RELEASE DAY!! HARD JUSTICE ☆APRIL HUNT w/ #Giveaway, + #Excetpt, + #Teasers, + #Review

HARD JUSTICE Release Day Blitz 

ABOUT THE BOOK

Title: HARD JUSTICE
Author: April Hunt
Series: Alpha Security, #3
On Sale: August 29, 2017
Publisher: Forever
Mass Market: $7.99 USD
eBook: $5.99 USD
Audio: $21.98 USD

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As the first female operative at Alpha Security, Charlotte “Charlie” Sparks has her work cut out for her. Sure, she can wrestle a man to the ground and hit a target at 200 yards with the best of them. But sometimes, being surrounded by all that testosterone can drive a woman to distraction—especially when that distraction is six-and-a-half feet of cocky, confident, Alpha-trained muscle.

Ex-SEAL commander Vince Franklin has been on some of the most dangerous missions in the world. But pretending to be Charlie’s fiancé on their latest assignment in Miami is his toughest challenge yet. Vince and Charlie are like oil and water; they just don’t mix. And when their fake romance generates some all-too-real heat, Vince learns that Charlie is more than just arm candy. She’s the real deal—and she’s ready for some serious action.

 

Vince slipped out of the truck just as she swung open her door. A group of college-aged boys turned the corner, one of whom immediately latched his lurid gaze onto Charlie’s toned legs.

“Hot da*n, baby.” The kid whistled. His gaze flickered to Vince. “Why don’t you ditch the geriatric and come party with us?”

“Unless you want this geriatric to rip those lips off your face, keep walking,” Vince growled.

The kid and his friends laughed but kept going. At some point during the exchange, the pimply faced valet attendant extended his hand to Charlie.

“I got her. You get these.” Vince’s bark made the teen jump.

“Yes, sir.” The valet caught the keys Vince tossed his way and hustled over to the driver’s side.

Every inch of Charlie’s body brushed along Vince’s as he plucked her off her seat and set her back on her feet. The hair on his arms lifted as if he’d touched pure electricity, and in a way, he had. Charlie. A live wire. Jolting. Heat-inducing.

Her teeth trapped her bottom lip in a sexy nibble. Vince couldn’t help but glance down to her mouth, seeing that he wasn’t the only one overtaken by a sudden burst of awareness.

“If I’d been the one to offer my hand to you, you would’ve taken a hunk of flesh out of it with your teeth,” Vince half-joked.

She smoothed the front of his shirt, a coy smile dancing on her lips. “Not a hunk. Maybe just a little nibble.”

Sucking in a groan, Vince wrapped an arm around her waist and guided her away from the truck as another large group of college-aged kids stumbled past.

Charlie let out a strangled noise.

“What?” Vince looked at her, confused.

She bit the corner of her mouth, obviously trying to withhold laughter. “You and the look of excruciating pain plastered all over your face. You can’t tell me you’ve never prowled the bars looking for a good time.”

Vince steered them toward the entrance of the club’s outdoor patio. “Yeah, a million f**ing years ago. And I didn’t have to prowl for anything. Good times always came to me.”

This time Charlie snorted with her chuckle, and the sound of it made his lips twitch. It was g*****ned cute, though he would never admit it aloud and risk a punch to his kidneys.

“It’s a wonder headquarters hasn’t blown up from testosterone toxicity,” Charlie murmured as they stepped to the end of the club’s red-roped line.

The bouncer manning the entrance took a lazy-eyed stroll over Charlie’s body. “You two together?”

Vince cocked a glance to his arm, still wrapped snugly around her waist. “What do you think?”

“I think it’s too d**n bad. But you both can go on in. And if your lady’s interested, there’s a bar-dancing competition sometime within the hour.” He eyed Charlie’s legs. “You’re a shoe-in for first f***ing prize, sweetheart.”

Vince would’ve loved nothing more than to swipe the smirk off the bastard’s face, but Charlie intervened, threading her fingers through his, and thanked the man for the invite. The people in line grumbled their protests as the bouncer opened the gate and let them onto the club’s patio.

Miami Heat lured in a who’s who of the rich, famous, and privileged. Whereas the indoor section of the club catered to the couples dancing to the loud, theatrical pound of the music, the outdoor patio was a pool party on ’roids.

White Christmas lights wrapped every palm tree and, and as if Miami wasn’t hot enough, bamboo torches lit up the patio’s perimeter. Humidity didn’t seem to be keeping people away, because the line wrapped around the circular bar was three people deep, and growing.

“Don’t people have anything better to do than spend their money on overpriced booze?” Vince asked, inspecting the sea of drunk people.

Charlie lifted her brow. “In Miami? No. It’s all about twenty-dollar drinks and lots and lots of skin. You’re such a people person, Navy. It’s a wonder you don’t have an entire entourage surrounding you all hours of the day.”

“And you’re such the sparkling social gem, huh?” Vince said dryly. A pair of overly bronzed women skirted past, outrageously wearing less than Charlie. “I wasn’t the one who nearly made the pizza delivery boy cry because he mistakenly left behind my order of fried mushrooms.”

“No, but now I’m sure that Christopher will never forget them again. That’s the difference between us. I don’t see any point in hiding my displeasure, where you take the whole brooding in silence thing and turn it into an art form.”

“Some things can’t be changed by making a scene.”

Charlie turned toward him, the side of her breast brushing against his chest. “No, but sometimes it can make you feel a lot bloody better. Unleash the beast, Navy. Or at the very least, loosen the reins. You may be surprised at what happens.”

When he’d been with the SEAL teams, Vince wouldn’t have hesitated to let off a little steam—and without prompting. But both time and experience had taught him the error of his ways. He’d learned it at the end of his Navy career, had it drilled into his head working for bail enforcement, and now with Alpha, it had become almost second nature—except when Charlie was in close proximity. Then all those lessons flew out of his f***ing head.

“You want to make ourselves visible?” Vince slipped his hand over her hip and veered her toward the dance floor. “Hope you can dance in those stilts.”

 

 

 

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THE ALPHA SECURITY SERIES

HEATED PURSUIT, #1

HOLDING FIRE, #2

HARD JUSTICE, #3

 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

April blames her incurable chocolate addiction on growing up in rural Pennsylvania, way too close to America’s chocolate capital, Hershey. She now lives in Virginia with her college sweetheart husband, two young children, and a cat who thinks she’s a human-dog hybrid. On those rare occasions she’s not donning the cape of her children’s personal chauffer, April’s either planning, plotting, or writing about her next alpha hero and the woman he never knew he needed, but now can’t live without.

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My thoughts:

Hard Justice by April Hunt a  fast paced, action packed Romance.  #3 in “Alha Alpha Security” series, but it can be read as a stand alone.   I was not lost, having never read this series  before. This was also my first time reading anything by this author,  I was well pleased, to find another amazing author.

This is the story of  the first female operative at Alpha Security, Charlotte “Charlie” Sparks, a kick butt operative,  who is as wise cracking as tough and Ex-SEAL commander Vince Franklin, cocky and seeps with confidence . Oh, Yes all that testosterone in one place could be dangerously distracting.

Well written with an intriguing and engaging cast of characters.  The plot was an action packed, roller coaster ride of emotions,  the chemistry between Vince and Charlie, particularly flowed off the pages and the twists and turns were abound, which kept me turning  pages. The hot, witty banter between Charlie and Vince, definitely helped carry “Hard Justice” to an amazing finale. Can’t wait to go back and read the other two books in this intriguing series. A must read for fans of action packed romance, with interesting characters.

I received a complimentary copy, however,  all opinions  my own.

Rating: 4

Heat rating: Steamy

Reviewed by: AprilR

 

 

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☆☆HAPPY RELEASE DAY, ANNA HARRINGTON ☆☆WHEN THE SCOUNDRED SINS w/#Giveaway + #Excerpt + #Teasers + #Review

RELEASE DAY!!!
WHEN THE SCOUNDREL SINS by Anna Harrington

Anna Harrington’s Top 5 favorite foods? 

1) Chocolate

2) Chocolate

3) Chocolate

4) Coffee

5) Chocolate  J

 

Seriously, though…

1)      Pure Kona coffee from a French press with a splash of cream and sprinkle of sugar…ambrosia!

2)      Gelato – In Italy, it’s one Euro per scoop, and you don’t have to speak Italian…all you have to do is point and smile

3)      Lobster bisque, if it’s really thick and creamy with lots of lobster chunks

4)      Chocolate pots de creme

5)      Kraft Mac and Cheese – there is no better comfort food in the world

 

 

 

BOOK INFORMATION

Title: When the Scoundrel Sins
Author: Anna Harrington
On Sale: August 29, 2017
Series: Capturing the Carlisles: Book 2
Publisher: Forever
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Price: $7.99 USD

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Six years ago, a childish prank perpetrated by the reckless Quinton Carlisle ruined Annabelle Greene’s reputation and any chance she had at securing a successful marriage. Incensed, she moved to her beloved estate on the Scottish border and has reveled in the solitude…until now when the contents of a family will are revealed. Suddenly, Belle’s single status may cost her the only home she’s ever known. Now, with her only marital prospect a horribly greedy and completely undesirable man, Belle knows just the person to rescue her-the one person who owes her for his bad behavior…

There’s nothing Quinn Carlisle wants more than to get out from his older brother’s shadow and make a name for himself abroad. So when a mysterious letter arrives, promising adventure, he rushes to the Scottish border…only to find that Belle laid a trap for him. The awkward, shy bluestocking whom he so enjoyed tormenting is gone, replaced by a graceful, elegant woman who ignites a desire in him he can’t resist. Can Quinn help her save her home-and win her heart in the process?

 

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“You look much more like your father now,” she commented, nervously licking her suddenly dry lips but only serving to draw his attention to her mouth. Which made her even more nervous, so nervous that she couldn’t stop the trembling of her fingertips as they wrapped into the skirt of her night rail. “But you’re still a troublemaker.”

A faint smile played at his mouth. “And you’re still a bluestocking,” he countered. Unintentionally simmering a slow heat low in her belly, he reached up to tuck a stray curl behind her ear. “Still retreating to the sanctuary of your library.”

“Because books are usually more pleasant than most people,” she answered, swallowing hard when he trailed his fingers down the side of her neck. She forced out, not at all as firmly as she’d hoped beneath the soft touch of his fingers,

“And more trustworthy.”

Ignoring that jab, he slid his hand lower to let his fingers play at the edge of her shawl. “Yet there are things that people can do that books can’t.” His fingers tugged gently at the shawl and pulled it down her shoulder to reveal the scooped neck of the nightdress beneath. His gaze flicked to the small patch of revealed skin at the base of her throat, then back to her eyes. “All kinds of interesting things.”

She should stop him, swat his hand away, shove him back—but she couldn’t bring herself to do it. Just as she couldn’t hold back the hot shiver that swept through her or the gooseflesh that formed on her skin. His touch was proving to be as equally intoxicating now as that night six years ago.

“Then I have no interest in learning them,” she countered, although from the way her blood hummed, her body was very interested.

Madness—that after what he’d done to her, she could ever want to be in his arms again. Yet she desired just that, although that could never happen. Kissing him once had ruined her reputation. Kissing him again might destroy her entire future.

She thrust her chin into the air. “I know of your reputation.”

“Thank you,” he half purred.

His finger hooked beneath the wide shoulder strap of her sleeveless nightgown and slid it slowly down her arm. But this time, with a stretch of bare shoulder revealed to his eyes, he didn’t bother feigning propriety by looking away and instead flamed a prickling heat beneath her skin everywhere he gazed.

She pulled in a deep breath to steady herself. Oh, why did she always go light-headed when she was alone with him?

“That was not meant as a compliment.”

“Wasn’t it?”

 

 

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Anna Harrington fell in love with historical romances–and all those dashing Regency heroes–while living in London, where she studied literature and theatre. She loves to travel, fly airplanes, and hike, and when she isn’t busy writing her next novel, she loves fussing over her roses in her garden.

 

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My Thoughts:

When the Scoundrel Sins by Anna Harri gton is a delightful Regency Romance. Book 2 in her exhilarating “Capturing the Carlisles” series, but it can be read as a stsnd alone.

First off, I was glued to the pages of this steady paced, well written tale of love, romance, family, and finding a HEA.

This is the adventure of  Quinn Carlisle and Annabelle Greene, (Belle). In order to save Belle’s beloved Scottish home, on the border of Scotland,  she must find an ally…..who comes to mind….her old childhood friend,  Quinn.

I so enjoy Anna Harrington’s writing style, it flows seamlessly and effortlessly, with grace, and emotions.

Book 2 is even better than Book 1, to me, and I loved Book 1. There was something about Belle and Quinn that draws you into the story and keeps you turning pages. An absolute delight to read with a few laugh out loud moments, a few surprises and of  course, the added bonus of passion and chemistry, that creates a delightful tale.

If you enjoy Regency Romance, you will wish to pick up WHEN A SCOUNDREL SINS, for your next adventure. Another fantastic read by Anna Harrington! Can’t wait for the next adventure.

I received a complimentary copy, however,  all opinions are my own.

 

Rating: 4.5

Heat rating: Mild

Reviewed by: AprilR

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☆CHRISTINA MCKNIGHT☆ADELINE☆one week blog tour with #Giveaway + #Excerpt + #Review

When the beast with a heart of gold tames a beauty with a wicked past.

 

 

 

Follow the tour and enter to #win one of 5 paperback copies of Theodora (Lady Archer’s Creed book 1)

 

 

 

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Title: Adeline
Series: Lady Archer’s Creed #3
Author: Christina McKnight
Genre: Historical Romance Romance
Release Date: August 29, 2017

WHEN THE BEAST WITH A HEART OF GOLD

Everything changed for Jasper Benedict, the Earl of Ailesbury, the night his family died in a tragic fire—the same fire that left him disfigured. Now, his scars have given him the name the Beast of Faversham. But when he stumbles upon a damaged carriage during a tempest, the beautiful woman inside reminds him of the man he wishes he could be: free of his past, and able to love.

TAMES A BEAUTY WITH A WICKED PAST

When her carriage breaks down outside Faversham Abbey, this is just the most recent in a long series of misadventures for Miss Adeline Price. Her beauty hides a fatal flaw: she’s quick to judge, and rarely looks beneath the surface. But the longer she’s around Jasper, the more she begins to want to be better—someone deserving of him.

But when it comes time to reunite Adeline with her family in London, will Jasper believe that she sees not his scars, but the good, honorable man he is?

Available at: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | Kobo

Short Excerpt:
“I am the Earl of Ailesbury,” he called, the words fighting the noise of the storm at his back. “My home is only a short distance away. You may seek shelter there.” Her almond-shaped, hazel eyes inspected him from his hidden face and down the length of his body. Jasper hadn’t felt laid bare before another his entire life. Was she leery enough of him to refuse his offer? As if on cue, a wolf howled in the near distance, its call echoing above the whine of the storm. Within moments, several others answered.

 

 

About Christina McKnight:

Christina McKnight is a book lover turned writer. From a young age, her mother encouraged her to tell her own stories. She’s been writing ever since.
Christina enjoys a quiet life in Northern California with her family, her wine, and lots of coffee. Oh, and her books…don’t forget her books! Most days she can be found writing, reading, or traveling the great state of California.

