UPDATE The winners are…Katrina Whittaker, Gail Siuba, and Jana Leah!
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For those fans of the Night Fall series, here’s another tale—slightly removed from the timeline by a few centuries… You honestly don’t have to read any other story in the series to enjoy The First Knight. And isn’t that cover droolworthy?
The story is set back in Merry Old England, in a musty old castle. My heroine’s plucky and determined to trap her former betrothed in marriage, but he has brought back an “affliction”, which makes his lust a dangerous thing to tempt. And once the deed is done, another problem presents itself that only a naughty ménage can solve. Of course. Ahem. I do love my job. Enjoy! ~DD
The First Knight
While hiding her true identity, Maddie must seduce the mysterious Lord Garon to cement their marriage contract and ensure she won’t be returned into her lecherous stepfather’s care.
Fresh from Crusade in Palestine, Lord Garon has a secret he must hide, a hunger that must be fed, and a dark and uncertain future. Having shed himself of a fiancée he’d never met, he’s home to lick his wounds. The only thing he wants is a warm-blooded meal—but the new housekeeper is strangely insistent on giving him so much more.
Maddie’s seduction doesn’t progress without complications, but one secret from her own past might put an end to the love she nurtures for her dark, tempestuous lover.
To celebrate the release of The First Knight, I’m giving away copies of Night Fall stories, one each to three winners! All you have to do is answer two little questions!
Do you like ongoing series? How many sequels do you prefer?
And excerpt from The First Knight…
Maddie shivered at the creaks and groans the portcullis made as it slowly rose. The rain-laden wind carried the noises and filled the silences in between with a howling that sounded like the hounds from hell had arrived at the castle gate.
Shouts outside the curtain wall had alerted them only minutes before of Lord Garon d’Albermarle’s arrival. With only a bliaut covering her sleeping shift, Maddie stood on the first step of the keep, holding a tray with a goblet of wine, ready to offer a proper greeting to her overlord.
“Are you sure this is the way you wish to go about this, M-Maddie?” Egbert asked, fidgeting at her side.
She swallowed against the sudden dryness in her mouth and nodded.
“It be on your head then,” he said, his always-mournful tone as dire as one of Father Ansel’s Sunday sermons. She sent thanks above that the cranky priest was away, or her deception wouldn’t last past the introductions.
The clatter of dozens of hooves on the cobbled bridge beyond the gate filled the castle yard with thunder. From the encroaching darkness, the sounds were as ominous as the dark shapes looming on the gatehouse walls. The torches she’d ordered lit sputtered and flared, distorting and elongating shapes, so the men riding through the entrance appeared as tall as giants.
Already tired and on edge because she hadn’t slept since a messenger had arrived, warning the castle of his lordship’s arrival days before, Maddie’s fevered imagination painted them darker and larger still.
“Be they devils?” Egbert asked, his narrow shoulders shaking. “No one travels on a night with nary a speck of light in the sky.”
“Hush!” The storm whipping at her clothing and the fatigue from months of worry over this very moment combined to make her hands shake and blackened an already foul mood.
The horsemen entered the bailey, and a large figure separated from the contingent who approached the keep. As he drew closer, her fears weren’t eased one whit. The warrior sat atop a huge black destrier, forcing her to raise her gaze quite high to seek his face.
He wore a helm that left only his square, stubbled jaw exposed. The darkness cast by the metal nose guard concealed his eyes. Only his mouth gave a hint of his mood—a thin, straight line with the corners crimped downward.
Under his stare, Maddie’s knees trembled, but her tray never rattled. She squared her shoulders and shot a glance about her at the castle folk. “Stephen!” she called to the stable master. “See to their horses.”
In moments, boys scrambled to accept reins, and the creak of leather and the clank of iron filled the air.
The stable master himself approached the dark warhorse at the foot of the steps, but the mounted warrior’s gaze never left Maddie.
She licked dry lips with an even drier tongue. “Lord Garon?” she asked, although there could be no question who led this contingent. All gazes remained on his intimidating figure. “Please come inside, milord. Your people will see to the comfort of your men.”
His mouth twisted. “And who will see to mine?”
Maddie’s heart leapt to the back of her throat. “I will, milord.”
A long pause indicated he looked her up and down. “And who might you be, madam?” he asked, his voice a deep, hollow rumble.
