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AN AMOROUS DANCE by Jessica Lauryn

Hello, everyone!  I’m excited to be back, sharing my latest release, An Amorous Dance [The Rabourn Theater Series]!  Set in a majestic theater in New York, An Amorous Dance is a second-chance romance featuring a rather “villainous” hero, stage director Evan Masters, a man in need of reform and a lesson in the error of his ways, prior to winning the heart of his former flame, theater owner, Hannah Rabourn.

While writing my debut novel, Dangerous Ally, I fell in love with the idea of reforming former villains.  Much like the woman who pines for a dangerous man from the wrong side of the tracks and dreams of reforming him, I often find myself writing and reading about heroes plagued demons, in need of the love of the right woman, who alone can set them on a better path.  I enjoy writing series and I have been known to take the villain from a previous story and transform him into the hero in my current work.  In fact I like it so much, and have so many thoughts on the subject that a couple of years ago I crafted a workshop and hosted it for my writer friends from New Jersey Romance Writers (our local chapter of Romance Writers of America) entitled, Reforming the Former Villain: Does He Have What it Takes to be a Hero?

So, why reform a former villain?  In short, no work of fiction I’ve ever has the potential to bring about a more powerful happily ever after.  Think about it.  That moment in Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol, when the formerly unloving Scrooge has seen the error of his ways and he goes out into the world as a new man, brightening the lives of everyone he’s wronged.  The moment is incredibly profound, and that’s because we’ve seen Scrooge make such tremendous strides, having had, essentially, a total transformation of character.  The transformation is thrilling.  And the journey of a hero-to-reform is one well-worth reading!

When Hannah Rabourn, daughter of Rabourn Theater’s late owner, is attacked, a surge of flashes prompts her to consider that her father may have been murdered. Hannah’s antagonistic stage director insists her subconscious is merely seeking closure. But as she and Evan become close once again, Hannah’s suspicions about the past deepen, and she wonders whether the man she’s falling in love with for the second time knows more than he’s letting on.

Evan Masters’s dreams were shattered when theater-owner Baron Rabourn destroyed his budding acting career. Having forged an alliance with Rabourn’s former partner, Evan assumed a mission to transform Rabourn Theater into what it always should have been. Fellow conspirators believe Rabourn’s daughter is the key to power, and Evan is the means by which to achieve their ends.

But Evan’s feelings for Hannah are stronger than he believed. And when he realizes Hannah’s life is in danger, he must decide between his passion and his heart.

 

Unable to stay still, Hannah maneuvered her way around the surrounding obstacles so that she could pace. She’d been trying to convince herself that these flashes of memory didn’t mean what they appeared to, but the truth was that she’d always had her suspicions about the way her father died.

The doctors she’d spoken with had confirmed her father had a heart attack, but she’d always found it hard to believe that a man in his fifties—a man in excellent physical condition with no history of heart disease—would die suddenly, for what appeared to be no reason at all. Having felt this way from the get-go, she’d conducted a bit of research, from which she’d discovered that her father had had an argument with Bruce Lancaster prior to the start of her birthday dinner. The stress of whatever the they’d discussed might have taken a toll on him, and for years Hannah had believed that a heated discussion with the theater’s former owner had directly contributed to her father’s death. But if the images she’d been seeing were real, maybe her father’s death had had nothing to do with physiology at all.

Maybe he had been murdered.

“Hannah?” Evan called out as he opened the door. Failing to flick the light switch, he made his way around, almost tripping over the settee in the corner before asking, “Hannah, are you in here?”

Hannah covered her tearstained mouth. She had no desire to reveal herself, but she realized before she could hide that Evan had already seen her. After hastily wiping her face in hopes that he wouldn’t realize she’d been crying, she snapped, “What the hell are you doing in here?”

“Me? What the bloody hell do you think I’m doing in here?” Evan demanded, squinting at the gigantic mushrooms behind his back, as if they were going to agree with how ridiculous her question was.

