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ivydtruitt at gmail (dot) com.

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Featuring Beverley Oakley's THE ACCIDENTAL ELOPEMENT

Hi Ivy, and thanks for having me here.
 
In my previous story, Devil’s Run, the two seven-year-olds, Jack and Katherine, stole my heart, I must admit. Katherine is the daughter of aristocratic parents while Jack is from the foundling home and comes to the estate as playmate to Katherine’s bullying cousin, George. While Katherine is naughty and likes to make Jack do her bidding, Jack is good natured but very ethical – unlike George. When they meet as adults, the interplay of these three characters causes a lot of angst before happiness is achieved – for all of them, in fact.
 
Bullying is a theme in The Accidental Elopement and I’ve tried to show the repercussions within the conventions of a Regency romance.
 
In the following extract, Jack and Katherine meet having not seen one another since they were twelve years old. Jack is about to leave for the West Indies to make his fortune while Katherine is excited by the social whirl and intends to make a fine marriage during her first London season.
 
Falling in love with each other is extremely inconvenient for both of them.
 
The Accidental Elopement by Beverley Oakley
 

A seven-year secret. A tragic misunderstanding. Can love outwit fate in this tale of misadventure and thwarted dreams?

Earl Quamby’s niece, Katherine, and Jack, a foundling home lad adopted by a local family, have been loyal friends for as long as they can remember.

As Jack is about to leave England to make his fortune and Katherine is being courted by two eligible suitors, they unexpectedly realise their friendship has blossomed into passionate love. A love, they are warned, that has no future.

Despite a brave attempt to defy the forces keeping them apart, tragedy results and the pair is separated.

When chance throws them together seven years later, Katherine, newly widowed, is being pressured into a marriage not of her choosing to avoid scandal and Jack feels he must honour his pledge to the worthy Odette whom he met in India and whose father is dying.

Katherine knows that revealing a long-held secret may win Jack to her but she also knows conflicting obligations from past and present may tear him apart.

Can master matchmakers, Fanny, Antoinette and Bertram Brightwell, outwit fate in its latest attempt to keep these star-crossed lovers apart and deliver them the happiness they deserve?

 
This is Book 4 in the Scandalous Miss Brightwell series but it can be read as a stand-alone.

It was as black as a dungeon, here. No candle sconces lit up this part of the house.

Katherine took another cautious step through the darkness, her hands upon the cool plastered walls guiding her away from the lively strains of the polka she’d narrowly avoided having to dance with George. 

She wasn’t frightened of the dark. No one had ever accused Katherine of being fainthearted.

Yet she did squeal with surprise when, turning a corner, her progress was suddenly impeded by a very large object and, with no warning at all, she found herself flying through the air, landing with a painful jarring of her wrists upon the cold, hard flagstones.

“Good Lord!” came a disembodied young male voice in the dark before a groping hand located a piece of Katherine—a carefully arranged ringlet of hair—which caused her to shriek even louder when it was quite unnecessarily tugged. Whether this was to establish who or what she was, she had no idea, and perhaps neither did the tugger, for immediately a profound apology was issued before the groping hand was operating with complete abandon in the dark.

This time it found Katherine’s breast just as the voice said in tones of utter mortification, “Forgive me! Are you hurt? Here, let me help you. That’s what I was trying to do, I promise. I didn’t realise you were on the ground. Take my hand. Really, I can’t apologise enough.”

Katherine had made one unsuccessful attempt to stand, but it was a struggle in her flounced skirt and multiple corded petticoats. She swatted away the supposedly helping hand and hissed something unintelligible—somehow unladylike language seemed less of an offence when she couldn’t see to whom she was speaking.

But when the disembodied groping hand entered her orbit once more, in fact brushing the bare flesh above her garter and getting in a good squeeze of her thigh flesh, her temper, which had never been one of her strong points, snapped, and she lashed out with a sharp slice through the inky air.

A loud yelp made her realise she’d perhaps been a little peremptory and certainly too violent in this unladylike action, and even though she felt disinclined to apologise, she did say, ungraciously, “I’m sorry I hit you, but a lady can only take so much of all this groping in the dark. I mean…what were you doing?”

“I could ask you the same thing,” came the response, now at ear level. In fact, she could feel the soft whisper of breath against her cheek, which made her step back, saying, “I asked first.”

“I was chasing a cat. Bending down, in fact. And then suddenly something crashed into me. Or on top of me.”

“That was me.”

“Yes, of course it was you. There’s no one else here, is there?”

Katherine bridled at his tone. She was unused to being spoken to as if she were at fault when, in this case, she most certainly wasn’t. “I think that’s a very rude response,” she told him. “Just as it was very thoughtless of you to crouch down where anybody could simply crash into you.”

“Anybody—or rather, anybody else—would be carrying a candle. I think I have every reason to be deeply suspicious of the motives of anyone who is not.”

“Well, you don’t have a candle. And I would suspect the truth of anyone hiding away in the dark, claiming they were crouching over an imaginary cat,” huffed Katherine. “In fact, I’d wager there was no cat here at all. No, you were sneaking away from something, weren’t you?”

“And if I was, what business is it of yours? Whoever you are.”

Katherine could not imagine the audacity. “I could ask the same question. You certainly are no gentleman to speak to a lady in that fashion.”

“Since that lady hasn’t bothered to declare herself, I think I could be forgiven.”

“A gentleman would have declared himself first,” Katherine said hotly. “What were you sidling away from? There’s a noisy ball going on in the next room. If you were a gentleman, wouldn’t you be gallantly asking the ladies to dance instead of hiding in the dark? Perhaps there’s someone you’re afraid of seeing? A lady who has expectations of you behaving towards her as a gentleman.” Katherine said this triumphantly before elaborating on her theme. “My guess is that you’ve given some poor young lady the idea that you’ll dance with her all night, and now you’ve changed your mind and are sneaking away.”

“Since you put forward the idea, I’d suggest the reason you’re here is exactly the same. You’re trying to sneak away from a gentleman to whom you’ve already promised two dances. Meanwhile he, poor fellow, is searching for you vainly in the ballroom while you’re here making a mockery of him.”

“He can do that all by himself,” Katherine sniffed. “But I never promised him anything, and I never will.”

“Ha! I was right.” He sounded very pleased with himself. “Well, I feel sorry for this chap without even seeing what you look like, miss. Poor fellow!”

“Poor fellow, indeed. George can pine til the cows come home. I’d even suffer talking to you than have to spend another five minutes with his sweating hands squeezing mine and his moon eyes boring into me…and his horrible, putrid breath choking me and his—”

“Poor George! I was just starting to feel sorry for him until you described the exact George I, too, am so at pains to avoid tonight.” The voice became more confidential, and the mood relaxed.

Katherine crossed her arms and waited for him to speak for she was rather interested in his George, and then quite amused when the voice began to describe the very George against whom she railed.

“Well, you have described my cousin to a very fine point,” she laughed. “And if you are as well acquainted with him as you seem to be, then you obviously know exactly why I am here in the dark.”

There was a small silence. And then, “Your cousin?”

“In my family, there are two Georges: Young George who is the son of my aunt and her husband, Lord Quamby, and Odious George who is his uncle, George Bramley.”

“Then we’re talking about the same George!” The voice sounded stunned.

A quick gasp from both of them was followed up by a delighted cry in unison.

“Jack!”

“Katherine!”

Beverley Oakley is an Australian author who grew up in the African mountain kingdom of Lesotho, married a Norwegian bush pilot she met in Botswana’s Okavango Delta, and started writing historical romances to amuse herself in the 12 countries she’s lived as a ‘trailing spouse’ (in between working as an airborne geophysical survey operator, a teacher of English as a Second Language, and writing for her former newspaper).

Her Scandalous Miss Brightwell series was nominated Best Historical Romance by the Australian Romance Readers Association.

Beverley Oakley's DEVIL'S RUN Feature

Devil’s Run

A rigged horse race – with a marriage and a lost child riding on the outcome.

This is book 3 in the Scandalous Miss Brightwells series, though it can be read as a stand-alone.

Can the matchmaking Brightwell sisters avoid scandal and disaster as they try to rescue two tortured souls and unite their passionate hearts?

When Miss Eliza Montrose’s extraordinary bravery wins her the respect of matchmaking queens Fanny and Antoinette Brightwell, the sisters and their bumbling brother decide they must find a worthier suitor for the young woman they’d initially disliked.

But Eliza has her own reasons for agreeing to marry their odious cousin. Reasons that have nothing to do with love!

When handsome, honorable horse owner Rufus Patmore proves Eliza’s perfect match, the Brightwells secretly hatch a plan that involves their cousin and a
horse called Devil’s Run riding in the East Anglia Derby. A horse that is suddenly and unexpectedly inherited by Eliza.

Despite having acted with the best of intentions, the Brightwells discover that fixing the outcome of the race has unintended consequences.

Book 1: Rake’s Honour (Just an FYI, the Kindle version is free for a limited time)
Book 2: Rogue’s Kiss
Book 3: Devil’s Run
Book 4: The Accidental Elopement (preorder now)

 
What the reviewers say:
 
“Very intriguing Austen-esque novel with well-developed characters and story line. The best historical romance novel I’ve read in a while.” ~ Amazon reviewer
I started writing Devil’s Run because I couldn’t stop thinking about the infant with the sixth finger who was discovered in the basket in front of the foundling hospital in the previous book, Rogue’s Kiss. There’d only been a brief mention of the mother who was clearly from a good family being forced by an older woman to leave her young son in the basket and this happens in the first scene in Rogue’s Kiss (book 2), as she snatches her child from the basket and runs in front of the carriage in which Thea, my heroine, is travelling – thus setting up the meeting with Thea and her hero in that story. (The child, Jack, features only briefly in later pages of Rogue’s Kiss.)
After finishing Rogue’s Kiss, though, I began to wonder who this young woman was, and whether she’d ever be reunited with her child. Obviously, the answer had to be that she would, but the challenge was bringing her into the orbit of my Brightwell family – two matchmaking sisters and their sinister, conniving cousin George – around whom the story revolves.
Thus, Devil’s Run begins with the self-contained Eliza Montrose visiting Quamby House where Matchmaking Queens Fanny and Antoinette Brightwell – who’ve made rags-to-riches marriages – live.
Fanny and Antoinette dislike her initially for being boring until she spectacularly rescues some children from drowning. This is when Eliza realises that one of these children – on account of his 6th finger – is her lost son. And that’s why she’s motivated to marry awful, conniving Cousin George so she can be close to her secret son. Fanny and Antoinette are determined that Eliza’s too good for George, and of course Eliza’s past and her motivations for marrying George are very secret, but when the Brightwells set up a matchmaking scheme with the very honourable Rufus Patmore who’s arrived to buy a horse, the real action begins.
Here’s an excerpt:

Chapter One

“And there’s nothing else you’d like, my dear? No?” George Bramley found it an effort to keep the syrup in his tone as he straightened up after receiving the polite rebuff.

His bride-to-be had not even looked at him as she’d declined the piece of marchpane he’d been certain would win him at least a smile.

Hovering at her side, he weighed up the advantages of a gentle rebuke, then decided against it. Until yesterday, he’d thought her quiet demeanour suggested a charmingly pliant nature. Now, he was not so sure. In fact, suddenly, he was not sure of anything.

“A glass of lemonade perhaps, my angel? Or a gentle stroll?”

“I would prefer to be left alone.” Miss Montrose waved a languid hand, while she continued to gaze at the still lake beside which their picnic party had situated itself.

George blinked and tried to mute his anger. The languid hand wave had not even been accompanied by a demure thank you as subtle acknowledgement of her gratitude, that not only had Mr Bramley, heir to a viscountcy, stepped in to rescue Miss Eliza Montrose from impoverishment, he was prepared to treat her publicly as if she were as fine a catch as he could have made.

A soft titter brought his head round sharply, but the ladies behind him, bent over the latest Ackerman’s Repository, appeared occupied with their own gossip as they lounged on cushions beneath the canopy that had been erected to protect them from the sun.

Awkwardly, he looked for occupation as he continued to eye his intended with a mixture of irritation and desire—both lustful desire, and the desire to put her in her place.

The idea of the latter made him harden. She was beautiful, this quiet, apparently retiring, young woman who said so little, but whose eyes spoke such volumes. The afternoon sun added a rich gloss to her hair and imbued her porcelain skin with a warm glow. The skin that he could see at any rate.

He pushed back his shoulders. On their wedding night in three weeks, when he’d at last taken possession of her, he’d rip that modesty to shreds. The skin she was so at pains to hide would be his, not only to see, but to caress and taste. When she was his wife, the beautiful, distant Miss Eliza Montrose would no longer get away with paying George Bramley so little attention. No, he’d have her screaming and writhing at his command. He would make her like the things he did to her, or at least show him she did if she enjoyed harmony as much as she appeared to. None of this languid reclining like a half-drugged princess in his presence. He’d keep her on her toes, ready to leap to his bidding at the sound of his footstep. She’d learn to be grateful.

Feeling ignored and superfluous, he turned to his uncle’s detestable wife, Lady Quamby, and said with a smile, “Perhaps you and Miss Montrose would like to accompany me to the turret. Since you appear to have enjoyed this new novel, Northanger Abbey, so much, you might be interested to know there is an excellent view of the ruined monastery not far from here.”

He was just priding himself on being so attuned to the feminine inclination for pleasure, when Lady Quamby half turned and sent him a desultory smile. “Oh, I think Miss Montrose looks perfectly comfortable, and Fanny and I are having such a lovely little coze.” As if imitating Miss Montrose, she waved a languid hand in his general direction. “Why don’t you take Mr Patmore off to see it? The two of you can tell us all about it when you return.”

The fact that Miss Montrose didn’t deign to even speak for herself, much less glance in his direction, sent the blood surging to Bramley’s brain. By God, when he was married to Eliza Montrose, the limpid look of love so lacking now would be pasted onto her face every time he crossed her line of vision. She’d soon learn what was good for her.

He inclined his head, hiding his fury, and was on the point of leaving when Lady Quamby’s sister, Fanny—for he’d be damned if he’d accord the little strumpet the title of Lady Fenton—leapt up from her chair. She’d been poring over the latest fashions, but now she smiled brightly up at him.

“I’ll come with you, Cousin George. We’ll have an excellent view from the battlements of the children learning to row. I told Nanny Brown and the nursemaid they could take them in the two boats if the children had been good.”

Bramley fixed her with a dampening look. In fact, he was about to give up the idea of going up to the battlements altogether when his other guest, Rufus Patmore, suddenly rose and joined Fanny’s side with a late and unexpected show of enthusiasm.

“Capital idea!” declared Rufus.

George flashed them both a dispassionate look. He’d chosen to invite his betrothed, Miss Montrose—whose chaperone was currently tucked up in the green bedchamber nursing a head cold—to be his guest at his uncle’s estate, Quamby House, after receiving intelligence that Ladies Quamby and Fenton would be safely in London with their husbands and children. Instead, the brazen Brightwell sisters—as they’d infamously been called when he’d first made their acquaintance—had altered their plans, and were now in dogged attendance, reminding him as they always had, of some awful tenacious climbing plant, determined to find a foothold wherever they could in order to rise in the world.

Rufus, a last minute addition and acquaintance from his club, Boodles, was here because he’d purchased a horse from Bramley the night before. Now, Rufus was gazing at Lady Fenton with the same dewy-eyed fondness George was used to seeing reflected in the eyes of his uncle, the Earl of Quamby, who called the Brightwell sisters his precious rosebuds. To George, they were common dandelions! And now they had overridden Quamby House, the rambling Queen Anne manor house and estate that would have passed to George the moment his uncle quit this mortal coil, were it not for the snotty-nosed infant Lady Quamby had borne far too early in her marriage to George’s uncle.

George shook his head. He’d changed his mind. Only, there was Rufus already ten yards away, striding across the lawn with Fanny at his side, and George didn’t want to be seen as petulant for having offered the suggestion in the first place. Or have his snubbed and ignored status so much on parade, since the two remaining ladies—Miss Montrose and Lady Quamby—now had their heads bent together in deep discussion, with no apparent interest in seeking his company.

By God, he thought, clenching his fists as he set off after the other two at a brisk trot, theyʾd all rue the day they showed George Bramley so little respect.

About Beverley

Beverley Oakley is an Australian author who grew up in the African mountain kingdom of Lesotho, married a Norwegian bush pilot she met in Botswana’s Okavango Delta, and started writing historical romances to amuse herself in the 12 countries she’s lived as a ‘trailing spouse’ (in between working as an airborne geophysical survey operator, a teacher of English as a Second Language, and writing for her former newspaper).
Her Scandalous Miss Brightwell series was nominated Best Historical Romance by the Australian Romance Readers Association.

Katie Ruggle's SURVIVE THE NIGHT w/ GIVEAWAY

“Vivid and charming.” —CHARLAINE HARRIS, #1 New York Times Bestselling Author

 

He’s always been a haven:
For the lost. The sick. The injured.
But when a hunted woman takes shelter in his arms, this gentle giant swears he’ll do more than heal her battered spirit—he’ll defend her with his life. 
K9 Officer Otto Gunnersen always had a soft spot for anyone in need. As Monroe’s very own Dr. Doolittle, he dedicates himself to rehabilitating the injured souls that cross his path—but for all his big heart, he’s never been in love.
Until he meets Sarah Clifton’s haunted eyes. Until he realizes he’ll do anything to save her.
All Sarah wants is to escape a life caught between ambitious crime families, but there’s no outrunning her past. Her power-mad brother would hunt her to the ends of the earth…but he’d never expect Sarah to fight back. With Otto and the whole of Monroe, Colorado by her side, Sarah’s finally ready to face whatever comes her way.
It’s time to take a stand.       Amazon      B&N        iBooks

 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

A car turned onto the street, and her heart sank even further when she saw the light bar on top of the vehicle. Logan was a police officer. Had Aaron sent him after her? During that horrible dinner, Judd had mentioned that Logan had contacts. Did they include anyone at the Monroe Police Department?
As her brain raced, she’d frozen for a few seconds, long enough for the squad car to pull up to the curb in front of the carport. It was too late to run and pointless to hide. As close as the squad car was, the cop had to have seen her on the carport. A strong gust of wind pushed her off-balance, and Sarah sat abruptly. There might be no escaping him, but at least she wouldn’t be blown off the roof.
As the police officer swung open the driver’s door and got out, unfolding his large frame, Sarah felt her throat tightening. It was the tall, burly cop she’d met after she’d just arrived, the one who was so terrifyingly handsome that it was a struggle to look at him—like a cross between a Viking and a lumberjack. The one who’d watched her steadily and silently with light-blue eyes until he’d quietly left her room. The way he’d looked at her made her illogically worried that he could read all of her secrets and was just waiting for her to confess.
Once Grace had introduced him as a cop, Sarah had sealed her lips together, afraid that something incriminating would tumble out of her mouth. It didn’t matter that she’d done nothing wrong, that she was an adult and legally couldn’t be forced to stay with her brother—much less marry creepy Logan. There was something about him that still made her…not nervous, but jittery. No, she thought, jittery isn’t right, either. He made her feel too aware of him.
He immediately looked up at her, confirming her suspicion that he’d known she was on the roof even before he pulled up. As he walked closer, he held her gaze, silently as he had before. Rather than ordering her off the roof or yelling at her to get down, as she’d expected, he circled around to the side of the carport. Instead of climbing on the car, as she had, he reached up and grasped the edge of the roof and hauled himself up with an ease that Sarah envied. Once he was up, he sat a few feet away from her.
She eyed his profile as he looked out over the street. What was he doing? If he was going to arrest her, to take her into custody and hand her over to Logan, she wished he’d just get it over with. Sitting next to him, waiting for him to do something, was making her muscles painfully tight.
When he hadn’t said anything for several minutes, Sarah knew she had to break the silence. If one of them didn’t talk, her head was going to pop like an overinflated tire.
“Sorry.” The word came out too softly, and it squeaked in the middle. “There were elk.”
He turned his head to look at her.
“They were fighting?” Clearing her throat, she tried to make her words sound more definite. It was hard, though. His continued silence was freaking her out. “I was afraid of getting caught in the middle, so I climbed up here. Did someone call you?”
His chin dipped down in a nod. Even though he hadn’t actually said anything out loud, the gesture was a huge relief.
“I was going to get down, but I was worried they’d come back. Then I heard your car engine, and…well, you arrived.”
It was a weak finish, she knew, but there was no way to explain her terror at hearing a car, not without telling him too much about her former life. After all, she still didn’t know if he was one of Logan’s contacts. Even if he wasn’t, if a fellow cop arrived and said something awful—like that she wasn’t mentally sound or that she’d committed a crime—Otto would believe the police officer over some woman he’d just met. Sarah had been sheltered, but she’d read books and watched TV. She knew that cops were loyal to each other.
“Is it strange?” Now that she’d started talking, she didn’t want to return to that unnerving silence, the one that made her think he was reading her thoughts with some magical, gorgeous-cop superpower. He cocked his head slightly, as if in question. “Strange that the elk are in town, fighting in the middle of the street? I’m new to the mountains, but it seems weird to me. I mean, squirrels can hang out in town, or rabbits, but elk right here next to all these houses? That seems wrong.”
His lips twitched in something that might have been a start of a smile. There was another pause, long enough for Sarah to think he wasn’t going to answer. Was this some strange interrogation technique? He refused to talk until she spilled all of her secrets? If so, it was surprisingly effective. His silence made her want to open her mouth and let everything inside her head spill out. Quickly, she sealed her lips together. Sharing her thoughts with this cop would be dangerous—very, very dangerous.
He cleared his throat and she jumped. “It’s not strange. Not here, at least.” His voice was a bass rumble, not loud but big and full. It fit him.
“Oh.” Relief flowed through her when he finally spoke. For some reason, hearing his voice made her warm and brought that same not-quite-jittery feeling she’d experienced before. Not able to hold his gaze, she glanced down at his car. “I probably should’ve just stayed where I was, then. If it’s normal and all. Those antlers crashing together was just very…loud.”
There was another pause, although it wasn’t quite so long this time. “You were smart to move out of the way.”
“Good. I mean, thank you.” Silence settled over them again. “Why are you here, then?”
“We got a call that you were up here.” He met her gaze, and she couldn’t manage to look away. “I, ah, wanted to make sure you were okay.”
It wasn’t what she’d expected, and it wasn’t what she was used to. No one ever worried that she was okay. His concern sparked a warm glow in her belly. She smiled, and his gaze dropped to her mouth. “Thank you. I’m okay.”
His eyes snapped back to hers. “Good.” There was a short silence. “Do you need help down?”
“Yes, please.” She glanced at the ground below. Now that the scare was over, she wouldn’t feel right climbing onto the car, and it was a long drop for her five-foot-nothing self. “Just a hand down, though. Don’t call the fire department or anything. That could be embarrassing.”
His mouth quirked again. “I won’t.”
Moving over to the edge of the roof, he swung his legs off the side and lowered himself down. Once again, he made it look so effortless that Sarah felt a little silly for asking for help. She followed, turning onto her belly and letting her legs slide over the edge. His hands steadied her, sliding from her calves to her thighs and then gripping her waist. It was a strange sensation, his firm grip both comforting and slightly dizzying, and it made her pause.
“I’ve got you,” he said in his low, steady way, his fingers wrapped almost all the way around her middle.
It was crazy to trust this stranger—this cop—but Sarah couldn’t help herself. Just from their short conversation, her gut told her that he was nothing like Aaron or Logan or any of the petty, vicious people who had populated her previous life. Maybe he was conning her, but Sarah suspected he was honestly good.
Closing her eyes, she let go of the roof. Just as he’d promised, Otto carefully lowered her down. Even after her feet were securely on the ground and he’d released her, Sarah could still feel the warm impression of his hands pressing into her skin.
“Would you like a ride home?” he asked, and she realized that she’d been staring at him.
Ripping her gaze from his face, she glanced around. “I think I’ll finish my walk. It looks like the road is elk-free. They probably went to the diner for breakfast.”
That almost-smile came and went quickly, but it still gave Sarah a charge that she’d caused it. As she started to walk back toward Jules’s driveway, she expected to hear the squad car engine roar to life, but the morning stayed quiet. The wind had dropped to a gentle breeze, and the rising sun warmed her. When she reached the turnoff for her driveway, she couldn’t resist—she glanced behind her.
Otto was still parked by the carport. She wondered if he was watching to make sure that she made it home safely. The thought gave her a warm thrill, but she quickly quashed it. Monroe was just a temporary stop on her road to freedom. She needed to focus on building her new life, not on a Viking-lumberjack cop with steady blue eyes and huge, warm hands.
At the memory of his firm grip, another frisson of excitement whirled through her. This time, she let it stay. She’d enjoy it for a few moments, she promised herself, but then she would do her best to avoid Officer Otto Gunnersen. With a final glance at the surprisingly intriguing man behind her, she strode up the rutted dirt driveway, smiling.

