Saturday, September 21, 2019

#Sci/fiFantasySaturday #Cupid'sKiss


Title: Cupid's Kiss
ISBN: 978-1-62420-297-1
Author: Jennifer Milne

Genre: YA Romance
Excerpt Heat Level: 1
Book Heat Level: 2



REVIEW: Cupid's Kiss

Cupid’s Kiss by Jennifer Milne
Publisher: Rogue Phoenix Press
Genre: Young Adult/Middle Grade, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Contemporary
Length: Short Story (38 pages)
Age Recommendation: 14+
Heat Level: Sweet
Rating: 4 Stars
Review by: Astilbe for Long and Short Reviews
Cupid was real, and his descendants still walk the earth. Their magical matchmaking abilities don’t come from arrows though, but from their spit. Sixteen year old Amanda Amoretto is one of those descendants and she doesn’t believe in love. After all, if her spit can make people fall in love, it’s just a silly chemical reaction right? It isn’t real.Until she meets a boy she just can’t get off of her mind. But if she kisses him, he’ll fall under her Cupid love spell, which makes it impossible to have a genuine relationship. Her life is turned upside down as the girl who always overthinks everything finds herself a slave to her feelings. Can Amanda resist her feelings? Does she want to? Even if it means living a lie?
Being naturally irresistible isn’t always as easy as it may look.
My favorite part of this tale was the explanation the main character gave of how her ability worked. It was fascinating to see how she described the process of developing a crush on someone and why her saliva could jump start these feelings in a heartbeat. It made me want to know more about Cupid’s descendants!
While I really enjoyed this story overall, there was one part of that I didn’t quite understand. Many of Amanda’s classmates knew how resistant she was to the idea of ever kissing anyone. I was surprised by how common this knowledge was among them as it didn’t seem like the kind of thing she would go around advertising. Amanda was extremely private about her life in general, so it felt out of character for her to let so many people around her know something that would only encourage them to ask her even more questions about why she’d come up with that rule.
The chemistry between Amanda and the boy she met was absolutely perfect. I loved seeing them slowly figure each other out. They had a lot in common, and they were both such kind and smart people that I couldn’t imagine a better match for either one of them. It was impossible for me to stop reading until I knew if they were going to end up together.
Cupid’s Kissshould be read by anyone who is in the mood for a funny romance.



TAGLINE

What if all it took to fall in love was to swap some spit?

BLURB: Cupid's Kiss

Cupid was real, and his descendants still walk the earth. Their magical matchmaking abilities don’t come from arrows though, but from their spit. Sixteen year old Amanda Amoretto is one of those descendants and she doesn’t believe in love. After all, if her spit can make people fall in love, it’s just a silly chemical reaction right? It isn’t real.Until she meets a boy she just can’t get off of her mind. But if she kisses him, he’ll fall under her Cupid love spell, which makes it impossible to have a genuine relationship. Her life is turned upside down as the girl who always overthinks everything finds herself a slave to her feelings. Can Amanda resist her feelings? Does she want to? Even if it means living a lie?

