Monday, December 19, 2011

On the 5th Day of Christmas My True Lord Gave To Me...with Karen Hawkins (+ Giveaway)

5 Golden Rings...Stolen By A Highwayman with Karen Hawkins


Karen Hawkins is a NYT and USA Today bestselling author of over 22 fun and lively historical romance novels and two humorous contemporary romances. When not stalking hot Australian actors, getting kicked out of West Virginia (thanks to the antics of her extended family), and adding to her considerable shoe collection, Karen spends her time warming her feet on her two rescue dogs while writing her next book. She lives in Florida and loves to hear from readers at Karen Hawkins, P.O. Box 149924, Orlando, FL 32814-9924

Find Karen Online: Website | Blog | Goddess BlogTwitter | Facebook

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Seven Highwayman 
by Karen Hawkins

Upon which A Gentleman Pirate carrying his Hard-Won Treasures to present to the King to gather his Just Rewards finds himself Importuned upon the highway by Several Gentlemen In Black . . . . 

The Great North Highway,
Just north of London
October 12, 1822

The coachman looked down the length of the blunderbuss that was even now trained upon his heart. Fear clogged his throat, but it wasn’t because of the blunderbuss. He eyed the two—no, three, four – Good God, seven highwaymen who had stopped his coach by the simple expediency of cutting down a tree and blocking the road.

Their plan had worked well. He’d had to swerve to keep from running the team into the tree, which had threatened to overset the coach. He’d been so engaged in keeping all four wheels on the ground that he hadn’t seen the highwaymen until they’d already taken their positions around him, their many blunderbusses at ready.

He eyed his own weapon, still tucked uselessly into a leather strap, before he looked at his assailants. “What do ye want?”

“Och, now, ye know wha’ we wants,” said the largest of the ruffians, a hulking man who stood the closest, his Scottish brogue surprising Johnny. The ruffian was a huge man, dressed in plain, dark, and yet common clothes. Despite the man’s enviable size, Johnny found his gaze flickering past the man to the smallest of all of the highwaymen, a small, slender fellow who even now stood at the edge of the road, to one side of the others.

Johnny instantly knew that the slender, wisp of a man was in charge. The man – whose very slightness gave the impression of youth – held himself with a good deal of quiet confidence, his fashionable coat tightly belted about him, the collar tugged so high that it covered his face. His hat was cocked at a rakish angle that left little to view.

“Well?” the large thief demanded.

Johnny dragged his gaze back to the man speaking. “There’s nothing here fer ye. I’ve but one passenger.”

The hulking thief sent the smaller one a questioning look. The smaller man nodded.

The huge thief turned back toward Johnny. “One is all we need, lad. Get down fra’ there and open the door.”

Johnny’s hands fisted. “Open it yerse—“ The blunderbuss was rudely thrust into his face. Hand shaking, Johnny thought of his three children, waiting for him at home, and his dear, plump wife, Lily. He thought, too, of the presents he’d purchased for them – one for each – while waiting for this particular fare to arrive at the docks. It had seemed a propitious beginning to the season, but now Johnny wasn’t so certain.

He’d heard of highwaymen, of course, but in his two years of traversing the roads of England, he’d never once met one. Now, he faced seven.

He swallowed noisily and climbed down from his perch, wiping his damp hands on his overcoat. The hulking highwayman stayed close while five of the thieves took various positions, one at the horses head, two further down the road each direction to watch for other coaches.

Johnny cleared his throat. “Ye’re making a mistake. We’ve but one passenger.”

The slight highwayman chuckled, the sound low and husky. Johnny noted that the rapier the thief held at the ready switched the air every few seconds like a cat’s tail announcing an eminent pounce.

His huge companion, though, said in a deep, rumbling voice, “One is all we need, lad.”

“Yes, but his lordship won’t like being disturbed. H-He’s a very powerful man.” Johnny hoped he was. The man certainly looked as if he might be.

“Och, now, ‘tis a lord, eh?” the big man said in an interested tone.

