Review: Glass Houses by Anne Stuart

Format: E-bookglasshouses.jpg
Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Length: Novel
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Standalone
Publisher: Harlequin
Hero: Michael Dubrovnika
Heroine: Laura de Kelsey Winston
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: July 25, 1989
Started On: November 07, 2018
Finished On: November 08, 2018

Glass Houses by Anne Stuart was picked as my next read to chase away the dissatisfaction that had been left behind by the last novel that I had read. Anne Stuart is an author who continuously delivers. After all, there is a reason why she is a queen of the genre itself, no matter in which sub-genre she chooses to write.

Glass House is referred to as a famous New York landmark built by the grandfather of the heroine, Laura de Kelsey Winston. Owner of Glass Faces, a small and exclusive up and coming modeling agency owned by Laura herself, she is determined that she would protect the building and preserve its authenticity at any cost, no matter how many vultures might circle her in their attempts to buy the land plot upon which Glass House stands.

However, in Michael Dubrovnik, known as Whirlwind to his competitors, Laura finds the most formidable buyer that yet, willing to fight dirty to get what he wants, with him explicitly stating so. Underneath all the back and forth that happens between Laura and Michael, starts an awakening of the senses, especially for Laura, whose young heart had been bruised by the fact that she was considered the “ugly swan” among the rest of the beauties in her family. Plus, the actions of her mother had left its mark on Laura, something which makes her believe that sex would never be enjoyable for someone like her, and she has so far succeeded in her attempts to steer clear from any amorous intentions of the opposite sex she comes across.

Michael manages to get under her skin in a way that leaves Laura vulnerable. It is not easy for someone who projects a cool front otherwise, to lose her temper and other senses so spectacularly around a man as experienced in his ways as is Michael. But Laura is not alone in feeling that sizzle of longing and awareness. Michael too is caught in its tendrils and before they know it, both Laura and Michael are tumbling into a world where only the headiness of sensual pleasure rules. But when tragedy comes calling, Laura must decide what it is that she would do; wave the white flag of surrender or carry on business as usual, if she wants to have it all.

I loved Glass Houses and the feels that this novel brought out in me in spades. I believe that the effect was magnified by a hundredfold because of the lackluster story I had read earlier as well. But then again, it IS Anne Stuart we are talking about here, the author who can do no wrong, 99 per cent of the time.

I loved Michael. He is arrogant in a way that comes from climbing his way to the top with sheer hard work and making a name for himself where many had failed. His arrogance itself served as a turn on at appropriate moments. That is the sheer brilliance behind a character well written.

But the most fascinating aspect to Michael was how well he saw into Laura, how insightful he was when it comes to the woman she is behind the facade she presents to the rest of the world. Of course, that is not surprising given he is ruthless in his business ventures, and for that, he needs to be able to read people. But for once, Michael is unable to exert his usual ruthlessness to full effect, because unknowingly, Laura also loosens something dangerous and possessive inside of him.

Laura was one of those spunky heroines that Anne Stuart is famous for. She is feisty, goes out of her way to thwart all and every attempt of Michael to win her over, goes as far as to thrust another woman towards him as she pursues her interests elsewhere; all the while kidding to herself on the extent to which she was already compromised. The period of separation between Michael and Laura was one that brought on the angst factor, which I of course loved. I believe that Laura needed that period of healing in order to start over from a clean slate where she and Michael were concerned.

Definitely adored the ending. It was just fitting!

The secondary romance tucked in between the high octane tale unfolding between Michael and Laura was equally enticing. Loved how Susan finally got what she deserved, in the arms of none other than the man she had been in love with, ever since she had come to know him.

Recommended for fans of sizzling hot romances featuring a tad of a ruthless hero and a heroine who will fight till the very end before giving in.

Final Verdict: What a good novel does for you is priceless, and that is what Anne Stuart undoubtedly delivers, every single time.

Favorite Quotes

She didn’t even have time to get self-conscious. “You have the most beautiful body,” he whispered, his mouth traveling down, brushing the tops of her full breasts as his fingers slid the narrow straps down over her arms, pushing the silk away from her body to land on the floor. She was standing naked in his arms, and shyness washed over her body in a dull pink haze. She tried to turn from him, but he wouldn’t let her, and the hands that ran up the length of her were gentle, almost worshipping. “I love your breasts,” he whispered, his hands brushing their softness, so that she wanted to cry with longing. “I love your hips brushing against me, I love your arms around me, I love your mouth under mine, I love your legs, I love…”

“If you think you’re all done for the night, babe,” he whispered, “you’re wrong.” And putting his hand between their bodies he touched her, deftly, deliberately, as he surged forward once, twice, three times.
She heard the muffled cry from a distance and knew it was her own. His mouth covered hers, drinking in her cry, as his body pushed her over the edge into places she’d never even dreamed existed. There was only rippling darkness, his body pulsing within hers, as every muscle, every cell in her body convulsed. It went on forever, a timeless, impossible eternity, and when she finally returned to the mattress beneath her and the man above her, the room and the noise and the New York City night, her face was wet with tears.

He was too fast for her. Before she had the faintest idea what he was going to do, he’d pulled her into his arms. Her laughter faded into silence as his mouth covered hers, wet from the rain, tasting faintly of whiskey.
She was too startled, too breathless, to react as she should have. Instinctively she put her arms around him, and suddenly he lifted her, swinging her around, away from the shelter of the building and out into the pouring rain again. She clung to him, half out of dizziness, half out of a sneaking, self-destructive streak she couldn’t fight anymore. Damn it, she wanted to kiss him. And kiss him she did, opening her mouth to his as the rain poured down around them.

Before she realized what he intended, he pulled her into his arms, tightly against his body. He was far more aroused than Carnaby had ever been, and the tension and strength vibrating through him effectively wiped out any other considerations. When his mouth met hers she was absurdly ready, hungry for him despite all her better judgment.
She moaned when his tongue touched hers, pushing him away with her freed hands as her mouth answered his. Ignoring her lands, he cupped her face, holding her still for the scorching power of his kiss, and her fists grew feebler, batting at him weakly.

He released her breast, and her skin felt damp and cool compared to the feverish flush that covered the rest of her body. “This is a game for two players, Laura,” he said, his voice rasping in the darkness. “Touch me.”
She released his arm, reaching up to tentatively caress his shoulder. He was covered with a fine sheen of sweat, and she could fee! the tension pulsing through him. “No,” he said, his voice hard. “Touch me.”