You can visit her online at the following places: Website Facebook | Twitter Goodreads | Amazon

 

Follow the tour and enter to #win one of 5 paperback copies of Theodora (Lady Archer’s Creed book 1)

 

Aug 28th

I Love Romance – Review

Life at 17 – Review

The Sassy Book Lover – Review

The Reading Café – Review

My Book Addiction and More – Review

cuz I’m a nerd – Review

KeyReadThat – Spotlight

Lovinghotbooks – Spotlight

Once Upon a Book Blog – Spotlight

Romance Reviews Today Blog – Spotlight

The Silver Dagger Scriptorium – Spotlight

Yearwood La Novela – Spotlight

 

Aug 29th

Splashes Into Books – Review

Silvatrend8553’s Book Blog – Review

Paulette’s Papers – Spotlight

RoloPoloBookBlog – Spotlight

Cathy’s World – Spotlight

Ebook Indulgence – Spotlight

LadyTechie’s Book Musings – Spotlight

Naughty Mom Story Time – Spotlight

Port Jericho – Spotlight

TBR Book Blog – Spotlight

The Voluptuous Book Diva – Spotlight

OMGreads – Spotlight

 

Aug 30th

Writing Pearls – Review

Book Loving Pixies – Spotlight

A small girl, her man and her books – Spotlight

Cat’s Guilty Pleasure – Spotlight

Fiona Reads and FoodSpots – Spotlight

Lisa Book Blog @ LEL – Spotlight

nikkis book nook – Spotlight

Quite The Novel Idea – Spotlight

The Avid Reader – Spotlight

The World As I See It – Spotlight

 

Aug 31st

Njkinny’s World of Books & Stuff (NWoBS) – Review

Up ‘Til Dawn Book Blog – Spotlight

What Is That Book About – Spotlight

Evermore Books – Spotlight

Celticlady’s Reviews – Spotlight

For Love of Books4 – Spotlight

Lisa Loves Books – Spotlight

Not Enough Tomes – Spotlight

Reese’s Review – Spotlight

The Lovely Teacher Addictions – Spotlight

Those Crazy Book Chicks – Spotlight

 

Sept 1st

The Librarian’s Corner – Review

Twinsie Talk – Review

Kimmie Sue’s book review and more – Review

Books,Dreams,Life – Spotlight

CristiinaReads – Spotlight

I libri: il mio passato, il mio presente e il mio future – Spotlight

Lover of Big Books Cannot Lie – Spotlight

Romance Book Review For You – Spotlight

The Power of Three Readers – Spotlight

We All Make Mistakes in Books -Spotlight

 

 


My thoughts:

Adeline by Christina McKnight is #3 in her exhilarating “Lady Archer’s Creed”. While, it can be read as a stand alone, I’d suggest reading the entire series, but not necessary to enjoy ADELINE.

Jasper Benedict, the Earl of Ailesbury, was disfigured in a tragic fire that took his family and left him horribly scarred. Miss Adeline Price, has had many misadventures in her life. Her beauty hides her many flaws, she’s arrogant, judgemental, and rarely, if ever, sees behind the surface to the person within.  Will Adeline be able to see through Jasper’s scars to see the honorable and gentle within?

I enjoyed watching Jasper bring out Adeline’s good qualities, and watch her being concerned over some one beside herself. As she grows into a truly lovable lady, one who finally can see within herself and not like what she sees.

Once again, Christina McKnight manages to produce a thought-provoking,  heartwarming, compelling and powerful romance.  Well written with a cast of characters that are flawed,  self-centered,  proud but lovable and engaging. The plot  flows seamlessly and endearingly. I enjoy Ms. McKnight’s writing style, her detail to characters,  the Era and the countryside. She never disappoints me or my joy of reading her Regency Romance. A must read for Regency Romance fans.

Rating: 4.5

Heat rating: Sweet 

Reviewed by: AprilR

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☆☆SOPHIE BARNES☆☆THE HONORABLE SCOUNDRELS SERIES ☆☆

THE HONORABLE SCOUNDRELS  series

by Sophia Barnes

 

THE HONORABLE SCOUNDRELS series:

 

 

****

 
The Governess Who Captured His Heart:
Temptations or Priorities…?
Determined to help her oldest sister make ends meet, Louise Potter accepts a governess position in the northern part of England. If this means accompanying an older gentleman on his travels, then she will. There’s only one problem: Louise is about to discover that her travelling companion is not the elderly man she expected, but rather seduction itself…

Alistair Langley has no desire to share his carriage with his niece’s newly hired employee. But the matron he expected to find at his door is instead a beautiful young woman, one he knows he can’t travel alone with. After all, he’s going to visit his brother who is pressuring him to marry and produce a Langley heir–or be cut off from inheritance. When he confides in Louise, together they form a plan. But the closer they become, the more temptation beckons…
Until finally a choice must be made: Love or money? Or is it possible to have both?

Chapter One

Lowering the letter she’d been reading, Louise Potter held the expensive sheet of paper between her fingers and glanced at both of her sisters in turn. “I have been accepted for the position. Lady Channing would like me to start immediately.”

“That is what you wish to do, is it not?” Josephine asked. At six and twenty, she was two years older than Louise and six years older than their youngest sister, Eve.

“It certainly is a welcome opportunity.” With the townhouse serving as their only inheritance, and Josephine working hard to make ends meet for all of them, Louise wanted to find a way to help her older sister. As a result, she now had the chance of becoming a governess to three young children. “My only regret is I shall miss Christmas with the two of you.”

“Perhaps the countess will allow you to see us on that particular day?” Eve suggested.

Louise bit her lip. Her employment would require a major move, which was something she hadn’t yet mentioned to either of her sisters. “I’m afraid not. If I’m lucky, I shall be able to come to Town during the spring and part of the summer while the Season is underway. Otherwise, most of my time will be spent near Whitehaven.”

Her sisters stared at her. “I forget where that is,” Eve finally said.

“I believe it is in the north,” Josephine told her.

Louise nodded. “It is indeed.”

Eve’s mouth dropped open. “But then we shall never see you again!”

“As I mentioned, I might return to Town once Parliament opens and the Radcliffe family chooses to relocate to their London home.” She paused to consider their unhappy faces. “Unless I decline the offer and remain here. I can do so if you are loath to see me go.”

“No.” Josephine quickly smiled, though the effort did appear slightly strenuous. “You have been given the chance to accept respectable employment with a highly regarded aristocratic family. Neither of us will stand in your way.”

“Are you certain?” Louise was beginning to doubt her own resolve.

Travelling north had seemed like a grand adventure until she’d told her sisters about it. They’d never been apart before, and since their father’s death, they’d been especially dependent upon each other, not only to get through the grief, but also to find a way forward in the following whirlwind of chaos.

Louise’s grandfather had been the third son of an earl. As such, he’d gone into law and had eventually, upon his death, left his thriving practice to his son. But he had not been as skilled a barrister as his father, nor did he have a head for the business. After he lost a  string of cases, clients had chosen to seek counsel elsewhere. As time had progressed and the funds had dwindled, the larger houses had been sold and the meeker residence where Louise and her sisters now lived had been purchased instead. But even this house would be lost to Louise and her sisters unless a decent income could be secured. Especially since their uncle, the current Earl of Priorsbridge, had neglected to take on his responsibility as their guardian.

“This is a wonderful opportunity for you,” Josephine said. Meeting Louise’s gaze, she did not need to say the money her work would produce could ease their concerns. Instead, she asked a practical question. “When do you intend to leave?”

“Tomorrow.” Knowing how surprising this comment was, Louise hastened to say, “The countess has offered conveyance if I do. It seems her uncle, Lord Alistair, will be travelling up then as well, so it has been suggested we go together for practical reasons.”

“I suppose doing so would provide you with a better carriage for such a long journey,” Josephine said. “But is it wise for you to travel alone with a man whom you’ve never met before?”

Louise made a face. “At my age?” She shook her head. “You know as well as I that I am almost as firmly on the shelf as you are. And since I am not a young lady with marriageable prospects but rather a soon to-be-governess, I dare say no one will think much about it. Not to mention this uncle must be at least fifty years old considering the countess’s age.”

“How can you possibly know her age?” Eve asked. “It doesn’t seem like the sort of thing she would share in her letter to you.”

“Quite right,” Louise told her, “but her eldest son is eleven, so I can make an intelligent guess.”

“I suppose that is true,” Josephine murmured. “Which means you’re probably right about Lord Alistair. Besides, I doubt the countess would suggest his escort unless she was sure you’d be safe in his presence.”

Louise agreed. “It is settled then?”

“I believe so.” Josephine said.

Her remark propelled Louise to hug both her sisters. She then hurried on through to her room and pulled her valise out from under the bed. It was time for her to start packing.

#

Enjoying a last minute brandy in his study, Alistair Clay Hedgewick, considered his niece’s request to bring her new governess with him to Whitehaven. He groaned at the prospect of it–of having to spend a week with a middle-aged spinster instead of alone in his own company as he’d been expecting. Dreading it, he took another sip of his drink. It was a bit early in the day to be imbibing, but under the circumstances he felt he needed the fortification before setting out in another half hour.

He glanced toward the clock on the fireplace mantle. An hour had passed since he’d sent his carriage to collect her, so she should be arriving at any moment. A knock sounded at the door, and Alistair called for his butler to enter.

“My lord,” Mr. Fox said while maids and footmen scurried around behind him, gathering last minute items in need of packing. “Miss Potter has arrived. Would you like me to show her in?”

Alistair considered the question. He could hardly say no, could he? It was tempting since doing so would allow him that extra half hour of peace before embarking on a journey that would force him to stay on his best behavior. Taking his shoes off and relaxing his feet would not be possible. Nor would sleeping, since he had no desire to snore in her presence. In fact, he was giving up a great deal of comfort for a woman he’d never met and did not care about.

“Very well,” he sighed, before downing the rest of his drink and rising. He might as well meet his travelling companion, he reasoned, since it was the polite thing to do. Like it or not, he always strove to do what was right and play the part of the well-mannered gentleman, no matter how impractical or aggravating it could be. His behavior, however, reflected not only on him but on his entire family, and being called to task by his brother was something he always tried to avoid.

Mr. Fox returned. “Miss Potter,” he said, before stepping aside so a slim woman, wearing a grey gown and a matching pelisse, could enter. On her head, she wore a straw bonnet beneath which he was able to spy a golden display of neatly combed hair. But what shocked him the most was her face, because it did not belong to the middle-aged, rotund matron he’d envisioned, but rather to the angelic youthfulness of a woman in her prime. More than that, she was the perfect picture of beauty, her delicate features lending an elegance even the highest ranking ladies of society lacked. Her eyes, he noted, were a bright glow of hazel while her lips, parting now with undeniable surprise, were the sort men dreamed of in their wickedest fantasies.

Aware he was staring, he gathered his wits, schooled his features, and stepped toward her. “Miss Potter, it is a pleasure to make your acquaintance.”

She gaped at him. “Are you Lord Alistair?”

“The one and only.”

She shook her head. “You can’t be.” Glancing around as if seeking another gentleman, she gradually returned her gaze to him when none was to be found. “You…you…” Waving her hands as if hoping to fashion the necessary words, she finally blurted, “You are twenty years younger than you ought to be!”

#

Clamping her mouth shut, Louise stared at the man who stood before her. He was not the older gentleman she’d anticipated. Instead he was young, about a head taller than she, and solidly built, judging from his stance. His face, constructed from angular planes, contained a pair of serious eyes, a patrician nose, and a mouth set in a firm line. Whether or not the last feature was capable of smiling had yet to be determined.

“You are not who I expected either, Miss Potter,” he said, boldly allowing himself to assess her.

She didn’t like the nervous quickening of her pulse or how her insides squirmed with discomfort. Determined to fight it, she raised her chin and squared her shoulders. “How do you mean?”

He drew a breath and appeared to consider. “I assumed you to be in your forties and in possession of a plump figure. All the governesses I have ever seen have been like that. Apparently, that opinion is misguided. You do not fit the image I have of governesses at all.”

“I do not know if I should be flattered or insulted,” Louise confessed.

His eyes widened with a distinct look of surprise. “How can you think my comment was anything but a compliment?”

“Because you appear to be judging me solely on my appearance.”

“Naturally.” His tone was dry. He paused as if wondering what to say next, then asked, “What else would you have me judge you on?”

She stared at him. What a typical male thing to ask. It was no different than the sort of comments she’d gotten from her father as a young girl. As well-meaning as he’d been, she’d resented the insinuation that she would do well in life because she was pretty. Which prompted her to say, “My mental faculties for a start.”

His lips twitched as if he found her statement amusing, which made her want to hit him right there in the middle of his own study. But then he spoke. “While I may be more capable of judging you on such a fine attribute now, after we’ve had a brief exchange of words, I certainly wasn’t at the time when I made my remark.”

Acknowledging her mistake, she gave a tight smile. “Forgive me, my lord. It was not my intention to sound ungrateful.”

“And yet you managed to do so anyway,” he murmured, making her want to hit him all over again.

The man was not only arrogant but infuriating, and she was meant to spend several days with him in a carriage? She would rather enjoy the company of rodents and was contemplating saying so – or something equivalent but less rude – when the butler returned. “Your carriage is ready, my lord.”

“Thank you, Mr. Fox,” Lord Alistair said. He cast a contemplative glance at Louise before telling the butler, “I’d like you to ask one of the housemaids to join us.”

Louise almost sighed with relief.

The butler dipped his head. “Understood.” He then turned on his heel and strode from the room.

Considering Lord Alistair, Louise wondered if he might be dreading their journey as much as she was. But he gave her no reason to suppose such a thing. Instead, his expression remained inscrutable as he gestured toward the door. “After you, Miss Potter,” he said. “I believe we had best be on our way.”

#

Alistair knew the sort of woman she was. He was familiar with her type – the type of woman who wanted to be admired for her brain rather than her beauty. The countess was the same way, but unlike Miss Potter, Abigail had good reason to demand such admiration since she’d written several renowned books on the principals of mathematics.

Miss Potter, on the other hand, had yet to prove herself worthy. For as he’d suggested, looks was all he’d really had to assess her by so far. It was much too soon to determine whether or not she was simply a pretty face or if there was actually a sharp mind behind those hazel eyes of hers. Considering her stalwart manner, he suspected there might be more to her than he imagined.

At any rate, she would probably prove to be better company than the sort of woman he’d been expecting, even if he still wouldn’t be able to take off his shoes or sleep in her presence. One thing was certain, she would be easy on the eyes even if she elected not to speak with him for the duration of their journey. A possibility, judging from her determination to admire the view from the window.

They’d left London without exchanging another word. A muttered, “Thank you,” was all he’d received upon helping her into the landau. Then nothing for the next half hour. And since Bridget, the maid who’d been chosen to act as chaperone, had nodded asleep almost instantly, Alistair could not rely on her for conversation either.

Which brought them to this point.

Discreetly, he considered Miss Potter’s profile, which was not so easy to do because of her bonnet. With her face turned away from him as it was, the brim concealed most of her face and all of her hair. A shame, since he would have liked to study those golden tresses more closely.

“It will be at least five hours before we arrive at the first posting inn,” he told her.

Starting as if surprised to hear him speak, she turned away from the window, those hazel eyes of hers meeting his from beneath her long lashes. “I suspected as much,” she said.

Ignoring her rigid tone, he relaxed against the squabs and stretched out his legs. “Feel free to make yourself comfortable. You can take off your bonnet, if you like. Nobody would fault you for doing so.”

She seemed to consider this suggestion which had been equal parts selfish and considerate. Forcing a blank expression, he held his breath in anticipation of what she might do. Her eyes slid toward the spot on the bench where he’d placed his own hat and gloves. A frown puckered her forehead, and he instantly knew what was going on in her head. She wanted to take off her bonnet, perhaps even her gloves, but she worried doing so would remove a shield – break down a necessary barrier between them – and perhaps… No. He would not allow his thoughts to wander in that direction. Still, he found himself praying she would surrender to comfort and sate his damnable curiosity.

After a moment, she returned her gaze to the window. Her hands remained in her lap, and Alistair felt a peculiar pang of disappointment. Not that he would allow it to bother him. She was only a woman after all – perhaps the most delectable one he’d ever seen – but a woman nonetheless.

She was not worth thinking about for any extensive length of time.

