I loved watching it every year when I was growing up.

About Sofia Tate:
Author Sofia TateSofia Tate grew up in Maplewood, NJ, the oldest of three children in a bilingual family. She was raised on 70s disaster films and 80s British New Wave music and classic tv miniseries. Her love for reading started when she received a set of Judy Blume books from her aunt when she was ten. She discovered erotic romance thanks to Charlotte Featherstone. She loves both writing and reading erotic romance. She graduated from Marymount College in Tarrytown, NY, with a degree in International Studies and a minor in Italian. She also holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Adelphi University. She has lived in London and Prague. Sofia currently resides in New York City.
Connect with Sofia’s social media:

New Release: The King by Tiffany Reisz with GIVEAWAY, Q&A, and a STEAMY EXCERPT!


the kingTitle: The King
Author: Tiffany Reisz
Date of Publication: November 25, 2014


Cunning. Sex. Pure nerve. Only this potent threesome can raise him to his rightful place as ruler of Manhattan’s kink kingdom.

Bouncing from bed to bed on the Upper East Side—handsomely paid in both bills and blackmail fodder—Kingsley Edge is brilliant, beautiful and utterly debauched. No carnal act or chemical compound can relieve his self-destructive apathy—only Søren, the one person he loves without limit or regret. A man he can never have, but in whose hands Kingsley is reborn to attain even greater heights of sin. He plans to open the ultimate BDSM club­: a dungeon playground for New York’s A-list that’ll change the scene forever.

The club becomes Kingsley’s obsession—and he’s enlisted some tough-as-nails help. His new assistant Sam is smart, secretive and totally immune to seduction (by men, at least). She and Kingsley make a wicked team. Still, their combined—and considerable—expertise in domination can’t subdue the man who would kill their dream. The enigmatic Reverend Fuller won’t rest until King’s dream is destroyed. It’s one man’s sacred mission against another’s….

GIVEAWAY: It’s a Tiffany Reisz SURPRISE! Enter over on Rafflecopter!
Buy Links:
Amazon | BN





Tiffany ReiszAbout Tiffany Reisz:
Tiffany Reisz is the author of the internationally bestselling and award-winning Original Sinners series for Mira Books (Harlequin/Mills & Boon). Tiffany’s books inhabit a sexy shadowy world where romance, erotica and literature meet and do immoral and possibly illegal things to each other. She describes her genre as “literary friction,” a term she stole from her main character, who gets in trouble almost as often as the author herself.

She lives in Portland, Oregon. If she couldn’t write, she would die.

Find Tiffany Online:

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads

Q/A with Tiffany

-Do you have a favorite book or author you like to recommend? Do you have a comfort read?

I have a set of books I regularly recommend to people. Want to read amazing literature? Read my favorite novel of all time All the King’s Men by Kentucky author Robert Penn Warren. Want to read the most moving love story I’ve ever read? Read The Vintner’s Luck by Elizabeth Knox. My comfort reads are Sherlock Holmes short stories and Agatha Christie’s Poirot novels.

-What is your guilty pleasure?

I’d need to feel guilt to have a guilty pleasure. Buying office supplies I don’t need is probably the closest I get to a guilty pleasure. I buy them and think about all the people out there who don’t have awesome office supplies like I do and I feel bad for them.

-Favorite Meal?

Coffee and an ice cream sandwich is my version of a “Power Lunch.” The combination of tastes is glorious.

-If you weren’t a writer, what would you be?

My non-writer dream job is train engineer (what? I like trains). My realistic non-writer job would be working in a bookstore. That’s what I was doing when I started my writing career.

Excerpt (M/M), NSFW:

“How much trouble am I in for getting out of the car without permission?” Kingsley asked.

“None,” Søren said, and Kingsley was wildly disappointed. “Let’s go. We can make it back to school by tonight.”

Kingsley followed him back to the car. The driver opened the door for them. When they were alone again, Kingsley said, “Or…”

“Or what?” Søren demanded.

“Or we could find a hotel and fuck in a real bed for once.”

