Posts Tagged Women’s Action/Adventure

“Noble Assassin, Reluctant Hero Book 4” by Lily Silver #Spotlight

A Few of My Favorite Things

This week, the work of Lily Silver is in the spotlight here on Nesie’s Place! Get ready for adventure, intrigue, and of course, romance! Lily is also sponsoring an awesome Rafflecopter with a Kindle Fire as the grand prize! ($50 gift card for an international winner!)  Check out the excerpt, then scroll down for the Rafflecopter and a FREE gift from Lily!

Read this one all the way to the bottom because Lily Silver has added even           MORE FREE BOOKS!!!

Noble Assassin cover

“Noble Assassin, Reluctant Heroes Book 4”

Author: Lily Silver

Genre: Historical Romance/Regency/Suspense

Release Date: February 10, 2016

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Noble Assassin feature, day 5

Noble Assassin is the fourth book in the Reluctant Heroes Series.  It was a challenge to write.

This book features Ambrose Duchamp. He was Donovan’s henchman in Dark Hero, and even the stalwart men who followed Donovan in piracy found Mr. Duchamp to be a creepy sort. So, the challenge was to take this super intimidating trained assassin and make him into a hero.

In the first book, Dark Hero, Elizabeth is shaken at their first meeting. But she has the gift of second sight, so she could see that Ambrose Duchamp was a deeply scarred and wounded soul. Elizabeth came to see Ambrose as an object of pity as time went by, instead of an object of fear. Most people don’t have the ability to see into someone’s soul so everyone else, aside from Elizabeth’s husband Donovan, fears Ambrose Duchamp and avoid him.

The heroine in this story is a fugitive. She’s hiding in the West Indies. She’s the governess for Elizabeth’s children. Juliet Wallingford is in big trouble. She was a governess for a widower in England, and the man attacked her. She defended herself against his attack, and ended up wounding him severely. It’s eighteen months later and he wants revenge. At the beginning of the book, Juliet has received word from a friend in England that he is coming to the Indies to find her and exact it.

This is where Ambrose comes in. He’s a trained assassin, lethal to the core. He was trained from his youth in how to kill an opponent, how to strike a blow using the most mundane objects as weapons. He has both a dark and sinister past, and a deeply tragic one. Juliet doesn’t want her new employers to know her troubles, but she desperately needs help. She needs someone strong enough to take on her former employer and his henchmen. She asks Ambrose to protect her. At first he’s not so sure he wants to get involved in her troubles, but he reluctantly agrees.

Ambrose is a complex man. He’s an illegitimate offspring of a high ranking French noble, and he has some resentment toward his family for forcing him into the assassin trade like pawn, essentially used to protect the family. He didn’t have a normal childhood. He was taught how to kill at a tender age, and was expected to protect his father’s legitimate heirs. He fled France at the start of the French Revolution, and Donovan (Dark Hero) is the one who helped him escape an angry mob demanding his blood.

Juliet wishes she could change her life, but she too, was born on the wrong side of the blanket. Her father was noble, and paid for her to be educated at the school to become a governess. He never acknowledged her, and she doesn’t know his name. She finds herself envying her employer, Elizabeth, and wishing she could find a husband and have a family and a charmed life instead of taking care of another woman’s children for all her days. Being a governess is hard, when rich little boys put spiders in your shoes and play pranks on you to alleviate their boredom in the schoolroom.

Ambrose agrees to protect Juliet, mostly out of pity. He suggests they use the deception of a courtship to explain their time spent together and protect her reputation (yeah, that nobility rears it’s head often with him). Before long, Juliet starts to wish that the courtship was not merely a ruse. Ambrose slowly reveals his softer side, charming her and hopefully the reader, too.

With such a dark and deadly character, it was a challenge to make him a romance hero. But, one of Ambrose’s strengths is that he is incredibly noble, it’s in his blood and he can’t fight it.

These two lonely souls, the discards of polite society as they are both of illegitimate birth, find a common bond through Elizabeth’s children. Juliet’s role of governess actually brings her closer to Ambrose as his weakness seems to be the Beaumont children, especially those darling little girls. If you’ve watched cable TV, Dexter might come to mind . . . but Ambrose is not sunny and cheery like Dexter. Hopefully he’ll become likeable, lovable even, to readers as the story progresses. Warning, this book does have a touch of the Gothic and the paranormal, as Elizabeth, the support character in this story, has very profound magical gifts and she uses them to protect those she loves when they are in danger.