He had other, more important, matters to consider. Perhaps he ought to set his mind to them instead of wondering about Miss Potter’s hair. Reminding himself she was nothing more than an inconvenient obligation, he prepared to reach for his satchel and pull out his newspaper, when a movement at the corner of his eye caught his attention.

Glancing toward her, he noted her hands had risen to the bow at her chin where her fingers now carefully tugged at the ends, loosening it with a slow pull that made Alistair’s mouth go dry.

Never in his life would he have presumed a bow might be untied so sensually or that he would ever consider the act of doing so arousing. But he did, damn it. His entire body responded, forcing him to cross his legs and straighten in his seat.  Then she carefully plucked the bonnet off her head, and as she did so, it took every bit of willpower he possessed to stop himself from staring. Because her hair was indeed as glorious as he had imagined it– more so even – for it wasn’t blonde alone, but streaked with silky strands of honey, gleaming in response to the light coming in through the window.

His only regret was how it was tied back in a tight knot at the nape of her neck. Because now that he’d seen it, he wanted to know its length and how it might look spilling over her shoulders. And once he knew this, he’d probably want something else – something far more dangerous than simply taking a look at her hair.

“Feel free to remove your gloves as well, if you like,” he said as he bent to retrieve his newspaper.

He would not look at her any more – not directly at least – lest she worry about being trapped for a week with a man she’d be wise to steer clear of. Honestly, he would have to have a word with Abigail once he saw her. Neglecting to inform him of Miss Potter’s young age had been a careless omission on her part. It had also resulted in a twenty minute delay while Bridget packed a bag and prepared herself for departure.

“Thank you,” Miss Potter said – the first words she’d spoken to him since climbing into the carriage. She made no effort to do as he suggested, but she did, much to his surprise, continue talking. “I am sorry if I seemed defensive earlier. It was not my intention.”

Drawn by the hushed sound of her voice, Alistair allowed his eyes to meet hers. A mistake, since he found himself thoroughly transfixed by their color. To say they were hazel was far too simple. They were a brilliant shade of green at the center, surrounded by warm tones of toffee. Years of practice allowed him to maintain his serious demeanor and not reveal the physical torment which he was starting to suffer. Only two hours in her presence and his gentlemanly ways were being severely tested. It did not bode well for the remainder of their journey.

“Then what was your intention, Miss Potter?”

Her lips parted on the precipice of speech, but then she appeared to force back whatever remark she’d been meaning to make, paused for a second, and finally said, “Beauty can be a blessing as well as a curse. It has always been assumed I would get by on my looks – that men would flock to my door after taking one glimpse and then promptly offer me marriage.”

“Most women would be glad if they were so fortunate.”

“Perhaps,” she conceded. “But in my case, circumstance got in the way. I found myself in a situation where a pretty face would not suffice. Fortunately, my mother, bless her heart, always strove to prepare my sisters and me for such a possibility. She was a practical woman. So while our father insisted there was no need for anything more than basic lessons, Mama demanded proficiency in mathematics, science, literature and French. And because our father doted on her, he allowed it, affording us all an education we can now use to our best advantage.”

He took a moment to consider this forthright statement. “You speak of both parents in the past tense.” Noting the way her eyes shifted, he quietly said, “I take it they are no longer with you?”

She gave a tight nod. “We lost Mama four years ago. Papa passed last summer.”

Which explained her dull attire. “I am sorry to hear it.”

A weak smile was her only response, and then, as if seeking a different topic, she quickly asked, “How is it you are as young as you are? Lady Channing referred to you as her uncle, so I rather assumed you were going to be a bit older.”

“Yes. You did make that quite clear the moment we met.”

Blushing, she glanced at him timidly from beneath her lashes. It impacted him in the strangest of ways. “Forgive me. It was terribly rude of me to respond as I did. I’m afraid surprise got the better of me.”

She wasn’t the only one, he reflected. “The fact is, my father was thirty years old when my brother, the current Duke of Langley, was born. His mother died in childbirth, and our father remarried, to a woman who bore him no children. After her death, our father married his third wife. By then he was in his fifty-seventh year, while his wife, my mother, was a widow twenty-five years his junior. Hence, there are twenty-eight years between my brother and me since I was born a year after the wedding. Indeed I am closer in age to my niece, Lady Channing, who is only three years younger than I.”

“How strange,” Miss Potter murmured. “I cannot imagine what that might be like. You’re practically an only child.”

He couldn’t deny it. “The duke has been more of a parent to me than a brother. I was only ten when Papa died.”

What he would not say was how much the death had affected him. His father had doted on him, perhaps because he’d been the spare he’d been trying to have for two full decades. There was also the possibility his father had tried to avoid the mistakes he felt he’d made when raising his brother. From what Alistair gathered, little love had been given to the current Duke of Langley. Everything had been about duty and discipline. So when Papa died and Langley stepped in and took his place, Alistair’s carefree childhood had come to a grinding halt.

“I am sorry to hear it,” Miss Potter said, capturing his attention. “No child should have to lose their parent at such a young age.”

Appreciating the sympathy but disliking the mood their discussion had led to, he nodded, then turned his attention back to the newspaper he’d brought along for the ride. Opening it, he set his mind to finding a new investment opportunity – something that would save him from bending to Langley’s will.

#


Hoping she managed to do so discreetly, Louise considered Lord Alistair while he read the crisp newspaper he held. His brow was knit in serious contemplation, his eyes skimming the pages with intense interest. Turning a page with a rustle, he leaned slightly forward as if studying part of the text in greater detail.

Being a relatively large man, he seemed to fill the carriage with his presence. The space had felt even smaller when he’d been looking at her. Thankfully, he’d stopped doing so now, allowing the fluttery feel in her belly to settle into something much calmer and more relaxed. His dark perusal invariably made her tighten up inside. It bothered her to no end that she couldn’t discern what he was thinking. To do so was impossible when he kept the inner workings of his mind carefully masked behind layers of strict severity. What shocked her most, perhaps, was her reaction to this, for it made her want to shake some emotion out of him. Of course, doing so would likely result in the termination of her employment before it even began.

As she watched him, a dark lock of hair fell across his brow. It made him appear more carefree somehow, even if his expression did no such thing. Flexing her fingers, she fought the urge to reach out and force the errant hair back into place. To do so would be scandalous – completely and utterly shocking.

With this in mind, she drew the blanket he’d given her at the onset of their journey tighter across her lap. As concerned as she’d been about travelling with him after their initial meeting, she had begun to warm to the idea of sharing his company.

For one thing, it was a chance in a lifetime, because being confined to a small space with the best looking man in England was not the sort of thing that was likely to happen ever again. For another, she would not be alone with him. Even if the maid who’d joined them slept the entire way to Whitehaven, her presence ensured propriety would be maintained.

So why worry? Rather, Louise decided she might as well spend the next few days admiring Lord Alistair’s perfect figure, the breadth of his shoulders, and how perfectly his well-tailored clothes hugged him in all the right places. This was a rare treat she’d been given, and she’d be a fool not to take advantage.

So she sat back and let her gaze wander up the length of his legs and across his thighs. He turned another page, and she studied the movement, admiring the size of his hands. They were so much larger than hers, though elegant in their own right as they carefully held the newspaper.

Sliding her gaze upward, she took in the leanness of his chest. Many men would have a belly protruding when sitting down, but he did not. Rather, his jacket sat completely flat against his torso, which rather intrigued her. Continuing up over his chest, she reached his shoulders and then the side of his neck where a few fine tufts of hair curled right beneath his earlobe.

“You’re staring at me,” he murmured.

Louise’s heart slammed against her chest and her gaze shot toward his. He was studying her with those dark eyes that revealed nothing of what he was thinking, but they did produce a rush of heat that instantly made her think of flinging herself from the carriage if only to escape her own embarrassment.

****
 
The Earl Who Loved Her:

A chance meeting…

Eve Potter can hardly wait to arrive at Amberly Hall for the Christmas season! The hope is that she will make a match with an eligible gentleman. But as fate would have it, she misses the coach that is sent to collect her from her point of arrival, and starts out on foot…only to go in the wrong direction. Nearly frozen, she arrives at BlackHall, where she is invited inside and introduced to the master of the house, the Earl of Ravenworth. Eve is smitten, for he is beyond handsome, which makes him a temptation she must avoid. But can she…?

Bryce Harlowe lives as a recluse, shuned by Society and even his own family after being falsly accused of taking a woman’s virginity and then refusing to marry her. The young woman at his door cannot stay at Blackhall less her reputation be ruined. And yet, when the pesky winter climate leaves them snowed in together at Blackhall, Bryce and Eve grow closer, each discovering a mutual respect and longing for the other. Until Bryce’s past is revealed, threatening to rip apart their newfound love…

Chapter One

The days were getting colder. Eve could feel it in her bones. Glancing toward the empty fireplace, she addressed her sister, Josephine. “Are you sure you want me to go?”

“Yes.” The word was spoken without the slightest hesitation. “Going to Amberly Hall to visit with your friend Margaret is a wonderful opportunity for you, Eve – one you mustn’t pass up.”

“You didn’t mention my going there to Louise before she left,” Eve said in reference to their other sister, who was four years older than Eve and two years younger than Josephine. She’d left the day before, after being offered a position as governess in the northern part of the country.

“I worried she would postpone travelling or decide not to go at all if she knew. She didn’t like the idea of leaving us alone for Christmas, but she took some solace in knowing we would at least have each other.”

“Except now you will be by yourself in this miserable house.”

Josephine gave her a sharp look. “We are fortunate to have a house at all. Things could be worse.”

Knowing how true that was and how hard Josephine had worked to keep a roof over their heads, Eve apologized for the comment and said, “Perhaps we should let our guardian know about our difficulties.”

“No! Absolutely not, Eve. We have managed to get by without relying on any man this past year since Papa died, and we shall continue to do so. Because to take money from a stranger…”

“He is our uncle.”

“And yet we have never made his acquaintance.” Josephine shook her head. “It wouldn’t be right to ask for his help, and I would hate to feel beholden.”

“Very well. We will find another way.”

“It will be easier now after Louise has found employment.”

Eve was well aware. She wished there were more she could do so she could stop feeling guilty about her sisters working while she did nothing besides look pretty. But Josephine wouldn’t even let her sweep the floors. Hoping to provide Eve with the season she and Louise had been denied, Josephine insisted Eve should not show any signs of work, which meant her hands had to be kept smooth and unblemished.

Eve picked up her tea and took a sip, wincing in response to the tepid water as it slid down her throat. She drew her shawl tighter around her shoulders. “There is no guarantee my going to Amberly Hall will benefit us in any way.”

“No, but it is more likely to do so than your staying here would.” Pressing her lips together, Josephine turned a fierce pair of eyes on her. “Margaret’s family is well connected. You are lucky she still remembers you, now our positions are no longer what they once were.”

“We’ve known each other since childhood, Josephine. It would have been cruel of her not to do so.”

Josephine sighed. “No, dearest. It would have been expected. But her kindness and consideration–the fact she has invited you to stay with her for the holidays–does speak highly of her character.”

“Perhaps I should ask her if you might join me.”

“Absolutely not,” Josephine said. “To do so would be taking advantage, which is something I refuse to do. Besides, I have my work here. It does not pause for the holidays. So you will go to Amberly alone and enjoy yourself with your friend. I will be perfectly content here, Eve. My only concern is for you travelling alone.”

“The distance isn’t too great. There are no overnight stays along the way, and I’m sure other travelers will be joining me. So I won’t be without company.”

“I suppose that is true.”

But in spite of the smile Josephine gave her the following day when Eve stepped onto the stagecoach, Eve sensed her sister was doing her best to put on a brave face for her sake. It was the first time they would be apart for more than a day.

Squeezed into a spot by the window with three other passengers beside her on the bench and four more across, Eve caught a final glimpse of Josephine as the carriage lurched into motion.

“Write to me when you get there!” Josephine called.

A quick nod was all Eve could manage before the conveyance turned right, carrying her through a series of streets and out toward the Great Western Road that would take her to Bournemouth. If all went well, she ought to be there by late afternoon, in time to enjoy a cup of tea with Margaret before preparing for dinner.

The carriage charged ahead, stopping every hour to change its team of horses. Sleep proved impossible with every bump in the road jostling her until her bottom got sore. Her comfort did get somewhat better as other passengers arrived at their destinations, allowing for a bit more room inside the cabin.

“Amberly Hall,” the coachman finally called, pulling the carriage to a halt at around four o’clock. Darkness was already setting in, encouraged by the thick clouds blocking the sun.  Eve climbed down and retrieved her bag from the top of the coach. Gripping it in her hand, she watched the coach lurch into motion once more and disappear down the road.

Right.

She glanced about. Margaret had said she would send a carriage to collect her, but the coach had made good time, so she’d arrived a half hour earlier than expected. With the wind picking up and the light growing dimmer by the second, she elected to start walking toward the lights she could see in the distance. Perhaps she would meet the carriage on her way. One thing was certain, however, and that was the fact she might freeze to death if she stood still for one more second.

#

Bryce Elliot Harlowe, Earl of Ravenworth, was preparing to enjoy the brandy he’d poured when a knock at the door brought his butler into the library. “My Lord,” Radcliff said, “a woman has arrived.”

“Does she have a name?” Bryce asked. He glanced across at his favorite chair. Enjoying a peaceful moment of reading by the fire would clearly have to wait.

“Miss Potter. She says she is here to see Mrs. Havisham.”

“Then she must have taken a wrong turn somewhere.” The Havisham home was six miles in the opposite direction.

“ I wish to know if I might offer her the use of your carriage. It is almost dark outside, you see, and it has started to snow. Sending a young woman back out without escort would not sit well with me.”

Bryce had to agree. It wouldn’t be right to send any woman away again under such circumstances, no matter her age. “Have Peter make the necessary preparations, and in the meantime, please ask Miss Potter to join me.” He received few visitors these days and was starting to grow weary of his isolation.

“Very well, my lord.” Radcliff left, returning moments later with a woman who stood encased in a long black pelisse. She wore a floppy bonnet which dipped across her forehead, concealing her eyes. Several shawls were wrapped tightly across her shoulders and chest. “May I present Miss Potter?”

The woman attempted a curtsy even as she shivered, which prompted Bryce to step forward quickly and guide her toward the fireplace. Once there, he took a step back and sketched a short bow. “It is a pleasure to make your acquaintance, Miss Potter. I am the Earl of Ravenworth.”

She tipped her chin up, her surprise unmistakable. It encompassed her entire face. But what caught his attention the most were her dark blue eyes. They left him completely dazed.  Radcliff coughed, pulling Bryce out of his trance and enabling him to gather his wits. He turned toward his butler. “Please arrange for some tea and sandwiches to be brought up and—”

Miss Potter sneezed and then she sneezed again. And a third time.

“Oh dear,” she murmured as she took a step closer to the fire.

Oh dear, indeed.

Bryce gave her an assessing look before addressing Radcliff once more. “I believe we should get her out of her wet pelisse and hang it to dry in the kitchen next to the stove. The same goes for her shawls.”

“Yes, my lord.” Radcliff, being the practical, no-nonsense man he was, crossed to where Miss Potter was standing and held out his hand. “If you’ll please give me your outerwear, miss.”

Miss Potter hesitated. She glanced at Bryce, who gave her a reassuring nod. “We would hate for you to catch a cold,” he said. “Such a thing could very well ruin your Christmas.”

That seemed to get her cooperation. Her fingers quickly untied her shawls and peeled them away before going to work on the buttons of her pelisse. This garment came off too, revealing an equally black dress. But not without hinting at a slender yet curvaceous form. Beneath the other layers of clothing, her breasts had been undefined and unremarkable. Now, their rounded curves stood out, drawing Bryce’s attention in a way that made him wish she would keep on undressing.

