My Lord…Finally!

Yes.  It’s true.  My Lord has a publish date and is available to pre-order on all platforms.  *huge smile*  There were times I thought this day would never come, but something good has happened in 2020 in this regard at least.  Ivan and Gaby will be getting the next part of their love story at last…and you can read it in January!  *cele-freaking-bration time*

-January 8, 2021-

Is the big day.  It’s a Friday so as to give you the weekend to read if you’re one who’s been patiently waiting six long years for this book.  If you’re at all interested in the whys and how comes it’s taken that long to bring this book out so you can finally read the full tale of Ivan and Gaby’s story… you can read my blog comments about it HERE.  So… while this is not a cover reveal, it is a reveal of sorts to announce that My Lord will be here on the 8th of January.  I can end this nightmare of Covid 2020 on a happy note by bringing this book out to you at least.  I take that as a remarkable blessing.  The Universal pre-order link is below. Paperback and Audio links will be added in the coming weeks.

Head on over to the My Lord page for some teasers to get you back in the mood with these two. I’ll be posting a lot more along with snippets on my social media in the coming days and weeks. Follow my Instagram to get all of them.

Image courtesy of Selma and Sejla Ibrahimpasic.

 

 

Smokeshow, A Hockey Love Story

I’m so happy with this book.  I don’t think I’ve enjoyed writing an epilogue as much as I did this one in many, many years.  Smokeshow, A Hockey Love Story is now LIVE and out in the world.  The hero is a guy who has appeared in the three books prior to this one in the VEGAS CRUSH series…and presented himself as someone who could never achieve hero status by any stretch of the imagination in any book ever penned by me.  He was pretty much everything my heroes aren’t; mouthy, over-confident, loud, lacking discretion, but mostly just a shameless, unrepentant manwhore on the hunt for his next one-night-score, and nothing more.

Well…that’s just what we saw, but it certainly wasn’t the whole picture.  In life, things change and challenges arise, as do characters who step up and take on responsibility, transforming themselves into an unforgettable hero you can’t help but fall in love with as the pages turn.

That would be my Tyler Lockhardt.

 

Here’s a little teaser for you…

Thank God she’s gone for a second. Seeing her like that, her hair loose around her shoulders, her lids heavy from sleep, in her tiny panties and tight T-shirt. Holy hell, Zoya has no idea what she looks like to me right now.

She has reallllly long legs and reallllly pretty skin and I’m not drunk, so I feel secure in saying that I am dead certain I have never seen a more beautiful woman than Zoya Kolochev.

When she comes back, she sits on her bed and pats the spot beside her. I sit, feeling oddly nervous and stiff.

“I’m glad you are here, Tyler.” Her voice is so soft and sweet. It’s like cotton candy.

“Really?”

“I wanted to tell you that I’m glad you trusted me enough to tell me your story earlier.”

“Oh.” I wave off the comment. “It’s no biggie.”

“I think it is, a biggie, as you say. I think you try to play tough guy, like you don’t care about anything, but it’s because of everything you have gone through. You had to fight to get out of the life handed to you. Maybe, I think, you need a friend to talk to sometimes.”

“I have friends,” I say, running a hand through my hair. I feel disgusting, all of a sudden, sweaty from dancing, alcohol still on my breath. And yes, Irina’s kisses on my lips. She wanted me. And fuck, I was tempted. Kissed her. But… but here I am. With a girl who saw me. Now talking ’bout my friends.

“But do you have people you can talk to? About important things?”

I start to say yes, but in the end, I have to admit I don’t have that in my life. I never really have. My “friendships” were surface level in college and with teammates over the years. Viktor is the first true friend I’ve had, and I don’t even tell him about my crazy mother. I shake my head no.

Zoya reaches over and takes my hand in hers. I stare at it, my big, clunky dude hand holding her petite, delicate one. “Well, I declare that we are now best friends, Tyler Lockhardt. I’m going to be that person for you.”

I stare at her, dumbfounded. She wants to be my BFF? I almost laugh, because it feels hysterical to want someone as badly as I want her, only to be told that we are now best friends and I am to share all of my innermost feelings with her. When all I really want is to kiss her until she goes blind with desire.

“What if…” I start, pursing my lips and letting a breath out through my nose. “What if I want more?”

“More?”

“Than just friendship. With you.”

Zoya blushes, and not just on her cheeks. Her whole chest blooms peach. But she says those same words I’ve heard before. “I don’t want a hockey boy, remember? The fact I’m offering my friendship is a lot, because I don’t really want hockey in my life either. But I like you and I think you need a friend. And I want to be that friend.”

“But I—”

She shakes her head at me. “No, Tyler. I came here to study. I am too familiar with the truth of hockey life, and I therefore know it’s not something I want to be part of. I will not date a hockey player.”

“It’s just that I find you very attractive, Zoya. What is it you’re lookin’ for in a guy? If it’s not me, who is it?”

“I need a prince charming. Someone who will romance me. He will want to know everything about me. And buy me flowers. He will make me feel like love is a fairy tale made real.”

A derisive noise comes out of me. I don’t mean for it to, but it does, and she looks away, blushing again, embarrassed. I scramble to find words that will make it better. “You’re a romantic, I get it. Maybe I could try to be that for you?”

She squeezes my hand. “No. That is not you. You are not built for that love. And I will not settle. Being your friend is all I can offer. I really want that for us. Do you?”

I think about it for a moment. She’s not wrong. I’ve never been in love. Never even tried. Never wanted it. And yes, this woman is knocking my socks off in a way that women usually don’t, but it doesn’t mean I can suddenly morph into a Disney prince.

