Double or Nothing

(Contemporary Dark Romance with a Tycoon and Mobster vying for the affection of the heroine)


At twenty-one, Kari Danek fled her home and the dangerous man who forced too much from her in order to save her family. Now at twenty-five, she’s made a wonderful life for herself in Las Vegas as the personal assistant to Xander Wynne, a powerful real estate tycoon. Her work is fulfilling, and her personal feelings for Xander are always present, but she represses them due to the time she spent as a victim to another depraved man obsessed with owning her.

Kari’s world turns upside down when she learns of her brother Eddie’s suicide. With Kari returning home for the funeral, the sadness she feels for her brother’s death is overshadowed by the fear of encountering Gabriel Cavaleri, her former lover, and heir to the family’s illegal crime syndicate in New Jersey.

Now that Kari’s back home, Gabriel will stop short of nothing to keep her for good. Coercion, emotional blackmail, and the knowledge of Kari’s shameful past are just tools in his arsenal against her. Kari’s only savior is Xander, who’s willing to use his own unsettling ways of negotiation to keep her safe.

Overpowered by two ruthless men who refuse to lose, it’s double or nothing for Kari as she tries to keep not only her soul, but her sanity intact.



Gabriel chose the booth opposite from the one I sat in prior. He sat on the edge, facing the entrance with me inside on his right. Trudy came in a few second later with a bottle of wine and two glasses. He thanked her and gave her a hundred-dollar bill along with instructions for her to add whatever his brother and his ‘friends’ drank or ate on his tab. She didn’t engage him in any conversation and just nodded, cutting me a quick look before she left.

He poured the wine and sniffed his before taking a sip. He drank and nodded, pleased. “The Beychevelle is an incredible vintage.”

At one-hundred fifty dollars a bottle it should be. “They know what type of wine you drink?” I asked.

He twirled the glass back and forth. “They always have some bottles in house. Eddie made sure I was well taken care of when I came in for dinner or had a few drinks at the bar. I’m going to miss that kid.”

Eddie and Gabriel were both the same age. He acted like he was older than thirty, or some renaissance man, but he was just a thug in an expensive suit, a well-educated, attractive bully who hid his insecurities well. He had many insecurities, most of which I witnessed.

My cell buzzed in my pocket but I ignored it. It had been going off ever since I hung up on Leah. She must be freaking out or really angry at me to text or call non-stop. I’d give anything to hear her voice, but under the present circumstances it would wait.

“Join me in a glass, sweet.” He tapped his glass to mine.

I hated the word ‘sweet’ with such a passion because of him. When he was especially loving or wanted to be intimate he would revert to Italian and call me Dolceezza. When he said that, I was in trouble because he wouldn’t stop until he was inside of me.

“I rather have water.” I pushed the glass away.

“Remember those few bottles of Santa Margherita Chianti I bought when we spent the weekend in Atlantic City?” The back of his hand ran down the side of my face and his finger circled my ear. “We barely left the hotel room. It was one of the best weekends of my life. You bought that teeny tiny bikini to wear that had me salivating. There was no way I was going to let you outside looking like that. Those curves of yours and your long hair had me so hard.” He shifted in closer and his nose brushed my cheek. “Do you remember what we did with the wine?”

I’d never forget that weekend. It was the first time I had gone away with him. He thought by taking me out of my environment and removed from all other influences, I’d accept him and allow him to have me any which way he wanted. I let him do whatever he wanted because it was part of our deal. But he was sophisticated and experienced, and soon enough I was a willing participant. He stole my innocence and then introduced me to a seductive lifestyle of lavish hotels, food and of wine that tasted incredible when licked off another person’s body in the heat of the moment.

The one thing he taught me was my appreciation for wine. You’d think I’d be disgusted by the drink, but it had become my alcohol of choice.

The glass I rejected now called to me to drink. If I did, I wouldn’t stop and he would refill it. Then he’d take me some place where I’d end up naked and under him.

He snapped his fingers in front of my face and I blinked, distracted by my runaway thoughts. I had to keep it together around him or I would be lost.

“I don’t like your hair short,” he muttered and sipped his wine.

Xander does. I jerked in my seat. I couldn’t think of Xander now, not with Gabriel next to me.

He must have thought I was upset or nervous at what he said. He grasped my hand and kissed the side of it. “I’m not going to make you grow your hair or change the color.” The word ‘yet’ hovered unspoken in the air. “I just want to talk.”

“What do you want to talk about?” I wanted to add talking didn’t mean holding hands or breathing on my neck like he was doing. But if I did, he would laugh it off or pull me on his lap or rest his palm high on my leg and rub the inside of my thigh.

He twined his fingers through mine and dropped our hands on the seat in between us. “You. I wanted to make sure you’re doing okay with Eddie’s death.”

I shrugged. There was no way in hell I was going to share my feelings about my brother’s death with him. “I’m worried about my grandmother, Marcela and Annie.”

He tsked and shook his head sadly. “Poor little Annie. I can’t believe Eddie would be so selfish and take his life.”

“He must have felt he didn’t have any other choice.” I spat, not caring if my disgust was prominent.

