Sunday, March 1, 2015

A sample chapter from of A Heart of Fire

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***Those here looking for a CLUE to the TRR Anniversary game can find the answer below***


XOXO
-Kerri

                                           Chapter Seven


Finna gasped. She had been sure he would rape her. When she stood before him, she glared and tilted her chin high, even as his fingers dug mercilessly into her flesh. Not even the snickers and howls of laughter from the other men deterred her.
Valdrik looked down on her, shaking his head for a moment, but then looked away toward his men as he spoke. "Stieg, ride ahead. I do not think they notice yet that she is gone. If we hurry, we can make it back before midday tomorrow. Útryggr and Ragnarr, I wish you to stay behind to watch for Aldar's men. Stay until morning light and then catch up to us." One of the two men nodded to Valdrik and nudged his mount, trotting off into the wood up a hill and out of sight with the other man flanking him as they headed in the direction of her home.
Frantic thoughts of what might happen next clouded her mind as Finna watched them disappear, leaving her alone with the madman. However, she supposed one was better than four.
"Can you handle that one on your own?" the remaining man, Stieg, asked laughingly as he slowly turned his mount and started away.
Valdrik scoffed. "This one cannot have many more tricks left to play. Go, I can handle her. I want you to ride ahead and tell our Jarl we have rescued his daughter."
Fear pooled in her belly when Stieg looked on her chillingly. His eyes were cold and hard, leaving her with the distinct impression he did not care for her, though she was not even sure he knew who she truly was. He was a brutal looking man, with a heavy beard and scarred face.
Her heart began to flutter, but at last, the man looked away and urged his mount in the direction they headed before her captor had stopped. Finna watched the man fade quickly into the night, and when she was again alone with Valdrik, she asked, "What do you plan to do with me now?"
He turned to her, his look quite blasé. "Same as I planned to do with you before you attacked me," he said.
Finna looked upon him, appalled and in disbelief. "What is in this for you?" she demanded.
He shrugged. "Your sister. The position of Jarl when your father passes."
Finna's eyes flared, and her back stiffened as he grabbed her up with ease again and sat her on the horse's back once more, this time with her legs draped over the side, mockingly like a lady would sit.
After Valdrik climbed up behind her, he pulled another length of rope from his belt. Finna looked at the binding and scowled. He must have brought enough to wrap her in if need be.
“Your hands, sweet maiden,” he said, waiting.
Finna jerked her hands forward. “There is no need. I am no fool. I know when I have been bested.”
“And I am no fool, either. You may cry defeat, but your eyes tell a different story. So, you shall be bound, warrior maiden." He lowered his voice and leaned closer, "Until I deem doing so unnecessary.”
“And how long might that be?” she asked scathingly.
"You are lucky, Finna. I am not a man to hurt a woman, but do not test me. I have not done to you what most men might have." With one finger, he turned her chin so she faced him.
Finna did not recoil as she had a mind to, but glared back, trembling against his touch.
"If you do anything like that again, I shall take your clothing from your body myself. I think you might be less tempted to run from me if you were bare from your toes to your head. What do you think?" His eyes fell to her breasts, his hot lusty stare evident.
Finna shivered under those hooded eyes, unused to a man looking on her so. Her breasts tingled into tight buds where his gaze lingered, sending heat to spread up her neck and into her cheeks.
He wished to wed her supposed sister, did he? She tilted her nose up at him. "Depraved mongrel," she muttered.
His gaze flashed to hers.
"You wish to wed my sister?" Finna asked. "If I indeed had a sister, she would hear of your licentious looks. Do not think I am blind, Viking."
His stare turned cold, and as if for emphasis, the rope closed tightly around her wrists, the coarse fibers biting into her skin.
She bit back her gasp, but his cool gaze steadied her determination to not back down or show him any pain. She snapped her teeth at his jaw in attempt to bite him and came very close to succeeding with the tiniest nip, the slightest touch of her lips against his skin.
Finna blanched at herself, at the salty taste of him on her lips.
Valdrik flinched and reached to touch the spot on his neck. He growled low. "Damn you," he cursed her.
She had the desire to strike him, but instead, she scrutinized him coldly over her shoulder. Oh, how she loathed this man. “I think you are a filthy son of a thrall whore! I shall spit your head on a spear when I get free from you, I warn you now."
Valdrik pulled back from her. "And to think I pitied your father for losing you. Methinks he was better off," he snapped.
"You lie."
"Why would I lie to you about your father?" he asked, tapping his heels into his horse. "I have taken you." He jerked her close, his grip around her ribs harsh. "I have conquered you," he said, his mouth very near her ear. "Do you think I need a ruse to keep you with me?"
She did not miss the hard press of his body against her, his inhale at her neck as he took in her scent. She gasped at the tightness of his arms around her and began to squirm from his hold. "Then tell me why my uncle would pretend to be my father?" she asked, struggling against him until he loosened his grip.
"Jealous hatred. Your mother. The fact that Aldar's rightful place was passed to his younger brother."
"Because of a lie," Finna said, whipping around on him. "Hadarr lied and told the people my father had died in battle."
