Saturday, 28 April 2012

Karen Mueller Bryson with Short on Time Books!

Hi everyone! I'm excited to introduce novelist/playwright/screenwriter extraordinaire Karen Mueller Bryson, as she tells you about Short on Time Books!  Take it away, Karen!

Thank you for hosting me today and providing me with the opportunity to tell your readers about Short on Time Books.

I know people’s lives are busy and much of our free time is spent on the internet or watching television. Many of us have fewer hours to devote to pleasure reading. That’s why I decided to create Short on Time Books. It's a company dedicated to the development and publication of books for people like me, who enjoy reading but don’t have much time to devote to traditional length novels. Short on Time Books are fast-paced and fun novels for readers on the go. All Short on Time Books can be completed in one sitting, so readers can now enjoy a complete story while they’re traveling, commuting, spending an afternoon on the beach, or even taking a bath.

I came up with the idea for Short on Time Books when I took a business trip from my home outside Phoenix to Los Angeles. I bought a memoir in the Phoenix Airport bookstore that I hoped to finish on my trip. I read as much as I could traveling to LA and then tried to finish the book on my return trip to Phoenix. Unfortunately, I was only able to complete about 60 percent of the book. I still haven’t finished reading it because I haven’t found the time. I decided to put my story-telling talent to work creating novels readers could finish in an hour or two and Short on Time Books was born.

Another unique aspect of Short on Time Books is that they are novelized versions of screenplays written by screenwriters, who also like to work in novel format. I think that makes the stories more engaging and entertaining for readers. Because they are like movies, Short on Time Books contain more action and dialogue. The books don’t have a lot of long, drawn-out description that you often see in traditional novels, and that many readers (myself included) tend to skim or even skip entirely. In Short on Time Books, every word counts and is critical to the story.

Short on Time Books just released two romantic comedies for adult readers: Twyla’s Last Trip and One Last Class. Twyla’s Last Trip is about twenty eight-year old, Lucinda Starr. She is an uptight research psychologist, who is on a deadline to complete her doctoral dissertation. Her work is completely derailed by her estranged mother, Twyla Starr's sudden death. Lucinda must take her mother's ashes on a road trip on Route 66, in order to fulfill the requirements of her will and inherit her fortune. And Lucinda finds herself forced to travel across the country with her mother's easygoing country lawyer, T.J. Yates, who drives Lucinda absolutely crazy, and his drooling bloodhound, Dakota, who Lucinda initially finds completely revolting.

In One Last Class, thirty-two year old, Zak Spencer, is a washed-up teen idol, who decides to rebuild his life by returning to college in Arizona. Trouble ensues when Zak falls in love with the young professor, Amy Campbell, who teaches the one class he needs to complete his degree.

We also just released our first Short on Time Book for Teens. Retro Geeks is a romantic comedy about two 80s obsessed high schoolers, Molly and Ally, who find themselves without dates for senior prom. The girls decide to finally prove to their classmates that they're not total losers by trying to get super-hot dates for prom. They try a bunch of date-finding schemes but fail miserably, so Molly and Ally decide to spy on the popular girls to figure out how to fit in. When, much to their surprise, two of the star football players ask them to prom and they are befriended by the school's most popular kids, Molly and Ally believe their day has finally arrived. But they are also left to wonder if their quick ascension up the school's social ladder is a genuine triumph or something more sinister.

Our upcoming release, Hell on Wheels, is the inspirational true story of the Roller Derby sports legend Cindy McCoy. Cindy overcame many obstacles in her life and, as a teen, was named both Roller Games Rookie of the Year and Roller Games Queen of the Year, a feat that has never been repeated, even nearly 50 years later.

All Short on Time Books are available in both print and eBooks format and all eBooks are priced at just $2.99. Please see the website for additional information on Short on Time Books:

Karen Mueller Bryson is an award-winning screenwriter, produced playwright and published novelist. She has been writing since she learned to read and fell in love with books! Karen is the founder of Short on Time Books, a series of fast-paced and fun novels for readers on the go. When she’s not at her computer creating new stories, Karen enjoys spending time with her husband and their bloodhounds.

Short on Time Books:

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Guest Author Laurie Sorensen!

Hello my friends! Please help me welcome author Laurie Sorensen to my blog!
She'll be giving away one copy of each of her fabulous books (that's one book to 2 different people, please). So leave a comment and show some love, and Laurie will be in touch with the winners!
Read on for an excerpt!

