From the New York Times bestselling author of The Importance of Being Alice comes the second Matchmaker in Wonderland romance, where finding love means falling head over heels…
Lorina Liddel is terrified of embarrassing herself on national TV as the face of Dig Britain!, a new archeological reality show. Lorina would much rather keep her head down and her hands in the dirt underneath Ainslie Castle, but her on-screen partner is proving to be a major distraction.
Brother to the castle’s current lord, privileged, perfectly sculpted Gunner Ainslie is a sure bet to keep viewers glued to their screens. Lorina intends to keep the ladies’ man focused on the job at hand, but Gunner is confident he’ll soon have the beauty falling into his bed.
When an unexpected find turns the academic dig into an all-out treasure hunt, Lorina and Gunner get swept up in the excitement. But when their steamy tryst is caught on camera, it’ll take more than an award-winning performance to get them out of the hole they’re in…
About the Author
She is also the author of The Importance of Being Alice, It's All Greek to Me and the Time Thief, Light Dragons, and Dark Ones series.
From the Paperback edition.
Read an Excerpt
Praise for the Novels of Katie MacAlister
ALSO BY KATIE MACALISTER
“I get that Gunner is an amateur archaeologist. But why is an archaeology reality TV show coming to the castle?”
Gunner Ainslie made a face at his sister-in-law. “‘Amateur’ is a bit rough, Alice. I took a degree in archaeology, after all.”
She looked even more confused. “Then why are you a photographer now instead of an archaeologist?”
“Because he didn’t want to be a burden to the estate like all my other siblings,” his brother Elliott, the current Baron Ainslie, answered, giving his wife a squeeze. “Or so he said. Frankly, I think it was a cover so he could take pictures of unclothed women.”
“My job, as you very well know, is about as far from taking pictures of nude women as you can get,” Gunner said with dignity, ignoring the way that Alice, sitting on the arm of Elliott’s chair, leaned over to whisper something into his ear. Gunner kept speaking. “Old decaying buildings aren’t particularly sexy, but they can be lucrative in the right developer’s hands, and yes, dear sister-in-law, Elliott is absolutely correct that I wanted a job that would allow me to support myself. Archaeology, while fascinating, isn’t a profession known for money. In fact, it’s damned hard to even make a living from it, let alone thrive.”
“I got that,” Alice said, reluctantly pulling her attention away from Elliott and back to Gunner. Since the two had been married for only a few months, Gunner was prepared to give them a little leeway as far as displays of affection went. “But why did you call in your archaeology buddies in the first place? Yes, the tower in this castle you call home fell down, but there’s nothing there that screams archaeology, is there?”
“We wouldn’t know if there was,” Elliott answered. “Not until the rubble is cleared away, that is.”
“Crop marks are the answer to your question, Alice.” Gunner gave her a smile that immediately had Elliott pulling her down onto his lap. Gunner grinned inwardly, never failing to find amusement in how jealous his brother had become. “During the summer, here in England, it’s possible to see areas where archaeology exists, because the crops grow differently when stone walls or ditches are beneath the topsoil. The drought this summer made it clear that the remains of some large structures were beneath the surface of the estate’s pastures, so I called a friend who works for the county archaeology office, and he passed on the news to the Claud-Marie Archaeology people.”
“Speaking of which, who are these Claud-Marie people? You said they’re some kind of archaeology company, but you also just said no one makes money in the old-buried-stuff business. How does this company survive if that’s the case? They don’t work with a university, do they?”
“No, they’re privately funded by a number of companies. Adam—my friend who now works for the county—volunteers now and again for the CMA, and told them about our crop lines. We were actually already on their list of potential sites to visit in the future when the television studio contacted them.”
“And the TV show joined forces with them . . . why?” Alice asked, her brow wrinkling in puzzlement.
Gunner shrugged. “That, I don’t know, beyond the fact that they want to make a monthlong TV show about an archaeology dig.”
“And they offered us money for it,” Elliott said quickly. “Lots of money. Which, as you know, my dear wife, despite my lofty title and thriving career as a novelist, we desperately need before our castle falls further down around our heads.”
“I like lots of money,” Alice said approvingly. “Even if it means digging up the pastures a bit. The tourists who come to visit the castle might like it, too. Do you think we should have some new brochures printed up that describe what’s going on?”
“That would be a bit premature, since we don’t know what, if anything, will be found at the dig site,” Gunner pointed out.
“Yes, but a TV show will be filming while the dig is going on. People love to watch that sort of thing. Maybe we should have some new merchandise for the gift shop made up with archaeology stuff on it. Hm.”
Alice, who had taken wonderfully to the business side of Ainslie Castle’s tourist programs, was clearly getting caught up in considering a whole new range of products, and scooted off Elliott’s lap to take a position behind his laptop. Before long, she was busily typing up some notes to herself.
Gunner smiled, grateful his new sister-in-law had taken up the challenge of her husband’s impoverished family. Given how many of them there were—the late baron and his wife had had two children of their own and adopted nine others—helping the family over the hump of insolvency was no small feat. But it was Alice’s greater intention—the one to see them all happily married—that gave Gunner pause.
“Are you sure you’re going to be able to cope with the TV crew while we’re gone?” Elliott asked Gunner. “With the family making its yearly exodus to their various holiday destinations, there will be no one here but you to deal with any problems.”
“It’ll be fine. I’ll be back from Portugal before they start, and Cressy will be here by then.”
“Oh, that’s right—your daughter is coming for the summer.” Alice looked up from the laptop. “I’m excited to meet her. She’s seventeen, right?”
“So she’ll probably be boy-mad, and indulging in all the drama,” Alice said, nodding.
“Actually, she’s not. Cressy is a bit . . .” He paused, trying to find the words to explain his daughter’s particular joie de vivre. “She’s a bit enthusiastic about things. No drama in the sense of door slamming and pouts, just lots of running around, and everything is either super awesome or dead grotty. There’s no in-between with Cressy. Her mother claims she’s immature, but I prefer to think of her as unsophisticated and excitable.”
“Well, she sounds adorable, nonetheless, although I have to say that you’re the last person I’d have expected would have a seventeen-year-old daughter. You’re so . . .” Alice stopped, suddenly looking guilty.
“Dashing?” Gunner supplied. “Debonair?”
“A bit of a dawg, actually.”
Elliott gave a short bark of laughter. “Truer words were never spoken, my dear.”
“On the contrary,” Gunner protested. “I would say just the opposite. I am not a dawg, assuming you mean that in the sense of a man who prowls his way through women.”
