Today is Escape Publishing’s first birthday. To celebrate its birthday, it is hosting giveaways all over the internet this week.
Today’s giveaway here at Dear Author is for one of the following bundles. In other words, three random winners will receive one bundle of digital books. Enter the rafflecopter that best suits your reading preferences or enter them all.
- A World Apart
- Swift Runs the Heart
- The Wicked Confessions of Lady Cecelia Stanton
- The Chieftain’s Curse
- Dancing on Air
Now that you’ve entered the Rafflecopter(s) of your choice, sit back and enjoy a 1000 word excerpt from Secret Santa by Rhian Cahill.
Jenn did a double take when the taxi pulled up at the huge, wrought?iron gates. ‘This doesn’t look like a restaurant,’ she mumbled.
‘It’s the address you gave me, love,’ the grisly old driver snarled. ‘Are you getting out or what?’
‘Oh, yes, sorry, what do I owe you?’ She fumbled in her handbag for her purse, but before she could pull out her money, the door next to her swung open and a hand appeared in front of her face, waving a fifty dollar note.
‘I’ve got it.’
Her gaze darted to the side just as he stuck his head in the cab. ‘Morgan?’
‘Hey.’ He smiled as he leaned in further and thrust the money between the front seats. ‘Here. Keep the change.’
‘But that’s thirty dollars!’ Jenn argued when she glanced at the meter.
‘The man is working on Christmas day, Jenn. Shouldn’t he get a little something extra?’
‘Oh, well, yes, but — ’
Morgan grabbed her hand and tugged. ‘C’mon. Let’s get you out of there,’ he said as he pulled her from the back seat to stand on the driveway.
He slammed the door shut and the taxi sped off down the street disappearing around the corner before Jenn could bat her eyelashes. She stared after the car, her brain a whirlwind. What was Morgan doing here? And where the hell was here? Before she could form her questions into words, he was ushering her through a small gate beside the two larger ones spanning the driveway of the biggest property she’d ever seen.
‘Oh my,’ she breathed as the gardens and house came into full view on the other side of the enormous front fence. ‘What is this place?’
Morgan glanced over his shoulder when her feet slowed and she lagged behind. ‘Technically it’s mine, but my grandparents are in residence, so I think of it as theirs. I live in the guest cottage out back.’
‘Guest cottage?’ She’d fallen down the rabbit hole. ‘You live here? Wait. You own this place?’
Jenn couldn’t wrap her head around that. She knew Morgan’s was successful, but she had no idea the restaurant was doing that well.
Morgan laughed. ‘Yes. But it’s not what you think. The place is held by the family trust and it’s worked in a way that the youngest first born inherits the place at birth, but the generations before him or her live in it for life.’
She shook her head. That sounded far too complicated for her currently muddled mind to deal with. ‘Okay.’
His laughter rang out across the lawn as he continued to tow her in the direction of the imposing front doors. She dragged her heels until she realised she was digging up the manicured grass and leaving a trail in the pristine yard.
‘Wait. Wait.’ Jenn yanked on her hand until it came free. ‘Why am I here? I don’t understand…’ But then she did. ‘Oh my God. You’re my Secret Santa!’
He had the good grace to blush.
‘Why? Why would you do that?’ Tears stung her eyes. She’d refused his invitation to spend Christmas day with him and his family and he’d tricked her into it by giving her a Christmas lunch at what she thought was a restaurant as her Secret Santa gift.
‘Hey, hey.’ Morgan slipped his arms around her and pulled her close until she was tucked snugly against his warm chest. ‘You don’t have to stay. I just thought it would be a better idea if you were around people today. At least come into the house. If it’s too much you can head out back to my place where I promise no one will bother you.’
She shook her head. She’d been thrilled when she opened her present and read the certificate. As much as she’d believed it best to be on her own today, she’d been dreading it to the point of feeling sick to her stomach. The gift of not being alone — of not spending the hours dwelling on why she was by herself — had given Jenn’s depressed mood a boost until she could barely contain her excitement.
Morgan rocked side to side while he tightened his hold. ‘I’ll take you home now. I didn’t mean to upset you. I just couldn’t bear the thought of you all alone with no one to turn to if you wanted — or needed — to.’
At some point her arms had snaked around his waist and her head nestled into the side of his neck. She could smell soap and pine and Morgan. He always smelled sweet. Jenn
was sure it was all those sinful desserts he made. Taking a deep breath she saturated her senses with his tantalising aroma. With her body curled against his, it was hard to remember why doing this with him was a bad idea.
‘Jenn?’ he murmured into her hair and she could have sworn he pressed his lips to her head. ‘Do you want to go home?’
‘Are you mad at me?’
‘Okay.’ His arms loosened and Jenn gripped his waist tighter. ‘Okay, not letting go
Just a few more seconds. A few more heartbeats to pretend it was all right to be in
his arms — to feel his body pressed against the length of hers. She squeezed her eyes shut and etched every single sensation into her memory. She’d take it out on those rare occasions when she allowed herself to think about Morgan as something other than her boss. A sigh raised and lowered her breasts against him.
It didn’t matter how good this felt — how right — being in his arms was wrong. With great reluctance, and a strength she didn’t know she possessed, Jenn let go and stepped back. She tried for a smile, but her lips wobbled and her eyes still held the sheen of tears. Not sad ones. And that was another reason to cry. It had been so long since anything had moved her other than grief.
‘T?thank you.’ She blinked rapidly to disperse the moisture gathering on her lashes. ‘I don’t really want to be alone today.’ It was hard to admit, but Morgan deserved to know where her head was at.
‘I still shouldn’t have pushed the issue.’
‘No. But I’m glad you did.’ Jenn smiled and nodded towards the house. ‘So are we going in?’
Morgan glanced over his shoulder towards the mansion. ‘There’s going to be a lot of people in there. They’ll definitely get overwhelming at some point. Jeez, they overwhelm me and I grew up in the middle of the madness.’
‘I’m sure they won’t be that bad.’ But Jenn was a little worried. As an only child she didn’t have much experience with large families.
He brushed the back of his fingers down her cheek. ‘If at any stage you want out, tell me. I’ll take you down to my place and we can hang out there for a while or you can stay there by yourself.’
She couldn’t help herself. She moved into his touch. The shout from across the yard snapped them both out of the moment. They jumped apart and Jenn had to take several deep breaths to calm her racing heart. Her palms were damp and the soft, gooey warmth swirling in her lower belly left her with an all?too familiar, Morgan?related tension.
‘Someone is calling you.’ Jenn couldn’t get a good look at the person waving at them, but she knew it was a woman. If the flowing dress hadn’t given it away, the slight frame and flamboyant, red, curly hair draped over bare shoulders would have.