Maddie remembered to curtsy, and then straightened, girding herself to speak the lie aloud. “Your housekeeper. I take care of things now.” The latter, at least, was the truth.
Lord Garon grunted. Without a glance at the stable master, he tossed down his reins and dismounted.
When he turned toward her, Maggie’s breath caught. Lord, he’s a tall man. I thought it was just the horse.
Maddie lifted the ornate chalice from the tray to deliver her much-rehearsed welcome.
Instead, his lordship’s lips pressed into a tighter line, and he brushed past her.
She was left gasping on the bottom step. “What a rude ogre!” she exclaimed, annoyed he hadn’t fallen in line with the first step of her plan.
“Watch your tongue, madam,” an accompanying knight said tersely as he followed the lord up the steps. “He has exceptional hearing.”
“M-Maddie?” Egbert said, nodding toward the door.
She shoved the tray at his belly and grasped her skirts high to rush up the steps.
The plan had seemed so simple. All she needed was to get him alone and addle his sight with a little wine or ale, so he’d not care she wasn’t the comeliest creature in the keep. Then she would seduce him.
And the sooner, the better. The longer she took losing her virginity, the greater the risk he would discover her identity. The truth was, she would rather copulate with the devil himself than be returned home.
However, this business of copulation, which had seemed a simple, messy, perhaps even enjoyable act—according to the cook—now promised to be a daunting trial.
The lord of the keep had turned out to be a giant and as dour as a priest at confession. The thought of being naked with him and accepting his manstaff into her body frankly petrified her.
She rushed through the massive doors, hoping her preparations would meet with his approval. Nothing else could be allowed to mar her well-thought-out plan.
His lordship stood in the center of the hall, his hands fisted on his hips. Unlike his men, he wore no chain mail, only a leather hauberk to protect his body. He’d removed his headgear, revealing hair as black as midnight and a face as hard as carved granite.
He was everything she’d remembered and more—more frightening, more imposing—and more beautiful because of the differences. Thanks be to God, he hadn’t recognized her.
His gaze narrowed on the hall, and she looked around to see what might already have displeased him.
Around him, servants scurried, delivering warm food to the men-at-arms as boys eagerly divested them of their armor. If she hadn’t been observing him so closely, she might not have detected the change in his posture. He scarce seemed to notice the din of activity. His mouth lost a little firmness, his hands unclenched on his hips, and his chest rose and fell deeply.
In that instant, Maddie lost a measure of her fear. Here was a man savoring his first night home after a long absence. He had a heart and cared for something at least. Perhaps he wouldn’t be a complete troll when making her his wife.
Earlier this summer I attended an outdoor professional rodeo. I haven’t watched one in years. I used to go to rodeos all the time, and I’d forgotten how much fun they are. Sitting in the stands on a sunny afternoon watching handsome men in tight Wrangler jeans, flashy shirts, chaps, cowboy hats and high heeled boots punishing their well-toned bodies on top of wild, bucking broncs and two thousand pound, angry Brahma bulls is pretty thrilling. Their skills, stamina and courage are awe- inspiring. The excitement in the stands is intoxicating.
Along with clouds of dust, the overpowering smells of manure, beer, fried onions, and cotton candy hang in the air. I love everything about rodeo…the sleek animals with their gleaming coats, the rodeo clown’s corny jokes, the bravery of the pick up men and bullfighters, the country-western music blaring over the loud speakers, and the heart-attack-inducing food. (Who doesn’t love good old southern barbeque? Or deep fried Oreos?)
I don’t know why I stopped going to the rodeo, but I do know I’m going to go to another one. Soon. Who knows, I may even become a buckle bunny.
Sharla-Jean Bromley returns to her hometown after a seventeen-year absence with vengeance in her heart. From the very beginning, her plans go awry when she meets devastatingly handsome Josh Morgan, the man to whom her father left half of his multi-million dollar lumber mill.
Josh, suspicious of Sharla-Jean’s reasons for returning to town after such a long absence, vows to keep control of the company he feels is rightfully his. She is equally determined to prove she can run her father’s mill, even though it means working side-by-side with Josh, a man whose very presence evokes an attraction that is increasingly difficult for her to ignore. In the process, they must overcome a villain who’s determined to destroy both the lumber mill and their lives.
Will Sharla-Jean succeed and heal the anguish that has long filled her soul? Wills he and Josh find the passion of a lifetime?
Sharla-Jean Bromley had wanted only two things in life—a red dress and her father’s death. She’d waited years. Hell, she’d prayed for this moment. Why then, wasn’t this a celebration? Why was a ball of acid churning through her stomach? Taking a deep breath, she climbed out of the taxi and smoothed the skirt of her figure-hugging, red, silk dress over her hips.
The crowd of somber mourners stood in clusters on the sweeping steps outside the old stone church under the late-October, overcast sky. The damp air was ripe with the familiar sweet-sour smell of freshly cut Douglas fir. Over the hill behind the church, steam trailed in white plumes from the two lumber-drying kilns at the mill. A wind gusted, marshaling scattered piles of gold and red leaves into the gutter.
Goose bumps riddled her arms, and she fought back a shiver as she strode forward, knees quaking, jostling through the crowd on the wide sidewalk.
A collective gasp filled the air, and her name swept over the mourners in a rising crescendo. “It’s her! Sharla-Jean. Big Jim’s daughter.”
Broken Trust is C.B. Clark’s fourth romantic suspense novel published by The Wild Rose Press. My Brother’s Sins and Cherished Secrets were released in 2016, and Bitter Legacy in 2017. C.B. has always loved reading, especially romances, but it wasn’t until she lost her voice for a year that she considered writing her own romantic suspense stories. She grew up in Canada’s Northwest Territories and Yukon. Graduating with a degree in Anthropology and Archaeology, she has worked as an archaeologist and an educator. She enjoys hiking, canoeing, and snowshoeing with her husband and dog near her home in the wilderness of central British Columbia.
The Old West is full of true stories of bandits, shootouts, and lost treasures. Many people attempt to divide historical figures into heroes and villains, lawman and outlaws. In reality, most people are more complex than that, and few famous people from the Old West led blameless lives.
Wyatt Earp is often regarded as a heroic lawman. However, he spent only six years in law enforcement. He also worked as a gambler, buffalo hunter, stagecoach guard, and Teamster, among other jobs. He was arrested for stealing a horse, but he escaped from jail.
Like many famous Western figures, Wyatt Earp wound up in the famous town of Tombstone, Arizona. Wyatt Earp and Ike Clanton allied to find a group of cowboys who had robbed a stagecoach, but the alliance fell apart—possibly because the Clantons were involved in the robberies. This led to the famous shootout at the OK Corral and the deaths of Billy Clanton and the two McLaury brothers, known cattle rustlers. Soon after, Wyatt’s brother Virgil was seriously wounded in a shooting, and their brother Morgan was killed in a shootout. The attackers were unknown, but Wyatt and his gang killed several suspects. He fled town to avoid prosecution.
Curly Bill Brosius, on the other hand, was pure outlaw and a close friend of the Clantons. He was supposedly a crack shot who could hit running jackrabbits and shoot out candle flames without breaking the candles. His idea of a practical joke was to make a preacher dance during a sermon by shooting at his feet. He forced Mexicans at a community dance to take off their clothes and dance naked. He killed at least one man in a robbery, escaped from prison, and led a gang of rustlers in Arizona Territory.
In 1880, in Tombstone, Curly Bill killed popular Marshal Fred White. The Marshal was trying to take Bill’s gun and it went off, hitting White in the groin. Wyatt Earp then knocked Bill unconscious with his gun. White said he didn’t think Curly Bill was trying to kill him, but he died from his wound the next day. Curly Bill was also implicated in some revenge killings and at least one death during a bar fight. He was implicated in the murder of Morgan Earp, but without proof he wasn’t charged.
Violence in the Desert
Curly Bill also might have been involved in the Skeleton Canyon Massacre. Here history and legend get muddled. Some people claim that Mexican bandits looted Monterrey, Mexico, and escaped across the border with a treasure worth $75,000, or $2 million, or $8 million. Others claim there is no evidence of such a heist in Monterrey, and that it’s doubtful such a treasure ever existed in the first place.
Regardless, violence came to Skeleton Canyon, a shallow canyon in southeastern Arizona, not far from the Mexico border. An American gang ambushed a group of Mexicans—possibly the bandits, or else merely vaqueros (cowboys). One story says Curly Bill’s gang shot the Mexicans out of their saddles, which caused their mules to stampede. The bandits then shot the mules to keep them from running away with the treasure, but with the mules dead, the men had no way to transport the loot. Two men from the gang, Zwing Hunt and Billy Grounds, hid the treasure somewhere in the canyon. When they were killed, the location of the hidden treasure was lost.
