Saturday, April 30, 2022

Here's a short freebie. Just because. 

I wrote it back in 2018 during the "cocky" controversy for an anthology of other "cocky" stories. The antho appeared only briefly and is no longer available, but it served its purpose.

So here you go!

The Cocky Marquess


 Taryn Kincaid

Chapter One


Kent, 1820


            Bailey saw him first. Or sniffed him, more likely.

            Usually content to laze in the sun and snooze while Georgina Dayton  put Albermarle’s other hounds through their paces to prepare them for the hunt or the grazing pastures, the small Cocker Spaniel growled and leaped up, bouncing on all fours like a child’s spring toy. He  yipped dementedly, refusing to obey  Ginny’s commands.

            “Oh, dear,” Lady Susannah cried in dismay. “The poor little creature has gone barking mad.” She slid off her perch on the fencepost and shook out the folds of her elegant, pale lemon morning dress.

Ginny wore an older gown, similar in its empire lines but no longer quite in the first stare of fashion. Mud and grass stains despoiled the design of her embroidered lilac hem. Not the first frock she’d so ruined.

            Bailey’s disobedience did not exactly shock her—at least not at first. He was the Marquess of Haring’s dog after all, and Spencer Wolcott wasn’t known as “Daring Haring” without cause. But the Cocker Spaniel’s agitation did surprise her. Since she’d undertaken Bailey’s training—the training of all the dogs—Bailey had been, if not precisely biddable, at least manageable. The Duke of Albermarle had approved .

            “You have a steady hand with him,” he’d said a few weeks earlier. “A calming, no-nonsense voice. Less indulgent than Haring, certainly.” Despite his words, the duke’s tone had displayed a fondness for his cocky, adventurous son that was matched by the anxiety in his eyes.

Ginny shared his sentiments. But she did not want to think about Spencer Wolcott. She’d go  mad with fear and worry if she did.

            Bailey’s current tizzy baffled her. The little dog raced back and forth over the verdant summer grass within the paddock, pausing each time he neared the gate to make a desperate leap for the latch.

            “He’s been despondent since Spence left, and now he’s finally snapped,” Lady Susannah said. “More grief and devilment to lay at my dear brother’s door. When he returns.”

            If he returns.

            The words hung unspoken between them. Since Haring’s departure, weeks had given way to months. He’d sailed off intent upon his mission to rescue one of Albermarle’s tenants. The man, a known smuggler, had capsized his boat in the channel between Dover and Calais. Survivors of the wreck reported seeing the unfortunate Wheelock seized by the French. Accused of spying, he’d been thrown into prison to await his rendezvous with the guillotine.

            The villagers and their more aristocratic neighbors now feared Daring Haring, or “Harebrained Haring,” a some muttered privately, had suffered the same grim fate as Wheelock. Only the marquess’ immediate family— the Duke and Duchess of Albermarle and his younger sister, Lady Susannah—continued to express confidence that Spence would, in fact, arrive safe and sound in Thorndale Abbey’s drawing room at any moment— and certainly by teatime—a sentiment voiced by one or another of them on a daily basis.

            “You must make sure Cook bakes plenty of those delightful seeded lemon cakes Haring loves so much, Mrs. Grange,” Ginny had overheard the duchess saying to her housekeeper just today, as if the prodigal’s arrival was imminent…and as if such delightful seeded lemon cakes were not already standard fare at teatime at Thorndale. They had been since as far back as Ginny could remember. Whenever she visited, Spence had treated her to his trademarked wink and then piled her plate high with them. So high, in fact, he usually failed to take one for himself, making do with a slice of shortbread or a sugar biscuit instead.

            Despite the increasing passage of time since Haring’s departure, the duke also remained steadfast in his belief that Spence yet lived. To that end, he had engaged sea captains, sailors, and smugglers up and down England’s southern coast, plying them with fat purses of guineas for any word of his absent son. Most recently, word had come that Haring’s bold rescue attempt had landed him in a French prison, where he languished, awaiting ransom. Albermarle would pay any sum for the return of his son, he declared, but time crept by without a ransom demand or any further news. The rumor remained unconfirmed and Haring’s prospects grew increasingly bleak.    

