We hope you will enjoy these posts from a few of our authors!
The Valentine drawings are the superb work of author and artist Jane Odiwe!
Thank you, Jane!
And below the posts are some links to a few more posts from authors at their own blog or website.
An Excerpt from Marilyn Brant’s Holiday Man
Shannon ladled a few more glasses of pink, champagne-spiked punch into crystal goblets and placed them on the refreshments table for the dancers. The song “Playing with the Queen of Hearts” resonated clearly from the speakers, while newfound couples laughed and made small talk throughout the room. The evening’s singles’ dance looked to be a success. Too bad she wished herself to be elsewhere.
She couldn’t help it. She wanted to be dancing, too, but somewhere more exotic, like on a romantic cruise down the Seine…with Paris as a backdrop. Or on a sandy Caribbean beach, the sun sinking into the water in thunderbolts of gold. Or, maybe—
“Why are you always standing on the sidelines, Ms. Quinn?” a deep voice near her said.
She swiveled toward it, her heart rate picking up speed. “Mr. Hartwick. H-How are you? How are you enjoying your stay?”
“Hmm. Answering a question with more questions. That’s not the answer I was looking for.” He appraised her appearance, as was his habit, his hazel eyes twinkling as he took in her cream-colored, floor-length evening gown with the gold spaghetti straps. One of the few outfits she felt actually flattered her. “You, of all people, should be out on the dance floor.”
“Why?” she said.
“Because you’re the loveliest woman in the room.”
Her breath caught at these words, but she forced herself to show no overt reaction. She hoped she succeeded. Instead, she replied coolly, “You presume too much. This is a Valentine’s Day singles’ dance, Mr. Hartwick. It’s for those men and women who are looking for love.”
He took a purposeful step closer. “And you’re not?” Those serious eyes bored into her, ready to disagree. “Tell me, are you the queen of your own heart or has some lucky man already claimed it?”
A smooth line but, she had to hand it to him, though it might have sounded silly coming out of anyone else’s mouth, Bram Hartwick somehow managed to sell it with style.
“Mine isn’t a quick or easy heart to claim,” she replied. “But there are plenty of other ladies out there who may feel differently.” She pointed toward a couple of especially pretty guests, both of whom had stolen not-so-subtle glances at him during this little chat.
He grinned. “I never said I needed either ‘quick’ or ‘easy,’ Ms. Quinn, and you deflected my question yet again.” He scanned the room then focused those sharp eyes on her. “I’ll be more blunt this time. I’d like to dance with you, but I don’t want to step on another man’s toes or offend your sense of propriety. If you’re not free, just say so. But if you are, I hope you’ll honor me with the next slow dance.”
Direct, wasn’t he? Shannon cleared her throat and battled a cocktail of emotions. Sure, she desired him, but he was a weekend guest from another state. How likely would it be that she’d see him again? Not very. And his whole ultra-polished, International-Man-of-Mystery air was slightly on the intimidating side…and, also, a little intriguing.
Okay, a LOT intriguing.
Still, he wasn’t proposing marriage. Just a dance. Only a three- or four-minute dance. She cleared her throat again. “I’d be delighted to dance with you, Mr. Hartwick.”
He smiled. “Bram,” he said, reaching for her hand.
“Bram,” she repeated. “And, please, call me Shannon.”
His smile broadened. “I will.”
He led her onto the dance floor as the next slow song began to play. And while Barbra Streisand belted out “My Heart Belongs to Me,” Bram caressed her shoulder with his palm and drew her a few inches closer to him. Shannon knew her heart may well belong to her alone but, oh, goodness, her body just cast its vote for the dashing Bram Hartwick.
Excerpt from Project Darcy by Jane Odiwe
I was enjoying watching Tom dance as I caught my breath and sipped my glass of Negus. He was dancing with Alethea, but when he could, I noticed he was looking over at me. Thankfully, Alethea didn’t seem to mind or notice. I tried to look around the room at other things and concentrated hard on watching anyone else dance, but I felt Tom’s eyes were always upon me, and when the dance finished, I knew he would find me.
‘Sitting down, Miss Austen? That is not like you.’
‘Believe me, if you’d just been chased down the hallway by Mr Lyford you might well be sitting down trying to compose yourself. A glass of punch is steadying my nerves!’
Tom laughed. ‘I often thank the stars for being a gentleman, and am grateful that the fates did not decree otherwise.’
‘Men have it all, and I am sure they have no idea how truly fortunate they are,’ I answered, draining my glass and clasping it in my lap.
‘Oh, Miss Austen, now your pretty face looks sad. How unlike you to be so melancholy.’
I could not look at him. He’d said I was pretty and I couldn’t help smiling at that. I took a sidelong look and he grinned.
‘You look very beautiful tonight, Miss Jane.’
His voice was so low only I could hear it. How my heart was singing at the sound of his voice. ‘Thank you, Tom.’
‘Ah, she speaks my name, albeit in a whisper. But, how lovely the sound.’
He leaned across, unlacing my fingers from the grasp of my punch cup, his own threading through mine for just a moment before he took the glass and set it on the floor. He held out his hand. ‘Dance with me.’
I felt his hand grasp mine, his thumb finding the fleshy part of my palm as he stroked it again. The feeling was so momentous I almost pulled my hand away. Every time he touched me I felt I might singe and burn, that the passion I felt for him would ignite and set me in flames. I hardly remembered the dance or the steps we were making. I only felt his physical presence, his hand on my waist, and his very soul in my being.
