Feature – Highland Guard by Hannah Howell


HIGHLAND GUARD – On sale March 3, 2015

About the book

New York Times bestselling author Hannah Howell brings back the daring Murray family in a brand-new tale of dangerous love rekindled. . .

Lady Annys MacQueen has no other choice. The deception that enabled her to keep her lands safe is on the verge of being revealed by a cruel kinsman. To shield her young son from the sword and her people from devastation, she must turn to the one man she could never forget. . .

He lives for duty and honor. So the only way Sir Harcourt Murray could repay the laird who saved his life was to agree to father a child with Sir MacQueen’s wife. . .Lady Annys. Now the passion he still feels for the lovely strong-willed widow is as all-consuming and perilous as securing her lands. But to convince her that his love is forever real means confronting her most wrenching fears–and putting everything they treasure most at stake. .

Excerpt
“So what is this danger ye fear is stalking Glencullaich, m’lady?”

Harcourt relaxed in his seat, his belly pleasantly full of good food, and sipped at the strong wine he had been served. He could see that his abrupt question had startled her, but only for a moment. She recovered her composure with an admirable quickness. There was now a look in her eyes that told him she was very carefully considering her reply as she signaled a young page to take Benet from the hall. He wondered what she wanted to hide. Or why she would bother to hide anything. She had sent for him after all.

“Did Ian nay tell you?” she asked and clasped her hands together in her lap in what she prayed appeared to be a stance of complete calm.

“Not in much detail, nay. Ye have someone troubling you with petty intrusions, thefts, and some threats. Since such things could be seen to weel enough by the men ye have here, I am thinking ye fear the trouble will soon grow far more severe.”

Out of the corner of her eye she saw Joan wave away the women who had slipped back inside the hall and was pleased to see them go. Her people were increasingly uneasy. The things she had to discuss with Sir Harcourt would only make them more so.

“Our trouble has a name,” Annys said. “Sir Adam MacQueen, cousin to my late husband and a man who would have been the heir to Glencullaich if David had had no son.”

“But David did have a son.” Harcourt was not surprised at how difficult it was to calmly name David as Benet’s father.

“Adam doesnae accept Benet as David’s son. He doesnae believe a woman should be acting as laird here, either. It is his loudly stated opinion that the lad needs a mon to tend to his inheritance. That is, if the lad actually has one. Adam believes he should tend Benet even as he tries to prove Benet is nay the heir yet doesnae see why that is ridiculous. I am nay sure his opinion on who should be acting as the laird here would change e’en if he finally has to accept that Benet is David’s heir and naught will change that. Naught will change his mind that it is wrong for a lass to act as a laird either.”

Harcourt shrugged. “A complaint we have heard before,” he said and his men nodded. “’T’will get the mon nowhere. Did David nay name some mon to stand for ye then?”

“He named Nicolas Brys as his second several years ago,” she replied and nodded to the man seated on her right. “Then, when David began to grow so ill, an illness he couldnae shake free of, he named Nicolas as the mon he wished to oversee the protection of Glencullaich as weel as Benet. He also stated the wish that it be Nicolas who trained Benet in all a laird must ken to be strong enough to protect his lands and people.”

“And Sir Adam disagrees with that as weel?”

Annys nodded. “Quite vehemently. At first he attempted to have Nicolas removed but that did not work. It is verra difficult to get the courts to ignore the stated and witnessed last words of a laird. E’en those in power who leaned to Sir Adam’s side didnae want to do that for they wouldnae want anyone to think it could be done to their wishes after they are gone. After that failed, he made the claim that Benet wasnae David’s true son. He hasnae succeeded with that, either.” Although she hated to reveal Sir Adam’s latest game, Annys knew she had to tell Harcourt everything. “He now spreads the tale that I killed David.”

The way the men all grew still and stared at her made Annys both angry and embarrassed. It was hurtful enough that not everyone Adam voiced his accusation to had shrugged it aside as nonsense. She did not like to think that these men, ones who had come to help her, might now be suspicious of her. It embarrassed her to repeat Adam’s false accusations. It angered her that anyone would even briefly consider that such accusations might be true, and that anger grew stronger every day. Unfortunately, so did her fear that Adam may have finally found a way to be rid of her and take Glencullaich, perhaps even be rid of her son for, as a convicted murderer, she would not live long.

“Is anyone listening to him?” Harcourt asked after glancing at his companions and seeing only a recognition of the threat such accusations carried.

“A few.” She hastily took a drink of cider, attempting to ease the dryness of fear from her throat. “David was kenned weel by many in power, and weel liked. He didnae die in battle or”—she smiled just a little, knowing it was mostly bitterness and not humor that curved her lips—“in some monly accident. He died in his bed like a sickly old mon.” She shook her head. “In the end, he bore a likeness to one as weel.”

“A wasting sickness?”

“Who can say? David was ne’er truly robust yet he was ne’er what ye would call sickly.” She pushed aside a sadness that always twisted her heart when she thought of her husband’s slow, painful death. “I cannae say what afflicted him nor could any of the others I sent for in the hope of finding some help, some cure, for him.”

“But nay one of those fools kenned what ailed the laird or how to help him,” said Joan. “Most often they just wanted to purge the poor mon or bleed him. That was the verra last thing our laird needed. He was naught but skin and bone in the end.”

Annys reached out to pat Joan’s hand, clenched tight on top of the table. Joan had grown up with David, the daughter of his mother’s maid. He had been as much a brother to her as he had been her laird and Annys knew the woman grieved for him as deeply as she did.

Harcourt frowned. “It sounds akin to a wasting sickness.”

“And so it may have been, yet I remain too uncertain to name it so,” Annys said.

