KAREN’S KILLER BOOK BENCH: Welcome to Karen’s Killer Book Bench where readers can discover talented new authors and take a peek inside their wonderful books. This is not an age-filtered site so all book peeks are PG-13 or better. Come back and visit often. Happy reading!
A RING AROUND HER HEART
BY LAURA HALEY-MCNEIL
Giselle Whitloch has no time for love. As a college grad, she’s on track to land her dream Wall Street job. Her great grandmother’s ring gives her strength to pursue her goal. When she doesn’t get the job, she flees to the Crystal Creek Ranch to regain her courage to step back into her job hunting mode.
Niccolo di Saluzzo has been searching for the ring that will save his family–the ring that disappeared from his family’s possessions one hundred years ago. He will pursue the ring even if he has to follow the one woman he can never love to an isolated ranch in Crystal Creek, Colorado. Even if pursuing this woman costs him his life.
Niccolo and Giselle battle over ownership of the ring in a fight that takes them from New York City to Crystal Creek, Colorado, to the Balearic Island of Mallorca, to the pinnacle of love both must deny. But the final battle is waged when they meet the man who plans to destroy them both–all for the possession of a ring with a powerful secret.
A RING AROUND HER HEART
BY LAURA HALEY-MCNEIL
Niccolo di Saluzzo pushed through the throng of the New York nightclub partygoers and searched for Giselle Whitloch who had the one thing he wanted – the ring on the fourth finger of her right hand.
She was the woman he had to see tonight. Yesterday would’ve been better, for his sister’s sake.
The ring didn’t belong to this American woman. Not legally. This woman had no idea of the wealth and secrets the ring held.
But he knew.
Laser shots of blue, yellow, red and green flashed through the club. Mini skirted women and jean clad men bounced around the silver dance floor, their movements jerking like the Wizard of Oz Tin Woodman in need of a lube job.
“Hey, baby.” A tall blonde trailed a manicured nail along Niccolo’s jaw.
Her glittery dress stretched across augmented breasts and hugged rounded hips. Her full lips glistened a subtle pink beneath the flashing lights.
“You want to dance?” She sucked her purple drink through a red straw. Her eyes held the promise of a night that would fulfill his every fantasy.
The stir inside him stopped him like a vaudeville hook. Once that stir had been exciting. Now it was trite, though he still reacted to it. He was used to these looks, especially from women who knew who he was. His gaze swept over her form that could have been naked by the way the dress hugged her about-to-burst breasts, cinched waist, body-shaping encased hips. Her thighs were a mystery, but he’d seen enough thighs to imagine what they would look like.
Her mouth slid into an oversized gap that revealed Hollywood white teeth. She enjoyed that he liked what he saw.
“Some other time.” He pushed past her.
Her sputter followed him through the crowd. Someone as desirable as she wasn’t use to being rejected. Maybe later he would regret rebuffing her. Right now, he didn’t care. There was only one woman he cared about.
The woman with the chocolate brown curls.
The woman with the topaz colored eyes.
He scanned the revelers on the dance floor and at the bar. He could be looking at her right now. If she were wearing the ring, he would know her.
He had to find her. Something hard and ragged stuck in his throat. Tonight, he had to find the woman in possession of his family’s ring.
* * *
Giselle Whitloch followed her redheaded roommate and best girlfriend, Bryce Gregory, through the bumping, grinding bodies at the nightclub. A fog of dance sweat and booze hung above the floor.
“I don’t know why I let you talk me into coming to this crazy place.” Giselle twisted the ring on her finger.
“To get your mind off that disastrous interview you had this afternoon.” Bryce tossed over her shoulder.
“Thanks for the reminder.” It was impossible to hear in this eardrum-bursting place, but Giselle had no problem hearing that ego shattering comment about her post college attempt to enter the workforce.
She had doubled up on credit hours to graduate early. The best graduation present was landing an interview with a supreme Wall Street firm.
The stake through her heart was her father being a no-show at her graduation.
“Why do you get mad at me when I’m only speaking the truth?” Bryce wiggled her hips past a group of men with rock star hair, gold crosses and unbuttoned shirts. She looked them up and down then moved on. “You know I love you.”
“Truth doesn’t have to feel like one of David’s five smooth stones smashing into Goliath’s head.” Giselle grumbled.
The men stared at Bryce until she passed. When Giselle passed, they leaned forward and their mouths dropped open.
One man, two inches taller than Giselle’s five foot four inch frame, stepped in front of her. She skidded to a stop before slamming into his shaved chest that glistened with petroleum jelly.
“Sorry.” Giselle dipped her head and skirted around him.
He stepped in front of her. “Dark curls. I love dark curls.”
He flipped a finger at her wash and wear hair.
She stepped to one side. She didn’t need some creepy man touching her. Through gritted teeth, she murmured, “Excuse me.”
“How about I buy you a drink and then take you to my place?” the man said.
A skittery feeling slithered across her shoulders, A gag rose in her throat. She wouldn’t be caught with him in a grocery store.
“How about you work on your lines?” Giselle ducked beneath his elbow and rushed after Bryce. The only thing worse than creepy men were their creepy come-on lines. They made her want to take a shower.
She was breathless when she reached her friend.
“After tonight, you’ll be raring to go into that interview room.” Bryce climbed the stairs to the nightclub’s VIP lounge. If she realized that Giselle had missed half of her non-pep pep talk, she didn’t show it.
“Bryce, it’s the Saturday before Christmas. No one’s going to be scheduling interviews until after New Year’s.”
Bryce gave that duh shake of her head. “It doesn’t matter when, Giselle. The point is you’ll be ready.”
“I’m ready now. At least, I thought I was. I thought I was ready this afternoon.”