“You shouldn’t have followed me. I wasn’t thrilled to see that my cousin decided to stay in a show her former stalker is a part of, but…I’m a big girl. I can handle anything that’s thrown my way, Evan Masters, I promise you.”

“Hannah, you’re shaking,” Evan said, catching her arm and pulling her back to him before she could walk away.

As Hannah looked downward, she realized Evan had no intention of releasing her. His grip was strong, but his palm felt like melted butter against her skin. She attempted to laugh at him, but instead fresh tears formed in her eyes. Evan took her into his arms before she could stop him, bringing her against his body with a force that demonstrated he wouldn’t take no for an answer. Unable to fight him, or whatever it was he was doing, Hannah allowed herself to be drawn against his warmth. His lightly bearded cheek sent tingles up her spine as it brushed against her own.

Evan held her, cupping the back of her head as he urged her toward the settee he’d all but killed himself staggering over a moment before. As he whispered a couple of soft, indiscernible things into her ear, the familiarity of his masculine scent soothed her raw nerves. In her mind, she held an unpleasant picture of him about to kiss her cousin’s shoulders, but the present moment played right over it, and Hannah let go of her anxiety, allowing herself to simply feel, to let her lover from another lifetime make everything right.

Evan brought his fingers beneath her chin and lifted her head so she was looking into his eyes. His smile giving way to a smirk, he said, “I saw you, Hannah. I saw the way you were looking at me when I was holding your cousin. The heat in your eyes wasn’t there out of concern for Alicia, or even because you were angry about my going ahead with the play. You emitted that scream because you wanted to be playing Blair on that stage. More so, because you wanted to be the woman that I was holding in my arms.”

Her eyes widening as her body grew cold with fury, Hannah said, “Clearly the sky-high opinion you’ve always had of yourself has only gotten higher. You make it sound as though you actually think I could still want you after all this time, knowing that I’m fully aware of what a bastard you really are.”

“You may hate me on the surface, Hannah, but I daresay your body responds quite differently. You shiver when I touch you and your skin warms on contact because it wants more, just as you wanted more the night I carried you off to the dressing room and gave you the passion that both of us so desperately craved.”

“So apparently you aren’t just egotistical, you’re also certifiably insane. You know, you’re offered an extensive benefits package as part of the position that you cling to with the very balls of your existence. You ought to ask HR for a referral—clearly the shrink who ought to be treating Sebastian Nathanson has some extra time on her hands.”

Evan secured her in a grip that prevented her from running. Easing her back against the wall, he said with fire in his eyes, “Is this crazy, Hannah?”

 

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Jessica Lauryn is the author of the bestselling romantic suspense series, The Pinnacles of Power. The Romance Reviews says that her debut release, Dangerous Ally, has, All the twists that a good suspense should have with just the right amount of passion and romance! Jessica is a proud member of Romance Writers of America as well as her local chapter, New Jersey Romance Writers, for which she has served on the executive board in several capacities. She has a talent for remembering her dreams, many of which are explored in detail in her stories. Though she resides in central New Jersey, her heart will forever belong to the picturesque White Mountains of northern New Hampshire.

A PASSIONATE PLAY By Jessica Lauryn

Hello, Manic Readers!  I’m excited to be here today, sharing a bit about my latest release, A Passionate Play [The Rabourn Theater Series], a contemporary romantic suspense, set in a majestic theater in Briarcliff Manor, New York.

As people who are constantly on the go, we do and are responsible for doing many things in any given day.  But one thing that I always look forward to—and make the time for—is reading.  Fiction is so powerful as it holds the ability to transport you, the reader, to another place and time.  It does not subtract anything from the world around us but rather, it enhances our world, stirring our imaginations and giving us jolts of inspiration that fuels creativity into our thoughts and into our lives.