She couldn’t pretend not to know what he meant. And suddenly she wanted what he wanted. She wanted to feel that heavy male power in her hands, wanted to know what would soon be a part of her. Running one hand down his chest, she let it slide across his taut stomach, down the crisp curl of hair. And then she touched him, the silken length of him, the satiny-smooth flesh, the heat and desire and dampness and sheer size of him.

For a moment she panicked, trying to push him away from her, tightening up against an invasion she wasn’t sure she wanted. “Don’t fight me,” he murmured, but she couldn’t hear him, lost in her own unexpected alarm.
The sharp pain on her shoulder startled her into a shriek of dismay. Michael took advantage of his deliberate distraction, pushing in deep, filling her with his strength and masculine power. She shuddered, accepting him, and when she looked up, her eyes were glazed with tears.
“You bit me,” she whispered.
“Needs must when the devil drives,” he murmured, running his tongue over the teeth marks on her soft white shoulder. And he began to move.

“Don’t leave me,” she whispered.
She didn’t need his small smile to know that he’d won. It no longer mattered. He returned to her, thrusting deep and hard, and his voice in her ear was just a reminder of her weakness. “I told you you’d beg me not to leave you.”
Deep in her body he was holding still, and she had no choice but to respond. “You’re a manipulative bastard, Mischa.”
“Yes.” He reached down, took her legs and wrapped them around his waist. “But I’m honest about what I want. And I want you.”

Her fingernails raked across his back, but he ignored them, his hands bruised her wrists, but she ignored them, clinging to him with her arms, her legs, her body, holding tight and reaching… reaching…
“Look at me,” he said, his voice hoarse, his muscles standing out with exertion. “Open your eyes and look at me, Laura. I want to watch you when you come.”
She opened her eyes. “I’m not going to,” she said faintly. “I’m not…”
“Yes,” he said. “You are.”
And suddenly she did, convulsing around him, shock and surprise spinning into blind sensation as she was swept away, caught in a whirlwind of dark desire that was twisting and turning her, tossing her into a night where nothing existed but sheer sensation.

Her entire body began to quiver. She was covered with a fine film of sweat, her breathing was rapid and shallow, and the pleasure he was giving her was so exquisite, she thought she might die from it. “Stop,” she whispered hoarsely, unable to bear any more. “I can’t…”
“Yes, you can.” His voice was nothing more than a breath of sound on the still night air. And suddenly she did, biting her lower lip as her body convulsed in a reaction that was still too new. He held her tight, prolonging it, prolonging it so that she thought she might explode as tears poured down her face.

Purchase Links: Amazon | iTunes

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Review: True Enchanter by Susan Napier

Format: E-booktrueenchanter_susannapier
Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Length: Novel
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Standalone
Publisher: Harlequin
Hero: Richard Marlow
Heroine: Joanna Carson
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: July 10, 1987
Started On: October 26, 2018
Finished On: October 29, 2018

After the high of my previous read, The Sister Swap by Susan Napier, I decided that one more Susan Napier was in order to continue riding the high.

Story begins with Joanna Carson, aunt to one talented and quite young Rebecca, acting as a chaperone to her niece on a movie set, where Rebecca was as one of the lead roles. This is how Joanna starts to spend time, albeit reluctantly, with Richard Marlow, the director of the said movie, a man she believes to be too egoistic and arrogant for his own good. 

Richard had been a promising actor himself, who at the peak of his stardom, went out of the spotlight owing to a life changing accident, which saw him return as a movie director. 

True Enchanter, despite all elements that should have made it work, was a tough story to care about. I liked the hero a bit, and disliked the heroine intensely. In my opinion, she is one of those heroines whom you want to see as someone who was pushing the boundaries on the gender equality agenda, but somehow ends up being annoying about everything. But in all honesty, I just found her tiresome and thought to myself good riddance when I skipped bits and pieces to get to the ending. 

Susan Napier writes strong heroines, and pushes the accepted norms in her books. Feminism as an evolving concept has always been challenged by romance authors to different extents. But then there are the heroines who grate on your nerves because of their “strong ideals” and end up giving the story a bad vibe rather than being an empowering figure to the reader.

Recommended if you like heroines who come off too strong. 

Final Verdict: Tiresome in a way that had me skipping parts of the story to get to the ending. It is my faith in Napier’s abilities as a writer that made me even  try.

Purchase Links: Amazon

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Review: The Sister Swap by Susan Napier

Format: E-bookthesisterswap_susannapier.jpg
Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Length: Novel
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Standalone
Publisher: Harlequin
Hero: Hunter Lewis
Heroine: Anne Tremaine
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: January, 1996
Started On: October 24, 2018
Finished On: October 26, 2018

After the recent rounds of lackluster reads from Susan Napier, The Sister Swap turned out to be a godsend in the way it sent my senses humming. This is the Susan Napier that I fell in love with when I first read her work, and this is the voice that I seek every time I pick up one of her titles to read.

Anne Tremaine has a big heart, which means that she always puts her family first. When her sister Kaitlin requests from Anne to swap places with her, Anne enters into a deceptive existence, seizing the opportunity, given her thirst for knowledge and want for a college education. With her nephew Ivan in tow, Anne foresees no dangers of her secret coming out, that is until she meets her neighbor aka Professor Hunter Lewis.

Hunter does not want distractions, which includes neighbors who play trashy music loudly enough to disturb his peace. A writer who requires his quiet, Hunter is further disconcerted by the fact that he literally cannot figure out Anne as a woman. Just when Hunter believes that he knows everything there is to her, she surprises him in a way that intrigues him. Hunter does not like it, not one bit at all, which is why his temper gets the best of him where Anne is concerned.

Anne cannot believe that she is stuck with a surly and churlish neighbor the likes of Hunter. But when circumstances bring them together time and yet again, Anne finds that she is rather fascinated by the conundrum that Hunter presents to her as a man. He excites her, arouses her, and irritates her in equal doses. There is no denying that for an innocent like Anne, Hunter at full throttle was definitely going to end up being a disaster. Hunter gets a dose of what its like to be confronted by a woman who is all that he wants, but his fear that stems from the past acts as a deterrent.

