Monday, June 30, 2014

[Blog Tour] Full Exposure by Sara Jane Stone w/ Guest Post: A Different Kind of Alpha Male

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No touching allowed …

After serving her country, Georgia Trulane craves adventure—and sex. She's set her sights on her brother's best friend—now her boss, since she took a temporary job as his nephew's live-in nanny. Only problem? Eric refuses to touch her. That doesn't stop Georgia from seducing him. But an earth-shattering encounter leaves her fully exposed, body and soul.

Eric has a long list of reasons to steer clear of the woman he has wanted for as long as he can remember. For one, he refuses to be her next thrill ride. When he claims her, it will be for good. But the attraction is undeniable, and the more they fight it, the stronger it pulls. But will it be enough to conquer their obstacles?


Soldiers, Cowboys, and  . . . Loggers? A Different Kind of Alpha Hero 

There was a day about twelve months ago when I stared at the cursor on the blank page wondering if I should post a plea for help on Facebook.  Wanted: one good-guy, Alpha hero for Georgia Trulane, a strong heroine who served her country and now craves adventure—and sex.

Instead of begging my Facebook friends and fans for help, I began typing. 

Georgia Trulane walked into the kitchen wearing a purple bikini, hoping and praying for a reaction from the man she’d known practically forever. Seated at the kitchen table . . .

Who was seated at the table?  A soldier?  No, my heroine was a twenty-something veteran who was struggling to readjust to life after her time at war.  A cowboy?  I love the mental image of a man in a Stetson mounted on a big horse as much as the next girl, but it didn’t feel right.  And then it clicked.  I’d found my hero.

Seated at the kitchen table, Eric Moore, her brother’s best friend, now her boss since she’d taken over the care of his adopted nephew until he found another live-in nanny, studied his laptop as if it held the keys to the world’s greatest mysteries. Unless the answers were listed between items b and c on a spreadsheet about Oregon timber harvesting, the screen was not of earth-shattering importance. It certainly did not merit his full attention when she was wearing an itsy-bitsy string bikini.

Yes, Eric Moore was a logger.  These days he spent more time in the office wearing suits.  But when a forest fire threatens, he is out there with his crew wielding a chainsaw.  And he is a good man.  A hero who would think twice about getting involved with his friend’s little sister, especially knowing that she was struggling with PTSD. 

Once I had written the first paragraph—and found my hero—the rest of the story flowed.  Eric Moore’s world shaped much of the external plot, adding the fire and a potentially disastrous investigation into the flames’ origin into the mix.  And Georgia’s struggle with her memories from war, her nightmares, and the fears that she wished she could ship back to Afghanistan, drove their internal conflicts. 

By the time I typed the final words of the book, I had fallen in love with my good-guy logger hero, who turned out to have some emotional hang ups of his own.  (Don’t they all:) But after a few twists and turns—and some very steamy interludes—Eric and Georgia found they’re happy ever after.  Still, I wondered if readers would raise an eyebrow at logger hero.  Or maybe it is time for Alpha-logger heroes to take their place alongside the soldiers, cowboys, and yes, even the billionaire tycoons.

What is your favorite type of Alpha hero?       

After several years on the other side of the publishing industry, Sara Jane Stone bid goodbye to her sales career to pursue her dream—writing romance novels. Sara Jane currently resides in Brooklyn, New York with her very supportive real-life hero, two lively young children and a lazy Burmese cat. Visit her online at or find her on Facebook at Sara Jane Stone.

Friday, June 27, 2014

[Cover Reveal] Love Overcomes by Angela Schroeder

Love Overcomes banner cover reveal

by Angela Schroeder
A romantic novel coming October 21 from Anaiah Press!

About the book:
Single mother Arabella Mackenzie never imagined that going to California with her sister Clara would have such a huge impact on her life. Since the end of a disastrous relationship, Arabella has been wary of wanting or needing anyone other than her family. But when she meets hunky actor, Jeremy Fowlis, she begins to have feelings for a man for the first time since her three year old son was born. Now, she needs to try to overcome her past and learn to trust again.

