Sunday, July 28, 2013

Book Spotlight: Not For Profit by Glenn Shepard, M.D.

Not For Profit
by Glenn Shepard, M.D.

Genre: Medical Thriller
Published by: Mystery House Publishing
Publication Date: June 12, 2013
Number of Pages: 248
ISBN: 9780615765525

Paperback: 248 pages
Publisher: Mystery House Publishing, Inc. (May 5, 2013)
Amazon Link

Kindle Edition
File Size: 489 KB
Print Length: 250 pages
Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0615765521
Publisher: Mystery House Publishing, Inc. (June 12, 2013)
Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
Amazon Link

About the book:

Renowned plastic surgeon Dr. Scott James is charged with murder after two bodies are found at his surgery center. Just weeks before the start of his capital murder trial, Dr. James is approached by a beautiful woman claiming she can help him gain information that would prove his innocence. 

As James hunts down the evidence that might free him, he faces a barrage of threats to his life and liberty—and makes one chilling discovery after another: Corporate corruption. A conspiracy to frame him for murder and for terrorist acts. A secret drone-control operation that takes out targets in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The true identity and intent of his beautiful ally. And a plot to blow up the local hospital and surrounding community.

About the author:

Dr. Glenn Shepard is a retired plastic surgeon who served in Viet Nam, directed his own surgery center for 23 years, and donated his medical experience to the less fortunate, including--most recently--victims of the earthquake in Haiti in 2010...while writing throughout. Not For Profit is his first thriller.

Chapter 1

Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, 6 a.m., Three Months Earlier

“Alpha Charlie, Alpha Charlie, get ready for action!  The target's on the move!”

The words vibrated in Charlie’s earpiece as he sat bolt upright, and flexed his 220 pound, 6 foot 2-inch frame.  He had spent the last four days glued to the monitors, never leaving the control center, even as the other eight members of the Air Force forensics team took brief meal and sleep breaks.  Alpha Charlie was a CIA-hired civilian contractor whose mission in Afghanistan was to control pilotless aircraft and destroy enemy targets.  Ninety six hours ago, he was scheduled to return to his civilian job in America, when forensics identified the Al-Qaeda leader, Muhamed Bin Garza, only 230 miles away in the Mir Ali area of North Waziristan.  He cancelled his flight home.  

It had been two years since they had a positive ID on Bin Garza.  And Charlie wanted blood.  

The notorious Al-Qaeda leader was responsible for the suicide bombing in Mumbai, Amman, London, and Somalia, and had connections to the World Trade Center attack in New York.  Now he was a sitting duck.  He had been spotted while entering a complex of tents and adobe houses adjacent to the mountains and caves.  He would be leaving any moment now.  This was the one and only chance Alpha Charlie would ever have to eliminate Bin Garza.  Bin Garza’s death would be the ultimate notch in his gun barrel.  His job back home could wait.  He had taken out terrorists before, but Bin Garza was the trophy he had been training and waiting his whole life for.  

Alpha Charlie was stationed in one of two identical Quonset huts on the base, both sitting within 50 meters of each other.  In the first hut, the US Air Force forensics team was housed.  Their function was to make the drones airborne, to locate and identify targets, and to land the vehicles when their missions were completed.  Alpha Charlie sat in a single chair in the second hut.  

But this was no ordinary chair.  It was a one-of-a-kind control chair loaded with hundreds of computer systems that required delicate manipulations.  At the end of each armrest were two joysticks, one for each hand. Both were equipped with a dozen buttons, some black and others red, all with separate and distinct functionalities.  Ever since he was 12 years old, Charlie played video arcade games.  He had mastered the games almost immediately, having innately good reflexes and hand-eye coordination.  He also lacked moral qualms... about anything.  After winning several gaming competitions in his late 20s, he was contacted by the CIA and accepted their offer to move from murdering virtual foes to slaughtering real ones.  

The CIA granted him access to a new program which involved piloting drones.  Very quickly, Charlie had learned to operate them as well as the Air Force’s best pilots.  His penchant for video games made his skills acute, and these gaming skills readily transferred to drone operation.  His immediate mastery of the pilotless aircraft meant an underlying talent that many of the professional pilots lacked.  They were readily trainable, but not one had the innate ability to pick up the controls of an aircraft with which they had no experience and so quickly be able to operate it with such a sharp degree of precision.  Charlie had even proven himself to be brilliant under pressure and once he tasted actual combat, he gained a voracious appetite for it.  The thrill of killing a virtual terrorist couldn’t compare to the rush of killing one made of flesh and blood.  

Air Force Colonel Ben Edwards, the director of the operation, ran into Charlie’s hut.  He glanced at Alpha Charlie's hands as they moved the joysticks.  Edwards marveled at how Charlie’s fingers glided over the controls and easily performed maneuvers that his other “pilots” struggled with.

