Thursday, November 7, 2013

Thursday's Featured Sleep Over Novel (11/7/13)

Viscount Breckenridge to the Rescue

(The Cynster Sisters Trilogy #1)




Three heros, three rescues, three weddings.

You are cordially invited to the wedding of Miss Heather Cynster

...but not before she encounters kidnappers, danger, and a daring rescue at the hands of Viscount Breckenridge.

Determined to hunt down her very own hero, one who will sweep her off her feet and into wedded bliss, and despairing of finding him in London's staid ballrooms, Heather Cynster steps out of her safe world and boldly attends a racy soiree.

But her promising hunt is ruined by the supremely interfering Viscount Breckenridge, who whisks her out of scandal-and straight into danger when a mysterious enemy seizes her, bundles her into a coach, and conveys her out of London.

Now it's up to the notorious Breckenridge to prove himself the hero she's been searching for all along..

Chapter One

March, 1829
Wadham Gardens, London

Heather Cynster knew her latest plan to find a suitable
husband was doomed the instant she set foot
in Lady Herford's salon.
In a distant corner, a dark head, perfectly
coiffed in the latest rakish style, rose. A pair of sharp hazel
eyes pinned her where she stood.
"Damn!" Keeping a smile firmly fixed over her involuntarily
clenching teeth, as if she hadn't noticed the most
startlingly handsome man in the room staring so intently
at her, she let her gaze drift on.
Breckenridge was hemmed in by not one but three dashing
ladies, all patently vying for his attention. She sincerely
wished them every success and prayed he'd take the sensible
course and pretend he hadn't seen her.
She was certainly going to pretend that she hadn't seen him.
Refocusing on the surprisingly large crowd Lady Herford
had enticed to her soiree, Heather determinedly banished
Breckenridge from her mind and considered her prospects.
Most of the guests were older than she—all the ladies at
least. Some she recognized, others she did not, but it would
be surprising if any other lady present wasn't married. Or
widowed. Or more definitively on the shelf than Heather.
Soirees of the style of Lady Herford's were primarily the
province of the well-bred but bored matrons, those in search
of more convivial company than that provided by their usually
much older, more sedate husbands. Such ladies might
not be precisely fast, yet neither were they innocent. However, as by
common accord said ladies had already presented their husbands with an heir,
if not two, the majority had more years in their dish than Heather's twenty-five.
From her brief, initial, assessing sweep, she concluded
that most of the gentlemen present were, encouragingly,
older than she. Most were in their thirties, and by their
style—fashionable, well-turned out, expensively garbed,
and thoroughly polished—she'd chosen well in making
Lady Herford's soiree her first port of call on this, her first
expedition outside the rarefied confines of the ballrooms,
drawing rooms, and dining rooms of the upper echelon of
the ton.
For years she'd searched through those more refined
reception rooms for her hero—the man who would sweep her
off her feet and into wedded bliss—only to conclude that he
didn't move in such circles. Many gentlemen of the ton,
although perfectly eligible in every way, preferred to steer well
clear of all the sweet young things, the young ladies paraded
on the marriage mart. Instead, they spent their evenings at
events such as Lady Herford's, and their nights in various
pursuits—gaming and womanizing to name but two.
Her hero—she had to believe he existed somewhere—
was most likely a member of that more elusive group of
males. Given he was therefore unlikely to come to her, she'd
decided—after lengthy and animated discussions with her
sisters, Elizabeth and Angelica—that it behooved her to
come to him.
To locate him and, if necessary, hunt him down.
Smiling amiably, she descended the shallow steps to the
floor of the salon. Lady Herford's villa was a recently built,
quite luxurious dwelling located to the north of Primrose
Hill—close enough to Mayfair to be easily reached by
carriage, a pertinent consideration given Heather had had to
come alone. She would have preferred to attend with someone
to bear her company, but her sister Eliza, just a year younger
and similarly disgusted with the lack of hero material within
their restricted circle, was her most likely co-conspirator and
they couldn't both develop a headache on the same evening
without their mama seeing through the ploy. Eliza, therefore,
was presently gracing Lady Montague's ballroom, while
Heather was supposedly laid upon her bed, safe and snug in
Dover Street.
Giving every appearance of calm confidence, she glided
into the crowd. She'd attracted considerable attention;
although she pretended obliviousness, she could feel the
assessing glances dwelling on the sleek, amber silk gown that
clung lovingly to her curves. This particular creation sported
a sweetheart neckline and tiny puffed sleeves; as the evening
was unseasonably mild and her carriage stood outside, she'd
elected to carry only a fine topaz-and-amber Norwich silk
shawl, its fringe draping over her bare arms and flirting over
the silk of the gown. Her advanced age allowed her greater
freedom to wear gowns that, while definitely not as revealing
as some others she could see, nevertheless drew male eyes.
One gentleman, suitably drawn and a touch bolder than
his fellows, broke from the circle surrounding two ladies
and languidly stepped into her path.
Halting, she haughtily arched a brow.
He smiled and bowed, fluidly graceful. "Miss Cynster, I
"Indeed, sir. And you are?"
"Miles Furlough, my dear." His eyes met hers as he
straightened. "Is this your first time here?"
"Yes." She glanced around, determinedly projecting
confident assurance. She intended to pick her man, not allow
him or any other to pick her. "The company appears quite
animated." The noise of untold conversations was steadily
rising. Returning her gaze to Miles Furlough, she asked,
"Are her ladyship's gatherings customarily so lively?"
Furlough's lips curved in a smile Heather wasn't sure she
"I think you'll discover—" Furlough broke off, his gaze
going past her.
She had an instant's warning—a primitive prickling over
her nape—then long, steely fingers closed about her elbow.
Heat washed over her, emanating from the contact,
supplanted almost instantly by a disorientating giddiness. She
caught her breath. She didn't need to look to know that
Timothy Danvers, Viscount Breckenridge—her nemesis—had
elected not to be sensible.
"Furlough." The deep voice issuing from above her head
and to the side had its usual disconcerting effect.
Ignoring the frisson of awareness streaking down her
spine—a susceptibility she positively despised—she slowly
turned her head and directed a reined glare at its cause.
There was nothing in her tone to suggest she welcomed
his arrival—quite the opposite.
He ignored her attempt to depress his pretensions; indeed,
she wasn't even sure he registered it. His gaze hadn't shifted
from Furlough.
"If you'll excuse us, old man, there's a matter I need to
discuss with Miss Cynster." Breckenridge held Furlough's
gaze. "I'm sure you understand."
Furlough's expression suggested that he did yet wished
he didn't feel obliged to give way. But in this milieu,
Breckenridge—the hostesses' and the ladies' darling—
was well nigh impossible to gainsay. Reluctantly, Furlough
inclined his head. "Of course."
