JUMPED by Colette Auclair
A young woman in the equestrian fashion business finds herself head over heels for none other than her ex-husband in Colette Auclair’s steamy sequel to her 2012 Golden Heart finalist and “page-turning debut” (Library Journal), Thrown.
Thoroughly enjoying herself at a friend Amanda’s wedding, Beth finds herself in an unexpected state of shock when she realizes she’s been seated next to her ex-husband, Finn, at the reception. Determined to not let this fluster her, Beth strikes up a conversation only to learn Finn isn’t the same man she walked away from.
Relieved the reception is over, Beth is looking forward to a relaxing weekend against the beautiful backdrop of sunny Aspen at her best friend Amanda's estate. Little does she know Finn will be partaking in the weekend activities too. But just as Beth decides to keep as much distance between her and Finn as possible, Finn has a terrible accident and Beth is stuck being his bedside nurse.
Over the course of the weekend, Beth and Finn discover that the wounds of their failed marriage are not all that’s left. There are sparks…and hope. But just as they decide to give their relationship another try, Finn confesses a huge secret that could destroy everything he’s fought to get back—Beth, their relationship, and another chance at love.
Will Beth turn away, or will she take a leap of faith and say “I do” once (again) and for all?
Around midnight, Bethany came into the cabin with Mingo padding after her and closed the door as gently as she could.
“Mmm,” Finn said from his bed. Mingo went straight for him, a brown cylindrical rocket.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to wake you.”
“That’s fine.” He slept with his broken leg propped on a few pillows. He pet Mingo, who was beside himself with happiness, wagging his stubby breakfast-sausage tail as though the earth’s rotation relied on it.
“Do you need anything?” she asked as she turned on a lamp next to the sofa and came to his bedside. He was rumpled. Finn could pull off rumpled like Kardashians pulled off wedding rings. Beth’s mouth went a tad dry.
He shook his head. “No thanks.”
“Have you seen my phone?” She went into the bathroom.
“Uh . . . let me look,” he said.
She emerged and was surprised to find him in the kitchen, scanning the counter.
“You didn’t have to get up!” she said. “I wondered if you happened to see it. I’m not sure where I left it and thought it might be here.” She crossed to the coffee table in front of the couch and looked under an architecture magazine Grady had gotten for Finn.
Finn hobbled over. His expression was . . . unwelcoming. “You have a fruitful discussion with Jack?”
To anyone else, Finn’s question would have seemed benign. But Beth heard the edge. She lifted a cushion on the sofa and peered under it as she spoke.
“For the love of God, Finn. Yes. He was great. Thanks for asking.” She made sure to sound happy. Wow, but he could be annoying.
“Business? That’s all you two talked about?”
She rolled her eyes. “My business? Yes, for the most part. I also talked to Harris, Amanda, and Grady. What are you getting at?” She looked under another cushion, then at Finn.
He gave her a look. You know what I mean. “He must be a cheerful guy.”
“You two sure laughed a lot.”
“Do you know your leg will heal faster if you stop being an ass? Go back to bed.”
“Do you trust him? You think he knows what he’s talking about?”
“Jack? Yes.” She picked up each of the five magazines on the coffee table. No phone. “Grady wouldn’t have put me in touch with him if he wasn’t good at what he does. Did you question Grady about the orthopedist he sent you to?”
She needed to stand her ground, so she made a point to stand tall, facing him. Her pulse wasn’t exactly racing, but it wasn’t slow, either. She was letting Finn get to her. She had to Teflon up.
Finn asked, “He’s a good-looking guy, don’t you think?”
Oh, he wouldn’t dare. “Yeah,” she said. “Very good looking.”
She crossed to an armchair, speaking as she looked under its cushion. “Smokin’ hot. Broad shoulders.” She looked under the other chair’s cushion. “Beautiful eyes. Great ass. You bet he was good-looking. A complete and total hottie.” Take that.
“Did he hit on you?”
She faced him. “I think a better use of your time and energy would be to help me find my phone.”
His eyes were dark-denim blue. “Did he hit on you?”
“Oh my God, would you stop! What if he did? What business is it of yours? We’re not married anymore, remember?” Beth wiggled her left ring finger at him. Then she got on all fours and looked under the chair next to him.
Finn’s mouth was a hard seam that turned down at the ends. He looked like a rank stallion. He filled the space above her with his wide shoulders and anger.
She huffed out a breath. “No. It was business.” Before she spoke her next words, she rose and stood directly in front of him. “But if he had, I would’ve said yes and I would’ve liked it.”
If Finn wanted to be this way, fine. She would give it right back to him. She glared. Come on, Finn. You wanna dance? Let’s dance.
She was trying to guess what his next caveman accusation would be. Would he go overtly sexual? A classic character assassination? The dumb jock route, because Jack didn’t work for his business, but got lucky in sports?
Finn wedged the crutches beneath his arms and grabbed Beth’s biceps. She gasped. She hadn’t expected this. A brigade of tingles zoomed up her body from somewhere near her ovaries. Her pulse sprinted. Finn’s stare was unnerving, full of hunger and fury as he searched her face. She wasn’t sure what the hell he was going to say.
He was shaking. After a second he pulled her to him, slanted his lips to hers, and kissed her. More liked possessed her. He cupped the back of her neck with one hand and pressed her mouth to his. In a half heartbeat, she remembered exactly what his lips felt and tasted like. It was surreal, vivid, and hot. They were soft, but his kiss wasn’t gentle. His jealousy was so intense, it was almost a thing, like a flavor on his tongue.