“Oh?” Elliott’s brow rose. “Let us examine the last few women with whom you associated yourself romantically. You were with them how long?”
Alice raised her eyebrows. “I don’t know about the others, because I’ve been here less than six months, but the last one—wasn’t her name Charity?—she lasted a whole three days. And Anna Louise, that American lady—you remember her, Elliott; she’s the one who was here for one of the Ainslie Castle Experience weekends—she hung in there for a whole ten days before Gunner gave her the heave-ho.”
“She had to leave,” Gunner said with a frown at both of them. “I didn’t tell her to go; she had travel plans elsewhere.”
“Uh-huh. And if she hadn’t, would you have asked her to stay on longer?”
Gunner made a sharp gesture with his hand. “That’s neither here nor there.”
“He wouldn’t have,” Elliott told his wife.
“Totally a dawg. But in a nice way,” Alice added.
Gunner sighed. “Just because I’m not a fan of long-term relationships doesn’t mean I’m misogynistic. I like women. Women like me. We like each other in a mutually satisfying way, and when that satisfaction ceases to be mutual, we part. Amicably.”
“I will give you that,” Elliott said, considering his brother. “None of your exes is vindictive or bitter. You do seem to have a knack for picking women who are just as transitory relationship-wise as you are.”
“There’s nothing wrong with embracing a lack of responsibility,” Gunner said, getting to his feet and gathering up his camera. “Not everyone can be the worrywart you are, El. Are you clear on the situation with the dig now, Alice? If so, I’ve got to get ready for my trip to Spain and Portugal.”
“As clear as I’ll ever be.” Alice’s attention was clearly focused back on the laptop. “I’m just going to add a little something to the castle’s Web site about the TV show filming here.”
“Since you two will be off to the States on Elliott’s book tour and delayed honeymoon before I return home, I’ll give you a bon voyage now.” Gunner embraced Alice, and patted Elliott on the back. “Have fun, and stay safe.”
“Likewise,” Elliott said, turning a smile on his wife. “Don’t call unless something dire happens. I fully intend to give Alice the honeymoon she deserves.”
“I’m sure nothing more exciting will happen beyond finding some Roman ruins beneath the pasture,” Gunner predicted, an excellent example of why he would never be called psychic in any understanding of the word.
“I think my best memory of you is when we were in college and you were telling me a funny anecdote that ended with the punch line ‘I said, I have gas!’ and right at the moment you were telling that part, the office door opened and out walked Professor Levi—you remember him?—and the dean of students, and the head of Romance languages.”
“Oh, lord. Yes, I remember both Dr. Levi and that day,” I said into the phone.
“And you were so mortified—” Laughter choked off Sandy’s voice.
“You don’t have to continue. We both know what happened.”
“Lorina, you were so mortified that when you scurried away, you pooted with every step.”
The phone tucked under my chin, I rested my head on my hands, not with remembered shame of that day some twelve years in the past but because Sandy was laughing so hard she was snorting. It had been months since she’d laughed, and I just wanted it to go on and on. Why did it have to happen now, when she was calling me just before boarding her flight? “We had a lot of laughs together that summer, my intestinal woes aside.”
“We sure did. You were the best roommate I ever had.”
“Silly woman. You haven’t had any roomies other than me. In fact, if you add up the four years we were together in college, and then the eight years we’ve shared an apartment after that, I think we’re going to have our twelfth anniversary in October.”
“Good lord, so we are.” There was a thoughtful pause. “That’s longer than a lot of marriages!”
“I told you that we should have been gay. We’d have been an awesome lesbian couple, and we could have had kids by now,” I said, a bittersweet nostalgia tinting my voice. “Although you’d probably have been the wife in the relationship, since I’m built like a brick oven.”
“Oh, you are not. You’re statuesque and tall and everything that petite people like me are not. I envy your ability to walk into a room and make people take notice.”
“It’s not so much take notice as it is stare and wonder who the Amazon is. No, no, don’t go on trying to make me feel better—I’m resigned to the fact that I’m almost six feet tall, and chunky. That’s beside the point, which is that we’d have made an awesome lesbian couple.”
“Yes, darn us and our pesky love of men.” She was laughing again, which made my spirits rise. “Although it doesn’t seem to have done either of us any good. I ended up with a man who ruined my life, and you—” She stopped abruptly.
“I had exactly one relationship in that time, and it was with a man who was just as abusive as my father was,” I finished for her, feeling the pull of dark memories, but not allowing them to drag me under. After years of therapy, I’d finally made my peace with the fact that some men thought it was their right to tear women’s egos to shreds, but it didn’t mean I had to be a victim.
I was most definitely not a victim any longer.
“Oh, sweetie, I didn’t mean that.”
“No, but it’s true. My romantic life has sucked. Men are just so . . . shallow. Into themselves. Looking for someone to be arm candy, or a quick roll in bed, and not anything more. Wow, I sound bitter, don’t I?”
“No, you sound like someone who simply hasn’t found Mr. Right yet.”
“And fast starting to believe that such a man doesn’t exist for me. I’m thirty-four, for heaven’s sake. I’m running out of time to meet a man who doesn’t have to resort to Viagra to perform.”
“Now, that is a gross exaggeration, and you know it. There are lots of men out there in their thirties, or even forties, who are awesome lovers. There’s bound to be one who’s perfect for you. You just haven’t found him yet, but you will. I know you will.”
“That’s because you’re a romantic, while I’m a realist,” I pointed out.
“You would be just as romantic as I am if it hadn’t been driven out of you by that therapist you went to,” she answered, her voice filled with scorn.
“Dr. Anderson made me a strong, confident woman,” I said quickly.
“By stripping away all ideas that men can be just as nurturing and emotionally giving as women, yes. But really, Lorina, do you want to live the rest of your life alone because your dad was an asshole, and your ex was cut out of the same material? Not all men are like them. There are plenty of men out there who cherish women.”
“I know that, silly. I know that there are perfectly nice men around—it’s just that I don’t seem to attract them. Hey, how did we get onto the subject of my pathetic excuse for a love life? We’re supposed to be celebrating you.”
Sandy laughed. “Nice change of subject.”
“I thought it was.” My throat tightened up. “Are you sure you’re going to be all right? What if the nuns aren’t as good with HIV as you think they are?”
“They’ve had a higher success rate than Western doctors. I showed you the medical-review paper about them, and their treatments are beyond what I could get here.”
“Yeah, but it just seems foolish to trust yourself to a religious group rather than reputable doctors with cutting-edge drugs that could nip the disease in the bud.”
