Thursday, April 28, 2016

Cerise went to #London, found #Regency #wine merchants, #hat and #barber #shops centuries' old!

Nothing in the world is so good for the historical researcher as a three mile walk around London! Of course, you need fuel in the form of fish and chips, beer, and an afternoon tea but on the way you give your camera a good workout!

Here are a few pix from my and Mr. DeLand's workout! Most of these are in the St. James's region near the Palace, off Green Park and fabulous Spencer House!

That mansion built beginning in 1756 by the young bridegroom, the first Earl Spencer for his bride, is open only on Sundays. Do make a point to go if you've a passion for Neo-Classical interior design and furnishings. The mansion, right off Green Park, is easy to access from the Tube and a sprightly walk along the park. The house is beautifully appointed with (mostly) original period pieces. Owned now by a non-profit corporation which rents it out occasionally, the home is a gracious example of fine mid-eighteenth century workmanship by famous architects of the day including Henry Holland. Seeing the Palm Room alone was the joy of my day. And if you are mad about period architecture, the house brochure, available only at the house, is a must!

Side view from St. James's Street, Green Park around right hand corner.
The library overlooks the park where passersby often walked right up to the earl and 

his countess to ask for food and money!
I used the ballroom as a model for one in 
Hope you read it!
Do visit the website for more specific details about the house, which of course, I could not photograph lest the fabrics fade from modern-day flash lighting.

Outside though, the scenery was as stunning.
Homes next door going up St. James's Street.

And across the street, the entry to a close, quaint and intriguing where a small hotel fronts the street.

Along St. James's, a home from which once Frederic Chopin departed
to give his last public performance.
Truefitt and Hill here since 1805!

Their front window!

Berry Bros and Rudd, Ltd. Wine Merchants at No. 3 St. James's opened in 1698 
by a woman and still owned and operated by the same family. 
Has a Royal Warrant to Her Majesty the Queen.
We wanted to go in for a champagne tasting but the event that day was fully subscribed! Alas! 
And next door to the wine merchants at No. 6?
Lock and Company, Hatters, since 1678 they've been here.
The shop also appears in HER BEGUILING BUTLER! I do hope you've read it!

Friday, April 22, 2016

Cerise DeLand's #bestselling #Regency LADY VARNEY'S RISQUE BUSINESS #1 in #series #Free #romance

I am tickled to tell you that LADY VARNEY's RISQUE BUSINESS, #1 in my bestselling Regency Romp series, is now free!  That's right, zero dollars, zero cents! FREE!

When a proper lady of the ton takes on a new client in her risqué matchmaking business, she discovers that he has one decadent demand. Spend the night with him!

Lady Kitty Varney runs a discreet business to support herself and pay off her late husband's gambling debts. When Viscount Justin Belmont appears in her parlor, Kitty's latest client is the very man she was forbidden to marry years ago. Kitty questions if she can find Justin a woman worthy of him...and if she can bear to help him wed any other woman.

