#TeaserTuesday - Playing The Master (4)

Dani CollinsDani Collins' Masked Desires ContestThe Dani Collins Erotic Romance CollectionPlaying The MasterMastering Her Role#TeaserTuesday

I'm still in Australia and quite enamored with my niece and nephew, so writing has fallen by the wayside. But it's Tuesday here and my official launch day back home (August 4th) for The Dani Collins Erotic Romance Collection, so I thought I'd offer up a final excerpt from the second book, Playing The Master.

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If you missed the first excerpts from this book, links are below. I'm moving into summer reruns for the rest of August, as I'm traveling and don't have another new book until late September, so keep scrolling after this sample to catch up on samples from my backlist:

Here we move onto Chapter Two:

~ * ~

Her life might be on the verge of change. Paris might be a delightful switch of scenery from the arid Arab peninsula, but Ann still felt like the fairy-tale princess locked in the castle.

Porter, or rather his mother, was organizing the wedding—something Ann didn’t care about. She’d never been to a wedding, had had enough of protocol and tradition in KSA and planned to avoid marrying at all.

Running away was proving challenging, however. Cain had laid the groundwork that she was some kind of sleepwalking mental deficient who needed to be locked in her room at night and turned away from the front door during the day. Of course, Porter had sounded pretty insistent last night that the marriage-merger occur. Perhaps he was as much to blame for her imprisonment as Cain.

She still didn’t know what to think about all she’d seen and heard last night. Despite the possibility of gaining her trust fund, she couldn’t see marrying Porter. He was too big and scary and powerful. And Eloisa obviously didn’t want them to marry, so why hadn’t she exposed her? The perils closing in on her were so great, Ann could think about nothing except running from them, but she couldn’t get away.

At least the castle was wide open to her. Snooping through the upstairs bedrooms of the centuries-old mansion, she’d found a laptop no one was using. She hadn’t had online access since arriving here and was feeling the absence, even though she’d only ever had Cain’s desktop when he was out. Still, she was in the habit of surfing when she was bored, and she was dying to know if sites really were uncensored here in France, as she’d been led to believe.

The laptop was charging in her room right now while she wandered the back garden looking for possible escape routes. A stone wall rose from the rocky foundation of this river island, making the garden as much of a prison as the rest of the house, but the abundance of water here was such a marvel she paused to absorb it.

The wall came to a point where the Seine lazily zipped itself together from flowing down either side of what had to be a billion-euro property. The three-story chateau with its gold fixtures and crystal chandeliers was not the greatest luxury here, despite what the occupants might imagine.

After more than a decade in a country where they’d had to set towels along the door cracks to keep out the dust during a storm, she gloried in the dank scents of algae and wet earth that filled her nostrils. When she rested her hands on the fur of mossy stones, light raindrops landed in gentle pecks against her knuckles. Water even fell from the sky here.

As she looked up, rain speckled her glasses and kissed her lips, making her smile. No wonder writers were so taken with springtime in Paris.

The dogs at the front, sleek pinschers she’d seen from the car when they’d arrived, exploded with vicious barks. The sound made her turn toward the wrought-iron gate she’d half-considered stepping through. It led to the paved stones of the front courtyard, which was fenced to twice her height and guarded by a man in a shack along with the hounds from hell currently lathered into a rabid fury because a toy poodle had dared to trespass. The little creature ran flat out down the side of the house, with the pinschers in manic pursuit.
Ann sucked in a horrified breath and started forward, terrified for the mite.

Her approach only scared the pup as he ducked under the gate. He veered into the shrubbery at the side of the house. The big dogs came up against the bars where they snarled and barked, pawing through the uprights, trying to follow.

Heart pounding, she scanned for the pup. Where would he go from here? Like her, he was trapped in this back garden unless he wanted to take his chances in the river. Trying to ignore the still snarling dogs, she moved to the garden bed and crouched, trying to spy the poodle in the warren of low-swept branches and bobbing tulip heads.

