Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Who Says You Can't Go Home?

Once upon a time, there was a small town in Washington State that was founded by three men after World War II.  Friendship, betrayal, love and loss formed what is currently known as Eagle's Ridge.

Fast forward to present day...

Fall in love with seven sexy and irresistible soldiers who find their courage and heart tested like never before in the battle for love! This multi-author collaborative series of contemporary romance novels is brought to you by bestselling authors Barbara Freethy, Roxanne St. Claire, Christie Ridgway, Lynn Raye Harris, Julia London, Cristin Harber and yours truly. You won't want to miss a single one!
Especially not the one that came out today!!  FORD is book seven and the series and is my contribution to the Seven Brides for Seven Soldiers series and I am totally smitten with him!  Actually, I'm kind of a little bit smitten with all of them, but Ford is my favorite for obvious reasons.  Lol!
 So Ford is reluctant to go home to Eagle's Ridge after his ten-year stint in the Navy as part of their construction battalion.  He's okay with a quick visit, but to come home to stay?  Not so much.  So when his beloved grandmother has a tree fall on her home in the midst of a storm and gets hurt in the process, how can he stay away?  Now he's back to oversee the repairs on the family ranch and is reconnecting with his friends and finds himself accidentally crawling into bed with Callie James.

Say what???

Here's an excerpt from FORD:



Looking around, he remembered how his grandmother had a thing for hiding spare keys in flowerpots and, sure enough, after feeling around in the three next to the front door, he found one. Within minutes, he was inside and closing the door behind him. The space was warmer than he imagined it would be, but it was also pitch black.
Cursing the lack of electricity, he carefully made his way across the room toward the small bedroom in the back. The space was tiny by any standards, but the main floor housed a one-room living room-kitchen combo, a bathroom and a bedroom. There was a small loft space upstairs that was also used for sleeping, but he had a feeling it had been primarily used for storage in recent years. The bedroom seemed like the safest place to go.
Inside, he silently prayed there were blankets on the bed and, reaching out blindly, he was able to confirm that there were.
“I’ve slept in worse conditions,” he quietly reminded himself as he kicked off his shoes and shrugged out of his jacket. With little concern, he dropped the garment on the floor and quickly did the same with his socks, shirt and jeans. In nothing more than his briefs, he slid beneath the blankets and sighed at how good it felt to be lying down.
His eyes were heavy, and he cleared his mind of the craziness of the day, the damage he’d just witnessed on the main house, and all of the work that lay ahead of him and forced himself to simply not think. Sleep wasn’t going to be a problem once his brain quieted down, and as he settled a little farther down under the blankets, he yawned and closed his eyes and felt himself smile as sleep began to claim him.
Tomorrow was another day, and no doubt, he was going to need his rest.
He could have been asleep for minutes or hours—but it was the scream that woke him up and had him jumping from the bed in near terror.
“Oh my God! Who are you? What are you doing here?”
The voice was female, but it was too dark and he had no idea who was speaking. His brain was foggy and it took a full minute for Ford to get his bearings.
“Um…what?”
On the other side of the room, he heard footsteps and things moving around, and the next thing he knew, something was poking him—hard—in the shoulder. “Hey! What the…?”
“I have a gun and I’m not afraid to use it!” the female voice said, but Ford heard the slight tremor there, and he was no idiot—it wasn’t a gun poking him. It was a bat.
“Look, um…I’m Ford Garrison,” he said, his own voice firm and commanding as he reached out and grabbed the bat from her hands. She shrieked at his actions but he wasn’t going to be deterred. “This is my grandmother’s home and property and you’re trespassing. Now why don’t you just get your things and get going and we’ll forget all about this.”
That sounded logical, right?
“Ford?” she said weakly. “But…no. You’re lying. Ford wouldn’t be here right now.”
Seriously? “And how would you know that?” he demanded, growing tired of this conversation after less than a minute.
“Be…because Ford never comes home and Margaret is always talking about it. So…whoever you are, you need to leave because I’m calling the police,” she said, her voice a little steadier now.
