Monday, September 24, 2018

RELEASE BLAST: Anything but Innocent by Dayna Quince @DaynaQuince #Historical @InkSlingerPR

Today we are celebrating the release of ANYTHING BUT INNOCENT by Dayna Quince. It is the fourth book in the Desperate and Daring series! There are 10 titles in this series and one will release per week till November 6th! The series is being published by Jack's House Publishing.

Check out the buy links for the book below, and links to an excerpt for each upcoming title.

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ANYTHING BUT INNOCENT (Desperate and Daring, #4)



PURCHASE YOUR COPY NOW:
Purchase in print Amazon | B&N | Booktopia

Synopsis:

What to get for the girl who has everything? An unattainable rake. Bored, beautiful and determined to ruin herself, Lady Lucy Flynn is used to getting everything she wants. But for the first time, the one thing she wants above all else is the love of a man: Lord Dean Warren, Earl of Winchester, injured and lately returned from East India. Unfortunately, the scurrilous earl refuses to see her as anything more than a pampered, privileged, innocent girl. But Lucy is not one to give up so easily. A jaded rake, Dean enjoys travel and taking his pleasure where he may, determined never to return to Society’s constricting realm. Though tempting, a lady like Lucy does not belong amidst his sordid circle of paramours. A harsh lesson in love from his earlier years convinces Dean he must push Lucy away and prove to her that he’s the wrong man for her in every way. But the closer he gets—and the harder he tries to push—the deeper he falls under her spell.  

Add ANYTHING BUT INNOCENT to Goodreads




Check out the rest of the series (each book releases 1 week 

apart!)

DESPERATE FOR A DUKE (Desperate & Daring, #1) - available now!


BELLE OF THE BALL (Desperate and Daring, #2) - available now!
PURCHASE YOUR COPY NOW:


 
JUST ONE KISS (Desperate and Daring, #3) - available now!
PURCHASE YOUR COPY NOW:
Purchase in print Amazon | B&N | Booktopia

ANYTHING BUT INNOCENT (Desperate and Daring, #4)



AN UNCONVENTIONAL INNOCENT (Desperate and Daring, #5)

Coming October 2 - Check out the buy links and an excerpt from the book!

MAD ABOUT YOU (Desperate and Daring, #6)

Coming October 9 - Check out the buy links and an excerpt from the book!

A ROGUE OF HER OWN (Desperate and Daring, #7)

Coming October 16 - Check out the buy links and an excerpt from the book!

HERO OF HER HEART (Desperate and Daring, #8)

Coming October 23 - Check out the buy links and an excerpt from the book!

AN UNDESIRABLE DUKE (Desperate and Daring, #9)

Coming October 30 - Check out the buy links and an excerpt from the book!

DARE TO LOVE A SCOT (Desperate and Daring, #10)

Coming November 6 - Check out the buy links and an excerpt from the book!

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AUTHOR INFORMATION:

 


Dayna Quince was only fourteen when she developed a serious addiction to romance novels. What began as an innocent desire to read became an all-out obsession with the romance genre. She gave book reports on romance novels, got in trouble for reading during lectures, and would rather spend her time reading than attending high school parties. After all, high school boys could not compete with the likes of Stephanie Laurens Devil Cynster. After getting her first job, her addiction only got worse. She now had her own money to spend and a car to get to Barnes and Noble as frequently as she wanted. She managed to maintain a somewhat normal life, marrying her high school boyfriend who was aware he was competing with fictional men for her attention.

Dayna soon began writing her own romance novels, inspired by her love for all things romance. Dayna and her husband live in Southern California with their two children and three fur babies. Dayna is happiest at home where she can be with her family and write to her heart’s content. For more information about Dayna, please visit her website, “like” Dayna on Facebook and follow her on Twitter or Instagram. Sign up for Dayna’s newsletter to be notified about upcoming releases. She loves hearing from her readers. Email her directly at daynaquince@gmail.com. Look for Dayna’s Jack’s House releases from the Desperate and Daring Series.

CONTACT LINKS:

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | Instagram | Newsletter

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Sunday, September 23, 2018

SPOTLIGHT: Exile of the Seas by Jeffe Kennedy @jeffekennedy #Giveaway @lyricalpress #Fantasy


Exile of the Seas
Chronicles of Dasnaria #2
by Jeffe Kennedy
Genre: Dark Fantasy
Pub Date: 9/4/18

Around the shifting borders of the Twelve Kingdoms, trade and conflict, danger and adventure put every traveler on guard . . . but some have everything to lose.

ESCAPED
Once she was known as Jenna, Imperial Princess of Dasnaria, schooled in graceful dance and comely submission. Until the man her parents married her off to almost killed her with his brutality.

Now, all she knows is that the ship she’s boarded is bound away from her vicious homeland. The warrior woman aboard says Jenna’s skill in dancing might translate into a more lethal ability. Danu’s fighter priestesses will take her in, disguise her as one of their own—and allow her to keep her silence.

But it’s only a matter of time until Jenna’s monster of a husband hunts her down. Her best chance to stay hidden is to hire out as bodyguard to a caravan traveling to a far-off land, home to beasts and people so unfamiliar they seem like part of a fairy tale. But her supposed prowess in combat is a fraud. And sooner or later, Jenna’s flight will end in battle—or betrayal . . .

Chapter 1

I crept up to the Valeria’s deck in the predawn dark to watch the sun rise. Though I felt safer, and smarter, keeping to the confines of my cabin, this one excursion had become a sort of habit. I clung to the small rituals, the basic routine I’d been able to establish. Otherwise, I was as unmoored and unanchored as the Valeria on her long ocean journey, sailing over unfathomable depths to unimaginable lands.