“Okay,” I say finally. “You’re right. I’d rather have you for a friend than nothing at all.”

She smiles and it sinks my stomach. Fuck. I want to growl or cry or something because she is just so stinkin’ amazing.

“Though I’ve never had a friend who’s a girl,” I add. “I might be a shitty friend. In fact, there’s a really good possibility of that.”

“But I believe in you, Tyler.” She stands, towing me up off the bed. Pushing up on her tiptoes, she kisses me on the cheek before wrapping her arms around my midsection for a hug. I put my hands around her too, wanting desperately to touch the silky-smooth skin showing at her hips. I rest my head on top of hers and we just hold each other for a moment.

It feels really fucking good.

~*~

𝘽𝙚 “𝙟𝙪𝙨𝙩 𝙛𝙧𝙞𝙚𝙣𝙙𝙨” 𝙬𝙞𝙩𝙝 𝙖 𝙨𝙢𝙤𝙠𝙚𝙨𝙝𝙤𝙬 𝙡𝙞𝙠𝙚 𝙝𝙚𝙧? 𝙏𝙝𝙖𝙩’𝙨 𝙥𝙧𝙚𝙩𝙩𝙮 𝙢𝙪𝙘𝙝 𝙖 𝙥#𝙘𝙠𝙞𝙣𝙜 𝙞𝙢𝙥𝙤𝙨𝙨𝙞𝙗𝙡𝙚 𝙖𝙨𝙠.
—𝗧𝘆𝗹𝗲𝗿 𝗟𝗼𝗰𝗸𝗵𝗮𝗿𝗱𝘁, 𝗩𝗘𝗚𝗔𝗦 𝗖𝗥𝗨𝗦𝗛

𝑺𝑴𝑶𝑲𝑬𝑺𝑯𝑶𝑾, 𝗔 𝗛𝗼𝗰𝗸𝗲𝘆 𝗟𝗼𝘃𝗲 𝗦𝘁𝗼𝗿𝘆 𝐨𝐧 𝐚𝐦𝐚𝐳𝐨𝐧!
🇺🇸 https://amzn.to/2Yk0JB3
🇬🇧 https://amzn.to/34iUhhM
🇨🇦 https://amzn.to/3iYSulT
🇦🇺 https://bit.ly/smokeshowAU

🔥🎟𝑺𝑴𝑶𝑲𝑬𝑺𝑯𝑶𝑾👄 is a friends-to-lovers STANDALONE hockey romance about a cocky defenseman for the Vegas Crush about to be sidelined by one seriously hot smokeshow. Too bad she’s not interested in dating a hockey player and one hundred percent off-limits. 𝙐𝙝 𝙤𝙝. 𝙏𝙝𝙚 𝙛𝙧𝙞𝙚𝙣𝙙-𝙯𝙤𝙣𝙚 𝙞𝙨 𝙝𝙚𝙖𝙩𝙞𝙣𝙜 𝙪𝙥 𝙛𝙖𝙨𝙩. 𝙔𝙤𝙪 𝙘𝙤𝙪𝙡𝙙 𝙚𝙫𝙚𝙣 𝙨𝙖𝙮 𝙞𝙩’𝙨 𝙨-𝙨-𝙨𝙢𝙤𝙠𝙞𝙣’…

 

SMOKESHOW is book #5.  Check out the rest of the series here > VEGAS CRUSH

Hockey in the Desert?

This is partly a confessional post, and partly a welcome back to blogging after more than a year away from it.  Sorry about that.  It is my goal to do better in the future.

Confession:  I am a hockey addict.

And since the hockey season has just been paused in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic (feels freaky even writing that word) and I’m feeling bereft at the possibility of no playoffs or Stanley Cup Finals, a toilet paper shortage, and having to cook all the meals…yes, I’m a wee bit on edge.  If indeed this season is now OVER until September when the preseason begins?  *Gulp*  Because that’s a lot of months with no hockey to watch.

But there is a silver lining to all of this.  I do have my fictional team to tide me over until then.  Yes, my addiction to the sport has filtered over into writing books about it.  “Hockey Love Stories” to be exact.   I have a series about a fictional Las Vegas team named the CRUSH, written as my alter-ego, Brit DeMille.  I did that to help separate my sports romance from my other books because Brit DeMille’s books are lighter with more of a romantic comedy feel than what readers are used to getting from Raine.  *winky wink*  I am loving writing these books.

My Vegas Crush series is made of up STANDALONE books about different couples and there are now four books available for your reading pleasure.  The fourth book, Puck Money, just released a few days ago.  You can check out the whole series right here.

I hope you’re being cautious, washing hands, social distancing, and all the rest of the recommendations floating around out there. But most of all, may you find some fun things to do in lieu of our usual daily routines.  I know I have about fifty books on my TBR pile right now, but I’m also taking this quarantine time to reorganize and downsize possessions–something that isn’t so fun while I’m doing it, but sure feels fabulous once it’s done.

Be well and many blessings, my friends,

Raine

P.S.  Yes, I am a superfan of the Vegas Golden Knights.  GO KNIGHTS GO!

