Divine Deception is my novella set in Western New York. It’s part of Ellora Cave’s succulent series that included stories with fruit as their central theme. This story involves grapes and more specifically … wine. It’s meant to be a fun little read. I hope you enjoy this excerpt from chapter one.
Obtaining his life’s dream may very well destroy hers …
Nicholas Gradin III splashed three more fingers of thirty-year-old scotch into the crystal tumbler sitting on the mahogany desk, not bothering to add ice. He didn’t need some watered-down version of liquid courage. He needed straight up, balls-to-the-walls bravery for the weekend ahead. Even though it was all of his making, Nicholas didn’t really want to face the huge obstacle that stood between him and freedom. Gulping a generous portion of the scotch, he turned and stared out the study window. He’d chosen this room on the east side of the mansion specifically so he didn’t have to stare at the goddamn ugly vines that tortured his very existence.
One month, six weeks at the most and the last of the grapes would be harvested and the vines left to wither. Nicholas could only hope all the lies would die along with them.
Nicholas watched the lush lawn sway in the early autumn breeze, hoping it would soothe the frayed ends of his nerves. He laughed derisively and swallowed his resentment with a hefty shot of alcohol. Who was he kidding? It wasn’t lush-it was overgrown and unkempt. Without the benefit of the lawn service that he’d fired last spring, it looked like shit. Perhaps he should be staring at the vineyard. At least a skeleton crew still meticulously tended the vines.
No, even that thought slid him deeper into a morass of self-pity.
In his youth, the vineyard had been his playground full of fertile soil that not only nurtured the grapes but a foolish boy’s vivid imagination. As he’d grown it had become his gym, offering hours upon hours of backbreaking work that honed his muscles and allowed him to dream of a different life. Now, he was a middle-aged man imprisoned by its incessant demands. As happened to his late parents, the vineyard was sucking the very marrow from his bones and leaving him wilted and apathetic. He had no doubt it would kill him one day. He figured drowning himself in the intoxicating oblivion of liquor was a preferable path to death.
Nicholas finished the scotch and turned to stare at the bottle taunting him from the desk.
“You worry too much, my love.”
Turning to the comforting sound, Nicholas stared at his young wife lounging elegantly against the open door. Her ebony hair curved over her bare shoulder, the ends nestling in her plentiful cleavage. The white top she wore was sheer enough to show off the pink lace beneath. Black patterned leggings hugged her hips and her legs to just below her knee. He had no doubt she wore nothing beneath the exotic second skin.
Even after seven years of marriage, the woman was a walking hard-on.
Knowing the spell she cast over him, Carmine smiled and lifted the bunch of red grapes in her hand to her full lips. Curling her tongue around one, her mouth made love to it before she sank her teeth into its flesh. Juice dripped down her chin and she gathered it up with flick of her tongue before she spoke. “Two and half days. You can do anything for two and a half days.”
Grapes, the fruit of hell itself. Most of the time, he hated the damn things-the smell, the texture, the sight. But when Carmine held them, Nicholas remembered all the reasons they were known as the fruit of gods. Even she could turn the despised globes into a delicate food of seduction.
Capturing his gaze, Carmine stared intently at him as the pink tip of her tongue caressed the dangling fruit. In and around each swollen berry, her tongue darted and tasted. A low moan keened from her throat as she snatched another and took it into her mouth with a loud “pop”. “Really, I don’t think it’s going to be as bad as you’re anticipating.”
Nicholas swallowed hard, trying to find his voice. “I’m not anticipating anything more than a quiet family weekend.”
With a doubtful arch of her brow, she pushed from the doorway and walked to him. Black stiletto heels clicked softly across the hardwood floor. Carmine slinked up to him, her lithe body molding to his. Her breasts pressed against his chest and his body sprang to attention. Sliding her palm across his shoulder, she looked into his eyes. “The tension rides on your shoulders…” A long, red nail dragged up his neck and over his jaw. “It knots right here…” Her nail continued its journey across his forehead, the other fingers tickling across his face. “And it leaves deep lines on your brow.” She came up on her toes and her teeth grazed his chin. “But I know how to help take your mind off the homecoming.”
