Cover Reveal Goodness

If you weren’t able to join us for the cover reveal party on Wednesday the 18th of March, you are in luck. I have the cover here for your perusal! If you were unable to join and are bummed you missed out on winning possible prizes like gift cards and coffee and tea and books galore, fear not, for on April 1st, we are going to have another smashing party on facebook for our release day! You can join us there: Beaux, Ballrooms, and Battles Release Day Party

One of the most exciting and anticipated moments of an author’s writing experience comes when that book cover arrives in the in-box. I have had this great experience many times now. A few of my covers have made me feel ecstatic and thrilled. A few of my covers came with a smidgen of disappointment.  As you write the story, things form in your mind’s eye and you begin to see the world, the backdrop and the people of your creation. Sometimes it is hard to convey that to a cover artist. Other times you don’t even get a say in what the book cover will look like.

I am super picky about historical covers. I do not really like it when a Regency heroine is wearing a gown my daughter bought at Charlotte Russe and would wear to prom–providing that it isn’t the daughter who is into the vintage look and found a Regency type gown that she up-cycled. If the hero is on the cover and he’s wearing a Victorian tie with a Windsor knot, I am going to quirk an eyebrow and wonder what inspired that selection. (But, I will keep my mouth shut because I know what goes into cover art design and trying to get the perfect feel can be a near impossible thing.)

Thankfully, the cover art for Beaux, Ballrooms and Battles is simply gorgeous!

First: It looks like a painting that was done by a Regency artist.

Second: It includes the background of an authentic painting by a British artist. (Alas, the artist Robert Alexander Hillgford was Victorian!)

Third: The colors are just so reminiscent of war, with the smudges of grey and mauve.

Fourth: The hero is a soldier and his visage is so utterly Regency.

Fifth: The font. It is sweeping. It is swirly. It is clear and concise.

I am so very proud of this cover and the anthology it represents.

Isn’t is stunning?

#LoveatWaterloo

Beax, Ballrooms and Battles

 

 

Waterloo-palooza!!

There is something exciting about having a stunning book cover and keeping it under wraps until there is a big party to celebrate the unveiling. Well, that’s just what we decided to do for our upcoming Waterloo-themed anthology releasing on April 1, 2015.

Our party will be held on Facebook. You can join it here: Beaux, Ballrooms and Battles Cover Release Party

There will be prizes, many many shiny fun prizes. For five extra entries check out this link: Rafflecopter extra entries

And here is a teeny glimpse of of the cover scheme:

portrait

Beaux, Ballrooms, and Battles
For Readers who enjoy a bit of history with their Romance…

A historic confrontation

Beaux, Ballrooms, and Battles is a celebration of the bicentenary of the showdown between Wellington’s “Infamous Army” and Napoleon’s Grande Armée. Wellington’s Allied Army consisted of a hastily organized mélange of inexperienced men from several countries who didn’t even speak the same language.

A backdrop of war

While life in Regency England continued much as it had been, the war with Napoleon was a constant source of preoccupation as young men who eagerly set off to become heroes in battle sometimes returned with life-changing injuries or worse, didn’t return at all.

Nine stories of love tested by the trials of war

A collection of sweet Regency stories of courage, hope, and the miracle of love surviving in uncertain times, brought to you by nine distinguished historical romance authors.

Jillian Chantal • Téa Cooper • Susana Ellis • Aileen Fish • Victoria Hinshaw • Heather King • Christa Paige • Sophia Strathmore • David Wilkin

My story is called One Last Kiss.

Courtesy of Flickr

War is coming and Colin is ready for it, except when he thinks about the possibility that he could well and truly die without ever kissing Miss Beatrice Ainsley. When a horrible tragedy happens on the battlefield, Wellington entrusts him with a great obligation. Colin must turn to his duties, putting aside all thought of the woman who has plagued his dreams and driven him to distraction.
Beatrice has lived the simple life as the ward of her uncle, a powerful titled lord. She’s watched from afar as her cousins lived the high life. Napoleon’s unexpected advance interrupts her idle pursuits and the devilish Lieutenant-colonel Sir Colin Scoville’s departure brings great upheaval.
Amidst the horrors of battle and the ensuing turmoil, Colin and Beatrice long to be reunited. Yet, Colin must journey to Charleroi and an uncertain future upon the battlefield. He promises to come back to her.
She holds onto his promise to return.
He must… because he took her heart with him to Waterloo.

Here is a sneak peak of each story:

Jillian Chantal: Jeremiah’s Charge

Emmaline Rothesay has her eye on Jeremiah Denby as a potential suitor. When Captain Denby experiences a life-altering incident during the course of events surrounding the Battle of Waterloo, it throws a damper on Emmaline’s plans.

Téa Cooper: The Caper Merchant

The moon in Gemini is a fertile field of dreams, ideas and adventure and Pandora Wellingham is more than ready to spread her wings. When Monsieur Cagneaux, caper merchant to the rich and famous, introduces her to the handsome dragoon she believes her stars have aligned.