“We’re not on a date. And here I was wondering where the real Kingsley had gone.”

“What do you mean?” he asked as the driver opened the car door for them. He slipped inside and Søren followed. They were on the road again before Søren answered.

“When you were with Claire—I wasn’t sure you were the same Kingsley I know and barely tolerate.”

“Why? Because I like kids?”

“You were good with her.”

“Kids are fun,” he said. What else was there to say?

“I never considered you would like children.”

“Well…I do. So what?”

“Nothing,” Søren said, laughing to himself. “Nothing at all.”

“I know you see me as some kind of pervert,” Kingsley said. “But believe or not, I am a human being. Yes, I like kids. I might want kids someday. I don’t have much of a family anymore. If I want a family I’ll have to make my own. Sometimes I have thoughts that don’t have anything to do with sex. I’m not just your toy, you know. I have feelings and—”

His impassioned “I have feelings” speech ended abruptly when Søren grabbed him hard by the back of the hair and brought his mouth down in a brutal kiss. Kingsley almost pulled away so he could finish his tirade before realizing he wanted the kiss so much more than the fight.

Kingsley returned the kiss with equal and greater passion. Søren yanked Kingsley’s jacket off him and threw it on the floorboard. Kingsley pulled his own shirt off and rolled on to his back on the bench seat. He’d remember the sensation of leather on his bare back all his life.

“Have you ever had sex in the back of a Rolls Royce?” Kingsley asked, trying not to rip Søren’s shirt in his rush to unbutton it. He needed Søren’s skin on his skin right now.

“No,” Søren said. “But ask me that question again in an hour.”

Before Kingsley could respond to that, Søren grabbed his wrists, pinned them over Kingsley’s head and kissed him again—deeper, slower, but no less punitive. Kingsley groaned, and Søren slapped a hand over his mouth.

“Quiet,” Søren said into Kingsley’s ear. “We aren’t alone, and I’ll gag you until you choke if I have to. Understand?”

Kingsley nodded against Søren’s hand. A curtain and partition separated them from the driver. He couldn’t see them, but if they were loud enough, he could hear them. He’d disobeyed Søren’s orders to stay in the car, he’d yelled at him and talked back. He was going to get it this time.


Søren kissed him again. Kingsley kept his sounds of pleasure to a minimum even when Søren reached between their bodies, unzipped Kingsley’s pants, and stroked him hard. Every muscle in Kingsley’s stomach tightened. He sucked in his breath sharply from the shock of pleasure. It took every bit of self-control not to moan audibly.

“You like this?” Søren asked.

“God, yes, so much,” Kingsley said, lifting his hips against Søren’s hand. He spoke in French and English. He was about to lose control of more than his language skills if Søren didn’t stop touching him like that.

“I think you like it too much.” Søren rose up on his knees and looked down at Kingsley.

“I don’t. I really don’t. I like it exactly as much as you want me to.”

“You’re pathetic when you’re turned on.”

“I am so pathetic right now.”

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Blog Tour & Review: Twice Tempted by Eileen Dreyer


**I received an e-ARC from the publisher in exchange for my honest opinion**

Author: Eileen Dreyer
Availability: 25 November; E-book & Mass Market; Grand Central Publishing (Forever)
Where to Buy:

Series Info: Part of the Drake’s Rakes series (#5); My review of the prequel novella IT BEGINS WITH A KISS (Alex and Fiona’s first adventure) is available here
Cover Blurb:

dreyer.TwiceTempted.mmFiona Ferguson’s troubles began with a kiss . . . 
It feels like a lifetime ago that Alex Knight saved Fiona from certain doom . . . and stole a soul-shattering kiss for good measure. Wanting nothing more than to keep her safe, he left her in the care of her grandfather, the Marquess of Dourne.
But Fiona was hardly safe. As soon as he could, the marquess cast her and her sister out on the streets with only her wits to keep them alive.
Alex has never forgotten that long-ago kiss. Now the dashing spy is desperate to make up for failing his duty once before. This time he will protect Fiona once and for all, from a deadly foe bent on taking revenge on the Ferguson line-and anyone who stands in the way . . .

