Excerpt Wednesday – Trail of Passion

Sep 02, 2015

It’s Excerpt Wednesday! And that means it’s time for another sneak peek at my next release, Trail of Passion. This is book 7 in the Hot on the Trail series, but I have it on good authority that you can read this one on its own without being lost or confused. So here goes!

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“Do you believe in love at first sight?” Lucy asked Estelle and the friend they’d made on the trail, Olivia Walters, a few days later.

“I’m not sure,” Estelle answered as she poured water from a pail into the kettle she was preparing coffee in for the wagon train crew’s breakfast.

“I don’t,” Olivia said. “I certainly believe that a person can like the look of another, but love is something that takes time to grow as you get to know the other person more fully.”

Lucy hummed, debating whether she agreed or not, and continued cracking eggs into the bowl where she worked near Estelle in the crew camp. “I suppose there’s truth to that.”

More than truth. It was silly to think that a few pleasant conversations with Gideon could add up to love so quickly. They’d hardly been three days on the trail. It was far too soon to fancy herself in love with him.

Still, the way he sat and listened to her that first night—until the sun had gone down and Josephine had come by, clearing her throat and hinting that an unchaperoned lady talking with a man after dark was outside of the bounds of propriety, even on the Oregon Trail—warmed her heart. No one listened to her. Ever. Her mother was constantly telling her to hold her tongue, her younger brother, Franklin, had nicknamed her ‘Chatterbox’ just to get under her skin, and her Papa could only answer so many of her questions before he remembered he had something else to do at the other end of the ranch.

“Well, if we don’t believe in love at first sight,” she went on, finishing with the eggs and gathering up the shells to toss, “then do we believe that some people inspire a fondness in others?”

Estelle and Olivia exchanged looks that said Lucy was as transparent as a window.

“Yes, I suppose so,” Estelle answered.

“As long as you’re not too obvious about showing how fond you are of someone,” Olivia added.

Lucy abandoned her pile of eggshells to plant her hands on her fists. “I am not obvious,” she declared, then hesitated. “Am I?”

Another pair of grins passed between Estelle and Olivia.

“I’m sure Gideon enjoys the attention,” Olivia said. “I haven’t seen many other people talking to him so far.”

The three of them turned together toward the small camp Gideon had set up beside his wagon. He was by himself, coaxing a fire into flame, a coffee pot in the grass on one side of the crate where he sat and some strange scientific contraption that Lucy couldn’t begin to identify on the other. He was alone, but he smiled at the fire as he worked, thoughts likely a hundred miles away.

Lucy’s heart gave a quick lurch in her chest.

“He’s a thinker,” she explained to her friends as they returned to their work. “Yesterday at lunch, he told me all about the experiments he’d like to do and about the things he’s invented.”

“I thought you said he was a chemist,” Olivia said.

“He is, but he has other interests as well.” She gathered up the broken eggshells once more and moved to throw them off by the side of the trail. “He showed me a watch that he’s designed to keep track of how many miles we’ve traveled. It works based off of how fast he’s calculated the wagons are moving.”

“Can a watch even do that?” Estelle asked.

“Gideon’s watch can.” Lucy smiled, pride filling her. It was thrilling to feel proud of someone, to count herself as his friend. Heaven only knew that she would never be able to invent anything or think up any sort of idea that would make a single living soul proud. The best she’d do would be to shock people, but at least then they wouldn’t forget her. “He’s making a new leg for Lt. Tremaine,” she added.

“So I hear,” Estelle said. She smiled at the kettle as she nestled it in a bank of coals to heat.

“How generous of him to volunteer his time and his skill that way,” Olivia said.

Lucy brightened. “We should think of some way to thank him. But not offering to clean up his things for him.” She laughed. “I still can’t believe that I accidentally ruined one of his experiments. I’m only glad that it wasn’t something vital. Who knows what I might destroy if I meddle too much in his things.”

She glanced back to Gideon’s camp, but he was nowhere in sight. Disappointment and curiosity swirled through her. His coffee pot was over the fire now and his scientific contraption was still there. So where was he?

