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Thursday, January 31, 2013

Guest Blog: M.S. Spencer: Purple Prose: Metaphors for the Sex Act

I can see I’ve caught your attention.

Yes, I’m blogging on all those lovely little descriptions you find in romances for the activity that every story dances around: SEX. Yup. Copulation, making love, sexual intercourse, cohabitation, fornication, coitus, sleeping together, screwing, making whoopie, mating, diddling…where was I? Oh, yeah. Sex.

Let’s assume that both readers and writers long for a new and original way to describe the sex act; that is, besides adding more bodies to the pile or changing bits of them around. For all those who desire a good old-fashioned male-female, yin-yang, romantic entwining, but want to hear about it in a fresh way, we give you Purple Prose.

It turns out there are a million ways to move from that first kiss to the deep sigh of satisfaction (what used to be the cigarette moment) at the conclusion. First, you have the gazillion terms for male and female sex organs. Then you can choose from an assortment of positions (cf. Kama Sutra) and settings (say, the futon in the hero’s mom’s house, the back of a pickup truck, or less romantic spots like a forest glade or the beach). Even the actual movement varies from phase to phase of the operation—from “rubbing” to “pistoning” to “sucking,” etc.

“But,” you cry, “surely purple prose is more than a bunch of technical terms strung together!” You are so right. Good purple prose captures the way it feels when your lover’s skin first touches yours, when flesh connects with flesh, when the proper Body Part A fits perfectly into Part B. And then, once everything’s aligned, it employs word images to describe the primordial, steadily accelerating rhythm, images that not only ring true to the reader but draw her deep into the scene. What does the heroine experience as her orgasm climbs up and over her? What is her lover thinking—or rather, what sensations strike his synapses as the pace speeds to its climax?

I’ve provided some examples below that hopefully convey that swirling, misty moment when yin and yang meet and fuse. So, sit back in that comfy chair, put the tea down, and enjoy.

The first is from my new release, Mai Tais & Mayhem, romance and mystery on the Florida Gulf coast, in which pigs, true love, sea turtles, Russians, parrots, murder, and money figure prominently, not necessarily in that order.

Mai Tais and Mayhem Murder at Mote Marine (a Sarasota Romance) 
Secret Cravings (January 2013)
EBook, contemporary romantic suspense/mystery, M/F, 2 flames
Buy Link

EXCERPT (R): Morning Delight (ADULT LANGUAGE)
“Tessa? Are you awake?”

Relief and something warm and fuzzy flooded through her. “Yes, Cameron.”

“I’m bringing coffee up.”

A minute later a tall, cool piece of manhood framed the doorway. He ducked his golden brown head under the lintel and set a tray down beside the bed. A sunbeam rippled through the window, melding with Cameron’s eyes. An image flashed across her mind, of swimming naked in a vernal pool under the canopied rainforest, begging the green-eyed leopard that drank from the verge to come make love to her. A heavy body bouncing on the bed brought her out of the trance. “Stop that! You remind me of my brother.”

“Was he a brat too?” Cameron’s eyes glinted with humor.

“Yes.”

“Ah, but he didn’t make up for it the way I do. At least I hope not.”

Tessa lost her will to argue as his fingers found their mark under the sheet. “Urgggh. Unnnh. Oooh.”

“Is that the extent of your repartee?” His voice—and his fingers—were relentless. Two fingers kneaded her thigh, then crawled toward the sweet spot. Tessa could feel her juices start to ooze in anticipation and when the tip of his thumb bore down on her clitoris her muscles clamped down, urging him on. Just as the orgasm began to click he pulled out with a wet, smacking sound. “Cameron!”

“Patience, patience.” He pulled up the quilt and ducked his head under it. She felt his tongue flick at the so-sensitive labia and she spread her legs wide to give him an entrance. The tickling drove her crazy. She wanted to thrash about, to let herself buck, but feared she’d lose the connection with that rough, agile tongue. Finally, she slowed, breathing as steadily as she could, waiting. His fingers joined his tongue in her hole, rubbing, squeezing, licking. Without warning her climax hit. Before he could fly off her, she clamped her thighs around his head and rode his lips like a mermaid on a dolphin, moaning in ecstasy.

When she’d settled back he extricated himself, whistling softly. “My, we’re certainly energized today. You were so sedate last night.”

She looked up quickly to see his mouth tilted up in a waggish grin. Her stomach rumbled, begging for food, but she decided she could put it off for a few more minutes. “Let’s see how you handle yourself in a similar situation.” And she went to work.

The second excerpt is from Artful Dodging, in which Milo Everhart, artist, meets her match in lawyer Tristram Brodie on the battleground of the old munitions factory turned art center called the Torpedo Factory.

Artful Dodging: The Torpedo Factory Murders (an Old Town Romance)
Secret Cravings Publishing (April 2012)
eBook and Print, Contemporary romantic suspense/ mystery, M/F, 2 flames
Buy Link

EXCERPT (R): The Second Time is Better (ADULT LANGUAGE)
Tristram took her arm. “Do you think we’ll have a white Christmas this year?”

The question first hit her as so unromantic, she worried her little dream would dissipate into the night, but then the words took on a cozy kind of comfort, like the chitchat of an old established couple. “I don’t know.”

He sniffed the air. “Smells like snow. Come on, Milo.”

She followed him, stifling both the disappointment and her desire. He’s going to offer me a drink and send me home. And that’s okay. I’ll be fine. Oh, but look at that butt and those shoulders. Is he sexier in Armani or L.L. Bean?

He closed the door behind her, ran his arms around her middle, and kissed the back of her neck. The little hairs rose to meet him. Electricity shot through her like a high-tension power line. He touched the top of her head and slowly spun her around to face him. His eyes burned into hers, and her mouth went dry.

“Milo?”

“Yes, Tristram?”

“Do you know where you are?”

“Um…your house?”

He grinned. “Just checking. You didn’t remember much about our last…encounter, and I want to make sure you are conscious during every single minute you spend here.”

Yeah, right. Forget the small talk and take me to bed, you big gorgeous lug.

“Okay.”

Oh my God, I said that out loud! Shit.

It was too late to take back. He didn’t appear to be listening anyway. He dropped her coat on the floor and lifted her, taking the stairs two at a time. Translucent shafts of light from a recessed panel illuminated the California king that took up most of the room.

Tristram lit a tall, white candle on the bureau and touched her shoulder. “Milo? May I?”

One hand went to the buttons on her blouse, and he undid them carefully. Why did he have to be so polite? Why didn’t he just rip her clothes off like he did the last time? Not that I remember. She let the blouse fall, her breath coming in short gasps. He reached out and cupped one of her breasts, encased in delicate orchid lace. He pulled the lace down with his index finger, allowing the nipple to lift its hungry head. He flicked at it until it stood up hard and ready for something more substantial. Obligingly, he leaned down and licked it. Then he gently unhooked the bra and licked the other nipple. Milo didn’t think she could stand much more.

