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Ali's Victory


Escaping a killer, Ali Granger crashes a stolen boat onto a remote harbor island only to be confronted by a two guard dogs and a man with a shotgun. Her terror is compounded when she learns her boss, a medical advocate fighting drug companies, has been murdered. Now she has no choice but to pick up where her boss left off and expose the supplement Antaqx for the addictive, lethal drug it is. 

Ever since Ben Dewey was forced out of the limelight of wrestling entertainment, he's been trying to make amends to Rick, his best friend and partner. When blonde bombshell, Ali Granger, crashes on his doorstep, she brings with her evidence that could help Ben atone for all his personal losses. Can he convince Ali to lose her heart to him before the evil man behind Antaqx knocks them both out of the picture?


A bullet thunked next to her. She yelped and moved faster. A second shot grazed her leg. The sting of pain made her clamp her lips shut. She crouched and ran, making for some low bushes and trees ahead. Finally, some cover from the hovering death above. The helicopter's lights raked the trees at the edge of the shore, then it swung away.

She blew a low breath and swiped at the blood streaking down her leg. She heard shouting and a door banging. There was a huge house lit all around with floodlights. Maybe the owners could help.

Then the guard dogs came bounding toward her.

Snarling and barking, they galloped toward the woods where she hid. A man followed them, walking across the open lawn that separated the shore from the house.

The helicopter circled back. Hovering over the trees, its light played back and forth through the bushes trying to find her. She made a small, pathetic whimper and curled up into a ball. This was it. The end. Which would it be, the dogs or the helicopter?

The helicopter's spotlight spread around her and stopped. She didn't even try to move. Gunshots sputtered next to her. Then two shotgun blasts split the air overhead, pinging against metal. The helicopter fire stopped, and the aircraft swung away.

Ali didn't dare breathe. The dogs were snapping branches as they bounded through the brush. With a snarl, one of the dogs leaped onto her. She flinched, expecting the painful crunch of sharp canines, but a second later, her face was wet with the dog's gentle lapping as it whined affection at her. The second dog approached, wagging its tail.

Dazed, she looked up into the double barrel of a shot gun. And the shirtless hunk of a man who held it.

"Some guard dogs you turned out to be," the man growled. "And what the hell are you doing on my island?"

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The Beauty And Inspiration Of Travel Volume I

Available Now at the lovely, low introductory price of 99 cents!

"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do.

So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover."

-Mark Twain

Travel is the most amazing school of life: It uplifts you, enchants you, captivates you, thrills you, and changes you forever. It guides you toward unimaginable adventures. It brings you new friends and lovers. And it teaches you the most important skill of life: the art of being you.

Twelve passionate travelers have opened their heart and shared their intimate, inspiring, amusing and even quirky views on travel, encouraging you to open your mind and soul to the magic of faraway journeys.

The Beauty and Inspiration of Travel is a heartwarming book filled with wanderlust, gusto and joy of life. A perfect book for those who seek to spice up their life, find their next adventure, or just dream of their perfect place over a hot cup of tea.

Participating Authors (in alphabetical order):

Kathryne Arnold

Shobhan Bantwal

Angela Butler

Barbara Conelli

Kat Duncan

Patty Friedmann

Lyn Fuchs

Nicki J. Markus

Valerie Ormond

Patricia Sands

Susan Van Allen

Victoria Vetere

Into the Pale

To season himself as a knight, and test his mettle in holding onto his celibacy, Sir Gilbart of Fellswick accompanies Richard Strongbow's invasion of Ireland. Sir Gilbart hopes to prove himself worthy of his noble birth and prepare himself to be a Knight Templar. But a clever Irish noblewoman challenges not only his prowess as a knight, but his resolve to keep himself chaste.

Lady Eilish of Tinnancarew demands that her brother to hold to his promise to wed her to a man of high rank. Her skill with a spear is uncanny and her will to protect her twin sister from their brother's wrath is strong. How can she make her brother understand that siding with Strongbow's army risks the very lands she's already suffered to protect?

