Archive for March, 2008


Ridin’ the edge of lust is fun—until someone falls in love.


A Rough Riders book.


Goody-two boots AJ Foster has waited her entire life for her dream cowboy Cord McKay to see her as more than the neighbor girl in pigtails. Now that she’s old enough to stake her claim on him, she’s pulling out all the sexual stops and riding hell-bent for leather—straight for his libido.


Divorced rancher Cord has sworn off all women…until innocent AJ suggests he teach her how to ride bareback—and he realizes she doesn’t mean horses or bulls. Between his responsibilities running his massive ranch, missing his young son and dealing with the sexual shenanigans of his brother and cousins, Cord is more than willing to take AJ up on her offer. On a trial basis.


The fun and games tie them both up in knots. AJ isn’t willing to settle for less than the whole shootin’ match with her western knight. But for Cord, even though the sexy cowgirl sets his blood ablaze, he’s determined to resist her efforts to lasso his battered heart.


Sweet, determined AJ has the power to heal—or heel—the gruff cowboy…unless Cord’s pride keeps him from admitting their relationship is more than a simple roll in the hay.



On Writing A Romance Series



I write modern day erotic western romances for Samhain Publishing, called the Rough Riders Series. I’ll admit when I started out writing these books, because I also write very gritty mysteries under another name, I’d intended to create something wildly different within the romance genre; a family type saga, spanning the course of several years and numerous books, where I can explore the true western way of life, warts and all, the tight-knit community and personal dynamics within multiple characters and a unique setting. Yes, my main focus is still on giving each couple their own story, plus a wickedly hot “anything goes” type romance including very explicit sex scenes, but I also keep in mind my goals for the arc of the entire series as I’m penning each book.



Because this is a series, the approach is different than what’s considered a “single-title romance” –one couple, one story, one happily ever-after. That means I’ve left little threads dangling from the get-go. Unfulfilled dreams. Broken hearts. Bad decisions. Need for redemption. Regret. Why? Because life is rarely tidy. I’m writing about the grittier side of life in rural America, which means not everything or everyone is politically correct, and the attitudes, circumstances and people one finds in urban areas, are not necessarily found here in the modern day wild west. It isn’t right or wrong: it just IS. It’s real. It’s not always pretty. As I strive to have my hero and heroine find their happily ever after, I mix it up and use humor, as well as tragedy to deal with racial (Native American) issues, prejudice, and sexual (homosexuality) stereotypes in these stories. I realize this type of romance is not everyone’s cuppa tea, but it doesn’t change the basic, hard fact that these books are first and foremost…romances. I feel fortunate to be with a publishing company like Samhain, that publishes romantic stories that are a little outside the box.



Fans of linear romantic stories sometimes see romance series and the author delving into the lives of secondary characters strictly as a gimmick to sell the next book. Not completely untrue, but for me, as an author and a human being, no main character or person is an island. They have family, friends, co-workers who influence their lives and their decisions—be it good or bad choices. Bad things happen to everybody. Everybody makes a bad decision once in a while. Sometimes those decisions haunt them. Sometimes they allow one incident to rule, damage, control or define their entire life. That’s where the good decision comes into play. When that character overcomes personal struggles, finds their other half, their perfect fit, their soul mate, the person who ‘gets’ them, and is knocked sideways by finding love that will last an eternity, the realization that they will do everything within in their power to hold onto that ultimate happiness, the reward of love and happily ever after—and yes, sometimes riding off into the sunset—seems so much sweeter.



How much realism do you like in your romances?



***Don’t forget to leave a comment. One winner will receive a print copy of LONG HARD RIDE.


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We have a winner! The winner of the Shelly Laurenston book I have is….





Congrats Amanda!


The book will go out to you on Monday. Hope you enjoy it!


For those that didn’t win, don’t be bummed, I received a box of books today from an order I placed with BAM but it took them so long to finally send the books that I now have duplicates of three books because I was too impatient to wait for them to send the books. Yes, I know, I have no patience. But you lucked out!


I have here….




TO SEDUCE A BRIDE by Nicole Jordan


I haven’t decided yet if I’m just going to give them away or make you work for them so check back in a few days and we’ll see.

