Category Archives: Characters

I suck at this…

Banse and I moved. In April. I still don’t have my desktop, or even a desk. I’m building a desk with bits and pieces from Ikea. Eventually. I have an empty bedroom (two actually), so one will be a guest room while the other is my writing hole. This picture will give you an idea, except I’m not so good on the dimensions. 

I already decided to swap room sides, so reverse that “l” and put the longbpiece on the side by my fingers. And, I decided shelving on the wall will be easier than free standing. Sturdier too, I hope. 

Anyway, I’m still working on the contemporary series. I’m developing my own little small town and my characters. I’m definitely leaning more sweet than steamy, by the way. But, without that space, time is snatched in pieces. Annoying. 

So, that’s an update. Still chugging along. At the laundromat right now with my bullet Journal and notepad. 

Where did my productivity go?

I mean, seriously. I started this whole Bullet Journal thing because it’s supposed to help. And it does help me focus on what needs done. I’m just not doing everything. Because with or without this damned thing, I’m still a slacker.

And I have to stop. I mean, who cares if I note that I’m going to do these 5 things if I don’t actually do them? Well, I do. With school coming up, I need to be back in productivity overdrive.

Did I mention yet that I cannot wait to start my fall classes? I’ll be taking two tax classes. EXCITED!!!

Yes. Seriously.

So, it’s Wednesday, and that means it’s Work-in-Progress. Over on Jude Knight’s website, she’s talking about servants. Specifically, the servants of her characters. Jude is a wonderful historical romance author – and I’ll be hosting an event for her 16 July. Let me know if you’re interested in attending. I can probably link the Facebook Event on here.

But see, I switched my focus from historical romance to a cozy mystery set right here in Springfield, Illinois during the early 20th Century. We open in 1918, although the series will veer into the 1920’s. Turns out, my fair city has a rich history of gangs and bootlegging.

So, while my main character comes from a wealthy family, she is peacefully estranged from them, and has no servants. Oh, she’s well enough off – and receives a stipend from her father – and she owns her own book shop. She does, after all, have to be able to travel and investigate the murders. Plus, as I was writing her, she revealed that she owned this shop and did not talk to her family. Running from a tragic event, of course.

But if we don’t have servants, what do we have? Well, mob bosses have hired muscle, naturally. And they don’t play an important part in my book, but the exist. I mean, I’ve written the confession (no tells, sorry) but not much more than that, so perhaps they do play an important part.

Anyway. Here’s a hint at what’s to come. (Naturally, I’ve already changed a bit of this, so I feel fine sharing!) And please remember this is 100% raw, unedited nonsense scribbles!

I briefly admired the Pullman attached to the end of the train, but it was nothing to get too excited about. Daddy had one, and mama always tried to get me to use it for my buying trips. I preferred the anonymity of a public car.

Two more men in that public car. I found the last public car almost completely empty. Two large men sat at the rear, largely ignoring each other. Each read the morning paper. Rather, they pretended to.

Hired muscle, each of them – likely for the owner of the Pullman. I recognized the air of self-importance about them almost immediately.

Lefty stared at me over the fold of his paper, careful to avert his eyes when I dared meet his gaze. Righty had no such subtlety. He put the paper down and stood. With a grace not usually seen in one so bulky, he moved to where I stood.

I was unable to suppress the smile that spread across my face. Lefty remained unknown, but I had known Righty most of my life.

“Newton Jones. What a pleasure.” It would not be. Newton only worked for one family since leaving our small town up north.

“My apologies miss, but this car is full.”

I detected the moment recognition set in. The tough guy act shattered, and he flashed a quick smile. “Surely it’s been too long, Miss H – ”

“The car is empty, Newton.” I gestured widely – we had yet to be joined by another person, and the ticket girl had indicated this car was fully available.

“It’s for your own good, miss.”

Of course it was. But I was tired of being told what was good for me. In the end, I won – but only because the train started moving, and there was nothing to be done. I was stuck in the car closest to my uncle’s biggest rival – the man who most hated me and my family.

