Secret Cravings Publishing 4th Anniversary Blog Hop
Posted by triciaandersen
Welcome everyone to the Secret Cravings Publishing 4th Anniversary Blog Hop! I’m so glad you can join us! I am so lucky to be a part of Secret Cravings Publishing – it’s my dream come true!
*I have prizes to give away! Four lucky commenters below will win their choice of four of my e-books! Just comment below with your e-mail. I will draw on Sunday evening!*
Now, I would love to introduce you to each of my books but in an unique way – through excerpts!
Sloan watched from a distance as Aubrey fought to keep Abbey from dashing away, a frightened doe in the terrifying forest named New York. Apparently, up to this point, the vicious predators of the city hadn’t sent her fleeing home.
Until he entered her world, obviously.
Sloan had to admit something about her alarmed him too. He knew many women and had been with several. But none of them like her. Innocent. Naïve. True. Or so she seemed at first glance.
He couldn’t pull away from her wide-eyed, burning, hazel gaze. He wanted to free her shining, brown tresses from her ponytail and bury his fingers in the locks. He wanted to taste her plump, rose lips. He wanted to caress her curves, feel her warmth.
Sloan could hear Abbey beg for another illustrator. He heard Aubrey counter that there was none better. He was part of the deal, or there was no deal. She was ready to walk away from a contract worth potential millions over a fear of him.
He wouldn’t let her do that. He wouldn’t let her leave his life before she ever became a part of it.
Slowly approaching the two women at the end of the hall, Sloan asked, “Aubrey, can I have a moment please? Let us talk it out and see if we can come to an agreement.”
Aubrey looked uneasily from him to Abbey then nodded. “Sure.”
Sloan waited for Aubrey to return to the conference room. He shot a warning glare at the associates that had gathered to watch the scene unfold before turning his attention back to Abbey.
“What’s the matter, miss?” Sloan took Abbey’s hands in his as he smiled encouragingly.
“I’m sorry. I’m sure you’re very talented. But I don’t think I would be comfortable working with you,” she confessed.
“You don’t even know me.”
“I know. And I’m sure you are a perfect gentleman. But, you see, I don’t think Michael would be very happy with me working with a…gifted man such as yourself.”
Abbey blushed. “My boyfriend.”
Ah. There it is. A boyfriend. Sloan silently berated himself. He should’ve known a woman so beautiful would have already given her heart to someone. He couldn’t, however, allow her to get away so quickly. Perhaps he couldn’t have her, but that didn’t mean he had to let her go.
Thinking quickly, Sloan pressed one of her hands to his lips. “No worries, luv. I’m no threat.”
“How can you say that?”
Her face brightened with relief. “Really?”
“Yes, Abbey. Gay.”
She blushed pink. “I’m so embarrassed I overreacted. Please forgive me?”
“Of course I forgive you. Now, will you stay and undertake this project with me?”
Abbey beamed. “Of course. I would love to.”
Sloan motioned for her to precede him back to the conference room. He watched her walk before him, his gaze transfixed on her hips, her slim waist, and her luscious curves. A little white lie. She’ll never know.
Abbey stared at him with wide hazel eyes. “Yes? And you are? And more importantly—how did you get up here?”
The man extended his hand to her. “Nathan Paulson. I am Mr. O’Riley’s attorney. Bartholomew escorted me.”
Abbey breathed a silent sigh of relief. “I’m sorry, Mr. Paulson. Sloan is in San Francisco. I don’t know when he’ll be home.”
Nathan smiled at her. “I’m here to speak to you, Abigail.”
“Me? Why me?”
Nathan nodded to the interior of the apartment. “May I come in?”
Abbey stepped aside to open the glass door wider. Nathan brushed past her into the spacious, opulent penthouse grasping the handles of a bulging leather briefcase. Before she could offer him a seat, he sank into the chocolate brown leather armchair.
She wrinkled her nose in disgust. That was Sloan’s chair. It’s where he sat to watch SportsCenter and read the paper. They cuddled in that chair. They made love in that chair. Seeing another man sitting in it seemed wrong. Very, very wrong.
“Can I get you something to drink?” Her voice slightly betrayed her insincerity. She really wanted him to leave.
