GIVEAWAY! BAD REPUTATION by Stefanie London

GIVEAWAY! BAD REPUTATION by Stefanie London

It’s true, Wes is well-endowed.

But everything else is a huge misunderstanding…

Wes Evans, son of Broadway royalty, just wants to achieve something without riding his family’s coattails. Too bad the whole world is talking about his sex life after the notorious Bad Bachelors app dubs him “The Anaconda”. But when he sees a talented ballet dancer, he knows she is exactly what he needs to make his show a success.

Remi Drysdale only had one thought when she fled Australia for New York—never mix business with pleasure again. Ever. Working with Wes is the perfect chance to reclaim her career. Remi promises herself not to tangle with the guy who holds her career in his hands…no matter how enticing his reviews are on the Bad Bachelors app.

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EXCERPT

He leaned back in his chair, legs spread slightly apart. The pose was unabashedly male, and Remi shifted her gaze away from him, turning back to face the empty rows of seats representing the audience. The last thing she needed was the “Anaconda” staring back at her while she tried to nail these steps.

“Three, two, one.” She counted herself in and rose up into relevé.

Her toes protested, but she gritted her teeth. She couldn’t let Wes see she was struggling. Not when he’d placed so much faith in her.

She stepped up onto the chair, her floaty, chiffon skirt swirling around her thighs. Swish, swish, kick. Her foot sailed over his lap, missing him easily and she tried not to be distracted by the blue eyes trained intently on her. Swish, swish, kick. She turned, stepping into an arabesque, facing him, her back leg extended away from the chairs. Her ankle wobbled, the chair uneven enough that if she didn’t rise up in exactly the right spot, she couldn’t get a flat surface to balance on.

She wobbled again and fell forward, her hand coming down on Wes’s shoulder.

“Whoa.” He grabbed her easily, steadying her so she could bring her other foot down to the chair.

Humiliation burned in her cheeks. The other dancers seemed so much more at ease, so much more professional. They weren’t scared by the strangeness of the moves or the challenge of working with these props.

“I wanted to practice alone tonight,” she bit out. She was annoyed at herself for feeling so far behind, rather than at him for turning up unannounced. After all, he had every right to be there. “I’ll get it, I promise.”

“I know you will.” He stood, his hands still on her.

Her chest rose and fell, the deep breaths threatening more emotion that she desperately tamped down. Wes moved in front of her, his other hand coming up to smooth over her hip. He settled it on the other side of the waist.

“I’m going to hold you,” he said. “Go back into arabesque.”

Swallowing, she rose onto pointe and stretched into the position. Her back leg extended behind her, pulling up to create a perfect, elongated shape. Her arms floated in front, one slightly higher than the other as she looked out over her fingertips, concentrating on the crack in the beige wall on the other side of the studio.

She held the position, feeling safe with his hands holding her steady. It’d been so long since she’d had a partner to give her a safety net. To make sure she didn’t fall.

Remi didn’t dare look down, fearing that staring into Wes’s eyes might bring the most painful memories rushing back. She’d fallen in love once before in this very predicament—frightened of a new challenge, but with a strong, charming man holding her steady.

His touch burned through the fabric, sending sparks showering over her. The frayed edges of her nerves left her open, susceptible. They made her an easy target, like a rabbit caught in the glare of headlights. Ready to be flattened. Her breath hitched in the back of her throat, her heart slamming against her rib cage.

This wasn’t the effects of a memory.

It was the very real chemistry she’d walked away from the night they’d met at the bar. The kind of chemistry that was often imitated, rarely experienced. She knew choreographed chemistry, orchestrated chemistry. But this…this would burn her alive if she let it.

“Did you prove your point?” Her voice wobbled. Traitorous thing.

“What do you think my point was?” he asked.

Gone was the easy, humorous crinkles that normally bracketed his blue eyes. Gone was the cheeky smirk that lifted his lips, the one that always made her tummy flutter. Instead, he stared at her intently. Studying. Assessing. Like he could see a hell of a lot more than she wanted him to.