"Nay, he did not. Aldar was gone overlong, and the people did not desire him for their ruler. Thus they chose your father when your grandfather passed on."
"Then why did half side with Aldar if they did not prefer him?" she asked.
"Half?" Valdrik snorted. "Nay, woman. Not even a third, at best. The others he slaughtered when he took you from your cradle in a raid."
Suddenly, the vision in her dream flashed before her, and Finna flinched. Could those images I dreamed so vividly be of that raid? she wondered. She shook herself. Nay.
"You mentioned my mother. Did you know her?" Finna asked.
"I do know her." Valdrik straightened then, and all his animosity and anger with her seemed to wash away into the darkness of the wood. His hold on her loosened, and the tenseness of his body relaxed against her.
Finna shook her head. "Nay, my mother is dead. Hadarr took her life. You have me confused with someone else."
Valdrik scoffed. "Nay, she lives. She has longed for you. Your sister, born to your parents two years after your uncle took you, has missed growing up without you as well. You shall know the truth when you see your mother, for you have the exact look of her, with the exception of age of course."
Finna mulled the idea over in her mind, though she found no sense to his wild tale. "To speak of my mother living you put things into my head I do not care to have there, Viking."
"You doubt me even still, though."
"Of course I do."
"And if you do not come with me, for we both know you shall attempt to escape me yet again, how shall you ever discern the truth, fair maiden?"
She cared not for his taunting words. "You will cease calling me that," Finna said, snarling back at him. When she turned and faced ahead once more, she ducked for a branch just as Valdrik reached to push the low hanging limb away. "I do not know," she said. "I shall ask my father when I return to him."
"You mean your uncle," Valdrik corrected.
She paused. "Nay, my father."
"Either way, the man you left this eve has lied to you your entire life, so why would he tell you the truth now?"
Finna did not answer him, and Valdrik said no more, much to her relief. Eventually the paths became visible and familiar in twilight. Twisted branches wove a gnarled canopy above where the first shades of dawn washed away the stars in the sky.
They continued in a similar way for hours until Valdrik reined in the beast carrying them and they stopped in a clearing where soft grasses grew on the bank of a small stream. She recognized the area well, had perhaps stopped there before.
"What are we doing?" Finna asked, looking around them.
"Stopping for respite and food before we continue on. Are you not hungry?" he asked.
She was, actually. She had not eaten the evening before, too upset to do so. Actually, she had not eaten since the night Hadarr's men attacked them. "Aye," she said.
"We will not reach your father's lands until noon tomorrow." Valdrik dismounted behind her and then reached up, planting his hands solidly around her waist. "We must rest here and make camp later, elsewhere. Far enough ahead your uncle cannot catch us."
Very awkwardly, Finna allowed him to pull her from the horse, as she had no other choice. Her body grazed his on her descent, and she was glad when she was on her feet once more, his hands no longer on her. He took the large animal by the reins to the stream to drink.
"He will come for me," Finna said, watching her captor.
He was tall, this Viking, and strong. She wouldn't deny he was a strikingly handsome brute in a very rugged way. Scars and all.
His dark brown hair spilled down around his shoulders, the color matching his short beard. He wore no braids or clasps in his beard as some men did.
"Are you so sure?" He did not turn to face her, instead bent to cup water in his hands from the stream and drank.
"No matter what you think, he is my father, and he loves me." Finna's brow furrowed, as she wondered why her words faltered.
Valdrik stood, shaking the water from his hands and drying them on his leggings as he turned to her, a mocking lift to the corner of his mouth as he approached her. "You must have made him very angry when you retuned without the loot of my village. Did you tell him the truth? Did you tell him that you were attacked before you even made way across the fjord?"
Though triumph surged from him, Valdrik reached up and smoothed his thumb over the bruise at the corner of her mouth, and then gently, almost as soft as the touch of a feather, he ran the pad of his finger over the split in her swollen, bottom lip. A spark of pity showed in his eyes.
Finna did not care for his touch or pity and jerked her head away. "Of course I told him the truth! I am no liar."
Valdrik circled around her. Suddenly, she felt herself propelled forward, and she stumbled as he pushed her again toward a tree at the bank.
She looked back at him. "What are you about?" she demanded.
"I must secure you from running away whilst I find food."
Finna gave him a scathing look. "It is not enough that you have bound my hands? I could help you hunt."
He outright laughed at her. "You must surely think me a fool." He pushed her back flush against the tree, one hand to her middle, his fingers hot, and his touch seeped into her through her vest. Finna turned her head, watching him as he wrapped the length of a rope around her and the trunk twice and then tied the ends on the other side where she could not reach.
When he stood before her again, Valdrik leaned on the tree, his body almost pressing into hers. Almost. So close was he, she could feel heat radiating off him. His icy-blue eyes roamed down her, and she could swear he was the most lustful man she had ever encountered.
She narrowed her gaze on him. "You shall pay for this, Viking. One day," Finna vowed.

