Tuesday, July 11, 2017

DIRECTIONS OF THE HEART

Directions of the Heart Pre-order

  

Blurb
Embark on a remarkable journey of drama, romance, and passion...
​In all of these amazing stories, there's one burning question...is love worth the risk?

Without You
Reece and Jenna are two childhood friends separated by time and distance. Can they find a way to heal their bond, or perhaps forge a new one?
Strange Heat
Spurred by her friend’s close call, Victoria decides to take a risk and prove the lifestyle she led was her downfall. But as Tory sinks deeper into the tumultuous abyss of desire with the mysterious Rick, can she climb back out before it’s too late? Or does she even want to?
Memories
Struggling to run her family’s farm on her own, Sadie takes on a hired hand, Matt. As they grow closer, so does the danger. Someone wants her legacy. Can they combat this new threat, as well as the demons of the past, before Sadie loses everything, including her life?
A Touch of Dawn
Caitlyn thought she’d be in the dark forever. But with the light came Jack, the police consultant who found her. Can they take a journey of healing together, or will Caitlyn retreat into the darkness of her mind, where she lived for so long?
(CONTENT WARNING: With an abuse awareness theme in this collection, there may be triggers here for past trauma sufferers. However, HEAs are guaranteed.)

Excerpt
Rick looked at the dark-haired woman across the room. The conservative, professional type, he thought. The lady wore a black short-sleeved dress, skirt cut knee-length. On the collar, sleeves and hem was a thin line of white lace, a hint at what might lay beneath. Her legs were shapely, finished off with simple heels that strapped across the tops of her small feet. Nothing stood out about her attire, he supposed, yet somehow he found himself drawn to the fine curves of her body barely outlined by her ensemble. His gaze traveled over the lines of her familiar face, framed by long, straight hair, which was drawn up. Her skin was fresh, bare of anything except a little blush and a pair of red horn-rimmed glasses. Had he seen her before somewhere? “Tyler,” he hissed.
His companion snapped to attention. “Yes?”
“Who is that woman?”
The man grinned. “The redheaded beauty? Lyssa Taylor—”
“No, the other one.” Richard couldn’t believe he’d barely looked at the other woman. She was attractive, perhaps even overdone, yet she struck him as a bit empty-headed. He preferred intelligent women now. Ironic, wasn’t it? He shook his head sadly.
“Oh…her. That’s Victoria Weston. She’s great at her job, a pretty impressive architect.”
He noticed the hesitance in the man’s tone. “What’s the problem then?”
“She’s a kind woman, but gives off the impression of innocence and she’s not so attractive.”
He lifted a brow. Was the man blind? “Why, because she doesn’t look glamorous like your Lyssa? So she’s going for a more natural look. I think she’s very pretty.”
“You see how she looks now? She’s not usually made up so much. She doesn’t try this hard. I get the sense something happened recently to change her approach, if you get my meaning...” he offered with a shrug. “Though I can’t imagine what man would dare to go so far with someone like her.”
But Rick could imagine, could even name a few men who might be up to such a conquest, himself included after his brief affair with Tory. Still, he felt compelled to defend this Miss Weston. “She’s not your type, huh?”
He shrugged. “You were right about Lyssa being glamorous. I hear she’s also great in bed.”
So Tyler was all for fast women, it seemed. He could well understand the appeal of such a lifestyle. He’d been guilty of the same when he’d met Tory, yet he hadn’t been aware of her façade at the time. What had she hidden other than her virginity?  
He still didn’t get it. And after swearing Tory had messed him up – which was the truth – he also found himself drawn to this Victoria Weston, alluring in her own ways. Why couldn’t it be simple? Why now, when Tory continued to plague his mind? He shook his head. “Introduce me, Tyler.”
He frowned. “Uh, why?”
“One, I like her and secondly, this Miss Weston is the same woman my boss advised me to meet for the upcoming project.”
“All right.”  
They moved toward her. She glanced at them momentarily and finished the conversation with her clients. The two men in gray tailored suits shook her hand and walked away. Lyssa stood beside her. “Tyler, I see you brought along a friend...”
“Not just a friend,” he assured her. “The competition.”
When she raised her brown eyebrows, Rick offered his hand. “Richard Delgado. From Steffian Bradley.”
A slow smile crept across Victoria’s, and her grip was firm as she took his hand. Her gaze was competent, professional. He admired that about her. “It seems you are the competition, Mr. Delgado. Aren’t you the same man I must work with on the Peretti project?”
“One and the same...”
She frowned. “Have we met before? You look a little familiar.”
He brushed at the short ponytail, which held back his mass of hair, an allowance he made for the office. “No, I’m sure I would remember if we had.”
She nodded. “Well, I’m glad we finally got around to meeting each other.”
He grinned, felt the pull of attraction again. He was curious what this woman had been like before her supposed change of heart. “The feeling is mutual.”
She glanced at her female acquaintance. “Oh, forgive my manners. This is Lyssa Taylor, a colleague and a dear friend.”
He nodded to the redhead, who now smiled radiantly. “It’s a pleasure,” he said. In fact, he didn’t want to work with this one at all; she seemed a tad manipulative, accustomed to using her sexuality to get what she wanted. It wasn’t far from what he’d accused Tory of, and for now he was through with calculating women. A part of him, though, was sure Tory hadn’t intended to use him that way. Still, he didn’t want to think about it too much.
Lyssa nodded in acknowledgement. “Mr. Delgado, perhaps you’d like a tour of MPA? Since you’re here now, I mean. I’d be happy to show you...”
He’d just bet she would. The woman leaned forward, and her large breasts appeared briefly above her V-neck pink blouse. A calculated move, of course. The old Rick might’ve taken her up on her offer, probably even found the nearest supply closest before he tossed up her black skirt to enjoy the woman. He waited for the stir of arousal to consume him. Nothing happened. It appeared he truly wasn’t into her type any longer. When the woman licked her bottom lip and reached out to touch him, he moved away.
Annoyed, he immediately took Victoria’s arm. “Perhaps Miss Weston here would give me the tour.” Instant warmth spread through him as he moved his thumb over her wrist. He felt a slight tremor there and wondered if it was from nerves or the air conditioner. Maybe she felt something too? Interesting.
She smiled up at him, as he was at least a head taller than her. “I’d be delighted to show you around.”
He returned her smile. “Great. It’s settled then.” He opened the door to the hallway for her and waited for her to step through. Her hesitation was a little perplexing. He wondered if a man had ever shown an act of kindness or chivalry in her presence. From the surprised look on her face, he doubted it. Well, that was about to change.

