Mind Bender (A Miranda and Parker Mystery) #10 – Now Available!

It’s finally here! The tenth Miranda and Parker Mystery is now available.

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Book #10 in the gripping mystery-thriller series from bestselling author Linsey Lanier

A shooting. A bank robbery. A car chase. A kidnapping. And that was just PI Miranda Steele’s morning.

After a relaxing vacation in the North Georgia Mountains with her sexy husband and boss, Miranda Steele gets mixed up in a bank robbery that leads to a desperate hunt for a missing woman. Never in her life would she have guessed it would be that woman, but she can’t give up now. The woman’s life may be in danger, as well as the trust of Miranda’s new team at the Parker Investigative Agency.

On a twisted trail of violence, kidnapping, and mind control, Miranda is forced to face a frightening question: Can someone brainwash you to do something that’s not in your nature? Like rob a bank and kill everyone in your way?

Miranda and Parker are about to find out.

Mind Bender is the tenth book in the Miranda and Parker Mystery series, a continuation of the popular Miranda Steele, private investigator, stories from bestselling author Linsey Lanier (the Miranda’s Rights Mystery series). Buy this exciting, fast-paced thriller for a story readers say they can’t put down.

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Chapter One

She was so excited, her skin tingled.

She could feel her own heartbeat as she listened to the murmur of Friday business being conducted around her.

As she waited in the roped-off line, she bounced on her toes and gazed up at the tall glass façade of the front wall and entrance to the downtown Buckhead bank. Ten minutes ago she’d marched through those doors, her first paycheck tucked in her pocketbook under her arm.

Well, it wasn’t her very first paycheck.

She’d worked all kinds of jobs back in Austin. She’d waitressed in dives, cleaned houses, even tried a little panhandling. But she’d gone to school and taken acting lessons for the past eight year, and all that effort had finally paid off.

She was in a real movie being filmed in Atlanta.

She was about to deposit her first check from the production company.

Okay, she wasn’t a star yet. She was only an extra, and the part was only supposed to last a few days. But the second assistant director seemed to be taking a liking to her. He’d asked her to stay on another week, and she thought he might give her a line in one of the upcoming scenes. Who knew where that could lead? She was on her way. She could feel it. The sky was the limit. Someday, she would be a star. She always knew she would be.

She couldn’t stop smiling.

Bouncing on her heels with excitement, she glanced around at the other customers waiting in line and the busy bank clerks behind the counter. The place was crowded and felt close. She could smell the colognes and body washes of the customers near her. One large man in a suit grumbled impatiently. She should have expected the bank would be busy on a Friday just before noon. Everyone was here to cash their own paychecks and go out for a good time.

She wasn’t in a hurry.

She was done for the day and didn’t have plans for tonight. She’d be heading home after this stop. So why was she suddenly feeling so anxious? Maybe because Drew had promised he might stop by later.

She’d only known him a week, but she really liked him. She’d met him back in Austin and he’d asked her out. When she told him she was trying to get into the movies, he said he had some connections and might be able to get her something in Atlanta if she was willing to start at the bottom.

At first she’d thought it was a come on line. But there was something about Drew that made her trust him. But leave home and go all the way to Atlanta with him? It might have been risky, but she’d decided to do it. And it had worked out. Drew hadn’t been lying. Here she was, cashing her first paycheck.

She felt a hand on her shoulder. As if he’d materialized from her own thoughts, Drew appeared at her side, wearing that heart-stopping smile of his.

“Hey, honeybun.”

“Hey,” she breathed in answer.

He was so handsome. Tall and broad-shouldered, dressed in jeans and his leather motor-cycle jacket, his thick black hair tousled as if he’d just been on a ride. His face was to-die-for. He was part Asian and his dark exotic eyes always made her knees feel like jelly.

“Cashing your check?”

“Making my first deposit.”

“We need to go out and celebrate tonight. My treat.”

She bounced on her toes again. Could this day get any more perfect?

Drew touched her shoulder again and she caught a whiff of that sexy aftershave he always wore.

It smelled like honeysuckle and cinnamon—and something else she couldn’t quite identify.

The man behind her stepped a little too close. Feeling suddenly claustrophobic, she glanced around at the crowd. She was uncomfortable, antsy. She started to perspire. The A/C was on, but her skin felt like it was on fire. There were too many people in here.

She heard a voice calling to her.

“Ma’am?”

Looking up, she saw the clerk standing behind the counter. A fuzzy red haze surrounded her.

The clerk beckoned her forward. “Can I help you ma’am?

Awkwardly she stepped toward the window.

“What can I do for you?”

The clerk was wearing a ridiculous smile. She reminded her of Emmy Holt, a girl in high school who’d always made fun of her.

Suddenly, she hated that clerk. Who did she think she was, anyway?

“Would you like to make a deposit?” The woman prompted.

“Deposit?” She put a hand to her forehead and tried to think.

She couldn’t remember what she was here for. She opened her pocketbook and stared down at its contents. There was a check, but she didn’t remember putting it there. She saw lipstick, tissues, a cell phone—and tucked neatly beside the phone was a small handgun with a pink handle.

How did that get in there?

“Ma’am?” The clerk said again.

The red haze grew dark. Blue and purple clouds began to form around the edges of her vision. She felt dizzy, sick.

“Ma’am? Are you all right?”

And all she wanted was to make that clerk shut up. She reached into her purse, pulled out the gun, and fired at the woman.

The clerk crumbled to the floor as a collective scream rose from the crowd of customers.

She spun around flailing the gun at the sea of terrified faces. Suddenly, she knew exactly what to do.

“All of you,” she growled. “On the floor or you’ll be next.”

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Kobo books are 50% OFF!

Kobo is having a 50% OFF sale from now (June 25) until June 27, 2016 at 11:59 PM EST!

If you’re a Kobo reader in any of these countries you’re eligible:

U.S., Canada, Australia, New Zealand.

Just enter promo code 50JUN when you check out (for me this was on the second page).

For your convenience here are the links to all my books on Kobo. If you’ve been wanting to get more Miranda stories (or any of my other books), now’s the time to stock up.

Happy reading at half price!

~Linsey

THE MIRANDA’S RIGHTS MYSTERY SERIES
Someone Else’s Daughter
Delicious Torment
Forever Mine
Fire Dancer
Thin Ice

THE MIRANDA AND PARKER MYSTERY SERIES
All Eyes on Me
Heart Wounds
Clowns and Cowboys
The Watcher
Zero Dark Chocolate
Trial by Fire
Smoke Screen
The Boy

OTHER SUSPENSE BOOKS BY LINSEY LANIER
Chicago Cop (A cop family thriller)
Steal My Heart (A romantic suspense)

THE PRASALA ROMANCES
The Crown Prince’s Heart
The King’s Love Song
The Count’s Baby

Note: If for some reason a link does not work, please navigate to your Kobo site and enter “Linsey Lanier” in the search box.

Kobo Inc.

The latest Miranda and Parker mystery is out!

The Boy (A Miranda and Parker Mystery) #8

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There’s nothing more terrifying than losing your child

After two weeks of a lazy second honeymoon with Parker, private investigator Miranda is startled when her husband gets a strange call on his cell phone. Not only does the eerie robotic message raise more questions than answers, it throws the pair into the investigation of a grisly murder, a tussle with a GBI agent, a secret branch of the FBI, and a frightening kidnapping.

To top things off the team they were supposed to form is disgruntled with the management.

If Miranda can’t pull things together soon, this time more than one person might end up dead.