“A religious group that has had tremendous success with their antiretrovirus drugs that are allowing thousands of people with HIV to live perfectly normal, healthy lives. No, there’s no cure for it, but at least with the treatments I get with the nuns, I will have a life. And that’s certainly worth pursuing, don’t you think? I don’t want to go through my life wondering if I could have done more.” She paused, and said softly, “Lorina?”
I rubbed my ear. The phone had been pressed into it so hard that I was sure it was leaving a mark. “Right here, babe.”
“Don’t cry. You know this is for the best.”
“No, I don’t, but I respect the fact that you think withdrawing from the world is what’s best for you. I just wish you could do it closer to home, where I could occasionally see you.”
“The order doesn’t work that way. When they say cloistered with no contact with the outside world, they mean it.”
“But . . . you’ll need doctors and medicines.” It was the same objection that I had made for the last two days, and I knew even as I spoke the words what her response would be.
“I’ll have doctors and medicines. Just not the same kind we have here.”
“Your doctor said there were all sorts of drugs available for you to take that could let you be just fine—”
“And I will resort to them if I have to, but from everyone I’ve talked to who has HIV, this treatment is the best way to get a handle on it so it doesn’t progress any further. Even my doctor agrees that it won’t hurt me in the least, and will likely help me just as much as, if not more than, conventional drugs. Oh, Lorina, I know you don’t agree with me about going away, but it really is the best answer. I’ll be happy there—I really will. And after two months, I’ll be able to correspond with you.”
Unreasonably, I lashed out with anger that had built up for the last few months, ever since we found out that the scumbag had given Sandy HIV. “I don’t know what sort of a religious order won’t let their initiates talk to people for two freaking months! That’s just wrong!”
“It’s not wrong for them, and I can understand that they want us to focus on healing without outside distractions.” Another pause. “Lorina.”
“What?” I snapped, alternately wanting to slam down the phone and burst into tears.
“Be happy. And hopeful. I am.”
“It’s not right,” I said, slumping back in my chair, the anger draining out of me and leaving me as limp as a three-day-dead cod. “We should be going after him for what he did.”
“Vengeance is mine? No, sweetie, I can’t. But I have written to him telling him what’s happened.”
“And how did he take it?”
She was silent for a few seconds, then admitted, “He said . . . he said some pretty harsh things, as a matter of fact. Threatening me if I said anything about it to anyone, and . . . well, he was quite abusive about it. I’ll admit it was ugly, but you know, Lorina, people strike out like that when they’re hurting, especially if they know they’re guilty of harming someone else.”
“Oh, come on! Paul doesn’t give a damn for anyone but Paul, and you know it.”
“I do not know that. He is basically a decent man—he’s just had some bad breaks, and chosen to go down a path that isn’t, perhaps, the wisest.”
“I have no problem with him making his own hell—my objection is the way he’s dragged you into it as well.”
“We all have to take responsibility for our actions, myself included,” she said softly. “I am at peace with my decisions, and have to trust that Paul will rectify his ways and seek help.”
I said nothing, knowing that it was of no use. We’d had that argument all too often in the past. “So this is it, then? I lose the best friend and roomie a girl ever had without a backward look?”
“That’s not fair,” Sandy chided. “Lorina—”
“It’s OK,” I lied, making an effort to send her off with a smile, not that she could see it. “I’m just being hormonal and cranky and sorry for myself because I’ll have to spend my free time interviewing a new roommate, and you know I’d rather hack off my arm with a grapefruit knife than do that.”
“Then take off and go do something fun. You deserve a break after looking after me for the last five months. There’s a dig in Egypt that I know needs volunteers.”
“Sandy Fache,” I said sternly. “The very last thing I would ever think of doing is going to an archaeological dig.”
“Why not? You were jealous every time I went off to one, or at least you claimed to be.”
“I would think the answer would be obvious,” I said with more than a little acid.
“Because of Paul? Pfft.” She dismissed that objection. “He’s just one man, and there are a lot of digs you could volunteer for this summer. I heard from Mom that there’s even going to be one at Alice’s castle.”
“Alice, my foster sister. You met her once or twice when she came to see me at college.”
“I vaguely remember her. Didn’t she leave right after that?”
“Yeah, not long after. She’s about half a year younger than me, and when she hit eighteen, the foster system kicked her out into the world. We’ve kept in touch over the years, although mostly just via Christmas cards. Anyway, she married a baron a couple of months ago.”
“Like a land baron? A tycoon?”
“No, silly.” Sandy’s chuckle was warm and just hearing it made me feel better. Maybe she really was making the right choice, and would be able to thrive in such an isolated environment. “A real baron. You know, nobility and Jane Austen and all that.”
“Wow. I had no idea they still existed.”
“Well, they do, and she’s a real bona fide baroness, and I read on her Facebook page that the castle her husband owns is part of some reality TV series that’s going to be filmed there for a month. And that means that Alice will be on TV doing her lady-of-the-manor thing. If I wasn’t in this situation, I’d be over there so fast that your head would spin.”
“Where does she live?” I asked idly, not that I was really considering Sandy’s suggestion to pursue a volunteer dig there just because I kind of knew this Alice person.
“Some little town in England. You should check her Facebook page—she just announced the TV show when I checked, but that was about a month ago. There might be more info now about who’s running the dig, and how you can volunteer.”
“Don’t be that way—this is the perfect opportunity for you to do something fun, and get out of the apartment, since you don’t have any summer classes to teach. I’m sure if you asked my mom, she’d drop Alice a line and ask her to take you in, assuming you wanted to stay with a real baroness.”
“I wouldn’t dream of inflicting myself on someone I’ve barely even met,” I protested.
“Bah. Alice was always nice, and I’m sure you’d like her. Oh, dear, that’s my flight. Sweetie—”
Panic gripped me hard, squeezing my guts together. “Sandy . . . there’s so much to say. . . .”
“I know, but just hold on to it for two months. It seems like forever now, but it’ll pass quickly.”
“If you have any doubts about this place, any doubt at any time, all you have to do is call me and I’ll make sure you get out of Nepal.”
“I know you will, silly girl. I’ve always been able to rely on you to have your head screwed on right, and your feet on the ground.”
I gave a shaky laugh. “In other words, plodding and boring.”
“Hardly that. You were just the rock to my butterfly. Whoops, must go. Love you bunches, girl.”
“Love you, too. Be happy and healthy.”
“Ditto. Later, alligator.”
I won’t say I didn’t get a bit misty-eyed at the silly farewell that she had used ever since I’d met her, but I did sit clutching the phone for a long time after she hung up.