Of course she didn’t. But she did take off her bonnet as well, exposing a pile of blonde curls that appeared to have been twisted and pinned down by force. It made him wonder what her hair might look like if it were set free – allowed to fall down over her shoulders and…

He swallowed and turned away, grabbing his glass and tossing back his brandy before swinging around to face Radcliff. “That will be all for now.”

The butler hesitated, gave a curt nod, and took his leave without closing the door as he usually did. The gesture was not lost on Bryce, reminding him that Miss Potter, whatever her station, was a young, most likely unmarried, woman. Being alone with her behind closed doors would not be appropriate, even if it meant losing heat from the room.

Sighing, he considered the figure she presented, standing there warming her hands, and he found his attention drawn by the shape of her neck. It curved so delicately, joining with her shoulders before disappearing beneath her gown. A few stray strands of hair curled against it, and for reasons unknown, his fingers itched to draw them back into place.

Wincing, he stepped toward her. “Would you like to sit?” he asked, indicating the armchair closest to the fire.

“Thank you.” She turned and lowered herself to the seat, then focused her captivating eyes on him. “I am sorry to intrude upon you like this, my lord.”

Bryce’s muscles flexed. The way she said, my lord… Damn, but he could too easily imagine her addressing him so in a far more intimate setting, a setting in which fewer clothes would be required.

“You needn’t be,” he managed to say while he claimed the other chair. His voice sounded rougher than he would have liked.

“It is kind of you to offer your carriage, give me tea and sandwiches, and allow me to warm myself by your fire.” She averted her gaze. “You did not have to.”

“No. I don’t suppose I did,” he agreed. “But turning you away would not have been right.”

This brought her eyes back to his with aching vulnerability. “Do you always do what is right?”

“I try to. Yes.” Though you might tempt me to toss that principle straight out the window. It was a good thing she wouldn’t be staying long. He’d not had a woman in quite some time, and with Miss Potter’s arrival, he was starting to recognize the strain of it.

“That is admirable,” she said, and he could see she meant it, which in turn made his chest tighten around his expanding heart.

A maid arrived with a tray, setting it down on a small table before departing the room once more. Bryce watched Miss Potter fill two cups with tea. “Milk and sugar?” she asked.

He shook his head. “No thank you.”

She poured a splash of milk into her own, picked up the cup, and set the rim to her lips. Her eyes had initially distracted him from this particular attribute, but he took greater notice now. And as he did so–as he watched that soft piece of flesh press against the delicate china–arousal took hold. Never in his life would he have imagined the simple task of drinking tea could look so bloody erotic, yet Miss Potter, dressed in her modest black gown, managed to make it so.

Crossing his legs, he deliberately strove to hide the effect her arrival was starting to have on him. Clearly, he’d put off procuring a mistress for far too long. Tomorrow, he’d set his mind to it.

First thing in the morning.

In the meantime, however, “I understand from my butler you were trying to reach Amberly Hall?”

“Yes. Mrs. Havisham is a longtime friend of mine. She invited me to visit with her and her husband for the holidays.”

“And when you are not in this part of the country, you are in…”

“London,” she said, finishing his sentence. “I live there with my older sister.”

“What about your parents?”

She gave a small shrug as if to diminish the importance of her next words. “Papa died last year, three years after we lost Mama.”

Bryce frowned. “I am sorry to hear it.” And he was. He knew all too well how hard it could be to lose a loved one.

“At least my sisters and I have each other.”

“So there is more than one?”

“Yes. But Louise no longer lives with us. She has recently accepted the position of governess for the Earl and Countess of Channing’s children. In fact, she left for the north of England yesterday.”

So Miss Potter was working class. He’d suspected as much, considering her attire, but he hadn’t been sure because of her friendship with Mrs. Havisham. He was curious to know what the older sister she’d mentioned did for a living and what she herself planned on doing, but couldn’t quite think of how to ask without imposing.

As it turned out, he didn’t have to. She revealed the answer by saying, “Josephine, my oldest sister, is an accountant at the Park View hotel in London. Her earnings are enough for all of us to get by on, but since she would like to give me a Season, she…” Miss Potter drew a deep breath. “Forgive me. I don’t know why I’m telling you all of this.” She made a nervous chuckling sound and reached for a sandwich, filling her mouth with the bread, ham, and cheese.

“That’s quite all right. I was interested, so you needn’t apologize.” But the mention of a Season… Perhaps he’d been wrong about her being working class. “In fact, I must confess you have managed to heighten my curiosity.”

“Really?” A few fine breadcrumbs spilled into her lap, and she hastily set about trying to gather them up and discard them on her plate.

“What is your family’s background, if you don’t mind my asking?”

She went completely still, and he wondered if she might give him a set down for such an imposing question. They were strangers after all. He really had no right to pry. And doing so was doubly wrong in light of what he knew about her deceased parents and working sisters. So much for her impression of him doing the right thing.

“My great grandfather was a viscount,” she eventually said. “His third son, my grandfather, went into law and opened a successful business. Unfortunately, Papa did not have the same legal acumen, and when Mama died, he gave up on making the effort. Money was lost in an effort to maintain a lifestyle we couldn’t afford, assets were sold, and my sisters were denied the Seasons they’d always expected to enjoy, until work became their only option.” She dropped her gaze, but not before Bryce was able to notice the sheen of moisture gathering against her lashes. “Josephine and Louise have made so many sacrifices for me. I have to get to Amberly, if only to make the connections I am sure to make with Mrs. Havisham’s help.”

“Of course.” So she was gentry, and if her sisters had anything to say about it, she would remain so, even if they had to join the working class. Understanding the guilt and responsibility she probably felt, he chose to turn their conversation toward a more positive subject. “The annual Christmas dance will be hosted at the assembly hall this Saturday. I’m sure the Havishams will take you.”

“Oh.” Miss Potter’s face brightened. “That would be diverting. I’ve never attended such an event before.” She gave him an uncertain look before asking, “Will you be there too?”

He almost laughed at the absurdity of such a question but managed to maintain his composure. “No. I prefer to keep to myself.”

“Why?” She slapped her hand over her mouth, eyes widening with chagrin as she hastily apologized for asking.

“There’s nothing wrong with being curious,” he told her gently. He himself was finding it difficult not to be when every word she spoke made him eager to find out more about her. Clearly, this self-imposed seclusion of his was beginning to have its toll. “However,” he went on, “it is my prerogative to refrain from answering, and I intend to do precisely that.” He did not want the only person with whom he enjoyed a bit of conversation for the first time in three years to hate him as much as everyone else did. “We all have our secrets, Miss Potter. You must allow me to keep mine.”

#

The gravity with which the earl spoke and the shadows darkening his eyes prompted Eve to wonder what sort of secrets he might be keeping. Her curiosity regarding this man had been gradually increasing since the moment she’d stepped into his library and laid eyes on him.

An angular jaw and well-defined cheekbones provided his face with a rigid structure. It was not as displeasing as it might have been without the soft curve of his mouth and the dark brown warmth of his eyes. His hair, she noted, was almost black, shot through with lighter chocolate-colored tones.

Standing tall, at least a full head above her, he  exuded confidence and power, the sort that could send fear shooting through any man who crossed him, and Eve found her heart beating more rapidly than it had upon her arrival. Left alone with him to enjoy her tea and the warmth of the fire, she’d calmed her nerves with talk of her sisters and her situation without once considering how little interest a man like him would have in such matters.

But when she’d glanced at him, he hadn’t appeared the least bit bored. Rather, he’d considered her with compassion, then brought up the country dance, which had prompted her to take leave of her senses and ask a most forward question. His response had only made her wonder more about him and why he might choose to avoid a social gathering. As far as she could tell, the house was fairly quiet. Surely his wife would have materialized by now, if he had one.

She bit her lip and glanced around, wondering when the carriage might be ready so she could be on her way once more. However hospitable the earl was proving to be, she was certain he would prefer to return to whatever plans he might have for the evening.

“This fireplace would be perfect for roasting chestnuts,” she said, when the silence seemed to drag on for longer than what was comfortable.

Lord Ravenworth’s eyes filled with amusement. “Is that what you were thinking about?”

Unwilling to tell him he’d been the subject of her musings, she quickly nodded.  “The house I grew up in had an equally large fireplace. Roasting chestnuts on it was such a lovely pastime activity on cold winter days.”

He chuckled lightly. “You’re too young to be getting nostalgic, Miss Potter.”

“Perhaps. But the path my life has taken has made it impossible for me not to be.”

“You sound as though you have regrets.”

Averting her gaze, she stared into the dancing flames. “Not regrets so much as a feeling of overwhelming loss. I miss the comfort of my childhood and the simplicity of my life when both my parents lived. I miss them both terribly, and I miss the bright future my sisters and I looked forward to with innocent anticipation.”

A knock sounded at the door, drawing her attention to the butler who had returned. “My lord,” he said, addressing his master. “May I have a private word with you?”

Looking over at Ravenworth and noting his deep frown, Eve couldn’t stop apprehension from coursing through her. He gave a curt nod and rose to his feet, departing the room and leaving her alone to wonder what might have occurred. Of course, there was the possibility it had nothing to do with her. After all, this was a large household. Any number of things might demand the earl’s attention.

But when he returned a short while later and pinned her with his serious eyes, she knew the matter he’d been made aware of had everything to do with her. “Forgive me, Miss Potter, but there seems to be a snag in our plan to get you to Amberly Hall tonight.”

Lips parting with surprise, she blinked.  The significance of his comment began to sink in. “I cannot possibly remain here,” she said. “Unless there are other women living under this roof, it would be most—”

“Improper,” he said. He held her gaze. “Believe me, I am quite aware of the fact, and to answer your question, I am the only person in residence, besides the servants.”

“Then you must agree my staying here is impossible.” If anyone were to find out, as Margaret and her husband eventually would, her reputation would be called into question. And while she might be able to convince them that nothing untoward happened while she spent the night in a bachelor’s home, they would not in good conscience be able to introduce her to eligible young gentlemen. “If there is a problem with the carriage or one of the horses, I’ll be more than happy to walk the distance. You need only point me in the right direction.”

“Absolutely not.” The adamancy with which he spoke sent a jolt through Eve’s body. “No gentleman would ever send a woman out into the freezing night so she can walk six miles to her next destination. It is unconscionable for me to treat you with so little consideration. And what would your sisters say, or your friend, Mrs. Havisham, if something were to happen to you? I would be to blame!”

He drew a shuddering breath and raked his fingers through his hair. “My apologies. I did not mean to be so brusque about it, but the fact of the matter is, ice has formed on the road within the past hour. To venture out by carriage, on horseback, or on foot will be hazardous. I’ll not risk it. Which means you will remain here as my guest.”

“But surely—”

“Your reputation may remain intact if you simply inform your friend that the coach with which you were traveling lost a wheel and was forced to stop at an inn for the night.”

“You want me to lie?”

“Either that or risk ruining your chance of enjoying the Season your sisters are working so hard to give you.” It was as if he could read her mind. “In the meantime, I will ask my housekeeper to have the maids prepare a spare bedroom for you. You may even have a hot bath brought up if you like. And once you are ready, I would like you to join me for dinner. I find I’ve been eating alone for far too long.”

Without further comment, he left the room while Eve was forced to admit that, as much as she dreaded the possible impact of staying here, she was secretly thrilled with the prospect of spending more time in the Earl of Ravenworth’s company.

****
The Duke Who Came To Town:

She doesn’t want to be a kept woman…

Josephine Potter knows she must retain her employment to provide for her younger sisters and to maintain the house.  While a young woman working as an accountant – at a hotel no less – could be frowned upon by some, it’s still a respectable way to earn a living. No matter what a certain duke might think. Besides, Josephine has a few rules she lives by: Don’t rely on others, don’t accept money from someone you don’t know, and never allow a man to control your life. But when she is fired from her job, Josephine may have to bend a few rules…

Devon, the Duke of Snowdon, has never met a more bull-headed woman than Josephine Potter! The Potter sisters are granddaughters of a Viscount and should not have to work for a living. So despite Josephine’s arguments, Devon insists she end her employee status immediately and accept a stipend for her and her sisters. When she is then fired, she accuses him of meddling in her life…and things are about to heat up despite the cold winter weather. As they work together to figure out why Devon’s hotel is losing money, a mutual attraction that won’t be denied, grows between them.

But when rumors of impropriety abound, can Josephine’s reputation be saved…or will her life be destroyed by scandal?

 

Chapter One

Josephine waited until the coach carrying her youngest sister, Eve, out to the Great West Road had turned a corner, disappearing from sight. She then wrapped her shawl tighter around her shoulders and started making her way back toward the townhouse they’d shared with their other sister, Louise, until yesterday. The place would be empty now with both sisters away. Eve had been invited to visit with a friend for the holidays, while Louise had gone to Whitehaven in the northern part of the country to become a governess to three young children.

Some extra income would certainly be welcome. Josephine wasn’t sure how much longer she would be able to cover their expenses on her own. The townhouse, alone, took most of her wages, while food and clothing swallowed the rest. It was a struggle, but to accept defeat and relocate to humbler lodgings was out of the question. Already, they’d had to give up the status their Mayfair home and country estate had once afforded them. As the great-granddaughters of an earl, they’d enjoyed a comfortable position in society—until their father had squandered it all in a downward spiral of drink and depression.

Pushing the unpleasant memories as far back as they would go, Josephine determined to focus on the future. The townhouse wasn’t the only thing at stake. There were also Eve’s prospects and their reputations. While Josephine and Louise had resigned themselves to working for a living, they both hoped Eve might still be able to enjoy the Season they’d been denied, that she might marry well, and that her life might be a little easier and happier than what they faced. There would be no large dowry, only the meager sum Josephine had managed to put aside during the last year since their father’s death: a few wages here, a bit of pawned jewelry there.

Turning onto Vine Street, Josephine bowed her head against the gust of wind sweeping toward her. She’d used the last firewood that morning and would have to see about buying more –yet another cost eating away at her income. But this was England, and they were only in December. It would be several months before she’d be able to forego heating. Unless she wished to get sick and not only risk losing her job but also having to pay the exorbitant fee of seeing a doctor. To do so was not an option, so when she spotted a woman with firewood strapped to her back, Josephine crossed the street and made her approach. “How much for three pieces?” It was all she could carry.

“Thirty pence, love.”

Swallowing the bitterness of surrendering the sum, Josephine exchanged the coins for the wood and resumed walking, pushing through the wind as it whipped her skirts around her legs.

She was almost at her door before she noticed the carriage parked at the side of the road. The two black horses hitched to the front of it silently watched her progress. Giving them a wary glance, Josephine balanced the firewood in one arm so she could retrieve her key from her pelisse pocket.

Her face burned with cold and she took a step forward, prepared to seek refuge indoors, when the carriage door opened and a tall, broad-shouldered figure stepped down onto the pavement. His hair was black beneath his beaver hat, his features matching the harsh winter climate. Eyes as dark as night caught hers, and his jaw immediately set with distinct determination.

“Miss Potter?” He shoved the carriage door shut and strode toward her. The wind caught the hem of his somber greatcoat, forcing it out behind him in jerky movements.

Josephine raised her chin. “Who wants to know?”

Halting his approach, he told her frankly, “The Duke of Snowdon.” He dipped his head and touched the brim of his hat. “At your service.”

#

The woman standing before Devon stared at him with incomprehension. Her lilac eyes, set against an oval face, had widened to the size of saucers, her rosy lips parted with undeniable shock. He wasn’t sure what he’d expected the Potter sisters’ appearances to be, but this one was certainly prettier than he had imagined. Cautious, too, judging from her response to his presence.

“Your guardian,” he said, deciding to put her mind at ease, “has asked me to look in on you and your sisters.”

Knitting her brow, she pressed her lips together and moved a bit closer to the door. “The Earl of Priorsbridge?”

“Precisely.”

