Bargain alert!! His Mistletoe Bride on Sale!

Just a quick note to let you know that the price for His Mistletoe Bride has been dropped to $4.61 for both the Kindle and the NOOK.  Zounds!  That’s pretty swell.  You can download to your Kindle here, and to your NOOK here.

Have a great weekend, folks!

Guest Author: Mia Marlowe & Giveaway!

Mia Marlowe writes absolutely gorgeous historical romance, and she’s got the phenomenal reviews to back it up.  Her last book, Touch of a Rogue, was named by Publishers Weekly as one of the Top Ten Romances for Spring 2012.  Pretty cool, eh?

Mia has a new book out, and she’s here to tell us all about it.

Can you tell us a bit about your Touch of Seduction series? What’s the premise behind it?

First of all, thanks for having me here today, Vanessa. My Touch of Seduction series is near and dear to my heart and I hope readers will find it great fun, too.  In each of the stories, my hero or heroine has the “gift of touch”—a psychometric gift that allows them to glean information by touching certain objects. It’s an occupational hazard for my jewel thief heroine in TOUCH OF A THIEF. It’s a help sometimes to my enquiry agent hero in TOUCH OF A ROGUE. And in TOUCH OF A SCOUNDREL, my hero sees it as a curse because in his case, he sees the future but cannot do anything to change it.

Your lovely historicals contain a touch of the paranormal. What do you like about combining historical romance with the paranormal?

I adore both sub-genres. Nothing takes me away quite so well as a historical hero in glossy Hessians with a sword at his hip. My paranormal elements are pretty tame compared to some. I don’t have any vampires or shifters. My characters are ordinary people with extraordinary gifts. I like to think my magical elements are things that might actually happen.

The heroine in Touch of a Scoundrel is a bit different from the average historical miss or seductive courtesan. Can you tell us a bit about her?

Ah, yes. Emmaline Farnsworth, adventurer, dutiful daughter and con artist. She and her foster father have bounced around Europe hocking fake reliquaries. Now they’re in possession of an unusual Egyptian artifact which they hope to parlay into a big score. They’ve convinced Theodore Nash to fund a bogus expedition, but unfortunately, it’s his older brother, Griffin, the Earl of Devonwood who holds the purse strings. And Griffin is no one’s fool. Emma has never run such a trying long con. She’s fending off the offers of marriage from the younger brother while fighting the wild attraction she feels for the elder.

Like so many authors, you’ve been venturing into the realm of indie publishing. Can you tell us a little bit about that?

I’m very excited to be writing for both Kensington and Sourcebooks, but indie publishing is opening up some new opportunities as well. I’ve self-published 4 novels and 3 novellas since last fall and readers have been writing to let me know they love it. I’ve been fortunate to be able to partner up with a group of talented traditionally published authors who are also self-publishing to form a self-published brand called Rock*It Reads. My partners in crime are: my lovely host today—Vanessa Kelly, Pamela Clare, Elisabeth Naughton, Monica Burns, Kris Kennedy, Margo Maguire, Lila DiPasqua, Sharon Page and Joan Swan. Check out my Books page for my Rock*It Reads titles.

GIVEAWAY: Leave Mia a comment or question today and you’ll be entered in the random drawing. One lucky person will win a copy of  TOUCH OF A ROGUE, Book 2 in the Touch of Seduction series and one of Publisher’s Weekly’s Top 10 Romances for Spring 2012! Another winner will receive TOUCH OF A LADY, my enovella prequel to the series in your choice of Kindle or Nook format.

Here’s a question to get the conversation going: If you could have any special paranormal ability, what would it be?

Vanessa, here.  Thanks for joining us today, Mia!  Folks, be sure to visit Mia’s website for all her book news (she has lots), and to read an excerpt of her latest book!  And be sure to check the blurb for Touch of a Scoundrel:

Griffin Nash, Earl of Devonwood, wants to believe that he’s seducing Miss Emmaline Farnsworth out of protectiveness for his young brother. After all, if his brother is convinced that the tantalizing professor’s daughter is unworthy of his trust, perhaps Teddy will lose all interest in such an inappropriate choice for his station.