“To show me I can conquer my fears and all that. Was it meant to be a teachable moment?” She hated herself for trying to tarnish the flickering connection between them by being a sarcastic bitch. But Remi didn’t do vulnerable. She didn’t do open. Not anymore.

“I’m here to help you,” he said, frustration giving his tone a sharp edge. “Call it a ‘teachable moment’ if you like. Call it whatever the hell you want. But the reason I’m here is because I want this show to be a resounding success, and in order for that to happen, I need to make sure you slay whatever demon is lurking in your head.”

Yeah, he saw way too much.

“No demons,” she lied. “Just a fear of props.”

“Bullshit. We both know there’s more to it than that.”

He was still touching her, and she was still letting him. His strong hands made her waist look fragile. Made her look fragile.

You don’t want to be bloody fragile. You want to be a strong, badass ballerina who doesn’t need a man to save her.

But she was failing miserably.

“Help me down?” she asked, forcing a smile. She needed to break this spell. ASAP.

“Only if you stop feeding me bullshit,” he replied. “I know you probably come from a place where keeping your mouth shut is the only way to get ahead. I’ve been there too. But I can’t help you if you’re acting like I’m the enemy.”

“What if you can’t help me at all?” she whispered.

He tightened his hands around her and helped her down from the chair, the change in angle casting shadows across his face. Remi wasn’t short by any means, but Wes towered over her. He leaned forward, his dark hair flopping across his forehead. Without thinking, she reached up and brushed it back.

“I will keep pushing, Remi. I will poke and shove and I will make you angry enough to get out of your own head.” He pinned her with his stare. “I won’t let this show fail.”

Disappointment stabbed at her chest. Of course it was all about the show—she was doing the same stupid thing that she’d done before. Misinterpreting signs. Reading too much into things. Hearing what she wanted to hear.

Wasn’t that what Alex had said to her? If you thought I loved you, it was because you wanted to think that. Not because I meant it.

“I won’t let you fail.” Wes’s voice had turned rough. Gritty.

Don’t fall for it. Don’t fall for him.

About the Author

Stefanie London is the USA Today bestselling author of contemporary romance and romantic comedy. Originally from Melbourne, Australia, Stefanie now lives in Toronto, Canada with her husband. She loves to read, collect lipsticks, watch zombie movies and drink coffee. Her bestselling book, Pretend It’s Love, was a 2016 Romantic Book of the Year finalist with the Romance Writers of Australia. You can visit her at www.stefanie-london.com

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GIVEAWAY! HIGHLAND BETRAYAL by Alison McLayne

GIVEAWAY! HIGHLAND BETRAYAL by Alison McLayne

A betrothal. A betrayal. A love threatened by treachery.

Laird Callum MacLean vowed to marry Maggie MacDonnell. But when his father’s apparent suicide makes him Laird of his clan, Callum must unmask his father’s killer before bringing Maggie into his dangerous new home.

Maggie’s home isn’t any safer. When Callum fails to return, Maggie does what any resourceful Highland lass would do. She escapes—and finds herself toe-to-toe with Callum, who’s determined to fulfill his promise. Maggie can’t bring herself to trust him with her heart again. But with a traitor still at large, they must rely on each other in every way, or their clans—and their love—will be destroyed.

 

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EXCERPT

Callum tied the mare’s reins to his stallion’s, then circled the fire and crouched in front of her.

“The horse is yours, Maggie, and the supplies. I willna stop you if you decide to leave, but I will send a guard with you—five men. They will see you safely to your brother.”

Instead of feeling grateful, disappointment crashed through her. What was wrong with her? She pinned a smile on her face, hoping he read it as a sign of thanks. She opened her mouth to tell him she’d leave immediately, but he waylaid her with a raised hand.

“Nay, I have more to say. Let me finish, please.”

She closed her mouth and nodded. Her heart beat faster. That flutter returned in her chest. When he grasped her hand and held it in his, palm to palm, her throat tightened.

