Category Archives: Reading

Perseverance – Interview with Julia Lightbody

IMG_4723 (2)One of the things I wanted to do with my blog was interview unpublished writers to find about their journeys to publication. I’d wanted to do several a month, but after the first interview with Deb Waite a few months ago, I’ve only received a few interviews back. So now I’ve decided to do one a month. Then with the work and release on my two children’s books, “Uncle Bill’s Farm” and “The Hat Peddler,” I haven’t had time to write and post the interviews. Well, it’s time to get started.

This month I’m featuring Julia Lightbody, writing as Ava Black. Julia is a fellow member of the Wisconsin Romance Writers of America. Unfortunately we’ve never met, but I hope to remedy that at our next conference in April. After reading this interview, I believe you’ll learn how to persevere in whatever you do.

Julia, who or what inspired you to write? Lust, pain, victory and release beg me to write. So often, the daily monotony of ‘average’ weighs heavy on my brain, and I can’t help but crave something more than scooping dog poop from the neighbor’s yard and washing endless loads of laundry, something that frees creativity and chains boredom. Writing is that ‘something more.’ Its escapism, fantasy, perfection, and the only endeavor I can get away with while working full-time and raising kids (Olympic Gold Medal Figure Skater is too time consuming). As for who inspired me to write, Alfred Noyes wins the honor. In second grade, Mrs. Corrigan assigned us to write or copy our favorite poem and read it to the class. That night after school I ran home and dug Childcraft Volume Two from the living room bookshelf and copied The Highway Man. While scribbling away with a dull Number Two, something in my brain clicked. Since that day, I’ve always written—poems, short stories, diaries, novels. I haven’t read that poem in a long time and looked it up. I forgot what a tragic love story it is.

How long have you been writing? Did you stop and start, or write continuously during that time? Writing is like breathing, it never stops, well, unless you have babies and are working full-time and going to night school, then it stops. But it picks up once the babies are off to elementary land and the degrees are earned. My most productive writing years are now, midlife, because I have the desire, skill and time, and money to hone the craft. Writing ain’t cheap. Purchasing computers, attending conferences, hiring editors, all comes at an unaffordable price for a young family paying daycare and vet bills. But the time and dedication necessary to complete a manuscript are free, and something anyone who wants to write can afford. IMG_4721

Have you submitted a manuscript? I’ve submitted three, all have been rejected…over two-hundred times. The first rejection letter I received crushed my spirit for days, but not my will to write. I remember heading to the mailbox after work, wondering if today was the day I’d receive my SASE from Writer’s House (a top NY literary agency who represents clients like J.D. Robb and Lisa Jackson ), complete with contract inside. What waited was a three sentence ‘thanks but no thanks’ dis that sent me into a tailspin. How could they reject such art? How could they not offer critique? How could they slaughter my dream? Easily. Most agents get hundreds of submission monthly and are looking for strong voices, characters and plots. My art had none of those and although I loved writing, I didn’t love continuity, rhythm, and cohesiveness. Since that rejection letter, I’ve learned to love them. I admire your commitment to our craft. Many—if not all—other writers would have given up long ago, yet you keep persevering. I know someday I’ll be doing an update saying you are published.

????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????How do you handle those rejections? Rejections is raw and painful and personal, or at least it was until I researched rejection and learned it’s the first step to success. Stephen King’s first four novels were rejected, but his fifth sold. The name of that novel was Carrie. Rejection can’t define your skill or dream, it can only force you to hone craft and reevaluate details. In the beginning, after I opened rejection emails and snail mails, I’d crawl into bed and cry while swearing to burn my manuscript, but once I wiped the tears and studied models of winning query letters and synopses, I threw on the big-girl panties and broke out the editing pen. As cliché as it sounds, failure helped me succeed. This past year, I’ve received 10 full reads and 10 more rejections, however the rejections now come with critique and commentary such as “The writing is wonderful, but not for our audience,” or “The premise and characters are compelling, but my new-client list is full.” Rejection still stings, but now the sting is from a honey bee, not a box jellyfish. It’s part of the business, and something all writers need to accept. YOU WILL BE REJECTED. Last month I received a rejection letter, promptly threw it out, turned on the computer and kept writing. You have such a wonderful outlook on this topic. I like to tell students I talk to that rejection only makes you a better writer. I’m proud of my rejection file. The day I received an actual rejection letter that wasn’t a form letter, I knew I was improving.