Jeremy is not used to women who don't want to date him, or at least show him off to their friends - he is an in-demand actor, after all. He is tired of the shallow, avaricious attention that he gets from the public, but when he meets intelligent, cautious Arabella, she doesn't even know his name. Arabella’s grounded beauty captivates him instantly, but, he is wary of getting involved with a single mother with a complicated past.

Can Arabella and Jeremy both overcome their doubts and fears in order to find love?

And here's the cover...
Love Overcomes 1600x2400

About the Author:
I was born and raised in Iowa. I am a single mother to three fantastic children. I enjoy attending church, playing games with my kids, and spending time with my parents and siblings. Writing has always been a passion of mine and I believe that a hand written letter will never go out of style.
Website     Twitter      Goodreads

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

I Drool for Ull! #NACrushTourney2014

Last  year I blogged about my book boyfriend crush, Ull. You know, the Norse God of Winter from ST Bende's Elsker series. I thought I would reshare the post (with a few changes), since Ull is a candidate for #NACrushTourney2014!


It's no surprise to my regular readers that I'm a sassy, sensual romance writer who LOVES men. Yes, I'm not ashamed to admit it. I often fall in love with those sexy heroes I read about and no better fantasy crush deserves an award more than ULL from my amazing writer friend, S.T. Bende's NA novel, Elsker

Now AvailableHere’s the blurb for Elsker:
Kristia Tostenson prefers Earl Grey to Grey Goose and book clubs to nightclubs, but when she transfers from her one-stoplight town to Cardiff University in Wales she falls in love with Ull Myhr. Her new boyfriend isn’t exactly what she was expecting. He’s an honest-to-goodness Norse God — an immortal assassin fated to die at Ragnarok, the battle destined to destroy Asgard and Earth. Kristia’s crazy visions are the only thing that can save their realms. Her orderly life just got very messy. 

In fact, Elsker is a whole series and you can download the prequel novella for FREE! What are you waiting for? Go get it... I'll wait! (PS It has another book boyfriend crush, Ull's best friend, Gunnar).

Now Available

Ull is not just any boyfriend/hero -- he is a the Norse God of Winter and Thor's step-son. I could just stop right there. What's not to love about that? BUT, I will continue, because there's so much MORE to love! 

Here's my list of why I love Ull and why YOU should vote for Ull in the NA Tourney. (TOMORROW)

1. He knows what he wants and gets what he wants -- except for that small-town girl, Kristia, who somehow steps in over his head.
2. He's completely in love with Kristia -- even brings her flowers, prepares a picnic and dotes on her in any way he can. **sigh**
3. Not only that, but Ull is willing to change his life as he knows it for Kristia. Now that's love!
4. He's an Asgardian Assasin. Imagine all that training he must endure -- hot abs anyone?
5. He makes the most amazing waffles with Olaug's secret recipe.
6. He's more than intelligent, if you ask me, he's a genius. Having attended several universities and receiving degrees in several areas, he knows his stuff!
7. He's always a gentleman, opening the car door, giving Kristia his jacket and -- ahem -- waiting until they've tied the knot to consummate their love.
8. He protects his people. Remember that Asgardian Assasin thing? Well, being a killer for his people is pretty dang hot!
9. He's a faithful friend -- Gunnar and Inga could vouch for it.
10. He's absolutely gorgeous! Tall (6'5"), blond, blue eyed, well-dressed and muscular. Imagine a younger Alexander Skarsgard. Yep. (wiping off that drool as I think about him).

Now for a little fun. I gotta "HEY GIRL" Ull. He's totally worth it and totally up there with my Ry-Ry obsession. Ready? Here ya go!

