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Archive for December, 2017

Master of the Fleet should be released December 22! A stand-alone romance (written under the pen name Sultonna Nadine) set in an alternate timeline of the American Northwest, the hero of our story owns a merchant fleet and is Master of the Fleet as well. His special abilities in elemental magic give him control over wind and water, the perfect combination to keep his ships safe.

Who’s ready for an excerpt?

Master of the Fleet

Chapter 1

For the first time in a very long time, Anne-Marie was afraid. She had been on her own since she ran away from home years ago. Up until now, she had always managed to stay in control of her affairs.

How had she let her temper get out of hand this evening? Since she had made her way into the upper echelons of society, she had dreamed of coming home to gloat. Even if nobody recognized her, she could look down her nose at those who had scorned her for her country upbringing. In spite of them all, she had escaped and become somebody. In Côte d’Or, people looked up to her, as she mingled with the leaders of the world.

She had met Richard at a society ball two years ago, during the harvest celebration. He was home for the season, like most of the merchant seamen, since the western seas were treacherous during the winter months.

Half a head taller than most, he stood out from the crowd, and had immediately captured her attention. She’d caught glimpses of him all evening, but they weren’t introduced until it was nearly time to leave. She hadn’t realized how large a man he was until she saw him returning from the hors d’oeuvre table in the next room.

Twisting his shoulders slightly to keep from brushing the door frame, he ducked his head and stepped confidently into the room. As she watched, he reached up to run his fingers through pale, sun-bleached hair. As if he sensed her watching, he turned his gaze toward her, and his dazzling blue eyes seemed to pierce her soul.

“Who is the handsome man by the doorway?” she’d asked the woman next to her.

“Oh, you mean Lord Richard? Let me introduce you.”

Richard LeMarnier was the owner and master of the fleet of the largest merchant fleet on the coast. At well over six feet tall, he stood head and shoulders above everyone there. His tanned, weathered face was in sharp contrast to the sun-bleached hair and blue eyes from his Nordic ancestry and time spend at sea. The thin white scar running from his left temple to the point of his jawbone stood out against the deep tan.

Given his position in society, he was invited to all the social events. Still a bachelor at forty, he was the most eligible man on the Côte. As soon as she saw him, her goal was to capture his attention and see how much she could glean from this new source of income.

All in all, she had done pretty well from Richard. He wasn’t in town too often, as he preferred to oversee his ventures from the decks of his ships. He showered her with gifts from abroad: fabrics, spices, jewels, and gold. In return he asked for very little. Mainly he sought her company at social functions and her companionship over dinner in his home.

By the time he was ensnared in her plans, he thought they were courting. She, of course, never hinted there would be no betrothal. Long before the question arose, she would’ve had to leave the Côte and return to her family for some dire reason. She would have shed torrents of tears at their good-bye and have promised to remember him always.

Naturally, she wouldn’t have gone home. She would have taken her gains from this relationship and traveled to some new place of opportunity, selling what she must to pay her way. Once situated in a new town, she would have set up her seamstress shop once again, and kept her eyes and ears open for the next perfect mark.

This was how it had always happened. You met them, loved them, milked them, and left them, before anything permanent developed. They were none the wiser and happy to have known you. Sorry your mother is dying and, of course, you must leave. In a few weeks they were over you and looking at fresh faces for a bit of dalliance. You were far away setting up the next mark.

She had stayed with Richard for far too long. Charming and a true gentleman, she kept putting off her farewell. Once affection had had a chance to blossom, she’d concocted a plan to go home and gloat over who she’d become. She’d known very few men who could afford to bring her so far and had been carried away with the idea.

Because of Richard’s social standing, they had been invited to the Baron’s banquet. She had been intoxicated by the opportunity, which was where the trouble started. After a glass or two of wine, she flirted with any man who gave her a second glance. After three or four glasses, it was any man at all.

****

If Anne-Marie hadn’t begged and pleaded with him, Richard LeMarnier would never have made the exhausting trip from the Côte, high up on the northwestern coastline, across the mountains to High Plains. But after several years away from home, she must return for the festival.