“No, thank you. Sit,” Nathan commanded. He reached across to the sofa and patted the cushion. “We have a lot of ground to cover, and I have another appointment in an hour.”
Abbey complied hesitantly. “If we need to do this another day…”
Nathan unzipped his briefcase and pulled free a stack of documents. The pile was easily over two inches thick. “No, we need to do this today. Sloan insisted.”
Nathan carefully arranged the stack of paper into several neat piles. “Sloan called me the other day to have me draw up some additional contracts for San Francisco. He told me the news of your nuptials and the little one coming. I advised him that we strong arm you into a post pre-nup to protect his investments.” Nathan looked up at her from sorting. His glare gave Abbey the chills. “By the way, congratulations.”
Classy. Abbey fought the sneer from her face. “Thanks,” she responded sarcastically. “So, this is the pre-nup?”
“No. I barely got the word pre-nup out before Sloan laid into me. Hard. I’m glad he’s in San Francisco, or he would have torn me limb from limb. After calling me some very colorful names, he very distinctly and clearly ordered me to add you to his accounts. Immediately.”
“As his wife, you share in his assets—bank accounts, properties, car titles, etc. Billions of dollars’ worth of assets.”
Abbey’s eyes flew open wide. “B-b-billions?”
“You heard millions? When San Francisco took shape, Sloan went from a millionaire to a billionaire.”
She shook her head. “No, I can’t allow this to happen. Sloan worked too hard for that money.”
“That’s what I said,” Nathan agreed. He picked up a pen from amongst the stacks. “But Sloan disagrees with us. And he holds all the cards in this game. So, could you start signing so I’m not late for my next appointment?”
Sloan stood at the glass wall of his bare, undecorated office, staring down at the streets of Zurich, Switzerland. The twilight moon lit the room in a cold, slate blue. He felt like a god overlooking the world below. He watched the headlights of the cars in the street, the people below scurry in and out of the rain. Rushing home to their loved ones, I suppose. Their families. I want mine.
Within a couple of weeks, he had established a firm foundation for Sloan Enterprises. He worked every minute of the day and expected his staff to do the same. He had already fired three assistants and four lawyers. He had purchased the property for two new complexes. He had slapped his name on the building he was standing in. None of it was a salve for what he had had to sacrifice.
He couldn’t stop thinking about Abigail. Nathan should have delivered the papers to her by now. He knew how much a divorce would hurt her. It’s killing me. The thought of letting her go destroyed him. I should have walked away from her in the beginning. I should have never let her in my heart. That wee woman brought me to my knee, and I no longer remember how to stand.
Sloan glanced back at his office. There were no reminders of home—no pictures of Abigail or Ame, no tokens, nothing. The black bookcases that lined the walls were empty except for a few decorative tomes. The steel and glass coffee table was adorned with only a couple copies of trade magazines. The pieces of art on the wall were simple colors. His desk was almost bare except for the phone and computer.
The room was cold. Prison cells had more warmth. He had to close that chapter in his life. He would find a way to move on, letting Abigail go, knowing she was alive. I have no choice. It would be the end of me if I held onto her, and she would be killed.
Then, he swallowed back a growl. Just because he could never be with another woman didn’t mean Abigail wouldn’t give her heart to another man. I can’t stop her. Or beat him within an inch of his life for touching her. The thought that Ame could call another man “Daddy.” My daughter. Being his child. Another man making love to my Abigail. Another man making her his. Abigail carrying his child. Abigail telling another man she loves him. Not me. Him.
He felt his temper peak. He wanted blood. I don’t care who he is. I will make him regret it.
Sloan’s clenched his eyes closed. The pain of missing her was too much. He could call her. Just hearing her voice would be enough. He didn’t even have to talk. He could listen to her answer and hang up. It was admittedly immature, but the quick rush would be worth it. Maybe this whole situation was all an overreaction.
He opened his eyes and stepped to his desk. His breath caught in his throat as his eyes fell on the green silk box that sat beside the phone, the only decoration in his office. It didn’t reside here. It went everywhere with him. A constant reminder of what was at stake.
Letting go a deep sigh, he slumped into his chair. He ran his fingers hopelessly across the cold fabric, his eyes studying the gold embroidered, Oriental pattern. Picking it up, he opened it. He shuddered as his gaze fell on the contents inside, contents that made his stomach churn at the thought of the damage they could inflict.