 

There you have it. And best of all, even though Trail of Passion comes out on Monday (September 7th), you can pre-order it right now on Amazon, iBooks, and Barnes & Noble!

Excerpt Wednesday – Trail of Passion – First Impressions

Aug 26, 2015

It’s Excerpt Wednesday! Yep, I may have been terrible at maintaining my blog this summer (but I’ve just been doing so much traveling!), but at least I’m able to keep up with excerpts from upcoming works. Here’s the continuation of the scene I posted last week. Gideon and Lucy finally meet!

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As he set the last of his crates in order, took out the modified watch he’d constructed to keep track of mileage traveled, and closed the tailgate of the wagon, a bubbly, female voice caught his attention.

 

“Hurry along. My father’s waiting for me to come home to Wyoming, and if we are held up, he’ll have words for all of us. No one holds up Howard Haskell, and no one holds up his daughter.”

 
Gideon perked up in spite of himself, searching for the source of the voice. When his gaze fell on a spry wisp of a woman—her auburn hair caught up under a fashionable hat and her green dress a bit too sophisticated for the trail—his heart bounced down to his gut and back.
 

“Yes, Miss Lucy,” one of the wagon train’s crew said as he pushed a trunk into the back of the woman’s wagon.

 

“I can’t wait to get home,” the woman, Lucy, went on. “I miss my Papa and my Aunt Virginia, and even my bratty little brother, Franklin. When I got Papa’s letter telling me Franklin had been injured, I had to come right away. Mama took the train, but I need more adventure than that. I wish I’d been alive twenty years ago, when the first pioneers came out this way. It would have been dangerous and exciting, don’t you think?”

 

“Yes, Miss Lucy,” the crew member sighed.

 

“It’s still dangerous, at least a little bit,” Lucy continued, following the assistant when he finished with her things and tried to move on. They both came closer to where Gideon stood. “I love danger. It makes me feel all shivery inside, like, like….” She shuddered, cheeks flaring with color, and lowered her eyes with a mischievous grin. “Well, never mind what like.”

 

A rush of unwelcome heat flooded Gideon. Lucy was close enough for him to see the flash in her eyes—a scintillating contrast to her otherwise sweet, virtuous face. One lingering look and he had a hard time believing that she was anything other than innocent, in spite of her provocative speech. His heart hammered… and his stomach pinched with guilt.

 

“The Indians are still there, after all,” Lucy went on as the crew member tried to get away. “They’re dangerous. And there’s always wild animals. I bet we see a herd of buffalo once we get to the true West. I’ve seen them. They’re everywhere, but not so much as before.”

 

It wasn’t until Lucy’s gaze zipped across him, stopped, and focused on him that Gideon realized he was staring. Not only that, his mouth had dropped open. Worse, he couldn’t look away. Miss Lucy was beautiful, her delicate features accented by the light of adventure in her eyes. Her auburn hair caught the sunlight and absorbed it, giving her a warm, excited glow. And when she smiled, well, Gideon was as aware as the next man that some chemical reactions went far beyond a laboratory.

 

A heartbeat later, sense—and shame—caught up with him. He closed his mouth, swallowed, and focused on his watch, adjusting the settings. That didn’t stop Lucy from approaching him.

 

“Do you think we’ll encounter dangers on the trail?” she asked, skipping nearer with a lightness that spoke of both dexterity and enthusiasm. “I’m certain there are other things besides Indians and wild animals that we should watch out for. My father is always saying that you never know what you’ll find under a rock or around a crook in the creek.” She laughed suddenly, and Gideon’s eyes snapped up to her, round and wary. “I like the way Papa says that. ‘Crook in the creek.’ It has quite a ring to it, don’t you think, Mr.?”

 

It took Gideon a moment after she stopped speaking to realize she wanted a response. A cold sweat broke out down his back. Aside from the fact that he didn’t deserve to make Miss Lucy’s acquaintance, he’d never had much luck speaking to women before. They weren’t interested in the things he held dear, and since he didn’t have that boldness that other men possessed….

