Coming Soon: Valiance, The Abcynians Book V-Valiant & Mary

Good Morning! Hope everyone is doing well. Like many, I’ve been watching the Tokyo Olympics and cheering on everyone who can now call themselves Olympians for a lifetime. And, of course, I’ve some news to share, that’s right. Valiance is one step closer to PRIME TIME. It really is coming soon and I couldn’t be prouder of this book that was planned from the beginning of the series back when I was still writing for Ellora’s Cave. As many know, life can throw you curveballs and I was finally able to write the Valiance from my heart, during the pandemic!

In honor of Valiant Montgomery and his heroine, Mary Campbell, I thought I’d share an excerpt featuring their reunion after 95 years! Enjoy the book blurb and excerpt!

Hailed as demigods from a fallen realm Abcynians and their panthera guardians protected humankind. Over the centuries, perpetual war with their malevolent adversaries exacted a heavy toll, forcing Abcynians to evolve, becoming monarchs, warriors, lords and ladies, artists and voyagers. Centuries later, war between the Abcynians and Saturians has crossed the Atlantic Ocean.   

Cast into the belly of an enemy’s ship to die, Valiant Montgomery seeks absolution for failing to keep his promise to Mary Ainsworth, the pretty maid fated to be his queen. Needing a miracle, he prays she is somewhere safe with a family of her own. He never expects his prayer to be answered, much less to be rescued by a crew of Abcynians. When he discovers the Saturians used his marquisate to stage the slaughter of his species and left his father for dead, he questions if he is worthy of his beloved.

Gunslinger Gabriel Blakemore returned to privateering to search for his sister’s lost prince. Relieved Valiant is found alive, he realizes the heir to the Abcynian throne has a hard row to hoe and invites him to put down roots in Dare, Arizona. In truth, however, he can’t stop thinking about his feisty neighbor, Izzy Patterson, and worries his nightmarish past might frighten her away. During the voyage to America, Valiant and Gabriel form a pact, vowing to reunite with the women they love and new ally Caine Sinclair promises to heal Lucien Montgomery’s shattered soul. Once home, Valiant and Mary fulfill their fate and Gabriel wins Izzy’s heart. All the while, a malevolent foe threatens to unleash unimaginable losses upon their families and the townsfolk of Dare. To save them, the destined King and Crown Prince must lead the Abcynians into a showdown between good and evil…or humanity itself will become extinct.

* * * * *

“You picked a great horse for Valiant, by the way. Tall enough for an Abcynian male but requires an experienced rider.”

“Figured someone who’d once ridden war horses could handle Gulliver, even though Cynric Forrester sent word that Valiant and Gabriel bought horses from him,” Michael replied, jumping down to the ground.

“It’s a wonderful gift, Michael. He’ll love it,” Mary assured as a scent she’d not detected in ninety-five years drew her attention westward.

Stilling, she turned in her seat, discovering Valiant astride a huge chestnut horse. In truth, it wasn’t the magnificence of a well-bred stallion that caught her eye, it was the former marquess wearing a cotton shirt, denims, boots, and a black Stetson. Beside him, Gabriel rode a tall black horse with a white star on its forehead.

“Go be with Valiant, Mary, I’ll look after Izzy,” Gabriel insisted, breaking away from Valiant to accept the reins of his favorite buckskin from Caleb, only to ride toward town.

As soon as Gabriel disappeared, Mary got down from the wagon at the same time as Valiant jumped to the ground. Goodness, no wonder he’d bought such a big horse! He was enormous, muscled, with tawny hair running down to his back in thick waves.

Uncommonly handsome, his eyes were like liquid amber, his nose patrician, his jaw squared, his teeth white, the presence of slightly extended canines fascinating. His unique scent—sandalwood and something deeper, spicier—reached her.

And then she realized Valiant was close enough to touch, his hands extended. If she were still sixteen, she might have flushed and looked away. Instead, she launched herself at him, catching him off-guard. He caught her all the same.

“Mary, I am sorry, so very sorry,” he apologized, for what, she didn’t know.

“Don’t say anything more until you kiss me, Valiant Montgomery. After all, I’ve been waiting all my life for you to do so.”

Aware that they had witnesses, she didn’t care about anything other than having his big hand cup the side of her face that’d once been scarred. Today, it was nothing but a faint crescent-shaped line that he caressed with his thumb before brushing her glasses to the top of her head and bending forward to press his mouth to hers. On a sigh, her lips parted, his tongue delving deep, tangling with hers in an intimate dance she’d never experienced before.

If she’d been standing, her knees would’ve given out, for surely the earth shook from the impact of her first genuine, heart-pounding kiss with the man she loved. And, still they kissed, clinging to one another, his taste as sweet as molasses.

Mary, we keep this up, Michael’s gonna geld me.

He’d have to go through me first. Oh, Valiant, I am so relieved to know that you’re well, but please forgive me for my moments of doubt that you’d be found.

You owe me no apologies. I broke the promise I’d made to you the day I left Regan and Nicholas’ wedding breakfast.

Valiant! You didn’t break it. You came home.

I’m not the same man anymore, Mary. Much as I wish otherwise, I am not.

Nor am I the same girl, my love.

Easing up, he lifted his head. As her vision had improved since her conversion, she didn’t need her glasses to appreciate the regal beauty of his features. Then she saw him, the face of the Crown Prince etched upon his countenance, the lion’s head bowed, as if in shame.

“Kahari is sad,” she said.

“What?”

“The Crown Prince, that’s his name, right?” she asked, as it’d come to her as surely as he stood there.

“It is.”

“He’s ashamed for not detecting that you were in danger long before you’d reached Calais.”

“It wasn’t Kahari’s fault. I’d become so high on the instep that I failed to realize my own valet led me into a trap.”

“Might I speak to the lion?”

“If I can hear you, he can.”

“Thank you, Kahari, thank you for protecting Valiant, for bringing him home to his family, to our kind, to me,” she whispered to the lion, touching her hand to Valiant’s face, stroking the lion’s countenance reflected upon his skin.

“Mary, I feel him, I feel the return of his pride simply because you are near.” 

“Thank the Creator. I had a vision of you once, in a mirror,” she confessed.

“Tell me of it.”

“I was tasked to say the name of the man I loved. You came to me. You were hung from some sort of contraption, beaten, bloody, your back shredded. Your hair gone. Your inner strength to endure had been tested due to punishment you’d wrongly believed you deserved, and I worried you were just going to let it all go.”

“The only reason I didn’t end my life was you, for it was your face that I kept in my mind, your name in my heart.”

“Are you saying you still love me, Valiant?”

“I have loved you from the moment we met, though I pray your vision of me in prison then didn’t frighten you overly much,” he said, looking sheepish.

“The punishment was real?”

“One of many, I suspect, though it was likely when I’d tried to escape an opium den that’d been overrun by vampires. After I’d been punished, I was placed on a prison ship, where I was put in the hold with the other prisoners and forced into hard labor until they all died, save for me.”

“Goodness, that must’ve been terrible.”

“The yellow-bellied Saturians wanted me to subsist on the bodies. I couldn’t, for as many sins as I’d committed, I would not, could not do such a thing.”

Smiling, Mary imagined Gabriel had taught Valiant a thing or two about the West during their voyage home. “Been spending the last few months with my brother, haven’t you?”

“He’s my best friend. Without him, I might not have survived the nightmares, though I should warn you that they remain.”

“I’m glad Gabriel was there for you, as I will be should you wake to such horrors.”

“Thank you. May I kiss you again? You taste of ambrosia and sunshine.”