Valdrik smiled, crooking a finger to run under her chin, his stare lingering on her mouth. "But not this day, sweet shieldmaiden. Not this day."
©2014 Kerri M. Patterson

Thursday, February 26, 2015

UNBEARABLE ~ The Snow Rose Series by Wren Michaels

Good Morning!
I have fellow author Wren Michaels here sharing a recent release today. Unbearable is a fairytale retold in adult form about Rose Red, Snow White's sister, and a cursed man who is bear by day and a man by night. Interested yet? I know I am!



Blurb:

Rose Red will stop at nothing to protect her sister, Snow White, from suffering the same fate as their mother. She vows to kill Hestor, the evil dwarf sorcerer responsible for her death. But a twist of fate lands her on the bottom of a riverbed, and her life in the hands of a mysterious stranger.

Marcus is a beast of a man. He is a bear by day, man by night, thanks to a curse from the evil Hestor. But when he rescues Rose from an icy grave, he unleashes the real animal. Falling for her is dangerous enough, as he must protect the secret of his curse. But she may just be the key to getting his kingdom back as she breaks one spell and puts him under another.

Excerpt:


     “Do you have a habit of going around saving damsels in distress, Marcus?” The coy tone in her sexy voice hardens my cock even more, evidence that I've not been in female company for quite some time, and it's taking its toll.
     “I don't have many women that wander into the haunted woods in need of my rescuing. Which leads to the question, what were you doing there?” I fold my arms and stare down into her eyes.
     “I don't think that's any of your business now, is it?” The icy aftertaste of her tone stings my ears. “While I appreciate the rescue, I should get home. My sister is waiting for me and will send out a search party if I don't return.”
     “It'll be a mighty cold walk with no clothes,” I say, holding back the smirk climbing across my lips.
     The green in her eyes darkens. “Kindly give me back my clothing and affects, sir.”
     “Absolutely. Once they're dry.” I fan my arms to the fire where I've laid out her soaking clothes. “It'll take hours for them to be dry enough to wear. Besides, there's a nasty storm brewin' outside. A bit treacherous for you to be wandering out in, alone and at night. It would be in your best interest to stay here and let it pass. You can venture home in the morning.” My eyes lock onto hers and I pour sincerity into them in hopes she'll reconsider my offer. “I promise, come sunrise I will leave you, and you are free to go.”
     She darts her gaze between me and the fireplace. I half expect her to make a mad dash for her clothes. But she doesn't.
     “And what am I to do the rest of this eve then?” Her arms fold across her chest, pinching her breasts together.
     I force my eyes away from the glorious cleavage and swallow over the lump in my throat. “Well, I assume you'll want to sleep. After all, I would imagine killing a man would take a lot out of you physically and emotionally. Not to mention the whole falling into the river and me rescuing you.”
     Her eyes widen as big as saucers. “Were you stalking me?”
     “Perhaps I came upon you once or twice before.” I give an aloof shrug.
     Fury blazes in her dark green eyes and it lights my cock on fire even more. Damn, she's gorgeous when she's feisty. It takes everything in me not to devour her plump lips with my own.
     “How much do you know?” She leans in, forgetting she's naked as her protective covering falls away from her breasts. 
     They stare up at me from the corner of my eye, but I'm careful not to look at them for fear she'll cover them back up. Stunning pink nipples harden at the chill in the room. My fingers ache to rub them.
     “How much should I know. I've never met you before, Rose. You've come into my woods for the past month, and each time a man is with you. But you always leave alone. And I'm left to dispose of bloodied bodies before morning. So, do I need to worry that you'll add me to your collection?” Jutting my hands to the blanket on either side of her body, I press in closer to her on the bed, hovering just above her lips.
     Quick breaths puff from her lips as she processes my words. Her eyes stay glued to mine in a glorious rage, and it stirs me inside to think of burying myself in that fury between her legs.
     “Not unless you're in league with Hestor. If you are, I suggest you run.” Her body inches closer to mine, the blankets falling even further down her body. The delicate soft skin of her stomach catches my eyes and I'm unable to look away.
     “Hestor?” I repeat, as it's the only word that sticks in my ears under the distraction of her curves. “Are you not familiar with the dwarf sorcerer?” she asks.
     “Oh. On the contrary, I'm quite familiar with Hestor. The question is, why do you seek him out?” My gaze turns back to her.
     “Like what you see?” She tilts her head and swipes her lips with her tongue. “It's yours if you lead me to him.”
     I shake my head. “You truly must think me a fool if you proposition me so, dear Rose. I know that's what you offer the targets in your game. You tease them with the reward of your body, yet you get them alone in the woods and take their lives. You cannot seduce me in this way.”
     “Am I repulsive to you?” her voice notches up an octave.
     “You, Rose Red are the most beautiful woman I've ever had the pleasure to lay my eyes upon. But I think you should know our interest in Hestor may be of a similar nature and perhaps we could strike a deal.” I ease off her and fold my arms.
     “What do you want with him? His magicks are dark and bring only evil.” Her blazing eyes darken, studying me with intent.
     I lean in, pressing my chest against hers as I hover above her face. “I have my reasons, as I know you do yours. They are not of your concern. What we both agree on is that he must be eliminated. No?”
     “Your towel seems to have come lose,” she whispers.
     My brow quirks. “How would you know?” I think she's trying to distract me, but I won't fall for her games. “Your eyes haven't left mine.”
     “Because I'm the one who loosened it.” Her warm hand wraps around my cock, forcing a gasp from my lungs. My head yells at me to jump back, but the sensation of her fingers gripping tight to my flesh wipe all logical thought from my mind. I make the mistake of glancing down, aching to watch her hand stroke my length. It's the last thing I see before she knocks me cold.
 

Unbearable can be found online at:




About the Author:

Wren Michaels hails from the frozen tundra of Wisconsin where beer and cheese are their own food groups. But then a cowboy swept her off her feet and carried her away below the Mason-Dixon line where she promptly lost all tolerance for snow and cold. They decided they’d make beautiful babies together and they got it right on the first try. Now Wren lives happily ever after in the real world and in the worlds of her making, where she creates book boyfriends for the masses to crave.




Wednesday, February 25, 2015

A Most Improper Proposal by Molly Ann Wishlade

Hello Everyone!

