Teaser: Confessions of a Glamour Girl

Finally, the cool autumn nights have arrived in Cheyenne, Wyoming, and I’m ready for the chunky sweaters and spiced apple cider. But I’m most excited to share a sneak peek at my September 27th release, Confessions of a Glamour Girl.

This is the third and final book in my Her Confessions Series. I can’t tell yet if there will be a spin-off or a subsequent series built on this world, but I won’t close the door to possibilities in the future. For now, this will be goodbye to Jen, Maggie, and Lily.

If you’re in the mood for an Age Gap, Office Romance, then you should definitely snatch a copy of Confessions of a Glamour Girl. Lily’s story will give you all the warm, fuzzy feelings. Check out the first chapter below…

Chapter One

First Day at Valentina’s

I might as well be wearing a flashing neon sign over my head that says New Girl. After suppressing the urge to retreat, I take a deep breath and ignore the curious glances. Lifting my chin high, I cross the lobby, savoring the click of my kitten heels on the marble tile.

Staring is rude, but that’s exactly what they’re doing. Gawking. Not that I can blame them. The cherry print swing dress with the red petticoat always turns heads. Probably not the best choice for my first day working in a corporate position, but I don’t care. This is me, and I refuse to dim my shine to conform to ridiculous contemporary fashion standards. I readjust the purse strap over my shoulder, cursing the soft cashmere of the bolo sweater.

A glance at the clock on the wall calms my nerves. I have fifteen minutes until I have to be on the forty-fourth floor. I skipped my morning coffee to ensure I would be on time, but the lack of caffeine has undermined my confidence.

This is my first major step toward financial independence. After five years in college and six years working at a boutique downtown, I am still dependent on my father. He has paid for everything to get me to this point. My college degree. My wardrobe. My hobbies. Everything. Hell, he owns the Brooklyn Heights brownstone where I live with my three roommates. We pay rent, but still, I have my dignity. I’m tired of being daddy’s little girl, living on his charity.

Which is why I applied to Valentina’s. If I want to make my mark on the fashion industry, I need to understand how it works. College didn’t prepare me for that, but this will. Valentina’s is the largest high-end department store in the country, and I fully intend to learn everything I can.

With a yearly salary and room to advance, this job will give me the advantage I need to break free from my father’s controlling grip. He might be the most wealthy, powerful man in New York City, but he’s far from generous. He never invests in anything that won’t guarantee him a return. Me included. He’ll be pissed when he finds out my long-term goals don’t include him.

I’m relieved to see there’s a café in the lobby, and I step in line behind a tall man in a dark gray suit. While I wait, I admire the expensive fabric and the custom cut of the jacket. As a designer, I  take in every detail, noting the polished brown leather oxfords and expertly tailored suit. Whoever this guy is, he knows exactly what to wear to make an impression.

He steps up to the counter and orders his drink. “Doppio. Two sugars.” The deep, confident cadence of his voice leaves me breathless. He steps to the side, glancing to the left and giving me the perfect view of his profile.

Holy shit. Silver fox alert. I’m not normally attracted to older men—unless they’re Cary Grant or Gregory Peck—but dark hair threaded with silver at the temples is my kryptonite. Something inside me whimpers.

But it actually escapes my lips and he turns toward me. Oh. My. God. I look away and fidget with my purse.

“What can I get started for you, hon?” The petite barista raises a brow in question. She’s kind enough to not say anything about my gaffe.

“Cappuccino with caramel drizzle, please.”

She rings up my order and takes my money. I step off to the side to wait for my coffee, joining the sinful silver fox, who looks like he just stepped out of a vintage noir film set.

His attention remains on the newspaper in his hand when I stand beside him. Who is he? Does he work here? The thought of working alongside this man on a daily basis has my body thrumming. How the hell would I get any work done? I’d be distracted all the time.

The barista sets his drink on the counter and calls out his order. I manage to tamp down my disappointment when he takes the cup and walks away.

“Cappuccino with caramel drizzle.” She sets mine down on the counter. I grab it, making sure the lid is tight before I head for the elevator. I step into the full car right before the doors slide closed. When I reach for the button for the forty-fourth floor, it’s already lit.

It stops a few times on the way up, and by the time we reach the thirty-second floor, there is only one other person in the car with me.

The silver fox. He’s still reading his paper. I hold my breath and close my eyes.

“Please don’t be on the same floor,” I mutter.

“What number?”

Oh, shit. He heard me. I clear my throat and turn with a smile. “Forty-four.”

He looks up from the paper and I’m pinned in place by his ice blue eyes. “Hmm. You must be the new hire.” He folds the paper beneath his arm and takes a sip of his coffee.

“Yes, sir.” I’m so screwed.

“What’s your name?”

“Lily Astor.”

His brow knits momentarily, accentuating the firm set of his jaw, but his expression quickly relaxes. “Ah, yes. Miss Astor.” He holds out his hand. “Mr. Roberts.”

I shake his hand. His firm grip conveys strength and confidence, and it takes all my effort to mirror it.

The elevator comes to a stop on the forty-fourth floor, and I sway at the sudden halt in motion. His hand grips my elbow, steadying me. Before I can speak, the doors slide open.

“If you will come with me, Miss Astor.” He gestures for me to exit first.

I do, but the moment I’m out of the cloistered space, I step to the side and allow him to lead me down the hallway. We make our way through the maze of cubicles and hallways lined with offices. I keep my attention focused on his broad shoulders and curse myself for not looking up the staff I would be working with before I arrived.

“Good morning, Mrs. Foster.” Mr. Roberts nods to the woman sitting behind a desk outside a row of large offices facing the southern tip of Manhattan.

“Good morning, Mr. Roberts.”

He pushes open the door and steps into the office beyond the secretary’s desk. “Come in, Miss Astor.”

I nearly stumble over my heels but manage to compose myself quickly. Mrs. Foster casts me an encouraging smile before I follow him into his office. I glance at the door in passing and gasp when I see his name and the title beneath it. Vice President. Mr. Roberts closes the door behind me.

Oh. Sweet. Hell. I’ve been lusting after the vice president of the company. I take a fortifying sip of my cappuccino and hiss when it burns my lip.

“Please, sit down.” He gestures to the leather chair beside his desk.

Maintaining some semblance of decorum, I gently sit on the edge of the chair, careful not to mush the crinoline skirts, and cross my ankles.

He rounds the desk and unbuttons his jacket before sitting. “Well now, Miss Astor. I have a few questions before I let you get settled in.”

“Yes, sir. Of course.” I clear my throat and pray my voice sounds stronger than my confidence.

He pulls a file from the corner of his desk and opens it. “It says here you have a degree in fashion design from NYU.” He sets the file aside and meets my gaze with an intensity that leaves me simmering.

“Yes, sir.”

“Tell me, Miss Astor.” He steeples his fingers together and leans back in his chair. “Why Valentina’s?”

“Valentina’s is the oldest, most successful department store chain in the country. I want to learn all I can from the leader in the industry and be instrumental in reviving vintage fashion.”

“Interesting.” The corner of his mouth lifts, betraying his amusement. “Why work for us? With your family connections, I’m sure you could cast your influence with a much larger shadow.”

“I’m sorry?” I feign ignorance, but inside I’m cursing myself for not changing my name. Of course, they would run a background check before they hired me. My father once again asserts his influence without effort.

“Surely you don’t need to work when your father is one of the wealthiest men in the country.”

“In all transparency, sir, I may be the daughter of Monroe Astor, but our connection is in name alone.” I straighten my shoulders and keep my jaw from trembling.

“The tabloids once painted you as a daddy’s girl searching for her prince charming.”

“The tabloids print lies and fabrications to suit their own ends.” I pin him with a confident stare. “I am not a daddy’s girl any more than I am a media darling. I applied to Valentina’s in an effort to step out from under my father’s shadow and cultivate a name for myself. Now, do you have any other questions, or may I be permitted to do the job you have hired me to do?”

“Of course, Miss Astor. Please, forgive me. I did not mean to pry into a sensitive subject.” Mr. Roberts rises from his seat. “I look forward to having you on the team.”

“Thank you, sir. I’m excited to be here.”

He reaches the door before I can and opens it. “Mrs. Foster, will you please show Miss Astor to her desk?”

“Of course, sir.”

Mr. Roberts turns to me. “If you need anything, Miss Astor,” he smiles, and my heart shatters at the charm he carries with such ease, “please do not hesitate to reach out. My door is always open.”

“Thank you.”

Mrs. Foster leads me down the hallway, but the tension between me and Mr. Roberts remains like a nagging itch in the back of my mind. This will either be the best experience of my life or a waking nightmare.

One thing is for sure. I can’t indulge in vivid fantasies about my boss. Mr. Roberts might be the modern equivalent of Cary Grant with Paul Newman’s eyes, but I can’t let that distract me. His assertion about my father was accurate. I could have just batted my eyelashes and my father would have hung the moon for me. But that’s not what I want.

I’ll do it myself. I’ll show every last one of them how tough I really am. I’m more than a rich man’s daughter with a pretty face and expensive taste.

One day I’ll have my own vintage line with staying power like Gucci and Versace. But it won’t be my father’s name they see—it’ll be mine.

Lily Starling.


Thanks for checking out a sneak peek at my new release! I’m excited to share Lily and Jackson’s story with the world. xoxo

Releases September 27th…Check it out on release day for a special sale!

Much love,

Kirsten S. Blacketer

Teaser: Seduction Most Wicked

When he whispers, you will come.

Here is a sneak peek at the second book of The Prince of Whispers Trilogy, Seduction Most Wicked. I’ve listed some content forewarnings beneath the blurb. This prince isn’t for everyone. Please proceed with caution. No readers under 18 years old. (This book contains explicit language, adult situations, and violence.) Releases on July 12th. Enjoy…but be warned, this book ends on a cliffhanger. Book 3 releases August 9th.

With Ruby by his side, Crispin Saville takes his place on the throne as King of Meradin. The first months of his reign are fraught with rumors of treason and deceit. Crispin and Henry, his trusted ally, search the kingdom to root out those who threaten the stability of the monarchy.An unexpected guest shakes the foundation of Crispin’s kingdom, setting off a series of events which could destroy not only the kingdom but his hard-won bond with Ruby.Deception runs rampant within the walls of the castle. Secrets and lies infiltrate those closest to the king. Ruby uses her influence to calm the raging tempest inside him, but his wicked heart may be stained beyond redemption. It will take more than love to save his soul and the future of Meradin.

Contains: Still Morally Gray Hero, Possessive Hero, Questionably Poor Decisions made by Secondary Characters, Dubious Consent, Explicit Sex Scenes, Mature/Graphic Language


Chapter One

Was Crispin dead?

The concern for her husband’s life weighed as heavily upon her as the bounty once had. Ruby wrested herself from those distracting thoughts, determined to focus on the task before her. The harvest festival would take place within a fortnight and much of the planning remained. There was no time to worry about something over which she had no control. She wandered among the tables in the great hall, her gaze skimming over the selections brought for her approval by the villagers to decorate the town.

Two moons passed since her marriage and the coronation, and still, she could not find comfort in her new position. While she knew her life as queen would not be as exciting as her life as an outlaw, it granted her small windows of opportunity to place her mark upon her kingdom without being branded a traitor. She longed for the freedom of the forest, but the path that lay before her bound her both to Crispin and the people of Meradin. This truth proved unshakable.

“Have you made a decision, your majesty?” The servant girl, Ivy, stepped forward. Her hands folded demurely in her lap, eyes downcast.

“I have not.” Ruby waved her hand across the selections. “I am indecisive. They are all beautiful in their own way. Perhaps you could offer some perspective, Ivy.”

Ivy’s gaze snapped up to meet hers. “You wish for my opinion?”

