Blood & Magic, Book 3 of Shadow Company – A Vampire’s HEA

Can a vampire have an HEA, a happy-ever-after in his life?  Well, the answer is complicated.  Certain factors have to be in place, the planets have to aline just so, and the world must tilt on its axis.  Yes, the fact a vampire has to rely on the fates for his romantic future is a puzzle.  Many have tried to work out the ending, many have failed.  Such a proclamation is not without its flaws or so the nay-sayers preach.

J.T. Leighton was a good soldier.  He was a good Navy SEAL.  He ran into a situation which altered his nature for all eternity.  He’s come to grips with the idea, or so he thinks.  Then, someone from his past shows up out of the blue.  She’s a long drink of water with a talent for dance.  No one had come close to stirring J.T. to wish for something more than a one-night-stand until Jessie Coulter came into his life.  They’d share passion and a tender connection.  Then she disappeared, literally in front of J.T.’s eyes.

Now, his days are filled with loneliness and his nights with murder at his own hands.  J.T.’s a vampire killer with a hard-on for bad guys.  Don’t blink or you might miss the rest of the tale.  Blood & Magic releases on Valentine’s Day.

Oh, if you don’t mind, wish J.T. a Happy Valentine’s Day.  It may be the only one he gets.  Pre-order your copy today.

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B078W2HYX2

Excerpt from Blood & Magic, Book 3 of Shadow Company

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She danced across the stage in a flutter of white netting over spandex.  Her hair, pulled back in a severe bun held the blues of an inky night.  Long and slender, she flowed with the music, each movement beginning and ending in the next.  A leap into the air reminded J.T. of a gazelle.  If only he could capture the moment, holding her so forever.  In the dream, J.T. saw Jessie as she’d been almost two years before.  She had been a beauty of exceptional poise and statue.  The grace of her movements were compliments of her tall, lean curves.  A ballerina – his ballerina.

J.T. sat up in the bed.  Nerves rippled along his arms.  Glancing at the clock, he snarled at the readout – three in the afternoon.  Damn!  Rubbing the tension in his neck, he flung his legs over the side of the bed.  Too early to go out.  He padded downstairs for a drink.

Trapped!  He was a fucking prisoner in his own house when the past came calling.  Snarling at the fact, he switched gears, shoving at the memories from years before.  Her laughter caught him off guard.  Glancing around just in case, he stilled.  Her image flitted through his mind.  J.T.’s maker, the damn Sultan, was up to his old tricks.  J.T. would wager money on that idea.  With the bag of chips under his arm, he headed back.  Thank the gods he was allowed some small favors such as something other than pig’s blood to enjoy.  With the glass of warmed blood in his hand, he wandered back up the stairs.  He wanted to wallow in his memories of her, his Jessie.

No, he did not forget how he had come to meet her.  A suspect in a crime of murder.  No, he did not see her as a murderer or a psychopath.  His job as a private investigator meant he sought the truth.  In her case, the truth held his heart in the palm of her hand.  She convinced him of two things in their short time together.  Number one – that she was not the perpetrator.  Number two – that despite being a vampire, he would move heaven and hell to keep her safe.  The trouble with safe was he had no control over the realm in which the woman resided.  In fact, he had no control over any realm or any condition.  Only his existence in death.  Glancing down at the glass, he realized he had finished the blood.

“Have you seen anyone who looked suspicious hanging around today, Zodiac?”

The cat rolled from sitting on his hind legs to resting on his side, before leaning into J.T.’s side.  “Meow.”

“I’ll take that as a ‘no,’ Zodiac.”  Getting back up, he prowled the room.  Agitation, an old friend, appeared in not being unable to remain still for more than two minutes.  “Blast it all to hell and back,” he groaned.

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***

Thanks for reading and thanks for dropping by.  I look forward to seeing you again real soon.

 

 

 

Rafflecoptor Giveaway! $5 Amazon Card For One Lucky Winner. Plus EBook Copies Of Deliberate Intent, Book Two Of Shadow Company For More Lucky Winners! Enter Here…

Happy Friday! In celebration of the last work day of the week for many, I have decided to host a Rafflecoptor giveaway! Just click on the link below to be transported to the event. Enter and look forward to your chance to win!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

DeliberateIntent

Flash Sale! Deliberate Intent is #FREE!