Shifting his gaze to Heather, Furlough smiled—more
sincerely, a tad ruefully. "Miss Cynster. Would we had met in
less crowded surrounds. Perhaps next time." With a parting
nod, he sauntered off into the crowd.
Heather let free an exasperated huff. But before she could
even gather her arguments and turn them on Breckenridge,
he tightened his grip on her elbow and started propelling her
through the crowd.
Startled, she tried to halt. "What—"
"If you have the slightest sense of self-preservation you
will walk to the front door without any fuss."
He was steering her, surreptitiously pushing her, in that
direction, and it wasn't all that far. "Let. Me. Go." She
uttered the command, low and delivered with considerable
feeling, through clenched teeth.
He urged her up the salon steps. Used the moment when
she was on the step above him to bend his head and breathe
in her ear, "What the devil are you doing here?"
His clenched teeth trumped her clenched teeth. The
words, his tone, slid through her, evoking—as he'd no doubt
intended—a nebulous, purely instinctive fear.
By the time she shook free of it, he was smoothly, apparently
unhurriedly, steering her through the guests thronging
the foyer.
"No—don't bother answering." He didn't look down; he
had the open front door in his sights. "I don't care what
ninnyhammerish notion you've taken into your head. You're
leaving. Now."
Hale, whole, virgin intacta. Breckenridge only just bit
back the words.
"There is no reason whatever for you to interfere." Her
voice vibrated with barely suppressed fury.
He recognized her mood well enough—her customary
one whenever he was near. Normally he would respond by
giving her a wide berth, but here and now he had no choice.
"Do you have any idea what your cousins would do to me—
let alone your brothers—if they discovered I'd seen you in
this den of iniquity and turned a blind eye?"
She snorted and tried, surreptitiously but unsuccessfully,
to free her elbow. "You're as large as any of them—and
demonstrably just as much of a bully. You could see them off."
"One, perhaps, but all six? I think not. Let alone Luc and
Martin, and Gyles Chillingworth—and what about
Michael? No, wait—what about Caro, and your aunts, and . . .
the list goes on. Flaying would be preferable—much less
"You're overreacting. Lady Herford's house hardly qualifies
as a den of iniquity." She glanced back. "There's nothing
the least objectionable going on in that salon."
"Not in the salon, perhaps—at least, not yet. But you
didn't go further into the house—trust me, a den of iniquity
it most definitely is."
"No." Reaching the front porch—thankfully deserted—
he halted, released her, and finally let himself look down
at her. Let himself look into her face, a perfect oval hosting
delicate features and a pair of stormy gray-blue eyes lushly
fringed with dark brown lashes. Despite those eyes having
turned hard and flinty, even though her luscious lips were
presently compressed into a thin line, that face was the sort
that had launched armadas and incited wars since the dawn
of time. It was a face full of life. Full of sensual promise and
barely restrained vitality.
And that was before adding the effect of a slender figure,
sleek rather than curvaceous, yet invested with such fluid
grace that her every movement evoked thoughts that, at least
in his case, were better left unexplored.
The only reason she hadn't been mobbed in the salon was
because none but Furlough had shaken free of the arrestation
the first sight of her generally caused quickly enough to
get to her before he had.
He felt his face harden, fought not to clench his fists and
tower over her in a sure to be vain attempt to intimidate her.
"You're going home, and that's all there is to it."
Her eyes narrowed to shards. "If you try to force me, I'll
He lost the battle; his fists clenched at his sides. Holding
her gaze, he evenly stated, "If you do, I'll tap you under that
pretty little chin, knock you unconscious, tell everyone you
fainted, toss you in a carriage, and send you home."
Her eyes widened. She considered him but didn't back
down. "You wouldn't."
He didn't blink. "Try me."
Heather inwardly dithered. This was the trouble with
Breckenridge—one simply couldn't tell what he was thinking.
His face, that of a Greek god, all clean planes and sharp
angles, lean cheeks below high cheekbones and a strong,
square jaw, remained aristocratically impassive and utterly
unreadable no matter what was going through his mind. Not
even his heavy-lidded hazel eyes gave any clue; his expression
was perennially that of an elegantly rakish gentleman
who cared for little beyond his immediate pleasure.
Every element of his appearance, from his exquisitely
understated attire, the severe cut of his clothes making the lean
strength they concealed only more apparent, to the languid
drawl he habitually affected, supported that image—one she
was fairly certain was a comprehensive façade.
She searched his eyes—and detected not the smallest sign
that he wouldn't do precisely as he said. Which would be
simply too embarrassing.
"How did you get here?"
Reluctantly, she waved at the line of carriages stretching
along the curving pavement of Wadham Gardens as far as
they could see. "My parents' carriage—and before you
lecture me on the impropriety of traveling across London alone
at night, both the coachman and groom have been with my
family for decades."
Tight-lipped, he nodded. "I'll walk you to it."
He reached for her elbow again.
She whisked back. "Don't bother." Frustration erupted;
she felt sure he would inform her brothers that he'd found
her at Lady Herford's, which would spell an end to her
plan—one which, until he'd interfered, had held real promise.
She gave vent to her temper with an infuriated glare. "I
can walk twenty yards by myself."
Even to her ears her words sounded petulant. In reaction,
she capped them with, "Just leave me alone!"
Lifting her chin, she swung on her heel and marched
down the steps. Head determinedly high, she turned right
along the pavement toward where her parents' town carriage
waited in the line.
Inside she was shaking. She felt childish and furious—
and helpless. Just as she always felt when she and Breckenridge
crossed swords.
Blinking back tears of stifled rage, knowing he was watching,
she stiffened her spine and marched steadily on.
From the shadows of Lady Herford's front porch, Breckenridge
watched the bane of his life stalk back to safety.
Why of all the ladies in the ton it had to be Heather Cynster
who so tied him in knots he didn't know; what he did
know was that there wasn't a damned thing he could do
about it. She was twenty-five, and he was ten years and
a million nights older; he was certain she viewed him at
best as an interfering much older cousin, at worst as an
interfering uncle.
"Wonderful," he muttered as he watched her stride fearlessly
along. Once he saw her safely away . . . he was going
to walk home. The night air might clear his head of the
distraction, of the unsettled, restless feeling dealing with her
always left him prey to—a sense of loneliness, and emptiness,
and time slipping away.
Of life—his life—being somehow worthless, or rather,
worth less—less than it should.
He didn't, truly didn't, want to think about her. There
were ladies among the crowd inside who would fight to
provide him with diversion, but he'd long ago learned the value
of their smiles, their pleasured sighs.
Fleeting, meaningless, illusory connections.
Increasingly they left him feeling cheapened, used. Unfulfilled.