“What were the signs of his illness?” asked Sir Callum.

“The one most clearly marked were the pains in his belly,” she replied. “He couldnae keep food down. E’en the plainest of broths would have him retching. Then it would pass for a wee while and we would think he was regaining his health, only to have it begin all over again. And, aye, ’tis true that purging and bloodletting were the worst things to do since he was so weak, yet there were times, after a purging, that David recovered for a while.”

“Ne’er after a bleeding though,” said Joan.

“Nay, that ne’er seemed to help him,” agreed Annys.

“What else?” asked Sir Callum. “Was there more?”

The intent way the man watched her as he asked his question made Annys wary even though she could see no hint of condemnation or accusation in his expression. “David would complain about burning pain in his hands and feet, at times e’en in his throat, although all that miserable retching could weel have caused that.”

“He began to lose his beautiful hair,” Joan murmured.

Annys nodded. “And his skin would be covered in a rash and then it would peel away. The most frightening times were when he couldnae move at all, but that, too, would then pass. In the end he had such fits it would take several of us to hold him down and e’en then it wasnae easy. Ye must see how difficult it is for us to put a name to the disease which ended his life. There are too many things it could have been and, just when one thought one kenned what it was, there would be something that didnae fit.”

“There is one ye may nay have considered,” said Sir Callum. “Poison.”

The blood drained from Annys face so quickly that she became dizzy and welcomed Joan’s steadying hand on her arm. “I didnae poison my husband.”

“Of course ye didnae,” said Sir Harcourt. “That isnae what Callum was saying, is it, my friend,” he said to Callum, giving the younger man a hard look.

“Nay,” Callum said quickly and smiled faintly. “I didnae say ye did it, m’lady, or e’en considered that ye had, but I do believe the mon may have been poisoned. ’Tis an old poison, if I am right in what I now believe, and one that has been used before at least once within my own family. It was but a few year ago that a distant MacMillan cousin of mine was poisoned by his wife’s lover. The signs of his illness sound verra much akin to the ones your husband suffered.”

“Did he survive?” Annys asked.

“Aye, though it was a verra long time ere the mon healed. But, with care, he was soon strong enough to see his wife and her lover hanged.”

Annys winced at his hard words but understood. Those people had tried to murder one of his kinsmen. She also agreed with the punishment. It was just one that always made her shudder just a little. She had seen one hanging in her life, stumbled upon it by accident while wandering the streets of a village near her home. It had been a spectacle that had held her horrified attention despite how sick it had made her. It was not an easy way to die.

“How did ye ken that was what was wrong?” she asked.

“Caught the one putting it into his drink. He, too, would seem to become better now and then. Most often after a hard purging. I think that clears out a great deal of the poison thus starting a cure. Then the one with the poison just doses them again.”

“Which means it would be someone close enough to dose his food or drink.”

It was a horrifying thought. That meant that someone in the keep, one of the people they trusted, had murdered David. It was hard to think that anyone at Glencullaich would do so. David had been well loved by his people, respected and honored. She could think of no one who had ever shown any sign of being angry with him or hating him.

“I have no idea how we would e’er discover who may have done it,” she said as she rubbed her forehead. “David was beloved. I cannae e’en think of who could be persuaded by anyone to do it. And, e’er ye ask, Sir Adam was ne’er here in any way that would have given him the opportunity to do it.”

“It is just something one should consider, I think.”

“Aye,” agreed Harcourt. “Sad to say there can be many a reason for someone to turn on their laird, e’en one as weel loved as David. They could simply be someone easily convinced of some lie or given some promise that made them do it e’en if they may have had regrets for their actions afterward.”

Annys studied him for a moment, thinking on how careful he had been with his words. “Ye think it may have been some woman.”

Harcourt sighed and gave her an apologetic smile. “Poison does tend to be a lass’s weapon.”

Considering the other ways there were to kill a man, she supposed he was right. There was something less intimate, less violent about poison. Women could be violent but they had the disadvantage of usually being smaller and weaker than a man. Poison required neither strength nor stature. Yet, again, she could think of no one who would do that to poor David.

“Could it not have simply been as we thought? A sickness, some kind of wasting illness we had just ne’er seen before?”

Sir Callum smiled. “It could be. It was just that the signs ye mentioned sounded akin to what my cousin suffered.”

“And that means it would be wise to consider the possibility,” said Harcourt. “Ye ken weel that there is one who wants what David had, who has always wanted it. He may nay have been close enough to easily do the poisoning himself, but there is always the chance he found someone within these walls who did it for him. Through lies, promises, or threats.”

Annys nodded. “Ye are right. It would be wise to consider it. If only so that we keep a keen eye out for any hint that it is happening again.”

“And to take some time to watch those who would have had the chance to do it,” said Joan.

“Ah, Joan, I dinnae want to do it. I ken it, but it must be done. If that mon has convinced someone in this keep to do his sinful work for him then we need to find them.”

“Now that David is gone there remains you and the lad in his way. He could decide to set that ally on either of ye.”

That was the fear she had tried to ignore. It was foolish to do so. Ugly though it was, if there was even a small chance that someone inside Glencullaich helped Sir Adam, he could turn that person against her or Benet next. It was only wise to accept that hard truth and act to protect herself and her child.

“Agreed,” Annys finally said. “Mayhap we shall be fortunate as someone will be so crushed with guilt they will simply confess. Then we will have them and Sir Adam.”

“I will wish ye luck in that,” said Harcourt and briefly raised his tankard in a toast before taking a drink. “Howbeit, I would like ye to make up a list of those who would have had the chance to slip some poison into David’s drink or food.”