 

 

A Wish Granted

On this 24th of December I find myself continuing a tradition I started six years ago with a little Christmas story from my Blackstone Affair world with a single Brynne Bennett in London doing some Christmas shopping on a blustery, wintry day.  You never know what will happen, or who my characters might meet but you can be sure they will be somewhere along their journey together as a couple at the holidays.   This year I am happy to bring you back to celebrate with some very special newlyweds up in Scotland for their first Christmas as Mr. and Mrs. McManus.  If you don’t remember where we left off with Neil and Elaina you can catch up with a previous Christmas story from 2013 about them here:  A Scottish Christmas.  This year’s Christmas story continues where the previous one left off as if time has been standing still for five years.  I love to do that as a writer.  For me, my characters don’t age and time doesn’t pass for them until I want it to.

I get asked about the follow up to Cherry Girl all the time.  “When is the sequel coming out?”  “Are you going to give us more Neil and Elaina?”  “When is My Captain coming out?”

I’m working on finishing up the book right now.  Release date details and preorder links for My Captain will be coming shortly so look for that in an upcoming newsletter.  If you aren’t subscribed you can do that here:  Email Sign-up.

I hope you enjoy where the Captain and his Cherry Girl are headed.

Merry Christmas to each and every one of you and hope for a most blessed New Year in 2019.

xoxo Raine

 

A Wish Granted

24 December~

I kissed him long and hard.  Neil backed up a little, giving me a bit of side-eye for whatever I was up to.  He had such a keen sixth-sense.  He could tell whenever something was stirring around in my head.  He sensed it right now with zero effort.  Me trying to surprise him was going to be a constant challenge for the rest of my life.  But still, I was determined to pull this one off if it killed me.

“Careful now,” he scolded, “Or we won’t get to the rest of the presents and I’ll have to take you upstairs and ravish you again.”

“Of course you would imply that I—your devoted wife—cannot focus on anything other than the prospect of being ravished by you day and night, but I am determined to give it a hearty try.”  I made a fist and rocked my arm like I was march stepping.  Teasing him was my new favorite.  Probably because he loved it as much as I loved doing it.  His threat was pointless because he’d ravish me later either way.  Happy Christmas to me. 

“It’s okay, Cherry, I can wait until the presents are over before ravishing you again.”  He gave me a deceptively sweet kiss that started off gentle but clearly demonstrated his intentions for later on.  His lips…  They worked magic on me as always, holding me captive pressed against his hard chest.  I wasn’t complaining because being held and kissed by my man was exactly what I wanted to be doing as often as possible.  Whatever came later was just an added bonus.

“I was waiting for you to say that, because we both know you can’t keep your hands off me.”

“So true, Cherry,” his fingers dug into my ribs for a tickle, “and that is something which will never change.”

I shrieked.

The puppies protested our rude disruption, yawning widely and blinking up at us from our laps where they’d been sleeping.  “Sorry, little fellow.”  I gave the boy pup a few soft pets on his silvery fur before setting him down on the floor to stretch his legs.  “What are we going to name these two gorgeous beasts, Neil?”

“I was just thinking the same thing.  We need some good strong names because they’re going to become big strong dogs.”  He held the girl puppy up to his face and studied her thoughtfully for a minute.

My puppy had now strolled over to explore around the massive, twinkling Christmas tree and the wrapped gifts beneath it.  Since this was our first Christmas as a married couple, Neil had spared no expense, giving me way more presents than we’d agreed on and even insisting on ordering duck for our Christmas Day dinner.  He was feeling festive for sure.

“Definitely something noble,” Neil said as he set the now squirming girl puppy on the floor to join her brother.  “Great Danes are as noble-looking as they come.”

“Something classic would be fitting…”  I thought about the stories from Greek mythology I’d learned in school and it came to me in a flash: “I’ve got it!  The boy and girl twins of Zeus…Apollo and Artemis.  Those are their names.”

The puppies, now wide awake, had begun to play and chase each other around the tree and through the presents.  Freaking adorable.  I reached for my phone and got a video of Neil playing with them on the floor and being double-teamed with puppy kisses.

Neil grinned up at me and held out his hand.  “Apollo and Artemis it is then.  Cherry, come down here and save me from these excitable beasts, please.”

I put down my phone and joined my husband on the floor, bombarded with puppy kisses every time Neil kissed me.  They became the most excited whenever he tried to get close to me or kiss me.  It was hilarious.  Our two little cock blockers, Apollo and Artemis.

“Ready to open another one, Captain?”  I pointed to our small pile of artfully wrapped boxes and bags.

I zeroed in on the small, plain wrapped box I’d placed on the top of the pile.  The most important gift I could give him.  Ever since I done the test, I’d been waiting anxiously for this moment.  Hardly concerned with all the pomp and extravagance of Christmas, other than that getting to spend it with Neil, all that mattered to me was that I got to see his face when he unwrapped that little box.

“Which one?”

“The small brown paper one sitting on top.”   He picked out the little package, glancing up at me for confirmation.  I nodded, my breath catching in my throat.

This is it.

He tore through the bow and paper a bit roughly.  If he knew what was inside, he probably wouldn’t set about the task like a kid getting through a wrapper to find the sweet.

The very second his eyes laid on it, I knew.  His dark eyes drooped, then widened, then went to mine. “Is this right, Cherry?”

I only smiled.

“But—the doctor,” he protested, “said it’d probably take months, maybe even a year…”

I told both his hands, smiled even wider. “It’s true, Neil.  I’m finally pregnant.  All of your dedicated work paid off.”

The bellow that emerged out of my man was part disbelieving cry, part triumphant roar as he swept me up and swung me round.  “Cherry, we did it.  We did it, my beautiful girl.”

Apollo and Artemis started up with the chasing and barking again.

