Welcome to Sugarbeat’s Books – The Home of the Romance Novel!
Today we are talking about a book that I read some time ago and never posted. One Good Earl Deserves A Lover by Sarah MacLean is a great read and I’m sorry I didn’t post my thoughts on this book in a timely basis.
Lady Philippa Marbury is…odd.
The brilliant, bespectacled daughter of a double marquess cares more for books than balls, for science than the season, and for laboratories than love. She’s looking forward to marrying her simple fiancé and living out her days quietly with her dogs and her scientific experiments. But before that, Pippa has two weeks to experience all the rest–fourteen days to research the exciting parts of life. It’s not much time, and to do it right she needs a guide familiar with London’s darker corners.
She needs…a Scoundrel.
She needs Cross, the clever, controlled partner in London’s most exclusive gaming hell, with a carefully crafted reputation for wickedness. But reputations often hide the darkest secrets, and when the unconventional Pippa boldly propositions him, seeking science without emotion, she threatens all he works to protect. He is tempted to give Pippa precisely what she wants…but the scoundrel is more than he seems, and it will take every ounce of willpower to resist giving the lady more than she ever imagined.
Why do you need to read this book? I love, love, loved the relationship that develops between Cross and Pippa. They so badly need each other – like the are complete when together. An unlikely match but a beautifully romantic one! A must read!
One Good Earl Deserves A Lover is available on Amazon
Welcome to Sugarbeat’s Books – The Home of the Romance Novel!
Sebastian Easton always vowed he would avenge his stolen youth and title. Now back in London, the rightful Duke of Keswick—returning from battle a wounded, hardened, changed man—cannot forget the brave girl who once rescued him and his brothers from certain death.
Lady Mary Wynne-Jones paid dearly for helping the imprisoned young Lords of Pembrook, and she remembers well the promise she made to Sebastian all those years ago: to meet him once more in the abbey ruins where they shared a bold, forbidden kiss. While Mary is now betrothed to another, a friendship forged with dark secrets cannot be ignored. Unexpected passion soon burns dangerously between them, tempting Sebastian to abandon his quest for retribution and fight for a love that could once again set him free
Why do you want to read this book? I loved the whole premise of this series. Three boys escape an evil uncle trying to kill children who are in his way of attaining a title. This is the first book in the series – loved this book!!
She Tempts the Duke is available on Amazon
Welcome to Sugarbeat’s Books – The Home of the Romance Novel
Current Status: On leave
Obstacle: The one girl who was off-limits…
Where Navy SEAL “Bad Ass” Brody Lane goes, trouble follows. Being run out of his hometown years ago for misbehaving with Genna Reilly—the sheriff’s daughter—was one thing. Now Brody is about to step into real danger. Not the suggestive letters he’s been exchanging with Genna, but the kind of trouble that can send a soldier home injured and broken inside…
Genna’s entire life has been orchestrated by her family. The right job. The right friends. Enough! Brody’s return offers the promise of lust-filled pleasures. Of flesh teased and tasted. She’s not expecting to find a soldier with distant eyes who has secluded himself from the world. But this good girl knows exactly how to bring a bad boy back to life….
Uniformly Hot! The Few. The Proud. The Sexy as Hell.
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Why do you need to read this book? Although I’m a fan of everything that Tawny Weber writes, I think that this is her best story yet. Brody just makes you want to drool. He’s the epitome of ‘born to serve’, full of honor, discipline and integrity. This story just grabbed me right from the start and held on till I finished, kleenex in hand!
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A SEAL’s Salvation can be purchased at: Amazon
A SEAL’s Salvation
by Tawny Weber
“Genna, you’re crazy. You don’t have to do this.”
“Of course I do. You dared me.” Genna Reilly gave her best friend a wide-eyed look. The one she used whenever she wanted to appear extra sweet and innocent.
The sweet part was usually an act. The innocent part was pure truth, though. But fingers crossed, tonight was going to change that.
“I didn’t dare you. Dina did. You could just take the truth instead. C’mon, I’ll even ask a different question,” Macy said, her desperate tone matching the intense worry in her eyes. She grabbed both of Genna’s hands, hanging on tight as if her body weight could anchor her to this spot. Since Genna was a lean, mean five-ten and Macy topped out at five-two, as anchors went, the girl wasn’t very effective.
“That’s not how the game is played,” Genna said, carefully extricating her hands, not wanting to hurt Macy but desperately wanting to be gone already.
She’d had no idea tonight’s slumber party would turn wild. Oh, sure, the potential was there. That’s why they always had sleepovers at Dina’s, because her mom fell asleep by ten and didn’t do spot breathalyzer inspections like Genna’s dad. It was easy to sneak out and do fun things. Like play truth or dare.
She’d figured on a fun weekend with three of her best friends, one of the last leading up to graduation. But she’d had no idea it would be this fun.
She needed to do this. Now, while the anticipation was still zinging through her system, making her feel brave enough to take on the world. Or, in this case, to take down the sexiest bad boy of Bedford, California.
She wanted Brody Lane.
But he had practically made a career of ignoring her existence.
Time to end that.
Class vice president, squad cheer captain and the daughter of one of the most influential men in town, at seventeen Genna was no stranger to attention. Her exotic looks, long silky black hair and sky-blue eyes ensured that she got plenty of male attention, and not only in her high school classes. Nope, even though they were three years her senior, her brother’s friends were always staring and flirting with her, too.
But she wasn’t interested in any of them.
Not the boys in school.
Not the guys her brother ran with.
Not until he’d started hanging out with Brody last winter.
For the first time in her charmed life, Genna was smitten. Hooked. Hot…
Over a guy who was deemed off-limits. Not only by her parents, who were ridiculously overprotective. But by the town itself, all of whom considered the Lanes just this side of the devil’s minions, and Brody as a hell-raiser with an overdue ticket to prison. Heck, even her brother, Joe, had told her not to be stupid when he’d caught her checking out Brody’s butt.
And Brody? He looked right through her as if she were made of cellophane. It wasn’t as though she expected everyone in the world to adore her. But the guy could drool a little when he saw her in shorts, couldn’t he? Or at least stare when he showed up to give Joe a ride and found Genna in a bikini, strategically washing her car.
But did he?
The guy acted as though she wasn’t even there.
Genna wasn’t the contrary sort. She’d never had to be. But no matter who told her or how many times, she couldn’t get Brody Lane out of her head.
So tonight, thanks to Dina’s dare, she was going to do something about it.
“Genna,” Macy pleaded, as if she were peeking into her best friend’s thoughts. “Don’t do this.”
“And be known as the girl who doesn’t meet her dares?” She’d rather be known as an ax-murdering floozy who wore designer knockoffs and ugly shoes.
“Maybe Macy’s right,” Sylvie said quietly, always ready to jump in as the voice of reason. “This isn’t like daring you to stand up in Mrs. Bellevue’s class and sing ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’ while shaking your tail feathers. If your dad finds out, he’ll kill you.”
“He’ll kill us,” Macy intoned wisely, knowing full well that Sheriff Reilly was just as likely to punish any possible accomplices as he was the actual perpetrator.
“My dad’s not going to find out,” Genna said dismis-sively, the negligent wave of her hand stirring a tiny breeze in the sultry night air. Her father was too busy keeping the peace and freaking out over Joe’s latest escapade to pay any attention to what his little angel did.
“I hear he’s wild. He likes kinky stuff.”
She assumed Dina was talking about Brody now and not her dad.
“What kind of kinky stuff?” Twisting her carefully streaked blond hair around one finger, Sylvie sounded somewhere between fascinated and terrified.
Genna wasn’t between anything. She was smack-dab solid in determination. And feeling hot, of course.
“I dunno. But I’ll bet Genna can tell us tomorrow.” When Dina’s loud giggle earned her three glares, she slapped both hands over her mouth. But she didn’t stop laughing.
It was just nerves over being on the rougher side of town combined with a little too much hard lemonade. Or maybe she really thought it was funny that Genna was going to put all her virginal skills to use and seduce one of the bad-dest of the town’s bad boys.
“I don’t kiss and tell,” Genna decided. That sounded mysterious, didn’t it? And kinda sexy. Besides, she figured any kissing she did deserved to be savored. Which meant kept to herself, where the gossips and tattletales couldn’t whisper it around.
“You mean you don’t kiss or do anything else,” Dina corrected, rolling her big blue eyes.
“Dina,” Macy moaned, wringing her hands in a way that proved Genna’s assertion that her friend took far too many drama classes. “Don’t encourage her. She’ll do something crazy.”
