Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Who loves fairy-tales?

So I must admit, I love a good fairy-tale no matter how old I am. I especially love stories that are done a little differently than most fairy-tales I've read (or watched) throughout my life. That is why I've decided to create a series of books that are based on fairy-tales. These stories will be far different than you've ever read before. And, if you have read my stories, you know I'll throw in a few twists in the plot just to get a reaction from my readers. (always a good reaction, anyway)

I've collected a few authors (and I'd love to gather more) who will write their own fairy-tale spin for this series - "Where Dreams Come True".  If you are a published writer who writes sweet/clean romances, and you'd like to join, send me an email - mariehiggins84302@yahoo.com.

I have two ideas for stories already, and I can't wait to get started. My characters are literally SCREAMING at me to write these, so you know, I must do what they ask. Right?

These books will be available as ebooks and in print! (and if I have my way, they'll be in audio, too!)

This first book will center around ROBIN HOOD...

When you wish upon a star…

All romance novel photographer Payton Fox really wants is a hero in her life. A man that is dashing and honorable… a man worthy of his own fairy-tale! One particularly frustrating evening she casts a fleeting wish upon a shooting star. She didn’t actually believe anything would happen, but in the blink of an eye the man of her fairy-tale wishes—a regular Robin Hood—materializes right before her. He even claims to be the legendary archer Robert of Loxley. Uncertain what to believe, Payton is shocked when this hero rescues her time and again, and she can’t help but be swept off her feet.

Slowly she accepts that this strange and noble man might truly be the fairy-tale character of her dreams. Unfortunately, Robert isn’t connecting with the modern-day world and longs to return to his time. She also discovers that if he stays with her his story will cease to exist.

Can she send him back, knowing he’ll take her heart along with him? Can she deprive the world of his story? How can she do that to those looking for their Champion - the perfect hero?

This second story will center around Rapunzel...

Once upon a time…
The time had come for Princess Arabella to find a husband—or so her parents tell her. The shy and somewhat clumsy, Prince Ormond from a neighboring kingdom, is a contender. Arabella knows she’ll never fall in love with him much less accept him as a husband. And yet… seemingly in a spit second, she changes her mind.
Ryder Grey has known Arabella since childhood and cannot understand the sudden change from the girl he once adored, to the woman he sees now. How can she be in love with the meek Prince Ormond? Ryder begins to investigate and discovers that a reclusive witch has Arabella is under a spell.
When Arabella’s childhood friend begins to interfere with her budding romance with Prince Ormond, she takes action and locks Ryder in a little known tower in the forest until she and Ormond can marry.
Forgotten in the tower by all but the rats can Ryder enchant Arabella and break the sinister spell? His chances do not look favorable.

I want to thank the best cover artist in the world...Sheri McGathy. And for the greatest website out there that's devoted to finding wonderful models and dressing them up to look like people from the past - Period Images!

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Worth Fighting For

I'm so excited about my next release. "Worth Fighting For" will be in a set with other authors. I'm with these authors in another set of stories about the Duke of Danby, and I'm thrilled to be with them again.