The highwayman who stood at the horse’s head murmured something to one of the others and a rush of excitement began to swirl through the men that only the sharp, low tone of their leader’s voice brought to an end. “Stand ready, fools.”

The others obediently quieted.

“Move further down the road,” he ordered. “We don’t need a surprise.”

They dispersed as requested and the small ruffian turned back to Johnny. “’Tis not new information, this lord of yours. He’s our Christmas angel, he is, though he doesn’t yet know it.” The slender highwayman swished his rapier through the chilled air. “A plump pigeon for our holiday meal.”

Johnny frowned. The small man’s voice was light and far more genteel than expected. “Ye don’t sound like no highwayman.”

The rapier paused but a moment and then, swifter than lightning, the highwayman moved in front of him.

The giant rumbled a low hiss. “Now, dinna lose yer temper, Mr. Cat.”

“Too late.” The man’s rapier slashed right, left, right, up, down – Johnny couldn’t see the sword for the blur, though he was achingly aware of the icy rush of cold air that flooded over him.

Just as quickly as it started, the highwayman’s rapier paused and the gentleman returned to his original position by the side of the road.

Johnny swallowed hard. He didn’t feel any pain, but he’d heard that a swift stabbing could leave one numb. Slowly, he looked down his front . . . and gasped. His entire coat hung about him in shreds. “B-B-Bloody hell!”

“Your overcoat is ruined,” the highwayman returned, amusement rich in his husky voice as he smoothed his large, fashionable cuffs. “But I didn’t cut a thread of the coat or shirt beneath. Except the buttons, of course. Those, we want.”

The large giant chuckled as he bent and gathered brass buttons from the ground. “Aye, they might be useful.”

Disbelieving, Johnny pushed the shreds aside and examined his broadcloth coat. It was indeed intact, only the buttons gone, each neatly snipped off as if by a pair of sharp scissors. His shirt, and neck cloth, too, had been spared. Not a single thread had been marred by the wicked bland.

He gulped and slowly released the bits of his shredded coat so that they hung free. “What do ye want?” His voice shook as if the cold had possessed him.

The large ruffian gestured to the coach. “I’ve already tol’ ye, ye fool; open the door. Tell the gentleman inside tha’ should he shoot, ‘twill be you as takes the bullet and no’ us.”

Johnny gulped, but he did as he was told, walking cautiously so as not to slip on the muddy road. He approached the door and rapped softly.

No one answered.

Johnny rapped again, only louder. “My lord?” he called, hating the way his voice rattled like a bone in a box.

“Aye?” came a sleepy deep voice.

Good God, has he been asleep the entire time? He’s a cold man, he is. Johnny didn’t know the gentleman in the carriage well. The man had entered the coach with only a few, short words, but in that one moment, Johnny had sensed that his well-dressed passenger was not to be taken lightly. There was something dangerously calm about him, like a snake coiled to strike.

Johnny’d been hired to drive the coach by a man who said he was a ship’s first mate. He’d said a gentleman – his captain – needed to reach London as soon as possible, no questions asked. Johnny had smelled the opportunity to charge more than his usual fare and had eagerly agreed. Indeed, when he’d named his price at treble his usual amount, the man hadn’t even blinked. At the time, it had seemed a fortune, but now, facing the gaze of seven highwaymen, Johnny glumly realized that he’d charged far too little.

Johnny cleared his throat. “I’m sorry, me lord, but ah, there seems to be a problem—“

The blunderbuss was rudely shoved between Johnny’s ribs. “Stop yer blatherin’ and tell the sot t’ open th’ blasted door.”

Inside the coach, Derrick St. John reached into his waistcoat and touched the cloth band about his waist where he’d tied the five thick golden rings adorned with precious rubies and sapphires that he was taking to London. Two would go to the King, but the rest would go to their new owner; a cousin of Derrick’s who dabbled in the sale of precious jewels. With this one sale, Derrick would be able to purchase two more ships for his growing fleet of privateers.