Then Justin lists his criteria for a wife and Kitty is shocked to learn she is among the few candidates suitable. He demands each candidate spend one night with him.
Can Kitty deny herself the chance to enjoy the charms of the man she's never forgotten? Lady Varney's risque business might be her saving grace but it may well become her undoing.
Your nibble of my cherry?
Here it is!
Excerpt, Copyright 2014, Cerise DeLand. All rights reserved.
Kitty stiffened her backbone, but felt no stronger than a floundering mackerel. How she took the circular staircase down to her drawing room was a mystery, given her knees of jelly.
“Buck up, Puss,” she chastised herself. She pulled open the double doors herself rather than call her butler and crowd the occasion with unnecessary others. She needed to look upon Justin Belmont at this particular moment alone.
#2 in Regency Romp series!
And oh, my. Yes. To realize that the newly dubbed Viscount Belmont, American-born, Englishman by blood, nobleman now by adoption and the entail, was even more devastatingly handsome than a decade ago when the world seemed fresh and full of positive possibilities.
“My Lord Belmont.” Kitty sailed toward him where he stood before her fireplace, her expression, she hoped, one of civility. My lord, how can you shake my sanity so easily with that harsh look? That painful curiosity in your hazel eyes?
Here before her stood the man who had saved her from lascivious Frenchmen more than a decade ago. Huge and imposing as Satan then, he was now more muscular, his face more angular, his hair more raven against skin more pale. In clothes that were better tailored and more form-fitting than the loose linen shirts that once had flowed to his fingertips, he was now the epitome of a titled English gentleman. He gave no hint of the American privateer who had captured her body with his boldness, her mind with his intellect and her heart with his artless charm.
She walked forward, her gaze up at his imperial height, her hand out for him to take.
He touched her fingertips, his own cold as the grave. “Lady Varney. Kind of you to receive me.”
You don’t sound as though you think me kind. You sound…dismayed, appalled, even—dear god—disgusted that you are here.
#3 in Regency Romp series!
“Please, my lord, do sit with me.” She nodded to one settee, and as he complied, she took the one facing him. His eyes, such a myriad of earthen colors, faceted in the lamplight of late afternoon. They flowed over her hair, her lips, her breasts, her fingers. Everywhere his gaze touched, her body pulsed, remembering how once he had looked at her with desire. Not this…this indifference. That sparked her to lie with her next words, “I am delighted you have come to see me.”
He did not even breathe as he said, “Are you now?”
“Of course,” she countered his challenge, but stayed true to her manners by adding, “I have heard of your recent good fortune.”
He cocked a long black brow. “When the news is published in the scandal sheets as well as the social notes, nothing in London is a secret.”
She licked her lower lip. “Very little.”
“But this service of yours,” he said with measured tone as he circled a hand in the air to denote her business, “this is a tidbit only the men of the ton share with each other.”
She hastened to agree. “Those who need help have found my—”
“Assistance? That is what you call your match-making, am I correct?” One corner of his mouth tipped up and she could not say if the move denoted humor or ruefulness. “Whatever your services, I need them.”
His directness had her fighting for a response.
#4 in Regency Romp series!
“I hear you pride yourself on your knowledge of human nature,” he prodded her.
She lifted her chin. “Or to be exact, the nature of men.”
He barked in laughter. “If you knew that, dearest woman, you and I would not be sitting here.”
Should she show him the door? She bristled and sought to hold her ground, reprimand him, if she could. “You asked for this appointment, my lord.”
“It seemed the only way to see you,” he shot back.
“Perhaps I am mistaken, but I was under the impression that you requested a Sunday afternoon appointment because—”
“Because since my newfound status as a peer of the realm was announced in September, you have not invited me to any of your dinner parties.”
“Forgive me, but you really wished an invitation to dinner?” Incredulous at that conclusion, she felt a thrill sweep up her spine that he might indeed not seek a wife. “I—I am only recently out of my year of mourning for my husband, Justin, and those who may dine at my table with me do not include bachelors.”
“Especially bachelors whom you once knew? Ah, the rules of this blasted society!” He leaned forward, his gaze at once tender and yearning. “Kitty—”
“Please, sir, I am still Lady Varney to you.”
“You never were that to me. Besides, you just called me Justin.” His eyes twinkled.
“I did not!”
“Of course, you did.” He sat back, crossed one long leg over the other and seemed too well satisfied with himself to soothe her ruffled senses.