 

He cleared his throat and stood straighter, forcing himself to focus. “Faraday.” He tucked his watch into his trouser pocket and held out a hand. “Dr. Gideon Faraday.”

 

When Lucy blinked and stared at his hand, Gideon cursed himself. It was the wrong way for a man to introduce himself to a woman, especially one who appeared to be from a finer class than most. He should have bowed and possibly kissed her hand. He should have warned her to stay away from him. He should have—

 

She took Gideon’s hand, squeezing it as she shook. Her beautiful, green eyes sparkled as she grinned.

 

“I approve of men who shake women’s hands,” she said. “It shows a real sense of equality. I can’t abide it when a man snakes his fingers under mine and tries to kiss my knuckles. Kissing knuckles. Can you imagine? Other than the fact that that kind of greeting happens when you first meet someone, who wants their knuckles kissed? I can think of much nicer places to be kissed.”

 

Gideon choked at her words. His collar—and trousers—were suddenly too tight. He would have pulled away, but Lucy still had his hand trapped in hers.

 

“Oh,” she gasped, eyes going round. “That doesn’t sound at all proper, does it.” She laughed, pressing her free hand to her chest. “How scandalous of me. But then, I come from a line of scandalous women. You should meet my Aunt Virginia. She would shock the life out of you, I’m sure. She carries a pistol at all times and rides horses like a man. Of course, I can ride horses like a man too.” She winked.

 

Gideon’s heart slipped that much further out of his ability to control it. If he had a shred of decency left, he would turn and run and spare Lucy the torment of knowing him.

 

“I should probably let go of your hand now,” she went on. “And, oh! I haven’t even told you my name yet. Here I’ve gone on, talking about danger and Aunt Virginia and horses, and I haven’t even told you my name. Silly. Typical. It’s Lucy Haskell, by the way. Miss Lucy Haskell. My father is Howard Haskell or Wyoming. I’m heading west to go home, which, I suppose, makes me different from just about everyone else on this wagon train.”

 

At last, Lucy let his hand go. It was a great loss. As great a loss as his loss for words in the face of the avalanche that was Miss Lucy Haskell.

 

“Move on out, folks,” Pete’s cry sounded over top of the din of wagons and people around them. “The journey to your new life starts now.”

 

Gideon would have glanced around to see what was going on and if he needed to take any action, but his eyes were locked on Lucy’s smiling face. A blind man could see that she had energy and drive. He may have spent his whole life studying the Laws of Nature, but a whole different law was at work here, one of attraction.

 

“Miss Lucy,” Pete called from several yards behind him. “Your wagon isn’t going to drive itself.”

 

“Oh. I’d better go.” Before Gideon could get out another word, Lucy picked up her skirts and scurried back toward her wagon. She glanced over her shoulder at him as she went, though, the green ribbons on her hat fluttering in the breeze.

 

Gideon blinked. Lucy Haskell was a whirlwind, and it would take him at least a few minutes to digest what had just passed between them.

 

As he turned toward his wagon and the oxen that were hitched to draw it, his eyes stayed glued to Lucy. One of Pete’s crew members met her at the front of her wagon and handed her a goad, demonstrating how to use it. Lucy nodded and smiled at the man, took the goad, and steered her oxen into place like an expert as soon as she was given the go ahead.

 

Like a magnet drawn to iron, and against his better judgment, Gideon’s mind shifted into action. He retrieved the goad resting on the seat of his wagon and hurried to bring his oxen around and into place as close to Lucy’s wagon as he could manage. He wasn’t fast enough. One other wagon managed to slip into place in the long line that was forming and stretching out toward the western horizon.

 

It took Gideon a moment to see that the man driving that wagon only had one leg. The realization caused him to frown. The man was wearing a Union soldier’s uniform and propelling himself forward on crutches, but why would anyone choose to walk the Oregon Trail with only one leg?