Whenever I am asked the single most important piece of advice I’d give to other writers, I say, “Write the story that’s in your heart!”  I have great respect for writers who follow trends, who strive to give readers the popular sub-genre of the moment, which takes a large deal of effort and dedication to deliver.  But for me, I like to take a different approach, go where the wind takes me so-to-speak. Sometimes it only takes a moment, for a thought, a phrase, or a person I encounter to inspire and single story. And after one magical night at the theater I was filled with the inspiration that was to blossom into 5 action-packed stories full of drama, romance and passion so strong my characters would kill for it, and in some instances, do!  I hope you enjoy this preview into the world of Rabourn Theater. It promises to be a most suspenseful ride!

On the heels of a major performance, theater actress Alicia Coleman is attacked in an alleyway. She is struck over the head with a pistol and the blow causes her to lose her memory. Injured and afraid, Alicia struggles to remember the details of her life. The only person who appears to know who she is, is the man she fears may also be her attacker.

In the midst of several failed attempts to escape, Alicia comes to know the man whose home she awoke in and realizes that the two of them share a complicated past. Though Nick refuses to tell her much beyond her first name, a series of dreams, in which she and he are sharing a lot more than the second story of a secluded mansion, cause Alicia to suspect the most outrageous of possibilities—that the man holding her prisoner may actually be her lover. Surrounding threats, including that of a midnight intruder, cause Alicia to realize that proving her theory true (or not) may be her only chance of keeping her attacker from coming after her a second time.

 

“I mentioned to you that we’re in Mohegan Lake,” Nick said some time later, “in Westchester County, New York. Does the name of the town, the county, or the state sound at all familiar to you?”

“Not really.” Alicia racked her brain. “Should they?”

Nick shrugged. “Only if you think they should. So, you really don’t remember anything about your life, your friends, or your career before waking up in this house?”

“My career?” Alicia dropped her empty glass onto the table. Having felt a sensation comparable to an electric shock when he’d said the word career, she asked, “What is it that I do, exactly? Am I a lawyer? Do I perform surgeries alongside of a team of brain surgeons?”

“Something like that,” Nick answered with a secretive smile.

Furious that he refused to tell her whatever he knew about her life, Alicia said, “You must be holding out on me because you’re familiar with my work and the knowledge of my success makes you feel completely emasculated.”

“I never said—”

“Understandable. Considering that you appear to spend the majority of your time hiding out in the woods, collecting the latest additions from Williams Sonoma and Pottery Barn.”

Failing to offer anything in the way of a response, Nick grunted.

“I may not remember what I do for a living but there’s no doubt in my mind that I’m capable of doing a lot of interesting things.”

“Are you now?” Her companion gave her a thoughtful glance. Coming to his feet, he extended his hand and said, “How about sharing a dance with me?”

Alicia’s face became as hot as the candle flames. Looking from Nick’s open palm to the empty room around them, she swallowed and said, “There’s no music.”

“Well, I think we can do something about that.” Nick wandered across the floor to the area behind the curio cabinet. There was a stereo there that Alicia hadn’t noticed before. He pressed a button, causing the room to fill with soft, romantic music.

Nick extended his hand once more as he came toward her. His smile was cool but also insistent and it contained a hint of danger. Dark brown eyes looked into hers, willing her to trust, to comply with her very mysterious and yet compelling desires.

Allowing herself to operate on pure instinct, Alicia slipped her hand into Nick’s. His warmth surrounded her and she felt a hint of anticipation as he urged her gently forward. Nick led her into the middle of the floor. Placing one large hand against her waist, he brought her beside his powerful, broad frame.

They began to move and Alicia swayed in unison with her partner as though they had danced together a thousand times before. In her mind, she was in the arms of a stranger, but her body reacted as though he was anything but, as though he were someone whom she knew intimately. Nick’s eyes, his scent, the very feel of him seemed familiar to her, and as his hand slid from her hip to the small of her back she realized that she ought to be telling him he was getting too close. Except she didn’t want him to back away—it felt good, being close to him like this.