“I’d rather kiss you,” she answered, using her great strength to lever herself up and take his face between her palms. “Welcome home, Valiant, welcome home.” Pressing her mouth to his, she brushed her lips back and forth, experimenting, learning, tasting. 

“Mary, Valiant, I don’t want to interrupt, but if we’re to stop Gabriel from killing a couple of men, we need to go, now,” Michael urged, compelling her to ease back.

Valiance, The Abcynians Book V: Meet Mary Campbell and Isabelle Patterson

Hello everyone! Hope you’re continuing to enjoy the summer and are staying safe wherever you are. As you may be aware, I’ve a new release coming soon! In anticipation for the finale of The Abcynians series, complete with an epic showdown, I thought it would be fun to introduce you to Mary Campbell and Isabelle Patterson, both widows who become best friends and are united in providing a safe home or place to work for women in the West. Readers of the series may remember meeting Mary in Scandalous, The Abcynians Book IV, as she was introduced as an Abcynian Guard and upstairs maid for the Duke and Duchess of Arrington, but ended up becoming an integral member of the Blakemore family when Nicholas and Regan adopted her. At the time, she was a teenager, but she’d caught Valiant Montgomery’s eye way and he left England to do right by her and search for his missing father. Ninety-five years later, she has a teenage son and runs a boarding house and a newspaper in Dare, Arizona.

Originally from Charleston, South Carolina, Isabelle became vehemently opposed to slavery and took to donning men’s clothing to help those who were enslaved to escape to the North. After some adversity and the loss of her husband to a debilitating illness, she moved to Dare to look after her brother and sister. She’s also turned Gabriel Blakemore’s world upside down.

To learn more about Mary and Izzy, check out an excerpt:

To Mary Campbell, winters in Dare reminded her of early spring in Boston. Tonight, it felt like summer, as she was busy in her sister-in-law’s kitchen baking a groaning cake, something she’d sworn she would never do when her sister Hannah was born. Back then, her mother had been the Duchess of Arrington and the expectations of her had placed both her and the baby in life-threatening danger.

Thankfully, Papa saved them, but the joy of her sister’s birth was tragically followed by unprecedented losses for Abcynian kind, forcing them to flee to America where they’d learned to endure, press on, live, and love.

In her case, she’d married Major William H. Campbell, a Union hero and fellow Abolitionist. Thinking on it now, she would like to say her wedding day was as joyful as the birth of their only son, but her husband left the house for another’s bed thereafter, and she knew their marriage had been a lie. A truth she’d never told anyone except her best friend.

“What the devil?” Izzy called out, stomping into the kitchen as if Mary had conjured her out of thin air. Turning, she found her friend in a tan cotton shirt, blue denim pants, scuffed boots, a sun-bleached Stetson, and a long, brown leather coat that she could’ve taken from her oldest brother’s closet.

“Izzy! So glad you’ve come. Did you bring Ginny and Jack with you?”

“They’re in the barn with Will,” she said, removing her coat, hat, and gun belt before spinning a chair backwards and taking a seat, her arms across the top rail for support. “Why are you baking while Sarah’s having a baby?”

Grinning, Mary lent back against the dry sink. “It became a family custom when my sister Hannah was born.” No sooner than she’d explained, a terrible cry broke overhead, along with threats to Michael’s manhood. 

“Good God, if labor sounds that bad to us, how difficult is it for her?” Izzy asked, the worry on her face palpable.

“Giving birth was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but having Will, watching him grow from a newborn to the young man he is becoming has been worth it.”

“All I know is that my brother’s lucky to have Will as his best friend. Wish he’d take a moment to realize Ginny’s pining for him. If he did, maybe it’d be enough to keep Wyatt Powell from tipping his hat to my sister the next time he comes to town.”

“Michael and Pembrook spoke to him the last time that happened. I don’t think it’ll be an issue anymore.”

“Maybe so, but if he tries anything more with my sister, I’ll use my shotgun.”

“And I’ll be right beside you if he does.”

“What kind of cake did you make? It smells as good as your pigheaded big brother whenever he comes to town to play faro.”

“You think Gabriel smells like fruitcake?” Mary asked, laughing. “Wait until he learns that.”

“Don’t you dare tell him, Mary! I mean it.”

“As your friend, I can do nothing more than honor your wish. Still, I suspect it’s the spiced rum and cinnamon that reminds you of him. I’m curious, Izzy. Do you ever hear his voice, here?” Tapping her temple, she waited to see her answer.

“You mean like your gift with mirrors and ghosts?”

“Yes.”

“Once, I could’ve sworn I heard him say he wanted to dunk me in a water trough when I’d ridden by him on Gypsy. As I’d been in a hurry to fetch the doctor, I didn’t need the reminder that I smelled like a privy.”

“You did not!” Mary objected.

“I was branding cattle when Ginny fell out of a tree and hit her head!” Izzy contended. “There wasn’t time to wash or put a saddle on my mare.”

“Did you tell Gabriel about your sister?”

“No, dealing with him is like barkin’ at a knot. How long does labor take, anyway?” Izzy asked, as Sarah continued to cry.

“Every woman is different. When I delivered Will, I’d had contractions for most of the day and didn’t give birth until three in the morning. Sarah, on the other hand, delivered Caleb a few hours after her water broke and Abigail was born two weeks earlier than expected while she and Michael were having dinner at Silverwood. Didn’t even wait for Dr. Hastings to reach the ranch house.”

“Hell, remind me of that when Gabriel comes home. Where is he, anyway?”

“Sailing with my dad’s business partner, Adrian Montgomery. They’re searching for his older brother, Valiant.”

“Valiant? Were his parents as fond of reading stories about King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table as I was as a kid?”

“Not that I’m aware of, but his name does seem gallant, doesn’t it?”

“I can picture him around that giant table with Galahad and Lancelot, whom I used to pen stories about when I still believed in fairy tales. I tell you true, I’ve been thinking about writing again.”

“You should, Izzy. Maybe we can work together to publish them. I’ve got the printing press and we can talk to Mr. Hopkins about selling them in the general store or we can offer them alongside newspapers.”

“You amaze me.”

“I do? Why?”

“We both know that your husband dishonored your marriage repeatedly. Except for the night we emptied a bottle of wine and bared our souls, I’ve never heard you speak ill of anyone, not even Wyatt Powell.”

“Believe me, William’s sins were many, as I am certain Wyatt’s are, but getting angry doesn’t assure that my son has a roof over his head and clothes on his back.”

“That makes sense,” Izzy replied. “I do wonder what Valiant meant to you, my friend. I’ve never seen you light up the way you did when you said his name.”

“He was my first love. My only love,” Mary revealed.

“You must tell me more,” her friend urged, her green eyes flashing with curiosity. 

“When we first met, I was very young and naïve, yet to me, he was beautiful, with a crown of long wavy golden-blond hair, eyes like an amber sky, his skin golden, as if touched by sun gods.”

“Damn, kinda reminds me of someone, save for the color of his eyes.”

“Gabriel, maybe?”

Izzy dropped one of her arms to the table, wrapping the wood with her knuckles. “He’s a burr under my saddle who likes to roar at me!”

“Gabriel roared? Aloud or in your mind?”

“I’m not sure. It sounded very much like that white tiger that was part of the circus that came to Dare last summer.”

“Izzy, do me a favor,” Mary suggested. “If you ever hear him in your mind again, reply in kind.”

“I don’t understand.”

“I’ve told you of my Abcynian ancestry, right?”

“You and your family came to America due to religious persecution, much like the Quakers or Pilgrims.”