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Fabulous Friday (today, August 11th) and Sublime Saturday (August 12th) just got better.  You can purchase a copy of my latest paranormal romance, Deliberate Intent, book two of Shadow Company #FREE at Amazon for these two days!!

 

But wait.  There’s more.  How about a snippet?  You’ve got it!  Logan Latimar, a warlock, and ex Navy SEAL is confronted with what he hopes is a vision.  Reality has fingers as cold as ice though, and he needs solace.  Check out this steamy scene in the Louisiana heat.  Hugs and Happy Friday!

Deliberate Intent

Lingering at the door, Logan made a show of waving.  The cars drove away followed by the dust of a dirt drive.  Guests were fun but the day had been long.  “That went well.”  His estimation settled in the silence.  Turning, he searched the great room for Aubrie.  She’d been quiet most of the evening.  He missed her usual banter with Pilot, her shadow walker friend.  Katie, Aubrie’s best friend, and Gus, Logan’s brother probably hadn’t notice.  He did.  Had Aubrie, the seer already figured him out?  No, discovering his secret would cause an eruption.

Padding barefooted to the sofa, he dropped down on the cushions.  The day had been tediously long.  Words were stilted.  Conversation with Aubrie came at a price.  Glancing up, he noted the ceiling fan’s swift swirl.  Logan closed his eyes.  How had he gotten himself into this mess?  Even knowing the answer didn’t help.  A casual encounter with Connie, his ex at Joiner’s grocery had mushroomed into a full-blown situation.  Throwing an arm over his head, he propped his feet on the coffee table.  Aubrie would protest if she walked in about then.  She didn’t.  He could hear water running – in the shower.  Most times, he would slip out of his jeans to join her.  The notion of his hands on her silky skin appeared in his mind’s eye.  Those long legs wrapped around his hips.  Suds rolled down their bodies as he kissed her senseless over and over again.  Giggles and groans accompanied the hot, wet shower sex.  The image was one of his favorites.

The laughter switched.  No longer alluringly sweet, the sound rang raw as if on the verge of hysterical.  Logan opened his eyes.  Connie stood on the opposite side of the coffee table.  She cocked a hip while smirking at him.  Logan jumped.

“What’s the matter?  Not who you were expecting?”

His senses sharpened.  He went into military mode.  “What do you want?”  Nasty rimmed the question.

“That’s not very hospitable of you, Logan.”  Easy as you please, she strolled around the table before dropping down in front of him.  “Why don’t you let me work my magic on you, Latimar.”

Logan glared at the fingers slipping up his thigh.  Was she real?  With a free hand, he clamped down hard and unyielding.  “Don’t.”  Noting the chill in her skin, he shifted to stand.  “Get out.  Now!”

“All right.  But I’ll be back.  After all, I got more of a right to you than Aubrie does.”  With a jerk of her head in the bathroom’s direction, Connie stood, giving her long blonde tresses a good shake out.  Sauntering to the door, she narrowed her eyes at him.

“Have a nice night, Logan or should I call you daddy?”  With those words, she disappeared.

Logan released a sigh in a long, laborious effort to somehow cleanse his skin of her touch.  No good.  The incident wasn’t merely a dream.  He could smell her cheap scent. She had been in the room.  Flesh and blood, Connie had stood almost where he stood now.  “What the hell,” he growled in the silence.  “I’ve seen a ghost or an apparition, maybe a vision.  Something.”  Glancing down, he noted his hands shook.

“Who’re you talking to in here?”  Aubrie appeared in the door to the bedroom.  “I heard voices in here.  Did Katie forget something?”  Raking a fat comb through her chocolate lengths, she eyed him coolly.

Ice hardened along his spine.  “Nobody.  I was talking to myself.”  The habitual shove of hands in pockets followed by clearing his throat spoke volumes.  Logan would put money on it.  “Are you getting ready for bed?”

“Yeah, are you coming?”  Her questioning eyes tracked him as he gathered up his boots.

“No.  I’m not tired right now.  Hey, I think I’ll fly over to Gus’.  He said somebody’s been hanging around the garage after dark.  I want to scout out the area.  Sorta give him some help.  Won’t be long.  Go on to bed.  I’ll be back soon.  Okay?”  Reluctance appeared in her features.  He stepped to her.  “Look, I promise, I won’t be long.  Lock the doors.  I’ll use my key when I get back.”