In before this excerpt, Ambrose and Juliet have been meeting secretly in the stable office late in the evenings, after the family she works for has retired. Ambrose has been teaching Juliet how to defend herself against an attacker.

Juliet is not sure if the pretend courtship he proposed to cover their activities is false any longer as his behavior in private has become more charming and less insolent and condescending. This time, however, when they go to the stables to start their lessons, they encounter Donovan and Elizabeth (Dark Hero couple) in a scorching embrace.

The married couple has just returned from a moonlight ride about the island, and as they believe Ambrose and Juliet are courting, they insist Ambrose take Juliet for a moonlit ride along the beach in the carriage before it is unhitched. The ruse between Ambrose and Juliet has brought unexpected consequences as they are caught in a trap as Elizabeth tries her hand at matchmaking. Elizabeth gives Juliet her velvet cloak to keep her warm, confusing Juliet in the gesture as the tropical night is quite warm enough without it.

Excerpt from Noble Assassin, Book 4 of Reluctant Heroes, Lily Silver, copyright 2016

The sandy beach to the north stretched the width of the island. The windmills were dark silhouettes on the hill behind them. Their muted sails flapping mingled with the sound of steady waves as the sea rushed in to embrace the shore before them and then retreat.

She could see bits of light from the small settlement hugging the shore at the far end of the beach, but she and Ambrose were too far away from it to be of notice without a fire or a lantern to give them away. It was darkness around them, the sea before them, and the dome of stars above their heads.

Of all the things Juliet experienced in her life, this was a crowning moment. She had never experienced such serene majesty in nature before this.

And she was sharing the moment with a man who had shared so many things with her in the past week. A first kiss, a romantic walk in the garden each night, a ride alone in an open carriage under the stars.

“Shall we walk the beach, ma petite?”

His voice startled her. It was like someone talking in church when the congregation was in silent prayer. She turned her face from the multitude of stars. He was looking at her, not the beauty surrounding them.

Ambrose turned about and felt around the back cushioned seat. Not finding what he was searching for, he placed his knees on the seat and hung over it attempting to bring something clunky up from the floor. A wine bottle was thrust into her lap, and something long, hard and cool. It felt like a metal shaft.

Juliet was still disappointed by his movement when she’d been thinking about a kiss, so the sudden intrusion of the cool glass wine bottle and the even cooler spyglass pushed upon her was dream shattering. He appeared all business and cool detachment again.

It was probably galling for the man to be forced to take her out on a romantic ride by their employer, as one didn’t typically say no to the countess. He hopped down from the seat and moved along the back of the carriage, appearing to her right with his hands upraised. “Down you come, ma cher.”

She swung her legs about and set the items on the floor at her feet so she could reach for his shoulders for support. “You don’t have to keep calling me sweet names. No one is here to overhear you.”

His hands on her waist distracted her momentarily, as their faces hovered close until he set her on the ground.

“Suppose I wish to, does that offend?”

“No, I simply wish for us to be honest with one another when we are alone. No need to fain affection.”

A sharp snort came from his silhouette. “I will keep that in mind. If ever I feel the need to fain fondness for you, I shall refrain from it.”

“Thank you,” she replied, regretting her remark. That kiss would not be coming now as she’d undoubtedly offended him.

He handed her the wine and kept the spyglass for himself. The beach was dark, but the white sands were easy to navigate beneath the stars. He kept a steadying hand on her elbow as they trudged across the expanse of sand toward the rolling waves. It was awkward with her long skirt and petticoat as she needed one hand to hold up her dress and one to hold the wine bottle.

At last, they reached a fallen palm tree just a few yards from the wet shoreline. Ambrose gestured for her to sit down. Something tickled her hand as she placed it palm down on the hard bark and she snatched it back, expecting it might be a spider or a lizard. Ambrose was standing with his back to her, looking up at the stars with the spyglass.

Juliet leaned closer as the twin tails of black wafted in the breeze, realizing the tickling sensation had come from a ribbon caught on the rough bark. It was black silk, similar to the one the count wore to keep his hair clubbed at the back of his neck.

She noticed a long white strand of fabric near her foot and reached down to pick it up. A woman’s silk stocking. She smiled in the darkness. Apparently the lord and lady were doing more here than merely watching the stars.

Ambrose came back to her and sat down on the tree trunk. There was a comfortable space between them as he fiddled with the spy-glass and kept trying to focus on different things, the sea, a palm tree a fair distance away and so forth. “The lens is smudged. I can’t make out anything through this.”

