Virgin for a Trillionaire (Taken by a Trillionaire Series) with Excerpt

 

They’re at it again! Ruth Cardello, JS Scott, and Melody Anne come together for another royal novella trilogy. This is the first novella of a three novella set. Check the dates below for release dates on the second and third novella.

Escape with three new princes as only these NYT’s bestselling authors could write them.

 

Virgin for the Trillionaire: Ruth Cardello (April 25, 2017)

Virgin for the Prince: J.S. Scott (June  6, 2017)

Virgin to Conquer: Melody Anne (July 3, 2017)

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iBooks

 

 

The wild ride begins with Virgin for the Trillionaire:

Prince Ballasare Stephan Demande needs a bride before his thirtieth birthday or he’ll lose his crown. Unlike their barbarian twin island, Rubare Virgina’s royal family is above kidnapping and murdering as a means of choosing their queens. Historically, they’ve cultivated their own selection, ensuring the purity and perfection of each. Prince Ballasare wants more, so he comes up with a plan. It’s genius really. He invites three hundred of the most beautiful and intelligent virgins from around the world to his island under the guise of attending a conference. Those who are willing to stay and participate in a series of tests are offered a chance to win one million dollars. He can only imagine the joy that the woman he chooses will feel when she discovers he and his title are the real prize.

Jessica Quincy is at a crossroads career wise. She hadn’t expected anyone to actually read her blog posts about her lonely life. She certainly hadn’t expected Virgin Territory to go viral. But who can stay a virgin forever? And what does a woman do when she’s no longer what she’s made a career out of writing about? She takes a risk, that’s what. Jessica attends a conference that promises to end with one participant winning a million dollars. Any ex-virgin could start over with that kind of money.

She makes him laugh.

He scares, infuriates, and totally turns her on.

Unfortunately, on Rubare Virgina, being chosen by a sexy prince can have deadly consequences if you haven’t updated your blog.

Like the first novella trilogy, Taken by a Trillionaire, these novellas are escapism fantasy. If you are looking for a historically accurate representation of a monarchy or a serious depiction of how royals maintain their bloodlines, neither trilogies are for you. If you love larger than life characters and fun storylines that take you to exotic places with sexy alpha men, then welcome to our imaginary kingdoms. The men are insanely rich, the traditions are potentially deadly, and the sex will leave you craving a night on this dark isle.

Chapter One

 

“Three hundred. I didn’t know that many people would be at this conference. God, I hope they don’t ask us to say anything in front of the group. My armpits are sweaty just thinking about it,” a strawberry blonde said to the platinum blonde seated beside her at the round table.

“Shut up. You sound like an idiot,” the platinum blonde snapped in a low voice she probably didn’t think would carry as well as it did due to a lull in the conversation.

Jessica Quincy politely looked away. The two women had introduced themselves a few moments earlier as if their surname would be recognized. They’d been disappointed. Alia, seemed sweet with a shy smile. The other, Vida, was a coiled snake. The Charmagne sisters. Sisters. It was hard to imagine how they’d come from the same womb.

Their fame, if they had any, hadn’t reached the United States, but Jessica wasn’t about to mention it. She had empathy for anyone attempting to fit in. As the mathematically gifted daughter of a mechanic and an accountant, Jessica had spent most of her life trying not to stand out. She loved her parents, but they’d never quite known what to do with her. Her peers had accused her of thinking she was smarter than them, and her teachers had been intimidated by her ability to do difficult mental calculations with ease. During her younger years, she’d been shuffled from one special program to another, tested, and challenged, and rather than giving her confidence it had shut her down socially. She had a degree from MIT before most of her peers graduated from high school but was socially withdrawn. Several companies and more than one government agency had tried to recruit her, but she hadn’t fit in with the groups they’d introduced her to. Back then, at nineteen, she hadn’t wanted to be to be closed off in a think tank. She hadn’t been ready to join the corporate world. She was lost. She wasn’t proud of the choice, but she’d moved back in with her parents and hidden from the world. Her parents had pushed her to go out, but they really didn’t understand how difficult that was for her. As easy as school had been academically, the opposite could be said for friendships. The more she tried to make friends during high school, the more she failed. She was rarely invited to parties, didn’t comprehend the social norms expected of her, and found solitude the easier option. Over time though, solitude became isolation until she resented her gifts. For Jessica, intelligence created loneliness.

Desperately despondent, she started blogging. She’d used a fake name and began writing about the things that mattered to her: friendship, family, and her sexual journey or distinct lack there of. Her honest search for herself drew a large number of followers. One post in particular, the one she wrote when she reflected on what it was like to turn twenty-one and still be a virgin had gone viral. She wondered if other people were inexperienced and embarrassed by it. Responses had come in from around the world, stories from those who lamented everything from having never been with anyone to those who felt they’d been with too many.

So much guilt and shame. She no longer felt alone in her awkwardness.

Spin-off support groups formed around many of the topics. Virgin Territory started as many groups did, a small online conversation where acceptance was the norm. It soon took on a life of its own, though. Followers jumped from thousands to millions and the blog became a business no one had anticipated.

Helping others find their voice and their confidence became Jessica’s passion and purpose. After several years of anonymity, she finally put a face to her blog via video, and her life changed again. She was asked to speak at event after event. It was always the same; people who had previously suffered in silence came to connect with her. Some were virgins, some weren’t but said they connected with the loneliness of her journey. Like her, they had lived in a constant state of apology and wanted to be accepted—even if it was only by one other person.

Jessica felt for the strawberry blonde woman with the viper of a sister. “I know exactly how you feel, Alia. Public speaking used to terrify me.”

“It did?” Alia asked in a hopeful tone.

“Absolutely. I used to practice speaking into a salt shaker just so I’d know what to do with my hands if I had a microphone. My mother had a dog, Sigfrid, who was my captive but encouraging audience. When I get nervous now I just imagine I’m talking to him.” She took out her phone and brought up a photo of the enormous Saint Bernard. “This is Sigfrid.”

“Oh, he’s beautiful,” Alia cooed.

Her sister rolled her eyes skyward. “If they call for someone to speak from this table, I’ll go. We don’t want to be eliminated on our first day.”

The condescending snake reminded Jessica of the mean girls in school who had taunted her for being different. They had taught Jessica to avoid competitions where she would stand out. I’m not a child anymore, though, and this isn’t a popularity contest. The One Woman Conference on the small island nation of Rubare Virgina was a week-long event where daily challenges and eliminations would culminate in one of the participants going home with a million dollars.

Six months ago, Jessica would have said she didn’t need the money, but her main income came from Virgin Territory and the speaking engagements stemming from it. That had all been good and freeing until she’d made the mistake of sleeping with a man she’d met on her twenty-third birthday. He’d approached her after one of her speaking engagements and lavished attention on her. He’d said all the things she’d dreamed a man would: she was beautiful, brilliant, desirable. At twenty-three, she’d thought she’d waited long enough.