Susana Ellis: Lost and Found Lady

Catalina and Rupert fell in love in Spain in the aftermath of a battle, only to be separated by circumstances. Years later, they find each other again, just as another battle is brewing, but is it too late?

Aileen Fish: Captain Lumley’s Angel

Charged with the duty of keeping his friend’s widow safe, Captain Sam Lumley watches over Ellen Staverton as she recovers from her loss, growing fonder of her as each month passes. When Ellen takes a position as a companion, Sam must confront his feelings before she’s completely gone from his life.

Victoria Hinshaw: Folie Bleue

On the night of the 30th Anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo, Aimée, Lady Prescott, reminisces about meeting her husband in Bruxelles on the eve of the fighting. She had avoided the dashing scarlet-clad British officers, but she could not resist the tempting smile and spellbinding charm of Captain Robert Prescott of the 16th Light Dragoons who—dangerously to Aimée—wore blue.

Heather King: Copenhagen’s Last Charge

When Meg Lacy finds herself riding through the streets of Brussels only hours after the Battle of Waterloo, romance is the last thing on her mind, especially with surly Lieutenant James Cooper. However, their bickering uncovers a strange empathy—until, that is, the lieutenant makes a grave error of judgment that jeopardizes their budding friendship…

Christa Paige: One Last Kiss

The moment Colin held Beatrice in his arms he wanted one last kiss to take with him into battle and an uncertain future. Despite the threat of a soldier’s death, he must survive, for he promises to return to her because one kiss from Beatrice would never be enough.

Sophia Strathmore: A Soldier Lay Dying

Amelia and Anne Evans find themselves orphaned when their father, General Evans, dies. With no other options available, Amelia accepts the deathbed proposal of Oliver Brighton, Earl of Montford, a long time family friend. When Lord Montford recovers from his battle wounds, can the two find lasting love?

David W. Wilkin: Not a Close Run Thing at All

Years, a decade. And now, Robert had come back into her life. Shortly before battle was to bring together more than three hundred thousand soldiers. They had but moments after all those years, and now, would they have any more after?

As you can see, there are going to be some awesome people joining the party. All of the authors in the anthology will be hosting at various times and there are many fantastic guests coming too.

And, there are going to be a plethora of prizes. There are individual prizes and a huge grand prize too.

I hope you will join me at 12:30 pm EST as I talk about fun facts of Waterloo. It will be a little bit like Sheldon and Amy’s Fun With Flags but not really about flags and more about well Waterloo.

Christa

 

 

 

 

Release Day: Cue the mistletoe and merry making!

Today, my second sweet Regency novella, co-written by the lovely and talented Vivien Jackson, has been released into the wild. It features a plethora of yuletide scheming which can be summed up nicely like this:

The 12 tidbits of A Christmas Scheme

In the 12 tidbits of A Christmas Scheme, you are in for these treats: (Feel free to hum along in the tune of the 12 Days of Christmas!)

12 Language lessons

11 Nursery knickknacks

10 Snowflakes a-snowing

9 Christmas traditions

8 Sweet meats a-cooking

7 Charades a-crafting

6 Diners a -dining

5 Se-cret schemes

4 Innuendos

3 Notes of import

2 Lonely lovers

And

A Foreign lord from Ben-ga–li

(Just a note, there may or may not be an exact amount of each of these tidbits, I did not in fact count them for accuracy!)

A Christmas Scheme

A Christmas Scheme

Blurb:

With her brother’s recent marriage to the daughter of an earl, Kate Avery is no longer needed to keep his house or look after their younger sister. She’s free. But for what? Secretly she wishes for purpose and adventure, but finding it seems unlikely. Then her brother arrives home from London just in time for Christmas…with an exotic and mysterious visitor.

A displaced Bengali lord, Kiran now serves the British Crown in a covert capacity. He’s been charged to deliver a secret message to the Earl of Withering at his country estate. He feels out of place in this very English home and is eager to leave until he meets Kate, who shares his desire for adventure.

Kate and Kiran must choose between the loyalties they have long held and the unexpected affection that blooms between them.

(Technically, this is a sequel to A Christmas Caroline, but you don’t need to have read that one first!)

Available: Amazon | Ellora’s Cave | All Romance eBooks | Nook |

Christmas Traditions: Caroline

A Christmas CarolineThe second short story released in the Christmas Traditions Cotillion from Ellora’s Cave is my very own story, co-written with the stellar Vivien Jackson: A Christmas Caroline.

Writing this story was an incredible adventure that took us on a research journey that often had us excited by new and unique discoveries from the Regency period during Christmas.

Blush sensuality level: This is a sweet romance (kisses only, no sexual content).

Lady Caroline Selwyn’s world centers on her father, so when she receives dire news of his health—two days before Christmas, no less—her first thought is to weep. Her second is to make this Christmastide the best he’s ever known. She rummages in memory for festive traditions, plans charades, purchases bean cakes…and acquires an affianced husband. Oh, not a real one—what she does is convince Papa’s physician to pretend an engagement, for just a few weeks.