It was a difficult way to make a living, fraught with danger, and bordering so closely on the illegal that at this moment, three different countries had named him a pirate and were offering a reward for his capture. But Derrick had letters of marquee from the King and he knew he was well within his legal rights to plunder hostile foreign vessels. Of course, those rights weren’t accepted by other countries, so should he be caught . . . well, that was a thought best left alone.

He checked his pistols once more, hid them in the folds of his coat, adjusted his silver trimmed waistcoat so that it hid the bundle at his waist, and then called in a leisurely voice, “You may open the door.”

It opened, the outline of his portly coachman filling the opening and preventing him from firing. A blunderbuss was shoved inside over the coachman’s shoulder, causing the man who turn deathly pale.

“Get oot,” said a huge, rumbling voice.

Scottish assailants. Interesting. He climbed down and adjusted his French cuffs, the fine lace shimmering white in the moonlight. As he did so, he glanced about from beneath his lashes, counting the men he saw. Seven men, four so far out of the way as to be useless, one holding the horses and thus unable to reach them within time, which left only two nearby.

All in all, it was an odd set up. Why would the band spread so far out, unless . . . his gaze flickered over the two bandits who were the closest. They know about my prize and want it for themselves. By placing their fellows out of sight and sound, they can take the treasure and split it two ways and not seven. Which is what I would have done, myself.

Still, there was no reason to make this easy for them. He bowed. “Good eve, gentlemen. I suppose I’m well and truly caught. I’ve only a small bag of silver upon me, though you are welcome to it. Shall I toss it your way—”

“You have more than a small bag of silver,” the smaller man said.

Derrick’s gaze narrowed on the man. Here was the leader, then. “I fear I don’t take your meaning,” he said softly.

“And I think you do.” The thief’s eyes were hidden by the brim of his hat and yet they gleamed with challenge so that Derrick could make out the shape of them from this distance. The man had been called Mr. Cat by his companion and the shape of his eyes made that seem appropriate. There was indeed something catlike about the slender man.

The large ruffian jabbed his blunderbuss toward Derrick. “We knows wha’ ye have, Captain, so ye’d best make this easy on us all and gi’ it o’er now.”

Derrick hid a flash of anger at the man’s rudeness. “And if I refuse?”

“This isn’t the Mystic, Captain,” the man said, chuckling as he casually named Derrick’s ship. “Ye aren’t the captain here. Now hand o’er them jewel encrusted rings.”

Derrick’s hand tightened on his cane and he prepared for a fight, his blood warming at the thought. “If you want them, you’ll have to take them.”

He crouched, ready to draw when a hand grasped his arm. Derrick found himself staring into his coachman’s panic-white face. “Please, give them what they wants! I-I-I’ve children, I do, and a wife and if’n I were to die—“

Derrick could smell the fear that hung about the man. Children. Why did he have to mention them?

“Your coachmen makes sense, Captain,” the slight gentleman said. “There are children involved. Innocent little children. How could you deprive them of their father, especially with it being so close to Christmas?”
Derrick slowly uncoiled himself, his jaw aching from where he clenched it. How much do they know of me? He couldn’t afford to wonder about that now, so instead he gave the coachman a reassuring nod. “I’ll not have you harmed.” Derrick turned to the highwayman. “Spare this man and fight me for the rubies. One on one.”

“A fight of honor, eh? A fascinating thought.”

“’Ere now, Mr. Cat,” said the large highwayman, looking alarmed.

The slight thief sent his companion a frustrated glance, but then sighed. “Captain, under normal circumstances, I would relish such a fight, but I fear that I cannot spare the time.”

“You’re just afraid,” Derrick sneered. “Afraid and cowardly.”

The slender man stiffened, his eyes gleaming in the shadows, the rapier suddenly stilled and poised.

“Easy there, Mr. Cat,” the giant warned. “He’s tryin’ to roust ye.” He turned to Derrick. “I’ll vouch for Mr. Cat, I will. He is a powerful force wit’ his blade.”

