Today’s Guest – Brandi Evans & Tempted #paranormalromance #contemporaryromance

The only thing standing between this fallen angel and redemption? The woman he loves.
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I am stoked to have Brandi with me today sharing her latest release.  If the cover alone isn’t enough to tweak your interest, check out the blurb and excerpt.  Plus, Brandi gives us a great character interview.  

Blurb:

Eons ago, Seth fell for another angel–literally–and was cast down from the Heavens. Seeking redemption, he works for the Angels of Death, taking the lives of those destined to die, his only desire to return home. But everything changes when a beautiful brunette explodes into his life and plunges his ordered world into chaos, tempting him with something he hasn’t experienced in millennia. Love.

A busted radiator strands Lyndi Garrison on a deserted stretch of coastal Maine and shoves her directly into the path of a sexual predator. She fends off her attacker until an NFL-sized stranger appears from the darkness to help. She’s instantly enamored of her quiet hero, and before the evening ends, they share a devastating kiss and a knock-out round of sex unlike anything she’s ever known. Though she can’t help but wonder… 

Has she finally received a second chance at happiness? Or is Fate being a bitch again?

Excerpt:

Seth didn’t know which was worse. Spending eternity in hell or working his way out of damnation by becoming a murderer.

Okay, in his defense, he technically wasn’t a murderer, at least not in the terms mortals used. He had, however, been responsible for the termination of more lives than he could count—all in the name of finding redemption. And no, the irony wasn’t lost on him, but at the moment, he didn’t have time to contemplate his penance.

He was on the clock.

Franklin Michaels jogged around the bend. Each footfall brought him closer and closer to Seth.

To death.

With the dropping temperatures, the coastal park in Redemption Harbor, Maine, was all but deserted. Seth was grateful for the privacy. Not because he feared his target might see him—the job was easier if Seth didn’t think of his victims by name—but because this termination necessitated solitude. The target had to die alone. No exceptions.

Why? Because his bosses, the Angels of Death, deemed it so.

Seth’s job wasn’t to question but to do. To fulfill his obligations without emotion and with as little deviation from the plan’s parameters as possible. Simple.

Ha! There was nothing fucking simple about carrying out a person’s death, even a scumbag like this one.

For reasons Seth didn’t understand, this asshole hadn’t been slated for termination two years ago when he’d had his first heart attack, with the coronary Seth would cause tonight being the second. No, fate had allowed him an additional two years of blessed breath. Time to see his daughter get married, to see his son welcome his own child into the world—to rape four more women.

He’d beaten one woman with such animalistic rage she’d    later succumbed to her injuries. Another had died by her own hand when she could no longer withstand the black void he’d punched into her soul.

Seth hovered toward the target. A lone spiritual “touch” was all it would take to send this bastard into a lethal episode of cardiac arrest and straight to hell where he belonged. Seth reached out and—

“Son of a bitch! I’m gonna set a blowtorch to your ass and turn you into a damn sculpture!”

Seth pulled back. Curiosity forced him to turn toward the very angry, very sultry female voice—a strikingly odd combination.

Just off the main road near the park entrance, a woman stood with her back to him, kicking the shit out of the tire of a tiny little hybrid car, white smoke billowing from its engine. Under the soft glow of the streetlight above her, she ran her fingers through long chestnut hair with a hint of auburn undertones, as if she’d spent much of the summer camped out on one of the nearby beaches. No pants protruded from the hem of her dark, calf-length jacket. The skin of those toned legs set off a creamy contrast to her coat—so okay, maybe no long hours spent on the beach.

His mind went wild. What did she wear beneath the jacket? A skirt or dress? What did it look like? Would the material cling to her body like a second skin? Or would it fit loose while still managing to show off her every curve?

Or maybe she wore nothing at all?

Concentrate, he scolded. You’re here on a job.

He turned to his mark, but he was gone.

Damn it. Seth opened his mind, searching out and instantly finding the target. Up the walk, he’d folded himself into the shadows, his dark arousal filling Seth’s being like onions wrapped in ripe gym socks. Beautiful-Potty-Mouth was exactly this animal’s type. A pretty little brunette who was all alone. The Guardian in Seth would be damned if he’d let the fiend hurt her. Not on his watch.

