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Saturday, September 24, 2016

Aim for the Heart - Chapter Three

Here I am again, with another action-filled chapter!! ENJOY!



Before she had time to think about what was happening—or why—he pressed his lips against hers. She hitched a breath, startled by the electrifying and tender contact.
His lips were supple and moved over hers in a gentle manner as if hesitant of his own actions. Instead of trying to push him away or slapping his face at his boldness, her resistance disappeared and pleasure filled her. Beyond her control, a sigh escaped her throat. Closing her eyes, she returned the kiss the best she could since this was her very first time kissing a man so intimately.
The pressure of his arms changed. No longer was he just holding her up. Instead, he was embracing her so very sweetly. His large hands moved in slow but tender circles on her back. Cautiously, she slid her palms up his arms and hooked her wrists around his neck. The moment brought them closer together.
Only in her dreams could a man kiss this wonderfully. Dizziness assailed her, yet she didn’t want this dream to end. Her mind wouldn’t work yet, either, because all she could concentrate on was the unfamiliar sensations flowing through her body right now. She’d never felt so hotsy-totsy in her life.
He shifted and his arms tightened around her. But in the midst of the dream she floated in, his gun pressed hard against her side. Quickly, she snapped to awareness. He must have a gun hidden under his chauffeur’s coat. Finally, her mind made her realize this man was part of Zambino’s mobsters!
No matter how hard it would be, she must break the kiss! She needed to get away from him and never look upon him again.
Slipping her hands between their bodies, she pushed against his chest to free herself from his embrace. This time she was able to feel the outline of his gun a little better, which scared her even more. She stepped back and met his warm gaze. He grinned. The beat of her heart was out of control, and she tried breathing slower.
“Are you all right, miss?” he asked, his voice husky.
“I…um, I—” she stuttered in confusion as she looked around her. They were now the only two people on the sidewalk. What happened to the stampede a minute ago?
His hand cupped her chin and turned her face toward him. “What’s wrong?”
Her body shook from his touch, and her knees weakened. The sensation of his warm hand touching her sent tingles throughout her body. “Nothing is wrong. I’m just swell. But…what just happened?”
He presented an earth-shattering smile, the kind that stops women dead in their tracks and makes them swoon. In fact, she was close to losing consciousness herself.
“What happened?” He chuckled. “We kissed and the earth stood still, my sweet temptress.”
Her heart fluttered over his endearment. “I know that, but why did you kiss me?”
Leaning back against the car, he folded his arms over his wide chest. “I don’t know. I liked the way you felt in my arms and the way you gazed at my mouth as if you were mesmerized.” He shrugged. “I felt the urge and I took it.”
She shook her head. “So what happened before that?” She looked up the street again. “The commotion—you grabbing me and pulling me aside…”
“Oh, that. Well, there was a group of hoodlums who were almost upon you. I had seen them lurking around before you came out of the restaurant, and I suspected what they had planned.”
She met his stare, and tried not to melt again. “And what did they have planned?”
“They were going to bump into you and steal your purse.” He shrugged. “I’ve seen it before and I just didn’t want to see it happen to you.”
“But you don’t even know me.”
“No, but I figured since I knocked you down a week ago, that this was the opportunity to get to know you.”
Oh, no, he remembered! She wrapped her trembling arms around her middle to hold them still. “Thank you for saving me, but why would you go out of your way to protect a stranger?”
His devastating smile grew. “I felt bad because your date stood you up in the restaurant. And, I happen to think you are a strikingly beautiful woman.”
Her face heated, and she hoped he wouldn’t be able to see in the shadows since she wasn’t directly under the streetlight. But although his comment made her blush, she didn’t believe a word he said. She wasn’t considered pretty by any means, especially to good-looking men, and he was definitely the lead in that category.
“Thank you, but—” she stopped, not really knowing what to say.
He lifted her chin with his fingers until their eyes met again. “It was my pleasure.”
He winked and her stomach flipped. He was so incredibly charming, but she had to remember who he worked for and what he carried underneath that chauffeur’s jacket.
She took another step away. “Thank you again, but I’ve got to go.” She spun around. Out of the corner of her eyes, she saw him reach out to grab her. Luckily, feminine voices floated from the front doors of the restaurant as the Zambino women exited.
Monica hurried to her car, and then looked back at him. Doing his job, he opened the door and helped the ladies in the Rolls Royce.
She breathed a sigh of relief and said a little prayer. Now that she had her mind back, she had to think of a way to get into Michael Zambino’s employ as his nanny. Even that devastatingly handsome driver would not distract her from her goals. At least she hoped he wouldn’t.
* * * *
Anthony Kelly watched the blue-eyed dame with the silky blonde, glorious hair practically run down the street. He would have given anything to go after her. She intrigued him not only with her beauty, but because he’d now run into her twice in a week. Unfortunately, his job came first, and at this moment he had to open the car door for the Zambino wives and drive them home.