I so loved The Sister Swap and what it entailed. I cannot quite figure out why the book has received bad ratings. Because Susan Napier is at her most charming and hilarious form in this novel, presenting to readers two characters that cannot stand each other and at the same time want each other so very badly.

Hunter’s character was riveting. He is equal doses passionate and likes control in his life, especially given the circumstances upon which he had become a widower a couple of years back. He has no intention of letting the feels catch him once again, but for the love of him, he cannot stop the avalanche of need that seems to take over his body when it comes to Anne.

I loved watching Hunter unravel, piece by piece. I reveled in the fact that he could not help himself when it comes to Anne. I enjoyed watching him succumb, watching him lose that patience of his, that intellectual part of him being taken over by the passionate man he is deep inside, until he gives in, and oh so headily.

I loved Anne, for the warmth of her character, the spark of her intelligence, that wit and sarcastic humor that sets the pace between the two of them, and the love she shows to Hunter in abandon, even when he tries to steer clear of emotions that could bring him down.

The ending was equal parts hilarious and endearing. Anne certainly knows what she is doing when it comes to Hunter. I closed the book with a huge ass grin on my face, already envisioning a Hunter trying to keep up with his charming and sexy wife, who stirs him in every single way that matters, with a bunch of small Hunters and Annes’ in the mix, with more on the way. I could literally picture that, given the earthy nature of both characters. The way Hunter gets seduced by Anne’s long and plaited hair was one of the highlights of the story.

Loved, loved, loved! Recommend this wholeheartedly for the fun and sizzle!

Final Verdict: A super grumpy hero who is reluctant to fall in love, a heroine who holds a secret that she would take to her grave with or die trying; but when these two meet, there is no denying the sparks that fly.

Favorite Quotes

‘I’m sorry.’ His quiet sincerity took her off guard and she turned, just as he moved to pick up the tea-towel on the bench beyond her. Trapped against the cupboards, Anne could feel every inch of him from chest to knee…every impressive inch! ‘Anne?’ He picked up her plait, which had flopped on to the bench, winding it around his hand as she maintained her silent resistance, forcing her to look at him. ‘I’m sorry.’
She meant to say something flippant, something smart, something sophisticated. Instead she could only stand there, transfixed by the dark compassion in the heavy-lidded gaze, aware of simmering heat that had nothing whatsoever to do with the sultry, late-summer night.
And then he kissed her.

His fist tightened on her plait, pulling her head back, and she instinctively went up on tiptoe to meet his descending mouth. It was hard, hot, and faintly hostile. Instead of frightening her, his restrained aggression was fiercely exciting. He wasn’t asking for a response, he was demanding it, and Anne gave with greedy generosity. When he bit at her soft lips they parted instantly and he plunged inside, making a rough sound of triumph that vibrated on her tongue. He tasted deliciously warm and spicy, and as he sank recklessly deeper she pressed her palms flat against his chest to steady herself and was entranced by the straining tension in his body, the rapid, erratic pounding of his heart.

She pushed her hands eagerly up under his shirt to stroke his silky, hot, hair-roughened chest. She touched his flat, masculine nipples and was startled to feel them react sharply, hardening under her clumsy caress. Intoxicated by a rush of feverish curiosity, she pulled her mouth away from his and pushed the soft fabric up out of her way, revealing the thick muscles bunching and shifting with every convulsive breath.
‘Anne…’
She was too enraptured by her discovery to notice the husky note of warning in his voice as his hand stilled on her breast.
‘Why, you’re just like me,’ she murmured wonderingly, touching a finger lightly to one rigid nipple where it peeped out of its thick nest of hair and watching it stiffen further.
He shuddered and swore savagely under his breath and she looked up at his face, fascinated by the mixture of smouldering resentment and carnal desire that she saw there.

Anne lifted her knee, not even feeling the shoe slip off her foot and bounce into the gutter as she pressed the inside of her thigh against his lean flank, like a rider trying to sense the next move of a powerful, unruly stallion.
He made a thick, greedy sound and immediately slid his hand into the crook of her raised knee, tugging it higher on his hip so that he could settle more securely between her legs, trailing his hand up the back of her thigh to cup the curve of her buttock, its smooth roundness tautened by her wanton pose.

He opened his mouth against her and she went utterly weak, not even noticing the rough hand glide smoothly under her hanging blouse and unclip the plastic fastening at her back. As her breasts tumbled free he made a rough sound of greedy satisfaction and sank back down with her on to the firmly sprung couch, holding her across his lap and nuzzling the flimsy fabric aside with his mouth before lapping at the soft, shyly trembling peaks with long, lazy strokes, gliding them with his clever tongue until they were rigid and glistening. He admired his erotic creations with little crowns of biting kisses, then cupped her again in his strong fingers, guiding each stiff nipple in turn into the scalding moistness of his mouth, drawing them deeper as he suckled hotly, with a fierce, lusty enjoyment that drove her into a frenzy of delight.

Anne was lost in a world of languid bliss, unaware of the passage of time as Hunter teased her skirt slowly up her legs, deliberately taking his time in order to savour her uninhibitedly sensual response to each fleeting caress, his warm fingers stroking, delving, sliding, enticing, his mouth always moving, tasting, exploring her with a thoroughness that would have shocked her had she not been blinded by the shattering glory of her first physical experience of love.
She wasn’t aware of the skilful disrobing that accompanied his wildly erotic explorations until she opened her pleasure-dazed eyes and suddenly found herself nude in her lover’s arms, unbearably excited by the feel of his rough clothing against her singing skin, the slide of smooth cotton against her bare back as he shifted her to accommodate his needs. He had released her hair from its faded hoop of elastic and fanned it out to frame the lush, pearly curves of her body, winding his hands in its gleaming luxuriance, teasing it over her gloriously sensitised breasts, tantalising her with its feathery friction.
When she teased him throatily about his fetish and protested at the inequity of their dress, Hunter laughed smokily and touched her where she was most vulnerable, stroking her with excruciating delicacy until she melted with a drenching cry, praising her for the splendour of her response.
‘So soft, and hot and silky wet… Don’t lose the rhythm, darling, stay with me… that’s right… a little harder… a little faster… No, darling, don’t fight it…’

Am I the first man to do this to you, Anne?’
He withdrew once more, and again she couldn’t stop herself from panicking, digging her short, practical nails into his tight buttocks until he eased forward, this time a little faster and more roughly, beginning to establish a rhythm that was both exhilarating and frustrating.
‘Am I, Anne?’
This time as he pulled back Hunter deliberately hesitated and, as he expected, his answer arrived in a wild rush as she wound herself around him.
‘Yes, yes! Although if I’d known it was going to be this good I wouldn’t have waited so long!’ She slid her fingers through the hair on his chest and stroked the fine pelt, following the silky line down his belly to push into the thickening where his body joined with hers—Anne and Hunter, Hunter and Anne—if only it could go on forever.