“That’s right, but Abcynians have certain gifts, including mind-to-mind conversations that no one else is aware of. I suspect you and Gabriel share this gift.”

“Can I threaten to dunk him in the stream for staying away for so long?”

“Try offering an olive branch and see where it leads, instead.”

“Can’t promise anything other than I’ll try to be nicer. Come, tell me more about Valiant Montgomery, please,” Izzy urged, tapping the chair next to her.

“Oh, Izzy, he was everything to me very quickly, but he was the equivalent of a crown prince,” Mary said, crossing the room to take a seat, trying her best not to flush as she had when she’d first met Valiant.

“A prince? What happened to him?” Izzy inquired. Her concern genuine.

“Valiant received word that his sisters and their husbands were in danger and his father had gone missing. As the King’s heir apparent, he’d done the honorable thing by going to his family’s aid, only to disappear himself.”

“Like hell. Why?”

“The simplest explanation is a longstanding feud between the Abcynians and the Saturians.”

“Were Saturians like you and your family?”

“Similar, yes.”

“Might I ask how long Valiant’s been gone?”

“Since Hannah was born.”

“Twenty-five years?” Izzy pronounced, surprised.

More like ninety-five, but that’d be a little much to explain while Sarah was in labor upstairs.

Coming Soon: Valiance, The Abcynians Book V-Gabriel Blakemore

Hello again! And, welcome to Monday. In anticipation of my next release, Valiance, The Abcynians Book V, I thought I’d introduce readers to Gabriel Blakemore, first introduced to the series in Redemption, The Abcynians Book III. He’s also the heir to a dukedom haunted by a horrific childhood and hellbent on being disowned by his father. In truth, he just needed some space to find peace and he’s found it in Dare, Arizona, especially now that he’s met Izzy Patterson.

To learn more about Gabriel Blakemore, check out an excerpt:

Leaning back in his chair with one booted foot hooked over his knee, Gabriel kept watch over Valiant as he slept. Granted, rest was necessary for healing, but he didn’t envy the memories his charge would wake up to.

“Still not sure what a cowboy is,” Valiant said, bringing Gabriel’s head up.   

“Guess that’s what I am, even if it’s not an accurate term. After the Civil War, I went West to a town called Dare. Became a cattle rancher,” he answered, relieved to see Valiant awake.

“I’d like to learn more about that,” Val insisted, struggling to sit up.

Getting up from his chair, Gabriel grabbed a pitcher of wine with sustenance and took it to the bed. Fortunately, the frame was sturdy enough for him to perch on the edge without fear of the damn thing breaking in half.

“Here, drink slowly or you’ll be sick.” Holding the pitcher, he tipped the end into Valiant’s mouth to give him a taste, letting him swallow and keep it down before offering another. After a bit, he drew back, noticing he’d managed to spill some of the wine down his friend’s chin and neck. “Sorry, pal, tried to be gentle.”

“It’s all right, thank you.” Settling back down, Valiant closed his bloodshot, blackened eyes, his face an array of bruises too numerous to count. Fortunately, his broken bones had already mended, but the former marquess had a hard row to hoe ahead of him.

Getting up, Gabriel retrieved a pitcher of water, a basin, and a washcloth then returned to the bed. “What do you want me to call you? Valiant, Val, Valentine? How many names have you had now?”

“To be honest, I lost count. Val will do. Tell me more about Dare, what drew you there?”

“Mary and Michael were already out there, and it seemed fitting to join them,” he said, soaking the cloth to wash Valiant’s face. “Spent time as a marshal and bounty hunter handy with a Winchester until I could procure land, build a house, put down roots. What started out small has become quite successful. Even in England, I’d wanted something to call my own and now I’ve got it.”

“Sounds like you found peace,” Valiant said.

“There’s nothing quite like sleeping under a canopy of stars, listening to cattle lowing and horses neighing. There are hardships, mind you, but unless my parents need me in Boston, Dare’s where I belong.”

“Mary Ainsworth’s really your sister?”

He nodded, smiling at the thought of her. “She’s Mary Campbell now. Before you ask, she’s a widow with a teenage son.”

Valiant’s gaze lowered, his mouth flat. “I’m sorry about her husband. What happened?”

“William was killed during a bank robbery.”

“That’s a shame. Why did Mary leave Boston?”

“Her life was being threatened for standing up for the rights of those who’d been enslaved in America and William took a job as the town marshal to keep her safe,” Gabriel admitted.

“Slavery? Was it the Saturians?” Panicked, Val sat up too fast, sending the basin of water to the floor.

“Easy, Val, they weren’t responsible, but Abcynians did our part to oppose, abolish, and assist freedmen and freedwomen whenever we could. Especially Mary, who doesn’t let anyone scare her away from what she believes in.”

“She sounds like an amazing woman, Gabriel.”

“Amazing, brave, loyal, and determined to raise Will to be a better man than her husband was,” Gabriel said of his sister.

“You didn’t like him, did you?”

“At first I liked him just fine. After they came to Dare, Michael and his wife, Sarah, noticed that something had changed between them, but she’s chosen to keep her own counsel about the matter.”

Valiant struggled for a moment, then lifted his chin. “What of her son?”

“Will’s a good kid. Sixteen now, verging on manhood.”

“Then it’s a good thing that you and Michael are out there to lend a hand. I’d not known Michael got married. Is he happy?”

“Yeah, he is. They met when she came to help Regan give birth to Hannah.”

“That’s nice. To be honest, I wish that Mary had known such happiness in her marriage. It’s all I wanted for her.”

“That right there tells me you still care about her. Now, let’s talk about that brand on your back.”

Averting his eyes, Valiant revealed his shame, one Gabriel recognized well. It’d taken a long time to like himself enough to realize that what had been done to him when he was young was not his fault.

“Val, look at me,” Gabriel demanded, compelling Valiant to glare as he might’ve done with a servant when they were still in England. “There he is. Lord Raybourne’s still in there, even if the title is no more.”

“What do you mean? Wouldn’t it have become Adrian’s when I was considered dead and had no heir?”

“Except for Arrington, most of the titles Abcynians once held are gone.”

“Thought your father and Regan were in Boston.”

“They are. The day Hannah was born, Mary revealed her ability to see ghosts and told us Arrington Manor was haunted by the spirits of my father’s younger sister and his mother, Sarianna, who’d been his father’s mistress. Once the truth was verified, Braden Blakemore became the rightful Duke of Arrington.”

“How did your father deal with it?”

“He was grateful, for it provided my family the opportunity to move to America without subterfuge.”

“Did Regan become a doctor?”

“She did, made quite a name for herself as a surgeon during and after the war. And, despite opposition from many, my father has stood by her every step of the way.”

“I’m glad to hear you speak of them so fondly,” Valiant admitted.

“A lot changed since you were captured. For now, be assured that Mary never stopped believing that we would find you and it is because of her that my father funded every mission. Unfortunately, the Civil War and Lincoln’s assassination forced us to stay closer to home for a time.”

“I am humbled and grateful. Might I ask who Lincoln was?”

“Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States.”

“God’s teeth, mind telling me where we are and where we’re heading?”

“We’re sailing toward an island in the Indian Ocean where we will leave the Sea Lion II and board a merchant ship bound for England before we restock and cross the Atlantic for home.”

“Why didn’t Adrian use the merchant vessel?”

“We needed a ruse and he arranged for The Manticore to leave Boston Harbor a month ahead us with the crew and supplies needed to turn this galleon into a hospital ship.”

“That’s admirable and when I’m able, I’d like to do my part to help. Tell me about your family. Aside from Mary and Michael, how many siblings do you have?”