#1 New York Times bestselling author Stephanie Laurens began writing romances as an escape from the dry world of professional science.

Viscount Breckenridge to the Rescue at these bookstores,%201

Release Date

(August 30, 2011)

My Rating 
5 stars

My Review

Thursday's Featured Author (11/7/13)

My Kind of Christmas

(Virgin River #20)




The Riordan brothers may have a reputation for being rough-and tumble, but Patrick has always been the gentle, sweet-natured one. These days, his easygoing manner is being tested by his high-octane career as a navy pilot. But for the Riordan brothers, when the going gets tough…the tough find the love of a good woman.
Except the woman who has caught Patrick’s attention is Jack Sheridan’s very attractive niece.
Angie LeCroix comes to Virgin River to spend Christmas relaxing, away from her well-intentioned but hovering mother. Yet instead of freedom, she gets Jack Sheridan. If her uncle had his way, she’d never go out again. And certainly not with rugged, handsome Patrick Riordan. But Angie has her own idea of the kind of Christmas she wants—and the kind of man!
Patrick and Angie thought they wanted to be left alone this Christmas—until they meet each other. Then they want to be left alone together. But the Sheridan and Riordan families have different plans for Patrick and Angie—and for Christmas, Virgin River–style!

"I think a little vacation in Virgin River is exactly what Angie needs," Sam Sheridan announced as he looked around the table at his family, all gathered at his home for Thanksgiving dinner. Angie gave her grandfather a grateful smile, relieved to finally have someone on her side. "She's been through quite an ordeal," Sam continued, "and I think medical school can wait while she figures things out. A little rest and relaxation—a chance to visit with the rest of the family—it will do her worlds of good."

"Well, I think if anyone knows what's good for Angie, it's me," Donna replied sternly, glaring daggers at her father. "A visit with Jack, Mel and Brie sounds all well and good, but I'm her mother, and I've supported her from the day she was born. A vacation should be the furthest thing from her mind right now. The accident—" She hesitated, glancing over at Angie. "Well, let's be honest, Angie—the accident has really…affected you. There's nothing that needs 'figuring out.' You need to get back on track academically as soon as possible. That's where your focus should be. That's where it was before."

Before. It seemed for Angie as though things would forever be divided into life before the accident and life afterward. While there wasn't much that she remembered from the car accident itself, there were certainly a few moments that stuck out in her mind. She remembered how close she came to dying that cold, drizzly March evening, lying in an emergency room covered with blood, and that it was her long-dead grandmother who was attempting to help her cross to the other side. She hadn't told anyone in her family about that little detail. Why bother? Some of them already thought she was half-crazy.

On the day of the accident, Angie had been the passenger in a car with her friend. A car on the opposing interstate lane had lost control, crossed the median and hit two oncoming cars—including the one Angie had been traveling in. The crash could've been caused by a flat tire or from the driver's attempt to avoid another car, but there was no clear villain, no alcohol or drugs to blame. It was truly an accident.

The driver of the other car had been killed, everyone else injured, Angie the worst. She'd suffered a couple of serious fractures for which surgery had been required. She also lost her spleen, had a collapsed lung and a titanium rod had been placed in her left femur. But the big issue had been the head injury—there had been an impressive laceration on the back of her head and, while there was no open fracture, her brain began to swell and the neurosurgeon had needed to implant a shunt to drain the edema. After her surgery, Angie had been in a coma for three days and had to fight her way back to the world through a postanesthetic and pain-med haze. Friends, family and medical experts had wondered for weeks if this bright, driven young medical student would have any mental handicaps as a result. She did not.

However, as often happens, the experience changed Angie forever. And those changes were what had led to the current impasse between Angie and her mother, a university professor who wanted to see Angie back in med school as quickly as possible. Today, Angie was fully recovered from her accident and could have gone back to school in September, but she'd chosen not to.

