Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Meet the Characters – An Interview with Grace Stollery from “Grace’s Turmoil” by Peter Perrin

Divorced and emotionally damaged, artist Grace Stollery wants nothing more than to spend her semi-retirement painting and let time heal her emotional scars.

But when dashing widower Alfred Nobel moves into her retirement village he turns her life upside down and her heart inside out by awakening feelings she wants to keep dormant.

Alfred quickly sets out to woo Grace and slowly she warms to him. But the village’s resident femme fatale wants him for herself. Will she succeed in driving a wedge between Alfred and Grace?

Today we’re talking to Grace Stollery from “Grace's Turmoil,” a Contemporary Romance featuring mature lovers by Peter Perrin. Let’s get started. I’m sure our readers are eager to learn more about you.

What is your name, and how old are you?
I’m Grace Stollery. I’m sixty-eight-years-young.

How would you describe your physical characteristics?
Petite, as I’m only 5 feet 2 inches tall. But although my figure is slender it’s quite firm. My skin is creamy looking with just a sprinkling of freckles. And I have big brown eyes and shoulder-length dark brown hair.

What do you think is your best feature?
My figure and my bone structure are good. But my legs seem to get the most compliments.

Where were you born?
I was born in England, in a town called Romford. Back then it was part of the county of Essex, but it has grown so much it is now seen as part of East London.

Are you married?
Ouch! I wish you hadn’t asked me that. I was married for some fourteen years, but that ended in a painful divorce.

What friends do you have?
When I was an internationally renowned artist I had many friends, or so I thought. But now that career is behind me I never hear from any of them. So, I guess they weren’t much in the way of friends after all.

Nowadays, I only have a couple of close friends, Vera and Emily, who both live in my retirement village.

How are your relationships with men, generally?
Men have always been attracted to me, and I’ve enjoyed their company. But, I’m a Pisces and my emotions are my biggest weakness. I wear my heart on my sleeve and live on cloud nine when my love life is going well. However, when it turns sour I don’t cope well.

How would you describe your dress style?
In my youth I was a Mod, so their love of smart fashion influenced me. I love to wear flamboyant clothes in bright and bold colours and am especially fond of Mary Quant outfits. And, when I’m in the mood, I like to wear brightly coloured kaftans.

What are your favourite pastimes?
Mostly listening to nostalgic music. The Who, The Kinks, The Small Faces, and The Birds as they remind me of my days as a Mod in the 60s. Plus I love anything by Eddie Cochran, Gene Vincent, or Chuck Berry. Also, I read a little, mostly sloppy romances.

How would you describe your personality?
Complex. I’m gregarious and sociable, but introverted and prone to depression.

Will readers like or dislike your character?
Oh, I do hope they like me. But, I’m afraid they might think I’m a bitch because of the way I treat Alfred.

“Grace’s Turmoil” is available through:

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Friday, February 23, 2018

First Kiss Friday – An Excerpt from “Rock Bound” by Rochelle Weber

Today on First Kiss Friday, we welcome romance author, Rochelle Weber, and an excerpt from her SciFi Fantasy Romance, “Rock Bound: Book One of the Moon Rock Series.”

The future is a dangerous place for dreamers and idealists. When a dictator takes over the United States, Annie Peterson attends a protest in Washington, DC, with her husband Paul. US troops fire into the crowd killing him, and Jake Johnsrud, a virtual stranger, risks his life to save hers. They are among the survivors who are sentenced to slavery on the Moon for their "crimes." Jake is forced to mine, while Annie is sentenced as a sex slave. Jake fights increasing feelings of anger and jealousy as Annie struggles to perform her job, while she resists her increasing attraction to him. Along with their fellow inmates, they fight to survive on the lunar “rock” that is their prison.

Jake and Annie’s first kiss happens when he’s been injured during an asteroid shower on the Moon.