He struggled to breathe as he shut the box and placed it beside the phone again. He ran his hand through his thick, black hair then rubbed his tired eyes.
It’ll be another sleepless night. I might as well get back to work. He turned to his computer and nudged the mouse to wake it. Seven signed contracts sat waiting in his inbox, along with the digital blueprints to both new complexes. He should be overjoyed. His company was going to be a success. His empire was growing.
My empire will never be complete without its queen. There is only one. One I can never have again. If I dwell on this much longer, I’m going to lose my mind. I’ve already lost my heart.
Sloan stared out the window at the asphalt as the wheels of the jet skidded across the black surface. He was back.
His gaze took in the Belfast International Airport, flicking around, looking for military vehicles or platoons of troops ready to take him prisoner. All he found were flight crews darting about on baggage carts to prepare the next flight, and the occasional traveler peeking out the window of the terminal.
He let go a large sigh, his sensual, trademark smirk gracing his lips. I knew there was nothing to worry about. He glanced over to Gordon and Liam, meeting their scowls. They almost seem disappointed that Fitzgerald told me the truth.
His thoughts quickly returned to Abbey. He couldn’t shake her from his mind, his heart, since their lips had parted in Minneapolis. As soon as he checked into his hotel, he would call her and tell her he was safe. Then, he would send the jet back to get her, Maggie, Mary, and the children. In a day or two, she would be back in his arms, his face buried in the sweet curve of her neck, his hands roaming her body.
Once the celebratory lovemaking was over, he would take her to rediscover all the precious places of his childhood. He wanted nothing more than to share his past with the woman he loved, at least the parts of it that had been pleasant.
Once the jet had crept to a halt, the men rose and made their way to the door. They slowly descended the rolling staircase to the tarmac. Sloan’s grin widened. All was still good.
His smile faded when he heard the cock of a gun. He glanced to the side as over three dozen soldiers marched from around the aircraft, guns drawn and pointed at him.
“Well, well, well. Look who’s back,” a voice boomed over the crowd.
Sloan clenched his eyes shut. “Brown,” he growled.
The tall, balding man, dressed in his impeccable uniform, strode between the troops and stopped in front of Sloan. “I was hoping to get to say this again. Sloan O’Riley, you’re under arrest.”
“Go to hell.”
Sloan’s vision blurred as the butt of a rifle was slammed against his temple then into his rib cage. His knees buckled from the force. He fought to stay on his feet, to face his enemy standing tall and proud. He lost the battle as he crumpled to the ground. He grunted as his arms were wrenched behind him and cuffs were clamped on his wrists.
“Let him go!” Sloan could hear Gordon struggle against the men restraining him.
“Fionainn, I suggest you let the men do their job.”
Sloan’s head snapped up. Through the still-lingering haze from the blow, he could see Fitzgerald standing over him, his gaunt face beaming. “Welcome home, boy.”
“You set me up.” Sloan’s voice was violent through clenched teeth. His eye became hot as it began to swell. “I completed every task you gave me, completed every order. And you turn me over to the enemy?”
“Every task? Not everyone, Sloan.” Fitzgerald leaned into him, his hot breath inflaming Sloan’s ear. “I wanted blood, boy. Innocent, guilty…it didn’t matter. I wanted Northern Ireland in my grip. But you wouldn’t hit the targets I gave you. No. You set your sights on the military. Not the good, obedient soldier you thought you were.
“And then, you tried to leave. You met with those recruiters from the All Blacks that those imbeciles I let raise you invited to watch you play rugby. So, I fixed it so that you could never leave. I took one of your precious toys to London and left it there loaded with enough C4 to blow up say…a marketplace?”
For a moment, Sloan’s veins turned to ice as the revelation hit him like a shard of lightning. It had been Fitzgerald who had set him up, destroyed his life, and forced him to flee from his Ma and Maggie to save himself. It had been Fitzgerald who had murdered all those innocent people and pinned it on him.
Rage quickly replaced the chill within him. He rose in a lunge at Fitzgerald. Sloan was quickly brought back to his knees as the butt of another rifle cracked him across the skull.
Fitzgerald’s laugh echoed across the airfield as he strutted past Brown. “He’s all yours, Commander Brown. See to it that he is hanged, will you?”