As her partner drew her closer still, Alicia felt chills, yet at the same time she began to let go of the tension she was holding. She was encased in a blanket of heat, and as that blanket spun her around and brought her back against its softness she was taken into a realm of comfort and dreams. Dancing with her captor felt right to her and in a strange way, safe. Nick had gone out of his way to make her happy tonight and she got the feeling that wasn’t something he did every day. Letting her eyes fall closed, she inched beside him and when he didn’t resist she rested her head against the cushion of his shoulder.

Nick’s arms enveloped her, and Alicia became aware that he didn’t only smell of pinewood but of something darker, something she couldn’t quite define. She sensed a degree of rebelliousness in this man and for some strange reason the idea of that intrigued her. Strength seemed to emanate from every part of him and she wondered what it would be like to taste that strength. Filled with the strongest desire to do just that, she settled her hand against the back of his neck and tilted his head so that she could just about feel what she wanted to so desperately.

“Kiss me,” she insisted, lifting her chin.

Nick stilled but didn’t comply. She opened her eyes to find his lips were looming above hers.

“Alicia, I….”

The music stopped playing as if on cue. Nick held her, not quite letting go but not doing what she’d asked him to, either. After a long moment, he released her. He cleared his throat and shifted his eyes, making sure that she was steady on her feet before backing away. He paced the length of the room.

“I’m glad you’re feeling better.” Stopping in front of the table, Nick said, “I’ll get this cleaned up. You ought to get back to bed. You’ve had a hell of a day, and even though you slept a good bit of it you still need your rest. I’ll be up to check on you in a few hours. Good night, Alicia.”

Turning to hide a face that was surely as red as it felt, Alicia walked to the door. She offered a cool smile along with a wave before slipping soundlessly from the room.

Alone in the foyer, Alicia placed one hand over her trembling mouth. She released it a moment later, body braced against the wall as she said to herself quietly, “Good night, Nickolas.”

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Jessica Lauryn is the author of the bestselling romantic suspense series, The Pinnacles of Power. The Romance Reviews says that her debut release, Dangerous Ally, has, All the twists that a good suspense should have with just the right amount of passion and romance! Jessica is a proud member of Romance Writers of America as well as her local chapter, New Jersey Romance Writers, for which she has served on the executive board in several capacities. She has a talent for remembering her dreams, many of which are explored in detail in her stories. Though she resides in central New Jersey, her heart will forever belong to the picturesque White Mountains of northern New Hampshire.

Five Jetsetter Settings from Nikki Navarre's Foreign Affairs Series

 

A Whirlwind Tour of Five Jetsetter Settings

in Nikki Navarre’s Foreign Affairs Series

 

Nikki Navarre is a globetrotting ex-diplomat and award-winning author of the sexy spy romance Foreign Affairs series. Loosely inspired by her work as a weapons of mass destruction expert at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, she writes about renegade Russian submarine captains, ex-KGB agents, fighter pilots, cyber spies and smugglers—and the brainy, beautiful, rising-star American diplomats who can’t resist falling for them.

Strap in for a whirlwind tour of Nikki’s top five jetsetter settings:

  1. Moscow, Russia: In modern-day Moscow, Las Vegas meets the Wild West. Every girl’s a supermodel or a spy, every guy’s a mobster or a mole, and the energy’s as bracing as a bucket of ice water flung in your face. In The Russian Seduction, the U.S. Embassy’s a citadel in a storm. Where sober-suited diplomats execute classified orders with discretion and decorum…most of the time.

 

  1. Siberia: In Stalin’s day, rebellious Russians were shipped off to the gulag in Russia’s frozen north. Today, if you’re chemical weapons expert Skylar Rossi, determined to uncover the truth about a Russian military site secretly churning out tons of deadly nerve agent, you pull on your fur hat and silk thermals and catch the night train to Siberia.