Holding my face in his big hands, he stared at me.  Those deep brown eyes of his that looked like melted chocolate grew a little glassy as he smiled widely.  “After our wedding, I thought I’d never have another day nearly as happy, but now…”  Another goofy grin.  “Boy was I wrong.”

His hands went to my belly as he stared.  His face darkened.  “Let’s not tell anyone.  I want to keep it just for us right now.”

As sudden as his change had been, I understood.  Nodding, I settled my hands over his. “You don’t want to jinx our good luck.”

Neil’s hands tensed beneath mine. “Almost seems too good to be true.”

I laid my head against the reassuring muscled valley of his chest. “Don’t say that.  We’re entitled to good luck just as much as the next person.  You’ll come with me to the first doctor’s appointment?”  I tilted my head in question and winked, needing to distract him from worrying thoughts.  I knew where his mind might go.  He’d had a lot of disappointments growing up and tragic losses along the way.  It was time for him to accept the good in life and enjoy it…with me.

“Like that’s even something you need to ask.  Nothing could keep me away.”  He laughed and shook his head.  “We’re going to have a baby, Elaina.  I can hardly believe it.”

“We are, Captain.  You’ll be adding ‘Daddy’ to your list of titles and you’re going to be the best daddy ever.”

He kissed me on the lips again, and then bent down to kiss my belly.  “I’m really happy.”

“I can see that, my love, but what are we going to do with all these presents still unwrapped?”

Neil transferred his gaze to the stack of presents and chuckled.

“I may have overdone it a bit this year.  Sorry, baby, I’ve already been blessed with the best gifts ever; you and now our baby.  I don’t need or want anything else.”

“I love you, Captain.”

“I love you, Cherry.”

Scanning them, I realized, with a bit of a guilty thrill, that three quarters of those were from Neil to me. “Thought we agreed to five gifts each.”

He frowned.  “Not my bloody fault.  Every damn time I went shopping for you, a bunch of other items called out to me.”

I gave him a sweet kiss on the cheek, which slid over to his ear.  “Know what present I’d like to unwrap most, more than all of these?” I whispered.

His hips were close enough that I felt his cock twitch into me.  “I think I’d like to find out,” he said with a wolfish grin.  “Wait a sec.”

He hurried over to the pile, returning with a small box of his own.  “We’ll be needing this later when I show my appreciation and love for the mother of my children.”

“Oh we will, will we?”

He gave my bum a squeeze and kissed me again.  “Mark my words, beautiful.”

THE END

Husband Material is LIVE

Cover Design by Jena Brignola.  Cover image by Scott Hoover.  Cover model:  Sonny Henty

This is my second new book in less than a month. That has to be a record for me. Husband Material was a super fun project though, and I loved every minute of writing this little story. It is a novella, but it almost doesn’t feel that way to me.

It’s the story of a guy who has really given up on the idea of love and has resigned himself to being alone. And of course, right then is when he meets Giselle…someone quite unlike any woman he’s ever known before. He cannot resist the way he is drawn to her, and they have an explosive night together. But she can’t be pinned down. Giselle is a free-spirit, dancing and laughing her way through life…and Gage will have to play by her rules.

But changing up your life can be a good thing sometimes.  Maybe the French beach fairy is exactly what Gage needs to change his feelings on love.   Oh, oui!

Readers familiar with my books will find a sprinkling of Easter Eggs throughout Husband Material…I hope you enjoy discovering them.  I know I certainly did putting them in there.  *wink*  Be sure to read the Author’s Note at the end. 

SYNOPSIS:

She left me the week before our wedding.

Said I wasn’t “husband material.”

Actually, I’d have to agree with my ex on that matter…because I’m just better off alone.  But everything changed for me the day I met a mysterious beauty sketching on the beach.

Giselle…

We had one magical night together…and then she was gone–a French beach fairy who flitted away with the dawn.

I searched until I found her again.

And now I can’t let her go…because maybe I am husband material after all. 

~*~

*Husband Material is a STANDALONE novella, and the third book in the LEFT AT THE ALTAR series: a collaboration of six New York Times Bestselling Authors: J. S. Scott, Ruth Cardello, Raine Miller, Sawyer Bennett, M. Malone, and Melody Anne, releasing separately.

STANDALONE books in the Left at the Altar series

          

 

 

 

 

Filthy Lies is LIVE

Cover image by Scott Hoover. Cover design by Jena Brignola.

That’s another book published for the Blackstone Dynasty series. Since I don’t do this as quickly as I’d like to, it feels big to me. James and Winter’s story is probably one of the most angst-filled romances I’ve ever written. (Possibly even nudging ahead of Ethan Blackstone.) I want you to know that I try very hard to write lighter stuff, but the story always ends up with a whole lotta angsty longing and “she is mine” on the pages. Oh well, it’s the thought that counts. I do try.

Winter is a good person with a huge heart. James is also a good person, but doesn’t see himself that way at all. He’s a bit of a damaged soul, trying his best to make it in the world while dragging his baggage along with him.

I had an amazing writing journey with Winter and James as the two of them found their way to an emotional and much love-filled HEA. Fair warning: There might be tears!

Go forth and read the book!

️ US https://amzn.to/2tR34nf
 UK https://amzn.to/2yVkNiT
️ CAN https://amzn.to/2tC9asf
️ AUS amzn.to/AUSFilthyLies

 

Filthy Lies, BLACKSTONE DYNASTY II

RELEASING Monday, July 30th. PRE-ORDER NOW > 

The second book in my Blackstone Dynasty series, FILTHY LIES, a Friends-to-Lovers romance set in Boston. Book two in a series but can be read as a standalone romance.