Her expression turned increasingly wary. “Forgive me for saying this, but I don’t believe you.”

Devon tried not to be affronted by the insult, but he couldn’t resist asking, “Are you calling me a liar?”

She seemed to consider the question but chose not to answer it in the end, saying instead, “He has never showed any interest in us before.” Her gaze slid toward the door and the welcome warmth no doubt waiting for her beyond.

“Perhaps you’re thinking of his father.”

“His father?” Confusion seemed to bring interest with it.

Which surprised Devon. “Have you not heard of his recent passing?”

She shook her head. “No. I do not read the papers very often.”

“Then allow me to inform you that he died last month. It is his son who has asked me to make sure you’re well and in no dire straits.” Retrieving his calling card from his pocket, Devon handed it to her so she could confirm his identity. Her fingers trembled, the firewood pressed against her chest like a barrier of sorts. Devon drew a breath and expelled it in a ghostly mist. “Might I suggest we continue this conversation indoors?”

Her hesitance could not have been more obvious if she had actually told him she did not want him in her house. But the chill air must have banished the thought, for she quickly nodded and handed him the firewood. “If you will please hold this.”

She unlocked the door and led the way through to a tiny foyer with barely enough space for the two of them to stand. Devon shut the door behind him to block the cold.

“In here.” Miss Potter spoke briskly as she opened the door to a modest parlor and led the way through.

He followed her inside, noting it was only marginally warmer in there than it had been in the foyer or even outdoors, with the fire in the grate reduced to embers. Crossing the floor, he considered the orange sparks glowing amidst the ashes. He hadn’t lit a fire in years, not since his father had taught him how when he’d been a lad. A lesson in practicality, his father had called it. As heir to a dukedom, Devon would probably never need the skill, but his father had insisted upon him knowing it all the same. It was being put to good use now, he decided, as he crouched down and set the logs on the floor. He reached for the fireplace spade and broom.

“What are you doing?” Miss Potter asked from somewhere behind him. She sounded slightly appalled.

Devon started to clean out the ash. “What does it look like?” She probably wasn’t accustomed to dukes stopping by and ensuring comfort.

There was a pause–a very distinct one–and then, “But you cannot possibly…I mean, I can easily do this, Your…er…ah…Grace.”

It was curious really, but there was something charming about her perplexity. Something amusing too. Devon glanced at her over his shoulder and instantly sucked in his breath. While he’d been busying himself with the fireplace, she’d removed the bonnet she’d been wearing to reveal the fairest hair he’d ever seen. Wisps of it curled against her cheeks with untidy abandon, tempting him to stand and approach her so he could examine it in greater detail.

Instead, he returned his attention to his task, blocking her from his view. “It’s no trouble.” His voice was slightly gruffer than before. “I am more than happy to help.”

Especially since he’d promised Priorsbridge – Edward – he would ensure the Misses Potter were well taken care of until he was able to do so himself. Some might call it a tall order, given its inconvenience, but Devon owed Edward, and the time had come for him to pay his debt.

“I see.”

She said nothing further while he continued to clean out the ash and proceeded to build the fire. He lit it using the tinderbox sitting on the mantle and stoked it with the bellows. “That ought to do it,” he eventually said, unable to hide the pleasure he found in the task. “Come warm your hands, Miss Potter.”

Carefully, as if she feared he might bite, she moved toward the welcoming heat with a gentle tread. Devon stepped to one side, allowing more space to fall between them, but not enough to prevent him from seeing the shades of blue unfurling around her irises. Her eyes were stunning, remarkable in their transformation of color. And her hair… It wasn’t white, and it wasn’t blonde. Rather, it was something in between, something he could not adequately describe, though it held him riveted with its uniqueness.

Stretching out her fingers, now free from the gloves she’d been wearing, she allowed a sigh of distinct pleasure. Devon followed her example, but it wasn’t the fire that held his interest. It was her – the rosy glow brightening her cheeks,  the dark lashes feathering across her skin, the soft curve of her nose, and the plush fullness of her lower lip. He considered each feature discreetly, all the while pretending he needed warmth too, when the truth was, he hadn’t felt cold since catching his first glimpse of her without her bonnet.  

He shrugged aside the distraction and glanced around the room. For a house inhabited by three women, it was unusually silent. “Where are your sisters, Miss Potter? Priorsbridge wrote there ought to be three of you living here.”

“And so there were until recently.” After flexing her fingers as if hoping the action would force the heat to penetrate further, she lowered her hands and turned slightly toward him. Her eyes were now entirely blue, a deeper shade quite similar to the one found at sea on a hot afternoon. “Louise left for Whitehaven the day before yesterday in order to accept a position as governess to the Earl and Countess of Channing’s children.”

Devon felt his jaw tighten with displeasure. “But she is gentry, the Earl of Priorsbridge’s cousin and ward. Allowing her to work for a living is highly irregular—unacceptable in so many ways—and likely to suggest Priorsbridge has failed to do his duty by you.”

Her eyebrows rose. “You speak as though you imagine we had a choice, as though we could afford to continue living in this house without seeking employment.”

Briefly, Devon considered their humble surroundings, the wornout velvet upholstery covering the nearby sofa and chairs, the lack of rugs and display pieces. The tables and sideboard were bare. Not a single vase or ornamental figurine could be seen. And then the manner in which she’d spoken hit him. His eyes found hers, lost for a moment in the clarity of her gaze. “We?”

A shrug shifted her shoulders.  “I work as an accountant, Your Grace.”

“I beg your pardon?” He’d never heard of a female accountant before, and was so surprised to be faced with one now, he tactlessly followed his question with, “But you’re a woman!”

“Yes.”

The clip of her tone suggested she wasn’t the least bit pleased with what he said. Still… “That is even worse than being a governess, Miss Potter. The scandal you might cause. Why, it is—”

“I don’t see how my position would cause an ounce of scandal for anyone.”

Blinking, he stared down at her upturned face. “You are doing a man’s job, which might not have been too bad if you had been born into the working class. But you were not. Your status, most particularly as it relates to Priorsbridge, demands a certain…” He waved his hand, unsure of how to finish his sentence, especially since she was glaring at him now with distinct hostility. “The point is, your actions reflect upon him.”

“What would you have had me do instead, Your Grace? Starve? Lose my home? Allow my sisters to do so?” She jabbed a finger at his chest, the blunt point of contact scolding him as effectively as her words. “I did what was necessary in order to survive after Priorsbridge proved to have no intention of helping us in any way.”

“I will agree the former earl was lax in his duties toward you, but his son means to right that wrong. He intends to do what his father did not. It is why he asked me to come here personally and check on you.”

She gave a snort. “It must be nice to have a duke at your beck and call.”

Gritting his teeth, Devon leaned toward her. “He helped me when my father passed and I was out of the country. He saw to the funeral arrangements and ensured my mother and sister were well taken care of.  Since he is otherwise occupied at the moment with the details surrounding his new inheritance, he asked if I could return the favor and handle this particular matter on his behalf.” Drawing a breath, he forced calmness into his voice before saying, “So you will hand in your notice at wherever it is you work, and then you will write to your sister and ask her to do the same. Immediately.”

#

For a long moment, Josephine could do nothing but stare at the duke. The aloof manner in which he’d just spoken made it abundantly clear he was accustomed to getting his way. And in case his voice did not accomplish this goal, he wore a stern expression indicative of his strength and power, an expression intended to intimidate and defeat a weaker individual. Josephine knew there were men and women who would swiftly surrender to his demands when faced with the hint of his impending wrath, but she wasn’t one of them. Not when she’d faced much worse.

So she straightened her spine and squared her shoulders, addressing him with more honesty than a man of his rank had likely ever been subjected to before and said, “Your arrogance is astounding.” His jaw went slack, fuelling her resolve. “The fact you would presume to have the right to tell me what to do is preposterous. How dare you come into my home and play the entitled lord? How dare you behave as though I am subservient to you, as though I must bow to your will?”

She fairly shook with anger, the cold she’d felt consuming her body a moment ago, completely forgotten. “You…” She pointed a finger at him, and he actually took a step back. “You pompous ass!”

Her breaths were shallow, her chest heaving beneath the weight of each inhalation while she struggled to calm herself to some degree. She’d never been the sort of person to raise her voice to anyone or to throw insults around. That she did so now with a duke was testament to how deeply his overbearing manner had offended her.

“Are you quite finished?” Irritation had banished all signs of the shock he’d portrayed in response to her outburst. Instead, he now encompassed more fierceness than ever. She chose to hold her tongue this time, allowing him to have his say. “Considering I’ve been tasked with ensuring your welfare and quarrelling is unlikely to be productive, I will pretend you did not insult me in such direct terms.”

“Would you rather I did it in indirect terms?” The words were out before she could stop them. Inwardly, she cringed at her childish inability to resist the jab, while managing to maintain an outward appearance of stubborn defiance. Thank God.

His teeth ground together, nostrils flaring while his hard stare drove boldly into her. “If you think coming here is enjoyable to me, think again, Miss Potter, for I can assure you I would rather be elsewhere. However, I have made a promise to Priorsbridge, and being a man of my word, I intend to do precisely what he has asked, however undeserving I think you are of anyone’s good graces at the moment.”

He drew a deep breath as if gathering his strength. Affording her with the most patronizing stare she’d ever borne witness to in her life, he said, “So you and your sisters will receive a monthly stipend of seventy-five pounds, and in exchange, you will do everything in your power to ensure your actions do not reflect negatively on Priorsbridge.”

“In other words, you are bribing me.”

Muttering something beneath his breath–a curse, no doubt–he closed his eyes for a second, squeezing them tight before opening them again with frustration. “What woman in her right mind would rather toil away her days than accept a relative’s generosity?”

She knew it seemed ridiculous, especially to a man like Snowdon who’d never been shunned by his peers or faced the threat of destitution. But for her, the idea of taking money from a man she’d never even met was no different than stealing. “I do not wish to be a charity cause, nor do I want to take advantage. What I desire is to prove myself capable of self-sufficiency.” She would prove to the world and, more importantly, to herself she did not require anyone’s help. Two men had failed her already—her father and her uncle—and she would be damned if she was going to allow herself to rely on a third.

“Why?” He studied her as though he considered her utterly hopeless. “Isn’t life difficult enough? Why complicate it further by insisting on making it more so?”

“Because nothing worth having is easily won,” she muttered, casting a glance toward the crackling flames. A log snapped, sending up a flurry of sparks.

His sigh, long and laborious, filled the air between them. “I suppose I can relate to that.”

Snorting, she crossed her arms. “Really?” She didn’t believe him for a second. He was a duke after all, the sort of man for whom roads were paved with gold and doors were flung wide open.

He glanced toward the fire. “The day I turned eighteen, my father came to inform me it was time for me to prove my worth. Turns out, he’d purchased a small cottage in Cornwall where he expected me to live for the duration of a year without relying upon the conveniences to which I’d been accustomed.”

It was Josephine’s turn to be shocked. “You cannot be serious.”

“Indeed, I am quite so. For you see, my father believed such an experience would allow me to relate to my tenants and servants, while giving me a true appreciation for what I have. He felt forcing me to lead a life of hardship for a year would make me a better duke in the end, and I suspect he was right.”

“You never accepted any help from him during this time?”

“No. I made my way by selling fish and wood carvings at the market. The last thing I wanted was to fail, to have to return home and admit defeat.”

Amazed by his confession, she studied him for a long moment. “So you understand why I cannot give up my position or accept a stipend from Priorsbridge.”

“I do.” A hint of sympathy warmed his eyes, and for a second Josephine believed she’d won. Until he said, “But your situation is different from what mine was. For one thing, great care was taken to ensure my identity would not be discovered. Can you honestly tell me nobody knows you’re related to Priorsbridge?”

She thought of lying, then decided against it. “No.” The gossip columns had written extensive articles on her father’s pitiable downfall and on his daughters’ struggle to survive in the wake of his death. Their family history had been used as an example of how far one could fall when gripped by vice. And when Josephine and her sisters had been forced to sell their Mayfair home, whispers had followed in their wake, assuring them they would not easily be forgotten.

“Then consider this, Miss Potter. It is no longer your reputation alone that’s at risk, but his as well. If word gets out he failed to support you, that you were forced to make your own way in the world, he will be painted a heartless man.”

Josephine frowned. “Nothing of the sort has been said of his father. What makes you think anyone will care about Priorsbridge’s actions now?”

“Because having acquired the title no more than a month ago, he will be scrutinized in every imaginable way. So please, show some consideration and help him avoid criticism.”

When put like that, it was difficult for Josephine to maintain her determination. Still, she could not allow two men–one whom she’d never met and the other to whom she was not related –to guide her future. “While I sympathize, I cannot accept Priorsbridge’s support. I am sorry.”

“You are, without a doubt, the most stubborn woman I have ever met.” He said it as though it were an affliction, his hand raking furiously through his hair, ruffling it in a way Josephine found disturbingly charming under the circumstances. “The stipend is not the only item on the table. I’ve also been asked to help ease your way back into society. I have family and friends on whom I can call, contacts who can help you regain your position. Surely this must be desirable in some way or other, if not for you, then for your sisters.” Her hesitance must have shown, for he pounced on it like a lion catching its prey. “What of your youngest sister? You’ve made no mention of her seeking employment, but if you’re what— ” He was suddenly giving her a critical assessment. “Seven and twenty?”

“Six and twenty,” she corrected, doing her best to ignore the blush threatening to burn her cheeks.

“Then your youngest sister must be of marriageable age. Correct?”

Josephine nodded. “Eve set out for Amberly Hall near Bournemouth yesterday morning. Her friend, Mrs. Havisham, has offered to introduce her to her social circle. If doing so yields no result, there is still the coming Season. I have been saving what I can with the intention of giving Eve the debut she deserves.”

He went completely still, his eyes fixed on her face with pensiveness, twisting her stomach and making her heart beat a little bit faster. It unnerved her, and she had no choice but to remove her gaze from his. So she considered the lackluster floorboards beneath her feet instead, until he said, “As confounding as you are, I must confess my admiration for your stalwart perseverance.”

Instinctively, her gaze latched onto his. A pause followed, one in which all of her problems, her future, her sisters’ happiness, and Priorsbridge’s interference with all of it remained suspended. The only two people in the world at the moment were her and Snowdon, caught in a most peculiar web from which escape seemed increasingly difficult.

It didn’t help that he looked like sin and seduction or that she was old enough to consider herself a spinster, a woman who might enjoy a man’s kiss without the threat of marriage. Was it wrong for her to feel desire? To secretly long for some shred of passion before she became too old to gain a man’s attention? She had no prospects, had inherited nothing but shame, and yet here she was, attracted to an aggravating aristocrat whom she didn’t much care for, if for no other reason than principal.

It was a wretched notion, and it brought her promptly out of her reverie. “Thank you,” she managed to say with a steadier voice than she’d ever imagined possible. A bit of awkward silence passed between them while she gathered her composure. “If that is all, I believe I must ask you to leave. Your presence here is far from appropriate, and your carriage the sort bound to gain attention from those with nothing better to do than observe the lives of others. Whatever my reputation may be, it will suffer even more the longer you stay. Especially once my neighbors discover my sisters are no longer here, and I invited you into my home without chaperone.”

A frown pinched his brow. “Forgive me. I should have excused myself the moment I discovered you were alone, though you ought to have conveyed such information sooner rather than later.”

“Duly noted.” He was right, but she’d been freezing with cold outside, and he’d obviously had a great deal to say. You didn’t mind having a handsome man’s attention to yourself for a while.

She was ashamed to acknowledge the fact, but her life had lacked excitement for so long. It had revolved around her mother’s death, her father’s decline, his death, financial loss, and a dire future from which she’d struggled to protect her sisters. With Louise, she’d failed, but there was still hope for Eve. More so if you simply surrender and take the money Priorsbridge is offering.