“Sure.”

The one word grazed across the rawness of having lied to her.  You did not lie to your soulmate.  Stepping to Aubrie, Logan eased in for a kiss.  Soft and gentle, his lips skimmed over hers.  Without effort, his mind relaxed as her hands touched his shoulders.  She had a magnificent talent for making the outside world go away.  Reaching up, he cradled her face in his fingers.  Long, pleasurable moments passed as his mouth swept the corners of hers.  Nibbling her flesh, he bit the corner of her top lip before sucking.  She molded her body into his.  The easy way she gave into his attention stoked his ardor.  Small pulses of electricity ran the length of his body.  His shaft hardened as she stirred his blood with her hands.

“Logan?”

“Yeah, Sugar?”  His heart thrummed with a new and vital beat.

“Make love to me.”

In the light shining in from the bedroom window, her request hit him with the force of steel.  The words were ones he had heard before.  A flicker of memory brought back the night they’d made love under the stars.  This woman channeled his emotions like no other.  No magic compared to her touch.

With a groan, he walked her backward to the bed.  The urgency for her drove him to pull her nightshirt over her head.  “I need you, now,” he whispered.

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Discover more snippets of Deliberate Intent right here where paranormal and romance collide.  Thanks for dropping by.

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Beyond the Veil Review – Celebrating Friday the 13th.

Thrilled is an understatement.  I’m happy dancing in my PJ’s this morning over the wonderful review for Beyond the Veil.  https://www.amazon.com/Beyond-Veil-Shadow-Company-Book-ebook/dp/B01N4FIW55

Thanks to Jane for the detailed look at my new series called Shadow Company.  As with beginning books, an author sets a stage for the characters in which to live out their stories.  Her insight into the background and intentions of the author or dead on.  I want to give her a high-five for her diligence and support.  Please enjoy her review below.

Oh, by the way – watch your step today.  It’s Friday the 13th.

Format: Kindle Edition

OMG-WOW. .shadow-walkers, demons , portals, Netherworld and veils, with Seers and Warlocks.. and Marie Laveau.. what a story. . Details are intricate. .the story is intriguing and interesting. . I love the characters. And am surprised by the story line… It took me differently than I thought it would.
Aubrie Sinclair, a seer from a long line of empaths -meets-Logan Latimar, an ex-Navy SEAL and warlock. Now Girl meets Navy Seal is enough to be a super Hot read, but then add the paranormal to it and WOW!! Logan returns from war to work in his brothers garage, but war doesn’t leave him, the dreams come and they seem to bring not only the past but the present with them. Aubrie is not only a seer, but a budding author who lives alone with her two dogs, and a horse out in the country and gets visits from a friendly shadow-walker at times. But now she’s pulled into dreams of a war with the hometown hero Logan, while being stalked by a demon portraying himself as a shadow-walker.
Will she help Logan with his dreams ? And will he rescue her from them and her own trouble with her stalker too? And will Love, the purest form of good help both? I don’t give away spoilers, just advice.. READ THIS FANTASTIC BOOK!!
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Beyond the Veil Celebration

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2017 is just around the corner.  Saying goodbye to 2016 will not disappoint me overly.  The year proved challenging and demanding in new and unique ways. So I bid the year adieu with a small celebration for my latest book, Beyond the Veil, Book 1 of Shadow Company.  Please join me for the Facebook event scheduled to begin tomorrow.

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Beyond the Veil Celebration link

Drop by and pick up the book at half price for a limited time.  In addition to the price reduction, you can register for a grand prize drawing.  I’m giving one lucky reader a set of autographed CW paperbacks.  All you have to do is share the book on Amazon to your page on Facebook.  Copy the link in a post at the event, and you are in the drawing.  There will be other prizes throughout the three-day event.  I look forward to sharing the incoming year with you and celebrating with friends.  Happy New Year and thanks for dropping by.

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Beyond the Veil – book blurb

Aubrie Sinclair, a seer from a long line of empaths, considers her talent a gift and a burden.  She’s a loner until she meets Logan Latimar, the ex-Navy SEAL, and warlock.  Sparks fly as they discover each other’s talents as well as hang-ups.  One thing they have in common is their battle with the evil demons known as shadow walkers living between worlds and stealing memories for their own pleasure.  Seekers of truth and justice, Aubrie and Logan face a threat and discover their genuine purpose.