“Maggie, when I left you before, I meant to return in the spring. ’Twas my true intent to marry you, I swear it. I could hardly wait to make you my wife. But…things changed after my father died that winter. I kept thinking I would fix it by the next spring or next summer, until suddenly, three years had passed and I’d barely written, let alone come to see you.”

“Why didn’t you come?” She had to squeeze the words past the lump in her throat.

“I knew I wouldnae be able to leave if I did.”

She frowned, her anger boiling up all over again. “And why would you want to? I was of age.”

“’Twas not the right time.”

“And now is? When I’ve decided to leave? When I no longer trust you?”

“’Tis not ideal, I know—”

“Aye, you have that right.”

He clenched his jaw, and his chest rose as he breathed deeply. “We both have secrets. You don’t want to talk about yours, and I canna talk about mine. Not yet. I’m sorry, lass. But…if you can, I’d ask you to put that behind you. I told you I’d help you get to Edinburgh, to wherever John is, but there’s another option. I doona want you to leave. Father Lundie is riding with me. He’ll marry us, Maggie. Now.”

She gasped. Married? Now? “But…but…”

He lifted her hand and squeezed tight. “Stop thinking of the past and everything that stands in our way. Just think of the present. With me. You’re frightened of something, and this will give you protection. Not just mine, but my foster brothers’ and Gregor MacLeod’s too. We’ll help you with Ross and whatever else it is you’re running from.”

“So you’ll marry me to protect me? That’s all?”

“Nay. I’ll marry you because I want you. As my wife, as my lover, as the mother of my children. I will create a safe and happy home for you. You doona need to leave the Highlands, and I promise ne’er to leave you again.”

She stared at him, barely able to catch her breath. Then he wrapped a strong hand around the nape of her neck under her hair and pulled her toward him. “Please,” he said before pressing his lips to hers.

They’d kissed before, and she’d never forgotten the feel of him against her mouth. But the reality of him was so much better than her memories.

His lips were soft, warm. He didn’t push or thrust his tongue inside; instead, he gently caressed it against the seam of her mouth. She shivered, a gasp echoing through her and parting her lips. He waited a moment, as if to make sure she wouldn’t shove him away, then stroked through the opening just far enough to touch her tongue, to play lazily against it.

She felt scorched from the inside at the contact. Heat built heavily between her legs and in her breasts. She wanted his hands on her, squeezing, like he’d done before.

She’d only just leaned into him, needing contact down the length of her, when a shrill whistle sounded in the distance—or it seemed far away to her passion-drugged body.

“Callum!” Gavin yelled just as Callum set her away from him and stood up.

She blinked and looked around to see the men, including Gavin, running for their horses, weapons drawn. Then Callum grabbed her hand, tugged her up and over to the other side of the fire where their horses stood together. Aristotle had his ears forward and eyes on Gavin. The mare stamped and whinnied nervously at all the sudden noise and activity.

“Someone’s coming?” she asked, her breath coming in short bursts.

“Aye,” Callum said as he practically tossed her on the mare before mounting his horse. “A lot of someones. Do you have your daggers?”

“I always have my daggers.”

“Of course you do. Smart lass.”

“Callum, if they’re MacDonnells, doona trust them. They’ve come for me, and if I have to go—”

“You’re not going with them.”

She didn’t answer, wishing it were that simple. He tugged her mount closer and looked directly into her eyes.

“You are not going with them, Maggie. If you do, we all go. Gavin and I are lairds of strong clans, allied to even stronger clans. If Ross thinks—”

“’Tis not Ross coming for me. It’s Irvin,” she blurted out.

He frowned. “Your mother’s cousin?”

“Aye, and Eleanor’s brother.”

“I remember. I did not like the way he watched you at Ross’s wedding. He’s sly.”

“Like a fox.”

He squeezed her hand, a muscle jumping in his cheek. “And I left you there with him all this time. I’m so sorry.”

She squeezed back. Fear for him tightened her throat. “I doona want you hurt. If anyone’s going to put a dagger in your heart, it’ll be me.”

He puffed out a laugh. “I’d welcome it.”