First Kiss Excerpt

When they entered the tunnel, Annie tried to run to Jake’s stretcher, and was frustrated by the slow-motion bounds she had to make. One-sixth gravity wasn’t conducive to speed, unless you were outside, trying to cover a large distance. She was sobbing on his shoulder even before they got his p-suit off.
“I was so afraid you were dead!”
“I’m fine, Honey. I’m fine.”
“You’re not fine! You’re hurt.!”
“It’s just my legs. I’m sure the doc’ll fix me up in no time.
“I couldn’t take it if you were gone, too! I love you Jake!”
Their kiss was hampered by the awkward p-suit. She walked alongside the stretcher,
“I’ve loved you since the first time I saw you,” he said. “I thought Paul was a pretty lucky guy when we met at the demonstration.”
That’s when she noticed the bodies on the other five stretchers.
“Oh, no!” Her blue eyes filled with tears.
Jake’s expression turned grim.
“We were right. They took off their helmets. That’s why they didn’t answer when we tried to radio them.”
The tunnel was silent except for the occasional sob. Even some of the men were crying unabashedly. They had lost men, but losing a woman was extremely upsetting as there were so few of them, and the men knew them so intimately.

“Rock Bound” is available in paperback through:

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First Kiss Friday – An Excerpt from “Secret Desires” by J. L. Regen

Today on First Kiss Friday, we welcome romance author, J. L. Regen, and an excerpt from her Contemporary Romance, “Secret Desires.”

Nothing in Margo Simmons’s life comes easy. She can’t claim the inheritance on a condo apartment her uncle has left to her until she is gainfully employed in a job for a year. She meets the man of her dreams but anguishes over a loving relationship because he is still emotionally tied to his deceased wife. With great difficulty, she becomes the guardian to a recently orphaned child she had been tutoring.   Margo evolves from an insecure, newbie elementary teacher into a woman determined to fulfill the secret desires locked in her heart. My story speaks to anyone who has suffered a loss and had to start over.
J.L. Regen’s book was inspired by a real life story of lovers who join hearts against many odds. She lives in the New York metropolitan area, is a published photojournalist, has short suspense stories online, and has taught English as a Second Language to students around the globe. This is her first contemporary romance. She has also published three nonfiction books and is crafting a historical suspense set in World War II.

First Kiss Excerpt
What shall we drink to?”
“Just because.”
Edward held out his hand. “Let’s go for that walk.”
Margo emptied her glass, grabbed him by the shoulders, and kissed him again. He tasted like lemon and spice. “There. Now you’ve been welcomed.”
He kissed her back.
Tempted to prolong the moment, she shut the front door and led the way down the veranda steps. She sensed this was the kind of guy who liked to take the lead. She’d made the first move. From here on, it was up to him.
“Aren’t you going to lock it?”

“Secret Desires” is available through:

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Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Book Character Interviews – The Inside Scoop

Curious Minds Want to Know!

Let’s face it, most of us have at least a little voyeur in our souls. I would posit that part of that trait comes from nature and some comes from nurture.
On the nature side, from our prehistoric days, humans needed to pay attention to what was happening in the world around them if they hoped to survive. The approaching stranger – is his expression open and friendly or closed and hostile? Have the birds and insects grown quiet, maybe hinting at danger nearby? Do the clouds look ominous meaning we’d best find shelter?
There is also the deep-seated desire to connect with people on an intimate level. In the large and scary world out there, most of us don’t want to be alone. We crave emotional closeness and the sense that we belong somewhere. Since the rise of social media, we’ve been given a unique opportunity to feed the beast of curiosity – to connect with those we may only know online, to learn about what they are thinking a feeling at any given moment in time. We want to feel like we know them, even if we’ve never met them. Learning more about others can also give us a point of reference for ourselves and what we might feel in a similar situation.
Nurture comes into play because we’re encouraged to become involved with those around us from a young age. How many of us have cooed over our infants trying to get them to say ‘mama’ or ‘dada’? Our parents clap and cheer when we reach new milestones – smiling, walking, talking. We’re encouraged – sometimes by spending time in the corner – to socialize in a way that wins friends.
So it doesn’t surprise me at all that readers form attachments to their book heroes and heroines. Books give you a view inside a character’s head that you probably don’t even have with your best friend – but we always want to go deeper. We want to know what may not be in the book. What are their favorite foods, songs, colors, seasons, and why? Where does the character go to think or to unwind? What are their pet peeves? What would the inscription on their tombstone say? Basically we want to see into their souls.
Stop every Wednesday and meet a new character from a group of amazing romance authors. Hopefully, these guest posts help satisfy your curiosity and pique your interest enough to follow the links and read the character’s story.
The goal of the “Meet the Character” series is to answer the questions you wish you could ask when you’re reading the book. Below are the questions I send out to authors that their characters can answer. I’d love to hear why you enjoy reading character interviews and any suggestions you have for new questions to add to the list.

