Dear Reader:

I write about that heady “falling in love” period when a man and a woman feel the first stirrings of attraction. Through the course of the book, they see each other at their best and at their worst. (One of my favorite quotes is from humorist Jay Trachman: “The formula for a happy marriage? It’s the same as the one for living in California: When you find a fault, don’t dwell on it.”) My characters may drive each other a little crazy sometimes, but in the end they realize that this person is their partner in every sense of the word. They don’t have to go through life alone.

In my mind, their stories don’t end with the happily ever after moment. Those people live on together. That’s one reason why I love writing series of interconnected stories, because it gives me the chance to check back in on them and to see how their happily ever after is coming along. The first flush of newness is gone, and what remains is something deeper, something enduring.

My May release, Under Her Skin, will introduce the powerful Texas family, the Titans. Actually, the truth is that Jed Titan has all the power, and he wields it with a heavy hand over his three daughters. He’s pitted the Titan women against each other in a “winner takes all” competition to inherit his estate. He’s more concerned about keeping his estate intact than in keeping his family intact. In Under Her Skin, Lexi Titan faces a major problem: Come up with $2 million within three weeks, or lose the business she built from the ground up, her father’s respect, and her chance at the inheritance. Cruz Rodriguez has the money she needs, and she has the connections he needs to become a part of the elite society of Texas. He’ll give her the cash if she’ll become his fiancée for the next six months.

The Lone Star Sisters series continues in June, July, and November, so we’ll have plenty of chances to check back in on Lexi and her sisters in the months to come. I love hearing from readers so if you pick up a copy of Under Her Skin, do drop me a line and let me know what you think!

Susan




Excerpt from Under Her Skin

© Susan Mallery

Lexi stood alone on the balcony at Glory’s Gate. She’d wanted to escape the crush of the crowd and find a private place to feel sorry for herself. Something that had lasted all of three minutes. She heard footsteps behind her and held in a sigh. So much for a little peace and quiet.

“You are looking especially beautiful tonight, querida.”

The man’s voice was low and sexy with the slightest hint of an accent. She recognized it, and him. Cruz.

She turned to face him, then wished she hadn’t. He stood closer than she’d expected, all tall and broad-shouldered, backlit by the light spilling through the large windows. The railing prevented her from backing up, and moving to the side seemed too much like admitting she was rattled.

“Mr. Rodriguez,” she murmured, then sipped her drink. She would play it cool. He didn’t have to know she wasn’t very good at the game.

He smiled, his teeth flashing in the shadows. “Now, Lexi. We both know we’re very much on a first name basis.”

Her eyes widened. “What? Are you saying you remember?” She blurted the words before she could stop herself, then wanted desperately to claw them back.

He moved closer, which she hadn’t thought was possible, bent down and kissed the side of her neck. He barely touched her, but she had the impression of firm lips and warm breath. Heat and shivers raced through her, making her toes curl and certain parts of her want to beg.

“How could I forget?” he asked, his voice low and sexy.

Playing it cool be damned, she thought as she sidestepped him and put several feet between them.

“You didn’t say anything before.”

“I didn’t think you wanted to discuss our night together in front of your sister.”

He hadn’t even hinted, she thought, annoyed and reaching for mad. Anger was safe. Anger could protect her from the tall, handsome men who stood too close and made her made her feel desperate.

“How thoughtful of you. Now we’re reacquainted. Why don’t you return to the party? The bidding will begin soon. You won’t want to miss that.”

“I’m not here for the auction, Lexi. I’m here for you.”

She’d never been a swooner, but a sudden faint seemed like a good idea. Unfortunately she was too practical and knew landing on the floor of the stone balcony wouldn’t be pleasant or pretty. There were...

Wait a minute. They hadn’t seen each other in ten years. He’d never once bothered to get in touch with her and she happened to know she wasn’t all that hard to find. So what was going on?

“You’re very smooth,” she said, taking another sip of her drink.

“Thank you.”

“I like the suit. Custom?”

He nodded.

“You wouldn’t have been invited unless you had plenty of money to give to my sister’s foundation. Her charity only extends to hungry children. Last time I saw you, you were racing cars for pink slips.”

“A hobby,” he told her. “I already had my business.”

“But it’s grown considerably,” she said, remembering Skye’s introduction. “You have it all. So why are you here, Cruz? Why are you trying to pretend that you and I had a relationship? We had one night, a very long time ago. Nothing more.”

It had been more to her, but he didn’t have to know that.

“Enough with the Spanish words and neck kissing,” she said. “What do you want?”

He leaned against the railing. “What makes you think I want anything except you?”

She wanted to believe. She wanted to have him take her in his arms and convince her. But the logical side of her brain pointed out that Cruz could have any woman on the planet. Why her? Why now?

She set her drink on the small table by the railing. “It was great to see you again. Enjoy the auction.” She turned to leave.


Book Signing Alert!

If you're a resident of Seattle, WA or the surrounding area, please come join New York Times Bestselling Author Susan Mallery for a book signing on Wednesday, April 29th!

Susan will be at Third Place Books in Lake Forest Park at 7pm on April 29th to sign copies of her May 2009 release, UNDER HER SKIN, book 1 in the Lone Star Sisters series. UNDER HER SKIN introduces us to the world of the powerful Texas family, the Titans and it’s packed with sexy heroes, heartfelt emotion and Susan’s unique brand of dry humor!

Third Place Books
17171 Bothell Way NE
Lake Forest Park, WA 98155
Tel: 206-366-3333
Wednesday, April 29th, 7pm

He grabbed her arm.

There were sparks, because it was just one of those days. It wasn’t enough that she was going to lose her business. No. Fate had to get a good giggle over her very visceral, uncontrolled reaction to this man. She should get one of those medic-alert bracelets. “In case of cardiac arrest, administer one kiss from Cruz Rodriguez.”

He stared at her. “Tell me about the money you need.”

She went cold inside. “How do you know about that? Who told you?” Was he the one? Was it possible Cruz was trying to screw with her business? But why?

“I overheard you speaking with your banker. I assume he’s your banker.”

“Yes,” she said absently. “John. He’s here because he knows everyone. Who else heard us talking?” She couldn’t let word get out. If her father learned about this...

“No one. You were alone.”

“Except for you.”

“Yes. Except for me.” His dark gaze seemed to see through her. “What’s wrong with your business?”

“Nothing,” she snapped, embarrassed he’d found out. “Look, I don’t want to talk about this. I appreciate the interest, but unless you have an extra two million dollars lying around, I need to get going.”

One eyebrow raised. “And if I do?”

“I’m not interested.”

“Are you sure?”

She folded her arms across her chest. “I don’t get it,” she said. “What are you doing? What’s the game?”

“Why won’t you go to your father for the money? He has plenty.”

“Not an option.”

“I can’t help you if you won’t talk to me.”

“I didn’t ask for your help.”

Noise from the party filtered out to them, but it was as if they were in another world. Just the two of them. She was aware of his breathing, aware of every part of him. He was a constant distraction, which made her crazy.

He stared at her, then nodded slowly, as if coming to a decision. “You know the Senator who is here?”

“What? Sure. Be grateful you’re not female. He’d want to pat your ass.”

“I spoke to him earlier. Introduced myself. He was polite, then dismissed me.”

“He can be pompous,” Lexi said, feeling oddly protective of Cruz, which just went to show how very stupid her hormones could be.

“I could buy and sell him five times over, but that doesn’t matter. No matter how custom the suit, I’m still that kid from the barrio.”

“Nobody cares about that,” she said, suddenly uncomfortable.

“You are wrong. You know that world. You live in it.”

“I don’t like it.”

“But you’re one of them. Tell me why you won’t go to your father for the money you need.”

She wouldn’t have told him before, but now he’d exposed himself to her and she felt obligated to do the same.

“While there is family money,” she began slowly, “my father controls it and he’s not exactly giving us a million dollar allowance. He is Titan World Enterprises, not me. I had a small trust fund from my maternal grandmother, which I used to start my day spa. Other than that, the only money I have is what I make myself.”

She sighed and looked into his eyes, then wished she hadn’t. Staring into the dark depths made her want to lean forward and kiss him. Maybe more.

Maybe? Who was she kidding?

“Jed Titan is a controlling bastard,” she said, wishing it weren’t true. “A few years ago he sat my sister and me down and explained he would be leaving Titan World Enterprises to one of us and only one of us. We had a finite amount of time to prove our worthiness in the winner take all game.”

She still remembered being horrified by her father’s words. He was making them choose—the family business and fortune that went with it, or each other. The unspoken part of the bargain was that the winner didn’t just get the money—she got Jed, as well. The father who had always made it clear his affection was conditional.

“My two sisters and I had been close, but once that happened, everything changed. I realized that working for my father would mean I was always only ever his daughter. So I quit and started my day spa. Skye runs her foundation and Izzy...” She frowned. “Izzy defies death on a daily basis. My point is, if I go to my father, I’ve lost my chance to run the company.”

And her father, because Jed only ever cared about winners.

“I made a mistake,” she continued. “I got greedy and stupid, which means I now have a two-million dollar problem. I was offered a loan by a private investor. He didn’t want a piece of the business, which was great for me. I took the money and expanded my spa. The note was callable. I have three weeks to cough up two million dollars or lose everything.”

She turned away. “Now you know my deepest, darkest secret.” She was already regretting the confession. “How are you going to use it?”

“I’ll give you the money,” he told her.

She spun back to face him. Was it possible he meant it? “You mean you’ll loan it to me.”

“No. I don’t want it back. I want something else.”

Wariness replaced excitement. “What, exactly, do I have that’s worth two million dollars to you?”

He dropped his gaze to her bare toes and worked his way up. The meaning was clear. Even though nearly every cell in her body began to cheer, she ignored the liquid wanting pouring through her, raised her chin and said, “I don’t think so.”

He smiled. “Not sex, Lexi. I don’t have to pay for that anymore today than I did ten years ago.”

She flushed. “Then what?”

His dark gaze sharpened. “Access. You’re a Titan. Your mother can trace her bloodline back to the American Revolution. I have all the money I need, but I will always be a poor kid from the barrio. I want better for my children.”

She understood the words, but not the meaning. “How can I change that?”

“Marry me.”

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Contest!

Susan is excited about the launch of her Lone Star Sisters series and to celebrate, she's giving away a book from her backlist to five lucky winners!  For a chance to win, please check out Susan's website to answer this question:

What award did Susan's January 2007 novel, ACCIDENTALLY YOURS win recently?


Then email us at staff@authorsoundrelations.com with your answer and mark the subject heading as Under Her Skin. Be sure to include your full name and mailing address. Please note, emails sent to any other email address will be disregarded. Send your entries to staff@authorsoundrelations.com only.

Contest deadline - May 3rd, 2009.

Winners will be contacted via shortly thereafter. Good luck!

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