Thursday, January 2, 2014

Deception (International Romances Series - Book One) by Mona Ingram Excerpt

Deception (International Romances Series - Book One) by Mona Ingram
$3.99 or FREE for Prime Members

Deception is Book One of the International Romances Series and has a new cover as of 18 November, 2013

Former model Justine Phillips agrees to be auctioned off at a charity event. Dramatically changing her appearance, she attends as "Jasmine". Alex Melrose, the CEO of a pharmaceutical company wins the bidding to take her to dinner. The attraction between them is instant, mutual and powerful.

It isn't until Justine returns home after their date that she learns that Alex's company manufactured the drug responsible for the death of her mother. Alex searches for "Jasmine" but cannot find her.

In spite of her conflicted feelings about Alex, Justine cannot forget him, but when they meet again, he doesn't recognize her. The attraction is still there, and they embark on a difficult and sometimes surprising emotional rollercoaster ride on their way to discovering the truth about each other.

This book contains explicit sexual content.

Book Two of the International Romances Series is entitled Fool Me Once.


Set-up: Former model Justine has agreed to be auctioned off for charity.

Justine nodded, her throat suddenly dry. She wasn’t sure if it was the idea of the auction that was making her panic, or the thought of having dinner with one of these strangers. Why had she allowed Olivia to talk her into this? Either way, she’d been out of her mind to agree. With a practiced smile, she accepted a glass of champagne from a passing server. It did little to calm her, and she started as a voice boomed behind her, followed by a waft of cigar smoke.
There you are, darlin’. I’ve been watching you.” The loud Texan clutched a cigar in one hand and a glass of bourbon in the other. His cheeks were flushed, and a fine sheen of perspiration shone on his forehead.
Justine forced a smile. “Have you now?”
Yessiree.” He looked her boldly up and down. “And I like what I see.”
I’m flattered.” She looked over his shoulder, pretending to acknowledge a greeting. “If you’ll excuse me, I think Stephanie is looking for me.”
The Texan surprised her with his quickness. He shoved the cigar into his mouth and grabbed her arm before she could escape. “I’ll see you later, little lady.”
Justine looked down at the pudgy hand and he loosened his grip. As she moved away, she could feel his bold eyes looking at her possessively. Stephanie was chatting with two other women and Justine joined them, unaware that her face was flushed.
I see Van Horne cornered you,” said one of the women, glancing meaningfully at the imprints of the Texan’s hand on her arm. “If that man didn’t have such deep pockets he’d never be invited anywhere.”
Justine couldn’t hold back a shiver of dislike. “Well I hope he doesn’t bid on me. I don’t care how much money he has.”
Stephanie raised her glass. “Spoken like a liberated woman. But if he does, remember it’s for a good cause. Speaking of which…” she nodded toward the low stage. “It looks like Rand is getting ready to start.”
* * *
The auction was spirited, with much good-natured kibitzing between the guests. Playing the part of auctioneer to the hilt, Rand was relentless and there was a spontaneous outbreak of applause when Matt Howe bid eight thousand dollars for his wife. In spite of the relaxed atmosphere, Justine’s anxiety grew. She moved through the crowd, but no matter where she stood, Ollie Van Horne materialized in her line of vision, wreathed in a cloud of cigar smoke. He was making his interest obvious to everyone, and she dreaded the moment when she would have to step up on the small stage.
And last but not least…” Rand scanned the crowd anxiously. Justine had been so busy trying to avoid the Texan, she hadn’t noticed that Alexa Connor had come and gone. Years of modeling experience kicked in, and she walked forward gracefully, noticing Rand’s smile of relief when he spotted her. “Here she is, gents.” He offered Justine his hand, leading her to the center of the stage. “Which lucky gentleman will have the honor of dining with this lovely young lady and supporting one of my wife’s favorite charities?”
Silence followed Rand’s words. Justine studied the upraised faces, unsure of what was happening. The crowd parted, and Ollie Van Horne strode to the foot of the stage, waving his cigar in the air. Justine almost gagged at the smell; it took all her self-control not to bolt from the stage.
Five thousand dollars.” His eyes glinted, and he turned to challenge the other men. “I’d say she’s worth that, wouldn’t you?”
Come on, Ollie. You can afford more than that. I bid six thousand.” A faceless voice from the back egged him on. The spell was broken, and the crowd shifted, looking for the new bidder.
Seven and a half.” The Texan nodded toward Rand.
Any other bids?” Rand raised his gavel.
Hey Ollie, what’s the matter? One of your oil wells run dry?” A man with a flat Boston accent inquired. “I’ll make it eight and a half.”
The crowd murmured excitedly. Justine had the odd sensation of watching the bidding from some distant place. Or was that just wishful thinking?
Y’all know I’ve got my eye on this little filly. Ten thousand.” The Texan jabbed his cigar at Rand. “Didya get that Brampton?”
Ollie Van Horne bids ten thousand.” Rand nodded in his direction, and Justine found herself searching the crowd for the man with the Boston accent. Anyone would be better than the Texan. “Are there any other bids?”