Worth Fighting For

Copyright © 2015 by Marie Higgins
Cover Design by Sheri McGathy


Turkey 1816

 Thieves came in many different forms.
Captain Barrington Braxton stepped to the side of his tent by the crates in the marketplace and folded his arms, his gaze zeroing in on the pretty little thief not far from him. He smoothed his finger and thumb along his mustache and beard as he arched an eyebrow in critical assessment of the thief. In his line of work, he knew the lovely crooks were the most dangerous. The girl was slim, and dressed in the plain brown rags the ruffians wore here in Selcuk. Innocence was the expression on her face as she watched his shop.
Chuckling to himself, he shook his head. Apparently, she was a skilled performer as well to make herself appear innocent. Out of all the thieves he had run across in the five years he’d been in the trading business, not one of them could pull off the innocent act—but this one certainly acted as if she didn’t know what she was doing. Perhaps that was why she’d caught Barry’s attention so quickly.
However, he had to give her credit. She was good. At least her wide-eye expression of interest appeared sincere as she scoped out the expensive artifacts in his little tent-covered shop. But deep down in his gut, he knew something was not quite right about her.
The evening’s dim light didn’t allow him to see the color of her eyes, but they were certainly curious as they darted from person to person who stood at his tent, then to the items for sale. Her dark brown locks spilled from beneath the veil covering her hair, and tumbled over her shoulders. Strange, but her face wasn’t covered that well, either. Most of the women he’d seen in this foreign land had the lower halves of their faces covered with a veil, and all of their hair.
She moved from her spot near one of the wagons and slowly approached his tent. His crew had helped construct this shop as they sold their merchandise this past week. The servant’s stare switched to his first mate, Jeffrey Smithers, as the man explained to another buyer where they had purchased the Oriental vases and other rugs being sold.
Barry waited for the girl to make her move, anticipating the moment she’d try to be sneaky, yet she still acted as though she were more enthralled with his first mate’s tale than with stealing anything.
The girl stepped closer. Not more than three feet away from her was a ten-inch golden statue of Pegasus. If she tried to steal that expensive artifact, Barry would tackle her right in front of everyone. He crept away from the crates, nearing the girl just in case she slipped something of value beneath her long skirts.
A few more buyers gathered around Jeffrey, listening to his first mate’s extravagant storytelling. The thief continued moving closer as though mesmerized. Would she indeed steal it, or was it her purpose to knock the statue over and break it to just take a few pieces of the gold?
Barry wouldn’t let her carry on with this innocent act any longer. His costly statue was at stake. She was within reach, and he wouldn’t allow her to accomplish her goal.
Just as the girl leaned an inch closer to the statue, he grasped her upper arm and pulled her back. She gasped, stumbled, but quickly righted herself before looking up at him. Her head veil slipped down to her neck, displaying more of her glorious mane of dark brown hair. Her eyes appeared to be blue, and very frightened. Up this close, she didn’t resemble a girl any longer, but a beautiful young woman.
“Are you addled?” he asked. “Can you not see where you are going?”
She remained silent; only her quick breath was heard. Her gaze traveled over his face, his eyes, his nose, then down to his groomed mustache and beard before her cheeks reddened. Her throat lurched in a swallow when she continued her exploration down to his chest.
Women had examined him like a prized horse before, but none so boldly. He rather liked her inspection until he realized she might be doing this to divert his attention from the matter at hand.
Perhaps she didn’t speak English. “Answer me,” he demanded in her country’s own language. “Or are you, indeed, addled?”
A spark of awareness snapped into her eyes—which he now could see were azure like the bluest body of water he’d ever sailed across—before she blinked a couple of times and lifted her gaze to his.
She shook her head. “I, sir, am not addled. I can hear and understand you very clearly,” she said in fluent English, sounding just as British as he was.
It wasn’t very often he met a servant who could speak two languages. “Then why are you staring at me like a person gone daft?”
She lifted her chin in defiance. With a tug of her arm, she tried pulling away, but he refused to let go.
“I assure you, I am not daft. You took me by surprise, which is why I was speechless for a few moments.”
Barry grumbled and pointed to Pegasus. “You could have knocked over that expensive statue, and I’m certain you don’t have the funds to pay for it.” He slid his gaze over her servants’ attire before adding, “In fact, I’m certain your master cannot even afford anything I sell.”
“Forgive me. I didn’t see—”
“I said I was sorry.”
“Next time, watch where you walk. Stick to the shops your master can afford.”
She scrunched her face in a scowl. Defiance shown in her expression. Irritated, he pulled her forward, bringing her face closer to his. A soft scent of roses enveloped him. What’s this? A sweet-smelling thief? Impossible!
“Unless, of course, you were not going to pay for the item.”
She gasped again, her eyes growing wider. “How dare you insinuate—”
“Be forewarned, I’m watching you closely. You shall not steal from me. So go lurk someplace else.”
Since he said what he’d wanted, he released her with a shove. She stumbled backward, but thankfully, not to cause destruction to nearby shops.
Feeling victorious, he turned to leave but was surprised when there was a tap on his shoulder. He swung around and met the persistent stance of the young woman, arms folded across her chest; her gaze held more authority this time. What was her game now?
“I beg your pardon, but it’s none of your concern where I choose to lurk.”
Her words stunned him, mainly because they came from a servant. He wanted to grin, but refused to show the playful emotion. The petite woman was brave to challenge a man of his stature. He stood taller than any of his crew by a few inches, and he’d been a ship’s captain for five years. Strange that she’d want to defy him. He’d play along just to see how far she would take this.
“Indeed? It’s not my concern?” he asked, almost dumbfounded.
“Yes. And it’s none of your concern how much or how little you think my master has.”
Could his eyes open any wider? This female amazed him and left him speechless. Usually women in this country didn’t speak what was on their mind, especially in front of a man. Surprising, but this woman actually fascinated him. He waited for her to say more; curious to what would roll off her tongue next.
She tilted her head, keeping her gaze fixed on him. “Are you now the one who is addled? Is your voice not working?” She displayed a victorious grin.
He shook his head and stepped closer. “I’m not accustomed to women servants talking to me as if I’m beneath them. I thought women in this country were meek and obedient.” He grasped her arms, tightening his grip to make certain the little hellcat didn’t escape. “So I think you should take me now to your master so I can tell him about your disrespect for those above your station.”
Color left her face, leaving it ashen. She struggled in his hold. “Please, unhand me. I’m not your property.” The tone of her demand quaked slightly.
“Not until I talk to your master.”
“Please, release me.” Her words came soft, pleading. “I shall be obedient from now on.”
He wanted to laugh over her expression this time. Her eyes begged him to obey her wishes, her long, sooty lashes batting in a steady rhythm. She was very good at this. But he wouldn’t relent.
When she lowered her head and her shoulders wilted, he grinned. The battle was over. He almost wished she hadn’t given in so soon. Thinking he didn’t have to fight her any longer, he loosened his grip. Within seconds, her foot snaked out from underneath her long skirt and kicked him in the shin. Pain shot up his leg and he yelped. He released her to cradle his injured limb. The petite woman had more power to her kick than he would have imagined.
She darted past him. He reached out the grab her, but she was too fast. The little minx raced through the crowd, dodging people on her way.
Cursing, he started out after her, but his blasted limp slowed him down. He wasn’t an easy man to injure, but she must have known right where to kick his shin to make it burn so badly.
With each step, she ran further and further away, darting in and out of tents, avoiding running into carts of fruit and vegetables for sale in the marketplace.
He followed her path, but soon he couldn’t see. There weren’t any signs of where she’d disappeared. With a loud grumble, he leaned down and rubbed the spot still smarting from her strong foot. The woman had tricked him. Obviously, she’d done this sort of thing before. And what an attitude she had!

Watch book trailer -

Buy links for books -
The Duke's Christmas Greetings, Nook - http://bit.ly/1FqetNq
The Duke's Christmas Greetings, Amazon - http://amzn.to/1PlGWUS
The Duke's Christmas Tidings, Nook - http://bit.ly/1FqeHUO
The Duke's Christmas Tidings, Amazon - http://amzn.to/1YwK8U0
The Duke's Christmas Tidings, Apple - http://apple.co/1Wlms2F
The Duke's Christmas Summons, Nook - http://bit.ly/1Kx8P8h
The Duke's Christmas Summons, Amazon - http://amzn.to/1JlMgT2
The Duke's Christmas Summons, Apple - http://apple.co/1VbIE27

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Here is what I'm working on...

While my story "Stealing the Duchess" (expanded version) is in the process of seeing if it'll win a writing contest, I'll be working on my next release, "With You Forever". (Thanks to Sheri McGathy for a great book cover - and for Period Images for the wonderful models!)

I've decided to add names of some of my FB friends to this story. Tim, Kim, Garrett, Marsha, Connie, and Cynthia will be minor characters in this American Historical Romance.

I thought I'd let you read the first chapter... (aren't I nice?)

