Saturday, November 28, 2015

Colin's Quest Tour, Excerpt & Giveaway!

Colin’s Quest
Book One MacLarens of Boundary Mountain 
Historical Western Romance Series
Historical Romance
Date Published 11/24/2015



For An Undying Love…

When Colin MacLaren headed west on a wagon train, he hoped to find adventure and perhaps a little danger in untamed California. He never expected to meet the girl he would love forever. He also never expected her to be the daughter of his family’s age-old enemy, but Sarah was a MacGregor and the anger he anticipated soon became a reality. Her father would not be swayed, vehemently refusing to allow marriage to a MacLaren.

Time Has No Effect…

Forced apart for five years, Sarah never forgot Colin—nor did she give up on his promise to come for her. Carrying the brooch he gave her as proof of their secret betrothal, she scans the trail from California, waiting for Colin to claim her. Unfortunately, her father has other plans.

And Enemies Hold No Power.

Nothing can stop Colin from locating Sarah. Not outlaws, runaways, or miles of difficult trails. However, reuniting is only the beginning. Together they must find the courage to fight the men who would keep them apart—and conquer the challenge of uniting two independent hearts.

Purchase Links

iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/id1048224779
Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B016C4QH3Q


Excerpt 

Colin lowered himself next to Sarah, letting their thighs touch as he ran his hands through his hair, squeezing out the moisture. Lowering his hands, he turned toward her, his heart swelling at the look of adoration in her eyes.
“I’ve missed you,” he whispered so no one else could hear, grasping her hand in his. “We have to talk.”
“I know, but how? Da doesn’t let me get more than a few feet away from the wagon.” She threaded her fingers through his and squeezed.
“Everyone will be busy for the next two days, cleaning up after the storm, searching for lost animals, and repairing wagons. Your da can’t watch you every minute. We’ll find a way.” He leaned toward her, wishing he could brush his lips across hers. He’d kissed her for a brief moment once and couldn’t forget the taste of her. He had no intention of ever forgetting.
“Robena, Sarah, are you in there?”
Sarah’s frightened eyes locked on Colin at the sound of her father’s voice. Without thought, he leaned over and placed a kiss on her cheek before launching himself out the front of the wagon as the back flap flew open.

Author Bio:

I have been writing most of my life, but only recently began the transition into fiction. Historical romance, contemporary romance, romantic suspense, and short stories are what keep me reading, so that is the focus of my writing.

I was born in California, grew up between a growing beach town and a small town at the base of the San Bernardino mountains. My mother originally planned to name me Katherine, but she read an article in the paper about a woman named Shirleen shortly before my birth, so instead of having a cool nickname, like Kate, I am simply Shirleen. My mainstays growing up were all the Nancy Drew mystery books; I loved them. Eventually I moved on to mysteries, suspense stories, crime novels, and romance. Pride and Prejudice will always be one of my favorites.

Besides California, life changes have allowed me to live in Oregon, Colorado, and Arizona. Everywhere I have lived has been inspirational in one way or another, giving me the opportunity to meet remarkable people with their own stories to tell. I've sailed, skied, owned horses plus lots of other animals, and ridden various off-road vehicles. I enjoy dancing, fishing, hunting, being the back-seater on my husband's Harley, traveling and, of course, reading and writing.

Prior to transitioning to writing fiction, I worked for Fortune 500 and many smaller, start-up companies. Fortunately, I regained my sanity long enough to start my own consulting firm, which I still maintain today.

My husband and I spend most of our time at our main home in the mountains of Arizona and our second home in Southern California. Between us we have five boys with growing careers and families of their own. So, from my perspective, my life is a success and always an adventure. I wouldn't change a thing; well, except finding more time to write.

I love hearing from readers, so please feel email me at shirleen@shirleendavies.com.


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Sachael Desires blitz, Exceprt & Giveaway!

Sachael Desires
Melody Winter
(The Mine #2)
Published by: REUTS Publications
Publication date: November 24th 2015
Genres: Fantasy, New Adult, Romance

During her ordeal with the Sect, Estelle Bailey dreamt of escaping back into the arms of the sea—and Azariah. But freedom came at a price, and though she’s back with the Sachael who’s stolen her heart, she’s also land-bound until the next full moon. And with the threat of Orontes looming ever larger behind them, Azariah, Estelle, and Michael—her once-captor turned rescuer and friend—are on the run.
Following Michael’s lead, they seek sanctuary amidst the natural beauty of the Orkney and Shetland Islands until Estelle can complete her next submergence ritual and Azariah can whisk her away to the safety of Saicean.

Secrets, betrayals, and old enemies await them, though, and as events spiral out of control, Azariah makes a decision that puts all their lives at risk, forcing Estelle to face a journey she never wanted to take. With time running out and tempers running high, her only hope to save the man she loves lies in a reconciliation between two kingdoms who despise each other.
Book Two in the Mine Series, Sachael Desires further expands on the intricate underwater world of the Sachaels, and the hostility and isolation of not belonging.

Grab book 1 – Sachael Dreams – on Amazon today!