Once I roused myself, I got online and did a little investigating of Sandy’s foster sister.
Exciting news for fans of Ainslie Castle! read an announcement on Alice’s Facebook page. The castle and grounds will be featured on an archaeology reality show called Dig Britain!
“Never heard of it,” I muttered to myself.
The dig will be broadcast each day for a month, and is sure to have lots of exciting finds. Elliott is hoping for a Roman bathhouse, while Lady Ainslie is sure there must be the ruins of a convent or two lurking around the grounds.
“Elliott must be the baron. But then who is Lady Ainslie?” I switched browser tabs to the castle’s Web site, and read the description of the Ainslie family. “Ah. The baron’s mom. Huh. I cannot imagine having to call your mother-in-law ‘Lady Ainslie.’ I wonder if Alice has to curtsy when she sees her.” I clicked to read more.
Which will it be? Be sure to tune in to the Now! channel starting September first, and see what turns up under the earth of Ainslie.
“Worms and potato bugs,” I predicted, more than a little jaded. It was true that I’d been jealous of Sandy and her yearly summer trips to exotic places to participate in archaeological digs, but after her experience with Paul, I’d be damned if I ever stepped foot on one, myself.
For a complete schedule, click here. And if you’d like to volunteer as a digger, sifter, or find-washer, follow this link to the managing dig company.
I glanced down at the link, and reeled backward just as if a mule had kicked me in the gut. I stared at it for a good eight minutes, my mind whirling and my stomach lurching around my insides, until I finally clicked on the text.
Wide-eyed, I stared at the resulting Web site.
Claud-Marie Archaeology, read the name at the top of the page. Paul Thompson, director.
“Paul,” I whispered to myself, the name bringing with it a red swell of fury. Had Sandy known who was managing the dig? No, that didn’t make sense—she would want me to steer clear of any dig of which Paul was a member. And now Sandy’s foster sister was right there where Paul was. It seemed almost like a sign, as if fate was daring me not to take notice.
I dug through my memories to shake out those regarding Alice. I remembered her as being bubbly and nice, surprisingly cheerful despite the fact that she was in the foster system. She’d also been the possessor of a wicked sense of humor.
“I have to stop Paul from ruining anyone else’s life,” I said out loud to my tank of zebra fish. They flitted back and forth without a care as to what I was saying, but it made me feel better just having something to talk to. “The question is, how do I do that? Dr. Anderson’s insistence that I can do anything I want aside, I’m not a superhero. I’m a low-paid, mild-mannered community college French teacher who has a very bad feeling about what might be happening at”—I checked the computer—“Ainslie Castle. The sad truth is I can’t save Sandy and I can’t stop a villain from being a villain.”
Or can you? a voice asked in my head. I frowned, my mind surging down a new path of speculation. What if I had proof of how Paul had infected Sandy? Inescapable, solid proof that he couldn’t deny? Proof that would hold up in court, if needed.
An idea started to grow in my brain, one that, after a few online searches, blossomed into a full-fledged plan.
“It may be heinous, and it may be incredibly illegal, but that doesn’t matter,” I told my fish, steadfastly ignoring my conscience declaring otherwise. “Sandy’s faith that Paul isn’t the bastard I know him to be just isn’t going to cut it. Let’s see, I could apply to be a digger, but I have no experience, and there’s bound to be a lot of people applying for those positions, what with the TV show going on at the same time. I need something unique, something that no one else could offer them. . . .”
I mulled over the possibilities, which ranged from being a translator of all things French to what amounted to a gofer, but in the end, I decided to play on people’s pretty reliable desire for publicity.
I opened an e-mail and filled in the address of the network producer. “A TV show is going to want all the publicity they can get. I’ll pitch the idea of a behind-the-scenes book about the dig and show to them, and pray they like it. Otherwise, fishies, I’m going to have to fake a hell of a background in archaeology, and that won’t end well. As it is, I’m going to have to do an awful lot of fudging, but at least I can pretend to use a camera. Right? Right.”
The fish didn’t look convinced, but I hadn’t survived too many years of my father telling me I was a worthless waste of space to let my fish dis my ideas. “Dammit, I’m a strong woman now. I don’t need your approval. Besides, I have a higher calling here—I have to make sure that no other innocent women’s lives are destroyed by a man who doesn’t care that he has a potentially deadly infection. He might not listen to Sandy, but he’ll have to pay attention to me when I get indisputable proof of his illness. Beware, Paul Thompson, for your doom is nigh, and her name is Lorina!”
“Well, Lorina, it looks like we’ve officially started.” Daria Hollingberry, one of the archaeologists whom I’d just met, nodded at the cluster of people standing around a soundman bearing a large microphone swathed in a furry cover. In the center of the group was a woman who’d been introduced as Sue Birdwhistle, the director of the Dig Britain! reality show.
“We have?” I glanced at my watch. “Hell’s bells, I haven’t even unpacked. Well, anything but this.” I nodded at the camera I was holding, one of the two I had borrowed from a friend, after having promised him I would guard them with my life. “Did they move up the schedule? No one told me, if they did. I had to take a train from London, and it took a lot longer than I imagined.”
“No, no, they didn’t move the schedule—we don’t start actually digging until this afternoon. I meant we’ve officially started because Sue’s just done her first monologue to the camera.” Daria gestured a small triangular trowel toward the small clutch of people. Then, with a smile, she used it to tap lightly against my camera in a faux toast. “Here’s to a successful dig.”
“Ah, gotcha.” I smiled wanly, my confusion fading. “So, do you work for the Claud-Marie company, or are you one of the independent diggers?”
I had an idea of how a dig site actually worked after having listened to Sandy’s tales of the summers she spent grubbing around in the sands of the Middle East and eastern Europe as a volunteer, and wanted to identify anyone who might be able to help me in my quest. Volunteers probably weren’t going to help my cause much, but an employee . . . that was another matter.
“Yes, I work for CMA. It’s quite exciting, really. Last year we excavated in Tunisia, which was a blast, although my husband complained about my leaving him home with our twin ten-year-olds while I gallivanted around in the sun, and had steamy affairs with various and sundry handsome sheikhs.”
I didn’t quite know how to take that, so I simply said, “Did your husband come with you this time?”
“Not him! He runs a testing facility—you know, the people who process blood tests and urine samples, and that sort of thing. He’d die if he had to spend his day in what he calls unsanitary dirt.” She giggled. “I’ve made him sound like a jealous clean freak, but he’s not. He’s actually quite understanding, although he does like to pretend that I’m surrounded by countless diggers who lust after me, which couldn’t be further from the truth. Just look around—by tonight we’ll be knee-high in dirt and mud, and the only thing we’ll lust after is a hot bath. Are you going to be here for long? Oh, dear, that sounded rude. What I meant to ask is how long you expect it will take to get your book done.”
