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Sunday, May 31, 2015

Sweet Adieu --

It was the March 31, 2012 edition of SweetnSexyDivas  in which I made my debut as one of the (sometimes) maybe sweeter Divas. Being assigned to the 31st of the month meant that I had only to prepare a piece a mere seven times a year. For the most part, I’ve greatly enjoyed this endeavor, especially as it allowed me to speak (mostly) about my favorite genre of reading material – the Regency novel.

I don’t happen to believe that Regency’s last name always has to be ‘Romance’ because sometimes it might be ‘Mystery’ or ‘Steampunk’ or ‘Historical’. Whatever, it was (and still is) the era itself – 1811-1820 – the Society, the people who lived then, and the expansion of multiple facets of the world at that time that grabbed me. Music changed drastically, as did the world of letters. The people who wandered on-stage during this time would have made an impression in any age, but these were truly stellar.

Jane Austen, Lord Byron, Mary Shelley and her husband Percy Bysshe Shelley, Napoleon, the Duke of Wellington, Beethoven, etc.

The first book I wrote was a Regency – Bertie’s Golden Treasure, which was published in June 2007 by Ellora’s Cave under it’s then Cerridwen wing and the Cotillion imprint. Even though the book had been written almost 20 years earlier, and later books had been published in the meantime, the thrill was no less, believe me. Bertie will go out of print for a while this summer – she’s entitled to a brief hiatus, I think.

Last year, Ellora’s Cave made the decision to disband the sweeter Blush (formerly Cerridwen) line in favor of concentrating on their erotic books. I certainly have no complaints about this – I was always treated very well by everyone on their staff. I’ve since published a few novellas on my own, and will most likely continue to do so.

But currently, my attention is being drawn to another type of writing – plays. Over the last few years, I’ve written three full-length plays (under my own name): Puccini: the Man and his Music was given a professional production by Opera Per Tutti, a small opera company based in Cleveland , which recently changed its name to Cleveland Opera Theater.  Our mutual production was about the operas of Giacomo Puccini, and it was a truly major thrill for me.

Some years earlier, More than Strangers was given a staged reading at Karamu Theater here in Cleveland, and in 2010, Not to be Alone was accorded the same privilege at the same theater. 

I am currently working on several other dramatic scripts, and my attention is being sorely divided by all these projects, therefore, with reluctance, I will retire my Diva tiara, and accord the privilege of being a Diva to someone else.  I owe volumes of thanks to Tina Donahue, who patiently guided me through the mysteries of Blogger each time.  Apologies are due also, to those whose day/date I stepped on at various times. And thank you to those wonderful folks who read and commented. Your words and thoughts were -- and are -- much appreciated!  You're always welcome to visit the blog of my alter-ego:  http://bookmechanic.wordpress.com/

Happy Writing and Happy Reading to all of you!       Hetty St. James  aka  Kelly Ferjutz 

Saturday, May 30, 2015

The End...and The Beginning

Sound backward? It isn't. With Moonwitched coming out in a couple months (August 11, 2015) it was time to think about things anew. There are 7 books in the Guardians of Light series:
1 - Duality (Dara & Loren)
2 - Hedda's Sword (Maleta & Cianan)
3 - Lycan Tides (Finora & Trystan)
4 - Dust of Dreams (Pryseis & Benilo)
5 - Riever's Heart (Verdeen & Aryk)
6 - God of Fyre Mountain (Maili & Dax)
7 - Moonwitched (Mari & Valkyn)
and that's the end of that series. Seven books is quite sufficient for establishing my world. They were fun and challenging to work with, with the underlying theme always being "Good Beats Evil." They overcame all challenges to triumph in the end and find love and their own happily ever afters. Their lives and missions intertwined to make their world a better place. And then they had kids.

So where do we go from here? With the kids, of course. So the next series is going to be Daughters of the Guardians. Right now I have 3 books planned for that one:
1 - Braeca (Finora's daughter from Lycan Tides)
2 - Piroshka (Tzigana's daughter from Riever's Heart)
3 - Elyria (Dara's daughter from Riever's Heart)

I find the Guardians a hard act to follow. What HASN'T been done? But in a way it's a good thing. Think about the dilemma all kids with great/famous/heroic parents must face - how do I measure up to THAT? How do I top THAT? It's a pressure I can tap in to, relate to. And something all my girls have in common. On one hand, they're out to be totally unique - NOTHING like their parents. But at the same time, they can't escape the legacy they've been born into. They can't help who/what they are. The values that have been instilled in them since birth. They've seen good and evil and have made a gut-choice for the path of good...BUT...