Perhaps this was the nature of exile: that all the thrust was in the escape, the moving away. After that, what did you have? If I am any example—and I’m the only example I had—then the answer was not much at all.

I did have my habits, though.

The Valeria was powerful in a way I wasn’t and would likely never be. Ideally suited to her environment, an extension of the waves and master of them, she possessed a singular direction and purpose. The very things I lacked. Thus, I’d become oddly grateful and attached to the ship, inanimate though she was. As long as I was aboard the Valeria, she provided purpose and direction for me. I clung to her the way an infant burrowed into her mother’s breast, murmuring fervent prayers of thankfulness that she hadn’t shrugged me off to drown in the cold, uncaring sea.

Mostly I kept to my cabin. The servant boys and girls brought my meals and fresh water, took away my waste, and otherwise left me alone. It had been easy to adjust to being waited on, as I had been my whole life, and I would’ve been at a loss to put together more than the most basic meal for myself. I wouldn’t let them come in otherwise, which was a new freedom and power I enjoyed flexing. No servants in the walls here, listening to my every movement. And I felt better with the door barred, even though it was only one thin, wooden thing against the world. A world of a sailing ship on a vast, unknowable ocean.

I slept a lot. Which was good because my body began to heal more. And I danced, to relieve the boredom and to encourage flexibility, so I’d heal strong. Dancing felt familiar, too. Something I could do alone in the dim cabin, one of the few things left that remind me of who I’d been.

No matter how much I slept, though, I always awoke early. Well before they brought my breakfast at the seventh bell. In the darkness of my cabin, I marked time by the watch’s bells, practicing the simple count from the longest toll at midnight to the dawn call. I woke. Listened for the six bells. Then unbarred my door, made sure the passage remained empty, and slipped out.

A sort of daily exercise in escape.

Moving silently down the passageway of closed doors, I allowed myself to exult in that ability, one I’d never expected to be what saved my life. All those years I practiced the traditional dances, particularly the ducerse, which required utmost skill to keep the many bells from making sound until the precisely timed moment. I’d thought I was preparing to dazzle my husband and make my emperor proud. Not teaching myself stealth.

But stealth had turned out to be far more useful. It let me keep to the shadows, unnoticed. In my brother Harlan’s too-big clothes, my hair shorn into a short fluff, I looked nothing like Her Imperial Highness Princess Jenna of Dasnaria. If anyone on this foreign ship had ever heard of that doomed girl. Nevertheless, I wrapped myself in the thick wool cloak, pulling the cowl deep around my face. It made me feel safer, for no good reason, and I needed it for the chill. After a lifetime in the cloistered warmth of the seraglio, it seemed I’d never be warm again.

On deck, the sky shone with incipient day. I hadn’t understood this before, that the sky lightens in color before the sun appears. The paintings never show it that way. They depict night or day, sometimes sunrise or sunset, but never those moments before or after. But predawn is different than night, and in its soft in-between-ness, I could see well enough.

Keeping to the edges like a cat might, I skirted the main paths the sailors traveled as they did their jobs. It meant I picked my way through the ropes, barrels, and other supplies lashed to the deck, but I viewed that as another way to improve my dexterity, especially in the clunky boots I couldn’t seem to get used to. In my cabin, I went barefoot, which felt natural and right, but going on deck, I put on shoes like I wore the cloak. The more covering, the better.

It had been nearly a week, but I harbored no illusions about my ignorance of the world outside. I had no idea how long I would have to run, or how far I’d have to travel to escape my pursuers. I’d been unforgivably stupid about this in the past, so it seemed the only wise choice would be to assume that no amount of time or distance would be enough.

At least that gave me a guideline. Never and nowhere might be places without finite boundaries, but I could understand them.

The goats mewed at me from their pen next to the chickens as I passed, making the sounds so oddly like the newborn kittens in the seraglio of the Imperial Palace, where I grew up. I stopped to scratch the little horns on their heads, their fur soft and scraggly against my fingers. We’d become friends on this journey. Goats and the Valeria—they kept me alive and kept my secrets.



Prisoner of the Crown
Chronicles of Dasnaria #1 

She was raised to be beautiful, nothing more. And then the rules changed . . .
In icy Dasnaria, rival realm to the Twelve Kingdoms, a woman’s role is to give pleasure, produce heirs, and question nothing. But a plot to overthrow the emperor depends on the fate of his eldest daughter. And the treachery at its heart will change more than one carefully limited life . . .

The Gilded Cage
Princess Jenna has been raised in supreme luxury—and ignorance. Within the sweet-scented, golden confines of the palace seraglio, she’s never seen the sun, or a man, or even learned her numbers. But she’s been schooled enough in the paths to a woman’s power. When her betrothal is announced, she’s ready to begin the machinations that her mother promises will take Jenna from ornament to queen.
But the man named as Jenna’s husband is no innocent to be cozened or prince to charm. He’s a monster in human form, and the horrors of life under his thumb are clear within moments of her wedding vows. If Jenna is to live, she must somehow break free—and for one born to a soft prison, the way to cold, hard freedom will be a dangerous path indeed…


