Click on the banner for the full schedule.
Welcome to my post for the Alanna book tour! I have an excerpt coming up, as well as a giveaway for copies of Alanna. But, first, allow me to introduce the book:
Release date: November 4, 2014
Publisher: Kensington: Zebra
Genre: Historical Romance
Series: When Hearts Dare #2
Wolf caught the faint scent of cinnabar and roses.
The girl turned her head and stared boldly at him, her cool demeanor at odds with the fire in her look. And then her lips parted, as if she needed more air. A punch of lust hit Wolf’s groin.
There was pure sin in his startling blue eyes.
The moment hung suspended between them, and then expanded as his feral gaze held hers. Stranger? Not to Alanna. He went by the name of Wolf, and he was a legend in these parts, known from San Francisco to Boston as a relentless tracker of lost persons.
His quest to find his mother's killer would lead him to Alanna...and his destiny.
In his arms, she would never be lost again…
“I came to apologize on my father’s behalf. I—”
“Thank you.” Wolf moved to the back of her chair to assist her departure. “Now please excuse yourself before your father finds you missing and blames me, because I have a real strong suspicion, Miss Malone, that your father hasn’t the slightest idea you are here. Nor does your mother.”
“And to inform you,” she continued as if he hadn’t said a word, “that whenever you’ve a mind to ask me to marry you, the answer shall be yes.”
“Wha . . . what?” Wolf swept around the chair in front of her and bent at the knee. He studied her face, disbelieving what he’d heard. Her eyes held not a hint of mockery. The heady scent of roses filled his nostrils again—and that alluring scent that was hers alone. This was a hell of a time to let her plump, moist mouth distract him. “Leave, Miss Malone.”
She sat steadfast and resolute. Unblinking.
Perhaps she was daft after all. The dull thud in his head returned with a vengeance. “What the hell are you up to? Are you trying to get me killed?”
“It was very wrong, what my father did and said to you today. I feel uncomfortable about what transpired.” “Then you just might have a small inkling, ma’am, as to how incredibly uncomfortable I am feeling at this
particular moment. Maybe you can manage a little compassion and remove yourself with great haste.” The bridled anger in his harsh whisper was fast accelerating into scalding fury.
She threw her head back in stubborn defiance. “Before you lose your temper—”
“Alanna Malone, it’s too late. I have already lost my temper! Now then, you spoiled little snippet, leave and take your insane ideas with you or I will carry you out and dump you on the other side of the door. That,Miss Malone, will drive me into even further rage, because I do not condone manhandling women.”
“I will not leave until—”
He decided to try another tack and scare the hell out of her. He leaned closer. “Are you trying to seduce me?”
Her daring gaze reminded him of the night he’d first laid eyes on her back in San Francisco. In a flash, Wolf slipped back into his chair and scraped it closer to hers until the corners touched. He reached his arm across her lap, rested the palm of his hand on the far edge of her chair, and leaned into it for support. His other hand rested on the back of her chair. If anyone walked in, he was a dead man.
He was so close he could feel her breath falling on his mouth, could smell a trace of chamomile soap beneath the soft scent of roses.
She blinked and, cool as an ice princess, stared back at him.
An unwelcome heat flashed through him. He cast it aside by drawing on his anger once again. If he had to scare the wits out of her, so be it. If she was indeed insane, then he would soon learn that, as well. Either way, he had to get her the hell out of the stateroom—and fast.
“I think I have this whole thing figured out.” He studied her through half-closed lids. The lush curve of her mouth as her lips parted sent a wild throbbing through his groin. “Thompson told me he’s met your fiancé and that he is a homely man. Dull. Always sniffing and wiping at his nose.” He arched a brow and let the devil play at the corners of his mouth. “Wealthy as sin, though.”
Alanna simply gazed at him without expression.
“I wonder, Miss Malone. Do you figure this is your last chance to savor a few wicked delights before settling down to monotony?”