Mary Zambino stopped in front of him before climbing in the car. “Tony, dear. Who was that young woman you were with just now?”
“I have no idea.” He glanced back down the street in the direction she’d gone. “She was almost attacked by some hoodlums. I think they were purse snatchers.”
Mary huffed and planted her hands on her hips. “I should talk to Michael about these capers who roam the streets after dark. This is a respectable restaurant and we don’t need hoods lurking around waiting to pounce on an innocent person.”
“You’re absolutely right, ma’am.”
The youngest of the Zambino brothers’ wives leaned closer to Tony and ran her bejeweled hand along his arm. “And you just had to be the one to rescue the girl, didn’t you?” She batted her long, false eyelashes.
He shrugged. “I do what I can, ma’am. Besides, I couldn’t just stand back and watch, especially since it would have happened right in front of me.”
“That is why we have this big, strong man with us, ladies,” Another Zambino wife commented in a flirtatious manner.
“So true, and Michael wouldn’t have it any other way,” Mary added before climbing in the car.
When the elder Zambino wife, Elizabeth, passed in front of him, she patted his cheek and gave him that motherly smile of hers. “Keep up the good work, my boy.”
He chuckled and shut the door. He’d only been in Michael’s employ for six months, but the women treated him like family. Well, the older women did, anyway. The younger ones gazed at him as if he were some kind of exotic Sheik made of nothing but passion that was put on earth for their gazing pleasure.
Tony knew it was only a matter of time before he got promoted from being a driver to working beside Michael Zambino as one of his men. Driving had been a good job for him to start out with, but Tony was trained for bigger and better things. Knowing Michael as he did, Tony figured his boss watched him closely, waiting until the moment he could finally trust him.
It would happen. Tony would make certain of it. He’d wanted this promotion for a very long time.
As he drove the chatting wives back to their home, he couldn’t stop thinking about the dame he met tonight. Actually, he hadn’t really met her, although their lips had met. He grinned. He definitely liked the way they were introduced. Words wouldn’t have been any stronger, that’s for certain.
He didn’t really know why he kissed her. She’d gazed at his mouth with eyes full of interest, which made him want to sample her sweetness. She was certainly worth the effort.
When he first noticed her in the restaurant looking all alone, he’d felt sorry for her. Obviously, she’d been stood up by her date, the stupid sap. What man in their right mind would leave a beautiful woman like her alone? But the more he watched, the more he realized she wasn’t there just to eat. He could tell from when the Zambino women had first arrived, that the doll was interested in them more than she was her food. It wasn’t a normal interest, either. Sometimes she had been straining her lovely neck to hear what the Zambino women were discussing.
Tony had been trained well, and his instincts were screaming at him that there was more to this young lady than he first thought. When she’d run into him by the drugstore, he never had a second thought to be suspicious. Seeing her tonight, however, his suspicion grew.
In fact, he was just about getting ready to walk to her table and introduce himself when his food had arrived. He had no other choice but to take his dinner outside and eat in the car. Then when she hustled out of the restaurant and headed his way, excitement built in his chest as he thought of a way to talk to her. Those hoodlums arrived at the perfect time.
And speaking of perfect…that kiss nearly knocked him speechless. Never had a woman’s innocent kiss made him want to cuddle her against him and hold her there forever.
Then again, he wasn’t used to kissing innocent women. That was probably why he found the kiss so exciting and made him breathless.
Now he wanted to know her better, and it had nothing to do with the fact that he suspected her of spying on the Zambino women, either. Unfortunately, unless fate intervened again, his job came first and he couldn’t look for the beauty that would be hard to forget.
When they reached home and he helped the women out, Michael Zambino walked through the opened door of the house toward him. Looking dignified, as always, the boss took leisurely steps. Mary hurried to her husband’s side, but she was brushed away. Rejection was an expression Tony saw too often on Mary’s face, and his heart went out to the wife who was always ignored by her husband. Michael had always put his men first. Shoot, even Michael’s mother was put above Mary.
Tony leaned back against the car, waiting for his employer to reach his side. Michael’s wealth showed in his pinstriped suit, hat, and the jeweled rings around his fingers. But it was more than that. Michael’s Italian heritage bespoke his every move and expression. People knew right away not to mess with the Big Zambino Cheese.
The only way for Tony to reach his goal was to get closer to Michael. One way or another, he was determined to get that promotion he deserved.
Zambino stopped in front of him, and his dark glare met Tony’s. Gulping, he hoped his boss didn’t notice the unease running through him right now. “Do you need me to take you someplace, Mr. Zambino?”
“Yes. I’ve just arranged an emergency meeting at the drugstore. We’ll need to pick up Donald and Campbell along the way.”
Tony opened the car door and motioned. “Ab-so-lute-ly!”
As Michael climbed in, Tony couldn’t wait to see what the important meeting was about. He hoped this would be the meeting Michael would finally allow him to attend.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Aim for the Heart - Chapter Two