They're their own persons, with their own biases and prejudices and identities. They're bound & determined NOT to do what their parents want, but to explore what THEY want. We all had moments of teenage rebellion - imagine it compounded exponentially when the fate of the world is at stake. They want to do the right thing, but not be little mini-versions of their parents, or worse, a shadow or a puppet. They have to find their own way through the patterns of Light and Dark.

+ Braeca has to come to terms with her own manipulative selkie nature
+ Piroshka has to contend with the pressure of being a powerful witch cursed with a prophecy that says she's fated to murder a man
+ Elyria has to balance a fiery, wild dragon nature with the constraints of being a prim & proper royal elven princess

No one said life was easy - least of all for the daughters of legends.

It's going to be a challenge for me, and for them, but it's a challenge I relish. I look forward to watching them grow and develop into their own persons, meet "the man of their dreams" and take on life head-on. I want to watch their parents balance "protecting their baby" with acknowledging and taking pride in their newfound maturity...and accepting sons-in-law and...gasp!...grandparenthood.

Fiction imitates real life. Families grow and change. My Guardians have raised a good bunch - time to watch them spread their wings and fly! I hope y'all take the journey with us!

Thursday, May 28, 2015

12 SCORCHING Hot Cowboys for 99 cents!


Following up on the stunning success of Cowboy 12 Pack, your favorite Cowboy authors have returned with another 12 scorching stories featuring cowboys…who are also firefighters!

Check out the hotness in this collection featuring NTY and USA Today Bestselling authors coming August 4th!  

12 ALARM COWBOYS

AFTER THE FIRE by Cora Seton 
When a series of fires keeps bringing him to her door, a firefighter must uncover his ex-girlfriend’s secret or risk losing her forever. 

WHERE THERE'S SMOKE (A Cowboy Way Novella) by Becky McGraw 
Cowboy Austin McBride follows a herd to a new town, but firefighting is his passion, so he applies at a local station. Standing between him and the job is a blonde bombshell who thinks she's a shoe-in. 

SADDLES AND SOOT by Cynthia D’Alba 
Rancher and volunteer firefighter extinguishes a grass fire accidentally started by the town’s sexy temporary veterinarian but there’s something about her that ignites a fire inside of him. 

CONTROLLED BURN (Cowboys on the Edge, Book One) by Delilah Devlin 
Rancher and volunteer firefighter assigns himself to watch a reformed firebug during a controlled burn but she lights the fire inside him instead of the dead grass around them. 

HIS FIREFLY COWGIRL by Beth Williamson 
When an arson investigator returns to her hometown she clashes with the firefighter cowboy who broke her heart. Embers turn to sparks between a cowboy and his firefly cowgirl. 

HER VOLUNTEER COWBOY (Book 6: Harland County) by Donna Michaels 
Sparks reignite when one-nighters reunite. Can the firefighter/Guardsman convince the reforming bad girl she’s worth fighting for, or will she leave before he finds the courage to volunteer his heart? 

COWBOY'S MATCH by Lexi Post 
When a cowboy firefighter works a fire at a nudist resort, he’s sure his ex-girlfriend, the bookkeeper, is to blame. But as he investigates her, his gut tells him he’s going to get burned. 

HELLFIRE, TEXAS by Elle James 
A Cowboy-Volunteer Firefighter helps a runaway city girl put out a car fire only to find himself embroiled in a hot little mess of the mob persuasion. 

REKINDLED (Dallas Fire & Rescue, Book One) by Paige Tyler 
A hunky firefighter rescues his best friend’s sexy sister from a hotel fire set by her psychotic ex-boyfriend who’d rather see her dead than with another man. 

TEXAS WILDFIRE by Sable Hunter 
Honored VFD hero is no angel. In love with his Captain’s wife, all hell breaks loose when Titan learns Makenna is abused. The firestorm their love ignites is so intense no one will emerge unscathed. 

HOT IN THE SADDLE – Randi Alexander 
When a rancher/volunteer firefighter is injured saving the life of a female stockcar racer, she stays to pay her debt of gratitude. Will he regret risking his life when he learns why she came to Texas? 