And that’s when an idea hit him – his phone was in the pocket of his jeans. Slowly, silently, he crouched down and fished it out and turned it on, illuminating the room a little. When the light hit his would-be assailant, he stiffened.
Long, tousled honey-blonde hair, big blue eyes…damn. He tilted the phone and took in her flannel pajama pants and ribbed tank top and…double damn. When his gaze hit her face again, Ford noticed the flash of annoyance there. That’s when he opted to put the focus on himself so she could see he was who he claimed to be. Her soft gasp told him she recognized him.
If only he could say the same of her…
“Okay,” he said calmly. “I don’t know who you are or why you’re here, but…as you can see, I am Margaret’s grandson. I know it’s late but…you’ve got to go.”
She crossed her arms over her chest—which was a shame—and continued to glare at him. “I’m not going anywhere,” she said defiantly. “I’m renting this house from Margaret, so if anyone’s going to leave, it’s you.”
“You rent this place? Since when?” As he spoke, the light of the phone seemed to get her right in the eyes, because she instantly shielded them. And as much as he wanted answers, Ford was fairly certain he could get them without blinding her.
“For the last three months,” she said as she sat down on the corner of the bed. “No one mentioned you were coming to visit.”
“I hopped on a plane as soon as I heard about Grams’ accident,” he explained, wondering how they were being so calm when everything was so confusing. “And no one mentioned you were renting this place.” He paused. “Who are you?”
With a smile that was tinged with disappointment, she said, “Callie James.” When he didn’t react, she went on, “My mother used to come and clean for Margaret and Ben once a week when I was younger.” He still didn’t say anything, and her disappointment turned to annoyance. “You were about four years ahead of me but we went to school together…”
Blaming his befuddled mind on exhaustion, Ford did his best to rack his brain for what she was saying to him and then…
“Wait, you’re Ruthie’s daughter?”
She nodded. “Yup. That’s me,” she said, forcing a smile. “I spent a lot of time here when I was younger, and when I got the job teaching kindergarten at the elementary school, your grandmother offered me the guesthouse to live in.” She shrugged. “Saves time on the commute and all.”
Ford nodded. “I’ll be honest, I had no idea anyone was living out here. Grams didn’t mention it, and I just assumed I’d stay here while some of the work was being done on the house.”
“Looks like you need to have a Plan B.”

~~~~*~~~~*~~~~*~~~~*~~~~*~~~~*~~~~*~~~~*~~~~*~~~~*~~~~*~~~~*~~~~*~~~~

I'm a big fan of the trope where we have a reluctant hero returning to his home town and finding not only love, but himself, and that is totally Ford's story.  As I mentioned, there are seven books in the series and you really don't want to miss them.  You can check them all out here:  

GIVEAWAY!!!

BUY IT NOW:
Paperback:  http://amzn.to/2isBg65

And you can enter to win an iPad mini plus a signed paperback copy of MADE FOR US (Shaughnessy Brothers book one) here: http://www.barbarafreethy.com/promo/#start 

HAPPY READING!!!

Monday, December 11, 2017

I Need a Hero!

Politics got you down? Or maybe, looking up? Yeah, let's not talk politics. But one of my personal heroes was a past president. Who happens to be immortalized on Mount Rushmore. Can you guess?



It's Theodore Roosevelt. I've been a fan since fifth grade, when I wrote a report on him for Social Studies. I think we could use more Teddy Roosevelts.

Ironically for a man of action, he became president by chance. President McKinley was shot while giving a speech and it fell to Teddy, Vice-President, to step in. At the age of 42, Roosevelt remains the youngest man to take office (Kennedy, often thought to be youngest, was 44). What's so great about Theodore Roosevelt, you ask?

The Bullet Points:

A sickly, asthmatic child, he overcame his health problems by adopting a strenuous active lifestyle. Asthma? No thanks! I've got too much to accomplish. (I have asthma. No easy feat to overcome it).

He's often defined by his "robust masculinity." Swoon!


One of his main interests and a priority was preserving our lands in their natural state. We have Theodore Roosevelt to thank for the establishment of our National Parks system.