 

As the wagon train pulled away from Independence and out into the vast prairie, Gideon’s mind was filled with all sorts of calculations. He worried about the chemicals in his wagon and reorganized them in his mind for maximum safety. He watched the way the soldier in front of him walked and calculated what it would take to construct a wooden leg to make the man’s journey easier. But above all, he mulled over the problem of whether he dared to get closer to Miss Lucy Haskell or if he would be even more of a villain than he already was for saddling her with someone like him.

 
 

And guess what? You can preorder Trail of Passion now at iBooks, Amazon, or Barnes & Noble!

 
 

Excerpt Wednesday – Trail of Passion – A First Look

Aug 19, 2015

It’s Wednesday! I’m back from the Authors After Dark conference in Atlanta and doing my best to get back on track with writing, revising, and, of course, posting here. What better way to get back into the swing of things than with a sneak peek at what’s coming up next? Here’s a sneak peek at Trail of Passion, Hot on the Trail, Book 7, coming September 7th….

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Independence, MO – 1865

Gideon Faraday was unlike the other travelers in the wagon train that was busy forming up around him. He was a scientist, an educated man. He was overdressed in his gray wool trousers and fine vest. At least he’d taken off his jacket so that he could prepare his wagon in his shirtsleeves. He still didn’t blend in with everyone else. Instead of furniture and cooking utensils, his wagon was stacked with small, uniform crates, each packed with glass vials and jars containing chemicals. A hand-cranked generator rested at the front of the wagon bed, near the driver’s seat. He was alone—unmarried and without family. But none of those were the true reasons Gideon wasn’t like any of his fellow pioneers.

Gideon Faraday was a murderer.

“All right, folks. Pack it up so we can move it out,” Pete Evans, the trail boss who would lead them all to Oregon, hollered as he moved between the wagons.

Gideon doubled his efforts to stash his supplies and ongoing experiments in his wagon. It was easy to push and shuffle the crates without thinking about them, but the small, fat satchel that rested on the edge of his tailgate was another story. There simply wasn’t any place safe enough for it, and there was no way to stop its contents from being at the forefront of his thoughts. He picked it up, shifted to the other side of the open wagon bed, reached to put it down, then reconsidered. Light as it was, the satchel was like lead in his hands. With a sigh, he put it back where it had been and pushed a hand through his hair, acid eating at his stomach.

He tried to avoid Pete’s eyes as he walked past, but already Gideon had learned that few things and fewer people escaped Pete’s notice.

“Everything okay here, Dr. Faraday?” Pete asked, strolling to a stop beside the tailgate of Gideon’s wagon.

“Okay,” Gideon repeated. It was enough truth for now. He shifted a crate, darting a quick glance Pete’s way. “I’m a little concerned about bumps and rattling, but the graduate assistants at Princeton did a fine job of securing the glass, so it shouldn’t be a problem.”

Pete eyed the contents of Gideon’s wagon and rubbed a hand over his face. “You sure none of that is dangerous?”

Gideon shrugged, still reluctant to meet Pete’s eyes. “It can be if tampered with. As long as the chemicals remain separate and in their containers, everything should be fine.”

“Should be?” Pete crossed his arms, looking anything but confident.

Gideon attempted a smile. “The only chemical in my inventory that I plan on using at any point on the journey is chlorine, and only if it becomes absolutely necessary.”

“Chlorine?” Pete repeated.

“Yes.” Gideon nodded, the familiar urge to explain the wonders of science nipping at him. “Chemists have been exploring its use in water purification for decades. It has been surprisingly effective at reducing waterborne disease in highly populated areas, though we’re still not sure why. My plan is to introduce its use out west in the hopes that thousands of families can be spared the troubles of unclean water sources, particularly in newer cities where sanitation is a challenge. I’ve been experimenting with it for years. In fact, part of my graduate work at Princeton was developing….”

He let his words trail away as the memory of what his work had actually produced seized him. How could such good intentions have gone so bad so quickly? Lives lost, science turned on its head, and for what? The only choice he had was to go west, to run away from it all, from the lives he’d taken.

“Dr. Faraday?” Pete shook him out of his thoughts. “Everything all right?”

Gideon cleared his throat, turned toward his wagon, and continued working, avoiding Pete’s concerned glance. “Yes, I’m just distracted thinking about the journey. I’ve never been much further west than Pittsburgh.”