EXCERPT

Orontes snarled, striding to the nearest tank and gently tapping his fingers on the glass. Nothing happened. The octopuses’ usual reaction was to scurry and hide between the rocks and sand at the bottom of the tank. They didn’t move. Shaking his head in disbelief, he systematically walked to each tank, repeating his action. He waited for a few seconds each time for any sign of movement, hoping at least one of them was alive.
He lingered over the last tank, sniffing the air above it. Moving his face closer to the water, he drew in a deep breath.
“Bleach,” he murmured, and then, as if to confirm it to himself and the men in the room who were ignoring him, he repeated the word louder. “Bleach! They were killed with bleach.” Spinning on the spot, he glared at the man who had attempted to answer him earlier. “Did you see Michael wandering around with the container in his hand? Did you see him pour it into the tanks?”
“No,” he answered, his voice shaking.
“And why wasn’t he stopped? He wasn’t allowed in here.” Orontes paced the laboratory, convinced this was Michael’s doing. “Is the venom contaminated?” he asked the man in the store room.
“No, the vials I’ve checked are clean.”
Orontes glanced at the tanks again before marching from the room. Long, heavy steps took him upstairs and to the left of the building—the rooms where the men he trusted would be. This whole tragedy wouldn’t have happened if he’d stayed. Michael wouldn’t have dared to take Estelle to the beach without him. He didn’t understand why nobody had stopped him. No one had questioned him. Not even Pactolus.
“Stupid half-bred idiot,” he growled.
Eight familiar faces turned to him as he opened the door to the game room. The television immediately switched off, and the two men playing pool stopped their game. These men were the ones who had returned this morning after the phone call from Lilith. They were Oceanids.
“Ten minutes, and we’re leaving,” he informed them.
“Leaving? Again?”
“Yes. We’ll be in the water.”
“But you’re not allowed in the water. Hebrus banned you.”
“And you think he will stop me?” Orontes snapped. “You can stay here if you want, but you’d better not be here when I return.”
What did it matter whether he was banned or not? Orontes didn’t care for Hebrus’s rule. He never followed it; although, this time, he would be in the water for considerably longer than the quick swims he occasionally went for. He smirked. Hebrus would never stop him. He’d never even know.
“Where are we going this time?” another man asked, already jumping to his feet, ready to leave.
Orontes fought a smile, confident with what would greet him when he arrived.
“The Orkneys,” he growled. “I need to visit Michael.”



Author Bio:
Growing up, Melody showed a natural ability in art, a head for maths, and a tendency to write too long English essays. Difficult to place in the world when she graduated, she pursued a career in teaching, but ended up working in finance. Melody is convinced the methodical times she spends working with numbers fuel her desire to drift into dream worlds and write about the illusory characters in her head.
Melody Winter lives in York, North Yorkshire, England with her husband and two sons. When not dealing with football, rugby, and a whole plethora of 'boy' activities, she will be found scribbling notes for her stories, or preparing for another trip to the nearby beaches at Scarborough and Whitby. With an obsession for anything mythical, Melody revels in reading and writing about such creatures.

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Friday, November 27, 2015

Redemption blitz, Excerpt & Giveaway!


Redemption
Alla Kar
(Huntsville #1)
Published by: Swoon Romance
Publication date: November 27th 2015
Genres: Contemporary, New Adult, Romance

His second chance may cost him his sweetest addiction …
The truth about NEVEAH’S cheating fiancĂ©e hit hard—but not as hard as her right hook to his jaw. After ridding herself of him she travels back home to Huntsville, Texas to her father and his boxing gym where she grew up. When she finds a beaten man in the woods beside her home, her entire life changes and things get—complicated.
Ex-con RAGE only wants two things—for the man that set him up to release his sister, and for him to burn in Hell where he belongs. After being released from prison, he heads straight to the man that put him there, only to be beaten and tossed in the woods for dead. When he’s found by the most beautiful girl he’s ever met, he knows he’ll have a chance to rescue his sister even though she doesn’t realize she needs saving.
Neveah and her father, nurse Rage back to heath, offer him a job at their gym and quickly find out that he’s amazing in the ring. Without them knowing who he is, he knows he’s been given a second chance to live his life. The only condition is that he has to stay away from Neveah, which is a promise he soon realizes is hard to keep. The feisty southern beauty normally gets what she wants, and Rage wants to give her everything.
With the truth lurking in the shadows, Rage must decide if his sweetest addiction is worth giving up his second chance.


EXCERPT

Empty beer cans littered the floor of the stairs, a bra hung from the end railing. The second floor was darker than the bottom where lights hung. Couples swayed to the slow music, oblivious to anything outside of themselves. It didn’t take long to find Neveah because of the damn clothes she had on.
Just in the twenty seconds it took me to get to her, three guys had looked at her ass. My body hummed at the threat of anyone touching her except me. And she wasn’t even mine—or palpable.
The drink in her hand was almost empty, and by the way she swayed on her feet, I’d say she’d downed it.
Gripping her elbow, I twisted her toward me. Those moss green eyes were furious, her sharp brows slanted in an anger that drove through my chest. “Neveah, listen—,”
“What’s your real name?” she blurted out, her fist bunching with the front of my T-shirt. All the blood in my body raced toward my dick, her hands so tiny but aggressive on me turned something on inside of me that I feared I couldn’t turn back off.
Before I did what I wanted in front of everyone, I grasped the hand on me, pulled it free and marched her to the darkest corner I could find. I pressed her soft body into the crook of a window.
With a parted mouth, she closed her eyes and tried to free herself. “What’s your fucking name?” she whispered, the venom in her voice sent chills down my spine.
Capturing her wrist, I pulled them above her head, loving the look of lust in her eyes. There was no stopping it now. I wasn’t leaving the barn until I’d tasted that smartass mouth. “Rage,” I whispered. “My name is Rage.”
Something crossed her face but was gone before I could read it. “Who the fuck are you? You aren’t Declan Samuels. I knew you didn’t look like a Declan. Why did you lie? Let me go!”
My grip tightened and a slight moan slipped from her lips. “Don’t act like you’re scared now, Champ. We both know this is what you want.” I held both hands in one wrist, slid my index finger down her face to her bottom lip. “And this is exactly what I need.”
She stared blankly up at me, her chest rising and falling in quick jolts, her hips pressed harder against my cock. “Why did you tell me so quickly? Why not try to hide it anymore?”
That was easy. “As soon as I saw you just now,” I pressed forward, “I knew I wanted to kiss those pouty lips. And I wanted you to say my fucking name when I did it. Not his. Mine.”