Stifling a cry of pain, she wrapped the piece of cloth tightly around her bleeding hand. The wound was still raw and pain pulsed along her arm as she pulled the knot of cloth tight with her teeth. She glanced at the sleeping form of her sister. Silently she made her way to the door. 
"Nis," she whispered to the boy, already alerted by her movements. "Don't tell." 
Nis didn't make a sound, he just stared. It was his duty to protect the women from intruders by giving alarm. He would give his life for them, for if he failed, his life would be forfeit anyway. She was crouched over him, gently cupping his face.
"Don't tell," she repeated softly.
He nodded into her hands. She smiled and kissed his head. He fell back against the hound and pretended sleep. He would be alert for her return. It was not often she went and he didn't mind losing a bit of sleep. She always found a way to reward him afterwards. Usually with food. He sighed and dreamed of great platters of meat.
She crept along the passageway. Purposely without slippers, without clothes of any kind, only wrapped in a thin mantle of wool. He would not refuse her, she was certain of it. She stopped and hitched a breath when she saw a heap of man at the door. She studied his form. He was asleep and just far enough beyond the door that she could slip by if she was careful. She closed her eyes and made a silent prayer. The door opened and closed soundlessly, but there was a soft click as she set down the metal latch. 
The man inside the chamber wasn't asleep. She could see by the brazier that he lay watching her. He must have seen her open the door. She'd taken her time with it, fearing it would creak. His look was a solemn frown. Her heart leapt along like a frightened hare, but her courage had not abandoned her. She reached her right hand to undo the clasp of the cloak. His face changed and he spoke in a whisper.
She stepped towards him and let the cloak fall from her tense fingers. 
"Oh, God!"
He rose up from the bed, his naked skin was pale in the faint light. She didn't realize how cold she was until his arms were around her, his solid body against hers. He was warm. Deliciously heated and warm like broad sunlight.
"It was beyond my hope that you would come to me this way!" he said in a breathless voice. "I would beg your forgiveness…beg to be in your favor again…"
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Ransom's Bond

Arliss MacDonald is the newest con-man to arrive in the Edinburgh financial district. The inheritance he plans to steal from Marinel Bethune is locked in a land war between two powerful family corporations, the Campbells and the MacLeans. Before Mari will let Arliss steal her fortune, or her heart, she has a few old scores to settle. And Arliss is the perfect man for the job.


The rhythmic click of high heels echoed in the prison cell corridor. The steel door whined open and she stepped in. Long legs, slender waist. Crisp wool suit.

So this was Marinel Bethune. Not bad for a prosecutor from the Crown Office. Long and slow, she eyed him over. He stood up to better enjoy her stare and went tangent on the misty, moss-colored eyes.

Brian, you didn't say your cousin was a luscious dux.

"He won't give his name?" she asked the guard in a tone of tedious duty.

"Not a word, ma'am."

"Brian wasn't this good looking, but I haven't seen him in years." She stared him in the eyes until his jaw tensed, making her gaze fall to his mouth.

Focus Arliss, you're here for a reason.

"Take off your shirt," she ordered.

"And if I don't?"

"Your loss." She turned to leave.

He started with the buttons.

Stepping closer, she slid the loose shirt from his shoulders and pressed her hand against him. He didn't resist. She turned his torso into the light. Her gaze darted down the contours of muscle.

"Brian had a scar," she mused out loud, "right here." She ran an electric finger across his chest. His shoulders tensed.

"How would you know?" he asked.

"I put it there."

She thumbed a bullet scar on the front of his shoulder, the one from Kandahar, the one he'd been decorated for, then re-examined his eyes. Her head tilted and a sweep of black hair breezed over her shoulder, shimmering like the plumage of a rare bird. The faint scent of cinnamon made him want to just close his eyes and breathe her in.

"You are not Brian MacCrae," she concluded.

"I wish I were, if he's a bloke you would want…for anything. Spring me and I'll buy you a plonk to celebrate."

"Oh, you're an Aussie," she commented. "That's why we couldn't trace you."

Her warm hand lay still against his skin, but her slim wrist pressed at him with stubborn determination. Instinct made him reach to hold her sleeve. She withdrew her hand, and her moist palm slid over his, giving his heart the jolt he'd been guarding against.

