I have some New Year's goodies for you. A sale and a new release!
until February 5
Loving Lies, book one of my Dangerous Desires series, is going on sale for 99¢ through February 5. Woot!
Deception knows no limits. Passion knows no bounds.
When she’s kidnapped, Senorita Isabella knows the men have been sent by her uncle in a murderous attempt to control her family’s fortune. But when she is rescued by a dashing and mysterious warrior, Isabella can’t imagine why a stranger would risk his life for her—until she discovers her rescuer believes she’s someone else….
Fernando de Zayas loves nothing more than the cry of battle. Defying death is his way of life. But when he discovers his betrothed has been kidnapped, he rushes to her aid—never suspecting that spirited beauty would soothe his warrior heart…
With her uncle’s minions close on their heels, Isabella finds herself drawing closer to Fernando. But as the desire between them builds, her secret could keep them apart forever…
The Moorish Kingdom of Granada, Spain—1488
Al-Caicería—The Great Bazaar
“Harem!” The slave trader’s shout rose above other voices in the open-air market. He dug his fingers into the hooded robe hiding Isabella Lopéz de Lara’s face and nudity. “Harem!”
The Arabic word seemed to linger in the still, warm air. Sweat trickled down Isabella’s cheek. Her abduction in Andalucía, on orders from her murderous uncle, was far too real and horrifying now.
Someone brushed past, startling her. The individual’s sandals or boots slapped hard against the ground, the sounds fading quickly. Isabella snatched a breath. The hem of her robe pulled away from her legs. She stilled, terrified to move. Work-roughened fingers slid over her ankle and up her calf.
Holding back a scream, she backed into the slaver. He released his hold on her robe and shouted in Arabic, his words incomprehensible to her. An object whistled close to her face, followed by a harsh crack and a man’s agonized cry.
The hand jerked away from her leg. A series of brutal whacks and stumbling noises rose above the other sounds.
Swallowing hard, she listened for what she couldn’t see.
Too many buyers shuffled close, stirring up dust to mingle with the scents of cooked meat, cloyingly sweet perfumes, the stench of animals and men. Crude male voices yelled the word harem repeatedly. Moments later, fabric snapped.
She pictured the slaver stripping one of the other captives, forcing the poor woman to display herself.
Murmurs floated through the crowd. The slaver shouted above them, making the men speak faster, louder.
As they offered bids?
She shuddered, expecting the slave to plead for mercy.
Whoever the girl was, she held her tongue, seemingly resigned to her fate the Moors deemed qisma, destiny.
Men pushed past with cruel indifference, some pressing so close Isabella could smell the grime on their robes. Sickened, she stepped back. The slaver said something and ran his fingers down her shoulder to her arm, touching the side of her breast. She jerked away from his filthy touch. Those surrounding them laughed. The slaver pulled her tightly against him, proving she was in his world, his property, even though she was the daughter of a grandee and duke.
Her late father’s position hardly mattered now. Her only hope was in escape that seemed impossible.
Voices rose and fell during countless negotiations, sheep bleated, children played. Someone spoke above the din, the tone unusually high-pitched, sounding neither female nor male, marking its owner as a eunuch. A man who was no longer male.
His comments grew strident. The slaver shouted in return.
Her pulse pounded. If a way out existed, she had to see it. The eunuch and slaver argued on. She pulled at the hood of her robe and slowly lifted her head until she could see past the cloth.
The sun hung heavy in the sky, turning Granada’s structures a blinding white. Squinting at the overwhelming brightness, she regarded the numerous towers to determine if guards watched from there and would see any attempt at escape. If not, where would she flee?
Granada was a city of countless dwellings and strangers who would never offer sanctuary to a Spanish noblewoman. The free women here were as shrouded as she was, with only their eyes uncovered. However, if she could secure one of the dark robes sold in the market and disguise herself as a Moorish woman, there might be a chance to flee. No man would dare break the sanctity of the veil, not even to search for an escaped slave. The Moors’ religion forbade it.
The robes were tantalizingly close, though still out of reach.
The slaver’s voice rose again. He spat on the dinars the eunuch had offered. The eunuch’s palm looked as soft as a woman’s, his dark face bearing no trace of a beard. Clearly impatient, he gestured to Isabella’s robe. The slaver yanked the hood off her head. She gasped.
A flurry of excited murmurs rippled through the crowd. The eunuch stared openly at her elaborately braided hair, apparently stunned at its unusual auburn color. The slaver gestured to her robe, his words seeming to imply how the Moors had prepared her body for sale. The eunuch focused on her eyes, the same blue-green as Queen Isabella’s, a color well known within Spain’s Royal House of Trastámara.
The slaver’s broad smile revealed most of his decayed teeth. When he spoke again, the eunuch grew thoughtful.
On a shuddering breath, Isabella searched the market for any means of escape and found none. Too many people pressed close with no clear route from the area. If only she could see what was behind her, she might find a way out.