Doctor Samuel Avery can hardly credit his complicity in this madcap deception. Whatever was he thinking? But it does seem to improve the comfort of the earl, and his own sisters are in alt at the idea of his impending nuptials. And he has admired Caroline for so long, the role of her betrothed is easy to play. In fact, the scheme seems in every way perfect. Except that it is not true.

A Blush® Regency romance from Ellora’s Cave

Available now: Ellora’s Cave | Amazon | All Romance e-Books

Glad Tidings of Comfort and Joy!

Does that sound a bit like a Christmas Carol? Can you imagine holly and ribbons decorating the halls? There is holiday excitement in the crisp fall air and it is only October. But, we have early Christmas treats to share with you. Starting now, each week Ellora’s Cave is releasing a Regency Christmas novella culminating in the release of two Christmas Traditions Anthologies which I am so privileged to be a part of. Next week I will feature my new release, co-written with the lovely Vivien Jackson, A Christmas Caroline. Today though, I bring you the very first of the Blush Cotillion Christmas Traditions novellas.

TwelveDays of Christmas cover Twelve Days of Christmas
Barbara Miller

A Blush® romance from Ellora’s Cave

Tamara Gifford gets herself invited to Oakley Hall for Christmas to rescue her brother from the reportedly depraved Lord Oakley. When she arrives she discovers that Ashford Steel is a former soldier trying to adjust to governing an estate. He is happy to have his mother and Tamara for company since his brother is supposed to be spending the holiday at Tamara’s house in London.
Though they are both angry at the deception of their brothers they enjoy banding together to find them while Ashford tries to remember the tradition of what Lord Oakley is supposed to do on the Twelve Days of Christmas.
Tamara gives him sound advice about how to go forward with his life rather than looking back. In return he helps her to see that she must make a life for herself and let her brother go. After they locate the young men and rescue them, Tamara agrees to marry Ashford, but what her brother wants to do with the rest of his life could tear apart their hard won love.

Congratulations Barbara Miller on your new release.

Coming Soon: Bound By Obsession

My third paranormal romance in the Blood-Vine series is due to release very soon. I wanted to share the cover art, done by the most talented April Martinez, the blurb and an excerpt from Chapter One.

So, without further ado, here is your first taste of Traian Komar in Bound By Obsession.

In his long life, Traian Komar has managed to escape the mating noose. Being bound forever to a female isn’t anything he’s ready for. However, when he runs into Bethany, a woman from his past, every bonding instinct within him surges to life. Bethany’s the one who got away and he’s never forgotten her. Traian’s sudden obsession with her is all-consuming. But, he can’t do a damned thing about it. Dr. Bethany Miles is a mere mortal, and Kan Asma aristocrats are forbidden to mate with humans.

 For several long years, Bethany, a child psychologist, has devoted her life to her work. When a request for an appointment with an adult comes in, she’s ready to refer the case to her colleague … until she notices the patient’s name, Traian Komar. Beset by memories, Bethany agrees to see him. When he shows up, she doesn’t count on the passion he awakens within her.

The moment they’re face-to-face only intensifies the burning lust they’d always resisted. This time, Traian doesn’t hold back. His lack of restraint turns both their lives upside down and uncovers secrets that could jeopardize their growing bond. Because of his refusal to conform to his people’s traditions, Traian risks losing Bethany and any hope they have for love. He must conquer the threat to their mating and find a way to make her his … forever.

 

And now an excerpt:

Chapter One

Traian’s hunger propelled his long steps and brought him closer to his destination. Beside him, Tray’s brother, Mikhail, matched the quick pace, keeping up with his typical swagger. They rounded the corner and automatically slowed down. The floor-to-ceiling glass windowpanes of the storefront caught their reflections. Tray didn’t need the reminder that they stood out with their tall height and muscular builds. The differences between them were stark. Mikhail was the thick-necked, dark-haired one. Tray looked more lean and fair with shoulder length blond hair. Mikhail reached out to open the door. Tray entered first and came to stand in the back of the busy room. Mikhail followed him a second later.

“It’s a benefit to us that California has such early sunsets in winter,” Traian said as he turned to face Mikhail. Tray had been looking forward to this meal all afternoon. Sundown couldn’t come fast enough.

“True, it’s a fortunate advantage for a hungry vampire.” Mikhail smirked, showing the slightest hint of sharp fang tips.

“We’ve definitely come to the right place. I see plenty of options that’ll hit the spot.” Tray bit down into his lower lip, flashing Mikhail a bemused look.

“That particular one would be enough to satisfy even my cultured palate.” Mikhail lifted his finger and pointed across the space, indicating just what he wanted to dine on.

“Only you, kardes, would indulge in such a pig-out.” With a chuckle, Traian reached over and smacked his brother on the shoulder. “Better watch the calories; you might end up with a bit of pudge around your gut.”