So there you have it. The first official excerpt from my newest piece. It’s rough, but it’s fun. I hope you enjoy!

Tell me, what are you working on this week?


Shocking – Two in One Week!

In between the stress of my full time day job and a 16 hour course load via SIU online, I am still plugging away at Fig and Rue’s story. Hopefully I’ll have time tomorrow to knock out at least one more chapter (about 3 scenes), even if just by hand and not in a document…
Alas, I have an exam (and an exam quiz??) plus a lab/lab quiz and a reflection paper. I can do some of it Sunday while pretending to watch the Superbowl, but not the exam, so time is limted…
Anyway, even as I plug away at Under the Mistletoe, I have thoughts of Sarah and Stratford (With This Kiss) swirling in the background. Well, today, I was listening to a song, and a sentence unfurled in my mind. I sat down tonight to sketch out some notes on the scene, and it just poured out of me, including notes for the following scene. Inspiration. Yes! 
So, I’m going to give you a special glimpse into the world of Sarah and Stratford, another fairy tale revisioning. Can you guess which one?
Silver moonlight flooded the worn path from the stone terrace, through the beds of hibiscus, and down the manicured lawn, but Sarah had no need of it. She knew the lawns and paths and gardens of Raven’s Nest as well as she knew her own, despite the passing of years. She could walk the land blindfolded, and she would know every step just by the scent hanging in the air. Her bare feet sank into the thick carpet of grass, blades tickling the bottom of her feet, when she veered to the left, heading through the canopy of wisteria, straight for the folly.
Built more than a century before she was even born, it was designed to mimic the the great house, down to the ornate door knocker. As children, they often escaped here to hide from the governess the boys allowed her to share. She snorted rather indelicately at the idea of being allowed the education the boys gladly shirked.
The snap of a branch close by caught her attention, and her head snapped up, memories forgotten. She froze, heart racing in her chest.
Was it a poacher?
Carefully she inched toward the stone building, glad to see it looming ahead of her, and not fallen into disrepair and ruin. Rupert had cared for it after all.
No, she reminded herself, he is home now. The responsibility lies at his feet.
She was just a few short feet shy of the thick door when a flash of movement at the corner of her eye alerted her that someone was close. She sucked in a large breath of air, head swinging to the sides as she sought escape. She needed to hide.
Or run. Yes, that would be…
Her thoughts trailed off as a figure stepped from the small copse of trees that led to the bond. Stratford. Her heart, that feckless creature within her chest, cried at the sight of him, drinking in every detail. She found herself unable to look away from the rigid muscles of his lean, bare chest; her eyes followed the trail of dark hair to where it disappeared in the falls of his trousers. The moon, full and bright above, cast a silver glow across his bronzed skin, and she swallowed, throat suddenly dry.
“Hello, Red.” He tossed her the cheeky grin she remembered so well from their youth.
“Do, do not call me that, my lord.” Her heart might be a traitorous beast, but at least her brain was sensible enough to put an icy distance between them.
He tsked. “When did we let such formalities grow between us, Red?” He came to a stop before her, cupping her chin with the hand not grasping his boots. She looked into the unfathomable depths of his muddy eyes, calling herself ten times a fool as she wished and hoped and prayed he would lean down and sweep his lips across hers.
Wrenching free of his grasp, she twisted away from him. “There is more than just formalities between us, my lord. There is time, and – and…” She trailed off, unable to finish the accusations her brain would fling.
“And? Time and – what, Sarah? Surely not time and distance. I am here, in the flesh. In the now.”
“You left me, damn you.” She hid her face, lest he think her tears caused by longing or anything akin to it. Lest he think them caused by anything other than the mounting frustration. “We had a deal, my lord. Crossed our hearts, and swore it would be forever.”
He closed the distance between them, and she felt the warmth of his flesh through the thin muslin of her nightrail as he enveloped her in his strong arms, crushing her to his chest. The whisper of his lips against her fevered brow sent a frisson of heat through her.
“I had no choice, Sarah. Surely you see that now?”
“I see nothing but the man who swore he would rather die than leave me. The man who slipped away in the dead of night just hours after leaving my bed. You left me with no one.”
“Rupert was -“
“At war, my lord. Rupert left the next morning, thinking you just sleeping off a hangover, and I was alone again.” She allowed herself the comfort he offered, resting her wet cheek against his chest. In a small voice, one she hoped he did not actually hear, she added, “It was never him anyway. Only you.”