Suddenly Edwards saw it - the blinking red light on the fuel gauge.  One hundred pounds of fuel left.  Seventy two miles of "life" left in the fuel tank, not enough to get the aircraft halfway back to Kandahar.  He screamed, "Charlie!  You're running out of fuel!"  

Alpha Charlie pretended not to hear.  He had already extended the flight time five hours using the updrafts of the mountains to conserve fuel and lowering the speed to 320 MPH, but he was concerned.  An hour ago, he ordered his Global Hawk fuel carrier, yet it was not on his radar screen.  Well, that's a problem he didn't have time for.  

His focus remained locked on the three monitors in front of him.  Screen A showed a scurry of activity in the small, peaceful Haqqui tribal village.  Bin Garza was going for a ride.  That was it!   Charlie's waiting was over.  He leaned forward and watched carefully.  

In the center of the village, a 1960s Mercedes sedan and a 1980s Chrysler New Yorker were parked in front of an adobe house.  Alongside the two cars, a small entourage surrounded three men who had just left the house and were walking to the vehicles.  A dozen cheering villagers reached to touch the men as guards pushed them aside.  On Screen B, the forensics experts focused on the faces of the men and enlarged them.  Screen C showed a broad view of the 5 square mile area surrounding the target.  

Screen A showed the men getting into the two cars, while screen B flipped through stills of the faces.  Then the camera fine-tuned portrait quality images.  Charlie heard excitement build from the other hut, “That's definitely Bin Garza!”  
“And that's his number two, Shakel, with him!  We can get two for the price of one, if we hit 'em now!”  The third man on the screen kept his shumag pulled over his face and was not able to be identified.  

Colonel Edwards shouted across the room, “Alpha Charlie, we have Al-Qaeda's two top men together.  Targets confirmed!  It's now or never.  Get 'em!”  

Alpha Charlie turned to Screen A, the target monitor showing live pictures from the MQ-4A Global Hawk drone he controlled.  This model was the largest and best equipped drone in his fleet, but it was brand new and untested.  It had been airborne for nearly 48 hours and circled the area at 50,000 feet, filming the area where Pakistani intelligence had said these men were staying.  Sweat dripped down Charlie’s brow as he saw the plummeting fuel gauge now reading empty.  

Time was running out.  Charlie focused the camera, centering it on the now moving car.  

A pissed off Edwards looked at Screen C.  “Fuck!  There's a hill!  They'll disappear behind it in 20 seconds!  Charlie, you gotta strike NOW!"  

Alpha Charlie did not respond, but he heard Edwards.  He had one shot and didn't want to fuck it up.  His mental clock ticked down - 20, 19, 18; he remained calm and showed no signs of tension.  His left hand guided a blinking red target square over the car.  With the image of the square fixed to the target, Charlie centered the X.  
CLICK!  The Hellfire missile locked on the Mercedes.  Twelve, 11, 10...

Charlie quickly touched the red trigger button with his thumb and fired the 5 foot long missile which carried over 30 pounds of explosives.  At a speed of 950 MPH, the missile would be paying the Mercedes a surprise visit within 3 seconds.  

But would it get there in time?  

The Mir Ali Village, 6:04 a.m.

A high-pitched WHIRRR, like that of a model airplane, filled the sky above the village.  The driver of the Mercedes looked up and saw the silvery flash of reflected sunlight emerging from the obscurity of the mountain behind.  

As the driver accelerated, he saw the 5 foot long Hellfire missile speeding towards them.  Bin Garza screamed in terror as he gripped the seat of the car and braced himself.  The explosion was tremendous, ripping the men and car to pieces.  

A hundred feet away, the unidentified man in the shumag, Omar Farok, felt his Chrysler bounce around like a toy ball.  The concussion of the impact nearly deafened him.  He watched from the Chrysler as a fireball swallowed up the Mercedes; then, there was only a blinding cloud of smoke and dirt.  
Fortunately for Farok, his driver was familiar with the terrain of this village and the Chrysler instantly turned left onto a mountain path dodging around three trees.  As the Chrysler slammed to a halt, a petrified Farok dove out of the car and ran into a mountain cave.  He sat trembling in the cave as he watched another Hellfire missile devour the Chrysler in a ball of red flames, engulfing his driver as he tried to escape.  

Farok’s voice echoed inside the cave, “American pigs, I swear on Allah's blessed name, you will pay for this!"  
The Kandahar Drone Control Center, 6:05 a.m.

Col. Edwards and his forensics team cheered!  

But Alpha Charlie did not celebrate, even as the refueling aircraft in the sky above saved his drone from sputtering to the earth on its last pound of fuel.  Sure, Charlie was pleased about the millions that he had made from this kill.  This extra money would allow him to shift his drone control station and missiles back home and continue his missions from there, but still, he wasn't about to jump up and down and cheer.  He'd done his job.  

