Excerpt From “Thistle Down” and “Wild Rose” by Sherrie Hansen

wildroseWhen Ian MacCraig tries to capture the thief who is stealing artifacts from his kirk in Loch Awe, Scotland, the last thing he expects to find on his video is a woman engaging in a passionate romp under the flying buttresses.

Rose Wilson is mortified to learn that Digby, the online friend she met for what she thought was a harmless rendezvous, is a common criminal.

Now that Ian, the board of Wilson Enterprises, the constable, and half the town have had a glimpse of Rose in all her naked glory, it seems even her family looks at her differently. What remains to be seen is how far Ian will go to defend Rose’s honor and if the church ladies will forgive Rose now that they know who she really is… and if Rose can believe she’s worthy of someone as good and kind as Ian MacCraig.

Wild Rose and Pastor Ian MacCraig… a match made in heaven or one hell of a predicament?

EXCERPT:

Rose Wilson turned away from the wind that whistled across Loch Awe in a futile attempt to keep her hair from being blown into a tangled knot.

Something nipped at her ankle and she reached down to swat it away. Pesky midgies.

Ouch! Her hand scratched against the thorny stem of a thistle. One more thing. As if the sticky wicket she’d gotten herself into hadn’t already worked her into enough of a dither. She glanced up at the lofty spires of St. Conan’s Kirk. If she were at all religious, she might think God was trying to tell her something.

Where could he be? It had been nigh on three years since she’d stood waiting, and waiting, and waiting at Robert’s and her favorite restaurant. When he never showed up, she’d been angry – thought he’d gotten too busy at work, forgotten she was waiting, or, worse yet, remembered and blown her off.

How could she have known he was dead?

Here she was again. So it was a kirk and not a restaurant. A man she didn’t know all that well instead of her husband. The emotions felt the same. She was peeved. So peeved she could almost forget what it was like to feel abandoned, to hurt so badly she could barely keep her head about her.

She took a deep breath and tried to relax. Would she ever get over being scared that something horrible had happened every time someone was a wee bit tardy?

He was almost an hour later than he’d said he’d be. She peeked through the hedge and tried to see round the bend that led to the village.

What were the odds that two men she was supposed to meet would die en route to their rendezvous point? She paced up and down the path that led to the kirk, squelching her nervous energy only long enough to look at a bee dipping into a rhody that was a lovely shade of lavender. And then, she was back at it, scanning the roadside for Digby’s car, checking the time on her mobile every few seconds, and imagining the worst.

She’d been waiting for an hour – plenty long enough for Digby to get there even if he’d been temporarily detained at work, gotten a speeding ticket, or stopped by the mini-mart to buy her flowers. Besides, the man had a mobile.

She clicked hers open and pressed the green button twice. Still no answer.

Where could he be? And why now? Was it because she’d been too intimate with him? Not intimate enough?

“Excuse me, ma’am.”

She blinked and looked in the direction of the voice, but the sun was in her eyes, and all she could see was a soft sheen of light backlighting the silhouette of a very tall man. Too tall to be Digby. She raised her hand to her eyes to shade the light but the sun was still blinding, clinging to his head like a halo.

“Forgive me,” the man said, just as she saw his collar, the white square gleaming brightly between the black, and thought, shouldn’t it be me saying that?

“Sorry to intrude,” he continued. “I couldn’t help noticing that you seem to be looking for someone.”

So much for her and Dig having the place to themselves. Of course, as of this moment, there wasn’t a “them” anyway, so it mattered little if they had privacy. Besides, she had been going to tell him that they couldn’t do it again, that it was too soon, that what had happened shouldn’t have. Not yet. That didn’t mean she didn’t want to be alone with him, to do something. She probably did, eventually. Just not so much, or quite so fast.

“I’m waiting for a friend,” she said.

“You’ve still plenty of time,” he said. “Worship doesn’t begin for another half hour.”

The sun wasn’t in his eyes, but behind him, illuminating her face. She knew, even without being able to see his eyes, that he could read hers perfectly.

“I didn’t realize…”

“We’ve a small but active congregation,” the man said, extending his hand. “Ian MacCraig. St. Conan’s pastor.”