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Anne Rainey Book Winner

We have a winner! The winner of Anne’s post is….
Congrats Cherie!
Please email Anne at anne @ annerainey.com (without the spaces) and let her know what format you want TOUCHING LACE in. Enjoy the book!

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One of the questions I get as an author is “where do you get your ideas?” Most times they marvel that all of my books come out of my head (scary or not, I’ll let you decide).

Sometimes I don’t have an answer. LOL! Sometimes I do. You’d be surprised at just what inspires writers, what is that spring board from which our story ideas flow.

Let me give you a for example. My new series, Devils on Horseback, was inspired by an oyster dish. *holds up hand* I swear, for real. You see, I was at a Christmas party with DH at a restaurant. We were browsing the menu when an appetizer caught my eye.

Can you guess the name?

Ayup, Devils on Horseback. It’s oysters in hot sauce (we luv our hot sauce down here in NC). That name just echoed through my head like someone had run a great big bell next to me. I literally turned around and dug in my purse for paper and pen to write it down.

Now I have two books published in the Devils on Horseback series, with three more planned. I created an entire history for these five men simply from three words I read in a menu.

Other inspirations include an abandoned white house 100 yards from another abandoned white house. I used to see them every day and wonder why they were built so close together and so mall (figure they’re probably a hundred years old). That got me thinking… what if it were a bride who didn’t want to be married and insisted her husband build a separate house for her? Kablam! The idea for a book called Find Me was born (as yet unfinished).

One thing that actually feeds my ideas, and my imagination, are other writers books. If I don’t read, I can’t write. It’s kind of like a ying-yang relationship. They both fuel my dreams. Holy cow, my dreams are like full-length movies! LOL!

How about y’all? Do you have dreams that stay with you after you wake up and keep popping up in your head? That’s what it’s like for me just about every day. 😀 If I don’t actually write, it all clogs up my brain until I start talking to myself, or worse, the characters.

Funny isn’t it? Inspiration really does come in all forms. I can get inspired by anything and everything. Anybody want to share one of their strangest or most memorable dreams?

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New addition to the TBR! :)

Went to BAM today and look what goodies I got to add to my TBR! 🙂

She is a mercenary trained in the ways of war and the blade – nothing more. A woman known only as Red Gloves has come to the land of Palins in search of work. What she finds, however, is the torched fields and razed farms of a land defiled.


If you see her without the gloves, run….This is all Josiah knows about the mysterious woman – until he catches a glimpse of the dagger-star birthmark, a sign that she is destined to free his people from a ruthless usurper’s reign of terror.


But she is more dangerous when following her heart…Red doesn’t believe in gods. Nevertheless, she finds herself drawn into the rebellion – not by the prophecy or the chance to win the throne, but by the pain of untold loss in Josiah’s eyes….


A small town called Fairview is Lily Wakefield’s last stop—there’s nowhere left to go. Maybe here she can finally stop running and start a new life. Which just might include Simon McCarthy, the newspaperman and single father who’s starting to make her believe in love again.

Just as she and Simon start becoming a real family that includes her baby twins and his daughter, Lily’s past catches up with her. And that past could rob her of her chance at happiness.




Bullet Catcher Adrien Fletcher is on a mission to track down a baby given up in a black market adoption thirty years ago. He has a list of possible names and one tantalizing clue: the infant girl had been marked with a tiny tattoo. And since tattoo-hunting will mean getting up close and personal with the women on his list, he’s the perfect man for the job. But when Fletch meets Miranda Lang, he knows she can never be just a name on his list. If she’s not his target, he should move on and find the right woman, despite their electrifying attraction. But Miranda is on her own mission, and every step takes her closer to a deadly trap. Fletch may be the only man who can protect her…forcing him to choose between duty and desire.


Garret Tulane is Darcy Rhodes’s personal knight in shining armor. Not only did he rescue her from being stranded in the middle of a snowstorm, but he’s also given her a place to stay. His close family ties and his caring support create the secure home life she wants to give her unborn child.

That security is an illusion, however. Despite the growing closeness between Darcy and Garret, she knows he has obligations and commitments that don’t include her—or another man’s baby. But feeling as she does, when the time comes, will she be able to walk away?