He acted as if he didn’t hear or care. “There’s always a choice, sweetness.” He squeezed my hand. “Annie is adorable. I bet when you have a daughter she’ll look exactly like your niece.”

I wasn’t going there with him and decided to change the topic. “You talk of choices. What choice did you give Eddie about repaying the one-hundred grand he borrowed from you? You enabled his gambling addiction!”

He released my hand and dropped his arm behind my head on the edge of the booth. He finished his wine and then took my glass and drank. His nostrils flared slightly. I felt proud for causing his irritation. My criticism was also fact. No matter how much he denied it, he couldn’t ignore it.

“Eddie was weak. I did get the word out to block him, but he still found a way to play. He was a grown man. Like last time, he knew the consequences of his actions.”

Pure rage slammed me. How dare he excuse his behavior! I was shaking and didn’t even think as I snagged the glass from him and downed it in one gulp. A haze came over me and I rubbed my damp palms on my legs. It was that or punch him in the face.

“You’re a prick, you know that?” I slid away to leave.

He seized my upper arm. I swung my other arm around to slap him, but he took that also and held both my wrists captive behind my back.

“I love when you’re angry. It’s such a turn on.” He brought me up to him.

“If you think I’m going to play this game again, you’re mistaken. I’m not being your whore like last time. You lost this round.” I found some satisfaction when my spit hit his face.

He licked away a few drops landing on his lips. I peeked at his crotch where his pants tended from his arousal.

I relaxed my arms and waited for him to release me. Using one hand, he continued to hold my wrists. With the other, he sat his palm on my chest, near my heart.

“Your heart is beating very fast. You’re excited like I am,” His face came in closer.

“I’m not excited. I’m angry and frustrated. I-I can’t do this with you again.” My voice cracked. I hated for him to see me helpless and broken.

His drifted mouth near my ear. “I just want to cherish and love you. Why do you fight me? You know you’ll never win.”

I bit my bottom lip and breathed through my nose. He panted heavily in my ear. He was going to kiss me. If he did, I’d be completely undone. Instead I dropped my head and rested my forehead in the middle of his chest.


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Never Find Her

 (Lesbian Romantic Thriller. Formerly titled Sleeping with the Frenemy from 2011. **Revised and re-edted**)

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Deborah Murnay has a life most women would die for. She has a loving wife of four years who gives her anything she wants. But, she hides a dark secret. Her wife Genevieve not only enjoys kinky, dangerous sex, but is insanely jealous and possessive. When a violent argument between the two leaves Deborah bruised and battered, she has no other choice but to run away.

Through some intricate planning, she’s able to trick Genevieve into thinking she’s dead. Deborah ends up hundreds of miles away in the small town of Woodberry Creek where she can start over again, even though she lives in fear Genevieve will find her and kill her.

When grade school teacher Bridgette Woodberry notices her new neighbor, she quickly figures out Woodberry Creek’s new resident is hiding something. Deborah knows she can’t have a future with Bridgette, but finds herself attractive to the kindhearted redhead whose kisses and warm embrace makes her feel protected.

As Deborah turns to Bridgette to help heal her scars, Genevieve is waiting for the right moment to take back her wife and make her pay for deceiving her.



Less than five feet in front of her, a black Rottweiler, with its ears back and nostrils flaring, snarled at her. She stepped away with her hands out in front as the rabid-looking dog stalked her. When she landed into the garage door, a whimper left her mouth.

“Ni-nice doggy. Where’d you come from?” she asked the creature in a soothing voice to not upset it any more.

The dog let out a sharp bark and scurried over to her. Its nose brushed the top of her thighs, venturing toward her crotch.

“Hey!” She yelped as the dog molested her. She was ready to make a run for it, but the fear of being mauled and having her head torn off froze her in her tracks.

The dog barked again, and when it landed back on its haunches, it released a low rumble from deep within in its mouth.

“Help me.” Her throat closed up and she shut her eyes, praying the demon dog would get bored and leave.

“Rotquel! Get over here now!”

Rotquel? What the… She opened one eye as the dog lifted its head upon hearing the voice. Its tongue flapped out of its mouth as it trotted to a woman in the middle of the driveway.

Her legs trembled, and she slid down on her butt as she waited for her racing heart to calm down. Not only was she completely covered in sweat, but her bladder was begging her to empty it.

“Good girl.” The redheaded woman Deborah met days ago in the drugstore, knelt and hugged the evil dog. Her hair, Deborah noticed, was now in a more subdued braid.

When she finally caught her breath, she rested her arms on her knees and glared at the duo, who continued to ignore her. “I thought dogs like that had to be on a leash. It gave me the scare of my life.”

The woman—Bridgette rose and patted her demon dog on the head. The creature raised her leg and licked a spot under her leg that made Deborah turn away from in disgust.

“I’m sorry about Rotquel frightening you. She got away from me, a first for her since she’s always by my side when we go for our midday run.” Bridgette came up to Deborah and blocked the sun, holding out her hand for her to take. “I guess she wanted to meet our new neighbor.”

She stood without her help. She wiped off her butt and did a quick scan of Bridgette, who wore running sneakers, gray cotton shorts, and a well-worn T-shirt. Her face was red, a healthy glow. She bit her tongue, surprised her neighbor ran, seeing as she had too many curves to be considered athletically fit—

Wait. They were neighbors?