The Boy is the eighth book in the Miranda and Parker Mystery series, a continuation of the popular Miranda Steele stories from bestselling author Linsey Lanier (the Miranda’s Rights Mystery series). Buy this chilling, fast-paced thriller for a story readers say they can’t put down.

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Chapter One

She risked another glance in her rearview mirror and caught the dark outline of the man behind the steering wheel of the black van.
He was a large man. The van drew close and he looked straight at her.
A shiver of nerves went through her.
But then he’d probably seen her the first time she’d noticed him. Right after she’d exited the grocery store on Krog Street.
She never should have left the house this afternoon, but they had run out of food and the only thing left was peanut butter.
The boy was allergic to peanuts.
It was a pretty little blue house off Irwin Street in the Old Fourth Ward of the city. The homes there were close together and the neighbors seemed friendly enough. Not that she had spoken to any of them. That was forbidden. There were children in the neighborhood and the boy longed to play with them. That was also forbidden.
For three long days she’d attempted to keep him occupied with books and toys and video games. All the while she’d been waiting for word. What to do next? How would she know when it was safe again?
And then the food supply got low.
The light changed and she continued on Spring Street not knowing what else to do.
She shouldn’t have left the house, she told herself again. She should have contacted someone for supplies. But the phone number she had was only for emergencies. She’d thought she could handle a simple trip to the grocery store. But somehow the man in the van had found her.
She could handle this, she told herself again, straightening her shoulders with determination. She’d had training, after all. She’d done well in the exercises for losing a tail. But that had been two years ago and it had been just a drill.
She’d never had to do it for real.
How had he found her? Had he followed her from the house? If so, then the boy was in trouble. The thought filled her with a sinking feeling.
No. She was positive no one had followed her from the house. This man had been cruising the streets looking for her. Had it been just her bad luck that he’d spotted her? That meant they knew what she looked like.
If only she hadn’t left the boy alone in the house. Her resolve wavered and she shivered again.
James would never have made such a silly mistake as to run out of supplies. But James was dead and she was here alone on the streets of downtown Atlanta, shaking all over with nerves.
So far she’d followed protocol.
As soon as she’d seen the van in the parking lot, she’d put the groceries in the trunk of the old gray Camry they’d given her and slipped into the driver’s seat as casually as she could. She’d headed in the opposite direction, away from the house and the quiet little neighborhood, and toward the highway.
The van had followed her. She glanced down at her gauges. She’d gone about half a mile.
Now what?
She made a turn and got on the Interstate. She drove to the next exit then got back off, hoping that would confuse him.
It didn’t work. The van was still behind her.
She headed downtown, turning left then right through the mid-morning traffic. She made her way past the novelty shops, the hotels, the assorted tall bank buildings. Past Centennial Olympic Park and the World of Coca-Cola building and the Aquarium. She passed a half dozen other cars but the van was still behind her. Surely the driver knew she’d made him by now. He’d known that right away, hadn’t he?
Apparently he didn’t care.
She headed back toward the interstate, but instead of getting on, this time she took the overpass and headed up West Peachtree. She drove past the hospital and bank buildings and more hotels.
She glanced up at the approaching street sign. Third Street. She put on her signal, as if to turn right. The light turned yellow.
She floored it and shot through the light—going straight.
The van did the same.
She couldn’t lose him. Again nerves made her hands shiver on the steering wheel.
Oh, James. If only you hadn’t signed up for that last tour of duty. If only you had come home to me. If only you hadn’t died in that last raid in Afghanistan. She could have been at home right now, waiting for their own son to come home from school. Or rocking a new baby to sleep in her arms for naptime.
It wasn’t meant to be.
But, no. These last two years in this job had taught her the needs of others had to come before her own. It was what James believed in. What they both believed in. What he’d died for.
This was no time to wallow in the past. She could do this. She was trained to do this.
Concentrate.
She looked around to get her bearings again and formulate a plan. After another ten minutes, she turned onto Fourteenth and headed back toward the highway.
The van was still behind her.
If she couldn’t lose the tail, at least she could lead the man as far away from the boy as possible. She’d go to South Carolina if she had to. She glanced down at her gauges. She’d need gas for that and she’d just passed a station.
Nothing was going her way.
Wait a minute. Why not stop there? Go inside the store at the gas station and get help from someone. Anyone. That would make the man in the black van disappear.
She made a right and headed around the block.
She drove along the road fronting the Interstate and around the curve to the next light. It turned red and she stopped. She let out a breath.
It would be okay. She was going to get help.
Then she remembered the edict never to involve civilians. She’d just strike up a conversation with a stranger. That ought to be enough. What if it wasn’t? She had her secure cell phone. There was the one number she could call.
And there was something else.
She glanced down at her small pocket book lying on the passenger seat beside her. In addition to her fake IDs, it had a secret compartment. Inside the compartment was a tiny vial. Inside the vial was a tiny pill.
Only for an emergency.
No going back after that. She squeezed the steering wheel and stared up at the light.
Bam!
The jolt threw her forward, knocking her forehead against the steering wheel.
Heart pounding, she glared into the rearview mirror. The black van had rammed the back of her car. The man inside it was getting out. He must have sensed where she was going so he’d faked an accident.
He was big and bulky and dressed all in black. His bald head was tattooed with a frightening black spiral-and-spike design.
She couldn’t let him get near her.
She put the car in park, grabbed her pocketbook, scooted across the front seat and got out on the passenger side.
She rushed onto the sidewalk and ran as fast as she could. The street she was on was nearly deserted. She was about a block from the gas station but it was a long block. She might as well be a mile away.
A car rolled by. She wanted to flag it down. No civilians. She hesitated too long and it was gone. Someone would report the accident, wouldn’t they? A police car could be along any minute, right?
She glanced behind her. The man was following her.
She hurried down the walkway.
The cement was broken in spots. This wasn’t the best cared for section of town. A row of overgrown holly bushes and maple trees lined one side of the walk. The city was known for its tree canopy. Could it provide a hiding place? She pulled her lightweight sweater around her feeling chilly despite the warm fall day. It was in the mid seventies. The sky was clear. People should be out walking.
But no one was on this road.
Could she make it to the gas station? It was too far away. She needed a hiding place. Across the street stood a tall office building. It was vacant. A parking garage sat next to it. Between the two structures stretched a dark narrow space.
Too risky to go in there.
She could hear the man panting behind her and knew she didn’t have much time. If she didn’t find a way to escape soon he would catch up to her.
She didn’t have a lot of details but she knew the type of organization he was with. She could only imagine what they’d do to her to find out where the boy was. She thought of the pill inside her purse.
As she hurried along, she opened it and reached inside. It was the cell her fingers touched first. Emergency contact. If this wasn’t an emergency, she didn’t know what was.
Quickly, she keyed in the special code she’d memorized when she took this assignment and pressed send. With a sinking sensation, she knew it wouldn’t get to anyone in time to help her. But maybe that message could save the boy.
Suddenly, the hedges along the sidewalk opened revealing a narrow paved road.
Beyond a low hill rose the back of two billboards. The Interstate.
There were cars there. She could hear them buzzing along. There was always traffic on the interstates in this town. If she just could get there, she could run out into the road. If she were hit head on, she’d be better off. But she’d be sure to get someone’s attention.
She ducked through the bushes and ran.
On the other side was nothing but an empty parking lot. One lone pickup truck sat in the grass beside the pavement. The building beyond the foliage was deserted as well.
But the man was still behind her.
She could hear his steps getting closer, clopping over the asphalt like a Clydesdale’s hooves.  She raced across the lot as fast as she could, wishing she’d worn running shoes instead of flats. Jeans instead of a skirt. If only she could make it to the road.
But the clopping grew louder. Closer.
Desperation tearing at her, once more she opened her pocket book, struggling with it as she hurried along. She found the secret compartment. Her fingers maneuvered the tiny vial into her palm.
And then it was too late.
Large strong hands gripped her shoulders. She dropped her purse and tried to kick out as she spun around.
She connected with his shin but he didn’t even feel it. He was so huge. Big shouldered. Strong as three men. He squeezed her arms, forcing her to look at him as if he wanted her to see him.
That face.
Big and knobby, weathered skin like old leather. Shaved head. The twisted tattoo climbing up the side of his neck. The smell of liquor on his breath. The face of a man with many gruesome murders behind him. What was one more?
Panic pummeled her brain. She couldn’t think.
The pill. It was her only hope.
She raised her hand to her mouth, but he gave her a brutal shake. The vial flew out of her hand and smashed on the concrete.
The man laughed. “You are not getting off that easy, little one,” he whispered in a strange, frightening accent.
And then he put a big hand around her neck and began to squeeze. The arterial nerve. A strong person can make you pass out by pressing in the right spot. She’d learned that in training, too.
She tried to fight but it was no use.
The traffic sounds on the interstate faded into a low whir. Stars began to whirl in her brain. The trees and buildings around her dimmed and went black.
As she went slack into the big man’s arms, all she could hope for was that her last message had saved the boy.