She hadn’t expected the experience to be quick and disappointing. She also hadn’t expected him to explain that he couldn’t see her again because he was married. It had been a devastating slap to her confidence, one too crushing to share with her blog. From that day on, everything she wrote or said felt like a lie even when they were just words of support. People came to her with the expectation that they had something in common with her, and she hated feeling like a fraud. It was another layer of shame, but one she was determined to shed.

How? She was still figuring that part out.

Yes, the blog had brought in a decent income but not enough to survive. She’d needed to close it up and start fresh, but she hadn’t known how to make the leap until the invitation to the conference had come in. She’d decided it was time to pick herself up, dust herself off, and finally benefit from the skills she’d resented when she was younger.

Competition? Bring it on.

And, win or lose, I’m not going to let anyone make me feel bad about myself.

The program had said that day one was about networking. After a brief mixer, the women had been asked to choose their own seats. Jessica had been so busy listening to the stories of the women she met, she hadn’t applied any strategy to choosing her tablemates. The reminder to sit had taken her by surprise, and she’d joined the nearest group of women. She was quickly coming to regret that impulsive decision.

“Public speaking is as much about what you say as how you say it,” she said while looking directly into Vida’s eyes. “We also wouldn’t want our table to sound overconfident or crass.”

“Crass?” Vida’s eyes narrowed. “Who would know more about that than an American?”

A Canadian woman raised her hand in protest and said, “That’s not entirely correct. Geographically, I’m also—” then lowered it when Vida glared at her.

What is that woman’s problem? Without missing a beat, Jessica said, “Nationality is a fascinating concept, isn’t it, and so much a part of our identity. It shouldn’t define us, though. We can measure ourselves by all the ways we are different or by the ways we are the same.”

“You should measure yourself,” Vida said in a low tone, “then you might have had the salad instead of the steak.”

“Vida,” Alia cried and turned bright red.

The weight comment cut close to home. Weight had always been an issue for Jessica. Her parents had limited her caloric intake as a child, and she’d maintained that discipline into adulthood, but she would never be a size zero like the Charmagne sisters. Isn’t it time to stop hating myself for how I was born?

Jessica looked around the table. Like some United Nations beauty pageant, the seven other women were a range of skin tones but all stunningly beautiful. Jessica was ten pounds above her normal weight and pasty pale from a long New England winter.

Stop. No more shame. I refuse to let anyone undermine my confidence.

She leaned across the table and, with a bright smile, said, “Ugly comes in all shapes and sizes. Before you say more, you might want to find out how we’re being scored. I hope it’s not peer evaluations.”

One woman raised her napkin to cover a smile. Another nodded at Jessica in approval.

Vida said something in her native language and stood. “I heard we pass or fail as a table tonight. Excuse me. I’m going to move because I doubt any of you will be here tomorrow. Come on, Alia. We can do much better.”

Alia stood, but her head dipped in apology, and she stayed behind as Vida walked away. “Please don’t mark her poorly if you’re given a chance. She’s scared. It’s the stress of everyone relying on her. We came to win, and I don’t want to think about what will happen if we don’t.”

“Alia,” Vida called out.

Alia dipped her head again. “It was nice to meet you all. Good luck tonight.”

The table was once again quiet after she left. She felt bad for Alia, but thankfully, the lights of the conference room dimmed and a speaker came to the podium before she had much time to think about it. He was an older gentleman with gray hair combed into a conservative style and a dark suit that fit him perfectly. His accent was faintly English, but with other regional influences. “Welcome to Rubare Virgina. My name is Theo Fissolo. Consider me your personal concierge for your weeklong stay. Anything I can do to make your stay at the Collosal Hotel more enjoyable, please do not hesitate to contact me. My card is beneath your plate. I hope that you are all comfortable with your accommodations.”

There was a general murmur of agreement.

“Look around the room. You were each chosen because you represent the best and brightest your country has to offer. The next few days will not be easy, and many of you will go home disappointed, but you must not consider losing here as failure. Simply being invited to this conference should make you proud. Rubare Virgina has always understood that women are the heart of any society. While you are here, though, I must caution you that we do not have tourists in our country, and our culture has retained an . . . innocence . . . that we encourage you to respect. We ask that you remain inside the hotel unless asked to participate in one of our approved outings. All distractions we felt might hinder you have been removed. If anyone feels uncomfortable with the conference or the tasks we ask you to perform, simply request to leave. You will be flown back immediately. No questions asked. However, if you stay, I promise you that the monetary prize is inconsequential compared to the opportunity you will find yourself presented with. We wish we could keep you all, but there can only be one winner. So, first, give yourself a round of applause for making it this far and also applaud the lucky one of you, whomever she may be, who will stay in the end . . .” He flashed a white, smooth smile. “Sorry, my English is rusty. I meant to say win in the end.”

Jessica clapped right along with every other woman in the room. She was ready to take the next step with her life, and winning one million dollars would be a great first step.

“Now, I have a special treat for you. As proof that Rubare Virgina believes in advancing the position of women, the guest speaker tonight is a true honor, indeed. So, please rise from your seats to greet His Royal Highness, Crown Prince Ballasare Stephan Demande, eldest son and our future king. Please do not applaud his entrance. Instead, it is customary to bow your head in quiet deference. Some of you will not want to, and that is perfectly understandable. Adopting our customs is entirely left to your discretion.”

Three hundred women rose to their feet, but only about half bowed their heads. Jessica glanced around and noted that Vida and Alia were among those who had followed the instruction. The women at her table had as well. She lowered hers own even though it felt peculiar to her. She was comfortable honoring Rubare Virgina’s customs, as that showed warranted respect. She did wonder about the man himself though. Would he be arrogant like some of her college professors, or someone more approachable who earned respect afforded him?

There was a collective gasp when a tall, wide-shouldered, dark-haired demi-god strode across the stage to the podium. Every fairy-tale prince she’d ever read about paled in comparison to the real deal. He carried himself with an authority that matched his formal attire and title. He was dressed in a dark suit with a few glittering medals on his lapel. His blue eyes were bright against his olive skin, and his smile was easy and confident.

“Welcome,” he said in a voice sounding like an intimate caress. “It is my pleasure to welcome you to our country.”

She melted even while chastising herself for doing so. Wow. It was difficult to concentrate on much past the perfect lines of his jaw, the fullness of his lips, the way he took the time to look several of the women in the eye. So handsome. Jessica didn’t know how they felt, but she was slowly being hypnotized by that deep voice of his.

I wonder what life is like when you’re that good-looking? And royalty? Women must throw themselves at him constantly.

She looked around the room briefly. Judging by the slightly glazed looks, she wasn’t alone in her instant adoration of the prince. Some looked unimpressed, but she doubted they were unaffected. Hell, a woman at the next table was the reigning Miss Universe from Chili, and she looked just as mesmerized by him.