And, not only that... Ull has fans. Many of them. So much so that we like to #DroolforUll all the time. Here's proof:

So, what can YOU do? First and foremost, you can vote for ULL on Thursday at the NA Crush Tourney at NA Alley! Remember it's THURSDAY, JUNE 26!

Also, for more Ull, you can follow Ull on Twitter at 

Monday, June 23, 2014

[Trailer Reveal] Bound by Blood by @Sb_Springer

Bound by blood banner.png

Bound By Blood by Scott Springer
Romance, Anaiah Press


Julia has accepted the Lord and is busy returning her life to order. She is not ready for love, especially when the new site foreman at work stirs up forgotten feelings. She knows a playboy when she sees one, but to Rick Mercado the attraction between them is surprisingly real. Other girls no longer interest him, and if she wants to play hard to get that's fine with him. Let the games begin!

What he doesn't realize is that her dangerous secret is not a game.

Julia's brother has returned from the street, strung out and in trouble with rival gangs. Loyalty to her brother draws Julia deeper into a world of drug deals and thugs. Rick doesn't understand why Julia won't simply go to the cops, especially once the bullets start flying. As Julia slips further into a world of violence, Rick realizes how easily his heart can be broken. His brain says to run, but his heart isn't listening. It may already be too late.

BOUND BY BLOOD. Love and suspense, heartfelt moments and guns a blazing.

What a killer combination!

An inspirational, romantic suspense novel coming September 23, 2014

Add to Goodreads

And now, for the book triler.......... 


Author Bio:

Scott Springer spent his youth playing pretend and dreaming of being a writer. As an adult he worked as a carpenter before becoming a software developer. Having produced much, his two children remain his proudest accomplishment. His wife led him to the Lord, and he’s glad that she did.


Wednesday, June 18, 2014

[Cover Reveal] Because I'm Disposable by Rosie Somers

Because I'm Disposable is a YA contemporary by Rosie Somers and will be available on July 9th! I'm happy to help reveal the cover today!

Sixteen-year-old Callista Tanner was in the bathroom slitting her wrists the night her father took a fatal plunge down the stairs. People around her think she attempted suicide because she found him dead -- or worse, because she had a guilty conscience. Few know the truth; Michael Tanner had been beating her for years.

The freedom that should have come with her father's death becomes a cage of rumors and self-doubt. Callie seeks escape in the most destructive ways, bringing her emotional scars to the surface for the world to see.

One bright spot exists in Callie's dark world.

Lincoln Devaux refuses to let Callie sink fully into the depths of her own depression, stepping into her life when she needs someone the most. She tries to push him away, but Link is determined to save Callie from herself. Even when she doesn't think she's worth saving.

Add it to Goodreads! Pre-order at Smashwords or iTunes.


About the Author

Rosie Somers is a YA author who lives in Florida, soaking up the year-round sunshine. She can often be found in her favorite spot on her favorite beach, nose-deep in a good book.

Website | Twitter |

Saturday, June 14, 2014

World Cup Hotties! #worldcup #soccerhotties

It's that time of year where I buckle down, day after day, and watch the World Cup! Living in a Central American culture has opened my eyes to the thrill of the games. Since it only takes place every four years, you can imagine the craziness that ensues! However, it's not hard to become excited about watching. It's rather easy when you get to see these HOTTIES over and over. So, if you don't take the time to watch the matches, at least take a look at these rather handsome players from around the world.
Lance Parker - Canada

Cristiano Ronaldo - Portugal

Italian Soccer Team

Olivier Giroud - France

AND MY FAVE SOCCER PLAYER, who's not playing this year :(, DAVID BECKHAM. I have a whole Pinterest board just for him HERE:

Check out this link that shows 180 Hot Soccer Players:

So, who's your favorite player? 


Friday, June 13, 2014

[Cover Reveal] Bound by Blood by Scott Spring @AnaiahPress

Bound by blood banner cover reveal  

by Scott Springer

An inspirational romantic suspense novel coming September 23 from Anaiah Press!

