Monday, February 28, 2011

The Little Things That Say So Much

by: Leah Hultenschmidt, Senior Editor

I think people sometimes get so caught up in certain scenes—and you know the ones I mean—when it comes to romance that they forget that the love story itself is so much more. An amazing romance goes way beyond acrobatics in the bedroom (or kitchen or car or forest or…). It’s the small tender moments that, to me, really demonstrate a deep and abiding love that make the characters so memorable.

One of my favorite examples comes from IN FOR A PENNY by Rose Lerner (and I hope Rose won’t be upset with me for a small spoiler):

The most touching scene to me in this book had nothing to do with actual romance. To briefly set up: Nev & Penelope have been trying to make work a marriage of convenience—he’s an aristocrat in need of money and worries that he’s not smart/admirable enough, and she’s from the wealthy merchant class but never feels as though she truly fits in High Society. They truly care for each other, but they’ve quarreled and are at a ball. He gets her a plate of food and when he brings it back, she sees all the morsels are cut into tiny pieces--because he knows she’s incredibly self-conscious about eating in public. And that small act said way more to me than an apology could. It said he knows her so well and cares enough to do something that might not mean much to anyone else but spoke volumes to her. It made my heart melt.

That’s what I look for when I’m reading a romance and when I edit one. Where are the little in-between moments that make the reader truly believe this couple is meant for each other, that their love will last an age?

It’s so meaningful because that’s what we have in real life, right? We hear “I love you,” but we actually see it in the full tank of gas that wasn’t there last time we had the car, the cup of coffee made just the way we like it, a surprise gift (even if it’s merely a new keychain because he knows yours broke) because he was “thinking of you.”

So what are your favorite little moments—either in real life or in fiction? I have two copies each of WICKEDLY CHARMING by Kristine Grayson and SEALED FOREVER by Mary Margret Daughtridge to give away to two random commenters.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

What does Valentine's Day mean to you?

NOTE-- I will announce the contest winner HERE tomorrow -- MONDAY -- after NOON Mountain time. Comments welcome until then.

I ask that question as I sit with a huge heart shaped box of Valentine's Day candy that I ate WAY WAY too much of. This year, me and my honey, were so busy to enjoy Valentine's Day. He had class until late and we blinked and it was gone. So two days later, at midnight, we hit several stores and bought 50% off candy to pig out on. Not the most romantic Valentine's Day, but a half price yummy one. So the answer to the question -- what does Valentine's Day mean to me? -- this year -- half price chocolate.

Today -- instead of a first kiss excerpt -- I'm going to share a first meeting excerpt from LEGEND OF MICHAEL and I'm going to give out the very first ARC I've given out to anyone! How do you win? Just tell me what you did for Valentines' Day.


Nevada’s AREA 51 was not only the subject of government conspiracy theories; it was now, officially, her new home. A good hour before sunrise, Cassandra Powell pulled into the military parking lot outside the launch pad leading to the top-secret underground facilities where the launch of the Project Zodius GTECH Super Soldier Program was a year under way. The ride from her new on-base housing had been a whopping three minutes, which considering the inhuman hours the military favored, she could deal with. The simplicity of a standard green army skirt and jacket—required despite her contract status—seemed to be working for her as well. The cardboard bed, not so much. It had, however, made a great desk for her laptop and all-night reading.

And considering she was only three days on the job—taking over for the former head of clinical psychology who’d transferred to another department—she had plenty of work to do. The prior department head hadn’t done one fourth of the studies that Cassandra deemed critical to properly evaluate these soldiers. And while the counseling aspect fell outside her clinical role, she wasn’t pleased with what was being offered. She’d certainly be nudging her way into that territory.

Files in hand, she exited her red Volkswagen Beetle, and pushed the door shut with a flick of her hip. She walked all of two steps when the wind whipped into high gear, fluttering her suit jacket at her hips and tearing to pieces the blonde knot tied at her nape.

She shoved at the loose locks of hair and drew to a shocked halt, blinking in disbelief as four men dressed in black fatigues materialized in a rush of hot August wind at the other side of the long parking lot next to the elevator. She drew a breath and forced it out, trying to calm the thunder of her heart pounding her chest. Apparently she wasn’t quite as prepared for the phenomenon of GTECH Super Soldiers as she’d thought she was. Or at least not this thing her piles of paperwork referred to as “wind-walking.” It was one thing to be inhumanly strong and fast, even to be immune to human disease, but to be able to travel with the wind was downright spooky—and suddenly, so was the dark parking lot as the four men disappeared into the elevator.

Eager to get inside, Cassandra started walking, but made it all of two steps before another man appeared beside the elevator, this time with no wind as warning. Good grief, she hadn’t read about that stealthy little trick yet. Special Forces soldiers were already called lethal weapons, but these men, this one in particular, were taking it to a whole new level.

Still a good distance away from the building, Cassandra slowed her pace, hoping to go unnoticed, but she wasn’t so lucky. The soldier punched the elevator button and then turned and waved her forward. Oh no. No. No. Not ready to meet anyone yet. Not until she had a few of her ducks in a row. Cassandra quickly juggled her files and snagged her cell from her purse as an excuse to decline joining him, holding it up, and waving him off. He hesitated a few moments as the doors opened before he finally stepped inside and disappeared.

Cassandra started walking instantly, determined to get to the darned elevator before another soldier appeared. By the time she was inside, she had her file on wind-walking open—a good distraction from the entire underground, bomb-shelter-style workplace that made her more than a little uneasy.

Absorbed in her reading, head down, Cassandra darted out of the elevator the instant it opened, only to run smack into a rock-hard chest. She gasped, paperwork flew everywhere, and strong hands slid around her arms, steadying her from a fall. It was then that she looked up to find herself staring into the most gorgeous pair of crystal blue eyes she’d ever seen in her life.

She swallowed hard and noticed his long raven hair tied at the back of his neck, rather than the standard buzz cut—a sure indicator he was Special Ops. He could be one of the two hundred GTECH soldiers stationed at the base. A Wind-walker, she thought, still in awe of what she’d seen above ground.

“I’m sorry. I wasn’t watching where I was…” She lost the final word, her mouth dry as she suddenly realized her legs were pressed intimately to his desert fatigues, and her conservative, military-issue skirt had managed to work its way halfway up her thigh. “Oh!”

She quickly took a step backwards, righting her skirt in a flurry of panicked movement. Three days on the job, and already she was putting on a show. She pressed her hand to her forehead. “I know better than to read while walking. I hope I didn’t hurt you.” He arched a dark brow as her gaze swept all six-foot-plus of incredibly hot man, all lethal muscle and mayhem, and knew that was unlikely. She laughed at the ridiculous statement, feeling uncharacteristically nervous. She was five four in her bare feet—well, on her tip toes—and she bet this man towered over her by nearly a foot. “Okay. I didn’t hurt you. But, well, I’m still sorry.”