His mother and his wife died on the same day in the same house, his mother from typhoid fever and his wife from kidney disease just two days after giving birth to their daughter. In his devastation, he launched himself deeper into his work, exposing corruption in the New York City government.

He risked aggravating his supporters in the segregated south by inviting Booker T Washington to dinner at the White House.

Unhappy with his political party (Republican), he created his own Progressive Party (aka the Bull-Moose Party).

Ignoring friends who wanted him to stay in Washington, Roosevelt resigned from his post as Assistant Secretary of the Navy to form the First US Volunteer Cavalry Regiment, the Rough Riders. Colonel Roosevelt surrounded himself with Ivy Leaguers, gentlemen, frontiersmen, athletes, cowboys, miners, and Native Americans. His victories leading the Rough Riders led to his eventual Medal of Honor.

And so much more, but I can't go on all day. If you need to develop an alpha male hero who is rugged and athletic, and not afraid to take action and stand up for his beliefs and for others, look to Theodore Roosevelt. My final evidence? We think of Roosevelt like this.


But this is what he looked like as a young man. Hubba!


Not to mention he inspired the Teddy Bear.

Tell me about your personal heroes!


Wednesday, December 6, 2017

The Highwayman's Bite is out! Read the first chapter!




It's here! The Highwayman's Bite is HERE!
You can get it on
and Google Play!

This might be the last Scandals With Bite book in the series, we'll see. I had a lot of fun playing with the kidnapper-trope and seeing if I could bring anything new to it. Also, the legal situation with rogue vampires is so frustrating and a catch-22, that it reminds me of a lot of real laws in the world, lol.

Anyway, I am so excited about this one and I hope you all enjoy it!

Here's the first chapter!


Chapter One


Lancashire, England, 1825

Vivian Stratford peered out the carriage window and yawned, though sleep was impossible on this long journey. The full silver moon in the sky was so bright that the carriage lanterns were almost unnecessary. The rutted road to Blackpool was fully illuminated, a bright path to her impending isolation.
Vivian’s father had packed her off to her reclusive uncle, who would keep her locked away until the scandal died down.
Madame Renard, Vivian’s companion, made an indelicate snorting sound as she woke from her doze. “Have we arrived yet?”
Vivian shook her head. “No, but the moon is bright. Perhaps we can stop and have another lesson?”
Madame Renarde sighed and stroked her square jaw. “My joints are aching too badly for such rigorous exercise. Besides, it is not safe for women out in the dark.”
“We are in the middle of nowhere,” Vivian retorted a little sharper than intended. Immediately, she was contrite. “I am so sorry, Madame. I’m only weary of being trapped in this carriage. I want to stretch my legs and practice…”
Madame Renarde straightened her cap with a frown. “Your father told me to never allow you to touch a rapier again.”
Vivian had expected as much, but hearing the confirmation still felt like a thrust to the heart. “Did he find out about you teaching me?” Or worse, Madame’s bigger secret?
“No,” Madame Renard said quickly. “And I will not stop teaching you. I know that fencing is your passion. Without passion, people wilt like flowers. But we must be careful, and I think it would be wise to keep our steel sheathed for a time. At least until we learn your uncle’s habits, so we can discern a safe time and place to fence.”
Yes, that sounded like the wisest course of action. Especially since it was Vivian’s blade that landed her in this scandal-broth, which resulted in Father packing her off to her great-uncle’s estate. But Vivian was veritably rabid with the need to have her sword in her hand. Those blissful moments of thrusts and parries, dancing on her feet with the ring of steel in her ears, were the only times she felt she had any control in her life.
The rest of the time, Vivian always had to submit to what someone else wanted of her. From her governess to her tutors, her dancing instructor, her father, and her suitors, she was always expected to comply, to play a part like a scripted actress that would end with her… what?
The unanswered question made her age-old panic slither over her like funeral crepe. While Vivian was aware that she was supposed to marry a suitable man with a good title and preferably a substantial income and bear him heirs, she couldn’t stop from wondering, what else would there be? In all the stories of fair ladies and princesses, they ended when the heroine married her dashing hero. Why couldn’t Vivian be more like a hero? Have adventures and defeat monsters just as Beowulf and Odysseus did in her favorite stories.
