September 26, 2020

Blog Tour Promo Post: After Hours Redemption by Kianna Alexander

at 9/26/2020 01:00:00 AM 0 comments

 


Their red-hot reunion is off the charts!

They made passionate music together. Has this heartbreaker changed his tune?

Songwriter Eden Voss had the perfect man—sexy, charming, talented and hers. Until record executive Blaine Woodson broke her heart to save his fledging label. Now music’s bad boy is back, begging for her songwriting skills in his studio…and her lovemaking skills after hours. Eden vows to keep things strictly business this time. But there is nothing professional about the heat still between them…



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Excerpt, AFTER HOURS REDEMPTION by Kianna Alexander

“Mind telling me why you insisted on coming here?” He eyed her curiously.
She tugged him along by the hand, around the cir­cular path leading to the Clara Meer Dock. When they came to a stop, she pointed. “This is why I wanted to come here.”
He looked out, his eyes scanning the dark, glassy surface of Lake Clara Meer. “I’m guessing you come here often?”
She nodded. “This is my thinking spot. Whenever I’m working on lyrics and I can’t quite get it right, I come here. I spread my blanket out on the grass, sit down with my notepad and work it out.”
He looked at her skeptically. “So, did we come here to work?”
“Nah.” She shook her head. “It’s Saturday night, after all. I brought you here to talk.”
He frowned. “I’m still confused.”
She started walking over to the grassy patch over­looking the water and the dock and spread out the blan­ket there. “Something about this place always seems to bring me clarity. It’s a little slice of heaven, right in the middle of the city. It’s bound to inspire some pretty deep conversation between us.” She sat down, careful not to let her dress ride up till heaven and earth were filled with her glory. Then she patted the empty spot next to her.
He hesitated, standing there on the concrete path, looking a bit baffled.
“You scared, Blaine?” She faked a pout, sticking her lip out as she teased him. “Of little old me?”
He rolled his eyes, but his smile was evident as he joined her on the blanket. “You’re too much, Eden.”
“So, we’re basically alone now.” Or at least as close to alone as we’re gonna get without me crawling into your lap. She watched him, taking in his moon-dappled handsomeness. The dim lighting seemed to enhance his features, especially the golden flecks in his dark eyes. He was temptation in the flesh; her body craved him even though her mind knew better than to get lost in him again. The question was, how much longer would she be able to lead with logic? “What do you want to talk about?”
He cleared his throat. “If I’m being honest…”
“Please do,” she encouraged.
“I want to talk about kissing you again.” His deep baritone had each word dripping with sensual energy.
Warmth raced through her body, and she felt it pool in her cheeks, her chest and a bit farther south. “Blaine.” She meant it as chastisement, but it came out sounding far sultrier than she’d intended.
He shrugged. “Can’t blame a brotha for shooting his shot.”
“I guess not.” She chuckled, from both amusement and nerves. “I don’t know if we should lead with talk­ing about kissing, though.”
“Why not?” He gave her a wicked look. “Did you enjoy the kiss?”
She swallowed and needing a respite from the inten­sity of his gaze, she looked down at her lap. Her dress had crept up her to mid-thigh, so she tugged the end a bit. “I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy it. But that’s beside the point.”
“If you say so.”
She shook her head. Same old Blaine. Always charm­ing, never reflective. “There’s too much in our past that you’re not considering, Blaine. We can’t just ig­nore our history.”
“Who said I’m ignoring it?” He traced a finger along her lower leg, trailing from her knee to the top of her sandal-encased foot. “What I know about you, our ‘his­tory’ as you call it, is precisely why I want you.”
She drew a deep breath. Was he misremembering? Or was he really so clueless that he didn’t understand where she was coming from? “You know your deci­sion to cut Ainsley and me from the group effectively ended both of our singing careers, right? Not to men­tion how much it hurt me personally. You have to real­ize the impact of that.”


About the Author

Like any good Southern belle, Kianna Alexander wears many hats: a loving wife, doting mama, advice-dispensing sister, and gabbing girlfriend. She's a voracious reader, an amateur seamstress, and occasional painter in oils. Chocolate, American history, sweet tea, and Idris Elba are a few of her favorite things. A native of the Tar Heel state, Kianna still lives there with her husband, two kids, and a collection of well-loved vintage 80's Barbie dolls.