“Six. I’ll tell you about them all on the voyage home.”

“Your parents asked me to be Hannah’s godfather. I wish I could’ve been there to fulfill those duties and meet your siblings.”

“You’ll be able to do all that when we’re home, Val. And, you’re still Hannah’s godfather. Would you like essence?”

“Please. You never seemed to like me much, Gabriel. What changed?”

Biting his own wrist, he presented it to his friend. “Here, I’m offering. Take what you need.” Val waited until a drop of translucent essence appeared before lapping at it. Within seconds, he latched on, wisely sipping to avoid being sick.

“In answer to your question, it wasn’t you I didn’t like, it was me. It took nearly losing my entire family at Garrick’s Close to realize that I’d been behaving like the pompous rakish lords I’d professed to loathe.”

Val let go of his wrist, tilting his head. “Much as I hate to admit it, so was I, Gabriel.”

“That may be so, but because I couldn’t bear to be touched, I took to debauchery in underground hellfire clubs to a whole other level.”

“Do I even want to know what happened in those clubs?”

“Probably not, the only thing I can profess is that I have never harmed a woman or did anything that was not permitted.”

“Does that mean you’re no longer a rake?”

“I’m not, nor am I a saint. But I try my best to treat my lovers with the decency and respect they deserve. Hopefully, when we get home, I can prove it to my neighbor.”

To read more about Gabriel and what’s come before Valiance, follow the links for Redemption and Scandalous:

Coming Soon! Valiance, The Abcynians Book V

Welcome back readers! I hope this post finds you well, especially after such a difficult year due to the pandemic. I’ve big news to share, my next book, the finale of The Abcynians series, is coming soon! Currently, it’s in the hands of my editor for preparations needed to release it across various vendors, including Amazon, Nook, Apple Books, Kobo, and a lot more! Stay tuned for a release date.

That said, I’d thought I’d share a book teaser and an excerpt. And, of course, the FABULOUS cover.

Hailed as demigods from a fallen realm Abcynians and their panthera guardians protected humankind. Over the centuries, perpetual war with their malevolent adversaries exacted a heavy toll, forcing Abcynians to evolve, becoming monarchs, warriors, lords and ladies, artists and voyagers. Centuries later, war between the Abcynians and Saturians has crossed the Atlantic Ocean.   

Cast into the belly of an enemy’s ship to die, Valiant Montgomery seeks absolution for failing to keep his promise to Mary Ainsworth, the pretty maid fated to be his queen. Needing a miracle, he prays she is somewhere safe with a family of her own. He never expects his prayer to be answered, much less to be rescued by a crew of Abcynians. When he discovers the Saturians used his marquisate to stage the slaughter of his species and left his father for dead, he questions if he is worthy of his beloved.

Gunslinger Gabriel Blakemore returned to privateering to search for his sister’s lost prince. Relieved Valiant is found alive, he realizes the heir to the Abcynian throne has a hard row to hoe and invites him to put down roots in Dare, Arizona. In truth, however, he can’t stop thinking about his feisty neighbor, Izzy Patterson, and worries his nightmarish past might frighten her away.

During the voyage to America, Valiant and Gabriel form a pact, vowing to reunite with the women they love and new ally Caine Sinclair promises to heal Lucien Montgomery’s shattered soul. Once home, Valiant and Mary fulfill their fate and Gabriel wins Izzy’s heart. All the while, a malicious foe threatens to unleash unimaginable losses upon their families and townsfolk of Dare. To save them, the destined King and Crown Prince must lead the Abcynians into a showdown between good and evil…or humanity itself will become extinct.

Chapter One

South Pacific Ocean—January—1881

Deep in the belly of a prison ship reeking of rotting corpses, Valiant struggled to ignore the emptiness in his belly and his soul. Creator knew, he had many regrets and sins to atone for, but none so much as his failure to return to England to marry Mary Ainsworth.

Even now, he couldn’t forget the first time he’d seen her in a St. James’s Square courtyard. It mattered not that she’d worn a borrowed gown that was way too big for her. To him, she’d been pretty, shy, and sad because she’d recently lost her parents in an accident.

Oddly, he thought of the scruffy dog that’d followed her everywhere. Charlie had been loyal, friendly, often guiding Mary because she’d frequently misplace her spectacles. Where was she now, he wondered? Was she still in England with the Blakemores? Was she still alive?

Unable to breathe, he tried to sit up just as cannons blasted the ship. God’s teeth, pain ricocheted through his broken body, the lick of saltwater burning his torn flesh. Certain he was about to die, he prayed for a miracle.

He never expected the roars of Abcynian panthers to be the answer.

How could it be? As far as he knew, he was the last of Abcynian kind on earth after their mortal enemies, the Saturians, slaughtered his family, friends, and Abcynian Guards.

Confused, he crawled from beneath the body he was chained to, becoming aware that the screams of his Saturian captors had faded behind voices he recognized.

“Gabriel, Caine, break the lock,” his brother commanded from above his prison.

“Adrian?” Valiant called out, hating that his voice was so weak, but needing to believe salvation had come.

“Valiant! Thank the Creator, you’re alive. Brace yourself, we’re coming for you,” Adrian warned a heartbeat before the hold was flooded with sunshine.

“Please tell me you’re not a ghost, brother,” he cried, having to shield his eyes from the bright light flooding the hold.

“I am real. Hold tight, Val. We’re almost there.”

“Not going anywhere.” Despite being blinded by sunshine, Valiant was certain his brother had been joined by two others who worked to remove bodies and chains.

“What the hell happened in here?” came a gruff voice that sounded like Garrick Forrester.

“Garrick?”

“Ryder Sanborn, but close enough. Easy now. Gabriel and I need to get these chains off.”

“Gabriel! Is she alive? Is Mary still alive?”

“My sister’s alive and well. Long story. We’ll get there, pal.”

Pal? What did that mean? “She’s safe?”

“Wouldn’t say it if it weren’t true. Here, wear this. It’ll block the sun from your eyes.”

Some sort of hat came to the top of his head, the softness of it unexpected, yet it felt as right as the crown of blond hair he’d once worn to signify his heirdom to a throne he’d never thought he wanted until he couldn’t have it anymore.

“Gabriel, last chain, right here. Shoot it, but don’t let the bullet hit my brother.”

“Trust me, Adrian, my aim is true.”

A shot pierced the shackle around his ankle, freeing him. Opening his eyes, he braced himself for the sting of sunshine, relieved when the hat blunted the impact.

Finally, Adrian knelt beside him, lifting Valiant into his arms. The jostling hurt like hell, but the pain meant he was alive. “My God, what have you been through?”

“Deaths, more than you can know—including yours.”

“I’m not dead, Val.”

“What of Elena and Mercedes, and Matias and Ricardo? The children?” he demanded, desperate to know the fate of his sisters and their mates.

“I’m sorry. They are gone.” Adrian’s voice was gruff.

“Our father?”

“Alive, but not the same. He’s with Garrick and Aisley now.”

“How can that be? I saw Garrick’s head on a Saturian pike. What of Hayden? I saw him, too.”

“It was probably Grayson, who could’ve been his twin. You were not wrong about Hayden. Come on, let’s get you somewhere safe.”

“I am now, Adrian. Thank you for not giving up on me.”

“We never did, and neither did Mary.”

Turning his head slowly, he saw familiar faces. Ryder Sanborn still had the sleek musculature of an Abcynian with the lineage of a leopard. Behind him, an unfamiliar man with shaggy russet hair stood ready to assist.