“Please, Richard,” the tall slim woman with dazzling green eyes had begged. “You must come with me. You must!”

And so he had. The bewitching beauty with hair as black as a calm sea on a moonless night and eyes like perfect jade was stunning. Dressed in crimson satin, every eye in the dining hall was on her.

The evening had started out well. White linens and crystal goblets invited them in to tables heavily laden with the best in food and wines. He must be edgy from the trip and imagining slights from the woman he adored.

As the evening continued, it became clear he was being snubbed by the woman for whom he’d sacrificed so much. Her warm smile and come-hither eyes sent an invitation to any man but him. She flirted with every man who came past, whether lord or serving boy. Yet Richard couldn’t attract her attention long enough to ask if she was enjoying the evening.

“Anne-Marie,” he finally asked, in exasperation, “could you spare me some of your charm? You make me a laughing stock, after I brought you all this way for the festival.”

“Are you accusing me of some impropriety, Richard?” she asked in a haughty tone. “I haven’t accepted your offer. Therefore, you can lay no claim on me.”

“I think you could pay me at least as much attention as you do the serving boys,” he snapped. “For them you have smiles and flirtatious glances. For me, you have nothing at all.”

He had seen her angry before, but nothing ever came of it. Perhaps it was being home which made the difference tonight. His eyes burned from the wine she threw in his face as her temper flared.

“I will not have any man dictate my actions,” she shouted, rising to her feet. “If I’d wanted a task master, I would have stayed under my father’s roof rather than cross half the continent to get away.”

The jeweled dagger flashed in her hand as she thrust it at him. A skilled swordsman, Richard easily parried the attempt as he rose to his feet. The dining area was too crowded to deal with the situation.

Backing away from the table, he suggested, “Anne-Marie, drop the dagger and sit down. You’re making a scene.”

She stalked after him, dagger in hand and in an absolute rage, as he retreated toward the dance floor. This was getting a bit sticky. With room to maneuver, Richard was ready when she lunged at him again. Grabbing her wrist with one hand, he slapped her with the other. As the dagger dropped, she tumbled to the floor and her glare was pure venom.

With the dagger tucked safely into his belt, Richard turned back toward the table. This should end the matter, and the relationship as well.

“I hate you,” Anne-Marie screamed, as she snatched a sword from a nearby table. Swinging wildly, she came at him with murder in her eyes.

Lord Richard drew his blade. While defending himself was not a problem, disarming her without harming anyone else might be. Anger rising, he waited for his opening. After the time and money he had spent on this trip, would she murder him in front of the high table?

His opening came and he threw her blade clear of the floor. With the point of his sword at her throat, Anne-Marie backed away, eyes wide, as anger became terror. Richard moved toward her, his blade never wavering. Finally backing as far as the high table, Anne-Marie’s retreat was blocked. Sidestepping, he grabbed her hair to expose her throat fully to his blade.

In a room as silent as a tomb, every eye was focused on the frozen tableau before the baron’s table.

“My good man, were you planning a human sacrifice on the high table? Who are you and what is the meaning of this?” the baron demanded.

A large man, with dark hair turning gray at the temples, and neatly trimmed beard, his presence commanded the attention of the room.

“Your Excellency, I am Lord Sir Richard LeMarnier, from Côte d’Or. The lady and I have traveled for more than a week to attend the festival here in her homeland. At least she claims it as such. After courting her for over a year and asking for her hand in marriage, I dance on her leash while she toys with my affections. Though she hasn’t refused my offer, she has yet to accept it.”

“What do you do?”

“I am in shipping, Your Excellency, with access to goods up and down the coast and from overseas. I have brought her gifts from every part of the world, given her everything she’s asked for, and more. She’s been blessed with everything within my power to give.”

“We’ll agree you’re a generous man. Why are you here?”

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Not that you could stop it, actually. But it is snowing in Georgia! Big, fluffy, soppy flakes began earlier in the day. You could almost hear the sploosh as the hit the ground they were so bit and wet. The chickens weren’t sure about coming out of the hen house, and I can’t say I blamed them. Eventually they ventured out far enough to eat and scratch around a little.