“Oh, c’mon. It’s not like she’s really going to jump the guy,” Dina retorted. As usual, she’d picked the scariest dare she could think of when they were playing. She’d had no idea it was also her friend’s secret dream. “This is Genna. She’s gonna go in there, because it’s a dare and she can’t resist those. She’ll try to flirt, Luscious Lane will do his brick wall impersonation and it’ll all be over.”
“The dare was to kiss Brody Lane,” Sylvie pointed out quietly, casting a nervous glance toward the golden glow emanating from the garage light twenty feet away. “Gen-na’s not going in there unless she’s gonna follow through. You know that.”
Genna stood a little straighter, her chin a smidge higher at that character evaluation. She liked being known as a girl who followed through.
She looked toward the garage, the silhouette of a man working on a motorcycle. Since Brody’s dad, Brian, was working behind the counter and probably three-quarters to drunk at the bar next door, that meant it could only be his son in there.
Time to put up or shut up.
“If I’m not back in ten minutes, head home,” she instructed, fluffing her hair and slicking a coat of Racy Red on her lips, then tucking the tube into the back pocket of her jeans. “I’ll call you in the morning.”
Before they could launch into warnings, cautions or any more stupid arguments, Genna hurried off. Her sandals made slapping sounds all the way to the garage like some kind of early-warning seduction device. She shot a quick glance back at her nervously huddled friends, then figuring that warning Brody wouldn’t serve her plans, she slipped off her shoes.
Barefoot, she tiptoed up the last few feet of sidewalk and carefully peeked around the open doorway.
And there he was. Brody Lane, in all his bare-chested glory. Black hair, as stick-straight as her own, fell across his eyes as he bent over the Harley. Facing away from her, she had the perfect view of his denim-clad butt. And oh, what a butt it was. She wanted to touch it. She wanted to run her hands down the hard planes of his back, glowing gold in the poor garage lighting. Then she wanted to curl her fingers over those biceps. Rock-hard arms were so sexy in a guy, she decided then and there.
Genna fanned herself. Because, oh, baby, he was sizzling.
She took a deep breath, hoping it did intriguing things to her form. When a girl wasn’t blessed with a whole lot on top, she learned these little tricks.
Then she stepped through the doorway.
She knew it was impossible given the distance, but she swore she heard a chorus of gasps from her friends. Not looking back, she stepped over the threshold, leaning her shoulder against the door frame; she rested one hand on her hip in a seductive pose she’d seen in a magazine.
Genna rolled her eyes. Even when he didn’t know she was there, he ignored her. This definitely had to change.
“Hey, Brody,” she called out, relieved when her voice only shook a little. “How’re you doing?”
His body went still; his head turned. His eyes, golden-brown like a cat’s, narrowed.
Slowly, like a dream, he straightened away from the bike, the light glinting off that sleek golden skin. So, so much skin. Her gaze traveled from the broad stretch of his shoulders down his tapered waist to his jeans, slung low and loose on his hips.
Her mouth went dry. Oh, wow.
“Genna?” He cast a glance behind her, then back with an arched brow. “Joe isn’t here.”
She knew that. After the third screaming match with their father that week, her brother had torn off on his motorcycle before dinner, heading for the highway. To see one of his girls, Genna figured. Leaving the way clear for her to pay a visit to his best friend.
“I’m not here to see Joe.”
Not the answer he’d been expecting, if his frown was anything to go by.
“Then what’s up?” he asked, grabbing a rag and sliding the wrench through it before placing the tool in its spot in the big red toolbox. The area around him was as an oasis of tidy organization compared with the chaos of the rest of the garage. His space versus his dad’s, Genna figured.
At her continued silence, he took a step closer, then stopped. She almost pouted. It was as if he’d heard a signal warning that she was there for something naughty.
“You have a problem with your BMW?” Frowning now, he gave her a quick once-over. Not in a sexy way, more as though he was worried she was hurt.
Genna’s heart sighed. Wasn’t he sweet?
“Nothing’s wrong,” she said, having to clear her throat after pushing the words through a mouth as dry as the Mojave. “So how’re you doing? Is something wrong with your bike?”
It was all she could do not to wince at her own inanity. Seriously, Genna? That’s the best you can come up with? She gave herself a mental slap upside the head as if it’d knock her back to normal. Normal Genna had no problem talking. And she’d spent the last three months practicing her flirting skills for an opportunity like this.
One where it was just her and Brody. Alone. Together.
Time to put all that practice to good use.
“You came to ask about my bike?”
“I came to visit with you,” she corrected, taking another one of those deep breaths. His gaze didn’t drop to her chest, though, so she let it out. No point hyperventilating. It wasn’t going to make her breasts any bigger.
“Why not? You’re a friend of my brother’s. You’re over at our place all the time.” An exaggeration, since he’d been over maybe three times in the last year. Sheriff Reilly didn’t care for troublemakers on his property. But that was beside the point. “You never visit with me, though. I figure it’s because Joe’s such an attention hog. My mom says he takes the title ‘son’ in the wrong way, figuring the whole universe revolves around him.”
She grinned, waiting for him to join her. When he just stared, those gold eyes intent and cautious, she dimmed the smile a little. Obviously friendliness wasn’t something he was overly familiar with. No point scaring him.
“And tonight I was out and about, and saw a light on.” She gestured to the bulb swinging overhead with its halo of moths. “Since Joe’s not around, I figured why not stop by and say hi.”
“If Joe were here, you wouldn’t have bothered?” He looked around, then spying the portable phone, grabbed it. To call her brother?
Genna’s lips twitched. Wasn’t he the gentleman? That’s what was so fascinating about him, though. He didn’t play the games boys her age did. From what she could tell, he didn’t play games at all.
“Do you ever smile?” She wanted to see those lips turn upward and his gaze light up almost as much as she wanted to feel his mouth on hers and his eyes filled with desire.
He didn’t respond. Just tucked his phone into his back pocket, crossed his arms over that sexy chest and stared.
“You gonna tell me why you’re here? You lose a bet or something?”
Won a dare. But he didn’t need to know that.
“I’ll tell you as soon as you smile,” she teased, stepping farther into the garage. She was hit with the scent of hot concrete, metal and oil she associated with car repair, and something else. Something earthy and appealing.
Soap. And man. Her belly quivered and her thighs trembled.
The sound of her name on his lips sent shivers through her, eliminating every niggling doubt or cautionary concern.
Leaving only excitement and desire.
“Actually, I’m here to seduce you,” she blurted out. As if her words were gasoline on a fire, the already sultry air flared even hotter.
She was ready to get hot and wild. Shit.
Brody Lane had been in trouble plenty of times in his life. So many, it’d be easier to count the times he hadn’t been in trouble.
But he’d never been as screwed as he was right now.
He was smart enough to know that.
What he wasn’t was smart enough to know how to get himself out of it.
Sugar-sweet and wickedly exotic.
The popular, preppy princess who got good grades, cheered at games and helped old ladies across the street.
About as opposite Brody’s type as an eighty-year-old nun.
And the star of four out of five of his sexual fantasies.
A problem considering that at the tender age of seventeen, she was pure jailbait.
And so off-limits, she should be wrapped in barbed wire and sporting an alarm button.
Nobody messed with Sheriff Reilly’s little girl.
And nobody’d have to be a total dumbass to not only cross that line, but to mess with Joe Reilly’s little sister. The sheriff was a mean son of a bitch, but Joe was meaner. He didn’t believe in letting a silly thing like the law get in his way.
Joe’s mean side rarely bothered Brody.
Unless he was facing the possibility of having all that mean aimed his way.
Smart thinking said shoo Genna right back out of his garage and out to the very edges of his life again. The edge where she only showed up on the opposite side of the street from time to time. And in his hot, sweaty dreams every night.
“Are you gonna offer me a beer?” she asked, tilting her head toward the six-pack minus one he’d left in the cooler. “You’re underage.”
Eyes rounded in amusement, she gestured to the one he’d cracked open an hour ago, then forgot about after one swig.
“Pot, meet kettle?”
Brody’s lips twitched. Damn, she had a smart mouth.
A very sexy, pouty-lipped smart mouth.
One he spent way too much time fantasizing over.
One he’d worked damned hard to ignore.
Welcome to Sugarbeat’s Books – The Home of the Romance Novel!
Camilla Hutchenson, countess, sponsor, darling of the ton, has reached a staggering level of social power. But one man has managed to distract her attention from her schedule of charity endeavors — and not just because he holds the deed to her estate.