Her pride, however, would not allow it. Not when she stood to succeed on her own. It would be harder, the sacrifices greater, but in the end, she wouldn’t owe anyone a thing. Her life would be her own. It would not belong to another man. She would have the freedom to make her own choices without interference or criticism or any other kind of involvement from anyone.

Snowdon strode toward the door and paused, his hand on the handle. “I expect you to take my advice seriously, Miss Potter.” There it was again, the blasted arrogance grating on her nerves. “Priorsbridge is my friend, so while I sympathize with your situation and admire your effort to survive without anyone’s assistance, I will not allow you to tarnish his name in any way. Is that clear?”

“Perfectly, Your Grace.”

His eyes narrowed, no doubt in response to her tart tone. It couldn’t be helped. Not when he meant to strip her of her freedom.

A curt nod followed. “Good,” he said. “I shall expect a missive from you no later than tomorrow afternoon, informing me your position has been terminated.  Then we shall see about taking you out in Society. I’ve a sister who likes the occasional project. She’ll no doubt be thrilled to make your acquaintance.”

He tipped his hat and made his exit, leaving Josephine to wonder if he knew how offensive he was being, or if he simply didn’t care.

She nodded. “You do not know what it is to be poor or to be exiled from your social class. If you choose that path, you will come to resent me as much as I will come to resent you for denying me the chance to help Eve. And what will we have then besides bitterness and regret?” When he said nothing, she knew she’d opened his eyes to a world that waited beyond the passion he felt right now – a world in which he would have to live out the rest of his days. “Marrying Lady Gwendolyn is the right thing for you to do. She’s a marquess’s daughter – an earl’s sister – and she will make a good match for a man of your rank.”

“So then, this is really it?” He sounded as though he didn’t want to believe it, and yet she could see by his stark expression he already did.

“I’m afraid so.”

#

The remainder of their journey passed with stilted bits of mundane conversation. By the time they arrived at the final posting inn, Louise escaped upstairs to the room where she would spend the night and elected to take her supper alone. Alistair made no effort to stop her. If she felt as raw inside as he did, she would need some time alone to prepare for the following day’s arrival at Whitehaven.

So much had been left unsaid between them. He’d seen it in her eyes, the misery there enough to shatter his heart. Taking a moment to search the depths of his soul that evening, he contemplated a life without Louise in it. Was such an existence worth having?

No.

She was the only woman he would ever consider marrying. Not because of her beauty or because of how desperately he wanted her in his bed, but because he’d fallen in love with her – completely, madly, irrevocably – and no other woman would do. Which meant he would have to fight for the right to make her his, firstly by ridding himself of the problem his brother had created when he’d picked Gwendolyn as his bride.

So he set out at dawn after penning a note to Louise and hiring a horse from the inn. Riding fast through the bitter cold, his breath like steam from a boiling kettle, he reached Whitehaven by ten.

“My lord!”

One of the grooms ran to greet him, grabbing the horse’s reins while he swung himself down from the saddle. Thanking the lad, Alistair climbed the steps to the front door and opened it sharply.

“Lord Alistair,” the butler exclaimed, hastening toward him. “We weren’t expecting you quite this early. My apologies for not being there to greet you.” He looked past him for a second before asking. “Is Miss Potter not with you?”

“She will arrive later. I chose to ride ahead.” He removed his hat and pulled off his gloves, handing the items to the butler. “Has the family risen yet?”

“Indeed.” The butler gestured in the direction of the dining room. “They are having breakfast as we speak.”

Alistair didn’t wait for the man to show him the way, striding forward briskly until he reached his destination. Halting for a moment, he drew a deep breath, steadying his resolve before opening the door wide and striding through it. Four pairs of eyes turned to stare at him.

“Alistair!” Abigail was the first to convey her surprise. She prepared to rise, but he motioned for her to stay seated. “Is Miss Potter with you? I’m so eager to meet her.”

“She will arrive later,” he said.

A bit of silence followed that revelation, and then Lord Channing gestured toward a vacant chair. “Do come and join us, Alistair. I’m sure you must be eager for some refreshment after your journey.”

It was tempting to accept, but the anxiousness coursing through him would not make sitting still at the table a pleasant experience. “Thank you, but I would prefer to wait in the library.” Addressing Gwendolyn, he added, “If you would please join me there when you’re ready, I’d be much obliged.”

Gwendolyn’s eyes widened. “Of course,” she murmured.

Silence followed for an awkward moment.  Alistair met his brother’s grave expression with one of his own and then quit the room, closing the door behind him.

#

Pacing back and forth in the library, Alistair waited for what seemed like an insufferable length of time, even though the clock said no more than fifteen minutes had passed by the time Gwendolyn arrived.

“I trust you are well,” she said, before taking a seat on the sofa.

He remained by the fireplace. “Quite. And you?”

“I wish the weather were warmer, but aside from that, I have no complaints.”

Nodding, Alistair wondered how best to broach the subject he wished to discuss with her, and then decided directness might serve him best in this instance. “Regarding my brother’s insistence we marry…” he began.

A tiny crease appeared upon her brow. “He says it will be the perfect match.”

“Is that what you believe?”

Her silence unnerved him, forcing him to cross the floor. He paused, then turned and strode back, flexing his fingers while doing his best not to yell with frustration. Drawing a fortifying breath, he pinned her with his gaze. “Gwendolyn?”

She bit her lip and looked away. “Yes.”

His heart plummeted all the way to his toes. This would not be as simple as walking away. And yet, there was something in her expression and posture that gave him pause. “Then allow me to ask you a different question. Will marrying me make you happy?”

She raised her head so sharply he took a step back. Her eyes met his, and he felt his heart pause on a thread of hope. “I mean no offense when I tell you this, but I have no desire to be your wife.”

That thread of hope began to expand. “You don’t?”

“No. I’m in love with someone else – an untitled gentleman, as a matter of fact. Channing wants to see me happy, so he approves of the match.”

“Does Langley know about this?”

She shook her head. “We thought it best for me to break the news to you directly before informing your brother.”

The thrill Alistair felt in response to those words was so acute he could scarcely credit it. He stared at Gwendolyn, at the woman who’d represented a dreaded fate until she herself had saved him from it. “I don’t know what to say.”

“I hope you’re not too disappointed or angry.”

“No. Of course not.” His heart was humming with joy. “I am none of those things. On the contrary, I am grateful to you, and so incredibly pleased on both our behalves.”

#

By the time she arrived at the manor that would now be her home, the enthusiasm Louise had felt when she’d set out from London had completely vanished. Still, she did her best to smile as she greeted her employers.

“You’re younger than I expected,” Lady Channing said when Louise met her in the parlor after settling in. “Prettier too.”

A petite woman with dark brown hair, big eyes, and a wide smile, Lady Channing was proving herself to be as kind as Louise had judged her to be by the tone of her letters. She’d even given Louise a choice between two bedchambers, informing her which one faced east, in case she favored the morning light.

“Did I not mention my age in our correspondence?” She could have sworn she had.

“You wrote that life has been difficult for you in recent years, that you were well past the age of marriageability, and that you anticipated a quiet and peaceful life in the country.” Lady Channing dipped her chin and quirked her lips. “It seemed like something a middle-aged woman might say.”

“Forgive me. It was not my intention to deceive you in any way.”

“Perhaps not, but I can assure you I would not have suggested you travel alone with Lord Alistair if I’d known your age. At least, I would have insisted upon a chaperone.”

“Thank you, my lady. I fear I am to blame for this misunderstanding. You may rest assured however that Lord Alistair did ask a maid to accompany us, but she became ill the first night and was unable to continue onward with us.”

“It is a relief to know that he made an effort to protect your reputation.” Lady Channing gave Louise a sharp look. “I trust he treated you well?”

“Yes. He was the perfect gentleman.”

Expelling a breath, Lady Channing nodded. “I didn’t expect him to be anything less, but when he arrived before you, looking as though he’d escaped hell to get here, I couldn’t help but wonder. Especially after seeing you for myself.”

“I can assure you that you have no cause for concern,” Louise told her. “If anything, I believe he was eager to arrive here so he could speak with Lady Gwendolyn.”

“Yes.” Lady Channing gave Louise a pensive look. “They will make quite a match, don’t you think?”

Recalling the other woman she’d met upon her arrival, Louise gave a curt nod. “Without a doubt.”

“Hmm…” Lady Channing rose, as did Louise. “Papa only wants what is best for his brother.”

“Of course.” Louise couldn’t help but wonder why Lady Channing was sharing all of these details with her. She was a servant, nothing more. Being a confidant was not in her job description. Uncomfortable with it, she tried to keep her responses as short as possible. Speaking of Alistair and the woman he would eventually marry was not something she wanted to continue doing. So when they entered the hallway, she chose to say, “Perhaps I should go and spend some time with the children.”

“You arrived this afternoon, Miss Potter. Nobody expects you to start work until tomorrow.” Linking her arm with Louise’s, she drew her toward the back of the house where French doors overlooked a snow-covered lawn sloping down toward a lake. “And as you can see, the children are otherwise occupied at the moment.”

Louise watched as the three boys skated across the lake. Allowing her gaze to wander, she studied the men who stood to one side, their heads bowed in what appeared to be serious discussion. Lord Alistair and his brother, Langley. “I see,” she said, before turning away. Squaring her shoulders, she faced the countess. “In that case, perhaps you’ll allow me to go and rest. This past week has been rather trying, and I should like to recover from it by tomorrow.”

The countess took a moment to answer, her eyes resting on Louise’s in quiet contemplation. Eventually, she smiled. “Of course. Supper is at eight, if you would like to join us.”

Surprised, Louise couldn’t help but say, “As grateful as I am for the offer, I am a servant, my lady. Sitting at your table would hardly be appropriate.”

“Perhaps not,” the countess agreed, upon which Louise took her leave and headed up the service stairs to her chamber.

#

“I have spoken with Gwendolyn, Langley, and she is no more thrilled about the idea of marrying me than I am with the idea of marrying her,” Alistair told his brother. His conversation with her had managed to expel the pain that gripped his heart.

His heart.

He’d never wasted much time considering that particular organ. But then Miss Potter – Louise – had swept into his life and stirred a fiery passion. He’d wanted her desperately, struggling each day to do what his conscience demanded, even going so far as to suggest marriage for the  sole purpose of getting his hands on her.

Until she’d delivered her emotional speech in the carriage.

I have never admired a man as much as I admire you.

He’d felt as though pain was pouring out of her, and it had not only caused his own heart to break but had made him realize what he felt for her was more than lust and passion. It went deeper, the roots of it digging into the depths of his soul. And when he’d suggested marriage again, and she’d given him every reason why such a thing was impossible, he’d felt as though life had finally lost its meaning.

Hating the weight of lost hope, he’d suffered the rest of that day’s journey in a disheartened state. When they’d arrived at the posting inn, he’d given Louise her privacy, retreating to his own room in order to contemplate his fate. By morning, his depression had turned to fury, and he’d left the inn with one clear intention in mind – to have an honest talk with Gwendolyn and then to confront his brother.

The first part had gone surprisingly well, and he was now ready to argue with Langley in whatever way was necessary in order for things to play out to everyone’s advantage.

“Really?” Langley asked. He was looking out over the lake where his grandchildren skated.

“Did it ever occur to you that we might want to marry other people?”

That comment seemed to grab his brother’s attention. He turned his hard blue eyes on him and frowned. “Have you formed an attachment, Alistair?”

Swallowing, Alistair crossed his arms. His eyes settled on a nearby tree.  “Not precisely,” he said, since the woman he wanted had so adamantly refused him.

His brother snorted. “I didn’t think so, though I was hoping you might have. Forcing your hand was never my intention.”

“Really?” Alistair looked at him with incredulity. “Insisting I marry or forego my stipend was not an attempt to do so?”

Langley’s frown deepened. “What I hoped was that it would give you some incentive to do as I’ve been asking you to do since you turned thirty. You’ve had three years in which to find a wife. Surely that’s enough.”

“Perhaps, but I was reluctant to settle down with someone I felt nothing for.”

Sighing, Langley shifted his weight so he faced Alistair more fully. The hair that had once been a dark shade of brown was now threaded with grey, but that did not distract from his power. “I know this is going to be difficult for you to believe, all things considered, but I’m doing this for you, because it is what I believe to be in your best interest.”

“You’re right,” Alistair murmured, “I do find that difficult to believe. You’re only trying to secure the title. You had no sons of your own, so you want me to give it a shot whether I want to or not.”

Smiling, Langley stared straight into Alistair’s eyes and shook his head. “You’ve judged me harshly if that is what you really think.”

“Am I wrong?”

Allowing his gaze to slide away from Alistair’s, Langley looked out across the lake. “Your mother and I are both in our fifties. You have no other siblings and no close family besides my daughter and her husband and children. Which means the day will come when you will be faced with a lonely existence. If you live to be as old as I, you’ll have seventeen years to get through on your own. Your niece has her own family to occupy her time, so while I’m sure she will always welcome you for the occasional visit, you cannot rely on her to give your life meaning.”

“It would never occur to me to do so.”

“And I doubt your friends will have much time for you either,” Langley continued as if he hadn’t spoken. “As far as I know, they’re all members of the aristocracy and faced with their own responsibilities. From what I hear, Gratford and Townsend are already setting up their nurseries, while Everton has recently gotten himself engaged. Before you know it, you’ll be the only bachelor left, and what then?”

Rankled, Alistair gave a shrug. “I’m sure I’ll find a mistress with whom to divert myself,” he said, for the pure sake of being argumentative.

Langley blew out a breath and stuck his hands in his coat pockets. “The point is, I want you to be surrounded by love and laughter, to know what it’s like to hold your children in your arms and feel their kisses upon your cheek. And I will take comfort in knowing that you will be happy.”

“Then let me pick the woman of my choosing.”

Scoffing, Langley slanted a look in Alistair’s direction. “Does such a mythical creature exist?”

It was Alistair’s turn to surprise his brother. “Yes. I believe she does, and if happiness is what you want for me, then you’ll give me your support.”

#

Avoiding Alistair required more skill than Louise would ever have imagined. She’d thought the house big enough to prevent their paths from crossing, but somehow, whenever she passed through a hallway, he’d materialize before her, forcing her to turn on her heel and hasten away in the opposite direction before he could say something gut-wrenching, like, “How do you do?”

Four days passed like this, and twice she had to say she’d promised to show the children something before hurrying from the room right after he entered. After that, she’d remained upstairs in her bedchamber unless she was busy with lessons.

“Tomorrow will be Christmas Eve,” Lady Channing said when she sought her out one afternoon. “We would like to invite you to join us for supper.”

“That’s really kind of you, but—”

“You cannot refuse,” the countess told her. “I shan’t permit it.”

“In that case, I will be happy to attend,” Louise lied. “Thank you.”

She’d then waited for the countess to leave before putting on her coat and boots. A brisk walk in the frosty outdoors was what she needed. But as she made her way along one of the paths, she found the peaceful silence to be the most devastating thing in the world. It left her alone with her sorrow, filling her mind with him—the intensity of his gaze, the dimples at the edge of his mouth, the passion with which he tore down the boundaries between them and opened her eyes to a promise she dared not let him fulfill. She’d fallen in love with a man she could not have, and the pain of it was tearing her apart.

Yet she would now have to sit at the dining room table with him. She would have to smile and laugh and pretend she was enjoying every torturous moment. The thought of it led her back toward the house on heavy feet. She climbed the service stairs and drifted along the corridor. When she reached her bedchamber, she stepped inside and closed the door. She then drew an anguished breath and began removing her coat.

“Chasing you has become a tedious process, Louise.”

Startled by Alistair’s voice, she spun to her left where she found him reclining in the armchair next to the fireplace. “You can’t be in here!” She glanced around at the room as if to ascertain that she hadn’t entered the wrong room by mistake. “It isn’t proper.”