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There We'll Be blitz, Excerpt & Giveaway!


There We’ll Be
Alla Kar
(Together, #3)
Published by: Swoon Romance
Publication date: November 27th 2015
Genres: New Adult, Romance

Respect your elders.

Stay off Sawyer property.

And don’t even think about that Sawyer girl… 
Boone Cross was raised with three simple rules, and falling for Josie Sawyer broke every one of them. That is, until a year ago, when he did the unthinkable and she moved away.
Josie Sawyer never thought she’d be on a plane, flying back to Arkansas for the summer, only a year after her heart was crushed into a thousand pieces by the boy her parents forbade her to love. But her father is dying, and being stubborn isn’t an option.
In a town this small, it’s only a matter of time before she runs into Boone Cross.
A lot’s changed since she last laid eyes on him, but some things have remained exactly the same. Boone’s got designs on her and he won’t give up until he gets what he wants.
But as they give in to the need to be together once more, secrets come to light revealing a history of a hatred between their families that runs so deep that even the strongest love may not be able to survive.

Find Alla Kar online:
Website / Facebook / Twitter


EXCERPT

Josie
Something tickled my feet, but I was too tired to move. I had stayed up most of the night, crying into my pillow. Once I realized I wasn’t going to sleep anytime soon, I packed my suitcase. I’d only fallen asleep three hours before.
“Josie,” someone whispered.
I knew by the smell of cigarettes and that raspy voice that it was Samantha. Opening one eye, I stretched my arms above my head. Samantha’s face was coated in glitter from brow to chin. Her belly shirt and go-go boots told me she’d just gotten in. Go-go dancing wasn’t her first choice to pay the bills, but neither of us complained when those tips started rolling in.
She threw her purple wig to the floor, revealing a nest of brown curls. “What the—” she said, picking up one of the wads of Kleenex that littered my bed. “Is something wrong with my Sookie?”
I sat up straight, feeling my puffy eyes with the tips of my fingers. “Yes,” I said, looking into her eyes for the first time. Bags hung underneath each painted eye, and her frown told me I looked as bad as I felt. “I’m going home. My mom called.”
Samantha arched a brow. She knew the relationship between my mother and me was rocky.
“My dad is dying,” I choked out.
Samantha’s arms flew around me. “I’m so sorry, Sookie. Are you okay? God, that’s a stupid question. When are you leaving? Do you need me for anything?”
I relaxed into her arms. I couldn’t have asked for a better friend. When I moved from Arkansas to California, I was as lost as a damn goose trying to get around. But then I met Samantha in freshman calculus. She took me under her wing and, three weeks later, rented me the empty bedroom in her apartment. We’d been best friends ever since. “I’m leavin’ at two. I just need a ride to the airport.”
She nodded against the crown of my head. “I can do that. In the meantime, how about some pancakes?”
I pulled away. The thought of eating made my stomach turn but I couldn’t say no to that hopeful face. “Pancakes sound nice.”
Fifteen minutes later, after I called the diner and told them I had to take some time off, we sat at our small kitchen table eating buttery pancakes.
“How long are you going to be gone?” she asked. She’d taken off her makeup and looked like an actual person now. Her high cheekbones and full lips were bare, and she’d never looked prettier. She was one of those girls who didn’t have to try to be gorgeous—she just was.
I shrugged, pushing the pancakes around on my plate. “They said he has a month. So I guess I’ll be gone a month.”
Sam’s frown deepened. “Sweetheart, I’m so sorry. So, so sorry. I can’t believe this is happening to you.” She kept her eyes on mine and I could see she wanted to ask something else.
“Go ahead and ask.”
The corner of her lip rose into a small smile. “I know you have to go, of course, but wasn’t there a reason you hadn’t gone back in the first place? I mean, you never really told me why you didn’t want to go home.”
More pain assaulted my chest, and it took everything in me not to burst into tears. I hated feeling so weak and helpless, but the memories were dancing at the corners of my vision, taunting me.
And all because of him. Because I’d fallen in love with a person that unlovable. Heartless. That’s the only reason I could think of why he would leave me. Alone. He’d been my anchor for an entire year. I’d spent a year in the woods, each night letting him hold me in that deserted treehouse of his.
Until one day—he vanished. Not literally, but emotionally. All those memories, stories, kisses—his touch. Those eyes. Everything had vanished from my life without as much as a goodbye. And as many times as I’d lain there, waiting for him to come back, he never did.
“It’s a long boring story, Sam. You don’t want to hear it.”


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Thursday, November 26, 2015

Snowed In and Snuggled Up blitz & Giveaway!


Snowed In and Snuggled Up Holiday Novella Collection
Calisa Fox, Erin Quinn, 

Mary Leo
Publication date: October 29th 2015
Genres: Adult, Contemporary, Romance

Curl up with the Snowed In and Snuggled Up Holiday Novella Collection from New York Times bestselling author Erin Quinn, award-winning and Amazon bestselling author Calista Fox, and USA Today bestselling author Mary Leo.
Book One: A Little Bit of Sugar by Erin Quinn
Book Two: A Dash of Spice by Calisa Fox
Book Three: And Everything Nice by Mary Leo