I grew up in paradise.
Tropically warm, lushly beautiful, replete with luxury, my childhood world was without flaw. My least whim was met with immediate indulgence, served instantly and with smiles of delight. I swam in crystal clear waters, then napped on silk. I chased gorgeously ornamental fish and birds, and enjoyed dozens of perfectly behaved pets of unusual coloring and pedigrees. My siblings and I spent our days in play, nothing ever asked or expected of us.
Until the day everything was demanded—and taken—from me.
Only then did I finally see our paradise for what it was, how deliberately designed to mold and shape us. A breeding ground for luxurious accessories. To create a work of art, you grow her in an environment of elegance and beauty. To make her soft and lusciously accommodating, you surround her with delicacies and everything delightful. And you don’t educate her in anything but being pleasing.
Education leads to critical thinking, not a desirable trait in a princess of Dasnaria, thus I was protected from anything that might taint the virginity of my mind, as well as my body.
Because I’d understood so little of the world outside, when my time came to be plucked from the garden, when the snip of the shears severed me from all I’d known, the injury came as a shock so devastating that I had no ability to even understand what it meant, much less summon the will to resist and overcome. Which, I’ve also come to realize over time, was also a part of the deliberate design.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let me go back to the beginning.
I grew up in paradise.
And it was all you’d imagine paradise to be. A soft palace of lagoons and lush gardens, of silk bowers and laughter. With little else to do, our mothers and the other ladies played with us, games both simple and extravagantly layered. When we tired, we napped on the velvet soft grass of the banks of the pools, or on the silk pillows scattered everywhere. We’d sleep until we awoke, eat the tidbits served us by watchful servant girls, then play more.
Hestar and I had our own secret games and language. All the ladies called us the royal pair, as we were the emperor’s firstborns and we’d been born less than a month apart.
My mother, first wife, the Empress Hulda, and the most highly ranked woman in the empire, spent much of her day at court. When she was home in the seraglio, she preferred to relax without noisy children to bother her. Hestar’s mother, Jilliya, was second wife and kept getting pregnant, forever having and sometimes losing the babies. So, by unspoken agreement, we kept clear of her apartments, too. Something else I understood much later, that the miasma of misery has its own brand of contagion—and that those who fear contracting the deadly disease stay far away.
Saira, on the other hand, third wife and mother of our half-sister Inga, had a kindness and sweetness to her, so we kids often played in her apartments when we grew bored of games like climbing the palm trees to see who could pluck the most dates while a servant counted the time. Inga, along with my full brother, Kral, were the second oldest pair—the
second-borns, also arriving in the same month, to my mother and Saira. Less than a year younger than Hestar and me, they completed our set of four. Our six other brothers and sisters played with us, too, but they were babies still, needing to be watched all the time. Whenever we could, the four of us ditched the babies, exploring the far corners of our world, then making hideouts where no one could find us.
Though, of course, when the least desire took our fancy, someone always appeared instantaneously to satisfy us. Another of the many illusions of my childhood.
Hestar and I, we had a cave we’d made under a clump of ferns. He’d stocked it with a box of sweetmeats and I’d stolen one of my mother’s silk throws for a carpet. Embroidered with fabulous animals, it told tales of a world beyond our corner of paradise. We loved it best of all our purloined treasures, and made up stories about the scenes and creatures, giving them names and convoluted histories.
One day—the kind that stands out with crystalline clarity, each detail incised in my memory—we played as usual. Hestar had been mysteriously gone for a while the day before, or perhaps several days before or for several days in a row. That part fogs in with the timelessness of those days that never ended, but blended one into the next. What I remember is the elephant.
And the miskagiggle flapped its face tail, saying nooo—”
It’s called an elephant,” Hestar interrupted me.
What is?”
It’s not a miskagiggle. It’s an elephant, and the face tail is a trunk.”
Hestar beamed with pride at knowing something I didn’t.
You’re making that up.”
No, I’m not! My tutor told me.”
What’s that?”
A teacher. My tutor is named Ser Llornsby.”
Is that where you went?” Hestar and Kral had been whisked off by servants, and no one would tell me or Inga where they were, just that we’d see them again soon.
Hestar’s blue eyes went wide and he looked around to see if anyone was listening. “Want to know a secret?”
Oh, did I. Even then I understood that secrets were the carefully hoarded and counted currency of the seraglio. “Yes!”
We pulled the silk throw over our heads to make a tent. It was the usual grass beneath, so we didn’t really need the carpet. Having it just made our hideaway more special—and the throw became a blanket, excellent for exchanging secrets.
We went through the doors!” Hestar told me, whispering but much too loudly.
I hushed him. I didn’t question how I knew, but this secret held power. Most of our secrets had been silly, frivolous things, like how Inga kept candied dates under her pillow. Or ones everyone already knew, like that Jilliya was pregnant again. With the unabashed enthusiasm of children, we absorbed all the murmured gossip and repeated it with equal relish. This, though—I recognized immediately how important it was.
No wonder no one would tell us where they’d gone. Children didn’t go through the doors. Only my mother and some of the women. The rekjabrel and other servants, they went in and out all the time. But a lot of times they came back crying or hurt, so we understood the doors led to a terrible place. And yet Hestar had gone and returned, beaming.
Was it terrible? Were you scared? Did Kral go, too?”
Hestar nodded, solemnly. “We were brave boys though. And it’s not like here. There aren’t the lagoons and it’s not as warm. They took us to a library and we met Ser Llornsby. We looked at pictures and learned animal names.”
I couldn’t bring myself to ask what a library might be. I wanted to look at pictures and learn animal names. Though I didn’t know the emotion to name it at the time, a jab of envy lanced through my heart. Hestar and I always had everything the same, only I had the better mother, because she was first wife. It wasn’t fair that Hestar got to go through the doors and learn things without me. An elephant. I whispered the exotic word to myself.
Elephants are huge and people ride on their backs, and the elephants carry things for them in their trunks.” Hestar continued, full of smug pride. “Ser Llornsby is going to teach me everything I need to know to be emperor someday.”
Why do you get to be emperor? My mother is first wife. Yours is only second wife. Besides, I’m older.”
Hestar wrinkled his nose at me. “Because you’re a girl. Girls can’t be emperor. Only empress.”
That was true. It was the way of things. “Well then you can be emperor and I can be empress like Mother.”
All right!” Hestar grinned. “We’ll rule the whole empire and have lots of elephants. Kral and Inga can be our servants.”
For the rest of the day we played emperor and empress. Kral and Inga got mad and decided they would be emperor and empress, too, not listening when we said there could only be one of each and we were firstborn so they had to be our servants. They went off to play their own game, but we got Helva to be in our court, and also her little brothers, Leo and Loke. The boys were identical twins and liked any game they could play together. Baby Harlan could barely toddle, so he stayed with his nurse. Ban went off with Inga, of course, as he followed her everywhere, but her full brother, Mykal came to our side.
We didn’t care, because our court was the biggest. Besides, everyone knew the emperor gets to pick his own empress, and Hestar already promised me I’d be first wife and I could pick his other wives, just like Mother did. Which meant Inga wouldn’t get to be one. Maybe not Helva, either, though I told her she would be.
Mother didn’t much care for Saira and Jilliya, so maybe I wouldn’t have other wives at all. I didn’t need them to be empress.