EXCERPT: Cupid's Kiss

Sometimes I wondered if I looked different to different people. You know, because not everyone finds the same things attractive, but everyone thinks I am attractive. So I often wondered if what I saw in the mirror every day, was what other people saw when they looked at me?
And I'll bet you thought youhad an identity crisis.
It's not that it's all bad. It isn't. There are obvious advantages to all the weird things I can do. I guess the closest thing I could compare it to, is being a celebrity. Sure they're rich and famous and beautiful, and all those things are awesome. But they never really know if people want to hang around with them because they're a nice person or because of all those awesome things.
Whatever. It didn't matter. My increased heart rate, the warm feeling I was getting all over, those were just dopamine. Something about Ren was attractive to me, so my stupid brain was releasing dopamine into my blood stream and blocking my production of serotonin. Which was why I was having a hard time forming coherent thoughts.
"Yeah…" was all I could get out. Then I giggled.
I know. GIGGLED.
I cleared my throat and pulled myself together, ready to wow him with the intelligence I knew existed somewhere under all that hair tossing and eyelash batting.
I seriously couldn't control it.
Unfortunately, Casey Santoro chose that moment to plop down next to me. "Amandaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa," she whined. "I think Paul is cheating on me."
I sighed. Casey alwaysthought her boyfriend Paul was cheating on her. She was just one of those girls. Which was too bad because she was otherwise pretty and sweet, with dark hair and big, expressive, almond shaped eyes. "Casey can this wait? I'm kind of busy."
"Noooooooooo, Amanda, I'm seriouslyworried!"
No Casey. You are seriouslyinsecure. 
But I couldn't say that.
I looked at Ren. "Sorry."
"It's okay," he said amiably.
I turned back to Casey. "What happened?" I noticed Ren watching me out of the corner of my eye.
"I came out of English last period and I saw him talking to Amy Morningwood. She wrote something down on a piece of paper and gave it to him. I think it was her number," she moaned.
"Casey, Paul and Amy are doing a class project together. I know because Kristy is in that same class. I'm sure whatever Amy wrote down had something to do with that."
"Ohmigod, are you sure Amanda?" she said.
"Pretty sure."
"Oh thank God! Thank you so much, I feel so much better." She looked over and seemed to notice Ren for the first time. "Oh hi, I'm sorry, I'm Casey," she said.
"Ren," he said nodding, an amused look on his face.
"Anyway, I didn't mean to interrupt you guys, sorry," she said and took off.
I rubbed my forehead, feeling a headache coming on.
"Do your friends do that to you a lot?" Ren asked.
"Not just my friends. Everyone does it."
"Why?"
I sighed. "Freshman year, I helped Jody Beckett, this dorky senior girl, get together with Kyle Manning, the most popular boy in school." There was some love spit involved, but I left that part out.
"Ah and you've been Miss Lonely-hearts ever since."
"Pretty much. Well minus the advice column, the drinking and the adultery."
"Good to know," he laughed as the bell rang. "So what are you doing for lunch?"
"I have a Winter Carnival meeting."
"What's that?"
"Every year for Valentine's Day the cheerleaders put on this carnival to raise money for charity. We have a few weeks left and we're kind of behind."
"You're a cheerleader?"
"Don't tell me you're one of those types who doesn't like cheerleaders?" I hope. Wait, no I don't care. No I do. Not.
"Not at all," he said, smiling.
I sighed with relief. On the inside. I think.
"Well, have fun, I'll see you around," he said pleasantly.
"I'll sext you later."
He gave me a funny look. "Oh God!" I felt sick with embarrassment. "I was thinking of saying 'see you nextperiod' but then I just decided to say 'see you later' and 'see' and 'next' somehow combined into…'sext…' oh God…"
"Not the worst thing for a pretty girl to say to me," he laughed and headed out.
My chest ached a little after he was out of sight. Oh God… was I having… feelingsfor Ren?

~ * ~

 "Okay so everybody needs to sign up for at least one shift at one of the booths," Mrs. Solis, our faculty advisor, told the room.
I liked Mrs. Solis because she was real with me. Every once in a blue moon someone comes along that is immune to my Charisma. Mrs. Solis was the only person at school who wasn't affected by my charms, so I relied on her for straight shooting. The upside and downside of her immunity was she treated me like she treated everyone, which was kind of crappy.
The Varsity, Junior Varsity and Freshman squads were packed into Mrs. Solis' small classroom. We were all sitting kind of close and Hilary Hudson kept giving me these uncomfortably intense looks from where she sat across from me. Damn pheromones, they worked based on attraction and since Hilary enjoyed the romantic company of the fairer sex, I was exerting a pull on her.
I made sure not to make eye contact and instead focused on the math worksheet I was secretly working on. Unfortunately, some people were more susceptible to my pheromones than others.
Sometimes if the person was sensitive enough, they could pull a 'Kevin Friedman' without my even kissing them. I had never experienced this thank God, but Phil had.
"Who wants to work the funny photo booth?" Mrs. Solis asked the room.
"I'll do it," I heard Angela say. I was keeping my head down still because I could feel Hilary's eyes on me.
"Me too," piped in Jessica Johnson.
Mrs. Solis nodded. "Okay, the dunk tank?"
This went on for I didn't even know how much longer. I lost track of time after I peered up to see if Hilary was still staring, to have her lick her teeth at me. I'd always thought Phil was just being a homophobe, but it was actually really uncomfortable. Though truth be told if a guy licked his teeth at me it would've been just as creepy. I'd never understood the appeal of 'tooth-licking'.
"Okay Amoretto looks like you're the only one left."
"Wait, what?" I asked confused. I hadn't absorbed anything anyone had said for the past few minutes.
"You're working the kissing booth."