“Nay, you wouldnae. If I were mad enough to stab you, I’d make it hurt.”

About the Author

Alyson McLayne is a mom of twins and an award-winning writer of contemporary, historical, and paranormal romance. She’s also a dog lover and cat servant with a serious stash of dark chocolate. After getting her degree in theater at the University of Alberta, she promptly moved to the west coast where she worked in film for several years and met her prop master husband.

Her self-published works in contemporary romance include her Santa Barbara Billionaire Bachelor series: How To Catch A Bride, How To Claim An Heiress, and How To Outplay A Player. How To Catch A Bride (formerly The Fabrizio Bride) was recently nominated for a RONE award.

 

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BORNE TO BE WILDE by Eloisa James

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

This book may be unsuitable for people under 17 years of age due to its use of sexual content, drug and alcohol use, and/or violence.
Source: Publisher
BORNE TO BE WILDE by Eloisa JamesBorne to be Wilde by Eloisa James
Series: The Wildes of Lindow Castle #3
Published by Avon Genres: Historical


 

 

All of society knows that Lavinia Gray is bright, beautiful, and wealthy.  Only the last is a lie, as Lavinia herself recently found out.  Convention dictates Lavinia needs to marry a rich man as quickly as possible, which is why she lets her cousin talk her into proposing to Parth Sterling.  Not only is Parth one of the richest men in England, he’s a man who knows how to get things done.  The only problem is, the man she loved to tease in better times turned her down flat, which is devastating in more ways than one.

 

Parth Sterling has the perfect bride in mind, and it is definitely not the luscious Lavinia Gray.  He can’t help but feel for her, which is why he offers to find her a wealthy husband.  Except that the longer Parth spends around Lavinia, the less he can bear the thought of anyone but himself being her husband.  Parth doesn’t know it yet, but the woman who is the opposite of everything he thinks he should want may just turn out to be everything he needs.

 

Born to be Wilde snaps and sparkles all the way through.  I adore a good frenemies-to-lovers romance, and Eloisa James has delivered a truly delightful one in Parth and Lavinia’s story.

 

Lavinia has been brought up to be the wife of a wealthy man and not much more.  Despite this, she’s quite bright and incredibly charming.  She’s also in dire straits at the beginning of this story.  I won’t go into detail, but suffice it to say that Lavinia is hit with a lot of responsibility all at once and she doesn’t let it break her even though the life she has lived hasn’t prepared her to shoulder the burden she takes on.  What I loved best about Lavinia was her eye for fashion.  It’s so much more than the frivolous fancy people assume it is and what she does with her knowledge, skills, and talents had me cheering for her all the way through the book.  The one person who has the ability to knock Lavinia off her stride is Parth.  Parth is intelligent, clever, and handsome, but man does he get it wrong with Lavinia.  He’s attracted to her, but he sees her as shallow and he couldn’t be more wrong.  I loved watching them bicker and struggle against their mutual attraction even as they managed to peel back the layers of each other’s characters.  It’s a rocky road to happily ever after for these two, but they have such undeniable chemistry and their romance is so engaging that I was happy to go along for the ride.

 

Born to be Wilde is the third book in Ms. James’s Wildes of Lindow Castle series and though it can be read as a standalone, if you start here be prepared for major spoilers from Wilde in Love and Too Wilde to Wed.  The Wildes adopted Parth at five years old and they happily bring Lavinia into their fold, so it’s no surprise that most members of the Wilde family play supporting roles in this book.  The Wildes as a whole are warm, welcoming, funny, supportive, and endearing and they’ve made every book in the series shine.  I can’t count the number of times Born to be Wilde made me grin.  It’s a truly delightful story and I highly recommend it to any historical romance fan.

 

GIVEAWAY! THROUGH THE FIRE by Katie Ruggle

GIVEAWAY! THROUGH THE FIRE by Katie Ruggle

He’s tall.

He’s dark.

He’s brutally handsome…

And he may be her only hope.