“You call that a blade?” Derrick eyed the rapier with a dismissive shrug, though there was something about the way the slight ruffian held the thin blade at ready, the tip swishing through the air that gave him pause.

“Aye,” the giant said. “Jus’ ask yer coachman.”

Derrick glanced at the coachman who lifted his arms and showed him the shredded coat. Derrick instantly understood the significance of the expert cuts and he sent the slight ruffian a look of reluctant respect. “It’s an unusual weapon but one you’ve apparently mastered.”

To his surprise, the ruffian returned the bow, and did so with an elegance and grace that bespoke years of practice. “Thank you, St. John.” The man straightened and the tip of the rapier came to the fore once again. “And now, the rings, if you please. I have a schedule to keep.”

Derrick’s jaw tightened. With all of his might, he wanted to fight, but the frightened breathing of the coachman at his side told him how it would end. He has children and I cannot allow them to be orphaned.

No, the best thing Derrick could do was let the fools take the bloody rings, and follow them and steal them back when they least expected it.

He reached beneath his coat and undid the tie that bound the rings to his waist. With a tug, he freed them and tossed them to the ground. “There. Take the damned things. But be warned, I will find you and I will win back what is mine and no power on this earth will stop me.”

The giant ruffian had moved forward to get the jewels, but at that, he paused and looked at the slighter man.

The man chuckled. “You can try, St. John. But no more than that.”

As if the words reassured the larger man, he snatched up the jewels and began to back away, the smaller man following, their weapons still at the ready.

When they reached the edge of the road, the leader let out a shrill whistle and instantly the other ruffians came running, melting into the forest behind the two. The horses, left without someone at their head, stomped restlessly.

Derrick’s hand ached where he gripped his cane. He called out, “Until later, then . . . my lady.”

The coachmen exclaimed in surprise, while the large ruffian cursed under his breath.

The slender highwayman had been halfway to her horse, but at Derrick’s words, she’d stilled.

Now, she turned toward him.

“Cat, dinna—“ the giant began.

She threw up a hand. “Let him speak.”

Derrick showed his teeth in a furious smile. “I care not for your sex; I just wanted you to know that I have discovered your secret, such as it is.”

She ignored a hissed warning from her large companion and strode forward, bold as brass. “Why would I protest it? In fact—” She reached up and tugged off her hat and revealed herself, a graceful oval face with a thick golden braid pinned about her head like crown. “Knowing that I’m a woman will only add to your humiliation, so I’m more than happy to admit my sex.” She moved so that the moonlight lit her features. With a mocking smile, she gave him an elaborately mocking curtsey.

Derrick stared at her, fury bitter in his stomach. If he lived to be a hundred, he’d never forget the face that stared so defiantly at him now; the narrow nose, the full lips, the slanted, cat-like eyes, and the stubborn little chin.

She swept her hat to one side and made that elegant bow. “Thank you for your largesse, Captain St. John. Allow me to assure you that it is going to a far more noble reason than to line a pirate’s coffers.”

The coachman turned astonished eyes to Derrick. “A . . . pirate?”

“Don’t be a fool,” Derrick said sharply. “I’m a privateer, not a pirate. I have a letter of marquee from the King.”

“Words,” the lady mused, her low and husky voice tinged with humor. “They’re so convenient when explaining sins, aren’t they, Captain?” She sent him a laughing look that burned like acid and then settled her hat upon her head, her face and eyes once more in shadow. “And now, I must leave. Good eve, sir.”

Derrick took a step forward. “Aye, mount your horse and run away through the night. It will not save you. You, my lady, have made the biggest mistake of your life. I shall not rest until those rings are once again in my possession. Come what may, say what you will, do what you wish, I shall have those bloody rings back and you, my lady, will be at my feet, begging for mercy.” He smiled, then, the cold smile of a man who always got what he wanted. “And rest assured, madam, mercy is the last thing you’ll get from me.”

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Want some more of Karen Hawkins' work?