Her governess had told her such thoughts were unnatural. Her father only squinted and frowned. Most other ladies her age either shunned or mocked her for wanting more than landing a good match, even going so far as to say that with her small dowry and plain looks, she should be grateful for any match. In the face of such censure, Vivian learned to be silent about her unconventional thoughts and wordless sense of want for something more.
Only Madame Renarde understood Vivian’s inner turmoil when she’d been hired shortly before Vivian’s debut in Society three years ago.
“I know precisely what it is like to feel that the life Society expects of you is somehow wrong in a way that you cannot quite identify. Yet the notion haunts you like a shade.” Madame Renarde once told her.
The paid companion had only been at Father’s estate for two months before she’d come upon Vivian late at night out in the garden. Vivian had broken down in helpless tears without even knowing why. The French matron had pulled Vivian into her arms and coaxed the story out of her as Vivian rested her head on the companion’s surprisingly broad shoulder.
“That is it, exactly,” Vivian had said, wiping her eyes. “I only wish I knew what it was that I want.”
“It will come to you.” Madame Renarde stroked her hair. “Until you do, I advise that you find a hobby that gives you pleasure. Such can clear your mind and allow your deeper needs to come forth.”
“I do have hobbies.” Vivian had lifted her head from her companion’s shoulder, slightly embarrassed that she’d been caught in such an emotional state. “I read, dance, and study various languages.”
“Yes, and your dance steps are quite deft.” The companion’s gaze had turned speculative. “Wait here.”
Vivian had sat on the marble bench, listening to the wind whispering through the leaves of the trees and rosebushes, her curiosity stretching the minutes to seem like hours. When Madame Renarde returned, Vivian blinked in astonishment to see two thin swords gleaming in the moonlight.
“You’ve brought rapiers?” she’d asked, wondering if she was dreaming. Vivian had never seen a woman with a sword, much less two.
“Would you like to learn how to fence?” Madame Renarde tossed one of the blades toward Vivian. The rapier streamed through the air in a gleaming arc and stabbed the grass beside Vivian like a javelin. She stared the quivering metal, fascinated by its delicate, deadly beauty. Slowly, she’d reached down and gripped the pommel, pulling the blade from the ground. A primal desire flowed through her being. The sword represented power. She wanted it.
“Yes,” she’d whispered.
Madame Renarde executed a salute that was both elegant and theatric. “First you will learn the stances.”
They’d trained almost every day. And sometimes, Madame Renarde would disguise Vivian and take her to witness fencing matches. Vivian longed to compete, but as a female, she’d never be permitted.
Madame Renarde was a master fencer, astonishingly quick and nimble for a woman in her forties. Vivian asked her how and where she learned, but it was two years before the woman trusted her enough with that story. And months more before she learned of her companion’s ultimate secret.
A secret that her father must never uncover, or Vivian would lose her closest friend forever.
The memories cut off when the carriage jerked to a halt, throwing Vivian against the cushions, and making poor Madame Renarde fall to the floor. The horses shrieked and made the conveyance lurch again before a man’s voice boomed, “Stand and deliver!”
“A highwayman,” Vivian whispered, her pulse in her throat. She’d heard tales from her father of the times when the thieves ran rampant through England’s country roads. But these days, highwaymen were rare.
Madame Renarde recovered first. She reached under the seat and withdrew her rapier, quick as the fox that was her namesake. Then she leapt up from her seat, positioning herself in front of Vivian.
When the carriage door was flung open, Renarde thrust her blade forward. Vivian heard a hiss of pain before a man came into view. The large slouch hat that he wore cast most of his face in shadow, but she could see an exquisite sculpted chin, mischievously arched lips—and the barrel of the pistol he pointed at them.
Madame Renarde sent the pistol flying out of the highwayman’s grasp. Vivian expected him to flee right then and there, but instead, he brought his own blade to meet Madame Renarde’s sword with a speed that made Vivian gasp.
The ring of steel was piercing in the closed space of the carriage.
The highwayman laughed. “I had not expected such a diverting encounter. You are quite good for an old man. I don’t know why you hamper yourself with skirts.”