New Computers

Ugh. I had to buy a new desktop the other day. Since I do almost all of my writing on my delicious little Lenovo laptop – no, all of the actual writing, to be honest – anyway, the desktop is for research, iTunes, photos, school work, etc… You know, basic shit that doesn’t require a lot. So, I bought some cheapo Acer Aspire tower for $250 from Walmart.

Moved everything I wanted to save to OneDrive… and it’s all updating. I might not be patient enough for this. At least I’m getting rid of all the crap, though 🙂

So, the second week of school is going strong. So far, I’m on schedule, if not sleeping much. I’ll get better at this but Wednesday’s likely won’t be my weekly update – I have work, gym, and school… looooong day!

I’ve decided Saturday is devoted almost exclusively to writing – I’m hoping for 3500 words, which is possible. With no distractions, and good notes throughout the week.

I’m working on Chapter One right now – and plan on having it done by Sunday evening to keep up with Bryn Donovan’s writing schedule. So far, I have two paragraphs. But, 3500 words is far more than I need for a chapter, so I’m good…

Yesterday, I introduced my version of Gaston on a friend’s blog for Work-in-Progress Wednesday. That, of course, isn’t all of the scene, but it’s what I shared.

So. That’s where we are. What are you doing with your writing right now?

The Fourth Wall

I guess you’ve heard the news by now that I have put Midnight Garnets to the side – for the time being. We need some space. We aren’t breaking up per se, but we sure as hell aren’t hanging out right now. Like Ross, I found someone new. Oh wait. No, they were on an actual break. I just said we didn’t break up. Well. This is awkward.

Anyway, I am playing around with a Fairy Tale right now. In my usual fashion, I am ignoring all the rules and twisting things around. I believe they call that a Fractured Fairy Tale. I call it Laura being Laura.

Why am I doing this? Because I can?? Oh, still not a good enough reason. OK. Because I am playing with the 3rd Person Omniscient POV. Think I explained that one already. Whatevs.

And let us be honest with each other – Fairy Tales are made for a 3rd Omni POV. They scream for it. But that narrator becomes a new character, takes on a life of their own. They have to – in order to have an authentic voice, that is. So I wondered – how do you get to know the narrator of your story? Do you fill out a character questionnaire?

I recently watched Mirror, Mirror. I am a Snow White junkie, and this was a good fix. I L-O-V-E-D it. For reals. If you’ve seen it, you know that the Evil Stepmother is the Narrator. If you haven’t – oops, spoilers.

Well, I’m not writing Snow White. So, who should narrate this tale? I don’t know, but I like her already. Here’s a tiny tidbit of what I’ve written so far:

The night before her twenty-first birthday, Olivia fell into bed, visions of a different future dancing through her head. She dreamt of soaring through the clouds, high above amber fields and green pastures. She dreamt, as one may do, of a life in which she was free of the shackles of her sightlessness. Of a life in which she did not bump into furniture spitefully moved in the middle of the night. A life where she had purpose. One where she was not just that “poor blind child,” abandoned and unwanted. Unworthy. Unloved.

The dreams were all the same. From the safety of her tiny bed, tucked away under the eaves of the attic, Olivia swept aside the walls of her prison, escaping into the air on iridescent wings. In these dreams, she drank in all the colors reality denied her as her travels took her to the farthest reaches of the Empire.