AN ENTRANCING THIEF
For beautiful, seductive Moira MacAllister, the stakes have become terrifyingly high. Her daughter has been abducted and a priceless ancient relic is the ransom. Moira must acquire it at any cost, even if it means confronting the man she once duped and left, a man who still doesn’t know she has a child . . . and that he is the father.

A DASHING RAKEHELL
Robert Hurst, an operative in the king’s service, has never forgiven the mysterious spy who seduced him into marriage and then disappeared without a trace. Now, as he pursues the onyx box that will save his brother’s life, their paths cross again. But Robert isn’t sure which he longs for more—to satisfy his lust for revenge or to quench his relentless hunger for this bewitching woman.

A PERILOUS MISSION
When Moira reveals to Robert her long-kept secret, however, he realizes his burning desires must wait as a treacherous foe closes in, threatening all they hold dear . . . and their second chance at love.

Pick It Up Today!:
Amazon (paperback) | Barnes&Noble (paperback)
Amazon (Kindle) | Barnes&Noble (Nook)

Note: Karen Hawkins' book TO CATCH A HIGHLANDER is on esale on amazon for $2.99 here

**Giveaway**
Karen will be giving away a copy of her release, A MOST DANGEROUS PROFESSION, to 1 lucky commenter!!! Make sure to leave a comment with your thoughts on her scene and her books if you've read them and fill out the raffle copter form below to be entered!

 Don't Forget to head over to Ramblings From This Chick and read Miranda Neville's special holiday scene (plus ener her giveaway)

a Rafflecopter giveaway
**Grand Prize Giveaway**
On behalf of myself, Dani and a whole host of generous and awesome authors, we will be having one BIG Grand Prize given away to 1 lucky winner. The grand prize consists of a mix of books, swag, and lots of other secret goodies. Believe me, you want to enter to win this prize. Just make sure to leave a comment every day on each post on both blogs and fill out that day's grand prize giveaway form on each blog. You can follow THIS link to today's form for this post or fill it out below after you comment.
That's it. Super easy! 
Good Luck everyone and Happy Holidays!

42 comments:

  1. Hi Karen,

    Love all of your books. Catherine and the Pirate is the only one I haven't read yet but it's on the wishlist.

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  2. Their encounter is a fun one; great banter :)

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  3. I love the scene! A pirate, I'm sorry, a privateer and a highwaywoman! Love you books!

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  4. Beebs, thank you so much!! Sadly, Catherine and the Pirate is out of print, but I have the rights back, so I'm going to rewrite it and release it as an ebook in May. It'll be quite different as the original is a Young Adult novel and I've decided to write it as a full fledged regular romance. AND (Drumroll!), I'm using this tidbit here as the the beginning of the rewrite, so you're getting a sneak peek. And yes, you'll be able to read it without an e-reader; I'm working out the details now. :)

    Na, thank you! It gets more fun from here, I promise. Heh!

    Wendy, thank you so much! Derrick's a bit protective of his 'privateer' status, isn't he? And Cat won't let him get away with it, either! :)

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  5. I love your book Karen, so sad this is not international giveaway ;(

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  6. I just adore all your books.. I love this fiesty Female Highwayman...or should I say woman...

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  7. I do love your books! Thanks so much for this scene. Will you be using it to write a story? It would be good.

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  8. Oh, it has been a while since I've read one of your books, but I still remember: I loved them! :D Beautiful cover on A MOST DANGEROUS PROFESSION as well. :D

    Great scene--I have to agree with June here, it would make a great story by itself. :D

    Happy Holidays!
    Enjoy,
    TBQ

    http://tbqspersonalbookpalace.blogspot.com *To anyone interested in a Holiday Giveaway--stop on by!*

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  9. Great scene! I have yet to read anything by Karen but hope to remedy that soon :) (And not just because she loves Aaron Rodgers like me) :) :)

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  10. Thanks for the story. Merry Christmas.

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  11. Great scene and cover. Can't wait to read this book. Thanks for the giveaway.

    e.balinski(at)att(dot)net

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  12. I'll look forward to reading the new version then Karen and I hope to have an e-reader by May, heavy hinting has been going on for several weeks. ;-)

    So is Derrick related to the St Johns of Talisman Ring Fame?