 

Kit Jernigan despairs of ever fitting in with her new tight-knit K9 unit—they’ve been through too much to welcome a stranger. So when a killer strikes, it’s a fight to convince her fellow officers to trust her long enough to catch the woman she knows is responsible.

She can’t do it on her own. What she needs most is a partner: local fire spotter Wesley March.

Wes knows in his heart that Kit is right, and he’s willing to leave his lonely tower to help her prove it. But the more time they spend together, the hotter the fire smolders…and the more danger they’re in. A member of the K9 unit’s inner circle is determined to have her revenge—no matter who gets burned in the process.

This time, it’s personal.

 

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Excerpt

Her hair was just as beautiful down as he’d imagined it would be. Wes shifted his weight and fought the urge to fidget with the salt and pepper shakers. He didn’t know what to do with the excess energy that was coursing through him. He’d asked her on a date, and she’d agreed. Even though hours had passed and the date had begun, he still marveled at it. If it hadn’t been horribly early, he would’ve called Leila to let her know it had worked. His bravery had been rewarded.

Seeing her was worth enduring the heavy weight of the other diners’ stares and the buzz of their whispers. He normally did his best to avoid all the townspeople, but he’d ignore their avid interest for Kit’s sake. It was difficult, though. Even the sleepy waitress gave him a curious, wide-eyed look when she stopped at their table to fill their coffee cups and chat lightly with Kit. After she walked away, Kit said quietly, “That’s Jules. She and Theo are together.”

He nodded. “You’re good with people.” She reminded him of Leila that way. Both women always seemed to say the right thing, even when they didn’t know someone. “That must be useful when you’re working.”

She studied him with a slight smile that was kind, rather than mocking. “Thank you. I’m not always the most tactful, so I sometimes get myself into trouble that way. I do best with kids.”

“I can see why. You’re both very honest.” His interactions with children had been minimal as an adult, but he remembered the sometimes brutal honesty of his peers from when he was a kid.

She laughed a little, and the sound warmed his insides. “‘Honest’ is the nice way of saying that we don’t think before we speak sometimes.”

“That can be good, though.” He couldn’t look away from her. From the sheen of her black satin hair to the way her green sweater followed her slight curves, she was riveting. He felt like he could stare at her for days and not get bored. “My sister, Leila, always tells me the truth, even when it’s uncomfortable. That’s so much easier than trying to figure out how people really feel when their words don’t match their thoughts.”

“If everyone were that honest, my job would be a lot easier.”

“That’s true.” He watched as she picked up her coffee mug with both hands and took a sip. Her fingers were small and slender, with unpolished, short nails, and he marveled that she could use them to take down people twice her size. The mention of her job reminded him of something. “One of my neighbors stopped by the tower.”

“Rufus?” she asked, setting down her coffee. He saw a muscle twitch in her cheek and felt a remembered jolt of fear at the thought of how close she’d been to losing her life.

“No. Murphy.” She seemed to relax a little as she watched him, waiting patiently for him to continue talking. He loved how she wasn’t in a rush. Her manner calmed him and made conversation, which was usually a minefield of missed cues and uncertainty, so much easier. “He spends a lot of time in the woods south of town. Trapping, mostly.”

Wes paused, wondering if she would question him about Murphy’s activities. He’d never actually caught his neighbor in the act, but Wes had found a few illegal leg-hold traps that he was pretty sure belonged to Murphy. He was still trying to figure out the best plan to convince Murphy to stop, since the traps were dangerous, as well as cruel. Kit didn’t say anything, just kept her gaze on him, giving him her full attention.

“My neighbors don’t trust law enforcement…or any government agency, really. In the last year, they’ve started to come to me with a few things. They know I work for the forest service, so I believe they consider me an intermediary, someone halfway between them and the government, if that makes sense?”

“It does.” Her coffee forgotten, she stayed completely locked on him, and he felt the rush of that focused interest. “You’re their backwoods ambassador.”

His laugh was a surprise, even to him, more pleased than amused. It was such a pleasure to be understood. “Yes. Exactly. I pass on the information they give me to the right agency, and they can hold on to their anonymity.”

