Thursday, December 27, 2018

New Excerpt from Secrets, Lies and Sins, 

Book 2 in the Quest for the Shroud series. 

Many of you already know I am currently the caregiver from my 84 year-old mother. She fell in June and suffered quite a few injuries. She is getting better but it is a slow process. My writing progress has been slowed down greatly, but I am hopping to find more time to write now that the holidays are over. I'm currently working on the first draft (still) of Secrets, Lies and Sins, and am hoping to release it in May. Then I'll start working on the final book of The Decker Brothers Trilogy, Brody's Charm. I would very much like to release them both in 2019, but we'll see what happens. Those of you who read the Lords of Avalon series and Sinners Take All might remember Oliver Talbot, the Marquess of Braxton. He was a very bad rake, the worst sort really, but now he is a reforming rake in progress. This excerpt will give you a little insight into who Oliver really is. I hope you enjoy! 

“There you are, my dear son.” Iphigenia Talbot, the Marchioness of Braxton, smiled as she looked up from the latest scandal sheet to see her son leaning against the doorframe of her morning parlour. He was smiling. He smiled a lot lately. He seemed happier, and yes, healthier. There was color in his cheeks where before he’d been pale with deep, dark circles beneath his eyes. He walked or rode most mornings when he was at the Hall now. He made it to breakfast nearly every morning where he had slept until mid-afternoon for several years before.
“I see you’re reading the sheets. Anything I should know?”
“No. I’m happy to say the Marquess of B, who was so popular last year hasn’t graced the newssheets for some months now.
“That happens when you’re in your dotage.” Oliver shrugged. A lazy grin lit his features.
“You’re still in your prime, son. It’s different for men, you know, although they say the older a man gets the harder it is for him to…” Iphigenia gave her son a pointed look, “well, breed heirs.” Iphigenia laughed when her son scrunched up his face.
A smile tugged at the corners of his mouth. “I think I’ve a few years left for that. Yet, I have reached forty years. It doesn’t seem possible. I’m nearly too old for everything, aren’t I.” He caught sight of his reflection in the tall mirror above the pier table. I don’t feel old. The wide, white shock of hair that mingled with raven black as it fell across his forehead probably made him look older. The thing was he’d had the Talbot white streak since he was born, though it began widening considerably in his late twenties. It was something many Talbot’s inherited. His father had it. After Oliver, it skipped his two sisters, who’d married six and seven years ago, it skipped his sister, Ophelia. Yet Pru did inherit it, while her twin, Penelope, did not. His deceased twin, Teddy, had not inherited it either.
Oliver felt the same emptiness and pang of loss he always did when he thought of little Teddy. His twin had been older by six minutes, and was to be the heir. His mother told him that Teddy was smaller, had a weak heart, and had been a sickly child throughout his short life. Oliver remembered those many days of his youth that he spent with Teddy when he was ill. Oliver was forever trying to cheer him up. 
“Of course you’re not. Because if you were, what in heaven’s name would that mean for me.”
“Mama.” He bent to kiss her cheek. “You are in perfect health and look much younger than your years.” It was true that his mother flourished in the years since his father, Theodore Oliver Talbot, had passed. Iphigenia, free from her husband’s horrible temperament, had become one of the leading influences among the ton. She was bright, witty, and many sought her opinions.
Oliver’s father had not treated his mother well and never made a secret of his mistresses and assignations. He hadn’t made time for his children either. In fact, he’d written Teddy off after finding out he had a weak heart and had actually been relieved that his weakling son, as Theo often referred to Teddy, had the good grace to die and leave the healthy spare as the heir. Oliver had not liked his father before then, but he’d hated him after they lowered little Teddy in the ground.
“Tell my knees that. They ache like the devil when it rains and some days I’ve a difficult time on the stairs. I fear I might leave this Earth before I see you bring your heirs into the world. Provided you have any.” Iphigenia sniffed and gave Oliver a sideways glance.
“It doesn’t seem likely that I will, does it?” He chuckled at the glare his mother sent him. “But you’ve grandchildren aplenty already, six, I believe, between Marianne and Eugenie. There’s Ophelia, who had a very successful season. I think by next year, that she’ll be ready to marry. More grandchildren are sure to come, Mama. There are the twins too.”
Iphigenia frowned. “We need a Talbot heir; else your cousin Percival will inherit Amberley Hall, the estate, and become the Marquess if something should happen to you.” The corners of her mouth turned upward when her son scowled. She patted his arm. “Well, I suppose you haven’t heard. Have you not been in the clubs lately?”