A quick glance showed even more people and cramped stalls, proving how trapped she was. The eunuch’s high-pitched shout suddenly rose above the slaver’s angry growl. Wanting away from them, she inched back. The eunuch dashed to her right, blocking her. The slaver to her left and reached for her robe.
Piercing wails filled the heated air.
Isabella stiffened. The slaver’s hand fell from her. He and the eunuch turned toward the sounds. Two dark-robed women pressed their hands to their veiled mouths. Children had stopped playing, their youthful eyes widened in wonder or fear at an aged man. His white beard trailed down his chest, and infirmity bent his tall frame, forcing him to keep his face lowered. He wore a turban and full robe, the voluminous fabric hiding the contours of his body.
Suddenly, he thrust his hand into a fire used to cook some manner of food.
Many in the crowd gasped. A young girl backed into a basket of olives, toppling it. The fruit rolled across the ground until it reached a pool of spilled honey where a black cat prowled.
The aged man kept his hand in the fire without bellowing in pain. He chose three smoking coals, tossing the hot embers from his right hand to his left much as jugglers did at fairs with brightly colored balls.
This was no fair nor was he a juggler, but a fakir, a holy man.
Isabella had heard tales of such beings who traveled the Arab territories. Fakirs had no homes or commerce, begging for food as they roamed from place to place, performing amazing feats to shock everyone, as he did now. Merchants, free women, and children waited to see what the strange man would do next.
With no one watching her, Isabella prepared to break into a run, to lose herself in the throng.
The fakir tilted his face and met her gaze.
Her heart caught. His eyes were arresting and strangely beautiful, his gaze so intent she stepped back. His expression changed. With a hard frown, he seemed to warn her to remain where she was. He turned to the eunuch and slaver, crying to them in Arabic, his voice reedy with age.
Her stomach churned. Was he warning them of her intent to flee?
When he looked back at her, raw power lit his expression, holding her to the spot.
Even if she’d wanted to move, she couldn’t now. The eunuch and slaver stared at her.
The air grew heavier than before and far too still. The slaver adjusted his weight from foot to foot as he and the eunuch spoke to the fakir. The holy man answered in kind, juggling the hot coals. He drew closer to them, his movements inefficient and tottering, no different from a babe. The slaver stepped back. The eunuch did not. His shrill voice rose in what sounded like an oath. The fakir hobbled closer, the hot coals jumping more slowly between his hands. At last he responded, his voice low.
The eunuch scowled and shouted a string of foul-sounding words. The fakir grabbed the eunuch’s throat, pressing the hot coals to it. Squealing in agony, the eunuch fell to the ground, rocking and mewling.
Frightened sounds rippled through the crowd. The holy man spoke to the spectators, who exchanged glances with each other and shuffled back.
The fakir grabbed more hot coals from another fire and staggered toward the slaver. Unlike the eunuch, the slaver offered no retort as he stepped back quickly. The fakir followed. It was a strange dance, the fakir plodding forward a step, the slaver retreating the same distance as he focused on the newest coals.
Again, Isabella realized no one noticed her. Before she could think to escape, the fakir was at her side, clutching her hair in his free hand, shouting at the others.
Again, they backed away.
He yanked Isabella toward him and whispered in Castilian, “When I release you, grasp your throat and cry out. Your freedom and life depend upon it. Do you understand?”
Her heart hammered so wildly she could barely breathe, much less think. With no time to consider why he would help her, she nodded.
The fakir shouted something to the others then brought the coals close enough for her to feel their heat. She clutched her throat and wailed.
The slaver spoke hurriedly, his words seeming to beg for mercy.
The fakir lifted the hot coals to his mouth and blew. Flames poured from his parted lips. Screams tore through the crowd with more than a few bolting.
The fakir gripped her wrist, his touch steel.
Again, he lifted the coals to his lips. Flames shot out of his mouth, which he directed to the black silk hanging on a stall. The cloth caught fire. He bolted, pulling her with him.
NEW Release - First Comes Desire
Book One - Pirate's Prize
February 7 - Available for preorder
A hunted pirate captain. A reverend's daughter determined to bring him down.
On a lush, secluded island, one passionate adventure leads to another….
On a lush, secluded island, one passionate adventure leads to another….
Diana Fletcher means business. The beautiful, innocent, reverend’s daughter has traveled all the way to a tropical island off Madagascar on a mission: To find her brother—and to punish the man who drove him to a life of piracy. But when she comes face to face with the enemy in question, the handsome, powerfully seductive man is not at all what Diana expected…
Tristan Kent never intended to harm Diana’s brother. A man of humble origins, Tristan claims he tried to save him from another ruthless captain. Diana is desperate to believe he is telling the truth…and that the intoxicating desire that escalates between them is true as well. But can she trust him? Or is Tristan’s story—and his heart—nothing more than fool’s gold? Amid the haze of sensual delights and soaring ecstasy Tristan has in store for her, all will be revealed…
Women hadn’t been born to yield. Women could yield. They might even enjoy doing so, but only with the right man. One they desired. First came desire. Respect and love followed.
