Hello #SampleSunday fans. I have one foot out the door--such a lie. I still have to get ready, but I do have a date with MrC and I wanted to get this posted first. If I wind up with typos, you'll know why.
If you're a regular visitor, you know I've been posting excerpts from my four August books, including this new #SampleSunday series for The Ultimate Seduction. Here's a quick round up if you've missed any:
- Book Blurbs - for all five of my summer titles
- #SampleSunday - An Heir To Bind Them - Okay, this was my June book, but if you missed it, there it is. That post links to the previous five.
- #TeaserTuesday - Mastering Her Role - third instalment, includes links to previous
- #Thursday13 - The Secret In Room 823 (part of Mills & Boon's The Chatsfield series).
And if you've missed any posts in this series for The Ultimate Seduction, here's what's happened thus far:
Here's Tiffany in her room:
~ * ~
TIFFANY WAS STUCK and it was a sickeningly familiar situation, the kind she’d sworn she’d never wind up in again.
She’d love to blame Christian. He had urged her to step through the door when he’d been refused entry. Go in and ask, he’d hissed, annoyed.
Since her worst nightmare these days was being stared at, she’d forgone arguing on the stoop and stepped through the entranceway. Inside, pixies in designer nightgowns had fawned over the arriving men in masks. She’d looked around for a bell desk, and a stud named Julio had come forward to introduce himself as a petite q.
She, a seasoned socialite, had become tongue-tied over the strapping young man in a red footman’s uniform. It was more than two years since she’d been widowed on her wedding day. Even without the scars, that would be bad mojo. Men didn’t call, didn’t ask her out. If she was in a room with a live one, they rarely looked her in the eye, always averting their gaze. She didn’t exist for them as a potential mate.
Julio didn’t attract her so much as astonish her. He didn’t know what lurked beneath the mask and was all solicitous manners as he offered his services. “I see this is your first visit with us,” he said after a brief glance at his tablet. “Please allow me to orient you.”
She was completely out of practice with his type—the valet who never overstepped his station, but still managed to convey that he appreciated being in the presence of beauty. She’d haltingly fielded his questions about whether her travel had been pleasant as he smoothly escorted her into an elevator.
When he asked if she had any specific needs he could attend to while she was here, she’d come back to reality. “My brother needs a hall pass, or a mask. Whatever. Can you make that happen?”
“I’ll send the request to Zeus, but the doors will be closing in a few minutes. Once we’re in lockdown, no one comes or goes. Unless it’s an emergency, of course.” He’d lifted his head from tapping his tablet.
Lockdown? Alarmed, she’d tried to text Christian only to be informed that external service was cut off while inside the club.
“Cell phones and other cameras are discouraged, as is the sending of photos outside the club. Security will locate him and communicate his options,” Julio assured her, then explained that if her requested meeting was accepted, the time and location would be sent to her Inspector Gadget watch.
“Where are we? A hollowed-out volcano?” she asked as he set up her thumbprint entry to her room.
“No, but we’re working on obtaining one,” he said, deadpan. “Now, you’ll want to wear your watch throughout your stay. It tells a lot more than time. May I show you?”
Hearing that her scheduled meeting with the Bregnovian dictator wasn’t a sure thing was a relief. Her father would be furious if she didn’t go in Christian’s place, but if the request was rejected, she would be off the hook. Still, she hoped her brother would be granted entry and save her worrying about any of it. She pressed Julio out of her suite with instructions to inform her about Christian as soon as possible.
Her suite was enough of an oasis to calm her nerves. Her privileged upbringing had exposed her to some seriously nice digs, but she had to admit this was above and beyond. No expense had been spared on the gold fixtures, original art or silk bedding. The new clothes in the wardrobe were a pleasant distraction. Christian had said something about samples of prototypes being handed out to members. If you don’t want them, I do.
She supposed he was referring to the spy watch Julio had shown her, but she was more interested in the designer gowns. Discreet labels informed her they were from the best of the best throughout South America, all in stunning colors and fabrics. Several were off-the-shoulder, figure-enhancing styles that would cover her scars.
Not that she had anywhere to wear them. She didn’t intend to leave her room, but she would make the most of the in-suite amenities, she decided. Call it a vacation from her family. She’d work in peace for a few days.
Work, however, was next to impossible without Wi-Fi service to the external world, and besides, a calypso band was calling to her from below her open French doors. She loved dancing.
Full darkness had fallen, so she sidled into the shadows behind a potted fern on her balcony and gazed longingly at the party below, feeling rather like Audrey Hepburn in that old black-and-white. It was such a world beyond her. The pool’s glow lit up ice sculptures on the buffet tables. Bartenders juggled open bottles, putting on a cocktail show as they poured fast and free while women in red gowns cha-cha’d with men in tuxedos and masks.