“Heard what?” He hadn’t frequented the clubs much these past few months. He tried to stay away from them actually. Besides, he kept quite busy helping Ruan at the Department of late.
“I was certain you’d heard. It’s said Lord Cranston has placed wagers in the betting books that he’ll take your sister to the altar by Michaelmas. That bounder showed up in Town last month, and has his sights on your sister. Word has it he’s deep in debt, so I know he’s only after her dowry. Ophelia, as you’ve no doubt heard her say, insists she will marry only for love, just as her elder sisters did. That is my wish for all of my daughters. I do not wish them to be tied to a man like…”
“Father.” For a time, he thought he might be growing more like his father, that perhaps he was doomed to be a mean, selfish man like his sire. After Cait married, he plunged into the darkness of sin and debauchery. He’d grown to hate the image looking back at him in the mirror during those years. No more. He was done with the drink and opium. Now he was determined to be a much better man than his father had been.
Iphigenia gave him a nod. “Cranston has called every afternoon for nearly two weeks. He turns her head with pretty poetry, romantic words, and flowers. He is always at the social events we attend, waiting for her like a vulture. It’s whispered he’s a cad, ruined a young woman in Wales last year, and he prowls in the lowest of places. Some of the foremost gossips say his last mistress suffered from the beating he gave her.”
“She will not marry Cranston.” Oliver scowled. He wagered he knew more of the sordid details about Nigel Howland, Lord Cranston, than his mother did, else she wasn’t saying. The rumors were he’d killed and maimed many prostitutes since he arrived in London two years ago after his fortunes changed. He was a third cousin of the Baron whose estate he inherited.
“That is how I feel as well. You will stop him from seeing your sister, won’t you?”
“Do not worry, Mama. Cranston will not see her after I speak with him. I will arrange it so that he will never get close to Ophelia again. I must send word to Ruan that I will meet with him a bit later than I planned. Did Cranston mention if he plans to call this afternoon?”
“It is his habit to arrive at two.”
“Alert Chester that when Cranston arrives, no one is to tell Ophelia. I will see him instead.”
Iphigenia let out a sigh of relief. “I knew I could count on you.”
“Of course you can. You will always be able to, Mama.”
“I know. You have grown into a wonderful man, Oliver. Better than your father could ever have been. I am so very proud of you.”
Oliver swallowed the lump that formed in his throat. “Thank you, Mama, however one could say that it doesn’t take much to be a better man than my sire.”
“You have far surpassed him, Oliver.”
“I must write that note. I have a few other things to tend to as well.”
“Go on, then. I’ve letters to write too.” Iphigenia waved a hand to shoo him from her parlour.
She set down her pen and met his gaze.
“When I return from Scotland, I shall earnestly look for a woman to wed.”
He immediately realized his weak moment, wanting to make his mother happy, was a mistake. The joyous, yet martial, gleam in her eye was enough to instill fear in him. He held up a warning finger. “I shall choose my own wife, Mama. No debutantes, I want a woman. Not a young, silly thing.”
Iphigenia opened her mouth to speak.
Oliver held up his hand. “You can make a list of recommendations, but I will woo and select my own wife, in my own way. Else I’ll not marry.”
Iphigenia let go an annoyed sigh. “Of course, son. I’d be happy to make recommendations for you.”
Oliver gave a stern nod before he turned and left her.
Iphigenia dipped her pen into the inkwell and smiled.
“Lady Annabelle Lamb.” She wrote the name. “She’s on the shelf, but only because of her shyness. She’s still young enough to bear children. Hmm, ah, Lady Jane Parham. Oh yes!” Iphigenia chuckled. “There are dozens of suitable ladies for him. Surely, he'll approve of one of them. Miss Joan Puckett, no title but from a fine old family…”
Oliver ran into Ophelia and the twins in the corridor of the family wing after giving his message to the butler. He was on his way to his chamber to change from his riding clothes. He needed to look every inch the powerful Marquess of Braxton when Cranston called.
“There you are, brother dear.” Ophelia smiled brightly.  
“And what, pray tell, do you want, sister mine?” Mirth danced in his blue eyes. 
Ophelia’s smile faded. “What makes you think I want something?” She arched a raven brow. Her peridot-colored eyes narrowed.
The twins giggled.
He flashed a wide grin. “Because I know you, Philly. All too well. Your use of an endearment was my first clue.”
Pru and Penny collapsed against one another in a fit of laughter.
“Just ask him, Philly.” Prudence, ever practical, dug her elbow into her older sister’s ribs.