His hand moved to the button of her jeans. She tightened her abdomen as he unzipped them and let his hand reach in and cup the mound. She fought the urge to press against it but gave in when he started to knead. Her vulva inflamed, releasing the juices like slow-moving lava, soaking the thin material of her bikini.

He pulled the jeans off and knelt before her. His fingers wormed their way under the panties and tickled her yearning lips. Her mind emptied of everything but the aching in her vagina. He rolled the bit of lace off, tossed it in a corner, and began to suck. Slurping and swallowing, he twisted the sensitive flesh and sent his tongue to palpate her clitoris. Milo spread her legs wider, her pussy riding his mouth like a rodeo cowgirl. The candle flickered, shimmering on his desire-glazed eyes. She shouldn’t have looked at his face—it brought her to instant orgasm. She held a hand to her mouth to stop the scream. He pulled away from her, dribbling wet kisses down the inside of her thighs.

Then her lover moved lightning fast. He tore his clothes off, pushed her onto the bed, and moved up to close with her. His cock, hard and healthy, inserted itself into her. She folded her legs around his back and began the delectable climb to climax. He slid in and out, his penis scratching the itch inside her vagina. There. Almost there. Almost…arggggh.

He collapsed on top of her.

BIO:
M. S. Spencer has published six best-selling contemporary romantic suspense novels. She has lived or traveled on five continents, has several degrees, and worked in libraries, the U. S. Senate and Dept. of the Interior. She has two fabulous grown children, and for company Iggy Pop the cat.

Contacts
I’d love to hear from you!
http://msspencertalespinner.blogspot.com
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Tuesday, January 29, 2013

All about Love


Valentine's Day is coming up soon, and although I'm not an authority on love I'm a romantic suspense author who writes about love.  The old saying: Love thy neighbor as you do yourself comes to mind.  Who do you love?

There are many different kinds of love. For instance, love between spouses, love between parents and their children, love between siblings, cousins, aunts and uncles and a whole slew of people.  I love everyone even those I don't really like because I care what happens to them.

In many cases there are varying degrees of affection for the people you care about.  Of course, you're going to love those who are the closest to you like your husband, children and other family members, but there's always room for others. 

Friends come to mind for me and I have several lifelong friends.  I have great affection for them, or I wouldn't have stayed in touch with them.  You can love neighbors who become friends when you have lived next to them for years. 

Is it possible to love someone who hurts you?  I draw the line at loving people who abuse others physically or mentally, but I write about them in my stories.  I even humanize them with some background about them, but I can't care for them in their present lives because they chose the wrong path.  Or in my stories, the path I chose for my character.  This is when you have to care and love the victim.

I love my hubby more than anyone.  When my mother was alive it was a tossup between hubby and mom because I loved them both equally, although, in totally different ways.  My siblings and children are next in line, and then the rest of the family, friends, etc. 

Who matters most to you?

Sandra K. Marshall
http://www.eirelander-publishing.com
http://www.sandramarshallblog.blogspot.com  

Monday, January 28, 2013

Interview With Best Selling Author, Virginia Henley





Please welcome historical bestselling author, Virginia Henley.  It has been an absolute delight getting to know this lady.  She had a huge problem with her computer during the time we were getting acquainted, but she persevered in answering all my questions. 




BIO:

Virginia Henley is the author of thirty historical romances and five novellas. Henley is a New York Times bestselling author and the  recipient of a dozen awards, including the Romantic Times Lifetime  Achievement Award. Her novels have been translated into fourteen languages. A  grandmother of three, she lives in St. Petersburg, Florida, with her  husband.

Q. Briefly take us on the journey with you--when did you start writing and what hurdles did you have to overcome to get published? 
A. One day around 1978 I read a book by Kathleen E. Woodiwiss that combined history with a sensual love story. I realized immediately that I could do this.  My mother had died and my father came to live with us. So I had my husband, two sons, and my father, all watching men's programs on TV and I knew I had to do something for myself.

I forbade the men to touch my writing on the coffee table, and it took me a whole year to write my first historical romance in long hand, and a month to type it. Then for the next four years I sent out the manuscript to various publishers. They'd keep it for about six months and return it saying they didn't read unsolicited manuscripts. In the meantime I wrote a second book that I called The Irish Gypsy.

One day I was in a bookstore and I found a historical romance where the author had dedicated her book to her editor, Page Cuddy at Avon Books. So I wrote her a letter, told her a bit about myself and a bit about my book. She said to pop it in the mail and she would read it. She bought the book for $1,500 and it was published in 1982.  I wrote two more for Avon. Then the publisher left, my editor got married and left, and the new people didn't want my next book.

So I decided to get myself an agent. I had met Jay Acton in New York at a book conference, who represented some big-name authors, and he agreed to take me on. He sold me to Dell Books and it wasn't long before I started to make the bestseller lists.

The tenth book I wrote, SEDUCED, made the New York Times Bestseller List and I got up on the roof and shouted it to the world! I consider myself extremely lucky to have been a part of what I call the golden age of publishing. In the 90's publishers did marvelous things for their successful writers. They flew me to New York to be professionally photographed---hair, makeup, the whole thing. They sent me to all the major cities in the U.S. on book tours, meeting me at the airport with a driver, and putting me up at the best hotels. They held contests for my readers with prizes like a tropical vacation at a Sandals Resort and amazingly, they bought me full-page ads in Cosmopolitan Magazine that cost $60,000. Those were the days!

Q. Those were certainly the days, and they seem to be over for the upcoming authors. I can't imagine a publisher paying $60,000 these days for a full-page ad.  Those were definitely the golden days.  Back to more questions now.  When do you do your best writing and where? 
A. I get up early and after the newspaper and coffee, I write until about two in the afternoon. About ten years ago my husband built me an office with all glass sliding doors that overlooks the pool. Beyond the pool is the waterway that opens into the Gulf Of Mexico. We have so many exotic birds that I see everyday. There are flocks of green parakeets, pelicans, herons, anhingas, white ibis, and ospreys.

Q. What made you decide to write in the historical genre? Is there any other genre you would like to try writing? 
A. My passion is history--not writing books. I was born in England, and when you are an English schoolgirl they teach you a great deal of British history.  It's the research that I love. I have written one contemporary novella, Hot As Fire, and though I'm quite pleased with the story, my heart lies with writing historical romance, because it is what I do best.

Q. Who is the favorite character in your book? 
A. THE DARK EARL was just released in mass market paperback. It was released in Trade Size a year before that. This is the third book in what I call my Peers Of The Realm series, after THE DECADENT DUKE, and THE IRISH DUKE.  My hero is usually my favorite character. They are always dark, dominant and dangerous, and then I create a heroine who is a match for him, or more than a match.


