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Monthly Archives: April 2014

Thursday Thread with Author Cathy MacRae!

Today’s featured author is Cathy MacRae, who has written the novel, The Highlander’s Reluctant Bride (Book Two in The Highlander’s Bride series).

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The Highlander’s Reluctant Bride, Book 2 in The Highlander’s Bride series
Written by Cathy MacRae
Historical Romance set in the Highlands of Scotland, 1377
Heat Scale: Sensual

Cover blurb:

Determined to keep the Macrory clan’s holdings out of the clutches of the Lord of the Isles and marauding pirates, King Robert II sends his man, Lord Ranald Scott, to hold Scaurness Castle. There, Laird Macrory lays dying, awaiting word from his son who is missing on the battlefields of France. If the son is not found before the old laird dies, Ranald will take over as laird—and marry Laird Macrory’s headstrong daughter.
Lady Caitriona sees no reason she cannot rule the clan in her brother’s stead, and is bitterly disappointed with the king’s decision to send a man to oversee the castle and people. Not only is Ranald Scott only distantly related to the Macrory clan, but he was her childhood nemesis. She has little trust or like for him.
Her disappointment turns to panic when the king’s plan is completely revealed and she realizes she must wed Ranald. Pirates, treachery, and a 4-year-old girl stand between her and Ranald’s chance at happiness. What will it take for them to learn to trust each other and find the love they both deserve?

Excerpt:

“So, the king forced Eaden to wed,” Riona murmured. Her gaze caught Ranald’s. “What will he do to me?”
Ranald noted her sudden pallor, her grey eyes widening until they were naught but huge silver orbs glowing against her skin. Now was as good a time as any to tell her what King Robert intended for her, but he could not force the words.
“Ye are a laird’s daughter,” he reminded her. “And an heiress. Yer mother’s dower lands north of here are of great value to the king.”
“And I am of little worth, aye?” Riona flared.
“Nae. Ye are of great worth.”
“But a pawn to the king.”
Ranald sighed. This was not going as he planned. “We are all pawns in one way or another, Ree. The king willnae let ye stay on yer own. Ye are a ward of the crown, now.”
“So, he’ll marry me off to some rebellious laird he wants to drag over to his side, using me and my lands to hold him?”
“Nae. No’ so bad as all that.”
“Then, to a wealthy laird who’s all but doddering in his cups, hoping I’ll no’ breed an heir before he dies, giving title to the land to the king and my next husband?”
Ranald lifted an eyebrow. The lass was getting worked up over nothing.
“Marriage, yes. Doddering auld man, no.”
Riona snapped her head to one side, a glower on her face. “Then, who?”
Ranald swallowed and gave her a crooked smile.
“Me.”

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Posted by on April 24, 2014 in Thursday Thread

 

Thursday Thread with Authors C.D. Hersh (Cover Reveal Included)!

Today’s featured authors are C.D. Hersh, who have written the new novel, Blood Brothers (The Turning Stone Chronicles), coming this summer from Soul Mate Publishing.

20140417 Blood Brothers Cover

A Paranormal Romance

Heat Level: Sensual

We are very happy with our cover and excited to share it for the first time on the Thursday Threads group post. Only our daughter and closest friends have seen the cover before now. The SMP artist did a wonderful job in capturing the concept of our book and the city skyline continues to be a part of the cover as this is the second book in the five part series of The Turning Stone Chronicles which primarily takes places in and around Cleveland.

When our heroine Delaney Ramsey saw she is on the cover of our new book she about passed out. Not unlike she did when Rhys tried to bring out her alter ego. She just couldn’t believe she had made the cover. Delaney has never wanted to be noticed or the center of attention, but she now is out there for the world to see.

Blurb:

When Delaney Ramsey is enlisted to help train two of the most powerful shape shifters the Turning Stone Society has seen in thousands of years, she suspects one of them is responsible for the disappearance of her daughter. To complicate matters, the man has a secret that could destroy them all. Bound by honor to protect the suspect, Delaney must prove his guilt without losing her life to his terrible powers or revealing to the police captain she’s falling for that she’s a shape shifter with more than one agenda.

The minute Captain Williams lays eyes on Delaney Ramsey, he knows she’s trouble. Uncooperative, secretive, and sexy, he can’t get her out of his mind. When he discovers she has a personal agenda for sifting through all the criminal records in his precinct, and secretly investigating his best detective, he can’t let her out of his sight. He must find out what she’s looking for before she does something illegal. If she steps over the line, he’s not certain he can look the other way for the sake of love.