My Ratingnail-polish fullnail-polish fullnail-polish fullnail-polish full

My Thoughts:

I’m happy to report that the promising romance between Alex Knight, Lord Whitmore, and Fiona Ferguson that I so enjoyed in their prequel novella, It Begins With a Kiss, paid off beautifully.  Espionage, intrigue, astronomy and code-breaking lend depth to a passionate tale that proves being loved and being strong are not mutually exclusive.

From the first, both Alex Knight and readers alike, are captivated by the fearsome Fiona Ferguson.  Her tragic, impoverished childhood belies her status a Lady, the granddaughter of a powerful Marquess and sister to his heir.  Alex Knight is a close friend (and fellow member of the Drake’s Rakes spy ring) of Fiona’s brother, Colonel Ian Ferguson and through this relationship, Alex befriends Fiona and names himself protector of her and her sister Mairead.  Ian Ferguson’s story is told in the wonderful novel Once a Rake – highly recommended!).  Scandal surrounding Ian leads to his grandfather to cast the girls from his home, leaving them vulnerable and alone.

Alex Knight has led his life living up to his nickname “White Knight,” always charging to the rescue, collecting strays and trying to save those in need. He tried with his first wife, a vulnerable woman whose weakness and insecurity led to her commit adultery, dabble in treasonous acts and eventually take her own life.  Alex has suffered from his perceived failure to save his wife, yet his character does not wallow in his grief. Throughout this novel, Alex must make some difficult decisions to protect his honor, his country, as well as both Fiona and his family (including his sick step-father) – and these goals prove to be mutually exclusive. His growth comes with how he deals with these conflicts.

Alex is haunted by his first encounter with Fiona – and their powerful kiss – even four years later.  Their physical attraction and emotional connection were not dampened by the time they were separated.  Alex’s sense of duty (and guilt over his role in Ian’s troubles) sent him to look for Fiona but it was her strength and guarded vulnerability that make him fall in love.

Fiona is used to fending for herself and doing everything in her power to protect her twin sister Mairead.  Mairead is as beautiful as she is intelligent, which is to say extremely. Unfortunately that intelligence is accompanied by emotional trauma and complications which make Mairead almost completely reliant on Fiona. Fiona becomes more parent than sister and loses herself in the process. She longs for the chance to lean on Alex for support yet is too proud and scared of losing him that she won’t allow herself to share her burdens.

How could she explain that she simply couldn’t bear another disappointment? That the only thing worse than loss was loss on the heels of hope?

Eventually the assassin who is after their brother Ian, coupled with the revelation that the girls’ genius for code breaking was being exploited by the enemy, brings trouble to the Ferguson twins’ door. Fiona trusts Alex and his close friend Chuffy, Lord Wilde, to protect her and Mairead and remove them to safety.  Fiona doesn’t balk at Alex’s actions but rather intelligently and logically recognizes that she needs his help and that Alex and Chuffy are in the best position to protect her and Mairead.

A highlight of TWICE TEMPTED for me is the mature and thoughtful relationship between Fiona and Alex.  They have instant chemistry and Ms. Dreyer does a wonderful job of fleshing out their compatibility. They have a very open relationship, where they treat one another as equals.  Alex is not put off by Fiona’s past or her ‘bluestocking’ mathematical genius nor is she so determined to be independent that she doesn’t value his assistance.  Alex recognizes that he cannot save Fiona, indeed she doesn’t need him to, but rather he wants to lighten her load.

[S]he had not needed him to complete her. He hoped, however, she would let him shelter her.

The scene where Fiona finally lets go of all the tears and pain she has been holding at bay is powerful and very touching.  Alex and Fiona still manage moments of levity and passion that balance their dark pasts and present troubles.  Theirs is a happily-ever-after you can believe in.

