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Excerpt: Heart

Chapter One



London, England

Day 1

Holly had a plan.

The icy air conditioning in the first-class section of the airliner chilled her to the bone. Holly’s hands shivered as she accepted the complimentary champagne to calm her frayed nerves. The jet sailed out over the deep blue Pacific Ocean, turned north to Greenland, and headed toward England.

Holly searched in her Louis Vuitton carry-on, for the Cable Music Television (CMT) business card with the London contact. Where was it? “Howard, that’s right,” she reminded with relief, straining to remember the rest of her instructions. Howard, the driver, would pick her up and a man named  Hunter was all she recalled of the London CMT representative’s name.

Her stomach stirred with a light excitement she wouldn’t have expected as the plane started its descent. It pierced the pure white cloud cover to reveal spacious green hills, child-sized brick structures, then landed at Gatwick airport.

“England,” she whispered.

Holly cleared customs with butterflies dancing in her stomach and searched for her name scrawled on a card. So many people met the plane with nameplates, but none spelled out Holly or Hill. She’d taken for granted the picked up would happen without problems.

“How could I do this?” she complained aloud, remembering this wasn’t all a vacation. Holly sighed while wandering to the front of the terminal. A white Bentley touring car sat with a sign posting a familiar name, HOLLY HILL.

The tall, gray-haired chauffeur introduced himself as Howard and loaded her Louis Vuitton carry-on, and satchel into the trunk. As she stepped into the luxury car, a man caught her eye. Not a suspicious man, and not any man, this man looked like he’d walked off a Hollywood movie set. A tan Fedora hugged his head, securing long, straying, strands of silver-blond hair that blew wildly in the brisk breeze. The stranger’s shoulders filled a well-worn, chocolate-brown bomber jacket. His long, lean legs were clad in tan Dockers, his feet covered in Rochnocs hiking boots and he carried a worn leather briefcase. As he bent his tall form to enter a classic olive-green Jaguar, he paused.

The moment froze in time.

She was delighted.

She’d captured his attention, as his purposeful stance pierced hers. His drop-dead, gorgeous face filled with an expression of surprise, but his eyes, hidden by reflective Ray Ban sunglasses, concealed his thoughts. A happy, elegant smile curled about his lips as if he unexpectedly recognized her.

A searing heat flushed her cheeks because she couldn’t turn away. The handsome stranger pulled on the front brim of his hat to acknowledge her, bathing her in his generous smile. He bent gracefully and disappeared into the rear of the car.

“England,” Holly whispered.

“New beginnings….”


Chapter Two


Holly rubbed the back of her neck wondering if she should marry Brett Templeton. He’d proposed, and she’d accepted. She wondered if she could move forward with the engagement, set a date, and be sealed to a miserable fate with no chance of escape. Or, should she say no?

That question had pushed her to England. Hours ago, she would have thought not. Magically, the vision of a beautiful stranger in the airport provoked a new feeling — hope. More importantly, his radiant smile and attractive image had created explosive carnal stirrings she’d never felt for Brett.

The enchanting English sky was laced with fog like in the majority of fairy tales. A light breeze playfully danced in the trees as a greeting — her vacation in Jolly ‘ld London was officially underway. No one could find her, not even Brett. A sweet peace washed over her because the plan, to get out of L.A., worked perfectly.

The strong scent of fish and chips stopped her at the corner. She discovered a pub and went in to dine. She washed the tasty morsels down with dark ale as if an elixir to soothe her jet-lagged nerves. She decided it was time to venture out, explore London, because, in two hours she had to meet-up with Howard. She stepped onto the sidewalk. Her legs were wobbling from downing a large pint. She smoothed out her tawny, Donna Karan, silk mini-dress, with matching tailored jacket and threw her black Prada bag on her shoulder. The suit fabric was thin, and she shivered from the chill of the afternoon making her think about warmer clothes and a shopping spree. She covered her forehead to shade her eyes. A harsh flash of the blinding sun was suddenly set free from a cold blast of a frolicking breeze that danced around her whispering a sweet promise of freedom.