Excerpt:

The telephone jangling pulled Delaney Ramsey out of a deep sleep. Moving the digital clock on the nightstand closer to her, she squinted at the bright green numbers. Three a.m. She fumbled for the receiver.
“If you’re calling at this ungodly hour, someone better be dead,” she mumbled into the phone.
“Delaney, ’tis Eli McCraigen.”
Sitting up, she pulled the duvet cover with her. Why was the Keeper of the Stone calling her? “What’s wrong, Eli?”
“Dinna worry yerself. ’Tis good news.”
Slumping against the headboard, she yawned, the adrenalin draining away with his words. “If it’s such good news, why couldn’t you wait until tomorrow?”
“I need ye tae call a special meeting o’ the council before they get away from the city.”
“All fifteen?”
“Nay, only the senior council. I’ve a new Promised One tae present.”
“Why wasn’t he presented last night at Samhain?”
“He hadnae committed tae the cause, and he dinna have a ring until minutes before midnight.”
“This is highly irregular, Eli. I don’t know if I can get the council to agree.”
“Ye have tae. He’s a verra special man.”
“A Promised One who hasn’t even had his ring more than a few hours. That’s unheard of. How can you expect someone like that to pass even one proof test?”
“He’s already shown me two–and they’re not the paltry tests most Promised Ones have failed. He has the elusive, legendary powers, and he did them using the power of other shifters’ rings.”
She snapped awake. “Other shifters’ rings? Whose?”
“Mine, Alexi Jordan’s and Sylvia Jordan’s.”
Delaney switched the light on, knocking her reading glasses to the floor with the motion. Great. She’d just bought them. Leaning over the edge of the bed, she retrieved the glasses and put them on. “Sylvia Jordan Riley?”
“’Tis that what the she-witch is calling herself now?”
“Seems so. Her name has come across my desk in her official capacity with Homeland Security.”
“That’s the other thing I need from ye. Sylvia’s butting intae Rhys’ and Alexi’s jobs and personal lives. I’m pretty certain she knows what he is, too. I need reinforcements.”
In all the years she’d known Eli, he’d never asked for assistance. And he comes to me now. At the worst possible time. “I’m honored you’d think of me, but I can’t do more than call the council for you. Ask one of them to get your reinforcements.”
“Fine, the council can arrange that, but I need ye on a more personal mission.”
“I’m in the middle of something very important and time consuming. I can’t help.”
“Dinna ye know who’s asking ye, lassie?”
She knew all right. The most powerful man in the entire Turning Stone Society. She was crazy to even consider refusing him. Her position on the council rested on his say so. However, finding her daughter meant more to her than anything else. “Normally I’d be willing to die for you, Eli, but–”
“Let’s pray dying won’t be what we’ll be needing. But I could be putting ye in a verra dangerous position.”
That did it. No way could she help if it might cost her life. Not now. Not until she found Lila. “I’m sorry. I can’t.”
“I need ye, Delaney. Come tae University Hospital and see me. I’m in ER.”
“ER? Are you all right?”
“We had a little run-in with a panther.”

C.D. Hersh Bio:

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Putting words and stories on paper is second nature to co-authors C.D. Hersh. They’ve written separately since they were teenagers and discovered their unique, collaborative abilities in the mid-90s. As high school sweethearts and husband and wife, Catherine and Donald believe in true love and happily ever after.

Together they have co-authored a number of dramas, six which have been produced in Ohio, where they live. Their interactive Christmas production had five seasonal runs in their hometown and has been sold in Virginia, California, and Ohio. Their most recent collaborative writing efforts have been focused on romance. The first book of their paranormal romance series entitled The Promised One (The Turning Stone Chronicles) is available on Amazon. The second book in the series Blood Brothers is coming this summer.

Connect with C.D. Hersh
Website: http://cdhersh.wordpress.com/
Soul Mate Publishing: http://smpauthors.wordpress.com/
Facebook site: https://www.facebook.com/cdhershauthor
Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/C.-D.-Hersh/e/B00DV5L7ZI
Twitter: https://twitter.com/AuthorCDHersh
Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/CDHersh

Buy Link for Promised One, first book in series:
Amazon buy link: http://t.co/yW59QqvkLh

 
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Posted by on April 17, 2014 in Thursday Thread

 

Problem or Inconvenience?

