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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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This time of year is the perfect time to read. Cool evenings, warm fires, something nice to drink. And a good book!

Have you read the books from Esperance? How about a trip to Gambler’s Folly?

Dante’s Angel is the latest book from Gambler’s Folly, in the Speranza Series.

And from Esperance, Morgan–The Pixie and the Green Man is Book 3!

So if you’re looking for something different, a nice Fantasy Romance with a paranormal twist, check out one of the links above.

And don’t forget–

—to Share the Romance…

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Set in an alternate timeline of the American Northwest, Master of the Fleet combines paranormal abilities with romance.

Richard Lemarnier  owns the largest merchant fleet on the coast and is its Master of the Fleet. With the ability to bend wind and water to his will, he keeps his ships safe out on the high seas.

Would that he could protect his heart.

Anne-Marie is a seamstress and has captured Richard’s attentions. Having been deeply hurt in the past, she’s out to take men for whatever she can get, without getting trapped in a marriage.

Until she meets Richard and bites off more than she can chew.

Watch for Master of the Fleet!

In the meantime, check out some of my other books!

https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/meleigh53

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Well, you know me. I can’t work on one thing at a time…

However, Master of the Fleet is with my editor, as is The Russian, so you know she has her hands full. Gotta love her. She loves a challenge.

Master of the Fleet is a stand-alone set in the late 1800’s of the American Northwest. Richard LeMarnier thinks he’s found the woman of his dreams, but finds he’s been played. All she was after was what she could con out of him with her hints at a relationship before she moved on to another mark.

The Russian is the third book in the Speranza Series from Gambler’s Folly. Dmitri, a wolf-shifter, has been around for quite a while. At least 500 years. Two hundred years ago his first soulmate died, leaving him alone and wishing for death to take him.  Since then, he’s been a lone wolf, never seeking  a relationship, until a chance meeting on Gambler’s Folly brings him a second chance at happiness.

Master of the Fleet should be out right after Thanksgiving, so keep an eye out for it. And The Russian should be available after the turn of the year.

In the meantime, check out my other books at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Smashwords.

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At least I hope it is. I’ve had it with the heat this year. And autumn is my favorite season.

What’s yours?

So, what do I have going on this autumn? A new book! This one is set in an alternate timeline in the American northwest, out on what we would call the Oregon coast. Not part of a series, Master of the Fleet is a stand-alone.

As Master of the Fleet,  Richard was one of the wealthiest men on the Cote and a powerful shaper of wind and water. And he’d finally met the woman he wanted to make his wife. While she hadn’t refused his proposal, she hadn’t yet accepted either. Their trip back to her home kingdom for the harvest festival should have been the perfect time to repeat his proposal, but somehow it all went wrong. Now he’s married to a woman who will never love him and who can’t enjoy being his lover. Doubly bound by marriage vows and a blood oath, he doubts there will be a happily-ever-after.

How had he not seen what was going on? And what was he going to do?

Anne-Marie had never intended to marry. You set them up, took them for what they had, and left in a pool of tears, claiming a family tragedy. But then she met Richard and played the game a little too long. How could she escape this prison called marriage?

Watch for Master of the Fleet, which should come out the first week in December!

In the meantime, check out my two series–Esperance and Speranza!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Who doesn’t like an excerpt? Here’s a sample of the first chapter from Dante’s Angel.

To read the first 20% of the book, check out my page at Smashwords.

Dante’s Angel is Book 2 from the Speranza Series.

If you haven’t read Book 1,  Gambler’s Folly, check it out!

DANTE’S ANGEL

Chapter 1

“Karianna! We’re going to miss the flight,” Damiano shouted from the front door. “Anything you forget we can buy on the shuttle or once we get to Rome.”

Damiano was the classical Mediterranean male–tall, with dark hair and gray eyes. His wife, Karianna, was tall, with dark hair and mischievous green eyes.

He’d sent the luggage down to the car already and was simply waiting for his wife to get her personal bag. At the rate she was going, she would take everything in her wardrobe.

“All right, Dam. Ready.”

“Benissimo, cara,” he said as he kissed her.

They finally made it to the car. Marco was driving and Paulo was in the front with him. His two friends and team mates were also going back to Earth for the wedding. Dante was going as well. Marco and Paulo were a little older than Damiano, but they looked like they could be relatives. Dante was the youngest member of the team, but shared their Mediterranean heritage.