“Win-win.” Pushing her coffee mug aside, she laid her forearms on the table so she could lean even closer to him. “What did Murphy tell you?”

“Are you still working on the case of the house that burned down last Monday?” Even if she wasn’t, he still planned to tell her the information he’d gotten from Murphy. If he was the backwoods ambassador, then she was the Wes ambassador. He was acquainted with the other cops, and he didn’t have any problem with them since the crooked lieutenant had been arrested a few weeks ago, but he already trusted Kit. She might have been new to the area, but he had a gut-deep feeling that she wouldn’t betray him.

“Yes.”

Wes lowered his voice, even though the closest other diners were several tables away. “Murphy was checking his traps and saw someone leave that house minutes before it went up in flames.”

“How close was he?” Kit had softened her voice to match his.

“Approximately fifteen feet from the edge of the house’s backyard.”

“Could he describe the person? Does he know them?” Although the words were quiet, there was an urgency to them that made his blood run faster. It wasn’t a bad feeling. Ever since he’d met Kit, he’d felt so much more alive.

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GIVEAWAY! BRAVE NEW EARL by Jane Ashford

GIVEAWAY! BRAVE NEW EARL by Jane Ashford

An Earl mired in melancholy is no match for a determined woman…

Widower Benjamin Romilly, Earl of Furness, has given up hope of finding happiness. His wife died in childbirth five years ago, leaving him with a broken heart and a child who only reminds him of his loss.

Miss Jean Saunders is a cousin by marriage. She doted on Benjamin’s late Countess, and can’t bear it when she hears rumors that the Earl is too bereaved to care for his young son. She arrives on the scene to evaluate his fitness as a father, and if necessary, to take his son away.

Jean’s sudden eruption into the Earl’s household simultaneously infuriates and invigorates him. She may be the only person who can breathe life into his neglected home—and his aching heart…

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Excerpt

Jean searched the parlors on either side of front hall, calling softly and beginning to feel foolish. This was obviously a futile quest. She had given up and turned back when she noticed a line of light under the library door. She went in, finding the chamber still warm, the coals of a fire still glowing. “Tab?” she said.

“I beg your pardon?”

Jean started so violently that a drop of hot wax splattered from the candle to the back of her hand. The pain made her breath catch.

Lord Furness rose from the chair by the hearth. “What are you doing here?” she asked. “With no lights?” In her fright, she sounded accusing.

“I don’t sleep well,” he replied. “I often come down. And you?”

“I was looking for my kitten.”

“Got out, did he?” Still half in his broken reverie, Benjamin eyed his guest. The lines of her body were beautifully revealed by her thin wool dressing gown and gossamer nightdress. Her hair had been braided down her back, but soft tendrils had escaped all around her face. He imagined what that hair would look like loose—what a wild riot of curls.

“I don’t see how,” she said, her tone oddly defensive. “But he’s not in my room.” The candle wavered in her hand. “Oh, what if he’s in the kitchen when your cook gets up.”

“The cook will cope.” Miss Saunders’s unexpected appearance was like a dream, yet so different from the ones that usually disturbed his nights.

“Why must everything I do go wrong? I had this one small creature to care for—”

“And tomorrow we will find him,” Benjamin interrupted. “There’s no sense looking in the dark. Too easy for him to hide. We’ll turn out the staff in the morning. By then, he’ll be hungry and come looking for food.”

“Yes.” Miss Saunders startled suddenly, setting the light of her candle dancing over the walls. “The portrait seemed to move.”

Benjamin looked up at Alice’s likeness above the mantel. “Yes, when it’s dim like this, she does. Seem to.”

“You loved her very much,” said Miss Saunders softly.

“We met at a ball in London, fell in love, married, and were parted by death all in a year. Such a short time to encompass so much.”

“A life sliced in half,” she replied. Her tone was contemplative and…bitter?

“Yes.” Benjamin sank back into his chair. “You understand that?”

“Oh yes.” Absently, she sat down opposite, putting her candle on the low table by the fireplace.

“A love you lost?”