Purchase Links: Amazon | B&N | Kobo

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Review: The Counterfeit Secretary by Susan Napier

Format: E-bookthecounterfeitsecretary_susannapier.jpg
Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Length: Novel
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Standalone
Publisher: Harlequin
Hero: James Everett
Heroine: Ria Masson
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: October, 1986
Started On: July 29, 2018
Finished On: July 30, 2018

The Counterfeit Secretary by Susan Napier delivers a story that makes you laugh one minute and fan yourself from the heat between the protagonists the next.

Widowed with twin boys, Ria Masson is finally in a place where she can think about a second marriage and moving forward. Her job at Everett Communications is perfect for her home situation, and her boss James Everett, while demands a lot from his employees, had made it clear the boundaries that would exist between them as employer and employee from the get go.

Even then, the thought of spending the rest of her life with Louis, the man she is dating does not seem like much of an exciting prospect. Furthermore, Ria has her sons to consider, while at the same time, she craves for excitement of the kind that only a lover who is considerate and fiery at the same time could bring.

Ria has never seen James in any other way than the boss whose temper she handles as if he were a little boy throwing a tantrum. Three years into their working relationship, everything changes on the night of her thirtieth birthday, when Louis takes her out to dinner, and a bit of dare devilment on Ria’s part brings her into close contact with none other than James himself. A stolen kiss makes Ria believe that in all probability, her safe haven of a job would be in jeopardy, only to realize later on that James does not seem to have arrived at the conclusion that it had been his secretary who had lured him the previous night like a siren to a drunken sailor.

However, once James does realize the truth, there is no holding him back from his pursuit of Ria, to fully explore what is between them. Ria proves to be a formidable adversary, keeping certain truths to herself and trying to prevent herself from giving into something that could only end in devastation in her opinion.

Life, however, has other plans in store for them, and it is a moment of near tragedy that unleashes the passion that exists between Ria and James. Even then, Ria is a woman on the retreat, believing that for her and James, there would be no future beyond that of what takes place in the bedroom.

I loved the overall story, but sometimes had a hard time with Ria because she certainly does hurt James in a way that I thought, if it had come from James, readers would have demanded that he grovel for forgiveness. Even with all the reasons on Ria’s side, I do not believe that it calls for the callous disregard she showed to James at that point. Everything does get resolved in the end, but I certainly wanted to see Ria ask for forgiveness from the man who loves her to pieces.

Recommended for fans of Susan Napier and angst-ridden Harlequin romances.

Final Verdict: The Counterfeit Secretary delivers a tale of the kind Harlequin romances are synonymous with; tons of angst, heat, & emotion.

Favorite Quotes

His mouth lifted briefly, long enough for him to mutter, ‘You kiss like an angel, no wonder Tony looked so dazed.’
Then his mouth enveloped hers again, barely giving her time to draw breath, his teeth biting sensually into her lower lip. Ria shivered, dissolving as she felt the warm fingers of his hand slide indiscreetly under the low curve of silk at her back. His middle finger brushed a tiny, whispering rotation on the sensitive skin where the cleft of her buttocks divided the smooth line of her back. It sent a shooting fire up the length of her spine to where his other hand massaged the hollow at the base of her skull.

Ria shivered with dangerous delight. She could feel her breasts swelling tightly against the lace of her bra and experienced an aching desire for his touch. As if he sensed her innermost needs, his hands shifted to grip her above the waist, his thumbs digging into the sides of her swollen breasts. But instead of fondling her, he anchored her firmly and began to move his torso, twisting it slowly from side to side so that the hard wall of muscle that was his chest rubbed teasingly back and forth, intensifying her arousal. It was as though he was massaging her entire body with his. Ria had never felt such an excruciatingly sensuous frustration, the urge to bite and kick and fight and make him take her.

‘James–‘
‘Ria–‘ He’ mocked her uncertain sigh. She was wearing her hair loose these days and he
marveled anew at how the sheer redness of it reacted so vibrantly with the passionate redness of her mouth, tempting him to lose himself in both. The freckles that were such intriguing indicators of her moods seemed to glow and he wondered with a sudden , pulsing curiosity whether they extended over the rest of her body, imagined kissing his way along the tiny, delicious, honeyed trails, wherever they might lead, imagined hearing her say James’ in that husky voice, but as a plea not a protest.

He bit her ear, his tongue teasing the lobe, questing for pleasure points. She gasped as he found one, heat streaking downwards as she, sagged against him, her breasts vibrating deliciously to the quiet groan that rumbled in his chest. ‘You like that, don’t you?’ he murmured, stringing kisses along her jawbone to her other ear which he nibbled contentedly. ‘You like me to do this to your ears, it makes you soft and weak inside, it makes you want what I want: He kissed her mouth, smothering her reply. ‘Do you know what I’d like to do right now? I’d like to take you home with me and spend the rest of the day’ making love. I want to hold you in my arms and feel your skin on mine. I want the heavenly scent of you in my nose and in my mouth, I want to hear the sounds that you make as we make love. Do you scream, Ria? Do you cry out your joy or are you all quiet sighs?’ His tongue slid along hers, hot and velvety, his hands stroking the taut arch of her back, his hips creating a gentle pressure between her thighs. ‘I want to see you, Angel Mouth. I want to watch our bodies join and break apart, I want to feel the sharp sting of your mouth on me, the silky heat of your hands. I want to ‘taste you, touch you, please you, rock you into sweet, sweet oblivion with me .. .’

