The 2013 Christmas Card
The 2013 Christmas Card
By Meggan Connors
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: Sensual
When her father loses her in a poker game, Lexie Markland is sent to work in the household of Nicholas Wetherby for one year to pay off the debt. Innocent, but not naïve, she is savvy enough to know she must maintain her distance from this man, who frustrates her with his relentless teasing but whose kisses bring her to her knees. Because although she may be just another conquest to him, it’s not just her heart in jeopardy should she succumb to Nicholas’ considerable charms.
Since his brother’s death almost a year before, nothing has held Nicholas’ attention for long—not women, not booze, not even an excellent hand at cards. Nothing, that is, until he meets the woman he won in a drunken night of poker. Intrigued by his prize and her chilly reserve, he makes it his mission to crack Lexie’s cool demeanor. But even as passion explodes between them, the question remains: will Nicholas be able to take the ultimate risk…and gamble on love?
Nicholas Wetherby threw back his whiskey in a single swallow. He hadn’t touched his cards since he had first looked at them, casually raising bets as other players placed them. Recognizing Nicholas’s betting patterns as those of a man with a remarkable hand, the other players at the table folded, one after the other. All except one.
Idly twirling a silver dollar between his fingers, Nicholas leaned back in his chair, hooked his arm over the back and studied the last remaining a player, John Markland. Markland was a man who had been perpetually down on his luck since the death of his wife, and any good sense he may have once had must have died with her. Only an improbable run of good fortune brought Markland to this particular table, and he played like a man possessed. Nicholas had once heard he lived more or less hand-to-mouth in a seedy part of town with his daughter, and the stack of cash in front of him would keep him in food and booze for a good month. If the man had any common sense left, he wouldn’t push his luck—he would fold this hand, gather his winnings, and count both his cash and his blessings.
“How much you got, Markland?” he asked.
Tobacco smoke clung to the air as Markland mashed the end of his cigar between his teeth. Making a show of counting his money, he said, “Ninety.”
Still not looking back at his cards, Nicholas tossed in a hundred dollars. A part of him expected Markland to fold over the casual way he placed his bet, as if he didn’t care about the sum of money being wagered. And, in fact, he didn’t.
“Well, that ought to cover it.”
The desperate greed lighting his eyes poorly disguised, Markland stared at the cash in front of him. The problem with Markland was that he lacked both the fortitude and the skill to earn his money, so he had to win it. Pity he wasn’t even very good at that.
Nicholas despised men like him. But then, Nicholas despised just about everyone these days.
“I’ll sign over the house to you if you go all in, Wetherby.”
Nicholas chuckled, but it felt hollow in his gut. “I’m sure it’s mortgaged for more than it’s worth. I think not.”
He didn’t want anything Markland had to offer, but at least the betting was getting interesting. The familiar rush accompanying a big win caught his attention and pierced through the languor that had been dogging him for months. Ever since the death of his brother almost a year before, no amount of drink or women seemed to be able to fill the void in his life, though a big win at poker at least piqued his interest for a time.
“I’ll give you my watch,” Markland said, fishing into his pocket. “It’s pure gold.”
Nicholas eyed the banged-up trinket his opponent dangled in front of him, acting like a street vendor hawking ‘genuine diamonds’ or some cure-all elixir. As if he would want such a piece of junk. Nicholas almost wished the man had more pride.
“I have a pocket watch, and I don’t need another,” Nicholas replied, swiftly losing interest in the betting and wanting to move on to the next hand. “Just call with the ninety and let’s be done with this. Except for the cash in front of you, you have nothing I want.”
Markland fidgeted in his seat and tapped his index finger nervously on the worn, green felt of the card table. His eyes shifted from Nicholas to Nicholas’s money, and over at the bar. “A moment, Wetherby,” he said, holding up his hand. “Barkeep!” he shouted to the man standing behind the gleaming mahogany bar. When he turned in their direction, Markland said, “Bourbon whiskey, for me and my new friend here. The ‘48, if you would.”
“Going for the good stuff, I see.”
“Nothing but the best for me and my friends,” Markland said, raising a glass in a toast.