Sniffing derisively, Mikhail quirked an eyebrow and cocked his head to the side. “Well, I already know what you’re pigging out on, and I’d like to warn you against such a mistake. All carb, no protein… Really, brother, how do you intend to keep that girlie shape you’re sporting?”

“By kicking your scrawny ass,” Tray flashed a wicked smile before stepping forward. He cocked his head over his shoulder and muttered jubilantly, “Looks like I’m going first.”

Mikhail only swore in Turkish and shoved his brother before saying, “Well, hurry your bony butt up, I’m starving here.”

Tray shrugged and ignored Mikhail. He turned his full attention frontward and met the bored look of a young, college-aged girl. Mousy features framed by multi-hued hair, in varying lengths, showed off the oval shape of her face. A silver barb, pierced through her upper lip, muted the sweet innocence of her youth, a bit. When she noticed him, her pale gray eyes widened and she moistened her lower lip with the tip of her tongue. Yup, another piercing there, too. Before he’d moved near, she was slouched over and tuned out. One earbud, from her IPod, hung over her shoulder and the other fit in her ear. She straightened and yanked the headphone out. Tray leaned closer, crossing his arms over his chest. He watched her stare flick down, roving across the outlines of his torso, tracking over his rounded biceps.

Clearing his throat, he effectively redirected her attention back to his face. Her dreamy expression deepened and Tray almost rolled his eyes. “Ma’am?” he said, just to seem polite.

“Yes,” she replied rather breathlessly.

A nudge in his ribs made Tray flinch, “Hold your horses, youngling. He forced into his brother’s thoughts.

“Stop flirting with the human, I’m famished,” Mikhail replied tersely.

Fine, his own stomach growled in protest at his stalling, as well. Tray blinked and pulled back a bit. Time to sate one of his most basic needs: food.

She followed as far as she could but the thick slab of granite separating them prevented her from all out touching him. Tray rocked on his heels and lifted his gaze to fix on the far wall. “I would like two clubs on rye, with all the fixings. Add a side of that famous apple coleslaw, and peach cobbler. Also, two passion fruit iced teas. My brother here wants an egg salad on whole wheat, a large order of fries and the fresh fruit salad. As you can see, he is just as boring as his food choices. No sense of adventure, the poor bastard.”

The cashier dutifully entered each item into the register. When Tray rambled off Mikhail’s order, she focused directly behind Tray. Her smile grew almost flirty and that tongue came out again. This time, it brushed across her teeth while she appraised Tray’s brother.

“Hello there, doll.” Mikhail sidled alongside Tray. Mikhail’s cultured Russian accent deepened as he continued, “Is Tray here giving you a hard time? I could break his face with my fist, be your champion extraordinaire.”

The poor thing was dumbstruck. Her lips parted but nothing came out. Now, Tray indulged his urge and rolled his eyes. “Oh yeah, if he’s Prince Charming, then I must be the Big Bad Wolf.” He fake growled, hiding his fangs behind taut lips.

A quick flash twinkled in her eye at his statement. She tried to smother a laugh but it didn’t work. Tray noticed she diverted herself by plunking at the register keys, totaling their order.

“That’s gonna be twenty-two dollars, sir.”

Tray reviewed the sum and peeked at the menu board. After a quick calculation of each item, he grimaced. It didn’t add up. “I think you might be missing something,” he offered courteously.

She shook her head and stared at Mikhail. “His is on the house.”

Before he could utter a thing, Mikhail slapped Tray’s back and whooped with hilarity.

“Serves you right, big bro, a bit of chivalry goes a long way.” Mikhail swaggered to the dining area where he ass-planted it in a back booth. His big, soldier-like body took up the space of one bench.

Tray paid the total, tossed the change in a glass tip dish, and leaned against the partition. When their order was up, he grabbed the tray with their plates and sauntered over to join his brother. He set the food down with a hard clank and one of Mikhail’s melon slices fell off with a wet plop. Sliding onto the opposite bench, he scowled at Mikhail and said, “Who do you think you are? Cujo?”

Mikhail’s lips twisted in a paltry attempt to keep his amusement at bay.

Tray drummed his fingers on the tabletop, waiting for a reply. He hated having his back to the room. Even with heightened senses, he preferred to see danger coming at him. It gave him time to calculate his responses, to determine what he would do to the person posing the threat. And, it spared him the heebie-jeebies feeling that was presently crawling along his skin, prickling with gooseflesh. Tray hated the infernal sensation and would never again be caught unawares in any situation.

When he’d fled their village in Abkhazia, some twenty-odd years ago, it was only after several horrible weeks of agony and torture. He hadn’t been spared the suffering. Luckily, while he was trapped, his brothers effectively found a way to evacuate the survivors.

Tray had found them nearly a month later. His physical injuries limited his ability to move speedily. Despite his wounds, his mind was his greatest weakness. The atrocities he witnessed in the scientist’s lab scarred his soul in ways he never thought possible.