It's FRIDAY!! And do you know what that means? It's time for another chapter of my 1920's romantic suspense story!! (If you haven't read the first chapter, check the previous post.)





Monica smiled wide as she exited the police station. It helped having one of Norman’s friends work here. She didn’t tell him about who she saw enter the drugstore, but discovered some helpful information nonetheless.
Apparently, Michael Zambino was the true owner of the drugstore, and the person who managed it was Damien Chiappa. The surname, Zambino, was well known around Chicago, mainly because of his wealthy Italian family. They owned a joint called The Pasta Cottage. She’d heard of this restaurant, too. Although the name gave the impression it would be more laid-back, the upper-class people dined there which made the place very ritzy. On the weekends, there would be a full band to jazz up the atmosphere.
Although she shouldn’t do it, determination controlled her thoughts. She would go to this restaurant tonight in hopes of hearing some important information.
Dolling herself up had always been a chore since she was as plain as any woman could be, but tonight she tried to dress as feminine as Anna. Monica chose one of Anna’s hand-me-down-because-I-lost-weight dresses; a lovely pastel blue with white trim that showed more of her knees and thighs than she’d wanted. At least the color accented her eyes, and the black-heeled shoes were the style all the girls wore because it made their ankles appear slim. She left her hair long and flowing down her back, but she pulled back the sides away from her face with fake diamond-studded combs. Most girls cut their hair in a cute bob-style, but Monica couldn’t bring herself to do it. Norman had always told her how much he loved her long hair. When she was younger and he’d read her bedtime stories, he’d always compared her to the fairy tale character, Rapunzel. He told her one day her prince would come to rescue her and they’d live happily ever after. Norman meant well, but she thought he was up in the night for believing in such nonsense.
It took only a half hour to drive to the restaurant, and another fifteen minutes before she walked into the establishment, and was seated. It was rather busy for a Tuesday night. The atmosphere was cozy; a place where families could come and enjoy themselves. The violin player walked from table to table, making his instrument sing beautifully which slightly relaxed her mood. The many pots of hanging plants didn’t take away from the brown and gray decorative wall colors in the room.
A waiter, dressed in black pants and a white shirt handed her the wine list. “Are you alone tonight?” he asked.
Embarrassed, she shook her head. “I’m actually meeting someone. He should be here any moment.”
“Take a look at the wine list, and order when you’re ready.”
“Actually,” she quickly stopped him before he left her table, “my friend and I would just like water to drink.”
He nodded. “As you wish. Here’s the menu.”
As she studied the menu, the waiter turned and left. Her heart hammered crazily, and she hoped nobody noticed how nervous she was. She also prayed she didn’t look too conspicuous sitting by herself. Then again, it had been the story of her life for many years, so she should be used to it.
She lifted the menu to hide her face, but peeked around it. As she glanced from table to table, she strained to listen to the many conversations circling the room. She waited to hear Michael Zambino’s name. Two minutes later, the waiter came back with her ice water. Instead of putting him off again, she ordered a salad and a turkey sandwich.
Sitting back in her chair, she took the opportunity to study the occupants in the restaurant. Nobody looked familiar, thankfully. Then again, her circle of friends didn’t frequent places like this, mainly because they couldn’t afford it. Neither could she, but she’d splurge just this once.
The front door opened and a group of women entered. Monica closely studied the five well-to-do women. They wore designer dresses with shiny pearls hanging around their necks—nothing but the Cat’s Pajamas for these ladies. Apparently, they came from wealth, and they were not ashamed to show it off.
Behind them, a man followed. Monica hitched a breath. It was that chauffeur she’d run into from the drugstore. Quickly, she rubbed her forehead, trying to hide her face so the chauffeur wouldn’t recognize her. Thankfully, she was able to peek between her fingers to watch.
The host of the restaurant greeted each woman with a hug and a kiss on each cheek then led them to the table right next to hers. Her gaze flew back to the chauffeur. He sat on one of the chairs in the waiting area and picked up the newspaper. Monica breathed a little easier. With any luck, he wouldn’t remember her at all since it had been nearly a week since they had their run-in behind the drugstore.
Out of the five women who were seated, only one could be considered really old. The silver-headed woman was possibly in her late sixties or early seventies, and although her body looked aged, her eyes did not. They were very much alive and extremely alert. For what her family did for a living, it was no wonder the woman was so observant.
Two of the other ladies were probably in their forties. The small wrinkles around their eyes and mouth, and the streaks of silver in their hair gave away their slightly older age. They were still very beautiful, and Monica was sure their money made them look that way. The final two women didn’t appear much older than Monica. Although passively pretty, their expensive clothes, hairstyles, and jewelry made them very attractive.
Monica glanced back at the chauffeur. Over the top of the newspaper, he kept his eyes on the women circling the table. Now she saw him in the light, it surprised her to see how young he was when just the other day she thought him to be older. If he was older than thirty, she’d be amazed. Beneath the brim of his chauffeur’s hat, his hair was black. Other than that, she couldn’t tell much more about him.
“Here is your meal, miss.”
Monica yanked her attention away from the chauffeur and to the waiter beside her.
“Would you like anything else?” he asked. “Or did you want to order for your friend?”
Sighing heavily, she frowned. “It looks like my friend isn’t going to show. Maybe he’ll come later.”