Never one to turn down a free drink—especially not one as good as the ‘48—Nicholas nodded his thanks, replied, “Indeed,” and drained his glass. He placed it on the table with heavy thud and said, “Just call.”
“No, wait!” Markland cried. “My daughter! If I lose, I’ll give you my daughter!”
The Viscount’s Vow by Collette Cameron
Genre: Historical Romance/Regency
Heat Level: Sensual
Amidst murder and betrayal, destiny and hearts collide when scandal forces a viscount and a gypsy noblewoman to marry in this Regency romance sprinkled with suspense and humor.
Part Romani, part English noblewoman, Evangeline Caruthers is the last woman in England Ian Hamilton, the Viscount Warrick, could ever love—an immoral wanton responsible for his brother’s and father’s deaths. She thinks he’s a foul-tempered blackguard, who after setting out to cause her downfall, finds himself forced to marry her—snared in the trap of his own making.
When Vangie learns the marriage ceremony itself may have been a ruse, she flees to her gypsy relatives, declaring herself divorced from Ian under Romani law. He pursues her to the gypsy encampment, and when the handsome gypsy king offers to take Ian’s place in Vangie’s bed, jealousy stirs hot and dangerous.
At last, under a balmy starlit sky, Ian and Vangie breech the chasm separating them. Peril lurks though. Ian’s the last in his line, and his stepmother intends to dispose of the newlyweds so her daughter can inherit his estate. Only by trusting each other can they overcome scandal and murderous betrayal.
“A brilliant tale combining Regency romance with exotic Romani culture.”
“You didn’t eat much, wife.”
They were alone on the dance floor. Ian deftly twirled Vangie around his aunt’s smallish ballroom, mindful of the interested gazes watching them.
Stealing a glance at the smiling and nodding onlookers, he suppressed a frown. He felt like a curiosity on display at Bullock’s Museum. He wished others would take to the floor, so he could dispense with the devoted bridegroom facade.
The twelve courses at dinner had been torturous. His wife hadn’t taken more than a dozen bites nor said as many words. He’d tried to eat the succulent foods Aunt Edith had gone to such efforts to have prepared, but his anger made everything dry as chalk and every bit as tasteless.
“I’d not much appetite, my lord.”
He chuckled. “Don’t you think you might address me by my given name, wife?”
“Why?” she asked pertly. “I’ve known you but four days, certainly not long enough to be so familiar with you.”
He lowered his head, breathing in her ear, very aware every eye in the room was trained on them. He’d give them something to gossip about. “Because I want you to, wife, and you did promise to obey.”
He nipped her ear.
She jumped and a tiny yelp of surprise escaped before she clamped her lips together. Her eyes were shooting sparks again; only this time they were directed at him.
“What’s my name, wife?”
“Please, don’t call me that. I too have a name, as you well know.”
Drawing her closer, her breasts pressing against the breadth of his chest and cresting the edge of her bodice, he murmured, “Indeed, but Evangeline sounds . . . angelic, and we both know you’re no such thing.”
“Pardon?” She stiffened, trying to shove away from him. “I don’t under—”
His head descended again. “Say it, or I’ll trace your ear with my tongue.”
He grinned as her breath hissed from between clenched teeth. She stumbled, her fingers digging into his shoulder and hand. A very becoming flush swept across her face.
“Will you cease?” Her worried gaze careened around the room. “We’re being watched.”
Voice husky, he said, “Say my name, sweeting.”
Giving her a gentle squeeze, he started to dip his head, caressing her elegant neck with his hot breath.
“Ian, your name is Ian,” she gasped breathlessly, twisting her head away.
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By Char Chaffin
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Heat Level: Sensual
“Ah, Christ. You’re killing me.” He fumbled for the nearest wall, propped her against it, and took her mouth hungrily. She fisted her hands in his hair, nipping his full bottom lip. The kiss went deeper, and she could have sobbed from the glory of it.
They broke apart, both panting. Kendall slowly unwound her legs and Denn loosened his hold, letting her slide down his body until her feet touched the floor. She felt every hard muscle along the way.
“Hell.” He sucked in a shaky breath. “I don’t want to leave you here.”
