If one cannot enjoy reading a book over and over again, there is no use in reading it at all. - Oscar Wilde
We shouldn't teach great books; we should teach a love of reading. - B. F. Skinner
No entertainment is so cheap as reading, nor any pleasure so lasting. - Mary Wortley Montagu

Monday, November 3, 2014

Excerpt: Alanna by Kathleen Bittner-Roth





Title: When Hearts Dare #2: Alanna
Author: Kathleen Bittner-Roth
Publisher: Kensington Zebra
Release Date: November 4, 2014
Genre: Historical, Romance



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…



Excerpt:
Cameron stopped eating, his gaze directed to the door. “Don’t all ogle at once, but would you look at the beauty who just walked in?”
Dianah inclined her head to the door. “That would be Mr. and Mrs. Malone and their daughter, Alanna. They are guests here at the hotel, so pray, be civil.”
With a slow turn of his head, Wolf caught sight of the family in question.
The maitre d’hôtel escorted the tall, portly man and his equally thick-waisted wife past them to a table, their noses in the air. In between the two floated their daughter.

“That lovely frock would be from Paris,” Dianah murmured.

Cameron snorted. “He’s not looking at the dress, Dianah. I doubt he could even name the color if his life depended on it.”

The young woman wore a white gown emblazoned with large, navy flowers outlined in shimmering beads. But the bold design wasn’t all that caused her to stand out in the room. The raven-haired beauty would have caused every head to turn no matter what her clothing. She was taller than her mother, and much more slender, and there was something strangely elusive about her that caused Wolf ’s blood to heat.

As the trio passed, so close 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 eyes. And then her lips parted, as if she needed more air. A punch of lust hit Wolf ’s groin.

Cameron leaned over the table. “She certainly cast a rather brazen glance your way, old boy.”

Wolf checked an urge to shift about in the suddenly uncomfortable chair. He shrugged. “She has striking eyes.”

Dianah lifted a finely arched brow. “In case you haven’t looked in the mirror lately, you have the very same striking blue eyes.”

Cameron sniggered. “I do believe he’s fishing for a compliment, Dianah. What say you?”

Wolf moaned and leaned forward on his elbows, clutching the stem of his glass. “Since the human eye isn’t found in too damn many colors, that leaves you about as clever as a preacher in a whorehouse.” He drank his sherry in one guzzle, set his glass on the table with a thud, and leaned back in his chair. “Color’s not what makes eyes remarkable. It’s what’s behind them that does. Maybe that’s why yours have such a dull cast to them.”

Dianah laughed softly as she tipped the bottle of spirits into Wolf ’s glass once again.

“No,” Cameron said. “Although my eyes are indeed a decidedly clear, intelligent amber, monsieur, yours are of a different ilk. And they match Miss Malone’s.”

Wolf snorted. “Amber? Your eyes have a definite shade of bullshit to them, mon sewer. Comes from being filled with it.” He shot Dianah a quick glance. “Sorry. This friend of yours drives me to the brink. Made me forget my good manners.”

“Good manners?” Cameron was at the ready, but Dianah splayed her fingers across his chest, stopping him. “Wolf, the blue of your eyes is edged in black that makes them stand out against the whites, just like Miss Malone’s. I know, I’ve seen her up close.” The increased flicking of Dianah’s fan gave away her cat-and-mouse game. “And by the way, she now studies you rather shamelessly.”

He fought an intense urge to glance over Cameron’s shoulder and across the room to the table holding the very intriguing Miss Malone.

Cameron eyed Wolf ’s untouched plate. “Do you intend to eat that?” Not bothering to wait for a response, he slid the plate his way. “You can forget about getting within ten feet of her.” He raised a hand, stopping Wolf before he could make a snide retort. “Don’t bother. Did you see the way her parents marched in here like a couple of gendarmes with their daughter stuffed between them?”

“Who said I was interested?” Wolf shot back.