“Did I hear you right? You’re my neighbor?” She eyed the dog called Rotquel. I must be hearing things. It has to be the heat.

“Yup.” Bridgette smiled broadly and finally lowered her hand, not looking annoyed at Deborah for not taking it. “I live in the house right across from yours. My aunt found you your new place.” She motioned around them.

“Are you kidding me? You two are related?”

“Yup again. You’ll be tripping over Woodberrys soon enough. You’ll eventually meet my brothers, parents, and rest of the clan,” Bridgette said proudly, jutting out her chest.

She quickly peeked at Bridgette’s chest then back up at her face. Bridgette’s smile widened, and she glanced at her T-shirt, much the same as Deborah did to her. Her cheeks warmed and, when she crossed her arms, her nipples poked out.

“Must be nice to have such a…big family.” She brushed her damp head. “Listen, I’m pretty busy right now—”


She backed away when Bridgette’s dog from hell tried moving in between them.

“Rotquel, heel,” Bridgette ordered and the dog did as she was told.

“What did you call her? Rockette, like the dancers in Manhattan?”

Bridgette placed her hands on her hips and chuckled. “It’s Rotquel. I’ve had her for five years. At first, she was named Raquel, but then my brother Bryan thought he’d be funny and started calling her Rotquel because she’s a Rottweiler. It stuck. She hasn’t answered to anything else in years. Right, girl?” She patted the top of Rotquel’s head and was rewarded with a loud bark and a swipe on her hand with a tongue.

“I’m surprised you don’t keep hand sanitizer with you at all times, seeing as your dog has the unsanitary habit of licking your flesh—­I mean skin.” She swiftly corrected. Bridgette had more than enough abundant flesh she couldn’t stop eyeing.

Bridgette released a girlish laugh and tilted her head. “That’s quite a sense of humor you got there.”

“Glad you think I’m funny. I can’t crack a joke to save my life,” she admitted.

“Who told you that?” Bridgette’s expression changed to a more inquisitive one.

Not going there. “There are too many people to list,” she said lightly, although only one had ever criticized her.

“If you say so.”

She wiped her arm on her forehead, feeling like she had been in a sauna, while Bridgette acted as if she wasn’t bothered by the humidity in the least.

“Before I forget, I should apologize for what I did to you at the drugstore the other day. It was rude of me and I didn’t think before I spoke. That’s one of the quirks I have,” Bridgette confessed as she tucked a few stray hairs behind her ears.

“There’s no need for you to feel bad. I was cranky because of, well, you know. And where I moved from, not too many people go out of their way to be as helpful as you were.” She lowered her arms to her sides and glanced at her feet as Bridgette stared closely at her.

“That’s a relief! I’d hate to think you would be upset with me.” Bridgette lowered her voice. “I just admitted another unfortunate quirk about me.”

What is with her and her quirks? She moved in closer, and when Bridgette’s tongue came out and swiped her bottom lip, her nipples twitched. She moved back and shook her head. “I take it when you mean quirk, you mean a fault?”

Bridgette nodded her head. “Exactly. I hate saying someone has a fault. It sounds too harsh. Saying I have a quirk sounds kinder, don’t you think?”

She found herself speechless. Bridgette’s seemingly sunny disposition and naivete was both refreshing and, in a way, disturbing. When was the last time she’d met someone so open and honest who wanted nothing in return?

“Either you don’t know what to make of me, or the heat has stolen your speech. I’d like to think it’s the humidity and not my quaint personality.” Bridgette tapped her chin as she scrutinized her.

She opened her mouth to ask what Bridgette’s deal was with her constant staring when Bridgette tugged on the collar of her shirt and fanned her face with her hand. “Jeez, it sure is hot today. I bet you don’t even have a fan or air conditioner hooked up yet. My house is nice and cool. Why don’t you take a break from moving in and come to my house for some homemade lemon meringue pie and lemonade? I used the lemons straight from the tree in my backyard,” Bridge whispered, as if sharing a secret. “I’ll have you know my pie has won the country fair three years straight.”

When Rotquel whimpered, she got down on one knee and laid her cheek on the side of her dog, giving Deborah a pout. “See, even Rotquel wants you to see her home. I promise you she won’t attack you again or give you unhygienic doggy kisses. She might try to swipe the slice of pie off your plate, but I have treats available to keep her happy.”

She blinked as Bridgette finally took in a deep breath at the end of her long dialogue. Rubbing the back of her head, she shifted from one foot to the other. I really shouldn’t—but what would be the harm in sharing lemonade and pie with this exceedingly kindhearted woman?

“I suppose I can take a short break. It wouldn’t help if I passed out from the heat since I’ve been so busy cleaning.”

Bridgette got to her feet and lightly clapped. “Great. Follow me.”

“Wait a minute,” she said to Bridgette’s back as she started to walk away.

“Yes?” Bridgette stopped and twisted to look at her.

“I must smell rank and should wash up first. Plus I need to lock up the house.”

“I just ran for forty minutes, so you can imagine what I must smell like. Also, there’s no need for you to lock up anything. We’re going across the street.”