Ruby regarded her with a smile. “Aye, I trusted your judgment when it came to my trousseau, why would I not grant you the same leave when it comes to decorating for the harvest festival?”

“I am your humble servant, my queen. Truly.” Ivy hesitated when the door opened behind her and Vivienne entered the room. “I do not wish to overstep the bounds of propriety.”

“How in heaven would you selecting some garland be overstepping?” Ruby inclined her head to Vivienne who came to a stop beside her.

“I agree.” Vivienne brushed her fingers over the woven garland. “Which would you choose, Ivy?”

“This greenery would stand out the best against the individual stands with the red and gold accents. These garlands would be best around the inner and outer bailey.” Ivy itemized each piece placing it perfectly in the mind’s eye. When she finished, she bowed her head.

Ruby motioned to the other servants. “Take these with instructions for the villagers to have more made for the celebration.” The weight on her shoulders lightened with the decision. She turned to Ivy. “My thanks for your help. I am confident in your selection.”

“As you wish, your majesty.” Ivy bowed and followed the other servants out of the room bearing an armful of garlands and fabrics.

Once the solid doors closed leaving her alone with Vivienne, Ruby collapsed on a nearby bench. Longing and exhaustion clawed at her chest. She gazed at the vaulted ceiling wishing it were canopied expanses of blue sky.

“Come, my dear.” Vivienne ventured toward the staircase leading into the heart of the castle.

Ruby pulled herself to her feet wondering where Crispin’s mother intended to take her. They wove through the corridors and passed Crispin’s chambers. Her heart ached. She missed him desperately.

The day after the wedding, Henry’s family disappeared from the capital of Culver without taking their leave. They gave no indication as to the reason for their sudden departure. Even though Ruby felt nothing but relief at their absence, Crispin and Henry immediately banded together in his private chambers only to emerge and leave the castle the next morn, abandoning the tournament which was to be held in honor of their marriage. He kissed her thoroughly before leaving without a word of explanation.

After two moons passed, the only assurances of his safety she received were from the messenger relaying information to the privy council. Part of her resented him for departing with such haste and shrouding his intentions in secrecy.

Vivienne stepped through the archway leading to Crispin’s personal garden. The flowers faded on the vine, retreating from the burgeoning chill of the approaching winter. Ruby brushed her fingers over the bruised petals.

“Come, let us tarry a while.” Vivienne sat on the stone bench against the wall and gestured for Ruby to join her. “Speak to me, child. I cannot offer comfort if you do not unburden your heart.”

“My apologies.” Ruby settled onto the bench and leaned against the wall.

“I do not want your apologies, I desire to know what thoughts plague you.” Her soft voice held no censure, only concern.

“I cannot help but wonder if I have made a mistake.” She toyed with the gilded hem of her gown. “I made a much better outlaw than I do a queen.”

“You judge yourself quite harshly.” Vivienne took her hand.

“’Tis the truth. I may be of royal blood, but deep in my breast beats the heart of an outcast.” Ruby attempted to collect the chaos of her thoughts into coherent reasoning. “I cannot even make the simplest of decisions in preparation for the festival, how am I going to influence the kingdom?”

“You are adrift in an unfamiliar sea. I understand.” She nodded with sage understanding. “Even though I was raised in the court from birth, I had not been the first choice. With three elder sisters, my parents placed low expectations on my marriage ever forging a strong political alliance.”

Ruby studied her profile as she spoke. Everyone knew Queen Vivienne was the Bavarian cousin of Catherine of Valois. But these intimate details of her past were not something often discussed among courtiers. Vivienne knew better than to foster any gossip of the royal courts.

“The first time I saw Edgar, I wanted to strangle him. He paid me no mind, focusing all his attention on my elder sister, Sophia. They were engaged within a fortnight.” Vivienne chuckled at the memory. “Before they were to leave my parents’ estate and return to Meradin for the wedding, Sophia eloped with the stable master’s son. My father offered me as a replacement for Edgar’s stolen bride.”

“Against your will?” Ruby bit back the fury of indignation on her mother-in-law’s behalf.

“Not completely against my will.” Vivienne winked with a grin on her lips. “I seized it for the opportunity it was. A chance to become queen and exert some influence, even if it came through my husband. Although, I found myself floundering the first few years. Nothing prepared me for the reality of wearing the crown.”

Her story tugged at Ruby’s heart. “So there is hope for me?”

Vivienne drew her close and pressed a kiss to her head. “Aye, my child. There is hope for you still. Do not be disheartened. I shall instruct you, should you need it, but trust your intuition. It will not lead you astray.”

“How can you be so certain?” Doubt fluttered in the pit of her stomach even though the words bolstered her confidence.

“When you were in the forest living as an outlaw, which did you rely on more, your training or your intuition?”

Ruby pondered the question for a long moment, but the answer formed in her mind immediately.

“You saw my son in trouble and acted on intuition alone, relying on your training to come naturally.”

“Aye.” The reasoning behind her assessment soothed the chaos in her mind.

“Even with all the training in the world, it means nothing if you do not trust your intuition. It will guide you to the right path, as it always has before.” Vivienne’s gracious smile warmed her.

“My thanks for your words of wisdom.” The restless unease in Ruby’s soul settled leaving just a smidgen of lingering doubt deep in the pit of her stomach.

“I have faith in you, my dear. One day, you will be the regaled as the most beloved queen in all Meradin’s history.”

Ruby snorted at the statement but covered her mouth quickly. “My apologies. I did not mean to laugh.”

“You will see. One day.” Vivienne stood and brushed her hands over her fine crimson velvet skirt. “I have some things to attend. Perhaps you should take some time to rest in your chambers, you look pale. Have you been eating?”

“Aye. I have not slept well since Crispin departed.” Inside, relief washed over her. She was exhausted but did not wish to retreat from her duties. “A rest will do me wonders.”

“I understand. I shall send Ivy with some warm broth.” She paused in the doorway and glanced back at Ruby. “And do not fret, my dear, Crispin will return soon. Lord knows you will need your strength for when he returns.”

Ruby’s face warmed at the implication of her words. After their wedding night, the entire castle witnessed the ferocity of Crispin’s desire for his bride. The thought of his return left her body warm and planted a desperate ache deep inside her.

Once she reached her chambers, she freed the pins from her hair and loosened the plait before lying on the coverlet. Images of her husband floated through the haze of her memories. His wicked mouth on her skin. His teasing fingers parting her folds. His body fitting perfectly to hers. Ruby’s breathing came in shallow bursts as the restless ache consumed her.

A knock at the door pulled her from her sensual thoughts.

“My queen.” Ivy entered the room bearing a tray. “My apologies, I did not realize you were abed.”

“’Tis no matter.” Disappointment replaced the aching need. She rose from the bed and settled in the comfortable chair beside the hearth.

Ivy placed the tray on the table beside her. “Will you require anything more, your majesty?”

“Nay, I shall be quite content.” She lifted the bowl to her lips and sipped the broth. Her stomach twisted and lurched against the scent, making her flinch.

“My queen.” Ivy knelt beside her upon observing her distress. “Are you well?”

“’Tis nothing more than a passing pain.” She pressed her hand against her midsection and groaned. “The taste does not bother me, but the aroma leaves me ill. Perhaps I should have some peppermint tea.”

The maid studied her for a long moment, her sharp gaze narrowing. “I shall fetch it now.”

Ruby nodded, bracing her head in her hands. The door closed behind Ivy leaving her alone with her thoughts once more. She attempted a few more sips of the broth, but the scent became more unbearable. With a groan, she pushed it away and returned to the bed.

Lying down seemed to soothe the persistent discomfort, but removing the scent eased the churning in her abdomen even more so. Ruby rubbed her hand over her stomach. A tendril of fear crept into the back of her mind.

When Ivy returned, she urged Ruby to sit up in bed and made her comfortable by propping cushions around her before providing the steaming mug of tea. The pungent mint immediately soothed her. It brought memories of her childhood with Marian and Guy to the surface. A tendril of homesickness wove around her heart constricting it. How she missed them. Perhaps she should send for Marian to come visit. She possessed ways to ease her concerns when all others failed.

“My queen, I hope this is not forward of me, but I am concerned for your health.” Ivy met her gaze directly. “Shall I send for a healer? Or perhaps the Queen Mother?”

Ruby sipped the tea. “I appreciate your concern, Ivy. But I do not wish to cause anyone undue worry on my account. I am perfectly well.”

Ivy fidgeted with the hem of her kirtle but her gaze remained steady. “Ma’am, ’tis possible you are with child.”

Hearing the words aloud voiced the fear she refused to acknowledge. Ruby pinched her eyes closed and conceded. “Aye. ’Tis a strong possibility.”

“Such news should be cause for celebration, should it not?” Ivy asked, her green eyes bright. “The king will be overjoyed at the news of an heir. The whole kingdom will celebrate!”

Ruby grasped Ivy’s hand and held it tight. Fear pulsed through her, threatening to tear her in two. “Promise me you will tell no one. Not a soul. Not until…well, until I am certain.”

Ivy took her hands between her own, her expression softening. “I promise, my queen.” A frown pulled at her mouth. “But you must at least inform the Queen Mother. She will understand your plight.”

“I will think on it.” Ruby swallowed hard not allowing herself to consider the implications of the conversation with Vivienne. “I do not wish to give her false hope.”

“A child is a blessing.” Ivy smiled, and her face transformed, revealing a hidden beauty.

“Aye.” Ruby took another sip of her tea. How had such a lovely maid escaped the notice of every man in the castle? The passing thought made her pause, but she pushed it away.

A child would be a blessing if only she could be certain of who the father was. Even though she had been faithful to Crispin, one night created chaos and conflict in her mind. Her body warmed at the memory of being blindfolded. The touch of two men. The pleasure they wrought with little effort. And the shame that stalked her every day since.

She hung her head. Could it be possible this child belongs not to the king but to his closest friend and confidant? The thought alone left her filled with a writhing agony. What if the truth somehow emerged? Was it not treason to betray the king? To tarnish the monarchy with this blatant infidelity. Would Crispin consider such a revelation treason?

“All will be well.” Ivy took the cup from her hands and set it on the bedside table. “You will see. The king will return soon and all will be well.”

“I do hope so.” Ruby settled back against the cushions and closed her eyes.

“If you require anything, I shall be in the kitchens.” Ivy retrieved the tray with the bowl of uneaten broth.

“Grammercy, Ivy. You have been a gift from heaven during the king’s absence.”

“I live to serve you, my queen.” Ivy bowed and left the room.

 “What am I to do?” Ruby whispered against the coverlet, clutching the fabric tight. The sound dissolved in the empty room. “I cannot tell Crispin. I cannot tell Vivienne. Where else can I turn?”

Panic consumed her in waves. Slowly it pulled her down into the darkness of her deepest fears. If this child were not truly the heir of Meradin, what horrors would Crispin unleash upon her? Even though the events of that night were of his ministrations, his command, would he still blame her for fostering a bastard in her womb? She buried her face against the cushions.

Unable to quell the rising panic, Ruby rose from the bed and darted into the hallway. With determined steps, she wandered the corridors until she located Mina, her young maid, outside the king’s presence chamber.

“Fetch the swordsmith’s apprentice, Matthew. Have him meet me in my chambers. Quickly.” Ruby kept her voice low.

With a nod, Mina darted down the hallway and around the corner.

Ruby returned to her chamber and paced the floor near the window overlooking the inner bailey. The autumn wind rattled the thick pane of glass. Her hand settled on the curve of her stomach. Truth be told, whoever the father of this child, she would treasure it regardless. She would defend and protect it until her dying day.

A knock at the door shook her from her thoughts, and she bid them enter.

“You summoned me, your majesty?” Matthew bowed low. His young face smeared with dust and dirt. His rough hands twisted his cap.