But in truth, something else motivates Devonwood: a scintillating vision he’s had of a future tryst with the lovely Emmaline. A vision too realistic to be doubted–and too scaldingly passionate to be denied.

Yet Emmaline is not as easily tempted as Devonwood might have hoped–nor is she actually in pursuit of a wealthy husband. No, the real reason for her visit to the manor is something much more shocking… though being enticed by a dashing earl may prove to be a most welcome by-product of her schemes…

And don’t forget to answer Mia’s question for a chance to win her books!


#SampleSunday: HARDBALL

For #Sample Sunday, here’s another excerpt from Hardball, the sexy contemporary romance I wrote with my husband under the pen name of VK Sykes.  Our hero Nate, a superstar baseball player, took Holly, a serious and rather shy pediatric surgeon, to an upscale charity dinner for their first date.   They’re back at her place now, and things are getting a bit hot and heavy…and Holly is getting bad case of cold feet.

Holly plastered her hands on his chest, her fingers digging into the smooth fabric of his suit.  “Nate, hold on,” she gasped.

He slowly pulled back, his eyes clouded with passion “What?”

She looked away from him and took a step back.  They hadn’t even made it out of the hallway and she’d let him get her half-naked.  Mortified, she quickly put her bra back on.  “I could use another glass of wine,” she said in a shaky voice.  “What about you?”

She needed time to recover her wits.  If she started babbling about how she felt, it would probably come out all muddled and stupid.

Nate looked mystified.  But, after a moment he nodded uncertainly, raking a hand through his thick hair.  “Well, okay, we can take it slow. Maybe I came on too strong, but…”  His eyes cleared and he shook his head.  “No buts.  Sure, I could use a drink.  Got any cognac?”

Relief weakened her knees.  As if they aren’t already weak enough.

“Of course,” she said.  “I’m my father’s daughter.  I always have a good stock of fermented products on hand.”  She led him into the kitchen and retrieved a bottle of Courvoisier from her pantry.

“Make it a double,” he said.

Holly pulled up her bodice and flipped the straps back over her shoulders.  Seeing Nate’s face deflate, she decided not to reach around for the zipper.  She’d already thrown enough ice water in the poor guy’s face.

“Sorry, I just need a breather,” Holly apologized.  “But take your jacket off and stay.” She poured a double cognac into a snifter and handed it to him, then uncorked a bottle of red wine and poured a small glass for herself.  She didn’t really want any more alcohol, but she needed the cover.

“Okay,” he said, his confusion evident.

He draped his suit jacket over a stool at the counter and followed her into the small living room off the galley kitchen.

“Okay, did I do something wrong?” he asked as sat on the sofa.  Its old wooden frame creaked ominously, but he ignored it.  Given his big, rangy body, that kind of thing probably happened all the time, but she could only pray her grandmother’s antique sofa didn’t collapse beneath him.

Wouldn’t that be a great end to the evening?

Repressing a spurt of semi-hysterical laughter, she sipped her wine.  Finally, when she could no longer avoid his question, she sat down in the overstuffed armchair on the other side of the coffee table and forced herself to look at him.  Part of her was amazed he hadn’t already bolted.  And it touched her that he continued to wait patiently for her to find her voice.

“Nate, I’m sorry.  I really wanted to do this.  I can’t tell you how much.” She paused, unhappily searching for the right words.

He simply nodded.  If he was angry with her, he was doing a good job of repressing it.

“It’s just that I haven’t had that much experience, and most of what I’ve had has been, well, sort of mediocre.  I was always too busy with school or work to bother very much with men and sex.”  She shook her head, feeling a prickling in her eyes that told her tears weren’t far behind.  That was so not going to happen.  “It’s weird and embarrassing to be talking about myself this way.  But I feel like I have to get this out on the table,” she finished in a firm voice.

He leaned forward, setting his snifter on the table between them.  A smile lifted the edges of his mouth.  “Can I try to help you out?”

“Please,” she sighed.

“Based on what you’ve no doubt heard already about me, I’m guessing you think I’m some kind of, I don’t know, super stud or something.”