————————————

About the author
Hannah D. Howell is a highly regarded and prolific romance writer. Since Amber Flame, her first historical romance, was released in February 1988, she has published 25 novels and short stories, with more on the way. Her writing has been repeatedly recognized for its excellence and has “made Waldenbooks Romance Bestseller list a time or two” as well as was nominated twice by Romantic Times for Best Medieval Romance (Promised Passion and Elfking’s Lady). She has also won Romantic Times’ Best British Isles Historical Romance for Beauty and the Beast; and, in 1991-92 she received Romantic Times’ Career Achievement Award for Historical Storyteller of the Year.

Hannah was born and raised in Massachusetts (the maternal side of her family has been there since the 1630’s). She has been married to her husband Stephen for 28 years, who she met in England while visiting relatives, and decided to import him. They have two sons Samuel, 27, and Keir, 24. She is addicted to crocheting, reads and plays piano, attempts to garden, and collects things like dolls, faerie and cat figurines, and music boxes. She also seems to collect cats, as she now has four of them, Clousseau, Banshee, Spooky, and Oliver Cromwell.

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Feature – Garrett by Sawyer Bennett


GARRETT – On sale February 17, 2015

About the book

USA Today bestselling author Sawyer Bennett hits the ice with the story of a playboy athlete whose winning ways lead him to a beautiful woman with a lot to lose.

Carolina Cold Fury star Garrett Samuelson never wants to miss out on a single minute of fun. Whether he’s playing hockey, hanging out with friends, or walking the red carpet with a new date on his arm, he lives every day to the fullest. When he meets Olivia Case, he sees someone who’s exactly his type—confident, sexy, smart . . . his next fling. But the more he pursues her, the more Garrett shares a side of himself that other women don’t normally get to see.

Olivia has been keeping a secret. While Garrett lives for the next thrill, Olivia’s not sure she’ll live to see the next day. She’s undergoing treatment for some serious medical issues, and she doesn’t have time for a relationship with no guarantees—especially one with a hot-as-sin womanizer who won’t take no for an answer. But as she gets to know the real Garrett, Olivia can’t help falling for him . . . hard. To reveal the truth would mean risking everything—but you can’t score without taking the tough shots.

Excerpt
“Okay . . . you apparently know who I am and what I do. So, tell me about yourself.”

“I’m an astrophysicist,” she says solemnly.

“You’re kidding?” I ask, astonished, because why isn’t she wearing horn-rimmed glasses and a pocket protector?

“Yeah . . . kidding. I’m a nuclear engineer,” she deadpans.

I cock an eyebrow at her and hold her stare.

Reaching her hand up, she fingers a delicate gold necklace with a peace symbol charm. “Well . . . actually, I’m a floral designer by trade. I work at a little shop called Fleurish in Chapel Hill.”

“Ahhh,” I say with a sage nod. “I took you for an artistic type.”

She arches a beautiful, golden brown eyebrow at me, which gives me a hint at the true color of her hair. “Artistic type? What gave that away?”

Shrugging, I tell her, “I’m not sure. Maybe it’s the way your hair is colored . . . almost like a beautiful painting of a sunset. Or maybe it’s the bohemian vibe you give off with your long gypsy skirt and little gold toe ring I noticed.”

I nod down toward her foot, because, yeah, I saw that tiny piece of jewelry down there too.

Her head drops and she holds her foot out for inspection; it is encased in a pair of white leather sandals with peach-colored crystals dotted all over them. “You’re pretty observant,” she muses as she sets her foot back down.

“When something interests me,” I respond. “So, do you have a boyfriend?”

Her head snaps up to me and a small grin forms on her face. “Nope.”

“Husband?”

“Nope,” she says as she holds her left hand out and wags her fingers to show me no wedding ring.

“Lover?”

She smirks at me. “No.”

“Potential lover?” I ask, raising my eyebrows.

“No,” she says and chuckles.

“Damn,” I say miserably as I clutch at my heart. “So there’s no hope for me?”

“Not at the rate you’re going,” she quips, and it makes me give a hearty laugh in return. She’s fun to jest with.

But playtime’s over.

Leaning in toward her, I ask in a low, seductive voice that has garnered me dozens of dates before, “Is there any chance at all . . . no matter how miniscule, that I could get you to go out with me?”

She takes a small step back from me, which probably means the amount of charm I just laid on her was sorely lacking.

“Sorry,” she says with a sympathetic smile, “but I don’t think we’d have a lot in common, so I’d have to decline.”

“Now, that’s just throwing in the towel a little too soon,” I chastise her. “How do you know we wouldn’t have anything in common?”

I certainly know the mutual orgasms we’d have would satisfy us both tremendously.

Olivia gives a tiny laugh of amusement and lays her hand on my arm. She squeezes me gently . . . almost sympathetically. “No offense, Garrett . . . but you have sort of a reputation as a playboy. You’re dangerous.”

Ouch. That hurt.

Not my feelings, but my chances with her. I’m getting close to striking out completely, and that isn’t something that happens to me.

Ever.

I take a sip of beer and then lower my cup, giving her my most devilish, charming smile. “A playboy, huh? So what exactly have you heard about me? I need to be able to set the record straight with you.”

————————————

About the author
USA Today Best-Selling Author, Sawyer Bennett is a snarky southern woman and reformed trial lawyer who decided to finally start putting on paper all of the stories that were floating in her head. Her husband works for a Fortune 100 company which lets him fly all over the world while she stays at home with their daughter and three big, furry dogs who hog the bed. Sawyer would like to report she doesn’t have many weaknesses but can be bribed with a nominal amount of milk chocolate.

