I'm posting from Australia and think this will come out on Tuesday back home. If I'm off by a day one way or another, kindly forgive.
This is the third instalment from Book Two, Playing The Master in The Dani Collins Erotic Romance Collection, my 2in1 with HarlequinE releasing August 4th.
If you missed the first one from this book, links to the previous two scenes are below. After this sample, keep scrolling for more links to excerpts from my other summer titles:
Ann is still literally--not figuratively--in the closet, watching and listening.
~ * ~
“That’s another thing that has me curious.” Eloisa came toward the closet again and fussed with her hair. “You can’t need money. Why are you marrying for it?”
“I’m not,” Porter dismissed with a negligent shrug. “Cain wants to cash out, and if I don’t take this opportunity to absorb his company, someone else will. I like being on top, so I’ll take the steps necessary to stay there.”
“And consume a virgin along the way? Such a sacrifice.”
“Hell, no. She can save that for her next husband. Her stepfather has been living in Saudi Arabia so long he thought her virginity would make a sweetener for the deal. It drew interest from others, I’ll admit, but deflowering innocents doesn’t do it for me.”
“Overdosed in the early years, I imagine. When are you coming to the club? You know people started asking for you the minute you arrived in the city.”
He swept that away with a flick of his hand. “I won’t be there this trip.”
“What?” She spun around. “Why?”
“Reasons that are my own.”
“Something to do with your brother?”
He didn’t move, but he seemed to solidify into a hardened substance in a way that made Ann lean her weight back and hold her breath, gaze fixed on Eloisa, waiting to see if she reacted to his subtle descent into dangerous.
“I’m closing a business deal,” he said in a quiet voice that was deadly enough to lift the hairs on Ann’s arms. “It’s complex and requires a lot of my attention.”
Eloisa made a huffing noise, affecting disinterest as she checked inside her pocketbook, but Ann sensed the charge of hostility between them. “You said she’s from KSA? Saudi Arabia? That explains the lab coat, but they’re not Muslim, are they? Not the way he drinks. Where is she from originally? I heard England.”
“I have no idea. Why does it matter?”
Eloisa offered a smile that held her cheek in a tense bump against her profile. “Just curious.”
He folded his arms. “The marriage is a formality, Eloisa. Don’t feel threatened.”
“By whom? You?”
He lifted a weary brow.
“Of course I wouldn’t. We have no hard feelings between us,” she declared. Her hand pressed into the small of her back, fingers crossed against her spine.
Her cheeky signal made Ann smile despite how awful this was. She liked how Eloisa was standing up to Porter. She’d never had the nerve to stand up to anyone, especially a man who exuded so much power.
Her heart took a little swoop as she regarded him again. He was a quietly dangerous animal, like a panther or a raptor. The kind you wanted to look at through the glass at the zoo, because face-to-face, if he decided to make a move, you’d be gone before you knew what had happened.
And Eloisa was baiting him, treating this like a joke. Bringing Ann in on the secret as if they were conspirators. In a way it made her feel less lonely, just for second, but she was alarmed. She didn’t want Porter to discover her and think she was aligning with this woman. He didn’t seem very pleased with Eloisa.
“I can see your hand in the mirror,” he drawled. “This isn’t a love match. I wanted to buy the company outright and forego the marriage. Cain has made it a condition, because marriage will unlock her trust fund. It’s pure greed on their part, since the compensation for the rigs and drilling rights should be generous enough to hold them for a few years, but he won’t budge. So I’ll marry her to secure the merger and divorce her as soon as everything finalizes. You have no reason to feel slighted, Eloisa,” he finished in a condescending tone.
Interesting information to process later. Ann tucked it away and watched Eloisa drop her loose fingers to her side.
“Why would I feel slighted? We had a lovely affair and went our separate ways. We’re still friends.”
“That’s the way I remember it.” He strolled laconically across the roses in the area rug, becoming more threatening with each step. Ann drew a slow, awe-filled breath at Eloisa’s strength in standing undaunted as he approached to loom over her.
“And even though I continue to like and respect you—” he began.
“Do you? Perhaps we have different definitions of that word,” Eloisa cut in with a hint of hardening frost.
“—I’m concerned about your motives.” He took hold of her chin.
Ann’s heart raced like a caught bird, fearful for Eloisa. She didn’t want to watch violence, but Eloisa didn’t so much as twinge with apprehension.
“Rather than calling me and asking for an invite, you fucked your way in here—”
“Would you have allowed me to come?” she interrupted again. Such insolence.
“No,” he stated implacably.
“There you go.” Eloisa jerked her chin from his grip and half turned away. “But how else could I see if she’s worthy of you? I failed to capture your heart and wanted to know who could,” she stated breezily. “That’s understandable, isn’t it?”
Ann thought she heard genuine heartache beneath. That was bad. If Eloisa regarded her as a rival, it would be very, very bad.
“Jealousy is a wasted emotion, especially on me. You’ve always known that, and in this case it’s even more misplaced.”
Eloisa turned to look up at him, lips widening in a flat, tight smile against her still profile. “The mighty will never fall?” she challenged, a rasp of bitterness threaded through her tone.
“No,” he assured her. “Not for you or any other woman. So there’s nothing to see here. You can leave. Now. As discreetly as possible.”