Copyright © 2015 by Marie Higgins
New York, 1889

Marry me and be mine forever? Had he really just said those words?
Gnashing his teeth, Christopher Morgan stormed down the steps of the fancy porch wrapped around an even fancier house that bordered one of the best flower gardens in Hempstead. The white with green trim, two-story, home had large windows, and stood out as if advertising its wealth. When he’d first seen this place several months ago, he wanted a chance to look inside. Now that he had been inside, he wished he’d never stepped foot on their polished-to-perfection walnut-wooded floors.
What had he been thinking a moment ago, asking Rosanna Townley to marry him? Obviously, he’d lost his mind at some time during the last three months. Knowing a woman for that length of time certainly didn’t qualify her for marriage.
Anger mixed with the sting from his damaged heart, as his mind whirled in confusion like a stubborn tornado in Texas. He still couldn’t believe Rosanna had rudely refused his offer of marriage. Her excuse; he just wasn’t good enough for her or her family. Chris’ profession as a school teacher wasn’t sufficient, and the house he’d built with his own hands certainly hadn’t impressed her. It was a good thing he found out about her now instead of after they were married.
He stormed across the yard and away from the white-picket fence surrounding Rosanna’s elaborate home. The scent of roses and daffodils tickled Chris’ nose as he walked past the flower garden. Never again would he think about flowers without remembering Rosanna. He’d never forgive her for that.
The noise from the hustle of the busy town tried to crowd his thoughts, but he couldn’t stop hearing Rosanna’s rejection ring through his ears. The salary you make will not keep me in the lifestyle to which I’m accustomed. Unless you’ll agree to work with my father in his bank, I cannot marry you.
Misery flowed through him like a waterfall, drowning out any happiness he’d once had. The sweet fragrance of the daffodils he’d given her had surrounded him, and her beautiful eyes had beckoned him to stay and agree, but he wouldn’t relent. He had his honor...or would have as soon as he could sweep up the pieces of his shattered heart.
The commotion of horse’s hooves on the road and the shout of a woman brought his mind back to reality. Coming straight for him was a one-horse buggy. The lady driver tugged on the reins as she tried to steer the horse away from him.
As he eyed the out-of-control horse, white-hot terror surged through him. Jumping as hard as he could, he moved out of her way before horse and vehicle could plow into him. He landed and fell to his knees. He rolled across the patch of dirt at the edge of the sidewalk.
A loud grumble from the woman in the buggy drew his attention toward the irritable female as she stopped the horse. Her irritation was so piercing he was certain the bystanders up the street could hear her displeasure as she climbed down from the vehicle. Marching toward him, her skirt swished around her legs in rhythm with her quick steps. She stopped above him, planted her hands on her hips, and narrowed her gaze. The sunlight emphasized her petite waistline. Her green blouse contrasted with her azure eyes and made them stand out.
“You imbecile,” she ground out in an aristocratic British accent. She swept back the large ostrich feathers on her hat that had fallen in her face. Wisps of her brownish-blonde hair curled around her ears. “Could you not see where you were walking, Sir?”
He rolled his eyes. Wonderful. Here stood another high and mighty aristocrat whose sole purpose was to criticize him. She and Rosanna must be related somehow, either that or all women of higher class must have received the same instruction on how to treat a commoner. Why else would he run into two women this judgmental in one day?
Slowly, he rose to his feet and brushed the dust from his trousers. He wiped his sleeve across his dirt-caked lips, cleared his throat, and faced her. Although his thoughts filled quickly with malicious words to say, he held them back from rolling off his tongue. After all, he was a well-respected school teacher. He couldn’t let her ignite his temper now. “Please forgive me, Miss. I didn’t see you coming.”
“Clearly, Sir, since you were walking with your head in the clouds. I cannot believe you stepped in front of my horse. Pray, what were you thinking, or were you thinking at all?” She shook her head. “Why don’t you people realize there are others on the road who might be in a hurry?”
Rage filled him, greater now than it had when he’d left Rosanna’s house. Something inside of him snapped. He didn’t care about his reputation as the school teacher at this particular moment. How dare she treat him like the mud she’d scraped from her fancy boots?
In two strides, he stood in front of her, bent slightly to her level, and scowled. Her eyes widened and she gasped, but he didn’t withdraw. He had something to say and he wouldn’t leave until it was said.
“And why don’t you people stop thinking you own the world?” He took a deep breath, fury hissing between his stiff lips. “Isn’t it enough that you turn up your aristocratic noses at those of us beneath your class?” He motioned his hand toward her vehicle. “Good grief, woman, you could have killed me. And have you forgotten that I did apologize? Are my words so difficult for Your Highness to accept?”
Long, brown lashes fluttered as she blinked, and her mouth remained open so wide she’d catch wasps if she weren’t careful. He was certain the stings from the insects wouldn’t be as fierce as her tongue.
A gasp escaped her. “How dare you—”
He threw back his head as a laugh exploded from his throat, although humor was the furthest thing from his mind. “Oh, believe me, Your Highness, I dare quite a bit, especially today.” He straightened his hat on his head and lifted his chin.
She stomped her foot. “You dare accuse me of being arrogant, and yet there you are pretending to act like Prince Regent himself.”
He gritted his teeth, trying to keep from spouting his temper any further. Unfortunately, he’d picked the wrong day to practice his patience. “If I had been the prince, I’m sure you wouldn’t have tried to run me over.”
One of her eyebrows arched. “The prince wouldn’t have been foolish enough to wander into the road without looking.”
As he stared into her azure eyes, ablaze with fury right now, he couldn’t pass the opportunity to rebuke the undeniable challenge she silently communicated through her glare.
“How many times do I have to apologize? Can’t you see that you are over-reacting?”
“Ha!” She placed her gloved fingers over her mouth. Shock registered in her wide-eyes. “Oh, please, Sir. If anyone is over-reacting, it is you.”
“Why? Because people like me cannot possible be right?”
She rolled her eyes. “You are intolerable.”
He bunched his hands by his sides. The longer he studied this haughty woman, the more he hated himself for thinking that she was actually lovely. For a brief moment, he tried to picture what she’d look like without the deep lines of anger around her mouth and on her forehead. He was certain her eyes would be much prettier without the blaze shooting from them.
Mentally, he shook out those ridiculous thoughts. For certain, something was not right in his head today. Perhaps all of this was his fault. First starting with proposing marriage to a woman who would never think he was good enough, and ending with this hoity-toity woman who irritated him in the worst way.
Taking a deep breath, he slowly exhaled, trying to calm his ire. “Once again, forgive me for disturbing you and your horse as you raced down the street without a care in the world. Now if you’ll excuse me, I must be on way before I dare say something else and put you people in your place again. Good day, Your Highness.”
He swung away from her and continued marching toward the Country Market where he’d tied his horse earlier to buy some fresh flowers before asking for a certain woman’s hand in marriage. Now he wished he’d never gotten out of bed this morning. Nothing he did had worked out so far today…and it wasn’t even noon yet.
The quicker he could leave this area, the better. The faster he could forget about women in general, the more he could concentrate on the true purpose for which he traveled to this godforsaken state. For some reason destiny had led him here to be a school teacher. Hopefully, he’d discover why exactly destiny had chosen that path for him, because the idea to high-tail it back to Texas looked brighter and brighter as the day moved on.