“Um, where I come from—”

“Sharon, you’re in Woodberry Creek now. There’s no need to worry someone might sneak into your house and steal your things. It’s okay. Trust me.”

“All right,” she conceded. As they walked to the end of the driveway, she almost tripped when she came to the unpleasant conclusion about something. A nervous fluttering in her stomach grew, and she almost ran into her house regardless if she was overheated or not. “I never told you my name.”

Bridgette’s lips twitched and she winked. “Let’s just say I have my ways. I’m too nosy for my own good sometimes.”

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Scandal in the Wind

(Lesbian Historical Romance- 1870’s Americana **Revised and re-edited from 2011 release**)

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Lily Odell was the belle of Charleston, South Carolina high society until her husband, Beau, walked out on her after believing she’d been unfaithful to him. Lily has always been devoted to Beau, although she has kept a dark secret concerning her relationship with her childhood girlfriend. Now she has been ostracized because of the gossip and lies and has no one to turn to for help.

Charleston’s most popular brothel madam, Mrs. Rose Ware, lives her life on her own terms. When she discovers Beau abandoned Lily, and has thrown her out on the street, she takes Lily in until she can get back on her feet. She has always been attracted to the spirited and beautiful Lily, but kept her feelings to herself because of her wanton reputation and her past with Beau. Now with Beau out of the picture, she might have a chance to seduce the heartbroken Lily.

Lily wants revenge against Beau, and Rose is more than willing to help her. Soon both women come up with a plan that will scandalize Charleston, and expose a forbidden passion between a brothel madam and a genteel Southern lady.


“I hold a masquerade twice a year for my most favored clients.” Rose appeared in the doorway.

Lily went to cover her mouth but then dropped her hand to her side. She had seen Rose dressed for a night out on the town in the past at various public functions such as the theater and at restaurants, but never in what she wore now. She stood on full display, wearing a gown of deep crimson with beads lining the hem and a slit up the right side, past her knee. Lined with feathers, her bodice was cut low enough to show off the tops of her breasts. With each breath, Rose’s chest thrust forward, showing the tops of her areolas. Her waist was the tiniest Lily had ever seen it, tightened with strays crossing her stomach. Her hair was up high on her head, with small, white pearls among her curls that would come tumbling down if someone sifted their fingers through it.

She looked at her hands as she thought about doing just it. She folded them behind her back and waited as Rose came into the middle of the room.

“I hope you don’t mind the intrusion, but I overheard you and your girl talking about your plans for tonight.” Rose fluffed her bangs.

“I will most likely stay in my room and read before I go to bed.” She lifted part of her satin nightgown covered by her robe then she went to the window and lifted it higher, allowing the night air to cool her flushed face.

“The party will go late into the night, but most of the celebrating will remain on the ground floor. The second floor is where more personal activities take place.”

Lily turned around and gave Rose a head-to-toe look over.

Rose swiveled her hip and placed a hand on her waist. “Do you approve, Mrs. Odell?”

She stopped nibbling on her bottom lip before she ended up chewing away the skin there. “You look beautiful tonight. Most of the men won’t be able to stay away from you.”

Rose’s laugh filled the room. “I’m untouchable. I no longer give out my favors for payment. I observe my guests and wait for them to come to me and inquire about one of my girls they want to spend a few hours with. The days of being bought and sold for a man’s pleasure are long gone for me.”

She simply blinked from the harsh tone in Rose’s voice. I can’t even imagine what it must have been like for her to be bought by a man for his own sexual gratification. The urge to go to Rose and hold her close made her walk over to her. Rose stared at her with suspicion, and, as Lily lifted her hand, Rose grabbed it.

“Don’t feel sorry for me, Lily. I won’t apologize for what I had to do to survive.”

Her hand trembled, but Lily pretended not to notice and gave Rose a bright smile. “I have no right to judge you. There are some things I’ve done I’m not proud of, and, like you, I won’t make any apologies.”

“Good.” Rose nodded, and pulled her hand back.

She wanted to tighten her hold, but decided not to. She simply couldn’t hang on Rose the entire night.

At a low ding from the clock on the wall, Rose rubbed her palms together. “I have to go downstairs to welcome my guests.”

“Will you be wearing a mask, too?” She folded her hands on her stomach.

“I hadn’t planned on wearing one. But I do have a mask to match my dress.” Rose flicked her feathers on her bodice.

She kept her eyes on Rose’s face. She didn’t know how she would explain her stare if Rose caught her ogling her chest with the feathers barely covering her nipples.

“You have a strange expression, like you want to ask me something but don’t know how to go about doing it.” Rose tapped the middle of her chin.

She wiped her palms down the side of her robe. Tandi continued to move around the room, not saying a word, which was unlike her. The covert stares, and the way Tandi kept wrinkling her nose at Rose was a sign of displeasure on her part. She had seen it many times—the majority of them directed at her. For once, Rose was on the receiving end.

“And now a secret smile slowly forming,” Rose pointed out. “Whatever is going on in that head of yours, Lily?”

You. She did bite her lip this time to stop from blurting out Rose’s name, quickly dropped her mouth to a straight line and relaxed her pose.

“I can’t stay shut up in this room with just Tandi as company. Since I’m residing here as your guest indefinitely, don’t you think I should be…um…involved in the procedures of your….”

