Apr 30, 2018

Lost in France by Amy Andrews

For the last three weeks, I've been in France on a family vacation.

And as I've been wandering around, that old song by Bonnie Tyler has been stuck in my head - Lost in France.

It's exactly how I feel. Blissfully Lost and wondering What about you? Is there a particular song for you that becomes an ear worm you just can't shake?

Apr 25, 2018

Coffee, tea or something else - what do you choose? - Kandy Shepherd

Recently I shared on social media a photo of a yummy Coffee and Walnut Cake I’d baked. I confessed I don’t actually like coffee as a drink—but I do like the flavour in cakes and ice-cream. I was surprised when I had comments from people who felt the same about coffee.  It’s always nice to meet a fellow non-coffee drinker who, it seems to me, are quite a rare breed.

No coffee or tea for me - but coffee cake will do just fine!

It’s even rarer to meet someone like me who not only doesn’t like tea or coffee but also because I don’t drink alcohol. Not for any religious or health or sobriety reasons—I simply don’t like the taste. Never have, doubt I ever will.

Mmm! I love the aroma, just not the taste of coffee!

 My mother told me I was anti-social because I didn’t drink tea (I come from a family who love their tea). Ordinary tea, herbal tea, iced tea—not for me. While I adore the smell of coffee beans and percolating coffee—I just can’t drink it. 

When I was younger, barmen would see me as a challenge, lining free alcoholic drink after free drink on the bar to find something I’d like. I’d take a sip and pass. Whichever companion I had with me at the time would eventually fall off his barstool as a result of slurping up all the drinks I’d disdained.

I was a challenge to a barman!

Some people think I’m weird because I don’t drink tea, coffee or alcohol in a world where most people do. It doesn’t bother me. I manage quite okay without any of those drinks. And when I meet someone else with the same tastes as I am, we fall upon each other in sudden camaraderie  as it doesn’t happen very often. 

I have to be careful with fruit juices because of the possibility of migraine-inducing preservatives. My choice is freshly squeezed but not all juices advertised as “freshly squeezed” are actually so. 

So what do I drink? Water, lots of water—still, sparkling or from the tap. Fortunately, I really like water! But before you dismiss me as too goody-two-shoes to be true, I also drink Diet Coke—lots  of Diet Coke. No other cola, just that type. Well, lots and lots while I’m on deadline like right now with my next book for Harlequin Romance. Otherwise, aware of the evil reputation of artificial sweeteners and other artificial stuff in a black, no-food-value drink, I try to cut down on it. But oh-how-boring it can be to just drink water!

My tipple of choice.

What about you? What’s your favourite beverage? One you love to hate? If there are any other non-tea or coffee or non-alcohol drinkers, please say hello! I’d love to see your comments.

PS: The cake is a recipe by Nigella Lawson, I made an extra layer. Here's the link:

Apr 22, 2018

Sunday Smooch with Clare Connelly

Welcome to another LoveCats DownUnder Sunday Smooch!

Today we have a smooch  from Clare Connelly but first 

... the winner of last week's Sunday Smooch Giveaway is Veronica.

Veronica, can you please contact Kandy Shepherd on Kandy(at)Kandyshepherd(dot)com
 to receive your Kindle copy of  HIRED BY THE BROODING BILLIONAIRE.

And now for today's Sunday Smooch from HER WEDDING NIGHT SURRENDER. 

Emmeline is the much-adored daughter of a powerful American senator, but unbeknownst to Emmeline, her father is dying. Worried that she'll be vulnerable to fortune hunters when Emmeline inherits his billion-dollar fortune, Col Bovington arranges for her to marry one of his most-trusted young friends. Pietro is wealthy in his own right, and Col is confident his daughter will be happy - and safe -  living with the Italian tycoon. It's a simple marriage of convenience - Emmeline gets to spread her wings and explore the world, Pietro is honouring a dear friend's dying wish... but neither of them counted on the sensual heat that would flare between them... 

This smooch is from their wedding, and you'll get a feel for Emmeline's feisty, independent nature - she has no intention of making life easy for Pietro!