Overall, TWICE TEMPTED is a very balanced romance with a likable hero and heroine who respect one another and demonstrate the power of love and support.  Secondary characters along with a touching secondary romance make this an enjoyable read.  The version I read could have used tighter editing to eliminate inconsistencies, but hopefully those were ironed out in the final product.

Giveaway Details:


Complete the entry form powered by Rafflecopter for a chance to win:

  • (10) winners will get a print copy of TWICE TEMPTED by Eileen Dreyer
  • (5) winners will receive the ENTIRE Drake’s Rakes series, including TWICE TEMPTED

Excerpt from TWICE TEMPTED:

He arched an eyebrow. “Lord Whitmore again? Please, Fiona. Don’t do that to me. When I hear Lord Whitmore, I think of my uncle, who had six fingers and thought bathing was a trick of the devil.”

She giggled. “I can understand your wanting to maintain the distinction.”

“Every time you call me Lord Whitmore, I will call you Eloise.”

She glared at him, the curtains clutched to her chest like bedclothes, as if she were a maiden in threat of seduction. “You wouldn’t.”

He shrugged. “It is your name. Lady Eloise Fiona Ferguson Hawes.”

“No one knows,” she hissed.

He leaned in very close. “I do.”

She reared back and almost tipping the ladder again. “That is patently unfair.”

He shrugged and reached up for the curtains. “All is fair in love and safety.”

She refused to budge. “I do not believe that is precisely the quote.”

Grinning, he put his foot on the second rung, just beneath her. “Close enough.”

And then he made the mistake of looking into her eyes. Her blue, blue eyes that were suddenly black with arousal. He heard the sharp intake of her breath and saw the erratic pulse beating at the base of her long white throat.

His own body reacted just as it had every time he’d gotten close to her. He focused in on her, his grip on her tightening. Still she didn’t move, caught in the circle of his free arm, her hip pressed against his chest, her mouth just above his. All he had to do was climb another rung, and he could satisfy a four-year-old craving.

His heart was galloping suddenly, and he could feel a bead of sweat roll down his back. He could see a glow on her forehead, her upper lip. Her eyes widened, as if she could read his thoughts, and he could scent something new. Arousal. Need. Hunger. His own body was shaking with it. He swore his cock had taken on a life of its own, and his brain simply shut down.

He leaned a bit closer, his foot still on the step beneath her and paused, giving her a chance to escape, to clout him in the head if necessary. She didn’t. She watched him the way prey might a raptor, unsure and wary. He didn’t blame her. He wasn’t certain how much control he had over himself. It had been so long since he’d had a woman. So much longer since he’d really liked the one he had.

Slowly, so he didn’t startle her into tipping the ladder, he rose up and set his other foot on the rung. She was frozen in place, one hand fisted around the blood-deep velvet, the other clenched against the ladder, as if she was still uncertain whether to use it.

She didn’t. She inhaled, her mouth opening just a bit, as if there wasn’t enough air. As if she were struggling to stay afloat.

Sink, Alex wanted to say as he lifted himself face-to-face with her, mouth-to-mouth. Sink into me.

            “I knew it!” a voice screeched behind him, shattering the moment. “What did I tell you about lettin’ them jackanapes in here?”

Fiona reared back, as if he’d attacked her, again throwing the ladder off balance. Alex instinctively pulled back to stabilize them. He pulled back too far and the ladder tipped.

There was a lot of yelling and a couple of muffled thuds as Alex landed on his back, cushioning Fiona’s fall. He wasn’t so lucky.

“Are you all right?” Fiona asked immediately, leaning over him.

“Serves him right,” the housekeeper snapped from the doorway.

He had hit his head so hard he was seeing stars. But he was smelling cinnamon and Fiona, so he really couldn’t complain

“That is enough, Mrs. Quick,” he heard. “Alex? Your eyes are open. Can you hear me?”

Rather than admit that he was too distracted by the plump pressure of her breast against his chest to answer, he simply closed his eyes and groaned. The act would have been unworthy of him if his head weren’t pounding and his arse aching from hard contact with the floor

“Mrs. Quick,” she was saying, her hand on his cheek. “See if Mr. Clemson is outside. Send him for the doctor.”