Buy Ravenwood: Night's Salvation at - For Kindle For other formats

Ravenwood: Night’s Salvation Blurb:

Duty, love and passion take flight on the wings of destiny. Compelled by honor and duty, Night Ravenwood leaves the only life he knows to return home after his brother’s death. He’s the new heir to Ravenwood Manor and the Earldom; at home an arranged marriage awaits him with a woman he’s never met. When tragedy strikes the newlywed couple, Night realizes he’s fallen in love with the beautiful Satine, but does she love him in return? Satine vows to make Night see his destiny includes her; meanwhile someone is willing to commit murder to keep them apart. Will love or murder shape the destiny of this love?

The Pirate Princess coming April 27th from Evernight Publishing

The Pirate Princess Blurb:

What does a princess do when she doesn’t want a prince? She escapes the princes grasp, mere hours before he is to win her hand and she becomes a pirate. Travel the open seas with Princess Alvilda as she captains the Cryatus in the 14th century.  She and her band of female pirates terrorize the Danish people while keeping just out of reach of the one person she wished to escape, Prince Alf.  When he captures her ship and discovers her true identity, will he also capture her icy heart? 
My website (find my blog and excerpts here) 
Author Facebook (friend me)!/laurie.sorensen3
Publisher is  
Find The Pirate Princess here (April 27th)  
Buy links for Ravenwood: Night’s Salvation

The Pirate Princess Excerpt: Heat level 3-4
Her mind filled with second thoughts.  As soon as she defeated one, another would jump out to worry her.  Do I really want to involve Helga?  It would be foolish, and dangerous, to escape alone.  She glanced at the table still holding the bread and cheese from her midday meal.  Will there be enough to eat?  I'll take this bread and cheese and steal more from the kitchen as we leave.  She stamped her foot, impatient with herself.  I can’t stay here! There are no second thoughts.  I have to make good my escape.
She went to the bed and reached beneath it again to bring out a second small leather bag to fill with food.  As she stood, her bedroom door swung open long enough to reveal Helga silently motioning to her.  One last look around and Alvilda left the room, locking the door behind her.
“Prince Alf has arrived.  He wanted to slay the snakes and lizards immediately, but your father persuaded him the hour was too late.  He agreed to stay the night and make his attempt at the prize in the morning.”  Helga whispered this information as the two of them slipped down the circular stairs and into the corridor leading to the kitchen.
“I want to see him!  I want to see if he is the way I remember him from childhood.  He was so handsome then, I think I fell in love with him at first sight.  His parents brought him for a visit.  I believed we were to be betrothed, but father would hear nothing of the sort.”
“You risk too much if you attempt to see him, Princess.  What if we are caught?”  Helga spoke in hushed tones.  “The others are waiting down by the postern gate.  Milady, we must leave immediately.”
Alvilda ignored Helga and walked quickly toward the great hall.  She simply had to see the Prince.  “Just one glimpse, Helga, and I can go.”
Silently she moved down the hall, the shadows obscuring her presence to all save Helga.  Standing on tip-toe she peeked through the narrow window and sighed at the sight of Prince Alf.  His magnificent body stood outlined by the flickering glow of the fireplace.  He had his back to her and she was able to admire the muscles outlined by his tight fitting britches.  His hair fell from his shoulders in a brilliant blonde wavy sheen.  Her heart pounded when he swung his head to gaze in her direction.  Had he seen her?  She held her breath, half-fearing discovery and half-excited by the prospect, until he shrugged and went back to staring at the fire.
“Milady, that was too close!  He felt you watching him.  Please, we need to make haste!  The more time we have before the king discovers your escape, the better our chances to be away and not get caught.  Do you want to be dragged back here to marry the prince?”
Alvilda’s eyes narrowed and her brow wrinkled.  “You know I don’t want to marry anyone.  I only wanted to see him.  He’s beautiful, isn’t he?”  She didn’t wait for Helga’s answer already moving swiftly down the corridor to the kitchen.  She paused long enough to fill her leather bag with apples, bread, cheese and a full wine skin.
Making her way down the moonlit path to the postern gate, Alvilda chanced a glance up to the castle towering behind her in the night gloom.  She spied her mother watching from her lighted bedroom window.  She couldn’t see her mother’s tears so much as feel them deep in the core of her being.  The princess touched her heart with her right hand and made to grasp it and throw it to her mother, a sign that her heart would always be with her.  Her mother did the same.
Turning back toward the gate, Alvilda faced over a dozen women with their eyes on her, silently waiting for orders.
“Quickly now, no time to dawdle.  Our new life begins very soon.  I’m taking one of father’s ships, and the faster we move the sooner we can be at sea.  If time is on my side, it will be late tomorrow morning before he discovers me gone.”
The women made their way down the cliff side path to the cove holding her father’s two ships.  They boarded the smaller of the two because it was closest to the open sea.  Besides, with a crew of inexperienced women as sailors, the smaller ship was the wiser choice.  When all the women were aboard, Alvilda manned the rudder while the others, including Helga, took up the oars and headed out to sea.
The princess glanced over her shoulder again and imagined her mother still watching from her window.  Once more she touched her heart, grasped it and threw it in the direction of the castle.  She’d made good her escape.  She would be her own woman. She would answer to no one, but she would certainly miss her mother.
Will Alf be angry when he finds me gone?  No matter, I’m sure he will quickly get over the loss of me.
“We are well on our way, so keep watch and wake me only if there is no other choice.”  Alvilda slipped below decks and found her father’s cabin. Shutting the door, she collapsed on the berth.  Before long the heat of the enclosed space had her taking everything she wore off.  Confident they would not be followed for some time, Alvilda smiled as she lay on the bed and stretched her naked body over the roughhewn wool cover upon the bed.  He certainly was a handsome man, far more handsome than I remember. “Just stop it, he isn’t meant for you, no one is,” she said as she turned over onto her stomach and fell asleep.
His hands caressed her skin, lightly skimming over her back and across her buttocks then down the backs of her legs.  Alvilda arched her back; when she did her legs slightly spread open, giving him easier access to the treasure covered in golden curls. One hand slid between her legs and delved into the curls finding her most private parts, the hard little nub hidden from the world. Stroking that tiny button elicited a small moan in the back of her throat.  Encouraged, he rubbed harder and Alvilda drew her legs up, bringing herself onto her knees. 

