Well, this is me. Dropping the ball.
I had grandiose plans of posting a wonderful blog entry about burlesques and cabarets and super fun things like that. Sounds nifty, no? This post was also supposed to go live last Thursday.
…It’s now Monday.
I have no excuse, peeps, apart from Reasons. Damn those dasterdly Reasons, they will sneak up on one.
So, in lieu of a fantastic, you beaut post that should have gone up on Thursday (gah), I shall leave you with an exclusive excerpt from Rough Diamond and my apologies. Hearfelt apologies, with sprinkles and tiny, blindingly brilliant stars.
Owner of the Diamond Saloon and Theater, Alice Reynolds is astounded when a fancy Englishman offers to buy her saloon. She won’t be selling her saloon to anyone, let alone a man with a pretty, empty-headed grin…but then, she reckons that grin just might be a lie, and a man of intelligence and cunning resides beneath.
Rupert Llewellyn has another purpose for offering to buy the pretty widow’s saloon—the coal buried deep in land she owns. However, he never banked on her knowing eyes making him weak at the knees, or how his deception would burn upon his soul.
Each determined to outwit the other, they tantalize and tease until passion explodes. But can their desire bridge the lies told and trust broken?
Grinning, Alice basked in the wake of a successful Spectacular. She was so damn proud of herself she could burst, and the success of the night proved once again she always panicked for no reason. Such feeling was a distant memory now, drunk as she was on all that had passed between that moment and this.
Everything in the Spectacular had gone exactly as expected, each act more successful than the last. Pearl had sounded magnificent, and the girls had been at turns luminous and cheeky, seducing the crowd with practiced ease. Even Marie, for all her tantrums, had wooed them all with her snake dance. The Amazing Waldino had, perhaps, not been as amazing as she’d hoped, but thankfully the Tranmere Twins and their death-defying antics had remedied any lull the Kind-of-Average Waldino had caused.
Residual excitement thrummed in her blood, leaping across her skin and making her want a million things. She could plan a hundred Spectaculars—no, a thousand—and each would be more magnificent than the last.
Rubbing her arms, she exhaled in an attempt to force calm. She suffered this in the aftermath of each Spectacular. Such feelings were impractical and unrealistic, but with triumph flowing through her, she was certain she could take it all on and more. The feeling would pass, though. It always did.
“The Spectacular was magnificent.”
Her breath seized. The presence of another where before she’d been alone made her heart slam against her ribs. Whirling around, she prepared to lambaste whoever had disturbed her. Everyone in her employ knew to leave her be after a performance.
Framed by the drapes of the wings, hands in his pockets, and waistcoat unbuttoned, stood Llewellyn.
A war of emotion erupted inside her. Annoyance, desire, residual excitement…but mostly annoyance. She hated being disturbed, and for all she had thought to seek him out, she wanted to do so when she was ready. “The theater is closed. You shouldn’t be here.”
The corner of his mouth lifted. “No, I shouldn’t.”
She frowned. There was something wrong about him. He was too…still. “Then what are you doing here?”
“I had to congratulate you.” Dark eyes regarded her steadily. “The Spectacular was brilliant.”
Unsure of this new Llewellyn, she remained motionless. “Thank you?”
“No, truly. You deserve the highest of commendations. I could never have imagined such in the middle of nowhere.” He didn’t move, or fidget, or any of the hundred other ticks he’d always displayed in her presence.
“No. No one else offers the service I provide.”
“And thus you possess a monopoly.” He smiled, a slow, easy smile that he hadn’t shown before. “Well done, indeed.” His gaze flicked over her, and when his eyes returned to hers, a fire smoldered in their depths. “I like your dress.”
Beneath her folded arms, her heart stuttered and the muscles in her stomach tensed. Finally, it clicked what was different about him.
His words, his stance, the way he spoke, all was different. His waistcoat was unbuttoned, his shirt white against the forest-green silk, and though still pomaded, his hair had come askew, a dark curl lying against his forehead.
Everything was different. But most notably, above and beyond any surface change, he no longer played the fool.
Triumph surged through her, and she grasped that emotion over the other, more unsettling ones his appearance caused. She knew she had been right. “You seem to have gained an alarming amount of intelligence, Mr. Llewellyn.”
His smile widened.
She lifted a brow. “Care to explain the pretense?”
Shaking his head, he maintained his smile. “Not at this juncture.”
The intensity with which he looked at her affected her something terrible. She felt hot, and flustered, and she didn’t know what she wanted. The overwhelming excitement at the conclusion of a Spectacular returned, but now it had a focus. Him.
This was getting her nowhere fast. Annoyance marched through her, at his caginess, at her own damn fascination with a man intent on lying to her. “So, if you aren’t a fool, what are you?”
Removing his hands from his pockets, he moved toward her. Gaze steady on hers, he stopped close, so close she could see his eyes weren’t truly black but instead the darkest of browns. She froze, unsure what would happen but desperate to discover. He didn’t touch, did nothing more inappropriate than stand too close.
Then, he leaned down, and his lips brushed her ear. “Fascinated.”