Yet even as the noble notion entered his mind, so did the warning against intervention. Death Code and Angelic Code both forbade intervention in the affairs of mortals, except by Divine Order. Seth had one purpose here tonight. To make sure his target died in the manner his bosses foresaw. No more. No less. To disregard the Code was to risk all hope of ever returning home.

To assure his banishment would indeed be for eternity.

Still, he moved toward his target. It didn’t take a genius to figure out what the other man was doing. Stalking. Dark anger welled up inside Seth’s chest. How was he supposed to sit back while this creep raped and maybe killed an innocent? If Seth killed the target now, before he made his move—

Beautiful-Potty-Mouth turned from the car. Toward Seth. And something happened, something he hadn’t experienced since he’d lost his wings.

His soul stirred.

Interview with a Fallen Angel:

Joining us on Character Chat today is Seth, fallen angel and hero from my Loose Id release, Tempted. I’m so honored Seth trusted me to tell the story of how he met sexy, sassy Lyndi Garrison. Their story took my breath away, and I hope it does yours too! So without further ado…

Brandi:

Welcome Seth! Thank you so much for dropping by. I had such a fun time telling yours and Lyndi’s story. You two made quite the pair!

Seth:

Thank you, Brandi. I’m glad to be here. I had a great time working with you while you wrote Tempted. That’s such an appropriate title, too. Lyndi was certainly one huge, sexy temptation the night we met.

Brandi:

Tell me about it! She is definitely, how shall I say it…headstrong. What do you remember most about the night you met her?

Seth:

That would have to be the incident in the shed.

Brandi:

Oh yeah! There’s nothing like a sexy rendezvous in a dark shed to get the libido pumping!

Seth:

No comment.

Brandi:

Moving things to a more serious note…would you tell our readers what you were doing the night you met Lyndi?

Seth:

I was on a job for my bosses, the three Angels of Death. As a Death Worker, it was my duty to make sure deaths occurred according to my bosses’ visions and then to transport the newly released souls to the waiting area.

That night started no differently than the countless others–at least until Lyndi exploded onto the scene with her temper and potty mouth cranked to max. She drew me in without even realizing it, and I–

Brandi:

Whoa, whoa, whoa. We don’t want to give away too much, Seth.

Seth:

Sorry.

Brandi:

Well, Seth, I don’t want to keep you much longer. I know you’re busy, but before you go, can you sum up why readers will like hearing yours and Lyndi’s story, especially when there are so many great books out there?

Seth:

Easy…Lyndi. She is the most incredible woman I’ve ever known. She’s passionate. She’s funny. She’s sexy as hell. Who couldn’t fall in love with someone so vivacious and full of life?

She has dark scars in her past, but she never let tragedy rule her. Was it any wonder I was so…Tempted?

Read what others are saying about Tempted:

“If you’re looking for a read with evolved characters, depth, and let’s face it, seriously hot sex, this is the book for you.” ~Denise, Happily Ever After Reviews

“In her latest book Tempted, Brandi Evans takes the age-old battle between the pleasure of the flesh and the soul to erotic heights..” ~ Tammy Elizabeth Southin, The Pen & Muse Reviews

“The heat was divine and more than hot enough for avid eros readers…” ~Megan, Night Owl Reviews

“This story definitely held my interest, with several unexpected turns, including a life-or-death conflict. I really enjoyed reading Tempted, and can easily recommend this to all true romantics looking for happily ever after.” ~Mary, Bitten by Books

“Hot, passionate, all consuming heat radiates from Tempted…I enjoyed this quick, fast paced read.” ~Brynna, You Gotta Read Reviews

Buy Links:

Loose Id: http://www.loose-id.com/tempted.html

amazon:  https://www.amazon.com/Tempted-Brandi-Evans-ebook/dp/B074TT4V9V

Author bio:

Brandi Evans was raised by a caravan of traveling Gypsies. She spent her days learning the ways of her people and her nights lost in legends as old as time. Okay, not really, but that’s way more interesting than the truth!

In reality, Brandi grew up the oldest child of an ordinary family. Grade school, middle school, high school. Nothing extraordinary happened until she left the nest. She joined the military, went to college, got married, and became a mom. And somewhere along the way, she discovered she liked to read—and write!—stories hot enough to melt eReaders.

Contact Brandi:

Website: http://brandievansauthor.com/

Blog: https://www.blogger.com/blogin.g?blogspotURL=http://brandievansauthor.blogspot.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Brandi-Evans/674481219297772?ref_type=bookmark

Twitter: https://twitter.com/brandi_evans

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/brandievans1/

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Brandi-Evans/e/B004D05W56/

Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4373174.Brandi_Evans

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/brandievansauthor/

tumblr: http://brandievansauthor.tumblr.com/

Sign up for Brandi’s newsletter and receive a free book! http://brandievansauthor.com/contact.html#newsletter

Coming July 24, 2017 The Heart Won’t Forget #satspanks #spankingromance #contemporaryromance #romance #blushingbooks

The Heart Won't Forget

I thought I would join in on today’s fun and add a little excerpt from my new release coming out Monday, July 24th.  I’ve shared the blurb in a previous blog post, so without any further delay, let’s get right to the good stuff.

She sat on the couch, staring at her packed bags. Why did she agree to this? She didn’t want to go. Since Adam returned, he had been helpful, supportive, and attentive. He climbed in the bed with her the first two nights, spooning her. The third night, he explained that with her feeling better, she needed her rest, and he felt comfortable leaving her to sleep in the guest bed.

 Before he left with Zach to go North on Wednesday, he became domineering and unyielding. Of course, she had the flu when he first arrived, but once she got well and returned to work on Monday, he dictated how the week would play out. He expected her to fly up to meet him and their son on Friday.

Her phone buzzed, a text message from Adam. “If you aren’t already, you need to be in the car driving to the airport if you are going to make your flight.”

She couldn’t respond. She hadn’t talked to her family in over three years. They all took it personally when they heard Adam received his first overseas assignment, a remote one in Korea, and she wanted to stay here, not move back up there.  Six months after that when Adam returned home on leave, she got pregnant. She drove across the country to share the good news with her family. The family that greeted her was a family she didn’t know, and the distance between them became greater than just the miles between them. The disillusionment of it all scarred her. Eventually, she changed her cell number and broke all contact with them.

She never even told them when she and Adam decided to divorce. She assumed they must know though, news travelled fast in their hometown.

Lost in her thoughts, she screamed when the front door flew open and a very angry Adam burst in. “Get your ass up and get in the car!”

“What are you doing here?” Backing away from him as he reached for her, she fell to her side on the couch, attempting to scurry away. She’d never seen him like this. His palm landed hard on a portion of her rear, mostly on her outer thigh due to her position. “Ouch!” He wasn’t playing. It hurt and she crawled off the couch, running over to the bar stools before she turned around and looked at him. “What’s that about? That hurt.”

He fisted his hand and released it before running it through his short light hair. “Frannie. I’m trying really hard here, but there is going to be a lot more where that came from if you don’t get your ass in the car.”

She may not recognize this man, but she liked him. Kind of. “I told you before you bought the plane ticket that I didn’t want to go. I’ll pay you back for the damn ticket.”

A big sigh passed through his lips, and his eyes narrowed. He looked like a man struggling to maintain his calm. Nothing ever rattled Adam that she could recall. “If I come over there, you will find it an achy drive and flight sitting on a blistered ass. I don’t give a fuck about the cost of the ticket! Zach is waiting for you up there. As was I.”

The seriousness in his tone and words created conflicting emotions in her. She found this new version of him sexy, yet frustrating. “I don’t know what’s gotten into you. Gonna spank me like I’m some little girrrrrrr…” So surprised and shocked by his quick move towards her, she dashed down the hallway. She didn’t really think she had a chance. He returned from Germany in excellent physical condition, obviously taking his PT seriously.

Entering her bedroom with him on her heels, she jumped on her bed attempting to get far against the wall. Not a chance. He gripped her ankle dragging her face down over the bed. Tossing up her peasant skirt, baring just a thong covered ass, he spanked her. Over and over again. The more she struggled, the quicker and harder the smacks. He didn’t quit until she sobbed with tears rolling down her face, all the fight in her gone.

Rolling her to her back, she kept her eyes closed. She didn’t want to look at him. She didn’t want him to look at her. Wiping her tears away with his hands, he cupped her face. “As much as I want to kiss you right now, it won’t be enough, so I’m not going to start something I want to take my time with.” She sniffled, and he kissed the bridge of her nose. “Go get some tissue and meet me in the car. I’ve got your bags. Hurry though, we are hurting for time now.”

Opening her eyes, he stood in front of her holding his hand out. He helped her to her feet, adjusted her skirt, and directed her to the bathroom. 

In a trance, she made it to the car. Neither spoke on the drive to the airport, and since they weren’t seated together, they didn’t speak on the flights.  During the ninety minutes in Atlanta, while they waited to catch the connecting flight, she went to the restroom, and walked around the shops. She picked up a dinosaur book to read to Zach. 

Landing in Minneapolis, almost six hours from when he picked her up, they retrieved their bags and walked out to his rental car. Just like someone hitting a light switch, she snapped out of her trance. Her hands shook, and she couldn’t draw in any breaths.

Dropping his bags, Adam rushed to her side before she panicked. He pulled her tight into his chest, stroking her back. “Hey, hey. I got you. It’s going to be all right. I promise. I’m here, and I’m not leaving you.” Rubbing her head, held firmly against his chest, he calmed her. “I didn’t do this to hurt you, Frannie. I’m here with you. I’ll be with you every step of the way.”

Sniffling, she lifted her head, looking into his face. “Why? Why do you want this so much?”

His blue eyes softened more. “Because we’re family. I need Zach to grow up knowing his extended family, and his mother is part of that. She needs to stop thinking it’s her against the world, and leave the past in the past.” Patting her shoulder, he stood her in front of him, rubbing his hands on her shoulders. “Don’t worry. We are crashing at my parents. Let’s just see how things go, and how we feel tomorrow.” He put his finger under her chin, lifting her eyes to meet his. “Deal?”

Looking away, she couldn’t make sense of anything. Did she enter the Twilight Zone? She knew this was Adam, but it wasn’t her Adam. “Yeah,” she replied. She supposed. Why wouldn’t she? He’s saying all the right things, and he might spank her if she doesn’t comply. Now she felt shaky for an altogether different reason. And a little flushed.

Opening the passenger door, he waited for her to get in, then put their bags in the trunk. Starting the vehicle, he grabbed her hand and squeezed it. “I wish this last part wasn’t a three-hour drive. I’m pretty beat.”

The mention of a long day for him had many questions resurface. “Yeah, how did you get back to Alabama today? And why?”

Putting the car in reverse, he backed out of the parking space. “You know why, Frannie. To make sure you got on the plane. I knew you wouldn’t come, so I got a ticket and flew down to get you.”

“You spent a lot of time and money on getting me up here for some reason.”

“Yep. I sure did.” The only response he gave, no elaboration.

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The Heart Won’t Forget #coverreveal #contemporaryromance #blushingbooks #spankingromance

Coming July 24th

The Heart Won't Forget

I loved writing this story, though I found it challenging at times to tap into the pain and fears resulting from heartbreak.

The Heart Won’t Forget the wounds it’s endured, nor the ones that inflicted them.

The Heart Won’t Forget the ones that nurtured it, providing the patience and “tough love” necessary to aid in its healing.

Blurb

Frannie thought she had life all figured out. Don’t get involved. No expectations meant no disappointments. And that’s exactly how she chose to live her life with her four-year-old son over the last three and a half years. Safe and quiet.

In a ten-day span, her safe, quiet life starts to fall apart. Corey, an ex-boyfriend, moves back in next door. He apologizes for breaking her heart, and wants another chance. He’s as good looking as ever, and their children pick up their friendship right where they left off. But Frannie can’t forget the agony she experienced when he left her.

Adam, her ex-husband and son’s father, also comes back into her life. He was her first love, and they had remained in each other’s life for their son’s sake—as friends. Now, he’s forcing her to confront the pain of her past in the hopes of ensuring a better future that includes him. He’s different than the young man she married just out of high school. He’s confident and commanding.

Frannie has a difficult, life changing decision to make. Give a relationship with Corey another try or give Adam, and their failed marriage, another try? Or, is she better off alone following her safe and quiet life plan? Which man will step up to win her heart? Which man is strong enough to convince Frannie she is safe with him?

 

Publisher’s Note: This emotional romance is intended for adults only and contains explicit sexual scenes, adult language, and elements of strict discipline. If any of these themes offend you, please do not purchase.

 

Short Except from His Eternal Promise #upcomingrelease #vampireromance #summerreads #bookstoread #spankingromance

July 15, 2017 Release Date

SLHEP3

Only eight (8) more days until His Eternal Promise is available.  I’m not complaining, by any means, but the way things have worked out, I have not just this release in July, but another work I am extremely passionate about The Heart Won’t Forget.  I will be doing a cover reveal and sharing the blurb and excerpts next week for that release.