The hero of THE DARK EARL is Thomas Anson, the Earl of Lichfield. He marries Lady Harriet Hamilton, daughter of the Duke and Duchess of Abercorn.  These people are real people of history. The scandalous exploits of these real people are far more shocking and therefore fascinating, than anything I could make up.  I have just turned in the 4th and final book of this series. LORD RAKEHELL will be published in Nov. 2013.


Q. If a movie were made of your book, which celebrity would you want to portray the hero? The heroine? 
A. There are not a lot of actors to choose from because they would have to have British accents. Perhaps Keira Knightley, and Daniel Lissing (who is Australian, and a hunk!) But to be honest, I would much rather leave it to the reader's imagination. When we read, we all conjure an image of the hero and heroine, and they are different for every reader.


Q. What is the hardest part of any book to write? What is your strongest point as a writer? 
A. For me the hardest part to write is the opening chapter. It usually takes longer to write this chapter, because you have to get it exactly right and set the scene and tone for the whole book.


My books are character driven, so the characters and the dialogue are the strongest point of my books.  I become the hero and feel his lust, I become the heroine and wear all her lovely clothes, I become the servant and feel her sore feet and aching back, I  become the villain, and experience his evil desires, and become all my minor characters such as the prostitute who has to find a way to get the coins out of  the men's pockets.

Q. What social media do you prefer? Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc. 
A: Facebook wins hands down for me. My son designed a great header for my page, and I can publicize other author's books there, as well as my own.

For more information about Virginia Henley, please visit her Romance Books '4' Us Author page at http://www.romancebooks4us.com.

BLURB:  
 Is it about the man... or the manor?

It's love at first sight for Lady Harriet Hamilton...love with Thomas Anson's ancestral home, that is. Thomas's father, the Earl of Lichfield, has gambled away the family's honor, and now it's cost them everything at Shugborough Hall. The estate sale is shameful enough for Thomas without some little brat sneaking around his property, but vivacious Harry has caught him 
sneaking around as well...


When they meet again years later, neither Harry nor Viscount Anson has forgotten their encounter. While Thomas has grown into the exact opposite of his  reprobate father, Harry is outspoken, audacious, and now, Thomas must admit,  quite a beauty. But he's committed to restoring the family holdings,  not chasing  after a wife. If only she wasn't hurling herself against his principles-- and  having such a good time doing it...

EXCERPT:
They meet in the prologue, but the first chapter opens where they meet again years later:

Chapter  One
Hampden House, London.
June 1854

"Oh, Bugger and Balls! Sometimes I wish we were back in Ireland." Lady Harriet Hamilton removed the second hat she had tried on and flung it across the room.  "Living in London is far too repressive. I have no freedom to do anything."

Her sister, Lady Beatrix, laughed. "It hasn't curtailed your swearing."

Harry joined in her laughter. "Nor my wagering, or flirting, or roaming about the city unescorted." She looked in the mirror and wrinkled her nose.

"It's these bloody  fashions set by the queen. They are hideous!" 

"You're  nineteen, going on twenty, so you can't possibly go bareheaded."

"Well, I  abso-bloody-lutely refuse to wear a bonnet. They make me look like Old Mother Hubbard." She was totally unaware that her long dark hair and pale green  eyes gave her a rare and striking beauty.

The  Duchess of Abercorn swept into her daughters' bedchamber. "Aren't you ready yet?  I usually insist on being fashionably late, but today that's out of the question. Victoria and Albert are officiating at this grand opening of the  second Crystal Palace, and we cannot insult the queen by walking in late." The Duke of Abercorn was Prince Albert's Groom of the Stole, and for the last eight years also had been his friend and confidant. "This official opening, which marks the beginning of the Season, has already been delayed a month because the male statues were considered too shocking for the queen's sensibilities." She gave a sardonic laugh. "Since Victoria has had eight children, I'm sure she's more than familiar with male parts."

"It is utter desecration to ruin beautiful statues by chopping off their genitals and replacing them with fig leaves," Harry said with disgust.

"Oh, the fig leaves were subsequently considered too offensive, so now they've draped all the statues with cloth."

Harriet and Beatrix rolled their eyes.

"Do you think Prince Teddy will be there?" Jane, who was seventeen, asked with apprehension.

"Of course he'll be there. He's the heir to the throne and his doting parents think the sun shines out his arse," her mother replied. "What's he done now?"

"When we were at Windsor last week, he touched my breast," Jane declared.

"But he's only thirteen," Harry said.

"What the devil does age have to do with it?" her mother asked. "He's a male, and already randy by the looks of him. Don't be alone with him darling, or he'll have your drawers off."

"Royalty has its privileges," Harry quipped.

"Too bad he isn't a bit older," Beatrix said with a wink. "If you play your cards right, you could end up a princess."

Jane blushed. "You are a devil, Trixy!"

"All three of you are devils. What's the hold up here?" their mother demanded.

"Harry refuses to wear a bonnet," Trixy complained.

"Well, I should think so," the duchess declared, plucking the decoration from one of the discarded hats. "Pin this bunch of cherries into your hair.  Always remember, we don't follow fashion, we set it." She touched the crimson ostrich feathers on her own hat to prove her point.

When the fashionably gowned quartet emerged onto Green Street, they found sixteen-year-old James waiting by the phaeton. He opened the carriage door for the ladies. "I'm sitting on the box with Riley. Your crinolines leave no room for me."

"Just don't let your new top hat blow away," his mother warned.

James shut the door. "I wish you had let me take the train. It lets you off at the main gate to the palace grounds."

"The railway was built to accommodate the masses. There will be such a crush of hoi polloi today, you wouldn't be able to breathe," the duchess declared with a shudder.

"I'll ride the train with you later in the week, James," Harry offered. "I rather like the hoi polloi." 

James climbed up beside their driver. He turned, winked at his sister, grinned at his mother, removed his hat and held it in his lap for safekeeping.

"You have a tender heart, Harry. I put it down to the time your father was the Lord Lieutenant of County Donegal and the ruinous rains came. One end of Ireland to the other became a vast wasteland of putrefying vegetation. I took you with me on my mercy visits to the poor, and you've championed the down-trodden ever since."

"I'm following in Uncle Johnny's footsteps." Lord John Russell, the Duchess of  Abercorn's half-brother, had served a six-year term as England's Prime Minister  until two years ago.

"Our family has decidedly bad timing. Johnny had been in the House of Commons thirty-three years before he became Prime Minister. Ireland hadn't had a chance to recover from the tragic potato famine when he took office."

"But he was still able to do lots of good things," Harry reminded her mother. "Not only did he abolish the Corn Laws, he was able to limit the working hours for women."

"Oh let's not talk politics, Harry. The Season officially opens today and it's supposed to be a celebration," Trixy declared.