"You know him," she stated, stepping away. "You were driving his car when you were stopped."

"Card winnings, at an inn near Dumbarton."

Her jaw clenched tight. Finally a crack on the stony expression. Brian must mean a lot to her and she was worried. The poor drunken bloke said he was the only family she had left.

"If it's yours, why is the car title still in his name?"

"I guess we never caught up with all the paper work."

"Was he – okay?"

He couldn't maintain a swagger against the pleading look in her eyes. "Yeah. He looked fine. A bit overtired, but not strung out or anything."

"Can you get a message to him?"

"Sorry. Wrong guy. All I have is his car."

"Look," she said, tempering her gaze. "The car hasn't been reported as stolen. Give us your name. We give you a written warning for running the red light, and you walk free."

He didn't budge.

"What are you hiding?" Her oblique question was more to herself than to him.

"What are you hiding?" he returned.

With a huff she turned to leave the cell, but a new guy blocked the way. A big hulk of a man with a laughing, ruddy face, flitting, nervous eyes and a head bristling with dirty blond hair.

"Fancy meeting you here, Mari," the man boomed. "I thought you might show up."

"You're out of luck, Corley. He isn't Brian."

The big man's smile collapsed.

"Nice try. Your buddy Taggart won't be pleased to discover you blew it again." She patted the dejected man on his shoulder. "I'd buy you a glass to drown your sorrows, but you'll need to stay sober long enough to come up with a credible set of lies." She stepped past him, and into the corridor. Corley's face reddened. He slammed the iron door back against its hinges and stormed after Mari.

From inside the cell he watched her go. "Quite the lady."

"That she is," the guard replied, stepping out and swinging the cell door shut. "She's as cuddly as a coil of barbed wire."

Smashwords: - you set the price here, 99cents elsewhere!

Kat kept the suspense up from the first explosion to the end of the book. This is another author who has researched this and made it less complicated for those that don't quite get the whole DNA technology. And of course she didn't do so bad with the love story either. -jacque, Good Family Reads Read more...


Stalked by a killer bent on stealing her laboratory notebook, scientist Molly Augur is desperate to figure out who she can and cannot trust. With the help of co-researcher Bill Banely, she uses DNA technology she invented to prove she can release hidden ancestral memories. In the brain synapses of her mind she finds one person who may know the truth - her long dead ancestor, Mailsi, whose life memories have been recorded in the depths of Molly’s genes.

Ancient passions and betrayals come alive and collide with the present when Molly discovers philanthropist Dr. Philman, with a secret billion dollar need for the technology only she possesses could be the one after her notebook. And Bill, whose wandering heart she has finally won, is working for Philman. In the face of limitless money, what is the value of Bill’s love? Or the value of her life? The answers lie deep within the synapses of her mind.


Molly threw her briefcase and purse onto the passenger seat and slipped in. With a quick wave goodbye, she started the engine and drove away. Bill stood motionless in the gloom, hands in his pockets, his image growing smaller in the rear view mirror.

Suddenly, his image was blocked by a shadow behind her. A leather glove gripped her mouth and jerked her head back against the headrest.

"Do as I say and you won't be hurt," growled the deep male voice. "Just keep driving."

Her futile screams didn't make it past the muffling glove.

"Turn right," the voice ordered.

With her head pinned to the headrest, Molly struggled to turn the car. Then she pulled the wheel hard, hoping to dislodge the attacker. He slid, but his grip didn't lessen, pulling her head painfully with him.

"Don't play games!" he barked.

Cold metal against her neck made her shudder. He was going to kill her. Her heart pounded. She lifted her head back to free her nose. Drawing in a deep breath she let it out in another muffled scream.

The glove pulled tighter, blocking all breath.

Molly's car wobbled right then left on the narrow side street. She turned her head and managed to get a scream past the glove. Mouth open she bit down hard when the glove tightened against her face. She caught a piece of the man's palm through the leather.

He yowled a curse and knocked her on the head with his fist. The side of her head thumped against the door's window. The steering wheel followed her motion. The car swerved, crossing the street. She slammed her foot to hit the brake, but hit the gas instead. The car lurched forward, going airborne over something. A loud crunch of groaning metal, and the air bags exploded throughout the car, knocking the man down in the back seat.