Red werewolf Bella flees her adoptive pack of gray werewolves when the alpha male Volan tries forcibly to claim her as his mate. Her real love, beta male Devlyn, has been out of her life for years, but comes after her when she finds herself accidentally captured by humans. Bella becomes convinced that Devlyn only wants to return her to Volan, but soon realizes that Devlyn loves her as much as she loves him, and is willing to fight Volan to the death to claim her. That problem pales, however, as a pack of red werewolves takes to killing human females in a crazed quest to claim Bella for their own. Bella and Devlyn must defeat the rogue wolves before Devlyn’s final confrontation with Volan. The  strength of the book lies in Spear’s depiction of pack power dynamics, as well as in the details of human−wolf interaction. Her wolf world feels at once palpable and even plausible.


Burdened by Grief, She Hunts a Killer

They never found her sister’s body, but Detective Rebecca Montgomery knows her murderer is still out there. In the five months since Danielle went missing, there have been two more brutal abductions. A savage menace stalks the women of San Antonio, and the relentless detective will do anything to find him.

And a Seductive Stranger Shadows Her Every Move

But her latest case—the discovery of a young woman’s remains inside the wall of a burned-down theater—plunges Rebecca from her grief into a brand-new nightmare. She soon meets handsome, mysterious Diego Galvan at the crime scene, and his shadowy connections will lead to her first break in both cases. But when Rebecca submits to his considerable powers of seduction, she will leave herself vulnerable to a merciless killer . . . and when he attacks, no one will hear her scream.

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We have a winner! Mel posted the winner’s name in her post but I’m pulling it up here so it can be seen. J The winner of Mel’s post is……






Congrats Deidre!



Please e-mail Mel at mel @ melissa – lopez .com (no spaces) with which e format you’d like. Enjoy the book!

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We have a winner! Abby left a message in the comments of her post. The winner of Abby’s post is….
Congrats Maureen!
Email Abby your snail mail addy at: abbygreen3@yahoo.co.uk Enjoy the book!

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My newest Samhain Publishing release has quite an interesting history behind it. I had originally written Touching Lace a few years ago and submitted it to a different publisher. That publisher expressed some interest. Great news, right? We went through revisions and as it turns out they loved the story. More great news. But (oh boy, here it comes) it wasn’t quite hot enough for them. Go figure! Anne Rainey not write a hot story? Get out! LOL

Well, the truth is this story is pretty dang steamy, but considering the plotline I didn’t feel I would be staying true to character if I kicked up the heat and had them falling into bed on page one. So, I held onto the story for a bit and chose not to sex it up more than it already was.


:::Move forward a few years:::


When I got published with Samhain, I thought again about Lacey and Nick’s story collecting dust and wondered if maybe my Samhain editor would be interested in taking a gander at it. I sent it to her, crossing my fingers. BAM! She loved it. I was so thrilled that she didn’t ask me to turn up the heat. There are some stories that work well steamy. There are some stories that work well smokin’ hot (read my Haley’s Cabin, you’ll see what I mean, lol). And there are yet other stories that work well tame. It’s all about the characters, right? So, I had to ask myself, “would I fall into bed with my best guy bud the instant he asked me to?” The answer, “NOT!”. Of course neither would Lacey. She’s not an idiot, for goodness sake! So, that’s yet another reason why I’m so thrilled about this release. My editor saw what I saw. She understood the story and the characters. That’s a very good feeling for an author.


Now, you’re probably wondering, “just how tame is Touching Lace?” Well, it IS an Anne Rainey book. It’s SO not G rated! Yes, it’s steamy! Nick wouldn’t have it any other way, LOL! However, it’s not read it in the closet scorching. For that, you’ll have to read a few of my other current releases. 😉


What are your thoughts on this issue? Should the characters decide how hot the story gets or should the publisher? Think on it a bit, while you read this blurb of Touching Lace:

Touching Lace blurb:

Taking friendship to a whole new level…

Lacey Vaughn is tired of being dumped on by men. It’s clear she needs help in the ways of seduction. Over cappuccinos, Lacey shares her worries with pal Nick Stone. Being the good friend that he is, Nick offers to give Lacey a few pointers in the ways of sexual pleasure. From his first touch, Lacey forgets all about lessons. Now all she wants is more of his luscious body and skillful touches.