Author Links

Website   |   Instagram  |   Twitter  |  Facebook  |  Goodreads

Blog Tour Promo Post: Secret Crush Seduction by Jayci Lee

at 9/26/2020 01:00:00 AM 0 comments

She’s done waiting for what she really wants…

Aspiring fashion designer Adelaide Song wants to prove she’s more than just a pampered heiress. All she needs is a little courage—and the help of deliciously sexy Michael Reynolds, her childhood crush, and her brother’s best friend. But when her secret crush turns into an illicit liaison, Adelaide realizes mixing business with pleasure spells trouble for all her plans…

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Excerpt #2


“Michael, What are you doing here?” she asked, her expression schooled into a bored, sardonic smirk.
Michael ran his hand through his hair and tugged a fistful at the top of his head. His scalp felt stretched too tight.
“So her majesty, Grace Song, summoned you to check on me.” Angry splashes of color stained her cheeks. “Since when have you been her errand boy?”
“Addy…”
“Don’t. Call. Me. That.” She pivoted and marched away from him.
“Damn it.” He went after her and stopped her trajectory by taking a firm grip of her hand. “She’s worried about you. Worried enough to call me to find you. What happened between you two?”
“We argued because I’m sick of being treated like a child. Ironically, I ran out of the house sobbing like one.” The rage vibrating through Adelaide seeped out of her, and her shoulders drooped in fatigue. “I could understand why she’s worried. She hasn’t seen me cry since I was seven. But enough is enough. I can’t go on like this.”
Now he understood why Mrs. Song had called him. Adelaide’s older brother, Garrett, was in New York with his wife and daughter, and Colin was probably unreachable. She had wanted this kept close to the family. Michael wasn’t family, but growing up, he’d spent more time at the Songs’ than at home. Plus, he was their publicist. She knew he’d be discreet about whatever state he found Adelaide in.
“I’m ready take my place at Hansol, but Hal-muh-nee shut me down with another ‘maybe next year.’ Hansol is my family’s legacy, and I want to be a part of its future.” Adelaide’s voice trailed off into a sad, forlorn sigh, and Michael wrapped his arms around her. He wanted to chase her sadness away, but the best he could do was listen. “She’s been saying that for the last two years. And next time when I ask her again, it’ll be the same answer. She doesn’t believe I have anything to contribute. I’m nothing but a clueless child to her.”
“That can’t be true. You’re one of the smartest people I know,” he said, running his hand through the silky strands of her long hair. Her arms tightened around him. “You’re far from being a clueless child, and your grandmother knows that better than anyone.”
“Then why is she keeping me out of Hansol?” She leaned back to meet his eyes. “She’s afraid I’ll tarnish Hansol’s reputation. She hasn’t forgiven me for my college days. Most of the crap in the tabloids didn’t even have a grain of truth in them. Yes, I partied hard and dated more than my fair share of guys, but I’m not an eighteen-year-old anymore.”
“I can’t imagine your grandmother being that small-minded. There has to be another reason, but you know her better than me. Besides, if that’s what you think, there’s an easy fix.” His arms still encircled her waist, and he was drawing slow circles on her lower back. When his brain registered what his hand was doing, he coughed and dropped his arms.
Adelaide arched an eyebrow and crossed her arms. He didn’t know if it was because she was waiting to hear his suggestion or because of his hurried step away from her. “Tell me more about this easy fix.”
His mind went blank. Her crossed arms had the effect of a bustier, pulling her breasts close and lifting them high. The sexy-as-hell scene at the club must have short-circuited his brain. He beat away his heightened awareness and focused on the shadowy outlines of the plan that had formed in his head.

About the Author

Jayci Lee writes poignant, funny, and sexy romance. She lives in sunny California with her tall-dark-and-handsome husband, two amazing boys with boundless energy, and a fluffy rescue whose cuteness is a major distraction. She is semi-retired from her 15-year career as a defense litigator and writes full-time now. She loves food, wine, and traveling, just like her characters. Books have always helped her grow, dream, and heal. She hopes her books will do the same for you.