Lured by the lovely, Sascha, he’d been blinded by his growing hunger and never noticed her duplicity. She was his blood host, his Adak; he required her vein to sate his need, and her body to give him release. It had been a fulfilling relationship for many, many years. Until the bitch had betrayed him.

Before dawn, on the day of the invasion, she’d convinced him to let her tie his hands behind his back in a mock attempt at seduction. What male wasn’t up for a little bondage now and then? Traian shuddered. The memories of being ambushed from behind made his gut roil. Sascha knew his Híbe, the special talent of manipulating nerve endings, was no good to him as long as they restrained him. He was utterly powerless, like that damned Samson who was deceived by his lover Delilah. Tray had fought with every ounce of his strength but he couldn’t battle the drugs pumped into him. The massive elephant tranquilizer had effectively shut him down. He’d been unconscious through the brunt of the incursion.

And when he finally woke up, he was in hell.

“Those bastard quacks,” Mikhail sneered with a low growl. “It’s been almost three damn decades and your head is still scrambled, Bro.”

Tray realized he’d zoned out, totally ignoring Mikhail and the food sitting there waiting for him to dig in. Lifting his chin, he met his brother’s concerned stare. With an indifferent shrug, he picked up the first half of one sandwich. “Next time, I’ll just toss you on your ass so I can sit where I’m comfortable. That way, I can spare you my little traipse through memory-fucking lane.” 

Christa

Let’s Talk Romance Contest

If you haven’t seen the contest at The Romance Reviews then here is a little sneak peak:

They are holding a huge contest and one of my books is being offered as a prize. They have an exclusive excerpt available on the book’s page as well as some interesting facts regarding the story, that I would love to share with everyone.

They are having several fun posts, interesting author interviews and other promotions all the way until the end of August. Next week, they will be having the “Dark Side” theme. My dark secrets will be revealed on August 7th, in the afternoon. I know you are so curious to see what turned out to be my most embarrassing moment. I still blush at the memory!

If you head on over and decide to enter the contest, good luck!

Christa

Fourth of July Author Blog Hop!

Welcome to your next stop on the July 4th Independence Day tour bus.  You have arrived just in time for the fun and games to begin.

In honor of my Fourth of July holiday story, Star Spangled Kiss, I thought I would take a scene from the book and use pictures to play it out. Oh yes, I do have some delicious visuals for your enjoyment.

Now, onto the scene…

Tyler and Sophie are in the pool, it is getting a bit hot between them. Suddenly, it gets crowded and people are diving in. Turns out they are eagerly waiting for their annual pool-volleyball game to begin.

The first in are two of Tyler’s friends from Narcotics bureau, they are ready to kick-butt!

Tyler's Team

Next, we have Gavin, Tyler’s best-bud. He thinks he has a secret weapon to end Tyler’s winning streak.  (And it’s not the beers either!)

Gavin's Game

 This is Gabe, he is a firefighter. It’s his first time playing pool- volleyball. It’s okay though, he’s not Gavin’s secret weapon either.

Firefighter's love water too!

Firefighters like water too.

 Gavin has another cop on his team, and though he is as charming as his nickname, Romon aka Romeo, isn’t the one Gavin is keeping under wraps.

Romeo is ready to block Tyler's serve!

Ah, of course there is the cheer squad. Cassidy is Sophie’s close friend. She prefers to watch the boys go at it.

Pool-side view!

I’ll give you a hint about the scene and how it plays out….

Sophie and Tyler hitting it off!

So who is the  secret weapon? I’m not telling you. You can find out on Monday when Star Spangled Kiss is released.

Star Spangled Kiss

Now, if you would like a chance to win a copy of my blog’s Star Spangled Kiss gift basket which includes a copy of the book, rockin-red nail polish and summer themed goodies, don’t forget to leave me a comment. I would love to know who you want on your team, the narco-cops, the fireman, or Romeo? Or, maybe you’d like to hang-out poolside with Cassidy and watch the game play out? Whichever, I’d love to know.

If for some reason you have fallen off the bus, don’t worry you can find your way again simply by clicking here: http://booknibbles.com/blogtour/

I hope you have a wonderful holiday filled with family, friends, food and fireworks!

Thanks for stopping by and enjoy the rest of the tour.

Christa

Irish Kiss, 1st in the Kissin Cops series. Excerpt Monday

Excerpt Monday Logo
Once a month, a bunch of authors get together and post excerpts from published books, contracted work or works in progress, and link to each other. You don’t have to be published to participate just an writer with an excerpt you’d like to share. For more info on how to participate, head over to the Excerpt Monday site! or click on the banner above.

My first straight contemporary released March 8th. Just in time for Saint Patrick’s Day.  When I think of March 17th and the Irish celebration, many things pop up in my thoughts. Of course, the color green is the first. Second, is rainbows and a pot ‘o gold. Can’t forget leprachauns or shamrocks either.

When Liquid Silver Books sent out a call for submission with holiday themes, I debated about the holiday that I’d like to write about. Gavin and Cassidy showed me that their passion would explode at a pub during a Saint Paddy’s party. So, the scene was set.