“Oh, you know,” I said, trying to look sage. “These things are hard to pin down. It could take a few days, or a few weeks.”
“I’ve never met a photojournalist before,” she said with obvious interest. “It must be thrilling for you to be able to take a few pictures and then voilà! You have a book.”
“It’s a bit more complicated than that,” I said with what I hoped looked like learned professionalism. I tried to dredge up every morsel of information I had ever seen about journalists and photography. “There’s fact-checking and things, naturally. And the photos have to be processed. That takes a lot of time.”
She nodded, and I breathed a sigh of relief that she obviously had no clue I was bluffing like crazy. “I’m sure there’s a lot of work involved. I take it you’re a fan of Roman history? Or are you just covering the dig because . . . well, because?”
“I’m interested, but afraid I know squat about it.” I’d already decided that it would be dangerous to try to pass myself off as someone interested in history around a group of people who fairly dripped expertise on the subject. “And a friend’s friend is married to the owner, so she was happy to let me putter around taking pictures.”
“You’re a friend of the baroness?” Daria looked impressed.
“I’ve met her a couple of times, but that was years ago. She’s a friend of my roommate’s, actually.”
“What made you choose us for your book if you’re not overly keen on Roman history?”
Guilt dug deep in my gut. “Well, I’ve always wanted to come to England, and when I read about the dig and the TV program that would be filming it, I suddenly had an idea for a behind-the-scenes book. I know those have been popular for other reality shows, and thought that maybe people would like one about an archaeology dig.”
She blinked at me, but said nothing.
My palms started to sweat. “Have you seen the producer’s other reality shows? They all had books done about them, and they were really popular, so he—Roger d’Aspry—was totally on board when I suggested doing a book for this project. It may be a bit unorthodox to record the filming of an archaeological dig, but Roger thinks it will do well.”
To my relief, she smiled. “Well, I think it’s impressive that you’re going to publish a book about us—about the dig. I’ll be sure to make everyone in my family buy a copy.”
The guilt in my gut dug deeper. How many more lies would I have to dish out before I could go home with the proof I needed? “That would be awesome.”
“What’s the name of the book?”
“Er . . . I haven’t picked one yet.”
“How long will it be? Will it be one of those coffee table books, or something smaller?”
I was in hell, liar’s hell. This was what came to people who wantonly told untruths, my conscience told me with smug satisfaction. I squirmed slightly, trying to think of something to end the conversation. “I’m afraid I can’t talk about it yet.”
“Top secret, eh?” Daria said, nodding knowingly. “I heard authors are like that.”
I tried to summon up a confident smile, but failed. “More like inspiration hasn’t yet struck.”
“Let’s just hope that we have a productive month to justify a book about us.” Daria watched as Sue argued with Roger d’Aspry, noted producer of various British reality TV shows. “There they go, at it again. You’ve met both of them, yes?”
“I met Sue when I got here, although I actually met Roger two days ago in London. I was a bit of a fangirl, I’m afraid. I loved the show he produced with an American woman who played a duchess during a monthlong Victorian reenactment.”
Daria squinted in thought. “Oh, I think I remember that. There was some controversy around it, wasn’t there? Sabotage or something?”
“I don’t know anything about that. I just thought it was cool, and of course, it was interesting that the lead couple hooked up in real life. I mean, that’s kind of a fairy tale, isn’t it?”
As I watched Sue and Roger, my thoughts turned to just how wonderful it would be to meet a man I could trust, one who wouldn’t use his power against me, one who would be there beside me, supportive and loving and sexy as sin. “There’s nothing like that in my future, for sure,” I said on a sigh.
“Nothing like what? Arguments with a bossy producer? Don’t fool yourself—I worked with Roger on the Anglopalooza show he did two years ago—we tried to locate an Anglo-Saxon castle, but it was a miserable failure—and I can tell you in all honesty that he’s the pushiest man in TV.”
“Pushy, how?” I asked, looking worriedly at the red-haired, balding man who was still arguing with the pretty blonde Sue. “When I met him, he was quite nice. Although that might be in part because I was telling him how much I liked the Victorian show he did.”
“For one, he worries more about getting what he calls ‘good TV’ than us doing proper archaeology. And he’s a stickler for everyone keeping to the schedule, no matter how much we tell him that we have to go where the archaeology is. But worst of all is that he loves having everyone doing reenactments of anything even remotely related to the subject at hand.”
“What sort of reenactments?” I tried to look like I was interested from a purely journalistic viewpoint, but the truth was that I had a secret love for such things, and couldn’t wait to watch them in progress.
“Everything from spending twenty-four hours as a medieval nun or monk to making pottery, weapons, clothing, food . . . you name it, Roger will have us doing it. You better watch out, because when he’s in the throes of one of his big ideas, he ropes in everyone he can find. And I do mean everyone. In Anglopalooza, he had not only the whole crew but also all the bystanders dressed up as Saxons reenacting what a siege was like.”
“That can’t be too bad,” I said, considering the subject. “You guys are looking for Roman remains, aren’t you? It wouldn’t be horrible to dress up like Romans. I mean, they had nice hair arrangements, and lovely jewelry, and their dresses weren’t bad, either. Flattering to those of us who are more substantial than others.”
“Just you wait,” Daria warned, nodding toward the group, which at that moment broke up and scattered. “And pray you don’t end up being picked to play the part of the servant.”
“Ew.” I remembered a television show I watched a few weeks back in preparation for the trip. “It would be just my luck that I’d be the servant who has to mop up the vomitorium.”
“Pfft,” Daria said, making a dismissive gesture. “Vomitoria were passageways into large places, not rooms where people went to barf up their feast so they could go indulge in more. That’s nothing but a fallacy.”
“I’m happy to hear it,” I said, relieved despite the fact that I hadn’t been called on to do anything more than stroll around and take pictures. “Let’s just hope Roger knows that, too.”
“That is extremely unlikely. He’d love nothing more than to have people vomiting everywhere. He doesn’t really care much for accuracy so long as it’s dramatic.”
I let my gaze wander over to where the big television studio trucks had parked alongside an old barn. The members of the dig team had set up a tent camp in an unused pasture well out of sight of Ainslie Castle, per an agreement with Alice and her baron husband. Roger had told me they were worried that tourism would drop if archaeologists were cluttering up the place. Apparently, the castle was partially supported by the tourists who visited it a couple of days a week, so it was important to keep them happy.