Author Links:

Website  |  Instagram  |  Twitter  |  Facebook  |  Goodreads Page


September 22, 2020

ARC Review: Tools of Engagement by Tessa Bailey

at 9/22/2020 02:00:00 AM 0 comments

Hair, makeup, clothing, decor... everything in Bethany Castle's world is organized, planned, and styled to perfection. Which is why the homes she designs for her family's real estate business are the most coveted in town. The only thing not perfect? Her track record with men. She's on a dating hiatus and after helping her friends achieve their dreams, Bethany finally has time to focus on her own: flip a house, from framework to furnishings, all by herself. Except her older brother runs the company and refuses to take her seriously.

When a television producer gets wind of the Castle sibling rivalry, they’re invited on Flip Off, a competition to see who can do the best renovation. Bethany wants bragging rights, but she needs a crew and the only member of her brother's construction team willing to jump ship is Wes Daniels, the new guy in town. His Texas drawl and handsome face got under Bethany's skin on day one, but the last thing she needs is some cocky young cowboy in her way.

As the race to renovate heats up, Wes and Bethany are forced into close quarters, trading barbs and biting banter as they remodel the ugliest house on the block. It's a labor of love, hate, and everything in between, and soon sparks are flying. But Bethany's perfectly structured life is one kiss away from going up in smoke and she knows falling for a guy like Wes would be a flipping disaster.

In Tessa Bailey’s latest rom-com, two enemies team up to flip a house... and the sparks between them might burn the place down or ignite a passion that neither can ignore!
 

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*DISCLAIMER: I received an ARC copy in exchange for an honest review*

HOT. DAMN. For fans of the Hot & Hammered series, this is the book we've all been looking forward to. Since his introduction in book two, Love Her or Lose Her, it's safe to say that we saw this coming? Wes and Bathany's instant attraction/antagonistic verbal exchanges were a huge hint that these two would make an awesome pair. On the outside, Bethany is confident and driven. Fashionably dressed to the nines, Bethany is finally moving towards her goal of operating her own house reconstruction project. After months of the Just Us League, it's Bethany's turn to shine. Bethany makes a public declaration at a Brick and Morty work site and Wes was the only one who volunteered to join her crew. Remember the dilapidated, old house from Fix Her Up? Bethany has it in her sights to fix it up and prove herself as a construction entrepreneur. Word gets around and an enterprising TV show producer convinces Stephen and Bethany to compete in a home makeover competition. 

I never understood Stephen's dismissive attitude toward Bethany. Bethany has made a name for herself as a decor specialist, but she is capable of much more. While it wasn't malicious, the unintentional insult reinforces Bethany's self-doubts. With Wes working in such close proximity, things get a little heated and personal. Wes also has his own issues to contend with. His whole reason for being in Port Jefferson was because his sister ran off and left him in charge of her daughter. Wes has been living the bachelor's life so there's a steep learning curve. What I liked most about Wes was his steadfastness. He's a rock for both Bethany and Laura (his niece). 

With only three weeks to completely transform the old house, Bethany and Wes have to give it their all on and off the worksite. Much beloved characters from the previous books make appearances in the story, but this is very much a story about Bethany and Wes. I've always been a fan of Tessa Bailey and this series is everything I need.


5 stars

About the Author


Tessa Bailey is originally from Carlsbad, California. The day after high school graduation, she packed her yearbook, ripped jeans, and laptop, and drove cross-country to New York City in under four days. Her most valuable life experiences were learned thereafter while waitressing at K-Dees, a Manhattan pub owned by her uncle. Inside those four walls, she met her husband, best friend, and discovered the magic of classic rock, managing to put herself through Kingsborough Community College and the English program at Pace University at the same time. Several stunted attempts to enter the workforce as a journalist followed, but romance writing continued to demand her attention. She now lives in Long Island, New York with her husband and daughter. Although she is severely sleep-deprived, she is incredibly happy to be living her dream of writing about people falling in love.

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September 21, 2020

Blog Tour Promo Post: The Love Study by Kris Ripper

at 9/21/2020 01:00:00 AM 0 comments
 


What happens when the search for the perfect date goes perfectly wrong? Don’t miss this charming romantic comedy from critically acclaimed author Kris Ripper.

Declan has commitment issues. He’s been an office temp for literally years now, and his friends delight in telling people that he left his last boyfriend at the altar.