What do you do to keep yourself from giving up? Every day I want to stop writing, but the truth is, I can’t. Last weekend at Mystery University, a Mystery Writers of America educational seminar, a friend spoke a great quote that sums up quitting writing, “Without writing, there’s just life” That’s about it. I agree. I believe non-writers don’t understand how necessary it is for us to write.

On a different topic—who are your favorite authors? Favorite authors include Maegan Beaumont (Carved in Darkness), Jennifer Hillier (Freak, Creep), and Gillian Flynn (Dark Places, Sharp Objects). Female writers penning gritty tales of flawed heroines battling insurmountable odds and inner darkness trip my trigger because the characters embody life’s hell and humanity while slicing through bullshit with grace. They’re goddesses on a mission to kill, maim, and avenge, and who doesn’t love a good ass-kicking goddess? I love this questions because I always learn the names of new authors to seek out–but so many books, so little time.

Do you enter contests? Have you won any? Every spring the Romance Writers of America and Mystery Writers of America feature a national writing competitions for unpublished authors. I’ve entered both and lost both. I’ve also entered and lost state writing competitions sponsored by regional RWA chapters. The key to not finding a tall bridge and jumping after being eliminated from round one is to remember that results are subjective. After the ms was read, judges mailed score sheets explaining elimination and what one judge scored as nearly perfect, the other scored as deeply flawed. Feedback as explicit as what a contestant receives in competition critique is invaluable and well worth the minimal entry fees. Competitions are a great way to connect with other writers and hone craft. I remember entering a contest with a time travel. One judge’s comment: “This could never happen.” Well, duh! I wanted to tell her how much I loved going back to 1862 the last time I went.

Can you share your work-in-progress? My WIP, Maladapted Behavior, is a psychological thriller featuring a flawed female shrink who enlists her lovers to unravel her patient’s murder. Okay, I just keyed onto the word “lovers.” I think I like this woman already.

book-feather-white-background-42062995What will you do to celebrate when you get a contract? I don’t torture myself with this delusion.

How did you choose the genre you write? I paid attention to the types of book, movies, music, and TV shows I love.

Are there any genres you wouldn’t write? Why? Sci-fi scares the bejeepers out of me. Technology, molecules, time travel and the vocabulary that accompanies those pieces, along with incredibly high word count requirements, are way beyond my skill level. Kudos to Sci-fi writers. Boy, I agree with you on that.

Do you go to conferences and workshops? Conferences and workshops enable blind writers to see. When I started writing, I penned on intuition and emotion, not skill. Conferences and workshops detail methods, techniques, formulas and even worksheets to make the process of finding rhythm, continuity, character arcs and editing feel intuitive instead of learned. Besides serving as an invaluable tool to hone craft, they’re a smokin’ hot opportunity to meet other writers experiencing the same rejections, insecurities, and frustrations as you. There’s no place that I feel more at home (unless I’m actually at home) than at a writing conference. Where else can you have an hour-long discussion about new and creative ways to skin someone you’ve kidnapped? Conferences and conventions are the place to be! They may be expensive, but are worth every cent. Well said. I’ve been attending them for years and learn something each time. Where else can you brainstorm about how to kill someone off and not be looked at like you were a psycho—wait, maybe we are for doing what we do.

Do you have a critique partner or group? Are they helpful? How? For the first two years I wrote, I didn’t have a critique partner and wasn’t in a group. I wish I had. Sharing work with strangers is scary, but you can only bug your FB friends and close family to read a chapter so many times before they start unfriending you. Currently I’m in a critique group that offers honest advice and support. The most valuable critique unveils aspects of your writing that you didn’t know needed improvement. For example, a fifteen page sex-scene may not be the best way to keep readers’ attention, or a character can’t start a murder investigation on a Monday, go on a Caribbean cruise on Tuesday, and be back with evidence to solve the crime on Wednesday. Timelines are tough to follow if they’re not plotted, and critique partners catch that. They also remind you that you’re not alone in your little world of rejection and failure, you’re in good company and there are people out there that care about that. Next to editing, receiving critique is the most helpful way to grow. I find I learn a lot by critiquing others’ work, too.