A Little Bit of Sugar by Erin Quinn
For JT Winchester, Plymouth Rock, Colorado has always represented a cage he couldn’t wait to escape – and he jumped at the chance to do just that. Yet he’s never forgotten the girl next door who’d captured his heart as a young man.
Madison Lane may be the girl next door, but she lives her life the way she wants. Yet something is missing, and no amount of pretending it’s anything other than JT Winchester has ever worked. Now, JT is back in town for Thanksgiving and Madison is reunited with the man who once set her heart and body aflame.
They’ve both changed, but one thing has stayed the same—they can’t resist one another. Once JT and Madison are snowed in together, the magic of Plymouth Rock could change their lives. 
A Dash of Spice by Calista Fox
After a lifetime of preparing to be the next NHL great, Scout is returning early to Plymouth Rock, Colorado as a hometown hero. Now an ex-athlete, Scout has broken family fences to mend, job offers to consider…and a raven-haired beauty from his past who deserves the ultimate decision from him.
Ciara has learned how to make the best of every disastrous situation, but deep down, there are past pains she hides from everyone… except for Scout. When they’re suddenly reunited for the Thanksgiving holiday and are snowed in at Win Creek Cabin, Ciara realizes the time has come to stop running. To stop hiding. To snuggle up with the only man she’s ever loved and face her demons while he faces his—and hope they both come out unscathed. 
And Everything Nice by Mary Leo
All Hamilton Winchester ever wanted was Gaby Venti, but Gaby Venti never wanted to be tied down to any man . . . especially a man from Plymouth Rock, Colorado, the hometown she left behind. But when she finds herself snowed in by a force of nature, she quickly learns that Hamilton Winchester isn’t just ‘any man,’ and Plymouth Rock means more to her than simply the ‘town she left behind.’

ON SALE FOR $0.99 UNTIL DEC 1st!

Buy links:







Author Bio: 
Mary Leo:
USA Today bestselling author Mary Leo writes contemporary romance, whimsical romance, romantic suspense, and mystery. She loves to travel for research while she’s writing a book, or for that matter, even when she’s not writing a book . . . which always leads to yet another book. Go to www.maryleo.com for more information or follow Mary on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/maryleoauthour 
Calisa Fox:
Calista is a former PR professional, now writing fast-paced, steamy books to set your pulse racing! Her publishing houses include St. Martin’s Press, Grand Central Publishing and Harlequin. Visit her at: www.calistafox.com, www.facebook.com/calistafox, and www.twitter.com/calistafoxbooks. 
Erin Quinn:
NYT and USA Today Bestselling author Erin Quinn writes dark paranormal romance for the thinking reader and fun, rompy contemporary romance for the woman who likes to have fun. Her books have been called “riveting,” “brilliantly plotted” and “beautifully written” and have won, placed or showed in numerous awards. Go to www.erinquinnbooks.com for more information.

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A Summer With Snow blitz, Excerpt & Giveaway!

A Summer With Snow
Hallie Swanson
(Frosted Seasons, #1)
Publication date: November 24th 2015
Genres: Adult, Romance

It was the summer of 2005, probably the most memorable summer of my life. I was twelve years old, six weeks we spent together, forty two days, in that time our friendship grew, and then without warning he upped and left. I always hoped he’d come back to us, I couldn’t let go of his memory. He became my first, my only teenage crush. Every day he was in my mind, and every night he was in my dreams. Ten years on this man is still my secret obsession no matter how many men I’ve met and dated, nobody ever measured up. Even today, all I can think about is the summer of 2005, the summer I spent with Snow.



EXCERPT:

“Darcy, lift your arms above your head,” he says, standing directly before me.
His tanned physique is to die for. Steam wafts up from his broad chest. There’s a slight gap between us, yet he feels so warm. Standing here like this is everything I’ve ever pictured in my dreams; every sensation, every ounce of feeling rushes through the core of my body. The tips of his fingers take the edge of my T-shirt, and holding onto the cotton material they slowly glide up past my waist, past my breasts, and with my arms raised, past my fingers. I glance down as he drops my top onto the bed. Encased by his arms, he unclips the fastenings of my bra. I sense his chest has cooled as he leans his bare flesh against my breasts. I lower my eyes, expecting him to lift me onto the bed, and I’ve no desire to fight him. He rests his cheek against mine, and I flinch as his stubble rubs against my face. His lips part as they press against my ear, and I tilt my head ever so slightly so that they can move down to my neck.
“You shower, Darcy; I left the water running.”
His fingers, his lips slip away and he walks to the far side of the bed, still rubbing at his hair. Is he acting like the perfect gentleman or, after the way I’ve acted, is he just too scared to make the first move? As I look over his body the thought of him inside me is making me wet. I blush, feeling embarrassed at my own thoughts. What’s happening to you, Darcy?
Filled with frustration, I saunter into a bathroom of wall-to-wall mirrors. I step out of my trousers and my black lace panties, and from the cold tiled floor into the shower. Blinded by steam, I lean my head back against the striking white wall tiles. I blink, screwing up my eyes as they are hit by jets of hot water. Taking the lathered soap from its porcelain dish, I rub it between my palms, touching my face, my arms. I begin circling my hands over my skin, trying to wash my frustration away; on reaching my breasts I circle my nipples … they are hard against my fingers. Still covered in soap and water, my hands dip down to my waist and on between my legs; slowly I begin to rub myself. I take his advice and pretend that’s it’s not me here, but someone else. Losing myself in my head, I feel I’m also losing my inhibitions.
“Snow!” I cry out. “Can you come here?”


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Wednesday, November 25, 2015

One Tempting Proposal Tour, Excerpt & Giveaway!

One Tempting Proposal
An Accidental Heirs Novel
Christy Carlyle

Genre: Historical Romance

Publisher: Avon Impulse

On-Sale: 11/17/2015 |
ISBN: 9780062428011

Becoming engaged? Simple. Resisting temptation? Impossible

Sebastian Fennick, the newest Duke of Wrexford, prefers the straightforwardness of mathematics to romantic nonsense. When he meets Lady Katherine Adderly at the first ball of the season, he finds her as alluring as she is disagreeable. His title may now require him to marry, but Sebastian can’t think of anyone less fit to be his wife, even if he can’t get her out of his mind.