***

One question you’d like commenters to answer relative to your post:  If your pastor was single, would it bother you if he or she started to date a woman or man who had been caught in a compromising situation , and who didn’t share his or her religious beliefs?

Tell us about yourself:

Twenty-one years ago, I bought a dilapidated Victorian house in northern Iowa so I could move home and be nearer my family. I rescued an amazing but very run-down old house from the bulldozer’s grips and turned it into a bed and breakfast and tea house, the Blue Belle Inn. Since then, welcoming guests, running the business and cooking wonderful food has consumed the largest chunk of my life.

Before that, I lived in Colorado Springs, CO, and before that, Augsburg, Germany. I attended Wheaton College, Wheaton, IL and spent one life-changing summer in Bar Harbor, Maine. I grew up on a farm in southern Minnesota.

After 12 years of writing romance novels late at night when I couldn’t sleep (mostly because I was so keyed up from working 12 hour days at my B&B), I met and married my real-life, romantic hero, Mark Decker, a pastor. I enjoy playing the piano with the worship team at church, needlepointing, photography, renovating and decorating historic houses, traveling, and going on weekly adventures with my nieces and nephews.

I live in 2 different houses, 85 miles apart, and write on the run, whenever I have a spare minute. “Wild Rose” is my sixth book to be published by Second Wind Publishing.

Links (website, blog, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, book buy links, etc.):

http://www.facebook.com/SherrieHansenDecker,

http://sherriehansen.wordpress.com/,

https://twitter.com/#!/SherrieHansen,

http://www.secondwindpublishing.com/index.php?manufacturers_id=24

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Excerpt From “Clara’s Wish” by S.M. Senden

claraswishSilence hangs in the air; a valuable diamond ring, taken from the skeletonized hand of a corpse lays untouched on the desk. Bergin Halverson wrestles with the ghosts of his past, his fears that have kept him silent for decades and the truth he knows must eventually be told. He is taken back to1923 when Clara Lindgren makes a wish that will come true, but not in the way she hoped. She meets a man, Bergin’s brother Erdman who seems to be the answer to her prayers, but instead he becomes her worst nightmare. Christian Lindgren has lost that which he holds most dear, his daughter. In a haunting dream she comes to him and shows him where she is. He can not rest until he can get help to find her. When a search is mounted on a foggy day she is found in a shallow grave just as his dream predicted. But what exactly occurred? Bergin Halverson takes up the task of searching for the truth of what happened the night Miss Lindgren disappeared putting himself and his family in peril until at last, nearly thirty-five years later he is able to reveal that truth and put to rest the many ghosts that have haunted him over the years.

EXCERPT:

The fog lay thickly on the land. The men assembled by the ruined house, each looking over his shoulder, a little afraid of what might be peering at them through the empty windows. Even the stirring of a torn lace curtain in a broken window set them on edge.

Their voices murmured softly in the mist, their words lost in its milky folds.

The sheriff gave the directions. They would spread out an arm’s length apart. Each man would walk the field from west to east; a stick in their hands to test the ground if they turned up something suspicious.

Like a group of nervous horses spooked by the fog, the men cautiously began to spread out into a line. They measured out their distance, each laying a hand on the shoulder of the next man. No one too willing to stray too far from the next man for fear he too would be lost in the oblique whiteness.

No one said a word. Silence enfolded them as much as the fog. Not even the birds twittered in their nests that morning. The solitariness of the stillness made each man feel horribly alone.

De Boer looked up. The sun was little more than a pallid, frozen circle in the sky. He called to the men to begin. His words were lost in the swirling whiteness. But the men whispered to one another to begin, passing the command down the line in each direction away from the center.

They moved gradually, like a wave across the field.

The men walked slowly on their route unsure of what was before them. The mist was burning off slowly as the weak sunlight began to try to warm the day. Visibility was increasing, revealing a fairyland painted in frosted white; it clung to the trees, to the grasses, to everything. It was as if they were intruding on some other world where everything was insubstantial.

***

S. M. Senden was raised in Winnetka , a north shore suburb of Chicago . From an early age reading and writing were passions as was travel. Senden has studied, lived and worked in the USA , Europe, the Mid-East and Africa , spending a number of years as an archaeological illustrator for various expeditions. S. M. Senden earned a Masters Degree and has studied creative writing, play writing and screenwriting.

