Writer Wednesday – writing year review for 2019

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For the last #WriterWednesday of 2019 I thought I’d do a post on my writing year in review. It’s been a rocky one – ups and downs galore – but I’m happy to admit I’m ending 2019 on a writing high 🙂
So, let’s start with January.

In January I decided to get my sh*t together and create a plan (okay, so the plan didn’t come together until the end of January, but hey, it was still January!). I love watching YouTube videos from the author, Sarra Cannon. She has a craft channel called Heart Breathings. She is such a breath of fresh air with videos on the craft and the realistic life/goals of a writer. I love her because she is so generous to her fans – always creating work books for free – and not being constantly all about the hustle, hustle, hustle. She is real and talks about the real struggles of writing when you have other commitments – a job, family, school, chronic health issues.

She has a system called HB90. You plan your writing goals for 90 days at a time and be laser focused for those 3 months.

I could do this. It would give me structure and 90 days was a good period of time.

So I planned. I planned my 3 monthly goals.

  1. Increase sales and engagement
  2. Finish and release the first book in the Knights of Hell MC trilogy
  3. Plot and write first 3 chapters of a Mills & Boon Dare submission

Easy. Sustainable.

Err…not. I failed. Oh, for the first month I wrote, I promoted and then I got lazy. Life happened. I got sick. Mom got sicker. Work got crazy. Life got in the way and I didn’t make writing a priority. It came way down my list of commitments.

Lets skip to June. I did some editing and started that Mills & Boon story while I was soaking up the sun in Santorini with Mister Scarlett (who wouldn’t want to write in such a beautiful setting?!), but it never got past 1,000 words.

santorini

Fast forward to August. I’m writing here and there. Book 1 in the Knights of Hell MC trilogy, Sinful, is complete (first draft only though). I made the decision not to release it until the other two were finished. I did add some words here and there, but nothing substantial. All the while the sales on my old titles have dwindled to nothing.

In September, I release an old story with Totally Bound.

By the time November rolls around I’m determined to get my ass in gear and do NaNoWriMo. As I explained in my other post, due to numerous things, I couldn’t commit to 50000 words. It just seemed too…insurmountable. So I made my own goal – 30000. 1000 words per day. Again, I charted my progression in another post (but I’m happy to say I hit it!).

One thing NaNo did for me was create a manageable, sustainable goal. I had to commit to just 30-45 minutes per day to getting the words down. That’s it. Just 30 minutes.

And you know what? It worked! By the end of NaNo, I had 36000 words. I’m happy to say as of Saturday just gone, I completed the first draft of the Mills & Boon submission I’ve been wanting to write for so long. Whoop, whoop.

Compared to this time last year, I feel in such a good place. I’m not doing 1000 words per day now, but I’m aiming for 750 a day. Mister Scarlett asked me how I was going to be accountable to myself now that NaNo is over and that’s a good question. After all, it’s easy to slip back into old habits. I’m a known slipper. Always have been. There is always something else I can find to do – binge Netflix, read, scroll through Instagram, watch YouTube videos, nap.

So for the end of the year and first few months of 2020 I have a manageable, sustainable (you seeing a theme with the buzzwords here?) plan.

From now until 31st December – I’m working on an erotic Christmas romance that I started in 2018. 750 per day, and I want to try and hit 10000 words by the end of the month. That’s with taking the holidays off. I started on Monday and I’m already 4063 words in.

word count tracker

January 2020 – I’m going to finish the Knights of Hell MC trilogy. 750 words per day. 20000 word target.

February – editing the Mills & Boon submission, working on the synopsis and putting together a trilogy proposal.

See? A plan. Manageable. Sustainable.

One of the things I have found in 2019 is the joy of writing again. It sounds like a cliche, but I lost that for so long.

Some days it’s still hard, but there are the days when it flows and the words fly onto the page, and there is such a joyous feeling inside me when that happens that I can’t explain it to people. The consistency helps the words fly. If there is one thing I’ve learnt over the past year it’s consistency is the key to the words. The more I do it, the easier it gets (not always, but mostly). The writing has also been helping me, mentally, deal with a lot of stuff. It’s an outlet. A sorely needed one.

As 2019 draws to a close, there have been ups and downs, I haven’t published anything new, but I have lots of things coming together. The best thing about 2019 is I’ve rediscovered why I write. I’ve rediscovered the joy and that makes 2019 worth it!

I hope your 2019 has been everything you imagined. Let me know if you have any plans for 2020. I’d love to hear them!

