Monday, February 28, 2011

Excerpt Monday: Kiss of Scandal

The last day of February already? Didn't I just say this about January? Sheesh. This week I'll be talking about unusual settings for romances. We talk about that over on the Unusual Historicals site, which is a fantastic gathering for different romantic settings. You should check it out. :)

Tsarist Russia: the cold winters, the scathing heat of palace gossip. It's a wonderful setting for a romance.

Kiss of Scandal excerpt:

“Who else knows of this?” she asked her brother. “What did Father tell you?”

“The papers found with Peter indicated he may have been involved in sensitive financial matters within the Turkish borders. As far as I know,” Constantine admitted, “that information is staying between Father, me, Lazarenko, Terenov, and now you two.”

Frowning, Katria moved closer to Nikolai. “Financial matters? They could have been in place before the war. What exactly do they indicate?”

“I haven’t seen the papers myself,” Constantine admitted, and Nikolai dreaded what came next. “However, they may associate Peter with. . .questionable dealings.”

“Questionable?” Katria snorted in relief. “Constantine, there are few things in Russia that aren’t questionable. Politics are our life, we’re raised on intrigue. Every courtier in this Palace has something questionable about him.”

“On the surface, Father said, the papers aren’t proof of treason but they do raise questions.” Constantine approached him. “Peter’s dead. I’ve convinced Father that it makes no further difference. I agree with you; Peter was no traitor. But the best course of action now is to conceal it and all else you may find associated with these matters.”

Numb, Nikolai nodded. In his darkest nightmares, he hadn’t thought something this destructive could happen. The Orlovs had a pristine reputation with the Tsar. Katria’s voice brought him back to the matter at hand.

“Constantine,” he heard her say, “can you give us a moment?”

The door closed, and they were once again alone. Focusing, Nikolai saw her standing before him. Her warm hand cupped his cheek. “I’m sorry,” she whispered.

He took her hand, holding it for a heartbeat. In a move too swift to give her time to protest, he pulled her into his arms. Laying his cheek against the top of her head, he tried to think. His chest tightened with grief, but he ruthlessly tamped it down. Anger overrode grief, and he embraced it.

“Treason—it’s a lie against Peter.”

She matched his gaze. “I know.”

Katria’s utter acceptance snapped something in Nikolai. Crushing her to him, he sought her lips. She eagerly kissed him back, meeting his grief-fueled passion. With a growl, he picked her up, walking until her back hit the wall.

Looking down at her bright eyes, he retook her lips, needing to feel something—her—needing to claim her. Part of his life was ripped away with Peter’s death. She wanted to fill the void with her. He didn’t want to let her go, wanted to take her home. It was too soon.

Restraining himself, Nikolai managed, “I’m sorry.”

“It’s all right,” she said. Then, before he could walk away, she wrapped her arms around him and held him close.

Read Kiss of Scandal reviews

This week's Friday guest is Robyn Bachar. She'll talk about the thrill of publication & the stress of marketing. Blood, Smoke and Mirrors available from Amazon, B&N, and Samhain Publishing.

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