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Happy New Year! The Last Tuesday Teaser of 2016

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I’m getting a head start on this weekend’s celebration while there’s time.  Thank you for following my blog and your support throughout 2016.  I’m excited about 2017.  Aren’t you?

Perhaps the new year will bring happiness and satisfaction in your life.  This is my New Year’s wish for everyone.

My celebration begins with a price reduction for Beyond the Veil, Book 1 of Shadow Company.  Keep an eye out at Smashwords.com and Amazon.com for the switch during the end and beginning of 2016-2017.

Now, for that Tuesday Teaser.

Testy is the word of the day.  Have you ever had one of those encounters that curled your toes but when things settled again, the vibe went haywire?  Aubrie and Logan finally have a real date under the stars and sparks fly.  The next morning doesn’t find them on the same page, though. Here’s an excerpt for your pleasure.

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Beyond the Veil, Book 1 of Shadow Company

“Sure.”  Balancing the pan in one hand, Logan poured coffee with the other.  “Here go.”

“You sure are cheery this morning.”  She glanced at him with the last of her observation fresh out of her mouth.  “I mean, where do you get such energy?  Me, I’m not a morning person.”  Probably best to dive into the coffee in her hand, she mused.

“It’s a gorgeous day.  I’m feeling better.  You worked some kind of miracle on me last night.  Besides, I don’t usually have a date for breakfast.”  He cut her a cautious glance.

“I know, drop ‘em off and leave.  Right?”  The laugh came out brittle.  Okay, testy woman.  Drill it back a notch her brain shouted.  Aubrie shoved at her hair.  “Look, I’m gonna apologize to get it out of the way.  I guess it was the high altitude, but I don’t usually sleep with a guy on the first date.  That was a date, right?”  With brows furrowed, she glanced at him again.  This time, irritation surfaced briefly.

The lines around his mouth hardened.

“Now, don’t get me wrong.  I enjoyed myself.  I’m off kilter here is all.”  The stiff grin probably spoke volumes.  Doing more damage than good, Aubrie.  Stop while you’re ahead, her mind growled.

“Can’t say I blame you.  After all, a SEAL jumps in without asking.  Leaves ‘em staring at the stars while he snores.  Things may have gotten out of hand.  It’s my fault.”  He stabbed at the eggs sending some flying out of the pan into the dirt.  “Oh and by the way.  Since we’re keeping score, this was our second date.”

“Now, wait a minute.  Don’t get me wrong, I don’t usually come on to a guy like I did last night, but I thought we had a connection, Latimar.  You encouraged me, but I jumped you first.  I want to be clear on that point.”  She stood before stalked off to the bushes.  “And furthermore, I fell fast asleep.  I don’t remember anything about staring at the stars.”

“No, that was me,” he mumbled.

“What?”  Aubrie came back, dusting her hands on her dress.

“I said that was me staring at the stars.  Can’t quite figure out how you managed to seduce me.  I got to give it to you.  You were something.  Isn’t this heaven?”  Sarcasm seeped through his question.

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Thanks for dropping by,

Catherine Wolffe

The content of this blog is copyright protected.

Beyond the Veil is available at all major outlets including these:

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/690574

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A Vivid Imagination From Beyond the Veil

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We are two weeks and a few days away from Beyond the Veil, book 1 of Shadow Company‘s release.  I’m excited to share this first installment in the Shadow Company’s trio.  Look for your copy at all major outlets New Year’s Eve.  Now for that imagination.

Logan Latimar and feisty, Aubrie Sinclair find common ground and sparks light their world.  Here’s a snippet of conversation over coffee at Stogie’s Place.  Enjoy!

Beyond the Veil, book 1 of Shadow Company 

To Aubrie, the diner was like stepping back in time.  The atmosphere went back further than the cafes of the fifties with their bright colored vinyl bar stools.  Cozy, dark stained wooden booths lined the wall of windows making up the building’s inviting structure.  Stogie’s Place reminded her of the diners of the forties with a soda fountain near the back.  The hole-in-the-wall establishment might have been where Al Capon strolled in, firing off enough rounds to kill his current enemy in crime.  The gun smoke would still fill the air as he calmly exited the door, getting back in his car before speeding away.  Aubrie could practically smell the coppery scent of blood splatter on the walls.  Screams mixed with overturned chairs littered the space as patrons scurried from the murder scene.

