Author and Editor in Chief- NIK MORTON

I have the honor of representing Nik Morton, Solstice Publishing’s Editor-in-Chief, and author of several books this week! Nik dishes on his personal interests and preferences when it comes to his two favorite things: reading and writing~







What types of books catch your interest?

My taste is rather eclectic. I’m currently reading The Far Pavilions (saga set in India during the time of the British Raj), Screenplay for Downton Abbey (popular Edwardian TV series), A Game of Thrones (fantasy series, now on HBO), The Miners (Old West). Of the 17 books I’ve read this year, 11 have been published by Solstice.

What genre do you like to write?

Any. I’m interested in virtually all genres and have had books published in crime, thriller, fantasy, western, romantic thriller, horror so far…

What genre do you like to read?

Any. I have a library of over 4,000 books (maybe 500 nonfiction, 500 sci-fi, 300 western, plus crime, thriller, sagas, classics, mainstream. I’ve probably got more books still to read without the remaining time on this planet to actually read them all…
What kinds of fans do you attract?

I seem to have fans for my Sister Rose book (Pain Wears No Mask, out of print) and my westerns. As my writing doesn’t fall into a convenient genre label, I’m probably missing out on feeback.

Do you have a target age range?

I’ve written and drawn comic strips for 5-8yr olds (Super Scoop the Penguin) and for teens (superhero, The Vulcan), but my prose is in the main aimed at an adult readership, though I have planned a YA adventure entitled The Call… – when the call comes.

What is your motivation? Do you write things you know, or things you dream?

I’ve been writing for over 40 years, and I’m inspired by many things, which ignite my imagination. I don’t seem to need motivation. It’s more a question of which novel to move forward on at any one time. I have started on the third Tana Standish psychic spy novel – The Khyber Document (the first two – The Prague Manuscript and The Tehran Transmission – now out of print), a romantic thriller set in Victorian England and Tenerife (Bradbury & Hood), an adult pirate adventure (Dark Endeavour), the first in a cat burglar series (Cat Among the Pigeons), and a humorous Los Angeles private eye novel (Sneeze on a Thursday) – all waiting in the wings for me to finish.

What are your hobbies?

Would you believe writing and reading? Also watching movies. I like drawing but don’t have much time for that, though I do draw superhero characters for my grandson to colour-in.

What turns you off to a book or author?

Careless and lazy writing; an inability to create a visual sense; a lack of adequate description. If an author can’t accept comment or advice, then that turns me off, understandably. They can accept it, they don’t have to abide by it.
What can we expect to see from you this year?

The year is young, yet. I’m expecting my 16th, 17th and 18th books to be published this year. Nonfiction book Write a Western in 30 Days (John Hunt, UK publisher) which contains a lot of advice about writing generally, not just regarding westerns. Wings of the Overlord, co-written with Gordon Faulkner, a fantasy quest novel, the first in a series in mythical Floreskand (Knox Robinson, UK publisher). Blood of the Dragon Trees, a crime thriller set in Tenerife (Crooked Cat, UK publisher). I’ve just about finished a western, The Magnificent Mendozas. A long short story, homage to Edgar Rice Burroughs and H Rider Haggard, ‘Bid Time Return’, is to be published by Beat to a Pulp online.

I’ll be working on the next Floreskand novel, To be King with Gordon, too.
Anything else you would like your fans to know about you?

I was never a nun, and never lived in a convent – it was purely research…


Author of the Week- Tell Cotten

Winner of Best Western for Solstice Publishing!

Confessions of a Gunfighter

This, in his own words, is the tale of Rondo Landon, gunfighter.

Rondo is a troubled gunfighter with quite a past. Recognized by his six-gun, he is known for robbing banks, stagecoaches, payrolls, and for rustling cows.

Now, locked in a jail, it looks like Rondo will be facing a long prison term, or worse. But, before that happens, he has a few stories to set straight.

Author, Tell Cotten joins me this week, promoting his family friendly and winning western, Confessions of a Gunfighter. With my love of country, I had to hear more about this author and his debut novel.