Both Madame Renarde and Vivian sucked in sharp breaths. How did he know?
Madame Renarde had fooled everyone they’d encountered, including Vivian herself for several months. The shocking observation took the companion off guard, and her sword went clattering to the carriage floor.
“Don’t you hurt her!” Vivian shouted and dove forward to meet the highwayman’s blade with her own.
He moved back, visibly startled by her attack. Vivian continued to lunge, attacking him with fury of a magnitude that she’d never experienced. The highwayman deflected her blade with lazy parries, yet he continued to retreat.
Triumph swelled in Vivian’s breast… until her feet touched the packed dirt road outside the carriage. He’d lured her out here so that he’d have more room to regain his offense. Sure enough, the highwayman danced at her and brought his arm across in a Coup d'arrĂȘt attack. But it was a feint, she should have seen that. She barely got her blade back up in time.
“I see that you are a student of that Molly in the carriage,” the highwayman said with a grin. His white teeth flashed in the moonlight. Something seemed off about those teeth, but she didn’t have time to ponder it.
He moved into reposte, a counter attack that rivaled hers in speed and precision.
She matched his attack with the requisite parries, naming them in her head. Tierce… quinte… septime.
As they danced, and their rapiers clashed, Vivian realized two things. The first was that she could tell that he was holding himself back. He’d disarmed Madame Renarde with little effort, and yet Vivian was still holding strong. Yes, she was faster on her feet than the older woman, but Madame Renarde was quicker and more well-versed with her blade. Madame Renarde was a master who’d trained under someone even more impressive, yet this highwayman before her was equal, if not superior to her companion’s skill. He moved beautifully, and Vivian could see that he was capable of more. She should be insulted that he was letting her continue the match. If not for her second realization.
She was enjoying herself.
As ludicrous as it was, her being outside in the middle of the English countryside in the cool September night, crossing swords with a highwayman bent on robbing her, should have been terrifying. Yet her blood sang in her veins, her face flushed with pleasant heat, and her heart pounded in exhilaration as they moved together, more exciting than any waltz.
“Flawless passa-sotto,” he murmured as she dropped her hand to the soft grass and lowered her body to avoid his blade.
His praise warmed her all over. At last, a man appreciated her swordplay rather than scorning it. Vivian shook her head. Had she gone daffy? Why should she care what this thief thought of her? Furious that he was able to wreak such havoc on her emotions, Vivian redoubled her attack.
The highwayman grinned as if he read her thoughts. “I’m afraid I must cut this diversion short.” In an executed move, he knocked the sword from her hand. “Out of respect for your defense of the Molly and the skill that he taught you, I will not rob your odd companion.” Before Vivian could breathe a sigh of relief, he stepped forward and seized her arms. “But I cannot depart empty-handed.”
He snatched the jeweled comb that held her hair neatly atop her head.
“How dare you!” she said as her brown tresses tumbled about her shoulders. “Give that back!”
“I have to take something.” The highwayman chuckled. “I wager that fancy locket between those lovely breasts would fetch an even better price.”
Vivian reared back, clutching the locket that had been her mother’s and her grandmother’s before her. The locket that held her mother’s miniature. Desperation flooded her heart. “Please don’t take it.”
“I’ll let you keep the trinket,” the highwayman said, his gloved fingers lightly caressing the bare flesh of her upper arms. Gooseflesh rose up on her limbs, but surely it was only the chill night air. “In exchange for a kiss.”
“I beg your pardon?” she whispered as her heart hammered against her ribs. She’d been kissed twice in her two Seasons and only one had been welcome. But she’d never had a man ask her for a kiss. Much less a highwayman who’d already taken her comb.
“A kiss from a beauty such as yourself to warm me in this cold, lonely night.” The highwayman tilted his hat and favored her with a rakish grin. “That is the price I demand. That, or your locket.”
Heat flooded Vivian’s cheeks as she studied him. His eyes glittered in the moonlight, but the shadow of his hat made it impossible to discern their color. From what she could see of his nose, it was straight and pleasing. Her eyes traveled back down to his firm, masculine jaw, and the sharp curves of his lips. Her mouth went dry as she whispered, “Very well.”