 

Writer Wednesday – #Nanowrimo update

Writer Wednesday

It’s time for another Writer Wednesday post. This time it’s an update on how #NaNoWriMo is going.

I’ve been really quiet on my blog and on social media for the past few weeks because I’ve been writing. And *gasp, shock horror, blow me down with a god damn feather* I have been sticking to my word count and writing every day.

Remember the post I wrote back at the beginning of November? If you can’t, I’ll link it here . I set a goal of writing 1,000 words per day for the whole of November, with the aim of reaching 30,000 by the end of the month.

I’m happy to say as of 25th November I reached 30, 117 and I’m still going. Woohoo.

There has only been one day in the month so far that I haven’t written. That was due to being sick so I gave myself the day off – and didn’t feel guilty about it! All the other days, even on work days where I only had 15 minutes to write, I managed to get words down. Most days I reached 1,000. Some days only half that. Other days It hit 1,200.

The important thing for me has been consistency. I only had to write 1,000 words per day. That would take about 30 minutes or so. I broke it down into two 15 minute stints. Sometimes I’d write a little bit more – another 15 minutes or so, but never more than that.

For me, 30,000 words is nearly a whole novella. Although I haven’t finished my Mills & Boon Dare submission yet, I’m proud of the fact I CAN write a full novella in a short amount of time. This is the most productive I’ve ever been with my writing, but the most important thing is it has helped me remember the sheer joy I get from writing.

Yes, some days it’s been hard. Some days it’s like pulling teeth to get the words on the page, but I kept doing it. One word at a time. Other days it simply flowed. After each writing session I came away feeling elated. I love my characters. I love sitting down and creating imaginary worlds on a page. It allows me to lose myself and forget about whatever else is going on for little while.

Another important thing I’ve come to realise is how good a regular writing schedule is for my mental health. I’ve always found writing cathartic. Over the past 26 days I’ve found it’s had a positive effect on my mental health. With everything going on at the moment, the ‘side effect’ of writing has proven to be healing.

I need to write. I’d forgotten that.

With social media and keeping up an online presence (which is important, and I love each and every person whom I’ve met online), promoting my books, the admin side of the business, I’d forgotten the simple joy of sitting down to write. As J. R. Ward said “The work always comes first. Magic happens when you put the work first.” I’ve got this pinned on my board at home to remind myself that the writing, the stories, come first.

Although I set my own goal for NaNoWriMo, the month allowed me to find the joy in writing again. It gave me space and clarity to remember I can do this. I love doing this. I might not do 1,000 words per day from here on in, but I will set a regular word count for each week. After all, I know I can do it.

I just need to keep on doing it 🙂

Writer Wednesday – #NaNoWriMo

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I’m going to introduce a new feature for Wednesdays. I won’t be updating every week, maybe once a month (don’t hold me to that, I’m notoriously bad at updating my blog!) I’ll do a post called ‘Writer Wednesday‘. I’ll chat about the writing process, publishing, the practicalities of writing.  Let me know in the comments below if there is a particular topic you want me to cover and I’ve be happy to do a post on it.

Sooo, for this week’s ‘Writer Wednesday‘ I’m going to be talking about NaNoWriMo. If you’re not sure what that is, it’s National Novel Writing Month. You can visit the website for more info. The basic premise is you commit to writing 50,000 words in the month of November.

I don’t normally do NaNoWriMo. I tend to keep my own schedule and committing to a certain number of words per day (if you do the 50,000 that’s 1,666 per day) just makes me antsy and terrified. But this year I decided to sign up. Go, me!

 

Nano

If you are doing NaNoWriMo, feel free to follow me 🙂

I decided to sign up because I really want to complete a rough draft of a submission for the Mills & Boon Dare line. This has been on my to-do list since April. I’ve started the story (about 5,000 words in already) and have it all plotted, but the Knights of Hell series has been taking precedence. I came to the conclusion I would NEVER get to this Mills & Boon sub if I didn’t do something.

So I signed up for Nano.

The terrifying thing for me is, I’m not an everyday writer. With lupus, a job, and a sick Mom, other things sometimes have to take priority. Added to that, my books have NEVER reached 50,000 words. Some have come close. I think Claiming Ruby comes in around 42,000. I’m not even sure I can do 50,000 words.

But I want to do this. NaNo provides a perfect opportunity to get in regular writing sessions and to have a whole community of support. That is one of the best things about NaNo – the community. There is an online forum for support, but also regular local writing sessions. Honestly, if you are looking to write that novel and want to stay motivated, NaNo might be the thing for you.