“Aye, Matthew. I require you to travel to my mother’s cottage and bring her to the castle post haste.” A calm settled in the depths of her soul as she issued the directive.

“At once, ma’am.” Matthew bowed once more and retreated from the room.

Ruby detested using the young man as her own personal messenger, but she trusted no one more than she did the young blacksmith. She came to the aid of his family on multiple occasions and gave him a position within the castle to ensure his family a comfortable life. In response, they swore fealty to her. A fact she chose not to exploit. However, in her desperation, she required someone who could be trusted completely and knew where to find Marian.

Until she spoke to her mother, she would remain in her chamber. Vivienne would certainly be understanding and supportive if she chose to trust her with this revelation, but she required the comfort and advice of a woman who knew the depths of her soul like no one else.

Marian would know what path to take. How to best reveal the news to Crispin and the kingdom. But this conversation would entail revealing the sinful details of the night of passion spent with both Henry and her husband. Could she face the shame of revealing such information to her mother?

She bit her lip. Perhaps she had been hasty in summoning Marian, but it was too late. She would need to reveal the truth sooner or later. If anyone could understand without passing judgment, it would be her mother.

After retrieving her now cold tea, she settled before the hearth and stared into the flames. The moments drifted away until the sun set beyond the window and darkness filled her chamber. When Ivy arrived with some bread and dried fruit, she nibbled on the fare and found it fortified her without making her ill.

Before she drifted off to sleep, Matthew arrived breathless at her door. “I did as you commanded, my queen. But the cottage was empty.”

Disappointment gripped her heart but it also gave way to relief. “My thanks, Matthew. Please find something to eat in the kitchens before returning to the smithy.”

“Many thanks, ma’am.” His youthful grin infected her with hope.

Once Matthew took his leave, Ruby prepared for bed. On the morrow, she would visit her mother. Crispin was not present to dictate the boundaries of her royal prison and determine whether she could leave the castle grounds. She would take two guards and make the journey without incident.

For the first time in weeks, a sense of peace settled over her. Perhaps she merely needed to escape the confines of these stone walls. Ruby could not run forever, but she could embrace the opportunity to forget for a while.

Comforted by her plan, Ruby nestled beneath the blankets. Soon Crispin would return, turning her whole world upside down once more. While she longed for his return and the comfort of his touch, his presence hung like a shadow over the castle.

In truth, they were still so little acquainted and newlywed. There was still much to learn from and about one another. But one thing she knew for certain. She would never be able to keep a secret from the King of Meradin. Especially not one with such monumental consequences.


Thanks for reading!

Love,

Jen Bradlee

Sneak Peek: Confessions of a Gamer Girl

I’m so excited to share Maggie and Gavin’s story with you! With release day just around the corner, I wanted to give you a sneak peek. Let me know what you think in the comments. Enjoy! xoxo

Releases on June 28th!

CHAPTER ONE

One year ago…

“You’re gonna die! Don’t do it!” The shout echoes through the immaculate brownstone, followed by a chorus of disgruntled groans and several colorful metaphors my mother would disapprove of. Those words, those groans of agony, are etched upon my soul, and they lure me down the hallway.

They’re coming from a dark room where an eighty-inch television sits against the far wall, its glorious glow casting three men in flickering shadows. The two with controllers sit bickering like five-year-olds over the game flashing on the screen. The third lounges off to the side, his face hidden. Looks like the most recent Space Vendetta game. The one I haven’t had a chance to play yet but have been dying to buy because it allows both in-person and online player-versus-player battles.

“You found it! I didn’t hear you knock.” Lily appears at the end of the hall wearing her signature pinup-red lipstick and a vintage cream blouse paired with a black and white houndstooth print skirt. The Betty Boop apron tied around her waist makes me grin. This girl was born in the wrong decade.

“Hey, Lily. Sorry, I just let myself in.” My gaze drifts to the room where her three roommates sit in the semi-darkness glued to their video game. “No one answered when I knocked.”

“I told them to listen for the door.” Lily glares at the room before turning back to me. “I’m sorry. Jen and I had music playing in the kitchen. Come on. We’ll leave the boys to their game.”

“Aren’t we watching a movie tonight?” I follow her down the hall, though there’s part of me that wants to run back to the living room and watch them play. No. Fuck that. I want to take them on. I rarely get to challenge anyone in person. No one wants to play against me. Not face to face at least. Guys don’t like when girls kick their asses in a video game.

“Yeah, but I told them I was commandeering the living room at seven. They’ve had time to play their silly games.” She tosses her head back and her set curls bounce against her shoulder. I flinch at the way she says it. Her huge blue eyes fix on me and she bites her lip. “Sorry, I forgot.”

“It’s okay, Lily. I didn’t take it personally,” I lie. It stings to hear the condescending tone. Not that she meant to imply gaming was silly or a waste of time, but that’s typically the response I get when people uncover my secret passion. It shouldn’t have to be a secret, and I shouldn’t have to apologize for liking video games. I grit my teeth and force a smile.

Jen pops in from the other side of the kitchen. “Hey, I’m glad you came.” She smiles and hugs me. Her dark hair lays in a braid over her shoulder. The oversized sweater she’s wearing looks warm and comfortable. Paired with jeans, she resembles one of those cute heroines from a Hallmark movie right before she meets the town hunk. I shake my head. We are such a trio of oddballs.

“Yeah, well. I have to admit, these girls’ nights are becoming the highlight of my week.” I take a seat beside Jen at the island in the center of the kitchen.

“Mine too.” Lily pulls something steaming and delicious out of the oven. The scent makes my stomach growl like a rabid dog. I shouldn’t have skipped lunch. She sets the casserole on the stovetop to cool and bustles to the fridge. “Want a beer?”

“Got anything stronger?” I joke, but I’m half-serious.

“Of course.” She grins and pulls a bottle of vodka from the freezer. “Don’t tell Gavin.” She winks conspiratorially and pours me a double in a whiskey glass. “Want some, Jen?”

“I’ll stick with the beer, thanks.” Jen watches with wide eyes as I lift the glass to my lips and down it in one swallow.

The ice-cold vodka burns straight to my gut, ripping away the thoughts of the past week and my asinine bosses. I set the glass on the table and Lily gapes at me.

“Rough week?” Jen asks with a smile as she pops the top off her Yuengling.

“If your boss was anything like mine, you’d be drinking straight from the bottle as soon as you got home.” A stifled laugh breaks from my throat. “Those two think I’m a fucking miracle worker.”

“Mr. Roberts can be like that, right Jen?” Lily takes a sip of her beer. Her pale face pinkens at the mention of their boss, but before I can say anything, Jen cuts in.

“Yeah, though he’s reasonable most of the time, from what I’ve noticed. But I don’t know him all that well. He keeps to himself.” Jen takes a drink.

“Well, Mr. Sunshine and Major Grump think I have nothing better to do with my personal time than chase their fucking mistakes.” Lily and Jen chuckle at the nicknames I’ve bestowed upon my ungrateful bosses. “They’re lucky I know my way around that office blindfolded.”

“It has nothing to do with the fact you need that job and can’t afford to get a poor character reference because you cursed out your employer and burned down the building, right?” Lily smirks behind her frosted mug.

I shove away from the counter, rip open the freezer, and pour another double. She’s right. One hundred and fifty percent. I do need the job, and I can’t afford to have my reputation ruined for all eternity because I couldn’t hold my tongue.

“This is why I have friends.” I toast them, raising my glass high. “You catch the brunt of my rage so I can keep my pristine reputation and my job. Thank you for your sacrifice.” I pour the liquor down my throat and shiver at the intensity of it.

“Hear, hear.” Lily and Jen both drink to my pathetic admission.

“Is it movie time? I need to eat something and vegetate for a while.” I hedge around their concerned looks. They want to ask me what happened, I can tell, but I don’t want to talk about it. I just want to escape for a while. Normally I’d lose myself in a game from Friday night to Sunday afternoon, but since girls’ night became a weekly thing, it’s thrown off my me time. My fingers itch for the plastic comfort of the PlayStation controller.

“Yeah.” Lily sets her glass aside and prepares plates heaping with the gooey delicious casserole cooling on the stovetop. “Here.” She hands one to both Jen and me before taking up her own and retrieving her beer. “Let’s go kick the boys out. They can go find something else to do.”

“How the hell do you put up with having three guys for roommates, Lily?” Jen asks.

“I don’t know. They kinda grew on me I guess.” Lily beams as though it explains everything.

“Don’t they drive you crazy though?” I’m curious because I hate people and the thought of sharing my living space with another person, let alone three men, makes me want to rip the fabric of space and time apart with my bare hands. Although living in a vintage old brownstone like this might be worth the frustration.

“Sometimes. But they always help out when I ask and pay rent on time. Even though they can act like children, they’re really sweet.” Lily smirks. “Plus, they’re a great deterrent if there’s a guy who’s interested in me, but I’m not into him.”

“How do they feel about the ones you do like?” Jen’s question mirrors my thoughts exactly.

“I haven’t found one worth bringing home that I wanted to keep.” Lily half-heartedly defends herself.

“You have a kinky side, woman, I can see it.” I snatch a fork from the pile on the counter. “One of these days, you’ll share your dark secrets.”

Lily flounces from the room without a word, leading the way down the hall. She sets her glass down on the table beside the couch and flips on the light switch, flooding the living room with a brilliance that blinds her roommates.

Their loud groans melt into complaints as they shield their eyes behind their hands.

“Come on, Lils, ten more minutes.” The one winning complains with a pout, shoving aside the blond hair hanging in his eyes.

My gaze shifts between her roommates. The two engaged in the battle when I first arrived were still at it. They look similar, in a distant cousin kind of way. Both have lanky builds with sharply defined jaws and handsome features, but one sports slick, jet-black hair while the other rocks shaggy dirty blond hair.

“Please, Lily. I’ve nearly got him. One more, please?” The black-haired roommate inclines his head and pouts, batting impossibly long lashes in Lily’s direction.

“Tough. I said seven, and it’s five after. Get out.” No nonsense Lily shelves her hand on her hip. Pride wells up in my chest. She doesn’t bend easily to their demands. Good for her.

“But Gavin hasn’t had a chance to play yet.” The blond pleads. “Can’t you guys watch a movie upstairs?”

My attention shifts to the third roommate, the one who seems to favor the shadows, and my lady bits decide to take notice of absolutely everything and approve wholeheartedly. His soulful brown eyes, the scruff along his jaw, and the short, dark curls crowning his head. His gaze rests on Lily, and with his chiseled good looks, I can’t help but catch the passing resemblance to a young Shemar Moore from Criminal Minds. Hot damn. I resist the urge to fan myself because I do not fan myself in the presence of delicious men. No, I do not. When he meets my gaze, I stiffen as a slow smile curves his sinful lips. Bastard knows exactly what he does to women.

“Tell you what, Lily.” Gavin leans forward. “Let me play a round against your friend here, and we’ll leave you alone for the rest of the night.”

I swear he’s Shemar’s twin. That silken voice could seduce a whole convent of nuns into sinful abandon. I can almost hear him whisper the words baby girl, and I shiver. Then the implication of his words registers. Was he challenging me? I click my tongue about to form a response, but Lily interjects.

“One game?” Lily taps her chin, skepticism written all over her face. “With Maggie?” A satisfied smile curves her lips. “It’s a deal.”

“Wait, what?” I’ve never even played the game! I tend to stick with military-style first-person shooter games. This one looks similar to that, but I know nothing about it aside from the characters. I’m relatively confident the same tactics apply, but still—

“You got this.” Lily pats my shoulder. “I have faith in you.”

“Thanks.” I turn to Gavin, who seems amused by this whole exchange. Confidence oozes off him in waves. He underestimates me. They all do. I grin and all my uncertainty scatters. He’s going down. This cocky shit has no idea what he’s in for.