Gavin Marshal is a detective with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. He has been working in close proximity with Cassidy. For six months, they have fought their attraction knowing it was frowned upon for them to give into all their pent up desires. Gavin isn’t able to wait until their job allows them to explore a relationship. The night of the party, his control snaps and he gives into the building need. Cassidy is so overcome by the tide of passion, she too is unable to resist.

I had a fabulous time writing this novella for Saint Patrick’s Day. Each little detail for the holiday was woven into the plot and it helped frame a scorching hot sensual romance that I hope everyone will enjoy.

Christa ~ read on for an excerpt!

Irish Kiss

Damn, he needed to get laid.

Bitch of it was he only wanted it with one particular woman.

And as of now, she had yet to appear.

Lifting the bottle in front of him, he brought it up to his lips. Another swig of ice-cold ale slid down his throat. He speared his fingers into the little wooden bowl in the middle of the table and fished out a shelled peanut. Cracking it open, he inspected the perfect halves and discarded them. He popped the nut into his mouth. A jingling drew his attention to the entrance of the pub as a bubbly, clearly tipsy couple waltzed inside.

Still not her. Hell!

Grabbing another peanut, he went through the motions with the shell while continuing to stew over her whereabouts. He had already wasted nearly an hour staring at that glass door, waiting for her to show. It had given him plenty of time to reflect on the circumstances of their situation and the issues keeping them apart. He loved his job, for the most part, and she had an affinity for her occupation. She did it beyond well. Capable, powerful, and smart all described her to a tee. But he wanted to know more about her outside of the daily grind.

Gavin was pretty sure she had similar feelings about him. They simply needed the opportunity to explore the possibilities. He could feel the pent up desire building around them, simmering like a low flame. All they needed was one hot flash, and they’d go up like wildfire.

His cock throbbed its agreement.

The door to the pub opened again and the bells on the handle trilled, drawing everyone’s attention to the newest partygoer. Gavin watched as she finally walked into the lounge. She slipped off her jacket, tucked it over the crook of her arm, while surreptitiously scanning the occupants. Who exactly was she meeting? Gavin worried he’d somehow misjudged the situation. Did she intend to meet someone other than her co-workers? Like a date? The peanut in his hand turned to dust as he clenched his fist against a tide of irritation quickening in his thoughts.

He wondered if maybe he should’ve told her he planned on coming here tonight, too. Perhaps their mutual feelings could be explored in a not-work-related atmosphere. Suddenly, he realized the next step he took depended on who showed up to join her. Damn, so much for his well laid plans. He meant to use the element of surprise. Now it looked more like he’d be flying by the seat of his pants.

Fine. He decided to sit back there in the darker area of the bar and watch the proceedings. Surely, some would occur. Simply a matter of time, because she came dressed to kill. Her tight denim skirt hugged a rounded, drool-inducing ass. No doubt the whole package would inspire the urge to murder for a right to buy her a drink, the little vixen. She knew exactly what happened when she flashed those too-perfect thighs, encased in barely-there stockings. If she moved, just so, the bow of one garter could almost be discerned above the hem line of her skirt. His fingers itched to run up the inside of her gorgeous legs, to find the silky ribbon, yanking it loose and exposing her to his hungry gaze.

If the skirt didn’t inspire random violence, the breast-hugging, gathered crop-top would. The flash of tight belly gave only a glimpse of her hot body. The emerald green cotton outlined her luscious curves and showed off a scandalous glimpse of cleavage. At least no one could venture into dangerous territory by pinching her. After all, it was Saint Paddy’s Day and green was the color du jour.

His head spun as he envisioned pressing his lips to one heavy swell, tracing it down and into the vee made utterly tempting by the demi-cup bra she wore. It lifted her up like an offering. Gavin was damned good and ready to lie down as the sacrifice to that beautiful creamy flesh.

For nearly half a year, he had to rely on his imagination when it came to thinking about what she hid beneath understated pencil skirts, and tailored jackets. The simple, no-nonsense pumps she wore, and smoky nylons, concealed her natural curves, too. Business camouflage, he mused. Garments designed to throw off a discerning eye, forcing one to notice the woman and her brains, instead of a lush, jaw-dropping figure. Many times, Gavin had resorted to undressing her mentally, even at the most inopportune moments. Confined in a small cubicle, their attraction slowly building, did sinful things to his common sense. However, acting on those impulses could never happen. Mixing work and romance was forbidden, not to mention utterly taboo.

It didn’t stop the sparks from igniting between them, though.

The day she purposely brushed her hand across his, Gavin felt the chains restraining his desire for her loosen. He drew on his famous control, attempting to wrangle the possessive beast dwelling under the surface into submission. They had a looming deadline and any distraction would be detrimental.