“Do they go out riding late at night often?” That scorching kiss she witness between the master and his lady would not leave her mind. Both parties appeared to enjoy it immensely.

Ambrose set the spy-glass down on his thigh with a chuckle. “Oui, ma Cherie. At least once a week. They are to be congratulated on their attempts to keep the romance alive after so many years of marriage.”  He pushed the three tiers of brass together, closing the spy-glass with a sharp click. “You were embarrassed by their affectionate display, no?

“Perhaps a little,” she admitted. “I never dreamed a man and woman could kiss like that.”

“Ah, you are being honest as we are alone. I like this, ma petite.” He set the spyglass on the tree and reached for the wine she’d propped between them in the sand. “We must always be honest with one another, sweetheart.”

Juliet straightened. Every muscle in her body was alert with excitement. He was still using those irresistible endearments and it was making her blood race through her veins at a rapid pace. “I’ve never been kissed before. As a teacher at an all girl school and then a governess on a remote estate, I’ve never had much opportunity to be alone with a handsome man before.”

“I discerned as much. Yet you seem to grasp the essentials in kissing quite well for a novice, my fair Juliet.” He was leaning close so his breath caressed her ear. “Perhaps you would like to practice kissing along with lethal knife thrusts?”

Voicing her offense at his open admittance that he could tell she’d never been truly kissed before he came along would spoil the romantic moment. She took the cool, hard bottle neck from his hand and drank deeply. She wiped her mouth with the back of her hand and gave the heavy bottle back to him.

He held it on his knee and gazed out at the expanse of sea. His hair was coming loose from its restraints as shorter dark tendrils fluttered about his head in the wind. “Do you regret leaving England?”

Juliet picked up the black ribbon from the crevice of bark and started winding it over her hand. “At first I resented being forced to leave England. I have no family, you see. Only my childhood friends from the girl’s school where I grew up, and those friendships were few. I have a confession, Mr. Duchamp. If we are being honest with one another, I will not hide my true origins from you. I am a bastard, the offspring of a nobleman who paid for my education at the school, but never made himself known to me. I do not even know his name.”

He took a swig of wine and handed the bottle back to her. “Are you hoping to shock my sensibilities, ma Cherie? We bastards are large in number, a silent, invisible nation who must steal scraps to survive because society despises us for proving the sins of our fathers.”

“You are also illegitimate?” She swung her face about to stare at him. She could barely make out his features as the shadows cast his profile in silhouette beside her.

Oui, my father was a powerful man in France up until his death in 1774. My mother was his mistress. I am the bastard son of Louis the Fifteenth.”

“You?” she stood up, shocked beyond words as she realized she was casually sipping wine out of a bottle with a man descended from royal blood. “You’re the son of a King?”

He shrugged and waved a hand at the seat she just vacated. “Sit, Cherie. It is of little consequence. Royal bastards are treated little different than the rest of our lot. My father died when I was two years old. I was taken from my mother by the king’s advisors at the age of eight, sent to an elite core or royal guards to be trained in the art of killing. Unlike your family, mine believed in keeping illegitimate offspring close, nurturing them at some backwater estate until they were old enough to be used as chess pieces to gain political ends.”

“I am sorry.” The vision of a young child being forced to embrace violence broke her heart. Juliet thought her dishonorable origins would put him off if he had plans for a future with her, but it seemed they were very much alike; outcasts in the world that despised them for their origins.

“Which lessons do you prefer to engage in first? The kissing or the thrusting?”

Juliet folded at the waist and put her head in her hands and laughed with more gusto than was proper. His words were so funny, whether he meant them to be or not. It must be the wine making her silly. “Oh, Ambrose, you give me a hard choice.”

He shrugged, took a long swing from the bottle, and then swung it hard on the tree trunk beside him. A loud chink met her ears. He swore, stood up, and then cracked it again against the tree trunk. This time it shattered.

“What are you doing?” She was on her feet instantly, but the sand seemed to sway and pitch as if they were on the deck of a ship.

His hand caught her waist, pulling her to him firmly so her back was pressed tight against him. “Look at this. I’ve just created a weapon.”

He held up the neck of the bottle, displaying the sharp edges in an outline beneath the moon and stars. She reached out to feel the edge.

