Today it gives me great pleasure to introduce a special feature Sunday Smooch, the first of a series featuring LoveCat finalists in this year's Romance Writers of Australia RuBY Awards.
In case you're not aware, the RUBYs celebrate the Romantic Books of the Year, as chosen by reader judges from books entered by Australian and New Zealand authors. The winners of 5 categories will be announced at the Romance Writers of Australia's 25th Anniversary conference in Adelaide on August 20.
Congratulations to all the talented finalists for writing books which touched the readers' emotions, kept them turning the pages, and inspired them to tick the highest-score boxes. We are super proud that three of the five finalists in the Short Sexy category are LoveCats Yvonne Lindsay, Stefanie London and Annie West. Excerpts from their RUBY-honoured books will feature as Sunday Smooches during the next month.
Today's smooch is from Yvonne Lindsay's THE WEDDING BARGAIN, published by Harlequin Desire in March 2015. The Wedding Bargain is the final book in Yvonne's wildly successful six-book series The Master Vintners...and the fourth RUBY finalist, following Wanting What She Can't Have (2014), One Secret Night (2013) and A Forbidden Affair (2012). A truly remarkable achievement...but then this is a truly remarkable series!
A runaway bride finds herself rescued, seduced—and pregnant!—in this tale from USA TODAY bestseller Yvonne Lindsay.
Who would dare object when Shanal Peat is about to say I do in a church full of wedding guests? The bride herself, that’s who. Shanal just can’t go through with the bargain she’s made. She’ll have to save her destitute parents without an arranged marriage.
Australian billionaire Raif Masters delights in rescuing the runaway bride from his nemesis. But when hiding out on a riverboat leads to passion—and when passion leads to pregnancy—Raif must prove he’s in it for love, not vengeance.
After rescuing her from her wedding, Raif has taken Shanal on a river boat up the Murray River to give her time to come to terms with her decision to run away from her fiance. Raif's fought a crush on this 'older woman' ever since he was in his mid teens and he's trying to do the right thing by her now--it's what his absent cousin would expect. But a playful challenge over who is going to make lunch becomes a whole lot more serious when it seems Shanal has been fighting her own attraction to Raif and--after all these years--she's ready to act on it.
Shanal had one foot on the gangplank to the boat, then another, and was about to turn and relish her success when a pair of strong arms wrapped around her and lifted her clean off her feet. She squealed again, this time in surprise, as Raif spun her a full 180 degrees.
“I win!” he crowed as he set foot on the deck and slowly lowered her down, laughing in the face of her frustration.
“And you say I cheated?” Shanal said through gasps of air, turning to him in disgust.
“Hey, you forget. I’ve seen how you can run,” he teased, obviously alluding to her bolt from the church yesterday. “I had to use every advantage I had. Besides, I like to win.”
“That’s not fair,” she protested. Was it only a day ago? It felt like forever. Or did she just wish it was?
“All’s fair in love and war.” He smiled back cheekily.
“You may live to regret that statement,” she warned. “Remember, I can’t cook.”
Raif shrugged. “I also like to live dangerously, don’t you?”
She looked at him and felt a tug that pulled from her core. It had nothing to do with her labored breathing and everything to do with the fact that he still had her in the circle of his arms. Her heart was already pumping hard, her senses heightened, and all she could think of was how snugly she fit against him, how close his lips were to hers. How, if she just flexed her hips a little, she’d be nestled in the cradle of his pelvis.
But did she dare?
Shanal lifted her hands to his head and tugged it down toward her. “I haven’t had much cause to live dangerously so far, but I’m willing to give it a try.”
And then she kissed him.
She felt the shock roll through his body as her lips touched his. He was unresponsive for a second, then two. She began to wonder if she’d been foolish to do this, to act on the impulse that had overridden her usually careful and considered way of approaching things.
But then his lips began to move over hers, and his arms tightened, pulling her even closer against his body, against his solid strength. Her fingers furrowed through his short dark hair, holding him in place. Not wanting to let him go for a second, because if she did, she’d have to face the questions that would no doubt be in his eyes. Questions she didn’t know the answer to herself.
All she knew was that she suddenly realized just how deeply she longed for this. For this man, for his kiss. She slid her tongue softly along his lower lip, felt the shudder that racked his body, felt him harden against her.
This was how it was meant to be between a man and a woman. Need, desire, want. Not a cold clinical agreement. Not the feeling of being a possession, to be shaped and molded to someone else’s taste. Just the need to possess and be possessed in return. She moaned as Raif’s tongue touched hers, as a flame of heat speared through her body. She pressed against him, aching for him to fill that emptiness that echoed inside her. Desperate for him to ease the pounding demand that throbbed through her veins.
His hands slid under the sweater she was wearing, his sweater, and the heat of his touch burned through the thin T-shirt that acted as a barrier between his skin and hers. She wanted more. She wanted Raif. Her fingers clenched in his hair and she kissed him more fiercely, her tongue now dueling with his. Advance, retreat, advance again. The taste of him was intoxicating, another sensation to fill her mind and overwhelm her senses.
She felt her nipples tighten into aching buds, and she pressed against him, the movement sending tiny shafts of pleasure to rocket through her body. She’d never felt anything quite like this before. This level of total abandonment, this depth of need.
The sound of the ferry horn echoed across the water—a stark and sudden reminder of where they were, of what they were doing. Shanal let her hands drop to Raif’s shoulders as she pulled back. Her entire body thrummed with energy and anticipation, but as she came back to awareness of her surroundings once more, the strength leached from her body, leaving her feeling empty, limp.
“I—” she started.
Raif pressed a short and all too sweet kiss to her lips. “Don’t say a word. It’s okay. To the winner, the spoils, right?”
* * * * *
Do you follow the readers' and writers' awards? Does news of an award win (or finalist gong) inspire you to buy and read a book? Have you discovered any new and wonderful authors this way? Share your thoughts here on the blog, and one randomly-drawn commenter will win a copy of THE WEDDING BARGAIN.
Speaking of winners... jjhicks is the lucky winner of last week's Sunday Smooch giveaway. Please contact Annie via annie (at) annie-west (dot) com to claim your copy of ‘The Flaw in Raffaele’s Revenge’ !
Come back next Sunday, when the winner of today's giveaway will be announced and a smooch from the fabulous Amy Andrews's latest series will be featured.