Curly Bill had been wounded six weeks before the Skeleton Canyon Massacre and was supposedly still recovering. Was he involved or not? Was the violence over a treasure that would be worth millions today, or merely over some cattle? The debates continue, and some people still hunt for the treasure.
What is most likely true, but is still challenged by some people, is that Wyatt Earp killed Curly Bill in a shootout in 1882. Bill was in his thirties, which considering his lifestyle was a surprisingly long life.
My adventure novel, The Skeleton Canyon Treasure, was inspired by the legendary treasure. In the novel, set today, Camie and Ryan are hunting for Ryan’s uncle, who disappeared while hunting for the historical treasure. The clues take Camie, Ryan, and the feisty cat Tiger on a trail through the Southwest. Their quest takes them to historic sites such as Tombstone and eventually into the remote canyon, where danger awaits.
“The Skeleton Canyon Treasure is a light, breezy action/adventure/romance that’s perfect for summer reading.”
If you love suspense and romance, try this gripping adventure!
The Mad Monk’s Treasure is the first of the Southwest Treasure Hunters novels. The Dead Man’s Treasure is book 2 and The Skeleton Canyon Treasure is book 3. Each novel stands alone and is complete, with no cliffhangers. This series mixes action and adventure with light romance. The stories explore the Southwest, especially New Mexico.
What is your favorite historical era to read about or explore? Does visiting the real location today help you picture the past?
About the Author
Kris Bock lives in New Mexico, where she enjoys hiking, rock climbing, and watching the sunset from her patio. Her home office looks out on nature, complete with distracting wildlife such as roadrunners and foxes. Her BFA in photography is used mainly to show Facebook friends how lovely the Southwest is.
Kris writes novels of suspense and romance with outdoor adventures and Southwestern landscapes. Whispers in the Dark features archaeology and intrigue among ancient Southwest ruins. What We Found is a mystery with strong romantic elements about a young woman who finds a murder victim in the woods. In Counterfeits, stolen Rembrandt paintings bring danger to a small New Mexico town.
Fans of Mary Stewart, Barbara Michaels, and Terry Odell will want to check out Kris Bock’s romantic adventures. “Counterfeits is the kind of romantic suspense novel I have enjoyed since I first read Mary Stewart’s Moonspinners.” 5 Stars – Roberta at Sensuous Reviews blog
Writers have been creating fictional towns for as long as stories have been told. Some readers want to know why. The reasons are fairly simple. An author can create the town or even world they need in order to tell their story. When you create a world, you are able to put in landmarks, homes, shops, and everything you need. When you use a real town or city, accuracy is important and can sometimes get in the way of the story.
Then it depends on the kind of book you’re writing. Not everyone looks kindly on having their small town used in a book, especially if it’s a murder mystery or horror novel or even a romance. It can get complicated unless it’s a big city. Then no one really cares all that much.
I’ve created two small towns in my years of writing. The first was Jamesville, a small town in Maine that was patterned after the place I was living at the time. I set seven contemporary stories there.
Then there is Salvation, North Carolina. I first created this town for Stefan’s Salvation. I figured, what better place for a vampire to find salvation than a place with that name. The woods and mountains of North Carolina were isolated and perfect for the setting, so I put my own fictional town there. I went on to use this same small town in my Salvation Pack werewolf series. The vampires have never met the werewolves. Not surprising since Stefan and Laurel Rose left their at the end of their story. 🙂
Dalakis Passion, book 3
Laurel Rose McCaffey never minded being branded an outsider, even when it meant carving out a solitary life for herself in the wooded hills of North Carolina. Now resort developers want to take her land, and vicious locals who stand to benefit from the deal have begun making threats. When a dark stranger enters her life, first as a protector, then as a lover, Laurel Rose is both fascinated and frightened by his mysterious power and all-consuming sensuality. But as the threats escalate into outright violence and her world begins to spiral out of control, Laurel Rose turns to the only man she knows she can trust—Stefan Dalakis, a creature of the night.
Stefan has roamed the earth for centuries in search of his one true mate, and as he becomes ever more tormented by loneliness, his every impulse compels him to unleash the raging beast within. When he retreats to the countryside to avoid harming the human population, his travels take him to a small roadside bar in North Carolina, where an overheard conversation leads him directly to Laurel Rose—and a love so complete he will do anything to save her . . . and anything to possess her.
