Sunday, December 9, 2012

A Lonely Courtesan....with Jess Michaels (+Giveaway)

A Lonely Courtesan
on Christmas Eve with Jess Michaels

About the Author:
Jess Michaels began writing full-time in 1999 after being encouraged by her husband to follow her dream. In 2003, she sold her first novella to Red Sage Press, an erotic historical romance about an Egyptian tomb and a very sexy curse. Since then she has published (or has contracted to publish by the end of 2013) 37 novels and novellas under three different pen names with several major publishers, small presses and via self-publishing. Her erotic historical romances have been national bestsellers and won awards from booksellers and readers.
In 2011, she and her husband moved to Tucson, AZ. There she enjoys hiking in the beautiful desert, spending time with her nephews, designing jewelry, reading and spending time with her awesome husband and cats.

Find Jess Online: Website | Goodreads | Facebook | Twitter

Upon A Christmas Star
by Jess Michaels

Annalisa Ferrar sighed as she steadied herself on the seat of her carriage when it took a corner too quickly. Why the driver was in such a rush, she could not imagine. After all, he was only taking her to a pointless, empty party. One she would have refused to attend if not for the personal invitation of her old friend Vivien Manning.
“A Christmas Eve masquerade, my dear,” Vivien had said with a twinkling smile. “Given for only the best in Society.”
“Why we are invited is beyond me,” Annalisa had replied at the time.
But Vivien had said something about being on the arm of some important man and that the masks would protect their identities. All the words had blended together at some point because Annalisa simply did not care anymore. She had stopped caring at the end of the summer when Gabriel ended their affair.
Their affair wasn’t even supposed to start. She had seen him at one of Vivien’s soiree’s, heard his tragic story of injury and scarring in the war and had approached him out of sympathy for what he’d been through. But she had soon learned that he was not a man to be pitied. He was a shocking lover, one who gave her more pleasure than she had ever experienced before. More than that, he was a good man, an interesting man, a man she had fallen deeply and utterly in love with.
And he had rejected her and her heart. He had disappeared from her life with only a few scrawled words on a piece of paper left on her pillow.
So what did parties matter anymore?
The carriage stopped and her footman opened the door for her. As she stepped down onto the packed and dirty snow on the drive, she looked up. It was a clear night, the stars sparkling unmarred above her and mocking her pain. Then, unexpectedly, one of them flickered and fell toward earth.
“A shooting star,” she murmured beneath her breath.
“Best make your Christmas wish then, miss,” her footman said in his funny Cockney accent. “And get yourself inside ‘fore you freeze.”
She stared up as the star disappeared on its journey. A wish. Well, there was only one wish to make. One foolish, Christmas wish.
“I wish for him to return to me,” she murmured. “Somehow.”
Major Gabriel Crook shifted uncomfortably as the mask he wore chafed the still tender scar tissue on his cheek. If the itchy thing hid his identity even in the slightest, he might have welcomed it, but his pronounced limp and the raw flesh that peeked out around the edges of the mask told the world who he was. And they did delight in staring, whispering, giving him pitying looks even while they avoided speaking to him.
But what was he to do? Every so often one of these fops who were somehow related to the Army wanted to bring him out for display. Parade him like a war pony for his friends and cronies to cluck over. And with his financial situation as it was, he was in no position to turn down a free meal and liquor to boot.
He had once belonged the ranks of those around him, but his experiences now separated him. That and the fact this is bastard of a father had cut him off because he couldn’t stand  to look at him. He’d even heard the old man say he wished his son had died rather than return home from the continent as such a broken, worthless man.
Of course, his father wasn’t that far from the truth.
“Ah, Major, there you are.”
He pressed his lips together, drew a deep breath and turned to face Lord Avery, his host for the evening. He had nothing against the man, of course. In fact, Avery was one of the more reasonable and decent men of these circles. But Gabriel did not function well when it came to these empty exchanges, he had lost that ability when he nearly lost his life.
“Good evening, my lord,” he managed with difficulty. “Thank you again for inviting me.”
“It is my pleasure, sir. Your sacrifice for our country cannot be ignored, especially during this season of goodwill and remembrance of our blessings.”
Gabriel wanted to turn away. Of course what Avery meant was that Gabriel was a good reminder to the others to count their blessings. At least they weren’t a deformed, disinherited war hero who had lost everything in battle. Wonderful to be held up as such for all to see.
He held tightly to the whiskey in his hand and nodded to placate the gentleman. “Yes, my lord, I thank you for that.”
He did not, but there was no use being rude. In some circumstances he still remembered the skills of politeness.
Avery shifted as if he realized how his words could be taken, but then his discomfort faded and a smile tilted up his lips. “Ah, perhaps you will soon have more blessings to count. A lady approaches and I shall depart to leave you to what I’m sure will be better company.”
Gabriel acknowledged his host’s departure, but only just kept himself from stifling a groan at the idea of a lady approaching him. Dear God, they were worse than the men. They sidled up to him, murmuring empty platitudes and the moment they saw the deep disfiguring on the left side of his face they fled. Some had even fainted. Their desire to nurture a war hero only went so far.
Well, that wasn’t fair. One woman had never seemed to care about his looks. Annalisa. But that was over.