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The Count’s Baby – Now Available for Preorder!

The third Prasala Romance, The Count’s Baby will be released March 16, 2016. I’m so excited to share Megan’s story with my readers! (More below.)

You can preorder The Count’s Baby now on:

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When Megan Russell’s life is shattered after her politician husband leaves her for another woman, she flees to Prasala for solace where her best Prasala3-8_350friend, Katy, is now a princess.

Megan hopes to get a new start here and put the pieces of her life back together. She can’t go on as an emotional basket case because of what her husband did to her. She has to move on. She needs to find a meaningful career.

Especially now.

But the handsome Count with the wicked smile is making her mind go in other directions.

Count Philippe de BelleBourge enjoys his reputation as Europe’s most notorious playboy. He longs to get back to that life. But he has been saddled with handling his late father’s estate.

And now the intriguing divorcee from Kentucky has caught his attention. If only he could get her into his bed, she would realize what pleasures he could show her.

Megan senses danger around this man—that only makes him more interesting. But she can’t risk another betrayal. Can she hold her own against the Count’s wiles?

Or will she lose her heart to a man she can never have?

Preorder on Amazon

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Chapter One

Megan Russell smiled down at the pair of bright blue eyes gazing into hers with curiosity. From beneath the plush chenille blanket, a tiny hand reached out and wrapped around her finger.

The pressure was stronger than she expected, and her heart broke with tenderness at the sensation, even as she breathed in the sweet smell of baby powder—and fought the bitter taste welling up at the back of her throat.

“Little Prince Beaumont,” she whispered softly. “He’s beautiful.”

Beside her, Katy beamed. “Isn’t he? If I do say so myself.”

Megan sighed. The patch of black hair was like his father’s. The tiny mouth like Katy’s. “He has your eyes.”

Dressed in a pale pink slacks outfit, with her short blond hair smoothed back in a mature style, Katy didn’t look like the country girl she’d once been. Unless you knew her.

Megan watched her maternal moves as she fluffed the bedclothes of the hand-painted crib, a bed made long ago by specially commissioned carpenters to cradle the country’s royalty.

“Mama says that, too. And Darcy is beside herself with excitement over having a nephew.”

Megan still had trouble believing Katy’s little sister was the newly-crowned Queen of the country. She’d known Darcy since she was Prince Beaumont’s age.

Katy held out her arms. “Two o’clock. Nap time.”

Megan gave the little Prince back to his mother, watched her lay him gently on the silken sheets.

The afternoon sun danced playfully on the high majestic walls of the castle nursery. The intricate gold-leaf patterns glistened while the fanciful pastel scenes of knights and horses seemed to mock her. But the mural’s sweet innocence reflected the right tone for a baby.

And after all, the southeastern European country of Prasala was famous for its horses. No wonder some women from Kentucky felt so at home here.

Megan hoped to feel that way, too. She hoped she could heal here. She hoped to finally escape the emptiness in her heart.

Some things, though, were inescapable.

As the little Prince yawned and closed his eyes, Megan pressed a hand to her stomach. The familiar tremor of bitterness and fear rippled through her—feelings that had engulfed her for a few weeks now.

Her secret.

Stubbornly she bit back the hurt and fought the threatening tears with all her might. She would not fall apart in front of her friend.

Were they still friends? She hadn’t spoken to Katy in months.

As if she had read her thoughts, Katy took Megan’s hand and led her to a nearby divan.

“Who would have thought I’d grow up to be the mother of a Prince?”

“Or the wife of one.” Megan forced a smile as she eased herself onto the traditional Vendome sofa with its lavish carvings and cushions.

Katy continued to hold her hand, her face riddled with concern. “I’m so glad you’re here, Meg.”

With her free hand Megan smoothed the lap of her designer jeans.

She was still in the clothes she’d worn from the airport. Two days ago on a whim she’d had her light brown hair dyed dark and cut in a modern fringe. She must look a sight to Katy.

Avoiding her friend’s gaze she braced herself for the inevitable conversation.

“Tell me how you’ve been.”

How she’d been. Megan almost sighed out loud.

They used to be close.

She and Katy had been best friends when they were kids together in school. Back home in Kentucky, while Megan’s family had been well off, Katy’s had owned a struggling horse farm.

Funny. Katy always said Megan defended her from the bullies at school. The snobby rich kids who’d make fun of her because she didn’t wear designer clothes or couldn’t afford the latest gadgets. But Megan had always admired the way Katy stood up for herself.

Such an odd twist of fate.

As adults, Megan had been the one to comfort Katy when her well-to-do fiancé cheated on her days before her wedding. Now their situations were reversed. Katy was happily married and Megan was the one who’d been jilted.

Jilted. She hated that word.

Katy squeezed her hand. “Oh Meg, I’m so sorry about Tom. I wish you’d told me you were having problems sooner.”

“I didn’t know it myself until it was too late.” Megan stared down at their entwined fingers.

She and Katy had drifted apart the past year while she’d tried in vain to keep her life from disintegrating. When she’d called out of the blue last week and asked to come to Prasala for a visit, Katy had been understandably surprised. Even a little terse.

Megan could tell she wanted answers. Answers Megan couldn’t give her.

Not yet.

When Katy asked if Tom was coming, she’d quietly said, no. She and Tom were divorced. She hadn’t told her the details.

Katy leaned closer. “I wish I knew how to help you. You’ve always been there for me. It must be devastating to…lose him.”

Lose him. As if he were a missing pet.

“I lost him years ago,” she said. “If I ever really had him.”

Bitterness churned inside her.

She had trusted Tom completely. They had been childhood sweethearts. She’d thought they had the perfect marriage. She’d wanted children with him.

She had helped him get through law school, find his first job as an attorney, run for city council, the mayor’s office, all the way up to the Assistant Attorney General of the state.

But she should have seen the telltale signs years ago. The strain in his eyes, his coldness, his avoidance of her with constant work that kept him at the office.

Though apparently it hadn’t all been work.

“There was another woman.”

Katy’s grip on her hand grew tight. “Oh, no, Meg.”

It was eight months ago now. Just after she’d returned from her last trip to Prasala for Darcy’s coronation. Megan had barely walked through the door and begun to unpack when Tom told her, in a very calm, very unemotional voice, that there was someone else.