About the book:
Julia has accepted the Lord and is busy returning her life to order. She is not ready for love, especially when the new site foreman at work stirs up forgotten feelings. She knows a playboy when she sees one, but to Rick Mercado the attraction between them is surprisingly real. Other girls no longer interest him, and if she wants to play hard to get that's fine with him. Let the games begin!

What he doesn't realize is that her dangerous secret is not a game.

Julia's brother has returned from the street, strung out and in trouble with rival gangs. Loyalty to her brother draws Julia deeper into a world of drug deals and thugs. Rick doesn't understand why Julia won't simply go to the cops, especially once the bullets start flying. As Julia slips further into a world of violence, Rick realizes how easily his heart can be broken. His brain says to run, but his heart isn't listening. It may already be too late.

BOUND BY BLOOD. Love and suspense, heartfelt moments and guns a blazing. What a killer combination!
And now for the cover...
Bound by blood 1600x2400

About the Author:
Scott Springer spent his youth playing pretend and dreaming of being a writer. As an adult he worked as a carpenter before becoming a software developer. Having produced much, his two children remain his proudest accomplishment. His wife led him to the Lord, and he’s glad that she did.


Tuesday, June 10, 2014

[Release Day] Plumb Crazy by Molly Blaisdell @mollyblaisdell @swoonromance

Plumb Crazy
Release Date: 06/10/14

Summary from Goodreads:
Small town country girl Elva Presley Hicks is about to attend her five-year class reunion with her best friends, Shay and Margarett.

The discovery of an old fanfic manuscript stirs up memories of her summer job as a plumber’s helper in Houston the summer before senior year. She earned a lot of money that year, but was lonely as heck.

It's not like there weren't any suitors back then. Elva could have chosen between Chase, the obese pig farmer, and Wyatt, the plumber with wandering hands. But Elva yearned for something more, and found it that fateful summer, with electrician, Mitch McCall.

It was magical. Mitch wasn't turned off by Elva's name or fan fiction writing, and Elva didn't lose interest in Mitch after he cut off his nose at work.

Trials and triumphs followed including a friendship implosion, world-wide fanfic humiliation, and goat salvation. It would go down as the most memorable summer of high school.

But as these things sometimes do, the summer romance fizzled and Elva moved on to life after high school. And while she's ready to reminisce, she is unnerved when she runs into Mitch at the reunion. Can they give it another go after so much time has passed, or are they too different now to even try?

Available from:
Amazon * Barnes & Noble

Elva cut across the lawn of the Latter Day Saints and headed into the dirt parking lot of Holiness. The building buzzed with the holy clapping, holy snapping, and holy unknown tongues (private spiritual languages only God could understand). According to Margarett, if you couldn’t speak in an unknown tongue you were damned to spend eternity in Hell. How life in eternal Hell could be worse than hanging out with the tongue-talking Pentecostals for eternity baffled Elva.
As she came up to the wooden steps, leading to the door, the ground vibrated from the babbling. Wild drumming rumbled within, and licks from a squealing electric guitar followed. The guitarist could sure play hot electric guitar followed. The guitarist could sure play hot riffs.
Elva waved to Margarett, sitting on a metal folding chair by the church’s front door. Margarett was beanpole thin and as pale as a vampire. Her face bones jutted at sharp angles, her elbows knobby. She wore a canary yellow jumper with a long-sleeved polyester blouse under it buttoned to her neck.
What a stupid outfit for blazing heat.
Several kids lounged on the hoods of cars in the parking lot. Enough time had passed in the service for their folks to start being slain in the spirit. The parents fell to the floor spitting out unknown tongues, giving the Holiness kids time to sneak out to smoke cigarettes.
Elva understood the need to take the edge off.