He stood as bottles of Dom Perignon were uncorked.  Without fanfare, Charlie grabbed a drink and downed it.  Then, he poured himself another.  

As he swallowed, he thought to himself, ‘All in a day's work’.  

Chapter 2

The Surgery Center, Jackson City, N.C., 7 p.m., Three Months Later

If you were to walk into my cosmetic surgery office, you’d see that I designed a space that is healing, orderly and serene.  There are no crystals or there is no new age music playing, but there's a little waterfall and many of the walls and open spaces feature my favorite flower – the orchid.  

My orchids are always resplendent with gorgeous colored blooms – hot pink, deep magenta, white with mauve spots.  I care for all the plants myself by watering them, limiting the amount of sunlight, and constantly measuring and altering the composition of the soil.  In my office, you’ll always find a colorful Doritaenopsis.  

My favorite is the pure white Phalaenopsis to the left of the waterfall.  When I first opened my office, a patient sent that to me, but it was solid blue -- an unnatural color for an orchid.  I sensed that someone blue-inked the roots, like the blue roses in Kipling's poems.  Saturating a flower in ink always seemed wrong and angered me in the same way that a bad facelift did.  In my mind, there were absolute rights and wrongs in this world.  A person's face shouldn't be stretched so tight that their eyes and lips get distorted, and a white orchid should remain pure white.  

I became obsessed with that Phalaenopsis, nurturing it (in a back room, of course) until it bloomed again and this time, it was the purest white of any orchid I ever had.  I look at the broken pieces of Orchis sitting in my waiting room every day and I try my best to put her back together.  And most of the time, I succeed.  Except today.  Today was not going so well…  
"Why's it taking her so long to recover from the anesthetic?" I asked as I removed my surgical gown and gloves.  I arched my back, stiff from bending over so much.  After 12 hours of surgery, I was exhausted.  I’d just hit 40 and I was really starting to feel it.  

I smiled at my anesthesiologist, Dr. Boyd Carey.  "Two face lifts, two liposuctions and three augmentation mammoplasties is enough for one day."  

Dr. Carey did not return the smile.  He looked over his half-frame glasses and shrugged.  "If you hadn't bowed to Keyes' ridiculous demand to keep her privacy by sending your two nurses home early, her "auggie" would have only taken 45 minutes."  Carey was a thin vegan who would’ve probably been happier if he ate a burger once and awhile.  Fine wrinkles in his 45-year-old dark skin made him look 60.  

I took off my surgical cap and finger-combed my hair.  "Come on now, Boyd.  Relax.  Hey, at least we aren’t working in the tobacco fields.”  

“Oh God, you’re not going to start in again on your childhood stories of slaving away in the fields to pay for college—"  

“I could if—"  

“Please, spare me.”  

Carey turned to the patient for a minute and then tilted his head back and faced me again.  "No.  She's still sound asleep.  And that's another thing, Scott.  We should have given her Propaphol, like we do on all our patients.  She'd be awake by now. But no! You always grant all your patient's every wish and kiss their surgically-raised asses."  

Ethel Keyes had been my office manager for the past two months.  She was a hard worker with a sweet personality; everyone who came in contact with her liked her.  I had never before employed anyone who so quickly endeared herself to everyone.  And it probably didn't hurt that she was a 32-year-old blonde who looked like a high fashion model.  

Just a few days ago, Keyes had confided to me that she always felt uncomfortable with her body as she thought her breasts were too small.  She had done such a great job in the office, revamping my billing system, changing the office health insurance to a less expensive and more comprehensive plan, and computerized all my office records, that I offered to do a breast auggie surgery for her - pro bono.  

However, it was a mistake.  Beyond the ethical issues involved in operating on employees, she proved to be a difficult patient from the beginning: refusing Propaphol as her anesthetic because it killed Michael Jackson; forbidding the use of the second best medication, intravenous Versed, because she didn’t like its amnesic properties, and insisting on an older style of anesthesia, Valium and Demerol, but in reduced doses.  

She argued that she was sensitive to all sedatives.  Sure enough, it took only 2 mg of Valium and 50 mg of Demerol to knock her completely out.  Most people required 10 mg of Valium and 100 mg of Demerol with touch-up medications given as the patients got "light".  No additional drugs were needed today as she slept soundly.  And kept on sleeping even after the procedure ended and Dr. Carey and I waited ... and waited for her to wake up.  

I leaned over the OR table and tapped her cheeks lightly.  "Ms. Keyes, Ms. Keyes, can you hear me?"  

Her response was a snore.  

I clasped my hands behind my back, pressing on my tired paraspinal muscles.  My perpetual smile turned to a frown.  

Dr. Carey growled, "She hasn't had enough sedation to hurt a fly.  You should just go home.  I'll watch her until she wakes up.  At least one of us should be able to enjoy this evening."  

"No.  I'm not leaving until she's awake."  

"Fine.  Go into your office.”  Carey reached out, cupped her left breast and with a smirk uttered, “I’ll keep you abreast of everything here.”  

"Jesus, Boyd, get your hands off of her.  She’s under for Christ’s sake!"

"Alright, Sir Galahad, guardian of fair maidens.  Go get some coffee and I'll call you when she's awake enough for discharge.  It shouldn't be long.”  

I hesitated before leaving the room.  "I'll be in the waiting room.  Call me and I'll be back in a second it there's a problem."  

As I left the OR, I pulled out my IPhone and called my wife, Alicia.  I told her of the situation with Keyes.  

She answered, “Alright, do what you have to.  But there's always something to keep you there late.  The boys wanted to see you and--- I'll put the boys to sleep and keep your tuna casserole hot in the oven," she sighed as she continued, "Again!"  

I walked to my waiting room to talk to Anna Duke, the friend that was to pick up Keyes after surgery.  But when I got there, she wasn't there so I sat down on the sofa and relaxed.  

This room is my favorite part of the office.  It’s got a huge skylight, custom stereo, a waterfall with a 4 foot drop, and a dozen blooming orchids.  I turned on a Miles Davis CD and flicked on the multi-colored lights that glowed behind the flowing water.  When my architect had told me that it was impossible to put everything I wanted in this room without knocking down all the walls, I paid him his fee and let him go.  

Then I went online, did my research, and installed it all myself.  I'm sure I could have hired someone else to do it faster, but I found that I really enjoyed learning about plumbing and wiring.  In fact, I'd had so much fun doing it, next on my agenda is to buy and fix up an old Victorian house in the low country of the Carolinas one day.  The operative word being "one day" since these days I really couldn't imagine doing much of anything else with my 80-hour work schedule.  

I sat back, smelled the sweet fragrance of his cymbidium and zygopetalum orchids, closed my eyes, and dictated the seven operations I performed that day.  
                                                                           * * * * * 
Meanwhile in the operating room only 30 feet away,  a shadow caught Dr. Boyd Carey’s eye.  Carey quickly turned and saw a light reflect off of something in the air, something swinging at him.  
It hit him hard in the neck, almost knocking him over.  Immediately, he reached towards his neck and felt a painful jab and a burning sensation.  

He tried to turn to face his attacker, but his body wouldn't move.  Again, the hand slammed him with the sharp object.  Carey wanted to lift his arms to protect himself, but they dropped limply at his side.  His legs grew weak.  His muscles quivered uncontrollably.  

His mouth opened to scream, but he couldn't make a sound.  Both knees buckled and his body dropped to the floor.  
                                                                           * * * * * 
I heard a THUMP!  I ran to the OR, opened the door and saw Dr. Carey lying there!  I looked over at the OR table.  Keyes was still sleeping with the monitors showing a normal blood pressure, pulse, and EKG.  I dropped to my knees beside Carey.  There was no pulse.  Jerking the stethoscope from his white lab coat, I listened to his chest.  There was only a faint bump...bump...bump.  I pounded my fist on Carey's chest and listened again.  Placing the heel of my hand on his lower sternum, I compressed the chest six times before blowing into Carey's mouth.  His heart sounds were slow and distant.  

For the first time in my surgical career, I felt panic-stricken.  What had happened?  I'd only been gone a few minutes. 

Quickly, I dialed 911.  "A man's been stabbed.  He's dying!  I need help.  Please send an ambulance STAT!"  

Amazon Buy Links 

Saturday, July 27, 2013

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Thursday, July 25, 2013

Thursday Trailer: James Clyde and the Diamonds of Orchestra by Colm McElwain

James Clyde and the Diamonds of Orchestra

Author : Colm McElwain
Kindle Edition
File Size: 333 KB
Print Length: 257 pages
Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1780880693
Publisher: Matador (March 21, 2012)
Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
Amazon Link

About the book:

Alongside his friends Ben and Mary Forester, James Clyde must protect a powerful diamond from falling into the wrong hands. A strange and sinister man dressed in black is also pursuing the diamond and will stop at nothing to obtain it. James and his friends set off on a perilous journey to return the diamond to its rightful place. But they are being hunted every step of the way by the relentless man in black and his blood-thirsty army. Outnumbered, James finds he must use the power of the diamond to escape their clutches - or become another victim of their murderous quest. So begins a journey that will transport them to an alternative world where they must confront the mysterious man in black for a final, winner-takes-all battle...

About the author:

Colm was raised and schooled in Monaghan, Ireland. He has a BA Hons in PE and likes reading books, watching films and playing sport. He has always loved storytelling, whether through literature or film. James Clyde and the Diamonds of Orchestra is his first novel and brings a very fulfilling creative experience spanning a number of years to an end.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Blog Tour: Training Temptation by Diana Baron


Genre: Erotic Romance
Author: Diana Baron
Publisher: Amazon Digital Services



Caught in a web of deceit, Caroline must run the race of her life to save her family home. Her reputation as the high society owner of the #1 stable for Ponygirls in the world is on the line. And, there’s only one man who can help her win.

Edward Hastings is steamy, passionate, and dangerous. With molten brown eyes and a rock hard body, the notorious playboy could have any woman in the world, but he only wants her. The first time he’d seen Caroline dressed like a pony, he’d been enthralled. Now, nothing will keep him from her.

They strike a deal. He’ll train her if she sticks to his rules. But rules were made to be broken. The moment he slides the bit into her mouth, she knows she’s in trouble. As he ignites a fire in her body and her mind, will she make it through the week without losing her heart to him? Or will she be able to train temptation?


The 1959 Dom Pérignon Rosé soured in Caroline’s mouth. “I’ve only missed one payment. I don’t see how the bank can start foreclosure proceedings.”

Anton reclined on the plush sofa and laced his hands behind his head. “Banks can begin the foreclosure process the second you miss a payment.”

She gazed into the flames slithering in the fireplace. “I’m going to catch up on my payment as soon as the race is over.”

His lips curled into a smirk. “I’m offering to buy you out.”

“You can’t put a price on this estate.” Her mother would shudder in her grave. Caroline imagined ancestral specters looming amongst the towering bookshelves in her library glaring with disapproval.

He oozed off the sofa, leaving a deep indentation in the cushions. He towered over her and the wine on his breath nearly gagged her. “Everyone has a price.”

She wouldn’t let him intimidate her. “I’ll never sell.”

His sudden grip on her arm startled her. Leaning close, he whispered, “Everyone has a price. The bank will be all too happy to hand the estate over to me. But maybe we can come to a certain agreement.”

The lecherous glint in his eye told Caroline the type of agreement he had in mind. She yanked her arm from his sweaty grasp then retreated to the far side of her enormous oak desk. When he didn’t follow, a trickle of relief slid down the back of her neck. “So you’re the one pressuring the bank?”

“Pressuring?” He laughed. “They just want to get paid. Money is money.”

“You won’t get this estate.”

“I always get what I want. It’s really only a matter of time.”

“Not this time!”

He pulled an envelope from his tuxedo pocket and dropped it onto the desk. “Let me know if you’re interested in my friendly offer.”

Before she had a chance to say anything, he sauntered out of the room. She crumbled the envelope into a ball then hurled it into the fireplace. The contents didn’t matter. She could never sell the legacy her mother left when she died.

The gilded walls of the study seemed to close in on her. No one could know about the threat. If even a hint of financial strain twisted in the rumor mill, people would stop bringing their ponygirls to her world-class training facility. She’d lose the last thing her mother gave her before she died, Sheridan Estate.

A log cracked and sparks exploded amongst the flames. Her ponygirl Tiffany Rose was her only hope. If she didn’t win the final race, she would lose everything.

Footsteps shushed on the carpet behind her. Caroline jumped as a deep male voice whispered into her ear. “Canapé?”

She spun to face Edward Hastings. The son of the man who’d just threatened her stood before her, grinning.

“What are you doing up here?” The last thing she needed was taunting by her arch-rival. Through the pony circuit they’d know each other for years, but his silly jabs still annoyed her.

“I came to escort you to the ball.” He leaned his hip against the sofa and hooked his thumb into the waistband of his slacks.

Ignoring the way the fabric hung from his hips, she grabbed the precariously balanced tray from his free hand and set it on the desk. The last thing she needed was to be distracted by his delectable body. An occasional fantasy was manageable, but she’d never act on her desire.

“I don’t need an escort.” Caroline’s gaze strayed to the contours of his broad shoulders. A thousand hooves galloped across her heart. The week’s festivities hadn’t officially stated and he’d already ruined her plan to ignore him. And even worse, she’d suddenly forgotten how to breathe.

The corners of his bottomless amber eyes crinkled, a slow smile formed on his sensuous mouth. “You remembered.”

“Remembered what?”

His gaze caressed her body traveling from her eyes, to her lips, to the deep V of her neckline. “Burgundy is my favorite color on you.”

She willed her face to remain passive. “Oh? I had no idea.”

“Denying it makes things more fun, doesn’t it?” He grinned.

Clenching her fist, she fought the urge to slap him. He needed to learn that women were more than just playmates for spoiled rich brats. An assumption he’d clearly learned from his father.

“I have to see to my other guests.” She turned to walk away but his strong warm hand clasped her elbow.

“You know,” he leaned closer to her, “I’ve been looking forward to beating you in the race for, what is it now, the third year in a row? You could say I’ve been chomping at the bit.”