Well, I got two reviews … on both ends of the spectrum.
Night Owl Romance gave Hearts Afire-May 4.25 hearts. Yay! Vee had this to say about my novella Shadows of Fire …
“Shadows of Fire was a creative vampire story. I thought the character development was good and the story line interesting. It held my attention through out. Well done!”
If you’d like to see the complete review click on the Night Owl Romance icon on the sidebar.
The second review I’m not going to share. It was a fair review of my contemporary novella, Divine Deception stating mostly that it’s predictable and the sex is pretty vanilla. It was disappointing and stung a little since that story is meant to be a quick little fun read. It is the only story I’ve written that has no suspense component. It did make me feel a little better when I watched an interview with Quentin Tarantino and found out his last movie totally tanked. I guess I was due. Hopefully that’s only one reviewers opinion and readers find it light and fun.
Beginning tomorrow I’m the featured author for a week at Whipped Cream. I’ve got all sorts of tidbits of wisdom and even some giveaways. I hope you’ll join me throughout the week.
My new book trailer for Bonded by Need is up at Menagerie Authors as well as an interview on their lovely leather couch on Monday. I have no idea what they plan for me, but I’m sure it will be revealing. And of course I’ll be talking about my books.
In the writing realm (because, oh yeah, that’s what I’m supposed to be doing), I continue to work on Bonded by Pride, the second in the “Shifting Bonds” series. Aaron Wallace has been working with Cole in the last two stories. I thought it was time he found his own true love.
I’ve got a couple of other things in the works and hope to have some news on that soon. Hope you all have a wonderful week and I’ll be seeing you around the internet.
I don’t do this very often, but I just finished edits on my newest book with Ellora’s Cave. So I thought I’d share with you thirteen reasons you might like to read my debut novella with them, Divine Deception.
1. It takes place in a vineyard in western NY. And to add credibility to the story a had to suffer through a whole bunch of hands-on wine research. 😉
2. There’s a really sexy, naughty boy hero, Nicholas Gradin IV who drives a motorcycle.
3. It’s a Nina Pierce novella, need you ask if there’s hawt monkey sex? Ummm. only like every time you turn around. *g*
4. Everyone’s got a secret.
5. Francesca Santerre is one kick-ass heroine who has an agenda all her own!
6. It’s my first story with a new publisher and that always makes a book special! (Yeeeeaahhh … this guy has nothing to do with that, I just wanted to add in some eye candy.)
7. Did I mention there’s some crazy outdoor loving in this story? (Oh, I did? Well, it bears repeating.)
8. Nicholas wants to sell the vineyard …
9. Frankie wants to make sure it stays in the family …
10. Both of them will do anything to get their way!
11. There’s a whole cast of other characters that get in the way of Frankie and Nick’s goals. (Okay, not exactly these guys, but take my word for it … there are other people in this novella.)
12. It’s a romance … of course there’s a happy ending!
13. I couldn’t do a Shameless Thursday without including this cute little trailer … now could I?
Divine Deception was so much fun for me to write. This couple doesn’t want to like each other, but when their sex becomes hot and heavy, their hearts can’t help but tangle in the deceit.
EXCERPT:The moment he’d arrived on the property, Nick had lived up to his playboy reputation, letting her hit on him in the field. The lame excuse about Joseph had been as obvious as the erection tenting his Levis. She had no doubt he knew the man was terribly ill. Well, she’d gone for broke and melted in his presence like some love-struck teenager drooling over her first crush. It had been almost too easy. Everything was moving in the right direction. It pissed her off that her body hadn’t gotten the memo about remaining aloof. Though her lips had barely feathered over his, he’d left her panting and weak-kneed as he strode back to his Harley.She turned back to her lab table and the grapes that needed to be assessed for sugar content. “Well, at least he’s not too hard on the eyes.”“What?”