Logan touched her arm.  “I said where would you like to sit?”

“Huh?”  Aubrie blinked away the vision.  “I don’t care.  Over there is fine.”

“Where’d you go?”  His voice deepened with the question.

Warmth surrounded Aubrie as she imagined him in the bedroom with a single lamp for light.

“I ugh, I drifted off there for a moment.  That’s all.  This place reminds me of the gangster days the locals mention when Bonnie and Clyde, you know those infamous bank robbers, frequented the area.  Can’t you see somebody like them or Al Capon or maybe Baby Face Nelson appearing in the doorway?  All of a sudden, their rival is lying in a bloody pool.”  She smiled wistfully at the idea.

“Wow, that’s a vivid imagination you’ve got there.  Easy on the blood, okay?”

Unable to help the laugh, Aubrie reined in her thoughts.  “I’m app to conjure up a tale or two.  I write for a living, among other things.

“You’re an author?  That’s fascinating.”  His eyes lit with interest.

She had hit a cord with this ex-SEAL.  Unable to stop the smile, Aubrie wondered what else made up this handsome package of male testosterone.

“So what do you write about?”

Now, she relaxed a fraction.  Her love of writing surfaced, so, of course, Aubrie couldn’t stop the easy feeling of purpose, each time her work was mentioned.  Nothing bad ever came from discussing her writing.  “I’m a romance writer.  I love mixing paranormal and  suspense along with history.  Can’t get enough of them.”

“Wow, I see.  You really enjoy the work, don’t you?”

“Yeah, I do.  What about you?  No, let me guess.  You work at the garage during the week and save drowning damsels on the weekend.  Sounds like Superman to me.”

***

Thanks for dropping by,

Catherine

Catherine Wolffe’s books available at Amazon

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All rights reserved.  No portion of this post may be shared or copied without copyright infringement.

 

 

 

Casey’s Gunslinger – Snippet – The Loflin Legacy Continues

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Click on the picture to download a free sample of Comanche Haven # 1 in The Loflin Legacy series

For the love of a good woman, a man will go against what’s lawful. Here’s a snippet from the second novel in The Loflin Legacy Series, Casey’s Gunslinger. Happy Saturday!  Enjoy and know I appreciate your comments greatly.

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Casey’s Gunslinger snippet! Excited to share this bit from book two in The Loflin Legacy. Casey’s an orphan. She’s come back to Tyler to confront the father, who abandoned her as a baby. Charles Harrison, the gunslinger, turned lawyer takes on more than he bargained for with the feisty filly, who vows revenge on the Loflin name.

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Driven by an inner demon, Casey crossed the rock bank of the creek. “Mr. Harrison, I demand an apology.” Hands fisted on hips; she glared at his broad back. Noting the way the leather vest fit him perfectly, accentuating his narrow waist and trim behind, she waited.
He turned smooth and easy as if the idea of an apology had been his own. “Certainly, Miss St. Clair, just as soon as hell freezes over.” With two fingers to the brim of his Stetson, he rounded her and headed for his horse. “Get ready to ride,” he growled over his shoulder.

Book Daily Shares The Lady in the Mist

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The Lady in the Mist (The Western Werewolf Legend #1)

Catherine Wolffe

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The Civil War took Sonja Brooks’ husband and left her alone. Unprotected and scared, she runs headlong into a life changing event when she’s attacked by a pack of wolves. Her fate as a werewolf is sealed. When she stumbles upon Ty Loflin, a Rebel soldier dying of his wounds, she nurses him back to health. He’s the perfect mate, but will…Download Free TODAY on Amazon ← Click now while it’s still free!

