Title: One Breath Away
Author: Michal Scott
Genre: Erotic Historical Romance
Sentenced to hang for a crime she didn’t commit, former slave Mary Hamilton was exonerated at literally the last gasp. She returns to Safe Haven, broken and resigned to live alone. She’s never been courted, cuddled or spooned, and now no man could want her, not when sexual satisfaction comes only with the thought of asphyxiation. But then the handsome stranger who saved her shows up, stealing her breath from across the room and promising so much more. Wealthy, freeborn-Black, Eban Thurman followed Mary to Safe Haven, believing the mysteriously exotic woman was foretold by the stars. He must marry her to reclaim his family farm. But first he must help her heal, and to do that means revealing his own predilection for edgier sex.
“Whoo doggy!” Widow Hawthorne’s rasp sawed through the air above the square dance calls and the evening’s gaiety. “He is comin’ this way, Mary.”
Mary’s eyes opened wide in disbelief. Her heart throbbed in her ears. God created something unique from Africa’s ebony clay when He made this one. Eban’s broad nose and high cheekbones belonged on a statue in a museum for all to enjoy. Legs long enough to cross the length of Texas in five strides brought Eban in her direction. An expensively tailored jacket hung off shoulders that could span the banks of the Rio Grande. A ruby glinted in his left earlobe and conspired with his shaved head to give him an air of mystery and menace.
Mary closed her eyes and again tried to resist his allure.
The devil often appears as an angel of light.
She sucked in a breath, opened her eyes, and gnawed her lip. This angel of light hadn’t stopped his approach. Clenching her thighs hadn’t stifled the desire swelling within her privates.
Hadn’t smothered the hope reviving in her heart.
Felicity slanted her head to the right. A coy smile gave the angle weight.
“And what brings you to our side of the room, stranger?” She repeated her breast-swelling move and grinned, peacock proud. “See something you like?”
Eban tapped a finger in salute at his brow. “More than like, miss.”
His smile turned up the heat in his gaze. Mary frowned, painfully aware the smell of her passion lingered in the air, despite the woolen barrier of her skirt.
He stepped forward so his hand-stitched boots stood toe-to-toe with Mary’s second-hand shoes. “Eban Thurman, at your service, Miss Hamilton. May I get you something to drink?”
At her service? The air congealed. Mary gasped, trying to suck in air too solid to inflate her lungs.
“No—no, thank you. I’m not thirsty.” Her stutter mimicked the tremor between her thighs. She clasped her hands and planted them hard against her lap.
“It’s a really hot night.” He turned his hand palm up in a silent plea. “Perhaps you’d find a waltz more cooling.” He eased his fingers into her clenched hands. “May I beg the honor of this dance?”
“Yes, Miss Hamilton.” He tilted his head, slanting his smile to the right. “Beg.”
“You don’t strike me as the begging type, Mr. Thurman.”
“To everything there is a season and a time for every purpose under heaven.” He tongue-swiped his full lips as if he’d just tasted something he wanted to taste again. “I know when it’s time to beg.”
She pursed her lips into a frown, fought back the urge to grovel and won. Barely.
The fingers around hers, clean and huge and strangely slender, hadn’t moved, hadn’t trembled. Their stillness aroused her. His stillness aroused her. Her lips quivered. She inhaled deeply against the surrender summoned by that tiny tremor.
Resist the devil and he will flee.
Silently she called upon the truth in this scripture for rescue.
The devil waited. She stared at the hand on hers, helpless against the appeal, the allure of temptation.
She swallowed hard, opened her mouth to say no, but her tongue refused to cooperate. She huffed out a breath and shook her head. “I—I can’t. I don’t know how to waltz.”
“Well, you’re in luck.” His lips bowed in a smile, full, broad, and hypnotizing. “I’m an excellent teacher and I bet you’re a fast learner.” He gave her fingers a squeeze. “Shall we?”
He really wanted to dance with her. She blinked, speechless. A warning voice protested.
Her heart countered.
She firmed her lips, heaved a sigh then accepted his invitation. Felicity’s sputtered shock and Widow Hawthorne’s happy cackle accompanied them to the middle of the dance floor.
He placed his fingertips respectfully but firmly above the rise of her buttocks and held her in place against him. A tickle invaded the wool of her skirt where the tip of his middle finger rested at the head of her crack. Pleasure tripped up her spine and trickled between her thighs. But, from the recesses of remembered experience, a voice of caution persisted.
He wants something, Mary. Beware.
“Why—why do you want to dance with me?”
He smiled with the serpent slyness that probably charmed Eve. “I don’t think you’d believe me if I told you.”
He turned his head slightly. “Really? Your practiced calm says otherwise.”
She raised an eyebrow. “Practiced calm?”
“The face you present to the world until something touches your heart.” He gestured to his right. “Like when that baby there cried. Your expression changed to one of concern, then changed to one of contentment when his mother satisfied his hunger.”
Mary blew a breath through her mouth. This man was studying her. Really studying her. Should she be flattered or worried?
The one-two-three, one-two-three magic of the waltz began. He guided her in its dips and glides, through its rises and falls. The awkwardness attributed to her by past dance partners didn’t raise its ugly head. Her spirit lightened then soared until that still, small voice sounded the alarm.
You were fooled by another man and his fancy manners. Don’t be fooled by this one.
Hints of bay rum mingled with a manly scent against whose lure she struggled then lost. Once again her toilet water failed to hide the salty scent of her arousal.
Eban pinned her with a not-so-casual scrutiny. Could he smell her too? She tried but failed to read him. Dare she hope the ease in his smile meant he found it pleasing?
The other couples held their partners off with discreet and proper holds. Not Eban. Warmth radiated from the hand holding the small of her back hostage. The heat spread across her buttocks then seeped into places more private. He bent his elbow and gentled her forward so only their clasped hands separated them.
“Why, Miss Hamilton, I do believe you’re blushing.”
What’s your favorite way to combat stress?
I listen to classical music on WQXR’s Holiday channel or rewatch a classic movie I know will touch my heart.
Why is your featured book a stress busting read?
In times of stress, we need stories that make us smile and help us celebrate, stories that remind us the bad guys don’t always win. Mary Hamilton’s victory in One Breath Away is just such a story.
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Runs May 1 – June 3.
Drawing will be held on June 4.
A native New Yorker, Michal Scott is the pen name of Anna Taylor Sweringen, a retired United Church of Christ and Presbyterian Church USA minister. Using the writings of the love mystics of Begijn, Michal writes Christian erotica and Christian erotic romance (i.e. erotica and erotic romance with a faith arc) hoping to build a bridge between the sacred and the secular in erotically arousing stories. She has been writing seriously since joining Romance Writers of American in 2003. She also writes inspirational romance as Anna Taylor and gothic romance and women's fiction as Anna M. Taylor.
Social Media Links:
Twitter - @mscottauthor1
Website – michalscott.webs.com
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