Her dreams on this night were no different. She was at peace, and hoped the dream would never end. Unfortunately for Olivia, everyone must wake up – even sleepy Aurora broke free of her dreams. But that is another story, is it not?

For Olivia, the illusions built by her slumbering imagination were shattered by the shriek of another great beast roaming the night skies. One moment, she was wafting through a cloud, the next she had bolted upright, a dazzling flash of light obscuring her vision. She rubbed the sleep from the corner of her eyes, expecting the light to fade to the familiar darkness.

It did not. Instead, the light remained, growing brighter with each beat of her heart. Olivia knew she must still be dreaming. Her chest tightened as she fought for control of her frozen mind.

She screwed her eyes shut, just as she had so many times before, pinching at the skin of her forearm. She knew that if she could just wake up, all would be right again. The light faded as darkness crept in, but her mind would not be comforted.

The darkness is gone, it screamed. Olivia pulled her knees to her chest, burying her face in the crevice. A bead of sweat trickled down her back. She knew, in the way one just knows these things, that this brilliant light could mean only one thing: she could see. After twenty long years of darkness, she could finally see.

She gave voice to a small yelp of excitement. She could see – the one thing she wished for more than any other thing had finally come true while she slept. And she knew something else, knew it with a clarity typically reserved for day-after regrets: nothing good would come of this revelation.

Stuck to the feather tick mattress of her cot, Olivia rocked slightly, hands clenched together under bare legs. She cursed, relishing every unladylike word that tumbled from her lips. She gave in to the terror of the moment, mourning the loss of the familiar – exactly as would you or I.


As writers, we all have those lines or paragraphs that we are immensely proud of. Well, I have two such moments. A little background: this is a typical historical romance with instant attraction that is being fought every step of the way because of a Big Misunderstanding.Something happened between them (not romantic), and Duncan got hurt pretty bad. 

I actually wrote the scene where he got injured with them shifting into dragons – and his shift was violently ripped from him. That probably helps this make more sense. Fortunately (for the sake of my historical romance), those dragons hied off to parts unknown, so that whole bit has to be written over)….

Anyway, here is the first part – you can see the reference to dragons here. 

“You test my patience, Helena. I want to hate you. I really do.” Duncan said, running a hand through his dark hair.

Helena watched his movements through lowered lids. He grabbed up handfuls of sand, letting it sift through his fingers. But what?

When he did not continue, she asked. Her voice was quiet, barely audible above the crashing of the waves, her brow wrinkled. She could no longer handle the suspense or pain; loneliness pushed down upon her, the weight too heavy.

“How does one hate the sun, Princess?” He asked in way of a response. “It creeps slowly into your life, brightening your day, your world. Only once it has slipped away do you realize just how bright life was. How much better.”

Helena pushed herself up, looking Duncan directly in the eye. What, exactly was he telling her? “Do you forgive me for ripping the dragon from your soul?”

Duncan winced, pain clouding his eyes, “The sun burns when least expected, Princess.” Pausing to consider his next words, he said only, “I acknowledge it was not you, but rather the dragon.”

Next, several days later, they are overheard having the following conversation:

What is this Duncan?” The girl asked in hushed tones that barely carried to their hiding spot.

First names. They were intimate enough to use first names in public. Wait until she told Mama. The girl would be ruined. If she weren’t already, she corrected with a snort.

“It is the moon, Princess. You are the sun, so all I can do is hang the moon for you.” Duncan’s words whispered over Eloise’s skin, sending chills down her spine.

I See You

I really struggled this week. l jotted a few notes Friday morning about what I wanted to cover in this next installment, but still… I struggled. Normally, I get all my writing for the installment done on Saturday, but not this week. 

Remember how yesterday I said there’s no plan? It’s true. I have an idea of the direction I want to take with each installment, but no set-in-stone plan. Well, that is especially true this week. Celeste and Peter, whom you meet today, took this installment and made it their own. 


The ride from the grassy meadow to Summer Haven took an eternity as silence stretched awkwardly between Celeste and her new husband. Somewhere along the graveled path, a lump of doubt lodged in her throat. Am I up to the task, she wondered.