“I’ll be all right,” Kendall lied. She wanted him to stay, wanted him in her bed, all night, and then she wanted to awaken in the morning, safe in his arms. They’d known each other less than two months, and she wanted forever.
I must be crazed with lust. That’s the only explanation.
“You know, you don’t have to stay here alone.” He caressed her cheek as he gazed at her, still pressed intimately against her. “You could come home with me.”
“Eventually I have to live here, Denn. By myself. I have to get used to it,” she pointed out.
“But not tonight, okay? Come home with me, Kendall. Stay with me, tonight.”
“We’ll end up in bed together.” It was a question and a statement.
He slowly nodded. “Yeah.”
She whispered into his shirt, “We’ll end up making love.”
“I can just about guarantee it.”
Fascinated by the strong, steady pulse at the side of his neck, she shuddered to think of what lay ahead, if she said ‘yes.’ Most of the shudders were from excitement.
He waited patiently in her dimly lit store while she battled inner demons he might never understand or be able to accept.
“Kendall . . .” His voice held a rough plea.
She took a deep breath and raised her eyes to his. “I should pack a few things.” She hesitated, and took the final plunge. “I’ll need my contact lens case, too.”
His smile, wide and happy, blinded her. “I can wait.”
Book Trailer for Unsafe Haven:
My website: http://char.chaffin.com
Soul Mate Publishing: http://www.soulmatepublishing.com/char-chaffin/
Head on over to Goddess Fish and find out why I’m pantless on Amazon. It’s perfectly G-rated, I promise!
And if you liked that, then check out another excerpt from Compromising Miss Tisdale at the Party Pavillion
by Cathy MacRae
Historical Romance set in the Highlands of Scotland, 1375
Heat Scale: Sensual
Wed at the king’s command, they entered a marriage neither wanted. Realizing he married the wrong woman, can Laird Scott forge a lasting bond with his new bride and put a long-standing feud to rest?
“Ah, Eaden.” Ranald’s raised voice brought the earl to a halt.
He turned. “What?”
“There may be a problem with your, er, wife.”
“I saw her with the servants.” Eaden scowled at the memory. “I’ll speak to her about her duties.”
“Och, ‘tis no’ the problem.”
“Then what is?”
“She’s no’ yer wife.”
“What do ye mean?” Eaden bit out the words. Damn the Barde wench! What kind of trouble had she stirred up in the two weeks he’d been gone?
Ranald squared his shoulders. “I mean, ye married her, but she isnae the woman we thought she was.”
“The day after ye left for Troon, yer bride came running from yer bedroom all in a panic.” He tossed Eaden a wry look. “I wasnae too surprised about that. She kept telling me she wasnae Miriam.”
“What are ye talking about?” Eaden ground out in a voice growing thin with impatience.
“She swears she isnae Miriam Barde, but Mary Marsh, Lady Miriam’s companion.”
Eaden’s face flushed hot with anger as he digested the news and considered the ramifications. “The woman is lying. She has fought me tooth and nail from the beginning. The treacherous wench is trying one last time to put an end to this marriage.” He glared at Ranald, daring him to disagree.
“Nay,” Ranald replied evenly. “You dinnae see or hear her that day. She was pale and trembling. I dinnae think she was lying.”
Eaden didn’t bother to answer. He spun on his heel and strode down the stairs and into the castle, looking for the woman who was turning his life upside down.
Soul Mate Publishing
This week author Linda Bennett Pennell tells us about her first love . . .
First Love by Linda Bennett Pennell
We met in class as so often happens with first loves. I felt someone’s eyes on me and turned to see who it was. Wow! I was bowled over. He was so cute in that scruffy, cowboy sort of way that we now find so appealing, but at the time was generally frowned upon. I didn’t care that his jeans were torn and his shirt was faded. Or that he had a reputation. John was interested in me. That was all that mattered. We got to know each other over a meal, and then another. Pretty soon, we were an item. He wasn’t afraid to show his affection in public and didn’t seem to care that his friends thought our relationship was silly. He took their teasing with the amused indulgence the noble sometimes bestow on lesser beings. His family wasn’t so pleased. They considered me an uppity city girl.