‘Then without further ado, I now pronounce you man and wife.’
Not husbandand wife, she noted in the small part of her brain still capable of rational thought. ‘Husband’ and wife would suggest that he too had been altered in some significant way by what they’d just done. ‘Man’ and wife made all the changes hers.

‘You may now kiss your bride.’
She winced unknowingly. Your bride. A possessive phrase that spoke of ownership and rankled. Well, what had she expected? She’d chosen this path to freedom because it was easy. Because it meant she wouldn’t have to upset her father. She deserved to feel a little objectified.
Her small facial expression of displeasure was easy for Pietro to discern. Seeing it pass across her face like a storm cloud, he wrapped an arm around her waist, drawing her closer to his body quickly, easily, giving her no chance to question his actions. His eyes briefly met hers and there was sardonic amusement at the heart of his gaze.
She tilted her chin defiantly, inadvertently giving him the perfect angle of access. He dropped his lips to hers, pressing them against her mouth, separating her lips easily and sliding his tongue inside.
It was an invasion of every single one of her senses.
Did he know it was her first kiss? Yes, her first kiss—at the age of twenty-two and on her wedding day. Shame made her toes curl and yet desire heated her up, right to the base of her abdomen. His fingers on her back feathered across her nerve-endings, and she made a small whimper low in her throat that only her groom could possibly have heard.
He broke the kiss, his eyes meeting hers laughingly.
Was he laughing at her?
Her heart was racing, banging against her ribs so hard she thought it might crack them. Her breath was burning inside her body and she stared at him in a tangle of confusion. It took at least ten seconds for her to remember where she was and who she was with.
‘I would slap you if all these people weren’t watching us,’ she muttered under her breath, pasting a tight smile to her face.
His lip lifted in sardonic mockery. ‘Or would you rip my clothes off?’ he pondered.
But before she could respond, he reached down and took her hand in his.
‘They arewatching, so keep pretending this is the happiest day of your life.’

I loved writing Emmeline and Pietro's story. At first glance, Emmeline seems to be at the whim of her father - but as you learn more about her life, and her childhood, you realise that all her decisions are born from a deep love and loyalty. She's fiercely strong, and makes her own choices, and one of those decisions takes her to Italy, where she wants to start a new life and study. 

I didn't study overseas, but I lived in the UK with my now-husband for four years, and we would frequently travel to Europe. Though now I wish we had travelled more often than we did! Have you ever packed up your life and had a sea-change/city-change/mountain-change? 

If so, where did you go? And if not, where would you go? Or are you a committed home-body, happy with where you're at, and no plans to change the status quo? 

Comment here or on Facebook to win a signed paperback copy of HER WEDDING NIGHT SURRENDER. 

Apr 18, 2018

Inspiration and Creativity with Annie West

As an author I get asked a lot about inspiration. Where do I get my story ideas? How do I ensure each one is unique? Do I really hear the voices of my characters in my head? Yes, sometimes, when I'm lucky!

We have a never-ending fascination with creative processes. Somehow, from something intangible, people manage to create the most amazing things. Like this (one of the famous Cluny tapestries):

Before I started writing romances I thought I was one of the least creative people I knew. I did embroidery when I was younger, but usually following someone else's pattern. I thought that didn't really count as creative. But I adored the way scenes and patterns would emerge and create something that wasn't there before. Then there were the colours and textures which could make a piece particularly special.

What I've learned over the years is that we all have creative abilities, but in different areas. That we need to nurture our creativity for it to bloom rather than wither. We're not all going to be great artists but we have it within us to imagine something unique and to share that image/invention/recipe/story/idea with others.

That's where inspiration comes in. We need that spark of interest to get us started. But too often I think we succumb to that feeling of disappointment when our grand idea turns out to be not so grand. The result of our imaginings and hard work isn't quite as shiny and sparkling as we'd hoped. It's rare to get things just as you want the first time and maybe the thing you create will never be exactly as it was in your head. Maybe you'll never achieve quite that radiant perfection. But does it matter? If you get joy out of the inspiration to create, and maybe give others joy with it too, then the gap between the inspired idea and the slightly flawed creation doesn't matter so much.