She could only deliver her heart to a man like that.
Even if Tristan wasn’t facing the gallows, he wasn’t the one she needed. His skin was warm against hers but what of it. He was handsome as the devil, yet there was the rub, because he was also brutal, violent, taking what he wanted. His mouth on hers was something she refused to consider, though she could hardly forget how he’d spoken calmly when she’d railed. She insulted and he smiled. He claimed she wanted the same as him. Diana did not. She wanted to be home. She needed to be free.
Her eyes flew open. A sound or voice had awakened her. Reclined on her side, she faced away from the door. An oil lamp had gone out, telling her she’d slept far too long, recklessly too.
Oh my God. Peter.
Diana rolled onto her back but didn’t check his mattress, knowing he wasn’t there or in the cabin.
Tristan was. His long legs, muscular calves, and thighs blocked her view of the door. He’d placed his precious book on the table. The volume was safe. She was not.
Before she could push to a sitting position or think to fight, he straddled her, his hands circling her wrists, holding her arms to each side. His touch didn’t harm, at least not yet.
Her heart pounded.
He offered a smile.
How dare he be so smug. “Release me at once.”
He tightened his grip slightly and studied her mouth, then her eyes. “Violet.” Awe flooded his face. “I wondered about your eye color but never expected this.”
She pushed and writhed but did no good against his strength. Breathless, she stopped. “What have you done with Peter?”
Tristan stared at her eyes. “Amazing color, quite beautiful. Fits your dark hair and pale skin perfectly.”
She rammed her thighs into him.
He held her more firmly. “Stop that.”
“Not until you tell me what you’ve done with my brother.” She slammed into him.
He scooted down and trapped her legs. “Peter’s on the main deck with the other men.”
“He’s a child and proved it by helping you escape.”
“This wasn’t his doing, and you’ve no reason to fear for his safety. I have James, my quartermaster, looking after him.”
“A bloody pirate, you mean. The same as you. Perhaps even worse than you.”
“No. James is a good man.” A haunted look touched Tristan’s features before he shook off whatever had troubled him and became casual. “He saved my life. He’ll take great care to watch your brother.”
She wanted to retort but couldn’t reconcile her indignation with Tristan’s previous anguish and the mean scratches she’d left on his cheek. Dried blood had gone black, the surrounding skin swollen and red. “What do you mean he saved your life?”
“Just that, ask no more for I’ll give you no other answer.”
“The only thing I want from you is my freedom.”
He stroked her wrists. “You want the same as me.”
She pushed against him, straining with the effort.
He tightened his grip, proving she wasn’t a match for his strength. If he chose to take her now, she’d have no choice except to allow him what he willed.
She didn’t beg. Wouldn’t. Not to him or any man, including Bishop. They could conquer her body but not her spirit, never her heart. Reconciled to her fate, she grew limp as she could, pulse racing. “Take what you’ve come for and be quick about it.”
“I shan’t be quick, Diana. With you, I’ll never be quick.”
Heat stung her face and throat. “You won’t be the last, either.”
His gray eyes darkened as storm clouds do, danger building in them. “What do you mean?”
“When you’re finished with me, I go to the man to whom I truly belong. Nothing will change that no matter how long you intend to take raping me.”
Despite her harsh words, he didn’t flinch or frown.
“Who is this man with whom you’d willingly lie?”
“Willingly?” She laughed. “You believe I’ve chosen him any more than I’ve chosen you? The fact is you’ve driven me to him.”
“What do you mean? Who is he? Tell me.”
She turned her face away.
Tristan brushed his lips over her cheek and buried his face in her hair.
Her scalp tingled. She could scarcely draw enough air to speak. “I said, be quick about it.”
He took his time, his lips soft and warm against her temple and ear, breath heated and sweet.
She tensed even more, determined to resist.
“Why do you fight me when you want this as much as I do?” He kissed her jaw.
Pleasure rushed through her, delight making her come alive as she never had, the feelings new, troubling, far too exciting. Her lids slid down.
“Tell me who the man is.”
Tristan’s scent surrounded her, surprisingly clean, tinged with musk.
“Tell me, Diana.”
He suckled her neck.
She trembled, an unfamiliar ache building between her legs, tension mounting within her. Flustered, she fought his hold and failed, growing weak from his imposing size. However, she refused to surrender, wanting him to know what he’d done to her. “He’s a wealthy merchant who agreed to help me find Peter if I promised to become his mistress, which I shall.”
“Never.” His breath skipped over her skin. “No one will have you but me.”
She fumed, her previous weakness gone. “You’ll take me. You’ll never have me.”
“Nor will the wealthy merchant. He owns this ship? Is his name Benedict Bishop?”
Tristan kept surprising her, giving her no defense. She pushed against him.
He eased back. “Is that the merchant’s name?”
“Yes. He’s the man to whom I belong.”
“Not any longer.”