Happy Holidays!

Happy holidays, my dears.  Here is a little Christmas story I wrote for you.  It takes place about five months before the events in Naked.  There’s a little surprise in there too.  *grins*


London, 24 December, 2011

The street was remarkably sparse considering it was Christmas Eve.  Probably because it was so damn freezing cold outside people were smart enough to stay in.  I know it’s totally cliché to be shopping for a gift at this late minute, but here I went pushing my way through the doors of Harrod’s in hopes of something really perfect for my aunt Marie.  I better get my ass in gear too, because I would be spending the day with her tomorrow and had nothing to show up with.

harrods_christmas_world_0810bMarie was hard to buy for because she was so unique and unconventional it was ridiculously difficult to top her lifestyle.  She also had money enough to get anything she desired.  She reminded me of Auntie Mame from the movie in a lot of ways.  From the exotic travels, to the rich, dead husbands, to the fantastic dresses in her wardrobe.

After three quarters of an hour I gave up and headed outside.  I stopped for a mocha coffee in the food court first.  I needed the caffeine and the warmth.

I strolled and I sipped and looked into shop windows from the street for anything of interest.  The bite from the cold air was going to put some color in my cheeks I was sure.  Well, at least I had hot coffee, and the Christmas carols piping out from somewhere sounded nice.  Very Christmas Carol-ish.  I’m sure Dickens would have been surprised to know that 250 years later, some of the same songs were still playing.  I loved history and it made me smile to see that some traditions hadn’t changed hardly at all in those long years.  Change isn’t always a good thing.  It spoke to strength of character when something withstood the tests of time.

I wish I could be more like that.

Some days I wondered how long I would last.  Despite my determination to be on my own in London, I missed my parents.  The decorating, and the baking, and the parties…

Well, maybe not the parties.  Parties were not really my thing anymore.   And I seriously wondered if I’d ever step foot in San Francisco again.  There was a good chance not.

Move on and change the subject–that one’s pretty worn out.

I came up to a shop window that looked intriguing.  Like a flea market or secondhand shop.  The name on the door was etched, Tucked Away.  And it certainly was.  There were tons of these small shops in London and some of them were beautifully arranged.  This was one of them.  I stepped inside and heard a bell jingle from a catch on the top of the door.

“Happy Christmas,” a cheerful voice called out.

“Happy Christmas,” I returned, to the smiling face of an older gentleman, in Brit uniform of sweater vest and tweed jacket.

The shop smelled good.  Like cinnamon.  I would bake at Aunt Marie’s tomorrow and I looked forward to that.  I loved to cook, but it lost something when there was nobody to cook for.  I felt a sigh coming and suppressed it.

scarf - hand knitted womens scarf with fringe  in alpaca wool whimsical purple blue olive green-f31382I gravitated toward a section of soft knits.  These were obviously consignment of some sort.  Not antiques.  Scarf and hat combos in so many colors.  I pulled out a dark purple set and fingered the scarf.  It felt like cashmere, it was that soft.  Probably lambs wool though.  I checked the price and raised a brow.   I wanted it.  Hell, I needed it on a day like today.  I looked at the price again and decided it was okay to splurge on myself.  It was Christmas after all.

Who in the hell are you kidding, foolish woman?  You still have nothing for Marie.

I think I was starting to panic a bit.  I sighed and kept looking.

I drifted around the shop, found nothing and eventually decided it was time to leave.  I stepped up to the counter to pay for my hat and scarf and caught the display of costume jewelry under the glass.  Now we’re talkin’.  It was very pretty stuff for one thing—vintage Bohemian fit Marie’s personality like a leather glove.  Score!

One piece stood out clearly to me and it was perfect.  A dove pin.  Silver with seed pearls on the wing and tail, a black crystal eye and a tiny heart charm dangling from its beak with a blue crystal in the middle.  A dove symbolized peace and God knows the world could certainly use some of that.  The best part was that I could picture my aunt wearing this pin.  I knew she’d love it.

I paid in a rush, almost giddy to have struck gold in my labors of gift-buying-angst.  Checking my watch, I knew I should get going and realized I still had a bit of a walk to my Tube station.

It was cold.

Frickin frigid.

Cold enough that I pulled on the new hat and wrapped the scarf around my neck right then and there on the street.  I checked my face real quick in the window of a parked car just to make sure there wasn’t something stupid looking in my appearance, not that I cared too much when it was so freezing.

I walked another couple blocks until I couldn’t stand the cold another second.  I pushed into the first place that had a door with a ‘We’re Open sign.  Fountaine’s Aquarium.  I was in a pet store.  Or more correctly, a tropical fish shop.  Worked for me.  It was warm and quite dim inside, the earthy smells of humidity from so much water made the air a pleasant change from where I’d just been.  I unwound my scarf and wandered around, stopping by each tank to observe and read the names of the fish.

The saltwater section reminded me of the trip to Maui when I was fourteen.  I’d gotten to snorkel and see some the same fish that were in these tanks.  I didn’t  know it at the time, but that vacation had been the last one for me with both of my parents together.  My mom and dad separated soon after, and there would never be another trip for all of us as a family unit.  Sad.   They had to fight to be civil to each other now.  Well, isn’t that the perfect oxymoron… ‘fighting to be civil.’

I stopped at one particularly interesting fellow.  It was a lionfish.  They are something else up close.  All those spiky fins hardly look real.  This guy seemed curious and came right up to the edge and fluttered at me as if he wanted to have a conversation.  He was cute.  I knew they were poisonous to touch, but still captivating to watch.  I bet that a saltwater aquarium was a great deal of work to maintain.

Simba looking“Hey Handsome,” I whispered to the fish.