·         How old are you?
·         What is your relationship status?
·         When you look in the mirror, what do you see?
·         What is people’s first impression of you?
·         Name three of your favorite things.
·         Name three things that tick you off.
·         What is your best memory to date?
·         What are you most afraid of?
·         What would you like it to say on your tombstone?
·         Now on to something lighter, what is your favorite drink?
·         What is your favorite food?
·         What is your favorite song?
·         Do you have a hobby and if yes, what is it?
·         What was your first impression of (his/her love interest)?
·         If we could only hear your voice (but not see you) what characteristic would identify you?
·         What would you most like to forget?
·         If you could go back in time, what one thing would you change in your life?
·         Are you close to family?
·         Do you see morality as black-and-white, or with shades of gray?
·         Do you care about what others assume about you?
·         If someone from your past showed up, who would you most want it to be, and why?
·         If someone from your past showed up, who would you most NOT want it to be, and why?
·         If you could make any one thing happen, what would it be?
·         Who in your life has the power to hurt you the most and why?
·         Describe a typical Friday night.
·         If there is one place in the world you could go, where would it be?
·         What is your most prized possession?
·         Are you a morning person or a night owl?
·         What kinds of things do you always carry (in pockets or purse)?
·         What inner doubt causes you the most difficulty?
·         What is your biggest need?
·         What would make you completely happy?
·         If you had a free day with no responsibilities and your only mission was to enjoy yourself, what would you do?

Connect with Bonnie Phelps

Friday, February 16, 2018

First Kiss Friday – An Excerpt from “Spirits of the Heart” by Claire Gem

Today on First Kiss Friday, we welcome romance author, Claire Gem, and an excerpt from her Paranormal Romance, “Spirits of the Heart (Haunted Voices Book 2).”

An addiction counselor & a security guard struggle to free two, lost spirits trapped inside an abandoned mental asylum.

Laura Horton returns from college to move in with an old friend & start her career. But her homecoming is jarring. Her friend’s moved out, leaving Laura alone with the gorgeous but intimidating ex-boyfriend—in a house that snugs up to an ancient graveyard.

Officer Miller Stanford is a man with a shattered past. His alcoholic dad destroyed their family, a weakness Miller is terrified will consume him too. The last thing he needs is a sexy, blonde addiction counselor watching his every move. When he begins to see specters in the dark, he starts questioning his own stability.

But Laura sees her too—a pathetic child-spirit searching for her father. Can they unravel the mysteries of Talcott Hall without jeopardizing their love—and lives—in the process?