He gave her a dismissal nod before turning to the ladies at the next table. Monica lightly picked at her salad with her fork as she listened to their orders. When the waiter left, she slowly leaned closer, hoping to hear their conversation better. At first, the women were just beating their gums about nonsense, but Monica continued to listen for something—anything that seemed important.
One forty-year-old lady sighed heavily as she glanced at the older woman next to her. “I’m so upset with Michael. He fired my nanny today without any reason. I thought she was working out well, but then all of a sudden, Michael says she’s not good enough for his children, and she’s out the door. He made her leave before the children or I even had a chance to say goodbye.”
The woman with the silver hair patted the other’s hand. “I know my son, and he wants what’s best for his children. Not to worry, Mary. He’ll find another nanny very soon.”
“I just don’t know what to do with the children until then.” She moaned. “Six children are so very hard to handle alone.”
“Mary?” One of the younger women spoke. “George has told me that Michael put out an ad for a nanny, already. He’s going to make certain the woman has a lot of experience and is very educated. He thinks that will help make a better nanny for your kids.”
Mary threw up her hands. “I just wish he would communicate with me a little better. They are my children, too, after all.”
The silver-haired woman laughed. “Oh, Mary, how long have you been married to Michael? Don’t you understand Zambino men yet?”
As the women around the table chuckled, Monica’s mind took on a different path, and she didn’t hear anything after that. As she pieced together the conversation, her heart thundered in her chest. Michael Zambino was looking for a nanny. Some of her classes at the University were along the lines of child psychology and teaching children. Not only that, she had babysat for some of her neighbors while living with Norman, and she was paid pretty well for it. She’d be perfect for the job. The bonus of getting this position would be that she’d be closer to the man who was possibly responsible for Norman’s murder.
Moisture gathered in her palms as fear pumped through her. Six children were going to be hard to manage, but she must do it. No matter how scary, she had to meet the Big Cheese, Zambino. If he hired her, she’d be in a position where she could overhear any conversation. She could even do a little snooping. Of course, she wouldn’t do it right away. She’d earn the Zambino’s trust, first. But first things first, she had to do all she could to get this job.
She didn’t remember eating the rest of her salad and sandwich, or even when the waiter brought the check to her. Wheels in her head spun out of control, helping to formulate her plan. She would have to use her real last name instead of the name she’d used since she was six years old. But she had to make them believe she was Monica Jewell from Michigan, instead of Monica Lange from Chicago. As much as she hated her biological father’s name, she’d use it until it got her what she wanted.
Although she was not an actress, she’d definitely have to put on a performance of a lifetime. She must act as if she liked the Zambino family, hiding the deep hatred she had for them and all those who worked for him.
The waiter passed by Monica and brought her out of her thoughts. He served the women at the next table, chatting pleasantly while he handed them their plates of food. When he left, he returned to the kitchen and within seconds, came back carrying a brown paper bag. He walked to the chauffer and handed it to him. The chauffer nodded to the waiter, and then turned and left the restaurant.
Apparently, the chauffer was considered such an outcast that he was not allowed to eat in public. It did seem rather strange…or was there something else in the brown bag besides food? Monica’s over-active imagination went wild as she tried to come up with some answers.
When the waiter kept looking her way, she decided not to draw further attention to herself. It was time to leave. She pushed herself away from the table and walked up to pay for her meal. Hesitantly, she turned and exited out the front door, wishing she could stay and listen to Michael Zambino’s mother and his wife, Mary. But then, she didn’t want to get caught spying.
The first thing she noticed after exiting the restaurant was the 1907 Rolls Royce Silver Ghost parked right out in front. The chauffer was out of the car, leaning up against the side, reading the newspaper underneath the lamp post.
Inwardly, she groaned. Walking by him to get in her car gave her the heebie-jeebies. Hopefully, he was so engrossed in the newspaper he wouldn’t notice her from last week.
Taking a deep breath for courage, she started on her way. She tried to keep her eyes on the sidewalk, watching her feet take careful, yet hurried steps. As she neared him, heavy footsteps pounded on the ground behind her, nearly sounding like a stampede.
She turned to glance over her shoulder to see who—or what—was coming her way, but a strong pair of arms wrapped around her waist. Before she knew what was happening, she was pressed against something solid, and incredibly male.
Tilting her head back to see who was holding her, she recognized the chauffeur. She gasped as fear immobilized her. He stepped back against the car, just underneath the streetlight. Now she was able to see more of his face.
He was the most handsome man she’d ever seen. Although she couldn’t detect what color his eyes were, she sensed danger. He was rugged and looked as if he could tackle a grizzly bear and win.
A smile slowly stretched his mouth. Suddenly, all of her previous thoughts disappeared. The image of his gorgeous face was imprinted in her mind, and for a moment, she hoped it would never leave.
His expression relaxed as he gazed down at her. His nose was straight, and his face sculpted by the Greek Gods themselves. When his attention moved to her mouth, all the danger she’d felt earlier came rushing back. This time, however, it was a different kind of danger. His full lips slowly turned up into a pleasant grin. She’d never seen such an incredible mouth in her life and she couldn’t look away. Never had she experienced the out-of-control desire to kiss a man like she did at this moment.
Within seconds, his grin softened. Slowly, he leaned his head towards her, his mouth inching closer and closer. 