COME HELL OR HIGH WATER—Sabrina York
When offered a second chance to seduce his high school crush, Cade Silver cannot resist. The conflagaration of passion stuns them both, but Lisa Binder has been burned before and resists falling for the sexy cowboy/fireman. Cade, however, is a determined man. He will win her heart, come hell or high water.


Read more about Come Hell or High Water by Sabrina York
Back in her hometown on the heels of a nasty divorce, Lisa Binder is looking for a quiet place to curl up and lick her wounds. The last thing she wants is a man—she’s been hurt too many times by the faithless breed. But then Cade Silver steps through the flames, into her life and into her bed, and she begins to question her resolve to spend the rest of her life as a single cat lady.  The tall, handsome cowboy/fireman—an Eagle Scout and military vet—seems to be the kind of man she’s always craved, and he seems to be fascinated with her as well. But can she trust him not to break her heart?
Cade has been a little in love with Lisa since high school, but when she started dating his much more charming and handsome brother, he was devastated. He left town and joined the Marines to avoid the torment of seeing the two of them together. Now, years later, he’s traveled the globe, survived multiple disasters and experienced loss. He is a man who knows what he wants and is willing to fight for it. And he wants Lisa. Now that life has given him a second chance to win her heart, he’s determined to prove to her he can be the hero she desires…come hell or high water.

Read an Excerpt

He found her later when she was in the kitchen making cupcakes for Claire. A part of her had expected him to come. Another part had hoped he would. Still, she jumped a little as his deep voice wafted through the kitchen. “Were you checking out my butt?”
Her heart thrummed and she whirled around, holding her stirring spoon before her like a weapon. As though that could protect her from his raw allure. “W-what?”
He prowled into the room and leaned on the countertop of the island, his biceps bunching. He had his shirt on, but only in as much as it was draped over his shoulder. The sight of the broad slabs of his chest, that sprinkling of golden hair trailing down to his belt buckle, captured her attention. She tried not to gape. Really she did. He was gorgeous. Simply gorgeous.
The kitchen was a large and airy room. Still, he seemed to fill it up, heat it up.
“Were you checking out my butt?” he repeated. “Out there, in the yard?” Oh, she loved the playful lilt of his smile. That and the hint of vulnerability in his eyes, as though he didn’t know. As though he weren’t sure.
“No.”
His smile dropped and her belly with it.
She hurried to add, “I was checking out your chest. I didn’t get to your butt yet.” She twirled a finger. “Turn around.”
He did, and he even waggled it for her, but he held her gaze. His glimmered.
It sent heat licking through her, heat that was probably too intense, at least for a guy she’d just met. Well, kind of just met. Really just met. She didn’t know much about him except he was damn hot, and a firefighter, and ex-military. And Cody’s brother. If he was like Cody, it probably wasn’t a good idea to encourage a flirtation with him—no matter how sexy she found him. In fact, it probably wasn’t a good idea to encourage anything with him—until she knew him a little better.
Still, she gusted a melodramatic sigh. “I knew it was a good idea to come and stay at the infamous Stud Ranch.”
He barked a laugh and then made a face. “None of that was my idea, by the way.”
“Hmm.” She gave the frosting a stir. “Let me guess…”
“Yup. Cody. But I gotta admit, it did save the ranch.” He leaned over and peered at her work. “What are you making?”
“Butterscotch cupcakes.”
His eyes lit up. “Seriously?”
She waggled the spoon at him. “For Claire.”
He watched her with puppy dog eyes as she spooned frosting into the bag and piped it on in a practiced swirl. “She’ll never know if you give one to me.”
“I’m pretty sure she will.”
His lip pooched out. God, it was a beautiful lip. She tried not to stare. “What kind of frosting is it?” he asked in a woebegone voice.
“Maple bacon.”
“That sounds…dangerous.”
She grinned and scooped some from the bowl with a finger. Without thinking she held it out. “Wanna taste?”
His eyes flared. Muscles bunched. He took her wrist in a warm cuff and leaned forward and, easing her finger into his mouth…he sucked.
Too late, she realized her mistake.
She should never have allowed this man to put his mouth on her. For as he drew her into that warm, velvet cavern, lapping and nibbling on her tender skin—long after the frosting was gone—she realized she was an idiot for thinking she could just be friends with him. She was an idiot for imagining for a moment that she could resist his allure.
He was far too desirable.
Their gazes locked. A tumult, a conflagration passed between them. Without loosening his hold on her, he came around the counter and pulled her into his arms. And then, he kissed her.