Tell us about your writing space: My writing space is a twelve-year-old factory warehouse liquidation special, green corduroy loveseat. It’s covered in dog IMG_4717 (2)fur (of the yellow Labrador variety) and has a few rips in it from the dog’s nails. Generally, I lay on the loveseat, with my feet propped over the arm, laptop placed on my belly atop a pillow and write. Since I work full time and have a six and nine-year-old, I usually write after seven p.m. I get home from work around four, do homework with the kids, cook dinner, clean up after dinner, walk the dog, then write. On the weekends, I cook breakfast, clean the house, wash four or five loads of laundry, then settle in to write. If the kids are too loud, I leave the living room love seat and head upstairs, where I crawl into bed and write in bed. Shutting the door usually doesn’t drown out the noise, but it helps. I write every day. The only days I don’t write are after I’ve finished a manuscript, or if I’m on vacation. If I’ve finished a manuscript, then I give myself about a week of downtime. Writing isn’t a chore, it’s a release, and I look forward to it daily. You certainly are good example to those “writers” who say they would love to write a book—if only they had the time. With your busy, busy schedule, I don’t know how you stay awake on the couch or in bed. I’d be asleep in a matter of minutes.

Thank you Julia for your spending your time with me today. I look forward to meeting you at a conference. Good luck with your writing.

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Whoohoo – Looky-Loo What I Got Today!!!!

What a week this has been. On Monday I found out “Riding for Love” went to paperback on Amazon. Last night I found out it was also on Barnes and Noble. Then today, when I got home, this is what I found on my doorstep: IMG_8683

Thank goodness the delivery person had the sense to put the boxes in a large plastic bag or they would have all been wet from all the rain. Now it’s the tears on my face that may make them wet. I’m sooooo excited. My hands are shaking. I keep giggling. I’ve done several jigs. And I do believe I kissed the first copy I took out of the box!

me and my book

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Thursday Threads – Char Chaffin’s New Release

Yesterday was the release day for Char Chaffin’s new book, Jesse’s Girl. This will be put on my ‘to be read list’ for sure. Congratulations, Char.

JessesGirlTitle: Jesse’s Girl
Heat Rating: Sweetly Sensual
Genre: Nostalgia Romance
Buy Link: http://www.amazon.com/Jesses-Girl-Char-Chaffin-ebook/dp/B00JK0DUD0/

Blurb:

In 1965, Tim O’Malley returns to his home town of Skitter Lake, Ohio, to clear his name and get the girl: Dorothy Whitaker, the love of his life since eighth grade. Blamed for a destructive fire he didn’t set, only Tim and Dorothy know the truth; that Jesse Prescott, Tim’s best friend and Dorothy’s boyfriend, did the deed that changed an entire town. But Jesse died in that tragedy and seven years later, Skitter Lake still honors him as a hero, rather than Tim, the boy from the seedy side of town whose father was a drunk . . . and whose quick actions saved six people from perishing in that horrendous fire.

In trying to set the record straight and finally claim Dorothy as his own, Tim—and Dorothy, too—will discover that in some small towns the legend often outweighs the truth . . . and their family and friends will forever see Dorothy as “Jesse’s girl.”

Excerpt:

Dorothy Whitaker. Good Lord, almighty.

Tim had almost crashed his car when he saw her, sitting in the sun with her ice-cream cone. Of all the people in Skitter Lake he figured he’d see, she was at the top of his ‘hope to run into’ list. He’d had to pull over right on the side of the road and look his fill, before summoning enough courage to step out of his car and approach her.

She hadn’t changed a bit. Still the most beautiful girl he’d ever seen, and that included all the California girls he’d met after he moved from Skitter Lake.

In grade school, they’d been inseparable. They’d played together during recess, spun on the merry-go-round, paired off on the seesaw. Dorothy was the first girl he’d held hands with, the first girl he’d ever taken to a Saturday matinee, back in seventh grade. They’d stuffed themselves on popcorn and thrilled to the adventures of Peter Pan. He’d walked her home, shyly brushed her mouth with the briefest touch of his lips. And trembled, needing more. He dreamed that night, how someday they’d be old enough and when they were, he’d kiss her the way a boy kisses his girlfriend
.
But by eighth grade, Jesse had noticed Dorothy, and after that, Tim didn’t stand a chance.
Well, that was then, and Jesse no longer stood between them.