She rose up on her toes and lifted her chin to meet him. In time with her move, he lowered his head. Their lips pressed together like the meeting of their swords. His hands slid down to clasp her waist and she reached up to loop her arms about his neck. He deepened the kiss like a CoulĂ©, sliding his lips over hers in a testing exploration as he’d done with his blade.
Vivian moaned and opened her mouth further, submitting to him even as she reveled in the taste of him and the forbidden sensations he wrought. This was no chaste peck on the lips like she’d received from an awkward suitor. This was passion made flesh.
Suddenly, he released her with a ragged gasp. “With kisses like that, I’d soon beggar myself. I will depart before I am tempted to ask for more.” He saluted her with his sword. “Thank you for the diverting match and your sweet kiss. I will dream of you.”
With a rakish tip of his hat, he disappeared into the shadows.

The Lord Meets His Lady OR "What happens when a recovering bad boy meets a recovering bad girl?" by Gina Conkle






Sparks are sure to fly when a recovering scoundrel of a second son meets a woman of ill-repute. 

Lord Marcus Bowles rides north to cool his heels. Banished to his mother's childhood cottage, he must stay scandal-free until his older brother finds a wealthy bride. One winter ought to be enough.

But every cottage needs a housekeeper. It shouldn't be a problem that his new domestic is pretty, sports high hems, and low necklines. Or that said housekeeper travels under a false name. Miss Genevieve Abbott Turner is good at things like...

Fixing mechanisms better than a man
Putting to rights a run down cottage
Quick with saucy quips
And putting a man in his place

His unusual housekeeper has a soft spot for horses in need, is on the hunt for her grandmother, and has a talent for illicit kisses.

She keeps Lord Marcus on his toes—good thing because he needs to be ready when a man from Genevieve's past hunts her down. 

Is she a thief?
A criminal on the run?

The challenge is on...Lord Marcus must save the only woman to steal his heart.







What do the critics have to say?







Here's an excerpt:


Lord Bowles angled his face toward her, the corner of his mouth visible over his collar. “I haven’t properly introduced you to Khan, have I?”
            “I don’t know, milord. Horses, they frighten me.”
            “Weren’t you the one holding the lead horse’s bridle at Devil’s Causeway?”
            “Out of necessity… to help the coachman.”
            “Exactly.” His eyes glittered with challenge. “You had the courage to leave your old life, bravely traveling alone to find a grandmother you’ve never met. And you’re afraid of a horse?”
            “One kicked me when I was a little girl.”
            “An unfortunate thing, but you survived. Don’t judge all horses by the one. Come,” he coaxed, extending his hand.
            Taking gingered steps, she put her hand in his. Khan’s ears twitched. The four-legged creature had to sense her fear. His long-lashed eyes watched her watching him, and she knew. Silly as it sounded, befriending Khan opened a door to knowing Lord Bowles.
She offered the horse her other hand. Nostrils flaring, his head dipped. A velvety muzzle rubbed her palm. Whiskered lips tickled her skin and she couldn’t help but smile.
            “He thinks you’re going to feed him an apple,” Lord Bowles murmured.
            Inklings of the old fright thawed. This was new territory being friendly with a creature larger and different than her. “I’m better with mechanisms than people or animals.”
            “You’re doing fine.” Lord Bowles inched closer, his pressure warm at her side. “Go ahead. Touch him.”
His quiet words sent a quiver across her backside. “I’m not sure where to start.”
“Here.” He raised their joined hands. “Behind his ear. He loves it.”
Gloved-fingers twined with her hand. Her palm grazed fine hairs behind Khan’s ear, the sensations filling her. Leather and softness. Darkness and candlelight.
Did the master of Pallinsburn have a tender spot?
“If you want to get on his good side, feed him apples and scratch here.”
Rain cascaded from the heavens, pounding the barn. Coat buttons pressed her spine. Her breathing found a rhythm with Lord Bowles, steady and deep. Peaceful and calm.
“Do the same things work for you?”
“A dangerous question.” His voice vibrated against her hood. “Are you sure you want the answer?”