The motion of the vehicle pulled at her stomach, sending a jolt to her already frayed nerves with each bump. A sigh escaped her lips as they finally pulled to a stop in front of… a castle?

Can it be the Castle, she wondered.

“But where is the moat?” Dragon’s Fire should be near if this was truly Vovin Castle.

“Hm?” Thomas looked at her, his attention seeming to be elsewhere. After a minute, he pointed at a tunnel circling around each side of the castle, laden with roses, and said, “The moat is right there.”

The blooms, blood red with white, were easily identified: Dragon’s Blood. Cultivated by her people, the bloom had been carried from Spain when they fled.


“You replaced Dragon’s Fire with a trellis of Dragon’s Blood?”

Helping her down from the carriage, Thomas ordered a footman to see to their luggage.

“You know the bloom? It’s rare outside the Forest.”

“My people cultivated it. We brought it here.”

“Surely the trellis is not a bad thing, then.”

“Not a bad thing? The moat was part of this land. Dragon’s Fire river flowed through the lands before even my people settled here.”

“The moat still flows, have no fear.” Thomas laughed as he said this. “We only built a bridge over it, and planted the tunnels here at the entrance.”

Celeste grounded herself, sending tendrils of her aura down into the earth, deep to the roots of the rose trellis. Yes, there was the water, a faint gurgle in the back of her mind. Like the tree, this was a duty too long neglected by the Interlopers.

With a heavy heart, she walked into the cold, looming castle, closely following Thomas. Inside, her breath hitched as the immense hall overwhelmed her. Nothing in her past as a dancer and a mistress had prepared her for the stark beauty laid out before her, not even the private rooms she had shared with the Mad One.

The floor of the entrance hall gleamed beneath her feet, while a double staircase climbed to great heights, meeting above an arched door directly across from the entrance. A plump woman in severe black walked quickly down the west stairs, a scowl disfiguring her ageless face. As she drew closer, Celeste heard her mutter, “Miserable old man. Sending me to answer the door like some lowly maid. And where is that miserable butler anyway?”

“I’m right here you cheeky old cow.” An ancient man called, slipping from the arched door. Coming to a stop, he arched his back, rolling his shoulders, giving his tall frame room to stretch. Thomas stood close to a foot taller than she, and this man towered over him.

“You never mentioned having a giant serving as butler, my lord,” she said.

The joke fell into a great cavern of silence. Celeste cringed as everyone turned to watch the pink creep up her neck, flooding her cheeks. Thomas stood at her side, already ignoring her existence again.

“Lord Thomas! You’ve finally returned home.” A smile swept away the scowl as the servant embraced Celeste’s husband. “And you brought company.”

The weight of four judgmental eyes crashed down upon Celeste’s shoulders. She was being judged by the servants — her servants, and it was not a pleasant feeling.

“You brought company, Lord Thomas. Your father will not be pleased at the interruption of the household schedule,” the butler stated in a deep baritone.

“I have no doubt he is already planning the many ways in which he will punish me. No matter.” As if remembering her existence, Thomas turned to her and said, “Celeste, this is Hagenbrock, our trusted Housekeeper. And of course, her husband, Peter.”

“Will you be staying long then?”

Celeste shivered as the judgmental look turned withering, looking her up then down. “Yes. I do imagine I’ll be staying a while.”

“Follow me, then. I’ll try to find a room.”

“The one next to Thomas shall serve, I’m sure.”

With a snort, Hagenbrock turned and headed back up the stairs, this time to the east wing.

A quarter hour later, Celeste was being ushered into a cramped room containing only a single bed and a tall dresser. The housekeeper lit a candle and promptly left. Pausing at the door, she said, “Dinner is in an hour. Someone will be sent for you.”

When an hour passed with no one to show her to dinner, Celeste refused to admit defeat. Steeling her spine, she grabbed the candle and went searching for her husband. The lone candle was too dim, casting shadows so dark she could feel them slinking over her skin. With a few words, she increased the capacity of the candle light, brightening the hall so she could see.