Justine tensed as Rand raised a small wooden gavel. “Going once…”
Twenty-five thousand dollars.” The English accent stilled the rustling in the crowd and Justine knew instinctively that the man behind the bid was accustomed to being heard. A flutter of excitement rippled through the guests and they turned toward the voice. “I should think she’s worth all of that.” The voice was cool and controlled and it was music to Justine’s ears. Searching the crowd, she spotted a tall man silhouetted against the fading sunset, hair slightly rumpled by the constant breeze. He sauntered forward and the other guests ceased to exist. Tilting his head to the side, he regarded her with an intoxicating mixture of interest and desire.  “Anything less would be an insult,” he murmured, as though speaking to her alone.
Melrose!” Rand relaxed as the man continued to move through the crowd. “I should have known that was you.” His eyes cut over toward the Texan. “Well Ollie, any further bids?”
The Texan’s eyes narrowed and he glared at the Englishman. “You can have her, my friend, and good luck.” He shouldered his way through the crowd, which was already closing around Alex.
Justine scarcely heard the rest of Rand’s speech inviting the guests to dinner. She needed to get away from the crush of people, to regain her equilibrium. The lingering daylight had faded and a three-quarter moon cast long shadows across the lawn. She stumbled toward the beach, pulled off her sandals and came to a halt in the sand while she caught her breath. With no desire to return to the party she wandered closer to the water and found a secluded spot in front of a tall clump of grass. She sat down with a sigh, wrapped her arms around her raised knees and looked out across the water. The waves rolled in, and then receded back down the beach with a soft, soothing hiss. Her body slowly relaxed, tension draining away. She would have to go back and be introduced to the man who had bid for her, but not quite yet.
A small shell gleamed in the darkness and she picked it up, fingering it absently. Why hadn’t she paid more attention to the man who’d bid on her? In spite of everything, she found that she looked forward to hearing his voice again. She smiled to herself as she recalled the horrified look on the Texan’s face. She chuckled softly then stilled, aware of someone standing slightly behind her. She turned slowly, heart in her throat. He stood staring at the ocean, tie loosened and hands shoved casually into his trouser pockets.
You followed me.” She hadn’t intended to sound quite so harsh.
He turned his head toward her, eyebrows drawn together in a frown. “I wanted to make sure your admirer didn’t follow you. If you prefer, I’ll leave.”
Justine shook her head. “No, don’t leave. I guess I’m still on edge after that performance back there.” She gestured to the spot beside her.  “Join me if you don’t mind a bit of sand. It’ll give me a chance to thank you for rescuing me.”
He lowered himself to the ground, a smile lifting the corner of his mouth. “My shoes are already full of sand. A bit more won’t hurt.” He extended his hand. “My name is Alex Melrose.”
Justine slipped her hand into his and wondered if he felt the jolt of electricity that passed between them. “Hello Alex, I’m Jasmine.” Her voice sounded surprisingly husky; she scarcely recognized it. They stared at each other for a moment, and she reluctantly retrieved her hand. “Do you make a habit of rescuing women from the clutches of dirty old men?”
No, I don’t, but I saw Van Horne grab your arm earlier, and it didn’t take a mind reader to see that you weren’t welcoming his advances.” Even in the stark moonlight, she could see the flash of anger in his eyes.
Allowing her gaze to linger on his face, she soaked up the maleness that seemed to roll off him in waves. His classic good looks were enhanced by a slight break in his nose, lending him a rakish air. Finally she lowered her eyes and tugged at a piece of dune grass. “Well thank you and I’m sure Stephanie appreciates the donation to her charity.” She grinned impishly. “I wish you could have seen the look on Van Horne’s face when he heard your bid. I thought he was going to swallow his cigar.” Laughing aloud at the memory, she began to enjoy herself for the first time since she’d arrived. “Rand and Stephanie’s guests will be talking about this night for a long time.” She wiggled her feet in the sand and didn’t see the wave of longing that swept over his face at her unabashed delight.
I didn’t bid to embarrass him. I did it for you.” Seemingly startled by his own words he looked away. He stood up abruptly and offered her his hand. “I hadn’t intended to bid at all, to be perfectly honest. I don’t want you to feel obliged to have dinner with me.”
Justine took her time brushing the sand from her dress to hide her disappointment, then picked up her sandals. She searched his face. “Would you rather not?” she asked softly. “It’s your call.” She waited for his reply.
His gaze drifted out over the ocean, then returned slowly to her face. “The truth is, I’d like to have dinner with you very much. But it would have to be in my suite at the hotel, and after your experience tonight, I can understand if that doesn’t appeal to you.” He reached out to caress her arm where Van Horne had grabbed her and desire snaked through her body like summer lightning.

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