He wanted a quiet divorce—as in keeping it from the media—with as little fanfare and fuss as possible. For him their marriage was over, he’d said. He felt nothing for her any longer.

She bored him.

His words had stung her like a gunshot. Shock and disbelief had immobilized her senses. She bored him? How could Tom say such a thing? Maybe the spark had gone out of their marriage, but they could get it back. Couldn’t they? How could there be someone else?

Who was she? What was she like? Megan never got a chance to ask.

Tom had already packed his bags. As soon as he delivered his message, he picked them up and left the mansion they had shared as man and wife as if it were a hotel he’d stayed in for a weekend.

The following months were a blur. Megan cried for days, feeling stupid and humiliated and angry and betrayed. But despite Tom’s unfaithfulness Megan refused to believe their marriage was done.

It couldn’t be over. What did he expect her to do with herself?

Like a desperate fool, she called his office over and over. She asked to meet him at their favorite bistro, to talk with him. To try to patch up whatever was wrong with their marriage.

He refused.

All through the summer and the holidays and the winter she wandered the halls of her house, at a loss for what to do. She refused to sign the papers when they came. Her family didn’t believe in divorce. Neither did she. She didn’t think Tom did, either.

This couldn’t be happening.

She called Tom again. This time she begged him to come to the house. She told him he’d left some of his things and insisted he pick them up in person.

He agreed but only if she signed the papers.

She said she would. But that wouldn’t be necessary.

When Tom walked through the door she’d greeted him with a candlelight dinner of creamed lobster and double stuffed potatoes with chocolate cake for dessert.

His favorites.

He’d wanted to turn around and leave but somehow she convinced him to stay, to eat, to talk. If only he would talk to her. They could work out their problems. Through the dinner they made idle chitchat. Finally she managed to tempt him into the bedroom.

They made love. For old time’s sake, she told him. Just one last time. She’d hoped he would see what he was throwing away.

But in the morning he’d simply gotten dressed and left.

His last words to her were, “I expect to see those divorce papers soon.”

That very morning she signed them and sent them back.

A little over a week later, the smell of her morning French toast had her running to the bathroom. She felt bloated and irritable.

Then she missed her period.

Praying it was the stress of the breakup or that she was coming down with the flu, she bought a pregnancy test from the drug store.

When she read the result, she refused to believe it. She made an appointment with her family doctor. His tests told her the same bitter news.

She was pregnant.

Pregnant with Tom Russell’s child. The child she had wanted so much with him.

That was when she woke from the daze she’d been wandering in and finally saw the truth.

Her marriage was over. Tom wasn’t coming back. She was on her own. She didn’t cry this time. She was done with tears. Instead the pain settled into a dull ache that wouldn’t go away. And neither would the result of that night.

She touched her stomach again.

She hadn’t been able to keep the news of her divorce from Katy, but she refused to tell her about the stupid mistake she’d made with Tom.

“I don’t believe it,” Katy murmured, pity in her voice. “I always thought you two were the perfect couple.”

Megan stared down at her waist. She’d always been so optimistic, blithely telling others their problems would work out for the best. Until now, things had always worked out for her. She’d been so blind. Her advice had been so shallow, so naive.

“Far from it,” she said coldly. “We never had what you and your Prince Julio have found. The night Tom left, he admitted he’d been cheating on me a year.”

Typical politician. The power had gone to his head.

“Meg, no.”

Megan’s lip quivered. She turned her head away, unable to bear the thought of falling apart in front of her friend. She thought she was done with the crying, the shock, the pain. All she wanted was to get past it. To get over this nightmare, this agony, and get on with her life.

But suddenly, she couldn’t hold back.

She leaned her head against Katy’s shoulder and wept.

Katy ran her hand over her back. “There, there. It’s good to get it all out.”

Megan winced.

She used to say those words to Katy. She had always been the level-headed one, the sensible one. The one who gave Katy advice about her heartaches. She hated being on the receiving end. Being the needy one. The one who craved sympathy.

She lifted her head and wiped her eyes with her hands. “I just want to heal and move on.”

“What are you going to do with yourself?”

“I don’t know, Katy.”

It was time to get on with her life. But that was the problem. She didn’t have a life.

She’d spent the last thirteen years playing hostess at dinner parties, charity balls, social events. Her days had revolved around Tom Russell and his campaigns, his goals, his schedule, his agenda. He said she was boring. If she’d become boring, it was because of everything she’d done for him.

“I need a job.” She could barely hide the resentment in her voice.

Katy studied her thoughtfully a moment, as if she knew Megan was hiding something from her.

“You majored in Art History in college,” she offered.

Megan had thought about that. “It’s a possibility. I’ve always loved art. I’ve thought of taking up painting again. Maybe becoming a dealer.”

“You used to love to paint.”

She smiled wistfully.

That was a lifetime ago. She hadn’t had time for a hobby with Tom’s busy schedule. Painting wouldn’t provide a livelihood, though. She had some money to live on. The alimony was adequate for now, more than she’d expected with Tom’s legal connections. But soon there would be another to care for.

She needed a solid career.

“Have you decided how long you’ll stay in Prasala?” Katy asked quietly.

“A few weeks, at least.” She had nothing to go back to. Her life in Kentucky, for all practical purposes, was over.

“You are going back to Chevalia with us after the christening, aren’t you?”

“Of course,” Megan nodded. “It was a spur of the moment decision to come early.”

When she’d discovered her condition, she hadn’t cared where she went as long as it was far away from Kentucky and everything that reminded her of Tom Russell. Though she’d planned to attend Beau’s christening, the trip to Prasala became an excuse to escape.

“I can’t wait for you to see our palace, though it’s not as regal as Avante.” Katy gestured at the ornate nursery. “You can stay with us as long as you need, Meg.”

“Thank you.”

Touched by Katy’s generosity and unwavering loyalty, Megan hugged her friend.

Then Katy whispered softly in her ear. “Are you sure there’s nothing else you want to tell me?”

Megan pulled back and studied Katy’s too-sharp blue-green eyes. But before she could answer, there was a soft knock and the tall gilded door of the nursery opened.

A familiar figure peeped inside, and the pretty face broke into a wide grin. “Megan! They told me you were here.”

Katy’s sister, Darcy, rushed across the floor and threw her arms around her.

She had on a ruby red silk dress with a flared skirt that accented her thick dark hair which flowed over her shoulders. Darcy looked very grown up and regal indeed.

After a long, hearty hug, the new Queen pulled away with a grin. “If I’d known you were coming in this morning, I would have gotten up early and met you at the airport. How are you?”

Megan straightened her shoulders, trying to smile back.

She could see from Darcy’s face Katy had told her about the divorce.

It wasn’t a secret. Probably everyone knew by now. But Darcy’s way of handling the news was to chase it away by pretending life was wonderful.

It was for her, she was married to the King of this country, a man who adored her. Not that Megan was resentful. She was happy for Darcy. And proud of the girl who had been like a little sister to her growing up.

And maybe it was a good idea to act cheerful—whether she was or not.

“I’m fine,” Megan told her.

“Good.” Darcy gave her another hug, then tiptoed over to the crib, the material of her elegant dress making a soft rustle as she moved.

“So you’ve met my new nephew? He’s so cute I just want to eat him up.”

“Shhh,” Katy chided her sister. “We’ve just put Beau down for his nap.”

“Sorry,” Darcy whispered. Then she turned and cooed at the baby.

“If you wake him, you’ll have to get him back to sleep.”