“We are here to discuss business,” she insisted with a hauteur that had him narrowing his gaze on her.
It was not a kindly glance, either, but the fierce glare he’d worn so long ago as he climbed over the sides of the French Cyr to rescue her from those bastards.
He blinked. Drew back and appraised her.
Good. At least we are now on firm footing. Two equals about to do business. Not two older people who had cared passionately for each other in their youth.
She tipped her head when he remained silent. “Please tell me what you wish.”
He set his jaw, never having cared for anyone to give him orders. “As you know, I am to inherit the Earl of Belmont’s titles and estates. He is ailing. Sadly, I might add. I have come to care for my uncle deeply in the past six years. When I first set foot in England eleven years ago, I must say I had no idea he and I would ever get on. But we did. Do. Save for one issue.”
Kitty nodded, knowing precisely the matter that divided them. Touchy subject though it was, she went on boldly, because that was her wont, because it was her business to be forthright and because she knew this man very well. Or once had. “He wants you to marry.”
Justin seemed to retreat even further into himself. His jaw firmed. His lips thinned. His large eyes turned to glittering stones. “He wishes me to marry an heiress with title, high social standing and a suitable dowry. To put a fine point on it, he wants the perfect woman.”
“The earl thinks appropriately. His titles are six hundred years old and his estates are numerous and bring in a sizeable sum each year.”
Justin snorted. “My uncle was right about you.”
Kitty felt what would come next would not be a compliment. “How so?”
“He declares there is not much you do not know about the peers of the realm, their income or their need for propriety.”
“To learn the genealogies of the famous one hundred families was a favorite pastime for a lonely little girl.”
His features softened to a genuine compassion that made her heart ache. “You were alone as a child?”
She swallowed, not wishing to remember her youth. “I do have one sister, younger by ten years. But our parents were preoccupied with society. Hence, the house was often cold and dark. But the library was a wonderful room, warm and full of enchanting tales. Not all of them were fiction.”
His mouth spread wide in a grin and her memory of how those lips felt on her own was one she told herself could not be so fresh after more than a decade. Yet, it was.
She tipped her head, unable to suppress a smile. “Please tell me about the kind of woman you wish me to seek for you.”
“Ah. Yes.” He scowled, his glittering eyes hard as glass. “First, she must be lovely.”
“Of course.” No less for such a striking man. Besides, a plain woman would be intimidated by a husband who was so damned handsome.
“Blonde?” Hair color was often listed by a man, but not usually this early in the discussion.
She shifted. That specific? “I see.”
“She must be a peer in her own right.”
Kitty knit her brows, recalling how her own  barony of writ  had been the lure to Henry. “Why is this important?”
“Her own blue-blood complements my lack. Since I was born on the wrong side of the blanket, a lady in deed secures my own legitimacy.”
Kitty’s mind was racing. How many single golden-haired ladies who were titled in their own right could she count? Four? Five?
“It also enhances the reputation of any of my offspring.”
“True. I had not thought of that.”
Looking innocent as a cherub, he lifted a palm. “You see my logic.”
“Certainly.” Dear god, a taskmaster. “What else might I add to her qualifications?” A huge dowry? That’s what the ton says the old Earl demands of you.
“She must be shorter than I. Talented at the piano forte. A good conversationalist.”
“Really, how interesting.” Her gaze wandered to her own French piano. She frowned and noted, “Most men would have asked that she be a wizard at cards.”
He chuckled.
 “Most bachelors,” she ventured, “want to ensure they keep their money in the family.”
“Oh, never doubt, my dear Kitty, that I have other requirements perhaps more astonishing than not caring about my future wife’s ability at the card table.”
Oh, my.  This was the point at which many men told her they wanted peculiar qualities in their spouse. She hadn’t expected any oddities from Justin. Would she be disillusioned as well as surprised? And even more jealous? “Do tell me what they are.”
“I want someone versed in the art of conjugal bliss.”
Was she gaping at him? “I’m sorry. I supposed, I mean, I presumed—”
“You thought I wanted a virgin?”
“I did. Most men do.”
“Not I.”
Why ever not?” Was that her own shrill voice?
A grin flashed over his features. “I also want someone who has had a child.”
“A—?” Kitty blinked, clearing her impression of this man who now seemed suddenly so calculating. “Pardon me?”