Surfer boy hands his controller to Gavin while Maybelline gives me his. I don’t actually know their names as they forgot all their manners and never introduced themselves. So nicknames it is. I scoff. Men. They both move from their seats, allowing Gavin and me to have the center stage. Our audience flanks us, Lily and Jen to the right, and the two guys on our left where Gavin had been sitting. I flex my hands as my challenger chooses the settings and battle mode.

We’re not touching, but his heat surrounds me. God, he smells good. Like Gucci and wintergreen gum. There’s something else lingering beneath it, a haunting scent I just can’t place. I lick my lips and focus on the screen. I won’t let him distract me. Damn him.

“Don’t worry, baby girl. I’ll take it easy on you.” He mutters under his breath.

Lord, he really is channeling Shemar. It takes the restraint of a nun not to react to that tempting purr and the deluge it releases inside me. I bite my tongue instead of unleashing my uncensored thoughts. “Thanks.”

The game starts. Immediately I jump into the zone. Everyone around us disappears into the background. I’m in the world on the screen. The controls are exactly like my favorite game, so I adapt quickly. Stumbling a few times, I miss a few obvious things, which makes my opponent chuckle. I curse under my breath and redouble my efforts.

Beside me, I feel Gavin’s presence, his focus. But he’s too relaxed. Too confident. Once I see my opening, I shift into action and steal into the position I need to ensure my victory. The moment I do, I feel the transition. He leans forward, his elbows resting on his knees. I hear him swear when I steal the health pack and weapons cache from under his nose.

A smirk plays on my lips as I sneak up behind him on the screen and put a bullet in his skull before he even realizes I’ve made it past his defenses. Game Over flashes on the screen in bright green lettering.

His jaw hangs open while the controller dangles between his hands. “What the actual fuck?”

I stand up and do a little victory dance. Drinking up the look of pure disbelief and rage on his face, I add a little more sizzle to my dance and drop it to the floor, ensuring he sees every twitch of my ass when I bring it back up.

“Thanks for taking it easy on me, sweet cheeks,” I murmur in his ear before handing my controller to Lily. “To the victor go the spoils.”

Surfer boy and Maybelline grumble as they gather their drinks and leave the room. Gavin slowly rises from his spot on the couch. He towers over me. The top of my head doesn’t even reach his shoulders. It hurts my neck to look up at him, and I take a step back.

“Good game.” I offer my hand in a truce.

With a dirty look, he pushes past me and leaves the room. I stand there with my hand hanging in midair. Disappointment crowds me. I shove it aside, rubbing my palms on my jeans.

“I knew you could do it, Mags.” Lily hugs me before sitting on the couch.

“You were amazing!” Jen settles down beside Lily.

I sit in the spot Gavin just vacated. His scent lingers and I close my eyes. The image of his handsome face skewed in shock and disgust fills my mind. Damn it. This is why I don’t challenge people in person. Losing is bad enough, but it’s almost like losing to a girl brands you with shame. Losing to me is a surefire way to end any possibility of a friendship or more. I curse my competitive nature and my love of gaming. Not that it matters. I don’t need a man. I’ve got a good thing going without one.

As for Gavin, he’ll get over it. They always do.

Teaser: His Wicked Whispers

Crispin has commanded your presence. Will you deny him?

Here is a sneak peek at the first book of the infamous Prince of Whispers. I’ve listed some content forewarnings at the bottom of the page. This prince isn’t for everyone. Please proceed with caution. No readers under 18 years old. (This excerpt contains explicit language, adult situations, and violence.) Releases on May 10th.

The dirt and stones scuffed his boots as he ambled down the moonlit road. Where are you when I need you, Henry? Crispin lost patience two villages ago. He had been denied a horse, so he walked from the castle he once claimed as his home. The villages near the castle knew his face, so he had wandered into the night in a dark state of mind knowing he must find shelter far from the familiar.

The glimmer of lantern light through the trees signaled a village. He sighed. Hopefully, this one had a whorehouse. He needed a warm body and a good fuck to ease his tension. He rolled his shoulders. A bath would not be remiss, either. Perhaps he could charm one from the wench he intended to persuade to share his bed. Crispin had not checked his coin, but he thought it would be wisest to save what he could.

Crispin grinned when he saw the telltale sign of a brothel. He slipped in the door and took an empty seat by the fire, waiting for service. One of the wenches approached him, sliding her hand up his arm and over his shoulder.

“What can I do for you, love?” she asked, her voice husky. She was plump and ripe, her reddened lips begging with a soft pout.

“I shall take an ale and whatever else you are offering.” He charmed her with a smile.

The wench slid into his lap and toyed with the hair curling at the nape of his neck. “With a smile like yours, ’tis a wonder you have to pay for women to grace your bed.”

“Perhaps I tire of the games that requires.” He slid his hand along her hip, under her skirt. “How about you retrieve my drink,” he whispered as she leaned against him. His fingertips glided over her cleft. “Then I can show you what other games I know.”

She moaned as he touched her. Wet and willing. He smiled. She would suit his purposes quite nicely. He removed his hand and helped her stand. She wobbled a moment before disappearing into the back to fetch his drink.

Crispin glanced around the room. Men and women mingled in various stages of undress. He chuckled. It was almost freeing for once in his life to be in a room and not be the center of attention. He noted the women’s sly looks in his direction. He grinned. Perhaps this would not be so bad after all.

The wench returned, handing him a goblet filled with amber liquid. He took the drink and downed it in one swallow. He reached up to pull the woman into his lap when she was suddenly snatched away.

“Oi, let me go,” she demanded, pulling against a tall, brawny man’s hold. He had a scar running along his right cheek and a dangerous gleam in his eyes.

“You are mine tonight.” He pulled her tight against him, his voice harsh and demanding.

“I am otherwise occupied.” She tried to jerk from his grip, but he brought her up short.

Before Crispin could interject, the back of the man’s hand connected with the woman’s face, knocking her to the floor. Eyes wide, she clutched at her cheek and scurried backward away from them both.

Crispin stood, infused with rage. Such an action was not to be tolerated. “Leave her!”

The whole room fell silent.

The man turned to Crispin, rage contorting his face. “What did you say?”

“I told you to leave her alone.” Crispin rested his hand on his dagger. “She is with me.”

“She is my whore.” The man spat on the floor. “Stay out of it.”

“Do you belong to him?” Crispin addressed the cowering woman on the floor. She shook her head vehemently. He glanced back at the man. “Seems like the lady disagrees with you.”

“Lady? She is a fucking whore.” His guffaw echoed through the room.

“That does not mean she deserves any less respect.” Crispin’s body pulled tight in response to the tension brewing in the room as it readied for a fight. He licked his lips. “Get out.”

“Who do you think you are barking orders and issuing commands? The king?”

Crispin thrust his jaw out. He grew tired of the man’s insolence. In one swift motion, he twisted the man’s arm behind him and threw his weight into his back, sending him crashing to the floor. When the man scrambled to get up, Crispin kicked his backside, knocking him over again. As the interloper attempted to stand, two men came up to them.

“Janos, go home. You have had enough to drink tonight,” one of them said. The other reached for the hulking brute’s arm, but he jerked it from his grasp.

“You and I have a debt to settle.” He pointed at Crispin then stumbled out of the building. The other two men followed him, making sure he had gone.

Crispin offered his hand to the wench, helping her to her feet. He gently moved her hand and saw the red welt below her eye where the brute had struck her. He clenched his teeth.

“Are you well?” His soft question made her relax beneath his touch.

“Aye,” she replied with a shaky smile. “You saved me. I thank you.”

“I can think of another way for you to show me your thanks.” Crispin slid his hand over the top of her breasts, cradling one in his palm. She moaned as she met his gaze.

“Of course, good sir.” She licked her lips. “It would be my pleasure.” She grabbed his wrist and pulled him toward the stairs.

A hand clamped down on Crispin’s shoulder. He turned, coming face to face with one of the men who had tossed out the rabble.

“We are going to need you to leave as well, sir.” His stern tone invited no argument.

“You cannot be serious.” Crispin shook his head in disbelief. “Can I not at least reap the reward for rescuing this fair wench?”

“Not unless you would have me summon the sheriff. We cannot allow such troublesome clients to remain in our establishment.”

Crispin bit his tongue before he betrayed his true identity. It would not do for him to be cast from his father’s house, a whorehouse, and his homeland in a single night. He swallowed his scathing retort and turned to the wench clinging to his arm.

“My regrets, darling. It seems I must take my leave.” He pulled her in for a kiss, tasting what might have been, and released her. She pouted, the disappointment evident in her expression.

“I believe I can find my way out.” Crispin glanced at the men moving to follow him. He walked out the door, drawing it closed behind him.

The night lay shrouded with a thick, misty fog, dimming the glow of the lanterns outside the brothel and encircling the rest of the small village. He ran his hand through his hair. So much for a willing woman and a warm bed. Agitated, he ruffled his hair again.

Crispin stepped down onto the street when four men stepped from the darkness, surrounding him. The two flanking him grabbed his arms, while the third wrapped his arm around Crispin’s throat from behind. He thrashed against their grasp, but they were huge, hulking beasts. He was outmanned and outmaneuvered. God’s blood, teeth, and bones.

“You and I have unfinished business,” the fourth man said, stepping into the light, allowing Crispin to see his face.

“You bloody bastard.” Crispin struggled against their hold. “I will have your head for this. Do you have any idea who I am?”

“The pompous arse who stole my whore.” Contempt dripped from the man’s words. “I do not give a cock’s crow who you are.” He threw a punch, and it landed in Crispin’s stomach, knocking the air from his chest. “But you are going to pay.”

Crispin jerked, trying to break free, wheezing. The man holding his head released him but stood like a solid stone wall against his back. He had to defend himself, but there were too many of them and they were far too strong for him to take them on alone. Three more blows landed in succession, two to his midsection and one cracking across his jaw. Pain shot through him as the warm, metallic tang of blood filled his mouth.

“That the best you got?” Crispin spat. He knew it would only enrage the beast more, but he never backed down, even in the most hopeless situations.

The man threw another punch, square in the chest over his heart. Crispin thought it ceased beating with the blow. The world spun as he gasped for breath, doubling over. The men held him steady. Crispin coughed, spewing blood onto the man’s shoes. The assailant grabbed a handful of his hair and jerked his head back. He winced before narrowing his gaze. Never show weakness.

 A yelp of pain from the man on his right was followed by Crispin’s sudden release. A moment later, the second man released him, clutching at his arm as he stumbled backward. The man behind them backed away as if sensing something was not right. Crispin stumbled forward, trying to catch his breath. His eyes watered from the pain throbbing in his head. He glanced up and saw the man who had been pummeling him standing as still as a marble statue. The shaft of an arrow glinted in the lamp light from where it protruded from the man’s chest. The beast pitched forward, and Crispin scrambled out of the way, slamming onto his back on the ground.

He lay there, staring up into the starlit night catching his breath. A figure stepped into his view wearing a dark cloak with the hood pulled up.

“Are you going to lay there and bleed?”

Crispin’s head pounded. Those blows must have affected him more than he had thought. Was it a woman’s voice? Surely not. He tried to sit up and wobbled at the motion.

“Help me up, damn you.” He held out his hand.

With a derisive snort, the cloaked savior helped him to his feet. Crispin draped his arm across the man’s shoulder, steadying himself.

“Come, we must away before the soldiers arrive.” The stranger’s voice was strong and steady, but it most definitely belonged to a woman.

“Wait.” Crispin protested, but the stranger pulled him deeper into the shadows.