He stared down at her, his gaze steady, unblinking, the chiseled lines of high cheekbones and a square jaw, expressionless. Except deep in those strikingly blue eyes, she saw a tiny flicker of what she thought was amusement. “I’m not sorry,” he said, bending down to pick up her files.

She blinked at the odd response, tilting her head and then bending down to face him. “What do you mean?” she asked, a lock of her blonde hair falling haphazardly across her brow, free from the clip that was supposed to be holding it in place. “You’re not sorry?”

He gathered the last of her files, then said, “I’m not sorry you ran into me. Have coffee with me.”

It wasn’t a question. In fact, it almost bordered on an order. And damn, if she didn’t like the way he gave that near order. Her heart fluttered at the unexpected invitation. “I don’t know if that is appropriate,” she said, thinking of her new position. She stalled. “I don’t even know your name.”

The elevator behind them dinged open, and Kelly Peterson, assistant director of science and medicine for Project Zodius, appeared. “You’re early, Cassandra,” she said, amusement lifting her tone. “Morning, Michael.” She continued on her way, as if she found nothing significant, or abnormal, about Cassandra being sprawled across the hallway floor with a hot soldier by her side.

Cassandra popped to her feet, appalled she’d made such a spectacle of herself. Her sexy Special Ops soldier followed. “Now you know my name,” he said, and this time, his firm, way-too-tempting mouth hinted at a lift. Not a smile, a lift. God… it was sexy. “Michael Taylor.”

“Cassandra,” she said, unable to say the last name, dreading it more with this man than with the many others she’d been introduced to in the past few days. What was she supposed to say? Hi. I’m the daughter of the man who changed your life forever by injecting you with alien DNA without telling you first, and then claimed it was to save you from an enemy biological threat? Now you’re a GTECH Super Soldier for what we think is the rest of your life, but who knows what that really means long-term for you. But hey, I promise I’m one of the good guys, here to ensure you aren’t used and abused just because you’re a macho, kickass, secret government weapon? And did I mention I’m nothing like my father?

“Cassandra Powell,” he said, handing her the files, leaning close, the warmth of his body blanketing her in sizzling awareness. “I know who you are. And no, that doesn’t scare me away. I never run away from anything I want.” He leaned back, fixing her in another one of those dreamy blue stares. “So how about that coffee?”

She nearly swallowed her tongue at his directness, but, a true general’s daughter, she managed to recover quickly, remembering her duty in a painfully responsible fashion. “I… don’t think that’s a good idea.”

He studied her a moment before stepping into the now open elevator doors. “I’ll ask again,” he said as he turned to face her. She found herself lost in those addictive crystal blue eyes—eyes that had promised nothing, but somehow, promised everything—until the steel doors shut between them.

Cassandra inhaled, the scent of him still lingering in the air, and she bit her bottom lip. Too bad she’d sworn off soldiers years ago, because he was one heck of a man. Oh yeah, he was. But she’d seen her mother fret and worry over a man who was gone too often and might never return, right up to the day she’d died two years before, and Cassandra already had her father to worry about. So why was she wondering when he would “ask again”?

Saturday, February 26, 2011

First Kiss in the First Book.--Sara Taney Humphreys

Happy February Everyone! I am so very excited about my post today. Book 1 in my Amoveo Series is being released by Sourcebooks on October 4th! Whoo Hooo! I know that the release date is seven months away but my illustrious editor Deb Werksman thought it would still be okay to share the first kiss scene.

Before I share the scene with you, I should probably tell you what the heck this series is all about anyway. Right?

The Amoveo people are an ancient race of shape-shifters who have lived secretly among humans for thousands of years. They are made up of ten different animal clans. Eagle, Lion, Panther, Tiger, Bear, Wolf, Falcon, Fox, Cheetah, Coyote. They are telepathic, dream walking, shape-shifters that are born with a pre-destined soul mate. If an Amoveo does not find their mate by the time they reach the age of 30 they begin to lose their abilities and eventually die. They can only have children with their life mates. They are physically beautiful, incredibly strong and once they are mated have considerably longer life spans than humans. However, the limitations with their breeding patterns, makes their race extremely fragile.

Only two human families know of the Amoveo’s existence; the Caedo family and the Vasullus family. For generations The Caedo family have dedicated their lives to the annihilation of the Amoveo. Like so many others, they are driven by ignorance and fear and have hunted the Amoveo to the brink of extinction. When one Amoveo is killed, their mate eventually dies and any children they would have had are lost. The Vasullus family, however, serve as protectors for the Amoveo.

Book One is set on the misty, summer shores of Rhode Island and follows the evolving courtship of Malcolm Drew of the Eagle Clan and his mate Samantha Logan. Sam is the first of her kind, she’s a hybrid. Her father was Amoveo of the Wolf Clan and her mother was a human with psychic abilities. Her parents were killed in an accident when she was an infant and she was raised by her human grandparents. As a result, Sam was never taught any of the Amoveo ways and her abilities were dormant all of her life...Until she meets Malcolm.

A dream on her 30th birthday inspires her to leave her life as a struggling artisit in NYC and move back home to the beach with her grandmother, Nonie. Shortly after her arrival she meets Nonie's mysterious new neighbor Malcolm Drew.

For the mental motion picture version, I cast a young Hugh Jackman as Malcolm.

Samantha is portrayed by one of Hollywood's newest ingenues Kate Taney.

I decided to share Malcolm and Samantha's first almost kiss scene. I hope you enjoy it!

She set out to sketch the very same eagle she’d seen in her dream. She had it soaring high over the ocean with a large pearly moon looming behind it. She smoothed edges and lines with her fingers, massaging the image to life before her eyes. She intensely crafted the curve of the graceful wingspan. With painstaking detail, she carved out the intricate pattern of the feathers. Sam spent a significant amount of time on the piercing eyes, which seemed fixated on her even from the canvas. She was completely entranced, almost possessed by the creation of this portrait.

Finally, after several intense hours, she stopped. Her gaze remained locked on the eyes of the bird. Her breath came in a heavy rush and her heart began to race. She realized that the eyes weren’t quite right. She searched the various bits of chalk and found a bright yellow piece, needing to add this one color. Carefully, she blended the bright yellow hue to the intense eyes. She stepped back to get a fresh perspective at the work before her. “Yes. That is one cool bird,” Sam said under her breath.

“I would have to agree,” Malcolm murmured from the doorway.

Sam practically jumped out of her skin, letting out an undignified yelp. “Jesus Christ. You scared the shit out of me.” She clutched her chest as though she were about to pass out.