And that’s all true. But he’s starting to think it’s time to start working on his issues. Maybe.

When Declan meets Sidney—a popular nonbinary YouTuber with an advice show—an opportunity presents itself: as part of The Love Study, Declan will go on a series of dates arranged by Sidney and report back on how the date went in the next episode.

The dates are…sort of blah. It’s not Sidney’s fault; the folks participating are (mostly) great people, but there’s no chemistry there. Maybe Declan’s just broken.

Or maybe the problem is that the only person he’s feeling chemistry with is Sidney.

Buy The Love Study by Kris Ripper


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“I don’t date people,” Sidney said.
I hid my disappointment relief by forcing a laugh. “Oh, me neither. Mostly. Well. Not for a long time. Like…” I focused on the gentle sweep of their hair back from their face as if it would introduce a new topic of conversation. It didn’t.
“See, that sentence seemed like it was going to be followed by another thought.”
“Um, sorry, I realized I was basically spilling my guts to a stranger. You are totally not obligated to listen to me ramble. Only my oldest friends are contractually bound to deal with me being a hot mess.” Cue self-deprecating smile.
“You don’t seem like a hot mess to me and I don’t feel obligated. What were you going to say?”
What the hell. “Just, for a long time my not-dating policy worked? But lately it’s kind of getting…old. I’ve thinking maybe I should…at least try again. With the dating thing.” I wrinkled my nose. “Then I think that’s a horrible idea because oh my god where do you even start? Apps? Bars? I have no idea where people meet to date instead of hook up.”
Their eyes were light brown behind their red-framed glasses and I felt a bit exposed under their gaze, like maybe the glasses had a filter that could read my thoughts. Right when I was starting to shift uncomfortably, they cleared their throat. “I have an idea. It might be a bit obscene, though.”
I batted my eyelashes at them. “I enjoy the obscene.”
“Would you be interested in coming on my YouTube channel? It’s an advice show. I do one livestream and one pre-taped show each week.”
“Er…”
“An interview would be cool, but what if we did a series? You could come on once a week and talk about your recent dating adventures. I could find you the dates if you wanted, since you’d be supplying me with content.” Now their hands sort of danced in explanation. “And if you’re trying to get back into the dating thing anyway, maybe it’s two birds with one stone.”
My brain flooded with words and images—everything from danger, Will Robinson to a vision of Sidney and I shaking hands for the camera at an awards show where we’d just won for “Spectacular Advances in Dating Advice”—but I couldn’t seem to speak.
“Yeah, you’re right, it’s a terrible idea.” Their eyebrows were now a straight line behind their red frames. “Excuse my shameless desire to exploit your emotional turmoil for views.”
“Oh, no, I didn’t…I didn’t think that at all. I mean, I guess yes on the exploiting thing, but that doesn’t bother me. I was more…processing.”
“If it makes it any less gross, if I dated, I would absolutely mine my dating experiences for views.” They frowned. “Okay, no, that doesn’t make it less gross. Sorry. This is a nonideal first impression.”
“I like your glasses,” I blurted. “Just, that was my first impression. Well, actually I thought, Those better not be fucking fashion glasses, and then when I saw they weren’t I was impressed. They look really good on you. Not everyone can pull off red frames.”

“Oh. Um.” They straightened their shoulders. “Thank you.”


Carina Adores is home to highly romantic contemporary love stories featuring beloved romance tropes, where LGBTQ+ characters find their happily-ever-afters.

A new Carina Adores title is available each month in trade paperback, ebook and audiobook formats.
The Hideaway Inn by Philip William Stover (available now!)
The Girl Next Door by Chelsea M. Cameron (available now!)
Just Like That by Cole McCade (available now!)
Hairpin Curves by Elia Winters (available now!)
Better Than People by Roan Parrish (available now!)
The Secret Ingredient by KD Fisher (available October 27)
Just Like This by Cole McCade (available November 24)
Teddy Spenser Isn’t Looking for Love by Kim Fielding (December 29)

About Kris Ripper



Kris Ripper lives in the great state of California and zir pronouns are ze/zir. Kris shares a converted garage with a kid, can do two pull-ups in a row, and can write backwards. (No, really.) Ze has been writing fiction since ze learned how to write, and boring zir stuffed animals with stories long before that.