First Kiss Excerpt
Miller turned and she stepped closer. So close he could smell the fresh, minty scent of his own soap on her. The clean, grassy perfume of her shampoo.
“Kiss me, Miller. Please.”
Miller blinked in shock and reeled back a few inches. She must be kidding. Teasing me, again. Surely . . .
Riveting his eyes with hers, round and as clear blue as water in a sparkling pool, Laura whispered the words again. Miller swallowed hard and felt a rush of heat head south, rendering him momentarily light-headed.
Was he dreaming this? Post-alcoholic delirium?
But when she lifted one hand to cup his jaw, her pupils dilated, creating ever-widening dark, round windows in the blue. He felt as if he could almost see into her mind. And he wanted, badly, to climb inside and join her.
Laura reached up to wrap both hands around the back of his neck, drawing his face down to hers. When she did, the towel came loose and pooled in a damp tumble over his bare feet.
“Kiss me, Miller. Please,” she murmured against his mouth.
So, he did. Her lips were soft, moist, and yielding. At first, her touch was tentative, almost timid, her lips brushing across his in feathery swipes that sent heat pooling between his thighs. With her now-naked form there before him, he was sorely tempted, yet unsure if he should bring his hands up to touch her. He left them hanging loosely at his sides, though his fingers curled into fists, struggling for control.
Then she opened up for him, parting her lips and running her tongue along his lower lip. His now, full erection twitched and he sucked in a gasp. But he accepted her invitation.
He had to be dreaming this. Or maybe he really had died. Man. So far, the afterlife was showing great promise.
She tasted like mint, and her breath was hot on his face. Their tongues tangled and dipped and teased in a way that made his knees weak. His hands went to her back, sliding up and down the warm, damp smoothness of her skin, but staying well above her waist. She’d taken him by surprise, and he wasn’t really sure how much to assume.
Is she testing me? Or does she really want this?
Seconds later, he had his answer. It was she who broke the kiss, and he let his hands fall away as she took a step backward.
“What’s this?” he asked, the words coming out guttural and thick. “Is this how you intend to pay your rent?”
She gazed up at him from under heavy lids, a hint of humor playing at their corners as she slowly shook her head.
Only teasing him, he thought as his heart sank. But then, he’d started it with the towel game, hadn’t he? Her smile zinged him again, hitting him in that same, mysterious place in his chest.
“I’m just really, freaking happy right now,” she whispered.
He nodded dumbly, his brain not working well enough to question her further. All the blood, it seemed, had headed south.
But she went on to explain anyway.
“Something pretty special happened to me today. I quit playing the timid pee-on at work. I stepped up and took control. I confronted Riley. It worked. Thought maybe I needed to take what I want a little more often.” She shrugged. “And right then, I wanted a kiss. Now,” she said, her fingers trailing down his chest and hooking into the waistband of his shorts, “now, I want more.”
Her attraction to Miller had been instant, and explosive, since the moment she first set eyes on him. Standing in his doorway in nothing but a steel-grey towel that first morning, she at first had been intimidated. Even a little afraid, thanks to Angie’s misleading innuendos. But her girl-parts wouldn’t listen to what her brain kept screaming: this is a big, bad-boy dude who drinks too much.
For a while, she’d believed Angie’s stories. But Laura’s common sense, and being with Miller for several weeks now—living with him—told her she had no reason to disagree with her instincts. Now, in this moment—this incredibly freeing moment—those instincts overrode the tirades of logic.
She lifted up onto her toes and tilted her head to have easier access into Miller’s hot mouth. His neck was thick and strong under her fingers, and when he began rubbing his roughened hands up and down her back, she felt the heat coil in her lower belly. Instinctively, she thrust her hips forward against his erection, and his groan served to spike her excitement even higher.
Finally—finally—he slid his big hands down to cup her ass, squeezing as he pulled her close.
Hot dampness pooled between her thighs as she ground herself against him, their tongues dipping and darting in what quickly became a beautifully choreographed dance. As if they’d done this before. Lots of times. As natural as breathing. His breath accelerated to hot blasts on her cheek. Suddenly, it felt as though she couldn’t get enough air, her heart beating so hard and fast there was ringing in her ears.
She broke the kiss, panting, searching for his eyes. Those silver-flecked, wolf-like eyes had darkened to flint, looking more wild and feral than she could have imagined. He held her gaze with clearly etched intensity, almost desperation. Miller shifted, but not enough to break their body contact, skin to skin from the chest down. The heaving of his furred chest stroked her peaked nipples, and her knees wobbled.
“Are you sure,” he asked, his voice deep and gruff, “are you sure you want this? I mean, we hardly know each other, Laura.”
He was right, of course. They hadn’t had nearly enough time to develop any kind of real relationship. But there had been a spark between them, ever since that first day.