 

Juliet Lyons' THAT KILLER SMILE Spotlight & Dating the Undead Giveaway

THERE WILL BE HEAT…
Vampire Catherine Adair gave up trying to find her perfect match ages ago. But that didn’t stop her from founding London’s super successful vampire dating site. When a smoldering vampire overlord from her past launches an interspecies speed-dating service, Catherine vows to crush the competition….

WHEN THESE TWO COMPETE
Ronin’s new venture is purely about getting Catherine’s attention. He hasn’t stopped thinking about her ever since the night she gave him the cold shoulder. Nobody gets away from Ronin McDermott that easily…

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iBooks 

JULIET LYONS is a paranormal romance author from the UK. She holds a degree in Spanish and Latin American studies and works part-time in a local primary school where she spends far too much time discussing Harry Potter. Since joining global storytelling site Wattpad in 2014, her work has received millions of hits online and gained a legion of fans from all over the world. When she is not writing, Juliet enjoys reading and spending time with her family.

Find Juliet Online:
Website      Facebook     Twitter    Wattpad.    Goodreads

For a few seconds, I’m lost for words. But as I stare between the bag on the floor and Ronin’s chiseled face, it all becomes clear.
“This is about you wanting me to owe you, isn’t it?” I hiss, fixing my gaze on his left ear. It’s a trick I learned from the last time we met. If I don’t look directly into his eyes, there’s less chance of being drawn into their swirling, blue depths.
He smiles, shaking his head. “You’re unbelievable, do you know that?”
“Pfffft,” I erupt. “I’m unbelievable? I’m not the one trying to tank my business by spreading rumors and launching a dating service. I’m not the one going out of his way to ensure our paths keep crossing in the worst possible ways.”
He frowns, displaying the first sign of irritation since I crashed into the room. “I’ve already told you, mo chridhe, it wasn’t me who started those rumors. And as for the speed dating, well, it was a free country last time I checked. I’m offering you the cash because the fella was injured in my club. Which means technically he’s my responsibility. If you don’t take the money now, I’ll have someone deliver it to his lawyer’s office later. I have their address now, after all.”
He waves the letter in the air like a victory flag.
“I’ll call them up,” I blurt out, voice quavering. “I’ll tell them you’re a madman and not to accept it. I’ll say it’s not your money at all, that you conned the life savings from some poor old man with dementia.”
Ronin arches a brow, tucking the letter into an inside pocket of his jacket. “That’s some novel you’re writing there, Catherine, but I doubt they would argue if I write them a Coutts check, do you?”
I’m all out of ammunition. “I loathe you.”
For a split second, his cocksureness wavers, the steely-blue eyes darkening. But only for a moment. “The problem isn’t me, Catherine,” he says, edging closer. “The problem is you.”
I straighten up. “That’s the most irritating thing about you, Ronin—you always think you know better than everybody else. I’m not sure whether it’s because you’ve been around longer than the rest of us or because you’re just a massive asshole. Either way, you don’t know the first thing about me.”
He flashes a cocky grin, raking his gaze over me as if he has X-ray vision. “You don’t loathe me, mo chridhe. You just can’t get over the fact you’re an uptight puritan who loved the kind of sex I gave you that night we spent together.”
I let out a high-pitched laugh. “That’s right, Ronin. Let’s not forget for one second that the world revolves around you and your penis. Actually, I’m surprised you’re even bothering to get dressed these days. I would have thought you’d have developed a penchant for silky, red pajamas and slippers by now.” I motion to the cigar on the carpet. “Looks like you’ve nailed the smoking part, and God knows the Playboy bunnies must be hiding around here somewhere.”
He scoffs. “Jealous?”
“Please, you’re not that good in bed.”
Except he is—or was. Better than good. But I can’t think about that right now. Or ever again, actually.
“Paulo was right about you,” he murmurs. “You are a mad bitch.”
I close the distance between us in a single stride and smack him across the cheek. It’s like hitting stone. He doesn’t so much as flinch. For some bizarre reason, this ignites a hot stab of lust in the pit of my stomach. His scent—a masculine blend of whiskey, leather, and woodsmoke—infiltrates my senses. I’m transported back to that night some years ago when we went at it like two wildcats in his bed.
I never wanted to come up for air.
I’m standing too close to use the ear trick. His eyes drag me in, two penetrating blue flames, dark with anger. I gulp, allowing my gaze to wander over his chiseled-from-rock cheekbones, rosy Celtic skin, copper hair slicked back from a noble forehead. He may be an ***, but there is no denying his beauty.
For what feels like an eternity, neither of us move. We remain locked onto each other, energy—good and bad—swirling between us like thick fog.
Quite without thinking, I hiss, “***.” After spending my human life afraid to speak, I never managed to rewire the connection between my brain and mouth.
His blue eyes flash. At once, his lips are on mine and his arms are around my waist. Instead of struggling, I mold myself into the hard contours of his body, my tongue sliding over his, my hands pulling him closer, and I hate myself—Lord, how I despise myself—for how good it feels. It’s as though he brings a magnifying glass up to all the base urges I long to forget, including this—an utterly ridiculous sexual attraction to a demon playboy who’s murdered God knows how many during his thousands of years on earth.
I don’t pull away. I can’t. He absorbs me like a drug. Before I can help myself, my fingers are tangled in his thick, red hair and I’m allowing his hands to cup my ass, grinding against the hard rope of an erection bulging beneath his trousers. We devour each other, eyes and mouths open, until I’m no longer sure where he begins and I end.
But then he takes his mouth from mine, trailing kisses from jawline to neck. Along with the rasp of stubble, I feel a scrape of fangs, sharp as knives, glide across my skin. I shove him away, panting slightly, averting my eyes to the lacquered walnut desk in the center of the room. If I don’t stop this now, I’ll end up sprawled across that table just like all the other women he’s had in here. The worst part is, I’d enjoy it.
“Consider the debt paid,” I say.

 

 

Giveaway
Enter to win a copy of the first book in Juliet Lyons’ Bite Nights series, Dating the Undead

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Rebecca Drake's JUST BETWEEN US Spotlight

About JUST BETWEEN US

Alison, Julie, Sarah, Heather. Four friends living the suburban ideal. Their jobs are steady, their kids are healthy. They’re as beautiful as their houses. But each of them has a dirty little secret, and hidden behind the veneer of their perfect lives is a crime and a mystery that will consume them all.  

Everything starts to unravel when Alison spots a nasty bruise on Heather’s wrist. She shares her suspicions with Julie and Sarah, compelling all three to investigate what looks like an increasingly violent marriage. As mysterious injuries and erratic behavior mount, Heather can no longer deny the abuse, but she refuses to leave her husband. Desperate to save her, Alison and the others dread the phone call telling them that she’s been killed. But when that call finally comes, it’s not Heather who’s dead. In a moment they’ll come to regret, the women must decide what lengths they’ll go to in order to help a friend. 

Just Between Us is a thrilling glimpse into the underbelly of suburbia, where not all neighbors can be trusted, and even the closest friends keep dangerous secrets. You never really know what goes on in another person’s mind, or in their marriage. 

About the Author

REBECCA DRAKE is the author of the novels Don’t Be AfraidThe Next KillingThe Dead Place, which was an IMBA bestseller, and Only Ever You, as well as the short story “Loaded,” which was featured in Pittsburgh Noir. A graduate of Penn State University and former journalist, she is currently an instructor in Seton Hill University’s Writing Popular Fiction M.F.A. program. Rebecca lives in Pittsburgh, PA, with her husband and two children.