The toe of her gray Yves Saint Lauren heel barely touched the pavement of the street when she missed the curb, stumbled and fell. From nowhere a firm hand gripped her upper arm and jerked her to its owner. The sunlight spilled a brilliant golden backdrop. Evidently, she was standing in the presence of her guardian angel.

A British accent flowed from his lips as music.


So urgent was the familiarity of which he spoke the name, she wished she were Carrin.

“Forgive me. I meant Miss! You need to be careful,” cautioned the charming voice, with a clear English accent.

Without warning, a concert of car horns spat angrily at her. The jolt of noise frightened her. She jumped forward, shoving her body into his, and her head crashed against his firm chest. One of his hands quickly braced the base of her head, holding her oh, so close.

The commanding male voice assured, “Don’t be afraid,” as he pressed his warm lips against her ear.

Holly welcomed his protective arms surrounding her waist, pulling her tightly against his warm, firm, slender physique. She leaned into his gentle hands that inched their way about her back exploring her like a familiar map. She grabbed his trim waist to balance. His voice was touching her again, a deliciously dreamy voice.

“You’ve been drinking?” he remarked, adding a tiny laugh — his tone of voice and words, merely an observation to explain her dangerous behavior.

Holly stammered, “I had English ale.”

“Oh, you’re American!” he confirmed as if laughing at her naivety, because of the strong potency of the brew.

The stranger held her closer, and she was his willing captive. His hard, invincible body molded to perfection into her curves. The rich scent of Italian leather accentuated his masculinity.

His hands came to rest firmly in the middle of her back.

“I see. No one has told you English beer is stronger?”

The blinding light forced Holly to turn her head away as she squinted to see him. “No, no one,” she admitted, squirming to pull her hand free to shade her eyes, and get a clearer picture of this angel incarnate. While she took a step backward, the gentle English voice swamped her again, as his arms embraced her tighter preventing no escape. She leaned in as his chest expanded, taking in a deep breath as he lifted her. She was flying.

When her feet touched the ground, her forehead dropped onto his fresh, scented chest, in the way of a long lost lover. Dark blond hair peeked out from his crisp, forest-green, cotton shirt. She caressed his chest with her cheek and relaxed against the length of him, nestling in closer because he felt good, safe, and right.

Holly lifted her chin, and her eyes filled with joy as she followed the long line of his smooth neck, inventing ways to press her lips against his inviting golden flesh and taste of him. It had been too long since a man felt this good — if ever. This man was perfect.

For heaven sakes, she chided herself. Stop this foolishness. He might be married with ten kids!

She didn’t care as he moved in even closer. His fresh, clean scent trapped her, and a tiny groan vibrated inside his chest as his warm cheek nestled in her neck.

“Mmmm, you smell so good,” he whispered.

Her mind clouded. No man ever spoke to her this way. The ways she dreamed a man did when his desires were aroused. He wasn’t married, judging from the way this man held her — not this man. She glanced up as a cloud blocked the bright rays of the sun to reveal him. “It’s … you,” she stammered. Here he stood, tall, and shockingly handsome, the beautiful vision from the airport. She spoke in a low tone.

“It’s you.”

A puzzled expression narrowed his brow. “Forgive me, Miss. Are we acquainted?”

Holly bit her lip. Close to making an even bigger fool of herself, she would rather die than confess she’d fallen into instant, sinful lust at the sight of him. She squinted to focus in on his face. Oh, what a face, it was, with succulent lips, she longed to kiss.

The stranger lifted one dark, blond eyebrow above the top of his sunglasses.

She stifled a smile picturing his expression to be like a pensive English schoolmaster.

“Yes. I remember the airport.” As icing on the cake, he added, “I wished you were in my arms, then. I never dreamed my wish would come true.”

Surely, her cheeks must be red because she burned with embarrassment. No, she reassessed. She burned with red-hot desire as she sank deeper into the stranger’s arms as if fingers into a custom fit glove. She stole a short, ragged breath, aware of the power and magnetism of this man. Another heated rush flushed her cheeks, and it stung.