****


Miss Weston had given him the official tour of the company. They’d discussed the project some as they walked. Surprisingly, after her apparent nervousness, she seemed more confident as the conversation continued. And competent, for sure. Tyler, the man who’d been assigned to escort him around MPA, was right. She was an impressive designer.
After a while she led him to a conference room with a table and two black butter-soft sofas nearby, where they could continue offering ideas. A few minutes later, a secretary came in with two mugs of coffee plus condiments. He took his black and politely observed his companion as she added cream and sugar to hers.
But, he couldn’t get a notion out of his head as he looked her over. For God’s sake, why was she so familiar? In most aspects, she was a typical businesswoman...maybe a little less stylish than most, but quite efficient. There was a simple elegance to her mannerisms. Yet, what was it about her? Could it be the alabaster perfection of her skin, the heart shape to her face, the way every strand of dark hair fit into place in a tight bun, the endless seas of her eyes beneath her glasses or the way her dark lashes swept down, concealing her thoughts, as they lay like fans on her cheeks? Those eyes pulled at him, and her demure manner caused an ache in the region of his chest.
Strange. Por Dios, why was he attracted to this woman? What bothered him the most was she reminded him so much of Tory…a woman behind a mask. Was Miss Weston guilty of the same? Pretending to be something she wasn’t? He had one test to prove it. In his experience, every woman hid a different side beneath her skin. Only a few strategic moves could draw it from her. But he wasn’t looking to be accused of sexual harassment.
He shook the thought away. He was paranoid, seeing deception in every woman he met now. Tory had definitely done a number on him. He gazed at the woman. Victoria, was it? He sensed a lot more to her than she allowed people to see. And the familiarity tugged at him in a way he couldn’t ignore. It might be impulsive, but he’d let the cards fall wherever they landed.
“Miss Weston?”
“Yes, Mr. Delgado?”
“Please call me Richard.”
“All right.”
“Anyway, I was wondering if you might do me a favor...”
“It would depend on the favor, Richard.”
Her eyes met his in those moments and he felt completely imprisoned by her blue gaze as he had while making love to Tory. Odd. He cleared his throat. “I would like for you to let your hair down.”
She gasped, touching the strands. “Why?”
“I know it’s an unusual request. If you did this, things between us would be less impersonal, Miss Weston. We are supposed to be a team on this project, not the competition. I think we need to get to know each other better. Don’t you think so?”
“So, we’re talking in a figurative sense, not literally...”
He sighed. Well, she did seem a little shy. But, that was fine too. “In a literal sense as well, Miss Weston.”
The woman frowned. “You’re not, ah, hitting on me, are you?”
Christ, he was beneath her, he thought. “No, of course not.” Not yet. He sensed if he tried his usual routes, he’d turn her off. This woman was complicated, and he needed to be strategic to win her trust. Still, he’d bet she tasted as delectable as she looked.
She nodded. “Call me Victoria...as long as we’re on a first name basis.”
“Victoria,” he repeated and watched as she reached back to slip the pins from her hair. When it tumbled sensuously to her shoulders and he breathed in the scent of oranges, his loins tightened in response, his mouth suddenly dry in his throat. “Tory,” he rasped, slanting forward to grip her forearms.
Her eyes widened. Her hoarse yet soft voice carried to him. That was when he caught a whiff of tropical flowers. “Breathe, Richard. Are you all right? Should I call for help?”
He shook his head and laughed. Did he sound as nervous as he felt? Noting the fear in her eyes, he released her, leaning back. “Tory...”