“Sorry, I seem to be doing that a lot today.” Malcolm couldn’t seem to take his eyes off the portrait and at the moment she was grateful because in all likelihood she looked like shit.

“What are you doing lurking around my studio, in the dark, Mr. Drew?” She suddenly felt very self-conscious. She realized her hair was a messy bun, falling out all over the place. Her hands were covered in black charcoal and it was probably smudged all over her face. God I must look awful. She pushed sweaty strands of hair off her face with the back of her black-smudged hands. Sam was wishing she had on something other than old khaki shorts and a charcoal smudged tank top. She barely knew this guy, why did she care how she looked? Probably because he was the most attractive man she’d ever met.

“I wasn’t lurking, Ms. Logan. I came over to ask you out on a date.” His smile was sexy. He was definitely trouble.

“A date? Are you serious, you don’t even know me?” She narrowed her eyes. “Besides, how do you even know I’m single?” Sam crossed her arms tightly over her breasts. This insanely handsome stranger was knocking her off balance. A dark cloud passed briefly over his face. He’d looked angry for a moment but it passed as quickly as it had come. Sam shook her head. She must have imagined that. Why would he be angry?

His eyes narrowed and his voice dropped to almost a whisper. “You are single aren’t you?”

Sam straightened her back defensively. The mere memory of Roger was enough to raise her hackles and the last thing she wanted to do was revisit any of her time with him. “Well, yes…I mean I am now—uh recently actually,” she fumbled and rolled her eyes. “I was dating someone but it didn’t last long,” she shrugged.

A small smile curved his perfectly formed lips and he hooked his thumbs into the pockets of his jeans. “I know.”

Sam smiled in spite of herself. “Oh, really?” She shook her head with a soft chuckle and instinctively touched the bit of silver at her neck. She should probably be pissed at his overly confident attitude but that smile of his completely disarmed her. Her eyes flicked down the length of his body. Perfectly formed…everywhere. A slow burn crept up her belly as she imagined what he looked like out of those clothes. She cleared her throat and forced herself to look him in the eye.

Uh oh. That wasn’t any better. Worse in fact. Or better. Shit.

“Davis is something of an informant,” he smiled and those big brown eyes flashed mischievously. “He did let it slip that you just moved here with your grandmother-- alone. You’re alone. I’m alone. So why not check out the nightlife together. Besides, you could show me the hotspots since you grew up around here.”

Sam burst out laughing. “Nightlife? Hot spots? Boy, you aren’t from around here are you?” Shaking her head, she turned and put her charcoals away. “Other than one or two seafood places on the water and the local movie theater, there’s not much nightlife around here. The closest thing would be one of the Indian casinos, but I’m not much of a gambler.” She turned around to find that he had closed the distance between them. Her breath hitched and her throat went dry. She looked up at him, into those yellow-gold eyes and froze.

“I’m not much for gambling myself.” He delicately brushed a stray lock of hair from her face. His eyes stayed locked on hers and he tucked the soft strands gently behind her ear. “However, I do like seafood. Are you game?”

Sam had trouble finding her voice because she could swear he was going to lean down and kiss her. This man she barely knew was about to kiss her. What was worse was that she wanted him to. She couldn’t look away from him and those mesmerizing eyes. They were so familiar to her. Finally, she found her voice and managed to croak out, “Yeah, sure that would be great.”
He leaned in slowly. Sam’s eyes widened. However, to her relief and disappointment, he placed a very warm kiss on her forehead.

“I’ll pick you up at seven o’clock tomorrow night.” Then he walked out as quickly and silently as he’d come in.

Sam absently touched the spot on her forehead where he kissed her and felt the lingering promise of more to come.

***Remember if you leave a comment here on the blog you'll be entered to win some fantastic books from the Casababes! Contest runs through the month of February. Spread the word. **

Friday, February 25, 2011

Let the Wild Rumpus Begin by Grace Burrowes

The first kiss is a turning point in any romance by virtue of taking two people from being objects of interest to each other—perhaps antagonistic, flirtatious, or only passing interest—to, at least for a moment, being objects of fascination for each other. While the hero and heroine have each others' attention, the writer also has the reader’s attention, and it’s a prime moment to sketch in some character details.

Here’s my first, first kiss to make it into print, from “The Heir, in a scene shared between Anna Seaton, a housekeeper with a lot of difficult secrets, and her employer, Gayle Windham, the Earl of Westhaven. Anna has just finished tending to the earl's injuries, and has perhaps done a little surreptitious admiring of his physique as well:

The earl took a step closer to her. “And what if I am in need, Anna Seaton, not of this great love you surmise between my parents but simply of some uncomplicated, lusty passion between two willing adults?”

He took the last step between them, and Anna’s middle simply vanished. Where her vital organs used to reside, there was a great, gaping vacuum, a fluttery nothingness that grew larger and more dumbstruck as the earl’s hands settled with breathtaking gentleness on her shoulders. He slid his palms down her arms, grasping her hands, and easing her toward him.

“Passion between two willing adults?” Anna repeated, her voice coming out whispery, not the incredulous retort she’d meant it to be.

The earl responded by taking her hands and wrapping them around his waist then enfolding Anna against his body.

She had been here before, she thought distractedly, held in his arms, the night breezes playing in the branches above them, the scent of flowers intoxicatingly sweet in the darkness. And as before, he caressed her back in slow, soothing circles that urged her more fully against him.

“I cannot allow this.” Anna breathed in his scent and rested her cheek against the cool silk of his dressing gown. He shifted, easing the material aside, and her face touched his bare chest. She did not even try to resist the pleasure of his clean, male skin beneath her cheek.

“You cannot,” he whispered, but it didn’t sound like he was agreeing with her. “You should not,” he clarified, “but perhaps, Anna Seaton, you can allow just a kiss, stolen on a soft summer evening.”

Oh dear lord, she thought, wanting to hide her face against the warmth of his chest. He thought to kiss her. He was kissing her, delicate little nibbles that stole a march along her temple then her jaw. Oh, he knew what he was about, too, for his lips were soft and warm and coaxing, urging her to turn her head just so and tip her chin thus…

He settled his mouth over hers with a sigh, the joining of their lips making Anna more aware of every aspect of the moment—the crickets singing, the distant clop of hooves one street over, the soughing of the scented breeze, and the thumping of her heart like a kettledrum against her chest.

“Just a kiss, Anna…” he reminded her, her name on his lips a caress Anna felt to her soul. Her sturdy country-girl’s bones melted, leaving her weight resting against him in shameless wonder. When his tongue slipped along the seam of her lips, her knees turned weak, and a whimper of pleasure welled. Soft, sweet, lemony tart and seductive, he stole into her mouth, giving her time to absorb each lush caress of lips and breath and tongue.