Sawyer is the author of several contemporary romances including the popular Off Series, the Legal Affairs Series and the Last Call Series. She will be releasing her second book in the Cold Fury Hockey Series with Random House Loveswept, February 2015.

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Giveaway
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Feature – Once and Always by Elizabeth Hoyt


ONCE AND ALWAYS – On sale February 24, 2015

About the book

IS THERE A PROBLEM, OFFICER?

Small town cop Sam West certainly doesn’t mind a routine traffic stop: speeding ticket, stern warning, and sayonara. With a whopper of a blizzard closing in, that’s all he has time for. But the lawbreaker he pulls over is anything but typical. From her mile-long legs to her razor-sharp wit, Maisa Bradley is like nothing Coot Lake, Minnesota, has ever seen . . . and she’s about to take Sam on the ride of his life.

BEING BAD HAS ITS BENEFITS

Whoever said blood is thicker than water probably wasn’t related to a former Russian mobster. But an innocent mix-up and rumors of stolen diamonds soon have the Russian mob taking an unusual interest in the sleepy little town—and Maisa facing heated scrutiny from a certain tall, dark, and handsome deputy. Sam’s dazzling blue eyes beg her to reveal all her secrets, but how much should she tell? Getting snowed in with the sexiest lawman in the frozen north may not be the worst way to decide.

Excerpt
Chapter One

Day One

Shit. Maisa Burnsey’s heartbeat did a little stumble as the familiar police car halted behind her. She pushed up her chunky black glasses. Every damned time she passed through Coot Lake, Minnesota she got stopped.

In her rearview mirror she watched the tall trooper climb from the squad car. He sauntered toward her Beetle, loose-hipped and long-legged, as if he had all the time in the world. And like the good guy in a black-and-white western, he wore a stupid cowboy hat.

Maisa snorted softly.

He stopped by her car door, his pelvis framed by her window exactly at eye level, as if he was showing off the bulge of his package.

Not that she was looking.

There was an American flag on the left breast of his padded navy uniform jacket, a metal badge on his right, and below that a name tag that read WEST. One gloved hand rested on a lean hip, behind a holstered gun. His upper face, obscured by mirrored sunglasses and the cowboy hat, was stern and intimidating. His lips, though, were wide and almost soft, the top just a little fuller than the bottom. The man had a mouth that was beautiful enough to make a woman ache just by looking.

Maisa straightened her spine and glared at him. Okay, she could do this.

He twirled his gloved finger to tell her to roll down the window.

She opened it, letting in the freezing January wind. “What?”

He nodded. “Hey, May.”

His voice was deep and gravelly, like he smoked, though she knew for a fact that he didn’t.

“Maisa,” she snapped automatically. She wasn’t going to think about the last time he’d called her May. “This is the fourth time you’ve stopped me here.”

“Maybe you should quit speeding.” That beautiful mouth quirked. “Or quit running away.”

“I’m not running away,” she lied, poker-faced.

“Darlin’, you’ve been running away from me since last August.”

Maisa felt her teeth click together. “I’m talking about pulling me over for speeding.”

His wide mouth curved. “I’m not.”

She breathed deeply. Evenly. God damn it, meditation was supposed to make her less angry. “This is entrapment.”

“Now,” he drawled, his small town accent broadening, “I don’t have any fancy un-ee-versity learnin’, but I’m pretty sure entrapment is if I falsely lure you into breaking the law—”

“What do you call a speed trap, then?”

“—which, since I didn’t make you drive well above the speed limit—”

“And that’s ridiculous as well.” She scowled. “The limit’s seventy everywhere else but this stretch of highway.”

He shrugged. “Still fifty-five here.”

“Well, it shouldn’t be. There should be better things for you to do than lie in wait for some poor driver who hasn’t noticed that the speed has gone down so you can pounce.” She stopped to inhale.

He looked at her. “Like what?”

“What?”

“What should I be doing instead?”

She licked her lips. God damn it. Did he have to stand so close? “Doing your job.”

“This is my job.”

“Following me isn’t your job.” She could feel the heat mounting her neck with her anger. Oh, to hell with it. “Speeding isn’t why you stopped me and you know it. You’re harassing me.”

There was a pause as if she’d broken some obscure rule in their game. The wind whipped icy snow against her car, making the vehicle sway.

He didn’t even flinch, steady as a granite monument to male stubbornness.

“That right. You know, you don’t have to take this route every month when you drive up from Minneapolis.” His voice was terribly gentle, and she had a flash of him straight-armed over her, his mouth wet, his voice a gravel whisper as he’d murmured, Like that? And shoved inside of her, quick and hard and confident.

One night. One night last August she’d let him in. It’d been hot and muggy, and her uncle’s cabin hadn’t had any air-conditioning. She’d booked a room at the Coot Lake Inn and then gone to the only bar in town to have a cold beer. Sam had been there, looking way too sexy in faded jeans and a T-shirt so thin she could see the outline of his nipples when the condensation on his beer bottle had dripped on his chest. He’d bought her another beer and flirted and she’d thought, Why not? Why not just one night? So she’d brought him back to her tacky motel room and let him undress her and kiss her and make love to her, and in the morning she’d woken with her heart already beating too fast in panic. She’d dressed without showering, grabbed her bags, and left him there, still asleep on his belly, his wide shoulders bare and erotic in the stark morning light.

It’d been a mistake. One terrible, unforgettable mistake.

She exhaled through her nose, glancing away from him, feeling suddenly sad and vulnerable.

She hated that feeling. “This route is the easiest way to my uncle’s house.”

“Uh-huh.” He didn’t even bother to sound like he believed her, which was just insulting. “And me being the cop on duty most of the time along this stretch of highway has nothing to do with it.”