In addition to the two dozen or so tents that had been set up as the dig and TV crews’ home away from home for the next month, five RVs had been parked along the fringes, where the producer, the director, and the other VIPs would live. One RV had been converted into a miniature processing studio, complete with satellite uplink, editing computers, and a huge whiteboard where the producer mapped out each day’s shooting schedule. Although Alice had offered me accommodations at the castle, I didn’t want to take advantage of our tenuous acquaintance, and instead had taken up Roger’s offer to stay in one of the staff tents. But it was one of the RVs that held my attention.
I decided the time was right to do a little probing. “I’m surprised that Paul would allow things to be presented that weren’t true. He’s such a stickler for accuracy.”
“Paul Thompson?” Daria gave me an odd look. “Do you know him?”
“A little,” I said, adopting a coy expression that I hoped would lead to further confidences.
She continued, but not along the lines I had hoped for. “Have you ever seen him dig? Most of his finds come from the spoil pile.”
“Um . . . that’s what?”
“Sorry, technical lingo. Spoil pile is the dirt and debris that is excavated. We go through it to check for small items like bits of pottery or glass or even bone that’s missed while we dig.”
“Anyway, a more incompetent choice for head of the company than Paul I can’t imagine. Yes, I’m biased—I was up for the job, and the board gave it to him, instead—but seriously, if you want to photograph proper archaeology, stay away from Paul.”
I pursed my lips. Daria’s comment about the spoil pile was an insult, pure and simple—it implied that Paul wasn’t paying enough attention to what he was digging. “It’s never easy when someone else gets a job instead of you, but surely the board must have felt he was qualified for it.”
“There’s qualified, and then there’s qualified,” Daria said opaquely, nodding over toward the line of trailers. “He may swank around and think he’s a god of the archaeological world, but the truth is that it’s us diggers who really know what’s going on. Take Dennis Smythe-Lowe, for instance. He’s had his hands in the dirt since he was a kid, and worked for CMA almost as long as I have, and yet the powers that be passed us both by when they hired Paul to head up the company. It’s politics, nothing but politics.”
Now, that was interesting. There was obviously no love lost between Daria and Paul. . . . I tucked that fact away, and looked interested. “Is Dennis the man who looks like Indiana Jones had a love child with a hippie?”
Daria laughed. “That’s him. He’s the salt of the earth, and a damned good archaeologist. Just don’t get him going about the Stone Age, or he’ll spend all day teaching you how to map flints.”
“Map? Like draw?”
“No, in this case it means to chip away at a flint until you have a pointed end that can be used as a tool or weapon.”
“Gotcha.” I dredged up a morsel of information I’d seen during my planning phase for this trip. “One thing I’m confused about—you called yourself a digger, but I thought diggers were the grad students and unpaid volunteers who did the grunt work, not the proper archaeologists.”
“Well, it’s a bit of both, really,” she said with a bob of her head. “The term digger does generally refer to the nonprofessionals, but sometimes we archaeologists also refer to ourselves as diggers.”
“As a way of being one of the common folk?” I asked lightly.
“That and because it’s what we all do,” she said, her eyes back on the group of TV folk.
I watched them with her for a moment before commenting, “I’ve seen a TV show about some people who salt sites in order to fool people. You don’t think that Roger . . . ?”
“No, I can’t accuse Roger of doing that.” Daria gave a little shrug. “Not that I think he wouldn’t if it had occurred to him, but luckily, his mind doesn’t usually run to deviousness like that. Hey, isn’t that the baron’s brother? I heard he broke his leg falling off a cliff in Turkey. If that’s him, then I shall certainly volunteer to push his wheelchair around the dig site. Mmrowr.”
“I thought you were married,” I said with a smile before turning to look where she had nodded.
“Married, but not dead. Damn, but he’s a fine, fine sight.”
The producer, Roger d’Aspry, stood with a man who sat on a bright blue motorized scooter. I couldn’t see much of the man until I moved to the side a couple of steps, and then it took me a moment to be able to speak. “Wow.”
“Glad I’m not the only one to have that reaction. I wonder if he needs help bathing.”
With an effort, I managed to drag my eyes from the man on the scooter to look askance at Daria.
She giggled, and nudged me with her elbow. “Don’t tell me you wouldn’t offer to help him bathe if he asked you.”
Unbidden, my eyes returned to the man who was at that moment swinging a leg in a bright pink cast with Velcro straps around it so he could get to his feet. He towered over Roger, which meant he must have been well over six feet, with impressively broad shoulders, the tops of which were brushed by straight dark brown hair. His skin was the color of milky coffee, and although he was in profile to me, I could see he had a softly squared chin. All that, combined with a natural grace evident despite his having to clunk around in a walking cast, meant he really was worth looking at.
But I was not in the market for a romantic entanglement, I reminded myself. I had a job to do, an important job, and nothing could distract me from that.
“I don’t know that I’d offer to give him a bath,” I said slowly, trying hard to pretend that I wasn’t, at that moment, thinking a number of lascivious thoughts, “but I certainly wouldn’t kick him out of bed for eating crackers.”
It was Daria’s turn to stare at me.
“Sorry. Idiom. Might be too American to be known here.”
She made a face. “Hardly. Our version is ‘I wouldn’t kick him out of bed for farting.’ Yours is nicer.”
“What’s he doing here?” I asked, unable to quell my curiosity. “Just making sure no one harms the castle grounds?”
“Far from it—he has a degree in archaeology, although evidently he didn’t pursue it. He’s here to lend a hand, so far as he can, or so I gather from what Sue said about him. Frankly, I don’t care why he’s interested in helping. I’m just happy he is.”
There was a note of sly cunning in her voice that I chose to ignore, telling myself that what Daria did in private was her own business.
Besides, this man was way out of my league, and that was good as far as I was concerned. Men who looked like him not only had giant egos; they also had to beat women away with a stick. Big, gawky women like me probably didn’t even enter his sphere of notice, not that I’d want to be noticed by a handsome egomaniac. “I suppose I should go see to unpacking the rest of my stuff. I dashed out before I finished because I was so excited. Oh, speaking of excited—I was told that I should be at a staff meeting this afternoon. Do you know exactly when it is?”
“After lunch.” Daria hadn’t taken her eyes off Roger and the baron’s brother, who were slowly meandering toward the line of RVs. “I think I’ll just go over to Roger and say hello, and remind him that I’ve worked with him before.”
“Subtle,” I called after her, smiling at her thumbs-up gesture in response.