Tilting his head, he allowed his gaze to appraise her. “No it isn’t, but apparently it is necessary if I am to speak with you at all.”

“I thought we said what there was to say in the carriage,” she told him, hoping he’d leave.

Instead, he stretched out his legs as if getting more comfortable. “You might have done so, but I did not say nearly enough.”

Turning away from him, she hung up her coat and then clutched her hands together. “Please leave,” she whispered, without daring to look at him further. “If anyone finds you here I’ll lose my position.”

The sound of seat cushions shifting beneath his weight caught her attention. He was standing. A pause followed and then the muted tread of shoes upon the carpet. Next came the touch of his hands upon her shoulders. “Don’t.” The word was wrought from her chest on a sob of despair and she felt herself tremble against his touch. “I cannot bear it. I simply cannot.”

“Then marry me, Louise.” His hands smoothed over her arms, nudging her closer until she felt his solid form against her back. “Tell me you love me as much as I love you and that you will be my wife.” Shocked into silence, she tried to make sense of his words. “Come,” he whispered gently. “Let’s end this state of torment we are in and follow our hearts.”

“But…but…” Was this really happening or was it a dream? “What about Gwendolyn? What about your brother’s threat?”

“You know I meant to avoid marrying Gwendolyn either way. You also know I meant to do so by finding a way in which to increase my income. And so I have.”

“That’s…wonderful.” She blinked as she stared up into his handsome face.

“There’s a new club opening in London,” he explained. “I wasn’t aware of it until Langley mentioned it to me this afternoon.” His throat worked as though he was struggling with what to say. “Turns out all he wanted was for me to be happy.”

Frowning, she tried to wrap her head around that. “I don’t see how forcing you to marry someone you do not want to marry was going to accomplish such a goal.”

“I’ll explain it all later. First, you ought to know, before you commit to anything, that I have asked him to remove my stipend. It’s time for me to stand on my own two feet, which means life might not be as easy as I would like it to be for a while, but eventually, it ought to improve. I’ll still support your sisters. That goes without saying. My affairs aren’t as bad as all that.”

“Speaking of which…” Moving away from him, she went to pick up yesterday’s newspaper. “I found something that might be helpful to you.” She handed it over and watched while he read the text to which she pointed..

“Eastern European wine?”

“It’s just an idea, but the article says they’re much cheaper than the French wines and equally good. The journalist even describes some sweet varieties as tasting like nectar. I just thought it might be worth looking into.”

“And so it is,” he murmured. “I cannot believe you continued to think of this, that you kept on trying to find a business opportunity for me.”

“I just wanted to help.”

He stepped toward her. “Because you care about me?”

“I…”

“The truth is in your eyes, Louise. Please tell me you’ll spend the rest of your life with me.”

“But…” Oh, how she wanted to say yes. “My father was not well respected. Everyone knows he died a drunk. To attach yourself to me would only harm your reputation. You cannot possibly—”

“My brother knows all of this and has given us his blessing. With his support and our love for each other, we can weather whatever storm comes our way. I’m absolutely certain of it.”

Blinking, she tried to gather her thoughts, which was proving to be increasingly difficult now that his hands were smoothing down over her arms. “What about my position? What about—”

“Say yes, Louise. The rest will sort itself out.”

And she knew deep in her heart that he was right and that as long as they had each other and his family’s approval, they stood a chance of true happiness together. So she allowed her eyes to meet his. “Yes.” Joy washed away her pain to leave a smile upon her lips. “I love you, Alistair, and nothing would please me more than being your wife.”

“We’ll have to see about that,” he told her gruffly. And then his mouth descended on hers, unleashing all the pent-up passion he’d been holding back since the moment they’d met in his study.

****

By Sophie Barnes

Novels

A Most Unlikely Duke

His Scandalous Kiss

The Earl’s Complete Surrender

Lady Sarah’s Sinful Desires

The Danger in Tempting an Earl

The Scandal in Kissing an Heir

The Trouble with Being a Duke

The Secret Life of Lady Lucinda

There’s Something About Lady Mary

Lady Alexandra’s Excellent Adventure

How Miss Rutherford Got Her Groove Back

Novellas

The Earl Who Loved Her

The Governess Who Captured His Heart

Mistletoe Magic (from Five Golden Rings: A Christmas Collection)

 

****

 

About The Author

Born in Denmark, Sophie has spent her youth traveling with her parents to wonderful places around the world. She’s lived in five different countries, on three different continents,  has studied design in Paris and New York and has a bachelor’s degree from Parson’s School of design. But most impressive of all – she’s been married to the same man three times, in three different countries and in three different dresses.
While living in Africa, Sophie turned to her lifelong passion – writing.
When she’s not busy, dreaming up her next romance novel, Sophie enjoys spending time with her family, swimming, cooking, gardening, watching romantic comedies and, of course, reading. She currently lives on the East Coast.

You can contact her through her website at www.sophiebarnes.com

Or stay in touch with her via the following social media links:

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Follow her on Amazon and Bookbub to receive new release updates for her books.

And Please consider leaving a review for this book.

Every review is greatly appreciated!

 

Other Books In This Series

 

Find out what happens to Eve in The Earl Who Loved Her.

 

 

Look out for Josephine’s story in The Duke Who Came To Town.

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THE DUKE MEETS HIS MATCH*TINA GABRIELLE

Meet the Author:

Tina Gabrielle, an Amazon best-selling author, is an attorney and former mechanical engineer whose love of reading for pleasure helped her get through years of academia. She often picked up a romance and let her fantasies of knights in shining armor and lords and ladies carry her away. She is the author of adventurous Regency historical romances: A Spy Unmasked, At The Spy’s Pleasure, In The Barrister’s Bed, In The Barrister’s Chambers, Lady Of Scandal, and A Perfect Scandal from Entangled Publishing and Kensington Books. Tina’s books have been Barnes & Noble top picks, and her first book, Lady Of Scandal, was nominated as best first historical romance by Romantic Times Book Reviews. Tina loves to hear from readers. Please visit her website to join her newsletter and enter her free monthly contests and giveaways.
Connect: Site | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

 

About the Book:

 

The daughter of an infamous art forger, Chloe Somerton grew up poor. Desperate to aid her sisters, she’d picked a pocket…or two. Now circumstances have changed, and Chloe has a chance to marry a young, wealthy lord. Only his mentor—a dark, dangerous duke—stands in her way. The duke knows about her past, and she’ll do anything to keep him from telling.

The moment Michael Keswick, the Duke of Cameron, sees Chloe Somerton, he recognizes her as a fraud. The stunning beauty with sapphire eyes and golden hair now appears to be a proper lady, but he knows better. What begins as a battle of wills soon escalates into a fierce attraction. In Chloe, Michael finds peace from the memories of war, but he refuses to marry…and she won’t settle for anything less.

Add to Goodreads

Check out the other books in The Infamous Somertons series:
 

 

 

My thoughts:

The Duke Meets His Match by Tina Gabrielle is a fantastic Historical read. #3 in “The Infamous Somertons”. It can be read as a stand alone. See, “An Artful Seduction” and “Real Earls Break the Rules”.

This is the story of Chloe Somerton, the impoverished daughter of an art forger, who has done a nefarious thing or two to survive her circumstances and Michael Keswick, the Duke of Cameron, a devishish handsome Duke, who knows Chloe’s past, and could ruin her future. Can a battle of wills turn into a forever kind of love? Pick up THE DUKE MEETS HIS MATCH to find out for yourself.

Ms.Gabrielle has written a story that is not only captivating but intriguing, as well as close to ones heart….returning veteran’s plight with all their scars both inside and out. She has managed to weave history with a beautiful love story. She combines returning veterans from Waterloo with the plight of the poor and impoverished to create a captivating tale of a battle of wills, finding love, healing unseen scars and wounded hearts to find a HEA, and so much more. I absolutely loved this fast paced, well written story, of a duke who met his match. Powerful and compelling!
I received a complimentary copy, however, all opinions are my own.

Rating: 4.5
Heathe rating: Mild
Revowed by: AprilR

 

 

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☆The Pirates Duty☆KATHERINE BONE

 

 

 

The Pirate’s Duty Links:

iBooks: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/id1252087709

B&N: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-pirates-duty-katherine-bone/1126669018?ean=2940158815980

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Pirates-Duty-Regents-Revenge-Book-ebook/dp/B07347315R

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Universal Amazon Link:

getBook.at/ThePiratesDuty

 

Blurb and Tagline:

Tagline: He lost everything . . . but his duty to her brought him back to life.

 

 

 

Blurb:

Innkeeper Oriana Thorpe is a smuggler’s daughter who has been hardened by a legacy she cannot escape. She has risked everything, including her safety, in her attempts to break free, going so far as to challenge her evil pirate brother, Charles, in order to save a lady and her maid from his wrath. Determined to atone for his villainy, Oriana distributes the blood money he left behind to widows and orphans living nearby. But when threatening letters promising retribution begin to arrive from Charles, she suspects one or more of her customers may be her despicable brother’s spies. Yet one haunted man promises to protect her, and she finds herself taking the greatest risk of all—falling in love.

Captain Pierce Walsingham should have died when his ship was destroyed by the notorious smuggler Captain Carnage. Instead, Pierce was pulled from the water by the Robin Hood of Cornwall, a pirate known only as the Black Regent. In gratitude, Pierce accepts the Regent’s offer to take over the man’s role, allowing his name to be added to the list of the dead and vowing to protect the beautiful innkeeper who saved his sister Chloe’s life. Unfortunately, Oriana is also Carnage’s next of kin, and the smuggler has sworn vengeance against her and Chloe.

While there is no cause dearer to Pierce’s heart than stopping Carnage, the task won’t be easy. Strategic allegiances have replenished his enemy’s power at sea, and he’s moving ever closer to enacting his revenge. Now Pierce must find a way to defeat Carnage, all while fighting his desire for the resilient woman who fiercely defends her roost.

 

Connect with Katherine:
Website: http://www.katherinebone.com
Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/katlbone/

Facebook- Official Fan Page: https://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/Katherine-Bones-Official-Fan-Page/134578253291785
Twitter: https://twitter.com/#!/katherinelbone
Instagram: http://instagram.com/katlbone
Tumblr: http://katherinelbone.tumblr.com/

 

Amazon author page: http://www.amazon.com/Katherine-Bone/e/B009MO30MU/ref=dp_byline_cont_ebooks_1

Goodreads Author Page: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6535406.Katherine_Bone

BookBub Author Page: https://www.bookbub.com/authors/katherine-bone

Katherine’s Bio:

National bestselling historical romance author Katherine Bone has been passionate about history since she had the opportunity to travel to various Army bases, castles, battlegrounds, and cathedrals as an Army brat turned officer’s wife. Who knew an Army wife’s passion for romance novels would lead to pirates? Certainly not her rogue, whose Alma Mater’s adage is “Go Army. Beat Navy!” Now enjoying the best of both worlds, Katherine lives in the south where she writes about rogues, rebels, and rakes—aka pirates, lords, captains, duty, honor, and country—and the happily-ever-afters that every alpha male and damsel deserve.

 

Download Book 1, The Pirate’s Duchess, for FREE! Grab your complimentary download here: http://eepurl.com/cRhc9b

 

☆☆☆☆

Excerpt

He threaded his fingers through her unbound hair, then grabbed a handful, gently hauling her forward and slowly molding her to him so their lips would soon touch. Her breath hitched and she shivered slightly, but still he extended the wait. Prolonging the meeting of their flesh was sheer agony, but he didn’t want her to flit away like a frightened butterfly. He wanted her to trust him, to soothe her doubts and fears, to show her at least one man promised safety in his arms.
“I will never harm you,” he said. She was a whispered breath away now, so temptingly close that he knew kissing her would damn him for eternity. “You have my word.”
She placed a finger over his lips, focusing on them before meeting his eyes. “Don’t speak. I’ve already borne a lifetime of lies.”
Guilt stabbed him afresh, robbing his breath.
She smiled brazenly, pulling him toward her waiting mouth, offering a temptation he couldn’t resist. Drugged by her nearness, Walsingham drank her in, relishing the feel of her in his arms, the taste of her on his mouth.
But she was innocent. Not in the ways of her family’s smuggling business, or where her brother was concerned, but in matters of the flesh certainly. It was evident in her shy exploration of his mouth.
A low growl escaped him as he broke away from her in frustration. It was his duty to honor this woman, protect her at all costs, even if it meant descending the cliff this very night and taking a dip in the cold, crashing surf below. Even if it meant sacrificing every lie, every shameful deception he’d enlisted so that she would be free of her brother.
“Forgive me. I can’t do this.” He took her by the hand and led her across the kitchen.
“Where are ye takin’ me?” she asked, stumbling to catch up with his lengthy strides.
“Upstairs. To your room.”
She stopped cold. “No. I want . . . I need to . . .”
“Not in the middle of the kitchen where anyone could walk in on us.” He yanked on her arm, but she wouldn’t budge. Undeterred, he grabbed her and threw her over his shoulder.
“Put me down,” she snapped.
“Shh. Unless you want to wake everyone.” He made his way up the stairs, calmed by the fact that she’d stopped arguing with him. At the top of the staircase, he carried her to her bedchamber, opened the door, and stepped inside. He narrowed the space between them, and she splayed her hand over his heart. “Don’t come any closer,” she said softly.
“I won’t. Unless you ask me to.” He laid his left hand over hers, pressing ever so slightly to ensure she knew his heart beat as rapidly as hers did.
She glanced down at his hand before raising her gaze to his. “You’re as solid as stone.”
Pleased with her praise, he chuckled. “I’m not made of granite, Miss. I’m flesh and blood, a man with needs and desires. Do not doubt it.”
She focused on his chin, avoiding his gaze.
He stroked her cheek and then lowered his finger to her chin, tilting her head back, forcing her to look into his eyes. “And you’re a beautiful, desirable woman. Why aren’t you married?”
Her green eyes sparked, boring into him. “I am well aware of what men desire and I do not need a man to survive.”
“But what do you desire?”
“I . . .” Her breath hitched. “I’m not in the habit of touching men who come to my inn.” She tried to remove her hand from his chest, but he held it steady.
“Don’t,” he said.
She bit her lip, drawing his attention to her mouth. “This isn’t proper.”
“That depends on who you ask.” She wanted him, he could tell, but she was too proud to admit it. By all that was holy, he would never pressure a woman to do anything she didn’t want to do, no matter from what echelon of society she hailed. He wasn’t that sort of man. “May I speak freely?”
“Of course,” she said. “It appears I’m your captive audience.”
“I’ve been drawn to you from the moment I walked into your inn.”
Her throat bobbed gently as she swallowed. “And I ye.”
Her green eyes radiated unequaled strength, a steely reserve that drove her to betray her own flesh and blood to save a stranger—his sister. Was that what motivated him? A need to show her his gratitude? Or was it something more, something deeper, instantaneous, the type of attraction that gripped a man by the heart and never let go?
Who could blame him? She’d worked tirelessly to operate an inn where men continued to exploit her femininity. She was a true Cornish woman who had joined forces with the church and the Seatons to support those without resources, those who could not care for themselves, extolling praises for the Regent . . . Or in essence, for him!
“I’ve dreamed of kissing you,” he admitted.
“Ye have?”
“Aye.”
A growl escaped his throat as he bent to taste her lips. But just before their mouths made contact, the latch on the door shifted loudly. Dredging up strength he didn’t know he possessed, he dropped Miss Thorpe’s hand and stepped over to one of the tables. Once there, he made quick work of appearing as if he had been rearranging the chairs.
Miss Thorpe, in all her decadent allure, bent to rearrange lavender several tables away, the quick ruse perfection as Jarvis walked in, followed by Girard and O’Malley.
“All is well in the barn, Miss,” Girard said, stopping cold and causing O’Malley to walk into him. “Miss, are ye unwell? Your face is as red as a brandy bottle.”