“Ouch. Very well.” Ophelia lifted her chin. “I received a letter from Margaret Kinross this morning. Since her brother must convalesce this summer at Draoie Castle, Margaret and her mother will stay with him. You know that Margaret and I became very close this past season. She and her mother have invited me to spend the rest of the summer with them. Margaret mentioned you are away to Scotland soon. I would like to go with you. I’ve never been to Scotland, and I’ve always wanted to go. It might be my last chance. Please, Oliver, may I join you?”
Draoie? Ruan told him Damien had been wounded. His injuries must be serious if he had left the investigation and removed to Draoie to recuperate. Cait Kinross, who had married some elderly Scot whose name he couldn’t remember, was now widowed and resided somewhere close to Draoie. That much he did know. He could deliver Ophelia there, find Cait, ask her why in the hell she left London without a word to him three years ago, and then hied off to Scotland to marry a man three times her age. Once he knew the answer, whatever it might be, he’d have it, and would finally be free of not knowing.
At times, it felt as if some cruel spell still bound him to Cait. He hadn’t been able to rid her from his mind until this past year. He had relegated her to the darkest corners of his mind and ventured there only on occasion. Who am I trying to fool? Christ, he still dreamt about her at times. He’d decided months ago that it was only because he never knew, and still didn’t know the reason she had left him without explanation. He’d recently decided, after learning he was going to Scotland, that if he discovered the reason, he would be free of her. Then he could turn his attention to finding some sweet, pretty, and biddable young woman, who would be happy to spend her days at Amberley and give birth to his heir and maybe a spare, or two.
That would make his mother deliriously happy, and in turn, he’d be happy because he would be fulfilling his duty as Marquess of Braxton by taking a wife and filling the nursery with little Talbots. Yes, he’d love all his little Talbots, unlike his father, and he’d love them for himself and for poor, little Teddy who had known the whole of his short life that his father despised him.
He’d get Ophelia out of reach of the unacceptable Baron Cranston at the same time. He didn’t have to think about it. “How soon can you be packed?” His gaze rested on Ophelia.
“I can go?” Shock and surprise registered upon his sister’s face.
“I am fine with it. ‘Tis Mama you must convince.” He winked at her.
“Of course. I’ll find her right away.” Ophelia took off at a run, her skirts billowing behind her.
“She’s in her parlour.” Oliver called after her.
Ophelia was already flying down the stairs.
“How smooth you are, Olly. You and Mama have found the perfect way to get Philly away from that bounder, Cranston.” A smile turned up the corners of Pru’s mouth. She flipped an errant curl from her cheek.
“Philly has no idea she has been manipulated. She thinks she’s finally got her way.” Penny laughed. “It is good though, to get her away from that awful man. His poetry is horrid.” Penelope scrunched up her nose. “Eyes like new grass, hair as black as coal…who in the world would want their eyes compared to grass or their hair to dirty coal?”
Pru shrugged. “Certainly not me. I think Philly is in love with the idea of being in love, or someone loving her. She should pay closer attention then she’d see that Nigel meant nothing he said to her. One can just look at him and know he’s interested only in her dowry. He doesn’t look at her the way Oliver’s friend, Lord Ince, looked at Lady Anna this Christmas past. It was easy to see he was well and truly besotted.”
“Um. Still is, I daresay. The two of you are far too wise for your sixteen years.” He gave them a wink and kissed each one of them atop their head. “I’m relieved to know we’ll have none of this nonsense from either of you when you are old enough to catch husbands.”
The twins giggled.
“But you might have to fight a duel or two when I cold-cock the bounders if they get out of line. I have little patience for liars or ill-mannered men.” Pru lifted her balled fist in the air.
“The man who takes you for a wife, Pru, won’t know what he’s up against. I pity him already.” Oliver gave one of her curls a tug. “Stay out of trouble sisters mine, I’ve a meeting and must change.” Oliver flashed them a grin before turning to hurry toward his chamber. He did not want to miss Cranston. In fact, he was actually looking forward to the meeting. 
“See, Pen. I told you Oliver would fix everything. We’ll never see that insufferable Nigel again, I’ll wager.”
 “Hurry, Pru. Let’s go see if Philly has convinced Mother. You never know, maybe we can go too. Scotland would be interesting, I’m certain of it.” Penny tugged on her sister’s arm.
Pru sniffed. “No, we must stay with Mama. She would be quite lonely if all of us leave her at once. Besides, Ophelia needs to go somewhere on her own. She is three and twenty. Perhaps next year, we can persuade Oliver to take us to Africa. I’d like to see lions and zebras.”
“I was thinking America would be nice, but you’re right. We’ll stay with Mama this summer and convince Oliver to take us somewhere exiting next year. He’ll owe us since he is taking Philly to Scotland,” Penelope said in her matter-of-fact tone.
The twins grinned at one another.