She rolled her eyes and yanked her arm out of his grasp. “When you see Tiffany Rose race, you’ll realize you have no chance.”


“She’s the fastest pony I’ve ever trained.”

“Care to make a little wager on the side?” His eyes seemed to hypnotize her. Maybe that’s how he lured so many women into bed.

“You know the rules, we can’t bet on the races.” She stole a quick glance at his chiseled forearms then averted her eyes.

“It doesn’t have to be money.” The sparkle in his eye implied he wanted something money couldn’t buy.

Caroline swallowed. “What exactly did you have in mind?” The second the words became airborne, she regretted them. Too late to pull them back. The race was too important to let anyone, especially him, cause such a disruption. It wouldn’t help the situation. The bottom line: If her ponies didn’t win, all remaining connection to her family would be lost.

“Well, I think…” His gaze drifted to the door where her maid stood.

“You may enter,” Caroline said.

She sauntered into the room. “Excuse me Lady Caroline, the first guests are arriving.”

“Please show them to the ballroom.”

“As you wish.”

The maid’s curvy hips gave an exaggerated sway as she left the room. Choosing the younger woman for the dressage competition would ensure a victory. The $100,000 First place prize would help, but she really needed to win the final race if she was going to pay off her debt and continue to preside over Sheridan Estate.

Nothing could be done about it now. Guests were arriving.

“I have to attend to a few matters before I go downstairs.” She waved her hand toward the door but he grasped it mid-air.

Brushing his lips across her knuckles, he whispered, “I look forward to a dance.”

A shiver of pleasure slid like sweat between her breasts. The look in his eyes left her speechless. She quickly turned away from him to hide her face.

The soft click of the door closing signaled his departure. She smoothed her palms against the satin on the bodice of her gown. She needed to collect herself and stop acting like a schoolgirl in heat.

Caroline took a deep breath and closed her eyes. She visualized a brook meandering through a valley then released a pent-up breath. Picturing herself in a serene place always helped to calm her. The tension headache threatening to ruin her night eased into a dull ache. She willed the muscles around her mouth to transform from a scowl into a smile. A mask of happiness fell into place. She’d spent years hiding her true emotions and today wasn’t any different.

As she strolled the length of the east wing, the edge of her gown lapped at her ankles. She half expected to find Edward waiting as she rounded the final curve of the hallway. No one stood near the winding staircase.

She dismissed the flutter in her chest as nerves, not disappointment. From the top of the stairs, she looked down at the crowd gathered in the foyer. She waited until her newly arrived guests tilted their faces to look up.

Edward watched from the crowd below as she raised her slender arms. Her stance reminded him of the fountain of Athena in Austria.

Caroline carried herself like a goddess as she addressed the crowd. “Ladies and gentlemen.” Her voice cast a silken spell over the guest who fell silent. “Welcome to Sheridan Estate.”

The crowd responded with enthusiastic applause. She surveyed the room and smiled while slowly descending the staircase. He took a sip of his martini and watched as a group of women adorned in glittering dresses flocked to her. Maneuvering through the crowd, he got within earshot of her conversation. With his back to her, he turned slightly to catch her reflection in the French doors.

One of the men stepped forward to greet her. “Lady Caroline.”

“Senator Garvin, it’s so nice to have you here,” she said.

The senator grasped her hand and brushed his lips across it. “The pleasure is all yours, of course.”

“Of course.” Her silvery laughter echoed through the room as he released her hand.

Edward skewered an olive and jammed it into his mouth. She flirted with everyone but him. This year, no matter what it took, he would charm her into his bed.

“Edward Hastings.” The smooth southern drawl tickled his ears as he turned to face a sultry blonde in a tight black dress. She looked vaguely familiar but he couldn’t place her.

She tapped her long red nails against her whiskey glass. “You never called.”

Where did he last see her? Think. “Darling, I’ve been so busy. I just got in from Switzerland two nights ago.”

Sliding closer, she rested her hand on his shoulder. Her breast pressed against his arm and a subtle musky perfume enveloped him.

She whispered, “You might be able to convince me to meet you on the beach again. But bring a towel this time. You don’t want to scrape your back against the rocks again.”

He instantly remembered the moaning vixen. The scars from that night were still fading and it had been over a year. He smiled. “Slamming me against them left quite the impression.”

“I’m sure it did.”

Over her shoulder he caught a glimpse of Caroline. Would she be a moaner or silent? His eyes caught hers and they gazed at each other over their conversational partners.

“What time should I meet you?” The vixen leaned into him, her hand trailing across his chest.

Caroline frowned and turned her attention back to the senator. Terrible timing, as usual. He tore his eyes from the tight curve of her hip and discretely adjusted his tux to hide his arousal.