I recently went to Sydney to see these beautiful tapestries which have survived since 1500. It was the second time I'd seen them but it was worth it because, being in the room surrounded by all six large, beautiful pieces, was a wonderful experience. Maybe not for everyone but I grew up loving history,  handicrafts, stories of medieval knights and damsels, and so on. I felt, not only fascination at how these were made but also a spark of inspiration - to take up a cross stitch I'd begun years ago, based on this very tapestry, and also to start writing a new story.

As you can see, my neglected cross stitch work bears only a rough resemblance to the original. The level of detail just isn't there. But the point is that I got pleasure out of doing it and, now that I've decided to start work on it again, I know it will bring me lots more enjoyment. Hopefully too there'll be others who enjoy it when it's done. It will never be nearly as impressive or glorious as the original but I don't care. Because I've learned to appreciate that the inspiration to create is a gift to be treasured. Not to be stifled because we're sure not to end up with something as good as the original idea.

It's the same with writing. Often the story in my head isn't the same as the story that ends up on my computer. Sometimes I feel my finished product isn't as good as the original story idea. But you know what? Sometimes it's better. I'd never have known that if I hadn't tried. And even if it's not exactly as I'd imagined, it's something that brings me joy and others enjoy reading. Plus the more I write the better writer I become.

What are you inspired by these days? Are you tempted to create as a result? I'd love to hear.

My latest creation is another Hot Italian Nights e-novella. It was inspired by a previous book in the series, where Gina, the red-headed movie star proves to be a sympathetic and intriguing character. I wanted to find out what happened to her and why she looked so glum at the mention of romance. 

Enter Massimo Conti who turned out to be her secret husband! This is one story when the final product is very like the original idea for the story. Except I found myself so intrigued by the characters it was hard to keep this at novella length, and to leave them at the end. But that's a good thing, isn't it? 

Apr 16, 2018

My Roman (Foodie) Holiday

by Bronwyn Jameson

I've been browsing through my photos from last week in Rome, looking to choose a selection to share here at LoveCats. This was a short, but very sweet, trip to spend time with family – including our bella grand-daughter – who live in London.  Rome proved to be a wonderful choice for many reasons: the Maratona di Roma, the history, the art, the splendid panaromas, but more than anything, the food.

This focus on food was immediately apparent as I scrolled through my photos. A few atmospheric scenes, an odd sunset, the occasional grand monument, and many, many family shots where we are invariably ordering, eating and/or surrounded by well-used plates and glasses.

So, my photo special on Rome features no scenery or monuments. It is all about the food...with apologies for all those occasions when I was too busy digging in to think about the camera!

We flew Sydney-Rome with Qatar Airlines and have nothing but nice things to say about the service and the food.

Roasted red pepper and tomato soup
Hot smoked salmon with pumpkin and goat cheese salad

Grilled fillet of beef with horseradish jus

Finding a stellar coffee, just how we like it, when travelling can be frustrating.  Not in Rome.  Add a flakey, buttery pastry and I'm in breakfast heaven.
At Roscioli Caffe

Artichokes make the tastiest snack food when fried.

Artichokes, pre-frying.
Gelato, the second best snack, no frying necessary.

Bella craves the creamiest gelati, from Fior di Luna
I love everything about aperitivo, especially the name.  So much sexier than "drinks with snacks".

Aperitivo feat. Aperol spritzes at Tiberino.
Photos do not do pasta justice but take my word, this was divine. At Trattoria da Teo.

Pasta with fresh tuna, olives, capers and tomato.
Bella likes banana; Bron prefers berra.

Pre-food at Gino 51

A place with All The Food (and wine.) 

1956: a fine vintage for husbands

Our return flight was with Singapore Air and, once again again, three letters you don’t usually associate with airline food. Y-U-M.

Pea panacotta with mint dressing

Salmon tartar with grilled pineapple and feta salad

Lobster thermidor

Delicious food is my favourite thing to discover when travelling.  What is yours?

Apr 15, 2018

Sunday Smooch with Kandy Shepherd

Welcome to another LoveCats DownUnder Sunday Smooch!