Water from a fire hydrant geysered around the car. Molly pushed open the door and jumped out, instantly getting blasted with a frigid, blinding spray. She slipped on the slick grass and went to her knees. As she rose to her feet to run, the man's arm ratcheted around her neck. In one hand he held her briefcase, his other hand held a gun against her neck.

"Stupid move, Dr. Augur."

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Available Now! A Lady of Worth, the sequel to Without a Lord.
Without a Lord will be coming out soon in free audio book format. Check back for details!

A Lady of Worth

Sir Ian, castellan of Fellswick Castle, sworn to protect the lands during his lord’s absence and following a personal oath to assist all women, cannot resist the lovely fragile lady brought to his care through treachery. His courtly attentions to her veer out of control into true love, tempting him to break all his knightly vows and risk all he is sworn to protect to win her love.

Lady Seline only needed to fulfill one vow, birth her husband a male child, so he would keep his promise of returning her to Flanders. Stranded, fearing for her life and desperately starved for love, Seline can scarcely believe that such a stern and austere man as Sir Ian would capture her heart. Will her attempt to oppose her false husband bring her valiant knight to ruin?


"Do not touch me! Oh, please do not!"

Ian pulled back the heavy cloth curtain separating the bathing area and shouted to Geoffrey who hovered ever at his lord's hand.

"Go see what that's about! I won't have a woman assaulted."

Geoffrey rushed to the great chamber's door, and bolted through a series of adjoining chambers. Ian heard the fading footfalls as he ran down the narrow court way next to the great hall, following the distant shrieks of the woman.

Ian had stepped back behind the gauzy curtains, but he could see the woman as she passed through the chambers with Geoffrey. She was dressed in a long bliaut of deepest blue silk trimmed at the neck, hem and sleeves with embroideries of silver thread. The sweep of it trailed the ground, and she lifted a bit of it in one hand to walk forward more easily. About her waist was a wide swatch of folded linen, bleached purest white and wrapped twice over with a girdle made of intricate woven bands of damasked silver, polished to a brilliant shine. Over her other hand was draped another swatch of white linen, a wimple, which the guards must have torn from her head in an effort to identify her. She was a strikingly beautiful lady, with a lavish stream of black hair and pale blue eyes.

"Just wait here a moment my lady, if you will please," said Geoffrey.

She stood exactly where he indicated, and with swift, measuring glances surveyed the large chamber with its comfortable furniture, fine rugs and tapestries and the large window overlooking the lake.

Ian stepped out from the bathing alcove. He wore only his chausses and braies, and since his chest was now dry, he was rubbing a cloth on his head to towel the moisture out of his long, thick hair.

"Did any of the guards harm her?"

"They didn't harm her, my lord. They wouldn't let her out," said Geoffrey.

"Out?" asked Ian, quelling his racing heart, "How did she get in?"

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Free e-book: Sunda Cloud

In the new Cold War battlefield of Indonesia, two old comrades conspire to topple the fledgling democracy. The weapons of this war are not nuclear missiles, but a far more deadly weapon. Money. But without the help of capitalist Anton Zelman their plot will fail. Anton's help comes at a price. But who will pay?


"Contact," the ensign declared. "Brown Bear. Bearing two fifty degrees."

Anton Zelman swung his binoculars to the left. Across the frozen sea he spotted the red ship on the horizon. The bridge of the Canadian icebreaker fell silent as everyone watched the distant ship effortlessly glide through the thick ice before disappearing into a bank of ice fog.

"NS Yamal," the captain snorted. "Russian nuke in Canadian waters. Bad enough when the Yanks come up here."

"These are international waters," Anton declared.

"Not according to Ottawa."

"Will you chase her?" Anton asked.

"She can do ten knots through meter-thick ice. No point."

There was a point. The Russian nuclear powered ice breaker fleet was out-muscling the Canadian diesels. They claimed they were keeping international seaways open for commerce. But where were the freighters? This was not about commerce.

It was about oil.