Monday, February 13, 2017

I am currently working on Liam's Spell, Book 2 of the Decker Brothers Trilogy, and also working on Secrets, Lies & Sins, Book 2 of the Quest for the Shroud series, when I have extra time.

Since it's been a while since I've posted anything, I am posting an excerpt from each one.

Excerpt from Liam’s Spell – Coming Soon!
“Hey Jade, I’m going to run next door for some lunch. Do you want anything?”
“No, I’m fine. Brody brought us lunch earlier. Go ahead.”
Conner’s Coffee CafĂ© was next door to the White Magic. Erin grabbed her bag and left the shop.
And there was Liam, sitting on the white bench outside the shop.
He stood. “Going to Connor’s?” He fell in beside her.
“Yes. I have a break.”
“I know. I looked at your book. I’ll join you.”
“Okay.” Erin managed a smile.
Liam was always a gentleman. He opened the door, ushered her in.
“Liam and Erin!” Connor greeted them when they reached the counter. “What’ll you have?”
They ordered their meals.
“Unsweetened tea for you, Erin?”
She nodded.
“I know what the big guy wants to drink.”
“That’s a no brainer, Dr. Pepper.” Liam laughed.
“Go sit down. The lunch rush is over. I’ll bring your tray to you when it’s ready.”
“Thanks, Connor.” Erin flashed him a smile.
Liam grimaced slightly as he sat.
“Is your leg hurting?” Erin asked with concern. Liam’s leg was left mangled on his last tour in Afghanistan. He never wore shorts, always jeans – even in the high heat of summer like this hot, July day. She’d given him several massages, so she’d seen the damage. His leg was badly scarred from his injuries and burns. He’d almost lost the leg, but didn’t, though he’d had a very long recovery which was amplified by multiple surgeries. He still limped a little, and probably always would. He’d told her it was a small price to pay for keeping his leg.
“I had therapy this morning. It’s always sore afterward. It was my last session. I return to the doctor next week. I should get the go ahead to drive again.”
“That’s good. More independence for you.” She gave him a genuine smile. She knew how much he was looking forward to driving again.
“Yeah.” He nodded and smiled.
“Italian sub for the big guy and chicken salad for the lady.” Connor slid the tray onto the table.
“Thanks.” Erin smiled.
“Anytime, sweetie.” Connor headed back toward the counter when a mother and three kids walked in.
“Yes.” She returned her attention to Liam. Harper was right. The man was gorgeous. Short, black hair that was forever tousled, intense blue eyes, tall, muscled and lean - the finest body she’d ever seen. She shouldn’t have allowed herself to remember what that hard body felt like against hers while he was kissing her, but she couldn’t help it. She did.
“Why are you avoiding me?”
Liam was also direct. Erin chewed then swallowed the bite she’d just taken.
“I’m not-”
“You are,” he cut her off.
At first, she suspected this was it. They’d have an argument, his pride was wounded, his feelings hurt, and the result would be they would probably never speak to one another again - but to her surprise, it wasn’t anger she saw when she looked into those brilliant eyes. Was it tenderness? He continued to watch her. And yes, she felt guilty because she had been avoiding him.
“I’m sorry. I told you I don’t have good relationships, and that I didn’t want to do this.”
“Do what?
“This. Um, I’m not ready for a relationship.”
“Why aren’t you ready for a relationship?”
“Well, because my relationships don’t ever work.”
“How do you know this one, ours, won’t?”
Well he had her there. “I don’t. But I don’t want to hurt you, Liam. What we are doing right now as a team is too important. And like I told you, I don’t know how.”
“No one knows how. They just give it a try and see where it goes.”
“I must not be good at it, because I always mess things up.”
“Says who?”
“Says me and my last five boyfriends.”
“Hmm. They told you it was your fault it didn’t work?”
Erin sighed in frustration. “Do we have to talk about this?”
“Yes. We do.”
“Liam, it’s just…It’s just not a good time to try this. We need to be focused. I need to stay focused and I couldn’t if we, well, I need to keep my mind on this defeat the demon thing.” She looked at her watch. “And I have a client due-”
“In fifteen minutes. I looked at your appointment book, remember?” He smiled.
“I do.”
“Okay, we’ll talk about this later. Eat.”
“All right. Thanks.” Erin took another bite of her sandwich.
Liam spoke occasionally, just filling her in on some of their preparations. She would answer or comment.
After they finished, he walked her back toward White Magic. He stopped, reached out, and took her gently by the arm. “I need you to answer one question for me.”
“Okay, if I can.”
“You can. It’s not hard. My question is this: do you want to have a good, happy, healthy relationship? One that sticks.”
She rubbed her brow. “Of course. Doesn’t everyone?”
“It’s not that you’re not attracted to me, is it? Or you want a relationship, but just not with me.”
“No, Liam. It’s not that at all. You’re a wonderful man and I am attracted to you. It’s not you, it’s me.”
“Okay.” He shrugged and released her arm.
“It’s not you,” she whispered.
“All right. Let’s give it a try, you and me. We’ll take it slow.” He reached down, took her hand, and brought it to his lips. He stepped closer to her. She vaguely registered her back touching the wall. After his lips grazed over her knuckles, he turned her hand over and pressed a slow, warm, lingering kiss to her palm. Heat shot up her arm and she tingled all over. She saw tenderness and caring in the depths of his intense, blue eyes.
“Good.” He gave her a sexy smile as he studied her face. “We’ll take it slow.”
He released her hand, turned, and proceeded to walk toward the shop door.
Erin had to peel herself off the wall before her legs gave out and she slid down to the concrete. Her legs felt like jelly as she followed him. Of course, her eyes focused on the back of his jeans. She shouldn’t look there, but she couldn’t tear her gaze away. She had to admit he was gorgeous everywhere. The man did have great buns. She’d noticed that the first day he walked into the shop with the two other Decker brothers.
She didn’t remember actually telling Liam she would try a relationship with him, did she? Maybe she did. At the moment, she couldn’t think of one reason not to try. Still dazed, she muttered her thanks to him for holding the door open for her.
On the way to the massage room, she turned to look at him. He gave her a very sexy smile that did things to her. Wicked things. And it didn’t help her clear her head at all. Not one bit. She realized she was smiling when she turned toward her massage room.

