Category: Excerpts

Get a taste of Masquerade: Her Billionaire - Venice

I’ve got exciting news to share–MASQUERADE: Her Billionaire – Venice, the next instalment in the Her Billionaire series, is now available!

Masquerade is the second book in the Her Billionaire series and it is a standalone novel. This time, we’re headed to Venice, where we’ll discover Cal and Anya’s thrilling story.  

Ten years ago Cal Burns lost the only woman he’d ever loved, Anya Voronova. He had a ring in his pocket — and then she walked out of his life and he never knew why. He moved thousands of miles away, built an empire, became rich and powerful. 

She broke his heart when he was young but he doesn’t have a heart to break now. 

Anya Voronova has spent ten years working toward the Accords — a once in a lifetime chance at lasting peace in the Middle East. The Accords will be signed in Venice during Mardi Gras. The city is an explosion of glamour and joy –- and then she comes face to face with the man she was forced to brutally leave ten years ago and has never forgotten. Cal is now powerful, rich beyond belief — and angry. She doesn’t care, just one last look at him will have to be enough to last her the rest of her life.

But Anya knows things that a shadowy group of men will kill to keep secret. And when they come for her, Cal discovers he has a heart after all. And it belongs to Anya. It always has.

I can’t wait for you to read it. I’m sure Cal and Anya’s story will take your breath away. Ready for a taste of what to expect?  

Get your copy of Masquerade today:

AmazoniBooksBNKobo
 
Excerpt from MASQUERADE HER BILLIONAIRE – VENICE

Venice, Italy

Palazzo Maltese

Mardi Gras

There was a woman dressed like that weird Star Wars queen, whatshername? Anakin Skywalker’s wife. Amygdala? No that was a part of the brain. Amidala, that was it.

Though maybe Amygdala wasn’t off the mark, since it was the part of the brain that governed lust and the lady at the masked ball was definitely making eyes at him. She had this enormous headdress, kabuki white makeup and a huge, red velvet cape that was open just enough to show her in a near transparent lace body stocking. She was holding a flute of champagne like everyone else and sipped from it without taking her eyes from his.

Then she blew him a kiss from overblown lips. Those lips were amazing, didn’t even pretend to be natural, but promised a pretty decent blow job.

Nope, not interested.

Cal turned his back and looked out over the ballroom of Palazzo Maltese, where a thousand revelers were getting drunk and partying hard. A deluxe masked ball to celebrate the successful negotiation of the Mediterranean Accords, a multilateral agreement years in the making to establish peace and trade in the Middle East. After war had been tried, again and again, someone thought maybe peace might be worth a shot.

There was giddy jubilation in the air. It appeared that it had suddenly occurred to a lot of people that a brand new market of previously poor but now maybe future well-to-do people was opening up. Not only would there be peace, but there’d be money to be made. A lot of it.

Everyone who wasn’t already drunk was doing his or her best to get there. Cal should be joining them. After years working in the Middle East with no alcohol at all, toiling at establishing desalination plants in desert environments, he deserved to get drunk.

Aside from other considerations, part of the Technical Dossier of the Accords was a contract with his company, Phoenix Enterprises, to provide safe drinking water for everyone, a dream in the desert that was thousands of years old.

And, not incidentally, he was about to become a billionaire. Officially. Not bad for a kid from the South Side. Mega-rich before he was forty. Doing good work, yet. Most billion-dollar fortunes were made trafficking in something or cheating people. Instead, his was going to be made saving lives.

Didn’t get much better than that.

Now someone dressed as a super-sexy shepherdess was making eyes at him. This one dipped her finger in her champagne and ran it across breasts too good to be true. Those breasts were not made by God but by a skilled plastic surgeon .

Nuh uh. Not interested.

The fuck was wrong with him?

He’d worked practically his whole life to get to this point. He was richer than he’d ever dared dream, single after a brief marriage long ago to the she-devil from hell, in the most beautiful city in the world, at a party celebrating the breaking-out of peace, and he was turning down surefire sex? With champagne?

The hell?

Cal suppressed a sigh. 

If only Anya — he stopped himself right there. If only Anya had been a constant thought in his life these past ten years. He’d married a banshee demon from hell because she’d looked a little like Anya. He’d turned down perfectly nice women because they didn’t look like Anya.

Anya had left him ten fucking years ago. And she’d left him brutally, too. 

He had to stop this, had to shake himself out of this melancholy mood. He was Cal Fucking Burns and he didn’t do melancholy. He ran a hugely successful company with people hand-picked to be extremely competent and good to work with. His company was going to be instrumental in one of the greatest accomplishments in a hundred years, comparable to the signing of the Treaty of Versailles after World War I. An amazing achievement, one for the history books. 