Playing emperor and empress turned out to be terribly fun. Hestar made me a crown of orchids and we took over one of the small eating salons, getting the servants to clear out the table and pillows, instead setting up two big chairs to be our thrones. His Imperial Majesty Emperor Einarr Konyngrr, our father, had a throne. So we’d heard. And we badgered one of the rekjabrel who’d served in the court to tell us what it looked like.
Huge, Your Imperial Highnesses,” she said, keeping her eyes averted.
It towers above, all platinum and crystal, so bright you can’t look upon it. I can’t say more.”
What about the Empress’s throne?” I persisted.
Just the one throne, Your Imperial Highness Princess Jenna.”
That can’t be right,” I told Hestar, when we let the rekjabrel go. “She must not have seen properly.”
We don’t have platinum anyway,” he replied.
So we decorated the two big chairs, which ended up taking a long time. They needed to be sparkling, which meant we needed jewels. Leo and Loke were good at persuading bangles off the ladies, but then didn’t like to give them up. By the time we chased them down and got everything decorated, we had only a little time to have actual court. When my nurse, Kaia, came to get me for my bath, we made all the servants promise to leave everything as it was.
Kaia?” I asked, splashing at the warmed milk water as she poured the jasmine rinse through my hair.
Yes, Princess?”
Have you seen an elephant?”
She laughed. “No, Princess. I’ve never heard of such a thing. Is this one of your games?”
No—they’re real. Their face-tails are called trunks.”
If you say so, Princess.”
I fumed a little. How could I find out more about elephants when no one even believed they were real? “When do I get to go through the doors and look at pictures of animals and learn their names?”
Kaia dropped the pitcher of jasmine water, breaking it on the tiles. I would have scolded her for clumsiness, but she had such an odd look on her face that I stopped mid-word.
Where have you heard of such a thing, Princess?” She had her head bowed, but with her scalp shorn, she couldn’t hide her face. She’d gone white, her eyes squinched up like she hurt. Just like that time Mother accused her of drinking from her special teapot, and had Kaia lashed until she confessed. Kaia had cried and cried, not wanting to play with me for days afterward. But this time she didn’t have any blood, so I didn’t understand why she went all pale like that.
Hestar got to go. And Kral, too, and he’s younger. I want to go. I command you to take me tomorrow.”
Your Imperial Highness, I cannot.”
You will or I’ll tell Mother.”
Up and out, Princess,” she replied, dumping the shards into a waste bin, then holding out a towel. “We must address this with Her Imperial Majesty. You can ask her in person.”
She dried me off, too briskly, and I almost reprimanded her, but she still looked so scared and I didn’t want her to not play with me for days again. “I already said goodnight to Mother.” Mother didn’t like to be disturbed after goodnights, and the prospect began to make me a little afraid, too.
Kaia wrapped my hair in a towel, then rubbed me all over with jasmine scented unguent. She worked as thoroughly as always, but wouldn’t answer any more questions, simply saying that I could ask my mother momentarily.
She pulled my nightgown over my head and had me put on a robe, too, which wasn’t usual. And we went with my hair still damp, not carefully combed dry before the fire while she told me stories.
I didn’t want to miss my stories and I began to be afraid I’d said something terribly wrong. I’d known this was an important secret. How could I have been so careless? It was the elephant. “Let’s not go see Mother,” I said.
Kaia shook her head, pressing her lips together. “I apologize, Princess, but I’m afraid we must.”
I don’t want to. Tell me my stories. My hair is still wet.”
But she didn’t bend, which scared me even more. Kaia always did what I told her. Almost always. She took my hand in a grip so firm it nearly hurt and practically dragged me to Mother’s private salon. I resisted, and would have thrown a fit, but Mother wouldn’t like that. An imperial princess gives commands in a firm and gentle voice, never shrill, and
tears are unacceptable.
Still, when Kaia called out through the closed yellow silk curtains, and my mother snapped out a reply, I nearly did cry. And Kaia didn’t relent in her grip, which made me think she was angry with me and Kaia was never angry, even when I refused to eat my supper and demanded dessert instead. She parted the curtains and slipped me inside, kneeling beside me and bowing her head to the plush tapestried carpet. I lowered my eyes, too, though I didn’t have to kneel.
Well?” the empress demanded in a cold tone. “What is the meaning of this, child?”
My humble apologies, Your Imperial Majesty,” Kaia said, though Mother had clearly asked me. Her voice shook and her hand had gone all cold and sweaty. I yanked mine away and she let me. “Her Imperial Highness Princess Jenna has asked me questions I cannot answer. I thought it best to bring her to you immediately.”
It’s not your responsibility to think,” Mother replied. A hissing sound as she breathed in her relaxing smoke. “You are to keep the princess well groomed, as she most certainly is not at the moment. Your hair is wet, Jenna.”
A tear slipped down my cheek, making me glad that I was to keep my eyes averted unless given permission. Maybe she wouldn’t see. “I’m sorry,
Mother,” I whispered.
As well you should be. Interrupting my quiet time. Going about like a rekjabrel with wild hair. Are you a princess of Dasnaria?”
Yes, Your Imperial Majesty.”
She hmphed in derision. “You don’t look like one. What question did you ask to upset your nurse so?”
Kaia had gone silent, quaking on the carpet beside me. No help at all. I considered lying, saying Kaia had made it up. But Mother wouldn’t believe that. Kaia would never so recklessly attract punishment. I happened to know she hadn’t snuck the tea—one of the rekjabrel had taken it for her sister, but Kaia had never said.
Jenna,” Mother said, voice like ice. “Look at me.”
I did, feeling defiant, for no good reason. Mother reclined on her pillows, her embroidered silk gown a river of blues over their ruby reds. Her unbound hair flowed over it all, a pale blond almost ivory, like mine. In contrast, her eyes looked black as ebony, darker even than the artful shadows outlining them. She’d removed most of her jewelry, wearing only the wedding bracelets that never came off. She held her glass pipe in her jeweled nails. The scarlet of her lip paint left a waxy mark on the end of it, scented smoke coiling from the bowl.
Tears?” Her voice dripped contempt and disbelief. “What could you possibly have said to have your nurse in a puddle and an imperial princess in tears, simply in anticipation?”
I didn’t say anything!” I answered.
Your nurse is lying then,” the empress cooed. “I shall have to punish her.”
Kaia let out this noise, like the one Inga’s kitten had made when Ban kicked it. The ladies had taken it to a better home and Inga had cried for days until they gave her five new kittens just like it.
I only asked about the elephants,” I said, very quietly.
Excuse me?” The arch of her darkened brows perfectly echoed her tone.
Elephants!” I yelled at her, and burst into full-fledged sobbing. If you’d asked me then, what made me break all those rules, raising my voice, defying my mother, losing the composure expected of an imperial princess, firstborn daughter of Emperor Einarr, I likely could only have explained that I wanted to know about elephants so badly that it felt like a
physical ache. Something extraordinary for a girl who’d rarely experienced pain of any sort.
Once I’d had a pet, an emerald lizard with bright yellow eyes. Its scales felt like cool water against my skin, and it would wrap its tail tightly around my wrist. I’d only had it a day when it bit me. Astonished by the bright pain,
the blood flowing from my finger, I’d barely registered that I’d been hurt before the servants descended, wrapping the wound in bandages soaked in sweet smelling salve that took sensation away.
They also took the lizard away and wouldn’t give it back, despite my demands and pleas. When the salve wore off, my finger throbbed. And when they took the bandages off, the skin around the bite had turned a fascinating purple and gray. They tried to keep me from looking, but I caught glimpses before they made it numb again, then wrapped it up and I couldn’t see it anymore. I’d tap my finger against things, trying to feel it again. My finger and the lizard, both gone.
I felt like that, full of purple bruising and soft pain, as if I’d been bitten inside, and somehow numb on the outside. I wondered what might disappear this time.
Elephants,” my mother pronounced the word softly, almost in wonder.