Today’s excerpt is from His Eternal Promise.  Though Carlee struggles with her impulsive acceptance and trust of Maxim, she can’t deny that he rouses a passion in her unlike any she has ever experienced.  He recognizes, introduces, and awakens desires she never knew she had.

Excerpt:

Taking her keys, he unlocked the door, allowing her to walk in before him. “Carlee.” He spoke in an authoritative voice, so she stopped by the couch. He couldn’t wait any longer. “Go to your room and undress.”

She did as directed, no hesitation. He watched her pretty, brown haired head go straight to the bedroom. With the door open, he watched her kick off her heels then un-zip and slide her beige pencil skirt over her hips. The tiny thong followed. A growl built in his chest, but he suppressed it. Scaring her tonight was not an option. It was never an option, but after her stunt of changing her plans for the evening, and the necessity of his protection—tonight he intended to own her, any doubts dispelled.

The blouse and bra joined the other garments on the floor, and he went to her. He ran his hands along her smooth shoulders, down her arms, and across her flat stomach. Her lips parted, a small gasp pushed through them. Leaning into him, he moved his hands to her breasts and caressed them. Tweaking her nipples, he gently pushed her off of him. “Kotyonok, you trust me.” He posed this as a statement, not a question. There could be no questioning.

Shaking her head, she said, “Yes. I do.”

Familiar with her apartment and her items as he conducted that task his first evening there, the decorative beam across her ceiling would serve this experience perfectly. Stepping to her vanity, he pulled two of the longest scarves from around the mirror. Standing in front of her, he studied her face. Her hazel eyes reflected trust and anticipation. He sensed no fear. “Give me your left wrist.” She did so, and he wrapped the scarf around it and knotted it. Placing his mouth on her warm sweet one, he ran his tongue over her lips. She quivered, and he assured her. “I will take care of you. Always.”

The always may have been too much for her to hear; her eyes widened. Keeping to his task, he tied the second scarf with the one around her left wrist, tossing the extended length this provided over the beam. Kissing her again, he requested her right wrist. Pulling on the loose end, her left arm lifted above her head. Checking the length and the pull, once satisfied, he wrapped her right wrist and knotted it.

Checking both wrists and her position, the end result pleased him. Though this lifted her arms, it allowed her movement, but limited. Her feet planted firmly on the ground; he perceived no threat of her enduring an uncomfortable position during their experience, just as he intended. “How do you feel?”

Licking her lips, she answered, “Excited.”

 

 

 

Daddy Mine by Shanna Handel #newrelease #spankingromance #blushingbooks

My ranch, my rules, little girl

I am thrilled to share Shanna’s newest release today, Daddy Mine.  I must admit that I have slacked on reading since I am more focused on my writing, but I know that reading is such a valuable and necessary tool for every writer to hone their craft.  And, if the blurb, teasers and excerpts aren’t enough of an influence to get you to purchase your copy (which they were for me, I got mine), CHECK OUT THIS COVER!

DADDY MINE

Shana used social media and shared three covers to vote on.  My vote counted, and it appears others shared my enthusiasm for this particular one.

Blurb:

Get to know our Daddy Dom Cowboy

A non-traditional tale of traditional love.

 Wes has come to the gripping realization that he would rather be a lifelong bachelor than to settle for anything less than his heart’s true desire—the love of a strong woman who can be a good little girl in his arms. Having decided that his type of woman does not exist, he represses his need by spending his days working dawn to dusk on his family’s ranch.

When Garrett, his younger brother, who left the ranch for a lucrative career on Wall Street, comes home to visit, he has a new girlfriend in tow. Carrie has an innocence that Garrett’s women have never possessed. From her golden curls to her chocolate brown eyes, she is as sweet as they come. Wes is intrigued by her demeanor.

Wes discovers quickly that Carrie has a feisty side as well. When she demands to ride Mabel, his untamed horse, she doesn’t take Wes’ answer to heart. Wes threatens to take Carrie over his knee and her reply is only three little words, “Like a Daddy?” which turns Wes’ world upside down. When Carrie pushes Wes too far, the inevitable happens, and it unleashes a life-altering chain of events.

Will Wes be able to keep his feelings for Carrie to himself? Can Garrett stay true to Carrie, or will his wild ways return? Will the brothers be divided by unexpected circumstances? Will Carrie survive the ensuing turmoil? Or have their worlds indeed been turned upside down for good?