Three thousand feet below them was the world's last untapped oil reserve. Trans-Sea Offshore would soon be able to drill here. Working with the Canadian government, Anton's Swiss-based Trans-Sea was developing Innov-8, the world's first deep-water oil drilling platform capable of operating in Arctic ice. Development cost, a billion. Plus another billion to build her.

That was a lot of money, even for Trans-Sea. However, once it was operational, Innov-8 would pay for itself in a month. After that was all gravy.

The only other company that came close was Global Phoenix. GP could drill as deep, many said deeper, as Trans-Sea. But they were scrambling to catch up to the ice capability of the Innov-8 design.

Ten years ago, Innov-8 would not have been possible. The ice was too thick, typically two meters in winter. But, thanks to global warming, the ice would soon be down to one meter. A far more workable thickness. While the Americans were debating if global warming was real, the Canadians and Russians were fighting over who would own this not-so-icy ocean.

The Russians worried him. They were already the world's largest oil producer. And were buying their way into GP. A very powerful combination. Many of the plans for Innov-8 had been stolen by them for their own Novshesta-8 platform. Even still, they were several years behind. If they could catch up, they would dominate the Arctic. And squeeze out Trans-Sea.

If he let them.

All Anton needed was a couple of billion.

He smiled. Together, the Russians and Indonesians would help him get it.

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Six Days to Midnight 
The finance mogul thinks Janet Thompson is worth a fortune. The President wants her for revenge. The nuclear arms trader needs her dead. The diplomat is willing to rescue her. And Janet thinks she’s only taking a break from her boring job.
The Russian minister's eyes grew hard, and his face stern. With one powerful blow he slammed the desk top with the palm of his hand. The glasses danced. Clear liquid spilled from Janet's glass. The desk groaned and bent under the power of the man, the wooden legs grinding against the cement floor.

He held his two huge hands up before him, turning his wrists and admiring his hands like a sculptor.

"These two hands build Transnov. They not happy is without oil. They not want Anechka open it. They want go there and reopen pipepline themselves."

He gestured, turning a huge imaginary valve wheel to release the black gold once again into his pipeline, a satisfied smile overtook his face as he worked.

Then he leaned his weight back into his chair, its wooden frame strained to the limit, creaking like a ship under heavy sail. He rested his two huge feet on top of his desk.

"I've missed my old villa on Caspian Sea." He closed his eyes in dreamy rapture. "Janet, you have chance to enjoy spa?"

"Yes, I did. It was very lovely."

"Yes," the man intoned, his voice sliding into a comfortable sigh. "I will enjoy having my old villa back."

Janet tried to imagine which would be worse, sharing the spa with Nikolai or Andy. It would be equal she decided. They were both the same. Two people divided by a common personality.

"Nikolai," Brandt pleaded. "Your army must not move on Azerbaijan."

"Why?" the man roared. "Give me one reason why I should not."

Brandt's eyes darted back and forth, knowing the man had every reason to invade, and none for restraint.

"Your men. Do you want to risk Russian lives?"

"If American recession gets any worse, my men will need target practice Azeris will provide."

Brandt licked his parched lips.

"Nikolai, please," Brandt spoke in desperation. "Give me two weeks. I will get the Transnov reopened without the Russian army."

"Two weeks without Russian army. Two days with Russian army."

"Nikolai," Janet interrupted, "what about your legacy? Do you want to be the one who is remembered by history as the man who was duped by Mirza ul-Beg and Zelman to destroy America?"

Nikolai sucked in his cheeks contemplating Janet's words.

"One week. You deal with Zelman and relieve ailing economy, or I deal final blow to she-wolf Anechka. But, I promise nothing," he said, standing to end the meeting. "Now go."

Wow! Six Days to Midnight is loaded with action, suspense, and romance right down to the last sentence. Twists and turns abound, many much unexpected. A great cast of characters tell a story that is pulled right from today’s headlines, which is scary but also makes for great reading material. Kudos to Ms. Duncan for offering readers a great read!
Read complete review here:
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Fifty-eight Faces
Jewel of the Night Series

Chief of surgery at a small children's hospital, Caroline's last hope to save it from financial ruin evaporates when she loses the Blue Diamond case to greedy Evan Quinn. When Evan buys the hospital property for high profit condo conversion, Caroline's hatred shifts into full red-alert.