“Afraid if I stay, she’ll find out what kind of man you really are and refuse to marry you?”
He released an impatient sigh, but the way he briefly averted his gaze suggested there might be some truth to Eloisa’s accusation. “This deal has to happen. I won’t let you or anyone else jeopardize it.”
Warnings seemed to crackle in Ann’s ears at his determination, but before she could fully examine why, Eloisa distracted her, saying, “Promise to come by the club and I’ll leave without a fuss.”
“You’ll leave because I told you to,” he said with an arrogant look down his nose. “I’ll drop in for a drink if I’m bored,” he allowed with a flicker of patronizing indulgence.
“Oh, I can tell you’re bored,” she said sweetly. “I’ll ensure suitable entertainment is provided,” she added as further enticement.
When he said nothing and the silence drew out, she glanced very briefly toward the closet, then cocked her head at him, voice almost leaving a cloud of chill in the air. “No? Not interested in other women? Saving it all for your fiancée? What do you really know about her?”
This was it. The doors would be flung open. Curdles of dread soured Ann’s stomach as she held her breath again.
“I don’t need to know anything about her and neither do you. That’s the point I’ve been hammering since I walked in here.” He opened the door to the hall. “Now go. Down the back stairs and out through the kitchen.”
Eloisa’s response, something about not being his bitch, faded into the noise of conversation from below as they left the door open.
Ann released a slow exhale and waited a full three minutes, bemused, one hand over the sick knot lingering in her stomach. Porter and Eloisa had speculated on her virginity—which was intact. That only meant she was inexperienced, much as she was with all the ways of the world, but she wasn’t naive. As much as she’d like to believe there would be no repercussions from the unpredictable Eloisa, instinct told her that would be wishful thinking.
The real question, however, wasn’t what action Eloisa would take, or when, but how her betrothed would react. Porter didn’t have much of an opinion of her to start with, obviously, and he held her fate in his wide hand. Would he care that she had watched his lover coupling, or that she’d eavesdropped on his conversation? Would he tell her stepfather?
Despite years of wishing she could see her future, she’d learned that things had to play out in their own time. She could only respond when it happened, and then always in a limited way. Unless she made changes.
She trembled in a kind of shock as she stepped from the closet and slid the other side of the closet open, where wraps and overcoats had been hung by the servants. Fingering through the pockets of one damp raincoat, she found nothing and slid it across to the ones she’d searched before the approaching voices of Eloisa and her suitor had prompted her to step behind the bent door.
Paris was becoming less interesting and more dangereux. Perhaps not the best place to run away after all, but when would she have another opportunity?
This isn’t a love match.
If she bided her time and allowed the marriage, would she gain the trust fund that was rightfully hers and finally be free? She didn’t bother thinking about the greater fortune, the oil company. It might have been started by her father and inherited by her mother, but it had gone to Cain on her mother’s death and Ann had no interest in fighting him for it. Ridding herself of him was worth whatever he may or may not be stealing from her.
Skimming half of the notes from a cologne-scented pocket—a trick of subtle theft, she’d observed, was slower to be discovered—she tucked her find with the rest up the sleeve of the dress she wore beneath her abaya. A few minutes later, she used the back stairs and the pantry entrance to the dining room to rejoin the reception.
The band was on intermission. Perched on the piano bench, she hid behind the piano’s raised lid, skirt and slippers blocked by a potted fern. If she had the ability to buy stocks, she would have made a fortune on what she overheard undetected.
~ * ~
This book releases August 4th. I've been posting that it's available from Mills and Boon now. A friend in Australia, however, had to pre-order so it might be that I'm reading things wrong and this link only allows you to pre-order.
You can definitely pre-order from Amazon.com until it releases in North America on August 4th.
Here's a quick roundup of the rest of my summer excerpts:
- Book Blurbs - for all five of my summer titles
- #SampleSunday - An Heir To Bind Them - Six consecutive excerpts from my June Harlequin Presents. Post includes links to the previous five.
- #SampleSunday - The Ultimate Seduction - all excerpts from my August Harlequin Presents.
- #Thursday13 - The Secret In Room 823 (part of Mills & Boon's The Chatsfield series).
- #TeaserTuesday - Mastering Her Role - from the first book in this Erotic 2in1 Collection. Includes links to previous.
And please enter the Dani Collins Masked Desires Contest! Purchase of my erotic romance collection, or my August Presents, The Ultimate Seduction, counts as ten entries for one of these fabulous prizes.
Read the rules for the Dani Collins Masked Desires Contest then enter here:
I have a few blog stops to promote both the Erotic Collection and The Ultimate Seduction. Check in for giveaways:
- July 11 - Romance Beckons
- July 14 - Harlequin Blog Giveaway
- July #TemptationThursday - Caribbean Accent Book Reviews
- July 31 - The Reading Cafe
In other news, my novella, The Secret In Room 823, is available in the UK. Here's a little blog post I wrote about my 'stay' in The Chatsfield.
These other fine retailers have my books too:
If you read my previous post, #SleepySunday, you'll know that I am planning to write some posts on the recent RWA conference in San Antonio. I made this wild promise before I was here with my niece and nephew. Now I may have other priorities--like reading Robert Munsch aloud and giving raspberries to cheeks and tummies. I will try, however. I want to review my notes before I forget all the brilliant things I learned.