It was Gabriel Blakemore who stunned him the most. Gone was the attire of an English lord. Instead, he’d let his hair grow to his arse, wore an aged coat that fell to his ankles, and had a long gun strapped to his back.

“Why aren’t you dressed like a lord, Gabriel?”

“English titles are no longer my concern, nor my father’s.”

“What Gabriel’s trying to say is he went West after the war and became a cowboy,” Ryder rumbled.

Aware that they were moving, he clung to his brother, as part of him feared he’d wake up to find himself bound to dead bodies again. “Adrian, how long have I been gone?”

“Better part of ninety-five years.”

News: Coming Soon

After a crazy pandemic year that seems to be stretching into the summer and beyond, I’ve some great news to share. I’ve got a new release coming soon! Not only is it new, the release is the finale of my paranormal historical series, The Abcynians, which is both very special to me as an author, but I have grown to love the three, yes, THREE, happily ever after stories within Valiance!

I cannot wait to share this book with you, and I’ll be glad to post the cover. Valiance, The Abcynians, Book V is currently in final line edits and I should have more about a release date soon. That said, I also had a release in the middle of the pandemic and while I was also taking classes remotely for paralegal certification, I’d meant to post information and links about Scandalous, The Abcynians, Book IV. It’s currently available at Amazon, Nook, Apple Books, Kobo, and more! Below are the covers for Valiance! And, of course, Scandalous, including links to learn more.

Scandalous The Abcynians Book IV Available Now!

https://books2read.com/u/38MNXB

Good Girl Gone Bad Book Blast

#Giveaway & #BookBlast – #GoodGirlGoneBad by #FrancesStockton

Good Girl Gone Bad

Brandt’s Dozen Book 2

Genre: Romantic Suspense

Blurb

Sage Grayson’s world is torn apart when a video of her getting wild with a

stripper during a bachelorette party goes viral. Needing help, she turns to her

aunt, who enlists former Navy SEAL Kristian Rodriquez to be her bodyguard.

Finding him sexy-as-sin, she intends to remain professional, though it isn’t long

before their attraction ignites temptation. After a stalker’s obsession with Sage’s

traumatic past is revealed, Kristian realizes her life is in danger and takes her

into protective custody.

At a remote cabin in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Kristian and Sage unburden their

souls, falling in love. When their location is compromised, it’ll require a team of

former Special Ops soldiers and detectives to stop a killer before it’s too late.

Author’s Note: Be advised that the heroine in this story is the survivor of sexual

assault and certain situations, memories, and elements may be difficult to read.

Excerpt

March—Reigning Men All Male Revue—Baltimore

“To a weekend with no rules!” Sage shouted to overcome the pounding music and catcalls all around the club.

Downing a Fireball, the cinnamon-hot whiskey scorched a trail straight to her gut, giving her courage to whistle as loudly as the other women enjoying the six gorgeous men costumed as legendary heroes throughout history, their choreography candid and erotic.

In truth, the strip club was a blast. But, for Sage, it was less about gorgeous male dancers and more about seeing her best friend having fun. Whether it was the stress of planning a wedding, taking law classes, or the down payment on a house, Bailey hadn’t laughed or smiled in months.  

“Enjoying yourself, Bailey?” Sage asked, leaning close enough to be heard over the music.

“Are you kidding? The dancers are hot and I’m crushing on the one dressed as Sir Galahad.”

“Just remember, tomorrow, we’re going to a spa, then shopping. Tonight, we get to play.”

“Amen!” Bailey agreed, raising her glass high in the air. Joining her, Sage clinked her glass and downed the shot that reminded her of the cinnamon hot candy she’d loved as a kid.

Two shots later, Sage couldn’t help but wonder if something was wrong. Bailey still looked unhappy.

“Bailey, are you sure you’re alright? If you’re having doubts about the wedding, don’t hesitate to speak up. You know I’ll support you, so will Gretchen and your parents.”  

“We’ll talk when I don’t have to shout,” Bailey promised.

Sage would have said more but the music went quiet, a spotlight centered on the main stage, a red rose in the center of the circle of white cast on the black curtain. At some point the six dancers had gone to side stages set up strategically about the room.

From out of nowhere, their waiter appeared to cap off their drinks or refill shot glasses. They’d paid for the VIP treatment, gaining the best view of the stage and the waiter was adorable with his nerdy glasses and babyface looks.

“Ladies, who’s ready to play with our resident fallen angel, Azrael, who can tempt anyone to sin,” an unseen DJ enticed, his voice familiar as a blast from the past, the lighting going dark as a red spotlight centered on a black velvet curtain.

The sudden appearance of a longhaired masked man with black angel wings and black leather pants that left nothing to the imagination caused Sage to gasp. Whoa! Azrael was hotter than any of the strippers she’d seen so far. And, boy, there was something about him that called to her inner bad girl.

Gretchen Thomas whistled and poured another round. Sage downed hers in a single gulp, the cinnamon heat working its magic. Bailey, who wore a white tee shirt that read bachelorette #1 and a tiara on her head, did the same and they shared a playful smile.

Music kicked up even louder, the women got rowdier, and Azrael hadn’t even done more than handing out roses he’d managed to produce out of thin air to those who’d been fortunate enough to surround the stage. Obviously, the dancer was trained in magic, but the twenties and fifties in the women’s hands suggested it was no illusion as to why they’d bypassed the plethora of bouncers.

Sage suddenly found herself leaning forward when Azrael’s wings morphed into a long black cloak with red lining, his roses replaced with a red bullwhip secured to his belt, and a red mask covered his eyes. Holy cow, red was her favorite color! Could this night get any better? She hoped so. And, hey, she’d found the perfect red velvet dress that made her feel both pretty and a little bit like a vampire due to the flow of the handkerchief hem about her calves.

“I think the angel is a vampire in disguise,” Bailey shouted.

“Or a Dom, hell, I’d let him tie me up if given the chance,” Sage responded, causing Bailey’s bridal party to laugh out loud and down another round of Fireballs. When they’d been refilled, she couldn’t say, though this time she suspected it was their adorable twenty-something server who wore a tux, suspenders, and a dapper bowtie.

Drawn back to the stage, Sage realized something had changed. Oh no, Azrael was leaving his post…and coming straight for the VIP table.

“Whose naughty enough to come up on stage with me?” Azrael asked them. “The bride-to-be?”

“Oh no, my fiancé wouldn’t like it,” Bailey denied, shaking her head.

“Come on, when’s the wedding?”

“End of June,” she answered, swallowing hard, as if it hurt to talk.   

“Months away, come on. Promise, I won’t bite and tell,” he urged.

“Go, Bailey, have fun while you can,” Sage tempted, laughing.

“Or, call things off before it’s too late,” her sister remarked.

“You’re just equating every man with Steve.”

“This has nothing to do with the biggest mistake of my life.”

“I’d think dating him after what he did to our brother should’ve been a clue.”

“Ouch! I loved him as much as you did.”

“I’ll join you, Azrael,” Sage offered, mainly to ease the sudden tension between the two sisters.  

Uncertain if he’d heard her speak up, she jumped when his gloved hand caught her wrist. Bringing her to her feet, he halted when she paused to grab her cane. “You need that, honey?”

“No, just need a little stability,” she answered, relieved when he took her elbow as he led the way to the stage, his grip as stabilizing as her cane would’ve been.

The next thing she knew, they were front and center. The DJ spoke, again his voice familiar, the music turning dark, sultry, and wicked. The lighting overhead fading to red. Looking back at the dancer, she couldn’t help feeling a little nervous. The truth was, it’d been so long since she’d interacted with a man other than a friend and she kinda felt virginal.

The first song ended, the music merging to something trippy and electronic, her focus on Azrael, who only had to crook his finger once to get her moving to a contraption that looked like a medieval torture device.

Out of nowhere, he produced a length of red rope, came closer, and spoke in her ear. “You up for a little fun?”

“Good to go,” she said.

He waited a moment longer, then proceeded to bend her over the contraption and bind her wrists to a pair of restraints already in place. Having spent enough time in community theater to recognize how easily she could get out of her predicament, she went with it, enjoying her moment in the spotlight.

The crowd grew wild when his cloak came off, the bullwhip sailing this way and that, never once striking her. Little by little, with the snap of the whip’s tail, Azrael’s clothing was coming off, boots, a belt, leathers, a shirt, finally a red mask. It took a second to realize why. Oh, my goodness, Azrael was giving her a view of a bite-worthy ass exposed by a barely-there G-string.

Then he turned around and she felt her mouth drop open. The man was ripped, bare of body hair, and glistening with body oil. Holy archangel, given the significant bulge behind a triangle of black leather, he was either stuffed with a couple pairs of socks or hung like a horse.

Buy Links:

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B083FLTYHC

B&N: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/good-girl-gone-bad-frances-stockton/1135918223?ean=2940163903221

Itunes: https://books.apple.com/us/book/id1493449940

Any other retailers and links: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/good-girl-gone-bad-17

AUTHOR BIO

My love for storytelling began when I created my first fictional characters in kindergarten, convincing my family and friends that Red Henry and Green Henry were identical twin brothers in my school. They were mischievous, rarely did their homework, and even had girlfriends! Years later, I started to write, completing my first manuscript in middle school. I confess the heroine was a cross between a contemporary Laura Ingalls Wilder and Nancy Drew, who’d been dating one of the Hardy Boys, but when I wrote “the end” I’d known I had more stories to tell. 

To learn more about me, my books, and what’s coming next, check out my new website and blog: https://francesstocktonauthor.com/

Author Social Media links:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/francesmstockton

Website: https://francesstocktonauthor.com/

Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/francesstockton

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

Giveaway

Enter to win a $20 Amazon Gift Card

Rafflecopter: http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/f72363ce210/?

presented by:

WLK Book Promotions

Good Girl Gone Bad Release Blitz!

Fair warning, my friends and readers, a promo blitz for Good Girl Gone Bad is coming soon! While I’d always intended to release this book after the New Year, life, mom, writing, the Holidays, and travel kept me a bit busy. At the end of the month, you’ll likely see blog posts featuring my latest Romantic Suspense, as well as a couple of giveaways! So stay tuned and check out an excerpt below!

As such, I thought I’d share a couple of links: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/good-girl-gone-bad-17

https://books.apple.com/us/book/id1493449940

April—Brandt Security—Front Royal, Virginia

Sitting at a conference table waiting for her aunt, Sage tried to figure out what she could’ve done differently the night she’d gone to a male strip club with her friends.

Maybe she could put the blame on too many Fireballs. Or worry over Bailey and Gretchen seeming to be at odds.

She knew better. Everything about that night had been her choice, from how many drinks she’d had to going on stage with a male stripper. But she never once thought someone would make a video of her one and only fifteen minutes of fame with Azrael, much less that it’d go viral on social media, or anticipate the ramifications that followed.

Credit card numbers stolen, her online presence, though limited, completely overtaken by lies, and creating some sort of sick fan who’d begun to plague her real life, threatening the security of her students. A few nights ago, her landline kept ringing in her apartment. Upon turning it off, her smartphone began going off, the ringtones reminiscent of what’d been playing when she’d been onstage.

Of course, she called the police after every incident. They’d taken her statements, advised changing her phone numbers, and promised patrols in her area. It wasn’t that the cops didn’t care. They did and they’d kept their word. She just felt that it was time to reclaim control over her situation that could affect her work as a teacher and anything she wanted to do in the future.

Even so, she didn’t regret going to Baltimore. For a weekend, she’d been able to get away from the responsible image she’d perfected since she’d woken up in a hospital bed, broken and torn and ill, only to discover she’d been the sole survivor of a terrible accident.

Now, here she was sitting in a conference room waiting for Aunt Sara to return from the meeting she’d been in with her boss, retired Colonel Daniel Brandt. Thirty minutes ago, there’d been some commotion out in the main office, the deep, dark, intriguing voice of a man causing her to take notice.

Unfortunately, she never saw who it was and was disappointed when things quieted down. It was possible he’d gone into the meeting, which meant he likely worked for Brandt Security.

What were they discussing, anyway? Her case, if she had one? How long should she sit here doing nothing? The longer she did, the harder it was not to get angry. That’s what she wanted, to get mad and punch the videographer in the face.

Good Girl Gone Bad! That’s what the five-minute video had been titled.

Ha! Nothing could be further from the truth. Those minutes on stage with Azrael had been the closest she’d come to having a sex life since she’d moved to Alexandria, Virginia and started teaching at Hollingsworth five years ago.

Deciding to walk around, she pushed away from the gargantuan oval table and stood. Soon as she did, a cramp twisted her calf muscle, the pain, unrelenting.

Reaching for her cane, she groaned when it crashed onto the floor, along with her chair. Unsure how that happened, she was about to call for help when something changed behind her, a shimmer of awareness telling her that she was no longer alone.

Keeping one hand on the table, she turned, discovering a man standing in the doorway. For a moment, she thought he was a product of her nighttime fantasies. Gorgeous long raven-black hair was swept back in a ponytail, revealing chiseled features that might’ve been carved by gods. Mercy, if Hollywood or a modeling agency signed him, she’d see any movie or buy every magazine he was a part of.

The cut of his suit was impeccable, the splash of pewter beneath the dark gray suit coat fashionable. Despite the polish, everything in her warned he was a certified bad boy who’d be comfortable in jeans, leather, or nothing at all. Yes, please, to the latter. 

“Umm, hi, I’m Sage. I’m waiting for my Aunt Sara and Uncle Reed. We’re supposed to have lunch,” she said in a nervous rush, heat flooding her cheeks, her heartbeat doing a crazy little two-step. Whoa, he was a thousand times hotter than any stripper she’d encountered a month ago, including Azrael who’d only left her red blouse stained by body oil.

“I know who you are, Sage Grayson,” he replied, his dark, silken voice matching the one she’d heard a short time ago. Lifting her gaze, she stared into eyes so startling green they could’ve been emeralds.

“You do?”   

“Even if I hadn’t been called in to help you, I’d know. You resemble Sara. May I?”

Confused, she frowned, shaking her head. “I’m sorry?”

“May I approach? Promise, I’m one of the good guys.”

“Ah, sure. You seem to belong here more than I do.”

“I tend to work at Brandt Security’s satellite office in Baltimore. Couple times a month, I come to Front Royal for meetings or specific cases such as yours.”

Breaking away from the doorjamb, he walked toward her with the grace of a jaguar, telling her that he could be as dangerous as one if riled. Just the same, she showed no fear, for there was none.

“What’s your name?”

“Kristian Rodriquez and I’m your detail for the foreseeable future.”


Good Girl Gone Bad

Good Morning and Happy New Year! It’s been a busy Holiday Season featuring travel, studying, and preparing for a New Release! That’s right. I’ve a brand new release available now from Amazon, Nook, Kobo, and Apple Books, as well as library and subscription services. Below is a convenient link to Amazon.

Here’s a little about Good Girl Gone Bad!

Good Girl Gone Bad

Brandt’s Dozen: Book Two

Sage Grayson’s world is torn apart when a video of her getting wild with a stripper during a bachelorette party goes viral. Needing help, she turns to her aunt, who enlists former Navy SEAL Kristian Rodriquez to be her bodyguard.

Finding him sexy-as-sin, she intends to remain professional, though it isn’t long before their attraction ignites temptation. After a stalker’s obsession with Sage’s traumatic past is revealed, Kristian realizes her life is in danger and takes her into protective custody.

At a remote cabin in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Kristian and Sage unburden their souls, falling in love. When their location is compromised, it’ll require a team of former Special Ops soldiers and detectives to stop a killer before it’s too late.

Author’s Note: Be advised that the heroine in this story is the survivor of sexual assault and certain situations, memories, and elements may be difficult to read.

How about an excerpt!

One

March—Reigning Men All Male Revue—Baltimore

“To a weekend with no rules!” Sage shouted to overcome the pounding music and catcalls all around the club.

Downing a Fireball, the cinnamon-hot whiskey scorched a trail straight to her gut, giving her courage to whistle as loudly as the other women enjoying the six gorgeous men costumed as legendary heroes throughout history, their choreography candid and erotic.

In truth, the strip club was a blast. But, for Sage, it was less about gorgeous male dancers and more about seeing her best friend having fun. Whether it was the stress of planning a wedding, taking law classes, or the down payment on a house, Bailey hadn’t laughed or smiled in months. 

“Enjoying yourself, Bailey?” Sage asked, leaning close enough to be heard over the music.

“Are you kidding? The dancers are hot and I’m crushing on the one dressed as Sir Galahad.”

“Just remember, tomorrow, we’re going to a spa, then shopping. Tonight, we get to play.”

“Amen!” Bailey agreed, raising her glass high in the air. Joining her, Sage clinked her glass and downed the shot that reminded her of the cinnamon hot candy she’d loved as a kid.

Two shots later, Sage couldn’t help but wonder if something was wrong. Bailey still looked unhappy.

“Bailey, are you sure you’re alright? If you’re having doubts about the wedding, don’t hesitate to speak up. You know I’ll support you, so will Gretchen and your parents.” 

“We’ll talk when I don’t have to shout,” Bailey promised.

Sage would have said more but the music went quiet, a spotlight centered on the main stage, a red rose in the center of the circle of white cast on the black curtain. At some point the six dancers had gone to side stages set up strategically about the room.

From out of nowhere, their waiter appeared to cap off their drinks or refill shot glasses. They’d paid for the VIP treatment, gaining the best view of the stage and the waiter was adorable with his nerdy glasses and babyface looks.

“Ladies, who’s ready to play with our resident fallen angel, Azrael, who can tempt anyone to sin,” an unseen DJ enticed, his voice familiar as a blast from the past, the lighting going dark as a red spotlight centered on a black velvet curtain.

The sudden appearance of a longhaired masked man with black angel wings and black leather pants that left nothing to the imagination caused Sage to gasp. Whoa! Azrael was hotter than any of the strippers she’d seen so far. And, boy, there was something about him that called to her inner bad girl.

Gretchen Thomas whistled and poured another round. Sage downed hers in a single gulp, the cinnamon heat working its magic. Bailey, who wore a white tee shirt that read bachelorette #1 and a tiara on her head, did the same and they shared a playful smile.

Music kicked up even louder, the women got rowdier, and Azrael hadn’t even done more than handing out roses he’d managed to produce out of thin air to those who’d been fortunate enough to surround the stage. Obviously, the dancer was trained in magic, but the twenties and fifties in the women’s hands suggested it was no illusion as to why they’d bypassed the plethora of bouncers.

Sage suddenly found herself leaning forward when Azrael’s wings morphed into a long black cloak with red lining, his roses replaced with a red bullwhip secured to his belt, and a red mask covered his eyes. Holy cow, red was her favorite color! Could this night get any better? She hoped so. And, hey, she’d found the perfect red velvet dress that made her feel both pretty and a little bit like a vampire due to the flow of the handkerchief hem about her calves.

“I think the angel is a vampire in disguise,” Bailey shouted.

“Or a Dom, hell, I’d let him tie me up if given the chance,” Sage responded, causing Bailey’s bridal party to laugh out loud and down another round of Fireballs. When they’d been refilled, she couldn’t say, though this time she suspected it was their adorable twenty-something server who wore a tux, suspenders, and a dapper bowtie.

Drawn back to the stage, Sage realized something had changed. Oh no, Azrael was leaving his post…and coming straight for the VIP table.

“Whose naughty enough to come up on stage with me?” Azrael asked them. “The bride-to-be?”

“Oh no, my fiancé wouldn’t like it,” Bailey denied, shaking her head.

“Come on, when’s the wedding?”

“End of June,” she answered, swallowing hard, as if it hurt to talk.  

“Months away, come on. Promise, I won’t bite and tell,” he urged.

“Go, Bailey, have fun while you can,” Sage tempted, laughing.

“Or, call things off before it’s too late,” her sister remarked.

“You’re just equating every man with Steve.”

“This has nothing to do with the biggest mistake of my life.”

“I’d think dating him after what he did to our brother should’ve been a clue.”

“Ouch! I loved him as much as you did.”

“I’ll join you, Azrael,” Sage offered, mainly to ease the sudden tension between the two sisters. 

Uncertain if he’d heard her speak up, she jumped when his gloved hand caught her wrist. Bringing her to her feet, he halted when she paused to grab her cane. “You need that, honey?”

“No, just need a little stability,” she answered, relieved when he took her elbow as he led the way to the stage, his grip as stabilizing as her cane would’ve been.

The next thing she knew, they were front and center. The DJ spoke, again his voice familiar, the music turning dark, sultry, and wicked. The lighting overhead fading to red. Looking back at the dancer, she couldn’t help feeling a little nervous. The truth was, it’d been so long since she’d interacted with a man other than a friend and she kinda felt virginal.

The first song ended, the music merging to something trippy and electronic, her focus on Azrael, who only had to crook his finger once to get her moving to a contraption that looked like a medieval torture device.

Out of nowhere, he produced a length of red rope, came closer, and spoke in her ear. “You up for a little fun?”

“Good to go,” she said.

He waited a moment longer, then proceeded to bend her over the contraption and bind her wrists to a pair of restraints already in place. Having spent enough time in community theater to recognize how easily she could get out of her predicament, she went with it, enjoying her moment in the spotlight.

Quarterback Blitz, Available Now!

I’m so excited! One of my favorite books, first published by Ellora’s Cave, is available at Amazon and Kobo, with more vendors, from Nook to iBooks, coming soon. To celebrate, I thought I’d give readers a peak into Anna and Kyran’s romance. Please keep in mind, this book has been substantially rewritten, re-imagined, and revamped, with additional chapters, scenes, stakes, and launches a three-book series featuring professional football players and the Alexandria Griffins.

Check out a blurb:

All Anna James wants for her fortieth birthday is a ladies’ night out, her plans stalled when she ends up stuck in her griffin costume. As the mascot for the Alexandria Griffins, she never expects to be rescued by the star of her midnight fantasies, quarterback Kyran Black. Dubbed “The Rebel” by the press because of his long hair, tattoos, and playboy stats off the field, he’s everything she should avoid…but still craves and Anna agrees to celebrate her birthday with him.

Certain she’s too old for him, she intends to guard her heart, but he blitzes her defenses, proving to be so much more than a legendary athlete with a media-driven reputation. But when their romantic weekend evolves into love, a blast from his bad boy past returns with a vengeance, threatening to tear their worlds apart.