"Well, maybe a brief break from school is within reason," her father, Bob, said to Donna cautiously, once the rest of the family was happily starting dessert and the three of them had offered to start the dishes in the kitchen. Angie rolled her eyes. She knew he'd remain on the fence to avoid an argument with her mother.

But Donna wasn't nearly so reserved with her opinion. "This is completely unacceptable, Angie," she said stiffly. "You've worked far too hard to reach this point in your studies, and we've contributed far too much for you to waste it all on a whim."

Angie was shocked and suddenly angry. Concern was one thing, but this? She was done having her parents, mostly her mother, decide things like this for her. "I might not want to continue medical school! I might want to make macrame flower pot holders for the rest of my life! Or grow herbs! Or hitchhike across Europe! I don't know what I want to do right now, but whatever it is, it's going to be up to me!"

"Don't be absurd," Donna announced in her typically dismissive way. "You're not yourself at all right now. It's obvious the accident has affected your personality more than you realize, Angie. Once you get back to school, you'll be yourself again."

Personality change? Angie didn't agree, except that she'd grown surprisingly stubborn. "Actually, I think I've finally found my personality. And you know what, Mom? I think it's remarkably like yours."

If the accident had any affect at all, it had been through a close-up view of how unpredictable and tenuous life could be. One minute you're buzzing along the freeway, singing along to the radio, the next you're looking down on yourself, watching as medical staff frantically work to save your life and you see your dead grandmother across a chasm of light.

Once she realized she had barely survived, every day dawned brighter, the air drawn into her lungs more precious, the beat of her heart lighter despite the colossal importance of what had happened. She was filled with a sense of gratitude and became contemplative, viewing the smallest detail of living with huge significance. Things she had previously taken for granted now took on a greater significance. There was no detail she was willing to miss: she stopped to have long conversations with grocery-store bag boys, corner flower peddlers, librarians, booksellers and school crossing guards. In short, life was different now for Angie, and she was enjoying every minute of it.

She'd also looked back at the life she'd lived so far and had some regrets—specifically about dedicating so much time to study that she had few friends. Many study partners, but only a few friends. She'd said no to far too many parties and dances for the sake of grades. For God's sake, she was already twenty-three and she'd had only two boyfriends! Both pretty inadequate, come to think of it. Was life all about books? Didn't well-rounded adults know how to play? While her few girlfriends were dating, traveling, exploring, getting engaged, what was Angie doing? Making Mama proud.

She was going to fix that if she could. "Mom, I love you, but I've made my decision. Medical school can wait. I'm going to Virgin River."

Angela LaCroix pulled up to Jack's Bar on the day after Thanksgiving and parked right next to her aunt Brie's car. She gave a double toot of her horn before she jumped out and dashed up the steps and into the bar. There they were, waiting for her—Jack, Mel and Brie. Angie's smile was so big she thought her face might crack.

"You made it," Jack said. He rushed around the bar and picked her up in his embrace. Then he put her on her feet and said, "I thought you might be bound, gagged and held prisoner in Sacramento."

"It didn't get physical," she said with a laugh. "However, Mom isn't speaking to any of you."

"That's a relief," Jack said. "Then she won't be calling five times a day."

"Come here, kitten," Brie said, edging Jack out of the way to hug Angie. Then Mel jumped off her stool and joined the hug. "It's so good to have you here," Brie said. "Your mom will come around."

"Fat chance," Jack said. "I don't know anyone who can hold a grudge longer than Donna."

"I hope I didn't cause a rift in the whole family," Angie said.

Jack walked back around behind the bar. "Sheri-dans," he grumbled. "We hang together pretty well in tough times, but we've been known to have a lot of differences of opinion. Bottom line is, you're welcome here anytime. You always have a place at my house."

"And mine," Brie said.

Angie chewed her lower lip for a moment. "Okay, here's the thing. I appreciate it, I do, and I plan to spend a lot of time with you, but I was wondering, hoping, that you wouldn't mind letting me use that little cabin in the woods." She took a breath. "I need some space. Honest to God."

Silence hung in the air. "Is that a fact?" Jack finally said.

Angie took a stool and her two aunts automatically framed her on their own stools. "That is a fact. Space…and I wouldn't mind a beer. And maybe some takeout. It was a long drive."

Jack served up a beer, very slowly. "There's no TV out there," he said.

"Good. But there's an internet connection, right?"

"It's slow, Ange," Mel pointed out. "Not as slow as dial-up was, but it's finicky. The internet connection in our guesthouse is much—"

"I think it's an outstanding idea," Brie said, smiling at Angie. "Try it out. If it gets a little too quiet, I have a guest room and Mel has the guesthouse."

"Thanks, Brie."

"Hey, when you're running away from home, you should at least have your choice of accommodations," Brie added.

"I'm not really running away…. Well, okay, I guess that is what I'm doing. Thanks, you guys. Seriously, thanks."

Mel laughed. "It's not exactly an original idea. Brie and I both landed here because we were running away from stuff. I'm going to go get Preacher and Paige. They've been so anxious to see you. And I'll call your folks to tell them you made it here safely."

"You had no trouble driving?" Jack asked.

"I like driving, but my dad insisted we swap cars. I have his SUV and he has my little Honda," she said. "But I wasn't nervous. Maybe because I don't remember the accident."

But Angie didn't want to dwell on what had happened. She was here to relax, to escape, to move forward with her life. Changing the subject, she asked, "And did everyone have a great Thanksgiving?"

"I might never eat again," Brie said. "How about you?"

"We were all at Grandpa's and it was good, except for a little melodrama about me leaving for a month. Between the aunts, uncles and cousins there seems to be quite a diversity of opinion on how I should live my life."