When I was younger, I was fortunate enough to be a part of a local high school production of Robert Fulghum’s classic, “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten.” In it are some of the most simple yet profound insights into humanity and, if you haven’t had the opportunity to read it, I highly recommend getting your hands on a copy.

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One such segment is called “Problem or Inconvenience?” The story begins with Fulghum as a young man, unloading his outrage at what he considers poor working conditions on a coworker late one evening. His coworker is an older man named Sigmund Wollman, a German Jew and survivor of Auschwitz. After listening to the younger man rant for the better part of half an hour, Sigmund offers up this insight:

“Fulghum, you think you know everything, but you don’t know the difference between an inconvenience and a problem. If you break your neck, if you have nothing to eat, if your house is on fire – then you got a problem. Everything else is inconvenience. Life is inconvenient. Life is lumpy. Learn to separate the inconveniences from the real problems. You will live longer. And will not annoy people like me so much. Good night.”

These words resonate with me when the power goes out, when my internet is slow, when I’m trying to come up with the next chapter of my latest novel, and even when I am sitting with my accountant preparing my tax returns. Sigmund’s words are ones that I find worth remembering – life is inconvenient. Life is lumpy.

Despite this, life is a blessing and an amazing journey to behold. When those difficult times arise, and they always will, it’s important to take a moment to determine if what you are facing is a problem or an inconvenience. If you do, you may live longer. If you do, you may realize what a good life it is.

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Posted by on April 15, 2014 in Reflections

 

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Thursday Thread with Author Char Chaffin!

Today’s featured author is Char Chaffin, who has written the new novel, Jesse’s Girl.

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Title: Jesse’s Girl
Heat Rating: Sweetly Sensual
Genre: Nostalgia Romance
Buy Link: http://www.amazon.com/Jesses-Girl-Char-Chaffin-ebook/dp/B00JK0DUD0/

Blurb:

In 1965, Tim O’Malley returns to his home town of Skitter Lake, Ohio, to clear his name and get the girl: Dorothy Whitaker, the love of his life since eighth grade. Blamed for a destructive fire he didn’t set, only Tim and Dorothy know the truth; that Jesse Prescott, Tim’s best friend and Dorothy’s boyfriend, did the deed that changed an entire town. But Jesse died in that tragedy and seven years later, Skitter Lake still honors him as a hero, rather than Tim, the boy from the seedy side of town whose father was a drunk . . . and whose quick actions saved six people from perishing in that horrendous fire.

In trying to set the record straight and finally claim Dorothy as his own, Tim—and Dorothy, too—will discover that in some small towns the legend often outweighs the truth . . . and their family and friends will forever see Dorothy as “Jesse’s girl.”

Excerpt:

Dorothy Whitaker. Good Lord, almighty.
Tim had almost crashed his car when he saw her, sitting in the sun with her ice-cream cone. Of all the people in Skitter Lake he figured he’d see, she was at the top of his ‘hope to run into’ list. He’d had to pull over right on the side of the road and look his fill, before summoning enough courage to step out of his car and approach her.
She hadn’t changed a bit. Still the most beautiful girl he’d ever seen, and that included all the California girls he’d met after he moved from Skitter Lake.
In grade school, they’d been inseparable. They’d played together during recess, spun on the merry-go-round, paired off on the seesaw. Dorothy was the first girl he’d held hands with, the first girl he’d ever taken to a Saturday matinee, back in seventh grade. They’d stuffed themselves on popcorn and thrilled to the adventures of Peter Pan. He’d walked her home, shyly brushed her mouth with the briefest touch of his lips. And trembled, needing more. He dreamed that night, how someday they’d be old enough and when they were, he’d kiss her the way a boy kisses his girlfriend.
But by eighth grade, Jesse had noticed Dorothy, and after that, Tim didn’t stand a chance.
Well, that was then, and Jesse no longer stood between them.
“You let your cone get away from you.” Was that his voice, hoarse and deep? He cleared his throat, offering the damp towel. Slowly, her hand reached out, and her fingers touched his. The spark between them seemed immediate and powerful, at least to him.
“Thanks.” She wadded the towel and wiped at the stain on her dress. Her downcast face couldn’t hide the flush that rode high on her cheeks. Dorothy had always been a blusher, her creamy skin revealing every emotion. A coil of loose, silky hair slipped over her shoulder as she worked at the smear of chocolate. If anything, the color had deepened over the years. ‘Strawberry blonde,’ he’d heard it called in California, but back in school she’d simply had the loveliest hair he’d ever seen.
Silence stretched between them as he waited for her to raise her head and she seemed hell-bent on fussing with her damp skirt. Finally, nothing remained for her to clean, and she had to look up. She laid the towel on the picnic table behind her, started to speak, hesitated, then her lips curved into a sweet smile. “It’s good to see you, Tim. When did you get to town?”
“About two hours ago. I’ve just been driving around.” He couldn’t take his eyes off her. He had to shove his hands in the pockets of his pants to keep from touching her. “I wasn’t sure I’d see you. Guess I thought you’d have left by now, moved somewhere else.”
She shrugged. “No, I decided to stay. After my dad died, Mom’s health problems got worse. And I work at the bank now. It’s pretty good money.”
Yeah, and it doesn’t hurt that Bob Prescott owns the bank and still thinks of you as his honorary daughter-in-law. The thought tasted bitter to Tim, even after seven years and moving a dozen states away.
As if she could read his mind, Dorothy’s face flamed brighter and she looked away, out over the lake. He didn’t know what the hell to say to her, which infuriated him. Once, a lifetime ago, words flowed between them so easily. Even after Jesse had claimed her, Tim still had these incredible conversations with Dorothy about music, movies, books, dreams. He could tell her about how boxed-in he felt, living on the rougher edge of the blue-collar side of town with a father who thought the world owed him a living, and a mother who silently endured her unhappy marriage.
In turn, she confided the difficulties of life as the daughter of Preacher Whitaker, professional Bible-thumper. Tim knew she’d loved her father fiercely. He also knew her childhood had been knotted up in Christian duty, an often heavy burden for a kid.
Now, Dorothy released a quiet sigh and picked up the soiled bar towel. “Well, I should be going, I suppose—”
“Stay.” He laid his palm on her shoulder, fought a losing battle with the need to caress her baby-soft skin, and ran careful fingers along her slender forearm. When she didn’t move away, he took at as a good sign, and murmured, “It’s been seven long years, Dorothy. We were friends once.” He watched the emotion flicker over her face. “I missed you, a lot.”
She released a broken little sigh. “I missed you, too. But I wasn’t the one who moved away, Tim. I wasn’t the one who left.”
“I didn’t have a choice, you know that.” He bit back the familiar frustration, a feeling he’d thought had finally left him after years away from this town. “I paid the price for leaving. Everyone still blames me. Don’t they?” He caught her fingers, which trembled in his grip. “I paid, and it wasn’t my fault.”
Tears formed in her pretty hazel eyes, and even his instant remorse at hurting her yet again couldn’t keep him silent a second longer. “It wasn’t my fault,” he repeated. “You know it. Hell, Bob Prescott knows it, too.”
“What’re you talking about? What are you saying?” Now her hand pressed against his, holding him steady when he would have turned from her. “What’s Mr. Prescott got to do with anything?”
“Ask him, Dorothy.” Tim gently disengaged her hand and gave it a quick squeeze before he let her go. “I’m in town for a while.” He paused, his gaze roaming over her with a yearning he didn’t attempt to hide. “I’m staying at the boardinghouse. I’d really like to see you.”
He could feel her eyes on him as he headed to his car.

 
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Posted by on April 10, 2014 in Thursday Thread

 

Spotlight On…Catherine Castle’s The Nun and The Narc

Today I’m interviewing fellow Soul Mate Publishing author, Catherine Castle, about her novel, The Nun and the Narc.

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Q: How long have you been writing?

A: I’ve been writing for my own enjoyment since I was kid. Mostly short stories, poetry, and a teenage angst ridden romance, written in longhand, which I still have.

Q: Tell us about your road to publication.

A: I began writing professionally in 1990 as a freelance journalist for the local weekly paper and for the next 10 years my writing blossomed into a number of markets, including writing for children, seniors, local magazines, the stage, and beginning my fiction career. I have over 600 non-fiction articles and photographs ranging from hard news, human interest stories, travel pieces, and business articles and advertorials. With my coauthor husband, I’ve also written fiction and drama which has been produced by churches around the country. In 2004, I stopped writing non-fiction and began concentrating on fiction writing only. My debut book The Nun and the Narc, which placed in several contests as an unpublished manuscript, was published in 2013 by Soul Mate Publishing. The book is a 2014 EPIC finalist and a 2014 RONE nominee and has received some wonderful reviews.