“I need an heir. I need to be assured that the woman I marry can conceive and carry a child to term, birth him well and rear him. This means she must be of good constitution. After all, I will need not one child but at least two. Preferably three.”
Kitty could not believe her ears at his extraordinary list, but nodded and went on with the topic. “Raised by her, of course.”
“I want no fainting lily. No frail Bess. And no parade of nurses and governesses.”
“But surely, you need one,” she babbled, “ of each.”
“Of course. One governess. One nurse. And one loving mother.”
“I see.” Kitty began to have a warm feeling in the pit of her stomach that signaled either rage or a headache. Stress like this reminded her of verbal sparing with Henry who thankfully had gone to his Maker. The cure for that had been for her to run to her garden. Prune her roses. Trim her yews. At the moment, she could do neither, but deal with Justin and his demands. “You are being very specific.”
“I am.”
“Almost too much so.”
“Why do you say that?”
She rose to her feet, the sensation of standing so quickly made her head light. Airy. Euphoria had her swaying. So unexpected was this feeling that she walked toward the fireplace and put a steadying hand to the mantel. “Let me recount your requirements.”
He nodded as he sat in his chair, looking so infernally regal and congenial that she wanted to gather the fine lapels of his frockcoat in her fists and shake him. “Proceed.”
“You want a young woman, an heiress with wealth—”
He raised a hand to make her pause. “She need not be young. Too young and she is not useful to me as a wife who can bear children.”
“Quite. Shall we say that you want a seasoned woman? Yes?”
He nodded. “Go on.”
“Blonde. Golden-haired, specifically. Shorter than you, so then she must be five-feet-four or five inches tall. Good at the piano, in the assembly hall and the ballroom. Versed in the bedroom. A woman who has already borne a child and who wishes to bear more. She must also enjoy the process of raising them. Anything I have missed?”
He let his gaze drift up to her cap of golden curls, then down to lock on her eyes. “That is an excellent summary.”
She braced herself for what she was now about to say. “I have made matches for men for a long time.”
“Ever since you began to emerge from mourning for your husband.”
She gave Justin a small smile. Realizing he knew this about her was a delight. “Yes, and I have created some very fine marriages. Though not all of my couples have yet taken vows, those five who did, are very happy.”
Justin brushed imaginary lint from his trousers. “So I have heard.”
“But these requirements you list are unusual.”
“I am a very exacting man.”
“You are. Your friends declare it. I hear your tailor does, too. Your butler.”
“I shall have to reprimand my man for engaging in gossip,” he told her but his eyes and his lips quirked in amusement.
She tipped her head, unable to resist grinning at him and learning more. “Your butler is a good friend of my cook. They talk often.”
“To you as well, it seems.”
“My sources are legion. They help me with the work I do.” She raised her brows. “You must realize to match-make I need to know many facts about people.”
“A necessity of your occupation.” He winked at her, sending her back to days on his ship when she’d been so entranced by his charm.
She cleared her throat and returned to the subject of his visit. “Your list limits me severely.”
“I am aware of that.”
“There are few women who possess all the qualifications.”
He rose and came to stand before her.
So close now, she breathed his cologne. Smelled the mint on his breath. Admired the dimple in his left cheek and the facets of green and brown in his large heavy-lidded eyes. “In fact, there are only three women who meet all of your requirements.”
“Ah. But wait, you have not heard them all.”
“No? Preposterous! There is a very small pool of possible candidates, Justin. To add more requirements would be burdensome—”
“But my fortune will be very large. My homes, here and in the country, are grand estates. I will be married to this woman for many decades, and I need the best companion possible.” He frowned, very determined looking. “I have the right to declare to whom I shall be joined!”
“Precisely so, my lord, but we must be prudent.”
“You be prudent! I shall be as I am!”
His virulence shocked her.
“Your fees are high. I shall have whom I want! Who is best suited to me.” He strode closer and seized her arms, his powerful body dwarfing hers. Once his might had been comforting, but now, full of fury, his size made her wince. She had been intimidated by her husband far too often and she would not be by any man ever again.
She stiffened her spine. “Tell me your other requirements.”
“She must spend twenty-four hours with me at Belmont Manor.”
“Oh, I see.” She let out a breath, relieved. “You want her to visit.”
“No, I want her in my bed.”
Kitty blinked. “I...I’m sorry. You want her—?”
“Naked. I want to learn if she likes men. Me, to be exact.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