The man in question, Archibald Warner, is the new Earl of Sachse. Though at first meeting he suspects his new ward of being nothing more than a social bit of fluff, the more time passes, the more he finds himself drawn to her. But there is something she is hiding from him, and she hesitates to show him her real heart, even though she wishes she could learn to trust him with it. For somehow she knows… if only she can give him the chance, he will teach her everything she could hope to learn about love.
Why do you need to read this book? You really need to read about Camilla! She helps us learn many lessons. She is an awesome character that survives through sheer grit – amazing!
As An Earl Desires is available on Amazon
Welcome to Sugarbeat’s Books – The Home of the Romance Novel!
On New Year’s Eve, she tumbles 700 years back in time–and into the bed of a darkly dangerous knight.
Sir Gaston de Varennes wanted a docile bride who would fit into his plans for vengeance and justice, but a trick of time finds him married to a thoroughly modern American lady who turns his castle, his life, and his heart upside down. Will her desperate secret tear them apart after only a few bittersweet weeks of stolen passion–or will they conquer mistrust, treachery, and time itself to discover a love that spans the centuries?
Winner of the National Readers Choice Award: Best Historical Romance of the Year
“Irresistible, right down to the surprise at the end… One of the best romances of the year.” -The Detroit Free Press
“A Desert Isle Keeper. Touching, ingenious… I love this book. I’ve read it time after time, and even if I haven’t waited quite long enough between readings to forget all the details, I always get drawn back into the story so intensely that I can’t put it down. Grade: A (highest rating).” -AllAboutRomance.com
“Moving, riveting, magical. Forever His is destined to become an all-time favorite in medieval and time-travel romances.” -The Medieval Chronicle
A full-length novel of 125,000 words
Originally published by Avon Books
This Author’s Preferred Edition ebook includes bonus content: “The Making of Forever His: The Story Behind the Story.”
The Stolen Brides Series: One falls through time and finds herself married to a dark stranger… one may never reach her royal wedding if she can’t resist her rugged protector… one is abducted by a mysterious swordsman and swept away to a secret island paradise. Three regal brides are about to discover that falling in love with a warrior is the most dangerous adventure of all.
Why do you need to read this book? Although this is a historical romance, it is beautifully crafted time travel story. I’m a sucker for Time Travel, and this is the best that I’ve read in quite a while.
Forever His is available on Amazon
Welcome to Sugarbeat’s Books – The Home of the Romance Novel!
Identical twin and Las Vegas performer Max Dalton has always been the number one bad boy in his family, and he’s appreciated the women and fame that comes along with his reputation. Now, with his brother married to the love of his life and expecting a family of his own, Max sees what being a playboy has cost him.
Grace Sinclair is on a mission when she comes to Vegas, one that involves asking Max, her best friend’s brother-in-law, to give her the pleasure no man’s ever been able to. She suspects Max has more layers than he lets people see, but she’s determined to keep her heart safe even as she offers him her body. After all, Max can give her what she wants, but not what she needs–her own family. For that, she has a plan that doesn’t include Max.
Will Grace see beyond Max’s bad boy façade long enough to trust him with her heart? And will Max figure out what he really wants before he loses the one woman who makes him believe in love again?
Why do you need to read this book? This is the sequel book to Bedding the Wrong Brother so if you’ve read the first, you need to read the second. I actually liked this story much more than the first of the series. I think I liked Max more because he did a better job of hiding the real him to the world, but Grace saw through…
Bedding the Bad Boy is available on Amazon
Welcome to Sugarbeat’s Books – The Home of the Romance Novel
Griffin York, the Duke of Halford, has no desire to wed this season—or any season—but his diabolical mother abducts him to “Spinster Cove” and insists he select a bride from the ladies in residence. Griff decides to teach her a lesson that will end the marriage debate forever. He chooses the serving girl.
Overworked and struggling, Pauline Simms doesn’t dream about dukes. All she wants is to hang up her barmaid apron and open a bookshop. That dream becomes a possibility when an arrogant, sinfully attractive duke offers her a small fortune for a week’s employment. Her duties are simple: submit to his mother’s “duchess training”… and fail miserably.
But in London, Pauline isn’t a miserable failure. She’s a brave, quick-witted, beguiling failure—a woman who ignites Griff’s desire and soothes the darkness in his soul. Keeping Pauline by his side won’t be easy. Even if Society could accept a serving girl duchess—can a roguish duke convince a serving girl to trust him with her heart?
Why do you need to read this book? I have no words to describe how utterly delightful the relationship was between the Duke – Griffen and the soon to be Duchess – Pauline and Griff’s mother. This book simply must be read. Be aware that you will frequently be bursting out in laughter while reading this book! I’ve included Chapter 1 from the author’s website – if you like this, you’ll love the whole book!
Any Duchess Will Do is available on Amazon
Griff cracked open a single eyelid. A bright stab of pain told him he’d made a grave mistake. He quickly shut his eyes again and put a hand over them, groaning.
Something had gone horribly wrong.
He needed a shave. He needed a bath. He might need to be sick. Attempts to summon any recollection of the previous evening resulted in another sharp slice of agony.
He tried to ignore the throb in his temples and focused on the tufted, plush surface under his back. It wasn’t his bed. Perhaps not even a bed at all. Was it just a trick of his nausea, or was the damned thing moving?
“Griff.” The voice came to him through a thick, murky haze. It was muffled, but unmistakably female.
God’s knees, Halford. The next time you decide to bed a woman after a months-long drought, at least stay sober enough to remember it afterward.
He cursed his stupidity. The epic duration of his celibacy was no doubt the reason he’d been tempted by … whoever she was. He had no idea of her name or her face. Just a vague impression of a feminine presence nearby. He inhaled and smelled perfume of an indeterminate, expensive sort.
Damn. He’d need jewels to get out of this, no doubt.
Something dull and pointed jabbed his side. “Wake up.”
Did he know that voice? Keeping one hand clapped over his eyes, he fumbled about with the other hand. He caught a handful of heavy silk skirt and skimmed his touch downward until his fingers closed around a stocking-clad ankle. Sighing a little in apology, he rubbed his thumb up and down.
A squawk of feminine outrage assailed his ears. An unyielding object cracked him over the head, but hard. Now to the pounding and throbbing in his skull, he could add ringing.
“Griffin Eliot York. Really.”
Forget the headache and piercing sunlight, he bolted upright—bashing his head again, this time on the low ceiling. Blinking, he confirmed the unthinkable truth. He wasn’t in his bedchamber—or any bedchamber—but in the coach. And the woman seated across from him was all too familiar, with the double strand of rubies at her throat and her elegant sweep of silver hair.
They stared at one another in mutual horror.
She smacked him again with her collapsed parasol. “Wake up.”
“I’m awake, I’m awake.” When she readied another blow, he held up his hands in surrender. “Good God. I may never sleep again.”
Though the air in the coach was oven-warm, he shuddered. Now he most definitely needed a bath.
He peered out the window and saw nothing but vast expanses of rolling green, dappled with cloud-shaped shadows. The coach’s truncated shadow indicated midday.
“Where the devil are we? And why?”
He tried to piece together memories of the previous evening. This was hardly the first time he’d woken in unfamiliar surroundings, head ringing and stomach achurn … but it was the first time in a good long while. He thought he’d put this sort of debauchery behind him. So what had happened?
He hadn’t imbibed more than his usual amount of wine at dinner. By the fish course, however, he seemed to recall the china’s acanthus pattern undulating. Swimming before his eyes.
After that, he recalled … nothing.
Damn. He’d been drugged.
He snapped to alert, bracing his boots on the carriage floorboards.
Whoever his captors were, he must assume they were armed. He was without a blade, without a gun—but he had eager fists, honed reflexes, and a rapidly clearing head. On his own, he would have given himself even chances. But the bastards had taken his mother, too.
“Do not be alarmed,” he told her.
“Oh, I wouldn’t dream of it. Bad for the complexion.” She touched the double strand of rubies at her throat.
Those rubies. They gave him pause.
What shoddy excuse for a kidnapper used the family coach and left the captive wearing several thousand pounds’ worth of jewels?
Devil take it.
“Hm?” His mother raised her eyebrows, all innocence.
“You did this. You put something in my wine at dinner and stuffed me in the carriage.” He pushed a hand through his hair. “My God. I can’t believe you.”
She looked out the window and shrugged. Or rather, she gave the duchess version of a shrug—a motion that didn’t involve anything so common or gauche as the flexing of shoulder muscles, but merely a subtle tilt of the head. “You’d never have come if I asked.”