“Marco, where is Dante?”

“He said he would meet us at the spaceport. He’ll be there, Damiano. I think he needed a little independence.”

The drive took about half an hour through traffic. Being one of the major ports on Gambler’s Folly, made Speranza exceptionally suitable for hotel and entertainment ventures. Damiano had certainly done well for the family there.

“So, cara, what do you want to do when we get to Rome?” he asked Karianna, his lovely wife.

“I have no idea,” she admitted. “I’ve never even been to Europe. What is there to do in Rome?”

“So much, Kari, so very much to do and see. Since we will be in there for only one day this time, we’ll decide on one venture when we get there.”

They had chosen to take a day for themselves once they reached Earth, before his family overwhelmed Karianna with their well-wishes and wedding plans.

Yes, they were married, but his mother insisted on a cathedral wedding, one they could share with the family. His was an old, religious family and his mother was not entirely happy about their civil marriage.

Once they arrived at the spaceport, they left their things with the porters. Given Damiano’s standing on Gambler’s Folly, their boarding was expedited, which made the whole trip so much more bearable. Their suite was ready when they boarded and their luggage arrived soon after they did. Marco and Paolo were in adjacent rooms, and Dante had a smaller room across the hallway.

Speaking to Marco, Dam asked, “Have we heard from Dante yet?”

“Yes. He’s in the process of boarding now. Has he traveled much before?”

“I don’t think so. Why?”

“He seems uncomfortable, uneasy. Maybe it’s simply nerves about the trip.”

****

Dante had waited as long as he could before he left for the shuttle. He’d never been off-planet before and was homesick before they even left. The rest of the party was already on board and enjoying the amenities before he even got to customs.

On top of it, the whole reason for the trip was the wedding, yet another reminder that he was single and had no prospects at the moment. And here was Damiano, with everything in the world going for him, going to Earth to marry his mate, his bond-mate. It just wasn’t fair.

What was wrong with him? He glanced at his reflection in one of the large plate windows. All right, he wasn’t as tall as Damiano, Marco, or Paulo, but he wasn’t a midget. He was six feet tall and around one hundred eighty-five pounds, with no fat to spare. Dark hair and dark eyes completely the look, from his Mediterranean heritage.

He’d been told he could be mistaken for Damiano’s younger brother, but it didn’t seem to do him much good. He was awkward in crowds and women tied his tongue in knots before he even started talking. He hadn’t had a date in over a month, and now he was going to a wedding on a planet he’d never seen.

Sighing deeply, he answered the questions at the customs desk, handed over his papers, jumped through all the hoops, and finally boarded the shuttle.

“May I help you?” the older man asked.

“Yes. I’m trying to find my berth,” Dante said.

“Ah! Take the lift to the fourth level, turn right, and it will be on your right.”

“Thanks.”

Trudging to the lift, he followed the instructions, used his pass card on the door, and took a look around.

His suite was nearly as big as his apartment, he decided. He’d have to thank Damiano for his generosity. Of course, they would be on the shuttle for a week. At least he wouldn’t go stir crazy. He stowed his luggage in the wardrobe and checked the time.

Pushing the button on his communicator, he checked in with Marco.

“Did you have any trouble, Dante?”

“No, sir. Just huge crowds of people. But I’m in my room now, so everything is good.”

“All our rooms are across the hall from yours. Damiano suggested we all get together for dinner, around seven this evening. But until then, relax and enjoy the trip.”

“When do we lift off?” Dante asked.

“In about an hour. They’ll make an announcement. Follow the instructions and you’ll be fine. It’s much like flying, but the take-off is a little stronger. Don’t worry, amico. I’ve done it several times.”

With nothing else to do, a nap sounded like a good idea. Slipping out of his shoes and jacket, he dropped onto the bed and closed his eyes. Maybe he could at least dream of happy times.

****

“Marco, is everything all right with Dante?” Karianna asked.

“Sì, signora. He’s a little nervous about leaving Gambler’s Folly. He was born here and has no family on Earth. He’ll be fine once we’re underway.”

