[BookStrand Interracial Romantic Suspense, HEA]
Three lives intertwine—a former Green Beret, now a painter of nude portraits tormented by the death of his comrade, an earl’s daughter, and a crazed stalker. Will the acts of the stalker force the soldier back into the life of violence which he sought to avoid?
Sebastian Hughes, wounded on a mission in Afghanistan, discovers a talent for painting nude portraits while in a rehabilitation center learning to walk again after losing part of his leg. He becomes the toast of London society and women clamor to be painted by him.
Lady Joanna Gresham, nursing a broken heart and used to getting what she wants, sets her sights on having her portrait painted by Sebastian. Once she meets him, she wants him for herself. She pursues him, intent on winning him. What she didn’t count on was a stalker who wants to harm everyone Sebastian holds dear.
A BookStrand Mainstream Romance
Joanna Gresham passed Margaret in the hallway of Bast’s building. Margaret carried a saddle under her arm.
Margaret stopped her and hitched the saddle to a more comfortable position. “You one of the many?”
“Clients of Bast’s?”
Joanna shook her head. “No. But I’m thinking about it. I was at his show last night and am very impressed.”
“With the man or the artist?” The woman smiled coyly.
“The artist, of course.” Joanna stood tall and looked down her nose at the impertinent woman. The nerve to ask me such a thing. As if I’d be interested in a hoodlum.
“Don’t have to get huffy, Lady Joanna. All the women in town are swooning over the man. Some are even commissioning portraits just to tempt him with their bodies. No harm meant.”
Joanna ran her hands through her hair. “Sorry. Just moody, I guess.”
“No problem. Enjoy your session.”
“I don’t have a session. I’m just going to talk.”
“Good luck, then. I think you’ll like Bast. I gotta go. Late for a practice run.”
“Good luck with practice. Ta, Margaret.” Joanna waved good-bye and approached the door to Bast’s atelier. Why am I so nervous? He’s just a man I want to hire. Why should I feel so nervous?
Joanna knocked lightly on the door.
The door burst open, and the man said, “What did you for—” He stopped short. “Uh. Sorry, I thought you were Margaret, come back for something she forgot. She always leaves something behind.”
“Is that why you were already at the door?”
He smiled. “Yeah. I give her about three minutes after she leaves to come dashing back. I thought I timed it right.” His smile got larger.
Why does his smile have to be so spectacular? He’s gorgeous even with that scar across his face. “Sorry, it’s just me. I’m not sure if you remember—”
“Of course, I do. You’re the lady in the alley, the one that needed no help with her aching feet. Come on in.” He opened the door wider to allow her access to the loft.
Once they were inside, he showed her over to a client chair. He took a seat behind the desk, leaned across the top, and said, “What can I do for you?”
She put one hand on the desktop and scraped her nail across the surface. “I was at your show last night—”
“Yeah, I know. I saw you, remember?”
“I recall.” She frowned. Was the man determined to make her feel stupid?
“Sorry, ma’am. I didn’t mean to interrupt you. Go on.” Bast nodded his encouragement.
“I was thinking I might want a portrait of myself. Your work is impressive. Very tasteful. I know it seems like I’m just jumping on a trend, but I really am in awe of your abilities.”
“Thank you, ma’am. I appreciate it. I’m a little full right now. The show last night garnered me a lot of commissions, and I’m afraid I don’t have time to add one more person to my schedule. I’ll be glad to put you on the waiting list.” He pulled a pad out of his top drawer.
She stood, and the chair teetered and fell back against the wall. “I know what you’re doing. You jerk.”
He leaned back in his chair and looked at her. His face showed no emotion. “What’s your problem, Lady?”
“Lady? You say it that way because you know who I am? You think you can be a sarcastic bastard to me?”
“Ma’am, you came in here, didn’t introduce yourself to me, and now you’re offended? I can’t figure that out. All I said was I have to put you on my waiting list. How you think that’s something offensive, I don’t know.” He sat forward in the chair.
She glared. “I’m Lady Joanna Gresham. I don’t do waiting lists.”
He stood up and walked around the desk to her. He got in her face and said, “I don’t do snobby ladies. So, I suggest you get out of my studio.”
Joanna pushed his chest. “I just bet you don’t do ladies.” She looked around and took in the whole room and nodded toward the fainting couch under the window. “I bet you do the ladies right over there.”
Enraged, he grabbed her arms and shoved her against the wall. He pressed against her. “If I wanted to do a lady, I’d do her right here against this wall.” He lifted her off her feet as if she was no larger than a toy doll and pulled her over to the other client chair. He sat in it and pulled her on top of himself. “Or here in this chair.”
She jerked off his lap and stumbled backward. “How dare you touch me, you arrogant—”
“What? Black bastard? Is that what you want to call me, your white holiness? Lady Joanna Gresham that doesn’t do waiting lists? Huh? Huh? That what you want to say?” He stood up.
She continued to back up. “You’re crazy. You know that? You’re insane.”
He stalked toward her. “And you’re all alone here with me. A crazy, scar-faced, big black man who isn’t intimidated by a title. Now, what are you gonna do?”
“I’m leaving.” She flounced toward the door.
Just as she got to the door and opened it, he slammed his hand on it and shut it. His body leaned against hers. He pressed against her and whispered, “I bet you always leave. When the going gets tough and you don’t get your way, you leave. Right?”
He let go of the door and stepped back. “Thank you for coming by, ma’am. I’ll be sure to not add you to the waiting list.”