Griff closed his eyes. Times like these, he supposed he ought to remind himself that a man only had one mother, and his mother only had one son, and she’d carried him in her womb and toiled in labor and so on and so forth. But he did not wish to think about her womb right now—not when he was still trying, desperately, to forget that she possessed ankles.
“Where are we?” he asked.
Sussex. One of the few counties in England where he didn’t claim any property. “And what is the purpose of this urgent errand?”
A faint smile curved her lips. “We’re going to meet your future bride.”
He stared at his mother. Many moments passed before he could manage coherent speech.
“You are a scheming, fiendish woman with entirely too much time at leisure.”
“And you are the eighth Duke of Halford,” she returned. “I know that doesn’t mean much to you. The disgraces at Oxford, the gambling, the years of aimless debauchery … You seem determined to be nothing more than an unfortunate blot on the distinguished Halford legacy. At the very least, start on the next generation while I still have time to mold it. You have a responsibility to—”
“To continue the line.” He closed his eyes and pinched the bridge of his nose. “So I’ve been told. Again and again.”
“You’ll be five-and-thirty this year, Griffy.”
“Yes. Which makes me much too old to be called ‘Griffy.’”
“More to the point, I am fifty-eight. I need grandchildren before my decline. It’s not right for two generations of the family to be drooling at the same time.”
“Your decline?” He laughed. “Tell me, Mother, how can I hasten that happy process? Other than offering a firm push.”
Her eyebrow arched in amusement. “Just try it.”
Griff sighed. His mother was … his mother. There was no other woman in England like her, and the rest of the world had better pray God had broken the mold. Like the jewels she delighted in wearing, Judith York was a formidable blend of exterior polish and inner fire.
For most of the year, they led entirely separate lives. They only resided in the same house for these few months of the London season. Apparently, even that was too much.
“I’ve been patient,” she said. “Now I’m desperate. You must marry, and it must be soon. I’ve tried to find the most accomplished young beauties in England to tempt you. And I did, but you ignored them. I finally realized the answer is not quality. It’s quantity.”
“Quantity? Are you taking me to some free-love utopian commune where men are permitted as many wives as they please?”
“Don’t be ridiculous.”
“I was being hopeful.”
Her lip curled in a delicate scowl. “You’re terrible.”
“Thank you. I work hard at it.”
“So I’ve often lamented. If only you applied the same effort toward … anything else.”
Griff closed his eyes. If there was any conversation more tired and repetitive than the “When will you ever marry?” debate, it was the “You’re a grave disappointment” harangue. Only in this family would it be considered “disappointing” to successfully oversee a vast fortune, six estates, several hundred employees, and thousands of tenants. Impressive, by most standards. But in the Halford line? Not quite enough. Unless a man was reforming Parliament or discovering a new trade route to Patagonia, he just didn’t measure up.
He glanced out the window again. They seemed to be entering a sort of village. He slid open the glass pane and discovered he could smell the sea. A salted-blue freshness mingled with the greener scents of countryside.
“It is a prettyish sort of place,” his mother said. “Very tidy and quiet. I can understand why it’s so popular with the young ladies.”
The coach rolled to a halt in the center of the village, near a wide, pleasant green that ringed a grand medieval church. He peered out the window, gazing in all directions. The place was far too small to be Brighton or …
“Wait a minute.” A vile suspicion formed in his mind.
Surely she hadn’t …
The liveried footman opened the coach door. “Good day, your graces. We’ve reached Spindle Cove.”
When the fancy coach came trundling down the lane, Pauline scarcely gave it a glance. Many a fine carriage had come down that same road, bringing one visitor or another to the village. A holiday in Spindle Cove was said to cure any gently bred lady’s crisis of confidence.
But Pauline wasn’t a gently bred lady, and her trials were more practical in nature. Such as the fact that she’d just stumbled into a murky puddle, splashing her hem with mud.
And that her sister was near tears for the second time that morning.
“The list,” Daniela said. “It’s not here.”
Drat. Pauline knew they didn’t have time to go back to the farm. She was due at the tavern in minutes. This was Saturday—the day of the Spindle Cove ladies’ weekly salon, and the Bull and Blossom’s busiest day of the week. Mr. Fosbury was a fair-minded employer, but he docked wages for tardiness. And Father noticed.
Frantic, Daniela fished in her pocket. Her eyes welled with tears. “It’s not here. It’s not here.”
“Never mind. I remember it.” Shaking the muddy droplets from her skirts, Pauline ticked the items off in her memory. “Dried currants, worsted thread, a bit of sponge. Oh, and powdered alum. Mother needs it for pickling.”
When they entered the Brights’ All Things shop, they found it packed to bursting. While the visiting ladies met for their weekly salon, the villagers purchased their dry goods. Villagers like Mrs. Whittlecombe, a cobwebby old widow who only left her decrepit farmhouse once a week to stock up on comfits and “medicinal” wine. The woman gave them a disdainful sniff as Pauline and Daniela wedged their way into the shop.
Pauline could just make out two flashes of white-blond hair on the other side of the counter. Sally Bright was busy with customers three deep, and her younger brother Rufus ran back and forth from the storeroom.
Fortunately, the Simms sisters had been friends with the Bright family since as far back as any of them could remember. They needn’t wait to be helped.
“Put the eggs away,” Pauline told her sister. “I’ll fetch the sponge and thread from the storeroom. You get the currants and alum. Two measures of currants, one of alum.”
Daniela carefully set the basket of brown speckled eggs on the counter and went to a row of bins. Her lips moved as she scanned for the one labeled currants. Then she frowned with concentration as she sifted the contents into a rolled cone of brown paper.
Once she’d seen her sister settle to the task, Pauline gathered the needed items from the back. When she returned, Daniela was waiting with goods in hand.
“Too much alum,” Pauline said, inspecting. “It was meant to be just one measure.”
“Oh. Oh, no.”
“It’s all right,” she said in a calm voice. “Easily mended. Just put the extra back.”
She hoped her sister didn’t notice the sneering expression on old Mrs. Whittlecombe’s face.
“I don’t know that I can continue to give this shop my custom,” the old woman said. “Allowing half-wits behind the counter.”
Sally Bright gave the woman a flippant smile. “Just tell me when we can stop stocking your laudanum, Mrs. Whittlecombe.”
“That’s a health tonic.”
“Of course it is,” Sally said dryly.
Pauline went to the ledger to record their purchases. She secretly loved this part. She flipped through the pages slowly, taking her time to peruse Sally’s notes and tabulations.
Someday she’d have her own shop, keep her own ledgers. It was a dream she hadn’t shared with anyone—not even her closest friend. Just a promise she recited to herself, when the hours of farm and serving work lay heavy on her shoulders.
She found the correct page. After the credit they earned from bringing in eggs, they only owed sixpence for the rest of their shopping. Good.
She whipped her head up, startled.
“Good gracious, child! What on earth are you doing?” Mrs. Whittlecombe slapped the counter again.
“I … I’m p-puttin’ back the alum,” Daniela stammered.
“That’s not ‘da aw-wum,’” the old woman repeated, mocking Daniela’s thick speech. “That’s the sugar.”
Oh, bollocks. Pauline winced. She knew she should have done it herself. But she’d wanted so fiercely for Daniela to show that wretched old bat she could do it.
Now the wretched old bat cackled in triumph.
Confused, Daniela smiled and tried to laugh along.
Pauline’s heart broke for her sister. They were only a year apart in age, but so many more in understanding. Of all the things that came a bit more difficult for Daniela than other people—pronouncing words that ended in consonants, subtracting from numbers greater than ten—cruelty seemed the hardest concept for her to grasp. A mercy, in Amos Simms’s family.
“Not the clayed sugar,” Rufus Bright moaned.
Sally boxed him across the ear.
“I just scraped it from the cone,” he apologized, rubbing the side of his head. “Bin was almost full.”
“Well, it’s entirely useless now,” said Mrs. Whittlecombe smugly.
“I’ll pay for the sugar,” Pauline said. She felt instantly nauseous, as if she’d swallowed five pounds of the stuff raw. Fine white sugar came dear.
“You don’t have to do that,” Sally said in a low voice. “We’re practically sisters. We should be realsisters, if my brother Errol had any sense in his head.”
Pauline shook her head. She’d ceased pining for Errol Bright when they parted ways years ago. She certainly didn’t want to be indebted to him now.
“I’ll pay for it,” she insisted. “It was my mistake. I should have done it myself, but I was in a hurry.”
