The Kiss That Changed Everything

#SampleSundaybook launchDani Collinsexcerptfirst bookfirst kissharlequinharlequin presentsiHeartPresentskiss excerptmills and boonNicno longer forbiddenProloguepromoromanceromantic conflictRowanself-promotionWriting Sample

If you're visiting from the iHeartPresents site, welcome!

I wrote this prologue for the release of my debut Mills & Boon Modern No Longer Forbidden? The scene is not included in the book, but is a pivotal point between Nic and Rowan so it makes a nice bonus for those of you who have read the book and is a bit of a teaser for those who haven't. I hope you enjoy it:

Why was it, Rowan wondered, that being drunk made you want to dance and yet it made dancing so dangerous? She had a fuzzy memory of trying it once when a schoolmate had snuck a bottle of gin into the dorm. One torn tendon later, she’d sworn off dancing when drunk. Therefore, even though she had an urge to twirl and run and leap, she only swayed to an internal rumba as she drained the last of the champagne from its bottle. And went in search of Nic. Way in the back of her mind a small voice said, Bad idea, but an inner fire burned along the pathways of her blood. It had nothing to do with the alcohol in it. This afternoon, he had walked out of the weight room as she had walked in. Sweaty and sullen, he shouldn’t have been so sexy, but a pulse of excitement rose to beat in her throat just thinking about how masculine and fresh-from-the-fight he’d looked. And she was so tired of him looking at her like she was the biggest nuisance on the planet! Men came onto her all the time, if he didn’t know. Why didn’t he seem to notice she had all the right equipment? She’d ask him, she decided, as she sauntered down the path from the pool area to the beach. A warning flitted through her again as her heels sank into the sand, but it was blown away by the wind off the water and the sheer power in Nic’s profile as she spotted his solitary figure in the moonlight. So enigmatic. She wished this feeling she had to be near him was simple lust, but it was so much more. When she was away at school, or he was away collecting facts on foreign strife, she thought about him. When she knew she was coming home to Rosedale, she started conniving ways to cajole his father, Olief, to invite Nic to join them here. This time the excuse had been her twentieth birthday. Nic hated crowds and her friends found Rosedale too quiet so this evening had turned into a simple gathering of their disjointed, unofficial family. She pondered how grossly they fell short of what she'd once imagined they could be. If Olief had relatives back in Sweden or Norway where he’d been born, Rowan didn’t know about them. His relationship to Nic’s mother was another mystery, but the woman must have been Greek. Her son carried the contrasting moniker Nicodemus Marcussen. For reasons she didn’t know, Nic and Olief had been estranged until six or seven years ago, just before Olief had started seeing Rowan’s mother, Cassandra. Rowan had been the one to coax Olief to invite his son to the island the first time, eager to make for herself the nuclear family she’d always craved. No one had embraced the idea. Her mother had never had a maternal moment in her life so hardly warmed to Olief’s grown son. Olief and Nic remained taciturn around each other, and Nic seemed to think Rowan and her mother were temporary fixtures no matter how many times Rowan tried to make him see the deeper connection between their parents. The sad truth was, she hadn’t been able to grasp the idea of Nic as a brother either, not once she’d laid eyes on him. Her feelings for that remote man standing with his shirt rippled by the wind were the furthest thing from sisterly. Kicking off her shoes, she sashayed toward him, unable to keep from laying on the sass and cheeky confidence that were her best cover for moments of insecurity. “That raging party of mine getting to be too much for you?” Nic’s head barely moved in acknowledgment of her arrival, but everything about his demeanor hardened. The slant of his mouth pulled into a dismayed line. “It’s past your bedtime, isn’t it?” She hated when he was dismissive and patronizing like that. Her sensitive core took the kick, but a tougher part of her deflected the sting, stood taller, and demanded he see her as a woman. “Maybe,” she purred, sliding her hand along his forearm where his sleeve had been rolled back to his elbow. “If I had company.” She had his attention. He didn’t move and she couldn’t really see his face, backlit as it was by the moon. She only sensed his gaze honing in on her while his arm became hot marble beneath her touch. “Go back to the house, Ro. You’re drunk.” “I’m not that drunk,” she argued. Before she knew what was happening, that he could even move so fast, he had her crushed to his chest and locked in his arms. His mouth opened wide over hers in a hard kiss that was nothing like the sweet, tender, tentative kisses boys had offered her in the past. It was nothing like the passionate, leading ones men tried on her. This was possession and taking and punishment. His fist pulled in her hair, holding her still for the thorough plundering of her mouth as he thrust his tongue in. His stubble scraped her skin and his pinning arms made it hard to breathe. Even as her heart swelled with joy at being so close to him, she realized he was being mean on purpose. It scared her enough to struggle. For a terrifying second, he continued the kiss, refusing to release her. Her heart stopped and she wondered exactly what kind of monster she’d come up against. Real fear made her desperate enough to try lifting her knee between his legs. He shoved her away from him so abruptly she barely stayed on her feet. The back of her wrist came up to her bruised lips, pressing away the tenderness he’d left there with his rough kiss. No blood. He wasn’t a brute, but he’d been making a nasty point. “That’s what happens to girls who get drunk and put themselves at the mercy of men,” he rasped. “You should know better, Ro.” “Oh, I asked for that, did I?” “You wanted a reaction out of me, didn’t you? Or are you going to say you really want to go to bed with me? Sorry, but I’m not into children who don’t think beyond getting drunk and throwing themselves at the only man available. Grow up, show some self control, and maybe I’d be interested. Now be a good girl and toddle off to bed.” She felt exactly as immature as he was implying. She couldn’t even admit she did want to sleep with him. He’d demoralize her further. Laugh at her. Oh, she hated him. Genuinely, truly hated him. And she very much feared she was going to cry. Like a silly little baby. “You know where you can go, Nic?” she managed in a strained snap. “To hell.” She stumbled away, made clumsy by anger, champagne, and the cold lumps of sand breaking under her feet. With her breath hissing furiously, she wasn’t sure if she actually heard what he said behind her. It sounded like, “I have my own key.” His flat tone was depressed enough to make her falter, but she wasn’t going back to check on him. He’d made it abundantly clear he had no use for her. She passed Olief on the way back to the house. Good luck getting two civilized words out of him, she thought with grim fuzziness, and went directly to her room to pack. Paris. It was drizzly and lonely, but she’d take it over seeing Nic again. But when she rose early to catch the ferry, head pounding and stomach tender, she didn’t have to avoid him. He was already gone. For some stupid reason that disappointed her. Grow up and get over him, she told herself. It was past time. She would. This time she would forget about him completely. She wouldn’t ask about him, wouldn’t nag Olief to invite Nic to join them. With luck, she’d never have to speak to Nic Marcussen ever again.

Of course she does speak to Nic again. She inadvertently draws him to Rosedale where they wind up stuck there alone and Rowan finally learns what sort of demons he lives with. A little older and wiser, she's also a lot harder for him to dismiss.

If you've read No Longer Forbidden? I hope you'll look for Nic's sister's story, which I've almost completed. Adara and Gideon have their own demons, but their marriage is saved once they confront them.

I don't know yet when it will be released, but if you scroll all the way to the bottom of this page and sign up for my newsletter, I'll keep you in the loop. You could win a Kindle! I'll be holding a draw March 2, 2013 from my list of subscribers. The winner will be announced in the newsletter March 4th.

And please tell me what you'd like to see when I write about Nic's younger brothers. I have some ideas, but would love your input.