Here is the first chapter for Sex, Lies and Contracts coming 2/1/12 from Red Sage.
“You must marry her.”
Jack Alexander Woodward crossed one boot over another and leaned back in his leather chair. He glanced at the delicate woman across the room who shot fierce sparks of fury from her amber eyes. He’d been told by many women his mouth had a natural sulky pout made for sex, but those same lips were able to turn into a sneer that could intimidate the most demanding of females.
Unfortunately, the woman before him was his mother, and not the least bit afraid.
“Rachelle will be the perfect wife for you. I’ve been patient with you, Jack.” Victoria Woodward set her teacup onto the rose embroidered china plate and gave him the look she had designed from years of raising her only son. “I’ve let you go a bit wild and almost ruin the family name. I’ve been silent regarding your messy affairs and your crazy dreams of sailing the seas. But enough is enough, my dear. You will marry Rachelle by the end of the month and take your rightful place as heir to the throne. You will have a son of your own to pass down the family legacy to.”
He remembered being little and easily admonished by her strict tone. His mother always had the ability to make him behave by some mysterious womanly power. He fought the urge to fidget in his chair and reminded himself he was thirty two years old. Far past the age when he should listen to his mother. Jack decided to try and reason with her first. A strange fear bubbled within as he looked into her face. Ever since his father passed away, she’d focused on obtaining Jack the perfect wife. At first, he thought it was a logical reaction to her husband leaving her alone. But as the months passed and she insisted on parading a bunch of rich, blue-blood sharks before him, he realized there could be more to the story.
A story he didn’t particularly want the ending to.
“Mother, don’t get me wrong. I understand you want me to settle down and marry. But I need to do this on my own terms. I don’t want some suitable companion who looks good on paper. I don’t want a breeder. I want someone I can love.”
Those eyes softened and pressure eased from his chest. But her words slammed through him like the proverbial nail in his own personal coffin.
“Jack, we’re out of time. If you don’t get married by the end of the month, your cousin will take over Castle Point. You will lose everything. The house, the money, the company. Everything.”
She took advantage of his stunned silence and continued. “I didn’t want you to know what your father had done. He was worried about you – about the legacy. He saw a man who didn’t want to grow up and assume responsibility, so he decided to take matters into his own hands. Your cousin is willing to settle down. Bryce is next in line and he’s not afraid to get married. He wants to take over Woodward Shipping, you’ve always known that.”
The thought of his cousin sucker punched him low in the gut. Oh, yes, Bryce had sniffed around his legacy his whole life. Always willing to step in when Jack ran off; ever polite and accommodating to his parents; and consistently whispering sweet nothings in his father’s ear. Love words regarding Jack’s unwillingness to marry and take over the family company. Jack knew those intimate conversations pushed his father to change the will. His cousin was closer than ever to getting everything his family owned. Everything that belonged to Jack.
Time was officially up.
Jack muttered a curse and ignored his mother’s disapproving frown. He pushed himself off the chair and paced the thickly piled carpet. Pissed off at his family, but mostly at himself, he realized he’d sorely underestimated the impatience of his old man. With royalty in the blood from generations of English ancestors, Castle Rock was one of the last in the legacy, watered down by a line of modern uncles who took off for riches in the US or the pursuit of the seas. The house resembled an old fashioned castle; a medieval tribute to knights and their ladies and a time when duty surpassed individual wants. The owner of Castle Rock would also run Woodward Shipping Enterprises – the most successful maker and supplier of boats in the country. One was infinitely linked to the other. All male generations before him had settled down with families in Castle Rock and run the corporation. His legacy had been drummed into his mind since his toddler years.
Jack shook his head in an effort to clear his thoughts. The expression on his mother’s face told the true story. If he didn’t marry, he’d lose everything. He cut through the problem with his usual economy of emotion and pierced the heart of the matter. Whining and bitching about his father’s decision solved nothing. Getting his mother upset so close to his father’s death would be cruel. He needed a wife.
But it would be on his terms.
His mother’s gaze bore into his back like an irritated bee sting. “I need more time,” he said.
Victoria gave a long sigh, deep with suffering. “Darling, you’ve had years to make this decision. Rachelle is a beautiful young lady and will give you lovely children.”
He wondered briefly if his mother knew about the famous women’s liberation movement where a mate was chosen for love, not breeding. He decided not to test her. Jack gathered up all of his emotion for his acting debut. Hopefully, it would be the finale and he would not have to partake in any other emotional scenes.
“I’m not in love with Rachelle. Yes, she’s lovely, but after a conversation regarding the weather and the china and society gossip, there’s nothing left. I need a woman who’s my match. Someone who won’t bore me to tears in the years to come. Let me have more time.”
“For goodness sakes, why? Do you really believe you’ll find this soul-mate in a few months? You’ve already been through every suitable woman in England.”
He gave a roguish grin, well known by his mistresses to be irresistible. As usual, his mother remained immune. “Maybe in England. I intend to go to the United States.”