She stared at her feet, wishing she could crawl under the floorboards.  How had she gotten herself into this ridiculous situation?  But now that she was in it, she had to plow ahead.  “I don’t know about that.  But I do know the kind of women you’re used to.  And I’m not in the same league.”

Her voice caught on an infuriating croak.  Suck it up, Holly.  You can do this.

“Look, if we do this, I’ll disappoint you,” she said through clenched teeth.  “And I can’t stand the thought of being judged on how good I am.  In bed, or whatever.  By you or anyone else.  That’s not what I’m about.”  Angry, embarrassed tears stung her eyes.  “Damn, this is ridiculous!”  She shook her head hard, furious and lost in an unfamiliar jumble of emotions.

Nate pulled out a crisp white handkerchief from an inside pocket and handed it over.  With a defiant sniff, she dabbed at her eyes.

“Holly, look at me, okay?  Everything’s cool.  I understand where you’re coming from.”  He moved around the coffee table and went down on one knee before her, reaching out his hand.  She hesitated a moment, then held out her own.  As Nate grasped it gently, Holly absorbed the warm strength of his calloused palm and her heartbeat began to settle.

“Forget about not being experienced enough,” he said gazing straight into her eyes.  “Experience is way over-rated.  Trust me on that.”  His eyes were warm and open, but his voice held a touch of cynicism.  Oddly enough, that reassured her.

Without letting go of her hand, Nate stood and drew her up to him.  “And as for disappointing me, you can forget that, too.  You’re incredible—in every way.  Man, I’m the one who should be worried, not you.”

Hard to believe that, but it sounded like he actually meant it.  The tension in her body began to ease.

“Truth?” she whispered.

“Truth,” he said firmly.  He slowly pushed the straps of her dress down, his lips brushing each bare shoulder in turn.  She shivered as the bodice fell away, just as it had done minutes earlier, and she had to fight not to stiffen up again.

“Relax, sweetheart.  Let me take care of you.  Let me make love to you,” he whispered in her ear.  “Tonight is going to be all about you.”

“Okay,” Holly said, allowing him to pull her close.  “I think I can go along with that plan.”

Hardball is available on Amazon and Smashwords for $2.99.  You can read all about it, including another excerpt, on my VK Sykes website.

Have a great Sunday!

#SampleSunday: HARDBALL by V.K. Sykes

For #Sample Sunday, here’s another excerpt from Hardball, the sexy contemporary romance I wrote with my husband under the pen name of VK Sykes.  Nate, a superstar baseball player, and Holly, a serious and rather shy pediatric surgeon, are on their first date – an upscale charity dinner at a country club.  They’re about to join Nate’s friends for dinner.

Nate smothered a curse as they walked through the door of the country club.  As he’d suspected, they’d missed the cocktail hour, and the golfers and tournament guests had already started moving into the dining room to take their seats.  Fortunately, the cash bar remained open.  He definitely needed a stiff drink after the frustratingly clogged traffic on the expressway.

And after the frustration of keeping his raging libido under control.  He’d enjoyed the conversation with Holly, but right now he wanted nothing more than to pick her up in his arms, carry her out to the back seat of his car and wrap himself around her beautiful body.  Not that there was much of a back seat in the DB9, but he’d figure it out.

But it wasn’t time yet for that kind of action.  Not even close.

God, the woman looked so damn hot in that snug-fitting dress.  Just walking behind her on the way to the bar, his hand riding low on her slender back, gave him a hard-on.  Probably every other guy in the place, too.  Her long, elegant legs and the tantalizing swell of her breasts didn’t pass unnoticed by the men crowding around the bar.

Forget it, suckers.  She’s mine.

Holly turned slightly and unleashed her sweet smile on him, causing his heart to actually skip a beat.  She’d forsaken the wire-rimmed glasses and ponytail, her true natural beauty no longer obscured by professional armor.

He managed to pry his lips open to speak.  “What can I get you to drink?”

“I’d love a glass of white wine.”

“Sure, but I’ll be ordering wine for the table, when we get inside.  Red and white both.  But I think I’m going to start with a shot of good old Knob Creek.”  He’d been pleased to see the bar trolley included his favorite bourbon.