When she still failed to make a move, he drew his hand slowly across her lap, then boldly rested it on her knee. His fingers warmed from her heat.
She ignored his blatant act. “I’ll never marry that swine.”
“So, you want me to save you, do you?” His mouth drew closer to hers. “Am I your last hope before the ship docks?”
“Oh, do grow up.”
Wolf was caught off guard by the sudden vibrancy of her voice. “No, Alanna Malone, you grow up.”
He leaned further forward, his voice deceptively calm. “Do you have any clue what you are asking for by coming into a man’s quarters like this? Do you have any idea what could happen to you if it were someone besides me?”
“Why don’t you tell me?” she said with easy defiance.
That did it.
Without warning, his hand flew off her knee, under the hem of her skirt, and up her leg. He gripped the top of her bare thigh.
Surprise shot through him. “Christ. Where are your drawers?”
“I don’t wear any.”
“That is scandalous!”
“Only to one with a hand up my dress.” Her eyes were languid pools of blue calm.
Try as he might, Wolf couldn’t suppress the amusement that washed through him. But his hand was still immobilized on her smooth, naked skin. The heat of her melded into his palm and his heart thumped erratically. God, the tips of his fingers were entwined in soft curls.
“God forbid there should be a strong wind.” He was unable to suppress his humor, yet his body filled with a familiar ache.
“I would probably wear them then, but only as necessary.”
“Yes,” she answered.
“How can you—”
“Know what you were about to say?”
“You are very readable now, Wolf. Your eyes are filled with many questions.” She blinked slowly, deliberately. “You were going to ask me if I am virginal. The answer is that I do not care to so much as kiss a man who sniffles all the time, let alone yearn to have him bed me. I don’t know how to kiss, by the way. You’ll have to teach me.”
“And are you wanting that from me now?” When had he leaned closer? One hand rested on the back of her neck, while the other was still suspended on her hot thigh. He caught the faint scent of chamomile again.
“I don’t think so.” She spoke without guile, yet a smoky flame smoldered in her eyes.
“For the life of me, Alanna, I can’t figure you out.”
He didn’t know what to make of his emotions now—they were a strange mix. He’d never had anything to do with a woman like her—he’d spent his life living in hotels, befriending barmaids. And he had a goal to accomplish. He had to find his mother’s killer. The last thing he needed was this impossible situation.
Now tell that to his body.
* * *
The calm demeanor Alanna struggled to achieve warred against the hammering of her heart. Silence pervaded the room as she studied him. “You have hungry eyes,” she finally responded. “And a rebel heart.”
“Aren’t you afraid then?”
“No. But you are.”
“How’s that?” Humor still touched his mouth, but there was a hint of dark, delicious sin in his eyes.
She steeled her mind against any thought that might weaken her resolution or allow her thin veneer of strength to crack. She knew without doubt that he was what she needed. She just had to convince him without giving away her secret. “Because wielding force in an aggressive manner is just another form of fear. And fear is the result of a lack of a sense of power.”
Wolf studied her, his eyes hot and hungry. And then he leaned over and brushed his lips lightly against her cheek. Her pulse jumped. The moment hung between them like some magnetic force. It was plain he wanted more, but he wouldn’t take it. But then, she already knew that about him or she wouldn’t have come.
He released his grip on her thigh, as if reluctantly, but the heat of his touch remained. His hand slid down her leg and out from under her dress. He brushed her skirt into place and returned to leaning against the back of his chair.
Alanna’s gaze roamed his face. His nostrils flared. “You have caught my scent, sir.”
He laughed. “Your what?”
“My scent. The part of me that mixes with you. Something you cannot deny.”
“What do you want, Alanna?” He scanned her face. She swore his lips were softer now, even lusher.
“You want me, don’t you?” she murmured.
He sucked in a breath between his teeth. “Once again, I am finding it hard to believe this conversation. You need to leave.”
“You say you want me to leave, yet you are fighting the urge to keep me with you.”
“And?” Humor suddenly crinkled the corners of his eyes.