“I’ve got two quarters.” Margarett held out her coins. “Do you have enough so we can buy drinks at Happy Hour?” “I’ve only got a dollar,” Elva said. “Let’s go see if we can scrounge up some more change.” She couldn’t bring herself to tell Margarett of the indignity of her first kiss. She spat in the dirt. Chase Fleaso, her first kiss, a fate too terrible to mention, even to one of her best friends.

About the Author
Molly Blaisdell's first crossover YA/NA romantic comedy, Plumb Crazy, is forthcoming from Swoon Romance. She is also the author of 30 books for children, including Rembrandt and the Boy Who Drew Dogs (Barron’s), The Truth About Unicorns (Capstone Press) and The Big Fuzzy Coat (MeeGenius!). She's written hundreds of articles for many internationally known publishers, including MSN, Scholastic, eHow, Hasbro, and Penguin's Author Learning Center.Molly is a Texan and a graduate of Texas A&M in Chemistry. She is a long-time member of SCBWI, and is a former Regional Advisor of the Western Washington region, a Blueboard Moderator Emeritus and a recipient of the Martha Weston Grant.She formed her first fan fiction group in junior high school and is still a huge fan gal of all things space, Star Trek, anime and blockbuster movies. She's the mom of four, and currently lives under the wide open skies of College Station, TX with her husband Tim. Her interestsinclude fine art, folk art, and Texas music.

Author Links:
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Monday, June 9, 2014

[Cover Reveal] Just Breathe by Vincent Morrone

Just Breathe Blurb:

(TRIGGER WARNING: This content deals with an account of sexual assault and may be triggering to some people.)

When Cassie Shaw looks at Noah Hunt, she sees a knight in shining armor, but she’s convinced he sees her as nothing but damaged goods.

Noah saved her from a brutal assault, talked her through a panic attack, and held her when she broke down crying.

Noah is a mystery. He avoids talking about his past, his phone rings with calls from four women he won’t talk about, and he receives texts from over a dozen more. To add to the intrigue, when Cassie tries to kiss him, he gets a look of sheer panic in his eyes.

Cassie finally finds a chink in Noah’s armor, and realizes that he’s even more damaged than she is.

He saved her.

Now it’s her turn to save him.

Author Bio:
Born and raised in Brooklyn NY, Vincent Morrone now resides in Upstate NY with his wife. (Although he can still speak fluent Brooklynese.) His twin daughters remain not only his biggest fans, but usually are the first to read all of his work. Their home is run and operated for the comfort and convenience of their dogs. Vincent has been writing fiction, poetry and song lyrics for as long as he can remember, most of which involve magical misfits, paranormal prodigies and even on occasion superheroes and their sidekicks.

As they say in Brooklyn: Yo, you got something to say? Vincent would love to hear from you at 