After five seasons of snubbing suitors and making small talk, Lady Kitty has seen all the ton has to offer…and she’s not impressed. But when Kitty’s overbearing father demands she must marry before her beloved younger sister can, she proposes a plan to the handsome duke. Kitty’s schemes always seem to backfire, but she knows this one can’t go wrong. After all, she’s not the least bit tempted by Sebastian, is she?

HarperCollins    Amazon    BN


Add it On Goodreads

Excerpt



Chapter 2
Cambridgeshire, May, 1891

Slashing the air with a sword was doing nothing to improve Sebastian Fennick’s mood. As he thrust, the needle-thin foil bending and arching through the air and sending tingling reverberations along his hand, he glared across at his opponent, though he doubted she could see any better than he could from behind the tight mesh of her fencing mask.
His sister parried before offering a spot-on riposte of her own, her foil bowing in a perfect semicircle as she struck him.
“Are you making any sort of effort at all?”
Seb bit back the reply burning the tip of his tongue. Fencing was the least of his concerns. In the last month he’d learned of the death of a cousin he’d barely known and inherited the responsibility for one dukedom, three thousand acres of land, hundreds of tenants, twenty-eight staff members, one London residence, and a country house with so many rooms, he was still counting. He could find no competitive pleasure in wielding a lightweight foil when his mind brimmed with repairs, meetings, investments, and invitations to social events that spanned the rest of the calendar year.
And all of it was nothing to the bit of paper in his waistcoat pocket, separated by two layers of fabric from the scar on his chest, dual reminders of what a fool he’d been, how one woman’s lies nearly ended his life.
He wouldn’t open her letter. Instead, he’d take pleasure in burning the damn thing.
Never again. Never would he allow himself to be manipulated as he had been in the past. He had to put the past from his mind altogether.
Fencing wasn’t doing the trick. Give him a proper sword and let him dash it against a tree trunk. Better yet, give him a dragon to slay. That might do quite nicely, but this dance of lunges and feints only made his irritation bubble over.
Yet his sister didn’t deserve his ire, and he’d no wish to stifle her enthusiasm for the newest of her myriad interests.
“I fear fencing and I do not suit, Pippa.” As she returned to en garde position, preparing for another strike, Seb hastened to add, “Nor shall we ever.”
Pippa sagged in disappointment when he reached up to remove his fencing mask. “I’d hoped you might find it invigorating. A pleasant challenge.”
In truth, his mathematical mind found the precision of the sport appealing, and the physical exertion was refreshing. But when he’d inherited the dukedom of Wrexford, Seb left his mathematics career at Cambridge behind. And weren’t there a dozen tasks he should be attending to rather than waving a flexible bit of steel about at his sister?
“Invigorating, yes. Challenging, absolutely. Pleasant? No.”
When he began removing his gloves and unbuttoning the fencing jacket Pippa insisted he purchase, she raised a hand to stop him.
“Wait. We must do this properly.” She approached and offered him her hand as if they were merely fellow sportsmen rather than siblings. “Politeness is an essential element of fencing.”
Seb cleared his throat, infused his baritone with gravitas, and shook his younger sister’s hand. “Well done, Miss Fennick.”
She’d tucked her fencing mask under her sword arm and met his gaze with eyes the same unique shade as their father’s. Along with her dark hair and whiskey brown eyes, Pippa had inherited their patriarch’s love for mathematics and sporting activity of every kind.
“Fine effort, Your Grace.” And father’s compassion too, apparently.
Pippa smiled at him, her disappointment well-hidden or forgotten, and Seb returned the expression. Then her words, the sound of his honorific at the end, settled in his mind. Your Grace. It still sounded odd to his ears.
Seb and his sister had been raised for academic pursuits, children of a mathematician father and a mother with as many accomplishments as her daughter now boasted. Formality, titles, rules—none of it came naturally. The title of Duke of Wrexford had passed to him, but it still rankled and itched, as ill-fitting as the imprisoning fencing mask he’d been relieved to remove.
As they exited the corner of the second ballroom Pippa had set out as her fencing strip, she turned one of her inquisitive glances on him.
“Perhaps you’d prefer boxing, like Grandfather.” Their grandfather had been as well known for his love of pugilism as his architectural designs, and had reputedly been one of Gentleman Jackson’s best pupils.
Taller and broader than many of his classmates, Seb had engaged in his own share of scuffles in youth, and he’d been tempted to settle a few gentlemanly disagreements with his fists, but he never enjoyed fighting with his body as much as sparring with his intellect. Reason. Logic. Those were the weapons a man should bring to a dispute.
“Unless you’re like Oliver and can’t abide the sight of blood.”
It seemed his sister still sparred. Standing on the threshold of Sebastian’s study, Oliver Treadwell lifted his hands, settled them on his hips, and heaved a frustrated sigh.
“I did consider medical school, Pip. I can bear the sight of blood better than most.” Ollie’s eyes widened as he scanned the two of them. “What in heaven’s name is that awful getup you two are wearing?”
Seb didn’t know if it was his lack of enthusiasm for fencing or Ollie’s jibe about their costumes that set her off, but the shock of seeing Pippa lift her foil, breaking a key point of protocol she’d been quite insistent upon—“Never lift a sword when your opponent is unmasked”—blunted the amusement of watching Ollie rear back like a frightened pony.
“Fencing costumes,” she explained through clenched teeth. “I tried instructing Sebastian, though he says the sport doesn’t suit him.” She hadn’t actually touched Ollie with the tip of her foil and quickly lowered it to her side, but the movement failed to ease the tension between them.