REVIEW:

Cupid’s Kiss

By Jennifer Milne

            Rating 5/5

            Reviewed by: Tamara White



~ Cute, Charming, and Heart Warming~

            Cupid’s Kiss shows how even the creators of love still trying to figure it all out.

            High school is a society within a society and Valentino-Day Academy is no exception. It has all of the love and heartbreak found in the adult world. But Amanda a smart, quick-witted high school cheerleader her high school experience is even more complicated. Amanda may have some qualities that are typical for a high school girl a squad of close friends, and ambition to excel academically. But Amada’s unique gift sets her apart from the others at Valentino-Day Academy, which had left her spending her high school years trying to avoid the one thing her friends are desperate to find, love, and the warm feelings that go along with being madly in love with another person. Amanda uniqueness leaves her with only her bother, Phil who is like her, to confide in.

            Amanda’s high school experience is unfolding the way she decided it would until, Ren DiFronte, a transfer student sits down next to her Chemistry. Ren, handsome, smart, and athletic, takes Amanda through a roller-coaster of feeling that even Cupid wasn’t ready to experience.  


Friday, September 20, 2019

#Friday'sFeaturedTitle #ShadowDancer


Shadow Dancer
Courtney Rene
Excerpt Heat Level: 1
Book Heat Level: 1


BLURB: Shadow Dancer

Sunny has a gift that she has no idea how to use, until she meets Leif, a boy from the kingdom of Acadia, on the other side of the shadows.  Leif teaches Sunny about Shadow Walkers and how to use her new found gifts. As they grow closer and their gifts grow stronger, a threat arrives.  The Shadow Guard has been sent to bring Sunny back to Acadia, to determine if she is a threat to the king as the rightful ruler of Acadia. 

As Leif and Sunny prepare to defend themselves, Sunny finds that Leif has also been sent to bring Sunny back to the kingdom but for very different reasons.  As a battle for possession of Sunny wages, she is struggling to come to turns with her feelings of inadequacy regarding controlling her gifts as well as the hurt regarding the lies and deceit of everyone around her.

EXCERPT: Shadow Dancer

“My Lady? I don’t know what to do. I don’t know what else...I think we need to call for help.”

“Where is she? I can’t see her.”

“She’s fine, my Lady. She’s sleeping, right over there. Can you see her?” 

“Bring her to me. I want to hold her.”

“My Lady, you have lost too much blood. We need to get you to a hospital or something. Please.”

“Star, it’s already too late. You know it. We can’t call for help. We have to keep her safe. She’s all that’s left. She is worth that and so much more. God, I am so tired. Please bring her to me.”

“My Lady...“

“Even now Star, after all these years, can’t you just be my friend?”

“I will always be your friend, my Lady, but you will always be my Queen. Even now, even later, that will never change. Here she is. Do you have her?”

“I’ve got her. Please don’t hover over me, Star. I’m alright. Look how beautiful she is. Can you believe Malcolm and I made something so beautiful?”

“Yes, I can. She looks like you. She has your hair, all golden and soft. She has your mouth too. Don’t you think?”

“Yes. Oh God, I want to hold on to her forever. I never want to let her go. Star, you have to promise me that you will keep her safe. Whatever you have to do, you have to keep her safe. Promise me.”

“No, my Lady, we will keep her safe. You and I together.”

“No, Star, this burden will fall to you. You already see the truth of it, right here in front of your eyes. I’m just so tired. Here, you’d better take her. Bye, my baby girl. I love you so. 

Star, promise me. You’ve done all you can here. All that is left is her. Malcolm is gone, and I…”

“Stop it! You can’t just give up! Don’t laugh! Can’t you see that it’s tearing me apart? I can’t do this without you.” 

“Star, I’m not laughing. I promise you. There just isn’t anything I can do to stop it. You can do this. I believe in you. Star?”

“Yes. My Lady?”

“Promise.”

“All right. I promise I will do everything I can to keep her safe.”

“Do you think you will ever return?”

“I don’t know. Everything is changed now. Our whole world has changed.”

“Star?”

“Yes?”