“There is no time.” His savior helped him onto her horse then swung up into the saddle behind him. With a nudge, the beast was off, hurtling through the darkness. Crispin’s head ached. The jolting pace of the horse did nothing to ease his discomfort, but it could have been worse. The stranger’s arms around him made him acutely aware of the lithe body pressed against his back. It was a woman, he would stake his life on it. In silence, they rode into the night away from the village. He would demand answers once they reached wherever the hell they were headed if he survived the ride.

Content Forewarnings for His Wicked Whispers: Morally Gray Hero, Jealous/Manipulative Hero, Questionable Menage, Dubious Consent, Light Bondage, Explicit Sex Scenes, and Mature/Graphic Language.

Confessions of a Fangirl Sample

When Confessions of a Fangirl released in December, I was recovering from Covid. So, that whole month was a blur. Allow me to give you a little sneak peek into the Rom Com that reads like a fangirl confessional. This book has a very special place in my heart. It taught me balance, which is a central theme and my new credo. Without further ado, allow me to introduce Jen, her devoted boyfriend, Shaun, and my made up fandom of Space Vendetta accommodating the deboinair, morally gray space pirate, Captain Korbin Ransom. Enjoy…

Chapter One

STAGE ONE: DISCOVERY

Everyone thinks they’ve got their shit figured out until they don’t. Somewhere between my first cup of coffee this morning and the afternoon staff meeting, my mind decided to take a leisurely stroll down Fantasyland Avenue. Unfortunately, I need to get it back in familiar territory so I can focus on the words coming out of my boss’s mouth.

But that will never happen. Thanks to the new guy sitting across from me in his well-tailored suit and rocking dark, wavy hair a tad too long to be fashionable. I bet it’s soft. His attention shifts away from the boss, and I catch his penetrating gaze. A half-smile forms on his lips. Shit.

I readjust the notebook in front of me and scribble a few incoherent phrases down to make it look like I’m doing something productive. My heart slows to a normal rhythm, and I curse myself for not paying closer attention to Mr. Roberts who’s rambling about quarterly reports.

Normally, I dread this monthly meeting when all the department heads gather. I’m flattered my supervisor is considering me to step in while she’s on maternity leave, but it’s been hell getting over this feeling I’m pretending to fit in instead of actually being part of the team. This opportunity will give me a shot at the promotion I’ve been hoping for—if I can focus.

When I glance up at Mr. Roberts, the new guy sits perfectly in my peripheral vision. And like that, my mind is cruising down Fantasyland Avenue again with Mr. Tall, Dark, and Handsome riding shotgun. I glance at the pad again in defeat.

“That should do it for the moment.” Mr. Roberts gathers his files into a pile. “Before you go, I’d like to introduce you to the newest member of our staff.” He gestures to the new guy I’ve been eyeing for the last hour. “Mr. Shaun Townsend. He’s transferred in from our Denver office to give us a hand in Marketing.”

My gaze shifts to Mr. Townsend who glances around the room with a pleasant smile. His gaze lingers on me for half a second before drifting back to Mr. Roberts.

“Thank you. Glad to be a part of the team.”

Oh, man. His voice. I could sit and listen to him read me the phone book.

“That’ll be all. Enjoy your weekend.” Mr. Roberts dismisses us, and I’m out of my chair in an instant.

I edge toward the door with the rest of my coworkers. Part of me wants to introduce myself to Mr. Townsend, but I remind myself to be professional. Work isn’t an appropriate venue for flirtation and romance as Pamela down in HR reminds us in her memos constantly.

Once I reach my desk, I settle in to work on the orders I started before the meeting. Not even five minutes later, Lily appears around the corner making a beeline for my desk. I envy her ability to rock vintage styles without effort. She slides into the chair beside mine, tugging her polka dot wiggle skirt down her stockinged thighs.

“Hey, Jen, did you see the new hottie in marketing?” She fans herself with dramatic flair.

“Mr. Townsend,” I inform her. “And yes, he was at the department heads’ meeting.”

“Isn’t he gorgeous?” She plucks a candy from the crystal dish and unwraps it.

My mind replays the fantasies I indulged in during the meeting. “Yes. He is.”

“Think he’s single?” Lily’s eyes sparkle.

“I doubt it.” I sigh and pout for her entertainment. “He’s probably married.”

“I didn’t see a ring.” She pops the candy in her mouth with gusto. “Means he’s still fair game.” She pauses. “Unless you want a shot at him.”

“Geeze, Lily, give the man a chance to breathe. He just got here. I’m sure he’s already got half the single ladies on staff drooling over him, not to mention the married ones.” I chuckle.

“You’re right.” She stands and smooths her hands over her hips. “Hey, are we still on for movie night this weekend?”

“Yeah, my place. Six o’clock. The new Space Vendetta movie is on Prime, I think.”

Lily bounces on her toes and claps with excitement. “Yay! I’ve been dying to watch it, plus I need some girl time. My roommates are great, but they don’t seem to get me. Ya know?”

“Why are you living with three guys again?” I lean back in my chair.

“I went to school with them.” She shrugs. “They needed a roommate, and I needed a place to live.”

“Any of them single?” I wink.

Her eyes go wide. “Trust me. You don’t want to involve yourself with these three. I’ve seen the train wreck dates they bring home.” She mimes gagging and laughs.

“Point taken.”

“I’ll see you after work.” She waves and saunters down the hallway toward her own desk.

My first day at Valentina’s, I ended up with a mud stain on the hem of my brand-new cream skirt. I couldn’t start my new job at a trendy, upscale department store looking like a hobo off the street. Without a word, a gorgeous woman who looked like a pinup model from the fifties took my hand and pulled me into the nearest restroom. Within twenty minutes, she’d worked her magic on the stain. Lily saved my ass, and I’m forever in her debt.

Three years later, we’re best friends. She grew up in Manhattan but lives in Brooklyn now. My family is from Staten Island, but I live in a small apartment in Brooklyn not far from Lily’s place. We commute together because single city ladies stick together.

I shake off the slump I feel sneaking up on me and dive back into those reports I promised myself I’d finish before the weekend. I hate having a pile of work waiting for me on Monday mornings. I focus on the screen and drown the office noise into the background.

Two hours later, I hit send on the final report and glance at the clock. Nearly four. I power down my workstation and tidy up before gathering my things and heading for the elevator. I pop by Lily’s desk on the way, but she’s nowhere in sight.

I glance around and then check my watch again. Five after four. Where is she?

As I wander the floor, I pull out my phone and send her a text. I stumble back when I collide with a solid warm wall, dropping my phone and my bag.

A pair of hands grab my arms and steady me. “Are you okay?”

Once I find my footing, I glance up to meet the piercing gaze of Mr. Townsend. My face warms and I curse the natural blush God blessed me with.

“I’m fine. Thank you.”

“It’s dangerous to text and walk, you know.” His lopsided smile makes my stomach flip.

“So I’ve been told.” I pick up my phone as he bends to retrieve my purse. Once we both rise, I offer my hand. “I’m Jen. I work in acquisitions for women’s wear.”

“Nice to meet you.” His warm hand nearly engulfs my own and a spark of need envelops me.

“And you, Mr. Townsend.”

His grip tightens. “Call me Shaun.”

I swallow the lump in my throat. “Shaun.” With reluctance, I release his hand.

A strained pause pulls tight between us, until he smiles. “I don’t want to sound presumptuous, but are you free tonight?”

My heart pounds. Free? Me? Are you kidding? “Yeah, why?”

“Would you like to have dinner with me?” He chuckles and the sound reverberates through me. I’m smitten with the sound of it.

“Sure. I know this great place in Brooklyn if you’re craving pizza.”

“Sounds perfect.” He laughs. “You read my mind.”

Oh crap, I’m beyond smitten. I’m half in love with him. I shake my head when I remember Lily. “Give me a minute and we can head out.”

“Sure. I’ll grab my coat.” He disappears down the hall.

I slump against the wall and text Lily. I’m going out to dinner with a friend. Catch you tomorrow.

After I send it, I close my eyes and lean against the wall. Did I just fall in love with a stranger? What the hell am I doing? I must be insane.

Chapter Two

Within thirty minutes, we’re in Brooklyn, standing in front of the pizza place I told him about. Mario’s neon sign glints from inside the front window. My apartment is in the building above the shop, but I don’t mention it to Shaun.

He opens the door and gestures for me to enter. Butterflies take flight in the pit of my stomach when he smiles. Oh man, I need to pace myself with this one.

I slip inside the door and wave at Johnny working behind the counter. The middle-aged pizza slinger with slicked black hair and a thick Brooklyn accent is like the older brother I never had since I eat here at least twice a week. I can feel his curious gaze sizing up the man entering the shop behind me.

I snag the booth in the corner facing the front window. It’s comfortable and familiar, and yet with Shaun sitting across from me, it feels new and exciting.

My coat is too hot. I tug it off my shoulders and set it aside as Johnny comes up and puts two menus on the table.

“Hey, Jen, how’s it goin’?” He tosses an easy smile at me before eyeing my dinner companion.

“It’s goin’.” I return his smile and smack my lips. “Can I get a Yuengling?”

“Yeah, sure.” Johnny turns to Shaun.

“Same for me.” Shaun leans back with a casual indifference that seems to say you’re driving this car.

“Want the usual, Jen?”

“You particular about toppings?” I ask Shaun before making my decision.

“Nope. I’m game for anything.”

I swear there’s a double meaning behind those words, but before I can chase the thought, Johnny mumbles under his breath.

“The usual is fine. Thanks, Johnny.”

“You got it, kid.” He shoots a glance at Shaun before retreating behind the counter once more.

“I don’t think he likes me much.” Shaun’s crooked grin makes my heart thump against my ribs.

“We’re practically family. I mean, I eat here more than I eat at home, so…” I shrug and my face heats at the confession of how much pizza I consume on a weekly basis.

“Ah.” He nods as Johnny returns with two frosted mugs brimming with lager. “Thanks.”

Johnny shoots me a sidelong glance as he sets the mug down with a look that screams if he tries anything stupid, let me know. It’s nice to know someone’s looking out for me. Once we’re alone again, I take a sip of beer and relax.

“Nice place.” Shaun’s gaze strays for a second taking in the small shop. When it meets mine, my whole body warms through like I took a shot of whiskey.

“So.” I shift in my seat under his perusal. “How was your first day? I’m sure our office is quite different from Denver.”

“It is. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. I’m excited for a new challenge.”

“Are you from Denver originally?” I dig deeper wanting to know more about him.

He shakes his head. “No. I was born in Davenport, Iowa.”

I blink at him drawing a blank. “Where’s that?”

His eyes sparkle when he laughs. “Not many people can point it out on the map. It’s right on the Mississippi River. Just find St. Louis and follow the river north, you’ll run smack into Davenport.”

My face warms. “It’s been years since I’ve been anywhere farther than Pennsylvania. Guess it shows, huh?”

He shrugs it off. “You grow up here?”

“Staten Island. I mean, it’s still one of the boroughs, but it’s a bit more spacious than Manhattan.” I take another sip of the cool lager.

“But you’re a Brooklyn girl now, huh?”

“Yeah. I mean, my apartment’s not much, but it’s in a decent neighborhood.” I gesture to the room. “And the food’s great.”

We sit in silence for a moment, and I can’t help but wonder what’s going through his mind. I mean, I don’t know this guy. But being with him is comfortable and his warm charm makes me trust him. Maybe that’s why they chose him for the marketing director position. His charisma will go a long way in bringing in potential clients.

“You okay over there?” He rubs his thumb across the frosted mug as he watches me.

“Yeah.” I shuffle off whatever doubts remain and remind myself we’re still coworkers.

“You look worried.” He’s intuitive. Damn, that’s kind of hot.

“I don’t want you to get the wrong impression.” I twist the mug in my hand searching for the words. “I don’t normally…”

“Jen.” He interrupts me with a gentle tone. “You’re showing the new guy the best pizza joint in town. It doesn’t have to be anything more than that.”

