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EXCERPT FROM JARED'S WOLF
Moira smelled him before she saw him.
She had been strolling through the rose garden, which sounded nice but was actually chilly and miserable, being mid-winter on Cape Cod. She shivered among bare branches, because she couldn't bear to watch her pack leader nuzzle his mate for another second. Which made her feel like a jealous cow. Which only contributed to her misery.
She was a werewolf. A good one, in fact, but that didn't mean she didn't get lonesome just like a regular person. It wasn't that she didn't adore Michael and Jeannie Wyndham. She would have killed for them. She had killed for them. They were her sun and moon and, like lovers, they established her world. She accorded her pack leaders the respect due an alpha male and female, but more than that, she loved them as friends.
But she was alone and likely always would be. Her mother had mated with a human and it had brought her nothing but pain. She had wanted more for her daughter. Moira had promised her mother she would settle only for absolute happiness in a mate. Fine and good, except it pretty much doomed Moira to a solitary life. Which, for a werewolf, was usually a disaster.
It was one thing when Michael had been a loner, too. Once Jeannie arrived (or, as Jeannie put it, "was kidnapped"), things were exciting for several months. Helping the new non-werewolf alpha female settle in had been one surprise after another. There had been no time to be lonesome.
Now Jeannie had given the pack a marvelous girl-child, had made her home with the werewolves, and never gave a thought to her old life. No conflict in that time, while good for the pack, meant there'd been nothing to distractMoira from her troubles.
Michael's utter happiness with his mate only made Moira more acutely aware of her own loneliness. She loved them, but could watch them snuggling, smell their lust, only so long before she needed to walk, or snivel in self-pity.
The pack, Moira thought grimly, was no place for loners. Werewolves were enormously social and tended to mate for life as soon as possible. Loners got into trouble, and a loner who got into too much trouble went rogue. Rogue was bad.
She shivered, remembering Gerald. He was the only rogue male she had ever run across and, by God, he was enough. Gerald was on her mind because his estranged eldest, Geraldine, had just left Wyndham manor after a brief visit.
After Gerald had been driven out, Geraldine had remained loyal to the worthless bundle of fur. Since no pack would welcome a rogue, the two had wandered the country for years. Admirable loyalty, but the price the poor girl had paid! Her father had been dead a year and Geraldine still roamed.
No, a werewolf alone did more harm than good, and she had no business begrudging Michael and Jeannie their happiness. Better to leave the house and take her poor attitude with her. Thus, the rose garden in February. Thus, she would probably catch a cold from skulking in the sparse snowand serve her right! Thus, there was a stranger on the grounds.
EXCERPT FROM KISS OR KILL
Washington DC, 2043
Camille Kazinsky stood in the doorway of her apartment, shaking her head in disbelief. "That's the robo?"
"Yeah, and if you're Kazinsky, print here." The government rep handed her the sign-in machine, and then pushed a military-issue duffel bag toward her with his foot.
Camille absently supplied her fingerprint, staring up at the robo in fascination. He waited handcuffed and silent, towering over the man at his side. The only robos she'd seen before were the ones she'd shot at from a distance during live-fire training at the academy. Trainees were taught to think of robos as targets; objects. Now, Camille couldn't imagine thinking in terms of 'it' instead of 'he.' Of course, that was just the kind of sentiment she was supposed to avoid. The robo looked like a man, but he wasn't...was he?
'He' wore short black leather gloves that contrasted oddly with the tan fitted T-shirt and camouflage pants of his dingy summer fatigues. Above the gloves, red welts from the restraints covered his forearms. His gloved fingers moved slowly, restlessly, as if he felt pain although no discomfort showed on his face.
In fact, nothing showed on his face at all. His eyes were glazed over. Built like a tank, but nobody home. On the other hand, even if he did have the intelligence of a pea, he probably had a cock the size of what used to be Texas.
Camille suppressed a laugh and moved her gaze upward. He looked like he hadn't had the opportunity to get neat and clean in a while. Greasepaint and dirt from a former assignment still smeared his face and arms. His buzz cut had grown out, and dark dirty locks of hair curled slightly at the neck and fell in disarray over his forehead.
Suddenly, the robo clenched his gloved hands then released them, flexing the muscles in his arms. The obvious power in his body made Camille wonder what kind of mayhem he was capable of, what he'd done while in service, and why they thought he wasn't capable of doing his job anymore.
The robo turned his head a fraction and looked directly at her. He blinked a set of outrageously long lashes over crystalline green eyes before returning his glazed stare to the front. Camille swallowed and stepped backward, her heart pounding in her chest. For those few seconds they'd made eye contact, he'd pierced her with a look that spoke of intelligence and understanding. The government could simulate skin and cover mechanics with life-like prosthetics, but it was hard to fake the look in a man's eyes.
Curious, Camille reached out and pressed her fingers into the skin of the robo's forearm. The pads of her fingers skidded along his warm, slippery flesh. A wry smile twisted her lips; from what she could recall, he felt exactly the way she remembered a man's sweating body felt under her hands. Now there was an interesting way to try to tell the man from the...machine.
