Thursday, December 22, 2011

Mistletoe Mischief and Prize Giveaway

Another excerpt from No One Mourns the Wicked. 

The bright winter sun had chased away the gray clouds from an hour previous and was now warming the windows of the library.  Lysandra Russell was perched on a window seat, cheek pressed to the glass enjoying the pane’s chill and the sun’s warmth as they offered a strange contrast.  Her red hair, not so bright as her brothers, was closer to auburn.  She’d collected it loosely in a tail at the nape of her neck and fastened it with an emerald ribbon to match her green gown.
            Lysandra often ignored the most current fashion trends, but she had a particular talent for buying gowns with simplistic designs that offered no real opportunity for criticism of her fashion sense.  She rarely dressed lavishly and yet she managed to achieve an elegance that even her mother could not find fault with.  But Lysandra was not thinking of such trivial things now.  She was a great reader, loving to improve her mind by reading any and everything she came across.  To her mother’s dismay Lysandra had a knack for predicting the arrival of guests and promptly vanishing deep into the nooks and crannies of Russell Hall to hide and read.  It was inevitable that she would be found in time for dinner but until then she wished to savor this solitary moment.
            Closing her chosen book with a sigh, she counted herself lucky that she had not suffered one prank at Linus’s hands all day.  He must have been busy with Audrey and Horatia.  Poor Horatia, she and Lysandra were the same age and often they hid together in this very library to avoid Linus’s tricks.  Lysandra was disturbed from her thoughts by the sound of booted footsteps in the hall, which paused near the door to the library.  She leapt to her feet, knowing Linus had come to torture her with his pranks.  Skidding to a halt just as she came to within inches of the door; she had no time to move back as the heavy oak door swung open and struck her fully.  With a cry of pain, Lysandra fell back to the floor, and held her throbbing head with a hand.
            “Oh my god!  Miss Russell!”  A voice, with a rich timbre broke out as the door swung shut closing her in with the man who’d hit her.  Lysandra blinked in a daze as strong warm hands wrapped around her waist and lifted her up.  But the masculine invasion did not stop there.  She was cradled against a strong firm chest.  Her eyes focused intently on the navy blue waistcoat embroidered with green leaves.  If was a festive design and very fetching on its wearer.  The movement stopped and Lysandra realized she was once more nestled against the window seat but this time her body was boxed in by a man, and not just any man. 
Mr. Gregory Cavendish, with his blond hair like a loosely spun halo about his face.  The winter sun cast a loving glow about his skin and his blue eyes were angelic in their concern for her.  The position of their bodies, however, was highly improper.  She was sitting crossways on his lap, trapped by the embrace of his arms in a tight cradle.  Sudden flashes in her mind of twining limbs and lips pressed together made her flush with heat. 
            “Are you alright Miss Russell?  I daresay with that bump on your head, you must be rattled.  Forgive me for hurting you; I opened that door too quickly.”  Gregory swept the pads of his fingers over her cheek and then up to her forehead over the bruised spot.  Lysandra winced in as pain shot through her and ducked her head instinctively in embarrassment.  Unfortunately that only brought her closer to Gregory’s chest.  Her face brushed against the top of his immaculately white styled neckcloth and the underside of his chin.  The feel of his skin was slightly rough with the hint of stubble and it made her shiver.  She’d never felt such a thing like that before, the sensation was exotic, enticing.  She moved closer, rubbing her check against his jaw, like a cat seeking affection. 
Surprisingly, he did not pull away.  Gregory’s breath quickened and the arm about her waist banded tighter as though to say “Escape from me is impossible.”  He was twenty six years old and the age difference had always felt like a lifetime to her, especially in past years when she’d felt so much younger, a mere child.  But now she was older, and had had two years on the Marriage Mart and she’d changed so much.  He’d always attracted her attention, Gregory Cavendish.  He had visited often over the years to see Avery, but it had been four years since the Cavendishes and Russells had met.  The move to Brighton had come as a sad blow to the future Lysandra had often day dreamed about.
            “Miss Russell?”  Gregory was speaking to her again.
            “Call me Lysa,” she managed at last.