**READERS - if you know me well enough, you'll know how much I like to tease. So, if you can't wait another week to read the next chapter to see what happens, I have uploaded the next five chapters on RADISH https://radishfiction.com/ (or get the app for your phone - it's FREE, just search for Radish Fiction). It would be great if you can all support my writing by buying chapters. The chapters are really cheap on Radish, I promise! 

Thanks for your support!!


Friday, September 9, 2016

Aim for the Heart - 1920's Suspense Romance

I've decided to try something different, so we'll see if this works. Every week, I'll be posting another segment of my story, "Aim for the Heart".  So let's begin with the first segment...


Monica Jewell is determined to find the man who murdered her stepfather—even if she has to work undercover to do it.
She suspects one of Chicago’s top mobster leaders to be the killer. Justice needs to be served even if she does it herself. When she meets the mobster’s incredibly handsome chauffeur, Anthony Kelly, she worries he’ll become her worst distraction, especially, when he takes liberties with her and steals a kiss—a kiss that confuses her greatly. He works for the mob, which makes him a criminal, too.
He’s already stolen her heart. What other crime will he commit?



“I’m going to kill him with my bare hands!” Monica Lange bunched her hands into fists as a mixture of anger and sorrow filled her soul in the wake of her stepfather’s death. Blinking back the tears, she allowed rage to be the main emotion controlling her right now. As she paced the floor in her stepfather’s den, her mind headed in one direction—in the only direction it could.
“When I finally meet Norman’s murderer,” she continued, “and just as I’m snatching the last breath from him, the last words he’ll ever hear will be, you messed with the wrong woman. Then, when the man laughs in my face—” She paused and peeked over her shoulder at her cousin, Anna, who sat on the sofa, listening to Monica’s outrage, “—and I know he’ll laugh at me. Evil men like him always think they are in control.” She gave Anna a sharp nod. “But when he laughs, I’ll tighten my fingers around his throat and strangle the very life right out of him.”
Her mind envisioned this horrendous crime although she couldn’t see the murderer’s face. The punishment fit the transgression. The pain in her heart over her stepfather’s death weighed at least one-hundred pounds and she could scarcely breathe from the heaviness crushing her chest.
Finalizing her thoughts, she crossed her arms over her chest. The need for justice pumped through her veins, and she took on the responsibility to see that justice was served now. Waiting for the cops would be a waste of time. Yet, as she repeated the words she’d just spoke in her mind, they didn’t sound realistic. Good heavens, she was only a college student; twenty-three years of age, and the killer was probably a large man.
Frowning, she added, “Oh, blast it all! I can’t strangle him. He would be bigger and stronger than me.”
Growling, she ran her fingers through her long hair, lifting the thickness off her neck as she pondered her next move. “Let’s see…how can I kill him?” She paused for a brief second as she dropped her hands from her hair, making her locks fall to the middle of her back. “I’ll stab him.” She glanced at her cousin again who sat quietly on the only stitch of furniture left in the study. Anna was two years older, and her expression was mixed with disbelief in Monica’s threat, and a genuine maternal concern for her state of mind.
Ignoring her cousin, Monica continued, “I’ll take Norman’s favorite knife and stab the killer.” She made the motions through the air with her hand, emphasizing her words. “I’ll keep on stabbing him until he’s dead.”
She stopped again, rehashing it through her mind. Finally, she concluded this was indeed, doable. She’d certainly be able to accomplish her goal now. Satisfaction filled her and she smiled in triumph. “Yes. That’s what I’ll do. Justice will be served nicely, don’t you think?”
Anna remained on the couch, sitting very still. Not even an eyelash moved, although the look of shock was still etched in her expression. Monica knew she’d surprised Anna. Usually Monica wasn’t this violent or calculating. It was almost humiliating to have the avenging demon inside her show itself in front of her cousin.          
All during her childhood, Monica had been the shy, demure child. There wasn’t a mean bone in her body. Unfortunately, circumstances had changed drastically and she wasn’t a child any longer. Nor was she going to allow her stepfather’s killer to get away with what he’d done.
Hopefully, Anna understood and would help. Monica had been losing control of her life since the police told her last week that her stepfather had been murdered—a bullet through the head. Then, three days later she found out his life-long business had been sold right before he died, and yet not a dime of the money was in his bank account. Nothing made sense anymore.
Although Norman wasn’t her biological father, he was more of a parent than the first man who’d been married to her mother for a short while. The early years of Monica’s life, her grandmother had raised her because her alcoholic mother was unable to take on the task of motherhood. Then the woman married Norman. He’d turned Monica’s mother around, and for several years, they had been a happy family. Slowly, her mother returned to her old habits. Little by little, the bottle of whiskey became her companion instead of Norman. During this time, Monica had clung to the one parent who showed her love—Norman. When her mother divorced him, Monica begged her mother to let her live with Norman. Thankfully, the woman wasn’t sober long enough to argue.
Anna released an audible sigh and sat forward on the couch, leaning her elbows on her thin knees. “You’re forgetting one thing, Monica. If you bump off the man who killed Uncle Norman, you will be no better than a murderer, yourself. Do you want that on your conscience, let alone a rap sheet of murder? Do you want to sink to their level? I can assure you, if Uncle Norman knew what you were planning, he’d turn over in his grave. Not only that, I think he’d haunt you.”
For a few minutes, Monica stood firm as her mind raced to find answers to her cousin’s remarks, but no answers were forthcoming. Defeat swept through her, burning her hopes to ashes. She slumped on the couch and sat beside her cousin as tears gathered in her eyes. “You are correct. I don’t want to be considered in the same class as a murderer. Forgive me for saying such vile things Anna, but I’m all balled up inside. I don’t know what to do.”
“Perhaps there’s nothing you can do.” Anna frowned. “Let it rest. Justice will prevail sooner or later.”
Monica massaged her forehead with her fingertips, trying to make the throb in her head disappear. “It’s not fair. Someone killed Norman and nobody knows who it is, and the low-down dirty creature is walking the streets free as a bird, while my stepfather is six feet under.” Her voice cracked slightly. “There’s got to be something I can do.”
Anna placed her hand on Monica’s arm, and rubbed small circles on her skin in a soothing gesture. “There’s nothing you can do. Nothing at all. Do you understand? If Uncle Norman’s neighbor, Mrs. Beckstead, is right and the mafia ordered the hit, then you’re at a standstill. You cannot mess around with men like that or you’ll end up dead like your stepfather. We have to believe that sooner or later the man who killed Uncle Norman gets what he deserves.”
Raising her gaze, Monica looked into Anna’s big green eyes. As always, she wished for the perfect life her cousin had, and especially the perfect looks. For as long as Monica could remember, she’d wished for the green eyes and the short, black hair, like her cousin. Instead, she was cursed with dull blue eyes and plain blonde wavy locks.
She managed a weak smile for her cousin. “Anna, thank you for caring. I know you’re trying to help, but right now all I can think about is revenge. Someone needs to put Norman’s killer away for what he did.”
“I know you can’t help but feel this way. It’s to be expected for someone who is grieving as you are.” Anna continued softly rubbing her hands on Monica’s arm. “Norman was more of a father to you than that imbecile on your birth certificate. But seeking revenge for Uncle Norman is not the way to ease your conscience.”
Sighing deeply in desperation, Monica leaned back in the couch. “I suppose I should put my worries aside and finish packing Norman’s things.”
“Where will you go? Back to live with your mother in Michigan?”