“You let your cone get away from you.” Was that his voice, hoarse and deep? He cleared his throat, offering the damp towel. Slowly, her hand reached out, and her fingers touched his. The spark between them seemed immediate and powerful, at least to him.

“Thanks.” She wadded the towel and wiped at the stain on her dress. Her downcast face couldn’t hide the flush that rode high on her cheeks. Dorothy had always been a blusher, her creamy skin revealing every emotion. A coil of loose, silky hair slipped over her shoulder as she worked at the smear of chocolate. If anything, the color had deepened over the years. ‘Strawberry blonde,’ he’d heard it called in California, but back in school she’d simply had the loveliest hair he’d ever seen.

Silence stretched between them as he waited for her to raise her head and she seemed hell-bent on fussing with her damp skirt. Finally, nothing remained for her to clean, and she had to look up. She laid the towel on the picnic table behind her, started to speak, hesitated, then her lips curved into a sweet smile. “It’s good to see you, Tim. When did you get to town?”

“About two hours ago. I’ve just been driving around.” He couldn’t take his eyes off her. He had to shove his hands in the pockets of his pants to keep from touching her. “I wasn’t sure I’d see you. Guess I thought you’d have left by now, moved somewhere else.”

She shrugged. “No, I decided to stay. After my dad died, Mom’s health problems got worse. And I work at the bank now. It’s pretty good money.”

Yeah, and it doesn’t hurt that Bob Prescott owns the bank and still thinks of you as his honorary daughter-in-law. The thought tasted bitter to Tim, even after seven years and moving a dozen states away.

As if she could read his mind, Dorothy’s face flamed brighter and she looked away, out over the lake. He didn’t know what the hell to say to her, which infuriated him. Once, a lifetime ago, words flowed between them so easily. Even after Jesse had claimed her, Tim still had these incredible conversations with Dorothy about music, movies, books, dreams. He could tell her about how boxed-in he felt, living on the rougher edge of the blue-collar side of town with a father who thought the world owed him a living, and a mother who silently endured her unhappy marriage.

In turn, she confided the difficulties of life as the daughter of Preacher Whitaker, professional Bible-thumper. Tim knew she’d loved her father fiercely. He also knew her childhood had been knotted up in Christian duty, an often heavy burden for a kid.

Now, Dorothy released a quiet sigh and picked up the soiled bar towel. “Well, I should be going, I suppose—”

“Stay.” He laid his palm on her shoulder, fought a losing battle with the need to caress her baby-soft skin, and ran careful fingers along her slender forearm. When she didn’t move away, he took at as a good sign, and murmured, “It’s been seven long years, Dorothy. We were friends once.” He watched the emotion flicker over her face. “I missed you, a lot.”

She released a broken little sigh. “I missed you, too. But I wasn’t the one who moved away, Tim. I wasn’t the one who left.”

“I didn’t have a choice, you know that.” He bit back the familiar frustration, a feeling he’d thought had finally left him after years away from this town. “I paid the price for leaving. Everyone still blames me. Don’t they?” He caught her fingers, which trembled in his grip. “I paid, and it wasn’t my fault.”

Tears formed in her pretty hazel eyes, and even his instant remorse at hurting her yet again couldn’t keep him silent a second longer. “It wasn’t my fault,” he repeated. “You know it. Hell, Bob Prescott knows it, too.”

“What’re you talking about? What are you saying?” Now her hand pressed against his, holding him steady when he would have turned from her. “What’s Mr. Prescott got to do with anything?”

“Ask him, Dorothy.” Tim gently disengaged her hand and gave it a quick squeeze before he let her go. “I’m in town for a while.” He paused, his gaze roaming over her with a yearning he didn’t attempt to hide. “I’m staying at the boardinghouse. I’d really like to see you.”

He could feel her eyes on him as he headed to his car.

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Swag for the Romantic Times Convention

It’s hard to believe that it’s been almost a year since the last Romantic Times Convention and almost a year since Riding for Love was released at the convention. What a year! Yet here I am, starting to prepare for this exciting week.

Several of us Soul Mate Authors are holding a Reader Appreciation Activity. One of the many things we’re doing is preparing 100 goody bags for the first 100 participants. The bags will hold CDs of our books and swag from the authors. If you don’t know what Swag is, it’s all that “stuff” people bring home from conventions, fairs, open houses, etc.