And then, as if his mouth weren’t enough of a sin, his hands slid down her back in a slow, warm press that ended with him cupping her derriere, pulling her into his greater height and into the hard ridge of male flesh that rose between them. She didn’t flinch back. She went up on her toes and pressed herself more fully against him, her hands finding their way inside his dressing gown to knead the muscles of his back.

She wrapped herself around him, clinging in complete abandon as her tongue gradually learned from his, and her conscience gave up, along with her common sense. She tasted him, learned the contours of his mouth and lips then tentatively brushed a slow, curious hand over his chest.

Ye gods

“Easy.” He eased his mouth away but held her against his body, his chin on her temple. Anna forced her hands to go still, as well, but she could not make herself step back.

“I’ll tender my resignation first thing tomorrow,” she said dully, her face pressed to his sternum.

“I won’t accept it,” the earl replied, stroking her back in slow sweeps.

“I’ll leave anyway.” She knew he could feel the blush on her face.

“I’ll find you,” the earl assured her, pressing one last kiss to her hair.

“This is intolerable.”

Anna and Westhaven take another 400 pages to figure out they should never be apart, but in the moment of their first kiss, each begins to acknowledge the hope for a future that drives the rest of the book. What a fun scene to write—and I hope to read!

What do the successful first kisses you read or write reveal about your characters?

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Romance vs. Romantic Suspense vs. Suspense/Action/Adventure

By Deb Werksman
Editorial Manager
Sourcebooks Casablanca

Lately I’ve been seeing an interesting phenomenon in manuscripts as wide-ranging as Regencies, paranormals and romantic suspense. Over and over I’m bouncing manuscripts back to my authors saying, “your suspense/action/adventure is swamping the love story.”

In the Romance category, the love story MUST be the center of the book. Elements of suspense or action/adventure in a romance are an exciting and interesting way to enhance the central relationship, cause tension or conflict, and move the story forward. But when the love story is subsumed into the action/adventure or the suspense elements, the book no longer belongs in the Romance category, and that’s problematic.

Sometimes when I talk to authors about this, I discover that the characters and their relationship are fully fledged in the author’s mind, and they can tell me everything—the love story is more developed when they talk about the book, but somehow, that’s not translating onto the page.

Any time you have a scene where either the hero, the heroine, or both are not in the scene, you must ask yourself: is this scene furthering the love story, the suspense/action/adventure, or neither?

A straightforward way to evaluate that is to do a scene by scene outline. It can be sketchy if it’s just for you. If you want to go over it with your editor or critique partner, you may want to make it a little more fleshed out. At minimum, you should have who’s in the scene and what happens (a sentence or so should do the job).

World-building and backstory are important; suspenseful and thrilling elements are fantastic—as long as these work to develop the central love story.

Romance is the top-selling category in adult fiction. Romance readers are voracious, intelligent, and loyal. Still, if you’re publishing in the romance category, your readership expects a love story. Romance readers like being challenged. They embrace fresh and new plots, interesting mixes of subgenres, inventive world-building, and suspenseful elements.

Romance authors are some of the most passionate, creative, dedicated, and inventive writers publishing today. Romance readers will follow writers to the most unexpected places, beyond the beyond—just as long as you deliver the romance.

Here’s what I’m looking for editorially—single title romance fiction in all subgenres that meets these criteria:

*a heroine the reader can relate to

*a hero she can fall in love with

*a world gets created

*a hook I can sell with in 2-3 sentences

*a career arc for the author

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Before the First Kiss by Tamara Hogan

I have to be honest and reveal that my first kiss kind of sucked. (In the bad way.) Not that the kisser wasn't a perfectly delightful boy... but that boy was a friend, not a boyfriend, and as readers of our blog certainly realize, this is a critical distinction. So when he laid the kiss on me - wholly unexpected, all tongue, and no technique - I thought kissing was eww, gross.

You'll be happy to know that I have since changed my mind.  Ahem.

While Taste Me's hero, incubus security guru Lukas Sebastiani, may not have given siren rock star Scarlett Fontaine her first kiss, he was definitely her first lover--and as the tagline on the cover of the book says, "When your first lover's a sex demon, it's all downhill from there." After spending a single, rock-my-world night together, Lukas, guilt-stricken, walked away without saying a word, leaving Scarlett wondering what she'd done wrong.  Years later, she's never had a lover to match him, and she's...pissed. Coming home burned out after a year on tour with her band, she's determined to get some answers - and to move on with her life, either with him or without him.

Here's their first meeting - and their almost kiss: (spicy language dead ahead)

As Lukas left the conference room, he ran into Scarlett—literally bumping into her, full body contact. She ricocheted against the wall.

“Jesus.” He instinctively yanked her to his body as she rebounded, and every inch of her, from her knees on up to her torso, imprinted itself on his body.

The seconds hung. She finally shoved back—hard, like she’d been defibrillated—but he didn’t let go of her arms. “Are you hurt?” The taste of flat orange soda swam onto his taste buds. What the hell? What happened to the mandarin champagne that tingled on his tongue whenever Scarlett was in the vicinity? She was barely registering, her energy pulsing so low he literally had not sensed her coming.

His fingers nearly met his thumb as he grasped her upper arms. When she continued to struggle, he loosened his grip slightly but didn’t let go, half-convinced her knees would crumple if he did.

Lukas tried to assess her appearance objectively: the dark circles under her eyes. The freckles sprinkled across her nose, stark against her chalky pale complexion. The sagging neckline of the sweatshirt exposed collarbones pushing up against the backside of her skin. The black sweatpants she wore bagged at the ass. Even her blazing red hair seemed dim and dull.

What was wrong with her? What the hell had she been doing to wreak such damage? “Watch where you’re going,” he growled, giving her a soft shake. “Did I hurt you?”

It seemed to take forever for her to lift her head and meet his eyes. And… yes, there she was. He surreptitiously swirled his tongue as mandarin oranges crept onto his taste buds, as her green eyes sparked to life. Even if her annoyance and anger were targeted at him, he’d take it. But she hadn’t answered his question. “Did I hurt you?”



“Why ask if you’re not going to listen to my answer? Stop manhandling me and move out of my way,” Scarlett snapped, twisting her arms out of his hands and rubbing at them. “I’m late for a meeting.”

He gestured to her damp hair, pulled back in a messy ponytail. “Yeah, I can see what a priority it was for you. Lounging in the tub, making everyone wait. Jack and Sasha have a lot more patience with your crap than I do.”

Her delicious fury spiked. She stepped up to him and poked him in the chest with a finger whose nail was bitten to the quick. “F*** you.”