Cover image by Scott Hoover Photography. Cover design by Jena Brignola.

*´¨`*On the day I turned fifteen years old I knew I loved James Blakney.  There was a look in his eye that told me he’d finally noticed I existed in a realm beyond best-friend’s-much-younger-off-limits-don’t-even-think-about-it-little-sister.  Call it womanly intuition, despite the fact I was barely qualified for being an actual woman at just fifteen—and only in the biological sense—but still, I knew I loved him.
What I never expected from him was a proposal of marriage nearly eight years later. I know it’s not supposed to be a real marriage, but James is certainly making it feel that way.
He’s also hiding something from me.
But I’ve hidden the truth from him as well.
Lies.
So many filthy lies.
~Winter Blackstone•*´¨`*•.¸¸.•*

 

A Blackstone Christmas

Merry Christmas!  Um…I think that should be Happy New Year instead.  Yes, I am late with my Christmas story this year, but I try to keep to the message from a tale that has stayed with me throughout the years, and makes the meaning of the greeting the same, be it Merry Christmas or Happy New Year.

“I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach.”  Ebeneezer Scrooge.  A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens.  December 1843.

One of the things I love most about my character worlds is the ability to manipulate the time continuum.  I can keep time at a standstill until I want to revisit the moment where I’ve left a particular couple, and come right back to them as if not an hour had passed.  That is exactly what I’ve done with this year’s Christmas story.  We are picking up where we left off last year with Caleb and Brooke taking a last minute trip to London for Christmas  >> (Hawaiian Honeymoon).  Additionally, we have Ethan and Brynne celebrating the holidays in Somerset with Hannah, Fred, Zara and her brothers, Jonathan and Marie, and feeling extra blessed about an upcoming event >> (It’s a Wonderful Life).  As a special treat, I get to bring both worlds together for you in…A Blackstone Christmas.

My wish is that 2018 be filled with joy and good health and prosperity for each and every one of you.

Blessings xo

R

 

December 23rd

 

CALEB

“My cousin, Hannah, runs this huge old manor house as a B&B in Somerset, and she just won’t take no for an answer about us staying the night.  Are you going to be okay with that?”

I hoped my wife would tell me the truth about what she wanted to do.  Brooke was the most undemanding person I had ever known in my life, so it was a crap shoot on whether I’d get this right or not.

“I will definitely be okay with it if you are, Caleb,” she answered serenely, stretching languidly among the sheets, where she looked far too sexy to even consider letting her leave the bed, let alone our hotel room.

A day ago we were honeymooning in Hawaii, today London, but it didn’t matter to me.  I had my Brooke, and I’d go anywhere she wanted.  This trip to London was for her, so it was going to play out exactly however she decided it would.  Once she’d told me she hadn’t been back to the land of her birth since she’d left to live with her grandmother at fifteen, and how much she missed London, especially at Christmas, I knew where we’d be spending our first holidays together.  Being able to give her even the simplest gift of a visit back home to England felt like I was winning.

“I know we said London, but their place is a good three hours by car, I can just call her back and say we can’t swing it this trip if you’d rather just stay in the city—l don’t want to force my family on you—”

She put two fingers over my lips and pressed down, effectively shutting me up without saying a word—something at which she was an expert.  “You never force me to do anything, and I very much want to meet them.  I need to know everything about my new husband—who spoils me rotten constantly—and that includes getting to know his English cousins, especially if one of them runs a B & B in a huge old manor house in Somerset.”  She moved her fingers away and replaced them with her sweet lips instead.  “Now come back into bed and warm me up,” she murmured softly.  Her kiss kept my mouth silent, but who needs words when you have the most beautiful wife in the world naked in the sheets, hopped up on pregnancy hormones, with nothing but time to give her what she just asked for?

Have I mentioned what a lucky bastard I am?  Or how, for like the first time in forever, I am digging the holidays this year?  Merry effing Christmas, and glad tidings of great joy, Blackstone.  Don’t fuck with good fortune when your wife needs you to fuck her instead.  I am probably going to hell for that filthy thought, but I’ll worry about that at another time.  I’m on my honeymoon with the love of my life, who at this very moment has her gorgeous naked body pressed right up against me in the bed.

Say what you will, but one thing about me is never in doubt.  I am a man who definitely knows where his priorities lie.

***

Five hours later.

 

BROOKE

The unusual winter snow draped over the hills and dales like a white fur coat.

Absolutely breathtaking.

Even though winter was probably not the very best season for its full potential of beauty, I still soaked up the sight of the English countryside like drops of water melting into a dry sponge.  The surprise Christmas snowfall was merely an added treat.  I did not realize how much I’d missed the sights and sounds of home—and because so much time had passed since I’d experienced it—the blast of the reconnection was truly overwhelming for me.  I struggled to control the rush of my emotions, and the pull of tears that threatened to spill over as I stared out the window at the lovely countryside of my homeland.  The urge to tears was nothing new.  I lived with it daily due to my PBA.  It was easier to control these days now that I understood what had happened to me in that accident, thanks to Caleb and his endless research.  If he hadn’t figured it out, I would still believe I was just an emotionally damaged freak with no explanation whatsoever for my overreactive behaviors.

“Are you okay, baby?” Caleb whispered against my ear.  He was so intuitive, and had been from the first.  My husband amazed me with his patience and kindness whenever I had one of my “episodes.”  Quite simply, Caleb was the very best cure for my unwelcome melancholy feelings, hands down.