He turned to face his present attacker, being sure to give her the left side of his face before the rest in the hopes it would speed the charade along. But the woman who was nearly at his side made him stop.
She was wearing a red velvet gown, cut far too low in the front. She held her matching velvet mask up, but she was so distracted it had slipped down to reveal most of her face. And there, looking right at him, was the woman he had been considering not a moment ago.
“Anna,” he breathed as she stopped in front of him, her dark eyes filled with emotion as she stared up at him in awe.
“Gabriel,” she whispered back. “I did not realize you would be here.”
He struggled to speak. To say something polite and inane, but all he wanted to do was to push her down to the floor right then and there and take her like he had so many times. To make her his until he could forget all of his faults, all of the reasons to stay away.
“Nor I, you,” he managed to say instead of stake his claim as he so desired. “I apologize, I would not have come had I known.”
Her full lips thinned with displeasure and something in him swelled. So she was still upset by their parting. He hated it, for it hurt her… but part of him was happy she could not so easily forget him.
“Should I go?” she asked, her tone flat and angry. “Would that make you more comfortable? After all, that is all we care about, isn’t it?”
He flinched at her pointed words. “Anna-”  he began.
She turned away. “Nevermind. I was foolish to approach you when you have made your distain for me quite clear. Forgive me for the intrusion.”
With that, she turned and spun away, racing across the ballroom until she disappeared from view. Gabriel stared where he had last saw her and emotions bubbled inside of him. Joy that he had seen her again. Pain that she had left. Despair that she believed he thought so little of her. And anger that she did not allow him to explain. More emotions than he ever allowed himself to feel.
“Are you going to go after her?” a voice said from behind him.
He turned to find Vivien Manning standing at his side. She wore a mask, of course, but there was no denying the beauty of her blonde hair, the stark brightness of her cool, blue eyes. Even if one did not recognize her for her features, her calm, sophisticated confidence gave her away. No other woman in the world held herself with such self-certainty and comfort despite a position many would judge her for.
“Vivien, you must know I cannot,” he said, clenching a fist at his side.
“Ah, so she was right, you are a coward,” Vivien said, then clucked her tongue.
He stiffened. “I am a great many things, madam, but a coward is not one of them.”
“Hmmm, and yet one little Spanish courtesan makes you hide. That sounds rather cowardly to me.” She did not wait for him to defend himself, but turned and walked away into the crowd.
He pivoted to look for Annalisa again. It was one thing for Vivien to say it, but had Annalisa truly called him a coward? His abandonment could not be seen as such, even by her. Great God, he would not stand for it.
Slowly, he moved through the crowd, his leg screaming with every step. But for once, he did not focus on the pain, nor the pitying stares. He only moved toward where he had last seen Anna.
Instead he found a clucking, tsking group of women who stared at him in horror and interest equally matched.
“I beg your pardon, but have you seen a woman?” he asked. “In a red velvet gown?”
The women clucked at each other even more, leaning in to whisper as if he had not even asked a question. How he wanted to howl and curse and truly make himself the beast they thought him to be.
Then a savior stepped forward. A woman in a bright blue gown, her mask covering her entire face. “I saw the lady, sir. She went toward the portrait gallery.”
“Thank you,” he said in relief that he would not be forced to repeat that nightmare of talking to the others at the party. He ducked from the room and down a series of long hallways toward the portrait gallery. By the time he reached the long, dimly lit hallway, he had almost given up on Annalisa. Surely she would not come all this way just to avoid him.
But as he rounded a final corner into the hall, his disbelief was proven false. There she stood, arms folded as she paced back and forth in front of a painting she was not even pretending to look at.
“Anna,” he began.
She pivoted toward him in surprise. “Great God, Gabriel, you asked me to leave you be and I have. Why do you follow me?”
Without waiting for a response, she stalked further down the hallway and into a parlor. Gabriel winced as he limped after her.
“I would ask that you have the courtesy to look at me,” he snapped as he slammed the door behind himself in the hopes they would have privacy for what looked to be a rather unpleasant encounter.
She clenched her fists at her sides and then slowly did as he had asked. “Why are you chasing me across Lord Avery’s home?” she asked, tossing her mask aside so he got his first full view of her beautiful face.
He caught his breath and made an effort to calm himself before he responded. “I have heard rumor that you called me a coward, madam. Is this true?”
She pursed her lips and was silent for a beat too long. His heart sank.
“It is true,” he murmured, truly shocked.
She shifted ever so slightly, as if she were unhappy at being caught in this statement. “I did say it, once in anger. I assume your source must be Vivien Manning.”
He nodded. “Indeed, it was she who told me this.”
“Conniving-” She bit her next words off and returned to her pacing from earlier. “This is why she brought me here tonight, I assume. To create this drama between us. To further her matchmaking.”
Gabriel knew she was right, but he had more pressing matters to attend to, whether he had been manipulated into them or not. “You know it was not cowardice that sent me from you.”
She stopped moving but her tone dripped with sarcasm as she said, “Oh no. You say it is your desire to protect me, of course.” 
“It is. I can offer you nothing, Annalisa. I have been disinherited by my father and my financial status is low at best. I am stared at as a freakish monster best caged and seen only after someone pays a pence.”