            The thoughts and mood of the rest of the countryside hovered on the blacker end of the spectrum regarding Haring’s presumed fate.

            Ginny herself caromed back and forth from bleak dismay to unwarranted hope when it came to Spencer Wolcott, depending on variables as flimsy as the number of gray clouds in the sky, the opinion of the last baron with whom her father dined, or the manner in which her canine charges responded to her commands.

             Well, not her canine charges, she amended, since every last one of the dogs she trained belonged to Albermarle and the vast Thorndale estate. With the exception of Bailey. The runt of a litter of Cocker Spaniels, Bailey was undeniably Spencer’s dog. The marquess had taken to the puppy from his birth. The fondness appeared returned tenfold by the pup. The entire Wolcott family enjoyed relating the tale. Over and over again. Ginny knew the story by heart.

            “He’ll never be a hunter,” the duke had said, frowning as he studied the scrawny runt, pushed aside by siblings greedy for their mother’s milk. “He’ll never amount to much.”  

            “You said that about me, Father, and yet, I dare say I’ve exceeded your expectations,” Haring replied.

            The duke harumphed but could not hide his pride in his son and heir.

            “Look at all that glorious golden fur,” Spence had said. “I’d wager his heart’s every bit as noble.”

            As if sensing the compliment, the tiny creature flicked open whiskey-colored eyes and gazed up at his new master with an air of cocky mischief that endured to the present day and likely would forever.

            “Two of a kind,” the duke often chuckled.

            Haring made a bed for Bailey in his own rooms rather than relegating him to the stables, and there the runt remained. He roamed free within the great house over the duchess’s objections, strutting from room to room with a singular air of entitled arrogance and lording it over his litter mates when he accompanied the marquess around the grounds, to Spence’s great amusement. He’d styled his pet “Viscount Bailey,” and the title had stuck.

            “You’ve shockingly spoiled that blasted dog, Haring,” the duke complained. “He’s good for nothing but begging scraps from the table, annoying Cook, and trotting after you as if he’s your damned valet.”

            “Lord Bailey would never deign to tie my cravats or pick up after me,” the marquess laughed. “Have no fear, your grace. Bailey will never displace the worthy Tewks in that regard or disgrace the ancient Wolcott name.”

            The duke snorted a crude and vulgar word that generally was not repeated in polite company when the ballad of Lord Haring and Lord Bailey was told.

            In the marquess’s absence, his most loyal of companions adopted Ginny, following her around whenever she came to visit Lady Susannah, and then chivalrously escorting her to the boundary between Thorndale and her father’s property when she left, as any proper viscount would do.

             Lord Bailey obviously recognized a kindred spirit in her. Like Bailey, she’d once dogged Spence’s footsteps, a scruffy child climbing down the maple tree outside her bedchamber and tagging after the cocky young marquess on his misadventures. As she’d grown into young womanhood, she’d developed a secret tendre for her childhood friend. Completely one-sided, of course. There’d never been any romantic attachment between them, nor any hope of one. 

            Well, Ginny amended. There had been that kiss. That sultry moment of stunning intimacy. She shut her eyes. The interlude had devastated her. But for Spencer, no doubt, it had been all about his dog.

            The night he left, he had come to her father’s manor house after everyone had retired.  He tossed pebbles at her bedchamber windows until he woke her. As soon as she lit a candle to peer down at him, he shinnied up the ancient maple tree abutting her balcony. He’d seen her do it many times, after all, when he’d escorted her home after she’d sneaked out to follow him. He’d tried his hand at it a time or two when they were much younger, but he’d never ventured past her balcony before.

            But that night, he shoved open the French doors and, to Ginny’s bewildered shock, slipped into her bedchamber. She clutched her thin wrapper around her, aware the moonlight made her gauzy night-rail nearly transparent, outlining her curves and hiding nothing from Haring’s sharp eyes. His hot gaze roved over her.

            “Good Lord, you are a beauty.”