“And you are quite taken with me, sir.”
“Well, what of you, Alanna Malone?” He leaned forward. “Have you caught my scent, also?” A smile tipped the corners of his mouth.
Her heart thumped in her throat. “Long ago.” Her answer was nearly a part of her exhale, it came so soft.
They sat in silence—so close she could feel his breath fall rhythmically on her mouth. He closed his eyes and let his lips barely touch hers, for a brief moment only.
He withdrew, just enough to look into her eyes. “Am I your knight in shining armor, then?” he asked mockingly.
“But I might not fit the bill.” He reached up and lightly tucked an errant curl behind her ear.
The heat in his eyes warmed her in places that were better left untouched at present. She took in a shallow breath, which was all she could manage. “Oh, your armor has dents, make no mistake. I don’t consider you to be perfect. On the contrary.”
“And do the dents in my armor offend thee, fair maiden?” There was a thickness to his voice now.
But she was dead serious. Her bold stare never left his. “Oh, I would not want a knight with no dents. It means he has never been to battle, never fought for his honor, the things he believes in, or for sheer survival. Without the dents, sir, I would not trust my knight to be fully human.”
“And what if your almighty knight fixed the dents? Or got new armor?” Those gilded lashes swept low as his gaze slid from her eyes to her mouth and back again.
Something hot shimmered in her blood. “A good knight would keep his armor. Repair it, but never entirely smooth it out.” Her words grew heavy in her throat. “That would be an impossible task. And I would not want a knight who insisted on having new armor, the surface always shining and clean. He would only be living for who he thinks he might be, or for what others in the world desire him to be.”
Wolf regarded her for the longest while, his body communicating a language even she, in her innocence, could understand. “I think, Wolf, now is the time for me to take my leave.”
“Why do you call me Wolf, and not Mr. Wolf?”
His words, little more than a murmur, collected in the pit of her belly. “Because that’s your name,Wolf.” She mocked him.“Wolf. Just plain Wolf.”
“Where did you hear that?” His voice grew deliciously rough.
She stared at his mouth, mesmerized by its sensuous curves. “In the hotel in San Francisco.”
“Well, then.” The air shifted, as if a sultry breeze had blown in. His gaze filled with a spectrum of emotions. He leaned forward, his lashes lowering. “Tell me to stop, Alanna Malone, because I can’t seem to help myself.”
The sharp intake of her own breath echoed in her ears. She closed her eyes.
His hands cupped her face. “Sweet Christ,” he uttered as his mouth, warm and soft, gently covered hers.
She parted her lips to breathe, and the kiss deepened. He tasted of mint and tea, and when his tongue touched hers, every nerve in her body came to life. A shudder ran through her. The most intense pleasure she had ever known gripped her heart—she’d been lonely and never known it.
He pulled away, his chest heaving. “You need to leave.”
She stood, nodding. Wrapping her arms around herself, she walked to the door and flung it open.
“Yes.” She stepped outside and turned to him.
“You don’t ride sidesaddle. You ride like a man, don’t you?” She laughed at his absurd way of defusing what had just occurred. Relieved, she cocked her head. “I beg your pardon?”
A lighthearted grin curved his lips. “The muscles in your legs are evenly matched.” He leaned a shoulder against the doorframe. “Oh, one other thing.”
“That little dagger strapped on the outside of your left leg is a little too high. Not an easy reach. Even with your skirts up, it could cost you precious time.”
She folded her arms over her chest. “It’s not a dagger, it’s
a sgian dubh.”
“Well, I’ll be damned.” Mischief threaded through his words. “How is it you know what a sgian dubh is? Or is it the Scots part of that Scots-Irish blood of yours?”
She turned and tossed her words over her shoulder. “And how would you, a border ruffian from the middle of nowhere, know about a particular knife worn inside the stocking of a Highlander in full dress kilt?”
Up for grabs are 3 print copies of Alanna.
About the Author:
You can learn more about Kathleen and her books at kathleenbittnerroth.com