And now she would certainly be late for her post at the Bull and Blossom. This day only grew worse and worse.
Sally looked pained, caught between the need to turn a profit and the desire to help a friend.
In the corner, Daniela had finally realized the consequences of her error. “I can put it back,” she said, scooping from the sugar barrel and dumping it into the alum, muddling both quantities with her flowing tears. “I can put it right.”
“It’s all right, dear.” Pauline went to her side and gently removed the tin scoop from her sister’s hand. “Go on,” she told Sally firmly. “I think I have some credit in the ledger.”
She didn’t just think she had credit. She knew she did. Several pages beyond the Simms family account, there was a page labeled simply pauline—and it showed precisely two pounds, four shillings, and eight pence of credit accrued. For the past few years, she’d saved and scrimped every penny she could, trusting Sally’s ledger with the safekeeping. It was the closest thing to a bank account a serving girl like her could have.
Almost a year, she’d been saving. Saving for something better, for her and Daniela both. Saving forsomeday.
“Do it,” she said.
With a few strokes of Sally’s quill, the money was almost entirely gone. Eleven shillings, eight pence left.
“I didn’t charge for the alum,” Sally murmured.
“Thank you.” Small comfort, but it was something. “Rufus, would you kindly walk my sister home? I’m due at the tavern, and she’s upset.”
Rufus, apparently ashamed of his earlier behavior, offered his arm. “’Course I will. Come along, Danny. I’ll drive you in the cart.”
When Daniela resisted, Pauline hugged her and whispered, “You go home, and tonight I’ll bring your penny.”
The promise brightened Daniela’s face. It was her daily task to gather the eggs, count and candle them, and prepare them to sell. In return, Pauline gave her a penny a week.
Every Saturday evening she watched Daniela carefully add the coin to an old, battered tea tin. She would shake the tin and grin, satisfied with the rattling sound. It was a ritual that pleased them both. The next morning the same treasured penny went into the church offering—every Sunday, without fail.
“Go on, then.” She sent her sister off with a smile she didn’t quite feel.
Once Rufus and Daniela had left, Mrs. Whittlecombe crowed with satisfaction. “That’ll be a lesson for you, bringing a simpleton around the village.”
“Go easy, Mrs. Whittlecombe,” a bystander said. “You know they mean well.”
Pauline flinched inwardly. Not that phrase. She’d heard it countless times over the course of her life. Always in that same pitying tone, usually accompanied by a clucking tongue: Can’t be hard on those Simms girls … you know they mean well.
In other words, no one expected them to do a cursed thing right. How could they? Two unwanted daughters in a family with no sons. One simple-minded, the other lacking in every feminine grace.
Just once, Pauline wanted to be known not for meaning well, but for doing well.
That day wouldn’t be today. Not only had everything gone wrong, but as she regarded Mrs. Whittlecombe, Pauline couldn’t muster any good intentions. Anger bloomed in her chest like a predatory vine, all sharp needles and grasping tendrils.
The old woman placed two bottles of tonic in her netted bag. They clinked together in a way that only increased Pauline’s anger. “Next time, keep the fool thing at home.”
Her hands balled into tight fists at her side. Of course she wouldn’t lash out at an old woman the way she’d once fought the teasing boys at school, but the motion was instinctive. “Daniela is not a thing. She is a person.”
“She’s a half-wit. She doesn’t belong out of the house.”
“She made a mistake. Just like all people make mistakes.” Pauline reached for the bin of ruined white sugar. It was hers now, wasn’t it? She’d paid for the contents. “For example, everyone knows I’m incurably clumsy.”
“Pauline,” Sally warned. “Please don’t.”
Too late. With an angry heave, she launched the bin’s contents into the air.
The room exploded in a blizzard of white, and Mrs. Whittlecombe was at the storm’s dead center, sputtering and cursing through a cloud of powder. When the flurries cleared, she looked like Lot’s wife, only turned to a pillar of sugar rather than salt.
The sense of divine retribution that settled on Pauline … it was almost worth all that hard-earned money.
She tossed the empty bin to the floor. “Oh, dear. How stupid of me.”
Griff regarded his mother and that smug smile curving her lips. This time she’d gone too far. This wasn’t mere meddling. It was diabolical.
Not Spinster Cove.
He’d never visited the place, but he knew it well by reputation. This seaside hamlet was where old maids went to embroider and consumptives went to dry.
Accepting the footman’s hand, the duchess alighted from the coach. “I understand this place is just bursting with well-bred, unmarried young ladies.”
She motioned toward a lodging house. A sign dangling above the entrance announced it as the queen’s ruby.
Griff blinked at the green shutters and cheery window boxes stuffed with geraniums. He’d rather bathe in water teeming with sharks.
He turned and walked in the opposite direction.
“Where are you going?” she asked, following.
“There.” He nodded at a tavern across the square. By squinting at the sign hung over the red-painted door, he discerned it was called the Bull and Blossom. “I’m going to have a pint of ale and something to eat.”
“What about me?”
He gestured expansively. “Make yourself comfortable. Take a suite at the rooming house. Enjoy the healthful sea breezes. I’ll send the coach for you in a few weeks.” He added under his breath, “Or years.”
The footman followed a respectful pace behind, holding the open parasol to shade the duchess.
“Absolutely not,” she said. “You’re going to select a bride, and you’re going to do it today.”
“Don’t you understand what sort of young ladies are sent to this village? The unmarriageable ones.”
“Exactly. It’s perfect. None of them will turn you down.”
Her words drew Griff to a sharp halt. He swiveled to face her. “Turn me down?”
For the obvious reasons, he avoided discussing his affaires with her. But the reason he’d been celibate lo these many months had nothing to do with women turning him down. There were many women—beautiful, sophisticated, sensual women—who’d gladly welcome him to their beds this very evening. He was tempted to tell her so, but a man couldn’t say such things to his own mother.
She seemed to interpret his silence easily enough.
“I’m not speaking of carnality. I’m speaking of your desirability as a husband. Your reputation leaves a great deal to be desired.” She brushed some dust from his sleeve. “Then there’s the aging problem.”
“The ‘aging’ problem?” He was thirty-four. By his estimation, his cock had a good three decades of working order ahead, at least.
“To be sure, you’re good-looking enough. But there are handsomer.”
“Are you sure you’re my mother?”
She turned and walked on. “The fact is, most ladies of the ton have given you up as a marriage prospect. A village of desperate spinsters is precisely what we need. You must admit, this worked nicely for that scampish friend of yours, Lord Payne.”
God’s knees. So that’s what was behind this. Curse that rogue Colin Sandhurst and his bespectacled, bookish bride. Last year, his old gambling friend had been sequestered in this seaside village without funds, and he’d broken free by eloping with a bluestocking. The pair had even stopped at Winterset Grange, Griff’s country retreat, on their way to Scotland.
But their situations were completely different. Griff wasn’t desperate for funds in any way. Neither was he desperate for companionship.
Marriage simply wasn’t in the cards for him.
His mother fixed him with a look. “Were you waiting to fall in love?”
“It’s a simple question. Have you delayed marriage all these years because you’re waiting to fall in love?”
A simple question, she called it. The answers were anything but.
He could have taken her into the tavern, ordered a few large glasses of wine, and taken an hour or two to explain everything. That he wouldn’t be marrying this season, or any season. Her only son would not be merely a blot on the distinguished Halford line, but the very end of it, forever, and the family legacy she held so dear was destined for obscurity. Her hopes of grandchildren would come to naught.
But he couldn’t bring himself to do it. Not even today, when she was at her most infuriating. Better to remain a dissolute-yet-redeemable rascal in her eyes than be the son who calmly, irrevocably, broke his mother’s heart.
“No,” he told her honestly. “I’m not waiting to fall in love.”
“Well, that’s convenient. We can settle this in one morning. Never mind finding the most polished young beauty in England. You choose a girl—any girl—and I’ll polish her myself. Who could better prepare the future Duchess of Halford than the current Duchess of Halford?”
They’d reached the tavern entrance. His mother stared pointedly at the door latch. The footman jumped to open it.
“Oh, look,” she said upon entering. “What luck. Here they are.”
Griff looked. The scene was even ghastlier than he could have imagined.
This tavern didn’t seem to be a “tavern” at all, but more of a tea shop. Young ladies crowded the establishment, all of them hunched over tables and frowning in concentration. They appeared to be engaged in one of those absurd handicrafts that passed for female “accomplishment” these days. Quilling paper, it looked like. They weren’t even using fresh parchment—just ripping pages straight from books to fashion their queer little trivets and tea trays.