Monica wrinkled her nose. “Not on your life—or mine. I’m staying right here in Chicago until I’m old and gray. I don’t plan on going back to her unless she changes her drunken, wild lifestyle.” She shook her head in disgust. “You know, if she keeps picking her boyfriends younger, she’ll soon pick one my age, and then maybe he’ll fall in love with me and want to marry me instead.”
Anna chuckled, making her emerald eyes twinkle. “Will you continue to live at the University?”
Monica shook her head. “Unfortunately, Norman paid every semester for that privilege, and now that he’s dead, there are no funds for me to continue. I’ll have to find a job, maybe get an apartment with three or four other college girls. The money my mom sends me isn’t much.”
Anna stood and tugged on Monica’s arms, helping her up. “I have a nifty idea. You can stay with me until you find a job and another place to live. Let’s get a wiggle on so we can pack your things. We don’t have very much time, do we?”
Sadness encompassed Monica again. “Unfortunately, time is something that nobody has enough of.”
She struggled through packing the remainder of her belongings, and each step out to her car to load the boxes, her heart sank. How could all this be happening to her? She thought for sure her stepfather would change his will and leave her everything—since she was the daughter he’d never had—but the lawyer told her Norman hadn’t put her in his will. Even if he had, there was nothing to get. According to the lawyer, her stepfather sold every item he possessed—including the store—leaving her with nothing. She wondered where the money from the sale had gone, but according to the lawyer, Norman had nothing in his bank account. The only thing she knew was that some man named Damien Chiappa owned the drugstore now that Norman was dead.
Why didn’t the police see the quick change of ownership as suspicious? Obviously, the mafia had them in their clutches, too.
Angrily, she realized it was up to her to find answers. No matter what Anna said, Monica needed to do something. She had to find out who killed her stepfather and stole his money. Mafia or not, evidence was what she needed to put the killer away.
After she placed the last box in the car, she stepped back and gazed upon the two-story red-bricked building. It had been her home until she started going to the University. Now she was homeless, yet it was the loss of Norman that made everything bleak.
“Hey, Mon, I’ll meet you over at my apartment. I have to swing by and pick up Paul first.”
Monica glanced at her cousin. “Who’s Paul?”
“A new man I met.”
Monica flipped her hand in the air in a dismissal wave. When wasn’t Anna meeting men? “No need to worry about me. I’ll see you later.”
She climbed in her brown interior, two-door Sedan and drove across the street to the ice cream shop. Memories crashed through her, leaving shards of her heart to keep her company. Norman had taken her here for hot-fudge sundaes once a month since she was six years old. She’d definitely miss those monthly chats with the man she’d wished was her true father.
On weary legs, she moved to her favorite booth and sat. Norman’s drugstore was right in view. The sun descended behind the building as pink light gleamed through the sky. Tears filled her eyes, and she realized she hadn’t grieved for Norman like she should have.
After giving her order to the waitress, Monica stared out the window until the girl delivered her bowl of vanilla ice cream with hot fudge poured over it, sprinkled with nuts. As she ate, loneliness crept over her. Anna was the only family left here in Chicago. All of Anna’s family moved to Boston two years ago. One would think because of this, Monica and Anna would be inseparable, but her favorite cousin rarely had time to spend with Monica. Anna was a woman of the 20’s—a real flapper. Men (many of them, in fact), alcohol, and dancing were all her cousin wanted in her life. There was no room for boring, puritan Monica. She’d always been a wet-blanket.
As she ate the last spoonful of ice cream, a tear slipped down her cheek. Time to start a new life. No more going to her stepfather to ask advice. No more surprise birthday parties and no more eating ice cream once a month…even on very cold days.
Norman had taught her to ride a bike. He taught her many card games, and she could whip his friends in a friendly game of poker. He was the one who bought her first car before entering college, and of course, he was the one who made certain she could drive it without dinging the fenders.
Gathering her purse, she fished for her keys amongst everything that filled her bag. From out the window, a car pulled in front of the drugstore and stopped. Zeroing her attention to the vehicle, she sighed in awe. Never before had she seen such a beautiful vehicle in this part of town.
Since Norman had been a fan of the stylish motorcars, she knew all about this one. The 1907 Rolls Royce Silver Ghost was furnished in the style of the French King, Louis XIV. Silver plating fittings highlighted the vehicle. Although in convertible style, the back seat was separated from the driver’s front. A low built unique and beautifully shaped radiator shell sat between the front wheels, and long multicolored hood lined with rivets accented its crisp hard edge shape. With its built-in stone guard, the car mounted on a pair of black rubber handballs, which neatly embedded in the casting attached to the radiator and chassis. Norman would have loved to see it, and for certain, he’d have drooled.
The driver opened his door and climbed out. Dressed in a chauffeur blackish-gray suit, he moved with the ease of a jungle cat when he walked to the back and opened the door. Never had Monica gazed upon a man who made opening doors for others look like an art form.
An elaborately dressed man in a black and white pinstriped suit ascended from the vehicle. On closer inspection, she noticed his olive skin color. Could he have Italian ancestry? Was he a mobster, too?
She peered closer, but bumped her nose against the shop’s window. Grumbling, she pulled back and rubbed the sore spot, continuing to watch the activities across the street. The fancy dressed mobster stood in front of the store and pulled out a ring of keys. Her heart picked up rhythm when the man entered. Could this be the man who now owned the building? Damien Chiappa?
Once again, the inner demon of revenge ate away at her soul, moving her from the booth and out the front door. Determination led her across the street, and with every step, hatred burned a permanent mark in her heart.
Sneaking around to the back of the building, she tiptoed in between the hedges bordering the property as she made her way to a window. Hesitantly, she peeked inside, taking caution not to be seen. The Italian stood in the center of the store, assessing every little detail of the layout. Most of the shelves were empty, and she figured the person who killed her stepfather had something to do with it.
The man scratched the small patch of hair on his chin then turned back toward the front door. She hurried to watch his departure, moving around the building. Staying as close to the building as she could, she practically scurried around the corner—and ran into a solid form.
Surprised, she fell back and landed on her bottom. Locks of her hair bounced into her eyes, blocking the full view of the person she’d hit. Using her hand, she swiped away her hair and looked up. How could she have forgotten about the chauffeur?
“Oh, I’m sorry, miss.” He knelt beside her and touched her arm. “I didn’t think anyone was on this property. I didn’t expect to run into somebody back here.”
Neither did I. “Forgive me, because I’m the one to blame.”
He grabbed her by the wrists, assisting her to her feet before stepping back. The setting sun highlighted behind him, spilling right into her eyes. She squinted and tried to block the glare with her hand, but she still had a hard time seeing him. All she could see was an amazing sculptured face, and a wonderful smile. He even looked as if he might be Italian, too.
“I’m…I…um, I was just looking for my dog.” She fibbed, not wanting him to guess her true purpose. “I thought he had come this way.”
The man looked around him and shrugged. “I haven’t seen a dog.”
“Oh, well, then I’ll keep looking. Thanks anyway.”
Before he could say any more, she swung around and hurried to the alleyway. When the man didn’t try to stop her, she breathed a deep sigh of relief. Once her heartbeat started knocking a normal rhythm once again, anger for the interruption shook through her body. If that chauffeur hadn’t stopped her, she may have been able to study the man inside the drugstore a little better. With that information, she could have turned it into the police, too.
She rolled her eyes. They wouldn’t have done anything. But…
A grin tugged on her lips. Perhaps that would have given her something to do while she mourned for Norman. If the law wouldn’t help her, she’d certainly seek justice herself. 