* * *

If Christopher didn’t cease his daydreaming soon, catastrophe would strike in his classroom. It always did whenever he let his mind wander.
The rain tinkling against the window and drizzling down the glass lulled him into relaxation, and the gentle rhythm was too soothing for him to pull away. It’d been a while since he felt this at ease. It’d taken nearly three months for his battered heart to return to normal after Rosanna Townley’s rejection. Although his heart would never be normal again, especially when it came to the upper class woman.
Leaning his shoulder against the wall, he stared outside. The solemn mood created comfort. He wished he could close his eyes and enjoy without having a worry in the world. His class, remarkably quiet for this time of day, gave him a moment to himself. This didn’t happen very often with his students. It must be the dreary clouds darkening the room, the gentle pitter-patter of the rain as the wind blew against the windows, and the soft crackle of breaking wood of the low fire in the potbelly stove in the middle of the room.
He’d given his class a reading assignment. Since he didn’t want to fall asleep in his own chair, he moved to the window to stand. A draft of cooler air touched his arms, and brushed his face. He needed the chilly temperature right now to appease his raw nerves.
To take his mind off his troubles, he turned his attention to the class and stopped his gaze on one student in particular. Immediately, he clenched his teeth. Chris didn’t normally overreact when dealing with an unruly child, but ten-year-old Billy Spencer would never be considered a normal child. His thin frame slumped over his desk with the book brought upright in front of his face. The lad’s curly light-brown hair waved around his ears and his locks brushed against the collar of his shirt. Although Chris couldn’t see the boy’s face, his haughty smirk would always be branded in Chris’ mind, and Billy’s high-pitched mocking laugh would continue to ring through his ears.
Chris had been teaching in New York for a few years, but only three months in this particular school. The children were from a wealthier class of people, and he’d learned quickly these students didn’t believe they should behave. Usually, he handled them with firmness. Each day Chris counted the minutes until time to return home, and dreaded the hours until school started the following day. He also prayed he would find a solution to solving this problem with Billy.
From up the street, a horse and buggy pulled to the closest building near the school. Mr. Peebly was making his daily delivery, taking eggs to the bakery. Chris’s heart lightened and he smiled. In the two years he’d been in town, there were certain people he’d learned to count on. Mr. Peebly was one of them. The reed thin man and his portly wife were the first ones to greet Chris and his mother after they had moved in. Benjamin was a hardworking man who had a genuine love and concern for everyone.
As Mr. Peebly climbed out of his buggy and stacked cartons of eggs in his arms, Chris switched his attention to the store the man would soon be entering. Immediately, his attention fell to the clump of grass and twigs on the base of the wooden steps. Chris’ breath caught in his throat and his chest clenched.
The familiar grassy nest of hidden briars had been Billy’s favorite trap. Chris bunched his hands into fists, his teeth grinding. Since he’d been unfortunate enough to be the recipient of Billy’s tainted humor, Chris knew the lad’s contraption quite well.
He yanked away from the window and stormed across the wooden floor, his footsteps echoing with each step toward the cloakroom. As he grabbed his jacket off the coat hook on the wall, he stumbled over the balls, ropes, and outdoors toys the children were supposed to have put away.
Growling under his breath, he cautiously sprinted over them and opened the door. The wind caught him full force and he blinked against the swirling wet leaves and debris. His arms went up to shield against the weather’s elements, as he rushed down the stairs.
If Mr. Peebly didn’t see the trap, the man would lose more than his dignity as he fell to the ground. His daily earnings would also be ruined. Chris quickened his step toward the front of the schoolhouse. His foot landed in a patch of mud, making him slip. Flaying his arms, he searched for the brick building to hold him upright. After getting his bearings, he straightened and proceeded to warn Benjamin Peebly.
“Mr. Peebly,” he called out as he rounded the corner.  “Stop—”
His call came too late. Cartons of eggs blocked the older man’s view of the ground as his foot flattened on Billy’s trap and the barbs hidden within. With a jerk, Mr. Peebly withdrew. The stack of eggs in his arms teetered, as did the thin man.
Chris ran, reaching out to help, but he was too far away. The older man yelped and hopped on one foot, the cartons of eggs obviously forgotten as they flew through the air. Mr. Peebly swayed and slipped on the wet grass behind him, landing on his backside. Within seconds, the eggs landed on him, breaking and coating his head and body with their gooey yolks.
Squeezing his eyes closed, Chris released a ragged sigh and threaded his fingers through his hair. That was it! Billy Spencer needed to be stopped one way or another.
Groans from the man on the ground pulled Chris from his seething thoughts. Mr. Peebly’s wide eyes met Chris. The older man shook his head as liquid swam in his gaze, his lower lip quivering.
Chris hurried to him and held out his hand. “Mr. Peebly, I’m extremely sorry. I wish I had reached you sooner.”
“Wh—what happened? What did I step on?” The other man’s eyes darted around the walkway.
“You stepped on Billy Spencer’s briar trap, I’m afraid.” He sighed. “I have been the recipient of that prank numerous times.” He knelt on one knee and gathered a few eggshells. “Here, let me help you.”
“Nonsense, Mr. Morgan.” Benjamin wiped the dripping yolk from his face and smiled. “You have a classroom of children to attend to. I’ll be fine.”
Laughter from the schoolhouse chimed through the air, frustrating Chris that much more. He glanced over his shoulder toward the building. The children had gathered at the windows, their faces aglow, and fingers pointed toward the scene.
Benjamin stood and continued to swipe the yolk and shells from his clothes. Chris withdrew his billfold from his pocket. “Tell me how much this incident has set you back.”
The older man’s gaze met his with tears glistening in his eyes. “Not to worry, Mr. Morgan. All will be fine.”
“But this wasn’t your fault.”
Benjamin shrugged. “Neither was it yours.” He shooed him with his hands. “Go back to your classroom and try to teach sense to those heathens.”
Chris chuckled. “Try is the operative word, I believe. It’ll take a miracle for me to teach them anything.”
As he stomped back toward the school, anger grew within him. He tightened his lips and hoped he’d be able to control his words and actions when talking to that boy. If not, Billy Spencer was in big trouble. This time, he wouldn’t hold back on contacting his parents.
Before heading back inside, he kicked his boots against the steps, trying to loosen the mud coating his soles. When that didn’t work, he yanked them off and set them inside the door, then stormed into the classroom in stocking feet.
Immediately, the air clouded with smoke and tickled his nose. He waved his hand in front of his face and coughed. Something was on fire!
His heart dropped as he hurried across the room. Billy and Nathaniel stood by the potbelly stove, shoving papers inside. When their gazes caught his, they threw in the rest of what they held and scrambled to their desks. Giggling throughout the room quickly hushed and the children straightened in their seats.