As Stefan finds blissful release from his anguish and Laurel Rose surrenders to her first sweet erotic taste of belonging and acceptance, they must still confront the danger that presses in from every side. And when their newfound happiness faces the ultimate peril, the two outcasts must form an unbreakable eternal bond and give themselves completely to the overwhelming passion and love that engulfs them.
N.J. Walters is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author who has always been a voracious reader, and now she spends her days writing novels of her own. Vampires, werewolves, dragons, time-travelers, seductive handymen, and next-door neighbors with smoldering good looks—all vie for her attention. It’s a tough life, but someone’s got to live it.
The happiest of all lives is a busy solitude. ~ Voltaire
I love that quote. I can so relate. But I know Voltaire was only right for those of us who are true introverts. Happy hermits. I could spend days alone and not realize the passage of time. My daughter teases that I could be one of those people scientists move into a cave for months to study how isolation affects a person’s psyche, and I’d be happy as a clam—so long as I had a computer and an endless supply of paper and pens.
And I guess that once would have been true, but these days I’d miss seeing a few people—namely one curly-haired four-year-old, who loves the color black because it’s “dangerous.” Her word.
But I am an introvert. I have enough self-awareness to know that—plus, I’ve been tested. 🙂
If you’re not sure whether you’re an extrovert or an introvert, there’s one little question you can answer for yourself so that you know. It’s simple.
When you’ve had a really trying day, how do you unwind? Do you head to the telephone to call your “person” and share all your frustrations? Or do you head to the place you consider your refuge (your bed, that chair in a quiet place in your house)?
The extrovert will relax talking to a friend or going out for a drink in a familiar place where his or her people congregate. An introvert wants no outside stimulation, unless it’s the drone of music or the TV in the background. White noise to soothe shattered nerves.
Hello, I’m Roxanne D. Howard, and I write erotic contemporary and paranormal romance novels. Today I’d like to discuss the power of dreams in our writing.
I know several authors who keep a dream journal in their nightstand, and jot down the dreams they remember upon waking. Paul McCartney once said in an interview that he dreamt the song, Yesterday. He composed the melody in a dream, and upon waking, he played it on the piano. He had to shop it around to friends and family because he believed it was a song from his past or childhood, but as it turned out, it was completely inspirational.
Dreams have the power to inspire us and lay the cornerstones of what can be come worlds in which our characters live. Since humankind has existed, we’ve studied dreams and tried to make sense of them. Sigmund Freud believed that nothing we do occurs by chance, and that every action and thought is motivated by our unconscious. He believed that our urges and desires that don’t fit into societal norms are repressed into our dreams, and that’s how they are released.
So how do we write our dreams? There are times when we wake up that we hardly remember what we dreamt about, which is why it’s important to keep a writing journal, or a memo app on our phones handy. The littlest line or recollected visual description can make the biggest difference.
Let’s talk about writing space. In his memoir On Writing, Stephen King likened writing to a wakeful, dreamlike state. “Your writing room should be private, a place where you go to dream… the space can be humble, and it really needs only one thing: A door you are willing to shut.” As a mom to two rambunctious girls, I can testify that this is nigh to impossible at times when you’re running the kids from school to ballet class, unless you have a lot of time on your hands. What I’ve learned to do is create my own four walls and pseudo room when I open my laptop.
While ideally you can be more creative in a quiet, isolated environment, it is possible to write while the kids are going to town on the playground at McDonald’s or having fun in the bouncy houses at the fun center. If you can create those mental four walls when you have a moment to spare, you can transpose your dreams into a story.
While I’d love to be able to say I had an erotic dream like the ones Lark has in At the Heart of the Stone which inspired the story, Lark just walked as a fully formed character into my mind with a story to tell, and I went from there. However, a lot of lines I get for my novels do come from my dreams, and I’ve learned not to ignore them as they come along.
What interesting dreams have you had which have inspired you?
At the Heart of the Stone
Dreams are the perfect shelter for our fantasies, safe havens to step inside without changing our daily lives. For Lark Braithwaite, all that is about to change. During the last six months, Lark has dreamt of a mysterious Irish lover who knows what she wants and gives her exactly what she needs. In her waking life in busy London, things aren’t as ideal, as her long-term relationship with Charles, her controlling fiancé, has hit a dry spell.