He was still young, physically strong, healthy and rich — and soon he was going to be much richer. So rich he wouldn’t be able to spend all his money in a hundred lifetimes.

Shame on him. There was no room for sadness in a life like that.

He was highly sexed and he hadn’t had sex in — he tried to calculate it but couldn’t remember. That had to stop, too. He was in a room full of beautiful women, and most of them looked pretty willing. There had to be someone here he wanted to fuck. Someone who didn’t look like —

No. Not going there.

Huh. There was that redhead dressed in some outlandish rendering of what some might consider Marie Antoinette if Marie Antoinette had a gown cut down to the tops of her nipples. 

Well, nothing ventured nothing gained. Cal started off toward the redhead, wondering if she spoke English. Maybe she didn’t. Maybe that would make it better. Just find a place to fuck without talking. Maybe not even take their masks off.

Something grabbed at his sleeve and, annoyed, Cal looked down. A long, slim, pale hand. He followed that hand up to the face and grew even more annoyed. 

“Enjoying yourself?” a light, affected voice asked.

Shit, just perfect. To add to his mild depression, he had been caught by the biggest asshole-bore in the world. Tall, slender, blonde hair combed straight back, dressed as a 17th-century swordsman. A musketeer. Which was rich considering he was a total wimp. Calvin had saved his ass in Cairo and Damascus.

Ashley Morris, in the flesh, come to pester Cal. What was he doing here anyway? Ash worked for the CIA, which just showed how low their standards had fallen. Ash and the CIA had done their best to assist the negotiation of the Accords by fucking things up more than once.

“How are you doing? I heard Phoenix cleaned up, landed a huge contract. How does it feel to be mega-rich?” Ash asked.

So — they were playing catch-up? 

“Pretty good,” Cal said mildly. He was technically already a billionaire now if you counted his stock in Phoenix and he would be a bi-billionaire very soon. Ash wouldn’t care. He was a trustafarian from old money and had joined the CIA because he thought it made him look dashing. It didn’t. He just looked like a moron, playing out of his weight class. He still looked like a kid. “And you? What are you doing here?”

“Well.” Ash drew himself up, putting a hand on the hilt of his sword. He gave a smug smile. “I played a small part in the accords,” he said, shrugging his shoulders, humblebragging. His tone suggested that the multilateral negotiations, a major historical breakthrough in diplomacy, wouldn’t have happened without him. 

“Good for you.” Cal snagged another glass of champagne from a passing waiter in livery, drank it in three long gulps. He needed fortification if he had to talk to Ash. 

“Yes.” Ash pursed his lips. “We … facilitated backdoor talks. Enormous geopolitical considerations. It wasn’t all as straightforward and simple as landing an engineering contract.”

Cal placed the empty flute on another passing waiter’s tray and turned his head to look at Ash who was still babbling.

What Cal and his company had done was the private sector equivalent to the moonshot on an accelerated schedule. He and his team had worked tirelessly under conditions of extreme privation, solving one thorny, impossible technical problem after another. They’d built a demo desalination plant in Yemen on time and under budget before the ceasefire, under mortar attack and with constant attempts at sabotage. Though Cal had arranged tight security, he’d lost two engineers to an IED. 

But every engineer in the company insisted on seeing the project through to the end, and they’d landed the big contract to provide safe and clean drinking water throughout the Middle East.

They’d created a fucking miracle that was going to save hundreds of thousands of lives, maybe millions of lives, and it hadn’t been straightforward and it hadn’t been simple. Cal and his team had worked like dogs, in 120° heat, eating goat meat when they were lucky, dodging bullets when they weren’t. 

And Ash probably sat the whole thing out in some air-conditioned office playing with his tiny dick.

Something in Cal’s face made Ash flinch. “Yeah. So.” He huffed out a breath, looked around casually over Cal’s shoulder. Great. Ash was one of those cocktail party people who looked over your shoulder for someone more interesting to talk to while talking to you.

Cal could solve that problem for him, easy. 

“Well.” He plastered a smile on his face. “Great catching up with you, Ash. I think I’ll —”

His arm was caught in a weak grip. Cal looked at the hand and at Ash’s face. Ash dropped his hand but stepped closer, right into what Cal considered his personal space. He didn’t like it when the wrong people stepped into his personal space. 

Ash definitely qualified.

It took a lot of self control not to deck the fuckhead. The fact that it would be all too easy to flatten him kept him still but, man, was he tempted.