I signed up a few weeks before November 1st…and then totally freaked out. I can’t commit to writing 1,666 words per day. Am I crazy? Sometimes I don’t even do that in a week! Lately I’ve implemented a 15 minute writing stint every day where I can average around 400 words, and at the end of the week those word counts add up. But 1,666 EVERY day? Nah. I can’t do it.

And knowing me like I do, I’d feel like a complete failure for not meeting those word counts. No matter how sick I felt. No matter what else was happening, I’d still feel like a failure. And that would put me off sitting down to write at all.

Being a writer is easy you say? Pfff. Hell no. As well as figuring out a writing schedule and actually getting the ideas down, you have to deal with all kinds of guilt (but that’s another blog post).

Anyhoo, at the advice of the awesome romance writing community, I decided to set my own goal for NaNo.

30,000 words in 30 days. 1,000 words a day. I can cover this pretty much in two 15 minute writing stints. Easy, right? I’m already doing one 15 minute stint, another one and I would have 30,000 at the end of it.

It’s now 6th November and I’m hitting my word counts *whoop, whoop*

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I can’t give you my typical NaNo day. Sometimes I write for 30 minutes in the morning, sometimes in the afternoon. Never at night as I’m just pretty dead after 6pm.

I write at my desk, in a coffee shop, at work on lunch. I write on my computer and in notebooks.

Bascially, I’m doing what I can, when I can.

Mister Scarlett asked me what happens if I don’t hit my word count one day. I’m not sure, but I’m determined not to beat myself up. If at the end of the month I don’t have 30,000…that’s okay. But I will have a big chunk of wordage that I didn’t have on October 31st and that is something to be celebrated 🙂

Wish me luck for the rest of the month!

Where do I get my ideas? The story behind my latest re-release, Owned by the Night

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I’m so excited that Owned by the Night, my erotic paranormal romance has been re-released with Totally Bound! It’s available from the Totally Bound site, Amazon or all good online bookstores for 99p/99c. A real bargain for such a steamy book 😉

In honor of the re-release I thought I’d share where I got the idea for this story.

One of the questions I get asked a lot is: where do you get your ideas from? It’s not an easy question for a writer to answer. Ideas come from everywhere – everyday things, news, movies, books, something someone said to me…

I tend to get a lot of story ideas, specifically “moods” of books, from music.

Owned by the Night is no exception. Actually, this story has a clear correlation to a specific song.

And that song is…Closer by the Kings of Leon. In case you’ve never heard the song, I’ve linked to a video on YouTube below.

Here are the lyrics:

“Closer”

Stranded in this spooky town
Stoplights are swaying and the phone lines are down
Floor is crackling cold
She took my heart, I think she took my soul
With the moon I run
Far from the carnage of the fiery sun

Driven by the strangle of vein
Showing no mercy I’d do it again
Open up your eyes
You keep on crying, baby I’ll bleed you dry
Skies are blinking at me
I see a storm bubbling up from the sea

And it’s coming closer
And it’s coming closer

You shimmy-shook my bone
Leaving me stranded all in love on my own
Do you think of me?
Where am I now, baby where do I sleep?
Feels so good but I’m old
2000 years of chasing taking its toll

And it’s coming closer
And it’s coming closer
And it’s coming closer
And it’s coming closer

I get such a dark vibe from this song. Always have done. I think I had it on repeat the whole time I was writing the story.

 

 

Listening to the lyrics, I came up with Kyrian and Allgera. A female vampire turning a male, one she thinks she can control, but ultimately ends up running from. Eventually, after thousands of years, he catches up to her and she finally gives into her desire to be with him.

 

 

Ohhh, think I just gave myself goosebumps 🙂 The story itself was originally called Closer but my lovely editor decided to go for something a bit more suited to the storyline. And thank god for that!

 

 

Owned by the Night is sexy and dark and full of possession and fangs. I’m so glad it’s out

in the world again.

 

I really enjoyed sharing where I get specific ideas for my stories. If you liked this post, and would like to know more about where I get my ideas, post a comment below.
You can purchase Owned by the Night at:
OwnedbytheNight_outnow

Gardens and the search for the perfect pizza dough…

Well, it’s been another eventful few weeks since I last wrote a blog post.

Our garden landscaping is now finished! It looks so pretty. It’s very low maintenance, with raised beds and tiles instead of grass. Exactly what I need with me having lupus. It means I have easy access to do some gardening and grow veggies.

What do you think?