When Lark is called home to Oregon for her father’s funeral right in the middle of a high-stakes corporate merger, she heads back to face the demons from her past. What she doesn’t expect is to meet her dream lover in the flesh. Niall O’Hagan steps straight out of her fantasies and right into her life, and the powerful connection they share rocks her foundation. Although she’s dealing with the bitterness of being betrayed by Charles and his jealousy, Niall soon stirs Lark’s awareness of the superficiality of her existence and reawakens not only her sexuality, but her soul.
Confused beyond all comprehension, Lark didn’t have any time to contemplate what was really going on. His lips delivered a breath-stealing, soul-shattering kiss, and then they were all over each other. This, ah, this she knew. Lark hooked her ankle over his and put a hand on his shoulder, trying to rid him of his jacket and draw him closer. She clenched her hand in his hair as he devoured her mouth. He tasted the same as her dream lover, and she put her tongue in his mouth to savor more of that tangy sweetness.
They were both making noises they never had in her dreams, little breathy gasps and blasts of air as their mouths met and separated as they sought new angles and depths to their passion.
He made a disgruntled sound as he tried to get more comfortable in the cradle of her hips over the hindrance of clothes, and she realized she really wasn’t dreaming anymore. He nibbled on her lower lip as she opened her mouth to tell him to stop, but then she was carried away in the undercurrent of his large, warm hands, which were caressing the skin of her stomach beneath her hoodie and T-shirt. She continued to accept his kisses but pawed down her still zipped-up sweat jacket. Okay, so she was still clothed. He was rock hard against her, and he ground his hips into her, a disbelieving grunt escaping his lips. Lark rolled her eyes back, shivering at the jolt that went through her.
“Wh— Mmm. Whoa. Stop!” She finally managed to say against his mouth. She furrowed her eyebrows and scrutinized him as he breathed in and out, bracing himself on the weight of his hands above her, his bright green eyes bearing into hers. His face was the face of her dreams—the sensual, bowed lips and cleft chin, the built body, and the thick hair. His hair… She blinked. It was cut at the nape and styled for a day at work. She glanced down at what he was wearing.
“Um, why are you wearing a suit and tie this time?” she asked, squinting against the sunlight. Please, God, let this be a dream. He moved his head, putting her in shade.
“This time?” He lifted an eyebrow, perplexed. “You’ll have to forgive me, lass, but I’ve no idea what the devil you’re talking about.” He maneuvered himself off her and sat upright at the end of the swing.
She tucked her feet against her and sat up, unable to do anything more than blink at him in utter disbelief.
“I was coming up to knock on the door when I saw you lying here, and given how you were tossing and the noises you were making, it looked like maybe you were having some sort of a seizure.”
He seemed contrite, and he turned his head as he licked his lips, full and abused from her kisses. Something close to mortification bloomed inside her.
“Erm, you…begged me to kiss you, and then you yanked me down. One thing led to another and, well, that was pretty much the way of it. I am only human, though I know that’s no excuse.” He swallowed and stared at her, his Adam’s apple moving in his throat. “I apologize. I shouldn’t have gone down when you pulled me, but it was strange—like you knew me or something.”
Lark leaned forward and rubbed her eyes. This couldn’t be real. She was hallucinating. She had to be. When she opened her eyes she’d see a man in his fifties with a receding hairline, glasses, and a beer gut. She reopened her eyes, and there he was: The full package. In the flesh. There was an air of intelligence in the way his eyes scrutinized her. She sat up and planted her feet on the porch, then put a hand to her head. The vertigo from earlier returned. “No, I’m sorry. I was dreaming…”
“Excuse me for saying so, but it must’ve been one hell of a dream.”
Lark nodded and tried not to black out as a wave of dizziness came over her.
“You look like you’re dehydrated. Hold on.”
The lilt of his familiar Irish accent soothed her like warm milk. He stood and walked over to a black laptop case propped near the front door that had several thick manila folders sticking out of its open center, one of which she could see said BRAITHWAITE in large, capital letters on an index label. He crouched down and unzipped the front pocket, extracting an unopened plastic water bottle.
“Here,” he said, unscrewing it and holding it out to her.
“Thanks.” She accepted the bottle and took a long sip of the cool water. It almost instantly revived her. She wiped a little water off the corner of her mouth with the top of her knuckle as he watched her. She offered it back to him, but he shook his head and reclaimed his seat next to her.
“Keep it. Drink.”