“Spirits of the Heart” is available through:

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Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Meet the Characters – An Interview with Katia "Munk" Hrulata from “Kinky Briefs, Quatro” by Seelie Kay

When attorney Katia “Munk” Hrulata was diagnosed with MS, she thought her life was over. Instead, she discovered it was just the beginning. Now, she has only one goal: To walk down the aisle at her wedding. As Munk and her fiancé, Jon, seek the one therapy that will permit her to leave the wheelchair behind, they are in a race against time. But Munk is a fighter. And when she sets her mind on a goal, she won’t permit even her greatest fear to stop her.

Today we’re chatting with Katia ‘Munk’ Hrulata, a criminal defense attorney and MS Warrior from Chicago. Munk is featured in Chapter One of “Kinky Briefs, Thrice” and Chapter Two of “Kinky Briefs, Quatro,” a Sizzling BDSM Contemporary Romance series by Seelie Kay. Let’s get started. I’m sure our readers are eager to learn more about you.

Hi, there Munk. Thanks for taking a break from all that wedding planning to chat with us. I notice you’re using a cane. Does that mean you’ve recovered from the MS attack that put you in a wheelchair?
Unfortunately, MS is an incurable disease. It can be managed with medication and other therapies, but since it affects everyone in a different way, it has been difficult to find an actual cure. I still have balance issues after the attack, so I need to use an assistive device, usually a walker or cane. But for a long time, I thought I would never get out of that wheelchair. I was damned scared.

When were you diagnosed with MS?
Actually, last year, just a few days past my 31st birthday. I woke up one morning and couldn’t move. Jon rushed me to the hospital and after a myriad of tests I was diagnosed with MS.

Has the disease affected your relationship with Jon?
It did in the beginning. I told him to leave, because I was afraid if he stayed, it would only be out of pity. And he left. I was in shock. I wanted him to fight for me, but he just walked away. That almost killed me. But I guess love always finds a way. The entire courthouse was rooting for us, in fact, there was a betting pool. Finally, someone pulled him aside and set him straight. (Munk snickers.) Behaved like a caveman and reclaimed me. Best.Night.Ever.

You’re in Kinky Briefs, Thrice, and Quatro, both of which contain short stories about lawyers in love, with a dash of kink. So you’re…kinky? How does that work with MS?
(Munk giggles.) I imagine the same way it works for you. Seriously, couples may have to adapt their kink to a disability, but that doesn’t mean it has to stop. MS affects my legs, primarily my balance, so we just stay away from activities that could result in an injury or cause pain. Like any relationship, it’s about adjusting to real time needs, capabilities and wants. Sometimes we’re playful, sometimes we’re not. Sometimes, an activity is too painful and I have to stop. The key is open and honest communication, just like any relationship. Jon knows when I start whining it’s time to put the ropes and flogger away.

Let’s talk about “that book,” you know the one with the billionaire and the dungeon. How realistic is it?
Hey, the author has a nice touch with fiction. It wasn’t intended to be fact and I guess I don’t understand why some believe it to be. Since the books and the movies came out, I have heard all sorts of stories about clueless women looking for rich Dominants in the wrong places. Some have wound up seriously damaged, even dead. Just because someone claims to be a Dominant doesn’t mean he is and just because someone promises to keep you safe doesn’t mean they will. People need to act with common sense. There is just as much stranger danger in the kink world as in the vanilla one.

Again, those books are F.I.C.T.I.O.N. Offering yourself to a stranger if they will take care of you, like that infamous billionaire, is just plain stupid.

So why do you enjoy kink?
I revel in the power exchange. I have a very demanding career, it’s incredibly stressful, and when I get home, I want to leave all that behind. I find great pleasure in surrendering to Jon. I can just lay there and feel while he makes all the decisions. The bottom line is discovering what gives each of us pleasure. For me, that's a Dominant/submissive dynamic within the context of a loving relationship.

Do you think a lot of lawyers are kinky? 
(Belly laugh) At least enough to fill six books with your kinky stories.