“He’s already sound asleep. He takes after his aunt.” She yawned.

“I’m warning you, Darcy.”

Megan smiled, feeling suddenly wistful at the sisterly bickering she remembered so well. “I remember Darcy in diapers, trailing us around your house when I came to play. And now she’s married to the King of Prasala and has become his Queen.”

“She’s really grown up,” Katy said under her breath. “I’m proud of her.”

Darcy turned with a frown and put her hands on her hips. “What lies are you telling Megan about me, Katy?”

“I’m just complaining that I always have to keep an eye on you.”

Darcy waved her hand dismissively, then joined them in a chair near the sofa. “I’m so glad you’re here, Meg. You’ll never guess what news I have.”

Megan felt her spirits rise a bit. Darcy’s exuberance for life had always been infectious. “Have you written another song? You’re a wonderful songwriter.”

“Well, yes I have. But that’s not all. Philippe is giving a party.”

“Philippe?” Megan thought the name sounded familiar.

“You remember him. The Count with the cute dimples and devilish eyes? You met him at Katy’s wedding.”

“Philippe is giving a party?” Katy said before Megan could reply.

Darcy nodded. “It starts tonight.”

Katy didn’t seem to like the idea. “A party tonight?”

“More than a party. A three-day celebration. There’ll be hunting and a picnic and lavish dinners. And I’m going to sing my new song.”

“A three-day celebration starting tonight and he hasn’t invited anyone until now?”

Darcy rolled her eyes. “Everyone knows about it but you. And Megan, of course, because she just got here. It’s a surprise in honor of Beau’s christening.”

Speechless, Katy stared at her sister.

It wasn’t the reaction Darcy had been expecting. She launched into a defensive tirade.

“Philippe has spent months fixing his place up. It’s the first social event at the Castle Rosa since his father died, and he’s hosting it all by himself. Everyone’s going. The Queen Mother, All the advisors. Even the stuffy old Lord Sebastian. Megan’s invited, too, of course.”

Katy shot Megan an uncomfortable glance. “I don’t think Megan feels up to it. Do you, Meg?”

But Megan couldn’t answer.

She was barely been listening to the squabbling sisters now. Her mind was focused on the Count with the cute dimples and devilish eyes. She remembered him now. He’d been at Katy’s wedding. She vaguely recalled a suave young man in a tuxedo with dark curly hair with tinted ends. A flamboyant man whom Darcy had run off with.

Much to Katy’s disapproval.

Darcy raised her hands in frustration. “Don’t be silly, Katy. Everyone’s invited. Besides, Philippe is just the person to cheer Megan up.” She smiled slyly.

Megan felt Katy stiffened with anger. “Are we talking about the same person? Darcy, do you really want Megan to meet Philippe? Now?”

Darcy looked at Megan, then back at Katy. “But she already met him at your wedding. You remember him now, don’t you, Meg? Count Philippe de BelleBourge?”

The picture in Megan’s mind was getting clearer. Now she could see the tall, dashing figure of the man with green eyes. She remembered his wicked, playful grin.

“I think so,” she murmured.

Beside her, Katy stiffened. “Darcy. This is very bad timing. You know how difficult it’s been for Megan lately.”

“That’s why this party will cheer her up,” Darcy insisted.

Katy got to her feet. “You intend to cheer her up with the likes of Philippe de BelleBourge? The most notorious playboy on the continent? The man who’s broken every heart from the Mediterranean to the North Sea?”

“You’re exaggerating,” Darcy scoffed.

Megan blinked. Oh, yes. “Now I remember him.”

The man had caused a real stir among the guests when he’d run off with Darcy at Katy’s wedding reception. She recalled the gossip she’d heard about him that night.

He had the reputation of a devil.

Suddenly her mind filled with the image of the audacious man in the elegant black tuxedo. He had looks that took your breath away. Megan recalled Katy had disliked the Count since she’d first met him.

That night at the reception, Megan had been inclined to agree with her.

Darcy stood up and straightened her shoulders. “You’ve never understood Philippe, Katy. He’s my friend. He and Leopold are cousins and have been best friends since boyhood. And Philippe has changed his ways. He’s settling down and trying to run the estate his father left him. He’s giving this party in Beau’s honor to try to make amends.”

“I don’t care what he’s doing,” Katy snapped.

Darcy’s voice became a plea. “You can’t ruin it for him. Or for Julio.”

Katy gritted her teeth, her love for her husband getting the better of her. “I may have to attend Philippe’s party with Julio for protocol’s sake, but I refuse to let Megan go.”

“Katy, you’re being impossible.”

Megan rose as well and calmly raised her chin. “She’s right, Katy.”

Katy spun around, eyes glowing. “What?”

“Staying away from a celebration because of the host’s reputation would be cowardly.” Even if the Count’s reputation made Tom and his philandering look like a Boy Scout. “Besides I came to Prasala to forget my old life. A party is the perfect opportunity to do that.”

Katy’s mouth opened. “But Megan—”

Megan laughed. “This Count may have bedazzled every woman in Europe, but I’m certainly not going to fall for his charms after what I’ve been through.”

He’d be lucky if she didn’t scratch his eyes out. No, she would be civil. She was well trained in behaving in public no matter how she felt on the inside.

She turned to Darcy with the poise of a politician’s wife. “Tell Count de BelleBourge that we’ll be glad to come to his party.”

Triumphantly, Darcy grinned and stretched out a hand. “Come on, Meg. Let’s find you something cool to wear. We have to be there in a few hours.”

Leaving Katy to fume in the nursery, Megan followed Darcy out the door and down the castle hall.

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The King’s Love Song – Now Available for Preorder

The second Prasala Romance, The King’s Love Song will be released February 14, 2016. Happy Valentine’s Day!


Darcy Matthews doesn’t believe in love.

But she’s thrilled to travel to Prasala for her sister’s royal wedding. What big sister doesn’t know is the day after the ceremony Darcy plans to head to LA to start the singing career she’s dreamed of all her life.

Katy doesn’t want her to go but Darcy’s mind is made up.

Except for the dark, knife-like stare of the seductively handsome King. The look that sends shivers down her spine. That might make her put her plans on hold for a while. Maybe.

Six months ago Leopold de Chambonay was crowned King of Prasala by a quirk of fate. Now he must prove that act was not a mistake. He longs to be a great King like his father. But the graceful carefree creature who is now his sister-in-law has cast some sort of spell over him. He finds himself drawn to her, longing to forget his duty and take her in his arms.

This cannot be. He must rid himself of her before he does something that might threaten the kingdom.

Why should Darcy care what the enigmatic King thinks of her? This crazy yearning in her heart for him doesn’t mean anything. Besides, she would never pine over a man. After all, love is just a game.

Isn’t it?

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Chapter One

This really was going to be a fairytale wedding, wasn’t it?

Darcy Matthews could feel her heart thump as she peeked out from the high scrolling arches of St. Bartholomew’s Cathedral at the excited throng on the sidewalk.

In the shadow of the tall Byzantine spires and ancient gargoyles, the streets were filled with Prasala’s faithful. For hours they had stood in the afternoon sun—warm for early spring, so she’d heard—in honor of their new Prince.

Everyone was waiting for a glimpse of his Princess Bride.

Suddenly a clip-clop sounded, the church bells rang out above, and everyone turned toward the far end of the street.

Around the corner a gilded rose-covered carriage appeared, drawn by the ebony stallion and chestnut filly Katy had told Darcy so much about. The coach moved slowly, majestically over the cobblestone lane, and after what seemed like half an hour came to a halt along the curb. A footman riding along the side disembarked and opened the door.