I have Author Molly Ann Wishlade here with me today sharing about her recent release, A Most Improper Proposal. The story is set in a rumor swirling England, and one particular lady is swimming in wicked rumors.


Blurb:


Isabella Adams has tasted desire—and paid the price.

With four scandalous attachments to her name, only the fierce patronage of Lady Watson has kept the doors of fashionable society open. And yet, when a handsome stranger literally sweeps her off her feet, Isabella can’t help but yearn for more…

After five long years away from England, Lord James Crawford has returned to find little has changed—aside from his aunt’s new companion. James cannot equate the reserved Miss Adams with the wicked rumours surrounding her—but he can’t deny he’d like to look more closely.

Soon, the attraction between them becomes undeniable…and giving into temptation has never tasted so sweet. But when the secrets of the past are revealed, will Isabella accept her lord’s most improper proposal?

Excerpt:

A Most Improper Proposal – by Molly Ann Wishlade

      This evening, Lord Crawford was dressed much as the other gentlemen in the club in black breeches and jacket, white shirt and waistcoat, but his height and presence made him appear different. He stood out in the crowd and Isabella felt sure that her eyes would find him out if he stood in amongst a thousand other men. 
      Her heart beat faster as he turned to her.
      ‘Miss Adams, my aunt and I have been discussing the season this year in London.’
      ‘Yes Lord Crawford?’
      ‘And I expressed my disappointment at having missed many of the events due to my delayed arrival and due to how busy I have been.’
      Isabella gazed into his warm brown eyes and waited for him to continue.
      ‘In the past, I have enjoyed attending The Derby and The Ascot, in particular. I am a keen horseman and I enjoy the excitement of the races. Do you ride?’
      I do, sir, though I am not an extremely competent rider.’ Isabella glanced down as she spoke, aware that she was not being fully honest: she was most dreadfully incompetent upon a horse.
      ‘That is a shame, Miss Adams. Perhaps, sometime, you will allow me to help you to improve your riding skills?’
      Heat flooded Isabella’s cheeks and she fanned herself quickly.
      ‘That would be most kind of you Lord Crawford but I could not ask you to give up your time.’
      ‘Why it would be a pleasure, Miss Adams.’ He flashed a grin. ‘My own enjoyment of riding means that I like to encourage others to share my enthusiasm. You may not know this but my dear aunt was once a most accomplished horsewoman.’
      ‘Nephew…’ Lady Watson laughed, patting his arm. ‘You embarrass me.’
      He leant closer to Isabella.
      ‘She was even known to ride astride a horse in the hunt.’
      Isabella’s eyes widened and Lady Watson’s laughter grew louder. ‘Nephew, now you will disgrace me.’
      ‘You joined in the hunt?’ Isabella asked the older woman.
      ‘I did, dear, in my foolish youth. Pray do not seem so surprised. Amongst the upper echelons of society, a lady’s participation has not always been so frowned upon. In fact, some might go so far as to label us hypocrites.’
      ‘And,’ added the gentleman, ‘Lady Watson is not, as you know, afraid to defy society’s idea of “acceptable”.’
      Isabella inclined her head. One of the things she admired about Lady Watson was her refusal to comply with the rules that others followed like sheep. She was independent, brave and defiant.
      ‘Will you join the hunt this autumn when we return to Kent?’ Lord Crawford’s question surprised and pleased Isabella. He had said ‘we’, including her in his future plans. But she must not read too much into this.
      ‘I would like to think that I may…’ She paused. ‘But I really had better practise my riding first.’
      ‘There will be time for that, no doubt. I should like to share the excitement of the hunt with you. It is an experience that everyone should have at least once in a lifetime.’ 
      Isabella fought to control her breathing. 
      ‘It is not so much the kill.’ He gazed into the distance. ‘As the thrill of the hunt. I must confess – though pray do not repeat this as I would not wish to be seen as softening as I mature ‒ to even pitying the poor foxes being chased so relentlessly by much larger and more powerful beings.’
      Isabella gazed off into the distance, as if to see what he was seeing and she could picture the small red animal racing for its life, tongue hanging out of its mouth, sheer terror in its heart.
      Tears sprang into her eyes.
      ‘Oh, Miss Adams…’ He took her hand. ‘Pray do not be upset. Foxes are, we are taught from infancy, just vermin and some believe that we have a duty to keep the countryside free of them. Whilst I may well harbour some doubts about this belief, I engage in the activity because of my love of the riding involved.’
      Isabella looked at her white gloved hand. It was lost within his. She was acutely aware of his power and strength and savoured the tingling sensation that his touch had aroused. Please never let go.
      ‘The excitement for me lies within the thundering of the hooves, the baying of the hounds, the thrill as my horse jumps – unadvisedly, I must add ‒ over hedges and pools and…’ ‒ His cheeks reddened slightly ‒ ‘The competition.’
      Isabella smiled. ‘The competition?’
      ‘I like to race the other hunters.’ Lord Crawford’s brow was momentarily free of his frown and Isabella saw before her a much younger gentleman, the man he must have been before trouble and grief had stained him. ‘When you are in the midst of the hunt, Miss Adams, you can think of little else other than the immediate present. All troubles, all worries, everything else disappears and it is just you and your horse. You move as one. If you do not concentrate, you will fall and hurt yourself and mayhap, even your horse. So your focus is completely physical.’
      Isabella’s stomach churned at the thought of falling from a horse as big as Lord Crawford’s black stallion.
      James Crawford raised her hand and bent to meet it then pressed it to his lips, his eyes holding hers all the time.
      ‘I think that you would like that feeling, Miss Adams: to shut out the world and his worries and to just breathe, feel and sense.’
      Isabella’s mouth was dry and she struggled to swallow. Was he mocking her? Men knew how to play games to make a woman fall for their charms. Was James Crawford toying with her now?
      Still holding her hand, he lowered it to her side and stepped closer to her, so close that his leg almost touched hers then he whispered in her ear, ‘There is only one other way to feel so alive, Miss Adams.’
      It happened so quickly and he moved away so gracefully that Isabella wondered if he had actually whispered to her at all. Her palms were clammy within her gloves and she tingled all over. Did he mean what she thought? Her physical reaction suggested to her that her body knew, it understood him and reacted to his physical presence but her mind was almost afraid to fully comprehend this confusing, delightful man.
      ‘Nephew…’ Lady Watson tittered. ‘Whatever did you say to poor Isabella? She looks most… embarrassed.’
      Lord Crawford smiled and held out his hands, palms facing upwards.
      ‘I spoke of the hunt, Aunt Lydia. The exhilaration of the hunt.’
        The old lady’s smile was indulgent and Isabella breathed slowly, trying to calm herself. Mayhap her imagination was being overactive in the presence of this gentleman. She really should not allow herself to lose control but he was making it most difficult. 
      ‘Now, I should pay my respects to some of the ladies and gentlemen in the room,’ Lord Crawford’s announcement made Isabella’s heart sink.
      ‘But when I return I shall request a dance with each of you.’ 
      ‘Nephew, my dancing days are over.’ Lady Watson chuckled.
      Isabella chewed at the inside of her cheek, forcing herself to remain calm.
      ‘Will you promise me a dance Miss Adams?’ 
      ‘Of course, Lord Crawford.’ Her voice emerged as a disappointing squeak. 
      He bowed to them both then turned and strode cross the ballroom.
      ‘Ah, he is a most charming gentleman, is he not?’
      Lady Watson’s eyes were misted over.
‘He is, Lady Watson,’ Isabella replied, then whispered, ‘Charming.’