 

Praise for JUST BETWEEN US

“A twisty, domestic thriller […] tense, bombshell-laden, and action-packed.” — Publisher’s Weekly

“Female friendships flourish, then falter, under the weight of chance events underlaid by secrecy and deceit […] Drake shows a sure hand in spinning suburban thrillers.” —Booklist 

“Fans of Liane Moriarty and B.A. Paris are going to love this twisty, diabolical suburban thriller. Clear your evening, you won’t be able to put it down.” — J.T. Ellison, New York Times bestselling author of Lie to Me

“Rebecca Drake’s Just Between Us is a stunner – a tense, twisty thriller about four ordinary women that begs the question: When a friend is in trouble, and all you want to do is help, how can everything go so terribly wrong?” — Karen Dionne, author The Marsh King’s Daughter

“Rebecca Drake’s Just Between Us is a riveting thriller that reveals the dark heart beating in the middle of American suburbia. Every character in this rich novel has a secret, and the secrets get deeper and darker as the pitch-perfect plot unfolds. This is a stunning story of friendship and the tangled lies that bind four women together. Don’t miss it!” — David Bell, author of Bring Her Home

Maria Vale's THE LAST WOLF with GIVEAWAY

Title: The Last Wolf

Author: Maria Vale

Series: The Legend of All Wolves #1

Pub Date: February 6, 2018

ISBN: 9781492661870

 

For three days out of thirty, when the moon is full and her law is iron, the Great North Pack must be wild.

If she returns to her Pack, the stranger will die.

But if she stays…

Silver Nilsdottir is at the bottom of her Pack’s social order, with little chance for a decent mate and a better life. Until the day a stranger stumbles into their territory, wounded and beaten, and Silver decides to risk everything on Tiberius Leveraux. But Tiberius isn’t all he seems, and in the fragile balance of the Pack and wild, he may tip the destiny of all wolves…

Buy Links:

Amazon | Books-A-Million | Barnes & Noble | Chapters | iBooks | Indiebound

 

GIVEAWAY

2 advance copies of The Last Wolf and 2 posters
a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

EXCERPT

In which Silver, in an act of mercy, kills her former shielder

The circle of wolves in the Clearing tightens around Ronan, and for the first time since my Dæling, I am deeply grateful that I am not Pack. I am just a guest and don’t have to be part of this.

But when I start to lope away, Ti doesn’t move. He doesn’t understand what is happening, so I nip at his pant leg. The Alphas of each echelon are taking up their positions at the front of the circle. Everyone wants this over with quickly.

Opening a passage for Charlie, John nudges Ronan’s father toward his son. In its mercy, Pack law allows First Blood to Ronan’s family, so that when the Pack eviscerates him, Ronan won’t feel anything. I plant my front paws and pull Ti harder, because I really don’t want to watch Charlie rip out his son’s throat.

Ti doesn’t move.

John nudges Charlie again, but Charlie just stares at Ronan, his head cocked, his mouth open. Then his eyes roll around the circle searching for help he won’t find, because to be on Pack land as an exile is bad enough, but the only response to an attack on a pup, is a Slitung, a flesh-tearing, and every wolf shows teeth. Charlie throws himself on the ground in front of John, his feet up in the air, his hips shimmying back and forth in a clownish show of submission.

John snaps at him.

Charlie follows our Alpha around, one ear up, the other down, his mouth open in a rabid leer, until with a quick look over his shoulder, John signals Tara to drag the broken wolf away from the Pack. Tara grabs his muzzle tight in her powerful jaws and drags him off mewling. I run beside him whimpering too, begging Charlie to come to his senses long enough to do this last kindness. He seems not to even see me, more interested in the furry thing following behind him. As soon as Tara lets him go, he starts to chase his tail, barking.

Tara turns her back on him with a growl and a dismissive kick of rain-sodden soil. She heads back to the Pack, which clears a path for her. As John’s Beta, Tara has a place of honor, but she also has a place of responsibility and is expected to be right up front for the Slitung. I stick to her slipstream and push through to the whimpering Ronan.

Rubbing my muzzle against his, I turn to John, my body down, my head between my paws. I’m not sure he will accept my claim to First Blood, but I have a better chance if I at least smell like the wolf who had been my schildere but who never wanted to be my mate.

Then John’s nose bumps against mine, telling me to get up. With a quick snap of his jaws, the Pack retreats, giving us room. John is a good wolf and a great Alpha and, if given a choice, will always choose mercy.

First Blood allows for one bite only, and if Ronan decides to fight me, I doubt I’ll be able to make the kill. But after everything that has happened, the once-upon-a-time Alpha of the 14th Echelon seems to understand that his luck is not going to change again.

He lies back with his chin stretched high, staring at the mountains and the pinpoints of stars and the real world, the world of men, that he so wanted to be a part of.

Opening my jaws wide, I gently take his throat between them. It’s what we do, and it means trust me. It means I see you at your most vulnerable.

I bite down fast and hard on the cartilage tube, giving it the same fatal break I would for a deer. Ronan struggles a little, and blood spurts into my mouth. I curl my tongue against the back of my throat, because I don’t want to swallow this blood. I don’t want to be nourished by this death.

The pulse of his blood slows, but I don’t lift my head until it stops.

Before I even stumble out of the way, the Pack surges forward, eager to be done with this particular bit of ritual butchery.

I race for Clear Pond, my paws sinking through the cold, thick mud and dying sedges until I am in deep. Pushing the air out of my lungs, I sink and stay down until my own throat is on the verge of collapse, and the blood that had already started to stiffen on my muzzle and chest and legs begins to melt away from my fur. Maybe there was so much that all of Clear Pond is tainted, but no matter how many gulps of water I take, my mouth still has the sharp, metallic tang of blood, and there’s something stuck in my teeth.

I start to change, and as soon as I’m finished, I pick at the thing with my fingers until it comes loose. I don’t look at it before throwing it into the weeds. I think the change was a mistake though, because in skin, I feel the intense cold of the schist on my naked body and the icy water running from my hair down my back and the taste of death in my mouth. I can’t stop shivering. I try to get wild again, but my muscles are spasming so hard that I can’t. I lurch up on all fours and then to my legs and stumble only a few steps before collapsing again, my head on my knees.

A warm coat that smells like angelica and green corn and the earth before a storm settles around my shoulders. “Put it on,” says that quiet voice, and Ti lifts me, guiding my arms into the sleeves, and then pulls me close to his even-warmer body. He says nothing, just holds me tight, letting me shiver against him.

“I killed him,” I finally stutter.

He lifts my sodden hair out from under the collar of the coat.

“Yes, you did. And if you hadn’t, he would have died in pain and the whole Pack would have had the burden of it. Now only you do.”

Ti doesn’t say that I wasn’t responsible or that I shouldn’t feel guilty, but rather that it’s a burden worth carrying and one that I’m strong enough to bear. His faith calms me in a way that no amount of coddling ever could.

It’s one of the things I love about him….

“I can’t get the taste of blood out of my mouth.”

He doesn’t respond. I guess he didn’t hear, or knowing him, he did hear, but doesn’t think there’s any point in responding. It doesn’t matter. I settle my head back on his chest and listen to his heartbeat.

Did I say love?

He frees one arm and lifts my chin. It’s dark for my poor human senses, but he’s not like me and the nearly full moon lights up the green glow of the lucidum in his eyes.

He hesitates, his lips hovering above mine, like a boy nervously contemplating his first kiss. But I know what he’s hiding, and I stretch up as high as I can and wrap my arm around his neck, feeling the shape of his skull under the roughness of his cropped hair. I feel his mouth against mine, firm and ripe and warm and still closed.

Nuzzling the seam of his mouth, I catch his lower lip gently between my fangs, pulling him closer. I know you, Tiberius. I know the wildness that you’ve always hidden there, but I am not human and I want the untamed, inhuman sharpness of your mouth.

I let go and lick my lip before gently circling his, my breath feathering his sensitive skin.

Finally, his lips open softly and I seal my mouth around his, because this is his first kiss and mine too, and I am his shielder in all things.

Maria Vale is a journalist who has worked for Publishers Weekly,

Glamour magazine, Redbook, the Philadelphia Inquirer. She is a logophile and a bibliovore and a worrier about the world. Trained as a medievalist, she tries to shoehorn the language of Beowulf into things that don’t really need it. She currently lives in New York with her husband, two sons and a long line of dead plants. No one will let her have a pet. Visit her at https://www.mariavale.com/.

Jana Lane Speaks ~ New Porcelain Doll audiobook

JANA LANE SPEAKS

by Joe Cosentino

author of PORCELAIN DOLL, a Jana Lane mystery, published by Wild Rose Press

audiobook performed by Derick Snow

 

As a writer, I hear each of my characters in my head. They talk to me as well as to each other. I know that sounds odd, but ask any writer, and you’ll hear the same thing (no pun intended). So, when it comes time for my novels to be made into audiobooks, I’m always nervous about the performer. Will he/she be able to fully embody each of my characters? Will my characters sound as I had always imagined them? Will the performer’s words bring the listener to my exotic locations, and also to the heart of the novel and characters? Will the performer connect with my sense of humor, flair for the dramatic, plot twists and turns, and expertly handle the shocking twist ending of the story?

That was my dilemma when I set about finding the perfect performers for the audiobook versions of my popular Jana Lane mystery novels. If you aren’t a Jana Lane fan (and you should be!), Jana Lane was the biggest child movie star ever until she was attacked on the studio lot at eighteen years old. In PAPER DOLL, Jana at thirty-eight lives with her family in a mansion in picturesque Hudson Valley, New York. Her flashbacks from the past become murder attempts in her future. Jana ventures back to Hollywood, which helps her uncover a web of secrets about everyone she loves and solve a murder. I was incredibly fortunate to find Charissa Clark Howe, a gifted actress, to beautifully perform the audiobook of PAPER DOLL.

In the second novel, PORCELAIN DOLL, Jana makes a comeback film and uncovers who is being murdered on the set and why. Her heart is set aflutter by her incredibly gorgeous romantic co-star, America’s heartthrob Jason Adonis. The other suspects include Jana’s James Dean type young co-star, her older John Wayne type co-star, her children’s Eve Harrington type nanny, the film’s gossipy makeup and hair artist, a local reverend trying to stop the film’s production, and Jason’s agent. For the new audiobook, I hit the jackpot with Derick Snow, an actor with a great deal of murder mystery acting experience. He not only connected with the mystery, humor, and mood of the novel, but also beautifully created the multitude of captivating and entertaining characters in Jana’s life in book two. Wouldn’t you know it? His versions of the characters sounded just like the voices in my head! Derick’s dramatic voice, crisp diction, and emotional availability perfectly bring the characters and story to life. His intensity is perfect for the many plot twists and turns, dropped clues and red herrings, sweet romance, and shocking yet gratifying ending.

You’ll love these two audiobooks. If you can’t wait to hear the next three novels in the series, SATIN DOLL, CHINA DOLL, and RAG DOLL are available as e-books and paperbacks now.