Can their love overcome the pressures of living in the spotlight, or will they lose the future they’ve only begun to build?

Excerpt with a hint of mystery:

Checking his phone, he noticed a text from Dallas letting him know the coast was clear. Good, one less thing to worry about. Sending a text asking his friend to bring his duffel bag to the hallway outside the women’s locker room, he hoped he wouldn’t need to go into an explanation. When he got an okay emoji in response, he relaxed and put the phone next to Anna’s purse.

He’d just withdrawn his hand when a terrible scream sent him running toward the shower room that wasn’t much different than the men’s.

“Anna,” he called out over the sound of water, steam flooding the whole room, her yips and yelps making his heart race like a jackrabbit. Sliding to a halt when he reached the last stall, he slid open the curtain only to panic when he realized he couldn’t even see her.

“No, don’t come in here. It’s too hot and I can’t reach the faucet to shut off the water.”

“Fuck that,” he growled, charging forward, the water pelting his shoulders making him hiss. “Shit!”

At last, he found the knob, requiring three turns before the water shut off. Waving at the steam, he found Anna sitting in the corner of the stall, hugging herself, her head bowed, the skin on her shoulders bright pink. Hating to see her that way, he sat down next to her, his back against the wall, his knees bent.

“Go home, Kyran, I’m sure you’ve a thousand things to do after a game.”

“The only thing I need to take care of right now is you,” he assured, meaning it. “Can I get you anything, first aid cream, aloe? I’m an excellent masseuse.”

“That’s kind of you, but unnecessary. It was weird, you know? The warm water suddenly went cold and when I tried to turn the knob, it became way too hot and I panicked. I’m sorry to have frightened you.”

“That is weird and I’m going to take it up with stadium management ASAP. That should not happen, Anna.”

“You can’t do that.”

“Why not?”

“Because they’ll ask how you knew about the hot water mix up.”

“Trust me, I can inform them of the fault in the plumbing without bringing your name into it. I sure as hell can’t let anyone else use this shower until it’s been checked. Come on, let me see if you’ve been burned.”

“Um, I’m naked.”

“That’s okay, most people take showers without clothes on.”

“And, there’s still shampoo in my hair. This was the last straw in a day from hell and all I want is to curl up in bed, watch a movie that’ll make me cry, and eat a gallon of rocky road ice cream,” she grumbled, her panicked breaths muffled when she dropped her head onto her forearm and cried.

“Don’t cry. Please don’t, that’ll kill me,” he urged, getting nowhere. Didn’t matter that his ass was sitting in water that was still too hot for comfort. All he could do was turn to her, take her elbow and tug, next thing he knew, she’d crawled onto his lap, snuggling up against him. God have mercy, she was the sweetest thing he’d ever known, felt. His need for her more than physical, it was down deep, refusing to let him so much as look at another woman since they’d met.

Coming Soon: Quarterback Blitz!

I’m excited to announce a new, well, a reissue of one of my favorite and well-received books with Ellora’s Cave Publishing. In truth, this version has been heavily revised, re-written, and re-imagined, with new scenes, chapters, but is just as hot, spicy, and adventurous as the original, with a slightly different naughtily ever after ending. As such, I’d love to share the cover with my readers and give a taste of what’s to come!

Here’s a sneak peek!

All Anna James wants for her fortieth birthday is a ladies’ night out, her plans stalled when she ends up stuck in her griffin costume. As the mascot for the Alexandria Griffins, she never expects to be rescued by the star of her midnight fantasies, quarterback Kyran Black. Dubbed “The Rebel” by the press because of his long hair, tattoos, and playboy stats off the field, he’s everything she should avoid…but still craves and Anna agrees to celebrate her birthday with him.

Certain she’s too old for him, she intends to guard her heart, but he blitzes her defenses, proving to be so much more than a legendary athlete with a media-driven reputation. But when their romantic weekend evolves into love, a blast from his bad boy past returns with a vengeance, threatening to tear their worlds apart.

Can their love overcome the pressures of living in the spotlight, or will they lose the future they’ve only begun to build?

Enjoy an excerpt from Quarterback Blitz:

Anna’s zipper was stuck!

“Dammit, why tonight of all nights?” she asked herself, wishing she’d had one of the cheerleaders unzip the back of the comical-looking mascot’s costume before they’d left. 

Unwilling to give up, she tried one more time to free herself, succeeding only in contorting herself into a pretzel. Fortunately, the eagle’s head and wings were already off, giving her some relief. But, what she needed was freedom, a shower, and the little black dress hanging in her locker.

Realizing she needed help, she headed out of her private changing nook, only to draw up short when someone knocked on the door. Hurrying forward on the chance that one of the cheerleaders returned without her keycard, she opened the door, the tall, dark man of her dreams charging inside the locker room instead.

Not just any man. Kyran Black. The legendary quarterback with a once infamous bad boy reputation signed as the backup and mentor to the franchised QB for the Alexandria Griffins.  

“Hi, Anna, was hoping to find you tonight,” he said, flashing his devil-may-care smile. His clean-shaven, chiseled features sexier by the crooked scar that ran down the left side of his chin. On their one and only date, he’d told her he’d taken a deliberate cleat to the face in college, resulting in a fight that had both players ejected. 

Trying not to concentrate on the past, she couldn’t help but look him over, if only to check for new scars or damage since she’d seen him take a terrible hit that ended his season last winter.

No, he looked good. Better than good, he looked sexy, edible, and way too young for her with his damp dark auburn hair falling to his broad bare shoulders. Celtic tattoos wrapped about his massive biceps, an LSU tiger on his chest, along with more scrollwork along his ribs and eight-pack abs, looked delicious. A peek of the deep vee of his obliques tempting her to drool. Man, why did he have to look like sex on a stick when she felt like an icky, tangled mop.

“Anna? Are you okay?” 

“I’m fine. You sure you’re not looking for one of the cheerleaders?” she asked, skeptical that he was there to see her.

“If I was interested in someone else, that’s where I’d be. Can I stay or not?”   

Realizing she’d crossed her arms over her chest, she relaxed a little, lowering her hands to her sides. “If I say not, will you leave?”

“Yes. Promise, I’m here to talk, that’s it,” he replied, leaning back against the door, his thumbs hooked in the pockets of his faded button-fly jeans. 

“Then my permission depends on why you didn’t bother to put on a shirt.” Hell, he did look great, and those jeans with the top button undone and tears in all the right places made her imagine all kinds of wicked things.

“A reporter charged into the team’s locker room with a smartphone in hand. Was barely out of my towel before she tried to track me down at my locker to ask how I felt about tonight’s loss.”

“Ouch,” she replied, empathizing with him, the football coach inside of her wanting to talk about the game. The woman in her wanting to know why he didn’t call her after their date. “How’d you get away?”

“Dallas McKay covered for me. He’s bigger and better looking, or so his fans say.”

Not to her. Then again, she’d always had a soft spot for quarterbacks over wide outs.

“Tonight’s outcome sucks, but it’s the first game of the pre-season and you led a two-minute drill in the fourth quarter that took the game into OT. The defense gave up a big play at the end, not you.”

“Thanks. Truth is, except for that drive, I’d had a bad night. Last thing I needed to deal with is another reporter asking if I’ve still got it.”

“You do. Listen, if you give it a few minutes, the captains will give interviews in the press room and you’ll be able to return to the team’s locker room in peace.”

“Rather talk to you,” Kyran said, his intense blue eyes on her face. “Isn’t that costume hot?”

“Yes. The zipper’s stuck. Think you could give me a hand?”