Get it now!

12-Alarm Cowboys Pre-Order Links:

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About Sabrina York
Her Royal Hotness, Sabrina York, is the New York Times and USA Today Bestselling author of hot, humorous stories for smart and sexy readers. Her titles range from sweet & snarky to scorching romance.  Connect with her on twitter @sabrina_york, on Facebook or on Pintrest. Check out Sabrina’s books and read an excerpt on Amazon or wherever e-books are sold. Visit her webpage at www.sabrinayork.com to check out her books, excerpts and contests. Free Teaser Book: http://sabrinayork.com/home-2/sabrina-yorks-teaser-book/ And don’t forget to enter to win the royal tiara!

Follow my Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/author/sabrinayork
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Wednesday, May 27, 2015

#Regency #romance with hunky #Waterloo heroes! 6 of them in THE INCOMPARABLES! #99cents 6.18.15

Attack of the Scots Greys at Waterloo, a famous charge
The Incomparables: 6 Heroes of Waterloo and the 6 Ladies They Adore!
This limited edition box set includes 6 scorching romances that commemorate the 200th anniversary of the June 18, 1815 Battle of Waterloo.

Royal Artillery Uniform
From the Duchess of Richmond’s ball in Brussels to the Battle of Waterloo and beyond, join these six unforgettable heroes as they journey back from the physical and emotional trials of war and discover the passion that thrills the body can also heal the heart. 

Coming June 18th from bestselling and award winning historical romance authors Cerise DeLand, Sabrina York, Suzi Love, Lynne Connolly, Suzanna Medeiros and Dominique Eastwick.

Preorder now: LINK COMING SOON
Our Blog: http://incomparablesclub.blogspot.com/
COVER REVEAL: SOON!!!
Read more about this steamy collection!

Interlude with a Baron by Cerise DeLand
Emma wants only an interlude with the man she’s adored for years. But Drayton Worth has spent five years riddled with guilt for hurting her—and he’s determined to have more than a few nights in her bed.

Add caption
Tarnished Honor by Sabrina York
Daniel Sinclair is a broken man with war wounds that are physical and spiritual. He’s weighed down by grief and guilt and tormented by his tarnished honor. When he meets Fia Lennox, a beautiful and brave Highland lass in dire need of his protection, he sees in her his chance for redemption…or utter damnation. Because despite his valiant attempts to resist her, he cannot.

Love After Waterloo by Suzi Love
When Lady Melton and her son join Captain Belling and the last wounded soldiers evacuating from Waterloo to London, she expects clashes with army deserters but doesn’t anticipate how falling in love with the antagonistic captain will change her life.

Dreaming of Waterloo by Lynne Connolly
Paul “Lucky” Sherstone daren’t even let his wife too close because of his headaches and the living nightmares he can’t dispel. Hetty hardly knows the man who comes back from war, but one thing she does know—she still wants him.

The Captain’s Heart by Suzanna Medeiros
A man who is determined to fulfill his duty at the expense of his own happiness, a woman who wants only one taste of true passion, and a case of mistaken identity. Can Captain Edward Hathaway and Grace Kent overcome the guilt that continues to haunt them both and find true love?

For Love or Revenge by Dominique Eastwick
Captain Roarke Wooldridge is about to find out that sometimes love does heal all wounds.But when his need for revenge collides with desires he never believed he would feel again, will he be able to put aside the scars of Waterloo to embrace his future?
 
READ MORE!
Interlude with a Baron
After Waterloo, Drayton Worth watched the woman he loved suffer because of his failures.
Riddled with guilt he strives to improve Emma Bedlow's dreadful existence, while cursing his never-ending desire for her. When he finally has the chance to convince her to share his life, she refuses. No man will control her ever again. She desires only an interlude with the charming baron. But Dray is determined to have much more.

Read an Excerpt!
  