So, grab your popcorn and take your front row seat. Listen to the Jana Lane mystery, PORCELAIN DOLL, performed by the wonderful Derick Snow. Lights up! Action on mystery, humor, romance, and lots of surprises!

PORCELAIN DOLL, a Jana Lane mystery by Joe Cosentino

published by The Wild Rose Press

http://myBook.to/PorcelainDoll

Audible

Is art imitating life in 1982? Jana Lane, ex-child star, is doing a comeback film about murder. When a crew member is killed on the set, it looks like Jana could be next. Thickening the plot is Jana’s breathtakingly handsome and muscular leading man, Jason Apollo, whose boyish, southern charms have aroused Jana’s interest on screen and off. Will Jana and Jason stop the murderer before the final reel, or end up on the cutting room floor in this fast-paced whodunit with a shocking ending?

Praise for PORCELAIN DOLL, a Jana Lane mystery:

“Suspenseful and mysterious, Porcelain Doll is a masterful creation, one that was impossible not to be affected by.” Carol Fenton, BooksLaidBare Reviews

“Every page fills the readers with intrigue..Edge of your seat mystery that lures readers instantly…Once you read it, you can’t put it down.” Urban Book Reviews

Porcelain Doll hooks from the start with characters behaving badly, all of whom have life-changing secrets…The story includes a nice arc, well-developed characters, and a few unexpected surprises.” InD’tale Magazine

“What a delight! A fun mystery that takes place in the 1980s with a range of engaging characters and a strong heroine….Jana is the perfect heroine for a mystery….A must-read for mystery lovers! Porcelain Doll is charming with a great insight to the rise and fall of stardom, and with a twist at the end I honestly didn’t see coming.” Readers’ Favorite

Bestselling author Joe Cosentino won Divine Magazine’s awards for best mystery novel, best humorous novel, and best contemporary novel of 2015. He is the author of the Jana Lane mysteries: Paper Doll, Porcelain Doll, Satin Doll, China Doll and Rag Doll (The Wild Rose Press); the Nicky and Noah mysteries: Drama Queen, Drama Muscle, Drama Cruise (Lethe Press), Drama Luau, Drama Detective; the Cozzi Cove beach series: Cozzi Cove: Bouncing Back, Cozzi Cove: Moving Forward, Cozzi Cove: Stepping Out, Cozzi Cove: New Beginnings (NineStar Press); and the romance novellas: In My Heart/An Infatuation & A Shooting Star, the Bobby and Paolo Holiday Stories: A Home for the Holidays and The Perfect Gift, and The Naked Prince and Other Tales from Fairyland (Dreamspinner Press). As an actor, he has appeared in principal roles in film, television, and theatre opposite stars such as Bruce Willis, Rosie O’Donnell, Nathan Lane, Holland Taylor, and Jason Robards. Joe is currently Head of the Department/Professor at a college in upstate New York, and is happily married.

Visit Joe

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Goodreads 

Amazon

 

THE WIFE BETWEEN US

THE WIFE BETWEEN US

When you read this book, you will make many assumptions.
You will assume you are reading about a jealous ex-wife.
You will assume she is obsessed with her replacement – a beautiful, younger woman who is about to marry the man they both love.
You will assume you know the anatomy of this tangled love triangle.
Assume nothing.

Twisted and deliciously chilling, The Wife Between Us exposes the secret complexities of an enviable marriage – and the dangerous truths we ignore in the name of love.

Read between the lies. (synopsis from Amazon)

Enjoy the teaser!  🙂

Meet the authors:

Cate Beauman's 1st standalone: SECRETS HIDDEN IN THE GLASS

 
Bestselling author Cate Beauman is back with her 12th full length novel and her first stand-alone title: Secrets Hidden In the Glass.
 
Her multi award-winning Bodyguards of L.A. County series has over 500,000 copies sold and a 4.4 rating with 8000+ reviews.
 
Buy It Now!
 
Amazon | Kobo | Nook | iBooks
 

 Stained glass artist Callie Davis is in desperate need of a vacation. Burnt out and on the edge of a nervous breakdown, she’s fleeing the pressures of her career and is taking refuge on Massachusetts’ tiny Carter Island. Callie yearns for long, lazy days and pretty walks on the beach—blessed solitude and an escape from the complications of her life. Then she bumps into gorgeous Nate Carter and everything changes. 

Sheriff Nathan Carter couldn’t be happier now that the height of the summer season has finally come and gone. After four endless months, tourists have packed their bags and headed for the mainland. The quiet days of autumn are about to befall the town—the way Nate and his fellow Sandersonians like it best.  

But nothing ends up quite the way Nate expects when he meets the beautiful blonde with the big blue eyes. Callie’s pretty smiles hide secrets—deep, dark mysteries that could cost them both their lives if they continue digging into the past and cross a killer’s path.

 
 
The Inspiration Behind Secrets Hidden In The Glass:
I always find the process of writing fascinating—imagining words and thoughts into subsistence that had once only existed in my head. Oftentimes, the undertaking is daunting. Months of research, careful plotting, planning, character development, and revising go into every page. There are many moments of doubt and worry. On occasion, there’s even a triumph or two. But finally, you type The End and you realize you’ve created a miracle of sorts—a story to share with your eager readers who are always waiting for what’s next. 
I had such fun telling Nate and Callie’s adventure. There was something extra enjoyable about bringing Sanderson, Massachusetts to life—the fictitious, tiny town on the equally made-up Carter Island. Imagine dreaming up a beachy setting that gets to be exactly what you want it to be. Add a group of intriguing (and on occasion quirky) characters. Throw plenty of steamy romance and several sprinkles of mystery and suspense into the mix and you’ve got yourself one heck of a good time. 
I hope you’ll enjoy Secrets Hidden In The Glass as much as I enjoyed telling it.
 
 
A Winner Dinner – Any Time Of The Year!
Oh, how I love to cook and bake. When I find recipes that are delicious and nutritious, that’s even better! Oftentimes, life is hectic in my house. Kids and dogs and deadlines are always at the forefront, so when I’m able to put a tasty, healthy, and time-saving meal on the table, I feel quite accomplished.
 
Secrets Hidden In The Glass takes place on fictitious Carter Island, where fresh Atlantic seafood is available for sale straight off the boats. I thought it would be fun to find a yummy little something that Nate Carter and Callie Davis might cook up together. These salmon cakes are worth a mention—and you can eat them any time of the year. Salmon cakes with corn on the cob and a fresh garden salad in the summer or salmon cakes with mashed potatoes or brown rice and steamed broccoli in the winter. Truly, you can’t go wrong! I’ve made a couple of simple tweaks to Self Proclaimed Foodie’s interpretation of sinful salmon. I hope you’ll enjoy these as much as my family and I do. 
 
 
Salmon Patties
(Makes 4)
 
2 6-oz cans salmon (I prefer Wild Planet because the fish is sustainably caught and it’s boneless and skinless.)
1 egg
3 green onions, minced  
½ cup plain whole wheat bread crumbs (can use regular bread crumbs or panko bread crumbs)
½ cup grated parmesan
½ lime, juiced
Olive oil to coat the pan 
 
  1. Drain the salmon and put the meat in a medium size bowl. Add the egg, green onions, bread crumbs, parmesan, and lime juice. Stir well, then form the mixture into patties that are no more than one inch thick.
  2. Heat a large skillet over medium high heat, adding olive oil then patties when the oil is hot enough to sizzle a bread crumb that is thrown into the pan. Cook until golden brown (about 4-5 minutes on each side). 
Serve warm or cold. (These are great to prepare on a Sunday night and pack for lunch on Monday, along with a salad).
 

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Read an excerpt from Secrets Hidden In The Glass:
 
Chapter 1:
 
Callie stood next to the grease-smudged door, sucking her thumb and clutching Emily Dolly close in the crook of her arm. Tinny music played through cheap speakers as she stared at the big man sitting in a booth across the room, snoring with his chin touching his chest while the food on his plate went cold. Glancing around at empty tables and chairs, Callie recognized that she was in a restaurant. Mommy took her out to eat sometimes, but she’d never been to this place before. She flinched and her gaze flew to a set of metallic doors when a woman with bold red hair pushed them open and walked from the kitchen. 
The woman stopped abruptly and rolled her eyes as she looked toward the man, who sounded like a pig. “Good grief, I need to get off this midnight shift.” The woman shook her head, grabbing a washcloth from a bucket, then wiped down the long counter top. Her dangling hoop earrings caught in the light while she hummed along with the radio and wiggled her hips in the pink skirt she wore. After tossing the cloth back into the bucket, she picked up a stack of menus and turned, gasping when she made eye contact with Callie. “Dear God in heaven,” she said as her free hand flew to her chest. “You scared me half to death.” 
Callie gripped Emily Dolly tighter and stepped back, bumping into the cool glass. 
The woman frowned as her gaze tracked around the room. She set the menus on a table, walked over, and crouched down in front of Callie. “Sweetie, are you alone?”
Callie tried to move farther away but there was nowhere left to go. 
“You don’t have to be afraid of me.” She smiled and stroked her fingers down a lock of Callie’s long blond hair. “I work here.”  
Callie stared into the woman’s green eyes while her stomach twisted and turned and felt yucky.
“Let’s see if I can find your mommy.” The woman gained her feet and walked down a short hallway, opening a door. “Hello?” She moved a few steps and turned another doorknob, doing the same thing. “Hello?” 
The woman came back and pushed through the door Callie stood by, letting in the sounds of the cars driving by as she walked off into the dark. Moments later, she came back inside, hurrying over to the man in the corner, shoving on his arm. “Hey.” She did it again. “Hey, you.”
The man snorted as his eyes flew open. “Jeez, lady. What the hell?”
“Is that your little girl?” The waitress pointed in Callie’s direction.
The man turned his head, looking at Callie. “No, that’s not my little girl.”
The woman’s hand ended up on her hip. “Did you see her come in with anyone?”
He stared at Callie a second longer and shook his head. “I’m seeing her for the first time right now.” 
“Well, where did she come from?”
He shrugged. “Beats me.”
The waitress walked back to Callie, crouched down again, and sent her another warm smile. “Can you talk?”
Callie nodded.
“What’s your name, pretty girl?”
She took her thumb out of her mouth. “Callie.”
“Do you know how old you are?”
She nodded again. 
“How old?”
“Four.”
“Where’s your mommy, sweetie?”
Callie’s breath shuddered in and out when her tummy felt yucky all over again. “I don’t know.”
“How did you get here?”
She blinked rapidly and tears trailed down her cheeks. “I don’t know.”
“Oh, good heavens.” The woman picked her up and hugged her close. “Everything’s going to be all right.” She walked toward the metallic doors and pushed her way into the big kitchen. “Earl, call the police. I think we have an abandoned child on our hands.”
 
 
Did you enjoy the excerpt?  You can read the first chapter on my website, www.catebeauman.com, or you can finish the whole book with the links below! 
 