Excerpt from Secrets, Lies and Sins, Coming late 2017
When their remaining enemies turned and rode away, Fin turned to regard Jamie. “Were you harmed, Lass?”
“Nay, but you were.” She reached for his arm.
“It’s just a scratch.” Fin pulled his arm away.
“It’s bleeding an awful lot for a scratch, Fin.”
“Might I remind you, Lady Jamesina, that I’m a grown man and can care take care of myself.”
He hadn’t realized that his voice was raised until he turned to see everyone looking at them.
He softened his tone. “I am fine, my Lady. Thank you.” He gave her a curt nod and left her standing alone.
Jamie sat to reload her pistols then joined the group of men.
“Are you ready, Lass?” Ian asked her.
She nodded and gave him a small smile.
Marrek had reloaded his pistols for him while Fin removed his neck cloth and fashioned a bandage around the graze on his arm. Fin thanked Marrek when he returned his pistols.
Arran handed him a flask of whisky. “Perhaps a wee dram will improve your mood.” Arran’s green eyes cut toward Lady Jamesina.
“My mood is fine. However, I’m quite sure I can do with a dram later. My thanks, Kildonan.”
“And where is it that Lady Jamesina and I should head?” Fin turned to ask Ian.
“Well now, you’ll have to ask her. She’s the guardian.” Ian seemed highly amused.
Fin turned to her. She held her head high and ,et his gaze. He guessed it was determination he saw in those golden eyes.
“We’re headed for one of my safe places. We can’t reach it by nightfall. We’ll have to stay the night at another MacEwen property,” Jamie informed him in a cool tone as she passed by him. She mounted her horse on her own and turned her head. “Are you coming, Lord Dunloy?”
“Aye.” It took him aback that she was now using his title instead of his given name.
Jamie didn’t wait, she urged that big beast of a devil she rode forward. Fin briskly walked toward his gelding.
“Then you’d best mount up in a hurry. We’ve a long journey ahead of us and I hope you’re not intending to lag behind the entire way.”
Fin let go a huff of irritation and mounted his horse. He paused to wave farewell to his friends then hurried after her. He heard deep baritone laughter behind him as he struggled to catch up to her. Damn Jamie MacEwen. She is the most infuriating woman. She had no right to treat him thus. It was she who’d lied to him all these years, after all.
He tried to tamp down his anger and forget about her. He failed. The anger simmered during the long, silent hours they rode toward God only knew where.
Darkness was nearly upon them when they passed by a small, quiet village just off the road.
“Mayhap we should take a room at the inn there, in the village,” Fin suggested. He was feeling quite weary of a sudden.
“Out of the question. We’ve not far to go. Another mile or so.”
“And where exactly are we going, lass?” Will there be a bed waiting for me?”
“Of course. ‘Tis a cottage.”
“Good.” That was heartening news. His stomach rumbled. “And will there be food at this cottage?”
“Aye, of course.” She muttered.
He was tired. Bone weary tired, which was unlike him. Then again, he hadn’t sat in a saddle for almost a full day without a rest in some time, and to be fair, he was still healing from the wounds he received several weeks ago. He was reminded he had a new one just this day when his arm began to throb. He’d never let her know he was struggling to keep up. Not on his life!
It was a small cottage she pointed out as they left the road and made their way down a path. It looked to be in good condition, and that was promising. He couldn’t help but notice how spry Jamie was as she slid from her mount. She walked to the door, turned her key in the lock, pushed the door open and returned to her horse. “There’s a lean to in the back. I’ll take the horses.”
He stifled a groan as he dismounted. His arse was mighty sore. And why did his legs feel so damned weak. “I’ll bring my horse. It will make faster work of it if we each take care of our own mounts.”
She gave him a nod and led the way behind the cottage.
It wasn’t until he had trouble lifting the saddle from the handsome black gelding he borrowed from Arran, and his arm felt like it was on fire that he realized there was something wrong. He dropped the saddle. Groaned and straightened.