“Stay safe. You have always been my very best friend. I don’t know what I would have done without you. Thank you, so much, for everything.”

“My Lady...“

“Keep her safe...“



Shadow Dancer is a fun, light read with some action, some romance and some kick-butt abilities. 
LunaMoth for Far from Reality Reviews

Thursday, September 19, 2019

#Larena'sFascination #HistoricalRomance


Title: Larena’s Fascination
            Twelve Dancing Princesses Book Ten
Author: Christine Young
Genre: Historical Romance/Regency
Book Heat Level: 4

Buy at: Amazon


TAGLINE

Free spirited Larena Graham must learn to trust Gavin Broom, the handsome Scotsman, to protect her and keep her from harm.


BLURB: Larena's Fascination

Whispers of Fascination

Fiery, free spirited Larena Graham never wanted to marry a duke. She is thrilled to be in love with the fourth son of an aristocrat, Gavin Broon. But when it seems Gavin ignores her, she set her sights on politics and bettering human life. Unsuspecting intrigue and a plot against her, she continues her dangerous plans despite Gavin's wishes.


Whispers of Trust

Gavin has every intention of properly courting the beautiful Larena until he must leave the city in order to put his affairs in order. Returning to London, he finds the woman he means to make his own is embroiled in political protests that could lead to a prison ship. Larena must learn to trust the handsome Scotsman whose most pressing mission is to protect her and keep her from harm.


EXCERPT: Larena's Fascination

Strange noises emanated from the adjoining room, grunts mostly and muffled yells. She straightened on her bed, pensive and so very curious. She tried to concentrate and hear the words. Tempted to check on Gavin, she stood but thought better of intruding on his privacy. Still intrigued as the noise continued and trying to ignore it, she found herself at the window looking out on the blackness of the night.
A loud crash caused her to jump. Unable to stay away, she strode to the door between their rooms and cautiously opened it. She inhaled a startled gasp. Gavin faced her, his chest bare and covered in a sheen of moisture that seemed to glow when the candlelight flickered across him.
“I didn’t mean to wake you.” He let his hands fall to his sides, his bared feet braced apart. Suddenly as if realizing he was practically naked, she searched the room in an attempt to keep from staring at his imposing frame.
“You didn’t.” Mesmerized by him, by his body in a trance she stepped to him, touched her hand upon his chest and heard the quick inhalation of air, felt the beating of his heart.
He set his hand upon hers. “Larena,” he spoke her name slowly, his eyes gazing into hers.
She yearned to see into his mind, read his thoughts, “You’re so different from me.” With the slightest twist of her fingers she touched his nipple and delighted in the feel of him. She regarded him closely, smiling into his eyes.
He didn’t laugh as she thought he would. His voice so sincere and strangely deep, he said, “I’m glad of that.”
Unable to help herself, she brought her other hand and set it on his other nipple. “I like the way you feel. What were you doing that caused all that noise? What crashed to the floor?”
“Trying to get rid of pent up emotions, but I don’t think it’s going to help after this.” He spoke slowly then, “The basin, as you can see it’s shattered. I’ll pick up the pieces in the morning.”
“Pent up emotions?” She didn’t understand what he tried to do, why he was grunting and yelling albeit quietly.
“My body wanted to do something my mind didn’t.” He ran his fingers through the length of her hair, bringing a strand to his face, touching his lips to it. “Silken fire, so soft I want to wrap it around me.”
“You speak in riddles.” She moved her hands lower, tracing the hair on his chest to just above the fastening of his pants then back, marveling in the play of his muscles where her fingers travelled. Intrigued by the obvious change in his breathing and fascinated she could do this to him.
“And, Larena, you really need to stop.”
“Not unless you make me.” She continued running her hands along his chest and upward to sweep them across his shoulders.
“It’s best for you if I tell you no.” He held her hands in his in front of him, placing light kisses on her knuckles. “You should go to your bed now before we both regret this night.”
“I’m not sleepy. Indeed, my heart races and it seems I’ve grown hotter by the second. Don’t want to spend the night alone. Want to be in your arms.” She remembered when he barely touched her breast and the way her body quickly responded, and she marveled that perhaps she had the same effect on him.
“Come,” he drew her to the door. “What you’re innocently creating here is best left for the marriage bed. I’ll walk you to your chamber.”
“I want to stay with you.” She realized she didn’t care what others thought but rather she wanted to live in the moment. Only two of her sisters and cousins combined had waited for marriage to find out what happened to a woman in bed with a man. She didn’t even know if she loved Gavin or wanted to marry him. She liked him though and who better to teach her?
“No. Not tonight,” he told her, drawing her toward her room. Inside, he pulled her close and lightly pressed his lips to hers then let her go as if the touch burned him. “Your bed.” He pointed in that direction then watched as she sat forlornly on the bed.
She watched the door close behind him then found herself at the window again. Shadows played across the street, and moonlight brightened the darkness. Below her a shadowed form strode quickly from the townhouse and a few minutes later she saw Gavin gallop down the street.