Then she laughed, not at all nicely. “Leave us,” she snapped, making Kaia scurry backwards. “It’s apparently time for me to have a conversation about life with my daughter.”
Jeffe Kennedy is an award-winning author with a writing career that spans decades. She lives in Santa Fe, with two Maine Coon cats, a border collie, plentiful free-range lizards and a Doctor of Oriental Medicine. Jeffe can be found online at JeffeKennedy.com, or every Sunday at the popular Word Whores blog.




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Friday, September 21, 2018

SPOTLIGHT: The Thorne Brothers Series by Lee Kilraine @lyricalpress #Giveaway @LeeKilraine


Give and Take

The Thorne Brothers #2

by Lee Kilraine

Genre: Contemporary Romance
Pub Date: 9/18/2018


Six Brothers Construction was built to reunite a family and heal a painful past. So far it’s opened to rave reviews. But the youngest sibling is about to discover that the right woman can shake even a rock-solid foundation . . .
Wyatt Thorne was so traumatized by his mother’s abandonment he didn’t speak until he was six. At 26, he’s still the quiet type—strong and silent, most comfortable with a hammer in his hand and work to do. But the reassuring rhythm of his life is interrupted when his brother Beckett decides to pay forward their unused office space to a needy start-up. Enter Rhia Hollis, flighty, impulsive, and outspoken—everything that drives Wyatt crazy. Only this time in the sexiest, most irresistible way . . .
Rhia is determined to disprove her reckless, party girl image by making her new company, Seize the Day, the premier event planning firm in Raleigh. She has big dreams, and the Thornes’ offer of a free command center is a huge help. But Wyatt’s gruff, stubborn resistance to her presence is an annoying hindrance. They’re as different as night and day, yet when they begin to meet in the middle, the sparks fly hot. Is this a case of opposites distract—or the beginning of a beautiful long-term project? . . .


