In Lora Leigh's FOR MAGGIE'S SAKE, Maggie Chavez from Leigh's sexy Navy SEALs series is in protective custody with a member of her former lover's SEALs team. Joe, her ex-lover, thinks Maggie is hiding information from him about a powerful drug lord and the deaths of some SEALs. He intends to seduce her and get the information before she can sell it back to the drug cartel. But when a member of the notorious crime family captures Maggie and holds her hostage at gunpoint, Joe realizes how wrong he is, and only he can save her life.
In Susan Donovan's BED AND BREAKFAST, a stressed-out corporate dynamo with designer boots and a bad attitude is sent to the New Mexico mountains to "get centered" or not come back to Los Angeles. She arrives at the rustic Windwalker Lodge north of Santa Fe, only to find the place in the middle of a renovation and the hunky owner in a pair of lounge pants with no shirt and no idea she was coming. She plans to leave on the first available shuttle the next morning, but one of the area's notorious rains washes out the bridge, and she's stuck. Though resistant at first, she eventually lets the beautiful setting and the extraordinary man give her a new perspective on life, love, and especially sex.
In Lori Wilde's SIREN'S CALL, Annie Grave is back in her hometown, St. Augustine, looking after her grandfather's dive shop as he lies bedridden with a broken hip. Though she is a Harvard MBA with a high-powered finance job in Manhattan and a boyfriend on the brink of proposing marriage, she's never forgotten her first love, sun-bronzed dive instructor Duncan Stewartor the day years earlier when she lost her virginity to him and he told her it was just a fling. But what she doesn't know is that Duncan has regretted that decision every day since. Afraid of not being able to hold onto a smart, sexy, beautiful woman like Annie, he pushed her away and ran away from St. Augustine. But now she's back, and so is he, and he's cooked up a plan to win her back. After all, what girl could resist the lure of buried treasure, and a hot, handsome Scotsman to guide her on the hunt?
In Carrie Alexander's HIS BODY ELECTRIC, an aloof stranger arrives at Karen Jaffe's farmhouse seeking shelter at the height of a violent lightning storm. Strange events followthe power goes out, every clock stops, sparks fly from the visitor's fingertips. Alone in the dark with him, Karen uses her skills as a phone sex operator to seduce the mystery man, uncovering the secrets and erotic pleasures of HIS BODY ELECTRIC.
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|Publisher:||St. Martin's Publishing Group|
|Edition description:||First Edition|
|Product dimensions:||5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.78(d)|
About the Author
New York Times bestseller SUSAN DONOVAN is a former newspaper journalist with degrees from Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism and has worked as a reporter in Chicago, Albuquerque, and Indianapolis. She lives in rural Maryland with her family and dogs.
LORI WILDE is the author of numerous category romances, including The Welcome Home Garden Club and The True Love Quilting Club.
CARRIE ALEXANDER is the award-winning author of many category romance novels, including Hidden Gems and My Front Page Scandal.
Read an Excerpt
"Cock-a-Doodle-do. May I help you?"
Thick wet breaths filled Karen Jaffe's ears.
Great. Another mouth-breather. "Sir?"
She heard movement. Far too familiar movement, accompanied by short grunts.
She adjusted her headset. "You've reached Cock-a-Doodle. How may I help you?" The caller panted up against his mouthpiece. "Help me."
"Yes, sir." Karen looked at the computer screen, even though she'd memorized the company's spiel. "Would you like the Cock-a-Doodle special, three month's supply of pills billed at the amazing low price of eighty-nine ninety-five, plus shipping and handling? Or we have the Rooster Booster package, which is —"
"What'll the pills ..." more wet breaths and slippery sounds "... do?"
Karen looked at the ceiling. He knew what the product did, or at least what the company claimed. But the callers always wanted to hear her say it. She closed her eyes and took a breath. "Rooster Booster is our trademarked powdered supplement, which may increase your potency and vitality in the bedroom. Our Cock-a-Doodle pills may increase the length and/or girth of your penis." She sped up because this was where the mouth-breathers always interrupted. "We're running a special this month for the —"
"It's getting bigger!" The caller's voice was harsh and excited. As if he'd climbed Everest. "Damn almighty. Lookee that. My dick grew just from talking to you."
Karen raised her brows at Kong, the overweight brindle cat sleeping in her lap. His whiskers twitched. She made kissy lips for him. "Would you like to place an order?"
