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About the author:
As part of her research she has visited the World War 1 battlefields in France and Belgium, a truly poignant experience.
What inspired you to write your book?
There is a fine line between love and hate and I wanted to know what would happen when a man crossed over that line.
Here is a short sample from the book:
What the hell? Martin Mulvaney stirred himself from the kitchen fire. His head thumped from the numerous whiskies he had indulged in during a session of whoring at the Black Stallion bordello. He always paid women to relieve his sexual hunger. Easier and safer for everyone concerned.
God, he hated living in this house. I ought to burn it to the ground and rid myself of its terrible aura once and for all. The wind shrieked and moaned outside, rekindling memories of Emily Parsons and what had happened to her here. Taking another swig from the whisky bottle, he tried to blot out the guilt that had tortured him for more than twenty years. I could have saved her but I didn’t.
He rubbed his hand across the bristles on his chin. The sound of the front door knocker being slammed against the wooden door thudded into his fogged up brain. He would have ignored the noise, except the continual banging made his headache worse. God Almighty, how the hell had he found his way home? If he didn’t stop this kind of behaviour it would end up killing him. And good riddance many would say. “Stop that damn noise. I can’t come any faster.”
Wrenching the door open he peered out into the blackness. Something made him glance down, and on the step lay a dark shape. The soft object moved when he prodded it with his foot, so he turned the lamp up and took a closer look. “Bloody hell!”
A girl knelt on his doorstep. A damp curtain of silver blonde hair tumbled over her shoulders. Glancing up, he half expected to see a hole in the sky where this angel had fallen through. He couldn’t believe what he was seeing. God, he must be drunker than he thought.
“Help me. Please. Have mercy.” Her desperate plea pierced the fog swirling around in his brain. When he lifted her up she swayed and almost fell. Swinging her up into his arms he kicked the door shut, and strode back inside.
“Who the hell are you?” He dumped her on a chair in the kitchen, grabbed the whisky bottle he had slugged out of minutes earlier and forced some of the liquid down her throat. She coughed and spluttered before turning her head away. “I’m Martin Mulvaney. Who are you?” he persisted, mesmerized by the bewilderment in her blue eyes.
“I…I don’t know.”
“I…I can’t remember.”
“Jesus.” He took a long slug out of the whisky bottle.
Her rain-washed skin glistened like white marble, and a graze on her forehead oozed blood. He lifted her chair up closer to the fire and watched her trembling hands reach towards the flames. Small and dainty, a little work roughened, but no rings adorned her fingers.
His anger turned to pity. “You’ll have to change out of those wet clothes.” He inwardly cursed the fact his housekeeper was away tending her sick sister. Of course, he had planned to spend most of his time enjoying the whores at the Black Stallion. Pure chance found him home tonight.
Forced by the howling wind, rain lashed the window panes drowning out the girl’s whimpers. He strode towards the stove to lift the kettle off the hob.
“I’ll make you a cup of tea.” He tried to sound kind as he sloshed boiling water into the teapot, but it was hard when he hadn’t shown concern for a woman in years. He used them for sex, was never physically abusive and always paid them handsomely for their services. Not like his father who used to delight in punishing and humiliating women. He clamped down on the bitter memories and the fear dogging him for years that he would one day turn into a woman beater like his father “I could do with some myself. Might clear my head.”
He stared into the girl’s face as he handed her the tea. “Come on, drink this, it will help warm you up.” Her eyes seemed enormous and he could have drowned in their haunted, pain filled depths.
Fear contorted her pretty face. “Who am I?” Frail and ethereal, like an angel in a religious picture, she looked the epitome of everything beautiful in a woman. Untouched, untainted, the perfect bride for a man who wanted marriage, which he didn’t. He tried travelling down that road once before and it had cost him dearly. As he made to move away, she grabbed his hand.
“Don’t leave me,” she whimpered, tightening her hold. “Don’t let them find me.”
He eased his fingers out of her grip. “I’ll get some towels and blankets. You’ll catch a chill if you don’t change out of those wet clothes.” What the hell was he going to do with her? He had no use for a woman like her, but hadn’t sunk so low that he would leave her to the hostile elements outside. He wasn’t that devoid of humanity, no matter what the sanctimonious old biddies in town accused him of.
On his return, she still sat trance-like, having not moved at all. He unlaced her shabby boots and removed them.
“You’ll have to take your clothes off and wrap yourself in this blanket, there’s no woman here to help you.” He pulled her to her feet and she swayed, dangerously close to collapse. “Come on, get undressed.”
She made no move to do so, but stood rigid, clutching at his shirt with trembling fingers. Her pupils dilated, fear darkened her irises to black. They stood out starkly against the pale blue of her eyes. He brushed tendrils of her damp hair away from her cheek and tucked them behind her ear. “You’re safe here. I won’t hurt you.”
Tugging her coat off, he flung the garment on a chair. His hopes that she might be dry underneath came to nothing – she was drenched to the skin. The number of women he had undressed over the years proved too numerous to count, so why baulk at the prospect now?