            “Don’t tease me, Spence. What are you doing here?”

            “I must leave for France tonight, but I couldn’t go before…” He shook his head and slid an arm around her waist, his hand grazing the underside of her breast.

            She gasped at the intimate contact. Heat poured through her, despite the spring breeze rippling her curtains. She craved his touch, wanted his hands on her, on every part of her. She squirmed, trying to get closer to him. If anyone caught them together, she would be compromised and disgraced, society’s door slamming closed to her. In that moment, she did not care.

            Spencer’s blue eyes shone with hunger and deviltry and he gathered her more tightly against his hard-muscled frame. The stiff ridge of his erection pressed into the vee of her thighs, the evidence of his arousal shocking and thrilling. Involuntarily, she shifted her balance, spreading her legs wider to accommodate him. He seized the opportunity, grasping her buttocks and pulling her into him with a groan.

             “Bloody hell, I’ll miss this.”

            “You’ve never had this,” she retorted. “At least not of me.” His escapades with other women had long been the stuff of legend.

            “Not yet,” he muttered. “To my everlasting sorrow. But I find I must taste you before I go. In case…” Without finishing the thought, he crushed his mouth over hers.

             Flames of lust shot through her, melting her core, sapping her of her ability to stand without Spence’s strong arms supporting her. He cupped her breast in his hand, sliding his palm over the thin material of her night-rail in a delicious, lazy caress that had her shivering and burning at the same time. Her breasts swelled, nipples pebbling. Haring knew what he was doing, knew the effect he was having on her. He had to know. He briefly broke the torrid kiss to swirl his tongue over one firm peak, wetting the thin fabric of her nightgown. As he drew her nipple into his mouth, a gush of molten heat surged between her legs.  

            “Spence,” she cried.

            He groaned again, leaning his forehead against hers. “I don’t have enough time,” he muttered. “If I only had more time with you. I’m a bastard to do this at all.” He lowered one hand, gliding his open palm across her belly. Her flesh quivered. He lifted the hem of her gown to stroke her between the legs.

            “So hot and wet,” he muttered. “Softer than silk.”

            The world spun, all sensation centered where his fingers probed. Ginny moaned, drowning in wanton pleasure. His tender caresses increased the mysterious pressure building within her. She wanted the delicious torture to go on forever, yet she reached for something more.

            “Please, Spence.” She wasn’t quite sure what she sought, what she asked. She knew only that Haring held the cure.

            “Hush, love, someone will hear. I’ll take care of you. Always. I promise you that.” He seized her mouth again, smothering her blissful moans, allowing his lips to savor and his tongue to explore, while continuing to stroke her to a fever pitch with his skillful hands. He massaged the sensitive nub between her legs with his thumb, fully arousing her. Excitement washed over her in waves. He slipped a finger inside of her and swallowed her shocked gasp, moving in and out, his rhythm increasing, harder, faster. A magnificent storm of wonder broke over her, smashing the spiraling tension to bits.

            Haring deepened the kiss, muting the sharp cry of ecstasy he’d wrung from her. His lips gentled, until at last, he tore his ravenous mouth from hers and lifted his head. She quaked and quivered in his arms, her body pulsing with the aftershocks of her pleasure.

            “Did you like that?” he asked, fondling her hair as if he could not cease touching her.

            “Do you suspect I did not?” Her voice sounded foreign to her own ears, faraway, a bit dazed.

            He took a deep breath and shut his eyes, as if attempting to bring himself under control. Beneath the fall of his trousers, his  erection bulged. 

            “Let me to touch you,” she said.

            His eyes opened and he gazed back at her, his eyes filled with heat and longing. No man had ever looked at her like that. She doubted any man ever would. This one moment with Haring would have to last her forever.

            “Not tonight, sprite.” His low voice held hunger and regret. “But one day…”

            She shook her head. “You know there’ll never be such a day.”

            “I promise you there will be,” he vowed. “If I—once I— return.”

            He shot her his trademark cocky wink and snatched her into his arms again for a quick parting kiss. Then he thrust her away and turned back to the moon-bright night.