I groan and hide my face behind my hand. But what if I want it to be more? “Sorry.”

“Why are you apologizing?” He chuckles. “I asked you to join me for dinner.”

“I know.” Open mouth, insert foot. “But I’m still trying to figure out why?”

His eyes darken the slightest fraction, almost as though I’d imagined it. “Because I wanted to get to know you.”

Years of telling myself not to get involved with a coworker fade into a distant oblivion with those simple words. “Do you use that line often?” I tease, unable to stand the tension pulling tight between us.

“I’ve never used that line.” He laughs and the tension eases back into comfortable companionship. “In fact, I’ve always made it a point to avoid mixing my personal life with work. It’s cliché, I know, but it’s true.”

“So you never went out with your coworkers for pizza in Denver?”

“Never.” He scoffs. “What about you?”

“Oh, I hang out with my coworkers all the time outside of work.”

His brow arches, and I kick myself for not being clearer.

“I mean, I have a lot of friends at the office.” Yeah, keep putting your foot in your mouth. I groan. “Maybe I should shut up now. I sound like an idiot.”

“No, you don’t.” He leans forward resting his elbows on the table. “I want to be honest with you.”

Johnny arrives with a steamy, delicious supreme pie laden with veggies, sausage, and pepperoni. He slides it onto the table between us. “Enjoy.”

“Thanks.” I flash him a smile as he walks away. When I turn back to Shaun, his intense expression steals my breath.

“I’ve never broken my rule about dating a coworker.” His focus hones on me like a laser, and I freeze mid-reach for a slice of pizza.

“Dating?” The word feels foreign on my tongue.

“Is that a problem for you?” He reaches across the table and takes my hand. Those soft fingertips brush over my skin making me shiver with need.

“I mean if we were in the same department, maybe, but I don’t know. I’ve never dated anyone from work before. Holy shit. I wasn’t expecting this.” My heart thunders in my chest drowning out the sound of my own thoughts.

“Neither was I.” He squeezes my hand gently and then lets go. “If I’m going too fast, tell me. We can take it slow. I’ve always been told I’m too direct for my own good.”

My hand tingles where he touched me. I miss the warmth already. “Knowing what you want isn’t a bad thing.”

“The question is, what do you want?” His gaze bores into my soul.

“As long as it doesn’t affect work, I’m game for anything.” I throw his own words back at him in an effort to play it cool regardless of the simmering attraction steaming up the window beside us. Oh, no, that’s from the pizza. I reach for a slice giving my hands something to do other than reach for him.

Shaun grins and grabs a slice for himself. “Sounds like a plan.”

We eat in relative silence and hang out to chat over another mug of Yuengling. He’s sweet and conversational. The topics range from his childhood in Iowa to my adventures in Brooklyn and beyond. He asks about my parents and my interests. I reciprocate the inquisition, and we laugh at how different yet similar we are. 

When Johnny finally kicks us out at eleven, I’m stunned at how quickly time passes in Shaun’s company. Finally, a man who doesn’t make me feel inept or defensive. It’s so refreshing. We exchange phone numbers before pulling on our coats.

We stop outside the shop so I can pull on my gloves.

“Can I walk you home?” Shaun asks, his eyes glinting under the streetlights.

“I thought you said we were gonna take this slow?” I sway against him with a nudge of my elbow.

“You’re right.” He grins. “I wanna make sure you make it home safely.”

“That’s quite chivalrous of you. It’s not far. I’ll be okay.” I squeeze his hand. “Thanks though.”

His gaze searches my face like he’s trying to decipher a code beneath the surface of my skin. My whole body ignites and I’m melting regardless of it being a chilly twenty-five degrees in the middle of February.

He steps closer and cups my jaw in his hand smoothing his thumb across my lower lip. My breath catches as he lowers his head and kisses me. The soft brush of his mouth on mine is a welcome invasion. I grasp his lapel and pull him closer. His warm, spicy scent envelops me, tugging at the back of my mind. Gucci Guilty, I think, subtly buried beneath the fresh scent of linen and what I can only assume are his natural pheromones.

Shaun pulls me against him and teases my lips open with the slightest press of his tongue. I’m lost in the kiss, in his arms, drowning in a sea of unexpected bliss, I barely hear the sound of someone coughing behind me.

“All right, you two. Get a room.”

I pull away from Shaun with a start, and he laughs. I turn to see Johnny standing in the doorway with his hands on his hips.

“This ain’t that kind of establishment. Go home, Jen.” He jabs a finger at Shaun. “Don’t mess with her.”

“Sorry, Johnny.” I turn back to face Shaun. “I’ll see you later.”

“Yeah. Sleep well.” He reluctantly drops my hand and retreats down the street.

I watch until he disappears around the corner. With a sigh, I head toward the entrance beside the pizza parlor. My mind spins over the impossibility of the day’s events. If someone would have told me I’d meet the man of my dreams at work today, I’d have called them crazy. Maybe I’m the one who’s crazy. Either way, I can’t complain. Crazy is feeling pretty damn good right now.

Click here to grab a copy and continue reading…

Thanks for stopping by. XoXo

Kirsten S. Blacketer

Sneak Peek at His Wicked Whispers

I have far too many projects releasing this year, but I can’t help it. These stories demand to be told. So, I’m offering a little teaser of the first chapter of the first book in my medieval trilogy. His Wicked Whispers is Book One and releases on May 10th. It’s being published under my pen name/alter ego Jen Bradlee. Without further ado, allow me to introduce you to Crispin Saville, the Prince of Whispers.


A knock sounded through the chamber. Crispin fumed. How many times must he remind them to leave him alone after the evening meal?

“I will not be disturbed!”

“Your highness.” A strained voice echoed through the solid wooden door. “The king wishes to speak with you straight away.”

His cock wilted at the mention of his father. He glanced at the door, willing the man behind it to burst into flames.

“Your highness?”

“I am coming!” He tossed the whip down and glanced at the naked wench on his bed. “Cover yourself.” He strode to the door and opened it. “This had better be a matter of life and death. I gave clear instructions I was not to be disturbed.”

“I beg your pardon, your highness.” The servant bowed. “I explained your request to the king, but he insisted you be summoned immediately.”

Crispin inclined his head, agitation clawing at his spine. “Well, I would hate to keep him waiting.” His words dripped with sarcasm.

The king only demanded his presence when he wanted something. He frowned, feeling the crease deepen between his brows. The only time anyone had use for him was when they desired something of value.

The servant led him to the king’s presence chamber and opened the doors. Crispin sauntered into the room bearing an air of boredom and disinterest. The servant closed the doors behind him as he exited. The king sat behind his desk, reading a roll of parchment, oblivious to his presence. He cleared his throat when the king continued to ignore him.

“You required me to attend you, yet you do not speak.” Crispin bit back the other words threatening to spill from his lips. Over the past several weeks, his father had shown him nothing but contempt. He had returned victorious from a quest and was met with utter disregard. He straightened, watching his father take up a quill and write upon the parchment before him. His father’s fair hair bore no sign of his age.

Crispin ran his hand through his own auburn locks. He resembled his mother, while Francis—he let the thoughts of his brother drift away and focused instead on his growing irritation with his father.

“I did.” The king spoke slowly, not lifting his gaze from the parchment before him. “You have put me in an awkward position.” He finally met Crispin’s gaze. “I am forced to make a difficult decision.”

“I am unaware of what you refer, Father.” Crispin grit his teeth.

“You know damned well what you have done!” The king rose from his seat and slammed his fist down on the massive wooden desk. He stalked around it, approaching Crispin. His dark gray eyes shone with exasperation and conviction.

Crispin swallowed hard and straightened, keeping his attention fixed on the far wall. He refused to make eye contact with his father. Why should he care what the peasants thought of him? He was the rightful heir to the throne, chosen by God to lead them. He smirked, allowing his arrogance to bolster his courage.

“She informed me she was unattached. How was I to know she was the visiting duke’s wife dressed in peasant rags?” Crispin dropped carelessly in the chair beside him, swinging his legs over the arm.

“Do not pretend you had no inkling as to her identity. Why must you constantly behave like a self-indulgent child?” The king leaned against his desk, arms crossed, his gaze narrowed on Crispin.

“Because I am—at least according to you.” He had grown tired of the lectures and his father’s constant ridicule.

“Crispin.” The king rubbed his forehead. “This is precisely why I sent Henry away. If you do not learn to control your baser impulses, I will be forced to cut you from your inheritance and give the crown to the next in line, your cousin Fredrick.”

His head snapped up at the mention of Henry and the implication of the king’s words.“Father, you cannot be serious. You would deny me the throne? My cousin, the bumbling fool, has neither the presence of mind nor the fortitude to rule a nation.”

The old man shook his head. “I have done all I can to lead you, to show you how to rule as a true king should, but you simply refuse to acknowledge the basic tenets of leadership.”

“I have done all you have asked of me, Father.” Crispin ground his teeth and shot to his feet, pacing the worn rug. “Surely you must see this is ridiculous.” He ran his hand through his hair tempted to tear it out in frustration.

The king’s gaze followed him. His lips pulled in a thin line and his face remained stoic. “I have tried to be a good king and father, but as of late, all my attention has been dedicated to appeasing nations you have insulted with your careless and selfish behavior. The people have suffered because of this, and I must set things to right. Unfortunately, disinheriting you may be the only course of action to ensure the safety of my people and the realm.”

“You cannot take what is mine!” Crispin’s voice rattled the ceiling timbers. “It is my birthright! I will have what is owed me.” He jabbed his finger at the king, punctuating each word.

“It was not your birthright; it was your brother’s!” His father’s restraint finally snapped like a dead branch beneath a boot.

“He is dead!”

“Crispin!”

His mother’s voice boomed behind him making him turn. She stood inside the door, her hands clasped before her. The dark blue gown emphasized the color in her cheeks and the dark auburn braid wrapped intricately around her head. The stern set of her lips and the concern in her eyes enhanced her regal bearing. Crispin cursed himself for not realizing she had entered the room, but then she made it a point to tread lightly until the opportune moment. He dropped his hand and met her gaze.

“Mother.” He greeted her with a slight bow. Fury still raged inside of him, boiling and roiling in his mind full of dark thoughts. He would definitely need a good, mindless fuck to release all this repressed anger. Maybe he would start a fight; sometimes that worked just as well. He allowed himself a small, wicked, satisfied grin.

“I know the gleam in your eyes, my son. It betrays the mischief in your mind.” She cocked her head and stepped closer to him, cupping his face with her palms.

Crispin leaned into her warm touch. Her unwavering belief in him touched his calloused heart, but it never swayed him. He stiffened and reached up to slowly draw her hands from his face.

“I appreciate your concern, Mother.” He took a measured step out of her reach. “But I am a man grown, I believe I know my own mind.”

She nodded with tears glinting in the corners of her blue eyes. “’Tis what concerns me, darling.”

The king held his hand out to her, and she joined him, leaning into her husband’s warm embrace. They formed a united front. Crispin crossed his arms, irritation flooding him.

“We are sending you on one last mission to see if you truly are ready to take your responsibilities seriously.” The king spoke with confidence and conviction. “This is your last warning. Failure will result in your banishment.”

Crispin arched his brow, silently challenging his father. “Is this the worst you can do? Banish me from my home and abrogate my God-given rights.”

“I will strip you of your title, your station, and your wealth, and cast you out of my kingdom. Then you may live as you choose. As you are right now, you are unfit to wear a crown.”

His father’s words stuck like an arrow piercing his heart. How did they expect him to change overnight? Could he even change at all? Crispin refused to let emotion creep into his expression. He affected a cold mask of indifference.

“What is this mission?” His voice remained level and calm while the storm raged in his breast.