Tell us about your book/books? What can we expect from you this year?

CONFESSIONS OF A GUNFIGHTER is my debut novel, and it won best western of the year for Solstice Publishing. There is also a sequel in the works called ENTWINED PATHS, but there is not a release date yet.

What genre do you like to write? What genre is your favorite to read?

I enjoy reading most genres, but I only like to write westerns. I grew up in the ranching business, so I know a lot about the western lifestyle. I think I would be lost if I tried to write a romance!

Do you have a system to writing? Favorite place? Time? Music playing? Quiet? Food/Drink?

Not really. Mainly, I write when I have the time. I always outline the story, and sometimes I’ll jump ahead and write a scene and then go back and work back to what I’ve written.

Who is your favorite character in the books you have written and why?

Rondo Landon and Lee Mattingly. They are completely different characters, but I think they relate to each other. They both fight their conscience as they try to figure out right from wrong, and I really enjoyed writing the dialogue between them as they reasoned with each another.

What other hobbies do you have besides writing?

I play and teach guitar, and I’m also an avid chess player.

Is there anything else you want readers to know about you or your books?

My books are family friendly. There isn’t any foul language or sexual situations, and while there is violence I was very careful not to make it too gory or gruesome.

Author Info-

Born in West Texas, Tell Cotten is a seventh generation Texan. He comes from a family with a ranching heritage and is a member of the Sons of the Republic of Texas. Besides writing, he is also in the cattle business, and he resides in West Texas with his wife, Andi, and their two children.

Tell has enjoyed writing from an early age, and he also has a great love of the history of the west. CONFESSIONS OF A GUNFIGHTER is his first novel.


Amazon Bio

Barnes and Nobles


Solstice Publishing

Author-Lizzy Stevens

Bestselling Author Lizzy Stevens gives us the scoop!



Alley wakes up in a strange bed. She has no idea who she is or where she is. Pain shoots through her head like a bolt of lightning every time she moves. As she drifts off to sleep images of a faraway land and a handsome man with sandy blonde hair and six pack abs fills her head. He keeps saying “Alley come back to me.” Who is he and how does she know him?

What’s going on in the busy world of Lizzy Stevens? Check out our interview:

What are you busy with this year?

This is what  I’m going to call this year and next year The year of the sequels LOL. I am working on book 3 of The Rachel Connors Saga,  Book 2 of Midnight Falls, A Sequel of sorts to Blackbead’s Treasure. Those Characters will be in a new book on a new adventure  and I have a couple stand alone stories in the works.

What genre do you like to write? What genre is your favorite to read?

My favorites genre to read is Paranormal Romance, followed by Romance, and Mystery. Those are my favorites

Where do you get your ideas?

My ideas come from everywhere. I think an author’s mind is always spinning LOL. I commercial ad, or song or simply a statement will get our minds going.

What was the best thing ever said to you about your work?

Any time that you get a positive review for your work it makes you happy. In this business you have to be thick skinned. No matter how many positive reviews you get you will get the negative ones too. Some people just feel better about themselves if they are being negative towards other people. So my advice is enjoy the Positive reviews and don’t dwell on the negative ones.

Do you have a system to writing? Favorite place? Time? Music playing? Quiet? Food/Drink?

No.  I don’t have a system. I have a full time job, husband, two kids, and a puppy. I just write whenever I can find a few extra minutes here and there. I never try to make a writing schedule. I just go with the flow.

Do you have people read your book before submitting it? Or do you keep it a secret?

I generally don’t even tell people I’m writing a new story other than my husband. I like to bounce ideas off of him. So knows but nobody else usually knows until I’m ready to let an editor look at it.

Who is your favorite character in one of your books and why?

My favorite character is Rachel from “Rachel’s Legacy” She is a strong woman who has to overcome a lot. She has to face love, loss, tough decisions and she somehow manages to pull in the strength that she needs to do that.

What is the hardest thing to write? Setting/Character Development/ Climax or Intense Scenes…

I think Climax and intense scenes. It’s hard to know if the reader will think you did enough or if you built up this story and then fell flat on the “big scene”

Name some of your favorite authors or people who influence your writing.