“What is the meaning of this?” Chris’ voice boomed through the air as he rushed to the stove. A few pages that had just caught the flame showed him what the two boys tried to burn. Tomorrow’s tests. He gritted his teeth. How was he going to handle those two? A willow switch came to mind.
He closed his eyes and breathed slowly, calming his temper. Days like this tested the limits of his patience. Had he made a mistake in answering the call to teach?
Coughs increased in the room and brought him out of his thoughts. He hurried to the nearest window and pushed it open. “Sarah, Beth, and Peter, could you please help me open some windows?”
The three eldest students did as asked. Chris tried to maintain the fire in the stove, bringing it to a normal level of heat. The thick smoke in the room threatened to push them outside and into the rain. The children were unusually silent while they aired out the room, and once the windows were closed and everyone returned to their seats, all eyes switched to him.
All except Billy Spencer’s.
Chris paced the floor like a caged animal, his fingers twisting in his hair. How he would love nothing better than to shake some sense into that boy. Violence wasn’t the solution. Yet the temptation was great.
He stopped at the head of the room and folded his arms. Through narrowed eyes, he studied each child. The older girls sat rigid at their desks, looking like China dolls with their pretty bows and ruffles. Most were sweet and nonjudgmental—nothing like Rosanna Townsley. He’d give them a few more years before they changed.
The boys wore crisp white shirts and brown knickers with suspenders. Their hair slicked back on their head, looking as if they were ready for church. He couldn’t punish them all for Billy’s mistake. It wouldn’t be right.
Taking a deep breath, he lifted his chin. “It’s very unfortunate Billy and Nathaniel thought they had to warm the room with tomorrow’s test, because I must admit, it was the easiest test I’d planned so far this year.”
Moans of dejection filled the room. Chris tried not to grin as he continued. “I suppose I’ll have to write another test tonight, which I fear will be more complicated due to my irritation over Billy and Nathaniel’s carelessness.” He shrugged. “Either that or I could fail you all.”
Once again, a round of grumbles arose in the schoolroom.
“That’s not fair, Mr. Morgan,” Beth, the oldest girl in class spoke up, a frown marring her face. “After all, it was Billy and Nate who burned the test. You should give them the harder test.”
He walked to his desk and leaned back on the edge, crossing one ankle over the other. “Beth, you do have a point.” He scratched his chin. “But I don’t have time to write two tests before tomorrow.”
The blonde girl’s eyes widened, as did her smile. “I could help.”
He arched an eyebrow. “Pardon me?”
She pointed to the girl sitting next to her. “And Sarah can help. We’ll make up Billy and Nate’s test and you can make ours.”
Chris nibbled on the corner of his mouth, trying to appear as if he were contemplating instead of holding back a grin.
“No.” Billy jumped up from his seat, his red face making his freckles dim in comparison. “That’s not fair, either. I know you, Beth, and you’ll give me harder questions.”
She smirked. “Of course I will. Maybe next time you’ll think twice about burning our tests.”
Billy stomped his foot. “Mr. Morgan, that’s not fair,” he whined.
Chris held up his hands in mock surrender. “I don’t know, Billy. It’s either that or everyone will be given a zero. I think you’ll keep more friends with Beth’s suggestion.”
Nods of approval circled the students, only Nathaniel and Billy shook their heads. Chris clapped his hands and stood. “The vote is unanimous. Tomorrow Billy and Nathaniel will take the test made up by Sarah and Beth, and the rest of you will take the test I prepare.” Chris scratched his chin. “Now, that solves one problem.” He focused on Billy. “What are you doing to do about the other?”
“What do you mean?” Billy asked.
“I mean Mr. Peebly’s eggs. They are all ruined, Billy. He lost money today because of your prank, and this kind of thing cannot go unpunished.”
Billy’s bottom lip stuck out in a dramatic pout as the boy crossed his arms over his chest.
“I think,” Chris continued, “Billy needs to learn how much time and effort goes into getting the eggs ready in the morning.” A few snickers echoed in the room, but he kept his glare on Billy. “So tomorrow morning, bright and early, Billy should go to Mr. Peebly’s farm and help with the chores.”
The boy’s eyes widened and his jaw drop. Red blotches darkened his cheeks. “I will not!”
Chris moved away from his desk and towered over Billy. “Yes you will, and I will pick you up in the morning and take you there personally.”
Fire shot out of Billy’s eyes. He jumped to his feet and met Chris’ glare. “You can’t make me. There’s no way I’m going to go to a farm and do their chores.”
Chris reached out to grab the boy’s arm, but Billy pushed past him and darted out of the room. Within minutes, the door to the schoolhouse slammed shut.
Slowly counting to ten, Chris cooled his anger. He’d deal with Billy later when he spoke to the boy’s parents.
The rest of the day passed quickly, and before he knew it, the end of the school day was upon them. Chris couldn’t wait to breathe peacefully again and to think with a clear head. The children emptied the schoolhouse quickly, and as he corrected assignments, his thoughts wondered back to Mr. Peebly and the loss of his eggs. Chris still wanted to pay the man for what he’d been cheated. Perhaps he’d think of another way to give the older man the money.
Chris shook his head. Unfortunately, money wouldn’t stop Billy Spencer. That boy needed a good scolding, but it should come from Mr. and Mrs. Spencer, not the school teacher. Working at the farm might be good for Billy. Unfortunately, Chris would have to hog-tie and drag that boy there in the morning, and his parents would probably be after him with a shotgun, too.
It didn’t matter. Billy couldn’t get away with this.
Grumbling, Chris pushed away from his desk and stood. It was time to pay Billy Spencer’s parents a visit. 
As he shrugged on his duster, he remembered the rumors he’d heard about the boy’s family. Apparently, Billy’s great-grandfather had designed a man’s coat that was the rage in England several years past, and the jacket soon turned into a woman’s garment that was worn by nearly every women in fashion. The old man had been one of the richest men in England, so Billy and his family were now heirs.
Chris didn’t think money should be the reason a child was disobedient and disrespectful to the school teacher and to others less fortunate.
He wandered through the room to lock the windows and close the curtains before he left. Across the small field in back of the schoolhouse, Mrs. Krause’s piano sang to life as she taught singing lessons to the children of the community. The student practicing at this hour had a beautiful voice, almost angelic. It reminded him of back home when the women of the nearest church choir sang praises every Sunday.
He diffused the lamps then stepped into the straightened cloakroom. His boots remained by the door, less muddy than they’d been earlier this morning since he’d had time this afternoon to remove the dirt. Once he slipped into them, he walked toward the door. Just as he opened it, a luster of light from the descending sun nearly blinded him, and a whirlwind of silk and lace knocked into him, taking his breath away. A lilac scent accompanied the bundle and wafted from her hair.
The motion tilted him off balance, as it did the lady who’d run into him. He grasped her shoulders to keep her from teetering to the ground. After the initial whoosh of air from her throat, she pulled back enough to look into his eyes. The glowing sun silhouetted her head perfectly, giving her what looked to be a halo circling her fancy hat. Singing from the neighboring house drifted through the air once again.
Heavens had opened and angels sang...