“I need to get back to my hotel.” That was dumb. It was not an invitation for him to go with her to the hotel room as it sounded — as she wanted. She added, “…to freshen up a little.”

“If you don’t mind a suggestion, a walk in the cool breeze might help to refresh you. And if I’m not intruding, may I walk with you?” He dropped his black Ray Ban sunglasses to perch on the edge of his nose.

There they were, dreamy blue eyes sparkling with delight and daring her to join him. Where was the strength to say no to his bright baby blues, which dared her ‘join me in an adventure,’ that might change her life? She wanted to explain she’d follow him anywhere. But she did not want to appear too eager and run off with a complete stranger.

Brett flashed in her mind. He was so blind to the fact that she would ever think of running away from him to England, so far away from his watchful eye. And he’d never believe she might become interested in another man.

No, this was a moment of reckoning. Would she go with him? Holly squeezed in a breath and eased back.

“Trust me,” he coaxed, “I would consider it an honor to go with you.” He hesitated. “Forgive me, a beautiful woman as you must be expected?”

Holly shook her head, letting him interpret there was no one.

His eyes brightened. “May I persuade you to come with me? Nothing compromising, on my English honor,” he vowed with a glint of mischief in his eyes.

Compromising. English honor.

Holly looked straight into his flawless, suntanned face. His Fedora crowned his head perfectly. The hat and high collar of his jacket hid the exact length of his hair. Long, wispy locks blew freely about his chin. Her knees weakened at the sight of him. She hoped he was an English Rogue, and would abandon all decorum, and honor, and wildly ravish her.

Strangely confused by her conflicting emotions, she abruptly cooled, catching hold of herself and her lusty reaction to him. Even after seven lonely years with Brett, she wasn’t desperate, well, perhaps deprived. Still, she’d never let on to him.

“No? Come, I’ll walk you back to your hotel.” He invited, dazzling her with a smile worthy of any billboard in Hollywood.

“Perhaps a walk would refresh me.” She acknowledged, surrendering to those angel eyes that promised her a better time than she would ever imagine.

He wasn’t moving and she stood locked in his embrace, her lips were inches from his.

Mmmm. To savor those perfect lips, so ripe, designed for kissing over, and over again. So damn sexy.

Her longing flared followed by a deep burn.

“Yes,” she agreed, shook her head clear, and inhaled a breath of cool air. “Let’s walk.”

The handsome stranger pushed his sunglasses back into place with a brown leather-gloved finger. He stepped ahead of her a generous stride. Just the motion of his muscles moving under his tan Dockers ignited lusty feelings even deeper inside her. What was happening to her? She had never been so instantly attracted to a man.

He motioned to her to join him, saying, “Where in America do you call home?” A broad smile covered his face, revealing straight white teeth.

“California, Hollywood.” She offered, postponing her examination of his body, moving quickly to catch up with him.

She came up alongside him, and when he smiled, he lit up the world.

“Smashing place, I’ve recently relocated there, a new job an’ all.”

That news put a grin on her lips. This man had prospects. The brown Pineider leather briefcase, he clutched, was the same model as Brett’s that carried important briefs and Brett’s cost thousands of dollars. Of course, Brett’s was spotless. As a lead attorney at a respected law firm in Beverly Hills, he meant to impress. This stranger’s briefcase was worn as if it had seen many business deals.

The handsome stranger interrupted, asking, “Are you in London on holiday?”

Too embarrassed to let on she was taking a break from her fiancé who was pressuring her to set a wedding date or the real reason, Holly highlighted her professional assignment. She hoped that would produce the least questions. “I’m here doing research, for a law firm I work at in Beverly Hills.”

“Brilliant! Perhaps one day you can tell me where the fun places are in Beverly Hills?” he exclaimed with a promise of seeing her again.

Holly pushed a full, satisfying grin to her cheeks. Fantastic. This man likes adventure. It was about time things went her way. She laughed softly.