"Every other year, the Season opens in May. That's another delay we can blame on Her Gracious Majesty," Harry said with disgust.

"Speaking of celebrations, I don't understand why I can't make my debut with Harry and Trixy. Think of the expense it will save if we all have our Season together."

"Since when did you start caring about expenses, Jane?" her mother asked dryly. "A coming out ball tells society that the young ladies making their debut are ready for marriage. Since Harriet and Beatrix are only a year apart, they are having their Season together."

"But I'm seventeen. I don't want to be left out," Jane pleaded.

"You're hardly out of the school room. It would be scandalous of me to throw you onto the marriage market. Just be happy that I will allow you to attend their ball."

Harry poked Trixy in the ribs with her elbow. "D'you hear that? We are to be thrown on the marriage market. Sold to the highest bidder, I warrant."

"Sounds like an exciting adventure to me," Trixy teased. "A guinea says I get more proposals than you."

"Marriage proposals, or the other kind?" Harry asked.

"Don't jest. You'll get plenty of both," their mother warned.

"You shock my sensibilities. Society's morals have changed since the decadent Regency era, when you came of age, Mother. Gentlemen today treat ladies as if they were saints. They want their females to be pure and innocent, and will do everything in their power to protect them from being tainted by the wicked world." Harry gave a mock sigh. "Queen Victoria has taken all the fun out of everything."

"Rubbish!  Gentlemen may pay lip service to pure and innocent, but in reality nothing could be further from the truth. Beneath the facade of respectability, lust and licentiousness  lurk. The male of the species will take advantage of any opportunity." 

Harry winked at her sisters. "Is that what Father did?"

Lady Lu smiled her secret smile. "None of you would have been born if he hadn't. The last thing I wanted was a child."

Harry's eyes widened in surprise. "How did he persuade you?"

"He promised that if I gave in to his passionate advances, he would give me a girl."  Her wry gaze swept over her daughters. "If I'd known he would give me three in the space of three years, I might have resisted."

The Hamilton sisters laughed. Their mother had always said outrageous things and she encouraged them to follow in her footsteps. 

When they arrived at Crystal Palace Park, there was already a crush of carriages.  Riley drove the phaeton as close to the front entrance as he could manage, and the Hamilton family alighted and made their way inside to await Her Royal  Highness, Queen Victoria and Albert, her Prince Consort.

They made their way past the series of ornamental fountains and ascended the dais built especially for the ribbon-cutting ceremony. Within minutes the royal family came into view with its retinue of attendants.

Harry's glance was drawn to her father who walked directly behind Albert.

Not only was Abercorn taller, but far more handsome in her opinion, since the Prince Consort's hair had receded alarmingly. She watched her parents exchange an intimate glance. They are still in love with each other. That's the kind of marriage I want.

As Queen Victoria delivered her speech, extolling the Crystal Palace as a showplace for the industrial, military, and economic superiority of Great Britain, Harry's mind wandered back to the summers at Barons Court, their Irish estate. Vivid memories of her father rowing her mother across the fairytale lakes, or taking her up before him on one of his Arabians filled her head. He's still wooing her after twenty years of marriage. Harry sighed. How utterly romantic!

Her thoughts were brought back to the present when she saw young Prince Teddy edging close to her sister Jane. Harry murmured to her brother, "Teddy can't keep his hands off Jane. When you get him alone, thump him on the nose."

He whispered back, "I may be reckless, but I'm not raving mad. Teddy will be king one day. It pays to have friends in high places." He glanced at fourteen-year-old Princess Vicky. "It must run in the family. The Princess Royal can't keep her hands off my private parts."

"Well, I'll be damned!" Harry exclaimed in utter shock.

"We declare the second Great Exhibition open to the public." Victoria cut the ribbon and the throng cheered, "God Save Our Gracious Majesty!"

The fountain water jets suddenly rose up over a hundred feet in the air.  The spectacle caused the crowd to step back, and only the privileged spectators on the front row were anointed by the spray.

Harry lost no time making her getaway. But before she left the dais she paused before Prince Teddy and smiled sweetly. "I dreamed about you last night, Your Highness.  You touched Jane's breast, and I shoved you on your arse!"

It took him a moment to gauge her meaning then he threw back his head and laughed with glee. "That's why I didn't touch yours, Harry." 

She shook her fist at him and hurried off, eager to see the fantastical displays that had been brought from around the world. An entire wing of the glass building had been divided into courts depicting the history of art and architecture from ancient Egypt through the Renaissance. Harry drank it all in, moving slowly so she could appreciate the fine details. She stopped to look at a display of extinct animals from around the world. She stared at some ugly green creatures made of plaster.

A deep voice from behind her said, "They are called dinosaurs. Do you like them?"

Harry turned around to see who addressed her. The gentleman was tall and extremely dark. There was something vaguely familiar about him that stirred her memory, and suddenly she was swept back to Shugborough, the mansion that had stolen her  heart more than a decade ago. She could even smell the jasmine and honeysuckle.  "I would call them monstrosities," she drawled. "I much prefer centaurs."

Their eyes met, and held. "So, you know who I am."

"And you, obviously, are aware of my identity."

Green eyes stared into black, as the male and female took each other's measure. Harry saw a man in his late twenties. Though handsome, his features were stern and unsmiling. He carried himself with a great deal of unbending pride, and had an animal magnetism that was fatally attractive.

"I think it unwise to wander about alone in this crowd. May I escort you back to your family, my lady?"

"You arrogant devil!" She laughed in his face. "I would be offended, if  you weren't  so ridiculous. I do not conform to the rigid rules of propriety, my lord!"

He looked pointedly at the cherries adorning her hair. "It is evident that your upbringing has been remiss. Your father should have taken you across his knee."

"And tanned my arse? If I remember correctly, that's what you threatened to do the last time we met."

It was clear the young beauty was mocking him. She had been outspoken as a child; now she was downright brazen. Thomas Anson was tempted to take her by the shoulders and shake the insolence from her. He clenched his fists to keep his hands from violating her.

Anson possessed a supreme air of authority that rubbed Harry the wrong way. She threw him a contemptuous smile and turned away. Before she had taken a dozen steps, she came face to face with D'Arcy Lambton, the young Earl of Durham. He was the grandson of Lord Earl Grey, and a close family friend. 

"Hello, Harriet. You look ravishing today."

"D'Arcy."  She gave him her hand and he took it to his lips.

"Did you know they have a circus set up in the center transept?" He pointed in the opposite direction. "Oh, there's my friend, Thomas. Come, let me introduce you  to him." He led her toward Anson, and greeted him warmly.

"Allow me to present Lady Harriet Hamilton...this is my good friend Thomas, Lord Anson."

The corners of Harry's mouth lifted with amusement as she offered Anson her hand.

He took it stiffly, and bent his mouth to her fingers.

"You're supposed to kiss it, not bite it," she warned with a gurgle of laughter.