He peered at the nearest stack of volumes. Mrs. Worthington’s Wisdom for Young Ladies, each one read. Appalling.
This was everything he’d been avoiding for years. A roomful of unmarried, uninspiring young women, from which the common wisdom would argue he should find a suitable bride.
At the nudging of a friend, one young woman rose from her chair and curtsied. “May we help you, ma’am?”
The young woman’s brow creased. “Ma’am?”
“I am the Duchess of Halford. You would properly address me as ‘your grace.’”
“Ah. I see.” As her nudging friend smothered a nervous giggle, the fair-haired young woman began again. “May we help you, your grace?”
“Just stand tall, girl. So my son can see you.” She turned her head, surveying the rest of the room. “All of you, on your feet. Best posture.”
Pain forked through Griff’s skull as chair legs screeched against floorboards. One by one the young ladies obediently rose to their feet.
He noted a few pockmarks. One case of crooked teeth. They were none of them hideous, just—fragile in cases. Others were unfashionably browned from the sun.
“Well,” the duchess said, striding into the center of the room. “Jewels in the rough. In some cases, very rough. But they are all from good family, so with a bit of polish … ” She turned to him. “Take your choice, Halford. Select any girl who strikes your fancy. I will make her into a duchess.”
Every jaw in the room dropped.
Every jaw, that was, except Griff’s.
He massaged his throbbing temples and began preparing a little speech in his mind. Ladies, I beg you. Pay this raving madwoman no attention. She’s entered her decline.
But then, he thought—a quick exit was too kind to her. Surely the only proper punishment was the opposite: to do precisely as his mother asked.
He said, “You claim you can make any one of these girls into a suitable duchess.”
“Of course I can.”
“And who will be the judge of your success?”
She lifted a brow. “Society, of course. Choose your young lady, and she’ll be the toast of London by season’s end.”
“The toast of London, you say?” He gave a doubtful laugh.
He scanned the tavern for a second time, planning to declare mad, instantaneous love for the most shrinking, awkward, homely chit available—and then watch his mother sputter and flail in response.
However, from the amused glances the young ladies exchanged, Griff could sense that there was more courage and wit in the room than his first impression might have indicated. These young women were no fools. And though they each had their flaws and imperfections—who didn’t?—none were unsuitable to a shocking, insurmountable degree.
Damn. He’d looked forward to teaching his overstepping mother a lesson. As matters stood, he supposed he’d be better served to just mutter a few apologies, drag the duchess back to the carriage, and drop her at Bedlam on the way home.
And then, with a creak of hinges and a slam of the rear door—
His salvation arrived.
She came stumbling through the back entrance of the tavern, red-faced and breathless. Her boots and hem were spattered with alarming amounts of mud, and a strange white powder clung to her everywhere else.
A serving girl’s apron hung loose around her neck. As she gathered the tapes and knotted them behind her back, the cinch of laces revealed a slender, almost boyish figure. Less of a shapely hourglass, more of a sturdy hitching post.
“It’s ten past, Pauline.” The male voice boomed from the kitchen.
She called back, “Beggin’ pardon, Mr. Fosbury. I’ll not be tardy again.”
Her diction and accent were not merely uneducated and rural—they were odd. When she turned, Griff could make out the reason why. She had a hairpin clenched in her teeth like a cheroot, and she mumbled her words around it.
The tardy serving girl clutched another hairpin in her hand, and when her eyes—leaf-green, bright with intelligence—met Griff’s, she froze in the act of jamming that pin through the tangle of hair piled atop her head.
God, that hair. He’d heard ladies describe their coiffures as “knots” or “buns.” This could only be called a “nest.” He was certain he glimpsed a few blades of straw and grass in there.
Clearly, she’d been hoping to enter unnoticed. Instead, she was suddenly the center of attention. That mysterious white powder that clung to her … it caught the light, shooting off tiny sparks.
He couldn’t look away.
As the breathless young woman alternated glances between Griff, his mother, and the amused ladies filling the rest of the room, her unfinished coiffure disintegrated. Locks of unpinned hair tumbled to her shoulders, surrendering to gravity or indignity, or both.
This would be where the average serving girl would duck her head, flee the room, and await her employer’s wrath. No doubt there’d be sniffling or sobbing involved.
But not this serving girl, apparently. This one had just enough pride to trump etiquette and good sense.
With a defiant toss of her head to distribute her brandy-colored locks, she turned and spat the last hairpin aside.
“Bollocks,” he heard her mutter.
Suddenly, Griff found himself battling a grin. She was perfect. Coarse, uneducated, utterly graceless. A touch too pretty. A plainer girl would have better suited his purpose. But fair looks notwithstanding, she’d do.
“Her,” he said. “I’ll take her.”
Welcome to Sugarbeat’s Books – The Home of the Romance Novel!
Mission: Test his limits…and push hers!
Air force pilot Sam Brody’s posting at Holloman AFB is a new start…and a brutal reminder that he’ll never fly again. The bright side? It’s the same town as teacher (and widow) Emma Lockwood—the woman he’s always had a major thing for. The woman who married his best friend….
For years, Emma ignored the spark between her and Sam. Now that he’s in town, the spark has turned into full-on electrical overload! She tells herself to stay grounded. She doesn’t want another hotshot flyboy, no matter how sexy. But with every night of wicked passion with Sam, she finds herself closer to the point of no return….
Uniformly Hot! The Few. The Proud. The Sexy as Hell.
To the Limit is available on Amazon
The motel room looked as tired as Captain Sam Brody felt after his endless flight from Sumter Air Force Base in South Carolina to Alamogordo, New Mexico. Of course, the bachelor party he’d been to last night might have something to do with his exhaustion. Seemed everyone Sam knew was hooking up or getting married.
He tossed his duffel on the garish bedspread and joined it a moment later, glad to be sitting on something relatively soft. The transport plane he’d hitched a ride with had been incredibly uncomfortable with all the turbulence, and the taxi he’d hired at Holloman Air Force Base had evidently been cobbled together with chewing gum and shocks made from empty soup cans. His car, packed with all he owned in the world, was due to arrive in a few days. In the meantime, he’d find an off-base furnished apartment.
He had ten days of leave ahead of him before he started life at the new base, with a new wing, new line of command, new everything. The only thing he knew for sure about moving to this small military town was that someone he used to know lived here. The wife of an old friend.
Sam shut down that line of thought quickly. He was too damn tired to let his memories sidetrack him. What he needed was some food, a beer and a bed. He opened up the drawer of the nightstand and pulled out the phone book. It was about a quarter of the size of the one in Texas. He sure as hell wouldn’t miss the weather, although he’d probably miss the humidity in the middle of a dry-as-dust summer in the desert.
Most of the delivery foods he found were pizza, so he picked a familiar chain. After ordering a large cheese, he wasn’t shocked at the laugh he got when he asked if beer was on the menu. But he’d seen a market a block away, so no worries.
Before he put the phone book away, he went to the white pages but Emma wasn’t listed. It wasn’t surprising. Most likely she didn’t have a landline. Clicking through his cell phone’s contacts he found Emma Lockwood. He hadn’t deleted the listing in the three years since Danny had died. Of course he had her Alamogordo address, but it was a long shot that she still lived in the same town, let alone the same house. She probably didn’t even have the same number. He could always delete everything later if it turned out Emma wasn’t interested in…whatever.
He didn’t have time to shower and make a beer run before his dinner arrived, so he settled for washing his face before walking to the market. The September evening felt good on his skin despite the fact that it was still in the eighties, but he’d have to get used to the smell. Randolph Air Force Base always had a hint of mesquite in the air. Just like the wind had carried the ocean back in his hometown of Seal Beach, California.
He shoved his hands in his pockets as he strolled, checking out the scenery. Nothing much to it. He could have been in any inner-city area littered with billboards and graffiti on brick walls, people walking with purpose from the stores that weren’t boarded up.
There was a lot more to Alamogordo than this neighborhood, but he didn’t mind staying here for a few days. Odds were he wouldn’t run into any other pilots. Any other officers at all. Which was a good thing for the time being.
Transitions were part of air force life, but they never got easier for Sam. At heart, he was a homebody, which made no sense for a man who loved to fly as much as he did. But he’d grown up moving a lot as his mother searched for employment. Retirement after he’d gotten his twenty years would be a welcome relief. He’d find himself a comfortable house, something with enough land around it that he wouldn’t hear the neighbors. He’d have a yard and a couple of rescue dogs, and he’d put down roots there. A real home. Hopefully not on his own.