“Don’t touch.” He moved it out of her reach. “It is very sharp. But you see,” his hand moved from her waist and guided her to clutch the bottle neck as he held the sharp end away from them. Tucking his hand back at her waist, he covered her right hand with his and began showing her how to thrust at an imaginary enemy and hold him at bay.

The warmth of his body pressing into her was almost too much. Juliet wanted to turn about and face him, kiss his cheek and casually search for his mouth.

“Remember, anything can become weapon in your hand. A broken plate, a shard of glass, a bottle, or even a broken broomstick handle if you use the sharp end like a knife.”

He moved them about the sand as if they were dancing, pulling her arm, pushing, forcing her to use the bottle like a dagger. She felt a little dizzy. Finally his grip on her hand lightened, and she let the bottle drop from her fingers to the sand.

Juliet whirled on her feet and kissed him hard on the lips. She reached up and let her fingers move through his dark hair. Strong arms surrounded her. That kiss quickly became his creation and not her own. His greedy lips didn’t repulse her. She kissed him back, measure for measure, pleased by the passion of his embrace as he pulled back slightly to nip at her lips with his teeth.

The cloak the countess had given her earlier billowed about her, and came loose from her shoulders as a gust of wind came from the west. She turned, ready to snatch it from the ground before it was lost forever to the winds. Ambrose stopped her hand and began pushing the fabric back into the mound of sand. He sat down on it, and pulled her onto his lap. And in that instant she understood why the countess wore a heavy cloak when she went riding about the island in the moonlight with her spouse!