I nodded yes and gripped his hand with both of mine.  I kept my eyes out the window and focused on the beauty of the scenery.  “I hadn’t realized how much I missed…just seeing it—being here.  Thank you for bringing me.”  I let Caleb’s strength and love support me through the moment until the intense emotions melted away, ever grateful he’d hired a driver to take us to Somerset, so I could have him beside me in the back seat where I could touch him.  Caleb’s touch worked miracles on me even though I was dealing with the effects of pregnancy hormones on top of my PBA.  The next months were going to be very interesting.

“Good.  I’m glad we came then.  And I will always take you wherever you want to go,” he said as he drew me back to lean against his strong chest, “as long as I can get the information out of you,” he teased.

I nodded again, still focused on the countryside as he held me close. “Can you tell me a little about your family before we get there?” I asked, content and warm with Caleb wrapped around me like a blanket and the comforting view out the window.

“Sure.  I think you’re going to like them a lot.  They already love you, and they haven’t even met you yet.”

I took a deep breath as I settled, listening to the steady voice of my husband as he described the people he clearly adored:

There was Hannah who ran the B&B at Hallborough House, the ancestral estate of the Greymonts, set along the scenic Somerset coast.  He told me about her physician husband, Dr. Fred Greymont, and their three children—two older boys, Colin and Jordan, and a little girl, Zara, about five or six.  Hannah also had a brother, Ethan, who had a country home nearby and would also be there with his American wife and baby daughter.  Caleb and Ethan were about the same age and kept up with each other on Facebook, and even did some business between their two companies.  He mentioned that Ethan and his wife, Brynne, hadn’t been married all that long, describing their posh country wedding last year at Hallborough, and how all of Caleb’s family had come over for the wedding.  It was the final family trip for their father before he passed away.  I’d also meet Jonathan Blackstone and his wife Marie.  Jonathan and Caleb’s dad had been close, and the backbone of the relationship between the American and British Blackstones.

It was a lot to take in, but I was grateful for the distraction.  I was looking forward to meeting them all, they sounded so lovely, but truth be told, the country-manor-turned-B&B—Hallborough House—was what I found the most intriguing of all.  There was something about the name of the house that rang a bell with me.  I had my suspicions as to why, but couldn’t be sure until I saw it with my own eyes.

***

CALEB

Brooke had been quiet in the car on the drive up from London, as if she were deep in thought, or maybe she was just processing the emotions from being back in England after such a long period of a time.  We hadn’t really done much at all since arriving in London, except for a quick stop to collect our warmer clothing, and a fantastic Christmas dinner last night in Covent Garden at a new place called Frog.  In December, Hawaii and England are on such opposite ends of the thermometer, I’d called ahead and had a shopper pull together winter wardrobes for both of us, so we’d be set up for the wintry weather the minute the Gulfstream landed.

But it wasn’t the snowy weather causing my Brooke to tremble.  I’d sensed excitement from her as we came through the gates of Hallborough and up the drive to the front of the stately manor house.  I had to help her out first, so I could deal with paying the driver and our luggage, but when I turned back to her a few moments later, I got the best surprise of the day.   My wife was grinning from ear to ear as she took selfies standing in front of Hallborough House.

“So, I gather you like the house.”

“It’s beautiful.”  She gestured for me to come to her.  “Take a selfie with me.  I want pictures of us here.”

I complied, but had to wonder why she was so excited by the house itself.  But before I could ask, I felt little arms wrapped around my legs from behind along with the excited thumps from wagging dog tails.

“Uncle Caleb!”

“Who is that grabbing me, and why are there wolves attacking?” I teased.

She popped her head around with a giggle.  “It’s Zara, and they’re just dogs, not wolves.  This is Rags and that one is Sir, Auntie Brynne’s dog,” she explained patiently with a pat to each dog’s head as she named them.  “They like playing outside in the snow.”

“I don’t blame them.  I’d play in the snow too if I had their fur.”

She just stared up at us in all her adorableness.

“Well, I am very sorry I didn’t recognize you right away because you’ve grown so much since I was here the last time.”  I crouched down to her height so we could speak eye to eye.  “How old are you again?”  I asked.

“Five.”  She held up one hand with her fingers splayed out.

“Are you sure you’re not twenty-five?  You’ve grown a lot.”  I thought it was sweet she called me ‘uncle’ when I really wasn’t.  Obviously her parents had referred to me that way.  Charmed the hell out of me, regardless.

She giggled again and nodded her head.  “I am five right now, but I’ll be six on my birthday,” she explained patiently.  She focused her attention on Brooke before asking, “Are you Uncle Caleb’s native wife?”

Brooke bent down to join our little conversation, stifled a laugh and answered, “Yes, I am his native wife.  I’m Brooke, and I’m pleased to meet you, Zara.”  She held out her hand.

“Pleased to meet you, and welcome to Hallborough House, we hope you enjoy your stay here with us,” Zara answered back, shaking Brooke’s hand with complete sincerity, as if she’d done it many, many times before.  It made sense since she was used to guests coming into her home constantly, but seeing a little girl take on the role of concierge was priceless.

“Was it your mom or your grandpa who said Brooke was a ‘native’?”  I couldn’t resist asking, and I knew she would tell me.  Zara was honest to a fault underneath all that charm.  If I ever had a daughter, I hoped she might be like her.  This kid was one in a million.

“Uncle Ethan said it,” she informed us.