Connect with Kris Ripper

Website  |  Twitter  |  Facebook  |  Instagram  |  Goodreads



September 18, 2020

Blog Tour Promo Post: When the Earl Met His Match by Stacy Reid

at 9/18/2020 02:00:00 AM 0 comments

When Hugh Winthrop, the future Earl of Albury, decides to advertise for a wife in the London paper, he never expected an anonymous response from a woman who matches him wit for wit. Their back-and-forth letters on the true nature of love, something they disagree on wholeheartedly, leave him shocked—and intrigued. But then the woman he’s been corresponding with shows up on his doorstep, enticingly beautiful and offering a marriage of convenience in exchange for his protection…

Lady Phoebe Maitland expected to marry for love and nothing else until the man she gave her trust betrayed her. The more intrigued she becomes by the mysterious and devastatingly handsome Hugh, however, the more she realizes he’s holding back from opening his heart due to long-held secrets she struggles to understand. As passion flares wickedly between them, their marriage bed is quick to heat up. But when Phoebe’s past threatens to destroy the fragile bond they’ve formed, even a budding belief in love might not be enough to save them.

Buy Links

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WHEN THE EARL MET HIS MATCH
A Wedded By Scandal Novel
© 2020 Stacy Reid

PROLOGUE
Scotland, 1817…
“Lord preserve us, milady! Surely a creature such as this one will not hesitate to attack us! Is it wise to feed it?”
Ignoring the overly dramatic warning of Sarah, her lady’s maid, Lady Phoebe Francesca Maitland, lowered a piece of succulent roast onto the snow-covered ground near the creature in question. It appeared to be a wolf, and the very first one she’d ever seen outside of a picture book. The large gray and black animal seemed half-starved, pained, its upper lips curved into a vicious snarl even as a tear leaked from its eye.
Despite the chill in the air, Phoebe unhooked her dark green redingote, spread it to the ground, and lowered to her knees to peer at the animal hidden in the underbrush. It stared back at her, its dark eyes piercing and cautious. Phoebe carefully pushed the piece of roast closer, hoping to tempt the animal into eating. She could see its ribs, yet the creature would not come forward for the succulent offering she had bid Sarah secure from one of their picnic baskets.
“Please eat,” she whispered, her throat aching. “It must hurt to be so hungry, and you are stubborn. I can see the drool on your mouth.”
The large beast whined and pushed back even further into the bushes. Had it been abused? She dearly hoped not. “Why won’t you eat?”
“The person who has been watching atop the hill is coming closer, milady!”
Sarah sounded appropriately alarmed. She had mentioned several minutes ago that she had spied someone up the hilly incline staring down at them. Since that person had made no effort to approach, Phoebe had not been too terribly worried. There were a couple of footmen in shouting distance if assistance was needed.
“Is it a gentleman or a lady, Sarah?”
“I cannot tell as yet, milady, I… Oh! It seems to be a young lady,” Sarah said, shifting cautiously closer but still a fair distance from the creature she seemed to believe would rip their throats out at any moment. “And she is most assuredly approaching us.”
The sound of a boot heel crunching into the snow echoed behind her.
“Are Jeffers and Thomas still nearby?” Phoebe asked of the footmen who had kept a discreet but protective distance as she had walked away from the carriages.
“Yes, milady.”
The determined crunch of footfall halted, yet Phoebe did not turn around.
“It’s best to leave it alone,” a soft, lilting voice said. “That dog has no will to live anymore. I’ve tried to feed it these last few days, and it refuses wholeheartedly.”
A dog? She dipped even lower and shifted a shrubbery coated with snow to assess the animal further. It was then she noted a collar around its neck with some iron tag. “Why does it have no will?”
“The dog’s master is dying, and it seems the beast wants to follow.” The tone was now perplexed and even edged with frustration.
Phoebe released the snow-covered branch, pushed to her feet, and turned to face the owner of that lilting voice. A young girl of about sixteen years or perhaps younger, who was dressed in trousers, stood with her feet braced apart, glorious red curls tumbling over her shoulders and down to her back in wild disarray. Large gray eyes returned Phoebe’s regard boldly.
“You sound very unaffected at the notion of someone’s impending death,” Phoebe murmured. The pain of losing her beloved oldest brother, Francis, a few years ago still lingered in her heart. Many days she would lie on the grass at her family’s country home in Derbyshire and recall to mind his booming laugh, his warm, comforting scent, and the way he would gather her in his arms for a hug. At the lack of response, Phoebe surmised that no, this lady was not at all concerned with whoever lingered at death’s door.