             “Be well, sprite,” he tossed over his shoulder, slipping through the French doors to her balcony. “Think of this. Think of me. Take care of Lord Bailey.”      

            She’d thought of little but the kiss, the intimate interlude, and Haring’s puzzling words in the ensuing days. Until her worry for him took over, she’d convinced herself he’d only come to her that night to ensure she’d look after his dog—at least until his glimpse of her woman’s body through her diaphanous night clothes had ignited a lusty masculine fever. Nothing could—would—ever come of the shattering moment. They had not been discovered. She had not been compromised. The blazing, impassioned kiss and the liberties he’d taken would remain a secret between them. Haring would one day take a suitable wife, an aristocratic lady from the upper echelons of London society. He’d be a duke one day, after all.

            Ginny shuddered and balled her hands into fists at her side. She did not know what she’d do when Haring took another woman to wife, but she doubted she could remain in the neighborhood where she would be forced to see them all the time. Her heart would break a little more, day by day. Perhaps she could visit her aunts in northern England. The bleak prospect filled her with disquiet.

            She’d miss her father and Susannah, of course. As well as all the hounds and horses she counted among her friends. But how could she stay? The duke and duchess liked her well enough but harbored more lofty hopes for Haring. They expected him to take a bride from the upper echelons of London society, a  titled lady who’d fill the empty Thorndale nursery with an heir and spares. Season after Season debutantes who were diamonds of the first water were thrust into his path. He’d eluded them thus far, but one would eventually ensnare him.  Georgina Dayton, the daughter of a mere country squire would not be in the running. 

            She’d all but resigned herself to spinsterhood, holding close her memories of that one night of bliss. Of Spence.

            “Just look at him, will you?” Susannah cried, capturing her attention again. Bailey had grown more crazed, launching himself at the gate again and again.

            “What is it, boy?” Ginny shoved thoughts of the marquess from her head and narrowed her eyes. She studied the furiously barking dog with concern. “Did a bee sting you?” Bailey’s sleek coat— burnished gold shot with reddish streaks a shade or two lighter than her own hair—gleamed beneath the afternoon sun.

             “The color of October,” Spence had described her when they were younger. “Russet red hair and eyes of moss. You could get lost in an autumn forest, like a fairy sprite. No one would ever find you.”

            Or come looking for you.

            She’d kept the unspoken thought to herself. Haring’s teasing no longer wounded. Her hair was damnably red, her expressive green eyes would never be characterized as “fine,” and she possessed no elfin magic. He’d admired her body when he’d come through her window. He’d enjoyed her body then. And she’d delighted in every second of the too-brief moment between them.

            Enough, Ginny.

            She again shook off her memories of the marquess and instead scrutinized his dog. Bailey did not appear hurt, and he ignored her, much as his master had so often done…until that night, that kiss, that shocking awareness of how much pleasure unbridled passion might yield.

            Dear God. I must stop thinking about him.

            The volume and fervor of Bailey’s yapping increased.         

            “Heel.” She made the appropriate hand gesture in an effort to quiet the crazed Cocker Spaniel so she could check him for stings or thistles.

            Hearing the command, the other dogs in the paddock froze like the marble statues adorning Thorndale’s gardens. But Bailey evaded her, dancing away as she approached and scampering around the fenced-in paddock in a fever of excitement until he reached the gate. His mania increased, and he threw himself against the hinged barrier.

            “Calm down, boy.” Ginny grew alarmed. Had a wolf emerged from the forest? Intrepid as the small cocker was, he was no match for a feral canine brother.

            “What the devil is the matter with the mutt?” Lady Susannah asked. Ginny stared at her, surprised by her friend’s language. Susannah shrugged. “Well, we’re not in a drawing room, are we? And clearly some fiend has taken possession of him.”

            Bailey growled and jumped up, clamping his jaws on the latch. Shaking his head to and fro, he managed to get the gate open before Ginny could stop him. In an instant, he was outside the paddock, flying down the wooded path that led to the sea.

            “No, Bailey!”