            “Lysa,” he tried her nickname out, letting it roll of his tongue.  He’d always been one for observing propriety and obeying the dictates of polite behavior.  It had often amused Lysandra that Gregory, so honorable and upright would pair up with Avery, an infamous Russell rakehell.  Lady Russell had never been more thankful for the developing friendship, hoping that Gregory would have a tempering effect on her wild son.
            “I apologize Lysa, for hitting you with a door.”  The statement was so completely absurd that Lysandra laughed, but the action made her wince again.  Gregory shifted beneath her, reminding her that she was snuggled against his lap.
            “I thought you were Linus,” she said, looking up at him, her hazel eyes softening as she focused on his lips.
            “Beg pardon?”  Gregory’s face was inches from hers, his chiseled jaw and aristocratic nose a perfect match for his gold hair and fine eyes.  Lysandra realized if anyone were to come upon them, in this position she’d be in trouble.
            “He often plays pranks.  I’d been free all day, but when I heard your steps, I thought it was him.  I wanted to cut him off before he could do something dreadful to me.”
            “Why would anyone wish to do you harm?”  Gregory asked in polite amusement.
            “Not anyone, just Linus.  I suppose you’ve never tortured your sister?”
            “Not really, no.” 
Lysandra was distracted from his response as she looked up. 
            “What is it?”  Gregory asked as he noticed a rising blush in her cheeks.
            “It seems he’s already been here and left his mark, the devil.”  Lysandra raised a finger and pointed to the mistletoe above their heads.  Gregory eyed it curiously and laughed softly, the rumble of his chest against her made her body shiver.
            “Your brother seems to have left that bit of botany everywhere.  I suppose you would disapprove if I made my intentions known?”
            “Your intentions?”
            “To kiss you.  Befuddled and helpless that you are, I would still very much like to kiss you under the mistletoe.”  Gregory’s blue eyes were bright, like late summer skies.  Lysandra found her breath shortening and the devil rose up in her as she replied.
            “If those are your intentions, then I my only disapproval lies in the fact that you’ve not acted upon them yet.”  Where she found her bravery, she didn’t know.
            Gregory hesitated only a second, there was a flash in his eyes of something dark and primitive before he buried it beneath his gentlemanly demeanor.  He caught her chin and raised it with his hand, so her lips were offered up for the taking.  A soft brush, a more firm press and then a tongue tracing the seam of her lips, entreated her to open to him.  Lysandra melted with a little purr of pleasure as she enjoyed Gregory’s tender ravishment of her mouth.  His taste was dark and intoxicating like the brandy he’d had before coming to the library. 
Lysandra needed to be closer to him, needed more contact with his body.  He shifted, growling in warning against her lips as she brushed a naïve hand over the aching bulge in his breeches.  His reaction fascinated her and she succumbed to the urge to stroke him again.  Gregory reacted almost violently, his mouth slanting over hers harder, his lips forcing hers to open wider, his tongue thrusting in deep slow patterns.  Her body infused with a dizzying heat.  

 Happy Holidays to all my readers!  Comment by sharing a mischievous moment under the mistletoe and you'll be entered to a win a present from me!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Winter Magic! An Excerpt from No One Mourns the Wicked

In honor of the wintry skies over Tulsa, I've decided to spend the days leading up to Christmas to post some wintry scenes from the second book in my League of Rogues Series.  No One Mourns the Wicked is the tale of Lucien Russell, the Marquess of Rochester, and Horatia Sheridan, the sister of Lucien's best friend, Cedric.  In this deliciously wicked tale, Lucien finds himself breaking one of the League's most important rules: never seduce another member's sister. 
The scene below is taken from an epic snowball fight during the winter holidays.

An hour later the vast gardens behind Russell Hall had been molded into a snowy battlefield ready for the snowball fight.  The ladies were assembled on the right side, admiring the fort the gentlemen had built for them.  It was a wall of waist height that arched around in a half circle shape that was about ten feet across.  It provided ample cover for the women now huddled behind it preparing snowballs.  Lady Cavendish was helping Lady Russell manufacture the slushy ammunition.  The younger ladies were in a tight circle, all wearing red fur-lined cloaks with heavy hoods pulled up.  Audrey had remarked that they must have looked like an ancient order of druid priestesses gathering together for a ritual, to which the others had laughed.  Horatia, Audrey, Lucinda and Lysandra discussed the various traps and places to avoid in the garden where one might become cornered and savaged by the snowballs of the men.