My friends were at once thrilled and appalled. John was known to be something of a bad boy, but they all agreed he was the best looking guy they knew. Whenever one of my friends decried his lack of suitability, I quietly reminded her that no one else had a boyfriend. The girl would usually sigh meaningfully and nod. John and I became something of a minor celebrity couple among the female population.
I would like to be able to say that the relationship lasted for many years, but alas, it went the way of so many young romances. For a while we were deeply in “like” as we called it in those days, but with the passage of time, the pressures from friends and family became too great. We began to argue and drifted apart.
I occasionally think about John with a touch of nostalgia, but my older, wiser self knows it was not meant to be. We were seven and my mother, who taught John’s first grade brother in the classroom next door, was not amused!
BIO and Links to Buy . . .
I have been in love with the past for as long as I can remember. Anything with a history, whether shabby or majestic, recent or ancient, instantly draws me in. I suppose it comes from being part of a large extended family that spanned several generations. Long summer afternoons on my grandmother’s porch or winter evenings gathered around her fireplace were filled with stories both entertaining and poignant. Of course being set in the South, those stories were also peopled by some very interesting characters, some of whom have found their way into my work.
As for my venture in writing, it has allowed me to reinvent myself. We humans are truly multifaceted creatures, but unfortunately we tend to sort and categorize each other into neat, easily understood packages that rarely reveal the whole person. Perhaps you, too, want to step out of the box in which you find yourself. I encourage you to look at the possibilities and imagine. Be filled with childlike wonder in your mental wanderings. Envision what might be, not simply what is. Let us never forget, all good fiction begins when someone says to herself or himself, “Let’s pretend.”
I reside in the Houston area with one sweet husband, one German Shorthaired Pointer who thinks she’s a little girl, and one striped yellow cat who knows she’s queen of the house.
Favorite quote regarding my professional passion: “History is filled with the sound of silken slippers going downstairs and wooden shoes coming up.” Voltaire
Buy link: http://amzn.to/16qq3k5
Recently I had the pleasure of completing several blogs to be posted on various sites during my virtual book tour starting soon (apologies, blatant plug). One of the topics I was asked to cover was my tips for writing romance. This was by far the most difficult blog to write since I hadn’t ever given any thought to what my tips to other authors’ might actually be. So, in the spirit of helping out the writing community (or repelling it), I’d like to start featuring some handy writers’ tips on my personal blog.
And you readers’ may enjoy it a bit as well.
Tip #1 – Above all else, your hero better be sexy.
“I wish the author would have made the hero more realistic, like my husband,” said no romance reader, ever. When I read romance I want the quintessential hero, and that entails some very specific must-have’s.
Height – Heroes are always taller than their heroines, and in my experience, generally tower at about six feet tall. Height is important so he can make the heroine, and the reader, feel like the dainty women he is there to protect – even when we readers may be bordering upon Amazonian proportions.
Physique – Ever read about man boobs? What about soft, squishie bellies with belly-buttons the size of small saucers? Back hair? Nope, and there’s a reason for that. In romance, even when there were no such things as personal trainers, weight benches, or Nair, the heroes were always in tip-top physical condition. Chiseled abs, rock hard pecks, and sinewy biceps came naturally without the hero ever having to participate in any sort of physical labor. And though there may be some controversy over chest hair (like it or leave it), I’ve not once heard the discussion extend into the sexiness of a furry back.
Hair – Writers can be a bit more liberal with hair. Even though now and again the hero may be sporting a sexy bald look, the majority of books feature a hero with soft, manageable locks. It’s either immaculate in its upkeep and appearance, or it’s disheveled, slightly wavy, and kept a bit too long to be considered appropriate. And facial hair – well, the perpetual five o’clock shadow is a popular look for romance heroes. Occasionally there’s a mustache, mutton chops, or goatee, but rarely have I read about unkempt beards . . . unless the wearer has been unjustly imprisoned or wrongly enslaved. Tousled or neat, the hair of your hero is a key focal point throughout your book. And you thought it was your plot – ha!
So as you consider the physical appearance of your hero, remember that this is romance that you are writing. Reality has its place . . . just not in America’s number one selling source of literary escapism.
Questions, comments, and anything in between.
For Readers & Authors of Historical Romance
Like history? Fall in love with it!
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