I like Stephanie Myers “The Twilight Saga” , Cassandra Clare The Mortal Instrument Series”, Janette Oke ‘The Love Series,  I  love to find a good series that keeps me interested from book one all the way through.

As far as influence my writing there really isn’t any one person who did that. My husband is my biggest supporter. Without him I never would have wrote my very first book or ever sent it out to a publisher. I was always a little bit shy about it. He said what do you have to lose. Give it a try and see what happens LOL

What other hobbies do you have besides writing?

I don’t have a lot of hobbies. I hang out with my family. That’s what I enjoy doing the most in life is just being with them.

Is there anything else you want readers to know about you or your books?

I love twitter and love to interact with everyone. Follow me on twitter @lizzystevens123

Author Marie Lavender

Marie Lavender, author of numerous books, is the next highlight of my continuing series of authors. Her book, Upon Your Return, is available now!

Read on for an interview with Marie and get a free sample chapter from her book!

What can we expect from you this year?

Well, my historical romance, Upon Your Return, just came out in e-book form in February.  You can get it on Amazon at    The print version should be out in May or June.  I am writing the sequels to this book.

What genre do you like to write? What genre is your favorite to read?

Romance, romance, romance!  LOL.  Anything romance is fun for me to both read and write.  I love a good love story.  I write both contemporary and historical romance, and I would like to try my hand at paranormal romance down the line.  I also have a work in progress that I would label more of a romantic suspense.  As far as what I read…anything I can get my hands on really.  I read a lot of contemporary romance and historical romance novels.  Right now, I am reading some paranormal books.

Where do you get your ideas?

Everywhere.  I am inspired by books, films, music or television.  I also do a lot of people watching.  No, I wouldn’t call that eavesdropping, but I have always found myself observing other people.  I’m sure a lot of authors do the same.  I have always been fascinated by the human mind and how it works.  So people are very interesting to observe.  Sometimes I just get an idea out of the blue and I have to write it down though.  Who knows where it came from?  I’m sure my muse could tell you!

What was the best thing ever said to you about your work?

I’ve had some say my work is well-written.  I heard someone say once that they found the stories easy to read, that they did not have to stop and wonder what the hell it meant.  So, I guess that’s good, right?  I think that when I was in college and I was doing academic writing, I had the tendency to over-complicate things.  But, I am glad that when I write fiction, it can be pretty clear.  I like to get into my character’s heads, and if that comes out well on the page, then I have done my job.

Do you have a system to writing? Favorite place? Time? Music playing? Quiet? Food/Drink?

My ideas pretty much come at different times of the day.  Sometimes, yes, I can sit down with the intent of writing and it works well.  At other times, it comes to me randomly.  I would say I probably lean toward nighttime more because I have always been a night owl.  LOL.  A lot of my scenes come to me when I’m in bed, and I have to write it down or it will drive me crazy if I ignore it.  During the day, if I have a comfortable chair, I am fine.  But, location can be an inspiration as well.  I have written while sitting in a car.  I have written while I was in a park.  I do prefer everything to be quiet usually, but I do use the music technique from time to time.  Different kinds of music can foster different types of writing.  I like Celtic music a lot, and I have listened to that while writing.  This especially works if the story has something to do with it.  At other times, I find I can play any type of music as long as it is not too loud.  I don’t like to be distracted when I’m writing.  I have to be in “the zone”.

Do you have people read your book before submitting it? Or do you keep it a secret?

Sometimes I have people read it, yes.  For Upon Your Return, I used a couple of critique groups for romance writing.  I also private messaged my critique partners.  I am still in contact with some of them!  As far as secrecy, I have to say I’m very bad about letting things out.  I think when you’re excited about a project, it is hard to shut up.  You just want to talk about it.  So, I probably need to work on that flaw.

Who is your favorite character and why?