The smile stayed with me until I reached the tent that had been assigned to me. The archaeology folk’s temporary housing consisted of standard camping fare—orange and white domelike tents with little screened windows, and a large matching screened opening with an inner flap for privacy—while the film team were arrayed in fancy RVs bearing the name of the network.
I was in the middle of unpacking the borrowed photography equipment, trying hard to remember which lens went with which camera, when noises of an altercation seeped through from my next-door neighbor.
I peeked out the door to eye the tent next to me. It bulged and rocked in an alarming manner. Unlike my tent, though, this one resembled an orange and white hippopotamus with its butt in the air, and its front end wallowing in the water. Worse were the noises coming from it.
“Gran, no, that’s not helping! You’re pulling my hair.” That was a very young-sounding American woman’s voice.
“Well then, what about this?” answered a much more dignified, definitely British older woman’s voice.
A side of the tent bulged outward.
“Ack! No! Balls, now the other end is going!”
There was a metallic snap, and gently, as if it were a giant orange and white butterfly alighting on a flower, the far end of the tent wafted to the ground, leaving beneath it two squirming forms.
I stood outside the now collapsed tent, hesitating before asking, “Hello? Hi! I’m Lorina, your neighbor to the south. I can’t help but notice that your tent appears to have deflated. Is everything all right in there?”
The squirming stopped for a few seconds.
“Oh, hi, Lorina. I’m Cressy. Cressida, really, but everyone calls me Cressy. And we’re fine, Gran and me, that is. Gran and I? Whichever, we’re fine, but the tent is totes sucktastic.”
“Perhaps the lady might unzip the door to allow us out?” came a gentle voice.
“I’d be happy to, Mrs. . . . er . . . Cressy’s gran, but I’m afraid I don’t see a zipper.” I pulled up a long length of flaccid tent hunting for it. “Are you sure it was closed?”
“Gran’s name is Salma Raintree, and yes, we’re sure. We were trying it out to see how much light would be let in with the door closed. But then I tripped, and fell into the side of it, and broke one of the thingies that goes around making the curved part, and then Gran tried to help me put it back together, and my hair got caught when we snapped the rod together, and then I got a charley horse in my leg, and I couldn’t get it straight, and Gran said I should walk the charley horse off, but my hair was still stuck to the rod, so I couldn’t, and then I had to wee, so Gran said we should just take the rod out of the little pocket it sits in, and then it just all went horribly wrong.”
“You don’t have to explain any more,” I interrupted, laughing despite the note of desperation in Cressida’s voice. I dug around in more of the tenting, searching for the collapsed entrance. “I can see that it just went downhill from there. Are you still attached to the tent rib?”
“Not anymore,” came Cressy’s sad reply.
It took five minutes, but at last I extricated both Cressy and Salma from the remains of their temporary prison. Cressy emerged red-faced from the exertion, her T-shirt rumpled, and her shorts creased and grubby. She was an inch or so taller than me, which had to put her at six feet, with butt-length straight brown hair pulled back in a messy ponytail. Despite her experience with the tent, she grinned at me, quite cheerful as she stuck out a hand. “Hi, again.”
“Hello,” I said, shaking her hand, then glancing down at my hand in dismay.
“Oh, sorry, I should have warned you that my hands are sticky.” She held up a pair of hands that were grubby in the extreme. “Had a candy bar in my pocket, and I forgot about it, and it melted all over. It ran down my outer leg, but I licked it up. You wouldn’t happen to know where the bathroom is, would you?”
I refrained from commenting about the dubious act of licking chocolate off one’s own leg, and confined myself to pointing at the barn, where I’d been told that the production company had set up not only a row of portable toilets but makeshift showers for the use of the dig crew.
“It really wasn’t her fault,” Salma said, brushing herself off to stand beside me, watching as Cressy galloped off in that way that only long-legged, six-foot-tall teenage girls can. “Cressida meant well, but she’s at that awkward stage where her mind doesn’t quite realize where her limbs are.”
“I went through that phase,” I said with a bit of a grimace. “I was forever falling down stairs, or tripping over my own big feet. Luckily, it stopped by the time I went off to college.”
“Cressida is only seventeen, so I suspect she has a few more years before mind and body are one.” Salma frowned at the tent. “I don’t trust this contraption.”
We both eyed the remains. Salma was what I thought of as a Miss Marple sort of Englishwoman—early sixties with a beautiful complexion, perfectly styled white hair, and gentle blue eyes surrounded by a mass of tiny lines that bespoke character. She wasn’t the least bit rumpled despite the tent experience.
“The tent does look like it’s a goner,” I said. “But maybe it can be repaired?”
She sighed. “I have an uncomfortable feeling that it can.”
I couldn’t help but give her a doubtful look. “Perhaps there’s somewhere else you can stay if life in the tent would be too hard—”
“Oh, no, no,” she interrupted gently. “I wouldn’t dream of discommoding anyone. Really, I’m just happy to spend the time with Cressida, since my daughter seldom allows her to visit this country.”
“And is Cressy a fan of archaeology?” I asked, amazed at a grandmother who would tolerate roughing it for a month just to be near her grandchild.
“Not really, no. Her father is, though. She’s here to see him, and I’m here to keep an eye on Cressy, and enjoy her company. And there is the fact that my husband was a historian, so I have a fondness for all things historical.”
“That really is dedication to want to stay in a tent for a month,” I said with a nod toward the blob of fallen fabric.
She sighed. “Yes, I will admit that I hadn’t anticipated this accident. I cannot help but worry about the structural stability of the mechanism now that it’s been . . .”
“Mauled?” I asked.
“Compromised,” she corrected with another of those Miss Marple smiles, the one that made me think of having tea with shortbread cookies.
I reminded myself that her problem wasn’t mine to fix, and that I had more than enough on my plate without worrying about whether the tent was going to give way onto the nice old lady.
Which is why it surprised me to hear myself offer, “If you like, we can swap tents. I did a lot of camping when I was a child, so I’m used to tents being a bit temperamental. There’s no reason you shouldn’t have a stable structure.”
“That’s very sweet of you, but I couldn’t think of putting you to such trouble.”
“What trouble?” Cressy asked, galloping up to us with another of her blinding grins. “You’re talking about me, aren’t you? I’m such a trial.”
I couldn’t help but giggle a little at the sorrowful way she said the last sentence. “I doubt if that’s true at all. I offered to let your grandmother and you have use of my tent, since it appears to be hale and hearty. I’m sure I could beat your tent into submission, or as much as would be needed for me to stay in it for a week or so while I document the dig.”