 
About the author:
 

 International bestselling author Cate Beauman is known for her full-length, action-packed romantic suspense series, The Bodyguards of L.A. County. Her novels have been nominated for the National Excellence in Romance Fiction Award, National Indie Excellence Award, Golden Quill Award, Writers Touch Award, Aspen Gold Award, Heart of Excellence Award, and have been named Readers Favorite Five Star books. In 2017 FINDING LYLA was chosen as the Booksellers Best Award Winner, the Maggie Award For Excellence, and received the Holt Medallion Award. REAGAN’S REDEMPTION and ANSWERS FOR JULIE were selected as rare co-winners of the Aspen Gold Award in 2016. JUSTICE FOR ABBY received the 2015 Readers’ Favorite International Book Award Gold Medal, while SAVING SOPHIE took the Silver Medal. SAVING SOPHIE was also selected as the 2015 Readers Crown Award winner for Romantic Suspense and FALLING FOR SARAH received the silver medal for the 2014 Readers’ Favorite Awards.

 

Cate makes her home in North Carolina with her husband, two boys, and their St. Bernards, Bear and Jack.

 
 
 
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For a limited time: new subscribers will receive a free copy of Morgan’s Hunter and Falling For Sarah, books one and two in the Bodyguards of L.A. County Series!
 
 
 
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HEART ON FIRE Final installment in the Kingmaker Chronicles & GIVEAWAY!

 

Readers of The Kingmaker Chronicles are already well-acquainted with Griffin, but never before have we had the chance to see the world of Thalyria—and Cat—through his eyes. In anticipation of the final installment of the series, Heart on Fire, Amanda Bouchet has written this companion piece from Griffin’s POV!

So, get comfy and dig in!