He extended a hand to help the lady down from carriage, and she waved graciously to the crowd.

As she made her way to the cathedral’s massive entrance the people shouted for joy.

Darcy’s heart swelled.

She was used to seeing her sister in jeans and old shirts with her blond hair tousled by the wind. She’d never seen her quite like this before.

But there she was in a stunning strapless designer creation of white satin and veiled lace scattered with floral appliqués and studded with pearls and diamonds. The matching veil had a real diamond tiara and the train was so massive it took three ladies-in-waiting to carry it.

Katy looked like a real princess.

Well, she was a real princess. Or she would be in a few minutes. Darcy would have to get used to that.

She stepped forward to speak to her sister but the thin dark woman who was in charge of the ceremony—and who reminded Darcy of the wicked witch in fairy tales—ushered her back inside.

“It is almost time for the bridesmaids to go down the aisle,” the witch woman whispered in a thick Prasalian accent.

“Okay, okay.” Darcy hissed under her breath.

The woman’s eyes flashed with indignation but luckily there wasn’t time for a conversation.

The music had started.

As she took her place under the archway of the crowded church with a bouquet of ladyslipper orchids and pale yellow roses in her hands, Darcy wished she’d had a moment to apologize for the fight she’d had with Katy last night. She hadn’t wanted to spoil her day.

But no, it was too gorgeous to spoil. Too thrilling. Too fairytale-like.

Her heart beating anew with excitement, Darcy began the slow procession down the long flower strewn aisle toward the huge, elaborate altar at the front.

Megan Russell, Katy’s best friend from back home, preceded her. Second in line, Darcy took fashion-model-like steps in time to the soft strains of Handel from the colossal pipe organ. Behind her were seven other bridesmaids, three flower girls, and a young ring bearer.

The ladies-in-waiting who had escorted Katy from the coach weren’t in the wedding party. They were real ladies-in-waiting, part of the royal court.

Court. Wow.

Goose bumps prickled on her arms. She wanted to pinch herself. Was she really here in Prasala? In her sister’s royal wedding? Was she really marching down the aisle in a mermaid-cut gown of blackberry and tea-rose, created by the incomparable Valsois?

She couldn’t believe it.

Gazing up at the tall flying buttresses of the massive church, Darcy felt she had stepped into a fairy tale herself.

Prasala.

If love were real, this exotic southeastern European country would definitely be the place for it. It had been for Katy.

But Darcy knew it wouldn’t be for her.

She didn’t even believe love was real. Not for her anyway.

She’d built a high impenetrable wall around her heart long ago—when her father died when she was thirteen. She’d been devastated by his loss. While other girls her age were starting to date and form crushes on the popular boys in school, she’d remained unmoved. Her heart didn’t work that way anymore. As the years went by that wall remained. Darcy had never felt anything she could call love.

She had been Daddy’s little girl. No man could ever live up to him.

Of course, that didn’t mean a girl couldn’t have a little fun.

She eyed the dignitaries and nobility from all over the world who were crowded together in the pews.

On one side a handsome blond guy, well-groomed and all dressed up in a fine tux might have just winked at her. Across from him a whole row of young men seemed to be selecting partners from the procession of bridesmaids. One of them caught her eye and she risked a flirtatious grin. An older man standing next to what must have been his mother looked as if he were making a mental note to dance with her later on.

She might. After she made him wait his turn.

Oh, she was going to have a good time at the reception tonight.

She reached the alabaster stairs and grinned at the dark, handsome groom awaiting his bride. There he was. Julio de Chambonay, Prince of Chevalia, one of the country’s provinces. Dressed in full Prasalian uniform, the man was absolutely stunning.

Now there was a reason not to believe in love.

Despite his amazing good looks, Julio de Chambonay had broken her sister’s heart in two a few months ago. Darcy had witnessed firsthand the pain Katy had endured, had listened to her cry herself to sleep every night. And Julio’s mother, the Queen, had had something to do with it, too. The woman was sitting in the front pew now and Darcy had avoided even looking at her.

According to Katy all was well now. Of course it was or this day wouldn’t be happening. But Darcy kept her reservations about the man.

Katy had never told her the details about how things had worked out. She’d run off somewhere with Julio right after he’d come to Kentucky.

All Darcy knew is that she would never go through that for a man.

Beside her Megan cleared her throat. Oh, right. Turn and face the entrance. She’d missed most of the dress rehearsal and Megan had gone through the ceremony with her that morning.

She pivoted carefully, hoping to focus on her mother who was sitting on the opposite side from the Queen. Darcy knew she’d been beaming with pride and joy for both of her daughters.

Instead Darcy caught sight of the dark mysterious man standing next to the groom.

Like Prince Julio he was clad in the country’s uniform and girded with sash and gold epaulets at the shoulders. The pair looked enough alike to be twins, though this one was taller and infinitely more handsome, in her opinion. With his regal dress and the shining medallions decorating his broad chest, he exuded strength and power.

That was right. He was Julio’s brother.

The reigning king.

She wished she could have gotten here earlier so she would know everyone better.

Darcy winced, thinking again of the harsh words she and Katy had thrown at each other last night. Katy had wanted her here in Prasala a week ago for the wedding preparations, but Darcy had had a farewell concert with her band back in Kentucky. She couldn’t miss that.

Katy didn’t understand why Darcy had changed her plane reservation and arrived late yesterday instead.

And to top it off, Katy told her the wedding planner—the wicked witch lady—had selected a local singer for the reception. Darcy wouldn’t be allowed to sing at her own sister’s wedding.

Okay, she could understand her timing was bad. She’d missed rehearsals. And the type of music they wanted wasn’t her usually thing. But she could have handled it. She was a professional, after all. Why hadn’t Katy stuck up for her?

She knew why. Katy thought her singing was a silly hobby and that Darcy needed to settle down and get serious about life.

That was what stung the most.

Katy might think she was frivolous and shallow but making music was as important to Darcy as Katy’s horses were to her.

If only her sister got that.

It didn’t matter, she told herself, battling down the angry memory. She would show Katy and everyone else, too.

This wedding was going to be a turning point for her. From this moment on her life would be different. For years, she’d put her own dreams on the back burner while she’d helped her mother with the family’s struggling horse farm back home. But with Katy’s marriage to Julio those days were in the past.

At last she was free. At last her time had come.

No one knew it yet, but tucked in her bags back in the palace was a plane ticket and it wasn’t for a return trip to Kentucky. She wasn’t going back to her boring dead-end paralegal job. She was starting a new adventure.

A hush came over the crowd.

The organ filled the vaulted ceiling with loud, majestic chords. At the end of the aisle the bride appeared.

Darcy sucked in her breath.

“Isn’t she beautiful?” Megan whispered.

“She’s gorgeous.” Darcy blinked back a sudden rush of tears, all anger forgotten.

In that amazing Valsois gown, Katy looked as if she were floating in a dream. Darcy was overjoyed for her sister. She hoped she would be happy with her Prince. Suddenly Darcy realized how much she was going to miss her.

But things were changing and life went on.

For her, traveling to Prasala for Katy’s royal wedding was just the first step in her plan. Next stop was Los Angeles and a singing career. She might not have started with the best voice in the world but she’d worked long and hard to develop it. And she wanted a career as a singer more than anything.

It was time for some adventure—high time she struck out on her own and started going after her heart’s desire.

It would all start tomorrow morning.

Once more Darcy’s gaze drifted to the man beside Julio. Hmm. Talk about desire.

Suddenly she was caught up in his aura of power.