Biting, kissing, sucking, stroking, he travelled over her body, peeling off her nightdress and his own pyjamas, meshing their bodies together with teasing movements of long, hair-roughened limbs. As his hands skimmed her breasts, Ria gasped frantically, aching for his intimate touch. But he circled – the taut mounds, avoiding the stiff centres until Ria was moaning with need. When he did it was like a sword plunged to the core of her womanhood. She cried out when his fingers splayed under her breasts, readying them for his mouth.’

His tongue moistly lashed her until she tore his head away and launched feverishly into
her own explorations.
No, Ria, not like that…’ He kissed her hotly, lifting her up so that her thighs fell over his, holding her hips and lowering her on to him. ‘This way, angel…’ He moaned softly as her thighs fell either side of his and he felt her trembling softness above him. ‘Come, Ria,’ he enticed thickly, ‘take what you want.’

He gloried in the explosive lack of control that arched her body. Ria threw her head back,
shuddering as James manipulated their pleasure, feeling his hands move languidly on her swollen breasts as his hips rotated beneath hers. Then the whirlwind dashed away her heady sense of power, sucking everything inwards for an instant then shattering outwards. Ria fell, sprawling across the hard, masculine body, hot salty tears of release falling from wide, wondering eyes.

‘You see,’ he murmured into her relaxed, passion washed face when it was over. There was a masculine possessiveness about him that she felt too deliciously languid to deny. ‘Whatever the reason we came together last night, this morning proves that we should give it a chance. It feels so good, Ria, to make love to you, so natural.’ He closed her mouth with a gentle finger as she opened it to protest. ‘I know it’s a difficult time for you, so I’m not going to press it. Deep down, you know you trust me, or your subconscious wouldn’t have let you give yourself to me the way you did. Trust me enough to look after you while Michel’s ill. Stay here… you and Paul and Jamie. Lean on me, use me, whatever you need, Ria just don’t shut me out. I need to be needed, too, you know.’

Purchase Links: Amazon

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Review: Fortune’s Mistress by Susan Napier

Format: E-bookfortunesmistress
Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Length: Novel
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Standalone
Publisher: Mills & Boon
Hero: Nicholas Fortune
Heroine: Maggie
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: April, 1990
Started On: July 27, 2018
Finished On: July 28, 2018

Susan Napier is one of my go-to authors when it comes to the Harlequin line of romances. Having discovered her books somewhere in 2013, I have delighted in the depth of her characterization and emotion she brings in the scant number of pages that usually makes up a Harlequin romance.

Fortune’s Mistress happened to be my next pick by Susan Napier to sample, and while I enjoyed certain aspects of the story, I realized that there were bits and pieces to it that didn’t quite work for me. The heroine Maggie is married to her best friend Finn when the tale begins. Their marriage is not unusual if you consider most marriages of conveniences. Given how their marriage started, the reasons behind it, an open marriage where they were both free to come and go as they please, while respecting certain boundaries worked for them. That is until Finn announced that he was in love, which meant that their brief sojourn through marriage had to come to an end.

Maggie is more apprehensive about who Finn had fallen in love with than the fact that he had. Although Maggie cannot deny that she feels completely alone for the first time in her life at the thought of the changes that are to come, she cannot help but feel a bit cautious because the love of Finn’s life turns out to be none other than the coveted daughter of Nicholas Fortune.

Known as a ruthless corporate raider who was rumored to have been a boxer at one time, was now considered amongst the societal elites of New Zealand. Maggie, always in her encounters with Nicholas had barely skimmed the surface, preferring to avoid him altogether, without delving too deeply into the reasons as to why she does what she does.

Needless to say, a lot of misunderstandings happen before everything is put to right. It’s not like “my husband is in love with your daughter” is the kind of statement you blurt out with a man as closed off as Nicholas Fortune. Nicholas’s take on Maggie and Finn’s marriage, though he doesn’t have the full facts to form a comprehensive picture, is spot on when it comes to discerning Maggie’s thoughts and deeper feelings, which unnerves her in a way that leaves her altogether not too comfortable. Maggie likes her life the way it is, uncomplicated, even if people might surmise her to be a spoilt rich socialite.

What I found tiresome were the countless conversations that took place between Maggie and Nicholas, without anything really happening. Maggie and Finn’s marriage, having never being consummated, had proper grounds for an annulment. But the fact that there was a family history as to why they had gotten hitched in the first place, prevents them from making a go for it. I wanted more for Nicholas and Maggie than witty dialogue and exchange of sarcastic quips. I wanted the passion between them to materialize and take a hold of my senses. I wanted Nicholas and Maggie together, and it just happened too late for my tastes.

Sometimes, it so happens that an author makes conversation such a huge part of the novel that the rest is left behind. Slow burn is all well and good. But when slow burn becomes an excruciating burn, no reader wishes to go through that and feel like they have been cheated out of the climax that should have been coming. Pun intended.

Recommended for fans of books that are steeped in witty banter and fans of Susan Napier.

Final Verdict: Even though Fortune’s Mistress is not Napier’s finest, her ability to keep the reader engaged is a testament to her talent that lives on through her stories.

Favorite Quotes

She decided that flippancy was the only defense. ‘Are you trying to appeal to my sense of decency?’ she mocked in turn, and she was relieved to see that trace of compassion vanish like smoke from the grey-blue eyes.
‘Do you have any?’ he grated.
‘What do you think?’ she asked archly.
‘I think .. .’ Whatever he had been going to say, he changed his mind. His voice dipped roughly.

‘I think you’ve been spoilt to hell and back, and it’s a bloody waste.’
There was real anger in the growl, and a regret that whipped under Maggie’s defences. Her eyes widened and they stared at each other for a moment; she saw the hungry male curiosity stir and the regret took on a far more personal flavor.

When their mouths touched there was an explosion of heat, a sweet eruption that quaked through Maggie and left her weak and shaking. No other man had kissed her, touched her. .. only Nick. His mouth was bold and intoxicating, like rich red wine that lingered on the palate. His tongue moved in her mouth, tasting the tart sweetness of her surrender, curling around her tongue and enticing it into an uninhibited exploration of its own, drawing her skillfully into his possession so that he might suckle her with a slow, erotic rhythm that shocked her un-tutored senses. He didn’t touch her with anything but his mouth, and Maggie didn’t dare unfold her fists clenched at her side for fear that if she touched him she would never let him go … But for the pleasure he gave her they might have been naked on a bed, locked in each other’s arms.
When the kiss broke, something in Maggie did, too.