Holly didn’t hesitate.  “Make it two, then.  Bourbon sounds about right after the kind of day I’ve had.”  She paused for a moment.  “Fortunately, the car distracted me a little,” she said in a wistful voice.

Nate sighed dramatically.  “Well, then, thank God I got that car.  It’s obviously way more interesting than its owner.”

Holly turned down the corners of her mouth into a “poor you” expression.  “I didn’t mean it that way.  Gosh, you are a sensitive flower, aren’t you, Nate Carter?”

He faked a wounded look.  “I have tender feelings, easily bruised.  Self-esteem issues, I guess.”

“I’m sure,” she said dryly.  “Just let me know if you need professional help.  I know a couple of good shrinks who could give you a hand.”

He laughed.  “I’ll keep that in mind.”  He picked up their drinks and stuffed a fiver in the tip jar.  “We should go in now.  I see my friends are already at the table.  Would you care to take my arm, ma’am?”

“Absolutely, sir,” she said with a brilliant smile as she slipped her arm through his.

As they made their way through the crowd to his reserved table, Nate saw that Jake and Maddie had already taken their places, as had Dr. Fredericks and his wife.  Martha and Dirk apparently hadn’t yet arrived.

Nate had slipped a tip to the banquet manager earlier that afternoon to have name cards placed behind each plate at his table.  That way he’d ensured the seating arrangement he wanted.   Clockwise, starting with himself, the seating was going to be Nate, Maddie, Jake, Martha, Dirk, Mrs. Fredericks, Dr. Fredericks, and Holly.  He’d have to share Holly with Fredericks, and would probably get the short end of the conversation, but there was nothing to be done for it.  After all, he’d lured her there with the promise of spending time with the famous doctor.  And the idea of doing something that so obviously pleased her pleased him.

As they approached, everyone at the table except Maddie stood.  Maddie immediately started apologizing.  “You’ll have to forgive me for not standing up.  I’m afraid it practically takes a block and tackle to hoist me perpendicular these days.”

Maddie was eight months’ pregnant, and it seemed to Nate that her diminutive body was becoming nearly as wide as it was tall.

He made introductions all around.  Beaming, Holly shook hands with James and Diana Fredericks, and then moved around to greet Jake and Maddie.  As she leaned down to shake Maddie’s hand, Nate heard her murmur, “You’re absolutely radiant, Maddie.  When are you due?”

“First week of July,” Maddie replied.  “This baby is so huge I’d swear there were twins in here if I didn’t know better.  But look at my husband and you can see why.”

Holly eyed Jake Miller as they shook hands.  Nate found himself clenching his jaw at her appreciative look as she sized up his mountain man of a friend. At six-four and close to two hundred fifty pounds, Jake was a hell of an impressive specimen.  Holly gazed seriously for a moment at the two of them standing side by side, as if she were comparing them at a celebrity auction.

Nate put his arm around Jake’s shoulders.  “Holly, this gorilla is my best friend in the whole world.  He’s actually a lot smarter than he looks, too.”

“Nah,” Jake retorted, “I’m obviously dumb as an ear of corn because I keep putting up with you, Carter.”

Maddie groaned.  “Ignore the boys, Holly.  They rag each other endlessly, like irritating little brothers.  It’s some kind of jock ritual that I’m afraid will never end.  You’ll just have to get used to it.”

Holly flinched a bit, but then laughed.  She patted Maddie on the shoulder before returning to her seat beside Dr. Fredericks.  Nate flagged down a waiter and ordered three bottles of a Sonoma Valley Cabernet and three of a French Sancerre.  As the table’s host, he wanted to make sure everyone had a good time.

Especially Dr. Holly Bell.  After all, he had plans for her later tonight.

As he took his seat, Holly was already in full-flight conversation with Fredericks.  Between Maddie’s easygoing warmth and Fredericks’ collegiality, she seemed at ease right away.  Nate took the opportunity to study the contour of her neck and shoulders in the sexy sleeveless dress.  She’d draped her glossy, long hair to the side and down over her shoulder, revealing the perfectly smooth skin of her elegant neck.  It was all he could do to stop himself from leaning forward and running his tongue and his lips over every square inch of that exposed skin.  He was enjoying thinking about what he would do to her later when Holly turned back, catching him unawares.