“It’ll be my pleasure, Jack,” Commander Brown crooned.
Two soldiers roughly tore Sloan from the ground, dragging him to his feet. Sloan shook his head violently to clear the fog that had invaded his senses. His head throbbed. Fitzgerald’s confession echoed in his brain. Although Sloan knew the truth, it wouldn’t change a thing. His words meant nothing in a court of law. Here, he was a terrorist. A murderer. No amount of protesting would change anyone’s mind.
He looked up slowly, his eyes catching Liam and Gordon’s. Both men were restrained by at least three law enforcement officials apiece. Sloan ripped his gaze away from them. He couldn’t take the looks of horror on their faces. He knew what they meant.
He closed his eyes, clinging to the image of Abbey, Ame, and Ethan that he held in his heart. He had been a fool to leave them. Now, he would never see them again.
There’s no way out of this one. I’m as good as dead.
Max near snarled. He’d had enough. He rose to his feet, set his plate on the coffee table, and followed. When he was out of earshot and fully blocked the door, he crossed his arms over his broad chest and stood his ground. “Talk, Chloe,” he snarled. “I tried to do something for you. For your mom. How am I repaid? You won’t talk to me.”
“I didn’t realize you needed to be paid back,” Chloe murmured, her eyes trained to the floor. She leaned against the counter beside the sink. “I’ll pay you back whatever you spent.”
“I don’t want your money. I want to know what I did to you that was so wrong?”
Chloe looked away as tears pooled in her eyes. “My dad left when I was eight. Because of me. Because of this stupid thing I have. It broke Mom’s heart. She loved him so much. She has spent every day since loving him and hating him all at the same time. I don’t want to be like her. I don’t want to love and hate…” Her voice trailed off.
Max’s face softened. He took the few steps to her then tilted her chin so her eyes met his. “Don’t want to love and hate what, Chloe?”
She swallowed hard. “I don’t want to love and hate you at the same time for the rest of my life. So, I’m trying to not fall in love in the first place. But when you do such incredible things like you did today…”
A sweet smile spread across his face. “Hey, you can’t blame me for being charming.”
“Chloe. I would never hurt you. I promise you. Never.”
“You say that now.”
“I’ll say that forever.”
“Chloe! Max! What are you two doing in there?” Liz called from the other room.
“Just talking, Mom.” Chloe offered him a small smile as she slipped past him. Max turned and watched her go. She doesn’t want to love and hate me at the same time when I leave. The solution to that is simple. I’ll never leave.
Rico sauntered to the counter, where a tall, lanky redhead waited to take his order. After paying for a cup of coffee, he stepped back, winking at a girl sipping on a glass of iced tea. His eyes raked over her as she giggled. He grinned then glanced up behind the counter again.
He lost his breath. He felt his pulse pick up a notch. The last thing on earth he believed in was love at first sight. But in this moment, he was a true convert.
The barista barely came to his chest. Her long, blonde hair wisped in curls around her shoulders. Her frame was small, with perfect curves in all the right places. Her lips were a soft, very kissable pink. And when she looked up at him to hand him his drink, her eyes glittered a clear, crystal blue. She smiled then turned to fulfill the next order.
She never said one word to him. Him. Rico Choate. MMA superstar Rico Choate. His picture was on posters, in magazines.
And she didn’t say one word.
He was baffled. He gripped the coffee and rushed out the door. It wasn’t until he parked his Jeep at Hard Drive that he realized he hadn’t gotten one number, not from any of the women in the shop.
He rubbed his forehead, puzzled. He didn’t want any number. He just wanted the barista’s. But for the first time in his life, a woman wasn’t interested in him. He was still shaking his head when he strode into gym and plopped the paper cup down in front of an equally perplexed Chloe. Before she could even utter a syllable, he stormed out of her office and onto the mats.
Rico spent the rest of the afternoon working the speed and punching bags, hoping for a little bit of relief from his memory of the barista. He couldn’t get her out of his head. After a couple of hours, he couldn’t take it anymore. He jogged up the steps two at a time then ducked his head into the office.
“Need another cup of coffee?” he volunteered.