Soon, however, the rules flew out the proverbial window. Sharing in silent, unspoken conversations with only heated looks, he tried to convey the depth of his interest. At some point it had altered from purely sexual chemistry to a deeper magnetism. In his fantasies, he wanted to be with her outside the job, holding her hand as they shared a romantic dinner. He longed to take her to a movie and have her lean against his shoulder, while he offered her popcorn from his fingers.

It didn’t mean his desire for her had diminished. Not at all. The battling parts of him dueled for supremacy. His physical state demanded he claim her body and prove to her the intensity of his passion to make her his, while his mind and heart longed to share more than sexual intimacy. He wanted all of her.

From the looks of things right now, it seemed his physical side just might win that battle first. Six months was a long time to wait for what was his, and he would not risk losing her to an overly interested rival.

His eyes narrowed on her, tracking her movement through the crush of bodies swaying about the small dance floor. Irish ballads blared from the speaker system and the air conditioning blew the swirling decorations into a spinning conflagration. Shimmering green streamers fell in twisted array from the ceiling. A large, papier-mache rainbow was suspended in an arch over the main room. It ended at a huge black cauldron where a drink fountain streamed with a tinge of jade liquid. “All you can drink,” green beer piped out of the top, cascading down into the lower segments. Glass steins embossed with three-leaf clovers lined the table beside it. Not wasting her time on the beer, she strode past the free-flowing liquor without even a second glance. Instead, she charged right up to the high counter, waved down the bartender, and immediately ordered up an Irish Eyes lowball. When he handed her the glass, she tilted her head flirtatiously and cheered, “slainte sloynta.” Her raven-black, shoulder-length curls bounced as she tossed the drink back. The lovely, pale white column of her throat invited stares. He was a sucker for the sight, just like all the other sappy bastards in the vicinity who were eager to capture the pretty lady for the night.

The hell they would. She was his woman, and the time had come to show her that.

He waited, though, watched and knew the opportune time to intervene would arrive soon enough. The crush of bodies made it difficult to keep her in view and the loud din of the party muffled normal conversation. Gavin staked out a new spot that gave him a better view of the proceedings. Quickly stalking past dancers and groups of people, he settled at a bistro table close by, giving him the ability to hear her and track her whereabouts. Settled now, all of Gavin’s attention was focused on his woman.

He watched her as she picked out a seat and draped her leather jacket over the slatted chair back. With little flourish she sat on the wicker stool, letting her elbows rest upon the bar top. Overhead, the cascading lamplight winked off her shimmering gold bracelet. When a loud and boisterous man planted his ass in a seat beside her, she turned to face him. The line of her cheek showed a slight blush. Those long, dark lashes of hers swept down and lifted a smidge. Gavin knew it veiled the beauty of her vibrant hazel eyes.

“What’s an attractive lady like you doing all alone at a St. Paddy’s Day celebration?” the thick-neck asked in a deep, too interested, tone.

“Meeting friends. I’m early, though.” She winked at the meathead and his smile grew lascivious.

“Well, honey, I can keep you company while you wait. What’s your name?”

Her lips pressed together and the pink tip of her tongue peeked out sensuously, wetting her bottom lip. “Cassidy, and yours?” she answered but did not touch on his other offer. Good, things might have gone badly if she had accepted the stranger’s proposition. Flirting is all fine and dandy, but hooking up with a brawny linebacker who had sex on the brain would totally not do.

“Bryce,” he replied, as he motioned to get the server’s attention “Give me a double shot of whisky and Cassidy here could do with another lowball. On me, of course.”

One side of her mouth kicked up in a tight grin, she nodded her head and muttered, “Thanks.”

Mr. Muscle scooted closer and slung his arm about Cassidy’s lower back. She didn’t move an inch, and it pissed Gavin off royally. He ground his molars together, willing his possessive instincts into submission.

Better to wait for the opportune moment to make his intentions clear, and right now was too soon. Let her relax some, lower that guard she always kept wrapped so tightly around her. She needed a few more drinks, some inane chatter with men who acted like gigolos. Afterward, he would march in and rescue the damsel from all the horny, pig-headed players.

“Another Killian’s Red?”

Gavin pulled his stare away from Cassidy and turned to look at the waitress. Nodding his head, he grinned at the harried server. Dressed in a gold-shot corset and velvety black skirt, she looked almost Irish. A cheap, emerald colored plastic top-hat balanced precariously on her head. Two twisted braids draped behind her shoulders and her impish smile tempted him to tip her a bit more than the expected fifteen percent. A little green shamrock decorated one rounded cheek, and Gavin wondered if the cute get-up earned her more money from all the tables she served. He might even be tempted to outright flirt with her, if his concentration had not been so completely taken by the enigma sitting a few feet away.