Today we have a smooch  from Kandy Shepherd but first 

... the winner of last week's Sunday Smooch Giveaway is Nicole Kirsche Stoll

Nicole, can you please contact Annie West on annie(at)annie(hyphen)west(dot)com
 to receive your Kindle copy of  The Italian's Marriage Bargain

And now for today's Sunday Smooch from HIRED BY THE BROODING BILLIONAIRE

Two of my favourite stories I've written for Harlequin Mills & Boon are Hired by the Brooding Billionaire and From Paradise to Pregnant. You can imagine how delighted I am to  see them together in an Australian Favourites edition published this month in both print and e-book formats by Mills & Boon Australia. I believe this particular edition is only on sale in Australia and New Zealand, however the original editions are still available from on-line retailers. I chose an excerpt from HIRED BY THE BROODING BILLIONAIRE for this week's smooch.

Beauty and the reclusive billionaire...

When billionaire Declan Grant decides his estate’s enormous garden needs taming, he hires idealistic horticulturalist Shelley Fairhill to take on the challenge. Since losing his wife, Declan has adjusted to a life of self-imposed isolation—he wants Shelley to tackle the weeds, then leave.

But as Shelley gradually restores order and unexpected beauty to his garden, her caring nature also begins to thaw the ice encasing Declan’s heart. Can he let Shelley’s light in and finally let his second chance at love blossom?”

Scene set-up

Brilliant, wounded recluse Declan Grant denies himself a second chance at love because of tragedy in his past. He refuses to have anything but minimal contact with strong, beautiful Shelley while she works in his garden. Shelley has past heartbreak of her own to overcome and the last thing she wants is to find herself attracted to her grumpy, if gorgeous, boss. But funny, sometimes awkward Shelley, starts to cut down not only the overgrown garden but the barriers Declan has put up around his emotions. In this scene, Shelley and Declan are alone at night in the kitchen of his mansion, sitting on bar stools at the counter. Shelley has baked him an apple pie in gratitude for letting her stay in the staff apartment when she’d been made homeless. For the first time they’ve opened up to each other and talked about their private lives, breaching the barrier between boss and employee.

Declan realised he was still holding her hand—and he didn’t want to let it go. She seemed in no rush to relinquish his grip either.
‘Tell me the type of treats you like so I can keep you in mind when I’m baking,’ she said with her generous smile, leaning closer, so close he breathed in her sweet, flowery scent. 
It was a thoughtful offer. But right now there was only one treat that was tempting him. Before he could rustle up a reason why he shouldn’t, he leaned across and kissed her. Her lush, lovely mouth was soft and full under his.
She stilled at first, startled, then relaxed against him, her lips parting for his with a soft murmur as he traced their warm softness with his tongue
He had not kissed a woman other than Lisa [his deceased wife] since he was nineteen. The feel of Shelley’s mouth under his was both familiar and different at the same time. The thought of Lisa was both poignant and fleeting—then his mind was filled only with Shelley and how much he wanted to keep on kissing her. She tasted of cinnamon and apple with a fresh tang of mint as her tongue tangled with his.
As she kissed him back this kiss became unique, special like nothing he had ever experienced. Shelley. Beautiful Shelley. It was all about her.
Her mouth was soft and warm and generous, their hands still linked on the table between them. It started as a gentle, exploratory kiss but very soon escalated into something more passionate as she kissed him back with equal ardour.
They strained towards each other—awkward on bar stools but she didn’t seem to care and he certainly didn’t—he just wanted to be as close to her as he could possibly be.
But she was the one to break the kiss, her face flushed, her eyes bright.
‘That was a surprise, Declan,’ she said. He could see a pulse beating rapidly at the base of her throat. ‘Of the nice kind. Very nice, actually.’
He took a deep breath in an attempt to steady his breathing.‘Much more than nice,’ he said.
His thoughts were filled with Shelley. But he wasn’t ready to move on to someone else—might not ever be ready.
‘You know this can’t lead to anywhere,’ he said, his voice husky. ‘I have nothing to give you. It...it all drained away when—’
Shelley put her finger on his mouth to silence him.Her face was flushed, her voice throaty when she finally spoke. ‘It was just a kiss. A very nice kiss but just a kiss. Does it have to lead anywhere?’
‘I guess not,’ he said, somewhat taken aback. Shelley was so different from the predatory women on the hunt for the wealthy widower.
It hadn’t entered his head that Shelley might not be interested in him.
Men are more trouble than they’re worth. ’Her earlier words echoed through his brain.
‘I’m aware you might not be ready for...for anything serious.’ Her stumble made him realise that perhaps she wasn’t as indifferent to him as it might appear. ‘And I don’t want to risk opening myself to...heartbreak. I’ve just got over an almighty dose of that.’
He hadn’t been planning on heartbreak. In fact that was just what he wanted to avoid. Not just for himself but for her too.
‘So, you see, you’re a grieving widower—and I totally understand that, I can’t imagine how dreadful it’s been for you—and I don’t do meaningless flings.’
She leaned across and kissed him lightly on the mouth. Even it had impact, sending want coursing through him.
‘So, lovely as that kiss was, I don’t think we should do it again.’
Declan was too speechless to respond.
She strolled out, and suddenly the room seemed very, very empty indeed.