He wondered if Emma still wore her blond hair in that ponytail. Danny’d sure liked to tug on that, even though it made her cross. He’d always been an overgrown kid. Hell of a fun guy, generous, too. They’d all shared so much laughter: Danny and John Devlin and then Emma Taylor, the waitress at the Rusty Nail bar and diner a couple of blocks away from the Air Force Academy. He’d loved those years. The three guys had bonded quickly, shared a house that wasn’t exactly the Ritz. They’d all wanted to fly F-16s and they’d all worked their asses off to get there.
But sometimes the studying got to be too much and they’d head off to the Rusty Nail. Danny had seen Emma, and she’d seen him right back. It was all over but the paperwork from that night on. They’d gotten married a year later, in Danny’s senior year.
God, she’d been so pretty. Slender and delicate. Little wrists, long fingers. She always looked perfect, even in those terrible T-shirts she wore back then. Crazy stuff, big writing over her chest. Mostly with pictures of heavy metal bands. Which she didn’t actually listen to. She just liked the shirts.
He didn’t realize he was smiling until he saw his reflection in the convenience store’s door. Leave it to Emma to make a horrible day better. He used to think Danny was the luckiest son of a bitch he’d ever met. Until he wasn’t.
The little market not only carried his favorite beer, but a cooler and ice, so he bought himself a six-pack, some beef jerky and a box of Pop-Tarts for the morning. Nothing he could do about coffee except get himself to a diner as quickly as possible, because, screw it, he was not drinking microwaved instant. Not for anything.
The pizza arrived twelve minutes after he got back to the motel, and it was hot enough to burn the roof of his mouth. The TV wasn’t as much of a success. There weren’t many channels that worked, but one of them was ESPN, so that was okay, even if half the picture was snow.
He woke up the next morning to the sound of the TV, still dressed, his second beer half-empty on the nightstand. The day ahead would look better after a shower and a decent breakfast. At least, he hoped so.
With five minutes left of Emma Lockwood’s creative writing class, all fourteen of her students had their heads bent, the sound of clicking laptop keys a staccato symphony she knew by heart. She’d given them a writing assignment when they’d come into class, a simple mood piece, but she’d asked them to write it in a genre that wasn’t their own. So Mrs. Dealy, who was taking the class for the third time because she loved to write but didn’t have the discipline to do it without deadlines, was tackling science fiction, even though she wrote love stories. Jared, one of her freshmen straight from Holloman High School, was extremely brave, writing his piece in the style of Raymond Chandler, a real hard-boiled mystery.
Emma wished all of her students were as enthusiastic as the ones in this class. But so many of her courses were merely stepping stones to an associate degree. Most of the students would go on to get their bachelor degrees at New Mexico State, but for some, this would be the end of the education line.
She sat on the edge of her desk with two minutes on the clock. “Okay, everyone,” she said. “Please continue working on the assignments throughout the week, and we’ll hear them during Friday’s class.”
Reggie Porter, one of the several veterans who’d come back from the war and was using the G.I. Bill to help him get a better job, raised his hand, although he didn’t wait for her to acknowledge it. “How long are these supposed to be?”
“Between four and nine thousand words.”
“So there goes football night.”
“It’ll be exciting,” Emma said and smiled at his deadpan expression. “Just think of how much you learned during the first-person exercise. Broadening your horizons is never a waste of time unless you let it be. Give it your best shot. Ingenuity counts. Make the genre clear in the story itself.”
The bell went off and the post-class shuffle of laptop cases and backpacks began. They were in their second month of the fall semester, so there was conversation among them, mostly about the work, but sometimes about other things. She was glad. She wanted her classes to be enlivened by dialogue off the page as well as on.
After cleaning the blackboards and making sure everything in the room was tidy, she got her purse and her books and walked the semiquiet halls to the faculty lounge in the Lower Campus Classroom building at Holloman Air Force Base. The sound ofjets taking off and landing had become background noise after living close to them for so long, not just here, but in Colorado and Utah. They’d never stopped reminding her of Danny, but at least now the thrum of the engines didn’t feel like a punishment.
Sharon Keeler was at the coffee machine, staring at the sludge at the bottom of the stained pot. Sharon was part of the arts faculty staff, but she was mostly concerned with her drama department. They were doing As You Like It this fall, and she was in a tizzy about costumes and lighting and the lack of much discernible talent among the students.
“You in for a late night?” Emma asked.
Sharon nodded, her long dark hair looking worse for wear since this morning. On the plus side, she’d worn her favorite cow-themed earrings, a sure sign she’d been in a good mood this morning. “Campus-planning committee meeting. You want to come?”
Emma held back a laugh because she didn’t want to be cruel. “Sorry, I have lesson plans, grading book reports and laundry. I know, scintillating.”
Emma and Sharon turned when Gary Lyden walked in. Gary wasn’t particularly great-looking, but he was a runner and a health enthusiast and he put himself together really well. Somewhat new—it was his second year in the math department—he was an Idaho transplant. Mostly, he was nice. A solid guy who was good with his students and easy to be around. Emma and he were becoming better and better friends, as it turned out.
“Are you coming tonight?” Sharon asked. “I know it’s Tuesday and you have that Habitat meeting later, but none of the teachers RSVP’d and besides, it wasn’t my fault. It was the only night the parents could come, and I’m desperate.”
“Really?” he asked, raising his eyebrows. “How desperate?”
“Fine, I’ll bake you an entire batch of granola fruit bars all for yourself. Well, not this week, but soon. Good enough?”
Gary rubbed his hands together. “Those are damn good snacks. So yes, I’m in. But don’t think you can talk me into helping with your scenery. I’m into theory, not practice.” He looked to Emma. “You can’t make it?”
“Not tonight. In fact, I’m going to actually leave the base before 7:00 p.m. I think it might be the first time that’s happened since the semester started.”
“They do keep chipping away at us,” Sharon said as she went to the sink to wash out the coffeepot. “I should quit. Get myself a career that pays better money.”
“Or at least one where the out-of-pocket expenses aren’t so high,” Gary said. He came closer to Emma and touched the back of her arm, but only for a second. “You want to run tomorrow?”
“Hmm…” She should. The exercise was helping with her energy dips. They’d been heading out for a couple months now, going to the high school track before school started on Mondays and Thursdays, but she wasn’t sure yet if she wanted it to become anything more regular. “To be honest, I could use a decent morning’s sleep since I have a later class. Sorry.”
“No problem. Thursday then?”
“Good. Yes. Thursday.” She went to her mail cubby, which was conveniently placed at the bottom of the stack, and got her notices and flyers and a couple of letters from the school district. She’d look at them later.
Behind her, the door swung open again, only this time there were several teachers coming in, seemingly in the middle of a fierce discussion about the merits of soccer over football.
She waited until the doorway was clear, then waved her goodbyes. Her phone rang just as she reached the exit to the parking lot. The name on the caller ID stole her breath and her grace. She stumbled, but thankfully didn’t fall.
Sam Brody. She hadn’t seen him since shortly after Danny died. But she’d thought of him. More often than she should have, considering. But not so much lately.
She almost let the call go to voice mail, but it was so out of the blue that she couldn’t stand it. She pressed the key. “Hello?”
“Emma,” he said, and his voice sent a shiver skittering down her back.
“Sam. It’s been a while.”
“I know. Too long.”
She nodded, but held her tongue.
“Hey, I’m just calling to let you know that we’re neighbors.”
“What?” Emma looked around, conscious of how loud she’d been. “What do you mean?”
“I’ve been assigned to Holloman.”
“Now. I’m on leave, though, for the next ten days. Enough time to find an apartment. Get my bearings.”
“So you’re here now?”
“Yeah. I’m here.”
“Oh. That’s great. That’s…great.”
“We’ll see, but then, you know how it is, being transferred. A real crapshoot.”
“I can give you some pointers if you need them,” she said, wincing the moment the words were out of her mouth. It had been a reflex. They’d been friends once. Certainly Sam had been one of Danny’s closest. They’d gone through a lot together, but after the crash, both Sam and John had stopped calling. Not their fault. She’d made it clear she wanted some space. Especially from Sam.
“That’d be great,” he said. “I was thinking maybe you’d like to go out, have some dinner with me?”
“Not necessarily,” he said, although he spoke so quickly it was clear that was just what he’d meant. “I’m sure you’re busy. With a…your life. Here. You teaching?”