End of Excerpt

~~~~~

As a special gift for visitors to Nesie’s Place, the awesome Lily Silvers is giving away Book 1 in the Reluctant Heroes series, Dark Hero – a $5.99 value! Use the Smashwords coupon to claim your copy. Giveaway ends June 1st!

Use the code XX39V at checkout to get this book for free!

Dark Hero Book 1

“Dark Hero, A Gothic Romance: Reluctant Heroes #1” on Smashwords

 

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~~~~~

Thank you so much for joining us this week. I hope you were entertained, and that you’ll find intrigue and romance in my historical romance series. Thank you so much Felicia for hosting me this week!  Everyone be sure to enter the contest for a chance to win the Kindle Fire or a free print copy set of the first four books in the series.

And don’t forget to get your free ebook download of Jessie’s Hero, my perma free book featuring modern lovers who were also lovers in a past life! Or, if you prefer a free paranormal romance set in England in the 1820’s, featuring a forbidden romance between a gypsy girl and a werewolf, you can get The Gypsy’s Curse  free by signing up for my newsletter!

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Your Free Copy of The Gypsy’s Curse  Either way, it’s a free gift and my way of saying thank you to my wonderful readers.

Best wishes to everyone, and Happy Spring.

Lily Silver

 

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“Gallant Rogue, Reluctant Heroes Book 3” by Lily Silver #Spotlight

A Few of My Favorite Things

This week, the work of Lily Silver is in the spotlight here on Nesie’s Place! Get ready for adventure, intrigue, and of course, romance! Lily is also sponsoring an awesome Rafflecopter with a Kindle Fire as the grand prize! ($50 gift card for an international winner!)  Check out the excerpt, then scroll down for the Rafflecopter and a FREE gift from Lily!

Gallant Rogue cover

“Gallant Rogue, Reluctant Heroes Book 3”

Author: Lily Silver

Genre: Historical Romance/Regency

Release Date: October 15, 2014

Amazon buttonAdd to Goodreads

Gallant Rogue Excerpt, Day 4

Gallant Rogue is Book Three in the Reluctant Heroes Series. It features the story of Jack and Chloe. Captain Jack Rawlings was a support character in Dark Hero. He is Donovan Beaumont’s closest friend and ally. Together, Donovan and Jack were pirates in the East Indies, years before the events of Dark Hero take place.

Jack has had a tragic history. He was engaged to a woman and she died horribly. He blames himself for her death, for not being there to save her. He has a strong, driving need within demanding he save the girl because of that tragedy of his youth. This is a strength but also a flaw. In Dark Hero, Jack misunderstood the marital conflict between the main characters Donovan and Elizabeth, and felt it his duty to take Elizabeth away from Donovan to ‘save her’. His need to redeem himself in his own eyes for failing to save his beloved is at times overwhelming, In Gallant Rogue, he gets that chance at redemption.

His friend asks him to escort a family member to Spain and to deliver her safely to her relations. Donovan (Dark Hero) knows Jack would protect Chloe as fiercely as he would himself if he accompanied her to Spain. Jack has had secret feelings for Chloe for many years. He almost proposed, but Chloe married someone else before he could do so. Now he’s being asked to spend several weeks with her as they sail across the sea to Spain, and those close quarters and intimate exchanges are killing him. He cannot act on his desire for her as Chloe is a recent widow. He believes it would be dishonorable to take advantage of her at a vulnerable time. He also believes it would interferewith his duty to protect her if he allows himself to become distracted by a blooming romance. Jack’s greatest flaw is that he’s gallantto a fault.

Chloe is also a support character from Dark Hero. She is the love child of a Spanish estate steward and an African slave. Her adoring father died suddenly when she was a girl. She was sent to live in the slave quarters with her maternal grandmother by the cruel plantation owner. She has endured scorn all her life because of her origins. When Elizabeth came to the island as a new bride Chloe found acceptance and friendship. She became Elizabeth’s personal maid, and then her companion. She married a relative of the family and became part of it. Chloe’s happily ever after ended abruptly when her beloved Gareth was killed in an accident. Now she is determined to escape the lingering prejudice and scorn that have shadowed her since birth in the West Indies. She decides to sail to Spain to find her father’s family, and reinvent herself there as a Spanish Lady. Her paternal uncle is a Marquess, after all.

Spain is on the brink of war. It’s 1808 and news from Europe is slow coming to the West Indies. Spain has been under the thumb of France and Napoleon for years, but is just starting to revolt. Chloe and Jack are confronted by the presence of soldiers from France, England, and Spanish Guerilla warriors hiding in the woods. Jack will have quite a task keeping up with Chloe because she is determined to find her Uncle Miquel at all costs. As they traverse the Spanish countryside in search of the missing Marquess, they encounter outward danger and inner simmering passions.

This book is unique in the series as it does not have the strong Gothic tone of the previous books. The characters determine a book’s tone in my work, and both Jack and Chloe did not have any deep magical or supernatural leanings. This book is an adventure romance set on the high seas and in Spain. Jack and Chloe’s story is one of redemption, re-invention, and re-kindled passions of a lost love.

Chloe is a wonderful character who embodies much of the modern woman of this age. She doesn’t want to be defined by the labels society has placed on her. She wants to break out of the exterior definition of her ‘place’ that society has forced upon her. She will not turn back from her quest to find her father’s family. Her singular determination brings surprising results that have a greater impact on the situation in Spain than she could have ever dreamed. Jack is one of my favorite heroes. His gallantry and his sense of honor is the kind that makes me swoon, and isn’t that what we read romances for! I hope he’ll charm your heart as well in Gallant Rogue.

Excerpt from Gallant Rogue, Copyright Lily Silver 2014

The screams coming from the cabin next door brought Jack up from his bunk at a rush.

Jack  grabbed the pistols he kept at the ready, a habit from his pirating days, shoved them into the waist of his trousers and reached for his sword. He was out the door and across the hall in a trice.

Three other officers joined him there, all in similar states of undress. Jinks, Lt. Morgan, and Mr. Harris. They looked to him to take the lead and breach the portal.

He hesitated. The shrieking had stopped.

Did she have a bad dream? He really didn’t want to go plowing in there and startle the poor woman with his sword raised and his men following; not in the middle of the night.

“Go on then,” Jinx prompted behind him. “You are the captain, after all.”

Jack grimaced and bit his tongue to contain a raw retort. When had the proper and respectful Mr. Jinx acquired such cheek? Jack raised his fist to the door, determined to at least announce his presence to the poor woman before leading the charge of men into her private suite.

But that nerve-shredding shrieking started again, combined with a steady thumping sound as if someone were being chased and beaten with a stick.

Jack burst through the door, expecting darkness and a sizable intruder to greet him. Instead, he was met with bright lights as all the lanterns in the cabin seemed to have been set ablaze. Chloe was in the corner with her back to the door. She didn’t seem to notice the men filing in. Her arm was raised. She appeared to be in the midst of bludgeoning something.

“Mrs. O’Donovan,” he said in a light tone, trying to get her attention. Her hair was flowing in a gleaming, obsidian waterfall down her back, reaching nearly to her round bottom. Jack cleared his throat and tried again when she didn’t respond to his gentle speech. “Mrs. O’Donovan,” he repeated in his strict captain’s tone. “Is there a problem with your lodgings?”

She turned, and seemed startled to see him standing in the portal with his men. Her lovely ebony arches fell as she frowned. “Yes, there is.” She pointed to the large windows to her left. “It’s that silly girl, shrieking as if to raise the dead over a rodent.”

All attention moved from the delectable and vivacious Spanish beauty clad in a light muslin gown to the thin, pinch–faced adolescent girl, who was standing on the window seat clutching a blanket about her chest and looking as if she were being set upon by an entire crew of pirates.

The maid blinked. Her lower lip quivered slightly. She looked at the men with terror. “There was a large rat in here.”

“Marta, get down and help me,” Chloe scolded. “Your ridiculous shrieking has awakened the crew. The least you can do is help me catch the little blighter.”

“A rat?” Jinx dropped his pistol arm so that the business end was pointing at the floor. “All right, mates, let’s not tarry. Let’s get the dreadful beastie out of here for the lady.” He gestured with his free hand for the men behind him to find the creature for Mrs. O’Donovan.

“Oh, I have him,” Chloe replied without emotion. “At least, I think it is a he.” She set her weapon, a parasol she’d been holding by the pointed end so she could use the wooden handle as a cudgel, on the trunk beside her. Without flinching, the woman picked up the dead rat and held it by the tail for all to see, letting it dangle beneath her fingers as her face registered triumph. The rat’s head was split open. Dark ruby blood oozed from its nose and brow. The left eye appeared to be displaced, crushed by the blow of Chloe’s parasol handle. “If one of you wouldn’t mind burying him at sea, I’d be most grateful.”

“Yes, ma’am.” Jinx, Lt. Morgan, and Harris all pushed forward to assist her. The trio tripped over each other in their rush to aid the fair lady. It was Harris in the end that took the bloody little creature from her.

Muted crying could be heard from the window.

The maid. Jack felt little sympathy for the girl. He hoped this was not going to set a precedent. “Stop whining,” he admonished. “Get your mistress some water so she may wash the blood from her hands. And shame on you, for letting her do all the work.”

“I can’t stand rats, sir.” The girl blathered through fractured sobs. “Disgusting creatures.  I’ve never had to catch one before…”  Sniff. “My father always does it, or one of my brothers.”

“Water, Marta. Now,” Mrs. O’Donovan commanded. “And my shawl, thank you. I shouldn’t wish to put you out too much in your duties.”

Jack couldn’t contain a chuckle. Chloe was well and truly angry. And she should be. Why didn’t the maid just knock on one of the cabin doors and ask an officer to help them capture the beastie if she was that upset? Instead, she climbed on the furniture, took to shrieking like a banshee while leaving her mistress to attend to the problem.

The girl hopped down from her perch. She hurried to the washstand and fetched the bowl and a towel and brought them to her mistress. Mrs. O’Donovan pushed up the sleeves of her elegant nightgown and began washing her hands while the maid stood holding the bowl for her. Mrs. O’Donovan carefully dried her dainty hands, and shooed Marta away with a silent mouthed word.

“I wonder how the beastie came to be in here in the first place,” Lt. Morgan said to the room at large. “They don’t usually appear  this far above deck. They stick to the cargo hold, and the darkness.”

Jack and Jinx exchanged a hard look.

“Oh, I have an inkling of how it might have occurred.” Jack thought of a particular cabin boy who was wont to play such pranks to liven up the tedium of a voyage.

“Do you want the pleasure of kicking his bum, or shall I do it?” Jinx murmured, smashing his lips together with contempt. “Boy needs a lesson in manners, frightening a poor helpless female in the night, and a passenger, to boot.”

“Helpless?” Jack nodded toward Chloe. “I believe you are mistaken, Mr. Jinx.”

Jinx shot him a bold grin. “’Twas speaking theoretically, Cap’n. Shall I rouse the boy for you, then?”

“No. Let him sleep. In the morning, you may discipline him as you see fit. Make certain he understands that passengers are strictly off limits for his mischief.”