EXCERPT FROM MY CHAMPION, MY LOVE
Upstate New York, 1888
The woman didn't strike Robert Albright as deranged. But the staff hadn't dressed heror allowed her to dress herself and now she was forced to greet him, a perfect stranger, in the middle of the afternoon wearing her dressing gown. If, indeed, she'd been sent to the Wainwright Asylum unjustly, he'd do what he could to have her released. If the patients here were mistreated, he'd look into that, too. Right now, his main concern was Mrs. Celeste Broder and her sanity.
She appeared more restless than insane. She'd paced from the window to Dr. Wainwright's desk and then back again as though measuring the dimensions of her prison in footsteps. Yards and yards of the best Belgian lace flowed and rustled behind her as she went. She stopped her meanderings at the window this time and turned to him, causing the sunlight to cast shadows from the iron bars onto her face and the length of her throat.
"Xenobia sent you?" she asked.
One eyebrow rose as she studied him. "Do you know her well?"
"We met only once, when she asked me to check on you."
"Is she here? Now?"
"She went back to Manhattan," he answered. "She seemed to think that her friendship had gotten you into your present predicament somehow. She kept her visit to me a secret."
"Yes, of course. Dear Xenobia," she said, twisting her fingers together. "Still, I wish she could have come herself."
Mrs. Broder renewed her prowling. All long limbs and simmering impatience, she walked back and forth with her robe rustling around her ankles. But then, he'd no doubt act the same if he'd been locked away in this place for weeks.
He might have expected impatience from her, but he hadn't expected such beauty. Xenobia Stewart hadn't warned him that he'd be rescuing a tall, graceful woman with raven-black hair and limbs long and slender enough to belong to an angel.
Beauty or not, the woman needed his help, and he'd best remember that. Too many people in her life had taken advantage of her, if Mrs. Stewart's story was correct. He wouldn't add his own lust to those wrongs, no matter how deeply his own urges ran in those directions. But, damn, what a vision she made in all that lace. He couldn't have taken his eyes off her if his life had depended on it.
"What did Xenobia tell you about me?" she asked.
"That you'd been sent here unfairly. That you're perfectly sane, and that you needed someone to get you released."
"And why did she choose you, I wonder?" she said. "Do you regularly champion women you don't know, Mr. Albright?"
No, he didn't. In fact, he rarely spoke to women as beautiful as this one. He didn't find it entirely comfortable doing so now. "I imagine that Mrs. Stewart called on me because of my stature in the community."
"You're the mayor of that pretty town I passed on the way here," she said.
EXCERPT FROM TAMING KATE
Kathryn Roman stared at the telephone receiver, then brought it back to her ear with a chuckle. She'd been on this phone so much while launching the new ad campaign for Simply Seductive fragrances she was beginning to hear things. "Forgive me. Could you please repeat that? Kitty left me what? I thought you said brothel."
"I did," the masculine voice confirmed over the line. "The late Ms. Romanov left you sole ownership of Katia's Palace, a brothel in Love, Nevada. I'll make the records of material assets available when you come to town. We have some issues involving the inheritance taxes to discuss..."
The lawyer, whose name had flown right out of Kathryn's head, droned on, his words forming a western-edged buzz that echoed in her ear without making a bit of sense.
Kitty had owned a brothel?
Kitty Romanov, bless her soul, had been a little old lady who'd kept a condo in the same Central Park West hi-rise where Kathryn had lived all her life. For the past seven years, ever since Kathryn's mother had died in fact, Kitty had become a late-night-ice-cream-and-sigh-at-old-movies buddy. Someone Kathryn had considered a friend.
Not a full-time friend, by any means. Kitty hadn't been around long enough to be a full-time anything. She'd only stayed one week a month in New York. The rest of her time she'd spent playing one-armed bandits and soaking up the dry Nevada air. Or at least that's what she'd led Kathryn to believe.
"A brothel, Mr." What was the man's name? "Sir. Obviously there's some mistake. This isn't the Old West."
"There are legalized brothels in the state of Nevada, I assure you, Miss Roman, and Kitty Romanov was the proprietor of one of the most renowned."
Kitty had been a madam?
The idea alone seemed absurd, even more so when coupled with the image that sprang to mind of Kitty, swirls of coiffed white hair piled high on top of her head, juggling a poopie-scooper in one hand while fighting to get her trio of fluffy Maltese dogs into their twelfth floor elevator.
Kitty had been a character to be sure, and Kathryn had been genuinely sorry when she'd passed on not long after celebrating her eightieth birthday. But a madam?
"If Kitty did own a brothel..." Even the words sounded stupid. "Why would she leave it to me?"
"Ownership of Katia's Palace passes to the oldest female of the Romanov family." Kathryn sank back in her leather chair and issued a sigh of relief that sounded shakier than it should have. "There has definitely been a mistake, Mr.... Carter." That was his name. "You've confused me with someone else. My name is Roman, not Romanov."
"No mistake, Miss Roman. I'm aware of the circumstances surrounding your name." She heard no emotion in the lawyer's voice, not even a hint of censure, yet Kathryn felt the hairs on the back of her neck tingle.