His most fervent wish, put into words. Lukas grinned nastily. “Again? Hey, I’m game if you are.”

He felt his words hit, saw her lips wobble before she firmed them back up. What the hell was he doing? By unspoken accord, neither of them ever referred to the single, incendiary night they’d spent together so many years ago. Nope, it was the elephant in the living room that only they could see, and they ignored it with impunity. But with his unthinking, dick-addled words, he’d swung a f***ing sledgehammer at the foundation of their carefully constructed d├ętente.

Instead of turning her back on him, or flipping him off and stalking down the hall, she tipped her head to the side and just gazed at him. Like she actually might be… considering it.

Sweet zombie Jesus, what had he done?

She must be at the end of her rope, absolutely exhausted, because her eyes were taking the long route over his body instead of focusing on some far point over his shoulder, like she typically did when they couldn’t avoid talking to each other. Her gaze stroked him like a fingertip.

“So, you’re game?” she breathed. She sidled closer, stopping when her stomach was a mere molecule away from his violently aroused flesh. Her hands lifted, poised tantalizingly over his abs.

Lukas held his breath. Was she going to do this? Was he going to let her? Yes and yes. He bit back a groan as she leaned her slight weight against him. His dick cuddled into the layers of clothing covering her flat stomach, her hipbones digging into his upper thighs like tiny fingers. As he lost the battle and reached for her ass, to drag her more firmly against him, she slithered around him instead.

“As the great philosopher Mick Jagger once said, ‘You can’t always get what you want.’”

In this excerpt, Scarlett and Lukas almost kiss. Aah, the almost kiss. Fun to write, and to experience! There are all kinds of kisses...what's your favorite kind, and why?  

I hope you enjoy reading Taste Me as much as I enjoyed writing it. Want to read it for free? ;-) Today, I'm giving away a free copy to one randomly selected commenter. 

Don't forget about Valentine's with the CasaBabes!  Leave a comment on our blog and you'll be entered to win drawings throughout the month of February.   

Monday, February 21, 2011

"After the First Kiss... And Chicken Wire" by Catherine Mann

Yes, February is the month of Valentines, which leads to thoughts of falling in love, that first kiss… And then what? After the tingle of that first kiss has faded, does that mean the romance is gone?

I certainly hope not!

That brings me to a story about my own dear handsome hubby of twenty-three years. I’ve shared this story before, but it’s one of my favorites, especially this time of year. My husband is a gem in that he always kisses me goodbye before leaving for work or a trip. He always remembers my birthday, our anniversary, Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, etc., even when the Air Force may have sent him thousands of miles away.

I do so enjoy when the delivery guy shows up with a surprise bouquet of wildflowers or my flyboy hubby struts in the door with a box of Godivas. But the longer we're married, the more I realize his best gifts can be less pricey and surprisingly unusual. My favorite ever romantic gesture from my husband?

Chicken wire.

Yes, you read that right. I should probably backtrack a bit to explain.

Three years ago, I got a puppy, an adorable Boston Terrier/pug/beagle/mystery breed pound rescue named Sadie. We had a general idea of her adult size based on the vet’s guess, and we knew she would be on the small side. However, we never counted on her being so little and lean she could bolt right through the pickets on our pool fence.

Yipes! She quickly found every porch in the neighborhood with pet food. (Hey, did I mention she’s brilliant as well as adorable?!)

I increased walks with Sadie to drain her energy, while waiting for her to grow big enough to enjoy our large yard without escaping. After 6 months I feared it would never happen.

Replacing the fence was out of the question. The fence is big and pricey. My husband fretted over options. He really, really prides himself on having a pristine yard. One of our neighbors suggested weaving chicken wire through the pickets.

My husband visibly paled.

We waited another month for her to grow. No luck. I continued to walk my feet off in cold, rainy weather with Sadie (while feeding her very frequently and praying “Grow, puppy, grow!”)

A few days later, I readied Sadie for her walk – HUGE storm clouds looming. I stepped outside and found my husband. On his knees. Weaving chicken wire through the white pool fence.

Bless his big heart, my husband worked in the rain to finish before he had to leave that afternoon for a two week trip. And yes, the chicken wire worked. Our fence has been Sadie proofed with - as my husband calls it - poultry fencing!

What a romantic gift! What a romantic guy! And yes, I also got a spine tingling kiss from my hubby before he headed out!

I would love to hear you. What’s the most unique/unusual/surprising romantic gifts or gestures you’ve ever received?

Valentines Casababes Contest! ALL MONTH LONG.
Leave a comment on our blog and you will be entered to win a drawing for a GRAND PRIZE of TEN SOURCEBOOK ROMANCES!!! The more you comment, the more chances you have to win! (Winner chosen at random at the end of February.)

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Paper Kisses

By Anita Clenney

You know, until I read Mary Margret's blog, I couldn't remember my first kiss. I recall it now, just a quick peck, nothing spectacular. Now the kisses that stick in my head are the paper kisses. Ah...Donny Osmond. I fell in love with him at age nine and the love lasted for many years. Of course, I can't imagine what I was thinking now, but I adored him and gave his posters lots of kisses. I could almost feel his lips kissing me back, his arms pulling me close. Now my daughter is crazy about Justin Bieber, and he looks a lot like Donny did back then. Must be genetic.

Awaken the Highland Warrior is the first book in my Highland warrior series. Here is Faelan and Bree's first kiss. Not quite what she expected.

She started from the kitchen, when a crash sounded from her bedroom. Gripping the tray, she ran down the hall, coming to a halt in the doorway.

He was naked, sprawled face down on the bed, bare as the day he was born. The lamp was overturned, his clothes piled on the floor next to his dagger and boots. He’d tried to turn the covers back, but now they were trapped underneath him.

He wasn’t the first naked man she’d seen, but he might as well have been. Taut skin covered muscle so defined it made her want to weep at the raw beauty. Bree set the tray on the table beside the bed and moved closer. Several faint lines ran across his back and shoulders and a couple along the side of his hip. Scars. She gave one lingering look from thick, dark hair to sexy feet, then averted her gaze and poked his shoulder with her fingertip. “Faelan, wake up.”

He didn’t move. She took one more look, leaned down, and shook him again. He grunted and flipped over, pulling her flat against him. He rolled again, and the air whooshed from her lungs as he slammed her into the mattress, his forearm braced against her windpipe.

“Druan,” he said, looking through her, “stop the war.”

She lay still, trying not to panic. “Faelan. Let me go,” she wheezed. When he didn’t, she tried to put her knee into his groin, but with her legs pinned under his it proved as ineffective as it had in the crypt. He groaned and moved his arm from her throat. She was so busy sucking in air she didn’t notice his fingers threading through her hair until she calmed enough to realize he was still on top of her, stomach to stomach, where her shirt had ridden up. Her legs, bared by shorts, were tangled with his. His skin felt hotter. He had a fever. And that wasn’t his dagger rubbing against her thigh.