Wow, that’s a tough question.  I come to love my characters as if they’re friends really.  I suppose that’s strange.  I would have to say Fara Bellamont in Upon Your Return is one of my favorites.  She is a young woman from Victorian France, a time when it was hard for women to be individuals.  She is a strong character.  Despite the social pressures, she perseveres.  She doesn’t let men push her around too much.  She does her best to make her own decisions about her life.  And being a little of a feminist myself, I get that.

What is the hardest thing to write? Setting/Character Development/ Climax or Intense Scenes…

Wow, that’s a tough question. That really depends on the story.  But, I think setting is definitely a challenge for me.  I try to do research to try to place a character in a room or town.  It can be hard, however, when you haven’t been there yourself.  That is the nice thing about fiction though.  We can use our imagination to create something very real.

Name some of your favorite authors or people who influence your writing.

Let’s see.  There are a number of authors that I follow.  Jennifer Blake, Catherine Coulter, Nora Roberts, Nicholas Sparks, Tessa Dare, Emma Wildes, J.R. Ward, P.C. Cast.  The list goes on, of course.  I have been influenced heavily by poetry.  I don’t claim to be a poet at all, but poetry is lovely.  I like the greats such as T.S. Eliot or Emily Dickinson .  And I have been influenced by historical romances.  Even classic writers like Jane Austen and Charlotte Bronte have influenced me.  I have to be very careful when I write contemporary books because I have a tendency to use flowery language, and I have to go back and revise it to make it seem more modern.  Sigh.  LOL.  I guess I’m too much of a romantic.

What other hobbies do you have besides writing?

Well, I read a lot.  Obviously!  And I am definitely a music lover.  I love listening to all kinds of genres: pop, alternative, electronic, folk, new age, Celtic, some R&B/hip hop.  It totally depends on my mood.  I don’t watch television or watch movies much, but when I do, I only watch something that catches my attention.  Of course, I love romantic comedies and some drama.  But, I am into science fiction, fantasy and mysteries too.  I watch Grimm, Once Upon A Time, Castle, Bones and The Mentalist.  I’m sure there are a couple of others, but these are the only ones that come to mind right now.  I usually don’t have much time to watch them.  Truthfully, I’d rather read a good book than watch something.

Who is your favorite author? Favorite book?

Jennifer Blake is probably my favorite author.  My favorite book now…that’s hard.  As I said before, I read a lot of books.  Right now, I’m kind of hooked on J.R. Ward’s Black Dagger Brotherhood series.  They are paranormal romance books, but they are still very exciting to read.  Did I mention there are sexy men and most of them are vampires?  Woo!  Anyway, that’s my favorite series.  I’m also reading P.C. Cast’s House of Night books.  I know…vampires again.  Are you detecting a theme?  As aforementioned, I would like to start writing paranormal stories at some point.  The closes thing to a paranormal that I’ve written is A Misplaced Life, penned under the name Kathryn Layne.  It is about a ghost, but I digress.  Terror in the Night and Pursuit, two books I wrote under Erica Sutherhome, also had supernatural elements.

Is there anything else you want readers to know about you or your books?

I’ve written sixteen books thus far.  You can find a list of them on my website with direct links at  I also have profiles on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter if you want to message me.  Thanks so much for reading my interview!


Marie Lavender lives in the Midwest with her family and three cats.  She has been writing for over twenty years.  She has more works in progress than she can count on two hands.

At the tender age of nine, she began writing stories.  Her imagination fueled a lot of her early child’s play.  Even growing up, she entered writing contests and received a certificate for achieving the second round in one.  She majored in Creative Writing in college because that was all she ever wanted – to be a writer.  While there, she published two works in a university publication, and was a copy editor on the staff of an online student journal.  After graduating from college, she sought out her dream to publish a book.

