The last few weeks, as I've sat down to blog, I've realized that I've fallen down on taking pictures. We've had some pretty snowfalls, but I've taken zero photos. Then this week it was nothing but rain. I still walk, but the view isn't anything worth blogging about. At least I have this gorgeous Sexy cover to gaze at...
Before I jump into your #SampleSunday, I'll just mention for my Aussie readers that I have quite a line up for you over the next three months. Vows of Revenge, which was my September release in North America and the UK, was postponed so it could be a holiday release Down Under. I love how pretty the cover looks with the holly and such.
If you'd like a taste of this one, read a #SampleSunday from Vows Of Revenge here or tap the image for the Amazon Australia link.
It's on your shelves now, through December. Then I have The Wrong Heirs for you in January and February (as far as I know.) If you're an Aussie reader, you'll be thinking I write a book a month. I wish!
I have very, very belatedly realized that you can read a good chunk of the beginning on Amazon. So I've changed up my #SampleSunday previews to give you a taste of other scenes.
In this one, Sandro has told Octavia he wants her to return to Italy with him. (Of course he does. Their son is born. Her need for the London Specialist is over. It's time to come home.) She has reservations...
~ * ~
“You want me to pretend we’re happily married,” she confirmed. “Despite all that’s happened.” She was crushing Lorenzo’s soft new jacket into a ball against her diaphragm.
“I’m not trying to downplay what he’s done, but we have to move past it. We can’t let it impact our marriage.”
A million responses tore through her mind, but the one that came out was an incredulous, “What marriage?”
“We’re not talking about Primo, are we?” he said grimly, expression shuttering. “You think I was dishonest about my reasons for marrying you.” He folded his arms. “You’re turning this into something bigger than it is, cara. Why I married you doesn’t matter. We are married and we’re going to stay that way.”
This was the man she’d caught glimpses of when he spoke with other powerful men, like her father. When she had stood beside him at company events and seen minions leap to do his bidding before he’d finished stating what he wanted. No one said no to him, but she had to. Had to.
“Of course it doesn’t matter to you,” she corrected, blinking and trying to ignore that her eyes were stinging, hoping the low light hid how wet they were growing. “Because I mean nothing to you. I realize that now, thank you, although I admit it was a bit of a shock. I mean, I knew my father didn’t care which Ferrante took me so long as one of you did—he’s never had my best interests at heart—but I thought you, at least, had been more discerning. I thought you decided that night that you liked me, but no.” It hurt so much to face that. Her voice scraped all the way up her breastbone, abrading her throat. “I didn’t go into our marriage expecting love, Alessandro.”
She had to flick her gaze away. The yearning had been there, no matter how self-deluded the wish had been. The death of that hope twisted her lungs in her chest, filling her voice with the wretchedness that gripped her.
“But I expected you to care. Not a lot, but enough to keep me from dying in childbirth on the floor of our bedroom—” It wasn’t even theirs anymore. It was hers.
Her throat seized and her eyes burned. She made herself fold the tiny jacket with trembling hands, refusing to look at him as she pushed her shattered expectations into an armored vault.
“Octavia.” His voice sounded like she felt. Shocked and shredded and tight. Strong hands took her shoulders in a warm grasp as he turned her into him. “I didn’t know.”
“You didn’t want to know,” she charged, knocking his hands away and stepping back. “You certainly never showed up to ask. He told me—” She didn’t want to say it aloud, didn’t want to know if it was true, but she had to face it if it was. “He said you were having affairs. Were you? Is that what happened? Are you in love with someone else?”
The look on his face created a kind of barometric pressure that couldn’t be heard or seen, only felt, making the air go dense around her. Pulsing and thick.
“No,” he said with understated thunder.
“I can’t believe you could think for one minute—”
Octavia tensed at his incensed tone.
He cut himself off, doing everything he could to stay this side of civilized. It was a struggle. The picture she painted of her terror during labor, along with the accusation she was throwing at him like tar, clung and burned. He was a man who took his responsibilities seriously, never behaved negligently, but he’d made a mistake. That was hard enough to take, but now this? Accusations of cheating?
“How would I know what you’ve been doing in Naples?” She was different. She’d hardened in the months since he’d seen her. As loving as she appeared toward Lorenzo, that was the only softness in her now as she stared at him, shades of denunciation and rejection skittering behind her eyes.
Something shook in his chest. Like a closed shutter taking a strong wind, testing the locks. It was painful. Disconcerting. Primo had been intent on hurting him. That was painful enough to face, but even more devastating was how effective Primo had been with his attack.
Octavia had been a delightfully easy addition to Alessandro’s life, biddable and filled with a shy passion he had mined with a type of gold fever. He hadn’t had to fight for her. Hadn’t had to give up anything of himself to get what he wanted.
He had taken for granted that he had her. He could admit that he’d been arrogant on that front. But what the fallout from Primo’s actions was rather graphically demonstrating was how nascent his connection to Octavia was. It was a piece of paper that bound their assets. He didn’t have her.
That unsettled him, which was odd because he hadn’t married for a love match. This, what they were enduring, was more angst than he had ever wanted to wade through. He’d deliberately sidestepped the highs and lows of an emotional landscape by marrying a woman who kept her own heart guarded.
Octavia pushing him away as she was doing, however, was the exact sort of chaos Primo had hoped to unleash.
“No one has ever accused me of so many dishonorable things,” he muttered. “But I am guilty of one thing only, Octavia, and that was trusting the wrong man.”
Her mouth twitched before she firmed it into a stubborn line. There was something else in her demeanor, however. Something bleak. “I thought he might be lying, but…” She searched his eyes with indecision clouding her own.
The air thickened as he instinctively sensed something worse coming.
“He said you only got me pregnant for the bonus my father offered you. That you didn’t care about how my pregnancy was going so long as Lorenzo delivered alive.”
“Porco cane,” he muttered, cursing his cousin while his mind exploded. “That is—” He had to move away and dig a hand into his hair. He clenched enough of a handful to hurt. Dio, at this rate his own security team would have to take him down if he was ever within five meters of his cousin. Otherwise he’d be jailed for first-degree murder.
“I was terrified for both of you,” he said, voice hoarse as he revisited those hours between being informed that she needed emergency surgery and arriving to hear they’d come through safely. “He deliberately played with me, leaving me hanging with partial information. It was a nightmare.”
She searched his expression and, just for a moment, he let the agony retake him. He let her see that he might not have been beside her, but he’d been with her.
But going to that place was dangerous. He couldn’t control his reaction to having been sent there by someone he had thought he could trust. He slammed the door on that torment and looked away.
“He wanted to hurt us and we can’t allow it. We can’t let him destroy our marriage, Octavia. We can’t let him win.”
~ * ~
Book Two, the other half of the baby swap, is up for grabs if you're on Goodreads!
I'm writing this on my usual Friday night. I find that a relaxing time to wrap up my week. Well, it usually is. This week I've been wrestling revisions and my To Do list hasn't been as carefully tended as I'd like. I'm glaring balefully at it.
But I'm ready to knock off and have a glass of wine and watch Netflix for a couple of hours with MrC. It's a busy time of year, and we all deserve to unwind a bit, right? I hope you can find some time to relax this weekend, too.