Publisher’s note: This sweet, messy love story is intended for adults only. There are some elements of mild age play language and discipline of an adult woman. If any of these themes offend you, please do not purchase.

Excerpt

Jeggings

“Did you sleep well?” Wes looked up from the pancake he was flipping. Before Carrie

could reply, he said, “What,” gesturing at her disdainfully with the metal spatula he held, “are you

wearing?”

Carrie did a little twirl. “They are called jeggings.”

“What is a jegging?”

She laughed. “It’s a denim legging. You know what leggings are, don’t you?”

He shook his head.

“Leggings are like tights.”

“Tights go under skirts.”

“But these aren’t tights, they are jeggings.”

“You just told me that jeggings are leggings, and leggings are tights, so those are in fact,

tights, and need a skirt over them.”

“No, you wear them by themselves. It’s called fashion.”

Wes moved from his place behind the kitchen counter and sidled up to Carrie. “I call them

immodest.” He traced the outline of her bottom with the tip of the spatula. “I can see everything,

which means so can everyone else.”

Carrie squirmed under Wes’ touch. “They’re cute.”

Wes took his hand and trailed it over her hip to her bottom. He squeezed hard. “When you

are my girl, there are certain things that are for my eyes only.”

Carrie gasped with pain, but she felt delighted at his possessiveness of her.

“You can peel these off, and go put on an outfit more becoming of a young lady who was

raised properly, or you can peel them off, and lay over my lap, and then go put on an outfit more

becoming of a young lady.”

Author Bio

Get to know Shanna Handel-

Shanna Handel lives in the South, where men still hold doors open, and people call her ma’am. Shanna and her soulmate are raising many their many children in an old farmhouse that they are endlessly fixing up. Her ideal evening is hanging out catching fireflies and rocking on the porch with music playing and good food being served up.

Shanna is a hopeless romantic with a great love story of her own and frequently lost in her imagination. Her end goal is to create a happy, peaceful home that feels like a throwback to a simpler time where her family and friends can visit.

Shanna tries to bring that feeling into her books, with hopes of transporting you to another place where you can rest for awhile in a good romance.

 

 

His Eternal Promise #paranormal #vampireromance #spankingromance #coverreveal #upcomingrelease #coming soon

Ebook - His Eternal Promise (1)A strange encounter

A night of extraordinary passion

She never imagined it resulting in

His Eternal Promise

Coming July 15, 2017

It’s been awhile coming, but I am excited to announce that His Eternal Promise is set to be released next month.  This is a paranormal adult romance.  It’s the first in the Eternal Gifts series but can be read as a stand-alone.  If I could focus on one project at a time, I would finish up the second book in the series, but seems some characters want to be heard more than others at different times.  I will be sharing teasers and excerpts over the next few weeks.  For now, I’m providing the blurb.

Carlee put everything into her family and her job over the last couple of years, sacrificing any personal life.  After a rare evening out with a few girlfriends, she encounters a captivating man under inexplicable circumstances.  Against all rational judgment, they share an evening of the most fulfilling and erotic sex she’s ever experienced.  

Maxim hasn’t wanted a woman, especially a mortal, in sixty years, but he wants Carlee.  He intends to keep the truth from her in order to build a relationship first, but a woman from his past complicates things forcing him to reveal the truth.  He hopes Carlee chooses to keep him in her life, because he can’t leave, her life is in danger.

For anyone that loves sweet and steamy vampire romance, I hope you will give Maxim and Carlee a chance to move you the way they have me.

 

June by Alicia Stone

Living a lie in a web of deceit, Cassandra finds the courage to challenge her controlling husband.

Today I’m pleased to introduce a contemporary romance from Alicia Stone.

BLURB

Living a lie in a web of deceit, Cassandra finds the courage to challenge her controlling husband. She sets in motion a tragic chain of events that leads her across Europe from the medieval city of Tallinn to the showboating glamour of Nice. Cast aside and the victim of cruel revenge, Cassandra fights for her future and discovers she is not alone. Her new-found strength is tested to its limits, for where love is concerned there is often a reckoning.