“Yes.” She was going to chip a tooth if she ground down any harder.

“May—”

“Maisa. Look, just give me the goddamned ticket and I’ll be on my way.”

She could see him shift his weight from one leg to the other out of the corner of her eye. “Your brake light’s out.”

She swung back. “What?”

He nodded his head at the back of her car. “Right rear.”

Maisa started to crane her neck to look before she realized how silly that was. “Oh. I’ll get it fixed.”

“’Preciate that,” he drawled. Did anyone else drawl in freaking Minnesota? “But I’ll have to cite you in the meantime.”

“Oh, for God’s sake, Sam!”

That got a gloved finger sliding his mirrored glasses down just enough to see the flash of his electric blue eyes. “Well now. Glad to hear you remember my name.”

She didn’t give herself time to think, just slipped the knife between his ribs, quick and nasty. “Of course I remember, Sam. It’s not a big deal, you know. You were a good lay, but that’s all you were.”

For a moment everything seemed to still along the stretch of lonely highway. The land was nearly flat here, rolling farmland broken by small clumps of trees. The wind was relentless, blowing across the prairie in winter. In order to survive it those trees had to be tough, hardy, and tenacious.

Maybe tenacious most of all.

Sam sighed and took off his glasses and she thought obscurely that he’d never hide those eyes if he had any idea what the sight of them did to women. He was thirty-three, but he had lines around his eyes as if he’d been squinting into the sun—like Clint Eastwood looking for the bad guys on the open plains. Except Sam had already found the bad guy and was too stupid—or too bullheaded—to know it.

“You practiced that in front of your bathroom mirror, didn’t you,” he said, flat.

Of course she had. No way was she letting him in again. Sam West was just too dangerous to her peace of mind—and heart. “Just give me the ticket.”

He leaned one arm on the car roof just over her head, bending to look at her through the window. The position put his face close enough to hers that she could smell mint on his breath.

She tried not to breathe, refusing to look at him again. If she could just get away, if he’d just let her go, everything would be okay.

She could freehand a dozen dress designs in one night, she could set a dart so perfectly it’d make any woman’s ass look like gold, but she couldn’t deal with the emotions Sam West made her feel.

She. Just. Couldn’t.

“Listen, May,” he said, too near, too damned intimate, “I won’t give you a ticket this time. Just be—”

The sound of a revving engine came from behind them on the highway.

Sam looked up.

“Fuck,” he murmured, and in one graceful movement vaulted onto the hood of her car. He slid spectacularly across the surface on one hip, just as a little red car tore past, so close it rocked the Beetle in its wake. The red car’s taillights flashed as it braked for the curve, tires squealing. But the car just kept going straight. It slapped into the packed snow at the outer curve, climbing the embankment, nose skyward, engine squealing before suddenly cutting.

In the silent aftermath Maisa stared, open-mouthed with shock.

Then she remembered Sam. He was no longer on the hood of her car. She couldn’t see him anywhere. Panic crowded her chest as she began battling the car door handle.

Oh, God, oh, God, please don’t let him be hurt.

————————————

About the author
Elizabeth was born in New Orleans but grew up in St. Paul, Minnesota. She was fortunate to be able to travel extensively as a child, visiting St. Andrews, Scotland; Germany; France; and Belgium. She spent a year in Oxford, England and was a summer exchange student to Kawasaki, Japan.

Elizabeth has a BA in anthropology from the University of Wisconsin at Madison and, as a result of having no clue what to do with her life thereafter, a career history as a barista, a (terrible) sales clerk, a Wisconsin Revenue Service data entry slave, and an archeological field work grunt. Fortunately, Elizabeth married relatively young and produced two children who kept her busy until her mid-thirties. At about this time, when her youngest was entering Kindergarten, Elizabeth’s mother hinted that perhaps Elizabeth should get a Real Job.

Sadly, Elizabeth was so delusional she thought writing a romance novel might qualify as a Real Job.

But! Five years later, to everyone’s surprise, she actually sold that romance novel (The Raven Prince) and began a rather successful career as a Romance Novelist. This was most fortunate since Elizabeth is singularly unqualified to do anything else but Make Up Stories.

Since then Elizabeth has written eighteen books to critical acclaim: The Prince Trilogy (The Raven Prince, The Leopard Prince, and The Serpent Prince); the Legend of the Four Soldiers series (To Taste Temptation, To Seduce a Sinner, To Beguile a Beast, and To Desire a Devil); and the Maiden Lane series (Wicked Intentions, Notorious Pleasures, Scandalous Desires, Thief of Shadows, Lord of Darkness, Duke of Midnight, Darling Beast, and the upcoming Dearest Rogue.) She also writes contemporary romance under the pen name Julia Harper (Hot, For the Love of Pete, and the upcoming Once and Always.)

Elizabeth lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota with three dogs, a garden in constant need of weeding, and the ever faithful Mr. Hoyt. Please contact Elizabeth here.

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Feature – Bound By Bliss by Lavinia Kent


BOUND BY BLISS – On sale February 24, 2015

About the book

In Lavinia Kent’s luscious, erotic historical romance, a free spirit learns her true desires from a master of the heart, of the body—and of the sweetest discipline.

Lady Bliss Danser, daughter of the Duke of Mirth, is a scandal waiting to erupt. Which is why her highly conventional brother wants to saddle her with Stephan Perth, Earl of Duldon, the only man he thinks will marry her. Worse, Stephan keeps threatening to punish her, to teach her just how a woman should behave. His words may cause Bliss to tingle in the strangest places, but that doesn’t mean she likes the man himself.