His head lowered, damp hair brushing her cheek as he whispered strange words that made every cell in her body sizzle. Gaelic? His look was more alarming than before, as if she were water to his thirst. This was a look she could die in, a look that made her want to trash logic for a slim chance at bliss. His lips touched hers.

She was too stunned to stop the kiss and too captivated by the feel of his mouth on hers to pull away. The soft nibble, a mere testing of flesh against flesh, deepened to lips parting and a flick of his tongue. Just when she thought she’d lift off into space, he raised his head and blinked at her, then rolled off so fast she grabbed fistfuls of the quilt to keep from falling off the bed. She sat up, too dazed to move, and tried not to gape.

She’d thought the back view was good…

So spill it girls, what was your MOST kiss? Most unexpected, most unusual, most awful, or simply the best?

Valentines Casababes Contest! ALL MONTH LONG.
Leave a comment on our blog and you will be entered to win a drawing for a GRAND PRIZE of TEN SOURCEBOOK ROMANCES!!!
The more you comment, the more chances you have to win!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

First Kiss Gone Wrong by Elisabeth Naughton

Late, but not never! (Someday I will learn how to set the post-ahead feature, I swear I will.)

I've had a lot of fun reading the first kiss posts this month. And I absolutely love reading first kiss scenes in romance novels. They're all so varied. One I have yet to read, however, is the first kiss gone wrong. Be honest, most of our first kisses probably didn't go the way we planned. Take me, for example. I remember my first kiss well. I was in middle school, and I'd had a crush on this boy for months, and he knew it. At one of our school dances he asked me to dance. I was giddy with nerves, super excited. He didn't say a word to me during the whole song and I didn't talk to him either, but when the music died, he kissed me on the cheek. Sounds sweet (and tame), right? Uh, not to me. The moment he kissed me my insides flipped from giddy to revolted and whatever crush I'd had on that boy flew right out the window.

First kisses don't always go the way we planned. But I've yet to read a first kiss scene in a romance novel that wasn't heart-stopping and soul-rocking. The reasons are, it's a romance novel, the kisses are supposed to be heart-stopping and soul-rocking. But the other reason is that by the time most women have reached romance heroine age, they've already been someone. But what if they hadn't?

In my last book, ENTWINED (book 2 in my Eternal Guardians series), I had a secondary character who had never been kissed. Her name was Isadora and she's the cloistered princess of the land and the one female, by law, who is still a virgin. She has no experience with men, is shy and self conscious, and everyone--including her father the king--thinks she needs a man so that the Council of Elders won't overthrow her rule when the king eventually passes on. Through a series of events, her father betroths her to one of his Guardians, the warriors of the land, and Isadora finds herself about to be married to someone she doesn't like, doesn't really know, and has no desire to get close to.

ENTWINED is really Zander's story--the Guardian Isadora's father has betrothed to--and Isadora is not the heroine of that book, though she plays a large part in the story. But when the two became engaged--even though it was neither's choice--I needed to show that Zander was committed to the union. So after the King makes his announcement, Zander goes to see Isadora in her chamber, and through their conversation, the scene leads to Isadora's first kiss.

Her reaction to her first kiss wasn't the same as my first kiss. Oh, her stomach didn't turn over like mine did, but after 200 yrs of imagining, she wasn't exactly elated by the experience, either. There's no passion, there's no toe-curling, there's not even a spark when their lips meet. And when she looks up at Zander after the fact, she can tell no fireworks went off for him either. I've read lots of "romance writing rules" that say the hero shall not kiss anyone other than the heroine after the heroine shows up in the book, but in this case, this kiss between the hero and someone who is not his heroine--Isadora's first kiss--was important for both Zander's arc and for Isadora's character growth. And Isadora, by the way, is the heroine in book three--TEMPTED--my October release with Sourcebooks, so her character growth is definitely important in the grand scheme of the series.

What about you...was your personal reaction to your first kiss different from what you expected? And have you ever read any first kiss scenes in books that weren't all fireworks and tingles...and maybe could be considered, well, as going wrong instead of right?

I've got two books to give away to two lucky commenters today. One winner will win a copy of MARKED, book one in my Eternal Guardians series, and one will win a copy of ENTWINED, book two. Simply leave me a comment answering the above question.

Friday, February 18, 2011

First Kiss Excerpt from THE FIRE LORD’S LOVER by Kathryne Kennedy

In honor of our month-long celebration of Valentine’s Day, I will be giving away an autographed copy of BENEATH THE THIRTEEN MOONS to one lucky commenter today (and look for another chance to win it in our grand prize drawing). So don’t forget to leave a comment and say hello!

For today’s post, I thought I’d offer an excerpt from THE FIRE LORD’S LOVER, book one of THE ELVEN LORDS, cause book two, THE LADY OF THE STORM, will be coming to bookstores in August, and geez, I’m just very excited about it!

Cass now stood facing her…new husband. She supposed she’d have to get used to that idea. Although she didn’t think she could ever get used to the coldness of his beautiful eyes. She’d hoped she could use the general to gather information about the elven, but right now he did not look like a man who could be used. Indeed, when his eyes met hers for a moment, a shiver of dread went through her.

The few times she’d visited him, he had treated her with a disinterest bordering on contempt. She’d foolishly thought that when she became his wife that might change, but it appeared the ceremony affected him not at all. Faith, how would she manage to share his bed tonight? Best not to think of that.

She blanched as her new husband slid a ring on her finger. A band of gold with a rose carved atop it. But the rose looked so real, the edges of the petals as delicate as the true flower. Cass couldn’t resist the impulse to bring it closer to her face, then nearly jumped when the petals curled closed, changing the carving to a tight bud.

He’d given her a ring crafted with elven magic.

Her eyes flew up to his in alarm.

General Raikes lowered his head. “It won’t harm you,” he muttered, a note of exasperation in his velvety voice. And then he lowered his head and kissed her, signaling an end to the ceremony.

Cass’s heart flipped over. She stood quite frozen, unsure of what had come over her. The general had done nothing more than press his lips to hers. And her entire body had shivered. From that one dispassionate touch.

As the onlookers broke into polite applause, Mor’ded leaned close to his son and said, “Surely the champion can do better than that.”

She watched her husband glance at his father. Saw his face harden with challenge. Then the general wrapped his arms around her and roughly pulled her against his chest and Cass could only pray.

Her new husband kissed her again. But this time, he kissed her like Thomas had, bending her backward in his arms, moving his mouth over hers as if he sought to eat her alive. But the experience was totally unlike the one she’d shared with Thomas.