Link continuing the excerpt to XOXOAfterDark:
KNIGHT OF LOVE by Catherine LaRoche
In this saucy romance, an English lady turns the damsel-in-distress tale on its head as she escapes her malicious fiancé and fights for both her life and that of the lustful rebel that has become her protector.
Lady Lenora Trevelyan, a naïve yet stubborn young lady born to the highest noble houses of England and Germany, finds herself betrothed to the brutal Prince Kurt von Rotenburg-Gruselstadt. But after she is cruelly bruised and flogged by her fiancé, she decides to take the reins of her fate. In the midst of a German revolution, Lenora escapes Kurt’s iron fist and embarks home to England. She quickly finds herself in the hands of a rebel group and their robust, gentle, and handsome leader, Wolfram von Wolfsbach und Ravensworth, the English Earl of Ravensworth.
Lenora struggles to deny the passion she feels towards the frustratingly chivalrous Earl but her desire for him continues to bloom. Wolfram hungers nothing other than to fight for democracy and civil rights in uniting Germany and to protect what he assumes is his damsel in distress. Through nights of immeasurable pleasure, Lenora and Wolfram learn that their passion is no match for the revolutionary chaos that ensues. And when Lenora discovers that her protector’s life is threatened, she must risk everything to save her Knight of Love.
The German Confederation
The first lash robbed her of breath.
The second granted her freedom.
If he’d go so far as to have her publicly flogged, she owed him no further loyalty. Any obligation remaining from their betrothal contact ended here, in this moment, with this lash.
Morally, she was free.
Now all she had to do was escape the bastard and make him pay.
As the second stroke landed, fire replaced the shock, and a hot slick of pain bloomed across her back. The coarse linen shift that a spying maid had forced her into provided no protection. It offered little modesty, either, from the uneasy crowd Kurt had gathered inside the castle gates to witness her punishment. She gritted her teeth and refused to cry out. A rough rope bound her wrists above her head to the flogging post. As her knees buckled, the binding made her perversely glad; she doubted she could stand upright on her own.
Before arriving at this godforsaken pile of German stone, she—Lady Lenora Trevelyan, eldest child to the Duke and Duchess of Sherbrooke, third cousin to Queen Victoria’s German consort, His Royal Highness Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha—had never been struck in her life. Now, in her three months at Schloss Rotenburg, she’d lost count of her bruises.
At first, before her parents had returned home to England, Kurt hadn’t hit her—or “corrected her,” as it pleased that smug worm to call his slaps and blows. He claimed it was for her own good, of course, to teach and prepare her for her life as his Prinzessin and mistress of Rotenburg.
She must carry out her duties perfectly, he’d hiss, tightening a grip on her arm until she knew she’d wear a band of purple bruises for a week. Or he’d strike out in sudden fury at some perceived failure of hers—she’d forgotten the name of one of his sainted ancestors in the castle’s gloomy portrait gallery, or made a minor grammatical mistake in her German, or not shown proper courtesy to a visiting Bürgermeister.
Tied now to the flogging post, she lost count after the third blow. She’d seen the long leather strap when the stable master, shamefaced, had bound her with muttered apologies and handed the lash to a muscled groom more accustomed to cracking it around stubborn horses than using it to beat highborn ladies. Now she could barely feel the individual strokes as they landed, only the waves of hot agony clenching her back and shoulders in a vise grip of pain.
Through the red haze blurring her vision, she saw Kurt standing nearby. Next to him, his sanctimonious toady minister prattled the Bible proverb of the virtuous wife whose price was far above rubies. The gleeful, twisted pleasure Kurt took in her pain radiated off his stork-like form like a sickening stench. She bit down on her lip and gathered her hatred of her fiancé like a babe to her breast.
It was all she had left to get her out of this hell.
When Kurt finally held up a hand to signal the groom to cease, her labored breath echoed in the silent crowd. She knew the townspeople didn’t approve of the public beating their prince had commanded for his foreign betrothed. No more than they believed his story that she’d agreed to a religious flagellation in humble preparation for becoming his pious and obedient wife. But Prince Kurt von Rotenburg-Gruselstadt ruled the castle and town with an iron fist. None would risk their lord’s wrath to stand up for her.
Kurt stepped to the front of the dais. “Lady Lenora bears her trial most nobly,” he announced to the crowd. “Her embrace of her suffering does honor to a bloodline that unites the highest noble houses of England and Germany.”
That bloodline, she knew well, was why he’d chosen her. The prig made no secret of his disdain for any born below the upper aristocracy. The Holy Roman emperor himself, Kurt often delighted to inform her, had conferred the title of Prinz upon the House of Rotenburg-Gruselstadt in the previous century. Her own background had led the matchmakers to judge them a perfect pair: her father’s ancient ducal title intermingled, like that of so many English peers these days, with noble blood from her Prussian princess mother.
No one had thought to mention that her fiancé had the temperament of a petulant demon on a bad day in hell.
As Kurt stalked toward her, she forced her knees to straighten. She was done being afraid of this man. He pulled back the torn linen shift to inspect her back. Despite her resolve not to cry out, she gasped as the frayed edges stuck to her skin.
“Beautiful work,” he murmured into her ear. “This is what a woman should look like. Chastised to a man’s authority, marked to her proper place.”
Link continuing the excerpt to XOXO After Dark: