Blog Tour – The Italian Word for Kisses by Matthew J. Metzger

 

Matthew J. Metzger is a British author currently living, working and writing near Bristol in the south-west of England. He is both asexual and transgender, and seeks out the loud characters, rough stories, and quirky personalities that explore the rich diversity of the QUILTBAG world. He writes both adult and young adult novels, covering topics from mental illness to ill-advised crushes, and particularly enjoys writing about universal issues from the QUILTBAG perspective. Matthew can be found on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and Tsu, or at his website.

When not writing (which is rare), Matthew is usually found crunching numbers at his day job, working out to inappropriately chirpy pop songs, or being owned by his cat. It is important to note that the man does not, naturally, own the cat.

Blurb Skinny

The_Italian_Word_for_Kisses_400x600It’s no secret that Tav and Luca are going out. After the accident, it’s also no secret that new kid Jack Collins has a raging case of homophobia, and is not best pleased about having given the kiss of life to a gay guy. Either Luca quits swimming, or Jack is going to make him.

Tav favours the tried-and-true method of knocking Jack’s teeth down his neck, only he can’t really afford another school suspension. Luca favours just ignoring him, only ignoring a penknife being held to your throat at New Year’s Eve is downright stupid.

Thing is, Luca suspects that Jack is a victim of something himself. And time is running out for Luca to get through to Jack, before Jack gets rid of him.

Buy your copy here

Swirl

The Italian Word for Kisses Blog Tour

16 Dec – Romancing the Book
21 Dec – YA Outside the Lines
23 Dec – Pamaceeve
25 Dec – Room with Books
25 Dec – Romance Junkies
26 Dec – Books & More
28 Dec – Dana’s YA Book Pile
29 Dec – Savvy Authors
29 Dec – Romance Reviews Today
29 Dec – Indy Book Fairy
30 Dec – Night Owl Reviews
31 Dec – Foreplay & Fangs
31 Dec – Books on Fire

Excerpt skinny

“Alright, Collins.”

The bang of the changing room door and the amiable greeting from one of the other boys caught Luca’s attention, but the sudden, sharp silence made his blood run cold. All at once, Luca was both afraid, and angry with himself for being afraid. So he squared his shoulders and turned on his heel, folding his arms over his chest and meeting Jack’s scowl with a glower of his own.

“What.”

“What the fuck are you doing here?” Jack snarled.

“Fuckin’ swimming. What about you?”

“I told you not to come.”

It was like the rest of the team didn’t exist. Luca didn’t dare break eye contact, and Jack ― although he tossed his bag onto a bench and unzipped his jacket, was zeroed in on Luca in a way that made the hairs on Luca’s arms stand on end.

“Dunno what kinky shit you’re into, Collins, but I don’t follow your orders.” Being both an older and a younger brother had made Luca able to bluff with ease, and despite the impotent anger, the tart tang of shame around the edges of his brain that this moron had somehow gotten one over him and seized some power in this stupid fucking game, his voice sounded ― even to him ― arrogant and bored.

“Go.”

“You what?”

“I said go,” Jack repeated. The other boys hovered uncertainly, but Aaron and David had both closed ranks to Luca’s shoulders, and Luca took a fortified breath. Aaron looked steely. David looked a little more confused, but determinedly hostile all the same.

“Like hell I’m going,” Luca said. “You got a problem with a pouf on the team, you need to fuck off and get your head out your arse. I’m here to swim. I’m not going nowhere.”

“What the fuck is going on?” David asked.

“Jack, mate, leave it,” one of the other boys said. “It’s just Jensen, Jensen’s sound―”

“He’s a fucking faggot, and I won’t have his kind here ― I warned you, I fucking told you, and you’re still fucking here!”

“What’s your problem, mate, he’s taken up wi’ that Chris in Jan Krawczyk’s tutor group…”

“Yeah, Jack, lay off already, who d’you reckon you are anyway, you’re new―”

“I know there’s a fucking faggot on this fucking team and I―”

“Don’t fucking call him a faggot, twat,” one of the other boys ― a lad  called Ryan that Luca had never so much as spoken to outside of the club, and was in the year below them anyway ― sneered, and he shot out a hand to shove at Jack’s shoulder.

“I told you to stay away!” Jack bellowed, and his hand vanished into his unzipped jacket. “I told you, I fucking told you―”

The changing room erupted; the flick-knife flashed under the sickly halogen lights, and Luca’s back slammed into the wall of locker doors as Aaron and David shoved him back as one. Both doors ― one to the foyer and one to the pool ― banged loudly, and the bolshy kid, Ryan, lashed out with a fist, smashing into Jack’s jaw from the side. A couple of men came rampaging over from the showers in their wet trunks, all the noise bouncing off the walls until it was dizzying. Coach arrived with a shrill shriek of the whistle, and the knife had gone somewhere but Luca couldn’t tell where in the ruckus, and then Aaron’s hand was on his shoulder and he was being steered off into one corner of the changing room, and―

A flush of hot, furious shame boiled up Luca’s stomach and into his guts, and he twisted away from Aaron’s hands and grabbed for his kit bag. He didn’t need Aaron to fucking protect him. He didn’t need anyone to protect him, he wasn’t some pathetic little kid who needed their hand holding. He shouldn’t need defending, he was a Jensen! He should be able to defend himself.

He grabbed his bag and bolted. As he fled up the stairs, a burly security guard and Coach were wrestling the knife out of Jack’s hands in the corridor, both shouting at him, and Jack shouting back, face red and voice hoarse and shrill with fury.

“You fucking steer clear of me, Jensen!” he bellowed after Luca, who didn’t dare look back. “F’you know what’s good for you, you’ll stay out of here, you fucking queer!”

Luca reached the top of the stairs, and ran.

Advertisements

Blog Tour – A New York Minute by Ember Leigh

Ember Leigh Author PicEmber Leigh has been writing erotic romance novels since she was far too young. A native of northern Ohio, she currently resides in South America with her Argentinean partner, a detail she uses to justify her Bachelor’s degree in Latin American Literature.

In addition to romance novels, she also writes travel articles, maintains three blogs, and continually attempts to complete a mildly-gripping short story. In her free time, she practices Ashtanga yoga, travels the world, and eats lots of vegetables.

Twitter     Facebook     Instagram     Website

Swirl

Cover - A New York MinutePaige Alexander, successful host of A New York Minute, adores her job and will do anything to save the show that’s her brainchild. But when IBC, fronted by Josh Lambert, buys NYCBC, Paige’s show is cancelled, and her choices are unemployment or a non-starring role on a new show co-hosted by Jerk Lambert, a man who makes her hotter than hell in every way.

Having scaled the golden rungs of the corporate ladder, Josh doesn’t do relationships or complicated. Promised a multimillion dollar payday if he turns Wakin’ Up—the show that replaced Paige’s—into a hit, Josh kisses uncomplicated goodbye when she shows up. The woman fascinates and terrifies in equal measure, and he’s suddenly questioning the value of gold versus the value of her.

Forced together in an Hawaiian paradise, the steam just keeps rising—on set, in the sauna, and in the narrowing distance between them.

Buy A NEW YORK MINUTE     Wild Rose Press    Amazon      All Romance     B&N

Excerpt skinny

“I’ve wanted this to happen since the day I met you,” he whispered in her ear, sending shivers up and down her spine.

“So have I,” she admitted, too quickly for her own taste.

He laughed, deep and gravelly. His green eyes sparkled—the mask of his professional façade had completely fallen away. She loved this real Josh above her. He was so boyish yet mature, hard-bodied yet gentle.

“But Paige, I thought you hated me.”

“What makes you think I still don’t?” She placed tiny kisses up and down the sides of his neck. Kissing him removed the veneer of his professional side, allowed her to peer behind the curtain to the soft core inside. A regular guy with power, a west coast boy with dreams. Wiping away the Hollywood lacquer revealed something even more attractive beneath.

“Well, this certainly doesn’t look like you hate me,” he whispered, fingertips trailing down the side of her face, over the dip in her neck, making swirls in the area between her breasts.

Swirl

A New York Minute Blog Tour

22 Dec – Romance Reviews Today
22 Dec – Indy Book Fairy
24 Dec – Foreplay & Fangs
24 Dec – Books on Fire
26 Dec – Stormy Nights Reviewing & Blogging
27 Dec – Shelli Rosewarne
30 Dec – Pamaceeve

 

Swirl

Cover - Turkish DelightTurkish Delight

In the reality TV business, everyone is either a hottie or horny. When Turkish soap opera star Kadir shows up in Miami as a contestant on the dance show, Jenna is entranced. She’s made it a point to never go there with any of the celebrities she mingles with on a daily basis…but there’s something about Kadir that makes her second-guess her bottom-line.

With so many women clawing for his attention, Jenna wants no part of the hullabaloo…but tasting this Turkish Delight might be worth bending the rules just once.

Buy TURKISH DELIGHT

Amazon     B&N      Kobo

Excerpt skinny

Kadir stood, hands on his hips, in a skintight black suit with a startling array of bright blue sequins. It was like a futuristic space suit mated with the gaudiest of show tunes. He grimaced as her gaze fell on his costume.

“I can’t wear this on stage,” he said, sneaking a glance in the mirror, a twinge of terror in his voice. “I’ve never worn something so overtly gay.”

Jenna bit her lip as she looked him up and down. He was right, the costume was laughable. Though it might look spectacular under the lights and grandeur of the stage, up close it was a hilarious mess. But it wasn’t all bad. Kadir was sculpted, a fact that wouldn’t go away no matter how much she tried to dodge the issue. And it seemed every way she turned, his biceps or an errant brush of his hands was waiting for her, tugging at her resolve.

It didn’t help that his cock was perfectly showcased in this get-up, caressed by the strange black satin in a way that made it impossible to look away. She cleared her throat, working hard to keep her face neutral and breathing even. He must be huge under there. Probably bigger than her favorite vibrator, the one she’d been using over the past few days as she entertained lurid fantasies about him.

“It’ll look great for the cameras,” was all she said. And every woman in America will be dying to put your dick in their mouth.

“Great? I’ll look like a fool. Nobody will take me seriously in America!”

“Oh, come on. There have been stranger costumes on this show, I promise you. Besides—” she did a slow perimeter walk around him—“it makes you look really ripped.”

Without a word, he kicked the door closed behind her. “Can you help me out of it?” Dark eyes gleamed with mischief.

Blog Tour – In the Shadow of the Shield by Carolyn LaRoche

 

Carolyn LaRoche Author pictureCarolyn LaRoche grew up in snow country but fled the cold and ice several years ago.

She now lives near the beach with her husband, their two boys, two finicky cats and one old dog.

When she is not at the baseball field cheering on big hits and home runs, she is busy teaching science to unwilling teenagers.

Facebook     Blog       Goodreads     Twitter     Amazon

Blurb Skinny

In the Shadow of the Shield CoverWhen a police officer falls, justice must be served.

Donnie Massey was an honest, skilled police officer. That’s probably what got him killed. When his wife Diana watches him die in front of her, the worst part is going to be telling their son, Jackson.

After a year of mourning, Diana decides it’s time to move on with their lives. The first step to getting closure is to visit Donnie’s grave. But when she gets there, she’s not alone…

Good cops are rare. Carter Ryan is one of them.

Mentored by Donnie, Carter is at the grave when his widow shows up. It may not be the best timing, but he needs her help. Carter admits the fallen shield may not have died in the line of duty, but was likely murdered while involved in a secret investigation with deep criminal ties. Diana agrees to aid in unveiling the truth. Donnie deserves that much.

The definition of insanity…

As the two work side by side, a new and delicate romance begins to bloom. But would falling for another cop be the worst mistake of Diana’s life, or the best decision she’s ever made? When the investigation leads them to an underground meth ring, their mission goes from risky to down right perilous.

After a brush with death hits too close to home, will Diana risk loving another cop? Or will their chance at happiness be forever buried in the shadow of the shield?

Buy your copy now

Swirl

In the Shadow of The Shield Blog Tour

14 Dec – Romancing the Book
15 Dec – Romance Reviews Today
15 Dec – Indy Book Fairy
16 Dec – Pamaceeve
17 Dec – Foreplay & Fangs
17 Dec – Books on Fire
18 Dec – Torie James
18 Dec – Savvy Authors
18 Dec – Romance Junkies
18 Dec – Night Owl Reviews
18 Dec – Room with Books
19 Dec – Books & More
20 Dec – Shelli Rosewarne
21 Dec – Erzabet’s Enchantments

Excerpt skinny

They were standing very close. Too close. She could smell that musky soap of his again, and it was all she could do to stay where she was. He sure looked good in that uniform. Too good. She moistened her suddenly dry lips with the tip of her tongue.

“Don’t do that.”

“What?”

“Lick your lips that way. I have to get back on the road in a minute, and that might make me quit my job so I can see you do that again.”

She giggled like a schoolgirl. “Oh, you can’t do that. Your uniform is half the appeal. Don’t you know, once a badge bunny, always a badge bunny?” She tapped the badge on his chest with one finger. “Badge bunny, huh?”

In one smooth move, his arm slipped around her and his lips pressed to hers in a quick kiss. “I hate to leave, Madam Bunny, but the streets of Virginia Beach are begging to be kept safe.”

“What kind of crime is there in a resort town in the middle of the winter?”

“You’d be surprised. Hookers still got pimps to pay, no matter how cold it is. Crack heads still need a fix, and drive-bys are very popular this time of year. The discerning gangster prefers not to freeze the family jewels to get the weekly quota of shootings in.”

“I suppose that makes sense, since it was this time last year when Donnie got mixed up in that supposed meth case.” No sooner had the words left her mouth that they heard the ringing of a cell phone.

Carter let her go and dug into one of his pockets. “That’s the Louie phone number. A text message.”

“What’s it say?”

“He says he wants a pizza with his Snickers and his Mountain Dew.”

“What?”

“Hold on. Another message is coming in. It’s a photograph.”

“A photo of what?”

“Hard to tell. It’s pretty dark, but it looks like three people. He says he caught them leaving the house, and they are the same guys he saw the other night.”

“Ask him who they are.” Her heart rate picked up at the thought of a possible lead. “Are they cops?”

Carter tapped out a message and then waited for Louie to reply. “Okay, he says they left and locked the place up tight. He doesn’t know who they are, but he is certain they are the same guys he saw the other night.”

Carter typed in another message, then set the phone down on the counter by his radio. It buzzed almost immediately with a message from Louie, promising to let them know the second the men returned, as long as he could have an extra-large double cheese pie. “All right, as much as I hate to go, I need to get back out on patrol. Lunchtime is over.”

“Lunch time? Was I supposed to be a quickie on your lunch break?”

Carter grabbed his radio and clipped it back on his belt. “Trust me, baby, if that was why I was here, there would be nothing quick about it.”

Blog Tour – Not So Silent Night by Sheri Velarde

Sheri Velarde AuthorSheri Velarde, lives in New Mexico with her husband and their two dogs.

Being an avid reader since an early age, she has wanted to be a writer for as long as she can remember. She has been writing all her life, but only recently started to actually try to pursue her dream of writing for a living. She specializes in all things paranormal and that go bump in the night. Her heart truly lies in exploring unknown worlds or adding the supernatural to our world. If it goes bump in the night or has magical connotations, Sheri writes about it.

She is constantly putting out new material with various publishers, so it is best to keep up with her on her website www.sherivelarde.weebly.com.

In her spare time Sheri is an artist, jewelry designer, independent comic writer/artist and freelance non-fiction writer. She enjoys hiking in the mountains, going to live concerts, art openings, museums, and hosting intimate dinner parties.

Website/Blog     Facebook      Twitter

 Blurb Skinny

Not So Silent Night CoverAnna is a lonely woman, running her dead grandmother’s flower shop. She hates Christmas and could not feel more lost when a handsome and mysterious Russian, Alexander, walks into her shop and her life.

Each has secrets that they are harboring. Just as their passion erupts, the good old boys in town threaten to ruin everything. Getting to know each other is tough for most couples, adding in magic does not make it any easier. Now with a pack of werewolves out to destroy them, things become intense. They find themselves in a fight for their lives. Can their newfound love give them the strength to win against this threat and trust in the future?

Buy your copy HERE

Swirl

Not So Silent Night Blog Tour


08 Dec – Indy Book Fairy
08 Dec – Romance Reviews Today
09 Dec – Pamaceeve
10 Dec – Night Owl Reviews
10 Dec – Foreplay & Fangs
10 Dec – Books on Fire
11 Dec – Romance Junkies
11 Dec – Room with Books
11 Dec – Torie James
13 Dec – Shelli Rosewarne
14 Dec – Savvy Authors
14 Dec – Erzabet’s Enchantments
19 Dec – Stormy Nights Reviewing & Blogging


Excerpt skinny

She had almost finished cleaning up in back when she heard the bell on the door ring less than five minutes before closing. “Seriously? Can’t people let me get out of here on time just one damn night?” she muttered to herself as she stormed toward the front so she could wait on her customer and then get the hell out of the store.

Anna whipped around the corner in a huff, not caring if she scared the latecomer away. She stopped in her tracks and almost forgot what had pissed her off when she saw the customer in question. The most breathtaking back view of a man she had ever seen stood just inside the doorway, and her brain stopped working for the moment. Wow, who knew broad shoulders and a great rear could stop a woman in her tracks? While she gawked like an idiot, the man turned around and proved to be even more distracting from the front. This guy was like a wall of muscle, perfect body attached to a very masculine and handsome face with the deepest blue eyes Anna had ever seen.

“Sorry, I know you are about to close, but I need a gift of flowers,” he said when he saw Anna. He had a very thick eastern European accent that she thought might be Russian, which of course only made him hotter. She noticed his eyes taking her in, and she couldn’t help but stand a little straighter, showing her curves off to her advantage while she absentmindedly ran her fingers through her long, wavy, raven hair, which most men seemed to love.

It took Anna’s brain a few moments to catch up before she could speak. Her previous anger and frustration vanished, replaced by eagerness to help this particular customer. “No problem at all. Do you have an idea of what kind of gift you are looking for? Is this for your girlfriend or wife?” Anna held her breath as she waited for this mystery man to answer, a bit annoyed with herself that she cared so much about what he might say.

In Review – Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel

Wolf HallWINNER OF THE 2009 MAN BOOKER PRIZE

England in the 1520s is a heartbeat from disaster. If the king dies without a male heir, the country could be destroyed by civil war. Henry VIII wants to annul his marriage of twenty years and marry Anne Boleyn.

The pope and most of Europe oppose him. Into this impasse steps Thomas Cromwell: a wholly original man, a charmer and a bully, both idealist and opportunist, astute in reading people, and implacable in his ambition.

But Henry is volatile: one day tender, one day murderous. Cromwell helps him break the opposition, but what will be the price of his triumph? – See more      Amazon

Swirl

a little bit swirlyI confess that I did something I wouldn’t normally do… I watched the mini series before I had a chance to read the book.  Normally when there is a series or movie that excites me which happens to be based on a book, I make a point of reading that book first. In this case though, I’m glad I watched the series first.

The book is written in the present tense, which works really well for this story, but there were times when I was a little confused… When I didn’t know if I was in Cromwell’s head or not and when not, whose point of view was I in?  Having watched the mini series, I was able to work out most of the confusion based on what I’d seen.

One of the quotes in my copy promised that I would be unable to put the book down, but I found that it was remarkably easy to walk away.  Fortunately, a few chapters in, the story did pick up and grip me a bit more.  I was pleasantly surprised that although there were the usual changes for the translation to TV, most of the story had been faithfully reproduced on screen. The characters had been captured so well, that reading the book felt like revisiting the awesome series … a refreshing change from many adaptations!

I’m a self-confessed Tudor-holic and a quick look at my library will show that I collect any and every book I can find that talks about that period in history.  I have stories about everyday people, right up to the role players at court and I am fascinated by how they all come together.  Wolf Hall did not disappoint.
It was a fresh perspective on a story that I know only too well, filled with familiar characters and historical occurrences which helped to create a wonderful, 3 dimensional world.  I can’t wait to read the other 2 books in the series.

I would definitely recommend it to fans of the Tudor period. It’s a fascinating read.

4 Hearts from me.

Wolf Hall Trailer

Until next time,

BM xx

Blog Tour – The Gangster’s Woman by Ginger Ring

Author Pic - Ginger RingGinger Ring is an eclectic, hat-loving Midwestern girl with a weakness for cheese, dark chocolate, and the Green Bay Packers. She loves reading, playing with her cats, watching great movies, and has a quirky sense of humor. Publishing a book has been a lifelong dream of hers and she is excited to share her romantic stories with you. Her heroines are classy, sassy and in search of love and adventure. When Ginger isn’t tracking down old gangster haunts or stopping at historical landmarks, you can find her on the backwaters of the Mississippi River fishing with her husband.

Amazon author page     Webpage and Blog    Facebook writer page

Twitter     Pinterest

 

Blurb Skinny

Cover - The Gangsters WomanNow that prohibition was over, FBI agent Michael Flynn hoped to enjoy the quiet life and a chance to
finally concentrate on finding his best friend’s sister. He’d been in love with her since he first laid eyes on her picture. Unfortunately, the more he searched the more he realized she wasn’t just missing. Eryn was hiding from one of the most notorious gangsters around. One who wouldn’t rest until he knew she was dead.