Bryce lifted her shoulders in that way she did whenever she lost interest in the conversation. With two fingers, she pulled out a one hundred dollar bill from her quilted purse embossed with the hooked Cs and pointed it at the hostess.
The young woman wove her way through the jumble of techno colored lounge chairs.
“We want to sit on the balcony.” Bryce nodded toward the plush seats suspended over the dance floor.
“I’m so sorry.” The hostess, her dark hair anchored with chopsticks, bowed her head. “That section has already been reserved.”
“By whom?” Bryce asked.
“I’m sorry.” Again, the nod of the head with the chopsticks swinging forward. “I’m not at liberty to say.”
“Come on, Bryce.” Giselle pulled at her friend’s elbow. “No one’s up here. We can sit anywhere. I don’t know why you always want to sit in VIP. No one else does, and then you get bored.”
“If the balcony’s been reserved, someone’s sitting up here tonight. With all the masses below, I want to sit in VIP. I need a good view.” She pulled two more one hundred dollar bills from her purse and angled them at the hostess. “I want to sit on the balcony.”
The hostess slipped the bills from Bryce’s fingers and tucked them into the V of her dress “Please follow me.” When they reached the balcony, the hostess bowed her head again. “Will you be ordering champagne this evening?”
“The usual.” Bryce strode through the labyrinth of lounge furniture and plopped down on a chair near the rail.
“Could you please bring me a bottle of spring water?” Giselle asked.
The hostess reached the stairs before Giselle finished her question. She hoped the hostess had heard her request.
Giselle sat on the opposite side of the coffee table from Bryce. “I can’t stay late, Bryce. I’m scheduled for an online interview after the holidays, and I need to prepare for that.”
“You don’t prepare for online interviews.” Bryce rolled her eyes.
“This coming from the woman who will never have to interview for a job ever.”
“Of course, I will. Daddy isn’t just going to let me waltz in and take over.” Bryce leaned over the rail. Her gaze narrowed and roamed over the patrons as if she were a scientist examining specimens through a microscope. She stiffened and grabbed Giselle’s arm. “There he is.”
Giselle rocked her head with annoyance and pulled herself to the rail. “There who is?”
“Next to that dancer on the pedestal. You don’t recognize him?”
“There’re twenty dancers on twenty pedestals down there, and hundreds of men standing next to them.” Giselle craned her neck in search of a man she might recognize. She didn’t recognize anyone. “Who is he?”
“I’ve only been talking about him for the past half hour. Niccolo di Saluzzo, the youngest race car driver ever to win three Grand Prix.”
“Since when do you like race car drivers?”
“Since I saw him.”
The hostess placed an ice bucket of champagne on the coffee table and filled each fluted glass.
Giselle lifted one of the champagne glasses and held it out to the hostess. “No champagne for me, please. Could you bring me a bottle of spring water?”
The hostess gave her an I-don’t-understand-English smile, bowed and stepped away.
“Do you think she’ll bring my spring water?”
“Drink the champagne, Giselle. If you get any more wound up, you’ll drill a hole through the floor.” Bryce studied the revelers milling on the main floor.
“I’m not that bad,” Giselle rocked her knees together. She leaned over the balcony. “It’s like looking at ants. All I see are heads. Black, brown, red, blond. Unless someone looks up. . .”
“He’s looking up.” Bryce rested an elbow on the rail and flashed a smile that told the lucky man she found him desirable.
Giselle’s gaze followed Bryce’s. Her eyes locked into green eyes so brilliant they made emeralds look like pea soup. A shiver crept up her neck and locked into the base of her skull. She fell against the back of the chair. Her lungs grasped at sips of air. The need to run outside and inhale every air molecule on the planet clamped around her head.
“He saw us. He’s talking to the bouncer. Looks like we’re going to have fun tonight.” Bryce leaned against the chair back and sipped from the champagne glass.
“Remember, I don’t want anything to do with any guys tonight. He’s all yours.” Giselle twirled the stem of her glass.
“Of course, Giselle, you know I don’t share.” Bryce leaned over the rail again. “What’s taking him so long?”
Giselle dragged her gaze to the man she didn’t want to see. Ever. Her stomach still rocked from the first time she looked into eyes seemed to shoot darts through her dress and nail her to the back of the seat.
“It looks like the bouncer won’t let him come up here.” Giselle’s lungs relaxed, let a sip of air leak in. Let the bouncer keep him busy and away from her.
“The bouncer is going to ruin my whole night.” Bryce waved at the hostess, who approached with eyes cast down to the floor.
“Do you see that man down there?” Bryce flipped her hand toward the stairs. When the hostess nodded, Bryce said, “He’s my friend. I want him to come up here.”
The hostess’ gaze shifted to Giselle. Giselle sank her teeth into her lower lip. Could the hostess see her hesitance to spend the evening with one more of Bryce’s hookups? She had to look on the bright side. Bryce would become involved with Mr. Tall-Dark-Handsome-Filthy rich. No one would notice Giselle. Giselle would make her escape, hail a cab back to the apartment. This plan could work. Giselle would get what she wanted – escape from the nightclub, escape from the man with the perilous eyes.
Eyes that didn’t just look at her. They stripped through her and saw a soul that would ache and writhe if someone knew the truth.
He looked as if he knew the truth.
Laura Haley-McNeil has studied piano, violin, organ and ballet. She has served on the boards of two community orchestras. She currently lives in Colorado with her husband.
Links to Laura’s website, blog, books, etc.
A Ring Around Her Heart (Crystal Creek Series Book 3)
**SPECIAL GIVEAWAY**: Laura will give away an e-book copy of A RING AROUND HER HEART to one lucky reader who comments on this Karen’s Killer Book Bench Blog. Thank you, Laura, for sharing your story with us
Don’t miss the chance to read this book!