"You know each other?" D'Arcy asked with surprise.

"Thomas and I have been acquainted for years. We once conspired to steal some paintings together."

D'Arcy laughed. "I warrant they were valuable. Thomas is an authority on art."

Anson glared at her with disapproval. "You are incorrigible," he muttered.

"Flattery, begod!" Harry teased.

"Harriet and I are going to take a look at the circus. Why don't you join us?"

"Oh, yes, please do," she urged. "I hear they have a tightrope walker."

Anson accepted immediately. Since he knew her invitation was insincere, it gave him perverse satisfaction.

Harry, flanked by the two handsome lords, one fair the other extremely dark, made her way through the crowd to the center transept. Trumpets blared, followed by a drum roll, and as everyone raised their eyes they saw a man ascending a narrow metal ladder. He didn't stop until he reached a dizzying height, then he took a firm grip on a long, thin pole and stepped out onto a high wire that was almost invisible. The crowd below gave a collective gasp.

"His name is Blondin. If he walks the tightrope successfully, it will make him  famous," Thomas predicted.

"A guinea says he doesn't make it all the way across!"

D'Arcy coughed uncomfortably. "Thomas doesn't make wagers. He is opposed to any kind of  gambling on principle."

Harry felt her cheeks flush. She knew she had made a faux pas. Instead of apologizing, she said recklessly, "Surely when a male wagers, it shows courage." 

His features hardened. "And when a female wagers, it shows vulgarity. As a matter of fact I find this entire display rather vulgar."

"If you are referring to Blondin's tights, I think they display his manhood magnificently."

It was D'Arcy's turn to flush.

Harry gritted her teeth. There was something about the dark devil that made her behave outrageously. She saw Anson's eyes narrow. The look of censure he gave her was threatening. If we were alone he'd shake me until my teeth rattled. 

Harry slipped her arm into D'Arcy's, using him as a shield. "Did you receive your invitation to our ball? The guest list was extremely selective, but since you are an earl, we made an exception in your case," she teased.

"You and Lady Beatrix are making your debut together. I assume you'll be spending the Season in London and won't be going to Barons Court until later in the year?"

Harry sighed. "You assume correctly, more is the pity. I miss Ireland."

"What is it that you miss?" Anson asked pointedly.

"I miss the people. They have an irreverent sense of humor. They are not straight-laced like the English, who worship at the altar of respectability."

"To the Irish, drinking and gambling are virtues," Anson said dryly.

"Indeed they are. I am grateful that they taught me to do both."

His dark eyes were filled with censure. "You revel in audacity."

"You have guessed my secret, my lord. Since I discerned your secret years ago, I warrant we are even."

A cry of alarm from the crowd drew all eyes upward, where Blondin swayed precariously, before he regained his balance.

"Oh Lord, I can't bear to watch. If he falls, it will make me ill. It's outrageous that a man is forced to do such things for money."

Anson's grim expression softened. "You've just revealed another secret...you are tender hearted."

"Yes, I do take pity on those less fortunate." Her green eyes glittered with mischief.

"So you may consider yourself invited to my debut ball."

"I admit to being guilty of showing my disapproval, Lady Harriet, but surely such cruel punishment doesn't fit the crime."

She threw back her head and laughed. "You do have a sense of humor after all!"

It sounds like a wonderful story, Virginia.  It has been lovely getting to meet you.  Is there anything you would like to add?

I am grateful for this opportunity to be interviewed by Romance Books 4 Us.


Virginia, I assure you, we have loved having you here.  Here are some other places where you can find Virginia.


Facebook:  http://www.Facebook.com/virginia.henley1
Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/VirginiaJHenley 
Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/VirginiaHenley

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Likeability by Janice Seagraves


Likeability 
by 
Janice Seagraves 


I watched the whole season of X-factor, and the judges kept mentioning likeability. "You're not only talented, but you have likeability," they would say. I think that's why Tate Stevens won, he was not only a great singer, but had the good old boy likeability.

 It made me think about writing and showing the likeability of my characters. One writer referred to it as the 'pet the dog moment'.

 In Windswept Shores, I showed my character Seth's likeability when he takes care of Megan when she's hurt. Seth makes light of her injuries to Megan, but when we're in Seth's POV he's worried.

 Excerpt: Megan's POV:

Megan struggled to get up, but found her thigh swollen and sore. Damn, it’s infected. 

Crawling out of the lean-to, she spotted a tea mug left out for her. Aw, that was thoughtful. She sat next to the camp fire, to stretch her hurt leg to one side. In the sunlight, she examined it again; veins crept-out from under the bandage. That can’t be good.

Picking up her cool tea, she took a sip. Ah, it’s sweet. God, it’s been a while since I tasted anything sugared. 

“Oy, Megz,” Seth called out. “Ya have a nice beauty sleep?”

“Yes, I did,” she yelled.

He jumped off the boat and strolled over to her. Looking at her swollen leg with concern in his eyes, he said, “Yer got an infection, Megz.”

“Yeah, and I don’t know what to do about it.”

“No worries, mate,” he cheerfully told her. “I’ll clean it out proper, by getting out that piece that’s causing the problem.”

Seth digging around in my thigh? Megan swallowed hard. Oh, dear, he’s got huge hands.

Excerpt: Seth's POV: 

Water drops hit Seth on the face. It’s raining again. He blinked up at the cliff above him, revealed in the fitful flicker of the dying fire. I’m out of the worst of it, but I’m still getting soaked. 

“Get-out, get-out now,” screamed Megan as she fought her nightmare. He crawled into the shelter next to her. “No! No! Get out of the plane. It’s going to sink. Please, Jonathan, you’ve got to get out.” She sobbed. “No, it’s going under.”

“It’s okay, love. It’s already happened.” Seth rubbed her back. Megan was shivering worse than before. When he touched her cheek, she was hot.

Oh, bloody hell, I forgot to re-dress her wound and now she’s got a fever. Gawd, Bill, why’d you have to die? I could have used your help. 

Pressure built in his chest. I don’t want to lose her, too.
-----------------------

I seem to use that kind of moments in my stories a great deal. One of the characters gets hurt or sick, and the other one will move heaven and earth to take care of them.

How do you show likeability in your characters? 

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Trade paperback: https://www.createspace.com/4084680
Kindle: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00AS9NDNO 
Janice Seagraves’s website: http://janiceseagraves.org/

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Hope and Fear




I love to write books, but often get sidetracked by other work obligations or issues in the daily grind. Yet, I know that if I don’t write them I am rejecting what I love to do, something innate to me. In doing so, even when it gets tough and I occasionally feel fear knocking on my door, I can reject it. I hope for better tomorrows and simply love what I do.

A friend of mine recently told me that we should each reject fear and follow our hearts—because it is only in your heart that fear cannot reside.