©2014 Molly Ann Wishlade

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Susceptible to Him ~ A Risso Family Novella by Lynn Burke

Hi there!

       I have Author Lynn Burke here today to share a little from her new release Susceptible to Him. I have to say, the first line of the blurb had me heading over to Amazon! (And, btw, isn't that an awesome cover!)



Blurb:

       Lia Risso walked in on her fiancé and three other women on Valentine’s Day. Two celibate years later, her roommate creates a profile for Lia on a dating website—without her knowledge—and sets up a date. On Valentine’s Day.
       Ryan Walsh, a self-made millionaire and libertine, refuses to commit to any one woman. Tossed from foster home to foster home as a child, Ryan is on guard against becoming vulnerable ever again.
       One dinner…one night of dancing and flirting with the attraction between them, puts both Lia and Ryan in danger of heart break.
       They have a choice—open themselves to the possibility of hurt or walk away, never knowing what might have been.



Excerpt:

       My nerve endings stirred as the subtle scent of sandalwood wafted across the table time and again. What man used sandalwood-scented soap anymore? By the cut of his suit and the Rolex on his wrist, Ryan Walsh had money. And plenty of it. Why no expensive cologne? The chick-lure nectar of the gods his type bathed in?
       He grinned again, and heat filled the empty place only Mr. Pink had seen or stroked in two years. Ryan’s attention drifted to my lips and lingered as our waiter took his time pouring our wine.
       I forced myself to breathe as my treasonous nipples pebbled, begging for attention.
       Damnation. I do not want this.
       He was too friggin’ sexy for his own good. And by his suggestive grin and the twinkle in his eyes, he knew it too.
       “Are you ready to order, Lia?” Ryan asked, his focus staying on my face instead of dipping downward like most men’s did.
       Praying my voice didn’t betray my arousal, I turned my attention the waiter. “I’ll have the shrimp Fra Diavlo.”
       “And for you, sir?”
       Ryan spouted off a few words in Italian, never once breaking eye contact with me.
       My lips twitched. Papa would be impressed.
       When the waiter ambled away, a smile—a real smile, not the cocky, you-know-you-want-me ones he had offered until then—revealed straight, white teeth. “So.”
       His low voice caressed my ears, and I pressed my thighs together. Thank God I hadn’t shaved. No doubt he had little trouble getting women into his bed. Or their bed. Or against a wall.
       Holy shit.


About Lynn Burke:


Lynn Burke is a full time mother, voracious gardener, and scribbler of spicy romance stories. A country bumpkin turned Bay Stater, she enjoys her chowdah and Dunkin Donuts when not trying to escape the reality of city life.

Her current work, the Risso Family Novellas, revolves around four siblings from Boston’s North End.