EXCERPT

Women’s toilets, a curious place for confidences. Strangers become acquainted in the queue for the loo. Teenage girls discuss conquests as they hog mirrors, applying make-up. Cassandra had once seen a laughing group of Japanese women roll their trousers to their knees, fastidious in their preparation for a Western bathroom experience. She would have given much to understand their chatter. Quite extraordinary what she overheard about people’s lives in toilets, but this was gossip, and the gossip was about her. She knew these voices, Malory Jacque and Miranda Pym.

“Of course Cassandra’s very nice. Oh, Lord. No paper. For heaven’s sake. A hotel of this repute. I shall speak to the manager. Andrew knows him from cricket.”

“Hang on. I’ll pass some under the door. Lord, this reminds me of school.”

Cassandra heard scuffles and giggles.

“She’s pleasant…easy-going in that reserved sort of way. Good for dinner parties.”

“Thanks. Oh yes. Marvellous. Pop her next to anyone. She’s sort of…you know…”

“Neutral? A foil?”

“That’s it. Rather beige.”

Cassandra froze in her cubicle. The toilets flushed and the voices moved over to the wash-hand basins.

“Oh, no. Would you look at that? They’ve changed the hand cream. I always liked the wild heather. This won’t do.”

A blast from the hand driers drowned any further eavesdropping. The door swung open; there was a clack of heels…

“But when you consider the husband…”

The door closed.

Cassandra waited for a moment before waving her hand at the automatic flush and coming out. Standing before the mirror, she remembered what Perry had said at breakfast.

“Sweetheart. Do you think that shade of blue suits you? Book club today isn’t it? You’ve never worn the cashmere I brought you from Cairo. I found it in your closet the other day.”

She had poured his coffee, put another round of toast in the retro Italian toaster, and slipped into their bedroom. The unopened duty-free bag stood upright in the bottom of the ‘hers’ wardrobe. Shrugging off the blouse chosen earlier, she removed the ribbon tag from her gift and pulled the soft jumper over her head, making for the kitchen.

“Pussy-cat, lovely. Want to stroke you.” He didn’t. Instead, Perry was out of his seat even as she offered more toast.

“Carbs, Cassandra, carbs. Got to look after the waistline.” He held his stomach in and blew her a routine kiss, but she was already moving towards the sink.

Would the puff of air reach the cupboard housing the seldom-used twelve-place dinner service, or would the vapour simply dissipate mid kitchen, she wondered.

“Late tonight, some of the faculty…a little do. Back on the Nine o’clock. Have fun with the ladies.”

Cassandra had dropped the toast into the bin and stared out of the window. Next-door’s cat had emerged from a clump of daisies and shuddered, the tail bolt upright. Cassandra loathed cats, especially when they treated her garden as their personal litter tray. He, for the cat was a Tom, was the same shade of grey as her jumper.

Now she was staring at the reflection in the mirror. Her face lost, framed by the heavy ornate coving and flock-wallpaper of the Victorian hotel. She had often pondered what people would say about her. They might use affable or good-natured if a little shy. What they didn’t see was that she was bored; Cassandra was bored to her very core. Not languid though, never that. There was so much that people did not see. Cassandra composed herself, took a breath, and fixed her smile as she hurried to re-join the discussion about a book she had no wish to discuss.

~ * ~

A creature of routine, she went shopping after Book Club. Every trip to the supermarket was at best an exhausting in-your-face reality experience, at worst a sensory assault. From the seductive smell of the in-store baked bread and the sweet blowsy lilies in pretty buy-me cellophane wrappers to the whole gamut of riotous colour, compelling fonts and unashamed branding the weekly shop was a marketing horror to be endured. Enthusiastic staff spoke of must-buys or operational matters over the public address system interrupting the bland music and the periodic wails of infants distressed or seeking attention. Employees wearing uniform fleece offered tiny plastic pots as if shoppers were at some impromptu cocktail party or were institutionalised, standing in line to take their medication before bedtime.

“Can I tempt you to try a French cheese on offer today? Our own-brand mayonnaise has been voted Britain’s favourite. Would you like to see if you can taste the difference?”

There were endless choices, from the selection of three types of trolley at the entrance to the alternative methods of checkout at the exit. Early on in their relationship during a trip to the supermarket, Perry asked that Cassandra take on the responsibility.

“Sweetheart, shopping is ghastly. You are so much better at all this pointless busyness than I. Look about you,” he glowered. “Eighty percent of the people here are women. You are among your own kind; you know what to do; you have the time. Lucky, lucky girl, whereas poor old me, cash rich; time poor.”

