Hang onto your hats, ladies! Desiree Holt's new Ellora's Cave title Escape the Night releases tomorrow. In honor of the occasion, Des is offering up a copy of either Do You Trust Me? or Rodeo Heat (both Holt Medallion Award of Merit winners!). Woot! A contest. Who doesn't like that???? So please leave a Happy Birthday and Happy Release Day message to Desiree (yes...today is her birthday) and be entered in a drawing to win one of these awesome books.
And while you are commenting make plans to pick up the book tomorrow at Ellora's Cave!
Now for the fun part. Here's just a little taste of Escape the Night. (p.s. Madison will announce our winner here tomorrow. You have until midnight tonight to comment.)
When Anya Kane escaped the darkness Virgil Branson was selling her into, she sought help from her boss, Gus D’Amato, a hot and hunky FBI agent. Six months later she is out of his office and in his bed, enjoying the most erotic sex imaginable and forging a bond with the man who makes every muscle in her body quiver. But things go dramatically wrong, and between bouts of thermonuclear sex that set them both on fire, Gus finds himself struggling to keep them both safe.
Anya Kane raced through the dark streets, hugging the walls of buildings, her own footsteps echoing so loudly in her ears she was sure Virgil could hear her. She struggled for air, lungs burning, her side aching from running so far and so fast, but she couldn’t stop. Her face throbbed where he’d slapped her and she could still feel the bruising imprint of his fingers on her breast when he’d come into the room.
God, what an idiot she was. She’d escaped one house of horror only to end up in another. Fleeing her hometown of Burdette to the city had been the only way to get out of the awfulness that had been her home. Home? That was a laugh. Four walls that hid secrets of coldness and brutality. She’d had such hopes when she settled in San Antonio. Even when the first job didn’t pan out, she kept going. Pushing ahead.
Leaping from the frying pan into the fire.
She could still hear the steady weeping, then the unholy scream, and the men arguing in loud voice. Still hear Virgil’s words in her head as he described what he’d be doing to “prepare” her for one of his “clients”.
How impressed she’d been the day she ran into her friends Amy and Stella at the coffee shop where she’d been picking up lunch. She’d just gotten a great new job, one she didn’t want to lose—one that promised to be very exciting–and she’d gotten into the habit of eating at her desk to catch up on her work.
Her first thought was, “What are Amy and Stella doing here in the middle of the day? And with such a good-looking guy? They never said a word about him. And why aren’t they introducing me to him?”
The man was so handsome, so smooth. She wanted to go out to lunch with him, too. Only neither Amy nor Stella had looked very happy, either to see her or to be there. Something was wrong but she couldn’t figure out what. Was he the reason the three of them hadn’t seen each other for a few weeks? That they weren’t returning her calls? But this didn’t look like a romantic interlude. Maybe he was helping them get new jobs.
“What a surprise,” she said, standing awkwardly near the table. Then she looked at Amy and Stella and blurted out, “How come you two haven’t returned any of my calls. Y’all mad at me?”
Amy dipped her head. “We’ve…uh…been busy.”
“Yeah, busy,” Stella echoed, and bent her head to her food. “And we’re busy now.”
Anya had felt suddenly foolish, stunned that they would treat her this way and embarrassed at her childish question, but Virgil gave her a warm smile.
“That’s no way to treat your friend,” he chided the women, and nudged out a chair. “I’m Virgil Branson. Come sit down, you sweet thing, and tell me all about yourself.”
He drew her like a moth to a flame, tantalizing her, spinning his web. He’d sat there between the two women, handsome in his custom-tailored suit, his expensively cut hair and his high-end shirt and tie, looking every inch the prosperous businessman.
“I can’t stay long,” she said nervously. “My boss is expecting me back right away. But it’s really good to see y’all. I haven’t seen you in a while, Virgil.”
Then two businessmen, as well dressed as Virgil, approached the table. He didn’t introduce them, just smiled and nodded.
“Time to go girls,” he said, throwing some money on the table and pushing back his chair. “Anya, I might be giving you a call. Maybe we can spend some time together.”