Anna marched toward him and grasped the edge of his mask. With one smooth motion, she flipped it up and away from his face and cupped his cheeks with both her palms. It had been so long since he touched her that he shuddered even with this angry version of her warmth.
“Don’t you dare speak of yourself in such terms Gabriel Crook,” she whispered, her tone harsh and broken. “If I heard someone else do so, I would slap them. Do not think that I won’t do the same to you. You are not freakish or broken or worthless. That voice you hear in your head was never mine, but it never mattered. You threw me away to wallow in your pain and grief and mourning over the man you no longer were. But I didn’t know that man and I love the man you are, not that it matters.”
The last statement came out as a broken sob and she let him go and headed for the door. But as she tugged against it, it did not open.
He faced her slowly, watching her struggle with the door until she finally rested her forehead against it.
“The door is jammed,” she said.
Annalisa struggled not to break down in utterly humiliating tears as she tried the door one more time.  Of course the door was jammed, for it was the most opportune time to be stuck somewhere with a man.
“May I try it?” Gabriel asked softly.
She stepped aside, careful not to look at him and watched as he hobbled up to the door and tugged on it a few times. Injured or not, he was much stronger than she and the door didn’t move even a fraction.
“It is not jammed, I believe it may be locked,” he said, his voice very impassive, though his bright green eyes sparkled with emotion. Emotion and something else she recognized very well: desire. He desired her.
She shivered and stepped away. She had her pride, didn’t she? That if nothing else.
“Who would lock us in?” he asked, eyeing her as if he suspected her of something.
“Why do you ask me?” she said, folding her arms. “I certainly would never encourage such behavior. I ran away from you, didn’t I?”
He pondered that. “True. Vivien encouraged me to follow. And a woman in blue.”
“Blue…” She trailed off. “Lysandra was wearing blue.”
“The new Viscountess Callis, she went to Vivien for help.” She shut her eyes. “Damn them, they are playing some kind of matchmaking game.”
He frowned. “Between us?”
“Is that so unpalatable to you, Gabriel?”  She wanted to sound angry, but instead she just felt… sad. Lonely. Brokenhearted.
“Of course not,” he replied, moving toward her a step before he stopped. “Annalisa, you know that my leaving had nothing to do with you. With how I feel for you.”
“You feel something for me?” she scoffed.
His cheeks filled with dark and angry red color. “Damn it, stop attacking me!” he shouted. “I left because I knew that staying would destroy you. Because I don’t want to see you, with all your vibrancy and beauty and charm, saddled to a man with no future, no friends, no money. I love you, you foolish woman.”
Annalisa blinked. Had she just imagined those words. “You… love me.”
He sucked in a breath. “You have angered me into a confession I did not wish to make,” he muttered as he turned away from her.
“You love me,” she repeated, letting those beautiful words roll off her tongue. Savoring them. Now that they had been said she found a strength she had lost. A strength to fight. “Tell me that was a lie.”
He refused to look at her. “I cannot do that.”
She slipped up behind him and wrapped her arms around his waist, pressing her body to his so that her breasts flattened against his back, her cheek rested against his shoulder.  “Just as I cannot let you go.”
He caught his breath and she smiled as his body moved.
Slowly he turned, but she would not allow him to leave her embrace. She kept her arms around him, staring up into his beautiful, imperfect and yet utterly handsome face. She loved his scars, they marked him as her man, her love. They had been earned through bravery that made him the man he was. Anyone who thought otherwise was an idiot… including himself.
“Anna,” he whispered, his voice breaking as tears filled his eyes. She was stunned at the sight of them, for she had never allowed herself to believe that his feelings for her went so deep. “Please, you must let me go. You deserve more.”
“You were the first man who made me realize just what I do deserve. Passion, desire and love so powerful that it nearly takes me off my feet,” she said, lifting on her tiptoes to press little kisses to his jawline. She felt his desire rising with each one, even if he tried to deny himself. 
“But you would suffer if you were to be with me. My father has cut me off, I have no funds to support you. I am scarred and your friends would whisper. If we came into my vague edges of Society, they would know you had once been a courtesan and not fully accept you. You would lose a great deal if you were to marry me.”
She blinked. “You would marry me.”
“If I had anything to offer, I would marry you tomorrow,” he admitted with great passion, great feeling.
“I do not need financial support,” she replied, hardly able to remain calm. “Your Society’s judgment means nothing to me because I think they are idiots. As for my friends, my closest friends are likely the ones who locked us into this room in the first place, so I believe they must approve. But even if they didn’t, I have seen and suffered a great bit in my life, I don’t need approval to survive. I need love, I need you. Tell me you do not need me.”
To accentuate her order, she reached down and stroked his cock through his trousers. It was already stiff and he sucked in a breath.
“I need you.” He blinked. “I need you more than I need breath. I love you more than I love my life. And I want you more than I want sustenance. Anna, I will ask you this question, though I know what it will cost you. Marry me?”
Tears welled in her eyes, joyful, thrilling tears. “I will, my dearest love. I will marry you.”
He smiled as he backed her toward the settee, unbuttoning her gown as he did so.
“Then I say we consummate this union,” he said with a smile that made him seem so much younger, so much less damaged by his experiences. And she vowed to keep that smile on his face forever.
*Don't forget to stop by Ramblings From This Chick for Karen Erickson's Scene*