“Brothel?” Rose asked.

“Yes. I must admit I’m curious to see how your parties are played out.” Her nerves almost got the best of her as she hurried on. A bead of sweat rolled down the side of her throat. “I don’t want to be a participant, but an observer. I think tonight would be ideal because everyone will be wearing masks to disguise their faces. I can do the same.”


“Please don’t say no.” She lifted her palms. “I’ve been so bored and need to do something with myself or I’ll scream.”

“And watching how whores and their johns interact is your idea of fun? You may be shocked by what goes on here tonight.”

“I’ve seen many upsetting things in my life thanks to the past few years.” She swallowed. “Dead bodies lining the road, half-naked children roaming the country-side, starving women selling their bodies on the street for—”

“Stop right there.” Rose rolled her eyes toward the ceiling and mumbled something under her breath. She’d been far too dramatic but wanted to show Rose she was a mature woman and not some fickle bored lady who hadn’t experienced life.

“I can stay by your side the entire time, and if you think I should return to the safety of my room because things might become too rowdy, I will.” Lily gave her a sunny smile, fingers crossed behind her back.

Tandi stood behind Rose and shook her head in bewilderment.

“Maybe it is time you’ve received a lesson. I can’t have you running out on the streets traumatized the moment you see one too many naked bodies or witness a sexual act you might consider depraved,” Rose pointed out, her voice more playful than serious.

“I promise I won’t faint at the sight of any immoral sex acts I may come across.”

Rose sighed. “I may regret this later, but fine. You may join the entertainment below. You’ll have to change into something more suitable and wear a mask at all times. So far, there hasn’t been much talk in town about you staying here. But if you mingle the men with your face bare tonight, there might be talk tomorrow.”

“I agree with you.” She lost her smile. “But I don’t have a mask. Where would I get one at this late hour?”

Rose swiped a finger down Lily’s cheek. Her skin tingled from Rose’s touch and continued to do so after she pulled away. “Remember how I said I had a mask but wouldn’t wear it? You can.” Rose eyed her from top to bottom. “I think we can find you a suitable dress as well. It may be a tad low in the bosom area, but then again, we’re not living in a convent.”

She arranged her palm on her chest, and Rose’s lips twitched in humor.

“Stop playing the naïve virgin. It doesn’t suit you.” Rose took her wrists. “You have a nice chest and should show it off. As long as no one touches, they can admire you as you stand on display like I’ll be doing most of the night to make certain nothing out of the ordinary arises.” Rose glanced at Tandi, who’s remained silent during the entire exchange even though her expression showed her displeasure. “Let’s make your mistress so ravishing the men, and perhaps even the women, will salivate for the chance to have an hour alone in her company.”

“But that won’t happen…I mean, you won’t leave me alone with any of those people downstairs?”

“Only if you want to, pretty Lily.” Rose gave her a smile full of mischief.

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Cinderella and the Lady

Lesbian Cinderalla fairy tale. Re-release of 2012 title

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Synopsis: The sudden death of Ellie’s father leaves her with an uncertain future. Her stepmother, Geraldine and step-sister Mina treat her like a servant. The seductive Countess Tremaine wants to save Ellie from her life of drudgery, but all for a price- her innocence. She feels all hope is lost until she meets a lady who makes all her wishes come true.

Lady Kristina, the Duke of Perrault’s daughter has returned home after five years abroad. She’s expected to marry, but her attraction to women stops her from carrying out her parents’ wishes. One night she meets a shy servant girl and becomes obsessed. She’ll do whatever she can to gain the trust of this mysterious woman and claim her for her own.

With the countess pressuring Ellie into accepting her unscrupulous offer, and her stepmother growing more unstable, she turns to Kristina for support. But then her whole world comes crashing down when she learns the truth behind Kristina’s identity and the lies Geraldine has kept from her.

As Ellie falls victim to those dark forces set on ruining her, Kristina fights to save Ellie’s heart before she loses her forever.


Her fingers twitched with the urge to caress Elle’s mouth or cheek. If she was more forward, she would have stolen a kiss, but this wasn’t like Leena, who welcomed her touch, or the bored Finnish wives and widows who liked experimenting in the bedroom.

By the time she finished her story, Elle wrapped her arms around her legs and tucked her chin on top of her knees, her attention never waning, watching her the entire time. Earlier, she had taken off her jacket and unbuttoned the top of her blouse to cool off. She wanted to lie on her side and ask Elle to join her, but every time she moved in closer, the young girl became wary and tense. She didn’t want to frighten the poor thing, but wanted to ease the tension between them.

The next step was arranging another meeting to see if they were as compatible as she thought they were. If so, she would then announce who she was really was and offer Elle employment in her parents’ house.

Her throat had become dry from her talking, and she bemoaned the fact she didn’t have anything to quench her thirst.

“Forgive me. I need a moment to rest my voice.” She cleared her throat.

Elle dug in her basket and produced an apple. She held it out in an offering. “Here, take this. It should soothe your parched throat.”

She smiled in thanks and took the fruit, deliberately gliding her fingers over the ridges of Elle’s knuckles. She took a big bite and moaned from the sweet juices filling her mouth.