            Ginny left the enclosure, latching the gate firmly behind her before any of the other dogs sought to escape.

            And then she turned and saw him.  

            “Spencer,” she whispered. His name barely emerged from her lips, more a breath, a sigh, than a word. Thank God, thank God. He lives.

             “Spence!” Susannah shrieked., “Oh, goodness! Look at you!”

            Bedraggled and beautiful. And alive. So very, very alive.

            His torn and rumpled linen shirt dangled in tatters from his broad shoulders. He’d lost weight, perhaps a stone or two. Filthy trousers hung off him, draping sinewy thighs that formerly bulged with muscle. Dark tousled hair, windswept and dirty, grazed his shoulders and needed cutting. But his eyes. Dear God. Bluer than August skies and as piercing as ice shards, cold and filled with a bleakness she’d never witnessed before.  

            Ginny’s knees nearly buckled. She grabbed onto a fence post to keep herself from crumpling to the ground.  

            “Spencer,” she whispered again, finally finding her voice. “Dear God, Haring.”

            “Miss Dayton.” Was that an echo of amusement in his deep voice, despite the emptiness in his eyes.? The resonant timbre rippled through her, reminding her again of the moment they’d shared. Did he remember that night at all? He seemed a very different man.

            Bailey, barking wildly, his tail wagging like a weather vane in a wind storm, barreled past Susannah and slammed into Haring, nearly toppling his lordship over in his unbridled enthusiasm. He leaped into his master’s arms and licked Spence’s  face, his squirming body quivering in paroxysms of joy. 

            “Missed me, did you, Lord Bailey?”  

            Susannah ran to her brother and tried to nudge the dog aside as Bailey slathered Haring’s face with ecstatic licks. The marquess opened his arms to his sister, and Susannah somehow managed to squirm into them, despite the rapturous ball of wriggling fluff bathing Haring's face with slobber.

Ginny remained rooted to the spot. What else could she do?

            Haring gave his sister a fierce hug, squeezing her against him. Tears rolled down Susannah’s cheeks. She chattered and blabbered all at the same time, competing with Bailey’s barks and mewls and howls. Haring could not get a word in until his sister finally paused to gulp for breath.

            “Now this is what I call a proper welcome home,” Spencer said. He again gazed around both wriggling dog and blubbering sister. His gaze found Ginny's .

            “Would you care to join our happy reunion celebration, Miss Dayton?” He extricated an arm and held it out to her.

            Flecks of dirt, sweat, doggie drool, and Susannah’s tears streaked his haggard face. Yet, as his gaze pinned hers, his eyes held humor. Fatigue. Bewilderment. Hope. 

            Ginny did not know how to react. Everything inside her dissolved, until she felt weak and breathless, unable to support herself on her own two feet. Clouds filled her head, blocking any thoughts. She wanted to screech and shriek, much as Susannah had done. She couldn’t trust her own voice. Uncertain of her roiling emotions, she took a deep gulp of air to steady herself.

            “I would.” She increased her grip on the gate, until her knuckles whitened and enabled her to stiffen her spine. She could hardly exhibit any less courage than this man had shown in his bold rescue attempt. But she could not run into his arms, into his embrace, despite his teasing words.

             “But then I’m afraid you’d have to wed me.” Good God. How had those words popped out of her mouth? She’d tried for a lighthearted tone, but the sentence seemed fraught with meaning. Certainly, Haring did not appear to take her words as a joke.

            “Would I?” The humor retreated briefly from his eyes, before returning. His gaze burned into hers. “You say that as if it would be a fate worse than a French prison.”

            “Oh, Spence, of course, it would not. I did not mean anything of the sort.” For an instant, she forgot herself, wanting above all things to be closer to him. To touch him. To feel his touch. To be both enflamed and comforted by his embrace. The memory of their kiss threatened to swamp her senses.

            “I fail to see the problem, then.”

            “But my lord…”
            “No buts, Miss Dayton. No ifs or ands, either. Did I not tell you there would be another day?”