Purchase Links: Amazon

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Review: One More Valentine by Anne Stuart

Format: E-bookonemorevalentine_new.jpg
Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Length: Novel
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Standalone
Publisher: Harlequin
Hero: James Sheridan Rafferty
Heroine: Helen Emerson
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: February 01, 1993
Started On: June 12, 2018
Finished On: June 16, 2018

As a romance reader who has an undying and unabashed love for all that is Anne Stuart’s books and her heroes, I have this wish that I would never run out of her books to read. That is one reason why I try to exercise caution and space out books from her and save them for the days when I NEED to read an Anne Stuart. When all the mushy reads with heroes who capitulate too easily get too much for me, I pick up an Anne Stuart, knowing that it would chase away those blues that only she can.

One More Valentine is a bizarre read in many ways. It deals with a hero who has been dead for sixty four years, who gets the chance to “live” for 48 hours every year. This time period coincides with the Valentine’s Day, the anniversary of the massacre that had killed James Sheridan Rafferty.

Assistant Prosecutor, Helen Emerson dreads the arrival of the Valentine’s Day every year. Single and in love with the old building which houses her apartment, Helen is a woman who stands out from the rest, not because she is a beauty of the kind that makes heads turn. She has strange dreams that she cannot make much sense out of, and a love for an era that had come and gone even before she was born into this world.

When Rafferty turns up on her doorstep, Helen wrongly assumes that he is from the defendant’s team on a case she is trying. Soon enough though, she learns that Rafferty is not exactly what he portrays himself to be. Thrown together by circumstance more than anything else, Rafferty is not altogether too happy with the idea of wasting his 48 hours “alive” babysitting Helen, a woman who disturbs his peace in more ways than one.

Helen is the direct opposite of the type of women that Rafferty usually goes for – the uncomplicated variety with whom he can have fun and leave when his brief sojourn on Earth is up for the year. Yet, he is drawn to Helen and irrevocably so, and in the span of the 48 hour period, Rafferty learns that there is no running from destiny that is determined to play catch up.

Helen is an innocent in a lot of ways, and the carnal desire that Rafferty invokes in her so effortlessly should be reason to scare her away, but in Rafferty, Helen finds the kind of man that she could definitely fall for, and fall hard. With danger courting her very existence, an old enemy of Rafferty’s out to wreak havoc and vengeance, Rafferty has no choice but to stick by Helen’s side, even if it means making himself vulnerable in return.

I loved the story, as strange as the premise and plot line seemed to be. There is no denying that Anne Stuart is a master storyteller, no matter what trope she chooses to write. In Rafferty, she brings the sort of hero who seems brusque and out of touch when it comes to courting a woman who is considered to be marriage material. And Rafferty steers clear of Helen’s kind for a reason. But there is no stopping the tide of desire that catches them both, tugging, cajoling, and enticing until there is no choice, but to give in.

I loved both Helen and Rafferty in equal doses. Helen gives as good as she gets, one reason why Rafferty has such a hard time turning away from her, though he tries his hardest to do so. The streak of independence that is a core characteristic of Helen infuriates and entices him in equal doses. I fell head over heels with the ending. When Anne Stuart decides to deliver a good ending, she does it spectacularly well, with just the right touch and flair.

Recommended!

Final Verdict: One More Valentine is the kind of novel that should be read on a rainy day, cozied up in bed, with a cup of hot steaming tea right next to you. The feels; they just explode with this little number!

Favorite Quotes

And maybe one brief kiss wouldn’t make things worse. He could brush his lips against her forehead, against the thick, sweet-smelling hair, and she might not even notice. It wouldn’t do any harm. Even if he threaded a hand through the thick hair at the back of her neck, tilting her face up to his, it wouldn’t cause irreparable damage. Even if she looked up at him, her eyes wide and solemn and waiting, her mouth pale and damp and slightly parted. He didn’t have to kiss her, did he?
Yes, he did.

He pulled her into the hallway, slamming the door on the bright winter sunshine, cocooning them in warmth and darkness. Pushing her up against the wall, he slid his hands under the heavy fur coat, around her body and pulled her tight against him, against his own hard, aching body, wanting to scare her away, wanting to take her, wanting a thousand conflicting things.
She stared up at him, wordlessly. And since he made no move to kiss her, she reached up on her tiptoes and put her mouth against his, sweet and shy and very brave. “Come on, tiger,” she whispered against his mouth. “What are you afraid of?”
“You, Helen. Just you.”

“I thought you were a ghost,” she said, her voice deliberately taunting. “Or a zombie.”
“Damn it.” He moved his hand from her mouth, cupping the back of her neck beneath the heavy fall of hair and kissed her then, his mouth hard against hers.
She closed her eyes, sinking back against the wall, reveling in the feel of him, of his hard, taut body, of his hungry mouth, pushing her lips apart, tasting, devouring, as if a man obsessed. She wanted to kiss him back, but he was too forceful, allowing her no choice but to accept, passively, when she wanted more and more and more.
When he broke the kiss he was breathing heavily, and she could feel him against the soft cradle of her hips, feel how much he must want her. He couldn’t turn her down this time, could he? She’d waited so long for someone she really wanted. She was tired of waiting.
“Helen,” he said, his voice nothing more than a rasp of longing.
She cupped his face with her hands, his dear, tormented face. “I want you, Rafferty. I’ve been waiting all my life for you. Don’t turn me away.”

“Trying to scare me off, Rafferty?” she whispered, stilling her reaction, keeping her hands from covering herself. “You can’t do it.”
“Can’t I?” he muttered. And he pulled the dress down over her narrow hips, so that it fell at her ankles, and she was standing there in the hallway, dressed only in a pair of serviceable white cotton panties and white silk stockings rolled to her knees.
He scooped her up then, wrapping her around his body, her legs around his hips, her arms around his shoulders, pressing her against the wall as he kissed her again, his mouth hot and wet and seeking, his long fingers cupping her hips, squeezing, pressing her against him, and she could feel his heat and hardness at the very center of her.