Turning back to Seb, she forced an even expression. “I’ll go up and change for luncheon.” She offered Ollie a curt nod as she passed him, her wide fencing skirt fluttering around her ankles. At the door, she grasped the frame and turned back. “And don’t call me Pip. No one calls me that anymore.”
“Goodness. When did she begin loathing me?” Ollie watched the doorway where Pippa exited as if she might reappear to answer his query. “Women are terribly inscrutable, aren’t they?”
Seb thought the entire matter disturbingly clear, but he suspected Pippa would deny her infatuation with Oliver as heatedly as Ollie would argue against the claim. They’d been friends since childhood, and Ollie had been an unofficial member of the Fennick family from the day he’d lost his parents at twelve years old. Seb wasn’t certain when Pippa began viewing Ollie less as a brotherly friend and more as a man worthy of her admiration.
As much as he loved him, Seb secretly prayed his sister’s interest in the young buck would wane. Treadwell had never been the steadiest of fellows, particularly when it came to matters of the heart, and Seb would never allow anyone to hurt Pippa.
“Welcome to Roxbury.” He practiced the words as he spoke them, hoping the oddness of playing host in another man’s home would eventually diminish.
“Thank you. It is grand, is it not? Had you ever visited before?”
“Once, as a young child. I expected it to be less imposing when I saw it again as a man.” It hadn’t been. Not a whit. Upon arriving thirty days prior, he’d stood on the threshold a moment with his mouth agape before taking a step inside.
Seb caught Ollie staring at the ceiling, an extraordinary web of plastered fan-vaulting meant to echo the design in the nave of an abbey the late duke had visited in Bath. Every aspect of Roxbury had been designed with care, and yet to match the whims of each successive duke and duchess. Somehow its hodgepodge of architectural styles blended into a harmonious and impressive whole.
“You mentioned an urgent matter. Trouble in London?” A few years older than his friend, Seb worried about Ollie with the same ever-present paternal concern he felt for his sister.
After trying his hand at philosophy, chemistry, and medicine, Ollie had decided to pursue law and currently studied at the Inner Temple with high hopes of being called to the bar and becoming a barrister within the year.
“No, all is well, but those words don’t begin to describe my bliss.”
Bowing his head, Sebastian closed his eyes a moment and drew in a long breath, expanding his chest as far as the confines of his fencing jacket would allow. It had to be a woman. Another woman. Seb had never known a man as eager to be enamored. Unfortunately, the mysteries of love couldn’t be bound within the elegance of a mathematical equation. If they could, Ollie’s equation would be a simple one. Woman plus beauty equals infatuation. If Ollie’s interest in this woman or that ever bloomed into constancy, Seb could rally a bit happiness for his friend.
Constancy. An image of black hair came to mind with a piercing pain above his brow. How could he advocate that Ollie learn constancy when his own stubborn heart brought him nothing but misery?
“Tell me about her.”
Ollie’s face lit with pleasure. “She’s an angel.”
The last had been “a goddess” and Seb mentally calculated where each designation might rank in the heavenly hierarchy.
“With golden hair and sapphire eyes …” Ollie’s loves were always described in the same terms one might use when speaking of a precious relic Mr. Petrie had dug up in Egypt, each of them carved in alabaster, gilded, and bejeweled.
“Slow down, Ollie. Let’s start with her name.”
“Hattie. Harriet, though she says she dislikes Harriet. I think it’s lovely. Isn’t it a beautiful name, really?”
Too preoccupied with unbuttoning himself from his fencing gear, Sebastian didn’t bother offering a response. Ollie rarely had any trouble rambling on without acknowledgment.
“She’s the daughter of a marquess. Clayborne. Perhaps you know him.”
Seb arched both brows and Ollie smiled. “Yes, I know. You’ve only been a duke for the space of a month. Don’t they introduce you to all of the other aristocrats straight away, then?”
A chuckle rumbled up in Seb’s chest, and for a moment the burdens that had piled up since the last duke’s passing slipped away. He laughed with Ollie as they had when they were simpler men, younger, less distracted with love or responsibilities. Seb felt lighter, and he held a smile so long his cheeks began to ache before the laughter ebbed and he addressed the serious matter of Oliver’s pursuit of a marquess’s daughter.
“I think the better question is whether you’ve met Harriet’s father. What are your intentions toward this young woman?”
Ollie ducked his chin and deflated into a chair. “Goodness, Bash, you sound a bit like you’re Hattie’s father.”
Only Ollie called him Bash, claiming he’d earned it for defending him in a fight with a particularly truculent classmate. The nickname reminded him of all their shared battles as children, but if Ollie thought its use would soften him or make him retreat, he was wrong. Ollie needed someone to challenge him, to curb his tendency to rush in without considering the consequences. If he lost interest in this young woman as he had with all the others, a breach-of-promise suit brought by a marquess could ruin Ollie’s burgeoning legal career.
“I intend to marry her.”
“May I ask how long you’ve been acquainted with the young lady?” Mercy, he did sound like a father. As the eldest, he’d always led the way, and with the loss of their parents, Seb had taken on a parental role with his sister too. Pippa might wish to marry one day, and it was his duty to ensure any prospective groom wasn’t a complete and utter reprobate.
“Not all of us fall in love with our childhood friend.” The barb had no doubt been meant to bring Seb’s past heartbreak to mind, but Seb thought of Pippa. Thankfully, she hadn’t heard Ollie’s declaration.
“Indeed. I would merely advise you to take more time and court Lord Clayborne’s daughter properly. Her father will expect no less.”
Even with a properly drawn-out courtship, a marquess would be unlikely to allow his daughter to marry a man who’d yet to become a barrister and may not succeed once he had.
“I must offer for her now. Soon. She’s coming out this season, and I couldn’t bear for another man to snatch her up.”
“You make her sound like a filly at market.”