Shelley stood outside the house near the fountain.  She hoped the cool evening air would bring her to her senses. Her mouth ached from both the effort of continual smiling and appearing nonchalant—and the unaccustomed dissembling. She wasn’t a liar. Yet she had lied and lied and lied to Declan.
It was just a kiss’ was the first lie. She touched her fingers to her mouth, shuddering as she remembered the powerful effect of his lips on hers, his tongue exploring the soft recesses of her mouth, the desire that had ignited and raced through her body. It was so much more than a mere pressing of two mouths together. Of awakened passion.
But the biggest lie of all was that she didn’t want him kissing her again. 

Shelley is an endearing character, very tall and strong and prone to blurt out comments without first thinking about what she's saying. This actually makes Declan laugh and goes a long way towards melting his heart. It's typical that their first kiss is sitting on bar stools and reaching somewhat clumsily towards each other. 
Have you ever kissed someone in less than ideal circumstances? Witnessed a funny kiss in either real life or in a movie? Wished you'd thought twice before you said something to a person you were trying to impress? Do you remember your first kiss? Does humour appeal to you in a love interest? I'd love to read your thoughts! 
Leave a comment on this week's smooch to be put in the draw for a print copy of Australian Favourites featuring Hired by the Brooding Billionaire sent anywhere in the world.

Come back next Sunday, when the winner of today's giveaway will be announced and a new smooch will be posted!

Smooch Graphic by WebWeaver

Apr 11, 2018

Inspiration stir-fry

 I have to submit my thesis in…well, sometime in the next six to eight weeks. What I’m discovering is that everything else (and I mean everything) is basically being ignored. Exercise? What’s that! Housework? Don’t ask. And the pantry has an alarming array of processed food designed to do nothing more than keep the hunger pangs at bay…or to provide me with loaded-calorie comfort.

Mind you, I'm discovering that there are only so many meals of baked beans on toast or toasted cheese sandwiches a body can take. And we’re not going to mention the potato chips, Twisties, the family blocks of Cadburys or the retro party mixes that have become a mainstay of my diet.

While the knowledge isn’t new, it’s dawning on me with a renewed vengeance that exercise keeps both body and brain healthy, as does nutritious food. If I need to pull an all-nighter (dear God, let’s hope I don’t), I’m going to need more than flour, butter and sugar to keep me going.

So what I need are some super quick and easy stir-fry sauce recipes. I’ve decided that packets of fresh, pre-cut veggies are about to become my new best-friend, because who has the time to cut anything up when there’s a thesis hanging over one’s head?!#

I need to pull a healthy meal together in no time flat.

So, I thought some of you kind souls out there might share your favourite easy stir-fry sauce recipe. And then we’d have a list of easy-peasy, lemon-squeezy, go-to sauce recipes for when life gets too hard or too busy. What do you say?