            She knit her brows together and pursed her lips. Was he alluding to that night? No, of course not. He’d been gone months and in the gravest of danger. How could he think of anything else? She had to assure herself he had not been harmed.

            Ginny approached, telling herself she only intended to ascertain his fitness.  “Are you quite well?”

            “No, Miss Dayton, I have not taken a blow to the head, if that’s what you think.” He shook the aforementioned body part in denial. “Well, I have, actually. Numerous blows, in fact. But my wits are not addled, I assure you.”

            Susannah rubbed her hands over his brow, her fingers threading through his dark, unruly hair.

            “What the devil are you about, Susannah?” he growled.

            “I am checking you for lumps, ninny. What do you think?”

            “Have done,” he muttered, gently extracting himself from his sister’s ministrations.

            He turned to Ginny again, his gaze devouring her, roaming over her from her breasts to her screaming hair before returning to her face. “Well?”

            “Well?” she echoed. Had there been another question? Ginny stared back at him, also looking her fill, before retreating into the accepted strictures of polite conversation. “Your mother and father will be so relieved to have you back.”

            “Yes!” Susannah exclaimed. “Do they know you have returned, Spence? No, of course, they do not. Come, Spence, we must tell them at once.” She tugged his arm, but the marquess would not budge.

            “A moment, Susannah. Let me get my bearings.”

            “Do not delay! Oh! I must run and tell them.”

            “Yes, run along. Alert all and sundry that I shall be there directly.”

            “We will have seeded lemon cakes for tea!”

            “I confess, I am shocked.” He gazed at Ginny over his sister’s head, offering his trademark cocky wink. Relief flooded her. Susannah gave him another fierce hug and then bounced away, her billowing skirts clutched in both fists as she ran toward the house.

            “Was your mission successful, my lord?”

            “I’ve returned Wheelock to his family, if that’s what you mean. He’s in rough shape, and it will be some time before—” He turned away, but not before Ginny observed the desolation filling his eyes. He brushed his fingers through his hair. “I don’t want to talk about that, Ginny. I don’t want to talk about any of it. Not right now. Not with you.”

            “Father will be expecting me home,” she mumbled. “And the duke and duchess will be so happy to see you. You are just in time for tea. Those seeded lemon cakes you love so well.”

            “Must I hear yet again about those blasted seeded lemon cakes?”

            “Well.” What had she done wrong? “I am sure you will wish to bathe and change clothes after your ordeal.” Dear God. She knew she was babbling. She wanted more than anything to fling herself into his arms and hold him to her, to feel the beat of his heart and let him know the strength of hers.

            Bailey ran back and forth between them, jumping up to grab at Ginny’s hand and trying to tug her forward, then returning to Haring to do the same, clearly out of his mind with happiness.

            “You seem to have acquired some pets.” Haring nodded toward the paddock.

            “You told me to look after Bailey, did you not, my lord?”

            “You do remember then. I feared you did not.”

            “I remember everything, Spence.” She pressed her hands to her cheeks, willing her flushed face to cool.

            “As do I.”

            She took a deep breath, trying to calm the turmoil befuddling her thoughts and expelled a sigh. “The dogs became so listless after you disappeared, you see. Bailey was despondent. He barely lifted his head enough to lap at his dish of water and then embarked upon so many missions of destruction, I offered to train him before the duchess banished him from the house. One thing led to another and—” Ginny shrugged. She waved her hand toward the other hounds of Albermarle. In truth, the training program had distracted her from Haring’s absence, as much as it engaged the dogs. “Your father seemed pleased with the results.”

            “I’m sure he was.”

            “They missed you so much, you see.”

            “The dogs did?”

            “Well, yes.”

            “Anyone else?”

            “And your family, of course, my lord.”

            “Not as much as I missed them. All my friends and neighbors. Every damned minute of every damned day. And night. The nights were the worst.” He paused and his bright blue eyes seized hers again.  “And you? Did you miss me, Ginny?”

            Ginny swallowed. “Of course, I did, my lord. We all did.” Surely, he did not mean his pointed words or fully appreciate what he was saying.