Nick’s craved Lacey for months. He’s done watching her waste herself on losers. It’s time she saw him as more than the dreaded good friend. He’ll do nearly anything to have the little spitfire all for himself.

But in order to get Lacey past her insecurities, Nick will have to put it all on the line—including his heart—and pray he doesn’t lose her forever.


Excerpt from TOUCHING LACE can be found here.


Don’t forget to leave a comment! One reader will receive a download (format of their choice) of TOUCHING LACE.

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Behind the creation of Netherworld.


I’m celebrating the recent release of my first novel titled Dark Sentinel a paranormal romance. And the launch of my series site Netherworld.

http://nether-world.net/ the back drop for Dark Sentinel. While Netherworld offers a new romance with every installment it’s a dark, foreboding world. I mixed a little horror and urban fantasy elements into the series.







Sometimes authors have real clear ideas of what’s in store for their characters and worlds. Other times details come more slowly.


Netherworld sparked to life with a whispered word. Redemption. What’s necessary in the process of redeeming? What kind of act would redemption take? This led to my central concept. The forsaken. The forgotten. And with that concept I just knew I wanted a world with multi dimensional layers like that of the Dark-Hunter world of Sherrilyn Kenyon. I wanted a world I could build on and expand as the series unfolded.  


For a more in-depth inspiration, I was struck by one of my early college classes and one of my very favorite pieces of literature. Dante’s Inferno. This story is truly a masterpiece! I read it three times before the semester was up. The premise of Dante’s Inferno stuck with me from the first reading. Truly fascinating! Imagine circles in Hell. As I was toying with Dark Sentinel’s premise another story came to mind. One written by Kate Hill centered on a demon. Demons! Yes! I needed demons! I wanted lots and lots of demons. I nearly flipped my computer chair over when Pinhead from Cliver Barker’s Hellraiser popped into my head for a visit. Truly, this is not a character you want to know intimately. And neither is my Dark Prince. Seriously a purely evil being. My muse was in Heaven as the bits and pieces of Netherworld started falling into order.       


Once I had a partial done for Dark Sentinel Netherworld literally spilt wide opened while I was in a Ohio hotel in June of 06. Working with pen in paper story plots poured out. I honestly didn’t see the dark world coming until it was there. The next day, I had a impulsive pitch to Samhain Publishing. I still remember my Netherworld unfolding during my live pitch to Christina Brashear nearly two years ago. Christina was absolutely fabulous while I was absolutely nervous!.


Now thanks to Samhain Netherworld has come alive for you. So, do you believe in redemption?


Dark Sentinel exerpt link below.



Thanks so much for having me, Fatin! 



Melissa Lopez


JOURNEYS OF LOVE every woman needs to take.




***Editor’s Note: Melissa is offering up one free download of Dark Sentinel. Winner’s choice of format. Don’t forget to leave a comment to be in the running.



Check out the cover for Melissa’s June book, DARK CHANCE. Gorgeous eyes!




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My April presents release: Bought for the Frenchman’s Pleasure is very special to me because it’s my fourth book for Harlequin Mills and Boon and this is a very special year to be published, because it’s the centenary of when Gerald Mills and Charles Boon founded their iconic publishing company in London.


        I really enjoyed writing this book because my heroine started out as a secondary character in a different book that never got developed. I had this idea in my head of a world renowned super model who was totally different to how everyone saw her. And also totally different to the girl she’d been protrayed as in the press; as an irresponsible drug user photographed in compromising circumstances. She’s been busy living her life and getting back on track when she comes face to face with the man who denounced her behaviour to the world eight years previously. On the back of which she almost lost everything.


        He is an arrogant French tycoon who thinks he knows exactly who and what she is, and yet he can’t help himself from wanting her. So he forces her into a situation where she has to agree to his terms. And he sets out to make her his, despite the fact that it goes against every one of his dearly held principles.


        My heroine Sorcha is Irish and has those classic celtic looks, dark dark hair, pale skin and blue eyes. So unusual and yet so common on the streets of Dublin! Romain is tall and dark and sinfully handsome. And he knows it. He’s never had a woman turn him down before and he doesn’t expect it now.