And in the interests of kicking us off, here’s one of my faves: in a large frypan add a teensy bit of olive oil and when it’s hot add two teaspoons each of minced garlic, ginger and chilli, and one teaspoon of curry powder. Mix it together and cook until fragrant. Add vegetables and cook until done to your liking (and then add cooked beef, chicken or prawns…and noodles if you want). Mix together 1/2 cup of water, one teaspoon of cornflour and two tablespoons of soy sauce, and add to the pan. Stir until mixture boils and thickens.

Apr 9, 2018

Netflix or Movie Theatre

Do you go to the movie theatre anymore? With Netflix available why go to the cinema anymore when you can snuggle up on your own comfy couch with a glass of wine and binge watch so much good stuff.

My daughter insisted we go to the movies last night for a girl’s night out. For us it isn’t a five-minute trip to a Gold Class. Our closest cinema is 25 minutes down the freeway. But, off we went.

We went to see Love, Simon. It was just wonderful. A great movie. I cried twice. My daughter three times (I must be heartless). We then went to dinner by the seaside and it was lovely eating spaghetti marinara breathing in the salt air. Made that comfy couch seem the lesser, lazier option.

So which is better? 

Well I’ve decided both are good. After a hard week of work, that couch and I are soul mates. But, heading out for dinner and a movie, hasn’t really lost its sparkle.

What about you? Comfy couch, wine and the remote or movie theatre, popcorn then dinner? Or, just a nice blend of both.

Apr 8, 2018

Sunday Smooch - The Italian's Marriage Bargain by Annie West

Welcome to another LoveCats DownUnder Sunday Smooch with a book giveaway

Today we have a smooch from Annie West but first ... the winner of last week's Sunday Smooch Giveaway is Veronica!

Can you please contact Helen Lacey at helenlaceyauthor@gmail.com to receive your copy of 'A Kiss A Dance and A Diamond..

And now for today's Sunday Smooch from THE ITALIAN'S MARRIAGE BARGAIN.

An offer to mend their marriage – or end it?

After years without contact, glamorous film star Gina Rossetti is stunned when billionaire businessman Massimo Conti stalks back into her life, demanding her help. Their short-lived marriage was a mistake she’s striving to put behind her. The last thing she needs is to open old wounds, no matter how insistent Massimo is. Especially since he’s still devastatingly dangerous to her emotions.

But Massimo has confronted the inescapable truth – that the only woman in the world he wants is his estranged wife! He concocts a daring scheme to get her back. His plan might be underhanded, it might be brazenly manipulative, but he refuses to take no for an answer. His outrageous ploy must succeed. For the alternative is to lose Gina forever. 

Scene set-up 

Massimo and Gina married young and have been separated for years. Massimo, determined right past wrongs and get his wife back, knows he needs time alone with her to break through the barriers she's built against him. He blackmails her into staying with him for a week, telling her he wants her as his hostess to promote his family brand during Milan Fashion Week. Now, sharing his apartment, passions run high and he kisses her. Gina is dismayed to discover she wants her husband as much as she ever did, and that, rather than keeping her distance, she actually goaded him into kissing her. 