The world seemed to fall away. Cass became aware of nothing and no one but the man holding her in his arms. The heat of his mouth, the fire that ran through her body, the sheer exhilaration of the taste of him. Her senses heightened. She felt her breasts tighten and strain toward him. Felt a wetness between her legs that frightened and excited her all at the same time. His tongue pressed against her lips and lacking any experience of what to do, she opened her mouth and he invaded it, stroking and tasting until she just forgot to breathe.

Her new husband abruptly let her go and set her away from him. Cass swayed. The applause in the room had risen in volume and she blushed again to realize she’d behaved in such a manner in front of an archbishop, half the country, and in the house of the Lord, no less. She couldn’t account for what had come over her.

General Raikes gave his father a heated look. “Will that do?”

Mor’ded chuckled.

When Dominic took her hand and led her back down the nave, Cass could do nothing but weakly follow. But she noticed the rose in her ring had come unfurled, spreading out into a glorious open blossom.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Kisses, SEALed, and Otherwise

By Mary Margret Daughtridge

The other day, Shana admitted that her first kiss did not transport her with delight. Well, Shana, I can beat that. I don’t remember my first kiss at all unless seventh-grade spin-the-bottle counts.

But we all know those exploratory kisses of nascent sexuality are not the real thing. They’re practice runs, dress rehearsals. They’re not the make-or-break test that kissing will become later when finding a kiss unpleasant kills any hope of a relationship ever developing.

The first kiss of true love or true lust—now that’s something to write home about.

I well remember the first boy who kissed really well. But not the second. Or third.

When it comes to the first kiss moment in a romance, writer of contemporary that I am, I often envy historical and Regency writers. Those guys have it easier, in my opinion. Heroines are almost always virgins, and what with chaperones and all, haven’t been kissed more than a few times in their lives—and almost surely they haven’t done any down and dirty make out sessions.

Making that first kiss life changing is a piece of cake. Any kiss that’s really, really good is going to rock the heroine’s world.

Not so for the far more experienced contemporary heroine—or her hapless writer. My heroines have likely had several serious relationships. They’re not going to be bowled over by a kiss—even a fabulous one. For the modern heroine, one kiss does not a turning point make.

My challenge is to come up with a kiss that’s good—it’s gotta be good—and also changes the course of the relationship. I like to solve the problem by making the setup to the kiss something that confounds the hero or heroine’s expectations.

Here’s the set up to the first kiss in SEALed Forever which will be out in May.

Garth, a SEAL working undercover, finds a baby stowaway aboard a spy plane. Alarmed by the baby’s condition, he takes her to Bronwyn, a physician who is new in town. He lets her think he’s the child’s father. In short order she begins to see through the holes in his story.

“You’re not this baby’s father. You were in Afghanistan when she was conceived.”

Garth didn’t deny it. His face registered no emotion Bronwyn could read.

“If I’d been able to reach JJ,” she added, “I would have already put all the facts together and called the police.”

“What facts?”

His dead-level-calm voice made her see red.“What facts?”

“What facts necessitate bringing in the authorities?”

“Fact: you are in possession of a baby who is not yours. Fact: she was drugged and allowed to get dehydrated. The simplest explanation is that you kidnapped her, accidentally overdosed her and became alarmed.”

She reached into her pocket for her cell phone and remembered she’d plugged it into the charger. She crossed her arms under her breasts. “Start talking. And you’d better include all the reasons I shouldn’t report a kidnapping.”

The house creaked in the silence that ensued as they faced off. He sat absolutely immobile—immobility she had no doubt he could maintain for hours.

His intensely blue eyes were the only life in his face. Once, on an Alaskan cruise, Bronwyn had seen icebergs breaking off a mountain of a glacier and dropping into the sea. The deep clear aqua of ice that had been under pressure for eons had been exactly the same color.

Deep inside she shivered. The color thrilled her now as it had then with its beauty and with its message that she was in the presence of immense forces. Her heart pounded. Her nerves stretched tight. Still she refused to look away. She had already yielded to the force of this man’s presence too many times today.

At last the brilliance of his eyes faded slightly—almost sadly—but his eyes didn’t waver. “I can’t.”


“I can’t tell you.” He elucidated.

“Why not?”

“I can’t tell you that either.”

“Not good enough! You really don’t think I’m going to let you walk out of here with her, do you?”

“I don’t know,” he responded gravely as if he hadn’t understand the rhetorical nature of her question. “I want to tell you more than I’ve ever wanted anything in my life. More than I’ve ever wanted anything at all,” he repeated in the same gravelly, uninflected tone, “except to kiss you.”

Don't forget that those who comment shall be rewarded!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Hero's First Kiss

Since we're talking about first kisses this month, I figured I post the first kiss scene from Hero. The problem with the first kisses I've written is that they're, well, let's just say I had to clean it up a bit for this particular blog. But I think you'll still get the general idea.

To set the scene, Trag and Micayla have been denying the attraction they feel for one another, but as the tagline says, "She's the last of her kind... and the only one for him."

Everyone is counting on them to mate, but both of them are resisting it to the bitter end. To give you an idea of just how long they've been denying the attraction, this scene falls near the end of Chapter 13. They've just left a discussion with some of their friends where it has come to light that, with the exception of Kyra, who is now his brother's mate and for whom Trag is still carrying a torch, Trag has only done the deed with hookers. The inference is made that he can only get it out of pity, or if he pays for it.

Micayla knows for a fact that the hookers never charge Trag, but having hissed at him at first sight, what she feels for him isn't clear, compounded by the fact that she's had an overwhelming urge to bite him ever since. However, what she doesn't realize, as a Zetithian woman raised on Earth with no knowledge of her own species' mating habits, is that hissing at Trag and wanting to bite him is highly significant. . . .

As their eyes met, Micayla felt her mouth watering and practically had to bite her tongue to keep from hissing. If he moved or said a word, she knew she’d jump up from her seat and sink her teeth into him. Suddenly, it didn’t seem like such a bad idea—quite pleasurable, in fact. She felt her upper lip beginning to slide up to reveal her fangs and could almost taste his blood…

Then she realized that snarling at him probably wasn’t the best move at the time—not when she was trying to be supportive. Kyra didn’t love him—and didn’t need his love—not when she already had Tychar. Trag deserved more than her pity. He really needed to let her go.

Kyra was protesting that she had meant no such thing, but Micayla ignored her as she got up and crossed the room to stand squarely in front of Trag. They were almost exactly the same height; she didn’t even have to lift her head to look straight into his fierce green eyes. “Hey, Trag,” she said gently. “Got a minute? I think we need to go for a run or something. You know, to work off a little steam?”