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Wednesday, September 18, 2019

#HighlandSong #HistoricalRomance


Christine Young
Excerpt Heat Level: 1
Book Heat Level: 4


BLURB: Highland Song

With her white-gold hair and azure eyes, Lainie MacPherson is as wild and untamed as the rugged Scottish Highlands where she was raised. Lainie vowed to avenge a crime against her. Recklessly, she defies English laws and the man who raped her puts a bounty on her head. The man who is sent to bring her to Edinburgh sets a dangerous trap. With nothing left to live for the beautiful Scottish spy steals the sealed documents the English soldier has tempted her with.

When the exquisite temptress takes the bait and runs off with not only the forged documents but the purses of the men in the tavern, Aaron Slade vows to hunt her down and bring her to justice, never dreaming she will tame his jaded soul. When Aaron discovers the truth about the tempestuous woman who stirs his passion to the point of madness, he dares not love her, but desires her with all his soul.

EXCERPT: HIGHLAND SONG

1514

Lainie MacPherson let the crumpled wanted poster drop to the ground. Her stomach knotted and fear snaked down her spine. Beneath the shadows of the hooded cape she wore, Lainie searched the room for her enemies.

Every man here fit that description.

Forced into a trap of her own making, out of courage, friendless, and terrified Lainie did the only thing she could think of to bring the pig Bertram to his knees.

She would steal the temptingly displayed secret papers that were on the table in front of her. Papers she hoped showed troop movements--papers stamped with the King's seal--papers she could hand over to her brother, Hawke.

First Lainie made sure the shadows in the tavern hid her from view, shrinking into the dark interior, hiding her face with the hood of her cape. She tried not to stare at the dark-haired stranger who had absent-mindedly set his jacket and satchel on a table with the documents she sought poking out almost as if they challenged her with a secret invitation. The man’s dangerous, dark looks sent a strange sensation of heat coursing down her spine.

English soldiers like Jericho Manning and Rory Slater were more dangerous and more terrifying than any highland lass should have to deal with. To make the situation worse, she didn’t need a dark-haired stranger to make her fingers shake and her insides quake.

Lainie inhaled a deep steadying breath. Easy, she told herself. Go nice and slow. The stranger looks half-drunk and the tavern maid sitting on his lap has all his attention.

"What’s in it for me?" Rory asked Jericho, his haggard features lighting up with anticipation and snagging Lainie’s attention.

"Only what Bertram wants to give you himself." The dark stranger looked at the 
English officer. The fingers on one hand tapping the oaken table top impatiently.

Rory’s toothless grin sent a shiver of fear down Lainie’s spine.

"Jericho always gives me his left-overs," Rory said. “You going to give me this one?”

Rory’s diabolical laughter sealed the darkness in her heart.

Jericho nodded then leaned forward. "I want the lass. And I’ll have her before I give her over to Bertram. She’s only a whore."

Lainie nearly gasped but stopped herself. Courage, Lainie, you’ve been in tighter spots than this. It was not her plan to give herself away to these men. 

She inhaled a long, deep breath once more and reached for the satchel beneath the soldier's jacket. A few more seconds and all would be hers. A few more seconds and she would hand the papers over to a friend. Someone who would carry them to the Scottish King.

She committed no treason here. 

She was Scottish to the core. 

This was for the good of her country--not England. Besides she’d already been labeled a traitor by the crown of England. She had nothing to lose.

If Bertram suffered a set back, his lack of attention caused the problem.

Aaron Slade let his hands slide up and down the arms of the lass sitting on his lap while his steely gaze seemed to be riveted on Lainie MacPherson. 