Ravenwood: Night’s Salvation Excerpt: heat level 2-3
Raven Hall, Night’s town residence.
An endless night of sensual dreams, haunted by a woman he couldn’t identify, left Night questioning his sanity.  His surly mood heightened by his restless night, he entered the dining room where Mrs. Latimer, his cook, had prepared a wonderful breakfast for him.  Scrambled eggs so light they seemed to float out of the dish, hot scones slathered in butter, and a variety of meats from which to choose.  He scowled when he spied one such dish.  Kippers.  He shivered, trying to imagine why they were even on his table.
Why do they insist on having these nasty, smelly things on my table?  Jason loved the damned things, so does my father.  I hate kippers.
Night opened the dining room window, picked up the dish of kippers and tossed them out, closing the window after he had done so.  Smiling now, he decided to talk to Mrs. Latimer about them.  The day seemed to improve slightly since he'd taken control once again, at least of his own breakfast.  At the sideboard, he filled a plate with thinly sliced ham, a ladle of eggs and two buttery scones.  As Night walked to the table, he bit into one of the scones and closed his eyes while he chewed and swallowed the first bite.  Absolutely delicious.
Opening his eyes, Night forked a piece of ham and placed it in his mouth, before he noticed Jarvis had joined him and had placed a sealed letter next to his coffee cup.  He didn’t leave as Night expected, instead he stood next to the chair as if he had a ramrod stuck up his back.  Night turned to his butler, finished chewing the ham and grinned like a fool.
“Is there a problem?”
If it was possible, Jarvis stiffened even more.  “No sir.  Not a problem per se.”
Night waited for him to say more but gave up when Jarvis was not forthcoming.  “All right, if it's not a problem, what is it, per se?
“The messenger was told to await a reply, sir.”  Jarvis watched as his employer’s eyes darkened and his brow creased.
“Tell the lad to go and fetch some food in the kitchen.  It will be some time before I answer.”  Night dismissed the butler, and took up the message.
Night hadn't read any of the letters from his father.  They had been in the enormous stack of mail that Jarvis had presented him upon his return home.  He knew exactly what they contained¾orders to return to his father’s home¾so he’d simply thrown them in the fireplace.  The seal on the new message was as clear as the others had been, the family’s crest.  Night opened this one and read the short message on the page.
Come HOME.
Night walked to the small writing desk against the wall, took up a piece of parchment and wrote one word in response.
He sprinkled the note with sand to dry the ink, then resealed the letter with his own signet ring.  Peering at the sealed message, Night growled in defeat and took the note to the boy waiting in the kitchen.
When he entered the kitchen the boy scrambled to stand, still chewing, and faced the master of the house.
“No, lad, finish eating.  Your errand can wait.  By all means, stay and eat your fill.”
The boy took his seat again, and resumed eating.
“Please see to it that he is given sufficient food for the return journey home,” Night told his cook, who was hovering in the corner of the kitchen.
“Yes, sir.  I'll see to it right away, sir.”  Mrs. Latimer hurried to fill a small flour sack with some food for the child.
“When you’ve finished lad, take this message back to my father.  God speed.”  Night had turned to leave the kitchen when he remembered he wanted to speak to cook about those ridiculous kippers on his table this morning.  I’ll talk to her later after the boy has left.
Out in the entry hall, Night took the stairs two at a time, his foul mood no better after answering his father.  He searched out Jarvis to pack his trunks.  A footman was sent to request the carriage be made ready for departure and to ensure Dumas, Night’s bay stallion, was fed and watered, ready for a journey.
“Jarvis, there you are.”  Night saw him as he entered his bedchamber.  “I would like you to follow me in the carriage with my trunks please.  I'll be riding on Dumas.  I need the time alone and Dumas will like the exercise.”  Having Dumas at Father’s home will make life there just a bit more manageable.
As he walked down the steps, his horse, Dumas was brought around the corner.  The sight of Dumas, a seventeen hand high stallion, black as midnight and completely devoted to his master, had Night grinning like a school boy.  He held his hand out to the horse, which Dumas bypassed to butt Night’s shoulder playfully.
Night laughed and gave the animal a sugar cube he had snatched from the kitchen before he patted his neck.  “I have missed you too, boy.”
The horse whinnied, shaking his head as if he understood exactly what Night had said.
Night mounted and urged Dumas forward, trotting out the front gate, not looking back.  He dreaded facing the inevitable.  He'd chosen to ride Dumas for many reasons, most importantly it would give him time to think.  Bringing his horse would also make Dumas available to him whenever he chose to ride.  The full day’s journey to Ravenwood Manor would give him plenty of time to examine his predicament without intrusion.