Eryn O’Malley had been moving around for years, doing whatever legal, or illegal job she could find to survive. No time for romance or a normal life. A one night stand with a handsome man at the county fair seemed like just the ticket to escape for a moment from her troubled life. However, finding out he was a G-man wasn’t part of the plan. Now he was on her trail. Whether to arrest or rescue her, she wasn’t sure, and she couldn’t wait around to find out. If he caught her, would he forgive her checkered past or would he always think of her as the gangster’s woman?

Buy your copy now!

Swirl

The Gangster's Woman Blog Tour

04 Dec – Savvy Authors
04 Dec – Romance Junkies
04 Dec – Night Owl Reviews
06 Dec – Shelli Rosewarne
07 Dec – Erzabet’s Enchantments
12 Dec – Stormy Nights Reviewing & Blogging

 

 

Excerpt skinny

“You rest up, handsome, and I will make you a drink. You’re going to need it.” She opened the whiskey bottle and poured a hefty portion in each glass.

“The rest, or the drink?” he inquired.

“Both.” With her back to him, she sprinkled the drug in his drink. He would be sleeping like a baby in no time.

“What’s your name again, doll?” The man rose on his elbows.

“What do you want it to be?” She smiled and handed him the drink.

“You remind me of Rochelle Hudson. Well, if she had red hair, that is.” He downed the whiskey and handed the glass back.

“Another one, George?” Hopefully, the one would be enough, but he was a big fella.

“No. Aren’t you going to join me, Rochelle?” He chuckled and his beefy fingers patted the bed.

“I need a cig first.” Using the motel matches, she lit the cigarette between her red lips, and inhaled. The nicotine calmed her nerves and she breathed deep.

George swung his feet around and sat on the edge of the bed. “I don’t care what the doctors say.” He pointed a stubby finger at her. “Those bad things will kill ya.”

“I’ve done a lot of bad things.” A perfect smoke ring floated from her dark lips. “None of them have killed me yet.”

Blog Tour – The Queen’s Heart by Jo March

Jo March lives in her own Wonderland—a place filled with books, animals and plenty of ways to exercise her imagination and creativity. She cannot remember not wanting to be a writer and indulges whenever she can. She lives in Cape Town and considers it the most beautiful place in the world to live.

Facebook     Twitter 

Blurb Skinny

The Queen's Heart Cover
Clarissa could never have foreseen the magic a simple hatter could bring to her life.

As queen of Wonderland, Clarissa should have been secure in her position, but Alice sought to change all that. A clause in the dead king’s will only serves to spur on their childhood rivalry.

Alice will stop at nothing to take the throne for herself.  The best laid plans can go awry though and it’s only a matter of time until the true queen of Wonderland will be crowned for good.

Buy your copy here

Swirl 

Jo March Blog Tour

 

 

01 Dec – Indy Book Fairy
01 Dec – Romance Reviews Today

02 Dec – Pamaceeve
03 Dec – Foreplay & Fangs
03 Dec – Books on Fire
12 Dec – Books & More

 

 

Excerpt skinny

“Who are you?”

“I’m just a simple hatter, miss. Newly arrived here to ply my trade at court.”

“Interesting. Well, don’t let me keep you…”

At her dismissive tone, the hatter raised his eyes and stared at her for a moment. “Did anyone ever tell you that you’re awfully bossy? I’m sure the queen herself isn’t as bossy as you!”

“Not lately, no, and since you are new here, you may want to wait until you meet the queen to decide what she’s like.” Stepping to one side on the path, she cocked her head at the exit. “I believe you were just leaving?”

Slowly he walked toward her, closing the distance between them until he towered over her. Realizing that it might not be safe to be alone with this stranger, she was tempted to take a step backward, but one look at the expression on his face showed that he was expecting her to be intimidated. Resolutely she stood her ground. Staring defiantly up at him, she crossed her arms defensively across her chest.

“Am I in your way?”

“Not at all.” And with that he dropped his lips to hers. The kiss was gentle at first—their mouths the only point of contact between them—but within moments, his tongue had teased her lips apart and his hands were buried in her hair, drawing her nearer. Of their own volition, her hands explored the planes of his chest through the cotton shirt he wore, and her fingers memorized every detail.

Without warning he pulled away, his breathing ragged. His gaze bore into hers and she felt as if he were reading every thought that flashed across her mind. Her heart fluttered like a trapped butterfly in her chest—the sound so loud that she felt sure he must be able to hear it. With extraordinary gentleness, he ran the back of his hand slowly down her cheek before stepping quietly past her and leaving the garden.