Thursday, September 8, 2016

Welcome Anna Markland

I want to introduce you to another author friend of mine - Anna Markland.

Passion conquers whatever obstacles a hostile medieval world can throw in its path. My page-turning adventures have earned me a place on Amazon’s All-Star list.
Besides writing, I have two addictions-crosswords and genealogy, probably the reason I love research. I am a fool for cats. My husband is an entrepreneur who is fond of boasting he’s never had a job.

I live on Canada’s scenic west coast now, but I was born and raised in the UK and I love breathing life into the history of my homeland.
Escape with me to where romance began.



How did you get started writing? 
I entered a writing contest in primary school in England, and came third (out of three)! I became interested in (i.e. addicted to) genealogy a few years ago and wrote several family histories. A tidbit about a Norman family that I unearthed while doing research in 2011 prompted me to write my first novel, Conquering Passion.

Third out of three isn't that bad, right? lol  So Anna, what genres do you write, and why? 
Most of my stories are either Viking or medieval era. However, my latest release is what I call a “contemporary with medieval overtones”.  It’s a Kindle Worlds book entitled Hungry Like De Wolfe.

What a catchy title! What is your favorite part of writing? 
I enjoy getting to know the characters while I am writing the story. After publication I love getting letters from readers telling me how much they enjoyed my work. 

I'm sure you get a lot of letters from readers, too! Tell us about your newest release.
Hungry Like De Wolfe is a KW book, that is to say it is “fan fiction” based on a book by Kathryn Le Veque, and it can be found in her World of De Wolfe Pack. It’s the second book I’ve written in conjunction with Kathryn’s “world”. The first one was a Scottish medieval, Highland Dawn.



Here’s a blurb for Hungry Like De Wolfe.
Blaise de Wolfe risks losing De Wolfe Hall unless he can prove his pure Norman ancestry and be eligible for a substantial renovation grant from the "Sons of the Conquest", an exclusive club.  He turns to family tree researcher Anne Smith, unaware of her Norman roots and consequent disdain for the male-only policies of the club. Sparks fly between them when she digs up some unexpected information about Blaise's medieval ancestor, Gaetan de Wolfe. 
Anne harbors other resentments. Widowed when her husband volunteers for a second tour with the British Army in Iraq, she is reluctant to embark on another relationship, though she is drawn to Blaise. He too is afraid to risk his heart after his fiancée dumps him upon learning his ancestral home is draining his bank account.
Two great medieval dynasties come together in this novella set in London in 2006— Le Veque’s De Wolfe Pack and  Markland’s Montbryce~FitzRam family. The world will never be the same.


What will your next project be?
I’ve just finished a medieval series, The Von Wolfenberg Dynasty. Book III of that series, Faithful Heart, will be available Sept. 26th. It’s on preorder now for 99 cents, but only until Sept. 26th. The three books follow the children of characters from an earlier book. I tend to follow families in my series. I guess it’s the amateur genealogist in me.