“It’s wonderful.” She saluted with the half-eaten apple and spread her legs, rotating her ankles to alleviate the stiffness there.

“Apples are my favorite fruit,” Elle smiled at August, who dozed in her lap. She scratched between his ears, and he yawned. “The best kind of pie to make is apple. The smell of cinnamon fills the kitchen, and it sticks in your hair and in your skin. My mother loved to…um.” She shut her mouth and turned away to look off to the side.

She stopped chewing, waiting for Elle to tell her about her mother. She didn’t, and that made her all the more intrigued.

“Forgive me for prying, but you don’t see your mother often or is she…?” She waved her hand around for Elle to carry on.

Elle stared at the ocean. “My mother was killed in an accident when I was a child. Things weren’t the same at home after she died.”

A pang of sympathy came over her as Elle’s voice grew childlike while she spoke about her mother gone too soon. She took Elle’s hand, brushing her thumb on the inside of her wrist. Elle didn’t flinch or pull away.

The sound of the crashing waves and caws of seagulls filled the lull between them. It wasn’t until August climbed off her lap and sniffed around that Elle took her hand back and fiddled with the basket, examining it as if something special was hidden inside.

She threw her half-eaten apple away and rubbed her palms together to erase the stickiness coating her fingers. A square wooden board near the corner of the blanket caught her eye. She picked it up, trying to read the strange lettering drawn there.

Something like a grunt came from Elle. She glanced up. Elle’s face had lost her color.

“What’s wrong?” She reached for Elle’s arm.

Elle motioned with her chin at the slate Kristina held. “That’s my slate.”

“I can see it’s a slate. What are you using it for?”

“To…practice my penmanship and to read better.”

Aha! That’s why she reacted the way she did. She must be ashamed by her lack of schooling.

“Oh? That’s admirable. Not many women in your situation continue their education.” She held out the slate for Elle to take. “But why do it alone? Isn’t there a tutor nearby you can go to for lessons?”

Elle grabbed the slate and set the book on top of it. She tried to catch the title of the book, but it was dropped into the basket and covered.

“I can’t afford no money for a teacher,” Elle said in a tight voice while tugging on the frayed hem of her dress.

“It’s better if you leave out the word, no, as in, I can’t afford to pay for a teacher,” she corrected.

“Either way I say it doesn’t matter. I do the best with what I have.” Elle stuck out her chin.

That’s the spirit, my darling girl. Speak your mind! She wanted to cheer.

Elle suddenly dropped her head down, and her shoulders sagged.

“Are you all right?” She set her hand on Elle’s shoulder, keeping it there for a moment then sliding it down her arm.

Elle nibbled on her bottom lip. “I apologize, my lady. I shouldn’t have spoken so rudely. I should know better than to show my temper in such a way.”

She tilted Elle’s chin up. Her eyes showed bleak remorse. Kristina’s chest stung. This poor girl needed some coddling. She wanted to be the one to give that to her.

“Now, listen to me. You have nothing to be ashamed of. You’re hardworking, like most of the people in this town not born into privilege. Many can’t read or don’t care to learn. But you, my precious girl, have taken the step in the right direction.” She tugged on one of Elle’s curls.

Elle wiped her cheek and laughed softly when August swiped her chin with his paw. She pulled him into an embrace and kissed his nose.

“Even your kitty thinks the same way I do,” she joked, and Elle laughed again.

“Thank you.” Elle dropped August. “You’re a nice lady.”

“I should like to think so.” Her stomach did a little flip at the compliment.

Elle gave her a small smile and rose to leave.

“You’re leaving?” Moving to her feet, she wanted to keep talking to her new friend.

“It’s getting late, and I have to make dinner.” Elle moved the basket aside and lifted the blanket.

The sun wasn’t as high as it had been before, and the ocean had grown calm. She hugged her waist, feeling a slight chill in the air. She had enjoyed her conversation with Elle and wished she could prolong it. The odds of them spending more time together was small. She could only imagine how that would go over with the townspeople. The gossip about the duke’s daughter befriending a lowly servant girl would be unrelentless.

She kicked a pebble away and tapped her fingers on her hip. There had to be a way— aha!

Lifting her hands to her mouth, her joy mounted at the amazing idea that would allow her and Elle to remain in contact.

“Are you feeling well, miss? Your eyes have gone all glassy like,” Elle asked.

She stepped forward and smiled. “I have a marvelous idea. I can tutor you in your studies.”

Elle stared at her disbelief. “Why would you want to do such a thing? Don’t you have better things to do, like shop?”

She laughed. Elle’s question didn’t come out as defensive, but the opposite, with an open and innocent tone to it. She understood why Elle thought the way she did. Most women of quality who had a fortune at their disposal spent their days at leisure.

“You’re very intuitive. I do enjoy shopping just like any woman, but every so often I shake things up and do something out of the ordinary.” She beamed, delighted with her reasoning.

Elle didn’t seem to agree. Her forehead burrowed and strain lines appeared around her mouth. “I don’t know what in-tu-itive means, but I won’t be a charity case to make you feel good about yourself.” She turned away and lifted August, who chewed on a broken piece of shell.