Love has no place for fear. Yet, if you can’t channel everything into writing, how does anyone conquer fear, that angry beast that beats at our feet on a daily basis? While we fear the past, we likewise yearn for what is to be, a hope that often is unfulfilled; for hope speaks of dreams that are just that, dreams, that may or may not come into fruition.

Therefore, it is likely to deduce that fear is a residual from past events where we have endured hardship in a manner that we believe may be repeated in our present and/or our future. Hope, on the other hand, keeps us from jumping off the ledge at the thought of the return of fear by looking at a future that can be brighter.

These opposing forces are really at the two extremes of the human psyche—the ying and yang, if you will. So how do we keep from becoming addicted to one or the other—or both?

It’s easy for me to tell you and much harder for me to live by my own advice. Here’s how I see it: in order not to live in fear or in hope, you must be grounded in the present. That’s right, you have to be one-hundred-percent accounted for today. Mind, body, heart, spirit—here today and not planning for tomorrow or worrying about the past.

Just think about it. What if we all could live for today? Do you know just how productive we would be and how much love we could share in just that twenty-four hour period? Perhaps it’s just a pipe dream, but I believe we would all benefit by trying to be present today. It would help us live life more fully and would make us happier human beings as well.

Oh, and by the way, if you want to see fear and hope alive in my writing, why don’t you pick up a copy of Coming to Climax (Climax is a town, by the way). Happy reading.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Bobbye Terry writes mystery/suspense, romance, fantasies and dystopian fiction. A Murder in Every Port, the sequel to Buried in Briny Bay, is slated for release in March. For more about Bobbye, visit her at www.BobbyeTerry-MysteryHappens.com, www.DarynCross.com and www.BobbyeTerryRomance.com.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Guest Blog: Maggie Berkley: What is Love?


I watched a movie a few months ago with my son and the undertone of it got me thinking about love? In the movie the 'antihero' is thrown together unwillingly with the heroine when she, along with her friends, invades 'antihero's' land. A fight ensues and because of circumstances he is forced to take her with him and keep her imprisoned. He's rough, crude and irritated with her and she, in fear of her life, does everything she can to keep him amused and entertained. Soon they come to a compromise but once she has his defenses lowered she tries to escape only to be attacked by other dangerous hunters and once again her life is in danger.

This time though the antihero rushes to her protection, defending her against her attackers and in the midst of a big standoff she wordlessly declared herself under his protection. After he defeats her attackers, the two create a sort of familiar bond and relax into peace and contentment after she discovers a gentle, caring side of her keeper, but soon she is found and rescued by her friends. The antihero, deciding he doesn't want to lose her, pursues them, destroying everything in his path in order to reach her and taking more than his fair share of wounds in the process. Ultimately, he ends up disabled and taken prisoner. The heroine objects to his imprisonment, but her friends drag the antihero back to their own land. In protest, and unable to change her friend's minds, the heroine leaves as soon as they return to their homeland.

The movie ends with the heroine and antihero being reunited and they have a brief moment of peace and joy until once again they are pursued and he, protecting the heroine from danger and suffering from grievous wounds, gives himself over to death so that she might live. As always I wind up crying while watching it, for to see such a profound love always chokes me up. My son, of course, joked at my expense, rolling his eyes and making quips about how the twosome were mismatched and how sexually their relationship was impossible, while I tried to explain to him love was more than sex. That it was a bond...the ability to connect with someone on a level so deep that you knew they would do everything in their power to keep you safe and protected, both physically and emotionally. That they would give you unconditional support and understanding, that nothing you could say or do would affect the way they felt about you. They would never abandon you, never turn from you, never give you a doubt that they loved you. The kind of love that when you glance over at your husband sprawled on the couch, snoring loud enough to wake the dead and making you want to smack him for not joining in on your heartfest.

Yes, my husband has never done any of the things the antihero did (after all, he's still alive, thank God!) but in his own way he has shown me his love. When I have nightmares he comforts, when I'm sad he consoles me. When I'm angry he gets me to see reason and when I'm insecure he makes me feel beautiful. Would he do everything in his power to keep me safe? Yes, for I've seen it in the past and I can hear it in his voice. How many men would do a beat down on some guy who refused to back away from their woman? And how many men would cry (and try to hide their tears while denying there was anything but a speck in their eyes) during the Notebook and the Time Traveler's Wife? Although we are no longer young and spry, despite the fact that grey hairs are starting to spread over our heads and we wake up sore and stiff he's still my antihero. My gruff, prickly, ogreish hero...who snores loud enough to win a chainsaw competition.

BTW...in case you're wondering, the movie wasn't some romantic drama or even a romance at all. In fact the main characters weren't even part of the same species. One was a human female, slightly emotionally damaged. The other is a giant gorilla, the last of his kind. The movie? King Kong directed by Peter Jackson starring Naomi Watts, Jack Black and Adrien Brody. To me, one of the most beautiful love stories I've ever seen. Watch it some time to see what I mean.

BLURB: Out of the ShadowedLands: Book Three of the Morgan Crowe trilogy

A storm is brewing in the Dark Courts and her name is Death.

Tired of broken promises and betrayal, Morgan Crowe takes matters into her own hand and carves a destructive path through the maze of political intrigue the Dark Queen of the Mor'sin'dar had created. After rescuing her friend Vivienne from the dungeons of UnderArch, Morgan returns home to discover her son missing, taken by the man she had once given her heart to. Seeking help to retrieve him she finds those she served unwilling to give assistance and realizes that loyalty is not always a two way street. Tired of being used by those she thought of as allies and hunted by those she knows are enemies, Morgan is determined to end the game she had been unwillingly pulled in to and strikes out in fury at everyone around her.

But when her past finally catches up with her and threatens the lives of those she loves, Morgan knows it's time to take a stand. Charged by her dead King to bring justice to him and the throne and still haunted by the prophecy given to her about the future, she must make a decision that could change the ShadowedLands and those who live within its borders forever. With the help of the mysterious Lord Requiem and the young Werewolf Ty, Morgan steps forward to bring a true King to the Ebon Throne and to remove the threat to her and those she loves. Will she give into her destructive nature or will she finally step into the destiny she was born for?

BIO:
A long time fan of dark fantasy with a touch of romance, Maggie Berkley grew up in a world all her own. During long times of parental lock down as a teenager due to a rebellious nature, she wrote short stories and plays, and as time went by drew upon her love of fantasy to write fan fiction. Due to the encouragement of friends and family she decided rather than keep her stories for herself she would publish and share them with the world. This is the result.

Maggie lives in Portland Oregon with her husband of many, many years, an extremely tall teen-age son, one rowdy puppy and two cats that rule their lives with an iron claw.

Maggie currently has three novels published. Enter The Night, Behind The Throne, and Out Of The ShadowedLands from the Morgan Crowe Trilogy. She also co-scripted a short film called The Ban-Sidhe.