HOT TARGET, one scorching #military #romance by @JordanDane excerpt!

Available only on Amazon
 Outside Havana, Cuba

Five years ago
Rafael lay sprawled on his belly in the gritty dirt for hours, enduring the cool darkness before dawn to the now sweltering heat of the midday sun. He offered up his body to anything that crawled or slithered. With a single-minded purpose he remained as still and unmoving as the boulder he hid behind, dressed in camouflage tactical gear—BDUs, boonie hat, and boots.  Not even the heat or the sweat trickling down his neck distracted him.
His unwavering discipline kept him rooted to the land. This had to work.
Rafe cleared out every last cent of his savings—after he’d lost all hope for his future—to pay for his covert drop and extraction so he could bring his weapon into Cuba. Without an official stamp in his passport, there would be no record of him entering or leaving the country.
When he heard the sound of a vehicle in the distance, he knew his sacrifice had come down to this moment. His eyes shifted toward the horizon and his throat wedged tight. He fought the emotion that welled inside him as he shouldered his suppressed .300 Winchester Magnum. Rafe stared through the Nightforce telescopic sight with his eyes trained on the dirt road below his position.
Please let it be him. 
Not many used this desolate acreage of private ranch land, except for the man he dared to hunt. A truck barreled toward his position and kicked up clouds of dust. As he peered through the scope, adrenaline raged through his veins. Stay in control. Don’t lose it now. He’d come too far to fail. Rafe had his egress routed, but if he didn’t take his target out, he didn’t care what happened to him.
The truck would soon be in range. Rafael slipped on his ear plugs and checked for wind, spying the inconspicuous ribbon he’d tied to a downrange branch at dawn. He adjusted the knobs for windage and elevation and took the safety off his sniper rifle. His hand reached for the bolt action and he chambered a round.
One shot. One kill.
He relaxed his body and took a deep breath before he let it out slow. Rafe hardened his expression as callused as his heart had become. He lined up the man’s face until it centered in the floating crosshair of his scope—Adiós, cabrón—and without hesitation he squeezed the trigger.
The man’s head spattered red mist and brain matter onto the windshield. The back of his head severed from his neck. Target down. Confirmed. After the truck veered left and lunged into a ditch, the man’s dead weight landed on the steering wheel. The abrasive sound of a horn cut through the late afternoon air.
Rafael lay motionless and glared at the dead man through his scope. Time drained away and he could not move. Tears welled in his eyes. He expected to feel something. It was over, wasn’t it? His body shook and he fought the urge to puke.
You gotta go. Now.
It took everything he had to get off the ground and stay focused on his egress. He’d have to get to his extraction point and out of Cuba fast before authorities found the body. Out of habit, he policed his brass, grabbing for the spent shell casing ejected from his .300 Win Mag, but something made him stop. He stared down at the brass in his hand. An impulse gripped him hard. Maybe the urge came from his unrelenting respect for justice.
He’d built a career in law enforcement with the Chicago police department, his latest assignment in SWAT, special operations. Being one of the good guys was all he ever wanted to be, but today he shattered everything he ever stood for.
He’d killed a man in cold blood.
In a slow and deliberate gesture, Rafe wedged the spent casing into a notch on the boulder like an artist signing his work. He didn’t care what happened to him—not any more.

Hot Target
When Rafael reaches out to his sister for a job, Athena Matero—a founding member of the private security agency, the Omega Team—can’t help but be protective of her younger half brother. After a tragic hostage rescue and its aftermath, Rafael Matero turned into a solitary loner, only surfacing to fulfill his duties as team leader for an elite SWAT sniper unit with the Chicago Police. Athena decides to fast track his application by vetting him on the job—a mission to Havana Cuba to investigate a cold case murder.
But when the old murder is linked to the shadowy death of a powerful drug cartel leader, Rafael is burdened by a terrible secret from his past—and an unrelenting death wish—that puts him at dangerous odds with Athena and her team. He believes he’s beyond saving, but that doesn’t stop Jacquie Lyles from trying.
Jacquie sees something in Athena’s mysterious brother that touches her heart. Chivalrous and brave, Rafael is as rare as a unicorn in her life as techno computer geek and white hat hacker for the Omega Team. After she joins the team on its mission to Cuba, she uncovers Rafael’s shocking burden and it breaks her heart.
Rafael stands in the crosshairs of a vicious drug cartel—powerless to stop his fate—and his secret could put Athena and her team in the middle of a drug war.
Tough Target
Coming May 2016
An Omega Team Novella – Amazon Kindle Worlds
Novella 2 of 3
By Jordan Dane

Target Rich
Coming July 2016
An Omega Team Novella – Amazon Kindle Worlds
Novella 3 of 3
By Jordan Dane
About the Author
Bestselling, critically-acclaimed author Jordan Dane’s gritty thrillers are ripped from the headlines with vivid settings, intrigue, and dark humor. Publishers Weekly compared her intense novels to Lisa Jackson, Lisa Gardner, and Tami Hoag, naming her debut novel NO ONE HEARD HER SCREAM as Best Books of 2008. She also pens young-adult novels for Harlequin Teen. Formerly an energy sales manager, she now writes full time. Jordan shares her Texas residence with two lucky rescue dogs.
Connect with Jordan Dane:
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Friday, April 15, 2016

PRECIOUS CARGO @BrennaZinn's new #military #romance rocks! Out now!