            “Will you please cease ‘my lording’ me? We are long past that.”

            “Oh. Certainly.” She nodded. Waves of embarrassment rippled through her. She looked at her muddy hem. “Your parents have been at their wits' end. You must go to them.”

            “I will.”  He extended his arm in invitation. “You will join me.”

            “But I’m sure you wish some private time with your family.”

            “You are part of my family, Ginny. My life. You always have been. Aren’t you hearing me? I can’t imagine living another day without you. What do you think got me through all those bloody weeks of abject horror? Holding onto my thoughts of you, my lovely sprite. Remembering what passed between us the night I left.”

            She stared at him. What was he saying? Was he in command of all his faculties or had the blows to the head addled him, after all?

            “You are overset,” she babbled. “You must be tired. And hungry.”

            “I am starving, Ginny, my dearest darling girl.” There was no mistaking the heat of his rapacious desire, as his eyes met hers. “I know I’m filthy and pungent, but—”

            She flung herself at him, interrupting his words. “You are my heart, Spence. It broke a little more each day you were gone.”

            She wrapped her arms around him, holding him as close as she could, listening to the thundering beat of his heart against her ear. He winced a bit in pain, and she realized he must have been wounded in some fashion. But when she tried to draw away, he clamped his arms around her, refusing to let her go. 

            Standing on tiptoes, she slathered his face and neck with kisses, more intense and profound than Bailey had done.

            Raising her off her feet, he crushed her mouth beneath his. He made no attempt to soften his lips at all. He was, indeed, a starving man. And she hungered for him at least as much. The kiss went wild, out of control, enflaming and consuming them both.

            Yet, it was not enough, not nearly enough. She needed all of him. On top of her. Inside her. Ablaze with unbridled passion. Her love for him would never be tamed.

            Her magnificent cocky marquess.

            “I love you so, Ginny,” he growled. His lips grazed her hair. “I always have.”

            “Finish what you started that night, Spence,” she demanded.

            “I will,” he assured her. “Once we are wed. You will have me?”

            “Oh, yes, I will have you. In every way possible. Forever.”

            Another turbulent kiss engaged them for a time.

            “We cannot keep your parents waiting,” she said at last.

            “No, indeed,” he agreed, treating her to his broadest smile. “I believe we are expected for tea. Another reason why you must stay with me forever, my girl. Someone will have to eat all those blasted seeded lemon cakes, after all. You’re quite partial to them, aren’t you, sprite?”

            “You know very well I am.” She smiled up at him.

            “Good.” He offered her his most cocky wink. “Since they’ve never been a particular favorite of mine.”

Saturday, February 19, 2022

So...This Is A Test...


It's been awhile since I've been here. 

When I stopped writing, I gave up my website because it became too expensive and difficult to carry on and maintain  (new hosts, endless fees, any content additions or changes with a web master, Go Daddy, etc. etc. etc.) and it just didn't seem worthwhile to me anymore. 

Also, I figured if I wanted to broadcast news (aside from Twitter), I could always drop in here.  As it turns out, I couldn't, since Blogspot was no longer supporting my AOL browser and there were all these new required notices and what-not. Pffft to that. 

But I thought it would be kind of neat to participate in Romancing the Vote's auction in support of FairFightAction and Stacey Abrams' efforts to ensure easy access to the ballot in free and fair elections. 

And I did. Only lo and behold I did not have a website any longer, except what might be found here or on my Amazon page. 

And there hadn't been anything here in months, maybe years.  So I'll try, perhaps, to resurrect it. 


  testing...testing...tap....tap...tap...Is this thing on?


Wednesday, January 9, 2019




Landra Graf 

Please welcome my pal Landra Graf to the blog. She's got an exciting new release, A TALENT FOR TROUBLE, and is doing a Rafflecopter giveaway to celebrate. The prize is a $10 Amazon gift card. (The Rafflecopter link is below.) 

Want to read more?  Here's the blurb and a couple of excerpts to whet your appetite! 