“Will you come to London and meet her? I know you’ll approve of the match once you’ve met her.”
Seb had already given into the necessity of spending the season in London at Wrexford House. Pippa had no interest in anything in London aside from the Reading Room at the British Museum, but their aristocratic aunt, Lady Stamford, insisted he give his sister a proper coming out. She’d also reminded him that a new duke should meet and be met by others in their slice of society.
“You hardly need my approval, Ollie.”
“I need more than that.”
If he meant money, Seb could help. Cousin Geoffrey and his steward maintained the estate well over the years, investing wisely and spending with restraint. Sebastian had met with the estate’s steward once since arriving at Roxbury and emphasized his desire to match his predecessor’s good fiscal sense.
“We should discuss a settlement of some kind.”
Waving away Seb’s words, Ollie stood and strode to the window, looking out on one of Roxbury’s gardens, perfectly manicured and daubed with color by the first blooms of spring.
Oliver Treadwell had never been a hard man to read. Seb knew him to be intelligent, but he used none of his cleverness for artifice. A changeable man, Ollie blew hot and cold with his passions, but he expressed himself honestly. Now Seb sensed something more. Another emotion undercut the giddiness he’d expressed about his most recent heart’s desire.
His friend seemed to fall into contemplation of the scenery and Sebastian stood to approach, curious about what had drawn Ollie’s attention. The sound of Ollie’s voice stopped him short, the timbre strangely plaintive, almost childlike.
“She says her father won’t allow her to marry until her older sister does. Some strange rule he’s devised to make Harriet miserable.”
It sounded like an unreasonable expectation to Sebastian. At two and twenty, Pippa found contentment in pursuing her studies and political causes. She’d indicated no desire to take any man’s name. Never mind the way she looked at Oliver. If they had a younger sister, the girl might have a long wait to wed if some ridiculous rule required Pippa to do so first. Then again, not all women were as reticent to marry as Pippa.
“Does this elder sister have any prospects?”
Ollie’s whole body jolted at Seb’s question and he turned on him, smile wide, blue eyes glittering.
“She has more suitors than she can manage, but she’s not easily snared. I assure you she’s just as beautiful as Hattie, with golden hair …”
“Yes, yes. Eyes of emerald or sapphire or amethyst.”
Oliver tugged on his ear, a frown marring his enthusiastic expression. “Well, she is lovely. Truly. You should meet her.”
A sickening heaviness sank in his gut at the realization of Oliver’s real purpose for their urgent meeting.
“You’re very determined to convince me, Oliver.”
Ollie sighed wearily, a long gusty exhale, before sinking down into a chair again. “You only call me Oliver when you’re cross. Won’t you hear me out?”
Sebastian had a habit of counting. Assigning numbers to the objects and incidents in his life gave him a satisfying sense of order and control. Not quite as much satisfaction as conquering a maddening equation, but enough to make the incidents he couldn’t control—like the small matter of inheriting a title and a home large enough to house a hundred—more bearable.
He wished he’d counted how many times he’d heard those same words—“Won’t you hear me out?”—from Ollie. Whatever the number, it would certainly be high enough to warn him off listening to the man’s mad schemes again.
“All right, Ollie. Have it out then.”
“Do you never consider finding yourself a wife?”
“No.”
“You must.”
“Must I? Why? I have quite enough to occupy me.”
Ollie took on a pensive air and squinted his left eye. “The estate seems to be in good order, and you’ve given up your post at the university. Pippa has her own pursuits.” He glanced again at the high ceiling over their heads. “Won’t you be lonely in these grand, empty rooms, Bash?”
Sentiment? That was how Ollie meant to convince him? Seb had put away sentimentality ten years before, dividing off that part of himself so that he could move forward with the rest of his life. If its power still held any sway, he would have opened the letter in his waistcoat pocket the day it arrived.
“I will manage, Ollie.”
And how would a woman solve anything? In Seb’s experience, women either wreaked havoc on a man’s life, or filled it with noise and color and clever quips, like his mother and sister. Either option would allay loneliness, but he did not suffer from that affliction. Sentimental men were lonely. Not him. Even if he did live in a house with ceilings so tall his voice echoed when he chattered to himself.
He narrowed his eyes at Ollie, and his friend sat up in his chair, squared his shoulders, and tipped his chin to stare at Seb directly.
“She’s the eldest daughter of a marquess, Bash, and much more aware of the rules of etiquette among the wealthy and titled than you are.”
“Then we won’t have much in common.”
Ollie groaned. “She would be a fine partner, a formidable ally in this new life you’ve taken on.”
“No.”
Denial came easily, and he denounced Ollie’s mad implication that the two of them should marry sisters from the same family. But reason, that damnable voice in his head that sounded like his father, contradicted him.
At two and thirty, he’d reached an age for matrimony, and with inherited property and a title came the duty to produce an heir. No one wanted Roxbury and the Wrexford dukedom to pass to another distant cousin. If he had any doubts about his need for a wife, he was surrounded by women who’d happily remind him. His aunt, Lady Stamford, had sent a letter he’d found waiting for him the day he’d arrived at Roxbury suggesting that marriage was as much his duty as managing the estate. Pippa also dropped hints now and then that having a sister-in-law would be very nice indeed.
Ollie had yet to multiply the bride-taking encouragement, but he was making a fine effort at rectifying the oversight.
“Acquiring a dukedom is a vast undertaking.” Ollie stretched out his arms wide to emphasize the vastness of it all. “Why not have a lovely woman by your side in such an endeavor?”
“I didn’t acquire it, Oliver. It passed to me.” He loathed his habit of stating the obvious.