He shook his head to clear out the ridiculous thought. It hadn’t happened with Rosanna Townley, so why would it happen with a total stranger? 

Sunday, August 9, 2015

What I'm working on...

The book I'd written for the multi-author boxed set "Sweet Summer Kisses" is getting an overhaul. Well, to be more precise, I'm expanding the story. When I wrote "Stealing the Duchess" I knew it would have to be short, sweet, and to the point, because all the stories in "Sweet Summer Kisses" were novellas. Here, pretty soon, the boxed set will no longer be available for purchase, and so I'm going to add more to my story and turn it into a novel. (I'm halfway there already!)

I've decided to let you read chapter one. Enjoy!

When Julian Stratford seeks out to steal the duchess as an act of revenge, he mistakenly steals the wrong sister—a wallflower, no less. As they work together to try and solve the mystery, they soon discover that not only are their lives in danger, but so are their hearts. 

Stealing the Duchess
Copyright © 2015 by Marie Higgins

Cover Design by Sheri McGathy

Chapter One

North Devon, England, 1812

Heavy footsteps creaked on the warped floor in the hallway, and the terrifying sound pierced right through her. Clutching the saber in her shaky hands, she stood behind the closed door in her bedchambers. She would not let them take her without a fight. It didn’t matter that her heartbeat pounded so fast she could scarcely breathe, or that her limbs shook hard enough to break her bones, she was determined to win.
Mr. Woodland—the handsome man she’d met yesterday—was to blame for the turmoil currently surrounding her, she just knew it. He’d been too charming, too sweet, and had literally swept her off her feet. She’d always known how to talk to men, but this man had seemed out of her area of expertise for some reason. Now she surmised his purpose. He’d wanted to get close to her…but for what, she wished she knew.
Why hadn’t she seen his trickery through his sugar-coated words? Never again would she trust a man who charmed easily and could sweep her mind into oblivion. But now it was too late. She feared for her own safety.
The wind outside whipped around the small cottage where she’d lived since she was a child, but tonight, the sound did not comfort her. Every member of her family was dead, killed by the murderous hand of the man who’d captivated her so abruptly.
For certain, she was next.
Alexandria Templeton stared at the passage she’d just written and nibbled on her bottom lip. As she thought about the plot—or what she’d plotted so far—this passage didn’t make much sense. Why had the woman’s family died? And more importantly, why was this man, Mr. Woodland, trying to kill off her heroine?
Alexandria set her quill down on the desk and blew out a frustrated breath between her lips. Once again, she’d started a story before she had time to really think about what was going to happen to her characters, and why. Hadn’t she learned by now not to write before she was ready? In the four years she’d been writing stories, she should have learned this lesson by now.
Then again, she knew why she hadn’t learned the lesson yet. Writing was her retreat from reality. Every day she couldn’t wait to enter her own little world and create characters the way she wanted, making them do the things she wanted them to do. It was what she enjoyed. What she loved completely.
Closing her eyes, she stretched her neck and rolled her head from side to side, releasing the tension building in her muscles. As she fluttered her eyelids open, she gazed out the nearest window. The sky was so blue, and from the closest tree that stood so still, it was obvious there wasn’t a late-spring wind in the air today, either. This would be the perfect weather to ride her horse, Buttercup.
She scooted her chair away from the desk and stood. She placed the lid on her inkwell and the quill back in its cup before hurrying to change into her riding habit. Galloping around the estate on days like this really cleared her head and made her think better. Especially when working on her next mystery novel. One day someone would notice her writings and want to publish them, but until then, she would keep reaching for her dream.
She donned her riding habit with the lavender short-waist jacket, black skirt, and matching hat. Fitting her hands into the purple gloves, she left her room. As she walked down the hall, the door to her sister’s room opened and out stepped Alexandria’s brother-in-law, Martin Hinsdale, newly appointed Duke of Linden. A frown creased his expression as he dug his slender fingers in his bushy blonde hair and scratched his head.
Her heart squeezed with emotion. Her sister must still be quite ill. Her brother-in-law had worn that expression for the last five days. She prayed nothing life-threatening was wrong with her sister, and yet Martin wouldn’t keep Alexandria informed as she wished to be, and he wouldn’t allow her to visit Joanna, either.
Martin lifted his head and his gaze locked with Alexandria’s. His glare pierced right through her as he gave her a nod and proceeded up the hall. She had never seen him smile except when he gazed upon her sister. It was too bad he didn’t do more of that because he was a better looking man when he was happy.
She really wished he would talk to her more. It irritated her that he was so secretive about her sister’s condition. Bunching her hands into fists, she grumbled under her breath. This time, she wouldn’t let him stop her from seeing her sister…even if she had to sneak behind his back to do it.
Taking slow steps, she waited for him to disappear into his study and close the door. Quickly, she turned and hurried to her sister’s bedchamber. She opened the door slowly, hoping the hinges wouldn’t squeak like the door to her bedroom did. Thankfully, no sound came. As she stepped into the room, she held her breath and waited for the floorboards to groan as they did in her own chambers. Once again, she was relieved when silence greeted her.
Joanna lay on her bed, her arms resting outside of the many blankets covering her, displaying a pink gown with a ruffled neckline, fluffy sleeves, and pink ribbons around the wrists. Joanna’s blonde hair—a shade darker than Alexandria’s—was braided and hung over her left shoulder as frays of hair came out of the style. Her pale face contrasted greatly with her gown.
No candles lit the room, but a small amount of light glimmered through the curtains on the windows, bringing in a small amount of brightness. She moved her gaze from the bed to the other furnishings; the armoires, two tables, two sofas, and three Persian rugs. Her sister had such lovely, expensive furniture. Although, Alexandria and Joanna had never suffered poverty as children, they were not used to seeing such luxuries as what was in this estate. Martin made certain his wife was happy—and made to look like a queen. Too bad Joanna didn’t look like one now. In fact, she nearly resembled someone who was on her deathbed.
Alexandria frowned, hating to see her older sister this way. Taking soft steps so as not to awaken her, she crept to the bed and stopped beside it. Carefully, she placed her hand over Joanna’s. Startled, her sister’s body jerked and her eyes flew open, her gaze landing on Alexandria. Within seconds, a tired smile touched her sister’s lips.
“Xandria, you have finally come.”
“Oh, dear,” Alexandria panicked. “I didn’t mean to wake you.”
“Nonsense.” Joanna slowly shook her head. “I have wanted to see you.”
“Indeed? Then why was your husband keeping me away?”
“He was? Are you certain?”
“Of course, I’m certain. He specifically instructed me not to come into your bedchamber and disturb you.”