“Thank you.” She closed her eyes and took several large gulps, the cool liquid a balm to her throat.
“My name’s Niall O’Hagan.”
His voice was deep and pleasant. It sounded different, lighter than the sultry bedroom voice she was used to from her dreams.
“I’m the Braithwaites’ attorney.”
Lark paused in midsip and lowered the bottle in her hands. “You—no.” She laughed, glancing at him.
His mouth lifted at the corners, as if it were dawning on him he was the butt of a joke he wasn’t aware of. “I…what?”
Oh, the irony of dreaming about her father’s lawyer this whole time. Oh my God. She started giggling. This was it; she was officially losing it. She got up and walked over to the top step of the porch, put a hand over her face, and plunked herself down. “I am so messed up.”
A sudden, unwanted flash of Gemma saying “darlin’” to Charles yesterday surfaced, and tears stung her eyes. She went silent and willed them not to fall. It was no use.
After a moment, Niall sat down on the step beside her. “I’d offer you a drink, but I quit ten years ago.”
Lark laughed, despite the tears. “An Irish attorney who doesn’t like Guinness is like an Englishman who doesn’t like fish and chips or something.”
“I know; shameful,” he said with mock contrition. “Don’t hold it against me. I’m doing the world a favor. Trust me. I was a horrible drunk. Seriously, though, are you okay, miss?”
Lark scoffed and gesticulated with her hands to the sky. “It’s Lark. And what a loaded question of the day.” She couldn’t look at him, not after what happened. She clenched the edge of the step on either side of her and stared out at the trees.
“Well, considering we’ve already gone to second base, we might as well be open with each other. Forgive me if I’m candid, but it seems you were having an alleged, eh, intense dream, and you woke up and believed I was him. Is that right?”
Horror dawned on her at what she’d done, and her jaw dropped. “No!” Yes. She glanced at him, and his knowing expression said he knew that was exactly what happened.
“I see,” he said, his tone careful but persistent. “Then why did you kiss me like that?”
“I-I don’t have to answer that.” She lifted her chin with defiance.
He scooted closer to her. “No, you don’t. But I wish you would.”
She scratched her head in frustration and jumped up, moving toward the door.
“I’m sorry to embarrass you,” he said, and she paused with her hand halfway to the doorbell. “I’m decent. I would never— I never meant to take advantage of you at all, please know that. When you kissed me like that, so familiar, I…”
It occurred to her Niall was being a lot more of a gentleman about the whole thing than most men would be, given how horrid the situation was. And she, meanwhile, was being a total bitch. And the poor guy had no clue as to why.
He met her in two quick strides, and his proximity alarmed her. They’d never both been standing in any of her dreams. He was at least a few inches over six feet, well built with wide shoulders and a lithe, muscular frame to complement the height.
He assessed her as well, and his eyes widened with realization. “Wait. Lark? Rick’s daughter? But you’re so little,” he said, surprised. “From the pictures, I assumed you’d be, erm—”
“Fatter?” she asked, glad she was at least back on sure ground. She could always toss jokes around about her heavy days. “It’s okay. You can go ahead and say it. I’ve lost a lot of weight.”
Niall put a hand to the back of his neck. His eyebrows rose. “I think ‘a lot’ is an understatement. Good on you! My mam struggled with her weight too; I know from growing up with her how hard it is to lose it. Well, you look amazing. Wow.”
He rolled his eyes at himself and glanced away. The bizarreness of seeing him act misplaced and common, and not at all like a sex panther, was messing with her.
“I’m sorry.” He laughed. “I sound like an idiot. Listen, I hope you don’t think I’m some leering wanker. This is…awkward.”
“You can say that again,” she murmured with a small smile, wondering what he would say if she told him she’d been having erotic dreams of him every night for the last six months. It was bad enough she’d just made out with the guy.
She held out her hand but didn’t make eye contact. “So listen, how about we forget it ever happened, okay? I’m Lark Braithwaite. I flew in a couple of days ago from London.”
He took her hand and closed his long fingers over hers. “Niall O’Hagan. Pleasure.” He stepped a little closer. “And I’m all for a clean slate, but forgetting’s not on my agenda, lass. I’m taking that one to the grave. Hands down the best snog I’ve ever had in my life. Client’s daughter or no, you can’t take it back.”