 

 

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MATURE CONTENT, only +18 years of age, please☆☆LILY☆☆RELEASE DAY BLITZ☆☆ TRACY LORRAINE With #Giveaway, #snippets, and #teasers

Lilly
By Tracy Lorraine


Blurb:
Lilly’s life has been shattered by her ex. Few people know the truth about what happened that day. Lilly is trying to put the past behind her but everyone around her is moving on with their lives and it’s a constant reminder of what she’s lost. Lilly throws herself into university and her part time job as a distraction. What she doesn’t expect is for an unwanted promotion to once again send her world into a tailspin.
Will she be able to let her guard down, open her heart once again and fight for the happiness she deserves?


Lucas could never have imagined that his life would turn out like it has. Supportive parents, a powerful job and more money than he knows what to do with. On the surface he looks like the perfect businessman but Lucas is not only hiding his past but also who he really is. The only thing missing is something he swore he never wanted. When he finds a broken Lilly in his sanctuary will he be able to push his fears of love aside and be the man she needs?


Individually they have a lot of demons that have the potential to break them but will they be strong enough together to face them?


Available at the following retailers!


Please Note: 5 days after release Lilly
will be exclusive to Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited


New to the Angel Series?
Don’t Worry! You can catch up on the series.
Get the Angel Series Box Set (Books #1-2.5)

Only 99 Pennies until 8/25! Check it out!


SNIPPETS:




Snippet 1


I’m unattractively sobbing on the sofa when I suddenly hear a throat clearing behind me. I jump up from my seat in panic and turn around to see who’s walked in.
My eyes run from his spotlessly polished shoes, up his perfectly pressed trousers and over his waistcoat and crisp shirt until I reach his eyes. They are dark and staring daggers at me. His glare renders me motionless but my heart starts to race. A huge part of me wants to run, run as far away and as fast as I can from this situation. I’ve barely had this promotion two hours and I’ve already screwed it up.
I square my shoulders and stand up. I wipe the tears from my cheeks with the backs of my hands as I wait for the ear bashing I’m about to get for slacking on the job.
Only it doesn’t come.
As I stand looking at him I see his eyes change. They started off hard and vicious but as the seconds have ticked by they seem to be softening. I must be mistaken though because there is nothing about the man stood in front of me that’s soft. He is a ruthless businessman who tramples on anyone who gets in his way. I have no reason to suspect he’s going to go gentle on me just because I’ve shed a few tears. I raise my chin slightly to him as I prepare for him to tear a strip off me.
He opens his mouth to say something but what comes out shocks the hell out of me. “Are you okay?” His voice comes out different to what I’ve heard before. There is no harsh demanding tone instead there’s concern. Weird.
“I’m…uh…” I stutter because this is so unexpected. I thought I’d already be on my way home with my P45 in my hand by now. “I’m fine. I just received some news and I…” I don’t continue because I realise that he really doesn’t care, he’s just trying to be kind. I appreciate that but I’m here to do a job. “I’ll just get on with it,” I say gesturing to the room.
I pick up my phone and go to walk past him. I don’t make eye contact. I’m scared he’ll return to his usual self once I get back to work.
I go to step past him but I’m frozen to the spot when he moves and clamps his hand around my wrist. I daren’t look up at him. Firstly because I don’t know what I might find looking back at me and also because he really doesn’t need to see the fresh tears in my eyes.
“If you need to go and have some time,” he says.
I’m so shocked by his words that my eyes snap up to his. Close up they look bluer than I thought they were from a distance.
“It…it’s fine, honestly,” my voice quivers as I say this showing that I’m anything but fine really.
“Well, if you’re sure,” he says hesitantly. I can only presume that being in the presence of an emotional woman isn’t the norm for him.
He holds my eye contact and I’m powerless to look away. There are only inches between us. I’m surrounded by his scent and his kindness touches me. Then I do something so unlike me and so utterly stupid that I can’t even comprehend it.
I lean forward and kiss him. I actually kiss him!


Snippet 2
As I walk around to the driver’s side I can’t help being unsure of whether I’m pleased or not that people fall for this act. But then I guess I’ve played the part for so long now that it’s almost normal. The suits, the money, the flashy cars. Lilly might have the impression I’m something impressive but under all this I’m far from the person she thinks I am. I know she’s thinking that she’s not good enough for all this, but if she only knew the truth. That she is the one that is way too good for me.


Snippet 3


I let out a huge sigh and crack on while trying to put all memories of last night and this morning behind me. Obsessing over them will not help me in the slightest.
It’s a shame that my little pep talk doesn’t help because I’m totally lost to the feeling of his lips on my body when a throat clearing behind me makes me jump. I drop the bathroom cleaner and sponge I had in my hands in fright. I spin around and gasp at the sight. My heart starts racing and my temperature instantly increases.
Lucas is stood in the doorway wearing a black hoodie with the hood up over his head and a pair of grey jogging bottoms. The hood comes down to his eyebrows and the shadow it causes makes his eyes look even angrier.
I swallow down a lump that’s formed in my throat. He looks dangerous, like he could seriously hurt someone, weirdly I have no fear though. I know he won’t hurt me. This shocks me because after everything I’ve been through I’d have thought this would set me on edge.
“I need to use the shower,” he states coldly.
“Uh…right…yeah.”
I gather up my stuff and get out. I can’t stop myself from turning back to look at him as I walk away though and of course he catches me. And just to torture me further he pulls his hoodie off exposing that stunning tattoo to me. Frustratingly he doesn’t shut the bathroom door so as I go about dusting the bedroom all I can picture is the water running over his hard muscles.
I need to get a grip.
It’s only a few minutes before he appears with a towel wrapped around his waist and water droplets running down his chest.
“Lucas, can we talk a minute.”
“No, I’m busy. Just do your job, Lilly. It’s what I pay you for.”
His vicious words cut me. They actually hurt.
“I thought you took the morning off,” I say with as much strength as I can muster because I don’t want him to see that he’s affecting me.
The look I receive in response to my question instantly has me cowering away. Now that’s the Mr. Dalton I knew of before I started working up here. A ruthless and powerful arsehole. As much as it hurts that he’s reverted to that when he’s never been anything but kind to me actually grounds me a little. This is what I was expecting; this is how it should be.


Snippet 4


Some of his memories must have been lingering in the background though because when we get back to our hotel room he drops the bags he’s been carrying on the floor before disappearing into the bathroom.
I listen as the water starts running. I argue with myself about what to do. Do I stay here and wait for him to reappear or do I go and join him?
In the end I decide to strip out of my clothes and head for the shower. My breath catches in my throat when I get there. He’s stood with his head bent forward with the water cascading down his back.
The opening of the shower door catches his attention and he looks up at me, but it’s not with the kind of heat in his eyes that I’m used to. I don’t think he even notices that I’m naked.
I step inside and pull the door shut behind me. I stand right up against him and place my lips to his. Just like earlier it takes a few seconds but he soon responds and within a minute he has me backed up against the tiles with my legs wrapped around his waist.
By the time he’s finished the shadows have totally lifted from his eyes and I have my Lucas back. I hate the idea of him hurting so much when he thinks about the past but we will have to talk about it at some point.



Author Bio:
Tracy Lorraine is a M/F and M/M contemporary romance author. Tracy has recently turned thirty and lives in a cute Cotswold village in England with her husband, baby girl and lovable but slightly crazy dog. Having always been a bookaholic with her head stuck in her Kindle Tracy decided to try her hand at a story idea she dreamt up and hasn’t looked back since.




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RELEASE BLITZ☆CAN’T STOP LOVING YOU☆LYNNETTE AUSTIN with excerpt, + Giveaway

CAN’T STOP LOVIN’ YOU Release Day Blitz

 

ABOUT THE BOOK

Title: CAN’T STOP LOVIN’ YOU

Author: Lynnette Austin

Series: Maverick Junction, #3

On Sale: July 25, 2017

Publisher: Forever

Mass Market: $7.99 USD

eBook: $4.99 USD

Add to http://Goodreads

Maggie Sullivan can’t wait to get out of Texas. Luckily, she just got the break she needed to make her big-city dreams a reality. But then Brawley Odell swaggers back into Maverick Junction, looking hotter than ever in his dusty cowboy boots and well-worn jeans. He’s the guy she still dreams of at night. The guy who broke her heart when he left her behind.

Fed up with city life, Brawley jumps at the chance to return home and take over the local vet’s practice—and get back to the smart, sassy woman he’s never been able forget. He couldn’t be prouder of Maggie’s new wedding-dress business… until he realizes it may mean losing her all over again. Determined to win her back, Brawley must find a way to convince Maggie that their one true home is with each other.

 

Book Information

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Excerpt:

 

“You’re staying,” Maggie whispered.

“I am.”

“You’ll be happy here, Brawley.”

“I’ll miss you.”

“You’ve lived without me for a long time.”

“But I always knew you’d be here. That I could get my Maggie fix whenever I needed it with a couple hours’ drive.”

“Brawley—”

“I know.” He held up a hand. “Not fair. I won’t ask you to stay. I know better than that. This is something you have to do.”

“It is.”

“Once you’re in New York, though, if you don’t like it, I’ll be here.”

“That’s not going to happen.”

“Red, if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s never say never.”

“Fine.” Her heart hammered in her chest. She moved to the leather love seat, her hand stroking it. “This is yummy.”

“So are you.” The thought tumbled out before he could stop it.

She turned, so close he could feel her breath on his face.

He hadn’t meant for it to happen. He hadn’t brought her here to make a move. But damn if he could keep his hands, his mouth, off her.

He’d watched her all day, that gorgeous red hair done up in a tumbled mass, curls escaping and trailing down her neck. He’d itched to pull out whatever pins held it and spill the fiery strands around her. Wanted to run his hands through it, feel the silky softness.

More, he wanted to unzip that swath of silk and let it slide to the floor. Wanted to touch the creamy white skin beneath. Needed to taste her. Her lips, the back of her knees, her stomach.

Needed to know if she still wore the little silver ring through her belly button.

Needed almost more than his next breath to hear her quiet little sighs, her cries of delight as they made love.

His gaze drifted to her red, red lips when her tongue peeked out between them.

“Maggie—”

“Brawley?”

“Yeah?” He raised his eyes back to hers. They always reminded him of a Texas meadow right after a spring rainstorm. What man could resist? Sure as hell not him. He caved. Pulled her to him. Felt her heat.

The first kiss was tentative. After that initial foray, though, he lost sight of his good intentions, of right and wrong.

Soft. So very soft.

His hand moved to the back of her neck, drawing her closer still. Inching into that silken mass of hair, he removed the pins one at a time, sighed when the strands spilled loose over his fingers, his hand, his arm.

His mouth left hers, traced a path along her chin, over her cheek. He buried his face in her hair and breathed deeply. God, she smelled good.

Maggie gave him those little sighs, those moans he’d been craving.

His lips trailed back to hers. When they parted, he slid his tongue inside to dance with hers. He backed her up till she was against the sofa.

Sliding a hand beneath her knees, he scooped her up and laid her on the soft leather, then followed her down. His hands ran the length of her, his fingers trailing beneath the hem of her dress.

He felt her cool hands on his heated flesh. Somehow she had his shirt out of his pants and half unbuttoned. Her head lowered, and she trailed a line of kisses across his bare chest. She stopped at the small scar just above his navel, flicked her tongue over it.

Brawley sucked in his breath. Maggie had been the one to mark him there with a stick when they’d been eight-year old pirates fighting it out with pretend swords. He put a finger beneath her chin and raised her head to taste her lips again.

She had matured, ripened. Was everything the eighteen-year- old Maggie had been and more. Much more.

“Oh, Mags,” he whispered into her ear. “You’re killing me.”

She answered with a long, deep kiss.

He groaned. “I want you so badly it hurts.”

“Shut up and kiss me, cowboy.”

 

 

 

THE MAVERICK JUNCTION SERIES

 

 

 

SOMEBODY LIKE YOU, #1

NEAREST THING TO HEAVEN, #2

CAN’T STOP LOVIN’ YOU, #3

 

Series Page on Goodreads: http://bit.ly/2tdlKPu

 

 

 

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

 

Lynnette Austin loves Starbucks, peppermint patties, and long rides with the top down and the music cranked up! One of the great things about writing is that daydreaming is not only permissible but encouraged. She grew up in Pennsylvania, moved to New York, then to Wyoming, and presently divides her time between Florida’s beaches and Georgia’s mountains. She’s been a finalist in RWA’s Golden Heart Contest, PASIC’s Book of Your Heart Contest, and Georgia Romance Writers’ Maggie Contest. Having grown up in a small town, that’s where her heart takes her-to those quirky small towns where everybody knows everybody…and all their business, for better or worse.

 

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☆COVER REVEAL☆YOU DON’T KNOW JACK SCHMIDT~SUSAN RENEE ☆Mature content- 18+only☆

☆☆18+, content may be offensive to some viewers☆☆

Cover Reveal

You Don’t Know Jack Schmidt

By Susan Renee


Blurb:
I’ve always been the social butterfly, the girl with an Angry Vagina Box, the one who goes home with just about anyone for a booty call. So, why in the hell am I lying in bed alone on a Friday night downloading The Watering Hole dating app onto my phone?
Wait, what? No. Why am I creating a profile? No, no, fingers! Stop scrolling!
Whoa…he’s cute.
Kind of nerdy chic, but cute.
I bet he’s a barista.
Why am I drooling over the guy who has a strong set of morals and only wears matching socks? Who the hell is this guy?

Pre-Order for 99 Pennies!


Snippets:
# 1
“Hey Jacoby?” I say quietly as we sit in the treehouse copying math homework off each other. “Yeah?”
I’ve been waiting to ask him this question since yesterday, but I had to be certain we were alone first. Going through the foster system as much as I have sucks on so many levels. I may have made it to the eighth grade, but there’s so much I don’t know, and nobody to ask except my new best friend.
“Uh, so…do you know…what a twinkie is?”

 

# 2
“The Watering Hole…it sounds like a pee trough or something.” I shake my head and lay my phone down next to me, willing myself to fall asleep before I do something stupid. The idea waffles back and forth in my mind for almost fifteen minutes. I don’t know what the heck makes me do it, but my finger hits the link to download the app before I can stop myself.
“I can’t believe I’m doing this.” I mumble. Within about fifteen seconds The Watering Hole app is on my phone and I’m opening it to see what happens. Will there be a list of guys I can just choose from? “I bet they’ll all be mega nerds who boast what big dicks they have.” I snort. “‘Cause you know, they speak Spockly and carry big dicks.”

 

# 3
I watch as she reaches for a bottle of lotion. She squirts some into her hand and looks up at me again. “You are about to taste like hot buttered rum.” She says. “My favorite.” She licks her lips and runs her hand up and down my length spreading what must be a flavored lube all around me. I gasp as a cool sensation spreads at her touch, and hold my breath for what she might do next.
She’s going to do it.
Breathe.
Shit.
Breathe Jack. You got this.
Oh, my God, she’s really going to do it.
My very first blow job.




Author Bio:
Susan Renee wants to live in a world where paint doesn’t smell, Hogwarts is open twenty-four/seven, and everything is covered in glitter. An indie romance author, Susan has written about everything from lawn mowers to thick colossal bottles of wine, and has won a Snuggle Buddy award for her nonfiction book, “The Hula Hoop Tester’s Guide to Jumping.” She lives in Ohio with her family and seven tiny donkeys. She’s a Pet Whispering major from OMGU with a Masters in medical care for inanimate objects (a la Doc. McStuffins). Susan enjoys crab-walking through the Swiss Alps, drinking Muscle Milk, and doing the Care Bear stare with her closest friends.


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