Since then, Marie has published sixteen books.  Marie Lavender’s real love is writing romances, but she has also written mysteries, literary fiction and dabbled a little in paranormal stories.  Most of her works have a romantic element involved in them.  Upon Your Return is her first historical romance novel.  free to visit her website at for further information about her books and her life.  Marie is also on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

A list of her books and pen names are as follows:

Marie Lavender:  Upon Your Return

Erica Sutherhome:  Hard to GetMemoriesA Hint of ScandalWithout YouStrange HeatTerror in the NightHauntedPursuitPerfect GameA Touch of DawnRansom

Kathryn Layne:  A Misplaced Life

Heather Crouse:  Express Café and Other RamblingsRamblings, Musings and Other ThingsSoulful Ramblings and Other Worldly Things

SAMPLE CHAPTER- Upon Your Return

Fara fought the darkness to the coming light. It was so easy to stay in the dark. It was comforting like a warm blanket. But, the light held such possibilities. She knew she must rouse, as if something significant lay there in wakefulness. She stirred and felt a pair of arms holding her. Then she heard a heartbeat beneath a rough fabric, felt a coarse texture of chest hair. It was so secure within that embrace.

When she finally realized it was a man who held her, she gasped and tried to retreat from the cord of muscles. She glanced up to be temporarily blinded by the lamplight to her left.

“Don’t move,” said a soft but deep voice.

He spoke with the assurance of authority, and she could tell he was used to ordering people around. Well, he wouldn’t order her. She lifted her heavy head and whimpered as a stab of agony sliced through her skull. Fara squeezed her eyes shut tight. It was so much easier to be left in the dark for it was as if her head was being cut with so many knives.

“I will have you more comfortable in a moment. Please do not move.”

How could she possibly move with all this pain and that large man rendering her limbs useless?

Suddenly, she felt a light cushion beneath her. The glare from the lantern came into her vision again when she opened her eyes and was then replaced by the outline of a man towering above her. She gasped and crawled away from him, but his hold on her waist hauled her back. Her head hurt so as he studied her face.

Madame, the pain will be less if you stay still. I promise I did not bring you here to harm you in any way.”

She gradually settled back on the pillows and looked at her keeper. He was an attractive man, if one liked the rough, indignant kind. Dark layers of soft waves covered his head and ended at the nape of his neck. He was large, but slim in the right places…it spoke of years of hard physical labor.

His eyes captivated her as she studied him in such proximity. The shade of his eyes…a charcoal color; they were the most intense and unreadable eyes she’d ever seen. It was an odd, yet strikingly beautiful color for a man.

Oh, you silly girl, she thought. Really…how ridiculous for her to be wooed by only a pair of eyes. “May I ask you a question?”

“I insist you do, if you are not too unwell.” He gestured to her jaw.

Fara nodded, acknowledging the wound provided by the man named Bernard. She imagined what he referred to must indeed be a hideous sight. She looked around the room. It appeared to be a cabin of sorts. “Monsieur…how did I get here? Are we on a yacht?”

“A ship. My ship, La Voyageur,” he announced firmly with a lifted brow.

She faltered at the damning tone in his voice. It gave the impression that he was accustomed to some ridicule, but she could not fathom the reason for it. “You are a captain?”

Oui, Madame.”

Mademoiselle.” She blushed.

“Ah. I knew you were too young to be saddled to one man, but thought it safer to say you were.”

Monsieur…how long will I be here?”

He pointed to her throbbing jaw. “As soon as that is healed nicely, I will escort you to your home.”

Why, that could be days! Did he really mean to let her go, or was his intention to ask for a ransom? He had rescued her, but what if his motives were for reasons other than valor? “My uncle…he will be concerned for me. I insist you take me home now.” She realized her voice was too soft to sound commanding.

He shook his head. “I will have a message sent to him. What is his name?”

She sighed. “Michel de Bellamont.” She began to protest, “Monsieur, surely you do not intend to keep me here? That would not be right.”

“I do though. You fainted twice. I must be certain it won’t happen again. That bastard hit you. I would be surprised if you didn’t feel unwell. I will send the message to your uncle, informing him that his niece is in good hands. You will probably be better tomorrow. You may leave then if you wish.”