Publications include: Two history books, Red Oak and Montgomery County, Iowa published by Arcadia in the Images of America series. Short Stories: The December Bride in Winter Wonders an anthology published by Whimsical Publications, and Christopher’s Egg in the anthology Change is in the Wind published by Second Wind. Articles and mediations in both The Clergy Journal and The Word in Season and a number of ghost stories in various magazines.

S. M. Senden currently resides in the greater Omaha metro area and is working on another historical mystery Under the Anheuser Bush, as well as a modern day series involving forensic artist, Dr. Kate Ashton.

Click here to buy: Clara’s Wish

Change is in the Wind, a Collection of Short Stories by Second Wind Authors and Guests

Change Is in the Wind is a fresh, challenging collection of seventeen short stories by as many authors, all dealing with the theme of change and renewal. Virtually every major theme in modern literature, including romance, mystery, crime, science fiction, religion and even nature find their way into these marvelous, eclectic stories.

Stories include:

“Salamander” by Deborah J Ledford: What a beautiful life, to be a smart, sexy artist traveling all around the world—and hoping they don’t catch you. Deborah J Ledford hooks us in short order with a dangerous little tale of revenge reversed.

“Nerd of Prey” by Noah Baird: Funny, original and full of pathos, Noah Baird’s brief offering to our volume captures every stage of the published author’s life span—in two pages.

“Fifty-Two Years” by J J Dare: JJ Dare is legendary for possessing beautiful, evocative descriptive powers. Those abilities are revealed so clearly in this bittersweet story of timeless love running out of time.

“Pain Killer” by Dellani Oakes:In this science fiction action-adventure story, Dellani Oakes continues to build the legend of her anti-hero Wil. The tale moves as swiftly as the Colonel moves on his targets.

“Cache-22” by J. Conrad Guest: What an irony, that J. Conrad Guest, a man’s man, is truly a romantic at heart—and he brings out the romantic in all of us.

“The Willow” by Pat Bertram: How does that old scripture go—unless a seed die and fall on the ground it cannot live? In just a few pages, Pat Bertram captures the essence of timeless love and the new life that comes from loss.

“Gratitude” by Claire Collins: Lasting love and family empower us to endure the hard realities of life, as Claire Collins reveals in her brief tale of family, loss and redemption. As with all her narratives, she does not spare readers the harshness nor the joy of life.

“Apres Holiday” by Susan Surman: It’s vintage Susan Surman: intertwined loves and love stories that work out somehow just as they are supposed to, seasoned with world travel, life and death, adolescent verity and worldly wisdom. And by the time the brief read is over, we are once again in love with life.

“Caddo Creek” by Lazarus Barnhill: With his well-known ear for dialogue and surprising spontaneous interactions, Lazarus Barnhill breathes life into another quirky, unique cast of characters—this time on an Arkansas mountainside in spring.

***

Change is in the Wind is available from Second Wind Publishing, Amazon, Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, and by special order from your favorite book store.

Excerpt From “Wallflower” by Catherine Gayle

The choice between adhering to a long-held pact and finally accepting love could prove Lady Tabitha Shelton’s unhinging. She is plump, plain, pleasant…and thoroughly unappealing to any of the men of the ton—apart from fortune hunters. A self-appointed wallflower, she has every intention of remaining one. Tabitha made a vow of spinsterhood with her cousins when they were girls, and she refuses to go back on her word. So far, she’s proven herself quite adept at warding off the blasted fortune hunters’ pursuits.

Noah deLancie, Marquess of Devonport, would prefer to marry for love and companionship—he’s a gentleman through and through—but circumstances have forced his hand: he needs money as badly as he needs a bride. When Noah’s brother-in-law suggests pursuit of his sister, Tabitha, a woman with a dowry large enough to cause even Croesus to blush and who is tantalizingly good company to boot, Noah stumbles into the future he hopes to secure. He’ll stop at nothing to convince Tabitha to marry him.

Nothing, that is, except perhaps the barrel of a dueling pistol, held to his face by his ladylove.