        I got to take my characters on a whirlwind tour from Dublin and Inis Mór in the west of Ireland to New York, India, Spain, Paris and finally back to rainy Dublin.


        If you pick it up I hope you enjoy going on their journey with them. And the first person to tell me the nationality of my heroine will get a free signed copy of the book!


All the best, Abby







As Romain spoke he felt righteous anger move through him at her insulting words but also felt uncharacteristically at a loss. What on earth had possessed him to cross the room so soon? He couldn’t even remember forming the wish, or desire to come closer…and yet here he was. Her back faced him, her skin so pale that he doubted she’d ever been in the sun. And it was very lightly freckled. A true Celt.

It made her even more intriguing, added to her allure. An almost blue black sheen rippled off her hair as she started to turn around and when she faced him he sucked in a breath. She was quite simply, ravishing. Almond shaped blue eyes, ringed with indecently long black lashes. Cheekbones so high and well defined that it was a sin that she wasn’t smiling, to make her cheeks full and ripe. And her mouth…lord, it must have been created by a God of decadence. The lush lower lip was a sensual invitation to touch, feel, slide his tongue across, and on it rested a top lip that was endearing with its slight overbite, an exquisite anomaly in a perfect face, a cupids bow of tempting irregularity.

            Her breathing was rapid, her widening eyes overbright, pupils dilated and her skin flushing under his look. Something hard settled in his chest. He’d been right. He fought a silent battle with himself, hadn’t he just witnessed her little ten minute trip to the powder room? Where he knew damn well, she and plenty others like her would have been indulging in snorting a mood enhancer…the most common kind on this circuit. She hadn’t reformed. He wanted to walk away, wanted to turn around forget he’d ever seen her, but he also perversely, never ever wanted to let her out of his sight again. And he hated himself for it. And he hated her for attracting him so effortlessly…yet he knew he was being irrational. And that fired him up even more.


Somehow, she managed to articulate a word that sounded English, that made sense. Because one thing Sorcha knew for sure, nothing made sense anymore. Every preconceived notion about this man had fled. He was just a man, a devastatingly attractive man, holding her in some kind of wickedly sensual spell.

Tall dark and handsome. He was a walking cliché.  But, no banal description could do justice to the way his hair shone almost black under the glittering lights. The way his hooded eyes hinted at a dangerous sensuality that was so palpable that she felt faint. The way his skin shone and glowed with undeniable rude good health, so darkly olive that she fancied he must surely come from the far east, despite being French. She was tall, almost five foot eleven, but she had to tip her face up to his. She was barely grazing his shoulder in heels.

The bespoke designer suit did little to hide the raw untamed sexuality of the man. Sorcha, from her experience of working with some of the best bodies in the business, knew a good physique when she saw it. And his was…perfect. And she’d bet money that it wasn’t honed in a gym. This man gave off an air of restless energy that spoke to her, called out to her, as a lover of the outdoors herself. He would only be content with pushing himself to the max, in the rawest of environments.

What had happened to her? Why couldn’t she seem to move…she was vaguely aware that Kate had melted away seconds ago. And he was still looking at her as though he wanted to throttle her! For long moments, they stared at each other in this silent and heated communication. And finally Sorcha spoke again, more impatiently this time – who did he think he was to come over and glower at her? She refused to give him the satisfaction of recognition.

‘Yes? Can I help you?’

Romain had to focus. Her voice was husky, the accent refreshingly unjarring…melodious. Clarity rushed back with force when a hapless waiter dropped a glass nearby, shocking him out of his stupor, making her flinch. And then he remembered. And that hardness took hold again. Say hello, exchange a few words and get out of there – after all hadn’t he come here tonight to meet her? He might have decided to dismiss the notion of using her for the job but a few words couldn’t hurt…

            He held out a hand, ‘Romain de Valois. I don’t believe we’ve actually met before…despite your flawless character reference.’

Finally some life force returned. She ignored his hand and said with sweet acidity, ‘Nearly as flawless as the one you gave me eight years ago?’