“Anya.” Ash had been talking and Cal hadn’t been paying any attention to him, but that word made him stiffen. Had he heard right?

“What? What did you say?”

Ash sighed. “I said have you seen Anya Voronova anywhere?”

Cal’s neurons stopped firing. It was like hearing someone talking from far away. “What?”

“Anya. Voronova.” Ash’s voice was exasperated. “Anya. Come on, I know you know her. Didn’t you guys date, like, a billion years ago?”

Cal’s lips felt stiff, wooden. He formed words with difficulty. “Anya is here?”

 

Into the Crossfire—an Excerpt

Into The CrossfireHere’s an excerpt from INTO THE CROSSFIRE, which came out in August, 2010. I hope it’s a book you all enjoy. I also hope it’s a book that makes all of us reflect on our blessings and be thankful to those who protect us.

San Diego
Early morning
July 29

The sky had turned pewter, a shade lighter than the ocean that still carried the darkness of the night.

Nicole opened one eye, then closed it quickly.

Eyes closed, she tried to process what she’d seen.

A train wreck, that’s what she’d seen.

She opened her eyes each morning to her calm, orderly bedroom, with the four-poster that she’d slept in in seven countries, with its French lace canopy and Frette sheets. The 17th century armoire and 18th century Italian madia. The vases with fresh flowers, the ceramic bowls of potpourri, the big Baccarat crystal vase full of multi-colored sand. Her mother’s lovely watercolors and a collection of photographs taken by an old school friend who was now one of the top fashion photographers in the world.

Everything in its place. Cool and quiet and neat, exactly as she liked it.

This room looked like it had been at war, particularly the bed. She looked down at herself, naked, one leg trapped by the powerful, hairy leg of an equally naked man. A man with hormones instead of blood, she’d swear.

Sam Reston did not have an off button. He’d finally stopped a few hours ago because she was ready to go into a coma, after too many orgasms to count.

Time out, she’d gasped and he’d laughed and slowly pulled out of her, the act so sexy she’d mourned the absence of his penis immediately, though she’d been the one to call a halt. He’d disappeared for a moment and come back with two glasses of chilled white wine and a plate of ripe grapes.

Even after dinner, even after the impromptu midnight picnic on the terrace, she’d been ravenous. Nonstop sex, it appeared, was an appetite stimulant, in more ways than one.

As she sipped the wine, she couldn’t help but give an admiring look at him sitting beside her, muscles bulging as he fed her grapes, big, thick, erect penis dark, engorged with blood, twitching when she looked at it.

She’d glanced at his lap then looked away again, but she could feel the flush rising from her breasts to her face. She thought she’d stopped blushing in her teens, but apparently not. Close proximity to Sam Reston made the blood pound through her body, rise to her face, color her nipples deep pink.

He’d looked at her, really looked at her, from her flushed breasts, the left one moving slightly with the hard pulses of her heart, the vein beating in her neck, the pearls of moisture in her pubic hair, a mixture of his semen and her excitement.

His eyes had lifted to hers and her entire body thrummed. But it was like asking a car to start on fumes, after having been pedal-to-the-metal running straight through every molecule of gas in the tank. She was sore all over, particularly her sex, and the desire she felt was only a faint echo of the all-consuming drive to have him in her she’d felt all night in his bed.

There it was. She’d hit her own personal wall. Finally. It had been a night of excess that had astonished her, but she had her limits and she’d reached them.

Sam had moved his free hand to her knee, cupping it, narrowed dark eyes burning into hers. He’d brought his mouth to her ear.

“Nicole?” The deep voice had been like a caress. How incredibly sexy it had sounded in her ear while he’d been moving heavily inside her. Her stomach had clenched at the memory.

Oh God, he was ready for another round. How could he? With a sigh, Nicole realized she wasn’t being fair. She’d nearly crawled into his skin up until now, matching him heat for heat. If she’d reached the end of her rope, and he hadn’t, it wasn’t his fault.

“Lie down,” he’d said softly.

Heart pounding, she let her back settle on the mattress. How to do this? Maybe she could psych herself up
for another round.

He shifted on the mattress and she controlled a wince. But instead of climbing on top of her, as she expected, he smiled and positioned his glass of wine over her belly and slowly, slowly, poured a thin, cold stream of the fragrant Chardonnay over her.

It felt good on her overheated skin, the fragrant fruity notes rising to her nose.

And then Sam had bent to lick the wine off her stomach, slowly, like a cat lapping cream. She’d tried to rise on her elbows, but he’d simply put a big hand on her chest and gently pushed her back down.

He lifted his head and smiled at her. “No, honey,” he said, his voice a deep, dark whisper. “You don’t do anything at all. You just lie back and let me pleasure you.”