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  13. A sneak peek at an upcoming re-release? That is AWESOME. I'd love to see what happens with your highwaywoman and privateer!

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  14. Love this scene! So excited about the reincarnation of Catherine and the Pirate - excuse me, Privateer

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  15. Karen, that was such a great scene!! Thank you so much for participating in this event.

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  16. O wow Karen, please tell me this is only the first chapter of a new book! I want to read more!

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  17. Love your stories! Thanks for sharing the except and for the giveaway!

    Merry Christmas to all!! Hope everyone has a safe and wonderful holiday season.

    pnc07 (at) aol (dot) com

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  18. Lol, should have read the comments first! Catherine and the Pirate is indeed the only one of your books not in my possession, so I am happy to read you are going to rewrite and republish it. Still, I will be on the lookout for the original story as well.

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  19. Love those words - importuned, blunderbuss, rapier - you just know there's going to be adventure.
    sallans d at yahoo dot com

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  21. Love the excerpt! Thanks for the opportunity to win a copy of this book. I've had it on my wish list since it came out! BrittanyG@gmail.com

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  22. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  23. I'm simply loving all these exciting excerpts that some of my favorite authors are giving us all to read and enjoy. I would like to think that "Seven Highwayman" could be turned into a complete book. I can see that there could be some nice fiery, adventurous, romantic and passionate moments between Cat and Derrick, leading them to walk off into happily ever after.

    Thank you for this opportunity. I'm sorry about the other deletions, only part of my text was missing both times when it came up. Hopefully, it will all go through okay this time.

    dpd333 (AT) aol dot com

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  24. I did not realize that the highwayman was a woman. Very interesting excerpt.
    mce1011 AT aol DOT com

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  25. Great scene, I really enjoyed it. A Most Dangerous Profession sounds fantastic and I'm looking forward to reading it.

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  26. Loved the scene, I want to know how he finds this lady theif! Love that you made it a woman stealing the rings. I wil have to check out your books, your a new author for me. Glad you were here today =)

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  27. I would love to see what happens when Derrick catches up with her!

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  28. Hi Karen! Love the excerpt and all of your books. I've even gotten my 14 year old reading all of your "highlander" stories!

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  29. I loved the short scene! I already have a copy of " A Most Dangerous Profession", I love all of Karen's books and she's an autobuy for me, so please don't enter me in the contest for the book.

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  30. Exciting excerpt. I'll be sure to get the ebook when it comes out in May. I already have A Most Dangerous Profession, and don't need to be enter for the draw.

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  31. Happy Holidays to you & Hot Cop!

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  32. wow...that excerpt was so good

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  33. Thanks, guys! I'm sooo glad you enjoyed the excerpt because yes, it's going to be the beginning of my rewrite of Catherine and the Pirate, which is an out-of-print young adult book that I wrote years ago.

    As for Cat, she's a lot of fun to write. I refuse to write a heroine that I wouldn't enjoy taking shoe shopping, so she has to be smart, fun, courageous, and capable.

    I'll post more about this book on my website this coming Friday, if you're interested and want to know more!

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  34. Hi Karen, love your books. you have put out some good ones. Loved the excerpt from this book and now want to finish the rest. Thanks for the chance to win. What a great contest. Have been trying to follow almost everyday.
    GFC follower: Chris Bails
    christinebails@yahoo.com

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  35. Wow! Talk about making me want to read what happens next! I enjoyed reading this!

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  36. I had a feeling from the beginning that Mr. Cat might have been a woman but then I changed my mind only to have it turn out to be true. :) Nice story!

    Pam

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  37. This one reads like an explosion waiting to happen. I'm interested in reading more. TKS

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  38. I want to read the rest, thank, Karen!

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  39. A delightful teaser! I want to read more. Is this part of a book coming out soon?

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  40. Oh Karen you tease. I want more. Thanks for the story. :)

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  41. I loved the teaser. I can' wait to read the full book.

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