Cassie tried to scream, but she couldn’t even breathe. A hand covered her mouth and someone pressed against her body.
            “Stop struggling, bitch!”
            She tried to see who it was, but all she saw was a black truck parked behind a car dealership with the motor running. Cassie was being dragged toward it, helpless.
            Fight, you idiot, fight!
            Cassie began to buck and kick wildly. She bit down on his hand and he screamed in her ear.
            But he didn’t let her go. He wrapped his hand around her throat.
            “Please,” she begged. “Let me go.”
            “You think you’re begging now. Just wait.”
            Cassie recognized the voice just as she was thrown in the backseat. She looked up and saw him.
            Tom crushed his mouth on hers. His breathe tasted like cheap beer and cigarette smoke as his tongue forced its way into her mouth.
            Cassie whimpered. She tried to fight, but she could barely move, crushed by the weight of Tom. He pinned her arms and pressed his erection against her .
            Tom’s mouth moved down to her neck, teeth grazing her skin.
            Scream, she commanded herself. Scream for help! Scream fire! Just scream your fucking head off! You know what he’s going to do! You know what will happen next.
            But no sound escaped her.
            Tom lifted his head for a moment and locked eyes with Cassie. He seemed to enjoy her panic. Cassie saw the perverse pleasure in Tom’s eyes shift to confusion—and then fear.
Cassie felt the weight of Tom’s body lift from her as he seemed to fly out of the truck of the car, backward.
            Cassie struggled to get up. She needed to get out of this car. She couldn’t breathe inside the car. A hand helped pull her out, where she collapsed to the ground.
            “Are you alright?”
            Cassie looked up. It was the guy from the pharmacy. His boyish face was filled with concern.
            Cassie tried to nod, but she couldn’t.
            All she managed was a strangled gasp when she saw Tom coming at them with fury etched on his face.
            The young man in front of her pivoted and smashed his fist into Tom. C     assie watched as Tom’s nose started to leak red.
            Tom stumbled backward and tripped. He cursed as he tried to get up.
Her rescuer returned to her side.
 “You’re safe,” he assured her. “He can’t hurt you.”
Cassie looked up at him. She didn’t know who he was, but the one word that registered with her was safe.
She wanted to thank him, but she still couldn’t speak. The only sound she heard was Tom’s drunken scream as he rushed forward.
He didn’t get far. Cassie watched her savior spin around again. With both hands, he grabbed Tom’s arm. He twisted and step back. There was a snap as Tom’s arm was pulled into an unnatural position. Her protector then smashed Tom’s face down onto the pavement.
Cassie watched his face, no longer boyish and friendly looking. It was the face of a predator.
Cassie found her voice and screamed.
The young man turned and walked a few steps toward Cassie. She could see him push the anger away, replacing it with concern.
Cassie heard movement again. Her eyes found Tom, who had managed to get to his feet. His right arm dangled by his side, useless. With fear in his eyes, Tom made a break for it.
For a moment, Cassie feared she’d be left alone, that the man who saved her would take off after Tom as they both watched her assailant run away. He didn’t. Stopping a few feet away, he crouched down to be eye level.
“It’s okay,” he said. “I’m not going to hurt you. Can you tell me your name?”
Slowly, Cassie nodded.
“Cassie,” she said. “Cassie Shaw.”
He smiled.
“Hello Cassie,” he said. “My name is Noah.”
It was the last thing Cassie heard before she realized she couldn’t breathe.

Add to your GOODREADS shelf! Here's the link:

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

The Captain's Promise by Susanne Matthews


Etienne Blouin left Danielle de Cherbourg in tears, promising to return; he didn’t. Ten years later, Etienne learns she’s been widowed and left almost penniless. Now a wealthy ship’s captain, he offers to help her, but the only reply he gets is from her aunt telling him to leave Danielle alone. Convinced she’s in trouble, he determines to rescue her whether she likes it or not, even if it means losing her love.

Danielle is shocked to learn that her companion is going to the colonies, while she is to marry a cruel and powerful man as repayment of her husband’s gambling debts.  Despondent, she sees no way out of the horrendous situation. When her carriage is waylaid and she’s kidnapped, she fears the worse.
 Etienne has enemies who don’t want La Belle Rose to make port. Can he outfox them to save his ship and the woman he loves?

The Captain’s Promise is available in Kindle format  through Amazon.  

About the author:

Susanne Matthews was born and raised in Cornwall, Ontario, Canada.  She’s always been an avid reader of all types of books, but always with a penchant for happily ever after romances. In her imagination, she travelled to foreign lands, past and present, and soared into the future. Today, gets to spend her time writing, so she can share her adventures with her readers. She loves the ins and outs of romance, and the complex journey it takes to get from the first word to the last period of a novel. As she writes, her characters take on a life of their own, and she shares their fears and agonies on the road to self-discovery and love.

