11 November 2010

Excerpt Thursday: Kristi Astor

This week on Excerpt Thursday we're featuring Zebra author Kristi Astor as she takes us to the Edwardian era with her latest release, A MIDNIGHT CLEAR, set in England in 1909. Join us Sunday when Kristi will be here to talk about this unusual era and to give away a copy! Here's the blurb:

He Was Her Forbidden Fantasy...

Miranda Granger arrives at the spectacular seaside resort The Grandview Hotel to spend the Christmas holidays, hoping it will be just the tonic she needs to forget her scandalous past. But when she crosses paths with Troy Davenport, the alluring stranger she met aboard an ocean liner, Miranda fears she will repeat the mistake that almost ruined her reputation many years ago.

She Was His Greatest Muse...

Troy Davenport has been struggling to paint the stunning woman he encountered by moonlight on the ship's deck. If only he could meet his muse again. When he learns she's staying at The Grandview, it takes a great deal of convincing to let him paint her. But once he begins he realizes he wants more than to capture her unique beauty on canvas. When they surrender to an all-consuming passion, Troy's past threatens to tear them apart--unless a Christmas miracle can save their love...
***

"Kristi Astor transports you to a sensual past filled with intense and passionate characters. Put her on your 'must read' list today!" ~ USA Today bestselling author, Sally MacKenzie

"...An elegantly written, richly sensual historical romance with a fascinating, refreshingly different Edwardian setting." ~ ALA Booklist

***

Troy glanced up at the full moon, then back down at his pocket watch. It was just after midnight. Would she come? She'd said she wouldn't, of course, but he'd convinced himself that she wanted to, that she'd somehow find a way. Wishful thinking, perhaps. But damn, he would give anything to hold her in his arms beneath the light of the moon.

The one dance they'd shared tonight wasn't enough, would never be enough. He wanted more, needed more. He began to pace a circuit at the edge of the woods, his gaze trained on the silvery house in the distance, entirely dark now. He willed her to come, as if wishing alone could bring her there.

Surely she could feel his presence out there, waiting. Hoping. A quarter hour later, he paused his pacing and checked his pocket watch again. Damn. He'd been so sure she'd come, despite her protests. He'd said he'd wait all night, however, and he would. He would stand there till the sun rose.

The breeze stirred, carrying with it the scent of grass, of earth. It felt cool against his skin, bringing with it a hint of autumn. And then he heard a noise--faint yet distinct. A rustling. Just the wind in the leaves, perhaps? He looked toward the house, squinting his eyes, scanning the shadows for movement.

Like a mirage in the desert, a vision shimmered and took shape. Miranda, moving toward him stealthily and silently. She looked almost like a specter, wearing what seemed to be a pale-colored dressing gown, her dark hair loose about her shoulders.

"Miranda?" he called out, his voice a hoarse whisper.

"Shhh," she replied, though she kept moving toward him, her feet seeming to float just above the ground.

For the briefest of moments, he wondered if he was dreaming, if he'd somehow fallen asleep there at the edge of the woods and was now enjoying a lovely dream where Miranda heeded his call and came to him.

Only, it wasn't a dream--she was really there, in flesh and blood. He could feel her warmth as she drew closer, her dark eyes reflecting the moon as she gazed up at him expectantly.

"One dance," she said. "Just like you said. And then I must hurry back to bed."

Reeling with surprise, he opened his arms, gathering her in his embrace. Her skin felt flushed, hot to the touch as he wrapped his arms around her waist, drawing her closer.

She reached up to wrap her arms about his neck, laying her cheek against his shoulder. For several minutes, they stood just like that, not moving a muscle. And then he couldn't stand it any longer--he had to feel his fingers in her hair. He combed it back from her face, marveling at the texture, at the heady scent of lavender that wafted up from the deep chestnut strands that slipped through his fingers like silk.

The breeze stirred, ruffling the hem of her dressing gown, exposing one pale ankle for the briefest of seconds. She was barefoot, he realized with a start.

"You look like some sort of goddess," he murmured. "I'll never get this image out of my head. I'll have to paint it, as soon as I return to the cottage."

His fingers skimmed over her sides, up to her shoulders, and he felt her shudder in response. "What about that dance you promised?" she asked, reaching for his hand, placing the other at her back.

His eyes never leaving her face, he nodded, burning the image into his brain. He'd never seen her more beautiful, never wanted to forget the way she looked at that very moment. And then he started to hum, low and quiet beside her ear. Clair de lune, the piece they'd agreed was the most beautiful one ever written. Slowly, he began to move--a leisurely waltz, turning her beneath the stars, the moon, the heavens. His heart kept time, thumping against his ribs as he gazed down at her in wonder, wanting this moment to last forever.

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