“All right, Monsieur. Merci.” He seemed to be concerned about her enough to care for her here. She still felt unsure about spending time alone with a complete stranger, especially a man, but she did not know how to convince him otherwise. He did not seem like the kind of man one questioned. And despite the fact that she’d thought he could be trusted, she still must be on her guard. She had no idea what he really intended.

He went to the door and spoke quietly to a young boy, who nodded exuberantly, and then he shut the door.

She stared at him for several moments. “What might I call you?”

He turned to her, stood straight and bowed. “La Capitaine Hill. My name is Grant though.”

Grant Hill…it was a strong name. It spoke of a good lineage, yet it had a trace of foreign roots as did her first name. There were many people in France who would discriminate on petty things such as names or appearances. “Grant,” she murmured absently, suddenly captivated by his eyes again.

“And you, Mademoiselle Bellamont?”

“My name is Fara.” Her mother had named her, had claimed it was English for ‘beautiful’. No one knew that except her mother and father. She supposed most people could guess it wasn’t a French name, like Capitaine Hill’s. But she refrained from telling anyone because she knew how odd the French acted about origins. If one wasn’t entirely French in every way, there was something low about it. It was a narrow-minded and proud society.

“Tis’ a beautiful name, Mademoiselle.”

“Thank you.” She frowned. “If you are the man who came to my rescue, then why did those sailors run away?”

His eyes darkened with mischief. “They were cowards. Once they put you aside, they were quick to find out what an accomplished swordsman I am. One technique and they ran for their lives. There was no sport in it.”

She looked away. Masculine conceit was not something she wished to indulge. Men, she chided, could be so like children at times.

“Hmm…I see.” She managed a smile and looked up at him again. “I’m very grateful for your concern for my welfare.”

“A lady in distress is worth it. I was, however, worried that you might be unconscious for much longer.” He frowned. “What were you doing out there so late? You should know it is dangerous by the docks at night.”

“I know. I was to meet someone there.”

“A man?”

She nodded. “Oui.”

“Any man who directs a lady to that side of town at that hour is either desperate or an idiot.”

She smiled. “Well, desperation comes to mind…”

“Was he a suitor?” he inquired.

Perhaps she had said too much. “Really, Capitaine Hill. I would not think it would be of interest to you.”

“Call me Grant, Mademoiselle. I merely feel this man was in some way out to do you harm. Most civilized men would never lead you there.”

“I fear I am somewhat responsible for being there.”

An eyebrow rose skeptically. “Twas’ not your suggestion surely.”

“No, but I was not well acquainted with this man. He very well could have been crazy.”

“And no doubt conniving.”

“Yes,” she replied softly. “It seems he set me up.”

He frowned. “They were hired?”

She nodded. A long silence stretched between them, but it did not bother her. She was content to lie back among the pillows. Her head throbbed, and her jaw ached terribly.


“Fara.” His need for formality after all he’d done perturbed her.

“Fara,” he repeated easily, and she couldn’t help thinking how intimate her name sounded on his lips, like the gentle sigh of a lover. She winced. Dear God, what was the matter with her? She could not think such things, even if he was terribly attractive. “How long have you been in your uncle’s care?” he asked.

“Since my parents died…” Her voice broke on the note and she looked to the rafters for guidance.

His hand curved around hers in a gesture of sympathy. “I am sorry. How did it happen?”

“As a child, my father traveled often on business and for that one trip, my mother went with him. I was left in the care of my nursemaid for it was only to be a short while. On their way back from Turkey, their ship was taken by pirates. Few survived.

“My parents never made it back to Marseille. I was sent to live here with my uncle in La Rochelle. The law claimed that I was to be placed in the home of the next of kin. I was eight then.”

He pulled his hand away. “And now you are of marrying age…”

Oui,” she agreed, trying to pull away from the pain of the past. She blinked and then looked at Grant again.

His dark eyes filled with regret before he glanced away. “I, too, was orphaned at an early age.”

She grimaced. “How unfortunate for us both to have had this experience.”

He nodded, but rushed on as if to shift the conversation away from the uncomfortable subject. “Have you no suitors?”