“Aye, Cap’n. Good night, ma’am, and… er…pleasant dreams?” Jinx made a polite bow to Chloe.

“Thank you for coming so quickly to our aid, Mr. Jinx.” Chloe gave the man a charming  smile. “It is a comfort to know if we were under attack we would be well protected, sir.”

“My pleasure, ma’am.” Jinx was grinning like a fox.

“Get back to your bunk,” Jack grumbled, adding a deep, warning growl to his words. “Out, now.” He pointed to the door with the tip of his sword, knowing his reaction to the exchange between Chloe and his first mate was irrational, but he was unable to contain his fury.

Jinx slunk away, as did the other men. Jack stood in the doorway, his sword in hand, disappointed that he, too, must leave. Chloe was stunning in her plain white nightdress that offered no embellishment save the lace at her wrists and throat. Her lovely features were framed by waves of sleek ebony. Did he imagine the sultry smile curving her lush red lips?

The maid hurried to her mistress’s side and made a great show of placing a silk paisley shawl about her shoulders, lifting her heavy locks and then resettling the jet waves once the shawl was arranged to modestly conceal Chloe’s bosom and shoulders. The spell was not broken by the maid’s intrusion. Jack lingered, wanting to just drink in the sight of this lovely, exotic creature sleeping just down the hall from his cabin.

“Is there anything more I can do for you, Mrs. O’Donovan?” He sounded hoarse. His throat had gone bone dry as he stood rooted to the deck staring at her like a starving man might stare wistfully at a feast he was denied access to.

“Yes, Captain. I could use a strong drink,” Chloe replied, smiling at him.

God, she was breath-taking.  She belonged in a fancy painting. The Goddess Awakened.

“A drink?” He felt like a clumsy lad. “I’ve some claret in my cabin. Shall I bring you a glass?”

* * * *

Chloe was anxious for this humiliating episode to disappear. Her behavior was not delicate or lady like. It was practical. More importantly, it revealed her true nature. If she were to convince her father’s family that she was a proper lady she must behave accordingly. Ladies did not kill rats in their rooms. They had servants to do it for them.

“No, Captain. I need some fresh air. And you,” she turned to the little brat who was the cause of this embarrassment, “you will be finding employment elsewhere if you disturb the captain and his officers again. Do you understand me, Marta?”

Marta nodded and bowed her head. Her childish brown braids fell forward, making her seem even younger than her seventeen years. “Yes, ma’am.”

Chloe paced across the cabin to the door, determined to put some distance between herself and the girl until her fury waned. It was bad enough Marta had awakened her with frantic shrieks.  Awakening the crew was intolerable.

Rodents, spiders, insects and reptiles were abundant in the West Indies. One learned to deal with them out of necessity. Rats were not her idea of a beloved pet either, but Chloe was not squeamish about dealing with them.

She pulled her silk shawl tighter about her shoulders and moved into the hallway. As she passed the blond warrior clutching a sword at her open door, she secretly grinned up at him. She would laugh later, not in front of Marta. The girl deserved to be shamed for disturbing the crew.

Captain Rawlings was gazing at her with an expression of astonishment.

“Captain, I realize my suggestion may seem odd. My apologies, but given the situation, I need to leave my cabin for a little while.” Before I slap that girl silly, she thought but did not say. “Perhaps you could escort me on a walk about the deck, if that wouldn’t inconvenience you or the crew, sir?”

“No, not on deck, not at this hour of the night.” He gestured with his sword for her to proceed down the narrow hall. “Come to my cabin. I’ll pour you a drink to sooth your nerves.” He spoke the last with sarcasm, bringing a reluctant smile to her lips.

His door was ajar. The captain followed her inside his cabin and placed his sword on the table in the center of the room. Chloe was fascinated by the gleaming steel. She approached the table to admire the fine piece.

Captain Rawlings turned away from the table to open a small cabinet on the wall. “What is my lady’s pleasure?” he asked in a low, rough growl that resonated within her like thunder on the horizon. “Claret or do you prefer something stronger?”

“Stronger. A woman always prefers strength when asked,” Chloe confessed. She had already given the man ample reason to question her behavior in sullying her hands with a dead rat and then asking to share a drink in his cabin. What did she have to lose? “Do you have brandy? Elizabeth and I indulge in an occasional glass. The count’s mother joins us when she visits, of course.” She added the last as a means of softening her request.

Jack chuckled. “The notorious Alicia St. Vincent is never without her brandy and her cheroots.”

Chloe gazed up from her admiration of his fine sword to regard the man himself. The captain was a mystery to her. He was congenial and friendly when he dined at Ravencrest. On his ship, his natural habitat, she was finding him gruffer and sharper around the edges than when he visited her former home.

She studied his back as the sound of liquid splashing into goblets echoed in the room. Captain Rawlings was a veritable rock. The outline of his shoulders arched and bunched, seeming to wish to push through the confines of his cotton shirt. His hair was free from the restraining queue he wore out on deck. She wished she could touch it, run her fingers through the pale golden abundance. It fanned out like a regal lion’s mane, flowing past his shoulders.

Gold. Sunshine; warmth and hugs. And love.

Wasn’t that what Angelica Rose had prophesied would be her portion in Spain?

Yes, in Spain.

Presently, they were in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, so she’d best restrain her errant fantasies about embracing this fierce lion of a man and stroking his golden mane.

Author’s note: What follows is a bit of swordplay in the middle of the night, as Jack teaches Chloe how to use a sword, some serious flirting on Chloe’s part, and a few stolen kisses before Jack comes to his senses and returns Chloe to her cabin unscathed.