Now the fun part starts 🙂 I haven’t had a workable garden for a while, so I’m doing my research on what is best to plant in containers, and what vegetables I can grow in a small patch. I’m already propagating chillies.

Mister Scarlett had some specially built food prep areas. He’s intending to get an Uni Pro pizza oven and become a pizza master! While we wait for the oven to be delivered, we’ve been experimenting with pizza dough and various proving techniques. I love cold proving (something I’ve only just discovered!). Here is our most recent attempt at pizza (my toppings were ham, mushroom and olives):

pizza

Do you have any good dough recipes we could try out?

On the writing front, I’m steadily working my way through edits on Sinful. The more I get into the story, the more I fall in love with Zeke and Grace. She is so feisty. Such a perfect match for Zeke despite their differences, but whew! they do go through the ringer! *evil laugh*

One thing I hate doing (and I do mean hate – it’s torture!) is writing blurbs. Now I’m self-publishing, all these admin tasks are solely my responsibility. Before, my editor used to help out. I truly suck at it, but I’ve been writing and re-writing the blurb for Sinful, so fingers crossed it’s okay.

That’s pretty much it for this blog post. I’m heading back into the writing cave…or maybe out into the garden…

Writing, WIP, libraries and EXCLUSIVE excerpt from Sinful

Greetings, everyone!

I realise it’s been another long period of time between posts. I promise to ‘try’ and get better at writing more regular posts.

It’s been another busy few months! I’ve been really ill a few times, but the latest bout of sickness really knocked me off my feet. I had a terrible chest infection and was on pneumonia watch for a while. That slowed my writing/editing down considerably. Boo.

It does mean I’ve been reading a lot though. I’m more than half way through my 2019 reading challenge on Good Reads.

reading challenge

I’ve become addicted to Sarah J. Maas’ Throne of Glass series. Can’t get enough of it! I’m trying to pace myself with them so I don’t binge read them too quickly.

A new author discovery for me is T.M. Frazier. Just read the first 2 books in the King series and oh, my…*fans self* Love her characters. So dark and raw. Yum.

There has also been lots of stuff going on with the house. We are finally getting the garden landscaped. More on that in another post, and about our experiments with the perfect pizza dough! The most exciting thing, after a year of being in the house, we finally got the library shelving fitted. I have a library!

book shelving

A comfy snuggle chair is arriving tomorrow, and then I’ll have the perfect reading room. I’ve always dreamed of having a library/reading room. I’m so lucky to be able to have one thanks to the wonderful Mister Scarlett. Although he may lose me to the room…haha

Publishing wise, I’m still working on editing the first book in the Knights of Hell MC trilogy. As I said at the beginning of the post, after a great January, February/March has been a really slow starter.

However, here is a sneak peek excerpt to keep you going. I’m definitely going to have the first book, Sinful, finished before Spring is through.

She climbed her porch steps and fumbled with her keys. She unlocked the door, stepped over the threshold and turned for the medical kit.

He put it beside her on the floor and idled against the frame. He leaned towards her, filling her personal space. Crowding her. She could step back, away from his masculine presence, but she didn’t want to. She was completely enraptured by him.

“So, Grace, how did you know that Jay needed help? It’s well after midnight. Shouldn’t good girls like you be in bed dreaming of pretty princes?”

She bristled at his patronizing tone. “I was getting a glass of water and saw you come back. I saw the blood in the light and came to see if I could help. It’s what I’m trained to do.”

Not a complete lie, but not the whole truth either. He didn’t need to know she’d been spying and drooling.

“So you haven’t been sitting up in your window seat for the past four weeks watching us?” His amber eyes blazed with heat.

Busted.

Heat rushed to her cheeks. “I beg your pardon?”

He reached up and flicked a strand of her hair. “At first I wondered, new tenant in the neighborhood. A woman who likes to spy. Maybe a threat. Maybe sent by the authorities. But now I understand.”

His soft, baritone voice lulled her. She watched his sensual lips move. Zeke was dangerous. Extremely dangerous. She knew that, yet she couldn’t move back. Moth and flame came to mind, and she was going to get singed.

“What do you understand?” Her voice sounded huskier than she wanted it to be.

Her breasts swelled and tingled inside the confines of her bra. She yearned to reach out and run her palm across his bearded jaw. Feel the wiry hair abrade her skin.

“I understand you aren’t a threat. You’re a voyeur. You like to watch don’t you, Grace? When you came into the kitchen, I wasn’t sure which one of us you wanted to fuck. Rafe and Gabe are real pretty. You wouldn’t have to choose between them—they’d do you together if that’s your thing. But it’s not them, is it?” He didn’t wait for her to answer. “It’s me you want to fuck.”