She wheeled around at the sound of Nick’s voice. As if her thoughts had conjured him, he stood there, all six feet of solid danger wrapped in black leather, sucking the air from the room.
“Mr. Gradin, I didn’t hear you come down the stairs.” She was pleased the words were delivered evenly and without a nervous stutter.
“Please, call me Nick.” He slipped his hands into his back pockets and tipped back on the well-worn heels of his biker boots. A silver hoop earring winked at her from below the short crop of hair. Dark spikes, highlighted with bronze framed a strong face and accented the growth of beard shadowing his jaw. He oozed confidence. A sense of superiority sparked in the gold of his eyes but she needed to ignore it or it would just piss her off. Anger wasn’t the angle she was looking for here.
“Have you come to assess the wines?” she asked coyly. “I was just going to do that myself.” Frankie shot a quick glance at the grapes in the baggie then back to him. “Well, after I do the sugar levels on the fruit from the vineyard. I’m thinking we can begin the harvest next week. The pinot noirs are right on schedule. I’m planning on getting the netting out in the next couple of days to protect the grapes from the hungry birds.” The words were tumbling out too fast for comfort and she bit down hard on her tongue to keep it still. A seductress shouldn’t be nervous.
The man stared at her, a smile curving his arrogant mouth. A mouth accented by full lips that could probably bring hours of sinful enjoyment to a woman’s flesh. Well at least her business would also be pleasure. That thought brought a smile.
“There should be a shiraz we’re looking to bottle in the next couple of weeks?” His gaze traveled slowly up the tall rubber boots, over the stained apron covering her thighs and tummy and lingered on her breasts. She held her breath not wanting him to see how hard she was finding it to fill her lungs. With tantalizing seduction, he dragged his eyes to meet hers. “If you wouldn’t mind, I’d love to have a sample.” He arched a thick brow. The double entendre was not lost on Frankie. He was making this so damn easy.
Grabbing two glasses and the wine syringe, Frankie invited him to follow her to the back room. Recessed lighting ran under the edges of the low-hanging ceiling, washing the room in its golden hue. Wine casks lay on their side in the metal framework. These barrels held the wines she had nurtured for years, mixing and tasting until the blend was smooth and full bodied. Now she’d see them bottled and never know the satisfaction of another wine well aged in her own cellar. Frankie swallowed the sadness before turning back and handing the glasses to the man behind her. She pulled the stopper from one of the casks, inserted the thief into the hole, pulled back the syringe and extracted a generous amount of wine.
“How long have you been working with Joseph?” The question was casual but the condescending smile Nick flashed pissed her off.
Frankie released wine from the oversized syringe into a glass rather than over his head and the cocksure asshole in front of her offered the second. “A few years,” she said sweetly.
“It took me years to work the thief. I’m not sure I could do it today without having wine all over the floor.” Nick swirled the wine in the glass and brought it to his nose. “Joseph’s a good teacher. You’re lucky he took you under his wing. He doesn’t open his cellars to just anyone.”
Oh, she wanted to hit him. He acted as if she wasn’t good enough for Mill Tavern wine cellars. Frankie set the thief on the barrel and took the glass from him. Lifting it to her nose, she took a slow, steady breath as if savoring the shiraz’s bouquet but actually using the moment to tamp down her irritation. “He’s been gracious sharing his knowledge.”
One corner of Nick’s mouth curved. “Not blending the grapes I hope.” He swirled the wine in the muted light and watched its fat legs descend the sides of the glass. “I mean, those are family secrets.”
Either he had no idea who she was, or Nicholas Gradin IV thought family had to do with blood rather than sweat, tears and love. She opted to believe the former. “That’s true.” Frankie sipped the wine, tasting nothing but resentment. Sharing her thoughts would get her nowhere, so she opted to focus on the superb vintage in her hands and save the confrontation for another time. “What do you think?” She lifted the glass.
Pulling the burgundy liquid into his mouth, the man closed his eyes and savored it on his palate. She hadn’t known tasting wine could be so sensual, but as he swallowed, Frankie couldn’t take her eyes from the pulse in his throat.