“If you’re sure,” she said reluctantly. The first time she’d left her home planet, she’d been lost on a bet, divorced from her husband, and married to the strongest of the underworld syndicate bosses—Damiano Leone.

“Should someone go check on him?” she asked.

“Cara mia, he’ll be fine. He’s probably taking a nap. We’ll see him for dinner this evening,” Damiano assured her.

It wasn’t long before the lift-off announcement was made. As far as Karianna was concerned, this was the worst part of the trip. Flying always affected her in the same way. Too much imagination.

At least it didn’t last long. Marco called to check on Dante after lift-off. He chuckled as he ended the call.

“So, how is he?” she asked.

“Dio! He’ll be fine. He swears he’s never doing it again, though how he plans to return to Gambler’s Folly without it, I don’t know.”

“I didn’t think it was that bad,” Karianna reflected. “The one from Earth to here was worse.”

“Don’t worry wo much, cara,” Damiano told her. “Why don’t we send these guys on their way and see what there is to do?”

Knowing her mate, she had a good idea what he meant.

Their friends took their leave, so she was soon alone with her husband.

“So, cara, I think it’s time to enjoy this most comfortable bed, don’t you think? And from what I’ve heard about your last trip, I doubt you’ve ever been loved on an intergalactic flight.”

“Time for a first then, isn’t it?” she answered as his hands unzipped her dress, before they corrected the oversight.

Karianna showered after their lovemaking and decided on a nap before dinner. Later, when she tried to stretch, she was wrapped in Damiano’s embrace. Snuggling deeper into his arms, she drifted off once again.

“Karianna, cara. Time to dress for dinner,” she heard. The kiss did more to wake her up.

“I suppose we should go to dinner,” she said, as her stomach rumbled. “Unless you want to come back to bed.”

“Now, cara, you know we’re all meeting for dinner this evening. We can go back to bed later.”

“Promises, promises.”

“You want promises, cara?” Damiano asked her. “I promise you, before I finish with you later, you’ll be begging.”

“You’ve got rather a high opinion of yourself,” she teased.

A fierce kiss and swat on her bottom told her the night was going to be exciting.

“Now, come on. Put on some clothes before I change my mind.”

When they finally arrived in the dining room to meet the rest of their party, Karianna was still slightly flustered. Damiano’s friends had made an effort this evening. Even Dante was well dressed for dinner. Why he never seemed to have a girlfriend, Karianna couldn’t figure out. He was good-looking, intelligent, and had plenty of money.

“To the most beautiful woman in my world,” was Damiano’s toast to start off the evening. She’d finally gotten used to his flattery. Her first husband never made her feel pretty, let alone beautiful.

Dinner was tasty and the atmosphere around the table relaxed. These four men had worked together for a long time, through dangerous situations. But they had welcomed her into their circle and made her feel safe, even though “safe” could be a relative term around Damiano and his business.

“Dante, are you settling in all right?” she asked.

“Sì, Signora. The lift-off was sort of tense, but I’m fine now.”

“Are you ready for your first look at Earth?”

“I’m not sure. I don’t know what to expect. Everyone tells me it is special, but how can it be any better than Gambler’s Folly?”

“I think it’s the history of humanity there,” she explained. “I haven’t been back since I left nearly two years ago. I want to find out how I react to coming home again.”

“I’ve never been anywhere but Gambler’s Folly. Everyone else here has ties to Earth but me. I feel like an outsider, in a way. Everyone else is coming home, but I have no home to go to.”

“Dante,” Damiano said. “My home is yours. We’re all brothers here—except for Kari, of course. And once Mama meets you, you’ll have trouble leaving.”

“If you say, Damiano. If you say.”

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What sequel, you ask? The first sequel to Gambler’s Folly–Dante’s Angel!

After being “arrested” in their last adventure in Gambler’s Folly, Damiano and Karianna return to Earth for their big church wedding. Of course their friends, Marco, Paul, and Dante travel with them to share the event.

Only Dante has never left Gambler’s Folly. And women leave him tongue-tied. So leaving his home world and going to a wedding only point out his very single status to him and make him homesick.

Who could have imagined that his soul mate has been there on Earth waiting for him? And who could have guessed she would be  Damiano’s headstrong cousin, Angela?

DANTE’S ANGEL is now available for pre-order for Kindle, or in paperback!

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