About the Author
Roxanne D. Howard is a U.S. Army veteran who has a bachelor’s degree in Psychology and English. She loves to read poetry, classical literature, and Stephen King. Also, she is an avid Star Wars fan, musical theater nut, and marine biology geek. Roxanne resides in the western U.S., and when she’s not writing, she enjoys spending time with her husband and children. Roxanne loves to hear from her readers, and encourages you to contact her via her website and social media.
Books by This Author:
With Boroughs Publishing Group: Sonnet Coupled
With Loose Id Publishing, LLC.: At the Heart of the Stone
Chicks Dig the Accent
The Costa Mesa Series
Costa Mesa 1: Batten Down the Hatches
Costa Mesa 2: Toe the Line
Costa Mesa 3: Overboard
I have always enjoyed watching cooking shows. As a teenager, I never missed an episode of Julia Child’s show, The French Chef. What a hoot she was. I doubt I ever made any of her dishes, but I certainly admired her attitude. Cooking should be fun.
Nowadays, my favorite is Pioneer Woman. Although I’ve never been on a ranch in my life, I often steal ideas from her. (Sorry, Ree.) For me, they are just a starting point. Depending on what ingredients I have on hand, I tweak things to suit myself. I rarely make a recipe as written. Fortunately for me, my dear husband is willing to eat my experiments.
I guess it was inevitable for me to blend cooking and writing. I began by editing a cookbook. It was a collection put together by the members of the Insurance Women of Pittsburgh as a fund raiser and cleverly titled Premium Recipes.
Then for a few years I entered recipe contests. I even snagged a couple small prizes—an apron, a cutting board. The best prize I won, however, was a trip to New York City to take a class at the Institute of Culinary Education. The contest, sponsored by French’s, entailed creating a sandwich using one of their products. This was when American Idol was first on the air, so I devised a sandwich and called it the Simon Cowell. The ingredients included roast beef as rare as musical talent, as I recall.
Isabella Ramos, the heroine in my third Calusa Town Tale Island Dream, has long wanted to open her own restaurant. That is something I’d never do myself. It involves a lot of hard work and a fair amount of risk, as Izzy soon finds out. I’ll confine my culinary activities to my own kitchen, but it’s fun to experience Izzy’s adventures in cooking vicariously.
Zumba teacher Isabella Ramos moved from Miami to the quirky small town of Calusa to open a restaurant. Luc Girard arrives on the Florida island to become a painter, or so he says. The attraction is instant. But the secret he’s keeping threatens to deflate their relationship like a fallen soufflé. It takes the right mixture of ingredients for dreams to come true.
Isabella Ramos drove her refurbished van across the drawbridge and towards her home in Calusa. After catering a breakfast at a golf club on the mainland, she had already dropped off the two women she hired for larger jobs like this one. She yawned and let go of the steering wheel long enough to rub her eyes. It was only noon, but she had risen early to prepare three varieties of Cuban pastries along with the hot items she had served.
The society women who belonged to the club had oohed and aahed over her food, and many had taken her business card, promising to call her for future high-profile events around town. The manager of the club was a valuable contact too. Isabella was certain he had a vast network that she hoped to tap into when she finally opened her restaurant.
Isabella had loved to bake from the first moment she stood on a chair before her abuela’s kitchen counter back in Miami and wielded a miniature rolling pin. As she got older, and taller, she learned how to prepare the Cuban dishes that made her grandma’s home the place to be when mealtime rolled around. The seed of the dream to open her own restaurant was born.
Up ahead, she spotted a man standing on a ladder next to a utility pole. She didn’t recognize him, and he wasn’t dressed in an official uniform of any kind. She didn’t see a truck, only a rusty bicycle that lay flat on the adjoining bike path. Who was he? Was he up to some mischief?
But what if he was in trouble? Before she could stop to think twice, she pulled the van over to the side of the road and got out.
The man shaded his eyes against the Florida sun as Izzy approached. The light glinted off his brown hair, gathered in an untidy man bun. A beard obscured the bottom half of his face making his expression unreadable.
“Can I help you?” he called.
He spoke with an intriguing accent. French?
“Oh, no,” Izzy said. “I wondered if you needed help.”
“You mean you wondered what I am doing,” the man replied. He gestured to several open cans at the foot of the ladder, half hidden in the weeds. “I am painting.”
“Painting on that pole? Why?”
He chuckled. “Because it is there. Is that not what people say when they climb Mount Everest? Simply because it is there.”