We are getting an awesome new standalone from Angel Payne—part of the Misadventures collection of spicy stories, each written or co-written by some of the best names in romance—and I have the cover for you, as well as a sneak peek.
I swallow hard, forcing myself to look at the towering wardrobe in the corner. The pachyderm of a cabinet is stunning but daunting. Its front panels are testaments to the craftsmen of centuries past, inlaid with mother-of-pearl pictures. Naked angels are dancing with moonbeams in different shades of the shiny nacre. But that’s the extent of my observation about the handiwork of the thing for now. I’m mesmerized—hypnotized—by the wardrobe for a different reason.
Is the damn thing…calling to me? Singing to me?
The sound, a bizarre blend of electrical resonance and a harpsichord melody, is like no music I’ve ever heard. The song has no structure or rhythm but compels me like a symphony written solely for my spirit. No part of me can ignore it.
I can’t finish because the chest suddenly starts to shake.
My heart thunders with primal terror, yet I scoot to my feet and walk toward the damn thing.
Pulled by the golden light that glows from behind the eight-foot doors…
“Oh, my God,” I rasp. “Okay, Allie. You are seriously drunk or damn deranged.” I hope for the former but suspect the latter. With every step I take, the suspicion intensifies.
I reach for the one of the wrought-iron handles. I’m dazzled by the sunlight still effusing from beyond, consuming the silhouettes of my fingers.
I pull the door open.
And at once am tackled by the sun.
All right, the human version of it.
But before I can scream, he grabs both sides of my face. He locks my stare with the amber force of his. I gasp as he holds me tight. Tighter. But I still don’t scream. Why? Holy shit, why am I not shrieking like the horror-movie girl dumb enough to take a midnight swim in the lake?
He’s two thoughts ahead. He stretches his thumbs in, pressing them over my mouth, trapping me from bursting with sound. Once more, he drenches me in his melted-sun gaze. There’s a wild, desperate expression across his chiseled features. He doesn’t relent the ferocity, as if he’s been chained inside that armoire since the century it was made.
The syllables are an aria in my mind, exquisite and unending.
He’s so heart-stoppingly beautiful.
Thick, chestnut-colored hair tumbles around his bold but elegant face, some of it covering an inch-long scar over his left eye. But most of the mane is secured at his nape with a crafted leather thong. He’s wearing a fitted brocade vest over a white linen shirt that has ties and ruffles instead of seams and buttons. His V-shaped torso and long, braced legs are as commanding as his linebacker-wide shoulders.
No wonder I keep questioning the reality of all this.
Because with this reality, who the hell needs fantasy?
Drue and Raegan must have chosen this guy as a naughty birthday gift. I wouldn’t think there’d be many male dancers around these parts, but I’m not asking questions or complaining. He makes Christophe look like a five or six to his solid ten on the Gods of Loire scale.
“Mon Dieu. Mon Dieu, c’est un miracle.”
Holy crap. His voice.
Every syllable drenches my blood like rich wine. It’s liquid velvet infused with the strength of the earth. It harmonizes perfectly with the soft song in my head.
Happy birthday to me…
Happy birthday to me…
“Okay.” I smile to let him know screaming isn’t on my immediate agenda. “I’ll go with miracle if that’s your jam, gorgeous.”
When he tucks his eyebrows together, I notice other awesome things about his face. A couple of rugged nicks, besides the larger gouge, in his forehead. The luxurious length of his lashes. The stunning imbalance of his mouth, with the lower lip bigger than the top.
I wonder what his story is. He’s probably some local kid working the family vineyard during the day and taking gigs like this for some extra cash at night. Who am I to fault him? Rough times call for strange measures.
Finally, he murmurs, “You…are British.”
“Close.” I play with his shirt ruffles, just to sneak my fingers against a little of the chest beneath. Chiseled. Hard. Beautiful. There’s real power beneath his strength. “I’m American. Your people didn’t tell you that?”