She couldn’t believe he’d asked her that in front of her friends and she stood there, not knowing what to say. Stella had taken an instant longer to rise, pausing to dig in her purse and apply lipstick, then blotting it with her napkin.
“Come on,” Virgil urged, a note of impatience in his voice.
“Coming, coming.” Stella jumped up so quickly she almost knocked over her chair.
Anya stared at them as Virgil hustled the whole group out the door. She shook herself, wondering if she’d imagined the entire episode.
When he called later in the week and asked her out, she hadn’t seen anything wrong with accepting. She’d even gone to a store and learned about makeup and bought two new dresses. His eyes had been alight with interest when he came to pick her up and he’d complimented her on her beauty. So she’d gone out with him again. And then a third time. In Burdette circumstances had given her very little opportunity for a social life. This was part of what she looked forward to in the city.
But then Stella and Amy had called, first cajoling and then screaming at her to stay away from Virgil. She’d put it down to jealousy. Oh, if it had only been that simple.
She should have listened to them. Too late now. Way too late.
And now she knew all about Virgil. Too damn much. At that moment she wished she was her old plain and mousy self, not calling attention to herself. By the time she’d figured out what he was really up to, she was a prisoner in the house he owned, with two businessmen haggling over her price.
Waiting and watching for the right opportunity, she’d managed an escape almost right under his nose. She knew when he came to her room for her he’d be furious that she’d slipped away. If she hadn’t insisted she had to use the bathroom… If Virgil hadn’t gotten in a heated argument with two of his “customers”… If everything hadn’t happened the way it did…
Her stomach roiled at the thought of what had been waiting for her, panic coiled tight inside her. Her only piece of luck up until then had been Virgil’s decision, for whatever reason, to leave her untouched. But it was coming, and soon. And now she had to keep running, but she had no idea where she was running to. She couldn’t go back to her apartment. That would be the first place he’d check. Nor could she find a way home to Burdette. Locating her in a town that small would be a snap.
But where could she go? What could she do? She had no money, no identification and only the clothes on her back. All she’d thought about was getting away. But now what? She had to keep going. She couldn’t let him catch her.
She had no idea where she was, only that she was somewhere at the edge of downtown San Antonio. The neighborhood was a mixture of homes and townhouses but she wasn’t familiar enough with the city to be more exact about her location. She only knew she couldn’t stop and safety meant keeping as much in shadow as she could, waiting to hear following footsteps any moment. Or worse yet, see a car pulling up next to her and Virgil jumping out.
She ducked between two houses, stopping to catch her breath. Up ahead she saw the bright lights of a neighborhood shopping center. If she could just make it to there, maybe she could figure out what to do next. Moving as fast as she could, Anya managed to reach the cluster of stores surrounded by a parking lot filled with vehicles and crowds of shoppers moving from one store to the next.
Anya looked frantically around. Could she approach one of these people? No, they’d think she was crazy. But somehow she needed to get help. At once she thought of her boss. She’d only been working there for three weeks and didn’t know him that well. But if ever there was a man who could make her feel safe it was him. Would he think she was the victim of an overactive imagination? Still, he was in the right place…
Virgil had taken her cell phone along with her purse. But Anya had always had a habit of shoving loose change in her slacks. She shoved her hands in the pockets and her fingers closed around coins. She permitted herself on small sigh of relief. Now to find a phone.
There was a restaurant at the end of line of stores. It looked to be busy and Anya hoped she could get in and out before Virgil decided to look for her here. She hugged the wall of the little lobby, waiting until the hostess had seated a couple standing there, before approaching her.
“Excuse me, do you have a pay phone here?” She hoped she didn’t sound as nervous as she felt.
“Right over there.” The hostess pointed behind her without looking up from the seating chart she was marking.
Anya took another calming breath. “I’m sorry, but do you also have a phone book I could borrow?”
The hostess gave her an impatient look as she dragged a telephone book out from a shelf in the stand and shoved it at her.
Please let there not be a hundred people with his name.
But luck was with her. There was only one Augustus D’Amato listed. With shaking fingers she slipped the coin in the slot and dialed the number.