Title: The Lady and Her Quill
Author: Ruth A. Casie
Genre: Regency Romance
Her mind kept telling her to stop loving him, but her heart couldn’t let him go.
Renowned author Lady Alicia Hartley has lost her muse after a bad review. She blames it all on the author JC Melrose. A chance encounter with a handsome, witty Justin Caulfield has her heart racing, and her muse seemingly back. Is he her savior or her worst nightmare?
He didn’t see the turbulent ocean. He was too busy dealing with a different tempest.
The recently retired Captain Justin Caulfield is facing his own demons. As gifted author JC Melrose, his stories honor men who died at the hand of one man. His only focus is to avenge their deaths, that is, until he meets and falls in love with Lady Alicia.
The two authors take on a writing challenge based on a story of stolen gold taken from the newspaper headlines all to determine the better writer. While researching the story, Lady Alicia is captured by the thieves’ ringleader. Can Lady Alicia turn this mystery into an award-winning story? Can Justin save his real-life heroine? Can they both overcome their own challenges for a happily ever after?
“Alicia.” The judge’s tone was commanding. It was the tone he used when he held court and froze the villagers in their tracks. “The cave is not safe. There’s nothing for us to do here. Come with me.”
The judge nudged Alicia toward the entrance.
Justin glared at Pratt and saw his eyes widen right before he pivoted. He grabbed Pratt’s arm, but he was too late. The blade had already left his hand.
His heart sank as the knife flew. Had he altered its course enough to protect them?
The judge stepped in front of Alicia, the knife lodging in his shoulder.
In moments Justin found himself in the rushing current. Pratt grabbed his hair and held him under the water.
Justin groped for the arm restraining him but couldn’t get a good hold. Instead, he put his hands on top of Pratt’s and trapped them. Using his hips, Justin twisted his head and body around taking Pratt’s arm with him. He kept increasing the pressure against Pratt’s arm until the man released him.
Justin came up gasping for air amid stones pelting Pratt.
He turned toward Alicia. She stood with an arsenal of sizeable rocks bombarding the Frenchman. She was relentless and precise.
Pratt’s face was peppered with blood and bruises as stone after stone in quick succession hit him in the face and chest. Her quick thinking and good work distracted the man long enough for Justin to rise to his feet.
Pratt tried to bat away the stones, but Alicia’s stinging barrage came at him in a fast frenzy hitting their mark with precision.
Justin sprang at Pratt grabbing the man by his coat front. For a moment he was back at the mill facing Finn with Matthew close by.
“Finish the little bastard so we can go home.” Matthew’s voice drove him on as the fury started to build. The fierce Highland warrior had been at rest for some time, Now, he couldn’t keep him at bay. He didn’t want to. He let it grow into an uncontrollable rage.
For Justin, the fury built to a crescendo. He inhaled the salt air giving breath to the sleeping warrior and let loose his battle cry, “Salamanca.”
Pratt’s face blanched. Justin lifted him into the air and heaved him toward the entrance. He wasn’t done.
Pratt scrambled in the rising water trying to stand.
Pratt got to his feet and stood, silently challenging him. Justin had no argument with that. This final battle was a long time coming and they both were aware how this fight would end.
Pratt threw a quick punch. Justin swatted it aside, stepped closer, and braced for the onslaught to his mid-section. He wasn’t disappointed. Each punch heightened Justin’s resolve. The water was rising with Alicia and Schofield still in the cave. He needed to get Pratt out of the way so they could get out.
Justin’s right cross stunned the man. “For Richard Lewis,” he said as he pressed forward picking Pratt up only to hit him again. “For Stephen Gordon.” He sent the Frenchman to the ground and kept advancing.
Pratt threw punch after punch. Justin ducked and blocked and waited for his opening. It wouldn’t be much longer.
The timing of Pratt’s onslaught slowed. Each strike less effective than the last. His arms drooped leaving his face exposed.
That’s right. Keep it up.
The slower Pratt threw his punches, the stronger and faster the water rushed around them. Finally out of the cave, Justin advanced forcing Pratt down to the beach.