Even a positive attitude requires remaining grounded in reality. No matter how much I may wish that flapping my arms could make me fly, jumping from a building while doing so will end badly. I need to focus on what I can realistically leave here with—the money. That’s the only prize I want.

“Please sit. Rubare Virgina is honored to be your host. The prize you’re competing for has been provided by my family, and I can already tell our choice will be a difficult one to make. Each of you has been given a dossier with the history of our island, but for those who have not yet had time to read it, we are a country that produces cutting-edge technology but remains grounded in our traditions. You may be more familiar with our sister island, Rubare Collina. We are more private, but like them, we believe in helping those beyond our borders. We appreciate that many of you stepped away from businesses to come here and that is why, regardless of how long you stay, we will be awarding smaller prizes to a good number of you. We hope you use them to create a better future for yourselves and remember that you are the planet’s true precious resource.”

Several expressed excitement at the announcement. Jessica wasn’t sure she liked being called a resource, but she exchanged smiles with the women at her table. I’m overthinking this. The additional prizes were a generous and thoughtful gesture. She guessed she wasn’t the only one feeling a little overwhelmed by the volume of competitors. Two hundred ninety-nine people I need to beat to leave with the prize. Why is that so hard for me?

She remembered an instructor at one of her gifted programs lecturing her about her desire for everyone to receive awards. He’d said it was a female flaw that held women back from winning.

Another flaw. Something else to loathe about myself if I let others tell me who I should be. I don’t want to leave everyone else behind. I like to get along and belong. I like making people feel good about themselves. Does everything that makes up me have to be wrong? Or could it simply be who I am? 

The prince continued, “In your initial contract, you agreed to limited communication during the conference, so we hope you made proper arrangements. We request that you now place your cellphone in the box in the middle of the table. Rubare Virgina has remained closed to the influences of social media and the Internet. Your computers, if you brought them, are being removed from your rooms. Everything will be returned to you when you leave our island, but the nondisclosure agreement you signed prohibits you from discussing anything you see or hear during your stay. You may retain your phone, of course, but doing so will end your time with us.”

Some women immediately relinquished their cell phones, a few stood and walked out, while others expressed concern or displeasure. The volume of resistance rose, but it quelled instantly when the prince began to speak again. “There is no debate. The decision is yours to make. I will not force you, nor will I ask you again. You know what to do if you wish to remain a participant in the conference. Trust is a key element in any relationship. If you do not trust us enough to part with your technology temporarily, there is nothing here for you.”

Yeesch, that’s a hard line to draw on day one.

Trust should be earned, not commanded.

Still, I don’t want to leave. I signed on for a week of challenges—perhaps this is the first one. Is it a test to see who really wants to be here? She placed her phone in the box. Well, I do and I intend to win—so take my phone. Let the weeding begin. I’m not afraid.

Once the room settled again, the prince said, “Good. I have one more announcement. Theo said we removed all distractions from the hotel so you could better concentrate on the workshops and challenges, but I insisted on being part of the process. I will be with you, each step of the way, guiding you, assessing your performance. Mine will be the deciding vote in each case.” He smiled as if coaxing them to agree. “Think of me as your coach.” He flashed them a sensual smile that would have charmed the habit off a nun then winked. There wasn’t a complaint voiced. “I look forward to getting to know each and every one of you.”

Jessica bit her bottom lip as desire flooded through her. He hadn’t been looking at her but it felt as if he had. His wink was meant for everyone, but her heart raced and her stomach clenched as she imagined those full lips kissing their way down to do what she still only dreamed of.

I bet he knows what to do with a woman. Imagine if my first time had been with someone like him? Yeowza. I might have blogged about that.

She smiled and he seemed to smile right back. Even if it were imagined, the connection felt intimate. She normally would have blushed and looked away, but safely hidden in the crowd she let herself enjoy the moment.

Forget the prize, how do I offer myself up for royal consumption? The idea of being that brazen widened her smile. As if.

But a little fantasizing never hurt anyone. Wow.

Just wow.

 

“Is everything to your pleasure, Your Highness?”

“As always, Theo,” Prince Ballasare said as he walked out of the conference room with the royal advisor. The image of only one woman remained with him: the dark-eyed brunette with laughter in her eyes and a face that lit up when she smiled. He’d been unable to look away.

Although he’d designed the conference himself, his expectations of quick results were low. As next in line to rule a wealthy country, beautiful women had always been in surplus. He had yet to meet one he wanted to marry, though, and if he didn’t before the age of thirty he would lose his right to the crown. Something that will not happen.

“Your father has the final say, but so far he has been agreeable with the process you’ve laid out.”

“He has no reason to doubt my judgment. I have always honored him as well as my duty to my country.”

“Yes, Your Highness.”

“In my way.”

“Yes, Your Highness.”

Despite the agreeable and respectful responses, Ballasare sensed the man who had been a constant part of his life for as long as he could remember was not pleased. “Something is troubling you.”

They entered a private elevator that led to a suite encompassing the entire top floor of the hotel. “If you are happy, Your Highness, then I am as well.”

“Bullshit,” Ballasare said, and Theo’s eyes widened in surprise. Having studied for two years in the United States, Ballasare enjoyed using some of their terminology even now. Especially for the shock value. They didn’t dance around topics as people in his circle tended to do. Americans could be vulgar and raw, but that was part of what he admired about them. They said what they thought, like children invited to the adult table for the first time. Etiquette was important, yes, but not if it stood in the way of honesty. “One day soon, Theo, I will rule Rubare Virgina. I need you to continue to be frank with me.”

“I have already shared my concerns with you.”

“Regarding the Charmagne sisters?”

Theo lowered his head in agreement. “They should not be here, Your Highness. They do wish to marry you, but are only here as a way of returning the resources of the island to their family.”

“I’m well aware of that, Theo.”

“They are the only ones who seem to know why they’re here, although we don’t know how. We must consider the possibility that someone in the castle is feeding them information.”

“Keep your friends close—”

“And your enemies closer,” Theo said with a sigh.

“What better way to reveal the mole than to let the sisters participate in the conference and test which information finds its way to them?”

“This is a dangerous time for such a game. It might be wiser to give the complication over to those charged with weeding out such problems. It would return confidence in a time of uncertainty. Rubare Collina has disavowed their Arcano, essentially going to war with them. They are shedding old traditions and challenging all who uphold them. There is a fear that we will follow suit.”

“For what purpose? Change does not require war. The Arcano has kept our royal line stable for hundreds of years. Our Collina cousins may share our blood, but they have always been barbaric. My father blames the pirates they mixed with when they first received their island. Violence is woven into their history. The Arcano should not be shocked that their evolution involves it as well.”

“So, you agree with your father in not supporting King Xander’s hunt for their remaining Arcano?”

“Why should we join a dispute that is not ours? We are at peace and Virgina has never been more prosperous. It is as my father said, ‘Rubare Collina made their own bed of problems, they must now wash their own dirty linens.’”