Pete’s expression cleared to a knowing smile. “It’s a big, wide world out there, and we’re going to walk clear across it.” He slapped Gideon on the back—causing Gideon to jump half out of his skin.

The motion also caused Gideon to knock the leather satchel off of the tailgate. It dropped to the ground and flipped open. Stacks of crisp dollar bills spilled onto the grass.

Pete whistled and pushed his hat back as Gideon dove to scrape the cash back together and into the satchel. “That’s quite a haul you’ve got there.”

“Yes.” Gideon cleared his throat, face burning, shoving bills and dirt into the satchel, closing it, and standing. “Payment for a… a job.”

“What kind of job, a bank robbery?” Pete snorted.

Gideon’s eyes flew wide and he choked as he answered, “No, no, nothing like that. Scientific work.” A bank robbery would have been a thousand times less sinful.

“Well.” Pete slapped his back once more. “Looks like science pays better than leading wagons trains.”

“It can,” Gideon answered, though as he tucked the satchel of money between two stacks of crates, he doubted if it should.

“You watch out for that.” Pete nodded to the back of Gideon’s wagon, then moved on. “Load it up, folks. We’re leaving in just a few minutes.”

As soon as Pete had gone, Gideon let out a breath and slumped against the back of his wagon. A fine sweat had broken out on his brow. He reached into the pocket of his trousers and pulled out a handkerchief to mop it up. That had been close. Too close. It was one thing to get excited about the things he loved, about the miracles of chemistry and the good it could do for mankind. It was an entirely different thing to slip up and reveal what he’d done, the stain on his soul. The whole point of this journey was to forget those things, to leave the horrors of his past behind him, and to do some good in the world to make up for it. He couldn’t ruin that with a few careless words. The less he said to his fellow travelers the better.

 

Trail of Passion is coming September 7th! Be sure to sign up for my newsletter to be alerted as soon as it comes out….

Excerpt Wednesday – The Advisor

Aug 05, 2015

With everything else that’s been going on with the release of the first few episodes of The Brynthwaite Boys, I totally haven’t had time to share another project with you! I am honored to be a part of a sizzling contemporary romance trilogy, The Fabulous Dalton Boys. (Yep, it’s all about the boys for me this summer 😉 ) My contribution to this trilogy about three Texas oil billionaires trying to keep their family on the straight and narrow is The Advisor. Here’s a little peek….

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Archer Dalton had never been late to work a day in his life. He had to floor it in his restored ’78 Ford Ranger across the Texas highways to get to Dalton Enterprises on time now and then, but he was always through the door and in his office by the time the clock struck nine. It was 8:58am now, and as he hopped out of his truck, his cell phone rang.

“What the….” No one called him this early. No one called him at all, unless it was….

He pulled his phone out and checked. Yep.

“Barrett,” he greeted his brother with a grunt.

“Don’t turn on the TV this morning,” Barrett blurted.

Archer winced and pinched the bridge of his nose. A pair of his younger employees walked past. The two had their heads together and were giggling over something on one of their cell phones. The moment they noticed Archer, they blushed and bolted for the office’s front door, laughing harder than ever.

Oh, Lordy.

“What now?” he asked Barrett.

“Take your pick,” Barrett said. “There’s Cage getting into a bar fight in Dallas over those twin blond barmaids—”

“What?” Archer clenched his jaw. “Is that what he was doing in Dallas over the weekend?”

“Or we’ve got the chick who’s kissing and telling about your trip to San Antonio last week.”

Archer huffed, blushing like a schoolgirl messing up her first piano recital. “She told me she represented that children’s hospital and they were looking for corporate sponsorship for a new wing. How was I to know what she was really after?”

“Is that how you were dumb enough to end up in the hotel’s Jacuzzi with her, wearing nothing but—”

“What was I supposed to do?”

“Um, say no?”

“All right, all right, that was a lapse of judgment,” he growled.

It didn’t mean he was stupid. He  wasn’t stupid now, and he wasn’t stupid when his daddy used to call him the family moron either. He just didn’t always ‘get’ women.