Excerpt:

“It won’t work.” The smooth, rich voice of Lord Devonport reverberated at Tabitha’s other side, and she jumped. “He fully intends not to be foiled by you, Lady Tabitha.”

She pinched her eyes closed. Blast, how had she not noticed Lord Devonport coming her way? She’d as soon die of mortification as allow him to hear her plans for Toby. But it was too late for that.

Still, maybe the gentleman would prove himself useful.

“And what, pray tell, is he planning, Lord Devonport?” Steeling herself, Tabitha turned to face him. The laughter in his eyes never ceased to captivate her. Someone ought to find a way to bottle that joy so everyone could experience it. “Surely you know, since you’ve been over there with him this last half hour. What does he intend to do to me this time?”

“Alas, I cannot tell. I’ve been sworn to secrecy.”

“Would it not be more gallant to warn a lady of a plot against her, my lord? Surely you must recognize the difficulty of my position.”

The smile moved down to his lips. They looked soft, like velvet. Tabitha had a sudden, irresistible urge to kiss them, just to find out for sure. But that was a ridiculous notion.

“Ah, but you do not seem to recognize the inherent problems of mine.”

The way Lord Devonport stared at her was more than just a little unnerving. Tabitha realized she was toying with her necklace and forced herself to stop, allowing her arms to fall straight at her side.

“And neither of you recognize the adversity of mine,” Jo said. Her voice seemed much louder than either of theirs had been, though surely no one else could hear her. “If you’ll excuse me, I must go and visit with Lady Crestridge. That shade of evening primrose makes her complexion look downright ghastly.”

Jo strolled away, and as usual, a series of eyes followed her path across the ballroom, Tabitha’s included. When she turned back to Lord Devonport, however, his eyes had not left Tabitha’s person. Oh, why had Jo decided to abandon her? She’d been Tabitha’s one source of protection against…against what, precisely? Surely she didn’t need protection from Lord Devonport, a perfectly agreeable gentleman—one who was essentially family.

So why did she feel like she needed fortification? Why, all of a sudden, did his gaze make her skin tingle? The prickles of goose flesh that had popped up along her arms were perplexing. Tabitha wasn’t cold—rather she was exceedingly warm—and she was experiencing the joint, warring desires to leave Lord Devonport’s presence without looking back and to draw closer to him.

Tabitha had been attracted to men before. More than attracted, actually. She’d thought herself in love with one of her father’s footmen once upon a time. But James Marshall had never made her feel quite like this—nervous and flighty, and somehow even a little bit attractive. On second thought, maybe Jo had been right. Maybe she was feeling ill. No gentleman in possession of his faculties would ever find her attractive. She brushed the notion away and faced Lord Devonport again.

“The inherent problems of your position?” she asked, wishing her words had not come out sounding strangled. Good Lord, it sounded like she was attempting to swallow an entire flock of geese. “And what might those be?”

“Surely you can work that out on your own, my lady.”

He leaned closer to her and the heat of his body wafted a trail of his cologne over her. It was musky and spicy and manly; it tingled against her nose and tantalized her to draw closer to him.

“If I am to maintain my reputation as a gentleman in your eyes,” he said, his voice hardly more than a whisper, “I must divulge secrets that are not mine to tell. However, if I am to maintain the same in the eyes of your family, I may do nothing of the sort.”

His eyes bored into hers. Tabitha felt as though he could see straight into her mind, directly into her heart. Her pulse beat a frantic pace against her neck. She wished he would touch her right there, just below the lobe of her ear, to calm the pulsing, heated flow.

“Indeed,” she said. “That is quite a predicament.”

***

Catherine Gayle has been an avid reader of romance novels (and almost anything else she can legally get her hands on) for as long as she can remember. Her mother might say it started in the womb. When she is not writing or reading, she can often be found buried beneath her sleeping cat or chasing the Nephew Monster.  She’s a reality TV junkie, a hockey addict, and experimental cook.

Catherine Gayle’s books are available from: Second Wind Publishing, LLC

Excerpt From “Saving Grace” by Catherine Gayle

The blasted man will not stop following her. Well, he isn’t following her . . . not exactly. They are just always thrown together, and he is everything she wants but cannot have. It is downright infuriating—especially when he kisses her.