“With lime, please,” he said, knowing it was probably sacrilegious of him to taint the ale with a spritz of citrus. Hopefully, no snake-charming saints would come to take him to task for his desecration of the Irish brew. He grinned at his inner rambling before leaning back in his seat and refocusing his attentiveness on Cassidy. Now a throng of drooling morons formed a circle about her chair. A regal princess holding court, Gavin reflected. Several shot glasses of whisky and half-filled pints of Guinness lined the bar in front of her. Offhand, he noticed they were in the middle of a drinking game. The Irish Car Bomb, he realized. Once the bartender topped off every shot with a splash of Bailey’s, all of the participants crammed together, and each of them scooped up a smaller glass. One of the college frat boys weaseled in between Cassidy and the rest of the gaggle of lusting whelps. Counting down from three, he indicated the game had begun. Sloshing and plopping followed as each person dropped their shots into a waiting beer mug. Everyone chugged the alcohol down in rapid succession. Gavin waited to see who gulped the triple threat of liquor the fastest.

Cassidy’s drink registered little change and Gavin hid his grin of approval. At least the woman had self-preservation instincts and knew had to use them. It would be entirely too stupid getting soused when she was all alone and left for the panting, salivating wolves.

She set her drink aside and shifted, lifting one thigh and crossing her legs. The change of her position allowed Gavin a glimpse right up her skirt. A bolt of lightning shot straight to his balls, his cock surged to attention, hard as a damn steel rod. The sight of her lacy panties tempted his carnal hunger into dangerous territory. He could discern the slightest shadow of her feminine curls, and nearly groaned as he imagined parting those eye-catching, long legs and burying his head between them.

God damn, but he wanted to taste her. Craved it like a thirsty man longing for water. His patience was quickly running out.

And oh, how he had waited. The last weeks had been a real ball-buster, while they worked together in such close quarters. They spent three of those long, agonizing months partnered up for most of the day, reviewing files and other minutia. This time spent one-on-one gave him a better understanding of the woman underneath the exquisite looks. If her beauty had not drawn him in, her intelligence and witty repartee would have. Cassidy was no empty headed bomb-shell. Nothing got him harder when he was around her than when she challenged him with cold-hard facts and inborn intuition. Some of the most heated arguments aroused Gavin to the point of pain. There had been a few times he almost lost control of himself. All he wanted to do then was back her up against the flimsy wall partition and wrench her skirt up, so he could feel the fiery heat of her pussy against the unbearable pressure of his throbbing cock.

However, he resisted. It took immeasurable control that he didn’t realize he possessed. Counting down the days until they no longer worked together kept him just this side of sane. Finally, they reached the end of their casework-enforced relationship. Now, nothing constrained them to stay apart anymore. No job, no rules, nothing.

Many times in the past weeks, he had wrestled with the idea of asking her out. Be a little dangerous and buck the system, perhaps they might even indulge in a forbidden courtship. Looking at her now, surrounded by eager men, made Gavin wonder if he had waited too long to initiate something outside the constraints of their professional duties.

Earlier this week he had noticed the colorful flyer tacked to the peg board in the copy room, indicating tonight’s little holiday get together. Gavin decided a bit of reconnaissance was in order. He covertly listened in on a conversation between her co-workers, Danni and Juliet. When they confirmed that Cassidy would be joining them, Gavin’s plans for the evening instantly solidified. He suddenly had a Saint Patrick’s gig to attend.

Dressed in a holiday-appropriate, forest green button-up shirt, he came prepared to woo and seduce her. After arriving much earlier than the time on the flyer, he had anxiously awaited Cassidy. His anticipation had mounted as each hand ticked down on the clock.

Now she was here and getting ready to party.

In a few moments, Gavin planned to act upon their attraction. He needed to make a declaration of his intentions and find out where she stood. Imagining what would happen afterward encouraged his resolve. He could hardly wait for their very first kiss and the resulting passion. When he took her, bringing them to the pinnacle of utter bliss, soaring into ecstasy, he had no doubt in his mind that Miss Cassidy Hyatt would finally realize she was his.

The jaunty tune blaring from the speakers petered out with the last few notes of a lively violin. The next song piped up and everyone in the pub perked in interest. “Down By the Sally Gardens,” drew the dancers into a slow, swaying rhythm. A big flat-screen television hung at a tilted angle on the back wall. The current song’s music video showed the sprawling emerald landscape of Ireland and zoomed in on an old, stone castle. A running marquee indicated the Celtic band, Lark and Spur, performed this version of the song. The melody made for a very intimate atmosphere. Gavin clenched his fist to still the knee-jerk reaction of watching Cassidy being led from her chair to an inner area on the small parquet dance floor.

Frat-Boy wrapped both his arms about Cassidy and hugged her in a wimpy embrace. Gavin saw red, bright and vivid as murder, flash through his mind’s eye. Then, as Cassidy swayed back and forth with the lilting tune, that perfect, curvaceous butt drew more than just Gavin’s stare. His palm itched to shape the tight curve and squeeze, put his own mark of possession on it, warning all other moronic, death-seeking men away from what belonged to him and him alone.

God damn, but she was making him crazy. How much longer did this freaking Celtic ballad have? Gavin wondered if he could last for the next few minutes without cutting in to the duo and staking his claim.

Patience, he reminded himself.

Irish Kiss

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