Theo nodded. “Our Arcano council is watching how you handle the Charmagne sisters. If you fail to contain the threat, they will act.”

“It will not come to that. My father agrees.”

“Your father has never challenged the Arcano.”

“As I said, there is no need to. My way falls within our laws,” Ballasare said impatiently.

“Perhaps,” Theo said and adjusted the sleeves of his jacket, a tell that he was uncomfortable with the conversation. “You are more progressive than you think. Your mock conference—three hundred women—there is no precedence for anything like this.”

Ballasare smiled. “I’m choosing a wife. Now is not a time to be conservative with my options.”

“How will you possibly get to know that many women in one week?”

Ballasare raised and lowered a shoulder. “Several are already being escorted to the airport for not relinquishing their phones. After my team reviews the video of the conference room about half of them will also be sent back.”

“Anyone who did not bow their heads?”

“Absolutely.”

“Three hundred women, though, all over the age of twenty and not one of them was raised for the role as your mother was.”

“I adore my mother, but everything makes her nervous: large crowds, hosting dignitaries, making public appearances. She is fragile and frightened when our people most need us to inspire confidence. The world is changing. We need to remain strong. Otherwise, we’ll discover that our allies are just as greedy for Virgina’s resources as our enemies.”

“But can you be certain of their chasteness?”

“If there is any question, I’ll verify it myself,” Ballasare said, and an image of the brunette leaped back to his mind. It would be my pleasure and hers as well.

Theo shook his head, not looking at all amused. “Any consummation before the ceremony would nullify the woman as an option. The law is clear. She must be a virgin on your wedding night.”

“Confirmation of which is by my word.”

“Yes, but you are under great scrutiny, Your Highness. I’m not sure you realize how much of our country’s stability relies on this going smoothly. If done well, the Arcano will be reassured. If not—”

“Theo, you worry over nothing.”

“It is not too late to choose from one of our women. The ones you have invited here were raised outside our culture. What if one refuses the honor you offer her? So far that has only happened on Rubare Collina, and the Arcano put them to death until recently.”

“Have you known any woman to refuse me?”

“No, Your Highness.”

“Then this is another non-issue.”

“What if none of the three hundred suit you?”

“Then we gather another three hundred. And another.”

“Your thirtieth birthday approaches. If you have not chosen by then, the council has the right to choose for you.”

“It is a good thing, then, that I have designed a process that allows me to assess a woman’s honor and suitability in seven days’ time.”

“Yes, Your Highness.”

“My father has expressed a wish to attend the conference, but he is to do so in a low-profile manner. Perhaps as a member of the staff.”

“Your father? Low profile?”

“He is not to interfere.”

Theo looked doubtful, but kept his thoughts on that matter to himself. “If I could be as impertinent as to voice a question merely out of curiosity.”

“Ask it.”

“Is it true that tomorrow you will ask each of the women to scale the side of the hotel?”

“Yes.”

“I understand why you’d want to know if they would follow our customs. It makes sense to limit their communication with outside influences, but is this purely for the amusement of seeing if they can do it?”

As the eldest son, Ballasare was expected to be serious. Even as a child his father had discouraged him from spending any time on anything merely for the pleasure of it. Theo’s question offended him. “Of course not. The task will shake them up and give me a glimpse of their true nature. I will be there under the guise of helping them, but in reality I do not care if they scale the hotel or not. Simply asking them to do so will reveal if any are overly nervous or dangerously reckless. Neither would suit me or our people. It’s a test of character, not of skill. Genius, don’t you think?”

“Genius, Your Highness,” Theo said, but his tone didn’t sound convincing.

 

Guess the book video 3 (more laughs and less cleavage)

Looking for a reason to smile. Here is the 3rd video in the series reading a scene with my sister (and amazing author), Jeannette Winters.

Posted by Ruth Cardello on Monday, December 26, 2016

The book can be found at:

iBooks  I  Nook  I  Google  I  Kobo I Amazon

Tuesday Teaser

#TeaserTuesday

What is your favorite scene from Maid for the Billionaire?


This is mine.
(You don’t have to quote it, just share it. Dominic always puts a smile on my face.)
____

Her attraction to him hadn’t been in his imagination. She’d enjoyed that kiss as much as he had. First hot, then cold. Was it all a game? If so, it was one that he had no intention of losing.

He knew one way to find out her real motivation.

“Would you stay for ten thousand dollars?” he asked.

He felt a stab of disappointment when she stopped before opening the door and turned back to face him. “Do you think I’m for sale?”
He hoped not.

“How about a hundred thousand?” He forced the words out.

“Is it because I’m a maid that you think you can talk to me this way?” Her hands were back on her hips, eyes flashing with fury, which only made her more beautiful.

The final test. “You’re a shrewd bargainer. A million. I’ve never met a woman who was worth that amount of money, but I suspect I won’t regret tonight.”

She opened the door with one hand and said, “You’re a pig, an egotistical pig. If you even have a million dollars, I suggest you roll it up and stick it up your—” the last word was lost beneath the sound of the door slamming behind her.

He had a pretty good idea where she’d suggested he put it.
His chuckle blossomed into a full, hearty laugh until he was wiping wetness from around his eyes. The release of tension felt good.

Damn, that is one incredible woman. Looking back over the evening, he gave into more laughter as he settled back onto one of the cushions by the coffee table and filled his plate with fried rice.

She’d be back.

He’d make sure of that.

 

Guess the book by Ruth Cardello and Jeannette Winters Video 2

The second video in the series reading (and laughing my way through) some of my favorite scenes with Jeannette Winters.

The book we are reading from can be found at:

Amazon
iBooks
Barnes and Noble
Kobo
Google Play

And if you missed video one: http://ruthcardello.com/guess-the-book-by-ruth-cardello-and-jeannette-winters/

Meet Andrew Barrington: Chapter One

Dear Reader,

I fall in love with each of my heroes as I write them, but Andrew Barrington, from Let It Burn, holds a special place in my heart. It could be because he’s so damaged at the beginning of the book. I cried as I wrote that scene.

No, it’s more than that. I knew Andrew would be a character who always stayed with me when my husband, a retired Marine, read the opening over my shoulder then sat down beside me. It’s not unusual for my husband to read my stories and make suggestions, but the opening moved him enough that he started sharing stories of men he’d known who came back in the same heartbreaking condition.

It was important to my husband that Andrew was portrayed in a way that honored the real struggle veterans often face when they come home. If you read a scene and tear up, know that my husband and I wrote it with tears in our eyes. If you feel yourself cheering for him to make it, know that we cheered for him, too. He became real to us.

This is a photo of my husband who retired after serving for twenty-two years. He’s not afraid to come to someone’s defense, but is also an incredibly kind and supportive soul.

tony-marines

 

I wrote a wild adventure for Andrew and, Helene Franklin, the woman he falls in love with. My husband and I spent about as much time laughing our butts off as we did wiping tears from our eyes. Helene is a quirky virgin with a strong sense of self, and exactly what Andrew needs. His questions will put her in danger. Her love will set him free.