She began to work on the pearl buttons of his white shirt, unfastening them slowly, one by one, until she reached the belt of his trousers. And then she leaned forward and put her mouth against his chest, against the hair-roughened flesh.
He sucked in his breath, and for a moment she wondered if she’d been too bold. And then his hands cupped her head, gently, as she tasted him, her tongue tracing tiny patterns on his flat stomach, as her hands reached for his thin leather belt.
He pulled her up then, into his arms, and somehow they made it over to the sofa as his mouth met hers. He pushed her back on the cushions, kneeling over her, still fully dressed, and his hands cupped her breasts, the first time she’d felt a man touch her, and his thumbs danced across the tight peaks, sending a shaft of desire streaking through her, arching her hips against his imprisoning legs. His mouth followed, wet and hungry, suckling her, and she moaned, a soft sound of pleasure and frustration.

“Show me,” she said, overriding his concern. “We only have a few more hours. Show me what to do.”
He groaned, and his last attempt at restraint vanished as he reached between her legs to the heated, aching center of her. She arched against his hand, whimpering softly with pleasure, and in the darkness he smiled, murmuring to her, telling her how sweet and responsive she was, how soft and sleek and damp and hot she was, and how much he needed, wanted her.
“Slowly, love,” he whispered as he positioned her above him, throbbing and ready. “Very slowly. Make it last. God, Helen…” the words were a jumble of pleasure as she followed his lead, sinking slowly, filling herself with his strength.

When she was ready to shake apart, reaching for something beyond her grasp, he simply rolled her over on the bed, covering her, surging against her with a slow, steady pace that made her want to scream, to pound at his shoulders and weep.
And suddenly his control was gone as well, and he thrust into her, again and again, in a frenzy of need that brought forth her own wild response, and when he went rigid in her arms, his body arched against hers, his voice lost in a strangled cry, she was with him, shattering around him, tossed into the maelstrom of a love that knew no boundaries of time and space, life and death.

Purchase Links: Amazon | iTunes

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Review: Banish Misfortune by Anne Stuart

Format: E-bookbanishmisfortune.jpg
Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Length: Novel
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Standalone
Publisher: Harlequin
Hero: John Springer MacDowell
Heroine: Jessica Hansen
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: March 01, 1985
Started On: January 04, 2018
Finished On: January 13, 2018

Banish Misfortune by Anne Stuart (republished as When the Stars Fall Down) is nothing short of a masterpiece, written when I must have been running around with a bottle in one hand and a toy in the other. Yet, it is the kind of tale that makes me wade through the thousands and thousands of books in the romance genre to meet that one special book. That special book that has the uncanny ability to wash away the effect of a thousand lackluster reads, and Banish Misfortune was a book that ticked all the boxes in the category.

Banish Misfortune is a complex story. There are layers to it that you would have to peel back and assess if you were to write a comprehensive review that would do the book justice, which I don’t think I would be able to do. The are two parts to the story, the latter of which carries a secondary romance, just as equally enticing even as short as it was.

Jessica Hansen is a woman determined to climb the corporate ladder of Kinsey Enterprises. Engaged to the prodigal son of the owner of the company, it seems as if there is no line that Jessica wouldn’t cross in her attempt to achieve that prize she has been working for all along. Jessica’s past is a complex and a complicated one at that, one that had shaped her into becoming the Ice Queen, an image which she had started to put on for show because that was easier than bleeding from the scars that had never quite completely healed over from childhood.

Jessica’s path crosses that of John Springer MacDowell owing to her relationship with his parents. Springer is a man that carries on his shoulder a ton of baggage of his own. His strained relationship with his father for one had defined a lot of aspects of his adult life, from quitting his what could have been a professional career at basketball and joining the military, to his inability to commit, even during his brief marriage that had fallen apart owing to his amatory nature.

When Springer comes across Jessica at his father’s home, he wrongfully assumes her to be one of his paramours. The sparks that fly between the two could zing anyone caught in the crossfire, but there is more to their story than just having a chance meeting, falling in love, and carrying on with their happily ever after.

Jessica’s background is revealed slowly, as Anne Stuart painfully exposes the gaping wounds that had scabbed over her unhealed scars, the ugliness of it all somehow beautiful because Jessica had fought every inch of her way through a childhood that could have taken down anyone else. Neglect, abuse, and a whole lot more played its role in molding Jessica, and being away at university for the lack of anything better to focus her attentions on had been the one place where she found and perfected her coping mechanism.

However, Springer has a way of getting through to her defenses, crumbling down the icy walls around her heart, and the numbness that encases her from the outside, which usually makes it impossible for people to reach to her. Springer with his protective and yet at times formidable nature, teaches Jessica that the pleasure of lovemaking could be just that. In the end, the consequences of that act, together with the curveball that life throws Springer’s way is how they go their separate ways, only to return to each other, because there is no way that two people who are so meant to be together could stay apart for that long.

Like I mentioned earlier, there is a secondary romance that complemented the heartache, pain, and immense joy the main protagonists brought to the story. The story of Marianna, a single mother who had been singed badly by the actions of her ex-husband, who finds love with the reclusive Andrew Cameron, a Scottish man, younger than Marianna, and yet able to meet her on equal footing in every single way.

Just stating that I loved Banish Misfortune would be an understatement. But I am pressed for words to describe how I felt as I was reading the story. There was so much emotion wound around it that it was impossible not to give into the tears that were begging for release at each and every emotionally intense and at poignant moment of the story.

Jessica fighting her way back to a semblance of normalcy was one she did on her own which made me love her all the more. She could have chosen to take the “easy” way out, but then I don’t think she would have survived had she taken such a decision. Springer also didn’t have it easy, given that all the “forces” were working against him when he wanted to pursue what had blossomed to life between himself and Jessica, as imperfect as all of it had been.

The secondary romance? Totally amazing! I loved Andrew, the way he saw Marianne and finally managed to penetrate her defenses. Pun intended.

Recommended for anyone and everyone who loves multi-layered stories, romances with a ton of emotion packed into it. Anne Stuart certainly doesn’t disappoint.

Final Verdict: It is a testament to Anne Stuart’s mastery that Banish Misfortune stands the test of time even 33 years since initial publication of this novel. There is simply none like her.