“Then why isn’t this poor beast by its master’s side?”
“Doctor’s orders,” she said tersely.
Phoebe stared at her for a few moments. “Who are you?”
The girl fisted a hand on one of her slim hips and lifted her chin. “I’m Caroline, the steward of Glencairn Castle.”
Phoebe’s curiosity soared. “A female steward? How positively modern.”
The girl arched an elegant brow. “Aye, that it is, and I am very good at my job, except for when it comes to him,” she said with another soft grunt of exasperation. “And who are you?”
“Lady Phoebe.” She dipped into a simple but elegant curtsy. “My family’s carriage had a problem with the axle, and I thought to stretch my legs while it is fixed.”
Inquisitiveness shone from Miss Caroline’s eyes. “You’ve stretched them quite far, milady. I see no carriages on the horizon.”
Phoebe glanced over her shoulder toward the east. “It seems I have outdistanced my party.” The wild beauty of the Scottish Highlands had encouraged her to stroll for over an hour. Phoebe ruefully admitted she had been desperate to escape the diatribe her mama had been heaping upon her head. It seemed her engagement to a certain earl was imminent, and Phoebe’s protest at the alliance wasn’t to be tolerated.
The low growl of the dog had her shifting to keep him in her line of sight. How curious that its stare had not left her. He reminded her of Lord Benjamin’s—Francis’s cat, who had disappeared the day they had laid her brother to rest in the family’s crypt. If what the girl said was true, this dog suffered because his master suffered. Her heart ached something fierce as she stared at the dog. “What is his name?”
“Dog,” the girl said.
Phoebe frowned. “How cruel its master would only call him ‘Dog!’” She glanced around at the girl. “Does he not care for this animal?”
There was a slight hesitation where raw emotions flashed in her eyes before her expression smoothed. “Perhaps the dog has a name.” She shrugged with studied indifference. “I never cared to know it.”
Another unexpected ache clutched at Phoebe’s heart. “Why…why is his master dying?”
The indifferent facade crumbled, and pain, raw and powerful, cracked Caroline’s countenance. “Because he is stupid!” She dug into the pocket of her coat and withdrew a folded piece of paper. The girl hurried over to her and pressed it into Phoebe’s hand. “I’ve been searching for a fool to give this to!”
A fool? How astonishingly rude!
Then to Phoebe’s alarm, the girl marched away up the rocky incline toward the towering mansion in the far distance. Glancing at the folded paper and then back at the retreating figure, Phoebe was torn between annoyance and unwilling amusement. She returned her attention to the animal still crouched in the bushes. “Do you know that very rude creature?”
The dog growled in response, and Phoebe sighed. “Come, boy…Dog,” she called firmly.
“Perhaps we should leave it alone as the lady advises, milady,” Sarah said a bit fretfully. “She is familiar with its contrariness, and it is also evident she does not care for the beast.”
“I suspect if we leave, this dog will stay here and starve itself.”
Sarah sighed. “The duchess will not be pleased if she comes upon you. I fear I will be harshly scolded with you.”
“Then I suppose we shall be scolded together, but do not fret much, Sarah. I shall take the brunt of Mama’s displeasure.” Phoebe then spent several more minutes demanding the dog to eat her offering, and when the brisk commands yielded no success, she lowered her tone and tried cajoling. The dog did not move, and she glanced down at the letter in her hand, not understanding why she even clutched at the paper.
“Are you to open it, milady?”
Phoebe sighed. “And prove to that rude creature I am a fool?”
Her lady maid gasped her affront, and Phoebe smiled.
“She did say she was waiting for a fool to hand this note, so I gather its contents to be objectionable to her intelligence and maybe a trap for me.” Phoebe glared at the note, her curiosity eating at her. “I cannot credit that she walked around with this letter to fob it off on the first stranger she saw. That means the contents are truly not that important to her…or perhaps anyone else. Or since she was watching us, she decided I was somehow the right person to hand it to.”
“So will you discard it or read it, milady?” Sarah asked, glancing at the rapidly darkening sky and back toward where they had left the carriages.
Her damnable curiosity won, and she opened it.
Dear You,
Phoebe blinked at the highly unusual greeting.