Come fall in love with my favorite Barrington brother, Andrew.

Billionaire Andrew Barrington walked away from the lavish lifestyle he was raised in to serve as a Marine. Until recently, he would have said he’d made the right choice. A tragic set of events, however, has him not reenlisting and emotionally hitting rock bottom.

Helene Franklin is visiting her uncle as part of an extended vacation in Aruba. She trades her bikini for an office job when he says there is trouble brewing at his clinic and asks her to keep an eye out for anything unusual.

Every Marine needs a mission. To appease his family, Andrew heads to Aruba to track down what he believes is a wild goose chase. Expecting to discover nothing, he meets a quirky, irresistible virgin who is just about to turn his whole world upside down.

His questions will put her in danger.

Her love will set him free.

What will they gain and what will they lose when they both decide to. . .let it burn?

 

Available for pre-order now!

Release Date: Jan 17, 2016

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Chapter One

 

A month earlier

 

A repeating loud noise in the distance pierced through Andrew Barrington’s dreamless sleep, pulling him grudgingly back from the only part of the day he found comfort in. Lately, sleep required a substantial combination of alcohol and sleep aids. It was a dangerous game of chemical Russian roulette, and one he was beginning to think he’d rather lose.

He threw an arm out to see if he was alone. Christy, or maybe her name was Christine, had attached herself to him a couple weeks ago after they’d hooked up at a bar. She said he was not only gorgeous, but fucked up just enough for her. He didn’t ask and she didn’t say if she was a prostitute. In the last month, she’d tracked him down several times to spend the night with him. The next day there was always money missing from his wallet, but she was a good fuck who didn’t ask questions so he hid his credit cards and padded his wallet with extra bills for her. He couldn’t remember if she’d come home with him the night before or not. The days had begun to blur into each other.

Realizing the loud noise was someone knocking on his door had him cursing. “Whoever you are, go the fuck away,” he snarled.

The door crashed open and a man walked across the room toward him.

What the fuck?

He closed the now damaged door behind him. “The name is Emmitt Kalling. I was hired to find you.”

Andrew sat up slowly, hating how the room spun almost as much as he hated the stranger before him. “By my family?” Only they would resort to something this dramatic. “I’ll pay you double what they paid if you say you couldn’t find me.”

Emmitt looked around the room at the trash and piles of clothing. He kicked a pair of women’s underwear out of his way as he stepped farther into the room. “How long have you been like this?”

After rubbing a hand over his throbbing temple, Andrew swung his feet around and stood with a groan. He left Emmitt standing in the middle of his hotel room while he took a much-needed piss then caught his reflection in the mirror and curled his lip in disgust. It hadn’t taken long for his outside to reflect how he felt on the inside. He leaned on his hands and looked into his bloodshot eyes. Did I finish the Jack Daniels last night? I could use it now.

Emmitt spoke from the doorway of the bathroom. “What the fuck happened to you?”

A flash of a memory pierced through Andrew, and he clutched the sink counter. Her smile. Her fucking smile. He couldn’t get it out of his head. Lofton’s seven-year-old, pretty-as-ever, chocolate-eyed daughter had run to him when she’d seen him, assuming her father was one step behind him. Her bright smile had filled his mouth with the taste of his own vomit. “Is your mother here, Giniya?”

“She’s in the bathroom and told me not to answer the door, but I saw you in the window.” She’d looked past him, not asking, but she didn’t have to.

Gabrielle Lofton was quickly at her daughter’s heels, but her reaction to him was much different. When she saw he was alone, she knew. Fear. Shock. Horror. Her eyes had pleaded for Andrew to deny the reason he was there. “Gini, go get a bottle of water for Uncle Andrew. I bet he’s real thirsty.”

“But, Mom—”

“You run along and get it, Gini. And before you come back, clean your plate from your snack.”

“Is Dad—?”

“Go Gini, now,” Gabrielle had cried, and the smile had faded from her daughter’s face.

Pulling himself back from the memory, Andrew used the palms of his hands to roughly wipe at his eyes. Fuck. “How much is it going to take?”

Emmitt leaned on the doorjamb and shook his head. “I’m not leaving.”

The anger that held him in a dark grip found an outlet. He rose to his full height. “Yes, you are.”

With a shake of his head, Emmitt pushed himself off the doorframe. “Calm down, man. I don’t want to hurt you.”

“I’m not the one you should worry about.” Andrew turned and stepped toward Emmitt without a clear plan; all he knew was that Emmitt was leaving, one way or another. Unfortunately, the speed in which he’d turned undermined his balance and the floor came up quickly to meet him. He broke his fall with his arm and was on his knees in front of the other man, failing at first to get back to his feet. “Enjoying the show?” he growled.

“Not particularly.”

“Get the fuck out of here.” No one needs to see this. Not him. Not my family.

Emmitt crouched down in front of Andrew. “You don’t need to tell me what happened, but I’m not going anywhere. I’ve been where you are in here.” He tapped his own temple. “I’ve done things and seen things no man or woman ever should. There are days when I think I don’t deserve to be the one who came home, but then I remember that my miserable life, insignificant as it sometimes seems to me, matters to my family. You matter to yours.”

Andrew sat back on his haunches. “Was it my father? Did he send you?”

“No, Dax Marshall hired me.”

“My sister’s husband?”

“Yes.”

“Why the hell would he? I’ve never met him.” I didn’t even bother to go back for their wedding.

Emmitt sighed. “He loves your sister and, by default, you. Those were his words, not mine.”

Andrew closed his eyes. He’s good to her. She’s always leaving me messages about how happy she is with him. “My whole family is so fucking happy lately.” They’re all getting married, having kids . . .

“And you’re here.”

Andrew pushed himself back to his feet. “Exactly.” He met Emmitt’s eyes and said harshly, “Go back and tell them whatever will make them stop looking for me. I’ve got some things to work out before I can see them.”

“Your brother Lance was afraid he got you killed. He was beating himself up over telling you about Aruba.”

“Aruba?”

“He asked you to look into something he’d discovered over there.”

Nodding tiredly, Andrew pushed past Emmitt and began to search for whatever alcohol might be left in the room. “Oh, yes, his conspiracy theory. Doctors dying. People missing. All during the same time my brother and sister were born there, twenty-nine years ago. Who gives a shit about anything that happened back then?”

“Apparently Lance does. He thinks it might have been tied to the stillborn death of Kent. Negligence that was covered up.”

Andrew scored a half-full bottle of Scotch from beneath a pizza box, opened it, and took a long drink. “What does he want to do? Sue the hospital if he finds they were at fault?” As if my family needs more money?

Emmitt folded his arms across his chest. “He wants answers. Consider finding them for him.”

After taking another long drink, Andrew wiped his mouth with his forearm. “Why would I do that?”

“Because men like you need a mission. You stay here, you’ll kill yourself slowly or choose a quicker way out. You know it, and I know it. You don’t want to see your family, but do you love them?”