“No.” He sounds like he’s choking as I trail my fingers along his collarbones. “There was little time. My God, that feels incredible.”
He pushes closer, gliding his hands down my sides and over my hips. He caresses me with reverence, as if trying to memorize me.
“That’s what this is all about, right?” I slip my hands to the back of his neck, giving in to the moment with subtle sways of my hips. “Feeling good?” I jog my head toward the wardrobe. “Getting the hell out of there?” I refrain from asking why he took so long to pop out, since he’s clearly been staged for this entrance since we finished up dessert. Probably longer. But with that in mind, who am I to call the guy out for catching a catnap? Now that he’s rested, I don’t have to worry about wearing him out.
“Hell.” Shadows take over his face as he echoes the word. “An apt description.” Just as quickly, he violently shakes his head. “But it no longer matters.” His eyes are sunrise-gold again. “You are what matters.”
Oh, damn. He’s good. Did they give him the romance bestsellers’ list as training material? It’s working. His reverent touch makes me sizzle. His powerful presence brings my libido fully back online. If I’m not careful, I’ll let this hunk do more than take off his clothes for me.
He cups my face again. “My miracle. You are real. You are here.”
“Errrm…yeah.” I’m tempted to leave it at that, especially when he dips his big gorgeous head and leans his brow against mine. But I manage to add, “Here is…definitely…where I’m at.”
“I did not believe it.” He lowers his long fingers to the sides of my neck. “When she told me it would be so. I did not believe.”
“And that’s why you stayed in there so long?”
“Too long.” He presses his fingertips into my nape. Holy crap, does it feel good. His touch is so warm and strong and earnest. “I should have believed…so much sooner…”
“But you do now.” I forced some casual cheer into it. “And I’d really love to get this show on the road. So shall we? Or should I say…shall you?”
I step back, but he catches me by the wrist, yanking me close again. “The road? Where are you going? And in the middle of the night? The moon is still high.”
“Oh, my God. You’re cute.” I stop my giggle when he doesn’t break character, even given that permission. “All right, Marquis de Hunkville, we’ll do this your way.” I glance back into the wardrobe, despite the tick that goes off in his jaw as I do. “Did you bring music to get your groove on?”
“Where are your hot licks, hot stuff?” I reward myself for the wit by looking him over again. His historical culottes don’t leave a lot of his lower physique to my imagination; an accurate-looking eighteenth-century fly conceals a breathtaking crotch and tree trunk thighs. Handcrafted riding boots are filled by his massive calves. Holy hell, he’s well-built. “Maybe you just play the music from your phone?” I venture. “Or maybe you don’t dance at all. There’s…a lot of you, after all.”
“My…what? Foam?” He huffs. “What does a steed’s spittle have to do with playing music? Though I can certainly play a few tunes if you would like some entertainment, my love.” He steps back and extends an elbow. “Will you allow me to escort you to the conservatory?”
“I’d prefer to stay right here.” The confession stuns me as much as it does him. I mean, there’s historically accurate, and then there’s calling a client my love.Hell to the no. “If you need, I’ve got some curated lists saved to my laptop. Probably better than trying your mobile anyhow. The connectivity in this place is sketchy at best.”
“You…are saving what atop your lap?”
“Never mind.” I laugh again, trying to play off how nice it feels to have him gawking at my midsection. More than that, observing the fresh transition of his gaze. Sunrise to sunset in five seconds flat. “So no music. Good enough.” I channel my inner siren, who feels close to a goddess now, to steer us back toward lighter stuff. “Maybe…you’ll just let me help, then.”
“Help? With wh—” He erupts in a shocked snarl as I slide a finger along his waistband—and then lower . “My God. My love, what are you about?”
“Same thing you’re about, Hunkville.” I twist a couple of his buttons free. His hard flesh swells against my touch, and once more he’s my blazing sun. “But knock it off with ‘my love,’ okay? My name is Allie. Alessandra works if you want to keep it foofy and formal. Think of ways to say either of those while we get you naked, yeah?”