Choosing Swag, for me anyway, was nerve-racking. I’ve come home from the convention with more pens than I’ll ever use in a lifetime, bookmarks, rulers, lip balm, hand lotion, candy, gum, and so on. When I started thinking about what I wanted for my swag, I decided I didn’t want anything that people would eat, put on their lips or take home and throw away. Once something is used up, the author’s information is gone.

I asked the gals from my writers’ group, people at work, and friends what they thought. When I picked out a few items and gave the choices to people, the decision was unanimous. The letter openers finally arrived yesterday.

Swag

Before I attended my first RT Convention, I had this image of sedate lovers of romance casually going through books, looking over tables of goodies, removing only those items they wanted to take home. Instead, lines for events form long before the event starts. Readers, writers and librarians swarm to tables grabbing what they can, shoving them in their bags. I’ve seen many women lugging their over-full bags down hallways, their faces showing their exhaustion. I must say I’m no better when it comes to free books – and we get a lot of them. I understand the bags we get this year will have wheels. Yay!

So, it’ll be interesting to see how fast our 100 bags disappear and whether we’ll get stampeded in the process.

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Filed under Reading, Reflection, Romance, Soul Mate Authors, Uncategorized, Writer's Conventions/Conferences

Thursday Threads – Meggan Connors

For those who enjoy reading Highlander books, here’s newly released, Highland Deception by by Meggan Connors:

HighlandDeception2_850Title: Highland Deception
Heat Rating: Sensual
Genre: Historical Romance

Buy Links: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00J3D2JS6/

Blurb:

When Kenneth Mackay, long-banished rogue and thief, returns to the Mackay holding at the request of his brother, he has no idea what he might find. He certainly doesn’t expect to be confronted with his twin’s imminent death, or with the plan his brother has concocted.

Ten years before, Malcolm made a tragic mistake, and, to preserve the family name—and his own skin—he allowed Kenneth to take the fall. Now that he is dying without an heir, Malcolm plans to atone for his mistake: by giving Kenneth his life back. All Kenneth has to do is assume his brother’s identity. But complicating matters is the unexpected return of Lady Isobel Mackay, the daughter of an English marquess and the wife Malcolm didn’t want.

Isobel barely knows the husband who abandoned her even before their marriage, and she’d long since given up hope on having a real marriage with him. Yet when she returns to the Mackay holding far earlier than expected, she finds her husband a changed man. Despite the hurt between them, Isobel’s heart responds to this man who cares for his entire clan as if there were family. Who, for the first time, cares about her as if she is, too.

Falling in love with her husband had never been part of Isobel’s plan. But when their future is suddenly in peril, Isobel must find a way to save him—from himself and from the deception threatening to tear them apart.

Excerpt
She ignored Grant’s angry protests behind her and ran for her husband’s bedchamber. Slamming open the door, she stumbled inside.

Malcolm lay in the great bed. Alone.

Alone. She tried not to speculate about what meant.

His breathing was shallow, as if he’d been running. As the door bounced back and closed, his sky-bright eyes shot up and met hers.

No, not sky-bright. Darker, the color of the forget-me-nots that bloomed in the gardens in spring. The color of the night sky as it lightened with the first rays of dawn.

“Milord.” She gasped for breath.

Malcolm had never looked at her like he did now. This time, when he studied her, it was as if he didn’t dislike what he saw.

Being honest with herself, Malcolm had never disliked her. After all, the term dislike implied a depth of feeling he almost certainly lacked.

“Wife.”

Isobel flinched.

Grant was suddenly at her back. “Sir, I apologize. She’s faster than you’d think.” He laid a hand on her shoulder, as if to steer her from the room.

She shook him off.

“Indeed.” Malcolm smiled, and a charming dent in his cheek appeared.

How had she not noticed that before?

“We will leave at once.” Grant took her by the arm.

She wrenched out of his grasp. “I’m not going anywhere. Not until I have my audience.” She glanced around the room and saw no sign of Malcolm’s mistress.

“Lady Mackay,” Grant began.

Malcolm held up his hand. “‘Tis fine, Grant. I can always make time for my lady wife.”

Isobel barked a hollow laugh, alleviating the ache, just a little.