Point taken. Finally, any big plans for Valentine’s Day?
(Munk grins)  A little dinner, a little champagne, an unveiling of my Valentine’s Day surprise (giggles), a show of appreciation by Jon, maybe a little late night snack, a little chocolate sauce and whipped cream. You get the idea…

(Blushing) I most certainly do. Enjoy yourself, Munk!
Oh, I intend to! (more giggles)

“Kinky Briefs” is available through:

Available soon from all major booksellers!

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Monday, February 12, 2018

NEW RELEASE - "One Night In Havana" by Kathleen Rowland

One Night in Havana 
#34 in the City Nights Series from Tirgearr Publishing
by Kathleen Rowland

Kathleen will be awarding 3 lucky winners a $10 Amazon Gift Certiticate. Winners will be chosen randomly with Rafflecopter. Please use the Rafflecopter below to enter. Remember you may increase your chances of winning by visiting the other tour stops. You may find those locations here.

  About the Book:  

A desperate competition and sizzling attraction leads to dangerous desire. New York Marine biologist Veronica “Roni” Keane is attending the Havana Bay Conference in Cuba. Tomorrow only one grant will be awarded which will provide the winner with professional recognition, resources for a project, and living expenses for two years. She hopes to continue her deceased father’s work, but smooth operator, Carlos Montoya, has won many grants in the past. Carlos, a freelancer for the Havana Port Authority, works to help protect Havana’s reputation as a bastion of safety. As international travelers flock to the island, attracted by its 1950’s time-warp and colonial architecture, the drug business is running rampant, particularly on Roni’s cruise ship. Something’s not right, and when her scuba tanks are tampered with, Carlos brings in the military police to investigate. For her safety, he keeps her close, but he craves her body. Their attraction leads to a fun night with a bit of kink. But Roni finds herself in more trouble than she bargained for when the criminals blame her for alerting the military police and come looking for her. Can Roni trust Carlos to protect her? Will she stay in Havana if Carlos wins the coveted grant, or kiss her lover goodbye? An erotic romance with mystery.  Amazon Buy Link