And there was Jamie. She raised her hand to his brow. “You’ve a fever, Fin. Go in and sit. I’ll see to the horses. I’ll be in as quickly as I can to see to your wound.”
The man in him wanted to protest, but the part of him that felt so blasted weak and sick complied with a nod. He trudged around the small, compact structure and took himself into the house. He thought to sit in a chair at the table, but the bed in the anteroom beyond beckoned. The mattress looked fluffy. It was a MacEwen plaid that was thrown across it. He lay his head down upon one of the plump pillows and closed his eyes.
When he next opened them, there was a soft golden glow in the room. He saw a fire gleaming in the hearth in the large room beyond. Something smelled divine. A lamp on the table beside his bed had been lit.
Then Lady Jamesina entered, minus her hat. Her long, dark braid trailed over her shoulder. She was carrying a basin. He watched as she set it atop a table stacked with folded cloths on the other side of the bed.
“Good, you’re awake.” She drew the plaid away from him.
It was then he realized his chest was bare. The woman had undressed him while he slept? How could that be? He tried to lift himself up and couldn’t.
“Your wound has festered, Fin. It’s where the fever comes from. I cleaned it earlier and applied a poultice. Now I need to apply another.”
He grunted and gave her a nod. “What smells so good?” He scraped his hand over his face.
“A Stew. I made it yesterday, and left it in the cellar so we would have it if we needed it.”
“We need to compare the clues?” His eyes narrowed after he surveyed the room. “What have you done with my coat?”
“Damn it, Fin. I hung your coat on a peg in the other room to dry. I know you’re angry with me but I can’t believe you don’t trust me.”
“Well you’re certainly not the person I thought you were. You could have been lying about everything, how am I to know.”
“I never purposely lied to you. I just never revealed to you that I was a woman. Everything else I wrote in my letters was the truth. How I felt, what I believed. If you read them, you should know exactly who I am.”
Her words stung almost as much as the cleaning of the gash on his upper arm. “Ouch!”
She rose and walked to a cabinet. She returned with a bottle of whisky and a glass. She set them down, and poured him a generous amount and offered it to him.
“If you’re going to whine like a bairn, Fin, you need to drink this.”
“I’m not whining. I was complaining about the sharpness of your tongue as much as roughness of your ministrations.”
“Drink it or do without. I’m changing your poultice regardless.” She held the glass out to him again.
He struggled to sit up, but managed to do so without her assistance. He snatched the glass from her hand and drained it, then settled back down into the soft warmth of the bed.
“There. I’ve had my medicine. Do your worst.”
“Hmmph.” Jamie continued to clean the remnants of the old poultice off. She sponged the festering gash and then applied the new poultice.
“Fin?” she called when she finished.
“Aye?” Fin struggled to open his eyes.
“Could you eat a bit of stew? You need to keep up your strength.”
“Aye, I can. And could I have another wee dram, lass? For Scottish whisky, it tasted fairly good.”
“Aye. I’ll get it, and I’ll have you know ‘tis the best whisky to be had in Argyll.”
“MacEwen made, I suppose,” he mumbled.
“Of course.” She quirked a dark brow his way.
The venison stew was the best thing he’d ever tasted. It was humiliating that she’d had to help him sit up to eat it. That stung his pride. She made him drink a hot cup of rather bitter tea before she’d pour him a whisky.
“No wonder you’ve never married. That was the foulest tasting brew I’ve ever put in my mouth.”
“It’s not meant to taste good. It was made to fight your infection and help you to heal.” And put him to sleep and out of his misery and hers, God willing.
He insisted on another dram, she argued but eventually gave in after muttering something about if he had more whisky in him mayhap he’d go to sleep and quit complaining. She helped him lay down and pulled the plaid over him. Then he felt her hand, he’d noticed earlier that she had long-fingered, pretty hands, upon his brow. He could hear the soft lull of her voice as he slid into slumber.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