Stephan has secretly desired Bliss for years, but he knows how close he is to losing his beloved. Careful not to rile her impetuous heart, he promises only to aid Bliss in her search for another fiancé. And if she’s determined to understand the male body first, he’s happy to comply in that regard as well. However, she must follow his rules or face the consequences. Slowly he takes Bliss to the darker, steamier side of his world . . . where she realizes that Stephan is everything she’s ever wanted.

Bound by Bliss is an erotic romance intended for mature audiences.

Excerpt
Stephan Andrew James Perth, Lord Duldon, rolled on his side as the clock on St. Michael’s tower sounded the hour, the sheets tangling about his waist. He counted the toll as he ran a finger down one of the fine red welts marking the woman’s bare back. Eleven bells.

A slow sigh escaped between his teeth. Normally such a night’s work would have left him satisfied, but tonight he felt strangely empty, incomplete.

The woman rolled her hips, inviting further play. Almost perfunctorily he raised a hand and gave her a hard swat. Her ass stretched back as a happy moan sounded. Blast. He knew every move to make, but lacked any actual desire. It had been this way for far too many days—weeks or months if he was honest.

The woman turned toward him, heavy breasts falling forward, nipples still swollen from the evening’s play, inviting his touch. A slight smile curved her lips beneath the silken mask she wore. “And how may this humble servant serve you further, master?” Her eyes dropped to where the thick linen of the sheet still draped about his waist.

Her tongue darted out, wetting already moist lips.

Eleven.

Eleven bells.

Shit. He was late.

He’d promised his aunt he’d attend the Evanstons’ soiree. And his aunt, Lady Perse, was not one to be disappointed—plus there was always the possibility that Bliss would be there. He pushed the thought from his mind. He’d thought of her far too frequently these last months, fantasized about her far too often. His cock began to swell at even the slightest thought. Blast. Bliss was going to be his wife, not his mistress. Now, if only the unruly beast would remember that fact and not rear his ugly head at every thought of sweet Bliss.

Without a word, he swung from the bed and reached for his trousers. If he hurried he would make it before the call to dinner. Luckily Lady Evanston believed in a late dinner. Lady Perse would understand. A gentleman could not be expected to arrive early.

“You’re leaving now?” The woman did not sound happy, not at all.

“I am sorry. I must.” He laid a careless kiss upon her rounded shoulder.

She pushed herself up, her breasts almost slapping his chest. “Don’t you want to punish me more? I’ve been a very bad maid. I haven’t completed my tasks.” Her hand reached for the trousers he had just fastened.

He pushed her hand away. Couldn’t they ever be original? He knew it was all a game; his partner was no more a servant than a lion was a house cat, but some days he tired of all the pretense, wanted something real, something true.

Why couldn’t a single one of them admit what they wanted without masks and foolery? But he knew the answer to that question. It wasn’t as if he walked about admitting to his own desires . . .

“You can’t leave. I am not ready,” the woman complained, her lips forming an unattractive frown.

Now, that was more in character with her real identity.

“Sorry.” But actually he wasn’t. It was as much a relief as anything. “I’ve paid Madame Rouge for the room. You can stay until morning if you wish, perhaps seek another companion.” He draped his untied cravat about his neck.

And then he slipped through the door, his thoughts moving on to the remainder of the night, the woman already forgotten.

————————————

About the author
Lavinia Kent is a former two-term president of the Washington Romance Writers and a four-time Romance Writers of America Golden Heart nominee. She lives in Washington, D.C., with her family and an ever-changing menagerie of pets.

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Feature – What a Devilish Duke Desires by Vicky Dreiling


WHAT A DEVILISH DUKE DESIRES – On sale February 24, 2015

About the book

WILL A FEW FLIRTATIOUS STEPS
Harry Norcliffe never wanted to inherit his beloved uncle’s title. The rigidity of the ton, the incessant reminders from his marriage-minded mama that he must settle down with a highborn lady and produce an heir and a spare: it’s all such a dreadful bore. So when his mother asks him to take part in a dancing competition, he patently refuses. The last thing he needs is another chore . . . until a beautiful, brilliant, delightfully tempting maid makes him rethink his position.

LEAD TO A SCANDALOUS SEDUCTION?
Most women would be over the moon to be pursued by a wickedly handsome-not to mention wealthy-duke like Norcliffe. But Lucy will not be any man’s trophy. She could use a friend, though, and what begins innocently soon ignites into desire. As Lucy tries to resist Harry’s scorching kisses, he makes an utterly irresistible offer. Enter the dance contest with him, and win a prize that could change her life forever . . . if falling in love doesn’t change it first.

Excerpt
He took off his coat and went to tend the fire. His wide shoulders needed no padding. When he rose and dusted his hands, she noted his superior height once again. In his waistcoat and shirtsleeves, she could discern the way his waist tapered.

He joined her on the sofa and laid his arm across the top of it. “Tired?” he asked.

“No.” She was too aware of him. In the shadowy room, she could not see his bright blue eyes, but the soft sound of his breathing mingled with hers. The tension between them crackled all around her. A long moment suspended. Her senses were heightened, and her breasts felt heavier for some odd reason. She discerned the scent of wintergreen soap and something else—something masculine and irresistible. Something unique to him.

He leaned closer, and she could feel the whisper of his breath on her lips. “From the first moment we met, I could not get you out of my head.”

His words made her feel giddy, but she held back, because she was still a little wary. “I am undoubtedly the first woman to threaten you with a knife.”

He grinned. “Indeed you are. Now that you are unarmed, perhaps we could be friends.”

“We will shake on it,” she said, offering her hand.

