What am I thankful for? That it's Thursday and I get to show off a snippet of my work, right?
Seriously, I'm thankful for many things, but near the top of the list is being a member of Petit Fours and Hot Tamales, and all my blog sisters. It's been a great year and I'm looking forward to another one.
I'm also thankful for romance, wherever you can find it, between the covers of a book or in real life.
In that spirit, here's an introduction to my excerpt.
* * *Miranda's Rights is a romantic suspense series featuring a kick-butt heroine with a mission and a painful past she's struggling to escape.
In the first book of the series, following a flimsy clue, hardened loner Miranda Steele travels to Buckhead, Georgia -- one of the swankiest spots in the nation -- in search of the child who was stolen from her years ago by her abusive husband.
There she meets the sexy, wealthy Wade Parker, Atlanta's top private eye and ends up going to work for him.
While Miranda and Parker investigate the murder of a thirteen-year-old girl -- a child who Miranda fears might be her daughter, Miranda struggles with her attraction to Parker. After what she's been through, she doesn't need a man. She especially doesn't need a protector, a savior. But the ace investigator is so charming, so darn seductive. And it's obvious he's got a thing for her.
On the night of the annual Policeman's Ball, Miranda and Parker are staking out a suspect when they learn that another young teen has been killed.
They rush to the scene and follow a set of shoe prints into a murky creek near the backyard of a mansion. Parker warns Miranda not to go into the creek. She does anyway and discovers the killer's shoe. She also gets bitten by a baby alligator and passes out. Parker takes the opportunity to carry her to his nearby family estate.
* * *
When Miranda opened her eyes, a strange, giddy feeling rippled through her. Slowly she became aware of low lights from a fancy chandelier sparkling overhead. Was she still at the ball? Hmm. She didn't make a very good Cinderella, did she? Though she'd lost a slipper... or something like that.
She blinked. Long, gray gauze curtains played in a soft breeze from tall arched windows somebody had left open. The sound of cicadas accented their dance. The smell of something southern sweetened the air. Magnolias, maybe. Or jasmine.
She exhaled, closed her eyes. She was lying on something very large and very soft. Hmm. She could sleep forever. Then she moved her foot and felt stabbing pain.
She lifted her head and saw Parker crossing the room, a glass of water in his hand.
She raised up on her elbows and found she was lying on the hugest bed she'd ever seen, atop a comforter of soft, silky, pure white.
"Jackson said you need to be still and rest." Parker handed her the glass.
He had the lights turned down low, but Miranda could see that the room dwarfed the bed. It was much more than just a bedroom.
Walls of soft designer blue, art deco paintings and furniture providing cherry and plum accents. In a corner sat an expensive-looking chair arrangement, like a small living room, waiting for some wealthy pair to park their butts for a little seduction. In another corner, a brass bamboo fountain gurgled as water cascaded down its sculpted lily pads, while a naked Grecian statue looked on. Parker had brought her here for . . . what reason?
"You're lucky St. Benedictine's Chief of Staff was at the crime scene tonight, or you'd have to go to the hospital." His voice was flat, weary with exhaustion.
She swallowed a sip. "No. No hospitals."
"I thought you'd feel that way." He took the glass, set it on the table, crossed the room to what looked like a humongous walk-in closet. "There might be something in here you can wear."
Wear? She looked at herself. The expensive dress Parker had bought her was ruined. "Oh crap," she whispered quietly. But her dress was a small tragedy compared to the one they’d seen tonight.
She lay back down and stared up at the huge chandelier overhead. It was suspended from a domed ceiling of pure white with sculpted molding that reminded her of a wedding cake. She felt like she was floating up to lick the icing. Dr. Taggart must have drugged her. She wondered if Parker had added anything to the prescription.
Parker emerged from the closet. His tux wasn't in much better shape than her dress. His five o'clock shadow was going on midnight.
"These might fit." He set a folded T-shirt and jeans on the bed and sat down beside her. His gaze ran over the length of her. His probing look was darned evocative. When he got to her foot, he shook his head. "I won't say I told you not to follow me into the creek bed."
She smirked. "Then I won't say I wished I had listened." She raised her chin. "Though I did see Van Aarle's shoe first."
He nodded. "You did. That was good work. However, you also need to learn how to take orders." He gave her a sexy half-grin that produced an involuntary rush of titillation.
She saluted him. "Yes sir, boss man. But I saw the shoe first."
He shook his head at her. His sad smile and the fatigue lines around his eyes told her his mind was still on tonight’s heartbreak. Despite his natural charm, he wore the look of an investigator who’d been up half the night hunting down a murderer. Miranda thought of Tiffany Todd's cold, lifeless little body.
"We blew it, didn't we? If only we could have stopped Van Aarle before he struck again." She sat up on one elbow. "Hey, why aren't you down at the station grilling him?"
His gray eyes met hers. "No one can. He's lawyered up."
Parker stood up and straightened himself. "We're both too tired to think straight tonight. Let's get some rest."
"Sure." Wait a minute. "Let's?" She didn't want to admit she felt a tingle of arousal go down her spine, in spite of tonight’s grim events. "And where are you going to be?"
He rubbed the sexy stubble on his chin. "This house has ten bedrooms, as I recall. I should be able to find somewhere to sleep."
He didn't leave. He stood there staring at her, his gray eyes drinking her in, his breathing steady, a stray wisp of hair falling over his forehead. It must have been the drug Dr. Taggart had given her. Almost involuntarily, she reached up and undid the button of his shirt. Before she could get to the next one, he snatched her by the wrists.
"Don't tempt me, Miranda."
She gazed into those knowing, deep gray eyes. "Why not?" she murmured. "You've been tempting me since the first night I saw you."
"Your foot's been hurt. You're drugged."
His intense expression told her what he really meant. Don't write a check with your body that your heart can't cash. Don't get started if you don't want more than a one-night stand.
What did she want? Strange feelings tumbled in her. Tender, sensitive feelings she didn't want to admit to, couldn't sort out. She didn't want to think about them. Or about tomorrow. All she knew was that she wanted Wade Russell Parker the Third tonight.
She wanted him now.
"I don't care," she whispered.