As some of you know, I’ve long been a fan of all things cowboy, and the very first book I ever contracted as a pro writer was a short, historical western. I recently wrote my first ever contemporary cowboy tale, and will know in a couple of months if it’s been accepted for the collection it was written for. In the meantime, I recently went back to the historical side of the American West, the Barbary Coast in
to be precise... An unlikely pair of people is about to find love, and a whole
lot of passion, and I hope you’ll all enjoy a sneak peek at my first release
with Noble Romance in over three years. This was a whole lot of fun! The
contract is signed and the editor has the novella, so this is a rough draft
only. San Francisco
CHAMPAGNE AND CHOCOLATE
(an unedited excerpt)
Chantille watched Standish from her vantage point at the end of the bar. He was a handsome man, one she'd noticed on several occasions. As he stood, she took quick inventory of his appearance, chewing her bottom lip unconsciously as she absorbed the man's almost palpable presence.
At a height of over six feet, Austin Standish was a man not easily overlooked. He had sandy blond hair with a lock perpetually falling over his forehead. Under the shaggy blond hair were the most startling green eyes Chantille had ever seen. His face was a fascinating blend of angles and contours, the individual features not perfect, yet the overall combination completely arresting and pleasing to the appreciative eye. He was slender, yet there was an undeniable sense of strength and power in the long line of his body. Tonight, as on other nights, he'd chosen a suit of black, the inky shade contrasted sharply by the stark white of his shirt. The frills at his cuffs and along the front of the shirt could have lessened the impact of strong masculinity that emanated from him, but somehow, they only added to his imposing aura. His brocade waistcoat was in a shade of palest gray, adorned by a gold watch chain that disappeared in a pocket at his left. Silver trimmed boots finished the polished and cultured image, and Chantille wondered how he'd remained a free man for so long. She didn't doubt for an instant that the company of women was something he never lacked.
She straightened when he caught her gaze and began to walk in her direction. Deep inside, she began to quiver, and the awareness that he could shake her so intensely with no effort was both disconcerting and annoying. Yet…
smiled when he reached her side. "Would you do me the honor of joining me
for dinner?" Austin
"Thank you, no," she replied. "Have you come to collect your winnings, Mr. Standish?"
"If you can't be persuaded to grant me your company, then I'll have to settle for your money."
"You're far too charming to suffer loneliness," she countered. She walked away from the bar and led him into her office. She arched one eyebrow in subtle surprise when he closed the door behind them. "I assure you, Mr. Standish," she said, tone cool, "money is all you will be collecting in this office."
"Are you certain I can't change your mind about dinner?"
"Not entirely," she conceded with a smile that wanted to become laughter.
"Ahh," he whispered. "Hope at last."
"Hope has a way of disappearing just when you're learning to count on it, Mr. Standish."
"But the times it doesn't are so sweet it makes the disappointments bearable, Miss L'Amour."
"Right you are, sir," she agreed with a thoughtful smile. She made a decision then, a reckless choice that she didn't take time to consider. "Perhaps I could persuade you to dine with me in my suite?"
"It's never a good idea to offer a man paradise if your plan is to shut the gates before he has a chance to come inside, Miss L'Amour."
It was a veiled warning, but a warning just the same. This man was not one to be toyed with or played for a fool. She was drawn a little more deeply into his presence, in spite of herself.
"And you think I'm offering you paradise, Mr. Standish?"
"I'm fairly certain of it, yes," he murmured, voice low and compelling.
She smiled and went past him to the safe that was in her office. She collected his money and brought it to him.
"Your winnings, Mr.—"
she corrected. Austin
He took a double-eagle from the pocket of his waistcoat and held it between his index and middle fingers. With a quick grin, he slipped it into the valley between her breasts, caressing silken skin for the briefest instant before drawing his hand back. The flicker in her dark eyes made his smile deepen.
"You take liberties with great ease," she whispered, her voice husky and exotic.
"Before the night's over, I plan to take a great many more," he assured her.
"Perhaps I'll be the one to take liberties tonight, Mr. Standish."
"I'd be delighted to put myself in your hands, Miss L'Amour."
She smiled. "Would you wait here for a few moments? I have to speak to my maid."
He settled in an armchair near the fire and contemplated his current run of luck. He intended to take full advantage of the rare chance to be close to the remarkable woman who owned The Palace. He'd been waiting longer for her than he'd ever waited for any other woman. The scent of her lingered in the air, and he inhaled deeply, intoxicated by the combined fragrances of wildflowers and Chantille's unique essence. Her style was imprinted on the very air, as well as the impeccable surroundings. The uncluttered elegance told him a great deal about her, that she was educated, cultured, and fiercely independent. What he couldn't discern was her choice of occupation, it was very much at odds with what he sensed was her background. The faint lilt of the South in her speech was his only clue that perhaps she had escaped the poverty that was the bane of so many families since the war. Her return moments later brought him into the present, and he rose from his chair, laughing inwardly at his eagerness to be with her.
* * * * *
In the meantime, if you’re in the mood for a little ménage heat, you can choose from four of my current best-sellers ON SALE now! New Dawning Book Fair has cut the price of our ten newest releases by 30 to 50% through May 12th. In addition all titles have been cut 30 % with the use of a coupon code Bookfair 30 at checkout. I have FOUR titles on the Best-seller list to the right of the main page covers - STOLEN RAPTURE, STRANDED!, HUNTERS' GAME, and my Cinderella tale GLASS SLIPPERS AND JEWELED MASQUES - all are ON SALE now. Drop in and check out all great books!!