He knew what the young woman was up to before she’d committed herself to stealing. He had read the determination in the girl's posture when she backed into the shadow-filled corner of the tavern, pulling her dark cloak around her slender frame and letting her hood shadow her face. The combination of steady eyes and slightly trembling fingers had given her away. 

He would make sure neither Jericho nor Bertram could get their sweaty hands on the girl. He’d heard stories. He believed them--every word.

Jericho didn’t even realize the girl he sought stood in the corner. Moreover, Slade didn't mean to tell Jericho. Slade had his orders. He was to find her and bring her to Edinburgh where she would be tried for high treason. The charges were lame. Now that he watched her stealing the phony papers he’d planted in the pocket of his jacket, he wasn’t quite so sure.
   
The rumors had it that a lot of men had wanted the lass, but none had gotten her. He’d thought all along Bertram had been one of those men. A cynical smile shifted the line of Aaron’s black mustache. There was nothing new in that particular game. Teasing and promising men something they wouldn’t give was a primal game played by every woman ever born.

But there was something very different about this woman.

An air of sadness and vulnerability emanated from her. Aaron methodically lowered his lids when he glanced from the girl who sat in his lap to the woman whose fingers were closing over the sealed documents. He couldn't help but stare at her. The woman's eyes were a clear, uncanny blue that matched the color of the sky on a bright summer day. The few strands of hair escaping her hood were so blond they were nearly white. The cloak she wore was plain, but did nothing to hide the lush fullness of her figure beneath the cloth. The vision he imagined set him to thinking about what it would be like to unfasten the cloak, strip away all the other fabric covering her and touch the luminous skin that lay beneath the tattered cloak.

Aaron was irritated at the direction his thoughts went. He was certainly experienced and old enough to keep sexual need away from his mission. He had been taught and teased by the most expert females on this earth. He’d learned more than one lesson at their hands.

Looking at Aaron, Jericho swirled the contents of his tankard.

"I don’t figure I can trust any man. Who’s to say that if you find the girl, you won’t want to keep her for yourself," he said to Aaron. "She might be worth a damn sight more than what old Bertie is paying you to bring her to him."

The devil you say," Rory retorted with a smug grin. "I have it on good authority and knowing old Bertie for years, he likes nothing better than to share soiled goods. We both know he’s the only one who can save the girl from a conviction of treason."

Jericho looked coldly at Aaron but didn’t refute Rory’s statement.

Aaron urged the tavern wench from his lap and kept his eye lids lowered slightly. He watched the girl, and if he was right, she was about to dip her hand into the pocket of another man. She had moved from her spot near his table, using the shadows in the tavern to hide herself. She brought up a fat purse and slipped it inside a different sack than the one she’d put the papers she’d stolen from his satchel.

The stories about her were intriguing enough, but it was the rumors of Lainie MacPherson’s spying that held his interest. To him any one who could spy on his country was a traitor. But Lainie MacPherson, if she was anything like her brothers, was Scottish bone deep. To Lainie, what she did here would not be treasonous because she would be loyal only to the Scottish King James. In addition, the rumor--the ones of Lainie prostituting herself for information--didn’t bother him. Women did what they had to do to survive. And if the rumors were true, he would find a way to enjoy her charms while he took her to Edinburgh for trial. To him women’s flesh was sweet and soft, but women were as fickle as newborn kittens. They were far too easily corrupted, and so many times they turned out to be less than they seemed. He never let any woman touch his heart. 

Silently, Aaron measured the distance between the door and the MacPherson wench and wondered at the innocence, or was it guilt, he saw flash in her eyes for one brief moment when she met his glance. From what he’d heard, the Scottish cause was everything to the MacPhersons. This would not be the first time they pitted their clan against the English crown. 

But this time it was the most foolhardy.

The smile he gave Lainie made her look away. He watched as her shoulders quivered, and she shrank back into the shadows. He felt a wave of nausea sweep through him when he thought of Lainie being at the mercy of a man like Bertie for even a single night, much less until Bertie grew bored with her and gave her to Jericho and Rory.

Silently, he told himself he would never let her fall into Bertie’s hands, because he meant to bring her straight to the authorities in charge. If she were guilty of treason, she would be prosecuted. If she were not guilty, he would see she was set free and he would personally escort her home.