Heels clacking on the stone floor, Celeste shivered as she walked down the hall. Austere, disapproving faces loomed over her, the shadows lending menace to the formal poses. Most doors along the corridor were locked, and the few not locked held only covered furniture. No one lived in this section of the house.

Turning a corner, she peeked into the first room she could find. Instantly, she was overwhelmed as peppermint tickled her nose. Thomas slept here, he lived here.

Just not right now.

Following the long hall, Celeste found herself turning another corner. Soon, she was back at the front of the house, this time at the top of the west wing stairs.

Where is everyone, she wondered. The loneliness engulfed her, threatened to send her reeling. Grabbing the smooth wooden banister, she sat down on the marble stairs.

Footsteps echoed across the cold marble floor, but Celeste didn’t look up.

“You didn’t come to dinner, miss.” Peter’s melodic baritone slid over her skin, caressing her. For a moment, she felt like someone cared.

“No one came for me, Peter. I’m up there in a tiny room, in an unused w – wing.” Hitching in a breath, Celeste looked up into the face of the giant seated next to her.

“You have much to accomplish here, miss. I see you.”

What Is the Dragon Horde

Hey Murphy. Now that you’ve mentioned it, perhaps you can explain just what, exactly, the Dragon Horde is, eh?

Sure. Why not. 

The Dragon Horde is a rather large, but silent, organization that exists within England. They were created way, way back in the early 13th Century when the Eternal Forest came under attack. They exist only for two purposes: to protect the dragons that roam the Earth, and to protect the Eternal Forest. 

As said previously, they – and non Horde members – do have magick, but it is limited. 

There are five Houses within the Horde, each a match to an Element.
1. North, Earth
2. South, Fire
3. East, Air
4. West, Water
5. Spirit, All

I know that for some, it would make sense that the Spirit would head the Order, but it does not. One of the council members is a Duke, and the ducal estate will always head the House of Spirit. They were the first, perhaps they will be the last?

As a side note, be on the lookout for a new installment tomorrow. New discoveries.

Happy Ever After…

Not all romances have a happy ending. Real life does not always allow for happy endings. As writers of romance, we strive to fill the world with love and happily ever afters. Our heroes and heroines are shaped by the happy ever afters of their parents – and they will accept no less for themselves, despite any social conventions or outside obstacles thrown in their path. 

Except when they aren’t, of course. e are often confronted by the cynical hero who scoffs at the very idea of happily ever after, or even love in general, especially as it relates to being faithful. They, too, are shaped by the tales of heir parents. 

Perhaps it was a loveless marriage. Or, his father was a brute who rained terror upon the members of his household. Perhaps one spouse cheated on the other because – well, cheaters cheat, no reason necessary. 

Yes, there are other reasons for our dashing hero to eschew the state of marital bliss – they have slept their way through the married women of the ton; their virginal fiance was caught being… not so virginal, etc… Those do not, however, address the happily ever afters of their parents. 

As an avid participant of several social media sites, I have seen an article or two addressing the lack of reality in romance and erotica. Well, I personally do not read to romance to find reality, but rather to escape it. Reading, and even writing romance, is an escape for me. We I keep a journal to escape our demons, to exorcise them. 

But perhaps delving into these very real unhappily ever afters can help us better define the reasoning behind the questionable action of our characters Will it allow us to explore, and therefore, understand their flaws? 

Or will it sour us on the character altogether? 

I am willing to take that chance, so I want to introduce to you my latest side-project: a serialized story. That of Lady Celeste Mannerly and Lord Thomas Hildebrand, Lord Blacke, the parents of Duncan Hildebrand Hughes, Marquis of Blacke. 

New Directions

No, not the New Directions of Glee. Although, they are pretty awesome. You know, for a ton of professionals pretending to be amateurs, that is. Can you guess what I mean? Of course you can. You’ve read this blog more than once, lol.

Of course I have changed directions again. It’s so ridiculous. I spent all that time working on creating an outline. I wrote like 40,000 words. And I realized the sequence of events did not make ANY sense. And I know why. I’m not much of a planner. I’m not much of a pantser either as that never gets me anywhere. I’m somewhere in between – is that a plantser? Whatever.

So, I stopped what I was doing and sat myself down with the Seven Story Beats as outlined by Kaye Dacus. I love that site. If you write romance, I suggest you check her out. It’s worth it.


As I sat down and focused just on these necessary points in the story, I realized I was no longer in love with the setting or the story itself. Now, I have seven beats that can logically be connected to each other.

I have one beat left to write (yeah, I’m writing out of order. it’s awesome), and that is the final scene – Joyful Defeat. I will probably knock that out tomorrow.

So far, the best part of this has been how other scenes have naturally shown their necessity. I love that – nothing forced.

But, I promised some friends a teaser. So, here is a snippet.

“What are you going to do about her, then? Will you really marry someone you believe helped plan Phin’s death?”

“I will marry her because I have to, but that is it. The day after tomorrow, she will be on her way to the Welsh coast, back to Blackpool Estate. She will live there until she dies, but I will never set eyes upon her again.”

“What about heirs?”

He really meant to ship her off to some mouldering estate? Of course he did. He truly hated her just that much. Stifling the tears that threatened to overwhelm her, Helena attempted to sneak back up to her room only to run into a small table by the library door. With a cry, she fell to the ground.

“What was that, Blackpool? I believe the library might have grown ears.” Footsteps sounded then, growing closer as the men came into the library from the hall.

“Well, this is interesting. I do hate to miss this, but I believe my bed finally calls. A pleasure, Miss Billings,” the blond haired man said. This must be Freddy.

“Did I not tell you to not invade my private space, madam?” Anger radiated from the duke. As Helena looked up at him, she could see the haze pulsing around him, coating his aura in a viscous red.

“I – I needed something to read, sir. I could not sleep.” Helena hated the sound of her voice, faint and pleading. She owed this man no explanation. He could not barr her in her rooms, keep her prisoner.

“I told you this is not your home. No one invited you to make yourself comfortable. I begin to believe my original assumptions were correct. You are simple.”

Leaning over, Blackpool grabbed her arm and roughly pulled her up. His touch was rough, almost brutal, and still, her traitorous skin revelled at the touch. Her pulse quickened, heart thumping against her chest. Butterflies tickled at her stomach, tingles going lower. This was lust. How could she lust after such a brute? Did he feel the same?

The duke did not appear to be similarly affected when she looked at him through lowered lashes. As soon as she was steady, he dropped her arm like it burned his skin. He refused to look at her, instead staring at some point just beyond her, to the left.

“I suppose you heard everything, creeping around in the dead of the night? Were you hoping to find something to steal? What were you really doing in here?”

Helena was incensed. She could not allow this man to continue to treat her so cruelly. They would be connected for life soon, whether either of them wanted it or not.

“Which is it to be, sir. You can only use one insult, so pick one. Am I a fraud, a whore, a murderer, or a thief? I tell you once more: I was merely looking for a book to read. I fell asleep in the chair.”

“Where, then, is this book you came for?”

“I put it back before attempting to leave the room in the dark. That is when I hit this table and fell.”

“Damn you, Miss Billings. I want nothing to do with you, do you not understand that? How dare you stand here before me claiming innocence while looking so inviting.” With no warning, the duke had once more grabbed her arm, this time to pull her into a crushing embrace.

Certain the pressure would leave her lips bruised and purple the next day, Helena tried to pull away. As she pulled away, the duke pulled her closer. The touch of his lips grew gentle and then his tongue was working its way into her mouth. And she caved. Allowing every bit of lust she had felt since first she lay eyes upon him, Helena melted into his kiss, meeting each thrust of his tongue with one of her own.

I hope you like it.