He took her hand and turned her wrist, palm up. He looked up at her beneath his dark lashes, and then he kissed the tender underside of her wrist. When he touched his tongue to the pulse point, her breath shuddered out of her. She thought she might melt from the heat in his seductive gaze.

“I’d better go,” he said. There was a knowing look in his eyes, as if he was aware of exactly how he’d affected her.

When she inhaled on a shaky breath, he helped her to rise. She walked with him to the door as if she were enveloped in a fog.

He halted and gazed into her eyes. Then he drew her in his arms and kissed her gently on the lips. His mouth moved over hers and his hand slipped down the curve of her spine. Heat and longing surged inside her. He wrapped his arms around her, and she could feel the hard, unyielding muscles of his arms, chest, and thighs as he pressed her against him.

“Forgive me in advance,” he said.

“For what?” she whispered.

He kissed her gently once more, and then he drew his tongue along the seam of her mouth. Her lips parted and then his tongue was in her mouth, tasting her while his hands slid down her spine and to her bottom. He pulled her flush against him, and she could feel his hard body. She was breathing faster and everything inside of her was on fire for him. God help her, she wanted his hands all over her.

He broke the kiss, and she was aware that his breathing had quickened as well.

When he released her, he said, “Good night, sweet Lucy.”

Her limbs trembled a little as he strode out into the night, leaving her to wonder if he knew it was her first kiss.

————————————

About the author
Vicky Dreiling is a confirmed historical romance junkie and Anglophile. Frequent business trips to the United Kingdom allowed her to indulge her passion for all things Regency England. Bath, Stonehenge, and Spencer House are among her favorite places. She is, however, truly sorry for accidentally setting off a security alarm in Windsor Castle. That unfortunate incident led her British colleagues to nickname her Trouble. When she’s not writing, Vicky enjoys reading, films, concerts, and, most of all, long lunches with friends. A native Texan, she holds degrees in English literature and marketing.

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Feature – Hot Texas Days Box Set (Lonesome Point, Texas) by Jessie Evans


HOT TEXAS DAYS – On sale February 16, 2015

About the book

Hot Texas Days, Hotter Texas Nights…
Three full-length hot, suspenseful novels by New York Times Bestselling author Jessie Evans, featuring rugged, alpha cowboys and the women feisty enough to tame them. Welcome to Lonesome Point!

LEATHER AND LACE

Cowboy bikers, fireworks, and romance, oh my…

Wild girl, Mia Sherman, has a secret—she isn’t as fearless as she pretends. Descended from Lonesome Point, Texas’ founding family, Mia grew up hearing tales of an ancient Irish curse that followed the Shermans to America. The first-born daughter of every generation is cursed to lose her husband on her wedding night, which is one of the many reasons Mia has sworn off relationships. Until the fateful day rancher Sawyer Kane rides his Harley into her life …

Can true love conquer all, even a centuries-old curse? Mia and Sawyer will be the first to find out.

SADDLES AND SIN

Even sweet cowboys have a sinful side…

Robert Lawson—Bubba to his friends—is six feet, four inches of tall, dark, and handsome cowboy, with a panty-melting voice and a face made to launch a country music career. But when his family’s ranch hands go down with the flu, Robert cancels his high-profile auditions and returns home to help out. Marisol Medina has been looking for her golden ticket since she became a country music manager, but she refuses to mix business and pleasure, even if it will be hell, resisting temptation while spending a week at the Lawson family ranch with her star client.

But as Marisol and Robert grow closer and the passion between them ignites, Marisol must decide if a chance at forever is worth breaking all her rules.

DIAMONDS AND DUST

The home run neither of them expected…

Pike Sherman is a legend in Lonesome Point, a hometown boy who made it to the big leagues. Literally. Professional baseball acquired one hell of a pitching arm and it’s latest celebrity bad boy when the gifted Pike was drafted seven years ago. Pike’s broken heart came along for the ride, too, but he kept that private. Tulsi Hearst knows she should stay far away from the brooding man her summer love has become, but she can’t resist a dance with the only man who ever made her blood rush.

After a few days back in Lonesome Point, Pike can’t imagine life without the girl he left behind, but when Tulsi’s secret is revealed, his heart is broken all over again. The only thing worse than losing Tulsi, is losing six years with the daughter he didn’t know he had.

Excerpt
Excerpt from LEATHER AND LACE:

Sawyer searched Mia’s face in the glow of the moon, the soft light making her look even sexier than she had in the yellow bulbs strung above the farmer’s market. “I really like you. A lot.”

“I like you, too,” she said, her full lips curving at the edges.

“But I meant what I said before, about not being ready for anything serious.” The words tried to stick in his throat, but Sawyer forced them out. He owed Mia honesty, and he wanted to make damned sure they were on the same page before things went any further. “I want to make sure that’s still okay. I wouldn’t ever want to hurt you.”

Her smiled faded, but her eyes remained soft, unguarded. “You won’t hurt me.” She ambled down the stairs, stopping on the stair above his, putting them face-to-face and their lips inches apart. “I’m fine with a night, or a week, or the summer…however long feels right. And when it stops feeling right, we go our separate ways, no anger, no regrets.” She lifted her arms, twining them around his neck, sending arousal surging through his body. “This is exactly what I need, Sawyer. You are what I need, and I can’t wait to touch you. Everywhere.”

Any hope of resisting vanished as that last word feathered between her tempting lips. Sawyer closed the distance between them, claiming her mouth as his arm wrapped tight around her waist, crushing her body to his. Her breasts flattened against his chest and her body heat caressed him, making his pulse spike and a moan sound low in his throat. He wanted this woman—badly. And he was past ready for them to be alone in a room with a bed, a door, and a lock to keep the rest of the world out.