Chapter 1
Rhia
“Uh oh.”
 “No. No ‘uh oh.’ You swore on your stack of Scientific Americans that this time your experiment would be fine. You assured me this trial had zero chance of failure.” Steph had also pulled the older sister guilt trip on me. Don’t be a baby, Rhia. Besides, you owe me for helping you pass organic chem in college.
 “Just because you’re showing signs of anaphylaxis, doesn’t mean my experiment is a failure.” She frowned as she examined my face.
“Anaphylaxis? Don’t forget we had a deal. I agreed to help you if we swung by the Business Expo after. It closes in an hour, and I need to go apply for the ‘Pay it Forward’ grant. Today’s the last day for applications.”
 “Why in the world did you wait until the last day?” Of course, I got the older sister eyebrow quirk from her. Because my sister, Steph, my whole family really, had no idea what it was like to second guess yourself. They came into the world with confidence, an agenda, and a to-do list.
“I wasn’t sure if I was ready to make that big of a commitment.” That was a lie. I was so ready to jump at the next step in my new business endeavor. What took so long was tackling my inner doubts first. And getting past all the doubts of my family.
 “I don’t think you know what commitment is, Rhia. You only stuck out teaching English, what? Two years?”
See what I mean? I taught for two long years. In college, I’d kept my options open with a double major in business and English, but I tried my hand at teaching first. Turned out I wasn’t made for teaching. I fell for every excuse my students gave me. I was a sucker for a sob story. And once the kids figured that out, I lost control of the classroom.
I didn’t let myself get discouraged, though. No, ma’am. Instead of wallowing in my failure, I remembered I was the “go-to” person in my sorority for planning all the parties and events. In fact, I was the Event Planning Chair for two years running.
That’s how I came up with the idea of starting my event planning business, Seize the Day. I felt good about it. Like maybe I’d finally found something I could succeed at and feel passionate about. Just like the rest of my family. I was excited and inspired. Until I ran the numbers.
“You should have majored in one of the sciences like the rest of us,” Steph said while she jotted something down on her clipboard. She set her paperwork aside and moved up close to peer into my eyes. “Your pupils look normal. Maybe if you’d gone into a STEM program, you’d be employed right now.”
Or maybe not. “You do remember those agonizing hours of organic chem tutoring, don’t you?”
Steph winced at the memory. “Painfully so, but there were science degrees that didn’t require organic chem. Plenty of less rigorous programs even you could have managed.”
Even you. I only flinched a little at that. I knew my sister hadn’t meant it as an insult. It was simply a fact in my family.
“Besides, I do so have a job. I’m self-employed.”
The long-standing joke that I was adopted stopped being funny by middle school when my average grades became a source of friction in the family. If only you’d apply yourself, Rhia. If only you’d try harder, Rhia. Rhia, stop daydreaming and focus. Oh, I tried. But my brain simply wasn’t wired like the rest of the Hollis clan.
So, no, I’d never really fit in with my brilliant family. But that hadn’t stopped me from trying. I was tired of disappointing everyone. Especially myself. That’s why I was determined to make my event planning business a success.
“How’s your airway?” Steph placed her fingers on my wrist and glanced at her watch. “Breathing feel okay?”
 Was my breathing okay? My family always told me I was overly dramatic, but I don’t know, maybe my throat did feel a little closed up. I swallowed to check. No. My throat felt fine. Must be that whole power of suggestion thing.
 “I thing I’m othay.” Wait, what? That didn’t come out right. Probably because my tongue suddenly felt too big for my mouth.
 “Uh oh. Open your mouth and stick out your tongue.” My sister’s face slid into her serious scientist expression, and she spoke into her mini handheld recorder. “Test subject number one is showing signs of glossitis and uticaria—one-inch diameter, bright red with a pale center.”
 “Whath’s glossithith and uthitharia?” Dammit. My speech slurred even worse. And my head felt like it had last New Year’s Eve when I’d imbibed too much champagne. A giggle escaped past my thick tongue. Ha! Imbibed. “Imbibed ith a funny word, don’t you thinth?”
 “Test subject is showing signs of slurred speech. Possible intoxication.” She clicked off her recorder and peered closer at my face. “Still breathing okay?”
“Yeth but I’m ithy.” I scratched a spot on my cheek and then noticed the same feeling on my forearms. I held my arms out in front of me to look. “Yithes! I’m going to thill you, Sthephanie. You promithed I’d be fine thith time. Promithed!”
 “Apparently, I miscalculated on the formula. This is a great data set.” She spoke into her recorder again with way too much excitement. “Decrease amylase dehydrate by fifty percent for second set of trials.”
I narrowed my eyes at her. Except, I only had to narrow one eye because the other was already half swollen shut. “Fixth thith.”
 “Right.” She searched through the drawer in her desk, coming up with a bottle of Benadryl. After shaking two out, she slapped them in my hand and handed me a bottle of water. “Take these. You’ll be back to normal in six to eight hours.”
Six to eight hours? I glared at her with my one good eye. And I kept on glaring at her as I swallowed down the antihistamines. I could kill my sister and hide the body somewhere here in her lab, but I needed her to drive me to the expo, since I didn’t trust driving under the influence of both whatever she tested on me and antihistamines. Plus, I loved her, dammit.
I picked my purse up from the top of a stainless steel storage bench with a sign Warning: Radioactive Waste Only and snatched out my phone and car keys. I tossed the keys over to Steph, catching her by surprise so that she juggled them before having them firmly in her grasp. Then I texted her, since my tongue now felt incapable of forming any actual words.
We need to head to the expo. Now. Before the Benadryl knocks me out.
“Or before you blow up like a polka-dotted puffer fish.”
I texted an angry smiley face emoji to stress my pissed off-ness in case my swollen eye and hives was disguising how upset I was with her. Although I should have known better. It was only a few months ago when the last trial she’d guilted me into had fried my taste buds. Everything had tasted like cardboard for a week.
 “Okay, let’s go. And don’t give me that face.” She pointed at me as we exited the building. “We’ll make it in plenty of time for you to fill out the application and make a good impression.”
 “A good imprethon?” It was my turn to give her the raised eyebrow, because I sounded like a drunk with a lisp. As soon as I let myself into the passenger seat and buckled in, I flipped down the visor to look at the damage.
“Ack!” The face staring back at me had leprosy. Or the plague. Or sadly and too true to be funny: I looked like I’d been created in a lab by a mad scientist. Just like Frankenstein.
I sent a text to myself. Stop saying yes to family.
And then I pulled out my concealer and did the best I could trying to cover the bright red hives on my face and neck. When we parked at the Raleigh Convention Center, I made Steph trade shirts with me, since hers was long-sleeved and covered the hives on my arms.
 “I don’t like putting on a strip show for any perv walking by, Rhia.” Steph grumbled but complied, giving my shirt a disgusted loook before pulling it on. “Honestly, your wardrobe looks like the result of a sheep mating with a box of neon crayons.”
I might have rolled my eyes while I slipped on my sister’s neutral beige blouse. First, because that didn’t even make sense. Second, what was wrong with liking color? Bright colors made me happy. Except of course these bright red hives. Those made me unhappy. And very, very itchy.
Okay, yes, this situation was less than ideal. I’d done my research on Six Brothers Construction, the company offering the free office space for a year, and had planned on talking with them for a few minutes to highlight my passionate, goal-oriented, future-focused, tech-savvy personality. (All qualities listed in the book, Entrepreneur to Mogul in 37 Easy Steps.)
 “Let’s go, Rhia. You have five minutes to fill out the application, and then we’re out of here.” Steph slammed the door and beeped the locks behind us. “I’d like to get out of here before someone sees me looking like My Little Pony threw up on my shirt.”
Like the necessity for swapping shirts was my fault? I seriously contemplated knocking my sister over the head and pushing her into one of the display model Jacuzzis usually set up at these shows. I’d pick one without water of course. The fact that I might need her to speak for me if they asked any questions helped me stifle that impulse. Barely.
 “Fine. Leth’s do thith.” My eye was swollen shut, the full body hives itched like I was wearing fabric woven from poison ivy, and my tongue was still unable to form words discernable to a human ear. It was fair to say my confidence about getting this grant had decreased by about a thousand percent in the last hour.
Steph grimaced, her eyes avoiding mine. “It’ll be fine. Just fill out the form. I’ll do the talking if they have any questions. What kind of business is it again?”
Wonderful.
Once inside the building, we rode the escalators up to the exhibit space. It was packed with every trade in the building industry pimping their wares like a modern-day bazaar. Rows upon rows, booths laid out into a giant maze throughout the immense space. There were home builders, interior decorators, garage door suppliers, roofers asking passersby how old their shingles were and were they interested in a low-maintenance, metal roof.