What People are Saying About This
Praise for the Novels of Katie MacAlister
“A humorous take on the dark and demonic.”—USA Today’s Happy Ever After
“A brilliant writer, funny, fast, silly, and completely irreverent.”—Bitten by Books
“Amusing to steamy to serious. The reader can’t be bored with MacAlister’s novel.”—Fresh Fiction
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
A Midsummer Night’s Romp Katie MacAlister writes paranormal, historical and contemporary romance books. Through all her books, there are heroes, heroines, wit, charm and a bit of danger. This is book 2 in Katie’s new series, A Matchmaker in Wonderland. A Midsummer Night’s Romp is the second book of the Ainslie Brothers. French professor Lorina and Sandy are roommates. Sandy goes on archaeological digs. Paul, an archaeologist, infects her with HIV. Lorina is on a mission to expose him. She finds out that he will be on a dig at the Ainslie Castle in England. She applies as a photo journalist and is accepted. Baron Elliot Ainslie (Book 1: The Importance of Being Alice) accepts the offer from an archaeology reality TV show to dig up their pastures. The family needs the money. Gunnar Ainslie is a photographer with a penchant for archaeology. He broke his foot, so he can’t really dig. Elliot and his wife Alice are leaving on vacation. Gunner’s 17-year old daughter Cressy is arriving. (Confused yet?) Gunner accidentally runs Lorina down in his scooter ---- and the fun begins! Lorina fights the attraction. She pretends to want Paul. Gunner knows she is not a photographer and doesn’t really want Paul, but he wants to know why. Lorina discovers some “mouse” stones with riddles. They surmise there might be treasure --- and the hunt is on! Secrets, sex, and stealth --oh, my! Cressy is riot. Funny situations and sexy banter are Katie MacAlister’s forte and she doesn’t disappoint. And Paul --- is he really the villain????
A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S ROMP is a delightful book with a plethora of Katie's quirky humor that she's known for. “I'm sure nothing more exciting will happen beyond finding some Roman ruins beneath the pasture," Gunner predicted, an excellent example of why he would never be called psychic in any understanding of the word.” A MID-SUMMER NIGHT'S ROMP by Katie MacAlister is a darling contemporary romance with an archaeological storyline. I found it to be laugh-out-loud funny and reminiscent of Katie's Dark Ones series which I dearly love. I'm so glad that Gunner, who was introduced in the first book, THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING ALICE, got his own story told in this installment! I enjoyed the first book, but I do believe Gunner's has stolen my heart! Old Ainslie castle is a perfect backdrop for this tale. Even though this is the second book in Katie's Matchmaker in Wonderland Romance/Ainslie Brothers series, it can be easily enjoyed as a standalone since the romantic relationship and the plot development are fully contained within this novel. My full review is posted at Reading Between The Wines Book Club. Check it out there. 4 1/2 Wine Glasses!
A Midsummer Night Romp is a fun and sassy take on a romance story. Lorina is carrying a a secret and a plan with her when she gets to the archaeology dig at Ainslie castle, she soon meets Gunner and sparks fly. Gunner doesn't fit in with Lorina's plan , but it seems as if they keep getting thrown together and Lorina is finding it harder to keep her secret from him. This book had me laughing out loud several time. Katie Macalister always write strong sassy women who don't let anyone walk over them. I loved this book and am looking forward to more in this series.
This is a fabulous story by Katie Macalister! Book two in the series, this one follows the brother of the hero from book one, Gunner, and a woman pretending to be something she is not to help a friend, Lorina. Lorina is a firecracker that had me laughing out loud at some of the things she said. Gunner is also pretty funny and definitely drool-worthy! The sparks fly and the tongues wag as these two stubborn, but perfect for each other characters draw you into their story and stay with you long after you've read the last page. A must read for anyone who loves romance, history, hilarity, and well, just a great story.
If you're looking for a light hearted read then Midsummer Night's Romp is the book for you. The banter between Gunner and Lorina is enjoyable and the chemistry between them can be cut with a knife. I must admit, I fell hard for Gunner and found myself rooting for the relationship to bloom between the two of them. I mean what's not to love about a guy who has a chest that is drool worthy and is a loving father to boot. His relationship with his daughter Cressy makes him even more of a catch. This isn't just your average love story either. The mystery that surrounds the archeological dig at Ainslie Castle makes this a plot twisting page turner. You won't be disappointed in yet another great book from Katie Macallister.
Our Review, by LITERAL ADDICTION's Vivacious Valkyrie - Marta: --Actual rating 3.5 Skulls *Copy gifted in exchange for an honest review This is a romance with a little mystery to solve, but first and foremost, it's another humorous escapade from this talented author. Ms MacAlister has the knack of turning any story on its head and delivering fun and totally irreverent warm stories that truly captivate her readers. Looking for genuine laugh out loud moments? Then step inside the world created by her imagination. If you seek a romance that's peopled with diverse characters filled with heart and an entertaining plot then this book delivers in spades. A Midsummers Night Romp begins with a phone call between two friends that sets in motion a chain of events that will change the lives of several people. First, it gives Lorina the idea to travel to England to join an archeology dig (for which she has no experience) but her nefarious plans involve seeking justice for her friend. Then of course there's Gunner whose home is where the dig is taking place. Now he's a bit of a philanderer--if honest--who has never met a woman who held his attention for more than a few weeks but Lorina is about to totally buck that trend! Slight problem though, as Lorina doesn't trust any man and certainly not one who might guess her guilty secret! Lorina is determined to achieve her goal but is constantly distracted by the mischievous Gunner. When they discover mysterious clues to what could possibly be missing treasure the race is on but not everyone has the same goal and pretty soon it's clear that someone will do anything it takes to get their hands on the treasure. So yes, this has a treasure hunt in it with an antagonist to step in and cause all manner of problems, but it's the romance between the two lead characters that really drives this story. Lorina is way out of her depth pretending to be a photographer, and the fact that that just happens to be Gunners chosen profession sets her up for very uncomfortable moments that had this reader both chuckling and wincing on her behalf! She has a very troubled past and is determined to be an independent woman, but when around Gunner frankly she just develops verbal diarrhea! I kid you not, her runaway mouth is hilarious and trips her up so often, but luckily Gunner is very good at paying attention . There's no instant love (hurrah) but most definitely lots of chemistry although I have to admit the strength of their relationship just kind of crept up on them. Completely over the top dialogue, but for some reason it worked and I think that's because at heart Gunner is both a poet and a scholar. Interesting supporting characters that helped flesh out the story. This was an amusing read with steamy moments but most of all it was most definitely an entertaining romp!