"I imagine. And what did Sam say?" Brie asked of her father.

"Grandpa thought it was an excellent idea to come up here for a little while and he reminded us all that you did that yourself, Brie."

"And you know what? He was very supportive and encouraging at the time, even though he was at least as worried about me as your parents are about you. He had guessed I was in love. Your grandpa is a pretty modern, savvy guy."

"Yes," Angie said quietly. She was close to Sam Sheridan and had often wished, over the past nine months, that she could tell him she had seen Grandma and that she had looked wonderful. But she wasn't sure she hadn't been dreaming or hallucinating, and second, Grandma had been gone such a long time. She didn't want to stir up grief in her grandpa.

Preacher came out of the kitchen with a look of stun and awe on his face as he pulled off his apron and tossed it over the bar before grabbing Angie up in his big arms, spinning her right off her stool. "Aw, girl, girl, girl," he said, hugging her tight. Then he held her away and looked her over. "You are beautiful!" And then he had to let go of her to wipe his eyes.

"Preach," she said, laughing.

Paige slipped around her husband, giving Angie a warm hug. "I'm so glad you're here," she said softly.

"Your big scary husband is crying."

"I know," she said. "He's such a softie. He's the last person you want to meet in a dark alley, but he's so tenderhearted. He cries at Disney movies and Hallmark commercials."

"Yesterday I cried over football," he said. "It was pathetic all day. I'm just so damn glad to see you, Ange. Your uncle Jack was a mess while you were in the hospital, he was so worried."

"And as you can see, all is well," she said.

"Mel says you want a takeout. I'll make you anything you want—you just tell me what."

"I'll have whatever's on the menu and a bottle of wine. Do you have any sauvignon blanc?"

"Are you sure you're allowed alcohol?" Jack asked.

"Yes," she said with a laugh, holding up her glass. "Hence the beer I'm drinking. I promise not to get wasted. But, gee, some of Preacher's dinner, a glass of wine, a fire, a book, peace and quiet… Oh, Jack, there are logs out there, right?"

"You're all set," he said. "Do you know how to light the fire?"

She rolled her eyes. "Preacher, do you suppose I could do a little graze through your kitchen? Grab some staples—a few eggs, some milk, bread, that sort of thing? In case I wake up starving?"

"Absolutely," he said.

Although it was soft and low, Angie heard someone clear his throat. There, at the end of the bar in the corner was a lone man in an army-green, down-padded jacket. He had dark hair, an empty beer glass and some money in his hand.

Jack turned to him, took his money and said, "Thanks, bud. See you around."

"Have a nice reunion," the man said, moving to leave.

He was so tall—that was what Angie noticed first. As tall as her uncle Jack. And his dark hair had some red in it. Dark auburn. She'd never seen that combination before, unless it was on a woman and had come out of a bottle. Usually red shades were found in blond or light brown hair. The stubble on his cheeks had a tinge of red, too.

As he walked toward the door, their eyes met and Angie felt her cheeks grow warm—he'd caught her staring. He had the greenest eyes she'd ever seen. They had to be contacts. He gave her a half smile and then he turned and was gone.

"Wow," she said. "Whew. Who's the hottie?"

Brie laughed and said, "I think our girl is fully recovered."

Jack let go a little growl. "He's not the one for you," he said.

Angie looked around at all the smiling faces—Brie, Paige, Preacher…. "Gee, did I ask if he was right for me?"

Preacher chortled loudly, another thing the big cook seldom did. "Patrick Riordan," he told her. "He's here sitting out a little leave. He's Navy. I think he got hurt or something."

"Nah, he didn't get hurt," Jack clarified. "Luke said there was an accident during his last deployment and he decided to take a little leave or something. Rior-dans, good people, but that one's got troubles right now. You might want to give him a wide berth. I don't know all the details, but it sounds like combat issues. ."

"Yeah, we wouldn't want to get mixed up with anyone with combat issues,''" Preacher joked. And Jack glared at him. Preacher put a big hand on An-gie's shoulder and said, "He's been kind of quiet and grumpy while he's been in town. If you got to know him a little, you know what? I bet he wouldn't cheer you up that much."

That made Angie laugh. "Well, how about that—we both had accidents. Now, what's for dinner, Preach?"

"Big surprise, turkey soup. It'll keep you very healthy. I boiled two carcasses all day. Homemade noodles—the best. Even though it's not raining, I baked bread."

Her mouth began to water. "I'm in."

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Wednesday's Featured Sleep Over Novel (11/6/13)

Real Vampires Hate Their Thighs 


(Glory St. Clair #5)



Glory St. Clair loves soaking up Hollywood's vampire nightlife with her sexy Scottish lover, Jeremiah. Especially when she meets a vampire/ diet guru who promises to give her the body she's wanted for centuries. One problem: his clan and Jeremiah's are ancient enemies. But Glory's not about to let a stupid family feud come between her and slender bliss. Yet, she can't help but much is she willing to risk for her hips? And how much (and precisely what) is she willing to lose?

Gerry Bartlett and Belle, her Bedlington Terrier
Gerry Bartlett figures that vampires are pretty much like everyone else except for the liquid diet.


(February 2, 2010)

Wednesday's Featured Author (11/6/13)

Mating Instinct

  (Moon Shifter #3)



As the beast within struggles to break free, he must learn to be what she needs...

Surviving for centuries, powerful lupine shifter Jayce Kazan managed to stay away from humans until he met Kat Saburova and was consumed by the need to protect her. But while Jayce shared his passion with the human seer, he refused to make her his bondmate—a refusal that caused the end of their relationship.