I brought up the map of the business expo on my phone to locate the SBC booth. Left side, halfway down over in the general contractor section. Jerking my head to direct Steph to the left, I maneuvered through the press of people in search of the lifeline I needed to secure my future.



Give It Up
The Thorne Brothers #1

Beckett. Asher. Gray. Eli. Ryker. Wyatt. Five out of six very different brothers reunited—and working to make their construction firm a success. But oldest brother Beckett just found their major new project becoming one hard and sexy challenge . . .
 
A rough childhood tore Beckett and his brothers apart. It took everything he had to track them down and establish Six Brothers Construction. He only trusts them—and his drive to win. Now if SBC can build a billionaire team owner’s much-hyped new mansion, it will put them on the map—and finally fulfill Beckett’s promise to take care of his siblings. Too bad he’ll have to collaborate with hot new rival Samantha Devine, who’s throwing him curves on-site, out-the-box . . . and between the sheets.
 
Sam knows from experience that arrogant good-ole-boy Beckett is long, strong, and built to go the distance. But this is her only shot to prove she and her fledgling design company can succeed on her own terms. She’ll match Beckett’s expertise by day—and reignite the explosive heat between them by night. But when passion threatens to become real love, will this competition separate them for good . . . or make the sizzling collaboration of a lifetime?


Samantha…    

Talk about a dream job. For sure my face looked like I’d just walked through a clearance sale of Jimmie Choo shoes, my smile flagrantly wide as I walked through the French doors of the sunroom to greet Lila.

That was where my dream turned into a nightmare. Because my gaze landed on a man in the room. Landed with a thud.

For the record, I’m not a man hater. I’m not. But I do have a hit list.

Not men I want to have killed. No. My hit list contained the men I wanted to hit. Right over their thick skulls.

Here’s my list:

  1. Dear old Dad

  2. Stepbrother #1 (Todd the bod. He seriously called himself that.)

  3. Stepbrother #2 (Justin the jerk. He did not call himself that, but he was.)

  4. Beckett Thorne

But since I don’t believe in using violence to solve problems, I had to develop a different tactic. I called it “intelligent avoidance.” Margo said all I was doing was avoiding my problems. According to the twisting in my gut right now, I’d have to admit she was right again. I had some smart friends; if only I’d listen to them more often, then maybe I wouldn’t be standing here feeling flustered and hyper-aware of the boob sweat slicing down my cleavage and over my ribcage. 

