Sunday, August 30, 2009

Excerpt: The Wager -- coming in November 2009

"You cannot mean to go with Damian--without a chaperone?" Ravyn spoke as she paced the confines of Amorica’s room.

"It has been two weeks since I saw him." Amorica protested while she leaned on the windowsill, peering down at the gardens below, then farther to the rose garden where she was sure she had lost her heart to the rogue.

"And that is a better reason not to go. You cannot mean to fall right into his plans whenever he crooks a little finger. Your reputation will be ruined," Christel said.

"I do not care a fig for my reputation. He is the perfect gentleman, too perfect at times. He would never-" she stopped, remembering the greenhouse--his kisses--the way he touched her and the way her heart had raced.

Ravyn stood, feet apart, hands on hips. "All the more reason to stay away from him. What of the wager? You will not win if you give into him so easily. What would your father say?"

"He would not be pleased. No respecting lady would ride off for an afternoon picnic with a man--alone."

"It is morning." Ravyn reminded Amorica. "And if I read your mind correctly, it is for the entire day, this outing of yours."

"What is the difference? A day or half a day?"

"Probably nothing. It is just--I fear for your heart."

"The sun is shining, the sky is blue, and I don’t believe there is a cloud in the sky. I will have a fine ride and a nice picnic, and I will be home before dark."

"You cannot be sure he does not have some nefarious motive in mind."

"And I was afraid to say anything of this to Christel. I knew she would object but I didn’t think you would. Damian is neither dangerous or nefarious."

"Well." Ravyn blew a strand of loose hair from her face. "I didn’t think you would lose all common sense where that man came into play. What are you thinking?"

"I am thinking that I might never see him again. I am thinking that I deserve to have a ride on a fine day. I am thinking he is up to something, and I mean to find out what it is. He is secretive."

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Excerpt from The Wager: Coming November 2009

"It’s a godsend, I say," Aric Lakeland told Damian. "I am heartily glad the girl’s servant showed her hand. We must know who is loyal. Who we can trust."

"There is no proof," Damian cautioned. "I would know more before I condemn the old woman. She seemed sincere."

"She must have had a bone to pick with someone. We do not know her history or what harm has been done her family by the English."

"Perhaps it is not the English she seeks to harm. Perhaps she means to implicate the girls in her scheme and discredit them," Aric tossed out.

A shudder ran down Damian’s spine. He had thought along those lines more than once. The girls would have to be protected.

How would he protect Amorica from himself? He had stayed away from her, tried to put her from his mind. But now he was about to return to court.

They would meet.

He would have to see her. If he did not appear smitten, Dicky and Richy would question his motives.

His choices were limited.

A costume ball...

The Duchess would guard her charges. Did she have their best interest at heart? He prayed she did.

If Maddie was loyal to the girls, could she be trusted to keep his secrets too? She offered her loyalty, pretended to understand his cause. Maddie had inferred that she might have a new asylum for the political refugees. A safe haven.

Damian’s heart sped. Different scenarios to this raced through his mind.

"Do not trust her and do not let down your guard. We cannot know her mind," Aric cautioned.

"I will heed your warning."

"You must do more than that. You must watch your back," Aric said.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Excerpt from The Wager

Damian stepped back, shocked by the intrusive thrust of Maddie’s words and the implications they inspired if she had seen the list of names.

With his hand on his hip, he looked away. Then he turned to Maddie, smoothing his frock coat and picking at imaginary flecks of dirt. "I don’t understand. I’m not about anything." With a huge yawn, he looked away. "I am what you see." He held his arms out for the insightful lady to inspect him, praying all the while she would not be able to see inside his heart--praying she would not see behind the powdered wig and the ostentatious bow in his hair.

Maddie approached him, finger stabbing his chest, her expression too determined to give him peace of mind.

"Do not lie to me, young man. I’ve seen you sneaking about in the dead of the night, and I’ve listened to what you and your young friends have to say to each other."

"Maddie," he said, this time his hands raised defensively into the air. "Maddie, Maddie."

"Don’t you Maddie me. I’m not talking about you shamelessly cavorting with Lord Dickens and Rathen. I’m talking about that man you call Ryder and the other one, Aric. Those fellows are different--dangerous. They are more like you. And the three of you are about something. I won‘t let you embroil my young charges in your mischief. I will have the truth."

Damian stepped back, his heart in his throat. "You mistake me for someone else." He spoke softly. "I suggest you watch them more closely. The girls have far too much time on their hands. They do as they please. I would put an end to that." Damian pulled out a lace handkerchief and delicately touched the corners of his mouth. Now, if you will be so good as to excuse me. And--"he said pointedly--"you should see to your impressionable young charges."

"This is no longer your choice. If I could discover your secrets, anyone could," she told him, bringing her hands to her ample hips, her eyes narrowing to stare accusingly upon him.

"I am exactly what you see," Damian said. "An admitted wastrel. You are a shrewd woman and it seems a determined one, yet you are wrong in this matter."

"Nay, I am not. If you want to see Amorica again--" she began.

He cut her off with a wave of the hand. "Do not think to blackmail me." He grew agitated with Maddie. "It will not go well for you if you try. I have ways to make your life miserable." He could not stop the low growl in the back of his throat.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Excerpt from The Wager

"No lies, no deceit, only truth between us," Damian gazed at the shimmering lake, his mind reeling.

He knew what he wished for was not possible. Everything between them was false.

He sat on a rock near the duck pond, waiting for Amorica. He tossed a small pebble into the water and watched the ripples spread across the surface growing ever wider just as the lies between them grew. Sunlight filtered through the leaves on the trees, playing chase with the ducks and the swans.