  Excerpt: -- Chapter One
“Why, Veronica Keane.” A voice heavy with a Spanish accent drawled from behind her. “A dive bar?” A taunting tsk. “What do we have? A slumming New Yorker?”
She stiffened and closed her eyes. She knew that voice and its owner, Dr. Carlos Montoya, a finalist like her, competing for the same damn grant at the biggest Cephalopoda conference of the decade. Her heart pitter-pattered against her ribs. To turn toward him would intimate distress, or worse yet, weakness. She wouldn’t fail to win this grant, not when she was a final contender. “I like this funky little place.” Sia Macario Café, smack in the center of Havana, allowed her to observe locals and their daily lives.
“You need to eat with all the mojitos you’ve downed.” The big tease wasn’t  counting. This was her first drink, but his rumbling, sexy timbre hinted at all kinds of dark, hot promises. She’d rubbed shoulders with the Cuban scientist all week. This splendid specimen of Latin male brought on a physical ache that punched low.
A flare-up stirred fear. For her own good, she needed to resist. “I ordered camarones enchiladas.” By now she knew the menu on the chalkboard by heart. She tipped her head back to whiff grilled shrimp soon to arrive in sofrito sauce with fried sweet plantains.
“The flan is good. Just like my abuela makes.”
“I bet. Your grandmother would be happy to hear that,” she said, knowing he brought out the best in most people. Two days ago he'd invited her and a handful of others scuba diving. The chance to ogle him had been one of the perks. He’d worn nothing but swim trunks, his bare chest on display. Every glistening muscle was finely etched. Not a drop of fat on him. Since he’d not given her the time of day, she’d checked him out without him noticing.
The hard-bodied host had led the way toward habitats of soft-bodied creatures. To find where invertebrates lived was never an easy task. Octopuses squeezed into narrow passages of coral for protection and gave females a place to keep their eggs. She’d discovered the remains of a few meals nearby.Octopuses scattered rocks and shells to help them hide.
 This grant meant so much to her and no doubt to him as well. Veronica mindlessly toyed with the gold necklace around her neck, but anxiety crackled through her brain. Unlike this man of action, she lacked the flamboyant personality necessary to talk people into things. Carlos had that ability. He'd made friends with judges on board while she’d conversed with an older woman about a box of scones made with Cuban vanilla cream.
That day the wind had picked up to a gale force, and this woman named Bela with Lucille Ball red hair needed help walking to her home. The half mile down the seaside promenade, The Malecón, had provided her with time to practice her Spanish. Turned out Bela was Carlos’s grandmother. She’d worked as a maid when the Castro government came to power. When private homes were nationalized, titles were handed over to the dwelling occupants. Bela owned a crumbling home in the respected Verdado district and rented out rooms.
What Veronica detested about Carlos was his abnormal level of talent for schmoozing. Not that he wasn't charismatic; he drew her like a powerful magnet with emotions hard to untangle. Why was a self-assured woman who ran her own life thinking about a man who commanded everyone around him?
She inhaled a breath and turned around on the barstool, caught fast by a gut punch of Carlos Montoya in the flesh. She sighed and surrendered to the tendrils of want sliding up between her thighs.
Tall and muscular, his lush dark hair curled to his collar giving him a wild, roguish appearance. His face was lean and chiseled. His mouth full and tempting. His eyes the smoky-gray of a grass fire and fringed with black lashes as dense as paintbrushes. He smiled. A faint hint of mockery curved his mouth, a sensual mouth she imagined to be either inviting or cruel. Or both at the same time when he leaned over a woman with a diamond-hard gleam in his dark eyes while she drowned with pleasure. She fought a fierce desire to run her hand across his broad chest, tip her face upward, and…
His breath tickled her face.
Not going there. She blinked and forced her mind to focus. Carlos Montoya was not the kind of man you lost focus around. But that image of putting her mouth full on his and peeling away his shirt once introduced in her mind was impossible to expunge. Pointless even to try.
He was an intimidating blend of intellect and sexy danger. Both qualities had her leaning back against the bar’s edge. If it weren’t for him, she’d have a chance at winning the grant.
His lips twitched. “You’re staying on one of the cruise ships, am I right?” He rolled up the sleeves of his linen jacket to reveal a dusting of manly hair.
”Yes." Her cabin served as her hotel room while attending the January meetings with perfect high-seventies temperatures. His eyes locked with hers. She willed herself to move and yet she remained seated, clutching heat between her legs, a wetness so intense that her breath stalled in her chest while her heart hammered faster. Soon she’d return to freezing New York City.
“So, Bonita, give.” He slid onto the bar stool next to her. “What brings you down from a lofty ship to grace us lowly Cubans with your presence?”
Bonita. Pretty lady was not an endearment coming from the mouth curved in a taunting smile, but not a slight either. Not with his deep, melodic voice speaking words as if he knew secrets about her. What secrets did he know? Would he pry into her personal life? She doubted this bad-boy college professor acknowledged boundaries.
“Just drinks and dinner.” She scrambled for composure. “Aren’t we attending a world-class conference? I find the local population to be friendly and kind. That’s not slumming.”
The bartender set down a saoco. “Hope you like it, senorita.”
“Gracias,” she said. “Very nice, served in a coconut.”
“Ah, the saoco,” Carlos said. “Rum, lime juice, sugar, and ice. The saoco,” he repeated, disbelief heavy in his words. “Um. Wow. Once used as a tonic for prisoners of the revolution.”
“Medicinal?” She couldn’t help it. She chuckled and sounded as if a rusty spoon had scraped her throat raw, but it was genuine. The warm glow in its wake was welcome and needed. .
He leaned an elbow on the bar, his beer bottle with the green-and-red Cristal label dangling between his fingers. “Be careful with that one.” He dipped his head toward the front door as if he needed to go somewhere soon.
That fast, the glow snuffed out. She cleared her throat and gripped the fuzzy surface of the coconut container.
He placed a five-peso coin with a brass plug on the counter and whirled it. The spinning motion mirrored a dizzying attraction going on in low parts of her belly.
She cleared her wayward mind and nodded toward artwork on the opposite wall. “I plan to buy a painting tonight.”
“Don’t buy anything unless the seller gives you a certificate. You’ll need one to take art from Cuba. Artists deal in euros in case you don’t have pesos.”
She’d come prepared but said, “Thanks for the info.”
His coal-black eyes widened as he gazed from her head down to the tiny straps around her ankles as if she wore high heels and nothing else. “You give off a Barbie doll image,” he replied and stood up.
“Where’s Ken, anyway? Kenneth Morton. He came with you to the talks in Antarctica. Five years ago.” He grinned, and the mortification in her belly gave way to a longing which she had no business feeling toward her competitor.
“Ken and I broke up.” She hesitated for a moment. “You have a gift for remembering names. Like a salesman.”
“A person’s name is, to that person, the most important and sweetest sound. Back then I introduced myself to Ken in the men’s room.”
“I remember now. Didn’t you give a talk on a specialized pigment in the octopus?”
“Ahh, si.” He splayed his fingers over his chest. “A pigment in their blood is—”
 “—called hemocyanin. Turns their blood blue and helps them survive subfreezing temperatures. Were you awarded something?”
“The antifreeze protein grant? No. It went to a deep-diving photographer. He wasn’t chicken about getting lost or trapped under the ice.”
She slid from her stool and strutted around, jutting her chin in and out like a chicken. “Bock, bock, bock, bock, bock, begowwwwk.”
He chuckled. “Cute chicken dance. Very cute in that skimpy black dress.”
Her cheeks heated, and she clutched her necklace. He’d seen plenty of women in body-fitting attire. In Cuba, women wore dresses to meetings. If she'd harnessed sexier mojo, she’d have livened up presentations. Her presentations with an abundance of dull data went south. She slid back against her stool and clutched her purse to her stomach as if the small satin bag could calm the nerves playing deep down kickball. She belonged in her tidy New York office filled with computers, modems, and research manuals. Not in this softly lit café where passion oozed from a man’s pores, and artists displayed their canvases. Here was where Havana’s trendsetters congregated, and Ernest Hemingway wrote about desire.
“Good luck with your purchases, Veronica Keane.”
Okay, so they weren’t going to pretend they were going head to head for the grant.
As if he had more to say, he grinned at her, his perfect white teeth flashing.. “Do you find us different, like apples and oranges?”
“What am I, an apple or an orange?”
“Hmm. You’re an apple.” He was doing that sexy voice thing which made her brain shut down. Heady. 
It started with an unexpected spark, an instant attraction, the jolting jab of oh-I’m-feeling-something. Something like a flashfire in her belly, but now they were talking. “Am I the apple of desire? Want to take a bite out of me?” She pulled in a breath. Had she really said that?
Bonita, do I ever.”
“Tomorrow is the final ceremony.” Would she watch him walk to the podium to accept the grant? 

About the Author: 

Book Buyers Best finalist Kathleen Rowland is devoted to giving her readers fast-paced, high-stakes suspense with an erotic love story sure to melt their hearts.  Her latest release is One Night in Havana, #34 in the City Nights series.

Kathleen also has a steamy romantic suspense series with Tirgearr Publishing, Deadly Alliance is followed by Unholy Alliance. Keep an icy drink handy while reading these sizzling stories.

Kathleen used to write computer programs but now writes novels.   She grew up in Iowa where she caught lightning bugs, ran barefoot, and raced her sailboat on Lake Okoboji.  Now she wears flip-flops and sails with her husband, Gerry, on Newport Harbor but wishes there were lightning bugs in California.

Kathleen exists happily with her witty CPA husband, Gerry, in their 70’s poolside retreat in Southern California where she adores time spent with visiting grandchildren, dogs, one bunny, and noisy neighbors.  While proud of their five children who’ve flown the coop, she appreciates the luxury of time to write.

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