Chloe lifted up the empty cup. “I just finished this one. I’m—”
“Another cup coming right up.” Before Chloe could object, he was down the stairs and out the door. He hopped in the front seat of the Jeep, fired it on, and sped away. He brushed his fingers through his thick, brown hair as he waited at the lone stop light that separated Hard Drive from the coffee shop. He glanced at his reflection in the rearview mirror.
Then, he checked again. Yes, he looked incredible. The barista may have been able to blow him off before. She certainly wouldn’t miss him this time.
Rico stepped inside the cool, dimly lit store and glanced around. There were fewer people lounging than there were earlier. A couple of girls that had been there before waved in his direction. He ignored them as he approached the counter, frowning as he did so. The redhead greeted him with a goofy grin. “Need another jolt of java, bro?”
“Ummm…yeah.” Rico scanned behind the counter as he paid for the coffee. “Where’s the blonde who was here earlier?”
The redhead shot him a puzzled look. “Avery? You know her?”
“Not yet. But I’d like to.”
“Her shift is over. She’s heading to class. She just left to wait for the bus.” The barista handed him a paper cup. “Hey, aren’t you that MMA guy? I think I’ve seen you fight.”
“Yeah, probably.” Rico grabbed the drink and raced outside, never looking at the girls who now were vying for his attention. He searched up and down the sidewalk for the blonde barista. He picked up his pace again as his eyes landed on her standing at the corner, still dressed in her white blouse and khakis from the restaurant. A large, sky blue backpack nearly bursting at the seams was slung over her shoulder. She checked her watch as the bus crawled to a stop before her.
“Hey! Hey!” Rico shouted as she stepped on. She never turned, never acknowledged him. The door closed behind her, and the large beast chugged on its journey, leaving a dumbfounded Rico behind.
Cassandra firmly capped the bottle of herbs with a cork and slipped the container in her bag. She marked her books, stacking one on top of the other. Glancing out the window, she watched as Matthew gently kissed Stephana before helping her into the carriage.
Sighing, she pulled herself away from the window to gather more herbs. She picked up her books and the bag of bottles. Then, she hobbled to the door and struggled to open it with her one free hand.
Cassandra jumped back, startled, as she discovered Matthew standing in the doorway. He clung to the doorframe as he stared at her.
“How may I serve, my lord?” she greeted as she awkwardly bowed to him.
“Where are you going?” he asked, barely audible.
“Home. I have much to do before I return in the morning and you leave for battle.”
Matthew paused. “I did not propose to Stephana.”
Cassandra set her items on a table nearby. “That was unwise, my lord.”
Matthew stared at her as he dug his fingernails into the wood of the frame. “Cassa, do not leave me like this.”
Cassandra swallowed as she heard the urgency in his voice. “Like what, my lord?”
“Like this—the formal address, the subservient nature. This.” Matthew stood up straight, taking a step to grip her arms in his hands.
“Tell me her name,” Matthew demanded.
“There is no one.”
“Tell me her name,” Matthew begged. “Tell me, and I will give her my heart and make her my bride. I swear this.”
Cassandra stared at him, tears filling her eyes. “What if she belongs to another man?” She looked away as the words she spoke seemed to crush him. He closed his eyes, fighting to defeat the truth, the truth he already must know. Capitalizing on his weakness, Cassandra pulled away. “I told you there is no one.”
He grasped her hand, pressing it to his heart. “No, my lady, I will win her. I will fight, and I will not stop until she is cradled in my arms. This I promise you. Do you hear me? This I promise you.”
Her tears burst their floodgates as she slipped her fingers from his. “I must go,” she stumbled out. “I have much to do. I must go.”
Cassandra scooped up her books then swept by Matthew and ran down the stairs. She cringed as she heard him call her name, his voice betraying his pain.
Cassandra could not sleep. She lay in her bed, staring at the ceiling of her room as the night passed by. As dawn brushed the sky, she pulled herself from her covers, dressed, and trudged her return to the palace.
In no time, she stood in the courtyard, the soldiers around her completely oblivious to her presence. She glanced up as Victor rode next to her. “Lock yourself in the tower. I will see you when I get back,” he instructed as he kissed her on the cheek.
“Stay safe,” she murmured.
Cassandra looked to the ground as Victor’s horse trotted away. Then, she raised her head as she heard hoof steps approach. Matthew wandered across the courtyard, leading his stallion behind him. His eyes, yearning and desperate, locked on her.