We were rather quiet when we came from the dance floor. We were sitting on a window-seat, which forced our proximity to one another, wedged in the narrow space. Like the day when we’d sat together at the pianoforte, and on the day when we’d ridden together, I felt his body next to mine, the length of his leg beneath my thin gown. Long and muscular, his legs stretched out before him. I gazed at him in the candlelight, which flickered over his face making his eyes dark and his cheeks bright. If he turned his golden head, his breath was on my cheek, our lips just inches from the other.
John Warren sauntered over. He looked rather pleased with himself. I hoped against hope that he would not ask me to dance. He’d become ever more attentive at the last few balls and more than anything I did not want to give him a false impression of there being anything more than friendship. Besides, I did not want to leave Tom’s side. I wasn’t sure how many more occasions we’d be able to spend time together, and I wanted nothing to take me away.
‘I have something for you, Miss Austen.’
He held out what looked like a folded letter, but on closer inspection it turned out to be something else entirely. I hesitated to open it, as I knew Tom would clearly see whatever was inside. It was a painting, executed in watercolour on an oval background, and a very good likeness. Thomas Langlois Lefroy, as his full name would have it, stared back at me. John Warren had captured Tom’s grey eyes and fair hair to perfection, and even included the infamous white coat.
‘And, what makes you think I would be willing to accept your gift, Mr Warren?’ I said, folding it up again hastily, before it drew any attention from an unwanted direction.
Mr Warren was looking to Tom to take the lead.
‘I hoped you’d like it, I sat especially for the portrait,’ said Tom staring straight into my eyes.
The gentlemen were smiling at one another, as if they shared a huge secret, and suddenly, I knew what it meant. Tom had known as much about the picture as Mr Warren, and I’d clearly been wrong about him. Or was it just the case that my feelings for Tom were so clear to everyone else that Mr Warren had given up trying to get my attention. Whatever the case, he knew that I would love the painting, and the fact that Tom had sat especially made the picture the most precious one I’d ever owned. I could deny my feelings no longer, and if Tom wanted me to have his picture to remember him by, I knew he must have some regard for me, whatever he pretended.
‘I think it an extraordinary likeness, and I will treasure it.’
Both gentlemen seemed satisfied with my answer. Tom leaned towards me and whispered in my ear. ‘I should like one of you as a keepsake, if you’d let our friend make the commission.’
An excerpt from Pirates and Prejudice by Kara Louise
In this scene, Elizabeth has just accepted Darcy’s offer of marriage. I have another excerpt on my blog from the corresponding scene earlier in the story.
“Is something wrong?” Darcy asked, standing up and walking over to her. “You do not wish for me to kiss you?”
Elizabeth laughed. “On the contrary. I have desired your kisses since…”
Darcy leaned in towards her. “Since when?”
“Since you held me on the merchant ship as we prepared to swing across to your ship.” She tossed her head casually. “As improper as that would have been.”
Darcy’s eyes widened. “You wished to be kissed then?”
Elizabeth nodded and watched him take a step closer.
“Does this mean you desired Captain Smith to kiss you?” His eyes held incredulity. “How do I know you have not fallen in love with him, instead of me?”
Elizabeth’s mouth opened, and she covered it with her hand. “Oh, my! This is wretched, indeed! I had not thought of that!”
Darcy folded one arm across his chest and rested the elbow of his other arm on top of it. He brought his fisted hand up to his chin and tapped it a few times. “This is grave. What am I to think?”
Elizabeth looked up with mock despair and just a little bit of teasing. “Perhaps you can help me forget my little infatuation with the captain.”
He took another step closer. “And how am I to do that?”
“Well,” she said as she stepped towards him, closing the distance, “you may begin by putting your arms about me, much like he did.” She helped him along.
Darcy smiled. “Now what?”
“Well, I believe I had to put my arms about your neck, much like this.” She stood on her toes and brought her arms about him. They stood staring into each other’s faces. Elizabeth could feel his breath upon her and again felt that she might collapse if he loosened his grip.
“Heavens, no. We were then tied together.”
Darcy shook his head. “We have no rope.”
“That is true. We shall have to pretend, then.”
Darcy tightened his grip and pulled her even closer. He leaned down and asked huskily, “Is this pretend enough?” His breath brushed her hair by her ear, sending shivers through her.
“Yes, I believe so,” she whispered trembling, looking up at him with wide, expectant eyes.
Their gaze remained locked for some time, and Darcy lowered his head. Just before his lips touched hers, he suddenly stopped. “You are not afraid?”
“On the contrary, I believe I shall enjoy this immensely.”
Darcy tilted his head. “I believe the word was immeasurably.”
“Oh, yes. I believe I shall enjoy this immeasurably.”
He took in a deep breath and let it out slowly. “I believe I shall, as well.”
He drew back and looked at her. He drew a strand of hair away from her face. “I have a question I must ask you, Elizabeth. Have you ever done this before?”
Elizabeth felt a sense of light-headedness at his question. “Never!” she said, and his lips came down to meet hers.
If Elizabeth had believed she had felt everything a woman could feel in the arms of a man she loved, she was wrong. She felt as if she were swinging across the sea again, flying, soaring to new heights and new depths. Her heart pounded from her head to her toes as his lips moved from her mouth to her cheeks, up to her ears, and down her neck. With each kiss, a new sensation revealed itself and rendered Elizabeth breathless.
A Cat Poem by Diana Birchall
More links to Valentine’s Day posts by some of the authors here on their blogs or websites:
Syrie James – A Valentine’s Day Special! THE HARRISON DUET by Syrie James– two sexy romances + a Jane Austen short story in one steamy volume– is on sale for a limited time only. Read two excerpts here:
Happy Valentine’s Day and happy reading!