Q: What advice would you give an aspiring writer?

A: Don’t give up. It took nearly 10 years for me to find the right publisher for The Nun and the Narc, because it didn’t fit the normal inspirational parameters. A well-know publishing house loved the book, but they just didn’t know what to do with a Catholic heroine, so they passed on it. Thankfully, Soul Mate editor Debbie Gilbert loved the book enough to take a chance on it.

Q: Tell us about your latest release.

A: The Nun and the Narc is an outside-the-box inspirational, romantic suspense. Readers and reviewers have called it a non-preachy, funny, action packed, page turner that will make you lose sleep because you don’t want to put it down.

BLURB

Where novice Sister Margaret Mary goes, trouble follows. When she barges into a drug deal the local Mexican drug lord captures her. To escape she must depend on undercover DEA agent Jed Bond. Jed’s attitude toward her is exasperating, but when she finds herself inexplicable attracted to him he becomes more dangerous than the men who have captured them, because he is making her doubt her decision to take her final vows. Escape back to the nunnery is imperative, but life at the convent, if she can still take her final vows, will never be the same.

Nuns shouldn’t look, talk, act, or kiss like Sister Margaret Mary O’Connor—at least that’s what Jed Bond thinks. She hampers his escape plans with her compulsiveness and compassion and in the process makes Jed question his own beliefs. After years of walling up his emotions in an attempt to become the best agent possible, Sister Margaret is crumbling Jed’s defenses and opening his heart. To lure her away from the church would be unforgivable—to lose her unbearable.

EXCERPT

Margaret inched forward, hoping to hear what they were saying. A mariachi band nearby blared out a tune, the polka-like melody destroying any hope of eavesdropping. The shriek of off-key brass sent chills up her spine. She covered her ears and moved closer to Rafael and the stranger.
After a couple of minutes of conversation, the man removed an envelope from his jacket and pulled out a handful of bills. He folded them in half and then slipped them into Rafael’s extended hand. With a furtive glance around, Rafael moved closer to the man, blocking Margaret’s direct view, and handed something to the stranger.
A wave of apprehension swept over Margaret. The chapulines she’d snacked on earlier that morning threatened to see the light of day.
A drug deal! Of all the things Rafael could do, this was the worst.
Esperanza had fought so hard to keep her son away from bad influences. Now he appeared to be involved in the very thing she’d hated most. Margaret imagined Esperanza banging on the gates of purgatory, trying to get out and rescue her son.
She hesitated for a moment, hearing Mother Superior’s admonishment. Stay out of trouble while you are in Mexico, Sister.
Silencing the nagging voice in her head, Margaret charged forward, protective instincts in full swing.
Stopping Rafael and talking to him about the dangers of drugs surely wouldn’t qualify as trouble. Bluntness, maybe, but not trouble. It was more like saving. Yes, that’s it. I’m saving him.
Margaret grabbed Rafael by the shirt. “I’ve been searching for you, young man.” She faced the stranger, giving him her best withering stare. “You should be ashamed of yourself.”
The man stuffed the plastic bag into his jacket pocket. “Who is this?”
“Some crazy gringa.” Rafael shrugged, hard, trying to escape her grasp.
The plastic bag contained something white. Heroin? Cocaine? Margaret tightened her hold and drew Rafael closer. She would save him whether he wanted to be saved or not.
“Get out of here,” Rafael snarled.
“What would your mother say if she saw this?”
Rafael’s expression darkened. “Leave my mother out of this!” He wrenched out of Margaret’s grip and spun around to face her. His expression morphed from anger to fear. “¡Madre de Dios!”
The man’s head jerked around. “Get down!” he shouted.
Rafael took off running down the street as the top row of pottery in the stand exploded like popcorn.
Margaret jumped at the loud noise and whirled around searching for the source. The man removed a gun from his jacket, swung around, and scanned the area.
Margaret’s knees buckled at the sight of the handgun. Her body tensed, her gaze frozen on his weapon. He fired off a couple of shots. Heart thumping like a jackhammer, she ran for cover behind the open car door. The window glass shattered as bullets whizzed over her head. She scrambled into the car and crouched on the floorboard. Another row of pottery shattered, sending fragments into the car like tiny projectile rockets. Sending up a quick prayer, she covered her head.
Slamming the door shut as he passed, the man leapt over the trunk. He jerked open the driver’s door then jumped behind the wheel. Jamming the car into gear, he roared out into the market street. Shoppers and vendors screamed, leaping out of the car’s path.
Margaret scrambled into the passenger seat. “Stop this car immediately!”
“Keep down,” he ordered, “unless you want to get shot.”
The rear window glass erupted into the car’s interior, punctuating his words. The man fired at the attackers through the shattered back window.
“Shot?” Her voice rose an octave. “Oh, dear Lord in Heaven, what have I gotten into?”
“Trouble, Lady.” He fired off another round. “Big trouble.”