She shuddered as he approached, his stride determined as he wove his way around the soldiers scattered around the courtyard. He stopped, dropping the reins of his horse, when he reached her.
Without warning or care for decency, Matthew cupped Cassandra’s face in his hands drawing her lips to his and parting them in a soul-wrenching kiss. She clung to his arms as he tasted her, clearly searching for confession, answers—her love for him. As he pulled away, he whispered, “Lock yourself in. I could not live another day if anything happened to you.”
Matthew’s fingers caressed Cassandra’s skin once more before they slipped away to grasp his horse’s reins. He glanced at her over his shoulder before he disappeared behind the wall. Cassandra hugged herself tightly, her limbs shaking in uncertainty.
Collecting herself as much as possible, she wound her way to her tower blindly. Her thoughts were incoherent. Matthew? Victor? She rubbed her fingertips against her swollen lips. Both had made their feelings for her abundantly clear. And both were riding out to battle. Above all, the vows she had taken as a child dictated she could have neither of them.
Tears filled her eyes as she collapsed onto her cushion. The only thing she knew with clarity was that she needed to get her thoughts together. It wouldn’t be long before she would be joining them on the battlefield.
Miranda swept silently down the dirt path beneath the lush, fragrant canopy of the towering pine trees. The light of the full moon above cast everything in an unearthly, pale glow. Her heart raced in anticipation. Although she had seen Thatcher several times in the past few days, the thought of his eyes gazing on her as Miranda, and not as Ewen, made her tremble in excitement.
A soft laugh escaped her throat. Count Brunon was disgusted that his betrothed seemed to have such a weak stomach. Miranda did not even have to fake it. Brunon craved meats and delicacies that made Miranda cringe. However, Brunon happily avoided his sick beloved in case her malady happened to be contagious, which made it easy for Ewen to appear and volunteer to gather firewood.
Miranda stopped short as the path reached the creek. Her breath caught in her throat as her eyes found Thatcher. He stood, his tall, chiseled, muscular frame draped in a linen shirt and chocolate brown trousers. He watched the moonlight glimmer off the water. He ran a strong, powerful hand through his short, black hair. Miranda sighed, hopelessly in love.
Thatcher’s head spun at Miranda’s whisper-soft sigh. In just a few long strides, she was caught in his strong arms, his sweet lips prying hers apart in a soul-wrenching kiss. “Miranda,” he breathed after they parted.
Miranda caressed Thatcher’s cheek, her fingers grazing the stumble there. “I cannot stay long.”
“I know, my love. Our forced separation will be brief. I will free you from Brunon.”
Miranda smiled gently. “I know.”
The emotion in his eyes became intense. “I will not let him wed you. I will die before that will happen.”
“I know, my love,” she assured him.
He chuckled. “I owe Ewen a debt of gratitude for bringing you to me. I wasn’t sure he would.”
“He shouldn’t have.”
“I am surprised he didn’t join you.”
She scrambled for an answer. “He is keeping watch at the edge of the forest. He wanted to give us privacy.”
“He is a good man. There is something about him.” Thatcher gazed at Miranda. “He has your beautiful eyes. Are you related to him?”
“Perhaps.” Miranda pulled Thatcher’s face to her. She bravely parted his lips with hers, kissing him deeply, possessively. The mystery of Ewen seemed to flee Thatcher’s mind as he held Miranda close.
Their time together was far too brief. Thatcher clung to her hand as she turned to go. It took all the will in Miranda’s heart to pull free. All she wanted was to run away with him and leave the kingdom behind. Tears burned her eyes as he disappeared from her sight.
About triciaandersenI am the author and illustrator of the children's book "The Peculiar Princess". I am also the author of two adult fantasy romance novels, "The Sorceress of Savon" and "The Woodcutter King of Muladin". Along with being an author I am married to a wonderful guy and have three beautiful children. I coach youth track and field, sew and chase my children around to their various activities.
Posted on January 10, 2015, in author, books, fiction, novel, romance, story, Uncategorized, writing and tagged author, black irish series, blog hop, fiction, hard drive series, love, novel, romance, secret cravings publishing, story, writer. Bookmark the permalink. 31 Comments.