After that there will be a Christmas novella in an anthology with several other well-known authors. The stories center around the theme of the Kissing Bough. Mine is entitled An Unkissable Knight.





Where can readers find you on social media?
You’ll find a FREE download of one of my novellas on my website. My Facebook page is Anna Markland Novels.
Tweet me @annamarkland, join me on Pinterest, or sign up for my newsletter.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Welcome Jenna Jaxon!

Jenna has been a internet friend for several years. I feel like we know each other so well, and yet we haven't met face-to-face. Maybe one day!

Jenna has a new release and I can't wait to share it!


A Scandalous Dance—The Waltz During the Regency Period


Most people know a waltz when they see one—a romantic ¾ time lilting dance for partners where they hold each other at the hand and waist as they twirl around the dance floor. Not quite so during the Regency period.

The Regency waltz, as it was danced in the early 19th century, was very different from the form we know today, but still had the reputation of being scandalous. In fact, young ladies who were just out in society in their first Season had to get permission from a Patroness at Almack before she could dance the waltz at the Assembly rooms.

So what made this particular dance so shocking?

Walter Nelson in an article titled “The Shocking Waltz” describes the movements of the Regency waltz as “a strikingly intimate and sensuous dance, which is a major departure from the group dances and stately minuets of earlier generations. To a society that focused so much attention on harnessing teen age libido to the purpose of making a good marriage, this was rather disturbing.”

The article goes on to comment that although English Country Dancing, considered imminently respectable, contained both direct eye contact and body contact but in very limited amounts. In the waltz, however, “the eye contact is continuous and unflinching and so is the body contact -- with hands, ... resting on any number of body areas, and lingering there for a while.”


You can understand how the matchmaking mamas watching all this very physical contact might get very nervous about the attention their darling daughter was paying to one particular gentleman—who might not be a very nice gentleman in the end. As the hero of Heart of Desire says, the waltz should be danced only by married couples. Of course, he’s dancing it with a woman who is not his wife when he says it, which draws her caustic comment to be sure!

Here is a youtube clip of how the waltz was danced - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9nwwYlm-G1s

HEART OF DESIRE

Follow your heart to find your desire

Miss Katherine Locke is irked to start her third season dancing with the disagreeable Lord Haversham, her brother’s friend and her own arch enemy. After three years out, however, she’s finally interested in the dashing Lord Finley—only to find out her cousin has set her cap for him too. To make the man jealous, Kate feigns interest in Lord Haversham, only to be shocked to find the handsome lord apparently falling for her. With time running out, should she accept his suit and risk falling in love despite herself?


Marcus, Lord Haversham, is in a tight pinch. His estates are failing and worse, he’s just lost three thousand pounds to his best friend, Lord Ainsley. Ainsley’s solution: have Marcus marry his shrewish sister and he’ll cancel his gambling debt plus give him ten thousand more pounds for her dowry. With nowhere to turn, Marcus agrees, praying he can keep word of the wager from Miss Locke long enough to charm her into marrying him. But can he avoid falling in love himself?

EXCERPT

The music had a lively air and Miss Katherine Locke would’ve thought herself fortunate to be out again in Society after a long, cold, dull winter in Somerset save that her partner, Lord Haversham, was the rudest man in London. Well, his lordship was about to discover that Kate Locke was not one to suffer fools lightly.

“So you refuse to allow your sister to waltz, yet you are quite willing to stand up with me and dance this, according to you, most scandalous of dances.” Kate smiled into the odious wretch’s face. “My lord, I should say that smacks of hypocrisy.”

“Indeed.” Lord Haversham turned them skillfully at the end of the floor. “I would say it showed a want of character in your brother for allowing you to dance it with me. The waltz should be danced by married couples and no one else.” He pulled her close against him, so their bodies almost touched.
She gasped at her proximity to the rogue. How dare he make a spectacle of them on this crowded dance floor?

“You see?” he whispered, peering into her face, his gaze intent upon her mouth.

All she could see were his cool gray eyes, as the crisp scent of his sandalwood cologne filled her nose.

“Ainsley should be horsewhipped for allowing it.”

“I’ll see to it he horsewhips you if you don’t let me go.” Kate gave a hopping step and smashed her foot down on top of his.

Lord Haversham lurched forward, actually falling onto her.

For the briefest moment, they stood pressed together in a warm embrace that made Kate tingle all over. Then outrage swept through her, and she pushed him away. “How dare you,” she seethed, trying to pull away from him.

“That was your fault, and you know it. And if you make a scene that results in me having to marry you, I swear I will lock you in the tower at my grandfather’s castle and throw away the key.” Lord Haversham righted himself and smiled at her with clenched teeth.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Jenna Jaxon is a best-selling, multi-published author of historical romance in periods ranging from medieval to Victorian.  She has been reading and writing historical romance since she was a teenager.  A romantic herself, she has always loved a dark side to the genre, a twist, suspense, a surprise.  She tries to incorporate all of these elements into her own stories. She lives in Virginia with her family and two rambunctious cats, Marmalade and Suger.  When not reading or writing, she indulges her passion for the theatre, working with local theatres as a director.  She often feels she is directing her characters on their own private stage.

Jenna is a PAN member of Romance Writers of America and is very active in Chesapeake Romance Writers, her local chapter of RWA.

She has equated her writing to an addiction to chocolate because once she starts she just can’t stop.

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