He dropped his hand and looked down at her, cool and unperturbed by her rudeness. ‘So you do remember. I wasn’t sure if your acerbic comments just now were due to intense dislike on first sight, or if you were referring to that.’

She couldn’t hide the bitterness, ‘Of course I remember Monsieur de Valois. It’s not every day the press chases a seventeen year old out of London calling for her blood, a press that was spurred on by your comments, all you lacked was a pulpit…’

Her chest rose and fell and she couldn’t disguise her agitation. She could feel her skin heating up under his look.

‘Do you forget that you were a seventeen year old drug addict?’ He said with harsh inflection, ‘Photographed unconscious on the street?’

            A pain so sharp that it caused her to stop breathing for a second made Sorcha want to curl inwards. Guilt, shame and an old, old fear all vied for supremacy. With what felt like a superhuman effort she found some hard brittle shell left. She tossed her hair with studied indifference and was too wound up to notice the tiny flash in the cool grey gaze.

Her voice was scathing. ‘If you’ve got nothing more to say to me than to come over like some kind of outdated moral judge and check for track marks on my arms then please excuse me –‘

She turned to go and was taking a step away when her wrist was caught in a strong grip. His touch seared through her whole body like a brand. He slowly and very calmly turned her palm upwards and made a thorough study up and down the underside of her milky white arm.

            ‘No,’ he said musingly, ‘No track marks. But then I’m sure you’re an intelligent woman. You’d have them well hidden.’

Sorcha finally yanked her arm free and hugged it close to her chest as though he had burnt her. Her voice was shaking with emotion and to her utter horror, she could feel the sting of tears at the back of her eyelids, ‘Mr de Valois, if you would please excuse me. I am here in a work capacity tonight for your aunt. I don’t want to cause a scene but trust me when I say that if you try to stop me leaving again, I will scream this room down.’

‘There’s no need for such dramatics Miss Murphy, or should I say Quinn? And if you did anything of the sort, I’d put you over my shoulder and carry you out like a child having a tantrum.’

Sorcha gulped, her bravado in short supply all of a sudden. She didn’t doubt his words for a second, and the thought of him throwing her over his impossibly broad shoulder…she could feel the heat flare up from her stomach.

            She furiously willed a body which seemed to have been invaded by an alien force to obey her silent command to stop reacting to his presence, and gritted out, ‘It’s Murphy to you. If all you want is to see the tabloid fodder you chewed up and spat out then have a good look.’

‘Oh, I am,’ he drawled, and Sorcha mentally castigated herself for her careless words. She didn’t want this man’s attention on her…any part of her.

‘You’ve certainly grown up…and filled out.’

She sucked in a breath, unaware that her innocent movement caused those parts where his eyes had rested briefly in an eloquent accompaniment to his words were drawn back there again.

‘I was just a teenager –‘

‘Yet no teenager I knew stayed out till six am every morning, drinking champagne all night, doing cocktails of various drugs to stay awake –‘

            He glanced pointedly at the glass in her hand, her knuckles were white on the stem she gripped it so tightly. Following his glance and feeling suddenly reckless and rebellious, she tipped the glass to him in a salute, ‘Well, I must say it’s nice to meet the man who once called me the poison seeping into the industry…here’s to you Mr de Valois, I wish you luck on your crusade to rid the world of imperfect people!’

And with that Sorcha downed the half empty glass in one go. Very carefully she put it down on a nearby table. And while she still could, feeling sick from the immediate rush of a drink she didn’t usually favour, she spun on impossibly high heels and strode away from him, the silk of her long dress billowing out behind her.

More than a few men turned to look as she passed and Romain couldn’t fail to notice, or stop the very strange proprietary surge of…something, very disturbing. He felt a little shell shocked, he could still see the white expanse of her delicate throat bared as she had downed the sparkling drink. Her eyes had flashed before putting the glass down.

No woman, ever walked away from him like that, or showed such blatant disrespect. Yet, much to his utter confusion, he found himself thinking that his decision to veto her for the campaign suddenly seemed a little too hasty. Watching her walk away filled him with the almost overwhelming urge to grab her back, strike more sparks, keep her talking.