            “Should we try to lure them out from their fort?”  Lucinda suggested. 
Horatia changed a glance over her shoulder to the men’s fort which was fifty feet away.  The men were hunkered down out of sight save for the occasional surfacing head to glance warily about.  Her gaze met with Gregory Cavendish’s as he took his turn to peek out over their fort’s edge then duck back down.  They looked like a pack of ground squirrels, popping up and down like that.  Horatia grinned at the ludicrous image of such noble gentlemen including a peer of the realm, acting so out of character.
            “I think luring is not a bad idea,” Audrey declared.  “But we must go about it smartly.  Only when one of them is decently separated, should we set up a lure.  Otherwise they could easily overwhelm us.”
            “And someone ought to be carefully guarding the fort,” Lysandra reminded.  She broke from the group to come over to the fort’s edge and showed the other ladies something she’d covered in a brown cloth blanket.
            “This should help whoever is remaining at the fort.”  She lifted back the blanket to reveal a clever yet simply constructed wooden trebuchet approximately two feet long which was counterweighed by a heavy pouch of stones.
            “Is that a trebuchet?”  Horatia asked, in a mixture of appreciation and amusement.  Lysandra grinned wickedly, before glancing in the directions of her brothers.
            “I thought we might need a bit of extra help seeing how they outnumber us seven to six.  I built it last winter and tried it out in secret.  I had a devil of a time keeping Linus from finding out.  So, whoever is in charge of our fort here should man this trebuchet.”  Lysandra took a snowball from the ever growing pile her mother and Lady Cavendish were making and set in the cupped surface of the trebuchet’s long wooden catapult type structure as she pulled it back.  Then Lysandra prepared the pouch of stones and as all of the ladies watched, she aimed the trebuchet towards the men’s fort and then dropped the pouch.  The trebuchet immediately flung the snowball in a beautiful arch before the ball crashed into a tree a few feet behind the men’s fort.
            “Oi!  Who threw that?”  Linus’s head popped up, scowling in their directions as he hollered this.
            “Sorry Linus!  We’re just practicing.”  Lysandra waived a snowy gloved hand in his direction.
            “So, as you can see, we may need to pull the trebuchet back a few feet, but it’s a decent way of forcing them to keep their heads down if we need a distraction and grow tired of throwing the snowballs,” Lysandra said.
            “Excellent thinking!”  Lucinda beamed and the other ladies quite agreed.
            Sir John Cavendish called out from across the garden at that moment.  “I say, are you ladies ready to begin?”
            “We are!”  Lady Cavendish returned to her husband.
            “Good, good.  I’ve been informed that I must now state the rules,” Sir John said.  “Which are as follows:  Whoever captures the enemy fort is declared the winner.  Captives may be taken and lastly there are no other rules.  Begin!”  Sir John bellowed before ducking down below the shield of his fort.  The ladies all fell behind their snow wall as a massive volley of balls came their way.  Audrey shrieked as a slush of snow and ice landed on the top of her hooded head.  There was a chorus of masculine laughter at her shriek and Audrey stood up to shout at them but Lucinda gripped her dress and jerked her back down as another flurry of snowballs were unleashed.  The balls flew past the empty space of air where Audrey had been standing moments before.
            “Why those wretched devils!” Audrey hissed as she crawled over to the trebuchet.
            “Quick, someone distract them!”  Audrey begged.  Lady Russell peeked over the edge of the fort, her eyes dancing with delight. 
            “Tally ho!”  Lady Russell whooped most inelegantly and waved her arms as she acted as a body shield so Horatia and Lysandra could throw snowballs towards the men.  Unfortunately the fifty feet of distance between the two forts seemed to ensure that their throws would fall short.