Feel free to contact her at maggieberkley@yahoo.com

She can also be found on:
http://twitter.com/maggieberkley
http://facebook.com/maggieberkley
http://maggieberkley.jigsy.com

Thursday, January 24, 2013

CLICHES I HAVE KNOWN AND LOVED


CLICHES I HAVE KNOWN AND LOVED



I love a good cliché. As soon as you hear one you know exactly what the writer or person is saying. So easy. Such an economy of words. But lazy. As a writer it’s verboten to use clichés. Like anyone trying to write a good story, I must leave my precious cliché babies behind.

As an ode to that which I must not use, I decided to write this to once and forever fulfill my need for clichés.

Here are a few of my favorites and some new ones I thought were cool:

Every cloud has a silver lining.
Life’s not so bad, when you consider the alternative.
All’s fair in love and war.
There are plenty more fish in the sea.
It’s better to have loved and lost than never to have loved   at all. (Really? Does anyone believe this?)
Beauty is only skin deep. (Tell that to the guys lusting after supermodels)
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. (Ditto above note)
You can’t tell a book by its cover.
I’m not ugly; I’m visually challenging. (Okay. I never    heard this one but I like it)
It’s what’s on the inside that really matters. (See above     re supermodels and lust)
If you can’t beat them, join them.
Nobody is perfect.
I’m only human.
The devil made me do it.
It seemed like a good idea at the time.
Tomorrow, no one will remember (Ya think?)
Avoid clichés (or anything else)like the plague.
There is truth in every cliché. (This is why I love them)
Clichés sound better in a foreign language. (Ah, that’s how   I can get away with using clichés in my writing)
There is nothing to fear but fear itself. (Good one, but overused. Wait! That’s what a cliché is)
Life sucks and then you die.
When God gives you lemons, make lemonade (I prefer to     wallow in self-pity)
Life is a bitch. (Ain’t that the truth)
When it rains, it pours.
No pain, no gain.
Rome wasn’t built in a day.
If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.
I did it my way. (Frank Sinatra, anyone?)
Parting is such sweet sorrow.
Have a nice life.
Live and learn.
To be or not to be.
Live and let live.
Shit happens.
Laughter is the best medicine.
Same shit, different day.
Carpe diem. (See clichés, foreign language above)
What goes around comes around.
Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans.
Life is messy.
Que sera, sera. (Ditto clichés and foreign languages)
Time will tell.
No news is good news.
There is no such thing as a free lunch.
Haste makes waste.
Cleanliness is next to godliness.
Do it right the first time. (Easy to say, hard to do)



There, I’ve done it. I’ve gotten my need for clichés out of my system. I will never again write a cliché in a book. I promise (fingers crossed).

Feel free to add your favorites.



Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Guest Blog: Vijaya Schartz: Kick Butt Medieval Heroines



It’s not a secret, I love writing strong women, and I do not make exceptions for historical series. Strong heroines are a must in a society, especially one where women are not recognized as having a soul. Reviewers call THE CURSE OF THE LOST ISLE series “edgy medieval.” Yep, lots of edges there, Magic swords, daggers, arrows, lances... you get the picture.

Contrary to common belief, there were many strong women in the Middle Ages, despite the fact that they were considered inferior by the Church… and by men in general. A few of these queens and princesses are remembered to this day. Eleanor of Aquitaine comes to mind, and she was, according to legend and sparse records, descended from the Immortal Celtic Ladies featured in the Curse of the Lost Isle series. So was Richard the Lionheart.

And I’m not just talking about knights wielding swords, but ladies as well. While respecting history is important, it is just as important for the reader to identify with the characters of the time. So my medieval heroines are particularly strong-willed, resilient, and knowledgeable. Since they are immortal, after a few centuries they eventually acquire wisdom as well.

But these novel plots are far from random. I did intensive research over the past fifteen years, since the first idea for this series sparked in my mind. It was on the plane trip back from a French vacation. Born and raised in France, I still have family there. More trips to Europe ensued to research the archives of many locales mentioning legends involving the cursed Ladies of the Lost Isle. There will be several books following the four already published:


PRINCESS OF BRETAGNE- Book 1 (Free today in kindle) 
PAGAN QUEEN - Book 2 
SEDUCINGSIGEFROI - Book 3 
LADY OF LUXEMBOURG - Book 4 (Jan. 2013)


 
The entire series is based upon authentic post Arthurian legends. They are set in the original locations, involve true historical figures, feature many historical events. Sigefroi of Ardennes, a son of Lorraine, did found Luxembourg in 963, and although my novels incorporate the legend as fact, his story is as accurate as it comes, even filling the blanks and question marks left by official historians. I hope I did Sigefroi justice, and the good people of Luxembourg will recognize and cheer their beloved national hero.

Hope you enjoy him as well.
You can find out more about me and my books at: http://www.vijayaschartz.com 
 

BIO:
Born in France, award-winning author Vijaya Schartz never conformed to anything and could never refuse a challenge. She likes action and exotic settings, in life and on the page. She traveled the world and claims to also travel through time, as she writes without boundaries about the future and the far away past. Her books collected many five star reviews and literary awards. She makes you believe you actually lived these extraordinary adventures among her characters. Reviewers compared her stories to Indiana Jones with sizzling romance. So, go ahead, dare to experience the magic, and she will keep you entranced, turning the pages until the last line.

BLURB: Curse of the Lost Isle series:

From history shrouded in myths, emerges a family of immortal Celtic Ladies, who roam the medieval world in search of salvation from a curse. For centuries, imbued with hereditary gifts, they hide their deadly secret... but if the Church ever suspects what they really are, they will be hunted, tortured, and burned at the stake.

Review:

"Schartz is an accomplished writer, whose pacing, conflicts, and goals are always complex and whose good characters are always likeable, and whose villains are evil incarnate. You have to like her villains as much as the good guys! Mattacks is a magnificent example of this!" - 5 stars - Manic Readers


Monday, January 21, 2013

New Review: SILENT PARTNER Receives 5 Blue Ribbons From Romance Junkies!

I am proud to announce that my first contemporary romance, SILENT PARTNER, just received a 5 Blue Ribbon review from Romance Junkies this week!

Now, I know this book is by no means a recent release as it came out last year in April, but nonetheless I am so happy by what the reviewer had to say.

As an author, we love when a reviewer raves about our work and highly recommends it to others. But to find out the reviewer is a huge fan makes it doubly special -- which means I can't hold it in any longer. I just have to share it!

