#SampleSunday - A Debt Paid In Passion

#SampleSundayA Debt Paid In Passionbook launchDani Collinsexcerptharlequin presentshustled to the altarmills and boonMore Than A Convenient Marriage

Technically I'm supposed to be downstairs starting a family dinner, but I have a weekend full of family commitments so if I don't post this #SampleSunday now, I'm done for. And I HATE to break promises, especially when I promised to be all newsy and chatty and braggy.

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For instance, here's the view from my kitchen window today. You know, if I was downstairs doing dishes like I was supposed to be. Braggety-brag-brag-brag.

Turning to writing brags, I got my end of year manuscript off. Yes, I'm the man. This has been an insane few months with back to back deadlines (Oct 31, Nov 1, Dec 31) along with revisions on the first two, copyedits on the first, and promoting my December book, More Than A Convenient Marriage, planning and starting the promotion of this book, A Debt Paid In Passion, and, oh yeah, that little thing people call Christmas.

I was away from my day job from the 20th to the 2nd and the only day I was not here in my writing office was Christmas Day. (We had a family game of Mario Party. I'm fairly useless with the video games so I was on my son's team. "Mom, stop helping. I got this.")

My goal this weekend (around some family stuff) is to sort out my goals for 2014. I'm getting there. I have some tentative deadlines set and a revision letter in hand. I already have some promotion dates scheduled and I've ordered my Astrology timeline so I can coordinate everything with the planets. Hey, don't judge. If you want to be a star, you gotta pay attention to where the current ones are.

One of my huge goals is housekeeping this website. For the most part I'm happy with it, but I know the buy links could be easier and the books pages organized better. If you're wondering why I haven't got that done yet--I mean I typed it so why isn't it done yet?--see above re: my last three months. Yeah, I've been goofing off, playing Mario Party. It's true.

Okay, I hear dishes downstairs. Not only is guilt getting the better of me, but if I don't get the roast in the oven, MrC will do it and he doesn't do it my way. That won't do.

Looks like we're up to the third instalment for this story. If you've missed the previous excerpts, they're here:

  1. Raoul learns Sirena won't go to jail
  2. Raoul learns Sirena is pregnant

I promised a meaty excerpt today and it's pasted below, but first, a Trivia Note: I take these excerpts from my last submitted version, prior to the final copy-edited version. In my version, Sirena likens her pity party to 'emotional cutting' which was a colourful phrase I stole out of my daughter's vocab. The copy-editor changed it to 'emotional self-harm.' Go ahead and make quirky brows over that one. I did. I don't usually see the point in fighting over something little like that. I honestly don't remember if I changed it back or left it or deleted the sentence altogether. What are your thoughts?

~*~ The first volley of the second war was waiting when she got home from the hospital.

More tests had been scheduled, but for the moment her doctor was putting her faint down to stress and low blood sugar resulting from her unrelenting nausea.

Sirena thought nothing could be more stressful than facing prison while dealing with an unplanned pregnancy, but Raoul knew no bounds when it came to psychological torture.  The email forwarded by John read:

My client has every reason to believe your client carries his baby.  He insists on full involvement in the care through pregnancy and will take sole custody at birth.

Her blood congealed, even though this was no surprise.  Raoul was possessive.  She’d learned that.  This reaction was fully expected, but having anyone try to take this baby from her was unthinkable.

Blinking the sting of desperation from her eyes, she typed:

It’s not his.

Aloud, she added, “And tell him to go to hell.”

She didn’t let herself dwell on the fact that Raoul wanted his baby.  It would make her weaken toward a man she needed to believe was a monster—even though she’d spent two years falling into deep infatuation with not just a dynamic tycoon, but a man who was a caring son and protective older stepbrother.  In some ways he was her mirror image, she’d often thought fancifully.  They’d both lost a parent and both wanted the best for their younger sibling.  She had come to believe him to be an admirable person with a dry wit and standards that put her learned habits of perfectionism to shame.

No, she reminded herself as she prepared a slice of toast she would force herself to eat.  He was a cruel, angry, small person who felt nothing.  For her, at least.  He’d proven it when he’d made passionate love to her one day, then had her arrested the next.

A black hole of despair threatened to open beneath her feet, but she was safe now.  That part was over.  She’d made a horrible mistake and the judge had accepted her remorse even if Raoul hadn’t.  She had no idea how she would come up with six hundred pounds a month, but that was a minor worry against convincing Raoul the baby wasn’t his.

There was no way she could live with having another loved one wrenched from her life.  The fear of her baby growing up without its mother, the way she had, had given her the strength to fight tooth and nail against Raoul’s determination to put her in jail.  Somewhere she would rally the strength to oust him from her life for good.

Which left her feeling incredibly bereft, but she ignored it.

Taking tea, toast, and a tablet for nausea to the sofa, she scanned her laptop to see if any transcription jobs had come in.  The legal bills were appalling and being fired three months ago had decimated her very modest savings.

If only she could take back that one awful moment when she had thought, Raoul will understand.  She rubbed her brow where it crinkled in lament.  Borrowing from him had seemed the most simple and obvious thing to do when her sister had been in tears, saying, I guess I’m not meant to be a teacher.  Their father was expecting payment from a big customer any day.  Ali had struggled so hard to get her marks up and be accepted into the specialized program.  The tuition was due, but the cash not in hand.

