Dear Reader,

I’m thrilled to tell you about my new Harlequin Presents Extra story ‘Blackmailed Bride, Inexperienced Wife’, just as it’s released in North America.

This story hijacked me when I was supposed to be doing something else. But both Alissa and Dario were so vibrantly real, and Alissa’s predicament so intriguing, I had to follow through and find out what happened to them. I began writing because I couldn’t bear not to know.

I began with an image in my head of a heroine going to her wedding, sick with nerves at the thought of marriage. She has an inbuilt distrust of marriage yet she feels she has no choice. The repercussions if she doesn’t marry are too awful to contemplate. She arrives, reconciled to the fact that she must wed a man she doesn’t love. At least she trusts her intended groom. Sadly for Alissa, she doesn’t know what’s in store. The bridegroom waiting for her isn’t the one she’d expected!

Because I’m an author and I love to make life difficult for my hero and heroine, I made the man waiting for Alissa the one man in the world she absolutely, categorically never wanted to see, let alone marry. As for Dario, his icy control hides a blood hot passion that rises when he thinks about how he’s been forced into marrying the woman who epitomises everything he dislikes.

This story is about a marriage of INconvenience. I’m pleased to say that by the end of the book, Alissa and Dario discover it wasn’t the mistake they’d first thought. Here’s some feedback on the story:

CataRomance described the book this way: “Be still my heart…Annie West turns up the heat with the tall dark and handsome Dario, a stern alpha with a warm heart. Oh, to be the petite redhead Alissa when Dario’s sultry bedroom eyes melt her resolve. Blackmailed Bride, Innocent Wife [note: this is the title of the UK edition] is a luscious read that should not be missed.’

And from a reader:” I just had to contact you… It is your best book to date. This book was so good, it gave me shivers.”

To find out more about the book, visit http://www.annie-west.com and go to the page for ‘Blackmailed Bride, Inexperienced Wife’.

All the best for a wonderful holiday season and a new year fill with great reads.

Warmest wishes,

Annie




Excerpt from Blackmailed Bride, Inexperienced Wife

by Annie West

Cover art copyright © by Harlequin Enterprises Limited ® and ™ are trademarks of the publisher

The woman gave an order to the staff who separated, creating a pathway up the wide steps.

Without warning strong arms curved round Alissa’s back and legs. She was swung high, coming to rest against the hard heat of an impressive male chest.

‘What-?’

Her eyes clashed with dark grey ones under straight black brows. The intensity of Dario’s scrutiny cut off her question and her heart dived.

He stood unmoving, looking at her. She was insidiously aware of the feel of his powerful arms, of splayed hands pressed intimately against her. A hint of spicy scent made her nostrils quiver and deep inside a spark of something horribly like excitement fired her blood.

Dario’s expression changed slowly. Shock sizzled in her veins as a real smile curved his sculpted lips. The effect on that chiselled, handsome face stole her breath.

He strode forward and around them cheers broke out.

He was half way up the sprawling staircase before Alissa found her voice. ‘I can walk. I’m not that tired.’

‘It doesn’t matter.’ His words feathered her forehead. ‘They’d be disappointed if we broke with tradition.’

‘Tradition?’ Alissa told herself it was weariness that dulled her brain. That her slow thinking had nothing to do with the effect of Dario Parisi’s arms about her.

‘Of course.’ His teeth flashed a smile of genuine amusement, edged with something else she preferred not to identify. ‘Didn’t you know it’s Italian tradition for a groom to carry his bride over the threshold?’

‘You have to be kidding! You know this isn’t-’

His embrace tightened and he strode faster, his long legs eating up the distance to the massive front doors.

‘You and I know what our marriage is, but it does not suit me that anyone else should know.’ He paused and looked down into her eyes. ‘Welcome to my home, wife.’

Her breath hissed as he shouldered his way through the open door to the sound of raucous cheering from below.

‘Well! Now you’ve kept up tradition you can put me down.’ Her nerves were shredded. She needed space.

He shook his head and crossed a massive atrium towards a curving marble staircase.

‘Ah, but that’s not all. There’s more.’

‘More?’

‘Oh yes.’ This time the smile he bestowed betrayed a raw heat that reminded her of a hungry predator. ‘Didn’t you hear Caterina? She has already made the preparations.’

‘Preparations?’ Alissa didn’t like the look in his eyes, or the jerky way her pulse galloped in response.

‘Of course. She has prepared our marriage bed.’

***

Alissa’s head swam as he strode through double doors and kicked them shut.

The room was vast, luxurious and private. The whisper of his breathing and the frantic thrum of her pulse were the only sounds.

A vast lake of smoky blue carpet spread like a reflection of the indigo sea beyond the enormous windows. The furnishings were few but impossibly expensive. The centrepiece was a bed: wide, low and far too large. It filled her vision and she couldn’t look away.

Panic gripped her, fuelled by his menacing threats in the car, and more, the savage satisfaction she’d glimpsed in his eyes as he carried her up the stairs.

This man despised her, he couldn’t possibly want...

‘I’d like to stand on my own feet now,’ she said as calmly as she could. ‘There’s no need to perform for your audience any more.’

‘Ah, but you heard Caterina. You’re exhausted.’

Alissa didn’t look at him. She felt too vulnerable, here in his embrace. His searing gaze was too disturbing.

‘Not that exhausted! Put me down. Now!’ She welcomed the surge of anger. It beat the insidious chill of fear and edgy awareness hands down.

Instead of answering he shifted his hold, drawing her closer, pacing slowly to the bed. Alissa’s heart beat in time with each step as tension coiled tighter.

When he stopped the bed was an unending expanse below her. Blinding white linen filled her vision, old linen, edged with ornate, hand made lace. The scent of lavender and sunshine rose from it. Petals were strewn across the comforter. In the centre lay a plump blush-pink rose.

‘As you wish.’ He lowered her to the bed.

Alissa was torn between wanting to tear herself from his arms and trying to scrabble back into them rather than be placed like some virgin sacrifice on his marriage bed.

The bedding cushioned her like an embrace. She held herself stiffly, sitting primly away from the luxuriously soft pillows.

‘You can’t mean for us to share this bed.’

‘Why not?’ His voice was a sultry murmur, his eyes glittering with a light she didn’t want to decipher. ‘We’re man and wife. It is customary. Are you afraid there isn’t room for two?’

Despite her best intentions, Alissa’s gaze strayed over the bed. Its modern lines were designed for something less traditional than heirloom sheets. Satin perhaps, sinfully soft and caressing. She could imagine Dario sprawled here on black satin. Dario with a svelte, dark-haired beauty.

Alissa shot off the bed, horrified at how vividly she pictured him naked. Her knees trembled as she faced him. He looked as implacable as a stone deity.

‘Don’t even joke about it, Signor Parisi. You and I both know you have no interest in sharing this bed with me.’ She refused to dwell on the possibility that she was wrong. ‘I’m sick of your innuendoes and accusations. I’m tired after the trip and definitely not in the mood for your point-scoring games.’

Alissa breathed deep, trying to calm her racing pulse. She’d been on a rollercoaster ride of anxiety too long. She needed to claw back some control.

‘Now,’ she said, squaring up to his unreadable gaze, determined not to let him sense her fear, ‘I’ve gone along with this charade and I haven’t disappointed your fan club out there. I’ve been more than reasonable, putting up with your he-man routine carrying me up here.’ She paused and dragged in another deep breath, wishing she could rid herself of the shivery awareness of him.

‘I’d appreciate it if you’d show some courtesy and give me privacy. I don’t care how you explain it to your retinue but we will not be sharing this bed.’

She spun round and marched to the far side of the room. With each step she expected the heavy weight of his hand to descend on her shoulder and halt her in her tracks.

Her fingers were unsteady as she pushed open a door and found what she’d hoped for. A bathroom. Relief flooded her as she entered and clicked the door shut, snapping it locked behind her.

For a moment she gazed at the palatial travertine and gleaming glass. Then she slumped against the door and let her shaky legs give way till she sat, huddled on the floor.

Six months of marriage. How was she going to survive?


Excerpt from the title: Blackmailed Bride, Inexperienced Wife by Annie West
ISBN: 978-0373527472 Copyright ©: 2009 by Annie West
First North American publication 2009
The excerpt is posted by arrangement with Harlequin Books S.A.



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Contest!

To celebrate the release of her December 2009 Harlequin Presents Extra title, ‘Blackmailed Bride, Inexperienced Wife’, Annie is giving away great prizes in a contest exclusive to Newswire readers.

To enter the draw, just answer these two questions:

What was Annie doing when she got the idea for this story?

What is the name of Annie’s other current release? (Available now in the UK and April 2010 in North America).


You’ll find the answers on Annie’s website.

Email us at staff@authorsoundrelations.com (be sure to mark the subject heading as 'BBIW-AnnieWest) with your answers before midnight on 18 December 2009. Winners will be contacted via email shortly thereafter.

One winner will receive a $25 gift certificate for Amazon and one of Annie’s books . Three more winners will each receive a signed book from Annie’s backlist. That’s four lucky winners.

Good luck and all the best for the festive season!

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