A year later, an attack that left Kat near death has resulted in another lupine shifter turning her. Furious that he wasn’t the one to save her, Jayce is determined to show Kat that he is the one she should rely on. But the newly turned shifter is still traumatized and worried that she’ll hurt those she loves, unless she can learn to control her inner wolf.

And as Jayce struggles to protect Kat from her own worst instincts and convince her to rekindle their love, the extremists who almost killed her are looking to finish the job…

Preview Excerpt:

Jayce Kazan parked his Harley in front of December McIntyre’s house. The feisty pregnant redhead wouldn’t be there because she now lived on the Armstrong ranch with her mate and the rest of the lupine shifter pack who made their home in Fontana, North Carolina.
But Kat would be home.
Or she should be. Even after December moved, Kat had stayed there instead of moving to the ranch. After her brutal attack by the radical Antiparanormal League (APL) group a month ago and subsequent near-death experience, she’d been turned into a lupine shifter out of necessity. Just like him. The only difference between them was he’d been born that way almost five hundred years ago. Well, maybe not the only difference. He was a crass, roughneck enforcer who’d killed more beings than he could ever hope to count and she was . . . fucking perfection.
At least to him.
Right now she wasn’t returning his calls. Not that he blamed her. He hadn’t been there for her when she’d needed him most and he wanted to rip his own heart out because of it. At least then maybe he’d be able to assuage some of his guilt. One of the Armstrong pack members had bitten her and turned her into a shifter instead of letting her die. She’d had only a one percent chance of surviving the change, and even though Jayce was grateful that Aiden had saved her, a dark part of him hated that bastard.
He hated the fact that he hadn’t been the one to save her. That someone else had had the honor of taking what was his. His human side knew he’d never planned to change Kat—it would have turned her into a walking target overnight if anyone discovered how deep his feelings for her ran—but his animal side didn’t give a shit. No one should have ever touched what was his.
Though she really wasn’t his, was she? Not anymore anyway. Hadn’t been for almost a year. At one time she had been. He’d kissed and teased every inch of her naked body and she’d done the same to him. Things had never been particularly easy between them—not with their strong personalities—but with the exception of his MIA brother she was the only person on the planet he’d ever let his guard down around. She brought out the best in him. Hell, she also brought out his worst, protective side. For over a month he’d exercised all his restraint just staying away from her while working for the Council.
After getting only an hour of sleep last night, he was edgy and ready to rip someone’s head off. Maybe it hadn’t been the smartest idea to roll up to see her the moment he’d gotten back in town, but he didn’t care. He needed to see her.
Craved it so bad his canines ached at the thought. She could slam the door on him for all he cared. He just needed to see her face.
As he swung his leg over the bike and straightened, he glanced up and saw Ryan get out of his truck across the street. Though he didn’t want to be patient or polite, he waited while the other shifter strode toward him.
Ryan wore a thick down jacket and jeans and even though Jayce couldn’t see an outline, he knew the guy was packing a few weapons. The chilly January weather wouldn’t have affected Ryan like it would humans, so he knew the main reason the shifter was wearing a jacket was to hide guns and blades. “Hey, Jayce. What are you doing here?”
Jayce raised an eyebrow at the question. Why the hell wouldn’t he be here?
Ryan’s lips pulled into a thin line. “I didn’t mean it like that. I didn’t know you’d be back so early. Thought you were still on Council business or something.”
He shrugged. As the enforcer for the North American Council of lupine shifters, Jayce didn’t answer to anyone. Not Ryan. Not even Connor Armstrong, leader of the Armstrong pack and also Ryan’s Alpha. No one. While he might work for the Council, he sure as hell didn’t answer to them either. They needed him and he made damn sure they never forgot it. So even if he didn’t have to answer the wolf in front of him, or that wolf’s boss, he knew that projecting his own bad mood wouldn’t win him any friends, and right now he needed all the fucking friends he could get. “Caught an early flight and headed over here. Haven’t called Connor to let him know I’m in town, though, so . . .”
Ryan nodded. “I’ll let you call him.”
He cleared his throat. “Thanks.” The word felt foreign on his lips. He should have called Connor the moment he arrived in town out of respect, but he had a lot to discuss with him and some of it needed to be done in person. He’d received information that someone was trafficking vampire blood in the next county. After settling in, he intended to search out some former contacts. Not to mention he still planned to ferret out any possible dangerous APL members still in the area. That problem hadn’t gone away and he knew it wasn’t likely to anytime soon. More than anything, he just wanted to see Kat. Everything else took a backseat. “When did she get home?” Jayce didn’t need to specify who he referred to.
Ryan shrugged. “Few hours ago. She was at the ranch with, uh . . . Aiden, training, but she still won’t move there to live with the pack. Which is why we’re still watching her in shifts.”
Jayce already knew that. After the attack from those APL fuckers nearly killed her, she’d been fairly defiant in her demand that she live away from what was now her pack. Connor had jurisdiction over her since she technically lived in his territory, but considering that she’d been turned into a shifter without the proper introduction to pack life and rules, Connor was giving her some leeway. He was a fair Alpha, so Jayce wasn’t exactly surprised. Even if he did hate the fact that Connor wouldn’t force her to live on the ranch, where she’d be protected at all times.
“You have a key to the house?” Jayce asked, though he was already pretty certain of the answer. Connor wouldn’t have left anyone to watch the house without a way to get inside if necessary. Of course they could break in, but cleaning up a mess was a hassle Jayce knew the Alpha wouldn’t want to deal with.
Ryan paused. “Yeah. She’s gonna be pissed if you just walk in there.”