Shutting her eyes, she leaned back. Time could’ve stopped. His strength was a warm blanket, tender and reassuring. The escape north, the hunt for her grandmother…her choices, even choices for the better, wore her down. This new life meant pushing against the grain of old habits and finding a new way to live.
            Couldn’t she give in to carnal wants at least once? Who would know? She missed sex.
Khan chortled. Eyes opening, her head tipped forward. Lord Bowles slid his hand down Khan’s neck, along the horse’s ribs, widening the gap between them. She stood alone, her body cooling at the loss. The storm pelted the roof but inside air stirred thickly. The master of Pallinsburn had to feel it, yet he carried on unfolding the blanket.
Heat radiated from Khan. The steed was truly magnificent. A black mane, charcoal muzzle, and four black stockings offset his silver-grey coat.
“He’s not as big as Mr. Beckworth’s horse,” she said, petting Khan’s neck.
“Big doesn’t mean better.”
“You’re telling me size doesn’t matter?”
“Large and hulking can be…ineffective, clumsy.”
Her petting hand slowed. “Or powerful.”
He walked behind her, rustling her clothes and whispering, “If you need a basic plow job, yes.”
Her skin pebbled. She’d known her share of flirts and rough sorts, but only Lord Bowles could touch her with words. Her gaze followed him around Khan as he fixed the blanket.
“Must be I need more riding experience,” she said archly.
Hazel eyes sparked beneath a black cocked hat. “You need a superior riding experience. Agile is more responsive…better and long lasting in my humble opinion.”
“And all this time I thought fast horses tired quickly.”
His raspy chuckle tickled her. A pleasant thrum bounced between them. “You haven’t found the right horse.”
She laughed. Skin flushed and nerves charged she didn’t want their conversation to end.
            “Khan is beautiful but his legs are thin as spindles.”
            “Shhh,” Lord Bowles put a finger across his lips. “He’s quite proud of his legs.”
            “As if horses have such a thing as pride.”
He unlatched the stall. “Oh they do, Khan especially. He’s descended from the Godolphin Arabian, the finest bloodline. Believe me, he knows it.” He slapped the horse’s rump and Khan walked into the stall. “This old boy needs his rest. He’s had a long, hard day.”
            Her legs stretched back a step or two until her bottom bumped the post. “Long and hard for you too, I imagine.”
“Part of it.” 
Lord Bowles shut the gate, keeping his hand on the top slat. Wind howled outside. Khan drank from a trough. Life went on, yet a curtain could have fallen between them. Khan was a pleasant distraction as was their veiled discussion of horses and riders.
            “Why did you go to Learmouth, milord?”
            The black hat shaded his eyes and for a moment, she didn’t think he’d answer. He didn’t have to.
“I needed a good, fast ride.”
            “Fast horses and fast women,” she mocked, slipping both hands behind her back. “The way Mr. Beckworth said it I guessed you were seeking a woman for sexual favors.”
            “Would it matter?” he asked quietly.
            The cavernous barn expanded everything. The thrum under her skin. Noises of Khan settling in. Water dripping behind her. Rain hammering overhead. Who was she but another cog in all the goings on?
“It’s not my concern.”
            “It isn’t.” He sauntered off the stall. “But I’ll admit, it gets lonely, me and my hand in the bath. Not as satisfying as a woman’s touch.”
            She stiffened. “Then I hope you got what you wanted.”
            His crudeness didn’t shock her. She’d heard worse. Being near him tonight wasn’t the same as watching him go off with an actress two years past. What he did came at a cost, a cost she couldn’t explain yet the sting was deep. She turned to go, but Lord Bowles closed the distance.
            “Wait.” He grabbed her arm. “Don’t you want to know what happened?”








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Gina Conkle writes lush Viking romance and sensual Georgian romance. Her books offer a fresh, addictive spin on the genre, with the witty banter and sexual tension that readers crave. She grew up in southern California and despite all that sunshine, Gina loves books over beaches and stone castles over sand castles. Now she lives in Michigan with her favorite alpha male, Brian, and their two sons where she occasionally gardens and cooks.


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