"Hot, Hot, Hot! THE SILENT PARTNER, a novel by talented author Renee Vincent, is a sensationally steamy, toe-tapping contemporary romance that will absolutely captivate you. Best known for her historical tenth century Northmen novels, Ms. Vincent has moved into the present with this beautifully written tale. Filled with well-drawn characters, self-discovery, growth, forgiveness, broken dreams and love, this story is one you will not soon forget. Not many authors can successfully combine romance, intrigue, passion and inspiration in one novel, but Ms. Vincent manages to do this magnificently with this contemporary work, bringing the story to life with touching emotion. Do yourself a favor and pick up a copy of SILENT PARTNER. I highly recommend it! In the meantime, as a huge fan of Ms. Vincent’s work, I look forward to seeing what she comes up with next."
5 Blue Ribbons ~ Romance Junkies

Here's an excerpt for your reading pleasure:

There he was.

Shaking his cute little ass on the dance floor of Gyrations, the hippest night club in downtown Boston, amid a flock of beautiful women.

Chloe had first noticed him, chatting with the bartender, when she entered the strobe-lit room and wandered up to the bar. Their discussion looked important since they were both hovered over a business calendar. But, once a change of song had happened, he skirted away from the conversation with a look of intent on his face—probably to score one of the many loose women who had caught his eye earlier in the night.

She couldn’t tell which one he was looking to get lucky with as there were so many dancing around him, their barely-there clothes shimmering underneath the illuminating black light, each one competing for his attention. She didn’t blame them. He was quite possibly the sexiest man she’d ever seen.

He wore sleek, black, painted-on leather pants, a tight white tank, and a have-your-fill-of-me grin on his handsome face. He was enjoying himself—that was for certain—as he moved his body to the beat of the booming bass, his hips looking as if they were dislocated from the rest of him.

Oh, he knew how to dance—quite well—and he was not afraid to show it among the many who crammed into the joint. In fact, he held many people’s attention—not just hers—as if he had a reputation to live up to. As if the status of ‘the best male dancer’ was up for grabs.

She didn’t think there was such an event going on at the crowded nightspot, but she would definitely cast her vote in his favor if there was. No one in the place could even come close to matching his abilities. His steps were graceful, his rhythm was spot on, and his lithe muscular body moved in ways she didn’t think possible. His hips entranced every female in the club, and probably infuriated every male who was left holding up the bar.

Chloe gazed around the trendy, atmospheric room and took in the many grievous faces of the men standing in random corners, drinks in hand, their attention focused. She assumed they were all either watching Casanova in hopes of learning something, or, more likely, waiting for him to make a move on their girlfriends just so they could have a reason to open a can of whup-ass and vent their jealousies.

As she glanced back at Mr. Gyration, he was now grinding against some blonde’s tight-jeaned derriere, his hands on her hips as though he was having sex with her. She noticed the bimbo’s expressive face, her lips parted and her eyes half-closed from the pleasures he was dishing out, and it was obvious the girl wished he’d get into her pants before the night was over.

Chloe sighed and looked away, tossing back a shot of Tequila, knowing the only way she was going to get ‘lucky’ tonight was if she awoke tomorrow morning without a horrendous hangover. At this point in the game, she didn’t look beyond her next shot, and let the burn of the alcohol soothe her troubled mind.

She was two drinks in and raised her hand for another.

The bartender, cool and confident, opened the broad-bottomed bottle of Patrón and leaned toward her, his weight casually resting on one elbow. “You sure ‘bout this, honey?”

Of course she was sure. She wouldn’t have ordered it to begin with had she been apprehensive about the drink’s potential. She knew well what the hard liquor could do, and since she was there for one thing and one thing only, she had high hopes it would soon help her to forget her worries and drown her stress.

She was an artist—a starving artist. If she didn’t find a way to sell more of her paintings, she was going to lose everything. Her shop. Her home. Her life.

Every little bit of her savings had gone toward the funding of her big dream. And for a while, things looked promising. Her paintings were moving out the door on a relatively regular basis. Her biggest clients had been young, wealthy doctors and lawyers who aimed to spruce up their bachelor penthouse pads with risqué nudity in an artistic form. On occasion, she had even locked in a few hairdressers who wanted the more tasteful pieces for their salons.

But those avenues had soon run dry.

Word of mouth had only gone so far, and with the changing economy, no one was willing to spend their hard-earned money on needless fine art. If she didn’t figure out a way to stimulate the public’s senses enough to open their wallets, she would have to give up her small independent business and kiss her entrepreneur life goodbye.

With a flip of her hand, she gestured for the concerned bartender to pour another shot, fixed on the goal of drinking away her problems.

“This may look like water, darlin’, and go down just as smooth, but it ain’t so easy on the body once it hits your head.” He looked her over, as if measuring her determination, and after a few seconds, he popped the cork-lined glass top. “What do I care, huh? As long as you’re paying…”

“You shouldn’t care at all, Jack, especially if I’m footing the bill. And make that two.”

Chloe looked to her left upon feeling something brush against her arm. To her surprise, it was Mr. Gyration, flipping a twenty on the bar.

Her stomach fluttered and she lost all sense of herself. Being on the receiving end of that cocky smile really did a number on her heart. As her breath staggered out of her, all she could do was smile in return.

She glanced at the crisp Jackson resting next to her shot glass, appreciative of his generosity. At least he was trying to be a gentleman, which was completely opposite of the impression he had made on her from the dance floor. She could only hope he’d continue to be that way, for she had no intention of tolerating anything less.

“You’re a pretty little thing,” he said, leaning against the bar. “A girl like you shouldn’t be anywhere alone. Especially here.”

“Easy, Don Juan,” Jack interrupted as he slammed another shot of Tequila on the slick lacquered wood of the bar. “She’s new.”

“I can see that.”

Chloe had to look away. His devilish smile was too much to handle. And even though a warning had slipped from the bartender’s lips, Mr. Gyration didn’t seem to care. He was staring at her with such hunger, she half expected him to growl like an animal if some other man-whore got too close.

In trying to rid the weight of his close presence, she reached for the alcohol, dying to douse the flaming heat of his dark, amber eyes from her memory. But his hand stopped her.

The abruptness of his actions caused the drink to slosh and splash her fingers. She barely noticed. All she could feel were his masculine fingers, curling gently around her tiny wrist and the warmth of his palm, flattened across her forearm, spreading like wildfire throughout her body. The shock of his touch nearly stopped her heart. What stunned her more, was watching him lift her hand and taking her wet finger into his mouth, sucking the small droplets of Tequila from it.

Her stomach dropped to her pelvis and a sweltering inferno raged from within her core. The only thing that kept her from incinerating right there on that barstool was the tingling sensation dispersing between her thighs. Though his tongue only swirled around her one knuckle, she could feel its torment on her whole body, a warmth spreading like fire between her legs.

She crossed them tightly, trying to get a grip on her emotions, trying to keep him from weaseling into her good sense. But the manner in which he withdrew her finger ever so slowly from his soft, full lips clouded her brain, his inviting brown eyes blurring everything around her.

No one existed, save him.

“Let’s dance first,” he suggested.

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