His eyes widened as his jaw dropped. “Uh, yeah, sure, Mick,” he said. “Whatever you want.”

Glancing sideways at her as they walked down the corridor, Trag still didn’t fully understand what had just happened. “You didn’t have to do that,” he said. “I’m a big boy. I can take a little heat.”

“Who says I did it for you?” she said, staring straight ahead.

“Well, it sure seemed that way to me,” he said roundly. “Nobody was questioning your sex appeal.”

“Oh? Is that what it was?”

“Well, yeah,” Trag said, beginning to question it himself, “wasn’t it?”

“Not really. I think it was more a matter of you being your own man.” With a backward glance, Micayla added, “She doesn’t own you, Trag. You can do whatever you want. You don’t have to answer to her—and you don’t have to please her either. You can do as many Neriks as you want.”

“Don’t believe I’d care for that, actually,” Trag said thoughtfully. “It was okay once, but—”

Micayla gave an exasperated snort. “You do see my point, don’t you?”

“Well, maybe,” Trag began.

“She doesn’t love you, Trag,” Micayla said earnestly. “She loves your brother. I’m sure she’s fond of you, but—”

“She may not love me, but at least she’s never hissed at me,” Trag said. His tone was careless, but he followed it with a careful glance to gauge her reaction. Something told him it was the right thing to say, but he wasn’t completely sure…

She reacted all right; it stopped her right in her tracks. “Dammit, Trag! I said I was sorry! Are you going to keep throwing that in my face forever?”

“Maybe,” Trag said with a nonchalant shrug. “Let’s just say it made a big impression on me.”

“Impression, huh?” she echoed. “Impression? I’ll give you an impression…”

Trag had one brief moment to brace himself before she sprang at him with a snarl and sank her teeth into his shoulder.

Trag tasted like hot, molten sex—the tang of his blood, the salty flavor of his sweat—and as Micayla inhaled the pleasing aroma of his skin, she was sure he’d knock her on her ass, but he didn’t. Against all odds, he began purring.

The vibrations seemed to settle into her chest as she licked the wound she’d made, and suddenly, she didn’t just want to bite him and lick him, she wanted to devour him… pull him in and make him part of her.

Trag pushed her against the stone wall of the corridor, his eyes glowing like green embers. Licking his lips, he leaned in slowly and kissed her, but unlike the other times with other men, Micayla actually felt pleased by it and growled her approval. Desire washed over her like a tsunami. Her nipples tingled as they hardened against his chest, and as his tongue delved into her mouth, instead of feeling invaded she reveled in it; he was hot and delicious and sent flames racing through her body. The more she inhaled his scent and felt the vibrations of his purr, the more aware she became of the place between her thighs—a place that had previously felt empty and barren. As his kiss deepened, her body began to respond, aching with a need too fierce and overwhelming to be denied. Suddenly, she felt his erection pressing into her stomach, a pressure that filled her with passion and made her long to rip off his clothing with her teeth, baring his body for her to feast upon. She’d already seen his sex. Now she knew what she wanted to do with it.

Don't forget, there's a contest going on around here this month. Post a comment for a chance to win a stack of books by the Casablanca Authors!

Hero is currently in the running for Best Book of 2010 on LASR. Trag and Micayla would greatly appreciate your vote!

And, one lucky commenter on today's blog post will win an advance copy of Virgin, which is due out in June! Winner to be announced next Wednesday.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Making of a First Kiss by Shana Galen

Let me begin by saying that my first kiss was nothing to write home about. It certainly wasn’t anything like the kiss I write between Armand and Felicity in The Making of a Gentleman. The interesting thing is that this kiss is Armand’s first. The comte has been imprisoned for twelve long years and has recently escaped France for the safety of his brother’s home in London. The duc, Armand’s brother, hires Felicity to tutor Armand, and the comte discovers she’s the only person who can touch him without causing him pain. He’s intrigued by her, and he’d like to do far more than kiss her.

Here’s a scene from The Making of a Gentleman…

“I’m not sure what you’re asking.” Her voice was low and trembling, but he did not think it was from fear. He narrowed his eyes and studied her face. No, she was definitely not afraid. Should he take that as a yes?

He wrapped an arm about her body, pulling her hard against him. The sensation was so strong, he almost gasped. Her heat and her softness burned into him. Yet he did not feel pain. He felt only longing for more. His eyes were on her lips now, and his hand had made its way into her hair. It was thick and soft. He had imagined it might feel warm, like sunlight, but it was cool to his touch.

He felt its fastenings and wanted to tug them out. He wanted that hair free, but he feared he had gone too far already.

“I think I know what you’re asking me now,” she said, and her voice sounded different. It was dark and low as the night closing in around them.

“Yes. No,” he repeated.

“Oh, dear. You don’t make this easy. I should not say yes, but—”

He heard the word he wanted, and that was all it took. He lowered his mouth and touched his lips to hers.

The feel of her mouth against his was a shock at first. Her lips were so soft and so pliant—not at all what he had expected. He felt he could explore that mouth forever and, acting on instinct, he coaxed her lips open so that he could explore further.
The sound she made in the back of her throat—a low moan—made his heart race and his blood thrum through his veins. He wanted…something. He didn’t even know what he wanted, but his body hungered for it more than it had ever hungered for food or water or companionship in all twelve years of prison.

And then, quite suddenly, he realized that he was hard, hard and straining almost out of his trousers. He wanted to push himself closer to Miss Bennett, to push against her. He struggled for control, grasped it.

And it was that moment that she began to kiss him back. Up until that moment, she had allowed his kisses, but now she returned them—her tongue twining with his, her mouth locked with his, her arms around his neck.

His blood ran so hot and so heavy that he feared he might lose his hard-won control. He was already thinking of pushing her onto the ground and then—what? He knew what he wanted to do next—was uncertain exactly how it would all work, but he had no fear that instinct would show him.

And then another instinct kicked in—one he was familiar with from long years in prison. The hackles on his neck rose and his body tightened, wanted to crouch. Something or someone was watching him.

He yanked himself away from Miss Bennett, tearing his mouth from hers and whipping around to scan the garden.

“What’s wrong?” she breathed. “What—”

He saw it then. Saw the eyes watching him. Human eyes. No animal.

And he knew those eyes. Remembered them from another time, another life. With a howl, he charged.

And so the danger and adventure continues! But never fear, Armand and Felicity do get another chance at that kiss.

The Casababes are having a special Valentine's Day Celebration all month long. Leave a comment on our blog and you'll be entered to win drawings throughout the month. Also, EVERY commenter gets an entry in our drawing for a grand prize pack featuring more than TEN books by Sourcebooks authors. An entry a day is counted toward the Grand Prize! The more you comment, the more chances you have to win.