He checked his watch. 9:01. Damn. He pushed away from the truck, double-timing it into the shiny office building, keeping Barrett on the line.

“Good morning, Mr. Dalton,” Renee, the receptionist, greeted him with a smile. She had a friend hanging around her desk, Dennis from customer service. The two of them were checking something out on Renee’s computer screen. That and trying hard to keep straight faces. Perfect.

“So besides Cage’s adventure in fisticuffs and my misunderstanding in San Antonio,” Archer went on, forcing a smile and nodding to Renee and Dennis, “Why shouldn’t I turn on the TV today?”

“Well,” Barrett went on, not quite so smug now. “It’s Dalton. Baby D.”

“Shoot.”

Archer sighed, making a last-minute lunge for the elevator door as it slipped shut. He just barely managed to squeeze his way in, which left him standing between two of his employees. He was a big man to begin with, tall, with broad shoulders and arms and thighs that saw their fair share of the gym and the great outdoors. The elevator was cramped, and Archer felt bad for taking up so much space.

“Okay, lay it on me,” he said to Barrett, bracing himself for the worst.

“It’s Marybeth,” Barrett told him, stone and steel in his voice. “She’s done another tell-all interview with one of those rag mags, all about how heartless and unfeeling I’ve been, about how irresponsible the whole lot of us are. We look like damn fools.”

“Great.”

Archer couldn’t say he was surprised. Things had been bad for more than a month now, ever since baby Dalton Dalton Dalton showed up on the doorstep. Barrett could rib him about being thick as a whale omelet when it came to the ladies, but Archer wasn’t the one left holding the bassinet.

Then again, he might as well be. It was open season on the Dalton family. Not one of the brothers could turn around without a tabloid blowing a story about an old girlfriend here or an entertainment show speculating whether there were Nalton Daltons, Palton Daltons, or Zalton Daltons out there.

Archer scowled as the elevator dinged and the doors opened. The two employees rushed out.

“I’m sure it’ll all blow over, Mr. Dalton,” one of them said. “I’ll have those reports for you by the end of the day.”

“Thanks, Sue.”

The elevator door swooshed shut, leaving Archer alone for a second. He and his brothers had worked damned hard since their deadbeat dad had died three years ago. Dad ran Dalton Enterprises into the ground when they were kids. If the tabloids got hold of the story that they’d grown up eating generic boxed cheesy-mac from the church pantry and wearing cast-offs, and that in spite of that, they’d still managed to grow up into functioning adults who ran a billion-dollar corporation, well, that’d be a whole other story.

“Look,” Archer told Barrett as the elevator opened onto the executive floor. “That PR advisor lady who’s been sending us all those emails is supposed to be coming into the office today.”

“Is she now?” Barrett sounded like he wanted to give her a piece of his mind about the orders she’d already issued.

“Yeah. I’ll tell her that we’re not interested in being told to take a bath and buy new clothes or any of that hoo-hah, but that what we really need is someone to go out there and silence Marybeth and these other gold-diggers who think they can get their hands on the family jewels.”

He stopped mid-step and cocked his head to the side. That didn’t sound right at all.

“Didn’t think you minded when the ladies got ahold of the family jewels,” Barrett sniggered.

“You know what I mean.” Archer walked on, frown darker than ever. “We worked for this company. We went out there and got our hands dirty finding and drilling that oil.”

“You got your hands dirty,” Barrett corrected him. “I secured the mineral rights and reformed Dalton Enterprises. And Cage, well, Cage looks pretty on the brochures.”

“We’re identical triplets,” Archer growled, turning the corner to his office. As soon as his secretary, Arlene, spotted him, she stood from her desk. “We all look the same.”

“Says the man with the hillbilly beard,” Barrett shot back.

Archer rubbed his chin, stroking his beard. Maybe it had gotten a little scraggly. He hadn’t had time to notice or care for weeks. Besides, he liked the beard. Men had beards, and he was a man. A strong man. A competent man. Not the village idiot.