She shied away from him as he went to undo the buttons on her skirt. “It’s all right. You can trust me.” When the skirt slithered to the floor, he worked on the buttons of her blouse with the skilled confidence of a man who had performed this task many times before. She made no effort to help or hinder him, just stood stiff as a poker with tears spilling out of her eyes and running in rivulets down her pale cheeks.
“Don’t let them find me…” The next few words sounded jumbled, unintelligible. Her breath came out in harsh, labored pants, her breasts rose and fell. “I have to get out.”
“Th…door. Escape from the bl… black stallion.”
The words punched the breath from his lungs, doused his sympathy in one foul swoop.
Black Stallion? She had run away from town, from the bordello owned by his friend Ollie. “Hell.” For the second time in his life, he had almost allowed himself to be seduced by innocent eyes and creamy white skin. Bloody fool. Disappointment surged through him because this girl was a whore.
She backed away when he went to pull down her drawers. “They have to come off, or you’ll catch a chill.” He ignored her frightened gasp as he rolled the garment down over her slim hips and shapely legs. Once she was naked, he gazed upon her smooth alabaster skin, her firm young breasts mounds of creamy perfection. Clenching his teeth, he stopped himself from caressing the rose tipped buds with his tongue. Her flat stomach had the smoothness of silk and a triangle of golden fluff crowned her womanhood.
She hadn’t been at the Black Stallion on his last visit. He would have remembered such a beauty, would have tasted every inch of her. She must have run away but why hadn’t Ollie mentioned it? Of course, if she had worked out of the public bar he might not have known. Who could have mistreated her? Ollie would have to be told. If I find the culprit first, I’ll tear him apart with my bare hands.
He placed a blanket around her shoulders and she clutched the ends together. Bunching up the strands of gossamer fine hair he dried them with a towel. When he dropped them they tumbled over her shoulders and splayed out over her breasts. Her breath quickened, the trembling escalating as he patted her skin dry with the towel, touching the forbidden places with infinite care.
Desire raged through him. A long drinking session always heightened his sexual appetite. So why in the hell didn’t he dump her on the table, spread her legs and plunge his throbbing manhood into her right here and now? No vestal virgin ever worked in the public bar at the Black Stallion.
Gritting his teeth to keep his rampaging desire under control, he led her to the chair. Such a fragile terrified little thing, he couldn’t treat her like a common harlot even if she was one. “I’ll rustle up some food.” He handed over another cup of tea.
She gave no answer, just clutched the blanket more tightly around her trembling body.
“Do you want a bath?”
“No.” The sound came out in a tremulous whisper.
He squatted down beside her and took her small cold hands between his own, giving them a vigorous rub to bring back the warmth. “It would warm you up.”
Filling up a dish with hot water, he bathed the graze on the side of her head. He ignored her protests and fried some eggs, when she refused to eat, he fed her.
“I’ll have to think of a name for you. Ah.” He snapped his fingers. “Storm, because I found you in a storm.” He grinned at his ingenuity. Now that the shock of finding her had worn off he might as well enjoy himself. He wouldn’t mind paying a premium price for her favours. “You can be Martin Mulvaney’s woman for now.”
Lifting her into his arms, he picked up the lantern and strode upstairs. Shouldering the master bedroom door open, he crossed the room and stripped off the blanket. He laid her naked on the unmade bed, the sheets still rumpled from when he last slept on them.
She clutched at the bed sheet, pulling it up to her chin and lay there, stiff as a corpse. What the hell was wrong with her? Probably a ploy to gain more sympathy from him. Money even. He did feel sorry for her. She had obviously gone through a bad time, but he wouldn’t let the conniving little minx know how she affected him. How much he craved to feast on her exquisite little body. With the finesse of a youth having his first sexual encounter, he dragged his clothes off, dropped them on the floor and pulled the sheet away.
She rolled on to her stomach now, her white bum cheeks quivering; her hair splayed out in all its silver glory across her shoulders. He climbed into the bed, turned her over and straddled her body, knees pressed against her hips. His erection speared into her belly when he bent to claim her lips. As a rule, he never kissed whores on the mouth, but this little storm girl – to save his life, he could not resist.
Her soft, tremulous lips tasted salty. With a guilty pang he realized he had made her cry.
“Sh, don’t be afraid.” He moved away and drew her into his arms. “I won’t let anyone harm you,” he crooned, holding her close. “You’ll be safe here with me.”
It nearly killed him, his groin ached with the intensity, yet he could not take advantage of her while she remained so distraught, even if she had lied to him. The tremors subsided as his body heat infused her with warmth.
Once she slept, he snuffed out the lamp and trailed his fingers up and down her spinal column, surprised that he could feel something other than sheer craven lust for a beautiful girl. Storm was different. Instinct told him she possessed a special quality, so why would she be working in the public bar of the Black Stallion bordello?
A feeble morning sun filtered through the window where he had forgotten to draw the curtains. Martin propped himself up on one elbow and gazed into the face of the girl beside him. Her long golden lashes rested on her pale cheeks. A purple bruise and several scratches flawed her silky skin.