“A taste of what you can expect if you fail.”

“I beg your pardon?” Crispin glanced between his mother and father. “What will this accomplish?”

His mother spoke this time. “You will travel within our borders, unescorted and penniless, with only the clothes on your back and the people you meet for companionship.”

“And you expect me to survive when they discover who I am?”

“You are not permitted to reveal your true identity. You are to survive using only what you bring with you as a man alone against the world.” The king’s limiting instructions seemed ludicrous.

“Father, surely you jest?” Panic crept into his chest, constricting his heart with its iron grip.

“You know I am not one for games and tricks, Crispin.” He narrowed his gaze. “Those are traits you favor. I doubt they will serve you well on your mission.”

“When may I return?”

“When you have learned what it is to lead and serve in tandem. When you realize a king has duties which lie beyond these walls and his own selfish indulgences.” The king’s voice grew more passionate with each statement. “When you fulfill your destiny and become the man I know you can be.”

Crispin’s hands clenched into fists as he listened to his father’s words. He would do what he must. Deep in the corner of his mind, he realized the futility in arguing. He was not a good man at heart and refused to conform to the mold in which his father expected him to fit. He nodded even though he burned to argue the uselessness of such a challenge.

“Yes, Sire.” His jaw clenched. If he unleashed his anger now, his father would surely banish him without a second thought. It was for the best he follow their request. “Is there anything else you require of me before I take my leave?”

“Know that we do this out of love,” his mother said softly. “Be the leader we know you were born to be.”

 With a stiff nod, Crispin turned his back on his parents and strode from the room without a backward glance. If they were so eager to be rid of him, who was he to defy their orders? He swiftly returned to his chamber and found himself alone.

The wench had gone. He cursed. Part of him had hoped to find her still wet and willing in his bed. He ran a hand over his face. The night had quickly turned sour.

He changed into sturdy traveling clothes and packed a small satchel with some essentials. He hoarded some coin, so he tucked what he could into his pocket for safekeeping. Strapping the belt around his waist, he buckled it and slid his sword into the scabbard. He tucked the daggers away, one into the sheath at his hip and the other in his boot. One could never be too prepared. Crispin headed for the door, snatching his heavy woolen cloak from the hook and draping it across his shoulders. He took one last, long glance at his warm bed and his opulent room then disappeared into the night.

Curse of the Huntsman’s Jewel (Sneak Peek)

This week I have a special treat for you. The first glimpse into my twisted fairy tale romance, Curse of the Huntsman’s Jewel. I borrowed from the established tales of Red Riding Hood as well as Snow White and Rose Red (the sisters who befriend an enchanted prince) to create this magical universe. There are three romances in this book. One for each female lead character: Rosalind, Bianca, and Scarlett. You won’t want to miss the three handsome huntsmen brothers either. *wink*

Releases on March 29th! Preorder is available from ebook retailers HERE.


Prologue

Scarlett

A knock at the door disturbed the evening meal. Uncle Jack stood, gesturing for the family to remain seated at the table. Her grandmother and Aunt Caroline exchanged a lingering look, the stew before them left untouched upon the table. Her cousins, Rose and Bianca, continued eating without care. Scarlett knew better. Something was amiss.

She glanced toward the door where Uncle Jack stood over the threshold blocking whoever interrupted their peaceful evening. Voices echoed through the small space, but the words garbled together, muffled by distance and tone.

“Eat your supper, Scarlett.” Aunt Caroline gestured to the bowl of venison and potatoes in front of her.

“Come now, Red, you do not want it to get cold.” Grandmother lifted a spoonful to her mouth, but her gaze darted between the door and the table before her. “Finish your supper, and I shall tell you a bedtime story.”

Bianca and Rose bounced in their seats, grins on their faces.

“We love your stories, Grandmother.” Bianca shoveled a large spoonful into her mouth.

“Can you tell us the story about the huntsman’s curse?” Rose asked, her eyes wide.

“Of course, Rose.” Grandmother smiled and encouraged her to finish what remained in her bowl.

Scarlett took a bite of her food, unable to enjoy the flavor. A strange tension pulled tight in the small cottage. Rose always wanted to hear the story about the huntsman and the princess. Personally, Scarlett disliked the tale. It always left her with a sadness she could not describe. Were love stories not meant to have a happy ending?

The door closed and Uncle Jack returned to the table, his handsome face lined with worry making him look like an old man, burdened with exhaustion.

“Who was that?” Aunt Caroline wiped her mouth with a rag.

“The queen’s guard.” He cleared his throat and tucked his hands into his pockets. “We have been summoned.”

Her aunt dropped the cloth, her lip trembling. “How…? Never mind.” She rose from the table in haste, nearly upsetting the bowl of unfinished stew.

“Go. I shall remain here with the girls.” Grandmother rose from her seat and shooed them toward the door before any questions could be asked.

Curiosity burned within her. Scarlett regarded her aunt and uncle carefully as they donned their warm, outer garments. Her aunt pulled a satchel from the hook hanging near the door and slung it across her shoulders before retrieving her bow and quiver of arrows. They kissed their daughters and Scarlett before heading toward the door.

“We shall return as quickly as possible. Remain here until then.” Uncle Jack pulled on his cap, and together they ventured out into the night where the queen’s guard awaited them.

Before Scarlett could say a word, Grandmother pushed her empty bowl away and stood. “Shall we gather around the fire for our story, girls?”

Rose and Bianca wasted no time. They raced for the bearskin rug beside the hearth and curled upon it. Grandmother settled in the rocking chair beside the crackling flames.

Scarlett sighed. She reached her fourteenth summer only a fortnight past. She was older and wiser than her cousins. At eleven and twelve summers respectively, Bianca and Rose were still quite young. They enjoyed Grandmother’s tales of romance and adventure, while Scarlett knew of the dangers of the world.

Aunt Caroline and Uncle Jack took her in, raising her as their own daughter in the wake of the tragedy which took her parents’ lives. Only a wee baby at the time of their deaths, she remembered nothing of her birth parents. Her aunt and uncle welcomed her into their family, and they taught her the ways of the huntsmen. Or in her case, the huntress, giving her the tools to defend herself and survive. Scarlett embraced the challenge with relish.

“Once upon a time there lived a huntsman…”

Rose sighed, and Scarlett rolled her eyes, leaning back listening from a distance.

“Come join us, Red.” Grandmother patted the chair beside her.

Reluctantly, Scarlett retreated from the table and slid into the seat beside Grandmother. She folded her arms across her chest and fixed her gaze upon the flames in the hearth. How she detested love stories. Her thoughts remained on the curious summons from the queen as her grandmother continued her tale.

“This huntsman lived in the forest surrounding the royal palace.” Grandmother’s voice carried through the small cottage. “One day he fell in love with the princess. But he hid a dark secret, one that would bring his ruin should it come to light. He bore the mark of the Inkling, a message to all who saw it that he was an animus.”

Bianca gasped even though they heard the tale a hundred times before. The story infected them, drawing them in with every telling. “What form did he take?”

“No one knows his form, but for the sake of our tale, let us say it was a wolf.” Grandmother chuckled before continuing with her tale. “He remained content to admire the princess from afar and never tell her of his love. He watched and waited, praying fate would bring them together.”

“How romantic.” Rose clung to her every word. The contents of Scarlett’s stomach churned.

“One day, the huntsman was wounded while hunting. He managed to return to his human form and seek help, but he grew weak from his injury and collapsed deep in the forest.” Grandmother’s tone deepened drawing the girls into the tale. “A lone traveler found him. He happened to be a powerful alchemist and took mercy on the injured man, carrying him to his cottage. The alchemist healed the young huntsman, but the damage was done. He saw the Inkling beneath the young man’s skin.

“As payment for his aid, the huntsman bestowed a vial of his blood drawn directly from the Inkling. The alchemist vowed to inspect this mysterious affliction and gain a greater understanding of its power.” Grandmother leaned closer. “However, the huntsman did not realize how powerful his blood truly was and the magic qualities it possessed.”

“Foolish man,” Scarlett grunted in annoyance. How could the huntsman do such a ridiculous thing by relinquishing something so rare and coveted?

“Hush!” Rose scowled at her and turned to motion for Grandmother to continue.

“Several moons passed and the huntsman encountered a pack of wolves in the forest near the castle. He tracked them knowing they stalked prey.” Her voice lowered. “When he reached the clearing, the huntsman gasped. The ravenous pack encircled a woman wearing a white cloak and brandishing a large tree branch in a futile attempt to scare them away.” Grandmother swiped her hands at the girls like massive paws. “They attacked, and the huntsman joined the fray. He defended the woman, fighting off the pack of bloodthirsty wolves alone.

“When he defeated the final wolf, he converted into his human form and offered his hand to the cowering woman. It was the princess! He bowed low, and she threw her arms around him in gratitude for coming to her aid.” Grandmother sighed with satisfaction. “She explained how her horse had bolted when it smelled the wolves, casting her aside. When the pack surrounded her, she could not fight them off. Under the protection of the huntsman, she followed him through the thick and winding forest until they reached the safety of the castle.”

Scarlett listened to the story, knowing each part by heart and reciting it in her mind. Her cousins adored the tale, and her grandmother told it with such fervor, one would believe it truly happened. Try as she might to ignore the attraction of such a legend, it drew her in every time. She licked her lips and waited for Grandmother to continue.

“After being rescued by the handsome and charming huntsman, the princess grew quite fond of her savior. He returned her to the castle unharmed and was granted a boon for his daring rescue. Seizing the opportunity, he requested to become the princess’s personal protector.” Grandmother chuckled. “The king laughed at the bold request, but he acquiesced with gratitude, sensing the young man’s honorable intentions.”

Rose sighed again. Irritated, Scarlett nudged her with her foot.

“As time passed, their love blossomed, and the young huntsman waited for the opportunity press his suit for the princess’s hand in marriage.” Grandma’s smile faded and her eyes grew misty. “Until one cold winter morning, the alchemist returned with a gift for the king. A vibrant jewel with rare and mystical powers. The Huntsman’s Jewel, formed from the blood of an animus bearing the mark of the Inkling.”

Rose and Bianca gasped.

“The huntsman realized his mistake, but it was too late. The bargain he made by bestowing the blood to the alchemist bound his soul to the gem, and a cursed existence, one from which he could never break free. If he remained, the curse would plague generations to come.” Grandma sighed. “He stole the gem and transformed into his animus form before escaping into the night. The huntsman was never heard from again, and the princess languished of a broken heart.”

“This story is ridiculous.” Scarlett threw her hands up in the air. “Why must you always tell the saddest story? Aren’t love stories supposed to have happy endings?”

“I like the story, even with a sad ending.” Bianca scrambled to her feet and stuck out her tongue. “Why must you always ruin it?”

“The story ruined itself.” Scarlett scowled. “I do not understand why you cannot tell us a different, happier story, Grandmother.”

“I happen to like this one.” Grandmother shrugged and rose to her feet. “Off to bed, girls.”

Once they were tucked in bed, Scarlett attempted to sleep, but visions of snarling wolves appeared in her dreams whenever she tried. Darkness lay thick in the cottage, reaching down from the loft where they slept. She drifted in and out of sleep.

A door slammed, shaking the cottage. Scarlett bolted upright, pulling the blankets around her like a shield.

“Girls, wake! Hurry!” Her uncle’s voice echoed from below. A lantern flickered to life illuminating the small space. “Get dressed and gather your things, quickly!”

In haste, they dressed and packed a few items in their sacks before slinging them over their shoulders. They climbed down the ladders to find Grandmother and Uncle Jack pacing by the door with their own satchels on their backs.

Confused, Scarlett stepped forward. “Where are we going?”

His haunted eyes met hers. “We must go. Now. Whatever happens, run and do not look back.”