Lady Grace Abernathy has been ravished and left pregnant (and thoroughly unsuitable for any honorable gentleman). This would not be such a gargantuan problem if Lord Alexander Hardwicke would simply stay away from her as she asked. But leave it to her meddling Aunt Dorothea—who means well, of course—to continually thrust the two into each other’s company. Against both their wishes. These distractions are almost more than a reasonable lady should be forced to bear, let alone one who is dealing with all the difficulties inherent with both an unwanted pregnancy and a dire lack of a husband.

Alex left London to visit his deceased father’s oldest friend, Lord Rotheby, and to get away from his mother and her matchmaking schemes, only to run into more of the same at every turn. Why can he not determine for himself the course his life will take before everyone pushes him to take a wife? But the more time he spends in the company of Lady Grace, the less he finds himself able to ignore his growing attraction—and his burgeoning need to protect her. Must he cause a scandal in order to protect her from one?

Excerpt:

Her silence lasted just a touch too long. His aggravation finally got the better of him and he snapped, “Am I thoroughly disagreeable to you, ma’am? Am I so horrible you are unable to converse with me at all, or is something else wrong? I’ve apologized to you repeatedly for taking liberties in Lord Rotheby’s garden, and for everything else under the sun. I don’t know what else I can do to convince you to speak to me. You could at least make some effort at being civil. Lord knows I have made enough efforts for the both of us.”

Her eyes grew wide, and then slowly filled with heat. “You…you…how dare you! May I remind you, sir, you are the one who took those very liberties you speak of with me.” She stood with her hands haughtily on her hips and her icy eyes turned to deep, blue flames of anger. “I didn’t ask you to do so, I didn’t encourage you to do so, and I most certainly didn’t want you to do so. That was entirely your choice. You’ve made it abundantly clear you only suffer my presence as a favor to Lord Rotheby and my aunt and uncle. Yet you continue to stare lasciviously at me, leaving me thoroughly baffled as to what, precisely, you want from me.”

Her voice rose no more than a whisper as she built a head of steam. Now that she had started, Alex worried she might never stop her tirade. Yet this harangue of hers was intriguing. She suddenly had so very much to say.

He stood in the middle of the Pump Room with his mouth agape, unsure of how to proceed other than allow her to continue her verbal assault. So he did.

“I do not know how to act around you. I’ve tried to ignore you, as you seemed disinclined to my company, and I therefore assumed you would prefer that reaction. So how, pray tell, am I supposed to react? I’ve tried to stop you from making a gargantuan mistake, but you seem to have an aversion to accepting my assistance. I would very much like to help you by doing whatever it is you want, but I’m quite incapable of interpreting your thoughts. So, my lord, why don’t you tell me what to do and save us both a good deal of trouble? It would alleviate the ache that is rapidly building in my head.”

Lady Grace finally took a breath, and waited. By this point, most of the room openly stared at the two of them, some with their jaws hanging open, others seeming to note every word said so they could rush to the nearest gossip and fill them in on these newest, juicy on-dits. Her words, while hardly more than a whisper, seemed to echo in the spacious area.

Alex, too, heard every word she’d hissed at him. Yet he had listened to only a few. The passion she displayed entranced him. She was normally so cold and collected, never losing the veneer of control she kept such tight rein over.

Yet that had all gone by the wayside, and he could think of nothing but how beautiful she looked when angry. Her eyes had flashed and flared, and some strands of her hair had pulled free from the exacting knot and whipped about her face. He wanted to capture her passion, to hold onto it for a later moment when she resumed her cold demeanor.

Alex yearned to touch her.

Maddening. Most men would do anything to avoid infuriating a lady, but he was formulating ways he could do so again. He loved seeing her out of control, reckless and passionate. He wanted more. So much more.

Without a thought to the consequences of his actions or the audience that had gathered, he closed the distance between them and kissed her. Greedy this time, he took more than he gave. One hand fisted in the knot of hair at the nape of her neck and worked to free more of it than was already framing her face, while the other drew her closer to him so he could feel her length against him.

Their audience drew in a collective, scandalized breath, which appeared to register with Lady Grace. She struggled against him, but he would prefer to ignore them. However, she increased her struggles and pushed hard against his chest to separate them. Reluctantly, Alex relinquished his hold.