“Excuse me. I see the senator has arrived.” He flashed his most dazzling smile then brushed the woman aside.

She sputtered behind him, “Later then?”

“Mmm,” he mumbled as he walked toward his intended prize.

As he crossed the room, he stopped to grab two champagne flutes from a liveried waiter.

Shifting closer to the senator, Caroline gazed over his shoulder at the reflective glass in the French doors behind him. She spotted the reflection of the man staring at her and the smile faded from her face.

She had to get away, fast. “Excuse me senator, allow me introduce you to Prince Franco. He just arrived.”

“Trying to get rid of me so soon?” he joked.

She leaned in and whispered, “Franco just acquired Bareli Enterprises. The announcement will come Monday, but you might want to discuss the details of his intended merger with Denning Corp.”

The senator arched an eyebrow. “Merger? It seems that the prince and I do have something to discuss.”

Attempting to disguise her distress, Caroline played the proper hostess and steered him toward the prince. After introducing them, she turned to escape.

Blend in. She could blend into the party if she hid amongst the other guests in the ballroom. With over two hundred guests at the party, she could avoid him.

Caroline threw open the heavy mahogany doors to the ballroom and her eyes darted around the room. No sign of him. Excellent.

The rhythmic beat of drums and the soulful singing of the sultry woman draped across the piano filled the ballroom with electric energy. Laughter carried through every corner of the enormous room.

A sigh escaped her lips. She knew he would be here, so why was she nervous about seeing him? Caroline had spent the last five years ignoring him. Not an easy accomplishment. Their particular fetish du jour, sexy athletic women dressed like horses, ensured they’d see each other at almost every event. This week marked the 13th Annual International Ponygirl competition. Everyone who was anyone would be here.

The sound of shattering glass smashed through the ballroom snapping her into the present. Conversations sputtered then roared back to life as the piano singer continued her song. The carnal hunger of the crowed swirled around her. Everyone’s eyes seemed misted with anticipation for the race.

Overwhelmed by the energy in the room, she threaded her way through the crowed to the safety of the kitchen where broken wine glasses littered the floor. The chef barked orders as the kitchen staff scurried to clear the mess.

She leaned over to help pick up a shard from the floor. The glass bit into her hand. Dammit. Pain slashed across her fingers and blood dripped from the wound.

The chef grabbed a clean dishrag and wrapped it around her hand. “Are you okay?” he asked.

“I’ll live.”

“Let me call a doctor.”

“I’ll be fine,” she lied. She hadn’t been fine since Anton’s threat and she wouldn’t be fine again until she was sure she wouldn’t lose Sheridan Estate. Tears formed in her eyes but she blinked them away.

The staff stared at her. She followed their attention downward to where droplets of red stained her dress. She needed to change.

She turned to leave and Edward appeared out of nowhere. “There you are.”

Great. He’d cause an even bigger scene if she didn’t get rid of him quickly. She brushed past him. “Excuse me.”

The chef stepped between them. “Sir, you can’t be in here.”

“It’s okay, I’m a doctor.”

Aware the staff was listening, she lowered her voice. “You never finished med school.”

“It doesn’t take med school to slap on a bandage.”

She thrust her wrapped hand toward him. “Blood is dripping everywhere. Please get out of my way.”

“Wait, let me help you.”

She shoved past him and stomped down the hallway.

“I was pre-med at Stanford,” he said.

She paused. Maybe he could be of some use after all. Avoiding Edward for the rest of the week would be pointless. Why was she trying so hard to avoid him anyway? It wasn’t like he was a serial killer. Men like him were always around the stable with their latest flavor of the week, so why did she get so rattled when he was around?

She stood up straighter and pushed her shoulders back. She wouldn’t let him get to her. “All right doctor, I have a first aid kit in my bathroom but you better behave.”

“I finally get to play doctor with you.” He grinned.

Caroline put her injury-free hand on her hip. “This is exactly why I don’t think you should come up.”

He held his hands up as if he was surrendering. “I promise to be on my best behavior.”

“The only reason I’m letting you come up is because you’re the only doctor here, and I hate hospitals.”

He gestured toward her hand. “From the way it’s bleeding, it may not be minor, but I need to look at it to be sure.”

“Fine.” She could tolerate him for a few minutes.

He remained silent as they climbed the staircase to the third floor. Her room occupied the end of the east wing of the mansion.

“Sit here.” He pointed at her crushed blue velvet settee. Her hand throbbed as he unwrapped the kitchen towel. “The bleeding has slowed considerably but we need to wash it out to avoid infection.”

He grabbed a bottle of hydrogen peroxide, cotton balls and a gauze wrap. His eyebrows furrowed and his lips pressed together. Interesting, he actually seemed concerned about someone other than himself.

“This is going to sting.” He held her hand over the sink and poured the liquid onto the cut.