~~~~~

As a special gift for visitors to Nesie’s Place, the awesome Lily Silvers is giving away Book 1 in the Reluctant Heroes series, Dark Hero – a $5.99 value! Use the Smashwords coupon to claim your copy. Giveaway ends June 1st!

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“June Jenson and the Shield of Quell” by Emily Harper #BlogTour

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Book Title: June Jenson and the Shield of Quell
Author: Emily Harper
Genre: Women’s Action/Adventure
Release Date: April 16, 2015
Hosted by: Book Enthusiast Promotions

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book blurb

June Jenson, an accomplished Oxford professor, has spent her life trying to get out from under the shadow of her infamous grandfather: a renowned archaeologist accused of stealing a relic during an excavation at Sutton-Hoo. When a secret alliance recruits June to guard priceless artifacts she realizes that this is her chance to contribute to the history she loves and rid herself of the cloud of suspicion that her family has lived under for so long. But, when the artifact June is commissioned to guard turns out to be the same relic her grandfather was accused of stealing− a relic he has consistently claimed never existed − her carefully laid plans of family redemption are a bit shot. Now, with the aid of her accused grandfather who suffers from early onset Alzheimer’s, and a chauffeur who’s looking for a scandal to make him famous, June must race to discover the truth of the shield and what really happened at Sutton-Hoo all those years ago.

excerpt

Professor!” I yell in frustration.

“Alright, fine,” he says, nodding his head after making his decision. “There is something I can tell you. Something that could help you get the answer under the illusion you came to it on your own.”

I ignore all the insults in that statement and just eagerly nod.

“My advice would be this: walk beside the clues, not in their shoes.”

I stare at him, blinking rapidly.

“What? That’s it?” I ask when he says no more.

“I should think that all but spells it out, June bug.”

I shake my head, my mind running over the words. Nothing. It means absolutely nothing.

“That is the single worst clue I think I’ve ever heard!”

The Professor sighs dramatically. “You are letting the clues lead you to the trap door, my dear. The clues are a guide, of course, but you need to see them from afar. An optical illusion is revealed the further you step back while looking at the same image.”

This is absolutely ridiculous.

That’s it. It’s over. My illustrious career as a Relic Guard is officially in the bin.

And you know, it’s just so maddening because I am a smart woman. I finished top in my class. I have an eidetic memory. I am one of the youngest Professors to teach at the prestigious Oxford University. I can tie a cherry stem into a knot with just my tongue.

But this one bloody riddle has plagued me for days. On repeat in my head.

How will everything always end?

The simple answer is death, of course. But if you are looking at it from a mythological standpoint, the possibilities are endless…

Or maybe they aren’t thinking of human entities, but the very thing we are swearing to protect: the relics themselves. What will inevitably happen to them?

“Don’t go down the rabbit hole, June bug,” the Professor warns.

I look at him in utter frustration.

Walk beside the clues, not in their shoes…

Think… Think…

This is ridiculous. That is the worst advice in the entire world. I mean, it even rhymes. He’s treating me like a simple child who needs–

Oh, bloody hell.

Well, that’s terribly embarrassing.

“Light bulb?” the Professor says with a wide grin on his face.

What is the answer to June’s riddle?

meet the author

Emily Harper is the bestselling and award winning women’s fiction author of White Lies, Checking Inn, My Sort-of, Kind-of Hero and the June Jenson series. Her debut novel, White Lies, was a finalist in the National Excellence in Romantic Fiction Award. My Sort-of, Kind-of Hero won the 2014 New England Readers’ Choice Award. She has a passion for writing humorous romance stories where the heroine is not your typical damsel in distress.

Originally from England, she currently lives in Canada with her husband, two children, and a very naughty dog.

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