She inhaled, started to protest even as her body screamed yes.

He stopped her with a finger pressed to her lips. “Ssshhh. No need to lie to me.” He rubbed the pad of his thumb across her lower lip. “If I kissed you now, I’d have you naked and under me within five minutes. I’d probably be the fuck of your life. I like sex. I like beautiful women.” He waited a beat, rubbed her lip some more. “But there is one problem.”

“What’s that?” Her mind was still trying to process the image of him, naked and hot. She had no doubt he’d be an excellent lover.

He pushed the tip of thumb gently inside her mouth. “I don’t fuck good girls.” He cupped her cheek. “I’m not a good man, Grace. I’m bad and dangerous and damaged. You may think you want me, but you don’t. Now go back to bed, get out your conventional vibrator and bring yourself off thinking about me. And then forget I exist. I’m not for you.”

He brushed his lips across her cheek in a tender, brief kiss that ignited her senses. And then he was gone. He’d set her body on fire, and then destroyed her with his words.

Arrogant, conceited asshole.

Anger bubbled in her gut. Where did he get off presuming to know her?

She called after him. “Zeke?” When he stopped and looked over his shoulder, she continued. “I’m not a good girl.”

She flipped him the bird then slammed the door. Good riddance to the misogynistic asshole.

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Over the next month you can find me taking part in The Romance Reviews anniversary party. Head on over for a chance to win tons of prizes until March 31st.

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Finally, don’t forget to sign up for my newsletter! You get all the exclusive news, sneak previews and stories. If you sign up, you get a FREE copy of BEG ME delivered straight to your inbox!

Beg Me

That’s all for now.

Until next time, take care.

Scarlett

Autumn update on what the heck I’ve been up to!

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Hi everyone,

I don’t really know where to start with this blog to be honest. It’s been a long few months since I posted back in…May. Gah. Sorry for the radio silence!

I was quite ill over the summer months. Finally went back to work to my day job as a librarian at the end of July, and then found out my Mom’s cancer has come back. The very sad news is she only has about 6 months to live, so I’ve been spending time with her. We have lots of stuff planned. The only blessing so far is she seems fairly ‘well’. It’s particularly hard as she is my best friend.

As for writing, I haven’t had much of a chance to do that over the summer, however I can tell you in September I set up a regular writing schedule that I have been keeping up with.

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it’s amazing to be writing again. It helps me process some of the my emotions, or just takes my mind off things. I’ve written 15,000 words in October so far, which is a big increase in my productivity!

What are you writing? I hear you cry!

Well, I have been working on a new series…

I can reveal the cover for the first book in my new trilogy, the Knights of Hell MC series:

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Sinful is book one in Zeke and Grace’s story. I cannot wait for you to meet Zeke. He’s a badass, MC President and sex on legs! Poor Zeke and Grace do get some shit thrown their way though *evil grin*

Meet the inspiration behind Zeke, Mr. Tom Hardy *swoons* Raise your hands if you love Tom Hardy!

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Sinful should be out Winter time, followed by Taken and Possession.

In other news, I’ve been reading soooo much lately. I’m tracking everything on Good Reads now (get me being all organized! haha)

If you want to know what I’m reading you can follow me on Good Reads https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/1661269.Scarlett_Sanderson. I also tend to hang out at some of the erotic romance groups on their, sharing my love (and fangirling) for the genre.

I just finished The Glue by K.Webster – wasn’t sure I was going to like it but I enjoyed it more than I thought I would. Other reading obsessions over the last few months include:

  • Redemption – the last book in the Vincent and Eve series by Jessica Reuben (OMG it was sooo awesome).
  • Stygian by Sherrilyn Kenyon – even though it’s book twenty-something, I still enjoyed it. Found it a bit too long though.
  • Wanting Mr Cane by Shanora Williams – again wasn’t sure I was going to like it as the main female character is only 18, but thoroughly enjoyed it. Have downloaded the next one!

On my TBR pile is Consumed by JR Ward, Blood Communion by Anne Rice (Lestat!) and tons of others.

I think that’s all the news I have to print right now 🙂 Look out for snippets of works in progress over the coming months and regular updates on what I’m reading/watching.

Until next time, take care.

Scarlett

Enslaving Dana – 5 out of 5 stars!

ENSLAVINGDANA

I’ve been offline for a month or so due to moving house and having no internet connection *sobs* but coming back online had some wonderful news from Night Owl Reviews – Enslaving Dana got 5/5 stars! It’s a TOP PICK!