“Full bodied with a rounded flavor of plum.” He paused and sucked his bottom lip into his mouth.
Frankie pressed her thighs together against the heavy ache in her womb. What she wouldn’t give to have that mouth on her.
I am so excited! My first novella with Ellora’s Cave will be released tomorrow, April 28. Divine Deception is part of their “succulent” fruit series.
Today, the stars of this story, Nicholas Gradin IV and Francesca Santerre have agreed to a little interview.
Nina: So you two are here at the Writer’s Block and I see you are holding hands. Was it a love at first sight kind of relationship for you?
Frankie: *a very unladylike laugh*
Nick: Hey, don’t be looking at me. The whole thing was her fault. If she’d just told me who she was from the outset I would have–
Frankie: Oh, he’s so full of crap! He slinked into that vineyard looking to find a vineyard worker who might want to trim his vine.
Nick: Me? I think–
Nina: *shrill whistle* Okay, sorry I asked about your relationship. Next question … something a little easier. How did you come to Mill Tavern Vineyards.
Nick: My great grandfather came over from Germany with nothing but a few grape vines and a dream. He found his way to the Seneca Lake region of New York, bought a plot of land and the rest … as they say … is history. *turns to Frankie* Your turn. This should be good.
Frankie: *eyeroll* What he means is my mother met his father at a casino. When they married seven years ago Nick thought my mother was just using him–
Nick: Tell me how you would have seen it. Sexy young mother toting a snotty-nosed brat on her hip looking to get her green card and a chance at the family estate. *Nick laughs and kisses Frankie*
Frankie: *swats at his arm and giggles* Yeah, well, thank goodness Nick’s grandfather, Nicholas Gradin, Jr. didn’t see it that way. He opened his home and taught me all about the grapes and the vineyard. I’m the one that’s been harvesting the grapes and fermenting them into award-winning wines.
Nina: Nick, you know I have to ask, how are things with your father?
Nick: Better. We’ve still got a lot of fences to mend. I mean it’s not like he’s going to get the “father of the year” award or anything. But he’s at least trying.
Frankie: Nick’s taken over the whole vineyard. Nicholas well…
Nick: He went into rehab for awhile. But hopefully with Carmine’s support, that’s his wife…
Frankie: My mother.
Nick: Anyway, let’s just leave it at better. Next question
Nina: For people who followed my blog they heard me lament over how hard it was to tell your story. You two just didn’t want to cooperate. I’m not sure I’ve had such strong personalities circling each other with the desperate need to be together and fighting it so hard.
Frankie: *hooks thumb in her direction* His fault.
Nick: That’s not fair. Nina, you know I tried to be nice right from the first time we met.
Frankie: Ha. You mean the get in my pants kind of nice.
Nick: Come on, look at this package Nina, what hot-blooded male can resist this. *leans over and kisses Frankie long and slow*
Nina: *clears throat*
Nick: Yeah, well, I was just … trying to be friendly.
Frankie: *blushes* And I was just trying to make sure some money-hungry asshole wasn’t going to take my livelihood out from under me. No offense Nick.
Nina: Anything else you’d like the readers to know?
Nick: Let’s just say you’re going to find our story very hot. Frankie’s an animal in bed.
Frankie: *blushes and swats his arm* Niiiick!
Nick: *laughing* It’s not like they’re not going to know everything tomorrow.
Frankie: True, maybe we should give them a little taste today? Hmmmm?
Nina: And since this is the PG-13 version I’m just going to send these two kids into the pool house and away from your eyes.
Nick: Which way? *pulls Frankie to her feet*
Nina: Right over there Nick, but could you just …
Okay, well, they’re gone and from the sparkle in Frankie’s eye, I’m thinking they’re gonna be a while. I guess that means the interview is over. So I’ll just leave you with the hot cover …
and remind you that you can read Frankie and Nick’s story TOMORROW. Available from JasmineJade.com.
Oh, and here’s their trailer …