She took a calming breath, then another, and a third, all while glaring daggers of ice-blue fire into his eyes. Then she reached a hand up and slapped him across his cheek. “You forget yourself, sir,” she spat out. Then she turned on her heels and fled, with the Kensingtons close behind.

Alex started to follow her as well, but Gil appeared as if from nowhere and placed a hand on his arm. “Let her go, Alex. This will all be sorted out. Just let her go for now.”

So he did.

***

Catherine Gayle has been an avid reader of romance novels (and almost anything else she can legally get her hands on) for as long as she can remember. Her mother might say it started in the womb. When she is not writing or reading, she can often be found buried beneath her sleeping cat or chasing the Nephew Monster.  She’s a reality TV junkie, a hockey addict, and experimental cook.

Catherine Gayle’s books are available from: Second Wind Publishing, LLC

Excerpt From “Merely a Miss” by Catherine Gayle

Miss Jane Matthews feels completely out of place amongst the finery of the ton. She’s the daughter of a country vicar, for goodness sake, and nearly a spinster to boot. Frankly, she would prefer to stay that way. How can a lady of Quality start up her own modiste shop, after all? But when her distant cousin—the Dowager Duchess of Somerton, of all people—offers to sponsor her for a Season in London, she agrees, but only so she can take the opportunity to search for a storefront for her business. Perhaps, in that regard, the Season won’t all be in vain.

The widower of a loveless marriage, Peter Hardwicke, the Duke of Somerton, has already done his duty and provided an heir for his dukedom, so he sees no reason whatsoever to remarry. Even if, heaven forbid, something should happen to his son, he still has three younger brothers who are each quite capable of inheriting. Taking a wife would only mean adding a new responsibility to his already too-full schedule. He’s more than busy enough keeping his mother, siblings, and children in line—not to mention sorting out the myriad problems plaguing one of his estates.

But when Lord Utley, one of Peter’s childhood friends and a man who has been on the wrong side of Peter’s ire for many years now, takes an unlikely interest in Jane, he has to intervene. Peter will be damned if he’ll allow Utley to ruin yet another life. But will rescuing Jane from Utley’s clutches land Peter with another loveless marriage?

Excerpt:

“And you call that scoundrel a gentleman, do you?” A raging fire was building in his chest, boiling like a kettle over a fire, and he fought to tamp it back down. Miss Matthews was becoming a devilish nuisance, causing reactions within him that no one had ever done before, damn it all. “Do you know who he is, ma’am? Do you know anything about Lord Utley at all? Or any of the myriad gentlemen present at the ball this evening, for that matter?”

She started to pipe in with a response, but he cut her off.

“No. You don’t. And since you are so dreadfully unaware of anything related to these gentlemen’s reputations, you have been relegated to my mother’s chaperonage. For your own protection, ma’am.” Peter’s voice had risen so loud, surely someone within the ballroom would hear him soon. He deliberately lowered it again, taking a deep breath to regain control. “You’re to do as she says in order that you don’t make an unwarranted mistake. If left to your own devices, you’d likely ensure your own ruin if this jaunt into the gardens is any indication. You’re most certainly not to take it upon yourself to accept a dance with one of the most notorious rakehells in Town, nor are you to then proceed to situate yourself entirely alone with said ‘gentleman’ without the knowledge of your chaperone, or anyone else. Yet you thoroughly ignored her on this matter—”

“I most certainly did not ignore Cousin Henrietta on any matter,” Miss Matthews spat out at him with sparks in her eyes. “She introduced me to Lord Utley, and she saw no harm in my dancing with him since you had sent him over for an introduction. We both complied with your guidance, Your Grace.” Miss Matthews took the tiniest step forward until she stood only a hair’s breadth away from him, wagging a finger in his face. “If anyone here is to blame for anything, it is you. You’re the one who set this all in motion.”

“You and my mother were both terribly mistaken if you think I’d have sent anyone like Utley for an introduction. How she could possibly think I would approve of such a thing, I’ll never be able to fathom. But I’ll deal with her later. You, on the other hand, must be dealt with immediately.”