"No — I mean, yeah." The squidging, fleshy sounds sped up. "Yeh. Yeh, yeh, yeh —"
Beep. Karen disconnected the call.
She sank her fingers into the cat's silken fur and returned to studying the water-spotted ceiling. She loved her big, old, rambling farmhouse, but it had come with a list of to-dos as long as Santa's naughty roster. For the past ten months, she'd been working her way through the house, painting, patching, stripping, and refinishing. Yet the space she used most often, the back room that had become her office and studio because of the tall north-facing windows, remained last on the list. Why was that, when, after nine years of marriage and one year spent discovering that she wasn't cut out for the Manhattan singles scene, she finally had no one to please but herself?
Another call came in. The computer software brought up the corresponding spiel and order forms as she checked the screen. She took 1-800 calls for products from a company that sold everything from foam mattresses to Miximakers, the ten-in-one kitchen appliance that looked a lot like a food processor to Karen.
Just her luck. Cock-a-Doodle again. It was almost seven-thirty in Iowa, so the PST-zoners must be getting home from work. She glanced at the sky, which had darkened to a steely blue within the past few minutes. The roots of her hair tingled at the electricity in the air.
She beeped in. "Cock-a-doodle-do. May I help you?"
A silence stretched before snapping with a short, sharp cough. "Cack. Uh. Sorry. Is this the, uh, place that sells, uh, those grow-your-penis pills, because, uh, like, my dick's only, uh, one inch long. Uh. One and a quarter."
"One and three-eighths," said a muffled second voice, followed by giggles.
"That's right." Karen answered with her sternest manner. She must have tensed up, because Kong jumped down from her lap with a heavy thud and an insulted miaow. "If you're over eighteen years of age, sir, you may place an order."
She heard more laughter, followed by urgent whispers. Ten ... nine ... eight ...
The caller came back. "Uh, wait a minute. We're measuring for the record."
Seven ... six ... five ...
"Because, uh, if my teeny weenie doesn't grow, I'm gonna sue."
Beep. Sometimes she didn't have to wait for one. The company wasn't a stickler about the age thing, as long as the credit card number was good. Crank calls could be suspended at her choice. Even though she was paid per minute of talk time, the sooner she hung up the phone the better, in her opinion. She didn't earn enough to listen to jokers and jerk-offs.
She was a VSR — virtual service representative. The job enabled her to work odd hours at home, making ends meet while she tried to spark gallery interest in her welded metal sculptures. She could set her own schedule, then, in between calls, sketch or work on twisted wire maquettes, smallscale replicas of her large pieces. Tools and bits of wire littered the desktop she'd made by resting an antique oak door on sawhorses rescued from the barn loft. For a make-do type of person, the old barn that had come with the house was a treasure trove.
She stared broodingly at one of the unfinished miniatures, abstract figures engaged in a twisted dance that looked a lot like sex.
Karen groaned. She had sex on the brain these days, and all because of her job. Not Cock-a-Doodle, which was as sexy as dirty socks and nose hair. But before Cock-a-Doodle there'd been a short-term experiment with phone sex, which she'd tried for the better pay, continued because she was good at it, then quit because it hadn't been good for her.
Two more calls came in. Karen kept them waiting while she got up and closed the casement windows around the room. She paused at the third to inhale. The sense of space and the clean country air had been what she'd missed most during her time in the city. Here in Iowa, her home state, she had room to think and to create. While the art scene in New York had been inspiring in an electric, intense way, she wanted her work to come from within. It was there, waiting to be released, if she could just find the key.
Thunder rumbled in the distance. Next came the soft patter of raindrops in the upper branches of the tall trees that surrounded the farmhouse, sparse enough that few reached ground.
The phone rang again. She shoved down on the warped window frame and took the calls, completing a couple of orders, including one for the Miximaker from a little old lady with a Texas twang who actually wanted to chat about her grandson's trouble with the police. While trying not to think about her own loneliness — loneliness being less accurate but more polite than horniness — Karen told the lady about the approaching thunderstorm and gently sent her off to make a solitary dinner.
Karen cleared the screen, shut down the computer, and crawled under the desk to unplug the phone line. It was too quiet outside. The air was dank and heavy with the threat of a bad storm. Power could be tricky in the countryside, going in and out at any provocation.
The rain increased, splattering against the windowpanes. Her skinny black cat, Shadow, appeared in the doorway with a tiny mew. Time to round up the animals for the night.