“I’ve said something to amuse you?” he asked and smiled for a moment before his beautiful face conveyed bewilderment.

Through the dark lens of his Ray Ban glasses, she saw his eyes cloud with confusion. “No!” She rushed to apologize. “I’m sorry. It’s … I work so much. I don’t have any idea how to have fun. I wish I did.”

He looked at her pensively for a second. A warm smile relaxed his sun-kissed face, he suggested, “Maybe we can remedy that. When I return, we’ll find the fun places together?”

Holly noticed the mischief in his blue eyes hidden behind the black glass lens as they locked onto hers. He was making a future date with her, and she didn’t know his name. She was transfixed, unable to take her eyes off him. Mesmerized by his impulsive proposal, Holly stumbled on a raised crack in the sidewalk, forcing her to break her fall by latching onto his forearm.

“Here, Miss? We’ve made plans for the future, and I don’t know your name. Although after holding you, I have a sense I’ve always known you. What do your close friends at home call you?”

“Holly,” she offered, regaining her footing.

“What a lovely name,” he replied, and after a long pause.

“Here, take my hand to steady you.”

She reached out to the well-mannered Englishman as he slipped his hand around hers. Once again, electricity passed from him to her. He was unbelievably reserved on the outside, but the energy flowing through his gloved hand was hot. What was she going to do with this handsome stranger? She tried to calm her shaking hand.

“Here, what’s this? Everything’s all,” he reassured.

Where have you been?

Holly’s Prince Charming guided her down enchanting, cobblestone streets, she never saw. They passed carts, brimming with the flowers in bloom, architecturally beautiful churches with magnificent stained-glass windows, and quaint boutiques, she wouldn’t remember, because she was blinded by this man’s chivalry and hopelessly lost in his enchanted spell.

During the comfortable silence, Holly briefly wondered what Brett would presume if he saw her now? Here she was walking hand-in-hand with a man who had devastating good looks. Nothing like Brett’s GQ features because this man didn’t have that contemptible self-confidence, better yet the conceit, Brett exuded around women. This man’s gait was not one of arrogance. In fact, he seemed to avoid attention, but he must realize the disturbing effect he had on females. He walked reserved and perhaps too self-composed, for her immediate liking. He wore the culture of an Englishman judging how he had come to her rescue. Vivid, sensual images of him flashed in her imagination. Pictures of the two of them playfully rolling about on her bed, skin-pressing skin, locked in his hot embrace. The thoughts left her breathless. Struggling to regain any sense of decorum, she squeezed his hand. “I’ll be fine after you tell me your name,” she spoke with a quiet voice though she didn’t care who he was. All that mattered was that he was here.

“I beg your pardon, Holly. Your beauty and charm have caused me to forget my manners. My name is Luka.”

Luka, so European. It fits him perfectly, like everything else about him.

“Holly.” She heard him say but hadn’t answered. She already loved to listen to him pronounce her name with his ravishing British accent, his cadence, and pronunciation, so easy to understand.

“Holly?” Luka repeated. “Which hotel are you registered?”

“The Kensington Arms. Somewhere close to here. I’m confused.”

“Yes, it’s over two streets.” He motioned, with his head, pushed his hat back off his forehead, and smiled. “What do you bloody well say I ring you later this evening? Take you to dinner?” His head remained half-cocked, and his lips wore a boyish grin. Nothing else about him was boyish — he was one hundred percent man.

That sounded perfect, what she hoped. But how safe was it? Her cheeks burned because of her inexperience with men, and he was a stranger. She responded, “I’m sorry. I have people to meet. I don’t have my schedule, or what is planned until I check-in with them,” she lamely offered.

Sensing her discomfort, he puts her at ease. “As do I, tonight I’m up against the same problem, pressing business. You are aware we will be jet-lagged and awake when all of London is asleep. Perhaps you would allow me to ring you when my business is finished. Give me a chance to change your mind?” Once again, his boyish grin shined in anticipation.