The bottle shook in Andrew’s hand. “Of course I do.”

“If you give up now you pass your pain along to them. Is that what you want to do?”

His eyes filled with tears again. “No.”

“Then put down that fucking drink and let me help you.”

♥♥♥♥♥

Helene Franklin brushed sand from the bottom of her bare feet before stepping into the guesthouse of her uncle’s Aruba home. She laid her beach bag beside the door and smiled as she closed the door. Another day in paradise.

Looking back, she couldn’t believe she’d originally resisted making a trip to meet her mother’s brother into a vacation. Until now, she’d only known Uncle Clarence through phone calls and the presents he sent for her birthday and the holidays. Meeting him hadn’t felt as important as continuing to do what she’d always done: help her parents maintain their large exotic animal rescue in Florida.

She took a moment to send her parents a mental thanks for pushing her to go. Her uncle, much like the island he’d made his home, was a million times more amazing than she had ever imagined. He ran a large private clinic on Aruba and his generosity with community programs had made him a celebrity of sorts. When people found out who she was, they always had something good to say about him. He’d touched the lives of many in the small island community. Some referred to him by his local Dutch nickname, Weldoener. Translation: Benefactor. It fit him perfectly. He’d devoted his life and finances to improving the health of the people of Aruba. No one was ever turned away from his clinic. She had no idea how he continually made a profit while giving so much money away, but there wasn’t any part of his story she didn’t love.

The phone on the hallway wall rang. She glanced at the clock on the table and rushed to answer it. “On my way. I’ll take the world’s quickest shower and be right over.”

“Did you even leave the beach today?” he asked in amusement.

“I didn’t,” she admitted without guilt. Her parents had called this her long-overdue vacation, and her uncle had told her that her presence brought him joy. Pending life decisions had been temporarily pushed to the background as she’d indulged in a few weeks of heaven.

“Don’t rush. I’ll have the cook keep it warm until you’re ready. Call when you’re walking over.”

Always understanding, her uncle was simply the nicest man she’d ever met, and she hoped one day she could do something to repay his kindness. “Twenty minutes tops, I promise. I feel awful that you’re waiting on me.”

He chuckled. “Always so serious. You remind me of your mother. I wish she’d been able to come with you.”

“Me, too. You know how she is about the rescue, though.”

“Yes. I’m the same about my clinic, so I have little room to judge her. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve thought about going to see her, but there’s always something here that needs my attention.”

“And you think I’m the one who sounds like my mother?”

He chuckled again. “Take your time, little one. I have calls to answer that will keep me occupied.”

Helene stopped halfway through promising again that she’d rush, laughed at herself, and hung up. He was right; she took everything too seriously. She’d heard as much from her friends her whole life. They’d usually been referring to how she chose to go home right after school each day to clean out cages and work with the animals. She’d never fully convinced them that rehabilitating animals that had frequently been illegally captured and working with organizations to return them to the wild brought her more joy than shopping, movie theaters, or school dances ever could.

After sprinting up the stairs, Helene sang her way through a quick shower and was still humming as she chose a light summer dress for dinner. She caught her reflection in the mirror and smiled. Her cheeks had a pleasant honey-tanned glow. She usually wore her hair pulled back in a practical ponytail, but here on the island she left it mostly down and thought it made her look younger.

I’m not old, but I’m definitely looking better since I’ve been here.

She applied a light amount of makeup, not for the benefit of her uncle, but because she felt beautiful for the first time in her life. She sniffed the material of her dress. Maybe because I don’t smell like someone who just cleaned up rhino dung?

Not that I mind the smell. She grimaced. I can see, though, how it might have contributed to my limited dating experience.

Her smile faded somewhat as she remembered one of the conversations that had led to her agreeing to this trip. Her mother and father had requested a “family meeting.” Her stomach had churned nervously as she’d waited for them to tell her why. The last family meeting had been when she was eighteen. Her parents had announced a loss of funding that had made it necessary for them to let go of the few employees they had. Helene had already been accepted to the University of Florida and had been excited to start classes to become a veterinarian. That dream had come to a skidding halt when her parents had explained they couldn’t afford to run the rescue without her help.

Save animals in the short-run or save them in the long-run. It hadn’t been an easy choice to make, but she hadn’t regretted deciding to stay with her parents. Every animal they sent back, every release day photo Helene received, was a reminder that she’d made the right choice. As she’d waited for her parents to speak, she’d prayed she wouldn’t hear that the future of the rescue was in danger again.

Her mother had taken her father’s hand in hers, and she knew that look. The one that wondered why she wasn’t out dating, why she was still single. Here we go. “Your father and I are worried about you.”

“Why?”

“You’re twenty-six, Lenny, and . . . well, we’ve never seen you with a man,” her father said, looking as if it was as awkward for him to say as it was for her to hear.

Her mother added gently, “We want you to know that we love however God made you.”

“I don’t understand.”

Her father had cleared his throat. “Whatever your lifestyle is, you don’t have to hide it from us.”

“I don’t have a lifestyle,” Helene had said slowly, then her eyes had rounded as she’d realized what her parents thought. “I don’t have a lifestyle.”

Her parents had exchanged a look. “I told you,” her mother said.

Her father had frowned. “Pairing up is a natural part of life, Lenny. Do you have any questions about how it happens?”

There were few moments in Helene’s life that could rival how mortifying being offered the sex talk at twenty-six had been. “Please. This is not necessary. I know how it works. I mean, I’ve been watching animals procreate since I was in diapers.” That had sounded strange even to her own ears so she added, “Not that I watch. I just mean that I’ve accidentally come across animals—” She stopped there. “I don’t want to have this conversation.”

Her mother had shot her father a sad look. “Honey, your dad and I think you need to go out into the world for a little while. This rescue was our dream, not yours.”

“I love it here,” Helene had protested.

Her father had shaken his head. “You can’t know that until you’ve compared it to somewhere else. We were selfish. We shouldn’t have let you choose keeping our dream over your dream for college. Your friends have moved on. They travel. Some are married. Nothing has changed for you except your phone rings less and less.”

“I’m happy here.”

“No,” her mother said quietly, “you feel safe here, but Lenny, there’s a whole big world out there you’ve never seen. I’ve spoken to my brother in Aruba, and he said he has a guesthouse you could stay in for a while. You’ve never taken a real vacation, and he knows a lot of people. Worst case, you come back with a beautiful tan and are able to tell me all about how my brother is doing. Best case, you discover your dream.”

“This is my dream,” Helene had insisted. “And you need me.”

“We’re doing well enough to hire a couple people. Go, Lenny. Find yourself.”

“I’m not lost.”

“You’re going,” her father had said.