When Night looked up into the sky, hours later, the sun was almost directly overhead.  The ache in his back and the crick in his leg called out for relief.  Life on a ship exercised very different muscles than life on land, especially when it came to riding horses.
“Time for a rest, old boy.”  He patted Dumas’ neck, though he was reasonably certain his horse didn’t need a rest as much as he did.  He moved toward a small stream, pleased to find fresh water for Dumas.  While his horse drank, Night sat beneath the largest gnarly oak tree he had ever seen.  It reminded him of the oak tree at Ravenwood Manor, the one in front of the house.  The happy childhood memory brought a small, fleeting smile.
He looked over at Dumas, who was quite happily munching on the lush grass that grew next to the stream.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful to be a horse?
No worries, no title and no marriage to a girl he didn’t know.  Dumas nudged Night out of his thoughts, indicating they should resume the ride.
He stood, took Dumas’ reins and patted his velvety nose before he slipped the apple out of his pocket and gave it to his very appreciative mount.
“So be it.  We shall be on our way.”
Dumas nickered in reply and Night tossed the reins across the huge stallion's back.
He hoisted himself into the saddle and set Dumas to a trot, his thoughts wandering to his ship and the young boy, Jones.  My ship, I’ll not be sailing on her again, and this boy, a child really, yet still so eager to please.  Have I done the right thing by allowing him to stay aboard?
He had not yet gotten a posting address from the little imp but he'd likely see him at the wedding.  Knowing Damon’s untrusting nature he would surely bring the boy with him when he returned for Night's wedding.
Marriage!  I am only four and twenty.  Why should I have to wed now?  And just who is it I’m to marry?  “This waiting bride of mine is probably one of those females who doesn’t like sex, leaving me to find pleasure with others.  I think siring an heir may be more difficult than anything I have ever had to do.”
Damn Jason’s eyes for dying on me.  What right had he to die, leaving me to fulfill his destiny?  I’m a second son, of no account.  “How I long for the breeze in my face, the sway of the ship and the taste of salt on my lips.  I’m a sailor at heart, I’m not really this heir my father insists I am.”
Dumas must have sensed Night’s agitation because he began to move erratically, a clear indication he wasn’t pleased.  When he suddenly stopped short, Night was pitched forward.  He tried to stop his motion by grabbing Dumas’ mane, but the silky hair slipped through his fingers and he found himself airborne.
The abrupt landing was a cold shock.  He found himself waist deep in a muddy pond.  When he looked at his damned horse Dumas cocked his head to the side and nickered.  Instead of cursing him as he started to do, Night laughed.  The bone-deep sadness and apprehension slipped away as he laughed, a deep hearty laugh that blessedly spread all the way through him.  He sat in the pond for a long while, laughing and shaking his head.  Night finally stood, leaving the laughter behind and waded through the pond to the edge, looked Dumas in the eye, and patted the horse’s neck.  “I know.  I was brooding, and you didn’t like it.  But you certainly put me in my place, now didn’t you?”
Dumas whinnied as if he understood every word, and butted Night’s shoulder, sending him scrambling to regain balance again.
Back in the saddle, Night turned Dumas away from the pond and headed in the direction of his boyhood home.  “Let’s just get going.  Only a bit further to go and you can have a nice, big bucket of oats.”  Night patted the horse and set him to a gallop.
He would arrive in a few hours’ time.  What would his father say to him?