Favorite Quotes

She could lie back in the grass, feel it tickling her skin, and the noisy gruntings and moanings were a distant irritation. The hands on her skin melted away, and she was gone, floating with the puffs of clouds. Doesn’t the sky look green today, she thought dreamily, staring down. And then it was gone, ripped away from her with a sudden, shocking violence, as his bleary, raddled, lecherous face hovered over her, breathing heavily. Wave after wave of Scotch-laden fumes covered her face, choking her. She opened her eyes, staring up at him, and began to scream. “Dammit to hell!” Lincoln swore, scrambling off her in panicked haste and retying his robe with nerveless fingers. “Stop it, for God’s sake! Shut up!”
Turning slowly in his arms, she slid her hands up around his neck. He was looking down at her, an ar-rested expression on his dark face. And there on the windswept, deserted beach, she reached up and pressed her mouth against his unsuspecting one. Deliberately she kept her mouth soft, pliant, waiting for him to make the next move. She could feel his hesitation, indecision, and she increased the pressure, reaching out with the tip of her tongue to lightly touch his lower lip. She heard a low, muffled groan, and then his hands were cupping her close-cropped head, holding her gently as he deepened the kiss, his mouth warm and wet and hungry on hers.

She made one last, hopeless effort to summon up the green pasture, the clear blue sky, floating, floating… Until the slow, steady invasion began to rip through the cloudlike veil, and her eyes flew open, staring up into his intent ones, as he slowly filled her, the smooth fluidity of his movement telling her that even if her soul wasn’t ready, her body was. “Stay with me, Jessie,” he whispered thickly. “Don’t leave me alone while you go off to never-never land. Feel me, feel this.” He slowly withdrew, then arched up to fill her again. “It’s real, it’s good. Stay with me, Jessie.” She had no answer for him. She was lost forever, trapped, not by his strong, hard body, but by the long-dormant desires that had risen beneath his skillful handling.

“Don’t,” she gasped in a weak cry. “Don’t do this to me.” The clear blue sky faded forever beyond reach, leaving only the midnight darkness. “I can’t stop, Jessie,” he murmured. “I have to.” And his hands reached down to cup her slender buttocks as he thrust deeper, deeper, his muscles bunching under her clinging hands as he drove her onward, further and further, their skin wet and clinging, their breathing rapid, their hearts pounding. No, she wept inside. No, I won’t. I won’t let him And then suddenly, in the midst of her protests, it shattered, the one inviolate part of her, and the midnight darkness split apart as her body arched up against his.

He kicked the door shut behind them, standing over her as he fumbled with his tie. The streetlights were the only illumination as she lay on the faded patchwork quilt, looking up at him out of shadowed, wary eyes. His usual expertise seemed to have escaped him, for the tie knotted, and he had to yank it over his head, the buttons on his shirt caught, and he sent it spinning. He was yanking at his belt when he caught her eyes.
“God, Jessie, you make me so crazy,” he muttered, sinking on one knee on the narrow bed beside her.
His hands were shaking and not at all deft as he stripped the panty hose off her, and he almost strangled her with the slip as he pulled it over her head.

And then, unexpectedly, before he had more than set up the age-old rhythm that had once disgusted her, the familiar-unfamiliar tightening gripped her, arching her up against him, as wave after wave swept over her. It was mysterious, overwhelming, indefinable, and she wept against him, her tears hot on their damp skin. He cradled her against him until the last spasm passed, and in sudden shyness she tried to pull away.
“Not so fast,” he whispered in her ear, his teeth capturing her sensitive lobe and nipping lightly. Another ripple of pleasure shook her body, and he laughed breathlessly.
“Do that again,” he murmured, biting her again. Her body trembled once more, and he pushed against her.
“I’m afraid I’m not quite finished,” he added politely, his tongue lightly tracing her tremulous lips. “And I don’t think you are, either.”

He stood there, staring at her.
“Woman,” he said again, his rich Scottish accent caressing the word, “you’re not sorry at all.”
She had to turn her face to hide her sudden smile, and she missed his swift movement. One moment he was standing in the middle of the room, eyeing her with his usual irritation, and the next moment he was beside her, one strong, beautiful hand sliding behind her neck, under the heavy mane of chestnut hair, tilting her head up to look at him. She did so easily, too surprised to resist.
“Woman,” he whispered, “you’ll drive me mad.”
And his mouth caught hers, in a brief, deep kiss that tasted of brandy and pipe tobacco and of an intense longing that left her shaken. She raised her hands to touch him, but he had already moved away, not even aware of her incipient response.
“Happy Christmas, Marianne,” he said, and was gone.

Not another word was spoken as he stripped off her clothing, the jeans, the loose cotton tunic, the wispy bra and panties landing in a pile on the floor. She could be glad the wall supported her, otherwise there was a good chance her knees might give way. His mouth and hands were everywhere on her, feverish, demanding, arousing her and arousing him to a level past thoughts and memories. He was rough in his need, rough in his haste, but the thoughtlessly delivered pain only made her love him more. He was lost in mute anguish, and she could soothe him, bring him sweet forgetfulness if only for a night. She reached out her hands, tentative hands that slowly became more sure as she gave herself up to his overwhelming need.

She made one last attempt.
“But I always wanted a man who could carry me up to bed,” she wailed, grasping at straws. A devilish smile lit his dour face.
“Well, I could do it if I had to,” he allowed, “but I might strain something. It would really make more sense if you carried me.”
“You…” She opened her mouth in outrage, and he kissed her, deeply, completely, his tongue silencing her as his hands pulled her hips across the table to him. He was very strong, she noticed distantly. And very aroused. And she began to shiver in his arms.
“Take me to bed, my lioness,” he whispered. She smiled up at him through the haze of passion she could no longer fight.
“Follow me, shorty.”

“Marianne, my sweet viper, I am twenty-nine years old. I assure you, I know very well what I’m doing, and just how to do it. And I know what I want, have known it since I caught you in my raspberry bushes last summer.”
He’d warned her, of course. He’d told her women hadn’t complained about his lack of size, but she’d thought he’d been teasing her. But he’d been nothing more than truthful. Andrew Cameron was a great deal more man than Tom Trainor, so much so that Marianne suddenly panicked. He must have felt the tension race through her body. The moment he slipped out of the corduroys he pulled her back into his arms, his strong, rough-textured hands oddly soothing.
“Hush, my brave lioness,” he whispered, though she hadn’t said a word. “I promise you I won’t hurt you. I’ll never hurt you.”

Purchase Links: Amazon | B&N | iTunes

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