Thank you for the courage to reach for this letter. I requested that it be entrusted to someone kind, patient, and warmhearted. Before you is my very best friend, perhaps my only friend, and most certainly the most loyal of companions. As my sister berated me these past few days, due to my unchecked idiocy, I’ve fallen ill, and from the dark and excessively dramatic muttering about in the hallway, I’m not likely to recover. I do not fear the inevitable nature of death, yet I do care very much who will look after my friend when I am gone. We’ve been together these last seven years, and he has trotted faithfully with me on many adventures, and even through many perilous dangers, he remained by my side. He is brave with a huge heart.
Phoebe glanced up from the letter. “I…I believe it a letter from its owner,” she said wonderingly. “And he entrusted that very rude creature with it.”
His name is Wolf.
“Oh, of course it is,” she whispered, then with a light laugh of relief, she looked at him. “Wolf…please eat!” Then she held her breath in anticipation. “Wolf!” How decidedly odd.
The dog did not respond, and yet again, his stare remained on her. With a frown, she read the rest of the letter.
He will not respond to Wolf, for he has not learned to associate the sound of his name with his special symbol. Lift your hands to your chin with your palm open. Then form it into a side beak, then quickly snap your fingers together and say his name.
She stared in astonishment at the peculiar instructions. Unable to explain why, she complied, and her heart almost burst from her chest when the dog lurched to stand on trembling feet.
“Wolf,” she said softly and repeated the motion.
If he responded to you, that means there is something about your presence he finds trustworthy. Please take care of him. Below are instructions on how to sign commands to him, and once he is accustomed to you, I am certain a new bond will be formed where he will listen in whichever way you deem to speak with him. I’ve left instructions for a jointure to be provided for his care and feeding. Please leave your details with my sister so that my wishes might be fulfilled.
I will close my eyes, resting easy that he has found a new home.
Warmest of Regards,
Hugh.
And below his greetings were more odd instructions on how to tell Wolf to eat, run, fetch, and dear God, even attack.
“How strange!”
She folded the letter, and after slipping it into her pocket, Phoebe lowered to her knees on her coat. Recalling the instruction, she lifted her beaked fist and tapped it toward her partially open mouth three times. Phoebe laughed with relief when Wolf finally took a bite of the succulent meat.
“You are very stubborn, aren’t you? Wherever did you find the willpower to resist eating when you are so very hungry?”
It took a few moments for her to gather the courage to reach out and pet him. Wolf went remarkably still beneath her touch, and her heart quaked. Then a heavy, gruff sound escaped him, and the taut muscles beneath her fingers relaxed. “Come with me,” she said softly and used her fingers to shape the command—come!
He trotted to her, and she slipped her hands around his massive head. A rumble of what she hoped was pleasure came from his throat, and something tightened inside Phoebe’s chest. She’d never had a pet of any kind before. Mama had always seemed allergic to all critters, and Papa had indulged every hysterical fit whenever an animal dared to approach the duchess. The only exception had been for Francis’s beloved Lord Benjamin.
“I think we could be friends,” she whispered by his ear, ignoring the wet and mildly unpleasant odor wafting from him. “I’ve always wanted a friend I could confide my fears and hopes to, one who would not gossip about me or inform my mother of my wayward thoughts.”
Phoebe then stood and collected her coat. With a sigh, she patted the dog’s head, which easily reached her waist. Phoebe had never boasted any extraordinary height and now at the age of eighteen accepted that she would not grow beyond her five-foot-three-inch frame. The dog trotted beside her, and Sarah remained a few paces behind, not seeming to trust in what she had witnessed.
If Phoebe possessed any wisp of rationality, she would leave the savage animal to his own fate. She was only here in Scotland on holiday with her family, a retreat her mother had needed and one the duchess took yearly since the death of her oldest son two years past. Worse, the duke and duchess’s remaining son, Richard—the marquess of Westfall—was another source of disappointment because he had publicly claimed his bastard daughter, to his parents’ and society’s mortification. To Phoebe’s heart, her brother’s actions made him a man to be admired, and she loved him dearly. He would surely encourage her to help the poor animal.