The Amazon Kindle ebooks featured in this newsletter were free at the time of publication. Please note that ebook pricing can change rapidly and one or more may not be available for free at a later time.
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Friday Eve – Spend the Day with Desire’s Embrace

Good morning.  Lovely to have you drop by today.  I want to share an excerpt from Desire’s Embrace with you, my readers.  If you aren’t familiar with my latest paranormal romance set in post-war New Orleans, circa 1872, then here’s the blurb:

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An orphan with a goal to become her own woman. Quite a challenge for a woman in 1872. Still, her drive leads her to answer an ad placed by the mysterious man from Louisiana. He’s known for being the sugar baron of the south and his good looks. Can she become the independent woman she wants to be under his roof as the nanny to his children? Or will the attraction between them drive her into his arms despite her questions about his secretive nature? Join Laura Sinclair as she takes on the greatest challenge of her life with her employer, Morgan Latimar, sugar king of New Orleans.

Morgan Latimar seeks a nanny for his children. The woman who accepts the position can never know he is a wolf shifter. Despite his Wolfen wisdom, Morgan is mesmerized by the passionate, Laura Sinclair. Will she be his salvation or his downfall?Enjoy the

Enjoy the excerpt and have a wonder-filled day.

Desire’s Embrace

Chapter 7 – The Governor’s Ball

“Show me what to do with this thing.”

A lace and feather encrusted mask dangled from the eye opening on one finger of her gloved hand.  Laura’s expression proved what Morgan had known all along.  The hostess arrangement did not make her happy.  Laura enjoyed the children, and teaching seemed her forte.  She resisted the social aspect of their arrangement with some vigor.  “Here, let me show you how fetching you’ll look with the mask in place.”  His arched eyebrow with a debonair slant did not impress her.  “You position the paper mache thus.  You then tighten the ribbons like so and with a couple of hairpins your costume is secure.  Cherie, you’re ready to turn heads wherever the night may take you.”

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The lack of enthusiasm she wore dealt his positive statement a harsh blow.  “You are going to make me wear this thing, aren’t you, sir?”

The use of such a formal address pressed on his already stingy patience.  “Why yes, my dear, you look marvelous.”  With a wink, he smiled.  “I for one would dance with you every dance just to discover who the beautiful creature is under the mask.  Besides, we had an arrangement – remember?”  Hating the reminder, he vowed to be on his best behavior.

Laura rolled her eyes to the ceiling as he adjusted the black lace shawl about her bare shoulders.  The tall mirror in the foyer proved his point.

“See, you look stunning.”

She glanced at him in the mirror.

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“Forgive me, Laura, but I’m only telling the truth.”  His tone must have sounded sincere because she turned to peer closer before returning his gaze in the mirror’s reflection.  Something stirred in his gut.  Morgan hesitated to put a name to the sensation, more a swirling of energy, a tingling of feelings each time he took her hand in his.  “The carriage is here.”  Propriety allowed for a hand upon her low back to assist her inside.  The heat from the touch startled him making Morgan wonder if, in fact, she did possess a streak of magic.  Something perhaps even Laura wasn’t aware she owned.  Mystical and tantalizing, the sensation held the same mystery as the first time he had touched her.  Her mother’s illness perhaps was not an illness after all.  Laura’s mother may have been a true seer or even a witch.

“Where are we going tonight?”  She glanced out the window, watching, yet not seeing.  Her hands relaxed atop a velvet purse and gloves in her lap.

He couldn’t help the smile that crept across his face.  She hated the gloves and removed them often.  “Tonight’s fete’ is at the governor’s home.  Despite my misgivings about socializing with a reformist Democrat, I must keep up appearances.”  He waved a hand in the air.  “The coach is a symbol of the Mardi Gras season.  Though a bit old-fashioned for my tastes, they’re used by all the krewes’ for parties and balls.  We’ll stay until the Governor arrives and leave soon after we’ve thanked him for the invitation.  The whole affair shouldn’t take more than a couple of hours.”  Leaning close, he lowered his voice.  “I promise not to be too much of a bore during our time together.”

She turned, yet said nothing.

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Reaching out, he took her hand in his.  She tensed.  “Easy, my dear.  By the way, you smell enchanting tonight.”  He held her gaze a moment and then glanced out the window and sighed.  “I’m certain.  I’ll have my hands full fighting off the young bucks tonight.”

Her brow furrowed.  “Young bucks?”

He grinned.  God, what an innocent she was.  “I’m referring to the men with their youth and vigor which will try to steal you away.”  They crossed a deep pothole, causing the coach to lurch.  Pain shot through his bum leg.  He eased back into the plush cushions of the seat.