Author Bio:

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Catherine Castle has been writing all her life. Before beginning her career as a romance writer she worked part-time as a freelance writer. She has over 600 articles and photographs to her credit, under her real name, in the Christian and secular market. Besides writing, Catherine loves traveling with her husband, singing, and attending theatre. In the winter she loves to quilt and has a lot of UFOs (unfinished objects) in her sewing case. In the summer her favorite place to be is in her garden. She’s passionate about gardening and even won a “Best Hillside Garden” award from the local gardening club.

Her debut inspiration romantic suspense, The Nun and the Narc, from Soul Mate Publishing was an ACFW Genesis Finalist, a 2014 EPIC finalist and a 2014 RONE nominee.

Catherine’s Links:

Buy It Now on Amazon!
Buy It Now on Barnes and Noble!

Catherine’s Website
Catherine’s Blog
Catherine’s Goodreads Author’s Page
Catherine’s Amazon Author’s Page
Catherine’s Twitter
Catherine’s Facebook
Stitches Thru Time
SMP Authors’ Blog

 
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Posted by on April 6, 2014 in Spotlight On

 

Thursday Thread with Author Meggan Connors!

Today’s featured author is Meggan Connors, who has written the novel, Highland Deception.

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Title: Highland Deception
Heat Rating: Sensual
Genre: Historical Romance
Buy Links: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00J3D2JS6/

Blurb:

When Kenneth Mackay, long-banished rogue and thief, returns to the Mackay holding at the request of his brother, he has no idea what he might find. He certainly doesn’t expect to be confronted with his twin’s imminent death, or with the plan his brother has concocted.
Ten years before, Malcolm made a tragic mistake, and, to preserve the family name—and his own skin—he allowed Kenneth to take the fall. Now that he is dying without an heir, Malcolm plans to atone for his mistake: by giving Kenneth his life back. All Kenneth has to do is assume his brother’s identity. But complicating matters is the unexpected return of Lady Isobel Mackay, the daughter of an English marquess and the wife Malcolm didn’t want.
Isobel barely knows the husband who abandoned her even before their marriage, and she’d long since given up hope on having a real marriage with him. Yet when she returns to the Mackay holding far earlier than expected, she finds her husband a changed man. Despite the hurt between them, Isobel’s heart responds to this man who cares for his entire clan as if there were family. Who, for the first time, cares about her as if she is, too.
Falling in love with her husband had never been part of Isobel’s plan. But when their future is suddenly in peril, Isobel must find a way to save him—from himself and from the deception threatening to tear them apart.

Excerpt:

She ignored Grant’s angry protests behind her and ran for her husband’s bedchamber. Slamming open the door, she stumbled inside.
Malcolm lay in the great bed. Alone.
Alone. She tried not to speculate about what meant.
His breathing was shallow, as if he’d been running. As the door bounced back and closed, his sky-bright eyes shot up and met hers.
No, not sky-bright. Darker, the color of the forget-me-nots that bloomed in the gardens in spring. The color of the night sky as it lightened with the first rays of dawn.
“Milord.” She gasped for breath.
Malcolm had never looked at her like he did now. This time, when he studied her, it was as if he didn’t dislike what he saw.
Being honest with herself, Malcolm had never disliked her. After all, the term dislike implied a depth of feeling he almost certainly lacked.
“Wife.”
Isobel flinched.
Grant was suddenly at her back. “Sir, I apologize. She’s faster than you’d think.” He laid a hand on her shoulder, as if to steer her from the room.
She shook him off.
“Indeed.” Malcolm smiled, and a charming dent in his cheek appeared.
How had she not noticed that before?
“We will leave at once.” Grant took her by the arm.
She wrenched out of his grasp. “I’m not going anywhere. Not until I have my audience.” She glanced around the room and saw no sign of Malcolm’s mistress.
“Lady Mackay,” Grant began.
Malcolm held up his hand. “‘Tis fine, Grant. I can always make time for my lady wife.”
Isobel barked a hollow laugh, alleviating the ache, just a little.
“Are you certain?” Grant’s eyes shifted from Isobel to Malcolm and back again. A wrinkle formed between his brows, and the muscle in his cheek worked as he ground his teeth together.
He’d only ever done that when he was agitated or anxious.
But there was no reason for that, as Malcolm had never truly cared enough to keep secrets from her in an attempt to spare her feelings. Nor had he ever forced others to do the same.
Malcolm’s eyes met Grant’s, and something passed between the two men. Her husband gave Grant a clipped nod. “If you’ll excuse us, Grant.”
Grant released his breath slowly. His eyes narrowed first at Malcolm, then at Isobel. Scowling, he bowed his head. “Mackay,” he said stiffly. He turned to Isobel. “Lady Mackay.”
Isobel watched him go then waited until the door had closed behind him. “So, where is she?”
Malcolm arched a dark brow. “Where is who?”
“You know. Her.”
He lifted a single shoulder, as if she didn’t have a right to know. “I doona ken.”
The silence that fell between them was deafening, damning.
Finally he said, “Your arrival was unexpected.”
She breathed a mirthless laugh. “I have no doubt.” She expected him to look ashamed, but his expression didn’t hold even the slightest hint of remorse. She swallowed against the betrayal rising in the back of her throat and tried again. “Why are you abed?”
“I’ve been ailing. Naught to fash yourself over.”
She approached his great bed tentatively. “Ailing how? Has your cough worsened?”
He glanced down at his coverlet and then brought his gaze back to her face. “For a time, aye. I believe I’m on the mend now.”
Isobel pressed her hand to his forehead, then his cheek. His skin felt cool beneath her palm, if a little damp.
His breath hitched, then he cleared his throat. “Satisfied? As you can see, I am on the mend.”
“Perhaps,” she whispered. She ran her hand around to the back of his neck, then descended to his back.
He wore a thin linen shirt, unsuitable for the cool nights of the Highlands in late fall. She placed her hands between his shoulder blades. He was thinner than she remembered, but there was no mistaking Malcolm’s unique strength.
“Breathe,” she said, and then reminded herself to do the same.
Malcolm.
“I hardly think—”
“If you want me to leave you be, you will appease my curiosity. Breathe.”
Malcolm tilted his head up and studied her.
She fought the desire to look at him for as long as she could before meeting his gaze. Her heart skipped a beat as she saw something in his eyes she hadn’t seen before.
Curiosity.
“Breathe, milord.” Heat spread up her neck to her face, and, to keep her free hand from shaking, she clenched a fist. The warmth of his body seeped through his nightshirt, scalding her hand not with fever but with something else.
The corners of his lips tilted upward before he smoothed his features. He paused for a moment too long, then held her gaze as he took an extended, deliberate breath.
She shoved the raging emotions aside and forced herself to view him as a person who needed her help.
She felt no hint of the cough that had been nagging him before she’d left.
Swallowing hard, she slid her hand between the linen and his skin, against his chest.
His heart rate kicked up.
“Breathe.” She struggled to force the word out.
I feel nothing. Nothing. He needs my help.
She closed her eyes and listened to his breathing, feeling the rise and fall of his chest beneath her hands, the steady beating of his heart. His skin scorched hers.
Her mouth dried, her tongue thick and heavy. She removed her hand. “You seem to have mended nicely.” Even to her own ears, her voice sounded strangled.
His gaze searched her face. “Aye.”
Isobel cradled her hand against her chest and stepped back from the bed, nearly tripping over her own feet. “I will leave you now, sir.”
Malcolm gave her a clipped nod. “Very well, my lady wife.”
“I—I will be in my chambers should you require me.”
He didn’t laugh, as he normally would have. “Then I shall find you there if I do. Or I will send for you.”
She backed up a few paces, bumped into a trunk, and immediately turned her attention to her skirt, trying to smooth wrinkles undoubtedly permanent from long days of travel. It was better than looking at Malcolm.
“By your leave.” Her eyes locked on the floor as she dipped into a hasty curtsy and fled.
The moment the door closed behind her, she put her back against the cold, stone wall, cradling the hand that had touched him as if she had injured it.
She’d touched his skin, felt the heat of his body, and the responding heat of hers.
He hadn’t forced her hands away. He hadn’t mocked her.
Instead, for the first time since their marriage, he’d called her wife.

 
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Posted by on April 3, 2014 in Thursday Thread