I am still working on revising and editing Sinners Take All (working title was A Bachelor No More) Book 1 of the new Quest for the Shroud Series. In the meantime, I'd like to post the teaser for Book 2 which will be titled Secrets, Lies and Sins.
You might remember Oliver Talbot, the Marquess of Braxton, from the Lords of Avalon Series. This is what happens when he runs into Caitriona Kinross, whom he hasn't seen in three years, Hope you enjoy!
Excerpt from
Secrets, Lies and Sins
Book 2 of the Quest for the Shroud Series
By K. R. Richards
Oliver Talbot, the Marquess of Braxton, remained out of sight on the shady side of the garden shed. If luck was with him this day, he’d catch his prey and if it wasn’t, he’d return to Castle Draoie angrier and more frustrated than he was already. Bloody, damned Scotland. He never should have come.
He sensed her presence before he could see her on the path. It was odd that he could still feel her nearness after three, long years, but he did.
He waited. One glimpse of that fiery auburn hair as she passed by him was enough proof. He lunged for her.
He took a step back when he saw the glint of her dagger as she whirled around to face him.
He flashed a wicked grin. “Hello, Cait. It’s been a long time.”
It seemed an eternity passed while he waited for her to speak. He had clearly surprised her. He found that unusual because she had been one of the best agents at the Department, once upon a time. And he had sensed her. The surprise in those green eyes vanished. That dangerous glint he knew so well now burned in those forest green eyes.
“It seems you’re a bit rusty, Red.”
“Maybe. You are fortunate that my knife is not rusty. It will make removing your ballocks that much easier.”
“Come now. I did nothing to warrant such punishment. I will remind you, it was you, Cait, who left me without a word while I was on a mission. You ran back to Scotland to get married without leaving a note or explanation. If anyone has the right to carve someone up, it would be me.”
“What do you want?”
“What I deserved three years ago. An explanation.” The usual brilliant blue of his eyes darkened to the intensity of a stormy sky.
“From what I’ve heard from London, you certainly didn’t pine away for me.”
“I must indeed be a legend if tales of my sexual exploits have made it all the way to Scotland,” his words dripped with sarcasm.
“I would use a word other than legend.” Cait took several steps back though she still held her dagger at the ready.
“I’ve learned a great deal about pleasure in these three years. I imagine I could teach you a thing or two. Perhaps you’d like to have a go?” He taunted her.
She tossed her head. “I’d rather slit my own throat.”
This conversation wasn’t going the way he planned. At all. Frustrated, he held out his hand. “Give me the damn dagger.”
He shook his head and brought his fingers up to rub his aching temple. “Damn it, Cait! I’m not going to hurt you. I just want to talk. Put the knife away.”
She seemed unsure. Her hand trembled slightly, but it did tremble. Oliver took advantage of her weakness in that moment and grabbed her wrist. He pried the dagger from her fingers with his other hand. He slid her weapon into his pocket.
“Leave me alone. I have my own life now. I’ll not have you pestering me.”
“Pestering?” He forced himself to control his rising anger.
“Madame, the only thing I want is what you owe me. An explanation.
“You don’t deserve one.” She turned and continued on the path.
“Yes. I. Do.” He reached out and took hold of her upper arm. “I did nothing to you. When I left London, we were lovers, when I returned from Vienna you were married to an old man in Scotland. I just want to know why. Why did I not even warrant an explanation? A letter? Something.
She tried to break away. She kicked him in the thigh, though she had been aiming higher. He held fast. With a vice grip on both of her arms, he pulled her against him. 
She kicked and scratched at him. They continued to struggle. She was still very strong but she was out of practice, and no doubt did not condition her body on a daily basis as she had before. He did, and was stronger. Finally, he pinned her arms at her sides. With a sweep of one long, muscled leg, he brought it behind one of hers and unbalanced her. They fell to the ground in a wrestling heap. He tried to keep her there. She tried to break free. 
Finally, he was on top of her, pinning her beneath him.
“Why?” He demanded.
 She shook her head. “My reasons are my own.”
Their heated gazes locked. Each of them struggled for breath.
She wasn’t as lean as he remembered. Oh, she was still tall and slender, but she was curvier, and softer - in all the right places.
And damn it all, he was aroused. He bit back a curse as he realized after all these years he still wanted her. The woman who had brought him to his knees.
She must have noticed. There was a flash of panic in those green eyes. “Let me go!”
“When you’ve given me an explanation, I’ll happily let you go, darling.”
“I will not.”
Cait inhaled sharply when she saw the flicker of pain in the brilliant blue of his eyes. She never guessed she hurt him. Perhaps she was imagining it. Surely, that had to be it. There had never been any talk of feelings, emotion, or permanency. 
She shook her head. “I can’t.” She wouldn’t. Couldn’t now. There was too much at stake.  
He watched her eyes grow misty. All the emotion he used to carry around for her in his heart reappeared. Ah, hell, he’d spent years trying to purge her from his soul. Whatever made him think he could? Now here he was, feeling things he didn’t want to feel. And wanting.
“Damn you, Cait!” He should let her go. Walk away. Forget her for good. He did think about it for a few seconds. He did try.
Instead, he kissed her.