            “That all you got?”  Linus taunted as he stood up brazenly to take his time in aiming at his mother.  Audrey meanwhile adjusted the aim of the trebuchet and with a curt nod at Lady Russell, Audrey dropped the bag of stones and let fly her snowy vengeance.  Lady Russell sunk down behind the snow wall and all the women watched in glee as Audrey’s snowball smacked Linus square in the chest.
            “What the deuce?” he cried out before Lucien tackled him to the ground out of sight.  The ladies all burst out laughing.
            On the other end of the garden the men were all gazing in shock at the soaked center of Linus’s black great coat.
            “Didn’t we pace it at fifty feet?  I thought Avery said they wouldn’t be able to throw anything that far?”  Lawrence muttered.  Sir John looked bemused at this revealing comment.
            “Do you mean to tell me that you lads have purposely put the ladies at a disadvantage both physically and numerically?”  Sir John asked.
            “Clearly you have never engaged our mother and sister in a snowball fight Sir John,” Lucien said with a low chuckle.  “They cheat and therefore any measures we take beforehand are merely precautions to protect ourselves.”  The other Russells nodded in agreement.
            “They are ruthless,” Avery said in all seriousness.
            “How should we go about getting them away from their fort?”  Gregory asked.  Cedric peeped over the edge of the snow wall as he constructed a plan.
            “We ought to send a scout, one who can see just how their ball count stacks up and how they are organizing themselves.  The rest of us can remain here and wait for the scout’s return.”
            “I’ll go,” Gregory volunteered immediately.
            “Head south and make a large sweep around back.  We don’t want them guessing what our game is,” Lucien advised.  Gregory gave his fellow men a salute and was halfway turned to go when Lucien’s thrust a few strips of red silk into his hands.
            “For captives, should the opportunity arise?  Show them no mercy.”  The marquess grinned as Gregory’s face flushed and he pocketed the silk strips.
            Gregory crawled away from the men’s snow fort, heading south and taking refuge behind snow covered hedges as he began to arch around towards the ladies’ forts.  After ten minutes he was able to get up and slink the rest of the way towards the enemy encampment.  He tread softly, taking slow steps as he heard the light hurried murmurs of the women a few bushes away.  Very carefully he craned his neck around the closest hedge and saw the back of the ladies’ fort.  Lady Russell and his mother were the chief producers of the balls, and they were damned good at it too.  Gregory hid a smile as he watched his mother’s face flush with excitement as she and Lady Russell passed snowballs to Horatia and Lucinda.  Avery’s calculation had been right, the ladies were at a clear disadvantage and it seemed they knew it too.  And then he saw it.  Gregory Cavendish’s jaw dropped as he saw Lysandra Russell and Audrey preparing a snowball on what looked like a very simply built trebuchet.  He clapped a hand over his mouth to stifle a laugh as Lysandra let the snowball fly.  He tracked its impressive progress where it thwacked the sleeve of Lawrence Russell who had jumped up to throw a ball at the ladies.
            “I’ll be damned,” Gregory whispered.  Who would have thought Lysandra Russell had it in her to be Attila the Hun?  As though she’d heard his thoughts, Lysandra turned around and Gregory only ducked behind a tree in time to avoid being seen.
            “Can you handle it from here Audrey?”  Lysandra asked.  Audrey replied in the affirmative and Lysandra tightened her gloves and started coming this way. 
Gregory slipped back out of sight and hid behind a thick trunked tree as Lysandra passed by.  It seemed she was to act as the ladies’ scout.  Gregory decided that it was in the best interest of his team to capture Lysandra.
            Gregory stalked behind Lysandra, letting her get out of shouting distance of the other ladies before he acted.  He knelt down and gathered up snow, mashing it into his gloved hands until it was a nice sized ball and then he threw it.  The ball struck Lysandra’s back and she yelped and spun around, hazel eyes blazing.
            “You!” she cried as he broke out into a run towards her.  He was ten feet away when she abandoned any method of retaliation and turned to flee.  She was far quicker than he expected, her light booted steps carrying her at a rapid pace, her red cloak billowing out in a crimson wave over the pure snow.  He pursued her into a wooded patch of ground that was a good ways away from the site of the snowball battle.  Gregory felt his blood heat and pump through his veins as he realized he enjoyed this, the chasing of his prey.  He’d always been one to deny his baser urges in favor of being the English gentleman his father and mother had raised.  But there was something entirely primitive about his reaction to Lysandra.  He had the strangest urge to throw her over his shoulder and march to the nearest cave and dominate her senseless with the rising passion in his body.