“Dealt with. Dealt with? Why, you arrogant popinjay!” She took another step toward him, stepping on his toes in the process and shoving him backward with no small amount of force—a fact that surprised him—and matching him step for step as he backed away. “I am not some green chit barely out of the schoolroom. Nor am I one of your siblings. You have no right to order me about in any way. You will kindly remember that in future.”

Never in his life had he struck a woman before, not even one of his sisters when they were children, yet he found it difficult to restrain himself from that very atrocity at this moment. Her impudence stung.

“And you would do well to remember, Miss Matthews, that as long as you live beneath my roof you are under my protection and therefore must abide by my decisions.”

“Well, perhaps I should not live beneath your roof any longer, then.” She crossed her arms over her chest, which only served to plump up her already breathtaking bosom before his eyes.

“Perhaps not. Nevertheless, you currently do, so my word is law.”

Her fury shone through in a great huff and a flash of her eyes. Dear Lord, she was beautiful when she was angry. Almost like a siren.

Peter shook his head, as though to rid it of such thoughts. Thinking along those lines would get him nowhere. “And my word is that you are to avoid all contact with Lord Utley from this moment on. For that matter, you’d better reject any attentions from Mr. Aldous Forster or Lord Tansley, should they attempt to pay you court. Maybe a few others as well. I’ll let you know as I think of them. But I might never secure you a husband if some nefarious scoundrel ruins your reputation before you have a chance to make a decent match.”

And the sooner she was married, the sooner he could set aside the way her ire bewitched him and move on with his life—without the chaotic wake that seemed to follow her everywhere that currently had his head in a twist.

“I see,” Miss Matthews murmured with narrowed eyes. Thank heavens. “So I should avoid and blatantly ignore Lords Utley and Tansley and Mr. Forster. Would you like to add anyone else to that list, Your Grace?” Her heated glare could fell an entire army. But instead of sounding a retreat, Peter’s only thought was to advance.

His eyes slid to her lips, which were darkened from the furious pinch she had kept them in for several moments. He wanted nothing more than to kiss them, to press his own lips against their angry pout until the heat in them turned to passion and promise instead of anger.

“Well?” Miss Matthews placed her hands on her hips in a posture much like an overbearing governess—which he found disturbingly alluring.

Christ, he ought to walk away now. But for some confounding reason, he couldn’t. “Yes. There is one more.”

“And? Who might this dreaded gentleman be?”

Peter advanced toward her, closing the small gap between them. “Me.”

***

Catherine Gayle has been an avid reader of romance novels (and almost anything else she can legally get her hands on) for as long as she can remember. Her mother might say it started in the womb. When she is not writing or reading, she can often be found buried beneath her sleeping cat or chasing the Nephew Monster.  She’s a reality TV junkie, a hockey addict, and experimental cook.

Catherine Gayle’s books are available from: Second Wind Publishing, LLC

Excerpt From “Twice a Rake” by Catherine Gayle

Some scandals are meant to be . . .

When Aurora Hyatt loses her journal in Hyde Park, her ruin is a foregone conclusion. After all, if anyone discovers her writings, they’ll find scandalous fantasies involving the newest rake in Town alongside entirely-too-candid thoughts about her typical dreary suitors. Aurora will either be forced into a loveless marriage with the first nodcock to make an offer, or she’ll be assigned a permanent position on the shelf. Oh, dear good Lord. What catastrophe will God smote down upon her next?

If Niles Thornton, Baron Quinton, desires to maintain any semblance of his current lifestyle, he must fulfill the requirements his grandfather has set for him. First and foremost: he must marry and begin filling his nursery within the year. When he is nearly barreled over by a racing curricle and a journal flies out to land at his feet, his troubles are over. Inside the journals pages, Quin discovers a scandal waiting to happen. Surely a young lady who would write such brazen things in a journal (and then dare to lose it) must recognize the necessity of a hasty marriage, even if the gentleman making the offer is rather less-than-honorable.

In a drunken haze, Quin kisses Aurora on a crowded ballroom floor, necessitating their immediate marriage. Quin’s troubles are only beginning, however, as Aurora’s writings are soon the focus of both gossip rags and drawing room conversation. When word arrives of an even greater scandal following in his wife’s wake, will he prove himself a drunken abuser like his father, or will he become the loving husband of Aurora’s fantasies?