This whole mask thing was weird. As they’d flown south in the company jet, Christian had explained it allowed the world’s elite to rub shoulders in a discreet way. Sometimes it was best for the biggest players to take their meetings in secret, so as not to cause speculative dips in the stock exchange. Certain celebrities stole these few days to relax without interruption by fans. QVirtus catered to whatever the obscenely rich needed.
I need a new face, she thought sourly, but even the cavernous pockets her husband had left her weren’t deep enough to buy a miracle.
She looked to where she’d left her mask dangling off a chair back’s spire.
Despite her anxiety with the abrupt change of plans when she arrived, she had felt blessedly anonymous behind her mask as she had walked through the lobby and halls to her room. It had been an extraordinary experience to feel normal again. No one had stared. She had looked exactly like everyone else.
Hmm. That meant she didn’t have to stay here like Rapunzel, trapped in the tower with the real world three stories below and out of her reach.
With her heart tripping somewhere between excitement and trepidation, she fingered through the gowns hanging in the wardrobe. The silk crepe in Caribbean blue would expose her good right leg, but not so high as to reveal where her grafts had been taken. After months of physiotherapy, she’d moved back into her old workout routine of yoga, weights and treadmill. She possessed all of her mother’s vanity along with the genetic jackpot in the figure department. Only family saw her these days, and she hardly dressed to impress, but she was actually very fit.
Alone in the suite, she held the gown up to her body, then, without her mother there to discourage her, dared to try it on.
Whoever this Zeus guy was, he sure knew how to dress a woman. Especially one with defects to hide. The single sleeve went past her wrist in a point that ended in a loop of thread that hooked over her middle finger. The bodice clung to her waist and torso, plumping breasts that remained two of her best original features. She had to give her backside the credit it deserved, too. When she buckled on new shoes that were little more than sky-high heels and a pair of saucy blue-green straps, it was like being hugged by old friends. She almost wept.
Filtering her image through her lashes as she looked in the mirror, she saw her old self. Hi, Tiff. It’s nice to see you again. 'bout time, too.
Makeup didn’t completely cover her scars, nothing could, but she enjoyed going through her old ritual after using the concealer, taking her time to layer on shadow and liner, girling herself up to the max. By the time she was rolling spirals into her strawberry blond hair, she was so lost in the good ol’ days, she caught herself thinking, I wonder what Paulie will say.
The curling iron tagged her cheek where she would never feel it, and she nearly broke down. You’re not Cinderella, anymore, remember? You’re the ugly stepsister.
No. Not tonight. Not when she felt confident and beautiful for the first time since her wedding day. Had she been happy then? She couldn’t remember.
Don’t go there.
Gathering the top half of her hair over her crown, she tied the mask into place, then let her loose curls fall to hide the strap that circled her skull. Oddly, the mask wasn’t as traumatic to wear as she’d feared. It didn’t suction onto her face and make her feel trapped in a body that writhed in agony. It stood cocked like a fascinator to cover the left side of her face, while the feathers arranged around her eyes gave an impression of overly long lashes that layered backward to cover her forehead and hairline. She had expected it to be heavy, but it was as light as, well, feathers. They tickled the edges of her scars, where her skin was extra sensitive, making her feel feminine and pretty.
Staring at herself in the full-length mirror, she allowed that she was pretty. After painting on a coat of coral lipstick, she did a slow twirl and caught herself grinning. Smiling felt odd, as if she was using muscles that had atrophied.
She lifted the weighty watch on her wrist, the one that identified her as Steel Butterfly. More like a broken one. Her sides didn’t even match.
It didn’t have to make sense, she assured herself as she tossed her lipstick into her pocketbook then realized she didn’t need either room key or credit card. Such freedom! For a few hours, she would be completely without baggage.
Taking nothing but lighthearted steps, she left to join the party.
The Goodreads Giveaway for this book closed on Friday and I've already sent the winners their books. (Congrats Noelle, Suzann & Kristina.)
But if you like free books, join my newsletter list. You'll always be entered for a signed copy of my new release because I draw from my subscriber list before each print book releases.
Wait! Don't guess yet! If you join through Dani's Masked Desires Contest you'll also be entered for one of these awesome masks and will double your chances for an autographed copy of the book.
Read the rules for the Dani Collins Masked Desires Contest (closes August 17th, 2014) then enter here:
I'll have more chances to win giveaways of this title when I start my blog tour mid-July.
In other news, my Chatsfield short is available in the UK. You can pick it up as The Secret In Room 823 as a stand alone title, or as part of The Chatsfield Boxed Set Vol.2. In North America, preorder it as part of The Chatsfield Boxed Set Vol.2.
or these other fine retailers have it as well:
I'm cutting this one short and flying out the door for a friend's 50th. Have a great weekend--a long one for many of us in Canada, if you're taking Monday instead of the 1st. I'll be working Canada Day, posting my next #TeaserTuesday so please check back here for it.