There was no use pretending she’d ever refuse Luka. But her hesitation caused his sunny smile to wane. Luka turned and pulled her closer to his chest. The disappointment in his eyes gave him away. He didn’t want to leave her. It was working. He was fueling those vivid images in her head, the ones with her legs wrapped around him making, sweet love. The fiery strength of the swirling pictures scared her, forcing a flush of heat, causing a dizzy, eruption of feelings to ripple from head to toe.

“There’s a pub that stays open late. Perhaps we might eat, talk, and I promise I’ll take you back to your hotel straightaway before the jet lag kicks you in the back of your head.”

Talk, she wanted more than talk. Holly took a bold step toward Luka, oh, so close. She hesitated, wanting to place her hands on his chest, wondering if she should, then did. “When do you think your business will end?” she asked as moisture laced the inside of her palms from the heat radiating from Luka’s chest.

A slow smile curled at the corners of Luka’s lips, understanding her intent and explained. “Well, I have time restraints. I’m free to call as early as midnight?”

“Midnight?” she said quickly, regretting she hadn’t stopped herself from exposing her disappointment with the flat tone of her voice.

“Too early? Late?” He responded as his eyebrows rose to wrinkle his forehead.

“No … it sounds like a fairy tale.”

“Not quite,” Luka reassured her. “Midnight was the end of the fairy tale. For us, that is the beginning…”


Chapter Three


Parked at the curb was the white Bentley. Howard stood waiting as promised. Holly stepped into the car — her coach. Her makeup was perfect. She’d secured her long, copper-cellophane-tinted hair, half-up, using a gold clip. She’d allowed the rest to flow down around her shoulders, falling to her waist over her garnet lace-trimmed camisole, that framed her plump breasts. She wore no jewelry, with a white, tailored, mini skirt suit by Anne Kline, gray heels and carried a black Prada bag.

“I love this royal treatment,” she declared as Howard drove her past many brick cities to the outskirts of London. She thought back to the events leading to this whirlwind vacation. Yesterday, she had been quietly sitting at her desk at the law firm. Her confidential assistant, Lucy, had cautiously approached her wearing an oversized, plum knit top, over black leggings.

“Holly, I have to confess.”

“Yes? You have my attention.” She set the new case file aside.

“You have been under an awful strain since the Collins murder trial ended. A few weeks ago, I followed an impulse, believing nothing would come of it, and that later we’d have a laugh. Still, I’m not sure you will like what has happened.”

Holly sat back in her chair listening, wearing a puzzled expression on her face.

“I was at Tower Records on Sunset Blvd. and discovered a contest that CMT was sponsoring. For the first time in music history, they are underwriting the return of the super band Hurrikaine, and their new world tour Lost Dreams … Lost Illusions.”

“Interesting? I’ve heard of Hurrikaine. Everyone has, but I don’t remember any of their songs. What does Hurrikaine have to do with me?”

Lucy hesitated before answering. “Well … I filled out an entry ticket for each of my girlfriends, and I added one for … you.”

Exasperated by the story, Holly asked. “Again, what does any of that have to do with me?”

Lucy raised her eyebrows and announced. “There is no easy way to say this. YOU won!”


Lucy continued speaking very fast. “Yes, an all-expenses paid trip to London. Best of all, you are expected to leave in a few hours.”

“Are you crazy? I’m not leaving with the new case starting and stacks of prep work ahead. Never mind that Brett wouldn’t approve. What are you thinking?”

Lucy countered. “Yes, those are all valid arguments, but I have it all figured out. First, the firm needs background work on the new client. I have convinced Brett to send you, and no, he knows nothing of the contest. Second, from what you’ve shared with me, Brett is pressuring you to announce a wedding date soon and where better to think than London. And three, forget about Brett and the contest business. That will take a few hours each day for promotions, but the concert will be fun and a drastic change from what’s been going on around here. The rest of your day, go sightseeing. You have never been to London, and the weather is lovely this time of year. So thank me, go home, and pack, because your plane leaves in six hours.”