Excerpt:

Aurora heard no music. She saw nothing but him, Lord Quinton, staring down at her with an intensity she’d never experienced. He smelled of brandy and heat. She was nearly intoxicated just from his sheer proximity.

After moments or hours, she would never know, she finally found her tongue. “My lord, how did you know who I am?” What a foolish, silly question. She was a ninny. What did that matter? Not a whit.

“I would imagine in the same manner you knew who I am.” His eyes bored into her. “You do know, do you not?”

She would be perfectly content to never take another breath so long as he never stopped looking at her like that. Aurora tingled everywhere he touched her, with the delicious gooseflesh spreading through her limbs, up to her head, and then plummeting all the way down to her toes—which somehow curled beneath her.

“Yes. You are the mysterious Lord Quinton.” And he would think her an utter dolt if she did not manage to remove the derisible grin from her face. There was also the rather embarrassing problem of a blush spreading over her cheeks and all the way to her bosom. The heat flowed like gauze in the wind. She looked down to see how bad it was, only to realize too late she had drawn his gaze to that very same place.

“That I am.” He stared at the low bodice of her gown, or rather at the display just above it, for an inordinately long period of time. Finally, his eyes moved slowly up her chest to her neck, to her chin, to her lips—where they paused yet again.

She felt parched. She needed something—something—something to calm her nerves and to cool her off. Yet all she wanted to do was move closer, still.

Aurora licked her lips.

Lord Quinton’s hand at her waist flinched and grew tense, pulling her in as though on command.

“I am also, Miss Hyatt, not the kind of gentleman a proper young lady should have anything to do with—not if she wishes to keep her reputation intact.”

“I am aware of that.” Too aware. But that was the last thing she wanted to think of at the moment. She preferred to focus on the day’s growth of stubble lining his jaw and to imagine how it might feel if she drew her hand across it.

The corners of his lips quirked up in the slightest hint of a rakish grin. It looked lascivious. Fiendish. And entirely too appealing. “Then you must also be aware, Miss Hyatt, that every eye in the room is trained upon the two of us. Including those of your chaperone. Perhaps even your father.”

“Yes,” she said, with a slight tremor in her voice. Blast him for reminding her of all the reasons she should run screaming from him. And blast her for not doing as she ought.

Lord Quinton’s eyes smiled at her then, a smile only a true rogue could muster. “And yet you remain with me. Dancing.” He twirled her about so fast she would have lost her feet, but for his strong arm at her waist pulling her ever closer. “Waltzing.”

At this new distance she smelled his cologne, much like she had imagined it in her story. “Yes,” she whispered, no longer trusting her voice not to fail.

He stood still and held her steady before him. “Lovely,” Lord Quinton growled just before his lips descended upon hers in a kiss. A kiss nothing like what she imagined.

This was nothing tender or chaste. It was needy and possessive and hot.

He pulled her closer until her body was melded into his, her curves tucked neatly into his angles and planes like they had been made just for that purpose. One hand moved up into the chignon at the nape of her neck, fisting and tugging and drawing her ever closer.

His lips were hard and demanding. The stubble along his jaw assaulted her tender skin in a way that left her panting for more. He bit her lower lip and she cried out, but it was muffled against his tongue as it moved inside her mouth.

Aurora tasted his brandy—smooth and dark.

Lord Quinton moved his tongue in and out and around. When he suckled, her toes sang and the tips of her fingers trembled and something both terrible and wonderful happened between her thighs.

She wanted more.

She wanted to do the things to him he was doing to her, to make him feel these wanton feelings.

She wanted it never to end.

But then he pulled his head back, the absence of his lips leaving hers aching for their return.

Lord Quinton stepped away from her. Removed his hands from her. He bowed his head briefly. “Miss Hyatt. I bid you good evening.”

And he left.

***

Catherine Gayle has been an avid reader of romance novels (and almost anything else she can legally get her hands on) for as long as she can remember. Her mother might say it started in the womb. When she is not writing or reading, she can often be found buried beneath her sleeping cat or chasing the Nephew Monster.  She’s a reality TV junkie, a hockey addict, and experimental cook.

Catherine Gayle’s books are available from: Second Wind Publishing, LLC