But Evan is not her real enemy. Rolf, the hospital's chief administrator, has had his eye on the blue diamond since he learned of it from his Nazi grandfather. To be the 58th face to possess the Blue Diamond, one for each of its facets, grants the owner unlimited power. Rolf plans to kill the current owners and use the diamond to build his Neo-Nazi regime. Can Caroline give up her hatred and Evan his greed before Rolf kills them both?

"If I wasn’t sworn as a doctor,I’d pull this trigger.”
A flash lit the darkness. An ear-shattering echo reverberated in the concrete vault. Evan staggered. Caroline dropped the gun, and its over-sensitized trigger fired again. It spun like a top on the concrete. She rushed forward.
“Evan. Evan. Are you hurt? Where? I didn’t pull the trigger. It just went off in my hand.” She grabbed his shoulders, bracing him, scanning him for a wound.
He steadied himself and pushed her aside. “You missed.” He stared at the gun lying on the floor. He picked it up and hefted it, his brows pinched in thought. Pointing it away from her, he firmly grasped the weapon and gently tapped its side. It fired.
He turned on her, his mouth thinned into a grimace, his eyes squinting.
She put up her hands. “Evan, don’t…”
He tipped the gun toward the ceiling and, with a snap, removed the clip. He tossed the pieces in opposite directions. They spun and clattered on the concrete floor. In a few quick steps, he closed the distance between them. His broad hands engulfed her shoulders, infusing her shivering body with a surge of solid warmth.
“That gun was rigged by an expert. An expert who arranged for us to meet here. Then disappeared.”

I haven't read much from Kat Duncan in the past but she has me hooked on the way she tells a story. This book personifies what I want in a romantic suspense. The romance has just enough spice and builds slowly through some of the worst circumstances one could imagine. The suspense keeps me guessing and hoping throughout the book. She's become a must read author for me. 
Read the whole review here: Link

Review from The Long and Short of It Reviews:

"In addition to having interesting characters, Fifty-Eight Faces was full of suspense. When Caroline and Evan found themselves on the run, I was on the edge of my seat. I felt that Rolf or the police were just around the corner and would discover them at any moment. There was also a particular scene involving an old bridge that was absolutely spine tingling." Link to complete review...

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Without a Lord - Historical
Denied the lands that had been long promised him, Sir Roger vows to take what is rightfully his, the lands of his own lord, and the lord's new lady along with them. Lady Caille is not the type to run from a fight. Faced with an indecent proposal she must choose between love and honor.
Roger folded Caille's cloak over itself, so nothing could be seen. It bore long tears that made it gape, but nothing was exposed improperly except her breasts, which were now covered by the fold he'd made. Half expecting her protest, he picked her up and began to carry her down the path to where his horse waited.

Blessed relief and inexplicable joy flowed through him at each step he made with her in his arms. He'd rarely felt such a thrill of mastery. She'd said he would be the first to hunt with success. She was right. She was so right for him. What else had she said? The lord shall be first to the feasting wine. Aye, Renouf had been at the wine all night long, furious with himself and consumed with worry over her and vexation at the circumstance. Thomas had been first to enter the house – he was injured and had been carried right to Fellswick while the others formed searching parties. Hugh was to be first to put foot to spur for an errand. Ah, all true except for Hugh. Could she truly forespeak the future?

The wide, green valley spread open before them. Roger stopped, supported her on one knee and rested the other knee on the ground.

"Would you like to see your home?"

Caille had been studying the features of his face, but she turned her head to follow his gaze. She hummed a positive response.

"There. See the dark swath of green on the near side of that hill?"


"Nestled up against the hill, just overlooking the lake is Fellswick Hall."

"'Tis sae bonny!"


"It is so beautiful!"

He bent his head and kissed her and it was no gentle kiss. It was seeking and possessive. Too soon she began resisting him and he placed a gloved hand gently onto the side of her face to maintain the kiss. Her resistance faded instantly and the elation he felt at this admission of surrender from her body eclipsed the warning in his mind that she was forbidden to him. She was as forbidden as the birthright that had long been denied him. It only served to heighten his desire for both. When he relinquished the kiss, her head fell softly sighing to his shoulder, seeking the solace he knew she had thus far not gotten from his lord.