“I love these cute little snow globes,” she said.  She picked up one of the little souvenirs the tournament committee put in front of each place setting.  “Philadelphia landmarks.  What a great idea.”   She turned the globe over and then set it back down upright.  As the flakes fell over the miniature Independence Hall, Holly gave him a wide smile, obviously delighted.

“You can take it home,” he said.  “Party gift.”

She gave a laugh as smooth and sweet as hot honey.  “You bet I will,” she said.

Her smile was so inviting that he almost leaned in and kissed her right then and there.  But Maddie broke in, tapping his arm.  She started to say something about the Patriots, then stopped as she craned her very pregnant body to see around him.  Nate followed her gaze and saw Martha and Dirk sweep into the room.  Martha was a step in front, more or less dragging Dirk by the hand.  Poor Dirk  looked nervous and uncomfortable, dwarfed and intimidated by Martha’s flamboyant personality.  She sashayed around the table planting air kisses on everyone, including the Fredericks, who she’d met at the previous year’s banquet.  When she got to Nate and Holly, she took a quick step back, looked the two of them over with arched eyebrows and whistled.

“Hoo-whee,” she said, “will you just look at these two!  Isn’t that just a darn magazine cover in the making?  Have y’all seen a handsomer couple north of the Mason-Dixon Line?”

Nate sighed.  Martha did like to ramp up the Southern Belle routine for first impressions.

Everyone at the table stood except Maddie.  Nate glanced at Holly, who had started to blush under Martha’s avid examination.  Cursing silently, he moved quickly to intervene.

“Martha, Dirk, you know everyone here except Holly.”  Nate put a comforting hand on Holly’s shoulder, and first introduced her to Dirk.  “And this often annoying creature,” he said with a fake growl, “is my good friend, the one and only Martha Winston.”

“They broke the mold after they made Martha,” Jake quipped to Holly, obviously trying to make her feel comfortable.

“As a public service,” Nate added.

“Now you jock boys mind your manners,” Martha scolded, shaking her finger at them.  “The doctor might just start believing your juvenile hogwash.”

Martha hugged Holly, giving her air kisses on both cheeks.  When she whispered a few words in her ear, Holly looked startled for a moment before she broke into a smile.

Nate frowned.  Jesus, what trouble is she up to now?  As usual, Martha had immediately drawn all the attention to herself.  God knew she was a great friend, but her diva qualities sometimes drove him nuts.

When they sat back down, Nate murmured in Holly’s ear.  “What lie did she just tell you about me?”

Holly’s eyes danced with amusement. “Mr. Big Ego.  Why do you think it was about you?”

He snorted.  “Let’s just say Martha and I have a history, and we know each other very well.  Too well.  She lives to pull my chain.”

“Is that a fact?  Well, she seems very nice to me,” Holly said in a teasing voice.

Two could play at that game.  “Of course,” he said solemnly, laying a hand over his heart, “I’d never do anything like that to her.”

“I’ll just bet.  All right, if you must know, she told me that I look way too sweet for—how did she put it?  Oh, an old hound dog like Nate Carter.  A mischievous little smile lifted the corners of her mouth.  “And,” she continued, “I’m inclined to think she could be right.”

“She’s a vixen,” Nate said, trying not to laugh.

Holly poked him, pure joy lighting up her beautiful face.

Yep.  The night was getting off to a damn good start.

Hardball is available on the Nook, Amazon and at Smashwords for $2.99.  You can read all about it, including another excerpt, on my VK Sykes website.

Have a great Sunday!