“I’m at the office now,” Archer finished. “Let me talk to this advisor lady when she comes in.”

“Good,” Barrett said. “’cuz I’ve got a son to think of now.”

“Give him a kiss for me.” Archer softened up as he ended the call. “And keep your nose clean.”

He hung up. Arlene charged around the edge of her desk with that mother-hen, no-nonsense look she wore when there was work to be done.

“I know, I know, I’m late.” Archer tucked his cell phone into the back pocket of his jeans. “Blame Barrett.”

Arlene came to stop in front of him. She blinked. “It’s only just nine o’clock, sweetie.”

“It’s 9:06,” he corrected her. “I’m late.” His daddy would have gotten out the strap already. If he could find it through his hangover.

Arlene brushed his comment aside. “Now, you’ve got a busy day ahead of you. The specs for phase three of the oil field came in late last night. You’ve got a meeting with MacArthur Foley to discuss tax laws at eleven. There’s that webinar about corporate giving at two. And Kalee Hathaway is waiting in your office.”

Archer nodded at each item Arlene ticked off, but flinched and frowned at the last one. “Who?” he asked.

Arlene tsked, reaching up to brush something on the front of his shirt.

“Miss Kalee Hathaway,” she repeated. “You now, your PR advisor?”

“Oh. Right.” Come to think of it, that was the name at the end of all those long, nagging emails. Archer frowned. “She’s early.”

“She means business,” Arlene told him with a pointed look.

Archer could see her now. She’d probably be a bony old biddy—like Miss Hurst, his high school English teacher. She’d have perfect posture, her hair would be tied back in one of those tight buns, and she’d be wearing a suit so severe you could cut rock with it.

“Thanks for the warning.”

He started across Arlene’s office to the closed door leading to his executive suite.

“Oh, and sweetie, you’ve got something on your shirt,” Arlene added, rounding her desk to get back to work.

“My shirt?”

He glanced down, picking at the light fabric of his flannel as it hung over the white t-shirt underneath. It was old and faded, and the collar was frayed in one spot, but at least it was clean. Sort of. Sure enough, though, there was an orange juice stain across his chest. Too late to do anything about it now.

Letting his shirt go, he turned the doorknob and walked into his office. He liked his office. He’d found most of the furnishings at yard sales and the like and restored them himself. There was a bookshelf stuffed with business books, a pair of mismatched, overstuffed chairs he’d reupholstered on either side of a coffee table, and his desk, a hundred-year-old mahogany thing that had sat in the office of his great-great-granddaddy, Walton Dalton, when the original family ranch grew so big they formed it into the first Dalton Enterprises.

None of that was what caught Archer’s eye, though. Standing to the side of the room near the built-in kitchenette, arms crossed, staring out the window, was the most beautiful woman Archer had ever seen. She wore spiky heels and a slim, grey suit, and had her hair pulled back in a bun. But there wasn’t a thing about her that screamed biddy. That bun of hers begged a man to pull out the pins to let her dark hair spill down her back, and that severe suit highlighted every feminine curve and hollow.

It was when she turned to Archer that he was really in trouble. The advisor’s big, brown eyes widened as she took in the sight of him. Yep, she made him feel just as scrutinized as old Miss Hurst had, but instead of shrinking him into a ball of nerves, this advisor’s look had the potential to make parts of him expand.

“You must be Archer Dalton,” she said once she finished her initial perusal. Golly-day, he hoped he’d made the grade.

“Yes, ma’am,” he said. He took a step toward her and held out his hand. “And you must be Katie Haa….” Shoot, what had Arlene said her last name was again?

“Kalee. Kalee Hathaway. Miss Hathaway,” she said, taking Archer’s hand. She had a strong grip, but let go of the shake before Archer was ready. “Mr. Dalton, are you always late? Because I won’t stand for lateness.”

 

The Advisor is available now, exclusively at Amazon! Click here to be taken right to it.

But I strongly advise reading The Nanny, by Kirsten Osbourne and The Maid, by Ava Catori, books one and two in the series, first.

The Brynthwaite Boys – Release Day!