Review:

“Scarlett Sanderson is one of my favorite Erotic/BDSM writers. “Enslaving Dana” is the third book in the Mission Pleasure series, and I absolutely loved it!”

https://www.nightowlreviews.com/v5/Reviews/Sandiebuck-reviews-Enslaving-Dana-by-Scarlett-Sanderson

 

I’m sooooo happy! Thank you so much, Sandie 🙂 I’m so glad you enjoyed Dana and Bastien’s story.

Pre-order my erotic, paranormal Christmas romance, The Invitation – only 99c! Available Nov 17th.

THE INVITATION EBOOK COVER

Just in time for Christmas, my Christmas erotic romance, The Invitation is available for pre-order. The official release date is Friday November 17th.

This is one of the first stories I ever wrote and submitted for publication. Gabriel Longthorn holds a special place in my heart, and I’m so happy that his story is once again available – with a spectacular new cover.

Big thanks to the amazing, R. L. Weeks for creating this masterpiece!

THE INVITATION BANNER (1)

As always, the book will be available via Amazon for 99c and free for Kindle Unlimited readers!

Blurb:

Every Christmas, Evie dreams of attending the glamorous masquerade ball at Longthorn, home of the reclusive Gabriel. She watches from afar, wishing she could be near him. Gabriel, the man in her most erotic fantasies. Then the invitation arrives, along with a beautiful mask and dress. Her presence is requested.

Gabriel needs Evie. As king of the Shadow world, he knows only one woman can complete him, can sate both his infinite carnal lust and the ache in his lonely heart. He’s spent years waiting for Evie, and he plans to claim her, body and soul.

 

Excerpt:

Her blood thickened. Desire punched through her fear. Her breasts swelled and her nipples tightened. Moisture slicked her thighs as if she’d inhaled a potent drug that made her instantly pliant and aroused.

Her drug had a name. Gabriel Longthorn.

The man of her childhood dreams. The man of her womanly fantasies.

Time slowed and the music became a distant echo as his gaze met hers. A predatory smile spread across his chiseled face and her heart almost beat out of her chest. Christ, he was beautiful. Devastating. And she wanted to fling herself on him.

Her strong physical reaction defied explanation. She’d been around handsome men before and never felt this sexual.

Both women scowled when they realized Gabriel no longer cared what they had to say. Evie resisted the urge to glance over her shoulder. Was he really looking at her and not some stunning redhead standing behind her?

He unfolded himself from the chair in a way that was much too graceful for a man his size before moving through the crowd.

She stared. He was hypnotic. Mesmerizing. The crowd parted. All eyes watched as he purposefully strode toward her. A smile curled the edges of his lips.

Dressed in a white ruched shirt and a frock coat of the finest dark-blue velvet, he was the epitome of an old-fashioned mystical being. His white breeches pulled across his groin as he walked, leaving nothing to the imagination. Black knee-high boots completed the outfit.

He stopped inches away from her. She could smell his spicy scent as he took the champagne from her grasp and handed it to a passing guest. His ice-blue eyes stared intently into hers.

“Miss Ward. Thank you for the pleasure of your company this delightful Christmas Eve.” He bowed and took her hand. He brushed his lips gently across her skin. His breath caressed the tiny hairs and she felt that caress between her thighs, as if he’d pressed his lips against her clit.

Her breathing hitched. She chided herself for being so enthralled. He was just a man. Granted, he was unlike any man she’d ever seen—charismatic, charming, gentlemanly, not to mention studly.

Good and evil warred inside her mind. She wanted to slide her body against his, run her hand across his groin and test the weight of his cock. Would it be as impressive and thick as the outline in his breeches promised?

Pervert, the voice inside her head cried.

She gathered her wits from the gutter. “The pleasure is all mine, Mr. Longthorn. I do wonder why I received an invitation.”

He stroked the pulse point at her wrist, rubbing slow circles and stoking her arousal. “Because, Miss Ward, you have a very fertile imagination. Sometimes we all need to take a little time to dream.”

Another footman brought out a chair to match Gabriel’s. The staff was amazing, anticipating the guests’ every need. Where did he find these people?

Gabriel turned to the crowd and walked toward the raised dais. Everyone stared at them as if she were a specimen under a microscope.

As if sensing her discomfort, Gabriel smiled and addressed the guests. “Please, my honored and most noble guests, continue with the ball! There is champagne to be enjoyed, food to be savored and decadent pleasures to be tasted…”