Money wasn’t a problem. Perry urged her to spend what she liked. They could afford to live well on his salary and his grandfather’s trust fund. Bunty and Reg, his parents, bought the couple’s house as a wedding gift. Early on in their relationship, Bunty had trumpeted aloud at Cassandra’s modest choice of food retailer and her student habit of shopping around for bargains.

“My dear, a housewife is judged by her table. Top end for groceries, always. It’s what Perry’s used to.”

Cassandra did the shopping, coasting in neutral following a set path. Her face assumed a forced smile. She manoeuvred the trolley around slow mannerly pensioners, avoiding the child, skidding to a halt in the detergent aisle. She read labels comparing saturated fat and salt levels, catering for Perry’s current preferences and tastes. He was most particular. Cassandra willed herself not to judge the large woman with the trolley stacked high with snack and convenience food or to think too uncharitably of the salad afterthought perched on top of the high-fat, sugar-laden mountain. She rejected the self-checkout points, aware of her need for human interaction, chatting at the till, agreeing that the weather was shocking and that the three-for-two offer on the Imperial Leather soap was excellent value.

“My husband won’t try any other. His mother uses the same brand…you know, a family thing.” Cassandra despised the words and herself for the weakness that was her norm.

The cashier listened with her head to one side. Was there a fleeting edge of solidarity or sympathy in the amber eyes? Perhaps it was the magnifying effect of the tortoiseshell glasses. Cassandra felt odd and lightheaded but conscious of a moment of female kinship and understanding with a woman she’d never met before.

“Are you alright dear?” The amber was almost orange, owlish, and wild.

Cassandra considered the question as she used her credit card. The first attempt failed as she tapped in the wrong number. Concentrating, she began the process again until she met with success. She stopped in the act of lifting the bag of shopping into her trolley.

“I think…I am.”

The cashier reappraised her as she handed over the receipt.

“Changes take time to work their way through, don’t you find? The trick is to make the right choices. Take care now.”

There was no one behind her in the queue. The adjacent cashier was busy. No one else had overheard. What a curious exchange; not at all the usual bland pleasantries between staff and customers. Cassandra wheeled her trolley away, leaning against the metal frame. Glancing back at the checkout, the grey-haired woman was changing her till roll and did not look up.

Driving home through the rain, Cassandra thought about the book club. Perry had suggested she join. One evening at dinner, he announced that everything was arranged. The wife of Perry’s occasional golf partner would introduce her to the club and pick Cassandra up, taking her to the first meeting.

Debbie, in a red sports car with a mane of tawny hair, tanned, wearing a lime green trouser suit, pulled up outside sounding three long beeps. Cassandra rushed out of the house, flustered with a wave of greeting. This went unobserved as Debbie shot into her driveway, executing a three-point-turn, which halted two inches from the next-door’s spotless and regimented recycling bins.

“Hop in. Running late. A cul-de-sac in Westmead,” she surveyed the immaculate new-builds, “bad luck. My book choice this month so they can’t start without me. Got the top down…nice day…about time. Awful summer, you’d never think we lived in the south of England for pity’s sake.”

Cassandra held out her hand to no avail as the car sped forward.

“Belt up.”

The recollection of that first meeting made Cassandra grimace and smile. She couldn’t recall the name of the first book, the plot, or the characters, only that awful new girl paralysis, all the other women staring, appraising, and judging. Fighting an overwhelming instinct to run away, she defaulted to a learned behaviour; she smiled, crossed and uncrossed her legs, agreed and disagreed, nodded and listened, wholly intent on blending in. That was three years ago. Members came and went, but the core remained the same. Perry liked to ask her about the group, wives of cronies in his wider circle, so she stayed. Debbie stayed the course too, catching Cassandra’s eye at the more outrageous comments, winking with mirth at the absurd.

Perry wanted to know who was bright. Who led the group? Who did most of the talking? That was in the early days. Of late, he had not asked much about the reading group, but Debbie had become a friend. An unlikely pairing perhaps, but, as the first meeting finished and they walked towards the waiting Mercedes, Deborah Gore-Hamilton said, “I’ve got your number, Cassy Bishop. If you need an ally, I’ve got your back.”

That was how their friendship started. Cassandra was no longer alone.

ISBN: 978-1-62420-316-9

Buy at: Rogue Phoenix Press, Amazon, Barnes and Noble