It had taken a while for her to adjust to the idea of leaving the rescue, but once she had, the trip had begun to feel like an adventure rather than a shove out the door. I am the luckiest daughter in the world to have parents like them. Helene turned away from the mirror and practically skipped down the stairs. I needed this. She couldn’t imagine a lifetime of doing nothing, but her weeks on the island had been good for her. At first she’d missed her parents and the rescue so much she’d been unable to enjoy herself, but that feeling had been replaced with euphoria. I can go back to school and get my degree if I want. I can finally become a veterinarian. My parents were right, it’s time to find myself.

Helene knocked twice on the door of her uncle’s mansion before letting herself in, beating the staff. They smiled at her indulgently.

Her uncle’s home office door opened, and he gave her the same look. “You didn’t call.”

She wrinkled her nose. “Oh, my God, I forgot. I’m so sorry. I was thinking about how grateful I am to be here, and everything else fell right out of my head.”

He gave her a brief hug. “I suppose that’s as good of an excuse as any. Come, let’s eat.”

They sat across from each other at one end of a table long enough to seat twenty people. As it always did, a bounty of food and beverages appeared, delivered discretely by staff who seemed to magically disappear when not needed. Her uncle asked her about her day and listened with a smile as she described the absolute joy of hours on his private beach.

“Stop before you make me feel guilty for asking you for a favor.”

“Are you kidding, Uncle Clarence? If there is some way I can repay you for three of the best weeks of my life, just say it. I’ll do anything.”

He gave her hand a gentle pat. “You’re a good girl, Helene.”

The expression in his eyes had Helene asking, “Is something wrong?”

“Nothing too serious.” He took a sip of his wine. “I’ve been having trouble with something at the clinic.”

“What kind of trouble?”

“It’s a small island and my clinic competes with the main hospital. Competition in a market like this is not always appreciated.”

Helene’s mouth rounded, and she leaned forward to grip his hand. “Count me in for whatever you need.”

His smile returned. “Shouldn’t you wait until you know what I need?”

“Uncle Clarence, you do so much for other people—you’ve done so much for me—it would be my honor to help.”

“Politics, especially here, can be tricky to navigate. Someone is trying to dig up any mistake anyone at my clinic has ever made to try to smear my reputation. They’ve gone as far as to bribe people in my records department. They didn’t find anything.”

“Because there’s nothing to find,” Helene said adamantly.

He pressed his lips together briefly then said, “When someone wants to find dirt, they’ll keep digging until they either find some or find something they can twist into what they want. I need someone in my records office that I trust. Someone who can’t be bought.”

“And that’s what you want me to do? Run your records office?” The idea of clerical work when all of her experience had been manual in nature was daunting, but she knew she was up to the challenge. “What I don’t know how to do, I’m sure I can learn.”

“You would simply be my eyes and ears; how well you file is irrelevant. Do what you can while you’re there, and who knows, maybe you’ll decide you like working in an office.”

She rushed around the table to give him a hug. He could dress it up however he wanted, but she didn’t believe he actually needed her at the clinic. Like her parents, he was nudging her on her way. It wouldn’t hurt to put some time in at the clinic before getting back on the path toward animal medicine. Who knows? I may end up wanting to treat people. Sure I’m starting late, but my uncle’s career took off later in his life. He is living proof that anything is possible.

“When do I start?” she asked, giving him a tight squeeze.

He laughed and gave her shoulder a pat. “How about tomorrow?”

“Perfect,” she said with a huge grin and returned to her seat.

And it was perfect. Not only was she in paradise, but she’d found a way to repay the person who’d made it possible for her to be there. What was better than that?

 

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Guess the book by Ruth Cardello and Jeannette Winters Video 1

I have a new video series reading (and laughing my way through) some of my favorite scenes with Jeannette Winters.

The first book in the series can be found at…

Amazon
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🙂

Taking Charge Excerpts

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Excerpt 1

She met his eyes, and for a moment her resolve wavered. He had the kindest eyes she’d ever looked into. What would we be to each other if we’d known each other before all this? If I wasn’t already a tangled mess on the inside?

Why ask myself what might have been, when all I have is here and now?

“Keeping this ranch is my priority now. My only priority. I know how ungrateful that sounds, but I asked you not to come. I warned you. Good-bye, David.”

He bent closer again, so close Lucy’s resolve began to dissolve. “I’m not leaving until I’m sure you’re safe, Lucy. Wyatt hired me to help look after the outbuildings, and I agreed to bring some of my horses over to give work to some of the men who were here today. Wyatt seems to think they’ll need it.”

The room spun. “Wyatt can’t hire you. This is my ranch.”

David caressed the side of Lucy’s face, running the back of his fingers down one side of her neck. “Wyatt’s worried about you. He thinks you need someone to watch over you. I agree.”

The pleasure of his touch confused Lucy. She felt vibrantly alive, and her miserable morning was too easy to forget. No. No. No. She pushed his hand away. “I don’t care what Wyatt thinks, and I don’t care what you do, either. I’m telling you to leave. I don’t want you here.”

“Then why do you look like you want to kiss me so damn much?” he asked.

Lucy turned away from him. She wrapped her arms around herself. She could lie to him and say he was wrong, but they’d both know it wasn’t true. “You say you want to help me, David, but you don’t listen to me. I will save this ranch, and I will do it myself.” She turned back to face him. “Haven’t you ever needed to prove something to yourself so badly that an easier way of doing something was impossible to consider?”

David nodded. “And that was usually right before I fell on my face.”

She sputtered angrily and was about to tell him off when he raised his hand to caress her cheek again. “We’re at a standoff, you and I. My daddy always said the secret to solving a disagreement was finding a compromise both could live with. Wyatt needs help outside, the men who were here today need jobs, and I need to know you’re okay.”

He ran a mesmerizing thumb across her parted lips. “You need to save the ranch on your own. What if I promise I won’t step in to help again unless you ask me to, and in return you let me pay for the use of your barns and fields to train my horses.”

“You can’t pay me. I owe you money.”
“Then charge me and deduct as we go. I’ll pay you a fair rate for the lease of your facility.” “Why would you do that?” Besides to sleep with me, because that can’t happen.

As if he heard her, he dropped his hand and stepped back. The sadness she felt at the absence of his touch was as confusing as fighting the pleasure from it had been. “I’ve been thinking about getting my own place for a while. This would be a way to test how I like it. Working with Tony has been good for me, but like you, it’s time for me to see what I can do on my own.”

“You can’t stay in the main house.” Lucy blushed right after she blurted her thought out.

A slow smile spread across his face. “Wyatt suggested I stay in the old workers’ quarters. None of the men who were here today will be looking to stay there. It’ll be perfect.”

Perfectly crazy.
Am I honestly considering this? “If I say yes, it doesn’t mean I’m agreeing to anything else. I

want to be clear about that.”

 

A twinkle lit his eyes. “Why, Miss Lucy, what else might I think you were agreeing to?”

 

Excerpt 2

(Spicier…lol)

Lucy walked back to the box and picked up the largest toy inside. It was the velvet base with the exchangeable mechanical dildo on top. She placed it on her desk, laid out the variety of attachable pieces in front of it, and sat down. She rested her chin on one hand and looked at it sternly.