“When did he say that?” Joanna’s eyebrows creased.
“On the first day you became ill.”
Joanna chuckled lightly, but Alexandria could tell her sister struggled to do this.
“Oh, Xandria, he probably meant you shouldn’t disturb me on that particular day. I’m getting better, I assure you. If you had only said something to him, I believe he would have allowed you to visit me.”
“Don’t be too certain about that,” Alexandria mumbled as she rolled her eyes. Although her sister had only been married a little over six months, Alexandria knew her brother-in-law’s mood swings and how uncommunicative he was.
Joanna lifted her hand, placed it over Alexandria’s, and gently squeezed. “You need not be shy with him, my dear. He’s your brother-in-law, not a stranger off the street.” She took a ragged breath and cleared her throat. “I realize you are reluctant to talk to men, but Martin is different. Truly, I wish you would think of him as family.”
Alexandria would rather not. Besides, if she had to think of him as family, why didn’t he think of her the same way? Not once did he try to go out of his way to talk to her or get to know her. “I shall try,” she answered in a soft voice.
“Oh, Xandria, please don’t fret. If only you would talk to men the way the characters in your stories do, then you wouldn’t be considered a wallflower. For once, you need to put yourself in your character’s role and talk to a man.” Her grin lifted one side of her mouth higher than the other. “I think you would be surprised how easy it is.”
Alexandria shrugged. “Perhaps that is the reason I enjoy writing so much. It’s because I can be a different person in my stories.”
“Just pretend you are one of your heroines. I’m sure that would work.”
“Yes, perhaps.” Alexandria took a deep breath and slowly released it. “So tell me, are you truly feeling better? You are not just saying that to calm my nerves?”
Joanna nodded. “I’m gradually feeling better. The doctor assures me I shall be out of bed by next week.”
“I hope so. I do miss our talks.”
Joanna’s gaze skimmed over Alexandria’s attire and she arched an eyebrow. “Are you going riding?”
Alexandria patted her high neck collar. “Yes. I was on my way when I saw your husband leave the room. That’s when I decided to sneak in and see you.”
“Are you by chance, having problems with your story? Usually you only ride when this happens.”
Alexandria chuckled. “You know me so well.”
“Indeed, I do.” Joanna’s eyelids drooped and she yawned. “Go and ride now so I can rest. Return to me tonight. I’ll be stronger then.”
Alexandria bent and kissed her sister on her forehead. Although her heart still twisted with pain seeing her sister in such a weakened condition, she was relieved to have a chance to speak with her. Yet, what was really wrong with her sister? Even Joanna didn’t mention why she was ill.
The moment Alexandria stepped out of the house, the sun hit her face, and she squinted from the brightness. Blinking, she adjusted her vision before proceeding to the stable. Along with Martin’s Dukedom came some fine horses. Several Arabians, a few Shetlands, two Clydesdales, and her favorite—the only Highland pony—Buttercup. Never before had she seen a horse so beautiful. The beige coloring of the animal’s body blended well with the darker brown of her mane.
As she waited for the stable boy to saddle Buttercup, Alexandria glanced out across the estate. Martin was a very fortunate man, indeed, when he inherited such a grand piece of property. The circumstance in which he’d acquired the dukedom wasn’t very fortunate, though, since Martin’s uncle, the Third Duke of Linden, and two cousins—Forbes and Julian Stratford—all died within a few months of each other. The duke and his oldest son, Forbes, died of what was assumed to be the plague, even though it hadn’t struck anyone else on the estate. Julian Stratford, however, died in battle. She’d heard that he had been promoted to a Major only three months before he was killed in the Napoleonic War.
Martin had married Joanna two months before he inherited the dukedom. Thankfully, he also allowed Alexandria to live with them since her parents had died two years hence, and she had no other place to call home.
The sound of floorboards in the stable groaning beneath heavy footsteps nearby shook her from her thoughts. She swung her attention to her brother-in-law as he marched toward her, wearing a stern expression aimed right toward her. “There you are. May I have a word, please?”
Gulping, she nodded and stepped away from the horse toward Martin. Joanna had wanted Alexandria to act like one of the heroines from her stories, but right now, she felt like a coward as she forced herself to face her brother-in-law. Perhaps if he didn’t always look so menacing.
“Yes?” she asked in a squeaked voice.
“I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately, and I’ve decided to find you a husband. You are well past the marrying age, and if we wait any longer, men will not find you a worthy mate. So starting tomorrow, I will be contacting several of my acquaintances to see who would be willing to take you off my hands.”
She inhaled sharply. Clasping her fingers together, she held them against her bosom. Take me off your hands? His rude words stung her just as much as a slap across the face would have. How dare he! Could he truly do something so despicable? Yet, he was her guardian, therefore, he could.
Tears burned behind her eyelids and she blinked to keep them at bay. She dared not show her frustration in front of him. Then again, if she did, it would be the first time in history she’d act like that in front of a man.
“I—I understand,” she answered in a whisper.
“Splendid.” He nodded. “That’s all I wanted to say. You can be about your ride now.” He flipped his hand through the air, turned and marched back toward the house.
Her eyes stung with tears as she hurried back to the horse. The stable boy assisted her on top of Buttercup, and as soon as she grasped the reins, she kicked her heels into the animal’s sides and urged the horse into a run. As she guided the horse away from the house, she allowed the tears to break free and spill down her face until her vision blurred.
Her heart broke to pieces knowing there wasn’t anything her sister could do about this. If Martin wanted Alexandria out of his house and married to one of his acquaintances, it would happen. After all, he was the duke and people would bow to his command.
None of this was fair. She was shy around men, and she always would be, so naturally, she’d not be able to convince them that she would make a good wife…or a bad one. Not only that, she wouldn’t be able to get to know the man before he married her. Therefore, how would she know if she was getting a decent husband or not?
When it became too hard to see, she stopped her horse just inside a group of trees. Leaning her face against Buttercup’s mane, she sobbed harder. What could she do to stop this? What could she possibly say to Martin to make him change his mind? It sounded like he didn’t want the younger sister to his wife living in his house at all.
His words buzzed through her head viciously, churning her stomach. I will be contacting several of my acquaintances to see who would be willing to take you off my hands. Take you off my hands… Off my hands… Her tears fell harder and faster, and she didn’t have the strength to stop them.
From deep inside the cluster of trees came the snort of another horse. Sucking in her breath, she whipped her head toward the direction of the sound. Through a watery vision, she tried searching for the horse, but she couldn’t see well enough. She wiped the moisture from her eyes and tried to search again. Immediately, a man came rushing toward her.