Available Now:
When friends turn to lovers, anything can happen…
A mistress should never be foolish enough to fall in love with her protector, nor trust him with her financial future. Mariah Desmond did both, and now her dearly departed protector has left her with nothing.Forced to seek another protector, she’s determined that this time, she’ll lead with her survival instinct—not her heart. But when she attends one of Vivien Manning’s infamous parties, the familiar face of her late lover’s best friend throws her for a loop.

A painful past taught John Rycroft that he’s not fit to be anyone’s knight in shining armor. His soft spot—make that a hard spot—for Mariah is precisely why he’s kept his distance. Yet the sight of her flirting with a bevy of men vying to become her next lover makes something inside him snap.

As John hauls her bodily away from her suitors, Mariah’s indignation melts away in the heat of the sizzling sexual chemistry. She quickly finds it isn’t easy to navigate John’s stormy emotional waters. Especially when his abusive father’s quest to get his son back under his thumb puts her life in danger.

Get Your Copy Today:

Jess is giving away a ecopy of her first novel in the Mistress Matchmaker series, An Introduction to Pleasure, to one lucky commenter (Open International-anyone with a Kindle or Nook)! Make sure to leave a meaningful comment below AND fill out the rafflecopter.

a Rafflecopter giveaway
And don't forget to enter the Grand Prize Giveaway


  1. Ouw can't accept kindle or nook

    it's so hard to find your book and not so much available on book depository

  2. I loved scarred heroes so that story was right up my alley. Thanks.

  3. I like the blurb! Added to my to read list! Thanks!

  4. sweet story yes, i liked it ( and me too i can't accept kindle or nook, i'm glad i'm not the only one)

    thank you a lot for sharing with us

  5. Sounds like a terrific novel. The hero and heroine are depicted in such a loving and romantic fashion. I'm betting I wouldn't be able to put that novel down until I was finished!

    Thanks for the fabulous giveaway!

  6. Hi, Jess! Upon A Christmas Star was a wonderful and awesome story. I love scarred heroes.

    kscathy AT yahoo DOT com

  7. always happy to see a couple Anna & Gabriel end up together.
    sallans d at yahoo dot com

  8. What a great story! :)

    Love it!