Sawyer lifted Mia off her feet, carrying her through the shop entrance before kicking the door shut behind them.

“Up the stairs,” she whispered against his mouth. “Bedroom’s up there.”

————————————

About the author
New York Times and USA Today bestselling author, Jessie Evans, gave up a career as an international woman of mystery to write the sexy, contemporary Southern romances she loves to read.

She’s married to the man of her dreams, and together they’re raising a few adorable, mischievous children in a cottage in the jungle. She grew up in rural Arkansas, spending summers running wild, being chewed by chiggers, and now appreciates her home in a chigger-free part of the world even more.

When she’s not writing, Jessie enjoys playing her dulcimer (badly), sewing the worlds ugliest quilts to give to her friends, going for bike rides with her house full of boys, and drifting in and out on the waves, feeling thankful for sun, surf, and lovely people to share them with.

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Feature – Touch & Go by Mira Lyn Kelly


TOUCH & GO – On sale February 17, 2015

About the book

USA Today bestselling author Mira Lyn Kelly cranks up the heat for two lifelong friends whose most secret longings come true in every delectable way.

Vivacious and successful, Ava Meyers is living her dream life, except for one thing: Ever since childhood, she’s been in love with her best friend . . . and she’s never admitted it. Back then, Sam Farrow was a damaged young man with a tough past. Now he’s supremely confident, super-sexy, and totally untouchable—until the night when Sam pretends to be Ava’s boyfriend to save her from some unwanted attention. In a moment of weakness, Ava finds out that a long friendship is no match for blistering sexual chemistry.

After years of denying his own feelings, Sam finds that one amazing night with Ava isn’t enough to chase away all the pent-up fantasies. So he proposes they spend a few weeks driving each other wild, exhausting their every desire, and then return to their perfect platonic relationship like nothing ever happened. But Sam’s plan has one fatal flaw: the part where they give each other up. Because the more they let go of their inhibitions, the more they’re tempted to never go back.

Excerpt
“Brace yourself, Ave,” he warned, giving her his cockiest, most devastating grin.

The first thing Ava figured out was “the fuss” was about more than the kiss itself. It was a complete package that began with an intensifying of Sam’s focus. His eyes seeming to drink her in as his hands started a slow, migrating roam through her hair, down her neck, and across her back, with his arms picking it up from there. The tightening embrace bringing her into a full body contact so warm and solid and right, this time there was no choice but to melt into it.

And why resist? This was her chance. Her stolen moment.

In fact, what the heck was she doing just staring up at him like some passive, waiting recipient?

This was her chance.

Unlinking her hands from around Sam’s neck, she speared her fingers deep into the tousled mess of golden-blond temptation previously allowed to her only under the pretense of determining the need for a cut. But not tonight. Tonight that unruly bit of wave was hers for the taking and as she sank, full-fingered, into the silk of it she couldn’t contain the soft purr of pleasure slipping past her lips.

That too-telling sound at any other time would have left her terrified by the prospect of being discovered, but tonight they would simply chalk it up to being a part of the show. Just like Sam’s answering groan when her fingers tightened, burying themselves deeper still in the thick strands she never wanted to be free of.

Sam’s brows pulled together, his eyes darkening beneath the glittering backdrop of the nighttime cityscape behind them. And the fluttery awareness in her belly promised this was it. No more teasing. No more opportunities to back out.

No more waiting.

When Sam’s mouth came down on hers, there was nothing gentle about it. The kiss he delivered was hungry, an insistent pressure so crazy right, all she could do was open beneath it. Welcome him into her mouth with the soft flick of her tongue, and then cling to the solid anchor who had been there through every rocking event of her life as he thrust deep, groaned, and then, pulling her impossibly closer, thrust again. It was as if a bolt of lightning speared straight through the center of her, overloading every circuit with twenty years’ worth of want, desperate for release.

She couldn’t hold back. Her hands were everywhere at once. Cupping the hard line of Sam’s jaw, running over the packed muscles of his chest, and gripping the shoulders strong enough to carry stacks of two-by-fours and any personal burden without letting it bow him.

Tongue sliding over and around his, Ava didn’t know how to stop. She didn’t care about the lines she’d so painstakingly avoided all her life because the hot rush of blowing past them was better than anything she’d known before. Sam was kissing her like her mouth was his, holding her like he didn’t know how to let her go. Like he didn’t want to let go.

Another hot thrust and her whole body shuddered with need. With—

“Jesus, Ava,” Sam growled against her mouth, his hands wrapping firmly around her shoulders and holding her tight. Holding her away when he took a step back and her body tried to follow. “Talk about fuss. Holy fuck, woman.”

She blinked, too confused to follow what was happening, because the only single-minded thought in her head was more.

“And let’s just say it’s a damned good thing I never got a taste of that in high school or something tells me we’d have been getting married on the wrong end of your dad’s shotgun . . . Uhh . . . Ave?”

Okay, and that cut through the thick haze of her lust, bringing clarity back in an icy rush.

Sam was staring down at her, concern in his eyes as he ran one big hand over his mouth and jaw while continuing to hold her at arm’s length with the other. This was bad.

“Ava, you okay?”

————————————

About the author
USA Today bestselling author Mira Lyn Kelly grew up in the Chicago area and earned her degree in Fine Arts from Loyola University. She met the love of her life while studying abroad in Rome, Italy, only to discover he’d been living right around the corner from her back home. Having spent her twenties working and playing in the Windy City, she’s now settled with her husband in rural Minnesota, where their four beautiful children and naughty dog provide an excess of action and entertainment. When she isn’t reading, writing, or running to keep up with the family, she loves watching movies, blabbing with the girls, and cooking with her husband and friends.

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