A procession of four carriages crawled along the dirt road toward Phoebe. The front equipage held her mother with her traveling companion and lady maid. Her father, the duke of Salop, had left for England the week before. The second carriage would be empty, as Phoebe had traveled alone with her maid. And the other two held all their traveling trunks and servants. There was no fuss or stirring from the front carriage when the second coach stopped, and a footman assisted her inside.
The warmth that enveloped her was immediate, and with a gusty sigh, she sat on the well-padded seats. Sarah perched in front of her, and none of the footmen uttered a protest when she ordered Wolf into the carriage and onto the seats beside her. Phoebe reached for the basket loaded with more food than she and Sarah could eat and proceeded to carefully feed the dog the cooked meat, which he scarfed down without any hesitation.
“I confess I am not at all pleased to return to London,” she said to Wolf after he had eaten the last slice of meat. She patted her lap. Her maid cast her a glance of horror, as if the beast would attack her lady at any moment.
The dog considered her for a long time before he shifted closer and rested his head in her lap.
“Good boy. We shall be wonderful friends! Although I think we will have to arrange a bath for you when we reach wherever we are staying tonight.” With a sigh, she confessed, “If not for dear George, I think I would run away. Or perhaps we should elope together and damn the scandal!”
“Please, milady,” Sarah began fretfully. “It is not wise to keep thinking about the young sir. The duchess…” Her lady’s maid parted the carriage curtain and peeked outside as if to ensure the duchess was not mystically perched listening to their conversation. “The duchess must not know you have a tendre for each other!”
To Phoebe’s mind, Mr. George Hastings was a perfectly respectable and accomplished young man, but although he came from a well-connected family, he could not be thought a sufficiently eligible husband for a duke’s daughter. They had been friends since they were children, and lately there had been softer emotions bubbling between them. “He loves me, Sarah,” Phoebe murmured. “And I daresay the warmth that fills me whenever I see him will soon grow to mean so much more. I am certain of it!”
“Pish! Love is not ‘warm!’”
Phoebe frowned and shifted on the carriage seat. “Then what is it like, since you’ve experienced it?”
Sarah flushed, pink blossoming on her cheeks, and glanced away momentarily. “That hardly matters. Mr. Hastings is only the second son of a viscount! You know of the duchess’s grand aspirations, so why do you persist in vexing her, milady?”
Phoebe brushed aside the carriage curtains and peered at the rolling landscape dotted with snow. It was proving extremely difficult to convince her mama she did not wish to marry the Earl of Dumont. It only mattered that Dumont was powerful, wealthy, and the connections of their family would be considered by society to be very well matched. Over these six weeks spent on a prolonged holiday with her parents, Phoebe had tried not to think of her impending marriage announcement but only how to escape that predicament. Phoebe was dreadfully tired of pretending to be the obedient, unthinking social butterfly her mother insisted she should be at all times.
She might have only seen eighteen years of life, but there was a desperate need inside Phoebe to enjoy a fulfilling life. And that was not done by merrily walking into the dastardly traps the duke and duchess had set for her.
I shall find a way to escape it…I shall!
About the Author


USA Today bestselling author STACY REID writes sensual Historical and Paranormal Romances and is the published author of over twenty books. Her debut novella The Duke's Shotgun Wedding was a 2015 HOLT Award of Merit recipient in the Romance Novella category and her bestselling Wedded by Scandal series is recommended as Top picks at Night Owl Reviews, Fresh Fiction Reviews, and The Romance Reviews.

Stacy lives a lot in the worlds she creates and actively speaks to her characters (aloud). She has a warrior way "Never give up on dreams!" When she's not writing, Stacy spends a copious amount of time binge-watching series like The Walking Dead, Altered Carbon, Rise of the Phoenixes, Ten Miles of Peach Blosson, and playing video games with her love. She also has a weakness for ice cream and will have it as her main course.

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GIVEAWAY TERMS & CONDITIONS: Open to US shipping addresses only. One winner will receive a paperback copy of Accidentally Compromising the Duke by Stacy Reid. This giveaway is administered by BookMojo on behalf of Entangled Publishing. Giveaway ends 10/31/2020 @ 11:59pm EST.




 

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