Almost dry, but rumpled, Night arrived at the entrance gates to Ravenwood Manor.  Reluctance held him back for a moment more, his head lowered in dejection and defeat.  Here I am for the beginning of my hollow future.
The manor hadn’t changed in the seven years he had been gone.  It was still surrounded by a multitude of flowering bushes and the drive was lined with stately maple and oak trees.  Crushed seashells paved the way opening onto a circular drive in front of the house.  Ivy climbed the walls giving the appearance of a living, breathing entity swallowing the house whole.  Night gave Dumas his head and waited until they had reached the front of the house before taking him in hand again.
Dismounting, he looked up at the house.  The windows were the only visible parts of the house not covered by the ivy and they gleamed in the sun.  The front steps were made of marble and lead to the heavy, oversized oak door that had always been so intimidating to Night as a child.  The house was still as imposing as ever.  A stable lad appeared to take the reins.  As he led the horse away from Night, the boy jumped at the sound of Night’s voice.
“He likes a lump of sugar and an apple while he's being curried.  Make sure to give him a full bucket of oats.  He's had a long ride today.”
“Aye, sir,” the boy answered and was gone from sight a moment later.
As he mounted the steps a slight movement called his attention and he turned to see a woman, really only a slip of a girl.  She was sitting on the stone bench beneath the large oak tree that had been there for as long as Night could remember.
The woman’s back was toward him, but she had the most beautiful hair he'd ever seen.  Light hair, so light it was almost white.  The pale cascade flowed to her waist, a lovely contrast to the pale blue gown she wore.  The plain silver band that circled her head was fashionable in the Highlands and the style of her dress would definitely be considered dowdy among the circles of the London Ton.
Night’s hand rose as if to run his fingers through the woman’s hair, and he felt a tightening in his groin he wouldn't want displayed in mixed company.  Catching his thoughts before they wandered where they had no business being, he dropped his hand and pulled his wayward mind back to where it was supposed to be, the present, and his waiting bride.
She must be the daughter of one of Father’s Scottish friends.  I bet she is beautiful¾I've never seen a Scottish lass who wasn't.
He smiled and walked through the huge double doors which had swung open on well oiled hinges the moment Night set a foot on the first marble stair.  Archibald, his father’s butler for more years than Night had been alive, stood waiting to greet him in the entrance hall.  Night’s smile encompassed his entire face at the sight of the old man.
“Archie.  It’s good to see you, man.”  Night embraced him warmly, not the usual custom for heir and butler but Archibald had often seemed more of a father to him than Jason had ever been.
“I never could get you to call me Archibald, could I, sir?  ’Tis unseemly for you to be embracing the help.  We have been a very sad household, sir.  That will change, now you’re home.”
Night handed Archibald his cloak and gloves.  “I know I'm a sight.  Dumas dumped me in a pond a few hours ago.”  He laughed as he caught Archibald inspecting him from head to toe.  “I had been brooding and he let me know he didn’t like it.  And as for it being unseemly to embrace the help, since when have I ever been concerned with such frivolous stupidity?”
“I remember that well, sir.  As long as you have been alive and able to talk, you have cared very little for the frivolity of courtly life among the aristocracy.  Though as a man who has known you since you drew breath for the first time, I feel at liberty to say perhaps you should consider changing that small imperfection in your personage.  Would you like to refresh yourself before going to see your father?  Do you have a change of clothing with you?  I am certain I can freshen up some of Master Jason’s if they are needed.”
Night glanced at his rumpled clothes, still damp in places and very dusty from the extended ride.  He smiled at Archibald.  “Yes, Archie, I have a change of clothing in my satchel.  Thank you.  That imperfection as you call it is part of who I am, and I am as likely to change that as I am to grow a purple nose.”  Archie harrumphed, shaking his head.
“Please don’t tell Father I am here just yet.  Where may I find him after I have changed?”
“He is in the parlor, sir, with Lord Reginald,”