Not a surprise.  I knew Ethan would get a laugh out of the fact I married a Brit, especially since he’d recently married an American.

Zara took each of us by the hand and steered us toward the house.  “Let’s go in now, the boys will come for your bags and take them to your room.”  Hannah and Freddy were obviously raising their kids right, teaching them to help with the family business.

“Do you know what ‘native’ means, Zara?” Brooke asked as we walked, our footsteps crunching along the snowy ground.

“Yes,” she said with a serious nod of her head, “It means you know the Queen, and can say your words properly.”

I just about died laughing right there in the snow.

***

BROOKE

It simply wasn’t possible for us to have been made any more welcome by Caleb’s family.  Hannah greeted us at the door with open arms before doing the introductions all around.  They were all there waiting impatiently for us to arrive, but it felt more welcoming than anything.  They were just happy to see Caleb again, and to meet his new wife.  The fact I was British, only made for some fun jokes to break the ice.

I could see that the UK Blackstones had been blessed by the same good genetics as the US ones.  Hannah’s brother, Ethan, had similar features to Caleb and his brothers, and just as easy on the eye.

Handsome men, every single one of them.

There was a darkness to Ethan though, almost unrecognizable at first, but definitely present.  I could relate; the same dark shadows bounced around inside my head too.  Seeing those shadows lift the instant his lovely wife, Brynne, or his baby girl came into view, gave me hope.   Caleb did the same for me.

Little Laurel was such a gorgeous baby, and came right into my arms when I held them out.  I needed to get in some baby practice because I’d have my own in less than six months, which was still a concept I was getting used to.  I almost didn’t want to let Laurel go when it was time for her to have a nap, but it was a good excuse to ask if I could have a tour of the house.

Hannah was more than happy to take me around, and Zara, her miniature assistant-in-training who slayed me with her charm when she informed me that the stunning portrait on the staircase was painted by Sir Tristan Mallerton in the early 1840’s.  When I asked her who the people in the painting were, she answered without missing a beat, “Sir Jeremy Greymont, Lady Georgina Greymont, and their children, Roderick and Anna-Marguerite.”

“Are you sure you’re really five?  I don’t believe it.  You know too much to be just five,” I teased.

She giggled up at me and nodded yes, swinging her hand clasped tightly to mine, as we toured the magnificent house I was sure my parents had visited on one of their many weekends to the country.

“How long has Hallborough House been operating as a B&B, Hannah?”

“Twelve years this coming spring.”

And twelve years made it a definite possibility.

“My parents loved to take weekends in the country.  They went everywhere, and stayed in places just like this when I was away at school.  I think they might have even come here, because my mother used to send me postcards of the places they visited.  I remember there was a beautiful house in Somerset, and I still have the postcard somewhere.”

“We have postcards in the gift shop,” Zara said.

“Well, then I must look at the gift shop’s postcards and see if they are the same as mine.”

“I can do better than that for you,” Hannah said with a grin.  “How long ago would your parents have come here?”

“It would have been about nine or ten years ago I’d guess.  They were killed in a car crash seven years ago, so not recently,” I explained as they led me to a bright room with a garden view that housed the gift shop.  I could imagine the ladies of years past using it as a sitting room because of the great light pouring in from the Gothic arched windows.

Hannah went to a bookshelf and began ticking through the volumes while I studied the postcards on a rack beside the desk.  Some were of other sights in the area such as Kilve Beach, and a very old seaside church that reminded me of Stone Church on Blackstone Island where Caleb and I were married just a few weeks ago.  I found one of the house that I thought could be the same as the postcard I had, but I couldn’t be certain.

“Let me see,” Zara asked.

I showed it to her, and she looked less than impressed, but informed me that building on the house was started in 1785 and finished in 1789.

“You are just a fount of information, aren’t you?”

“Yes.”  She was dead serious.

Ask a stupid question, Brooke.  Zara was as hilarious as she was adorable.

As I looked around at the beautiful room I could finally appreciate what drew my parents to leave the city and come to places like Hallborough for a getaway.  I also found it ironic that they had died on one of their country weekends away, but I’d always taken comfort in the fact they were together and doing something they enjoyed immensely.  “Can you check the registry for their names?” I asked Hannah hopefully.

“Of course, but even better are the photo albums.  They may have a picture in one of the albums.  Let’s take a look, shall we?”  She pulled out two leather volumes and brought them to the desk.  “These are the years you mentioned, please have a look through.”  She gestured to the books on the counter.

I approached carefully, almost afraid to be disappointed, but too curious not to look.  “You take pictures of your guests? I asked as I opened the first book.

“Only if they want to, of course, but most do.  It’s a tradition to take a Polaroid or two and make a page in the book with a message or whatever they want to share with other guests about their stay.  The Polaroid stays with the book, but most everyone gets a picture of the finished page with their mobile, so they can take it with them too.”

“Oh, that’s lovely,” I whispered, afraid to hope I might see a picture of the two people I still missed on a daily basis.

I turned pages slowly, reading the messages and seeing the happy smiles of lovers and friends and families who had all come to this place a decade ago on their travels from somewhere else.

I finished the first book and closed it before handing it back to Hannah who placed it back on the shelf.

“Feel free to look through any others if you’d like.  The year is written on the spine.”  She gave me a hug and said, “We’re so happy you and Caleb are here with us this year.”

“Thank you,” I managed to get out before my throat seized up.

“I’m going to take this little monkey to the kitchen and leave you to it.  Come find us if you need anything at all,” she said gently, probably sensing that I was getting emotional.  Zara gave me a sweet little wave as she left with her mum.