Cerise DeLand

Find Cerise:
Follow her on Twitter: @cerisedeland
Goodreads: Cerise DeLand

INTERLUDE WITH A BARON by Cerise Deland, THE INCOMPARABLES, 6 heroes of Waterloo and the 6 Ladies They Adore by 6 Incomparable Regency Authors
Excerpt: All rights reserved.
"You're here at last." Dexter Elgin hailed him with a wave of his hand above the crowd. His former colleague in Wellington’s army in Spain wore his artillery uniform, though neither of them still served in ranks. "Spotted you by that mop of hair, Ginger."
Dray winced at the boyish reference to his red curls. "I'm glad to offer you speed and accuracy. Where’s Wellington?”
"In a meeting with the Dutch. You have news of your quarry?"
“Some.” Dray needed more absolute proof that Montroy was betraying them to the French. “I won’t ask for an audience until I learn more. I would say though that he’s here.”
Dex raised his dark brown brows. “What gall.”
“Indeed.” To spy on the British General Staff at their leisure was dastardly. But then, what else should they expect from a man who had turned coats so many times?
“I should not be shocked.”
“No,” Dray agreed. Dex knew of his mission. He’d been in the meeting with Wellington when the commander had ordered Dray to find proof of Montroy’s treachery or end the chase once and for all. “Where else would he prosper this evening?”
“Precisely. In the meantime, let’s get you a drink. You might even take up a set with a lady on the floor.”
Dray followed his friend through the crowd. He did love to dance. “Not tonight, I’m afraid.”
“What better way to get a full view of those present?”
Dray smirked. “You have a point. But I’ll have that drink first.”
The room was so crowded that working his way through the masses was a challenge. Worse, he covered his mouth as he coughed at the nauseating mix of tobacco and sweat, brandy and bad cologne.
"Lord Lansdowne! Oh, we are honored, sir." The companion to the elderly countess of Penn appeared at his side, looping her arm through his. In her cups as usual, Janet Berwyn tried to train her eyes in his and failed. "My Lady Penn has anticipated your arrival. So has the Duchess."
By this she meant the hostess of this ball, the illustrious Duchess of Richmond. But Dray knew this woman's real purpose was to waylay him and lure him to a corner if she could. She’d tried that before. Often.
Dray gave her a polite smile, the better to get away from her and on to his purpose. "Good evening, Lady Berwyn. You look lovely and so far from home, too.”
"Thank you, good sir. Always a gentleman." She tightened her fingers around his forearm.
Damn, she was a grasping creature. But then her actions were his fault. She had once been in his bed and wished never to leave it, but to tie him to her with vows and rings and her fortune in the bargain. Truth be told, he liked her enthusiasm in bed, but sadly, nowhere else. He patted her hand, then extricated her fingers from him. "I have business here, my lady. I must see the Duke."
She sighed, intemperate when she wanted attention from him. "Do you promise to attend me after you've done your duty?"
 "I cannot promise, but I will try." She deserved that from him. After all, she had taught him much about the needs and joys of a woman in the throes of passion.
"Very well," she said with a pretty pout. “Go if you must."
"Come, my lady," Dex coaxed her. "You know the value of our worth!"
Long an old joke among his friends in the Royal Artillery, Dray's last name lent power to his reputation as a man who had been decorated often for his bravery on the field and off. That he was effective in military maneuvers and business, he would have liked to have attributed to his doggedness and his analytical skills. He measured his own worth by his profits in chemicals and spices and by the good health and rising prosperity of the tenants on his estates.
His value in the Royal Artillery, however, was measured by his commanding officer, the newly minted Duke of Wellington. And that man would ask him tonight if he had caught the traitor in their midst. And if not, when would he?
“We have the little Corsican to defeat, Colonel.” Wellington had said to him two days ago, his impatience with the chase doubled. “Get on with it before our good Englishmen turn the dust of Belgium blood red.”
Now Dray had to prove his worth quickly—or return home with his comrades in arms, defeated by the French and despised ever more.
Dex handed him a glass of red wine and he took it, parched from riding north for the past two hours and attempting to stay well out of sight of Montroy.
"How many are here?" he asked Dex. "It is a crush."
"The Dutch general staff. Twenty or so. The Prussians, too. Another thirty.”