Website: http://www.authorlynnburke.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Author-Lynn-Burke/555282497937461

Twitter: https://twitter.com/AuthorLynnBurke

Goodreads:https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/38758632-lynn-burke

You can find Susceptible to Him at:

Evernight Publishing

Amazon

All Romance

Bookstrand

Monday, February 23, 2015

Chapter One from #backlist title Perfect Stranger

Chapter One
Approximately 1300 hours Friday
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

         "Hey, watch out!" Chloe Burgesse shouted at the paint-chipped and dented used-to-be gold sedan as the car slipped in front of her from out of nowhere, tires screeching and squealing. Chloe's back came off the seat as she braked, too. The driver ahead succeeded in gaining only a few feet before a tight throng began to spill into the streets between the cars, halting traffic.
         She let out a long sigh. Geez, some people should learn to drive. However, in this country she could consider herself lucky not to have been run over by now. Chloe snorted, watching the passers-by, and gripped the wheel a little tighter. A flicker of annoyance raced through her as she noticed the odd absence on her ring finger where a four-carat ring used to encircle, no diamond there now to turn between her fingers as her grip increased.
         She honked again, this time with a pinch more aggravation. Pedestrians were the only things here that seemed to slow traffic at all. She glanced down on the map across her knees once more as the shoppers milled between the cars, tracing the road with her finger.
         Chloe thumped the map, seeing the road she needed to be on several blocks over, and smacked the map down into the passenger seat—the apparently outdated map she had picked up at her travel brochure acclaimed, five-star, yet nonetheless dirty, hotel. Chloe pushed her sunglasses back up the bridge of her nose and sighed, teeth tightly clamped together.
         This day marked the seventh—and last, thank God—day of what should have been her honeymoon in what she thought would be paradise. Wrong. Not that any of the should-have-beens mattered. The not-honeymoon vacation matched the complete aura of her life right now.
         She had never wanted to leave a place more. Even the reminder of what awaited her at home didn’t deter her want for normalcy.
         Betrayed and left at the altar, she'd found out a little too late her groom wouldn’t make their ceremony—because he'd already married another woman a week before. And what hurt the most, this hadn't been an I-lost-control-and-accidentially-married-a-stripper-in-Vegas-during-my-bachelor-party kind of thing. The happy new couple had known one another for several months, and all the while he had pretended to be loyal to Chloe.
         She had seen the warning signs, but had chosen to ignore the red flags without a single question.
         Still, she didn't understand his tactless retraction from their relationship.
         After the botched ceremony had been cleaned up and her unused gown stuffed somewhere out of sight—she suspected for her mother's fear she might shred it, too—her youngest sister had suggested she take the “honeymoon” alone.
         Chloe could still hear her sister, kneeling down beside where she had sat huddled in a chair, grieving and bemoaning her life. Hey, her sister had said. The trip is paid for, so why not? Take some time to recuperate, let off steam, and perhaps have a fling with a hot Brazilian. What happens in Brazil, stays in Brazil, the quirky nineteen-year-old pest had suggested.
         None of which had happened.
         Chloe had picked up the already packed suitcase without another thought and let her sister whiz her to the airport where she clambered onto the plane at the last second and took full advantage of the in-flight drink menu.
         At the time, she had only wanted a distraction to make her forget, to be somewhere far, far away from her sucky life. Somewhere she couldn’t bump into him.
         So much for getting away. Her mind hadn’t allowed her.
         The entire seven days in Rio had been spent in reflection and beating herself up over the entire relationship. On top of that, she had gotten food poisoning. Gotten sunburned. Slipped on a freshly mopped (or slopped) floor and ended up with a sore tailbone and ruined white capris. Now she'd managed to get lost on the edge of the city as she headed for the airport in her rental.
Chloe lay on the horn as the jackass in the sedan swerved and then braked hard in front of her. She came very close to driving her car right up his ass.
         "For the love of Pete!" Chloe euphemistically cursed, pounding the steering wheel, sending three clearly perturbed short honks to the other driver. "Only a few more miles," she yelled, then huffed. "Maybe. And if I don't wreck the car that would be awesome. Thanks!"
         The vehicle shot to the far right, off the road, sending up a cloud of dust as the driver veered around a jeep ahead. The jeep wisely turned into a drive, but this left Chloe following the raging driver again.
         She clenched her teeth and groaned as she came back into a residential neighborhood. The street narrowed snugly between buildings, and her speed slowed drastically for the sake of more pedestrians. Steadily, she watched the driver ahead. His impatience was evident in the way he swerved left to right in a constant zigzag.
         "It's not like your going to pass anyone here," she mumbled, momentarily throwing her hands in the air over the steering wheel, then smacking her palms back on and gripping hard. She sighed deeply and fell back against her seat to rub at her forehead.
         A headache was beginning to strengthen, tightening like a band around her skull.
         Chloe counted the rows of clothing fluttering on lines above, connecting from building to building in the impoverished neighborhood. At last, the line of cars exited the one street onto a busier thoroughfare. She made a point to get around the angry driver, casting a sharp glare out her window as she accelerated past.
         Chloe blew out a breath, relaxing, but suddenly her shriek-growl filled the compact car as the driver yet again swerved back into her lane, tightly. All lanes seemed to freeze simultaneously, and much honking chorused objectionably to the halt. Her car, unluckily, ended the procession, the jam far enough ahead she couldn’t see what had happened.
         Great. Chloe slammed back in her seat, this time with much more gusto, and checked her watch. She still had two hours, fortunately, but after a miserable week, she itched to be on the plane headed home to Charlotte, back home to her mom and her two unruly sisters.