She twisted her hands, feeling rotten for making Elle upset. I must fix this before she rushes away.

Elle held August in her arms. “I spoke badly just now and shouldn’t have. I keep forgetting my station.”

She wanted to correct Elle, but there was some truth to her statement. “That may be the case but I’m not going to obsess about it like you are. Can’t we pretend we’re equals?”

Elle placed August in her basket as her answer.

She nibbled her bottom lip. Think! She stalled Elle by bending down and crooning to the cat. He responded by licking her fingers.

“At least your cat likes me.” Her lips slipped into a small pout.

A blush colored Elle’s cheeks. “I like you also.” She ran her palm down August’s back.

Her hand landed on Elle’s, and she halted her movements. “Before you say no, please hear me out. I want to tutor you not because you’re a charity case but because I want to be your friend. I know of a place where we can be alone and uninterrupted. I’m allowed access to the duke’s land as his guest. There’s a vacant gamekeeper’s cottage on the edge of his property near the river. We can use it as a schoolroom.”

“What about the Lady Kristina or Lord Simon? Won’t they question why you’re spending time with a servant?”

“They don’t have to know. They’re fine with me going off by myself. As long as I’m back in time for dinner, no one will find it odd. We can meet for an hour or two each day.”

“I can’t. My duties take up a lot of my time.” Elle took August back.

She huffed, annoyed. “Really? I guess your duties today weren’t too pressing.”

Elle gave her a sheepish smile and brushed away a piece of her hair falling over her eye. “My mistress can be generous when it suits her.”

Undaunted, she wouldn’t budge without getting what she wanted. “I’ll work around your schedule. When are you free next?”

Elle stared at the sky, and her cheeks bulged out she blew out air. “In three days, on Sunday. After morning Mass, my mistress visits with friends then takes a long nap before supper. I guess I can get away for a few hours.”

“Shall we say around three o’clock on Sunday afternoon, then?”

“Are you certain I won’t get in trouble being on the duke’s property?”

The nervous look Elle shot her way had Kristina longing to comfort her. Now was not the time, but soon enough she would. Instead, she smiled brightly. “Trust me. There’s no reason to worry. I’ll take care of everything.”

“I’ll try.”

Elle’s begrudging acceptance was good enough for now. She conceded, ecstatic she had gotten her way.

“I really must go before I get into trouble. Thank you for keeping me company.” Elle curtsied and grabbed her clogs.

What ghastly shoes. She eyed the footwear with disdain. They were the color of mud, with unidentifiable stains.

“They might be ugly, but they don’t pinch my feet and are serviceable.” Elle lifted a clog in the air.

She shouldn’t tease about her hideous shoes, not wanting to say or do anything else that might offend. “I imagine they are. I actually prefer my riding boots.” She waved in the general direction of where they lay. “Slippers are not the most effective for walking long distances. Dancing can be a trial. Some gentleman always ends up treading on my poor toes.”

“I’ve never been dancing.”

“Never? How can that be?” she asked, taken aback.

Elle shrugged. “No time, really.”

“I must teach you to dance, then. A woman cannot go through life not knowing how to dance.” She pointed a finger in the air to push her point home.

Elle’s lips twitched. “I’ll keep that in mind.” She gathered the rest of her things and climbed to the top of the short incline.

“Don’t forget, three o’clock Sunday near the river where it runs across Perrault’s property. You won’t be able to miss the small white building in need of a new coat of paint.”

Elle stared down at her from above. “I’ll be able to find it. Goodbye.” With a wave, she disappeared from view.

She didn’t follow Elle. There was no way she could be sneaky about it with her horse. For now she’d allow her secrets, but soon enough she would learn all of them and introduce her skittish friend to a whole new world that had been denied her.

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The Lady and the Vixen

(Lesbian Victorian Romance. Re-release of 2013 title)

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After eight years, Lucy Endcott has finally returned to London to visit her dying father, a cold disciplinarian who never approved of his eldest daughter. Lucy is a respected widow, residing in the countryside away from the wicked excess the city has to offer and her unscrupulous ex-lover, the Marchioness Irena de Macey.

When Lucy finds out her youngest brother has gambled away his inheritance at the Pythos Club, she enters the den of iniquity in order to save him. Inside the club she meets the owner’s alluring daughter, Tisha McGrath, who is more than willing to help her brother…for a price.

Tisha longs to introduce Lucy to those secret passions she’s kept hidden away for so long. But dark secrets and transgressions from the past connect their families in shocking ways. Both women will work together to resolve this scandal before it unravels further but Irena is waiting for the right moment to strike, and Lucy may have no other choice but to give into Irena’s demands in order to save the ones she loves from utter ruin.


“You’re trembling. Why? I’m not here to blackmail you or make fun of you.” Tisha squeezed Lucy’s hand. “You look like you need someone to talk to, and I’m willing to offer you that.”

“Why? We just met a few minutes ago. I don’t know you at all. Why would I trust you about my father’s illness and Colby’s guilt over it?” She shut her mouth. She couldn’t believe she’d divulged such a private matter to a stranger!

“You could always blame the alcohol you drank for your slip- up or how upset you were at seeing an acquaintance you hadn’t been expecting,” Tisha murmured.