Cameron smirked. “Your thinly veiled admiration, old boy. Would you like a surgeon called in to have your eyeballs set back in place?”

Dianah’s velvet laughter bubbled over. “I’m willing to wager that because of her parents, you could not get close enough to Miss Malone to so much as speak her name.”

“Not interested.” Wolf quit fighting the urge—he glanced across the room. Alanna Malone’s sharp blue eyes struck the distance between them like summer lightning. But oddly, her exquisite face held no expression whatsoever. Caught squarely off guard again, Wolf raised the glass of sherry to his lips and watched her over the rim until she looked away.

“Care to wager?” Cameron was at it again.

“No.”

“Ah, a man of so many words. Well, you would have lost.” Cameron turned to Dianah. “I’ll bet that chain hanging from her father’s vest pocket doesn’t hold a timepiece at all. Said pocket hides a key to a chastity belt. And one guess who’s wearing the belt.”

“I don’t believe so, Cameron.” Dianah tapped him on the shoulder with her folded fan. “If anyone carries a key to a chastity belt, it would be the mother.”

Wolf shook his head and retreated from the conversation. Mock seriousness knitted Cameron’s brows together. “How so?”

“The mother has taken note of her daughter’s reaction to Wolf.” Dianah leaned discreetly over the table, whispering wickedly. “A woman knows that certain look. Believe me, the mother is the one who would carry the key to the belt, not the father.”

Wolf rolled his eyes. “Jeezus. Together, you two form one demented brain. All of this in thirty seconds of someone’s passing by?”

“Oh, it hasn’t been just thirty seconds.” Dianah fanned her face again until only her cat eyes appeared above the starched folds. “They were here when you wandered in two days ago.”

Cameron set down his fork. “Miss Malone couldn’t possibly have recognized him as the same man. Look at him now. Good Lord, he looks completely different. Almost humanlike.”

Dianah tilted her head and with a sly grin, appraised Wolf. “I think women find you deliciously appealing. By the way, Miss Malone is still focused entirely on you. I think she knows you’re the same man.”

“Mind like a steel trap, this tracker of lost people,” Cameron responded.

Wolf ignored Cameron. “You’re picking at me, Dianah. Why?”

“Sweetheart, other than seducing women on the run, you fight intimacy with everyone you encounter. Why, that horse of yours is the only living creature you have for company for months on end and have you bothered to give it a name? I swear if I hear that beast referred to as the roan one more time, I’ll shoot it.”

“So why are you picking at me?” Wolf studied her now with a calm intensity, his voice smooth but insistent.

“I suppose I’m trying to make you think about a few things before you leave us. I sense a shift taking place in your life, and I sincerely hope the change will include opening up to the idea of loving someone.”

“What makes you think something like that would be good for me?” Wolf managed his words without inflection.

“Because, dear one, we all need the balm of love. Love is what keeps us at peace. It heals our wounded souls, and Lord knows, yours is in need of a good healing.”

Wolf ’s thoughts returned to the captivating young woman sitting across the room. As he glanced over her father’s shoulder, the raven-haired woman met Wolf’s gaze once again. His body wasted no time imagining nothing between the two of them but bare skin.

***

At the sight of him sitting very still in his chair, boldly staring at her, a buzz raced along Alanna’s skin, then slipped inside and warmed her. There was pure sin in his startling blue eyes. The moment hung suspended between them, and then expanded as his feral gaze held hers, until finally, she tucked a smile into one corner of her mouth and looked at her plate. That her mother was aware of the silent communion between her daughter and this stranger held little significance.

Stranger? Not to Alanna. He went by the name of Wolf, and he was a legend in these parts. No one knew much about him other than that he roamed the West as a relentless tracker of lost persons. She’d seen him enter the hotel two days before wearing dusty buckskins and a gun belt slung low on lean hips. His disheveled hair grazed his fringed shirt and a full beard obscured his face. There appeared to be not an ounce of fat on his broad-shouldered frame. Hard to recognize that man as being the same person who now sat across the room dressed in tailored clothing that rivaled any worn in London or Paris. Sun-streaked hair, clubbed at his nape with a black ribbon, shone tawny gold beneath the gas-lit chandeliers. Clean-shaven now, his chiseled face could pass for a work of art.