Victoria blinked. “Excuse me? And do what?”
He leaned forward, intensity radiating in waves from his form as he sought to convince her. “Hear me out. I understand the stakes, and I’m willing to settle if I can’t find the right woman. Give me three more months. It’ll give me an opportunity to visit some of our offshore sites and check on our expansion overseas. I need to search for her on my terms, mother. As Jack, the sailor. Not Jack, the heir to Castle Rock. Let me disappear and focus on being me and I may find her.”
Victoria put down her teacup. Her lioness eyes, so like his own, mirrored pure frustration. Fortunately, Jack spotted another emotion in their depths. Empathy. He almost had her.
Jack dropped to one knee and grabbed his mother’s hand. “Three more months. Bryce can run the company while I’m gone. I’ve already settled Dad’s papers. You can tell everyone I’m on a brief holiday to grieve, and when I return, I’ll announce my decision to marry.”
Victoria stared at him for a long moment, then shook off his grip with irritation. “Don’t pull that drama on me, Jack,” she said. “I’m not one of your women.”
He grinned and gracefully rose from the floor. “As you consistently remind me. Thank you, mother.”
Her face softened, though she looked worried. “Search for this lost soul-mate of yours. But when you return, you’ll take over the company and marry. As long as she’s not a prostitute or horrible celebrity, I don’t care who you fall in love with.”
“I’ll make the necessary arrangements.”
“What will I tell Bryce?”
He waved his hand in dismissal. “Bryce will be thrilled to hear I’m gone. Does he know about Dad’s will?”
Victoria shook her head. “Just us and the lawyers.”
“I won’t worry about him, then. Let him believe he’ll inherit the whole pie for a while. It’ll keep him happy.”
“Jack, why are you always so hard on your cousin?”
He paused, tempted to tell his mother about the rumors. Bryce Sinclair was a wonder boy in many ways – the perfect confidante and supporter for both the company and his family. Something was off with him, though. Always had been. Jack caught the glimmer of evil in his face when he thought no one was looking. He’d also seen Bryce in action. But there was no need to worry his mother further. “Just want to make sure Castle Rock is protected. Now, I’d better go. I’ll call when I get settled.”
He left his mother with her tea and strode out the door.
* * * *
Julianna stared out at the churning waters and heard her father’s voice whisper through the harsh wind. She shivered at the first explosion of salty spray and wrapped her arms tighter around her body. Still, she did not move from the cliff’s edge. A storm brewed overhead and she longed to feel the icy cold against her skin. Numbness had been her constant companion over the past week. She needed to feel alive.
“You are my only daughter. You must promise to keep the family legacy alive.”
A cloud hovered and split open. The ground shook beneath her feet with the fierceness of a woman scorned, and she tilted her face upward as the rain poured down. Her hair lifted and whipped around like Medusa in all of her glory. Julianna gasped as the cold seeped through her bones and re-fired her blood, forced her heart to pump heavier for warmth, and the numbness burst wide open and let all the pain and hurt stream back.
“The Cliff House must be saved. You must marry someone with wealth. Someone who is worthy of you.”
She let out a long, animal wail as the grief took hold. The scene flashed in the sky overhead. Her father dying inch by inch as she watched. The promise wrested from her lips to save their family home. The final closure of his eyes, and the peaceful smile upon his lips as he sealed her Fate.
Her promise would be her sentence.
Her home would be her prison.
Julianna had no one. No siblings. No parents. No cousins. The money was gone, swallowed in a drench of medical bills and mortgage payments. The life insurance would barely pay for taxes and upkeep for the month. She had no one to turn to. The banks and credit unions and friends had nothing left to give her.
She needed to marry. For money, not love. For the home she’d been trying to escape her entire life.
The ocean roared its fury and the sky boomed back.
Her shoulders slumped. The emotions passed as quickly as they had taken hold. Julianna wasn’t surprised. She’d learned young emotions had no place in real life. Not when people depended on her.
She turned from the cliff and walked back toward her house. Her shoes sank into the muddy ground, and her dress hung heavy with wetness as she left the storm behind. The heat of the house pressed down upon her like an oppressive spirit.
Dreams of luxurious travel, hot affairs and a shiny, open world lay behind her. She must do her duty and continue her family’s heritage. Along the way, perhaps the man who was destined to fulfill her promise would be a man she could love.
Julianna shut the door behind her. On the storm. On her grief.
On her future.
From: Jennifer Probst
Sent: Mon, Oct 17, 2011 3:43 pm
Subject: RE: My blog
Yes, of course I would love to! I love your blog - please send me the questions. Thanks!!
A Little Bit Naughty...A Little Bit Nice
Mommy Blog: http://4badmommies.com
Sex, Lies and Contracts - Available Feb 1st!
The Tantric Principle -Red Sage
Secrets Volume 11, "Masquerade" - Red Sage
Heart of Steel - BookHub
Buffy and the Carrot - Eloquent
A Life Worth Living - Kindle
Twitter Me! http://bit.ly/iMXHkr