“I know.” He held out his hand, not asking for it but silently demanding.
Sighing, the other wolf dug a single key out of his pocket and handed it over. As he headed back to his vehicle, Ryan muttered something under his breath about Jayce taking his life into his own hands.
If he’d had more sleep or was in a better mood, he might have smiled at the statement. A pissed-off Kat was a sight to see. And he’d only seen her truly angry when she’d been human. He could just imagine her attitude as a shifter.
The last time he’d seen her as a lupine shifter had been directly after her transformation. She’d been healed after the change but covered in her own blood. And another wolf had been holding her.
Protecting her.
Comforting her.
Jayce still didn’t know the details of what had happened to her during her hours of torture—she refused to tell anyone about it—but according to December she still had nightmares.
And no one was there to ease her pain. Jayce’s hands balled into fists as he turned and headed up the stone walkway. Ever since they’d found Kat in that broken-down barn, he’d been living in hell. It was the feeling of helplessness that nearly undid him every time he thought of her. Which was practically every second of every day. The tall, gorgeous woman invaded his dreams when he was sleeping. He should have been there to save her. If he had been, he would have been the one to change her into a shifter.
The second he stepped into the house, he knew Kat wasn’t there. Her scent was there, but he couldn’t hear a heartbeat. She’d been gone maybe twenty minutes if he had to guess from her fading scent. Had ducked her guard just as he feared she’d do since Connor had let her live apart from the pack.
Jayce knew it wasn’t the first time she’d done this either. December had become an unlikely source of information, but she was worried about her friend and often called him with updates on Kat.
This kind of shit was going to stop as far as he was concerned. If she didn’t care about her own safety, she needed to at least be concerned about the rest of the pack. And according to December, over the past week Kat had been disappearing for hours at a time. She wouldn’t tell anyone what she was doing either. Since Jayce had heard she’d been having difficulty controlling her change from human to wolf, that could be a very dangerous thing for all the local shifters.
Worry and possessiveness rose up inside him. His need to protect Kat was deep-seated, something he still didn’t understand completely. He’d felt it the moment he’d met her and it jarred him every time he was near her. Or thought about her.
Inhaling, he followed the trail of her scent out the back door, through December’s backyard, and over to the next street. The distinctive scent of roses was so blatantly Kat—every time he smelled the damn flower he thought of her. But it was slightly different than the actual rose. The classic smell mixed with something sweeter, purer, and all Kat. He would recognize it anywhere.
She hadn’t been gone long, so he hurried back to his bike and headed out. He didn’t bother telling Ryan that Kat was gone either. No one was going after her except him. Anyone who tried to interfere tonight would probably get hurt. Including any shifters.
On his motorcycle it was easy to trail her in his human form. Hell, as an enforcer he preferred his human form. He was much older than most shifters and once he let his animal take over, it was always a struggle for control with his inner wolf. Right now he needed to exert as much restraint as possible. Where Kat was concerned, it was important, if not necessary.
A short ride later he pulled into the parking lot of Kelly’s Bar and Grill, a local Irish bar in the middle of downtown Fontana. The mountain town in North Carolina saw a lot of tourists in the winter months, and judging from the number of cars in the parking lot, the place was packed tonight.
He rolled his shoulders as he stepped off his bike. Being around too many people—humans or supernatural beings—always put him on edge. All those scents were overwhelming. He’d much rather be outdoors, far from civilization.
As he stepped inside the bar, Kat’s scent grew stronger. Even among the stench of perfumes, booze, and other body odors, her sweet rose aroma tickled his nose and wrapped around him. Embracing him like a gentle caress.
“Would you like to be seated in our dining area or would you prefer to find a seat at the bar?” A bubbly blond female wearing black pants and a black T-shirt held a menu in her hand as she looked at him.
“Bar’s fine,” he said, brushing past her.
A burst of annoyance rolled off the human, but right now all he cared about was tracking Kat down. After a quick lap around the place, he followed her trail out a side exit door.
Once he was outside in the crisp night air, the strong scent of roses enveloped him. She was close. Frowning, he looked around the area behind the restaurant. A Dumpster was to his left, which gave him cover as he scanned the small gravel parking lot, where a few cars were parked. Employee vehicles, he guessed.
And that was when he spotted Kat.
She was leaning against the passenger side of an extended-cab truck with her back to him. Tall, lean, drop-dead gorgeous. Her long dark hair was pulled up into a ponytail that hung halfway down her back. She wore formfitting jeans and a skintight long-sleeved black T-shirt. If she’d still been human she’d have needed a coat, but thanks to her transformation from human to shifter she had a higher body temperature now.
Sticking to the shadows, he moved behind the Dumpster and slid along the wall of the restaurant until he was at the edge of the building, twenty yards from where Kat stood talking to a human male.
A growl rose inside him, but he tamped it down and listened to their conversation. As the human talked about heading back to his place to “party,” Jayce nearly lost control of his beast. His inner wolf clawed at him with razor-sharp aggression, tearing and stripping away his insides, begging for freedom.
When the human opened the passenger door for Kat and she actually got inside, Jayce’s claws extended and dug into his palms. The tearing of his flesh jerked him back to reality. Ducking behind the Dumpster, he somehow managed to keep himself under control as the vehicle pulled out of the parking lot.
Just barely.
As the truck drove past the left side of the restaurant, Jayce raced around the right side and headed for his bike in the front.
Whatever Kat thought she was doing with that guy tonight, she’d better think again.