Two days ago hadn’t been the first time she’d seen him. A few months prior, he’d charged into the elegant Morgan Hotel after weeks on the trail, dragging a woman by the hand and cradling a rosy-cheeked babe in one arm. A fascinating man, he’d captivated Alanna on the spot. Or had she merely fallen for the romantic notion that he’d made a daring rescue of the woman by his side? She’d heard that the woman had been captured by Indians and ended up giving birth to a son while surrounded by wolves. That today the woman had married the boy’s father . . . the man being none other than the wealthy part-owner of the shipping company her own father used to transport his goods.

“Stop staring,” her mother spat. “Not only are you being utterly rude, but have you forgotten you are soon to be married?”

Oh, wouldn’t she like to forget that unfortunate fact. “I’d rather slit my wrists with a butter knife than marry Jonathan.”

Her mother’s jaw twitched and her lips thinned. “Don’t start that again, Alanna, or I’ll have your father correct your manners.”

Alanna settled her mouth into a faux smile. “My father who sits here and ignores us entirely?” She leaned over and patted her father’s plump hand. “Isn’t that right, Father?”

He glanced up from the folded newspaper beside his plate, fork in midair. “Huh? Oh. Yes. Yes. Correct. Correct.” He went back to reading and eating.

She pursed her lips against a real smile. “See, Mother? Not an inkling.”

She glanced up, just as Wolf stood, dropped his serviette on the table, and turned on his heel. He moved toward the exit with a fluid grace, his muscled hips rolling seductively, his long legs stretching out in a slow, purposeful glide. Something less than virtuous heated Alanna’s insides. Oh, why did a man like him have to live in this part of the world and not in hers?

As if he’d heard her thoughts, he paused at the doorway and made a swift turn of his shoulders. He settled a blue-fire gaze on her, scorching every nerve in her body.

Her mother gasped. “Ignore that awful man at once!”

Alanna paid her mother no heed.

Mr. Malone,” her mother hissed. “Would you please rid yourself of that dratted newspaper and have a word with your daughter about indecently gawking at a perfect stranger?”

Her father glanced up. Wolf had disappeared. “What does it matter? We’re gone in two days.” He turned to Alanna. “And I have heard every word, Alanna Mary Malone.” The soft Irish lilt infusing his words thickened, revealing his repressed anger. “There will be a wedding and that’s all there is to it. You so much as breathe in a way that ruins our chances of entering the upper ranks of society and you will lose everything you hold dear.”

She straightened her spine against his ire. “Well, since I don’t give a fig about finances and material things, that wouldn’t be much of a loss, now, would it, Father?”

“Watch your tongue. You know quite well what I mean, so do not pretend otherwise.”

Alanna wiped all expression from her face, but beneath the table, her hands twisted her serviette as if it were her fiancé’s neck. “I have yet to walk down the aisle with the man you sold my soul to, so do beware.”
Kensington © 2014 Kathleen Bittner-Roth




Born in Minnesota, Kathleen Bittner Roth has lived all over the U.S.: Idaho, Washington, California, Texas and New York.  Currently, she resides in Budapest, Hungary, often called the Paris of the East. Kathleen has won countless awards for her writing, including finaling in RWA's prestigious Golden Heart contest. She is an active member of Romance Writers of America, including the Hearts Through History chapter and has been a contributing editor for an online romance magazine as well as writing and producing successful seminars and meditation CDs.


3 comments:

  1. OMGoodness, the contest is over. Wah! I just read this rather long excerpt with three scenarios and am again entranced with Ms. Bittner's writing. I have GOT to read Celine and Alanna both. Very, very soon. jsh2690@gmail.com

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