He hadn’t expected this. He’d expected her to be hard, with that smooth shell most models had, yet that vulnerability had hit him straight between the eyes. And he’d been surprised that she’d remembered his comments from eight years previously. His jaw hardened, despite his aunt’s words and Sorcha Murphy’s apparent vulnerability, he’d be more than surprised to find that she had given up her old habits.

To be brutally honest, he’d expected that once she’d known who he was, that she’d have morphed into exactly the type of woman he’d become immune to. Sycophantic, posturing…but she hadn’t. She’d been filled with fire and passion, all underneath that pale, pale skin. An intoxicating package.

For some men, he told himself angrily and finally turned away from the image of her slender back walking away from him.


‘Well he can take his job and –‘

‘Sorcha!’ Maud’s husky smoke ravaged voice rang out like the crack of a whip.

It stopped Sorcha in her tracks literally. She was pacing back and forth in Maud’s palatial office that looked out over busy New York streets. Ever since Maud had called her in to tell her that Romain de Valois wanted her for his campaign, she’d been feeling jittery and panicky. She sat down. ‘Sorry Maud, I know he’s your nephew –‘

‘Technically he’s my ex-nephew,’ the older woman waved a hand, ‘That doesn’t matter anyway. Nepotism never got him to where he is now, that was through sheer hard graft and ingenuity,’ her face softened with unmistakable affection, ‘Can you believe even I have to answer to him?’

She ignored Sorcha’s dark scowl, austerity marking her features again, ‘The fact is, this is probably one of the most prestigious jobs you could ever be offered, two weeks all over the world. Do you know how many models were considered? It’s so important to him that he’s overseeing the whole shoot personally. He’s even willing to kick off in Ireland to accommodate your holiday plans, a condition I insisted on.’

The thought of even a day with that man glowering down his nose at her, checking up on her every two minutes caused very contradictory feelings in Sorcha’s head…and body. Since that night almost a week ago, she hadn’t been able to get his dark face and tall impressive body out of her mind. And she hated it. He was her nemesis, the embodiment of every misunderstanding she had suffered all those years ago.

            ‘Maud…can’t you see how difficult this would be? He’s not just anyone,

he’s –‘

‘I’m well aware of the things he said in London that time. But you have to admit, innocent or not, if you hadn’t been caught like that, then he wouldn’t have had any reason to say anything. His hand was forced by his board. He didn’t have the complete control he enjoys now. They couldn’t be seen to be taking an easy line on models doing drugs…not when that girl had died so soon before…’

Sorcha felt cold all of a sudden. She was barely able to take in Maud’s words, her mind seizing on the girl that she mentioned. She had been a young model on the brink of stardom who’d overdosed and died, only weeks before Sorcha’s own chain of events had unfolded. It always made her feel sick and impotent with anger and guilt. It was one of the reasons in the past year she’d finally followed her heart to try and do something about those past events, something concrete…

Maud stood up and came around to perch one hip on her desk. She looked at Sorcha from over her spectacles. ‘I’ll tell you something else that no-one knows…’ she sighed, ‘It might help you understand…’

Sorcha just looked at Maud curiously.

‘His own mother was a drug addict. She died of an overdose. So you see, he has a very personal abhorrence of drugs.’

            Sorcha felt a dart of sympathy. But then she remembered the condemnation in his eyes and forced her mind to clear of the images she always worked so hard to avoid, and said somewhat stiltedly, ‘Well, his own personal issues aside, I’m sorry for him but that doesn’t excuse his behaviour. And when he spoke to me the other night, it’s obvious he still believes that I’m involved in something, he’s not willing to give me the benefit of the doubt. I’m sorry Maud but I’m taking my few months out, you know I’ve been promising this to myself for the past year.’

Her eyes beseeched her agency boss. Maud looked fierce for a second and then shrugged. ‘I think you’re mad Sorcha. I’ll let him know, but I warn you, once he’s decided on something he’s not one to give up easily, he may even try to go through your Irish agency knowing that you’re headed back there. His board of management are adamant about using you…’

Sorcha shot to her feet, ‘See! He’s been forced into this against his will. He won’t push it if I refuse. Please, just tell him and see for yourself, he’ll walk away without a backward glance.’






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