“Thank you, Archie.  I'll show myself in when I'm ready.”  Night mounted the steps two at a time, taking himself to his old room.
So that creature with the glorious hair must be Lord Reginald’s daughter.  All that glorious hair makes my body come awake.  Just the thought of having all that hair spread out over the pillows, over me…No, these aren’t the kinds of thoughts I need to have right before I greet father or meet this wife of mine.
In his bedroom Night changed clothes and decided a bath could wait for this evening.  He walked down the stairs and found himself back where he had been a few moment before, though Archie was no longer in sight.
Night made his way to the parlor.  Hands shaking, he reached out for the door handle only to stop before touching it.  Wishing for the entire world that he didn’t need to be here, he sucked in a deep, fortifying breath and he burst inside.  “Your long lost son has come home.”
“Night, my boy.  It has been too long since we last saw one another.”  Lord Reginald stood and walked toward him with his hand outstretched.  “I was sorry to hear of Jason’s death.  But glad to see you have come home to shoulder the duties that now befall you as heir.”
Night cast a glance toward Reginald.  “Thank you for your sympathies, they are greatly appreciated.”  He shook hands and then turned away, trying to cover the frustration he believed was visible in his eyes.
“I should never have been the heir, I am the second son.  This was for Jason, not me.”  Night swiped his hand through his hair before turning back toward the men.
“That may be Night, but things have changed, you know that.”  Lord Reginald returned to his seat.
The Earl, Night’s father, had not risen to greet his son, but sat glaring at him.  When Lord Reginald turned back to Jason the glare quickly left the Earl's eyes.
“I must be getting back.  My Sarah is ready to give birth any day now."
“Yet another birth.  How many does this make for you, Reggie?”  Night used the familiar nickname with respect.
Lord Reginald laughed, his ample midsection shaking.  “This is number twelve.  Sarah has told me it will be the last.”  He walked to the parlor door.  “She so wanted a girl child to spoil.  Eleven boys so far¾big strapping boys.  Reggie is going to be nine and ten next month.  I'm grooming him to be the future Duke.”
Night shook the older man's hand one more time.  “Give Lady Sarah my best wishes.  I will come by sometime next week to see you both, and hopefully, to congratulate you on yet another fine child, a girl perhaps?”
“That I will, that I will.”  Lord Reginald turned toward his friend.  “Goodbye, Jason, I expect to see you next week to welcome my child with a celebration.”
“Most certainly.  Tell Sarah that Elizabeth is packing as we speak, and will follow you later this very afternoon.”  The Earl's brow furrowed as he watched his friend leave the room.
Night’s eyebrow shot up.  “Mother is going to Lord Reginald’s home?”
“Yes, she is.  If you had been home more often, you would know she goes to help in any way she can when Sarah is this close to, well, Sarah is simply in need of your mother’s assistance.
“I offer my apologies, Father.  I have been at sea and have had little time to come home.”  He favored his father with a curt bow and followed Lord Reginald who waited for him by the door.
“Try not to be too hard on him, Night.”  With that cryptic advice hanging in the air Lord Reginald left the house and disappeared around the corner in search of his driver and carriage.
As the door shut, Night’s mother’s voice floated down the stairs.
“I think just two trunks will do, after all, Christine¼
Her voice trailed off as she locked gazes with Night.  A lump formed in his throat, one he couldn’t rid himself of no matter how much he swallowed.  She stopped on the stairs, tears in her beautiful green eyes¾the very same eyes he saw in the mirror each morning.
She brought her hand to her throat as if she were having trouble breathing.  “Night, is it really you?”
Night couldn’t help but smile at her small bit of drama.  “Yes, Mother, I’m home.”  The lump in his throat had firmly embedded itself and he found it difficult to speak clearly.
A moment later his mother was off the stairs and in his arms, tears streaming down her face.  “Oh, God, you are home, you really are home.”
Lady Elizabeth finally released him from her fierce hug but she refused to let her hands leave his body.  She touched his arms, his face and his shoulders, tears still streaming down her cheeks.