One of the doors onto the veranda opened. Porter Navarro’s long legs descended the wide stone stairs next to her.

She stood, not looking at him. No longer looking for the puppy either.

“Are they scaring you? They shouldn’t be barking at guests.” Walking around her, he spoke sharply and made a hand gesture.

The dogs circled once, offered a final yelp, but a stern word sent them away.

Paralyzed by his dynamic presence, Ann waited for him to go back into the house. Porter hadn’t acted differently last night from before and after the dressing room incident, only finding her once to say, “For what it’s worth, my mother is responsible for this circus. Not only does she make everything about her, she rightly suspects it’s her only chance to play mother of the groom.”

Ann hadn’t known what to say. His mother was a beautiful woman who dressed provocatively, drank excessively and flirted without constraint. Erico Navarro, Ann had observed from a quiet vantage of a recessed window, had taken a blonde into one of the guest rooms and stayed there for an hour. Another knee-trembler, she suspected.

Ann still didn’t know what to say to Porter and silently willed him to go inside so she could look for the puppy.

“It’s raining,” he told her.

Yes I know that, she wanted to counter, but didn’t have Eloisa’s audacity. She felt his gaze on her like another muffling layer over her hijab and abaya. Like last night, a sharp longing rose in her to show him she wasn’t really this plain. Beneath the dull olive powder that flaked on her cheeks and made her look unhealthy was a lovely English complexion. The narrow flatness of her lips was a habit she’d developed to keep her mouth pressed closed around Cain, since she wasn’t allowed to speak unless he asked her a direct question. Would Porter even care if he saw her as she really was? She couldn’t compete with those leggy supermodels he seemed to prefer. He’d basically said so.

A branch trembled and a black nose poked out from beneath it. Pleading eyes stared up at them for a few seconds. The puppy whined once and worked himself out of his hiding spot, belly on the ground, head low.

“Is that what stirred them up,” Porter said with mild disgust.

Ann’s throat closed over an automatic protest. It wouldn’t be worth arguing with Cain if he wanted to kill the dog then slap her for feeling empathy toward it, but she didn’t know what to expect from Porter.

He crouched and held out a hand, beckoning the dog with a light snap of his fingers.

The poodle crawled forward, badly shorn, filthy and trembling with cold.

Porter picked him up and checked each of his limbs, his handling sure and gentle, but thorough.

“You’ll have to keep him in your room. Mother will have him thrown in the river if she sees him.” He handed her the dog.

His flat statement startled her into glancing up through the rusty-water hue of her glasses. He broke the eye contact as soon as her gaze met his, looking with pity at the dog, but she’d glimpsed into his soul and realized that even though it appeared black and empty, it was merely hidden in a very deep cave.

His mother was not a kind person, something Ann had already guessed, but she hadn’t considered what that would mean for a boy growing up. Now she sensed something not unlike her own adolescence.

Having pain in common was not the sort of connection Raina had meant when she’d assured Ann that she would one day find a man who was her perfect match, but emotional agony was a surprisingly strong and quick binding agent. Recognizing a like soul made her heart burst into a frightened beat like a panicked bird’s wings when it was unexpectedly snared. She didn’t want to feel anything for him. It was a trap, she was sure.

Nevertheless, cradling the wiggling, licking animal, she recognized that her first stirrings of physical attraction had taken a giant step into something more elemental and personal.

Nothing so dramatic happened on his side, though.

“Bathe him. Warm him up,” he said, and walked away.

Watching his economic movements, weakened by yearning and relief, she realized she hadn’t managed to conjure one word from her dry mouth.

~ * ~

I will post about the two conferences (RWA in San Antonio and the RWAustralia in Sydney), but I seriously over-estimated my ability to write around children. Now I know why it took me 25 years to sell a book. When did I write when my own kids were little?

Here's the roundup of my summer excerpts:

I'm up to almost 700 entries in 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. Enter before August 17th.

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If you're in Sydney, please come out to the ARRA Literacy Autographing. Otherwise, I'll try to post as often as possible here. Have a great week!