She shook her head, setting the errant curls bobbing. “Say rather…a person who defined my existence.”

It was a striking phrase. He waited a moment. When she didn’t go on, he asked, “Who?”

Miss Saunders hesitated before answering, “My mother.”

“Ah. That can be a deep bond.”

“Yes.”

The single word dropped between them like a rock tossed into a well. The echoes were odd, Benjamin thought. Not sadness, not regret. “You miss her a great deal.”

Miss Saunders laughed without humor. “How I wish I did. She haunts my dreams.”

Benjamin felt as if some mighty hand had reached deep inside him and struck a chord. His whole being resounded with it. He leaned forward and took her hand. It was trembling.

As his strong fingers closed over hers, Jean couldn’t look away. Under his dressing gown, his nightshirt was open at the neck. The strong column of his throat rose above a muscular chest. She’d never been more intensely aware of another person, much less a man.

“The past keeps its claws in us,” he said.

The phrase was so exactly right. “It feels like talons,” she said. “Sunk right in. No matter how you fight, they won’t come loose.”

“A mouse carried off by a hawk,” he said.

Lips parted in amazement at his understanding, Jean nodded. Lord Furness leaned nearer. She’d moved toward him as well, she realized, irresistibly. For a moment, a kiss seemed inevitable. They grew closer, closer. She could feel a hint of his breath on her skin.

Then, all at once, he seemed to become aware of their proximity, their laced hands. He let go, drew back. In a welter of emotion, Jean did the same. Color flickered in the corner of her eye; the image of her cousin Alice looked down on them from above the mantel.

Lord Furness cleared his throat. “So, you see.” He took a breath. “Previous…events make it more difficult with Geoffrey. For me. Despite what I might wish.”

Jean gazed at him.

“The resemblance.” He indicated the portrait with a gesture. “It…flashes out at me. There and then gone. He looks just like his mother, and then he doesn’t. If it was one or the other, I’m sure I’d grow accustomed. But I find it hard to take the…sudden blow.”

She nodded. Her dreams were like that. Some memories as well.

“I’m very glad you’re here to help,” he added.

“You are?”

“Yes.”

“I’d thought you seemed to be doing well. With the pony and all. Perhaps I wasn’t needed.”

He sat straighter. “We agreed to work together, for Geoffrey’s sake.”

“But I’m not sure what I can do.” She wanted to help him, Jean realized. She wanted a number of things she hadn’t recognized until tonight.

Lord Furness turned away. “I ran today,” he said in a harsh tone. “I had to get away from him. My own son. I hid in this room as I’ve been doing for far too long. I wanted never to come out.”

“But you did.”

“And I was a bear at dinner. Surly and curt.” He turned back to her. “Do you see that hiding is easier?”

Jean couldn’t look away from those blue-gray eyes. They were mirrors and temptations and beckoning abysses. “Yes,” she whispered.

He blinked. Jean felt as if she’d tripped on a missed step. She felt Alice staring down at her. In a confusion of emotion, she stood. “I…I should go up.”

He didn’t argue. Was he finding it just as difficult to speak? Shaken, Jean took her candle and went.

When she entered her room—minutes, eons, later—Tab was sitting on her bed. He gazed at her in seeming reproach and mewed. “Where were you?” cried Jean. “I looked everywhere.”

Mew,” said Tab. He kneaded the damask coverlet, pulling a thread of the pattern loose.

“Don’t. Oh, I’ll have to ask for a plain bedcover.” She put the candlestick on the bedside table and ran a hand over the kitten’s silky fur. He flopped over and offered his pale belly, tiny paws waving in the air. Jean laughed and petted him.

About Jane

Jane Ashford discovered Georgette Heyer in junior high school and was captivated by the glittering world and witty language of Regency England. That delight was part of what led her to study English literature and travel widely. She’s written historical and contemporary romances, and her books have been published all over Europe as well as in the United States. Jane has been nominated for a Career Achievement Award by RT Book Reviews. She lives in Los Angeles, California.a Rafflecopter giveaway

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