He tossed another pebble. His thoughts were a mixture of yearnings long buried which now warred with loyalty to his commitments. Donning the facade of a court dandy had once intrigued him. Now he abhorred each moment.

Amorica--she made him feel again--completed him. She filled an emptiness within his heart. He didn’t understand why, but she did. He could not close his eyes but he would see her. His dreams were filled with images of her.

Yet her presence in his life jeopardized everything he worked for, all he believed. He wondered how much she knew and if he could trust her. She had found the list. Moreover, his excursion into her chamber had told him she had found a way to protect its sanctity. Still she might very well have shown the names to her cousins.

No, he could not take any chances. The gamble was too big and concerned too many people. The lives of his friends were at stake as well as their families. For a while, this mission had made him forget his past. Now, all he could think about was Amorica, and learning to care again.

He tossed another pebble. This ludicrous bet he’d wagered with Dicky and Richy might well be the best thing that happened to him. He would not offer marriage even though the thought of bedding her made his heart race and his mind whirl. She was a lady born. He could not bed her without the sanctity of marriage vows. But he could spend time with her. To preserve the ruse he’d created, he needed to go along with the bet.

He rubbed the back of his neck, wishing he could ease the building tension. The midnight raids an ever-increasing peril to all who participated.

The conquest of Amorica would not be easy. She appeared to be intelligent and stubborn--not easily duped. No, he would not be able to win her compliance with sweet words and subtle seduction. Even though she was innocent in nature, she was smart and would see through any ploy he might conceive. He might never be able to hold her in his arms.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Excerpt from The Wager

Damian’s heart skipped when he realized the list of names had vanished. The list in the wrong hands could mean disaster. To cover his unease and nervousness, he grinned, trying for a lopsided smile.

"What is this?" Dicky asked, bent over at the waist and peering at the floor. He nearly lost his balance, grabbing hold of Richy’s shirt to steady himself.

Damian shifted position and stared at the floor where Dicky was bowed over, diligently watching a tiny insect crawl along the stone.

"It’s a bug," Damian said, sarcasm touching his voice, loathing the situation at hand. All Damian could think of was the list of names and the danger to the people whose names were written upon it if he didn’t find it soon. He raked his mind for clues. He remembered quickly stuffing the paper in a pocket when Dicky rounded the corner.

"A bug," Richy said with disgust and then a crazed kind of curiosity. He sidled over for a closer look, kneeling. Then stooping on all fours, he prodded the bug to make it move.

Dicky sat back on his haunches. "I bet," Dicky began, pinching his nose before pushing off the floor clumsily.

"What?" Richy asked, still staring at the tiny bug. "I’ll bet, too." He sat on the floor, his legs sprawled in front of him, looking around as if he tried to remember what he was about to say. "Damian, old boy, are you with us?"

Damian nodded, his mind focused, his body tense, yet he slumped, pretending to be just as drunk as the other two. His gaze fastened on the alcove intently, praying that what he sought would be found there. All he wanted was for the dandy duo to leave and let him search.

"Aye," he said slowly. "I’m with you."

"What is it you want to bet, Dicky? Can’t think of anything--"

"The ladies," Dicky said slyly, a bit of whimsy in his tone. "The ladies. If I wasn‘t mistaken, one of them took a fancy to Damian. That sweet little brunette. And I have a fancy for the fairest damsel, Christel."

A wave of nausea swept through Damian. This did not bode well. Despite his sodden state, Dicky had not missed his strange infatuation with Amorica.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Excerpt The Wager coming in November from Awe-struck

Coast of England 1816

"It's a bloody cursed day." Damian Andrews swept the child into his arms and waded through the pounding surf to the beach. He braced himself against the out-going current then sloshed through the crashing waves. Salt spray clung to the wind, stinging his nostrils.

Damian turned. Beneath his ribs, his heart pounded the cadence hard and fast. He swore again as he watched the captain shout orders to his crew. The French brandy that was supposed to have arrived this night would have to wait.

Standing in the longboat, the captain of the ship that brought the refugees held a torch aloft--the only light in the vast darkness. "Hurry, laddie. The tide is changing."

The little girl whimpered.

Damian pulled her close, bent on protecting her at all cost. "It's all right. You will all be together soon." Yet Damian knew this was only the beginning of their long journey. From here, they would flee to the colonies. Religious and political refugees--at times it seemed they came in droves. All were seeking a better life. A life of freedom. "Your mother is coming as well as your baby brother. You will all be safe."

Damian looked to the captain. "The brandy?" he queried.

"On the ship. There is no time now. You must hurry."

The child leaned into Damian, her little face nuzzling his shoulder, her silent sobs gut-wrenching. He pulled her closer, cursing at the elements as well as mankind and wishing he could find a way to shield the tiny child from all harm. He knew the feat to be impossible. The little girl touched a place in his heart and for a moment filled that broken space with light.

Aye, the mother would be with her children, but the father had chosen to follow later. A grievous circumstance. He had learned long ago one could come to regret such rash actions. And he’d also learned one could lose all chance at love in one instant.

Lord, but he’d lost his concentration and in losing that, he could well lose his edge.

No secrets--no lies. The thought haunted him.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The Wager

The Wager, published by Awe-struck books will be out in November. I'm looking forward to the release of the second book in the 12 book series. Amorica, our heroine, is determined not to fall in love. Of course she does the opposite. And to top if off she thinkis she is falling in love with an English dandy who in his dark life is a smuggler. My gosh, but you say a smuggler? Wasn't her mother killed by a smuggler? Does she hate all smugglers? Maybe all but one.