He knew his injuries didn’t merit such concern. “No doctor.” He blinked a couple of times until the multiple Fionas resolved into one. “I’ll live. My head is a bit bruised is all.”

In retaliation, she took away both her hand and breast, which almost set Alex to groaning again. She actually smacked him on the arm. “Then don’t frighten me like that….again.

“Don’t know why you let him in here at all,” came the grumble from the doorway.

Untangling them both from the curtains, Fiona sat up. “Thank you, Mrs. Quick. I think we’re all right now.”

“Ya think that, do ya?”
Fiona gave her the kind of glare that betrayed her aristocratic heritage. The housekeeper, still grumbling, clasped her hands in a parody of good servile behavior and stalked off down the hall.

Fiona looked back down to where Alex lay, and he could see the cost of the last tumble on her face. He should have been outraged. He was lying in a nest of curtains with a fresh headache and the humiliation of his fall, and she was…laughing.

She tried so hard not to. She held her hand to her mouth. She shook her head. He could see her shoulders heave. He would have chastised her, except the minute he opened his mouth, he burst out laughing, too.

“You are not very beneficial to my amour propre,” he wheezed up at her.

She couldn’t stop laughing, full-throated, full-bellied, as if too much suppressed laughter had simply spilled over. “I…I….didn’t…”

“Mean it,” he managed, making it up as far as sitting beside her. “Yes, I know.”

She frantically shook her head. “Think anything could be so…funny!” She was gasping, bent over her hands at her waist. “The look on your face!”

He had meant to get up, to reassert his mastery of the situation. He refused to sacrifice this perfect moment with her on the floor. Wrapping an arm around her shoulder, he wiped at the tears that coursed down her cheeks.

“It’s not that funny,” he groused.

She started laughing again. “Oh, yes it is. You can have no idea of how long it’s been since I had the chance to laugh. Since I last saw your sister, I think.”

He had to grin. “Well, yes. Pip would set anybody to laughing. She’s a ridiculous little thing.”

For that he got a resounding smack on his chest. “Do not dare speak ill of my best friend.” She hiccuped, her eyes widening a bit. “My only friend, actually. Except for Sarah and Lizzie. And now that Sarah is married to my brother, I have no idea at all how we will meet again.”

There was the faintest plaintive note in her voice that made Alex want to curl her completely into his arms and shield her from hurt. Dear God, how lonely she must have been.     “I promise,” he said instead. “I fully respect my sister’s loyalty. It’s her good sense I frequently question.”

Her breathing was evening out. She nodded. “Pip does have a knack for acting before thinking.”

“She’s like a whirlwind.”

“She needs to finally capture her Beau,” Fiona said with a definite nod. “That would settle her down.”

Alex snorted. “Poor Beau. He’d never have another moment’s peace.”

And for a long moment, they just sat there in a pool of sunlight and velvet, his arm around her and her head on his shoulder. It felt so good. So whole.

It couldn’t last. If he didn’t move, he’d damn well take her here on the floor. He opened his mouth to tell her, and then made the mistake of meeting her gaze again.

Her lips were still parted, but she wasn’t laughing anymore. He could see the pulse jumping at her throat, and her hands were clenched again, as if she were trying hard to keep them to herself.

He didn’t know why. Lifting his own hand, he cupped her cheek. Again he gave her the chance to pull away. Again she didn’t. His own heart started to skip around. He was rock hard. There was no longer a question. He had to kiss her.

About Author Eileen Dreyer:

New York Times best-selling author Eileen Dreyer has won five RITA Awards from the Romance Writers of America, which secures her  fourth place in the Romance Writers of America prestigious Hall of Fame. Eileen is an addicted traveler, having sung in some of the best Irish pubs in the world.  Eileen also writes as Kathleen Korbel and has over three million books in print worldwide. Born and raised in Missouri, she lives in St. Louis County with her husband Rick and her two children.

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