            “She’s Avery’s little sister,” he muttered to himself, but it did no good.  He felt rather like a lusty wolf prowling after his red hooded little lady.  Lysandra, gasping for breath, spun around and put a large thatch of a prickly looking bush between them.
            “Truce, truce!” she pleaded hopefully. 
Gregory shook his head, grinning wolfishly.  “Surrender Miss Russell,” he offered casually taking a few steps to the left of the bush.  Lysandra darted right to balance the ground she’d lost.
            “Stubborn little creature aren’t you,” he chuckled at the look of pure indignation his words created on her lovely face.  Her deeply red hair melded with her hood and she narrowed her hazel eyes at him before she turned and ran again.  But Gregory had the advantage, he was not as tired and his legs were longer.  He reached her in a matter of seconds and caught her upper arms, turning her to face him.  She struggled and he backed her up against the nearest tree hoping to still her wriggling.  As she wrestled in his grasp, her hood fell back, revealing red hair loosely tied back at the nape of her neck with an emerald ribbon.  How young and delicious she looked, Gregory thought.  He could easily devour her given half the chance.
            “Yield to me,” he demanded hoarsely, unsure of why it was suddenly important that she surrender.
            “No!”  She kicked his shin and he released her with a low uttered curse so he could rub his leg.  But Gregory didn’t let her get far.  He caught her around the waist and they both toppled to the ground.  The powdery snow burst up around them in a cloud from the impact and for a brief second he worried that he might have harmed her.  But when he saw her face she looked anything but injured.  She was trembling beneath him, with rage if the light in her eyes could be properly read.
            “Why you…” she started to shout but Gregory did the only logical thing he could do to silence her. 
His mouth covered hers, savage and primal and relentless as he asserted every ounce of his power over her lush body.  Somehow it seemed imperative that she understand that she was his at least for a few stolen moments.  Lysandra bit him, the sting shockingly erotic as he started digging up her skirts beneath him.  The brush of cold air against her partially bared legs made Lysandra shiver and shift beneath him as he tried to find a way inside her lacy underpinnings.  His momentary distraction by the mess of lace was halted when Lysandra nibbled his throat and he let out a helpless moan.  The scrape of her teeth across the line of his jaw had him squirming like an untried youth with a voracious milk maid. 
God knows what might have become of them in the minute that followed if a distant shout hadn’t penetrated his senses.  He might very well have tupped Lysandra on the snowy ground of his best friend’s estate.  It wasn’t like him, to be so out of control and unhinged with a woman.  Another distant shout had him struggling to pull out the red silk Lucien had given him. In a confused daze beneath him, Lysandra didn’t realize what he was about until her wrists were bound tightly and she was scooped up protesting in his arms.
            “Why you cad!  You distracted me!” she snapped angrily, kicking her booted feet uselessly as he trudged through the snow towards the men’s fort.  Lawrence and Avery were the first to spot them and they laughed at their sister’s enraged writhing in Gregory’s arms.
            “Got a captive on my way back from the enemy encampment,” he declared as he set Lysandra down behind a tree a few feet away from the shelter of the fort.
            “Well?  What’s the status of the opposing forces?”  Avery demanded excitedly.
            “Lady Russell and my mother are in charge of the production of ammunition.  Luce and Miss Horatia are the primary hurlers, but as we planned, even they cannot reach us.”
            “Then how the devil are they hitting us?”  Lucien asked, utterly baffled.
            Gregory shot a smug glance at the scowling Lysandra whose mouth was clamped firmly shut.
            “It seems the ladies have the use of a two foot trebuchet.   Miss Audrey has been loading it with snowballs and using a pouch of stones for a counterweight.  The balls reaching us have been fired from that particular contraption.”
            Linus flicked a calculated glance at Lysandra, as if somehow aware that it was she who had constructed the machine that was attacking the gentlemen.