How the royal colors of his deep blue and purple attire set off his rich black hair and intense features. How seductively handsome he was. How his presence seemed to fill the room.

And most of all, she was carried away by his dark, piercing stare. The one that was sending shivers down her spine—right to her very toes.

###

Leopold de Chambonay found himself taken off guard.

His senses betrayed him, sending his mind reeling, his thoughts out of balance.

Who is that woman?

She was dressed in the same garb as the other females of the wedding party but somehow she stood out from the others like no woman he had ever seen. She had an unmistakable glow.

What was it about her?

The rich dark hair piled under her veil? Her alabaster skin? Those dark, inviting eyes? That pearl-like mouth with the teasing smile?

She was a vision of pure loveliness. And just now she was making him want to run his hands over that delicate skin, his fingers through that hair, to taste those lips. He wished he were alone with her. In his rooms at the castle. At the seashore. In a hotel suite in the city. Anywhere but at his brother’s wedding.

With a jolt he snapped back to the present. Where in the world had his mind gone?

Shame filled him.

What inappropriate thoughts to have on today of all days. His brother’s wedding day. His brother, to whom he owed all he was.

And then he recognized the shape of the woman’s face. It was the bride’s sister. His new sister-in-law.

This was no way for a king to behave. His father would have been sorely disappointed. But no worse than he was with himself.

Chastising himself for his indiscreet thoughts, he turned away from the delectable sight and concentrated on the ceremony.

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The Crown Prince’s Heart – Now Available

Contemporary Romance lovers!

I’m so excited to announce the first book in the Prasala Romances will be released Wednesday, January 20, 2016.

This trilogy is pure romantic escapism, set in a little known southeastern European country called Prasala. Three powerful men of Prasala. Three feisty women from Kentucky. Can their hearts survive?

Here’s a little more about it. (With an excerpt below!)

(PS: For those of you who prefer thrillers, never fear. Miranda and Parker will be ready for another adventure later on in 2016.)


The Crown Prince’s Heart

To escape the pain of a humiliating breakup with her wealthy fiancé in Kentucky, Dr. Katyln Matthews travels to the faraway country of Prasala to replace the royal family’s horse doctor. The famous Prasala Invitational is in three weeks and the demanding Crown Prince insists everything be perfect.

Katy heard the heir to the throne could be an ogre when it came to his horses. And that he had a very un-ogrely appearance. All the titled ladies in Europe flock after him because of his dazzling good looks.

But Katy’s broken heart can’t handle another rich spoiled playboy.

Crown Prince Julio de Chambonay doesn’t know what to make of his new veterinarian. She’s a woman. She was hired without his approval. He has a good mind to send her packing.

But her eyes are bold, full of strength, and as blue-green as the seas of Darthalia. Unlike the ladies he’s known at court she has a natural loveliness that radiates from the inside. It arrests his attention.

Unfortunately the ladies at court and his country demand that attention first.

Still, the position of royal veterinarian is his decision. And if this woman does not pass his test, she’ll soon be on her way back home.

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Excerpt

Chapter One

Dr. Katlyn Matthews stood before the century-old stone stable and inhaled the clean air of the old world country where she’d arrived just yesterday. The smell of freshly groomed horseflesh greeted her nose as the stable master led out her first patient.

Katy preferred conducting her first examinations in the daylight. Not only because it gave her a better view of details that could be missed in a darkened barn, but because she loved the outdoors.

Holding her breath, she ran her hands over the quivering crest of the beautiful horse before her.

He was a healthy animal. His coat, black as a coal pit, shimmered like jewels in the warm morning sun.

At the unfamiliar touch, the thoroughbred whinnied nervously and stamped the ground of the royal courtyard with an authoritative hoof.

“Easy boy,” Katy whispered to her new friend. “I won’t be a stranger to you for long.” Maybe it wasn’t such a bad idea to come to this place, she thought.

After all, she’d longed to see the magnificent horses of Prasala for years.

Though the country seemed backward with its ruling aristocracy, the breed had fascinated her since she was a child. They were strong and tall as Clydesdales but as delicate as thoroughbreds and lightning fast. And this spirited stallion was a fine specimen. Better in her opinion, than even the celebrated Derby winners she tended back home.

She was here in this strange faraway country in southeastern Europe, with its French and Slavic influences, in a professional capacity. As temporary veteran, she was filling in for the one who had fallen ill. But at the thought of home she had the sudden urge to lay her face against the stallion’s neck and let the tears come.

She’d traveled halfway around the world to escape heartache but apparently it had followed her.

She bristled as the all too recent memory formed in her mind. Her well-to-do ex-fiancé, Randall Winslow, in the parlor of his family’s luxurious mansion with his hands up the skirt of his old girlfriend—two weeks before their wedding.

As if he sensed her thoughts were elsewhere, the horse nuzzled Katy with his nose.

“Oberon seems to like you,” said Gustaf Hartwig, the elderly gentleman who’d been holding the yearling’s halter. “The Crown Prince will be impressed. His prize steed isn’t usually so friendly.”

Hartwig’s gentle eyes crinkled as he studied her with curiosity, a smile teasing his broad mouth.

Katy stroked the probing muzzle, watched the nostrils twitch. “He’s probably just curious. I’m new to him.”

“Oh, no, Doctor. I can tell he likes you.”

Katy’s own lips turned up at the compliment, and it’s delivery in Hartwig’s thick Prasalian accent. It was a charming sound, she decided.

And she liked what she saw in the stable master’s wizened face. Kindness, knowledge, good judgment, years of experience, and a deep love of the animals under his care. One could always tell a person’s character by how they felt about their horses.

“It took Oberon’s sire some time to warm up to Doctor Ryzhkov when he first came to the stables,” Hartwig added.

Katy twisted her mouth. Doctor Ryzhkov was the royal veterinarian she’d replaced. He’d taken ill, just weeks before the Invitational, the Prasala Stakes, the country’s famous annual steeplechase, and Hartwig had flown all the way to Kentucky to hire Katy as his substitute—at the behest of the Crown Prince, of course.

She’d been flattered, and the Prince’s fee would certainly help cover the rising cost of hay and horseshoes on her mother’s struggling farm. But she wouldn’t enjoy being compared to her predecessor. Thank goodness it was a temporary job. She’d be returning home after the race.

“I’ll need to see the herd’s schedule for vaccinations and deworming, Hartwig.”

“Certainly.”

Katy lifted the horse’s forefoot and frowned. “Looks like Oberon is due for new shoes.”

“Oh?” Hartwig bent over the hoof, his brow wrinkled with concern. “That should have been taken care of while I was away. His Majesty will be displeased.”

“It’s all right. There’s still some thickness. As long as it’s taken care of by tomorrow.”

In her opinion, there was no need for alarm. Hartwig obviously kept the stables in regimental order. The large building with its red-thatched roof and spacious, airy compartments were impeccably clean and smelled of saddle soap and fresh hay. And Oberon had been meticulously groomed for her inspection this morning.

She set down the hoof. “This Crown Prince of yours seems to be a bit anal.”

Hartwig’s brow furrowed. “Why whatever do you mean, Dr. Matthews?”

Of course, he would never badmouth his sovereign. You didn’t get to be Chief of the Royal Stables that way.

But she’d already heard some of the servants whispering about Prasala’s future ruler. Crown Prince Julio de Chambonay was exacting. Demanding. And he could be an ogre when it came to his horses.

She’d also heard he had a very un-ogrely appearance, and women, including all the titled ladies in Europe, flocked after him, not just because of his position, but for his dazzling good looks. And he swatted them away when he was done with them, like a stallion shooing flies off his rump with his tail.