“Why do you keep calling me that? My name is Victoria. Or Vicky, I suppose, if you feel the need to shorten it.”
Oh, he didn’t like that nickname at all. “Don’t deny the woman you were to me.”
Her chin lifted stubbornly; he was charmed by the movement. “I’m not sure what you’re talking about.”
“I think you do know.” He studied her expression carefully. “But, you don’t recognize me, which comes as a surprise. After all, I only changed my hair and my clothes. What could be so different? How could I be unlike the man you spent several nights with...from the man who made you a woman?” He paused for effect, then managed, “I wanted you from the moment you walked into Venu, chula.”
The lady was silent for moments and all color left her face. “Rick,” she breathed and then he lunged for her as her eyes rolled back in her head, her body going limp before she headed for the floor.
As he balanced her up in his arms, looping an arm beneath her knees, her head lolled on his shoulder. Her cheeks were paler than he’d ever noticed on her.
Well, hell. This was not how he imagined his business meeting would go.
This was his Tory, he thought, aware of her distinctive scent again. Instantly, he regretted everything he’d done to her. Why hadn’t he left her alone the night they’d met? After snatching her from the asshole’s arms, he should have escaped Venu. Instead, he’d hung around to see how she was, and then flirted with her. So stupid on his part. Because now the woman he’d thought used him was someone else entirely. Conservative, serious yet passionate about her job. A woman with multiple layers, despite how she’d appeared at that club. Someone…truly amazing. Now he realized that in her own subtle ways, she’d tried to tell him the truth all along.
He really couldn’t blame her for trying to stay anonymous either. He too had done his best to separate his sex life from his personal and professional lives.
Yeah, this definitely hadn’t turned out as planned. Instead of being two random strangers who met in a club and had several nights together, it was more complicated. This wasn’t a case of moving on after you’d slept with a woman. No, they were both architects, forced to work together on a big account which meant a lot to both their careers.
“Damn,” he whispered.
It was a fucking small world after all.


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Amazon Universal link:  https://bookgoodies.com/a/B071WVZZPV
Author Bio
Bestselling multi-genre author of UPON YOUR RETURN and 21 other books. Mystery Blogger Award for 2017. A to Z Blog Challenge Survivor in 2016. March 2016 Empress of the Universe title - winner of the "Broken Heart" themed contest and the "I Love You" themed contest on Poetry Universe. SECOND CHANCE HEART and A LITTLE MAGICK placed in the TOP 10 on the 2015 P&E Readers' Poll. Nominated in the TRR Readers' Choice Awards for Winter 2015. Poetry winner of the 2015 PnPAuthors Contest. The Versatile Blogger Award for 2015. Honorable Mention in the 2014 BTS Red Carpet Book Awards. Finalist and Runner-up in the 2014 MARSocial's Author of the Year Competition. Honorable mention in the January 2014 Reader's Choice Award. Liebster Blogger Award for 2013 and 2014. Top 10 Authors on AuthorsDB.com. Winner of the Great One Liners Contest on the Directory of Published Authors.

Marie Lavender lives in the Midwest with her family and three cats. She has been writing for a little over twenty-five years. She has more works in progress than she can count on two hands. Since 2010, Marie has published 22 books in the genres of historical romance, contemporary romance, romantic suspense, paranormal romance, fantasy, science fiction, mystery/thriller, dramatic fiction, literary fiction and poetry. She has also contributed to several multi-author anthologies. Her current series are The Heiresses in Love Series, The Magick Series, The Blood at First Sight Series and The Code of Endhivar Series.
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