“Are you certain?” Grant’s eyes shifted from Isobel to Malcolm and back again. A wrinkle formed between his brows, and the muscle in his cheek worked as he ground his teeth together.

He’d only ever done that when he was agitated or anxious.

But there was no reason for that, as Malcolm had never truly cared enough to keep secrets from her in an attempt to spare her feelings. Nor had he ever forced others to do the same.

Malcolm’s eyes met Grant’s, and something passed between the two men. Her husband gave Grant a clipped nod. “If you’ll excuse us, Grant.”

Grant released his breath slowly. His eyes narrowed first at Malcolm, then at Isobel. Scowling, he bowed his head. “Mackay,” he said stiffly. He turned to Isobel. “Lady Mackay.”

Isobel watched him go then waited until the door had closed behind him. “So, where is she?”

Malcolm arched a dark brow. “Where is who?”

“You know. Her.”

He lifted a single shoulder, as if she didn’t have a right to know. “I doona ken.”
The silence that fell between them was deafening, damning.
Finally he said, “Your arrival was unexpected.”
She breathed a mirthless laugh. “I have no doubt.” She expected him to look ashamed, but his expression didn’t hold even the slightest hint of remorse. She swallowed against the betrayal rising in the back of her throat and tried again. “Why are you abed?”

“I’ve been ailing. Naught to fash yourself over.”

She approached his great bed tentatively. “Ailing how? Has your cough worsened?”

He glanced down at his coverlet and then brought his gaze back to her face. “For a time, aye. I believe I’m on the mend now.”

Isobel pressed her hand to his forehead, then his cheek. His skin felt cool beneath her palm, if a little damp.

His breath hitched, then he cleared his throat. “Satisfied? As you can see, I am on the mend.”

“Perhaps,” she whispered. She ran her hand around to the back of his neck, then descended to his back.

He wore a thin linen shirt, unsuitable for the cool nights of the Highlands in late fall. She placed her hands between his shoulder blades. He was thinner than she remembered, but there was no mistaking Malcolm’s unique strength.

“Breathe,” she said, and then reminded herself to do the same.

Malcolm.
“I hardly think—”

“If you want me to leave you be, you will appease my curiosity. Breathe.”

Malcolm tilted his head up and studied her.

She fought the desire to look at him for as long as she could before meeting his gaze. Her heart skipped a beat as she saw something in his eyes she hadn’t seen before.

Curiosity.

“Breathe, milord.” Heat spread up her neck to her face, and, to keep her free hand from shaking, she clenched a fist. The warmth of his body seeped through his nightshirt, scalding her hand not with fever but with something else.

The corners of his lips tilted upward before he smoothed his features. He paused for a moment too long, then held her gaze as he took an extended, deliberate breath.

She shoved the raging emotions aside and forced herself to view him as a person who needed her help.
She felt no hint of the cough that had been nagging him before she’d left.
Swallowing hard, she slid her hand between the linen and his skin, against his chest.

His heart rate kicked up.

“Breathe.” She struggled to force the word out.
I feel nothing. Nothing. He needs my help.
She closed her eyes and listened to his breathing, feeling the rise and fall of his chest beneath her hands, the steady beating of his heart. His skin scorched hers.
Her mouth dried, her tongue thick and heavy. She removed her hand. “You seem to have mended nicely.” Even to her own ears, her voice sounded strangled.
His gaze searched her face. “Aye.”

Isobel cradled her hand against her chest and stepped back from the bed, nearly tripping over her own feet. “I will leave you now, sir.”

Malcolm gave her a clipped nod. “Very well, my lady wife.”

“I—I will be in my chambers should you require me.”

He didn’t laugh, as he normally would have. “Then I shall find you there if I do. Or I will send for you.”

She backed up a few paces, bumped into a trunk, and immediately turned her attention to her skirt, trying to smooth wrinkles undoubtedly permanent from long days of travel. It was better than looking at Malcolm.

“By your leave.” Her eyes locked on the floor as she dipped into a hasty curtsy and fled.

The moment the door closed behind her, she put her back against the cold, stone wall, cradling the hand that had touched him as if she had injured it.

She’d touched his skin, felt the heat of his body, and the responding heat of hers.
He hadn’t forced her hands away. He hadn’t mocked her.
Instead, for the first time since their marriage, he’d called her wife.

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