Now, with the bamboo bowed over the driveway and the path to the garden, the snow is turning to rain and sleet. I hope this doesn’t mean freezing rain later.  Snow I don’t mind. Rain is fine, but freezing rain is not fun.

So far we still have power, there’s soup simmering on the wood stove, which is guarded by the cats–Miss Kitty and The Monster. With a little luck, they may stay warm enough…

Seems like a nice day to do some writing.

Or perhaps you would prefer to read.

And I have just the thing–two fantasy worlds to choose from.

Esperance–a distant highland world full of mischief, magic and romance.

Speranza–a futuristic world filled with intrigue, romance and shape-shifters.

So grab something warm to drink, curl up in your favorite chair by the fire, and check out a new world.

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Time for a little peek inside Dante’s Angel.

Amazon:

http://bit.ly/DantesAngel

Barnes and Noble

http://bit.ly/DantesAngel_BN

Smashwords

http://bit.ly/DantesAngel_SW

 

Excerpt:

Dante had thought she would object to his touch, but though she remarked about having his arm through hers, she did nothing to change it. For a long time now, they had strolled easily through the old olive grove arm in arm, in peaceful silence, enjoying each other’s company.

At least, he was enjoying hers, and if she wasn’t happy, she would have said something, surely. Where her arm touched his, he felt a warmth and a tingle which threatened to overwhelm him. Between that and her scent, he could have died and gone to heaven. But with the thoughts he had going through his head, he was probably headed a different direction. He would need to go to confession again before the wedding for sure.

They had turned and were heading back toward the manor when she sighed and let her head lean onto his shoulder. As he tried to figure out this latest twist in their acquaintance, she took a deep breath and held it for a moment before letting it go.

The evening breeze had picked up after they made their turn and it was beginning to be chilly outside. Moist, warm earth met chilled evening air and gave up part of its warmth as mist rising from the ground. Among the silvery trees, this only increased the sense of magic in the air. As he was now downwind, it also brought her scent to him more strongly, like he needed anything else to deal with.

Pressed tightly against him, he wondered if she felt chilled by the night air. She wore a long skirt, but the blouse was thin summer cotton, with short, off-the-shoulder sleeves. Thinking about those shoulders made him want to leave love bites across them and then further up the luscious column of her neck. Her shiver brought him back to the present.

He still had on his jacket from dinner, so he gently opened the front of it and drew it around her shoulders—bare as they were—so that his arm was around her. Thinking she would object, he was surprised when she snuggled in and put her arm around his waist.

God, help me, he prayed. I’m only human.

Before they left the grove, he stopped and looked down into eyes which held questions.

“In case you decide you’d rather not be seen with me, we can separate here,” he said.

“I suppose we would draw attention, wouldn’t we?” she answered, but with a sparkle of mischief in her eyes.

“But before we go our own ways,” he began before pulling her closer and forking his fingers up through her hair, “I would like to settle the question.”

“What question?” she asked.

Leaning closer, his hand in her hair suggested she turn her face up toward his. With his lips nearly touching hers, he waited for her permission, which she gave him by pressing up on her toes to close the distance.

Yes, her lips were as delicious as he’d hoped, like ripe cherries and sweet wine. His kiss lingered, wishing it would never end. Her taste combined with her scent made his head whirl. And he was not prepared for her lips to part and for the tip of her tongue to invite him in.

Finally parting, they gazed at each other in astonishment. “Dio! What are we going to do?” Angela asked, searching his face.

“I don’t know, but I have to have you.”

“Yes. And I need you. I’ve never felt this way before.”

Their next kiss was passionate, with her back against one of the ancient trees, her arms around him, and all those curves yielding to his body.

“Angela, I must go and compose myself before I meet any of the others.”

“I may need a walk to recuperate from our walk.”

“I won’t join you. Things could go much further than either of us needs right now.”

“Probably so. Buona notte, il mio amore,” she said quietly.

“Sogni d’oro, mio angelo,” he answered. Sweet dreams indeed. His were going to be something, but he doubted sweet would come into it anywhere along the line. And she had called him “my love.”

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