“I’ve had many, but I do not wish to become a man’s chattel just yet.” She did not feel that admitting her affianced state would help matters. He already knew about Monsieur Le Croíx’s plot.

“Not all men are like that,” he said softly.

“I’ve not met one who thinks women have minds of their own!” She angled her neck to glare at him, but his face was the picture of innocence and the slicing pain suddenly shot through her skull again. She gasped and winced.

“Now, Fara. It is time for you to rest. The ache will lessen by tomorrow.”

Oui,” she agreed. The pain was intense and she didn’t feel like arguing. She laid back and realized suddenly that her corset was very tight. She felt the heat rising over her cheekbones, but she knew he would not guess at her discomfort. “Grant?”


“Where will you be sleeping?”

“Right here, if you do not mind.”

She swallowed. “Here? In this bed?” She drew in a sharp breath. Surely he was joking.

“That’s right. Someone must look after you. You’ve had a fairly eventful evening, and if you have a concussion, I must fetch a physician right away. But, if you insist, I will find another place. Perhaps Eric will relinquish his quarters for the night…” His voice was soft, as if he was speaking to himself.

This man had saved her life and already she was pushing him out of his cabin on his ship? It did not seem quite right. “No, I do not want you to do that, Monsieur.” She sighed. “We may share the bunk, Grant. It is quite simple.” She colored beneath his gaze. “Of course, you would have to be a gentlemen about it.”

“I would not encroach…” His gaze traveled over her from head to toe.

It should have made her shudder; she should have been appalled at that kind of look, but it seemed almost normal in the intimacy of the moment. She felt gratitude for his rescue, but more, a part of her was comforted by the protection he provided. And she craved that safe haven desperately, or at least to hold on for it for a while, if only for tonight.

“You saved my life. It is only right that I give you something in return, if not a good night’s rest.”

“You owe me nothing, Fara.”

“Tis’ not the way I see it.”

“Very well.” He began to unbutton his cravat and white shirt and threw them aside. He bent to pull off his boots and then approached her. “Is there some way I may assist you, to make you more…comfortable?”

She hesitated a moment, unnerved by his half-naked state, and then went on. “I do have a predicament. My corset…it is dreadfully tight. If you would assist me, I should be very grateful.” She watched his lips part in surprise and he swallowed audibly.

“Of course.” He waited for her to sit up, and then bent to work at the buttons of her lavender dress.

His body was so near that his clean, male scent was almost intoxicating. An additional aroma wafted about too, musky like cigars. It reminded her of the ones she smelled when she passed by her uncle’s office while he met with other men for business affairs.

Her breathing came faster and she struggled to control it. Her heartbeat pounded in her ears and she half-wished it all to go away. But, she felt giddy with it too. It was almost a sense of invincibility as his gentleness was lover-like.

He eased the fabric away and when she leaned forward to assist him, he bent over her still to work at the bands of her corset and his hands splayed across her lower back.

Soon, the fabric fell away and she licked her lips, staring into his gaze. His dark eyes were bright with something she’d never seen before. His face was nearly inches from hers and she feared he might kiss her. Half of her wanted it; the other half was her uncle’s voice telling her it wasn’t right for unattached ladies to display such behavior. No, twas’ too soon for she’d just met this man. She cleared her throat, looking away.

He sat back, away from her. “I was thinking to give you some laudanum tonight for the pain. It will help you sleep,” he urged.

Merci,” she replied and watched as he went to fetch it. She sighed. She would need it indeed if she wanted to sleep. She felt so heady with a want she didn’t understand and she was certain his presence might keep her from sleeping. Not to mention how her head ached so very much.

When he returned, she drank the wine dutifully and set the glass on the table beside the bed. As he climbed onto the mattress and doused the lights, she wriggled out of her dress, corset and hoop skirt, leaving only her thin shift to sleep in. Her slippers were pinching her feet and so she kicked them to the floor.

She felt his presence beside her, was aware of his even breathing, and wondered if he slept. She couldn’t help thinking that laying there made her feel safer than she’d ever felt in her life. Within minutes, she was claimed by a drug-induced sleep.