A quick glance proved Laura was riding out the obstacles in the street as well.

She held the leather strap attached to the ceiling with a frown on her face.  “I’ve never been interested in those young bucks as you say.  I prefer a man with life experience.”

His breath caught.

Laura studied him in the dim light.  “Forgive me for being blunt, but how old are you-thirty-five?  It has been said; a man is like a fine wine, which requires aging to ensure its quality.  You, sir, possess that quality.”  Her eyes remained on his.  “You have control over impulses – the kind that would derail a younger man.  Yours is a quiet confidence without arrogance.  Younger men always seem to have something to prove.”

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Clear blue eyes held his gaze without wavering.  Always outspokenly truthful, Laura hit her mark.  She could have spouted the Rosary in Latin and not have had a more profound effect on Morgan.  He stared for a full minute before finally swallowing and glanced out the window into the misty darkness of the street.  A sickly ill sensation swam in his gut.  What a boon she had been since her arrival.  She deserved – a whole man– one without flaws and deception.  Pain speared him again, and he sucked in air.  The devil takes him, but he wanted her.  Perhaps, he would have to settle for her in his arms for the leg throbbed anew, and Morgan closed his eyes.  In the darkness, all he saw was Laura.

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“We’re here.”  She slid the gloves back on and gathered her purse, rearranging the shawl more closely.  The footman opened her door, and she got out.  Morgan had difficulty standing.  Cursing silently at the damn leg, he adjusted the brace as the mechanical mechanism hissed and spewed.  With the footman’s help, he pulled the crippled leg out to stand.  Laura took his arm as they made their way up the low-slung porch to the massive door.  He gave her points for her accommodating nature.

The lively music coming from the double doors drew their attention.  Inside, dancers swirled and twirled to the sound of an old-fashioned waltz.

“It is beautiful.  Laura cut Morgan a sidelong glance.  “Where would you prefer we start – at the receiving line or the dance floor?”

Morgan patted her hand on his forearm.  The glib way she asked the question told him she wanted to dance.  “I’ll wager you’ll surrender before I get warmed up.  What do you say?”

Her laugh of pure delight trailed after them as they descended the stairs to a large ballroom.  Sparkling lights eliminated the dancers.  Her enthusiasm bolstered his confidence.  Soon they disappeared into the wave of guests.  Next, accordions and fiddles replaced violins and harps as they shuffled at a dizzying pace to a Cajun tune.  A dip and twirl had Laura holding on to him.

“You dance so well, sir.”

“This old dog hasn’t forgotten everything.  Hang on, Cherie.”  Giving her a good squeeze, Morgan faded before twirling her out and back into his arms.

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Genuine surprise crossed her face.  “Oh, Monsieur, you are an accomplished dancer.  Why didn’t you tell me this?”

He noted the stain of pink in her cheeks.  “Be truthful – would you have believed me?”  The directness of his question caught her off guard.

“To be sure, I didn’t believe you so light and steady.  But, you are confident as well.  There’s no hesitation, no uncertainty in your direction.”  Her eyes traveled over his face in speculation.  “You’ve been trained no doubt.”

He noted the pulse in her neck throb with the blood coursing through her veins.  His blood surged at the sight of such life.  “Yes, we were trained in dance, theater, music appreciation and the accordion as children.  My mother insisted though my father found the instruction tedious.”  Her light laughter filled the air as the music ended.  The sensation of real pleasure washed over him.  He lifted her hand, kissing her knuckles.  “By the way.  I like it when you call me by my French title – Monsieur.”  With a flourish, he released her hands.  “It’s a pleasure to be of service, madam.”  Bowing formally, Morgan gave her a satisfied grin when she continued the private joke by curtsying before accepting his hand to leave the floor.  “Can I get you some refreshment?”

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Her tiny paper fan appeared.  Laura batted her eyelashes at him.  “Yes, thank you.  That would be lovely.”

“Good, I won’t be long.”  Depositing her along the wall where chairs offered a quiet repose, Morgan winked as he left.  The night was going well, he mused.  Laura’s reluctance seemed to ebb.  Thankfully, a cheerful demeanor won out.  He could only hope the mood carried the night.  Humming a light-hearted tune, Morgan made his way across the room to the dining hall where food and drink abound.

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