A lovely woman by his side. The notion brought a pang, equal parts stifled desire and memory-soaked dread. He’d imagined it once, making plans and envisioning the life he’d create with the woman he loved. But that was all sentiment and it had been smashed, its pieces left in the past. Now practicality dictated his choices. He spared emotion only for his family, for Pippa and Ollie.
Ollie watched him like a convicted man awaiting his sentence.
His friend’s practical argument held some appeal. A marquess’s daughter would know how to navigate the social whirl, and Seb liked the notion of not devoting all of his own energy to tackling that challenge. He might even find a moment to spare for mathematics, rather than having to forfeit his life’s work entirely to take on the duties of a dukedom.
And it would give Ollie a chance at happiness. Perhaps this younger daughter of Lord Clayborne’s would be the woman to inspire constancy in Ollie, and Seb might assist his friend to achieve the family and stability he’d lost in childhood.
Seb spoke on an exhaled sigh. “I suppose I do need a wife.” And there he went stating the obvious again.
Oliver turned into a ten-year-old boy before his eyes, as giddy as a pup. If the man had a tail, he’d be wagging it furiously. He jumped up and reached out to clasp Seb on the shoulder.
“Just meet Lady Katherine, Seb. See if you suit. That’s all I ask.” It wasn’t quite all he asked, but Seb had learned the futility of quibbling with a giddy Oliver.
A marquess’s daughter? Lady Katherine sounded like just the sort of woman a duke should seek to marry. Seb could contemplate marriage as a practical matter, but nothing more.
Would he ever feel more?
He hadn’t allowed himself an ounce of interest in a woman in ten years, not in a lush feminine figure, nor in a pair of fine eyes, not even in the heady mix of a woman’s unique scent under the notes of some floral essence.
“I think you’ll enjoy London during the season.” Ollie couldn’t manage sincerity when uttering the declaration. His mouth quivered and he blinked one eye as if he’d just caught an irritating bit of dust.
Seb doubted he’d enjoy London during the crush of the social season. As a Cambridge man raised in a modest home in the university’s shadow, he’d enjoyed occasional jaunts to London but had always been content to return to his studies. As he opened his mouth to say as much to Ollie, Pippa strode into the room and drew their attention to the doorway.
She’d changed into one of the day dresses their aunt insisted she choose for the upcoming season, though Pippa signaled her disdain for the flouncy yellow creation by swiping down the ruffles that kept popping up on her chest and around her shoulders.
“Luncheon is laid in the morning room. Are you joining us, Oliver?”
Ollie stared wide-eyed at Pippa a moment and then turned to Seb.
“We’re almost finished here,” Seb assured her. “Ollie and I will join you momentarily.”
She nodded but offered the still speechless Ollie a sharp glance before departing.
After a moment, Ollie found his voice. “I’ve never seen her so …”
“Irritated?”
“Feminine.”
Seb took a turn glaring at Ollie. The man had just been thrilled at the prospect of a match with Lady Harriet. He had no business noticing Pippa’s femininity, especially after failing to do so for over a dozen years.
“She chose a few new dresses.” Seb cleared his throat to draw Ollie’s attention.
“It’s odd,” Ollie said, his face still pinched in confusion. “I’ve known Pippa most of my life and never truly thought of her as a woman.”
His friend’s words put Seb’s mind at ease, but he suspected Pippa wouldn’t find them nearly as heartening.
“Ollie, let’s return to the matter at hand.”
“Yes, of course.” Ollie rubbed his hands together and grinned, the matter of Pippa quickly forgotten. “Will you come to the Clayborne ball and meet Lady Katherine?”
“I will.” Meeting the woman seemed a simple prospect. Practical. Reasonable. A perfectly logical decision in the circumstances.
“If you’re still planning on presenting Pippa this season, by all means, bring her along too,” Ollie added. “Why leave her to ramble this house alone?”
Pippa preferred to spend her days at Cambridge where she’d been studying mathematics for much of the previous year. Yet Seb felt the pull of his aunt’s assertion. His sister should have a London season, or at least spend some time among London society. He wished to open as many doors for Pippa as he could. Give her choices and options. If his title meant his sister might be more comfortably settled in life, all the better.
“She’s not convinced of the appeal of a London season.” Seb worried neither of them was equipped for it either. Gowns and finely tailored clothing aside, they didn’t possess the aristocratic polish others would expect of a duke and his sister.
Ever undaunted, Ollie grinned. “Then you must convince her.”
Seb lifted his gaze to the ceiling, following the tracery, lines in perfect symmetry, equidistant and equal in length, forming a perfect whole. The geometric beauty of the design melted a bit of the tension in his shoulders. Still, he doubted the propriety of allowing his sister to attend a ball when she’d not yet formally come out. And, most importantly, he feared Pippa was unprepared for the sort of attention she would encounter in London.
Pippa unprepared? She’d fence him into a corner for even entertaining the notion.
“Very well. We’ll both attend, but I make no promises regarding Lady Katherine.”


He’d accept the invitation in order to give Pippa her first glimpse of a proper London ball, meet this marquess’s daughter, and do what he could to assist Ollie’s cause. But marrying Lady Katherine was another matter entirely. He’d only ever intended to marry one woman and that had gone so spectacularly pear-shaped, he wasn’t certain he could bring himself to propose ever again.

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About the Author:

Fueled by Pacific Northwest coffee and inspired by multiple viewings of every British costume drama she can get her hands on, Christy Carlyle writes sensual historical romance set in the Victorian era. She loves heroes who struggle against all odds and heroines who are ahead of their time. A former teacher with a degree in history, she finds there’s nothing better than being able to combine her love of the past with a die-hard belief in happy endings.