  9. That was wonderful!! You're a new author for me so I'm so glad to have read a bit of your writing. Hope to read more from you.

  10. Thanks for the fantastic story!

  11. I have read Jess several years ago and liked her very much--I believe it was western. Now that I'm in my Historical phase I am glad she's writing that genre.

    By the way, I love your blog. Great giveaways!

    Please enter me.


  12. I haven't read any of Jess's books before, but after reading Upon a Christmas Star I definitely will be adding them to the top of the TBR list.

  13. Very nice excerpt. I just loved reading Introduction to Pleasure.

    armiefox at yahoo dot com

  14. What a great S.S. thank you Jess for sharing it with us.

  15. I like Anna's matchmaking friends.
    bituin76 AT hotmail DOT com

  16. Hi Jess!

    I loved readingA Lonely Courtesan on Christmas Eve but then I love reading all your stories!

    I usually pre-order all your books for my Kindle but somehow missed getting An Introduction to Pleasure when it was released in June so I definitely have to read it before I read For Desire Alone! I'm so excited that The Perfect Match will be released in March and can't wait to find out what's coming next!

    I loved Taboo and was wondering if it you are planning on having it available for Kindle? I have a friend who keeps on wanting to borrow it from me but since she's the same one who borrowed Parlor Games and never returned it I'm afraid if I did that I'd never be able to replace it!

    I hope you have a wonderful Christmas!

    PS: Please think about writing a full length Christmas story for next year!

  17. The wounded or scarred heros are the best. This was a good short. :)

  18. Thank you so much for sneak peak. I loved it!

  19. I really enjoyed reading the story today. How many books are you planning for Mistress Matchmaker series? When you wrote the first book, did you know it was going to be a series or did it just develop into one? You are a new author to me and I can't wait to learn more about your books.
    luvfuzzzeeefaces at yahoo dot com

  20. I an a big fan of Jess Michael's books! I'm so happy you encluded her in this Holiday Giveaway. Historical erotica is not for everyone, but she does a great job of weaving a wonderful love story as well.

  21. Wonderful story...can wait to read more.

  22. This sounds intriguing.

  23. It's always wonderful to have hea for wounded warriors.

  24. Pls tell your husband a big thank you from all your fans! I love your Jenna Petersen bks and am looking forward to discovering those of Jess Michaels too!

  25. I love reading stories involving wounded or scarred heroes. Great short with a HEA.

  26. Wow, so many questions this morning!! Let me try to answer them all!!

    A few people have said blurb or excerpt for this story. Actually, this is a short story, so there's nothing else to buy or read. :) You can order AN INTRODUCTION TO PLEASURE where Gabriel and Annalisa made their first appearance. It was the first book in my Mistress Matchmaker series.

    For JeanneM, Taboo should be available in Kindle/Nook formats already. All my Avon Red releases went into eBook format. so you should be good to go with it! :) Also, I do have a Christmas full-length story in mind, but there have been no editorial takers yet. I'm busy writing a bunch of new Jess stories this year, but we'll see if it comes to be at some point.

    For Julianne Keller, there are 3 books in the Mistress Matchmaker series. AN INTRODUCTION TO PLEASURE and FOR DESIRE ALONE are both out now. The third book, HER PERFECT MATCH, will be out on March 5, all from Samhain Publishing. I did actually have the series plotted out as three books. In the new year, I'll be starting work on a new series, The Pleasure Wars, which will be out from Samhain on July 2 and November 19 respectively. That is a two-book series at present.

    Thanks everyone and good luck with the contest!!!

  27. Great short story Jess! I will definitely have to have this series.

  28. I love this little short and am now fully invested in this matchmaking business. Thank you Jillian. This is the 3rd author I've been introduced to during this giveaway that I wasn't aware of before. Super excited to read all the stories in this series.

  29. Thank you for the wonderful read!!


  30. I Loved it, but why do stupid, stubborn men always make you not sure if you just want to slap them or kiss them!


  31. That was a a sweet story.

  32. Thanks for the story!

  33. What a great short story!

    Thanks so much for sharing it with us!

  34. Looking forward to reading your books

  35. Sweet story and now I need the rest of it ;) Will add to wish list. Can't wait to finish the book.
    Happy Holidays,

  36. What a great short, I definitely can't wait to read more! Thanks and Merry Christmas!
    smoofrog @gmail dot com



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