Shocked by the burning sensation, she yanked her hand back. “Damn, that hurts.”

His expression softened. “I know, but I want to make sure it’s completely disinfected.”

She allowed him to grasp her hand again. His fingers encircled her wrist and warmth spread up her arm.

Their eyes met in the mirror and for a moment, neither of them moved. The corners of his eyes were softer. His full sensual lips relaxed into an inviting smile. She couldn’t look away.

“Thank you.” Maybe there was more to him than just an arrogant playboy.

He dropped his gaze to her hand then brought it up to his lips. As he brushed his smooth lips across her knuckles, he seemed to be searching for something in her eyes. The pain in her hand was forgotten as her heart threatened to explode in her chest.

The tense edge of her mouth relaxed when he looked down to wrap gauze around the wound. “You need to apply ointment twice a day. If you see any redness or swelling, or if the pain gets worse, you need to see a doctor right away, okay?”

In a daze, she nodded.

A twinkle lit up his eyes. “You realize you owe me now, right?”

His question snapped her back to reality. “I’d say name your price, but I don’t think I want to know.” Of course, he wasn’t doing this out of the goodness of his heart.

He sat next to her and turned to face her. “I’ll settle for a kiss.”

She sat perfectly still as he leaned toward her. Her pulse leapt when his fingers grazed her sensitive earlobe as he settled a lock of hair behind it.

He whispered, “You can say no.”

Mesmerized, she wouldn’t stop him. His tongue flicked out darting across his bottom lip. She wanted more than anything in that moment to taste him, to suck and nip at his lips, to tangle her fingers in his thick, luxurious hair.

Intoxicated by the subtle scent of his cologne, she inhaled deeper, pulling his essence into her lungs. Her eyes locked on his face as he shifted closer to her. Closing her eyes in anticipation, she could hear the sound of her breath mingling with his. His wine laced breath caressed her face.

“Excuse me, Lady Caroline?”

She smacked her head against his hand as she jerked back. Scowling at her maid, she said, “Amanda, you need to knock when you enter my chambers.”

“I did knock.”

“Did you wait for a proper reply?”

The maid stared at the floor. “No, Lady Caroline.”

“I should send you to the groom the ponies in the stable this week. What do you want?”

The maid glanced from her to Edward and back to her. “The guests who are staying on the property wish to retire for the night.”

Caroline stood and towered over the maid. “You have the list of who is staying in each room.”

The maid nodded toward Edward, a wry smile crossed her face. “Does he know where he’s staying tonight?”

“He’s staying in the blue room in the west wing, not that it’s any of your concern.” She raised an eyebrow and glared at the maid.

“Should I show him to his room?”

“That won’t be necessary. I was just about to escort him out.”

What was this girl up to? She wasn’t jealous of the maid, was she? The maid excused herself then sauntered out the door.

Caroline turned to him. “It’s been a long night. I trust you remember how to get to your room?”

She struggled to read his expression and it bothered her.

He stood. “I guess it has been a long night. Until tomorrow?”

As soon as he stepped into the hallway, she closed the door. She sagged against the wall as tremors rippled along her spine. The stress of being behind on mortgage payments coupled with the stress of organizing the competition killed the ability to think clearly. She'd fallen right into a trap like all of his other playthings.

About the Author:

Diana began writing the moment she learned how to hold a pencil. By elementary school, she was writing and directing plays for kids in her afterschool program. Over the years, short stories piled up on her nightstand. At night, she could always be found holding a flashlight and a book under her blanket.

She studied writing and literature through high school and into the first two years of college. But then, her fascination with other cultures and religious practices took over. She has degrees in Cultural Anthropology and Comparative Religious Studies from San Jose State University and is published in non-fiction.

After college, her life took an unexpected turn. She's currently a project manager and technical spec writer for a Silicon Valley computer company by day and a daring novelist by night. When she's not tearing up the felt playing at the World Series of Poker, she's traveling to her favorite Caribbean islands.

Her latest book is the erotic romance, Training Temptation.

You can visit Diana Baron’s website at

Connect & Socialize with Diana!

About the Book:

Caught in a web of deceit, Caroline must run the race of her life to save her family home. Her reputation as the high society owner of the #1 stable for Ponygirls in the world is on the line. And, there’s only one man who can help her win.

Edward Hastings is steamy, passionate, and dangerous. With molten brown eyes and a rock hard body, the notorious playboy could have any woman in the world, but he only wants her. The first time he’d seen Caroline dressed like a pony, he’d been enthralled. Now, nothing will keep him from her.

They strike a deal. He’ll train her if she sticks to his rules. But rules were made to be broken. The moment he slides the bit into her mouth, she knows she’s in trouble. As he ignites a fire in her body and her mind, will she make it through the week without losing her heart to him? Or will she be able to train temptation?

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