“Why not?” Holly responded, surprising herself. She thought Lucy’s argument was logical. Go on an adventure. Seven days away from Brett, seven days in London, the background investigation would take a few hours, and later a few hours with, oh, right Hurrikaine.

“Well, okay, but why do I leave tonight?”

“Some glitch in communication. CMT thought the materials were sent last week. When the packet information hadn’t been faxed, they frantically called me because I’d listed my phone number on the entry form, but I haven’t been home in days. CMT’s booked a last minute flight. Everything is ready to go.”

Lucy had made the impossible happen by creating down time to relax, have fun, and decide when she wanted to become Mrs. Brett Templeton. She’d been reluctant to set a date because they’d both recognized theirs would be a loveless union. And Holly thought a cuppa tea and biscuits sounded inviting.

Now, here she was in London, the adventure had started.

Wembley Stadium was like any arena, gigantic. Holly followed Howard as he created a pathway separating her from the thousands of Hurrikaine fans as he escorted her through the barriers protecting the concert personnel. Hundreds of backstage staff and road crew milled about and it was nothing short of a small city humming with excitement. Something important was about to happen here. Hurrikaine had arrived.

Howard took a step closer to her. “Miss Hill, I see Mr. Hunter.”

“The CMT representative?”

“Oh, no, Miss Hill, he’s CMT.”

The walls of people everywhere blocked Holly’s line of sight. The excitement and electric buzz charged Holly. Soon it would be time to start her contest obligations.

But what of Luka?

Sweet Luka. A warm, sinful flush filled her entire being.

“At the stroke of midnight,” she whispered to herself aloud. Her plan? To linger in his tender embrace, until she was dizzy from his inexhaustible charms, and then rip his clothes from his body.

“Get a grip.” Holly chided under her breath, how quickly she was changing under Luka’s brief influence. Now, she had a Mr. Hunter to handle. She’d dealt with his kind before, a rich and powerful man. She had a business obligation to fulfill and then get the hell out of there.

“Come along, Miss Hill. I hope Mr. Hunter not angry and understands the traffic delays are why we’ve arrived late,” Howard explained nervously.

The backstage chatter eclipsed many of his comments. Something great was about to happen, and everyone was in on it but her. Holly turned around in a circle. She was walking into something much bigger than she’d ever realized.

Howard politely placed his flattened palm on her lower back, guiding her along until he came up behind a tall man.

His blond hair was long, dripping below his shoulders and hung prettier than any California blond she’d seen along the coastline in her hometown of Santa Barbara. A black and brown leopard print scarf, tied like a halo about his forehead, held his golden hair in place. That was the last of him that reminded her of a pirate. A custom made, black-leather Concha coat hung to his knees. Below, torn, and frayed tipped Levi’s that gripped well-worn Michael Anthony black leather boots.

Holly had to remind herself to stay put.

Don’t run away.

She’d worked with many influential men like this one who was at the center and in control of this overwhelming production. She put a smile on her face to hide she was nervous because he was pure rock ‘n’ roll.

Holly took another step as if caught in quicksand. Howard urged her closer. She noticed the man’s strong, British accent, bellowing above the wild bustle of the backstage activities, issuing orders like a general to anyone who passed. The man radiated power.

Swiftly, like a clap of lightning his hand dropped to his side. The crash of his brown leather glove, smacking against the leather coat, accented each piercing word he spoke.

“CMT’s stupid, fucking, contest winner should be here straightaway! I don’t want any bloody fuck ups. We have to meet the London curfew, and wrap this up early.”

Holly’s chin dropped to her chest. Here she stood — the stupid, fucking contest winner, realizing with the quickness of a lightning bolt that she was way out of her league.


Run back to her hotel, hide at the back of the bar, drown her crushed feelings in English ale, and wait for Luka to make her forget.

The brash, rude man, quickly turned around to greet Howard, who had gingerly placed his white-gloved hand on his shoulder.

Holly caught a ragged breath and slammed her eyes closed.

Too late to run, too late to hide.