She blinked, doubting what she saw. Before she had time to react, the man’s large hands reached for her waist and gripped her tightly.
“What do you think you’re doing—” she spat, but her breath was ripped from her lungs as he yanked her off from Buttercup.
Thankfully, he didn’t let her drop to the ground. Instead, arms of steel wound around her so tightly it was impossible to wiggle free. She slammed the back of her head against his chest repeatedly, hoping that would make him release her, but it hadn’t. Pain shot through her skull with each blow, so she stopped her blows.
“Let me go,” she cried out, struggling harder.
“I’m sorry, Duchess, but I cannot do that.”
How odd that he’d call her Duchess, yet his tone of voice sounded sarcastic, so perhaps he was saying it to be mean and disrespectful.
He pulled her into the wooded area a little more, and she screamed louder. The sound startled Buttercup, and the horse jumped and ran off. Her heart sank. What in heaven’s name was this man trying to accomplish? She screamed again, but this time her voice sounded hollow and scratchy.
His chest shook with laughter. “You can scream all you want, Duchess, but nobody will hear you. You’re too far away from the house and the stable.”
“What—what do you want with me?” she asked in a hoarse voice.
“You shall soon understand my method of madness. But for now, I need to get you out of here.
Out of here? What did he mean by that?
The man finally stopped dragging her, but it was only to wrap a large woolen horse-blanket around her, covering her head and arms, and then he wound a rope around her arms to secure the covering. She tilted a few times, thinking she’d plummet to the ground, but he continued to hold her and keep her upright.
Before she knew it, he lifted her in his arms and flung her over a horse. As her stomach hit the animal, her breath whooshed from her lungs, but she kept still. She took in deep breaths, trying not to panic. It wouldn’t do her any good anyway. Neither would wiggling. She needed to save her strength for later when she attempted to escape his clutches.
And she would indeed escape.
He mounted behind her and then lifted her effortlessly, adjusting her body to sit on his lap. Her cheeks burned from imagining what she must look like right now, but she pushed the embarrassment aside and concentrated on breathing normally even if terror spun through her body right now and caused her limbs to tremble.
A quick thought skipped through her mind that this would make a great scene in one of her stories. For once she was actually experiencing something she could write about.
Rolling her eyes, she quickly ushered the idea from her head. What was she thinking when it was obvious she was being kidnapped? This wasn’t something she was prepared for, and shy little Alexandria Templeton would never be able to handle this. If the man had friends back at his hideout, how would she be able to communicate with them? Hopefully, there was a woman in his gang of criminals because at least that would give her someone to talk to.
For a little while, she concentrated on the sounds around her and the rhythm of the horse as they rode. She had no idea in what direction they were headed, but she figured they had been riding a good hour already. Nothing sounded familiar at all, yet all she could hear were birds chirping occasionally, and of course, the huffing noise from the horse.
A few times, her eye-lids grew heavy and she was tempted to sleep, but she couldn’t do that. She needed to be alert to whatever was happening to her, and alert to how far they were riding.
After what seemed forever, the horse began to slow. “Whoa, boy,” the man said, his tone deeper than it had been earlier.
She stiffened, preparing for the worst. Hopefully, he wouldn’t hurt her.
He dismounted and kept one hand on her, saving her from tipping over. He lifted her from the animal as if she was a sack of feathers. He set her on her feet, and within seconds, the ropes around her loosened and came off. Next, the blanket was removed.
She blinked against the sudden brightness until her vision adjusted. They were at a small, rundown, cottage out in the middle of nowhere. For a moment, she wondered if anyone lived here, but then she noticed the smoke rising from the broken chimney, and detected the scent of fresh bread coming from within. Her stomach grumbled. How long had it been since she’d last eaten? It couldn’t have been more than two hours, yet, the terror she’d been through since this man took her, made her feel weak and hungry in the worst way.
Duchess, may I present your new castle for the next few days.” He swept his hand toward the cottage and bowed slightly as if he were a humble servant.
She was finally able to get a good look at him. He wore the clothes of one of the stable boys, but he was in no way a boy. His dark brown hair was tousled from riding his horse too fast, and there was a day’s stubble on his face, making his upper lip and around his mouth and chin a charcoal color against his tanned skin. As she’d surmised from being held by him, he was all muscle, from his strong arms to his strong legs.
When she caught herself gawking, she blushed profoundly. Good heavens! This man—her kidnapper, no less—was so very handsome. Devilishly so! But she’d never seen him before in her life. Although, he sure looked a lot like some of the men in her stories.
“You’re probably wondering who I am,” he said.
Her cheeks continued to burn, but she nodded.
“For now, you may call me gray.”
She arched an eyebrow. “Gray—as in the color?”
He rolled his eyes. “No, Grey—as in the man’s name.”
Embarrassment washed over her. She hated feeling stupid, and he sure made her feel that way now. “Fine,” she mumbled.
He grasped her upper arm and led her to the front door, opened it, and shoved her inside. She stumbled, but thankfully, didn’t fall. That, too, would have been humiliating.
The furnishings in this front room were few, and extremely worn. There was only one couch that had once been red and gold, she was certain, but it was frayed around the edges, and sections of the cushion were so badly worn the stuffing was coming out. There was another cushioned chair against the other wall. She had no idea what color it used to be, but it had turned brown over the years. Spots of yellow were littered over it and she wasn’t certain if those splotches were supposed to be there or not. Two regular wooden chairs sat near the fireplace, but they looked so rickety, she didn’t dare sit on them, either.
So many questions ran through her head, and yet she couldn’t ask. It wasn’t her personality to question authority…or question a man about anything, really. Unfortunately, the man named Grey wasn’t supplying her with answers, and curiosity would drive her insane, she was certain.
Her sister’s words echoed through Alexandria’s head. For once, you need to put yourself in your character’s role and talk to a man. I think you’d be surprised how easy it is.
Alexandria’s heartbeat quickened and moisture formed on her palms. Oh, could she really do that? Could she indeed talk to a strange man like her characters did and have the self-confidence she needed?
She glanced at Grey. He’d moved to the fireplace and broke the burning logs with the poker. Indeed, he was powerfully handsome. She could never talk to a man who looked that good. If she were to talk to him, she couldn’t look directly at him. If she met his stare, she’d become tongue-tied for sure.
There was no other way, through her mess, though. She must become one of her characters. The sooner the better.