         An odd movement in the car ahead caught her eye then.
         Chloe blinked, squinting as she saw the movement again. "What in the…" Chloe scrunched her nose as she peered closely over her steering wheel, gripping the worn leather tightly. Had the back-end of the car … bounced?
         Her eyes flared.
         The trunk did it again!
         She gasped as a boot-print imbedded the trunk lid of the gold sedan, from the inside out. Chloe sat rigidly. Her eyes widened even more as another dent obtruded up from the top of the trunk.
Her spine stiffened, and she jolted back into the seat, riveted to the tail end of the car. Her hand fluttered to her open mouth. She lost her breath at the sharp realization.
         "Oh-my-God," she breathed in a rush. The irate driver had a person in his trunk!
         The cars began to move again, though slowly. Chloe inched along in fascination, picking up pace but making sure to stay three car-lengths behind the erratic driver. She really couldn’t afford to pay for her rental on top of the weighing debt from a wedding that didn’t happen, although the insurance on file for her rental was under her ex's name. If anything happened, she would undoubtedly be stuck with that expense, too, since she had fudged the paperwork at the rental agency.
         Technically, she was still on his insurance, but didn’t want to have to deal with him to clear anything else up.
         They had said all that needed saying on their should-have-been wedding day.
         Chloe continued to watch the trunk for any signs of movement.
         Swallowing hard, she admitted she really wasn’t sure what to do. Did she dare get involved in a criminal case in a foreign country when she was due to leave within a couple hours? Or let someone else on the busy thoroughfare call in on the deviant driving the gold sedan. She looked around. There were plenty of other passersby. They would surely notice, too.
         Chloe scoffed to herself as she realized she didn’t even know any emergency numbers in Brazil, then cringed. Naive, wasn’t that what he had called her the last time they spoke, in the gigantic argument over the phone, which had reverberated throughout the entire church?
         The trunk bounced ahead of her, nearly bumping the road.
         She pursed her lips and fixated her stare and mind on the footprint. Judging by the size, that surely wasn’t a child in the trunk. Her worry edged a bit, though her brow remained furrowed. The trunk bounced several more times, more heavily than before, nearly contacting with pavement.
         Chloe chewed her lip, worrying and pondering over what she should do.
         She had sworn off being kind and generous, accused of being too nice by her ex. He had accused her of a healthy number of faults, which had all stabbed too deeply. She'd never thought a person could be too good. Apparently that was the taboo thing to be and not what a man wanted anymore—not what he had wanted.
         She sucked in a little sob at the same time as her eyes flared wide. Chloe slammed her brakes as the car's trunk flew upwards. She screamed when a man's face, bloodied and haggard, came into view. Their stares clashed for a brief second as he struggled free of bindings around his shoulders and sat up, catching the trunk lid from flopping closed again.
         Chloe screamed louder.
         Though she had watched all along, somehow she had not expected quite the sight before her.
         Wide-eyed and still screaming, both Chloe's hands flew to cover her mouth. A wisp of a second elapsed before she jumped to grab the wheel and regain control, her rental coming close to the other vehicle as her tires squealed.
         Hesitation flickered in the briefest instant.
         This poor man, he'd been tied up and looked to have been tortured. Chloe peered around him into the trunk, expecting the worst.
         Shit, shit, shit. Her silent mantra began.
         Guilt instantly swallowed her for not immediately trying to signal someone for help, too caught up in her own dilemma.
         Too caught up trying to be someone she wasn't.
         But how could I help him? Chloe wondered, watching the man search the surrounding road, blood crusted on the side of his face. Other cars whizzed past, honking, staring, laughing and pointing, but no one stopping to do anything.
         A noise of disgust escaped her.
         Did they think this was joke? A stunt?
         Chloe glanced around, too, but saw no movie cameras.
         Something snapped in her then. She was sick of the world and sick of the uncaring assholes in it. Humans lived to hurt one another and nothing else.
         They might not want to be kind, but damn it, she was a kind person.
         A seedling of doubt sprouted.
         She might be caring, but she was not of hero material by any stretch of the mind. She would stop and help an old lady if she spilled her purse, but this…. Helping this man was out of her league for kindness.
         Chloe's shoulders slumped, watching the lid to the trunk as it flopped above the man's arm where he kept it from hitting him on the head. He seemed unsure. Trapped. He struggled to pull himself free of ropes around his legs.
         She didn’t know what came over her then, because normally she tended to stay within the beloved “box”, never daring a thought of trespassing those boundaries, but obviously that wasn’t working well for her anymore. Chloe clenched her jaw.
         Her ex had claimed she was too predictable, too boring.
         A little pang began to ache in her heart, but Chloe chased the memory away with a snort.
         Ha!
         She could be unpredictable and still be caring.
         She sped up, bumping the other car with a slight sense of glee, and beckoned the man to take the leap onto the hood of her car. He looked at her strangely through the windshield, panicked almost. His look made her wonder if he would take the offered help.
         She watched as he kicked ropes from his feet, and a tangled net of bindings flew from the trunk as he tossed them. The gold sedan swerved, now well aware its prisoner had freed himself.
         Chloe bumped the gold sedan again, harder this time as the driver attempted an all out stop. Just as the other car swerved to the side, the man from the trunk leapt out, catching onto the top of her hood, near the wipers. He grunted at his landing, slipping across the hood, his long legs going over the side. In the last instant, as she thought he would surely slip to the pavement and be hit by an oncoming car, he pulled himself back up.