Katie Reus is the New York Times, USA Today, and IndieReader bestselling author of the Red Stone Security series, the Moon Shifter series and the Deadly Ops series.

You can find Katie on her website or on her facebook page, she loves to hear from her fans! 

(March 5, 2013)

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Tuesday's Featured Sleep Over Novel (11/5/13)

Kissing Coffins 

  (Vampire Kisses #2)


Not far from Dullsville, someone's lurking in the dark. . . .

After meeting the handsome and shadowy Alexander Sterling, goth-girl Raven's dark world has a bright, new glow. But as in her favorite movie, "Kissing Coffins," Raven knows that love always has its complications, especially when Alexander has a big secret to guard.

When Alexander suddenly disappears, Raven leaves Dullsville to begin a dangerous search to find him. Can she stay safe, no matter who--or what--she encounters on the way?

Preview Excerpt

It was like a final nail in a coffin.
Becky and I were camped out in my darkened bedroom, engrossed in the eighties cult horror classic Kissing Coffins. The femme fatale, Jenny, a teenage, malnourished blond wearing a size negative-two white cotton dress, was desperately running up a serpentine rock footpath toward an isolated haunted mansion. Bright veins of lightning shot overhead in the pouring rain.
Only the night before had Jenny unearthed the true identity of her fiancé when she stumbled upon his hidden dungeon and found him climbing out of a coffin. The dashing Vladimir Livingston, a renowned English professor, was not a mere mortal after all, but an immortal blood-sucking vampire. Upon hearing Jenny's blood-curdling screams, Professor Livingston immediately covered his fangs with his black cape. His red eyes remained unconcealed, gazing back at her longingly.
"You cannot bear witness to me in this state," I said along with the vampire.
Jenny didn't flee. Instead, she reached out toward her fiancé. Her vampire love growled, reluctantly stepped back into the shadows, and disappeared.
The fang flick had gathered a goth cult following that continued today. Audience members flocked to retro cine-mas in full costume, shouted the lines of the movie in unison, and acted out the various roles in front of the screen. Although I'd seen the movie a dozen times at home on DVD and knew all the words, I'd never been blessed with participating in a theatrical showing. This was Becky's first time watching it. We sat in my room, glued tothe screen, as Jenny decided to return to the professor's mansion to confront her immortal lover. Becky dug her gnawed-on blood-red-painted fingernails into my arm as Jenny slowly opened the creaky wooden arch-shaped dungeon door. The ingénue softly crept down the massive winding staircase into Vladimir's darkened basement, torches and cobwebs hanging on the cement brick walls. A simple black coffin sat in the center of the room, earth sprinkled beneath it. She approached it cautiously. With all her might, Jenny lifted the heavy coffin lid.
Violins screeched to a climax. Jenny peered inside. The coffin was empty.
Becky gasped. "He's gone!"
Tears began to well in my eyes. It was like watching myself on-screen. My own love, Alexander Sterling, had vanished into the night two evenings ago, shortly after I had discovered he, too, was a vampire.
Jenny leaned over the empty casket and melodramatically wept as only a B-movie actress could.
A tear threatened to fall from my eye. I wiped it off with the back of my hand before Becky could see. I pressed the "Stop" button on the remote and the screen went black.
"Why did you turn it off?" Becky asked. Her disgruntled face was barely illuminated by the few votives I had scattered around my room. A tear rolling down her cheek caught the reflection of one of the candles. "It was just getting to the good part."
"I've seen this a hundred times," I said, rising, and ejected the DVD.
"But I haven't," she whined. "What happens next?"
"We can finish it next time," I reassured her as I put the DVD away in my closet.
"If Matt were a vampire," Becky pondered, referring to her khaki-clad new boyfriend, "I'd let him take a bite out of me anytime."
I felt challenged by her innocent remark, but I bit my tongue. I couldn't share my most secretest of secrets even with my best friend.
"Really, you don't know what you'd do" was all I could say.
"I'd let him bite me," she replied matter-of-factly.
"It's getting late," I said, turning on the light.
I hadn't slept the last two nights since Alexander left. My eyes were blacker than the eye shadow I put on them.
"Yeah, I have to call Matt before nine," she said, glancing at my Nightmare Before Christmas alarm clock. "Would you and Alexander meet us for a movie tomorrow?" she asked, grabbing her jean jacket from the back of my computer chair.
"Uh . . . we can't," I stalled, blowing out the votives. "Maybe next week."
"Next week? But I haven't even seen him since the party."
"I told you, Alexander's studying for exams."
"Well, I'm sure he'll ace them," she said. "He's been cracking the books all day and night."
Of course, I couldn't tell anyone, even Becky, why Alexander had disappeared. I wasn't even sure of the reason myself.
But mostly, I couldn't admit to myself that he had gone. I was in denial. Gone -- the word turned my stomach and choked my throat. Just the thought of explaining to my parents that Alexander had left Dullsville brought tears to my eyes. I couldn't bear accepting the truth, much less telling it.
And I didn't want another rumor mill circulating throughout Dullsville. If word got out that Alexander had moved without warning, who knows what conclusions the gossipmongers would jump to.
At this point, I wanted to maintain the status quo: keep up appearances until the RBI -- Raven Bureau of Investigation -- had a few more days to figure out a plan.
"We'll double-date soon," I promised as I walked Becky outside to her truck.
"I'm dying to know. . . ," she said, climbing into her pickup truck. "What happens to Jenny?"
"Uh . . . She tries to find Vladimir."
Becky closed her door, rolled down the window. "If I discovered Matt was a vampire and then he disappeared, I'd search for him," she said confidently. "I know you'd do the same for Alexander."
She started the engine and backed out of the driveway.
My best friend's remark was like a package of Pop Rocks blasting off in my brain. Why hadn't I thought of it sooner? I'd spent the last several days worrying how long I'd have to keep making excuses for Alexander's absence. Now I wouldn't be forced to wait an eternity in Dullsville wondering if he'd ever return. I didn't have to jump every time the telephone rang to find out it was for my mother.

 "Before I took pen to paper I was an actress." 

You can find Ellen on her website or on her facebook page, she loves to hear from her fans. 


My Rating 
4 stars

My Review

Life's Too Frantic

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