Follow Susanne on her:  Website    Blog    Facebook page    Twitter @jandsmatt

Amazon author page    and    Goodreads author page


Etienne stood beside the Count de Cherbourg and watched Danielle as she finished the movements of the dance. She was stunning! Gone was his child-shadow, the redheaded hoyden who’d followed him around, climbed trees, and had gone fishing with him. An angel stood in her place. Her deep blue gown shimmered in the candlelight and gave her an ethereal look—the goddess Venus come to life couldn’t have matched her beauty. She took his breath away. He was dismayed by what he was about to do. The excitement he’d felt when he’d donned his new uniform had vanished, replaced by a longing he hadn’t anticipated. 

“My daughter’s become a beautiful woman, hasn’t she?” The count smiled proudly.

“She most certainly has.” Etienne stared at the girl approaching him. “I wasn’t prepared to see my young friend changed this much.”

“You know, Etienne, I think she’s expecting different news from you tonight. She’ll be most distressed by your decision, but I understand your need to prove yourself. I’d ask a favor of you.” His voice was solemn, far more severe than the situation implied. 

Etienne tore his eyes away from Elle and wondered briefly what news she’d been expecting, probably that he was back to stay. He looked up at the man who’d been like a second father to him. “Whatever you want sir, if it’s in my power to give it, consider it yours.”

The count looked at him, smiled sadly, and sighed. “Life doesn’t always turn out the way we hope it will. Promise me you’ll look out for her, that you’ll be there when she needs you.”

Sobered by the request, Etienne nodded and answered as honestly as he could. “It’d be an honor to watch out for your daughter, sir, but you know my commission will take me far from here. I’d never allow harm to come to Danielle, not if I could help it. In as much as I’m able to do as you ask, you’ve got my word. ”
The count nodded. “I can’t ask for more than that.”
Etienne turned away to look at Danielle once more. As she approached, she smiled weakly and held out her hands. He saw uncertainty on her face, an emotion he’d never have attributed to her. She was the feisty, intrepid explorer who’d followed him around like a faithful pup. Never had she shown fear. 

“Etienne!” she exclaimed. “I was afraid you might not make it. Look at you. Not a military uniform—don’t tell me you’ve joined the King’s army!” She sounded horrified at the prospect. Etienne smiled and took her hand, placing a small gift box in it. 

“Me? Miss your sixteenth birthday? Never! Happy birthday, Elle.” He moved closer to give her the traditional peck on each cheek. The brief contact of his lips on her tender skin filled him with unexpected desire. He stepped back and addressed her father, his voice low.

“Your grace, with your permission, I’d like to take Elle out into the garden. It’s quite warm in here, and I’d like to speak to her privately.” 

“Of course, I wish I could escape for a few moments myself… Here comes your mother, Elle. Go, before she decides it wouldn’t be appropriate for you to be with Etienne without a chaperone.” 

The air was cooler outside, but Etienne continued to perspire. His months of training to become one of the King’s soldiers had sculpted his body and removed every inch of unnecessary fat. He’d been so eager to boast to Danielle about his new commission, and how he’d travel the world, and make something of himself. Suddenly, he felt as if his dreams were coming to an end. How proud he’d been of his new uniform, his gold lieutenant’s epaulettes decorating his deep blue coat. 

He’d taken great pains with his appearance tonight, wanting to impress Elle with his new responsibilities; he wanted her to be proud of him. Like the other young officers in his regiment, he’d left his hair unpowdered, pulled into a queue, secured with a white, silk ribbon, and had grown a beard that followed the edge of his face, but exposed his mouth. The regiment required he keep his neck shaved, and the moustache on his upper lip neatly trimmed. He raised his finger to the tiny crescent scar below his left eye, the result of a swordsmanship training accident, which he felt gave him a dash of mystery. Now, instead of feeling proud of his appearance, he felt as if the white lace jabot at his neck were a noose, threatening to choke him.
Where had his sweet Danielle gone? When he’d last seen her, she’d been awkward, her arms and legs too long for her young body. They’d been constant companions for eight years; how could his tomboy friend have changed this much in so short a time?