She shook her head, not comprehending. “What do you mean? I don’t know anyone here. Why would I? I would never associate with anyone here.”

Tisha rolled her eyes and finally released Lucy’s hand. Lucy still felt the phantom touch seeping through her gloves. Tisha stretched back, resting on her elbows. She kicked up her leg and dangled her slipper off her toe.

She started to stand. “I’m feeling much better now. I should go see—”

“Irena, better known as the Marchioness of Macey, and make sure she doesn’t seek you out before you find your brothers?” Tisha rocking her leg, and her slipper landed on the floor.

She curled her fingers in her palms and glared at the audacious woman. “What are you implying? Just come out and say what you mean.”

Tisha sat up and pressed her palm on the cushion, moving her arm behind Lucy. Her face was far too near.

“I’m good at observing people and figuring out how they’re feeling or what they’re thinking, based on their movements and posture. Before I rescued you from that drunken ass, I saw the way you reacted to the marchioness and she to you.” Tisha’s mouth touched Lucy’s ear, and she shuddered. She dug her fingers deeper in her palms and inhaled deeply.

“You’re asking if Irena and I know one another? Yes. We did. Once.” She glanced at Tisha from the corner of her eye for her reaction.

“Irena has been a guest at Pythos for many years. She came here with her husband before he died. She’s now good friends with my brother, Aidan, which I find surprising. She prefers the company of women.”

“Yes? She enjoys female companionship as most women do.” Lucy became more confused by the second. “I’m not following you.”

Tisha twined a stray strand of hair around her finger. “I really don’t think you’re so innocent, seeing as you’ve been married and have known Irena, perhaps on an intimate level. I don’t mean to shock you, but the marchioness, with her husband’s permission, enjoyed the female companionship we provide.” She ran her tongue across her bottom lip. “The girls would tell me stories after her visits. The woman has quite the appetite, and I don’t mean for the selection of foods we offer.”

Lucy sat as straight as if a hot poker had landed on her back. A shrill whistle echoed in her ears. Tisha couldn’t be implying such a thing, unless she had accepted Irena’s company in the same manner. Had Lucy’s reaction to her former friend given her away?

“Irena and I lived across the street from one another and were friends growing up. After we both married, we lost touch. I was just shocked to see her here, that’s all. For you to imply such a thing is dis—”

Tisha laughed and bumped Lucy’s shoulder with her own. “You’re not a good liar. Your flushed face and heavy breathing tells me otherwise. Either you’re nervous because of our conversation, or I’ve caught you in a lie. Again, you don’t have to worry about me snitching on you. I’m good at keeping secrets.”

“I-I don’t have any secrets,” she whispered.

“We all have secrets. Some more than others.” Tisha curved her arm around Lucy’s shoulder. “There, there now, I don’t mean to make you upset. I went too far. It’s obvious Irena means something to you, and, from my point of view, she must have hurt you horribly. She’s the type of person who would stomp on another to get what she wants.”

“Why are you telling me this and asking me all these questions? Is this your idea of a cruel joke?” Lucy’s voice broke, and she lifted the mask to wipe the sweat from under her eyes.

“Here, take it.” Tisha produced another handkerchief.

No longer caring if Tisha knew what she looked like, she took off the mask and patted her face.

“Better now?” Tisha ran her palm down Lucy’s back.

She nodded, and her shoulders slumped. She was exhausted. All she wanted was to go to bed. First she had to find her brothers. But for some reason she kept herself from running from the room like before. Perhaps it was because Tisha hummed in her ear. Instead of irritating, it soothed her.

“I’m so tired. It’s been such a long day.”

“There’s no need for you to leave yet. Here, rest your cheek on my shoulder.” Tisha ran her fingers on the side of Lucy’s face. She nestled comfortably against Tisha, who only a moment ago frightened her with her insightfulness. It had been so long since she had confided her darkest fears and secrets to someone. And that someone, whom she once gave her heart to, waited outside, possibly searching for her. Never again would she trust anyone like she had Irena. But a small part of her wanted to reveal what lay hidden in her heart.

“I don’t know what’s come over me. It must be the stress of dealing with my father’s illness and being back home, surrounded by so many memories.” She twisted the handkerchief and shut her eyes. I could fall asleep right now and—

Tisha laid her palm on the side of Lucy’s neck. Lucy opened her eyes and lifted her head. Tisha smiled tenderly and placed a soft kiss on Lucy’s mouth. She gasped and moved back, but Tisha curved her arm around Lucy’s waist, restraining her.

“I can help you forget your burdens for a while if you’ll let me. No one will ever have to know,” Tisha whispered and kissed the tip of Lucy’s nose.

She didn’t struggle or stop Tisha when she lowered her on the chaise. She dropped her arms to her sides and stared up at the woman who ran her fingers across Lucy’s cheek and then her lips. She became lost in the spell of Tisha’s touch and the likelihood of what was to come.

“You don’t have to do anything at all. Let me take care of you.” Tisha’s lips met the middle of Lucy’s chin. Her tongue came out and flicked the skin. Lucy moaned.

“How does that feel?” She moved up to Lucy’s mouth.

“Strange,” she croaked, and before she cleared her throat, Tisha’s mouth came down on hers.

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