What Happened in Velos Stays in Velos…
by Amanda Bouchet

Griffin watched Cat figure out their location from only architectural clues and the fact that there was a nearby forest. The way she put things together using a knowledge base most people didn’t possess amazed him.
“How do you know so much about Velos?” he asked, curious. “The circus travels a route farther to the west.”
“I’ve met people, heard things,” she answered with a small shrug.
Annoyance ground against his earlier admiration. Cat knew the truth—always—and yet she lied to him constantly. He could see it in her face, knew when she was hiding something. He wanted what was best for Sinta. Griffin was convinced that Cat did, too, but for them to start making changes happen, he had to break through her animosity first. Sometimes, he saw flashes of something else in her when she forgot to guard her expression, something that made his chest clench. Maybe there was still hope.
“Help me, Cat,” he said, trying not to sound like he was begging. Weakness wouldn’t go over well with her. She responded negatively to force—that much was clear—but she respected strength. “Or at least tell me the truth. I know when you’re lying.”
“Oh?” She looked like her last meal was abruptly curdling in her stomach.
“Your eyes get twitchy.”
“My eyes do not get twitchy!” she spat back, clearly horrified.
Did she really not know? She had so many tells, but he almost felt like he was alone in seeing them. No one else seemed to notice every nuance of her breath and skin.
“This one gets narrower.” Griffin lightly touched the tip of his finger to the corner of her right eye. Cat jolted at the contact. He wasn’t sure if that brought him satisfaction or regret. Maybe it was some of both. He couldn’t figure out a lot of things when it came to Cat, but he knew his own heart and body. They didn’t lie to him. He cared about her deeply; he wanted her madly.
“It’s as if you’re expecting the lie to hurt, but it doesn’t because it’s your own,” he explained.
Still looking like there was a sour grape in her mouth, she leaned away from him and started walking again. “Thank you for telling me. I’ll have to work on that,” she said through clenched teeth.
“Cat…” he growled, stalking after her. “Everything would be so much easier if—”
“—you let me go.”
Griffin shook his head. “I can’t. You’re too valuable.”
“Aren’t you the lucky despot? The one who caught the Kingmaker. Forgive me for not being overjoyed about becoming your slave.”
“Not a slave.” Impulsively, he reached out and grabbed her arm, swinging her back to him. “One of us.”
Cat wrenched out of his hold, looking more than incredulous. She looked furious, her mesmerizing green eyes practically on fire.
Gods, he wanted to shake her. Kiss her. Make her believe him. It should have been obvious to her of all people that he was telling the truth.
Once again, the fact that he’d dragged her unwillingly from her home punched Griffin in the stomach, making his gut twist. What in the bloody Underworld had he been thinking? His logic and reason had seemed to melt in the heat between them and then abandon him entirely when they’d really begun interacting. In the end, he’d just known she had to be with him. They had to be together.
He inwardly grimaced. As far as choices went about how to make that happen, though, there were undoubtedly better ones. And now he was paying. Cat was making sure of it—as she should.
“I’ll never be one of you,” she bit out with enough conviction to almost convince him.
Almost.
Griffin dragged a hand through his hair, tugging it back. “You’re too stubborn for your own good.”
She glared at him. She was something fierce.
Emotion tore through his chest. Would she ever forgive him?
The five of them—Beta Team, Cat, and him—eventually reached the market rows, and Griffin pulled four silver coins from his money pouch.
Flynn’s eyes brightened as he rubbed his hands together. “Payday!”
Flynn, Carver, and Kato each took the coin Griffin owed them, leaving one in the palm of his hand.
“Cat.” Griffin extended the coin to her, an uncomfortable hesitancy making his heart pound. “Your pay.”
As he expected, Cat refused the money. He wouldn’t push her. He wasn’t out to prove she was part of their team with one gesture. It was a long-term effort, one that meant a great deal to him.
He put the coin away. “I’ll hold it for you. I know what you want. You complain about it often enough.”
She looked up sharply, and then her eyes narrowed. Did she like it when he teased her?
Cat moved along next to him while he bought her some fruit he thought she would like as well as some bread and cheese. Not goat cheese. He knew better than that. Griffin tried to keep the rope from pulling taut, but it wasn’t always easy. He hated to remind her it was there. Not that she ever forgot. He just didn’t want to make things worse between them.
He located a soap seller next and tried to find something nice-smelling to replace Cat’s shrinking bar. He’d been using hers, and there wasn’t much left.
The turn of his thoughts reminded him of bathing so close to her, only a few feet apart. Gods, he wished he could see her. Just a glimpse. Just the slope of her bare shoulder while her hair was slicked back and water slid down the column of her throat…
Taking a deep breath, Griffin tried to control the jagged, unsatisfied heat prowling through him like a caged beast.
Cat rolled her eyes. “You’re worse than a woman. Just take the yellow one. It’s always the best.”
He reached for a block of bright-yellow soap, picked it up, and sniffed. “Lemon.” He closed his eyes and inhaled again, imagining breathing against Cat’s smooth skin. “Smells like you.”
“And you,” she shot back, her color rising. “My soap should have lasted another month.”
Ignoring the bite in her tone and doing his best to redirect his blood to his brain, Griffin handed over payment to the vendor. “We’ll take two,” he said in a voice like gravel.
“There is no we,” Cat muttered irritably as they continued down the row of market stalls. “Don’t act like I have a say in any of this.”
Now that wasn’t true. Griffin turned, frustrated again. Yes, he’d willingly pay for his highhanded stupidity. He’d pay forever if it kept Cat with him, but short of letting her go just to watch her walk away from him, from Sinta, and from everything they could accomplish together, he’d give her anything she asked for. And she damn well knew it.
“You could have a say,” he growled at her. “And you could bloody well choose your own soap!”
“I did! I told you to take the yellow one.”
“And I did!” Cursing under his breath, Griffin stalked toward the next vendor, somehow forgetting about the magic rope. The bloody thing pulled taut, and he accidentally jerked Cat right into someone who suddenly stumbled in from the side. The man looked innocuous enough, but off-balance and dazed. High from some spell, no doubt.
Griffin was about to intervene when Cat gasped and reached out to the stranger with a visible shudder. Her face lit up as she grabbed the man’s shoulders and pulled him even closer.
Griffin scowled. What in the Underworld was she up to now?
***
“Cat?” Griffin stepped closer to her. “Cat! What are you doing?”
Laughing, she finally released the stunned-looking man. She turned and stumbled straight into Griffin, sucking in a sharp breath when he caught her bare arms to steady her. Her eyes flared, then softened.
“You’re pink!” She giggled, the sound seeming strange and unnatural coming from her.
Griffin frowned, which apparently made her laugh harder. Her eyes unfocused, Cat splayed her hand over his chest. He thought it was for balance. She probably wouldn’t have touched him otherwise. He still reveled in the warm, light weight of her fingers. He’d longed to have her hands on him.
Cat stared at his chest. She seemed fascinated. She slowed her breathing to match his.
“Poseidon’s balls! What in the Underworld did you do to me?” The man who’d stumbled into Cat didn’t look dazed anymore; he looked infuriated.
Cat blinked. She blinked again, tilting her head to one side. She stayed right next to Griffin, her hand still on his chest.
The man staggered, fighting tremors and hiccupping down a series of short, disjointed breaths. His overly lean, unhealthy frame spoke of dependence and bad choices. Griffin tensed in case the addict got any stupid ideas about accosting Cat—who had clearly done something to him with her magic.
“That dose was supposed to last all day!” the man snarled. “I paid good silver for it. Give it back!” He lunged at Cat.
Griffin wrapped his arm around Cat’s waist and swept her out of the man’s path. The addict howled, and she laughed, leaning into Griffin in a way that warmed his entire side. Enraged, the addict drew a knife and waved it in Cat’s direction, a crazed light sparking in his already frantic eyes.
No one threatened Cat. Griffin shot out his hand and knocked the knife from the other man’s grip. It wasn’t hard; the addict already shook. He had no intention of stopping there. He leapt forward and wrapped his hand around the man’s throat. He held on to Cat as well. There was no way he was letting her go.
Her gaze bright, almost rapt, Cat stared fixedly at Griffin’s arm until he tossed the man to the ground. Kato, Flynn, and Carver formed a perimeter, keeping everyone else away and the addict in. Cat clapped and smiled, wiggling in apparent delight.
“Dose of what?” Griffin demanded in a hard voice. He needed to know what was wrong with her, and he needed to know now.
Cat shivered, and he couldn’t help gripping her tighter. He was self-aware enough to know he didn’t pull her closer solely for her protection.
Banking on sheer intimidation as the best way to handle the addict, Griffin drew a knife and threw it with precision, sticking it a mere inch from the man’s ear. “The next one lands somewhere that hurts,” he snarled.
The addict paled, his mouth going slack as his eyes darted to the blade next to his face.
“Brutal,” Cat commented. She didn’t sound averse.
Griffin glanced at her. “No one touches you.”
She bit her lower lip, looking adorably confused. “You’re touching me.”
Griffin’s eyes fixed on her mouth. “I’m the exception.”
She seemed to stop breathing, to maybe even like what she heard. Hope jerked in his chest. Smiling, Cat swayed toward him, and his fingers tightened on her hip. It took an almost herculean effort to resist hauling her up against him and kissing her like he’d wanted to since the moment he’d first laid eyes on her, weeks ago.
Griffin briefly closed his eyes. Cat wasn’t herself, and he wouldn’t take advantage of her.
Focusing on the addict again, he ground out, “I’m waiting.”
Cat turned back to the man at their feet as well and pointed her finger. “Answer or die!”
She did menace with absolute believability, and the man’s face went cloud-white. Cat burst out laughing.
“Euphoria,” he finally answered, pushing himself up to sitting. “Paid five silvers for it, and the little leech stole it with one touch.”
The addict spat at Cat, and a low growl rumbled in Griffin’s throat. He wasn’t in the habit of beating on people weaker than himself, but right then, he was sorely tempted.
“You bumped into me,” Cat announced, although she didn’t look entirely certain. She peeled Griffin’s arm off her waist and then stumbled away, unsteady on her feet.
The rope snapped tight, and she swayed. Following her, Griffin put his hand on her lower back to steady her, and the slight, momentary hitch in Cat’s stride was the only indication that she’d felt him behind her. She ignored him otherwise.
“What about the addict?” Carver asked, handing Griffin back his knife.
“Leave him.” Griffin stayed close to Cat as he sheathed the blade. “Make sure he’s not following.”
Cat hummed as she walked, almost dancing. Without her usual dark cloud of cynicism and understandable fury in place, there was a brightness to her that riveted him. Griffin wanted to enjoy it, enjoy her, but he was too worried about what she’d done to herself—and how it would end. Highs inevitably came with lows.
She stumbled, dizzy and distracted, and he easily caught her around the waist. Gods, he loved the feel of this woman in his hands. He wanted her under him. Over him. Everywhere.
“You’re high on euphoria.” He slid his hands up her ribcage to better balance her as she swayed. “A strong dose, calibrated to a man twice your size.” Their eyes met, and Griffin felt her soft, dreamy gaze straight down to his groin. “How did that happen?”
Cat beckoned, and he lowered his head. Their faces brushed, and he wished he could turn and capture her lips with his. It was torture to hold back, especially when Cat pressed into him, seeming to enjoy the contact.
“I can steal magic,” she told him in a conspiratorial whisper. “If you had any, I’d steal yours.”
Griffin kept a steady expression, even though her words shocked him. He’d never heard of that. He’d known Cat was valuable, powerful, but good Gods, was there nothing she couldn’t do?
Without his immunity to harmful magic, he could never hold on to a Magoi like Cat—magic rope or not. Although the rope certainly helped.
Helped keep her, he thought grimly. It didn’t help their relationship.
Her sudden smile nearly winded him.
“I can give it away, too.” Cat laid her hands on his chest and then shuddered. She frowned, seeming baffled.
“You don’t want any?” She pushed on his chest again before dropping her hands. “There’s something very strange about you.”
The realization appeared to delight her. Laughter bubbled up straight from her belly. Griffin felt his own mouth twitch.
Her amusement cut off abruptly, and she scooted out of his arms, reaching for Kato. Kato’s eyes glazed over the instant she touched him. He grinned like a fool.
“Everything’s pink!” Kato turned, lost his balance, and knocked over an entire table of leather goods.
“For the Gods’ sakes!” Griffin muttered. Now there were two of them.
The irate vendor started grumbling curses, so Griffin handed over some money. Nothing was broken, and the silver coin would more than pay for the mess.
He turned to someone who still had his wits intact. “Flynn! Take care of him. Take him back to the inn. Make sure he doesn’t do anything stupid or kill anyone by accident.”
“Oh, no!” Cat sang out in a loud voice. “We mustn’t kill by accident. Only on purpose.”
“My sentiment exactly.” Griffin gripped her hand and led her away from the growing crowd of staring people.
Cat giggled. Carver kept pace behind them.
“Where are we going?” Cat asked, starting to dance in circles around him. Griffin turned as well to keep the rope from tangling—not that he’d mind if it drew her right up against him.
Her hands suddenly flew up, and she started almost frantically taking apart her braid.
“We have one more thing to buy,” Griffin answered, wondering if he should help her with whatever she was doing.
“I knew it!” She seemed to forget about her now-disheveled hair and clapped, beaming. “What?”
“A drying cloth.”
Her face fell. Griffin knew a drying cloth wasn’t very exciting, but she needed one, so there was that.
Cat’s head swiveled around, and she walked off to the right, taking Griffin with her.
Her expression brightened once more. “A sword! I want a sword. Can I have a sword?”
The way her eyes glittered when she looked up at him punched a hole of happiness straight through his ribs. Right then, he knew he could deny her nothing—except the freedom she wanted most.
“You can’t even lift a sword.” He followed her toward the table of blades anyway. Maybe the vendor had something small.
“I can. Watch me.” She reached for a huge monstrosity of a weapon. It looked big, even to Griffin’s eyes.
“That’s odd. Someone must have glued it.” She bent over the sword for a closer look and ended up hitting her face on it.
Griffin’s heart spasmed. Was she hurt?
“Ow!” Cat popped up, rubbing her nose and nearly falling over backward. His hand shot out to steady her, but this time, she didn’t need him.
She frowned ferociously at the blood on her fingers, but Griffin breathed a sigh of relief. The cut was a small thing.
Cat eventually shrugged and then wiped the red smudge from her hand, laughing again. The euphoria must still have been strong in her system.
Brushing flyaway hair out of her face, Griffin leaned in for a closer look. The nick had already stopped bleeding.
In a move that startled him, Cat’s hands shot up and gripped his face back. Griffin’s heart stopped dead in his chest. She held on, her grasp tight at first. Then it loosened, and she trailed her fingertips down his cheeks.
Heat rushed through him. He wished he’d shaved for her. He didn’t dare breathe.
“Hmmm.” Her eyelids seemed to grow heavy, her lashing dipping to shade her beautiful eyes. “Scratchy.”
Griffin swallowed hard. Cat was touching him, and circumstances made it so that he couldn’t reciprocate.
He captured her hands in his and slowly lowered them. He couldn’t help the light caress he gave her knuckles. He didn’t do it consciously.
“The cut’s nothing.” Hardly recognizing his own voice, he released her. If he’d held on to her much longer, his skin would have caught fire.
With what felt like an Olympian effort, Griffin turned away from Cat and nodded to a small blade at the end of the table. The merchant handed it over, and he tested it, only partially to distract himself. If it wasn’t a quality blade, it wasn’t for Cat.