"The orchestra sounds good." Too bad tonight he was not in the mood to avail himself of the music. Dancing seemed too light-hearted for the dreariness of the task at hand. The irony, too. How many men had the duty to prove a man a traitor—and ruin the man’s innocent wife in the process?
"Supper will be served soon. I hear there’s beef and fowl."
“I’m ready.” Dray’s stomach rumbled. When had he eaten last? Breakfast was nothing but weak tea and an old army biscuit. "Where does the Duchess get her purveyors? Hell, we are scrambling to supply our troops. Many men are killing the local farmers' cows and pigs."
"They are objecting, too. Two dozen farmers came up from the south of the city today to complain to the old man about how the English and Scots requisition their animals."
Dray sighed. "The price of ousting Napoleon from their land is their animals to our service. Someday we’ll supply an army with their own food, but for now living off the land is our only means. Better yet, we’ll decide to fight no more wars."
Dex nodded. "May we see that day soon.”
Dray smiled at Dexter but froze at the vision in the far corner.
"What's wrong?"
Dray’s stomach turned, angry at what he saw. Anxious, he grew dismayed that the one woman he had ever cared for would be here in the midst of preparations for the biggest battle Europe had yet seen in thirty years. "Women. Does it not seem obscene that we have so many women here nights before we plan a slaughter?”
“I agree,” Dex said, downing another swig of his wine. “But you know we may need them to nurse the wounded. Others argue it improves morale."
"Does it? I doubt it." The dark-haired beauty he was focused on did not appear to be enjoying herself. In fact, she looked dismayed. Her unusual aquamarine eyes, so large, so expressive scanned the room and came to land on the empty wine glass in her hands. Her gown, a lustrous white column, swept down her slight form. She was a sad angel amid this sea of brightly colored magpies chattering to men in brassy regalia. Em, dear woman, why the hell are you a hundred miles from London? You should be by a fireside where it's warm and safe.
He stifled his urge to go to her. He had business. And she was too much a distraction. A young woman Emma’s age joined her and both smiled. Enjoying herself, she talked with her friend and leaned back to chuckle. He rejoiced with her. She’d known little laughter in her life. An only child, she’d grown up with a doting mother until the woman died when Emma was twelve. Her father had been a tyrant of the first order. Dray had the villainous evidence of that the day that man had refused Dray’s suit and ensured in a most heinous way that she marry a man with greater title and supposedly huge wealth.
“I say, Dray, it’s not good for you to wish for what you cannot have.” Dex frowned, well aware of the sad history between Dray and Miss Emma Bedlow.
Dray drained his glass and set it on a nearby tray. "Wellington. Lead me to him.”
Dray focused on his mission. Better to forget her, his step-brother Victor Cameron urged him often. “Lose yourself in other females. You’ll find one you can adore. I promise you." The paradox there was that Victor himself had never fallen in love with any woman, though one couldn't predict that from the vast numbers who had graced the Marquess Cameron's bed.
Dray felt a tug at his sleeve. As he turned, he heard Dex warn him not to stop and talk.
But there stood Emma before him. Her wide-set eyes pleading, her mouth so sensual that young bucks in London clubs had bet on how well she kissed. None of them knew. But Dray did—and she had responded to him like a woman in love.
Dex sighed. “I leave you alone.”
Emma drank him in with limpid eyes. “Good evening, Lord Lansdowne. Or should I address you as Colonel?”
He’d not seen her since last August in Paris after her marriage. Then she appeared at a court reception with her new bridegroom for the new Bourbon king. She was still the ebony-haired siren whose ripe red lips and rare blue eyes made every man stop dead in his tracks with lust. But she’d taken one look at Dray and become subdued, teary-eyed, a gorgeous creature laid low by her father’s shameful sale of her virtue and good name.
“Madame le Comtesse.” Dray bowed as much for etiquette as to hide his surprise and delight that she’d taken the risk to address him. He rose and dare not kiss her hand. To hold it was more than temptation to crush her close and run away with her. “You are ravishing this evening.”
“Am I?” she asked barely above a whisper.
“Always.”
“I do not feel lovely.”
“You shine above all others in the room, my dear lady.”
Her plush lips turned downward. “I live for your praise.”
Christ, if only I could give it to you every day. “You should have it often from your husband.”
“I’ll savor what I gain from you.”
Complimented, anguished, Dray dropped her hand.