There you are!” Lila walked to me, giving me cheek to cheek air kisses to not mess up her lipstick. My own Cherry Bomb lipstick was newly refreshed. Like extra armor before going into battle. “Sam, I think you already know Beckett Thorne.”

Samantha.” He stood and reached out his hand, courteous and professional.

Thorne.” I nodded, pretending I didn’t see his hand, bad-mannered and immature. His extended hand was a trick anyway. One I’d fallen for before. He tricked me into getting close enough to smell him. He smelled like cedar trees and hot sexy nights. It was subtle, but powerful. Like a breath-stealing punch that hit me right in the honey pot. Not kidding.

I’d learned to go into survival mode and protect myself around him. The problem was he was my sexual kryptonite. He could do things to my body with a simple look. And a touch…? I suppressed the shiver that wanted to rattle its way down my body with the thought of what his touch had done to me.

I’d met Beckett Thorne two years ago when I’d first moved to Raleigh. He’d come sauntering over at the Building and Design Expo, offering to show me around town. I’d been warned about him. Rumor was the offer to show me his bedroom would follow shortly after that. And then he’d show me the door even quicker.

I’m not saying it was easy to turn him down. In fact, I’m not saying that at all.

Because I didn’t. I couldn’t. Something about his blue eyes, his sexy smile, his work-hardened body, and his strong calloused hands had me saying yes. Only we skipped the tour around town.

That’s right. I’d taken my turn on the Beckett Thorne thrill ride. It was hot, mind-blowing, and everything a woman imagined when they looked at him. And more. Ride of a lifetime, but I was warned. Like most wild rides, a love affair with Beckett was said to be exhilarating but rumbled to an abrupt stop, before a woman could even catch her breath from the scream-inducing rush up and over the sky-high peaks. Nope. I’d had enough rejection from men in my life. My plan was to walk away after our one night together. And that’s what happened.

I’d one and done him.

Sort of.

That’s how I like to remember it went for the sake of my own dignity.

In reality, like an idiot, I’d waited for him to call all the next week. Not that he said he would. There was a vague mention of seeing me again, somewhere in the hot panting heat between round two and three. In my defense, I wasn’t exaggerating about the mind-blowing ride of a lifetime. Plus, I’m an optimist. And did I mention how amazing the sex was?

But when he didn’t call, I moved on. No big deal.

Luckily, even though the design world in Raleigh was small, we rarely ran into each other. Yet here we both were, and both, apparently, salivating for Lila’s job. Of course that was why I was salivating. Mr. Tall, Dark, and could-be-Bradley Cooper’s-stunt-double had absolutely nothing to do with it.

Nothing. Not his rugged looks, like a barely tamed tiger, almost too austere to call handsome. Not his dark blond hair, looking perpetually mussed like a woman had run her hands through it. Not the bump on his nose and jagged scar on his chin hinting at a wild past. And certainly not his electric blue eyes that gleamed with intelligence and cynicism. A dangerous combination.

So he could take his Southern manners and stick them where the—whoa, down girl. Sure our history was short—very short—but apparently it was seared into my memory. Possibly because I replayed that memory numerous times over the past two years. When I took a shower, or used my battery powered friend. Hey, those memories were mine fair and square. I was allowed to use them, especially when I was in the middle of a man-drought. It’s not my fault I hadn’t found a man I wanted to sleep with since my night with Thorne.

He stood staring across the room at me. God the man was too good looking for my own good. And far too cocky. I was just the woman to bring him down a peg.

What was he doing? Huh, what do you know… He was eye-fucking me. The man had some nerve. He couldn’t keep his gaze off my chest. I willed my nipples not to react. Don’t go perky. Don’t go perky. Don’t g—too late. Those damn eyes of his. Well, two can play at this game.

I let my gaze wander over his chest…and down. Down farther before dragging my gaze back up. His eyebrow quirked.

I quirked my eyebrow right back, making sure to roll my shoulders back, giving him an eyeful of my perky nipples. Both of his eyebrows rose.

That’s right, buddy. Suck it. I mean, no, there would be no sucking. None. Zero. No thinking about his lips at all. I had to exterminate that image from my brain before my pulse headed into defibrillation territory.

His eyebrows lowered from their sky-high perch on the ladder of cockiness. Looked like round one went to me. Ha!

You’ve got a piece of lettuce on your…uh…top.” His face looked innocent but the laughter in his eyes was like a whipped cream pie to my face.

I looked down and sure enough a piece of lettuce clung to my chest like a bull’s-eye over my right nipple. Nice, Sam. Nothing said classy and professional like a lettuce leaf pastie!

I did what any crazy, trying-to-hold-on-to-her-dignity woman would do. I peeled off the lettuce and popped it into my mouth. I chewed and swallowed delicately. “One can never get enough fiber.”






A former Air Force spouse, Lee Kilraine moved seven times over eighteen years before finally settling with her husband in the pine woods of North Carolina. She has worked as a physical therapy aide, a cashier, a waitress, an English tutor, a ballet teacher and a stay-at-home mom. Holding tight to her mother’s motto, “There’s nothing you can’t do if you try hard enough,” Lee returned to college as an adult and graduated from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. 

Writing thirty-one papers in two years (she counted) rekindled her love of writing, and she set her sights on her other dream—writing romance. When she isn’t swinging on her front porch swing or watching another of their four young adult children leave the nest (she swears she isn’t pushing them out!), you can find her typing away on her computer with her golden retriever, Harley, destroying something at her feet. Lee is a 2014 Golden Heart® Finalist.



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