Jul 29, 2015

It’s Excerpt Wednesday! And as a double bonus, it’s also release day for the first four episodes of The Brynthwaite Boys! Are you ready to go back to Victorian England to take a look into the lives and loves of three intrepid and powerful men? Here’s a sneak peek…

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It was painful to watch such a good friend in so much pain. Both of them. Marshall dragged his feet out the pub door, looking like he was pulling half a ton of bricks after him.

“Strange how so many believe that a woman is the solution to a man’s problems,” he said, sitting back in his chair. “Seems to me that they can cause more harm than good.”

Jason laughed, bitter and knowing, and took a long swig from his pint.

“I’m sorry, let me clarify,” Lawrence said, catching his mistake. “Women are wonderful. They are Nature’s perfect gift to this world. They should rightfully be worshiped as the goddesses they are. But marriage, on the other hand….”

“Are you going to start spouting all of your anti-matrimonial propaganda?” Jason asked, leaning back in his chair.

“Marriage is a false institution, created by patriarchal religion as a means to control one spouse or the other,” Lawrence said.

“So the answer is yes, then.” Jason arched an eyebrow and crossed his arms.

“It is a paper construct,” Lawrence went on, as passionate about his beliefs as he was about tweaking his friend’s nose. “Its very nature is binding, constricting. A true union of male and female souls can only be achieved by physical, mental, and spiritual consent, a consent that has nothing to do with rules or laws.”

“Beyond nature’s law,” Jason finished his thought.

“Exactly.”

The two of them had had this discourse enough times in the past—in the past two weeks, even—that Jason was well-versed in all of Lawrence’s beliefs. Lawrence had the feeling that his old friend understood the philosophical arguments of hedonism, but that he, like so many, was held back by the constraints of society. Lawrence would have thought that being raised under the unique form of martial law that they’d been bent and nearly broken to would have wanted to make all of them cry out and struggle against those kinds of bonds for the rest of their days. Jason was different, though, and for the life of him, Lawrence had yet to figure out how.

“You’re only saying all that because Marshall is unhappy in his marriage,” Jason said. “If he was a blissful husband and doting father, you’d be sitting there telling me how glorious marriage is and how we should all rush headlong into it.”

“I would not,” Lawrence argued. “And for the record, Marshall is a doting father.”

“He is,” Jason agreed with a nod.

“As will you be, someday.”

Jason snorted. “Not at the rate I’m going.”

Deep sympathy expanded through Lawrence’s chest. “Why must it be Lady E.?” he asked. “Why not some nice shop girl or…or that lovely new maid you hired this morning?”

Jason shot him a wary look—one that hid as much as it revealed.

“Don’t talk to me about maids or shop girls or ladies,” he said, sinking back into his chair with a wince. “Just the thought of them starts my mind wandering down paths I can’t afford to traverse.”

“No?” Lawrence studied his friend. Something was wrong. Marshall was right about him being highly-strung, but it was more than that. He shrugged. “At least you have the hotel to keep you occupied.”

“Yes,” Jason said, letting out a breath. “And it will be a small miracle if everything is in place for the opening in a few weeks.”

“It will work,” Lawrence said. “Your whole life, you’ve always made things work. One way or another.”

Jason nodded, sad and solemn. He stared at his empty pint glass on the tabletop. “Most things.”

Outside the pub window, the street grew dark as night fell. Clouds moved in, and now light spits of rain were streaking the windows. Lawrence didn’t mind a walk in the rain now and then, in fact, he enjoyed it. But he had a long way to go before he could rest his weary head.

“I should go and so should you,” he told Jason, standing.

“You’re right,” Jason said, pushing himself to his feet. He reached into the pocket of his buttoned-up coat and took out a bill, tossing it on the table. Jason threw around pound notes the way that children spun pennies in the street. “Dwelling on it will only make things worse,” he said as the two of them headed for the pub door together.

If only Lawrence could be entirely sure of what ‘it’ was.

The first four episodes of The Brynthwaite Boys are available NOW at Amazon! Click here to be taken to Episode One.