That was good, because her muscles felt like water, incapable of holding her up.

Sam’s tongue moved lower, lower and she gasped as he licked around her sex, gently, as if aware of the fact that she was sore.

“Close your eyes.” The deep voice came from far away.

“Okay.” She closed her eyes, heard the faint click as he turned the bedside lamp off. Her eyelids turned from pink to black.

Sam nuzzled her sex, nose against her clitoris, tongue gently swirling, dipping into her, where his penis had just been. Her breath came out on a sigh, his own murmur of satisfaction echoing hers.

Soft plashing sounds came through the open French windows, gentle and regular, as if the sea were breathing. There were soft gentle sounds coming from down her body as Sam worked her with his mouth.

Such a strange sensation, slowly becoming aroused while the mantle of sleep bore down on her, as she drifted further and further away, to a land of pleasure that grew ever darker…

Unlike the other contractions of orgasm, so sharp at times they poised on the knife-edge of pain, this climax was gentle, dreamy, her body a boat rocking on the soft waves of the sea, rocking, rocking…

It was the last thing she remembered.

The sky was growing lighter by the minute. Soon it would be dawn.

Nicole rose slowly from the bed, wincing at all the sore muscles, making her halting way to the bathroom. She passed a mirror and winced at the sight of the unknown woman in the mirror, clearer by the minute as the world outside lightened, like an image emerging from the fog. Wild, dark hair tangling around her head, huge eyes, swollen lips.

She looked back at the bed, at him. He was so long, his feet hung off the bed. Even his feet were gorgeous, long, lean, high-arched. One thick arm was over his eyes, the other outstretched to her side of the bed. Deeply asleep, completely still except for the expansion of his broad chest with each breath.

Well…he’d made love all night. Literally. She’d had no idea that any male over the age of 15 would have been capable of that, capable of coming so many times she’d lost count. Even now, in complete repose, in a sleep so deep it could have been a coma, his penis looked full, veins visible, semi-erect on his thigh.

If Sam’s eyes were to open right now, and if he were to see her naked, that penis would swell fully erect in an instant. She’d bet the bank on it.

Something in her seemed to set him off. Certainly, something in him set her off. She looked like she was making love right now. Her breasts were swollen, nipples red and hard. And oh, God, just looking at him, like some Greek statue come to life, her thighs trembled.

She had to get out of here. Fast.

For a second, she looked with longing at the bathroom door. A shower. A shower would go a long way toward making her feel like herself again, washing away the smell of him permeating her skin. He’d touched every inch of her last night, marked her irrevocably, inside and out. She wasn’t used to not feeling fresh and she definitely wasn’t used to smelling of someone else.

She stared at herself in the mirror, this face she’d never seen before, eyes wide, pupils dilated.

And then she was aware of something else. Wetness between her legs, running down her thighs. For a moment, she thought she’d unexpectedly got her period, that her body had simply disobeyed the pill and gone ahead and had a period, breaking the hormonal schedule. An entire night of wild sex surely would be enough to knock her for a loop, hormonally speaking.

She looked down at herself, expecting to see drops of blood, but all she saw was a gleaming wetness.

His semen.

Sam had shot a small lake into her during the night. At the memory, her knees wobbled. She gasped for air, the sound loud in the quiet room. Nicole’s head whipped around to see if she’d somehow woken Sam up, but he was out like a light.

The thought of that—of Sam waking up and finding her here, of having to face him after last night’s excesses…Oh no.

It wasn’t that she wasn’t still attracted to him, it was that she was attracted too much. The Nicole Pearce of last night—the woman who had wallowed in sex, who had tuned out the world to focus narrowly on Sam Reston and his luscious, utterly male body—she had to simply put that woman away. That Nicole was an aberration and she had to disappear, right now.

Speaking of disappearing…

She looked around wildly. Her dress was on the floor, crumpled, bra on top. Jacket on the back of a chair. One sandal was toppled on its side next to a big, sleek chest of drawers and its mate…where the hell was its mate? Walking barefoot out of Sam’s house was too awful to contemplate, but the other sandal was nowhere to be found. Two sweeps of the room and no shoe. Just one place left to look. She crouched and yes, there it was. Halfway under the bed. Under Sam’s very large, very low bed. It took a full minute, but she finally got it.

She couldn’t possibly walk out looking like this, but on the other hand, there was a drumbeat inside her, insistent and loud. Get out now. Get out now. Before he woke up, because she had no clue what she could possibly say to him.

Dress and go, now.

She slipped into the bathroom, leaving the door open, so that a little of the faint morning light could seep in. If she turned the lights on in the white-tiled bathroom, the glare could wake Sam up.

A splash of cold water on her face, a quick wash between her legs—and oh my god, the nap of the washcloth felt incredibly rough against her super-sensitized flesh—a comb hastily pulled through her hair was all she allowed herself time for. Bra and dress went on in under a minute.

Holding her sandals by the straps, she tiptoed her way to the front door. On the floor was a silky mauve slash of material. Her panties. Her beautiful La Perla panties, ripped apart. And how she’d revelled in Sam tearing them off her, because they’d been this unacceptable barrier between her and Sam’s hard flesh.

She closed her eyes for a second, then opened them, intent more than ever on getting out as fast as she could, like someone fleeing from the scene of the crime.

The door. She eyed it warily. Last night, getting in had been like getting into some secret room at the Pentagon. Palm print, key pad, five-digit code. She had no idea what the numbers were. Her mind had been utterly lost in mists of lust.

If she needed a secret code to get out, she was in trouble.

The idea of having to walk back into the bedroom, wake Sam up and ask for a code made her focus, concentrate. She studied the door, narrow-eyed. A door had to work both ways, didn’t it? You have to be able to get out, not just in.

There was no security panel. No door handle either, for that matter. She stared at the door, willing it to yield up its secrets.

Did it open by remote control? Did she have to go back into the bedroom and root through Sam’s pants? That would be the last straw.

There was one button on the wall next to the featureless door. She held out a hesitant finger, hovered over it, then gathered her courage and pressed it, hoping it wasn’t connected to something dangerous, like a siren. Or a bomb.

A crisp click and the lock disengaged, the door sliding open.

Yes!

Nicole tiptoed through, then quietly slid the door closed behind her.

She stood in the hallway, breathing heavily, as if she’d just engineered a jail break. Her heart was pounding so hard it was a miracle the sound didn’t echo in the quiet corridor.

It was utterly ridiculous, but she couldn’t do anything about the way she felt—panicky and broken, as if running away from something dangerous.

Mindful of the clickety-clack of her heels on the shiny hardwood floor of the corridor last night, she walked barefoot to the elevator and called it up, wincing at the little ping as it reached Sam’s floor. It sounded so loud in the silence.

In the elevator, she clutched her pochette tightly, like a shield, and stared mindlessly at the elevator doors.
When they opened, she stepped out into the huge, glass-encased lobby. The sky was now a dark pearly gray and she could see the beach not fifty feet away, the small waves curling like lace on the sand.

“Miss?”

Nicole jumped and barely managed to suppress a scream.

“Miss? Can I help you?” The tone more pointed, with a slight Hispanic accent.

A security guard, dressed in some security company’s livery, surrounded by a circular polished-wood barrier with lots of video screens showing empty hallways, looking at her with a frown.

Nicole heroically refrained from looking down at herself in dismay but she knew exactly what he was seeing. A dishevelled woman who had obviously been up to no good, tiptoeing away shoeless from a night of excess in one of the apartments.

This was just so unfair. Nicole was the epitome of a proper lady. Even in the midst of a hot affair, she always kept her decorum, it had been drummed into her. She prided herself on the fact that a casual observer would never know what she was thinking, what she was feeling.

Right now, she might as well have had babe after a hot night tattooed on her forehead.

The only thing to do was brazen it out. She straightened, put on her best Ambassador’s-daughter polite smile and lifted her head.

“Good morning,” she said evenly. “I wonder if you could call me a taxi?”

“Sure thing, ma’am,” the guard said, punching out a number on the phone keypad without taking his eyes off her. Presumably in case she made off with one of the stone planters that must have weighed 300 pounds each.

“Thank you,” Nicole said primly, and walked to the front of the lobby, sitting down on one of the long, gleaming oak benches. She carefully put on her sandals and stared out the two-story windows at the beach. The sky was cloudless, pale blue, the ocean light gray. It was going to be a glorious day, as so many days were in San Diego.

She stared out at the ocean, thinking of absolutely nothing until she heard the guard call out. “Taxi’s here, ma’am.”

She turned her head and sure enough, a cab was coming around the circular driveway. Nicole nodded to the guard and got into the cab. She gave her address to the driver and stared blindly out the window as he took off.

This part of San Diego was beautiful, but she barely noticed the white sand beaches, lush vegetation, the light dancing on wavelets over the ocean, the runners on the beach.

All she could think about was Sam Reston on top of her, nose an inch from hers, staring at her fiercely as he moved in and out of her. And the fact that all last night, she hadn’t thought once about her father.