            “That contraption has been pummeling us,” Sir John chuckled.
            Linus studied the other men crouching down behind their wall and then he dug out a white handkerchief from his coat pocket and leapt to his feet.
            “Where on earth are you going Linus?”  Lawrence asked suspiciously. 
            Linus jumped back a few steps and then with a wicked grin he bolted towards the ladies fort, waving the white handkerchief as a sign of surrender.
            “Have mercy ladies!  I seek asylum!”  Linus shouted as Horatia and Lucinda jumped up, ready to pound him with snowballs.
            “You bloody traitor!”  Lucien hollered across the garden.
            “Sorry chaps!  Got to follow the progress of technology.  Why fight with sticks when the other side has bronze weapons?”  He did a swan dive over the edge of the ladies’ fort just as a vicious barrage of snowballs from the enraged men followed him.
            “Always causing trouble aren’t you?”  Lucinda giggled as she and Linus covered their heads to keep snow from crashing down on them.
            “I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t,” he replied before he grabbed a snowball and then popped up to retaliate against the wrath of his brothers.
            “Take that you cheating curs!”  he hollered and all the ladies laughed.  They had their very own knight errant ready to lay siege to his former allies.
            And so the battle waged for nearly another twenty minutes until Horatia and Lucinda managed to sneak behind the men’s fort, free Lysandra, and take all of the men hostage while Linus, Lady Russell and Lady Cavendish acted as the main diversion.  Against all odds the ladies of Russell Hall triumphed on the snowy battlefield that day.  The gentlemen, rather than take their loss to heart, agreed that the ladies deserved the victory, given that they’d started out so disadvantaged.  The snowball battle had lasted close to two hours but now that the excitement had died down, the chills of the air and the damp cold of the snow had started to set in and it was agreed upon by all involved that the day’s activities should continue indoors.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

The League of Rogues

For those of you wondering what the heck this whole blog is about, here's a taste of the first book in my series.

The League of Rogues is a Regency romance set in the opulent atmosphere of London where a young debutante encounters romance, danger and the adventure of her lifetime.  
Eighteen year old Emily Parr finds her first London season abruptly ended as her coach is set upon by a band of men intent upon capturing her.  She bravely fights for her life, impressing the members of the League of Rogues, a group of powerful lords known for their wickedness.
Godric St. Laurent, the darkly tempestuous Duke of Essex and leader of the League, is astonished at the intelligence and bravery of his feisty young captive. He and his closest friends, Ashton, Cedric, Lucien and Charles collectively known to all of London as the League of Rogues, seek to blackmail Emily’s uncle by threatening Emily’s virtue. But the League gets more than they bargained for when it takes all five of them to keep one crafty young woman their prisoner.   Emily fights to escape the League of Rogues at every turn but the constant game of cat and mouse only serves to bring her closer to the sensual duke.
Caught in the seductive snare of Godric’s arms and hidden away on his country estate, Emily learns that the threat to her virtue is no mere illusion.  Godric is a hardened rake bent on one thing alone, seducing his innocent prisoner. Scared for her own virtue, but blossoming into a strong woman, Emily meets Godric’s fierce introduction to sensuality with a spirit that earns his secret admiration and sparks in him an obsessive longing for her body and soul.  
Unable to deny her attraction Emily begins to fall in love with the one man she vows to escape, even if it costs her a broken heart. But she is not the only one falling in love.  Emily’s mixture of naiveté and tenderhearted wisdom wins over Godric, London’s most notorious rakehell.
But the battle for Emily’s freedom takes a deadly turn when Godric and his friends learn that Emily’s uncle has sold her to another man to settle his debts. This man, bent on possessing Emily by any means, will not hesitate to kill anyone in his path, including the League of Rogues. As Godric and Emily begin to succumb to the fierce flames of passion between them, Godric fears that he will lose the only woman he’s ever truly loved.  Leading the League of Rogues, he must race against time to save the beloved captive that stole his heart before she is caught in a deadly trap.

Question for followers:  Have you ever read a book series that has completely stolen your breath away?  What was so captivating about it?