“Can I help you with anything?”  a male voice asked behind me.

“Just admiring.  He’s really a beautiful fish,” I told the store clerk.

“Yeah, he’s been sold actually.  The owner is coming to pick him up today and take him home.”

“Ahhh, well I hope you’re happy at your new home then, Handsome.”  I spoke to the fish.  “Hopefully it’s someone who’ll spoil you with treats.”

The clerk agreed with me and chuckled.

I turned away from the tank, deciding it was time to brave the outside cold yet again and head home to my flat.  I still needed to wrap Marie’s gift and I had plans to bake tonight—some sugar cookies that I would take over there tomorrow.  It was a little tradition that we’d started and it was really fun piping on the frosting and sprinkles as we decorated the shapes.  My favorites were the snowflake ones.

I headed for the door to leave, adjusting my hat and re-wrapping the scarf halfway up my face, when someone entered the shop.  I stepped aside to let him pass and was impressed with an image of a tall person and a nice coat, but I didn’t look up at him.  My eyes were focused on what lay beyond the open door of the shop.

Snowflakes.London snow

It was snowing on Christmas Eve in London!

“It’s snowing?”  I muttered in amazement.

“Yeah…it is,” he said.

I stepped out into the white and caught the most appealing scent on him as we passed by each other.  Like some exotic spice mixed with an indulgent combination of soap or cologne.  It was nice when a man smelled so good, I thought.  Lucky girl…whoever she was getting to smell that all the time.

I went up to the window of a black Range Rover parked on the street and checked my hat in the window’s reflection like I’d done before when I’d started out.  It wasn’t really my vanity, but more that I didn’t want to look like a dork walking down the street.

The snow was falling heavier now, and I could see some flakes beginning to settle on my new purple hat, even with just the reflection in the glass.  I smiled at myself as I turned to go.

I was cold on my walk home.  Cold…but strangely content.  Snow for Christmas, for a California girl, all on her own in London at the holidays.   Something I never expected.  But I realized another thing as I made my way.  The small things in life are sometimes the most precious gifts we are given, and when you recognize them as they arrive, then you are truly blessed.


Interview with Raine Miller, author of The Blackstone Affair

Interview with Raine Miller, author of The Blackstone Affair.

Lady Percival’s Portrait

Self portrait, Ann Mary Newton (1832-1866)
National Portrait Gallery, London

Since the release of All In, I’ve had several people ask me about the painting of Lady Percival that Brynne is conserving.  Lady Percival is not a real painting but rather a figment of my imagination and a character in another book I’m writing.  It is a historical erotic romance that I hope to get out some time in 2013.

The artist, Tristan Mallerton, is also fictitious and someone you will meet in yet another historical romance I am releasing in early 2013.  My fictional Mr. Mallerton has painted many portraits of the heroines in my books and when I started The Blackstone Affair, it was fun for me to link the two time periods with the art that I love to write about.  You will be hearing his name over and over again, especially in Gabrielle and Ivan’s–The Rothvale Legacy series as it gets going.

I studied Art History at San Diego State and still have the utmost respect and love for art and especially Romanticist works of painters like John William Waterhouse and Jean Fragonard.  I can also find a ton of inspiration for my books just from looking at a painting.  I even found my inspiration for Naked when I saw the photograph I ended up using on the cover of the book.

I did find a painting that is my vision of how Lady Percival might look.  It is a self-portrait by Ann Mary Newton (1832 – 1866) and is on display at the National Portrait Gallery in London, which is the setting for an important scene in All In.  I like that it was painted by a woman too.

On a side note, I am hard at work on Book 3 as we speak.  As soon as I finish the manuscript I’ll let you all know and can better give an accurate release date for Eyes Wide Open, The Blackstone Affair, Part 3.

*Hugs and blows kisses*

All In, The Blackstone Affair Part 2

I promised to reveal the cover this weekend for All In.  Well here it is.  I can thank Kim Killion at Hot Damn Designs for working her magic yet again.  I love how it turned out and love the expressiveness in the hand.  Hands fascinate me in general so based on the fact that Ethan Blackstone is known for touching his girl all the time, I thought this cover worked perfectly for their story.  I also promised an excerpt so here goes.  You will see that Mr. Blackstone is still explaining things to Brynne in that very direct way of his.  *snickers*  He can do blunt and scorchingly sexy better than any man I know and it only makes me love him more.


“Where are we going?” she asked.

“First?  We’re going to get some food.”  It came out a little harsher than I wanted it to.

She nodded at me and then looked away, out the window.

“After you eat we’ll get a new phone and mobile number for you.”

She looked down at her lap and nodded again.  I wanted to pull her into my arms but I held off.

“Then I’m taking you home.  My place—home.”

“No, Ethan, that’s not a good idea,” she whispered.

“Fuck good ideas,” I exploded.  “Would you at least look at me?”  She turned her eyes up to mine and smoldered in the seat, a hint of red fire flickering and making them look very brown.  I wanted to drag her to me and shake her, making her understand that this bullshit break-up was a thing of the past.  She was coming home with me, period.  I turned the key in the ignition.

“What do you want from me, Ethan?”

“That’s easy.”  I made a rude noise.  “I want to go back to one week ago.  I want to be back in my office fucking on my desk with you wrapped around me!  I want your body underneath mine looking up at me with some expression other than the one I saw when you left me at the lifts!”  I rested my forehead on the steering wheel.

“Okay…Ethan.”  Her voice sounded shaky and more than a little defeated.

“Okay…Ethan?” I mocked, pulling my head up to look her over.  “What does that mean?  Okay I’m coming home with you?  Okay to you and me?  What?  I need more from you, Brynne.”