Once I was alone, I took the second book to a chair by the window and sat.  For a few moments I just looked out at the beauty of the grounds covered in snow before I opened the photo album and started looking at pages.

Seven page-turns into the book and there they were.  In life…in color…in a picture I had never seen before.  Susanna and Michael.  My mother laughing up at my dad as if he’d just said something incredibly clever.  Happy.  That’s how they were in the picture.  So happy.  My eyes filled with tears, growing blurry to the point I couldn’t even read the message on the page in the familiar hand of my mother’s writing until I gave myself a minute.

Once I was able to read it, the message wasn’t anything remarkable at all, just how much they’d enjoyed their weekend at Hallborough and that they would love to come back again someday.  That never happened, obviously, but that wasn’t the point.  The important thing was that they had been here and enjoyed themselves together…spending time with each other and finding happiness in those precious moments they were given.

The warm weight of Caleb’s arms came around me from behind.  I was so absorbed in my trip down memory lane, I hadn’t even heard him come into the room.

“Your parents came to Hallborough,” he said softly as he studied their picture.

“They did.”  I reached a hand up and cupped his cheek, needing to touch him.

“That’s why you were so excited about seeing the house.  You suspected they came here.”

“You caught that from me?”  The level of Caleb’s intuitiveness amazed me.  It must be why he was so good in business.  He could read people.

He kissed the top of my head.  “I like to think I can know what you’re thinking but I don’t.  I just sense changes in your body language, and you were trembling when we drove up to the house, and then taking happy selfies in front of it two minutes later.  When Hannah said you were in here looking through the photo albums for your parents, I figured it out.”

“I’m glad you came to find me.”  I got up from the chair and went into his arms and let him hold me.  Caleb’s touch was my lifeline now.  He balanced my highs and lows with his ever-present strength and love.

“Me too.  I love seeing you so happy, it’s the best gift you can give me.  Well, that, and our baby,” he said sweetly against my forehead.

“I love you, Caleb Blackstone, and I needed this trip so much more than I could have ever imagined, but you imagined it.  You know me better than I know myself sometimes.  Thank you for bringing me here, but more than that, for loving me the way that I am.”

“I love you, Brooke Casterley Blackstone, and that is my most important job.  It’s what I do best.”

“I know.”

*The End*

The Blessings of Ethan Blackstone

Cover image by Scott Hoover Photography. Josh Kloss, model. Cover design by Louisa Maggio.

Well, there you go.  I always said if there was more story to tell for Ethan and Brynne then I would write it.   Mr. Blackstone has been whispering in my ear for a while now, so I’ve decided it’s time to let you in on our secret.  Why today?  August 25th is memorable because five years ago on this date Ethan Blackstone was revealed to the world when Naked, The Blackstone Affair, Book 1 was published.  So, to celebrate the 5th birthday of The Blackstone Affair you shall have a fifth book.  (you are welcome)

The Blessings of Ethan Blackstone will be entirely in Ethan’s voice, echoing how All In (Book 2) was written.

Five Years Ago Today Something Wonderful Happened…

Apparently today is the five year anniversary of the birth of Ethan Blackstone and his beautiful American girl. July 15, 2012 as reminded to me by Facebook Memories. 
 
After Mr. M and the boys had gone off to camp, I was left to my devices at home and got to writing on my story about a British Lord and the art conservationist come to help him with his collection of paintings. That story was what would eventually become PRICELESS.
 
But what happened later that night was life changing.
 
I found the picture of the nude model posing with her legs up and got an idea for a NEW story. Weirdly possessed by the striking image, I dashed off a chapter and sent it to my friend Franzi, asking her what she thought of my idea.
 

The picture that inspired me.

She told me to write it, and so I set aside Priceless and got to work on this new story instead.

I wrote a story about an American grad student studying in London who did some artful modeling on the side. We didn’t know then the reasons behind her need to make such provocative pictures, but the answer would come later on.

I wrote about a security specialist with a harrowing past from his time in the British Army who looked a lot like David Gandy, and named him Ethan Blackstone.  I gave him a filthy mouth, but made sure he remained a gentleman.  An alpha male in a beautiful suit addicted to Djarum Blacks and obsessed with a girl he saw first in a photograph.

The story was instalove chocked full of cliches and tropes, but I loved it, and so did the few readers I had already reading my historicals.  It combined all of the elements I loved to read in a romance book, but was something I had created from inside my own head.  It took me three solid weeks to write, and then a couple weeks more to edit and prepare it for publishing with a cover, etc.  Naked was my first indie-published book.  Little did I know clicking that publish button would change my life in ways I could have never foreseen at the time.

But change things it did.

Within a week it was moving up the Amazon charts and hitting genre lists.  I can remember clearly the day I came down the stairs and told Mr. M that I was going to break 100 books sold that day and was dumbfounded as to why.  I just couldn’t believe people were reading about Ethan and Brynne and connecting so deeply with their story.  My blog hits had jumped from about 15 to 500+ visitors in a day.  Book blogs reviewed the book and began sharing it around social media.  Sales increased and the book hit the top 100, then top 50, then top 20.  Agents started emailing me asking things I knew nothing about.  I was just an elementary teacher from California who liked to write romance in her free time.  Selling enough books to make a living at my writing gig wasn’t even on my radar.  But exactly five months from the day I was inspired to write this very special story…is when it happened.  I became a full-time writer and started an exciting new chapter in my life.

And the rest, is history.

xo R