Drug runner Emilio Morales is one deal away from being the sole runner from Earth to the upper planets—until his partner attempts a double-cross. Now, Emilio’s stuck in a disabled spaceship with an unpredictable, attractive female who’s willing to help him out if he’ll assist her in retrieving her ship from an impound facility.

Antonia ‘Toni’ Smith is sick and tired of being beholden to men. The only way to guarantee freedom is to get back her bootlegging ship to run her own business again. When Emilio kills her ticket out, she’s forced to rely on him for assistance. Emilio, the most wanted and annoying man in the solar system, is a sexy-as-hell means to an end.

But every plan the duo makes falls apart and every day they spend in each other’s company increases the tension between them.

With the death toll rising and their defenses low, can Emilio and Toni get the happy ending they want, without falling for each other in the process?

Excerpt  1

He poured himself a glass. Turning it slowly, spreading the liquid up the sides and back down, he noticed he wasn’t alone. “Can I offer you a drink?”

“No,” a sultry feminine voice responded. “There’s nothing over there isn’t made in the still or fermented in a barrel.”

“Suit yourself.” Emilio turned and took in the view. Mother Mary.

The woman, a vision of sin, stood angled toward the fancy window display where three floor-to-ceiling panels showcased the twinkling view. She wore a glimmering red dress, which sparkled even more as she turned toward him. Her hair was a pale-white blonde, short and framing her face, giving it a distinct diamond shape. She’d be labeled gorgeous, more than the word could construe, with her eyes the color of whiskey—and not the cheap stuff in his glass. No, the full-bodied swirling amber and caramel colors.

“What brings you to Casa Manolo?” He swallowed a little more whiskey than he intended and did his best to sound suave, but the words came out more like a croak.

“Nothing that concerns you.” The dismissal paired with a smile, a little thing revealing flawless teeth. He glanced down at her one note of defiance—boots. Grav boots to be exact, black and fierce. A deep, soul-encapsulating need clamped onto his brain, a need he’d waited years to experience. This was the woman he’d been waiting for. The type he’d always wanted. The one he’d call his.
He walked closer, eager to see if she took a similar interest in him. “Oh? Well, I’m happy to make this visit less business and more pleasure. Your name is?”

The words escaped his mouth as he glanced at her lips—expressive, full and waiting for his kiss, even when those same lips uttered, “Too expensive for you.”

Excerpt  2:

Emilio watched her like a hawk. “How the hell do you know how to do that?”

“I captain a ship. Most people don’t just get to run a vessel because they win it gambling.”

“So, you’ve heard of me?” He winked at her.

She groaned. “Yes, by reputation alone.”

“All good things?”

“If you call being a ladies’ man who attracts desperate, scar-loving station-clingers a good thing.” She left out the rumors of his bedroom prowess. Because she’d turned over a new leaf. No sex, no men and definitely no crazy stuff.

“I can tell from your expression you’ve heard other things.”

How easily he’d read her since the moment they’d faced off on Casa Manolo bugged her as well. She focused on the piloting. “Maybe that you won a fancy ship in a poker game.”

“Better to win one than lose one,” he replied.

The words stung, the sharp pain taking up residence somewhere in the center of her chest. Why am I attracted to him again? “You know what they say on Mars…can’t win big if you don’t risk big.”

“Mars girl, eh?”

Toni gave a single nod.

“Makes sense why you’re crazy.”

She wanted to take offense at his shocked tone, dismissive like so many of the men she’d met over the years. The way the upper planets still regarded woman as objects more often than as productive members of society drove her nuts. “Don’t let this dress fool you.”

“It’s doing everything but fooling me,” he retorted with a smirk.

Buy LinksAmazon | Barnes and Noble | Kobo | Totally Bound | Goodreads

Author Bio: Landra Graf consumes at least one book a day, and has always been a sucker for stories where true love conquers all. She believes in the power of the written word, and the joy such words can bring. In between spending time with her family and having book adventures, she writes romance with the goal of giving everyone, fictional or not, their own happily ever after.

Author Links: Website | Twitter | Facebook |   Amazon

Click here for the Rafflecopter Giveaway