Justin glanced at the incoming tide. He had to end this at once or they would be stranded on the flooded beach at the mercy of the waves and the rocks.
He stepped closer and began his offensive. Hit after hit, he jabbed at the man’s jaw.
Pratt’s took each strike until he was dazed and bloody. Justin followed with an explosive right cross. “For Matthew Terrell,” he screamed above the sound of the waves. Pratt’s head bucked backwards sending a spray of fine blood into the air and onto Justin’s coat.
Pratt collapsed to his knees with the water almost to his chin. Justin didn’t lower his guard. He waited ready for more.
“Captain.” He stopped at Barrington’s command. “We’ll take him.”
Peter and Simon pulled Pratt to his feet and dragged him toward the path.
Barrington helped the judge. Justin turned to help Alicia, but she was gone.
A spot of blue caught his eye. She was running toward the cave. What was she doing? Justin took off after her with several men behind him. He caught her struggling in the cave up to her waist in water.
“Leave the pendant,” he shouted over the rushing water.
“James,” she shouted back at him. “Hurry.”
“Where is he?” He rushed to her side.
“Behind the tenth boulder, I hope.”
He looked toward the boulder and hurried ahead of her. They found James his hands and feet in manacles, struggling to keep his head above water. Alicia removed the gag.
“Get out of here,” he said, his voice barely a whisper.
“Justin will get us out.”
“The chain is wrapped around the rock. Keep his head above the water.” Justin grabbed the chain and pulled. It didn’t move. He propped his foot against the boulder and tried a second time.
“It would be easier to move the rock,” Alicia said, as she struggled to hold James’ head above the water. Justin stared at her. He leaned around the boulder.
“Over here,” he called to the men who were removing the chest. “That can wait.”
James was tiring fast. He had only a matter of minutes. Their backs against the cave wall and their feet on the boulder, the men pushed as hard as they could. Nothing.
“Again,” Justin said.
They tried a second time. The boulder began to move. James looked at Justin in defeat.
“Again. This time don’t stop,” Justin said.
With the backs of the men against the boulder they strained and kept up the pressure until it shifted. “Again,” Justin commanded. They men pushed again. This time the rock toppled over and smashed the lock. Free of the chain, Justin reached down and heaved James over his shoulders. They hurried out of the cave, wading through waist-high water, then climbed the path as the waves licked at their heels. Justin drove everyone up the path and didn’t stop until they reached the top.
Mr. Perkins wrapped them in blankets as they gathered. Peter and Simon took James and went to Sommer Chase. Judge Scofield was with the Land Guard commander.
Justin drew Alicia close.
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What makes your featured book a must-read?
This is the first in a series, The Ladies of Sommer-by-the-Sea. Why is it a must read? Okay. I am really uncomfortable about tooting-my-own-horn, so I will rely on my Beta readers. They found the story gripping from the moment Lady Alicia bumps into Justin Caufield until they both solve the crime at the end. The enjoyed the plot. Two authors who are challenged to write a story based on the same newspaper headline. They found the characters warm and engaging (that’s a quote). And the thoroughly enjoyed the ending. For me… I think this Regency Romance would have the approval of Jane Austen, herself!
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RUTH A. CASIE is a USA Today bestselling author of historical swashbuckling action-adventures and contemporary romance with enough action to keep you turning pages and have earned her several coveted Crowned Heart Awards. Her stories feature strong women and the men who deserve them, endearing flaws and all. She lives in New Jersey with her hero, three empty bedrooms and a growing number of incomplete counted cross-stitch projects. Before she found her voice, she was a speech therapist (pun intended), client liaison for a corrugated manufacturer, and vice president at an international bank where she was a product/ marketing manager, but her favorite job is the one she’s doing now—writing romance. She hopes her stories become your favorite adventures. For more information, please visit RuthACasie.com or visit her on Facebook, @RuthACasie, Twitter, @RuthACasie, Instagram RuthACasie, or Pinterest RuthACasie.
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