She thought about telling him dinner wasn’t such a good idea, but the words wouldn’t come. She was walking now, nowhere in particular, down some stairs, past rows of cars. “How about tomorrow night?”
He sighed. “Tomorrow night would be perfect. You’ll have to say where, though. I’ve got no idea what’s around here.”
“Are you staying at the base?”
“Nope. But I’m close to it. So how about you text me the name and location of your favorite restaurant. I’ll meet you there. Tomorrow. Seven okay?”
“Yeah. Seven’s fine.” Her heels clicked on the concrete during a lull in jet traffic as she slowed to a standstill. “It’ll be good to see you again.”
“It will. Don’t forget to save the number, now.”
“Okay. Have a good one.”
Welcome to Sugarbeat’s Books – The Home of the Romance Novel!
Today we are welcoming Shoshanna Evers to the blog! She is the author of Beauty and the Beast and is touring her book with Goddessfish Promotions. During the tour she will be giving away a signed paperback of Beauty and the Beast (US ONLY) plus a $10 Amazon or Nook GC to a randomly drawn commenter during the tour, and an electronic copy of the book to six randomly drawn commenters during the tour. To enter to win, fill out the Rafflecopter below.
Beauty and the Beast (an erotic re-imagining)
By Shoshanna Evers
From bestselling erotica author Shoshanna Evers comes an erotic re-imagining of the classic fairytale, Beauty and the Beast.
With her father’s freedom at stake, Belle agrees to be the fearsome Beast’s prisoner in his enchanted castle. Held as his willing captive, Belle must submit to the Beast’s most primal desires to survive.
The Beast can’t let his little Beauty go free, not while there’s still hope that she might be the one to end his decade-long curse…and with true love’s kiss, return him to the Prince he once was.
Their story is one that begins with imprisonment—he in his monstrous body, she in a dungeon—but without this predicament, Beauty would never have met the Beast.
So we shall begin with what occurred on that fateful night when everything changed: when a lover was betrayed, a man deformed, and a castle shrouded in an enchantment…
Copyright 2013 Shoshanna Evers
All Rights Reserved.
Beast bared his fangs, and she cringed.
“Y-you’re smiling,” Belle said. It might take her a while to get used to that.
“I am. I have a proposition for you.” He gently smoothed her skirt back over burning bottom, and turned her around to face him. “I haven’t had a woman in my bed for a very long time. If you’d be willing to sleep with me, I’d reduce your lifetime imprisonment to one short year.”
Belle gasped, both at the idea of sleeping with him, and the idea of a life sentence being reduced to a year.
“You’d crush me to death,” she said, looking up at his towering hulk.
“I would not. Wasn’t I very gentle with you earlier, in your cell, when I made you feel so amazing, as you put it? Right before you—”
Right before she cut him and ran. Yes, she could recall something like that happening.
“It’s really not ‘willing’ if I must bed you for my freedom,” she pointed out.
“Forget I said anything,” he growled. “I’ll see you safely to your cell.”
“Wait!” She paused, frantic, not willing to give up her one chance of freedom. And also not willing to give up a very rational excuse for having more experiences like the one he’d given her earlier. “Three months. Then I can go.”
“Six months, and you do everything I say.”
“It’s—It’s a deal, Beast.” She sighed. “I’m yours for six months. And then you set me free and you forget all about me and my Papa.”
Beast smiled. Yes…definitely a smile. “I very much doubt I will ever forget you, beauty. But I’ll never harm you.”
Her thoughts immediately flew to her sore bottom, at the way he spanked her so thoroughly. Although, it was as he said. He’d hurt her, he had not harmed her. She would remember her punishment when she sat down for a day or two, but it wasn’t like he’d crippled her.
Or ate her. That was something to be grateful for.
Beast looked around his castle as though seeing it for the first time. “I suppose, if you’ll be staying awhile, we could arrange more suitable sleeping quarters for you.”
“In your bed,” she guessed.
“You’ll have your own suite.” He spoke louder, and Belle realized he was probably summoning the fairies. “Belle will need a suite, with a four poster bed, a bath, dresses in the armoire, and a fire ready for her.”
“The fairies can do all that?” she asked.
“Fairies?” He shook his head and began to say something, but it just sounded like growling to her.
“Never mind. If you’d like to believe we have a fairy infestation, then by all means. Believe what you will.” Beast gestured for her to follow him up the stairs and into the west wing of the castle.
She followed, mesmerized by the glorious tapestries and paintings that adorned the long hallways. Where had a beast gotten such wealth?
One oil painting, of a young man, about her age perhaps, caught her eye. His handsome face seemed to draw her in. Belle stopped in front of it, gazing at the portrait.
“He’s beautiful,” she whispered.
“Thank you,” Beast said. “I mean…I’m glad you appreciate the art in my castle.”
There was something familiar about the young man’s intense green eyes.
“Do I—do I know him?” she asked.
“Perhaps. You would have been a child when this portrait was taken.”
She looked at the inscription on the gold plaque beneath the portrait. It said “Prince Frederick,” and was dated ten years prior. That would have been when she was nine years old, and certainly never out and about, gazing into handsome princes’ green eyes.
“I suppose I don’t,” she said.
For some reason the thought made her sad. What had become of that young man? Perhaps the portrait was from another country. She’d never heard of a Prince Frederick before.
Beast kept walking down the corridor, so she followed.
“I imagine you ate everyone who lived in this castle,” Belle said. “That’s why they aren’t here, and…you are.”
Beast whirled around, and she was so caught off guard that she stumbled against his enormous chest.
“I’m sorry,” she gasped.
“That is not what happened.”
“The painting was ten years ago. Ten years ago, you changed. You told me so. I was merely…taking an educated guess.”
“There was nothing educated about it,” Beast said. “And if you’ll be staying under my roof for the next six months, you might want to reconsider playing guessing games if you want us to get along.”
She put her hand to her mouth. “I apologize.”
“We’re here.” He stopped in front of a large door, with the words “Belle’s Suite” etched into a small silver placard on the door. “If you need anything—”
“I’ll just ask the fairies,” she finished for him.
“Um, yes. Exactly.”
“Will I be sleeping…uninterrupted?” She blushed as she spoke the words, but she had to know if he’d be taking her up on their deal tonight.
“Dawn is almost here. Sleep as late as you’d like. I won’t bother you until you come to me.”
“But…what if I never choose to…come to you?”
Beast raised his heavy brow. “Your six months begins when you do. Take as long as you need.”
He held opened the door to her suite and she stepped inside, reveling at the sight of the large four poster bed with the flowing white linens, the glowing warmth of the fire burning in the fireplace, and most of all…the roses. They were everywhere, the scent beckoning her.
“Good night, beauty.”
Critically-acclaimed author Shoshanna Evers has written dozens of sexy stories including Amazon Erotica Bestsellers Overheated, and Enslaved, Book 1 in the Enslaved Trilogy, as well as the post-apocalyptic dystopian Pulse Trilogy from Simon & Schuster Pocket Star. Her work has been featured in Best Bondage Erotica 2012 and Best Bondage Erotica 2013, the Penguin/Berkley Heat anthology Agony/Ecstasy, and numerous erotic BDSM novellas including Chastity Belt and Punishing the Art Thief from Ellora’s Cave Publishing.
The non-fiction anthology Shoshanna Evers edited and contributed to, How To Write Hot Sex: Tips from Multi-Published Erotic Romance Authors, is a #1 Bestseller in the Authorship, Erotica Writing Reference, and Romance Writing categories on Amazon.
Reviewers have called Shoshanna’s writing “fast paced, intense, and sexual…every naughty fantasy come to life for the reader” with stories where “the plot is fresh and the pacing excellent, the emotions…real and poignant.”
Shoshanna used to work as a syndicated advice columnist and a registered nurse, but now she’s a full-time smut writer and a home-schooling mom. She lives with her family and two big dogs in Northern Idaho.
Sexily *Evers* After… ShoshannaEvers.com
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Welcome to Sugarbeat’s Books – The Home of the Romance Novel!
As if life isn’t complicated enough for Holly Jackson. Firstly, she’s struggling to finish college on limited funds, then her former guardian and aunt is calling her bluff on having a boyfriend—since in her aunt’s opinion, single girls are single because something is wrong with them. The question is will her swoon-worthy, sinfully sexy neighbor, Ethan, agree to be her man for a day? Or forever?
Why do you need to read this book? I picked up this book free and whizzed right through it. I thought the writing was great and I headed back to Amazon to see what else this author has written!
Falling for her Fake Boyfriend is available on Amazon