AVAILABLE only on Amazon! 
   When protecting innocents and fighting dangerous enemies are the easy parts of the mission…Precious Cargo.
AVAILABLE only on Amazon! 

People who have read advanced review copies of Precious Cargo, my first romantic suspense, have repeated the same sentiments to me.  The first is – WOW! You must have done some serious research about Ukraine and its relationship with Russia.  Yes.  I did.  I have a degree in History.  I love doing research.

The second is – This book was intense, the action scenes were so well written I felt like I was watching a movie in my head, and parts of the story made me laugh.  My response?  FANTASTIC! That’s exactly what I wanted as I wrote the story. I can’t tell you how much I love hearing people laugh out loud when they read one of my stories.

The third and final remark is – The story ended too quickly.  I loved the characters and wanted more.  This is a much harder comment to respond to.  Here are some things that comes to mind when I hear this.  I’m so freaking delighted to hear that someone wants more story.  To me, that means they really did like the story, as well as the characters. I know I’ve read stories where I didn’t want the book to end, and the book was about 400 pages long.  (Any Diana Gabaldon fans here?)  But, take heart.  If you read Precious Cargo, you love the characters too and would like more story, then please, please, please let me know.  If I have enough feedback, I’ll add a sequel book to Precious Cargo with Mila and Duke.  Pinky swear.  How does the title Dangerous Cargo sound to you?  You can write me at  Trust me.  I’ll read your message and will write you back.  I promise a sequel if I hear from readers.

In the meantime, let me share a bit of Precious Cargo with you.  I hope you like it as much as I loved writing it.

Precious Cargo Blurb

Master Sergeant Duke Gunnison sucks at retirement. He has no intention of turning in his combat boots for golf shoes. His former life in Special Ops, where he protected innocents and fought dangerous enemies, provided the rush he continually craved. Without the constant missions to feed his adrenaline addiction, he’s lost his sense of purpose and he struggles to find meaning in his new life—until he gets a life changing phone call.

Grey Holden, a founder of the prestigious private security agency The Omega Team, offers Duke a chance at a second life doing what he was born to do—a special op to safeguard the daughter of an important Ukrainian diplomat. But Mila Bartosh is not only a special envoy’s daughter, sent to accompany her father as he negotiates the removal of troops in eastern Ukraine. She’s on a secret mission of her own—to exact revenge on a powerful Russian mob boss, guilty of unspeakable crimes.

Mila is determined to help protect her father and accomplish her treacherous undertaking at all costs. But as her tasks become more complex, she unexpectedly reunites with the man who stole her heart and then vanished into the night, never to be heard from again, until now. Her love’em and leave’em paramour is none other than her new American bodyguard Duke Gunnison. With innocent lives on the line, can she carry out her missions while avenging her broken heart?

Precious Cargo Excerpt
As far as European hotels went, the Grand Lutsk Hotel was near the top of the marks with its classy decorations, spa and guest services. The air conditioning was a definite plus. The majority of places Duke had ever stayed in boasted “rustic” accommodations, which generally meant the hot air outside was cooler than one could expect inside. Having grown up in the swamps of Louisiana, and then soldiering most of his life, sleeping in AC and on anything but the ground or a stained, second-hand mattress felt fairly high-class.
He’d barely settled in and managed a quick shower before his first scheduled meeting with Yure Bartosh. Unfortunately, he hadn’t had time to get a haircut or do more than stuff a bag full of washed clothes before jetting off for Ukraine. Now, as Duke rubbed the stubble on his chin and stared at his reflection in his suite’s swanky bathroom—what self-respecting man used a bidet, for Christ’s sake?—he had to admit he looked a little rough around the edges.
His hair was long enough to brush his shoulders, and its dirty-blond coloring had lightened from his many days fishing and combing the beach. The nicest outfit he’d packed—and currently wore—was a Western shirt, a pair of faded jeans and his snakeskin boots. Had his brother returned the one and only suit Duke owned, he would have brought that along too. But one simply couldn’t pack what one didn’t possess or have time to buy.
All in all, he could easily be mistaken for an American bum.
The thought made him grin.
No harm in being considered a bum. People didn’t expect much from that lot, especially in Europe, which worked in his favor. Anyone seeing him around would think he was an easy target. The men he needed to watch for would come out of the woodwork and try to take him on. Then they’d be in for a big surprise. The same thing had happened when he was a kid, and again when he’d joined the Army. This side job wouldn’t be any different.
The rush out the door and onto a plane, plus three sleeping pills, had also meant he couldn’t dwell on the fact he’d be playing bodyguard to Mila Bartosh. Jesus. Having her pop back into his life felt a little like karma giving him a swift kick in the ass. Their coming together again would no doubt top the charts for awkward reunions. He’d be lucky if the feisty woman didn’t haul off and try to shoot him with his own gun. Well, the Ukrainian government’s gun. Europeans didn’t take too kindly to folks flying in with weapons.
Someone knocked on the door, followed by a muffled, “Mr. Gunnison, Mr. Bartosh will see you now.”
The words were spoken in Ukrainian with a notable Eastern dialect.
“Here goes nothing,” Duke said to his reflection. “It’s your first day on the job. Let’s try not to piss anyone off, get shot or blow anything up. What do ya say?”
A tall man in a dark suit led him to the top floor of the hotel. They passed several more men in matching dark suits flanking the hallway and stopped outside a set of wide double doors. Plenty of time to get his pulse in check before seeing Mila. He was former Special Ops and here to do a job, not some angsty teenager dealing with an angry date he’d left at the prom.
His escort gave him the onceover before knocking. Duke hadn’t missed the man’s disdainful smirk.
“We all look like this in the states. Part of our dress code. You’d look like an idiot there.”  Duke spoke in English, not caring if the man understood. If this guy and the rest of the security detail were doing a bang-up job in the first place, he’d still be catching fish in the Gulf of Mexico rather than babysitting their boss’s daughter or facing his past.
Without any acknowledgement to what he’d said, the man opened the door then closed it after Duke walked into the room. There, an old but sizable gentleman with long gray hair and an equally gray beard and mustache sat at the end of a table. Based on the pics from files Grey Holden had e-mailed, the fella was Yure Bartosh, the diplomat. Mila’s father.
Also based on the pics, the stiff in the suit behind Bartosh was Burton Laramie. The other hired gun sent from The Omega Team. The way Laramie stood, ramrod straight with his hands clasped behind his back and feet spread slightly apart, were sure signs the guy had to be pure Boy Scout. Someone who always did the right thing and followed the rules down to the crossed T’s. Laramie was probably very good at his job, but he would definitely be no fun at parties.
Mila sat at the table as well, her attention focused on a pile of papers. She didn’t look pleased.
Duke’s mouth went dry and his heart began to thump fast and loud in his ears. Damn if the woman wasn’t even more beautiful than the last time he’d seen her, and he’d seen a lot of her back then.
I’ve never felt this way about anyone.
I want to be with you.
I…I love you.
She finally looked up and her gaze met his. She tilted her head and pursed her lips, confused. Then her chest rose and fell as though breathing had suddenly become an effort. Her eyes widened. Color sprang up her neck and raced to her face. In an instant she was on her feet, smoke pouring from her ears.
“You! What the hell are you doing here?” she growled in her native tongue.

Brenna Zinn Bio and Links
I remember reading about Texas in an Illinois grade school and thinking I probably would never see the great state where real cowboys ride their horses to work every day and everyone wears western hats and boots. Then again, I never dreamed I would elope in Gibraltar with a Navy man who hailed from the Lone Star state. But here I am, smack dab in the middle of Texas, still married to the same wonderful man and boasting not only the greatest daughter on the planet, but three dogs who are as big as long horns.
In between grade school and now, my journey through life has taken me all over the United States, as well as many places throughout the world. Using my travel experience as a guide and peppering in interesting characters I’ve met along the way, I love nothing better than weaving tales of romance and leaving readers yearning for adventures of their own.

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