The house looked gloomy in the early darkness. Karen yawned and lifted her hair off her neck, where prickles sprang up as distant lightning briefly brightened the windows. The cats threaded around her legs on their invisible Hot Wheels track, racing through the front hallway and into the back parlor, with Shadow leading on the back-of-the-sofa homestretch. Shadow sprang, but the ponderous Kong didn't attempt the leap-to-the-mantel finish line.
Karen went to the mudroom and selected rubber boots from the utilitarian footwear that had replaced her small stash of designer shoes. She stomped into the boots, grabbed a windbreaker off the hook, then checked the wood box. A little low. It was mid-May, warm during the day, but she'd be wanting a fire if the electricity went out for long.
"You guys stay in," she told the cats, who were crowding the door. She nudged them aside with a boot toe, and slipped outside.
The leaves of the oaks and elms had ruffled in the rain. They lifted like the skirts of cancan dancers as a gust of wind rolled in off the open fields. Karen zipped up. She'd bought five acres, a house, a barn, and assorted outbuildings for less than what a rat-hole studio would cost in New York City. The adjoining land had been sold to a farming corporation, so she was surrounded by fertile fields. Kidder, the closest town, was seven miles away. POP. 1,259, the welcome sign read.
Karen's horses stood in the muddy corral with their heads down and tails clamped to their hindquarters. She'd read that turkeys could drown in the rain because they were too brainless to put their heads down. Sometimes she thought that horses were as dumb. They stayed outside in the worst weather.
At a glance, she saw that the chickens had more sense. They were tucked away in the henhouse, the rain playing their water dish like a tin drum.
She climbed the corral fence and shooed both horses inside, promising an extra ration of oats as she closed the stall doors behind them. Spindrift swung around to nose Karen's pockets for carrots.
She'd fallen in love with the dainty, dappled gray mare at a country auction. Buying a horse instead of a set of chintz china seemed the perfect way to celebrate her return to Iowa. A few months later, she'd come home with Tinker, an aged, chestnut gelding who'd been destined for the butcher's. She'd been compelled to save him, even though he was rarely ridden and about as useful to her as a crooked wheelbarrow.
The gelding whickered and stomped when she lifted the lid of the feed bin. "Greedy guts." To tease him just a little, she tipped the scoop into Spindrift's bowl first.
Doing without — even for five seconds — was good for the soul. So Karen had been telling herself since the bout with phone sex had revved her up with nowhere to go but dates with courting farmers and the appellate bankers and John Deere salesmen who believed the Olive Garden was the height of gustatory excellence. And romance. She'd never stayed to discover what was the height of sex. Most likely a workmanlike groping between flannel sheets.
Tinker had his nose in the feed bowl before she'd tossed in the extra scoop of oats. He whuffed and inhaled the meager ration in twenty seconds flat, chomping so hard a sweet froth foamed at his lips.
She stroked the gelding's velvet nose. While she might not be sexually fulfilled, outside of an ongoing experimentation with the alienlike attachments that had come with The Probe, the vibrator her old girlfriends had given her as a returning-to-the-hinterlands gift, she was content.
Contentment ought to be enough. She had raindrops beating on the roof. Warm horse breath on her hand. The rich smells of the barn. Her works in progress lurking in the shadows, potential caught up in every rusted bolt and twisted ribbon of steel.
A loud crack of thunder jolted her into action. She went to shut the back door. The horses would steam dry tucked safely indoors, dozing through the storm, dreaming of green grass and sunshine on their flanks.
"Sounds good to me." Karen shoved her hands into her jacket pockets and crossed to the front door. Thunder rumbled and the rain gusted, speckling her artwork with glistening silver droplets.
Lightning splintered the leaden sky. The blackened and rainbowed steel of the sculpture flashed blue and white. Karen turned all to goose bumps and prickly short hairs. The horses moved restlessly in their stalls. One of the barn cats looked down from the edge of the loft, a narrow silhouette with its tail standing straight in the air.
More thunder rumbled in Karen's ears like a train in a tunnel. She quickly secured a tarp over the art piece, double-checked that her equipment was unplugged, and stepped out of the barn, pulling the big rolling door shut behind her. Rain sheeted the concrete she had poured inside and out for safety reasons, the sparks from her welding iron an obvious safety hazard near an old wooden hay barn. Beyond, the dirt area below the grassy slope up to her house had become a mud slick.
She pulled on her hood and huddled for a moment beside the building, waiting for the next crack of lightning. They were coming so frequently now, with the thunder a constant rumbling refrain, that there was no need for counting one-banana, two-banana in between to pinpoint the location of the storm. Her property was right at the center of it.