For the first time, he felt justified in his mission and the exorbitant pay he would receive for handing the girl over. If anything, there was a certain justice in cheating Bertie out of his spoils. He acknowledged that once he caught Lainie, he would have not only Rory and Jericho after him, most likely the MacPherson brothers would be on his tail as well. 

A man bumped into Lainie near the door. Aaron thought he would see her pick this man’s pocket too. The movement was quick. Except for the slight of hand and Aaron’s vigilance, he would have never seen the exchange of the satchel from Lainie’s hand to the man's. The document Lainie just handed over was worthless, but the stolen goods were not. They would find out soon enough he had baited her, set the trap, and she’d fallen for it. Would he have Lainie in his possession when that was accomplished? Or would Jericho?

Aaron shifted slightly, not wanting to give Jericho and Rory any indication that he meant to leave. His hand was on the hilt of his sword. Silently, he measured the catlike elegance of the girl with the determined posture and long back. It would not be much longer when Jericho and Rory discovered their own missing goods.

He rose and walked toward the door, barring her way if she meant to flee yet he was not sure he would stop her. "You sure you wouldn’t want to stay a while and keep me company, Miss…what was the name again?" Aaron asked, though he knew very well.

"’Tis naught your business," she said softly, lowering her dark sooty lashes as if she meant to flirt. "A gentleman would not ask a lady he didn’t know."

Lainie MacPherson’s voice sounded calm and controlled. Nevertheless, he knew she’d been in this position often enough, that she knew how to handle herself and no longer hesitated, knowing full well the consequences if she did. In any case, her compliance was not a part of his plan for her abduction.

Aaron’s instincts kept whispering that this woman was somehow different from women like Sarah and Anna, unfeeling women who cared nothing about anyone save themselves and the fortune and titles that could be gained from marrying into the right families. At the same time, he had no doubt Lainie MacPherson could kill a man.

"You should take heed," Aaron said softly, ignoring the other man who had now slipped quietly out the door.

"Remove your hand. sir," she told him indignantly.

Aaron shrugged, outwardly indifferent, his fingers settling once more on the hilt of his sword, ever wary of the girl and her next move.

The tavern’s hush changed into a humming of male voices as people left their drinks and focused on the pair standing so close to the door where unbeknownst to them an unspoken challenge had just been issued by both parties. 

The stakes revolved around a woman named Lainie MacPherson and release from the commission he’d bought so many years ago he couldn’t remember. As for the bounty, Aaron Slade didn’t care a damn about it.

Aaron was certain he would end up the winner in this cat-and-mouse game. Besides the obvious, he wondered how the woman with trembling mouth and steady blue eyes had ended up on a wanted list issued by King Henry himself and standing in one of Scotland’s most infamous taverns. So intrigued by her he would move heaven and earth to learn her story.

"I know what you handed over to your companion," Aaron said with a bit of impatience, trying not to give away his purpose before it was necessary. 

"I don’t know what you mean," she said softly with a sardonic smile gracing her intriguing mouth.

"You stole something that was mine. I mean to get it back. You need to remember that England rules this land--all of it." He inhaled deeply the soft scent of her that seemed to be hers alone. It seemed to possess all his senses.

Her shoulders stiffened as her gaze raked over him. "I’m Scottish, and loyal to James," she said, her voice wavering. "Henry doesn’t rule me or my kin."

"Slade," Jericho said, stepping forward, "what’s--"

The wolfish smile Aaron gave Jericho stopped him cold in his tracks.

"Who’s the girl?" Jericho asked pointedly. "You the sharin’ kind, Slade?"

"No one of interest," Aaron said smoothly lying to Jericho.

Aaron moved in front of Lainie, blocking the men from seeing her face and her hair. He didn’t know if they’d recognize her but something Rory had said earlier made him think Rory at least had met her. Given a choice, he would have taken her by the arm and escorted her away from these two cutthroats. Now he didn’t have a choice. He would have to let her go and hope he could catch up to her.

Lainie could melt into the forest if given a chance. She knew these lands better than most. And her companions were sure to be waiting for her a safe distance from the tavern. If her friend wasn’t waiting for her, where would she go? A sudden and unmistakable sickening feeling swept through him. Fear for this slip of a woman clouded his judgment.