In the light of day, she seemed even more fragile and exquisite than last night. Never had a whore looked so good. His movement must have disturbed her. Dazed from sleep, she stared at him with beautiful, haunted eyes then edged away, clutching the bed sheet tightly. It was a ploy, but hell, he was quite prepared to play her game. The end result would be the same – hours of carnal pleasure.
“Where am I?” Panic overwhelmed her. “Why am I here?” This wasn’t a wagon. She had escaped the gypsies. Slipped away while Rufus and Darius fought each other, hiding until they drove off and the wagons disappeared over the horizon. Darius’ anger if he ever found her would be fearsome.
“Don’t let him find me.” A spasm shook her body. She clutched at the man’s arm. Martin she had to think of him as Martin, it would make her situation more bearable. He hadn’t abused her. Had taken her into his home, but she instinctively realized he was ruthless enough to cast her aside if she didn’t please him. He was a handsome man, well spoken and clean, except for black stubble on his jaw. He had not only saved her from the elements, but a fate worse than death – being continually raped and beaten by Darius. Strong and determined, obviously wealthy, Martin could protect her from the gypsies. If only he would let her stay until she remembered who she was. Where she came from. But there would be a price to pay for his aid. She didn’t doubt that for one moment.
He reached over and drew her close, wrapping his arms around her. “I won’t let anyone hurt you.” Alcohol and cigar smoke intermingled with his musky man scent wasn’t unpleasant, and his warm breath fanned the loosened strands of her hair.
It wouldn’t do any good pitting her puny strength against him even if she wanted to. By the feel of his muscular arms he could crush her like a bug.
“You’re quite safe. I found you collapsed on my doorstep last night. What do you remember?”
“Y…You’re Martin, I’m Storm.”
“You fell out of the sky and landed on my door step. Can you remember anything else?”
“No.” She didn’t want to remember the terrible happenings in the black stallion wagon, must relegate those memories to the back of her mind somehow. Concentrate on regaining her strength and her memory, then finding her way home. But what if she didn’t have a home to go to?
“Forget what happened to you before. Nothing will hurt you while you’re under my roof.”
He slid out of bed and reached for his pants. His tanned shoulders were well muscled, his stomach flat. His manhood nestled in a wedge of tight black curls. Darius’ engorged shaft always seemed to be in a state of arousal with moisture dripping off its tip. A tremor shuddered all the way through her when she remembered how close he had come to raping her. Bile pooled in her throat and she had to swallow down on its bitterness so it wouldn’t pour out of her mouth and drench the silk sheets on Martin’s bed.
“I’ll go downstairs and put the kettle on, then I’ll bring up your clothes. They should be dry by now.”
Turning on his heel he left the room. Down in the kitchen, he threw a couple of logs on the glowing embers and put the kettle on to boil. Half a loaf of stale bread was all he could find, but there would be enough for a couple of slices each.
He gathered up her shabby clothes. Why did Ollie employ a little farm girl at the Black Stallion, even if she did work in the public bar? He always went for older, more sophisticated women, and he never allowed anyone working on his premises to be mistreated. Storm had been abused, no disputing that, her terror was tangible. The most logical explanation being something must have happened in Ollie’s absence.
He returned to the bedroom to find Storm standing near the window, dressed in his discarded shirt. It reached mid thigh, and the soft fabric clung to her body, outlining every feminine curve. She swung around when he entered the room and gave him a tremulous smile.
“I’ve brought your clothes and some warm water for you to wash in.”
She stood motionless. Alone, confused. Like a deer caught in the firelight. He glimpsed the dark outline of her nipples and a shadowy tantalizing triangle between her thighs. To bury his mouth in those soft pubic curls would be pure heaven on earth.
“Get dressed, Storm.” He tried not to make it sound like an order. Stepping back he cursed the swirl of desire in the pit of his stomach. One touch and all would be lost. He’d take her back to bed and spend the whole day there. Much as he ached to bed her, now was not the time. This latent spark of decency surprised him. He couldn’t remember when he last considered anyone else’s feelings but his own. Once she recovered from her ordeal, a couple of days at most, he would drink of her passion until satiated. Her soft loveliness would slake the desire rampaging through his body.
Storm joined him downstairs within a short time. The shabby skirt and blouse didn’t detract from her beauty.
He handed over some buttered toast and she devoured it.
“I have to go out and check for storm damage. You stay here in the castle.”
“Please. Please, let me come with you. Don’t leave me alone.”
“Nothing will hurt you if you don’t go outside.” He leaned towards her. “You can clean up for me. Do you cook?”
“I…I don’t know.”
“The pantry is through those doors. I’ll be back about noon, see if you can rustle me up some food.”
“It’s a necessary precaution.”
He strode out the kitchen door, annoyed for wanting to stay and kiss all her fears away. What the hell was wrong with him? “I’ll give you some money and send you away in a couple of days,” he muttered, knowing full well he would keep her here until his desperate need was assuaged. A couple of weeks at most. He never did have much staying power with women.