“Where is mother?” Rose asked, glancing around.

“Come.” Grandmother pulled her close, and they ventured out into the night.

As they weaved through the blackened forest, an eerie sound filtered through the silence. Wolves. The girls took off at a run with Grandmother and Uncle Jack following behind. They ran until their legs weakened and their chests nearly burst.

Somehow they remained ahead of the pack, reaching the river as the cool blue light of dawn broke over the horizon. They climbed into the boat and pushed off from shore. Grandmother cradled Rose and Bianca against her chest as Uncle Jack rowed.

Scarlett scanned the shore, catching a glimpse of the pack in the distance standing where the boat had been moored. Relief filled her.

“Where is mother?” Rose muttered between sobs.

“She is gone, pet. I am sorry.” Uncle Jack hung his head, hiding the tears staining his cheeks. “The wolves…” His voice drifted off as though it pained him to recount what had transpired. He cleared his throat. “Whatever happens, you must remain hidden from the queen. Do you understand, girls?”

Rose and Bianca nodded.

Scarlett tried to comprehend, but nothing made sense. “Why?”

“It does not matter why.” His dark gaze bored into her soul. “But if you wish to live, you must remain as far from the queen as possible.” Those were the last words spoken on the matter.

Release Day for Deceiving the Earl

Finally, the moment we’ve all been waiting for has arrived.

Deceiving the Earl has made it to your e-reader. If it hasn’t, then perhaps you should consider picking up a copy.

deceiving the earl cover art

Amazon

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I will be going Live on Facebook this evening, May 10th, 2018, at 8 pm, EST to host an AMA (ask me anything) chat. There will also be a giveaway! So you don’t want to miss that. Just follow me on Facebook here:

https://www.facebook.com/KirstenSBlacketerAuthor/

My last newsletter featured the first look at Adele and Christopher. So today, I’m offering you a more intimate glance into their book. It’s one of my favorite scenes featuring Christopher teaching Adele to waltz. I hope you enjoy it.

“Lord Dorrington has requested your presence in the parlor, Anne,” he said.

“Another lesson.” She sighed dusting her hands on her apron and then removing the garment. “What is it today, Jameson? Introductions? Conversational etiquette?”

“Dancing, I believe.” His lips quirked up in an amused smile. “One of your favorites, if I am not mistaken.”

Adele could not stop the smile from gracing her lips. Dancing had always been one of her favorite activities, second to reading. As she ascended the stairs, a small bounce in her step lightened her heart. He wished to teach her to dance, did he? Well, he would be surprised how quickly she learned. In fact, he might learn a few things from her during this lesson.

The thought of being his dance partner created flutters of excitement in her chest. She wished for nothing more than to lose herself in the music, in the movements.

She entered the parlor and noted all the furniture had been arranged to give them adequate space to dance.

Lord Dorrington stood before a Victrola, arranging a disk on the machine.

“You summoned me, my lord?” she asked by way of announcing her presence.

He glanced over his shoulder. “Yes, I believe there are a few more details we must practice before the ball.” He lowered the arm of the machine and the room filled with sweet, familiar music.

Almost without prompting, Adele felt her body begin to sway with the melody. A waltz. How delightful. She caught herself before he turned around.

When he did, he approached her. “Have you ever danced before, Anne?”

“Once or twice,” she lied.

He offered his hand in invitation. “Would you care to dance?”

“Nothing would delight me more,” she replied with a demure nod and took his hand.

Lord Dorrington drew her into his arms. Their bodies aligned perfectly creating a balance between them. She drew her stance tight, keeping her arms solid, her left hand pressed against his shoulder while her other lay clasped in his.

The heat rose between them as he led her into the dance. He took his time, attempting to guide her in the basic motions. Alas, her body would not be denied as the music infused with her soul. The lessons she savored so long ago came back with a simple turn on the dance floor.

Adele closed her eyes, allowing him to lead, but also allowing the steps to arise from her memories. She savored the music and the dance. With every pass, she found her heart growing lighter as well as her steps.

“I believe you lied to me, Anne.” Lord Dorrington’s voice interrupted her moment of bliss.

Her eyes snapped open, meeting his curious yet pointed expression. “Whatever do you mean?”

“You dance better than I do,” he said with a lopsided smile. “How many times have you waltzed before?” His gaze dropped to her lips, then back again to her eyes.

“A few,” she admitted in part. Truth be told, the waltz had always been her favorite dance to practice, even if she never had the opportunity to dance in a social setting before.

Together, they continued the dance, but the lesson became lost along the way. With their bodies moving to the music, their gazes fused, Anne realized how much she enjoyed this moment. She committed every detail to memory. Her first true waltz, and with Lord Dorrington.

Adele marveled at how far she had come. From distrusting to disinterested to disarmed. Lord Dorrington enlightened her to a great many things it seemed.

His grip tightened on her waist as they spun faster, attempting to match the tempo in perfect synchronization. Everywhere his body pressed against hers heated with a delicious friction. She longed to lean against him fully, to feel his warmth seep into her.

Her gaze dropped to his mouth. The softness of his lips contrasted with the sharp angles of his face. Lord Dorrington, with all his dark, brooding features and isolated eccentricities, cut a fine and quite handsome gentleman.

“Why have you not married?” Adele asked, regretting the question as it fell from her lips.

A pang of sadness pierced his eyes before he replied. “Marriage requires intimacy.” He paused. “Who would want a broken man?”

“I believe we are all broken in some way,” Adele responded, her voice gentle.

He glanced away for a moment before meeting her gaze with his own. Lord Dorrington smiled.

Adele quelled the nervous flutter in her stomach. Lord have mercy, but her heart could not take the ache any longer. Why did he affect her so?

His grip on her waist tightened, drawing her closer. Their steps slowed until it became a calm sway in the midst of the storm of attraction brewing between them.

“You are a strange little bird,” Lord Dorrington said in awe. “Somehow I feel a connection to you in ways I cannot comprehend. You quite baffle me.”

“Your compliment leaves me speechless.” She batted her lashes and smiled.

He spun her, shaking the simpering debutante from her display. He leaned close, his lips nearly brushing her ear. “You are far too clever to play coy, Anne.”

Saints above, she would have melted or run from the room, but his arms held her fast. Every fiber of her being protested and craved his proximity, his touch. Adele dared hope for more, even though her rational mind told her to push him away.

She pulled back enough to gaze into his eyes, dark and deep like the sea at midnight. How she longed to brush the wayward lock of hair back away from his face. His handsome face betrayed his desire, and yet she saw the hesitation in every breath he took.

He could have stolen her soul in that instant, and she would have relinquished it without a single solitary regret. Adele dared not speak for fear of shattering the fragile sacred moment.

*sigh* This scene makes my heart flutter. I wish I had someone to waltz with me. My poor husband has two left feet when it comes to dancing. Although bless him, he does try.

Thank you for all the support and encouragement. I appreciate everything you’ve done for me.

Until we meet again, may your bookshelves be full and your hearts even more so.

All my love,

Kirsten

SNEAK PEEK at Deceiving the Earl

Hello, darlings. My latest novel, Deceiving the Earl, will be releasing in May! I’ve decided to share a little snippet from this Victorian romance. It has a dash of mystery and a hint of steampunk elements. If you’ve ever seen Guy Richie’s Sherlock Holmes film series with Robert Downey Junior, this book is similar in aesthetic.

Please keep in mind, this hasn’t been to my editor yet. So have patience with me. We’re still in the process of polishing the story. Thank you.

Allow me to introduce Adele and Christopher…

Spring 1895

Adele Prescott is the daughter of the Viscount of Longmont. After her family is killed in a house fire, Adele hides her identity and becomes a maid in the home of Lord Christopher Underwood, Earl of Dorrington. Why? Because she believes the fire was no accident and that the earl had some hand in her families deaths.

Lord Underwood is a man haunted by the past and laden with secrets. His reclusive nature leaves him to pursue his passion for science, but after the fire, he wishes for nothing but the blissful oblivion of opium and seclusion. Until he meets his new maid, and a plan forms in his mind. A plan that leads to an intimacy neither of them expected but brings them into the heart of danger.

Excerpt:

The sound of the door opening interrupted their solitary moment. A wave of fear forced Adele to spin around, turning her back to the door. She would not want to be caught idle while she was supposed to be working.

“My lord,” Elizabeth said behind her. “Pardon us.”

“Ah, yes, I had forgotten you would be here at this hour.” His voice tugged at her memories. While familiar, it echoed strangely in her mind, as though distant, foreboding, and strangely alluring.

Adele turned, keeping her head down. She bobbed a small curtsy and avoided meeting his gaze.

“Is this the new maid?” he asked.

“Aye, my lord, this is Anne.” Elizabeth stepped to the side as he approached them.

He paused before Adele. She studied his neatly pressed trousers and the tips of his polished shoes.

“If you will beg my pardon, my lord, I shall fetch some coal for the fire.” Elizabeth’s voice echoed from the doorway.

“Very well,” he said in dismissal.

Adele stood as still as her trembling body would allow. Her heart pounded. There would be no way to hide herself from him now. Most masters were satisfied when the work was completed and their servants remained silent. Adele closed her eyes and took a deep breath. What if he recognizes me?

“Anne.” Her alias on his lips sounded almost like a challenge.

“Aye, my lord,” she replied, her voice steady, unlike the emotions boiling beneath her calm exterior.

“Will you not meet my eyes?” he asked. When she hesitated, he tipped her chin up with his gloved fingertip.

With a deep breath, Adele met his gaze. She faltered only for half a second, not because of his familiar face, but because of the shock of his deep, soulful hazel eyes. Never in her father’s long acquaintance with him, had she taken the opportunity to converse with him, let alone share a lingering look.

Lord Underwood was even more handsome than she’d remembered. His dark hair lay in waves, longer than fashionable, but neatly kept. The strong lines of his jaw were shadowed by a days’ worth of stubble. It lent him a roguish air. Her breath caught. From his dark, penetrating gaze to the soft smile haunting his lips, Adele found herself mystified by the man before her.

He only ever visited her father to work in the laboratory. Everyone knew him to be a reserved sort, especially after he had returned from the war and inherited his brother’s estate. Adele wanted to despise him for the path he had led her father down. But finally seeing him, eye to eye, she saw the despair behind the gentleman’s façade.

His fingertips brushed along her scar. “An injury from the fire, I presume?”

“Aye, my lord.” Adele suppressed the sudden desire to run as he inspected her face.

“You were fortunate to escape with your life, my dear.” He nodded before dropping his hand. “How do you find your new post?”

“Very well, I thank you, my lord.” Adele tried to keep her answers direct and simple.

He tilted his head and regarded her closely. “Have we met before? Upon my visits to your former employer’s estate perhaps?”

“It is possible, my lord. However, I do not recall.” She bowed her head unable to bear the constant scrutiny, fearful he would remember her.

He exhaled sharply. “I shall leave you to your duties then, Anne.” He turned to leave before pausing in the doorway and gesturing to the cylinder in the corner of the room. “Oh, and careful as you dust the inverter. It is liable to produce an electric shock that may be uncomfortable.”

With those cryptic words, Lord Christopher left her.

Adele collapsed in a chair and pressed her hands to her cheeks. Relief flooded her as she realized he did not recognize her. The dye in her hair and the scarring from the fire must have altered her enough to allay any suspicions he might have. She allowed a smile to cross her lips. Surely she would be safe enough to discover what he had convinced her father to study in that laboratory.

I hope you enjoyed this sneak peek at Deceiving the Earl. I wanted to share the moment they first meet in the novel. What did you think?

I’m excited to share this novel with you. Keep an eye here for more details about the release date and special events.

Until we meet again, may your bookshelves be full and your hearts even more so.

All my love,

Kirsten