Friday, January 22, 2016

New excerpt from A Bachelor No More

Here is a new excerpt from upcoming Book 1 of the Quest for the Shroud series, A Bachelor No More.

In this scene, Avalon Society Member and known rake, Lucien Saintmaur, aka Wyldhurst, deals with the prudish Miss Hazel Grimm.

“Are you quite certain we cannot make it?” Hazel asked again.
“Miss Grimm. We are in the midst of a torrential rain. The roads are nearly impassable at present and will only get worse. True, we are not far from Gryffestone, but had we continued onward, we might have well spent the rest of the night inside the carriage when the wheels became mired in the mud. We would be stuck and in a very precarious position if your attackers came upon us. This inn is our safest option,” Luc took her hand and helped her from the carriage. Actually, it was more like a quick jerk of the hand that led to the dragging of the irritating lady behind him. He quickly situated them inside the dry entry of the Badger Inn.
After requesting the largest set of rooms available, which unfortunately turned out to be only one room with a small parlour, he followed Miss Grimm up the narrow steps.
Maids scurried about the room before leaving them to their privacy. The food he had requested was laid out upon the table. A warm fire blazed in the hearth.
When he threw the bolt to bar the door, Miss Grimm nearly jumped from the chair she had taken near the fire.
Her grey-blue eyes grew wide with fear as she watched him. He was convinced the woman would jump at the sight of her own shadow. 
He sighed heavily. “Once again, Miss Grimm, I assure you, you are safe from me. I bolted the door to protect us, to keep harm out and for absolutely no other reason.”
What was it Damien had told him? Oh, yes. She was jittery around men. There was no doubt, she was. There must be a legitimate reason men frightened her. He decided that was none of his concern. Tomorrow morning he would deliver her to the Earl of Kinross who awaited her at Gryffestone, and be done with her.
“Yes, of course,” she expelled a relieved sigh. Her eyes darted around the room. Beyond an open door, she could make out one bed in the room. “There is only one bed?” Hazel regretted that her voice came out resembling a high-pitched squeak.
“You will sleep in the bed, Miss Grimm. I’ll keep watch here, in this chair,” Luc said as he plopped down in the only comfortable chair in the room. It wasn’t large enough for his tall, muscular frame, but it would have to do. He shrugged. At least the woman was talking now. She had remained silent for the last hour in the carriage after he admonished her for complaining non-stop.
“Eat,” he waved toward the cold collation on the table. He continued, “And get to bed. Hopefully the rain will cease and we can get an early start to Gryffestone on the morrow, eh?” A smile turned up the corners of his mouth when he noted the whiskey on the table beside him. He poured himself an ample dose of the dark, amber liquid. Whiskey, it was the very best thing about being in Scotland.
“You are imbibing in spirits?”
Again, she gave him that wild-eyed look then those same eyes narrowed into a stony, gray glare.
“Yes. I am indeed. It is a fine whiskey. Would you care for a dram, Miss Grimm? It will warm your bones.” He seriously doubted it would do much to loosen up a disagreeable spinster like her, though.   
“I wish you would not drink. Men lose their wits when they drink strong spirits,” she informed him in a derogatory tone.
Her tongue was bitter, true, but there was that haunted, fearful look in her eyes again. Yes, yes, whiskey made men lose their wits and breasts made them sin. She had lists of sins and he had heard them all since he first laid eyes on her earlier that morning. Little wonder Miss Grimm was a spinster, and shoved as far back on the shelf as a woman could get. He smiled at his own witty jest. What Miss Grimm needed was several shots of whiskey and a good, hard…tumble. The corner of his mouth lifted.
Hazel wondered why he smiled. He seemed amused. He had already demonstrated that he could be trusted. He saved her life after all. She would not have survived the assault he spared her from this day. Why then did she fear him? Was it those black slashing brows or his unreadable green eyes. Perhaps it was the sheer size of him. The man was tall with the broadest shoulders she had ever seen. His arms and legs were muscled; in fact, the man was nothing but muscle. She didn’t understand it. She felt uneasy and on guard around him every moment.    
She was still glaring at him. He grimaced. He was certainly not the man to give that woman a tumble. Although that riot of bright red hair fanned out upon a pillow might be a sight to see, he was not willing to go far enough to find out, thank you very much.
“Fine. I won’t drink,” Luc growled in irritation as he slammed the crystal glass upon the table. Yes, a day of Hazel Grimm’s company was more than enough. He rose and walked to the table. He perused the cold platter that had been left for them. He picked up a hunk of bread and took a bite. It was tasty, fresh even. With one physical need completely ruled out for the evening, for he would not be going there with her, he turned to fulfilling another. The food was fresh and flavored well despite it being cold.   
“You will come eat,” it was a polite command.
“I don’t think I could,” Hazel shook her head. Nervous butterflies fluttered in her stomach. Yes, that was it. He made her nervous. He watched her too closely. That was why she was uneasy in his company.
Did she frown all of the time? “Suit yourself,” he shrugged and threw a grape into the air, catching it with his open mouth. Quite amused by her snort of displeasure, he sat and entertained himself with some more tidbits upon the platter. A piece of beef, a nip of cheese. His entertaining game lasted all of five minutes, until he realized she was still staring at him wide-eyed. It unnerved him to the point he decided to do something about it.
“Miss Grimm, would you mind not staring at me? If you continue, I shall be forced to believe that you find me devilishly handsome and wish to be seduced this eve. Do you want to be seduced? Do you wish to let me have my way with you?” He pretended to begin to rise from the bench.
“Sorry, I – I,” she stammered as she hastily rose. “No! I will retire,” her voice was a desperate whisper, her cheeks flamed bright red, not far from the color of that glorious hair.
“Do not bolt the bedchamber door, Miss Grimm,” he barked. He smiled inwardly. He could be just as disagreeable to her as she had been to him the entire day.
“Why not?” She whipped around to face him.
He noted a flash of defiance in her eyes. Hmm? Interesting. He explained calmly, “If someone came in through your window, I could not prevent them from taking you.”
“Oh. I see.” Another blush “I will not bolt it then.”
“Suit yourself.”
He watched as she picked up both her bags and entered the bedchamber. She closed the door. He did not hear the bolt slide.
Hazel admonished herself. When he mentioned seduction, why had she felt…pleased? She never wanted to, well, she just could not. The sins of her past could not be erased. She could not think of marriage or that. Ever.
Why after all these years did she feel disappointed? She shook her head. She was being a complete ninny. It was the first time she had ever spent so much time in the company of a man not of her relation. And he was rather handsome. That must be why she was uneasy, timid, and felt quite out of place. Or what was she felt temptation? The kind that would lead her to sin. No! She would overcome such feelings and prevail.   
With a sigh of relief and a grin, Luc returned to the chair and his whiskey. He downed what remained in his glass then poured himself another. He lifted it toward the closed door and whispered, “Thank goodness there are warm, talkative, and willing women in the world who appreciate men, for Miss Hazel Grimm is certainly not one of them.” Pleased with himself, he let go a boisterous laugh.
It was too bad that Miss Grimm was such a sourpuss. Her fiery hair could indeed tempt a man. Those plump breasts, what little evidence he saw of them earlier, and when not flattened by that ridiculous binding she insisted upon wearing, could definitely fill a man’s hand. He found her gray eyes quite interesting when she wasn’t glaring at him, or when they grew wide with fear. He wondered for a moment, and only a moment, what desire would do to the silvery blue of her large eyes.
He sighed. Hazel Grimm was the worst kind of spinster, for she truly hated men. So he would think on her no more. It would be a complete waste of his time.