Smooch  -
Gina had seen it coming.
She’d seen the feral light in his eyes. Read the brutal intent in that hard body.
Had she twisted away?
Had she ducked her head?
Had she tried to placate him?
She told herself she’d done none of those because she had every right to her anger. Because it was time someone stood up to Massimo and brought him to book when he rode roughshod over them.
But as his mouth plastered over hers, his tongue sweeping past her lips in a forceful invasion that demanded everything, Gina knew the truth.
She’d goaded him. Deliberately.
She hadn’t been able to stand there, toe to toe with this man who drove her crazy in the worst and best of ways. She hadn’t had the strength to walk away.
Because she wanted this. Wanted him.
Want? Is that what you called this driving force that hammered with every pounding pulse beat?
Want was too weak a word.
Need engulfed her. It was marrow-deep. It was in every pore of every centimetre of her flesh.
She’d needed Massimo for years and she’d just given up denying it.
His tongue probed her mouth, demanding and at the same time challenging her to respond. His kiss was pure carnal invitation.
He pushed her up against the doorway so she was pinioned between it and Massimo’s hot, sculpted body. Gina went into meltdown. It wasn’t simply that she’d had no lover since him. She hadn’t wanted one. Because Massimo had always been the one she wanted, even when she hated him for making her feel that way.
For a moment Gina hovered on the brink of self-pitying tears. It was cruel that the only man she’d ever loved was so bad for her. The only logical response was to break away. Despite his imposing size and his ire he wouldn’t force her. He’d have to let her go.
But Gina hadn’t cried in years, she wasn’t about to start now. Nor would she pull away.
For she couldn’t. She simply couldn’t.
Not when being in Massimo’s embrace felt like coming home.
Through his fine suit Gina felt the outline of bone and muscle, the solid thighs, the jut of ribs, the press of that powerful chest. His heart throbbed a staccato rhythm against her. She tried to tell herself Massimo was motivated only by anger, not real desire. But already the big hands running up and down her bare arms gentled, confounding her.
He tilted his head, searching for the best angle to seduce her mouth. And he found it. Massimo had always kissed like a fallen angel, one who’d mastered both torment and bliss.
Bliss coursed through her now as she tangled her tongue against his, lifting her chin and responding in kind.
A rough sound of approval vibrated from his mouth to hers, from his chest to hers. It sent pleasure spearing to her womb, her breasts, the place inside her elbows where his thumbs brushed, making her shiver.
Gina’s hands rose to his arms, fingers digging into fine fabric and taut muscle. She needed more. Their kiss was no longer a demand but a seesawing dance of give and take.
It shouldn’t be possible to get closer to him but she tried, rising on her toes and planting her hands on his shoulders to bring her nearer his height.
Massimo’s response was to slide one arm around her waist and haul her up till her feet left the floor. She heard a shoe drop as she snaked her arms over his shoulders and clamped her fingers into the thick, dark hair at the back of his skull. Her lips welded to his as rapture beckoned.
He tasted better than the finest wines, better than fresh-picked strawberries still warm from the sun. He tasted like every dream of happiness she’d ever known, and then some.
And when he shifted against her, thrusting a thigh between her legs so she balanced astride it, Gina’s urgency took on a new dimension. One that matched his, given the unmistakeable arousal pushing against her.
Her dress rode higher as she squirmed closer, excited by the sensation of Massimo’s clothes against her bare skin.
‘Gina.’ It sounded like a plea or perhaps a vow. But Massimo’s broad hand on her leg, pushing the silky material up her thigh was as earthy as it got. She shivered as his baritone growl scraped her soul and those hard fingers curled around tender flesh.
She wanted this, wanted him so badly. How had she gone so long without his touch? Only by freezing her emotions and her needs under a blanket of ice. By living a cold, half-life these last few years.
Gina had forgotten how feminine he made her feel. Feminine and sexy and powerful, despite the shivers turning her body to putty in his hold. Turning her into a woman who’d give her all to this man.
As if sensing her capitulation, Massimo broke the kiss, lifting his head to stare down at her with eyes that glowed with silvery fire. The air was thick with the sound of their gasps and the rapid thrum of her pulse in her ears.
Mio dolce amore.’ It was what he’d called her when they’d been in love. When Gina had believed nothing would ever break them apart. Then he smiled. That rare, beautiful smile of welcome she’d always thought Massimo reserved just for her. Because he loved her.
Her throat shut convulsively, almost choking her.
Massimo didn’t love her. He was using her.
So if that smile wasn’t a look of love it was just part of his arsenal of seductive weapons.
Gina hadn’t thought it possible to hurt more than she’d hurt before. Yet now... 

It's autumn here in Australia, one of my favourite times of year. For some reason I always feel rejuvenated and ready to tackle all sorts of new projects when the seasons change. Plus there's the joy of the change of season colours in the garden and the crisp promise of new season apples to look forward to. 

Do you have a favourite season? What is it you look forward to at that time of year?

Leave a comment to be included automatically in the draw to win a Kindle copy of 'The Italian's Marriage Bargain' (International Giveaway)!

Come back next Sunday, when the winner of today's giveaway will be announced and a smooch by Kandy Shepherd will be posted!

Smooch Graphic by WebWeaver