I can cover it, Sirena had assured her, confident the balance would move out and come back into Raoul’s account on the same statement.  He probably wouldn’t even notice, let alone care.  He paid her to worry about little details like that.

Then her father’s customer had gone insolvent.

Not overnight, of course.  It started with a delay of a few more days.  A week.  Sirena had begun chasing it herself, right up to the monthly cut off date, not wanting to mention her self-approved loan to her boss until she had the funds to repay it.

The money hadn’t appeared and the opportunity to explain hadn’t arisen, not before other events.

And since she didn’t want to involve her father when his livelihood was nose-diving, she had shouldered the fallout herself, keeping her motives from Raoul and not revealing to her family what she’d done or that she was facing jail time for it.

This had been the most crushingly lonely and frightening time of her life.

A muted beep announced an incoming email.  From Raoul.  Her heart leapt in misplaced anticipation.  It was one word.

Liar.

He wasn’t buying that the baby wasn’t his.

Gritting her teeth against an ache that crushed her chest, she added Raoul to her email block list and sent a missive to John.

Tell him that contacting me directly is out of line.  If the baby was his, I would sue for support.  I would have asked for leniency when he was trying to put me in jail.  This baby is not his and he must LEAVE ME ALONE.

Hitting Send was like poking herself in the throat.  She drew a pained breath, fighting the sense of loss.  But life hit you with sudden changes and you had to roll with them.  She had learned that when her mother had died and again when her stepmother had whisked her father and half-sister to Australia with brutal speed on the heels of Sirena graduating and enrolling in business school.

People left, is what she’d learned.  They disappeared from your life whether you wanted them to or not.  Sometimes they even fired you and tried to lock you away in prison so they’d never have to see you again.

Making a disgusted noise at herself for what amounted to emotional cutting, she turned her thoughts to the little being who wouldn’t leave her.  With a gentle hand on her unsettled abdomen, she focused on the one person she’d do everything in her power to keep in her life forever.  She didn’t intend to smother the poor thing, just be his or her mother.  She couldn’t countenance anyone taking that role from her.  And Raoul would try.  He was that angry and ruthless.

She shivered as she recalled seeing that side of him for the first time, after making bail.  The only thing that had got her through the humiliating process of being arrested, fingerprinted, and charged was the certainty that Raoul didn’t know what was happening to her.  Some accountant had done this.  A bank official.  They didn’t understand that Raoul might be gruff on the outside, but she was his best PA ever.  His right hand.  They’d become intimate.  He would be furious that she was being treated this way.

She had believed with all her heart that as soon as she told him what had happened, he’d make it right.

He hadn’t.  He’d made her wait in the rain at the gate of his mansion outside London, eventually striding out with hardhearted purpose, his severe expression chilly with distaste as he surveyed her.

“I’ve been trying to reach you,” Sirena had said through the rungs of the security gate, frightened by how unreachable he seemed.  “I was arrested today.”

“I know,” Raoul replied without a shred of concern.  “I filed the complaint.”

Her shock and stunned anguish must have been obvious in her sagging jaw, but his mouth had barely twitched in reaction.  Cruel dislike had been the only emotion in his scathing expression.  Sirena’s stepmother had been small and critical, but she hadn’t outright hated Sirena.  In that second, she realized Raoul reviled her and that was more painful than anything.

Guilt and remorse had made her want to shrivel up and die, but she couldn’t—wouldn’t—believe she’d ruined her career and her budding relationship with the man of her dreams over one tiny misstep.

“But...”  Everything she wanted to say backed up in her throat.  They’d developed friendship, reliance and respect over two years of working together and just yesterday they’d taken that relationship to a new level.  He’d been tender and teasing and...

God, she had believed he’d been loving.

“But what?” he challenged.  “You thought sleeping with me would make a difference to how I’d react when I found out you had stolen from me?  I was bored.  You were there.  That’s all yesterday was.  You ought to know better than to think it would make me go easy on someone who was cheating me.  Get a lawyer.  You need one.”

Swallowing the rock that her crust of toast had become, Sirena pushed the betrayal firmly away.  Raoul was in her past and somehow she had to make a future for herself and her baby.  She turned her attention to putting out more feelers for work.

~ * ~ A Debt Paid In Passion is available at: Mills & Boon UK and eHarlequin and will soon be up on Mills & Boon Aus.

You can also preorder here:

Amazon: US | Canada | UK | India | Germany | Brazil | Spain | Italy | Japan | Australia

And: Nook | Kobo | | ARe | BooksaMillion

Will you be in the Vancouver area mid-February? I'll be at a signing event at the Vancouver Public Library. If you want to hear more about my writing and upcoming books, listen to my interview from Oct 17th with Bernadette Walsh at Nice Girls Reading Naughty Books.

Please remember that I always draw for a signed copy of my new release from my newsletter subscribers. You can join by scrolling all the way to the bottom of this page and putting in your email address or click here. It's that easy!

One of my other goals for 2014 is to post an online read of one (or more) of my rejected manuscripts. See above about my reach and grasp, but I respond well to nagging so if it's something you would like to see, please drop me a line and I'll move it up my list of priorities.

Oh, and Hustled To The Altar is currently at $3.99. It will be going up to $5.99 soon so please grab it at the sale price if you're considering it.