Guilt washed through him.  Guilt for not writing, for not coming home for seven years¾but most of all for causing her worry.  Night knew his mother loved, missed and worried about him.  Yet he had shown no concern for her feelings.  He felt profoundly sorry.  I will make it up to you somehow, some way.  I promise you that, Mother.
His mother drew back, drinking in the sight of him.  Clearly it was difficult for her to believe he was really home.  “You’re too thin.  You need to eat more.”  Lady Elizabeth took his arm in hers as he escorted her back into the parlor where his father still sat.
The Earl turned toward them.
“Look Jason.  Night has come home again.  Isn’t it wonderful?”  Lady Elizabeth was all aflutter.
“Yes darling, he is home, and this time to stay.”  The Earl looked Night in the eye.  Night hung his head in shame, not wishing to meet his father’s eyes.
“Yes Father, Mother, I am here to stay, for a while at least.  After the wedding my bride and I will take up residence at Raven Hall.”  He regretted his hasty words a moment later seeing the sadness spring back into his mother's eyes.  Perhaps I have spoken more sternly than I should.
Lady Elizabeth pulled the cord to ring for tea.  “You are here with us now.  That is all that matters at the moment.  And you've come home in time for tea.”
A few moments later, a servant brought a tray with tea and small lemon cakes, Night’s favorite.
He remembered something the duke had said earlier.  Boys, all strapping boys so far.
If the glorious-haired creature was not Lord Reginald’s daughter, then just who the devil was she?
A few moments later, the glorious haired creature herself walked into the parlor and the answer to Night’s question became wonderfully clear.  He felt as if he had been punched in the gut, and all his breath stolen from him.
“Satine, I'm glad you joined us, dear.  I want you to meet your future husband.”  Lady Elizabeth was practically singing with happiness.
Night released the breath he didn’t know he'd been holding, his stomach turned back over and he felt queasy enough to render him speechless.
Surely this could not be the simpering little virgin I'm to marry?
He had been right.  She was beautiful¾gloriously, painfully beautiful.  Her hair had only hidden how perfectly made she was.  Everything about her caused a reaction completely inappropriate in mixed company.  His breeches were suddenly much tighter than they had been a moment ago and he was forced to shift position so that the tightness would not be plainly visible to everyone in the room.
Satine’s eyes were a crystal-blue that reminded him of the waters in tropical locations he'd seen on his many travels, and her pale blue gown set them off perfectly.  Her skin had a lovely sheen to it, making Satine look pale and soft.  She was beyond stunning.  Slowly, with shaking knees, he walked toward her, finding the journey across the room difficult in his condition.  Satine lowered her eyes and she trembled where she stood.
When he took her hand he discovered her skin was soft as velvet.  He was almost afraid he would hurt her.  “’Tis a pleasure to meet you, sir.”  Satine didn’t raise her eyes to meet his.
“The pleasure is mine, Satine.  Please, call me Night,” He’d finally found his voice, though it seemed he had swallowed a frog.  No one told me what she looked like.  Of course, I never stopped to ask, did I?
She smiled up at him.  “Night.  It is an unusual name, though I do like it.”
When she smiled, it lit her face from within, making her even more lovely.
Night realized he still had her hand in his and he let it go reluctantly.
I wonder what she will look like naked, lying in the sun on the shore of the lake?  He lowered his gaze so she couldn't see his expression.  His cock stiffened to a point he couldn’t bear much longer.  He excused himself from tea, claiming he was tired and needed a bath after the long ride.  His mother started to protest but he swiftly left the room leaving everyone to stare after his retreating form.
Adjusting his breeches, he mounted the stairs thinking that his cock was usually better behaved than this.  His bride-to-be seemed to have an amazing effect on him.  A soft smile spread across his face.
Night found a hot bath waiting for him in his chamber.  After meeting Satine he would really have preferred cold water but hot would have to do.
He bathed quickly and then lay on his bed naked, thinking of her.
She certainly didn’t seem like a simpering fool.  Irrational fear of the unknown quite possibly could bring down the world if men such as I continue to imagine things long before we are shown the truth of the matter.
He fell asleep, his dreams filled with beautiful, flowing white-gold hair and crystal blue eyes.