That was all she needed. Another spoiled, rich playboy to deal with.

“Never mind. Let me see his mouth.” While Hartwig held Oberon steady, Katy gently opened the horse’s lips and took a cursory look at his teeth.

“Ho, there!” someone shouted in the distance.

Startled, she turned in the direction of the cry.

Shielding her eyes, Katy squinted at the emerald green fields, almost as lush as the blue grass back home, that stretched to azure hills at the horizon. She gazed at the spot before the hills where the magnificent castle Avante sat, home of the ruling de Chambonay family.

She focused on the trail that ran between the stables and the castle. And blinked. There was a man running down the pathway, flying at a mad dash, right toward them.

“Stop,” he barked.

What in the world?

He was dressed in dark slacks and a white shirt. Or almost dressed—the shirt was half-open and flapped behind him in the air like a flag. His raven black hair was flung back as he ran, and his fierce, dark blue-black eyes flashed with anger. He looked like some mad pirate racing for his crew ship.

Katy swallowed hard as he neared. The man had the face of a god. More than that. He was the most gorgeous creature she had ever laid eyes on.

Dazzling good looks. But this couldn’t be the Crown Prince. What sort of sovereign runs outside half-dressed?

“Hartwig!” he bellowed, pulling up just short of barging into them. “What’s going on here?”

Katy would have jumped, if she hadn’t been mesmerized by the heaving chest muscles that peeped through his half-open shirt, raising and lowering as he caught his breath. A pair of binoculars hung around his neck. A neck that looked as strong as an ancient Viking’s.

“Sir.” Hartwig came to attention, while Katy took Oberon’s halter. “I didn’t expect you so early.”

The man gestured toward Katy without looking at her. “Who is this woman?”

“This woman?” Hartwig stammered. “Why this is—”

“Never mind.” The godlike man began to pace, waving his hands in the air. “I was dressing for breakfast, looking at the paddock, as is my habit every morning,” he held up the binoculars, “when I saw this young woman tampering with my prize steed. You know that no stranger is to touch these horses. How could you allow it, Hartwig?”

He came to a halt just in front of her and eyed her with a fierce, powerful look that took her breath away. Not to mention his sensual, exotic accent, melded from Italian and French. The hint of foreign bath soap teased her nose.

Then her blood ran hot. Allow it? Who did this arrogant blowhard think he was, anyway?

“Excuse me.” She held out her hand to him, her irritation rising to match his. “We haven’t been introduced. I’m Dr. Kate Matthews. And you are?”

“What?” he grunted at Hartwig, ignoring her gesture.

Hartwig lifted his hands in a plea. “Sire, let me explain.”

Sire?” Katy folded her arms. This couldn’t be the Crown Prince. It had been his idea to bring her here. “I think you’re mistaken, Hartwig. A royal personage would have better manners.”

The good-looking man glared at her, clearly shocked.

She patted Oberon’s neck. “Whoever you are, this three-year-old is getting jittery from your antagonism. The Crown Prince would be very displeased.”

He put his hands on his hips and glared at her with those deep, dark blue eyes. “The Crown Prince?”

“Yes. The owner of these stables? The future ruler of this country? Perhaps you’ve heard of him?”

Both dark brows rose to the sky. “I think I have.”

“In case you didn’t know, the Crown Prince hired me.”

His eyes flashed. “That’s impossible.”

“What’s impossible?”

“That he hired you.” There was a rumble in his voice.

Katy wanted to slap him across that gorgeous cheek. “And why is it impossible?”

“Because I didn’t know anything about it.”

“Perhaps you were overlooked.”

“Impossible,” he said again, even more emphatically.

She raised her chin. “I have to ask again. Why is it impossible?”

He inhaled deeply, as if trying to control his temper, while his bare chest gleamed in the sun. “Because the Crown Prince of Prasala, the owner of these stables, the future ruler of this country, is none other than myself.”

Katy had to fight to keep her jaw from dropping. She almost lost her balance. “There must be some mistake.”

“There certainly is.” And with that, he grabbed Hartwig by the sleeve and pulled him into a corner.

Now Katy’s mouth did drop open. She didn’t care if he was the Crown Prince. He must be the rudest monarch in Europe.

Did he think he was being discrete? Katy could make out every word he growled at the poor stable master.

She’s the one you chose, Hartwig? I trusted you. My orders were to find the best. The best. Didn’t you understand?”

Apparently, the Prince hadn’t signed off on the deal, as she’d thought. But he hadn’t bothered to read the fine print.

“You know my horses must have only the very finest of care,” he grunted. “Did I not make myself clear?”

“Of course, you did, sir.”

Katy’s face flushed. Her hands fisted into knots. Anger rippled down her spine. A ten-point earthquake rumbled in her chest. She didn’t know whether she was more upset about how he was insulting her or how he was treating Hartwig. How dare he? She knew that kind of arrogance. She’d seen uppity horse owners back home mistreat their servants.

She narrowed her eyes. She didn’t care what his pedigree was. Somebody had to straighten him out. Firmly, she led Oberon back to his stall, strode to the corner and cleared her throat loudly.

He turned to her, his face demanding how she dared to interrupt him.

“Your Highness?” She uttered the title with sarcasm.

His brows drew together in dark annoyance. “What is it?”

“You have no call to speak to Hartwig like that.”

He blew out a frustrated breath. “Oh?”

“You ought to have some faith in his judgment. I’ll have you know that I am one of the best.”

Once more, the Prince put his hands on his hips. “Oh, really?”

Ignoring his muscular chest, which was still so unfairly visible, she looked him square in the eye. “I’m a specialist in the care of thoroughbreds, Derby runners in Kentucky mostly. Several winners. I’ve worked with horses all my life. I was accepted into veterinary school on the first try, which rarely happens. I’ve been a practicing horse vet outside Louisville for five years. I have an outstanding reputation.”

For the first time, he laughed. He actually laughed at her. “A woman with such credentials? And from the US? I refuse to believe it.”

So that was it. Katy struggled to breathe. She’d wondered about that sort of attitude, since the country was the last bastion of a ruling monarchy. “I see chauvinism is alive and well in Prasala.”

He scoffed, as though offended. “What do you mean?”

She shook her head at him. She’d had enough. “I won’t force my services on you, sir. If you don’t want a woman vet, that’s fine. I’ve encountered prejudice like that before.”

He took a step toward her.

She held up her hands. “I can leave. This afternoon, if there’s a flight out of Prasala. However, I will be presenting you with my bill, and I expect to be paid before I go.” She wasn’t going to come all this way for nothing, just because she didn’t fit the whim of some arrogant aristocrat.

In her wildest dreams, Katy couldn’t have imagined a more regal stun. The shock spread over his gorgeous face like a sunset.

The man was obviously used to obsequious bowing and scraping, not to mention the hoards of beautiful women who threw themselves at his feet everywhere he went. But he wouldn’t be getting that from Katy Matthew from Kentucky. This wasn’t the first time she’d stood up to a rich snob.

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I’m giving away three paperback copies of Someone Else’s Daughter!

As you may know, the bestselling book Someone Else’s Daughter is also available in trade paperback.

But I’ll be giving away a FREE copy to three lucky winners soon! 🙂 Here’s the link to enter the giveaway (isn’t that background picture cool?):

Someone Else’s Daughter Book Giveaway

Someone Else's Daughter Giveaway

You get more chances if you tweet and post about it, too. But hurry. The giveaway ends November 22, 5:00 p.m. PST. I’ll be drawing the winners shortly thereafter.

Good luck!

~Linsey