"You should be mine," he whispered into her ear.

"Roger, please…no more. We both know it is wrong."


"The heroine is a very capable and practical, strong minded woman." -Carol at Smashwords  Read Complete Review

"I definitely felt more like I was reading a Ken Follett-style romance, which is definitely not a bad thing. Was eager to look for more of this author's books." -Heela at Amazon  Read Complete Review

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Bonus! Book Extra for Without a Lord: A deleted scene:

Sir Roger held his wife in his arms while she slept. Her breath purled warm rhythmic puffs against his neck. She smelled of heather and moss and of his lovemaking. Content at last, he murmured the long-forbidden words. "I love you, Caille."
Lady Caille's legs shifted, pulling Roger's cloak off his body. Exposed to the chill air, he opened his eyes to daylight. Thick fog hung like wanton drapings of silk on the little valley where they'd bedded down. Roger re-adjusted the cloak he'd covered himself and Lady Caille with, tucking it around her body.
"What is it, Sir Roger?" she asked, wiping her eyes.
He gazed at her angelic face, wishing his dream of having her for his wife were truth. "It is naught, my lady. It was but a dream."
"Oh. A pleasant dream?" 
Her enchanting green-eyed gaze soothed the sorrow in his heart. "Aye, my lady. As pleasant as your company, and as beautiful as this mist-shrouded valley. I have never seen country so lovely or so peaceful."   
"I am very glad Scotland pleases you, despite the desperation of our errand here." 
Stifling a heavy sigh, he stood. She had provided a meal for him the previous day. It was his turn to serve her. He was her champion, after all. "Scotland does please me well. And now, my lady, I will gather us a morning meal."
A short walk brought him to the edge of the little lake. The reflected scene of mountain and mist held him spellbound, as if fate seized his breath, awaiting his decision to cross a forbidden boundary. Stepping from stone to stone he made his way out to where the water was deeper. He eyed clusters of mussels clinging to the rocks. Using his dagger, he removed handfuls of the large shellfish.
When he returned to her, Lady Caille was tossing more wood onto the fire. It blazed up, then settled down to a bed of hot coals when he added the mussels. The heat would cook the fish, steaming them open after a few minutes.
The lady sat on his cloak, using a comb to untangle the long plait of golden-red hair that trailed down her back like a streak of precious amber. 
"Would my lady permit me to stand in for her handmaid?"
"Oh, it is not necessary."
"I have some skill with plaiting. You will want a fresh plait to keep your fair tresses from becoming unruly as we travel." He moved to sit beside her and took the comb from her hand. She held her body rigidly, but softened the moment he began to comb.
"How did you come by such a skill as plaiting, Sir Roger?"
"I spent my youth at court. The lord who fostered me was a favorite of King Stephen. There were many ladies who were more than willing to offer me tutoring in the care of women's needs." 
He separated her hair to make a single long plait. Each time he caught a handful of silky hair to add it to the plait, the tips of his fingers brushed across the creamy skin on her neck. He was certain she could sense the amplified pulse of his heart. 
" must have been wonderful to be tutored at court."
"Yes. I spent many pleasureable hours at it." He bent his head forward and put his heated lips against the skin of her shoulder.
She sagged back against him and made a longing sigh. 
"I would share this knowledge with my lady, if she wishes." He enfolded her waist with his arm and pressed her body against his.
She shivered herself alert and sat up straight, sending a cruel wave of cold space between them. "I would like to hear more of your experiences at court," she said.
"I would tell you, but more I would show you some of the things I learned." He skimmed the back of his hand against one soft cheek.
She turned and put a hand over his mouth. "No, Roger. You must not speak to me of such things."
He pressed her fingers to his lips and kissed them one by one, watching the emerald glow in her eyes. "I would stay here in Scotland with you forever if that is what would make you most happy."
"It cannot be. It is too great a sacrifice."
"True love often requires great sacrifice."
"True love...yes. Let us go now, before we furnish ourselves with regrets."