The sword turned out to be sturdy, well-crafted, and straight. “We’ll take it,” he announced. “And your smallest sword belt with dagger loops.”
Cat looked thrilled, and Griffin felt his chest expand.
“You’re buying me a sword? And a belt for my knives?” Grinning, she astonished him by leaping on him.
Griffin caught her as her arms and legs clamped around him. His heart thudded hard, his lungs seized, and his whole body ignited. She felt painfully perfect in his arms.
Unable to resist, he angled his head toward her and inhaled deeply. Cat smelled like frosted lemons—fresh and tangy, with a hint of acidity. He loved her bite. He was fairly certain he loved her.
As he breathed her in, his chest pressed against hers. The contact was exhilarating. His long, slow exhale shuddered over her neck, and Cat shivered in his arms.
Breathy laughter fluttered against his ear. “Ack! That tickles!”
A strained chuckle was Griffin’s only response.
He forced himself to unlock his greedy arms from around her and set her back on her feet. He knew Cat—an undrugged Cat—wouldn’t want to be in his embrace.
Staying close to him of her own accord, she smiled up at him in a way she never had before, like she meant it, rather than like she wanted to chew him up, spit him out, and then stomp on him until he was good and bloody.
Was this how things between them could be if she trusted him? If he’d convinced her that night at the circus fair instead of capturing her?
The thought made his chest ache, and Griffin cleared his throat, chasing out regret and need with a gruff sound. He’d figure out a way to win her over. He had to.
“The sword’s really for me?” Cat asked.
He hadn’t fully let her go since she hadn’t stepped back, and his fingers pressed lightly into her sides. “You said you wanted one.”
Cat’s smile grew brilliant. “In that case, I want two! One for each hip.”
He chuckled in spite of everything, imagining it all too well. The problem was, Cat was dangerous enough already.
“Let’s start with one,” he answered, drawing her a fraction closer.
Her breath caught, and it was agony not to lower his head and kiss her.
To avoid temptation, Griffin turned and paid for the sword.
Cat hopped along next to him when he began walking again. “Can I have it? Can I? Can I, please?”
“No.”
“Why not?”
“You can have it when I can trust you.”
She nodded. “Okay.”
“Okay?” Griffin’s eyebrows flew up in surprise. “That’s it?”
“What’s it?” She flapped her hands, swatting at something. “Did you see that?”
He frowned. “See what?”
“The bee. The Centaur bee. The pink one.”
Glancing briefly toward Olympus for guidance—and to keep from laughing—Griffin took Cat’s hand and led her through the market. It would have been easier if she hadn’t been dancing—not that he would ever stop her.
When she looked up at him again, the joy in her eyes almost blinded him. “Thank you.”
Her simple words punched the air from his lungs. “You’re welcome,” he answered gruffly.
“Not you,” she declared in an exasperated tone.
Griffin was content to not comment and watch her dance some more. She stumbled over Carver’s feet. Quick, as always, his brother helped her back up before he could reach for her, and Griffin’s hands clenched with the need to steady her himself.
In thanks for Carver’s aid, Cat dipped into a deep and graceful curtsy that looked like it could have been executed in any royal court. He was surprised she managed it so well, given her current state. The ease with which she moved smacked of years of practice and raised questions he knew she wouldn’t answer.
Carver bowed back awkwardly enough to make Cat laugh until she could barely breathe. They weren’t used to such pomp in the south. Court etiquette was something he and his family still had to figure out—preferably fast.
Feeling a rush of worry for his family right now trying to integrate into royal life in Sinta City without him, Griffin guided Cat toward a table covered in drying cloths. Cat jumped, trying to catch the hanging ones while he looked through the selection on the table, suddenly ready to be done with the market in Velos and get back on the road.
“This one,” he said, selecting a yellow one about the same shade as Cat’s usual soap. She’d like that, wouldn’t she? It was almost like having a set.
“Is that for me?” she asked.
Griffin nodded, his stomach sinking at how disgusted she looked by his choice.
“Not that one. It looks like Cerberus threw up on it.” She glanced from side to side. “I want that one!”
She seemed ecstatic about a flashy red cloth big enough to cover four of her, so he put the yellow one back and bought the red.
He couldn’t think of anything else she—or anyone—needed, so Griffin steered Cat back toward the inn. Without warning, she sat down in the street, yanking the rope tight between them and pulling him to a sudden stop. Griffin let out a grunt of surprise.
Cat looked up at him, her nose scrunching. “Serves you right. You could just untie me. Or let me go.”
There was the usual Cat. Her tongue was still sharp, even if her mind was fuzzy. “And miss all this fun?” he teased.
Her laughter shook her all over. Griffin smiled back, wishing things could always be this easy and enjoyable between them. Maybe they would have been if he hadn’t been such a colossal arse the night they met.
He opened his mouth to apologize for capturing her, to solemnly ask her forgiveness, for another chance, for a better them he was desperate to have, when Cat’s head snapped around, and she jumped up, already running.
Bollocks! He’d missed his opportunity. He knew himself; there was a good chance he wouldn’t take it again. Cat’s barbed tongue could make even him hesitate, and she’d be back to her normal self soon. And in the end, he wasn’t sorry they were together. He’d never be sorry for that. Griffin ran after her.
“Where are you going?” he asked. Carver jogged next to them on Cat’s other side.
She didn’t answer but then veered off and ran up the steps of a bathhouse, crashing through the doors and nearly plowing into a couple. She reached for the woman but then pulled back before Griffin had to intervene. She kept going.
Chortling with glee, Cat raced toward what Griffin suspected was the men’s pool from the artwork on the walls. She didn’t seem to notice the increasingly explicit mosaics lining the corridor.
They arrived at a tall door that Cat tried unsuccessfully to open. She repeatedly groped for and missed the very prominent latch.
Griffin reached around her to open the door, not sure he shouldn’t have been barring the way instead. “I get the feeling you’ve never been high before.”
She glanced up at him. “Have you?”
He shook his head. Never—and he didn’t plan on it.
“Looks like fun,” Carver chimed in, rather idiotically in Griffin’s opinion. It looked like a dangerous loss of control to him.
Cat teetered toward Carver. “Want some? It’s fabulous!”
Carver grinned. “No thanks. Offering anything else?” he asked so smoothly that Griffin had to do a double-take before the urge to punch his brother hit him.
Cat laughed, blushing prettily. Then she sighed. “Don’t flirt.”
“Why not?” Carver asked, completely ignoring Griffin’s hard stare.
“Don’t you know? Poseidon sent your incredibly annoying brother to me with an oracular dream. Once-in-a-lifetime thing. Except for most people. Most people never have one. Anyway”—she rolled her eyes—“he probably thinks it means something.” She snorted like that was beyond ridiculous when it was likely the most important thing that had ever happened to him. “I’d rather eat goat balls. Or goat shit.” She frowned, clearly confused. “Or goat cheese!” she abruptly shouted.
“Oracular dream?” Griffin turned the term over in his mind and in his mouth. He hadn’t known what it was called, or that it occasionally happened to others, but he’d known it was life-changing. He’d known it meant he was supposed to be with Cat.
“She’s a wealth of information,” Carver murmured.
“What? Never heard of one?” Cat shrugged. “I’m hot.” She turned, tripped, and went down before Griffin could catch her.
He helped her to her feet again and then followed as she ran straight into the men’s bathing chamber. Three naked men looked over, startled.
Cat yanked her tunic over her head.
Griffin’s eyes widened. “For the Gods’ sakes, Cat!” He wanted to look. He knew he shouldn’t.
Everyone else needed to get out now.
She kept stripping, and something roared inside him.
“Out!” he shouted to the other men. What in the Underworld was he supposed to do? He couldn’t leave her alone in here. Not looking seemed impossible, especially when he needed to keep her safe. And because he desperately wanted to.
The need to protect her, even from himself, battered his chest. At the savage look on his face, the three men scrambled out of the pool and ran. They averted their gazes from Cat, obviously knowing what was good for them.
Cat turned back to him, completely bare. Heat built in his groin and crept through his abdomen. Griffin wanted to reach for her, to cover her. To cover her with himself. He nearly groaned.
His brother moved in his peripheral vision. What in the Gods’ names was Carver still doing here? A growl ground deep in his throat.
Before his narrowed eyes could snap to Carver, Cat reached up and swept her fingers through his hair. Her touch was light but sure. There was no hesitation, and even some gentleness. He wished she would never stop.
She smiled and patted his head. “Good Beta.”
The growl meant for Carver turned into a grunted laugh.
“Woof!” she barked back.
Gods, she was amazing. And fun. And strong. The knowledge made him grin and hit him square in the chest—which made his eyes automatically drop to hers.
Griffin froze, balling his hands into fists to keep from reaching for her.
She flushed. Her nipples hardened as he watched, and the tension inside him exploded into something nearly unbearable—hot and urgent. Griffin felt a muscle tick in his jaw as he clenched his teeth, fighting to tear his eyes away from her. He lost the battle, and his eyes dipped, sweeping over her. He swallowed hard. He wanted this woman more than his next breath. But he wanted her to like him first.
“Untie me or get in.” Cat’s throaty whisper, her invitation, nearly brought him to his knees.
Griffin stepped closer to hide her nakedness from Carver. He didn’t watch Carver leave the room, but he did watch Cat blow his brother a kiss, and Griffin practically saw red. He’d never felt so barbarically possessive in his life.
Finally alone with her, Griffin lifted his eyes to Cat’s. “Give me your binding word you won’t leave without me.”
“All right,” she agreed.
Could it be that easy? “Say it,” he insisted.
She rolled her eyes with extra exuberance and then bowed dramatically. “I won’t leave the bathing chamber without you, O Imperious One.”
It was hard not to laugh. His ire deflated instantly. Cat was his only concern.
Griffin untied the rope, trying to keep his hands to himself. He accidentally brushed Cat’s waist at one point, though, and his fingers almost caught fire. His whole body tightened with the need to claim Cat for his own.
The instant she was free of the rope, Cat turned and dove into the pool. She stayed underwater for so long that Griffin started to get anxious. He realized he shouldn’t have worried when she popped up a moment later, whooping and laughing.
She swam forever, and Griffin couldn’t do anything but watch and make sure she didn’t hurt herself. She played, frolicking in a way that made him long to join her. But she wouldn’t like that. She might like it now—she’d even splashed him and tried to coax him in—but she wouldn’t like it later. He wouldn’t make the inevitable end of her fun worse by joining her and giving her something more to regret from today.
Besides, how would he keep from touching her? From showing her how hot he burned for her? If he got in, the whole damn pool might evaporate just from the fire inside him.
Another long hour of torture later, Griffin pulled up short. He saw the exact moment Cat’s high burned itself out and fatigue and reality came crashing back to take its place.
She gasped, paling to near-translucent. She started to sink.
Griffin stepped forward, but then she seemed to recover enough to float. He hesitated. He wanted to help her, but she probably wouldn’t want him touching her.
Cat’s face went from white to red so fast it was blinding. She bowed her head, looking defeated, and Griffin’s heart clenched hard.
“That’s why addicts stay high,” he said softly. “It’s too awful when it ends.”
She sniffed but didn’t look up.
“Come.” Dropping his gaze to the marble floor, Griffin held out her new drying cloth. It was more than big enough to cover her up and warm her.
He didn’t look directly at Cat, but he could still tell that she crawled up the steps, shaking, shivering, and almost too weak to make it to the cloth he held. Griffin was going to hand it to her, but then she just oozed into the material and waited. He wrapped it around her and began gently patting her dry.
“Why did you take it?” he asked when she closed her eyes, looking mortified, weary, and utterly alone.
Right then, Griffin wished more than ever that he’d earned the right to take her into his arms and comfort her. But he hadn’t, so he wrapped the cloth more firmly around her instead. She trembled.
“The magic wanted to be inside me.” She spoke so softly he barely heard. “I couldn’t control it. I-I didn’t even try.”
Was it just his imagination, or had Cat leaned into him?
He cleared his throat.
“It wasn’t his magic. It was a spell.” Griffin straightened, wanting a better look at her. Pale face. Grey lips. Blank eyes. The sight of her made his chest ache.
“It doesn’t matter.” She slumped, hardly even upright. “It’s the same to me.”
Not knowing what else to do, Griffin made sure the cloth was secure around her before trying to guide her toward her clothes. “Let’s go.”
Instead of walking, Cat dropped to the floor and curled up in a ball.
Watching her, Griffin’s gut sank. He’d put her in a position where she’d felt compelled to steal unknown magic, undoubtedly to help her escape. Now she was sick and miserable, and it was in good part his fault. No wonder she hated him.
Griffin gathered their belongings and then carefully picked Cat up off the floor. She surprised him by not protesting. She even rested her wet head on his shoulder, her breath a sweet warmth against his neck. He cradled her against him. He’d build trust one heartbeat at a time if he had to.
“You never smell bad,” she murmured, barely forming words around her fatigue.
“Should I?” Griffin asked.
“It would make you mortal, like the rest of us.”
“I am mortal. That’s why I need—”
“—your help,” she finished with a sigh.
“This isn’t a game, Cat.”
“Just leave me here,” she said despondently. “You can’t carry me all the way back.”
Griffin grunted. That was absurd—in more ways than one. “And leave behind my most valued treasure?”
She hesitated. Her breath seemed to catch. “I won’t be used.”
Ah, the usual rhetoric. He smiled vaguely. Was she coming back to herself?
“Egeria will win you over,” he said. And he would, too.
She yawned, bringing the tip of her nose into contact with his neck. He wished she’d let herself come even closer, thought maybe a small part of her even wanted to, but suddenly she stiffened in his arms.
“It won’t get that far.” Those five words were sharper than anything she’d said in hours.
Griffin’s mouth flattened. And so it began again. “You’re wrong. You’re wrong about a lot of things.” And somehow, someday, he would prove it.
“I bled on that sword and didn’t dilute it.” The panic in Cat’s voice shot tension through his body. “They’ll track my blood. It’s been hours. They’re already on their way.”
“Who?” he demanded.
Wilting again, she yawned, exhaustion seeming to drown her fear. “It’s your fault. You exposed me.”
Griffin held her tighter, his heart hammering out adrenaline-laced beats. “I’ll protect you.”
She closed her eyes, looking alarmingly weak. Almost unconscious. “You could try,” she whispered just before her head lolled, and her body went limp in his arms.
Grim-faced, Griffin carried her toward the inn. He had to do better than try. The fate of Thalyria and both of their futures depended upon it.

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Heart on Fire

The riveting conclusion to The Kingmaker Chronicles coming January 2018! 

GODS. I’M AN IDIOT.

Without Griffin—and apparently a few meddling Gods—to push me along, I’d still be telling fortunes at the circus, lying about my past, ignoring my future, and living as far away from my tyrant mother as humanly possible. 

True understanding thuds into place. Hope isn’t just an abstract concept; it’s me. Flesh and blood me. Griffin knew it all along. Probably everyone did. I’m an idea in human form.

I have the power of the Gods at my fingertips.

The only thing ever stopping me has been me

Pre-order Heart on Fire now! 

USA Today bestselling author AMANDA BOUCHET grew up in New England and studied French at the undergraduate and graduate levels, first at Bowdoin College and then at Bowling Green State University. She moved to Paris, France, in 2001 and has been there ever since. She met her husband while studying abroad, and the family now includes two bilingual children, who will soon be correcting her French. Connect with her at www.amandabouchet.com.   

Experience The Kingmaker Chronicles from the start!             

A Promise of Fire

Breath of Fire