#SampleSunday: HARDBALL by V.K. Sykes

For #Sample Sunday, here’s another excerpt from Hardball, the sexy contemporary romance I wrote with my husband under the pen name of VK Sykes.  Nate, a superstar baseball player, and Holly, a serious and rather shy pediatric surgeon, have been dating for several weeks – and it’s been hot and heavy.  But problems for both of them at work have been putting strains on their relationship, so Nate has surprised Holly with a get-away weekend to the Florida coast.  After dinner in a five star restaurant, they head out to the beach…

A sliver of moonlight allowed Nate and Holly to pick their way along the narrow path through the dunes.  He glanced back at the lights of the Ritz shining behind them.  Ahead lay only the darkness of the sand and the glow of the moonlight on the still water.  With the low tide, the beach seemed to stretch forever toward the sea.

They had ditched their shoes at the end of the fake wood walkway that traversed most of the wide dunes between the hotel and the shoreline.  Holly looked elegant in her sexy cocktail dress, but as for him—well, bare feet and rolled up trouser legs didn’t exactly go with the Armani look.

Leading the way, wine bottle under one arm and a long-stemmed glass stuffed in each outside pocket of his jacket, he swept the beach ahead with the small flashlight a valet had retrieved from the BMW.  Holly followed right behind, her left hand loosely gripping the back of his jacket and her right clutching the blanket.

Suddenly, she cried out.  “Ouch!”

“What’s wrong?”  He swung around and flashed the light in her direction.

“Man, that really hurt!”  Holly flopped down in the sand like a little kid and examined the bottom of her foot.  “I must have I stepped on a sharp shell.  I think it’s okay, though.  Just stings a lot.”

Nate trained the flashlight on her foot.  Just inches away, he noticed a big, bumpy oyster shell poking up out of the otherwise pristine sand.  “You sure you’re okay?”

She nodded as she dusted the sand from her foot and then held out her hand.  He grasped it and helped her up.  She balanced on one foot for a moment before gingerly putting the injured foot down.  “It was more a shock than anything.  No big deal.  Let’s keep going.”

“As soon as we stop, I’ll kiss it better,” he murmured in her ear.

“Maybe I should step on things more often,” she said in a sex-laden voice as she reached around his neck and leaned her body into him.

Nate dropped the wine and the flashlight onto the soft sand and pulled her against him, his hands reaching down to the small of her waist and then to her bottom.  Feeling the smooth, rounded warmth in his hands as his mouth eagerly found hers made him hard in a split-second.  He knew Holly could feel his erection against her stomach, as she moaned and melted against him.

“I thought you wanted to keep going?” Nate growled, running a string of damp kisses over her ear and neck.

“I do,” Holly whispered.  “But just far enough.  We’re too exposed here.”

“You had this planned all along, didn’t you?”  He squeezed her waist, desire ripping through him.

“Are you complaining?” she retorted, giving him a nudge in the back.  “It’s time you found us a nice, private place.”

Small dunes covered in sea oats lined the beach as far into the distance as Nate could see.  They slowly walked south past some medium-height condo buildings until he spotted a kind of small semi-circle formed by two dunes.   He could see that it offered protection from view on three sides—only people walking by on the beach directly in front of the indentation could see inside it.  And it was highly unlikely that anybody else would be walking here on this dark beach, so late at night.

“Over there,” he said, pointing.  “That’s our spot.”

Holly gave him a thumbs-up and quickened her pace, despite her foot.  Nate laughed and followed.  By the time he caught up to her in the dunes, she had already spread out the blanket.  He set the wine bottle down, pulled the glasses and corkscrew out of his pockets and tossed them onto the blanket.  Then he reached for her.

“Oh no,” she protested, sitting down.  “You promised something first.”  She reclined onto her back and gracefully lifted her right leg into the air, wiggling the foot.

“I did, didn’t I?  He sank to his knees and took her slender foot in his hands.  Brushing off the film of fine sand, he kissed it—not just once, but all over, running his lips lightly from her heel to her toes and back again.

“That tickles!” she yelped.  “You, sir, could use a shave.”

“Now look who’s complaining,” he murmured, gently sucking on her little toe.

“Okay,” she sighed, “that’s better.”  She laid back, her hair cascading over on the blanket.  “Do it some more.”

Hardball is available on the Nook, Amazon and at Smashwords for $2.99.  You can read all about it, including another excerpt, on my VK Sykes website.

Have a great Sunday!