 

  1. Isle of Capri: A Roman villa on this affluent Italian island in The Russian Temptation is where refined and lethal ex-KBG hit man Nikolai “the Maestro” Markov is hired to take out the only target who’s ever eluded him—a brainy and beautiful American ambassador who just won’t do what she’s told. Nikolai never expects to find himself wanting to protect her instead.

 

  1. Juba, Sudan: Ex-Russian fighter pilot Max Vasylko will fly your illicit cargo anywhere in the world in twenty-four hours—no questions asked. Even if his cargo is a smart, scared, scrappy viral engineer named Christabel with two passports, one backpack, and no memory. In a Turkish bath in a breakaway African republic, the heat melts even Max’s battle-hardened heart.

 

  1. Cloud Cap, Corsica: A champagne magnate once built this ultra-luxe mountain hideaway for his femme fatale mistress on the French Mediterranean island of Corsica. In The Russian Obsession, it’s where the love-him-or-leave-him clock strikes midnight for Max and Christa.

Hope this whirlwind tour piqued your interest!

Bon Voyage and Happy Reading!

 

www.NikkiNavarre.com

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Read an excerpt from BUNYAN'S GUIDE to the GREAT AMERICAN WILDLIFE

 Bunyan’s Guide to the Great American Wildlife
by Quentin Canterel

What happens when the Manhattan zoo empties its cages?

John, part radicalized anarchist, part ticking time bomb, is haunted by a particular story, that of Willow, a 9-year old mute who flees to New York after her brutal rape. The only way his girlfriend, Felicity, can stop the clock counting down is by disentangling the riddle of their pasts, before their entwined futures are blown to pieces.
Quentin Canterel’s second novel presents a collage of voices, dead and alive, in a unique and unnerving novel that experiments with form, structure and language. Truly a mystery shrouded in an enigma.

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Oh, muses, what shall we say about Felicity: Church of England, slender, little beanpole, waxy pallor of a holy relic, blush of a broken rose, cupid bow lips, preternatural and possibly, yes probably, possessed.

And you, John, black raven-haired, androgynous locks, the faintest of crow’s feet, fashionably skinny and, for a man, certainly heteroclite. Thin voice and long fingers, slender lips always a snide remark away from disaster.

“U ARE A SHITHEAD”

In those days (really the cigarette butts of nights snuffed out at 2 or 3a.m), your daily toil up Hill Lucre began at six crossing paths in the Financial District with By-ends and that unrestful gaggle of carbon suited I-bankers. In the fogs and snows of February, the city was given over to grisaille. Always late, you hopped on the R line. Arriving, at Rector Street, only to be met by “that Basilisk”, your boss, the abdominous Mr Skill. For months, you toiled in that “slick glass dick”, temping for $14.50 an hour. What prosperity!

“These shitheads are virtually throwing money out the windows. Bankers paying me for next to nothing.”

It was then, while collecting rejection slips from small magazines, that you began The Guide. In between fits of all-nighters, you’d invite me round and we became a threesome, united by a common hatred of clubs, house music, and nouvelle French cafes. Building, by fits and starts, our own little mutual admiration society…

I remember us once being stuck uptown at an illegal rave, the Russians and Israelites taking turns spinning their trance, the base tones detonating like little depth charges through the low hum of gas generators. We swayed in the summer heat and leaned against a tree stump as a police boat cast its fiery eye through the surrounding trees, setting each branch aflame. You somehow managed to share a bitter pill of ecstasy with that tenderest of Felicities so that the world nudged against you like purest organza silk.

About the author: Born in and raised in Atlanta, Georgia, Quentin Canterel grew up never far away from stream, glade or wood. Quentin went on to study at Yale University, ultimately graduating with a Bachelor’s degree. Pursuing a career in New York, he wrote for journals such as Fortune magazine and also embarked on a career in quantitative research and programming. Moving to London in 2005, he continued his graduate studies at the University of London. He currently resides in London with his wife.