Through the gray curtain of rain, the farmhouse's light-filled windows were a homely beacon of comfort. Sheltering in the barn for the duration didn't appeal to her. Karen made up her mind to risk the dash to the house.
Her hands clenched. She was jittery. Unusual for her, even in a thunderstorm as bad as this one. She was normally an even-keeled type of person, at least before divorce and moving and phone sex had rocked her safe little boat.
Lightning struck near the main road, where pavement made a thin line of wet silver among the trees. For one instant the world became a brilliantly hot white, as bright as day, and she thought she saw a man on the gravel driveway that curved between barn and house.
She squinted, half-blinded, as she ran for home before the next bolt was flung. The smell of ozone hung in the air from the last strike.
Thunder crashed. Karen slammed into a solid body.
She screamed, and fell onto her backside with a splat, her rubber boots slipping out from beneath her in the mud.
The man bent down, she thought at first to scoop her up, but he was shouting something that sounded like, "Stay away from me," over the crescendo of thunder and rain. A bold fork of lightning brightened the sky beyond his head and she got a glimpse of his face.
His expression. Jagged. Stripped. Terrified.
His eyes. A brilliant burning blue.
She put up her hands, but didn't know why. She was frozen to the ground.
He said, "Fuck it," and wound his arms around her, dragging her to her feet.
A sharp burst of electricity zinged through her veins. She yelped. The air was thick with the staticky charges.
"Go to the house." The stranger almost yanked her arm out of its socket to get her moving. "Run!" They ran, slipping and sliding up the wet slope. Karen dropped once to her knees, but he got her up again almost without breaking stride, his hands on her ass as he propelled her up the stairs to safety beneath the porch roof.
Directly behind them, lightning tore from the sky. Flames leaped high at the point of the strike, splitting open one of the elm trees. Karen jumped. The crash of an ancient branch dropping to the ground was so loud and jarring it reverberated in her bones.
The stranger took hold of and folded her against his chest. She started to pull away, but he held her with a possessive security that was so comforting she was suddenly willing to stay, waiting for the sounds of the storm to stop ringing in her ears.
She saw the white flash of the next lightning bolt, even with her face buried against his chest. It seemed to be inside of her, sparking and sizzling, as if she'd stuck a finger in a socket, jumping from her body to the stranger's, then back again before she could draw breath. The electric charge became one continuous current, heating her blood, melting her resistance.
She felt shattered inside — pliant and weak. Dimly, the thought occurred that she was in a dangerous position. The man could be anyone ... do anything. And part of her was already welcoming that idea.
"Inside," he said, pushing her away from himself.
Karen nodded numbly. Recognition returned as soon as he released her. The sensation of electric shock lessened, too, although she could still feel it running through her, draining from her body like a fever that had broken.
What the hell? She swiped rain from her eyes, opened the front door, and stepped inside. The man was no longer beside her.
She turned, pushing aside in her mind the warnings about letting strangers into the house. Of course, she would invite him in. He'd practically saved her life.
He stood on the porch, hunched and shivering, dripping wet. He was breathing hard, eyes downcast. Despite his state, she remained aware of an intrinsic power and confidence. So very male. The cut of his body was harsh but beautiful. He had a solid build, all hard muscle beneath the jeans and shirt glued to his skin.
The exterior lights had gone out. It was difficult to discern his features except for the general impression that in better circumstances he'd be a good-looking man. She hesitated, thinking of his wild expression earlier, but something in the way he'd rescued her — and held her — said that she could trust him.
Rough as he'd been.
Electric as she'd felt.
"Come in," she said, barely audible above the storm. "Come in," she repeated in a louder voice, although she knew he'd heard her the first time.
He didn't move, except to shudder in reflex at the endless rolling boom of the thunder.
"The storm's not moving on." Her trembling hand reached for him. She was wary, and turned on, and mystified all at once. "It's too dangerous to stay out here."
He gave a quick nod. "Thanks." He stepped through the doorway, ducking sideways to avoid her hand when it hovered between them. She looked curiously at her numb fingers before giving them a shake as she bumped shut the door.
Excerpted from "Real Men Do It Better"
Copyright © 2006 Carrie Alexander.
Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
HIS BODY ELECTRIC by Carrie Alexander,
BED AND BREAKFAST by Susan Donovan,
FOR MAGGIE'S SAKE by Lora Leigh,
SIREN'S CALL by Lori Wilde,
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