         Chloe tapped her brakes. The stranger growled as he tried to hold on and cast her a look of annoyance through the glass as his body slid up the windshield from her sudden halt.
         She swerved again, hitting the gas. The bumpers caught between her car and the gold sedan, sending them in a spiral, and the other car crashed headlong into a ditch and the trunk snapped shut.
         As Chloe sped by, feeling triumphant and rushed with adrenalin, she saw the other car's engine steaming. She hoped she hadn't killed the person, no matter how bad they were. Terrified, she kept going, though in the wrong direction of traffic. Many honks sounded around them as cars swerved out of her way. Chloe gassed the car, breaking intermittently as car after car sent her swerving, too.
         "Drive," the tortured stranger shouted. "Don't stop." He grunted. Blood smeared against the windshield and light green paint of the hood as he pulled himself toward the passenger side of her car. Chloe met his incensed stare, nodding wildly and tried not to hit her brakes again. She reached over to roll down the window, keeping one hand on the wheel.
         Somewhere deep, deep inside she began to wonder if she had gone completely crazy.
         Chloe squeaked out a tiny shriek as the man threw his long legs around and slipped inside, effectively filling the small car with his dominating size. He gave her a strange look, as though he thought her insane, too.
         Chloe swallowed her tongue and gawked, her stare quickly falling down him. Her foot unconsciously pressing a little harder on the gas-pedal.
         His tan t-shirt had open slashes in several places, bloody gashes revealed underneath. Tan pants showed proof he had been through little less than hell. Her gaze halted on the empty gun holster strapped around his thigh.
         What in the heck had happened to this man?
         Her gaze flickered back up his body, and she stopped to wonder at the smudged—was that paint on his face?—blotches of black and green, too.
         Chloe swerved again as another passing car caught her attention. She quickly looked between the stranger and the road.
         There was a bleeding, very large man in her car.
         She swallowed.
         What had she done?
         She meant to ask, Was he was all right? Should she take him to a hospital? Where was the hospital? What happened? but none of that came out.
         Chloe shook her head, gaping. She was without a doubt shell-shocked, and now that he was inside her car, Chloe was not entirely sure she had intended to let him inside—it had just happened.
"Set your cruise control. Give me the wheel." His voice was deep and rough.
         Reality pounded away at her, adrenaline thumping in her veins.
         Chloe stifled a cry as his long tanned fingers slipped around the wheel beside her own. Still glancing between the passenger side and the road, she groped to release her seatbelt, and then attempted what he said by fumbling for the little switch on the end of the signal control, first sending her turn signal blinking left, and then right. Chloe flushed, and glancing down, she tried again. Her wipers swiped across the windshield, and she cursed, giving up and tearing her focus away from the stranger and road long enough to do what he'd asked. She set the cruise control.
         He gave her a half-smile. "Great, you’re doing fine." His voice was so deep and smooth and calm she almost believed him. "Now, I want you to crawl into the backseat and keep your head down."
         "What!" Chloe's voice trembled. She looked at him as though he were insane for the suggestion. She gave a little whimper as she looked at the tight space between him and the console.
         He didn’t so much as glance at her as he steered from the passenger seat. "Just do it."
         Shakily, she managed, lifting herself from the seat and trying not to make contact with the stranger as she slipped over the console. Her knees and butt dipped to the floorboard, and she pulled her legs through the gap, then inched onto the seat and buckled herself in.
         The man commandeering her rental pulled himself into the driver's seat after her and adjusted for his height, muttering curses as the driver’s seat slammed back to accommodate his legs. Their car shot forward and turned right.
         "Who are you?" Chloe asked as she ducked into her lap and splayed her hands against the back of her midnight hair. "Please, oh please, tell me you're not a terrorist or in a cartel." She panicked, fear bringing sobs. She squeezed her eyes, berating herself for the burst of impulsiveness.
         The car rocked as he swerved for a pedestrian. Chloe's head shot up in alarm. A stack of papers knocked from the hands of the person on the street fluttered behind them.
         She tried to scream, opened her mouth, but nothing came out, and so she quickly dropped her head back to her lap and silently prayed she wouldn’t get killed.
         "My name is Jericho Eden." He paused to glance back at her. "And no, I am not a terrorist—unless of course you're a terrorist, then you might consider me such … You're not a terrorist, are you?" He cut another quick glance into the backseat, in attempt to ease her fear, and grinned despite the blood caked on the side of his face and in his hair, evident bruising swelled along a strong, darkly-bristled jaw.
         Chloe shook her head dumbly, peeping up from her knees. "Me? No."
         "Good, Chloe. Things might have gotten really awkward between us had you said yes."
         She paused, then came to edge around the seat precariously. "How do you know my name?"
         "It's on your bag," he said, turning off the road they had been on, onto the tight street she had traveled some twenty minutes earlier.
         They sped along, the people there scattering out of their path. Chloe peeked from over the console. He turned the car back in the exact direction she had come and then off the road the jeep had taken earlier when the sedan sped off the road.
         As their car bounced over the unpaved area, Chloe cut her eyes to her bag beside her in the backseat. Of course, she mentally grumbled.
         "Don't worry. I promise I won't hurt you." Chloe's attention flinched back to him. Their eyes caught in the rear-view mirror. "I'm one of the good guys," he said.
         She swallowed hard, but didn’t drop her gaze. "Then how did you end up in someone's trunk and looking like that?" she asked, her tone rattled. She flicked her gaze over his torn and bloodied clothing, his bruises and cuts.
         The stranger winced as a grim expression crossed over him. His stare returned to the road ahead, a darkness filling his gaze.


©2013 Kerri M. Patterson