You don’t scare me, you know.

You’re just a bunch of wires and silicone molds.

She glanced at the directions, then attached one of the dildos to the top. It had a tickler on its end that reminded Lucy of a mop of hair.

Not even sexy. More like something from outer space.
She absently ran her finger over the complicated arrangements of buttons on the front. And seriously, how much does something like you need to do?

As she brushed too hard against one of the buttons, the dildo started to spin. “Shit.” She tried to turn it off, but the button she’d pressed had sent the base into a vibration mode so powerful, the thing was hopping on her desk. She made a grab for it, pressed another button, and the dildo flew forward, slapping her across the face. She swore and lost her grip, and it hopped itself off her desk and crashed to the floor.

She scrambled onto her knees, trying to grab the damn thing. It eluded her first attempt, but she finally caught it. Despite how it wiggled for its freedom, she righted it and located the “Off” button. Swearing, she sat back on her heels and wiped a hand across her now sweaty brow. It was only then that she noticed David standing at the door.

There are moments in life that test a man. The sight of Lucy chasing a hopping machine with a dick waving from the top of it like a flag was probably the funniest thing David had ever seen. The expression on her face warned him not to laugh. He told himself she was probably embarrassed, and he shouldn’t have opened the door without knocking.

Then, because he was only human, he grinned and asked, “Tough day at work?”

Trade It All: Book 4 of the Barrington Billionaires — Now Available

Trade It All available on pre-order
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Lance Barrington’s priority is business, not pleasure. Only one woman has ever been able to turn him inside out: Willa Chambers, his sister’s best friend. Forbidden. Scandalous. Unforgettable.

They’ve spent the last ten years trying to forget one night.

When Willa and Lance are thrown together again, things heat up fast. Loving him almost destroyed her the first time.

This time, will it heal her?

She gently removed her hand from his. “We’ll probably always be part of each other’s lives, but that’s all there can ever be for us.”
Lance cupped one side of her face with his hand. “Then what do we do with this?” His mouth came down and claimed hers.
Despite everything she’d said, every shred of sanity she’d clung to, she opened her lips for him. She met his plundering kiss with a frenzy that came from years of pent-up hunger. Hunger for him. She gripped his strong shoulders and gave herself over to a passion that burned hotter than any she’d experienced with other men.
He pulled her tight against him. His arousal pulsed against her stomach, and she writhed against it, shaken when she realized he was as much a slave to their attraction as she was. Her arms went up and around his neck. His hands cupped her ass, moving her even more intimately against his excitement.
There was nothing beyond how good his mouth felt on hers, how her skin tingled everywhere it touched his. She needed more. He must have been feeling the same way because he yanked her skirt upward and slid his hands beneath the silk panties she’d impulsively worn beneath it. She frantically began to pull the front of his shirt out of his pants.
The sound of a knock on the door of his office brought Willa back to her senses. She pulled away from him and yanked her skirt down over her ass just in time to turn and face a very embarrassed secretary who stuttered her way through an apology before closing the door.
In a deep, gravelly voice, Lance asked, “What do we do about that, Willa?”
I can’t do this again. I can’t open myself to that kind of pain a second time. Willa backed toward the door, grabbing her purse on the way. “Nothing. If you care about me at all—do nothing.”

Book 4 of the Lone Star Burn Series is now available

Book 4 of the Lone Star Burn Series is now available on pre-order.
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Lucy Albright never wanted her family’s Texas ranch, but now it’s in foreclosure. She’s already lost so much she can’t bear the thought of losing one more thing. Lucy learned the hard way not to accept help from a man when there are strings attached, so she’ll do whatever it takes to save the ranch on her own terms—even if that means launching an online business marketing high-tech sex toys.

Ranch manager David Harmon has a reputation for being a cowboy with a heart of gold. Even if she refuses his help, down-and-out Lucy is the kind of woman he’ll do anything to protect. And while David may not know much about Lucy’s naughty side business, that won’t stop a cowboy from doing something he’s set his mind to.

With the ranch threatened by a scheming neighbor, Lucy can’t help but keep David around. Their attraction may be undeniable, but will the spark between them burn her entire future to the ground?

Amazon exclusive

Excerpt:
David blocked her retreat. “Mason will be in Fort Mavis this weekend. He and Chelle will be there. Sarah asked if you were going. I said I had no idea. Mason must really want us both there, because he said he’d have a private plane waiting for us at the airfield tomorrow morning.”
“Oh, that’s really generous of him, but I can’t . . .”
“Don’t let me be the reason you don’t go. I don’t mind driving back.”
Lucy met his eyes and was instantly sorry she did. He was being sincere, and she felt lower than low. He would actually drive all the way to Fort Mavis and let her take the plane. He was that fucking nice.
I should tell him the truth about how I’m saving the ranch. Let him see that although he’s vying for sainthood, I’m quickly slipping in the opposite direction.
“Take the plane, David. If I decide to go, I’ll make the drive. I’ve done it before.”
He kept her corralled against the round pen and leaned down so his lips hovered just above hers. “Are you afraid to fly?”
She swallowed hard. “No.”
He ran a hand lightly down her arm, sending shivers of pleasure through her. “Then what is it? Are you afraid if we’re alone you won’t be able to keep your hands off me?”
Yes. “That’s ridiculous.”
“Then say yes. There’s no reason you and I can’t share a private plane ride to see our closest friends, is there?”
His voice. His touch. The promise of his lips on hers. Lucy was helplessly mesmerized. “I guess you’re right.”
“I am,” he said with a slow, sexy smile.
Striving to hold on to some semblance of sanity, she said, “We have to be back by Sunday night. I have a conference call scheduled.”
His breath tickled her cheek. “How is your business going?”
“It’s coming—” She blushed at the double meaning that was accurate. “It’s coming along. I’ve already generated some revenue. Not enough to break even, of course, but I’ll get there.”
“That’s great. New businesses are tough. I bet you’re working all hours of the night right now.”
Lucy tried to look away but couldn’t. Memories of how she’d spent the last week would have been much more exciting if David had been there with her, watching her, taking the toy from her and bringing her to climax himself. Her body clenched and she grew wet.
It didn’t matter that it was the middle of the day, that they were not alone, or that she’d just told herself she wouldn’t sleep with him. If he’d pulled her against him, claimed her mouth beneath his, she would have given herself over to him completely.
“Lucy?” David asked gently.
“Yes?”
“I want you. I don’t give a damn that everyone is watching us right now, but I do care what they think of you. Be ready by nine tomorrow morning. You’re getting on that plane even if I have to carry you onto it.”
Imagining that did nothing to calm the hot desire pulsing through Lucy. She told herself she should say no. If she couldn’t control herself now, in public, what would happen when they were finally alone? She licked her bottom lip. “You wouldn’t do that.”

“Then you don’t know me well enough yet.”