She put it to her bosom. Her eyes danced over every detail of his face. “How are you?”
“Well.” Broken. Lonely. “Busy.”
“I came tonight hoping to see you.”
His breath died in his chest. Jesus. “Em, you must not say such things.”
“I must.” She took a step toward him and the distance between them was much too close to be proper.
A purple blotch above the line of her bodice distracted him. What was that?
She leaned closer. “Dray, listen to me. I have to tell you that I wish you to live. To live well. To please take care the next few days. If anything were to happen to you, I would—”
“Please, Madame.” He stepped backward. Propriety might foster some sanity. His mind awhirl with her sentiments, he focused on the bruise at the top of her breast. He would kill the man who’d done that. Rip him apart in tiny pieces for it.
“Dray, please.” She put her gloved hand atop his and squeezed. “You must live well and laugh and love. Do it, Dray. Do it for me.”
“Em, do not say this.”
“Why are you talking with this man?” A tall grey-haired man stepped to Emma’s side and wrenched her hand from Dray’s.
Dray’s gaze bored into the crystal blue glass of his adversary’s eyes. “Take your hand from her wrist.”
The man snorted. “As if you have the right to tell me how to treat my wife.”
Dray seethed. “A gentleman always has a right to protect a lady from brutality.”
“She is mine, Lansdowne. I do with her as I wish.”
Dray checked Em’s expression. She glared at her husband and Dray rejoiced. She had gained courage in the past months since her father had let this creature abduct her and ravish her, then force her to speak vows before a minister. “She is to be treasured.”
“I treasure her, don’t I, ma petite?” The man said with a flare of his large nostrils.
She wrenched her hand from her spouse’s grasp. “I’m going to our lodgings.”
Dray said farewell to her with his heart in his eyes.
Fortunately, her husband did not make a scene and recapture her. He shot his cuffs instead. “Do that.”
Two tears dribbled past her lashes to her flushed cheeks. Catching up her skirts, Emma swallowed hard.
“She should not be here,” Dray told her husband and she shook her head at Dray in warning.
“She is my loyal wife. Are you not, ma chérie? She does as I say. And I want her here. She will be a good nurse, won’t you?” The man gave Dray a salacious wink. “Wouldn’t you like her tending your wounds, hmm? Bathing your…brow? Your aching—”
Filthy roué.
“Enough!” she spat at her husband.
The man cursed in French and caught her upper arm. “Come, come. Show us your finest manners, wife.”
“You show us none,” she replied.
“You’re a little—”
Dray seized the Comte de Rambouillet by the neck of his dusty Royal Foot Guard uniform. Raise him another iota and Dray would have him on his tiptoes. “Shall I dismember you here or in the street?”
With one hand, the man caught up Emma.
She yelped.
Grabbing the man’s other lapel, Dray shook him. “Unhand her.”
The man peered up at him. Since Dray had more than four inches in height and two stone in weight on him, the bastard demurred. He released her.
With a small cry, Emma hastened away.
Dray peered down at her husband, the animal whom he would gladly murder with his bare hands. “Cease your abuse of her, Montroy.”
“I may do as I wish with my wife. No man would stop me.”
 “I will.” From hurting her or our cause here, I vow I will stop you.
“Ah, Monsieur le Baron, but then I would counter you because your pitiful heart is broken. Touch a hair on my head and I will put it abroad that you do it to gain her in your bed. That it was you who absconded with her and it was I who saved her reputation and saved her from ruin.”
“As if I would care what you say of me.”
Certainement. You have no regard for the ton. You are a petit bourgeoisie who makes his living by trade.”
“Better than to make it by cheating at cards.” And by treachery.
“I have taken what was available from men of little intelligence.”
“To steal what is not yours and call it acceptable because it was possible is to live a lie.”
“I have no fears.”
Dray thought of the firing squad that awaited Montroy when Dray finally proved the man had betrayed not only his native country but also his adopted one. “Isn’t that a bit short-sighted on your part?”
Henri Montroy, the eleventh Comte de Ramboulliet, great-grandson of the Sun King, scoffed. “Never.”
Dex appeared at Dray’s side. “Wellington asks for you. He’s received a message of troop movements.”
Montroy shot Dex a look of alarm. “I must see the Duke myself.”
Dray stared the man down. “He asks for me. But do remember, Montroy, that never is like most absolutes, it does not exist.”

Dray would ask Montroy how much he feared again one day soon when the skinny bastard stood before a gallows or a firing squad.